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There are a lot of Catholics in this predicament. They are divorced but still desire to still be part of the Church. They want to re marry in the Church. What is the Church's view on this?

Also remember some people divorce after all reconsileable efforts are exhausted.

-- Anonymous, April 13, 1998


First and formost we must look at where the Church teaching on Divorce comes from. Drum roll please... Christ. In the synoptic Gospels he states several times the following:

Matthew 5:31-32

31 It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce. 32 But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

And Matthew 19:3-10

3 Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever? 4 He said in reply, Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female 5 and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate. 7 They said to him, Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss (her)? 8 He said to them, Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.

The Greek for the word unlawful is Pornaria. It is where the word pronographic comes from. Jesus isn't talking infidelity here, he is talking an extreamly obsence marriage which in Israel would have been either an incestious Marriage, or two people living together as married but not married. Some translations of the bible render the word pornaria as Adultry, but this isn't the case there is another Greek word for that.

Now we go to Mark 10:2-9

2 The Pharisees approached and asked, Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife? They were testing him. 3 He said to them in reply, What did Moses command you? 4 They replied, Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her. 5 But Jesus told them, Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), 8 and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.

Notice that this has no exception clause in it. Marriage if final.

Finally we look at Luke 16:18

18 Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

You must realize that the old Covenant allowed divorce, but Christ does not. He changes the law and rightly so because he is God. Divorce is a terrible thing, this is the reason why it should be gone into with the foreknowledge of what our Lord taught. This is why a good period of pre-martial counciling or pre-cana should be had by all. I would suggest at least a year. Far too many people go into marriage not knowing what it entails.

Now a note on annulments. Annulments are not a divorce. It is a decree that a sacramental marriage had never taken place. What the triburnial is supposed to look at is the circumstances surrounding the marriage to see if any cause exists that may have prevented the sacrament from taking place. Examples of such things are Prenup agreements, this may sound silly but a prenup basically is a set of rules for ending the relationship. Other factors could be that a person was not in his right mind i.e drunk on alcohol, or high on drugs when they enterend into the sacrament. Some other factors are forced marriage. Shotgun weddings are not considered sacramental because a party cannot be forced into a sacrament.

A civil divorce does not end the marriage in the eyes of the Church. A sacramental marriage cannot be voided by a civil divorce. An annulment cannot be given where a sacramental marriage is in place.

The Chruch takes the commands of Christ very seriously, too bad that modern society has gotten to the point where marriage is thought of as disposable.

Yes many people are in a situation where they have married and divorced, but you must realize that feelings do not void out divine law. In those circumstances where a civil divorce has taken place the parties can attempt to determine if a valid marriage has taken place via the annulment process. However not all annulment cases are declared non-sacramental. Yes it can be a sad situation. This is why the teachings of the Chruch need to be proclaimed so those entering into the sacrament of Marriage fully realize what they are doing.

For more information I would suggest that you read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It will explain in much more depth than I can the meaning of the Sacrament of Marriage.

Your brother in Christ

John Gibson

-- Anonymous, April 13, 1998

PART ONE (I've had to split this answer into two)


There are so many issues in what you are asking, so bear with me as I try and give you an answer that responds to each of them.

The first point to make is that you are going to find plenty of priests and other Catholics who are going to tell you that it is OK to do anything, including remarry in the Church, as long as you feel it is OK. You will find plenty of priests who will marry you too, if you look hard enough. But, that doesn't mean those priests and Catholics are doing the right thing (no matter how well-intentioned) and, I suspect, you know that they are misleading you as to what the Church teaches in this regard. The primary issue here is ensuring that you remain in the Church and in a State of Grace. Being misled by a priest who has an axe to grind against the Pope or the Church is not going to guarantee you either.

Next important point to make: Divorce is not, of itself, always sinful. You may have been the innocent party "deserted" against your will. You may have had valid reasons to separate (Church law allows for this in certain circumstances) and the divorce was needed to ensure you both were protected civilly and legally (ie, property settlements, support payments, etc.). On the other hand, you may feel you were instrumental in the breakdown of the marriage, or you divorced for unjustifiable reasons. That is a matter for confession. I don't want to go into that here. That is your private affair.

Being divorced does not deprive you from access to the Sacraments. It's true that often we find it hard to deal with divorced people in the Church. But there is also a tendency to shun all types of people. That doesn't justify it, it just shows that all Catholics are sinners and we all have to work to love each other and treat each other as Christ would treat us. Try not to be too hard on people. We all have our crosses to bear, for some of us it's snobbery or an inability to deal with people who experiencing turmoil in their lives. You have also to admit that divorce is uncomfortable. You'll have found, I'm sure, that even your own friends and family have found it difficult to know how to act with you at times, as though they're tiptoeing through eggshells.

It is remarrying after having divorced that is the real difficulty. The Church teaches categorically that marriage is a lifelong union that is indissoluble. Divorce already militates against that indissolubility by purporting to dissolve the union. But it only does so on the civil and legal plane. If your marriage is sacramental, divorce has no effect whatsoever to sever the sacramental bond between you. Nothing can sever that bond but death.

