Friday 12th May, 2000

I have found this day exhausting. I think this whole business is getting on top of me. This morning I rang Fr D. to find out the outcome of his meeting with the Vicar-General. Basically two things:

  • There is no preset way of accepting ministers of other denominations in the Melbourne diocese because it happens so rarely

  • I need an annulment

When I asked about Cathy’s marriage, Fr D. began by saying she would need an annulment also, but when I pointed out that there was a good chance that her first husband had not been a baptised Christian at the time of their marriage, he said that this would be a very simple matter of Cathy being interviewed (probably by himself) and presenting the facts. If in fact, Her first husband had been an apostate at the time of their marriage, then that would allow Cathy to invoke what is know as the “Pauline privilege” (1 Cor 7:15), which would mean that her marriage was not a “sacramental marriage” and she is free to enter a properly sacramental marriage.

This is all a little overwhelming for me and is causing me a great deal of angst. It made me hard to continue my reading today. However, I did complete Called to Communion, and found more passages in it that were helpful both for me as a pastor, and to encourage me to enter the Catholic Church.

The difficult passages that really addressed me where I am at the moment are as follows (toward the end):

“Here we touch upon a very important point. A world-view that is incapable of giving even pain meaning and value is good for nothing. It falls short precisely at the hour of the most serious crisis of existence...”

“Perhaps we are now a little better able to comprehend what a turnabout faith entails--to grasp the re-versal, the con-version that it contains: I acknowledge that God himself speaks and acts; I recognise the existence not only of what is ours but also of what is his. But if this is true, if we are not the only ones who choose and act, but he too speaks and acts, then everything changes. Then I must obey, then I must follow him, even when he leads me where I do not wish to go (Jn 21:18). Then it becomes reasonable, indeed, necessary, to let go of my own taste, to renounce my own wishes and to follow after him who alone can show the way to true life, because he himself is the life (Jn 14:6). This is what Paul means by the cruciform character of discipleship, which he underlines at the conclusion of the reading as the answer to the Corinthian party system (10:17): I abandon my taste and submit myself to him. But it is in this very way that I am set free, because the real slavery is imprisonment in the circle of our own wishes.”

“Only the unity of the Church’s faith and her authority, which is binding on each member, assures us that we are not following human opinions and adhering to self-made party groupings but that we belong to the Lord and are obeying him.”

I am certainly feeling pain at the moment. I feel as if there are conflicting notes and themes in my soul and I cannot make them harmonise. So the chords that are playing are very discordant and they are in a minor key.

So, where have I arrived?

I have debated several courses of action, but this is where I am at the moment.

  1. I am thoroughly committed to my marriage to Cathy. Nothing will convince me that this is not a real marriage in the sight of God, with all the attendant obligations of love and faithfulness (our marriage text was “Let love and faithfulness never leave you...” Prov 3:3). Even if, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, our marriage is not a proper sacramental marriage, yet I have personally committed myself to Cathy before God, the community, and the state. I cannot, and I will not, abandon these vows. I have done that once. Two wrongs don’t make a right. It would be evil--unjust and unloving for me to renege on my relationship with Cathy. I will not do it. I do not refuse it for my sake, but for Cathy’s sake and for Madeline’s sake and for the sake of our unborn child. It would be selfish if for the sake of my own conscience I were to deny my marriage to Cathy. Even if it true that I have sinned in taking another wife, it is a sin I just have to live with before God. But, on the contrary, I live each day in overwhelming thankfulness for the blessings God has shown me in gifting me with a wife and family.

  2. Given that my marriage with my first wife is ended, on both sides, I see no reason why I should not apply for an annulment. If it is possible that such an annulment may be granted, then this is well and good. In such a case, I will then proceed to ask Cathy to follow up information regarding the state of her marriage. I feel the obligation is on me first to achieve an annulment of my first marriage, for if this is unsuccessful, it will save Cathy the bother of doing something she is loath to do in any case. On the other hand, if I can get an annulment, then it will be worth trying. I did not ask Fr D. what the outcome would be if I received an annulment, but if Cathy’s marriage was not declared either a non-sacramental marriage or annulled.

  3. If I cannot get an annulment, I will then seriously reconsider my decision to become a Roman Catholic. This is not because I want to hold onto my own opinion. Rather it is because I could not honestly put myself under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, and then live openly in contradiction to its teachings. This would be a contradiction of the very reason why I desired to become a Catholic in the first place.

  4. At the same time, I could not be a Catholic and never take communion. The irony here is that I have come to strongly distrust the reality of the Lutheran claim to have the true Mass. This is one of the clashing themes in my soul. Other clashing themes are, as has been said, that I either belong to a church that authoritatively condemns my marriage, or a church which condones it with no authority; that I either belong to a church where I can serve as an ordained minister, but where I have come to doubt the authority of that ministry, or I belong to a church whose ministry I do not question, but which I could not share.
So, I will try for an annulment of my first marriage and take it from there. I spent a couple of hours today gathering together my thoughts that I could present in an initial meeting with the tribunal. (Fr D. said that I may need to provide a couple of “witnesses”--God knows who--but that my first wife need not be involved directly). If an annulment is not possible, and if there is no other recourse that would enable me to enter full communion with the Catholic church (no point in disobedience here--it is precisely because I want to obey that I have even contemplated this step), then I will see this as God’s direction that I should not pursue the issue any further. I will accept that the call I currently have to live as an evangelical catholic in the Lutheran Church, and to serve the Lutheran Church in my capacity as a pastor, is the true and valid call of God.

The upshot of all my decisions is that even if this all ends up going nowhere, it was something I had to consider. I had to revisit the issue, to know if the constant nagging I have had regarding whether I should enter the Catholic church will have finally been resolved. Also, it will direct my future ministry in the Lutheran church, because I have finally acknowledged that I can only be a Lutheran in so far as the Lutheran Church adheres to the Catholic faith. I will have to work that through more thoroughly--I don’t think that will be an easy task either, especially as I continue to see such an abuse of the gift of authority in our church.

Next thing to do: Talk to my spiritual director . After that: Apply for the annulment and undergo the initial interview.

Deus in adjutorioum meum intende. Amen.

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