Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Can the Divorced and Remarried Really Receive Communion?

November 14th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

1987 photo of Pope John Paul II arriving in Miami for visit to United StatesEarlier today I posted a piece with the rather provocative headline “Pope Allows Communion for Divorced and Remarried.” Now, it was a bit of a risk, I know. The statement is absolutely true, but I was obviously hoping that most people would read the post and not just the headline. If I had it to do over, I might go with “Pope Outlines Process Allowing Communion for Divorced and Remarried.” It seemed a little long for a headline. Regardless, here’s a little explanation about the actual facts and why I wrote the post.

The facts:

  • If you follow the link in the article to the statement from the CDF secretary you will see that the official did, just as I said, reaffirm the teaching of the Church for over 30 years that the divorced and civilly remarried can in fact be admitted to communion under certain conditions. He then goes on to give the exact quote that I cited, outlining those conditions: either separate or refrain from marital relations since you are not married (living as “brother and sister”).
  • The key here is that the “Pope” or “Holy Father” mentioned throughout the post is of course St. John Paul II, not the current Pope. The quote given by the CDF secretary which I also quoted is taken from a document written by St. John Paul II in 1981 entitled Familiaris Consortio, just as I said in my post.
  • Also true is the fact that the document was written after a meeting of the synod of bishops on the family, but not the most recent one. The synod I was referring to did in fact end on October 25…1980.

The Message:

  • The Church has to face the reality that many people have abandoned their spouses, or been abandoned through no fault of their own, and have since attempted to invalidly enter a new marriage in a civil procedure. This is the reality. The question then is how to spiritually care for these people. What does God ask of them? Many of these people will even come to recognize the serious sins they committed that led to their present situation and want to repent and move forward in their relationship with God. There has got to be a way forward. God leaves no one in an impossible situation of sin with no way out.
  • The question then is what to do. In the days leading up to the most recent meeting of the synod of bishops, I was perplexed to hear many participants speaking as though this was the first time the Church ever considered how to minister to the divorced. The press was even amazed, with one reporter remarking, “I can’t believe the Church is actually talking about sex. This has never happened before.” The press love new things. To some extent we all love new things. I wrote my (perhaps too creative) post this morning to draw attention to an “old” thing that just might be the best thing.
  • When people are asking the Church to find a way forward so that the divorced and remarried can repent and receive communion, they don’t seem to be aware that such an arrangement already exists. I wondered how many people knew that we already had a synod on the family that discussed these same issues and came up with a concrete way forward. I believe that St. John Paul II and his teachings, especially on the Theology of the Body, are the key to solving our current crisis and wanted to raise some awareness of his teaching.

The Results:

  • Catholics who are “in the know” saw the quote and knew that this has been true for a long time and had this confirmed by the explicit reference to Familiaris Consortio.
  • As I suspected, many even faithful Catholics were not aware of the teaching of JPII allowing the divorced and civilly remarried to receive communion. One person who actually read the entire quote, and even understood it, called “Pope Francis” a heretic for allowing this “brother and sister” option. Maybe knowing it was from JPII would change her mind!
  • Some people were confused. I expected that. Some of those people sought clarification and learned about the Church’s teaching for the first time. I like that. For those that might still be confused, I hope they will ask someone, “Is it true that the Pope said there is way for the divorced and civilly remarried to receive communion?” The answer to this question is emphatically YES. Let’s make sure we can explain the process when people ask.

Finally, two important pastoral implications for a wider understanding of Familiaris Consortio:

  • I have on occasion encountered “older” couples in an invalid marriage who were not going to communion because they knew they were not validly married. The annulment process scared them and most of the witnesses were long gone which would have made an investigation into the validity of their marriage somewhat difficult. None of them had ever heard of the so-called “brother/sister” option presented by JPII. When asked if they were willing to live as brother and sister, often times the response was that they rarely if ever engaged in marital relations any more. There is nothing that prevents such a couple from being immediately reconciled to the Church and admitted to communion. How many pastors are aware of this?
  • I often tell people that if they suspect they have committed a serious sin they should not put off going to confession, advice I follow myself. Knock on my door at 3AM if you need to, but don’t stay in mortal sin! Assume the world will end today! When it comes to those living in invalid marriages, the Church says that are not able to receive communion because of the presumed repeated serious sin of adultery. How are they supposed to be OK with staying in this state indefinitely? I find it difficult as a pastor to simply leave people in this state. If it were any other sin I would be saying, “Do whatever it takes to get out of this state immediately.” If there are good reasons, such as children, that one cannot leave the new invalid marriage, then shouldn’t we be pushing the brother/sister option more? Do we as priests have an obligation to tell our people that this really is not just an option but the expected way they need to go? It might be difficult, but when we’re talking sex and mortal sin vs. continence, the Sacraments, and salvation…isn’t that a clear way forward?

