Current Public Issues
Because the question of annulments has been such a controversial topic among some non-Catholics, we will attempt to dispel misconceptions of those unfamiliar with the Catholic Church by offering a more substantial response as to its nature and purpose.
In determining grounds of sacramental nullity of marriage, the Catholic Church concerns itself primarily with the elements of the sacrament as it was performed and the condition of consent as it was exchanged between the parties. It is the sanctity of the sacrament the Church serves to protect which is violated if not entered into freely and with the awareness of the mutual commitment and responsibilities each holds to the other in the love of God. Matthew CH5; 31 "…'Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.' 32 But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
A legal divorce and a Church sanctioned annulment are completely unrelated by their very nature and intent. A divorce is a civil termination of a previously, legally recognized marriage to determine what is most legally and financially equitable to the parties involved with specific consideration to the dispensation of personal and real property, and the safety and security of any children involved.
“Valid marriage requires effective consent ceremonially exchanged in the Church by specific form. There are a limited number of reasons that may render consent ineffective that are recognized as grounds for sacramental nullity which if capable of being proven by credible and available testimony, make it possible to declare a marriage null and void or never having been entered due to defect in effectiveness of consent. This requires witnesses available who are fully knowledgeable of the facts and are willing to provide written testimony. "You may refer to “Matrimonial Consent” under Canon Law for specific details.” (Quoted from the written guidelines provided with the application documents for Annulment. Also refer to CCC; Article 7: III. MATRIMONIAL CONSENT.
The Church maintains tribunals in various locations, usually one per diocese. These tribunals are established to investigate petitions for the annulment of marriage. No marriage is annulled without a complete investigation by members of the tribunal which involves the accumulation of supporting evidence and corroborative recorded statements from immediate family members and others who are witnesses knowledgeable of the circumstances surrounding the allegation and who can credibly substantiate the claim for annulment. There must be credible support to show that the marriage was never truly a mutually binding marital union based on specific factors through ineffective consent. (Note: Due to the sensitive personal nature of the process of annulments, very few clergy have any real knowledge of the annulment process or requirements. It is the norm that local parish priests submit petitions on behalf of the petitioner as an advocate but they are not involved at all in the process and most often are not knowledgeable of the process. Questions pertaining to annulments should always be referred to a knowledgeable source, such as the regional tribunal or official representative of the Tribunal).
Some examples of ineffective consent;
At the time of the institution of marriage, the petitioner or spouse did not understand the sacramental commitment due to incapacity of reason such as a minor considered younger than the age of reason, forced marriage due to pregnancy or other factors, relevant fraud such as bigamy, influenced by serious threat, mental illness, lack of consciousness (full mental awareness), or one of the parties to the marriage was unable to fulfill the obligations of marriage due to a serious medically supported psychological disorder or condition. According to Scripture, adultery is an immediate nullity of marriage in itself. However, such must still be brought before the Church for investigation IF the victim of the infidelity intends to seek annulment.
Note: A condition of Ineffective consent would have had to exist prior to the vows of marriage even if diagnosed after the fact. Such need be verified as having influenced the undertaking of the vows of marriage when the sacrament was performed. Medical conditions or psychological disorders that arise after the marriage has been blessed do not constitute grounds for annulment as expressed by the vow, "in sickness or in health, till death do us part". Except as otherwise stated, occurrences or conditions, health or otherwise, that result from circumstances following the Sacramental marriage are not grounds for such consideration.
At times, the question arises regarding suspected abuse of the annulment process which may have been granted to a political figure or person of influence. It is not one’s position of fame or influence that determines eligibility for an annulment. As was mentioned previously, corroborating witness testimony is required in every investigation for annulment. If others serve as witness in their testimony to the claims the applicant for annulment makes and there is no conflict within the testimony or supporting evidence, an annulment may be granted. But we are speaking of God’s will and knowledge of what resides in a man’s heart. To believe and know that God is the final judge, we must also acknowledge that deceit would render invalid an annulment granted by the Church and those who deceive would without doubt have much to answer for at time of judgment. This would be even more condemning for any religious authority of the Church who would knowingly grant an invalid annulment. Only God knows the hearts of man. Nothing obtained through the Church in deceit is binding, as it is performed in the light of God through the authority He passed on to His Church. God Himself has the final say and power to reconcile all things to and through Him self. It is nonsensical for any person regardless of earthly influence to honestly desire and seek the blessing of marriage in the Church by defrauding the claim for annulment. There can be no sanctification based on deceit.
Acts CH21; 25 As for the Gentiles who have come to believe, we sent them our decision that they abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage."
Acts CH15; 19 It is my judgment, therefore, that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood…”
Acts CH15; 28 “It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, 29 namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.”
Mark CH10; 6 But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), 8 and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate."
Let us recognize that Mark CH10, v6-9, is frequently quoted by some of protestant faiths as opposition to the Church’s authority to annul a marriage. What is not realized is such an assumption used blanketly creates a condition where Scripture would then oppose itself as shown above. But we know this can not be. Many fail to recognize that marriage must be of a nature and circumstance that God would have joined the two together in in a sanctified or holy state. The question must be considered then; Would God sanction a marriage of which a man or woman would be unreasonably coerced, threatened or unjustly influenced into marriage against either free will or wellness of mind? As God never interferes with our free will to choose to love and follow Him or turn away from Him, He does not “join together” those who would be unreasonably influenced into marriage against their free will or wellness of mind. He does not bless those who oppress or deceive others into marriage. God does not interfere with our free will to enter into a mutually agreed promiscuous relationship without the sacrament of marriage. Free will of sound mind is always a major factor in our choices in order for them to be “our” choices just as the same are key elements in the commission of sin itself. As Scripture shows us, marriage must be “lawful” for it to be valid.
