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What “Alienates” People from the Church?

Senior Editor’s note: The very protracted process (not to mention its procedural problems) of the 2015 Synod make it difficult to keep track of what’s actually going on in Rome. But, fortunate reader!, TCT is here to help. Today’s column by Fr. Murray will surely be read by some at the Synod, as will Robert Royal‘s latest dispatch, “Round Two Ends: Large Questions Remain,” which you may read by clicking here. And both these TCT stalwarts will, as the illustration below indicates, join the illustrious Raymond Arroyo tonight for the latest edition of EWTN’s “The World Over.” (Check your local listings.) Dr. Royal’s Twitter handle is @RobertSRoyal; Fr. Murray’s is @GeraldMurray8, and Mr. Arroyo’s is @RaymondArroyo . Follow us all on Twitter, where, you know, we tweet.   Brad Miner @ABradfordMiner

I am here in Rome (with TCT’s editor-in-chief, Robert Royal) observing the Synod on the Family and providing commentary on various Catholic radio and television outlets. Much of the “media action” has occurred outside of the Synod Hall, which is to be expected given the decision not to publish summaries of the interventions by the individual Synod Fathers. Instead, the Holy See’s press briefings describe various statements made at the Synod without identifying who said what. This means that Synod Fathers who choose to speak to the media on the record are the only attributable guides as to what is going on, at least as far as they are concerned.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia gave an extensive interview to the National Catholic Reporter. He frankly admits that he is troubled by the uncertainty of the synodal procedures being used this time, and says that the Instrumentum Laboris is “weak” and “not a strong and rich enough document to sustain the entire work of the synod.” Most other bishops have said the same.

Archbishop Coleridge forecasts where the Synod will go on the burning questions raised at the 2014 Synod: “I don’t think the synod is going to reject what is regarded as fundamental Church teaching, by which I mean the untouchable trinity of marriage, Eucharist, and Church. Because if you touch one of those three, you touch them all. This is not marginal stuff. It is fundamentally important.” This is reassuring, but at the same time jarring, given that it would even be thought possible that a gathering of Catholic bishops would be interested in touching or rejecting “fundamental Church teaching.”

Archbishop Coleridge continues: “This is not going to happen, but I also think it’s unthinkable that all we do at the end of this synod process is simply say and do what we have long said and done in the area of marriage and the family.” He adds: “in many parts of the world we know that the language we speak is not communicating and we know that the ways in which we have acted are not touching the lives of many people and, in fact, are proving to be deeply alienating in the lives of many people who need help.”

The argument here is disturbing in several ways. The clear and confident restatement of what the Church has always taught about marriage and family would be the most welcome and refreshing outcome of the Synod, given the relentlessly hostile cultural context in which we live, and the uncertainties experienced by the faithful following the publication of last year’s notorious Interim Report. The endorsement by various influential churchmen of Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the Holy Eucharist has left many with the impression that the Church is not comfortable continuing to teach what she has always taught about adultery and indissolubility.

Tonight: Fr. Murray and Robert Royal will join Raymond Arroyo on "The World Over" live on EWTN
Tonight: Fr. Murray and Robert Royal will join Raymond Arroyo on “The World Over” live on EWTN

The parallel campaign in favor of granting some recognition of the supposed value in homosexual relationships has likewise caused scandal by equating marriage with a union based on the mortal sin of sodomy. To restate what the Church has always taught is no unnecessary or merely repetitive exercise. Rather, it is truly prophetic, and a timely call to renew our faith in God’s saving plan for man and woman.

As to the effectiveness of the language of Church teaching (“the language we speak is not communicating”), some distinctions need to be made. Communication is ineffective when the words are not understood by the listener. Communication is effective when the words are understood, even if the listener rejects the truth of the message. As regards the moral doctrine of the Church, the problem for many today is not unintelligibility, i.e, they cannot figure out what the Church teaches. Rather, that doctrine is understood quite well – and rejected.

That is not a failure to communicate, but rather a successful imparting of unwelcome knowledge. The Church’s mission is to call sinners to repentance, which starts with proclaiming the truths of the Gospel, however contrary they are to the lifestyle choices of those who hear that proclamation. Our absolute certainty in the truth of the Church’s doctrine and our belief in the efficacy of Divine grace teach us that the anger or sadness produced in a person being challenged to live according to God’s plan is salutary – and in many ways necessary.

Archbishop Coleridge claims not only that the language is not communicating, but that it is “deeply alienating in the lives of many people who need help.” Here we come to the crucial question of what is being rejected by the alienated people who need help: are they rejecting a heretofore unrecognized misrepresentation of what Christ really said about marriage and sexual morality, which misrepresentation is found in the magisterium of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI? This can hardly be the case.

The Church’s teaching, as recently proclaimed by these popes, in clear language that is universally recognized as faithful to the Scriptures and to the Deposit of Faith, is not guilty of alienating people, who are being kept away from Christ by deficient language. Sin is what alienates. The language of Familiaris Consortio and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not require modification. What is needed is the clear recognition that the sadness produced by sin (i.e., alienation) clouds the mind (spiritual blindness) and leads men to rebel against God’s plan for human fulfillment.

The wording of Church teaching can, perhaps, be improved when it is fails to accurately and confidently convey the beauty and truth of the Word of God. I submit that no such failure can be fairly ascribed to what the Church has repeatedly taught about God’s plan for marriage and the family. Her unapologetic restatement of that teaching at the Synod would be a clarion call to embrace that plan.

Therein lies the true remedy to alienation from God and the Church.

Fr. Gerald E. Murray

Fr. Gerald E. Murray

The Rev. Gerald E. Murray, J.C.D. is pastor of Holy Family Church, New York, NY, and a canon lawyer.

The Catholic Thing welcomes comments relevant to columns that are civil, concise, and respectful of other contributors. We do not publish comments with links to other websites or other online material.
  • John Loftus

    I totally agree. The Church is under constant assault by progressives to redefine her teachings to conform to their definition of marriage. Hopefully the Synod sends a firm message embracing traditional Sacramental marriage and family values.

