Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Pope Francis, The Joy of Love, and the pastoring of souls

*UPDATE: Cardinal Schönborn Gives Clarification on Communion (hopefully, this will put all the anti-Francis nastiness to rest.)

I am not going to lie. I am exhausted. I have been discussing the Pope's latest exhortation on my Facebook page for two days now, in several different posts and threads, and it's taken its toll. But, I have to blog it, and I hope to be coherent.

Pope Francis' post-synodal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (AL), “The Joy of Love” is a 255-page, nine chapter document about Love and the Family. It's deep, thorough, beautiful, and wonderfully practical. It clearly and unequivocally restates Church teaching that abortion, contraception, and gay "marriage" are objectively, intrinsically immoral. It stresses the right of a child to have a mother and a father, the right of parents to educate their children, and the rights of conscience for health care workers and others.

I've heard almost no one talk about those facts or what else is in the document (and there is so much!). I've only heard people talk about what is not actually in the document, but what they believe is implied in a footnote, and they are upset.

Keep in mind: AL is not a doctrinal document, it is a pastoral one meant to accompany us messy, wounded souls on our journey to the heart of the Trinity. The exhortation is not magisterial in nature and does not intend to change magisterial teaching.

However, the ferocity and malice from some of the "faithful" is appalling. Listen well, please: I am not appalled by those who simply feel confused about some of the language used in the document -- specifically, that one footnote in this vast work, which the pope could not even immediately recall when asked about it on the plane ride on April 16. But on that plane ride, he did express great frustration with the fact that the media was focused on something they considered most important (the question of Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried), not what he considered most important:

"When I convoked the first synod, the great concern of the majority of the media was communion for the divorced and remarried, and, since I am not a saint, this bothered me, and then made me sad. Because...do you not realize that that is not the important problem? Don’t you realize that instead the family throughout the world is in crisis? Don’t we realize that the falling birth rate in Europe is enough to make one cry? And the family is the basis of society. Do you not realize that the youth don’t want to marry? ... Don’t you realize that the lack of work or the little work (available) means that a mother has to get two jobs and the children grow up alone? These are the big problems."

I share the Holy Father's frustration! It is troubling to me that the firestorm of discussion on social media is about something that, frankly, isn't even there. It troubles me that vast numbers of critics have not even read the document.

If nothing else, I urge all those concerned about the exhortation to read the "controversial" chapter, which is Chapter 8. I read it, and I found it true, and good, and beautiful. I kept shaking my head as I read it, wondering on what basis folks were upset? I kept thinking, "But there is nothing new here! I have know all of this for 21 years, since my reversion. It's nothing new!"

I am guessing that this type of passage, below, is what bothers some people, but can someone explain why? These are the same principles the Church has always used when discerning and pastoring individual souls and culpability:

301. For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain “irregular” situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the Gospel are in any way being compromised. The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace. More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values”, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin. As the Synod Fathers put it, “factors may exist which limit the ability to make a decision”.

302. The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly mentions these factors: “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors”. In another paragraph, the Catechism refers once again to circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility, and mentions at length “affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability”. For this reason, a negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the imputability or culpability of the person.

(I urge you to read the entire chapter so that even this perfectly sound passage is put in the context of the whole.)

The Pope exhorts pastors to walk with, to "accompany", the wounded on their journeys to Christ and sanctity. It's what we do, it's what Christ does, it's what mercy and love require. In no way (and the pope says this time and again) does this change the moral law or the teaching of the Church or the requirements of the Gospel. But it acknowledges that in countless cases, due to the messed up cultures we all live in now, and the lack of formed consciences, we find ourselves in some real fixes! Some from which we cannot easily be extricated.

I use merely one example here, and it's a common one (I taught RCIA for five years, I can tell you many more):

A pastor encounters a secular and/or Protestant woman who (civilly) married a divorced man 20 years ago. She is currently moved to become a Catholic, but her beloved husband is not. Her secular husband wants no part of an annulment proceeding for his first marriage (let's say it was a Protestant wedding and assumed sacramental), and he certainly will not agree to live without sex for the rest of his life so that his wife can become Catholic and receive Communion. There are four children in the home, and that happy, stable home will be put at risk and likely be broken apart for those innocent children if the woman suddenly cuts the man off sexually. The Catholic Church recognizes the difficult situation and does not (now or previously) advise breaking apart the family.

So, what is the woman in the scenario to do? How does a pastor advise this particular soul in her particular situation? It's extremely complex (remember, truths and principles are simple, but people and circumstances are complicated), and aside from judicial issues, there are pastoral issues involved for this infinitely valuable soul and the souls of her family. That is exactly the kind of thing, that complexity, that question of levels of culpability, that Pope Francis was addressing in Chapter 8, and there is nothing new there.

The pope is addressing pastors who are dealing with these excruciating situations where individual human beings may not be fully culpable when they find themselves in a type of no-man's land with no easy solution.

We can work to gather people in, or we can push them away.

The hand-wringing, the complaints, the anger, the vitriol, the despairing by otherwise "faithful" Catholics is hard to watch. There is true hatred for this pope, and it's sad and ugly! (And I'm saying this as someone who admittedly prefers the "style" and doctrinal clarity of a Benedict or a St. John Paul II.)

I used to get annoyed when people would focus on the sins of the "older brother" in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, (because I so sympathized with that older brother) but now I see why he is the most miserable of the characters in the story. When we have everything, when all that the Father has is ours, why are we (as I was) so afraid at the idea that someone else might "get away with something"? I also think about the Parable of the Laborers, and those who came late and got the same wage as those of us who worked all day. Have we been treated unjustly? No, we haven't! Our wage is just! Are we envious because God is generous and extends mercy to those who haven't been laboring as long as we have -- or can't just "get it right"?

I reiterate: I am not speaking to those who simply wish to have clarification about the document and those who are sincerely confused. But there is something unholy about the whole-sale ignoring of a 255-page document by the Vicar of Christ on the crisis of marriage and family, when it's a message this world so desperately needs to hear.

Related article:  Amoris Laetitia and the Progressive Pope Myth


  1. I confess that I have not read it (yet), but it seems a major point of confusion is this:

    Can the divorced and re-married receive Holy Communion without obtaining an annulment or otherwise amending their life? If yes, then how?

    Without amending the annulment process, I don’t see an abiding way to do it.

    I wonder about Holy Communion becoming a kind of participation trophy (if it’s not already).

  2. Yes, that is the point of confusion for many, and the justification for the uproar, and the vitriol against the Vicar of Christ from Catholics who should know better.

    Nothing in the document says anything about that question, specifically. And the entire document is being ignored. That's the greatest frustration. I look forward to your thoughts on the document, and if you want to go to the "controversy", skip to Chapter 8.

  3. Leila,

    Doesn't go without saying that the rest of the document is beautiful? I'm overjoyed that there's more clarity about the other issues of contraception & same sex unions. However, I'm not going to emphasize praise in my discussions because to me, there's nothing to discuss, nothing to figure out. Right now, I'm focusing on what I need to figure out in my head and make sense of and that is the issue of divorce-and-remarried. Does that make sense? I'm sorry if it's come off as me not caring about the rest of the document. I'm overjoyed by Humanae Vitae but I have nothing to figure out about it so I'm not going to continuously say how much I love it.

  4. And, I wish it did go without saying that every good Catholic loves the 99.9% of the document that isn't the footnote (that doesn't say anything about divorced and remarrieds receiving Communion anyway), but it's not falling out that way as I watch the anger and despair out there.

  5. I'm going to be honest; I haven't read many primary source documents. I tend to go by commentators who I have found to be worthy of trust in their summaries. I struggle with ADD (legitimately diagnosed) so my attention span makes it difficult. I'm of the opinion that a document can be appreciated without reading it in full.

  6. I agree, you don't have to read it in full. Chapter 8 is not that long, and I did put an excerpt above. I guess I just wonder what line or lines have you worried and why? If you could cite them, that would be helpful.

  7. It's the principle of the matter. I'm still with Robert Royal, Raymond Arroyo, and Fr. Gerald Murray (a canon lawyer) on this.

  8. What is the principle that you are stating? Without a citation or reference from the exhortation, how can there even be a discussion?

  9. I have caught myself overestimating the power that leaders have.

    God is holding all of the power to heal us and save us. We are simply privileged and often broken vessels. Even the Pope.

    Also, no one wants to accept consequences. Well, they are often very painful. Sure, the not knowing removes the culpability to a degree, but not always the consequences.

    If someone has their tubes tied and burned, they have to live with the pain of never conceiving again. I've seen this pain in people I love and it's deep and lasting. Or the woman, who in desperation, has an abortion that results in the inability to conceive. How about the mother in the depths of alcoholism that has a child born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome? We can't fix that for them. We can, however, give them a reason for hope ~ the hope of Heaven, where we will be one with the Trinity. That's what it's all about.

    I cannot imagine how painful it would be to not receive Jesus in the Eucharist. I know full well how blessed I was to have been married Methodist the first time, believe me.

    But, if not, I would hopefully have accepted the rules. I'd rather go without and know that I'm pleasing and reconciled to God.

  10. Once again, I thank you for your clarity, Leila! I plan to read the document this summer. Right now I am tackling Redemptor Hominis. :) I think the main point, for me anyway, is that Pope Francis is not speaking ex cathedra. As you so beautifully state, it is a "pastoral" document. God bless you!

  11. Leila, I have read the contentious parts of AL, and I have finally started to read the whole thing. Yes, there is beauty in this document. I got to the end of paragraph 1 and thought, "Stop there! What more needs to be said?" The Christian faith, especially as it is given to us in the Catholic Church, contains a mountain of meaning in just a few words. Francis quotes the 2015 synod report, which says that for those who desire marriage and family, "the Christian proclamation on the family is good news indeed." Is it ever! If people would only hear it and follow it, so much unhappiness could be avoided and so much joy could be in its place. But our sexuality is a powerful thing and we are easily tempted away from the Christian message on it, and we're all left to deal with the fallout. I'm sure as I read the rest of the document I'll want to stop at several points just to let it really sink in and I'll be left with a heart that is so grateful to be Catholic.

    At the same time, there are hints about chapter 8 early on. Having read parts of chapter 8, those references stand out to me, and I know I'm not going to like what is coming later on. Not only not like it - as of right now, I don't even agree with what it seems to be saying. As far as I can tell, the best I'll be able to do with chapter 8 is take what is helpful and ask God to help us with the rest.

    Of course I completely agree with you, that there are people on the Internet that are saying horrible things. There is no excuse whatsoever for it. Some of it is from people who have always been a little bit nasty, but some Catholic bloggers I've followed are really expressing themselves in a way that I'm not comfortable with. We all have to be careful not to take our reactions in places they should never go.

    I see the other part of your discussion, about what, exactly, chapter 8 is trying to say. You know from online discussions how I feel about those passages. They are unclear, and after JPII and Benedict, we are not used to a lack of clarity. After the 70s, 80s and 90s, the last thing we need is lack of clarity. I know we don't have to go in circles about it. But I do have a new question for you. I'll have to put it in another response so my message isn't too long for Blogger.

  12. In all of this, why do you suppose the Church has singled out divorce and civil remarriage to get special attention regarding Holy Communion? If it's only because it is a mortal sin, well, no one in mortal sin is to receive Communion. If it's only because it's public, well, there are other public sinners, too.

    Is it because of Henry VIII? Or it because, instead, people have always known that when it comes to marriage, one of the hallmarks of Christianity, obvious even to outsiders, was that Christianity held marriage in unparalleled esteem?

    Could it be that we hold marriage in such esteem because of the immense importance of the marital bond as an expression of the Trinity and of God's relationship to us and to the Church, His bride? I am thinking more and more lately that the connection between the two is huge, and it does not do anyone any good if we try to "mercifully" water down our understanding of that connection.

    Every time someone gives an example of a person in a hard marriage situation, that is, of a person in a second, civil marriage, and follows the example with, "What do you expect them to do?" I always think, well, I expect them to live as brother and sister (and completely understand if their situation makes them decide that that is impossible) or I expect them not to receive Holy Communion. I don't even know why it's a question. This is what the Church has been consistently teaching. Is that hard? Of course it is! In response to Our Lord's own teaching on marriage, the apostles' reaction was, "Well then, who would ever get married?" They saw his words as very hard to accept. But they accepted it, and gave us a Church that teaches it, and has taught it for 2,000 years. I don't think that now is the time to change the Church's teaching on marriage. And you can argue that AL doesn't change it, but I don't think anyone reading AL can say with certainty that they know what the Holy Father means about those parts of it. We can say, "He never comes out and says you can receive Communion," or you can say, "But we have to be merciful, and sometimes that can include 'the help of the sacraments'." Which means..... what? No one even really knows. All we've been able to do is guess. That's what I mean when I say it's not clear. And from what I can tell, when it comes to marriage, a reflection of the Trinity and of the relationship of Christ and His Church, the importance of clarity could not be more huge.

  13. I echo everything Sharon just wrote; thank you, Sharon for articulating it more clearly than I have been able to :)

  14. Leila~ Thank you for the love and intellect you put into your ministry. I wanted to respond to your last question about what the cross meant to us individually but did not have time. I woke this morning with the words "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" in my head. That Love from Christ is my response to your first question weeks ago and it comes to me maybe because of the Pope Francis' The Joy of Love? How often, even the most devout Catholics make mistakes, leading themselves and others into sin. Christ is a perfect judge. Let us pray for Grace in our hearts at all times - that even if we do not fully comprehend the why's of what we are doing, that we will be guided in holiness to holy actions. God always answers prayers for redemption. He is trustworthy. I think that is the gist of The Joy of Love - encouragement for religious and lay to seek the holiest path, guide each other in it and it may not always be black and white. God makes a way back to Himself if we seek it. The Church is His bride making it possible. Blessed be God forever.

  15. The help of the sacraments (in certain circumstances) line was followed by a comment about confession.

    Do we really think the Pope changed the long-established requirements for Holy Communion in a footnote?

    Frankly, I find that ridiculous and uncharitable.

    I love my fellow Catholics. But I believe God sent us BXVI to inspire us to have more intellectual curiosity about our faith. To dig in and find ideas and traditions that were forgotten in our modern world.

    I think he sent us Francis because we are not to hide behind our Pope and refuse to engage our Faith. This document changed nothing. There is nothing in it that is unCatholic. It has a ton of wonderful, wonderful things in it. And all we do is rip it apart. We are eating our own.

    People are just mad the Pope didn't deal with this issue the way they would have dealt with it.

    The constant call for clarity reminds me of the part of the bible where God says if we don't believe despite the Resurrection. There is nothing that will make us believe.

  16. The footnote makes reference to the Eucharist, too, Starfire.

  17. Here is what I see. Not just with AL but on other controversial issues too. Some Catholics are very smug that they do not have "messy situations". They do not think it is fair that the messy situations are welcome in the Church.

    No reason for the Catholic Church to exist if there aren't messy situations.

    In my opinion we are all messy even if we don't use birth control, have abortions or have illicit sex.

  18. A reference, yes. But that doesn't change my point.

    There is nothing in that footnote that is unCatholic.

    You are chasing ghosts.

  19. StarFireKK, I agree with you, and I think there are people who will only "believe" if the Pope is exactly what they want him to be. Then the minute we get a Francis, they want to turn on the Church. I have stories to tell about this, and I also have a story to tell about a "messy" situation that I know of personally, that might help explain what the Pope is talking about. (After I get back in a few hours, sorry!)

    LizaMoore, indeed we do! And some of our "messy situations" is a lack of love for others, and I see that a lot. There is a reason that Jesus told the "perfect" Pharisees that they prostitutes and tax collectors would be in Heaven before they were.

    And, I am NOT talking about Sharon and Margo!! So, please don't misunderstand! Sharon, I think you will understand better when I tell you the story of someone I know personally (with details changed a bit). Back soon!

  20. I wasn't speaking of anyone here either! Sorry, I should have been clear about that.

  21. There are actually really good Catholics who are having a hard time with this document. They are not ridiculous, uncharitable ghost chasers. I feel bad seeing that characterization. It really is unfair.

  22. Sharon, and I'm trying to get at what they are afraid of? I think a few years ago I might have had that same type of reaction, but I'm trying to think, "why?" Was it because I deep down feared that the Church was not what she says she is? Was it the fear that someone might get away with something that I could never, in conscience, get away with? Was it the fear that I would be "embarrassed" if I couldn't explain something that the pope said that appeared to weaken or water-down what I had always said?

