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More Voices from the Other Side: Divorce & Remarriage

This is a follow up post to a previous one focusing on “the other side” of divorce and upon those spouses who wanted to preserve their unions. The issue of Church censure, annulments and remarriage weigh heavily in the discussion. Here are a number of voices in dialogue about this important matter. The first respondent begins by remarking upon Karl’s charges against the last two popes for not doing enough.

FATHER LONE RANGER:

Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI are part of the problem? I do not think so. They have sought to address the problem of invalid annulments, but many canonists will not listen to them. The Holy Father has wanted to prevent scandal and so there is a great deal of communication that is never made privy to the general public. The issue is and was extensive dissent, not simply among ragtag theologians, but wholesale among bishops and chancery clergy.

Why does the problem remain? Liberal theologians are also often canonists and the same passivity that the Church exhibits towards politicians and morals is also revealed when facing distraught divorced people who want to erase a mistake and marry again. For all practical purposes, the Church is involved with a silent schism and the Pope knows that if he pushes too hard, the bulk of the American Church will defect, bishops and all. It will be England and Henry VIII revisited with a vengeance.

[At this point he offers a prayer for Karl.]

Dear God, we ask you to bring healing to Karl and justice to the cause that he feels so deeply. Easy divorce is a violation that attacks at the heart of the marriage bond. Vows are made and should be kept. Marriages are not ended by judicial decree or even by Church courts, but by the death of a spouse. Then and only then is a true marriage ended, and yet, even here, there is no end to the love that a husband and wife share. Bless Karl in his life, and watch over and protect his five children. The fruit of married love is real and everlasting (Holly, Mary, Margaret, Monica and Karl Michael). May the good Lord envelop Karl in his loving embrace and give him peace. Amen.

Sign the petition against No-Fault Divorce:
http://www.catholicmarriagepetition.org/index.htm

MARY:

Many of us have been abandoned by our spouses. Life is tough, Karl. But we are not living for joy & happiness on this earth. We are trying to get to HEAVEN …. There is justice after this life if not during. This is why we pray & pray for conversion in our unfaithful spouses so that their hearts will be softened and they return to Christ before their death and be able to obtain heaven. And we pray and pray for ourselves …for the grace to be faithful to God’s Law (especially that of living a chaste life, which is so very lonely) and the grace to imitate Christ in His meek carrying of His cross. And we pray for our children that their hearts not be hardened by the pain of loss they suffer or by being witnesses to bad example (most likely) from both parents.

No, Karl, life is not fair. I also lost a son in a car accident. Does this give me the right to rage against God at the injustice? To rage against others who have not lost children simple because they do not share this particular cross? …To ignore my surviving children, and my other duties because of my pain? My answer to these questions has been NO! You might be surprised how others answer these questions…peek in on a support group for bereaved parents, you may be shocked. As sad as these situations may be or should I say as sad as the sufferings we all face in life may be, we must be willing to do what we can to correct injustice on this earth without going against God’s Law (because the end never justifies the means). Then, we must accept our fate as God’s Will for us and continue to serve Him in love.

WI CATHOLIC:

Although I do not fight in the same way or anger as Karl does, I have to agree with him on nearly everything he has said about the lack of help/assistance for those of us who believe/KNOW that we ARE in a Valid Marriage no matter what a civil divorce court has said, or the world has said… OR Tribunals have said.

I have been told to “Trust the Holy Spirit” and petition the Tribunals, with the additional statements that the alcoholism is a clear indication of NULLITY, and would be adequate grounds to a Null Decision.

Point One: I do not believe alcoholism (sickness and heath, better or worse, good times and bad) are grounds for determining that our marriage was NULL on the day we appeared before God and Man and pledged our vows “all the days of my life.”

Point Two: I am not able to sign the basic forms that are needed to petition due to the fact that I must state that I believe my Marriage to have been Null from the beginning. I do NOT believe that.

Point Three: In a Church which teaches/has always taught that ALL marriages are VALID until proven beyond doubt that they were not, before a Tribunal, I cannot buy into the fact that the Tribunals are being led by the Holy Spirit when the first contact with Respondents is to call my spouse my “FORMER SPOUSE.” Sorry, but the Civil Law means nothing, and my spouse is still my spouse regardless of that decree. CIVILLY he may not be, but in my Church, he is! To me, and to many other faithful spouses who live their vows regardless of what MAN says, in obedience to what GOD says (Jesus Himself four times in the Gospel, as well as in Church teachings)–this is a slap in the face, and a clear indication where “the spirit” lies… and discernment can lead one to believe that it may well be a “false spirit of compassion” that rules the day in our US Tribunals that seems to favor those who destroy the marriage, often by adultery/divorce/civil marriage to the “lover”/and finally, a petition to annul the first marriage in favor of the second, which was based on adultery to begin with.

