Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

The Franciscan Narrative on Divorce and Remarriage

November 12th, 2013, Promulgated by DanielKane

Francis has convened a gathering of bishops to study the pastoral care of those (and there are many) who are divorced and remarried. This has understandably caused some speculation on a potential reform of the teaching that divorced and remarried Catholics may not be admitted to Holy Communion (nor may they be baptized, confirmed, etc. ). We all know people in this state.  It is a hard, but necessary teaching.

I have been in that state and it was hardly easy and one accurately feels outside of the Church. Because all one can do is sit in a pew. But sitting in that pew, I grew and learned of the immense blessing that marriage is and how it is necessary for anyone to take marriage with the utmost seriousness.

Some bishops in Germany suggested that there is a pastoral work-around to annulment. The Congregation for Doctrine and the Faith replied here. (Re) Stating that there is no provision for the admission of the civilly remarried to Holy Communion. The letter itself, even written in the stilted Vatican language and tone, is a beautiful witness to marriage.

This is an action of the magisterium of Francis which is totally coherent with Blessed JPII, Benedict and every other pope that has graced the Chair of Peter.  His style may focus on a different point but his content is the unchanging truths of Catholicism.



26 Responses to “The Franciscan Narrative on Divorce and Remarriage”

  1. y2kscotty says:

    If the teaching is as clear and uncompromising as Archbishop Muller’s letter says, then what is the purpose of studying the pastoral care of the divorced and remarried? Merely expressing sympathy for their plight, but still denying them the reception of the sacraments, seems like something that would not mean much to those in this state. How is it that the Orthodox Churches have a different teaching? Is their teaching an”abuse” or “aberration”? And is this something (among others) that would make reunion of the two Churches an impossibility? I know one couple wh, upon marrying after a divorce, simply walked away from the Church and wants nothing to do with her. And I know another couple that simply decided to ignore the “exoommunication” and continue to receive the sacraments. They believe that they are in a situation that cannot ever lead to a reconciliation with a former spouse – that the marriage and sacramental bond is broken, and for them the sacramental bond no longer exists. I don’t know how to answer that assertion, except to say (but I don’t) marriage is indissoluble and it’s tough luck.
    None of my questions above are intended at all to minimize Daniel’s experience. Daniel’s experience is heartfelt and honest and powerful.

  2. Hopefull says:

    Matt 10:37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me;

    Are we really expecting an exception for those who abandon their marriage vows, divorce, remarry, choose that relationship over Christ, or worse — receive unworthily? Nice words for a Sunday morning but don’t expect me to live by them?

  3. snowshoes says:

    Thank you, Daniel for your penetrating analysis of the problem, and for sharing your powerful story. I’m sure this is one of the most heartbreaking situations for most of us, for who doesn’t know Catholics, even in their own families, who are in irregular marriages? I agree with Hopefull, we cannot ignore the hard sayings of Jesus, “strive to enter through the narrow gate”. The road to hell is wide and easy, and our goal is union with the Blessed Trinity in Heaven. I must hate my very self if I wish to be worthy of Heaven.

    In much of the world, including Italia, annulments are infrequently given, and the practical treatment of divorced Catholics by parish priests is cautious, the divorced, and NOT remarried are often told not to receive the sacraments, but of course to go to Sunday Mass. This situation must be addressed by the Church.

    The US situation, which is “the other end of the spectrum”, where, while everyone knows that divorced and not remarried Catholics who are otherwise in the state of grace may receive Holy Communion and Reconciliation, which is good, there are real problems in the formation of those who present themselves for the sacrament of marriage, and in the honest explanation of marriage law from the pulpit in Sunday Mass. When is the last time you heard a good homily which detailed what the Catechism states about marriage law, and about what marriage actually is? Hint: the culture of death has hoodwinked most Catholics on this subject.

    I realize that many of the younger priests are doing great work to counteract the grievous lack of formation of couples preparing for marriage. Who doesn’t know of disastrous situations where a nominally Catholic couple were permitted to marry and within a few months or years they were divorced and remarried? I know it is difficult for the priest, especially if the couple is somewhat intelligent, but not committed to the faith, and pull a fast one on the priest, even though all the acquaintances of the couple know they are not living a committed Catholic life in Our Lord, and don’t intend to.

