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“Ask a Priest: Is Blessing a Live-in Arrangement OK?”
Q: Someone was married in the Catholic Church. She then got divorced and never got an annulment. They remarried in a civil service, raised their children Catholic, participated in the church and the entire Mass. She was then widowed and now wanted to marry again. She cannot get remarried in the Church. Her estate planner has advised that with the age of the two of them, that they should not get married. Even with a very modest estate the mingling of assets could get complicated. They did move in together and their parish priest said it was fine, and he gave them a pastoral blessing which is supposed to make this all OK. My question is, is this right? How do we possibly teach our children (young or grown) about chastity without help from the Church? -K.C.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: If what you describe is accurate, it sounds as if the widow has received faulty advice, though for different reasons, both from the estate planner and from the priest. Ideally the widow should be concerned about her relationship with God — which is the best estate planning anyone can do. Living together with a man who is not her husband puts her soul at risk.
Certainly the blessing of such an irregular domestic situation is not Church teaching. In an October 2013 article “Testimony to the Power of Grace: On the Indissolubility of Marriage and the Debate Concerning the Civilly Remarried and the Sacraments,” the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, wrote:
“Blessings of irregular unions are to be avoided, ‘lest confusion arise among the faithful concerning the value of marriage.’ A blessing (bene-dictio: divine sanctioning) of a relationship that contradicts the will of God is a contradiction in terms.”
(The full article, well worth a read, can be found here.)
From what you describe, it sounds as if the woman was living under misguided notions for quite some time. If she civilly remarried without an annulment, then she should not have been receiving Communion — if I understand you correctly when you write that she “participated … in the entire Mass.”
As for the priest you mention, I would urge caution here. How did you learn about this “blessing”? Was it firsthand information, or hearsay? It is not good to pass on a negative story about someone based on hearsay.
But what if the scenario you relate is true, what could you do about it?
One step would be to pray for the woman, that she see the light of true Church teaching on marriage and live it. Second would be to pray for the priest, that he too see the light.
Third would be to see how you can promote authentic Church teaching on marriage. Maybe you look into programs that promote study of theology of the body or promote better marriage preparation in your area.
How to do this in practical terms is a big challenge; perhaps there is something afoot in your diocese that you could support somehow. The key thing is to focus on lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness.