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Modern Re-Marriage: a Fantasy Print E-mail
By Brad Miner   
Monday, 11 August 2014

She had a question for me. Well, she had a bunch of questions, but among them was a very disturbing one. This wasn’t it:

“Will you come to my wedding?”

I raised my eyebrows. She is a divorced Catholic (her husband was essentially a bigamist), who never sought an annulment.

“Whom are you marrying and where?” I asked.

“Jack, of course, and at Saint Brendan’s.”

“Really? When did you get an annulment?”

“Father Blithe says I no longer need one.”

“Father Blithe said that did he?”

She looked me in the eyes and I could see the color fade from her face.

“Are you saying he’s wrong?”

“I haven’t actually said a thing yet. But, yeah, he’s wrong.”

“Oh. So you know better than a priest, huh?”

“So it would appear.”

“You’re serious!”

“Listen, he is suborning you to commit mortal sin, and he’s putting himself on the precipice of excommunication. This must not be, and I will not attend if you go ahead with this.”

“You wouldn’t come to my wedding?”

“Not under the circumstances you’re describing. Look, the chances are it won’t happen anyway, especially after I call the archdiocesan chancery office.”

“You’d do that . . . to me?”

“I’d do it for you, not to you.”

“So I don’t get to decide for myself?”

“Of course you do, including your – so far – decision to participate in the invalid rite Blithe is suggesting. You have, in a sense, a civil right to commit mortal sin, although I’d have hoped you would choose not to do so. But the priest has absolutely no canonical authority to perform such a marriage, and doing so will probably cost him his job. If his intention is to be laicized (to give up being a priest), he should man up and do it properly, and not take you and Jack along for the ride.”

“But he said that’s all changed.”

“Sure it has – in his own mind. Unfortunately for him and for you, Holy Mother Church hasn’t changed her position.”

“So I can’t get married?”

“You can, but not in a Catholic ceremony. See a judge; see an Episcopalian. I’d come to those weddings. But if you two have decided to marry after dating for a few years, why on earth don’t you wait a little longer and begin the annulment process? Those rules may actually change soon.”

 

“But won’t I be excommunicated if I re-marry outside the Church?”

“Actually, no. But you sure as shootin’ will be if you go ahead with the wedding at Saint Brendan’s. But otherwise. . .no. You’ll no longer be able to receive Holy Communion, of course, and you’ll still be expected to attend Mass on all days of obligation.”

“What!”

“Them’s the rules.”

“I have to come to the river, but I can’t drink.”

“In a manner of speaking, yes. But that's the river of living water; of eternal life.”

“That is so unfair.”

“If I’ve never said this to you before, it is totally fair, in that the Church exists to lead us to holiness; to keep us on the path of righteousness and not the road to ruin, of sin, which is why we have the sacraments – each of which gives us a way out of the hold the devil has on us. Understand: an annulment would give you the freedom you’re seeking.”

“How many holy days of obligation are there?

“Let me see – four or five, I think.”

She seemed to relax a bit. Sort of twisted her lips in a gesture that said she thought maybe she could handle five.

“Plus,” I said, “every Sunday, of course.”

She frowned and shook her head.

“Sunday’s are holy days now?”

I sighed: “Now and always, although I gather some Catholics aren’t aware of it.”

She nodded, smiling sarcastically. Then she asked:

“What about the fact that Jack’s not Catholic.”

“Under the circumstances, that’s the least of your problems, especially if you got that annulment. As long as he would not be an impediment to your practice of the faith, you could go ahead. Back to the chancery, you’d apply for and probably receive what’s called a ‘dispensation for disparity of cult.’ What is Jack’s faith, anyway?”

“He’s nothing.”

“Seriously? He’s past fifty and hasn’t thought through all this.” To emphasize the point, I made a sweeping gesture to indicate heaven and earth.

“He grew up some sort of Protestant, but he says he’s seen too much to believe God exists.”

“More poison.”

“But you like him!”

“Yes, well, I do, but anyway it’s your decision about whom to marry. It would be easy for me to say, ‘Hold on until you find a Catholic guy,’ but that really makes no difference without the annulment.”

