From my mentor, fellow warrior, and friend Tony Liuzzo:
On the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, November 9, 2014
TO ALL CATHOLICS AND PEOPLE OF GOOD WILL
My wife Diane and I have just celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary on August 1, 2014. During these years, we have been blessed with four sons. The journey has been filled with joy, sadness, trials, crosses and twists and hills in the road.
I can say with all certainty that it has been possible only with and through Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. For without the Way, the Truth and the Life no mortals can navigate the deadly mine fields.
As children coming from humble beginnings in Ottawa, the Lord has protected us in spite of what we have done (more accurately, because He has a burning love for us).
Both my wife and I have experienced the pain, the fallout and bewilderment of the separation of our parents during their marriages. We have witnessed and recognized anger, financial disagreements, unyielding pride and infidelity as some of the causes even when we were at a tender age.
Because we are families, the separation not only involves the husband and wife but also the innocent children. Blaming themselves, these scars can last a lifetime and ,tragically, in many cases do. Can you imagine a child having to make the excruciating decision to love one parent over the other or one brother or sister over the other because of living arrangements or adult pressure? As adults, we witnessed such a case. During the celebration of Christmas dinner with our friends (a married couple), a phone call came for the husband who unbeknownst to us had been previously married. His adult children were weeping to ask why he could not share Christmas dinner with their children and them.
Many cases of mental illness have stemmed from these situations.
Just when relationships seem impossible, the Lord in His Mercy makes all things new. Our parents came together again and we were re-established as families. We could hardly contain ourselves; O this joy was a moment of beauty. It was especially wonderful for me because my parents had separated twice.
I am unshakably convinced that not only our families but also as individuals are infinitely better off. I look back now and realize that our lives would have been radically different had not our parents willed to cherish their holy marriage vows.
Had either parent re-married civilly, our reuniting would have been highly unlikely unless they reversed their situations.
Diane and I profess the beauty of marriage and share it with as many people as we can. We are forever influenced and grateful for the strength of will demonstrated to us by our parents.
2014 Synod- Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization
With the Lord’s foundation in Sacred Scripture and in light of our background, it is our Catholic duty to comment on “Relatio Synodi” of the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of
Bishops: “Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization” (5-19 October 2014), 18.10.2014. Although it has been difficult to obtain accurate information and reporting in many cases, bright lights in the Catholic “blogosphere” have shone on the stellar Truth in the midst of a turbulent sea of confusion.
Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ speaks to us clearly. We know His voice.
With reference to the final Synod report, I draw your attention to paragraph 52 which did not obtain the required 2/3 majority but nevertheless was still included in the report:
- The synod father also considered the possibility of giving the divorced and remarried access to the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Some synod fathers insisted on maintaining the present regulations, because of the constitutive relationship between participation in the Eucharist and communion with the Church as well as the teaching on the indissoluble character of marriage. Others expressed a more individualized approach, permitting access in certain situations and with certain well-defined conditions, primarily in irreversible situations and those involving moral obligations towards children who would have to endure unjust suffering. Access to the sacraments might take place if preceded by a penitential practice, determined by the diocesan bishop. The subject needs to be thoroughly examined, bearing in mind the distinction between an objective sinful situation and extenuating circumstances, given that “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1735).
The Church has and continues to bless couples who have remarried but promise to live as “brother and sister”. In other words, they refrain from having sexual relations. We have friends who live in this state and are free to receive Holy Communion if they are properly disposed otherwise. Although it can be a trial at times, their firm commitment is strongly reinforced by God’s grace.
The difference then is that the remarried couples who have sexual relations are in a state of sin. Notwithstanding that they are outside of God’s commandments, I am hard-pressed to believe or accept that they have sex ignorantly, inadvertently, under duress, in fear, through habit or inordinate attachments and other psychological or social factors.
1980 SYNOD ON THE CHRISTIAN FAMILY
The Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the total acceptance of the contents of “Humanae vitae were reaffirmed at this Synod held in Rome from September 26 to October 25, 1980 in the pontificate of Pope John Paul II.
This Synod was not without its dissenters. Pope John Paul II responded on September 16, 1987 at his meeting with the entire U.S. episcopacy in Los Angeles; the Holy Father faced head-on the problem of theological dissent in the United States, especially on issues related to conjugal morality and family life.
“It is sometimes reported that a large number of Catholics do not adhere to the teaching of the Church on a number of questions, notably sexual and conjugal morality, divorce and remarriage. Some are reported as not accepting the Church’s clear position on abortion. It has also been noted that there is a tendency on the part of some Catholics to be selective in their adherence to the Church’s moral teachings.”
“It is sometimes claimed that dissent from the Magisterium is totally compatible with being a ‘good Catholic’ and poses no obstacle to the reception of the sacraments. This is a grave error that challenges the teaching office of the bishops of the United States and elsewhere. . . .
“Dissent from Church doctrine remains what it is: dissent; as such it may not be proposed or received on an equal footing with the Church’s authentic teaching.”
