Catechism 1650 Brother and Sister origin

Catholic Catechism 1650
Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ - "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery"158 The Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence.

Does anyone have any online references or information that would shed light on how the Catechism #1650’s loophole for adulterer’s continuing to live as married in all ways but “sexual continence” got into the Catechism?

I cannot find anything supporting such a “configuration” in any of the other Catechisms (eg. Trent, Boston, etc), nor Canon Law or any other documents, nor apparently was it in the 1994 first edition of the Catholic Catechism. When and where did this come from, and what was the justification and/or rationalization for such idea?

(This theory is commonly referred to as “living as brother and sister”. This is woefully disingenuous term considering I don’t have a marriage license with my sister, or common children, or share wedding rings, or bedrooms, etc.)

Pope St John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 84

Ah - thank you. That helps. But is there a link online to “Homily at the Close of the Sixth Synod of Bishops (1980)”?

Where did JPII get this idea from? It seems like a recent post-modern invention then, no?

Secondly, is this BS loophole infallible?

I think you need to adjust your attitude if you expect to discuss things here.

What do you mean?

A no.

Living as “brother and sister” is not living as married in all ways but sexual continence.

It is living as brother and sister.

They are not married persons (to each other that is).

The term BS is just a shorthand for “living as brother and sister” which is used to refer to and summarize the idea described by the actual language of 1650: “the divorced are remarried civilly…who are committed to living in complete continence.” Its not my idea to try and communicate the allowance in 1650 by using such a flawed analogy, but that’s what people and clergy in the Church have been using for some time now. By “complete continence” it is meant that they simply refrain from sexual intercourse (the sign of the sacrament).

Since “complete continence” is not specific, we don’t know what this means exactly - is it all sexual actions, or just intercourse itself, or does it include any romantic feelings or just romantic behaviors? Does this means having separate bedrooms so the children know they are not sleeping together as an outward sign - at least within the household, or if they still share a room and/or bed then they do not engage in sexual activity behind closed doors? In the latter case, as far as the kids know, there is no difference between their adultery before and then after making the commitment to “complete continence”, so it wouldn’t change their modelling for the kids of what marital commitment and the indissolubility of Holy Matrimony means. But even if two people do refrain from sexual intimacy, continuing to have a marriage license, while itself does not violate the ‘sexual continence’ requirement, is a direct aggression against the marriage ‘bond’ (see St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas).

Back to my query…according to 1650, they are allowed to continue to have a marriage license and receive communion. So I’m trying to research what kind of reasoning and the history of how this strange contradictory setup came to be. 1ke was very helpful and knew exactly where the quotes came from - Pope St John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 84 - but based on footnote [180] they may have come from: John Paul II, Homily at the Close of the Sixth Synod of Bishops, 7 (Oct. 25, 1980): AAS 72 (1980), 1082. Now I’m trying to find that doc to see if there is more information on where this came from. So far, it seems it only comes from JPII which would make it a very recent development. I cannot find anything in other older documents to support the BS theory. According to one email response to my query, I was told that the BS part is not in the 1994 version of the Catholci Catechism, but it seems obvious that when they revised it, someone pulled in the part from Familiaris Consortio.

While I’ve done a lot of thinking about this subject, for clarity sake I want to understand the rationalization behind it, even if I don’t agree with it or it turns out to be flawed. For example, I thought perhaps it was there because in some places and in the past, a mother with children who got away from an abusive husband might NEED some other man to provide for her and the children, hence the allowance. I could see that making sense then, but not today or at least not in America where child support and alimony fulfill the purpose that might have given rise to BS. So perhaps it was just a historical allowance that really no longer applies. But I find it odd that it seems to have arrived very recently on its own - hence my quest. (Although, even the ‘way back when, it was justified’ idea doesn’t work too well when you consider they tackled BS at the end of the book of Ezra hundreds of years before Christ.)

BTW, I’m calling it BS as a shorthand for the ‘Brother and Sister’ term used to refer to the idea from the actual text of ‘complete continence’. Like saying Obamacare instead of Affordable Care Act all the time. It saves a lot of typing and people are already familiar with the reference ‘Living as “Brother and Sister”’.

My second question has to do with the BS allowance being infallible or not. My understanding is that it also is not infallible because to be so, it has to be declared in a particular form (papal bull or something)?

Thank you for your carefully worded and helpful explanation. It does help demonstrate that your attitude is not as bad as it seemed at first. In my opinion, the shorthand “BS” is still a careless way to summarize this because it also has the connotation that this accommodation is…um…an unflattering slang term for “no good.” Perhaps “LABS” would be preferable shorthand: Living As Brother and Sister.