    I guess I wonder why so little trust and faith in the Church? Christ founded the Church. We needn't fear a thing. Maybe it's a test for these folks?

  23. Okay, here is my example, and I am changing the details, but I actually do know this woman and call her a friend.

    There is a woman who is a convert. She married a divorced man over 20 years ago who had been (previously) married in the Church. When she married him, she did not realize this was a big deal, marrying a legally divorced man. They have five children together from their union. A few years into the union, the woman had a massive conversion of heart, or rather an awakening as to the truth of the Church. She has not stopped believing fully in the Truth of the Church since then. In fact, her whole life is about evangelizing, teaching, praying, not compromising on a single teaching of the Church in what she says or does for her parish and diocese and Catholic charities with which she is involved (and it's a lot). Her children are raised strictly Catholic, in an intact home.

    She has not received Communion in many, many years. She cannot go to Confession. She is worried, worried that she may be hellbound. She cannot live as brother and sister with her husband for various reasons, but trust me, that's not possible without further disasters, and I would not want to reveal those details, but there is no way it's going to happen. If she made this man live as a monk in his own home with his wife of 20+ years, that would essentially be the end of the marriage and the family (and there are other extenuating circumstances that I cannot go into, but which she has discussed with more than one awesome priest). The children are at an age and some in places where the divorce of their parents would set them on a path downward. In fact, the woman, though fearing for her own soul this whole time, is more fearful for her children's souls, should they have a bad reaction if the family is torn apart, which is very likely. In this case, she really is looking out for the souls of her loved ones more than her own.

    As it stands, she is in no-man's land. I can't explain why annulment has not been possible, but trust me, I know, and it's unusual.

    The woman does not want to be in this situation. Her heart is aching, and she wants the Eucharist. She loves the Church. She is not, as Pope Francis says of some, "flaunting" the teachings of the Church, not in the least! In fact, there is not even a scandal involved in the community in which she lives, as only a handful of people know that her husband had a previous wife and no annulment. Perhaps some would wonder why she never takes Communion (she has never missed mass or a Holy Day), but it's likely they don't even notice that she is only going up for a blessing.

    Bottom line: I know this woman and I know her heart. She would give ANYTHING to find a way out, to not be in this situation. As the Pope says, there are some cases where this is simply not possible... that she has a "limited ability to make a decision". Yes, she is doing the right thing by abstaining from the Eucharist. But is she really, really less worthy than the "perfect Catholic" out there, the one who follows all the rules to a T, but has a heart of stone and judgement for the others? Jesus talks of this type of person all the time! The Publican in the Temple comes to mind. I don't know what to do with people like my friend, but I know that God will work it out, either by his overriding mercy in the next life, or by finding a way out in this life (my own grandpa, a daily communicant, did not receive Communion for 30 years because my grandma did not want to be married in the Church -- they eloped as teens; she finally consented after menopause).

  24. To continue: I think of Chris Farley, the actor and comedian who had SO many demons that he could not overcome and that finally took him from this world. He wanted SO BADLY to be a good Catholic. His best friend was a priest, and he did everything he knew how to do to get right with God. He did not WANT to be addicted to porn and to drugs, etc. He wanted to be holy. His heart was not rotten. There are those who march up to Communion every week with a smug self-righteousness and no love in their hearts. Who is worse off before the Lord?

    I am not, not, not talking about Sharon or Margo, not at all! But I know these people. I have seen them. We all know them. I think Jesus addressed them. And now, with Francis saying, "hey, we are not talking about people who flaunt the moral law, but for others, with no way out, can we talk about a path? A way of mercy? A way to accompany them in their pain, to an inclusion?" And this may mean, as Fr. Longenecker said, Confession and a respite to receive Communion, or maybe Confirmation? Who knows? But what do we do with them? JPII also talked at length about how to bring in the divorce and remarried and make them a part of the community again.

    I am NOT talking about people who want to agitate and water down the Church teachings. Those folks are no better than the ones with no love in their hearts. So, a remarried couple who marches up to Communion because "God is love" and we make our own rules...that's not who I'm talking about. Or the "proud" gay couple who "just knows" that one day the Church will change her teachings and so openly shows up with a gay partner and children and expects the Eucharist? NO, NO, NO!! That is not right, and they do not have a clean heart. They are happy to be in their sinful situation and refuse to get out. This is so different from someone who is sorrowful and does not want to be in their situation but finds no way out. And these good folks do not want to cause scandal, not in the least! They want to conform to the moral law and they love the Church and all her teachings.

    That is why Francis is saying we must be pastoral (he's speaking to his fellow priests) and look at the individual who presents himself or herself before us. This is nothing new.

    Why are we so afraid? I still want to get back to that....

    Anyway, I hope that makes sense.

  25. My manner of speaking is a little blunt. I assure you, it isn't personal. I'm not trying to attack anyone here or make anyone feel bad or pass any judgment on how good of Catholics anyone is. My basic assumption is everyone here is a better Catholic than I am. :-)
    I'm sorry for any hurt feelings.

    I was merely trying to express that I thought the conclusions being drawn about the footnote were uncharitable towards the Holy Father. My statement was never meant to imply the people were bad Catholics.

  26. If anyone is interested, Trent Horn of Catholic Answers and I discussed this issue on his show the other day (Hearts and Minds). It's the first time I've done a co- guest host stint, so have mercy, ha ha! I'm a newbie.


  27. Sharon, thank you for the excellent analysis of that particular sin state. I am a sinner. Yet, I am completely in agreement with traditional Catholics and I do mean those who hold to the orthodoxy of the faith and who are neither "soft" on sin nor "soft" on recalcitrant sinners.

    I believe, from all that I have read and intuited about Pope Francis, that he is soft on sin in the "tradition" of the new order of Jesuits. That is not orthodoxy! And it borders on heterodoxy. The new Jesuits, as a rule, believe in the wisdom of man over God but they couch it well, like politicians do. I believe that these Jesuits may indeed be under God's punishment for worshiping the creature over the Creator. I think their minds have become addled as St. Paul explains in Romans 1:18-32.

    Confusion is of the devil and our Pope is a great big ball of confusion. He is all about "social justice" which is really the "new" mercy without God's judgment. He seems to be confused about who God is.

    Leila, having read your blog for years, I think you are the eternal optimist and want to see the good in all things that are supposed to be good. I think you occupy the seat in the middle of the aisle, though, and do not see the edges for what they are, the outliers. The new Jesuits have many edges.

    Still, Leila, I love your blog and learn so much from you and your commentators.

  28. Barb, remember, I went to school with the Jesuits, at Boston College. I saw everyone become less Catholic or non-Catholic there. I have very serious issues with non-faithful Jesuits, trust me. I am not naive at all. This pope talks about the devil and evil and is very Marian. He is not an outlier. I am worried (to say the least) when you say that our Holy Father "seems to be confused about who God is" or that he is "bordering on heterodoxy", or that Ball of Confusion = Pope Francis = From the Devil. That is unbelievably un-Catholic.

    It's scary, frankly.

    No one has ever accused me of being soft on sin or fuzzy on doctrine. In fact, I've been accused of being too "mean" at times because I am a stickler. But I am in "the middle" if by the middle you mean right there in the center where the Church resides. Right with Peter. Where Peter is, there is the Church, and where the Church is, there is Christ. There is not one heretic or schismatic who did not first begin his move away from the Church by first doubting that Peter's successor was in error and that he (the dissenter) was correct in his negative assessment of the Holy Father.

    Having said that, I am going to link a couple of things that might help you or others who are troubled by the communication style of this pope. Hang on....

    1. Make that "by first believing that Peter's successor was in error..."

  29. I think Simcha Fisher does a REALLY good job of explaining it (and her "aha" moment about Francis):


    From Connie Rossini, which made perfect sense to me:

    "Forgive me for turning to my bailiwick again, but I can't help but think much of this angst boils down to simple temperamental differences. Pope Francis writes from his temperament, which I peg as sanguine-phlegmatic. He's not going to write as a melancholic (being especially clear and careful), because that's not the way he thinks. He's not going to talk about fire and brimstone like a choleric. He has the sanguine's strengths and the sanguine's weaknesses. We need to accept him as he is. I won't pretend I find him as much to my taste as Pope Benedict, but finding a pope to my taste is not one of God's promises about His Church. I will strive to love Pope Francis for who he is, rather than hate him or fear him for who he is not."

  30. And from our own Bethany:

    "Here's the long of the short of it: If we are truly concerned about the souls of others we are going to have acknowledge:

    1) Jesus saves souls, not us or anything we do.
    2) Jesus saves souls, not doctrine, laws, or catechesis.
    3) As followers of Christ our job is to bring others to Christ, and the best (if not only true way) to that is by engaging others and forming relationships with them. 4) No one is going to even want to form a relationship with someone who only talks about all the mistakes and sins they are committing.
    5) We are called to adminish the sinner, yes; we are not called to admonish EVERY sinner. Admonishment and correction only works in a deep, trusting relationship.
    6) If others, even in the hierarchy of the Church, choose to ignore or deny the Truth of doctrine, either to develop a trusting relationship or out of fear of losing a trusting relationship, they misunderstand Christ and his Church and they will answer to God. But this does not negate our responsibility to faithfully live out doctrine and share it with others ALWAYS being mindful of the above points.
    In other words it is not our job to compensate for someone else's lack of doctrinal teaching by abandoning the engagement and formation of relationships in order to bullet-point doctrine to everyone.

    (And yes, I recognize the irony of using bullet-points)."

  31. Oh Bethany!! #5 is brilliant.

    Leila's example of her friend - I think I should only feel mercy for the friend and family. Don't know them, don't know the details. I shouldn't speculate what they should do. Mercy, love and prayers is all that is required of me. The people close to them can counsel further.

    I will say that I agree with Leila that situation isn't the same as a married gay couple wanting communion.

    From what I see, some Catholics will smack their lips with pleasure and say they should be living as brother and sister, or move away from each other. Too bad so sad that the family gets torn up. These Catholics feel bitter that they followed the rules and others who didn't might appear to get a free pass.

    Leila, I will be praying for your friend and her family.

  32. Well, I've been thinking about this since yesterday. Here are some of my thoughts.

    1. Mercy cannot be without Justice. That's the point of the Cross, right? God didn't erase our debt, Christ paid it.

    2. One of the strengths of the Catholic Church is it teaches an objective truth. The objective truth almost always ties into a happier, healthier, more moral society.

    3. The Catholic stance on divorce and remarriage has probably saved more marriages than it has destroyed. We still have divorces in my family where divorce was a dirty word but it was the last resort. In my friends family, it was often the opening attack.

    Relaxing the standard on divorce and remarriages can have a lot of unintended consequences as Catholics start to think of marriage as less permanent and less important. It may not be with us, but three generations from now might be a different story. I think we have some obligation to give the next generations as many tools as possible to build faithful and moral lives.

    4. We often say "there is no option" because we don't want to take the options we have. There is always an option to return to the sacraments. Sometimes that option has a tremendous cost and sometimes we have no idea how we can ever pay it. But God will always aid us if we wish to return to Him. Sometimes we have to trust.

    5. This isn't about someone "getting away with something" it is about realizing this is bigger than any one of us, or hundreds of us, or millions of us. It is not that we are trying to be nasty to those in hard or tragic situations. Marriage reaches everything. It is security for children, it civilizes adults, it stabilizes society. I don't think it is possible to overstate the importance of marriage.

  33. Starfire, we can show mercy without the expectation of justice.


    Full Definition of mercy
    plural mercies
    a : compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one's power; also : lenient or compassionate treatment
    b : imprisonment rather than death imposed as penalty for first-degree murder
    a : a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion
    b : a fortunate circumstance
    : compassionate treatment of those in distress
    mercy adjective
    at the mercy of
    : wholly in the power of : with no way to protect oneself against

  34. Leila, I find your friend's story so sad, and so inspirational. Obviously she has a great love of God. My two thoughts on it - well, more than two. First of all, you said, "The children are at an age and some in places where the divorce of their parents would set them on a path downward." Sadly, as a divorced mother, I know from heartbreaking experience that that is the reality of all divorce, unless there is abuse involved.

    Another thought is, regarding the impossibility of annulment. Not knowing the details as you haven't shared them, has she hired a canon lawyer, if such a thing is even possible? Honestly I would do all I could to contact someone like Ed Peters, and if he wouldn't help, I'd try someone else. If it is a situation where the process is being unjustly denied to this couple, then that should be addressed, for their benefit and for the benefit of others.

    I will also pray for her and will offer my Communion for her. I love the line in The Lord of the Rings where Liv Tyler's character is afraid she about to lose Frodo, and prays, "Let the grace that was given to me pass to him." So I will pray that she receive the grace of my Communion, knowing that we are bound by the "rules" of the sacraments, but God is not.

  35. Boston College, lol, I forgot that about you. Leila. You said, "I am worried (to say the least) when you say that our Holy Father "seems to be confused about who God is" or that he is "bordering on heterodoxy", or that Ball of Confusion = Pope Francis = From the Devil. That is unbelievably un-Catholic."

    Of course you can interpret my remarks as being un-Catholic but I am not alone in my thinking. I am not a leader in this. I am accompanied by many holy priests, catechists and theologians who believe the pope has gone too far. I am also not a sedevacantist. Devout Catholics can hold those opinions, even call our pope's comments and actions bordering on heterodoxy as long as we agree that the pope has not and cannot err when pronouncing a magisterial teaching. The Church has had a few popes who were grave and objectively mortal sinners. I see Pope Francis as erring because he seems to focus much more on the poor than on morals and doctrine. That to me is the cudgel which many Jesuits use to castigate those of us who are more conservative in our beliefs.

    That Pope Francis has confused Catholics is not a condemnation as much as it is a judgment of his actions and what many bloggers and commentators have said in their posts. I think this behavior by the pope is more calculated than it is incidental. You do not have to agree, lol, but I think you go too far by saying my remarks are un-Catholic. If I had to define myself in terms of what type of Catholic (politically, if you will) I am I would have to say more along the lines of a conservative traditionalist, not so much a radical one, though.

    I could give you a list of names of devout Catholics who agree with me but you should be able to deduce from their blogs and their websites who they are.

    Also, I do not make it a habit of smearing a prelate's name. I am opining among us as to the subject matter of your post. Here, at your blog, we are a small community and should trust each other to express our heartfelt opinions.

  36. As far as what people I know are "afraid" of, it really isn't fear. It would be ridiculous for any of us (myself & these people I know, including relatives) to think that the gates of hell will actually prevail against the Church. We are certainly not afraid of that.

    I think that all I had better say is that an article I came across was helpful to me in tying pieces of the exhortation together. It would be nice if we didn't have to do a kind of mental gymnastics to connect all of the dots,or, as someone said to me, sure, it's "obvious to anyone who connected these two footnotes that were separated by only 21 other footnotes", but in law and diplomacy, what is said in one place has impact in determining the intended meaning of what was said in other places.


    Clarity helps reduce confusion. And I just don't think I want to say any more than that.

    Margo, I hope that article helps you out a little bit, too.

  37. That's true. But it is a fine line between being merciful and being unjust to the person or persons who were wronged, if we aren't careful.

    I guess I'm bothered by justifying changing a long standing Church teaching on an issue that is very important because "there are no options." That's a common rationalization for sin and not one we accept in any other circumstance.

    Why is this sin suppose to be the exception? What makes this different?

    Furthermore, does the Church even have the power to make this exception? God sets the rules, not us.

    Frankly, look what we are asking people who have same-sex attraction to do. Ignore your instincts, deny yourself intimacy and pleasure most of the world gets to have, deny yourself children (or marry someone who is okay with you not being attracted to them), grow up in a broken world that may very well be isolating, dangerous and incredibly abusive.

    How can we possibly say that to people and then go "Oh, ignore the divorced and remarried over there....that doesn't pertain to you."

  38. It's early, so forgive my non-nuance.

    First, Barb, this is what Pope Pius X said about obedience and love of the Pope:

    The Pope is the guardian of dogma and of morals; he is the custodian of the principles that make families sound, nations great, souls holy; he is the counsellor of princes and of peoples; he is the head under whom no one feels tyrannized because he represents God Himself; he is the supreme father who unites in himself all that may exist that is loving, tender, divine.