Matthew CH19; 9 I say to you, 7 whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery."
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Marriage under the pedagogy of the Law
1611 Seeing God's covenant with Israel in the image of exclusive and faithful married love, the prophets prepared the Chosen People's conscience for a deepened understanding of the unity and indissolubility of marriage.102 The books of Ruth and Tobit bear moving witness to an elevated sense of marriage and to the fidelity and tenderness of spouses. Tradition has always seen in the Song of Solomon a unique expression of human love, insofar as it is a reflection of God's love - a love "strong as death" that "many waters cannot quench."
- not being under constraint;
- not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law.
1627 The consent consists in a "human act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other": "I take you to be my wife" - "I take you to be my husband."128 This consent that binds the spouses to each other finds its fulfillment in the two "becoming one flesh."129
1628 The consent must be an act of the will of each of the contracting parties, free of coercion or grave external fear.130 No human power can substitute for this consent.131 If this freedom is lacking the marriage is invalid.
1629 For this reason (or for other reasons that render the marriage null and void) the Church, after an examination of the situation by the competent ecclesiastical tribunal, can declare the nullity of a marriage, i.e., that the marriage never existed.132 In this case the contracting parties are free to marry, provided the natural obligations of a previous union are discharged.133
1630 The priest (or deacon) who assists at the celebration of a marriage receives the consent of the spouses in the name of the Church and gives the blessing of the Church. The presence of the Church's minister (and also of the witnesses) visibly expresses the fact that marriage is an ecclesial reality.
The Catholic Church is not concerned with factors other than those which substantiate the validity of the marriage in its sacramental nature in accordance with God’s design. It does not grant annulments on later decisions such as “falling out of love” or anything that does not pertain to the sanctity of the Sacrament as God intended it between a man and women. Most commonly, it is the verification of necessary elements, such as free will, maturity and the ability to comprehend the covenant of marriage to name a few, which constitute the validity of the marital covenant at the time both parties entered into it, although other factors may be involved. The Church in this regard serves to protect the sanctity of the sacrament of marriage not in a manner that would be in opposition to God’s design of such a blessed union, but to protect the righteousness of the union of marriage as a sacramental gift of God possessing all the intended elements consistent with such a bond. Just as the Church may bind in a righteous marriage, so to may it recognize and annul (loose) what has been unified wrongfully or lacking in effectiveness of consent. Mat. Ch16; 19 “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Again, the consideration of Annulment is based on the sanctity of the sacrament in accordance to God's design, not the general desires of the parties to the petition.
Let’s refer to the case of John and Sue, both of whom were of the Catholic Faith. John did not apply for an annulment for 20 years after his civil divorce because of the reputation of the Catholic Church in its stringency in issuing annulments and his doubt of acquiring one. While dating, John and Sue had discussed marriage many times with both expressing a common desire. At the age of 18, they immaturely referred to each other as his or her fiancée, but before marriage, Sue became pregnant. For John it was wonderful as he had always wanted to be a father young enough to be able to be actively involved with his children as they grew. Because John had planned on getting married before Sue’s pregnancy he thought of it more as a “timing” issue rather than a crisis. However, when Sue learned she was pregnant and informed John, she was very displeased telling John she no longer was sure she wanted to marry him after all. Shortly thereafter they did get married in the Church although her decision was based more on pressure not only from John’s coaxing but from her parents as well. Needless to say, their marriage failed after a few years of serious struggle and ineffective counseling and John and Sue were then divorced civilly.
The process for the annulment was very time consuming and everyone who knew John and Sue including every living family member who had any knowledge of their circumstances were requested to provide written testimony during the investigation. After approximately one year, the Tribunal offered its findings and issued an annulment on the grounds the sacrament was not received to God's design due to immaturity and excessive external influence, and the covenant was not made freely or with a proper understanding of the commitments it was bound by.
Several years prior to John’s annulment, he remarried but only civilly. John could not remarry in the church at that time until he obtained an annulment assuming the Church would even grant him one. John’s second wife, Betty, was a member of another religion and also had been previously married at the age of 16 years. When John and Betty expressed interest in marrying in the Church, Betty was informed she also was required to apply for an annulment in the Catholic Church even though not of the Catholic Faith, but it was not as much for the purpose of obtaining an annulment in her case as it was to ensure that nothing of her past would void the sacrament of marriage or cause it to become invalid should they proceed with marriage in the Catholic Church. After the process was completed, Betty was issued an annulment based on a marriage not recognized by the Catholic Church as a sacramental marriage, because she had been originally baptized in the Catholic Faith as an infant but her first marriage had been performed in a denomination not recognized by the Catholic Church as authentic.
