A new entry (finally!) on my Year of Grace retro-conversion blog

Yes, dear, patient reader: I have finally gotten around to continuing the ongoing saga of my conversion to the Catholic Church with this blog at Year of Grace: http://yearofgrace.blogspot.com/2008/08/sunday-11th-march-2001-on-eve-of-my.html. There’s some really serious stuff there, well worth reading, if I may say so, including this statement:

My only hope is to fully submit myself to Christ’s Lordship and authority on the matter, and to do this, I must seek out those who exercise this authority. If they judge me to be free to remarry, I will accept their judgement. If they judge me not to have been free to enter into a new marriage relationship, I will accept their judgement on this too. I will never sever my marriage with Cathy–what? shall we sin all the more that grace may abound even more?–but I will live to the full the covenant of marriage with her that I should have lived with my first wife, and I will live a life of prayer and faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. And I will go to every mass knowing that in this mass the body and blood of Christ is indeed being offered for my sin whether I commune or not.

There is probably so much here that you would say is not “rightly dividing law and gospel”. But things are not always as black and white as “law” and “gospel”. I am a broken, sinful human being, who never the less is justified through faith in Christ in baptism, and I live by the mercy of God. I do not demand that he change his law for me. It is enough to know that Christ has died for me, and that I will sit at God’s table in eternity when I will be free from all brokenness, and all the grey stains of sin.

If you have never read my Year of Grace blog, check it all out here.

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0 Responses to A new entry (finally!) on my Year of Grace retro-conversion blog

  1. Anonymous says:

    If you prefer not to discuss such a personal matter in a public forum, I understand. But your post raises serious questions of sacramental praxis.

    You write that if required by the judgment of those having Christ’s authority in the matter, you would have accepted permanent exclusion from the Eucharist. My understanding of Catholic Eucharistic practice is that exclusion from the Eucharist is always a call to change some aspect of one’s life, not simply a witness to the gravity of a past sin. In the case of those in a marriage which cannot be recognized, the RC Church insists the cessation of sexual relations is the only morally acceptable resolution, recognizing that justice requires the discharge of all other obligations to spouse and children. A willingness to accept permanent exclusion from the Eucharist is not really a submission to the Church’s authority, but a declaration that one is unwilling to do what that authority demands.

    My question boils down to this: is it ever sound pastoral practice to accept or advise exclusion from the Eucharist as a permanent solution?

  2. Past Elder says:

    You are quite right, Herr Anonymous. That is exactly the Catholic sense of exclusion from the Eucharist.

    Before I say another word, I explicitly hereby renounce any attempt to apply this to David’s situation, having neither the call nor the competence to judge that. They are intended for the actions alone at face value.

    Exclusion from the Eucharist is precisely what you say — a serious step to inpress on a person that his actions are serious enough to put him outside of the normal life of the Church and thereby induce change, not acceptance, read, continue the actions. To attempt to participate in the normal life of the Church accepting this exclusion would therefore be no acceptance at all, but simply accepting the Church’s authority insofar as it agrees with one’s own, which remains supreme.

    Then again, what I was taught as Catholicism was completely swept aside by “Catholicism” as it is now, so for all I know, black being white and white being black now, rejection has become acceptance, maybe even heroic, whereas before it was rejection, only differing in whether you stick around afterward or not.

  3. Schütz says:

    Dear friends,

    You realise that this is a sensitive and personal area, because not just one, but two people are involved in the issue.

    I have a priest friend who jokingly refers to my wife as “higher authority”, and while that is a funny joke, it does point to some reality here. I have obligations not only to the Church but also to my wife.

    So when it comes to matters pertaining to our personal relationship – especially if these pertain to a change in the status quo – I cannot dictate to my spouse “Thus it shall be” – there needs to be a mutal agreement on how we will proceed in the future. Anyone with any experience of personal relationships knows this.

    There is also a “justice” issue here. Consider that I had already promised myself to my wife in totality – to withdraw that promise would certainly appear unjust (at least from her point of view).

    Let’s use an example, shall we? Before I became a Catholic, we used contraception. We don’t now. Through discussion (of the Church’s teaching, natural law, and – believe it or not – the advice of her naturotherapist), we agreed that to continue to use contraception was not beneficial to our relationship. Positive result.