Then she said she had a Last Question, which actually turned out not to be the last (she wanted to know how to proceed with an annulment and various other canonical questions, many of which I couldn’t answer, except to refer her to a canon lawyer (I certainly couldn’t suggest her parish priest), and this is the question I referred to at the beginning:

“Will I go to hell if I just go ahead and do what Father Blithe has suggested?”

“You put yourself gravely at risk. That’s all I can say.”

I might have handed her my rosary, told her to buy black dresses and attend Mass daily, and forget about marriage at her age. But why lose a friend and a Catholic?

 
Brad Miner is senior editor of The Catholic Thing, senior fellow of the Faith & Reason Institute, and a board member of Aid to the Church In Need USA. He is the author of six books and is a former Literary Editor of National Review. His book, The Compleat Gentleman, read by Christopher Lane, is available on audio and as an iPhone app.
 
 
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (37)Add Comment
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written by Manfred, August 11, 2014
"See a judge; see an Episcopalian. I'd come to those weddings." Without an annulment, she is still married to her first husband. The reason she cannot remarry in the Church, before a judge or an Episcopalian without an annulment is that she is not free to marry and therefore she (and you) would be celebrating an adulterous relationship.
You should have asked Fr. Murray for some help on this.
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written by Richard A, August 11, 2014
I think Mr. Miner's point is that if his friend gets herself married before a judge or an Episcopalian, she's clearly not taking seriously what she's doing, and neither would he. And she shouldn't take seriously his presence at whatever faux ceremony she dreams up.
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written by schm0e, August 11, 2014
The guy that attacked me in comment is a columnist here? Talk about the Peter Principle.
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written by mary delaney, August 11, 2014
Ive never heard of a Priest giving out this kind of bad advice, on the contrary, Ive heard of lax catholics who complained that catholic priests refused to baptize their babies after baptizing them and then never seeing the parents back in the church with the kids again. I cant imagine why a catholic priest would bother being a priest at all if they felt the church rules were irrelevant.
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written by Msgr. Philip W. Hill, August 11, 2014
I'd sure need to know more about the circumstances of Jack's first marriage before I could make any judgments. 19 year's experience in the Tribunal taught me that one.
You are probanbly right, but there is really not enough information here to judge. In any case, going to the Tribunal is the best advice.

Rev. Msgr. Philip W. Hill, STL, JCD, PhD, JD.
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written by Christopher, August 11, 2014
Attempting marriage against the laws of the Church is, or so I was taught, a mortal sin.

Unfortunately, annulments have become all too common place. The grounds are such that just about any marriage could be annulled and for the slightest, silliest reason. The Church should be shoring up marriage, not making it easier to move on to a second one. No wonder the Church is such wishy-washy mixed bag!
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written by Bill Mulligan, August 11, 2014
The author is confused if he thinks that marrying in front of a judge is less a sin, or that it would be something that he can attend. He'd be sanctioning her adultery by his presence, regardless of "who" married them where. He is irrational if he thinks it matters to "buy" an annulment, which is what it amounts to nowadays, they are given so freely. And he is naive to think that the Bishop would discipline his priest over this nowadays. Where has he been the last 40 years? This hierarchy stands for nothing.
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written by frkloster, August 11, 2014
Wasn't anyone else troubled by the graph? About half the Ecclesial Marriages we had in 1985? All the while, the Catholic population in the USA almost doubled! Where is the fruit? Where is the good news among the leading Catholic indicators; reception of the sacraments? We are in a deep historical spiritual valley and many Catholic leaders keep their heads in the proverbial sand.
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written by Michael Paterson-Seymour, August 11, 2014
An eminent lawyer once wrote, “It is a curious fact, though true, that there must always be a considerable number of people who could not say off-hand whether they were married or not. It is only when the question has been decided by a [marriage tribunal] that their doubts can be removed. But although they do not know if they are married, and no one could tell them with certainty till the proof is led, it is nevertheless true that they must be either one or the other. There is no half-way house.” This is inevitable under any system, which is not to say that practice and procedure cannot be improved, something that an unlettered layman like me can only leave to the Canonists – Cuique in arte sua credendum.
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written by Famijoly, August 11, 2014
A neat and realistic-sounding exchange between two Catholics on marriage with one speaking frankly out of genuine concern for the other's salvation. Would that more Catholics would be true friends to their fellow Catholics like the protagonist in the exchange.

