Thursday, October 31, 2013

Solidarity With Others in Getting Out of Self

On the Communion of Saints
VATICAN CITY, October 30, 2013 ( - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s continuing catechesis on the Creed in the Year of Faith, which was given today during his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today I would like to speak about a very beautiful reality of our faith, namely, the “communion of Saints.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that with this expression two realities are understood: communion in holy things and communion among holy persons (No. 948). I shall pause on the second meaning: it is among the most consoling truths of our faith, because it reminds us that we are not alone  but that there is a communion of life among all those who belong to Christ. A communion that is born of faith; in fact, the term “Saints” refers to those who believe in the Lord Jesus and are incorporated with him in the Church through Baptism. Because of this, the first Christians were also called “the Saints” (cf. Acts9:13.32.41; Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 6:1).

John’s Gospel attests that , before his Passion, Jesus prayed to the Father for communion among the  disciples, with these words: “that they may all be one ; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in three, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (17:21). In her most profound truth the Church is communion with God, familiarity with God, communion of love with Christ and with the Father in the Holy Spirit, which is prolonged in a fraternal communion. This relationship between Jesus and the Father is the “foundation” of the bond among us Christians: if we are intimately inserted in this “foundation,” in this burning furnace of love that is the Trinity, then we can truly become one heart and one spirit among us, because the love of God purges our egoisms, our prejudices, our internal and external divisions. The love of God purges our sins as well (my emphasis).

If there is this rootedness in the source of Love, which is God, then the reciprocal movement is also verified: from brothers to God; the experience of fraternal communion leads me to communion with God. To be united among ourselves brings us to be united with God, it brings us to this bond with God who is our Father. This is the second aspect of the communion of Saints that I would like to underline: our faith is in need of the support of others, especially in difficult moments. If we are united, faith becomes strong. How beautiful it is to support one another in the wonderful adventure of faith! I say this because the tendency to shut oneself in on oneself has also influenced the religious realm, so that many times it is an effort to ask for spiritual help from those who share the Christian experience with us. Which one of us -- everyone, everyone -- has not felt insecurities, losses and even doubts in the journey of faith? All of us have experienced this, even myself: it is a part of the path of faith, it is a part of our life. All this must not surprise us, because we are human beings, marked by fragility and limitations; we are all fragile, we all have limitations. However, in these difficult moments it is necessary to trust in God’s help through filial prayer and, at the same time, it is important to find the courage and the humility to open oneself to others, to ask for help, to ask for a hand. How many times have we have done this and then we were able to come out of a problem and find God again. In this communion - communion means ‘common-union’ - we are a great family, all of us, where all the components help and support each other (my emphasis).
And we come to another aspect: the communion of Saints goes beyond earthly life, it goes beyond death and lasts forever. This union among us, goes beyond and continues in the afterlife; it is a spiritual union that stems from Baptism is not severed by death but, thanks to the Resurrection of Christ, is destined to find its fullness in eternal life. There is a profound and indissoluble bond among all those who are still pilgrims in this world - among us - and those who have crossed the threshold of death to enter into eternity. All the baptized down here on earth, the souls in Purgatory and all the Blessed who are already in Paradise make up one great family. This communion between earth and Heaven is brought about especially through the intercessory prayer.
Dear friends, we have this beauty! It is our reality, of all, that makes us brothers, that accompanies us on the path of life and makes us find another time up in heaven. Let us go through this path with faithfulness, with joy. A Christian should be joyful, with the joy of having so many brothers baptized that walk with him; sustained by the help of the brothers and sisters that are on the same path to go to heaven; and also with the help of the brothers and sisters that are in heaven and pray to God for us. Let us go forward on this path with joy!

Rock and Read: Will Percy (Walker's Nephew) Interviews Bruce Springsteen

I would connect this interview of Bruce Sprinsteen that takes place in the explicit light of Walker Percy's search for the "I" in alienation, with Pope Francis' asceticism of escaping from the "self-referential" and going to "the peripheries" of poverty that Benedict XVI identified with the lonely. 

Francis to the Cardinals before the Conclave (March 2013): "The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also the existential peripheries: the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, of intellectual currents, and of all misery.

2. - "When the Church does not come out of herself to evangelize, she becomes self-referential and then gets sick."

Joseph Ratzinger To Catechists in Rome (2000): "The deepest poverty is the inability of joy, the tediousness of a life considered absurd and contradictory. This poverty is widespread today, in very different forms in the materially rich as well as the poor countries. The inability of joy presupposes and produces the inability to love, produces jealousy, avarice -- all defects that devastate the life of individuals and of the world.

This is why we are in need of a new evangelization -- if the art of living remains an unknown, nothing else works. But this art is not the object of a science -- this art can only be communicated by [one] who has life -- he who is the Gospel personified. 

In early 1989, Walker Percy penned a fan letter "of sorts" to Bruce Springsteen, praising the musician's "spiritual journey" and hoping to begin a correspondence between them. At the time, Springsteen hesitated in responding, but he later picked up a copy of The Moviegoer and began a new journey into Dr. Percy's writing. Walker Percy died in May 1990, and the two never met, but Percy's novels and essays, among other books and films, have had a most profound impact on Springsteen's songwriting.

In 1995, Springsteen recorded The Ghost of Tom Joad, a richly lyrical album that forged a new purpose for his music, linking him in some ways to the tradition of such artist-activists as John Steinbeck (Joad is the radical hero of The Grapes of Wrath) and folk music icon Woody Guthrie. Springsteen's songs tell us, in their familiar narrative style, about ordinary people struggling through life's twists and turns, presenting a cast of characters that includes immigrant families, border patrolmen, midwestern steelworkers, and America's poor and disenfranchised. The populist sensibility of Guthrie can be heard throughout: it is music competing for the public conscience.

Following an Atlanta concert promoting the album, Will Percy, Walker's nephew, met Springsteen backstage, and the two talked for hours. When Springsteen mentioned his regret at never having written back to Will's uncle, Will encouraged him to write to his aunt, Walker's widow. A few months later, Springsteen, who likes to say that "it's hard for me to write unless there's music underneath," sat down and wrote four pages-a letter years in the making.

Last fall, Will Percy and Springsteen had the chance to meet again, this time on the Springsteen farm in central New Jersey, not far from the small town where Springsteen grew up or from the Jersey Shore clubs where he first made his mark in the 1970s. With a tape running, the two explored the importance of books in Springsteen's life, most recently his discovery of Dr. Percy's essays in The Message in the Bottle. Like the long-in-coming letter to Mrs. Percy, perhaps this is part of the conversation that Bruce Springsteen might have had with Walker Percy.

Will Percy: When did books start influencing your songwriting and music? I remember as early as 1978, when I saw you in concert, you mentioned Ron Kovic's Born on the Fourth of July, and you dedicated a song to him.