  • Nancy Lynne

    “Sin is what alienates.” That says it all.

  • Michael Dowd

    Excellent words Fr. Murray. The reason we are having all the problems at the Synod is that Catholic morality and the need for confession has not been proclaimed from the pulpit for years. This has lead to an assumption by many that immoral sexual practices have the tacit approval of the Church. And now, building on the tacitly approved immorality of heterosexuals, homosexuals wish to partake of this misguided largess as we hear about at the Synod.

    As you say, Catholic morality needs to be restated and proclaimed and let the chips fall where they may. If this means a 90% reduction of members so be it. The Church is doing a huge disservice to the 90% who don’t obey the rules but think they do. The Church should not be complicit in sending people to hell.

    • monica

      I agree. I know Catholics who think that Church teaching has changed because they have not heard true Church teaching on the sensitive subjects during the homily. They figure that if the priest is not preaching against it, he must be ok with it. Clearly, he knows it’s going on and he isn’t saying anything. It’s the “He hasn’t said we can’t” mentality.

      • ron a.

        And, of course, if “all are saved” what does it really matter. “Let’s eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we will die”—and go to heaven!

    • Quo Vadis

      I agree. The problem is the priest is not working hard enough on his homily. You don’t need to spout fire and brimstone but you do need to explain and educate about Catholic teaching.

      Most Catholics do not know the basics and the Magisterium and cannot defend the Faith. The weekly bulletin is an excellent place to write about the why behind things as well as the internet.

      You don’t know how many times I have explained Church teaching to people who are regular Church attenders and I am no expert but have read up.

  • Rene

    Dear Father Murray, Your clear thinking is refreshing in a culture that has lost the art of using reason. Moreover, the way you express your thoughts is very clear avoiding any possibility of confusion.

  • Bro_Ed

    “Archbishop Coleridge continues: “This is not going to happen, but I also think it’s unthinkable that all we do at the end of this synod process is simply say and do what we have long said and done in the area of marriage and the family.” He adds: “in many parts of the world we know that the language we speak is not communicating and we know that the ways in which we have acted are not touching the lives of many people and, in fact, are proving to be deeply alienating in the lives of many people who need help.””

    As a layman, I read this as a comprehensive statement of where we are, both in the difficulties of the message and in the communication of it. The synod cannot say: “We examined the feedback from the local hierarchy, the lay people around the world, and we have decided that we are doing everything just the way it should be done.” That’s a bit like saying, “Anyone can understand English if you yell it at them loudly enough.”

    Let’s hope the synod fathers approach their task with an open heart and open ears.

  • Kelly

    Thank you for your clear and concise point of view. I wholeheartedly agree with you that people do understand the teaching however choose to continue in darkness. I myself have struggled with many of the church teachings during my journey, however in every case, my willingness to seek out the answers has always led me closer to Christ. And in the process, which is a purification, my faith lenses have been “defogged”. Instead of being “the rich young man” who goes away sad, we need to first admit we are in sin and then ask for help from our loving Father. I cannot imagine where I would be right now if I did not acknowledge my sin and seek out the answers. Thanks be to God!!

  • Jim Thunder

    I sent Fr Murray’s article to my sister who has lived 20 years in Milwaukee and she replied (with permission to post). Among other things, she teaches Theology of the Body and has brought at least five people into the Church.

    “I couldn’t disagree more!

    People have not rejected Church teaching!! They do not KNOW Church teaching because the Church leaders (priests/bishops/catechists/teachersin Catholic schools) have failed to teach it!

    Example: two weeks ago the Sunday gospel was Jesus’ words about marriage —it couldn’t be more explicit. The second part of that reading
    was about children and what it means to have child-like trust in God. Did our
    priest speak about marriage–Nope! It was a perfect opportunity to teach about the four marks of marriage: free total faithful fruitful. He ignored it. The
    beauty of Gods plan for human love is being squashed by our own ‘shepherds’ so little wonder so many remain wallowing in the dark unable to discern truth from the lies.

    I’ve been attending Sunday and daily mass for 26 years…have heard only one sermon on marriage, sexuality, children, family life. What I know about any of these subjects is from my own earnest desire to understanding Church teaching and have read all of JPII’s encyclicals and pastoral letters. Did any bishops or priests read them? You’d ever know in this diocese. It’s all been squelched.”

    • TB in KS

      Two weeks ago after that Gospel reading, my wife whispered to me “What will Father say during his homily about adultery?” I replied, “He will only preach about having a child-like faith.” Sure enough, not a word about the sanctity of marriage. And after Mass many parishioners thanked Father for such a beautiful homily. It was a very good homily, but I was hoping also for some words from my pastor about the importance of repentance and annulment after divorce before re-marrying. Having been through the annulment process myself many years ago, I know how painful and difficult it can be but it should not be thought of as something that can be skipped over or taken lightly. I agree with Monica about the attitude of most of the faithful in the pews, “Father didn’t say it’s important, so I guess it isn’t.”

    • accelerator

      Divorce is wrong. Homosexuality is wrong. Sex outside of marriage is wrong. These are the Church teachings people disagree with, and they understand them. They may not appreciate the reasons, and our teaching surrounding them has undoubtedly become cramped, but they understand the basic propositions nonetheless. And it is hard to believe unconverted minds will suddenly warm to the truth with winsome explanations. The trouble with Theology of the Body is is tries to burnish the prohibitions to shine, and I am very unsure myself that’s actually double without a lot of dubious pretzeling. But that’s another discussion. But as for “I couldn’t disagree more!,” I couldn’t disagree more. LOL.

