Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Sins and Consequences

Father Ignatius often attended the questions and answers sessions organized by one of the parishioners to encourage members of the congregation to learn more about their Faith.

At one of these sessions the conversation turned to sin and the consequences of sin.

Father Ignatius explained:

“Jesus recognized our sinful nature when the Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. Of course, she had sinned. But what Jesus had to say about the situation was more significant than the sin she had committed.

"Jesus knew full well that according to the law of the time she had to be stoned to death. The law is the law and who is He to disobey it and encourage others to do so?

"Jesus was of course no stranger to challenges like these from His enemies. They wanted an opportunity to trap Him into disobeying the law and a reason to arrest Him. On a different occasion He was challenged into healing a sick man on the Sabbath and disobey the law. But Jesus saw beyond the law. His love and compassion for the man was reason enough to heal him there and then, even if it meant disobeying the law. Jesus asked whether any of them would leave their wounded animal to suffer on the Sabbath because the law did not allow them to work.
"Christ's enemies lived by the law written by their ancestors. An un-bendable un-shakeable law to be obeyed at all costs.

"But He believed in love, compassion and mercy. He was love. He came into this world because of love to redeem us and reconcile us with God our loving Creator.

"No doubt, seeing this sinful woman at His feet, Jesus remembered His mother who years previously would have been accused of a similar sin. Here was a young woman, un-married and pregnant and deserving punishment from society. What is worse, she claims that her pregnancy is Divine and she is carrying the Son of God. Blasphemy at the very least and deserving punishment according to the law.

"The law is the law ..." repeated Father Ignatius.

Then he continued in his gentle voice.

"So what is Jesus to do? Did He pick up a stone to obey the law?
"He challenged her accusers to throw the first stone if they had not sinned themselves in one way or another.

“In doing so, He pointed the finger at us to remind us that we too are sinners, in need of confession, forgiveness and redemption from our sins. There’s a veiled hint there of what He will go through for us. His arrest, false trial, torture and Crucifixion just to redeem our sins. All done because of love for us ... not love for the law.

“And when all the accusers left the scene, Christ forgave the woman and told her to sin no more.

“Sadly, in this world, forgiveness is rarely given without a price to pay. There’s often the demand for a punishment, retribution and revenge."And there's also the hidden price of sin. For every sin there is a victim who suffers the consequences."

Father Ignatius stopped again to allow his words to sink in.

“Christ never said that sin does not have any consequences. Whilst we may seek and obtain God's forgiveness the consequences of our sins are very real for others to bear and suffer.”

At this point someone asked why when someone sins God allows others to suffer the consequences; for instance when infidelity results in divorce and suffering for the innocent spouse and children. Surely consequences should befall the sinner not other victims.

The priest cleaned his glasses from imaginary dirt; a trick which he had perfected to gain him more thinking time.

“I’m not going to second-guess God and His reasonings,” he replied. “As I said just now, most often our sins have consequences not only to us but also onto others. Perhaps we should bear that in mind when we decide to sin.

“A few years ago a young lady came to see me with a problem. About a year after marrying another Catholic she discovered that he had been married before and had been divorced. He had kept that secret from her.

“She quite rightly felt totally betrayed and could no longer live with him. Yet at the same time she knew that Christ taught against divorce; and said that anyone who divorces and marries again commits adultery.

“In any case, she felt that by forgiving her husband, if that were at all possible, and remaining with him, she would be guilty of helping him commit adultery against his previous wife.

“What was she to do? She could hardly be expected to remain married to him. A catch-22 if ever there was one.

"And let us not forget the law ..." smiled Father Ignatius.

"The law is the law ..." he continued, "the law is clear about divorce and adultery. The Church is very clear about that!"

“Gosh,” said a parishioner, “what did you do?”

“Well, I passed the problem to the boss” chuckled Father Ignatius.

“Two bosses actually. First I asked God to help in prayer.

"Then I discussed the matter with the bishop. Eventually, after a lot of consideration on the part of the Church, we allowed an annulment of the marriage. We saw our way around the law ... annulments are a means for the Church to deal with very real human situations.”

“So, you ignored Christ’s teaching and divorced them all the same,” challenged a questioner.

“I can see what you’re saying; but we priests are humans just like you, and there are times when we have to consider the realities of life and try to resolve a dilemma as best we can.

