Quantcast
Click here to read more...
March 27, 2008
Newsletter:     
Search:        
 
Click Here to Order!
 
Return to Home Page Return to Old Archive Home Page Doctrine, Scripture, Morality, Vocation, Community Identity, Sexuality, Family, Healing, Work Art, Ideas, Technology, Science, Business Politics, Bioethics, Ecology, Justice, Peace Spirituality, Prayers, Poems, and Witness Archive of top news from around the web Columns, Reviews and Personal Essays What is Godspy?
faith article
spacer
spacer
<LIFE>
RELATED LINKS
Crisis Magazine
Politics and culture from a Catholic perspective.

Faith & Family
The Magazine of Catholic Living

National Catholic Register
Nation's fastest-growing weekly on Catholic issues.

National Marriage Encounter
Marriage Encounter is for all married couples who desire to better their marriages. It is open to all, regardless of age or faith.

Retrouvaille
Help for couples to heal and renew their marriages.

Saint Michael’s Institute
Psychological healing that’s both Catholic and scientific

ADVERTISEMENTS
Click here to buy the movie...
 
 
 
 
 
 
Click here to see the video!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Click here to buy!
 
 
 
Click to buy at Amazon.com
 
 
 
Click here to buy!
 
 
 
 
 
 

BREAKING VOWS: WHEN FAITHFUL CATHOLICS DIVORCE

When I was asked to investigate reports that young, on-fire, faithful Catholics were divorcing, I was surprised. But the more I looked into it, the more I realized that my surprise was part of the problem.

When Faithful Catholics Divorce

"It wasn't supposed to be like this." That's how divorce starts for the Catholic couples I talked to: hard-core, confession-going, Humanae Vitae—believing Catholic couples. Couples who know exactly what marriage is supposed to be.

One man I spoke with, now divorced, took Scott Hahn's Christian marriage class with his theology-major fiancée. Another couple, now divorced, made the twin sacrifices of building a large family and allowing the wife to stay homebecause, in the ex-husband's words, "Simpleminded me, I looked at every sacrament as precious and worthy." Two others, now divorced, helped at their parish and were sacrificing to send their kids to Catholic schools. Another woman told me that, until recently, she and her husband published pamphlets on how to live a Catholic marriage better.

Nearly every married couple at one point or another faces deep disappointment. But unless there is abuse, Catholic couples have very few options when things get really, really tough.

They can either struggle to get their love back or struggle to live without it. What they can't do is divorce.

"Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law," according to the Catechism (2384). "Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign."

The grave sin of divorce infects everybody around it. It wrecks families and convinces society that Catholic teaching about marriage just isn't practical.

So why are so many committed Catholic couples doing it?

The D-Word

For most assenting CatholicsCatholics who reject the idea of legitimate doctrinal dissent—the mystique of Catholic marriage keeps them together. They refuse even to consider divorce an option.

So, for an assenting Catholic, the topic of divorce is usually accompanied by a question: What if our marriage isn't even valid to start with?

Or, as Alicia stated it: "I'm too good to be divorced. Therefore this was not a valid marriage."

"As soon as you even talk about divorce as if it's an option, you've taken your first step," Patricia, an abandoned mother of five, told me.

When one spouse has dropped the D-word, a black cloud enters a home and hangs there, affecting everything. Close friends are consulted. One or both spouses will speak to a priest.

Still, the black cloud can be dispelled even at this stage, and often is, if the couple looks into the horrible consequences of divorce and decides they just won't go there. There's always hope. Until someone calls a lawyer.

“It’s like the Church has let us go into the hands of a monster that is tearing our family apart, and the Church won’t intervene... When I made my vows, I signed up for something different."
"All it takes is one confused spouse who thinks that divorce will solve their unhappiness," said Michelle Gauthier, founder of Defending Holy Matrimony. "When that one spouse visits a lawyer, they place the entire family in the hands of a hostile court system. Children become wards of the state, and all marital assets are controlled by the courts. It is truly a tragedy."

Judy Parejko, Gauthier's colleague and author of Stolen Vows, says it's "the coercive system we have called no-fault divorce that pushes people in only one direction."

