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Pope Francis on Marriage



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  • Editor's note: Pope Francis offered candid views on the state of marriage in the church; a little too candid, it seems, as his handlers, intent upon publicity damage-control, immediately issued a press release attempting to mitigate the fall-out. But it was too late. The Pope's statements are clear enough: what part of "the great majority of church marriages are religiously null" don't you understand?


Conservatives decry Pope Francis’s statement that ‘the great majority’ of marriages are religiously null!

by Michelle Boorstein
June 17, 2016

After Pope Francis on Thursday said “the great majority” of Catholic marriages are religiously null because people don’t understand the concept of a lifetime commitment, some prominent traditional Catholics lambasted the pontiff as “irresponsible” and that his statement could possibly discourage people from working on their marriage relations.

Francis’s comments, which were reported by the Catholic News Agency, came during the question-and-answer session of a meeting of the Diocese of Rome.

According to the CNA, a layperson asked about the “crisis of marriage” and how Catholics can help young people overcome their “resistance, delusions and fears” about marriage.

Francis, who in his three-plus years as pope has regularly made news with his off-the-cuff remarks that at times seem to conflict with church doctrine, cited a case in which he’d heard of a young man who wanted to become a priest, but just for 10 years. The [popular] culture is too provisional, Francis said.

“It’s provisional, and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null,” the pope reportedly said. “Because they say ‘yes, for the rest of my life!’ but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know.”


  • Editor's note: Here he begins to threaten traditional "infallibility" of church doctrine on the matter: If these marriages were truly “sacramental,” that is, God-inspired, divinely led, heavenly blessed and strengthened, then “nullity” would not be possible. Further, what does "knowing what they're saying" have to do with it in a church culture built around "just obey the priest," as, purportedly, since ancient times, he's the one that binds the couple in marriage.

Reuters reported Friday that the Vatican issued an Italian transcript changing Francis’s words to say “some” instead of the “great majority.” A Vatican spokesman said the pope’s off-the-cuff remarks are sometimes edited after consulting with him or among aides, Reuters reported.

Edward Peters, a popular canon lawyer and blogger, wrote Friday that the pope’s comments were the equivalent of a “nuclear winter” because they suggest that most people have failed at “the most natural” of human efforts.

“But beyond the arresting scope of the claim that nullity is rampant, there is the debilitating effect that such a view can and doubtless will have on couples in difficult marriage situations. After all, if ‘the great majority’ of Christian marriages are, as alleged by Francis, already null, then couples struggling in difficult marriages and looking for the bread of spiritual and sacramental encouragement may instead be offered stones of despair — ‘your marriage is most likely null, so give up now and save everyone a lot of time and trouble,’ ” Peters wrote…

Francis has spoken regularly and in accessible language about the challenge of relationships, and of marriage. He devoted two years to high-level meetings on the challenges to the modern family, and in April released a document that is the church’s warmest welcome in modern times to divorced and remarried couples, saying they shouldn’t be judged, discriminated against or excluded from church life.

Catholics had anxiously awaited the document, as their faith excludes people who have divorced and remarried outside the church from the core rite of Communion. Francis, in the April document, encouraged their priests to be merciful in considering whether such Catholics can receive Communion.

Pope Francis released a long-awaited apostolic exhortation on family life on April 8, where he called for more integration for divorced Catholics but closed the door on gay marriage.

Marriage, in Catholic teaching, is a sacrament, an “original gift from God to humanity,” says the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website. “It is a permanent, faithful, fruitful partnership between one man and one woman. The USCCB says divorce “claims” to break marriage, but only a church tribunal can say that a marriage isn’t valid because a real bond never existed. One of the reasons church courts may give for annulling a marriage is to say that the parties were unprepared.

In his comments Thursday, Francis noted that when he was archbishop in Buenos Aires, he had prohibited marriages in the case of “shotgun weddings,” where the prospective bride was pregnant, CNA reported. He did this on the grounds there was a question of the spouses’ free consent to marry.

“Maybe they love each other, and I’ve seen there are beautiful cases where, after two or three years they got married,” he said. “And I saw them entering the church, father, mother and child in hand. But they knew well (what) they did.”

Francis attributed the marriage crisis to people who “don’t know what the sacrament is” and don’t know “the beauty of the sacrament.”

