In the case of divorcees who have remarried, we posed the question, what do we do with them? What door can we allow them to open? Why can’t they be godfathers and godmothers? Things need to change.

Ever since the beginning, God established matrimony as an indissoluble alliance and granted it a blessing that was “not forfeited by original sin, nor washed away by the flood.” In elevating matrimony to the dignity of a sacrament, Jesus Christ not only made this union more indissoluble and holy, but also willed that it reflect His own fidelity to the Church.

If we analyze the pages of history, it is evident that for the pagans, in diverse eras, divorce and repudiation were widespread attitudes that even enjoyed recognition. The Church, however, has always considered divorce as a grave sin; and the Popes have never tired of warning Christians so that they don’t allow themselves to be contaminated with such pagan customs.

It is tradition in the Church that the newly baptized have godparents. This charge, far from being just a social duty – as some unfortunately consider it – entails the serious obligation of educating in the Faith both by word and example, practicing the Commandments and living in a virtuous life. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin – Jesus said– it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come!” (Mt 18:6-7). That is why the Church, with characteristic wisdom conferred by its Divine Spouse, has always decreed that only Catholics who lead a life in accordance with the Faith may be admitted as godparents in Baptism. Therefore, those who publically and obstinately live in grave sin may not be admitted to the special mission of guarding anyone’s faith.

Francis

In the case of divorcees who have remarried, we posed the question, what do we do with them? What door can we allow them to open? This was a pastoral concern: will we allow them to go to Communion? Communion alone is no solution. The solution is integration. They have not been excommunicated, true. But they cannot be godfathers to any child being baptized, mass readings are not for divorcees, they cannot give communion, they cannot teach Sunday school, there are about seven things that they cannot do, I have the list over there. Come on! If I disclose any of this it will seem that they have been excommunicated in fact! Thus, let us open the doors a bit more. Why can’t they be godfathers and godmothers? “No, no, no, what testimony will they be giving their godson?” The testimony of a man and a woman saying “my dear, I made a mistake, I was wrong here, but I believe our Lord loves me, I want to follow God, I was not defeated by sin, I want to move on”. Anything more Christian than that? And what if one of the political crooks among us, corrupt people, are chosen to be somebody´s godfather. If they are properly wedded by the Church, would we accept them? What kind of testimony will they give to their godson? A testimony of corruption? Things need to change, our standards need to change. (Interview with La Nación, December 7, 2014)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Table of Contents

I – The necessary requirements to be godparents of Baptism, and the obligations assumed in this mission
II – Matrimony is indissoluble. Divorce: a sin consistently denounced by the Popes


I – The necessary requirements to be godparents of Baptism, and the obligations assumed in this mission


Code of Canon Law
-A sponsor assists the baptized person in Christian initiation
-The godparents must lead a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on

Catechism of Trent
-Pastors should explain the office of godparents so that they understand what is chiefly necessary for its proper performance
-The baptized should be entrusted to the care of someone well skilled in divine things
-The imperative necessity of godparents to assist pastors in the private instruction in the rudiments of faith
-The negligence with which the office of sponsors is often treated
-“I admonish you who have acquired godchildren through Baptism, to consider that you stood as sureties before God”
-It is the duty of sponsors to admonish their spiritual children to observe chastity
-It is easy to decide who are inadmissible to this holy guardianship

Catechism of Saint Pius X
-Catholics of good life, and obedient to the laws of the Church should be chosen as godfathers and godmothers

Catechism of the Catholic Church
-The godparent’s task is a truly ecclesial function

Saint Thomas Aquinas
– The baptized child is bound by another in things necessary for salvation
– Duty of instructing in the mode of Christian life

Vatican Council II
-The catechumens should learn to bear witness of their lives

John Paul II
-These little ones must find in their godparents support and guidance
-The Church desires that the godparents assume the grave duty of giving a good example
– God expects that godparents cooperate with parents in educating according to the teachings of the Gospel
-The mission of the godparents has an eminent importance in catechesis

Benedict XVI
-The renunciation of sin by godfathers and godmothers constitutes the necessary premises for the Church to confer Baptism
-Helped by the example of their godparents, the baptized must walk in this light of faith
-A demanding mission that requires drawing from the good springs
-Godparents must offer good example openly and without compromises
-To carry a baby to the baptismal font is a gift and a joy, but also a responsibility


II – Matrimony is indissoluble. Divorce: a sin consistently denounced by the Popes


Code of Canon Law
-Marriage can be dissolved by no human power

Catechism of Trent
-Our Lord says clearly: ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife and shall marry another commits adultery’
-Bound by the bond of marriage with no hope of marrying another, spouses are rendered less prone to strife and discord

Council of Trent
– Christ Himself merited the grace of indissoluble union for us by His passion
-Heresy, grievous cohabitation or voluntary absence from the spouse does not dissolve matrimony
– If anyone says that the Church errs in teaching, in accordance with Apostolic doctrine, that the bond of matrimony cannot be dissolved, let him be anathema
-Matrimonial causes are subject to ecclesiastical judges