One abandoned mother called me after getting a particularly offensive note from a court representative. "I get the feeling that there is this perverse patronizing that's going on here," she said. "They're actually pleased to rip my family apart because they think I'm this mistaken ancient restrictive weirdo because I'm a loyal Roman Catholic."

For a woman in her position, the feeling of betrayal is overwhelming. "It's like the Church has let us go into the hands of a monster that is tearing our family apart, and the Church won't intervene," she said. "They just stand back and watch it happen. When I made my vows, I signed up for something different."

The Size of the Problem

Some distinctions are in order.

The divorce rate among Catholics is reputedly the same as that among the general public, where about 35 percent of people who have been married have also been divorced. The couples I spoke with were very aware of the high Catholic divorce rate. The abandoning spouse in each took comfort in the thought that he was just part of a crowd.

But as with most polls that identify trends in the Catholic population, there's less in that number than meets the eye.

The Barna Research Group estimates that 25 percent of Catholics who have been married have been divorcedthat's lower than the general population, but high nonetheless. But the group's research also says that only 49 percent of those Catholics go to Mass on any given week.

So, what percentage of these divorcing Catholics are lapsed Catholics, and what percentage are committed Catholics? Barna doesn't say.

In fact, no one knows exactly what the assenting-Catholic divorce rate is. Catholics sometimes cite the statistic that only 2 percent of married couples who use natural family planning (NFP) end in divorce, but investigate that and you'll soon find that no one knows where the 2 percent figure came from.

Parejko said she's skeptical about claims that assenting Catholics have a lower divorce rate. "I've seen that the problem is just as bad for Catholics, and even what I call devout Catholics, as the rest of the country," she said. "I don't see any protected category."

Dominican Rev. Juan-Diego Brunetta offered one measure of how bad it is. He is a judge and defender of the bond at the marriage tribunal at the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, where he's involved in hundreds of Petitions for Declarations of Invalidity of Marriage (the technical name for an annulment).

"My response can only be anecdotal," he told me. "But in the cases I've handled, I would estimate that in somewhere between 5 and 10 percent, at least one member of the couple made an effort to know, study, or follow the Church's teachings," he said.

The president of a Catholic college known for its fidelity guessed that about 5 percent of the marriages of its alums end in divorce.

Whatever the number is, it looks awfully high to Catholics who see their friends divorcing. And for each of the marriages that ends in divorce, there are plenty that walk right up to the edge.

"Catholics are falling apart left and right, orthodox Catholics," said Dr. Phillip Mango, a psychoanalyst at the St. Michael's Institute in Manhattan. "When I saw the Catholic marriages in this country that are hurting, I wasn't shockedI was saddened. Who is dealing with this? Who is dealing with this in a real way? Bible study is just not doing it."

Pride and Individualism

Why is the problem of divorce rearing its head among Catholics right now?

For the same reasons it's plaguing everyone else.

“An overly intellectual approach diminishes the mystery that marriage is supposed to be. A lot of it is experiential. It’s learned in the very living of it.”
Catholics can sometimes convince themselves that they aren't part of the same culture as the rest of the world. But we're all part of the culture of immediate gratification that doesn't consider long-term consequences. We're all individualistic rather than communal. Most of us have easily dropped relationships, even family ones, to pursue careers and comforts.

On top of that, younger Catholics, products of the 1970s and 1980s, are likely to come from broken homes, or homes bent almost to the breaking point. The crisis of fidelity affects us, too.

"We live in a culture in which everything is disposable," said Gauthier, "including unborn children and spouses. This culture affects even the most faithful."

But what about the Faith? Shouldn't faith steel the assenting Catholic against the culture? In fact, it's the other way around. Faith needs a culture to stay strong. Worse, a self-righteous faith can lull Catholics into a false sense of security, a new Phariseeism convinced that intellectual assent to the right doctrinesnot our humility and God's mercyis what saves us.

"They think they know everything there is to know about marriage," said Father Brunetta, "and when they get there and discover it's not what they expected, they don't know what to do. If we think the answer to the real day-to-day problems of our marriage is going to be found in a paragraph of Familiaris Consortio, we've missed the point of the document."

