Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pastoral Care of Couples Who are Cohabitating

Archbishop Michael Sheehan wrote a pastoral letter against cohabitation to be read at all the Masses on Sunday, April 3.

In the pastoral letter, the Archbishop stated:

  • First of all, we ourselves must be firmly rooted in the Gospel teaching that, when it comes to
    sexual union, there are only two lifestyles acceptable to Jesus Christ for His disciples: a single
    life of chastity, or the union of man and woman in the Sacrament of Matrimony. There is no
    “third way” possible for a Christian.  The Bible and the Church teaches that marriage is between
    one man and one woman and opposes same sex unions.
  • We have three groups of people who are living contrary to the Gospel teaching on marriage:
    those who cohabit; those who have a merely civil union with no previous marriage; and those
    who have a civil union who were married before. These people are objectively living in a state of
    mortal sin and may not receive Holy Communion.  They are in great spiritual danger. At the best
    - and this is, sadly, often the case - they are ignorant of God’s plan for man and woman. At the
    worst, they are contemptuous of God’s commandments and His sacraments.
  • Of these three groups, the first two have no real excuse. They should marry in the Church or
    separate.  Often their plea is that they “cannot afford a church wedding” i.e. the external
    trappings, or that “what difference does a piece of paper make?” - as if a sacramental covenant is
    nothing more than a piece of paper! Such statements show religious ignorance, or a lack of faith
    and awareness of the evil of sin.
  • The third group, those who were married before and married again outside the Church, can seek
    a marriage annulment and have their marriage blest in the Church.  Please remember that divorce
    still is no reason to refrain from Holy Communion as long as they have not entered into another
    marriage or sinful relationship.  Many Catholics are confused on this point. 
  • People in the above three situations cannot receive the Sacraments, with the important
    exception of those who agree to live chastely (“as brother and sister”) until their situation
    is regularized. Of course, those in danger of death are presumed to be repentant.
  • Our popular American culture is often in conflict with the teachings of Jesus and His Church.  I
    urge especially young people to not cohabitate which is sinful, but to marry in the Church and
    prepare well for it.

Please read the whole letter HERE.

Fr. Z’s blog has a commentary on the letter.