    It seems incredible, and is even painful, that there be priests to whom this recommendation must be made, but we are regrettably in our age in this hard, unhappy, situation of having to tell priests: love the Pope!

    And how must the Pope be loved? Non verbo neque lingua, sed opere et veritate. [Not in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth - 1 Jn iii, 18] When one loves a person, one tries to adhere in everything to his thoughts, to fulfill his will, to perform his wishes. And if Our Lord Jesus Christ said of Himself, "si quis diligit me, sermonem meum servabit," [if any one love me, he will keep my word - Jn xiv, 23] therefore, in order to demonstrate our love for the Pope, it is necessary to obey him.

    Therefore, when we love the Pope, there are no discussions regarding what he orders or demands, or up to what point obedience must go, and in what things he is to be obeyed; when we love the Pope, we do not say that he has not spoken clearly enough, almost as if he were forced to repeat to the ear of each one the will clearly expressed so many times not only in person, but with letters and other public documents; we do not place his orders in doubt, adding the facile pretext of those unwilling to obey - that it is not the Pope who commands, but those who surround him; we do not limit the field in which he might and must exercise his authority; we do not set above the authority of the Pope that of other persons, however learned, who dissent from the Pope, who, even though learned, are not holy, because whoever is holy cannot dissent from the Pope.

    This is the cry of a heart filled with pain, that with deep sadness I express, not for your sake, dear brothers, but to deplore, with you, the conduct of so many priests, who not only allow themselves to debate and criticize the wishes of the Pope, but are not embarrassed to reach shameless and blatant disobedience, with so much scandal for the good and with so great damage to souls.

    Saint Pius X
    Allocution Vi ringrazio to priests on the 50th anniversary of the Apostolic Union
    November 18, 1912

  39. I'd like to take back my statements from yesterday. And apologize again for being overly harsh. Reasonable minds can differ and it takes all kinds of Catholics to build a strong Church.

    I don't agree this document is cause for much worry and I know there are priests and bloggers who agree. But it is unfair to say everyone must hold that view. That's not right or healthy for our Church.

    I've struggled to find my place in our Church. I consider myself on the fringe because I am often among the secular world more than among my fellow Catholics.

    Sometimes what I view as "internal squabbling" which undermines our larger mission to convert the world is often serious and necessary discussion for the health of our Church.

    I was thinking about this last night (gotta love Catholic guilt) and realized part of the reason I am so dismissive about the internal discussions and nitpicking is because, in part, it is in good hands. There are plenty of Catholics willing to question and ask for clarification.

    As the saying goes I shouldn't "shoot at my own side." So again, I'm sorry and I'm grateful for the insights this discussion has given me.

  40. Second, Barb, to say that "the pope seems confused about who God is" is beyond anything any good Catholic would ever say. I am being blunt: It's anti-Catholic. It's horrifying that a Catholic would say such a thing. You have no idea, then, who Peter is. Read Pius X above, several times. You can certainly say whatever you feel about anything here, but you know well that that does not mean that I will not correct, call you out on it, or even defend the Catholic Faith and the Holy Father against untruth. What you said simply cannot be.

    LizaMoore: With God, mercy and justice are "the same" so to speak. He cannot not be just, because He is Justice.

    StarFireKK, the difference with this issue, is, as the Pope makes clear in the exhortation, that there may be no way to make a decision. It does not just involve "stopping" a sin, because of the potential for catastrophe for the children. Honestly, there is no parallel for gay "marriage" because raising children in a gay situation is considered by the Church as child abuse. That always has to stop, and it is always best for the children to get out of that situation, even though there will be pain. With the divorced and remarried, the children are still being raised by the parents God gave them, and it may be that the children are not even aware of the irregularity.

    Sharon, I can't give all the details. :(

    1. And, StarFireKK, it sounds like I am implying that you were saying there is a parallel for gay marriage. I didn't mean to imply that's what you said. Sorry!

  41. Barb, one more thing: Appealing to the fact that "all sorts of holy people" agree with you means nothing to me, as you can imagine. How is that a different appeal than any dissenter from the Pope at any time or era? Where is the Church? Look for Peter. End of story.

  42. Leila, I think you are wrong to suggest that because someone disagrees with some of the actions and statements of a pope it makes that person un-Catholic.

    For Catholics who accept Pope Francis as the valid Roman Pontiff (and I do), some disagreement is possible without heresy, schism, or other grave sin.

  43. Barb, I think implying that the Pope is a heretic goes far beyond simple disagreement.

  44. Leila- No worries, I understand. :-)

    I'm not a parent, but I think sometimes we protect our kids too much.

    A lot of what makes divorce so awful for children is the disrespect for marriage, for the other parent, and the desire to put the parent's interests and wants above all else, etc.

    My great-grandmother divorced my great-grandfather. To her dying day she said it was the dumbest thing she ever did. Something happened, she got angry and demanded a divorce, he tried to talk her out of it but she wouldn't be moved.

    She raised her three sons by herself and raised them all to be strong Christian men. In part because she admitted her mistake. That's not the only story like that I know.

    God gives all of us, including children, hard times. Tough times in childhood shape the adults we become and the virtues we choose to protect.

    If the couple really worries about the children through divorce they can live as brother and sister. If they (or one of them) is unwilling to do that, that person is putting sex before their kids. That's messed up, and is that really a good example for the children?

  45. JoAnna, in that I do agree with you. It is a serious charge. I use bordering heresy to mean that some of Pope Francis' teachings, opinions, actions are divisive. They have tended to divide Catholics from each other and from what the doctrine teaches. I don't mean that Pope Francis speaks against dogma, but that his actions of mercy are confusing people about the infallible teachings.

  46. Let me put it this way. My mother passed away years ago and I still worry about her. I don't think I have any reason to worry about her but she did have an unprovided death.

    If I were to find out that she kept herself in a state of mortal sin for my sake (and for me to have a normal, easier, good life) I would be utterly horrified. I suspect most children would have a similar reaction.

    My reaction would be "Don't do this! I love you. I want to see you in heaven. We can endure what life throws at us. We'll get through it."

    To me, it would seem so so so so unnecessary.

  47. I know you haven't provided all of the details, but all I can say is, I would keep trying if I were she. I can't imagine that every single option has been tried and no one has come up with another option. I will pray that someone will be inspired with another option. I would also use her as an example to my own daughters, that marrying a previously married man who does not have an annulment will lead to sorrow. I know, using her example to benefit those in the future doesn't help her now, but the truth is still the same.

  48. Leila, sheesh!, I can't keep up with you. I have no children at home and I can't keep tabs on all of these posts. So I just read your contribution about St. Pius X a few minutes ago. His writings are always beautiful and holy. Thank you.

    I will take what he has said to heart and reconsider my thoughts. I am not infallible, lol, far from it.

  49. Barb, I said that what you "said" (those words) are un-Catholic. Read them. Read the words. They are not Catholic. I did not say that YOU are un-Catholic. But I do believe your words are.

    StarFireKK, I disagree. And the pope and the Church disagrees, apparently, too. Even my friend was told by MYRIAD priests (who are 100% faithful) that the Church does not ask and would not ask her to break the family asunder. That is not what God asks. And Pope Francis says as much in his exhortation. I'm going with that. It's common sense, really. It would also not be a case of the woman being in "mortal sin", would it? If she is in no way wanting to be in this situation, does that not mitigate? Is she agreeing to allow the sin (sex in a non-marriage) but not with full consent of her will? Mitigation is part of the pastoral discernment.

    Again, the point is, you are not in the situation, you cannot make the call. You don't know the kids, the husband, the wife, the situation (generically, not talking about my friend). We trust the Church, we trust the Pope, we trust our pastors who are faithful, we trust God.

    Anyway, more later... I am out of pocket for most of the morning here....

    1. And I did not mean that to sound harsh. Sorry! :) I'm rushing.

      Also, anyone who had an unprovided for death should definitely be prayed for. We cannot presume heaven, of course. I will pray for your mom! I love how Padre Pio says we may pray for things retroactively. Like even things and people centuries ago. I love that God is outside of time! :)

  50. Sharon, Amen! Yes! God will always provide a path for the truly contrite, even if that means looking at the heart and seeing that there is not full culpability. Even if it means a deathbed confession and Communion. Even if it means a bestowing of sanctifying grace outside of the Sacraments (which God can accomplish for the meek and humble of heart), etc..

    And Barb, thank you! I truly appreciate that humble heart!!

  51. I disagree Starfire. Leila says it better than I. The Catholic Church isn't in the business of breaking up families. In Leila's example she said there are extenuating circumstances as to why living as brother and sister or leaving isnt possible Any family has extenuating circumstances as to why those options aren't realistic.

    I think Pope Francis knows exactly what he is doing, saying and not saying. I believe it is all calculated by him and God.

  52. StarFireKK, I am especially appreciative of your grasp of some of the metaphysical aspects of our faith in what you have written yesterday and today. I don't see any need for you to apologize for your strong opinions. I don't find your tone or your words offensive. But your humility is appreciated and I take it as a good example for me.

    I suppose you could call me a Catholic who did not appreciate having to follow all the tenets of our faith until I had an actual Holy Spirit reversion to truth about six years ago during a time of extreme humility. It was an amazing metaphysical moment. I describe it as having my eyes opened wide and seeing the world anew in technicolor. Everything became brighter and I received a voracious appetite, all of a sudden, for everything Catholic.

    I have, however, not practiced my faith as zealously now as I did for the first few years of my reversion. Too, the temporal effects of sins of grave matter may stay with me throughout my life. I am open to all heartfelt contributions.

  53. Ahh, the "not full culpability" angle. I think the article I linked to covers that. 1. Grave matter. 2. Full knowledge. 3. Free choice. Ok, some people didn't know it was grave matter. Part of pastoral responsibility is to point out that it is grave matter. 2. Full knowledge. You have been pastorally advised, so now you have full knowledge. 3. Free will. Leila, if you say that your friend does not have free will, you could say that about so, so many people in that situation. I think that is the way you see this situation, that someone's pastor could say you don't have free will. Your friend has free will. She just has a very tough situation, in which she chooses what she feels she must, based on a mistake in her past. As the article I linked explains, the Church has that choice covered. It is too hard for some to live as brother and sister, so the path offered by the Church is to forego the Eucharist. It's covered. It's hard. But it's hard for a lot of people. That is the pastoral advice that the Church offers.

    1. I guess I want to point out that I mean that every person in a second civil marriage with children, whose spouse insists on sex or he'll leave, can be allowed to have Communion, in order to be consistent. What about someone who was denied an annulment, but they have children and the "spouse" will leave without a normal marital relationship? You'd have to allow that, too. And maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you agree with me. In which case, we're on the same page. :)

  54. Thanks for the prayers for my mother. I know she really appreciates them. And I love the "outside of time" concept of God as well, I think I learned that here.

    I would be the first to tell people to talk to their priests. That's why we have them. I very much agree I don't know the situation or the people involved.

    I certainly think parents must make the best decisions for their children. I also think they are the best people to judge what that is. I was trying to point out that divorce is not always devastating for kids and sometimes it might be a better option.

    I know the Church isn't in the business of breaking up families but it is also in the business of promote faithful marriages. The annulment process exists to determine if there is a previous valid marriage. If that process fails, for whatever reason, we have to assume there is a previous spouse. That spouse matters. Even if the previous spouse doesn't think they matter or the community doesn't think they matter....they still matter.

    I like the fact our Church steps up for the spouse. I like that the Church says people and relationships aren't disposable even if it makes life incredibility messy.

    Sharon, thanks for setting all that out. I was starting to get really confused. :-)

  55. Thank you, Barb. I appreciate that because sometimes I wonder why Leila and the rest of the Bubble commentators puts up with me. Ha ha!

    I'd love to hear more about your reversion. I struggle very much not so much with my faith in God but putting that faith into practice. My husband struggles with the same. Which helps us understand each other but doesn't always help us get to Mass.

  56. Leila, on the question of fears, I do think the examples that you've mentioned have been mine. But, I'm also afraid of sin. And let me just be brave about my other fear. The end times.

    I'll admit to being a bit confused on annulments at this point.

    My heart was heavy for your friend and her family all evening and I am praying for her.

  57. Sorry, just popping in for a second!! Sharon, "full consent of the will".

    I will add more later!

    And yes, the spouses matter. Yes, they do. But so do the children who are always 100% innocent in the mess that these things usually are.

    Read what the document and the Church says about children. Read what Pope Pius X said. Read the document again, and see that no directive regarding the reception of Communion has changed.

    I am happy to facilitate the convo, but I honestly don't see a problem that others are seeing, and so it's hard for me not to just ask, Why don't you trust Peter? And, what do you see has changed?

    And yes, why so much fear and time on this one issue, that is not the issue?

  58. I think for me the fear is I want us to get it right. I want us to be sure. I want the path back to the Lord to be clear.

    I have very, very dear relatives who are divorced and remarried. One in particular is a functional alcoholic for this reason (and many more.) The trials and sufferings this man has endured and beyond my comprehension. He grew up in a family so different than my own. He has killed men in war. He has protected and raised his family. He so much wants to be a faithful Catholic. He acknowledges the failure of his first marriage was partly his fault and his failings. But he cannot deny his love for his current wife or his son from that marriage.

    He won't seek an annulment. I think because he fears it is a second betrayal of his first wife and I think he fears he will be told no.

    His current wife is an atheist (his son a Catholic) and she has her own demons and hurts. Sometimes I wonder if he seeks out a path back to the church she would follow.

    I so desperately want them to be saved. But I don't want a false hope or a false promise.

  59. Okay, I finally read the the latest comments again carefully.

    Sharon, yes, that's the recourse to her and that's what she's doing: Not receiving Communion. She is an incredible asset to the Church and her diocese and has converted many souls (well, you know what I mean! The Holy Spirit has done the actual converting). My question: Is she in a state of mortal sin? I think we would both answer that subjectively we do not know. Personally, I hold to what our Pope says, that in cases like this (what other types of cases could he be talking about in Chapter 8? There are many, and this sure fits the bill for being one of them). What he says is that there are things that can mitigate something from an objectively mortal sin to a venial sin or not a sin at all. For that person. And by the way, that says nothing at all about her husband (whole other soul, whole other judgement, yes?).

    I would say we are on the same page, if you can agree with that (which is merely what our Pope says, and the Church has always said).

  60. StarFireKK, before I address anything else, can you clarify for me: Did you say that you and your husband, both believing Catholics, do not make it to mass all the time?

  61. "He so much wants to be a faithful Catholic."

    So, his desire is the Church, but he sees no path out of his situation? Yes?

    Isn't this exactly what the Pope is talking about? These types of souls? Chapter 8 should be balm for the soul for these poor souls and the ones who love them, and a way to hope, not a source of anger and resentment (not talking about you, but others who hate this Pope and his document).

  62. I remember well, StarFireKK, how God humbled me with two very fraught circumstances. I had been a respectful, but mostly cultural, Catholic until then. I started praying fervently for several months for at least one or two hours each day to thank God for His revelations until one day my world turned upside-down (or right-side up, really, lol). I had needed to learn the words to tell my daughter that she was living a very sinful life but I wanted to be effective and not self-righteous. So one night as I fervently prayed it happened!!!

    Suddenly I felt that I couldn’t breathe and words just kept filling up the room I had made in my head and heart for God during all those months of intense prayer. I had a conversion of heart and mind. I was filled with the zeal and wisdom of the Holy Spirit and I had to grab a pen and paper and write everything down that filled my head. It was surreal. The next morning I woke up to a world in bright technicolor. I was truly alive. I couldn’t get enough of all things Catholic. I spoke to priests, I called on spiritual directors, I read the Bible, I prayed more and I was ecstatic. I was in ecstasy! I never knew such passion.

    I had posted this part of my conversion story to the Bubble years ago but this is for you.

    The two very difficult circumstances which caused my need to give myself up to God are my daughter began living the full "lesbian" lifestyle and I had my precious beagle put to sleep because i could not afford to give him the operation he needed to fix a ruptured disc so that he could walk. (I will post a little more when there is time).

  63. Barb, that is beautiful and I love that you illustrate that intense months of prayer preceded that conversion of heart and mind! Prayer is the key to it. The relationship is the key to understanding who God is and who we are in relation to him, and then what peace and joy there is!