Doug and Andie can relate. They met on the campus of a faithful-to-the-Magisterium Catholic school in 1989 when "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" was a hit song on the radio and Field of Dreams was in theaters.

Andie was a theology major, but it was Doug's communications major that led him to full-time Catholic work later in life. They dated, got engaged their senior year, and took three kinds of marriage preparation, including NFP classes. They married a month after their 1992 graduation.

Doug had a full-time job in the apologetics movement. "I was surrounded by theology 24 hours a day," he said. But while he and his wife overloaded on "Catholic stuff," they neglected to develop an authentic spirituality.

"We went to Mass together on a weekly basis," he said. "We did some spiritual things together that were part of the family life, not as often as she would have liked." Doug-who's now an abandoned father of twosaid that the troubles that tore his marriage apart came down to pride.

"Both of us became guilty of self-righteousness," he said. "We both thought it was more important to be right than to be happy. And that's a killer for a marriage."

In retrospect, Doug says that marriage preparation gave him all the doctrinal answers but left him unprepared for the life that he would face. "I have learned a lot since then through individual counseling. Too many times, I will read something in a book only to look up to God and ask, 'Why didn't I read this five years ago?'"

Father Brunetta said that for many couples, "an overly intellectual approach diminishes the mystery that marriage is supposed to be. Before I got ordained I had a certain sense of what it was to be a priest. I thought I knew what it would be like, but I had no idea. A lot of it is experiential. It's learned in the very living of it. If we've got it all figured out ahead of time, we might end up fighting against what our married life is teaching us."

Patricia, abandoned mother of five, can relate. She and her husband made a deal that they would never share their marital problems with others.

It didn't seem like such a bad plan. "You don't want to be one of those people who gossips about their spouse and just complains," she said.

But then it became something else. "You have an image that you portray to other people that you're a good Catholic," she said. "But to seek out and recognize how bad marriage problems really are, you need to talk about them."

Patricia explained the phenomenon to me. Catholic couples "think that if you're punching your time clock, doing your duties to your faith, God promises to take care of your marriage. But your marriage has a life of its own, and if you don't do something about it, it's going to fester and it's going to explode."

Whether you like it or not, she said, cultural forces will exert an influence over you, no matter how faithful you are doctrinally.

"Nobody can escape the fact that you only know what you grew up with-even if you have Catholic faith. So unless both people came from a really beautiful marriage, they're going to come in with broken ideas."

Doug said the same thing. He and his wife had a great opportunity to grow together, to balance each other out, in the complementarity of marriage. But that's not what happened.

Instead of the complementarity of the sexes, their differences turned into a conflagration. "I did not provide as much emotional support and encouragement as she needed because I was an introvert," he said. "She did not trust me enough with major decisions and relied on her family's input to chart our course."

Instead of working for a marriage that helps balance their temperaments and better them, they've gone their separate ways. Now their two children are from a broken home.

The Abandonment Diagnosis

Ironically enough, faithful Catholics' emphasis on doctrinal study can actually leave them vulnerable to high-minded doubts about their marriages.

A self-righteous faith can lull Catholics into a false sense of security, a new Phariseeism convinced that intellectual assent to the right doctrines—not our humility and God's mercy—is what saves us.
"You see the same phenomenon with medical students," said Father Brunetta. "As they study medicine, they begin to self-diagnose. Each new ache and pain is imagined to be an indication of the most virulent disease they know. Of course, precious few of them actually have spinal meningitis or pancreatic cancer. Normal aches and pains indicate life, not death."

In the same way, he said, "There are tensions and struggles and difficulties that are normal in the marriagethese are signs of health, not invalidity."

But the spouse who wants to jump ship won't think so. He or she will search through the reasons some marriages are declared invalid. He'll discover that for a Catholic who knew Church teaching on marriage, there simply aren't any intellectual grounds for annulment.

"The bar is very low for what one needs to know to get married validly," said Father Brunetta. "The Church law requires very little for a valid marriage. People playing all these head games about why their marriages are invalid don't understand the Church's teachings."

