Thursday, March 2, 2017

Fasting requirements

I remembered that I posted this last April. To save myself from having to write a new post, I'll reproduce it here. 

Just in time for...Lent 2017, here are some comments on what the (Latin) Church requires in regard to fasting.

Part I: When, and how much, to eat on fast days

From the early centuries of the Church, there has been a practice of fasting but it has never been uniform throughout the Church and it has changed over time: the customs of time and place were essential in determining what was required. In addition to limiting the overall quantity of food, as well as the time when it could be consumed, there were also limitations on what food could be eaten. There was a combination of "fasting" and "abstinence."

By the end of the first millennium, fasting was generally observed for the 40 (more or less) days of Lent, with a possible break from the fast on Sundays, as well as on other days throughout the year. Fasting was understood as a day on which people did not eat or drink anything until around sunset. As time went on, this was changed--more by customary practice than legislation from the hierarchy--so that "breaking the fast" at about 3 pm was deemed acceptable (so said St. Thomas Aquinas). As the years continued to progress, the time for the "break-fast" meal was moved even earlier in the day so that noon was the practical time for the meal on fast days. This migration from evening to afternoon to noon was first justified in cases of necessity. Necessity, over time, was not required. Eventually, it was acceptable to eat the meal even an hour before noon for a good reason. According to the old Catholic Encyclopedia:
According to general usage, noon is the proper time for this meal. For good reasons this hour may be legitimately anticipated. Grievous sin is not committed even though this meal is taken a full hour before noon without sufficient reason, because the substance of fasting, which consists in taking but one full meal a day, is not imperiled.  
Here we have the fundamental nature of fasting, as it was understood at around the turn of the 20th century: fasting limits food intake to one meal a day and the timing of this meal is not a matter of grave sin. How much could a person eat at this meal? This was never stated in the law of the Church. (Moral theologians tended to state that a full meal was 32 ounces.)

As this change in the time of the "breakfast" took place, people began to also have a small meal in the evening. This "collation", as it was called, was first just some wine and a bit of bread. Drinking only wine might have some unwanted effects so, therefore, some bread was also allowed. By the time of the 16th century, it was customary to have fruit and even other food, as long as the total quantity did not exceed ounces. According to St. Alphonsus (1770), eight ounces was seen as the maximum amount. (This would be 1/4 of a full, 32 ounce meal). Once again, however, local practice was variable. There was no legislated, universal norm.

During the next 75 years or so, people began to have some food even in the morning. This "frustulum". as it was called, was allowed by "the Vatican" (the Sacred Penitentiary, to be specific) in an 1843 response which said: "Those who in the morning on fast days take a small quantity of coffee or chocolate with a piece of bread should not be disturbed." "Chocolate", in this context (" or chocolate...") refers to a chocolate drink, not a big chunk of chocolate. Over time, it was said that this little snack was supposed to consist of no more than two ounces of food but some authors stated that people are allowed to eat as much as they truly need in order to carry out their duties. Once again, there was no legislation from the Holy See which determined how much could be eaten in these "snacks." In any case, I doubt people had a scale to measure their food intake.

In 1891, the Baltimore Catechism defined a fast days as: "days on which we are allowed but one full meal" (q. 1337). Question 1338 asked whether or not it is "permitted on fast days to take any food besides the one full meal" and said that it is permitted "to maintain strength, according to each one's needs. But together these two meatless meals should not equal another full meal." (This should sound familiar since it is how we (at least in the USA) often define what it means to fast.)

In the 1917 Code, we can see a universal law that formally allows both a morning and evening "snack": "The law of fasting ordains that only one full meal a day be taken, but does not forbid a small amount of food in the morning and in the evening. As regards the kind of food, and the amount, that may be taken, the approved customs of one's locality are to be observed" (canon 1251). This canon went on to say that the "main meal" could be taken in the evening and the "collation" at noon.

