Implications of an Annulmentgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Catholic : One Thread
I don't know if I should pursue an annulment because I am afraid it will hurt my children even further than they already have been by the divorce.
My ex and I were both born and raised Catholic. I was married for 23 years, 2 children (26 and 19) and divorced 3 years ago. We were married when I was 18, he was 19 and I was pregnant. My ex-husband was a serial adulterer throughout our marriage (starting in the fourth year of marriage), and finally left for good after 23 years for another woman, with whom he still maintains a relationship. Although from a devout family, he has left the Church and professes to be an Episcopalian, basically because he doesn't "agree" with the Church, yet needs religion in his life.
Divorce has devestated my family to the core. My children have left the Church as well. My son (26) recently married in a Christian non-denominational church to woman who also is Catholic. My daughter has become an "agnostic", wants nothing to do with the Church, but believes in God in general. Both of these kids attended Catholic schools, and as a family we went to Mass and kept the Sacraments. My son was an altar boy.
As with all divorces, my children were deeply hurt and went through alot. In my opinion, my son really hasn't dealt with alot of it as he was away at college. He refused counseling even though he deeply affected and depressed for the better part of two years. My daughter went through a rough period and did get counseling.
I am afraid of what getting an annulment will do to them emotionally. Three and half years ago, I did meet with my priest, was told I had grounds and did fill out the questionaire, but never turned it in. I actually started filling it out just prior to my divorce, really for the all the wrong reasons. It was out of hurt and anger, wanting my ex husband to be held accountable for what he was doing to his family, in a way that my no fault state would not do. However filling out the questionaire, was healing to me, in that it helped me to forgive him and feel sorry for him. I decided there was no rush and set it aside.
Now I am thinking of it again, and in no small part because a wonderful man that is in my life who I would like to marry.
However, I am concerned that with an annulment the underlying message it sends to my children. I don't want to reopen the wounds for my kids. They have been through enough already, believe me. It's seems worse than the divorce itself because it says to my children that their parents marriage was not a sacrament and was not valid in the eyes of God. What did we have for 23 years then, a "pretend" marriage, a second-class marriage? What was it? I understand perfectly well that the status of the parents does not affect the children in that they are legitamate, and that the parents were in a marriage, just not a "Sacramental" marriage. I know this, but what does it REALLY mean to a kid? What does it say about their family and about all they have been taught? What they thought was, really wasn't? Their parents marriage a lie? I don't want to do anything to cause them more pain than what they have already been through. Despite how everything turned out, their father and I loved each other very much, we were affectionate, in many ways we had a good marriage. I don't mean to minimize that that there were problems because there certainly were, lots of them in fact, but at the end of the day the children could always count on their parents being there, being together through thick and thin. But it all got blown apart. The very foundation of everything as they knew it was shattered. Their security and trust just shattered. And now their mother will engage in a process that at the end will in effect tell them "guess what kids, we all lived a lie".
I am very torn and concerned of what getting an annulment will do to my kids emotionally. I don't want them to feel like they lived a lie, that our family was a lie, that our marriage was a lie. It had its problems and flaws, but it wasn't a lie! It was real! Even though we were young and I was pregnant, we both knew what we were doing and intended for it to be "forever". I asked him a few months ago, in hopes that he would say something to the effect that he didn't realize the meaning of "until death do us part" but that didn't happen. He in fact told me that part of his reason for leaving the Church was that he didn't care to be judged and condemned by the rules of our Church.
I am really struggling with what to do. I don't want to be like my ex-husband, I don't want to leave the Church. I want to build a life with the man in my life. He happens to be a non-Catholic, so he doesn't "get it" in terms of why an annulment and supports whatever I want to do. I am just very confused and probably am having a crisis of faith right now as well.
I didn't ask for this divorce to happen. I was a faithful and supportive wife. I was and am a good mother. I fought for my marriage it in every way I could think of. I also prayed, went to Mass everyday, did novenas, begged for a miracle. It happened anyway. I believed that God hates divorce and wouldn't let it happen. It did anyway. To this day, my ex-husband has no regrets and continues with the other woman who broke our marriage. I picked up the pieces and moved on. Believe me, I wasn't looking or wanting any relationship with anyone. It happened. A friendship that grew into more. So now what?
I don't want to reopen wounds for my family. I've thought about this, and sometimes I feel that if my choices are spending an eternity in hell or doing something that will be causing my children pain, I'd rather spend an eternity in hell. I don't know, but I can't imagine that our Lord is so rigid or hard as to actually do that. He knows my dilemma and what my kids have been through. I believe in a loving and forgiving God, and I can't imagine that I would be condemned to hell for choosing to love and share my life with the man who is in my life.
I'm hoping that someone can help me sort this all out because I am one very confused person. Thank you for reading and for your time.
-- MaryC (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 26, 2003
You have the same initials as my spouse, from whom I am civilly divorced. I too began the anullment process in my marriage out of an error and it progresses further every day. I keep praying that my wife will want to reconcile, but don't see that happening anytime soon.
Your's is not an easy situation. There are reasons why your marriage may be either valid or invalid. If your marriage is valid, then you are called to a life of celibate chastity and this wonderful man may prove an impossible hindrance to that. Remember what our Lord said about putting way your spouse and taking another. That would be adultery, pure and simple. It makes no difference that your former husband is living deeply in the state of sin.
On the other hand, your former partner may not have given actual consent to the marriage as he may have harbored an internal hindrance to the marriage vow (such as not contemplating, appreciating or assenting to life-long exclusive fidelity). The only way to determine this is through an exhaustive review of the evidence in your case. Unfortunately diocesan marriage tribunals in the United States, on the average, are not really that reliable in doing this correctly. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes not. People will disagree with me either way. This makes me suspect I'm correct on this.