Point Four: Sites with an appealing name such as “Save Our Sacrament” are not pointed out to be dissident. “Internal Forum” is blatantly featured, in spite of the fact that it is NOT to be used for Marriage/Divorce, and no one in the hierarchy calls them on it publicly. No one preaches the Truth on Internal Forum in the local parishes where it is “taught” by priests, etc. It is allowed to stay online for years (as in St Anthony Messengers article by Fr John Catoir on the topic). THIS is SCANDAL.

http://www.saveoursacrament.org/

S.O.S. is a member of Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR).

http://www.cta-usa.org/COR.html#list

Yet, the very cry of most of us who do NOT want NULL verdicts, but the TRUTH of the VALIDITY of our marriages is corrupted by this website. What is promoted there is not saving the Sacrament. It is watering down Truth to fit society’s plunge into the Pit. It is, essentially, what Henry VIII said/taught after Rome refused to grant a NULL verdict about his marriage to Catherine of Arragon.

I do love my Church, and there is no place else I would go. I could not leave Him (The Eucharist) any more than I can quit my vows. To do so would be doing to HIM what my spouse did to ME so long ago— Desertion— forced unilateral divorce— attempting to say that something that EXISTS never really did in the first place.

Yet my Church, which used to defend those of us who remain faithful till death, vehemently, has done this to us by allowing the US Tribunals to grant so many NULL verdicts and to tell us that this is “right” and “true” and “spirit-led.”

If there is a schism here in the US, it will ONLY be VISIBLE evidence of what is already happening! “My people PERISH for lack of KNOWLEDGE!” …of TRUTH. Truth needs to be preached, and to be acted on, or “the spirit of compassion” (which I firmly believe is a False spirit) will continue to overtake Truth. While the Gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church—many of the members of that Church may end up on the other side of those very Gates.

In our situation, the civil wife KNOWS the Truth, and told our children that they (civil wife and my spouse) cannot go to Communion because according to the Church, they are living in sin—her words in the very beginning of that “marriage.”

Another in our family, an in-law, was told by her priest-friend that as long as SHE knew in her heart that the first marriage wasn’t valid, she could avoid the Tribunal and still receive Communion…and she does on the rare occasion she attends Mass.

No one refutes this from any pulpit in our area (and I would be willing to bet, in few nationally). In fact, I have heard only ONE sermon on Jesus’ words on divorce (I believe they show up once every three years in the Gospel readings of Sunday Mass, though it MAY be twice) in all the years since our separation in the early 80′s! And that was watered down….

Karl has very valid points. His anger is, in many ways, justified.

Too many are willing to compromise to “protect the feelings” of those in the pews who may need to hear Truth in order to save their very souls. It is Truth that sets us free, not compromise, not justifying Sin and condoning it with an official “verdict” that is based on today’s psychiatric diagnoses.
His People Perish for Lack of Knowledge… and Hell is for Eternity.

FATHER JOE:

The bit about “sickness and heath, better or worse, good times and bad” are not in reference to things that would invalidate a marriage in the present. If you become a drunk after you are married, there are no grounds for invalidation. If you develop psychosis after marriage, you are still married. If a man has a fishing accident with a hook while on honeymoon and castrates himself, as long as there has been a consummation, he is truly married. But, if any of these things happen prior to the marriage day, then the couple is out of luck. Annulments are granted because people conceal problems from the priest and sometimes try to do so even from themselves. An annulment means they should NEVER have gotten married in the first place and that the sacrament or natural bond is not really present. There is a legal union (both in the Church and in civil society) and for that reason children remain legitimate even after an annulment.

Alcoholism can vary by degrees; however, a person who is grossly incapable of dealing with his own life can hardly make a marital commitment to another. Like paralysis, certain maladies can make the fulfillment of marital duties impossible or highly improbable. If such is the case before the vows are taken and on the appointed day for a marriage, the bond could indeed be invalidated. Indeed, if priests are aware of a problem like alcoholism, we are forbidden to marry the couple. I ask about addictions and diseases prior to witnessing marriages. If they lie to me that deceit can also invalidate the marriage. People have a natural right to marriage, but some like me freely renounce that right and others are incapable of it because of either faulty intention, dishonesty, impotence, addiction, hatred (rejection) of children, physical incapacitation, sexual corruption, or mental aberration.