As usual, the Church did not specifically define what this "small amount" of food is. After the 1917 Code was promulgated, some authors continued to say that the two "snacks" should be limited so that, together, they do not add up to more than the full meal. The Bishops of the United States, in 1951, continued to use this sort of limitation by saying that the two meals would be "sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to each one's needs; but together they should not equal another full meal" (quoted in Callan's Moral Theology, n. 2588).

In 1966, Paul VI promulgated a document on fasting and abstinence. Therein, he repeated canon 1251 of the 1917 Code. The 1983 Code does not define what fasting is--it only says that 18-59 year-olds are bound to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and local conferences of Bishops can define it more precisely (cc. 1251-1253). The Bishops of the USA have not made any such definition, subsequent to the 1983 Code.

Part II: What is food/liquid?

All of the foregoing dealt with the amount and timing of food intake on days of fasting: we are allowed, at most, one regular meal and two smaller "snacks" and these meals can be taken at any time of the day.

What about drinking/liquids? For hundreds of years, we've had this axiom: "liquids (or drinks) do not break the fast." Great, that's clear...or is it? Unfortunately, it's not as clear as it seems. Many authors, for example, have said that milk breaks the fast (for example, the old Catholic Encyclopedia said this). Other authors said it doesn't. From what I've seen, more recent (let's say, from 1950) authors say milk is a drink but older ones said it is food.

We will not find an "official" list of foods/drinks. These days, "drinkable meals" are becoming more and more popular. These things aren't the same as fruit juice, which has been long considered to be a drink. Yet, we say we "drink" them, not "eat" them. We will have to depend on principles to decide what is a food and what is a drink--don't expect the Church to formally define this. How about "if it passes through a straw, it's a drink" principle? That's a good start but not enough.

It seems to me that we drink liquids when we are thirsty and/or when we need to assist the digestion of food. When we are hungry, we eat food. If I think "I'm thirsty", I won't say "I think I'll make a banana/blueberry/apple/pear/mango/grape/kiwi/date/milk smoothie in the blender." No, I'd consume such a thing so that I can eat something and not be hungry, even though it can go through a straw.

On the other hand, I would not say "I'm hungry. I'll have a glass of milk." (I think of milk as a drink...maybe because I grew up in Wisconsin.) Other people, though, might consider milk to be a snack. There is a lot of room for disagreement here, based on customary/cultural differences.

I've been looking for recent commentaries on what is considered to be a liquid, and why. I haven't been able to find anything more than a 1990s paragraph from a Philippine canon law journal   In Callan's Moral Theology (which comes from the 1920s, with a 1950s revision), he has this to say:
The law speaks of eating, that is, of solid food, and hence the Lenten and other similar fasts are not broken by liquids which are beverages rather than foods, or which are used to allay thirst, or carry food or assist digestion, and not chiefly to nourish (e.g., water, teas, coffee, light cocoa, wine, beer, lemonade, fruit juice). Likewise, sirups taken as medicines are not considered foods, even though they contain nourishment, unless one drinks a large quantity for its food content. Light ices may be considered drink, but ice-cream is food. On the contrary, liquids that are chiefly nourishing are regarded as food (e.g., soup, oil, honey). Finally, some liquors vary between food and drink, according to their richness or weakness, their great or small quantity. Thus, hot chocolate as made in the United States contains only a small amount of solid and may be considered as a drink, but as made in Europe it is stronger and rather food than drink.
This makes sense to me, even the part about ice cream being food.

Wondering about what is a food or liquid might be fun but it's not all that important, practically. The Latin Church's fasting requirements are extremely limited today: only two days of the whole year are fast days. If we are physically able to fast, we shouldn't need to even wonder about whether or not soy milk is a liquid or food: just don't eat/drink it until it's time for your meal/snack. Have a glass of water.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Traffic sources

After being away for a while, I've logged in and checked the "stats" for the blog. Interestingly, the vast majority of recent traffic has come from Russia! For some reason, I doubt there are many people over there who are actually interested in an American, canon law blog. ... There's nothing here, guys. Nothing worth hacking into, anyway.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Obstacles in canon law for those in consecrated life?