Vatican Council II
– Matrimony imposes total fidelity and an unbreakable oneness

Gregory XVI
-Troublesome efforts against the Sacrament of Matrimony still continue

Leo XIII
-The Church is ever watchful in guarding the sanctity and indissolubility of Marriage
-The wish to declare dissoluble the matrimonial bond is a deadly pest to society
-Marriage has become still more binding and more holy through Christ

Stephen III
-Marrying again when you are already married is to act as the heathen do

Pius VII
– Grave attempt against the divine and natural law

Leo XIII
-How great are the evils that flow from divorce…
-…opening a way to every kind of evil-doing in public and in private life
-Divorce leads to the most extreme licentiousness

Pius XII
-A poison that is corrupting no small part of the human family

John Paul II
-Do not separate what God has joined together
-Children condemned as orphans of living parents

Benedict XVI
-The so-called ‘extended’ family impresses upon children an erroneous typology of the family

Pius IX
-Any other union except the sacramental union is nothing else than disgraceful concubinage

Leo XIII
-The family cannot be restored to its dignity except by those laws under which it was established in the Church

John Paul II
-A second union is in contradiction with the nature of the sacrament of marriage
– To admit divorced remarried persons to the Eucharist is to lead the faithful into error and confusion
– The respect due to the sacrament of Matrimony forbids any pastor to perform ceremonies for divorced people who ‘remarry’

Catechism of the Catholic Church
– In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ, the Church does not recognize second unions
– The ‘remarried’ cannot receive Communion as long as their situation persists – for the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
-Recalling the doctrine and discipline of the Church

International Theological Commission
– Changing the Church’s doctrine would be transforming Her into a countersign and a counterwitness of Christ

Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
– The Church cannot promote scandal

Pius XII
-People feel the need for a better and more elevated concept of domestic life
-Catholic marriage may not be compared with the irreverent and shameless image of marriage and infidelity portrayed in films

Pius XI
– The modern means of communication seek to deride the sanctity of marriage
– The advocates of neo-paganism today proclaim that a new and ‘more humane’ legislation take the place of ‘antiquated laws’ on the indissolubility of marriage


I – The necessary requirements to be godparents of Baptism, and the obligations assumed in this mission


Code of Canon Law

  • A sponsor assists the baptized person in Christian initiation

Insofar as possible, a person to be baptized is to be given a sponsor who assists an adult in Christian initiation or together with the parents presents an infant for baptism. A sponsor also helps the baptized person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfill faithfully the obligations inherent in it. (Code of Canon Law, Can. 872)

  • The godparents must lead a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on

To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must: […] be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on. (Code of Canon Law, Can. 874, §1, 3)

Catechism of Trent

  • Pastors should explain the office of godparents so that they understand what is chiefly necessary for its proper performance

In former times these were commonly called by sacred writers receivers, sponsors or sureties, and are now called godfathers and godmothers. As this is an office pertaining almost to all the laity, pastors should explain it with care, so that the faithful may understand what is chiefly necessary for its proper performance. (Catechism of Trent, I, VII, B – no. 2100)

  • The baptized should be entrusted to the care of someone well skilled in divine things

In the first instance it should be explained why at Baptism, besides those who administer the Sacrament, godparents and sponsors are also required. The propriety of the practice will at once appear to all if they recollect that Baptism is a spiritual regeneration by which we are born children of God; for of it St. Peter says: As newborn infants, desire the rational milk without guile. As, therefore, every one, after his birth, requires a nurse and instructor by whose assistance and attention he is brought up and formed to learning and useful knowledge, so those, who, by the waters of Baptism, begin to live a spiritual life should be entrusted […] to the care of someone well skilled in divine things, as to a master under whom, as a spiritual father and guardian of his salvation in holiness. (Catechism of Trent, I, VII, B – no. 2100)

  • The imperative necessity of godparents to assist pastors in the private instruction in the rudiments of faith

[…] of some one [godparents] from whom they may imbibe the precepts of the Christian religion and may be brought up in all holiness, and thus grow gradually in Christ, until, with the Lord’s help, they at length arrive at perfect manhood. This necessity must appear still more imperative, if we recollect that pastors, who are charged with the public care of parishes have not sufficient time to undertake the private instruction of children in the rudiments of faith. (Catechism of Trent, I, VII, B – no. 2100)

  • The negligence with which the office of sponsors is often treated

The faithful are also to be taught the duty of sponsors; for such is the negligence with which this office is treated in the Church that only the bare name of the function remains, while none seem to have the least idea of its sanctity. Let all sponsors, then, at all times recollect that they are strictly bound by this law to exercise a constant vigilance over their spiritual children, and carefully to instruct them in the maxims of a Christian life; so that these may show themselves throughout life to be what their sponsors promised in the solemn ceremony. (Catechism of Trent, I, VII, B – no. 2100)