  64. "God gives all of us, including children, hard times. Tough times in childhood shape the adults we become and the virtues we choose to protect."

    StarFireKK, this is true, but woe to those who deliberately cause that harm and pain to children. There is a difference between understanding that "the Cross strengthens" and telling a child "I'm taking away your natural and God-given rights, so buck up and get holy!" The one who takes away those rights (whether by unjust divorce, gay "marriage", IVF, etc, is culpable. Yes, God can make things right, but we have no permission to put things wrong simply because God can ultimately clean up the mess that the adults made for a child.

    I know you agree, but I had to say that.

  65. Leila, as a grown child who found herself in a horrid situation I absolutely agree with you. Perhaps it is a justification of my own situation I suggest children gain from hardship. In which case I hope God himself will humble me. I have no desire to further pain and suffering.

    Barb, oh please let me pray for both you and your daughter and even your dog. I know how precious all of them are to you. I have a dear friend. A man who is one of the most thoughtful and loving men I have ever had cause to meet. He is a person who is about to marry his male lover. He was rejected throughout his childhood by his parents. condemn for his mere thoughts and not his pure (and so pure) actions. Which led to impure actions. Oh I weep for both him and his lover. They are both seemingly good men though flawed. I will weep still for your daughter and all she calls dear.

    We just put down our sweet dachshund, so I weep for your beagle too. May they comfort each other.

    I am afraid I missed your story which sounds so wonderful. To see god is such a blessing even if it is only for a moment. If you can tell me something about the post I can search for it.

  66. Leila, first let me beg humble pardon of your children and your husband. I rejoice that they let me share your affection. I hope they understand, despite all my flaws, I only wish your and their unity with our Lord.

    Let me also beg forgiveness and help from the Bubble readers. For all my intellectual prowess I am nothing more than a fallen sinner.

    But how you see my sin! My husband has all but forbidden me to attend Mass without him but he struggles with the Church. Not the eternal Truth but the human administration has given him pause. The man I spoke of before, who is so prone to despair, is his father.

    My husband is a better man than I am a woman. He is a man generous to all those he meets and often educates me. He has stayed with me when many lessor men would have fled but he struggles so with the Catholic faith.

    I attended Mass last when he was traveling for work and I could attend both confession and Mass. I feel so lost.

    I am not lying or exercising false humility when I say bubble commentators are better Catholics than I am.

  67. StarFireKK, my heart goes out to you and I say that it is for your and your husband that this beautiful document was written! No, you may not be in an invalid marriage, but you, as a family, are far from the Sacraments. This mercy, this accompaniment, should be balm for your soul! Please, read it all and see that you are who Pope Francis is speaking to! I will pray for you and your husband and his father. Much love and hugs to you, my friend!

  68. StarFire, I am praying for you.

    Perhaps I can offer a sort of "outsiders" look at the issue. I am currently trying to become Catholic, but I was not raised in the Church, and my husband was raised with a decidedly anti-Catholic tendency. Our families and friends are a mix of Catholics, Evangelicals, Methodists, etc. I have heard that many Catholics have trouble with Pope Francis's style, but his style is what is drawing many non-Catholics who would never before have considered the Catholic Church to actually look at it. My husband, for example, would have never considered the church with Pope Benedict at the helm, but he admires Pope Francis very much. He says he really feels that he loves the people and God, not just the "rules." This is not in any way to demean other popes (including Benedict), but rather to say that this pope's tone seems more welcoming to many who never felt that the Catholic Church was an option. I think that St Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI explained the doctrine so thoroughly that Pope Francis maybe doesn't see the need to continue in exactly the same way, because faithful Catholics have already (presumably) absorbed these teachings. I will also add, that my husband is thrilled that Pope Francis is NOT changing Catholic doctrine, because Truth should not change. This opened the door for me to explain that the Pope can't actually change doctrine. I think that many Catholics may also be concerned because many around my age don't actually understand that. At least around where I grew up, many were poorly catechized and never really learned that much about the faith, and so are actually waiting for the Pope to "change the rules" so to speak. (I have cradle Catholic friends who speak of annulment as a "Catholic divorce" for example.) You are all so much more knowledgeable than me about doctrine & etc, but I thought this bit of information might be useful to some.

  69. God bless you, StarfireKK. I'm sorry for your suffering. I will pray that both your husband and Leila's friend's husband are given a great desire to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

    Barb, what an awesome conversion story, and what a blessing for you.

  70. What a powerful thread! I love it, and all of you guys! Thank you Pope Francis.

  71. Leila, would you disagree with the assessment in the article I linked?

    Because you seem to be saying that the "certain cases" are cases where, say, your friend would abstain if her husband would go along with it, but he won't, so they don't. On the other hand, the author of this article says the "certain cases" are the cases where they do abstain.

    And this brings me back to the lack of clarity. There are "certain cases" where, you would say, culpability is reduced. Your friend is possibly one, and you also say "there are many." I know you are also saying that this is between a priest and his parishioner, right? But we could potentially say that this could be applied to a person who can't get an annulment because the Church turned them down, yet the wife wants to abstain so she can receive Communion, and the husband refuses, and there are children involved. So, same thing. In one case, the first marriage is presumed valid (which must carry a lot of weight if it means anything), and in the second case, the first marriage is confirmed valid. Either way, the position is that we will ignore that reality, basically, because one spouse refuses to abstain. So, I guess, there it is. It would be a Twilight Zone situation. Wife can go to Communion because she has sex with her husband, essentially even though she doesn't want to under the circumstances, and the husband doesn't get to receive, because he's the one forcing the situation. But should we just say that people who are divorced and remarried but have children should not be expected to abstain, because sex is such an important part of anyone's "marriage"? So for the sake of the children, they can have marital relations, but because they're only doing it for the kids, they can receive Communion? If that reads like a cheap shot, it's not meant to be. I'm just trying to make sure I am following the logic. I have enormous sympathy for your friend, but I can't see how that whole scenario doesn't weaken the situation for everyone, which I don't think your friend would want to see.

    I don't want to run in circles. I also don't judge people in these situations or take delight in someone else not receiving Communion. But I can also see how there is still confusion here.

    1. I quoted the article but the quote disappeared. Here is the part I am most referring to, the part where you and he seem to disagree on what "certain cases" means:

      While he acknowledges (along with Gaudium et Spes 51) the concern of some that a lack of sexual intimacy will lead to unfaithfulness, the pope also tells us that celibacy is what “the Church offers” to those in irregular unions who cannot live apart, and that “many” such couples “know and accept” it. Because he mentions this requirement here, it must necessarily be one of the criteria for the “certain cases” the pope has in mind in footnote 351, when the Eucharist may be given.

  72. (I'm still here, mostly lurking, and "silently" reflecting on everything) Good questions, Sharon!

  73. http://www.pathsoflove.com/texts/ratzinger-indissolubility-marriage/

    Please take a moment to read this 40 year old paper by Pope Benedict. Take note of paragraphs 5,6, and 7 of the conclusion. Surely, nobody in this thread would call him (Joseph Ratzinger) a heretic.

  74. PRG could you give me the first words of the part you're referencing? I only have a little time and want to get to those few paragraphs as a start. I don't see those numbers in the conclusion. Thanks!

  75. PRG, you win the Blue Ribbon. That is awesome.

  76. Wow, I am definitely passing that along! Thanks, PRG.

  77. I have a question on this. Does it imply that the second marriage should be blessed?

  78. Holy Cannoli! PRG wins the Internet.

  79. PRG, whoa!! Why is this not all over the internet? What a fascinating read! Thank you!!

    And, Barb, I'm confused. Are you saying Francis wrote most of the Catechism? That doesn't sound right. Do you mean Cardinal Schönborn? Also, my very holy, conservative bishop, Thomas Olmsted, recommended the book The Great Reformer, by Austen Ivereigh, to really understand the heart and mind of Pope Francis (great biography!).

  80. Sorry, Leila. I was responding to PRG's post about Pope Benedict. I will re-post it more clearly.

  81. PRG, I have studied the life of our retired blessed Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. He was known to be quite liberal in the early part of his priesthood, all through the sixties. He made a conversion after being awakened to the devastation of the Vatican Council and his time as a professor at Tubingen University in Germany a bastion of liberation theology.

    As cardinal and throughout his time as prefect of the CDF and throughout his papacy and to this day, he has been a model of conservatism. He, himself, wrote most of John Paul II's Catechism.

    You should read his rendering of the state of Marriage in the Catechism.

  82. Barb, do you have a link for that information on the Catechism? Thanks!

  83. On another topic, Leila, I sent you a private e-mail to your gmail account. I am just writing to see if you received it as I haven't heard from you. Thanks.

  84. Leila, this may be shocking, but I completely agree with your treatment in the Op.
    And I agree with Bens note that the annulment criteria would somehow have to flex. (Perhaps along the lines B16's work posted by PRG)
    I want to comment on your question of "why the fear".
    I truly understand both camps. I've seen and heard of so many cases of irregularities. One of the worst things I've ever heard was from a friend , who after a long inquiry into annulment, told me " listen man, I'm just done, I have to move on and raise my family".
    At the same time, most of us are here because of our discovery of Truth. We hold it dear and giggle at its presence. We even like to test it, all while knowing that in the end , we will be giggling again at how awesome that Truth is. This joy, although a total gift, likely came at a dear price of spent energy and time. So we guard it and protect it and lash out at whatever may distort it, even though nothing has really changed. Our fear lies in having to fight the errors.
    I think it's kind of a form of religious PTSD. We know that Sister so-n-so or Father whoever, will take that footnote and jam it in our face and say "see what the Pope said? I'm right and you're wrong" . But the truth hasn't changed so it's only discomfort based on their error. So should we live in fear of the bad conclusions by others and the inevitable abuses?
    I think we do well to reject the bunker mentality. The hammer of truth does not change no matter how somebody else wants to spin. So rest assured , the boot is full of loons but Peter still has the helm.
    Also, I think finding the pearl of great price can sometimes cause a bushel basket to grow on your head. Francis so often lifts that lid and says " hello! Do you seethe battle field and the wounded? How bout a little mercy out hear."
    Obedience without Love and Mercy is useless. Love and Mercy without Obedience is a similar clanging gong. Didn't Paul say something about this? ( somewhere it say something about a chicken! -tevya) haha
    I love this Pope as much as the others. I cringe at the squishy Jesuit stuff but he teaches me more about myself. Maybe as much as JP2 taught more liberal Catholics about themselves.

    1. Chris, you hit the nail on the head!! Yes, we fear fighting the dissidents on this, and yet, I figure, I've been doing it for so long that I'm not phased anymore, ha ha! I am sure that if I were back in '98 and this were happening, I'd be so freaked out! But then again, back in those days, I was freaked out by what the schismatics were saying about JPII and his "heresies" and "modernism" and I almost left the Barque and went with them! There comes a point where we all need to chill and trust. You really nailed it, my brother.

  85. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote a retraction of his earlier writings, cited above. See story here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/ratzingers-retraction-the-fruit-of-42-years-of-theological-maturation-54465/

  86. Thank you, David. I will check it out. I may have already read it. Pope Benedict, himself, the way he lives and his beautiful writings about Christ show me that he has a very spiritual and metaphysical connection to God. He is part of the reason, a very big part of why I am very spiritual and have a love of God that is hard to put into words.

  87. Here is it Sharon, the link to that specific part of the Catechism: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p2s2c3a7.htm

    To be to the point you can read paragraph 1665 at the end of the citation.

  88. Wow, thanks David. I didn't hear Kasper in what Ratzinger said in 1972. And even with his correction I believe he leaves it in the same place that Francis has. No change but a call for Mercy in every way possible. AL seams like a really stout callout for us and especially priests and deacons.
    You also get a Blue Ribbon for buzzkill of the day. :)

  89. David, thank you!! In case people getting this in their emails missed an email, here is the link, again, to the story about Ratzinger's RETRACTION of his previous statements from 1972. Thank you!!


    I learn something new every day!

  90. We'll, TGIF then, and happy hour comes soon. :)

  91. Haha, cheers mate. Ain't nobody who works the issues like Catholics. Reading B16 is like driving a Ferrari. And I still say that his writing and understanding of the love of God is second tone. Big mean German guy would make St. Francis blush with the beauty of his words.

  92. " Ain't nobody who works the issues like Catholics." I love that, Chris! I love to think about these things. Must be why I'm a Bubble fan.

    And I appreciate your analysis of how people are feeling. I have been trying to remind myself that there are people out there who will abuse this, but I don't have to answer for those people.

    It does make me sad when I hear or see comments that indicate that with Francis, and especially with AL, the Church is now compassionate and merciful. Where have these people been the past 2,000 years that they think Jesus' Church became compassionate and merciful in April of 2016? I wish those people knew how much they don't know.

  93. I'm loving this comment thread!! :)
    I absolutely love the threads between Catholics and liberals, which are both entertaining and occasionally show me ideas I've never thought of before. However, with those threads I always know what the "correct" (Catholic) side of the argument is going in, even if I don't understand all the reasons for, or nuances of, it at first.
    So it's also nice to read these types of Catholic vs. Catholic discussions as well, because I *don't* know what the correct opinion is going in. Which means that I really have to think about the issue and consider everyone's arguments. It's like reading a book without already knowing the plot twists and ending.
    Initially I was wary and suspicious of the exhortation. Then Leila was winning me over. Then PRG posted Ratzinger's document. A shocking, dramatic development that concluded the argument in definite favor of Leila! Case closed. Or so I thought. Then... plot twist!! It turns out that Pope Benedict retracted his thoughts!!! So now... I'm still not entirely sure.
    I love discussions where I can change/form my opinion on something! Keeps life interesting. :)

  94. The following paragraph of the Catechism (1615) speaks to the folly that just because Moses allowed divorce in the OT for those few whose hearts were hardened, the Catholic Church of the New Testament allows the same. Christ's Church forbids remarriage (unless of course the original "marriage" was not a valid one).

    1615 This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize. However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy - heavier than the Law of Moses.(108) By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to "receive" the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ.(109) This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ's cross, the source of all Christian life.

    One has to live the spiritual life of Christ for the needed strength. I have become concerned because in his exhortation Pope Francis does not speak to this in a way that is clear to the reader.

  95. I am a reader of the document, and I thought it was beautiful and clear.

    It's important to remember that the Catechism is doctrinal. The paragraph you posted is glorious! And it's for those who are in a marriage. It's about the scourge of divorce and how two Christians can persevere over all obstacles and make their marriage a blessing to all! It's a sacrament! Truly glorious and I have heard too many practicing Catholics (esp. young women) want to have permission to divorce because they are not "happy" and they consider a nasty spouse or a spouse that does not "fulfill them emotionally" to be abusive. It's horrible.

    But with the pastoral document that the Pope just released, it's just that... a pastoral document. And in the specific chapter we are discussing most, Chapter 8, the pope is talking about those in "irregular" situations. So, we can expect that that is what he would address.

  96. "It does make me sad when I hear or see comments that indicate that with Francis, and especially with AL, the Church is now compassionate and merciful. Where have these people been the past 2,000 years that they think Jesus' Church became compassionate and merciful in April of 2016? I wish those people knew how much they don't know."

    But I prefer to focus on how much I don't know and forget about how to prove to the world that they should have seen mercy before, you know? Frankly, many on the dissenting side STILL don't see the mercy. If you see the National Catholic Reporter story (they are the dissenting site, not the Register, which is good), they are VERY disappointed that the Pope was so awful not to include gay couples to the happily "married" table! So, no one will ever be satisfied and why try? If the person who just now sees the Church as merciful uses that to draw closer to Christ and the Church, and grows in holiness and sees more and more the truth, then one day, sooner than later, he may also realize he was initially WRONG about not seeing the Church as merciful before Francis. Do you see what I mean? So, our job is to keep drawing them in, not to lament what they did not see before.

    That's why it's crazy that we are attacking Francis and not saying, "yes... do you see the continuity and the mercy that has always been there? Let me show you..."

  97. Ann Onymous, great comment!! LOL! I really like that!!

  98. Here's my overarching issue. The document does not propose an admission of the divorced and remarried to the Eucharist. Nothing has changed. And the document has so much for a world that needs to hear it. Not the world of 14th century Europe or 8th Century Asia, but the crazy world of today. We are so lost and like the Pope said, young people don't even want to marry anymore! This is y person pet peeve and crisis, and he sees that. Why don't we see that? Why do we not focus on that crisis which is catastrophic? Why are we worried about people who might slip through the rules (who already do, and plenty) or who might suddenly see mercy when they didn't before?