Some people have spent a lot of time talking about what the Pope recently said regarding the diaconate. I don't care to say much about that but was intrigued by another question posed to Pope Francis:
Many institutes are facing the challenge of revising their Constitutions in order to innovate their way of life and their structures. This is proving to be difficult due to obstacles in canon law. Do you foresee any changes to canon law in order (to) facilitate this process?
A preliminary remark is that all communities revised their constitutions (some more radically than others and some several times) after Vatican II and/or after the promulgation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. Yet, some communities are looking for more "innovation" and "restructuring" after only about 30 years? Huh.

Be that as it may, the question, one would think, refers to the Code of Canon Law and not "canon law" in general (yes, there is more to canon law than just the Code). What does the Code have to say about "Constitutions" and their revision?
Can. 587 §1. To protect more faithfully the proper vocation and identity of each institute, the fundamental code or constitutions of every institute must contain, besides those things which are to be observed as stated in can. 578, fundamental norms regarding governance of the institute, the discipline of members, incorporation and formation of members, and the proper object of the sacred bonds.
§2. A code of this type is approved by competent authority of the Church and can be changed only with its consent.
§3. In this code spiritual and juridic elements are to be joined together suitably; nevertheless, norms are not to be multiplied without necessity.
§4. Other norms established by competent authority of an institute are to be collected suitably in other codes and, moreover, can be reviewed appropriately and adapted according to the needs of places and times.
[FYI, canon 578 states: "All must observe faithfully the mind and designs of the founders regarding the nature, purpose, spirit, and character of an institute, which have been sanctioned by competent ecclesiastical authority, and its sound traditions, all of which constitute the patrimony of the same institute."]

"Constitutions", then, determine:
  • the proper vocation and identity of the institute (who they are and what they do) 
  • governance (who is in charge and what they can do), discipline (day-to-day life) 
  • who can become members and how they do so 
  • how "the vows" are understood and lived out. 
To become effective, they must be approved by the competent authority (either the Holy See or the diocesan bishop). Any change requires that authority's consent.

Note that the "competent authority" does not compose the Constitutions: the community itself composes them through, I imagine, some sort of committee which submits its work to the membership at large for a vote. After the community decides what is to be contained in the Constitutions, the approval of the competent authority is sought. If approval is given, the Constitutions become law. If not, the community has to revise their proposals and, again, seek approval.

The Code has other things to say about "Constitutions" but it is for the purpose of putting some "meat" on the "bones" of c. 587 (for example, cc. 595-602). Other than that, the Code mentions the Constitutions simply to say that they are binding and are to be observed (cf. cc. 616, 624, 625, 627, etc.).

I would like to know what it is in the Code, exactly, that is proving to be an obstacle for these communities. All I can think of is the fact that the competent authority has to approve of changes. This function of oversight is not something that can be easily discarded: "It is the duty of the ecclesiastical hierarchy to regulate the practice of the evangelical counsels by law, since it is the duty of the same hierarchy to care for the People of God and to lead them to most fruitful pastures" (Lumen gentium, n. 45). Does the law have to be such that a change in the Constitutions requires the approval of the Holy See/Diocesan Bishop? No. At the same time, consecrated communities can't be independent from the Holy See/Diocesan Bishop.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Canonical Digits

The blog's biggest fan read the last post about the "canonical eye" and submitted the following question: If there is no irregularity with a weak canonical (left) eye, what does that mean for candidates to the priesthood who have no thumb or forefinger on one hand or both hands to hold the host at consecration time?

 As noted in that post, Canon 984.2 of the 1917 Code basically stated: "bodily defective men who, on account of debility cannot safely, or for reason of deformity with due dignity, engage in the sacred ministry of the altar" are irregular/impeded from the reception of orders; more significant defects, which have the same effects, impede the exercise of orders already received. Notice the two factors which come into play: safety and due dignity. A bodily defect which hiders or prevents either or both results in the irregularity. A defect which does not hinder or prevent safe and/or dignified ministry of the altar does not result in an irregularity.

