The Danger of Separating Discipline from Doctrine: Permitting
Divorced and Civilly Remarried Catholics to Receive Holy Communion
by Fr. William Moser
If the Church were to allow people to separate Church discipline from Church doctrine, the doctrine of faith from the practice of the faith – as is in the case of allowing the divorced and civilly remarried to receive Holy Communion– it would mean blessing hypocrisy; it would mean sanctioning that which our Lord Jesus strongly condemns.
What is Hypocrisy?
Jesus had some very strong things to say to hypocrites – very strong things indeed! Open your New Testament to the holy gospel of St. Luke and in chapter twelve you find Him saying: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Mt 12:3). Then turn to the holy gospel of St. Matthew in chapter twenty three, and you will find 7 “woes” cast at the hypocritical Pharisees. You get the idea that hypocrisy must be a very bad thing. So, what is hypocrisy? Hypocrisy means faking it essentially; it means making an appearance, feigning goodness while contradicting it in practice. The word hypocrisy is taken from the ancient Greek stage where actors put on a mask. On stage that is an appropriate thing to do, but in religion it is not.
Jesus strongly condemns doing religious things“to be seen by men.” (Mt 23:5). This covers the intention of not doing them sincerely when they are “hidden” from the eyes of others.
How Can We Contradict Our Lord?
It follows that hypocrisy is bad–very bad! Our blessed and divine Lord makes that abundantly clear. Then why is there all of this talk today about giving Holy Communion to people – even if by exception– who are living in various sinful states? Are we not in danger of blessing, ratifying, sanctioning what Jesus condemns? If our Lord, as a preface to His 7 “woes” cast upon the “Scribes and Pharisees,” says: “so practice and observe what they tell you, but not what they do for they preach, but do not practice.” (Mt 23:3). How can we contradict Him? He who is “the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus tells us, His present day disciples, also to do the opposite of the “Scribes and Pharisees”— the opposite of putting on a show of religion: proclaiming our beliefs but not sincerely intending to practice our faith.
How is it possible to tell anybody living in sin— in a state that is contrary to the law of God— that it is okay to receive Holy Communion? And to do the opposite of what that communion with the divine signifies? Holy Communion signifies union with our Lord Jesus Christ in belief and practice. This is why our mother the Church provides the sacrament of penance; so that those who are aware of grave sin and who are ready to repent, may confess and be absolved before they receive Him Who is the fruit of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Someone who is living in sin, who will not separate himself from an occasion of sin (by cohabiting for instance) may not even be able to receive absolution because he says thereby–living in sin—he doesn’t intend to change.
We Cannot Separate Doctrine from Discipline
Therefore, it follows that we cannot separate doctrine from discipline. I would even go on to say that “being pastoral”— quite contrary to present day thinking – means putting doctrine into practice faithfully despite the difficulties; otherwise, we would be guilty of hypocrisy. Separating doctrine from practice means blessing hypocrisy, making it acceptable. “Woe” to those people who dare propose such a contradiction of our divine Lord, Jesus Christ!
A Feminized Church Has Led Men To Become Disengaged From Her!
Tell us what you think! Has a feminized church led men to become disengaged?
By: Msgr. Charles Pope (with some editing)
When I was growing up, my father would often exhort me to “be a man.” He would summon me to courage and responsibility and to discover the heroic capacity that was in me. St. Paul summoned forth a spiritual manhood with these words: We [must] all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ (Eph 4:13ff).
If the ladies will pardon me (for women have their own sort of strength), I want to issue a special summons to men, especially fathers, husbands, and priests. The summons is simple: be a man. We need men in these dark days, men who will heroically speak and act, men who will announce the truth and insist upon it wherever they have authority, men who will stop being passive fathers and husbands, priests who will stop “playing it safe” by remaining silent in the moral storm. Yes, be a man.
It has often been observed that men are rather disengaged from the practice of the faith and attendance at the Sacred Liturgy. Frankly, there is a reason—not a politically correct one, but a reason nonetheless. Most of the men I talk to find the Church rather feminized. There is much talk in the Church about forgiveness and love, about receptivity and about being “nicer.” These are fine virtues, all of them necessary. But men also want to be engaged, to be sent into battle, to go forth and make a difference.
After years of radical feminism, men are shamed for seeking to take up leadership and authority in their families and in the Church. It starts early. Any normal boy is full of spit and vinegar, is aggressive, competitive, and anxious to test his wings. But many boys are scolded, punished, and even medicated for these normal tendencies. They are told to behave more like girls and to learn to be nicer and to get along, etc. It will be granted that limits are necessary, but the tendency for boys to roughhouse is normal. The scolding and “socializing” to more feminine traits continues apace into early adulthood. And then there are other cultural phenomena such as the slew of “Men are stupid” commercials, etc.
Though many in past decades have sought to describe the Church as “male-dominated,” nothing could be further from the truth. Most parish leadership structures are dominated by women. And women do fine work. But the Church has done a very poor job of engaging men as men and equipping them to be strong husbands, fathers, and priests. Virtues related to bold leadership and the effective use of authority are in short supply whereas other virtues such as collaboration, listening, empathy, and understanding are overemphasized.