“They don’t know that it’s indissoluble, they don’t know that it’s for your entire life. It’s hard,” the pope said.

  • Editor's note: The biblical notion of the “indissoluble” marriage is made sense of in RCC theology by calling for more commitment -but this is a form of "blaming the victim." The Church's position is, "We gave you a holy sacrament and you made a mess of it!" -or could it possibly have anything to do with neanderthal and superstitious views of marriage? - ossified now as "infallible" church doctrine. Traditional Catholic teaching, and that of many churches, would have it that any two hot-blooded bodies, caught in the fever of breathless desire, but suitably blessed by the right authority to invoke the Holy Spirit as "love potion," can make a sacred marriage. But actual results have made a terrible mockery of this shallow and vacuous party-platform: 50% divorce, and what of the other 50? Ann Landers, sharing her counseling experience, once bemoaned: "The poor wish to rich; the rich wish to be happy; the single wish to be married; and the married wish to be dead."


Readers’ Comments

(each paragraph is a separate reader's letter)

now, don't start talking logically Pope Francis, as the whole carefully constructed ideology will fall apart and the world will be left with humans who think and feel according to normal human processes, without being told what to think and feel in support of the powerful establishments that try and rule everything.
Can you imagine people being unencumbered by ideology? Why, they would be... free!?!

I am not catholic, but I would say he is right. There is a huge divorce rate in this country, probably in other countries as well. Religion doesn't seem to have stopped it. I hear people say they are marrying and if it doesn't work out, oh well, we will divorce, no big deal. I was married for 39 years to the same man, we discussed marriage before we committed to it and both of us decided if we had children, we had to stay married and work through any problems. We did that. My husband passed away 2 years ago. Was it always perfect? No. We had our ups and downs like everyone does, but we also never stopped working on it and never lost the commitment to each other.

Yes, I agree with Pope Francis. Most "Catholic" marriages are nothing more than couples having "ceremonies" in a Catholic church. As the Pope said, they are most likely not even sacramental.

  • Editor's note: The typical John-and-Mary couple, lacking a soul bond, are merely “playing house” and "playing church" in their “ceremonies,” empty outward forms of what should be the most spiritually-meaningful event of eternal life, but reduced to momentary thrill of pageantry and pomp.


Pope Francis speaks the truth... He is telling us we have been deceiving ourselves but He is not deceived. Therefore, most "Catholic" marriages - even those which ceremonies take place in a Catholic church - are not sacramental; they are not blessed.

Why do they need the Church to bless them? Is this the same God in the same Church that let kids be abused for decades and whose hierarchy covered it up? The RCC has no credibility left to anyone with a brain.

From the Catholic perspective, marriage is permanent and unbreakable unless it is "null." Conditions that nullify a marriage include when one or both parties were too immature to understand the commitment they were making, or when one party had mental reservations …, or when one party didn't understand himself sufficiently…, and so forth and so on. No true commitment can be made under these conditions. 

I would imagine that what the pope is saying is that Catholic annulment should be much easier to get, because so many people married with this inability to truly commit.

Many Popes are null and void because they have no basic understanding of God's word.

Not only is this unbelievably arrogant, it is also wholly against Catholic doctrine, which holds that the Pope is infallible. I assume you are not Catholic? Or perhaps you have devoted fifty years of your life in the daily study and interpretation of God's word, so you have a better grasp on it than the Pope?

Strange, but when I first heard this I thought this was one of the most conservative statements this Pope has made. He's simply stating a viewpoint … it sounded to me like he's asking for a deeper, really a more conservative, understanding of the sacrament, and what it means to be invested in something (marriage) forever.

The Pope shows he knows human nature all too well. He also knows how societal and family pressure can force people into marriages which they are not committed to. Often it is only one spouse who lacks the necessary commitment. Sadly, the other spouse must then recognize that the marriage is a sham The Pope very wisely is moving toward a position which will make the annulment of such marriages easier to accomplish.

  • Editor's note: The party-faithful become very insecure when rules and regulations are minimized in favor of spiritual intent, which is difficult or impossible to define and regulate. Francis is playing with fire.

What I always come back to is, how many of us were simply born into the Catholic faith, and grew up with a very specific set of rules and regulations. Point is we had no choice or alternatives until one day it dawns on you, you are [unconsciously, unthinkingly] deep into the organization.

