Sunday, 19 June 2016

Papal Comments on Cohabitation. What do They Mean?

 Ed Peters from the excellent  In the Light of the Law blog comments on the latest comments from Pope Francis on cohabitation.

Point One. Cohabitation is not marriage.

Largely overlooked amid the furor caused by Pope Francis’ rash claim that “the great part of our sacramental marriages are null”—an assertion reckless if false (which it is) and brimming with despair if true (which it is not), a claim followed not by an apology, an official retraction, or even a bureaucratic ‘clarification’ but instead by an Orwellian alteration of the pope’s words in Vatican records—overlooked, I say, in this greater mess was the pope’s later but equally problematic comment about his being “sure that cohabitating couples are in a true marriage having the grace of marriage”. Though multi-facetedly wrong (theologically, canonically, pastorally, socially) the pope’s equating cohabitation (‘faithful’, whatever that means) with Christian marriage did not, mirabile dictu, get edited down to a platitude or deleted completely: his words are still there, “in queste convivenze … sono sicuro che questo è un matrimonio vero, hanno la grazia del matrimonio…”

Let’s be clear: marriage is marriage but cohabitation (as that word is nearly universally understood in social discourse) is only cohabitation. Where to begin?
Everybody starts off single. One stays single unless one goes through a ceremony called a wedding, at which point, one is (presumptively, at least) married. People who are married get to do certain things that people who are not married don’t get to do, like, say, submit a married-filing-jointly tax return with a certain someone and have sex with that same certain someone if they both so choose. In addition, though, married couples who are baptized get something else at their wedding, they receive a sacrament called Matrimony, and with that sacrament come very powerful graces put there by Jesus to help Christian couples living the difficult and wonderful thing called marriage.
But, if one is not married, one does not get to submit a married-filing-jointly tax return with anyone and one does not get to have sex with a certain no-one or with anyone else. Moreover, even if one is baptized (and regardless of what other sacramental or actual graces might be wonderfully at work in one’s life) a single person does not get the specific graces of Matrimony. Why? Because cohabitation is NOT marriage, let alone is it “true marriage”, and cohabiting couples do NOT share in the graces of Matrimony.

Point Two. Civil-only marriage might, or might not, be marriage.

While asserting that couples cohabiting ‘faithfully’ (?) are in a real marriage (which they aren’t) the pope also said that merely civilly-married couples are in real marriages (which they might or might not be). To understand what is at stake here we need to distinguish more carefully.

Couples, neither of whom is Catholic (i.e., most of the world), even if both of them are baptized, can marry (the Church would say, “validly”) in a civil-only ceremony. To that extent, Francis would be right to say that civilly married couples have a true marriage. But if the pope thinks that merely civilly married Catholics—and given the context of his remarks this is likely whom he had in mind—are, just as much as cohabiting couples (supposedly) are, in real marriages and enjoying the graces of Matrimony, then I have to say No, that’s wrong—even though I wish he were right. Once again, the requirement of “canonical form” (a cure that has long out-lived the disease it was prescribed to treat) seriously complicates the Church’s message on the permanence of marriage.
Because Catholics (let’s just talk Romans here) are required for validity to marry in (still keepin’ it simple) a Catholic religious ceremony, those tens of thousands of Catholics who ‘marry’ civilly-only are (outside a few rare exceptions) no more married than are couples just cohabiting (‘faithfully’ or otherwise). Moreover, because of the inseparability of the marriage contract from the sacrament, if one is invalidly ‘married’ (and ‘marriages’ among Catholics who disregard canonical form are invalid) then one does not receive the sacrament of Matrimony either nor any of its graces. Why? Because, No marriage means no Matrimony.

In short, if the pope had in mind non-Catholics, he would be right to say that their civil-only wedding would count toward marriage (though why he would discuss such persons with cohabiting couples escapes me); but if he had in mind Catholics (as he probably did) then he is wrong to say that such persons are truly married and are drawing on the sacramental grace of Matrimony (though it would explain why he mentioned such persons in the same breath with cohabiting couples, as neither are married).

Now, these two points being addressed, and with the debacle of assertions of massive nullity supposedly plaguing Christian marriage still reverberating, something deeper may be emerging here. Consider,Marriage, like pregnancy, is one of those ‘either/or’ situations—either you are or you aren’t. Others’ opinions, even your own opinion, about whether you are or aren’t, are irrelevant to whether you are or aren’t. Marriage is an objective fact, not a subjective (however sincere) feeling or attitude. Continuing,
The pope’s most recent statements on marriage were not slips akin to getting the date of a meeting wrong, they are not hearsay shared by a prelate known for a flexible attitude toward accuracy or stories shared by relatives from Argentina, and they are not hints of his views left ambiguous by some obvious omission. Instead these latest assertions were calmly offered by the pope before a large and sympathetic audience, with expert advisors readily at hand, in an extended manner, all of which factors point, I think, in a consistent if disturbing direction.