This lack of balance, wherein traditionally manly virtues are downplayed—even shamed—has led many men to become disengaged from the Church.
Even as early as 1885, Pope Leo XIII saw coming a softness that was infecting the times. In a document aptly named (and using a word too many clergy and fathers are afraid to use) Quod Auctoritate, Pope Leo said:
You know the temper of the times—how many there are who love to live delicately and shrink from whatever requires manhood and generosity; who, when ailments come, discover in them sufficient reasons for not obeying the salutary laws of the Church, thinking the burden laid upon them more than they can bear . . . perils everywhere abound. The great virtues of our forefathers have in large measure disappeared; the most violent passions have claimed a freer indulgence; the madness of opinion which knows no restraint, or at least no effective restraint, every day extends further; [and yet among] those whose principles are sound there are many who, through a misplaced timidity, are frightened, and have not the courage even to speak out their opinions boldly, far less to translate them into deeds; everywhere the worst examples are affecting public morals; wicked societies which We ourselves have denounced before now, skilled in all evil arts, are doing their best to lead the people astray, and as far as they are able, to withdraw them from God, their duty, and Christianity . . . Therefore those who speak to the people should lay it down persistently and clearly that according not only to the law of the Gospel, but even to the dictates of natural reason, a man is bound to govern himself and keep his passions under strict control, and moreover, that sin cannot be expiated except by penance . . . In order therefore that Our teaching may sink into men’s minds, and what is the great thing, actually govern their daily lives, an attempt must be made to bring them to think and act like Christians, not less in public than in private.
Not a bad summons to heroic and public witness to the faith! Not a bad summons to manly virtues like sacrifice, strength, insisting on what is right, meeting perils toe-to-toe, courage, speaking out, self-control, and so forth. The Church used to speak more often in this way. Today there seems to be only the goal of not hurting or offending anyone.
The disengagement of men from the Church has come to mean that many Christian men are passive fathers and husbands. They have not matured in their faith but remain in a kind of spiritual childhood. They are not the spiritual leaders in their homes that Scripture summons them to be (cf. Eph 5). If they go to Church at all, their wives have to drag them there. They do not teach their children to pray, insist that they practice the faith, or read Scripture to them. Too often, they leave this for their wives to do.
Thankfully, many men do take up their proper role. They have reached spiritual manhood and understand their responsibilities in the Lord. They live courageously and are leaders. They are the ones first up on Sunday morning leading their families to Church and insisting on religious practice in the home. They initiate prayer and Scripture reading and are vigorous moral leaders and teachers in their families, parishes, and communities. They are willing to battle for the truth and to speak up for what is right.
You see, the Lord is looking for a few good men. Are you a Christian man? Have you reached spiritual manhood? This is not the kind of manhood that comes merely with age. It comes when we pray, hear, and heed Scripture and the teachings of the Church. It comes when we live the faith courageously and summon others to follow Jesus without compromise. It comes when we speak the truth in love and live out the truth. It comes when we fear God and thus fear no man, for when we are able to kneel before God we can stand before any human threat.
Originally posted at: blogadw.org
“Is Love Genderless Thing?”
by Rev. Stephen V. Hamilton,
Fr. Stephen V. Hamilton
Psalm 23 tells us of the work of the Lord who shepherds us. And it gives us insight also into the work of shepherds who continue the work of Jesus in ministry. The psalm told us this about the shepherd: “Beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul. He guides me in right paths.” Scripture indicates repeatedly that sheep need a shepherd. They wander. They get lost. They venture into danger and places that are not good for them. A shepherd is needed to lead to “right paths.” Scripture and Jesus himself use this imagery to describe the guidance our souls need to stay on the right path leading to Heaven. This is a challenge for modern ears. We sort of find it endearing that we are sheep of a flock. But that attitude can rapidly change when a shepherd actually calls us away from the wrong paths that are celebrated in secular society. In other words, the shepherd is usually appreciated when he calls himself a shepherd. But he might meet resistance when he actually shepherds.
“Gay Marriage,” How Did We Get Here?
With this in mind, I am going to venture into a difficult topic. I want to speak about the development four weeks ago that same-sex marriage is now legal in Oklahoma. More precisely, what I hope to focus our thoughts on is NOT gay marriage itself but rather the deeper question of how we got here, how we arrived at this day. Anytime I speak on a difficult or charged topic I always find it necessary to state clearly that it is not my intention, it is not in my heart, to offend, but to be a shepherd guiding into right paths. By the time I conclude I hope you will see that my remarks are directed to everyone and not only to those who identify with same-sex attraction. It is important to state here: We must always show compassion to those who identify with same-sex attraction. The self-righteousness that would shun or shame such persons is not of God. The empty moralizing that would make a person’s dignity dependent upon a heterosexual orientation is not what the Church teaches. We do not condone homosexual actions but we must always exercise patience and understanding to help carry the burdens of those who need our support in a struggle over sexual orientation. Hatred directed toward a person who identifies as gay has no place in the life of the Christian. If we do not walk with such persons, if we shun them, in what sense can we claim to be Christ’s Body?!
