Some years ago a woman (and parishioner) told me, almost in passing, that she and her husband were planning to divorce. Knowing that she had two young children, both under 10, I asked her in so many words, “What about the children?” Unabashedly she assured me that they were in fact divorcing for the sake of the children. Perhaps she saw my bewildered, dubious look, so she added, “We don’t want them to experience all the yelling and bickering.” “Hmmm … ,” I said. “Well then stop the bickering and yelling. Get whatever help you need, but don’t make the kids pay even more for your problems.”
I was a parochial vicar in those days, so the woman informed the pastor of my “insensitive” remark and demanded that I be taught to be more sensitive and diplomatic. Luckily, the pastor saw the irony of her demands, since diplomacy between spouses seemed lacking as did sensitivity toward children who did not likely “feel” great that their home was breaking up because the adults couldn’t get along.
When I was a little child (not so long ago) in the mid 60s, divorce was still considered shocking, and to a large degree morally wrong. But that was before we crossed the chasm of the cultural and sexual revolution. In 1969, no-fault divorce began to careen through the land like a runaway train leaking poisonous gas. Within less than a decade, divorce went from something shocking and whispered about to a mainstream action for which we are expected to have sympathy. After all, the thinking goes, doesn’t God want everyone to be happy? How can we be so mean as to say that people should stay in “unhappy marriages”? Never mind those vows, which have no happiness clause and even seem to imply that there will be unhappy times: better or WORSE, richer or POORER, in SICKNESS and in health for as long as we both shall live. No, forget all that. Marriage is about “happiness” and everyone’s “God-given right to be happy.” God only wants me to be happy. Jesus wasn’t really serious when He spoke of the cross and our need to carry it through patience, suffering, forgiveness, and bearing with one another.
I remember another couple who were fighting bitterly in my rectory parlor. They began throwing around the “divorce” word. I asked them, “But what about the vows you took?” After a pause, the husband said, “What vows, Father?” So I recited them from memory. “Oh, that … ,” said the husband. “But you know, you just say those words at the ceremony because you’re supposed to … ” He seemed to have thought of them as only ritual words and considered himself exempt from the vows that had come forth from his very mouth before both God and man.
In the short span of a few decades, we have come to the point where many do not see marriage as about keeping vows, or commitments, or about what is best for children. Marriage is now about adults and what makes them happy. And all of us are just supposed to accept this regardless of the effect that it (obviously) has on children.
In his recent book, Defending Marriage, 12 Arguments for Sanity, Anthony Esolen makes some poignant observations:
Parents will say, “My children can never be happy unless I am happy,” but they should not lay that narcissistic unction to their souls. Children need parents who love them, not parents who are contented; they are too young to be asked to lay down their lives for someone else. It is not the job of the child to suffer for the parent, but the job of the parent to endure, to make the best of a poor situation, to swallow his pride, to bend her knees, for the sake of the child. I have heard [from those] who still quaver in voice when they speak about what their divorced parents did to them – hustling them from one half of a home to another half, enlisting them as confidants, one against the other, [threatening] them that they may just find themselves a lot less often with a parent they love if they do not do exactly what the [threatener] demands. [and I would add forcing them to endure Daddy’s new live-in girlfriend, or Mommy’s new husband, or a strange new step-brother who is hard to get along with and who started touching them in embarrassing places.] Children must grow up at age ten so their parents don’t have to (p. 142).
Esolen also comments on how children often have divorce “explained” to them:
[The Child] must be told that the father, although he wasn’t so terrible, just couldn’t satisfy the mother in some mysterious way, and so bad was this dissatisfaction that she had no choice but to compel her son [or daughter] to live without a father … Adults are wonderfully adept at weaving webs of self-deceit around themselves for protection. Children aren’t … They aren’t yet dulled by habit, or by slogans, or by a long history of compromising with the truth, so that what they do see, they see clearly (p. 138).
Yes, indeed, children are famous for for seeing through the hypocrisy of adults. Their innocence is still shocked by misbehavior and inconsistency. I remember a high-school classmate, whose parents had divorced, wondering why “the rules” in the house only applied to her. One day she asked her mother, who had divorced, why she couldn’t love her father anymore. The mother replied, “But I still do love him.” My classmate saw through this self-justifying lie and challenged her mother to “get back together with Dad again.” Her mother just responded, “You’ll understand when you get older.” In one short phrase, her mother managed to both patronize her daughter and introduce her to the cynical and compromised world of the baby-boomer generation, a generation that collectively never grew up and that may well be the most narcissistic, egocentric, selfish, and immature generation since the patricians of the late Greco-Roman culture.
Disclaimer – I realize that every divorce story is an individual one. I know that there are some who read this who will be angry or hurt and who will insist that my picture does not take into account the special and unique circumstances that led to their particular divorce. I realize, too, that some people really tried to save their marriages but could not because the other spouse refused. OK. But I only speak to the general problem, not to every specific case. The critique here is of the culture, first and foremost. The fact is that by and large people used to work out their differences and stay married, but today they do not. We used to consider the impact that divorce would have on children. Today it is either not considered or the children are way down on the list below the needs and wishes of the adults.
Divorce has shredded our families and caused grave harm and hurt to children: psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. If we cannot see this then we are not only divorced from marriage; we are divorced from reality. You might say, “Well, I don’t think it’s so bad. The roads are paved and the planes run on time.” OK, but talk to someone whose parents divorced. Talk to them honestly about the absurdities to which they were subjected: they were supposed to get along with their siblings while Mom and Dad played by other rules. Talk to them about being shipped back and forth to different homes, about feeling guilty that they liked one setting or parent more than the other, about two houses with two different sets of rules, about Mom and Dad bad-mouthing each other, about being subjected to “loyalty tests” by their parents. Ask them about how all of this affects their understanding of acceptance, loyalty, trust, self-esteem, respect for authority, appreciation for the truth, personal responsibility, courageousness, perseverance, forgiveness, human dignity, sexual responsibility, marriage, family, love, and on and on.
We need to see divorce for the diabolical lie that it is. It comes from the hardness of our hearts, as Jesus clearly says in Matthew 19. We ought not separate what God has joined. And if we do, there can be little but destruction that comes from it.
Splitting the family is like splitting the atom. And for all the anxiety we had back in the 80s about “the bomb,” as usual, Satan had us focused on the lesser thing in order to keep us from concentrating on the greater and more dangerous problem. All the silly “nuclear-free zones” did nothing. A few “divorce-free zones” (like we had prior to 1969) might have actually made a difference! But the problem is always someone else, not me or the decisions I make.
Even in the Church we got all swept up in issues of nuclear war, etc. And while total silence on that matter from the Church would have been wrong, where were similar statements against the nuclear fission of divorce as our families were split and we were handing out annulments like candy?
Do not mistake this for “bishop bashing.” We cannot expect the clergy to solve every problem in a cultural and moral tsunami in which lay people outnumber clergy 5000 to 1. But clarity and a bit more courage never hurts.
Perhaps it is like the clarity and courage my old pastor (referred to above) showed me when I was “turned in” for being insensitive and undiplomatic, who saw the hypocrisy of the complainant and commended me, instead of scolding me, for raising the simple question, “What about the children?”
92 Replies to ““Not only divorced from marriage, divorced from reality.”An essay on the ugliness of divorce”
I have worked in social services for 33 years, the last 17 in the child support division. I am still not used to the way children are used as weapons in divorce proceedings. That is in those families that eve bothered to get married to begin with. Ramp up the horror with those that don’t have a legal standing to begin with. Serial monogamy runs rampant. I cannot even envision what our society is going to be like in the future with what I see as the distruction and total dysfunction of the family.
There does not seem to be any concept of what love is, what sacrifice is, what decent behavior is. Adults are too narcissistic to truly understand the damage they do to their children. I do a lot praying for clients and sometimes I shed tears for the children. Four year olds shouldn’t need psychiatric help.
Deb, I solidly endorse your views. Some of us who do psychological evaluations for a living, see that for the most part, divorce is a legal form of child abuse. Kids are put under enormous psychological strain when they witness fighting parents and this strain leads to serious psychological problems in about half of all kids who experience the divorce of their parents. All victim-kids of divorce “learn” that marriages do not last, and that escape/avoidance is the primary coping mechanism in life.
But I also see that divorce poisons kids in families where the parents are happily married. Kids in happy families who have victim-kid friends begin to doubt themselves and their own parents–this doubt is especially potent when the family of the victim-kid looks normal on the outside. Normal arguments between good parents produce some fear of abandonment in non-victim kids. Shockwaves are especially powerful when a non-victim kid has close friends in a family that looks happy on the outside.
Divorce reinforces personal doubt and philosophical scepticism. The non-victim kid begins to doubt the commitments of those around him leading inexorably to doubting himself. As divorce has become more prevalent, it creates enormous uncertainties in ALL children. We are now into the third generation of divorce.
As a student of human nature, I think the society is past the point of no return, in terms of seeing any natural way (legal, social, therapeutic, educational) out of this problem. Divorce and domestic discord reinforces a complex of personal and social forces that involve self-reinforcing fears, and extreme self-centeredness. The emotional and philosophical underpinnings of committment are being destroyed all around us. Only God and His mercy will bring us out of this mess.
