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The Story of a Misunderstood Maritial Vow. A Necessary Rebuttal to a Washington Post Story

January 29, 2012

Playing on the heart-strings does not always (or even usually) produce a good or proper melody. Such is the case of a recently published Washington Post Article entitled: A Family Learns the True Meaning of the Vow: ‘In Sickness and in Health.’ Actually, they do not. In fact they demonstrate the exact antithesis of what that vow means.

I want to be careful here, since this is a story about real human beings who have lived through a tragic situation. And while they have made decisions that I think are wrong from a biblical and faith perspective, I do not lack sympathy for them. There’s is a human struggle here and not all of us hold up perfectly in such struggles.

Yet, they themselves have decided to go public, in a national newspaper about their decision and, as a pastor of many, I  am thus compelled to speak in a public way as well, lest others be misguided as to what a true Catholic and biblical response to this tragedy is.

The article and story is a very lengthy one. The full article is available above by click there in the title. I have also produced a summary here: A Story of Misguided Marital Vows. But the basic facts are these:

  1. Robert and Page Melton were married in 1995 and had two children.
  2. In 2003 Robert had a severe heart attack that left him with brain injuries. His motor skills were unimpaired but his memory was devastated. He remembered nothing of his wife and children and almost nothing of his earlier life.
  3. His behavior was also child-like and erratic which meant he needed to live in a nursing care facility.
  4. His wife visited him several times weekly and they developed a new sort of relationship. Though he came to know that he was her husband and the father of their daughters, he was not able to resume this role in any sort of substantial way.
  5. His wife Page was resigned to this, and still loved and cared for him as best as she was able.
  6. But then Page met an old friend, Allan who was divorced, and they fell in love.
  7. Allan also befriended Robert even as he was romancing Robert’s wife.
  8. Allan proposed marriage to Page.
  9. Page felt guilty, but wanted this new life. So she asked Robert.
  10. Robert said she should marry Allan, but wondered what would happen to himself.
  11. Page promised to continuing caring for Robert, but divorced him and married Allan.
  12. Robert continues today in her care and she is his legal guardian, but no longer his wife.
  13. The Post article assures us that everyone is blissfully happy, and will live happily ever after.

OK, a heart-wrencher to be sure. And the article is surely written to obtain our heartfelt consent by tugging at our heart-strings.

But be careful here, emotionally based reasoning is usually very blurry, and often quite wrong. And this is no exception. Lets look at some of the issues.

1. To begin with , there is the terrible title of the Post article: “A Family Learns the True Meaning of the Vow ‘In Sickness and In Health.'” Actually they do not. In fact they “learn” precisely the opposite of what this vow means. The vow does NOT mean that if one of the spouses gets sick, the other is free to leave the marriage and find love in the arms of another. It does not simply mean, as their “minister” falsely said to Page, that “so long as you make sure the other is cared for you have fulfilled this vow.”

Rather, the vow says that I will be true to our marriage even if you are sick and not able to live in a state that I would prefer. Sickness might mean that a spouse is no longer able to provide mutual support and companionship. It might mean that they are no longer able to be sexually intimate. It might mean that they can no longer provide financially or help in the raising of the children. There are any number of scenarios that the vow covers. It is open ended, and intentionally so.

In this case Robert was severely impaired from meeting most of his marital duties. Though he was not unconscious, his personality changed, he became more childlike and somewhat erratic. His memories were gone and, as the article implies, he was no longer interested in sexual intimacies.

Tragically this sometimes happens in marriages. But this is precisely why vows are made. And this leads us to a second point.

2. We do not make vows because life is going to be peachy and easy. Vows are not necessary to cover joyful and attractive things. Vows are necessary to cover less appealing scenarios, scenarios that are hard, and often unpleasant. And because they are such, we “vow” to remain true in spite of them.

Too many people today claim that vows are unreasonable when tough things come up. “Well if I had known that this would happen I would not have married.” But in fact this is the very reason you made vows, to cover the tough stuff. You did “know” in a general way, that difficult and painful things are possible and do occur. And this precise knowledge is why you made the vow: I take you to be my husband/wife, from this day forward, for better OR WORSE, for richer OR POORER, in SICKNESS and in health, till death do us part.

Nothing could be more clear, the vow says, “I will be at your side as your spouse no matter what.

This is the “true meaning” of the vow “in sickness and in health” no matter what the Washington Post says. Page, the wife, though sorely distressed and understandably desirous of an ordinary marriage, and “adult male compansionship” (as the article describes), has made a vow to her first husband that she must honor. That is the true meaning. A vow is a vow, a promise to act accordingly when the conditions are tough and warrant it.

3. But Father, but Father, she asked Robert and he said it was OK for here to marry Allan! Two responses must be made here.

First, as the article indicates, Robert has been affected mentally in a severe and substantial way. He is child-like in his reasoning, and not able to act on his own accord. He is in no position to be asked for a divorce or legally to grant one. The article indicates that Page was his legal guardian and, in order to procure the divorce, had to get Robert’s brother to act as his legal guardian.  Even secular law accepts that Robert could not simply answer for himself in his condition. Hence his “consent” to the legal divorce is not valid from an interpersonal point of view.

Secondly, and more importantly there is the standpoint of biblical and sacramental marriage. Jesus says, They are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one divide (Mark 10:9; Matt 19:5 inter al).  The “no one” here includes the spouses themselves. Thus, even if Robert was mentally competent and  strangely happy that his wife was dating another man and wanted to marry that man, Robert could not give this consent for divorce from the perspective of faith. Perhaps the civil authorities could accept this, but no one who holds to biblical and sacramental marriage could.

4. There is a notion today that everyone is entitled to be happy and that we should gleefully accept whatever they do to find that happiness. Well, happiness is not promised here in the valley of tears. And life has a way of dishing out both its pleasures and sorrows. True and lasting happiness must wait for the heavenly realms.

Jesus spoke very clearly of the need to accept and carry the cross in this life if we would be truly his disciples.

Page, in this story, received a difficult cross, one that was unexpected (they usually are) and long lasting. We cannot glibly dismiss her struggle, but neither can we exempt her from what God has permitted and gives her the grace to accept. Life is not always what we wish, but God can grant us a serenity and a courage to face life’s trials with faith and fidelity to the vows and commitments we have made.

I know many spouses who have cared for years for an incapacitated or difficult spouse. They are heroic in their virtue and steadfast to their vows. My own father stood faithfully by my mother in her 15 year decline into alcoholism, just she had stood by him in his earlier struggle with the same. It wasn’t easy but it made them both holy. In the cross is our salvation.

And this leads to the final point.

5. Too many Christians are ashamed of the cross. Scripture says was are to glory in the cross (cf Gal 6:14 inter al) and proclaim its magnificent, though often painful power.

Many are able to glory in the cross when it is an abstraction. But when the cross gets real, many Christians collapse and seek a way out. Sometimes it is a way out for themselves, sometimes it is for others.