The best thing you can do here is to pray and to seek wise counsel from impartial persons. Discuss the importance of your faith with your children, and your former partner. Try to live a saintly life. You won't go wrong there.
If you want to know the truth about the validity of your marriage, I can help you. I'm a lawyer and have trained myself in the jurisprudence of canon law associated with deciding validity in marriage cases. I cannot give you an answer that is binding in the Church. Only a tribunal can do that. But I can give you an answer much quicker than you will get from a tribunal that will give you some basis for planning your life according to God's will.
Think about it. My personal email is the best way to contact me. I'll pray for you too.
-- Pat Delaney (email@example.com), September 27, 2003.
Thank you Pat for your response and your offer of assistence.
My question is even more basic in that I don't know if I even want to pursue an annulment because I fear if granted what an annulment will mean to my kids. I understand what it can do for me, but what will it do to them?
What does an Annulment REALLY mean to the children of the couple? Mine are adults (26 and 19). Maybe they would have left the Church anyway, but I do feel that a strong reason that they did was that our divorce shook them up to the core and made them question their entire belief system and everything as they knew it. Their foundation was rocked, their security shattered. I believe that thier leaving the Church is a but one symtom of how profoundly this divorce has affected them.
If I now pursue an annulment, what will it do to them? Does anyone know how an annulment affects the children, particularly adult children? Has there been anything written on the subject? The children of the couple are truely the innocent victims in all this. What does it say about their family and about all they have been taught? Remember my kids were raised on Catholic doctrine and went to Catholic schools. The only valid marriage is a Sacramental marriage. They THOUGHT their parents were in a Sacramental marriage, a "legit" marriage sanctioned by God. We even went to Marriage Encounter at 16 yrs of marriage and renewed our vows and they know it. (My priest said that that doesn't matter as far as the annulment goes.)Anyway my point is what does this say to them? Oops big goof for 23 years? What they thought was, really wasn't? Their parents marriage was a lie? So if their parents didn't have the sacramental marriage, then does it mean that technically they commited adultery for 23 years and they are a product of that? I am very troubled by the implictions for THEM. This is what I am struggling with and what is holding me back.
All that I read has to do with the couple, how it's a healing process for them, and of course that it allows both to subsequently marry in the Church. I haven't really found anything about how it may affect the kids. I am not concerned as much right now about what it will do for me as much as I am about what it will do to them. I need some direction and guidance with this. I have prayed about it.
Thanks for your help.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 27, 2003.
Mary, people leave the Church for a lot of reasons. Have you asked your children why they left? It may actually have nothing to do with your divorce.
"Even though we were young and I was pregnant...."
The above which you posted may have been an issue, obviously more so for the older child than the younger. They may think that it was a "shotgun wedding", and also it wouldn't help in any abstinence before marriage discussions. Yes, you tried to do what you thought was the right thing at the time, don't get me wrong here.
Divorce is so prevalent in our society now (I'm sure they knew lots of kids in blended families when they were at school or playing in the neighborhood) that sad to say I think you are more upset on their behalf than they probably are. And children aren't stupid. Parents can put up a good front that might fool very young children, but older children listen in on conversations (and the more precocious the child the more you have to worry). You may have tried to shield them from the infidelity issue and they found out anyway.
You talk to a lot of children of divorce, and it really seems to matter why the parents got a divorce in the first place, particularly as the children get older and the parents move on, perhaps remarrying. Is it better for the children to remain in a bad marriage (I'm not talking of one in which there are challenges such as illness, or other tragedy here) where there is infidelity (putting your life at risk for diseases) or spousal/child abuse or criminal activity that could drag you, an innocent person in? Because a person picks a bad "role model" in the case of a spouse, should the children suffer because 1) you continued to put up with it, or 2) you leave and give them no "role model" at all to look up to?.
As far as the annulment process, I must say I don't really understand it, and I've tried to do some reading on the matter. If they have really left the Church, the annulment may only be a piece of paper to them, unless they too would be required to fill out a questionnaire, which may bring up issues that perhaps they have put behind them.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why you need a lawyer (no offense meant, Pat, I mean it) to figure out whether you qualify for one or not--as far as things like "defect of form" go, you either meet the criteria or not. Would you have married this person eventually if you hadn't become pregnant? Where things had been done "by the book", in other words, no defect, I can maybe see someone else needing to look a little more closely.
I'll be thinking of you.
-- GT (email@example.com), September 27, 2003.
I agree with all Patrick posted.
"My question is even more basic in that I don't know if I even want to pursue an annulment because I fear if granted what an annulment will mean to my kids. I understand what it can do for me, but what will it do to them?"
What will anullment mean to your kids? hmmm... Truth is what your children require, Truth is God -living a life based in Truth, in God as an example by both words and actions is what your children require -- this -your faith; may help restore thier faith EVEN if thier loss of faith has nothing to do with your divorce or your husbands infidelity...
The best you can do is be an example of Truth - SO, you must be confident and sure that what you pursue, the path you take is one of Truth whether it be anullment or not...
My point is that as Patrick pointed out and as I now do -the way the US Tribunals are today you have a very very good chance of getting an anullment EVEN if you know youur marriage was 'real' -this understanding is evident in your post. I would suggest you research as Patrick suggested FIRST. Your conscience is evidently sure that your marriage was valid -this based upon your understanding of what marriage entails -with further knowledge your understanding may change or strengthen...
The truth is ultimately not the Tribunal's responsibility via declaration but your responsibility via living example...
Only if you are sure you are living Truth will your chiildren 'believe'...
-- Daniel Hawkenberry (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 28, 2003.