This is one of several reasons why statistics presented regarding annulments are unreliable when making comparisons to civil divorces or to many other Christian denominations. In the case of John and his wife Betty, both of their petitions were separate and individual of each other, counting as two annulments even though Betty’s marriage and divorce were unrelated to the Catholic Faith. Frequently the Church requires such non-Catholic petitions from those previously married and divorced in other faiths that express interest in remarrying in the Catholic Church so as to be certain the sacrament of marriage will be virtuous and confer the supernatural grace it symbolizes in a future marriage. It is also common knowledge that over the last 50 years there has been an increase in interfaith marriages. Where previous marriages existed on both sides but one is of a non-Catholic faith, the results reflect double the "annulments" statistically speaking. The sacrament of marriage in many Christian faiths is recognized as valid in the Catholic Church and requires the process of annulment to determine if the previous non-Catholic marriage was righteous to the sacrament as a holy covenant or invalid when previously performed. If the previous marriage was considered to be valid possessing all the elements of a sacramental covenant, the annulment would be denied. This is to protect the sanctity of the sacrament regardless of the denomination or desire for annulment.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
1638 "From a valid marriage arises a bond between the spouses which by its very nature is perpetual and exclusive; furthermore, in a Christian marriage the spouses are strengthened and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and the dignity of their state by a special sacrament."142
1639 The consent by which the spouses mutually give and receive one another is sealed by God himself.143 From their covenant arises "an institution, confirmed by the divine law, . . . even in the eyes of society."144 The covenant between the spouses is integrated into God's covenant with man: "Authentic married love is caught up into divine love."145
1640 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.
It should also be noted that the Catholic Church has over recent years become more stringent in requiring those who wish to be married in the Catholic Church take part in an educational program designed to enlighten the interested couple in the elements and covenants of marriage according to God’s design and the permanency of the commitment.
In regard to public
misconceptions regarding writings of the
The following sources
“The purpose of the Instruction is very simple: to offer the ministers of justice who work in ecclesiastical tribunals a practical Document, a sort of vademecum that will serve as an easy guide to enable them to handle their work better in canonical processes of matrimonial nullity. Thus, it was desired to repeat the positive experience that the similar Instruction, Provida Mater, met with in 1936.
Both Instructions were published about 20 years after the respective Codes of Canon Law (1917 and 1983), not in order to compare the Codes with another legislative text nor, still less, to abrogate them, but merely to facilitate their consultation and application.” Quote from ADDRESS OF CARDINAL JULIAN HERRANZ
In regard to those who refer to themselves as gay, lesbian or homosexual, male or female, it must be made very clear from the start that there is a drastic difference between a person who is or believes them self to be homosexual and a person who enters into or remains in a homosexual relationship. Such relationships are intrinsically disordered as the Catholic Church states. The Catholic Church does NOT judge sinful a person for tendencies toward same sex attraction or temptations in them self, but stands firm that such tendencies and temptations must not be acted upon. Such would require abstinence in devotion to faith and love of God and His Word. In commenting on this subject, we will put aside the issue of whether homosexuality is physiological or psychological, as many have their own opinions. Opinions in this matter do not sway the Word of God throughout the Old Testament nor the Teachings of Christ in the New Testament in any way to justify a homosexual relationship. Such relationships are referred to as perverted acts in opposition to man’s nature as created by God, and supporting such a relationship is no more acceptable. To be Christian, one must realize it is no man’s place to judge another man’s soul, but it is a responsibility of every Christian to determine the sinfulness of the actions of others to determine and avoid accompaniment into sin. This is true regardless of which commandment or proclamation of God one may come in conflict with. No one knows what lies within a man’s heart but God. So what is the difference between a “homosexual person” and those in a homosexual relationship? Very simply, it is the same with every temptation. It is the act that is the sin, not the temptation.
Every human being has his or her flaws and weaknesses and every human being suffers temptations of various natures and degrees. For a person who is gay or of a homosexual nature, such is just that; a temptation, until entertained or acted upon. Someone who is gay has not committed any sin by the nature of their temptation any more than anyone else who has been subjected to temptations, and no human being is without weakness that they may not be tempted throughout their life. If a person feels tempted to speak ill against another person, ignore another person in need out of prejudice, tempted to harm another person in anger, tempted to enter into a promiscuous or perverse relationship with another, tempted to take part in internet based or other form of pornography, tempted to drink alcohol excessively, or abuse drugs, tempted to leave the scene of an accident, tempted to commit robbery or shop lift, or be subjected to any other temptation, have they committed that sin through their temptation? No; of course not.
No tendency or temptation is sinful without having willfully entertained or acted upon the temptation. By “entertain” we mean willfully sought to continue or fantasize in the thoughts of the acts in question. And because every man and women suffers from their own temptations, they can no more judge another based solely on the nature of a person’s temptations than they are to be subjected to man’s judgment for their own. It is for this reason no one has the right to pass judgment against any man who rejects their temptations in devotion to their morals, self respect, faith and love of God. And because no one knows what is in a man’s heart or mind without it being revealed to them, we can not know the true temptations of another as long as they refuse to give in to them. Whether one is a nurse, teacher, doctor, police officer, bus driver, day care worker, priest, minister, deacon, reverend, pastor or anyone else, any one may be subjected to homosexual tendencies and temptations. Each man has the right to overcome and control his or her personal temptations without being judged and chastised for them. On a daily basis, in regard to each person we come into contact with, especially those we rely upon in a professional way, how do we know their mind to judge them on their temptations and because we do not know their temptations, are they any more or less guilty of anything? If we rightfully recognize temptation in and of itself presents no guilt, they then are no different than anyone else, including ourselves. Perhaps it would be most beneficial for each Christian to think of his or her own innermost temptations and consider whether they would be as eager to be judged accordingly as they may have judged someone else. Hate the sin, love the sinner.
