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12/14/2016 9:48 am  #11

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

iwpoe wrote:

A side question: is an Orthodox second marriage valid for the purpose of reciept of communion for a Catholic. I know that a first marriage is valid.

I am not sure, but my hunch is that the answer is no, if you are referring to cases like the following: An Orthodox Christian has a valid marriage, but can validly remarry, after a process of penance, in the Orthodox Church, because of adultery.

Catholics, I'd think, would have to regard the first marriage as valid and the second as illusory. If the Orthodox Christian were to convert, I do not think he'd be able to receive communion in the Catholic Church, unless he and his wife from the second Orthodox marriage agreed to live as brother and sister.

The Orthodox may receive communion in the Catholic Church without converting, as well. I would guess that, likewise, a person in such a situation would be prohibited from receiving, although I suppose that, generally, a Catholic pastor dispensing communion to an Orthodox Christian in such a situation would not be aware of the situation.


12/14/2016 3:18 pm  #12

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

Alexander wrote:

Even then, it's arguable that "manifest grave sin" should have similar criteria in terms of knowledge and intent.

I think the use of 'grave sin' over 'mortal sin' is pretty explicitly marking the distinction between what is materially grave and what is not just materially grave but done with knowledge and consent. If others' knowledge and consent are inaccessible to observers, then the canon would have no content.

Alexander wrote:

In any case, I feel we should assume that someone who feels strongly enough about receiving the Eucharist to raise this question is someone in basic agreement with Catholic doctrine.

It's somewhat hard to know what the general profile of these cases are. They are somewhat rare, because on the one hand most annulments are successful in the United States and on the other this practice has tacitly been at work in many places anyway, either with or without priests' knowledge. I'm sure that there have been lots of Catholics in second marriages who have not bothered to try to get an annulment who receive regularly and have pastors who just don't know their situations.

Maybe there are cases where people describe their situations in confession and the pastor adjusts practice accordingly, but that is probably rare as well, since American Catholics and Catholics in the West confess infrequently and, anyway, can easily go to confession without mentioning their marital state.

Alexander wrote:

I agree also that there is wisdom in not giving people the benefit of the doubt if doing so is likely to be harmful to them, but I do sympathise with those who take issue with the Eucharist being withheld from them, rather than withdrawing themselves from receiving. St Paul, who is the source of the teaching in this case, does speak of it in terms of examining your own conscience to avoid receiving unworthily, rather than someone else making that judgement for you.

I sympathize as well. Canon 915 is invoked infrequently; while grave sin is quite common among today's Catholics, manifest grave sin is less so. Marriage being public, remarriage fits the bill, but many other grave sins do not. Discussions of the application of Canon 915 otherwise are largely about withholding the Eucharist from obstinately pro-abortion Catholic politicians, which discussions are usually controversial.

The general problem, which AL doesn't address and which has unfortunately been out of the public discussion, is that Catholics seldom believe in the Real Presence anymore. The reason it seems particularly bad and unpastoral to withhold the Eucharist from someone is because virtually every Catholic nowadays receives at every Mass, even though (surely) many of them are not sinless. Half a century ago, a large number of Catholics would not receive at a given Mass; sometimes they might not have been in a state of grace, but in other cases they were just not disposed. Since not receiving is so rare, it seems odd and is stigmatized, but it shouldn't be that way. The Church should encourage people to examine themselves, whether they are divorced and remarried or not, and not to receive when they shouldn't, and it should encourage the practice of spiritual communion.

Those who should not receive but do are the ones especially responsible for the pain of divorced and remarried Catholics.

Alexander wrote:

*There are more or less extreme versions of this position. Mary Geach reports that Elizabeth Anscombe taught her "that the full knowledge in question was knowledge of the sort of action one was performing, under a description its answering to which rendered it culpable, and that one might sin mortally by knowingly performing an action belonging to a certain kind, when one did not know that kind of action to be mortally sinful, or to be a sin at all." [From the introduction to "Faith in a Hard Ground", a collection of Anscombe's essays.] Obviously this position would make it nearly impossible for a divorced-and-remarried person to lack the requisite "full knowledge".

Yes, Anscombe's view is what I had in mind. It reflects the way in which qualifications based on ignorance originally entered the discussion. Cases of ignorance are cases where, for instance, one shoots a man in a deer costume while hunting, when one had no reason to think that any men were out and about in deer costumes.

Though I suppose I understand the impetus behind people who want the wider, more permissive reading. In the extreme case of indoctrination from birth into a false moral precept, it's tempting to say that culpability is diminished.

