Monday, January 19, 2009

Touchy points

After reading this, someone may say: "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" In the last few days we have seen that people are concerned about divorce-annulment-remarriage among the clergy, and about contraception. Fr. Kirby and Ed Pacht have weighed in on the first of these issues, and I want to weigh in here. This post will address the first, and in a day or two I will really get myself into deep doo-doo by, once again, addressing the second.

Divorced and remarried clergy

It is a fact of life that a couple can be invalidly married in the eyes of God. I chose those words carefully, because in the absence of bigamy they are married in the eyes of the state and of society, and that is a legal fact. Indeed, if such a couple later is determined to have had a marriage that was, by the standards of the Church and her Lord, null, the children are by no means bastards. They are legitimate, because the marriage was a legal fact, and the Church does not declare otherwise.

To most Protestants marriage never gets beyond the legal definition, and therefore they have no conception of annulments. Unfortunately, this is also somewhat true in the minds of many of the Orthodox, although the real teaching of Orthodoxy on this matter is impossible to determine, and has different versions in different places. By many in Catholic churches of the west, both Roman and Anglican, the notion of annulment is badly misunderstood.

Like Fr. John Hollister, I dislike the word "annulment." He is right, and as he stated in a comment: "I would go just one step further and relegate the term 'annulment' to the rubbish bin, replacing it with 'declaration of nullity'. Using 'annulment' too often suggests erroneously to the uninstructed that the Church is arrogating to itself the authority to undo something which Our Lord Himself had previously done."

Here we need to turn to the scriptures:

The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. Matt.9:1-9

(If anyone doubts how seriously Anglicans have taken these words, he needs to look at the Church of England in the year 1936, when the king was forced to choose between a divorced fiancee and his crown. In the final analysis, it all boiled down to one constitutional issue: The king was going to excommunicate himself upon marrying Wallice Warfield Simpson.)

The fact that a man and woman exchange vows which result in the work of God makes marriage a sacrament for Christians. This is not even debatable
unless we presume (as many do) to redefine the correct meaning of the word "sacrament." The result of a man being joined to his wife creates a divine response, that is, Form, Matter and Intention result in a condition for which the Lord used the words, "What therefore God hath joined together." Therefore, if the sacrament was not valid, the Church may decree nullity. But, it cannot annul in a proactive sense, as if changing reality. Despite the attempt by one Gene Robinson of the Episcopal "Church" to create such a thing, there is no sacrament of separation and divorce. Bishops cannot annul marriages that are valid; they may investigate to see if a marriage was invalid, and make a judgment based on the facts.

The most common reason given is a lack of Intention. However, to use the words of Jesus, quoted above, called the Matthean Exception, in a loose and simplistic manner, is not justified. The Lord did not refer to isolated acts of adultery that might follow a valid marriage, but to a marriage that is itself "fornication." That is, that it is no marriage in the eyes of God. An isolated act, even as grievous as adultery, does not mean that the marriage was invalid, but rather that it was violated and trust was betrayed. Only a pattern of such behavior could demonstrate that one party never had the right Intention to make the marriage valid. (In cases I am aware of, where some Roman Catholic bishops have used deficiency of Form as their reason, their annulments have been null, not the marriage. Such false annulments are a disgrace.)

The question about Decrees of Nullity is not whether the Church may make such judgments, but rather can that authority be abused? The obvious answer is yes. In the matter of the clergy, we are faced with a more complicated problem. I cannot help but feel compassion for John, who asks a very honest question:"All this...which disturbs this poor layman as I may have to make a decision somebody because one of these men could end up theoretically as my bishop (or yours) by the stroke of another bishop's pen. If we have struggled and sacrificed for 30 years only to produce divorced bishops we are in no position to criticize our neighbors and that raises the question 'what the h... are we all doing here?' Why not have stayed in ECUSA?"

Let us assume that someone ends up with a bishop who was divorced, found to be free of impediment by a Decree of Nullity, and remarried. Let us add the complication, theoretically (theoretically, as I am not aware of any real life case I can condemn with confidence or evidence) that his remarriage is rightly a scandal, and that everyone can see through the case as a sham annulment to justify adultery.

Here we would have two related problems. The first problem has to do with sacramental validity. On that subject, the teaching of the Church is very clear, that a sacrament is not rendered invalid because of an unworthy minister. To teach otherwise is to fall into the heresy of Donatism. When St. Paul warned St. Timothy, "Lay hands suddenly on no man," (I Tim. 5:22) and when he listed the character requirements for postulency (I Tim 3, and Tit. 1:5-11), it is quite obvious that he never questioned the validity of unworthy men should they become ordained. Rather, he instructed Timothy on how to avoid the creation of a monster; a real life minister (be he deacon, priest or bishop) who ought never to have been ordained, partly because that ordination is real, and indelible. The Church would have to apply the remedy of discipline, but such cases always leave wounds and scars. The bottom line regarding sacraments is stated in Article XXVI. Of the unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.

Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometime the evil have chief authority in the ministration of the word and sacraments; yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and do minister by His commission and authority, we may use their ministry both in hearing the word of God and in the receiving of the sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ's ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God's gifts diminished from such as by faith and rightly do receive the sacraments ministered unto them, which be effectual because of Christ's institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.

Nevertheless it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church that inquiry be made of evil ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty by just judgement, be deposed.

But, this does not answer the real cry I hear in John's question.

The extra weight that is rightly placed on our backs as clergymen is there because, in addition to our sacramental role, our manner of life before the world and before the Church could destroy our credibility and therefore take away our ability to teach. Worse, our lives, as publicly known, might even teach error, and they may do so to the peril of souls. And, they may send a false message despite our doctrinal orthodoxy. That is the message of the third chapter of St. Paul's first Epistle to St. Timothy. When St. Paul says that a man who desires the office of a bishop must be "apt to teach," the context indicates that his public reputation must not destroy his ability to represent Christ. Otherwise, he cannot teach effectively, partly because he has lost all moral authority.

Perhaps the Anglicans of fifty years ago might seem severe today. After all, at that time any divorce at all in a man's past, or that of his wife, was enough to render ordained ministry beyond his reach anywhere in the entire Anglican Communion. This may have had more to do with community standards than with actual morality. Should a man be considered unfit for ordination because of a marriage that fell apart many years earlier, perhaps even before his conversion, and that was really and truly not a valid marriage? On the other hand, what does fairness have to do with it? Is this life of ordained ministry supposed to be fair? Can it be fair?

I have no authority to pontificate, but neither can I give my hearty approval to everything that may go on in bodies that are associated with, or even part of, the Continuing Church jurisdictions. But, I would hope that more consideration be given to the basic cry that is in John's question than merely a legal and technical one, even one that is theologically accurate. What John wants from all of us in the ordained ministry is an example to follow, and one that children can learn from. He wants an example that commands the respect of Christians in other churches and also of unbelievers. It is a matter of compassion and of responsibility that we hear that cry, and that we not seek to defend ourselves rather than caring for the sheep. And, yes, perhaps some of the men in ordained ministry should ask themselves if their life is a scandal, whether the answer is fair or not.

68 comments:

poetreader said...

Allow me, as a cohost here, to say that Father Hart speaks exquisitely well for me also in this post. This is the truth of the matter.
-----------------------------
I feel it necessary to add something at this point, as the discussion this far seems to have lost sight of our purpose in this board: Yes, we do try to present news of the Continuing Church as fairly as possible, and yes, we do put a lot of effort into discussing theological issues and their implications, but we are not the Church's police, nor are we a court of canon law. In short, if you are looking for the proper place to make charges against individuals, clergy or lay, this is not the place. It is not our job, in this context, to adjudicate the legitimacy of any individual marriage, and we will neither do so nor allow such to be done here. We will however, be forthright is discussing and debating the theological issues of both marriage and what should be required of a clergyman, and we welcome forthright comments, even when we need to disagree with them.
----------------------------
OK. I've said it. Now, gentlemen (and ladies) have at it.

ed

Canon Tallis said...

Considering my just expressed fears of where this discussion might lead, I am very glad to be able to thank both Father Hart and Ed for so expertly defusing them. May the rest of us maintain that standard. My contribution will be to read carefully (and thankfully) with the hope that I will not be tempted to any further comment.

Gentlemen, start your engines! - A bit of NASCAR there.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Fr. Hart.

You have framed my concern quite well.

I admit a bit of selfishness in being concerned for myself and famly and friends but also about the signal we (the CC) may be inadvertently sending into the mission field. At the end of the day individuals who are looking for something more than McReligion will not distinguish between jurisdictions. The CC is the CC to a degree and the portability of clergy and lay people back and forth from one jurisdiction to another sort of bears this out.

Each of us is responsible for the Great Commission and who we select from among ourselves to be our shepherds says volumes about our movement to people who want to hear and live the Gospel and know it is real.

I hope that as time goes by that the barriers between jurisdictions will evaporate and that high standards will become universal.

Thank you for taking this seriously.

John

Anonymous said...

I feel keenly the responsibility of responding thoughtfully to an excellent essay on a difficult subject, an essay with which I believe I am in perfect agreement.

I must begin by acknowledging that no divorce (whether the marriage was valid or invalid) is without deep and lasting pain to many parties. I must also be honest enough to acknowledge that I have known a number of DAR clergymen (both priests and bishops) who serve the Lord with zeal in highly fruitful ministries, who are surely better priests than I am. That is a patent spiritual fact which even the most rigid hard-liner cannot deny or talk around.