Bruce Springsteen: I picked up that book in a drugstore in Arizona while I was driving across the country with a friend of mine. We stopped somewhere outside of Phoenix, and there was a copy of the paperback in the rack. So I bought the book and I read it between Phoenix and Los Angeles, where I stayed in this little motel. There was a guy in a wheelchair by the poolside every day, two or three days in a row, and I guess he recognized me, and he Þnally came up to me and said, "Hey, I'm Ron Kovic"-it was really very strange-and I said, "Oh, Ron Kovic, gee, that's good." I thought I'd met him before somewhere. And he said, "No, I wrote a book called Born on the Fourth of July." And I said, "You wouldn't believe this. I just bought your book in a drugstore in Arizona and I just read it. It's incredible." Real, real powerful book. And we talked a little bit and he got me interested in doing something for the vets. He took me to a vet center in Venice, and I met a bunch of guys along with this guy Bobby Muller who was one of the guys who started VVA, Vietnam Veterans of America.
I go through periods where I read, and I get a lot out of what I read, and that reading has affected my work since the late seventies. Films and novels and books, more so than music, are what have really been driving me since then. Your uncle once wrote that "American novels are about everything," and I was interested in writing about "everything" in some fashion in my music: how it felt to be alive now, a citizen of this country in this particular place and time and what that meant, and what your possibilities were if you were born and alive now, what you could do, what you were capable of doing. Those were ideas that interested me.
The really important reading that I did began in my late twenties, with authors like Flannery O'Connor. There was something in those stories of hers that I felt captured a certain part of the American character that I was interested in writing about. They were a big, big revelation. She got to the heart of some part of meanness that she never spelled out, because if she spelled it out you wouldn't be getting it. It was always at the core of every one of her stories-the way that she'd left that hole there, that hole that's inside of everybody. There was some dark thing-a component of spirituality-that I sensed in her stories, and that set me off exploring characters of my own. She knew original sin-knew how to give it the þesh of a story. She had talent and she had ideas, and the one served the other.
I think I'd come out of a period of my own writing where I'd been writing big, sometimes operatic, and occasionally rhetorical things. I was interested in Þnding another way to write about those subjects, about people, another way to address what was going on around me and in the country-a more scaled-down, more personal, more restrained way of getting some of my ideas across. So right prior to the record Nebraska [1982], I was deep into O'Connor. And then, later on, that led me to your uncle's books, and Bobbie Ann Mason's novels-I like her work.
I've also gotten a lot out of Robert Frank's photography in The Americans. I was twenty-four when I Þrst saw the book-I think a friend had given me a copy-and the tone of the pictures, how he gave us a look at different kinds of people, got to me in some way. I've always wished I could write songs the way he takes pictures. I think I've got half a dozen copies of that book stashed around the house, and I pull one out once in a while to get a fresh look at the photographs.
WPI find it interesting that you're inþuenced a lot by movies -you said you're more influenced by movies and books than music. In the liner notes of The Ghost of Tom Joad you credited both the John Ford Þlm and the book The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck.
: I came by the film before I really came by the book. I'd read the book in high school, along with Of Mice and Men and a few others, and then I read it again after I saw the movie. But I didn't grow up in a community of ideas-a place where you can sit down and talk about books, and how you read through them, and how they affect you. For a year, I went to a local college a few miles up the road from here, but I didn't really get much out of that particular place. I think I'm more a product of pop culture: films and records, films and records, Þlms and records, especially early on. And then later, more novels and reading.
WP:Where did you draw your musical influences in your earlier writing as compared with this last album?
: Up until the late seventies, when I started to write songs that had to do with class issues, I was inþuenced more by music like the Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" or "It's My Life (And I'll Do What I Want)"-sort of class-conscious pop records that I'd listen to-and I'd say to myself: "That's my life, that's my life!" They said something to me about my own experience of exclusion. I think that's been a theme that's run through much of my writing: the politics of exclusion. My characters aren't really antiheroes. Maybe that makes them old-fashioned in some way. They're interested in being included, and they're trying to Þgure out what's in their way.
I'd been really involved with country music right prior to the album Darkness on the Edge of Town [1978], and that had a lot of affect on my writing because I think country is a very class-conscious music. And then that interest slowly led me into Woody Guthrie and folk music. Guthrie was one of the few songwriters at the time who was aware of the political implications of the music he was writing-a real part of his consciousness. He set out intentionally to address a wide variety of issues, to have some effect, to have some impact, to be writing as a way to have some impact on things: playing his part in the way things are moving and things change.
I was always trying to shoot for the moon. I had some lofty ideas about using my own music, to give people something to think about-to think about the world, and what's right and wrong. I'd been affected that way by records, and I wanted my own music and writing to extend themselves in that way.
WP: I notice that you talk about "writing" and not "songwriting." Do you sit down and write lyrics and then look for music?
: When I'd write rock music, music with the whole band, it would sometimes start out purely musically, and then I'd find my way to some lyrics. I haven't written like that in a while. In much of my recent writing, the lyrics have preceded the music, though the music is always in the back of my mind. In most of the recent songs, I tell violent stories very quietly. You're hearing characters' thoughts-what they're thinking after all the events that have shaped their situation have transpired. So I try to get that internal sound, like that feeling at night when you're in bed and staring at the ceiling, reþective in some fashion. I wanted the songs to have the kind of intimacy that took you inside yourself and then back out into the world.
I'll use music as a way of defining and coloring the characters, conveying the characters' rhythm of speech and pace. The music acts as a very still surface, and the lyrics create a violent emotional life over it, or under it, and I let those elements bang up against each other.
Music can seem incidental, but it ends up being very important. It allows you to suggest the passage of time in just a couple of quiet beats. Years can go by in a few bars, whereas a writer will have to come up with a clever way of saying, "And then years went by. . . ." Thank God I don't have to do any of that! Songwriting allows you to cheat tremendously. You can present an entire life in a few minutes. And then hopefully, at the end, you reveal something about yourself and your audience and the person in the song. It has a little in common with short-story writing in that it's character-
driven. The characters are confronting the questions that everyone is trying to sort out for themselves, their moral issues, the way those issues rear their heads in the outside world.
WP: While your previous albums might all come from personal experience-from the people and places you grew up with in New Jersey and elsewhere-you seem to have started writing more about other people and topics now, Mexican immigrants, for instance, in songs like "Sinaloa Cowboys." With that song, I remember you said in concert that it started out when you met a couple of Mexican brothers in the desert once when you were traveling.
: There's no single place where any of the songs come from, of course. True, I drew a lot of my earlier material from my experience growing up, my father's experience, the experience of my immediate family and town. But there was a point in the mid-eighties when I felt like I'd said pretty much all I knew how to say about all that. I couldn't continue writing about those same things without either becoming a stereotype of myself or by twisting those themes around too much. So I spent the next ten years or so writing about men and women-their intimate personal lives. I was being introspective but not autobiographical. It wasn't until I felt like I had a stable life in that area that I was driven to write more outwardly-about social issues.
A song like "Sinaloa Cowboys" came from a lot of places. I'd met a guy in the Arizona desert when I happened to be on a trip with some friends of mine, and he had a younger brother who died in a motorcycle accident. There's something about conversations with people-people you've met once and you'll never see again-that always stays with me. And I lived for quite a while in Los Angeles, and border reporting and immigration issues are always in the paper there. I've traveled down to the border a number of times.