At the very least, more people now know about this teaching. At present count several hundred people have clicked on the link to Familiaris Consortio in my post. That implies that they actually read the whole post, that they probably didn’t know what Familiaris Consortio was before, and now they do. Hopefully such positives outweigh any confusion. In the worst case, Pope Francis likes confusion and said to make a mess, so there you go.

 

Pope Allows Communion for Divorced and Remarried

November 14th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Today, an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) confirmed that the Holy Father himself has issued a statement outlining the conditions under which divorced and civilly remarried persons will be allowed to receive Holy Communion. Here is the relevant quote from the Pope’s document:

“Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.”

The Pope’s words and further explanation are contained in a document he has entitled Familiaris Consortio, dealing especially with issues facing the family. This Apostolic Exhortation was written following the synod of bishops meeting devoted to the family which ended on October 25th.

It is hoped that there will be time for the attendees of the next meeting of the synod of bishops to read and discuss the teachings in this important document.

UPDATE: If you are perhaps confused, you might check out my next post which clarifies a few things: Can the Divorced and Remarried Really Receive Communion

Supreme Court Gay Marriage Prediction Happily Realized

November 8th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

6th Circuit Court of AppealsLast month when the Supreme Court declined to hear appeals on several gay marriage cases many people either started a victory celebration or started to despair. I cautioned that I thought the court was merely delaying until the 6th circuit court of appeals ruled on several cases. The post I wrote at the time, “Supreme Court Hasn’t Decided Marriage Yet,” explains more what is going on, but here are a couple relevant quotes:

Rather than grant appeal based on any one case, it is far more likely that they are waiting for one of the circuits to return a contradictory ruling, such as is likely in the 6th circuit. It is much more within the role of the Supreme Court to settle conflicting circuit rulings than simply to decide to settle a “big issue.”

By not granting certiorari for these cases thus far they haven’t decided anything…other than to say “not yet.” In essence, they’re waiting for the kind of conflict and the kind of case we saw with Hobby Lobby. That day will come. It’s anybody’s guess how they will decide, but the day will come…just not yet.

This past week, my predictions came true as the 6th circuit did in fact return the contradictory ruling we were looking for by upholding bans on marriage redefinition. The timing from this point forward is anyone’s guess, but there is at least a good chance that we will see the Supreme Court take up the case this term. Now that there is a clear conflict, I’m also hopeful that the court will stay the lower court rulings that led to some states issuing marriage licenses that could very well be invalid in a few months. We’ll see. In the mean time lots of prayers are in order.

Homily 281 – Called to be Winners – All Souls

November 2nd, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Today the Church celebrates the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, often called All Souls Day. Yesterday we celebrated all the saints in white. We honor those have washed their robes and taken their place in heaven. Today we remember all our loved one’s who have died who are still in the process of being “cleaned up” for heaven. There is a tendency today to pretend that everyone goes to heaven, and that they do so immediately after death. The truth is that both heaven and hell are very real. Only people that are perfect enter heaven with the saints, so what about those that fall a little short of “perfect” in this life?

Today’s homily uses some lessons from the world of sports to help us understand our vocation better in this life. We understand in the world of sports that there are winners and losers. Part of the reason that winning is so meaningful is because losing is a very real possibility and losing is terrible. If everyone was a winner, or just “declared to be winners” such as Martin Luther might espouse, then there is really no reason to play the game. Winning wouldn’t mean anything. In the game of life there are winners in heaven and losers in hell. This ultimately should not scare us, but serve to make our lives meaningful. Our struggles matter. Our sufferings are not for no purpose. Fighting hard means we can win!

The good new is that, unlike the World Series where my beloved Kansas City Royals fell 90 feet short of being winners, God has an option not available to the world of sports. God loves us too much to simply allow us into heaven while we’re still losers, but he also loves us too much to send us to hell for being 90 feet short after an otherwise great season. If we truly live our lives loving God and doing the best we can, then God gives us the merciful opportunity to get cleaned up and truly become perfect in Purgatory before entering heaven.