Gosh. Just, wow. I’m not surprised by this. I agree with what you say catholic psychologist, but it’s not often one sees it put so clearly.
I had an interesting experience when asking my college speech students to name the incident that most affected their lives as a possible speech topic. I expected, and receive a few 9/11’s, and some Columbines, and some other events, but most of them said, “When my parents divorced.” I wish their parents could hear them. These young adults feel the loss of any anchor.
So true, Deb. God bless you. Also, serial monogamy is really more like serial polygamy if we think about it. Multiple concubines/spouses, but one at a time (more or less). Blech.
Thank you for this, Monsignor. So much of what you wrote hit home with me. It’s all I can do to refrain from pouring out my story. I will simply say that my former spouse felt it was more important that he be “happy” than it was to hold our family together and stay in our Catholic Marriage. He was certain God wants us all to be happy. The divorce has affected me and our three children “psychically, emotionally, spiritually” — and even though the children are grown now, I worry for them. I am still battling. I am in the midst of trying to preserve my Marriage by fighting against a second Church annulment. This process has been more shattering, especially spiritually, than the original divorce. I wonder, does the dust ever settle after the destruction of a family? I’m thinking not… Thank you again.
Im so sorry. All I can say is you are showing your children the right path by staying with the church, which is so honorable and good, even in the midst of crisis.
Thank you, Ann. But, as I said, the TWO ugly annulment processes have been spiritually shattering. After a lifetime as a devout Catholic, I have not practiced my faith for two years now. It’s rare when I can even pray. I have lost my respect for priests* as a whole (through those I’d known during my marriage who would not help and even encouraged the original separation, and then those I’ve had to deal with during the annulment processes). I see the Church from an outsider’s perspective now — so I can hear those like P.McCoy (below) when they say what they do and I don’t get defensive. Instead, I try to understand what’s at the heart of what they’re saying. I’m not saying I will never return to the Church, but I don’t know what would convince me to do so.
(* Cum raris exceptis Msgr. Pope, which is why I am here.)
Hopefully you will come back for the Eucharist: what else is there in life? to whom
should we turn to but to Him who is life, truth, and love?
I’m a by-product of a divorced family and was divorced by my husband. But I’ve
got my faith and Our Lord, and his Mother, and my family (the saints and angels)
and my home (the Church) where I am fed and strengthened.
I pray for you, please pray for me!
Your sister in Christ, anna
I was divorced by my husband who then picked up with a wealthy gay guy. They actually thought they were going to fight me in court so hard that I’d just give up my children to them. They even have tried to brainwash my children into thinking I was just an incubator. This is the ultimate gay men’s fantasy, that children don’t need mothers.lol
I have mostly prevailed but they are very bitter that things didn’t happen the way they planned. While I guess anyone could be as evil and vicious, I now see homosexuality in a different light. Look at their scorched earth campaign for “marriage.” I now see how much anger gays have and what they will do to get their own way.
The Catholic Church is true. I practiced Mormonism for years, since I was a teenager, but the Catholic Church called me back during this divorce which was a time of spiritual purgation. 🙂
God bless Msgr. Pope!
Patricia, co not let Satan win and pull you away from the True Faith. Start small and just think of Our Blessed Mother holding you and then she will lead you to her Son.
One thing I know for sure is that even though there is corruption in the Church and some clerics do not live up to our expectations, Our Lord is still there in the Eucharist. HE is the one who can heal you. I have a friend just healing from a divorce. She recently returned to the sacraments and even confession and she is just marveling at how wonderful it feels and even made a Marian consecration. It is almost like punishing yourself to refrain from the sacramental life. I hope you will be coming home soon.
I am married and it is not easy. Cannot say I am happy but that is beside the point. I made a vow and my sons are grown but a divorce would devastate them even now. All my siblings have been touched by divorce—all have been divorced except one brother who married a divorcee. My best friend’s husband left her after 25 years; I have seen the pain up close. The betrayal and lies that come in are almost beyond belief.
I am sorry for your pain. What would convince you to return to the Church: the desire to love again, the desire to be close to Our Lord again, the desire to let Jesus heal you. We cannot look to man for they will disappoint us too often.
Thank you all for your concerned posts — and especially for your prayers. Please do pray for me since I cannot pray for myself. But I do not find any love in the Church right now. Speaking to me of Satan pulling me, or asking me to turn to Mary just does not help me at this point. Maybe I need a new approach, an intellectual approach as opposed to an emotional love/fear approach. I just don’t know… I hate big government, and I’ve come to see the Church as yet another big bureaucracy, and one run by men, yes celibate men at that, who really cannot and do not understand women, what we can suffer in a Catholic Marriage from a spouse, what we suffer in an annulment process from the Church. (I am not alone in this. In reading Sheila Kennedy’s “Shattered Faith”, it is obvious many women and/or their children who have suffered through annulment process have left the Church.) I realize this may sound “feminist”, though I have never been a feminist. I’ve always been an obedient daughter of Holy Mother Church. But the past few years have changed me — I am a very different person now, and I’m not completely unhappy with this…
+Ahhh. . . but there was a . . . quite marvelous . . . far reaching victory . . . for the Catholic Church . . . re Sheila Rausch Kennedy’s . . . SUCCESSFUL . . . battle to retain . . . in Truth and holiness . . . the GODLY reality of the Holy Sacrament of her marriage . . . INTACT . . . that she and her husband . . . Joseph P. Kennedy II. . . . . had entered into. The . . . VATICAN . . . the Holy See . . . triumphantly repented . . . for the Church Militant . . . re the annulment . . . and overruled/disavowed and decreed the couple’s original . . . utterly misbegotten . . . “secret” . . . annulment . . . acquired by her husband here in the U.S. . . . as illegal . . . “non-existent” . . .
GOD won the victory for Sheila . . . her marriage . . . and their children . . . and the sacred . . . life-long . . . vows and commitments made re their Christian/Catholic marriage were upheld by the Catholic Church . . . and the little book Sheila wrote . . . took off . . . like a wildfire . . . re her fight for HOLY justice . . . illuminating what had become a . . . drastic . . . need in our society . . . for correction re the catastrophic . . . “ease” . . . with which some . . . – just some – . . . priests and tribunals . . . dispense annulments . . . which call for change two POPES, themselves, strongly took up . . . and challenged priests to prayerfully attend and correct this epidemic of disorder within the Church . . .
Re the old adage of . . . “throwing out the ‘baby’ with the ‘bath’ ” . . . the above referenced bath was . . . truly . . . exceptionally dirty . . . but our sweet LORD and His Holy Bride . . . our Holy Mother Church . . . finally came out of that awful trial of faith . . . CLEAN . . . and much the better for their bath of repentence . . . deeply blessing Sheila and her little family . . . and enabling them to live in . . . Faith restored . . . re the Catholic Church and her teachings . . .
I pray GOD will open up a healing door to a holy Catholic church near you . . . one that genuinely loves . . . CHRIST and His Church . . . which upholds . . . in depth . . . Catholic teachings and principles . . . meanwhile Monsignor’s teachings . . . and EWTN . . . provide rich wholesome resources re growing as GOD’s beloved children in the Catholic faith . . .
In dedication to the Triumph of the Immaculate heart . . .
. . . all for Jesus+
This may not help, but… the suffering you describe is similar to that of one I know. My heart is moved with compassion for all, but I respond to you to show there is love among us. What gain is there, or what is life, apart from the love of God? Along with Anna, will you please pray for me? It is a great gift, to pray for others, no? In this way the Love of God, which is Compassion, Mercy, grows and lives in us. May you grow in faith! Intellectual pursuits, apart from solid faith, can be dangerous. I have seen some argue just to argue, like dogs chasing their tails and going nowhere; I have seen devil’s advocate become devil’s advocate and two fall into the pit. Finally, please remember God is always near. Listen to Him, love Him, trust and cooperate and He will lead you Home to safety. God bless all in Jesus our Redeemer.
Thank you for understanding, Monsignor. My husband’s friends told him that he could do better than me. It has been truly devastating for our three children. It has been devastating for me, too.
He could not do better than you, you are the mother of his three children. I’m so sorry this is happening to you and your children. Make sure your children know that you still believe in the marriage laws of the church. Also, something thst helped me as a child was remembering that no matter what had transpired later, I was still born of their marital love, brought into this world in love.
Well dear, your husband’s friends were idiots. What a foolish thing for them to say and shameful that he listened.
As both a child of divorce and divorced myself I couldn’t agree with you more father. The rationalization “grown ups” go through in pursuit of their “happiness” is incredible. Having been through it myself I sympathize with some of the commenters here on how spouses can just up and leave today in the pursuit of the elusive happiness despite what they might leave in their wake. It’s a sad state of affairs.
Wonderfully said, Monsignor! Thank you for echoing what I have written about numerous times. Divorce solves nothing but the necessity of two adults needing to grow up, as you said. Irreconcilable differences, which comprise the majority of divorces now days, are only so if both spouses choose them to be. It’s far easier to simply give up and try again – within or without of the Church – rather than start living the vows they spoke, especially the “for better or for worse” part. Sanctification of ones spouse only comes by accepting their frailties, not by running away from them.