Love is a Genderless Thing.
The day after same-sex marriage became legal in our State the Oklahoman ran an article in which a prominent metro-area Protestant pastor was quoted saying, “Love is a genderless thing. Love is the same whether a man marries a woman, or a man marries a man, or a woman marries a woman. It is the same” (Oklahoman, “At church ceremony, 14 couples recite vows,” 7 October 2014, page 3A). Reading that quote I found myself asking, Is that true? In what sense is love genderless?
That statement is true IF we are speaking of God. The First Letter of St. John says, “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). God is complete being itself. He is not limited to one gender. We use personal pronouns for God, but we do not in any way mean that God is male or female. The pastor’s words seem to make sense then. But was he speaking of the reality of God when he said, “Love is a genderless thing?” No!
Next, try to imagine ‘love’ as a thing in and of itself. In other words try to imagine the reality expressed by the word ‘love.’ The concept of ‘love’ is without gender. Consider love of a family member or love of one’s country. The reality being expressed by the word ‘love’ does not itself have a gender. The pastor’s words seem to make sense then. But was he speaking of the concept of love as a thing in and of itself when he said, “Love is a genderless thing?” No!
Let’s remember: The pastor was speaking specifically about the context of marriage when he uttered that remark. So, I am left to ask: What can “love is a genderless thing” possibly mean when we are discussing the incarnate, in-the-flesh love between human beings who are, in fact, embodied as a gender – male and female? Can such a statement possibly be true when used in the context of that union whose very purpose is to bring two bodies together?
Gender Influences Your Whole Life
Consider your own gender. My being male influences my whole being. Everything I do is in some sense influenced by being male. In that sense, it can reasonably be said of the things I do that “A male person did that.” Gender is not strictly compartmentalized from the rest of the aspects of my life; rather, it influences my whole life. Gender influences our whole being and is part of how we live and move and express ourselves through our body. And when we speak of sexuality and sexual activity, how much more clearly is gender involved? When a human being loves, and especially loves another person, that is an embodied act of the whole person. Now, that love does not have to be genitally sexual, but it is in fact engendered because it is a human being, male or female, who loves. Christianity believes a truth that secular society rejects, namely, that the body is important. What we do in it, and with it, and through it matters. It matters for life on earth. It matters for our judgment and for eternity. St. Paul writes: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body” (2 Cor. 5:10). Jesus’ Resurrection – in the Body! – shows us the body’s value. The body is not some meaningless vehicle, tossed away once our life on earth ends. It wasn’t so for Jesus. And it isn’t for us. Jesus took the resurrected Body into heavenly life. After death, our resurrection will mean our souls are reunited with our bodies such that we enjoy transformed bodily life in Heaven or suffer loss through bodily life in Hell. We will experience heaven or hell in the body. That’s our faith in resurrection.
How did Gender get Separated from Love?
So, how did we arrive at a point in society when a patently false statement like that pastor’s can be uttered and seemingly accepted? How did gender get separated from love? How did the power of gender to generate life become separated from love? Remember the context here is marriage. So, if sexual love in marriage doesn’t require gender then it has no meaningful connection to the natural design for procreation and for the generation of human life. If sexual love has no meaningful or necessary connection to procreation, then what remains for love between two human beings? What remains is purely physical gratification and whatever mutual support the partners decide to settle for. If love is nothing more than physical gratification of two people then truly gender doesn’t matter. But, I ask you, is THAT what love is in a human sexual context? Is that what love is in your marriage? I don’t think so. And since marriage is precisely the context, then the pastor’s words are absolutely false. Furthermore, the words are morally dangerous since a pastor guided people down wrong paths. His words are shown to be false by observing the Natural Law, that is the order visible in creation and the order clearly present in sexual love, which shows it to be made for the mutual complementarity of the genders, male and female. His words are shown to be morally dangerous because, among many reasons, they contradict scriptural teaching that what we do in the body matters both for our flourishing here and for our salvation.
Contraception, Let’s not be Naïve Here.
All of this falsehood has been allowed to spread because heterosexual love has been willfully stripped of its meaningful and necessary connection to procreation. The prevalent use of contraception has made it possible to separate the intrinsic order of human sexual love. Let’s not be naïve here. Contraception hides under labels of ‘responsibility,’ and ‘safe,’ and ‘protection.’ But, in fact, what it is primarily about is separating what God joined together in sexual love to be shared by the two genders. God joined in sexual love the good of spousal unity (or bonding) and the good of procreation (or babies). I think we need to admit what has happened in society here. Those advocating same-sex relations and same-sex marriage are in some sense reflecting what they see in the practices that are so prevalent among heterosexual couples.