The assenting, divorcing Catholic will eliminate them, one by one: Their marriage was heterosexual, neither one expected to have a partner on the side, they knew it was "until death do us part," each expected marriage to involve sexual intercourse, and they knew that the procreation and education of children was one of the primary ends of marriage.

What about problems of the will? "A person needs to positively set his will against some aspect of marriage in order to invalidate the marital consent," said Father Brunetta. "There would need to be an intention against children or fidelity or permanence, an intention against the good of the spouse or the sacramental nature of the marriage."

To find a ground for annulment, the assenting Catholic will usually end up claiming that he was psychologically incapable of making a commitment to marry.

"Some people are not capable of marriage, because of some defect that is beyond their intellect and will," said Father Brunetta, who works with petitions for invalidity all the time. People who can hardly take care of themselves. People who are hopelessly addicted to drugs or alcohol. But these are real mental conditions.

"Personally," said Father Brunetta, "I think that somebody who enters into a marriage having studied and appreciated the teachings might suffer from something else when they find themselves knocking at the tribunal door. They expected marriage to be exalted, like the Book of Revelation, like the wedding feast of the Lamb. And when they find out that theirs is not like they imagined, and they are not prepared to grow together and work through normal difficulties in their marriage, they start looking for a way out. And they say, 'Oh, I had a defect.' But, you know what? If you have the wherewithal to figure out that you were so gravely incapacitated as to invalidate your marriage, chances are you're not incapacitated."

But the reality is that when a spouse is trying to prove his marriage is invalid, he can easily exploit the process.

Alicia, an abandoned mother of three, told me that her husband set out a simple test for whether his theory about their marriage was correct or not.

"His test of whether or not the divorce was 'of the Lord' was whether or not the annulment was granted. There are books out there to tell you what to write. He got one of those and filled out his annulment papers.

"To me, when the Holy Father came out in 1998 and reprimanded the tribunal boards for granting too many annulments, this is exactly what he had in mind," she said. "This is what he had in mind with his January speech to the Roman Rota when he said we are supposed to assume that the marriage is valid until proven wrong."

Divorce Support

Unfortunately, when couples turn to their parish priest for guidance, they don't necessarily get the answers the pope is giving. They aren't getting them from their families either.

Doug remembers how moving to Andie's hometown brought him to the brink of divorce. "Once we got to Omaha, Andie started talking to her family more and more. Within a few months, all of them were discussing divorce and looking for the loopholes," he said. "They were saying I can still receive the sacraments if I divorce my family. They were focusing on the Church's teachings of what is allowed. The Catechism itself says divorce is tolerated-not permitted, 'tolerated'but only under certain circumstances. Beatings, not caring for the kids, etc. You can't just say, 'This didn't work out.' But the Church doesn't enforce this."

The parish didn't help Doug. "What really put a knock on my faith was that I kept turning to the Church saying, 'Please help us! Please help us!' But the focus seems to be on the acceptance of individuals in the Church after divorce. It almost seems as if priests do not want to address this issue because they are afraid of offending," he said.

The battle in the Church doesn’t help. Dissenting Catholics often won’t teach the doctrines that protect and guide marriage. Assenting Catholics, on the other hand, often won’t address the real pitfalls and messiness of marriage.
Frank, an abandoned father of four, had a similar experience when he was faced with divorce. "The different priests I talked to seemed very disinterested, which I found appalling. It was like talking to a wall when my wife and I talked to one priest. All he could say is, 'I can't tell who the victim is here.' Another who was a more senior priest, he just talked about civil and legal matters as being completely segregated from matrimonial unions blessed by the Church," said Frank. "The priestsit didn't look like they had a clue what to do. They were so out of touch with the need to problem-solve."

Do priests know how awful divorce is? Or is it that they just feel helpless?

"I wouldn't want to hazard a guess about the motivation of particular priests in particular occasions," Father Brunetta told me. "However, there is a perceived tension in pastoral work that is not always easily negotiated. It's the false dichotomy that's created between what is pastoral and what is doctrinal."

