Among the measures of mature manhood that God Himself sets forth is faithful, stable, committed marriage. After observing, It is not good for the man to be alone (Gen 2:18) God says ….A man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and the two of them shall become one flesh. Thus God indicates an essential description of manhood. This is what a MAN does. Three things are taught here:
- A mature man recognizes that it is not good, not healthy, for him to remain alone and unattached. Thus he sets himself about looking for a wife in a suitable and serious manner. In ancient culture marriages were usually arranged, but in our culture that duty falls on the man himself. But a man, if he is a man, prepares himself for marriage, or perhaps for the priesthood or religious life. He is serious and steadfast about it. This may mean finishing college and embarking on the beginnings of a career but in the end he will accept the truth that it is not good for him to remain alone and unattached. In the recent past dating was usually understood as a time wherein one searched for a spouse. Today many see it “just for fun.” Marriage is postponed indefinitely. Many young men are not serious in searching for a spouse. Instead they “play the field” and use women sexually. They avoid commitment and drift from relationship to relationship. Some “father” children and still do not accept responsibility. They are not men, they are boys. For boys play. “Boys will be boys,” after all. Sadly many women allow and facilitate this immature and immoral behavior. But God is clear, a man (rather than a boy) accepts that it is not good for him to remain single and unattached and he respectfully seeks a wife.
- Having properly sought a wife he marries her and leaves his parents to establish a home. In other words he actually gets married. He does not just shack up (cohabitate), or form a so-called “committed relationship.” He does not endlessly postpone marriage. He is serious about the summons that God has given him to make a lasting commitment to a wife, or as a priest or religious brother. He “settles down.” He actually commits his whole life to his wife promising to remain faithful to her unto death. This is what God says a man does.
- A man clings to his wife. That is to say, a man works hard to preserve unity with his wife. He manfully addresses any threats to that unity. “Cling” is actually a very strong word. It means to stick like glue. A man says to his wife, “Honey if you ever leave me I’m going with you.” Too many men are passive husbands. Too often it is really the wife who works hardest to preserve the marriage. Very often when there is trouble in a marriage it is the wife who initiates a call to the priest or marriage counsellor. And if the husband comes at all the wife has to drag him. But a real man does not passively sit by as his marriage becomes strained. He addresses issues, cherishes his wife and works hard to preserve union with her. This is what God says a real man does. He has committed to his wife and to God and he is faithful to that commitment even when it is hard. He remembers that he committed for better or worse. And when worse comes he does not run, he stays and addresses the issues, seeks out necessary resources and takes leadership in restoring harmony to his marriage. God says a man clings to his wife. This is what a man does.
It is true that women have a role in all these matters. But this article is directed to men. A man doesn’t whine and say, “But what about the wife?!” He just does what he is supposed to do and does not point fingers. He accepts his own responsibility. Yes, there are men who have worked hard to preserve their marriage and the wife still walked away. Our culture has granted far greater possibilities to women. This is not bad in itself but it sometimes creates even greater strains on marriage. But in the end, I am convinced that if men are real men as God has tasked them, if they were more serious about seeking a wife, marrying her and clinging to her, we would have far fewer divorces.
Remember now, this is a blog. I could go on forever and make lots of other distinctions and explore all the “yes-buts!” What I intend is to start a conversation not anticipate every possible objection, cautionary detail or requested distinction. You, my dear readers are invited to do that in the comments.
So here is what a God says a real man does. How say you?
I preached this topic among others recently at the Feast of the Holy Family. Here is an excerpt from that homily that covers some of the things I have written here. Enjoy also some Christmastime photos of my parish:
78 Replies to “Marriage and Manhood”
Very well said Msgr Pope. Thank you for the insightful message and the perspective it brings. Guided by the Holy Spirit, I was always looking for my suitable partner that God created for me when I was growing up. Now I’ve found her, and is happily married to the wonderful woman that God has created for me, and me for her. Now I have to learn to keep clinging on to my wife, and to my God.
Wonderful, I am glad for you and for us that you have married and area clinging! God’s grace be with you both.
Very excellent points. I only wish that this were true — “if they were more serious about seeking a wife, marrying her and clinging to her, we would have far fewer divorces.”
While it takes two to make a marriage, since the advent of no-fault divorce, it only takes one to end it. And statistics show that, by far, it is women who are the ones who file for divorce. Like contraception and abortion, women have been sold a lie. With respect to marriage, they are told that, if their marriage is not perfect and they are the least bit unhappy, the marriage is a failure. And don’t they deserve to be happy?? Hence, they should end it. And how sad it is to see women in their 50s ending marriages, foolishly thinking that they will be happier. (The men do not “work to preserve the marriage” because they simply assume that it will continue — it does not need “preserving.” A foolish idea in the age of no-fault divorce, yes, but still, men generally do expect the marriage will go on, “clinging” to their wives even if only emotionally, like little boys clinging to mommy.)
Is the husband imperfect? Of course! Very much so. But even the very good husbands (and would-be husbands) are at risk in a world where the serpent roams free to sell lies to the woman.
Still, too many men really do need to man up. They need to stop being boys and stop being spineless worms and stop whining and crying, and stop being self-centered animals. Sometimes we do see good made out of evil, and we did see a greater appreciation for manhood in the aftermath of 9-11. But we have since regressed again.
The world is telling men to be something other than men, and has for a while insisted that women be something other than women (to be sure, the world has for more than a generation tried to sell the lie that the only real woman is one that is like a man — and the caricature of a man at that).
After years of folks shouting out to Tiger, “you da man!” we now see that, no, sadly, he has not been. I suspect that he knows that — notwithstanding his apparent many “failings,” I think that there is a good and decent person inside there. But still, the damage — the scandal — has been done. Perhaps he can still avoid the millstone around the neck, perhaps this will not be an occasion of validating the transgressions, or of merely pointing fingers, but will cause people to look at themselves now that they have seen someone at the top come crashing down, like Icarus, because of his foolishness, his failure to truly be “da man,” and he and they will truly be men.
Thanks for these helpful additions to the article Bender. I was unaware of the statistic that it is mostly women who file for divorce. Is there a place where I can find this info?
Sorry, Monsignor, I do not have specific statistics at hand, but I too have read such over the years. After the onset of no-fault divorce and women’s “liberation,” so many were urged to be set free of enslavement to men in the shackles of marriage. Anecdotally, every divorce I have witnessed was initiated by the wife. And, of course, there is no defense to one seeking a no-fault divorce. If one side wants out, that’s it, the game is over. The only thing left to discuss is the kids and the property.
” ‘These Boots are Made for Walking’: Why Most Divorce Filers are Women ”
Margaret F. Brinig
Notre Dame Law School
Douglas W. Allen
Simon Fraser University
I remember reading that after no-fault divorce, close to 70% of divorces were filed by women (I think in CA it was almost 80%). It’s baffling to me because so often a woman’s quality of living declines after divorce. Additionally, most women would agree that divorce has a negative impact on children. I know many women who say they’d die for their children (and I believe they mean it), yet they put their desires for this infantile, unrealistic and flighty view of happiness first. It puzzles me.
I agree whole-heartedly with everything you have said-just one comment/question. Doesn’t the church allow for a vocation to bachelorhood that does not include religious life? Seems to me I have heard that it does.