"Not unlike Solomon, we are often called upon to walk a very thin line between the teachings of God's law and Church law and the very human situations you bring to us to help resolve.

“The wages of sin may well be death; but they’re also a cause of major headache to us priests everywhere, as well as having serious consequences to the innocent victims left in sin's wake! So think on before you sin.” concluded Father Ignatius with a laugh.


  1. Wow! I really like this.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you Madeleine.

    Quite often we sin and seek forgiveness.

    Yet the consequences of sin are still there.

    God bless.

  3. Victor,

    This isn't right. Jesus did not break the Law of Moses here because the man wasn't brought to be tried along with the woman. The conditions for a lawful trial weren't met.

    Fr. Ignatius is playing God and encouraging people to disobey Church teachings which are actually in place to protect our immortal souls. As far as they can, they protect on a practical scale, too, but the priest has pastoral powers which he can exercise without breaking the seal of Confession.

    Victor, Church Law and God's Law are one and the same. The bible tells us that Jesus abided by the law, even when His Divine nature made it unnecessary.

    Fr. Ignatius is drawing power from within himself instead of drawing his power from God and he needs to be really careful because the consequences of turning souls away from the truth are far greater than the physical, earthly consequences of sin.

    Victor, if I didn't value our friendship, I would probably have passed by without commenting, but this is going outside oforthodox Catholicism into a modern spirituality where the power is invested inside of us instead of God. It's a serious step to take.

    God bless, my fiend:-)

    1. Vicky we appear to be at cross-purposes.

      The gist of this story is that Jesus is love, and being so, He was prepared, when appropriate, to disregard the law (such as working on the Sabbath) and act lovingly towards the people He met.

      At no point in the story do I mention the seal of Confession or does Fr Ignatius encourage people to disobey the Church's law.

      The story is about sin and the consequences of sin. Like in the very true example (based on fact) of the young lady who married a Catholic who was previously married and divorced.

      Here the Church had to decide on Christ's teachings on divorce and the reality of the situation. In that particular case the Church acted wisely.

      I've re-read the article and cannot see where Fr I. is drawing power from within himself.

      Similarly, I cannot see where the story is outside Orthodox teaching.

      No where does the story imply that power is invested in us instead of in God.

      God bless.

    2. I'm sorry, Victor. I must have confused what you were saying with your previous post. If Fr. Ignatius is abiding by Church law, then of course, there's no problem. If he's bending the law to deal with true realities of life, then I don't think the story about Jesus and the adulterous woman supports that.

      I don't know what you mean by a thin line between God's law and Church law. In orthodox Catholicism, they're the same,
      God bless:-)

    3. Hi Vicky,

      I've never known Fr Ignatius not abiding by Church law. I'm sure the Bishop would have something to say if he did. As well as God of course.

      By thin line I mean: Christ said clearly that if a man divorces and re-marries he commits adultery. The woman he marries also commits adultery by partaking in his sin.

      The Church, (as I've been told by a priest), has to consider the realities of life. The Church realises that many marriages break down for a variety of reasons. By insisting on "No re-marriage and no sex" they would undoubtedly drive people away from the Faith. The Church thus has instituted annulments. They are not Biblical in any sense; and are not to my knowledge mentioned in the Bible.

      The Catholic teachings on marriage are very complex.

      Did you know for instance that if a Catholic man marries a non-Catholic woman in a non-Catholic church (e.g. Anglican) and subsequently divorces her; he can re-marry in a Catholic Church another Catholic woman because the Church does not consider the previous marriage to have taken place. So ... no need for annulment.

      However, if in the Anglican marriage a Catholic priest was in attendance; i.e. as a guest, then the Church considers a marriage has taken place; even though it was not in a Catholic church. And an annulment is required.

      This can prove very difficult if the other non-Catholic party has moved away and has no intention in assisting in the annulment tribunal. This effectively can condemn the Catholic person to never being able to re-marry; unless he just gives up on his Catholic Faith.

      I know that from experience of a case I have seen.

      God bless.

    4. Here's a link regarding my previous comment.


      See answer to this question:

      I am a divorced Catholic who originally married a non-Catholic; he committed adultery and wanted a divorce. Could I remarry in a Catholic church as I have read that the Church would not consider the marriage a sacrament, as he was a non-Catholic?