    Again, I get that people want things to be precise, but we are missing the forest for the trees.

    And, as I think I said before, everyone of us tends to think of ourselves as Catherine of Siena. I know for me, I am no Catherine! Lol.

  99. "One has to live the spiritual life of Christ for the needed strength. I have become concerned because in his exhortation Pope Francis does not speak to this in a way that is clear to the reader." - from Barb

    Maybe Leila can speak to that since shes's read more of it than a lot of us have! I'm waiting for my day to get started around other people's plans, so I"m going to get a little further in the document now myself.

    I definitely think that that needs to be emphasized. Church teaching is often very hard, but we are offered more than enough grace to get through it.

  100. Leila, many of the Catholic faithful disagree with your assessment of Pope Francis' exhortation. Here, at the Bubble, you respectfully allow differences of opinions and I differ prudentially. We just don't agree on the overall message. At the same time, I do not impute, at all, any nefarious intent to our pope.

    At the following url is an article which, thankfully because I really hate to write theses due to my limited grasp of prosaic writing standards (and my fear of the rigors involved in critical thinking, lol), describes my own concerns about "Amoris Laetitia" perfectly or the best I have yet come across.


    I consider Father Gerald Murray, an old-guard Irish-Catholic priest, to be faithful to Holy Mother Church and a canon specialist. His knowledge and obedience to Church doctrine is well-respected by traditional Catholics.

    Let me know what you think at your convenience. No rush. It is the weekend after all and a reminder to me of the halcyon days of my youth and that to squander this gift is a sin (venial, of course, lol). Blessings!

  101. Barb, I read that article from Fr. Murray last night, when someone asked me about it on Facebook. I read every word. I was SO FRUSTRATED! First, his assumption is (blatantly) that the Pope has changed the rules on divorce and remarrieds! Not true. Second, the examples he gives are the most simplistic and with no nuance or consideration of others who could be harmed or even lose their faith due to a broken family (and he speaks of a husband, not a wife, for example.... not realizing that a wife with a non-cooperative or non-religious civil spouse is in a MUCH tougher spot, usually). He does not mention children in the home. He does not mention so many of the very things that the Pope does mention in chapter 8! So, what is addressing in the Pope's writings? I was disappointed with this article to say the least. And people who read it and not consider the reality of a horribly messy life (again, these marriage situations require "two to tango" and "two to rectify", so to speak). I can't believe Fr. has not encountered the messier of situations? How do we walk with these people? Where was that discussion? That is what Pope Francis was talking about.

    Yes, we are allowed to disagree. But this lash out at Francis on this issue.... after he releases a beautiful document addressing so many of the problems we face today with marriage and family.... what is the effect? I think it's horrible. I think not one person will be drawn to the Church or Christ when reading this stuff, and I think that many people will be made to feel suspicious, confused, and angry at the Holy Father. And let's be clear: He is Peter. It's really a shame, and so unnecessary. So, I am disappointed in Fr. Murray. Does he know how many people he is influencing to be distressed, upset, angry, wary, confused? Sigh....

  102. YES! THIS!!!! This says what I wanted to say. I couldn't have said it better:


  103. I am attending my first Traditional Latin Mass wedding this afternoon and I'm so excited!!!! Ahhhh!!!

    But I wanted to say this, which I said on Facebook. Take it as an observation on human nature, not a dislike of anyone who is critical of the pope. But isn't this true?

    I wonder if those who constantly criticize the pope realize that they are not going to bring a single lost soul closer to Christ when they sound that negative drumbeat and sow confusion (yes, *they* are sowing confusion). Guess who they are criticizing? Peter. Yes, the Holy Father is Peter. Sow constant doubt about Peter and don't expect to see people come flocking to the Church.

  104. The Pope is Peter. How do you draw people to Peter?

  105. Why do I worry about people "who might suddenly see mercy when they didn't before"? Because of the reason they see mercy. These are your average people, not people who bother to comment on stories or blogs on the Internet, and the reason they think the Church is more merciful is because they perceive that the Church has changed Her position on divorce and remarriage. It bothers me, because the implication is that they think it is simply a lack of mercy that brought about the Church's true teaching on divorce and remarriage,and that so, so isn't the case. Does that make sense, Leila?

  106. Fr. Murray quotes Familiaris Consortio, which gives the reason why divorced and civilly remarried Catholics cannot receive Communion. It answers my question about why this particular situation is treated differently than other mortal sins and other public sins: "They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist." That's it! That's what I was finally figuring out. If only I had been in the habit of reading apostolic exhortations, I would already have been clear on that.

    1. Pope Francis quotes Familiaris Consortio, too, several times.

  107. But Sharon, you cannot control for that. You cannot control for those kind of people or thoughts. No more in this pontificate than you could for any previous pope. People will think what they think. But will they think less of Peter because of what I say? Are they moving away from Christ because of me? This the the only question that should concern us, the only thing we have control over. Our own will.

    JPII said that we cannot correct all error out there. We simply can't. When we stop worrying about the spheres in which our worries do absolutely nothing, then we can start to be productive for souls.

    I have a friend who is a devout Catholic. She came in by "steps" (as so many do!). There is a parish here that is KNOWN for it's liberal, New Age crap. They draw many people in, and many pagans, frankly. She would never go there now, but at the time of her reentry to the faith, she went there and considers it the "stepping stone" in to the fulness of the Truth. She was not ready for the fully orthodox teaching she would have heard at the parish she is in now and loves. If she had come to the orthodox parish first, she would have run away. She would have fled. She needed that "gradualism" as they say. God works in mysterious ways! It makes sense according to human nature.

    But that does not excuse or lessen the culpability of those who teach and preach heterodoxy (that is on their soul, and even thought it's wrong, God will still use that bad stuff to bring about a greater good; even sin works at the service of God).

    And in no way by my example am I equating the Pope with heterodoxy. But I wanted to help you ease your mind a bit.

    Did you read the Catholic Stand article?

    Maybe one way to help us all understand what we are doing is to substitute "Peter" for "Pope Francis" when we are thinking of being publicly critical or doubting him.

  108. Oh, Leila! Please enjoy the beauty and reverence of the Mass of the Apostles, of Thomas Aquinas, of the Ages. I soooo long to join you today. It has been too long since I have been to a TLM wedding. May God bless the couple.

    I empathize with your love of the Seat of Peter and for Pope Francis. I do love him, too, even as I am critical of some things. I love your zeal in trying to reach our brothers and sisters in Christ, to welcome them home. I don't mean for our conversations to thwart that mission. The debate is too tempting, Leila. You do manage to bring up controversial subjects, lol. And you have such avid blog followers. All this is a recipe that I can resist, lol.


  109. Thanks, Barb!! And I am sooooooo excited for this wedding!! Getting ready now! :D

  110. So what you're saying is a few things:

    1. I should not doubt what Pope Francis says.
    2. I should not publicly criticize what Pope Francis says. I would agree with that, and I try to be careful what I say publicly. I may question things on your FB page, but it's never for the purpose of criticizing our Holy Father. It is to clarify. I probably sounds critical though. Does the Bubble count as public?
    3. If believing that the Church has changed Her teaching on divorce and remarriage brings people back to the Church, then I should be glad, just like I should be glad if a New Agey parish brings them back. Okay. I think I can give you that one. It is just kind of strange to see an apostolic exhortation that would imply something that isn't true, or be unclear on the truth, and rejoice that the implication or lack of clarity eventually brings people to the truth. Tricky strategy. Nothing against Pope Francis. It is just a very new experience for me and for a lot of other people.

    There are some other things I could say, but if my saying them would lead people away from the Church because who wants to join a bunch of complainers, then I shouldn't say them. Maybe I'll run it by you privately.

    Enjoy that wedding!

  111. Hi Leila. Please forgive me for yet another nonsequitur. I've heard the term "Jesuit" on the bubble lately. That is the name of an "order," correct? Does "order" refer to a group of monks or to branch of Catholocism? I've also heard of Dominican, Benedictine, Franciscan, Carmelite. What is the difference? And whom, specifically , do these terms refer to? Thanks.

  112. Johanne, great question! The "orders" (yes, correct!) are different groups of religious and consecrated people. They are often named after their founders. So, the Dominicans were founded by St. Dominic, the Franciscans were founded by St. Francis, etc. The Jesuits are actually the Society of Jesus, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. Sisters of Charity was founded by Mother Teresa. They each have different "charism" (meaning different emphasis or gifts). Some of the orders are teaching orders, some work with the poor, or the elderly, some are contemplative and cloistered, and they pray for the world (that is their "job" so to speak). There are so many, and they are so varied and rich in their spirituality! I personally have always been enamored by and drawn to the Carmelite saints (St. Therese, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Edith Stein, etc.).

    Not all religious and priests are in orders. Many (most?) are diocesans priests, meaning they are ordained under the local bishop who is their superior. These are most parish priests (and they are called "secular priests"). But some parishes are run by orders, and they are in a diocese by permission of the local bishop, but their superior is the superior of their particular order.

    What is really funny is that there has not been an order pope for a VERY long time! So, Pope Francis, as a Jesuit, is an order priest and that is unusual! People were surprised when he was elected (esp. as Jesuits are not generally, these days, known for their faithfulness -- many Jesuits have gone nuts, unfortunately). But when Jesuits are faithful, they are some of the best out there!! Fr. John Hardon, Fr. Fessio, Fr. Mitch Pacwa.... some excellent Jesuits still out there! lol

    Anyway, there is so much more to it, and I am not an expert BY FAR, lol. Someone else might do a better job explaining than I did. :)

  113. Leila and Johanne:

    I always look up Catholic topics at the on-line Catholic encyclopedia. At http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12748b.htm you will find everything you need to know about your topic under Religious Life. Look towards the middle of the article for the specific religious orders. Then, at that same encyclopedia at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/ you can click on any letter of the alphabet to reach the individual religious orders.


  114. Leila,

    I've been thinking a lot about this discussion, and prayed often about it during Mass today.

    I can't agree with your assessment of Fr. Murray's article. If I am your teacher, and I write something to you that leaves you confused - so confused that you think I am saying things that could not possibly be true - and you write and point out where you have a problem with what I've said, are you guilty of causing confusion, as well as distress and anger? That doesn't make sense to me. As far as the messy situations, those situations can't change the truth, can they? I didn't read it at all as though Fr. Murray doesn't care about people's real life situations.

    I don't think we'll ever agree on AL. I will continue to pray about it, especially to pray that I don't become someone who simply thinks I know more than the Pope. I wasn't that kind of person before, and I don't want to be now. In a way, you're right. What difference does my confusion make? The Church is what it is. But "what difference does it make" is not the most ringing endorsement I've ever heard regarding a Church document.

    What I am left with after this, Leila, is a picture of what you really represent. I can just see you, with your beautiful heart, clearly the heart of a mother, standing on the steps of the Church, with your arms open wide to everyone. You would be saying, "Come in! It doesn't matter why you come in, just come! You will find such joy here." If that is the job God has for you, He created you perfectly for it. And you're no pushover of a mom, either. That's another good thing about you.

    Thanks for letting me take up so much real estate in the Bubble this time, Leila! :)

  115. Sharon, you are welcome to take up Bubble real estate any time at all! :) You know how much I love you and I don't want to discount your concerns!

    My only question, and one I cannot seem to reconcile, is where is the Pope "saying things that could not possibly be true"? If you could give me an actual quote, and we must also keep it in context, that would help clarify the whole thing.


  116. Leila, I wish I had worded that differently. I don't think that the Holy Father would teach an untruth, but I think, like the article you linked to about the Progressive Pope, that Francis still seems to be thinking things through. I know, how arrogant of me to say that, right? I'm not a pope. I'm not a priest. I'm not even a blogger. Fr. Murray's article explains it much better than I could, and you disagree with him, so I don't think there's any point in my trying to put together a better argument for you.

    We could just leave it at this: Did the Holy Father say that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive Holy Communion? No, he did not. Does the document, in various paragraphs and footnotes, seem to be saying otherwise, to be leaving it up to pastors because some people are in difficult situations and can only meet God up to a certain point right now? To a lot of people, it does. But the truth is, he never says it. And maybe in all that, Pope Francis is (rather unclearly) saying is, "This hard on people. Go easy on them. They can't receive Communion now, but maybe someday something will happen in their lives and in their hearts, and in their spouses' hearts, so that their situation changes and they can validly receive Communion." I think you'd say that's accurate, right?

    1. Sorry for the missed words. I meant to say, "maybe in all that, what Pope Francis is (rather unclearly) saying is, "This is hard on people."

  117. Yes, I would say that's accurate! And it's in keeping with him from the beginning.... "go out and get dirty, reach those who are out in the margins, life is messy, etc...." This is a pastoral document and yes, we need to find a way to give hope to the hopeless and to "go easy" on sinners who do not want to be sinning but do not see a way out. They are part of the Church, too, as St. John Paul II said all the time (he wrote a whole thing about how to integrate the divorced and remarrieds, and did not seek to scold or shame them. Many of them do not want to be in the position they are in). I think that Francis is saying, let's look at some particular situations and see if there is *more* to what we see than meets the eye. And I love that he mentions more than once that he's not talking about those who are flaunting the moral law. Those folks are not the cases he means. No one is trying to "get away" with anything, at least not the population he is addressing. So, yes, I'd agree with what you are saying.

  118. PS: Ha ha, don't give a "blogger" any weight... we have zero weight or authority, as you know! lol

  119. "let's look at some particular situations and see if there is *more* to what we see than meets the eye."

    .... you just had to throw that in... :)

  120. ha ha, isn't that the point of meeting people individually, for discernment? Isn't that how Jesus met each individual he encountered? ;)

  121. Yes. And they can discern to get an annulment, live as brother and sister, or not receive Communion. Anything else does harm to the teaching on marriage and the Eucharist, just like JPII said.

    So I'm glad we agree. :)

    1. Or, in exceptionally rare instances, go back to the actual spouse! How could I forget that one?

  122. Here is the real crux of the issue, in Chapter 8 Article 304:

    "Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal."

    Up until this point, chapter 8 seems to conform to church teaching, but here Pope Francis deviates sharply into moral relativism. Nowhere in the gospels is the message of Christ "do your best, even if not the ideal." I acknowledge that many people are in difficult situations, but to say that God is only calling you halfway is heretical. Is not the grace and power of God enough to weather a spouse or children through a divorce? Are we to be more merciful than Jesus Himself, who calls us to go and sin no more? What other commandments does this logic apply to? You wouldn't tell Planned Parenthood, "Keep aborting babies, just don't sell their body parts because that's the best you can do right now." God is Love, not Mercy, and Pope Francis has put the cart before the horse.

    Yes, there are good messages in AL and families need all the help they can get these days. But the dangerous language used is enough to steer me away from AL and most things Pope Francis writes. As a Catholic I am to love and respect the Holy Father, but that in no way means I have to agree with his non-magisterial writings. Why would I read Tozer when I can read de Sales? Similarly, I would encourage people to read AL to be familiar with the state of the church today, but spend your in-depth study on something more sound like Pope Benedict XVI's "Jesus of Nazareth" series.

  123. I am sure we agree that we will always stand with Peter in any era, yes? We live right now, and there is one successor to Peter. Just one. And, at this moment in history, he is Peter for us. I stand with Peter, always. If not, what do we have and who are we? ;)

    So, just like Peter, i.e., Francis, says in AL, we also don't make a distinction between JPII or Francis. AL states the continuity time and again.

    I wish I could hear Catholics today say, "I stand with Peter, period." If you could see the comments that came after a recent The Catholic Thing article on this, you would (I hope) weep. I have never seen such ugliness, from a group of "faithful" Catholics. I think it's scandalous.

  124. Dan, thank you for the reminder. In all of the posts back and forth I forgot which part of the exhortation I found to be 'bordering' on heretical. It was the moral relativism part, as you say, "Up until this point, chapter 8 seems to conform to church teaching, but here Pope Francis deviates sharply into moral relativism. Nowhere in the gospels is the message of Christ "do your best, even if not the ideal." I acknowledge that many people are in difficult situations, but to say that God is only calling you halfway is heretical."