One big point of error to mention is that if the woman in the story, without an annulment of her first marriage from the Catholic Church, attempts this subsequent marriage with Jack, she DOES excommunicate herself latae sentencia (by the law itself, by her own actions) from reception of the sacraments. This is whether she and Jack go before Fr. Blithe, an Episcopalian, a judge, whatever. The bond of her first marriage is still in force -- "Marriage enjoys the favor of the law" (Canon 1060) -- and therefore, she is not free to marry. As the scene was described, at present (at the time of the conversation), she was divorced from her husband and not cohabiting with any man, so, at the time of the conversation, she was a Catholic in good standing, able to receive Holy Communion as well as absolution in the Sacrament of Penance. A friend saying, "See a judge, see an Episcopalian; I'd come to those weddings" is pushing her toward mortal sin and ex-communication and would be putting his own soul in grave danger of spending eternity in Hell. Indeed he would be a lay version of Fr. Blithe.

As a priest of 18 years, I have discovered that a much more difficult message to get across on the Catholic teaching on the indissolubility of marriage in a society of rampant divorce is that "If you're not free to marry, you're not free to date." So even though this is outside the context of the conversation described, the Catholic woman, without an annulment, should not have been dating Jack to begin with. And the question of whether Jack had ever been married was not included in the conversation. Even though religiously he's "nothing, with some sort of Protestant background," any marriage ceremonies he went through must be considered before assessing whether he is free to marry, and the Church says marriage is between a man and a woman who are free to marry each other.
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written by Rupert Haiden, August 11, 2014
That's why a lot of people drop out of church, because the get scared by people like Mr. Miner. I would get an annulment get married at City Hall don't invide Mr. Miner and live my life happilly ever after.




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written by Famijoly, August 11, 2014
Would that more Catholics would be willing to be true friends to fellow Catholics and seek the salvation of the other's soul first and foremost.

But, of course, accurate information must be relayed. Here, the protagonist turns out to be a lay version of Fr. Blithe with the words, "See a judge. See an Episcopalian. I'd come to those weddings." The woman described has an existing bond of marriage and has not petitioned the Church for a declaration of nullity. "Marriage enjoys the favor of the law" (Canon 1060). So if she goes through with a marriage ceremony with Jack, whether before Fr. Blithe at St. Brendan's, before a judge, before an Episcopalian, before anyone, she excommunicates herself latae sentencia (by the law itself, by her actions); if she does that, she takes herself away from absolution in the Sacrament of Penance and from the reception of Holy Communion, until the situation changes. Certainly it would be a worse scandal if Fr. Blithe officiate at such an invalid ceremony inside a Catholic church building, but the effects for her would be the same. Further, anyone who advises someone else in such a way, even going so far as to say he would "attend the wedding," is putting his own soul in danger of spending eternity in Hell. He has just told his friend it's OK to commit mortal sin, and scandal, as long as she doesn't do it with the cooperation of a priest.

Another factor that wasn't covered is Jack's marital status, as the Church assesses it. Even though he is described as one with a Protestant background who presently practices no faith, he must be free to marry -- as the Church understands freedom to marry -- before this Catholic woman can marry him in the Church (in addition to her own need for a declaration of nullity regarding her still-existing bond).

As a priest of 18 years, I have sadly seen divorced Catholics leave the practice of the faith because their non-Catholic boyfriend/girlfriend steadfastly refused to seek an annulment because "I have no intention of joining the Catholic Church, and I don't see where my previous marriage is any of the Catholic Church's business."

This leads me to say that, in my experience, the most difficult message on the indissolubility of marriage in a society of rampant divorce to divorced Catholics is "If you're not free to marry, you're not free to date." The woman's answer to the question of who she is intending to marry of "Jack, of course" reflects the implicit acceptance of the practice of divorced Catholics without annulments entering into particular romantic friendships with persons of the opposite sex. So to play it out, the woman in the story should not have had a boyfriend to begin with.
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written by Guest, August 11, 2014
Rupert,

People get "scared" away because they do not want to hear the truth. Why? Because the truth means they must stop doing what they are doing.
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written by Brace Dean, August 11, 2014
Dear Rupert, you might live your life "happily ever after" but what about the eternal "ever after"? Maybe not so happy? Worth some thought.
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written by Deacon jim Stagg, August 11, 2014
Well done, Mr. Miner.