While I grasp and accept Fr Hollister's distinction between the terms "annulment" and "declaration of nullity," (surely the latter is preferable, as he says), I do not quite grasp how this distinction helps the Church in her witness to the indissolubility of marriage.

This whole discussion takes place in the context of a culture war. The institution of marriage is under assault on many fronts. The most serious of these assaults is the social acceptance of divorce as like, shall we say, trading cars or finding a preferable subdivision. In my years as a high school teacher, I have observed with much pain excellent students fall apart emotionally and turn into unmanageable little monsters. The story would inevitably come out, Johnny or Susy's parents are getting a divorce.
A precious theological distinction between "valid" and "invalid" is of no use whatever in dealing with the anguish of a broken household. Johnny and Susy endure emotional torment because Mommy and Daddy have been taught to believe that divorce may be expensive but is morally okay. The Church, to our shame, has done little or nothing to discourage such a belief.

Some while back I performed a wedding in which the groom was a young military officer whom I had presented for Confirmation 10 or 12 years earlier, who had been my key acolyte for many years, who had been crucifer for Christmas Eve Midnight Mass for at least six year in a row. I was not altogether happy with the haste of the wedding, in which I had only one hour for marriage counseling. That was because he was about to be deployed to Iraq. But there was no moral impediment. Nobody was pregnant, nobody was living together, and neither party had been married previously. So in the brief hour I had, I went over the "Statement of Intention" and made it clear that we were playing marbles for keeps. The young man turned the tables on me and asked bluntly, "Fr Wells, have you ever been divorced?"
Thank God I could answer in the negative, because I realized that my
priestly credibility was on the line.
Had I given any other answer, then all the fine arguments distinguishing sacramental from natural marriage, valid and invalid sacraments, annulments or declarations of nullity, would turn into so much blah, blah, blah. The laity do not know much theology, but they can recognize dishonesty 30 miles away.

When you see the honor roll student suddenly failing courses, the situation is not remedied by a marriage tribunal granting a "decree of nullity." Our practice has largely been a scandal, in which sin has solemnly condoned with winks and nods. The Roman Church charges large fees and has turned this into a source of revenue. The Holy See has expressed concern over the fact that the USA has a disproportionate number of annulments. And of course when somebody applies for one, grounds can always be contrived. The attitude all too common in the Continuing Churches has been something like, "Bill wants to be a postulant? And he has been married once already? Well, he needs an annulment and we will help get him one."

I am sure than in certain cases a declaration of nullity is justified.
But for what purpose? In my view a Declaration of Nullity is purely for getting married. Such a declaration should have no place in the ordination process.

Over thirty years ago our Church succumbed to WO, out of pressure from the secular culture, in surrender to the Zeitgeist. Sadly, we have not mounted much resistance to the same forces when it comes to marriage discipline. Refining the canonical language does not help very much.

There was a time when a divorce history automatically excluded a man from the ordination process. No one was interested in the details or the extenuating circumstances. It was clearly grasped that a priest or bishop with a divorce history, no matter how fine a priest or bishop he may be, can never be a credible witness to the Biblical teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. I pray that we can return to that historic position. No Declaration of Nullity can solve the problem. In the case of a bishop the problem is heightened. The problem of conflict of interest comes into play. If he ever denies such a Declaration and says the lovely couple cannot get married in church, they will naturally feel that they have treated unfairly.
Thde man who signs declarations of nullity surely should not need one for himself.
LKW

poetreader said...

I'm going to stand aside and not make substsantive comments at this point, but I want to comment that, though it was a bumpy road getting here, we finally seem to be carrying on a substantive and thoiughtful discussion of real issues. Thank you, gentlemen.

ed

Fr. Robert Hart said...

My one and onlydisagreement with Fr. Wells is over this one little part:

While I grasp and accept Fr Hollister's distinction between the terms "annulment" and "declaration of nullity," (surely the latter is preferable, as he says), I do not quite grasp how this distinction helps the Church in her witness to the indissolubility of marriage.

I believe that Fr. Hollister has presented a btter tool for the teaching of our people. Therefore, the result of his usage may reform the actual behavior, over time, of Christians. They will not imagine that some failure on their part, and in their future, can be remedied by "getting an annulment." So, I think it could very much help our overall witness to use his term, inasmuch as it helps to clear up a lot of muddled thinking- and "as he thinketh in his heart, so is he"-which translates into behavior.

Anonymous said...

I recall someone on this blog once usinging the high-sounding phrase "mere verbal logomachy."

I also recall a pastoral conversation I once had with a heart-broken grandmother, after her son's marriage had broken down. After his schizophrenic wife had abandoned him for another man, making the grandchildren inacccessible, a church marriage tribunal had conveniently granted an annulment on the grounds of insanity, in order for her to get married again! It would have been cold comfort to explain, "Why it wasn't an annulment, it was a Declaration of Nullity." Technically correct but pastorally irrelevant.
LKW

Anonymous said...

While I must agree with the essay and the theological reasoning behind it, there is one thing that "nabs at my neck".

I can't help but feel that sometimes divorce morphs into the "unforgivable sin" (and I do think it a sin).

I once heard a man who wanted to pursue Holy Orders say, "The Church cannot forgive me for what happened when I was 19 years old. I'm glad Jesus has". That man continues a layman to this day with no ability to pursue what he feels his call from God is. Proving his authenticity, he accepted the judgement of those in spiritual authority over him, and he remains as a very well read layman who would make a fine priest.

Many in the clergy committed horrible sins in their past before conversion and a call to ministry. Many were adulterers, drunkards, theives, and the like. The Church is willing to accept their forgiveness in God, but if any of them say, "One of those sins was a divorce", he is eternally judged as unworthy of ordination.

I'm not saying that I have the answer here, but this does bother me greatly on this issue.

When it comes to divorce, the sea of forgetfulness does not stretch as far as the East is from the West.

poetreader said...

If there is not more to the story than appears, what was granted was probably not a "Declaration of Nullity" at all. This appears to be a dissolution of a marriage on grounds that simply did not make it intially impossible for it to be a marriage at all. This woukld then be an Annulment, an attempt to undo what can't be undone, in other words, a fancified divorce.

Father Wells, you've well illustrated the importance of this fine distinction of words. The Church has no power to undo what God has done, but the Church does have the authority to judge when a marriage was impossible in the first place. The more technical term serves to expose a large number of so-called Annulments as being not what they purport to be, but merely glorified divorces, and the confusion of these terms has served to justify a lot of abuse.

One can attempt to nullify an existent reality, an annulment, to no genuine effect, or one can recognize that nullity actually exists, as it sometimes does, as in the case of two many existing spouses. The distinction of terms is an important one, and would help to avoid tragic situations such as you describe.

ed

poetreader said...

A little cross-posting here. My last was in answer to Fr. Wells (LKW). This is for the anonumous directly above. (BYW, I wish you'd selected an alias - it would make it easier to converse).

I'll begin with some personal remarks: I have sinned. I have repented. I have indeed been forgiven and rejoice in God's grace. I am deeply aware of a vocation to minister that grace of God. I followed that calling into the "ordained" ministry of a Pentecostal denomination and served in it for a quarter-century. On entering Anglicanism, I expected to follow that vocation into the priesthood. That has not happened and probably will never happen, and it was indeed a deep disappointment, and, I too have been told often that I would have been a good priest.

Here's the point. It is up to me to follow God's calling as best as I can. It is not up to me to determine what use the Church may make of that calling. There is no such thing as a right to be ordained. Ordination is most emphatically not a gift for the benefit of the one ordained, but rather involves a very costly gift on his part, and the same may be said for every unordained ministry. Ordination is confered by the Church for the purpose of munistry, not for the fulfillment of some interior need of the candidate. I know that I'm called - but it's up to the Church to determine if that call involves ordination. Am I what is needed for the work at hand? Perhaps not. Perhaps, like the many godly and truly called women who have been misled to believe that their calling involves ordination, I have been similarly misled. Yes, there is pain in not being able to minister in the ways one thought were ahead, but it is a far worse thing to be in the wrong place exercising a ministry that is inappropriate to one's true calling, or to be struggling to minister in ways one simply cannot.


Your friend is to be admired and imitated. It may well be that his attitude in this will do far more to speak the fullness of the Gospel to a self-centered world than he coild have accomplished as a priest. I do know, for myself, that my disappointment has provided ways to minister that I would have never found if my plans had been fulfilled. It remains true that God's calling does not evaporate, and that a layman is as much a servant of God as a bishop, each in his own unique position in God's providence. I hope this helps.

ed

Bruce said...

Great discussion. One slight disagreement or, at least, clarification:

"The institution of marriage is under assault on many fronts. The most serious of these assaults is the social acceptance of divorce as like, shall we say, trading cars or finding a preferable subdivision." – LKW

I think the nature of all the assaults on marriage should be seen as our misunderstanding of the purpose of marriage. It’s seen as a contract for the pleasure of the two parties. Divorce, homosexual “marriage”, etc all follow from the fundamental understanding of what marriage is. So I think they’re all basically the same assault.

As far as divorce being unforgivable, I don’t think that’s the case. But the nature of the sin of divorce and remarriage makes it difficult. A person can murder, rape, whatever, can repent, be forgiven, and “go and sin no more” (at least not murder or rape) as our Lord says. If a person divorces and remarries then repenting and “sinning no more” involves an attack on one of the most central commitments of his life and the severing of the marriage (whether valid or not) to his new “wife” who he very likely loves.

In the other thread someone mentioned St Augustine and others who some didn’t want to see ordained. But isn’t the DAR clergyman situation different? It’s about what they’re doing now not what they did in the past.