As a fruit of this Synod, now Saint John Paul II, wrote his Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio. I would like to take this opportunity to recall some of the subjects he covered then but are so applicable now:
The Moral Progress of Married People
Married people too are called upon to progress unceasingly in their moral life, with the support of a sincere and active desire to gain ever better knowledge of the values enshrined in and fostered by the law of God. They must also be supported by an upright and generous willingness to embody these values in their concrete decisions. They cannot however look on the law as merely an ideal to be achieved in the future: they must consider it as a command of Christ the Lord to overcome difficulties with constancy. “And so what is known as ‘the law of gradualness’ or step-by-step advance cannot be identified with ‘gradualness of the law,’ as if there were different degrees or forms of precept in God’s law for different individuals and situations. In God’s plan, all husbands and wives are called in marriage to holiness, and this lofty vocation is fulfilled to the extent that the human person is able to respond to God’s command with serene confidence in God’s grace and in his or her own will.
- d) Separated or Divorced Persons Who Have Not Remarried
- Various reasons can unfortunately lead to the often irreparable breakdown of valid marriages. These include mutual lack of understanding and the inability to enter into interpersonal relationships. Obviously, separation must be considered as a last resort, after all other reasonable attempts at reconciliation have proved vain.
Loneliness and other difficulties are often the lot of separated spouses, especially when they are the innocent parties. The ecclesial community must support such people more than ever. It must give them much respect, solidarity, understanding and practical help, so that they can preserve their fidelity even in their difficult situation; and it must help them to cultivate the need to forgive which is inherent in Christian love, and to be ready perhaps to return to their former married life.
The situation is similar for people who have undergone divorce, but, being well aware that the valid marriage bond is indissoluble, refrain from becoming involved in a new union and devote themselves solely to carrying out their family duties and the responsibilities of Christian life. In such cases their example of fidelity and Christian consistency takes on particular value as a witness before the world and the Church. Here it is even more necessary for the Church to offer continual love and assistance, without there being any obstacle to admission to the sacraments.
- e) Divorced Persons Who Have Remarried
- Daily experience unfortunately shows that people who have obtained a divorce usually intend to enter into a new union, obviously not with a Catholic religious ceremony. Since this is an evil that, like the others, is affecting more and more Catholics as well, the problem must be faced with resolution and without delay. The Synod Fathers studied it expressly. The Church, which was set up to lead to salvation all people and especially the baptized, cannot abandon to their own devices those who have been previously bound by sacramental marriage and who have attempted a second marriage. The Church will therefore make untiring efforts to put at their disposal her means of salvation.
Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is in fact a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned, and those who through their own grave fault have destroyed a canonically valid marriage. Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid.
Together with the Synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced, and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church, for as baptized persons they can, and indeed must, share in her life. They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace. Let the Church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope.
However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.
Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.”(180)
In obedience to the Pope and the Church’s constant teaching, my close friend and colleague, John Pacheco and I held the “March for Marriage” on April 9, 2005 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. It was attended by 20,000 people from many different religious backgrounds.
Taking the lead from the fecundity of marriage, thirteen months later, we held Humanae Vitae 2006: A New Beginning (Of Human Life) at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa from May 12 to 14, 2006. Archbishop Marcel Gervais who celebrated mass on May 14, had indicated to John and me that this was the first conference of its kind to be held in the world.
Pope Benedict’s comment on this teaching in 2011
“It is my wish, therefore, that already in the course of 2011, the 30th anniversary of the apostolic exhortation ‘Familiaris Consortio’, the great charter of family pastoral care, might be taken as a valid guide with initiatives at the parish, diocesan and national level, aimed at throwing light on experiences of work and celebration in their truest and most positive aspects, with particular regard to the effect on the concrete life of families, “he said. “Christian families and ecclesial communities of the whole world should thus feel called and involved and enter solicitously onto the path toward Milan 2012.'”
Given the principle of the continuity of Catholic teaching, why has this subject been brought up again in 2014 scarcely two years later? ‘Familiaris Consortio’ remains invaluable, vibrant, full of mercy and love and even more necessary today.
Men, reflect on the daunting thought that another human being, a woman, is by her own free will giving her total self to you and you alone for the rest of her life. Despite our imperfections and unworthiness, she vows to do everything for you to assist your sharing eternal life with the Father. If this does not make you feel special what does?
Has the testimony of Diane and my parents been for naught? Did Saint John The Baptist die in vain when he was martyred in confronting Herod when he “married” his brother Philip’s wife? Mark 6:26-29 Was it of no consequence that Saint John Fisher strenuously denounced
Henry VIII when he attempted to divorce Queen Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn in 1533 and was later executed for defending this Truth on the indissolubility of marriage?
Are we prepared to defend the marriage bond as given to us by Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ just as these holy saints have done?
Let us not roll over and be like corpses. Fight!
Love, peace and joy of The Most Holy Trinity,