I found that the single most important thing you stated was this frank admission:
"I am one very confused person."
Now, because this is true, I want to plead with you not to make any firm decisions, not to take any significant action, until you are no longer a "very confused person." I can't promise to "unconfuse you," but I will try to clear at least a bit of the fog away.
I would like to encourage you to speak to a knowledgable priest or Catholic psychological counselor [contact Catholic Charities] who has experience with young adults (like your children) and how they cope with situations like yours. Obviously, at least hundreds of thousands of Catholic children have been through their parents divorces and nullity proceedings, and the kinds of reactions that children have must be known to these experts. I feel sure that one of them can give you some great advice.
I am not going to be so bold as to say, with any degree of confidence, how your children may react. However, perhaps you should think about the fact that they are not so very young any more, and that they are capable of reasoning and dealing with the situation in a thoughtful and mature way. In other words, if you were to receive a Declaration of Nullity, that would not necessarily be devastating to them. They ought to know -- or you would need to explain to them -- that what you had, in your (putative) marriage, was not a sham or a lie. Rather, it was a sincere action that you both thought was right, but it was an action undertaken in an imperfect way, so imperfect that it could not be a valid union in God's eyes. A belated realization of this invalidity, you would reassure them, can have no effect on their legitimacy nor on your love (and God's love) for them.
All right, Mary. Now that I have been very nice to you, I have to give you some "tough love." I hope you can take it!
You wrote: "I am concerned that with an annulment the underlying message it sends to my children. I don't want to reopen the wounds for my kids. ... I don't want to do anything to cause them more pain than what they have already been through."
As an outside observer, trying to be objective, I cannot help but be struck by something that seems to have gone right over your head. You "don't want to reopen the wounds," and you "don't want to do anything to cause them more pain" ... but how much more "wounding" and painful a thing can there be than for them to see their mother illicitly becoming intimate with a man other than the father whom they love?
How could your proceeding in an honest manner -- seeking a Declaration of Nullity -- be more painful than that? I don't think it could be. I think that it would be far less painful to proceed honestly than in an illicit manner. You are rightly concerned about the souls of your children and troubled about their leaving the Church. You can do their souls a favor of good example. You can choose the moral course of action, rather than a course that is expedient and sinful -- which would give them bad example.
You also wrote: "... sometimes I feel that if my choices are spending an eternity in hell or doing something that will be causing my children pain, I'd rather spend an eternity in hell."
Now, Mary, that last phrase is really the voice of the "confusion" that you mentioned. You have been a good Catholic, praying and even attending daily Mass, so you know better than to think that "spend[ing] an eternity in hell" could ever be an appropriate choice. What you want to do, as a good Catholic, is that which you discern God's will to be ... and you know that his will could never be your damnation, right? Instead, he wills your salvation, right? So, right there, you are able to see that your permanent involvement in an adulterous relationship is a choice that is simply out of the question.
Does that mean, then, that you are inevitably forced to accept the other choice -- "doing something that will be causing [your] children pain"?
No, not inevitably. You should not assume that inflicting pain on them is the only other possibility. In reality, as I mentioned earlier, they may suffer little or no pain by your receiving a Declaration of Nullity. But, even if they do suffer from it, that doesn't mean that you have inflicted the suffering on them maliciously. Instead, it would be a case of their suffering as an unintended by-product of a valid action. So, even if they do suffer, they surely will know that you didn't intentionally try to hurt them.
Now, we determined earlier that "shacking up," or invalidly attempting marriage, with your new friend is clearly not an option. What other options do you have?
1. Obviously, you can seek a Declaration of Nullity. I have tried to persuade you to overcome your misgivings about this. However, you may, in the end, opt against it. In that case ...
2. The only other option is to end your close relationship with the new friend, making a firm commitment to live chastely until (a) your husband returns to you repentantly or (b) your husband dies.
God bless you.
PS: You heard from someone who wrote: "I'm a lawyer and have trained myself in the jurisprudence of canon law associated with deciding validity in marriage cases. I cannot give you an answer that is binding in the Church. Only a tribunal can do that. But I can give you an answer much quicker than you will get from a tribunal that will give you some basis for planning your life according to God's will."
I urge you to ignore this offer, Mary. In the Catholic Church, one is not permitted to "train [one]self in the jurisprudence of canon law" for anything other than one's own information. Without a degree (JCL or JCD, I believe) from a Church-sponsored course -- such as at Catholic University of America -- a person cannot pretend to be an expert advisor to you in Canon Law. Besides, without the advanced training I mentioned, an amateur may give you some terrible advice (e.g., unfounded expectations or groundless pessimism).
-- J. F. Gecik (email@example.com), September 28, 2003.
Dear Mary C,
If you want some sound advice you can e-mail me at the address after my name. I will speak only the truth to you but it will be from the perspective of one who has been through the annulment process. It will, however, be objective in spite of what you might see posted after this answer, especially if it is by Gecik.
In any event, you must act on a certain conscience that is informed with objective truth as best you can find it with a serious attempt to seek it.
Please do not respond if you do not want to, thanks.
-- Karl (Parkerkajwen@hotmail.com), September 28, 2003.
Thanks to everyone for their thought provoking responses to my dilemma. I don't have the time to respond right now in detail to everything that you have mentioned, but wanted to let you know that I have read your responses and wanted to ask another question as I ponder it all.
Yesterday, while surfing on the net, I ran into a site that talked about something in the Church called the "Internal Forum". They talked about the annulment process as being the "External Forum" and mentioned the "Internal Forum" as another alternative. I had never heard of the "Internal Forum" or that there was an alternative. It did say that it was not something that was very publicized within the Church. I haven't had a chance to talk to a priest about this yet and was wondering what if anything people here knew about this.