Ah you have stumbled upon the “great debate” within Church circles. Is the single life a “vocation.” Much ink has been spilled on this one. My own point of vuew is that the single life is not a vocation in the formal sense. I t appears on no traditional list of vocations. However one might argue that something one does in the single life (such as being a dedicated volunteer or say an emergency room worker or any other of a number of roles) might be a vocation in the extended sense of the the term. Being single might allow for one to be more wholeheartedly dedicated to a worthy work. Hence I would argue that the single life is only a vocation indirectly while marriage, priesthood and religious life are voactions in the stricter definitional sense since they have rather clear parameters and tasks assigned by scripture and tradition, The “single life” of itself is wide open and undefined. Only in relation to some other work can we understand and assess its relative value.
We all need to know what God has to say about man and his masculinity and accept that God’s truth is timeless. I think we often forget that and think that we can “evolve” beyond Truth. I appreciate your words here, Msgr. Without some absolute standards, the confusion about masculine responsibilities can only get worse. In our current social climate, it is a brave thing to say, “This is what a real man does.” Guidance in that area is long overdue.
Our culture’s increasing relativism and resulting individualism have had a big impact on gender concepts. Our “no absolutes” thinking means that each man is left to his own opinion on the subject of masculinity. The problem with that is that man’s ideas and desires are often selfish and self-serving. Society has historically followed man’s depravity. And, role models today basically consist of pathetic, immoral sports figures and outrageous entertainment stars. Add to this the fact that the educational systems of the day are, for the most part, based on the study of the secular world by the secular world. The result of it all has been the reluctance to define what is truly masculine. We don’t generally raise our boys with any notion of masculinity but rather a genderless individualism.
A great book for anyone raising boys is “Future Men,” by Douglas Wilson. He promotes a strong, healthy concept of masculinity (raising our boys to be men) from a great Christian perspective. He stresses that correct masculinity balances boldness and humility.
Thank you for the Book reference. I obviosuly agree with you that we have to get beyond the self-defined attitudes that so many have back to God’s plan.
Hello Msgr. Pope,
Thank you for your piece. I am acquainted with some women and our professed Catholic husbands’ have abandoned marriage. What is the measure of mature priests and tribunalists in situations like ours?
We have come to learn that there is canon law on separation of spouses, canon law about vindicating our rights, and canon law about our husband’s obligations to restore common conjugal life.
But when we ask our shepherds to get involved, we are ignored. We are told that there is something wrong with us when we won’t just move on and accept that our marriages are invalid. The Popes and Roman Rota judges do not teach this way, but tribunalists and many priests do.
Do you know of any “mature” canon lawyer who would be interested in helping us persuade our local clergy to exercise medicinal remedies in our family situations? We look for help vindicating our rights in canon law and divine law. We look for decrees that prevent scandal and clarify our marital status as one separated from a malicious abandoner. We look for our spouses to receive from the Church the remedies of pastoral correction to which Mat. 18:15-16 points.
We look for restoration of what God has joined.
Ooo. Now you’re getting personal in asking about the clergy! 🙂 And yes you have a very legitimate concern about the whole anulment situation. Pope John Paul was famous for denouncing the american anulment norms each year when he spoke ot the Roman Rota. Sadly he never did much to guide us away from what he condisered an abuse. While I am away of the legitimacy both biblically and canonically of the concept of anulment it is the numbers that are most troubling and then what these huge numbers of anulments do to the attitude of both clergy and lay people in taking marriage seriously. There is usually a presumption today that most rtoubled marriages are invalid or could be shown to be so and that “options” exist to end the marriage. This stabs in the heart most attempts to save marriages. The problem is so deep and serious that I think it may require a kind of world-wide synod wherein the whole Church seeks once again to find the proper pastoral balance. It is clear now that we are tip way over in favor of anulling any troubled marriages. I think the reaction you get from many clergy is the result of bewilderment. Many good parishioners have troubled canonical situations. This is due to the breakdown of our culture. Many Catholics made “stupid mistakes” regarding marriage when they were young and away from the Church and now they are in second marriages and connot receive communion etc. What to do in order to pastorally help people pick up the pieces of irreparable situations of thepast and restore them canonically to the sacraments? ut on the other end, what do we say by granting such large numbers of annulments? It’s tough and its about real people we know. It’s not just an academic dicsussion. That it why I think it might help for the wider, universal Church to do some real soul searching on this matter and see where and how we have lost our way. At a certain point pastoral sensitivity has seemingly put us at odds with our own doctrinal teachings on marriage. Time for a real thorough look at the issue by a Synod of Bishops at the level of the worldwide CHurch if you ask me.
Every annulment is a failure — at times, scandalously so.
If the annulment is valid, that is, the putative “marriage” really was null and void ab initio, such that there never really was a sacramental marriage, then that is evidence of a monumental failure on the part of the marrying priest. The couple should have been better prepared and, if they were not, then the priest should have said, “No. No, the Church will not marry you at this point, if ever.”
On the other hand, if it is the annulment that is factually invalid, that an annulment is decreed for what is actually a valid sacramental marriage, if the annulment is merely a Catholic divorce by another name, with a wink and a nudge, if the bride and the groom each did have the necessary capacity, etc., then that too is a monumental and scandalous failure on the part of the human inhabitants of the Church. Here too, the Church should have said, “No. No, an annulment will not be granted.”
Either way, the present situation — hopefully it is getting better — is untenable. Going back to prior discussions, there needs to be in the Church more speaking of truth, even if it is a hard truth, more saying of “no” — either at the beginning of the matrimonial process or at the end — rather than merely going in order to “keep the peace” and make people feel good.
Thanks Bender. The concept of an “invalid annulment” is an intresting twist. At first it seems impossible but then, when I consider that many annulments in America that are appealed to Rome are often overturned. Like I say, It seems we need to have a more universal discussion of all this in the Church.
I want to run. I am that women who always reached out for help. I love our good Lord more than ever, so why do I not want to try to love him (my husband) anymore? I’m so tired of trying. He seems to finally be willing to take some responsibility, too little too late? Thank you for bold words in a time in history when only bold words will work. God bless you, and please remember the struggling couples of the world in your prayers.
In our good Lord’s loving care,
Yes, I think we have to ask God for miracles in our life when it comes to being able to love others. Only God can really change our hearts. So pray for a miracle! God bless you.
The voice of feminine reason here…yes, women do by far out-initiate men in separating from a marriage (one doesn’t even need ‘statistics’, just look at one’s friends). A man can try to save it, but when it gets to the point that she says, “it’s over,” well, then it’s over. You can carve that in stone. He might be able to stall it for awhile, but it will end.
Next, men need to buck up and act like men. Too many men have bought into a similar set of lies, that they are all ‘Tigers’ themselves – handsome, charming studs who perceive women dripping off of them as if they were Brad Pitt or (gag) George Clooney. Which leaves those of us who have been keeping the home, bearing the children, softening in the hips and wearing the lines of aging a little more quickly than the men…where?
With a few exceptions, women are the current scourge of America, if not the world, and I say that with impunity. We are abandoning our children to daycare, muddling up the workforce, getting involved with other men, and our men are letting us – both tacitly and by their own actions.
With a few exceptions, women are the current scourge of America, if not the world
And so it is that, in so many areas, it is women who need to lead the way.
The real problem appears to be the Church. If it would bother to put together all the scriptures on marriage, divorce, annulment, and separation with quotes and present them in church, with printed handouts so people can go look it up and verify it for themselves, they would realize, ‘Divorce is not an option . . . ever’, ‘Separation is an option that forces you both to reconsider your position and also forces your pants to help you lean toward reconciliation’, ‘Marriage is a commitment until death’, and annulment was only mentioned by Jesus one time – when he told off the Old Testament Priests for using their traditions to annul the scriptures’.