He said that priests fall into the trap in one of two ways. "On one extreme there's a sort of hyper-pastoralism, which becomes a constant placating of persons in distress. Here the priest will avoid doing anything that will make him the bad guy. Even, perhaps, at the expense of the Church's authentic teaching on marriage," he said. "On the other extreme is a doctrinaire spirit that can seem to be unaware of the real pain people experience in their day-to-day struggles with sin and failure and the fallen state of humanity."

The battle in the Church doesn't help, said Mango. Dissenting Catholics often won't teach the doctrines that protect and guide marriage. Assenting Catholics, on the other hand, often won't address the real pitfalls and messiness of marriage because they detract from the doctrines that are under such vicious attack.

The Church needs to "get real," Mango said. "As real as the enemies of the Church are getting. I have yet to hear a homily from anyone who says, 'The world has infected the Church, so there in the back of the church are some pamphlets that direct you to where you can get help. There's one on verbal and spousal abuse. There's one on post-abortion healing. There's one on homosexuality. There's one there for Sexaholics Anonymous. They're all free. Go and get them. I'll be in the confessional.' Not once. Instead, I hear, 'Good morning. How are you? I think it's time that we should perhaps love one another.'"

Sons of Adam

I must confess, I was surprised by the story assignment when I was asked to investigate reports that a higher than expected number of young, on-fire, faithful Catholics were divorcing.

But the more I looked into it, the more I realized that my surprise was part of the problem. After all, from the beginning, marriage has always been the center of a great battle. No one should blithely expect that he's in a special class that is somehow spiritually protected.

A marriage was Satan's first target in the Garden of Eden, and it was one of his preferred fields of battle through the Old Testament. The British schism in the Protestant Reformation began when a committed Catholic, Henry VIII, wanted to divorce his wife. And today, the battle over marriage rages on.

"There's a demon out there that's trying to claw and tear people up, and when he gets a divorce, he's got a victory," one abandoned wife told me. "It wrecks kids. It convinces the culture that these Catholics don't know what they're talking about. The devil's way of destroying the culture from the very beginning was to put a wedge between the husband and the wife."

How to fight back? The obvious answer is better marriage preparation.

"The Vatican is begging for eight sessions" of preparation, said Mango. He runs an eight-session marriage preparation program that includes family-of-origin issues, the differences between men and women, in-depth communication instruction, a look at the resentment a male-centered sexual life causes, and what a real spiritual life looks like.

How to fight back? The obvious answer is better marriage preparation.
Father Brunetta put in his vote for a future improvement to marriage preparation. "Canonists belong at the beginning of the process," he said, "working with couples to understand what the Church teaches and what Church law requires for marriage. We need more canonists in marriage prep work for the health of marriages in the United States."

But Parejko said that the Church also needs to change the way it approaches marriage at the back end, in the marriage tribunals.

"My hope has gotten bigger over time," she said. "Now it's that the tribunals will be transformed from annulment processing places to reconciliation havens. And a group of us believes that Pope John Paul II wants this to happen."

At any rate, something has to be done.

I asked one man what the worst effect of divorce has been in his life.

"My eleven-year-old son has taken a knock in terms of what he believes about God," he told me. "We've taught him the Faith, but he thinks that sometimes God won't answer prayers, because he prayed and prayed that we'd get back together again. And that didn't happen."




Thinking of Divorce?

When University of Chicago analysts looked at the National Survey of Family and Households, they found some interesting things. The survey measured both the personal and marital happiness of 5,232 married adults during the late 1980s. The same couples were reinterviewed in the mid-1990s. Some of the findings:

•  Spouses in a really unhappy marriage tend to separate. But among those unhappy marriages in which the spouses stayed together, two out of three reported that their marriages were "happy" five years later.

•  Among those who rated their marriage "very unhappy," 80 percent of those who stayed together reported that their marriages were "happy" five years later.

•  Those spouses who separated, divorced, and remarried were, on average, no happier than those who stayed married.

The analysts conducted focus group interviews with 55 formerly unhappy spouses. The subjects often reported that:

•  They overcame their problems simply by reorganizing their schedules to spend more time together and by seeking help from relatives or from counseling.