It’s as if they are saying to heterosexuals, “Well, if you can opt whenever you want for a sterile love, one not connected to the baby-making power of the genders, then why can’t we opt for that too? If you can opt whenever you want only for the gratification part of love, then why can’t we opt for that too?”
The World Needs the Witness of Your Total Self-giving Love
And here is where I hope you hear that my words are not primarily about those in same-sex relations or marriage. Rather, my words are more for heterosexuals in marriage. The world needs you to resist the disorder that is introduced into human sexual love when contraception is practiced. Sexual love is disordered when its God-designed meaning to bond the spouses and to generate babies is willfully separated by contraception or other means. And so to you who are called to live a holy vocation in Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony I say: the world needs the witness of your total self-giving love. The world needs your witness of trust in God’s design for love that is expressed when heterosexual love is lived in a fully human way to bond you to your spouse and to bond you to a son or a daughter who embodies your love. And so the right path I want to shepherd you along today is to recognize the desperate need the Lord has for you to live your marital love in a fruitful way.
The Spiritual Malpractice of Shepherds
For many of you there have been sins in the past. You may have been swept up in the contraceptive message of society and in what I will call the spiritual malpractice of shepherds who remained silent or who gave false advice. If that is the case, then repent. Have no fear! The Lord loves us and heals us in his mercy in the confessional. If your fertile years are past and you feel guilty about past decisions. Then help the next generation. Offer sacrifice and penance for yourself and for them. Be an apostle for the full meaning of marital love and speak to your children and to your grandchildren, to anyone who will listen, and call them to a meaningful expression of human love that respects the order established by God. If you are still in your fertile years, learn Natural Family Planning and reverence God’s place in your marital love. If you are young and looking ahead to marriage, then practice discipline in chastity now, and recognize that when you marry you need to be ready to have babies. If you aren’t ready for babies then you aren’t ready for marriage. You who are called to live an engendered love are the hope to return society to our moorings of respect for spousal love that will help all people truly flourish. Come Lord Jesus, shepherd us in right paths!
by Fr. Stephen V. Hamilton
Bishop James Conley, “Catholics have an obligation to vote.”
Bishop Conley: “Voting Helps Protect the Unborn, the Family,
the Poor, and the Freedom of Conscience”
Courageous Priest News Flash: Happy All Saints Day! I am giddy like a little school boy, our family is going to visit the grave site of Servant of God Augustus Tolton, the first African American priest in the United States. Please don’t forget to visit the graveyards, you may receive plenary indulgences for the Holy Souls until November 8th.
We are proud to announce that we are teaming up the with Conception Abbey Printery Press. By doing so we will share in the apostolic labors of the monks of Conception Abbey. They will be sponsoring our posts from now until Christmas. We will be featuring Christmas Cards, scented soaps made by the nuns, Nativities, and Keepsake Religious boxes.
We also plan on doing the Christmas Calendars again. More to come on that hopefully in the next week.
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By Bishop James D. Conley: Southern Nebraska Register
Election Day is a reminder of our obligation to one another—our obligation to support the common good, and to build a civilization of love.
Voting is a civic duty.
Sadly, many Catholics in our state do not vote on Election Day. I don’t understand why. I have never missed voting in an election ever since I reached voting age. Even during my 12 years of living in Rome, I never missed voting in an election year through an absentee ballot. Voting is a means of expressing our hopes for our communities, a means of pursuing justice, and of building a culture of life. Voting is a means to help protect the unborn, the family, the poor, and the freedom of conscience and faith in public life. Voting is a civic duty. It seems to me that not voting, unless there are very grave reasons to abstain, is a sin—and when we fail to vote for reasons no better than apathy or forgetfulness, we ought to confess that.
Whenever possible, Catholics have an obligation to vote—particularly when critical issues are at stake. Today, in our country, critical issues are certainly at stake. Abortion remains our national shame. Our failure to protect the unborn is a failure of the highest magnitude. The right to life is the foundational human right.
Religious people are being systematically marginalized in public life, in business, and in schools. The sanctity of marriage as we have always known it, is being undermined. The family, and the right of children to have mothers and fathers, is under attack.
And the dignity of the poor, whom we are called to love zealously, is often undermined by policy initiatives and greed.
We are connected to every single member of our community—living or dead. We ought to pray for them. And we ought to do all that we can to build a culture of justice, of liberty, and a culture of life.
Bishop James D. Conley
Bishop Tobin, “Abortion is a sin, and those who provide it, promote it,
and support it will be held accountable by Almighty God”
The Gospel of life must be proclaimed, and human life defended in all places and all times. The arena for moral responsibility includes not only the halls of government, but the voting booth as well. (American Bishops, “Living the Gospel of Life”)
by Bishop Thomas Tobin: Prior to the recent primary election I received a heartfelt letter from a member of the Diocese who had just discovered that the candidate for whom she had intended to vote was “pro-choice and for same-sex marriage.” She wrote: “Dear Bishop Tobin, for whom do I vote? Do I vote at all?”
