Missing the real point: the debate on Communion for remarried divorcees

Deo gratias for Dom Hugh

Dominus mihi adjutor

Most Catholics will be aware of the recent, vigorous debate that has emerged the last few months on the subject of whether remarried divorcees should be admitted to Holy Communion. The debate was given impetus by the desire of German bishops to change the immemorial teaching of the Church. Following the explicit and unequivocal teaching of Christ, the Church does not recognize the possibility of divorce. Spouses can separate without any canonical consequence. Any civil divorce has only civil effect, and does not affect the sacramental bond which endures. The problem comes if a civilly-divorced spouse re-marries. It would have to be a civil wedding, naturally. In the eyes of the Church, with the original marriage bond intact, that spouse is now officially and publicly committing adultery. Adultery is a grave sin that precludes one from receiving Holy Communion.

As any sensible pastor, like our own Bishop Philip Egan, will…

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Christ has risen, as He said; He is truly risen. Alleluia!

During Lent one year – whether it was last or the one before escapes me – I read a suggestion for a Lenten penance that involved using nothing that produced artificial light after sundown. Depending on the date of Easter this may have a more or less arresting effect on its practitioners; this year the switch to daylight savings time came early on, but last year the clocks (in Europe at least) jumped forward an hour on Easter night itself, thus making it even shorter than it normally would be. In 2013, then, abandoning light bulbs and computer and television screens would have been quite the thing. Despite all that, it seemed to me to be wonderfully romantic and medieval in a way that I enjoy greatly, all of which probably precluded it from ever being a suitable penitential measure for me.

Easter is all about light; from the fire to the Exultet and all the way down to some of the twee-est, sappiest colouring-in books you can imagine, you hear lumen Christi and you might sing Christ be our light (commiserations if the latter was imposed upon you in any setting other than a campfire shindig). The tomb is pitch black, Christ’s pristine Body is scarred by our sins, and it is only by His descending into the lifeless darkness that there can be any hope of healing the gaping chasm between God and His creation.

Now because I’m weird, I prefer the church when it’s dark. Electric lights are so harsh and we seem so petrified of operating without them. Of course we have a justified preference for surgery to take place under good lighting, but not everywhere is an operating theatre!

So it was during the Vigil this year (for me). Even though Easter is so late anno 2014, the falling darkness of the evening meant that the fire really had a role to play. The symbolism of candles and flames and all this is wonderful, but the perks of 21th Century living are not without some loss of realisation of how the ‘Mysterious’ happenings are directly reflected in the lives we lead here and now. The Light is our inheritance, but we’ve not yet come in to it.


You mean Lent started?

Believe it or not, one of my lesser resolutions this Quadragesima was to blog more often. Whahahaha!

There was a time when I could not envisage not blogging on a regular basis. It was one of the ways in which I kept in touch with friends, amongst which a group which became quite close-knit, not only in the vincinity but also rather farther afield. In the days before Twitter really took off (or perhaps I really am that slow on the uptake!), before ‘microblogging’ became passé, it was how many of us stayed updated on each other’s wel en wee, the ups and downs of life. We (I use the term loosely) could thus pick up on news and pass it on; but it wasn’t an entirely online interaction as most of us would see each other at church on the next Sunday, if not before. It all formed part of my social fabric at the time.

Well, I should have known not to be so ‘idealistic’ about such impermanent things; just like all creation (it’s a bit boggling to me, but in a good way, to realise that that social life was just as much part of Creation as any stunning scenery I might stand and admire) it changed and passed away – at least for me. This happens to everyone and everything, and just as an inordinate attachment to material things, similarly clinging on to intangible but nonetheless temporary and falliable friendships can (and will) be horrifically damaging to the soul. St. Aelred’s Spiritual Friendship it most deffinitely weren’t, loike, although they were by no means exclusively bad connections.


Once, when talking about the novitiate, a Dominican spoke of it being like a purifying fire, preparing the infant religious for the new life ahead. I of course paid no attention to this, because I am nothing if not bad at listening (which is unfortunate for a Benedicine oblate). But standing on this side of what has been a tumultuous half-decade I can only agree with the unheeded OP. It ‘feels’ as though I’ve been through the wringer. Two wringers. A whole Victorian-era laundry business get-up of wringers. Had I thought there were wounds before, then by now they’ve either been ripped open and stitched up again, or their scars have paled over time, outdone by the fresher ones, some still bleeding even now. Life is hard. Pick your hard. I don’t know how often I’d spoken those words to others around me, going through their own trials, but the quip always seemed so pathetic (as well as eminently true) when I had to say it to myself.