    There needs to be guidance “from the top” on Marriage preparation, because it’s spotty at best, from my anecdotal experience. The day of “come one, come all to the sacrament of Marriage” should be over.

    The other thing that our Holy Father needs to tell bishops and parish priests, along with the rest of us, is that divorced and remarried Catholics must all live together as brother and sister, or separate, if that is not possible. The Pope must direct bishops and priest to SAY this from the pulpit at Sunday Mass. Why must the Pope direct Bishops and priests to do their job on this subject? Because by and large, they’re not doing it, for whatever reason, fear of criticism, etc.

    In other words, catechesis, formation, and discipline in the area of marriage has eroded to the point that a “summit” is needed, and the consequent teaching must be directed. Our Holy Father is doing Our Lord’s will on this subject, Deo gratias!

  4. DanielKane says:

    I think that the Bishop’s meeting will involve some kind of pastoral care to the divorced and remarried which is a tragic circumstance in our culture. They remain Catholic and their situation is indeed tenuous. At the same time, we must, must, must catechize and prepare very well Catholics seeking marriage aside from a weekend here or there plus a seminar or two (if that). Pastors of souls need to actually decline to marry those not suitable for marriage and they need canonical standing (I am far from an expert) to do so.

    At the same time, in my experience, it is often a mixed marriage outside of the Church (done in rebellion, pride or stupidity – all three in my case) that needs to be addressed as well. It is true that marriage is in crisis and I hope that the “Bishop’s Summit” called by Francis addresses youthful catechesis, marriage prep & pastoral care for those Catholics in the sad and difficult state of “civil marriage”. There is much to be done.

  5. sydwynd says:

    I think one other area that gets missed in this discussion is making avaialble resources for couples “in distress”. I know from personal experiece that couples go through difficulties that put huge stress on marriages. My wife and I had a stretch of several years where we didn’t get along very well (due to financial difficulties, young children, etc). While we never discussed divorce or separation, it was not a healthy marriage by any means. It was only our commitment to each other and our family that helped us get through. And some very sage advice from a counselor friend of ours. She related that there are stages to a marriage. And one of those stages is misery. Our culture has brainwashed young people (and perhaps women particularly) to think that marriage is that happily ever after ending of fairy tales.

    We all know it takes a LOT of work and commitment to make a marriage work. I think many couples get to that “misery” stage in their relationship and don’t seek out the help they need to understand and get through those tough times. Certainly there were (or are for that matter) any good resources available at our parish for couples that need it. Sure, you could talk to a priest, or there are the occasional flyers for Marriage Encounter or Retrouvaille, but nothing really within parishes. I think if we really want to change our culture with respect to marriage and build stronger relationships, we need dedicated ministry to these couples. A few hours of Pre Cana and then “off you go” just doesn’t cut it.

  6. gaudium says:

    These issues cannot be separated from the other problems created by the (surrender to the) sexual revolution. For example, I would say that, over the last twenty years, almost every year we admit a cohabiting individual or two into the Church at the Easter Vigil. Also, we have CCD teachers who almost never attend Mass and/or are living with a boyfriend. And we’re a (I hate titles)conservative parish.

  7. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Gaudium, we have failed at disciple making. Or is it that we never really began making disciples?

    At the risk of redundancy ad nauseam, I repeat that there is the possibility/probability that some Catholics (even mass attending Catholics) have yet to experience that life changing encounter with Christ Crucified and Risen which must happen before the denying oneself, the picking up the cross, the following Jesus.

    Popes have said that many of the baptized are sacramentalized but not evangelized.

    Time to stop playing Church. Time to start being Church.

    In 2 Timothy 3:5, the Apostle Paul wrote about those “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”. Time to stop playing Church. Time to start being Church.

    By the way, I fear that many Rochesterians (Catholics and others) will be prejudiced by David Andretta’s D&C 11/14/13 headline entitled, “FAITHFUL Rochester’s new Catholic bishop conservative and loyal to Rome”.

    Yes, there were favorable quotes from those who know personally His Excellency Bishop Matano. But the article’s focus, as can be expected in a secular report, was not on the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Eucharist, holiness for the sake of mission and our new Ordinary’s devotion and faithfulness.

    The article could turn folks off even before they meet him, hear him and experience his pastoral care.

    Ave Maria, plena gratia…….