I hope I don't offend anyone with what I'm about to say about my other reservations about seeking an Annulment (besides those already mentioned regarding my children). I guess part of my issue with annulment process is that I don't know if I trust the result to be as God intended. Maybe I don't have all of the correct information, but I have come to feel that it is not always an honest process and hypocritical in the it proports to be objective, but I really wonder about that because it does seem to me like just about everyone can get one. Maybe it is a misconception, but I say this because I have never heard of a prominent Catholic EVER being rejected in this country. Does anyone know of one? If so, please who? I mean, even Edward Kennedy got one after more than 30 yrs of marriage! When you hear about every long term marriages of prominent Catholic figures "annuled", you begin to wonder. I bet the Cuomo-Kennedy union is next. I'm not rich or famous, but find something inherently wrong with it and makes me wonder about the honesty of the process. I guess I have a problem with this, because I also have read that it seems that it has gotten to the point where the "psychological" grounds seem to be misued and abused. I understand that some folks are even using as a rationale that if a divorce happened, it means that God wasn't a part of it as there was not enough grace in the marriage, hence grounds! This may or may not be true, I don't know.
Knowing as I do my situation (all of the details which have not been posted for reasons of privacy) and having discussed it confidentially with my priest in the past, I fear that my grounds are solid enough on the facts that it could be easily granted. But what about issues of personal responsibility and accountablity, and knowing in your heart that what you had was real? See in my heart I truely feel it was real and that God was there helping us out, because if He hadn't been, it would not have lasted 23 years! But I also know in my heart that my marriage is dead. Things have happened, that it is beyond the point of no return. I have forgiven him, I wish him no ill, but there are impediments that interfere with his ability to make a commitment and maintain a monogomous relationship. I've also realized that he's not coming back. It took alot of counseling for me to accept this reality, and it wasn't easy.
After a great deal of soul searching, I also have come to the realization that God is allowing my life to unfold, exactly as He intends it to. I really hit rock bottom with this whole divorce thing. I was convinced it would never happen because God hates divorce, but it did. Funny thing happened in my life. I used to pray to God TELLING him what to do, such as restore my marriage, give me this or give that. It took a divorce to make me stop doing that, and then I learned to just pray that HIS WILL, not mine be done in my life and I learned to trust. Positive things began to happen. I also have come believe that His hand had alot to do with bringing the man in my life to me. There were simply too many coincidences, and too many things falling into place. This man is also divorced, burned pretty badly after a failed 18 yr marriage and neither one of us was dating, looking or interested in any type of involvement with anyone. Since my divorce, I've also experienced major changes in my life, adjustments and as well as losses, such as the death of my father last October. That one was particularly hard, because it was sudden and unexpected, and we were close. He had been such an anchor for me, and I no longer have him here to talk to, but I'm OK because of the trust that have that God loves me and is taking care of me. Through all the things that have happened these past few years, I've had to do a great deal of soul-searching. My life is not as simple or predicatable as it once was.
I don't know anything about this "internal forum" but from the little that I learned from reading yesterday the part that I like is that it seems to fit nicely with the teachings of Jesus, his message of compassion and forgiveness which acknowleges that us humans are sinners who try but make mistakes. It make sense to me in terms of the way Jesus lived his life and his teachings. He was always critical of the Pharisees who hung to the letter of the law, and in His actions, taught us to uphold the spirit behind the law, whether it was healing on the Sabbath or helping a Samaritan woman. It seems to me from the little that I have read that this is what the Internal Forum is. It is a process done with your priest confidentially examining details of your situation, searching your conscience, and it is a process of forgiveness and healing, so that you can continue with your life as the good Catholic that you have always been. I understand that following this process, you can get legally married and get the blessing of the priest. Your new marriage is then recognized and you can receive the Sacraments and participate fully as a Catholic. It recoginizes that with the best of intentions people make mistakes in their lives. I can say one thing in full confidence, both my ex-husband and I always struggled to do the right thing, although as humans we sometimes failed. One thing that I read that article that made some sense to me for my case was that it talked about the death of a marriage, where there God was present, but that there was not enough grace in it to last a lifetime. It does not goes into issues of sacramental validity of the marriage.
Like I said, I don't know much about the Internal Forum other than what I have read yesterday and posted here. I will be scheduling a meeting with a priest to discuss this, but would appreciate any insights anyone here may have. Thanks for your input.
(By the way if you email, use the earthlink address, because the hotmail one keeps getting full easily because of all the spam that gets in. Thanks.)
-- MaryC (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 28, 2003.
You wrote: " I guess part of my issue with annulment process is that I don't know if I trust the result to be as God intended."
You said a great, great deal more that I won't quote, because it just isn't necessary. All you and I need to know is that the Church has given us the tribunal/nullity process to use, in fitting situations. It is not for us to worry about it or to "distrust" or "trust the result." It is not for us to be distracted by "celebrity" cases, all of which are irrelevant. Since a tribnual's decision is something that comes from human beings, it is not guaranteed to be infallible. However, there are potential appeals that can keep the final decision as reliable as a human decision can be in this world.
Regardless of its slightly possible fallibility, the decision would be binding -- and you would need to be able to accept it with peace and calmness, as any mature, faith-filled human being would. Don't let paranoia, scrupulousness, or a satanically-inspired lack of trust interfere with your present decision to proceed -- or with the eventual finding that will be made by the tribunal.
But, as I said last time, if you can't get past some obstacle that prevents you from seeking a Declaration of Nullity, don't do it ... but remember that you must then live a celibate life until your husband comes back to you or dies.