I am into the 5th year of an unwanted and unsolicited divorce that has decimated a family, destroyed parent-child relationships and more importantly, has confused and de-sensitized most of the 10 children from our 22 year marriage to the teachings of their Faith and the word “Fidelity”. The subsequent annulment did nothing but solidify those errors. Regardless, I have chosen to honor my first vows and the Love of my first and only wife. Our children deserve nothing less.
I had written and posted just this week an article “Divorce and The Innocent” that parallels much of what you wrote above: http://hector1088.blogspot.com/2014/08/divorce-and-innocent.html
Thank you again…it is refreshing to see a priest preaching against the evils of divorce and its consequent negative effect on children, rather than of the “salvific” affect of the former and of its positive affect on the latter. If no-fault divorce had been the “savior” it was touted to be, there would be many a sociologist out of work and fewer books written on the evils of divorce and its aftereffects.
The subsequent annulment is a scandal! To be married for decades and have a large family shows you lived the sacrament to the full. These tribunals are a joke–annulments are Catholic divorces in spite of all the arguments to the contrary. I also have been married for decades and I bet I could get an annulment. The Church in handing out annulments ‘like candy’ has made a mockery of the sacrament. The devastation to the children is the same as divorce. The lies, selfishness, adultery, and betrayal are all the same.
Dear Father, The Catholic Church urgently needs ordinary priests like you who understand and preach this very clearly as Christ intended not “extraordinary” synods that seem to feed the corrupted culture.
Going to a celibate clergyman to discuss divorce, marriage or sexuality is like consulting a garbageman when you need medical advice about neurosurgery-rather foolish. But then how many women beaten nigh on to death bynan abusive husband were told rather than divorce and remarry, instead tough it out, offer it up etc; for the “sake of the children”. Sons learned that with women, might (and a good left hook !) most akes right; the daughter learns that the abuse is carrying her cross. Only problem is that this pernicious cult (man made Catholicism- not Christ!) asks mere humans to carry their cross for decades not a mere few hours! But this is how the mind control cult of Catholicism gets its cult members in the Stockholm syndrome!
Here are the words of the real Jesus, not your fantasy Jesus:
1Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.2Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3“What did Moses command you?” he replied. 4They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” 5“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. 6“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’a 7‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,b 8and the two will become one flesh.’c So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 10When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mk 10:1-10)
Thats the real Jesus. By the way, people come to me seeking spiritual advice not marital advice. I give them scriptural principles etc, not life coaching skills. But as for you and your analogy, if you do go to a neurosurgeon, say with seizures, does the surgeon also have to have seizures to be able to help you? It would seem so, since you seem to argue that personal experience is the only valid criteria, or at least the sine qua non.
Your example implies serious physical abuse, which would likely require medicinal separation. That however would not thereby permit divorce and remarriage. Further, your concern seems more focused on how children might view women. But the point is we should focus our concern more on the children, not the adults in the equation. And thus your remark makes the point, that too many, esp. The baby boomers focus more on their ideological things, and adult rights, rather than children and what is best for them.
@P. McCoy: You miss the point entirely. First of all, a priest is completely qualified to give spiritual advice regarding divorce. Also, the Church never advocates that someone stay in an abusive marriage and even recognizes in the catechism that situations arise which may require separation of the spouses, such as issues of safety.
But the bigger picture you miss and the underlying issue that I believe lies in most divorces is that one or both parties are focused on self and not on God and the sacredness of the covenant which REQUIRES mutual service to one another. It’s the difference between “How can I make my wife happy and serve her as Christ served his Church” versus “She’s not making me happy.”
One approach leads to divorce almost every time.
Don’t leave us hanging, PM, how many women, “beaten nigh unto death by an abusive husband” are told to “tough it out….for the sake of the children”? You make it sound like a common occurence in Catholic families, but it’s not one I’ve seen first hand (at least in Catholic families, I am familiar with one non-religious couple in which abuse was involved). You make it sound like Mass should be a sea of women with black eyes.
@P.McCoy. Wow, you have a really unusual way of looking at things. It appears that you are saying that, unless one has actual experience, they are unqualified to opine on a subject. If that’s the case, I guess I can’t say murder is wrong because I haven’t been murdered.
More to the point, I was taught – and I taught my three sons – to look at marriage in the context of Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it.” Men are to love their wives – to the point that you’d sacrifice your life for her.
Thank you for this essay. I always feel like there isn’t enough talk about divorce in the church. I would go further and say now divorce is something we have to celebrate, it is not just that we aren’t ashamed anymore, it is now a good. My parents divorced and regretted it. My mother said it was the biggest mistake of her life. My father was very upset as he never wanted it. A therapist encouraged her to “be happy.” Maybe she should have gone to the priest. Beware who you seek advice from.
Anyway, like everything, divorce and abandonment have always been with us. But it does matter what we think of it, and what we hold up as the ideal.
Thank you for your good observations. I’m in a very difficult situation, dealing with a marriage plagued by serial adultery on the part of my spouse, but I’m doing all I can to save it. We have five children that I know would be devastated if a divorce was to occur. Sometimes it is true that though that the behavior of one spouse just makes it impossible to continue in a marriage. Difficult decisions then must be made. Sometimes life can be very cruel.
This is difficult for me to write, but for the sake of your marriage and because of the anonymity of the internet I would like to offer you a possible thread of hope. I just celebrated by 29th wedding anniversary. In that time I have had five adulterous affairs of various kinds – one night stand, purely emotional, long-distant, work-related – regardless of the type there is three things all of them had in common: me, my personal insecurities about my self-worth, and the fact that although I was stepping out on my husband, he was in know way at fault and had done nothing whatsoever to cause my infidelity.
My husband never knew about the first four. When he found out about the last, 5 years ago I believed I had at last ruined completely everything, simply everything. And, truthfully, a great deal was lost. I would like to tell you what we (mostly he) did to save our marriage.
In the immediate few months – horrible as I am sure you could imagine – it was as if he had glued himself to my hip. There was mostly silence and a great deal of “angry” sex (which helped him but not at all erotic for me). And I mean a lot, he would come home in the middle of the day, wake me up more than once in the night. I doubt the Church would approve, but I believe that in time he was contrite and I assume he confessed. That went on for at least three weeks. My feelings of sorrow and shame at my indiscretion were, I think upon reflection, allowed me to consider the manhandling (he never struck me) a type of reparation for the marriage. Things slowed down considerably after three months.
During that time he talked to two priests – one who is a “Fr. Feelgood” who used ineffective psychobabble, and then “Fr. Forgiveher” who asked my husband if he had ever sinned. Fr. Forgiveher began to probe my husband about his past sins – all of an entirely different nature than my own. I, too, on my own went to talk to Fr Forgiveher, because you see, I was at that time a Confirmation Class Catechist. I was horrified by my behavior and embarrassed by my ego, for I can tell you, it was my ego that drove me to stoke the flames of attraction each and every time.
On a practical level there are a few other small but very important changes that came about. Prior to then, my husband did not drink coffee. Within a couple of days of learning of my affair, he began to sit down with me before rushing off to work each morning and having a cup of coffee. Sometime after that, months or a year I can’t remember, a friend gave us subscription to the Magnificat, and we incorporated the Prayer for the Morning and the Mass readings for the days into the morning coffee time. We continue that to this day.
Another thing he did was to start reading again. No, stay with me here. I am an avid reader and may have three books in rotation at one time – fiction, biographies, theology – he spends his days doing technical reading so at night is was always sports or Braveheart while I sat fireside with a book. We decided to start reading together ALOUD – very important! – and taking turns. Since that time we have read at least 15 books, titles including St. Joan of Arc (Mark Twain), The Brothers Karamazov, Frankenstein and other great classics as well as a few newer, slimmer selections.
What happened is we moved our marriage out of the bedroom and into our minds and hearts. That sounds obvious, but the complication that Modernity’s sexual mores has introduced to marriage had gotten in our way and we need to reconfigure our day-to-day in order to save one another. There is great deal more to our story, which I am sure you are already sick of reading about so I will not bore you further, just this: here infidelity in all likeliness has more to do with her feelings about herself than her feelings about you. It’s not you, Paul, it is her.
I will check back later to see if you have any follow up questions. Otherwise, know that I am praying for your marriage to grow closer to Christ plan for the both of you.
Thank you for the reply and telling your story. So far my wife and I have tried and are still trying various things to improve our relationship. We’re spending a lot more time together, going out on dates twice a week, and things like that. We also pray together every night before bed. However there is still this distance between us that can’t seem to be bridged. I tend to think she may be going through the motions. There have been two “false recoveries” so far – times when I thought we were working to restore things when instead another affair was going on. As a result I have had to act almost like a policeman and constantly monitor her phone and internet usage and such. All of this is hard on a relationship, to be sure. It is hard to have much hope, given what has happened.
Thank you for your prayers – we could certainly use them.
God bless you, Paul, for your faithfulness during such a severe trial.
I understand your “policing”, Paul, and my husband did – for a long while, the same thing and only stopped when he began to realize that it was driving him more crazy than it was me (as I feel that I did and continue to deserve his mistrust). As your situation – on the surface similar to my own – was on my mind most of yesterday, another couple of thoughts came to my mind that I with share with you that may be of assistance. Please share these insights with your wife if you think they may be applicable and if she is open to knowing you have shared your painful experience to us strangers, brothers and sisters of the faith that we may be.