It is for that reason that the Church cannot remarry a divorced Catholic, to do so would be to solemnize an adulterous relationship.

----On to Part Two!

-- Anonymous, April 14, 1998

---- Following on from Part One....

But there is the real crux of the issue: the marriage must be sacramental to be indissoluble. That is where annulments come in. Annulments are not Catholic divorces. They do not say "Yes, we were married, but it didn't work out and now we don't want to be married anymore." Annulments are declarations by the Church that you were never married at all because of some defect at the time you married.

This can be very painful, but at the same time, very healing. Divorce is already extremely painful and stressful. It is hard to imagine that you would not feel guilt and feelings of having failed. Annulment more so for having to have the maturity to admit that there were difficulties from the outset that impeded the formation of a valid marriage and no marriage ever existed.

If you wish to remarry in the Church, you have no option but to seek an annulment. If you do not get an annulment, you have no option but to remain celibate until your spouse dies. That is incredibly hard teaching, I know. But as John Gibson pointed out in his response, this _is_ an incredibly hard teaching of Christ. It's often hard to explain why God sends heavy crosses. Be consoled by the fact that he always sends suffering to bring about good in you or through you and he never gives a cross that is too heavy to bear. He also offers to "give rest" to those who are heavy laden.

And even if you should find yourself in the position that you remarry outside the Church, you are not "excommunicated" by that action. That is to say, you _do_ deprive yourself of the Sacraments, but you do not remove yourself from the community of the Church. You are still a member of the Church, and you must still fulfil your requirements as a Catholic (ie, going to Mass on Sundays, etc.). However, I have to urge you to consider very carefully any option that deprives you of the two Sacraments most important to maintaining a State of Grace and thereby the hope of Heaven: Confession and Holy Communion. It would be a frightening thought that you would deliberately choose to deny yourself access to sacramental absolution in Confession and the strength and consolation of the Blessed Sacrament, risking your eternal life on the chance that you will have a chance to regularize your situation before you die.

I can't apologise that God requires a lot from us. Some teachings are incredibly hard. But, it is precisely in those burdens that we find ourselves and Christ. Couples who do not use birth control will attest to how much that decision has enriched their lives and their Faith. Yet, 85% of Catholics apparently think that that teaching is too hard and the benefits are not worth it.

You really need to pray hard about your situation and try and discern where Christ is leading you. You have to acknowledge that there are forces of evil who tempt you to sin, often by appearing as angels of light to distract from the greater good that God is calling you to.

Trust the Church. She doesn't want anything but your spiritual wellbeing for all eternity. She isn't out to make your life a living hell or vindictively make you suffer. And don't get sucked into the view that Christ's version of compassion is the same as the horrendous "tolerate anything, do what feels right, give me a hug" compassion that people try and make it. He said to the woman caught in adultery "I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more." He did not say, "it's OK. I understand. I don't mind if you commit adultery." He loves us too much to let us be slaves to sin.

Explore the possibilities of getting an annulment. Each diocese will have a matrimonial tribunal that deals with these things. It will be listed in your Phone Book, or call the Diocesan offices for the number. They have trained counsellors who can help you prepare your case. Above all, do not listen to anyone who listens to part of your story and says "Oh, you won't get an annulment, I wouldn't bother." Too many people who should have got annulments were discouraged by people who were not qualified to judge the matter or did not have all the facts before them.

It is much easier if your spouse is willing to cooperate. But, it is not essential.

The cost is usually not too great. The Tribunals are usually largely funded by Diocesan funds, I think. There will be some cost, but if you cannot afford it, I would be surprised if arrangements couldn't be made in a deserving case.

I hope I've given you something to think about. This is a complex issue. I'm not a priest -- you really need to sit down with a good priest and talk about your situation and where you want to go and what you think God is calling you to do. And you need to pray. Develop a relationship with Jesus. Pray especially before Christ truly present in the Blessed Sacrament and ask him for the grace of discernment and perseverence. I'm not divorced and I can't imagine what you're going through, but I know He can get you through it.

And keep in touch if you want. I'm happy to try and help (try is about the best I can do!)

God bless you, Paul

-- Anonymous, April 14, 1998

Dear Paul,

Thank you for your contribution. I tend to come off a bit stuffy in my responses, so your well reasoned response was probably much needed. I am working on this fault of mine.

You are so correct that those in the Catholic Church who take the teachings of the Church on Birth Control have a lower divorce rate. NFP does wonders for a marriage. One of the things it does is to increase the trust between husband, wife, and God. We have not chosen to follow NFP, and will probably pick it up in the next couple of years, but we do not close our marriage to the possiblility of life.

Where the trust comes in is when using the sympto thermatic method, the couple must trust the decision if it is time to have relations or not.

One of the other things is that the Holy Father has come out and said that those who use NFP for the wrong reasons are violating Gods Law. Wrong reasons would be using NFP to totally close one's life to Children.

Again, thanks for the well reasoned counter to my post. I look forward to seeing more of your input in the future.

Your Brother in Christ

John Gibson

-- Anonymous, April 18, 1998

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