I have had several posts about the Catholic controversies over divorce and remarriage. Here, here and here. This seems a good time to refer my friends and readers to resources that may be helpful to you.
If you are a Catholic, and believe your attempted marriage was not in fact a valid marriage, Rose Sweet’s material can help you through the annulment process. (Actually, Rose’s stuff helps a lot of people through alot of post-divorce healing.)
If you are Catholic, and your spouse wants a divorce, and you believe your marriage is valid, Mary’s Advocates has a wealth of material for you. Bai Macfarlane has done a prodigious amount of labor, compiling information about canon law and Church teaching. She includes a sample petition for you to use to your bishop to ask him to try to intervene to stop a break-up. Mary’s Advocates provides a template petition containing this plea. I do not know what your bishop will do or say. I do believe however, that no harm can come from asking.
The Ruth Institute, the organization I founded, has a whole page for the Reluctantly Divorced (a term we coined) and a page for the Children of Divorce. We even created a brochure, summarizing the elevated risks that children of divorce face over their lifetimes.
Finally, you may wish to consider sharing your story with our readers. Our Tell Ruth the Truth blog provides an outlet for you, and solidarity for others in similar situations. I find that many people feel alone when they are dealing with family breakdown. Nothing could be further from the truth. You are absolutely not alone. Pretty much every family in America has some form of family breakdown, somewhere in their family tree. Let’s help each other.
Crux has a case study, creating a compelling story in which a pastor might permit a divorced and civilly remarried Catholic to recieve communion. I have only one thing to say about this case study.
The priest should encourage the woman to pursue an annulment.
According to the scenario:
She wanted to pursue getting an annulment, although it was almost impossible to get any information or help from her parish in El Salvador.
Wouldn’t this be a good place for her pastor in the US to be willing to accompany her? Shouldn’t the tribunal in the US use some discernment about the missing information?
True, she might not get the annulment. But the process itself has merit. It helps to reveal truths that might have remained hidden. It helps clarify the person’s reasons for wanting to return to full communion with the Church. It may also clarify that the person was more culpable than they had otherwise realized, thus allowing her the opportunity for repentance, conversion and closer union with Jesus.
The author presumes she would not get the annulment. This is by no means certain. If she can show immaturity and ignorance, and if her putative husband does not raise objections, she might very well obtain it. And BTW, in this story, the putative husband has disappearred. This is one of the features that supposedly makes for a compelling scenario for pastorally permitting communion.
Irma had no idea where Francisco might be. She didn’t really even know if he was still alive. She had no family in El Salvador. She had brought no church or legal documents with her when she came to the States.
Evidently, she must have divorced him in abstentia, if she really couldn’t find him, otherwise she would be a bigamist, even under civil law. But isn’t there a legal procedure for declaring a long-missing person to be presumed deceased? If the person meets the criteria of being presumed dead, what does canon law say about her ability to contract a valid Catholic marriage?
And, in most countries, it might even take a shorter period of time than the several years the hypothetical pastoral process described in the article seems to have taken.
All in all, this “case study” is not compelling. The hypothetical situation it describes could be handled by “discernment and accompaniment,” through the annulment process. Good. holy, faithful priests have been handling situations like this all along. The pastor should not give the person permission to receive communion, without first pursuing the annulment process.
I asked all my readers to say the Rosary every day, in the last Ruth Institute newsletter of 2016. (You are not a subscriber? Easily corrected.) I gave my non-Catholic readers a non-Rosary suggestion for stepping up their prayer lives.
I got one very charming note from a non-Catholic who was very concerned that I was praying to Mary. I would like to clarify this bit of Catholic teaching.
We do not pray to Mary or any saint. We ask dead people to pray for us, just as we ask living people to pray for us. That is all.
If it is coherent to ask a friend to pray for me (and of course, it is) it is perfectly ok to ask a deceased friend to pray for me.
We do not worship Mary. (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) #971.) We do not worship the saints. (CCC #956). We do not worship statues. (CCC# 1670). We never have.
