What about Henry VIII?

Interestingly, Jesus’ hard teaching that “what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Mt 19:6) follows not long after his insistence to Peter on the necessity of forgiveness (see Mt 18:21–35).

It is true that Jesus did not condemn the adulterous woman who was threatened with death by stoning, but he did not tell her to keep up her good work, to continue unchanged in her ways. He told her to sin no more (see Jn 8:1–11).

One insurmountable barrier for those advocating a new doctrinal and pastoral discipline for the reception of Holy Communion is the almost complete unanimity of two thousand years of Catholic history on this point. It is true that the Orthodox have a long-standing but different tradition, forced on them originally by their Byzantine emperors, but this has never been the Catholic practice.

One might claim that the penitential disciplines in the early centuries before the Council of Nicaea were too fierce as they argued whether those guilty of murder, adultery, or apostasy could be reconciled by the Church to their local communities only once—or not at all. They always acknowledged that God could forgive, even when the Church’s ability to readmit sinners to the community was limited. 

Such severity was the norm at a time when the Church was expanding in numbers, despite persecution. It can no more be ignored than the teachings of the Council of Trent or those of Saint John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI on marriage can be ignored. Were the decisions that followed Henry VIII’s divorce totally unnecessary?

  • Martha Rice Martini

    What about Henry VIII indeed? Pell speaks about “[t]he insurmountable barrier” of Church tradition, and surely he’s right about this. WHATEVER you think of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 (“except for immorality”), surely he’s right about this. Which is why Team Bergoglio is dismissive, and MUST be dismissive, of Tradition.

  • Mara319

    Cardinal Pell is treading on dangerous grounds. He may very well find himself outside of the G8 [or is it G9?]
    God bless Cardinal Pell.

    • Lynda

      The truth is very dangerous inside the a Church at this time of the Great Apostasy.

  • Peter

    Thank You Cardinal Pell! You are a true shepherd

  • Carolann

    Thank-you Cardinal Pell and may Our Lord Bless you!

  • Lucia

    Courage soul Cardinal Pell !! Already under attack for being tough on financial reforms.

  • publiusnj

    I am Catholic for the same reason Irenaeus of Lugdunum was Catholic: because the See of Rome had always and preeeminently shown its fidelity to the Apostolic Teaching. See Adversus Haereses 3:3:2. Now, it appears that a German Cardinal–Kasper–is being indulged in what is clearly a gambit that would go against the Apostolic Teaching and instead head off into Lutheran heresy. Should the See of Rome depart from the incontrovertible Apostolic Teaching, it would be destroying its Truth Claim. Hopefully, the bulk of the cardinals will join Sua Eminenza Pell and make it clear that Kasper’s gambit is one the Church cannot take without destroying the Church’s truth.
    It’s that simple.

  • Yes, indeed, God bless Cardinal Pell – and give him courage and strength.

  • Mike17

    Cardinal Pell has made the same mistakes as is often made. Henry VIII never asked for a divorce. He asked for his marriage to Catherine of Aragon to be declared null.

    • Barbara

      So we negate what Cardinal Pell said because he was imprecise? That’s a good trick. The result was the same: disobedience and a downward spiral of heresy.

    • Henry was a little more nasty than that: he cheerfully killed off the reformed (such as myself) because of differences in transubstantiation. And he wanted an anullment: if the pope would not do it he wanted an English Catholic Church, a bit like the French popes in Avignon.

      Which was not going to happen at the same time that Knox was taking the Scottish Kirk Presbyterian.

      And this divorced Prot is praying for Pell, because he stands for the gospel.

    • Lynda

      Yes, but it was not anulled, as it was found to be a valid subsisting marriage.

  • mezza49

    Cardinal Pell is being very brave with his defence of true Catholic doctrine. He runs a real risk of censure and could very easily be banished like Cardinal Burke. We must all pray very hard for such wonderful stalwarts of our true and traditional church. God bless him.

  • Nestorian

    The Nestorian Church also allows divorce and remarriage, and their allowing it has nothing to do with the Byzantine Emperors, as the Nestorian Church was, properly speaking, the form of organized Christianity that existed East of the Roman Empire, in the Parthian Empire and beyond – into Central Asia and China.

    (And, if I may speak on behalf of the Eastern Orthodox, the claim that the Byzantine Emperors forced this upon the Greek Church must be factually demonstrated, not merely asserted. Basil the Great is among those who sanction the practice, and I find it highly dubious that he did so because of caving into imperial pressure. It is also sanctioned by a number of early Councils, such as the Council of Gangra – and here too, it must be proven, and not merely asserted, that Imperial pressure, rather than pastoral wisdom, was decisive.)

    The Nestorian teaching is based on the clear exceptions for “porneia” that Jesus is TWICE recorded as making in Matthew’s Gospel, as grounds for allowing remarriage following divorce.