And the world of course sees the cross as an absurdity and will often call the Church and true Christians harsh, unloving and uncaring, for our insistence that, only by the way of the Cross, will we reach our heavenly goal. To the world’s strident and rhetorical questions, (meant to illustrate the absurdity of the cross) we must often answer a simple yes:

  1. Are you saying that people who are suffering at the the end of life cannot be put out of their misery by euthanasia?! – Yes
  2. Are you saying that two loving homosexuals cannot marry and must live celibacy?! – Yes
  3. Are you saying that people who are unhappy in a marriage  should not be able to divorce?!? – Yes
  4. Are you saying that Page, who finally found love, after her years of suffering, cannot realize that love in a new marriage?!  –  Yes.

Sometimes the answer has to simply be yes and we cannot be ashamed to hold up the Cross of Christ who said, Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me (Matt 10:38). And again, If anyone is ashamed of me and my teaching in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels. (Mk 8:38), And yet again, In this world you will have tribulation. But take courage! I have overcome the world. (Jn 16:33).

Yes, this world will often rail against the Cross and call Christians who point to its demands hateful, inseneitive, heartless and so forth. Scripture says, For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil 3:18). And to a world that often regards the Cross with sneering indignation, we must insistently hold it up, for it alone, by God’s grace, is our salvation.

In this tragic story of a family, our hearts may well go out and understand the difficulties faced by Page. But that cannot make what she did right. I do not hold that she is per se, an enemy of the Cross of Christ. She obviously received bad advice from her “minister” and lives in a world wherein the Cross makes no sense.

But in this sad and poignant story is a lesson for us all and a reminder that vows really do matter, even when “stuff” happens later, that the Cross is not just and abstraction that we sings hymns about, it is about real difficulties that we are asked to face with courage and faith; faith in the utter and absolute power of the Cross of Christ to save us.

Here’s a Video of a happier outcome rooted in the Cross and vows:

Comments (71)

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  1. Patricia Durel says:

    Thank you for this wonderful article, Monsignor. My Catholic husband walked out on me late in 2009. We are now divorced. I believe he also received some bad advice from our pastor. It’s all very sad, especially for our children. I am one of six children whose parents were married for 50 years before my father died. I never would have dreamed of leaving my husband. Please pray for us. Thank you — and God bless!

  2. Ruth Ann says:

    Oh my! What a beautiful video! What a beautiful woman! I’m so happy I had the opportunity to see it.

  3. jj says:

    @ Patricia. I too was in a similiar situation and refused the request of my husbsnd for divorcce, however the .’COURT’ over ruled my objections after a year of separation and granted my husband his divorce. MY QUESTION TO MSGR POPE. Even the LAW is not on the side of marriage. Am I still Married? My husband has remarried. Did I not stay committed to my vows but the court granted the wishes of my husband. Can you force a spouse to stay in a marriage because you are committed to the vow and they are not. And the big BLOW is tghe courts say its OK. please respond to this delimna. Thank you.

  4. Another View says:

    With greatest respect, may I disagree? I believe the gist of what the bible calls Christians to do is to take care of their spouse. Yes, technically, they are no longer married but isn’t the wife continuing to take care of her first husband, even though they are no longer married? To me, that is the essence of the gospel and maritial vows.

    • “i take you to be my Husband, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, till death do us part”. The husband part precludes divorce and finding another “husband”

  5. Ann says:

    This story sure tugs at the heartstrings, but what an excellent clarification you offer Msgr. Thank you.

    As far as the article itself, I think the more important issue are the people who are leaving their marriages for no real reason, just for novelty, to “find themselves” etc. But I guess stories like that will not make the newspaper.

    My opinion was that this woman was no better, nor worse, than anyone who leaves a marriage, minus abusive situations. Perhaps she is a bit of a better person than most today though for still taking care of her ex, although I got the impression it was because he was the father of her chilren.

  6. Jeff Galloway says:

    I think it is fair to say this woman is still carrying her cross and, from what I read in the article, never had the intention of throwing it down and walking away. She found someone to help her carry it. In this sense, surely, she is upholding her marriage vows? I know it will not meet the strict interpretation of Jesus’ words that our Church has developed.

    • So vows till death do part mean nothing to you?

      • Jeff Galloway says:

        They do. She intends to take care of him until he dies. One could argue that God has joined them together and no man (i.e., the 2nd husband) is tearing them apart.

        • You are being fanciful and violating the clear meaning of the vow. Christian marriage does not include polygamy.

          • Meghan says:

            Amen, Msgr. (Jeff Galloway, it’s Christ’s Church! HIS Bride, NOT ours!)

          • Jeff Galloway says:

            The central point that you ignore is that the people in question were Christians – but not Catholics. So, in their own eyes and in the eyes of their churches, they were within the bounds of Jesus’ teaching. I would not expect Catholics to act as these people did, and nor would I if I were unfortunate enough to be in their circumstances.

            So rather condemn these people (as many commenters here have done) for disobeying a vow they did not take, why not focus instead on why Christian churches cannot agree on the fundamental nature of the sacrament. And expressions of understanding and empathy and prayer for people dealing with terrible circumstances wouldn’t go amiss either.

          • So you’re also a relativist?

          • MissJean says:

            “So rather condemn these people (as many commenters here have done) for disobeying a vow they did not take, why not focus instead on why Christian churches cannot agree on the fundamental nature of the sacrament.”

            Why not do BOTH? And for your information, MANY Christians take the vow “till death do us part.” It’s just that we’re so darned good at twisting the letter of the Law to get our way. Take a look sometime at all the Christians who co-habit before marriage (sometimes not even marrying the person with whom we made the nebulous “engagement”) and the Catholics who express private outrage and disobediance when a priest tells them that as part of the preparation for marriage they should live chastely until after the wedding.

            I recall a few years ago when a friend witnessed to me that being saved does NOT mean we have a get-out-of-jail free card that allows us to sin with impunity. I suggest you remember that Jesus Himself said that Moses changed the law regarding divorce because men’s hearts were hardened (Matt 19: 3-9). In various places throughout the Old Testament, the hardening of people’s hearts made them unable to repent their sins because they saw nothing wrong with what they were doing – and then that led to their destruction. To put it another way: We sin and ask forgiveness, but if our hearts harden, we expect God to accommodate us because we feel His law is too hard/mean/sad/etcetera ad nauseum.

  7. Patrick says:

    Thank you, so very much, for writing this. I was stunned by the article and hoped you’d show it for a terrible reaction to a tragic situation – one that could have been handled pursuant to faith.

  8. Pamela says:

    Thank you so much for this. I pray everyone will read and understand. God Bless.

  9. Cephas says:

    Thank you for taking apart this story. I read it holding my moral nose. It was a gut-wrenchingly DISGUSTING twist of true fidelity, all the worse by being couched in terms of faithfulness. It’s a sick, sick entrance into polygamy by a once and former Christian society.

  10. Howard says:

    Yet another example of a “different kind of family” we are expected to celebrate.