Same Sex Marriage
Some have defended the
legalization of “same sex marriage” by suggesting marriage
historically was not specific to partners of opposite genders, male and female.
Such defense is a reflection of desperation, especially for those who claim to
be Christian and live by their faith.
The religious elements of marriage are very important. The Bible
repeatedly compares the relationship between man and wife to that between God
“Because the marital
relationship offers benefits, unlike any other, to persons, to society, and to
the church, we wish to make it clear that the institution of marriage, as the
union of one man and one woman, must be preserved, protected, and promoted in
both private and public realms. At a time when family life is under significant
stress, the principled defense of marriage is an urgent necessity for the well
being of children and families, and for the common good of society.
Thus, we oppose attempts to grant the legal status of marriage to a relationship between persons of the same sex. No same-sex union can realize the unique and full potential which the marital relationship expresses. For this reason, our opposition to "same-sex marriage" is not an instance of unjust discrimination or animosity toward homosexual persons. In fact, the Catholic Church teaches emphatically that individuals and society must respect the basic human dignity of all persons, including those with a homosexual orientation. Homosexual persons have a right to and deserve our respect, compassion, understanding, and defense against prejudice, attacks and abuse.” (July, 1996, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)
A Sample of what Scripture attests:
Hebrews CH13; 4 Let marriage be honored among all and the marriage bed be kept undefiled, for God will judge the immoral and adulterers.
Romans CH1; 22 While claiming to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes. 24 Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, 27 and the males likewise (in the same manner) gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper.
Acts CH21; 25 As for the Gentiles who have come to believe, we sent them our decision that they abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from unlawful (Jewish law of pertaining to morality) marriage."
Acts CH15; 29 namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.'"
Sirach CH23; 18 And the man who dishonors his marriage bed and says to himself "Who can see me? Darkness surrounds me, walls hide me; no one sees me; why should I fear to sin?" Of the Most High he is not mindful, 19 fearing only the eyes of men; He does not understand that the eyes of the LORD, ten thousand times brighter than the sun, Observe every step a man takes and peer into hidden corners. 20 He who knows all things before they exist still knows them all after they are made.
Wisdom CH14; 24 They no longer safeguard either lives or pure wedlock; but each either waylays and kills his neighbor, or aggrieves him by adultery. 25 And all is confusion-blood and murder, theft and guile, corruption, faithlessness, turmoil, perjury, 26 Disturbance of good men, neglect of gratitude, besmirching of souls, unnatural lust, disorder in marriage, adultery and shamelessness.
As time has advanced, the Church has become more and more objectionable of the use of capital punishment. Its position is such that there are an ample number of alternatives available in these modern times to remove and control offenders and protect society from their individual threat without the necessity for imposing death. The Church calls upon all those of Christian faith to acknowledge and unite in their common moral decency in the love of God to turn away from supporting this practice of the justice system and support the implementation of other means available so that all may be recognized humanely and no man make the mistake of taking a life under misguided and unjust circumstances.
Every Christian recognizes no man or woman can be rightfully judged of his or her soul but by God. As man unto himself, we may judge the actions of others according to the threat they impose on society and do as is necessary to remove that threat. Beyond the point the threat has been removed it is then our Creator alone who may judge what man has no hand in creating. By the law itself, if a police officer witnesses a person commit the act of murder but was unable to intervene before the life was taken, that police officer may not use more force than is necessary to remove the threat of the criminal from further inflicting harm on anyone else. This means that if the criminal surrenders to the police officer, even though the officer may have witnessed the murder, the criminal may not be unjustly harmed or killed. This law reflects the judicial system’s awareness of the necessity of control of the use of deadly force even against the criminal. Once the threat is removed, such force is not justified and the police officer then becomes subject to the law. The courts can not prosecute such a criminal without evidence and the witnessing police officer in such a case would be key evidence. Yet, with so many alternatives to retain the control of the criminal and provide protection for society, in many states the courts may still impose the death sentence even while enforcing laws against excessive use of force by the very police officers sworn to protect society in its most threatened arena. If one takes the position that the courts have this right because the criminal retains the right to a fair trial before the death sentence may be imposed, one must realize the courts can not prosecute without the substantial evidence accumulated at the scene of the crime and the witnessing testimony of the police officer.
In reflecting on our own human weaknesses, we should always be mindful that there is the constant possibility of human error in conviction leaving the opportunity for a person of innocence to wrongfully suffer injustice through the death penalty, which is unacceptable knowing full well it is the intended taking of human life in itself. No human being, prosecutor, judge, juror, attorney, supporter, or otherwise, is free of error no matter how well educated or experienced they may be. Each individual including those who impose the penalty and those who perform the process take on the responsibility of that life they choose to take. In this day where government has become so far separated from the morality of God by way of the distorted and abused use of “separation of Church and state”; where the courts eliminate reference to God and our political representatives establish laws banning reference to our Creator, judges routinely proclaim after imposing the death penalty on a convicted person, the invocation, “may God have mercy on your soul”. As we take this imposition upon our hands, let us consider our souls as well, and for those who support and impose and perform the death penalty on others, let us pray also, “may God have mercy on our soul.” The following quotes and references are more suitable for the purposes of presenting the official stand of the Catholic Church.