You wrote: "I ran into a site that talked about something in the Church called the 'Internal Forum.' ... I had never heard of the 'Internal Forum' or that there was an alternative. It did say that it was not something that was very publicized within the Church."
The so-called "internal forum solution" is not "publicized" because it is not legitimate. It has been rejected by the pope. Although there is such a thing as the "internal forum," it has nothing to do with marriage/divorce/nullity/remarriage. The phony "internal forum solution" was an invention by some dissenters to try to let divorced and invalidly "remarried" Catholics begin receiving the sacraments again. Don't let any unfaithful so-called Catholics fool you into falling for this stuff.
You wrote: "But what about issues of personal responsibility and accountablity, and knowing in your heart that what you had was real? See in my heart I truely feel it was real and that God was there helping us out, because if He hadn't been, it would not have lasted 23 years!"
Again, if you can't go through with a nullity case because of these mentioned factors, you know what your only legitimate alternative is -- chastity. However, I recommend that you not let your mentioned personal feelings stymie you. Keep in mind that you are the least objective person considering these facts. Consider letting the canonists of the tribunal make the objective finding that you are not capable or qualified to make. They -- but not you -- know about all the various obstacles that prevent a couple from giving valid consent on their wedding day.
You wrote: "I learned to just pray that HIS WILL, not mine be done in my life and I learned to trust. Positive things began to happen. I also have come believe that His hand had a lot to do with bringing the man in my life to me. There were simply too many coincidences, and too many things falling into place. This man is also divorced ..."
You are "misreading the tea leaves," Mary. God does not have an "ordaining" role in matters of this kind. He only has a "permitting" role. He permits you to know this man, but he expects you both to remain in a platonic relationship unless and until such time as you are both free to marry. Now we see the complication that neither of you is free to marry anyone, because (objectively speaking) each of you is still married to your original spouse. If you both are moved to consider something more than platonic love, you must both seek and obtain Declarations of Nullity.
You wrote: "I don't know anything about this 'internal forum' but from the little that I learned from reading yesterday the part that I like is that it seems to fit nicely with the teachings of Jesus, his message of compassion and forgiveness which acknowleges that us humans are sinners who try but make mistakes."
Just the opposite is true. It is not from Jesus, but from his greatest enemy, the "father of lies." In fact, I literally shuddered with disgust at reading your lengthy description of the "internal forum solution." It is truly straight from hell. The sickest thing about it is the way it gives you such false feelings of euphoria. It is just a diabolical trick to persuade you to flee from the cross. It wants to give you an "easy way out," but ends up giving you an "easy way in" to mortal sin and an eternity in the flames.
The "internal forum solution" actually contradicts what Jesus said in speaking of the absolute indissolubility of a valid, sacramental marriage. As I said, the Church has forbidden confessors to attempt to use it, because it is invalid and leads to countless mortal sins (adultery and sacrilege). Please, Mary, do not desecrate the Holy Eucharist by getting involved in an invalid "remarriage" and then receiving Communion. Please don't even invalidly attempt remarriage even if you plan to avoid Communion. This has nothing to do with compassion or forgiveness or the Pharisees or any of the other things that you mentioned. Your faith is being tested as never before in your life. Please do not falter. Do not go against Jesus by going against his Church, to whom he gave the power of binding and loosing.
God bless you.
-- J. F. Gecik (email@example.com), September 28, 2003.
Hi John, Thank you for your response. You seem to know a great deal and I appreciate your input. Are you a priest or Catholic theologian? I will say again that I am a confused person looking for answers and I hope that in my questioning I don't offend you or anyone else. I never expected to find myself in this position and am trying to figure out what to do.
I guess what is confusing to me about your response about the Internal Forum is that it seems to be something that exists in the Catholic Church, something done with a priest and that this information is coming from Catholic organizations. A Catholic priest can't go against the Pope, can he? I mean if he does can't he be excommunicated? Why would Catholics want to mislead others to do something that is wrong and against our religion and would cause people to go hell? I don't understand this. Maybe I'm misinformed or am looking in the wrong places. Basically I did a search on google.
I will be honest with you here that I didn't really study theology or Catholic doctrine beyond the religion that is taught in Catholic schools. I went to Mass, kept the Sacraments. I pretty much believed whatever the priests and nuns said when it came to my religion. Maybe I should have studied it more but I didn't, so if I appear ignornant it is probably because I am. So please bear with me. I am trying to become better informed.
My life was simple once. I got married and expected it to be forever and God knows that never in a million years did I ever expect to be facing the questions and issues that I face now.
I want to give you the links so you can see for yourself what it was that I read. Here's one that I printed: http://www.catholicdigest.org/stories/200102080a.html
Please read it if you can and tell me your opinion. Also if you know of where I can get further information on the subject please let me know. Thank you for your help.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 28, 2003.
I disagree regarding finding advice reagrding nullity/validity of sacramental marriage from people outside a Tribunal. If we have the ability ourselves, there is nothing wrong with finding the answer independently. The Church does not have a monopoly there.
Besides, if there is reason to doubt the answers produced at Tribunals (often staffed by amatuers without any sort of legal training whatsoever), we are actually duty bound to find the answers ourselves.
Do you really think that diocesan Tribunals get it right all the time? If they get it wrong and declare a valid marriage invalid, and the couple act on that bad advice and enter invalid unions, does that not harm the Church and the sacrament of Holy Matrimony?
Sincere replys only, please. I would prefer not to let the discussion on this thread drop to ad hominem attacks (which are really just another way of admitting a lack of any response with merit).
-- Pat Delaney (email@example.com), September 29, 2003.