•  They resigned themselves to lower expectations from their marriages and sought companionship instead of intense romantic feelings and the "happily ever after" image of marriage.

•  They were able to avoid divorce by developing "a strong commitment to staying married." When they banished the idea of divorce, their marriages became happier.

spacer
July 26, 2004

Tom Hoopes is the executive editor of the "National Catholic Register" and with his wife, April, is editorial director of "Faith & Family" magazine. He has changed the names in this article to preserve the privacy of his sources. Furthermore, none of the couples referred to include his friends, family, or acquaintances.

This article appeared in the July 2004 issue of "Crisis Magazine". Reprinted with permission. All Rights reserved.

Email A Friend
READER COMMENTS
03.05.07   Dapo says:
In Christian doctrine, the message is God hate divorce. People sometimes don't realise the commitment involve when you walk to that altar and say I do. Marriage life is full of challenges that needs to be overcomed, lesson that needs to be learned and everyday you know your spouse more. As a christian ask yourself how many times God said we should forgive?

12.18.06   menolly says:
Thank you for this article. I, myself, am struggling with this. After 18 years of marriage, 9 children, and trying hard to be a faithful Catholic (weekly fasting, Mass, years of nightly Rosary with children and sometimes husband), I am discovering a long history of lying on my husband's part. There were other problems before that, which I'd boil down to him not separating emotionally from his family. One of the things that made me question my ability to continue in this marriage was the fact given here, that most couples are happy 5 years later, if they just stick it out. I have stuck it out, I have prayed, and not only have things not improved, I have discovered they were even worse than I thought, with lies and questionable relationships with at least three other women. I look at his past and it's not surprising that he turned to lying as a way to cope, but it is absolutely intolerable to be in a marriage where you never know what the truth is.At the same time. I do not want to be guilty of bailing 'just because I'm unhappy.' Yet I can't at this point comprehend another 40 years of lies and deceptions and lack of loyalty.

03.10.06   kevinjjones says:
Marriage is the Song of Songs.... and the Crucifixion. The ideal of a happy marriage depicted in the former shouldn't overshadow the sacrificial ideal in the latter.

03.10.06   Anonymous II says:
My story,My husband from the day we were married was involved in Pornography, I stayed and tried, VALIANTLY, for almost 2 decades, dragging him and me to therapy more times than I can count. I accidentally found out as I decided to leave that he had child pornography. Now how DANGEROUS to our children was it to stay??? I say this, sometimes HELP is needed. I have been gone for long enough to know that my children and I ARE happier. I can sleep, eat, and think the depression may be disappearing perhaps forever. I became a "Faithful Catholic" AFTER we were married. I left him once 8 months into the marriage. I stayed and had a "large" family, then buried myself in the children and my newly discovered Faith. My faith was used against me by my husband. I truly love our Lord and our Church. I may have to live the rest of my life alone if I cannot get an annulment, or wait for my soon to be ex to die, in order to remarry, but that I can live with. I no longer agree to live with the emotional abuse, for my children or my sake. I also believe I would have ended up dead from suicide. I finally left because I realized that it was better for my children to have one functional parent than to loose me to his illness, sexual addiction.We were VERY unprepared as a couple, we were even asked which kind of birth control we would use. I truly believe that the Church is STILL failing couples, 8 classes doesn't even begin to cover it!!!My true prayer is that our society and Church begin to take seriously the declining morals and understanding of marriage. JMJ---AMDG!!!

09.11.04   alexander caughey says:
Failure is a fact of living. Without the depths of failure, we can never know what it means to experience pain and suffering. Without trying we cannot succeed and in failing we are compelled to keep trying.For it is our failures that inspires us to learn from our mistakes, in order to grow into the person who will try that much harder to avoid repeating the mistakes that led to our experiences at trying to succeed in all our endeavours. God asks us not to look back and Lot's wife best illustrates our need to avoid the bitterness of endeavouring to relive past mistakes. By learning from our past we are well able to create a future of increasing happiness, buttressed by the experiences of our failures. Dwelling on our past experiences, to where they will anchor us to our earlier life, will prevent us growing into the person who will eventually create the life that is now growing us into whom we are becoming to all who will appreciate us for our being of now and not of then.