A person who is HIV positive cannot be married lawfully in the Church to a non-infected person because non-contraceptive intercourse required for consummation is possibly deadly to the spouse. A paralyzed man cannot engage in the marital act and get married, with the possible exception of those with artificial intervention to restore potency. Couples who are sterilized are routinely required to attempt surgical reversals in order to have a sacramental wedding. People who are mentally deranged and/or who take drugs for mental diseases are not normally able to marry. Medication to control various mental illnesses would deform a fetus. Alcoholism or any other kind of serious drug addiction invalidates the marriage vows and bond. A heroin fiend cannot truly fulfill his vows and is lying to his beloved and the priest. The same goes for gross alcoholism. It is a sickness, but there is a moral element related to it. I knew a man who was an active alcoholic who had his prior bond annulled on the grounds that his addiction made him incapable of marriage. He then wanted to get married again but a “monitum” prohibited any priest or deacon from marrying him until a doctor certified that he had found sobriety. He remained a drunk and so he could not marry again. The last time I saw him, he was begging for money on the streets.

You write: “I am not able to sign the basic forms that are needed to petition due to the fact that I must state that I believe my Marriage to have been Null from the beginning. I do NOT believe that.” Fine and good, you should not sign them if you disagree. Indeed, if such is your conviction, you should never remarry even if the spouse does so, in or out of the Church. Marriage is a one-time sacrament. I cannot say that the Tribunals are always right about these things. The culpability is more upon them than any individuals they mislead. However, the process, while imperfect, is an attempt to protect the indissolubility of marriage while being compassionate to those who might have grounds for nullity.

I am not familiar with the website SAVE OUR SACRAMENT although I am familiar with internal forum between couples (usually elderly) and the pastor. They are required to live as brother and sister and they are not to advertise the nature of their relationship so as to avoid scandal. I worked with just such a couple many years ago who were in their 90′s. They have since passed away.

If your husband has civilly remarried, he is not in good standing with the Church. He is still required to go to Sunday Mass and to make sure that any children receive the sacraments. However, as long as he cohabitates with this other woman, the status is regarded as adultery and no personal sentiment or feeling on his part would allow him to receive communion. Indeed, he cannot receive absolution from a priest, either. He is apparently in a state of mortal sin. His in-laws are grievously wrong to tell him otherwise. They are numbing his conscience and that of his civil-wife to the fact that their eternal salvation is at stake.

I cannot speak about your case because I do not know the particulars. Since there is a civil marriage, I take it that no annulment was granted. If you felt that the first marriage was the valid one, then you are right to oppose the annulment, although they are sometimes granted despite opposition. If your husband and his civil-wife were really good Catholics, they would not want to live in an adulterous relationship. If you really loved someone, would you do something that would deprive them of the Eucharist and maybe even cost them their salvation in Christ? I asked this of a priest who left and attempted marriage. He said he loved the girl. I argued that he did not love her enough and that he was selfish. Better for a priest to suffer in his loneliness than to cost another the gift of sanctifying grace and the reception of the Blessed Sacrament. He did not know what to say. He knew I was right. He said he would get laicized. But at that time he was still married to the Church and what if she should die before laicization was granted? He would have to live with the terrible possibility that he sent to hell the person he most loved in the whole world.

I preach upon this subject of divorce and annulments, as well as upon the crisis of premarital sex and cohabitation. Not all priests are silent. I am sorry about your pain. You can pray for him and continue to witness to your vows. We all want joy, but often what we get is the Cross.

WI CATHOLIC:

I have reconciled myself to living my vows alone till one of us dies. Our civil-forced-divorce was way back in 1985, and I have long been able to praise Him and to forgive my spouse. I pray for him and for the civil wife all the time. (She and I have spoken; she has been praying for my health recently, much to the chagrin of xxxxxxxxx). My primary desire is his salvation and sobriety, as well as mine. Hers is secondary. Reconciliation at this stage is totally up to God Himself.

Yes, it is MY understanding also what counts is prior to marriage, and the wedding day itself, not what is diagnosed 10 plus years after the marriage. But that is not what happened in our area, and it is not what I have been told by at least three priests. I have been me telling THEM this fact.

I can believe that you do teach on the subject, Father Joe, because you are one of the rare ones who speaks of this topic ONLINE, too. But in most places, it is avoided like the plague.

Civil divorce is taken as proof that the marriage was not a marriage most of the time now, or “it would not have ended up in the divorce courts.” But this is not true.

We are still a largely forgotten group of very Faithful Catholics, most often looked upon as pitiable, rigid, angry, bitter… even “pus-filled.” I assure you, most of us are not. When WE plead, “Save our Sacrament,” WE are begging the Church to stand with us regarding the validity of our marriages. We are not looking for a “way out,” but help to work toward reconciliation, healing, and maintaining the validity and permanency that Jesus Himself insisted upon.