    The following passage from THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY sums up well enough what is involved in that vow. We may hope for health and wealth, but this is what we are volunteering for; no one who is unwilling to accept this is truly ready for marriage.

    Syme, quite swept off his feet, made a feeble fight against this irrevocable phrase.

    “I really have no experience,” he began.

    “No one has any experience,” said the other, “of the Battle of Armageddon.”

    “But I am really unfit—”

    “You are willing, that is enough,” said the unknown.

    “Well, really,” said Syme, “I don’t know any profession of which mere willingness is the final test.”

    “I do,” said the other—”martyrs. I am condemning you to death. Good day.”

    • Daniel says:

      Howard,
      This is your analogy for marriage? The Battle of Armageddon? Condemnation to death? I get your point about being serious about a vow, but this is overly negative. What about the Sacrament of the love of Christ and the Church?

      • James says:

        Daniel,
        Of course this is Howard’s analogy for marriage, and it is more than just appropriate. When you say that the Battle of Armageddon or martyrdom is “overly negative,” you forget that this is exactly what Christ promised us when he called us. We must not only bear up our crosses gladly, but also expect to suffer for Christ, as He suffered for us. He promised the Apostles that many people would curse them, and that they were to shake the dust from their sandals and go on. Since Howard is quoting Chesterton here, in one of his most incredibly brilliant novels (I strongly suggest reading it), he realizes that martyrdom is far from a negative thing, but is instead that paradox wherein a man gives his life because he knows that there is nothing more important than it. A martyr loves God’s creation and message so much that he is willing to die that it might live. This does not, of course, make the Church a cynical or negative institution, because the only thing more important than dying for Christ is living for Him. And that life, no matter what some people would like to insist, is always a struggle, a war within ourselves. This is the exact reason that Catholics receive the sacrament of Confirmation, that we might become true warriors for God. The modern world doesn’t like these images and metaphors for war, but the Catholic must understand that this is our Faith, this is our life, and this is what God has called us all to do.

  11. Cynthia BC says:

    I think that for many young couples “…in sickness” is a remote possibility, something they may have to deal with when they are near the end of their earthly lives. The Post story is a blunt reminder of how fragile we are. We can be just as changed by an auto accident, a gunshot wound, or by an illness as Robert is by his heart attack.

    As difficult as it is to read I think the article should be incorporated in to marriage prep classes.

  12. Meghan says:

    MSGR. Pope –
    Enjoyed the article rebuttal, but I have a question regarding marriage vows – though it’s slightly off-topic.
    What about the times when there is abuse and life-threatening situations brought about by one (or the other) spouse? I don’t like divorce, or even the word “divorce” (especially in “jest”), and I even have issues (though much smaller in measure) regarding annulments since they’re so mis-given lately, but I can’t support one spouse turning the other into a masochistically-styled martyr either. God does not reward the bad behavior of His creation, so I don’t see how we can afford to be enablers to that abuse either.

    • Regarding physical abuse and grave emotional abuse, there may be need for a medicinal separation, even for an indefinite and on-going period. However, that is not grounds for divorce and remarriage.

      Regarding annulment, we are in a very precarious pastoral situation in the Church and I cannot say to you unequivocally that we are handling it well. I think just about everyone agrees we are giving our far too many annulments. But the pastoral questions remain when, for example, a person returns to the Church after many years away, or comes to the Church later in life and they have been married more than once etc. Do we just say, sorry, no sacraments for you. What if the marriage in which they are currently in has existed for many years and the first marriage was a youthful folly before they ever knew Christ etc. The pastoral questions go on forever. No case is a like and when we come to annulments all these variables come into play. At any rate, I have posted on this before and will surely do so again in the future. But I can say the questions are very complicated and differing in each case. I don’t think we have the balance right either. But in a very troubled culture the Church doesn’t always have an instant and perfect plan. Frankly I wish the Pope would convene a worldwide synod to study the matter more systematically from the standpoint of sacramental theology and pastoral practice. For, at this current point the two are far apart and people such as you understandably find the whole set up bewildering and to some extent unintelligible.

      • Bender says:

        Do we just say, sorry, no sacraments for you

        With respect to re-admitting remarried people to the sacraments (especially Communion), there is an answer regardless of whether the prior union was a sacramental marriage or not — don’t have sex.

        But most people think that would be an unreasonable demand.

        Sex is more important than grace.

        As for “youthful folly” — we are talking about adults here, aren’t we? Grown-ups? People possessed of reason and the capacity, intellectual, moral, and otherwise to make all sorts of decisions, including in the civil arena having the capacity to enter into binding contracts?

        We do the Faith no favors by treating those in the 20s when they were married as if they were only four years old and unable to grasp the meaning of the vows that they pledge before God. A wink and a nod at truth is not the answer to the problem — and a very real problem it is — of what to do with restoring remarried people into the life of the Church.

        • Daniel says:

          Bender,
          People should be held accountable, but reasonably so. It’s pretty well documented that the frontal lobe (affecting judgment and understanding of longterm consequences) doesn’t fully develop until the mid 20s.

          • elm says:

            Daniel, I happen to be minus a frontal lobe, was married at the tender age of 17 and am still married to the love of my life for lo these 45 years. I did exit the Church when I was on the arm of my (abusive alcoholic) father once I looked down that long aisle and saw my spouse to be. My father told me to get back in Church and marry my love and I took his advice. I have never looked back. Age doesn’t always equal maturity,, youth doesn’t always equal immaturity. What matter in my case was the reality that marriage is for life. Nothing more, nothing less.

      • W. Randolph Steele says:

        Really? PHYSICAL AND GRAVE EMTIONAL ABUSE AREN’T GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE? BALONEY! I worked in a domestic violence court for several years and i can tell you that women who stayed with physicially abusive were ONLY ABUSED AGAIN Or severely injured. In one case, AFTER her abusive ex-husband was sentenced to prision, the formerly battered spouse got herself a gun permit and a gun because she knew that he’d be back after he got out and try to kill her. He tried, she shot and killed him. An extreme case, yes, but less uncommon than you think.
        In my OWN case (and I’m a guy) I went through not ONE, but TWO CHEATING SPOUSES. In one case, I found out AFTER she’d divorced me that she’d been having an affair for 2 years, BUT NOTHING WAS GOING ON or so everyone had told me(later when I had proof and told her friends they were shocked and said that they hadn’t believed her). In the second case,my spiouse turned out to be a control freak who tried to control everything about my life and she cheated on me AGAIN, AFTER SHE HAD ADMITTED THE AFFAIR AND I AND FORGIVEN HER. She never saw the divorce coming, until I had the meeting with HER AND my private detective. She was shocked, but admitted it and also hauled off and slugged me(no I wasn’t hurt and I’m a guy so reporting it wouldn’t have helped things and frankly would’ve been embarassing) BEST OF ALL, I got BOTH marriage annuled. In the first case, she didn’t care and had already remarried her lover so she agreed to anything just get me to go away. In the second case, she was afraid of her parents opinion and she needed ME not to say anything to her employer about certain of her absences, so she agreed. I would also point out that in both these cases both women had assurred me at the beginning of our marriage that they believed as strongly as I did in the sanctity of marriage. Later, in both cases,when I asked them about this, they both said” Oh I said that because it’s what you wanted to hear and I wanted to marry you so I let you think what you wanted think.” So much for the PreCana counseling and testing, both happily went through it, but it really meant nothing to them. I learned that people don’t change,they only reveal themselves. No matter how much screening the Church does Monsignor, there is no way to prevent this, if one party is dishonest enough. I certainly learned that the hard way. For ME, the best thing about the annulments is that these marriages no longer exist, either civilly or canoncially and my ex-spouses are now non-persons. At 59, I doubt I’ll ever remarry, but if I do, I’ll do a full background check and I’ve also learned that if one spouse says it’s over and wants out, it’s over.