  125. Nowhere in the gospels is the message of Christ "do your best, even if not the ideal."

    This caught my interest. So, doing our best is not good enough for Christ? If we are doing our best in the moment? He will condemn us? I guess I don't know how it can be that doing our very best is not pleasing to God.

    Are we supposed to be perfect all at once? And, how can we do that so quickly?

  126. Dan, are you also, then, critical of what Benedict says about the use of condoms for prostitutes? He in NO WAY was condoning the use of condoms, but do you discount what was his point? Was that "borderline heretical", too? Or do you have an understanding of human nature and that we don't get there all at once, and we look for the steps that take us to perfection, if not all in one fell swoop?

  127. Here is what Pope BENEDICT said about a male prostitute using a condom to try to stop the spread of disease:

    “She [the Church] does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality”

    Can you see that corresponding to what Pope Francis said in the passage you dislike:

    "Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal."


  128. Yes, Leila. I was concerned, myself, back in 2010 when our Emeritus Pope Benedict made that statement. I think the translation was imperfect. Once again, I reference another person's post for the clarification that becomes torturous when I attempt to explain. So, please allow me to refer to Father Joseph Fessio S.J.'s justfication here: http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1345780.


  129. But exactly. That is the same point today, when we have to "attempt to explain" a pope. And, I referred people to Fr. Fessio's article back when I wrote about that episode, so thanks! :)

  130. But you didn't really answer the question...

  131. I am working on the explanation right now but it may take awhile since it requires a logical mind and I did not do well in logistics. Yes, there was such a class at college back in the day when we didn't have all these fluffer-nutter gender and equal opportunity studies. I might have done better, though, in those types of classes if I could have gotten past the blatant bias and liberalism, lol. Even back in the 1970's I knew something was amiss but I couldn't put my finger on it. Seriously!!!

  132. I remember Pope Benedict making that statement, and I remember understanding it fine at the time. To me, it said that the prostitute who uses the condom cares more than the prostitute who doesn't. That would be assuming he is using it so the other person isn't infected. It would be along the lines of a person with AIDS who spreads it without concern, compared to the person who at least has the decency not to intentionally infect other people. Who is the more decent person? Who shows a greater ability to care about others? And greater ability to care comes from God, because it is an aspect of love. And love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God, even if they don't know that they know Him. So there is a movement toward God if you are able to think of others, even if you're not thinking of them as well as you should. But I don't think that Benedict was saying that prostitution in that case is only a venial sin.

  133. Too funny, Sharon. I remember at first, thinking it was an odd thing to say, for a conservative Pope. But, then, before I started reading all the on-line debates and explanations, I recognized it as a statement of compassion by a seemingly "dogmatic" Pope. I could not fall in love with someone who was not compassionate. So my concerns that our dear pope was losing his mind were allayed by the knowledge that he was exhibiting the grace of mercy to those sinners who didn't seem to know any better. It was not an "almost Magisterial" treatment, though!

    Thanks for your input.

  134. Sharon, you understood it, but why do you think so many Catholics were just up in arms and freaked out about Benedict's statement at the time? What were they not grasping that you did?

  135. Do you believe that God expects us to parse and examine all of Peter's writings to the faithful and to priests? Is that what we are called to do?

  136. Ach! This is becoming torturous, Leila, lol! I will attempt to answer the specific question you asked which is, "Can you see that [Pope Benedict's remarks about that particular case of condom use] corresponding to what Pope Francis said in the passage you dislike:"

    My quick answer to the question you asked Dan is yes and no.

    I see Pope Benedict's statement corresponding in it's compassionate intent to Pope Francis', Leila. But that is all that is comparable in my opinion. So that is the "yes" to your question.

    Since we both know that there is so much more to see in your question I will expound. This time on the "no" answer.

    Pope Benedict's statement as translated (from one language to the other originally, at the time he said it) was incomplete as Father Fessio wrote. But Pope Francis' statement was not subject to wrong translation (as it is directly from Amoris Laetitia).

    Pope Benedict was very conservative during his papacy. St. Francis is not. Most Catholics know this about both popes as all the credible news sites point to those conclusions. So the weight of a liberal, if you will, remark in a written exhortation influences Catholics and non-Catholics alike into accepting the absolute validity of what I, and other astute readers, might (and I say might!) consider a morally relativistic state of mind. In other words, for lack of a better way of saying it, the gullible sheep, unfortunately,would fall hook, line and sinker for anything Pope Francis says. I don't mean that disrespectfully.

    Even if Pope Benedict's condom remark was correctly translated, it did not make it into a treatise, an exhortation, a Vatican document so the intent was not to make a binding (almost Magisterial) teaching unlike AL which is a teaching of the Church. Pope Francis' remark/statement is in the teaching document, verbatim.

    Pope Benedict's statement was not with the intent that bishops and priests walk with the condom-users while they are sinning. But Pope Francis' intent is to walk with the sinners while they are sinning. And most nominal, and even many faithful, Catholics will see this as adding something different, making a change, to the Catholic long-standing Catholic doctrine. And isn't that what is happening? Many Catholics have decided that there is a change.

    That will do for now. If I have any more (big) ideas, lol, I will post them.


  137. Ooh! I just remembered something, Dan, Sharon and Leila. I have to be brief though as I am running late. Isn't the Protestant sentiment, as to why sin is often excused by their hierarchy, that they know their congregants may never reach the ideal of the virtue, but being on their way to that unattainable ideal is pretty darn good? Is our Pope sympathetic to that tenet?

  138. Yes, it is torturous. I have rarely found a discussion among faithful Catholics to be so heartbreakingly torturous. I have never seen so many faithful Catholics not really understand that they are talking, for all the world, about PETER. I am going to start saying Peter instead of Francis. Because that is the truth.

    If the intent of ALL OF US is not to "walk with the sinners while they are sinning", then what is it? To preach at them once, then tell them we will walk with them once they stop sinning? That is beyond absurd.

    How can we be talking so far past each other?

    You are saying that Peter has a "relativistic state of mind". You ignore pretty much everything he says in AL to the contrary. This is no different from those who called JPII a modernist because he kissed the Koran. People are led away from Peter because of this kind of talk and fear-mongering (and yes, it is fear-mongering from many, many people. Surely you've read the combox of the Murray article!). And as to a "mistranslation" of Benedict, ultimately, that did not change his point! That people start somewhere and they make a movement toward what is true and good and beautiful. Gosh, didn't you? I sure did! I am still (I pray) "doing my best" and I pray that the Church will continue to "walk with me as a sinner" until the very last breath I take. Am I in mortal sin? I pray not.... but we can't know who is in mortal sin. We can only see the objective sin, not the culpability, of course. And we should always talk about the objective sin and denounce it! But that is a different exhortation. This is a pastoral one, dealing with actual individuals who are bleeding out and may in fact be doing the best they can. This message and mercy was not for those who are "flaunting" the moral law, as Peter says. And, there is not even a path for Communion stated, which is why this is so silly.

    Who cares what the liberals and secularists think of what he said? I hope, if nothing else, they will start to listen and read more carefully, and come closer to Peter. If they don't, are they better off than where they were before?

    I just don't think we are understanding each other, but if we are, then maybe we just have two different views of things (but not of objective sin -- I am with you).

  139. A lot to discuss here...

    Barb, I think you hinted at AL being a magisterial document, however I don't think that's true. It is a simply a commentary or summation on the synod of bishops, which is not directed "ex cathedra" in unison with all the bishops as the teaching voice of the church (as it would have to be to be magisterial).

    Leila, just because AL states it is in continuity with the teaching voice of the church doesn't make it so (although for the most part it is). In fact, I think in some respects it does the opposite. Take for instance the following quote from "Familiaris Consortio":

    "The Church acknowledges situations “where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate”.

    Now this is a correct and true assessment, but AL bastardizes this quote and uses it as a blanket statement in a relativistic sense. Familiaris further clarified that husband and wife should live as brother and sister in such a case. This was obviously left out of AL.

    As to God being satisfied with our very best, I think that needs to be carefully evaluated; there's a lot in this statement. Thank God that His mercy is infinite and even if our best effort was mortally sinful His arms are open to receive us back. I think the distinction is that the language used in AL radically alters the definition of best effort. The culpability for sin certainly can be mitigated, i.e. the classic "gun to the head" analogy. However, what AL is proposing is that this mitigation can be extended beyond the moment of sin or grace, action or inaction, and be applied as a blanket over an entire life. Could I wake up today and decide that I just won't be able to resist robbing the bank, and therefore feel no need to confess the sin after the fact? As I mentioned, CH 8 Article 304 says just that; it defaults to a position that God's grace has limitations based on our circumstances. Why is it that sexual sins get this special treatment? The woman at the well was told to "go and sin no more." This is a position our society just can't seem to take these days, and thus we get AL.

    As for the Pope Benedict condom statement, I believe that is a non sequitur to the discussion since that situation carries no moral weight. Pope Benedict was simply stating that for two males to use a condom has no moral bearing on their sexual acts since it isn't open to life in the first place. In fact, it might actually be a good for them to do so as it at least shows some concern for their partner. Notice he never even hinted that for a heterosexual prostitute to do the same would be equivalent. Even for married couples, a perforated condom is an acceptable way to collect a sperm specimen for infertility testing and treatment as it keeps the marital act open to life (see the National Catholic Bioethics Center). The morality is not in the condom itself, but how it is used. So I think Pope Benedict was absolutely correct in his statement, although that too was not magisterial.

    I too am dismayed at the vitriol and hate spewed against the Pope, he needs our prayers now more than ever. However we need to speak the truth in charity, and we have St. Paul as an example from the very beginning when he corrected St. Peter for going along with the judaizers. We have had some evil, heretical popes throughout history (see Alexander VI) and it would be a very blind faith indeed that would ascribe the works of Alexander VI to that of St. JPII. (and no, I do not think Pope Francis is evil) The comfort is that the Holy Spirit has never led the church astray in its magisterial teaching, and that remains true today.

  140. I just typed out a really long comment, though I think Dan just wrote out my thoughts better than I did. For what they're worth, I'm gonna post them anyway, in a series of comments. My apologies for the annoying capitalization of words.

  141. Part 1:
    Leila, I'm gonna try and take a crack at some of the things you said... forgive me if I'm not coherent enough. I'll do my best.
    Dan said: "Nowhere in the gospels is the message of Christ "do your best, even if not the ideal.""
    You replied: "This caught my interest. So, doing our best is not good enough for Christ? If we are doing our best in the moment? He will condemn us? I guess I don't know how it can be that doing our very best is not pleasing to God."
    Okay, that's not what Dan meant, though I definitely see how you can read it that way. Dan didn't mean that Christ is going to condemn us unless we're all perfect saints 24/7. Obviously, we're all going to fall short of perfection in some way, which is where Christ's mercy comes in. So yes, we do our very best to follow the ideal of perfect holiness, even though we will inevitably fall short. However, that's not what Dan was referring to. What he meant was that Christ didn't say (as an example, and not referring to your friend necessarily), "You're in an adulterous relationship, but I know that your life circumstances are really tough, so instead of holding you to the ideal of not cheating on your spouse, I'm giving you a spiritual pass to stay in this relationship." Basically, what it comes down to is that we all strive to be perfectly holy, and our inevitable shortcomings are called SINS. Now, Christ won't send us to Hell for every little venial sin we commit, but does that mean that Christ gives us permission to commit venial sins? That they aren't actually sins? Heck no!! So now we come to the issue of divorce and remarriage. Obviously humans are sinners and no marriage will be perfect, but does that mean that sins against marriage aren't sins? No! What I'm trying to say is that, if your friend was to be allowed to recieve communion, it would be because her actions in her remarriage have been deemed to be NOT A SIN, for her at least. So it would be saying that Christ himself does NOT consider it be a sin for her to commit adultery, under her specific circumstances. So the argument is about whether or not someone like your friend would be commiting sin, according to Christ, or not.

  142. Part 2:
    Now, about your comparison with the whole thing with the prostitutes and the condoms. Let's imagine that there's an HIV-positive prostitute. He's considering using condoms as a way to prevent spreading the disease, but he knows the Church is against their usage. So he decides to go to Fr. Bob for spiritual direction, to find out God's will. Here's what Fr. Bob tells him: "God's will for you is to completely stop having sex outside of marriage." Here's what Fr. Bob would NEVER tell him: "God's will is for you to keep being a prostitute, but use condoms to not spread disease." No priest would ever say such a thing. And it's not what Pope Benedict was saying they would. (Not that I think you think he was.) Rather, what Pope Benedict was saying was that if the prostitute ignored the priest's advice to stop being a prostitute (which is God's will), and thus was still mortally sinning, using condoms would be a sign of love for others in the person, specifically because their ends - to prevent disease - was loving. But still, they would still be MORTALLY SINNING against God by their fornication.
    Okay, now compare that whole situation, and Fr. Bob's advice, with this next situation. Your friend, in the situation you've described - husband is remarried, won't get an annulment, would divorce your friend if sex was withheld, so she's providing to prevent a divorce which would impact their children very badly - goes to see Fr. Bob for spiritual direction. What does Fr. Bob say?? Honestly, I don't know what God's will would be in that situation, but if it can be known than it should be obeyed. I suppose Fr. Bob can just tell her not to receive communion. But what I really want to point out is that whatever Fr. Bob advises, if advice involves taking communion, than in that advised scenario would be one where YOUR FRIEND IS NOT IN SIN. So, either she breaks up with her husband, or possibly - possibly - Fr. Bob, as you've suggested, could tell her that due to the complicated circumstances, your friend could stay with her husband and still receive communion because since she lacks complete free will, SHE IS NOT IN A STATE OF MORTAL SIN. In other words, it's GOD'S WILL that she keep sleeping with her husband and for her, NOT A SIN.

  143. Part 3:
    So basically, my problem with your analogy comes down to this: the prostitute who wears a condom to prevent disease is IN A STATE OF MORTAL SIN because of his prostitution, whether or not the condoms have anything to do with it. So he's NOT doing the best that he can to live out God's will in his life. Whereas, if it is truly God's will that your friend take communion, than that means that her current lifestyle is NOT sinful, that it is GOD'S WILL, at least until things beyond her control change. So that's my real question here: Is your friend in a state of mortal sin, or not?!! And how can it be God's will for her to stay in this union?? I don't know the answers...
    I forget if you were just using the Benedict quote to point out that he's also said "confusing" things, not just Francis. If that's the case then I apologize for misunderstanding you. Now that I've processed my thoughts in a comment, I hope they're coherent enough. (I also realize that I've capitalized a lot of words. Oh well, I hope that's not too annoying...) And, Dan, please correct me if I misrepresented you!!

  144. Leila I think the idea that presenting the moral truth (the infamous "ideal" in AL) is somehow not walking with sinners is where our opinions diverge. I certainly don't think we abandon anyone or use their situation to make examples of. The truth should speak for itself and the grace of God must do the rest. Now how we present that truth is a good measuring stick for how we live our lives as followers of Christ, and so our presentation of the truth is important. I just don't believe that trying to be more "merciful" than Jesus is what Christ wants from us. To me that puts too much trust in our own abilities to lead people to Jesus when really His grace is enough to overcome any difficult decision. And irregular marriage situations are certainly difficult.

  145. Also, Leila (I forget if this has been addressed already):
    Barb said: "Pope Benedict's statement was not with the intent that bishops and priests walk with the condom-users while they are sinning. But Pope Francis' intent is to walk with the sinners while they are sinning."
    You replied: "If the intent of ALL OF US is not to "walk with the sinners while they are sinning", then what is it? To preach at them once, then tell them we will walk with them once they stop sinning? That is beyond absurd."
    I think what Barb was saying wasn't that we'll only be welcoming to sinners if they head straight to the confessional first. I think she was referring to letting people receive communion. Pope Benedict was obviously not saying, "Okay, priests, you can give unrepentant prostitutes communion if they wear condoms when they fornicate." But Pope Francis appears to maybe be saying that some in adulterous second unions could be given communion in some cases. (Whether he actually meant that is the main point of the argument!!) You yourself would advocate for that, in certain cases like your friend's (if I remember correctly?).

  146. Ann, I believe Pope Benedict's commentary only referred to male prostitutes having sex with other males. Condom use for a heterosexual prostitute is still wrong, yet obviously in such a situation as an HIV positive prostitute using a condom to prevent the spread of the disease the culpability is lessened. Similar perhaps to how a distraught wife being abused by her husband for years finally can take it no more and kills him. The ends still don't justify the means, but the situation certainly lessens the moral guilt. What AL would tell us would be that a wife could premeditatedly kill her abusive husband and decide beforehand that she would not be doing wrong.