Regarding the substance of your post, the part that most intrigues me is this pair of sentences: “even if two people do refrain from sexual intimacy, continuing to have a marriage license…is a direct aggression against the marriage ‘bond’ (see St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas).” Can you be more specific with your citations? That’s a big chunk of text to search. :slight_smile:

It occurs to me that living with someone of the opposite sex does not always imply that you are having sex with them. One example from our tradition is the occasional practice of continent marriages, where couples marry and live together, but agree not to have sex. For them, I imagine this difficult arrangement is a permanent sacrificial offering. I’m sure there is much to it that I don’t know about. Continent marriages in our tradition are not 100% parallel with irregular LABS cases, but they do have some features in common. Continent marriages and LABS cases are both examples where couples are living together and are not having sex with each other. That makes it a relevant thing to bring up, in my opinion.

I doubt the pope brought this up when he proposed the LABS requirement for civilly remarried divorcees, but supposing he did not, it’s not like our defenses of the Holy Father are limited to examples that he himself cites. It is helpful to look through our tradition to find things that shed light on the Holy Father’s decisions. And I remind you that our faith tells us to give magisterial decisions the benefit of the doubt even when they are not infallible. There are certain cases where we do not have to believe in the truth of non-infallible decisions. Expert-level research can sometimes clear us to believe that a doctrinal mistake has been made by a pope. For those of us who have not done expert-level research, we are supposed to presume that the Holy Father’s teachings are compatible with Tradition.

It occurs to me that living with someone of the opposite sex does not always imply that you are having sex with them.

I would argue that that is true only as an academic exercise - at least in American culture. I know when I see a couple with a family, wearing wedding rings, getting out of a van to go to mass with a bunch of kids calling them mommy and daddy, and the couple going up to communion together and holding hands and putting his arm around her as she leans towards him the pew while listening to the homily or singing a hymn, I don’t think - they’re probably brother and sister; or they probably are living in complete continence. No, I think they are a faithfully, loving married Catholic couple who takes their faith seriously and lives as a witness to the world of Christ’s loving relationship with His people. Actually these days, I ‘wonder’ if they are or not.

No I think people think (or should be able to think) they are legit if they look legit. To support this claim, we see that if people didn’t presume they were legit, there would not be the “concern of creating scandal” that is often sited. What scandal except that people DO presume they are oriented towards sexual relations - otherwise, why would they be married instead of just roommates?

One example from our tradition is the occasional practice of continent marriages, where couples marry and live together, but agree not to have sex.

I didn’t catch what ‘your tradition’ was or meant.

I suspect that it isn’t mentioned because by Canon law (Roman Catholic - Latin Rite) it wouldn’t be a marriage. Marriage has 3 essential elements (exclusivity, permanence and procreation) and is oriented to 2 goals procreation and the ‘good of the spouses’. Generally speaking, a marriage is nullified if it can be shown that the spouses entered into their marriage not intending any one of these things. So if it can be clearly shown that one of the spouse was not open to the possibility of procreation, then they were never married - ie. the marriage is invalid. BTW, technically, its the act of procreation, not procreation itself, since its kind of up to God to actually have the result - conception; our obligation is to be willing to perform the unobstructed act. Also, marriages that are not consummated can be nullified.

(see St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas)." Can you be more specific with your citations? That’s a big chunk of text to search.

It is and I can see if I can dig some up. I have read a lot over the years. Here’s one I dug up from an old post. It is Burke talking about St. Thomas:


But marriage, he says, cannot come into being without “fides in suis principiis”. What does St. Thomas mean by this more basic “fides” which must be intended, and which binds with such a radical obligation that its non-acceptance invalidates consent? Does this more fundamental “fides” consist simply in the intention of sexual fidelity, coinciding with the moral obligation of no adultery? Although, prima facie, that might seem to be St. Thomas’ meaning, both moral theology and jurisprudence right down to our days have resisted such a conclusion. Sanchez teaches clearly: “It is possible to contract a valid marriage, with the intention of not keeping faith” (De S. Matrimonii Sacramento, L. II, disp. 29, n. 11).

To analyse St. Thomas’ thought properly, we must remember that here he is seeking out the very principles of conjugality: the basic properties of the conjugal union. Marital consent must involve an intention to respect them. Just as one cannot reject the procreative or the indissoluble nature of the conjugal relationship, neither can one reject its exclusive character. It is then that faith which “pertains to unity” - to the unity not just of the marital copula but of the marriage bond - which one must intend to observe: intending, that is, to accept one’s partner as unique spouse, and not to break this faith one has pledged by taking another husband or wife.