  • Dave

    Thank you, Fr. Murray, for this fine analysis. May I suggest, however, that it does not go far enough. Surely there are people who hear what the Church teaches and reject it out of hand, without further ado: under no circumstances should the Church modify her teaching in order to placate them and pull them in. And I say this as a convert who knew the whole kit and caboodle and took his time before entering into full communion because I knew I would have to embrace the whole thing.

    There are also people who want to embrace the teaching of the Church but need instruction — pastoral care and spiritual direction — in how to assimilate and apply the teaching to the concrete circumstances of their individual situations. Here there is room for growth on the part of the Church: “take it or leave it” is not the most effective pastoral strategy for those who with good will try to assimilate the teaching and convert, and the Church simply has not made a priority of raising up men and women in whatever state of life who are capable of providing the discipleship support that others may need. Then there are those who are simply disillusioned. Many of them/us sit in the pews and seek to live the teachings, because with Peter we say, “where are we going to go? You have the words of eternal life.” They/we just grin and bear the nonsense they/we see week in and week out, praying for the day when the messes get straightened out. Then there are many millions of other disillusioned who find something of authentic Christian life in the Protestant sects, and they leave, where they are fed by pastors who believe, preach, and teach the Holy Scriptures as they possess them and whose lives are marked by authentic discipleship and joy.

    Jesus formed a community of disciples, who in turn went forth and formed other disciples. The institutions of the Church exist to support the disciples; it’s not the other way around. When the Church gets that, as it does in Africa, for example, she thrives. When she does not, as she no longer does in the West, prelates become more concerned with maintaining the institutional structures, with the money that costs, and become willing to make compromises in order to keep the money coming in. Or they back away from preaching the hard truths because they themselves refuse to live them and seek refuge with laity who likewise refuse to live them and are happy to stroke the checks as long as they are left to do as they please. Jesus let the rich young ruler walk away; but he provided massive support to those who struggled to understand his words and their demands, because they heard hope in them and saw that He is indeed the Son of God who brings redemption to the world. Let the Church return to forming disciples who live the Good News with all of its demands in joy, and all will be well.

  • ThirstforTruth

    I feel that this Family Synod is crying in the wilderness, a wilderness of our own making over the past decades of capitulation to truth which has been allowed and even encouraged in the darkened culture in which we live. We are reaping what has been
    sown and finding how very difficult it is to restore what has been lost, a lack of trust in the hierarchy, by the misuse of Office and the Shepherds failure to faithfully pastor the flock.
    The task at hand is not a matter of simply going out and finding the lost one while the 99 wait in faithful obedience, but the reverse, the faithful remnant are being ignored while
    the shepherds are clueless trying to figure out who absconded with the 99.

  • Mikesjlc

    Thank you. I’ve heard a number of people say, including priests in the media, that, “well, we have to do something or we won’t have a church.” There are many instances where people walk away from Christ: “I am the bread of life”; “The rich young man” – from this past week’s gospel; and Jesus’ teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. On the latter, Jesus notes, when pressed, that “not everyone can accept this teaching.” Alienation is to be expected, because of our disordered natures. These teachings are hard, but they cannot be diluted. And, while hard, all things are possible for God.

    • Chris in Maryland

      And besides…no one goes to church in progressive Protestant churches…so if we want followers…you can’t compete with the true church…the church of Henry8 and Martin Luther are proof of that. The RC church will just follow those to the graveyard if it tries to model them.

  • edith wohldmann

    What makes us so thirsty for clarity is the aggressive fight of “progressives” and heretics against God’s truth. There have always been heresies but why are so many bishops caving in like politicians at the present time? Thank you Father Murray for proclaiming the truth so clearly. Come Holy Spirit and pour out your flames of fire on Pope Francis and the Synod fathers!

  • kathleen

    Thank you Father Murray for a very clear and unambiguous commentary on the truths of the Gospel and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Let us hope and pray that our Holy Father does the same at the end of this Synod. St. Therese, Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, and St. Theresa of Avila pray for the Church. Our Lady, Mother of the Church, pray for us and help us.

  • Mary_SMOM

    Thank you, Father Murray for your reporting, brilliantly crafted and clearly stated as always! We are so thankful that you, Father Pilon, Robert Royal and many others who continue to report faithfully on the Synod. It is amazing how little has changed since Our Blessed Lord wept over Jerusalem — and then drove the money changesrs and merchants from the Temple Mount (Lk 19: 41 – 48). Truth — for all its beauty and goodness — continues to remain unpopular.

  • Thomas Johnson

    “What is needed is the clear recognition that the sadness produced by sin (i.e., alienation) clouds the mind (spiritual blindness) and leads men to rebel against God’s plan for human fulfillment.” — Thank you for the accurate and descriptive article. As a recent convert (6 yrs) I can certainly say that the clear teaching of the church is in her many documents. That is precisely why I entered the Church. Day to day reality in my parish however is that those teachings are not voiced – ever. I hear the good teachings on Catholic radio, on blogs, etc., but seldom from homilies and if heard in a homily, the “whys” of the teachings are omitted. Church teaching is needing to be accurately transmitted to folks in the pews. ( As an aside, one self correction- we have a new priest just out of seminary who in his first homily preached strongly for the “why” of confession – wonderful)

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    I believe there is a failure in communication. The legacy of the 16th century casuists has left us with a moral theology based on the categories of the “permissible” and the “impermissible,” rather than a vision of a life inspired by a personal encounter with a Risen Saviour.

    That indefatigable historian of spirituality, Abbé Henri Brémond used to recommend only two books to the many would-be converts who came to him seeking instruction – the Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis and Introduction à la vie devote by St François de Sales. He often quoted Pascal’s « Voilà ce que c’est que la foi parfaite, Dieu sensible au cœur » [This, then, is perfect faith: God felt in the heart.]