  • “I admonish you who have acquired godchildren through Baptism, to consider that you stood as sureties before God

On this subject let us hear the words of St. Denis. Speaking in the person of the sponsor he says: I promise, by my constant exhortations to induce this child, when he comes to a knowledge of religion, to renounce every thing opposed (to his Christian calling) and to profess and perform the sacred promises which he now makes. St. Augustine also says: I most especially admonish you, men and women, who have acquired godchildren through Baptism, to consider that you stood as sureties before God, for those whom you received at the sacred font. Indeed it preeminently becomes every man, who undertakes any office, to be indefatigable in the discharge of its duties; and he who promised to be the teacher and guardian of another should never allow to be deserted him whom he once received under his care and protection as long as he knows the latter to stand in need of either. (Catechism of Trent, I, VII, B – no. 2100)

  • It is the duty of sponsors to admonish their spiritual children to observe chastity

Speaking of this same duty of sponsors, St. Augustine sums up in a few words the lessons of instruction which they are bound to impart to their spiritual children. They ought, he says, to admonish them to observe chastity, love justice, cling to charity; and above all they should teach them the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the rudiments of the Christian religion. (Catechism of Trent, I, VII, B – no. 2100)

  • It is easy to decide who are inadmissible to this holy guardianship

It is easy, therefore, to decide who are inadmissible to this holy guardianship, that is, those who are unwilling to discharge its duties with fidelity, or who cannot do so with care and accuracy. (Catechism of Trent, I, VII, B – no. 2100)

Catechism of Saint Pius X

  • Catholics of good life, and obedient to the laws of the Church should be chosen as godfathers and godmothers

Who are the godfathers and godmothers in Baptism?
The godfathers and godmothers in Baptism are those persons who, in accordance with the decree of the Church, hold the infants at the font, answer for them, and become guarantees in the sight of God for their Christian education, especially in the absence of the parents.

What sort of persons should be chosen as godfathers and godmothers?
There should be chosen as godfathers and godmothers Catholics of good life, and obedient to the laws of the Church.

What are the obligations of godfathers and godmothers?
Godfathers and godmothers are bound to see that their spiritual children are instructed in the truths of faith, and live as good Christians and they should edify them by their good example. (Catechism of Saint Pius X, Baptism, nos. 22.24-25)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

  • The godparent’s task is a truly ecclesial function

For the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents’ help is important. So too is the role of the godfather and godmother, who must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized —child or adult on the road of Christian life. Their task is a truly ecclesial function (officium). The whole ecclesial community bears some responsibility for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at Baptism. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1255)

Saint Thomas Aquinas

  • The baptized child is bound by another in things necessary for salvation

He who answers in the child’s stead: ‘I do believe,’ does not foretell that the child will believe when it comes to the right age, else he would say: ‘He will believe’; but in the child’s stead he professes the Church’s faith which is communicated to that child, the sacrament of which faith is bestowed on it, and to which faith he is bound by another. For there is nothing unfitting in a person being bound by another in things necessary for salvation. In like manner the sponsor, in answering for the child, promises to use his endeavors that the child may believe. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, III, q. 71, a. 1)

  • Duty of instructing in the mode of Christian life

Instruction is manifold. […] A third is instruction in the mode of Christian life: and this belongs to the sponsors. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, III, q. 71, a. 4, ad. 3)

Vatican Council II

  • The catechumens should learn to bear witness of their lives

But this Christian initiation in the catechumenate should be taken care of not only by catechists or priests, but by the entire community of the faithful, so that right from the outset the catechumens may feel that they belong to the people of God. And since the life of the Church is an apostolic one, the catechumens also should learn to cooperate wholeheartedly, by the witness of their lives and by the profession of their faith, in the spread of the Gospel and in the building up of the Church. (Vatican Council II. Decree Ad gentes, no. 14, December 7, 1965)

John Paul II

  • These little ones must find in their godparents support, guidance and example

In this way you will be better prepared to fulfill your task as the first teachers of faith for your children. These little ones must find in you, and in their godparents, support and guidance on the path of fidelity to Christ and the Gospel. Be examples for them of solid faith, of deep prayer and of active involvement in the Church’s life. (John Paul II. Homily on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, no. 3, January 9, 2000)

  • The Church desires that the godparents assume the grave duty of giving a good example

The Church is pleased to welcome these neo-baptized children; but desires that the parents, godfathers and godmothers, and also the whole community, assume the grave duty of good example, of upright teaching and authentic Christian formation, so that the child, in the gradual development of his existence, be faithful to his baptismal commitments. (John Paul II. Homily on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, no. 3, January 9, 1983)

  • God expects that godparents cooperate with parents in educating according to the teachings of the Gospel

The candle lighted from the paschal candle is a symbol of the light of faith which their parents and godparents must continually safeguard and nourish with the life-giving grace of the Spirit. […] And from you, godparents, God expects a special cooperation, which is expressed by supporting the parents in educating these infants according to the teachings of the Gospel. (John Paul II. Homily on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, no. 2, January 7, 2001)