  8. snowshoes says:

    I’ve read elsewhere, sorry can’t remember where, or I’d cite the commentator, who drew the analogy between the lead-up to Humanae Vitae and this initiative of Pope Francis. The reaction to the ultimate document issued by the Holy See will probably be similar, rejection, because Our Holy Father will not be changing the doctrine on the sacrament of marriage.

    Because of the chaos in catechesis in general, the preparation for the vocation to which most Catholic youth are called is predictably poor (but with many bright spots). The Pope’s convocation, I pray, is to set out clear direction on how to deal with the catechesis, marriage prep, pastoral care for married couples, and clear. practical guidance on the spiritual direction of those divorced and remarried Catholics in order to encourage them to live a chaste and holy life with their loved ones.

    You might have seen Card. Dolan on his news show, aired this past weekend on EWTN, in which he summarized the role of the USCCB. I was interested to hear him say that there are only three canonical levels of the Church: the Pope, who is the Universal Pastor, the Bishop of the Diocese, and the Priest Pastor of a parish, and that the USCCB is not a canonical “level”, per se, (my summarization of the Cardinal’s words, not a quote).

    I mention this because, God bless him, he defined the hierarchy of the Church so simply and beautifully in order to make his point about the nature of the role of the Bishop’s Conference. We are looking for that beauty of simplicity from the Pope regarding this Holy Sacrament of Matrimony, so that the image will be so powerfully and clearly fixed in all of our minds, like the beauty of a diamond. With clear teaching on marriage, Catholics will be able to proceed with confidence in the grace of the Sacrament to do the Father’s Will.

    My guess is that those who, as with contraception, expect a big relaxation in the Church’s teaching on marriage/divorce/remarriage will be disappointed.

    The other reason for mentioning Card. Dolan’s definition of the 3 and only 3 levels of the Church is because of the sin which cries to heaven for vengeance which has been committed on many parishioners of the DoR: the fiction of the pastorless parish. Of course I mean those parishes without a formally announced Priest-Pastor.

    Due to the grace of office, the Priest-Pastor is the sole agent in the parish. All others act in obedience with this office of Pastor. If there is not a priest-pastor, there is not a parish. As we have said before, there always is a priest-pastor, or a priest-moderator of each parish named and officially documented according to Canon Law. In the DoR, the monstrous evil perpetrated on the several parishes without an official pastor, is that the names of the pastor or the priest-moderator of those parishes have been wilfully withheld from the parishioners.

    This is a sin which cries to heaven for vengeance, because it is a tampering with the canonical office of Pastor in order to advance someone’s agenda of “equality”. In effect, these parishes, from whom the Priest-Pastor have been deprived, have been placed under interdict by the Bishop, an act which he has no canonical right or power to do. Interdict, properly used, is to bring about the spiritual health of the canonical entity placed under interdict. In the DoR, it has been used to destroy sound parishes. A more breathtaking, monstrous evil does not exist.

    Deleterious effects, along with all those poor people who have left the church because of being scandalized, or from losing their faith from poor teaching, also include the frightening results in the lives of those who have aspired to become “lay pastoral leaders”, or to become “woman priests”: those who have gone mad, those who have had other physical ailments or accidents, and those whose faces have become twisted into the image of devils before their death and judgment.

    How can such people, who are interlopers themselves, spiritual harlots, think they can properly teach others about marriage? I trust that, by the grace of God, Bishop Matano will quickly clean house and set these sad situations right.

    So please pray that all hearts are open to listening and accepting the Pope’s teaching as from Our Lord Himself, which of course, it is. St. Jean Vianney, priez pour nous.

  9. annonymouse says:

    I have yet to be banned, so indulge my thoughts on thIs topic.

    First of all, let us not forget that the Church’s teaching on divorce and remarriage comes straight from the mouth of Our Lord, as recorded in Holy Scripture – Mark 2:10-12. The Holy Father is not at liberty to overturn the teaching of Jesus Christ, so don’t expect him to do so. His concern is for the “pastoral care” of such persons, because the clear teaching is that divorced and remarried persons are objectively in gravely sinful situations. “Oh that seems so…harsh,” you say, but only seen through the lenses colored by the (as Gaudium pointed out) “sexual revolution.”