        • Your tone in the comment is really not necessary. Just eat your own baloney and read what I actually said. I understand that couples sometimes have to separate and do not counsel women to return to abusing husbands. But divorce as for grounds for divorce, that is not a reason. And if you got an annulment the grounds were not that she beat you or cheated. The likely grounds, in most cases, is grave lack of due discretion and/or the exclusion of fidelity prior to the vow being made or at the time of the vow. But there are no annulments granted for cheating or abuse after the vows were made. Canon Law does not include such grounds. So I remain correct despite your superior attitude and your dismissal of my prior comment as bologna.

        • Kris says:

          W. Randolph Steele~ I hear the pain in your comment and it seems some anger still. I my heart goes out to you in the betrayal you have experienced. Posts like these can serve as triggers to bring all of those feelings up again. I will say a prayer for you that God will continue to help bring you healing and that you experience true peace without feeling the triggers. It is possible. God Bless.

          • taad says:

            Why is it that we can not ever live with the idea that this it. I will not remarry. I will be faithful to my vow, even if my spouse is not. I know of a mother of 5 who did exactly this. She raised her children and never dated or remarried. Her husband left her. She is a saint. I admire her for her faithfulness. And I positive that the Good God will reward her greatly. She builds my wife and I up in our marriage by her remaining faithful! Thank you Monsignor for this. When I try to talk to people about marriage and the evils of divorce, you would think I had another eye in the middle of my head. Now we know what Christ, God, felt like when he tried to explain to people. Remember with God all things are possible, even happy marriages along with the Cross.

          • Kris says:

            taad~Since you replied under my comment it seems like you are commenting to me– I am not sure if your comment is meant for me. I hope not, as in my comment I did not state anything to the contrary of what Msgr. has stated. I agree with his post wholeheartedly, and you. My comment is only meant to show compassion for the above poster. If one were to really look hard at what he has said you would see this is coming from a place of pain and betrayal he has experienced and hence, anger. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with his point of view, but certainly being somewhat empathetic in understanding where he is coming from in a charitable manner will get him there faster and help him to find healing and acceptance of the Church’s teaching than going on the offensive.

          • W. Randolph Steele says:

            Kris and Monsignor, I am eating a little crow or bologna, if you will because you hit it on the head, upon reflection , I do believe that these posts did trigger, emotions, I had thought long buried and I am sorry for my previous post’s tone and language, Monsignor.
            In both cases, I did everything I could, to save the marriage. In fact, my first wife and I were seperated for 9 months, but going through marriage counseling and I thougt we had a chance. I offered concession after concession, including selling our house and moving into an apartment to reduce our stress. NOTHING worked. When we divorced, I gave her 60% of the proceeds of the sale of the house. 3 months later, I would learn of 2 year affair. With wife #2, yes, I did play hardball because she had mistaken my kindness for weakness.
            My pastor was sympatheitic, but not really helpful. A close friend of mine, who is a priest and knew a lot about annulments and I had a series of long talks. He helped me with both annulments and it was with his help that I located witnesses who helped me make my case. They turned out to be friends of both my ex’s,who saw how much pain I was in and agreed to help me. It was through them that I learned the true nature of my wives. 3 of my first wifes friend knew about the affair, but didn’t feel that they should tell me AND SHOCKINGLY, knew that she had had an affair with a former married boss(there had beena rumor, but they had been dismissed as gossip). Had I know that, I never would’ve married her. In the case of my 2nd wife, I learned from her closest friends that she had been engaged several times and slept with a large number of men. all of this had been hidden from me. Several of them had been her coworkers and told me how she had been fired and rehired several times from theh same job because of her attitude and controlling nature. When I asked them WHY, in both cases, they said that they didn’t feelthat it was their business and besides I seemed so different form preivous boyfriends tha they thought things would be different. with me.
            My real question is, just how much abuse do we have to take? Thanx for the good words, Kris, you helped write this post and give me back my perspective.

        • J. C. says:

          If your second wife agreed to proceed with the annulment under duress (“she needed [you] not to say anything to er employer about certain…absences”), your annulment may itself be null or invalid.

          • W. Randolph Steele says:

            Suffice to it say, not likely. Things maybe implied not stated. It’s not what is true, it’s what people think is true..

  13. Mary says:

    I also thank you for the response to this article. I read it in disbelief that the article was so clueless into what the vows actually mean. There is so much heartache and crosses arising from the widespread acceptance, even among Christians, that the vows really mean until it gets really hard or the person “changes” too much. I also really felt for the woman in the article. The cross she was given is hard, but you are right. Prettied up adultery is still adultery.

  14. George Holder says:

    Msgr. Pope,

    Page is not living her vows to her husband, Robert. She has no other husband and her actions place her in a state of mortal sin, adultery, to be specific. We all know it. Why am I so judgmental? I’ve committed adultery twice in my life…..once before marriage with a married woman and once after 25 years of marriage. I am a sinner and I have sought and received reconciliation from the Church and my wife. I know what it is to long for someone you know you should not and cannot have while remaining faithful to Christ.

    You see, my wife has terminal breast cancer and at 58 years of age, I was forced into retirement to care for her..which I did and do gladly. My wife’s older brother is mentally & physically handicapped, residing in a local nursing home and I visit him three times a week. My wife is incapable of such a schedule and I take her to see her brother about once or twice monthly.

    One must become “other minded” is marriage. It’s so easy to say and so very hard to do! What is best for my spouse? We are “one flesh” and making my wife my first priority makes me my first priority! It’s that simple and that difficult…….a relationship that takes all I have each hour of each day. Christ gave His All for me and in my wife’s face, I see Christ! How do I turn from Him……and her?

    Go back to your husband, Page……….and live the Love of Christ!

  15. shieldsheafson says:

    God affects the natural course of creation and where God’s agency is manifest; in His image, in the awesome beauty of His creation, through the prophets AND even through failure, decay or pain of nature, grace may be more plainly discerned. We live, whether we like it or not, or believe or not, in the shadow of the Cross. And one day, each of us will have to embrace it. Our Lord will help us carry our Cross.