“In recent years, there has been a growing trend among Christian writers and spokespersons to state that capital punishment is unnecessary in our society. This position has been taken by the Roman Catholic Bishops, the Episcopal Church, the Disciples of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Church of the Brethren, the United Baptist Convention, the Ministers Action Council of Delaware, Inc., and many others. As Christian leaders, we would like to add our voice to theirs in proposing that, whatever may be said about the state's right to exact the death penalty, the exercise of that right, in our opinion, no longer meets the needs of our present-day community.” (See the source at Statement on Capital Punishment issued by the Christian Council of Delaware and Maryland 's Eastern Shore)
2266 The State's effort to contain the spread of behaviors injurious to human rights and the fundamental rules of civil coexistence corresponds to the requirement of watching over the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime. The primary scope of the penalty is to redress the disorder caused by the offense. When his punishment is voluntarily accepted by the offender, it takes on the value of expiation. Moreover, punishment, in addition to preserving public order and the safety of persons, has a medicinal scope: as far as possible it should contribute to the correction of the offender.
2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not
exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of
the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable
way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.
"If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
"Today, in fact, given the means at the State's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender 'today ... are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”
“56. This is the context in which to place the problem of the death penalty. On this matter there is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. “
“It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”
The Catholic perspective is
that as a nation we are obligated to welcome those who wish to enter the
As a nation, the
Catechism of the Catholic
Church- CCC 2241 “The more prosperous
nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the
security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of
origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected
that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.”
This is by far not an open border policy that the Church is encouraging. Immigrants are bound by legal guidelines they must follow which in themselves are a reflection of their intent to abide by the society they wish to enter. Illegal immigrants are those who are not following or cooperating in the performance of these principles.
The five principles set forth
in the 2003 Joint Pastoral Letter issued by the Mexican and
In Solicitudo Rei Socialis, Pope John Paul II noted that solidarity imposes duties on the disadvantaged as well as the advantaged: “Those who are more influential, because they have a greater share of goods and common services, should feel responsible for the weaker and be ready to share with them all they possess. Those who are weaker, for their part, in the same spirit of solidarity should not adopt a purely passive attitude, or one that is destructive of the social fabric, but, while claiming their legitimate rights, should do what they can for the good of all.”
Can Catholics accept communion in a
Co-authored by participants of SDM
Catholics on occasion will attend Protestant worship services such as weddings and funerals as well as attendance at times with family members who are of a particular denomination. This is permitted by the Catholic Church with the understanding it is not a substitute for the required Sunday Mass. In addition, one can not partake of the communion presented in a protestant congregation if offered. For an in depth understanding of the reason behind this, one must first understand the unwavering beliefs the Catholic Faith teaches and maintains both through various passages of scripture as well as Canon Law. For it is through these beliefs and unquestionable trust in the Word of Jesus Christ that reflect our Catholic devotion. Founded in this recognition, there is only one Eucharist instituted by Our Lord, which is recognized to be a sacrament by the Catholic Church and only one teaching that even the distance of time can never change, that being the real presence of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in the communion elements. Here are but a few of the passages relating to this devotion rendering the Catholic faithful incapable of receiving communion under the offering of other pretenses as exemplified in other denominations:
Jesus said to them, “….Amen, amen, I say to
you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors
ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down
from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came
down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that
I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." The Jews quarreled
among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to
eat?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat
the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within
you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will
raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my
blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains
in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one
who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down
from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this
bread will live forever." These things he said while teaching in the
Ephesians CH4; 3 “striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: 4 one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”.
1 Corinthians CH1; 10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you; but that you be perfect in the same mind, and in the same judgment.
The Catholic faith has maintained throughout its lineage of over 2000 years the consecrated Eucharist consisting of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ can not be received by those in a state of sin or received “unworthily. As Scripture declares in 1 Corinthians CH11; 27-29 “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
Because Catholics believe this to be what is called "transubstantiation", they are likewise not able to receive communion in another denomination because this implies they accept the belief of that particular faith, which as we know is considered to only be representative of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.
If the Apostles were to believe and teach that the bread and wine are merely symbols representing the Body and Blood of Christ, it would then be completely inappropriate and inaccurate regardless of ancient language, to say we “participate in the Body and Blood of Christ”. Symbolic means to be a symbol of or representing something or someone that is not present. Therefore it is only rational and with common sense in making reference to such participation would then be in the commemoration or tribute to, not the participation directly in the Body and Blood of Christ. To say one participates in the Body and Blood of Christ as Scripture confirms, the true elements must be present. In the Protestant belief system, the elemental graces are considered present but the changing of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ do not occur as communion is not a sacrament, is not presided over by those individuals capable of changing the bread and wine (Catholic priest) and therefore again only regarded as representative or symbolic.