I’m sorry, but I’m sick of hearing all the “reasons” for why it was OK for Mr. or Mrs. Uncommitted to break their vows. There is only one way out of your vow . . . Death.
In Exodus, God said that if a man rapes a women, he is to marry her unless her father forbids it. Then he was still to pay the father the full price of her dowry (i.e. take responsibility for your actions – a commitment for life). In the New Testament, the believer is not allowed to leave the unbeliever because eventually you might convert them. So the big question is, WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? HOW COME WE LISTEN TO SO MUCH BOLOGNA, AND REPEAT IT, IN THE CHURCH?
Tradition isn’t scripture. God said he will stand by HIS WORD forever. What do you think he will do when some of our practices nullify his commandments? How about this famous quote: “Be not deceived. God is not mocked. What you sow, you shall reap.”
Don’t get me wrong. Peter was given authority, but if he allowed something contradictory, do you think God will permit it? I think a lot of people lied on their applications for an annulment, didn’t repent, and are in deep, deep trouble. I also think we should remember the words we say every Sunday, asking for forgiveness for what we said, did, failed to say, and failed to do. If we aren’t going to stand up to this bologna, never repent, we are guilty.
You never should have divorced. You should have separated, beating or no beating.
Your words are tough Jan. I cannot say I would have put it that way but it is a very discouraging landscape out there when it comes to women as well. Many women seem to have been radicalized and lost their way. Traditionally it was women who held families together and insisted on family values. I am seeing an increasing trend of what you describe Jan. Radical feminism has done a lot of damage and many women are adrift.
God Bless you Father. I can honestly say you are right on ALL points. There was a point in my life where I took the Rosary in my hand and told our Lord I was done. I can’t make the right decisions. You need to help me. I look with good intentions, yet, I find only disappointment. From that moment on I returned to church on a regular basis, prayed the Rosary and took part in the sacraments, especially confession. And before I knew it things began to fall into place. Soon I was at the altar with not only the right woman but the ONLY woman for me. I also learned that if you put your life in Jesus’ hands with a sincere heart and true faith, not only will he answer you, but it will turn out better than you could have ever imagined AND you will know it is of his doing. Everyday, I thank the Lord for my wife. She is truly from him. Is she the most devout, no BUT she respects my faith and goes to church with me and even gives Confession a try. She helps me in so many ways, maybe with a little patience and more faith I can help her because if there is a heaven I want to go and I know it says ’til death do us part, but I truly hope it does not end there. I encourage evey man to BE A MAN. Walk in the ways of our Lord and he will guide you and it will be truly blessed. God Bless!
Thanks for your testimony Brian
Like all discussions, there are many facets to consider. I was a woman who, after 25 years of a very abusive marriage, filed for divorce. I stayed in it to save the children from ever having to be alone with him as he would beat them on the least pretext if I wasn’t there to stop it. He was utterly clueless about what it meant to be faithful. I was also a slow learner, thinking that we could still have a good marriage, if I would only do (fill in the blank) better. I sometimes wonder what drives most woman to divorce their husbands? A few of them had relationships that were not really salvageable. My parents were very happily married and I wish I could have had that.
You could not have that because you were not committed. You should not have divorced your husband. You should have separated until he repented.
FLAG ON THE PLAY !!!! Referee Pope here. Henry I would ask that you not make personal comments about whether some one was committed or not. You don’t really know Smitty or her situation enough to say that. Your advice is not without merit in a general sense. Namely that there are times when divorce even in these situations is not necessary, but only seperation. However, for legal reasons and to reasonably protect assets, questions of Child custody etc there are times when legal seperation is not enough. There may be reasons for civil divorce in certain cases. The Church need not recognize every civil divorce.But I want to ask that we not jump to conclusions in specific cases as to a person’s exact motive or that they were “not committed.”
Isn’t this article a bit of a stretch. The only scripture quoted was “It is not good for the man to be alone (Gen 2:18)”. Do you have other scripture to support all these opinions? The scripture quoted could be used to support any non-lonely relationship (e.g. homosexuality, multiple mates – male or female, etc.).
In my opinion, this is the #1 problem with the Catholic Church. This is the reason so many Catholics voted for Obama. The article, like most Homilies, comes across like it’s just the Priest’s opinion, not God’s opinion. I don’t go to church to hear the opinion of the Priest, Pope, Cardinal or any other human being’s opinion . . . unless that human is Jesus the Christ, who is God. If 1,000 Catholics read this article, most will not hear God’s voice talking to their conscience and merely conclude the Priest has some nice ideas.
Well I don’t know if your criticism is fair Henry. The scripture I quoted says more than it is not good to be alone. It also says this is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his WIFE and THEY become one. That hardly seems to support “any non-lonely relationship.” As for all this being just my opinion, I don’t know how much closer to scripture I could have stayed to satisfy you. As for other other scriptures, there are plenty eg Mat 19, Matt 5, Mark 10 inter al. Also, as I said in the article, I do not intend this to be the be all and end all article. I intended to start a discussion. Hence, I think your remarks are grossly unfair at every level Henry. The very fact that there are comments posted here including yours, is that this is NOT just about my opinion. It is also about what you think. But in the end I DO think I have represented God’s teaching and not merely my opinion.
Bender, your comments left me with a lot to say.
First of all, you said, “Like contraception and abortion, women have been sold a lie.”
How curious that you describe the situation in these terms: “women have been sold a lie.” Do you mean to suggest women cannot think for themselves? You realize, I’m sure, that in any transaction there must not only be a seller, but a buyer. Bender, women understand what they are being offered, and they choose it freely for themselves. Can we stop the charade now? Women are not children, and they are not helpless victims. We are speaking of adults who make adult decisions. Why don’t we for once treat women along these lines? You would not say to a man who chooses divorce, “You poor thing; you were sold a lie.” You would say, “You knew that was wrong! Why the hell did you do that?”
You go on to say, “The men do not “work to preserve the marriage” because they simply assume that it will continue — it does not need “preserving.” A foolish idea in the age of no-fault divorce, yes, but still, men generally do expect the marriage will go on, “clinging” to their wives even if only emotionally, like little boys clinging to mommy.”
“Men generally expect the marriage will go on.” Imagine! Men expect their wives to remain faithful! Jeez, I guess I’ve really been confused about the meaning of marriage. As you say, that which is right for men to do — that is, to live a life of sacrificial love, not counting the cost to one’s self — is not also what is right for women to do. God’s call to sacrifice in the marriage applies only to men, and not to women. Therefore, it is okay for women to divorce if they “just aren’t happy.”
Bully that! It is wrong for either six to divorce simply because things are not going well. But what difference does it make? Women themselves prove to us again and again in ways large and small that when it comes down to it, they are not going to choose what is right, but what is convenient and more palatable to themselves. The divorce statistics prove this amply, and if you are paying attention, you’ll see women prove it in your daily life. Try to suggest in some way to a woman that you deserve better than to be manipulated or belittled, listen to her response, and you’ll see for yourself that she just doesn’t care. She’s going to do what she wants — not what is right.
