St. Joseph Catholic Church - Toledo, OH

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September 18, 2016 - Catholic Social Teaching #3 - Reflecting the Face of Mercy: Separated, Divorced, Remarried

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  • Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.  (Misericordiae Vultus, 10)
  • [Catholic Social Teaching is about how to live this merciful and compassionate love in society, which is the coming together of communities - the foundation of which is the family. As the family goes, so goes society.  CST Principle of Call to family, community and participation.]
  • It is our mission, as the local church in the Diocese of Toledo, to reflect the face of the Father’s mercy especially to those who are most in need. The members of our family of faith who have been affected by separation, divorce and remarriage deserve a greater experience of compassion and a renewed sense of welcome from their brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • To further these goals of compassion and welcome, we must seek a deeper mutual understanding—a better understanding of the experience of divorced Catholics as well as a better understanding of the teachings of the Church. We are to accompany others in love in whatever situation they find themselves, so that they may encounter His love and be drawn by His grace back to full communion with the Church.
  • The well-being of the individual person and of human and Christian society is intimately linked with the healthy condition of that community produced by marriage and family. (Gaudium et Spes, 47)
  • God himself is the author of marriage. The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. (CCC 1603)
  • Being that the institution of marriage existed from the beginning, that is to say, before the Fall, it too was subject to the consequences of that original sin. Humanity and indeed the whole of creation fell into disorder and disarray as a consequence of sin. (Cf. “Marriage under the regime of sin,” CCC 1606)
  • Since Marriage was subject to the Fall, it is also an object of Christ’s work of Redemption. Christ came to restore what had been lost due to sin, which includes the glory of man and woman, made in the Image and Likeness of God, united in a one-flesh union of Love.
  • We must recognize the sufferings and wounds endured because of the increased phenomenon of divorce in our culture today.
  • Divorced Christians must be cared for in the field hospital of the Church—they must be accepted, loved, respected, and healed by the grace of Christ and his Sacraments. Divorce, no matter what motivates such a separation, is always a source of pain and sorrow for those touched by it. To support Divorced Catholics is truly a Work of Mercy—to comfort the sorrowful.
  • The Church is a family of faith. This family of faith ought to be a particular source of welcome and support for those whose families have been affected by separation and divorce. Divorced Catholics are not excommunicated and they must not be treated as such. With open arms of mercy, they should be welcomed in our parish families as the brothers and sisters that they truly are by virtue of their baptism. (Cf. Amoris Laetitia, 243)
  • Pastors and the whole community of the faithful [are called] to help the divorced, and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church, for as baptized persons they can, and indeed must, share in her life. (Familiaris Consortio, 84)
  • Divorced Catholics should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace. Let the Church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope. (Familiaris Consortio, 84)
  • Despite the reality of civil divorce, Jesus taught unequivocally the original meaning of marriage. Namely, that the matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble: God himself has determined “what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Mt 19:6 and CCC 1614) We must recognize the truth of this reality—namely, that the real union of matrimony persists regardless of civil divorce or separation.
  • Thus, special care is needed to address the irregular situation of divorced Christians who have entered into a new civil union. The Catechism clearly teaches the truth of the matter: “Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of [divorce]: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery.” (CCC 2384)
  • Great pastoral care and sensitivity must be exercised in communicating the truth of this reality to divorced and remarried Catholics, who are already wounded from the rupture of divorce. Nevertheless, those charged with the pastoral care of the faithful must keep in mind that, though difficult, it is a true Work of Mercy to admonish the sinner.
  • “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
  • The truth about marriage will set the People of God free. It must be acknowledge that in our present situation, many people are indeed unaware of the teachings of the Church in regard to marriage or at least are unaware of the truth of these teachings. To instruct the ignorant is a Work of Mercy.
  • Many who know the truth about marriage nevertheless feel captive to their sins, the sins of those they love, and seemingly irrevocable choices that have been made. It is a Work of Mercy to set the captive free—free from the slavery to sin, even adultery.
  • The ministry of our Diocesan Tribunal, including those members of the clergy and lay faithful who act as field advocates, is a ministry of Justice, Mercy, and Healing.
  • The process of examining a union to determine the validity of marital consent is not only a canonical process, but is in fact a journey toward understanding and healing. This journey takes time, compassion, and accompaniment.
  • The Church, which was set up to lead to salvation all people and especially the baptized, cannot abandon to their own devices those who have been previously bound by sacramental marriage and who have attempted a second marriage. The Church will therefore make untiring efforts to put at their disposal her means of salvation. (Familiaris Consortio, 84)
  • It is an act of evangelization—of proclaiming the Good News of liberty to captives, knowledge to the ignorant, and joy to the sorrowful—to assist the faithful in their understanding of the process of seeking a declaration of nullity.



Iustus germinabit sicut lilium: et florebit in aeternum ante Dominum.
-- Gospel Acclamation, Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19

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--Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen



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