You got people talking.

Best of all, you got people thinking!

And yes, I agree, the chart shows a scandalous disregard for the Sacrament of Marriage. But then, we who have been active in (Church) marriage prep for many years are not really surprised. This simply documents the cultural change in America.

G-d help us!
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written by MARY L. HOOKER, August 11, 2014
How many married and found that there was genuine love for
each other, but they DID NOT HEAR GOD'S VOICE GIVING THEM
HIS APPROVAL? THEY WERE JUST SUPPOSED TO BE FRIENDS, BUT
ERRONEOUSLY THOUGHT THEY SHOULD MARRY BECAUSE OF LOVE. IT
SEEMS THAT THE 50% DIVORCE RATE IN THE USA MAY BE DUE TO THE
FACT OF GOD'S VERBAL APPROVAL. THE QUESTION REMAINS: WHY DID
HE NOT MAKE HIS DISAPPROVAL CLEAR? HOPE THAT THIS IS HELPFUL.

WE HAVE THIS HOPE FOR ALL CONCERNS: I COME TO A SPOTLESS
CHURCH, A CHURCH WITHOUT SPOT OR BLEMISH. CHRIST SAID.

HOW IS GOING T DO THIS?
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written by DeGaulle, August 11, 2014
1). There are things to be much more scared about than Mr. Miner, I assure you, and only a fool blames the messenger for his message.

2). Any life, no matter how happily lived, turns out not to be "ever after". What then?
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written by Jack,CT, August 11, 2014
Wow ,,,is all i have to say! thanks for a great read Mr Miner
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written by frkloster, August 11, 2014
Deacon Stagg, I applaud your work preparing couples. May you be rewarded richly spiritually for that much needed apostolate. My point was not to ask the questions without the visitors to the comments section thinking about the causes. Our leaders won't even acknowledge the problem. Now, we must ask ourselves about the concrete causes. It was not a change in society. The society changed for a reason. The culture was not the engine driving the changes. The changes were spiritual in nature and the bishops/priests are to blame (including myself). Every heresy has begun with the clergy. Who was clamoring for change back in the 1960's? It clearly was no the faithful. We changed a lot of things almost merely for the sake of change. Again I ask, where is the fruit if the liturgical, ecclesial, and canonical changes were so great? Our chanceries mirror the Federal government. It used to be the other way around.
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written by Brad Miner, August 11, 2014
@ Manfred: I reached out to Father Murray (after the fact, obviously), and your objection has been sustained by the canon lawyer. The lesson taught to him at Dunwoodie by the great Monsignor William Smith (and his advice wasn't just for priests) was: avoid the marriage; attend the party.
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written by Manfred, August 11, 2014
The obvious point here is that we surrender our wills to God and follow His mandates as taught by FAITHFUL popes, bishops and priests because we love Him and wish to serve Him.
Failing that, we follow the mandates because of the genuine fear of eternity in Hell. If there is no Hell and no love of God, who would ever be bothered?
P.S. Are any of you old enough to remember when someone was described as being "God fearing"?
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written by Seanachie, August 11, 2014
Not surprising, Brad, the topic generates much discussion. I disagree with Monsignor Smith's advice, "avoid the marriage; attend the party." Smith's advice is too politically correct from my view. If one disagrees with the marriage, one should politely neither attend the church service nor the reception. Attendance at the reception may be interpreted as recognizing, accepting, and celebrating the marriage as much as witnessing the church service...just saying.
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written by Manfred, August 11, 2014
@Brad: Thank you for your candid reply. May we analyze Msgr Smith's advice? Here you have dozens of people at the reception. Many of the ladies are in newly purchased finery. They have all had their hair "done". The men are all in the best, to the point where some are in tuxedos. They have brought lavish gifts for the couple. THE question: What are they celebrating? The couple will unite in nuptial bliss but there have been no licit nuptials! The couple is in a formal state of adultery. And here are all their "friends" confirming that what they are doing is acceptable and sanctioned.
In a few months, of course, the couple will wish to receive the Eucharist and they will recieve a phone call one evening from Pope Bergoglio who will say: "Shhhh! It is alright for you to receive, but do not tell anyone I gave you permission. The Church(?) has to meet you where you are-not where we would like you to be."
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written by Brad Miner, August 11, 2014
@Manfred: Although not entirely apposite, there is this from Mark:

15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
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written by Matt, August 11, 2014
Brad's reply to Manfred is interesting.