    “And is thy earth so marred,
    Shattered in shard on shard?
    Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!
    Strange, piteous, futile thing!
    Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
    Seeing none but I makes much of naught” (He said),
    “And human love needs human meriting:
    How hast thou merited—
    Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?
    Alack, thou knowest not
    How little worthy of any love thou art!
    Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
    Save Me, save only Me?
    All which I took from thee I did but take,
    Not for thy harms,
    But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
    All which thy child’s mistake
    Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
    Rise, clasp My hand, and come!”
    Halts by me that footfall:
    Is my gloom, after all,
    Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
    “Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
    I am He Whom thou seekest!
    Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.”

    Francis Thompson (1859-1907)

  16. Richard C says:

    The writer from the “Apostate Washington Post” seems to have no idea of Christian covenant.
    A covenant can not be disolved simply because it becomes inconveinant. There is an important item that has been left out of the article and out of this conversation. A truth of this world and the next is that our behavior choices always have consequences. The article did not mention the effect that Page’s decision would have upon her children, nor the plans in place for care if she were to predecease her husband.
    Most importantly, no mention was made that there will be a consequence to the “minister” who told this woman that her sexual feelings could over ride her marriage vows. The apostle James writes that preachers and teachers will be judged harshly. If I as a pastor tell a person that ungodly behavior is holy, then I will be judged according to how that person behaves, because I told her it was holy.
    “Feel good” counseling and ministry will condemn many clergy to the fires of hell.

  17. Zen says:

    This made me recall how my mother took care of my father during ~20 years of heart-related ailments. She would take care of his needs in the hospital and still take care of our needs at home. My father was not the best patient in or out of the hospital and many a times, my mother would burst out of his hospital room crying because of his temper. But my mother stayed on by his side until his death. And during the funeral service, I heard my mother speak to my father (in the casket!), “There’s still so many things I want to talk to you about!”. She still needed the daily conversations with my father. I knew then that if and when I decide to marry a man, I have to think first if I love him enough to endure what my mother did. To date, I am still single!

    It is not easy to keep the vows and we should not take it lightly – though some of my firends said my take on it was too severe!

    Also, I am not here to judge Page, but I think that when Allan came into her life again, she should have seen (or been aware of) the first signals of desired intimacy and distanced herself lest she be tempted to divorce the sick husband!

    • Theresa Rezac says:

      Your mother’s care of your sick father is a beautiful example of Love. You are blessed to see such a perfect example of sacrifice done for love’s sake.

  18. Jon White says:

    As part of marriage preparation, I hope the Catholic Church requires a period of several hours of reflection by the engaged couples on ALL the possibilities – including but not limited to SEVERELY NEGATIVE (e.g., permanent severe debilitation of spouse, loss of job, etc.) while young, negative (e.g., birth of a child with disabilities, serious-but-recoverable illness of spouse or child) while young, positive while young, and ridiculously positive while young – of their future shared lives. If these engaged folks are anything similar to me when I was young, they don’t play “what if” well, and need to be counseled that, without genuine mature Catholic faith they will not be able to follow the Catholic faith’s requirements in such situations and will find their lives and family shattered by the situation. I speak from sad experience.

  19. Sam A says:

    After my uncle’s motorcycle accident, he and my aunt were in a situation identical to the one you describe. Before the accident, they were what you would call “soul mates,” definitely best friends as husband and wife. It was incredibly painful to witness my aunt do everything she could to bring him back to normalcy, while he responded by being child-like, mean, paranoid, and sexually inappropriate in front of his daughters. It was a tragedy of monstrous proportions. After about three years, she did in fact divorce him, vowing to continue caring for him in the nursing home. She planned to marry another man, and my uncle ended up dying while they were engaged. I disagreed profoundly with my aunt’s decision on a moral level, though as you say, I remained extremely sympathetic to her plight. She should have taken the high road, but it was a very, very high road indeed. We need to be merciful to people who have made wrong decision under extremely difficult decisions, just as the Lord is merciful to us despite our own sins.

  20. John says:

    Msgr. Pope,

    I am going through a similar situation now with my wife. She suffers from mental illness is very combative, and at times verbally abusive. In the case of mental illness, the person suffering from the illness is protected by law to refuse treatment. My wife’s refusal to accept treatment makes carrying this cross all the more difficult.

    My youngest daughter is very unsympathetic and cannot understand why I do not seek a divorce.

    I recently explained the situation to a friend and his words were right on “You don’t kick your wife to curb because she is sick”.

  21. Jen M says:

    I think the thing that irks me the most is the title of the original article “A Family Learns the True Meaning of the Vow: ‘In Sickness and in Health.” I am so glad to see Msgr sound off on what a TRUE marriage should be, and the TRUE meaning of this vow. I have only been married a short while, but in my education, I worked directly with brain injury patients and saw first hand the effects brain trauma can have on a life and the lives of family members. If this woman’s husband had cancer or leukemia or some other debilitating illness, I do not think people would be so quick to excuse her behavior. The problem is, with brain trauma, or injuries that affect personality and behavior (including mental illness and substance abuse), it is too “easy” to walk away because, for some reason, it seems more “acceptable” to leave a spouse when they are unable to behave the way they did when you were first married. The plain fact of the matter is that, when you take your marriage vows, they are until DEATH do you part! It is a CHOICE that is made of your own free will; and when you promise forever, it means FOREVER… leaving for any reason is a cop-out. Today’s “disposable society” seems to say – “Oh, it doesn’t work? Well throw it out and get a new one!” I think the video at the end of the article about the true Christian woman who loved her husband no matter what, shows that not everyone today thinks this way, and it gives me hope for the future. I pray that people will read this article and their eyes will be opened.

  22. Brad says:

    Truth is TRUTH Monsignor, and I think you nailed it. I believe this woman may have blocked great blessings from God by her actions. The vows are quite clear and should be upheld even in this incredibly difficult situation. It’s probably one of those situations that’s beyond what she can handle herself but that can only by handled through the strength of Christ.

  23. Bender says:

    Page met an old friend, Allan who was divorced, and they fell in love
    ______________________

    This is one of those times when quotation marks are called for, as in — Page met an old friend, Allan who was divorced, and they fell in “love.”

    Which is to say, it wasn’t really love, it wasn’t authentic love, it was a counterfeit “love,” it was desire or attraction masquerading as love.

    Real love — love in its real and true sense — in this situation means Allan saying to Page, not “let’s get married,” but “I have so much love for you, let’s be friends.” And if he could not accept being “mere” friends, then in those cases, real love means saying “goodbye” to the other.

  24. James says:

    I am going to be snippy with this one.

    We got into this whole mess of divorce and contraception precisely because we allowed ourselves to subjudicate marriage to the state when ultimately the secular (keyword there) state has no business in marriage. If a state is a Christian state (say… in a certain form of monarchy or republic) it becomes a different story.

