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Straight Answers for Divorced Catholics (Part 3)

 “Remarriage”: Another Legal Fiction

 

What if, in a case in which there is no decree of nullity issued by the Church regarding a previous marriage, a Catholic or other baptized person obtains a civil divorce and then attempts to marry again while the original spouse is still alive?

Such an attempt at marriage is nothing more than an attempt. No second marriage takes place, and the ceremony itself is simply a scandalous public expression of the persons’ intention to live in a continuous state of adultery — objectively speaking, in a state of mortal sin.

No conscientious person should dare to express any note of pleasure in, or congratulations for, such a societal and spiritual catastrophe, but rather should point out the path toward forgiveness of this sin, which can only be achieved through the parties’ repenting of and correcting their situation.

 

Wouldn’t a longstanding relationship of this kind be praiseworthy in some ways, at least for its stability and for the mutual affection and loyalty that the persons show each other?

Not in the case of adulterous sexual relationships. Would anyone think of praising a pair of thieves or murderers for having worked together for a long period of time? Any man and woman who are living together (as if they were husband and wife) without marrying, or who (being Catholics) marry only civilly, or who have attempted to marry again while their true spouse remains alive, are engaged in objectively sinful acts of either fornication or adultery — regardless of whatever other moral responsibilities they may be fulfilling.

 

Couldn’t some divorced persons’ circumstances make it just a venial sin for them to “remarry,” such that they could be forgiven without having to amend their lives?

There are no circumstances that can change the gravely sinful nature of adultery. This is why Our Lord spoke absolutely about this situation, saying “whosoever” attempts to remarry while his or her true spouse still lives, regardless of the circumstances, is guilty of adultery (a grave sin against the Sixth Commandment): “Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if the wife shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” (Mk. 10: 11-12)

Such a grave sin can only be forgiven if the sinner manifests both sincere repentance and a purpose of amendment — that is, a resolution to end the adulterous behavior. True sorrow for sin always includes such a resolution not to continue in the sin — and where there is no true sorrow, there can be no forgiveness.

 

Holy Communion for the Divorced and “Remarried” — One Shipwreck upon Another

 

Can divorced and “remarried” Catholics receive Holy Communion?

Not until they put an end to their sinful situation by breaking off all scandalous and unlawful bonds.

 

Don’t the divorced and “remarried” need the Eucharist as a spiritual medicine to help them on their way toward fully converting and amending their lives?

The Eucharist is truly a source of strength against temptations and inclinations to sin, but this speaks only of Its effects. In Itself, It is the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Thus in order to receive the Eucharist worthily in Holy Communion, we must ensure that we are in the state of grace.

The divorced and “remarried,” being objectively “in a state of manifest grave sin” [1], could only make a sacrilegious Communion, and thus receive not a spiritual medicine but rather a curse, as Saint Paul warns: “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the Body of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:29)

 

But if some divorced and “remarried” Catholics are sincerely at peace about their marital situation, and are convinced in conscience of being rightly able to receive Holy Communion, shouldn’t they be allowed to do so?

It would be gravely sinful, both as a sacrilege and as a public scandal, for any divorced and “remarried” Catholic to receive Holy Communion while persisting in that manifestly sinful situation. Our consciences are not infallible, and no conscience can rightly be called sincere when it refuses to be informed by, and conformed to, the law of God, and instead stands in open contradiction to the Church’s teachings. If a person is truly sincere in his or her desire to approach God, he should begin by fervently asking Him for the graces needed to abandon his sins and to lead a virtuous life.

 

Of what use are the Church’s moral teachings if they lose touch with the concrete situations of real life today?

Our Lord established the Catholic Church, whose teachings are for all mankind — everywhere and for all times. Human nature does not change from one generation to the next, and neither do the eternal truths or the divine law revealed by Jesus Christ.

 

If the Church is going to survive, shouldn’t it try to adapt to the mentality and practices of the modern world, which have already become the mentality and practices of the majority of the Catholic faithful?

The Church’s mission is to save souls, not to salve guilty consciences and fill Hell with unrepentant sinners. Catholics who divorce and attempt to marry again while their true spouse is still living are simply refusing to live according to the truth preached by Jesus Christ. The only true service that the Church can extend to such persons is to guide them back to the truth, to holiness of life, and thus to their eternal salvation.

 

END NOTES

[1] Code of Canon Law, No. 915

 

Read Other Parts:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 4

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