29 December 2016

"Brother-and-Sister"?? UPDATED

"An adulterous couple may repent of their adultery and live together, in a state of probably great temptation and occasion of sin, as long as they undertake to do their best to resist that temptation; and for as long as they are able to claim that the good of children requires it."

UPDATE How far back does this concession go? I have traced it back to the closing homily of the VIth Synod, published in AAS 72 (1980) paragraph 7 page 1082 (whence it entered Familiaris consortio). Is anybody aware of an earlier Magisterial articulation?

This idea, as is clear from the thread to yesterday's post, is fraught with problems and can be a source of real, lifelong agony to faithful but deserted spouses. I will add another problem which has occurred to me: is it understood and made clear to such adulterous couples by the 'pastor' who is 'accompanying' them that, once the good of children no longer requires their cohabitation, they will (as any deeply and truly repentant couple of former adulterers would surely wish to do) finally and definitively separate, securing a civil divorce and dividing their assets?

But my main problem is as follows. Clearly the "Brother-and-Sister" solution to the 'problem' was elaborated as just about the very furthest that the Church could possibly go in assenting to an arrangement which is manifestly full of problems. One step further, and the Church would be completely abandoning the Verba Domini concerning Indissolubility. It is a solution which clings by no more than its fingertips ... or do I mean the skin of its teeth ... to the Word of the Incarnate Torah, Divine Mercy Incarnate, our Lord Jesus Christ.

"OK ... the couple will probably fall victims to temptation from time to time ... who wouldn't ... but it's easy enough to absolve them. OK ... Marriage is not only about sex but about a totius vitae consortium, and this pair are being allowed everything else that appertains to Marriage (mensa if not torum) even if they do abstain from sex ... but that can't be helped. OK ... they are likely to constitute a public scandalum, but they can be urged to avoid this by furtively receiving the Sacraments in places where they are not known."

The contorted and extraordinary nature of this procedure makes abundantly clear that it is conceded as an extreme and just-about-defensible possibility, a piece of Pastoral Mercy which teeters on the very edge of the precipice of disobedience to the Revealed Word.

Yet it is now being attacked by the heretics, with apparent countenance from Bergoglio, as some sort of difficult, draconian, and really rather unfair and unreasonable (not to say cruel) piece of legalistic rigidity! It is treated as a nasty piece of rigid 'Pharisaeism' which is being imposed on suffering people by unfeeling and rigid clerics whom the same Bergoglio insults and foul-mouths as often as he can think of a pretext for doing so.

If I have got this wrong and am being unfair to Bergoglio, perhaps it would be pastorally helpful for him to clarify my dubia.

Are we not in a bit of a mess?


bombcar said...

People are scared, scared that what God calls them to is too much - and therefore we must not mention it, ever, lest they be frightened away.

But God never calls us to the impossible; and we don't use that to say he must not be calling; nay, it's that what he calls us to IS possible. Brother-and-sister is possible, as are other, perhaps better, options. But nobody will know if they never try.

Therese said...

Oh Father! The more closely we examine this notion, the messier it gets.

Puzzled! said...

Dear Father John,
What is the difference between an Annulment and a Civil Divorce? Is it because Civil divorce does not have the 'stamp' of Rome on it?
Couples who are married, either in Church or a Registry Office, intend to live out their promises - till death us do part. How then, can the Roman Catholic Church decree that the marriage, which may have been for over twenty years, was in fact no marriage at all and therefore can be declared null and void, allowing one partner to be married in Church and receive Holy Communion at Mass?
Perhaps you could give an answer in your usually erudite and interesting column.
Thank you in anticipation.

Elisabeth F. said...

(this is part 1 of 2 parts)

Hello Karl J -

It pains me to read your story.
I am only a convert since 2000, so I am no established authority.

When I read the details that you provide, I read mostly that you have been left on your own by the actions of very people that the four cardinals oppose; people whose behavior serves, caters to, and pleases folks like your wife. But ! they do not reflect the teachings of the Church, so I would ask you to hold fast to the faith and not confuse how some people act with how Jesus asks and expects us to act. In addition, it seems that the laws of the secular world are hitting you smack in the face; again, we must always remember that "we are in the world, not of it". Finally, a thought which will probably offer no comfort: all the trials in our lives are to me relatively less painful than being crucified. I find praying "The Prayer in the Garden", especially what St. John writes in chapter 17 of his Gospel, a humbling consolation.

From the experience of a close friend, I would suggest that the annulment process varies widely from diocese to diocese; consequently, a local practice which "focuses on finding nullity" is not reflective of the process as it is intended. Additionally, I think it helps to keep in mind that priests are teachers and shepherds in the faith, but they are not marriage counselors and not personal counselors. They can indeed be expected to make clear Church beliefs regarding marriage, but that is quite different from trying to get two people to work their way through a separation and divorce or assisting someone with living a painful life.

When thinking about two people living together as brother and sister, I try to keep in mind that in and of itself having a roommate of the opposite sex is not evil. The brother and sister relationship seems to me to only describe two people who have come to their senses, resolved to sin no more with the help of God, have received forgiveness, and are doing penance and making restitution.
However, problems indeed come when the relationship includes children from other unions and children from the adulterous union. If two people are living as brother and sister, there are no (more) children resulting from their relationship.This scenario of reconciliation does not sound like the scenario in which your wife has involved herself. I read in the Catechism that the Church acknowledges that two married people may indeed be unable to live in what would be described as a marriage working towards the ideals of marriage. People are fallible. There is no suggestion that a new relationship may be formed.

