Please Note: We strongly recommend that the relevant NOTES added after the initial publication of this document, and that may be found at its end, be carefully reviewed.
The following letter was sent, on August 1998, to His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, with copies to a selected number of Cardinals and Archbishops worldwide. It seemed to have been well received by the Hierarchy which gets caught in the cross-fire between the Faithful and the Vatican.
It is the sincere hope of The M+G+R Foundation that appropriate action continues to be taken to relieve the suffering which the termination of a marriage imposes upon the Catholic faithful.
The Church rightfully teaches that a divorce cannot break a Sacramental Matrimony; however, this is an issue only if there really was a Sacramental Matrimony.
Beginning of Letter
His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect
Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith
I T A L Y
Peace be with you, Cardinal Ratzinger!
The one single social disorder which is causing the most concern to Roman Catholics worldwide is the increased amount of failed marriages and the conflict with the rightful teaching of the Church about the indissolubility of the Sacrament of Matrimony (1).
Precisely, the underlying reason for the increase in failed marriages - the improper pre-nuptial instruction - provides the groundwork for the theological solution to what appears to be an insoluble problem.
Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke so clearly against divorce that engaging in debates, as many do, to find a different interpretation, of the very clear and correct position of the Church, is an exercise in futility. However, the reality of so many fine and faithful Catholics who, after trying all possible remedies, had to seek separation from their spouse and wish to marry again needs redress. Would God allow such a tragic scenario without showing a coherent remedy?
No, He would not. Only man is capable of sowing so much misery and only man, with the Grace of God, can right such wrong. Allow us to elaborate.
The Seven Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church, with the exception of the Baptism of a newborn, have one common visible thread: Proper instruction before receiving the Sacrament. This conscious awareness of the commitment which we are about to make, and in which God is a real participant, is one of the necessary requirements for it to be valid.
The confirming fact that proper instruction is the key to engaging in Heaven what is being engaged on Earth lies in the very Sacrament of Confirmation in which a cognizant soul acknowledges and confirms its acceptance of the Holy Spirit and its responsibilities as a Christian, thus completing its Christian initiation. (2)
We do not need to belabor the point that to partake in the Sacrament of the Eucharist prior instruction must be extensive. Its attendant corollary, the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, also requires that faithful be properly instructed. The same applies to the Holy Orders which even require a more extensive instruction period before making a final commitment.
The Sacrament of Matrimony (3) is no different. The Sacrament of Matrimony is the human level parallel of the sacrament of the Holy Orders, through which the consecrated soul, in effect, become like a spouse to God. (3a)
Therefore, not only the Sacrament of Matrimony (4) requires appropriate instruction (5), it requires a more extensive and intensive level of instruction than any other of the Sacraments except that of the Holy Orders.
We all know that the president of the United States and his wife, as a result of an ecclesiastical error, received the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Republic of South Africa. However, we cannot consider that President and Mrs. Clinton received their First Sacrament of the Eucharist with all its attendant benefits.
We also know that to undergo the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation without a real understating of sin, contrition and the concept of Divine forgiveness (6) serves no purpose since the absolution imparted will not be engaged in Heaven - the interior condition of the penitent would not be the required one.
The very existence of the Sacrament of Confirmation underscores the point at hand:Improper instruction and understanding by participants invalidates a Sacramental act. That is, regardless of the Sacrament act - it is not valid. It did not meet the necessary requirements for it to be bound in Heaven.As you well know, a Sacrament is not an act of magic. A Sacramental act is a Divine-human interactive event which requires full understanding by the human engaged in it. A simple and uninformed acknowledgment of the Sacrament, i.e. "I do" in the case of Sacramental Matrimony, by the human being does not constitute a valid commitment with God.
Therefore the resolution of the multitude of Sacramental Marriage anomalies lies in the hands of the local Bishops (7) since a pronouncement of "Not Valid" identifies a faulty Sacramental act (8) and harmoniously resolves the problem. What God has not joined together, may be separated by man, thus the Vatican approved annulment is not necessary. There is nothing to annul. The Church teachings remain intact and in perfect accordance to the very explicit Word of God (9) on said matter.
Those who are married under a faulty Sacramental Matrimony may renew their vows as a post de facto act of Matrimonial Confirmation. Then it shall be bound in Heaven
We encourage your Congregation to prayerfully meditate on the above considerations and act upon them as the Holy Spirit dictate.
Respectfully presented by
End of Letter
NOTES _________________________(1) Except in the very rare occasions of a valid annulment and, of course, when "...death do us part."