WP: Why would you travel down to the border?
: With my dad, I'd take trips to Mexico a few years back. We'd take these extended road trips where we'd basically drive aimlessly. The border wasn't something I was consciously thinking about, it was just one of those places that all of a sudden starts meaning something to you. I'm always looking for ways to tell a particular story, and I just felt the connection, I can't explain what it was exactly-a connection to some of the things I'd written about in the past.
I don't think you sit down and write anything that isn't personal in some way. In the end, all your work is a result of your own psychology and experience. I never really write with a particular ideology in mind. As a writer, you're searching for ways to present different moral questions-to yourself because you're not sure how you will respond, and to your audience. That's what you get paid for-from what I can tell. Part of what we call entertainment should be "food for thought." That's what I was interested in doing since I was very young, how we live in the world and how we ought live in the world. I think politics are implicit. I'm not interested in writing rhetoric or ideology. I think it was Walt Whitman who said, "The poet's job is to know the soul." You strive for that, assist your audience in finding and knowing theirs. That's always at the core of what you're writing, of what drives your music.
It's all really in your uncle's essay "The Man on the Train," about the "wandering spirit" and modern man-all that's happened since the Industrial Revolution when people were uprooted and set out on the road into towns where they'd never been before, leaving families, leaving traditions that were hundreds of years old. In a funny way, you can even trace that story in Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode." I think that we're all trying to find what passes for a home, or creating a home of some sort, while we're constantly being uprooted by technology, by factories being shut down.
I remember when my parents moved out to California-I was about eighteen. My folks decided that they were going to leave New Jersey, but they had no idea really where to go. I had a girlfriend at the time and she was sort of a hippie. She was the only person we knew who'd ever been to California. She'd been to Sausalito and suggested they go there. You can just imagine-Sausalito in the late sixties! So they went to Sausalito, three thousand miles across the country, and they probably had only three grand that they'd saved and that had to get them a place to live, and they had to go out and Þnd work. So they got to Sausalito and realized this wasn't it. My mother said they went to a gas station and she asked the guy there, "Where do people like us live?"-that's a question that sounds like the title of a Raymond Carver story!-and the guy told her, "Oh, you live on the peninsula." And that was what they did. They drove down south of San Francisco and they've been there ever since. My father was forty-two at the time-it's funny to think that he was probably seven or eight years younger than I am now. It was a big trip, took a lot of nerve, a lot of courage, having grown up in my little town in New Jersey.
But that story leads back to those same questions: how do you create the kind of home you want to live in, how do you create the kind of society you want to live in, what part do you play in doing that? To me, those things are all connected, but those connections are hard to make. The pace of the modern world, industrialization, postindustrialization, have all made human connection very difficult to maintain and sustain. To bring that modern situation alive-how we live now, our hang-ups and choices-that's what music and film and art are about-that's the service you're providing, that's the function you're providing as an artist. That's what keeps me interested in writing.
What we call "art" has to do with social policy-and it has to do with how you and your wife or you and your lover are getting along on any given day. I was interested in my music covering all those bases. And how do I do that? I do that by telling stories, through characters' voices-hopefully stories about inclusion. The stories in The Ghost of Tom Joad were an extension of those ideas: stories about brothers, lovers, movement, exclusion-political exclusion, social exclusion-and also the responsibility of these individuals-making bad choices, or choices they've been backed up against the wall to make.
The way all those things intersect is what interests me. The way the social issues and the personal issues cross over one another. To me, that's how people live. These things cross over our lives daily. People get tangled up in them, don't know how to address them, get lost in them. My work is a map, for whatever it's worth-for both my audience and for myself-and it's the only thing of value along with, hopefully, a well-lived life that we leave to the people we care about. I was lucky that I stumbled onto this opportunity early in my life. I think that the only thing that was uncommon was that I found a language that I was able to express those ideas with. Other people all the time struggle to find the language, or don't find the language-the language of the soul-or explode into violence or indifference or numbness, just numbed out in front of TV. "The Language"-that's what William Carlos Williams kept saying, the language of live people, not dead people!
If I'm overgeneralizing, just stop me. I'm not sure if I am or not, but in some fashion that's my intent, to establish a commonality by revealing our inner common humanity, by telling good stories about a lot of different kinds of people. The songs on the last album connected me up with my past, with what I'd written about in my past, and they also connected me up with what I felt was the future of my writing.
WP: Do you think your last album, which wasn't a pop or rock-and-roll record, had the same impact on the larger public that other records of yours had?
: I've made records that I knew would Þnd a smaller audience than others that I've made. I suppose the larger question is, How do you get that type of work to be heard-despite the noise of modern society and the media, two hundred television channels? Today, people are swamped with a lot of junk, so the outlets and the avenues for any halfway introspective work tend to be marginalized. The last record might have been heard occasionally on the radio, but not very much. It's a paradox for an artist-if you go into your work with the idea of having some effect upon society, when, by the choice of the particular media, it's marginalized from the beginning. I don't know of any answer, except the hope that somehow you do get heard-and there are some publishing houses and television channels and music channels that are interested in presenting that kind of work.
I think you have to feel like there's a lot of different ways to reach people, help them think about what's really important in this one-and-only life we live. There's pop culture-that's the shotgun approach, where you throw it out and it gets interpreted in different ways and some people pick up on it. And then there's a more intimate, focused approach like I tried on Tom Joad. I got a lot of correspondence about the last album from a lot of different people-writers, teachers, those who have an impact in shaping other people's lives.
WP: Do you think pop culture can still have a positive effect?
: Well, it's a funny thing. When punk rock music hit in the late 1970s, it wasn't played on the radio, and nobody thought, Oh yeah, that'll be popular in 1992 for two generations of kids. But the music dug in, and now it has a tremendous impact on the music and culture of the nineties. It was powerful, profound, music and it was going to find a way to make itself heard eventually. So I think there's a lot of different ways of achieving the kind of impact that most writers and filmmakers, photographers, musicians want their work to have. It's not always something that happens right away-the "Big Bang"!
With the exception of certain moments in the history of popular culture, it's difficult to tell what has an impact anymore, and particularly now when there's so many alternatives. Now, we have the fifth Batman movie! I think about the part in the essay "The Man on the Train" where your uncle talks about alienation. He says the truly alienated man isn't the guy who's despairing and trying to find his place in the world. It's the guy who just finished his twentieth Erle Stanley Gardner Perry Mason novel. That is the lonely man! That is the alienated man! So you could say, similarly, the guy who just saw the fifth Batman picture, he's the alienated man. But as much as anyone, I still like to go out on a Saturday night and buy the popcorn and watch things explode, but when that becomes such a major part of the choices that you have, when you have sixteen cinemas and fourteen of them are playing almost exactly the same picture, you feel that something's going wrong here. And if you live outside a major metropolitan area, maybe you're lucky if there's a theater in town that's playing films that fall slightly outside of those choices.
There's an illusion of choice that's out there, but it's an illusion, it's not real choice. I think that's true in the political arena and in pop culture, and I guess there's a certain condescension and cynicism that goes along with it-the assumption that people aren't ready for something new and different.