And what direction is that?

This one: Pope Francis really—and I think, sincerely—believes:
(A) most marriages (at least, most Christian marriages) really aren’t, deep-down, marriages (and so the annulment process has to be sped up to dispatch of what are, after all, probably null marriages anyway, and the consequences of post-divorce marriages need to be softened because most people in those second marriages probably weren’t in true marriages the first time, and so on); and,
(B) lots of things that aren’t marriages (like cohabitation and civil-only weddings between Catholics) really are, deep-down, marriages (so we need to affirm them and assure them that they enjoy the same graces as married people, and so on).
That this is pope’s view can, I suggest, be directly determined from his own words (expunged and otherwise) and, if I am right, would explain many things, from his favoring Cdl. Kasper and side-lining Cdl. Burke, rolling out several problematic tribunal “reforms” in Mitis Iudex, and leaving ambiguous several crucial points that sorely needed clarity in Amoris laetitia. The irreducibly objective, ‘either/or’, nature of marriage would not sit well with someone who prefers subjective, flexible approaches that allow for ‘this and that’ responses, but, whatever problems the principle of non-contradiction poses here, a conviction that most marriages are not marriage but lots of non-marriages are marriage, would explain a lot.

That said, I see no way to avoid the conclusion that a crisis (in the Greek sense of that word) over marriage is unfolding in the Church, and it is a crisis that will, I suggest, come to a head over matrimonial discipline and law. If so, a key fact to keep in mind will be this: No sacrament owes so much of its theology to Church discipline as marriage owes to canon law.

To conclude, and prescinding from what other questions might face the Church under Francis, I think the marriage crisis that he is occasioning is going to come down to whether Church teaching on marriage, which everyone professes to honor, will be concretely and effectively protected in Church law, or, whether the canonical categories treating marriage doctrine become so distorted (or simply disregarded) as essentially to abandon marriage and married life to the realm of personal opinion and individual conscience. History has always favored the former; disaster lurks behind the latter.

Sts. Thomas More and Raymond Penyafort, pray for us.

For more details see:- In the Light of the Law blog

Saturday, 18 June 2016

The Humility of Pope Emeritus Benedict


Pope Benedict was received by one of the most prestigious seminaries of Germany during his pontificate from 22 to 25 September 2011.... (he stayed in) a bedroom with a single bed and furniture all....basic.

Friday, 17 June 2016

The great majority of Christian marriages are valid - Ed Peters

From Catholic World Report Ed Peters writes:-

"Last time a ranking prelate (Cdl. Kasper) opined that half of all marriages were null his attribution of such a reckless assertion to Pope Francis himself could be dismissed as hearsay, deflected as referring to marriage in general and not Christian marriage in particular, or at least minimized as describing merely ‘many’ or even ‘half’ of all marriages. But none of those qualifications can be applied to blunt the impact of the pope’s startling claim “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null”.

Pope also states, cohabiting Catholics being in “a real marriage [and having] the grace of a real marriage,” for commentary see here

See more at:-

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Gregorian Masses - What are They?

Fr. Z at wdtprs is currently trying to recuit Priests to celebrate "Gregorian Masses;" see his explantion below tro find out more:-

"From a priest…
I was in Fatima earlier this month and in the office to request Masses be offered for pilgrim’s intentions, I noticed a sign that said the stipend for a standard Mass stipend is 10 Euros but for “Trintario Gregoriano” Mass, it is 350 Euros.
I was told this is a month of Masses offered on consecutive days. Are you familiar with this?
Is this a European tradition?
You are asking about “Gregorian Masses”.

First, let’s make a couple distinction.  Sometimes Mass in the Extraordinary Form is called “Gregorian”, because the Roman Rite goes back at least as far as Pope St. Gregory I “the Great” (+604).

Next, “Gregorian Masses” can mean Masses said at a “Gregorian altar”, that is, a “privileged altar”, that is, an altar to which certain added benefits or indulgences were once attached such that when priests said Mass there the indulgence was gained.  These altars had the same privileges as the altar of the Roman basilica of San Gregorio in the Caelian Hill, where St. Gregory the Great had his monastery.  That original Gregorian altar had a plenary indulgence for a soul in Purgatory.  No Gregorian altars, called Gregorian altars ad instar, were so blessed after 1912.  Also, the entire treasury of indulgences has been revised.  Those privileges seem no more to apply.

Also, another way to understand “Gregorian Masses” refers to the custom in the Roman Church for Requiem Masses to be said on the third, seventh and thirtieth days after the death of a person.
That said… what are Gregorian Masses?