08.02.04   kenwolman says:
This goes a bit beyond "faithful Catholics." Oh...by the way...I have two identities here. kennyw and kenwolman are the same person from different accounts.As for the article, I have so many "On the other hands" about this that I feel like one ofthose Hindu deities you see in statues.BackgroundMy marriage effectively ended in February 1997 when my wife confrontedme with the trail of breadcrumbs I thought I was hiding, namely thatI'd been serially unfaithful to her for three years. We were bothJews at the time, though I had lost any sense of faith long before.BlameIn early 1993 I had begged my wife to go to marriage counseling with me--Ihad barely escaped an "involvement" and really didn't want one. Shesaid "It's your problem, you work it out." The therapist I saw forsix months at Jewish Family Services said I had a right to be happy.He didn't say "Go out and have an affair." But I did. And it didn'tmake me happy.Anyway, I moved out in April '97 and--details for another time--hadwhat amounted to a locution on June 15 of that year, a sense of Jesusinhabiting me and calling me to Him. Very Pauline except for thedonkey and eyesight. It was both terrifying and liberating. I begantaking RCIA instruction that September. The fact it was tooshort--only from September to April--is not the point, at least now.In December 1997 divorce papers were filed. I entered the Church inApril 1998. The final dissolution was in October. A Jewish manstarts the divorce process and a Catholic man finishes it. What wasthis marriage?Who's On First?I received no unanimous opinion from priests in the Archdiocese ofNewark. I was told that the Church recognized the religiouslysolemnized marriages of other faiths as equally binding as Catholicmarriage. Ergo, annulment. Then I was told that I could fit into aloophole of the Pauline Privilege: one partner finds Jesus, the otherdoesn't, let them go their ways in peace and for only $50 bucksinstead of several hundred.I had a spiritual director, a Jesuit in New York, who recommended aChurch dissolution of some kind. I had no clue about the grounds."The marriage was consummated, we have two children." "No," he said."How old were you and how did you and your wife feel when youmarried?""I was just 25, she was 24. We were madly in love.""Okay," he said. "But did you have any idea of the spiritual andlifetime commitment you were making? Did you understand the Jewishconcept of marriage, let alone the Catholic?""I had no clue" I replied. "Nobody told us anything.""Bingo" he said.See, there was no marriage preparation. We didn't even have aconversation with the rabbi, who would have been a lousy counseloranyway because two weeks after our wedding, he and his wife had ascreaming fight in front of their parsonage, a fight that climaxed inthe wife throwing her ring in his face. Believe in bad omens?Yes and NoOne the one hand...I believe today that if I had not left my marriageI would probably be dead now of a stroke, suicide, or alcoholism. Iwas living in Hell. The components of that Hell--my part, herpart--become immaterial after a time. What matters is that it hadbecome a horror. I did not have the nerve to leave except thatblessedly I finally got caught. Otherwise I might still be there,moral blinders intact, or probably incapacitated or dead.On the other hand...I have some surely heterodox sense of why theChurch barely tolerates divorce. The process takes two people whoused to love each other and pits them against each other like a pairof wild animals. It is dehumanizing to both parties and the scars donot heal. Believe nothing you read about one month per year ofmarriage: it's a lie. They don't go away unless you stayed inebriatedthe entire time.What Becomes of the Broken Hearted (in Church)?--a Plea for RecognitionI would be remiss if I did not suggest how some local parishes--myfirst one--treat the divorced convert. We can receive the Sacraments.But we are also ignored, shunted aside, cordially made invisible whenit comes to participation in parish life, either socially or in anyministerial capacity. Nobody will say this out loud. But Ray Charlescould have seen it. This is not a reason not to divorce: it is asuggestion to the parishes and dioceses that they pay some closeattention to the reality the article points out and not shut out anincreasing part of their attendees.

07.28.04   Godspy says:
When I was asked to investigate reports that a high number of young, on-fire, faithful Catholics were divorcing, I was surprised. But the more I looked into it, the more I realized that my surprise was part of the problem.

Click to buy at Amazon.com!
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Advertise | About Us