It would be irrelative for condemnation to be imposed against one for receiving only bread and wine unworthily. As warned in 1 Corinthians Chapter 11, “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord”. So why has Scripture declared such harsh warnings of condemnation against those knowledgeable of the true teachings of Christ regarding taking the Eucharist unworthily? Because Jesus’ proclamation was specific, intentional and unwavering that the Bread and Wine after His consecration was His Body and Blood of the New Covenant and as such the warning becomes extremely relative that consuming the Eucharist in a state of serious sin is the desecration of His Body and Blood. Such can not occur if only bread and wine were consumed.
Canon Law of the Catholic Church regarding the transmission of communion under all circumstances;
§2. Whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or of indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.
§3. Catholic ministers administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick licitly to members of Eastern Churches which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church if they seek such on their own accord and are properly disposed. This is also valid for members of other Churches which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition in regard to the sacraments as these Eastern Churches.
§4. If the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it, Catholic ministers administer these same sacraments licitly also to other Christians not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.
§5. For the cases mentioned in §§2, 3, and 4, the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops is not to issue general norms except after consultation at least with the local competent authority of the interested non-Catholic Church or community. (Note: to simplify the above subsections, only those Churches (Byzantine Orthodox for example) where the Sacrament is officially recognized the same doctrinally as in the Catholic Church or "the Apostolic See" as worded above and performed under the authority of Apostolic Succession. This restriction is not limited to but includes Churches of protestant denominations.)
Now addressing the cause that renders Catholics incapable of receiving communion offered within Protestant denominations, Protestant faiths in general do not accept the consecrated bread and wine as the true Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in communion regardless of faith or system of beliefs, but rather believe Christ only “meant it figuratively”. In their disbelief they offer their communion strictly as symbolic, although some consider it a means of the same graces.
Every Christian recognizes Jesus as the “Lamb of God”. He is the one sacrifice of all time that replaced the sacrificial lamb of the Passover. That Passover lamb had to be consumed and the blood separated and used to identify the faith of the Jews for their salvation by God’s order. When Jesus assumed His roll in human form as the salvific Lamb of God, through His covenant He declared it His own Body and Blood for our unquestioning faith and acceptance in His Word. Just as the Jews were ordered to eat the flesh of the Lamb, His flesh must be consumed in order that man attain freedom not from the Egyptians, but freedom from the holds of sin, our salvation, that we may “have life”, unlike the manna from heaven where man died. This life IS the life of salvation originating from the metabolic form of an earthly food of which He as God created from nothing as all things came to be created. Bread and wine no less a creation than man himself and it should not be too difficult to accept that the creator could take to Himself any substance and bring it into an extension of Himself for man’s salvation. Is it a test of Faith? Yes, but no less or more than a human being rising from the dead. For without accepting His body and Blood as Catholics believe, man would have no life in him. And this faith in His proclamation has been unchanged since the very 1st century recorded by the first Christians when Jesus walked the earth.
In conclusion then, for a Catholic to accept communion offered in any other form than through the sacrament of the Eucharist would be to personally and publically express acceptance to that form of presentation of the communion as offered symbolically rather than as the sacrament of the New Covenant in Jesus’ Body and Blood. As we see in scripture, even at that time there were those who did not accept this belief and walked away from Jesus rejecting His word unlike the 12 who without question trusted in the word of Christ when he said "This is my body and this is my blood." A Catholic receiving interfaith communion (not of the Catholic faith) also implies its symbolic presentation as an acceptable means of receiving Christ regardless of His word.
It has been declared since the inception of Christianity in the 1st century through the ancient records written by the students of the apostles themselves that to deny the real presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist is heresy. It must be noted, however, with the Reformation came many beliefs that denied the true presence and the separation in time of 500 years of Christian history has impacted many who not knowing better truly do not believe in the Eucharist as practiced by the Catholic Faith. These would be considered the "lost sheep" and the duty of those of the Catholic faith to continually pray for a reunification of all churches into the "one true church" founded by our Lord and Savior so they too can savor the blessings through the receiving of the Body and Blood of Christ.
"Closed Communion" is a general term more commonly used by many Protestant born faiths describing the position of the Catholic Church in regard to the dispensation of the Eucharist. The safeguarding of the dispensation of the Eucharist is and always has been of significant importance not directed against any one non-Catholic faith and certainly should not be taken as limited solely toward Protestant Christians alone by any means.
The significance of the protection provided to the Body and Blood of Christ in the consecrated Eucharist in Catholicism can only be understood by those who come to recognize its sacramental nature. Here we will attempt to offer some insight into the Catholic Faith and it’s recognition of the consecrated Eucharist so others may better understand the guardianship provided the Eucharist.
As the Catholic Church holds the responsibility through the commission of Christ to preach His word and provide the means that all may reach salvation through all of His sacramental gifts, it also remains sincerely concerned for those who deny the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ and for those who through lack of teaching do not know the severity of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily (1 Corinthians Chapter 11; v23-29).
The lack of understanding and the denial of the real presence of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in the Eucharist is the great wall that separates those who deny His real presence from those who have been baptized and confirmed in the teachings and faith in Christ through His Church. As long as one disbelieves and rejects the true essence of the Eucharist, that person will not comprehend the depth of grace possible in entering into oneness in Christ and Christ within them, let alone the seriousness of receiving it in denial, an unworthy state in itself. This is the reason for guarding the conveyance of the Eucharist from being offered to those who have not been baptized and confirmed in the Catholic faith. Although many Protestant denominations do not recognize the sacrament of reconciliation, it is by this very means the Church, empowered by Our Lord, may offer those sincerely repentant absolution in His name and through His Divine Mercy to return to a state of grace worthy to receive His Body and Blood in the consecrated Eucharist. Isn’t it revealing that some denominations are reconsidering the importance of these once rejected sacraments?