WP: Do you think that the culture of celebrity is a cause of some of those problems? You seem to have escaped some of the problems that go along with being a celebrity.

: I don't know, it's the old story-a lot of it is how you play your role. My music was in some sense inclusive and pretty personal, maybe even friendly. I've enjoyed the trappings from time to time, but I think I like a certain type of freedom. Of course, I enjoy my work being recognized, and when you get up on stage in front of twenty thousand people and you shake your butt all around, you're asking for some sort of trouble. I hope I've kept my balance. I enjoy my privacy.

I don't think the fascination with celebrities will ever really go away. An intellectual would say that people in the Industrial Age left their farms and their towns, so they couldn't gossip with their neighbors over the fence anymore-and all of a sudden there was a rise of a celebrity culture so we could have some people in common that we could talk about.
The substantive moral concern might be that we live in a country where the only story might be who's succeeding and who's number one, and what are you doing with it. It sure does become a problem if a certain part of your life as a writer-your "celebrity," or whatever you want to call it-can blur and obscure the story that you're interested in telling. I've felt that and seen that at certain times. One of the most common questions I was asked on the last tour, even by very intelligent reviewers was, "Why are you writing these songs? What are you complaining about? You've done great." That's where your uncle's essay "Notes on a Novel about the End of the World" was very helpful to me and my writing. Your uncle addresses the story behind those same comments: "The material is so depressing. The songs are so down." He explains the moral and human purpose of writing by using that analogy of the canary that goes down into the mine with the miners: when the canary starts squawking and squawking and finally keels over, the miners figure it's time to come up and think things over a little bit. That's the writer-the twentieth-century writer is the canary for the larger society.
Maybe a lot of us use the idea of "celebrity" to maintain the notion that everything is all right, that there's always someone making their million the next day. As a celebrity, you don't worry about your bills, you have an enormous freedom to write and to do what you want. You can live with it well. But if your work is involved in trying to show where the country is hurting and where people are hurting, your own success is used to knock down or undercut the questions you ask of your audience. It's tricky, because American society has a very strict idea of what success is and what failure is. We're all "born in the U.S.A." and some part of you carries that with you. But it's ironic if "celebrity" is used to reassure lots of people, barely making it, that "Look, someone's really making it, making it big, so everything is all right, just lose yourself and all your troubles in that big-time success!"

WP: Do you think you're through making music videos?

 I don't know. I probably am. There's nobody waiting with bated breath out there for my next video right now. I've never been much of a video artist. I was "prevideo," and I think I remain "prevideo," though maybe I'm "postvideo" now.
Music videos have had an enormous impact on the way that you receive visual images on television and in the theaters-and it sped up the entire way the music world worked, for better or for worse. When I started, you had a band, you toured two or three, four years, you did a thousand shows or five hundred shows, that's how you built your audience, and then maybe you had a hit record. I feel sorry for some of these talented young bands that come up: they have a hit record, a video or two, and then it's over. I think it might have made the music world more fickle. In some ways, it may be more expedient for some of the young acts, but I think it's harder also, because you don't have the time to build a long-standing relationship with your audience.

There was something about developing an audience slowly-you'd draw an audience that stood with you over a long period of time, and it got involved with the questions you were asking and the issues you were bringing up. It's an audience who you shared a history with. I saw the work that I was doing as my life's work. I thought I'd be playing music my whole life and writing my whole life, and I wanted to be a part of my audience's ongoing life. The way you do that is the same way your audience lives its life-you do it by attempting to answer the questions that both you and they have asked, sometimes with new questions. You find where those questions lead you to-your actions in the world. You take it out of the aesthetic and you hopefully bring it into your practical, everyday life, the moral or ethical.

"Man on the Train" [Chapter 4 of Percy's "Message in the Bottle"] helped me think about these things in some fashion, where your uncle dissects the old Western movie heroes. We have our mythic hero, Gary Cooper, who is capable of pure action, where it's either all or nothing, and he looks like he's walking over that abyss of anxiety, and he won't fail. Whereas the moviegoer, the person watching the movie, is not capable of that. There's no real abyss under Gary Cooper, but there is one under the guy watching the film! Bringing people out over that abyss, helping them and myself to realize where we all "are," helping my audience answer the questions that are there-that's what I'm interested in doing with my own work.

That's what I try to accomplish at night in a show. Presenting ideas, asking questions, trying to bring people closer to characters in the songs, closer to themselves-so that they take those ideas, those questions-fundamental moral questions about the way we live and the way we behave toward one another-and then move those questions from the aesthetic into the practical, into some sort of action, whether it's action in the community, or action in the way you treat your wife, or your kid, or speak to the guy who works with you. That is what can be done, and is done, through film and music and photography and painting. Those are real changes I think you can make in people's lives, and that I've had made in my life through novels and films and records and people who meant something to me. Isn't that what your uncle meant by "existentialist reþection"?

And there's a lot of different ways that gets done. You don't have to be doing work that's directly socially conscious. You could make an argument that one of the most socially conscious artists in the second half of this century was Elvis Presley, even if he probably didn't start out with any set of political ideas that he wanted to accomplish. He said, "I'm all shook up and I want to shake you up," and that's what happened. He had an enormous impact on the way that people lived, how they responded to themselves, to their own physicality, to the integration of their own nature. I think that he was one of the people, in his own way, who led to the sixties and the Civil Rights movement. He began getting us "all shook up," this poor white kid from Mississippi who connected with black folks through their music, which he made his own and then gave to others. So pop culture is a funny thing-you can affect people in a lot of different ways.