    At the time of my conversion to the Catholic Church, I realised that, amid the turmoil of everything else at the time, there was no way that I could withdraw intimacy from my wife (not even for the sake of my immortal soul – get how serious this was folks) not because I wanted to satisfy my own will or my own physical desires (factors which, of course, cannot be excluded from the equation, but which I was prepared to forego) but rather because I was aware that such a withdrawal of this central aspect of our relationship would have a severely detrimental effect upon our marriage and family life.

    It cannot be said that, had it not been possible (as it eventually was) for our marriage to be regularised, that we would never have reached an agreement on the matter that would have enabled me to return to the use of the Sacraments. But it must be recognised that the Church is merciful (reflecting God’s own infinite mercy), and, without breaking the law, does not demand perfection of her children RIGHT NOW. She undertstands that we need to grow in resolve to live holy lives and that this takes time. Hence the Church does not exclude but encourages those Catholics who are in irregular marital situations (or who are in any sort of ongoing serious state of sin) to continue to involve themselves in the life of the Church, that they continue to hear the word of God preached and join in the prayer and liturgical life of the people of God, until such a time that they are ready to approach the sacrament of reconciliation and make a good confession and be admitted to the Lord’s Table once again.

    Now, was I failing to fully submit to the Church’s authority by stating that I was ready to continue live “in sin” and accept exclusion from the Lord’s Table? Only if this were interpreted as a willingness to remain in this state, to accept it and want it to be accepted as the ongoing status quo. But if you choose rather to see it as a case of following the Lord’s calling as far as I was personally able to at that point in time, then I think a somewhat kinder judgement could be made. At the time I thought of it as having entered the porchway of the house, or the narthex of the Church, still knocking on the door, still longingly looking in the window, eagerly awaiting the time when I would be personally capably of entering in where God was calling me.

    It should be remembered that I had given up a very, very great deal just to stand in that porchway. The phrase “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than to sit in the tents of the wicked” came to mind often. And truly, if you wish, I had not yet fully submitted to the Church’s (to GOD’S!) authority at that point. I guess I still haven’t. Amazing how we always hold onto something that we aren’t quite ready to let go of…

    There is also the point that I didn’t (at the time I wrote that peice in my diary) have the full details. What I stated then was what I was feeling and understanding then. I have no idea what would have happened had my own first marriage not been anulled and my wife’s first marriage not been dissolved. In the end, I did not need to face this question. Where God calls, God always opens a door. Even if it isn’t the same locked door you are banging your head against.

  4. Past Elder says:

    First, to reinforce that I in no way intend any of my comments here as a judgement upon your situation, against the possibility that they may be so construed, let me say I find no fault with your situation at all.

    In the Catholic religion, the ministers of the sacrament of marriage are the couple. Therefore, two non-Catholics getting married as non-Catholics are assumed to be spiritually, not just civicly, married. Therefore, if a civicly divorced and remarried person approaches the Church, his first civic marriage must be determined to have been invalid spiritually or else his second, while a valid civic marriage, has no binding spiritual force at all and is both non-marital cohabitation and adultery. That’s why they call it living in sin. That is why the Church excludes them from the Sacrament, unless or until such determination is made. Confession does not fix this.

    What I do intend by these comments is not about your marital situation, but rather that in this as in other matters, it as always shows how afield what you have mistaken for the Catholic Church and Faith is from the actual Catholic Church and Faith. The perpetrators of this odious lie have not the authority of God, of Christ, not even now of Rome. I am sorry for the burdens these lying scumbags have placed upon you, but sorrier yet that you have allowed it at such great cost.

  5. Schütz says:

    PE, your information is only partially correct (which means it is partially incorrect, ie. not correct at all).

    The Catholic Church regards any valid marriage between a BAPTISED man and a BAPTISED woman as a SACRAMENTAL bond, and therefore unbreakable.

    All other marriages (eg. where one or neither partner are baptised) are valid natural marriages, but not sacramental, since the baptism of both partners is required for the marriage to be a sign of the marriage of Christ and his bride the Church.

    Where at least one of the spouses is Catholic, extra requirements come into force, since the Catholic partner is subject not only to the civil laws of the state (the contravention of which will naturally invalidate the marriage) but the laws of the Church. Catholics are obliged to marry: another Catholic, in a Catholic Church, according to the rites of the Catholic Church, witnessed and blessed by a Catholic bishop, priest or deacon. Dispensations from these laws may be applied and granted (just as dispensations can be granted by the State for some civil laws, eg. while normally no one can legally marry under the age of 18, a dispensation may be granted for the marriage of anyone 16 years or older with parental permission), but without such dispensations, any Catholic marrying a non-Catholic (baptised or otherwise), in any place but a Catholic Church, according to any rite other than the Catholic rite, and witnessed by a celebrant who is not an ordained Catholic cleric, will be attempting to contract marriage INVALIDLY.