I responded to my letter-writer that it wasn’t appropriate for me to suggest candidates for whom she should or shouldn’t vote, but that it was important for her to become well-informed about the candidates and their positions, pray about it, and then vote according to her well formed conscience. I told her that I often faced the same dilemma. I also sent her a copy of the American Bishops’ document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” that places in a broader context some of these important political decisions.
Bishop Thomas Tobin
It’s a real problem that many faithful Catholics face these days – how to vote when all of the candidates are pro-abortion. (Candidates euphemistically call it “pro-choice” but it’s really a stance that enables and promotes abortion, isn’t it?)
The dilemma is more excruciating when the candidates profess to be lifelong Catholics. As I said in my recent statement about Catholic politicians and abortion, “It is always disappointing when a Catholic candidate for political office abandons the teaching of the Church on the dignity of human life for the sake of self-serving political gain. Such actions demonstrate an inexcusable lack of moral courage . . . Abortion is a sin, and those who provide it, promote it, and support it will be held accountable by Almighty God for the unjust death of unborn children.”
What a pathetic spectacle Catholic candidates present when, having to choose between Planned Parenthood and the Catholic Church, they choose Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in our nation. Do these candidates have no respect for the religious heritage of their parents and grandparents? Have they no appreciation for the sacraments, the solid education, the communal support, and the moments of comfort and guidance the Church has provided for their family over many generations? And I wonder – when in the future these candidates are in need of prayers and blessings, the Last Rites of the Church, and then finally funeral services – will they turn to Planned Parenthood or the Catholic Church to stand by their side?
The Bishops’ document to which I’ve already referred gives some guidance in these questions. It explains, first of all, the importance of the virtue of prudence. “The Church fosters well-formed consciences not only by teaching moral truth, but also by encouraging its members to develop the virtue of prudence. Prudence enables us to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it.” (#19)
The Bishops then get a little more specific about voting. “Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. That is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience.” (#34) And this: “When all the candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma.” (#36)
And that brings us back to the question posed by my letter writer: “Bishop Tobin, for whom do I vote?”
If we distill the guidance of the Church, it seems to me that when no candidate presents an acceptable position, especially about critical moral issues like abortion, the voter has three options.
3 Voting Options When Both Candidates Support Abortion
The first is to choose the candidate who, in traditional terms, is the lesser of two evils. Let’s just say, for example, that one candidate promotes an extreme position on abortion, welcomes the endorsement of and eagerly embraces the evil agenda of Planned Parenthood, supports partial-birth abortion, and disdains the sincere convictions of pro-lifers; and another candidate would restrict abortion in some circumstances, opposes taxpayer funding of abortions, and is willing to work with and respect pro-lifers – a voter might properly choose the second candidate even though the position is flawed.
Secondly, as a kind of protest, a voter could decide to write-in the name of someone who represents pro-life values. In this scenario, one might vote for St. John Paul, Pope Francis, Mother Teresa, or our own local pro-life hero, Baby Angela! Even though this person surely wouldn’t be elected to office, a vote in that direction would send a clear signal that at least some voters won’t settle for anything less than a pro-life candidate. Contrary to what critics will charge, it’s not a wasted vote; it’s a sincere expression of conscience that upholds moral truth. And that’s never a waste!
Finally, a voter might well decide to skip this year’s election and not vote at all, or at least not vote for a particular office. Although Catholics have a general moral obligation to participate in the life of our nation, there are many ways to do that, and there’s certainly no obligation to vote in each and every election, particularly when the options are repugnant to the well-informed conscientious Christian voter.
I know, it’s a tough time to be a moral, pro-life voter. The field is narrow and the options are few. But, vote according to your conscience, pray for our state and nation, and sleep well. Remember,
God’s still in charge!
It Starts with the So-called “Sexual Revolution”
The State of Marriage in Society
“Augustinian goods” of marriage – permanence (bonum sacramenti), fidelity (bonum fidei) and openness to offspring (bonum prolis). It is these three bona, goods of marriage, that distinguish marriage from any other type of relationship, and identify what it is in nature and define what it is in the law.
Considered in this light, it becomes clear that the current crisis of marriage of which we are all painfully aware has really been going on in our society for a very long time. This latest debate about the very definition of marriage is simply the next logical – albeit thus far most radical – step in the redefinition of marriage in the social consciousness. That is, marriage has already been redefined in the culture, and the law is now beginning to reflect that. Looked at from the standpoint of the three goods of marriage, we can see how this banalization of the concept of marriage has been going on for at least the last fifty years, that is, since the so-call “sexual revolution” of the 1960’s. Just consider:
The 3 Stages of the Destruction of Marriage
Permanence: There is no question that the widespread acceptance of no fault divorce dealt an extremely severe blow to the concept of marriage as a life-long commitment. This already redefined marriage as an adult-centered institution based on what the adults look to get out of it. To put it in the terminology that comes to us from the teaching of St. John Paul II, this is the quintessential “utilitarian” norm: one person becomes the means to another person’s end. When the needs of one are no longer being met by the other, the basis of the relationship is gone and the disappointed party can legally back out of it, even against the wishes of the other spouse who wishes to keep the marriage together. Perhaps you, as I, have known people who have been severely harmed by this decision – they wanted to stay in the relationship and keep it working while the person’s spouse simply backed out and filed for divorce. Now, if we add to this the now almost universally accepted practice of cohabitation outside of marriage, and recognize how easily couples move in and out of relationship, whether it’s cohabitation or marriage, we can see that there is not really that much difference the popular mentality ascribes to those who are married and to couples who are not.
