Monday, 23 May 2011

The Pastoral care of couples who are cohabitating...

                                                 Archbishop Sheehan

I probably wouldn't have come across this letter had it not been pointed out to me, (thanks J), and it is a great letter because it gives clear, authoritative and succinct direction (no waffle) to any Catholic party affected by the monster that has insinuated itself into the precious, intimate, God ordered relationship, that we call the vocation of marriage,  between man and woman.

Most Reverend Michael J. Sheehan, Archbishop of the Diocese of Santa Fe,  has written to his flock on the subject of the pastoral care of couples who are cohabitating.

Here's a snippet, with some emphasis and (comment in brackets) from me.

  " there are only two lifestyles that are acceptable to Jesus Christ for His disciples: a single life of chastity or the union of man and woman in the sacrament of Matrimony. (the Bishop reminds us that it's about conforming ourselves to Christ, not Christ to us. I note that matrimony itself is also understood as a chaste lifestyle unmarked by adultery, infidelity)
There is no third way possible for a Christian. The Bible and the Church teach that marriage is between one man and one woman and opposes same sex unions." (You are either married or you are not)

" We have three groups of people who are living contrary to the Gospel teaching on marriage: those who cohabit, those who have a merely civil union with no previous marriage; and those who have a civil union
who were married before.These people are objectively living in a state of mortal sin and may not receive Holy Communion.They are in great spiritual danger.(Does that sound urgent?)

At the best and this is, sadly, often the case, they are ignorant of God's plan for man and woman.(And they are ignorant because...) At the worst, they are contemptuous of God's commandments and His Sacraments.
(how often is  this 'contemptuous'  related to this  'ignorance'?)

  Archbishop Sheehan reminds his flock that "Christ loves all these people and wishes to save them not by ignoring their sin or calling evil good but by repentance and by helping them to change their lives in accordance with His teaching."
Christ cannot ignore sin: it is dangerous and, unchecked, leads to a separation of the soul from the life giving source of grace, God. Without God, separated from Him,  we have nothing, we are nothing.Our situation could not be worse.
The tool that is used to make judgements about, and discern, what is good and what is evil, is the conscience, given to us by God for that purpose.We have a duty to educate our conscience in accordance and in the light of the teaching of the Church. 
Calling evil good, evil which the Church has always taught is evil, creates confusion and  distortion in the conscience.Anyone who, in the name of the Church, distorts its teaching, in such a way as to make what is evil appear as a  good, does a grave injustice to those who hear him.

These are serious matters, and the Archbishop is right to show such concern for his people by employing
 a  truly pastoral approach which encourages people to look at  their situations, in the context of the  truth about marriage, instituted by God, and taught by the Church through the ages.We can and should, hope and pray that more Bishops will emulate him.


  1. Excellent, but can we expect the bishops of England and Wales to produce something like this? I wish with all my heart I could say yes to that. This post shows why blogs are important. Thank you for sharing this. I will link to it myself.

  2. Thanks Fr.,
    The Bishops of E+W produce such a pastoral letter? I would say probably not at present.
    But the times they are a-changin; new Nuncio, a number of episcopal changes in the pipeline, reorganisation at the Bishops Conference, fresh appointments at the Vatican.... I am hopeful!
    The advent of blogging has undoubtedly played an important role in getting the word out, I'm personally indebted to many of the good Catholic blogs which evangelise, catechise, inspire and inform. And your own is a great example of this!