  • The mission of the godparents has an eminent importance in catechesis

The parents solicit Baptism for their newborn children, pledging to educate them as Christians. To give an even fuller expression of this commitment, they ask other people, known as godparents, to commit themselves to help them – and if necessary replace them – in educating the newly baptized in the faith of the Church. This use, currently practiced, has an eminent importance in the problematic of catechesis. A baptized child cannot be educated in the faith of the Church without having a systematic catechesis. The commitments assumed by the parents and godparents at the Baptism of a newborn, refers primarily to the phase of childhood and adolescence. (John Paul II. General Audience, no. 1-2, December 19, 1984)

Benedict XVI

  • The renunciation of sin by the godfathers and godmothers constitutes the necessary premises for the Church to confer Baptism

Already at the outset the rite of Baptism recalls insistently the theme of faith when the Celebrant reminds parents that in requesting Baptism for their children, they assume the commitment to ‘training them in the practice of the faith’. The parents and godparents are reminded more forcefully of this task in the third part of the celebration that begins with the words addressed to them: ‘on your part, you must make it your constant care to bring them up in the practice of the faith. See that the divine life which God gives them is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in their hearts. If your faith makes you ready to accept this responsibility… […] These words of the Rite suggest that, in a certain way, the profession of faith and the renunciation of sin by the parents, godfathers and godmothers constitute the necessary premises for the Church to confer Baptism upon their children. (Benedict XVI. Homily on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, January 10, 2010)

  • Helped by the example of their godparents, the baptized must walk in this light of faith

It is the role of Baptism to illumine those being baptized with the light of Christ, to open their eyes to Christ’s splendour and to introduce them to the mystery of God through the divine light of faith. The children who are about to be baptized must walk in this light throughout their lives, helped by the words and example of their parents and their godparents. (Benedict XVI. Homily on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, January 10, 2010)

  • A demanding mission that requires drawing from the good springs

The parents’ task, helped by the godfather and godmother, is to raise their son or daughter. Raising children is very demanding and at times taxes our human capability, which is always limited. However, educating becomes a marvelous mission if it is carried out in collaboration with God who is the first and true educator of every human being. […] As adults, we have striven to draw from the good springs for our own good and for the good of those entrusted to our responsibility, and you in particular, dear parents and godparents, for the good of these children. And what are ‘the springs of salvation’? They are the Word of God and the sacraments. (Benedict XVI. Homily on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, January 8, 2012)

  • Godparents must offer good example openly and without compromises

Dear godparents, it is your important duty to sustain and help the parents in their educational task […] May you always be able to offer them your good example, through the practice of the Christian virtues. It is not easy to express what one believes in openly and without compromises. This is especially true in the context in which we live, in the face of a society that all too often considers those who live by faith in Jesus as out of fashion and out of time. (Benedict XVI. Homily on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, January 13, 2013)

  • To carry a baby to the baptismal font is a gift and a joy, but also a responsibility

Dear friends, how great is the gift of Baptism! If we were to take this fully into account our lives would become a continual ‘thank you’. What a joy for Christian parents, who have seen a new creature come into being from their love, to carry the baby to the baptismal font and see him or her reborn from the womb of the Church, for a life without end! It is a gift, a joy, but also a responsibility! Parents, in fact, together with godparents, must educate their children in accordance with the Gospel. (Benedict XVI. Angelus, January 11, 2009)


II – Matrimony is indissoluble. Divorce: a sin consistently denounced by the Popes


Code of Canon Law

  • Marriage can be dissolved by no human power

A marriage that is ratum et consummatum can be dissolved by no human power and by no cause, except death. (Code of Canon Law, Can. 1141)

Catechism of Trent

  • Our Lord says clearly: ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife and shall marry another commits adultery’

The self­same testimony of Christ our Lord easily proves that the marriage tie cannot be broken by any sort of divorce. For if by a bill of divorce a woman were freed from the law that binds her to her husband, she might marry another husband without being in the least guilty of adultery. Yet our Lord says clearly: Whosoever shall put away his wife and shall marry another committeth adultery. Hence it is plain that the bond of marriage can be dissolved by death alone […] (Catechism of Trent, no. 2700)

  • Bound by the bond of marriage with no hope of marrying another, spouses are rendered less prone to strife and discord

If marriage could be dissolved by divorce, married persons would hardly ever be without causes of disunion, which would be daily supplied by the old enemy of peace and purity; while, on the contrary, now that the faithful must remember that even though separated as to bed and board, they remain none the less bound by the bond of marriage with no hope of marrying another, they are by this very fact rendered less prone to strife and discord. And even if it sometimes happens that husband and wife become separated, and are unable to bear the want of their partnership any longer, they are easily reconciled by friends and return to their common life. (Catechism of Trent, no. 2700)