So that ‘world’ passed, or I passed out of it, and my blogging along with it. At times I miss the experience. It was a relatively safe and protected way to talk to people with whom I was more likely than not to be in agreement on many important things, and on a much more personal level I’m sure there’s some benefit to placing thoughts on cyberpaper at least fairly frequently. None of that is there anymore. I’m so much more aware that the tiny corner of the blogosphere which I inhabit is just that – tiny – and that the real influence to be had is in that cold, barren, seemingly inhospitable interior of my own self. There are no cell walls around me, however much I may want them, but I only have to turn away from the world to find a cell more cut off, more confrontational, more terrifyingly isolated than anything excepting the cells of the chronicled (and forgotten) English anchorites.

God be praised for Septuagesima; along with a host of other things, of course, but uppermost in my mind in typing this post, for Septuagesima. I will never be someone of great insights and what lesser insights I do have will only ever be of benefit to myself, but seeing as it is only my own soul’s health I’m completely responsible for that’s probably just as well. But it was during Septuagesima this year that the supreme audacity (yet when reasonably considered, not audacious in the slightest) of a desire peered around a corner.

I want, I brashly wrote in a letter, to be a saint.

Now each time I think about this the ridiculousness of it all gives me a fit of the melancholy giggles (you know the type – often overdone in films). At most I’ll be thought of – namelessly, thank goodness – at All Saints, and as such there will be no cause looking for diaries and all that nonsense (note to self: burn all of your diaries before you die). But if only to somehow help strip myself of all this stupendous worthlessness…it might not be so bad to put down stuff here that would otherwise threaten to cloud this seemingly lifelong novitiate with preoccupation.

So I’ll try and blog more.

suscipe me secundum eloquium tuum et vivam: et non confundas me ab expectatione mea

If only I weren’t always so absent at 10am on Mondays.

Book love

I once heard a seminarian refer to his breviary as his ‘wife’.


There are sundry reasons why I can’t do that, but I hope this suffices.

By the way, you can totally say the Office aloud  without getting (many) strange looks on the bus.

I like my diurnal very much, possibly even more than my Missal. This trooper has almost been around the world with me! (Tip: when on an airplane, if canonically permitted, say the Office silently. And don’t sway back and forth. Don’t ask me how I know this)


Every year people say that Lent creeps up on you like a thief in the night, and that this is why the Church should never have done away with Septuagesima, which is like a minor thief, the allegiances of which seem uncertain, who for some reason comes two and a half weeks beforehand and somehow (cough cough nudge nudge) does his best to wake us up to the big guy (full name: Quadragesima) sloping on up the hill, ready to squat in our lives for the next month and a half.

I’m making this sound like a really great time of the year, aren’t I!

In fact what happens to me is that around Epiphany I flip through my brand spanking new diary, writing in important dates, and then I calculate how many weeks there are between Candlemas and Septuagesima, have a minor meltdown, and then retreat to twitter or skype to bemoan how fast the year is going.

I need to work on whinging. I’m much too good at it.

Be all that as it may – the (psychological) fact of the matter is that for me at least I can’t just wake up on Shrove Tuesday and expect myself to have The Plan™ sorted by Mass on Ash Wednesday. It’s a happy thing, then, that God and His Church together have some pretty decent (psychological) insights.

Of course, before I Jumped The Insert-River-Name-In-Here* and became a very bad traddy I couldn’t appreciate this properly. I certainly knew of Septuagesima, and thought I had a decent idea of the mechanics and purpose and stuff, but like other things in life it’s just best learnt by doing – so I wonder whether anyone who’s not yet at least toe-dipped the traddy waters can grasp how it works. But when Ash Wednesday itself is so involved, when it can leave your singing voice dazed and confused, when all these antiphons and readings are just so much more accusing about your own culpability in the continuing suffering of Christ**…yes, then you need some time to gear up for the fight.

As usual there was Quarant’Ore at church. Here’s a photo of the second evening:

Fr. K. wants MOAR PHOTOS, so I’m exploring some nice ways of putting them online. I tried before, with That Photo Blog, but it attracted some nasty comments so I don’t think I’ll be resurrecting that.

Meanwhile I’ve got an intensified prayer thing going on, have given up stuff, and have selected a book to read. I’ll post about that latter in the next few days; what I’ve read so far is rather excellent (but then I’m biased).

Right. Lent. Bring it on! We can do all things in Christ who strengthens us….

* ‘Swimming the Tiber’ means becoming Catholic. ‘Swimming the Bosphorus’ means switching to Eastern Orthodoxy. Perhaps ‘Swimming the Thames’ would mean becoming Anglican. I don’t know of an appropriate river to mention whilst making the (intra-Catholic) switch to the dreaded traddiness.

** Or, strictly speaking, is Christ’s suffering not prolonged? There must be an ecumenical council that dealt with this question. Of course I was born after Vatican II so I know nuffink.