The “bonum fidei in suo principio” (faith in their principles) is therefore to be essentially referred not to mere physical fidelity, but to the oneness of conjugality. In the “Supplementum” (q. 67, art. 3 ad 5), St. Thomas explicitly refers the “singularitas uxoris” to the “bonum fidei”, just as elsewhere he speaks of that “singularitas quam in uxore quaerunt” (I-II, q. 28, art. 4). Physical fidelity pertains to fides “in se”. The obligation to observe it is unquestioned; but since it does not touch the heart - the very principle - of the marital bond, the intention not to observe it does not, of itself, invalidate consent.

So he’s saying that the oneness of conjugality, not just the physical fidelity, ie. the bond is what is at the center and that if just the physical part is not intended, that that failure is not enough to prove invalidity. Ie. not intending to be physically faithful in itself is not enough because that’s not all that the bonum fidei refers to. It refers to the bond which has a physical dimension to it. Or more specifically the conjugality.

Some older quotes

And Saint Augustine clearly places what he calls the blessing of matrimony in this indissolubility when he says: ‘In the sacrament it is provided that the marriage bond should not be broken, and that a husband or wife, if separated, should not be joined to another even for the sake of offspring’ (De Gen. ad litt. lib. IX, cap. 7, n. 12). (Pius XI. EncyclicalCasti Connubii, nos. 32-33, December 31, 1930)

There are many more, but that’s what I could dig up quickly…

We could get into a whole different thread to discuss the merits of the issue, but I wanted to get clarity on the reasoning behind it because it just doesn’t fit with common sense. For example, why not have the estranged spouse live with her ACTUAL brother? Or parents? Or a same gender person? But I’d like to stick to the research to find out why THEY thought it made sense and what THEY were thinking - ie. get clarity.

On infallibility: I get your point, and I agree with the general principle that there are a lot more people who are way smarter than me and have studied these things for millennia and I have to give them the strong presumption of being correct. However, that doesn’t always mean that what we’re seeing, especially if its a recent development, cannot be wrong. (And as you can see from just the two quotes I posted, that from those at least, the Doctors of the church actually do not support BS - so your point IMHO reinforces what I’m saying). The fact that the dubia and much of the Catholic church has severe reservations about the changing of the doctrine of indissolubility of marriage via AL and some bishops is just one example of sensus fidelium. (Here again, the idea of the Church’s record of doctrine and greatest thinkers is supporting those who are defending marriage, for example by the Cardinals who sent the Dubia). Since I have yet to find any reasonable, even if I didn’t agree with it, rationalization for it, along with overwhelming evidence against such a concept, I want to go to the source of the policy to get clarification. I think that’s having intellectually honesty and integrity.

The source is AAS 72 (1980), 1008.

Excellent:thumbsup: You guys are great.

From denzinger

2234 [3] Yet the sum total of such great benefits is completed and, as it were, brought to a head by that blessing of Christian marriage which we have called, in Augustine’s words, a sacrament, by which is denoted the indissolubility of the bond and the raising and hallowing by Christ of the contract into an efficacious sign of grace.

In the first place, to be sure, Christ Himself lays stress on the indissoluble firmness of the nuptial bond when he says: “What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder” [Matt. 19:6]; and, “Everyone that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another committeth adultery, and he that marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” [Luke 16:18].

Moreover, St. Augustine places in this indissolubility what he calls “the blessing of the sacrament,” in these clear words: "But in the sacrament it is intended that the marriage be not broken, and that the man or the woman dismissed be not joined with another, even for the sake of offspring. *

“…even for the sake of offspring.” yet this is the justification I hear to support BS. It sounds to me like St. Augustine, a Doctor of the Church, is concerned about the bond, the sacrament - NOT sexual intimacy alone. That even if a spouse is separated, that they cannot be married, bonded, to another, event for the sake of the children. That seems pretty clear to me.

I think “loophole for adulterers” and “post-modern invention” speak volumes and it IS “as bad as it seemed at first”.

Yes and that is as term used by the Church too.

Living as “brother and sister” is not living as married in all ways but sexual continence.

They are not married persons (to each other that is). And they will need to recognize this and live this.

Perhaps this would be useful as well:

First, there are several examples of continent marriages by saints in our tradition. One example is St. Kinga of Poland, who, after marrying Prince Boleslaw of Poland, convinced him to respect a vow of virginity she had previously made. Two months into their marriage, they solemnly pledged complete continence to their bishop, and never consummated their marriage. They were still married, though. St. Etheldreda of Northumbria had an unconsummated marriage with her husband due to a previous vow of virginity, as did St. Cecilia in her marriage to Valerian, and St. Mary in her marriage to St. Joseph. All of these lived lives of complete continence with their husbands from the time of their marriage to the time of their deaths. (Well, St. Etheldreda’s husband divorced her after he grew tired of his pledge of continence, and then he married someone else, so I guess he doesn’t count. But she does.) And their marriages were valid.