    For those embarking on the Purgative Way, he would quote Olier, the founder of Saint-Sulpice: “It is necessary for the soul to be in fear and distrust of self; … It should make its pleasure and joy depend on sacrificing to Jesus all joy and pleasure which it may have apart from Himself. And when taking part in those things in which by Providence it is obliged to be occupied, such as eating, drinking, and conversation with creatures, it must be sparing in all, must discard what is superfluous, and must renounce, in the use of them, the joy and pleasure to be found therein, uniting and giving itself to Jesus as often as it feels itself tempted to enjoy something apart from Him and not Himself.”

  • Barbara

    This is just the point! Along with the very clear teaching of the Church, she has always brought forth the remedy: stop doing what you are doing, go to Confession, “welcome back.”

    What’s complicated about that? No one is suggesting spouses must abandon ‘new’ families, but the Church is suggesting that if you are an adulterer, you stop being an adulterer. Again, what could be simpler?

    How can the Church be expected to teach the truth, and teach the remedy for sin, when it’s the remedy we won’t swallow.

  • Barbara

    Oh yes, they have the authority. They don’t want to use it in this case because to change dogma on faith or morals would endanger their jobs. So they use the tried and true method of lying about what they intend.

  • Aliquantillus

    Fr. Murray,
    A terrific piece! Amen!

  • RainingAgain

    There is alienation because the communication is perfectly well understood.

  • Joe_NS

    As to the Pope’s responsibility for the inevitable disaster—stop dreaming, the cataclysm is not only unavoidable, it has already happened—I am always reminded when listening to Francis’ pious defenders of the bewildered Soviet citizens in the 1930s, who daily witnessed the carnage in their country and wailed “If only Stalin knew!”

    Solzhenitsyn discusses the delusion at some length in The Gulag Archipelago, by the way.

  • Dave Fladlien

    One problem here is that the Administrator of this site must keep posts short. Unfortunately that means someone with a complicated viewpoint has to keep leaving things out, then clarifying if questioned.

    I want to be unmistakeably clear: I am definitely NOT advocating that the Church change its position that remarriage after divorce is wrong. I have 2 hopes for the Synod:
    1) that it will reiterate what I believe to be the Apostolic Tradition that remarriage after divorce is wrong, as are homosexual relationships.
    2) that it will do what I feel it doesn’t do:
    a) find some way to welcome those in these situations to *some* form of participation in the Church, if there is evidence that the people in question are people of good will, trying to live a life close to God;
    b) take an active role in guiding people on how to resolve the conflicts in moral obligations that have arisen because they now have deep obligations to another or several other human beings who may (especially in the case of children) be totally innocent.

    This is already too long. Please see my reply to Barbara (just below, at least right now) for a more thorough view of where I am coming from. Thanks

    • DeaconEdPeitler

      The Church has already offered a pastoral remedy to these adulterous relationships: agree to live as brother and sister, receive the sacrament that reconciles us to God and His Church, and then return to full communion. But in God’s name, never ever pretend that sin is not sin.

      • SD

        People hate the truth because accepting it means they must stop doing what they are doing. Who is our God? Jesus or an act of adultery?

      • Dave Fladlien

        That may be a solution for some, but it won’t be for others, and: is it not also setting a large scandal? You can’t live with someone without people knowing it, and it’s obvious what people will assume. And the children will grow up with a very distorted view of a home life. This isn’t really a solution, it is closer to hiding from the problem.

  • Evangeline1031

    I don’t think another divorce was recommended here. There are other ways. Example, living chastely as a couple, possibly seeking an annulment, but not necessarily. Or attendance at Holy Mass without approaching the altar for Holy Communion.
    It would be helpful if people didn’t “personalize” what is going on here. This unfolding tragedy is supernatural, even though it affects us on a temporal level. We should try very hard to see our personal situations hardly matter, except to us. Emotions are misleading, and really, have no place in matters of the Deposit of Faith and the potential impact on humanity if the pope decides to damage the Deposit of Faith even more than it is being damaged now.

    • Dave Fladlien

      Excuse me. Obviously you’re very welcome to disagree with me, and it seems that you have lots of company in that. But it IS personal; it is not ok that someone be condemned because no person or Church helped them, and to say that’s ok because we got the theology right. It is about people, and if you haven’t felt the pain of some of these situations, I’m happy for you. I hope you never do.

      But it isn’t as simple as you make it sound. For some, what you call “living chastely” may work. But for someone else it may result in exactly the situation where yet another broken home occurs, with all the horrible evils that entails. Then what is the lesser evil? There are situations where one seems to be doing something improper, only to find that all the other options are worse. That’s reality; if you haven’t encountered that, you will. And I hope you’ll have a Church helping you pick your way through that maze when it happens. That’s part of the Church’s job.

      • Diane

        Those who are divorced and remarried did not need to chose sex over the Church, but they did, and created new families. Many at the time they committed adultery thought that they were happy and did not need the Church. As they got older they found themselves less happy over choosing sex over the Church, because sex became less important to them. Now they seek complete approval of the Church for the sins they have committed. Now they must become chaste to be able to be in the fullness of the Church again. Or, they need to seek an annulment. I know a couple just like this. They have been married for over 35 years and the woman can’t understand how one day she was Catholic and the next day after her marriage she was not. At the time they were to be married her mother asked her to go to the Bishop to see what could be done. He told her that she could not get married in the Church, but she made the choice to go ahead with it anyway and now has regrets. She chose wrongly and wants everyone to accept her error. She is welcome to attend Mass and be part of the Church, but for her sins, she should never be able to receive the Holy Eucharist until she makes it right. Why should the Church accommodate her sin, she need to accommodate God. We reap what we sow. I told her that you must have know that what you were doing was wrong, the Bishop told you. She said no she didn’t. We can all pretend away our sins for what we selfishly want for ourselves. She is welcome in the Church. This is the mercy, but she need to turn her life around.

        • Dave Fladlien

          Here’s what I believe (and I have some good reasons): I believe that God takes ANYONE right where they are if they just turn to Him and say (with as much sincerity as they can manage), “help me”. He won’t leave them there, but He will *start* there and then guide them forward, quite possibly a little at a time. I think He’ll say, in effect, “OK I take you back; now let’s start figuring out how to get everyone concerned out of this mess”.