The Catholic priest is accountable for the dissemination of the consecrated Eucharist but also the safeguarding of the Eucharist from desecration and irreverence. Irreverence includes the denial of the Eucharist as the Body and Blood of Christ and accordingly renders a person in an unworthy state. As the ordained servant of our High Priest, Jesus Christ, the priest is fully accountable for the protection of the Body and Blood of Christ in its consecrated state. Those who may doubt the depth of such faith and devotion should come to know that over this last 2000 years there have been many priests and faithful Catholics who have been martyred for protecting the Eucharist from desecration by those in opposition to Christianity and the Catholic Church. There had never been an issue among Christians regarding the receiving of the Eucharist prior to the “reformation” because up to that time all Christians were only of the Catholic faith. There were no Protestant faiths claiming to be Christian.
The Catholic Church does not limit the distribution of the Eucharist because it wants to "hoard" it or keep salvation away from anyone although some who do not know Catholicism may suggest such fallacies and promote such misconceptions. The Eucharist is and always has been “the source, center and summit” of the Christian faith of which the entire mass is structured. Would any non-Catholic minister, pastor or congregant sacrifice their life embracing and withholding the Eucharist from desecration?
Prior to the reformation there was never a question as to the devotion to the protection of the Eucharist in regard to separate Christian belief systems because there were none and scripture itself opposes such division. As to who could receive the Body and Blood of Christ, it was for the faithful Christian believers baptized and confirmed in their one faith alone. There was only one teaching institution founded by Christ which is certain and one Christian faith to acknowledge in its beliefs, and that body of Christians was the Catholic Church with all of the sacraments provided together to confirm the faithful who could receive the Eucharist worthily and receive the most powerful of all graces through Jesus Christ.
For 2000 years this devotion to the Eucharist and unquestioned acceptance in the word of Jesus Christ remained unwavering. It was not and I stress this truth, it was not the Catholic Church that changed its position and suddenly stopped non-Catholics from receiving the Eucharist, nor was the Catholic Church formed during or after the “Protestant reformation”. It has always been as Scripture attests; that a person must be baptized and confirmed in this faith and through faith and trust in the word of Christ, acceptance given of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ substantially present in the Eucharist.
Jesus never offered the Eucharist to an open forum. He offered it to those He chose to be His ministers, only those present in the upper room. In the beginning, they alone were instructed to continue providing this means of life and salvation to the faithful believers of His Word (Luke CH10; v16). It was the apostles who knew Christ as the Son of God and Knew His unlimited power and divinity. When Jesus asked if they too would walk away the apostles reassured Him of their devotion and accepted Jesus at His word without question because they knew there was nothing He could not do. The apostles also recognized and demanded the necessity for worthiness when receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. It was they who were empowered by Jesus to forgive or retain sins in His name through the sacramental means of “Penance” or “Reconciliation” (John CH20; v21-23). Repentance at that time was performed to the elect in front of the many, not just a single representative of the Church as it is today. And it was the apostles who declared that all issues pertaining to faith and morality between Christians were to be brought to the Church for resolve, declaring the Church the "pillar of the Faith" (1 Timothy CH3; v13).
All of these previously mentioned provisions of faith were to be offered through the authority given the apostles by Jesus Christ; provided in His name through His one Church, one faith, so that all may be saved. Each of these sacramental gifts most notably the Eucharist had been validated within the written word all Christians acknowledge as "the Inspired Word of God", the Holy Bible. How then by any rational means could the “reformers” justify to themselves their changing the Eucharist to be acknowledged only symbolically when Scripture shows that those who refused to accept Christ’s proclamation walked away with absolutely no attempt on Jesus’ part to change His intended meaning? Perhaps because at that time those disciples who would not accept could not just “stay on” as disciples and change Christ’s meaning on their own claiming He intended it only symbolically as Protestantism has done. Obviously Jesus would not have tolerated that. Undoubtedly it is easier in the absence of Christ’s physical presence to modify His intent then it is to accept in faith what is beyond our human comprehension no matter how improper it may be.
The proclamation of Christ in Luke Ch22; v20, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you", shows the interwoven conformity between Himself as the Lamb of God and the living sacrifice required upon the Passover throughout the history of Judaism in the Old Testament. Every Semitic Covenant required a real living sacrifice to seal the covenant between God and man and the chosen people of God had to eat of the sacrifice. (Genesis CH15; v7-18 and Exodus CH24; v5-8), symbolism was inconceivable. As the Messiah offered His Blood during that Passover as the Blood of the New Covenant in the consecrated Eucharistic meal, Jesus became that real victim, the Lamb of God, as well as the Great High Priest who must offer the sacrifice providing the seal to the New Covenant in His blood.