This is important, whether you are Catholic or not because it illustrates how factual errors, constantly promoted, can take on lives of their own. I do not know who started these rumors about Catholic belief. I do know that they took on political and economic importance around the time of the Reformation. Ambitious people had an incentive to spread these rumors, promote these rumors, feed these rumors. No matter how many times we say, “we do not worship Mary or the saints or the statues,” they kept insisting that we did. This has been going on for at least 500 years.
No doubt someone will write to me and tell me I am mistaken and that in fact I do worship Mary. I issue this challenge: if you can find me any definitive magisterial statement by a competent Church authority to the contrary, I will listen to what you have to say. But I don’t think you can find such a statement.
Today, we have ambitious people promoting flat out lies about the human condition, such as: Kids don’t need their own parents. All differences between men and women are socially constructed. A fetus is not a person. Bruce Jenner is a woman. And so on.
Just because these statements are false does not mean that they will die out. The people who benefit from them will keep promoting them, no matter how many times we correct the record.
We have to call this out for what it is: lying. It won’t go away on its own. It could go on for 500 years. I, for one, am not going to sit by quietly while such a thing gets started.
That is the headline from The Week story by Michael Brendan Dougherty. The gist: Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict had made the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) the agency responsible for dealing with sex abuse claims against clergy. Under the CDF’s auspices, the volume and speed with which the Catholic Church defrocked abuser priests went up. Since 2004, the Vatican had received some 3,400 cases, had defrocked 848 priests and sanctioned another 2,572 to lesser penalties. This was Pope Benedict’s legacy of trying to confront “the filth” in the Church.
But Pope Francis has decided to re-assign this responsibility back to Congregation of the Clergy and the Roman Rota (the Vatican’s Court). This could be a mere adminstrative change, done for innocent administrative reasons.
Or not. According to Dougherty’s reporting: (I utilize the Fr. Z protocol of placing my own commentary in color.)
Rumors of this reform (of returning the responsibility for clergy sex abuse cases back to the Rota)have been circulating in Rome for months. And not happily. Pope Francis and his cardinal allies have been known to interfere with CDF’s judgments on abuse cases. This intervention has become so endemic to the system that cases of priestly abuse in Rome are now known to have two sets of distinctions. The first is guilty or innocent. The second is “with cardinal friends” or “without cardinal friends.” Does “Cardinal friends?” = Men using their positions of authority for selfish purposes?
And indeed, Pope Francis is apparently pressing ahead with his reversion of abuse practices even though the cardinals who are favorable to this reform of reform have already brought him trouble because of their friends. Dougherty goes on to give sickening specifics:
Fr. Mauro Inzoli lived in a flamboyant fashion and had such a taste for flashy cars that he earned the nickname “Don Mercedes.” He was also accused of molesting children. He allegedly abused minors in the confessional. He even went so far as to teach children that sexual contact with him was legitimated by scripture and their faith. When his case reached CDF, he was found guilty. And in 2012, under the papacy of Pope Benedict, Inzoli was defrocked.
But Don Mercedes was “with cardinal friends,” we have learned. Cardinal Coccopalmerio and Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, (Remember these two names. They appear later in this story,)now dean of the Roman Rota, both intervened on behalf of Inzoli, and Pope Francis returned him to the priestly state in 2014, inviting him to a “a life of humility and prayer.”
Dougherty offers his own explanation of Pope Francis’s handling of personnel issues:
Pope Francis doesn’t always take the direct approach when trying to kneecap his critics within the church, or the obstacles to his reform in the Vatican. Sometimes, he goes around them…
That has been Francis’ approach with CDF, led by the German Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, in the past. When Pope Francis wanted to change the process for declaring marriages null, he essentially skipped over Müller, a constant critic of the pope’s views on marriage and the sacraments. = a constant upholder of the Ancient Teachings of the Church.