Fidelity: Certainly widespread promiscuity does violence to the idea of marriage as a commitment of exclusive fidelity. Commonplace cohabitation also contributes to the loss of the sense of fidelity as one of the defining goods of marriage, even if, of the three, this one does still have some resonance in the popular culture, at least as an ideal. The social changes that erupted fifty years ago also eventually saw such aberrant practices as so-called “open marriages” and “swinging.”
Offspring: We are now witnessing the phenomenon, until recently inconceivable, of couples marrying with the intention of not have any children at all. Remember “DINKS”? With contraception and then – necessarily, given the mentality – abortion, sex has become redefined, no longer understood as procreative and unitive, but seen rather as a means for pleasure. Thus, we have here again the utilitarian norm: the other person becomes a means to an end, rather than an end in themselves. Because the concept of sex has now become disconnected from procreation and, in turn, from marriage, motherhood today is seen as a matter of choice and increasingly a lifestyle choice. We hear absurd things such as, “just because she chose to be a mother doesn’t mean I chose to be a father.” Or the woman who says, “I don’t know how I got pregnant, it wasn’t supposed to happen.” (I have actually heard this one myself!)
When the choice to have a child is simply a lifestyle choice . . .
When the choice to have a child is simply a lifestyle choice, then increasingly it is seen as a means to fulfillment separated from marriage, for the sake of the adult making the choice, with roles of motherhood and fatherhood becoming interchangeable. Just last Sunday the New York Times had a front-page article on surrogacy, “wombs for hire,” whether the couples are same-sex or opposite sex. And what if the couple decides later they do not want to have the child, but the surrogate mother wants to keep the child and is willing to raise the child herself? As you may know, this has happened, and the surrogate mother was forced to abort the child against her will. What could be a more blatant and outrageous example of a child being treated as an object of desire, a means to an end, rather than a gift of equal value and dignity to the adult and worthy of unconditional self-giving love – what St. John Paul calls the “personalistic norm”?
Sadly, this sort of thing isn’t new. When I was working in Rome – already this was in the late 1990’s – I remember walking past what was obviously a feminist bookstore. And this was just a few blocks from the Vatican, very close to the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. And there proudly displayed in the window was a book with the title, “Self-Insemination.” I thought to myself, “How ironic. When I was young and ‘women’s lib’ was in full force, the question that women who were with the spirit of the times would ask themselves was, ‘How can I do it without getting pregnant?’ Now the question they ask is, ‘How can I get pregnant without doing it?’”
When the two ends of marriage become not only separated from each other but irrelevant,
it’s nowonder that many people cannot make a distinction between heterosexual
and same-sex relationships, or between marriage and cohabitation for that matter.
So, you can see how all of this has whittled away at the three defining goods of marriage, and therefore at the very concept of marriage itself. No fault divorce was, especially, the pivotal moment, for that put into the law the idea that marriage is for the gratification and benefits of adults and not about the needs and rights of children. But ultimately it can all be traced back to the contraceptive mentality, which is nothing more than the utilitarian norm applied to sexual relations.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades: Notre Dame Extending Benefits to Same-Sex Spouses
by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Today’s Catholic News
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades
Last week, I and the other Bishops of Indiana expressed our disappointment with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on October 6th not to review Indiana’s appeal of the court ruling that the prohibition of so-called “same-sex marriage” is unconstitutional.
The Church continues to oppose the redefinition of marriage to include two persons of the same sex since such redefinition denies the truth and reality of what marriage is: the lifelong partnership between one man and one woman ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. In God’s plan, sexual difference is essential to marriage. Marriage is a unique form of love and commitment, a “communion” in which “the two become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
The Church believes that homosexual persons are certainly equal in dignity to heterosexual persons. The Church teaches that “every sign of unjust discrimination in regard to homosexual persons should be avoided” (CCC 2358). Not allowing two persons of the same sex to marry is not unjust discrimination. The “right to marry” is the right to enter into a relationship that is unique and rooted in a nature that includes sexual difference.
I and many others have been worried about the many possible threats to our religious freedom as a result of the redefinition of marriage. Changing the legal definition of marriage may threaten the liberty of the Church and our institutions in numerous ways. One example could be the government forcing religious institutions to extend any special spousal benefits they afford to actual marriage to “same-sex marriage” as well. This past week, the University of Notre Dame decided “to extend benefits to all legally married persons, including same-sex spouses,” since “the law in Indiana now recognizes same-sex marriages” (quotes from public statement issued by Notre Dame).