Council of Trent

  • Christ Himself merited the grace of indissoluble union for us by His passion

The first parent of the human race expressed the perpetual and indissoluble bond of matrimony under the influence of the divine Spirit, when he said: ‘This now is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.’ […] But that by this bond two only are united and joined together, Christ the Lord taught more openly, when referring to those last words, as having been uttered by God, He said: ‘Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh’ (Mt 19:6), and immediately ratified the strength of this same bond, pronounced by Adam so long ago in these words: ‘What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder’ (Mt 19:6 Mc 10:9). But the grace which was to perfect that natural love, and confirm the indissoluble union, and sanctify those united in marriage, Christ Himself, institutor and perfector of the venerable sacraments, merited for us by His passion. (Denzinger-Hünermann.1797-1799. Council of Trent, Session XXIV, November 11, 1563)

  • Heresy, grievous cohabitation or voluntary absence from the spouse does not dissolve matrimony

If anyone says that the bond of matrimony can be dissolved because of heresy, or grievous cohabitation, or voluntary absence from the spouse: let him be anathema. (Denzinger-Hünermann 1805. Council of Trent, Session XXIV, November 11, 1563)

  • If anyone says that the Church errs in teaching, in accordance with Apostolic doctrine, that the bond of matrimony cannot be dissolved, let him be anathema

If anyone says that the Church errs, inasmuch as she has taught and still teaches that in accordance with evangelical and apostolic doctrine (Mt 10:1; 1Cor 7:1) the bond of matrimony cannot be dissolved because of adultery of one of the married persons, and that both, or even the innocent one, who has given no occasion for adultery, cannot during the lifetime of the other contract another marriage, and that he, who after the dismissal of the adulteress shall marry another, is guilty of adultery, and that she also, who after the dismissal of the adulterer shall marry another: let him be anathema. (Denzinger-Hünermann 1807. Council of Trent, Session XXIV, November 11, 1563)

  • Matrimonial causes are subject to ecclesiastical judges

If anyone says that matrimonial causes do not belong to ecclesiastical judges: let him be anathema. (Denzinger-Hünermann 1812. Council of Trent, Session XXIV, November 11, 1563)

Vatican Council II

  • Matrimony imposes total fidelity and an unbreakable oneness

For the good of the spouses and their off-springs as well as of society, the existence of the sacred bond no longer depends on human decisions alone. For, God Himself is the author of matrimony, endowed as it is with various benefits and purposes. All of these have a very decisive bearing on the continuation of the human race, on the personal development and eternal destiny of the individual members of a family, and on the dignity, stability, peace and prosperity of the family itself and of human society as a whole. […]As a mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an unbreakable oneness between them. (Vatican Council II. Pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes, no. 48, December 7, 1965)

Gregory XVI

  • Troublesome efforts against the Sacrament of Matrimony still continue

Now the honorable marriage of Christians, which Paul calls ‘a great sacrament in Christ and the Church’ (Heb 13:4; Eph 5:32|), demands our shared concern lest anything contrary to its sanctity and indissolubility is proposed. Our predecessor Pius VIII would recommend to you his own letters on the subject. However, troublesome efforts against this sacrament still continue to be made. The people therefore must be zealously taught that a marriage rightly entered upon cannot be dissolved; for those joined in matrimony God has ordained a perpetual companionship for life and a knot of necessity which cannot be loosed except by death. Recalling that matrimony is a sacrament and therefore subject to the Church, let them consider and observe the laws of the Church concerning it. Let them take care lest for any reason they permit that which is an obstruction to the teachings of the canons and the decrees of the councils. They should be aware that those marriages will have an unhappy end which are entered upon contrary to the discipline of the Church or without God’s favor or because of concupiscence alone, with no thought of the sacrament and of the mysteries signified by it. (Gregory XVI. Encyclical Mirari vos, no. 12, August 15, 1832)

Leo XIII

  • The Church is ever watchful in guarding the sanctity and indissolubility of Marriage

It must consequently be acknowledged that the Church has deserved exceedingly well of all nations by her ever watchful care in guarding the sanctity and the indissolubility of marriage. Again, no small amount of gratitude is owing to her for having, during the last hundred years, openly denounced the wicked laws which have grievously offended on this particular subject; as well as for her having branded with anathema the baneful heresy obtaining among Protestants touching divorce and separation; also, for having in many ways condemned the habitual dissolution of marriage among the Greeks; for having declared invalid all marriages contracted upon the understanding that they may be at some future time dissolved;(54) and, lastly, for having, from the earliest times, repudiated the imperial laws which disastrously favored divorce. As often, indeed, as the supreme pontiffs have resisted the most powerful among rulers, in their threatening demands that divorces carried out by them should be confirmed by the Church, so often must we account them to have been contending for the safety, not only of religion, but also of the human race. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Arcanum Divinae sapientiae, no. 33-34, February 10, 1880)

  • The wish to declare dissoluble the matrimonial bond is a deadly pest to society