          It seems to me that you view it the other way around: first we get it all just right, *then* God takes us back. I don’t think that is the case; in fact I think it actually starts with God. I think He actually reaches out to us, even before we reach out to Him. Shouldn’t His Church do the same? Shouldn’t it take a person back, then start working with them to fix the problems?

          It isn’t black and white and I’m not trying to set absolutes, but I am saying that correction of the particulars often will have to follow from, not precede, a change of heart. And we need to foster that change of heart so that God and we can build on it.

  • kathleen

    Sounds like you want the Church to change the Bible and the Catechism with regard to remarriage after divorce. No, that should never happen. And the answer isn’t abandonment of the second wife and children of the second marriage. Adultery is a mortal sin. Confession is available with repentance and firm amendment to change, and to stop commitment those sins that separate us from God and His Church. We can only do it with God’s grace and a lot of prayer. The Church says in these instances that the partners must live as brother and sister. A hard saying for sure.I personally know someone who has done just that, and have heard of others doing it. They knew it was the right thing to do and they did it. It has never been easy to live a good Catholic life; it’s even more difficult today.

    • Dave Fladlien

      I don’t know how I’m failing so badly to say this clearly, but I’ll try again: I do not think the Church should change its position on remarriage; in fact as I said elsewhere in this discussion, I hope the Synod reiterates the position that remarriage after divorce is wrong.

      But I do hope the Church will return to the position of talking with and working with people in inherently compromising situations, helping them find what is really the best they can do now that they, and others for whom they are responsible, are in that situation. The Church used to counsel people, try to help them, but — at least where I live — that has practically disappeared in recent years.

  • edith wohldmann

    Whether divorced and not married again or divorced and remarried – divorce is a big cross to carry. I know several remarried couples that participate in the parish and do not go to communion. Our God does not want us to die for him HE died for us. The future is of importance: to restore and pass on catholic faith, teaching and catholic family life.As soon as I stopped focusing on myself and focused on the Lord Jesus my yoke became light and sweet. For the Synod I pray, Lord, where there is confusion bring the light of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the light of truth for a world lost in darkness. Everything is possible for God. Pray for the Pope.

    • Dave Fladlien

      I too have been praying for the Synod every day

  • Diane

    Fr. Murray, it is my prayer that you become the next Pope. Everything you say is clear, reasonable and precise. I would like to be in a Church to hear your homilies and I would imagine that they would leave one with complete understanding of the Church teachings in no uncertain terms. I watched both you and Robert on EWTN last night with Raymond and frankly, you both looked defeated and it caused me much concern. I pray that voices like yours and Cardinal Burkes and other faithful clergyman will emerge from this Synod and assure faithful Catholics that the Doctrines of the Catholic Church will remain unchanged in every way, shape and form and the Catholic Church will be triumphant in its truth.

  • SD

    Stop committing adultery is the simple answer. Now, how many want to hear the truth?

  • Maggie McT

    And we must always remember the short adage, “Sin makes you stupid.”

  • Alwaysright

    “The language of Familiaris Consortio and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not require modification.” Amen!, Amen! I say to that and I pray we have enough Cardinals stating the same.

  • hopeforeurope

    Father Murray, thank you for your clear comments on both the appropriate and the disproportionate comments by Synod representatives in the daily press conferences and various interviews in Rome. You may not be aware that Lifesite News editor Steve Jaslevac aptly praised both yourself and Robert Royal publicly for your honest analysis of the Synod. The whole thing is very confusing with what appears to be a ‘free for all’ regarding opinions and diversions by those who attempt to side-line Doctrinal teaching in favour of a change that would devastate Catholic marriage and family life. Faithful Catholics are very aware that Church Doctrine can never change….I am however concerned as to whether any of the disciplines will change. Much prayer is needed.

  • Tanyi Tanyi

    Thank you Fr, for your clear words. Oh Francis! Will you stand up for the teachings of Christ?

  • kathleen

    I wish Fr. Murray and Robert Royal would answer the questions you raise in your comments here. I have the same questions. I am confused. I want to be faithful to our Pope but I sincerely do question his appointments; his actions at times, and the many things he has said over the last two years that have caused many to wonder what’s going on in our beloved Church. I don’t want to commit a sin because I feel this way about the Pope and I pray a lot about it, and many daily prayers for the Pope and the Church.

    • MaryB435

      Having those FEELINGS isn’t committing a sin. What you decide to DO with those feelings is what counts. You’re actually RESPONDING in the BEST way, because of all your PRAYERS! See Romans 8:28.

  • Faithful Catholic

    A point that seems to escape those who like Dave Fladien–want the Church to “counsel” those in invalid marriages–is that there is no magical solution to these peoples’ situations short of “the Kasper solution”. As has been stated many times already by others, the Church has already offered the possible choices they have. The only difficulty I see in their not “feeling welcome”, is their not being able to receive the Eucharist. Such people are definitely welcome to attend Mass and various parish activities. As for the option of living in continence, I agree that it isn’t for everyone. In that case, they just have to abstain from the Eucharist. There are Christians who are even called to give up their lives to remain faithful to Christ ( i.e. those captured by ISIS).

    • kathleen

      You know if they can’t live chastely then they are living in mortal sin and we can’t ever think that is right, or counsel such a thing. They should be helped to see that with God all things are possible and we should do all we can to help them. Paul tells us instruct and admonish when necessary. Sounds harsh but it’s not. Eternal life is forever and when you have found Christ you have everything. That’s the message of love and mercy.

  • mtcbones

    just as Chesterton said before: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried” – G. K. Chesterton

  • SanSan

    Father Gerald, thank you for all you do to help us understand. The tension is mounting and the knowledge that there are Cardinals and Bishops so “off the rails” in Rome, makes me shiver. God Bless and keep our Holy Clerics strong and steadfast. All the others? Someone get the hook.

