Today, entire bishops' Conferences appear to be telling people that living according to God’s law is impossible for Catholics in so-called irregular unions. I say ‘appear’ to be telling people this, but if they don’t really mean this, should they not then clear up the confusion?
The answer to that question seems obvious enough. Less obvious, however, is the answer to the question: How did things come to this? How could it have come about that vast numbers of Catholics — from ordinary faithful to bishops, cardinals, and even the pope — should feel it possible, and apparently praiseworthy, to render systematically unclear, if not explicitly to deny, the seriousness of fundamental moral principles, like the Sixth Commandment – Thou shall not commit adultery?
It has never been part of the Church’s teaching or pastoral practice to ignore the difficulties faced by sinners in changing their lives. Among the greatest saints, we find those who went through the most painful processes of conversion, such as St. Mary Magdalen, St. Mary of Egypt, and St. Augustine of Hippo: in modern times we find the example of Alessandro Serenelli, the murderer of St Maria Goretti, among many others. Humanly, what they did would seem impossible, but Christ tells us, speaking of the difficulties some have in reaching heaven: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
The Church exists, in fact, to make available the means which God has provided to make the impossible possible. What Christ was able to do for St. Mary Magdalen, to stimulate her repentance and to cleanse her from her sins, is available in the Church today. The hearts of sinners can be reached by the example of the saints, by grace flowing from the liturgy, by preaching, by means of sacramental confession and absolution. All of these are a means to cleansing the human heart of the heaviest sins and restore it to friendship with God.