In Mark's account, the sinners invited Jesus to dinner with the overt intention of listening to him teach of sin and salvation.

In the hypothetical story, the couple have no such intention with their invitation.

Given the above, would Jesus attend a dinner full of sinners that had no intention of listening to him and wanted him only to attend the dinner as a public sign of support of their sinful lifestyle?

The answer is self-evident to all except perhaps Cardinal Kasper and the canon lawyer.

Brad's male character should ask "If I come to the reception, would you permit me to take the microphone and teach of the Catholic doctrine of marriage during the dinner?" The female character's answer to that question would determine if one should accept or refuse the invitation.
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, August 12, 2014
Brad, you forgot about the part where the pastor informs her about the 'internal forum' which trumps all Church law and would allow her to do whatever the hell she pleases.
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written by Guest, August 12, 2014
How does one go to the reception without publicly affirming the grave sin of the couple in question? Do you congratulate the couple? If you do you confirm them in their sin. What exactly does one say in this circumstance at the reception? It seems absurd to think one can disapprove of the sin and then celebrate it. Huh?
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written by Manfred, August 12, 2014
@Brad: This is my last comment on the subject. You do understand, of course, the difference between Christ eating with persons the Pharisees considered sinners, and Christ actually participating in a sinful act, even as a witness.
Recall the subject under discussion is Marriage which Christ spoke of on three occasions. "What GOD has joined together let no man put asunder." Since Vat. II, this has been considered a mere suggestion.
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written by Stanley Anderson, August 12, 2014
Matt wrote, "In Mark's account, the sinners invited Jesus to dinner with the overt intention of listening to him teach of sin and salvation.

In the hypothetical story, the couple have no such intention with their invitation."
------
And yet the hypothetical bride in the column is a hypothetical Catholic, however misled she may be, and likely has hypothetical Catholic family and friends (again, however misled they may be) who may hypothetically may be attending too (might they be likened to tax collectors and sinners, "for there were many who followed him"?).

Perhaps the hypothetical Brad at the reception need not be so bold as to grab the microphone and preach, but simply engage in conversation with the other guests and be Christ to them in his presence and in his words as the opportunity arises?

In addition to that Mark passage, I might also have included this passage from Matthew (maybe along with the other "who's superscription is on the coin" passage):

What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.

But I agree that it is a tough call and subject to particular circumstances that we don't have access to in the hypothetical story. What might Brad's detractors and supporters here do in various other cases, like, say, attending a baby shower for an unwed mother? Or on the other end, what about attending a gay "wedding" reception?

Over and above all the hypothetical meanderings, it must be remembered that the intent of the column in the first place was to highlight the difficult challenge of living the Catholic Faith, well, faithfully. "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."
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written by Rosemary, August 12, 2014
I am not sure Brad gets it, Manfred.
Thanks to you, Seanachie, and Matt for clarifying the errors in Brad's essay.

Rupert, I am just wondering: why did you bother getting an anullment?
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written by Rosemary, August 12, 2014
I forgot to add that applications for annulments (shown in the chart above) in 1985 was 17.5%, in 1990 it was a high of 22%. It has since dropped to 15% of marriages performed.

So, while Catholic marriages are on the decline, also are the applications to annul them. Perhaps we are seeing more quality in Catholic marriage than quantity. Hopefully. as the applications drop, we may also see a renewal in family life in America. As the Church seeks to hold up the integrity of marriage, those outside the Church may see hope for their marriages, too.
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, August 12, 2014
Wouldn't it make sense that annulments are dropping, not because we're doing a 'bang-up job' with Catholic marriages, but the because the sheer number of Catholic marriages has fallen so dramatically. I haven't done the math but the proportionality might suggest that things are even worse now than before.

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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, August 13, 2014
actually the percent of annulments viewed against the number of marriages performed in the same year has fallen only 2 percent since 1985.
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written by Karl, August 13, 2014
I walked out of our son's wedding when the priest, with the foreknowledge of Bishop Burbidge of Raleigh gave communion to my wife and her adulterous partner of more than two decades. When I wrote and complained to Cardinal Dolan, he replied to me that he agreed with Bishop Burbidge.