Firstly, the idea that each of us a “a” soul mate is absolutely correct and our quest to find that person is admirable while also seeming impossible in a world where there are billions of us. Unfortunately, we have been bombarded from birth that this person exists and they will be responsible for our everlasting happiness. Neither you nor any of the men she has been with could have ever been that mate because it is Jesus the Christ alone who is the mate of every man’s soul. It takes maturity and a great deal of humility to reach that understanding. Additionally, it takes an awful lot of real searching and effort – prayer for understanding, spiritual companionship, good reading material. I am afraid, Paul, as I look at our broken world that very few people every get to that point of understand – it is God’s Grace that even one person has thought to leave us “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” Until your wife begins to regard herself worthy of so sublime a lover of her soul, she will likely continue seek an imperfect human to complete it.
Was it Chesterton who said, “Every man that knocks on a brothel door is in search of God.”?
And here is where your humility will aide you. You have to come to grips with your limitations to be that soulmate. Again, we have ever been told that love is 100%/100% not 50%/50%, but in my marriage and in every lasting marriage that I reflect on, that is not true, although, yeah it would be nice. Often one person is carrying 80% of the burden of love – sacrificing, worrying, planning – as the other goes blithely about their day. It’s not ideal but that’s what happens. I don’t know if I will every be able to carry the bulk of the burden of love in my marriage but I am grateful my spouse has developed such broad shoulders.
A book entitled “The Temperament God Gave You” was helpful to me (and my spouse) in understanding how we relate to others. I read this book with a bookclub that had nothing to do with my marital problems and yet it was a grace for our marriage (and quite frankly helpful in all relationships).
I hope your wife has a friend that she can talk to about her weakness. In my opinion, society has a much harsher view of women who are serial adulterers then men and the stigma of being a man who’s wife has stepped out on him also makes it more difficult. My husband has told no one other than the two priests I spoke of and I only spoke with my pastor the one time. I do have a Catholic female friend that I have confided in – not fully but a enough to help me keep focused on growing closer to my true soulmate – and that has been a source of grace. But truthfully, I have resigned myself to living out my life working through this sinful weakness on my own and being vigilant to against the triggers that cause me to fall.
I am not sure how these com-boxes work, but if the Good Monsignor can make it happen, I would be willing to receive communication from your wife if she is looking for someone to hear her.
I parrot Louise, God bless you for your faithfulness.
Divorce is like cancer in my family, both my parents, all my siblings, myself and myriad aunts and uncles have ended their marriages in divorce. The most recent is my sister, who is an apostate and an atheist. I see the biggest impact on the faith life of all the children, including my grown son, who is just now ending his second relationship with the same woman after living for a time with her. His faith is the only thing that could bring him out of the slavery to sin that is cohabitation. I have been cast as an outcast several times in my family when I have pushed back on several of the divorce announcements, asking members of the family to help and give the couple support to return to counseling, etc. Each time the happiness argument is rolled out, and all I can say is what about the happiness of the children. No one has anything to say, and the adults are given a pass.
Msgr. thank you for your wise words. Can you address the issue of a spouse who leaves the marriage for a same sex relationship? When children are involved, the children must legally have visitation with the former spouse and his or her gay partner. Can you address the heartbreak of having a legal obligation to drop your young children off for the weekend or longer with two lesbians or two gay men? This is happening more often than you might imagine. Also, one is not allowed to say anything negative about the lifestyle of the new same sex couple to the children, or it is considered legally to be interfering with the parent-child relationship and can be used against the parent. Is there any Catholic guidelines or source of advice for how to raise Catholic children in this situation?
Hello Anne. I have seen this happen to people I know. Truly vile. This is where the State interferes with religion. The abandoned spouse is not allowed to object to the grossly immoral living conditions the poor children have to grow up in. This is also true in cases of heterosexual adultery. The State places its own views ahead of the religious rights of the abandoned spouse (and the true rights of the child). Welcome to “no fault” divorce.
Thanks for replying Louise. The little children do indeed grow up in a very problematic home environment. I would truly like to see advice from a Catholic perspective. Faithful Catholic parents and grandparents are facing distressing situations without much guidance.
Catholics are in an absolute bind here, b/c the wickedness of the people damaging these children is backed by the state with force if necessary (they will presumably remove children from the Catholic parent altogether if that parent breaks the evil laws) and prison terms or fines could be expected I imagine. In such a situation, a Catholic parent had best leave it all to prayer, or else be prepared for the legal consequences of their actions if they choose to speak to the sinners, or instruct the children in any way. I wonder if at least the Catholic parent could arrange for the poor children to have private counselling with a good Catholic/Christian therapist who might be able, in the process of confidential counselling help the children process their own feelings (that should be legitimate in the eyes of the state) and in such a venue, subtle instruction could be given to the children. I would *strongly* suggest finding a good priest who might act as a chaplain to a support group – online if necessary -for Catholic relations of all children in these appalling situations.
My parents divorced in 1975 and in our small town, it was truly devastating. It’s like you have the plague, no one wants to be near you. The repercussions in our family, amongst my siblings, have not stopped yet. Divorce is selfish. Period.
Thank you too; the title is esp. good ,in that, often, it is the reality of God , of what He can do is what is also getting denied , thus serving the purpose of the enemy to bring discouragement and anger to the children too, to separate them from God as well .
http://www.spiritdaily.com/Freedom1.htm – an excellent small book, published as part of the new evangelisation ; with good prayers , good outlines of all areas that might need deliverance , on ‘danger ‘ of same when one in not ready , by leaving one open to the seven fold return of the enemy and
esp. ,on the power of praise , for who God is !
This latter is something that may be many do not do enough ; true, Word does say how praise is unfitting for the sinner, thus need for ongoing cleansing , esp. for all hidden roots of unforgiveness, not just to one person but even to the whole family system that the person is part of , who too would have contibuted to the issues at hand !
FR.Carl is reported to have 50 years of experience in the field ; the book gives anecdotes that are also revealing of the ways of how deliverance works ; he does mention all prayers , esp.onfession are all means of same too
= hope to get the D.V D also .
We are said to be in the midst of a ‘;pandemic ‘ of ‘demoinsation ‘ , possibly indicating some of the traits mentioned in the article and contributed greatly by media and all sinful choices –
even ‘nature ‘ programs seemingly have the subtle agenda that we are not all that diffrent from animals , in a vast universe , left for the haphazard whims of whatever is out there !
Couples , parents , grandparents – all might have to take the view that life is about dleiverance, from all the powers that try to bring unneeded pain and discord and that any intrusions of the enemy need to remind one to try even harder , for the good of all, esp. of coming generations .
May the help of all holy saints and angels help us all and may The Lord have mercy on us all , deliver us from all evil and fill us with His gracious Spirit , in spite of our unworthiness !
Non christian marriage, between one man and one woman is still indissoluable by nature and
God’s metaphysical witness.
But clerics want to pretend that only christian marriage is indissoluable so they can use annulments
corruptedly to increase the number of nominal catholics.
Annulments are catholic divorce. Charles thinks they are not but they are.
Even if the pope grants an annulment, if there was a marriage,
the pope is like a pied piper leading people to everlasting loss.
This too – one way The Church helps us to join in the praise of God’s goodness is through the varoius Feasts, such as today’s about the Queenship of The Mother ;
being able to praise God, for the moment of Incarnation, the awesome event and the love spoken through same , for one and the other , instead of dwelling on all the pettiness of human hearts ,thus allowing the enemy to drag one into depths of darkness – may The Lord have mercy and deliver us all, from all the pettiness and idolatry in such !
One area that the media might be in denial is that the riots in Ferguson has possibly been to a good extent, from all the hidden anger from sins against life !
Hope that as bad as it has been , it might have helped some , to have an occasion to grieve and thus be purged !
In Name of Jesus , asking You Lord , that a drop of Your Precious Blood , flow through all our veins, from the crown of our heads to the sole of our feet , cleansing , healing , protecting us always !( From Fr.Carls’ book )
“Going to a celibate clergyman to discuss divorce, marriage or sexuality is like consulting a garbageman when you need medical advice about neurosurgery-rather foolish.”
I totally disagree. Priests listen to confession, have lots of training, and the only dog they have in this fight is to try to keep Christ in mind in all we do. Divorce is horrible. Thank you again Monsignor for another wonderful post.
My marriage ended in divorce, but we were married too young, too far from home, and too far from friends and family. Neither of us was ready for the responsibilities that go with married life. As I reflect on my marriage and our vows I am convinced my wife never took them seriously and she was sure that our problems were really my problems. I am very grateful for Sister J. strongly recommending I seek an annulment after entering the Church.
What a terrible set of rationalisations!