Addressing the notion of "due dignity" in the ministry of the altar, a commentary on the 1917 Code said:
Becoming performance (of ministerial acts) requires two things: (1) that the faithful are not disgusted or offended by reason of the physical defect of the person performing the sacred act; (2) that by reason of the deformity liturgical laws are not violated in a matter of importance (Buscaren-Ellis, 3rd ed., p. 423).
In general, if a man is unable to observe liturgical law "in a matter of importance", then it is possible that he cannot carry out the ministry of the altar with "due dignity."

Now, to the specific topic at hand (see what I did there?): I have heard people refer to "canonical digits", meaning the two thumbs and two index fingers. Look through the old Code, though, and you won't find specific reference to the thumbs and fingers. Looking through the standard, English language, canonical commentaries on the 1917 Code, I haven't seen a reference to "canonical digits." Where was this term used, if not in canonical commentary? Where did it come from? I don't know.

At any rate, in the older form of the Mass, the rubrics specifically instructed the priest to hold the Host with the thumb and index finger of both hands. (In the "new Mass", by the way, the rubrics say only that the priest takes/holds the Host; nothing is said about fingers or thumbs.) Here we see the requirement to use the thumbs and index fingers of both hands. Clearly, a man who doesn't have both thumbs and both index fingers would not be able to observe liturgical law. One commentator on the 1917 Code had this to say:
One who is minus a hand or a finger which are necessary for handling the sacred species, is irregular. This is the case if thumb and index finger are missing. In cases where the hand was complete, but a great stiffness of the arm, caused by apoplexy or paralysis, rendered the breaking of the host or the making of the sign of the cross impossible, the S. Congregation denied a dispensation (Bachofen, vol. 4, p. 480)
Just because a dispensation was denied in that case doesn't mean it would never be granted. When a request for dispensation is made, there are three possible answers: "no", "yes", and "there is no irregularity." Each case is addressed on its own merits and there can be changes in perspective over time. As a commentary on the 1917 Code says, "there is no accurate list of bodily defects which bar a candidate from the priesthood, but each case must be judged on the candidate's ability to perform the sacred functions safely and with becoming dignity." (Woywod/Smith, vol. 1, p. 948).

Along those lines, I can point (no pun intended this time) to two cases where a dispensation for this sort of deformity was granted.

First, in 1918, Sacred Congregation of the Sacraments dispensed a man who lost his entire right hand in the war. He had an artificial hand and proved that he able to carry out the rites required for Mass. Since he was so able to do this, he was dispensed from the irregularity (see CLD v. 1, p. 485). I'm no expert in artificial limbs but I doubt that this priest could actually hold the Host with the artificial hand. Nevertheless, he was dispensed.

Years later, in 1955, a man who had "mutilated" left thumb (the portion above the knuckle was missing) wished to be ordained. The Congregation instructed his bishop that a dispensation can be granted but the man should obtain a gold/gold plated cap, if possible, for the thumb (see CLD v. 6, pp. 585-586).

(Another case, exceptional in more ways than one, is St. Isaac Jogues.)

Having said all this, I suppose I should answer the question from the beginning of the post: the current law says nothing about bodily defects which result in an irregularity (unless we are talking about self-mutilation). If a man is missing thumbs or fingers or even a hand or arm, he is not "irregular." Rubrics (for the "new Mass) do not say that the priest has to use his thumbs and index fingers to hold the Host. (He simply needs to be able to hold the Host, somehow.)

What does all of this mean? It means that whether a man with this sort of disability is ordained or not depends only on the decision of his bishop (or major superior). The bishop (or major superior) would make this determination based on the man's ability to carry out the priestly ministry (at the altar and otherwise).

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Canonical Eye

You've probably heard of "the eye of the tiger." You may know about "the evil eye." Have you ever heard of the "canonical eye"? Me neither, at least until this morning. It is not the eye of a canon lawyer. It's not an eye for detecting inspired Scripture. It's actually the left eye.