P.S. I look forward to your post on contraception. I don’t think you’ll get in “deep doo-doo” with me.

Millo Shaw said...

An excellent thread. I find Fr. Wells' reference to the torment and pain suffered by the children of divorce particularly moving. The studies I have read tend towards the conclusion that, in many cases (and particularly boys), this catastrophe marks, even mars, them for life. The cheerleaders of our soft, selfish, and therefore exquisitely cruel society who cavalierly dismiss this issue could perhaps best be answered by stark lines from one of Siegfried Sassoon's WWI poems:

"Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go."

Anonymous said...

Poetreader: the annnulment story of the schizophrenic woman on grounds of insanity (I only know what I was told) was in a RC diocese. I do not think you grasped my point. Improving language does NOT correct a situation. Whether you call a corpse dead or deceased does nothing to revive it.

Anonymous: it is not a sin not to have an annullment. Neither is it a sin to fail canonical exams, a background check, or a medical examination. Such things are simply requirements for the ordination process. This can be truly bruising and humiliating for the aspirant. But one who enters the ordination process submits to the wisdom of the diocesan authorities. Those authorities (beginning with the Rector himself) should carefully explain it's not a matter of morals but simply meeting standards. I once had to explain to a man that his chronic morbid obesity was displeasing to the bishop and was regarded as a health issue. Nothing personal, just a requirement he was unable to meet.
LKW

Anonymous said...

PoetReader,

I accept your comments, but answer me this...

In the cases where the Church HAS spoken and decided to ordain a divorced man, why is that not accepted at face value, instead as being looked at with suspicion as is evident in the article and subsequent posts?

It seems that some appeal to "the authorities in the Church" in matters as long as the decisions go the way that they think they should.

Once again, I find it a little difficult to process the thinking of those who would forgive a man for everything from rape to bank robbery, but somehow the sin of divorce cannot be overcome by the blood of Christ to the point that they "remember it no more".

Anonymous said...

Anon,

I think somewhere between this thread and the other it has been stated that the issue is not that divorce may be forgivable it is whether or not a divorced and remarried man ought serve as Bishop when Scripture holds that office to the standard of a man of one wife.

Clearly if LKW had answered the young man that he had divorced and remarried the young man would have thought him a hypocrite and would likely not take the Church or the Faith seriously and why should he, Christ's own representative did not.

I think the point is if you are unable to control yourself you cannot teach others to control themselves and your situation will be read as double mindedness, disregard or disbelief doing damage to those seeking a role model and to wider Christianity as well.

Like the children who are damaged in spite of technicalities I think the harm done by Bishops who do not practice what they preach is significant and likely has had a huge impact on the ministry of the Church and that impact is lasting.

My understanding of Augustine situation is that he was in with bad company before he answered his call. But I do not think that he got a divorce and remarried before he became a Bishop.
Clearly his pre-conversion behavior was forgiven but after accepting his call the record shows he 'kept his vessel'.
Jesus forgave but he also made a demand: go and sin no more. I do not think DAR meets that test plain and simple.

I also think any bishop who is DAR ought to step down and retire and I think it is incumbent on any Christian to demand their shepherds meet the standards holiness demands.

Anonymous said...

"also think any bishop who is DAR ought to step down and retire.."

Speaking personally, I would not be quite that draconian about it. After all, such men acccepted their election and consecration in good faith and (I repeat myself) we all know of several who are serving the Church as excellent bishops.
We are not naming names in this thread, but all of us whom I mean. My proposal, instead, is that we agree, going forward, no more men with annulment (oops, sorry, Declarations of Nullity) histories admitted as postulants, or advanced from one order to the next.
We are wrestling here with with a disciplinary matter, not one of valid orders.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Wells wrote:

It would have been cold comfort to explain, "Why it wasn't an annulment, it was a Declaration of Nullity." Technically correct but pastorally irrelevant.

It sounds to me like this one was "an annulment," in the worst way. I think, Father, that the superiority of the phrase "Decree of Nullity" is not about comfort, and not about the past. It is about teaching, using words with more clarity, in order to help prevent marital separation and divorce, and teach more clearly the doctrine of Christ on the subject. I believe it is one small way to help with prevention that is worth more than a cure. So, I find much value in Fr. Hollister's choice of words.

Anonymous said...

From Fr Hart:
"using words with more clarity, in order to help prevent marital separation and divorce, and teach more clearly the doctrine of Christ on the subject."

When did our Saviour teach ANYTHING concerning Declarations of Nullity? I thought he taught emphatically that marriage is indissoluble, period, without distinction between sacramental marriage and marriage otherwise. In Matthew 19, His teaching against divorce was so extreme that His disciples said, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is expedient not to marry." He COULD have said, "This teaching only applies to sacramental marriages, but if your marriage does not work out, then you can apply for a Declaration of Nullity." But we all should know He said something rather different. Open your Bibles, please, to Matt. 19:11-12.

I hacve come to suspect that the distinction between sacramental and non-sacramental marriage has been over-worked, as a way of brokering in the secular divorce culture into the life of the Church. That distinction should be understood in the larger terms of the relationship between Nature and Grace. Oddly, many who would claim a "Catholic" view of nature and grace begin to argue like Manichaeans or Gnostics in the great gulf they claim between sacramental and non-sacramental marriage.
LKW

Anonymous said...

The very fact that we are arguing the merits of the terms "annnulment" versus "declaration of nullity" shows that something is serious out of sync among us. Such terms should be heard rarely if at all. I recall a time when the very word divorce was not used in front of children. As St Paul said, "Such things ought not be mentioned among the saints."
This is evidence of a sick Church in a sick world.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Wells wrote:

When did our Saviour teach ANYTHING concerning Declarations of Nullity?

With the words, "except it be for fornication." Therefore, what Fr. Hollister's term better clarifies is that a true marriage is permanent, for life, impossible to undo. Even the Church cannot, in a proactive sense, "annul."

Let us take an obvious case. A man learns after several years that his wife (or vice versa) managed to hide a previous marriage and divorce. This has happened in real life. Another. A man was disclosed after years of marriage (when I was doing investigations years ago), to have been using a false identity to escape the law. He was married before "marrying" his "wife." Did she not deserve a chance later to marry for real?

Such obvious examples demonstrate that invalid marriages can exist. What about someone, especially in this crazy age of rent-a womb, who learns that his "wife" is his sister?

Anon. wrote:

This is evidence of a sick Church in a sick world.

Yes, it is. There is some real need of healing among Christians, and much of this is due to the lives they were living prior to conversion.

Fr. John said...

I think another thing that is being overlooked here is that civil marriage, that is marriage outside the church, is fornication pure and simple, and treated as such by many who enter into such a "union."

If a person is not a Christian and marries another non-Christian, and perhaps even repeats the process several times, then is converted while legally divorced they should certainly be counted as having never been in a sacramental marriage. The marriages that many, or perhaps even most, people contract today hardly qualifies as marriage as Christians understand it. Such people should be free to contract a real marriage in the Church if God calls them to the married state of life. If they had been serial fornicators, that is had no piece of paper from the state, they would be allowed to marry. Why should secular marriages, contracted in ignorance, be held against people coming into the Church?

Whether or not they are fit for ordination is another matter, and that should be decided on a case by case basis.

Unless the couple is married in an apostolic church and were well instructed in what constitutes a sacramental marriage, they have no need of an annulment.

The problem of course arises when people are married under the above conditions. Annulments for such marriages should be extremely difficult to obtain. If the standards are high, then anyone with such an annulment should be able to fully participate in the life of the Church to include ordination if they have a calling.

Jesus did say that Moses allowed men to put away their wives for adultery, but only because of the hardness of their hearts, the implication being that even with adultery a man should not put away his wife.

Divorce is an ugly thing whether civil or sacramental marriage is involved, but there is a world of difference between the two.

The final thing I want to point out is that as long as the annulment granted is honestly and accurately evaluated,one may say with all candor that any subsequent marriage is a first one.

If I am ordained a minister in the Baptist Church as a young man, then later in life ordained as a priest in the Church Catholic I can only claim one ordination. If someone ask me how long I have been ordained I count from the date of my catholic one, the sacrament CANNOT be repeated, so I have not been ordained twice.

If I contract a marriage outside the Church Catholic I am not truly in a Christian marriage anymore than I would be in Holy Orders if ordained in any protestant body.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I am not sure we can dismiss the merely legal marriage as invalid, simply because it did not rise to a fully sacramental level. When St. Paul addresses the subject, the implication is that every licit marriage has its sacramental element, even though the grace of a sacrament seems to be released only to a Christian, that is, only after baptism. So, he speaks of Christians who have been married to unbelievers in I Cor.7:14. "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy."

Anonymous said...

I am not going to fight, bleed and die over the "annulment vs declaration of nullity" distinction. It strikes me as a distinction without a difference, much ado about nothing. Call it whatever you wish. And yes, there are indeed cases where such a degree is justified; have I implied anything to the contrary? A quick Google search shows that the two terms are used interchangeably in RC usage. "Declaration of nullity" is more formal and specific, "annullment" is more colloquial and generic. The high-sounding expression "declaration of nullity" has done nothing to prevent promiscuous and frivolous decrees of nullity in RC contexts. I'll bet Ted Kennedy had one. Why do you think it will be helpful to us?

As for the Matthean exception (Matt 19:9) for "porneia," the text is too shakey to carry so much freight. (The UBS Greek NT gives this reading only a C rating.) Even if the exception is allowed, it contains no hint of a church tribunal. If such a handy procedure were in view, how would you account for the disciples' terror at verse 10?
LKW

Fr. John said...