    5. I've known a similar case, Victor. It's a test of faith to accept the Church's decision, isn't it?

      My understanding is that annulment is only possible if the marriage was deemed invalid. Otherwise, the separated Catholic cannot re-marry. It would take faith and God's grace to accept this situation but I personally believe it's possible, despite the suffering. The pain of losing God due to disobedience would be infinitely worse and there's sweetness in sacrifice. I know this to be true.

      You've started some very interesting discussions, Victor! It reminds me of when I converted. We dealt with these issues, then, and I had no loyalty to the Church, at all. But, my conversion changed my life. There's still suffering but I would suffer any earthly pain rather than lose what I've gained.

      God bless you, Victor:-)

    6. Victor,

      You've given me a lot to think about!

      The example of breaking the Sabbath doesn't support the argument, either. Jesus didn't break this law. He upheld the Sabbath and merely reinterpreted the Phariisees' legalistic application of it.

      The bible points to Jesus and Mary strictly abiding by law, even when it seemed to make no sense.

      God bless:-)

    7. Vicky, I do not know how to reply about suffering but to give real life examples.

      There's a case of a Catholic woman marrying a non-Catholic and then divorcing through his infidelity. The annulment took years to resolve, and has not been resolved, due to his abandonment. He just cannot be found.

      She is getting older every day. She cannot re-marry, she cannot start a family, she cannot find happiness again until the Church, in its delays, resolves the situation.

      Does God really approve of this suffering of an innocent victim?

      Does God really want to condemn this woman to never experiencing love again, and never having a family? Her age is for ever against her and a decision from the Church seems for ever un-available.

      I respect your loyalty to the Church Vicky, but I feel there are times, like in this very real case, where the Church's actions (or lack of them) strecth loyalty to breaking point.

      I'm certain that God does not want this lady to be so tested as to loose her Faith in the Catholic Church.

      God bless.

    8. Victor,

      How do we know what God wants? His ways are not our ways and we're playing God to say that we're sure God wouldn't want this or that. Surely, God doesn't want earthquakes, either, but He still sends them. How can that be explained by a God who doesn't want us to endure suffering?

      The only thing we can be certain of is the truth which is given to us by the Church. We can't make presumptions about what Jesus or God would want. But, we can offer up our sufferings and there's value in that and it can be done - and I don't speak without substance here.

      Please consider this, Victor, because I sense that it's really important.

      God bless:-)

    9. Vicky,

      "How do we know what God wants?"

      I presume, from the Church's teaching, that God wants to love us and for us to love Him back.

      Are you saying that the woman I mentioned above should not re-marry and should not experience motherhood because the Church is delaying a decision on her annulment?

      Are you saying that if she eventually leaves the Catholic Church (which is a distinct possibility) and becomes Anglican, or whatever, and re-marries then she will spend eternity in hell?

      Are you saying that all non-Catholics who divorce and re-marry are destined for hell?

      Is suffering the prerogative of Catholics alone; and loyalty to the Catholic Church is important above all else?

      This woman I speak of cannot wait much longer for the Church to decide on her annulment, or not. As I said, the husband cannot be found. He may well be dead or happily married in another country.

      "How do we know what God wants?"

      We may not know, but I'm certain His love does not condemn her to this situation for the sake of loyalty to the Church.

      God above all else is for people; not institutions.

      God bless.

    10. The Catholic Church is a hierarchy, Victor. As such, we accept the teachings of the Church. The Church contains the Truth to protect us from our fallible human opinions.

      Only God knows who will be condemned. I wouldn't presume to pass such a judgement on anyone.

      Maybe, God does intend the woman to remain single. I agree it would be a great suffering but how can we presume our self-will to be superior, merely because it involves less perceived suffering. Only God knows the bigger picture.

      Victor, you presume to know what God would want and your last comment presumes (wrongly) to know what I'm thinking. All I'm saying is that Jesus' Church contains rules for the well-being of our immortal souls and there are instances where we may have to accept suffering (regardless of what denomination we belong to).

