The following in the extended entry is Bai Macfarlane’s reaction to a recent Our Sunday Visitor article on about divorce and remarriage that she sent to the Marriage and Family office of Bishop John D’Arcy. The Bishop is the chairman of the board of OSV. In the letter she states that canon Law 1692, and 1151-1155 require that couples obtain a tribunal or bishop’s separation decree before approaching a civil divorce court. This appears to be the case, though not being a canon lawyer I don’t know if other provisions apply.
Family Life Director
Diocese of South Bend / Forte Wayne
The October 30, 2005 issue of Our Sunday Visitor was about divorce, remarriage and communion. In it, Archbishop Elden F. Curtiss of Omaha
had one article published that clearly explained that those who are married are married for life. Archbishop Elden quoted many authoritative Church teachings that stressed that if one is divorced and has no annulment, then becomes civilly married a second time, one is not in communion with the Church and shall not receive communion. Fred, I personally understand the pain of abandonment and I know that the solution is not to get another partner. The solution is to be loyal to God and to bear one’s cross with Christ, and pray for the return and conversion of the prodigal. Otherwise we are an awful example to our children and our culture and we are committing adultery.
In the same issue of Our Sunday Visitor, there was another story by Lori Hadacek Chaplin titled, "Faithful feel the pain of broken sacraments." In this article, a man who is living in an adulterous relationship is the first featured "faithful" person. His wife abandoned him and he remarried civilly though he was truly married to his actual wife – the first wife. The second featured "faithful" person was Irene Varley, the executive director of North American
Conference of Separated and Divorced Catholics (NACSDC). Irene’s description of what makes a marriage valid seemed home-made rather
than following Church teaching. According to the reporter, Irene "has learned that being united in a sacramental marriage isn’t ‘a magic
wand,’ but rather a blending of relationship skills, a sense of commitment and a reflection of the love of Christ." Irene is quoted as saying, "I believe if you have a firm grounding of the love of Christ, the other two will come into play…If that is not there, I don’t see how the marriage can make it."
This sounds nothing like the Magisterium’s description of valid marriage. If one’s spouse sins and doesn’t demonstrate commitment and becomes an adulterer or an abandoner, this does not prove that one’s marriage is invalid and not a sacramental marriage. Anyone can read articles in the scholarly journal of the Roman Rota describing psychological grounds for annulment, because they are now transcribed on the internet (See Egan 1983 and 1984). There are links to other relevant teachings from Rome on this webpage as well. I’ve seen about a dozen materials distributed by North American Conference of Separated and Divorced Catholics, and their description of divorce and annulment is not consistent with authoritative Roman Catholic Teaching on the subject. If sending you copies would help someone address my concerns, please let me know.
Lori Hadacek Chaplin’s article ends with information from the "Annulment" pamphlet produced by Our Sunday Visitor. This pamphlet states that most tribunals require that there first be a civil divorce before considering an annulment. Canon Law 1692, and 1151-1155 require that couples obtain a tribunal or bishop’s separation decree before approaching a civil divorce court. If a tribunal recommends that someone obtain a civil divorce, isn’t this
tribunal asking someone to break Canon Law and possibly do something immoral, which is a grave offense against nature according to the
Catechism? (CCC 2384-2386) Anyone can see Canon Law commentary recommended by the pontifical council of legislative texts regarding
separation and divorce here.
Our Sunday Visitor readers are given conflicting messages about the sanctity of marriage; the first article by Archbishop Curtiss clearly explains the rationale behind Church teaching while the second article in describes one blatant dissenter as faithful and supports teaching that does not follow Canon Law. Further, the North American Conference of Separated and Divorced Catholics is presented as an authority and the NACSDC’s director’s description of grounds for valid marriage is very vague. I also know from first-hand experience that NACSDC’s expert at their annual educational conference is unapologetic about contradicting authoritative Roman Catholic teaching regarding annulment. Our Sunday Visitor readers are told by
this second article that tribunals require civil divorce before considering an annulment petition, while Canon Law actually requires a tribunal or bishop’s separation decree before one obtains a civil divorce.