I no longer attend Mass. These men are open heretics, as is Francis who condones this.

I wish that disgrace, Francis, would formally excommunicate me to show just what a joke his Papacy is and what an empty shell Catholicism has become.

God, have mercy on us and end this man's reign.

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written by Deb, August 15, 2014
A nice conversation. I assist people who want to apply for a declaration of nullity. I always give them a little speech regarding them still being married in the eyes of the Lord and they are always shocked. The shock is mostly because they are only looking into an annulment because they want to remarry. They have gone way past the dating stage. The rise in annulments is directly related to the lack of knowledge of the faith so many people do not have a Sacramental marriage. Education is needed for all Catholics.

For Karl. When my father died and my sister, my mother and I were planning the funeral and I asked the pastor if he could refuse communion to the rest of our family, as we are the only practicing Catholics, everyone else has lapsed, married outside the Church or are cohabiting. He laughed at me and said, "No." He was right. When someone he does not know comes up to receive communion, he cannot refuse and say, well, your sister, mother, ex-husband or whatever says that you are not worthy to receive. He can't do that. No one knows if the party who is coming up went to confession the night before and made peace with the Church. The priest certainly does not.
To leave the Church and refuse to come to Mass etc., is a grave sin and to do so because one is angry with a member of the Church, is just an excuse to quit worshipping God. You condemn the Bishop and priest because they did not publicly punish your wife or ex-wife by denying them communion. See, the Church is holy, its members are not. None of us are. In the end, you are willing to give up the Sacraments yourself because you didn't get your own way. This sounds like your pride was hurt and you think that leaving and attacking the Church will make you feel better. It won't. It is just the first step on the path to losing ones own soul. Nothing is worth that. Jesus Christ is in charge and He will judge each person on that last day. I pray that you find a way to heal and a way to just hand this all over to the Lord and go back to worship, in His house.
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written by Lowly Sinner, August 17, 2014
It seems that the scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses... "do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels."

Your article and the plethora of comments are in that vein. What really do you know of sinners and believers, their heartaches, trials and tribulations?

As for me, I am just a sinner, the Samaritan woman at the well, Mary Magdalene, or any of the women who loved Jesus and followed him but were keenly aware of their failings and shortcomings.

Let me tell you what it is like in someone's shoes who has walked the walk.

I was married at age 23, in 1973, a sinner no doubt, and a child of '68, but at heart a good Catholic girl. While we were cool and hip, we did not cohabit forever and a day, as did many in those days, nor did we just run to get hitched before a judge. We got married in the church and I for one meant every part of the sacred vows we pledged. Little did I know. Twelve years later, at a romantic dinner, on the occasion of my birthday, when I once again mentioned my ticking biological clock, and my heart's desire to consummate the marriage on the basis it was concluded, namely to be fruitful, my then husband calmly informed me for the first and only time that he never had any intention to have children, and that he really had hoped I finally would come around to see things his way, presumably by osmosis, and, oh by the way, 'don't try anything because if you do, you will be on your own. I will have nothing to do with a child.' I tried for a good another year or more to change his mind but he never wavered, and the chasm became unbridgeable wide. The trust was irretrievably lost. We divorced.

I did not seek an annulment for three reasons - first, hardly anyone did in those days, and if they did, I never knew anyone other than an isolated mention in the society column of the papers so it would have been an outlandish undertaking, presumably reserved for kings, queens, royalty whose dynasties depended on proper alignments. I had no thought of remarriage, ever, considering the total collapse of everything I had believed in. I was becoming a disenfranchised Catholic - only other sinners would understand that part.

Then I met a wonderful man who was to become my second husband, and we cohabited, at my insistence, for years. I had no reason to trust the sanctity of marriage. It was only due to his abiding love, enormous patience, and endless persistence that we legitimized our union. As both of us were divorced and neither of us knew much about annulments for 'regular' people, ours was a civil marriage.

My husband died five years and nine months ago, suddenly, unexpectedly, at a time when we were profoundly happy. We both believed in God, and the one and only holy catholic and apostolic church, and while our union was not sanctioned in the church, it was holy and sacred to us. My loss was indescribable and my grief profound. In my heart, I know God had sanctioned our marriage, a second one to both of us, which lasted almost twenty years, and I know that He blessed us and gave us the grace lacking in our first marriages.