I expect you’ll come back to the point that the average man does not apply suitable effort to making his marriage a success. I would tend to agree. But the point I’m trying to make is that in any conversation concerning the relationships between men and women, we hear only about what men are doing wrong and lambast them for it (rightfully so), and on the rare occasion when we speak explicitly about what women are doing wrong, we paint them carefully and gently as victims who really can’t be expected to make better decisions than they do. Why is this? It is patently obvious to me that the only reason we forever give women a pass on their behavior is that we know there is no point arguing otherwise. The more we ask them to do the right thing, the more they will laugh in our faces, delighting childishly in the power they have to do whatever they like. This is because there is one thing that matters to a woman, and that is power. If you doubt this, then you are just not paying attention; a quick but decisive example in support of this point is the whole feminist movement. What is that but the raging, belligerent pursuit of power?
My final comment is directed to Msgr. Pope. Monsignor, I agree with everything you said about masculinity. However, I find it suspect that whenever we discuss masculinity, we talk about just one thing: what a man ought to be doing. This is forever our message to men: “This is what you’re not doing, and this is what you should be doing. Be a man.” So we want men to be men, and this is good; all the more reason, then, to discuss the ways modern society refuses to allow men a place to be men. All the more reason to discuss the fact that a boy does not easily become a man on his own, but requires support to do so, particularly the support of other men, both peers and elders. All the more reason to discuss the manifold ways modern society deprives boys of the means to become masculine. But no, we never speak of these things, at least not in the more mainstream circles. We must think men will act as men if we just browbeat them again and again for their failures. We don’t think we need to acknowledge that men have needs of their own, that they have particular needs as men. That’s not going to work, Monsignor.
On the other hand, observe any discussion about women — really, any discussion — and you will never hear a peep about a woman’s responsibilities. Not a word. No, it’s always talk about what they need and how they mean to satisfy those needs. This is how women are smarter than men: they know what they need, and they talk to each other about satisfying those needs. But you’ll never hear them talk about their responsibilities to men. The very idea makes a woman indignant, that she might be beholden to a man… that she could, at the very least, be reasonably expected to remain faithful to her husband. No, women, in their relationships with men, forever choose not the good, but that which they want to do.
“Women themselves prove to us again and again in ways large and small that when it comes down to it, they are not going to choose what is right, but what is convenient and more palatable to themselves.”
Don’t be too easy on the men here and don’t fool yourself- none of those options (abortion, contraception & divorce) would have ever become available “choices” if men did not think they would benefit in some way. Birth control- freedom to have sex w/o unwanted consequences. Abortion- ability to walk away from potential responsibilities. Divorce- moving on when the going gets rough. If men didn’t have a “benefit” in making any of the three actual options, they wouldn’t be “choices” for either gender. For a long time men made the choices, controlled both the legal and medical systems. Men have offered women some pretty awful forbidden fruit here, but as you said- it does take both a seller and a buyer. Just please don’t categorize one as worse than the other.
We’ve all been sold a lie — all of us — and from the very beginning, at that. Indeed, the lie told today is very much the same as the lie told at the beginning.
And, yes, in many ways we often do know, deep down, that it is a lie, but it is an attractive lie, it is a lie that seems to be reasonable and make sense. And, in our fallen state, which has difficulty discerning truth and difficulty conforming ourselves to the truth even when we do discern it, we accept the lie.
Neither women nor men are “children” or “helpless victims” in this. They are all adults, all ultimately responsible for their choices and their actions. They are not innocent or without blame. I suppose that is why they are in need of a Savior.
I read recently, in the Catholic Herald (UK), that the thing which most distinguishes Catholics’ apart from all other religions is our faithfulness in marriage and absence of divorce. Jews, Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists et al all allow divorce.
It made me think of what marriage symbolises: God’s indissoluble covenant with His People; our Lord’s unbreakable marriage to His bride, the Church; each person’s own promise of eternal happiness with God. Each an example of a faithful, unbreakable, singular, jealous and permanent relationship.
And I also thought, does that mean also that the opposite is true therefore, that marriages that break up also reflect the peoples past, present and future who break with God?
This led to pondering: are the non-Catholic peoples and persons of our day who do seek and maintain faithfulness in marriage more Catholic in spirit than the Catholic who is non-faithful in marriage? And will they, also, be more likely to inherit eternal life than the faithless Catholic, just as the Gentile inherited the promise of eternal life after the faithlessness of Israel?
If one loves God, loves Our Lord and His Church and hopes in Eternal salvation, he will love his wife, be faithful to her, and wish her to be ever more part of his life in the knowledge that, God will always look more pleasingly upon them as a couple more than He would look upon them individually, as they reflect the covenant and the Church and everlasting life.
Yes, Ultimately we can only love to the degree that we accept and expereince God’s love for us. The move “Fireproof” makes this point well.
Re Bender’s comment that an annulment – a declaration that the marriage was never valid – is a failure of the marrying priest – under what conditions would a priest refuse to marry a couple?
There are a series of impediments that a priest has to rule out: eg prior bond, exclusion of Children as a fruit of marriage, exclusion of marraige as a life long bond, consaguinity etc. While it is true that a priest can refuse to marry a couple for significant immaturity the seminaries generally teach that people have a natural right to marry and thus any grounds to refuse to marry a couple must be strictly interpreted. Hence, a practical level it is hard for a priest to refuse to marry many couples. Immaturity is a hard case to prove strictly.
I really hate to say this right now, and he knows why, but you guys need to back off of Bender. He’s the only one here, besides of course, good Monsignor Pope, who knows what he’s talking about.
Cynthia – a priest could refuse to marry a couple the same way he can refuse to baptize or give absolution. The problem is that there is not a decent means test for couples.
Alright Jan, way to defend us guys!
Anytime, dear Monsignor – never let it be said that I won’t defend a good man, whether or not he needs it.
As for your comment to my comment above, about my words being tough? You’re right – they are tough. You are also correct about how it was traditionally up to the women to keep the family intact and the values up front. Women, because of their ability to bear offspring for a man, had enormous power in relationships – they’ve given it all away; so many of them don’t even have a man around to guard them and fend for them when they are pregnant, a time when they are most vulnerable.
Sometimes it feels like I’m banging my head against the wall when it comes to instilling these values in those around me. I think I’m the last of a dying breed and while my 5 daughters see my example, I’m one of the only ones they do see.
you are not the only woman like that left. There are many of us and we are the only ones reproducing at replacement-level or higher. The future will be brighter. Although I strayed from the Church in my youth, I’ve come back with a vengeance and was surprised to note the return of so many others. The darker the world gets, the brighter the light appears to shine.
you and Jan both have a valid point that women have a lot to answer for. I’ve been sickened and shocked by the behavior of some of my “sisters”. The gentler sex, my foot.
I know of eight divorces and all of them were initiated by women for frivolous reasons. One actually told me, point-blank, that she found her husband boring and wanted “a fresh one”. She’s now married to a man 10 years younger and is again losing interest (surprise, surprise).
They raked their husbands over the coals during the proceedings. I know of 2 men who committed suicide in despair and another who was saved from near death just last month. It has gotten really bad. And those are only the women who even bothered to get married at all!
The effect all of this has on their children appears to be completely irrelevant to them.
I would say that if there are indications in the beginning that there might be grounds for someone to seek an annulment later on, then the priest should definitely say “no,” for example, if there indications, due to immaturity, state of mind, or otherwise, that one of the persons might lack the knowledge, understanding, ability, or capacity to give matrimonial consent to irrevocably, exclusively, and mutually give themselves and accept the other (canon 1057). Unless and until it is clear that each is sufficiently mature and has the requisite ability and capacity and good faith to give that matrimonial consent, then I should think that the Sacrament should be withheld, as in the case of the other sacraments, as Jan points out.
If there is proper marriage preparation and formation, no one should be able to come back later and legitimately claim that he or she did not know what he or she was doing or getting themselves into.