Thank you Pat. I think you understand my second reservation to pursuing the annulment. I understand what John says about having faith in the tribunal, but it is not a thing that comes easy to me particularly in light of some my observations and some of what I have read. Trust is something that is not as easy to come by as it once was for me. Bottom-line is that tribunals are composed of men and men are falluable (sp?). I believe that the facts in my case would make it very easy for it to go through, but my heart of hearts tells me differently. I know John is right that I am certainly not an "impartial" or "objective" party here. But how can a tribunal know my heart, or my ex's heartwhen we married? They can perhaps rule on facts, but it scares me that, that may not be the whole story.
Also what you mentioned Pat scares me as well. How do I know that these people are trained and know what they are doing? I am in search of the truth, whatever that may be, in my case. I agree with what someone else said about searching for the truth and that it is ultimately the best thing for the kids.
Let me tell you one thing that scares me about this whole thing, that those that been fortunate enough not to experience divorce may not know. The spouse that leaves a marriage re-writes history. It scares me that the tribunal may itself also re-write history in finding things that simply were not there. When a spouse walks away, to do so they come up with all kinds of justifications in which they are blameless and the spouse they leave has all the fault. In effect they re-write history. All of a sudden, they didn't really mean the good things they said, the good things in the marriage, were really not that good, there were never good times and they faked it all! Some of the things that my ex-husband has said has made me wonder if we were in the same marriage or even if perhaps at some point he was abducted by aliens who replaced his brain. (This last part about aliens is in jest of course, but it does make you wonder what happened to the person you once knew.) I heard all kinds of things, that were simply not true. And this from a man that was in the marriage and in the family who was in the know! The kids were disgusted by this re-write of history too, because like me, they were there and don't buy it. If all that my ex said was true, he'd better get nominated for the academy award for being able to be such a great actor that he fooled so many people, including himself. Those of us that have been through the hell of divorce hear the same broken record. "I love you, but not in love with you", "I found my soulmate in the other woman", "I was never happy" (NEVER in 23 years???? Give me a break! he sure faked that one well) "I never really loved you" and the list goes on. I'm sorry, but you can't fake it for 23 years! There was just too much going on that was RIGHT to fake for so long. Plus guys, I was there, my kids were there, we know when history gets re-written for the sake of justifying the unjustifiable so he can live with himself for breaking apart his family. My worry is that the tribunal will also re- write some history as well because while they may have the facts before them, they don't know our hearts. Like I said before, it is hard for me to believe that God was not a part of our marriage EVER. If you tell me that maybe HE was and we drove him away by some of our actions, that I could believe. But NEVER? I have a hard time seeing a tribunal of men knowing only what God knows about us, who we are and our marriage. All of us humans come into any given situation with our own experiences and beliefs that in effect color our perspective of any given situation. The same is true for those who would sit on a tribunal. Only we and God know what is in our hearts. No man can ever be an adequate judge of anyone and this is why only God can be our just judge.
My children have been in the process of healing from the trauma of divorce. It has not helped that their father has fallen in their eyes, that his re-writing of history has caused them to question their childhood experiences, were the happy times real or memorex? Neither one of my children at this point would consider counseling from anyone. They feel that they are moving on from the hell of four years ago. Their falling from the Church has something, but not all to do with our divorce. Although they have fallen away, the Church still matters to them and they are watching closely. I don't want to be involved in anything that would make this a permanent thing. My son, although he goes with his wife to the non-denominational Christian Church, has said to me that he has not renounced Catholicism totally, he simply finds this church's pastor to be more "relevant", bring more meaningful message to his life about Christ and gets more from his sermons. This church unfortunately has touched his life in a way that our Church could not when he was hurting the most in his life. My son and his wife have become youth leaders of Young Life and are helping young teens. That my son and his wife have fallen from the church is a loss to our Church, because they are both wonderful role models and good Christians. I wish that they were doing the same but within our Church, not a Protestant church. He was very much disgusted by the recent pedofile priest scandles in our Church. When I explained that they were just men, one comment he made was that yes, but he always held priests to higher standard. He could understand it better if it came from a Jim Bakker type, but always thought priests were better. My fear is that our Church could lose him forever if he perceives them as not acting fairly with me. He is very protective of me.
My daughter also has not totally rejected the Church, although she's had a falling out. She can still be occasionally dragged to Sunday Mass by her mother. She is having a crisis of faith.
But then so am I. When I was at my lowest points during the divorce, I did find a great deal of comfort in my faith, the support of a priest. Unfortunately, because of the divorce, I also have moved and am in a different parish. I go to Church Sundays but have not done much to get to know the priest there. I'd have to start all over again I guess. I certainly don't want to be judged by anyone, I'm trying the best I can to deal with a situation that was not of my making. I never asked to get divorced. I am trying here to do what is right and figure out what that is so I can go on with my life.
Can't write anymore right now. Thank you for reading.
-- MaryC (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 29, 2003.
Its good that you think about the things that you do. I think often about my wife. She too was "abducted by aliens." But I love still her just the same, and forgive her for her weaknesses. I expect she will sooner or later become open about bringing another man into her life, and that will hurt. But what is more important to me is how I present myself to my three sons. All three are still very young.
In their eyes, I'm a super-dad. When the divorce was occuring I did everything possible to calm their fears and show them that, no matter what, all you really need is God and as long as you keep trying to do His will, you will be just fine. They know I am faithful to my wife, and to my religion. They will, I hope, keep their own faith as they see my own faithfulness.
Right now, they try to please me by trying to please God. They pray with me, I take them to Mass, and my eldest goes to confession with me. We talk about everything they wonder about. Its really quite beautiful as they don't realize what incredibly good habits they are developing. Its the greatest joy I have in life right now.
If someone counsels you simply to "do what is right for you Mary" I would be a bit wary. If someone is suggesting you try to figure out what God wants you to do, I would tend to be accepting of that. Bear in mind that you alone are responsible for your own actions and choices.
