German bishops: most Catholics perceive Catholic teaching on divorce, remarriage as 'merciless' [CWN]

Most Catholics in Germany have never heard of the term “natural law” and reject Catholic teaching on human sexuality, according to a report from the German Bishops’ Conference. The …


Most Catholics in Germany have never heard of the term “natural law” and reject Catholic teaching on human sexuality, according to a report from the German Bishops’ Conference. The …


Gives a whole new context to the Pope Emeritus’ statement about the dictatorship of relativism.

Most Catholics in Germany have never heard of the term “natural law” and reject Catholic teaching on human sexuality…

Perhaps, your Excellencies, those two facts are somewhat related…

Just sayin’

Merged the 2 threads since they were about the same report.

The report is here:

In the time of Christ, most people likely perceived His teachings as unrealistic. In the time of Francis of Assisi, he was regarded out of touch with most people. That was true for all the saints. Even for non-saints, like myself: when I went to my high school reunion most of the guys appeared much heavier than the standard weight guidelines for our age and heights. Someone said the weight “standards” are no longer relevant to most Americans, so they should re-write the standard so it fits what most Americans currently are.

Unfortunately, just because I have lots of company being fat doesn’t make it any heatlhier. The term “normal” means not what is typical or common, but what is healthy for a given individual. The Church’s job is to preach the real “normal” (healthy) rather than what is common or typical. It’s called conversion.

There are few moral teachings of the church that are so utterly explicitly from the lips of Jesus himself as are those on the idea of divorce and remarriage.

I know the EO have somehow rationalized the practice, but when you read Jesus’ own words on the matter I can’t see how the catholic church could ever interpret them any differently than their plain meaning.

I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”

If you spin that away, you’ve dismissed Jesus as an authority. Sorry, not going to do it.

"The Church’s statements on premarital sexual relations, on homosexuality, on those divorced and remarried, and on birth control, by contrast, are virtually never accepted, or are expressly rejected in the vast majority of cases.”

Western culture emphasizes the primacy of relationships (and especially sexual relationships) in the attaining happiness. Even among many practicing Catholics, the idea that a person can be happy and fulfilled while not in a romantic relationship is difficult to believe, if it isn’t already an entirely foreign concept.

Should we then be surprised that the individuals reject those barriers which make relationships, and especially sexual relationships, more difficult? For most people, forbidding remarriage (or same-sex marriage) is a condemnation of lifelong misery. Until the Church becomes better conveying that the source of all happiness is union with God, these attitudes won’t change. Single people and religious need to joyfully live out their vocation so that individuals might rethink their notions about the primacy of romance in happiness.

In other words, many people consider the Church’s sexual morality to be a list of "thou shalt not"s. If we promoted and taught the positive aspects of the Church’s teachings on relationships (without neglecting the condemnation of sin), Catholics might be more likely to consider the value of the Church’s teachings on sex.

Whenever people use the Church’s teaching on divorce and remarriage to make the Church out to be mean and merciless, it stands in stark contrast to the words of Jesus, who said it was those who wanted divorce and remarriage that have the hard hearts (see Matt. 19:8).

One sentence in the report that explains a lot is the following.

Love and sexuality on the one hand, and procreation on the other, are hence increasingly understood as two different, separate circumstances.

Instead of seeing the three elements as an interrelated sequence (i.e. love -> sex -> procreation) we too often see it as love = sex ± procreation or fun = sex - procreation. In other words we have divorced sex as an expression of love and procreation as part and parcel of sex. Procreation is something one chooses on their own terms and sex is seen simply as one way of achieving it. We need to reexamine how sexual moraity is explained to intimately link the three and not explain it as love & sex with procreation when you feel like it.

What will be interesting is to see how the Pope will use his pastoral approach to make the teachings of the Church understandable to those who has thus far refused to listen. I am hoping it is not a change in what is done, but how it is discussed and explained.