Yes, it is scandalous and it does cause pain when the people involved are deliberately acting against the beliefs of Catholicism. But - I'd be surprised if my behavior under any circumstances would not cause scandal if people only knew the fine details of my life; I am a sinner for sure.


Ben.quivenit@gmail.com said...

Well done, Father. Our current mess springs not full blown from Zeus's head. It's time to start examining the links of causality to our present crises. If compromises, like this "brother and sister" solution for adulterers were propounded as a means to maintain the status quo, to somehow hold the line against further degeneration of morals, then they were fraudulent. The Enemy does not compromise, and man in mortal sin tolerates no status quo. Forward, ever forward, he will lurch and stagger down that declining road; dragged on by the gravity of his own iniquity, until he plunges into the roiling abyss. Compromises are traps, but Catholicism will set us free. Every time.

Elisabeth F. said...


Hello Karl J -

Another complication that you appear to be experiencing is the dissonance between the secular world and those who choose its ways and the world of Christianity. Clearly what has become the norm in much of the western world is to be first of the secular world. Only after thought or with having the exceptional good fortune of having devout parents does one choose to become a Christian. It can be extremely difficult to wend one's way when all others in one's life act in apparent opposition to one's values.

I do not understand how it would be heresy for two people to come to their senses and desire to amend their lives and live a life trying to be conformed to the beliefs of the Church as gracefully given to us by our Lord. It seems to me that in such a situation, at least part of the penance and restitution would be to make sure that all children are raised according to the faith. Perhaps what is omitted when the brother and sister arrangement is mentioned is that there would be many more changes in the lives of everyone involved than simply giving up sex - and this would evolve with pastoral guidance.

I do not understand at all how the behavior of others would be any reason for me to reject the path to Godwards. It's my responsibility to believe and act with the faith I profess, even if I am the only person in the universe who does so. I myself would be a hypocrite and guilty of apostasy were I to reject God. Certainly, that situation would involve an horrific struggle against the co-conspirators of Satin. However, even here I can seek encouragement, strength, and comfort from the knowing about the lives of those who proceed me in the faith. People have maintained their faith in the presence of ghastly persecution, have maintained their faith through centuries of going without access to a priest (I am thinking of the Japanese). I know that I do not carry the responsibility of being crucified so that everyone else might have eternal life. It is a common saying that God never gives us more than we can handle; possibly part of "making that work" is actually believing this and so praying for the grace of strength minute by minute.
If children were a part of my life, I do not see how I could be scandalized by the behavior of others and at the same time offer my children the parental example of denying the very faith which is the context for my claim that I am scandalized. I do not understand how I could be scandalized by acts against the faith while simultaneously teaching my children that I, too, am denying my profession of faith.

My prayers for you and everyone involved....


Fr John Hunwicke said...

A Decree of nullity states that there never was a marriage. A divorce states that the marriage did exist, but is now being dissolved. There is no trick in this; the difference is quite clear. It exists in civil law as well as Church law, but nowadays nobody bothers in English civil law to get an annulment because divorce is easier and cheaper.

I don't see how there is anything absurd in either a civil court or a Church court declaring that it has examined a case carefully and discovered that, because of some legal defect, an apparent marriage was null. E.g. suppose, as a result of early family break up, jill and bob, brother and sister, are brought up separately. They meet in adulthood, unaware that they are siblings, fall in love and get married. When the facts come to light, it is natural that in a jurisdiction where siblings are not allowed to marry, it should be declared that the marriage was null.

Elisabeth F. said...

Hello again -

There is a wonderful blog entitled "In the Light of the Law" by Dr. Ed Peters at:


He has written quite a few times on the topics being discussed. One has to scroll down quite a long ways in order to come across the articles.
However, IF one does find an entry, at the bottom of that entry one finds links to other similar postings.
And one can search by month using the archive box at the very very bottom of each article. Since there are only a few posts each month, this is a useful way to search. I can't find an index.

Here's an example:


Also, I found:


(which includes some posts of interest on our topic)

Good luck !

Michaël de Verteuil said...

I think part of the problem is the assumption that both parties in the "adulterous relationship" are seeking repentance. There is the even harder case, for example, where the woman alone seeks repentance, but is being coerced to continue the relationship by her partner who is otherwise threatening to abandon parental responsibilities with respect to her minor children from her sacramental marriage.

The demand that BOTH parties agree publicly to no sex so that either of them might receive communion is indeed extraordinary and not in keeping with the idea of individual responsibility for sin.

I think the critics of AL are missing the middle ground that there are conceivable specific(albeit very rare)cases in which milder pastoral treatment could be justified as within the sacramental discretion of bishops to bind and loose. This tendency to ascribe the worst possible motives to the Pope on the basis of the inanities mouthed by some of the people around him is indeed "disloyal". Until and unless the Holy Father actually repudiates the underlying doctrine or its reasonable application, your issue is with them not with him. The safest and only truly loyal assumption is that only he or his authorized spokesmen speak for him.

Éamonn said...

I knew of a case in Ireland (a friend's parents) where the putative husband had long had an overwhelming attraction only to those of his own sex. He married in an attempt to rid himself of these feelings but succeeded in doing so only temporarily. He abandoned his wife and took himself off to London where he made a life among other men who shared his "lifestyle". His wife sued for nullity in the High Court in Dublin, which she was granted on the grounds that he had concealed his preferences and sexual activities from her. She could not sue for divorce, as there was no divorce to be had in Ireland in the 1970s!

Karl J said...

