Saturday, July 11, 2009

I divorced my wife but she insists we are still married: The St. Mary of Cana Project.

The insolubility of Catholic marriage.
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I have another story that deals with divorce and a spouse who couldn't let go. I worked with a woman whose husband left her for another woman. He divorced his wife whom he validly wed in a Roman Catholic ceremony - a sacramental bond. His wife is very devout, he is not - and he remarried. That was years ago - nevertheless the wife continues to hold onto the marriage insisting the civil divorce is invalid in the eyes of the Church - which is true.
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She continues to wear her wedding ring and wouldn't dream of dating - she remains faithful to her marriage vows, which are insoluble. Some co-workers mocked her for that, even called her a bitch because she holds this fact over her husband's head - they say she controls him and got more support for her kids this way. For a time, even I thought she should move on and forget about her failed marriage. Eventually I came to see her point and understood that she was actually acting/living virtuously, perhaps even heroically. She was living her marriage vows, keeping her end of the bargain before God and man.
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It turns out there is an actual apostolate, or movement, offering support and solidarity for Catholic spouses who are separated or divorced. Here is that story:
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Westlake, Ohio, Jul 7, 2009 / 06:03 am (CNA).- A new support community for divorced or separated Catholics who remain faithful to marriage has launched in the United States, taking inspiration from a similar Italian effort to help people fulfill their vows and live their "I do."
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The Saint Mary of Cana project, sponsored in the U.S. by the non-profit Mary’s Advocates, seeks to work with dioceses in the United States in order to, in project director Bai Macfarlane’s words, "reject the divorce culture’s indoctrination that our marriage is dead or that we have new lives as single people."
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"He who is faithful to the sacrament is faithful to God," she wrote. "Matrimony is the state of life that a man and a woman have chosen freely as a way of holiness. Both of the spouses are able by the Grace of the sacrament to be ‘conjugal ministers' for the sanctification of their spouse and their children, in view of the whole Church."
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"This mission ...does not end in the case of separation or divorce of the spouses," Campanella continued, referencing Paragraph 1615 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. She said the separated or divorced person gives witness not only to the Church but also to the World that Jesus is faithful to the marriage covenant with the Church, even if the Church is "adulterous."
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A Minnesota connection.
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Fr. Timothy Cloutier, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Waverly, Minnesota, has endorsed the manual, saying it is "long overdue" in addressing how to live one’s marriage vows after divorce.
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"This is not a self-pity book, laying blame or fault. Neither is it simply another book about coping with life after divorce… It is an insightful work drawing on faith and love to face the challenge of continuing to live one's ‘I do’ after the conjugal life has broken down."
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Fr. Cloutier said that Campanella shows how married love can and needs to continue "for the spiritual growth of the spouses themselves."
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"The reality of Christ's love as source and example for a divorced Catholic is revealed with a clarity that can only be called inspired, and truly timely," he added.
- Source
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Links:
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19 comments:

  1. Perhaps now the Church will cease passing out annulments like candy at a parade.

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  2. It sounds good but I'm not sure how many people would really be able to live this way without getting that little passive-aggressive twist into it. However I've always been uncomfortable with the annulment thing because it says that there never was a sacramental marriage. Even though the parties were of legal age and no one was pointing a shotgun at them. Maybe we would be better off to do it like the Orthodox do.

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  3. That too Melody - BTW - how do the Orthodox do it?

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  4. Anonymous7:14 PM

    Very admirable, people keeping their promises, very uncomonon today.
    But please tell me; What are the valid reasons for divorce in the eyes of the church? Why does the church allow them? I've know people that have had their marriage annuled and others that simply get divorced.

    Paul

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  5. Terry, the Orthodox don't have a central authority so it likely depends on which Orthodox.

    Paul, divorce is a civil matter and doesn't affect the Sacrament of marriage; after divorce one may seek annulment from the tribunal. the difference between people seeking annulment or divorce is probably whether they follow church teaching or not.

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  6. It is my understanding that the Eastern Orthodox churches consider divorce a tragedy due to human weakness and sin; however if there is no possibility of reconciliation, a second marriage is permitted as a pastoral conession in the context of weakness and the fallen world in which we live. There is no attempt to declare that the first marriage was not a sacrament.
    Perhaps a reader with more knowledge of Orthodox belief could comment and correct me if I have stated this wrong.

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  7. One does not seek an annulment. One applies for a declaration of nullity. There IS a difference.

    And they are not easy to get. They are gut wrenching. One must find at least 3 witnesses (at least one from "the other side", write up a summary of the marriage (digging up many unpleasant, hurtful memories along the way) and then one is interviewed by a priest (which is like confession with no absolution.)And the "other side" gets to do all that too - or they can refuse - and the Tribunal will contact them again and if they refuse a second time they Tribunal will contact them one more time.