For difficult it is to imagine a more deadly pest to the community than the wish to declare dissoluble a bond which the law of God has made perpetual and inseverable. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Longinqua oceani, no. 14, January 6, 1895)

  • Marriage has become still more binding and more holy through Christ

But the Church, on the contrary, teaches that ‘marriage, honorable in all,’ (13) which God himself instituted in the very beginning of the world, and made indissoluble for the propagation and preservation of the human species, has become still more binding and more holy through Christ, who raised it to the dignity of a sacrament, and chose to use it as the figure of His own union with the Church. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Quod Apostolici muneris, no. 8, December 28, 1878)

Stephen III

  • Marrying again when you are already married is to act as the heathen do

It is wicked of you even to entertain the thought of marrying again when you are already married. You ought not to act thus, who profess to follow the law of God, and punish others to prevent men acting in this unlawful manner. Such things do the heathen. (Pope Stephen III. Letter Dum omnium electorum to Carloman and Charlemagne, Kings of the Franks, 771 ADEnglish: The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages, p. 380)

Pius VII

  • Grave attempt against the divine and natural law

Every divorce, among living Christians, as supposing the dissolution of the conjugal bond legitimately contracted and confirmed, is nothing other than a grave attempt, if not against natural law (about which the scholastics dispute among themselves) at least, against the positive written divine law, as clearly taught by the Holy Council of Trent. (Pius VII. Instruction Catholica nunc, from the Holy Office, to the Prefects of the Missions of Martinica and Guadalupe, French Antilles, July 6, 1817)

Leo XIII

  • How great are the evils that flow from divorce…

Truly, it is hardly possible to describe how great are the evils that flow from divorce. Matrimonial contracts are by it made variable; mutual kindness is weakened; deplorable inducements to unfaithfulness are supplied; harm is done to the education and training of children; occasion is afforded for the breaking up of homes; the seeds of dissension are sown among families; the dignity of womanhood is lessened and brought low, and women run the risk of being deserted after having ministered to the pleasures of men. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Arcanum Divinae sapientiae, no. 29, February 10, 1880)

  • …opening a way to every kind of evil-doing in public and in private life

Since, then, nothing has such power to lay waste families and destroy the mainstay of kingdoms as the corruption of morals, it is easily seen that divorces are in the highest degree hostile to the prosperity of families and States, springing as they do from the depraved morals of the people, and, as experience shows us, opening out a way to every kind of evil-doing in public and in private life. Further still, if the matter be duly pondered, we shall clearly see these evils to be the more especially dangerous, because, divorce once being tolerated, there will be no restraint powerful enough to keep it within the bounds marked out or presurmised. Great indeed is the force of example, and even greater still the might of passion. With such incitements it must needs follow that the eagerness for divorce, daily spreading by devious ways, will seize upon the minds of many like a virulent contagious disease, or like a flood of water bursting through every barrier. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Arcanum Divinae sapientiae, no. 29-30, February 10, 1880)

  • Divorce leads to the most extreme licentiousness

It is easily understood how nefarious — as much for the home as for public life — are these divorces that proceed from a degradation of customs, and that lead in turn to the most extreme licentiousness. (Leo XIII. Allocution Afferre iucundiora, at the Secret Consistory, no. 1, December 16, 1901)

Pius XII

  • A poison that is corrupting no small part of the human family

Whoever examines today the causes that can be attributed to the moral decay, the poison that is corrupting no small part of the human family, will soon discover that one of the most ill-fated and guilty sources may be found in the legislation and in the practice of divorce. The creations and laws of God always have a beneficial and powerful action; but when human thoughtlessness or malice gets in the way with disturbance and disorder, then the beneficial fruit, which disappears, is succeeded by an incalculable culmination of harm, as if nature itself was indignantly stirred up against the work of the men. And who can deny or doubt that the indissolubility of marriage be creation and law of God, a most robust support for the family, for the greatness of the nation, for the defense of the Fatherland, that will always find the arm and shield of its prosperity in the bosom of her gallant youth? (Pius XII. Allocution Quando, dilleti, to newlyweds, no. 6, April 29, 1942

John Paul II

  • Do not separate what God has joined together

Fight against the plague of divorce that ruins families and so negatively affects the education of children. Do not separate what God has joined together. (John Paul II. Homily in Caracas, no. 6, January 27, 1985)

  • Children condemned as orphans of living parents

What is needed then is for human societies, and the families who live within them, often in a context of struggle between the civilization of love and its opposites, to seek their solid foundation in a correct vision of man and of everything which determines the full ‘realization’ of his humanity. Opposed to the civilization of love is certainly the phenomenon of so-called ‘free love’; this is particularly dangerous because it is usually suggested as a way of following one’s ‘real’ feelings, but it is in fact destructive of love. How many families have been ruined because of ‘free love’! To follow in every instance a ‘real’ emotional impulse by invoking a love ‘liberated’ from all conditionings, means nothing more than to make the individual a slave to those human instincts which Saint Thomas calls ‘passions of the soul’. ‘Free love’ exploits human weaknesses; it gives them a certain ‘veneer’ of respectability with the help of seduction and the blessing of public opinion. In this way there is an attempt to ‘soothe’ consciences by creating a ‘moral alibi’. But not all of the consequences are taken into consideration, especially when the ones who end up paying are, apart from the other spouse, the children, deprived of a father or mother and condemned to be in fact orphans of living parents. (John Paul II. Letter to Families, Gratissimam sane, no. 14, February 2, 1994)