    None of this is rocket science.

    Valid natural marriages (such as my wife’s first marriage) may be disolved by the authority of the Church “in favorem fidei”, ie. in favour of marriage to a Catholic spouse, if the non-baptised spouse has abandoned the baptised spouse (this is based on St Paul’s advice in 2 Cor 7).

    My first marriage was, on the face of it, a sacramental marriage. Both I and my first wife were baptised non-catholics. At the time we attempted to contract a marriage neither of us were under the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church, and therefore not subject to the Catholic laws governing marriage. We could have had a civil marriage while parachuting from a plane, and it would have been regarded as a sacramental marriage because of our status as baptised Christians. In fact, our marriage was later found to be (for reasons I would rather not go into at this point) invalidly contracted, and thus was annuled by the Tribunal, thus enabling my marriage to Cathy to be regularised.

    Your information, PE, is therefore woefully incorrect. Perhaps you might like to show me, on the basis of my clarification, how my revered fathers in Christ may still be regarded as “scumbags”?

  6. Past Elder says:

    I am trying like hell not to make this personal, however, since you insist:

    The details you provide as “not rocket science” are correct. What I was, was incomplete, and that in assuming both your and your wife’s marriages were Protestant marriages, or, since one must be careful when dealing with Roman legalism, marriages between baptised Christians. I neither knew nor expected your wife’s first marriage was natural only, thus I spoke only of marriages between baptised Christians.

    Since this “must” become personal, I am well aware of what you say, through my own experience. My wife, unlike myself, was married before. She was baptised Lutheran, and married a baptised but non-practicing Catholic outside the Catholic Church with no dispensation. At one point, I was considering a Catholic wedding (I was not Lutheran then) as an olive branch to my parents since her family was OK with it, and I knew going in and the chancery confirmed that her first marriage was defect of form open and shut because of him, under just the reasons you mention.

    We were not so married though, because of me, not her. When we had the green light regarding her, I sought to be married according to the Catholic rite rather than the pale parody of it offered in the novus ordo along with its pale parody of everything else about the Roman rite. No option for this was offered at all, even though it existed under Roman legalistic hoops now relaxed by this unchanging church, and I was informed to do so would put the marriage outside the Church and therefore invalid until formally recognised by the Church. I replied that if to be married as Catholics were married now puts one outside of the Church then it is they who are outside the Church operating invalidly, and slammed the phone in the official’s ear, my only regret of which is I did not slam harder.

    The Roman Church always has a way to find something in favour of the Catholic party, when it is in favour of the Roman Church. The Roman Imperial religion is just like the old Roman Imperial religion, allowing you your “local gods” as long as you “sacrifice” to theirs, which is simply them themselves.

    Therefore, on the basis of your clarifications, the Roman Imperial-minus-the-empire authorities acted quite consistent with their rules, which in no way makes them scumbags. That comes from their offering as the Roman Catholic Church something which is no more the Roman Catholic Church than the Holy Roman Empire was the Roman Empire or even, to paraphrase the saying about the HRE, Roman, Catholic, or the Church, which was evident even when I was a Catholic.

    We were, btw, married by an LCMS pastor (a friend of Pastor Weedon’s, I would find out years later). You may enjoy a laugh, then, at from your perspective my wife having married two baptised non-practicing Catholics. You might also laugh at some of my letters to the pastor afterward as we attempted to settle our church matters (she having bailed from LCMS re Seminex as I did from RCC re Vatican II), explaining as I did how Lutheranism could not be valid — though I found it bittersweet in the extreme, the basis of that invalidity being a faith fka Roman Catholic which now put oneself outside the “Roman Catholic” church.

    Nancy now enjoys that view Melanchthon spoke of where we shall wonder what all the fuss was about, but here in this life one of its great joys was to run into that pastor a few years ago after no contact for some years and be able to tell him I was Lutheran.

  7. Schütz says:

    “I replied that if to be married as Catholics were married now puts one outside of the Church then it is they who are outside the Church operating invalidly, and slammed the phone in the official’s ear, my only regret of which is I did not slam harder.”