My first marriage ended childless in divorce, when my wife admitted she only married me to get US citizenship. Four months after getting citizenship (and taking back her maiden name), she asked for a divorce. Days before what would have been our seventh wedding anniversary, the divorce was final. I married late (37 years old), and during that marriage, the window closed on the practicality of my fathering children. Two years later, I found a widow who took me as I was and became the true love of my life. Yesterday, we celebrated ten years of marriage (not always blissful, but always filled with love). In the course of my divorce, I learned of my sister’s ugly and expensive divorce (there were children involved). It went on for years and cost her (and my parents) vast sums of money. I also learned (from my Dad) something I’d never known about my own parents. My Mom was pregnant with me when they were married (which I’d known, but not thought about much). I found out from Dad that he wanted to do the right thing and marry her, but she was not interested. I do not know if the fact the she had to convert to Catholicism had anything to do with it. To convince her, he made her a promise (this was in the 1950s, mind you): if, after five years, she wanted out, he would let her go. Five years later, she asked him to keep the promise (by this point, there were four children). She would let him have custody of us. My Dad was dumbfounded. I don’t believe he ever expected this to happen. He told her that if she left. he would have to get his mother to help him care for us (Grandma and Mom never really got along that I remember). My mother didn’t want that, so she stayed with Dad. Three more children and some 30 years or so later, after we were all grown, the issue came up again. My Dad went to the parish priest (at the time, he was very active in the Church and was being encouraged to consider becoming a deacon). The priest said if my mother wanted a divorce, my Dad should let her go! My Dad stopped being a practicing Catholic at that point. He has not set foot in a Catholic Church (or any other, to my knowledge) except for weddings or funerals since then. He does have great faith, but is very angry with the Catholic Church. Shorty after this, he had a bad heart attack. My mother took care of him as he recovered, and the issue has apparently never been raised again. If the Lord wills it, they will have been married 60 years next year. I share all this because of the lessons i have learned. Divorce, to put it mildly, sucks; marriage is a blessing. I do not pretend to know all the answers, but I will be forever grateful that my parents stayed together; I am equally grateful that I’ve met my wife. With proper pre-marital counseling, my first marriage never would have happened (it wouldn’t have happened if I listened to my Dad either, but that is another issue for another day). I know that my present relationship is blessed by God. I only hope that others can benefit by reading this.
Very well said, on some points that are not considered often enough.
However, as a canon lawyer who has worked on literally thousands of marriage annulment cases I have to take issue with you about the Church issuing annulments “like candy.” It’s never been my experience that the Church issues annulments easily or simply as a way to placate individuals. Instead, the devil really is in the details in every marriage case and we judge cases on a case by case basis. Here’s an example of a semi-fictious marriage annulment case that illustrates this point:
A couple was married for forty years and had five children when they divorced. The wife approached the Tribunal for an annulment. She explains that her fiancé admitted to her on the day of the wedding that he was only marrying her because she was pregnant and he also told her he was not going to be faithful to her and was actually unfaithful on the wedding day! The Petitioner told her mother that she wanted out, but mom said that she “made her bed, now lie in it.” The wife lived in this “marriage” for forty years because she had no place to go with kids but her married life was truly a martyrdom. Throughout the marriage, the husband was unapologetically unfaithful and abusive to the wife. Why did it end? She ended up in the hospital for a week after he beat her up…she only left when all of the kids told her that she needed to leave dad or he was going to kill her one day. She reflected and thought…I’m only here for the sake of my kids and grandkids and they wanted her out of harms way. This marriage was annulled because we were able to gather enough evidence to show the husband was not ever committed to fidelity when the parties wed. Believe it or not, Bishops and Tribunals receive “hate-mail” regarding cases very similar to this one which usually ask, “What is the world coming to when the Catholic Church is annulling a forty year old marriage with five children?” The short answer is devil is in the details and not everyone needs to know everybody else’s business.
Many annulments are granted, but I think your article makes a great case for why this is so….our society is extremely immature, materialistic and narcissistic. People approach marriage very differently and unfortunately many approach it with very selfish motivations and view marriage as a personal construct which he/she can change as desired.
Thanks again for your thoughtful article and valid points.
Thanks for the example. On your wider point about the rate of annulments, it would be good to see the actual annulment rates for each of the US dioceses. Are these readily available?
I don’t know if the statistics are available, but to be meaningful, they would have to be broken down. How many marriages were annulled because they never took place in a Catholic church? How many marriages were annulled because there was a previously existing valid marriage? How many Pauline and Petrine privileges were granted? How many annulments were the outcome of a formal case?
In this case it is quite obvious that the marriage was actually invalid.
I would also like to point out that in other cases where the marriage is truly invalid, the children of that marriage are still going to suffer from their parents’ separation and subsequent divorce and any later (valid) marriage. That doesn’t mean it should not be declared null, only that divorce is still damaging. In the case of physical violence like this, however, nobody expects a person to live with such a violent spouse.
Louise, this is a great point, that even if the marriage is annulled, the separation of mom and dad is still hard on the kids. Very hard. I have relatives in this situation, so I can see the damage firsthand. Mom divorced dad against his wishes, and not over abuse or infidelity, he was just working long hours at the education required for his dream career, which had required them to live in several states over several years and she was sick of raising the kids by herself with no stability/support system. Dad has handled the situation as gracefully as he can, rearranging his career, buying a house as close as possible to his kids to maximize visitation, being as friendly and loving as possible to their mother in all sorts of concrete ways; I’ve never ever heard him badmouth their mother to the children – come to think of it, not even to the rest of us adults. Eventually they obtained an annullment.
Now he’s dating someone else. Is this technically moral? Yes. He’s technically an unmarried man, so nothing wrong with dating and getting married. But is it good for the children? I hardly think so. If their mother had died and they needed a mother, that would be one thing. But in a case like this? It’s hard enough that mom and dad don’t live in the same house. Why do they need to have to deal with two mommies?
Excellent article on divorce, Monsignor Pope.
Canon lawyer Jay says, ““It’s never been my experience that the Church issues annulments easily or simply as a way to placate individuals,” yet the “semi-fictitious” case he relates tells me that he does issue declarations of nullity easily.
The case is about a woman who is pregnant before she marries and her 40-year marriage is a martyrdom because the spouse is “abusive” (they all are if that is the case that a Petitioner wants to make because the definition of abuse is greatly expanded these days), but more importantly it was proven that he never vowed fidelity.
After five children, grandchildren, and 40-years, I have trouble understanding why the Tribunal took this case. What is the point? She could have separated from her husband as the Church allows. She did not need to divorce him, and I know tribunals need to make a living, but from my research I have learned that many of their declarations of nullity are invalid.
Either they do not follow procedure as in issuing statements of nullity without giving “the motives, that is, the reasons for which the decisions were made,” (Art. 272.1, Dignitas Connubii), or they declare marriages null for reasons that “are contrary to those developed in the jurisprudence of the Roman Rota” (Art. 206.2, Ibid), such as failure to divide up the housework indicating Exclusion of Partnership. That one is part of an actual response to a Respondent from a judicial vicar operating in the mid-western part of the U.S. Crazy? Yes.
The Petitioner in Jay’s semi-fictitious case was told by her mother that she had made her bed and she must lie in it. That was the only wise argument that I found in Jay’s account. The woman gave in to her husband before marriage; vice is its own punishment. Unfortunately the Ten Commandments and the Virtues are no longer part of most Catholic catechesis. But if the mother knew the evil in fornication, it’s reasonable to assume that her daughter knew it but disregarded it. And she and her children paid the price.
Why the bitterness towards the fallen woman? In your zeal to protect Holy Mother Church, you seem to have lost sight of the One who is her inspiration. Can’t we fight against the darkness, battle against the father of lies, and pray with every breath we take, without succumbing to the temptation to look at the fallen and thank God that at least we aren’t like them. I should be so fortunate to have a person like the woman in Jay’s example to plead for God’s mercy on my behalf, for it is the sinners like her who beat their breast without so much as raising their eyes to heaven who will go home justified. Don’t you find it fascinating that in this time of utter darkenss and heinous destruction, that in this moment of terrible despair Our Lord brought us the Divine Mercy. Consider the words of St Faustina’s diary, especially paragraph 873, and plead for God’s mercy for yourself, but especially for sinners. Let us together rage against the dying of the light, but let us always have as our final succor the mercy of God through the Passion and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Here’s why the devil is in the details…you are focused on the wrong facts in my example.
The husband’s unfaithfulness and proclamation that he would be unfaithful before the parties wed, was the basis (grounds) for the declaration of nullity in my example, (not his abusive behavior–although this could be a basis for her divorcing–see Catechism of the Catholic Church) but you never addressed it in your response. If someone “marries” without planning on being faithful…the/she has some kind of relationship, but not marriage. Consequently, if the priest who married the parties would have known about the husband’s admission that he was not planning being faithful, the parties never would have married because the priest would have refused to witness a marriage that was obviously null from the start.
This is an extreme example. The question is, how many people divorce when there is NOT serial adultery beginning on the day of the wedding and never ending, and physical abuse that might end in death? Such as case happens, but what is the typical case? Not that!
My own (Catholic) marriage of 30 years has never quite been as firm as I think it should be, because I am a child of divorce. It was at the root of every stupid thing I did as a teenager…your words about innocent children seeing through the deceit…I was a bit older when the divorce happened (13), and lamely thought I’d convinced myself it was better not to live with the bickering and fighting. I remember saying some such idiocy to a family therapist.
Well, hell no, it wasn’t. Every dream I had was blown out of the water, but I was too submerged in a drug & alcohol cloud to admit it. That I survived my teens is a miracle in itself – friends were dying right and left from drugs, alcohol, car wrecks and suicide, and I could hardly believe I wasn’t in with them.