One might hope for an account in which full knowledge is preserved in such cases, but in some way consent is mitigated. The upshot would be that we don't know that people living in the twenty-first century are not often "indoctrinated" into false beliefs, and that is why we don't presume to judge them on the basis of "manifest grave sin." But we also recognize that A's disbelief that X is grave matter or that X is sinful at all is not any guaranteed, or even reliable, indicator that A has not mortally sinned, so we don't try to shrink from, for instance, providing A with moral guidance.

     Thread Starter

12/16/2016 2:39 am  #13

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

Jeremy Taylor wrote:

Interesting. It is interesting, though, also, that other traditional branches of Christianity, including even the Eastern Orthodox Churches (not known for innovations), don't take quite such an absolute stand. Does anyone know what the practice and teaching of the early Church and Fathers was? Doesn't Paul himself imply some recourse for remarriage, at least if one partner is an unbeliever and abandons a believer?

Well, firstly, only Catholics (I'm leaving aside strange micro-brew stuff like Anglo-Papalists or SSPV types) take the position that we do on the Papacy, so just because all the other cool Christians are doing it doesn't mean Catholics should be.

But with that said, it's not exactly accurate to say that all the other traditional branches of Christianity take a less absolute stand on Christianity, at least not historically. Even today, for instance, you can find Orthodox bishops who take the position that divorce and remarriage is a sin; Orthodox bodies generally treat that issue on doctrine as something that is not church dividing, and leave the discretion to each individual bishop about whether or not they will allow remarriages to be performed in their diocese, at least as I understand their position. The same thing can be said about the Orthodox view contraception btw; you can find Orthodox bishops who oppose it, as Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I did in a letter to Pope Paul VI.

Furthermore, up until the 1960's (and on paper this is still the case, but has been all but absolutely forgotten), Anglicans, from what I understand, took a fairly hard line on divorce and remarriage; Henry VIII had Cranmer annul his marriages, not divorce them. And in relatively recent memory King Edward VIII kicked off a constitutional crisis in 1936 when he tried to get married to an American women who had been divorced, and ultimately had to abdicate and have the ceremony done in France to get the marriage to go through. I make this point to you with some hesitation however, since you were once an Anglo-Catholic, and your screen-name is taken from the famous Anglican theologian Jeremy Taylor; am I mistaking something about the classical Anglican position?

Last edited by Timotheos (12/16/2016 2:41 am)


12/16/2016 10:38 pm  #14

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

I believe traditional Anglicanism certainly took a firm line on divorce, but I think it was possible to get a divorce. I think this is the same as Eastern Orthodox, in general. It is not easy to get a divorce in Eastern Orthodoxy, and even the one who has been abandoned or whose spouse has committed adultery must more or less atone for the failure of the marriage. But it is possible to get a divorce. I believe the Oriental Orthodox are even stricter.

As I understand it,the Roman Church permits remarriage if a spouse has died, does it not? How does it square this with the idea that spouses are insoluably bound together?


12/17/2016 12:28 pm  #15

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

Alexander wrote:

Jeremy Taylor wrote:

As I understand it,the Roman Church permits remarriage if a spouse has died, does it not? How does it square this with the idea that spouses are insoluably bound together?

My own inclination is to say "where's the issue?", but I guess I can see where you're coming from (though I would be very surprised if you take this to be a serious issue with the Catholic position). I could lazily direct you to Romans 7:1-3, which seems to give (more or less) the Catholic position, but there are a few other points that seem relevant:

(1) It doesn't seem that there is marriage in heaven, which suggests the bond of marriage is a good of this life, and does not survive death.
(2) The language of "one flesh" might suggest that the death of one of the spouses dissolves the body formed by marriage, leaving the spouse unbound to anyone in particular (and therefore available for a second marriage).
(3) Death is not relevantly like a person's decision to end a marriage. Jesus' teaching ("what God has joined together, let no one separate") doesn't obviously apply to the separation involved in the death of a spouse - and, in the context, Jesus clearly isn't talking about that kind of separation, he's talking about the decision of someone to leave a living spouse and shack up with someone else.

In defense of your point (1), see Matthew 22:23-33.


12/17/2016 5:32 pm  #16

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

But is it not generally the Catholic position that moral laws like this are rationally defensible? That they are not arbitrary commands?