Instead the pope went to Cardinal Coccopalmerio. The loyalty of Monsignor Pinto is unquestioned. It was Pinto who lashed out at four cardinals (The Good Guys, in the overall picture) who publicly questioned the orthodoxy of the pope’s recent document, Amoris Laetitia. There they are again: Cardinals loyal to Pope Francis, but not to the Ancient Teachings of the Church. The four cardinals criticized the document for encouraging changes to Catholic sacramental practice they held to be impossible given Catholic doctrine. Pinto reminded them that the pope could remove their status as cardinals. Meanwhile Cardinal Müller seemed to be giving aid and comfort to these cardinals, saying that the sacramental practice of giving communion to people in adulterous relationships could not be endorsed.
In any case, on abuse, the justice dealt out by Müller’s CDF seems to be too harsh for the pope and his allies. And so, the pope hopes to render the CDF irrelevant in these cases. Mercy for whom? Whose Justice?
I admit that Dougherty’s reporting is hardly neutral, with gangster-esque phrases like the Pope “kneecaping his critics,” and political phrases like “the pope and his allies.”
Still, we should keep an eye on this story. Who knows where it will lead? As Dougherty says,
While the press may cheer him for undoing John Paul II’s teaching on communion for the divorced, they may not cheer him for lightening the penalties on child molesters who happen to have friends in his inner circle.
What Amoris says is that a pastor approved by his bishop should arrange for, in effect, a long retreat involving an examination of conscience, a facing-up to truth, a light-and-shadows discernment, applying the truths of Catholic doctrine on indissolubility and the Eucharist to this particular, unique, concrete situation.
As far as I know, Amoris Laetitia contains no proposal creating a procedure for using the so-called internal forum. Mr. Ivereigh is proposing something not required by Amoris Laetitia itself.
Anyhow, I thought the point of seeking a new statement on marriage was that legalism is objectionable. A specific procedure for 1. invoking the need for the “internal forum” and 2. actually doing the discernment, amounts to a new round of “legalism.”
If there isn’t such a procedure, the person in question essentially becomes the judge in his or her own case. I decidethat my situation, although objectively adulterous, does not really bar me from the sacraments. I am not accountable to anyone on earth for this judgment.
To go back to the “obvious” case that Ivereigh proposed, what is to stop the abusive, abandoning husband from discerning on his own authority that he may worthily receive communion? The idea that he must have a priest’s permission to enter into the discernment process and to agree about his worthiness, doesn’t really solve the problem. What is to stop him from finding a friendly priest who agrees with him? Without any canonical process or even guidelines, what guides the priest?
Nothing. Except the priest’s own sense of how Amoris Laetitia fits in with the overall tradition that came before it.
We cannot forgo pastoral or canonical procedures completely. It simply cannot be done. We cannot escape this problem.
It is also “obvious,” but seldom discussed, that the vast majority of civil divorces are acts of injustice toward the abandoned spouse and especially toward the children. Who is taking their part? Who is standing for the integrity of the bond? Shouldn’t the Church be more prepared to accompany the victims than the perpetrators? Who stands for compassion for the children whose lives have been turned upside down? How do they feel when they see their abusive, abandoning or adulterous father going to Mass and receiving communion? Does anyone care how they feel?
One might say that this goes on already, and I would not argue. One might say that this is the way the American church has been handling contraception since 1968. Again, I would not argue.
But these are scandalous situations, that have done great harm to the Church, her witness and to the souls who have been deprived of the fullness of Catholic teaching.
These situations should be corrected, not replicated.
John Paul II’s treatment of these issues in Familiaris Consortiowas clear and compassionate. This is the document, which in practice, ought to guide pastors. The quest for either mercy or justice with no procedures at all is a vain quest.
Austin Ivereigh has another critique of the critics of Amoris Laetitia. This time, he tells them they should look at concrete cases. In case they can’t think of any, he supplies one. (I utilize the Fr. Z protocol of placing my own commentary in color.)
To take an obvious example, a woman abandoned by her abusive husband who remarries to provide for her children might be in the same legal category as the philandering playboy who ditches his wife for a younger model, but no one could claim that both are in the same moral category. Ah, that distinction between legal and moral.