Many have asked for my opinion on this decision of the University of Notre Dame. I must admit my uncertainty at this time about the legal implications of Indiana’s law for our Catholic institutions. Notre Dame believes that the law requires the university to extend the legal benefits of marriage to “same-sex married couples” in its employ. I would like to see further study of what the law requires as well as what religious liberty protections Notre Dame and our other Catholics institutions have so as not to be compelled to cooperate in the application of the law redefining marriage. Our Indiana Catholic Conference is studying these issues.
In announcing its decision to extend benefits to “same-sex spouses,” I am glad that Notre Dame affirmed that as a Catholic university, it “endorses a Catholic view of marriage,” though I would say that Catholic teaching on the heterosexual nature of marriage is more than “a view.” The heterosexual nature of marriage is an objective truth known by (right) reason and revelation. As a Catholic university, it is important that Notre Dame continues to affirm its fidelity to Catholic teaching on the true nature of marriage as a union of one man and one woman. I have communicated to Notre Dame my conviction that this affirmation should also include efforts to defend the religious liberty of our religious institutions that is threatened in potentially numerous ways by the legal redefinition of marriage, including the government forcing our Catholic institutions to extend any special benefits we afford to actual marriage to same-sex “marriage” as well. I have asked the Notre Dame administration to work together with the Indiana Catholic Conference on these efforts.
Living in conformity with our Catholic teaching that marriage by its nature is between one man and one woman needs religious liberty protection so we are not forced to treat same-sex unions as equivalent to marriage. Just as it is not unjust to limit the bond of marriage to the union of one man and one woman, the Church teaches that “it is not unjust to oppose granting to homosexual couples benefits that in justice belong to (true) marriage alone” (USCCB, “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination”). It is important that this not be interpreted as an attitude of intolerance or bigotry against homosexual persons. The Church strongly upholds the human dignity of homosexual persons while also strongly upholding the truth about marriage. The Church affirms that “persons with a homosexual inclination have the same basic rights as all people” (ibid). The Bishops of the United States, in the Pastoral letter “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan,” stated the following:
Basic human rights must be afforded to all people. This can and should be done without sacrificing the bedrock of society that is (true) marriage and the family, and without violating the religious liberty of persons and institutions.
I wish to extend my own commitment as bishop to all persons in the Church with a homosexual inclination, especially to your pastoral care and growth in holiness. Our Courage groups in Fort Wayne and South Bend exist to help you in this growth. All of us have the vocation to love. This vocation is lived not only through the vocation of marriage, but also through chaste friendships. I hope you know the Church’s love for you. You are our brothers and sisters in Christ. I encourage you to persevere in your faith within the Catholic community as together we strive to be faithful disciples of Jesus.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades
What is Wrong if Everyone is Doing It?
Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB
- The Cohabiting Facade
This is a topic that is long overdue. It deals with a problem that is all too prevalent among Catholic young couples today, and that is the problem of cohabitation. It is estimated nationwide that 80 percent of young couples who ask to be married within the Church are already living together. There are still others cohabitating who never ask to be married.
This is not God’s plan for young couple; far from it. Young couples feel strong pressures from their peers and from the dominant culture to begin their sex lives early. Some say they did not intend for this to happen, but they were caught in the current that pulled them in this direction. That is where they drifted.
There is a vast difference between God’s plan for marriage, spousal love and family and what our contemporary culture thinks. We all know that morality is not determined by opinion polls, trendsetters, or cultural elites. Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it. Right is right, even if nobody is doing it. One, on the side of the right, is a majority. God alone determines the moral order, what is right and what is wrong. God alone designs such basic human realities as human nature, marriage, spousal love and family.
If our young people think that cohabitation is morally acceptable because everyone is doing it, and they have not heard anything to the contrary from the pulpit, then I want to correct that. As an ordained priest, God demands that I teach His plan for marriage, spousal love and family. As my parishioners, you have a right to hear clear and unconfused teaching from this pulpit about God’s plan for us. And I hope that you will help bring this message to cohabitating couples.
What is wrong with cohabitation, and why save sex for marriage?
The best way to answer this is to explain what marriage is, because that is what most young people are preparing themselves for. Marriage is God’s plan for the vast majority of people.
Marriage is a lifetime commitment. When a man and a woman fall in love, and want to share their lives completely with one another, then they begin to move towards an engagement and then to the sacrament of marriage. Marriage requires total commitment, total offering of self to the other, and a willingness to share together whatever the future holds for them. It is “until death do us part.” And marriage demands total fidelity. Jesus’ love for his bride, the Church, and the Church’s love for her spouse, is the model for all Christian marriage.
If you are not married, then you are not ready for the great act of marriage, called the marital act, or the spousal act. Outside of marriage you can have a sexual act, but you cannot have a marital act. Outside of marriage we call sex fornication or adultery. These are serious violations of God’s plan for sex. They are serious sins against the Sixth Commandment that must be repented of and confessed.
