Cardinal Ouellet on accompanying those in irregular marriages

Here’s a link to an article I wrote on  Cardinal Marc Ouellet’s Communio article on marriage in advance of the upcoming extraordinary synod on the family and an excerpt:


“What is at stake is the truth of Christ’s witness,” the cardinal wrote. “The divorced remarried person’s new situation does not permit him authentically to express this witness because his new union is in contradiction to the love of Christ, Who was faithful to death.”

“It is not lack of mercy on the part of the Church if she does not authorize sacramental absolution and Eucharistic Communion even after an authentic conversion of the divorced and remarried person,” he said. “What is at stake is Christ’s fidelity to His own witness, which the Church does not feel free to modify lest she betray the truth that is the foundation of the indissolubility of marriage.”

Cardinal Ouellet offered a theological reflection based on the insights of the Second Vatican Council that went beyond a juridical or legal understanding of marriage to a sacramental approach tied to the notion of the Church herself as a sacrament, or visible sign of God’s grace in the nuptial mystery of Christ and His Bride, the Church.

The Council “reconceived” marriage “in terms of an encounter with Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church, who ‘abides with’ spouses and gives them a share in His own love,” he wrote.

Married couples are “called to serve a Love greater than their own love, mysteriously present in them despite the vicissitudes of human life,” he wrote.

The cardinal said another sacramental marriage is “impossible” because it would “directly contract the irreversible commitment of Christ the Bridegroom in the first union.”


While Cardinal Ouellet defended the present practice within a sacramental theological framework, he went outside it to show how the Church could show mercy.

“The world is already reconciled with God through the accomplishment of Christ’s Paschal Mystery,” he wrote. “The Church’s mission is to bear witness to this event by proclaiming the kerygma and administering the sacraments.”

“She does not, however, have an exclusive and exhaustive ‘management’ of mercy,” the cardinal wrote, affirming this mercy goes beyond the frontiers of the Church.

The Church must say to divorced and remarried people “who have repented of their faults and are incapable of abandoning their new union: God’s mercy reaches them intimately in their new situation.”

“Just as grace is not bound to the sacramental order in the case of non-Christians or other Christians, in the case of the faithful who suffer from a sacramental handicap, God’s mercy is nonetheless active in their lives.”

“These faithful continue to bear witness to Christ’s absolute fidelity precisely by abstaining from Holy Communion, out of respect for the divine Partner who did not break the first union despite the couple’s failure,” he said.

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6 Responses to Cardinal Ouellet on accompanying those in irregular marriages

  1. EPMS says:

    These are words from deep faith, but not from deep experience of marriage. If one’s spouse dies, loved or loathed, one is free to marry again. Marriage is a sacrament for this life only— unique in this respect. There is no ontological change. And telling a divorced 23 year old to seek solace from Christ the Bridegroom for the next 60 or 70 years does not resonate with many, however stirring it sounds from the pulpit.

    • Fr. David Marriott SSC says:

      Perhaps the divorced 23 year old who has had to leave home because of abuse and torment by a spouse would think that it might have been better not to have been married at all, rather than be treated as one who has committed a sinful act?

    • Thomas Torck says:

      Many don’t really have a supernatural faith anymore. That’s why marriage isn’t related to anything divine anymore. It’s mundane. It’s banal. It all comes down to mating, passing genes, attraction, then leaving when bored to find another mate. We all could use less of the drama entailing abstract thought, and that’s why divorce isn’t such a big deal now than in 15th century Italy or something. And neither is homosexual marriage, abortion, contraception, transgenderism, and such. It’s the new norm now.

      • Thomas Torck says:

        Let us not forget also, the legal, material aspect of marriage. Husband works hard, feels entitled to things he bought with money, but woman gets children, both spoil the children until they become kidults who take to the streets and demand their governments to do what their parents did to them, which was give them whatever makes them “happy”

        We will soon have a society that lacks a mother and a father- and the “family” will be a quaint notion, like oaths and morality.

      • Rev22:17 says:


        You said: Many don’t really have a supernatural faith anymore. (boldface mine)

        Ah, did “many” ever have a “supernatural” faith?

        When I was young, many people of all ages went to church solely out of pressure to conform to the prevailing norm of their families or of the ethnic urban neighborhoods where they lived. Young people who went to a college away from home, or who joined the armed forces, or who otherwise moved away from home, typically stopped going to church on a regular basis and thereafter went to mass only when they went home to visit their families or when their families came for a visit. If they really had even minimal faith, they would have continued going to mass regularly.

        You continued: That’s why marriage isn’t related to anything divine anymore. It’s banal. It all comes down to mating, passing genes, attraction, then leaving when bored to find another mate.

        In the minds of the many, was it ever?

        But back in the day, the law made divorce difficult and there was a lot of social and familial pressure from those same sources to remain in bad, and even abusive, relationships. By way of example, there was no such thing as “no fault” divorce when I was young. If a couple married under secular law mutually decided that they wanted to divorce each other, one of the parties had to do something (engage in a sexual tryst with a third party, for example) to give the other cause to sue for a divorce. Further, there was a major social stigma attached to divorce that drove many couples whose marriages had really failed to maintain a sham of marriage while having affairs discretely.


  2. Thomas Torck says:

    If you think about the Holy Trinity… The basic human relationship involves two people, and a healthy relationship leads to something that imitates the divine act of creation, and so the love between them is important. In God, we find self-sufficiency with regards to relationships, as Aristotle once asked “Does God ever get lonely? (Or the Primary Mover, as they called Him) the perfection of the Trinity answers this question, because God is perfectly sustainable in Himself.

    I remember a post by Fr. Hunwicke discussing the “Death of Friendship” because if we talk about two men today who are very good friends, it is always tainted by the suspicion of homosexuality, and I guess the conceptual loss of a relationship between men that is wholesome is another attack against what God intended for us.

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