Honestly, who cares about the opinion of the leader of an institution that facilitated the rape of thousands of children. Marriages are 'null' because people don't understand commitment? Hundreds of church leaders should be in jail for allowing priests to molest children. When you take care of that problem, you can get back to me about my commitment issues.

Why did I never read the story of what this Pope did during the “Dirty War” in Argentina where 30,000 went missing and this Pope supported the dictator?

We are living much longer than people where when The RCC was established (really established -- about 200 A.D.). A commitment for life -- marriage, the priesthood -- is fine when it lasts about only 20-30 years. When a commitment has the potential of lasting 60 years -- we need to rethink things, because we tend to change so much over a lifetime. What is wrong with a priesthood the lasts only 10 years? Yes, he would always be a priest, but he could decide to return to the ranks and marry. As for marriage, Margaret Mead said: Marriage until death do us part was fine when we lived to be only 30 years old. Now that we live to be 90, we need one marriage to leave home with (the home of our childhood), one marriage to raise kids with and a third to grow old with. I personally know a couple who married at 18 (both good friends of mine). She barely graduated from HS, never went to college, and probably never read anything but a romance novel in her life. By the time he was 40, he had a Masters in Education and another in English. The difference in education caused no end of problems. We change a lot over the course of our lives. We should be able to have choices as we age and not be shackled to the decisions of our youth.

Apparently, there is some Platonic ideal of marriage and every other marriage is “not-marriage.” If the majority of ostensibly sacramental marriages are actually null, why keep pretending any of them are sacramental and indissoluble? Why make people jump through endless hoops to get an annulment if most marriages are null anyway?

It's incredibly frustrating to watch someone keep insisting that widespread failures in the practice of Catholic marriage have nothing to do with the rules or doctrine. If everyone is failing, then, ipso facto, the rules and doctrine are unworkable.

Consider where the concept of marriage came from. It is there you will find the answer. It did NOT come from the church. The church wrote themselves in. Marriage of Cana - Jesus made it a sacrament. Church is upholding the original teaching from Genesis - that Jesus Christ affirmed. Great - now all those women married to abusive husbands will have another stupid reason to stay - subjecting themselves and their children to a living he**. My mother claimed she stayed with my father because it was a sin to divorce - apparently a bigger sin than the abuse my father heaped on her and me for years. What a load of garbage. Comments like this make it hard.

Commitment fades as your spouse’s desire does. People spend all this time and effort just to get married and then are low energy once married. Who wants to stay in that?

It was not until the [Middle Ages] that the church started referring to marriage as a sacrament, before that marriage was an arrangement to pass along a young girl to a husband along with livestock and land. An agreement so that the husband could not keep the cows and olive tree and return the girl.

Nobody is living in an throw-away culture. If you prefer living in unhappiness, fear, abuse or whatever, you go right ahead. But people making their lives better is not "throwing away" anything.

You know, it's women who won't commit. They are ones that get the divorces. Got to point out that the chances of your wife leaving you goes up 40% if you are not her first lover.

Why people listen to the dictates of a "religion" whose basis of legitimacy is based on nonsense is beyond me... They have no idea what happens after you die either.

As a parochial kid, I learned sacraments strengthen us with the grace of the Holy Spirit. Over 51% of Catholic marriages fail. Apparently, the Holy Spirit grants grace to half of the marriages. How does a priest deal with no sex, we asked in high school religion class? Answer - It's a sacrament with strengthening grace from the Holy Spirit. Where was the HS in the minds of Bishops who decided reputation was more important than safety of children?