It weighs on me very heavily, Elisabeth. But, I am morally certain that the Catholic Church is in public, scandalous error here. It would take clear evidence, not even an ex-Cathedra ruling, to change my mind at this point.

Paulmclarke5 said...

Dear Fr,
I'm one of those divorced and remarried Catholics who after a period of 20 yrs returned to the faith. I refused to receive the Eucharist even though it was offered to me, I proceeded to seek an annulment on my first marriage and my civil wife agreed we were to live as brother and sister till the annulment was finalised. I was then able to attend another parish with the consent of both priests and receive the Eucharist.

The annulment took 18 months and was successful. I then had my marriage blessed and now live as husband and wife. I believe this Grace of the annulment was from Our Lord because I followed the teachings of the Church. Perhaps Fr you could use this as an example. If you stick to the rules of the Church you do as Our Lord Jesus has asked " if you love me keep my commandments"

E sapelion said...

Mt 5:32 and Mt 19:9 both assert that our Lord said 'whoever divorces, except for "porneia", and re-marries commits adultery'. The Orthodox churches take this as authority for permitting a second (or even third) marriage without incurring the penalties for adultery, to the innocent party in certain cases. You, Father, will be better able to unpack "porneia" than I am. The Orthodox churches do NOT claim to be dissolving the sacramental marriage, which is beyond the authority of anyone, but to recognise that the bond has ceased to function in this world. This will be manifest if one party has divorced the other and contracted a new civil marriage.

Elisabeth F. said...

oh dear, another two part-er....

Hello Karl J -

Well, I'm the Catholic Church and I sure as **** am not proposing or claiming or teaching or living ANY "public scandalous error" with regard to matrimony and to cases of troubled marriages. I do not think I have written anything to suggest that I am.

From this blog alone one can see that the entire Church does not believe as you have described us. Obviously, the Cardinals who wrote the Dubia and others who have chimed in are not behaving as you state they are. Also, Fr, Hunwicke and others have sent a priestly letter asking for clarification - so they, too are not committing "public, scandalous error".

Furthermore, as far as I can read, there is not a definitive teaching nor any definitive evidence on this topic nor regarding the questions that the Cardinals raise in their Dubia nor in any magisterial document. Would you kindly offer us something that substantiates your claim that the Church that the Church is committing "public scandalous error" as opposed to a realatively few members of the Church proposing changes ?

Additionally, please, please tell me what percentage of the Church is behaving scandalously ? Given the vast number of Catholics world wide, I doubt that even a hundredth of one percent of the Church behaves and believes in a manner that would hint of "public scandalous error" !

Thanks for your consideration,

Elisabeth F. said...

(the dread part 2 - the Catechism)

Hello Karl J and others-

I would offer some passages from the Catechism that may shed some light on what is the Church and what is public, scandalous behavior and beliefs. The paragraphs are quite short.

First, who is the Church (this in the section on the creed): paragraphs 811 through 945.

And secondly, the section on Faith (which includes definitions of voluntary and involuntary doubt,. incredulity, heresy, and schism. This would paragraphs 2087 through 2089.

If you do not happen to have a copy of the Catechism (I highly recomend the green cover version since it has so many additional and very helpful features),
it is available online at:


A fun feature is an alphabetical word search: one can find all the uses of any word in the Catechism ! It can be found at:


The Vatican website itself is at:


and one can find pretty much everything any pope has written and said.


(I am getting hungry looking at the captcha pictures of pizza and sushi)

Karl J said...

If I had known that there was such a thing as "living as brother and sister", and it could be found as justified, while there lived a valid/sacramental spouse, but the other half of that valid/sacramental "marriage team" could be, in good standing with God(presuming a Catholic God), but living with another , non-spouse, even not having sex, but, in effect NOT LIVING IN A PARTNERSHIP OF LIFE with the valid/sacramental spouse, I would not have married in the Catholic Church. Neither my wife, nor I were ever informed of this.

It is a lie. It cannot rationally be defended, perfectly. Either it is flawless, or it cannot be "ok with God", or I cannot be ok with that God. marriage is all or it is nothing. That is the gospel. IT IS NOT THE SAME AS HAVING A PLATONIC ROOMMATE OF THE OPPOSITE GENDER!

Thus, I believe that for this current crisis to be addressed, this "brother and sister thing" must be resolved completely/definitively, never needing to be addressed again.

I further believe that any marriage, in which both spouses were not fully informed about this "brother and sister thing", so that they could understand the possible consequences in each of their lives and in their children's lives and, truly consider the possible consequences of their marriage vows, should be declared invalid and completely null.

I think any other conclusion is indefensible, honestly.

In reality, quite starkly, when one steps back and looks at this completely, this is the undoing of marriage. To me, this means that only sex is operative as central to marriage and worth defending, based upon how the "brother and sister thing" is administered, theoretically. Certainly the children of the first marriage are not important enough to end the living together of people who are not their parents. But, neither is the lack of A PARTNERSHIP OF LIFE sufficient for those who are not valid spouses to separate either. So, based on what data, can nullity, honestly, continue to be found if only sex, only sex, ONLY SEX, is enough, via its absence, to be required for non-spouses to live together in the denial of ALL OTHER MARITAL DUTIES AND OBLIGATION.


This is a REAL problem, to one who thinks.

This is a REAL problem.


Elisabeth F. said...

Greetins all -

Well, I have too much time on my hands, I confess to eagerly considering all things Godly and Christian and Catholic, and I would welcome links to groups and blogs wherein I can find such discussions.

Fr. Hunwicke's research question has led me to words which I find compelling.