Benedict XVI

  • The so-called ‘extended’ family impresses upon children an erroneous typology of the family

The Church cannot be indifferent to the separation of spouses and to divorce, facing the break-up of homes and the consequences for the children that divorce causes. If they are to be instructed and educated, children need extremely precise and concrete reference points, in other words parents who are determined and reliable who contribute in quite another way to their upbringing. Nor, it is this principle that the practice of divorce is undermining and jeopardizing with the so-called ‘extended’ family that multiplies ‘father’ and ‘mother’ figures and explains why today the majority of those who feel ‘orphans’ are not children without parents but children who have too many. This situation, with the inevitable interference and the intersection of relationships, cannot but give rise to inner conflict and confusion, contributing to creating and impressing upon children an erroneous typology of the family, which in a certain sense can be compared to cohabitation, because of its precariousness. (Benedict XVI. Address to the Bishops of Brazil on their ad limina visit, September 25, 2009)

Pius IX

  • Any other union except the sacramental union is nothing else than disgraceful concubinage

Because no Catholic is ignorant or cannot know that matrimony is truly and properly one of the seven sacraments of the evangelical law, instituted by Christ the Lord, and that for that reason, there can be no marriage between the faithful without there being at one and the same time a sacrament, and that, therefore, any other union of man and woman among Christians, except the sacramental union, even if contracted under the power of any civil law, is nothing else than a disgraceful and death-bringing concubinage very frequently condemned by the Church, and, hence, that the sacrament can never be separated from the conjugal agreement (see n. 1773), and that it pertains absolutely to the power of the Church to discern those things which can pertain in any way to the same matrimony. (Denzinger 1640. Pius IX. Allocution Acerbissimum vobiscum, September 27, 1852)

Leo XIII

  • The family cannot be restored to its dignity except by those laws under which it was established in the Church

Now, the training of youth most conducive to the defense of true faith and religion and to the preservation of morality must find its beginning from an early stage within the circle of home life; and this family Christian training sadly undermined in these our times, cannot possibly be restored to its due dignity, save by those laws under which it was established in the Church by her Divine Founder Himself. Our Lord Jesus Christ, by raising to the dignity of a sacrament the contract of matrimony, in which He would have His own union with the Church typified, not only made the marriage tie more holy, but, in addition, provided efficacious sources of aid for parents and children alike, so that, by the discharge of their duties one to another, they might with greater ease attain to happiness both in time and in eternity. But when impious laws, setting at naught the sanctity of this great sacrament, put it on the same footing of mere civil contracts, the lamentable result followed, that, outraging the dignity of Christian matrimony, citizens made use of legalized concubinage in place of marriage; husband and wife neglected their bounden duty to each other; […] the bonds of domestic love were loosened; and alas! the worst scandal and of all the most ruinous to public morality, very frequently an unholy passion opened the door to disastrous and fatal separations. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Inscrutabili Dei consilio, no. 10, April 21, 1878)

John Paul II

  • A second union is in contradiction with the nature of the Sacrament of Marriage

A second union is in contradiction with the nature of the sacrament of marriage, in which is expressed the indefectible love of Christ for his Church. (John Paul II. Address to the Bishops of Belgium on their ad limina visit, no. 6, July 3, 1992)

  • To admit divorced remarried persons to the Eucharist is to lead the faithful into error and confusion

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. (John Paul II. Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, no. 84, November 22, 1981)

  • The respect due to the Sacrament of Matrimony forbids any pastor to perform ceremonies for divorced people who ‘remarry’

The respect due to the sacrament of Matrimony […] forbids any pastor, for whatever reason or pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry. Such ceremonies would give the impression of the celebration of a new sacramentally valid marriage, and would thus lead people into error concerning the indissolubility of a validly contracted marriage.