As I said above immaturity is hard to measure and prove. I agree we should do better but most priest are taught that people have a natural right to marry and we are not well trianed in gauging maturity.
State of mind is always difficult to prove (speaking here as a lawyer). You cannot easily peer into someone’s head and see what they are thinking. When at issue at trial, you prove it by what the person said and what he did, and make your inferences from that. At the plea stage, you make sure that a guilty plea is made knowingly, intelligently, willingly and voluntarily, with a full understanding of the nature and consequences of the action, by the judge asking the defendant a series of questions before the plea is accepted. Courts do not want people coming back later, after having had a change of heart, and claiming that their guilty plea was invalid.
Immaturity and other states of mind are hard to measure and prove. But that is just as true at the tribunal as it is at the altar. My understanding (and it is just from what I have heard) is that most of the annulments that are decreed are granted on that basis, that one or both of the parties was insufficiently mature or otherwise lacked the capacity to give matrimonial consent. From the number granted, there seems to be little problem measuring and proving immaturity at the end, and that is often years after the fact.
Presuming maturity and capacity in the beginning, while presuming invalid maturity and capacity at the end, would seem to be inconsistent, to say the least. I would bet that many of those who end up divorcing would have been happy and grateful had the priest or family members or anyone else said “no, you are not ready!” rather than merely acquiescing.
I’m not saying that we should be eager to withhold the sacraments, just the opposite. We should be so eager to dispense the sacraments that we certify that people are properly prepared and cannot come back later and claim that it was all defective and invalid. The time for a determination of invalidity should be before the marriage is entered into, not years later.
[In reply to Bai MacFarlane] Msgr. Pope’s conclusion:
“Time for a real thorough look at the issue by a Synod of Bishops at the level of the worldwide CHurch if you ask me.
Isn’t a “Synod of Bishops at the level of the worldwide CHurch” just what our Lady of Fatima asked for to dedicate Russia to her Immaculate Heart [for their miraculous conversion to occur as a sign of God’s Mercy!?]
If no Pope has been able to assemble such a “Synod” for such a monumental promise — will any succeed doing-so for the sake of rebuilding respect for the Sacrament of Marriage? [I fear not!]
Well perhaps you are right Gregory, I don’t see anything in the pipeline. I just wish it would happen.
Here’s one more thing, for what it’s worth – and this is directed to those who think a couple should stay together no matter what: I think the problem here is that no one is clarifying what happens after a divorce – both parties, if Catholic, are free to continue practicing their faith and receiving the sacraments, (yes, Monsignor?) It is when one of them want to remarry that things get sticky.
NO ONE should be forced to stay in an abusive relationship, one in which there is chronic infidelity, or have to put up with someone who does recreational/illegal drugs. I’ll give you that most of the time we are aware of these things before the marriage occurs, and still, we give our tacit consent. I’ll also grant you that most of the time it’s the woman who gives that consent. We always think we can ‘change’ men and mold them into what we want. It’s not going to happen. But then we get sick of it and…bolt!
I guess the next question is what happens after the Bolt? Into another marriage (possibly also abusive) . Or lifelong celibacy?
I won’t freely give you that “most of the time we are aware of these things before the marriage occurs” and, still, we give our tacit consent. Furthermore, I never stepped into my relationship thinking I could change anyone other than me. I married a man in good faith that he held the same values that he SAID he held. 15 years down the road (and several children later) it’s clear that he doesn’t. It is obviously and painfully clear. I NEVER sought to mold anyone, never knew I’d need to, and the implication that those in my situation (whose numbers I can only imagine) have is insulting. A good number of us have been blindsided.
I’m still married to the same man and it’s a heavy cross. In speaking to any friends- can’t help but think that many are in my position- I think may of us are resigned to our commitments. We aren’t looking for another relationship- far from it! We are looking for peace, within our relationships, if possible and if not- outside. We struggle between the value of peace and honoring our commitments, and it’s a TOUGH place to be. Please be respectful.
Furthermore, Msgr., your response about “after the bolt” and the next abusive relationship suggests an action on the abusee’s part that perpetuates a cycle of abuse. Please note, one who is abused does not always create the situation for abuse to occur. Often, we honor our commitments to an extrodinary degree but, for a number of different reasons, can’t any longer. It doesn’t mean that we will autonatically go looking for the same relationship we just left. Because we are abused doesn’t mean we are brainless, but sometimes, we are in a very difficult situation from which it isn’t easy to remove ourselves.
anon – I stand by what I said, and I will tell you why. I’ve been through this – I married young, I was 20, he was 19. He embodied all three of the things I said women should not have to put up with, I knew he would be like this going in and I did it anyway. I stuck it out for 10 years and 2 children and by the grace of God and Mother Church I was granted an annulment because clearly I did not have the maturity to give consent at that time, and neither did he. As for honoring the commitment, I would have put up with most anything, but when he started getting rough with the kids, that was it for me. What surprised him the most? When he said that I could never leave him because we had been married in the church. I said, “watch me.”
On the one hand, I really applaud your conviction to stay in a difficult situation. In addition, I understand what you are saying about it being hard to leave. The thing is, you are bringing up issues that were not in play when I wrote the things I wrote.
As for your criticism of monsignor, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that women who leave one abusive relationship often find themselves in another, and sometimes another, and so on.
I’ll add you to my prayer list – I hope you don’t mind. Best of luck to you and God Bless YOU!
I am 22, and I have seen a lot of the “playing around” that is referred to among men. I actually refuse to date a man younger than me unless he can prove his maturity in one way or another. Though I have found that some older men are “boys” and not really men. Such are the adventures of dating and having relationships. I am something of a prude when it comes to sex, and I refuse to participate in the “playing around” culture that is going on. It doesn’t lead to happiness anyways. It really only leads to heartache and feeling like some sort of sexual object.
I enjoyed listening to your homily, Monsignor. You definitely get the point across and it made me chuckle.
Good for you, Katherine! Now, let me give you some motherly advice, since I’m old enough to be your mother and in fact I have kids your age – first, guarding your sexuality is not prudish, it’s prudent! When I am teaching Confirmation to teenagers and we come to questions regarding sexual intimacy, I always tell them that we have only one gift that is ours to freely give another, we can only give it once, and that is, our virginity. It should never, ever, be given lightly, carelessly, thoughtlessly, or pre-maritally!
Guard your body, guard your dignity – sounds to me like you are on the right path right now!
Bender – yes it is very difficult to date within the hook-up culture. I have found that even older men (30 and up) don’t want anything to do with relationships. I think the hook-up culture has unfortunately spread to more than just the teens and 20’s. Then on the other extreme, there are men who were interested in me who told me they wanted to marry me on the first date. I found that extremely weird, because I believe that to love someone and to want to marry them, you must know them and accept everything about them. I do not believe in love at first sight – I call it “lust at first sight.”
Jan- It is great that you teach Confirmation to teenagers and talk with them about sexual intimacy. Teens are having sex younger and younger these days. It always astonishes me when I take care of some 14 year old girl who ended up heartbreaking sexual situations – I see the younger teens as children still. I think things have gotten worse since I was a teenager.
Monsignor Pope – I guess you are right, I’m not being a prude, I’m being chaste. I’ve been called a prude before though so I guess that is how I think of myself.
Good for you and your judgement. I guess the word “prude” should be replaced though with the word Chaste 🙂
Katherine — my sympathies. Dating was difficult enough when I was in my 20s — I cannot imagine how tough it must be in today’s “hook-up” culture.