    Most folks are simply unaware that before the on-slaught of contraception and divorce there simply was no such thing as a marriage license, rather there were certificates of the sacrament. These are entirely two different things. One is a contract and the other is a covenant. An error in the beginning is an error in deed. The purpose of marriage licenses were strictly eugenic. I think there’s a whole thing about this sort of thing in the Old Testament where the people of God begin to dabble in stately affairs and get their bitten by the fighting dogs they got between.

    Like the usury of our credit cards and retirement funds, allowing our income taxes to garnish our wages, and paying workers too little for too much work. Save, save, save, we do and the whole time we trust not God. Instead we opt-out of hope and beseech not for graces. The joke is on us everytime we go to the supermarket and put food in our baskets, food that is lower-priced than it should be. Food that wage slaves like myself cannot afford. I am classically trained butcher and yet I don’t even have a chance to eat it because anything beyond oatmeal is simply out of reach. We are supposed to be the people of Gospel, one foot in this world and one foot in the next, and yet we choose intrinsic evils, sins that cry to Heaven for Justice. We’re not looking for a utopia (that would be heresy) but we don’t value men and women anymore. Nope, instead we call them human beings. We no longer say, ‘Fellow brethren.” Instead we say, “Hi, folks. Let us pray.” It is beyond silly.

    I am perturbed at a culture that we fashioned ourselves which allows husbands to walk-away from their manhood. Realise I chose that word perturbed because it is a word that describes Christ in the Gospels when he sees something dumbfoundly stupid. It is the word that St. Faustina describes Mary when She becomes annoyed that men and women continue to sin and then magickally expect Her to instant rain graces upon them. Like clay pots we are suspended over a great chasm by a little silver thread.

    Sorry. Nothing gets my goat going more than cowardly men.

  25. Jim Ryland says:

    Msgr. Pope,

    When my late wife and I married, we knew that our relationship was trinitarian and Our Lord was the third party. We did not take those vows lightly.

    After 35 years of wonderful companionship and raising a family my wife became terminally ill. As heartbreaking and devastating as those final years were, I would not trade one moment of them. It was a blessed time in which I could, in some tangible way, express my great love for her and my gratitude through daily care; bathing, preparing meals, sitting and talking, even though she often could not remember my name or exactly who I was.

    If you stop at the glitz in Tiffany’s window… you miss the real treasures within the store. No substitute “relationship” could ever have held a candle to those last months.

  26. Peter Wolczuk says:

    So, it seems that Page had a problem, or maybe a challenge. Or, perhaps, there was a situation that was part problem and part challenge. Perhaps problem and challenge had an overlapping part that was some of each.
    I like the belief that problem and challenge are two different names for the same thing – just differing by where one views that thing from.
    It seems that Page was offered a challenge. A challenge which might have yielded some very positive results had she kept to her vows but, we may never know because of the choice she made to (seemingly) give in to temptation.
    When it came to physical challenges and scholastic challenges I would eagerly rise to them. A teacher in school or a sergeant in the army who demanded that we did the best we could and that we struggle to better ourselves always inspired me. Others may have called them cruel or whatever but I struggled to learn and grow. However, I later found that I was no better than those who complained about teachers, because when it was an emotional challenge to grow and improve myself I would be among the first to lash out in denial and name calling.
    Adam had a challenge to resist temptation but, instead, gave in to a temptation which resulted in a difficult life for him and all of his descendants. He reached out for this brief and temporary gratification without knowing the consequences. He was tempted to go against the will of God and did so.
    So very many years later the Son of God was praying in the garden before picking up His cross and confronted the temptation to go against the will of God. At the beginning of His mission He resisted a temptation and, in the garden, He resisted another temptation – a temptation much like Adam had in the original sin and; when He said that the will of His Father, not His be done; he could gather up all sins – including the original – and take them to the cross.
    Many were the times that I gave in to temptation to dodge emotional challenges and lost the emotional growth. How many times, I wondered, were these challenges also spiritual and how much spiritual growth did I lose by not facing these challenges?
    Now I try to accept all emotional and spiritual challenges and no longer live in terror of the consequences of the adultries (and worse) that I’ve committed.
    How about the children of Page and her “first” husband? They will probably continue a degree of contact with their biological father but, now that they have an additional “adopted” father, how many chances for growth and spiritual enrichment will they lose as a result of their mother’s choice to pick this “easier softer way”
    Having tried “easier softer ways” for over thirty years of my life and suffered a living hell as a result I feel fear for those who pick this route.

  27. TaylorKH says:

    God gives grace and makes available the grace to help marriages work. But, one must want the grace more than sex or pleasure or money and then one must use the grace.

    Who do you want to be when you grow up? Do you want to be a lover (you give and are happy) or a consumer (you just receive and can’t get enough)?

    Without God, you can do nothing. God is love. Without love, you can do nothing. Love gives and is thin and happy from giving and not consuming so much.

  28. Chuck says:

    The society we live in teaches tolerance, compassion, and forgivenesss, but in a twisted and crooked way. As we grow through our teens and twenties we are almost incapable from our immaturity to make vows or or decisions of eternal consequence. We are stunted, and our catechesis from our youth, or religious training in the faith, is so inadequate that it leaves us unprepared, truly disabled to fend off the enemies persuasions and our own fleshly desires.

    This is why the spikes were hard as steel and pointed, that pierced our Lords hands and feet. Understand the Monsignor, if you can, though he sounds hard qnd harsh, and carry your cross to Mass on Sunday, and when it is time to receive the Eucharist, stay seated, as you know you should. Bow your head, take your penance, pray for the many who get up and unknowingly accept communion when they are not in communion, and thank Jesus for nailing your shame to the cross, and forgiving you those sins of youth, then go, and sin no more. Perhaps our Monsignors and Bishops and Priests will begin again to instruct us in the truth, loudly, and clearly, if most of us honestly sit out the Eucharist. Perhaps they will again teach us and by the time of our confirmation at the age of 12 or so, we will know the rules, and we will have the strength of character which comes from a clear understanding of the hope of eternity in Heaven. It is time to stop the blaming, begin the forgiving, and get to the point that everyone is worthy of that beautiful wafer every Sunday and every day.

  29. Robertlifelongcatholic says:

    Maybe I’m wrong on this point, but It’s my understanding that the vow in the sacrament of matrimony is to God where each partner’s life becomes one life dedicatated to the Christian life. When my wife and I were going through Catholic marriage councelling classes before getting married, we had a series of questions to answer at the end. One was something like, “What is the most important thing you hope to get out of your married life?(a) happiness (b) success (c)companionship (d) salvation. She chose happiness for her answer and I chose salvation. Twentyeight plus years later I think my answer was more realistic. Happiness comes and goes like an appetite while salvation is surely the end game to all the pain and suffering inbetween. It’s a team effort even when your partner is sidelined due to injury. We all have stories to tell about life”s tradgedies but you either step up to the cross and bear it or you sell out. God doesn’t compromise with the truth. You can deny others and others may not condemn you, but if you deny the Holy Spirit you have condemned youself already.