As for Internal Forum, I cannot begin to claim the education others have, but I have spent the past 25 years learning as much as possible. One source:
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Cardinal Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and now Pope Benedict XVI writes forcefully on the subject of the indissolubility of marriage. He concludes such a statement regarding the International Theological Commission’s Propositions on the Doctrine of Christian Marriage:

I would underscore that what is at stake in respect to the teaching of the indissolubility of marriage is nothing less than the Church’s fidelity to the radicalism of the Gospel. “The severity does not derive from a purely disciplinary law or from a type of legalism. It is rather a judgment pronounced by Jesus Himself (Mk 10:6ff). Understood in this way, this severe norm is a prophetic witness to the irreversible fidelity of love that binds Christ to His Church. It shows also that the spouses’ love is incorporated into the very love of Christ (Eph. 5:23-32).”[6]

In short, because marriage is an irrevocable covenant established by God, it is not a mere personal and private act. Marriage consent pertains to the common good and directly effects the Church. Subsequently, a mere personal and private act cannot substitute for a judgement of marriage nullity. In determining such a grave matter, only the Church herself, acting in the name of Christ, has competence to pass judgement.

http://www.cuf.org/Faithfacts/details_view.asp?ffID=54

God bless! (I can still understand Karl’s anger and frustration.)

KARL:  Hang in there, WI Catholic, I do love the Catholic Church, just can’t live with her.

WI CATHOLIC:  Thank you, Karl. God bless you!

Questions & Answers About Miscellaneous Matters

Does it really matter to what church a person belongs as long as he does what is right?

While we must all live and believe according to the dictates of conscience, objectively speaking, if a person wants to be assured of knowing and doing what is right, he will belong to the right or true Church. The various churches are not the same. Christ directly established the Catholic Church and saving truth subsists in her.

Why are there so many sinners in the Catholic Church?

This is no truer for the Catholic community than it is for others. Christ called to himself sinners and the Catholic Church has been ever faithful in doing the same. We seek the repentance and conversion of souls. We leave ultimate judgment of the weeds and the wheat to our Lord.

Cannot a person be an honest and faithful Christian without going to church?

He may on some level be a believer, but such a person is not a good Christian. The true Christian realizes that just as he is indebted to neighbors and friends, so too does he have debts before God. He was made for God. The Christian approaches God, not as an isolated individual, but as a member of a family of faith, a new People of God. It is our duty to go to Church and every Catholic is required under pain of mortal sin to participate at Sunday Mass.

Why is not fidelity to the Bible sufficient for a union of faith?

The problem is that the “right meaning” of the Bible must be followed for such a unity. The so-called bible churches all claim to follow the Bible and yet they are divided from each other and the fragmentation continues. The union of faith mandates an infallible teacher or interpreter of the Bible as well as a membership willing to submit their judgment to higher authority.

Why do Catholics believe in dogmas instead of the Bible?

Catholic dogmas of faith are generally the teachings of the Bible defined and elaborated upon by competent authority.

Are there not many roads leading to heaven?

Our Lord, Jesus, said that there would be one fold only– one faith, one Church, and one God. No, there is only one road to heaven and that is the one Jesus has marked for us. Truth is not relative, especially upon this point. Christ cannot contradict himself. This gives great impetus to our missionary and evangelization campaigns. However, Catholics themselves should as St. Paul reminds us, “Be of one mind,” and be configured to Christ (Phil 2:5). God certainly judges us according to what we know to be true and how we live out our faith in good conscience. The Church prays for her own and even for those outside her fold. She seeks to embrace them and save them. Who can estimate the efficacy of such intercessory prayer?

Can we believe in a Catholic Church as the true Church but not in the ROMAN Catholic Church?

No, we cannot. They are one and the same. No matter whether the rite is Western or Eastern, the head of the true Church is the bishop of Rome, the Pope.

Do we not all believe in one God?

Most, but not everyone is monotheistic. Mormon doctrine actually holds for polytheism (multiple gods). Religions from the East are also bringing pagan gods into the picture of our culture. Some believe in no god at all. Others define him in unacceptable ways. Further, we do not practice the same things that we were commanded. It should also be said that the devil knows there is one God and it does him no good.

Why do Catholics believe in teachings that are said not to be understandable?

While we do not understand the intrinsic nature of certain doctrines, we know they must be true because God who will not and cannot deceive us revealed them. Of course, there are still natural mysteries that we do not entirely comprehend, and yet, we believe and experience them as true.