Imagine that the woman in the first case, over time, experienced a radical conversion in her life, and is today an active member of the church community. I remember when I appeared before a tribunal seeking an annulment. I was asked, “are you a practicing Catholic?” I said, thinking myself clever, “That is what this hearing will decide.” Father was not amused. “Are you going to Mass?” “Yes, Father,” says I. So much for cleverness. Let us suppose she cannot, for technical reasons, obtain an annulment (these are rare cases), and the first husband has long since remarried.
Apply Canon 915, and she is an adulterer obstinately persisting in sin who must be barred not just from the sacraments but from taking part in the life of the Church as a reader or catechist. But, you just said she is an “active member of the church community.” One has to be a reader or catechist to be an “active” member?
At no point does Amoris say – as Burke puts it – “that’s all right, go ahead, and you can live that way and still receive the Sacraments.” It says that many such cases require an individual discernment because they cannot simply be lumped together as ‘adultery.’ But wait: she is having sex with someone to whom she is not validly married: what is that, if not adultery?
What Amoris says is that a pastor approved by his bishop should arrange for, in effect, a long retreat involving an examination of conscience, a facing-up to truth, a light-and-shadows discernment, applying the truths of Catholic doctrine on indissolubility and the Eucharist to this particular, unique, concrete situation. Really? Where, Austin, does it say that? I don’t remember Amoris proposing a new procedure. Wouldn’t that amount to a new round of legalism? But I digress.
As it happens, my father once told me about a case very much like this. In his Polish coal mining/farming community in Southern Ohio, he knew a woman with many children whose husband had abandoned the family. My father: “The priest made it so she could get married again.” I didn’t think to ask him what the priest did, but I assume that back in the 1930’s or thereabouts, he helped her get an annulment.
What I did ask my father was, “Why did she want to get married again?” My father looked at me like I had lost my mind. “She couldn’t make it on her own.” Alot of small children. A farm. Grinding poverty to begin with. No social assistance state. No employment opportunities for mothers.
The priest accompanied her through the annulment process.
Our poor moderns imagine they are the first ones to think of these cases, the first ones to find humane and truly moral solutions to them. It strains the imagination to think that a canon lawyer of Cardinal Burke’s stature has never considered any concrete cases. Cardinal Carraffa, another of the Four Cardinals, was the founding president of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. He has no doubt, considered numerous difficult cases. Rather than find ways to redefine terms to accommodate modern life, he chose to teach the fullness of the Catholic faith on marriage.
This is the essential point that the redefiners of doctrine refuse to face: the solution to our problems is to teach the Catholic faith. As St. Paul said to Timothy, “preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching.” (2 Tim 4:2)
Pro-life friends: Suppose a woman is raped and impregnated. She keeps her baby. Should the father have parental rights? Why or why not? Have any of you encountered this situation?
A friend of mine was recently elected to a state legislature. He wrote to
me and told me they were considering legislation on this subject, and did I know of anything written about this. Well, no, I didn’t. So I posted the above, thinking we would get a good discussion.
And indeed, we did. No one attacked anyone else. Most people had strong opinions. Many people raised considerations that others had not thought of. The analytically-inclined came up with general principles and supplied reasons. The practioners came up with tough cases, and individual circumstances with lots of detailed countervailing circumstances. A few people had experience with laws in other states. Someone pointed us to a set of model legislation. Everyone was polite and respectful.
This is what can happen when we are genuinely trying to solve a problem, rather than trying to score points against an opponent. This question defies easy answers, and requires that someone, somewhere along the line, exercise some judgment and discernment.
I do believe my friend learned what he hoped to learn from the discussion. Hooray for open conversation. It can be done.
I write for numerous publications. I write for the Ruth Institute, the organization I founded. I’ve written 5 books, contributed to many more, and have written numerous academic articles. Why a personal blog?
This is where I will ruminate anything that interests me, whether it is connected with the Ruth Institute or not. I hope to foster a healthy discussion about marriage, family, and human sexuality, as well as the political, economic, cultural and religious influences on the family. Join me.