Familiaris Consortio is certainly both educational and consolation. As usual, Pope John Paul II writes in his clear and "readable by anyone" style. It addresses the issues we have been discussing. The pope references Hosea - a sort and very relevant read. (including the phrase "Oh Death, where is thy sting")

Back in 1880, Pope Leo XIII wrote in the encyclical "Arcanum Divinae" :
"41. In the great confusion of opinions, however, which day by day is spreading more and more widely, it should further be known that no power can dissolve the bond of Christian marriage whenever this has been ratified and consummated; and that, of a consequence, those husbands and wives are guilty of a manifest crime who plan, for whatever reason, to be united in a second marriage before the first one has been ended by death. When, indeed, matters have come to such a pitch that it seems impossible for them to live together any longer, then the Church allows them to live apart, and strives at the same time to soften the evils of this separation by such remedies and helps as are suited to their condition; yet she never ceases to endeavor to bring about a reconciliation, and never despairs of doing so. But these are extreme cases; and they would seldom exist if men and women entered into the married state with proper dispositions, not influenced by passion, but entertaining right ideas of the duties of marriage and of its noble purpose; neither would they anticipate their marriage by a series of sins drawing down upon them the wrath of God.


There are enough references in that encyclical to keep me busy for a while...


Deacon Augustine said...

E. sapelion, only St. Matthew mentions the "porneia" exception because he was writing primarily for a Jewish Christian audience and this relates specifically to Jewish marriage customs which continue to this day among some Hasidic Jews.

When a Jewish man took a wife he had to pay a dowry for her, and if she was a virgin she carried a much higher price. In order to assure the virginal status of the bride a period of betrothal typically lasting 9-12 months preceded his "taking her into his home." During that time they were technically married, but no consummation took place until the period of betrothal ended. If said virgin produced offspring during the betrothal period, he could rightly assume (with the notable exception of St. Joseph) that she was not the virgin that she was claimed to be and he would thus be entitled to either a rebate on the dowry or he could issue her with a bill of divorce on the grounds of fornication (porneia). This was the only exception to the prohibition of divorce which was permitted by the school of Shammai, whereas the Pharisees and the school of Hillel taught a much wider permission for divorce. Our Lord's doctrine was, therefore, in line with the much stricter Shammai rather than Hillel.

However, in the Christian paradigm such "divorce" would not constitute the dissolution of a ratified and consummated marriage anyway, for while the marriage had been ratified upon betrothal no consummation would have yet taken place. Thus the exception for porneia or fornication can in no way be taken to justify divorce or dissolution of a sacramental marriage, and it is notable that neither St Mark nor St Luke mentioned this exception in their accounts as it would no doubt have been meaningless to a gentile audience.

The practice of the "Orthodox" churches is a grave perversion of the Christian doctrine of marriage which owes its origins to their compromise with the dictates of the emperor Justinian rather than any "tradition" they received from the apostles. What they claim to be doing or not doing is quite irrelevant to what they actually are doing i.e. permitting divorce and remarriage in contradiction of Our Lord's commandment. The followers of AL seem determined to push the same infidelity on the Catholic Church using the hapless "Orthodox" as if they were an example which we should follow.

Mary Kay said...

Thank you Father! I so much appreciate your firm, faithful stance!

Mary Kay said...

Paulmclarke5, thank you! That's how it is supposed to be.

Thomas Beyer said...

While your successful (and speedy!) annulment must certainly have come as a blessing, and all good things have their ultimate origin in God, it is extremely dangerous to ascribe any particular grace we receive to Divine favor on account of our "good behavior." God blesses whom he will, and this side of Purgatory there can be no clear connection between our actions and his.

Joshua said...

I recall reading of this "live as brother and sister" suggestion in relation to priestly ministry to US negroes (that was the term used) in the period of large-scale African American migration from the southern to the northern States during the early to mid-20th century. Significant numbers had either divorced and remarried, or were married to divorced persons, prior to their developing an interest in conversion to Catholicism, and priests would suggest this as a way for such persons to be received into the Church. That's as much as I recall…

William Tighe said...

E-sapelion and Deacon Augustine both ought to read this cogent and compelling essay by Archbishop Cyril Vasil, SJ, a Ruthenian Catholic and Secretary of the Congregation for Oriental Churches,"Separation, Divorce, Dissolution of the Bond, and Remarriage: Theological and Practical Approaches of the Orthodox Churches," in *Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church* ed Robert Dodaro, OSA (San Francisco, 2014: Ignatius Press).

A couple of comments of my own:

1. Pace Deacon Augustine's "The practice of the 'Orthodox' churches is a grave perversion of the Christian doctrine of marriage which owes its origins to their compromise with the dictates of the emperor Justinian rather than any 'tradition' they received from the apostles," it does not go so far back as the Emperor Justinian, but rather to the effective abolition of "civil" marriage in the Byzantine Empire in the 880s. The marriage law of the Empire from Constantine onwards, including Justinian in the Sixth Century, but also Leo III in the Eighth, allowed for divorce and remarriage after divorce in certain circumstances, but there is no evidence that the Byzantine Church went along with this, or felt itself bound by such legislation. The first hint that the Church considered remarriage IN CHURCH after divorce in some circumstances permissible came in the "Tome of Union" of 920 (which healed a local schism in Constantinople occasioned by the fourth marriage of the Emperor Leo IV some years earlier) and the first explicit statement to that effect from a Patriarch of C'ple was in 1043.