Fr. Hart,

Yes, and I think we have to recognize that he is writing about people who want to stay together, not ones who want to divorce.

I would not require every civilly married couple who enter the Church to have their marriages blessed by a priest, but I would recommend it, and especially so for any man who thinks he may have a calling to Holy Orders. If there was a non-believing spouse involved who refused to participate in such a blessing that could be a sign of future problems. Annulments available for such? I don't think the Christian party would need one.

Here's a question for you. For a man married to such a non-believer, should that situation disqualify him for ordination?

Anonymous said...

Fr John writes:
"I think another thing that is being overlooked here is that civil marriage, that is marriage outside the church, is fornication pure and simple, and treated as such by many who enter into such a "union."

If that were true, then marriage did not exist before the First Pentecost.
This would mean that Adam and Eve were not really married, just cohabiting.

It is true that Christians have a duty to marry "in the Lord." But that is not what the quotation said.

When I encounter such a statement, I turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which contains a statement on the docrine of matrimony that is very well worked out. There we read:

"The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."

(This is a quotation from the Codex Iuris Canonici.) This, and the following statements very clearly teach that marriage belongs to the order of creation and even among pagans is a Divine institution, blessed by God and indissoluble. Between baptized Christians it is heightened to "the dignity of a sacrament." The marriages of non-Christians are likewise sacred and are not to be contemptuously or uncharitably discribed as "fornication."

There is likewise no analogy between a minister lacking valid orders and a faithful non-Christian couple. There is no difference between a pagan adulterer and a Christian adulterer; both have violated the same commandment
(The Christian adulterer, of course, is more gravely accountable, having a higher level of revelation.)
LKW

Anonymous said...

"Divorce is an ugly thing whether civil or sacramental marriage is involved, but there is a world of difference between the two."

That depends on whether you have a genuinely Catholic understanding of the relationship between nature and grace.
If you grasp the real continuity of the two, then there is a consequent continuity between the natural marriage between two humans and the sacramental marraige between two Christians. To think otherwise veers toward something worse than Protestantism, i.e. Manicheanism. It also provdes carte blanche to the Divorce culture.
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Wells wrote:

Even if the exception is allowed, it contains no hint of a church tribunal.

But, if not a church tribunal, then what? Should an individual be allowed to decide such a thing? It must involve the authority of the Church.

Fr. John wrote:

Here's a question for you. For a man married to such a non-believer, should that situation disqualify him for ordination?

That is not a question for me. It is a question for our college of bishops.

Sandra McColl said...

It seems we have a problem, and the problem goes like this:

1. There is far too much marital breakdown in our society, to the point that it raises no eyebrows when it occurs.
2. Sadly, even scandalously, the Church's statistics are no better than those of society at large.

Clearly, the cycle needs to be broken, and where better to start than the Anglican Continuum?

Now, it won't be fixed by fixating on people, even clergy and bishops, who've fallen victim to the trend. Instead of obsessing over how difficult we should make it for people to have a second or subsequent shot at it, why not concentrate where concentration is necessary--on those who are getting married for the first time.

I've seen encouraging references in the combox to such things as proper instruction. This is really necessary. I've heard of Roman dioceses where young engaged couples have to go to classes and deal with hypothetical questions, in the company of other young engaged couples, concerning apparently real-life situations within a marriage. Erk! If I'd ever got as far as getting engaged, the prospect of such classes would certainly have tried my resolve. Priests are too busy, the Romans say, to instruct every couple. Oh.

Now, in Australia, where going to church is not a respectable thing to do on a Sunday morning (which is for sleeping in, breakfast out, volunteer fire brigade training, taking the children to sport, taking the children to sport, and taking the children to sport) Anglican priests do not appear to me to be all that frantically busy. Nevertheless, I've known of at least one (don't know whether it was diocesan policy or his own) who sent prospective brides and grooms off to diocesan marriage guidance (Anglican Church of Australia, I hasten to add--don't think the Continuum jurisdictions have such a luxury).

Now, I don't know what a marriage guidance counsellor, even a diocesan one, would tell people, but it occurs to me that pre-marital instruction couldn't do better than to be founded on the rite of solemnization of matrimony in the BCP. And surely it would be better two-on-one with the priest (or even one-on-one for parts of it), who could explain until satisfied that the couple understood exactly what the purposes of marriage are, exactly what the vows mean (which certainly isn't 'as long as it is mutually convenient'), and a few things about the birds and the bees that young people don't pick up in 'men's health' magazines, women's magazines and popular entertainment. Finally, the priest should make a written record of matters covered in the course of instruction and his satisfaction that they have been understood and agreed with (a pro-forma would probably do, as long as the instruction itself wasn't pro-forma). And if the priest isn't satisfied, he shouldn't have to go through with the ceremony, or let it happen in his church. The message would be, if you want to get married in a Continuum church, everything possible will be done, not to make it hard for you to have another go if the marriage breaks down, but to make it as unlikely as possible for your marriage to break down in the first place.

I recall an old priest once telling me that he had a young couple come to him one day, stars in their eyes, wanting to get married. He could see that outwardly it looked like a good match, but he knew them both, and firmly believed that they weren't ready to make that decision just yet, and weren't really as suited to each other as they superficially appeared. He told them to wait a year. Somewhat downcast, the agreed. Within a year they'd gone their separate ways.

Moral of the story? Fathers--don't feel obliged to marry everyone who asks, and ideally know them (or one of them) before they ask, and get to know them during PMI.

And why have I said nothing about the personal history of the priest giving the instruction? Because, among other things, when I go to get my sins absolved, I enlist the services of a sinner--not deliberately, it's just that sinners are all that God provides. Let's not concentrate on the pasts of the clergy but on the future of the young, and let's do all that can be done to avoid them contracting marriage unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly.

And, Fathers, if you're already doing these things, you have my applause. And if you think I'm talking a lot of horse manure, feel free to say so.

Anonymous said...

Concerning civil marriage or marriage of non-Christians, John Macquarrie writes:
"Marriage had already been a familiar feature of human life for thousands of years, perhaps from very sloon after the time when a distinctly 'human' creature appeared on this planet. Christian marriage, so to speak, 'baptizes' the ancient institution, not by abolishing its traditional character but by introducing new and distinctly Christian elements. Thus the church recognizes non-Christian marriage including civil marriages, as valid. It does not repeat marriage where a civil marriage has already taken place, but may bless such a marriage by adding a distinctively Christian dimension." Macquarrie goes on to develop this from the Marriage Service in the 1662 BCP. This is in line with the CCC.

Fr Hart: You are welcome to INFER such things as marriage tribunals from the general rubric "Feed my sheep" (John 21)
and their is a wealth of NT evidence for the Church's pastoral authority. But it is siply not in Matt. 19:9. Sorry, no cigar. And I do not thnk you have faced up to the context of this verse or dealt with shock and awe expressed by the disciples at the teaching of our Lord, which was far more stringent than that of the rabbis.

poetreader said...

Sandra,

I think you'v wisely hit the center of the concerns. There's a lot of messy and ultimately unacceptable stuff in existence. Can we fix what has been and perhaps still is? That may or may not be the case.

However, we can do everything possible to let it be known from this time forward that things WILL be different. We should marry no one without thorough instruction, doing everything in our power to stress the solemn commitment that is matrimony. Since many or most of our people have been married with less than the instruction they should have, I'd go further in strongly urging every married couple to be receiving ongoing instruction or counseling of some kind. We are living in and ministering to a society that has no real regard for the sacredness of marriage, and our own attitudes have been infected by those of our society. If we are not vigilant, we fail.

As for those present clergy whose sin (I speak boldly) has resulted in marital irregularity, let the Church wrestle, case by case, with what needs to be done, but, in the meantime, each such cleric needs to be brutally honest with himself and others, and repentant in his attitude, and, if the question comes up, needs to admit his failure to live as should have been done, and go on from there, giving the instruction that he himself should have heeded.

DAR is plain wrong in all circumstances where there was an actual marriage, and, at best, questionable (at least for clergy) even if the marriage itself was never real. The indispensible requirement of every Christian is a repentant heart and a determination to follow God. However, if we can't trust God's grace to forgive sin and to lead us out of it, but can only rely on a rigid law code, well, then, what was the Cross for anyhow?

There are no easy answers, but there is the requirement for an earnest and often painful seeking for guidance.

a sinner among sinners,
ed pacht

Anonymous said...

“Here's a question for you. For a man married to such a non-believer, should that situation disqualify him for ordination?”

I think it ought disqualify and the reason is Scripture says that the candidate need be the spiritual head of his household. Paralleling the example offered by LKW, if a man cannot convince his wife of the reality of the Faith how will the faithful see him? Since a priest or Bishop in the CC usually is the rector of a church how does his wife’s disbelief affect the congregation and those in it who may be teetering? Can any of us say that a disbelieving spouse of a cleric would not bring controversy?

“Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things" and “To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.



“Once again, I find it a little difficult to process the thinking of those who would forgive a man for everything from rape to bank robbery, but somehow the sin of divorce cannot be overcome by the blood of Christ to the point that they "remember it no more".

I keep thinking about this comment and I would say the bank robber and rapist will be forgiven if they truly repent but does anyone expect that they ought to become the head of the treasury department or that the rapist should lead a women’s college or be a coach of a women's basketball team or a leader in the girl scouts?

“For a bishop must be blameless”…



C.S. Lewis said: Every uncorrected error and unrepented sin is, in its own right, a fountain of fresh error and fresh sin flowing on to the end of time.