WP: Did you always try to affect the audience like that? When you first started out, when you were young?

 We were trying to excite people, we were trying to make people feel alive. The core of rock music was cathartic. There was some fundamental catharsis that occurred in "Louie, Louie." That lives on, that pursuit. Its very nature was to get people "in touch" with themselves and with each other in some fashion. So initially you were just trying to excite people, and make them happy, alert them to themselves, and do the same for yourself. It's a way of combating your own indifference, your own tendency to slip into alienation and isolation. That's also in "Man on the Train": we can't be alienated together. If we're all alienated together, we're really not alienated.

Blogger Comment: But consider "Alone Together" by Sherry Turkle in which we are all together on street, in bus, on subway intensely working out a video game for ourselves, wires to ears gently rocking away to our own isolated music, blaring out indiscriminently to no one visible while blind and  impervious to the human context around us, all the while in a blur of thumbs sending out a cyber text to the other through the medium of the invisible cloud where we meet. Bill Orchard just kindly sent me: "Together" by Avril Lavigne:

Something just isn't right
I can feel it inside
The truth isn't far behind me
You can't deny

When I turn the lights out
When I close my eyes
Reality overcomes me
I'm living a lie

When I'm alone I 
Feel so much better
And when Im around you
I don't feel

It doesn't feel right at all
Together we've built a wall
Holding hands we'll fall
Hands we'll fall

This has gone on so long
I realize that i need
Something good to rely on
Something for me

When I'm alone I 
Feel so much better
And when Im around you
I don't feel


My heart is broken
I'm lying here
My thoughts are choking on you my dear
On you my dear
On you my dear

When I'm alone I 
Feel so much better
And when Im around you
I don't feel

[Chorus x2]

When I'm around you
When I'm around you
I don't feel together
I don't feel together
When I'm around you
When I'm around you
I don't feel together, no
I don't feel together
Springsteen continues: 

That's a lot of what music did for me-it provided me with a community, filled with people, and brothers and sisters who I didn't know, but who I knew were out there. We had this enormous thing in common, this "thing" that initially felt like a secret. Music always provided that home for me, a home where 

my spirit could wander. It performed the function that all art and film and good human relations performed-it provided me with the kind of "home" always described by those philosophers your uncle loved.
There are very real communities that were built up around that notion-the very real community of your local club on Saturday night. The importance of bar bands all across America is that they nourish and inspire that community. So there are the very real communities of people and characters, whether it's in Asbury Park or a million different towns across the land. And then there is the community that it was enabling you to imagine, but that you haven't seen yet. You don't even know it exists, but you feel that, because of what you heard or experienced, it could exist.
That was a very powerful idea because it drew you outward in search of that community-a community of ideas and values. I think as you get older and develop a political point of view, it expands out into those worlds, the worlds of others, all over America, and you realize it's just an extension of that thing that you felt in a bar on Saturday night in Asbury Park when it was a hundred and fifty people in the room.
What do you try to provide people? What do parents try to provide their children? You're supposed to be providing a hopeful presence, a decent presence, in your children's lives and your neighbors' lives. That's what I would want my children to grow up with and then to provide when they become adults. It's a big part of what you can do with song, and pictures and words. It's real and its results are physical and tangible. And if you follow its implications, it leads you both inward and outward. Some days we climb inside, and some days maybe we run out. A good day is a balance of those sort of things. When rock music was working at its best, it was doing all of those things-looking inward and reaching out to others.
To get back to where we started, it can be difficult to build those kinds of connections, to build and sustain those kinds of communities, when you're picked up and thrown away so quickly-that cult of celebrity. At your best, your most honest, your least glitzy, you shared a common history, and you attempted both to ask questions and answer them in concert with your audience. In concert. The word "concert"-people working together-that's the idea. That's what I've tried to do as I go along with my work. I'm thankful that I have a dedicated, faithful audience that's followed along with me a good part of the way. It's one of my life's great blessings-having that companionship and being able to rely on that companionship. You know, "companionship" means breaking bread with your brothers and sisters, your fellow human beings-the most important thing in the world! It's sustained my family and me and my band throughout my life.
WP: Do you think you've extended your audience to include some of the kinds of people that you're writing about now: Mexican immigrants, homeless people? Do you feel that you're doing something for those people with your music?
: There's a difference between an emotional connection with them, like I think I do have, and a more physical, tangible impact. There was a point in the mid-eighties where I wanted to turn my music into some kind of activity and action, so that there was a practical impact on the communities that I passed through while I traveled around the country. On this last tour, I would meet a lot of the people who are out there on the front line-activists, legal advocates, social workers-and the people that they're involved with. It varied from town to town, but we'd usually work with an organization that's providing immediate care for people in distress, and then also we'd find an organization that's trying to have some impact on local policy. It helped me get a sense of what was going on in those towns, and the circumstances that surround the people that I'm imagining in my songs, in the imagined community I create with my music.
I'm sure I've gotten a lot more out of my music than I've put in, but those meetings and conversations keep me connected so that I remember the actual people that I write about. But I wouldn't call myself an activist. I'm more of a concerned citizen. I think I'd say that I'm up to my knees in it, but I'm not up to my ass!
I guess I'm-rock bottom-a concerned, even aroused observer, sort of like the main character of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Not that I'm invisible! But Ellison's character doesn't directly take on the world. He wants to see the world change, but he's mainly a witness, a witness to a lot of blindness. I recently heard two teachers, one black and one white, talking about that novel, and it sure got to them; it's what Ellison wanted it to be, it's a great American story-and in a way we're all part of it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On the indissolubility of marriage and the debate concerning the civilly remarried and the sacraments

Vatican City, 31 Oct 2013.

The Power of Grace

After the announcement of the extraordinary synod that will take place in October of 2014 on the pastoral care of families, speculation has been raised regarding the question of divorced and remarried members of the faithful and their relationship to the sacraments. In order to deepen understanding on this pressing subject so that clergy may accompany their flock more perfectly and instruct them in a manner consistent with the truth of Catholic Doctrine, we are publishing an extensive contribution from the Archbishop Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 
 The problem concerning members of the faithful who have entered into a new civil union after a divorce is not new.  The Church has always taken this question very seriously and with a view to helping the people who find themselves in this situation.  Marriage is a sacrament that affects people particularly deeply in their personal, social and historical circumstances.  Given the increasing number of persons affected in countries of ancient Christian tradition, this pastoral problem has taken on significant dimensions.  Today even firm believers are seriously wondering: can the Church not admit the divorced and remarried to the sacraments under certain conditions?  Are her hands permanently tied on this matter?  Have theologians really explored all the implications and consequences? 