  147. Dan and Ann Onymous,

    Thank you for these comments. I am still frustrated. Not gonna lie.

    "the prostitute who wears a condom to prevent disease is IN A STATE OF MORTAL SIN because of his prostitution"

    First, we have NO WAY of knowing if someone who is committing what is objectively serious (grave) sin is actually in a state of mortal sin. I repeat: We have no way of knowing the heart of a sinner. We don't know, we don't know, we don't know. That is why the Church does not ever say that any individual is in hell, by name. We don't know. Only God can judge a soul. For mortal sin to be mortal sin, three conditions must apply to the subject:

    1. He must be committing a serious sin
    2. He must KNOW he is committing a serious sin
    3. He must knowingly be committing this serious sin with full consent of his will

    There is no way any of us can know the heart of any sinner from the outside and answer that question. A priest can help a penitent discern this, but we (you, me, my neighbor) cannot know. We cannot know. We can judge actions, but we may not judge the state of a soul. That is basic stuff and you probably already know that but I had to reiterate it.

    So, you have NO WAY of knowing if any person is "doing the best that he or she can" to live according to God's will. You have no way of knowing this. None.

    And Dan, you make many judgements on the document. I come back to, "on what authority do you do so?" I've heard so many Catholics say that "St. Paul did this, and St. Catherine of Siena did that", but we are not St. Paul, and we are not St. Catherine, sorry.

    Who is Peter to us? What are we doing here, criticizing Peter's exhortation as if we have authority to do so? I don't get it, honestly.

    All this, and no one has given me a statement that is heresy, only that he is "flirting with heresy", as if we are the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.... Sigh....

  148. "What AL would tell us would be that a wife could premeditatedly kill her abusive husband and decide beforehand that she would not be doing wrong."

    Seriously, Dan? This is "what AL would tell us"? You know this, now? I just have no words for this.

    What has happened to us, guys?

  149. Leila (sorry I'm addressing so much to you all at once!!), one more thing, which Dan has kind of mentioned already. I feel uncomfortable when you keep insisting that we not criticize Pope Francis because he is Peter. Yes, I understand and believe that Francis is Peter's successor. But popes themselves are not infallible. Heck, even Peter himself denied Jesus three times! And didn't Paul disagree with Peter about something in Acts...? (It's been a while since I read Acts, so I don't remember exactly). Yes we should love and respect our popes and pay attention to what they write. But not everything they write or say is infallible.
    I am by no means saying that Pope Francis is comparable to them, but some of the popes in the past have led very, VERY sinful lives. If one of those popes was the pope today, you wouldn't say that we shouldn't criticize him because "he's Peter," would you???

  150. "Thank God that His mercy is infinite and even if our best effort was mortally sinful His arms are open to receive us back."

    This is nonsensical. If our "best effort" is to completely and willfully turn our backs on God, then it's not our best effort. It's a willful non-effort. It's an effort to reject God. That is why the committing of a mortal sin is the symptom of a heart that has already turned away from God. It's what's on the inside that defiles a man. So, if I am truly committing a mortal sin, it's because I have already, interiorly, made the willful decision to turn from God and worship myself.

  151. Ann, there is a difference between sinning and teaching. Francis is not sinning (if her were, of course we would never follow his sin; no one ever has thought we follow or submit to sin of a Pope). What people are fighting him about is his papal exhortation. We are not simply called to listen to Peter when he speaks ex cathedra (I think I gave the quote from Pius X up further, and surely Pius X knew that there were sinful, bad popes in the past and yet he still said what he said! Why?

    And we are to submit with our "mind and will" to what the Pope speaks to us in his pronouncements. Not just the "infallible" ones. That has never been the case.

    Peter denied Christ before the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost. Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. From then on, Peter spoke fearlessly the truth and the people listened to him. Did people disagree with him? Yes, some likely did... what were they called to do when that happened? And did some disagree with him to the extent that they left the fold? Oh, yes, many. And St. Paul, a fellow Apostle, had a squabble with him, but it was not a layperson publicly discussing why Peter was wrong and borderline a heretic. What does that have to do with us? We are no St. Paul.

  152. I'll come back to where I started:

    "Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal." -AL CH8 Article 304

    Why wouldn't this apply in the wife killing her husband situation and only apply to "irregular" marriages? That is the heresy.

    I'm sorry if my comments are upsetting, but there are MANY cardinals, bishops and priests who have the same conclusions after looking at AL in light of the church's (infallible) teaching. Can they not form an opinion either simply because the statements come from the Pope? What's curious here is that the thrust of AL (at least CH8) is to follow your conscience even it disagrees with the church's teaching and is morally relativistic. Yet when someone tries to analyze AL in light of the church's teaching (as Cardinal Burke exhorted us to) they somehow are off base. Why the disparity?

  153. I want to address what I see as several errors in Barb Hayes' comment.

    1. "Pope Benedict's statement as translated (from one language to the other originally, at the time he said it) was incomplete as Father Fessio wrote. But Pope Francis' statement was not subject to wrong translation (as it is directly from Amoris Laetitia)."

    AL is also a translation, so I guess I'm not getting this. It wasn't written in English, and the official English version won't be codified for some time.

    2. "Pope Benedict was very conservative during his papacy. St. Francis is not."

    This is a point the post Leila linked to about the myth of a progressive pope addresses. Basically, you're saying that if two popes make a statement that on the surface have similar meanings, but the first pope is seen as conservative and the second is seen as liberal, we should trust the first statement but not the second. Why should a pope's statements and the truth thereof be subject to our preconceived ideas, rather than both being taken in the context of the faith, as Cardinal Burke has urged, for example?

    3. "Even if Pope Benedict's condom remark was correctly translated, it did not make it into a treatise, an exhortation, a Vatican document so the intent was not to make a binding (almost Magisterial) teaching unlike AL which is a teaching of the Church."

    Francis did not intend to make a binding statement either. Read No. 16 of AL. He says that he is voicing his own opinion and that the "papal magisterium" should not be expected to make a proclamation about every circumstance, but much should be left to local bishops. Cdl Burke interprets this as the Pope disclaiming that AL has magisterial weight.

    4. As far as "walking with sinners," think about some of the examples Leila has given. If a woman in an irregular marriage suddenly recognizes that she is in an objectively immoral state, and she goes and talks to the priest, asking what she can do, she has made a major move toward God. Maybe before she was in an irregular marriage and receiving Communion and never knowing anything was wrong. Suddenly she realizes she was not supposed to be doing that. She realizes she is in an objectively immoral situation, and she wants to be right with the Lord. So she goes to ask the priest what she can do. At this point, yes, the priest should "walk with her!" She is a repentant sinner, seeking God's will. Now, we do not know how open she will be to the priest's words. She may leave the meeting agonizing over how to tell her husband they need to live as brother and sister, or worrying about what will become of her kids if her husband says good-bye. When it comes to the point, she may be too scared or anxious to talk to her husband. Or she may talk to him, have him totally reject the idea, and then not find herself strong enough to act further. But she has made the first step--maybe more. This is a good thing. We should encourage her, pray for her, support her. No, she can't receive the Sacraments at this point, but she is one step closer to a life of grace than she was. That's something to rejoice in. And I think Pope Benedict, given his statement, would agree.

  154. Quote: "This is nonsensical. If our "best effort" is to completely and willfully turn our backs on God, then it's not our best effort. It's a willful non-effort. It's an effort to reject God. That is why the committing of a mortal sin is the symptom of a heart that has already turned away from God. It's what's on the inside that defiles a man. So, if I am truly committing a mortal sin, it's because I have already, interiorly, made the willful decision to turn from God and worship myself."

    You are correct Leila. My point was not to say we can believe that sometimes we just can't avoid mortal sin and that's our best effort, but rather to emphasize that the problem is not somehow falling short of an ideal. The problem is disregarding that ideal entirely. If the situation described above is not our best effort, then at what point does it become our "best effort" and we can rest peacefully knowing our conscience has done all it can do, despite contradicting Christ? Just as the abortion debate has no logical point for becoming human other than conception, this debate has no logical placement of "best effort" other than in the fullness the two great commandments: love god and your neighbor.

  155. More thoughts...
    Dan: Thanks for pointing out that Benedict was referring to male prostitutes with male clients, who could never conceive. That's useful to keep in mind.
    I'm pretty sure there's a flaw in your logic about the murderous wife. I'll need to think that one through a little before I can pinpoint what it is.
    Leila: Thanks for replying!! Thank you for reminding me about the conditions on mortal sin. I guess I meant that the prostitute (let's call him Tom) went to Fr. Bob for spiritual direction, where Fr. Bob instructed him that fornication was a mortal sin and he should stop. Fornication is a grave sin, and now Tom has been informed of it. I didn't say it originally, but I'll add that Tom is not be forced into this lifestyle in any way (he's not feeding starving siblings, etc.). Fr. Bob knows all of this. After his talk with Fr. Bob, Tom decides that he’s going to ignore Fr. Bob’s instruction and keep being a prostitute (though using condoms in order not to spread disease). Tom then shows up to Mass, and Fr. Bob knows that he has not been to confession, and therefore cannot give him communion. I think that's what I was envisioning in my head.
    About this: "What are we doing here, criticizing Peter's exhortation as if we have authority to do so?" Wait, isn't the exhortation not infallible? Or did I miss something?... Maybe lowly non-theologians like your average Joe Catholic shouldn't criticize papal documents on a whim, but isn't there some legit theologians who've taken issue with it as well? (Like that theologian somebody linked to, I forget his name...) Do THEY have the "authority to do so"? If not, who does? Cardinals?

  156. Dan, it might well be our "best effort" when we desperately don't want to be in the situation in which we find ourselves, in which we desperately want to find a way out of it, a good solution that will not cause further damage (to others! Including the innocent), and in which we keep praying and hoping for a way to rectify what may seem an impossible situation (and to which Francis and the Church are full of sympathy and help, accompanying that person forward, or at least holding their hand while they are in that situation). Do you not remember JPII and his deeply felt pleas and writings about the divorced and remarried who are not able to receive Communion, but still asking that we find a way to integrate them into the life of the Church? Why would he do this, if they are "disregarding that ideal entirely"?

    Why would have have any pastoral accompaniment and love and hope for them in their sin? In their "disregard"?

  157. Ann, I'm almost out the door to go see Professor Robert George give a talk (my hero!), but quickly.... there are many, many "legit" theologians (or at least they have the degree) who criticized JPII and Benedict right and left. It's not the place of a Catholic theologian to "criticize" the Magisterium. It's their job to explain Church teaching to the faithful, and to explore its implications.

    I don't know who can openly criticize, and keep publicly questioning, keep criticizing, keep casting suspicion on and then reject a papal exhortation, but I know it's definitely not me.

  158. I'll repost this. From Pope Pius X, who was writing this WAY after myriad bad, bad popes were in existence. So, he knew bad popes were real and that sinners in the papacy abounded. How do you explain what he meant here:

    The Pope is the guardian of dogma and of morals; he is the custodian of the principles that make families sound, nations great, souls holy; he is the counsellor of princes and of peoples; he is the head under whom no one feels tyrannized because he represents God Himself; he is the supreme father who unites in himself all that may exist that is loving, tender, divine.

    It seems incredible, and is even painful, that there be priests to whom this recommendation must be made, but we are regrettably in our age in this hard, unhappy, situation of having to tell priests: love the Pope!

    And how must the Pope be loved? Non verbo neque lingua, sed opere et veritate. [Not in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth - 1 Jn iii, 18] When one loves a person, one tries to adhere in everything to his thoughts, to fulfill his will, to perform his wishes. And if Our Lord Jesus Christ said of Himself, "si quis diligit me, sermonem meum servabit," [if any one love me, he will keep my word - Jn xiv, 23] therefore, in order to demonstrate our love for the Pope, it is necessary to obey him.

    Therefore, when we love the Pope, there are no discussions regarding what he orders or demands, or up to what point obedience must go, and in what things he is to be obeyed; when we love the Pope, we do not say that he has not spoken clearly enough, almost as if he were forced to repeat to the ear of each one the will clearly expressed so many times not only in person, but with letters and other public documents; we do not place his orders in doubt, adding the facile pretext of those unwilling to obey - that it is not the Pope who commands, but those who surround him; we do not limit the field in which he might and must exercise his authority; we do not set above the authority of the Pope that of other persons, however learned, who dissent from the Pope, who, even though learned, are not holy, because whoever is holy cannot dissent from the Pope.

    This is the cry of a heart filled with pain, that with deep sadness I express, not for your sake, dear brothers, but to deplore, with you, the conduct of so many priests, who not only allow themselves to debate and criticize the wishes of the Pope, but are not embarrassed to reach shameless and blatant disobedience, with so much scandal for the good and with so great damage to souls.

    Saint Pius X
    Allocution Vi ringrazio to priests on the 50th anniversary of the Apostolic Union
    November 18, 1912

  159. Leila: I’m not thoroughly educated on the topic of what papal teachings the faithful are required to obey, so thanks for discussing this with me :) … so did Pius X and the like mean that everything that a pope teaches must, on practical terms, be accepted as infallible by the faithful? Or just prayerfully considered? If it must be treated as infallible, why is it not officially infallible? Is it because it only applies to the faithful in a given era?? Or is there another explanation I’m missing?... And also, I guess this means that the popes who were great sinners never actually TAUGHT anything incorrect, right? I guess that would make sense…

  160. Dan,

    About No. 304. Maybe God is asking a woman in an irregular marriage to bring up the subject with her husband for the first time. So, she follows God's will in doing that. She doesn't just suddenly cut off relations with her husband. She makes the first step. And then he rejects the suggestion of living in continence and she finds herself in a state that seems impossible. So she prays, she goes to daily Mass and makes a spiritual communion, she patiently waits, she goes out of her way to be a better, more loving, more self-sacrificing wife than she has been before, hoping to win over her husband. When she continues to have normal relations with her husband, she is not doing so with the full consent of her will. So she is not subjectively guilty of mortal sin, only objectively, being subjectively perhaps guilty of venial sin. She may really be doing the best she can at this point, not having the grace of the Sacraments, perhaps having no past habits of virtuous living to help her.

    The point is not the details. As Leila has said, without being intimately involved in a discussion with the sinner, we cannot be sure of her culpability. This is just one hypothetical example I can see where No. 304 seems very reasonable, both just and merciful.

    And let's reiterate that even in this case, the Pope does not say in AL that the woman is good to go to receive the Sacraments.

  161. Hi Leila, thanks for your response. I certainly would advocate for continuing to walk with those in these difficult situations. I'm involved as part of our parish's RCIA team and I have seen firsthand these situations and I try to present the truth to these couples and encourage them along as they seek to see if their previous marriages are invalid.

    I truly believe, based on everything I know of Jesus and His Church, that the truth is what these people need. Not the heavy-handed truth beat over their heads (which I admit may be how my posts sound through the starkness of the text) but the loving truth of the Father who knows what's best for his children. And what's best for them is to trust in the Lord that He will sustain them in doing His will. AL is saying that God's will can be discerned to be contrary to the "ideal" based on situations. It cannot. Culpability can be lessened, but not in a forward-looking manner. That's why I described the husband-killer as a logical extension (in my mind) of this train of thought.

  162. Thank you for the Pius X quote Leila, I have not read that before. I think I will spend some more time with it, but for now:

    I don't think disagreeing with this document by the Pope is disobedience. It's a fact that popes have made heretical statements when not speaking ex cathedra. I do think that we (I) need to take to heart the approach the Pope is advocating and treat more charitably those in irregular situations. If I were to reject the Year of Mercy and claim it to be a waste of Catholics' time, that would be disobedience. But this document is not asking anything of the reader, it is simply a commentary for the benefit of the Church. So in that regard I need to take it seriously since it comes from Peter (as you rightly point out) and use it to deepen my relationship with Christ and my neighbor. There's a lot of nuance there, but I feel that that's how one should apply Pius X's statement in this instance.

  163. Ann, yes you are right! No pope, grave sinner or not, has taught error from the See of Peter. That is the promise of Christ, otherwise we would be lost.

    I wrote a quick primer, here:


    Connie, I second your comments! Thank you!