Lastly, Anne’s comment, above, about spouses leaving a marriage with children for a homosexual relationship, has caused a train wreck in my nephew’s life, for sure, when his wife left him for a woman. What a body blow that was, with subsequent horrors of their children dealing with a male-hating woman, and having to visit in another state for weeks at a time. It’s been awful.
Thank you for addressing divorce, again.
“Do not mistake this for bishop bashings. We cannot expect the clergy to solve every problem in a cultural and moral tsunami where lay people and what they do outnumber clergy 5000 to 1. But clarity and a bit more courage never hurts.”
Thankfully, some bishops have shown great courage on this issue. In a speech at the “Catholic” university of Georgetown in 2003, Cardinal Arinze had this to say about the state of the family:
“In many parts of the world, the family is under siege. It is opposed by an anti-life mentality as is seen in contraception, abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. It is scorned and banalized by pornography, desecrated by fornication and adultery, mocked by homosexuality, sabotaged by irregular unions and cut in two by divorce”.
Some Georgetown professors were sitting on the stage when his Eminence said these words. Some walked off the stage in protest right then and there. Several other professors publicly denounced his Eminence afterwards. For many in the world today, the Truth is not welcome, but that’s precisely why the Church needs to proclaim it all the more clearly.
Deb, good points…
The same parents that are “Doing it for the children” will be the ones using them as weapons a few short weeks into the proceedings.
Splitting a marriage is like splitting an atom … my thoughts completely. I wrote exactly that thought into a book and a website:
Briefly I thought about sharing this article on my Facebook, but refrained from doing so because it might upset my divorced parents. Msgr. Pope: I am glad more attention is now being paid to these types of situations. Hopefully now at least one couple considering divorce will change course and do whatever they can to preserve their union. Thank you.
Ah, divorce! One can’t even put up an article on FB b/c it upsets them.
Matt – the fact that you had second thoughts about posting this article on FB because you did not want to upset your parents speaks volumes. *They* hurt you, obviously so, since you are recalling *their* divorce. Matt – oftentimes parents, whose hearts have become more sensitive and touched with wisdom (from hindsight, in many cases, unfortunately), become the beneficiaries of untold graces because of their children. Let me explain: In this case in particular, posting this excellent article by Msgr. Pope could be a conversation starter – a conversation between your parents, who may read the article because you shared it (initially for the benefit of all of your FB contacts), and conversations with you, that allow each of your parents to come to you and ask for forgiveness. What Msgr. Pope has shared is Truth. Sharing the message is an act of kindness. Perhaps, even, salvation.
And, just thinking: Notice the abbreviation “Msgr.”? Looks like “messenger” to me…
Thank you Father. Here I am, 37 years old, married, and with four children, and my parents divorce at 15 still impact me today. My husband also comes from a divorced family and we thought once we were married and had our own family we would no longer be hurt by their selfishness, that our children would never have to know or be hurt by their decisions. We were wrong. We deal with the fall out of their divorce in ways we never imagined. We lack the support and guidance of a couple living out their vows of marriage, we lack the example of commitment through all hardships, we lack the guidance of our parents and the wisdom they would have had. My husband and I joke all the time that it is only through the Grace of God that we are able to live out our vows to each other because we have no idea what we are doing,or what a loving marriage looks like. So often people want to sweep under the rug the effect this has on children. Thank you for writing about this with honesty, and without fear of “hurting someone’s feeling”.
I have no doubt that there are many stories about divorced parents who, seeking their own, often-ephemeral happiness, neglect the happiness of their children. But there are other stories as well. Throughout my parents’ marriage, my father was consistently abusive in every way imaginable to my mother, my sister, and myself. Everyone knew about this–the police, doctors, priests, teachers, family members–but no one could make my father change. My mother had taken a vow to remain with my father until death did them part, and, as a result, my father felt that he could take her, and us, for granted and vent his anger upon us as he pleased. The day that my mother left my father was one of the greatest days of my life. For the first time, I was able to live in a household without violence. For the first time, I felt that women were not obliged to submit to mistreatment. Divorced from his wife and estranged from his children, my father finally learned that he did not own his family, and he repented of his ways. We all got along well in the last years of his life, my mother was at his bedside in the hospital when he died.
A man reading this might think, “Well, I would never act that way. This is an aberrant situation.” I am glad that you would never act this way, but my family’s case was by no means unusual. According to the Family Violence Council, thirty-one percent of women in this country report having been abused by a husband or boyfriend. A woman reading this might think, “Well, he wouldn’t have beaten me.” He would have, believe me, if he felt you had no recourse. Should my mother not have been allowed to get a divorce? Should she have suffered social opprobrium for doing so, including from strangers who knew nothing of her situation? There are bad reasons for getting divorced, and there are good ones. There are children damaged by their parents’ divorce, and there are children saved by it. As someone said not long ago, “Who am I to judge?”
Your mother was within her rights to leave your father. But she did not need a divorce and I see there were no remarriages. That’s good.
Louise, the church does teach that where separation is morally legitimate (like the case Anne describes), divorce may be resorted to if that is the best legal means to sort out things like ownership of property, custody of children, etc. The parties are not free to remarry afterwards, of course. But if the separation is for legitimate reasons, the church allows it to be formalized legally via a divorce.
A legal separation *only* is needed for the kinds of things you describe. although even that is simply not necessary in most cases. In severe cases requiring legal separation, but in a jurisdiction which does not have them, a divorce can be obtained but certainly not without the bishop’s permission. In any case, none of this dissolves the bond according to Church teaching and so the divorcees are not permitted to date etc.
Hello Maria, the Church actually says “only” instead of “best.” In approximately 45 states there is a legal separation alternative that provides the same needed protections as civil divorce. Therefore, the civil divorce is not the “only possible alternative” and therefore it “cannot be tolerated” and does “constitute an immoral offense.”
From the Catechism…
2383 The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law.177
If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.
Anne, your mother could have and should have been allowed a divorce under any reasonable “fault” system. The real injustice now is that the the divorce laws favor the party who deserts the marriage without cause. It is the innocent spouse who suffers under the no-fault rules.
When one is making laws and public policy. That’s when one judges — an action, not a person, and a general action, not a specific one. What happened to you is horrible but not typical. While similar cases might be numerous, abuse is not the norm in marriage. Divorce law used to be based on the cases like this; now anyone can leave at any time for any or no reason. If my husband wanted to leave me and my children tomorrow, he could. That is wrong.
Thank you once again, Father, for preaching the truth, the truth which so few priests are willing to speak. You’ll probably hate me for this one, but I could one day see referring to you as “Your Excellency.”
You’ll be in my prayers.
“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.
God gives the desolate a home to dwell in; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity;
but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.” Psalm 68:5-6
Every morning I thank God for my wonderful parents — we were very poor, but my parents who loved each other and each of the twelve of us. They “offered up” all for us. Thank you, Lord.
I think it is very sad that there is a generalization that people who are divorced actually wanted to be divorced. Never in my wildest dreams for my family’s future did I believe my beautiful children would come from a broken home. In fact many have to leave as staying is unsafe for the children. I did not read all the comments . As the comment that divorce is legalized child abuse absolutely alarmed me. Very insensitive and judgemental!! Could not bring myself to read beyond that. Sadly I did everything humanly possible to save my family but I could not beat the evil afflicted by my spouse’s addiction. Staying in that environment would have been placing my children at risk. Seriously…can’t believe someone seriously desires to be divorced….
As you know, from moral theology, and from Cardinal Burke’s famous article [ http://tinyurl.com/canon915 ] giving Communion to a person who is publicly known to be an obstinate grave sinner is a mortal sin, because it is a cause of grave scandal.
Cardinal Wuerl, as you know, insists that all his priests join him in committing this mortal sin. As you know, he punishes priests who fail to commit this mortal sin.
What have you done to correct Cardinal Wuerl’s understanding in this matter, or, if he does understand it, call him to repentance?
I should think that if you have a concern such as this the appropriate way to bring it up to Father would be in a private communication, not by threadjacking his combox. Just as, if he finds the issue to be one that’s appropriate for him to bring up to his bishop, the way he would do that would be privately, not blogging about it for people like you to read about. You claim to be a priest. Why not communicate with the Cardinal yourself about your concern, instead of demanding some other priest to do it for you? Of course, to be effective at persuasively presenting your concern you’d need to have a great deal of humility, prudence, and charity, all three of which appear greatly lacking in your choice to post a comment of this nature and in this venue.
Yes, this Cardinal Wuerl’s approach has me puzzled. This division is not good. While I can understand his reasoning, understanding does not make it right.
They say marriage has been reduced to an economic contract where there are no terms and no penalties for noncompliance.
It isn’t much, but think of how many marriages would be saved if they institutes penalties for abandoning he marriage? Say, breadwinners lose 75% of their income for 1 year every year they were married with a minimum of 5 years. Adultery yields no alimony or child support/custody. A human being will always be tempted to take the path of least resistance. You’d be surprise how many would find love where they thought they lost it if they’d be taken to the cleaners.