2. E-sapelion wrote, "The Orthodox churches do NOT claim to be dissolving the sacramental marriage, which is beyond the authority of anyone, but to recognise that the bond has ceased to function in this world. This will be manifest if one party has divorced the other and contracted a new civil marriage." Well, this is one Orthodox view; other Orthodox say precisely the contrary (as Archbishop Vasil documents in his essay); and, in any event, these are all second millennium conceits of the orthodox, and so irrelevant to Catholics (except as illustrations of how error progresses). Besides - and I'll leave it at that - "porneia" of Mt 5:32 and Mt 19:9 does not mean "adultery;" the word for that is "moicheia." What the word "porneia" meant in the context of Mt 5:32 and Mt 19:9 seems to have puzzled the Church Fathers greatly; many did take it as "adultery," but went on to state (and this view was universal among Westerners) that while "adultery" did legitimate a "divorce" in the sense of the dissolution of the connubium, it did not legitimate remarriage subsequently for either the guilty party of the innocent party.

Little Black Sambo said...

As regards indissolubility, I believe the Orthodox take a somewhat similar line on Holy Order; i.e. a priest ceases to be a priest if he no longer functions as such - or have I got this wrong?

Elisabeth F. said...

Hello Karl J and the rest of the group -

Thanks for the reply Karl.

Now, with regard to being told about living together as brother and sister, I wonder why you think that two responsible people who were planning to marry would not have the responsibility of educating themselves and then asking questions?

Now as to your next point, I'm wondering how you arrived at the conclusion that the B&S arrangement was anything but extraordinary ?
I also have no idea why you would think that twp people cannot live in both a marriage and relationship without having sex. There are many married folks for whom sex is not an option, often due to the health of one spouse - and that actually would be a strong and praiseworthy example of living in a partnership for life no matter what. For me, this negates the statement "only sex is operative as central to marriage and worth defending".

I read: "It is a lie". What specifically is a lie ?

As to being flawless or not ok with God, I am flummoxed ! Never ever is there anything that humans do is flawless ! Doesn't that consequently mean that there is nothing that is all or nothing when it comes to human behavior?
Given the inherent concupiscence of humanity, given that the goal of Catholicism is the salvation of all people, how can there possibly be a "one size fits all" solution ? I'm not proposing widespread willy nilly application of the B&S resolution nor do I think that anyone is; I am trying to say that with regard to humans there are almost always a few cases where the norm does not advance their road towards salvation.

Would you please give us the Gospel passage(s) that you reference which state(s) that "marriage is all or it is nothing. That is the gospel." ?

What immediately comes to mind is the example of two people who are married and now separated and raising children. One rejects some of "the tedious and onerous roles of Catholicism" and the other denies Jesus altogether. I don't see how either parent is guiding their children in the true faith, but one parent is at least not dismissing outright the existence of the Triune God.
One additional consideration is that those who find living out Catholic beliefs often turn to other denominations for their religious needs. Obviously from a Catholic point of view, this is not the ideal way to worship. BUT ! this is still a path towards salvation. Coming from Catholicism, I would doubt that never would a person not compare the "new" denomination with the beliefs of Catholicism. As to whether or not worshiping in another denomination is evil (as opposed to a good act), once again I try to keep in mind that people are flawed; would you say that in the "all or nothing" proposition it would be better to never enter a church if one believed in God but did not understand Catholicism ?
Paragraphs 1755, 1756, and 1789 specifically discuss the criteria for an act to be morally good or morally evil. I recommend them.

Sincerely, Elisabeth

Elisabeth F. said...

To Karl and others, continued

In a related vein, I read: "ONLY SEX, is enough, via its absence, to be required for spouses to live together in the denial of ALL OTHER MARITAL DUTIES AND OBLIGATION." This boldly states that such spouses are totally and irrevocably and forever are unable to care for all their children. Did you really mean that ?
Another statement that I wonder about is that it is stated that when a married couple separates "Certainly the children of the first marriage are not important enough to end the living together of people who are not their parents.". How is anyone able to make such a claim, one that includes every single person who has ever lived and who has been in such a situation ?

Since it has been shown that the question of how to live after a marital separation has been considered seriously by the Church for centuries, how does one come to the conclusion that right here and now there must be an all or nothing, one size fits all solution ? From where do you get the idea that this situation has not been addressed and not been seriously addressed ? Did you not read Fr. Hunwicke's offering of Familiaris Consortio or my offering of Arcanum Divinae (which references councils over a thousand years ago)?

For myself, I am certain that others through the millennia have had thoughts on this situation that would not occur to me. I am indeed thinking about "the brother and sister" proposition or I wouldn't have written anything, nor would I have gone to look for historical considerations.
I'm curious if you have read any of the suggested references?

I'd really appreciate it if you would answer the questions that I have asked in these posts. By doing so, you would be explaining where my thoughts have gone awry. Perhaps we can hope to reach some agreement.


Jhayes said...

On Fr. Hunwicke's question of whether the couple must separate when the children reach a certain age, it's worth noting that J-P's homily at the end of the 1980 Synod didn't mention children but spoke more generally of cases where the couple "cannot fulfill the obligation of separation".

"[T]he fathers of the Synod, again affirming the indissolubility of marriage and the Church’s practice of not admitting to eucharistic communion those who have been divorced and - against her rule - again attempted marriage, urge pastors and the whole Christian community to help such brothers and sisters. They do not regard them as separated from the Church, since by virtue of their baptism they can and must share in the life of the Church by praying, hearing the word, being present at the community’s celebration of the Eucharist, and promoting charity and justice. Although it must not be denied that such people can in suitable circumstances be admitted to the sacrament of penance and then to eucharistic communion, when with a sincere heart they open themselves to a way of life that is not in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage - namely, when such a man and woman, who cannot fulfil the obligation of separation, take on the duty of living in total abstinence, that is, abstaining from acts that are proper only to married couples - and when there is no scandal. "


"Children's upbringing" is mentioned as an example (but not the only possible justification) in Familaris consortio 84

Liam Ronan said...