Canon law includes not only impediments for marriage (cc. 1083-1094) but also impediments (aka irregularities) for ordination (cc. 1040-1044). There are impediments both for receiving orders as well as impediments for the exercise of orders. For example, a Catholic man commits the crime (as understood in canon law) of apostasy. It would be illicit for him to be ordained (see c. 1041.2). Unfortunately, we have heard of ordained priests who have lost the faith and become heretics. If such a priest commits the crime of heresy in a public way, it is illegal for him to carry out any acts of the priestly order (see c. 1044.2). One irregularity concerns mutilation of self (c. 1041.5) but, other than that, there are no irregularities related to a man's physical condition. That doesn't mean physical condition is irrelevant (see c. 1029) but it does mean that no defects in physical condition are, strictly speaking, impediments to ordination.

In the old Code of Canon Law, however, the list of irregularities/impediments was much longer. One such irregularity included "bodily defective men who, on account of debility cannot safely, or for reason of deformity, engage in the sacred ministry of the altar" (c. 984 of the 1917 Code). If a man could not see at all, he would be considered "irregular" (that just caused me to recall Amoris laetitia!) What if he only had one, functional eye? Is either eye more important than the other? Yes, it was thought so.

Consider the fact that in the "old Mass", the priest would stand at the middle of the altar during the praying of the Canon of the Mass (the "Eucharistic Prayer") and that the missal would always be placed to his left (this still seems to be true: I can't recall seeing any priest who put the missal to his right...). The priest's left eye was the one that would have a more direct line of sight to the Canon. Therefore, it was referred to as the "canonical eye." If that eye was strong but the right eye was weak, it was thought that no irregularity existed.

In 1924, though, a question was submitted to the Sacred Congregation of Religious (why not the Sacred Congregation of the Sacraments? The case must have involved a Religious candidate for orders...). It was asked whether or not "the mere deprivation of the use of the left eye ... is sufficient to constitute an irregularity." The answer: no, it is not (Reference: Canon Law Digest, vol. 1, p. 486).

I now have an image of an evil, canonical eye of the tiger....

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Not finished with Amoris laetitia ... but I'm done

In the history of this blog, I've spent more time on Amoris laetitia than any other document or topic. When it comes to vast swaths of chapter 8, though, I'm faced with a few problems:

  • It's so vague/ambiguous that I don't know what it means
    • So, I can't apply it to a particular circumstance
  • I don't think anyone cares what I think about something I don't understand
    • Because even I don't care what I think about something I don't understand
The last thing I intend to say about the document is to present a scenario which may be something like what Pope Francis alludes to in chapter 8 with the phrase "a variety of situations":

A baby boy is baptized Catholic in infancy but not raised in the faith. He contracts a civil marriage with a divorced, non-Catholic and has a few children. As far as he's concerned, everything in his pagan life is great. He then has an awakening to his Catholic faith and wants to begin practicing it, including regularizing his marital state. Since he has good direction from a priest, he is informed that the Church does not consider him to be married and so he is not to act as a married man (circumlocution alert).

The other Party thinks all of this is ridiculous and has no intention whatsoever to become Catholic or even abide by the teaching of the Church. She thinks that the man has no right to impose any restriction on her exercise of her own rights as a wife. Acrimony ensues. The man then tells his priest that the woman will take the kids and leave if he "keeps going on like this." What is he to do?

I find it easier (even though it's not an easy problem) to take the teaching of the Catechism or Familiaris consortio and apply it to this scenario than to take the teaching of Amoris laetitia and apply it.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Taking a break from Amoris laetitia: Familiaris consortio

After the 1980 Synod of Bishops, which was dedicated to the topic of the Christian family, John Paul II issued the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio. Francis refers to it 24 times in Amoris laetitia and so I think it's helpful to read this prior exhortation to get situated in what the Church has taught on the topic of marriage and family.

