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Friday 20 January 2017

Bishop Lopes to visit STM Toronto - March 5

Bishop Steven Lopes, Ordinary of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (OCSP) 
is to visit 
The Catholic Parish of St. Thomas More 
to celebrate  

SUNDAY, MARCH 5 at 12:30 p.m.

263 Roncesvalles Avenue, Toronto

Sunday 15 January 2017


Updated (2017) from 2014 posting

In the midst of a secular and relativistic society it is difficult for the teaching of the Church regarding marriage to be heard much less understood.

The Church's teaching is at the same time both very simple and complex in terms of the pastoral application of the law of love which is at the heart of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

As Catholics we are concerned with the application of the law of love in Christian marriage. The fact is that the teaching of Jesus was clear - Marriage is an indissoluble union as long as both man (husband) and woman (wife) are alive. The two become one in the sacrament of marital unity. 

Marriage dissolves upon the death of one spouse.  (Matthew 19: 3 - 12) Simply put, if a Catholic or someone seeking full communion with the Church divorces and remarries or chooses to live with someone in a sexual union outside of marriage (a lawyer friend tells me that the term "common law marriage" is no longer a valid term in Canadian law) then each act of sexual intimacy is considered an act of adultery.

One hastens to add that a divorced person living a single life is, of course, not banned in any way from full participation in the Catholic Church and the sacraments.  This is commonly misunderstood in Catholic and other circles.  

In summary: It is one's actions which determine whether a person is in communion with the Church or not. For example, an abandoned spouse who is the subject of a divorce is not excluded from the Church or from Holy Communion by the acts of another person or by those of the state.

Adultery or fornication, however,  are acts of sin whether a person is married or single, separated or divorced, attracted to men or to women. The same discipline applies to all equally. The Church teaches that sexual relations are properly expressed only within the marriage bond: one man with one woman committed to each other for life. Period.

The working out of this teaching in the lives of individual Catholics is properly a matter for the confidentiality of the Confessional (the internal forum) unless one's actions become a scandal to the community of faith.

Someone confessing that they are in a state of sin e.g. living unmarried in a sexual union, with no intention of ending the relationship, cannot receive absolution from a mortal sin because there is no apparent contrition. Further, it is a mortal sin to receive Holy Communion when not in a state of grace i.e. having confessed all serious sin and received absolution from a priest.

Do we all struggle with sexuality? - - Of course. That is part of what makes the whole mystery of human life so wonderful and challenging.  It is even at the root of the law of love which requires self-sacrifice, commitment and endurance whether a person is called to celibacy or to marriage. 

The Church requires chastity of all, contrary to much popular opinion.  This is another 'head-exploder' for our relativist neighbours.  A chaste spouse and a chaste priest or nun are all part of the community which we know as Catholic in faith and morals.  

The working out of this law of love for individuals is, as mentioned, to be within the internal forum unless one's actions become public. In cases of publicly known co-habitation outside of marriage, one's actions become subject to the external forum i.e. the public adjudication of the Church's law.

These are the plain laws of God meant to preserve the sanctity of the life-long bond as wall as to assist those not, or not yet, called to the bond of marriage. The Church maintains that what is true for sacramental marriages also applies to the indissolubility of natural marriages whether contracted civilly or in a non-Catholic ceremony.

The presumption is always in favour of the marriage bond; that is, all properly contracted marriages between one man and one woman are valid until proven otherwise, even if the bond is not sacramental.

The debate rages in Canada, then, about whether the Catholic Church should simply cease acting for the civil authorities when celebrating marriage and adopt the practice of celebrating Holy Matrimony as a sacrament when the conditions for the sacrament are present and leave the matter of civil marriage and registration of marriages to the state.   [See earlier posts]

This means that the validity of all properly contracted marriages is assumed by the Church unless and until such time as the marriage is examined by a Catholic Marriage Tribunal and a decree of nullity is issued i.e. because the conditions for a true marriage were not present at the time the marriage was contracted it was not a true marriage.  Again, the role of the Tribunal is to protect the bond of love and, failing that, to protect the innocent parties, including children.