Why is the marital act reserved only to husbands and wives in marriage?
Fr. Matthew Habiger
What I say here about a man can be said equally of a woman. Because marriage transforms, or changes, the man from being a single and unattached bachelor to become a husband who is totally committed to the woman who has become his wife. A husband is a man who has vowed to love his wife all the days of his life, in good times and bad times, in health and in sickness, for better or for worse. This marriage vow is irrevocable. It is a bond upon which God has placed his blessing. This is God’s plan for marriage.
The husband and wife begin a new life together, which is their marriage. Their relationship is uniquely theirs. They share themselves, their love, their hopes for the future, and their disappointments at a depth they cannot share with anyone else. They enter into what are called the goods of marriage: 1) total fidelity in their relationship as a married couple throughout their lives; 2) the gift of the child; and 3) a special access to God’s grace, called their sacrament of marriage.
Only a man and a woman who have capacitated themselves, who have made themselves suitable, by their conscious choice of making an irrevocable commitment to marriage, are capable of entering into the marital act. Only spouses can share fully in the various goods of marriage: fidelity, children and the sacrament. Unless and until you have become a spouse, you cannot act as a spouse. If you are not married, it is wrong to pretend that you are married.
The marital act, as God designed it, has a predetermined meaning. In the spousal act the couple open themselves totally to the goodness of love and to the goodness of life. This is what the marital act expresses and what it accomplishes, as God designed it. Each spouse makes the total personal gift of self to the other. This is a total personal gift of self: no conditions, no reservations, and nothing held back. This, of course, includes their fertility. The marital act is a renewal of their love for each other, a renewal of their marriage covenant and an affirmation of their family.
The marital act is always open to the goodness of life, to the great gift of the child. Love and life always go together. Love is never sterile. Love is always open to the goodness of life. In their marital love, the couple reflects something of the Love of God, something of our God who is both the Author of all love and of all life. A married couple must never deliberately choose to turn against the goodness of life, to consider their fertility to be a curse instead of a blessing. That is the great evil of contraception and sterilization.
If a married couple does not have children within a couple of years, they begin to feel that something very important in their relationship is missing. They are missing the precious gift of a uniquely new human being, their son or daughter, who is the fruit of their love. But every child has a right to be conceived by an act of love between his father and his mother, to be called into existence by dedicated parents who will love him or her, and be committed to provide a secure home for the next twenty years. Children rely upon committed parents. The well being of children rests upon the strong marriage of their parents, and the strength of their loving relationship.
In simple language, sex and babies go together. If you are not ready for babies, then you are not ready for sex. And today it takes at least 18 to 20 years to bring a baby to his or her adult life.
This is God’s plan for marriage, spousal love and family. It is a magnificent plan, and it is within the grasp of everyone who chooses to accept that plan and draw upon all the helps God provides to make it possible.
Save sex for marriage. That is its only proper home. Outside of marriage, having sex is pretending to be someone you are not. Fornication does not build a strong relationship. There is so much missing from a relationship built upon cohabitation. Cohabitation is a very flimsy construct. Many of them fall apart. Many cohabiters who marry fall into divorce. Their sense of commitment has been crippled. Women deserve men who are deeply committed to them. Children deserve parents who are deeply committed to them.
There are many natural reasons why cohabitation does not work, does not bring lasting happiness. You should already know these. I am concentrating upon the most important reason why cohabitation is wrong. It is wrong because it directly violates God’s plan for marriage, spousal love and family.
5 Ways to Stop Cohabitation
Now, if you are caught in the trap of cohabitation, what can be done to correct the situation and repair the damage? Let me briefly set out some sound recommendations.
1) Start learning about God’s plan for marriage, spousal love and family. Ask your pastor for some good literature on this. Read what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about marriage. Strengthen your prayer life, and use the Sacraments regularly, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist.
2) Begin to acquire the virtue of self-possession, of self-control, the virtue of chastity. This is a task that everyone must master, and there are no exceptions. Even in marriage you will need to draw upon this virtue. Periodic abstinence is part of natural family planning, which is the only morally acceptable way of spacing pregnancies.
3) Make separate living arrangements with you partner. Since you are not married, it is wrong to pretend that you are married.
4) If you plan to marry each other, then go through the normal steps that lead to making a permanent commitment in marriage. This means taking a full marriage preparation course. It means learning the basic dynamics that go into building a strong relationship between two imperfect, and very complex, persons of complementary sexuality.
5) I strongly recommend that you take the full course in Natural Family Planning. More and more dioceses are mandating this for all couples taking marriage preparation.
When you have done all these things, then you will be ready for marriage, ready to enjoy all the various goods of marriage, and ready to shoulder the serious responsibilities that accompany this vocation in life.
God wants all couples, including cohabitating couples, to discover his wonderful plan for marriage, spousal love and family. He wants them to enjoy the greatly rewarding goods that are to be found in authentic marriage and spousal love. That is also what I, your pastor, want for you. And that is what this worshiping community, your families and friends want for you.