Today we can truly assist our brothers and sisters who have died and can benefit from our prayers. We should also remember that life after death makes this present life all the more exciting. We are called to be winners, so we need to start competing well for the faith. The good news is that, unlike sports where every winner means there is also a loser, in life the only way we wind up losing is if we fail to try.

Homily 280 – Truth, Mercy, and Marriage – 19th Sunday after Pentecost, EF

October 19th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

These past few weeks have been filled with a lot of confusion as faithful Catholics and even the larger world have been trying to make sense of various pieces of information coming from Rome and the Synod on the Family. In the process we’ve seen bishops of the Church engaging in political shenanigans, outright lying, and leaking a host of misleading statements. I suppose we can take some solace in the fact that this has often been the case throughout the history of the Church; it’s just that now we have Twitter to cover the play by play.

In spite of the very human side of the Church exposed for all the world to see, the Holy Spirit has indeed been at work. Today the Church beatifies Pope Paul VI who faced similar pressure from society in his day to change Church teaching regarding contraception. The Holy Spirit protected the Church from error then and will continue to do so. In the mean time, the process may indeed look a little messy. They say that if you like sausage you shouldn’t look at how the sausage is made. While that’s not an excuse for some of the behavior we’ve seen over the last weeks, it does give us a reminder to be somewhat patient.

As is often the case, the media is not so good about covering the Church. They try to fit things into categories they can understand. In this case, they have tried to explain the synod by supposing that there are two factions or political parties at work. On the one side there is truth and those rigid conservatives who demand adherence to outdated teaching with cold and unfeeling hearts. On the other side are the pastoral and compassionate progressive bishops who want to show mercy. This might make for a nice news story, but it is simply not that case that there is some battle going on between truth and mercy. The two are not opposites. Both truth and mercy come from the same God and must always be in harmony. Today’s homily seeks to explain the role of each and how they relate to marriage and the family.

Supreme Court Hasn’t Decided Marriage Yet

October 7th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Lots of people are confused today as to why the Supreme Court elected not to hear appeals on any marriage redefinition cases. Don’t panic. The sky is not falling (yet). Yesterday’s decision is almost certainly due to a legal technicality as opposed to anything regarding the merits of the cases. Each of the cases on appeal came from three U.S. circuits that all had judges that favored imposing marriage redefinition on the states. While the Supreme Court would have the authority to accept any of these cases, the Roberts court is far more restrained and is doing everything possible to roll back the negative example of the courts appearing to be “activist.” Ideally the people should decide “big issues,” not judges.

Rather than grant appeal based on any one case, it is far more likely that they are waiting for one of the circuits to return a contradictory ruling, such as is likely in the 6th circuit. It is much more within the role of the Supreme Court to settle conflicting circuit rulings than simply to decide to settle a “big issue.” The Roberts court embraces a concept of “judicial restraint” such that they actually seem to want to avoid deciding “big issues” if at all possible (consider Roberts’ amazing vote to redefine Obamacare as a tax).

Since the marriage redefinition movement is being imposed on various states almost entirely through the judiciary and not by the people (in fact against the will of the people in almost every state), the Supreme Court will eventually have to decide. By not granting certiorari for these cases thus far they haven’t decided anything…other than to say “not yet.” In essence, they’re waiting for the kind of conflict and the kind of case we saw with Hobby Lobby. That day will come. It’s anybody’s guess how they will decide, but the day will come…just not yet.

UPDATE 10/8/14: When I wrote the above last night I did have one bit of confusion in my head that I didn’t mention. I found it rather unfortunate that while we wait for the 6th circuit and others the court was going to allow the granting of marriage licenses to go forward for same sex parties. In the case of Hobby Lobby, they issued a stay while waiting for the right time to hear the issue. So I was asking myself last night, “Why no stay for this situation?” Well, now today we have it. Justice Kennedy has issued a stay for at least a couple states. I would think other states would get equal treatment if they also request.

UPDATE 10/9/14: I just got back and read the circumstances regarding Justice Kennedy’s stay. It appears now that it was pretty specific and temporary. I would guess it will be vacated shortly when the issue is resolved. That still leaves us with what I had originally said. Look for the court to take this issue up in the future and actually make a decision.

Homily 279 – Who Do You Say the Church Is – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 24th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Catholics love to talk about the Church, and today’s Gospel is a great one. Yet, we must learn from the Gospel that the Church is built on personal faith. Specifically, it’s founded on the confession of faith given by Peter himself. Each of us must ground our faith in a similar personal encounter with Jesus. When we have a personal relationship with Jesus, then the Church helps this faith to become powerful. The Church gives that personal faith a communal direction. Today’s homily focuses on both of these important aspects of life in Christ.