    Being ENTIRELY personal here, I wonder if we are finally getting to the point where, having scratched deeply enough, we are beginning to understand what is going on in PE’s personal theology?

  8. Past Elder says:


    It was 1993. I had already had enough kicks in the arse from the post-conciliar church, via pulpit, podium, office and confessional, excuse me all to hell, reconciliation room, that I left twenty years earlier, in 1973, and any backward glances from time to time since then only re-inforced the obvious.

    We were originally going to be married, me being a Righteous of the Nations (I thought I was a stranger at the gate, but my rabbi corrected me), by the Orthodox Rabbi (there being no other kind) in a non-Jewish service, however he got booted by his congregation for not winking at kashrut where they wanted him to wink. So all of a sudden we looked for other options. Since half of her family married Catholic already without issues, I thought maybe a real Catholic wedding would be an option. I was not in the least surprised at the chancery’s reaction, it being quite in line with the real face of post-conciliar “Catholicism”. The stinking, lying bastards had done it again.

    This blog too is quite in line with post-conciliar “Catholicism”, and your handlers have trained you quite well to identify anything else as “personal theology” — even when it is nothing more than what was taught and practiced by the Roman Catholic Church before the Revolution and the pogroms afterward.

    You once knew better than this.

  9. Christine says:


    Your post resonates with me because I, too, faced a similar situation. When I met my husband his first marriage, in the Catholic Church, was still the only one recognized by the Church. His former wife sought the divorce which was granted in civil court. She was a nondenominational Christian and did not convert after their marriage.

    At the time of our civil marriage I had no interest whatever in becoming Catholic so it was not an issue at the time. Ironically, when we were first married he asked if I would support his petition for annulment and I gave him a firm and resolute “No!”

    After we had been married for about twenty years I began to feel drawn to Catholicism and knowing all the personal details of my husband’s first marriage, suffice it to say that I believed he had good grounds for an annulment.

    We waited for not quite a year before the annulment was granted, and in that time I attended Mass faithfully without receiving Holy Communion in the hope that I would eventually be able to be received into full communion.

    I would have taken the same position you did if the annulment had not been granted.

    The fact remains that the Church calls on those Catholics who are divorced and remarried civilly to continue to participate in the life of the Church regardless. Divorce does not “undo” one’s baptism and the fruits of the Mass are there whether one receives Communion or not.

  10. Past Elder says:

    Just an aside — ironic, isn’t it, that here’s all these Roman hoops to jump through which they did, whereas I had the green light and chose not to participate in this false “Cstholicism”, here’s a Communion they long to take if they make it through the hoops whereas I am but a “good confession” away yet resolutely refuse to take Communion from a novus ordo heretic.

  11. Christine says:

    I’d gladly do it all over again. My hubby has always maintained that the Tribunal dealt far more compassionately with him than the divorce lawyers ever did. He felt like he got to tell his side of the story for once.

    I’m glad we entered a sacramental marriage.

  12. Schütz says:

    Christine, I think what PE and many of my protestant friends fail to understand is precisely that salvation lies in being prepared to place oneself under judgement in the faith that the one who judges is gracious. Surely, if it means anything at all, that is what “justification by grace through faith” means.

    Being Catholic (at least in part) means recognising that the Gracious Judge has given his authentic authority to his Church (Matt 28) to make judgements in his name. What others dismiss as “hoops to jump through”, we recognise as a spiritual path to walk. What others dismiss as authoritarianism, we recognise as the authority to of God’s gracious judgement.

    A simple analogy is when a person is accused of a crime, he has the the right to go before a judge and jury, to have his case investigated, and to have an authoritative pronouncement made. Modern media scandals not withstanding, the person who has stood trial and been aquitted may always, with full right, claim: I am innocent, and this is not I who say this, but the judge.

    I am not quite sure how I would proceed in life if I did not have this external reference before whom I could place my life for it to be judged. I could certainly never trust my own subjective judgement of myself.

    I do not justify myself. It is Another who justifies me, and He has chosen to make his judgements known through the voice of his Church.

  13. Past Elder says:

    Well, since you appear to want church on the same basis as state, then what better than to follow a state’s religion — especially when that state has long since passed into history and cannot harm you.

    And too, even if one were to accept your last paragraph without qualification, it remains a separate determination that “his Church” is the Roman Catholic Church.