      Do you think we have a God-given right to happiness in this life? Maybe, this is where we differ. I believe our earthly goal is Heaven and, yes, a loving God wants our happiness but, at times, He allows great suffering. None of us are entitled to something just because we desire it - even, the woman who wants to marry and have children. All that we have comes from God and we're not entitled to demand children, marriage or any other thing that we believe will advance our happiness if it's not in accordance with God's will. I've never been taught that in the Quaker, Anglican or Catholic faiths.

      Being deprived of our desires is not proof against a loving God. As I said, God's ways are different to our own.

      God bless:-)

    11. Victor,

      I think I worded that last comment very badly and I apologise. It's sounds rude but I don't mean it rudely. Loyalty to the Church and friendship is my only reason for debating the point.

      God bless:-)

    12. Vicky I've re-read what I wrote and I can't find where I have presumed, (wrongly) to know what you're thinking. If I seem to have done so, I apologise.

      I think fundamentaly, we disagree on your first paragraph. You say: "The Church contains the Truth to protect us from our fallible human opinions."

      I disagree. I believe the Truth is Christ; and the Church has been proven several times over the centuries to be wrong.

      In the case of the lady that I know; it is wrong in my eyes, and I believe in God's eyes, for the Church to take so long to decide on her annulment.

      She is innocent here. Her husband was unfaithful, he abandonned her and cannot be found.

      To keep her waiting and deny her new love, marriage and motherhood is wrong. A wrong at the hands of man (the Church hierarchy) not at the hands of God. It is not God who is delaying in deciding her annulment. Had she done any wrong (in divorcing her husband) and had she repented to God (which she has) God would have forgiven her long ago.

      Was she expected to remain loyal to her marriage despite the man's continuous adultery and abandonment?

      For the Church to imply that if she found new love (which she has) and if she consummated this love before their say so (i.e. by approving annulment) would be adultery and possibly eternity in hell; is also wrong.

      Effectively, the Church is saying here "we work at our own pace and if you find love in the meantime you're condemned".

      Effectively, the Church is also saying "our Catholic way is right, and all non-Catholic ways are wrong". Or to put it another way, "Heaven is for Catholics only".

      That's what our Church implies when a hierarchy is put in charge of very human problems and at times solves them quickly (annulment takes three months) and at other times it delays for ever.

      Our Church (for I consider myself a Catholic) is often wrong. For it is wrong to say that if you marry in a non-Catholic Church, or a civil Registry Office, and you subsequently divorce, you can re-marry in a Catholic Church, for WE (the hierarchy) do not recognise that the previous marriage took place. God may well consider a marriage in an Anglican Church as valid; but WE (the Catholic Church) do not!

      It is equally absurd and wrong for the Church to imply that if a Catholic priest attended and witnessed the Anglican (or Registry Office) marriage as a guest, then the marriage is recognised; and the divorced person cannot re-marry.

      Efectively, the Church is saying WE (the hierarchy) decide when a marriage is a marriage. Not God, not other Churches with equally devout Christians, not the State, but WE, the Catholic Church.

      Vicky, I have known excommunication in a case where a man married a divorced Catholic. Admittedly this happened years ago, but it was wrong then and it would be wrong now.

      Do I tell my lady friend she should have married in a Registry Office or an Anglican Church and all would have been OK now?

      Or do I tell her to accept the fact that she may never have children because "none of us are entitled to something just because we desire it".

      If I were in her place I would have left the Catholic Church long ago.

      If that makes me a bad Catholic, or a bad Christian, then I'll stand condemned in the eyes of a loving merciful God, and not by a heirarchy made up of men who presume to be always right.

      God bless.

  4. You bring up complicated issues, Victor. God's mercy outweighs his justice but without justice there could be no mercy. They are two sides of the same coin (at least I gave you one coin instead of two this time...lol). How can there be mercy without justice? So, I agree the consequences of our sins remain and we make reparation for them as best we can. The rest we place in God's hands because reparation is not always possible.

    Good outweighs evil, right? So the many loving things we do have a lot of weight with God.

    Of course, we are looking at things through human eyes, God's eyes are a lot clearer. The men who were going to stone the woman could not see into the woman's heart but Jesus could. He knew the transforming power of grace and mercy but the men knew only the law without mercy. It was only one side of the coin.

    God bless!