Dear Father,

I am not certain if this document will help in respect of pre-Vatican II teaching, etc. on the 'Brother/Sister' accommodation, but I offer here the link to an article published today in Rorate Caeli "Denzinger Timeline for Communion for Adulterers in Church History and Current Pontificate":


There may be clue within the link provided by Rorate Caeli in the article. I have not read it in its entirety.

DJR said...

I agree with Karl regarding "living as brother and sister."

The abandoned spouse has marital rights. How can he take advantage of them if his wife is living with another man, even if they are living as "brother and sister"?

Unless there is a serious and valid reason, e.g., a medical one, if a wife refuses to live a conjugal relationship with her true spouse, that constitutes a mortal sin on her part. She cannot receive Holy Communion worthily while maintaining that stance.

St. Paul addresses that.

Konstantin said...

I recall reading about an article from the early 1960's in the German anti-Catholic rag "der Spiegel" that was mocking a priest who had a column in a Catholic magazine (I think the priest was from SVD or another major congregation of secular priests) for suggesting the brother-sister approach, I guess because it was too rigid.

@Thomas Beyer: it might be true that not all graces are connected to our good behavior, but it would also be rather dangerous to claim that there is no clear connection between our actions and his. God even says that he would bless those with long life who keep the 4th commandment.

Charles said...

I have come across the discussion of the question in Jean Baptiste Gonet's Clypeus Thomistarum, in the section on probabilism. He cites the opinion of John Sancius: Concubinarius non tenetur pellere domo concubinam, sed polliceri solum, se deinceps cum ea non peccaturum, quando ea relicta vitam transigeret tristius." He then agrees with the Doctors of Louvain that this opinion, "Sicuti Epicureorum placitis videtur consona, ita et Christianorum regulis censetur adversa;" consequently, those doctors condemned the proposition "ut falsam, temerariam, et perniciosam."

Liam Ronan said...

My understanding is that a Decree of Nullity is not infallible. If I am incorrect I should be grateful for any correction.

However, if I am correct in my understanding then there will almost certainly be parties who have had a Declaration of Nullity granted in respect of the first marriage when in fact the first marriage was valid in the Eyes of God. What then of adultery?

As we cannot know the Mind of God, we cannot be certain what "God has joined together", no? Will those aforementioned parties who have had their Declaration of Nullity (psychological immaturity, etc.) issued in error nonetheless have to answer to God for the sin of adultery, or does 'good faith' in their Declaration obviate the possibility of sin?

Anonymous said...

Dear Karl,

already some 30 years ago, the unjustified annulment practice especially in the US has been an issue and the question of how to deal with such "annulments" even became an important reason for a major split within the Priestly Society of St. Pius X. mid of the 1980th (See f.i. the letter of the nine priests to Abp. Marcel Levebvre dated March 25, 1983). These nine priests of the FSSPX did not accept the new annulment practice established after Vatican II and asked First of all for rechecking of such annulments based on the traditional Church Laws and practice prior Vatican II. For more details you could try to get into contact f.i. with Father Cekada of St. Gertrude the Great, Cincinnati, who certainly will be able to help you up spiritually, but take care not to loose your trust into the validity of the Magisterial of the Church on your way! What you also could consider if not tried already would be to appeal at the Rota in favor of the validity of your marriage, e.g. in order to get the nullification nullified. But before attempting this you should seek for help which you can find f.i. via the network of www.saveoursacrament.org . On that page you will find many helpful details. You are not the only marriage nullification victim, and it is always helpful to get into touch with others who share similar experience. Dear Karl, I very well understand your issue and think you are completely right in your accusations, but please do not loose your Catholic Faith even if you are a victim of insane rulings of local church courts.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how one can square that the education of children in the faith as the primary responsibility of parents (as canon law emphatically states) and the conjugal rights of spouses (as canon law also states) can coexist in this brother sister caveat. When I say conjugal, I don't mean the colloquial definition but the palpable reality of the continuous physical presence of persons together whose job is to witness to the family the real union of the Holy Trinity.

And, I will also add, that it is quite discouraging to have bishops, judicial vicars and priests aware of the scandal of such situations while "brother and sister" couples (with all grown children, who are married and therefore aware of just how realistic marital countenance is) regularly receive communion and take part in marriage encounter events.

As for the brother and sister exception, the only real relational thread is that of the Josephite marriage... the problem is, these are no marriages.


thewarourtime.com said...

It is not "a concession". That's your characterization and not the Church's.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I wrote "The contorted and extraordinary nature of this procedure makes abundantly clear that ..." This is a perfectly clear statement of how judge the matter and upon what grounds I do so. I object to the insinuations in the last comment.

Anonymous said...

Father Hunwicke, thank you for bringing this up.

This is the issue about which I was expressing my deepest concern in my comment on "Cardinal Burke's Latest (2)".

I have utterly no idea WHERE this concept hailed from and neither does it seem to fit in any way with the spirit of Holy Scripture or....{drum roll, please}...COMMON SENSE, BUT...I must suggest that the foundation might be found in the Church's teaching on abstention, specifically in an encyclical of Pope Pius XII. Possibly his teaching "Allocution to Midwives" was used by P St JPII to form the foundation for the idea?