Are we going to turn the fountain of error off or are we going to make excuses and continue to drink salt water because we are still thirsty?

Respectfully,

John

Fr. John said...

LKW writes;

"If that were true, then marriage did not exist before the First Pentecost.
This would mean that Adam and Eve were not really married, just cohabiting."

My response:

That was then, this is now.

LKW writes:

This, and the following statements very clearly teach that marriage belongs to the order of creation and even among pagans is a Divine institution, blessed by God and indissoluble. Between baptized Christians it is heightened to "the dignity of a sacrament." The marriages of non-Christians are likewise sacred and are not to be contemptuously or uncharitably discribed as "fornication."

My response:

Oh really, so pagan polygamy (as in the example of traditional Mormons) and primitive tribal practices that involve all sorts of sexual couplings and marriage relationships are to be granted the dignity of a God blessed condition.

Granted that Western style secular marriage grew out of the Christian one, but it has far departed from its origin and only bears a superficial resemblance to the solemn pacts and undertaking of obligations of past years. Why do you think that gay marriage is a legitimate topic of debate and high political maneuverings? COULD IT BE THAT IN SOME WAY GOD IS BLESSING THESE "MARRIAGES" TOO? I don't think the authors of the RCC Catechism had these types of pagan marriages in mind when they wrote the part you quote. And any way they seem to make the same distinction that I do between sacramental and non-sacramental marriages. I can state with absolute certainty that a previous marriage outside the Roman Church is not an impediment to receiving the sacrament of marriage in that Church, perhaps with the exception of those married in the EO Church, so dignity yes, canonical standing no.

I know I am somewhat rude when I refer to non-sacramental marriage as fornication, but I am making a point that is important. Sure there is a vast difference between a faithful couple married in the Methodist Church and a polygamous Mormon traditionalist. There is also a vast difference between a polygamous Mormon traditionalist and the marriage customs of head hunters in the Solomon Islands. Still, no matter how vast those difference they are only matters of degrees. The debasement of marriage in America is such that it cannot be considered anything but fornication with a temporary license.

Fr. John said...

Here's an interesting thing to reflect on. The African RC bishop who married last year and was then forced by the Vatican to put away his wife, did he need an annulment? Was he married by a priest in the context of a nuptial Mass? Did the Roman Church extend the required degree of "dignity" to this "marriage?" After all it was not a pagan marriage, or was it?

I confuse myself.

Fr. John said...

And that African bishop, what sins did he have to confess from this episode? Fornication?

Bruce said...

I'm confused. Is the post about divorce or divorce AND remarriage? People keep mentioning the past and personal history of clergy but I thought the issue was their present?

It's been stated repeatedly that we're sinners and our priests are sinners in a discussion where that should be abundantly clear to all participants. This seems to have the effect of distracting the discussion towards the idea that there's some sort of special lack of forgiveness for DARs. I don't think that's the case at all. I can think of lots of sins I'd have a harder time forgiving.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr Hart: You are welcome to INFER such things as marriage tribunals from the general rubric "Feed my sheep" (John 21)
and their is a wealth of NT evidence for the Church's pastoral authority. But it is siply not in Matt. 19:9


If the Church does not do the judging, then it remains to the individual or the state. Both are unacceptable in determining whether or not a marriage was valid in the eyes of God. The individual cannot be given this option for obvious reasons, and we cannot have the world determining these things either. So, if the words, "except it be for fornication" do not require the Church's judgement, how else can they be applicable to real life?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. John wrote:

Oh really, so pagan polygamy (as in the example of traditional Mormons) and primitive tribal practices that involve all sorts of sexual couplings and marriage relationships are to be granted the dignity of a God blessed condition.

These are valid points, but they are not relevant, I think, to what Fr. Wells meant. I think he simply meant that perfectly legal marriages in our society are not fornication, but valid and real marriages. This is quite right, because otherwise the Christian with the unbelieving spouse, as St. Paul writes about, would not have been considered married. Those weddings, before conversion, probably were Pagan in the Roman and Greek sense. They were still considered a married couple by the Apostle.

If a couple could divorce (which usually means one spouse deserting the other) on the basis of conversion, that would be a worse can of worms than much of the non-sense that is used to justify RC annulments. Ted Kennedy move over. This implies that a man could "get an annulment" because he and his wife were not in the Church when they had a civil marriage years before. Then he could go "marry" that sexy young chic in his office, and thus defraud and betray his wife. Please, let us not even consider such a thing.

Anonymous said...

This thread began well, but is rapidly becoming like the Tower of Babel. One or two participants are obviously thin-skinned on the matter and seem to have personal feathers ruffled. I hope we can stick to the matter at hand, in order to have a profitable and scholarly discussion.

The thread began as a sharing of opinions and concerns about DAR clerics. It shortly became a discussion of annulments (aka declarations of nullity) and marriages after annulments. There are two quite distinct issues here:
(1) When may the Church issue a declaration of nullity to a person who has been civilly divorced?
(2) Should a man who has received such a declaration be admitted as postulant or candidate for Holy Orders, or be ordained? And if he should have been ordained, may he be considered as eligible for the episcopal office?

If these questions are not carefully distinguished, they cannot be discussed clearly.

I believe my own answers are already known. These are serious questions, deserving a thoughtful response, since the salvation of souls is ultimately at stake. Let us not be distracted by extraneous outbursts. Unless the tone improves, I will retire from the thread.
LKW

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart: I agree with everything you say about marriage tribunals, but it is simply not in Matt 19:9. You have all the NT support you could desire, but why impose this on a text which does not lend itself to your line of agument?
LKW

Fr. John said...

Fr. Hart,

I think my valid points are also relevant.

You assertions on the status of already committed couples in the church, with one spouse being an unbeliever are dead on.

But again, you like St. Paul are referring to people who want to stay together for whatever reasons. I am referring to people who want to split the sheet.

You are correct when you write:

"This implies that a man could "get an annulment" because he and his wife were not in the Church when they had a civil marriage years before. Then he could go "marry" that sexy young chic in his office, and thus defraud and betray his wife. Please, let us not even consider such a thing."

Such a person should not have the sacrament of matrimony conferred on them. But they have no need of an annulment from the Church either.

On the other hand, if the same man was faithful to his wife, but she decided to become a temple prostitute over at the Shrine of Astarte, well he never had a sacramental marriage, in spite of appearances.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I think my valid points are also relevant.

I meant not relevant to a specific part of what Fr. Wells had said. Anything may be relevant that can happen in real life, and that even includes determining that a woman who was in some Mexican Mormon's harem was not truly married. By and large, however, the married couples in our society are legally married.

One example of the prevailing ignorance in this time we live in, is the conditional "marriage" that was made with a prenuptial agreement. If a couple wants me to marry them, and they have a prenuptial agreement in order to provide for a potential divorce one day, I will refuse (as I wrote in the May '08 Touchstone). They are experimenting, and neither is entering into marriage with any sort of proper intention.

For purposes of this thread, however, the real question is less about legality, and more about avoiding scandal or setting the right example as clergy. Even in that we must avoid another danger: The danger of hypocrisy, which danger awaits us if we become overly legalistic, or care more about appearance than reality. Furthermore, we cannot reach a perfect situation no matter what we do. The Canon Law of the ACC, for example, in this matter is wisely balanced, forgetting neither morality nor mercy. This is important, because whatever rules exist, they must be for the sake of helping people to be reconciled to God, and live with a good conscience. That includes the pastoral needs of clergymen as well, and of postulents. That is why each case is handled individually.

Fr. Wells:

The reason I see Matt.19:9 (for the readers, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery") as leading necessarily to marriage tribunals, is as follows, and seems to me logical. These words of Christ involve one who remarries, and whose previous marriage is not an impediment because it was not valid. If the person, a Christian, now seeks to be married again, the moral situation of his life involves the Church. He receives the sacraments, and lives no longer simply to himself. Therefore, the moral issue has an affect on the community, that is, the Church. It cannot be a completely private issue, since the Church cannot allow immoral practice among its members, especially when it comes to receiving the Holy Communion, both in the context of how his life affects the Church and of the Church's responsibility to aid the salvation of his soul. Therefore, the Church must be satisfied that the woman he lives with as a wife is truly and really his wife.

Can we simply accept the subjective judgment of the individual? I believe such an individual cannot and should not trust his own judgment in such a matter, and that he needs a marriage tribunal that has as its main concern the pastoral needs of the man and his intended.

The Church's grant of a Decree of Nullity must come before "and shall marry another," and equally before marrying "her which is put away."

No, the text does not say that. But, in practical application, how can it lead to anything else? It seems to me that it must take us to this conclusion.

Anonymous said...

The claim of Anglican identity is that is has no doctrine of it's own but that of the early church.

Can any one comment on what the Patristic Fathers have allowed on divorce and remarriage? Not divorce, but divorce and remarriage. My understanding is that divorce was granted but the person was expected not to remarry and stay celibate.

Is there any evidence that any of the Fathers would allow DAR among clergy in their charge?

If not, then is the claim that 'only the doctrine of the early Church (read Catholic) bogus? Does it matter what the ACC's (or others) Canons say if they are not congruent with the practice of the early Church in the sense of a claim of Catholicity? I think this goes to Bruce's inquiry.

"It was characteristic of medieval Western Christianity—the tendency is still strongly represented—to draw up elaborate systems of rules, and then to spend much ingenuity in studying how to slip through them." H. Northcote

John

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I am not aware of DAAR bishops being out of proportion to the population, except in two small jurisdictions.