  • Mbrigid

    David fladlien
    Read your comment with interest. I am divorced but made a decision to stay alone with my children as I would consider myself to be in mortal sin should I re-marry civilly. I’m lucky to have been so aware of this. I sympathise with those who get themselves into this position (ie marry again) and then want to come return fully to their faith. I agree the church needs to be more supportive to them without denying the indissolubility of marriage or accepting adultery. Surely that is why this synod has been arranged?

    • Dave Fladlien

      First, thank you for sharing this. It sounds like you chose the best route you could in a horrible situation, and — as one writer pointed out below — divorce even without remarriage is a terribly painful thing. I’m not divorced but my parents were, and I’ve had to make some really tough choices in other matters, so I know how hard it is. And I know that no matter what one does, some things never stop hurting, no matter what decision one makes. That’s why I’ve put so much into this discussion, which has grown far beyond anything I ever imaged when I first posted to it.

      I hope this is why the Synod was arranged. I think there is today a growing awareness, unfortunately probably brought on by the sheer number of people living the very difficult life of being divorced, and who have chosen to remarry, only to find that their last situation is even worse than the first, and that there is no totally moral way out. I think there is also a growing awareness that things are often not as simple as they seem on the surface, especially to those who haven’t had that problem or an analogous problem.

      Let’s keep praying for the Synod.

      • C.Caruana

        The central apple of discord is not the care and welcome that couples in difficult marital situations deserve and should be given by the church, but the heterdox pretention being advanced by deviated Synodial ‘fathers’ that they should be permitted to desecrate the Holy Eucharist by receiving it in an objective state of mortal sin, distorting Christ’s teaching and endangering the salvation of countless souls . The doctrinal basis and truth of no less than three sacraments is being questioned, namely those of the Holy Eucharist, Marriage and Confession. And this under the deceptive guise of a change in pastoral discipline that falsely claims it is not changing unchangeable doctrine. That is THE only serious issue that is of ultimate concern and that perhaps you could have clarified better in your posts, Mr Fladlein.

        • Dave Fladlien

          It seems you are more technically inclined than I am, which is slightly surprising since I’m in a fairly technical field, part of which involves rules writing.

          But to be technical for a moment, in my mind the decisive question is whether a person is in God’s friendship. It is that which will determine his/her ultimate fate, nothing else. It does not *necessarily* follow that a person who commits an objective mortal sin is out of God’s friendship. I, for example, once forgot a Holy Day of obligation, and didn’t attend Mass. Objective mortal sin. Not subjective; I wasn’t negligent, I just forgot. So clearly it *has* to be subjective state that is the determining factor, as I think St. Thomas Aquinas also made pretty clear when he listed elements which can reduce culpability.

          I personally believe a person who is sorry for his/her sins, is trying to figure out the right way to resolve the ancillary problems which have been mentioned at length in these postings, and may not even have been *fully* culpable for the situation to begin with, should be allowed to receive communion. That’s why I keep saying it has to be a case-by-case determination.

          If this next statement is wrong, I apologize: but I don’t think I miscommunicated this time, I think we disagree.

          • C.Caruana

            For an expert in rule writing, you seem to be slightly cavalier in rule following. Reminds me of Arcbishop Cupich, who would allow even practising sodomites to receive the Eucharist, if their conscience is subjectively convinced of it. Basically and faithfully interpreting Christ’s stirctures on adultery, the Church has for millenia doctrinally laid down certain clear conditions for the reception of communion. One of them is that subjectively culpable or not, someone who is cohabiting or remarried while his first marriage is still valid is in an objective state of sin that prevents him from participating sacramentally in the Holy Eucharist. The old and ever new canard of a subjectively self-determining conscience, of gnostic origins, has never been and will never be part of Catholic teaching. An informed and formed conscience can decide freely over its moral acts, but the information and the formation are determined by unchangeable Church doctrine. No man, not even a Pope, much less a subjective assessment, can put asunder what God has joined together. If you want authentic unequivocal light on the question of Conscience, don’t go to Kasper and his ‘serene theology’, but to the luminous and profound teaching of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI.

  • accelerator

    BRAVO

  • Mara319

    Fr. Murray, I’ve just watched one of your interviews with Raymond Arroyo on the Synod, and I’m much impressed. Thank you for your beautiful, faithful, and intelligent comments. God bless you. Thank you for being a priest.

  • Michael Skiendzielewski

    What alienates people from the Church?

    Lack of candor, forthrightness, accountability and openness regarding the many allegations of childhood clergy sexual abuse brought to the leadership of the Catholic Church over many years.
    If you had to point to the most significant element that has driven and continues to drive people, desirous of a relationship with Our Lord, from the Catholic Church, it is the lack of honesty and truthfulness when our leadership presents these allegations and subsequent disposition of cases with the parishioners.

  • Yankeegator

    Remember, it was The Pharisees who wanted to allow divorce and remarriage not Jesus Christ!!! The Bishops who wish to allow adulterers to receive The Eucharist without repentance and a right relationship with God are the ones who are acting like The Pharisees…

    • Truth Seeker

      The Pharisees were just following the scriptures that were revealed to them.

  • FreemenRtrue

    Christ instructed His apostles to shake the dust off their feet and move on when people refused to listen. Is our new meme of ‘Mercy’ superior to the Word? It is heresy to ignore Christ’s teaching on marriage. I have never seen communion refused to anyone. Christ Himself gave communion to Judas. There is no issue here. The Synod is designed to weaken the Church. Implicit approval of divorce and homosexuality will not fill the pews. Let those who refuse church principles go to those other sects where anything goes – is that not what they want?

    • Diane

      Christ did not give communion to Judas. He broke bread with all of the Apostles, including Judas, but at the Last Supper when he introduced the Holy Eucharist, Judas already left when Jesus told him to do what he must do, and that was to betray Him. Therefore, he was gone and only the rest of the Apostles had the Real Presence.