No, it is NOT a perfect or even very close reference in support of the "Brother Sister Option" {let's call it "BS" for brevity, shall we?} and certainly it does not address the scandal that is inherent in BS but at least it does directly address the issue of LONG TERM abstention which forms the theoretical basis for the morality of BS.

In order to create some tangential relevance, I have shamelessly lifted some statements out-of-context below. Having said that, I do however believe that such concepts MAY have influenced P. St JPII in the formation of BS. Possibly there is some moral truth to be applied to the abstaining but cohabiting civilly-married/cohabitating/invalidly married. I'll leave the final judgment up to you and Ed Peter's crowd but personally I find all of this hard to reconcile with Jesus' teaching AND the past teaching of the Church.

"On the Heroism of Continence"

"...and that there is only one way open, namely, to abstain from every complete performance of the natural faculty."

"It will be objected that such an abstention is impossible, that such a heroism is asking too much."

"God does not oblige anyone to do what is impossible. But God obliges husband and wife to abstinence if their union cannot be completed according to the laws of nature. Therefore in this case abstinence is possible." To confirm this argument, there can be brought forward the doctrine of the Council of Trent, which, in the chapter on the observance necessary and possible of referring to a passage of St. Augustine, teaches: "God does not command the impossible but while He commands, He warns you to do what you can and to ask for the grace for what you cannot do and He helps you so that you may be able".

Finally, I have trouble buying the notion that "marriage today is worse off than marriage was in the olden days....".

Is someone going to tell me that marriage was a wholesome and beautiful social, moral and religious relationship during the first 300 years of the history of the Church when the Fathers spoke so clearly and RIGIDLY about its maintenance and value?

OK, so if marriage was just as fraught with chaos and confusion THEN, why were they so confoundedly "rigid" in defending it? Shouldn't they have gone with the BS of JPII or the "Serene Theology" of the Kasper/Bergoglio crowd?

Anonymous said...

I might add.

I wonder how many Midwives actually received the training embodied in P Pius' "allocution". It would seem that if any had, they were better catechized than many of our prelates {dare I say right to the top} today....

Karl J said...


This is not really an answer but my experience:

"As we cannot know the Mind of God, we cannot be certain what "God has joined together", no? Will those aforementioned parties who have had their Declaration of Nullity (psychological immaturity, etc.) issued in error nonetheless have to answer to God for the sin of adultery, or does 'good faith' in their Declaration obviate the possibility of sin?"

TWhat you describe is the can of worms that the Catholic hierarchy opened up as it allowed nullities to explode following Vatican II plus a few years.

When my wife "cold cocked me" by filing for nullity, I was forced into the position of deciding, whether or not I wanted to act. So, I sought out advice. From the Godparents, all but one, there was a common opinion that I must defend the marriage. The "other one" gave no opinion, to me anyway, but remained close to my wife.

I sought the opinion of a Catholic priest, canonist, who was Pre-Vatican II trained. His "final opinion" was that 1. Our marriage was valid, which obliged me to defend it. But, 2. He believed that things had changed significantly regarding nullity, since he was trained and that, NOW(when the tribunal aspect of this nightmare was new to me, 1991), I would very likely loose and our marriage would be declared null. His advice to me was that I could accept the ruling of the Tribunal for nullity, but ONLY on the condition that I examined our circumstances thoroughly, after truly understanding/accepting the historical teachings of the Church with respect to marriage(which he indicated that, to him, I did, from his perspective)but ONLY if I agreed, with an informed Catholic conscience, that the decision for nullity was, indeed, correct. He told me, based upon our intense, but brief conversations, that he believed that my conscience would lead me to oppose ANY finding of nullity on the part of the Church tribunals and that, I should be prepared to face the consequences...a lifetime of celibacy, in the face of acceptance of my wife and her lover being able to marry in the Church......

He was half-right!

Liam Ronan said...

Please forgive my re-posting this earlier comment of mine, Father, but I would really be grateful if someone might address it insofar as it is predicated on Canon 1095 and the conditions for granting a Declaration of Nullity based on 'mental incapacity', a judgement call more often than not as opposed to the independently verifiable factors such as consanguinity and affinity:

Canon 1095 defines a person unable to contract a marriage due to 'mental incapacity' thus:

"1095. They are incapable of contracting marriage:
(1) who lack the sufficient use of reason;
(2) who suffer from grave lack of discretion of judgment concerning essential matrimonial rights and duties which are to be mutually given and accepted;
(3) who are not capable of assuming the essential obligations of matrimony due to causes of a psychic nature."

My earlier question was:

"My understanding is that a Decree of Nullity is not infallible. If I am incorrect I should be grateful for any correction.

However, if I am correct in my understanding then there will almost certainly be parties who have had a Declaration of Nullity granted in respect of the first marriage when in fact the first marriage was valid in the Eyes of God. What then of adultery?

As we cannot know the Mind of God, we cannot be certain what "God has joined together", no? Will those aforementioned parties who have had their Declaration of Nullity (psychological immaturity, etc.) issued in error nonetheless have to answer to God for the sin of adultery, or does 'good faith' in their Declaration obviate the possibility of sin?"

Would a party receiving a erroneous Declaration of Nullity nonetheless be guilty of adultery and, if not, why not?

Karl J said...


Up front and honestly, I doubt that I will change your opinion. I am certain that you will not change mine.