These questions must be explored in a manner that is consistent with Catholic doctrine on marriage.  A responsible pastoral approach presupposes a theology that offers “the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals, freely to the truth revealed by him” (Dei Verbum 5).  In order to make the Church’s authentic doctrine intelligible, we must begin with the word of God that is found in sacred Scripture, expounded in the Church’s Tradition and interpreted by the Magisterium in a binding way. 
The Testimony of Sacred Scripture 
Looking directly to the Old Testament for answers to our question is not without its difficulties, because at that time marriage was not yet regarded as a sacrament.  Yet the word of God in the Old Covenant is significant for us to the extent that Jesus belongs within this tradition and argues on the basis of it.  In the Decalogue, we find the commandment “thou shalt not commit adultery” (Ex 20:14),  but elsewhere divorce is presented as a possibility.  According to Dt 24:1-4, Moses lays down that a man may present his wife with a certificate of dismissal and send her away from his house, if she no longer finds favour with him.  Thereafter, both husband and wife may embark upon a new marriage.  In addition to this acceptance of divorce, the Old Testament also expresses certain reservations in its regard.  The comparison drawn by the prophets between God’s covenant with Israel and the marriage bond includes not only the ideal of monogamy, but also that of indissolubility.  The prophet Malachi expresses this clearly:  “Do not be faithless to the wife of your youth ... with whom you have made a covenant” (Mal 2:14-15). 
Above all, it was his controversies with the Pharisees that gave Jesus occasion to address this theme.  He distanced himself explicitly from the Old Testament practice of divorce, which Moses had permitted because men were “so hard of heart”, and he pointed to God’s original will: “from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.  For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and ... the two shall become one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together let not man put asunder” (Mk10:5-9; cf. Mt 19:4-9; Lk 16:18).  The Catholic Church has always based its doctrine and practice upon these sayings of Jesus concerning the indissolubility of marriage.  The inner bond that joins the spouses to one another was forged by God himself.  It designates a reality that comes from God and is therefore no longer at man’s disposal. 
Today some exegetes take the view that even in the Apostolic era these dominical sayings were applied with a degree of flexibility: notably in the case of porneia/unchastity (cf. Mt 5:32; 19:9) and in the case of a separation between a Christian and a non-Christian partner (cf. 1 Cor 7:12-15).  The unchastity clauses have been the object of fierce debate among exegetes from the beginning.  Many take the view that they refer not to exceptions to the indissolubility of marriage, but to invalid marital unions.  Clearly, however, the Church cannot build its doctrine and practice on controversial exegetical hypotheses.  She must adhere to the clear teaching of Christ. 
Saint Paul presents the prohibition on divorce as the express will of Christ:  “To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) and that the husband should not divorce his wife” (1 Cor 7:10-11).  At the same time he permits, on his own authority, that a non-Christian may separate from a partner who has become Christian.  In this case, the Christian is “not bound” to remain unmarried (1 Cor 7:12-16).  On the basis of this passage, the Church has come to recognize that only a marriage between a baptized man and a baptized woman is a sacrament in the true sense, and only in this instance does unconditional indissolubility apply.  The marriage of the unbaptized is indeed ordered to indissolubility, but can under certain circumstances – for the sake of a higher good – be dissolved (privilegium Paulinum).  Here, then, we are not dealing with an exception to our Lord’s teaching.  The indissolubility of sacramental marriage, that is to say, marriage that takes place within the mystery of Christ, remains assured. 
Of greater significance for the biblical basis of the sacramental view of marriage is the Letter to the Ephesians, where we read: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25).  And shortly afterwards, the Apostle adds: “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.  This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church” (Eph 5:31-32).  Christian marriage is an effective sign of the covenant between Christ and the Church.  Because it designates and communicates the grace of this covenant, marriage between the baptized is a sacrament. 
The Testimony of the Church’s Tradition 
The Church Fathers and Councils provide important testimony regarding the way the Church’s position evolved.  For the Fathers, the biblical precepts on the subject are binding.  They reject the State’s divorce laws as incompatible with the teaching of Jesus.  The Church of the Fathers rejected divorce and remarriage, and did so out of obedience to the Gospel.  On this question, the Fathers’ testimony is unanimous. patristic times, divorced members of the faithful who had civilly remarried could not even be readmitted to the sacraments after a period of penance.  Some patristic texts, however, seem to imply that abuses were not always rigorously corrected and that from time to time pastoral solutions were sought for very rare borderline cases.
In many regions, greater compromises emerged later, particularly as a result of the increasing interdependence of Church and State.  In the East this development continued to evolve, and especially after the separation from the See of Peter, it moved towards an increasingly liberal praxis.  In the Orthodox Churches today, there are a great many grounds for divorce, which are mostly justified in terms of oikonomia, or pastoral leniency in difficult individual cases, and they open the path to a second or third marriage marked by a penitential character.  This practice cannot be reconciled with God’s will, as expressed unambiguously in Jesus’ sayings about the indissolubility of marriage.  But it represents an ecumenical problem that is not to be underestimated. 
In the West, the Gregorian reform countered these liberalizing tendencies and gave fresh impetus to the original understanding of Scripture and the Fathers.  The Catholic Church defended the absolute indissolubility of marriage even at the cost of great sacrifice and suffering.  The schism of a “Church of England” detached from the Successor of Peter came about not because of doctrinal differences, but because the Pope, out of obedience to the sayings of Jesus, could not accommodate the demands of King Henry VIII for the dissolution of his marriage. 
The Council of Trent confirmed the doctrine of the indissolubility of sacramental marriage and explained that this corresponded to the teaching of the Gospel (cf. DH 1807).  Sometimes it is maintained that the Church de facto tolerated the Eastern practice.  But this is not correct.  The canonists constantly referred to it as an abuse.  And there is evidence that groups of Orthodox Christians on becoming Catholic had to subscribe to an express acknowledgment of the impossibility of second or third marriages.  
The Second Vatican Council, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes on “The Church in the Modern World”, presents a theologically and spiritually profound doctrine of marriage.  It upholds the indissolubility of marriage clearly and distinctly.  Marriage is understood as an all-embracing communion of life and love, body and spirit, between a man and a woman who mutually give themselves and receive one another as persons.  Through the personally free act of their reciprocal consent, an enduring, divinely ordered institution is brought into being, which is directed to the good of the spouses and of their offspring and is no longer dependent on human caprice:  “As a mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an unbreakable oneness between them” (no. 48).  Through the sacrament God bestows a special grace upon the spouses:  “For as God of old made himself present to his people through a covenant of love and fidelity, so now the Saviour of men and the Spouse of the Church comes into the lives of married Christians through the sacrament of matrimony.  He abides with them thereafter so that just as he loved the Church and handed himself over on her behalf, the spouses may love each other with perpetual fidelity through mutual self-bestowal.”  Through the sacrament the indissolubility of marriage acquires a new and deeper sense:  it becomes the image of God’s enduring love for his people and of Christ’s irrevocable fidelity to his Church. 