LOL, perhaps there is some blame to pass around on why most Catholics in Germany have never heard the term “Natural Law.”

In my case, I initially understood Church teaching in this area as a “thou shalt not.” It wasn’t until I surrendered to that when I began to understand the “thou SHALT!” I don’t think there’s one easy way, but focusing on the dignity of man and woman and what it means to be a child of the Most High may help. Perhaps what’s needed is that sense of wonder, reverence, and awe. We need to get people excited about what it means to be human! Sorry if that sounds too happy-clappy, but it’s what helped me.

It appears that much of this “input from the German Catholics” was coordinated by the same people - bureaucrats in local dioceses, and staff of the bishops’ conference - who already had been lobbying for an agenda that this “input” would support. In other words, the objectivity of this input is highly suspect.

I have seen the same pattern in my American diocese. Mid management people and academics have an agenda they want to push. So they organize “listening sessions” that are structured to attract certain viewpoints, and not others. Then they present the findings as “here’s what the average laity in the pews are saying”. It happens to coincide with what the bureaucrats were pushing all along.

The report is a response to a series of questions sent to bishops’ conferences by the Synod of Bishops (in Rome) in preparation for the upcoming synod on the family.

The response seems accurate for a Western country. I wouldn’t be surprised if the USCCB responds in kind.

I don’t know where you’re getting this from, but I hope you’re right.

Well, my douay quotes Jesus as saying:

whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting for the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.

And I checked online to see if there was another douay translation, and found this one:

32 But I tell you that the man who puts away his wife (setting aside the matter of unfaithfulness) makes an adulteress of her, and whoever marries her after she has been put away, commits adultery

So I can understand why people in general do not take the strict, and perceived merciless, teachings of the Church regarding marriage and remarriage seriously. One can open up their Bible and see what Jesus said about adultery and the exception given to divorce an adulterer, and see that the Church’s teachings aren’t what Jesus actually said. Many people think the Church makes people jump through hoops to get an annulment, with adultery not being a good enough reason for annulment. Given all that, whether they are right or mistaken, I can understand them just not taking the Church teachings seriously.


And what about some middle aged guy dumping his wife of many years for a gal ten or twenty years his junior? Isn’t that fairly “merciless” too? Isn’t putting himself in the occasion to even develop such relationships “merciless” to his wife, perhaps also to his children?

You’re reading too casually without digging into the nuances of translations. I don’t speak ancient Greek either (though I’m told it isn’t THAT hard: every 2 year old in ancient Athens could speak it!). But the exception noted is not unambiguously fornication or adultery, it is the Greek word “porneia.” (spelling from memory!) Perhaps you recognize the root word for pornography. From the context, it appears that Jesus is referring to an apparent marriage the very nature of which is unlawful or perverse. This could mean a man married to his former step-mother for example (or worse). It could also be applied to polygamous marriages which were still not completely uncommon in that time (perhaps not among Jews by then).

But the idea that it is an exception for adultery is a very late and IMO wishful translation. One can characterize Jesus’ teaching here as merciless if you like, but I’d advise against it. Maybe it just seems that way since our society has nearly invincibly imbibed the idea that happiness without romance is impossible.

That explanation also fails to explain why only Matthew remembered to note the exception while Luke and Mark give only the utter prohibition on marriage. This difference constitutes an actual contradiction in Scripture unless Matthew is merely clarifying a nuance (porneia) which itself renders the marriage null. Mark and Luke apparently decided to just report the principle itself without muddying the waters with special cases.

What you’re suggesting would mean annulments on demand, but with the added requirement that you must cheat on your spouse before you can get an annulment. Now that would be requiring people to jump through hoops.

Well, this is a disappointment…anybody else ever suffer through Kant or Hegel? Now you tell me your average German Catholic can’t even define what natural law is? Doesn’t seem fair somehow. I bet those German Bishops know their Kant - inside and out, backwards and forwards…just hope he’s not deeper in their hearts and minds than Church teaching…:wink:

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