The issues are both extremely simple yet painfully convoluted, simultaneously, due to
1. Spouses choices which are not congruent with their marital promises 2. Scandalously pour judgment and governance of the Catholic Church 3. Humans and free will. 4. Lucifer

Please, Elisabeth, tell me how it is an objective good for one spouse to live with another person, who is not their spouse, while a valid, sacramental marriage persists, for which for which certain public promises were made that are not being honored, except in the negative by not having intercourse!

If the marriage is valid/sacramental and the marital promises and obligations are not being met, even cursorily, and are not being met by intent, how can this be an objective good and good for the valid/sacramental marriage?


Karl J said...


That the Church is aware of this and may have "accepted" it, does not justify a "brother and sister" relationship. It is not at all significant that a thousand years ago, this was known. Adultery, a thousand years ago, was adultery.

The Church, then, has been in error since this "brother and sister" thing sprouted wings and was not anathematized. Perhaps those who can be traced to its encouragement and are considered Saints, should be stricken from public sainthood.

I would, definitely, be in favor of that.

ffcfcfcfcf said...

Don't call him "Bergoglio". It is disrespectul in the extreme, no matter what goofiness he has done. By doing so, you indicate that he is not really Pope, just some guy who illegitimately occupies the office of the Papacy.

nobody said...

Living as brother and sister which I have for over 5yrs. my spouse "brother" and I have come to know a deeper love..temptation is not a problem. it's the people who think we can't live as bother and sister that is the problem. the sin of lust is not an issue and God Blesses us with an abundance of grace. If you truly live the faith and make the sacrifice for God , sex-- which is what we are talking about here is null, all desire is focused on the Trinity. so get over it.

thewarourtime.com said...

I hope you will understand this Rev. Fr. John Hunwicke [and perhaps come to the realization of what God is calling you in your life]. Celibacy is the law, the requirement for priests in the Latin Church. A married clergy in Anglicanism/Protestantism who comes to the Church and is called to the priesthood gets to keep his wife and they are allowed to continue to have marital relations. Father, that's what a concession is and not asking people to keep God's commandments, which in the case of this article, is asking them not to continue having sexual relations with another other than their lawfully wedded spouse.

Charles said...

Re my previous comment, I was mistaken about which proposition the Louvain theologians condemned as "falsam, temerariam, et perniciosam." It was, rather, a similar assertion which Gonet saw as the principle according to which Sancius made his judgment, namely, "Licitum est quaerere directe occasionem proximam peccandi, pro bono spirituali, aut temporali, nostro vel proximi." Not incidentally, a very similar proposition was condemned in 1679. See Denz. 2161-63.

Matthew Roth said...

That would probably nullify the marriage in the church too, since it is a fact about the person which if known would prevent the marriage... to simplify and perhaps muddle things.

Banshee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sean Mercer said...

Regarding tghe so-called matthean exceptions in St. Matthew 5 &1 9, please see:


"Two different explanations of the seeming exception have been given by Catholic exegetes. One older interpretation, given by Sts. Jerome and Augustine, holds that it gives adultery as a grounds not for dissolution of a marriage but for separation from bed and board. A more recent interpretation, advanced by J. Bonsirven and J. Meier, holds that the word ‘porneia’ in Matthew refers to marriages to close relatives within the prohibited degrees of affinity. Such marriages were common among Gentiles in the Eastern Mediterranean, and were likely to have been contracted by Gentiles prior to their conversion to Christianity. The New Testament forbade these marriages in Acts 15:29 and 1 Cor. 5:1. Both these texts use the term ‘porneia’ to describe such marriages. The use of this term in the discussions of divorce in Matthew would thus mean that marriages within the prohibited degrees of affinity are not subject to Christ’s prohibition of divorce. This interpretation seems to be the best one; of course accepting it does not mean rejecting the teaching that adultery is grounds for separation from bed and board, a separation alluded to in 1 Cor. 7:10-11."

Anonymous said...

thewarourtime says: "A married clergy in Anglicanism/Protestantism who comes to the Church and is called to the priesthood gets to keep his wife and they are allowed to continue to have marital relations."

Please see Canon Lawyer Ed Peters on this issue. He was written that it is clear under canon law that ordained married deacons and priests are both bound by the law of celibacy. So there is no concession.


Elisabeth F. said...

The warourtime and Valdemar -

As Someone Who Knows From Personal Experience will certainly tell us, there is no concession that lets married priests who become a member in an Ordinariate continue marital relations with their spouse.
What a married priest swimming the Tiber may do is to petition the Holy See to have the canonical requirement lifted.
If a priest wishes to continue as he was, he must petition, and his petition must be granted.
As far as I know, prior to the establishment of the Ordinariates, a married priest also needed to petition to have the requirement of celibacy lifted.

Here are a couple of references:



Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

Valdemar, Dr Peters is wrong. The clergy de iure divino can marry - I Cor 9:5.

Anonymous said...

Elisabeth F:

Thank you for the links.

It appears what you have cited here speaks to the issue of Anglican priests, but I do not see how it addresses married ordained NON-previously-Anglican {deacons and priests} specifically. So it appears the ex-Anglicans have options that are not extended to {most importantly} the vast number of ordained permanent deacons and of course the number of ex-Protestant {Lutheran, etc} who have been ordained priests, having been married previous to their ordination. I believe that is the group Peters is most concerned with in that there is a common understanding that celibacy simply doesn't apply to them when the Canon Law says otherwise.

Jel said...

Except probabilism says that of the law is in doubt, you can follow a probable opinion, and plenty of authorities on the matter DON’T believe in Dr Peter’s interpretation of the deacon question. If you asked the pope point blank, he’d settle it instantly. I note that Dr Peters has submitted no such dubia.