Homily 278 – We Want God – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 17th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses an encounter with a Canaanite woman to teach us about prayer. He delays answering her prayer immediately so that her desire might be increased. God does the same with us. He wants us to desire him. Sometimes is takes a long time of asking and even suffering. In the end, the answer to our prayer is not as important as our desire for God. He wants us to end up chanting as they did when St. John Paul II visited Warsaw, “We want God!”

Homily 277 – Encountering God – 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 10th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

How do you normally expect to encounter God? Each of today’s three readings point to three different ways that we might have such an encounter with God.

Whose Business Is It?

July 9th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

I Stand with Hobby Lobby for Religious FreedomLeading up to and following the recent Supreme Court case involving Hobby Hobby I have seen many people on the left using the phrase “not my boss’s business” to describe their opposition. Liberals all over are now using this phrase and making the claim that the Supreme Court decision allows business owners to deprive women of contraception. I am fully aware that politicians are masters at taking facts and then twisting them to tell the story that they want their voters to hear.

I just wonder, with this case, will women realize that they are being treated as nothing more than pawns in a voting block. The very people that are yelling for the rights of women are really hoping that most women are stupid and will vote for them just because they yell the loudest for women. The facts of the Hobby Lobby case are pretty plain, but perhaps there is need to explain the way employment and compensation work. As simple as I can explain it, here is how it works:

  1. People want stuff (car, house, contraception, other medical care, etc.).
  2. There are two ways to get stuff:
    • You buy it
    • Someone gives it to you
  3. In order to buy stuff you get a job.
  4. When you consider taking a job, the potential employer will explain what compensation he or she is offering. This compensation comes in two forms:
    • Money
    • Other benefits
  5. Perhaps the “other benefits” include some of the “stuff” you want like:
    • A company car
    • Food
    • Healthcare
    • Dental or Eyecare
  6. If there is some stuff that you want, or even “need,” that is not included among the “other benefits” then YOU MAY HAVE TO BUY IT.
  7. Given the “other benefits” provided, or lack thereof, one must then consider whether the salary is sufficient to buy all the stuff that one still wants/needs.
    • If I know I need eyecare, I might be willing to work for a lower salary if the employer offers vision coverage since I won’t have to buy it.
    • If I know I need food and the employer offers free meals in the cafeteria, that will influence my evaluation of my potential salary since I’ll have to buy less food.
    • If I know I need healthcare and my employer DOES NOT provide it, then this will really effect how I look at the salary since I know I will also need to buy healthcare.
  8. Given the entire package of compensation, including salary and the value of all the extra benefits, YOU DECIDE if you will except that job.
    • Note that the employer is not forcing a compensation package on you. YOU DECIDE.
    • It is NOT YOUR BOSS’S BUSINESS how you spend your salary.
    • It is completely your boss’s business what amount of compensation he or she chooses to offer.

The Hobby Lobby decision primarily centered on abortion causing drugs, but lets take the slippery slope all the way to the liberals’ extreme scenario of a Jehovah’s Witness employer excluding blood transfusions from the healthcare benefits he or she provides. The decision explicitly excludes this, but we’ll go with it. What would this mean for an employee?

  1. You might be a Jehovah’s Witness employee yourself and are very happy that your employer is not wasting money on things you don’t need.
  2. You might be someone who really thinks they want healthcare coverage for blood transfusions.
    • This means that you will have to consider the fact that a part of your salary will now have to go to paying for a separate insurance rider to cover blood transfusions.
    • Is this the end of the world? Does this deny you healthcare? No. It just means that you will have to use your salary to buy it instead of having it as part of your compensation package.
    • In the end, YOU DECIDE if you are willing to work for the given salary considering the lack of a certain benefit which you will have to buy.

We make these decisions all the time when we accept a job. Most employers do not provide food, yet we certainly can’t live without food. Are employers denying people food by not providing it? No. Neither are employers denying anyone contraception by not proving it. The irony is that Hobby Lobby pays their employees so well that most low-level employees would actually come out better working at Hobby Lobby and paying for the contraception themselves. Why can’t reasonable people just deal with the facts of what the Hobby Lobby decision said rather than twisting it to tell some story that they hope their base will be stupid enough to believe?