During the last 400+ years Protestantism splintered and evolved into a practice promoting the flexibility of individual interpretations by claiming there was no need for the Church to interpret Scripture for anyone. They based their opinion on one of two most common scenarios; either not all things in Scripture pertain to each individual, leaving room to disregard those parts of scripture that conflicted with one’s personal interpretations, or one may dismiss or avoid what is clearly spoken and impart their own opinion on only selected verses adapting them to conform to what they could accept. Faith and trust in the sacraments including the Eucharist fell victim to the reformer’s liberality but the Church did not weaken its stand for the sake of popularity any more than Jesus did when the disciples walked away.
The fact is, the teachings of Christ in Scripture do not conflict with themselves. By maintaining ALL scripture in its entirety with the correct interpretations, one verse would not oppose but rather compliment another, properly expressing one complete accurate teaching in its fullness. Where there is a conflict between verses the interpreting person is incorrect in his or her opinion proving many Protestant interpretations to be inaccurate. If one were to step back and look at such liberal positions, it would be clear that these “reformed” opinions are merely a self-justifiable way to find a more comfortable system of beliefs to adopt disregarding the “faith requirements” considered too cumbersome to abide by. But we know that in truth, Scripture is clear that to refuse to accept any of Christ’s Word is to refuse acceptance of all of His Word.
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew CH7; 13-15)
"God is faithful: by whom you are called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you; but that you be perfect in the same mind, and in the same judgment." (1 Corinthians CH1; v9-10)
See also; (John CH10; v14-16) (Acts CH20; v28-30) (1 John CH2; v18-20) (John CH17; v18-21)
John Ch6; v53-66 clearly tells us that those who did not believe and would not accept Him by His Word walked away and Jesus made absolutely no attempt to clarify their way of thinking if He did mean symbolically and was being misunderstood. Does this sound at all like Jesus? No! At no time did He ever allow anyone to walk away due to their misunderstanding His Word. He always cleared their misunderstandings if misunderstandings existed as a result of His word. But this time clearly it was their lack of faith and trust in His word, not misconceptions that led them to walk away. When referring to His Body and Blood in every Scripture verse related to this proclamation, He consistently remained firm at His Word and meant exactly what He said never attempting to change His meaning or intent. And because they walked away, they were not receivers of His Body and Blood.
Let us look at just one of many quotes from the ancient writings of the Apostolic Fathers, those immediate successors to the Apostles. The following was written by Saint Ignatius of Antioch dated 105 AD in response to some who did not accept the real presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.. St. Ignatius was a personal student of the Apostle John and certainly knew the faith of the apostles on a personal level. According to historic texts, he later became an apostolic successor to the Bishopric of Antioch appointed by St. Peter.
“They abstain from the Eucharist and
from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and
which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak
against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes. But it were better for them to treat it with respect, that they
also might rise again. It is fitting, therefore, that you should keep aloof
from such persons, and not to speak of them either in private or in public, but
to give heed to the prophets, and above all, to the Gospel, in which the
passion [of Christ] has been revealed to us, and the resurrection has been
fully proved. But avoid all divisions, as the beginning of evils.” (Ignatious Of
Sadly, those today have no understanding of what they were led away from. Jesus never consecrated as His Body and Blood, any of the miraculous loaves and fishes when he multiplied them among the many thousands of followers on multiple occasions, nor did He consecrate the water changed to wine at Cana, yet had He intended the reception of His consecrated Body and Blood to be received unconditionally, what better time was there to provide it and disseminate His graces? When He instituted the Eucharist, it was upon the Passover, the day He kept as the Jews did and who never offered their Passover meal to anyone other than those who accepted it for what it represented. As Scripture attests (Luke CH22; v14-15), not only was the Passover upon them, but Jesus proclaimed this meal as the Passover meal. Jesus offered The Consecrated meal only among His disciples with His instructions as the High Priest to those who would be His new "Priests", His Presbyters. They were not permitted to do anything in going out and preaching the Word or offering the sacraments until they themselves received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. From there forward the Apostles transferred the Spirit of authority through the laying of Hands (sacrament of Holy Orders), even to Paul when He was recognized as worthy.
So it is with sincere hope it may be better understood that for 2000 years of Christian history the consecrated Eucharist has consistantly been acknowledged by the one and only Christian (Catholic) Faith known to man to span that time, to be the real presence of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. This acceptance based in faith and trust without question as it was by the apostles since the birth of Christianity. By further Scriptural attestation the Eucharist is only to be received by those in a worthy state, baptized and confirmed in the Faith and its teachings and free of serious sin with reverent recognition as the Body and Blood of Christ. The Eucharist has and always will be offered with the same safeguards never open to change under any circumstances. Such has been the Christian Faith up to the time of the “reformation” 1500 years after the establishment of the Church at which time it was the Protestant departure and their rejection of Jesus' real presence in the Eucharist that created this separation, not a change in faith or teachings of the Catholic Church. Today, those who have been raised in these “non-sacramental” beliefs have been separated too long to accept it without seriously looking into that history.
Through rational thought it should be highly questionable why any person establishing any other system of beliefs (an action in opposition to Scripture in itself) would claim that something believed to offer grace as a sacrament when received worthily producing further motivation of the faithful to follow Christ more devoutly, would not be a sacrament and unnecessary. One then should ask them self who then would stand to benefit from disbelief and rejection, and the reduced devotion that would be offered to Christ? This is not difficult to answer. But the issue of “closed” communion is answered in the history of Christianity, and as Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890), a convert from Protestantism to Catholicism, once said: "To read church history is to cease to be Protestant".
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