    Dan, I appreciate your thoughtful comments, and I ask in all sincerity, what do you think of the approach the priest used here:


    I think it was brilliant. Many might think it was shameful.

  164. Hi Connie, that's a very measured response you gave and I think your analysis of the situation is accurate based on an outside observer looking in (of course we can't pronounce mortal/venial sins for someone else with certitude, only perhaps with high probability) I agree with you in the wife's mitigated culpability: she has just come to this realization and she is struggling to act on it; therefore any sin is likely only venial in nature. This was all stated in the beginning of CH8 of AL and it conforms with longstanding church teaching on the nature of sin.

    What I disagree with in 304 is the idea that God is calling someone to something short of perfection in Him. It's ok to acknowledge we come up short based on outside pressure, but it's not ok to be content with that and assume it gives us the green light for that action. The message should be that that wife will be safe in the arms of Christ even if her husband leaves her because she values her soul over keeping him happy with sex. Christ told the rich young man to sell all he had, not just a little bit at a time as he was able to come to grips with things.

  165. I wrote the previous comment before reading Pius X's quote again... So I guess it means "that everything that a pope teaches must, on practical terms, be accepted as infallible by the faithful," not "just prayerfully considered." And "this means that the popes who were great sinners never actually TAUGHT anything incorrect." Okay. I think I'm a bit more educated now. :)
    '[W]hen we love the Pope, we do not say that he has not spoken clearly enough, almost as if he were forced to repeat to the ear of each one the will clearly expressed so many times not only in person, but with letters and other public documents[.]" I guess the argument becomes, is the exhortation clear on the issue of the divorced and the remarried? Honestly, I don't think it is, not when people can't decide if Francis means that the divorced and remarried in "certain cases" can receive communion, or if he just meant the ones who were living as brother and sister.
    You said: "It's not the place of a Catholic theologian to "criticize" the Magisterium. It's their job to explain Church teaching to the faithful, and to explore its implications." Okay, good point, then I guess that comes down to whether theologians are writing articles to try to explain what they think Pope Francis was saying in his exhortation, or whether they are criticizing it. Which I guess could include criticizing it for being unclear?? And criticizing it for being too liberal (at least what they believe it's implying), or for being a way for Francis to liberalized the Church and make it relativistic...?

  166. Thanks Leila, that article puts a very human face on the topic at hand. What immediately came out to me is one of my favorite bible verses: "All things work together for the good of those who love Him." ROM 8:28. To me that is the mercy of God, that even in our continued sinfulness He uses it to draw us ever closer to him.

    The situation is obviously messy. I think with the details provided, it may have been the prudent decision to suggest the couple live together, even knowing that it might be an occasion of sin. Placing oneself in an occasion of sin is not evil in itself unless done with disregard for the prospect of sinning or disregarding a better alternative. The couple, although not married, has responsibilities to each other through their child, which cannot be ignored.

    As for counseling the couple to continue premarital sex however, I just can't get behind that. I think it would obviously be difficult to abstain in their state and level of habitual virtue at the time, but the beauty of our faith is that we never have to be the ones to fill in the gap, God will do it for us! I think this is where the mercy comes in; we need to counsel people on what God is calling them to and acknowledge the real difficulty of that call, and help sustain them on their journey even when they fall short.

    I think it was wonderful of that priest to not give up on the couple and continue to encourage and essentially suffer with them on their journey. The responses of many in the community sounded like the harsh condemnation Pope Francis speaks out against.

    This situation makes me think that maybe there was another alternative out there that was never realized because someone else failed to live up to their own call from God to assist this couple. When we sin the whole body suffers.

    So those are my initial thoughts.

  167. This comment has been removed by the author.

  168. Leila, could you clarify something else for me?

    You are saying that some people, based on the difficulty of their situation, should 1. have a sexual relationship with a man who in truth is the husband of another woman and 2. because *she doesn't really want to have sex with him*, should be able to receive Communion?

    Now the reason she doesn't want to have sex with him is because she knows it will keep her from the Eucharist. But she does not want to lose her family, so she does have sex with him. I do have sympathy, because that union must really break her heart. She wants to keep her husband happy, but this man she is keeping happy doesn't really care that what is supposed to unite them is really breaking her heart, making her chose between him and God.

    So... the Church says, this woman is only having sex under duress, so to speak, so we will let her both have sex with a man who is, in truth, married to another woman, and we will allow her to receive Holy Communion.

    Now... She is allowed to receive Holy Communion. So, she no longer is under duress in having a marital relationship with another woman's husband. She's not sad anymore. He isn't forcing her anymore. She can have sex now, and enjoy it as anyone else would, even though he is married to someone else.

    And you don't have a problem with this? You think that this situation does not "objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist"? Really?

    Hard cases make bad law, Leila.

  169. One other thing, the counsel to get civilly married I think is also justifiable, assuming it would not cause undue scandal. Just as civil divorce is morally justifiable (say in an abusive relationship), I think civil marriage for the sake of needed benefits, etc. is also justifiable. The sin would come in if we treated a divorce as license to remarry or a civil marriage as license to engage in premarital sex having ignored a sacramental marriage. In this case, sacramental marriage was not yet possible so even when civilly married the couple should abstain from sex.

    Also, I recognize the difficulty of the call to abstinence. I spent 13 months on deployment away from my new bride of only 2 months at the start of my marriage. It's difficult and painful!

  170. I want to add another thought, Leila. Seriously, if I were in that situation, I would probably accept the fact that I could not live as brother and sister. I would accept that fact that, by being in this kind of a marriage, I am not able to receive the Eucharist.

    And then what would I do? I would pray, and pray, and pray for my husband's conversion. I would offer up my pain in not receiving the Eucharist for his salvation. I honestly would not expect the Church to change Her teaching for my sake. I would not want the Church to pretend that my situation was a reflection of "that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist." And, really, I would fall on God's mercy. God would know my situation. He would know my heartbreak. He would know my intense desire to receive Him, and to be with Him forever in Heaven. God doesn't send such people to hell, Leila.

  171. Dan, I'm going to try to figure out, now, if there's inconsistent logic in your example about murder. Here goes...
    First of all, according to Leila, a woman in the state of her friend should receive communion because subjectively, she's not in a state of moral sin (because her free will is limited, due to her specific circumstances). Let's assume for a moment that Leila is right, that the woman (let's call her Susan) is doing God's will for where she is in her life right now.
    Let's call the woman you imagined Betty. She's abused, so one day she snaps and kills her husband. Murdering her husband (she didn't kill him in self-defense, since he wasn't hurting her when she killed him) was definitely NOT God's will for Betty in that moment!! What would God's will have been? Probably for her to leave her abusive husband, or evict him, or turn him over to the police, or something like that.
    Now here's a crucial point that I think you're getting mixed up on - did Betty plan the murder ahead of time?? If it was God's will for Susan to stay with her husband and still receive communion, then she could anticipate sleeping with him without planning to commit a mortal sin (since whenever she sleeps with him, it's not done entirely freely). But if Betty planned the murder ahead of time (which would in and of itself probably be a mortal sin), then it wasn't done in a fit of temporary insanity that took over her free will, thus it was done freely. Unless, of course, Betty is slightly insane throughout both the planning and the murder, in which case she didn't do it freely. Here's your original quote about Betty: "Similar perhaps to how a distraught wife being abused by her husband for years finally can take it no more and kills him. The ends still don't justify the means, but the situation certainly lessens the moral guilt. What AL would tell us would be that a wife could premeditatedly kill her abusive husband and decide beforehand that she would not be doing wrong." When you talk about "what AL would tell us," do you mean that Betty lucidly plans on killing her husband, just because she'd get away with it morally if she did it while insane?? She'd definitely be guilty then. Or do you mean that she'd stay with her husband, even though she knew she might snap and kill him, because if she did it wouldn't be a sin?? In that case, she should probably leave before she hurts him. I guess that would compare to a girl living chastely with a man. She knows there's a good chance that he might rape her, which of course wouldn't be God's will, but in which case she wouldn't be guilty of fornication because it was forced. She's probably morally obligated to leave, in that case, to prevent sin from ocurring, if there's no other factors involved. So I guess what it all boils down to is whether or not it's God's will for Susan to keep sleeping with her husband for the present. If it is, then she can have communion; if it's not, she can't.
    And that's my two cents on it. :)

  172. Thanks Ann, you are right it all boils down to what is God's will. I'm assuming that God's will for Susan is to not sleep with her husband; similarly we both agree and assume that Betty killing her husband is also not God's will. In this way I think the comparison is valid. If Susan can decide that God's will is really that she commit this act without sin then why can't Betty do the same? The premeditated part comes in since the comparison is to living (sexually) in an invalid marriage instead of looking backwards at a single individual act. Thus it carries an implicit verdict on the sexual impropriety until some time in the future when God's will apparently will change. Betty is undergoing stress and abuse, so even though she shouldn't kill her husband, she just can't help herself at the time and therefore decides it's aligned with God's will. Why is this situation any different than deciding that a sinful lifestyle is God's will at the time if it's the best one can do? Does that clear up my train of thought?

  173. Dan: I think I agree with your assessments of the story Leila linked. I also liked this line: "Placing oneself in an occasion of sin is not evil in itself unless done with disregard for the prospect of sinning or disregarding a better alternative." I haven't heard that before.

    Sharon:Thanks for reminding me again about the other reason why people in irregular unions cannot receive the Eucharist (besides being in mortal sin, and scandal(which might not be scandal if no one knew about the union being irregular?)): their union doesn't represent Christ and the Church. If this is a strong enough reason, then it'll be case closed...
    Also, about your comments about someone in Leila's friend's position (I'm calling such a person Susan): I think that not being able to receive the Eucharist isn't the only reason that Susan has relations with her husband unwillingly. I assume that, as a faithful Catholic, Susan does not want to be in an irregular union, because it isn't God's will. But then... if it's God's will for her to sleep with her husband anyway, because of the circumstances... then would she not really be unwilling, as long as her husband refuses to be chaste? Or would she still harbor unwillingness to be in such a union... but you shouldn't be unwilling to do God's will... Well, now I've confused myself! Leila, I'd love to see your thoughts on this when you get back!!

    1. I think that Leila would agree that it is never God's will that a woman sleep with a man who is not her husband. Sin is never God's will.

  174. Dan: Well, if it's not God's will that Susan keep sleeping with her husband, then she should leave him, or at the very least not take communion...
    I guess what I mean is that AL wouldn't permit Betty to kill her husband because it doesn't allow anything that's not God's will. (Though Betty may not be culpable if she does it, if she's crazy.) *IF* AL permits Susan to keep sleeping with her husband for the time being (the permission being implied by letting her receive communion), then it would be BECAUSE it's GOD'S WILL. On the other hand, if AL doesn't let Susan receive communion (thereby implying that it's not God's will) then Susan can't becuase it's NOT God's will. The issue is what AL is implying... So to sum up, we have two options: 1) AL lets Susan take communion because sleeping with her husband is God's will; Betty does not get communion because murder isn't God's will. or 2) AL does not let either Susan or Betty receive communion because both are not doing God's will. So basically, in either scenario, Betty never gets communion (assuming she lucidly preplanned her husband's murder).
    As to Betty being under stress and abuse, and thinking she can kill her husband... she might be mentally unstable enough to not be culpable for the murder, but the murder itself would never be God's will. And Betty isn't forced to stay the way Susan might be; if Betty has children, it'd probably be all the more reason to leave her abusive husband lest he abuse he kids too, if he isn't/hasn't already!!

  175. I'm heading off to sleep now... it's been nice discussing things with everyone! I'll see if I can return tomorrow. God bless!

  176. Dan,

    I think God's will in the situation I gave is for the woman to talk to her husband. She may not be looking beyond that right now. She sees that she needs to take the first step. That is what she can see of God's will in the place she is at. And that fits with No. 304. That doesn't mean that God wills any sin she commits afterwards, or wills for her to fall short in any way. Seeing God's will IMHO is seeing that first step. That's what God is calling her to do at this moment. That's how I read 304 in keeping with tradition.

  177. To all:

    I just meditated on the woman at the well, which was the next passage in a list my spiritual director has me praying with. All I can say is: go read and pray over this passage! John 4:1-42. Amazing! It seems to fit our discussion perfectly.

    Although Jesus tells the woman taken in the act of adultery (and others), "Go and sin no more," St. John does not have Him do so in this scene. Jesus mentions that she is living with a man who is not her husband, but He does not even point out that she is sinning or that she needs to change. And when the woman leaves Him, we don't hear that she immediately went home and told her boyfriend to move out. Instead, she went and told others to come and meet a man that may be the Messiah.

    So, what on earth is St. John doing here? Isn't he flirting with heresy? I mean, readers might take this passage as saying it's okay to be "married" five times and then have a live-in boyfriend! Why wasn't John clearer? Maybe we should excise this passage from the Gospel, because it's only going to encourage people to sin!

    Seriously, John favorably compares this woman with the apostles. She evangelized the town, while they did not even notice that there were people there who needed to meet Jesus. They were just focused on buying food. It seems to me that she was doing God's will for her at that moment. Later she had two days to listen to Jesus and be fully converted. But would we judge her for not immediately going to rectify her immoral life?


  178. Okay, just got home. Haven't even read through the latest comments, but had to stop and write this. I think both Sharon and Ann have pointedly said that "Leila thinks she (in an invalid marriage) should be able to receive Communion". Whoa, Nellie. Really? It is just so weird to me that I never said that. I never said anything more than AL is saying. I never argued for her to receive Communion. What I argued is that not everyone who looks like they are in mortal sin actual ARE in mortal sin, esp. when there is (for the moment) no good options for the family. There are a lot of "should" in a lot of these presumptions, too, by the way (from Dan's presumptions as well), but if everyone did the "shoulds", then we would not only not need mercy and accompaniment to get to the right place with God, we would not even need God! We could be our own gods. It's not about what people "should" be doing when we speak pastorally to a wounded world, it's what ARE they doing right now and what do we do about *that*.

    Also, we are about to hit 200 comments, at which point the comments seem to disappear, but just hit "load more" to get to the rest, or subscribe to comments via email, below.

  179. Connie, I have thought of the woman at the well NUMEROUS times during this discussion, so I thank you for bringing her up! That "dance" (very intimate) between her and Jesus is just beautiful, stunning, glorious! Really amazing what He did there, and yes, ha, one could say that John could have been clearer.... except that would be to miss the point of what is going on. Thank you for bringing that up. No one here has a problem with how John tells the story, do they? And I would say that the way Jesus handled things was quite pastoral. ;)

  180. Wow! The conversations are many and varied and all over the map. I came back to a torrent of posts.

    Hi, Leila! I'm up late, too and still reading....

    I will try to address those comments to or about me, first, so that I can pay homage to those who have taken the time to write thoughtful posts and comments about or to me. One step at a time or I will quickly become overwhelmed.

    Dan, you said, "Barb, I think you hinted at AL being a magisterial document, however I don't think that's true. It is a simply a commentary or summation on the synod of bishops, which is not directed "ex cathedra" in unison with all the bishops as the teaching voice of the church (as it would have to be to be magisterial)."

    I am not always clear, Dan, lol, (what an understatement, lol). I do know what a magisterial document is, I promise, lol. Amoris Laetitia, with all the fanfare it has received over the past couple of years, has been written and received (by many) AS IF it were a definitive teaching of the Church rather than an opinion. I think what contributes to such conclusions are, of course, the ready access and use of the mass(ive) media outlets and overall poor catechesis.

    Think of all the discussions even just here in the Bubble. We are treating the document as if there can be no dissent. But I believe there is room for disagreement. It is how the disagreement is expressed that can be problematic. It should be done with respect, always, for the Seat of Peter. I am guilty of not always expressing my views productively especially when having drawn out discussions and one may tend to skip the formalities.

    I appreciate your thoughtful comments on all the posts, Dan. Your careful explanations of your agreement or dissent with other commentator's remarks have helped me to get a clearer picture of a complex topic.

    In fact, while reading all the posts, I have come to a conclusion which in my opinion supports my/our conclusion about the clarity of the doctrine of reception of the Eucharist. I think Jesus spoke definitively, simply and clearly, about marriage. I don't like how some in the hierarchy of the Church are making a mess of His teachings. I will bite my tongue against further argument, lol.


  181. Leila, it could be said that Jesus was the first pastor of His Father's Church, ;).


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