Pope Francis has made several public statements on divorce since being elected to the Catholic Church’s highest office and his comments are creating quite a stir. Instead of the usual punitive tone, he’s forgiving and understanding and compassionate. He isn’t the first to speak generously on the topic but since he is the most powerful, he can’t be quietly ignored.
It is welcome news! Unfortunately, it comes after centuries of what can only be described as psychological abuse.
The long standing Catholic teaching on divorce is any divorced person whose been remarried cannot take communion in the Catholic Church. That is a scary thought if you happen to believe what Catholics teach about heaven, hell and purgatory.
But since the Pope has spoken, Catholic leaders are debating whether or not divorced and remarried Catholics should be allowed to take communion. It is definitely a positive turn of events but the clerics get no credit for thinking logically or forwardly or compassionately.
The debate was inevitable. Circumstances forced it. Logic was not a factor.
In this case Reality gets the credit.
Barna data suggests the number of divorced Catholics is perilously close to 30%. Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate estimates the number of USA Catholics who have been divorced and remarried without annulment is 4.5 million. That doesn’t include divorced folks who haven’t remarried.
You don’t have to be very clever to realize you can’t treat such a large number of congregants like unwanted infections and expect widespread peace. That’s a lot of squeak to ignore.
Of course, if the ramifications were clear it wouldn’t be so bad, but when it comes to communion and divorce, confusion reigns.
A few divorced individuals can take communion. The squeaky clean ones. The ones whose marriages were worse than an inquisition in the middle ages. But these can only partake if they’ve never been remarried, or in the unhappy event they have remarried, they must agree to remain celibate even though married or get the first marriage annulled.
All other divorced individuals know they can’t take communion. That part is clear. What they can’t be sure of is whether or not getting to heaven at the end of their journey is possible. Some say it is. Others aren’t so encouraging. No one seems to be certain.
To be fair, Catholics tend to be hazy about anyone getting to heaven. The best any Catholic can do is aim for Purgatory and hope the stay is short.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting Catholics won’t go to heaven, at least some of them anyway, but they tend to be uncertain about the idea and candle makers love it!
I’ll talk further about the relevance of communion shortly but that’s not the only issue. The angst is made worse by the complexity of all the other divorce regulations.
A good example are the rules governing Church Membership for the divorced. We know they are treated differently but a look into Cannon Law reveals just how big the difference is. The following conditions on divorced membership illustrate the tangle. Read more
This Is Intended
To Promote Thinking
A friend recently posted a question on Facebook about infant baptism.
It seemed like he was genuinely asking, not saying, or baiting. He addressed his question to “scholar” types.
The essence of the question was:
When the Bible mentions baptizing an entire family (household) when the head of the house is baptized, does this imply infant baptism?
It’s a good question. The Book of Acts does record two incidents when one person – the head of a household – believed and was baptized. Lydia was one and the other was the superintendent of the city jail.
The interesting thing is, in both cases, all the family members were baptized at the same time.
It doesn’t specifically say each family member confessed or believed but the idea that faith comes before baptism is so well established in Scripture it doesn’t need to be repeated ad nauseam.
Both incidents occurred in Philippi and you find the details in Acts 16.
The question naturally arises:
Does this imply infant baptism?
The short answer is “no it doesn’t” but that isn’t much of an argument. There are many churches that baptize infants – I was sprinkled as an infant in a Presbyterian Church – so the question can’t be easily dismissed. It is an established practice.
Here are my reasons for thinking infants were not involved: Read more
Filed under: Christian Living, Church, Old Testament, Religion
Primitive Methods Don’t Suit
Today, reading and writing are common. Letter writing happens daily and book publishing isn’t far behind.
Even the blind and deaf have the means and skills to write out their thoughts, and technology makes it possible for them to communicate those ideas easily.
For most of human history that wasn’t true.
Writing has been around for a long time but the earliest format, engraving on stone, was restrictive to say the least. Just ten commandments required two stone tablets. Tom Clancy’s latest book would require a mountain of rock.