Bender – you are right about the marriage preparation, and after a successful one, the marriage should be irrevocably covenantal. The problem is that the programs, Pre-Cana, marriage prep class, Weekend Marriage Encounter, whatever you call it, are a joke. They vary widely from diocese to diocese and when the couple is participating, they are in the throes of love or lust or whatever. Everything is wonderful and of course our feelings will never change. Not to mention, some people will simply jump through whichever hoops they must, in order to achieve their end.
Then, after a few days or weeks or months of marriage, reality bites you in the arse and there you have it.
Agreed. Marriage prep programs are of wide variability. Also they are no silver bullet. Nothing beats a strong family of origin.
Nothing beats a strong family- that’s great to ackowledge- YET, we have a entire past generation (God only knows what future will bring) who have a different experience of a family. So. what’s the Church’s plan to deal w/that?
Address [of Pope John Paul II] to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota – 30 January 2003
“7. In this perspective, for example, it is necessary to take seriously the obligation imposed on the judge by canon 1676 to favour and to seek actively the possible convalidation and reconciliation of the marriage. Naturally the same attitude of support for marriage and the family must prevail before turning to the tribunal. In pastoral assistance consciences must be patiently enlightened with the truth concerning the transcendent duty of fidelity presented in an attractive and favorable way. Working towards a positive overcoming of marital conflicts and in providing assistance to the faithful who are in an irregular marital situation, it is necessary to create a synergy that involves everyone in the church: pastors of souls, jurists, experts in the psychological and psychiatric sciences, other laity, especially those who are married and have life experience. All must keep in mind that they are dealing with a sacred reality and with a question that touches on the salvation of souls.”
While it is a powerful admonishment from a recent Pope, it fails to mention the severity of this “option.” [ie.] In 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 St. Paul calls it “a charge from the Lord” not to separate/ to remain single if separated.
Rather, St. Paul clearly delineates that ONLY UNBELIEVERS ARE ALLOWED [READ: TOLERATED] TO SEPARATE:
15 But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace.
Thereby, Pope JP2 fails [in his admonition] to capture this distinction for he allows [only]:
…providing assistance to the faithful who are in an irregular marital situation
Pope JP2 is avoiding labeling “irregular marital situations” of “the faithful” as adultery/bigamy/polygamy and is thereby breeding toleration for such situations [such as my own wife’s [and Kxxx’s] where our first spouses who claim to be members of “the faithful” have entered into legal adultery/polygamy!]
The only “assistance” Kxxx and I desire for our spouses is clear admonition from Popes/Bishops/priests/deacons/pastors/laity that their current living patterns “… are dealing with a sacred reality and with a question that touches on the salvation of souls” — BOTH THEIRS AND THEIR ADULTEROUS PARTNERS!
If Pope Benedict XVI believes this is so then each-and-every-minute that passes while they are in such UNSACRED REALITY ENDANGERS THEIR ETERNAL SOULS!
Why is he/why was Pope JP2 SILENT????
Why are our Bishops silent?
[The Knights of Columbus?]
St. Paul GOES BEYOND a “possibility” — “…possible convalidation and reconciliation of the marriage [JP2]”
— he calls it a CHARGE [FROM THE LORD!]:
Moreover, if the Pope/Bishops/priests are still Catholic then the “sacred reality” is still a Sacrament which is saying MORE THAN IT IS JUST “something special” regulated by civil contract [a.k.a. Fr./husband Martin Luther.] Calling the prodigal faithful who have left their [c. 1060; c. 1061.3] valid marriages and entered into cohabitation/civil remarriage are more than simply ignoring God’s charge to reconcile/live separately! They are defiantly flaunting the standards of the world against the clear teachings of their faith! To refer to such abominations and desecrations of their [first] Marriages as simply “irregular marital situations” lends mockery against the faithful spouses who patiently pray and remain faithful to their sacraments while their AWOL spouses practice polygamy and adultery! Where is the charitable pastoring in justice toward these “left behind” spouses who abide by 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 when no clear-and-public condemnation of their mutinying spouses is proclaimed by clergy?
Moreover, does anyone reading these posts [who isn’t divorced] even KNOW that EVERY USA BISHOP AND HIS TRIBUNAL REQUIRES DIVORCE BEFORE THEY WILL ACCEPT A PETITION TO INVESTIGATE ANY MARRIAGE [for validity?] Check it out at your local tribunal.
When a majority of self-identified Roman Catholics fail to honor with respect the Most Precious Body and Blood of Our Savior [by regularly-attending Sunday liturgy/ receiving Him as necessary Food unto their eternal salvation] — and when Popes/Bishops/clergy fail to admonish them to do so when they attend Christmas/Easter Mass twice-a-year — is it a surprise that the “sacred reality” of Sacramental Marriage is [also] neglected, disrespected, and denied?
There’s a little more scripture behind annulements than this. You’ve mentioned the Pauline Privilege. There is also the Petrine privilege. Then there is the Matt 19 text wherein Jesus says: “What God has joined together let no one divide.” Now the point in question in each annulment case is, “Is there evidence that this is something God joined together.” Just because two people run to Las Vegas get drunk and run to a Chapel and get married does not mean it is a work of God. Hence there are some criteria that the Church insists be in place for the Marriage to be considered a “work of God” Things like requisite maturity, intention, freedom and so forth. It is largely the Matt 19 text that opens the door for this jurisprudence. Granted though, as I have said earlier, we seem too easily to presume marriages are NOT valid today. This concerns me.
Yes, contrary to Church law, which presumes a marriage to be valid until proven otherwise, that has been flipped on its head. Now, for all practical purposes, I don’t think you will find this to be the case at all.
I believe God joined my wife and me together. We were both mature individuals, faithful Catholics. We practiced NFP, homeschooled our children. In short, we strived to be live out our faith in our daily lives. Yet, even though we didn’t run off to Vegas in a drunken stupor to get married, that doesn’t appear to have given the tribunal any pause in accepting her petition for nullity. Once a petition is accepted, I’ve read anywhere from 90% to 97% result in an affirmative decision in favor of nullity. And, if as a respondent, you actually try to defend the validity of your marriage, don’t expect to be treated respectfully, with dignity, and with compassion by tribunal personnel. There seems to be a pretty common thread amongst faithful spouses defending their marriage bond of being treated rather poorly by tribunals. Thus far, that has been my experience.
It just seems like it’s all about helping abandoning spouses out of one marriage and into another. I might add, without regard for the carnage left behind in the form of shattered lives of spouse and children.
Msgr. Pope, I’ve heard podcasts of some of your talks and homilies, and yours is a powerful voice for the Church. I urge you to speak up and speak out about the annulment scandal. One of the most damaging aspects in the U.S. is the policy (not found in Canon Law) of requiring civil divorce before a tribunal will accept a petition for nullity. Won’t somebody speak up for truth, even if it means speaking up to those in the hierarchy? Please!
When I was young as a rule I only dated Catholics because I felt like I could never date anyone seriously whom I couldn’t marry. None of my relationships with Catholics worked out -truthfully I was dumped a few times. After a few years of not dating at all I gave up my rule of dating strictly practicing Catholics -and I met my wife. We are a perfect match on most practical and sundry things. But, here comes the catch. She is for the most part a relativist… a supporter of a whole myriad of liberal ideologies. Unfortunately while we dated I put our doctrinal differances on the back burner because I had finally found somebody who would give the time of day and we enjoyed one another well enough. Although our differances caused me some anxiety we were engaged and then married in the Church. Now that we have children our doctrinal differances are great stumbling blocks in our marriage. It’s hard for me to take the kids to Mass when mother say’s it’s ok to stay at home. Receiving pro-life mailings is sometimes a cause of arguements with my pro-choice spouse, etc.