​Maybe I'm wrong, but there does seem to a lot of work being done in the Catholic account by the idea that marriage creates a more or less insoluble bond. If it is, or can be, dissolved with death, why can't it be dissolved before death (in fact, it can be in a few circumstances, as Greg mentioned earlier)? I can completely understand that easy divorce is abhorrent. But I'm not sure why it would be morally wrong for divorce if your spouse enjoys beating you black and blue, or if your spouse has run off years ago, or if your spouse is a serial adulterer.


12/18/2016 3:52 pm  #17

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

Christ himself does seem to allow divorce on the grounds of adultery (and I know at least some Orthodox priests interpret this to include all faithlessness, like abandonment, chronic abuse, or drug addiction), in Matthew 5:31-32. But leaving aside scripure, it is certainly the case that a distinction between the human dissolving of a marriage and death dissolving can be drawn. But I am wondering why there can be no human dissolving of it, other than Jesus seems to say this. I could understand if the point was the bond is eternal, but in both life and certainly death, even the Roman Church itself doesn't hold it to be indissoluble.

Are there not behaviours that more or less preclude the good of marriage? It seems a stiff penalty to deny one spousw all the comfort and support of a marriage because, for example, the other is violent.


1/31/2017 9:48 am  #18

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

Jeremy Taylor wrote:

Christ himself does seem to allow divorce on the grounds of adultery (and I know at least some Orthodox priests interpret this to include all faithlessness, like abandonment, chronic abuse, or drug addiction), in Matthew 5:31-32.

The sense of that passage is clear if we read the Greek text and put it in context with other NT passages. Using English translations from the Berean Literal Bible, quoted from, the passage is:

Matthew wrote:

"But I say to you that everyone divorcing his wife, except on account of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever shall marry her who has been divorced commits adultery." (Mt 5:32)

Where "sexual immorality" = "porneias", while "commits adultery" = "moichatai". Both terms are found again later in the list of sins:

Matthew wrote:

"For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immorality, thefts, false testimonies, slanders." (Mt 15:19)

Where "adulteries" = "moicheiai" and "sexual immorality" = "porneiai". Therefore, it is clear that the meaning of "porneias" in Mt 5:32 is something other than adultery. And the key to determine what that meaning is resides in the passage about the Council of Jerusalem, both in the address by James and the decree by the Apostles:

Luke in Acts wrote:

"Therefore I judge not to trouble those from the Gentiles turning to God, but to write to them to abstain from the pollutions of idols, and sexual immorality, and that which is strangled, and from blood." (Acts 15:19)

Luke in Acts wrote:

"For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us, to lay upon you no further burden, except these necessary things: to abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what is strangled, and from sexual immorality. Keeping yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell." (Acts 15:28-29)

Where in both passages "sexual immorality" = "porneias". It is clear that neither James nor the Council were restating the Ten Commandments, otherwise they would be skipping the prohibition to kill, just to name one. Rather, they were stating prohibitions in addition to those in the Ten Commandments that were deemed necessary for a peaceful coexistence between Christians of Jewish and Gentile backgrounds in communities having both. Therefore, "porneia" is definitely not "adultery" as prohibited by a Commandment, but a union forbidden by Mosaic Law because of the degree of closeness between the man and the woman, e.g. between a man and the wife of his (probably already dead) father, as denounced by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians:

Paul to the Corinthians wrote:

"Sexual immorality is actually reported among you, and sexual immorality such as is not even among the pagans, so as for one to have the wife of the father." (1 Cor 5:1)

Where again "sexual immorality" = "porneia".

Last edited by Johannes (1/31/2017 10:41 am)


1/31/2017 10:23 am  #19

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

Jeremy Taylor wrote:

Interesting. It is interesting, though, also, that other traditional branches of Christianity, including even the Eastern Orthodox Churches (not known for innovations), don't take quite such an absolute stand. Does anyone know what the practice and teaching of the early Church and Fathers was? Doesn't Paul himself imply some recourse for remarriage, at least if one partner is an unbeliever and abandons a believer?

AFAIK, the Eastern Orthodox's acceptance of divorce is based on the interpretation that the authority to "bind and loose" given to the Apostles in Mt 18:18, and to Peter in particular in Mt 16:19, extends to the possibility of dissolving a marriage:

Matthew wrote:

"Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on the earth shall have been loosed in heaven." (Mt 18:18)

Based on this interpretation, the Eastern Orthodox interpret the passage on divorce:

Matthew wrote:

He answered, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Mt 19:4-6)

as meaning that a purely human power, be it the spouses or the State, cannot separate what God has joined together, but a bishop can, because of the authority granted in Mt 18:18.