Even when lighter materials like papyrus became popular copies could only be reproduced by hand making it very difficult to circulate documents widely.
If you are of the opinion that following the old paths means eschewing technology, you’ll need a truck to carry your Bible to church each Sunday. You’ll struggle to flip to the book of Psalms too.
Not to worry, though. Since reading wasn’t as widespread in the Old and New Testaments as it is now reproduction and circulation weren’t issues.
But, these facts do raise an obvious question. If written documents couldn’t be shared easily, and many couldn’t read or write anyway, how were community-relevant ideas communicated.
The answer to that question is quite primitive. The most popular form of communication throughout most of human history was the spoken word and the best way to spread important news quickly and widely was through public proclamations.
These proclamations were made by specially designated people in high-traffic locations like the city gates or the courthouse steps. The people appointed for the task were known as the Town or Public Criers and they were clad in special clothing to single them out. It was all very official.
Even as far back as the time of Esther (5th century BC) the King’s official proclamations were communicated to 127 provinces by couriers and criers. It took several months to get the message out but considering the geography and the lack of technology, that’s not bad.
Criers were the interface between governments and the communities they governed. When information needed sharing, criers would ring a loud bell and cry “hear ye, hear ye” – or something similar. Once they had everyone’s attention the crier would then state or read the announcement.
Those who heard the announcement would pass it along mouth to ear, mouth to ear, mouth to ear and so on, but it all started with a public proclamation.
Education, democracy and technology have made criers obsolete. Education makes reading, writing and thinking skills common. Democracy encourages the sharing of ideas publicly. Technology makes it possible for those ideas to spread quickly.
There’s really no comparison between the media of the New Testament and the media of today. Resonant penetrating criers of yesteryear are easily drowned out by today’s most mild mannered tweets.
This brings me to the topic of this post: Preaching. Read more
Is Not Possible
There are several words associated with religion, some of which are complimentary and others not. A few can be taken both positively and negatively.
A good example is the word school. Church is a place of learning so we call it a Sunday School. That can be good or bad.
Some kids love school and some hate it but most adults regret not taking advantage of the opportunity when they had it.
In other words, they’ve learned to love what they used to hate.
But there are other words which aren’t so easy to work around. They are used as insults when referring to the church and believers take it personally. One such word is Crutch. Read more
Is Form More Important
Should you get baptized or should you not? That’s one question.
Another question, and one that is a little more difficult to answer is if you do get baptized, which baptism is best?
Those are important questions because Baptism is a Christian basic. It’s universal. It applies to every believer but there are differences of opinion on this practice.
Some believe baptism saves or at least puts one in the right place to be saved. Others believe it has nothing to do with salvation.
Some believe infants should be baptized. Others believe they shouldn’t.
Some believe baptism can be administered by pouring or sprinkling. Others believe full bodily immersion is required.
Some believe baptism can only be administered by qualified individuals. Others believe any Christian can baptize any Christian candidate.
Some believe only their denomination’s baptism is legitimate. Others believe that’s an unnecessary restriction.
Some believe the form is all important – only immersion is allowed. Others believe the heart of the individual is more important than the form.
Like belief, the decision to be baptized is individual. Unlike belief, you can’t fake it.
Probably no Christian basic has been debated more than baptism and the debates weren’t lighthearted. History records much feuding over this issue even to the point of drawing blood.
The Bible says much more about belief (faith) than baptism but what it says is important. Here are the facts:
- John the Baptist initiated the tradition of baptism.
- The high number of baptisms was evidence of John’s effectiveness.
- Jesus was baptized by John, even though John questioned this.
- Jesus first disciples were baptized by John.
- Jesus taught his followers to continue the tradition of baptism.
- From the Day of Pentecost onward disciples new believers were baptized. The practice stuck.
- Paul taught that baptism symbolized the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
From these facts we can isolate several takeaways: Read more