I think you’re on the right track in wanting to disincentivize divorce – it definitely should be disincentivized – but not sure about the exact methods you are suggesting. I think for example increasing alimony to 75% would mean you’d just incentivized other undesirable behaviors like “Well, no matter what job I have, I won’t get most of the money I earn, so why should I have a job at all”. Have to be careful of the law of unintended consequences.
Human relationships are as important and as immortal as human souls. I think this is why we are told to love our neighbors (that is, those who dwell near us) as ourselves. My older sister has told me that she believes that those we are closest to in Heaven are those we were closest to on Earth. This makes sense to me, to build on what we had here, not simply discard it and start over.
And marriage is the prime relationship between two human beings; that is, it was the first, and remains the most significant. There were no relationships before Adam & Eve, and no relationships would exist without it. And there is no other relationship that has been raised to the level of a sacrament, nor any that is compared to the relationship between Christ and His Church. In fact, the Bible can be considered to have begun with a marriage, and to have ended with one.
But once marriage is destroyed, all relationships can and will be destroyed, because without marriage, we will not see ourselves as connected to one another. And without those connections, we have no reason to see anyone else as human, or like ourselves. I think this is why a woman can destroy a baby in her womb; she doesn’t see the baby as human. But why should she, if she sees herself as severed from others, and alone?
People wrongly assume that someone can divorce their spouse and still value their children. But I would ask why someone would value the relationships they didn’t choose (with their children) when they do not value the relationship they did choose (with their spouse).
I find it interesting that all five of the Church’s non-negotiable issues (abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, homosexual “marriage”, and human cloning) involve relationships, and four of them are essential sexual. But I think they have a common root, as though they were five fingers on a hand, the hand being divorce. And I do not think any of them could exist if all marriages were sacramental and valued. And conversely, I do not think that any of them will end while divorce continues to be not only tolerated but encouraged.
I have often heard prayers at Mass for the sanctity of human souls; I think it is time we began praying regularly for the sanctity of human relationships also, especially marriage.
My brother in law was divorced two years ago. His kids were so depressed they were seeing therapists for awhile. Now they live with their mother and their mother’s boyfriend and the boyfriend’s son and unemployed buddy who we assume stays in the basement. Not good.
Msgr Pope. I appreciate this post very much. We have a page at the Ruth Institute called “Kids Divorce Stories.” People can go there and tell what it was like for them when their parents divorced. Many of these people are in the 50’s, meaning their parents’ divorce took place 30 or 40 years ago.
If you know someone who is considering divorce, lead them gently over to this site and tell them, “this could be your kids 30 years from now. they might get over. then again, do you really want to take the chance that they will end up feeling like this 30 years on?”
+. . for the LORD seeth NOT as man seeth;
for man looketh on the outward appearance,
but the LORD looketh on the HEART.”
1 Samuel 16:7b+
+Reading the comments re this blog sharing by Monsignor . . . to my poor heart . . . has been . . . painfully . . . rather like going from . . . room to room . . . in a hospital . . . where the individual patients . . . in their (sometimes intense) suffering . . . cry out some . . . – just some – . . . of their individual symptoms . . . and alas . . . some . . . their sad poisonness prejudices . . . and . . . a very few . . . touches . . . here and there . . . of medicinal healthy GODLY truth and Biblical enlightenment . . .have been shared . . . So . . . as Monsignor encouraged us in one of his recent past blogs . . . perhaps a preventative “positive” note/possible-helpful-solution might be helpful . . . re this blog’s tragic subject . . .
One of the churches the LORD so graciously opened up the door for me to work within as a church secretary over the years was rather . . . breathtakingly . . . beautiful . . . inside and out . . . (both spiritually and the physical building and property surrounding same) . . . and the sheer number of couples GOD allowed to be brought to the doors of the church wanting to be married there was . . . AMAZING . . . (sometimes we had as many as eight marriages scheduled for one single weekend during peak marriage seasons) . . .
The church responded to this ministry/mission opportunity by deeply sharing the FAITH and GOD’s Love with these couples right at the point of their need . . . and formed within the heart of the church an extraordinarily . . . responsible . . . caring . . . and very successful . . . ministry of marriage preparation . . . for couples who wanted to be married in the church . . . and every couple . . . no matter what their ages . . . 18 or 80 plus . . . was required to go through this program . . .
The counseling was divided up into two distinct parts . . . 1) Christ centered foundational and spiritual growth and development in the FAITH re . . . salvation and marriage . . . within the Church (the Body/Bride of Christ) counseling . . . 2) and personal marriage counseling specifically designed for the individual happy couple . . . utilizing the Johnson Taylor Temperament Analysis (JTA) testing . . . It was my happy job to share this absolute reality of these two counseling necessities . . . and . . . re the requirement of . . . personal . . . premarital counseling with each couple . . . to walk the couple through the initial JTA testing phase . . . preparatory for their going to their specifically assigned fully trained counselor on our church staff . . .
This analysis is neither a . . . “compatibility” . . . type of testing . . . nor is it a . . . pass/fail . . . type of testing . . . but rather . . . it is like an excellent camera which a good photographer uses to take wonderfully clear pictures of the outside appearance of the bride and groom . . . individually and as a couple . . . at their wedding . . . This little test takes a full ranging set of wonderfully . . . clear . . . pictures . . . of the unique . . . inner/interior selves . . . of the individual persons . . . how they see themselves . . . and how they see one another . . . and charts out these understandings for a great visible graphic presentations of each for the couple and the counselor to discuss . . .
The genuine . . . enthusiastic . . . lively interest . . . enkindled in the many couples . . . all ages . . . as they went through the stages of preparation for their marriages . . . was a delight for all of us on the church staff to be around . . . the end result being to bring about for the couples . . . not only deeper insights and understanding of the individuality of their potential mates and themselves . . . and the encouragement and celebration of , , , “differences” . . . re the uniquely individual personalities of the bride and groom . . . but to also bring into focus their . . . individual . . . VALUE SYSTEMS . . . in relationship to their . . . FAITH and MORALS . . . as taught by Holy Mother Church . . . in particular their relationship to the . . . PRACTICE . . . of their FAITH and MORAL principles . . . or lack thereof . . . for it is the . . . LACK . . . of . . . togetherness . . . in these two areas . . . faith and morals . . . that seems to cause the greatest suffering and destruction within marriages and families . . .
A wonderful . . . after-affect . . . of this counseling created/creates . . . a holy opened door of HOPE to couples who encountered/encounter difficulty . . . slight or grave . . . should they need help later on in their marriages and families . . .
“So faith, HOPE, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13
. . . all for Jesus+
. . . thank you Holy Mother Church+
. . . praise GOD from Whom all blessings flow!+
Why all the ellipsis? Not sure about others but I find it just about impossible to get through your entire posts with ellipsis after ellipsis in every sentence.
+OK Andy . . . re the written patterned use of the “ . . .”
For my soul . . . this pattern indicates . . . “listening pauses” . . . in the thoughts as they are being written . . . which pattern comes from the deep sweet . . . ever flowing . . . life giving river of graces of . . . Franciscan and Benedictine Spirituality . . . which holy ways of life . . . for centuries . . . have practiced deep communion with our . . . Wonderful Holy GOD . . .
For some souls . . . Sacred Scripture . . . along with the reading of other materials re Christianity and Catholicism . . . are approached from a very HUMAN mind-oriented/mental-intellectual approach and mindset . . . however . . . quite frankly . . . for my . . . very . . . simple . . . profoundly Franciscan soul in the LORD . . . graciously blest and immersed by our LORD for many years in both Franciscan and Benedictine Catholic spiritualities . . . contemplative prayer and Lectio Divina (divine reading – which in my case flows over in writing) . . . have . . . always . . . since early childhood . . . been my primary approach to growing in the sweet . . . Grace of GOD . . . and in Catholicism . . . day by day . . .
In the rich . . . depths . . . of these wonderful Catholic spiritualities . . . PRAYER . . . is essentially the HEART of one’s soul “talking” to its GOD . . . on the other hand . . . MEDITATION . . . is taught in Sacred Scripture . . . and by our Holy Mother Catholic Church . . . as essentially being the HEART of one’s soul “listening” to its GOD . . . the ultimate goal of these actions of the soul being that at the . . . center . . . of the deep interior . . . pool of quiet . . . within the heart of the soul . . . the soul enters into . . . constant . . . holy conversation and communion with its GOD . . .
Lectio Divina (divine reading) . . . is perhaps the clearest most well lit holy pathway I know of for the soul to “listen” to its GOD . . . essentially it is encountering GOD in the reading of a literary level of holy writings in Christendom believed to be especially blessed and anointed of GOD . . . first order and always primary of which is GOD’s . . . Holy Word . . . Sacred Scripture . . . and which group of writings can also include . . . The Holy Rule of St. Benedict . . . The Catechism of the Catholic Church . . . The Baltimore Catechism . . . the Creeds . . . writings of the Fathers and Saints of the Church, etc., . . . and as such . . . when prayerfully read and meditated upon the . . . Holy Spirit . . . Wonderful Counselor of Our GOD . . . is abundantly available to help regarding the reading, meditating and experiencing the understanding of same . . . and this contemplative form of reading . . . in my case . . . has also flowed over to become a form of writing . . .