In the Catholic Church, the hypothetical possesion of such an authority by the Pope has been explicitely discarded several times by the Popes themselves, and clearly if the Pope does not have it, neither do the other bishops. A summary of the pontifical statements on this subject was given by John Paul II in his January 21, 2000 address to the Roman Rota:

John Paul II wrote:

 6. Today's meeting with you, members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, is an appropriate setting for also speaking to the whole Church about the limits of the Roman Pontiff's power over ratified and consummated marriage, which "cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death" (CIC, can. 1141; CCEO, can. 853). By its very nature this formulation of canon law is not only disciplinary or prudential, but corresponds to a doctrinal truth that the Church has always held.

Nevertheless, there is an increasingly widespread idea that the Roman Pontiff's power, being the vicarious exercise of Christ's divine power, is not one of those human powers referred to in the canons cited above, and thus it could be extended in some cases also to the dissolution of ratified and consummated marriages. In view of the doubts and anxieties this idea could cause, it is necessary to reaffirm that a ratified and consummated sacramental marriage can never be dissolved, not even by the power of the Roman Pontiff. The opposite assertion would imply the thesis that there is no absolutely indissoluble marriage, which would be contrary to what the Church has taught and still teaches about the indissolubility of the marital bond.

7. This doctrine that the Roman Pontiff's power does not extend to ratified and consummated marriages has been taught many times by my Predecessors (cf., for example, Pius IX, Let. Verbis exprimere, 15 August 1859:  Insegnamenti Pontifici, Ed. Paoline, Rome 1957, vol. I, n. 103; Leo XIII, Encyc. Let. Arcanum, 10 February 1880:  ASS 12 [1879-1880], 400; Pius XI, Encyc. Let. Casti connubii, 31 December 1930:  AAS 22 [552]; Pius XII, Address to Newlyweds, 22 April 1942:  Discorsi e Radiomessaggi di S.S. Pio XII, Ed. Vaticana, vol. IV, 47). I would like to quote in particular a statement of Pius XII:  "A ratified and consummated marriage is by divine law indissoluble, since it cannot be dissolved by any human authority (can. 1118); while other marriages, although intrinsically indissoluble, still do not have an absolute extrinsic indissolubility, but, under certain necessary conditions, can (it is a question, as everyone knows, of relatively rare cases) be dissolved not only by virtue of the Pauline privilege, but also by the Roman Pontiff in virtue of his ministerial power" (Address to the Roman Rota, 3 October 1941:  AAS 33 [1941], pp. 424-425)With these words Pius XII gave an explicit interpretation of canon 1118, corresponding to the present canon 1141 of the Code of Canon Law, and to canon 853 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, in the sense that the expression "human power" also includes the Pope's ministerial or vicarious power, and he presented this doctrine as being peacefully held by all experts in the matter. In this context it would also be appropriate to quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with the great doctrinal authority conferred on it by the involvement of the whole Episcopate in its drafting and by my special approval. We read there:  "Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God's fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom" (n. 1640).

8. The Roman Pontiff in fact has the "sacra potestas" to teach the truth of the Gospel, administer the sacraments and pastorally govern the Church in the name and with the authority of Christ, but this power does not include per se any power over the divine law, natural or positive. Neither Scripture nor Tradition recognizes any faculty of the Roman Pontiff for dissolving a ratified and consummated marriage; on the contrary, the Church's constant practice shows the certain knowledge of Tradition that such a power does not exist. The forceful expressions of the Roman Pontiffs are only the faithful echo and authentic interpretation of the Church's permanent conviction.

It seems quite clear then that the non-extension of the Roman Pontiff's power to ratified and consummated sacramental marriages is taught by the Church's Magisterium as a doctrine to be held definitively, even if it has not been solemnly declared by a defining act. This doctrine, in fact, has been explicitly proposed by the Roman Pontiffs in categorical terms, in a constant way and over a sufficiently long period of time. It was made their own and taught by all the Bishops in communion with the See of Peter, with the knowledge that it must always be held and accepted by the faithful.

In this sense it was reaffirmed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Besides, it is a doctrine confirmed by the Church's centuries-old practice, maintained with full fidelity and heroism, sometimes even in the face of severe pressures from the mighty of this world.

The attitude of the Popes is highly significant; even at the time of a clearer affirmation of the Petrine primacy, they show a constant awareness that their Magisterium is at the total service of the Word of God (cf. Dogm. Const. Dei Verbum, n. 10) and, in this spirit, they do not place themselves above the Lord's gift, but endeavour only to preserve and administer the good entrusted to the Church.


Last edited by Johannes (1/31/2017 10:27 am)


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