  • Editor's note: This notion of the Holy Spirit strengthening a sagging love relationship begins to sound like an aphrodisiac, a love potion, something Madam Ruth might be interested in:

I took my troubles down to Madame Ruth
You know that gypsy with the gold-capped tooth
She's got a pad down on Thirty-Fourth and Vine
Sellin' little bottles of Love Potion Number Nine

I told her I was a flop with chicks
I've been this way since 1956
She looked at my palm, and she made a magic sign
She said, “What you need is Love Potion Number Nine”

She bent down and turned around and gave me a wink
She said, “I'm gonna make it up right here in the sink”
It smelled like turpentine; it looked like Indian ink
I held my nose, I closed my eyes, I took a drink

I didn't know if it was day or night
I started kissin' everything in sight
But when I kissed a cop down on Thirty-Fourth and Vine
He broke my little bottle of Love Potion Number Nine

"1956! - dat's rich"


CherokeeCol advises keeping opinions to oneself if not a "practicing" Catholic. I'm a "questioning" Catholic who will never understand how Bishops/Cards/Popes allowed the pedophilia COVERUP worldwide. This stain on our leadership will last forever, and with that stain, the church has lost the respect of the world. How dare you tell anyone to keep their comments to themselves? That's exactly what our so-called "holy men of God" told people who reported abuse. If only God can give you the strength to live a faithful marriage, it is WRONG to call it a commitment.

Spot on. Why do RC churches agree to bless, or for that matter even host, marriages that are not in full compliance with their official doctrine (canons)? (I certainly wouldn't have expected an RC church to host my same-sex marriage. I get it: They don't approve, so why would I want to be there for the greatest day of my life?) If the Pope, and so presumably the Church as a whole holds the belief that many/most modern-era marriages (and ALL same-sex marriages) don't meet the standards of the Church, then why are they quietly complicit in such marriages? Is it just so they don't pi$$ off their remaining faithful members by denying the "sacrament of marriage" to their kids and grand-kids? Or so their beautiful churches have a significant number of people in them, at least every so often?

Sacramental marriage is a vocation, a calling by God and the primary means by which spouses are sanctified. This commitment to one’s spouse should be total, taking first place and coming even before one’s commitment to children, one’s family of origin, or one’s work—which is not to say these are not important.

I chose NOT to receive communion. I left the church and haven't looked back. My family is no longer Catholic, my children are no longer Catholic and my grand kids are no longer Catholic. Religion is all about Power, $$$$$$, Control.

But sin doesn't exist. It's a scam in which powerful men (or power-seeking men) employ spiritual extortion on others to exert social control and group-think. This why non-religious people have just as much or more capacity to goodness than people who have been beaten into spiritual submission--we do it because we are good, not because we're afraid of the fantasies some of our fellow human try to dominate us with.

That church is a crooked scam that mixes group-think social control, mental illness, and good old fashioned greed. How lucky the indigenous peoples of the world have been that Europeans brought it to them!



Editor's last word:

There is great collective wisdom in these readers’ comments:

“There is some Platonic ideal of marriage and every other marriage is ‘not-marriage’.” Marriage is to mean something, picture something very grand and cosmic in nature, and it’s not something you can do with just any pretty face or willing body-in-fever. Choice has nothing to do with it.

“Marriages are nothing more than couples having ‘ceremonies’ in a Catholic church.” Or any church. In 99% of cases, it’s just a ‘ceremony,’ a stage production, a thespian exercise, with heaven taking no part in it - other than to provide circumstance by which one might learn from suffering.

“Marriage was an arrangement to pass along a young girl to a husband along with livestock and land. An agreement so that the husband could not keep the cows and olive tree and return the girl.” Historically, absolutely correct. Durant informs us that marriage began as a form of slavery, then as a commercial transaction. Marriage, in this world, even to the present day, has always been about parties trying to negotiate in quid pro quo manner to get what they want. But the true marriage has nothing to do with securing one's rights, nothing to do with calming the nerves of the needy Small Ego.

“I learned sacraments strengthen us with the grace of the Holy Spirit. Over 51% of Catholic marriages fail. Apparently, the Holy Spirit grants grace to half of the marriages.” Marriage is not a “sacrament of the church.” There is no such thing as a "sacrament" - no external force or blessing or nod of approval that can enhance or make more substantive that which, by nature, is not meant to be. One of the great fairy-tale myths of the churches is that “the Holy Spirit grants grace” to “strengthen” a marriage. Absolutely untrue – untrue, on many levels. There is no “Holy Spirit” as a person, no imaginary friend as Madam Ruth to prop up that which was never meant to be propped. If your marriage is authentic, you will not need any propping, as it will prop you, and not let you go.