With much gratitude due to the care and concern of a wonderful pastor, a shepherd rather than a judge, and by God's boundless mercy, grace, and love, for the past five years, I have been a practicing Catholic again and a daily communicant.

It troubles me that in the eyes of the church I am married to my first husband, a man I have not seen in almost twenty-five years, a man with whom I have nothing in common, and a man whose whereabouts are unknown to me, a man who never was a husband to me like the one who became my ain true love, to include in the eyes of God. I know this to be true. All that notwithstanding, these are not ideal conditions to seek a declaration of nullity.

Compare this to a dear friend of mine, whose young wife's adultery, alcoholism and lesbian relationships wrecked the marriage. He actually did try for an annulment, in the eighties, but some of the Irish bishops were too busy sweeping sexual abuse cases under the rug instead of giving someone a chance at a second lease on life because their partner never really meant to consummate the marriage as God intended it. So, after much time and substantial expense, he was advised that in the eyes of the church he is still married to a woman who openly lives with a woman.

If this dear friend of mine and I ever became more than friends, the church would not bless our bond, yet both of us are deeply spiritual. Were it ever to come to that, I might be able to get an annulment if I could ever find my first partner. My friend, however, is doomed, as there is no appeals process in place, no matter how erroneous and misguided the first finding on his request for declaration of nullity. Which would leave us two options - cohabit and not be excommunicated, or enter a civil union and be excommunicated. What a choice!

To complete the picture, another deeply spiritual friend of mine, also a practicing Catholic, albeit less committed in her youth, and also divorced, received a Declaration of Nullity in a matter of weeks, at minimal expense, and she is now free to date and marry again. Her husband of many years left her for a newer model when the kids were grown and out of the house. I am most happy for her. She deserves another chance at happiness. The secret to the amazing swiftly granted annulment??? It was a "lack of form" case. When young, they were married in her then husband's church, he being a non-Catholic. So, a declaration of nullity under those circumstances, i.e., lack of form, is a mere formality at most.

For those of us who did what Catholics are to do, namely profess our vows in our church but whose spouses were later found to never really have intended to adhere to the underlying tenets, we are just plain out of luck.

Forgive me, ladies and gentlemen with the wide phylacteries and long, long tassels who yearn for ages long past! I, too read my Bible, and I do not have the slightest doubt that what we have in the Church's current treatment of marriage dissolution is not at all what our Lord Jesus Christ intended. He was a friend to sinners and sufferers. He would have found a way to heal rather than spout canon law and lay heavy burdens on people's shoulders who want nothing more than to be good servants of The Lord.

That, dear friends, is reality! Bless you all!

Most respectfully,

A lowly sinner
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written by Lowly Sinner, August 17, 2014
Oh, and Karl, dear heart, just one more thing to ponder since so many here know so much and I, a lowly sinner, so little: pray tell, are you the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law and therefore you have not contravened the moral law?

This is an important question since the Church does not teach that Catholics are forbidden to receive Holy Communion if they are divorced. Rather, it teaches that a Catholic who has been divorced and remarried, without having first obtained an annulment of the first marriage, is not permitted to receive the Eucharist.

Now, it seems you have not remarried. Neither has your wife, apparently, for that matter. She appears to be living in a relationship outside of marriage, with a partner of decades.

Then again, maybe you never got divorced.

Now, no matter what the case, how would you, dear Karl, know whether your wife's relationship is being consummated or not??? If it she and her partner are continent, the two of them have every right to receive Holy Communion, provided they are otherwise in a state of grace.

We judge so quickly.

I happen to know a lovely couple who lived in a second marriage, for more than a decade, as brother and sister, happily, content, and spiritually whole.

Since we are not in the confessional, and most folk don't shout their bedroom activities or lack thereof from the rooftop, how about acknowledging that Bishop Burbidge and Cardinal Dolan might be able to best assess propriety.

And it is sad that one would disrupt the wedding of a son by walking out and even more sad that one's relationship with the church is based on one's approval or disapproval of the Lord's clergy.

Wouldn't it be more uplifting to BE a member of the church, as all of us constitute the church.

Let us leave the judging to Our Lord Jesus Christ whenever our time comes.

May he bless you and soften your heart,

I will pray for your healing!

Lowly sinner

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