Why do Catholics fail to wash one another’s feet as Christ commanded in John 13:1-15?

Actually, it is done on Holy Thursday. The bishop washes the feet of twelve men. This command was not given to all, but to the apostles. It is intimately connected to the call to ministry and priesthood. Jesus did not offer this ritual as a required act for salvation, but only as a reminder of humility modeled after our Lord, himself.

Why do Catholics burn incense in church since Isaiah 1:13 says: “Incense is an abomination to me”?

God rebuked the people for their sins while offering incense to him. God himself commanded the offering of incense, but only as long as it was done with a pure heart.

If Catholics are so good then how can the Church excuse the persecution of Protestants in Spain during the Inquisition?

The civil government of Spain used religion to promote its agenda of unification and national security; the Church did not sanction the harsh treatment of Protestants. Ferdinand and Isabella established the Inquisition for more political than religious reasons. The Jews and the Moors faced the blunt of the assault. The latter group was seen as an enemy of the state. The royal officers who made up the inquisitors also persecuted bishops and priests when it suited their political aims. They imprisoned the Archbishop of Toledo for sixteen years. Repeatedly, the popes protested against the inquisition.

Did Protestants ever persecute Catholics?

Martin Luther advised his followers to kill the popes, cardinals, bishops, and all who would defend them. John Calvin unmercifully persecuted those who disagreed with his views. John Knox was so ruthless that some 17,000 so-called witches were burned in Scotland alone in the course of forty years. Knox said that people were bound in conscience to execute the queen and to kill all the priests. In England, Catholics were fined a hundred dollars a month for failing to participate at Protestant worship. Irish Catholics were imprisoned in dungeons, hanged, drawn and quartered, and faced other frightful ends because of their fidelity to the Catholic faith.

Is it not the Galileo affair, in which he was imprisoned, proof that the Catholic Church opposes progress?

The Pope merely refused to accept proofs that Galileo offered to prove the theory that the earth moves around the sun. Galileo tried to prove it from the Bible, which was impossible. Protestants and Catholics alike rejected his proofs. Nevertheless, the Church honored Cusa and Copernicus who maintained similar theories. However, they claimed as their scientific opinion, only what they could prove.

Since there is nothing in the Bible about it, how can Catholics contend that St. Peter was the bishop of Rome?

Much of what we know comes from tradition. Archeological work and the evidence are that St. Peter was executed in Rome. Pious tradition and Christian lore tend to fill out the story:

St. Peter started his apostolic work ten days after the ascension, about the fifteenth of May in the year 34 AD. He remained four years in Jerusalem and preached the gospel there. Afterwards, he traveled to Antioch where he remained seven years, preaching and administering Church affairs. He left Antioch and returned to Jerusalem where he was imprisoned. Miraculously delivered (Acts 12), he went and preached the gospel in Rome. He performed many miracles and the Church flourished. From that location, he began to send bishops and priests throughout the known world. After seven years, the Emperor Claudius banished him from Rome. He visited Britain, Carthage, and Alexandria and finally returned to Jerusalem. It was there that St. Paul consulted him regarding the Gentiles and the observance of circumcision (Council of Jerusalem). St. Peter decided that the Gentiles were not bound by this matter of the Mosaic law. When Emperor Claudius died, the infamous Nero succeeded him. Peter returned to Rome, just as Aquilla and Priscilla had done. Two years later, St. Paul joined Peter as a prisoner in Rome. During the 22nd year of St. Peter’s Roman pontificate, Nero set the city on fire. The emperor placed the blame on the Christians and persecution ensued. St. Peter left Rome again. The 24th year, he returned and foretells his death (Acts 1:14). St. Peter and St. Paul had frustrated Simon Magus’ magical arts. The two apostles were thrown into the Mamertine prisons for nine months, where St. Paul composed his second letter to Timothy. They converted Process, Martinian, the keeper of the prison, and 47 prisoners. St. Peter miraculously caused water to spring forth from the prison floor in order to baptize the new converts. This well is still preserved. In the 25th year of his Roman pontificate, St. Peter and St. Paul were sentenced to death. St. Peter was crucified upon an inverted cross on Mount Janiculum (feeling unworthy to die precisely like his Lord). St. Paul was taken to the Salvia waters about four miles south of Rome and beheaded. When St. Paul’s head fell under the sword, it made three bounds and a fountain is said to have sprung forth at each place where his head hit the ground. Three fountains are still venerated at the site.

For more such material, contact me about getting my book, CATHOLIC QUESTIONS & ANSWERS.