Marriage can be understood and lived as a sacrament only in the context of the mystery of Christ.  If marriage is secularized or regarded as a purely natural reality, its sacramental character is obscured.  Sacramental marriage belongs to the order of grace, it is taken up into the definitive communion of love between Christ and his Church.  Christians are called to live their marriage within the eschatological horizon of the coming of God’s kingdom in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God. 
The Testimony of the Magisterium in the Present Day 
The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio – issued by John Paul II on 22 November 1981 in the wake of the Synod of Bishops on the Christian family in the modern world, and of fundamental importance ever since – emphatically confirms the Church’s dogmatic teaching on marriage.  But it shows pastoral concern for the civilly remarried faithful who are still by an ecclesially valid marriage.  The Pope shows a high degree of concern and understanding.  Paragraph 84 on “divorced persons who have remarried” contains the following key statements:  1.  Pastors are obliged, by love for the truth, “to exercise careful discernment of situations”.  Not everything and everyone are to be assessed in an identical way.  2.  Pastors and parish communities are bound to stand by the faithful who find themselves in this situation, with “attentive love”.  They too belong to the Church, they are entitled to pastoral care and they should take part in the Church’s life.  3. And yet they cannot be admitted to the Eucharist.  Two reasons are given for this:  a) “their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist” b) “if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage”.  Reconciliation through sacramental confession, which opens the way to reception of the Eucharist, can only be granted in the case of repentance over what has happened and a “readiness to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage.”  Concretely this means that if for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, the new union cannot be dissolved, then the two partners must “bind themselves to live in complete continence”.  4.  Clergy are expressly forbidden, for intrinsically sacramental and theological reasons and not through legalistic pressures, to “perform ceremonies of any kind” for divorced people who remarry civilly, as long as the first sacramentally valid marriage still exists. 
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s statement of 14 September 1994 on reception of holy communion by divorced and remarried members of the faithful emphasizes that the Church’s practice in this question “cannot be modified because of different situations” (no. 5).  It also makes clear that the faithful concerned may not present themselves for holy communion on the basis of their own conscience:  “Should they judge it possible to do so, pastors and confessors ... have the serious duty to admonish them that such a judgment of conscience openly contradicts the Church's teaching” (no. 6).  If doubts remain over the validity of a failed marriage, these must be examined by the competent marriage tribunals (cf. no. 9).  It remains of the utmost importance, “with solicitous charity to do everything that can be done to strengthen in the love of Christ and the Church those faithful in irregular marriage situations. Only thus will it be possible for them fully to receive the message of Christian marriage and endure in faith the distress of their situation. In pastoral action one must do everything possible to ensure that this is understood not to be a matter of discrimination but only of absolute fidelity to the will of Christ who has restored and entrusted to us anew the indissolubility of marriage as a gift of the Creator” (no. 10). 
In the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis of 22 February 2007, Benedict XVI summarizes the work of the Synod of Bishops on the theme of the Eucharist and he develops it further.  In No. 29 he addresses the situation of divorced and remarried faithful.  For Benedict XVI too, this is a “complex and troubling pastoral problem”.  He confirms “the Church's practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk 10:2- 12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments”, but he urges pastors at the same time, to devote “special concern” to those affected: in the wish that they “live as fully as possible the Christian life through regular participation at Mass, albeit without receiving communion, listening to the word of God, eucharistic adoration, prayer, participation in the life of the community, honest dialogue with a priest or spiritual director, dedication to the life of charity, works of penance, and commitment to the education of their children”.  If there are doubts concerning the validity of the failed marriage, these are to be carefully examined by the competent marriage tribunals.  Today’s mentality is largely opposed to the Christian understanding of marriage, with regard to its indissolubility and its openness to children.  Because many Christians are influenced by this, marriages nowadays are probably invalid more often than they were previously, because there is a lack of desire for marriage in accordance with Catholic teaching, and there is too little socialization within an environment of faith.  Therefore assessment of the validity of marriage is important and can help to solve problems.  Where nullity of marriage cannot be demonstrated, the requirement for absolution and reception of communion, according to the Church’s established and approved practice, is that the couple live “as friends, as brother and sister”.  Blessings of irregular unions are to be avoided, “lest confusion arise among the faithful concerning the value of marriage”.  A blessing (bene-dictio: divine sanctioning) of a relationship that contradicts the will of God is a contradiction in terms. 
During his homily at the Seventh World Meeting of Families in Milan on 3 June 2012, Benedict XVI once again had occasion to speak of this painful problem: “I should also like to address a word to the faithful who, even though they agree with the Church’s teachings on the family, have had painful experiences of breakdown and separation. I want you to know that the Pope and the Church support you in your struggle. I encourage you to remain united to your communities, and I earnestly hope that your dioceses are developing suitable initiatives to welcome and accompany you.” 
The most recent Synod of Bishops on the theme “New evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith” (7-28 October 2012) addressed once again the situation of the faithful who after the failure of a marital relationship (not the failure of a marriage, which being a sacrament still remains) have entered a new union and live together without a sacramental marriage bond.  In the concluding Message, the Synod Fathers addressed those concerned as follows: “To all of them we want to say that God’s love does not abandon anyone, that the Church loves them, too, that the Church is a house that welcomes all, that they remain members of the Church even if they cannot receive sacramental absolution and the Eucharist. May our Catholic communities welcome all who live in such situations and support those who are in the path of conversion and reconciliation.” 
Observations based on Anthropology and Sacramental Theology 
The doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage is often met with incomprehension in a secularized environment.  Where the fundamental insights of Christian faith have been lost, church affiliation of a purely conventional kind can no longer sustain major life decisions or provide a firm foothold in the midst of marital crises – as well as crises in priestly and religious life.  Many people ask:  how can I bind myself to one woman or one man for an entire lifetime?  Who can tell me what my marriage will be like in ten, twenty, thirty, forty years?  Is a definitive bond to one person possible at all?  The many marital relationships that founder today reinforce the scepticism of young people regarding definitive life choices. 
On the other hand, the ideal – built into the order of creation – of faithfulness between one man and one woman has lost none of its fascination, as is apparent from recent opinion surveys among young people.  Most of them long for a stable, lasting relationship, in keeping with the spiritual and moral nature of the human person.  Moreover, one must not forget the anthropological value of indissoluble marriage:  it withdraws the partners from caprice and from the tyranny of feelings and moods.  It helps them to survive personal difficulties and to overcome painful experiences.  Above all it protects the children, who have most to suffer from marital breakdown.  