This brings up the question of the "legitimacy" of children born outside the bond of marriage.  A decree of nullity changes nothing about the legitimacy of children nor should it affect the possibility of Holy Baptism for any party.  

Of course, as they say, the devil is in the details. A wise priest who has been in charge of the marriage tribunal of a major archdiocese told me that in 30 years he had never seen two cases for nullity which were exactly the same.

Fr. Franceschi, a professor of canon law and matrimony at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross: reported from Vatican City, Apr 25, 2014  noted that pastoral care must respond to the particularities of any given situation, adding that: "a shepherd can handle with discretion peculiar cases, even while he can never go beyond doctrine."

It is, then, more than clear that a person who is divorced and remarried is not excommunicated, and is not sidelined from the life of the Church.

Fr. Franceschi has noted that in Familiaris Consortio, the 1981 post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the Christian family’s role in the modern world, John Paul II similarly invited those who live in irregular situations to go to Holy Mass, to ask for help: 
"Prepare yourselves to choose with conviction the 'for ever' which connotes love; indissolubility, before being a condition, is a gift to be desired, asked for and lived out, over and above any other changeable human situation. And do not imagine, in accordance with a widespread idea, that coexistence is a guarantee for the future . . .

The fidelity and continuity of your love for each other will also enable you to be open to life, to be parents: the permanence of your union in the sacrament of Matrimony will allow the children God bestows upon you to grow up trusting in the goodness of life. Fidelity, indissolubility and the transmission of life are the pillars of every family, the true common good, a precious patrimony of society as a whole.

I would like to go back over an essential point: the experience of love contains the quest for God. True love promises the Infinite! Therefore make this period of your preparation for marriage an itinerary of faith: rediscover for your life as a couple the centrality of Jesus Christ and of walking with the Church."

The complexity is in the details which must support the absolute commitment established by the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Simply put, the Catholic Church does not recognize civil divorce as ending the marriage bond.

An Anglican family member insists that she was banned from receiving Holy Communion after she divorced and before she contracted another civil marriage.  The banning of divorced persons has never officially been the policy of the Anglican Communion much less in the Catholic Church. However, the application of the rules by some clergy and social attitudes often went beyond the discipline of love which the Church has officially taught.  This has extended, in some cases, to the delay or denial of Baptism for a child of an "irregular" union or in the case of unmarried parents.

It is the attempt to contract a second marriage before the death of the spouse that affects an individual's ability to receive Holy Communion. We will not deal with the Pauline privilege here; it is a topic to be taken up later given the limited circumstances in which it applies.

The secularist's head explodes when this principle of love is stated and words like "impossible", "unrealistic", "medieval" etc., etc, ad nauseam emanate from those who read the Toronto Star or the New York Times as holy writ.

". . . the Church’s doctrine cannot develop in contradiction to itself . . . " said Pope John Paul II in a speech given to the Roman Rota.  He told them on Jan. 21, 2000 that: "it is necessary to reaffirm that a ratified and consummated sacramental marriage can never be dissolved, not even by the power of the Roman Pontiff."

Fr. Franceschi went on quoting the pope:
"The opposite assertion would imply the thesis that there is no absolutely indissoluble marriage, which would be contrary to what the Church has taught and still teaches about the indissolubility of the marital bond . . . "

Pope Francis has asked for courageous pastoral care in response to the divorced and remarried, yet to be courageous Fr. Franceschi goes on: “does not mean to change the doctrine of the Church . . . To be courageous means to address the pain of the divorced and remarried, supporting them and helping them to put into practice what has been said several times in recent years. That is, do not exclude the divorced and remarried from the life of the Church . . ."

We conclude, for now, with a quotation from another source, Pope Benedict XVI, in an address to engaged couples:

"Love lives by giving freely, by self-sacrifice, by forgiveness and by respect for the other.  Dear friends, all human love is a sign of the eternal Love that created us and whose grace sanctifies the decision made by a man and a woman to give each other reciprocal life in marriage . . . .

From now on, found your journey towards marriage on these pillars and witness to this among your peers, too: such a service is precious! Be grateful to those who guide you in your formation with commitment, competence and availability: they are a sign of the Christian community’s attention and care for you. You are not alone: be the first to seek and welcome the Church's company!"