    Finally after thousands of dollars, requests for items one can never hope to produce on their own (such as a baptismal certificate for a party who refuses to cooperate - not because they want to stay married but because they have no interest in being Catholic anymore)you might receive a first instance from your local tribunal. Then it goes to the national level. More waiting and more money. And no guarantee - you still have to pay the money!

    My only prayer while I was waiting for mine was that the Holy Spirit would be with the Tribunal. If they found the first marriage to be valid after all then I was going to have to make a difficult decision - leave the man I married civilly while away from the church or live in mortal sin and go to hell. I am blessed that I did not have to make that choice.

    Annulments (properly called Decrees of Nullity) are not given out like candy. You do a diservice to all good canon lawyers when you make remarks like that. You also insult me.

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  8. Melody, you are correct.

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  9. Thanks for clarifying that Angela - it is important for us to know the difference, just as in the case of the difference between contrception and NFP. Many people confuse that as well.

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  10. No insult was intended, but do you know how many marriages are annulled? A theme on this blog is the sanctity of marriage and the family. This is a contributing factor, bothin in the Church and in society.

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  11. No Thom, I don't. I only speak from my own experience with a Tribunal that went over my application with a FINE TOOTH COMB!

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  12. Dear Mr.Paul,
    Are you looking for a valid way out of your marriage?
    hahahaha
    Although if you ever did divorce me you would have to take the children because they drove me insane a long time ago and I couldn't afford to them. They are money siphons and Ana says's that they smell like old chicken nuggets.
    Luckily your little angels haven't broken my will to live. I can still think and stand erect! You know that when they learn our check card pin numbers they will turn on us.
    (Paul suffers you know.)

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  13. Angela, comboxes are an informal communication method therefore informal language is generally used.

    People who don't know you and know nothing about your situation and the volume of baggage with which you travel can't reasonably be construed as insulting you; in order to insult you with the word "seek" I would first have to know your personal business, which I don't, save for that which you have posted here.

    Furthermore, "annulment" is the term used in the vernacular. You know that. I note that you failed to chastise my use of the term "divorce" which is more properly termed "decree of marriage dissolution."

    "Seek" is a proper term as the person seeking an annulment must take action, it isn't automatic; many Catholics get divorced and move on to other religions or no religion at all rather than to change their status.

    There's absolutely no reason for you to go off on me.

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  14. Yikes, you've got a hot topic here today, Terry. It's a good one though. I didn't realize there was a ministry for people like this...that's very encouraging for the Church.

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  16. Nan, I didn't. It was actually Thom's first comment that prompted me to write. And yes, I understand the informality aspect - which I believe leads people to mistake the "seeking" and the "applying."

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  17. +JMJ+

    Does Mary's Advocates count as a ministry? Their mission is to provide support to abandoned Catholic spouses whose marriage partners had recourse to no-fault divorce.

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  18. Angela — I do not understand why your annulment would have cost "thousands" of dollars, but it appears there may be other factors driving up the general cost of annual process.

    Just for clarification of other readers most annulments range from $400 - $900.00 depending on the diocese, and if one cannot pay, there can be a waiving of the fee. All diocese offer some sort of extended payment plan too.

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  19. Andrew Cana10:22 PM

    Divorce is a grave sin according to the Catholic Church except in narrow circumstances. Many are trying to rationalize their sin by obtaining easy annulments from disobedient marriage tribunals that are giving them out like candy. Don't take my word for it. Pope John Paul II commented to the Roman Rota in 1987 that we need protect against the “scandal of seeing in practice the value of Christian marriage being destroyed by the exaggerated and almost automatic multiplication of declarations of nullity, in cases of the failure of marriage, on the pretext of some immaturity or psychic weakness on the part of the contracting parties". Pope Benedict XVI gave a similar speech on January 29, 2009 denouncing the misuse of psychology in annulling marriages. Too many people mistake psychology for religion.

    I understand the de jure difference between a civil divorce and a declaration of nullity. However, granting annulments to every petitioner who asks, makes annulments de facto Catholic divorces. Annulments have risen exponentially since the sixties. This can’t be solely blamed on the pro-divorce secular culture influencing Catholic couples. Easy annulments promoted as “healing” are also contributing to the grave sin of divorce. It is a two way street.


    Most of the annulments rely on “experts” to provide psychological evidence that one or both of the spouses were not psychologically able to understand or live up to their marital obligations. Recall the church deferred to the psychological experts when they failed to hold pedophile priests accountable for the crimes because of psychological reasons. The experts don’t believe in our free will and sinful nature.

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