By this term we usually mean the celebration of thirty Masses for thirty consecutive days for the soul of someone who has died.
It is thought that Gregory the Great spread this practice, which was already a tradition by his day.  Pope Gregory had these Masses said for, at least, a fellow Roman monk named Justus. At the end of the thirty days the dead monk appeared to his brother to let him know he was free from Purgatory.  In any event, this became a widespread practice after Pope Gregory.  I believe that the Dominican’s even had special Mass prayers in their Rite for this practice. (Dialogorum 4,57: Vade itaque, et ab hodierna die diebus triginta continuis offerre pro eo sacrificium stude, ut nullus omnino praetermittatur dies, quo pro absolutione illius salutaris hostia non immoletur.)

Basic guidelines:

First, thirty Masses must be said on thirty consecutive days for the same intention.  If the priest can’t say one the Masses himself, for any reason, he must arrange for another priest to say the Mass for that same intention on that same day so that the series is not broken.  They are said only for the dead.
The Masses can be said anywhere, and they need not be Requiem Masses.

Because this is a heavy commitment, the stipend offered should usually be pretty generous.  Given that very few priests are able to take their own chosen intention every day for 30 days, that is fitting.  The stipend can be whatever is agreed on, of course.  How much should it be?  That can’t really be fixed down.  I have done Gregorian series three times.  On one occasion I was offered 450 euros, and the person who offered the stipend was very pleased to have found a priest who could do it.  On another occasion I took far less, because it was requested by an elderly woman on a limited income for her dead husband.  So, it depends on the circumstances.  Whatever is decided, if the stipend is accepted, in justice the priest is strictly bound to fulfill his part of the commitment.

Friends, have Masses said for the dead… and for the living as well!"

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Cheltenham Young Catholic Adults - June Events

                                                                     Source Wikicommons: , El Greco - Ss Peter and Paul

Tuesday 14th June 2016 at 8pm. Rosary and wine evening to be held on the ground floor of the Old Priory at:- St. Gregory's Church,10 St James Square, GL50 3PR. 

Wednesday 29th June 2016 - Cheltenham YCA will be assisting at the Holy Day of Obligation (Low) Mass (EF Form) for SS. Peter and Paul, 7pm  at:- St. Gregory's Church,10 St James Square, GL50 3PR.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

ASK FATHER: Baptized Catholic but never practiced: do marriage laws apply?

I have two younger brothers who are close in age and who were both baptized Catholic as babies. Very early in their life, when they were around 1 and 3 years old respectively, our mom left the church and has since attended a Methodist church. Since canon law requires permission for the validity of a marriage for those baptized as Catholics, would my brother’s marriage be valid since he never had any conscious time being raised a Catholic? I know two baptized Protestants who have never been Catholic validly and sacramentally marry, but former and current Catholics who are baptized do not validly marry outside the church or without her permission.
The Church operates under the ancient dictum:
Semel Catholicus, semper Catholicus.
Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.

Or, if we want to be technical: Semel baptizatus, semper baptizatus.   You can’t change the fact that a) you were baptized and b) that baptism happened in the Catholic Church.  (Mine happened in the Lutheran Church, a fact I would change if I could, but I can’t, anymore than those baptized in the Catholic Church can change that fact.)  We will leave aside attempts to “defect” from the Church by a formal act rather than by negligence or laziness, which doesn’t figure into this entry.  Besides, the Church’s law about that was changed in 2009.  HERE

Being a Catholic is not like joining a club.  In a club, if you fail to pay your annual dues, or you stop attending, or even make a fuss and shred your registration card you can be kicked out. Or you can voluntarily leave.

Not so with the Church.

Once you’ve been baptized Catholic, your only choices are to be a practicing Catholic, or a lapsed Catholic.
Even excommunication, despite what some think, doesn’t kick you out of the Catholic Church. Instead, it’s more like you’re put into the penalty box until you come to your senses, reform your life, ask forgiveness, and come back.

You don’t get re-baptized, you just get absolved. You get your penalty lifted, and you’re back in the pew with the rest of us, praying, and struggling, and trying to get to heaven.To turn the sock inside out, think of it this way: The bonds of the baptized Catholic and the Catholic Church run in both directions.  The Catholic might stray but the bond is there anyway.  The Church wants you, dear Catholic, to be in the Church and she won’t let go of you if you are simply running about doing silly things and not practicing your Faith.
And so, all Catholics are bound by the laws of the Church, even if they’re not aware of them.
That means marriage laws too.

Catholics who marry outside of the Church, and who don’t obtain a dispensation to do so, aren’t really married.  This includes those who were baptized as Catholics while infants but who never practiced their faith after that.

Dura lex, sed lex.

H/t to

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Main Holy Day of Obligation Mass at St Gregory's in Cheltenham for Ss Peter & Paul to be in EF Form - on Wednesday 29th June at 7.00 p.m.

For the feast of Ss Peter & Paul (Holy Day of Obligation), the main Parish Mass (on Wednesday 29th June at 7.00 p.m.) at St. Gregory's in Cheltenham, will be in the Old Rite.
The celebrant will be Fr. Ian McCarthy. Cheltenham Young Catholic Adults will be supporting this Mass.

Please post this information on websites/blogs/social media.


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