She knows that I will never acquiesce from my Catholic views. At times I feel like a missionary in my own home and I mean that seriously! I wish there had been greater stress laid on me during the marriage prep. courses and meetings with my pastor about the gravity of marrying someone not holding fundamental Catholic teachings. Nevertheless I feel as God has willed me in this situation and with His help I can bring my wife and children into the Chruch and forward to salvation.
St. Monica, pray for us.
Sounds like a tough situation John. Prayers for you both as I type this. St. Monica !
Rome knows what is going on and chooses to let marriages be violated. Benedict knows how corrupt the Catholic Church in America is. He cannot or will not act because he has little or no support from his fellow bishops regarding taking action when marriages are clearly abandoned wrongly. Consequently we, who have been abandoned are left to watch the Catholic Church openly embrace those who persecute us.
It is the cross we must bear. But I do hope that there is no mercy from God for those priests and bishops who we have begged for year after year to help us but who walk away…because they can.
They deserve to spend eternity separated from God for having turned away as we have unceasingly asked for help. They deserve the same ‘deaf ear” from God that they have shown us.
Careful Karl. The measure that you measure out to others will be measured back to you. Before you decide who deserves to spend eternity separated from God, are there any insensitivities you have ever shown? Careful, you might be down there with those bad boys. I would avoid deciding who deserved to spend eterniity separated from God and leave that decision up to God.
I am not deciding who goes to hell, that belongs to God alone. But, it is my hope that God, indeed, holds them to the standard they have used against a valid marriage and against those who have asked them for help and who have been refused for no reason that has been revealed. It is not wrong to hope for a full accounting for those who have knowingly and wrongly abused their lawful authority.That is my hope. The rest is up to God.
Just be careful Karl because it’s always a dngerous thing to ask God to lower the boom on sinners. Last time I checked you’re in the category “sinner” I’m counting on a lot of grace and mercy on the day I face judgment. But God warns us in the Book of james: Merciless is the judgement on the one who has shown no mercy. He also says in Matt 5 Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy. Jesus warns, if you do not forgive men’s sins neither will you Father forgive you yours. It’s a real bad policy to ask to lower the boom or as you say give a full accounting (which I interpret to mean face the full force of Justice). Just remember you will receive the “full accounting” norm that you demand for others. Have you never abused your lawful authority Karl. And if it’s not that sin there are surely others. Watch out that you don’t face the severe judgement without mercy you seem to want for others.
One of the great things about the human person is that he or she is made in the image of God. Thus, we are made in love and truth in order to love and be loved in truth. We share the Creator’s ability to reason, to act freely, to foster relationships, to grow and even create new life.
On the other hand, one might say that one of the “drawbacks,” so to speak, about the human person is that he or she is made in the image of God. That is, in the image of the Crucified One.
God is Love, but just look at how mankind returns that love — rejection, infidelity, disrespect, contempt — we even go so far as to torture and kill God. He has sought a spousal relationship with us and we have been the worst of the worst. And yet, He is ever faithful. He loves us, not because we deserve it — we don’t — and not because we have earned it — we haven’t — and not because we are so pretty or funny or smart, but because He chooses to love us no matter what. God doesn’t file for divorce, even though He has multiple grounds to do so.
But still, we are made in the image of Him whom we crucified, thus we should not be surprised when those we want to love, those whose love we seek in return spurn us, reject us, abuse us, are unfaithful to us. Indeed, knowing that our “significant other” is merely human, we should expect failures, we should expect disappointment from them. We should disabuse ourselves of the fairy tales.
Pope Benedict has spoken and written about how love necessarily involves suffering. That if we love, we will suffer. I’m still trying to grasp exactly what he means. But if we love as God loves, enthusiastically giving of ourselves completely, purified eros and agape combined, I suppose it will necessarily mean being hurt, being disappointed, but choosing to love nonetheless. In short, being a real man (or woman) as God intended us to be.
p.s. 60 comments thus far! Quite a good discussion, Monsignor.
Well, I would agree with Msgr. Pope: Judge not lest you be judged. But I think God was referring to judging with regard to who will be saved vs. condemned to Hell for eternity. I would also agree with Karl: ‘Do to others what you would have done to you.’ ‘Be not deceived. God is not mocked.’ and ‘What you sow, you shall reap.’ and conclude that I can’t decide who is going to Hell and who isn’t, but I know what the judge said and how he thinks, and I’m pretty confident in what he is going to do.
I also think this is a good reason to realize why priests should obey the scripture and first be married and successfully raise their family. Though the celibate were more effective in many ways for the church, they tend to be overly empathetic to the myriads of excuses resulting in divorce. And I do mean divorce.
God has been around for eternity. I think that by know he knows how to express himself. He inspired the scripture through several brilliant people, like Paul, who was very careful in selecting his words. God clearly understood the concepts of marriage, divorce, and annulment. Marriage entailed a vow to God. After a guy raped a girl, God wanted him to marry the girl by making a vow to her AND God. God didn’t approve the rape. He didn’t qualify all these other stupid excuses for a legitimate vs. illegitimate marriage. He accepted a vow – period. Throughout the 72 books of the Bible, He was pretty consistent with his definitions. Jesus explained that Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of the people’s heart. But he, Jesus, took the option of divorce away – period. That’s all the more interesting when you consider that at the time people were still being told who they were going to marry. It’s even more interesting when you consider that King Henry the Eighth, 1500 years later, couldn’t get an annulment for his first wife (who he didn’t get to chose . . . the king didn’t get to chose). Anyway, it seemed clear enough to all the early Fathers of the church that there was absolutely, positively, under no circumstances, what-so-ever, . . . , NO NO NO NO NO DIVORCE. Oh well, there is still no divorce. Now there are unlimited but but but buts for an annulment. Funny how the eternal God seemed to make such a big mistake in not clarifying when an annulment is justified. But I’m sure if he would have elaborated on NO ANNULMENT even more than he did (when he told the OT priests they use their tradition to annul the scripture), someone would have just invented another term, not used for the subject, to get around the scripture.
I have spent most of my typing skills on this post expressing my concerns that the annulment situtation is problematic. I am not sure why you are being so adversarial Henry. My original post was that a man should cling to his wife. That said I cannot depart from the Church which does actually have a definition for what is meant by a true sacramental marriage. Two ten year olds cannot enter into a valid marriage no matter how many times they say the vows. Annulment is simply a recognition that there ARE criteria to meet in entering into a valid sacramental marriage. I DO have concerns that we have become too prone to grant annulment and that is a pastoral problem that I wish we would attend to.
Throwing in the celibacy curve is a distraction and an ad hominem argumentum.
I would like to contribute to the discussion with my own experience with annulment. Let me start out by saying that I was raised in a Catholic family, and decided early on that I did not believe in divorce. I also made the decision fairly early that I wanted to be able to tell my wife that she was the only woman with whom I had ever had sex. So, in a culture in which not even women are encouraged to guard their sexuality, much less men, I was celibate until I met my (ex?) wife at 25.