Love is more than a feeling or an instinct.  Of its nature it is self-giving.  In marital love, two people say consciously and intentionally to one another:  only you – and you for ever.  The word of the Lord: “What God has joined together” corresponds to the promise of the spouses:  “I take you as my husband ... I take you as my wife ... I will love, esteem and honour you, as long as I live, till death us do part.”  The priest blesses the covenant that the spouses have sealed with one another before God.  If anyone should doubt whether the marriage bond is ontological, let him learn from the word of God:  “He who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said: for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mt 19:4-6). 
For Christians, the marriage of baptized persons incorporated into the Body of Christ has sacramental character and therefore represents a supernatural reality.  A serious pastoral problem arises from the fact that many people today judge Christian marriage exclusively by worldly and pragmatic criteria.  Those who think according to the “spirit of the world” (1 Cor 2:12) cannot understand the sacramentality of marriage.  The Church cannot respond to the growing incomprehension of the sanctity of marriage by pragmatically accommodating the supposedly inevitable, but only by trusting in “the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God” (1 Cor2:12).  Sacramental marriage is a testimony to the power of grace, which changes man and prepares the whole Church for the holy city, the new Jerusalem, the Church, which is prepared “as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev 21:2).  The Gospel of the sanctity of marriage is to be proclaimed with prophetic candour.  By adapting to the spirit of the age, a weary prophet seeks his own salvation but not the salvation of the world in Jesus Christ.  Faithfulness to marital consent is a prophetic sign of the salvation that God bestows upon the world.  “He who is able to receive this, let him receive it” (Mt19:12).  Through sacramental grace, married love is purified, strengthened and ennobled.  “Sealed by mutual faithfulness and hallowed above all by Christ's sacrament, this love remains steadfastly true in body and in mind, in bright days or dark.  It will never be profaned by adultery or divorce” (Gaudium et Spes, 49). In the strength of the sacrament of marriage, the spouses participate in God’s definitive, irrevocable love.  They can therefore be witnesses of God’s faithful love, but they must nourish their love constantly through living by faith and love.  
Admittedly there are situations – as every pastor knows – in which marital cohabitation becomes for all intents and purposes impossible for compelling reasons, such as physical or psychological violence.  In such hard cases, the Church has always permitted the spouses to separate and no longer live together.  It must be remembered, though, that the marriage bond of a valid union remains intact in the sight of God, and the individual parties are not free to contract a new marriage, as long as the spouse is alive.  Pastors and Christian communities must therefore take pains to promote paths of reconciliation in these cases too, or, should that not be possible, to help the people concerned to confront their difficult situation in faith. 
Observations based on Moral Theology 
It is frequently suggested that remarried divorcees should be allowed to decide for themselves, according to their conscience, whether or not to present themselves for holy communion.  This argument, based on a problematical concept of “conscience”, was rejected by a document of the CDF in 1994.  Naturally, the faithful must consider every time they attend Mass whether it is possible to receive communion, and a grave unconfessed sin would always be an impediment.  At the same time they have the duty to form their conscience and to align it with the truth.  In so doing they listen also to the Church’s Magisterium, which helps them “not to swerve from the truth about the good of man, but rather, especially in more difficult questions, to attain the truth with certainty and to abide in it” (Veritatis Splendor, 64).  If remarried divorcees are subjectively convinced in their conscience that a previous marriage was invalid, this must be proven objectively by the competent marriage tribunals.  Marriage is not simply about the relationship of two people to God, it is also a reality of the Church, a sacrament, and it is not for the individuals concerned to decide on its validity, but rather for the Church, into which the individuals are incorporated by faith and baptism.  “If the prior marriage of two divorced and remarried members of the faithful was valid, under no circumstances can their new union be considered lawful, and therefore reception of the sacraments is intrinsically impossible.  The conscience of the individual is bound to this norm without exception” (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “The Pastoral approach to marriage must be founded on truth” L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 7 December 2011, p. 4) 
The teaching on epikeia, too – according to which a law may be generally valid, but does not always apply to concrete human situations – may not be invoked here, because in the case of the indissolubility of sacramental marriage we are dealing with a divine norm that is not at the disposal of the Church.  Nevertheless – as we see from the privilegium Paulinum – the Church does have the authority to clarify the conditions that must be fulfilled for an indissoluble marriage, as taught by Jesus, to come about.  On this basis, the Church has established impediments to marriage, she has recognized grounds for annulment, and she has developed a detailed process for examining these. 
A further case for the admission of remarried divorcees to the sacraments is argued in terms of mercy.  Given that Jesus himself showed solidarity with the suffering and poured out his merciful love upon them, mercy is said to be a distinctive quality of true discipleship.  This is correct, but it misses the mark when adopted as an argument in the field of sacramental theology.  The entire sacramental economy is a work of divine mercy and it cannot simply be swept aside by an appeal to the same.  An objectively false appeal to mercy also runs the risk of trivializing the image of God, by implying that God cannot do other than forgive.  The mystery of God includes not only his mercy but also his holiness and his justice.  If one were to suppress these characteristics of God and refuse to take sin seriously, ultimately it would not even be possible to bring God’s mercy to man.  Jesus encountered the adulteress with great compassion, but he said to her “Go and do not sin again” (Jn 8:11).  God’s mercy does not dispense us from following his commandments or the rules of the Church.  Rather it supplies us with the grace and strength needed to fulfil them, to pick ourselves up after a fall, and to live life in its fullness according to the image of our heavenly Father. 
Pastoral care 
Even if there is no possibility of admitting remarried divorcees to the sacraments, in view of their intrinsic nature, it is all the more imperative to show pastoral concern for these members of the faithful, so as to point them clearly towards what the theology of revelation and the Magisterium have to say.  The path indicated by the Church is not easy for those concerned.  Yet they should know and sense that the Church as a community of salvation accompanies them on their journey.  Insofar as the parties make an effort to understand the Church’s practice and to abstain from communion, they provide their own testimony to the indissolubility of marriage. 
Clearly, the care of remarried divorcees must not be reduced to the question of receiving the Eucharist.  It involves a much more wide-ranging pastoral approach, which seeks to do justice to to the different situations.  It is important to realize that there are other ways, apart from sacramental communion, of being in fellowship with God.  One can draw close to God by turning to him in faith, hope and charity, in repentance and prayer.  God can grant his closeness and his salvation to people on different paths, even if they find themselves in a contradictory life situation.  As recent documents of the Magisterium have emphasized, pastors and Christian communities are called to welcome people in irregular situations openly and sincerely, to stand by them sympathetically and helpfully, and to make them aware of the love of the Good Shepherd.  If pastoral care is rooted in truth and love, it will discover the right paths and approaches in constantly new ways.
  Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller
October 23, 2013