The dear . . . learned . . . holy Benedictine monk . . . Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki , O.S.B. of the Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania here in the United States . . . recommends in materials from his monastery that we . . . SHOW DOWN RADICALLY . . . when reflecting on inspired material . . . so as to . . . OPEN UP FREELY . . . to the treasury of insights contained therein . . . the material goes on further to share with beautiful simplicity:
LECTIO DIVINA (divine reading)
– Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki , O.S.B. (Order of St. Benedict)
“It is the monastic insight that reading, if it be authentic, CANNOT be undertaken simply with the eyes and the mind. Rather it must involve the whole person: MIND, HEART, BODY and SPIRIT. It is reading NOT so much for information as for FORMATION, that is, for ENCOUNTER with the living GOD in this moment in such a way that one’s HEART catches fire and one’s LIFE is transformed … In St. Benedict’s day reading a sacred or spiritual text was practiced NOT so much for the sake of ‘information,’ but rather in order to be ‘FORMED’: that is, to be inwardly changed or shaped. …
Thus the aim of lectio divina (divine reading), i.e., pondering the material in a slow, prayerful way, is to dispose ourselves to welcome GOD’s ever-present grace and His efforts to conquer our hearts and transform us more and more into a holy people . . . ”
(Just a minor note: it is my understanding that an elipsis is a tightly closed “…”. I put a space in between each dot for the “listening pauses” which . . . slows . . . me down considerably and keeps me faithful to the below little portion of Sacred Scripture:
“Be meek to HEAR the Word, that thou mayst understand: and return a true answer with wisdom.” – Ecclesiasticus 5:13)
In thanksgiving and dedication to the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart . . .
. . . all for Jesus+
. . . thank You Dear Blessed LORD+
. . . praise GOD from Whom all blessings flow+
This piece is linked here: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2014/08/bits-pieces-32/
I have a question that might be a loaded one. My husband and I both come from intact families, my siblings that have spouses from intact families have good, strong marriages; the only one who doesn’t married a man from a divorced family. Now that we have children of marrying age, is it best to advise them to avoid dating anyone from a broken home? I’m sure that’s going to get harder to avoid and narrows down their pool of potential spouses. But I’d rather see them remain single than get into a bad marriage. It seems that kids from divorced families carry so much baggage and marriage is challenging enough as it is. Any thoughts?
It depends on the person, IMO. And I hate to tell you this, but all your marriages are in danger. Satan spares no-one. No-one is immune to the attacks on marriage. Prayer is the best covering for anyone. And there are simply no guarantees for you, your children or grandchildren – life isn’t like that. I’d be more worried that your children will end up marrying a divorcee and having a fake marriage.
…THANK YOU FOR THE TRUTH!! …It absolutely is making me sick to watch before my eyes how fast MY HUSBAND can harden his heart from me,from what began as great changes I made and us moving forward happily for 2 wks,to him feeling scared I would someday in the future revert,so he wanted to talk about where we were headed,said with true sincerity how much he loved me and wanted 2 give us another chance but..just as you described..said he’s not happy. He had thought for the past TWO days..and made an appt the day before to contact a lawyer. He was filing the next day..BUT..his intentions were 2 give us a fresh start.NOT to actually follow thru.(I’m NOT at all justifying..I hated the idea,it’s wrong,but I KNOW his lawyer is behind this,I’ve had 3tell me the same thing bout her tactics&they all said exact same).SO, WE ARE CATHOLIC..WE DID TALK ABOUT OUR STANCES ON DIVORCE..OVER A YR B4 WE GOT MARRIED. NEITHER OF US AGREED W/OR BELIEVE IN THEM.(until obv,he isn’t happy). This was only 2 months ago now..and his attitude about us vs what his intentions were, and what it’s already doing to our daughter and our family is DISGUSTING. And he seems to justify it away. WHY WONT ANYONE AROUND US STAND UP FOR MY DAUGHTER THE WAY YOU DID? 30days after I was served I had to go to court to defend MYSELF against him and LAWYER on temp of why I should remain in house and not have custody removed because he asked full physical and legal..we were still doing EVERYTHING AS A FAMILY..why does he need me out?&blindsided me with bills he wants me to take on..I DO NOT HAVE A JOB,HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO DO THIS?&DONT AGREE W DIVORCE. MEANS NEVER..COVENANT MEANS BOND CANNOT BE BROKEN,PROMISE WE MADE TO DAUGHTER.STOP PUTTING YOUR HAPPINESS B4 HERS. Then I get blamed for putting her in the middle. I’m going to guess his lawyer has told him 2 quit talking to me and doing family stuff. Because he literally has quit talking to me&would not even go to our daughters school function tonight because..she’s gotta get used to things are gonna be u or me now in her life..it’s just a fact of divorce..(she was sooo upset after school today..it was a family outside picnic at school for her whole grade..and, they were on their way back from our family vacation that I found out in court just days b4..that I was no longer part of..when I had to text my husband to ask her..she told me today that he had her chorose who she wanted..REALLY? ALREADY? (She just found out..at all..that there was any issues,bcuz of a reqd JOKE class..to coparent..that tells everyone LIES THAT JUS FEED HIS SELFISHNESS…THAT DIVORCE DOES NOT HURT KIDS…ONLY OUR BEHAVIOR DOES!!! …2 wks ago..and she’s only jus barely 8..and even I remember him specifically telling her she would NEVER have 2 choose..and already he has renigged to her on that,as well as being able to share her emotions..I do now have counsel..that is also catholic..knows I DO NOT AGREE WITH THIS, but, still..sent papers requesting stuff to his lawyer without informing me, asking me..ok..he got us into this mess cuz he blindly followed..I’m paying u..u don’t move til I tell u..so..buy me time.. (What I want to say..) so,temp papers came..we know what supposed to do..no must do by..date..I’m evading that question.last wk while he was gone our priest told me he’d like to speak with him..prob there is..he will let it go as no big deal if my husband doesn’t want to..WHO IN THIS WORLD STANDS UP TO PARENTS TO DO WHAT IS TRULY BEST FOR THEIR KIDS..WHEN I..THE MOM..AM DOING ALL I CAN..MY HUSBAND DOESNT WANT TO HEAR IT..THE LAW DOESNT CARE, THEY WILL DO WHATS BEST OF THE WORST AFTER HER DAD RUINS THE LIFE HE PROMISED HER…THATS JUST IRRESPONSIBLE. In the same sentence tonight he said he was going to be out of town 4 days 4 work next week…and followed that up with wanting to know what apartments I’m looking into wanting to move into and what furniture I want and all that So we can get this..STOP….HE WANTS TO FIGHT FOR FULL CUSTODY, AND FIGHT AND WON TO GET ME OUT OF THE HOUSE..AND THEN IN THE SAME BREATH OF BEING GONE 4 DAYS OF THE WEEK..WHAT WOULD YOUR PLANS BE IF I WASNT LIVING HERE AND 2 OF THOSE DAYS ARE YOURS….GENIUS…..SOMEONE, PLEASE READ THIS AND KNOW OF SOMETHING TO WAKE HIM UP..this is now a matter of a hard heart and the internal psychology of him going back to his real self..positive and future thinking..And it has to happen..I CANNOT LET HIM EMOTIONALLY SCAR OUR BEAUTIFUL, PRECIOUS GIRL..HIS HEART NEEDS TO BE CRACKED OPEN TO HEAR GOD AND THE HOLY SPIRITS TRUTHS..AND MY LOVE AND OUR DAUGHTER..AND NOT SATAN..HIS LAWYER..SOMEONE..EVERYONE..PLEASE HELP AND GUIDE ME….
Indeed, when a couple cannot just live together and many do think they divorce for themselves and not think of their kids but in fact they do, even if they don’t understand this at that moment. I myself lots of times wanted my parents to divorce so that they won’t be arguing each time they see each other, so that they can part as good friends and both live a happy life after that. It is way better than putting up with each other just for the sake of kids. This will damage the family even more. I remember my cousin talking about his parents and wishing his Mom has the courage to leave his Dad. Decades ago she couldn’t do it because she couldn’t bear hurting their kids. But growing up and seeing how badly their Dad treats their Mom isn’t that good as well. And now when my cousins are all grown up, she still cannot leave this man simply because together they built a house, she put lots of efforts in it and getting a divorce means selling this house. Still, this is just a house. I doubt it has lots of happy moments. I just don’t get it. Being a family isn’t working out so why hurt each other. My parents did understood that few years ago. They went through divorce. And now they are good friends though each already has their own partner. And my aunt, on the contrary, is afraid to leave that man and I guess she is suffering (he’s got quite a temper). Probably it became accustomed to living with him or probably she still loves him and she just cannot part from him. I don’t know the reason. But still divorce could set them both free. Surely, if kids are still small, as pointed by HelpGuide and JetWriters, they will not understand why now they have to live separately from their father or mother (and this may be the reason why quite a good number of spouses would rather put up with each other than live a happy life), they may throw tantrums but as they grow up they will understand (unless the divorce as because of another woman or man). But in case of my cousin who is an adult now, he just doesn’t get why his Mom cannot go through with it. He and his sister are no longer small kids. They will understand. Even more they do try to talk their Mom into divorce. Still, she refuses to do it. I personally don’t understand what might be the reason – is it love or just fear of change or is it just a habit?
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