By acting in this way, the Church professes her own fidelity to Christ and to His truth. At the same time she shows motherly concern for these children of hers, especially those who, through no fault of their own, have been abandoned by their legitimate partner. (John Paul II. Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio, no. 84, November 22, 1981)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

  • In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ, the Church does not recognize second unions

Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ – ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery’ (Mk 10: 11-12) The Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. […] (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1650)

  • The ‘remarried’ cannot receive Communion as long as their situation persists – for the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities

If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1650)

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

  • Recalling the doctrine and discipline of the Church

With respect to the aforementioned new pastoral proposals, this Congregation deems itself obliged therefore to recall the doctrine and discipline of the Church in this matter. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ (Mk 10:11-12), the Church affirms that a new union cannot be recognised as valid if the preceding marriage was valid. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Holy Communion as long as this situation persists. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the reception of Holy Communion by the divorced and remarried members of the faithful, no. 4, September 14, 1994)

International Theological Commission

  • Changing the Church’s doctrine would be transforming Her into a countersign and a counterwitness of Christ

The approach of the divorced and remarried to the Eucharist is plainly incompatible with the mystery of which the Church is the servant and witness. In receiving the divorced and remarried to the Eucharist, the Church would let such parties believe that they can, on the level of signs, communicate with him whose conjugal mystery they disavow on the level of reality. To do so would be, moreover, on the part of the Church to declare herself in accord with the baptized at the moment when they enter or remain in a clearly objective contradiction with the life, the thought, and the being itself of the Lord as Spouse of the Church. If the Church could give the sacrament of unity to those who have broken with her on an essential point of the mystery of Christ, she would no longer be the sign of the witness of Christ but rather a countersign and a counterwitness. (International Theological Commission. Propositions on the Doctrine of Christian Marriage, no. 12, 1977)

Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts

  • The Church cannot promote scandal

In effect, the reception of the Body of Christ when one is publicly unworthy constitutes an objective harm to the ecclesial communion: it is a behavior that affects the rights of the Church and of all the faithful to live in accord with the exigencies of that communion. In the concrete case of the admission to Holy Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried, the scandal, understood as an action that prompts others towards wrongdoing, affects at the same time both the sacrament of the Eucharist and the indissolubility of marriage. That scandal exists even if such behavior, unfortunately, no longer arouses surprise: in fact it is precisely with respect to the deformation of the conscience that it becomes more necessary for Pastors to act, with as much patience as firmness, as a protection to the sanctity of the Sacraments and a defense of Christian morality, and for the correct formation of the faithful. (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration concerning the admission to Holy Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried, no. 1, July 7, 2000)

Pius XII

  • People feel the need for a better and more elevated concept of domestic life

What a great collaboration could the press, radio, and cinema offer; but also, great is its responsibility regarding the family! Rather than demeaning itself with the intrigues of divorce and separation, would it not be better for the cinema to be put at the service of the unity of marriage, of conjugal fidelity, of family health and the happiness of the home? People feel the need for a better and more elevated concept of domestic life. (Pius XII. Address to delegates from the International Union of Family Organisms, September 20, 1949)

  • Catholic marriage may not be compared with the irreverent and shameless image of marriage and infidelity portrayed in films

The whole concept of the field of life, which is found in the sixth commandment, is infected by what might be called the ‘film marriage’, which is nothing other than an irreverent and shameless image of the contaminations of marriage and marital infidelity, abasing the view of matrimony as disconnected from all moral bonds, merely as a scene and source of sensual pleasure, and not as a work of God, as a holy institution, and as a natural duty and pure joy, in which the spiritual element always prevails and dominates; a school and at the same time the true triumph of faithful love until the tomb, and to the gates of eternity. (Pius XII. Address to the Parish Priests and Lenten preaches of Rome, February 23, 1944)

Pius XI

  • The modern means of communication seek to deride the sanctity of marriage

When we consider the great excellence of chaste wedlock, Venerable Brethren, it appears all the more regrettable that particularly in our day we should witness this divine institution often scorned and on every side degraded. For now, alas, not secretly nor under cover, but openly, with all sense of shame put aside, now by word again by writings, by theatrical productions of every kind, by romantic fiction, by amorous and frivolous novels, by cinematographs portraying in vivid scene, in addresses broadcast by radio telephony, in short by all the inventions of modern science, the sanctity of marriage is trampled upon and derided; divorce, adultery, all the basest vices either are extolled or at least are depicted in such colors as to appear to be free of all reproach and infamy. (Pius XI. Encyclical Casti connubi, no. 44-45, December 31, 1930)

  • The advocates of neo-paganism today proclaim that a new and ‘more humane’ legislation take the place of ‘antiquated laws’ on the indissolubility of marriage

The advocates of the neo-paganism of today have learned nothing from the sad state of affairs, but instead, day by day, more and more vehemently, they continue by legislation to attack the indissolubility of the marriage bond, proclaiming that the lawfulness of divorce must be recognized, and that the antiquated laws should give place to a new and more humane legislation. Many and varied are the grounds put forward for divorce [by them]. (Pius XI. Encyclical Casti connubii, no. 44-45, December 31, 1930)


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The Pope and the people: who should invoke the divine blessing for whom?

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “In the case of divorcees who have remarried, we posed the question, what do we do with them? What door can we allow them to open? Why can’t they be godfathers and godmothers? Things need to change.

  1. “our standards need to change”
    That describe exactly what Francis is always doing- changeing the standards of the Church. And making it into a Swedish Church. Luther must be delighted.
    Thank you for your wonderful job. Here in Malmo, you cannot imagine how much good you all are doing.

    Like

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