Pastoral Letter on
Marriage, Divorce, and the
Reception of the Sacraments
The Catholic Diocese of One Spirit
In July of 2002, the Vatican declared, once again and with renewed force, that those who divorce and remarry cannot receive the sacrament of communion unless they abstain from sex. The Vatican says that this ruling is “derived from divine law” and indicated it may not be changed in the future.
This proclamation out of the Vatican Curia is not only incorrect, it is harmful and damaging to people. As a fully “Catholic” diocese not of the Roman Rite, we are compelled to offer an alternative, fully-Catholic, legitimately-Christian teaching, so that Christians may determine what is proper for them, using their God-given consciences and their God-given gifts of free choice.
Marriage is a gift of God, bound by a sacred covenant. It is the individuals who love each other and pledge their devotion to each other who are the instruments, the ministers, of this great sacrament to each other. A priest is a witness on behalf of the Church, which is the communion of all the people of God who adhere to the teachings of Jesus, the Christ, and usually the priest is also a witness on behalf of the state.
Because marriage is a freely-given gift of God, it is arrogant and abusive for anyone who is not God to presume to determine whether or not any person or couple shall actually be able to enjoy this freely-given gift. God is love, so that those who feel love, experience God. Therefore, those who have been married in the past, and who are later given the love of another as a gift of God once again, are free to enjoy that gift. They are blessed by God with the love of another, which finds its conclusion in the dedication to that other, which is marriage.
An ecclesiastical annulment process is an affront to the grace of God. The laws of divorce within Christendom have changed constantly throughout history. Biblical scholarship recognizes that references to divorce within the Old and New Testaments were aimed at rectifying abuses which existed then, so that they were in response to the demands of the times. The questionable and time-sensitive biblical matrimonial adjustments stand in weak contrast to the very clear message of the New Testament that God is Love and that we find God by loving others. Moreover, nothing could be more clear than, “judge not, that you be not judged.”
The Catholic Diocese of One Spirit – this portion within Catholicism – therefore, affirms that divorced people are free to participate again in the deepest participation humans can make with one another, marriage. To love another is to know God. To feel love is to experience God.
Participating in the Eucharist, the meal of Jesus’ body and blood, is not a reward for good behavior. It is a physical statement, a reenactment of our belief that God lives in all.
At the core of all physical matter, the place where physical matter comes into being, there is a pervasive Oneness of Energy, an energy that vibrates in such a way that it at times appears as energy and at times as particles. From this arises sub-atomic particles, then atoms, molecules, cells, organisms, “inanimate” matter and life. Infused within this energy is an Intelligence that is beyond our human comprehension, in that it holds itself together, identifies itself as what it is, relates to other things, and has the innate ability to cluster together to form the complexity of the universe – from the most minute to the most complex of physical existence. This pervasive Energy and Intelligence is also Spirit, Life, and Power.
Because Energy, Intelligence, Spirit, Life and Power are the very words that would best sum up our understanding of “God,” it follows that everything exists within this Divinity; this Divinity lives within everything; and everything is a manifestation of God. God did not just make us and then keep an eye on us; rather, we arise as individuations within the Totality which is God. It follows, then, that everything already is the body and blood of God. “The Kingdom of God is within.” When Jesus took the ordinary things of common meals of his time, bread and wine, he said this was his body and blood. It is the body and blood of God, as Jesus is the expression, the body and blood, of God. As we are also the expression, the body and blood of God. As all creation is the body and blood of God.
When we designate the bread and the wine as sacred elements to recognize there the body and the blood of Jesus, we choose the bread and the wine as sacred elements to remind us that Jesus is really present in them, as God is really present in all of creation, especially in other people. Communion is the statement of the reality we affirm, that God lives in all, so that we may hold all creation and all other people in awe, in respect and in honor. This was the gift of Jesus, to help us remember that deep reality.
The gospels indicate that Jesus gave communion to everyone present. There is no mention of anybody being excluded for any reason. Jesus even gave communion to Judas, who he knew had already betrayed him in his heart.
Communion is not a reward to a person for being ritualistically pure. We are not excluded for being unworthy. Jesus showed us by his acceptance of everyone that we are all worthy already, because God lives in us already. Communion is meant to strengthen our recognition of the reality within which we live, and thus to become better and more loving persons.
Everyone is welcome to communion who wishes to receive it. We cannot imagine Jesus turning away divorced people, public “sinners,” various denominations of Christians, or even non-Christians. Above all, communion is the celebration of the reality of God’s extravagant love for all humanity. All are welcome.
Religions seem to have an unholy fixation on sex. Genitalia are tools, as are hands and other body parts. What matters is the inclination of our hearts: do we choose love, or do we choose selfish alienation. All sorts of things are instruments used in the carrying out of our heart’s intention, but it is the intention itself that matters. To say that divorced and remarried individuals must refrain from sex if they are to receive the sacraments is absurd, as most thinking individuals know. The emperor has no clothes here.
This language is bold and regretfully seems confrontational. It is necessary because the language out of the Vatican is imperial, disassociated from human reality, dictatorial, insensitive to the ebb and flow of life, and damaging to real spiritual growth. Yet there is good sense in the whole community of the people of God, and most Catholics and Christians who are not part of the hierarchy agree with these common-sense theological realities. Many Roman priests and bishops disagree with the Vatican on these matters as well, but are afraid to say so publicly. Within the Roman form of Catholicism, the “doctrine” of infallibility is always predicated upon the infallible proclamations being received as accepted by the faithful. Obviously, the teachings on divorce, remarriage, reception of sacraments and over-concentration on sexual restrictions are not practiced by most Catholics or by most Christians, and thus are not “received.”