    1. Mary you are so right in what you say.

      God's love and mercy outweigh all evil that man creates though his sin. The consequences of our sins remain, as you say; although in often cases we make no attempt at reparation. How many cases do I know where sin has been committed and the sinner moves on leaving permanent hurt and pain for the victim in his wake.

      I value your wisdom.

      God bless.

  5. Ah, Victor, I wrote fiend instead of friend! I do it on purpose with Scary because we all know how fiendish she is;-) but, in this case, it was a genuine mistake - really!

    God bless, my fRiend:-)

  6. Annulments do not equal divorce as one of your characters implied. A valid marriage remains until one spouse dies, even if they separate. The marriage vows cannot be broken.

    When the Church examines a situation, the tribunal decides from testimony whether a sacramental contract ever occurred when the vows were pronounced. A lot of people seem to confuse a civil divorce and a Church annulment. If the evidence shows that there was some defect in form or person at the time of the vows, the Church declares that no sacramental marriage took place. That's not the same as divorce.

    A friend claimed she got an annulment from her pastor, but when I questioned her, it was the diocesan tribunal that declared her marriage null (based on written testimony) and its decision was upheld, as the complete process goes, in Rome where the papers reside with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith if I'm not mistaken.

    In your story, the woman received an annulment because her then husband was not in a position to contract a second marriage as it was implied in your story that his first marriage was valid.

    I don't see the story the way Vicky does. But it is possible to infer that Father Ignatius made one of those famous "pastoral" decisions when he actually followed the rules. Diocesan tribunals all serve under the bishop. It probably would have worked better to have woven the tribunal into the story.

    My friend's case was cut and dried and only took a couple of months to rule on, but others may be more complicated and take longer. The other party can also appeal the tribunal decision all the way to Rome as Sheila Kennedy did in the famous case of her husband, Joe, divorcing her and getting their marriage annulled in the 1990s. She wrote about it in "Shattered Faith."

    The saddest cases, as in this story, are the ones where one spouse entered into vows with total sincerity and the other didn't.

    1. Thank you Barb for taking the time to write so fully.

      I understand that annulments do not equal divorce. I'm a little unclear about your second and third sentences. Can a person whose marriage has been annulled not be able to marry again? I understood that they can, and have known it to happen.

      I agree with your second, third and fourth paragraphs.

      You're right, perhaps I should have mentioned the tribunal in the story. It was already getting too long so I just said "the bishop".

      As you say, sadly some annulments hearings do take a long time to resolve; with very real consequences for the innocent party caught in the wake of the other's sin.

      I know of a case where an annulment took years to resolve and the innocent woman could not re-marry or start a family in a situation where she was getting progressively older.

      Thank you Barb. God bless.

    2. Victor, my second and third sentences refer to people validly married. Anyone with a decree of nullity is free to marry in the Church.

      BTW, Rome upheld Sheila Kennedy's appeal and reversed the Boston tribunal's decree of nullity so Joe Kennedy will never be able to have his current marriage blessed in the Catholic Church unless she dies. This is a very rare occurrence, but I'm glad Sheila Kennedy pursued her case all the way to the Roman Rota.

    3. Thank you Barbara for taking the time to explain and clarify the situation. I am grateful for your expertise on this subject.

      As you said earlier, some annulments can take a few months, whilst others take much longer to resolve.

      God bless you Barbara.

  7. Great story about the spirit of the law vs. the letter of the law. Jesus came precisely to infuse love into our laws as well as every other aspect of our lives. The church has a sometimes difficult job of upholding the law but with love and compassion as Jesus would have. Great food for thought here and of course the point should be shouted from the rooftops. Most of our 'relativist thinking' society believes they can do whatever they want as long as it doesn't bother anyone else. Such is the lure of the evil one into sin - but our sins hurt - ourselves and others - always.

    Good post!

    1. Thank You Godversations for the points you make so well.

      So often we sin without considering the consequences and hurt which our sins cause others for years on end.

      God bless you Karen.

  8. Well written post and one that call one to reflection. Calls us to more understanding in compassion and mercy. Thank you! Cathy

    1. Thank you Cathy for your continuing support.

      I have found this post very difficult to write because it is based on true cases and true people who continue to suffer.

      God bless you Cathy.

  9. sin effects the while world...but so does grace!!



God bless you.

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