John:

The idea is to be faithful to the meaning of scripture, and to let the Fathers of the Church shed light on that meaning. That goal and standard has been studied, not ignored. The Lord taught on these things with the standard of how it was "from the beginning" (Matt. 19:8)

In addition to the Matthean Exception (which I have explained above) we have this from St. Paul:

"But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace." I Cor. 7:15

"Not under bondage" refers to legal restraints and moral impediments. The Fathers do not clarify things, as much as you may assume. Perhaps you assume there are very hard rules cast in stone in their writings; but, you won't be able to find them.

We know that during the persecution, to accept consecration as a bishop was to accept (as the military call it) a "suicide mission." It became a custom that men had the honor not to condemn a woman to widowhood, and so, eventually, those who might become bishops were celibate, since they anticipated martyrdom. After the persecution this custom lost its reason for existing, but remained, and in some places became a rule. Later it became a canon, and men even put away their wives so that they could become bishops. We cannot assume that every custom or precedent rightly belongs to the Tradition, as this practice demonstrates (having never been instituted by the Lord, and apparently contradicting the Apostolic teaching of St. Paul).

My reason for bringing this up is to demonstrate that not every idea was right, not even everything done in Patristic times. Also, you just will not find ancient canons in the Ecumenical Councils that answer your question in a neat and tidy way. You will find, in non-ecumenical councils, some rules about episcopal celibacy, which rules prove it had ceased to be a universal practice (especially in Africa), which scandalized those who mistook it for a Divinely instituted law.

This leaves us with only the evidence "from the beginning."

The real question, it seems to me, is not whether or not a man, having a good reputation in general, has a legal right to be remarried and also ordained. The question is not about legality at all. It is about how best to meet the pastoral needs of the Church, and to serve the cause of evangelism. At what point might the life of a man, or even his past (fair or not), get in the way?

And, on that matter the laity have a right to express their expectations and standards. And, legalism can be either too rigid or too lenient.

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart: I think we have been talking past each other concerning Matt. 19:8 and marriage tribunals. Yes, the text (at least as we find it in KJV) leads rather directly to such ecclesiastical machinery. That I grant you. My point, however, is that IF one is called on for a Biblical justification of such procedures, Matt 19:8 would not serve well to make the case. The disciplinary/pastoral authority of the apostles is much more convincingly shown elsewhere, in both Acts and the Pauline Epistles.

As I have pointed out already, Matt 19:8 is a shakey text in the manuscripts, with a number of variant readings. It therefore cannot prove much. Those who appeal to it will have to account for the parallel text in Mark
10:11, a far more secure text in the manuscripts, which grants no such exception at all.

The scribes had a tendency to water down the actual words of our Lord, whenever they came upon a hard saying. Another "Matthean exception" is Matt. 5:22, where He said, "everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment." Some generous scribe helpfully added the words "without a cause," surely out of pastoral compassion to human frailty and as a concession to our fallen nature. Since we live in a culture saturated with anger, Christians too will be occasionally involved in anger. My point is that if you seek a license for justifed anger, it's better not to rely on a variant reading.
LKW

Anonymous said...

"I am not aware of DAAR bishops being out of proportion to the population, except in two small jurisdictions. "

Forgive me Father for belaboring this but all the CC jurisdictions are small, some more so than others but non seems to exceeds 10-12k and as Mr. Tighe has reported 1 had about 600 (UECNA) at the time of his study some years ago.

Your comment strikes me as a bit insular because I read on one hand that after the departure of a diocese from one jurisdiction to another there was a near immediate announcement of concordat and impending reunion among 3. The DAR Bishops involved in the consecration of new UECNA bishops will also be bishops in the new entity. So I do not think the exception as you frame it (EXCEPT in two small jurisdictions) applies unless of course those jurisdictions have no intention of becoming one. If reunion occurs the exception dissolves and the proportion changes and the question will then involve all in the new jurisdiction. I do not think you can have it both ways.

The only specific remarks from the Fathers I have found regarding D / DAR are from Chromtatius, Theodoret and Chrysostom and all condemn remarriage. Obviously as you point out, many of these men never married so DAR, as need be applied for the greater standard of the ordained, would hardly have required a lot of ink. Your answer strikes me as leaning towards one based on silence and I wonder since you point out that that things were not neat and tidy are we making assumptions from silence rather than the plain read of Scripture? Isn't that the same trap proponents of WO and HO have fallen into finding permission where no explicit warrant can be found (the standard for explicit warrant being higher than the standard for ordination in that case) ? If the Scripture is not specific on some exact variation then it is permissible?

Divorce seems to have no exception other than adultery so lets get to brass tacks: if a Bishop has taken another wife except she be an adulteress should that man lead Christ's flock?

Yes or No? Can we have a simple pole of the respondents in this thread?

Do we or don't we agree that the early church- that is to say the Fathers speaking in Council would intend to approve of a Bishop leaving his wife because he found another more desirous woman and then be allowed to remarry?

I can live without neat and tidy but I fail to see how license for DAR among clergy, especially after conversion, can be granted based on silence or tidiness in light of Scripture and when we live in a society that is wrecked by divorce.

From another angle should "Catholics" mimic Protestants on this issue? I have read that there is no statistical difference between Protestant clergy and that of Protestant laity concerning DAR. If we have the same or similar statistic is that not an outward sign of an inward state and I mean to say does not such a condition call Catholicity into question, especially sensitive or tender lay people?

John A. Hollister said...

Father Wells, with whom I usually agree across the board, wrote several comments that I feel deserve further exploration and consideration:

1. "While I grasp and accept [the] distinction between ... 'annulment' and 'declaration of nullity,' ... I do not quite grasp how this distinction helps the Church in her witness to the indissolubility of marriage."

It helps us teach people that while it is highly desirable to maintain the stability of unions that are only natural or civil in nature -- as witness Fr. Wells' own moving description of the disruptions divorces cause in the lives of vulnerable adolescents -- nevertheless, the Church is a sacramental institution and it is ultimately on the indissolubility of sacramental marriages that our teaching must focus.

2. "This whole discussion takes place in the context of a culture war. The institution of marriage is under assault on many fronts."

And one of the Church's major weapons in this war is the sacramental grace from which married couples benefit when they have confected proper CHristian marriages. That, however, is a matter of premarital instruction, and as such cannot diminish our pastoral responsibilities to those who come to us with histories of marital injury. We still need to help those unfortunate people heal.

3. As to the young military officer who Fr. Wells described, we will never know whether he would have drawn the proper lesson had the response to his question been, "Yes, I have been divorced; it is an experience no one should have to undergo, and that is why I am using this time to give you the best instruction I can under the circumstances. I am also deeply grateful that for the Church's teaching that has helped me deal with that traumatic event."

As I said, we will never know what this young man's reaction would have been had Fr. Wells had to give him a different answer, but if he had been insufficiently intelligent to draw the correct conclusion, I would shudder for the welfare of the troops entrusted to him.

(Given Fr. Wells' description of the young man's actual upbringing, I feel it would probably be a privilege to serve under him.)

4. "When you see the honor roll student suddenly failing courses, the situation is not remedied by a marriage tribunal granting a 'decree of nullity.'"

No, it is not. However, that is not the purpose of a decree of nullity. It is after that same high school student has made a disasterous marriage, had that marriage collapse, later turned to the Church to help rebuild his or her life, and more maturely chosen a suitable life partner, that the declaration of nullity may loom a great deal larger.

5. "Our practice has largely been a scandal, in which sin has solemnly condoned with winks and nods."

Who is "we" in this respect? I still remember the many times I watched the late Abp. Stephens pacing around his living room, literally sweating, stopping every so often to fall to his knees in prayer, as he agonized over a petition for a declaration of nullity, acutely conscious that one day he would stand before Our Lord to give a personal account of how he had shepherded his portion of Our Lord's flock.

6. "The Roman Church charges large fees and has turned this into a source of revenue."

If this be true, it is still irrelevant to our internal operations and concerns. What is one more Roman error to us, when it is piled on top of the long history of such things?

7. "The Holy See has expressed concern over the fact that the USA has a disproportionate number of annulments."

And the "Holy See's" bureaucracy is almost exclusively staffed by peoople who have no personal experience of marriage. Thus a U.S. Roman Catholic could quite reasonably conclude that Rome has not only a substantial ignorance of but also a bias against legitimate investigations of sacramental histories and therefore that its pronouncements on the subject need to be taken with a dose of salt.

I'm not saying this attitude actually exists out there in the R.C. parishes, for I do not know, but I could certainly understand if it did.

8. "'Bill wants to be a postulant? And he has been married once already? Well, he needs an annulment and we will help get him one.'"

And Bill gets some training in the theology of matrimony, as do, a bit more diffusely, his immediate family, friends, and members of his home parish. And this is harmful exactly how?

9. "I am sure than in certain cases a declaration of nullity is justified."

I would hope so, just as I would hope that we can trust our Bishops to do the jobs for which they have received the graces of Consecration and for which they will ultimately answer at their judgements. I cannot speak for any jurisdiction other than my own, but over the years I have acted as proctor, consultant, and assessor in a disproportionate number of such cases (that is, disproportionate compared to the membership of any parish with which I have been associated) and I have never found a single one of our bishops who has taken them lightly.

10. "In my view a Declaration of Nullity is purely for getting married. Such a declaration should have no place in the ordination process."