We are in the midst of chapter 8 of Amoris laetitia so I'm going to quote the part of FC that is most related to chapter 8. I'll have a few comments along the way, in red. Here is Familiaris consortio, starting at n. 79:

Pastoral Action in Certain Irregular Situations

79. In its solicitude to protect the family in all its dimensions, not only the religious one, the Synod of Bishops did not fail to take into careful consideration certain situations which are irregular in a religious sense and often in the civil sense too. (What does "irregular" mean? It means against the rule/law. It is an accurate description of a marital relationship which isn't a recognized marriage. We aren't saying the people themselves are "irregular.")  Such situations, as a result of today's rapid cultural changes, are unfortunately becoming widespread also among Catholics with no little damage to the very institution of the family and to society, of which the family constitutes the basic cell.

a) Trial Marriages

80. A first example of an irregular situation is provided by what are called "trial marriages," which many people today would like to justify by attributing a certain value to them. But human reason leads one to see that they are unacceptable, by showing the unconvincing nature of carrying out an "experiment" with human beings, whose dignity demands that they should be always and solely the term of a self-giving love without limitations of time or of any other circumstance.

The Church, for her part, cannot admit such a kind of union, for further and original reasons which derive from faith. For, in the first place, the gift of the body in the sexual relationship is a real symbol of the giving of the whole person: such a giving, moreover, in the present state of things cannot take place with full truth without the concourse of the love of charity, given by Christ. In the second place, marriage between two baptized persons is a real symbol of the union of Christ and the Church, which is not a temporary or "trial" union but one which is eternally faithful. Therefore between two baptized persons there can exist only an indissoluble marriage.

Such a situation cannot usually be overcome unless the human person, from childhood, with the help of Christ's grace and without fear, has been trained to dominate concupiscence from the beginning and to establish relationships of genuine love with other people. This cannot be secured without a true education in genuine love and in the right use of sexuality, such as to introduce the human person in every aspect, and therefore the bodily aspect too, into the fullness of the mystery of Christ.

It will be very useful to investigate the causes of this phenomenon, including its psychological and sociological aspect, in order to find the proper remedy.

b) De Facto Free Unions

81. This means unions without any publicly recognized institutional bond, either civil or religious. This phenomenon, which is becoming ever more frequent, cannot fail to concern pastors of souls, also because it may be based on widely varying factors, the consequences of which may perhaps be containable by suitable action.

Some people consider themselves almost forced into a free union by difficult economic, cultural or religious situations, on the grounds that, if they contracted a regular marriage, they would be exposed to some form of harm, would lose economic advantages, would be discriminated against, etc. In other cases, however, one encounters people who scorn, rebel against or reject society, the institution of the family and the social and political order, or who are solely seeking pleasure. Then there are those who are driven to such situations by extreme ignorance or poverty, sometimes by a conditioning due to situations of real injustice, or by a certain psychological immaturity that makes them uncertain or afraid to enter into a stable and definitive union. In some countries, traditional customs presume that the true and proper marriage will take place only after a period of cohabitation and the birth of the first child.

Each of these elements presents the Church with arduous pastoral problems, by reason of the serious consequences deriving from them, both religious and moral (the loss of the religious sense of marriage seen in the light of the Covenant of God with His people; deprivation of the grace of the sacrament; grave scandal), and also social consequences (the destruction of the concept of the family; the weakening of the sense of fidelity, also towards society; possible psychological damage to the children; the strengthening of selfishness).

The pastors and the ecclesial community should take care to become acquainted with such situations and their actual causes, case by case. They should make tactful and respectful contact with the couples concerned, and enlighten them patiently, correct them charitably and show them the witness of Christian family life, in such a way as to smooth the path for them to regularize their situation. But above all there must be a campaign of prevention, by fostering the sense of fidelity in the whole moral and religious training of the young, instructing them concerning the conditions and structures that favor such fidelity, without which there is no true freedom; they must be helped to reach spiritual maturity and enabled to understand the rich human and supernatural reality of marriage as a sacrament.