  30. dianne says:

    After all these comments, I wonder if anyone will get to mine, but I have two points to make that I feel are important. At least one commentor mentioned one, that is, the idea that everyone needs and is entitled to a sex life. This attitude is ruining our society. People feel that they can’t be happy without sex, and so, have sex in all kinds of inappropriate situations. This results in fatherless children, abortion, sexually transmitted disease, all of which have increased dramatically even as contraception has become more available. People who divorce usually do so with the thought of sometine in the future being free to have an affair or a new marriage. The other attitude, which you discuss, is the fear of suffering. I was a protestant the first 45 years of my life. Living this long makes one aware that suffering is a part of life. I remember walking into that Catholic church, looking at the crucifix, and saying to myself,”These people know how to tell it like it is.”

  31. Terri says:

    I am so thrilled to see this article, Msgr.! I read that article in the Post with great dismay, and also commented on their online discussion. My husband has been very disabled physically and mentally with FXTAS, a neurodegenerative genetic condition, since shortly after our marriage in 1999. I have only been able to care for him at home and see the joy in our marriage by the grace of God. My husband was Catholic, and I was not – I converted to the Catholic church in 2004 as I found myself so drawn to the faith as I learned about it, thanks to the wonderful priests and people of my husband’s church.

    I have seen such miracles and have been able to give my husband great care and keep him happy and very comfortable at home by God’s grace and by totally depending on God’s guidance and provision. I have home health aides to help because I cannot lift my husband, but I do most of the hands-on care. I prayed for years for God to fill the huge empty spaces in our marriage, since my husband talks very little, and somehow God has done that. My husband says that he loves me once in a while – one of the very few things he will ever say. I could go on forever about the graces God has given me and my amazing, amazing journey with God.

    Of course I would prefer my husband to be healthy and to be a real partner in this marriage; but the illness has brought me to God which is way more important. I believe that I have saved my husband’s quality of life, while he has saved my soul! THAT is a marriage, right?

    • Maria says:

      Terri,
      I have tears in my eyes as I read your witness. Yes, marriage is supposed to lead us closer to God. In that sense your husband has been a real partner in your marriage. We are supposed to see Christ in our spouse. Often we expect to see the strong vigorous 33 year old Christ. But when we have to do everything for our spouse, hands on care as you say, with him unable to speak – we see the baby Jesus who willed to be completely surrendered, totally vulnerable, in the care of another. So Christ is there for you in a quite unexpected but completely legitimate way. Yes, your husband is a real partner in the marriage! May God bless you both.

      • Terri says:

        Maria, thank you so much for your beautiful words. I am so grateful for the support I have gotten from my Catholic church family. I love how Catholic friends support how I care for my husband; they never mention putting him in a nursing home as have many other people.

  32. Mary Dillon says:

    Thank you Msgr. Pope. When presented with the difficult situation- the ‘hard case’– as presented in the WP article, it is so vital that we hear the truth about the sacrament of marriage presently with such clarity, insight, understanding and true charity as you have done here.

    When marriage is under such attack as it is today, all who uphold their vows help uphold a true marriage culture: those who remain faithful under difficult circumstances speak volumes. Thank you for your courageous witness to the truth.

  33. Mary W says:

    This blog prompted me to begin to begin to reread Blessed Pope John Paul’s Apostolic Exhortation -The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World. In it I read that a person’s freedom in giving themselves fully and freely to the marriage covenant, is not restricted by this fidelity but rather “ is secured against every form of subjectivism and relativism and is made a sharer in Creative wisdom.” I think when we deviate from God’s plan for marriage, or any other part of His plan for us, we begin to be like little boats tossed around on the waves of “isms”. When we chase “isms” there are just too many “what if’, “maybe”, and “if only” scenarios to consider and none lead to true peace or heaven! When we ask God to help us with the crosses in our life we are often suprised to find joy even in the midst of great sorrow and difficulty. I think the woman in the video and Terri (above) expressed that so well, once each embraced God’s will she found peace and unexpected joy. Thanks again Msgr. Pope for another great thought-provoking blog.

  34. Karl says:

    I have crossed swords with you in the past, Msgr, Pope, regarding marriage, divorce and annulments with my position being extremely critical of the Catholic Church. That being said, although I did not take the time to thoroughly read your post, feelings have no business getting in the way of a solemn promise, oath or vow.

    If the foundations of society are based upon nothing, then there is nothing to be held accountable to. The injustice which results incomprehensible. Everything becomes relative, and it becomes relative to what I WANT or what who has the most powerful weapons wants, which is exactly what the U.S. of Amerika has become.

    As a society we are in very deep trouble. Marriages mean nothing civilly and religiously, at least in Christendom. You can say what you want in reply to my comment, but I know, with moral certainty, that the Catholic Church chooses to abandon valid, sacramental marriages and it does so in serious error and it does so routinely. There is a tremendous gulf between what the Catholic Church teaches and what it practices, regarding everything around marriage, and this is well known and long known to the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, much to the decimation of marriage. There is no longer even a ghost of assent to the teachings of the Church among the large majority of Catholics on many issues and this is also reflected in the clergy and those
    who are “educated” in the faith.

    However, regarding, the matter at hand. I believe the parties are wrong. Their witness is scandalous and shameful. They are, it seems to me, following emotion, primarily. They are doing grave harm.

    Bully for you, with this post, Monsignor! I tip my hat to you and consider myself blessed to have happened to stop by here. God be with you and with the Church.

  35. Kurt says:

    A much lesser issue, but I have been puzzled that I have not once heard the Church address this matter. To me, a “pre-nup” is changing the defintion of marriage. My view is that all pre-nups should be declared null and void.

  36. Suan Lovato says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Great to hear the truth!

  37. Allison says:

    My question goes back to the abusive marriages. I understand the medicinal separation and know that abuse is not the grounds for an annulment. Legally could one get a divorce so as they no longer have to support the other financially? Like in an abusive marriage, the husband has a restraining order against him for the protection of the wife and children, they can’t get an annulment but can get a divorce only for matters concerning the state. I hope that makes sense. It wouldn’t be a divorce so they can go off and marry someone else just so they can have more control over their own lives and not be concerned with the abusive spouse.

  38. Susan Picerno says:

    Msgr. Pope,

    I wanted to point out the additional horror that I think you missed that Paige began her after with “man no. two” BEFORE he got a divorce and was very much still married…

    Thank you for this wonderful article! I note with happiness how many people stood up for traditional marriage in the comments posted with the Washington post article on their website. However, the Post republished the article two weeks later (as if once was not enough!) and put it elsewhere on their website which meant the orginal comments did not get reposted with the repost article. How smarmy!