      • PurpleReign

        That’s why we have to receive the Eucharist constantly, to fight the fallen Judas nature inside us due to original sin right?

      • Margaret

        I beg your pardon, but St. John Chrysostom (Father and Doctor of the Church) said otherwise:

        “He who leaves the church right after Holy Communion, resembles Judas who left the Apostles as soon as he had received the Body of Christ.”

  • thomistica

    Things could get really bad soon. After all, the Pope in the last few days has affirmed a new, decentralized ecclesiology. And there are the stunning claims by Archbishop Cupich affirming a situationalist, subjectivist view of conscience. Who knows what “pastoral” advice Cupich’s priests, or those under Kasperite bishops, give the laity in or our of the confessional.

    There is now a real need for journalists to address the many questions laity now have about what to do if the Pope affirms the views of the Kasperites. Or if the Pope fails to discipline the German wing for its pretensions of autonomy from Rome, or an Archbishop Cupich for his bizarre statement about conscience.

    This synod has, already, created a very serious pastoral problem that greatly deepens the long-running pastoral crisis in the Church, for decades.

    I really wish there were more public reflection by journalists, drawing on historical antecedents in the long history of the Church, about the role of the laity here and what attitudes to adopt.

    Personally I’ve gotten over my culturally induced inhibition about publicly criticizing the Pope. Which is consistent with praying for him.

  • C.Caruana

    The greatest source of alienation is the dismal failure of faith and nerve in a considerable number of Church ministers, among them Cardinals and Bishops who are hirelings rather than authentic shepherds. Was Christ afraid to be unpopular in His hard sayings, and did he prioritise comfort and consolation in this world over eternal salvation or damnation in the next one? If He were with us in human form today, would he be obsessed with the poor and ecology or with the abomination of aborted human beings who are not given even a chance of being alive and poor in a polluted world? The Church’s mission and priorities are being systematically subverted in front of our eyes.

  • hopemore5

    The confusion over wording seems to stem from a fundamental difference in the Bishops’ view of the role of the Church in all these controversial questions. The Church has always proclaimed “theology” as its founding principle…the nature of God, the fact of the Incarnation and redemption from sin and the ontology of mankind. What I hear from many Council Fathers is the concept of “accompanying” sinners. In my view this casts the Church as great a social service organization. Sociology now replaces theology and “mercy” becomes another sociological term. There can be no mercy without sin and there can be no sin without law (meaning the right ordering of all things according to God’s will and Christ’s teaching.) As the author of this article so clearly states, it’s not that the words confuse, but rather that modern man does not want to hear the words.

    • ThirstforTruth

      What you and Father have stated is true; modern man AND woman are torn between what the world tells them and what is written in their hearts. But that is not really new. What is new to our time is that the Truth is NOT being proclaimed daily in the average pulpit. Yes, the Truth has been profoundly and truthfully proclaimed in the words and writings of St John Paul II as well as our Pope Emeritus but their words never seem to have made it out to the “hinterlands” in the weekly homilies. Little catechizing has occurred since Vatican II.It is of course, the same truth preached for hundreds of years but it needs to be forcefully and mercifully proclaimed anew to each generation. This has not been happening on a regular basis since the Spirit of Vatican II infected our churches. Our dear bishops must not simply blame the laity for their concupiscence but take responsibility for the poor quality of instruction in various seminaries as well as their failure to preach specifically on Sundays the Word of Truth as expressed in the teachings about marriage, contraception, abortion, Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. Rarely are these truths topics of homilies.The sheep need shepherds who will lead them, and not simply tickle their ears to fill their coffers or remain politically correct to make their own lives easier. There is enough blame to pass around it would seem.

  • veritasetgratia

    I’m with you Father!

  • St. Michael

    A few nights ago, I felt prompted to check out Synod updates. I began with Robert Royal’s article and links to Synod summaries. Though his article insightful, as usual, the links to what is evolving or devolving, was however, confusing at best—then depressing. I could not think anymore, nor sleep. I prayed.

    Then, I saw the update this contribution. Father, the article you contributed brought tears of joy for the relief, for the clarity with which you wrote. Thank you. God bless you for the courage and forthrightness. It was simply truthful. And at this point, a gift, I pray, to be read and received inside and outside the Synod.

    As I prayed,a scripture from the OT continued to come to mind and heart: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…“ (Hosea 4:6) I thought, can knowledge be substituted with accommodation? Does mercy seek to accommodate rejection of God’s law? Does not mercy come from the Lord when we turn towards Him?

    Our faith, our doctrine is so clear, so beautiful. Why, in God’s name, do we not boldly proclaim it? Why must we continue to delude ourselves with the belief that there is something new under the sun?

    We don’t need to modernize sacred teaching. Sacred teaching represents the truth and the truth is for all times, even these times…

    It is true what you say; the Church has not failed to communicate its teaching. It fails more in its boldness to proclaim its teaching amidst the ever-loud cries of the rejection of its teachings and the destruction that naturally follows—even while its fruits are what everyone seeks.

    Sinfulness seems always to seek accommodation. Mercy is not, I think, accommodation. God’s mercy is abundantly available to all; simply for the asking and the receptivity to living in God’s truth.

    Finally, I would like to share a little personal witness. I am so deeply grateful that my own sinful life included a forty-year sojourn “in the desert—unable to “come to The Table.” I felt rejection, I felt aloneness. It was painful and trying…and, perfectly master-crafted.

    Now, sixteen years at The Table, I find myself brought to my knees each and every day with awe-filled gratitude for His merciful plan for me personally. Time spent in the desert; its journey was of far greater reward than my ‘lack of knowledge’ and in my ignorance; the yearning, pleas and bargaining for what would have been a cheap substitute of God’s truth. Never, now, would I exchange that journey and pain for accommodation to my sinfulness. The journey was His mercy. His ways are not my ways, thank God. Once I said “yes”, once I became receptive to God’s law; no matter the length or the landscape of the journey… I discovered, His mercy could back-fill all time, all pain. Then, the light from the Psalm became clearer: Mercy and truth are met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

    Thank you Fr. Murray for helping me through what seemed “dark night” whilst being tossed and turned with confusion of purposes within our great Church. Your contribution was a much needed, answered prayer. May God be praised.

