I’m No Theologian 

  
Let me begin by saying this: I’m not a theologian. While I did attend two Catholic universities and graduate schools, I don’t have a degree in theology. And while I completed more than just the basic requirements in theology and philosophy, still, I’m no theologian. I’ve taught RCIA at my parish and written a weekly column on the Catholic faith in my local newspaper for almost ten years—But I’m no theologian. So while I may be only a well-informed amateur, I have the cheek to write about Catholicism and even to teach others about it. Why? Because I love my faith and I trust in the Church that Jesus Christ left for us. I’ll bet I’m not alone. I’ll bet there are a lot of faithful Catholics out there who aren’t theologians.  

Recently, the Catholic Church completed a meeting of bishops in Rome in which various topics regarding the practice of our faith were discussed. Lots of people, both inside and outside of the Synod, have spent energy promoting their own opinion about what might or might not have happened there. Pope Francis will have the final word on all of it and so far, he’s not released his report. So, I’ll go first. Despite the fact that I’m certainly no theologian.  

Marriage, divorce, and who can receive Holy Communion were some of the issues the bishops were said to have discussed. We know what Jesus believes about these topics because He has told us. He’s pretty clear, even if you’re like me and you’re not a theologian. When He spoke of marriage, He said: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”(Matthew 19:4-5). Marriage, then, is between one man and one woman. Not two men or two women or two men and one woman or one man and five women. It’s not a civil union, it’s a sacrament that is so transformative that the man and the woman become “one flesh.” It’s a mystery. But it’s also quite simple: marriage is between one man and one woman.  

As for divorce, Jesus taught us that: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her…”(Mark 10:11-12). So, if someone has entered into a sacramental marriage (see above) and then divorces and remarries, that person commits a grave sin. Divorce, in itself, may not be sinful, so many divorced persons can remain in a state of grace. However, divorce and remarriage is a serious sin. This seems simple to understand, even if you’re not a theologian.  

Following on that, the reception of Holy Communion by someone who is divorced and has remarried would seem to be an example of what St. Paul refers to as doing so “unworthily”(I Cor 11:27). As Canon Law clarifies: “A person who is conscious of a grave sin is not to receive the Body of the Lord without prior Sacramental Confession…”(Code of Canon Law, 1983). I suppose this is too complex for a non-theologian like me to understand. Maybe it’s why I see these issues as settled. Simple.  

There was another time when the followers of Jesus puzzled over very simple teachings that He shared with them. After hearing our Savior describe Himself as the Bread of Life on many occasions, they continued to shake their heads and scoff. When He told them that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have eternal life, they mumbled among themselves. Many of them just could not grasp that He really meant for our communion to be His Body and Blood. “As a result of this, many [of] His disciples returned to their former life and no longer accompanied Him”(John 6:66).

Maybe the teachings of the Church on marriage, divorce, and holy communion seem simple to me precisely because I’m not a theologian. Maybe my faith is less complicated and intellectual than the faith they teach at some universities. I’d be surprised if that wasn’t true. I guess I identify with St. Therese of Lisieux. My “little way” tells me to trust in the words of Jesus and to put my faith in the Church which He gave us.  

…Master, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.” 

           —John 6:6-68

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