We ask you to join us in keeping Sante Fe Archbishop Michael Sheehan in your prayers as he faces criticism for taking a firm stand against cohabitation this past weekend. What Archbishop Sheehan did is simply speak the truth and provide the clear teaching on marriage, for which we at CCL thank him. He shows himself to be a true shepherd. We need leadership like this in all dioceses!
Archbishop Sheehan had a special letter read at every Mass last weekend that clearly and succinctly explained that those living in cohabitation situations should “do whatever they must do to make their lives pleasing to God.”
First of all, we ourselves must be firmly rooted in the Gospel teaching that, when it comes to sexual union, there are only two lifestyles acceptable to Jesus Christ for His disciples: a single life of chastity, or the union of man and woman in the Sacrament of Matrimony. There is no “third way” possible for a Christian. The Bible and the Church teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman and opposes same sex unions.
We have three groups of people who are living contrary to the Gospel teaching on marriage: those who cohabit; those who have a merely civil union with no previous marriage; and those who have a civil union who were married before. These people are objectively living in a state of mortal sin and may not receive Holy Communion. They are in great spiritual danger. At the best – and this is, sadly, often the case – they are ignorant of God’s plan for man and woman. At the worst, they are contemptuous of God’s commandments and His sacraments.
Of these three groups, the first two have no real excuse. They should marry in the Church or separate. Often their plea is that they “cannot afford a church wedding” i.e. the external trappings, or that “what difference does a piece of paper make?” – as if a sacramental covenant is nothing more than a piece of paper! Such statements show religious ignorance, or a lack of faith and awareness of the evil of sin.
The third group, those who were married before and married again outside the Church, can seek a marriage annulment and have their marriage blest in the Church. Please remember that divorce still is no reason to refrain from Holy Communion as long as they have not entered into another marriage or sinful relationship. Many Catholics are confused on this point.
The archbishop goes on to address six points to keep in mind and follow regarding individuals in these situations. Read the letter itself, and pray for Archbishop Sheehan and all leaders of the Church.