    Marriage prep progams, it seems to me, need to make clear that marrying couples should ASSUME that this is one-and-done, for LIFE, that there can be no possibility of remarriage after divorce, the possibility of a declaration of nullify should never be assumed. Perhaps that would open some eyes, perhaps not. I liken it to what is told to a married deaconate candidate – if your wife dies, there is no possibility of remarriage. A deacon candidate must carefully and prayerfully consider that very real possibility before he requests the Sacrament of Orders. It’s the same situation for a marrying couple – the marrying couple should presume that she/he is marrying her/his last husband/wife so long as they both shall live. That would be a great improvement in marriage catches is.

  10. Richard Thomas says:

    Good point, Mouse.

    I wonder how many pre-cana couples are cohabitating. And if so, how many priests are telling them to separate and reevaluate while still dating?

    I’d like to hear homilies on premarital sex but I am not holding my breath.

  11. Nerina says:

    Excellent, excellent comment by Snowshoes. Thank you.

  12. JLo says:

    These are great posts on the subject: thank you.
    To Sydwynd I would say that the graces of the Sacrament of Matrimony kicked in when he and his spouse needed them. When my daughters were preparing for their marriages I counseled them that the day might come when they would look at their spouses and say to themselves “What have I done?!!! Why did I marry this person?!!!” Don’t bolt, I told them. Stick around; and it is in staying and remaining faithful that the graces of that sacrament kick in and you will fall in love all over again with your spouse. Over and over again through 50 years of marriage I have experienced this powerful grace. Unfortunately, today’s young people just leave when “He doesn’t make me happy anymore” happens; so in those marriage classes, couples must not only be made aware of the pitfalls, but must be made aware of the power of the sacramental grace of Marriage and to depend on it to carry one through the rough times, the human times. +JMJ

  13. y2kscotty says:

    I read that Cardinal Marx of Munich takes issue with Abp. Mueller of the CDF regarding the divorced-remarried issue. Looks like battle lines are being drawn. We live in interesting times. Next year’s Synod had better invoke the Holy Spirit’s guidance. If some change in the rules comes about, what could it possibly be? Or is it absolutely impossible?

  14. Scott W. says:

    Or is it absolutely impossible?

    Seems possible only if one holds that Our Lord was talking through his hat when he said, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.”

  15. y2kscotty says:

    But St. Matthew’s gospel includes a proviso: “except for fornication” (porneia). And what is the meaning of “put away”? Which saying of Jesus is really the norm? Was Jesus “talking through his hat” – or did Matthew have it wrong? And in the first century or two, what was the practice of the Church? Did the prohibition against remarriage apply to the party that was less guilty? Or are we to put complete trust in the anullment process which may or may not impute guilt or innocence? Are some declarations of nullity actually mistakes or a faulty decision? So, I ask again: is it absolutely impossible?
    On another point: it says in the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt not kill”. Looks quite absolute, coming as it does, from the mouth of God. No exceptions are built into that. Yet, some direct killing of another is permissible.
    But in Matthew, there is a small exception built in regarding remarriage.

  16. annonymouse says:

    y2kscotty – Any translation that renders “fornication” from “porneia” is a poor translation. The meaning of the word is closer to an “unlawful, unnatural” relationship, i.e. a close relative. Porneia is NOT the same thing as fornication.

    Read the entire passage, in either Mark or Matthew – It cannot be denied that Our Blessed Lord was overturning the Jewish practice of divorce that Moses had allowed because of the “hardness of your hearts.” The wiggle room you seek is simply not there.

  17. Ben Anderson says:

    y2kscotty (and others about the engage), there is no point in discussing this here. Archbishop Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, tackles it all here (if you follow the links in this post):–del-matrimonio-e-il-di.html&title=The%20Power%20of%20Grace&locale=en

    And if you’re going to ask why we should listen to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then it’s pretty clear that we have departed from the Catholic faith.

  18. sydwynd says:

    “Saint Paul presents the prohibition on divorce as the express will of Christ: “To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) and that the husband should not divorce his wife” (1 Cor 7:10-11). At the same time he permits, on his own authority, that a non-Christian may separate from a partner who has become Christian. In this case, the Christian is “not bound” to remain unmarried (1 Cor 7:12-16). On the basis of this passage, the Church has come to recognize that only a marriage between a baptized man and a baptized woman is a sacrament in the true sense, and only in this instance does unconditional indissolubility apply.”


  19. y2kscotty says:

    Sydwynd, and anyone else – does this mean that a Catholic married to a non-baptized person (atheist, or Buddhist or Jew or… whatever) is living in sin because it isn’t a sacramental marriage? I am inclined to say “no”. Also, do Jesus’ words apply to any married couple – or only to a couple in a sacramental marriage? I’m trying to sort out this whole question.
    Also you say that Paul changed the rules “on his own authority”. Could the Church also claim the same right? Maybe my questions should really be given to a canonist or Biblical scholar.
    And, Ben, I will only state in response to your post, that I disagree with your assertion that one has departed from the Catholic faith, if one disagrees with the Prefect of the CDF. That is hardly a doctrine of the Church, definitive or otherwise.

  20. sydwynd says:


    I was injecting a little humor into the conversation. Sometimes we can be so serious!

    I won’t speak as any sort of cannonical scholar (I am definately far from it!). However, in my personal opinion, if a Catholic marries, they should do so with the expectation that it is a lifetime arrangement, even if to a non-believer (or non-baptized person). After all, as Paul points out in that same epistle, how are you to know whether or not by your faithful example you’ll lead your spouse to Christ? I’m not at all familiar with the annulment process but in the situation where the marriage to a non-baptized person is no longer tenable, then I’d leave it to the Church “lawyers” to decide whether the marriage was sacremental or not.

  21. Ben Anderson says:

    does this mean that a Catholic married to a non-baptized person (atheist, or Buddhist or Jew or… whatever) is living in sin because it isn’t a sacramental marriage?

    If a Catholic doesn’t get a dispensation, then it’s not a valid marriage. So yes, objectively speaking, that relationship would be sinful. If they did receive a dispensation, then see here:
    and here:

    I disagree with your assertion that one has departed from the Catholic faith, if one disagrees with the Prefect of the CDF. That is hardly a doctrine of the Church, definitive or otherwise.

    Of course it is. Please point me to the writing of a saint or a magisterial document stating that Catholics are free to judge for themselves (in contradiction to the authority of the Church) how marriage works.

    I think you’ve got this backwards, y2kscotty. When you don’t understand a teaching of the Church, you must still assent and it’s up to YOU to do the research – not the other way around (with your “prove it to me” attitude).

  22. y2kscotty says:

    Thanks for the various links.

    Also, Ben, really “prove it to me”? “A saint or magisterial document”? As a Catholic, in my own life, I have taken as a real authority on how marriage works: my Catholic parents.

    That’s not to denigrate any magisterial teaching. But, good example is the best teacher. (Oh, I suppose bad example is a very effective teacher, too, for good or for ill. One can learn what not to do.) Their example may very well have conformed to all magisterial teaching, but frankly, I’d never know, since some things were private between them and not shared with me or my siblings. They appeared to be faithful, committed Catholics, and we knew it and have tried to emulate it. So, when I fill out some of the survey questions that the Bishops want (although it appears that DOR doesn’t want to encourage us to participate, as some dioceses have done, by making the questions available and encouraging a response to the bishop), I will witness to their example and lives and let the theologians figure out how to incorporate that in the magisterial teachings, which shouldn’t be hard.

  23. y2kscotty says:

    Regarding the Vatican Survey Questions that some bishops have made available to their people, here’s one link to the Archdiocese of New Orleans newspaper that shows how Archbishop Aymond is asking for responses:

    DOR seems to be uninterested in facilitating this. Or am I wrong?

  24. Ben Anderson says:

    My comment was referring to your skeptical attitude, “could the Church be wrong? should it change its teaching?” What I’m saying is that the Church has spoken. Until we hear otherwise, we should assent to the teachings of the Church.

    That’s great your parents were good examples for you – praise God!

  25. Persis says:

    @ y2kscotty~
    Could it be that the DOR is awaiting the directives of our Bishop-Elect regarding how/if the laity is going to have a “say”?
    We have been in a time of transition for over a year now, and although many of you may see this post as defending the DOR, it’s not so much of a defense, but rather giving the benefit of the doubt, at least for now. A new day is dawning in the DOR, and methinks our patience will be rewarded! 😀

  26. y2kscotty says:

    Persis, you may be right. I notice the Syracuse diocese is soliciting responses to the survey. I looked at the Diocese of Burlington website and found nothing to indicate that Bishop Matano is encouraging replies to the survey in that diocese. i think that answers to the survey are a good opportunity to witness to our faith and our understanding of its teachings.

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