Cardinal: Ignorance about marriage is no reason to change doctrine

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Just because many Catholics do not understand the church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage, that does not mean the church can change that teaching, said Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Speaking to reporters Feb. 25 – just days after the College of Cardinals held a two-day meeting to discuss the pastoral care of families – he said the widespread lack of understanding among Catholics about church doctrine was “lamentable.”

However, just because people don’t understand Jesus’ word doesn’t mean it can or should be changed, he said. “It would be paradoxical if the church said, ‘Since not everyone knows the truth, the truth isn’t obligatory for the future.’”

The cardinal makes a valid point, but whose fault is it that the laity has such poor knowledge of doctrine? When was the last time any of you heard a homily centred on the readings, let alone how they tie in to church teaching. My present priest is superb, his homilies are easily understood explications of the readings which he links to how they should inform our daily behaviour and/or how they form the basis for church teaching.

Sadly for the previous twenty plus years, I have heard a litany of inane stories about people real or fictional, an overwhelming number of bad jokes, and more information about the priest’s mother, father, grandparents etc. than anyone needs to know. I admit that most times I would bring small devotional booklet to read during the homilies. Maybe the church needs to offer preaching 101 courses.:shrug:

I agree with what you quoted. Doctrine doesn’t change even if people don’t understand it. The lack of understanding that sacramental marriages cannot be dissolved does bring into light why so many annulments are granted. After all, if two people don’t know that they are committing themselves for life to each other when they marry, how can they really commit themselves to each other for life in a sacramental marriage? What a mess we’ve made of marriage in our times!

I may be a little defensive here, but honestly, its the laity’s fault. The homily in not meant to be the primary place where people learn about the teachings of the church. The homily is meant to move the congregation from the readings to the Eucharist. Often that does present opportunities for “teaching”, but that is not its primary purpose. Mass is for worship, not teaching. Mass is a time to “give” not to “get”, primarily. The idea that Mass is a teaching time is, frankly, a very protestant view.

Conversely, my parish and many others I know of offer numerous opportunities for faith formation, teaching on doctrine, disciplines, devotions etc. They are almost uniformly poorly attended. That is so because our laity has developed an attitude of wanting what they want when they want it. I have had people tell me that they “give one hour a week to God” so you better tell me what I need hear then. Priorities need to be adjusted imo.

That’s my :twocents:

Thank you Card. Muller :slight_smile:

Are there that many people who are honestly ignorant about the church’s teaching on marriage? I can understand people not agreeing with the dogma, or in agreeing with it but finding themselves unable to live up to. But ignorant I find hard to believe Have they never cracked open a book?

It does. Interestingly, I JUST received this email from the diocese:

"The Word Proclaimed Institute (WPI) is a Catholic institute founded by Fr. Francis Martin that owes its existence and inspiration to Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini. It is dedicated to the New Evangelization by serving the clergy through various media outreaches, conferences, and direct ministry in hopes of becoming an intellectual locus for scholars who wish to promote Scripture studies for clergy, as well as a locus of Biblical studies and preaching for clergy.

WPI is pleased to announce its third annual conference entitled “Excellence in Preaching: Transmitting the Power of the Word” which will be held on August 4-8, 2014 at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
Please visit our website for more information:

Please note that the website, [/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman], has a huge number of resources for preaching, including an video exposition of every Sunday Scripture reading in the three-year lectionary.

My diocese offers continuing education to clergy regularly. We are required to have 12 hours per year. Admittedly it is not all on “preaching”, but much is.

And those courses should start the first year in seminary. I realize that we are not there to be entertained but I am also not there to have my mind wander. We lose so many to the EV precisely because of truly lousy preaching and teaching!

Jeff, you obviously know more about the function of the homily than I do, as you are a deacon. But I fail to understand how bad jokes, pointless reminiscences and anecdotes help move the congregation from the readings to Eucharist.

The United States conference of catholic bishops has produced an interesting document titled, “Preaching the mystery of faith”. It is a fast easy read and gives an excellent explanation on what a homily should comprise.

“The message of the Gospel is truly a matter of “life and death” for us; there is nothing routine or trivial about it. If a homilist conveys merely some example of proverbial wisdom or good manners, or only some insight gained from his personal experience, he may have spoken accurately and even helpfully, but he has not yet spoken the Gospel, which ultimately must focus on the person of Jesus and the dynamic power of his mission to the world.”

Sadly, “routine and trivial” are how I would have to describe many of the homilies I’ve sat through.

If it were me I would tell Cardinal Mueller to lighten up. He is German and also a German professor of theology. There is only true and false in his mentality. That’s all. But I’d say: my brother, the world is not like this, you should be a little more flexible so you don’t just listen and say, here is the wall. Yes, Jesus’ words on marriage are binding, but they can be interpreted as today there are many new situations of cohabitation and answers which can no longer be based on authoritarianism and moralism.

Yeah, that’s just wrong. Sorry. Truth is truth. It is immutable.

As Card. Muller said, “this is not about (his) opinion”, it is about “the word of Jesus Christ, which is very clear”.

The teaching of the church utterly rejects the propriety of so-called “co-habitations”.

2390 In a so-called free union, a man and a woman refuse to give juridical and public form to a liaison involving sexual intimacy.
The expression “free union” is fallacious: what can “union” mean when the partners make no commitment to one another, each exhibiting a lack of trust in the other, in himself, or in the future?
The expression covers a number of different situations: concubinage, rejection of marriage as such, or inability to make long-term commitments.183 All these situations offend against the dignity of marriage; they destroy the very idea of the family; they weaken the sense of fidelity. They are contrary to the moral law. The sexual act must take place exclusively within marriage. Outside of marriage it always constitutes a grave sin and excludes one from sacramental communion. 2391 Some today claim a “right to a trial marriage” where there is an intention of getting married later. However firm the purpose of those who engage in premature sexual relations may be, "the fact is that such liaisons can scarcely ensure mutual sincerity and fidelity in a relationship between a man and a woman, nor, especially, can they protect it from inconstancy of desires or whim."184 Carnal union is morally legitimate only when a definitive community of life between a man and woman has been established. Human love does not tolerate “trial marriages.” It demands a total and definitive gift of persons to one another.185

You all realize TheologicalLeft is just quoting Abp. Maradiaga (I think), right?

Yes, I do realize that. Though Card Maradiaga never said the teaching could change.

Maradiaga said nothing about “cohabitation”. In fact he said nothing about: “can be interpreted as today there are many new situations of cohabitation and answers which can no longer be based on authoritarianism and moralism.”

It’s not about sacramental marriage. All sacramental marriage is a marriage between two Christians. Natural marriages where both parties are not Christian are also presumed to be valid unless otherwise decided by the marriage tribunal.

That’s great, but this catechesis needs to be done BEFORE the engagement ring is purchased!

Very good point and I might add, I fail to see how a geography lesson (some priests are widely traveled) or Church history lesson (much of what we get today) can move my soul to a greater devotion.

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