Wednesday, September 24, 2014

No, no, no...

...the Church will not because she cannot, change the reality of  marriage and cannot cease teaching this reality.

Speculation in today's press includes a muddled piece of writing by columnist  Christina Odone, who continues to say that the Church refuses Holy Communion to people who are divorced. This is not the case. A couple may go through a civil divorce because one spouse insists on it (and under current unjust British laws it is effectively impossible for the other spouse to prevent it happening)  or because it is the only legal way to sort out an impossible situation. But this does not - because it cannot - free either party to marry again. Marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman. Separating might be necessary. But it means that the marriage still exists. Neither party is free to attempt a new union.

Only by attempting to break the bond of marriage by starting a new union does this issue of Holy Communion arise. We all know that if we are involved in a sexual relationship outside of marriage this is contrary to God's plan...this isn't an arbitrary rule of the Church,  but belongs to the very essence of things. It is not something that the Pope or a Synod can change.

Of course there are complex issues in specific situations. Today, people "marry"  without meaning to commit to a lifelong union that is open to children. Or a Catholic may go through a civil marriage with some one who is already divorced - and then later seek a divorce and be unclear as to his/her situation when seeking a further partner. And there are young people, brought up in a divided series of households with parents who marry and remarry, or have various partners: in such a situation understanding the reality of marriage may be difficult. 

The Church can make a declaration of nullity - that a marriage never existed - for example in the first case listed in the previous paragraph. This is not divorce. It is a recognition, after lengthy investigation, that what appeared to be a marriage was in fact not. It is right that access to information on this should be available and that people should know what to do if they think their marriage is null. Nor should they be restricted from having access to help in sorting things out.

But it really isn't up to the Daily Telegraph, or anyone else, to pretend that marriage is about "rules" that can be changed, like the rules of a cricket club, or even like rules concerning the Church's calendar or disciplines on fasting...

In 1968 there was a widespread belief that the Church would "change the rules" about contraception. The Church couldn't and didn't. And now Pope Paul VI, who held firm and spoke with courage affirming the truth in Humanae Vitae, is to be beatified. The Pope is custodian of the truth: it's not his to change, it belongs to the Church and his task is to present this truth with love and understanding and pastoral wisdom, to teach the truth and help all to live it.  Paul VI showed the way.


Anonymous said...

Erm, Joanna, people do get divorced, they do remarry and they do go on leading their lives, gong to church and having communion if they want to. Their relationship with God is their business, not yours.

Joanna Bogle said...

Erm, Anonymous, the Church's teaching on marriage is everyone's business. If you don't think I have a right to talk about the Church you belong to a very rigid only-the-clergy-are-allowed-to-discuss-things mentality. Every Christian has a right, and even a duty, to understand the Church's teachings and to evangelise. And "having communion if they want to" is not what receiving Holy Communion is all about. Among much else, this Sacrament is about healing and renewal, and unity with the Church. So, erm, the important thing is to learn a bit more before launching into print, even anonymously.

I don't usually print anonymous comments but did so on this occasion because divorce and remarriage are delicate family matters, which privacy is important. But readers of this Blog should know that in general anonymous comments are strong discouraged.