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Catholics and divorce, remarriage and annullment

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Michael Sean Winters of National Catholic Reporter continues his series on the upcoming Synod on the Family with a piece on divorce and remarriage in the Church. You can find this thoughts at http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/synod-family-part-iii. Read them first and then read mine - which follow some of his themes by my own point of view:

One thing, this article is part of a series and comes heavily from last week's series on the book and talk by Cardinal Kaspar on Mercy. You can find the links on my articles page and below.

Cardinal Kasper's closing with the assumption that we are not looking to revise truth but to see if prior teaching can be understood differrently is a bit of a cop-out. So is the comment that God must be faithful to himself - but he is merciful so nothing is impossible. I don't really agree with either statement. On the contrarcy, God does not have the Church propound morality for His sake (to use the convention - although the proper gender for Spirit is feminine) - but for ours. God is perfect on His own and we cannot add to or subtract from that perfection. When a Cardinal talks about ever changing doctrine - it is clerical hubris. They can, in fact, be wrong (which opens the door for real change - although a changing Curia may be too much miracle to expect). The faithful are making their changes without permission anyway. The Church must admit error and catch up.

Kasper talks of the diginity of the human person regarding their marriage vows, which should not be thrown away. I totally agree, but some spouses do not - like mine. I suspect the marriage investigation should inquire as the the state of the marriage of the parents and their attitude on these vows. Of course, most people getting married are in the "in love" zone where even if they know that the child of a divorced person will likely leave eventually (indeed, with that divorced parent's urging), the message will likely not land and the Church will likely give a dispensation if such an impediment were formalized. In short, the dignity of the human person is served by realizing that couples in love don't really deal well with impediments except to get through them. Some people stay in a marriage because of their vows - I would like to see how that would work in my cases - but it does not dignify the other spouse to keep them in a marriage that makes them miserable - due to how each has grown or whether time has revealed even more serious problems that make the union untenable.

Kasper talks about the annullment investigation by the pastor and review by a tribunal (which is documentary, not personal). Not sure this matters because most people don't care for the annullment process unless they are remarrying. The solution is usually to marry a non-Catholic in their Church and come back later to get the marriage blessed - a common practice - more common than the Church admits. He also raises the question of denying communion to the remarried. He suggests penitence. I suggest this is non-sense. The central Sacrament of the Church is the Eucharist and aside from disobeying Canons on remarriage without going to the trouble of annullment first, I would say it depends. If the person caused the marriage to be ended by addiction (including alcohol), violence, adultery (not virtual, but real) sexual confuson (being in the closet) or something that is equally serious - that person should never be allowed to be married in the Church again - unless some form of treatment is both undertaken, successful and ongoing (AA, SA, etc). For the victim, however, there is not sin. They should have the option to remarry at their option. The should be able to forgive their spouse and take them back, release them to marry again as well or refuse to forgive them and let their further impediment stand. Now that would be bold.

MSW throws in the question of dispensing priests from their vows and the injustice of not allowing this for married couples. I agree, as previously explained. To continue, Kasper also addresses the question of whether Communion must be avoided at all. It is a good question because none of us is really worthy. If the purpose of the Communion doctrine was mainly to get people into Confession and to punish those who don't, then it is definitely time to change what is a current practice. The practice in the early Church was peer confession of some sins that are now considered mortal - and the concept of mortal sin has largely gone out of the conversation of most Catholics - and comes close to self-involvement when it does.

As one would expect, Kasper and his approach to Mercy has come under some attack. First among the attackers is Cardinal Burke. Of course, anything Ray Burke says, I find the opposite to be true. He is a partisan conservative of the worst kind - both politically and ecclesially. A group of Dominicans also objected, partially on the grounds that Mercy is not a get out of sin free card - and MSW also states that living by the Gospel can be hard. My response is that no it is not. It is designed to make life better and more livable and if the Church has added non-sense that makes it harder (like calling gays obejctively disorder - and they are not), then it is the Church teaching that must fall. Indeed, the Gospel is about the Passion of Christ and His feeling of being abandonned by God (both in his divinity when he must abandon his mother through his death and his mission when John is told to take care of her) - a feeling we share as part of our humanity -allowing us to join him in his victory over not only death, but also despair (as he drank the wine on the Cross before dying - and died whole - not cursed).

The Dominicans, unfortunately, call civil marraige adultery (although the Lord does use that language for any second marriage - although he also makes exceptions for "immorality." I suspect that they are unaware that many second marriages are not civil - and the nature of a marriage is not diminished by it being civil - depending - of course - on the understanding of the parties who make the marriage. They also do the man and woman complimentary thing, which sounds like they are making a GOP plug. Of course, once the Church faces the reality of gay marriage, the issues of annulment, forgiveness and remarriage will have to be dealt with in that context - likely why the Bishops want to avoid it besides a stilted view of homosexuality. Pastorally, these issues should be dealt with both ways - like when someone from a gay married couple wants to marry somone heterosexually (which the Church now undoubtedly approves of - ignoring the feelings of the jilted partner) or when it happens the other way (although if someone is gay and marries an opposite sex partner and cannot fully give themselves - it is more reason for divorce and remarriage). They also go after the Anglicans and equate their relaxation on sexual issues with their smaller attendance. I would disagree, many of them join the Catholic Church because they are biggoted against women priests. The not of caution is that some will leave the Catholic Church and join the Anglican Communion if the Bishops make things worse and not better.

The objections of Burke and the Dominicans rest on Scripture (its also where they trash gay marriage). They get it wrong. Marriage makes couples one flesh - as much in the law as in the marriage bed. Jesus emphasized that when one left home and became one flesh with another, that they leave their family of origin. That is important because marriages, and presumably remarriages were arranged by families - so if someone decides they don't like their son-in-law they would arrange a divorce and marry the girl off to someone else. In this case, it is the family that adulterates the marriage that sins. I know that one well, as my in-laws, for some reason, don't want to see me - but I can guess why. Has someone besides my wife sinned against me (just because I have a diagnosis of mental illness)? I suspect so. I wonder if this will be discussed in Rome?

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