Setting up a dual standard, one for clergy and one for the laity, undercuts our teaching on the nature of matrimony as one Sacrament that is applicable to clergy and laity alike. It also tends to undermine the laity's confidence in the legitimacy of all declarations of nullity. Just imagine the "coffee hour" questions that would result were we to bar men from Orders because of sacramentally invalid prior marriages:

"Father, I'm really confused. The Commission on Ministry just rejected Bill as a postulant because 30 years ago he was briefly married, but the bishop said that wasn't a valid marriage and permitted him to marry Marge, and we all know what a good marriage they have. Now last year you arranged for an annulment for my niece Suzy after her trouble with that awful hockey player. Now she's happily married to Greg and we're all just so grateful for that but if the bishop's judgement was only good enough for a laywoman but not for a clergyman, how can it really be good for anything?"

I'm old enough to remember the damage the Roman Church inflicted when one week it told its members that while last Friday it had been a mortal sin to eat meat, this Firday and henceforth it would be O.K. I would hate to see us repeat that error of inconsistency, just as I am firmly convinced that we do not need to erect any "class system" barriers to our teaching on the theology of marriage, which is already difficult enough.

11. "Over thirty years ago our Church succumbed to WO, out of pressure from the secular culture, in surrender to the Zeitgeist. Sadly, we have not mounted much resistance to the same forces when it comes to marriage discipline. Defining the canonical language does not help very much."

Apples and oranges. There is no theological justification for monkeying around with the ontological realities of the Church's ordained ministry. That is a completely separate issue from the practical and theoretical urgency of teaching our people a sound and comprehensive theology of marriage.

12. "There was a time when a divorce history automatically excluded a man from the ordination process. No one was interested in the details or the extenuating circumstances."

There was also a time when illegitimate birth excluded a man from the ordination process. Fortunately, we have moved beyond that.

"It was clearly grasped that a priest or bishop with a divorce history, no matter how fine a priest or bishop he may be, can never be a credible witness to the Biblical teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. ... The man who signs declarations of nullity surely should not need one for himself."

My own reaction, and I suspect that of some of our laymen and -women, is that clergy who have no personal experience of the trauma of divorce could easily tend to be too legalistic and insufficiently pastoral in the considerations they bring to marriage cases. Why is this area different than any other in which a wounded healer may be called to practice?

And if we are to subject our clergy to such knee-jerk a priori judgments, we'd better start sneaking into their dining rooms with rulers to measure the liquid levels in their decanters, and auditing their check books, and ....

I suspect my hypothetical coffee hour interlocutor (who is not actually completely fictional) would feel a good deal more comforted if he knew the bishop who had considered Suzy's case had done so out of a backround of personal understanding rather than just text book theory. Ministers can only minister out of their own individual personhood, which includes their own personal experiences.

John A. Hollister+

John A. Hollister said...

Sandra McColl wrote: "[W]hen I go to get my sins absolved, I enlist the services of a sinner--not deliberately, it's just that sinners are all that God provides. Let's not concentrate on the pasts of the clergy but on the future of the young, and let's do all that can be done to avoid them contracting marriage unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly."

Thank you for saying this. We needed to hear it. It is the "crextux" and "gravidum" [the two successive veriwords] of the situation....

John A. Hollister+

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Someone wrote:

Divorce seems to have no exception other than adultery so lets get to brass tacks: if a Bishop has taken another wife except she be an adulteress should that man lead Christ's flock?

As I wrote in the article, the Matthean Exception is not about adultery, unless a pattern of adultery reveals that one of the parties never intended to be married, that is, by the full Christian definition. I interpret your question to mean that a bishop has married a divorced woman, and in that case he would be guilty of living in sin. So, he would have to deposed from the sacred ministry, or quit.

Let us be straight here. Divorce and remarriage is always adultery, and the only exception recognized by the Church is the Matthean Exception. In such a case, in the eyes of the Church, there has been no remarriage, but only a first true marriage. The Mattehan Exception is not about adultery (except for the pattern I described), but about fornication-a marriage that was no marriage, even though it may have been legal. Therefore, the condemnation of remarriage does not apply to cases where a decree of Nullity has been properly granted. What came before was an affair, a time of fornication. St. Augustine had a mistress for years prior to his conversion, and an illegitimate son.

However, as I have been saying all along, the problem is not a canonical, that is to say, legal one; it is a pastoral one, and also has to do with evangelism. The problem, therefore, is one of credibility. I cannot prove that the system has been abused in any specific case; but, I know what it does to the credibility of our collective witness if it becomes a scandal.

If I had ever been divorced/annuled and remarried, I think I would have disqualified myself, and would not have sought ordination. I do not have any right or authority to apply that to others. For others, I must trust the Church and the bishops, unless I have knowledge in any specific case that the system was abused. Perhaps, as I wrote, certain individuals might do well to step down from their positions, if they find that their own cases are troubling to the laity in general.

Anonymous said...

“My own reaction, and I suspect that of some of our laymen and -women, is that clergy who have no personal experience of the trauma of divorce could easily tend to be too legalistic and insufficiently pastoral in the considerations they bring to marriage cases. Why is this area different than any other in which a wounded healer may be called to practice?”

With no disrespect to Fr. Hollister if I change a couple of his words I get the same sense of the reasoning behind WO and HO and that worries me:
“My own reaction, and I suspect that of some of our laymen and -women, is that clergy who have no understanding of what it is to be a woman could easily tend to be too legalistic and insufficiently pastoral in the considerations they bring to ordination cases. Why is this area different than any other in which a wounded healer may be called to practice?”

I know I am not smart enough to get that the bible may mean other than what it says (husband of one wife) but some how I come away after reading all this with the notion that DAR is not really a problem because we all have to live in our own realities and the truths of our time. Frank Griswold keeps coming to mind.

And if we are to subject our clergy to such knee-jerk a priori judgments, we'd better start sneaking into their dining rooms with rulers to measure the liquid levels in their decanters, and auditing their check books, and ....

This also reminds me about the same logic about sneaking into consenting adults bedrooms and judging them whether hetro or homo or married or not (not necessarily to each other) as long as consensual. Strikes me as situational ethics.

perplexed,
John

John A. Hollister said...

John wrote: "[I]f I change a couple of [Fr. Hollister's] words I get the same sense of the reasoning behind WO and HO and that worries me: 'My own reaction, and I suspect that of some of our laymen and -women, is that clergy who have no understanding of what it is to be a woman could easily tend to be too legalistic and insufficiently pastoral in the considerations they bring to ordination cases. Why is this area different than any other in which a wounded healer may be called to practice?'

"... [S]omehow I come away after reading all this with the notion that DAR is not really a problem because we all have to live in our own realities and the truths of our time. Frank Griswold keeps coming to mind."

Again, with respect, while superficially this argument hangs together, when examined even just below its surface it is clearly a matter of apples and oranges.

The question whether a civilly-divorced and Sacramentally-remarried man may properly be ordained is a matter of behavior. As has previously been pointed out elsewhere, if the Episcopal Church is today able validly to ordain or consecrate anyone (a proposition I beg leave to doubt), then Vickie Gene Robinson is just as much a bishop as any of TEC's other bishops, indeed, just as much a bishop as is Rowan Williams, the man with whom all the Neo-Anglicans lust to be in communion. VGR is simply an unsuitable candidate, a bad example, and a man living an immoral lifestyle, but he is a TEC bishop for whatever a TEC bishop is worth.

The same is true of the clergy who have been incorrectly labelled "DAR" ("divorced and remarried") but who are more accurately described as "CD/SM" ["civilly divorced but now Sacramentally married"]. Once ordained, a man is a deacon, priest, or bishop forever and can validly function in those Offices, whether or not he actually should do so.

In other words, the dispute about the prior marital histories of clergy postulants is a prudential and policy question, although an important one, but it is not a Sacramental question.

The issue of so-called "women's ordination" is quite different. It is an ontological matter, not a prudential one. A woman cannot be ordained to the Apostolic Ministry, she can only be instituted to some new, non-Sacramental preaching office such as is used in Protestant church groups. Thus the validity or depth of anyone's "understanding of what it is to be a woman" is completely irrelevant to anything with which we are here concerned.

Nor is it reasonable, or fair, or even prudent to infer that being a woman is somehow to have sustained a wound. I certainly wouldn't want to go home to my wife right after having uttered such a sentiment....

Nor is Frank Griswold, scary and depressing as he is, relevant to this discussion. Mr. Griswold's problem is precisely that he is unable to distinguish between what is real and what is someone's wishful thinking. While those reading or commenting on this board may differ among ourselves on the prudence or desirability of ordaining or consecrating men who have had prior civil or natural marriages, I doubt very much if any of us differ one whit in our commitment to having every one of our clergymen, regardless of his marital history, validly ordained so that we may approach the altar with the assurance that Our Lord is Really Present there. You may not like your Priest, you may wish the Vestry had not called your Priest, but he is still a Priest and he is still celebrating Mass. Ex opere operato and all that.

On the other hand, if we were to adopt Mr. Griswold's sacramental schizophrenia, we would have no such objective assurance. "Well, let's go to church this morning and roll the dice: maybe the Holy Spirit will decide to visit us today." Ex opere operantis ecclesiae, anyone?

And by the way: Do not be afraid that the Church will listen to the life experiences of actively practicing homosexuals, lesbians, etc., etc. It does so, and has done so from its inception, just as it listens to the experiences of all other members of the PAECGLS community who care to talk to it, including most especially the undersigned. We even have a formal name for that "listening process"; we call it "Confession".

John A. Hollister+

Sandra McColl said...