Unfortunately, my experience with annulment did not begin with my with my own, but with my parents. I had known for many years that my parents’ relationship had problems, but I knew that they received counseling, and they were both devout Catholics. So when they split up, it was a shock and a blow. Even worse was when my mother started dating–I wanted her to be happy, but how could I look on this as anything but adultery? My father, for a long time, held some hope that they would eventually reconcile. But finally he gave up, and petitioned for an annulment. Imagine my shock when it was granted! A marriage of 30 years, which produced three children, was not even really a marriage!?!? How could this have been decided? It is still a mystery to me.
So, when I met a certain young lady, I was very cautious. We dated for two years. She was from a traditional, devout Catholic family. When we started talking about marriage, I emphasized that I did not believe in divorce, that marriage is a solemn vow, for life. Did she feel the same way- she did (so she said.) I tried to make sure she shared my understanding that marriage takes work, and the “for better or for worse” clause is there for a reason. Continuing to love someone when you may even dislike them some of the time is a big challenge. I learned from my father that “Love is a decision you make, not an emotion you feel.” And when you get married, I believe that you make a promise to always make that decision the same way, no matter how hard it gets. All of this was discussed before we got married.
We had been married for a little over five years when we first got pregnant. Unfortunately, our child died in the womb at three months. I was shocked when, a month later, my wife told me she was thinking about divorcing me. I tried everything I thought I could– a trip to Europe we had been planning, I insisted we take anyway. We saw a counselor. She moved out, and I signed us up for a retreat for couples in crisis, Retrouvaille. She initially agreed to go, but in the end canceled in favor of a camping trip, it turns out with another guy.
Her family’s reaction to our eventual divorce was predictable, in relation to her. She was pressured to reconcile by some, but in the end to seek an annulment, which she decided to do, but never really got around to it. The negative energy she received from her family eventually caused her to leave the Church. As far as I can tell, her current faith is astrology!
When she first brought up the subject of annulment, of course I thought about the case of my parents. I knew that when I made the vow to love her forever, I meant it. And despite some very bitter feelings, I still do my best to keep that vow, by praying for her often, since there is little else I can do. “So,” I said to myself, “I can only know what was in my heart when we got married, and based on that, it seems that it was a valid marriage. It takes two to get married, and I don’t know what was in her heart, so I won’t contest an annulment, but I won’t help it along either.”
Now it has been a few very rocky years for me since our divorce. I have had problems with depression, and many other problems, some connected to the depression. But with God’s grace I got through it (I hope), and for the last few months, life has been much better for me. But I am starting to realize that I really don’t want to be alone the rest of my life. The chances of reconciling with my wife are slim, but on the advice of my pastor, I have explored the possibility, through prayer, thought, and by reaching out to open a dialogue with her. At this point, the chances look even slimmer, although anything is possible with God. But I have finally started considering the possibility of annulment. One priest I spoke to pointed out that the petition is not necessarily for an annulment, but for a determination of the truth- was there a real marriage or not?
Why do I share all this? Because it seems that some of the people posting here are not taking into account the possibility that sometimes the priest can do everything right, but that one or both people just were not ready or able to make that commitment, but either didn’t know it, or weren’t honest about it. I thought I had found someone who believed in the same things I did. It turned out she didn’t. Should I stay (effectively) single for the rest of my life? Maybe. But I would like to consult some wiser heads than mine to be as sure as possible, one way or the other.
I welcome all comments, insights, prayers. And thank you, Msgr. Pope, for sharing your own wisdom. I may not always agree with the way you articulate things, but I enjoy reading your blog, especially for the way it challenges me.
I for one have been in only a few relationships (at age 29), so I am not sure how much I have to add. I do have a good friend (a few years my elder) who was divorced. Through my own experience and those of a few others, I do have to wonder sometimes if people in their early to mid twenties are really mature enough to marry. Looking back, I know that I was not. My overall conceptions of the faith, other people, and the world in general just were not there. I was not (and am not) “a playa” (probably would not know how to be even if I wanted to be, truth be told), but I did grow up an only child to older parents. That can have a sheltering effect. I went through a course of hard knocks in terms of my career path. Also went through a brief relationship in which I realized that marrying someone who is a believing Catholic is not sufficient for a successful marriage.
A few things to ask–have you looked into a solidly Catholic support group for divorced individuals? Do you have a trusted and competent priest who might be willing to sit down and talk to you about your marriage and the possibility of an annulment? More broadly, is your career where you want it to be? Do you have solid male friends as well as groups/hobbies/activities that you can participate in?
Again, some of this may miss the mark. Just my thoughts. I wish you the best in working through a painful situation!
You sound naive, somewhat, Mel, but ultimately you answer for you.
So where did God except the Catholic clergy from this responsibility? Or other religious? They are “married” to the church – that is a copout. A marriage by its very definition necesitates that the second partner in the marriage be… well, another human being. If you ask me, you find what you look for, and that’s what this perspective does – goes out with a mission and finds scriptural “evidence” to support the preconceived belief. By the way, Jesus was neither married nor a priest. Aren’t we supposed to be following HIS example?
OK. Following HIS example: Jesus was Celibate and commended celibacy to those who could accept it (Matt 19). Paul was celibate and commended celibacy to others as well (1 Cor 7)
Dear Msgr. Pope:
Sorry I’m late to this party, but I think you might find the following links to be of interest. The first is a recent article highlighting how primal and unwothy of marriage many young women have become. The second is a fact sheet which cites a study which revealed that 2/3rds of divorces are initiated by women.
I never thought about it like that.. very insightful. Thanks!
Dear Msgr. Pope,
Thank you for writing this article. It has been almost a year since it was first written, so I don’t know if this is even active anymore, but I am wondering what your thoughts are on the meanings of the scripture passages which talk about a husband being the head of his wife, and a wife obeying her husband? (for example, Eph. 5, Col. 3, 1 Ptr 3, etc…).
The phrase I most often find is: “wives obey your husbands, and husbands love your wives.” Obviously, it is clear enough that husbands should love their wives, but the part addressed to the wife is difficult for me to understand because there is so much revulsion against it in society.
I read what Pope John Paul II talked about on this subject in his Theology of the Body talks (addresses 87-93; URL is below), but I found it very…unfulfilling. He seemed to be saying that the words of the statement “wives obey your husbands” does not really mean specifically the wife, but both husband and wife to each other. I am confused by this. If this is the case, why are the words translated this way, and why the whole deal with Christ being the head of the Church drawn as a comparison to husband and wife?
Theology of the Body talks – http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2tbind.htm
Yes, I have also written on the subject here: http://blog.adw.org/2009/08/an-unpopular-teaching-on-marriage/
This thread is long dead, but for the record and future posterity —
Pope Benedict’s address to the Roman Rota, January 23, 2011, is quite pertinent here —
“The right to marriage, or “ius connubii,” must be seen from this perspective. It is not, therefore, a subjective pretense that must be satisfied by pastors through a mere formal recognition, independently of the actual content of the union. The right to contract marriage presupposes that one can marry, and one intends to authentically celebrate marriage, that is, to do so in the truth of its essence as it is taught by the Church. No one can boast of a right to a nuptial ceremony. The “ius connubii,” in fact, refers to the right to celebrate a real marriage. The “ius connubii,” therefore, is not being denied where it is evident that the premises for its exercise are not present, that is, if the requested capacity to wed is manifestly lacking, or an objective is sought that is contrary to the natural reality of marriage. . . .
“We must do our best to break — to the extent that it is possible — the vicious circle that often exists between a careless admission to marriage, without adequate preparation and a serious examination of the necessary requirements for its celebration, and judicial declaration sometimes just as careless, but opposite in significance, in which the same marriage is considered null solely on the basis of the claim of its failure.”
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