This is the time for you to be a saint. Show your children that you are faithful to the Church, despite what your husband has done to you. Your example will help them. At the same time, don't discount the idea of seeking an anullment, just make sure it is not a false one. There may very well be valid grounds. Maybe not. Be ready to accept either outcome. As I said, if you want to share some details with me, I can help you there.
If you are ready internally, you can always prepare the petition and narrative for the doicesan tribunal. If they accept it, they should be able to tell you what grounds they are examining. Once you get to that phase, I can tell you what the outcome should be in light of Rotal Jurisprudence.
Most of all pray. Do mental prayer. If you can be contemplative, ask God for guidance. You will get some direction that way, and strength too to carry it out.
-- Pat Delaney (email@example.com), October 01, 2003.
Thank you Pat for your thoughtful response. I've been doing more research, soulsearching, meditating and praying on what to do. I've been thinking more and more that I will probably persue an Annulment. This is difficult for me because I guess the hardest part is admitting to myself that I didn't have what I thought I had. It is sad when you realize that the more you read you see that finding grounds is not an issue because you actually have grounds in more than one area.
There may yet another one and I have a question that maybe someone could help answer. As I stated previously, I was pregnant and that fact prompted us to get married. We were both college students at the time (he 19, me 18). I discovered I was pregnant just prior to the Christmas break and when we both went home for the holidays and broke the news to our parents. I went to the parish where I went to Church that also happens to be the same place I went to HS. The priests there knew me, but would not marry us because they (or the diocese) had a pre-cana policy where you had to partake of the classes over several weeks and only after that did they do the bans in the bulletin. So there was simply not enough time during our Christmas break to get it all done. So we got engaged publically, married legally but secretly at the courthouse,(to be able to get out of our dorm contracts), and went back to our college which was in another state. There, we spoke to the priest at the Student Catholic Center. They did the pre-cana different there, in that it was a Sat. retreat, not over several weeks. We had wanted to get married Sat Jan 29, and the retreat would not take place after that. We did talk to the priest and all about marriage etc BEFORE getting married, but it wasn't the formal pre-cana that you are supposed to do. We promised that we'd go to the retreat pre-cana after the fact, but never did. It was one of those things we just kept putting off. Anyway, my question is this. Would the fact that we NEVER went to the pre-cana mean anything in terms of the Annulment? Does that go towards form? Is it yet another thing that goes to the grounds?
A wonderful opportunity presented itself to talk to my daughter about the annulment issue given the readings at Mass today. Basically she doesn't care one way or the other what I do. That would have been good news, except for the rest of what she had to say. She went on to say that it was really MY religion, not hers and if that's what I needed to do to satisfy the rules, to go for it. She went on to say that she beleives in God but does not believe in any organized religion, and does not even believe in any of the Sacraments! I asked her why does she take Communion then, and she said it was not to upset ME! She said that she doesn't believe that it is really the Body and Blood of Christ and even has "problems" with Christianity itself and the concept of Jesus. She says she only goes to Mass, to avoid fighting with me. I asked her when she started feeling this way, and she said she's had questions since the age of 7, but it didn't actually all come together until the age of 15. (Lo and behold the same year her father walked out on us to be with his "soulmate") BUT she says the divorce had NOTHING to do with this!? She did admit that her father's actions were extremely hypocritical, since HE claimed to be such a "good Catholic". I'm sorry, but I don't buy her rationalization that it was just a freaky coincidence that the two things happened at age 15. My opinion is that the divorce had EVERYTHING to with it! At any rate, my question is this: What should I do about her? She's 19 years old. We already agreed that I don't want her to take Communion because of the way that she feels. But, should I continue to insist that she come to Mass with me, in hopes that the readings or Homily will somehow do something? She says she doesn't want to come, yet does. Even if it's to please me and keep the peace, isn't it a start? Tell me what you all think I should do with her.
My next hurdle is bringing up the annulment issue with my son. This will be more difficult and delicate, as he was the one that I was pregnant with and I never want him to feel that he was a mistake. I always have felt that he was an "unexpected surprise", but never a mistake.
Thanks for reading and any words of wisdom from those that have been through this would be appreciated.
-- MaryC (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 05, 2003.
Okay, I know up front that many will not disagree with me, but here's my opinion on handling your daughter. It never hurts to go to Mass, even when you're having a crisis of faith, or whatever you would say your daughter has. Sometimes a sermon brings a point home, or the particular readings for the Mass make you think. At any rate, at least when someone is at Mass, they're not off doing something else, as in something worse. I do feel that if she wasn't going to Communion, it isn't something you should be bringing up all the time, or even asking about. She is after all over 18, and she does know the rules, as you have previously indicated.
As to the divorce and her falling away from the Church, I highly doubt that they are as connected as you think. Lots of children aren't interested in Mass during the teenage years. It is a time of questioning everything in one's life, including parental authority. Especially when Mass has simply become one more thing you "have to do because I say so". Be happy for now that she still believes in God, and is still a good person otherwise. You cannot rush someone coming back to the Church.
As to your son, I would say the same thing. His faith is still Christianity. It could be a LOT worse, as you well know. Maybe he could go with you to Mass on Sunday with you once in a while, without his wife/family, take you out to breakfast, lunch afterwards. Yes, it distresses you that he is not practicing his Catholic faith, but again, it is his issue, not yours.
"My son, although he goes with his wife to the non-denominational Christian Church, has said to me that he has not renounced Catholicism totally, he simply finds this church's pastor to be more "relevant", bring more meaningful message to his life about Christ and gets more from his sermons. This church unfortunately has touched his life in a way that our Church could not when he was hurting the most in his life. My son and his wife have become youth leaders of Young Life and are helping young teens. That my son and his wife have fallen from the church is a loss to our Church, because they are both wonderful role models and good Christians."