The People of God should also make approaches to the public authorities, in order that the latter may resist these tendencies which divide society and are harmful to the dignity, security and welfare of the citizens as individuals, and they must try to ensure that public opinion is not led to undervalue the institutional importance of marriage and the family. (It's safe to say that we dropped the ball here.) And since in many regions young people are unable to get married properly because of extreme poverty deriving from unjust or inadequate social and economic structures, society and the public authorities should favor legitimate marriage by means of a series of social and political actions which will guarantee a family wage, by issuing directives ensuring housing fitting for family life and by creating opportunities for work and life.

c) Catholics in Civil Marriages

82. There are increasing cases of Catholics who for ideological or practical reasons, prefer to contract a merely civil marriage, and who reject or at least defer religious marriage. Their situation cannot of course be likened to that of people simply living together without any bond at all, because in the present case there is at least a certain commitment to a properly-defined and probably stable state of life, even though the possibility of a future divorce is often present in the minds of those entering a civil marriage. By seeking public recognition of their bond on the part of the State, such couples show that they are ready to accept not only its advantages but also its obligations. Nevertheless, not even this situation is acceptable to the Church.

The aim of pastoral action will be to make these people understand the need for consistency between their choice of life and the faith that they profess, and to try to do everything possible to induce them to regularize their situation in the light of Christian principle. While treating them with great charity and bringing them into the life of the respective communities, the pastors of the Church will regrettably not be able to admit them to the sacraments.

d) Separated or Divorced Persons Who Have Not Remarried

83. Various reasons can unfortunately lead to the often irreparable breakdown of valid marriages. These include mutual lack of understanding and the inability to enter into interpersonal relationships. Obviously, separation must be considered as a last resort, after all other reasonable attempts at reconciliation have proved vain.

Loneliness and other difficulties are often the lot of separated spouses, especially when they are the innocent parties. The ecclesial community must support such people more than ever. It must give them much respect, solidarity, understanding and practical help, so that they can preserve their fidelity even in their difficult situation; and it must help them to cultivate the need to forgive which is inherent in Christian love, and to be ready perhaps to return to their former married life.

The situation is similar for people who have undergone divorce, but, being well aware that the valid marriage bond is indissoluble, refrain from becoming involved in a new union and devote themselves solely to carrying out their family duties and the responsibilities of Christian life. In such cases their example of fidelity and Christian consistency takes on particular value as a witness before the world and the Church. Here it is even more necessary for the Church to offer continual love and assistance, without there being any obstacle to admission to the sacraments.

e) Divorced Persons Who Have Remarried (This is a subset of letter "c": Catholics in civil marriages, with the added impediment of a prior bond.)

84. Daily experience unfortunately shows that people who have obtained a divorce usually intend to enter into a new union, obviously not with a Catholic religious ceremony. Since this is an evil that, like the others, is affecting more and more Catholics as well, the problem must be faced with resolution and without delay. The Synod Fathers studied it expressly. 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.

Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is in fact a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned, and those who through their own grave fault have destroyed a canonically valid marriage. Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children's upbringing, and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid.

Together with the Synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful 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. They 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.

However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion (this is what "scandalized" means--it doesn't mean being shocked or outraged about something) regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

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." (this is a quotation from a homily of Pope John Paul II)

Similarly, the respect due to the sacrament of Matrimony, to the couples themselves and their families, and also to the community of the faithful, forbids any pastor, for whatever reason or pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry. Such ceremonies would give the impression of the celebration of a new sacramentally valid marriage, and would thus lead people into error concerning the indissolubility of a validly contracted marriage.

By acting in this way, the Church professes her own fidelity to Christ and to His truth. At the same time she shows motherly concern for these children of hers, especially those who, through no fault of their own, have been abandoned by their legitimate partner.

With firm confidence she believes that those who have rejected the Lord's command and are still living in this state will be able to obtain from God the grace of conversion and salvation, provided that they have persevered in prayer, penance and charity.