As I understand it, the Matthean exception arises from Jesus addressing an audience of Jews in the pre-Christian age, when Christian sacramental marriages hadn't happened yet, and that 'fornication' in that context really meant, on the part of the bride 'prior unchastity' (i.e., not being what the groom and his family had bargained for). I'm happy to be corrected on this, as I speak from what I've heard and can't give chapter, verse, or any other useful footnote--but I'd like correction to include chapter, verse or other useful footnote for Fr Hart's explanation.

St Augustine explains thus: 'But it is lawful for a man to put away his wife in case of fornication, because she herself hath refused to be a wife in that she keepeth not wedded-faith with her husband.' (Tract. 9 in Joannem).

This suggests that 'fornication' isn't to do with a fault in the marriage from which the wife is being put away ('a marriage that was no marriage, even though it may have been legal', as Fr Hart put it), but with infidelity on behalf of the wife.

As I said, happy to receive evidence to the contrary, but otherwise I'm inclined to agree with Fr Wells that Matt 19:8 is not the text to provide scriptural justification for marriage tribunals.

Oh, Fr Hollister: lovely to see a fellow lawyer shying away from legalism.

Finally, dear Fr Hart, you wrote: 'If I had ever been divorced/annuled and remarried, I think I would have disqualified myself, and would not have sought ordination.' I don't think one could really cross that bridge until one came to it, and, God being merciful, you didn't.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Sandra:

Not everything that St. Augustine opined has made its way into the Church's doctrine, and his interpretation of this is an example. The ideal is that a bride, on her wedding day, is a virgin or a widow. But, the Church cannot force real life into the ideal (Plato's ideal world is not the one we have). We have to bring healing to real people who have real pasts, in a world where everybody is a sinner. All I can see Augustine's interpretation lending itself to, in this time, is another excuse for divorce and sham annulments.

However, the interpretation I have offered is not my own, but simply the Western doctrine on the matter. And, the western doctrine seems to deal with the issue far better than what is normally accepted in the Orthodox Church.

Sandra McColl said...

Fr Hart: I wasn't suggesting that St Augustine's teaching was necessarily doctrine on the matter, but that it seemed to be a better interpretation of Matt. 19:8, if not in fact the one that the audience of Jesus would have understood.

I know the ideal is that a non-widowed bride is a virgin, but from the bits I've picked up over the years (sorry for the lack of citation), I have understood that under Jewish law, the discovery that a non-widowed bride wasn't a virgin was cause to put here away (if not do away with her) there and then. And that's what 'fornication' was.

If the last paragraph is right, then I still await direction to the chain of reasoning and authority that gets from Matt. 19:8 to marriage tribunals.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Already, in Chapter 18, Jesus was addressing how to do things in his Church that was yet to be built. So, it is not clear that he would have laid down rules according to the old wine in the old wine skins.

Yes, the non-virgin was sentenced to death in the Old Law, and so was the man who had intercourse with a betrothed woman (otherwise, if she was not engaged, there was no penalty; but the two having become one flesh already, had to get married).

But, these old laws, especially with a death sentence, cannot be put into the new wine skins. Therefore, the Church has seen these words as constituting a rule for Christians.

Sandra McColl said...

O.K., but I also understood that a decree of nullity wasn't a way of saying that the prior marriage, while sacramentally defective, in which one was doing one's best to be a faithful spouse, was mere 'fornication'.

In the Jewish law, the bride's unchastity prior to the event but only discovered afterwards was a vitiating factor, so I would accept that 'fornication' is a code word for 'prior vitiating factor' (which would include any defect in intention by either party), then the Church's system would appear to make sense. Simply dismissing a marriage that falls short of sacramentality as being 'fornication' doesn't harmonise with the other things I think I know about the subject.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The only real help we get from the general teaching on sacraments, as it relates to validity in marriage, has to do with Intention. Furthermore, a Decree of Nullity on the basis of sacramental considerations to do with Form may be acceptable to American Roman Catholics, but they are just technical, legalistic excuses.

We have already addressed the topic of the sort of marriages that were not valid; and a merely sacramental consideration is not reason enough to decree Nullity. For, this involves as well "states of life", legal realities and moral-above all moral-decisions. Very technical matters of sacramental validity are not sufficient reasons to decree nullity, especially obvious when we consider that marriages between non-Christians are genuine and real, even though they only become sacramental after conversion and baptism. And, to use the fact that they had not been sacramentally married because their wedding was prior to conversion (for example) to decree nullity, is just plain wrong. Just as it is wrong when RC bishops grant annulments because the person married a "non-Catholic." These sham annulments are enough to gag a maggot.

Sandra McColl said...

My pet one from the Romans is where an ex-Roman marries a non-Roman in a non-Roman ceremony without first writing to the local Roman bishop to say he/she isn't a Roman any more. Apparently, if you go back to Rome in such circumstances, you need to get married again--or else you have a free ticket to go marry someone else. This is legalism gone feral.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

A few months ago I was told by an Anglican bishop that, from now on, his policy on annulments would conform completely to Rome.

Sad.

Anonymous said...

The Romans themselves know and admit that their annulment procedure is chaotic. The strangest example I have heard of was a certain application where no possible grounds of annulment could be discovered. The individual reapplied, whereupon it was learned that the wedding took place in Philadelphia, solemnised by a priest (uncle of the bride) from Chicago. The tribunal proceded to investigate whether said priest had obtained "faculties" from the Diocese of Philadephia. Conveniently, he had failed to do so. Declaration of nullity granted. Next case!

I am personally familiar with a case in a RC diocese not to far from Florida in which the priest who was head of the marriage tribunal himself decided to get married. When his bishop remonstrated, "But Fr Leo, I have no one in the diocese qualified to run the marriage tribunal," the dear priest explained that he had experienced a crisis of faith and no longer believed in marriage tribunals. The bishop thereupon said, "But you know the job so thoroughly; can't you just keep on until I get someone else trained?" So the priest, himself romantically involved, stayed at his desk signing off on annulments until Rome sent the paper-work granting his laicization.

And I have heard on very good authority
of a very traditional ECUSA bishop who actually signed his own "Decree of Nullity." There is no Canon to to contrary, is there?

It would be funny if it were no so sad. But fear not, little flock! We will get there soon enough.
LKW

Bruce said...

"I am personally familiar with a case in a RC diocese not to far from Florida...."

If by "not too far from Florida" you mean "in Florida" then I suspect that "Fr Leo" is my current continuuing priest.

Anonymous said...

Bruce: Nope. Get out a map. "Not to far from Florida" is not "in Florida."
LKW

Bruce said...

Excuse me. The similarity of the two situations sparked my interest. I probably shouldn't have posted that.

Anonymous said...

And my age I should know how spell "too."
LKW

John A. Hollister said...

Fr. Wells wrote about the bizarre consequences of two specific marriage cases:

1. Where a wedding took place in one R.C. diocese, and was witnessed by a priest from another R.C. diocese, nullity was declared on the basis that the celebrant had not obtained "faculties" (i.e., a license) from the Ordinary of the diocese in which the celebration took place.

This absurdity could not have occurred had the R.C.C. not declared, in the 17th Century if memory serves, that the weddings of Roman Catholics are not valid unless witnessed by Roman clergy (or unless that requirement is specially dispensed). This position creates two untenable results:

a. With this requirement, the R.C.C. took it upon itself to claim that marriages which were valid Sacraments one week, would not be valid Sacraments the following week even if entered into under identical conditions. This is precisely the foolish corner into which the R.C.C. painted itself in the 20th Century over the question of eating fish on Fridays (or, more accurately, of abstaining from meat on Fridays).

It doesn't take a degree in theology to figure out that if the Sacraments are ultimately traceable to Our Lord's institution, as they must be if they are guaranteed occasions of His Grace, and if a given set of circumstances give rise to such a Sacrament at one period in time, then those same circumstances must always give rise to that Sacrament.

In other words, the R.C.C.'s attempt to "desacralize" informal marriages was simply ultra vires and other Catholics should be very leery of any R.C. "annulments" that are predicated on that ground.

The silliness of the Roman position is further illustrated by the fact that the Romans apply this rule to their own members but claim non-Roman marriages, which would in Roman eyes not be Sacraments because not witnessed by a Roman Priest, are nontheless valid Sacraments. Talk about separating the condiments for the geese from those for the ganders....

b. This dual-track concept utterly undercuts the concept of Matrimony as the Sacrament that is confected by the married couple itself. It attempts to elevate what is really a very possibly laudible rule of administration for maintaining vital statistics (i.e., the parish marriage registers) into a litmus test for validity.

(In this connection, some readers here may be unaware that for Roman Catholics, their baptismal records form the basis for a sort of personal dossier to which are added notations of subsequent events such as confirmation, marriage, religious profession, or ordinations. Whenever one of these events takes place, an official notification of it is sent to the parish of baptism.)

In the case cited by Fr. Wells, we (I mean Continuing Anglicans) would regard the "annulment" as invalid because the essential ministers of the Sacrament of Matrimony -- the married couple itself -- was present in Philadelphia....

2. Fr. Wells also wrote of an ECUSA Bishop who signed his own decree of nullity. That one requires no specific Canon; it is a ancient maxim of the Civil Law -- to which family of legal systems the Canon Law belongs -- that "no man may be judge of his own cause". There's a long Latin version of that which I do not at the moment recall but perhaps Sandra McColl does.

So that one, too, was bogus.

John A. Hollister+

Anonymous said...

I have a simple question. If a person has been divorced but does not remarry, can that person be eligible for Holy Orders?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Yes.

Anonymous said...

If you are divorced and remarried can you be received into the Anglican Catholic Church?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Yes.

But, if you were divorced and asking to get married in the church, with the blessing of the Church, we would need to discuss the subject of a decree of nullity.