Has he been specific about what the new church does for his faith? I think part of it is that people just seem to take more of an active interest in things when they are new. "Cradle (any religion)" seems to be part of the problem, particularly when you just go and do things without any history or "why" to them. Why DOES the priest kiss the altar, that sort of thing. Even Catholic schools don't really go into these things anymore, and so people think of the traditions as having no relevance. And, as we all know, we have some really inspiring (public-speaking) priests out there and we have others whose talents lie elsewhere. If the same message came from a Catholic priest would he come back, or is what he hearing something that will never come from a Catholic priest in good standing?
I hope this helps, even if only a little bit.
-- GT (email@example.com), October 05, 2003.
Thanks for your latest, which seemed so different to me from your previous messages. Despite the remaining problems, it is good to see that you seem much more at peace, thinking clearly, and choosing to go down the best path.
You asked about the pre-Cana situation and whether that had an effect on meeting the requirements of canonical form. Before I address that, I have to bring up something else. You mentioned that you satisfied the State's marriage requirement by going through a civil ceremony. But you never mentioned whether or not you subsequently exchanged consent in a religious ceremony. (You only mentioned that you had not gone through "pre-Cana.")
If you never exchanged consent in a Catholic marriage ceremony, then you never really got married. The civil ceremony was null and void (contrary to canonical form), and the tribunal will quickly inform you of this.
But if you did exchange consent in a Catholic ceremony, did your lack of pre-Cana preparation invalidate this consent? I do not have the authority or expertise to give you a definitive answer, and my reading of the pertinent canons leaves me uncertain. I don't think that pre-Cana preparation is part of the "form," but ...? Here are those canons:
Canon 1063 Pastors of souls are obliged to ensure that their own church community provides for Christ's faithful the assistance by which the married state is preserved in its Christian character and develops in perfection. This assistance is to be given principally: ...
2° by personal preparation for entering marriage, so that the spouses are disposed to the holiness and the obligations of their new state;
Canon 1064 It is the responsibility of the local Ordinary to ensure that this assistance is duly organized. ...
In my (very unofficial) opinion, the fact that you lacked pre-Cana preparation could render it more likely (though not certain) that some other "defect" was present -- something that prevented one or both of you from giving valid consent to Marriage. Various things are possible in your case, including a lack of freedom possibly caused by the pregnancy. Clearly, it is for the tribunal to decide.
God bless you.
-- J. F. Gecik (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 05, 2003.
Oh, Mary, I forgot to respond to a question of yours. You wrote:
"But, should I continue to insist that she come to Mass with me, in hopes that the readings or Homily will somehow do something? She says she doesn't want to come, yet does. Even if it's to please me and keep the peace, isn't it a start? Tell me what you all think I should do with her."
Although we know that she would be better off attending Mass than not attending, my answer to you is: you should not "continue to insist that she [go] to Mass with" you. She is now an adult and must choose freely. You have to show her this respect, and I think that it will mean a lot to her. You need to find the right words to break it to her -- that you would be very pleased if she would continue to come with you, but that she should do it only if she really wants to do it.
She should not be going to Mass "to please" you, but to worship God. She should not be going to Mass to "keep the peace," because she should not be in fear of hurting "the peace" by not going. If she decides to stop going, don't let it damage your relationship, and don't nag her. At this point, because she is an adult, it is best for you just to occasionally invite her to join you -- for example, "I'm driving over to church for Mass now, honey. You're welcome to join me."
The best thing for you to do is to imitate the patron saint of people in your situation -- St. Monica -- and pray every day for your children's "reversion" to the Catholic faith. My presence here today is living proof that parents' prayers for reversion do work.
God bless you.
-- J. F. Gecik (email@example.com), October 05, 2003.
As the rate of divorces increases so do the number of remarriages, and this increase of divorce and remarriage has even affected our conservative churches. Since this issue is so prevalent in our churches today, it would be good to consult the Bible and find out what God has to say about divorce and remarriage.
Let's look at these verses and see if God condones divorce and remarriage and if there are any exceptions that allow us to break the marriage contract. Turn to Romans 7:2-3: "For the woman which hath an husband is BOUND BY THE LAW [OF GOD, NOT MAN] to her husband SO LONG AS HE LIVETH; but IF her husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, WHILE HER HUSBAND LIVETH, she be married to another man, she shall be CALLED AN ADULTERESS: but IF her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man." Anyone who is married a SECOND TIME (or more) while there is a LIVING PARTNER is STILL BOUND BY GOD'S LAW TO THE FIRST PARTNER. The laws of the land may say that a woman is no longer bound to her first partner, but GOD says that she is and it is God's Word that counts. Although God can and does forgive the adulterers and adulteresses (if they ask Him to do so), God says that they are still BOUND BY THE LAW until death parts them. In conjunction with this is I Corinthians 7:39: "The wife is BOUND BY THE LAW AS LONG AS HER HUSBAND LIVETH; but if her husband be dead, she is AT LIBERTY to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord." The ONLY EXCEPTION listed here is when a partner dies. Then, AND ONLY THEN, is a person allowed to remarry and this person is commanded to be remarried to another Christian. This passage also states that if a woman marries another man while her first partner is still living, she is an adulteress. This, of course, also goes for the man who remarries and we are told numerous places in God's Word that those who commit adultery cannot enter heaven in an unforgiven condition (Galatians 5:19-21; I Corinthians 6:9; Hebrews 13:4; Malachi 3:5; Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21).
-- jason kennon (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 18, 2003.