    As Matthew was an apostle and therefore probably an eye-witness on both occasions, whereas Mark and Luke probably have their account (of the first of the two incidents that Matthew relates) second-hand, the principle of making exceptions in hard cases is the sound biblical teaching on the matter.

    If the Catholic Church could finally embrace this, then it could also free itself from the gordian knot of duplicity that surrounds the entire machinery of granting annulments on a wholesale basis.

    • Romulus

      If I can divorce my wife for porneia, then so can Jesus.

      Do you really want to go there?

    • “must be factually demonstrated” – Yes, please see Abp. Cyril Vasil’s article in the wonderful book “Remaining in the Truth of Christ” in which he demonstrates that the Eastern “tradition” arose because of an accommodation with the State.

    • Deacon_Augustine

      The Nestorians, like the “Orthodox” and most Protestants have abandoned the teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It has worked out really well for them, hasn’t it?

  • kathleen

    Thank God for Cardinal Pell. I hope he continues to speak out. May God protect him.

  • Irishcyclist

    Well done to Cardinal Pell for being explicit. It is a sad day when we have to express thanks when a cardinal reiterates 2,000 year old teaching, such is the apparent demise of the Catholic church. No doubt there are others at work in the Curia and in the Vatican who want to stop church teaching. It’s time for the Catholic Laity to start calling out the clowns who try to stop church teaching. Yeah I’m looking at you Archbishop Diarmuid Martin as one such culprit. Martin is a disgrace.

    Well done Cardinal Pell.

  • bernard M. Collins

    Sts. John the B. and Thomas M. are exemplars of immediate martyrdom. Then there are those saints who refused remarriage when their spouse ran off. Theirs is a martyrdom of years, and a cruel one. I am inspired by many such personal friends (all have been women). The loose minds that Pell bravely resists would denigrate the heroism of many thousands who paid for the Truth even with still youthful lives. Their children will bless them in Heaven. Shame on those who dismiss their heroism.

  • Stan Gerlt

    Thank you, Cardinal Pell. If we can change this teaching, what teachings can’t we change and why? It’s a slippery slope and denying a clear teaching of Christ shouldn’t be possible.

  • Patti Day

    It did my heart good to read Cardinal Pell’s commentary, especially after hearing yesterday about rumors from the Vatican regarding the Cardinal’s reform efforts. There is mostly silence from our bishops who do little to calm the fears that our Church is being taken over and 2000 years of doctrine mucked about by German prelates like Kasper. It is reassuring to read Cardinals Pell’s words, be they ever so brief, that show there are still faithful shepherds protecting the flock.

  • Janet Kingman

    Dan, I love your comment! Brilliant! I clicked on your name and found other gems from you. Not sure how to contact you other than replying here, but I’m wondering if I may I reprint your comments (I’m thinking this one, and the one on “welcoming” parishes) in Into the Deep? Into the Deep is a monthly Catholic newsletter by and for orthodox Catholics (stoneswillshout.com/wp), based in south-eastern Australia. Please contact me there if it’s ok to use your comments, and if I can add your name and where you’re from. Thanks! Janet Kingman

  • Trish

    This gives the impression of being a recent article contributed to the Catholic Thing by Cardinal Pell. It is in fact a quote lifted from the forward of the book ” The Gospel of the Family: Going Beyond Cardinal Kasper’s Proposal in the Debate on Marriage, Civil Re-Marriage, and Communion in the Church” which was actually published in September last year prior to the first synod. There seem to be no references anywhere here to indicate the original source or date of this quote isolated from its full context. Is this plagiarism?

  • Long-Skirts



    “Render your gender

    Give it to me

    Even in Rome

    They’ve sympathy.”

    Even in Rome

    Forked-tongue they speak

    Where flesh is strong

    And spirit’s weak.

    Where flesh is strong

    And smothers the soul


    Becomes great goal.


    As to his or her bearings

    New mass of confusion

    Sends up the red herrings.

    New mass of confusion

    Lets sin have a voice

    Where gender benders

    Build Tower of choice.

    Where gender benders

    Of jealousy

    Hate anything female

    Her fertility.

    Hate anything female

    The enmity

    God placed between Satan

    And the Virgin Marie.

    God placed between Satan

    Manly Cardinal stand strong –

    Though reviled and rejected

    To HIM you belong!!

  • Diane

    My concern is that there are many, many Catholics, including those in the clergy who do not believe in the real presence. If those in charge only believe the Eucharist as a symbol, then, it would not prevent anyone from receiving. So, I believe this is the bigger problem and Catholics must be re-taught what the Eucharist really is.

  • Rosemary

    I have been calling this debacle “King Henry VIII’s revenge”. Why don’t we all simply join the church of England?