(2) Paragraphs 1212 and 1306 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC]
(3) Paragraph 1601 CCC
(3a) Paragraph 1579 CCC
(4) Paragraph 1632 CCC
(5) Paragraphs 1626-1628 CCC
(6) "Your sins are forgiven" and "Your faith has saved you, go in peace" [St. Luke 7:48 & 50]
(7) Authorization confirmed by His Holiness John Paul II in: (a) His Homily of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, 29 June 1998. L’Osservatore Romano; N. 27; 8 July 1998; English Edition and (b) The message he delivered to a group of U.S. Bishops on Tuesday, March 31, 1998; Catholic World news, March 31, 1998
(8) We recognize that this act will be admission of human error by part of the Church. However, we must not forget Joan of Arc, Galileo, et al. The delay in correcting those human errors caused much damage to the Church.
(9) Matthew 19:6
NOTE Added On May 5th, 2001On May 2, 2001, the Spanish Press reported that bulimia, anorexia and addiction to gambling are the causes of the increase in petitions for marriage annulments in Spain, ecclesiastical judges report.
Given the inability of those suffering from these pathologies to give valid consent and assume their marital responsibilities, the Church's courts are having to study these new "illnesses" of modern societies.
López Zarzuelo noted that people suffering from anorexia, especially young women, often "reject marriage so that they won't lose their slimness and beauty."
We praise God that the Ecclesiastical authorities are beginning to realize, and apply the knowledge, that the ...inability to give valid consent and assume marital responsibilities... are valid grounds for annulment.
It naturally follows that anyone ill prepared to give valid consent and assume marital responsibilities, as it would be the case if the couple did not go through the appropriate ecclesiastical preparation to responsibly undertake the Sacrament of Matrimony, should be able to apply and secure an annulment.
NOTE Added On January 31th, 2003On the 20th and 30th of January, 2003, His Holiness John Paul II again stressed the indissolubility of the Sacrament of Matrimony, and, once again, he did not address the fact that just a "Church wedding" does not guarantee a valid Sacrament. [The above letter to Cardinal Ratzinger lays out the theological and traditional foundations for this statement.]
Without a valid Sacrament there is no Sacramental Matrimony. What takes place is no more than, what is called, a "Civil Ceremony" which the Church does not even recognize as valid, Sacramental speaking.
Thanks be to God that some members of the Hierarchy are responding well to the theology presented to Cardinal Ratzintger regarding this matter. [For an example of its application, review the following Note dated May 5, 2001]
The reason we are bring this event to the attention of the Faithful worldwide is to illustrate, once more, that many of the "teachings and postures" of the Roman Catholic Church, especially the ones that weigh down the Faithful to the point of almost despair are more the result of political or financial profit and not of Divine origin.
Why then should we wonder that the number of "registered" Catholics is increasing while the true Faith continues to decline?
Let us analyze this particular case....
The Hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in Spain ruled that there were no canonical impediments to the Sacramental Marriage of Don Felipe de Borbón and Doña Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano. Said ruling is in perfect harmony with the theological concept transmitted by miguel de Portugal to Cardinal Ratzinger.
The problem is that such ruling directly contradicts the words of H.H. John Paul II as reported by ACI Prensa Reporta on October 23, 2003:During the "ad limina" visit of the Bishops from England and Wales, the Pope confirmed that "any" definition of matrimony which does not recognize the union of a man and a woman "for life", violates its holiness and value.That is, without complicated interpretation, H.H. John Paul II would judge that Doña Letizia was married "for life" when she married her first husband, therefore, her marriage to Don Felipe de Borbón would be canonically invalid. That judgment would be completely wrong - infallibility or not.
This is the same wrong theo logic used by H.H. John Paul II and a very vocal group within the Hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian churches when they condemn the civil union of a homosexual couple. As we have discussed elsewhere, "Marriage" is a Biblical institution which fall under the jurisdiction of a religious establishment and not under the jurisdiction of a civil court. Conversely, a civil union is not under ecclesiastic jurisdiction.
Without a doubt, Church authorities may give their opinion regarding such issues; unfortunately it is done in a very negative and derogatory way... without remembering that all social ills - real or imagined - are the result of a failed Evangelization; an Evangelization style which, in the Roman Catholic Church alone, has sown needless suffering and death for many who implicitly trusted in such "Shepherds". The current world condition is the accusing evidence.Therefore, dear ones, do not lose heart. The problem does not lie in the Faith, the problem continues to be the Administrators of the Faith who have more faith in Mammon than in God and who have become Masters of Denial.
NOTE Added on June 15, 2004
Providence had it that we come across the Vatican's response to our letter of August 1998 to Cardinal Ratzinger with copies to all heads of Episcopal Conferences worldwide and which constitutes the core of this document.
Their response was issued anonymously via L'Osservatore Romano on November 28, 1998. It was briefer than their response to our document on Homosexuality - to which they dedicated one page articles for several consecutive weeks. It took many fancy words to smoke screen their denial of the clear words and instructions of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
In their rebuttal to our document about a faulty Sacramental Matrimony, the Vatican Administrators, once again, confirmed that the only thing that matters to them is the survival of the Church as an institution regardless the price the faithful - or for that matter - the world has to pay.
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