    • ThirstforTruth

      Beautiful witness to the Truth as it must be lived in the life of a redeemed sinner….all of us!
      Thank you “St Michael” for proclaiming so articulately your personal experience. It was
      most uplifting.

  • agadofive.leti

    You’re supposed to go to confession before receiving communion if you miss a Holy Day of “obligation” or mass because you did not choose God first.

    • Dave Fladlien

      Are you serious? I didn’t choose anyone or anything: I made a mistake. A mistake is not a sin. I didn’t choose to miss the Holy Day, I forgot that it was one.

      • elcer

        For a sin to be mortal, you have to have a serious situation, sufficient reflection then choose to do the act anyway. In the case of missing Mass because of forgetfulness, it seems that you did not have reflection on your action. Going to communion would not then be an additional mortal sin. But I myself would still try to receive the sacrament of reconciliation ASAP. However, all practicing Catholics should confess their sins at least once a year. That is the suggestion for minimalists.

  • SJ Man

    Beautifully stated, Father. Thanks very much. I sincerely hope that as time goes on and these grey-haired prelates die off, that a new and orthodox generation of priests and bishops come forward. Hopefully all the JPII and BXVI priests will pick up the pieces caused by the damage done by these heterodox prelates.

  • See Noevo

    Amen!

  • St Donatus

    The problem IS the language the Church has been using for the last 50 years NOT because it is too condemnitory but because, at least on the parish level, it is too ambiguous. I remember growing up in an exciting parish in the suburbs of Denver Colorado in the 1970s. It was a wealthy parish with it’s own ‘Youth Center’ building, a ‘cool’ priest just for the youth, and three priests.

    When I went to the ‘Youth Center’ as my parents encouraged, I found many ways of overcoming sadness and youth problems such as singing upbeat songs, doing crafts, the use of hypnosis by the priest, a guitar mass where we all stood around the ‘cool’ barn wood altar and ‘shared’ the bread together, and picking up girls.

    Notice, there is no mention of prayer, that is because I don’t remember us ever praying, I mean that would be such a ‘turnoff man’. Yes, I watched as most of the youth ended up in jail, using drugs, running away, and so forth, it was obvious that the ‘cool’ priests were not doing their job in saving souls (or helping us overcome our youthful problems). Within two years, the pastor ran off and got married, one priest was obviously ‘gay’, another was a very un-godly man, and the faithful Catholic youth were being turned away from God and toward the ‘self fulfillment’ the parish was teaching us.

    When I finally got my own car, I tried to find a good ‘conservative’ parish that would help lead me back to God but all the parishes were competing with each other to see who could be the coolest and using the very parish I belonged to as an example of the goal to be reached. I ended up dropping out of the faith, moving in with a ‘hot’ and crazy Lutheran girl, moving farther and farther from God, etc. It took me 30 years to finally get back to the faith, and three years to learn what amazing truths the faith holds. This only because I found a good Latin Mass parish where every sermon is a fountain of Catholic truth.

    I pray that some day our Church becomes again a lamp to the world rather than trying to hide that lamp of truth under a basket. People are searching for truth and today the Church doesn’t want to show it’s truths for others to find.

    But it is not only the Churches fault. Sadly, we members of the industrialized world are becoming ever lazier. We want to get in our lazy boy chair and let the poison of Satan wash over us everyday with the TV, internet, and radio. It is so easy and exciting to watch the latest push to ever more Satanic entertainment because we don’t get bored, we need to be thrilled and have fun. (Don’t worry, we will get all the thrill and excitement we want when the Muslim hordes overrun us.)

  • Truth Seeker

    I thought hippies were Buddhists.

  • Laurie

    Bravo Father! This is spot on.

  • Veritas

    I disagree completely. The problem IS one of communication. The teachings are not wrong, but instructing people requires speaking to them in their language, and if they don’t seem to understand, try explaining in a different way.
    Many of the people I have talked to about this, who initially reject the teachings, find that they really didn’t understand the message. They agree, but argue because of the miscommunication.
    When the teachers, such as Fr Murray, decide that it isn’t a failing of his teaching when people don’t understand, but a rejection of ideas, he has failed as a teacher.

    If most of the students in a math class fail the test, should we blame the students as stupid, or, first, at least question the methods of the teacher? Young people leave the church because the church loses the communication battle and they see that the church hates gays because it disagrees with same sex relationships…but they never know the truth. They don’t reject it out of not wanting to accept their own sin….for goodness sakes, most are heterosexual…. They reject because we fail at the teaching!
    When previously divorced and remarried wish to enter the church, they are held back by what? A previous marriage entered into with nothing in common with the Catholic understanding of marriage… This is not rejecting the church out of their own unwillingness to accept sin but the church’s failure to minister and teach…. The same goes for those married in the church when catechesis was guilty of malpractice… These are failings of the church… And Fr Murray
    By his thinking, because the church has the math right, the students have no excuse for failure, they should know better, but the teachers abandoned them, and the ones who need help and teaching and remedial education are not reading this article and ones like it , they are bad-mouthing the whole education system and have given up on the church and all the truth we are keeping to ourselves.

  • Stephen N Debra Ferreira

    There has been a concerted effort by many in the Catholic Hiarchy to somehow become peacemakers between GOD and the devil. Somehow they believe that their mission is to evangelize the devil.

  • James

    Let’s cut to the chase: Are divorced and civilly remarried Catholics and those in homosexual relationships going to hell or are they not?

    If so, then don’t be afraid to shout it from the rooftops, if not, then let them receive communion.