“Ask a Priest: Married Twice, Pro-choice and Pro-‘Gay Marriage’ – Can I Be a Faithful Catholic?”

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Q:  I was born and baptized into Catholicism. I attended catechism classes around age 12 or so, but I was never confirmed. I have been away from the Church ever since. I have questions about returning. Can you help? 1) My first marriage was in a Presbyterian church. We divorced years ago. My second marriage was given by a non-denominational pastor. How would this affect my ability to receive sacraments and other parts of the Church? What if my wife chooses not to convert to Catholicism or attend church? 2) Abortion is unfortunate, and I wish there was never the need for another one. More importantly, I wish that the rapes, incest and domestic violence behind many unwanted pregnancies would stop. I have talked with many victims and I understand their pain. I am willing to help someone in crisis, but it is not my place to judge their decision to have an abortion. Therefore, I cannot agree that abortion should be illegal. Can I have that belief and still be a faithful Catholic? 3) It is not for me to judge what consenting adults do in their bedroom. Love is love. I believe homosexuals should be allowed to marry. That does not mean that I believe any church or representative should be forced to perform the marriage. Again, can I have this belief and still be a faithful Catholic? I have more questions, but those are the three big ones for now. Thank you for your help. – Steve

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It sounds as though the Holy Spirit is at work trying to nudge you back to the practice of your Catholic faith. This would be a great grace.

Let’s turn to your questions.

In theory the issue of your marriages could be dealt with, possibly relatively easily.

The first marriage would need a decree of nullity (an “annulment”), which shouldn’t be complicated, since it lacked what is known as canonical form. Then, your second marriage would need to be convalidated (“blessed”). This is assuming that your partner wasn’t married before. She wouldn’t have to convert to Catholicism for the marriage to be convalidated.

The other issues you raise are more problematic, however.

Abortion is the deliberate killing of an innocent human life and therefore is always an evil act to be avoided. Life comes from God, and it needs to be respected.

Women with difficult pregnancies, whatever the circumstances, need to be helped. There are two lives at stake here. And under no circumstance can an unborn child be deliberately put to death. Even a child who is the result of a rape cannot and should not be punished for the sins of its father.

A society whose laws fail to protect innocent lives is headed for ruin. This isn’t just a Catholic issue, this is a basic human issue of justice. Besides, countless women suffer deep psychological and sometimes physical wounds by abortion.

Woefully inadequate is the attitude that says, “I’m personally opposed, but I don’t want to push my beliefs on anyone.” In this case it amounts to saying, “I don’t believe we should protect unborn human life.”

Laws are about protecting rights, the most basic of which is the right to life. Without that one, all the other rights are meaningless. For a person to do nothing about stopping abortion could amount to a tacit defense of it. Is this honoring the Fifth Commandment?

As for same-sex relations: God created sex and he has a purpose for it. It is meant to be unitive and procreative within marriage. It reflects the complementarity of a man and a woman, and its fruitfulness is evident in the children who arise from acts of marital intimacy.

One doesn’t even need to resort to religious beliefs to defend the wisdom and goodness of marriage between a man and a woman. Just about every society throughout the history of the world (until now) has recognized the value of marriage.

Still, the Catholic Church certainly recognizes divine prerogatives behind the commands regarding marriage. That is why it cannot support same-sex unions. If two people of the same sex love each other, that is fine – they are called to do it in a chaste, non-sexual way.

Now, given that Church teachings about abortion and homosexual behavior are so basic to the healthy functioning of families and societies, and given that you don’t seem to be ready to accept these teachings, it might be a sign that you need to pause. You probably need to study these issues in depth to understand why the Church teaches what it does.

I don’t intend for any of this to sound harsh. It just doesn’t seem to make sense for someone to want to embrace Catholicism while rejecting some of its crucial teachings. It seems neither morally consistent or even intellectually coherent. If the Church is wrong on these issues, why should anyone of us believe in it?

What can happen is that a person who drifts from the practice of the faith and starts living a life outside of a state of grace can end up rejecting all kinds of Church teaching. Someone who doesn’t practice what he believes, ends up believing what he practices.

It might be good to ask who has the better chance of having a fuller grasp of the truth – you or I personally, or a 2,000-year-old Church to whom Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, who “will guide you to all truth”?

It might be good to speak with a priest directly about your situation. It might help to join an RCIA program (these are the classes for people who are considering coming back or coming into the Catholic Church) at a parish close to where you live and to see how things go.

The Spirit could be guiding you back to the Church. But you would want to do it correctly.

For more reading about abortion and other life issues, you might want to look at Evangelium Vitae.

For more reading about marriage, you might want to turn to Amoris Laetitia.

I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.

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