A pledge of continence does not invalidate the marriage if both spouses agree to it. Canon Law does not say that a marriage is invalid if it is not consummated. Instead, it says the opposite: “A valid marriage between the baptized is called ratum tantum if it has not been consummated.” (Canon 1061)

Unconsummated marriages Are valid. (Or can be, anyway, if the other conditions are met.) A continent marriage is a valid and true marriage. They can, however, be dissolved: “For a just cause, the Roman Pontiff can dissolve a non-consummated marriage between baptized persons.” (Canon 1142) Note: this says “dissolved,” not “annulled.” They cannot be annulled simply on the grounds that they are unconsummated for the very simple reason that only invalid marriages can be annulled, and an unconsummated marriage is not an invalid marriage. (Unless there was some other defect involved.) But they can be dissolved for various reasons, proving that it is possible for a Catholic to get a valid marriage dissolved (a real divorce – not an annulment) so long as the appropriate conditions are met.

Can it happen that a couple get validly married but do so intending never to have martial relations? Yes. It has happened. Such though is a rare thing.

They exchange the right to marital relations but just do not exercise that right. Such continent marriages are yes marriages.

But that is NOT what is being referred to in the case of two persons who have been say civilly married but are really married to someone else. But who need to remain in the same home as mother and father to their children. They are not married (to each other) and know that and would be called to live that…while living in the same home as mother and father for the children.

This isn’t true at all.

Living as “brother and sister” is not living as married in all ways but sexual continence.

In my experience, I have read many articles, here and here say the 1650 ‘continence’ requirement means ‘sexual continence’. Perhaps ‘sexual abstinence’ is a better term? Which is only helpful in that it provides a category, but does not illuminate what is included in that category (just intercourse or even romantic gestures like a romantic kiss). But due to its ambiguity, I can see how different understands are generated and mine could be wrong. What is your understanding then of 1650 when it say’s ‘continence’ if not just sexual continence or sexual and romantic continence? Do you have any sources you can point to?

They are not married persons (to each other that is). And they will need to recognize this and live this.

It sounds like you’re saying that when the Church communicates the allowance policy of 1650 by saying to ‘live as brother and sister’ that they mean not to live in any way as married to each other, correct?

You do realize that those who have “divorced and civilly remarried”, if they wanted to conform to what 1650 says, they would not have to divorce from their adulterous partner, but simply implement ‘complete continence’, which I understand as to refrain from sexual and/or romantic behavior (it isn’t clear what degree of continence is required). So they’d still have a marriage license, joint checking, same household, joint tax return, shared expenses and parenting responsibilities, modeling family and marriage to kids, etc.

You say they ‘are not married [to each other]’ and need to ‘recognize this and live this’. Are you saying that the BS requirement means the “divorced and civilly remarried” need to civilly divorce and live separately and not have a romantic relationship - at least until and unless they obtain all necessary finalized valid nullities? (such a requirement would of course be appropriate and non contradictory with everything related to the morality of Catholic marriage.)

Again, one cannot get hung up on the BS analogy, but really must keep in mind that its the allowance as stated in 1650 that is the real policy. So it cannot be that they need to live as if they were not married because 1650 states the “divorced and civilly remarried” remaining in this state with ambiguously defined ‘continence’ implemented.


by ‘are not married [to each other]’ and need to ‘recognize this and live this’ do you mean that they are not validly married even though they are civilly married and need to live as if they are not validly married? If that’s the case, I don’t know how they remain civilly married and behave as if they are not validly married because to behave as if you are not validly married doesn’t allow one to continue living with a public record that they are civilly married to someone who isn’t their real spouse. And the marriage license is only the beginning of the problem with this reasoning. Effectively the question becomes, then what is the difference in terms of married behavior and configuration between the adulterous situation of these people one day, and after they decide to implement the requirement of ‘constinence’ the next day? Do they have to have separate bedrooms or not? What does the change to living as if they are not validly married look like compared to before and does it really pass the idea proposed which is to live as if they are not married?

Either way, I don’t see how your statement can be logically sound. Maybe I’ve missed something?

Perhaps we should look at it a different way. I’ve only listed a vague idea of sexual and/or romantic behaviors (however rigid or loosely defined, we don’t know from 1650) as my understanding of what they must do. But if “Living as “brother and sister” is not living as married in all ways but sexual continence.”, then perhaps you could clarify the minimal changes as you understand it that they would have to make to satisfy the 1650 requirement, by listing what they would have to change to be compliant.

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