Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Is it better to give or receive?

Some of the chatter taking place in chat rooms and forums across this planet revolve around the approaching Synod on the Family and how it will address the millions of Catholics civilly divorced and remarried outside of the Church. If we are to listen to the talking heads in the media living in fantasy world they would have us believe that the Pope is pro divorce and would change who can receive the Eucharist tomorrow if he could just convince all those old, white Bishops who are desperately clinging to their archaic beliefs of what Jesus taught. This has many conservative Catholics trembling in fear and many uncatholic Catholics giddy with anticipation. Either way there is a whole lot of shaking going on.

Rest assured the Pope is still Catholic and did not become Pope by disregarding the teaching Jesus passed on to his Church. The Pope became Pope because of the tremendous love he has for all people, including all you sinful adulterers civilly divorced and remarried, of whom I used to be. The Pope’s challenge is how to minister to those living in sin and how to get them to turn from their sin instead of turning from the Church. Those who live in sin die in sin and are not part of God’s Holy family. This is a devastating loss and weighs heavy on the Pope’s heart.

The driving factor most of the time in cases like this is because people believe they are being denied something someone else is allowed to have. They feel discriminated against and act like little kids who stomp their feet and hold their breath until they are given what they want. Civilly divorced and remarried Catholics do not feel as if they have done anything wrong and demand that they be allowed to receive the Eucharist just like everyone else. The fundamental error so many make is in the belief that they are receiving something. There is a general misconception of what a sacrament is. So what really is a sacrament and why can’t I have that little piece of bread everyone else is getting?

For those who remember their Baltimore Catechism the memorized definition of a sacrament is;

A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.”

The current Catechism of the Catholic Church defines a sacrament as;

“Efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us.” CCC1127

Webster defines a sacrament as;


[sak-ruh-muh nt] /ˈsæk rə mənt/


1. Ecclesiastical. a visible sign of an inward grace, especially one of the solemn Christian rites considered to have been instituted by Jesus Christ to symbolize or confer grace: the sacraments of the Protestant churches are baptism and the Lord's Supper; the sacraments of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches are baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, matrimony, penance, holy orders, and extreme unction.

2. (often initial capital letter). Also called Holy Sacrament. The Eucharist or Lord's Supper.

3. The consecrated elements of the Eucharist, especially the bread.

4. Something regarded as possessing a sacred character or mysterious significance.

5. A sign, token, or symbol.

6. An oath; solemn pledge.

Although definition 6 comes close it does not capture the fullness of what a sacrament originally was. Sacrament is the English translation of the Latin word “scaramentum”. Sacramentum was an oath unto death that rendered the swearer “given to the gods”. It also referred to the thing pledged as a sacred bond. It was the oath Roman soldiers took to Caesar and it was unto death. To violate or go back on your oath cost you your life. And therein is where the rub begins.

Marriage is a sacrament – an oath to the death that cannot be undone. A civil divorce cannot absolve the sacrament of marriage and anyone who moves on to another relationship or a second marriage is by definition an adulterer. This is reaffirmed by Jesus in Mathew 19. Because this is direct teaching of Jesus it is not subject to debate and not something the Church can possibly change. When someone breaks this sacramentum they forfeit that which was pledged, which in the case of marriage is your very life. If you have forfeit your life as payment for the default of your oath you are then no longer free to give it to another. This is why marriage after divorce is not possible.

The Eucharist is also a sacrament. People mistakenly believe that the Eucharist is simply something they receive. What they don’t realize is that what they are doing is giving, not receiving. They are pledging an oath to the death. When you accept the Eucharist you are entering into a covenantal relationship with Jesus. A covenantal relationship is one where Jesus gives himself fully to you and you give yourself fully to him. By eating the Eucharist you are willingly pledging to give your life to Jesus even if that requires you to die for him. When someone breaks this sacramentum they forfeit that which was pledged, which in the case of the Eucharist is your very life, just as it is for marriage. Saint Paul warns us that to eat of the Eucharist unworthily you eat unto your death.

If you are civilly divorced and remarried you have reneged on your oath to the death that you pledged when you were married. The price of this is that you forfeit your life, it no longer belongs to you. When you receive the Eucharist you again take an oath unto death. The problem here is that you are pledging something that does not belong to you. You cannot freely enter into this oath. This is the same reason that someone who has a mortal sin on their soul cannot receive the Eucharist as well. The price of a mortal sin is death and one who does not have life cannot pledge what they do not possess.

With this understanding it is easy to see that the Church is not able to change her teaching concerning this matter and that no amount of hope or prayer will lead the Pope to allow this to happen. Instead we need to concentrate on how to be loving and pastoral and guide people back to that which is right and just. Then we need to pray for the mercy of God for those who blatantly disregard the truth for their own opinions.


  1. My friend, you criticize my opinion that annulment is a sham yet your own article supports my case. You are correct that Marriage is a sacrament just as the other six and the church disapproves of divorce. Yet the church approves of the annulment process. This process is a man made process. A cursory search seems to indicate that the process began around 1000 a.d. It surely was around when King Henry the VIII sought one. Annulment is not mentioned in the bible or any of the church councils during its first 1000 years of existence, its not mentioned by the church fathers. Its a man made process that allow Catholics to evade the word divorce. My point is that divorce is a sin just as a priest who receives holy orders and is defrocked or a recipient of the Eucharist under mortal sin or a person baptized who never confirms.

  2. My main criticism with your blog post:


    is that on one hand you claim that you want to be a Catholic Apologist but on the other you “teach” your opinion over that of official Church teaching. You cannot be a Catholic Apologist, and I would argue even be considered Catholic, when your opinion trumps that of the official teaching of the Church. This is exactly what Martin Luther did.

    It is your blog and therefore your choice as to what you post there. You have brought up many issues in your comment that require a better response than what is possible in a return comment. I will dedicate a future blog post to this issue of divorce.

    In the mean time, I welcome an open and honest discourse with you. Hopefully we can learn from each other. If you’re up for this please send me an email. I look forward to hearing back from you.

    May the peace of the Lord be with you. God bless.


  3. An apologist must defend the faith. I am totally 100% Catholic and believe that the Catholic Church was the original church established by Christ. But I do not accept ever word pronounced by the Church., That does sound like an oxymoron. But the church fathers defended the faith against heretics by defining what Catholicism meant to them. If you read Augustine, you will see that he changed his mind on several issues. If you can show me where the annulment process was used from 33 a.d. to, say, 500 a.d., I will definitely apologize for my offense.