Editor's note: Why this insistence that the "Holy Spirit" serves as "love portion"? A thousand churches out there preach the same fable. Why this particular item of nonsense? Orthodoxy, at every turn and opportunity, seeks to manipulate, for its own purposes and gain, the lives of its sheep. If the unspoken motivations were to be voiced, the "snowballs in July, doc" sophistical reasoning would go something like this:

"You might have thought that true romantic love is ignited deep within two compatible souls of equal heart and mind. But this idea is just worldly pride and comes from the Devil. The truth is, romantic feelings are a gift from the Holy Spirit, something that falls like rain from heaven, and is available only if you obey God's true ministers, are loyal to God's one, true church, and believe God's true doctrines. We want you to know that finding true romance is just a little perk we throw in for you as loyal member of God's one, true church. We direct the flow of life and love. That's just how important we are."

As Father Robert Benson has stated, no one is as pompous and arrogant as Orthodoxy's clergy, presuming even to control the afterlife from Earth, as they hold themselves out to the faithful as God's hand-chosen representatives. There is reason why the rat-cellars of the Dark Realms are heavily populated by the former sultans of Religion of this world.


“If only God can give you the strength to live a faithful marriage, it is WRONG to call it a commitment.” This reader gets an A+ for logic. Look at how she exposes the soft-underbelly of the Church’s argument: "Don’t go on and on about how we lack commitment if it’s the Holy Spirit that strengthens marriage! If the Holy Spirit has a 'love potion number nine' as you preach, then give it to me, or show me where it's worked just one time, and stop blaming the victim!"

“But sin doesn't exist. It's a scam in which powerful men (or power-seeking men) employ spiritual extortion on others to exert social control and group-think.” Yes, “sin” does not exist. People make bad mistakes and suffer for their own pigheadedness, but there is no such thing as "sin," which implies condemnation and judgment with a hanging-judge God standing ready to disown us. All these sordid horror-pictures represent cultish power-and-control methods by the Church to scare you into “paying and praying.”

“The church wrote themselves in.” This is the core precept that needs to be understood: the Church tries to convince the unwary and unknowledgeable that it’s leading the parade - but the Church wrote itself in, has no authority, at all, from start to finish, in the marriage process. It cannot bind you, it cannot loose you, it cannot strengthen you with a "love potion number nine" for what Gibran calls "the sinful marriage" – it stands apart, outside, and has no function, other than to make merchandize of the fearful. Yes, they wrote themselves in, as heroes in every scene. The only marriage that has standing in the courts of heaven is that of eternal Twin Souls. These were “born married,” so to speak, were created together, each representing one-half of their sacred One Person. No entity, no power, in heaven or on earth, can change this reality or intervene between the destined, sacred romantic couple. There is someone, a true eternal mate for you, somewhere in the universe, with whom you were meant to share all experiences and adventures; only one. And no church’s magic hand signs or magic words will mean a farthing's worth in any of this. When you finally come to understand the truth of these matters you will leave all church affiliations as the temporary, early developmental stage that it was; until then, they will "write themselves in," as did the fulminating Wizard behind the curtain, and will exercise authority over you -- but only because you allow it.


The Guess Who
New Mother Nature

she hasn't got the faith or the guts to leave him
when they're standing in each other's way…
you know you've been wrong and it won't be long
before you leave 'em all far behind...

'cause it's the new Mother Nature taking over
It's the new splendid lady come to call
It's the new Mother Nature taking over

she's gettin' us all
she's gettin' us all
she's gettin' us all

Editor’s note: I knew an aged couple, now passed on. He was well past 80. She would comment, a kind of boast, that every day he would say that he loved her. When I heard this, it just didn’t feel right, as they displayed no fervent mutual affinity. For example, he’d speak of accomplishments in his life, which prompted her to leave the table, unable to hear them one more time. All this drama, and with guests present, as well. I was talking to him one time, and the conversation turned to his ownership of a small but somewhat run-down house; a rental, he said, but the house was vacant. But then he confided the real nature of things. He said he kept that little house just in case he could no longer stand living with her one more day. It was his “get away” house. Now, those of us who are younger would think, “Well, this very senior couple gives the appearance of having learned the art of marriage congenialities. And, in any case, given their age, they would surely be well settled in for the duration.” But, not so. Even as he approached 90, he was still eyeing the exit, weighing the pros-and-cons of making a break one of these days, when he just couldn’t take it anymore.