  39. Carmel says:

    I agree with you about the marriage vows up to a point but wonder about human nature. Crosses are very hard to carry and many people cannot sustain the load. I have a kid with mental disability and doubt if I could remain with my husband if he became mentally disabled like Robert as well. How many hopeless cases can one able person carry. I often think this when I think of a dear friend who would be better off without her mentally ill husband who has been mentally ill for a long time and can only be described a pain in the neck and a burden she does not need. She already has a heavy load to carry in the form of a son with autism but her mentally ill husband is a bigger sucker out of her life force than her son with autism and has caused ceaseless issues for her at work and with her children. She was given advice by a priest to stay with him as according to him the marital union is the prime one. Is that the case if you spouse is destroying you and your happiness because it does not matter to him. I personally do not think so. Sometimes the person usually a woman who does the caring has to think of herself and unload the partner who is a burden if she is to remain sane and able to look after herself. And if you think you have the right to judge maybe you need to be stuck in that situation yourself and see how you would go. The Church sets very high standards on married couples but I have noticed that members of the clergy have really little idea of how marriage with a difficult partner is impossible to bear. Why stay with an alcoholic, gambler. womaniser or mentally ill partner who destroys their own life and drags you down with them. I would not stay with a husband like that as they have dishonoured the marriages vows and not upheld their side of the marriage contract.

  40. elaine says:

    i agree that the post’s title got it wrong. but i can’t wholly agree with this rebuttal and the msgr.’s view of marriage, either.

    point: marriage is a construct that was invented by man long before the establishment of the Catholic Church, so the church’s interpretation of marriage vows is, or should be, a roadmap for Catholics only.
    point: i would be more comfortable accepting clerical instructions on the meaning of marriage if the clerics themselves had any actual experience of marriage.
    point: in this country, marriage is a contract with the state as well as with the spouse. sometimes getting the financial help and medical care that would give the spouse that you are supposed to be with until death the best possible quality of life, requires divorcing that spouse so that he or she qualifies for benefits. for some, a divorce in the eyes of the state is the best way to fulfill the vow you took in the eyes of the church.
    point: the church considers it a sin to take a life in any way – abortion, murder, suicide. i would posit that remaining in an abusive marriage is tantamount to taking a life – your own. surely the sanctity of life outweighs the sanctity of marriage.
    point: God, and the Catholic Church, knows and recognizes the frailty and imperfection of mankind. God knows that the ability to carry a heavy cross varies from one person to the next; if He didn’t, the concepts of compassion, forgiveness, etc. would not have touched Christ’s lips, and there would be no need for the sacrament of reconciliation.

    I DON’T believe that a severely impaired person, or an addict, or an abuser, are capable of fulfilling their marriage vows, and since it takes two to make a marriage, I believe it’s possible that those conditions release the spouse from their vow as well. I DON’T believe that God put us here to suffer. I DON’T believe that God created beauty, music, love, joy, companionship, etc., but wants us to never again, as long as we live, experience those things if we have to leave marriage to do so. I DO believe that God sometimes sends an old childhood friend to help us with our cross, and I DO believe that God expects us to do our very best to live by His ways, and that He is prepared to forgive us when we fail to do so. Most of all, I believe that no one, not even the Catholic Church, has dibs on the mind of God, and that we all need to strive to do what’s right, and that as long as we are doing that, no one but God has the right to judge us for it.

    • I am not sure if you are a catholic or not, but it is clear you have largely invented your own religion here. You begin by stating that marriage is a mere construct invented by man and your reasoning is all downhill from there by any Catholic sense. Marriage is not a human construct. Genesis makes it clear that God is the author of marriage and that he set up clear parameters.

      • Jennifer says:

        Msgr. Pope, I am not a Catholic, but I believe that it is the true religion. Anyway, for this reason I will not remarry. I am glad that you understand. And that the Catholic church understands. I was married to one man whom I loved very much. We had children together. His mental health deteriorated and then he walked out, but that doesn’t make it ok for me to seek soothing and romance and money with another man.

        But many people think I’m crazy. In my own religion (LDS) it’s rare for a woman to not remarry, especially if she is still attractive to men. There is no real LDS tradition of celibacy for men or women. But I just could never do it again. To share such intimacies with another man would be my moral failure. And I know this for sure.

        Chaste celibacy has given my life new meaning. I now live a life of prayer and penance and it is wonderful. Not in the way that I planned for myself as a young girl…but better because I have developed discipline, and a love and appreciation for Christ that would otherwise have been unavailable to me.

        Thank you for your blog, where you call a spade a spade. I suppose this is not a p.c. term–but you do say hard things and do not try to sugarcoat anything. I am deeply appreciative.

  41. Kristen says:

    My husband carried on adultery with another man’s wife for half of our 13 year marriage, in addition to being totally dependent, deceptive, verbally abusive, and not apparently able to take seriously the responsibility of marriage. After the discovery of his affair (which he even did in our home and in our honeymoon room), I asked him to separate from me. He completely fell apart and descended into mental illness and depression and alcoholism. He continues to lie, refuse mental health help, and has even threatened my life and the lives of others, as well as deceiving a mentally ill woman for sex. He is now like a child with no self control. He got in trouble with the law for the threats. When is divorce ever acceptable? When does one party’s violation of the covenant constitute a broken vow and freedom for the violated spouse? Turns out my husband has long standing mental and personality disorder that may be due to old brain injury. He will only cooperate with help if forced, which the law is now doing? What if he turns out to be incorrigible?

  42. H. Sam Sough says:

    Msgr. Pope,

    I attended your “The Miracle of Marriage” this Friday at St. John Neuman Church by myself. I prayed and hoped that my wife could have been with me. It was really good lecture that all of Catholic married couples must attend at least once a year.

    August 23, 2014, my wife of 28 years left me after argument and got a lawyer and in the middle of filing divorce. She used to be an Eucharistic minister at the church and now saying that she trusts no one but her brother and sisters. She used to tell people to trust the Lord and Holy Mother and disobeying will bring punishment. We have had arguments like every married couple have, mostly because of our daughter’s education. However, I truly believe that we had had a lot more good times than bad ones even though she does not seem to remember. The things really concerned me were her occasional behaviors without common sense and her fidelity to our marriage. I believe that she had been faithful to our marriage. However, I do not know whether she is still faithful to our marriage after she left the house. Her older sister left her husband of almost 30 years for another man. Of course, that does not mean my wife would do the same.

    She has not spoken with me directly since she left the house and based on people whom we knew, it appears that she has been talking bad about me. I am not an angel but not a devil either. I am confident that I am at least a normal human being with emotions. I hope that she has courage to talk to people in front of me rather than my behind. I have been praying hard and have done everything to save our marriage. I am willing to go through any humiliation and hardships to save our marriage. I already had gone through hardships because of her medical conditions and stuck with her. I kept our wedding vow and will do so. I do not have any intention of divorcing her as long as she has been and will be faithful to our marriage. Anyhow I am waiting for the divorce paper from her any moment and I might not have any choice but signing. I pray that she has a chance to hear your lecture and to read this article before she files the paper for a divorce. I pray that the Lord provides me the priest who will guide me spiritually and be neutral to both my wife and me. Please pray for our marriage and family. Thanks.