    Nonetheless, I understand the point of view, having once held it myself but under something quite different than what you know as the Roman Catholic Church. And indeed, I understand it even better since what I knew as the Roman Catholic Church has passed into history too. The only possible way to accept what is now hawked as Roman Catholicism by the “Roman Catholic Church” is to simply refuse to see anything at all apart from the point of view that reality and truth are what Rome says.

  14. Christine says:

    we recognise as a spiritual path to walk. What others dismiss as authoritarianism, we recognise as the authority to of God’s gracious judgement.

    Yes indeed, David. Like all good mothers the Church is there with her spiritual treasures to support her children on their pilgrim journey.

    My Protestant friends are always puzzled by my position that I have found more spiritual freedom as a Catholic than I did as a Lutheran. And yet I can honestly say that I have left nothing behind that I found good and true in my Lutheran upbringing.

    I know you understand that fully.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Christine wrote:

    The fact remains that the Church calls on those Catholics who are divorced and remarried civilly to continue to participate in the life of the Church regardless. Divorce does not “undo” one’s baptism and the fruits of the Mass are there whether one receives Communion or not.

    But the question remains… are they also called to celibacy? The canon-law answer, as I read it, is “yes.” If so, then the Church is effectively saying, “To be re-admitted to Communion, you have a difficult path to follow, but it is the right path, and we will encourage you on it.” However, David and others have given eloquent testimony as to why life may not be that simple. If one concedes that there may be good reasons to continue in faithfulness to one’s current spouse, then the testimony becomes something like this: “Re-admission to Communion requires that you follow a difficult path. It may not even be the right path. However, whether it is the right path or not, you cannot commune unless you follow it.” This strikes me as disingenuous and spiteful.

  16. Christine says:

    But the question remains… are they also called to celibacy? The canon-law answer, as I read it, is “yes.” If so, then the Church is effectively saying, “To be re-admitted to Communion, you have a difficult path to follow, but it is the right path, and we will encourage you on it.”

    Yes, that’s the way I essentially read Canon law on this also.

    For persons such as David and myself, the question in many ways was moot. Both of us, while awaiting the annulment process to run its course refrained from receiving Communion and even when that was resolved we needed to enter into full communion with the Church before before we could receive. Just having a valid marriage was not enough.

    For those baptized Catholics who have entered into a valid sacramental marriage and subsequently divorced and remarried it does present a tremendous challenge. But I don’t see the Church’s position as either spiteful or disingenuous.

    The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is a bearer of grace for Catholics.

  17. Past Elder says:

    These are ultimately not questions about the Roman Church’s marriage laws, but about the Roman Church itself.

    If it is indeed the authoritative voice of God on earth, then it is simply saying that you may not live with a person as spouse until we determine (and it is we who determine such things) whether that person is indeed your spouse.

    So the question is, not whether the church is right about marriage, but whether it is right about who and what it is at all.

    Fortunately, since it is nothing more than the gross religious baggage of the Roman Empire anachronistically carrying on, what it says has no meaning or import at all, on marriage or on anything else.

    Which is not to say everything they say is false: even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, and broken watch has the right time once a day (or twice, if set to military time like mine). But that is by accident rather than purpose.

  18. Past Elder says:

    Whoops, that’s twice a day, or once if set to military time like mine — which is actually 12 hour time on its analogue face and 24 hour on its digital readout. That “I know what you mean and will correct it” function in Vista just doesn’t work~

  19. Christine says:

    Ah, Past Elder (for whom I still have personal high regard!) proving again that ex-Catholics are the only ones who have the compulsion to hang around the edge of the Catholic Church long after they have departed her.

  20. Past Elder says:

    Ah, Die Christine, proving once again that post-conciliar “Catholics” address not the argument but the man, since if the argument does not support Rome, the man must be nuts.

    So again, hanging around the edge or any part of the miserable charade that now calls itself the Catholic Church is something I do only when unavoidable — like a baptism, marriage, or funeral — and then requires spiritual Pepto-Bismol to endure.

    I “hang around” this blog because it is authored by, and frequented by, Lutherans who ought to know better anyway but appear to have fallen for the lie that the Church of Vatican II is the Roman Catholic Church you think you have found.

    If I wanted to hang around a Catholic blog and pick a fight, I’d go to Dave Armstrong’s (whom I rather like, btw)!

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