Since Bishop John D’Arcy is the chairman of the board of Our Sunday Visitor, is there anything he can do to repair confusion and scandal caused by this issue of Our Sunday Visitor? Can Bishop D’Arcy caution the editors against naming as ‘faithful’ those who brazenly disobey Christ’s teaching regarding marriage? Would Our Sunday Visitor like to interview faithful spouses who are loyal to their God and their vows even after being abandoned? I know several who are very articulate and I am humbled, inspired and honored to simply know them.
Looking forward to your reply,
Let us all pray for the healing of the MacFarlanes’ marriage. What a wonderful example and conversion story that would be.
Having actually gone through the Divorce and Annullment process let me point out a few things. I was quite shocked that the tribunal of the Archdiocese of Hartford where I was living REQUIRED that I get a civil divorce first before they would even accept my paper work for an annullment. I would of thought they wouldn’t care about the civil divorce since they are supposed to be ruling on the validity of my marriage, NOT issuing a divorce, and if my marriage wasn’t annulled, they wouldn’t recognize the civil divorce anyway. The civil divorce took 3 years and included a custody fight with my bipolar and emotionally and physically abusive wife. It also included 3 years of being treated as a pariah by the church. Not that getting an annullment should be easy, but this added a lot of anxiety to the process.
After I received my civil divorce I went through the Annullment process which took another 13 months. I had to drag up the past and present all the evidence (which was quite substantial since it had played a large part in the divorce) of my wife’s illness and her terrorizing the kids and me for years. After having gone through the divorce, I admit I almost didn’t want to go through the annullment. I was so emotionally spent, but, I still had my faith, so, I did what was asked of me as I wanted to be obedient to the Church.
I have since remarried in the church, and have had a few years to ponder things. I still have doubts about the annullment process. I hear too many Catholics who have never been married or been in a failed marriage pontificate about how they shouldn’t even be allowed as God says marriage is for life. Nice black and white answer. I had priests tell me during my divorce that I should sacrifice myself on the thorns of my marriage, and that the Lord would reward me in the next life for my fidelity. Well, that’s very noble, but in truth if someone is mentally ill, the marriage never happens, no matter how much you pray for guidence or a miracle. The children get broken and dashed. My children have been damaged to differing degrees. My oldest who is 18 is a devout Catholic (praise be) but is very rigid in his world view and hasn’t dealt with the past, my middle son (17) who bore the brunt of his mother’s abuse is an agnostic and is still sorting out what happened. My daughter (12) who was too young to know about it all, has questions, but is doing well.
I agree that there has been abuses and those need to be corrected, but, I submit that maybe we get a little too wrapped up in the Legalese of the church. We forget how marriage is one of the foundations of the church and I really don’t think enough attention is paid to pre-marital instruction.
What the Church really needs to do is concentrate on is properly preparing couples that are getting married for marriage. 3 days of pre-marriage encounter isn’t enough. I think during the entire year or so before the wedding the couple should have to meet with a priest or church counselor who evaluates if they are really ready to be married…and actually say yes or no if they are or not. Considering marriage is supposed to be for life, it is in the Church’s interest to spend the time and effort to make sure the couples are ready, and willing to live a christian marriage. This is necessary as there is no reason to believe that the world or their parents are preparring them for christian marriage. It certainly is a sacrement that gets no attention in catechism classes and it is the one of the few sacrements that is for life and is so important to the Church.
I have personally been trying to get a separation decree from the bishop where I lived (and my husband still lives) at the time of our separation. I think I am just being ignored. However, when I called the diocese years ago to ask for permission to divorce (which is required in Canon Law) I was told that they didn’t do that and to contact them for my annulment after I had divorced. I have yet to divorce, namely because the Catechism calls it a grave sin.
I am so sick of articles like the one in OSV with divorced and remarried whining about how they can’t receive communion. Hello you are committing adultery! Where are the articles about the suffering of abandoned spouses who remain faithful to their vows? All articles like the one in OSV do is weaken the resolve of the separated who are standing for their marriage. Who is speaking out in support of us?
Thanks for posting this. Bai MacFarlane is a brave lady. God is using her, of that I am certain!
A few months ago they did an edition on the Theology of the Body – I’d give anyone who’s drawing attention to the Theology of the Body at least a bit of credit.
I agree though, in general, their material leaves something to be desired.
It could be a lot worse though.
What part of “I do” before a priest and witnesses do our Church leaders and Canonists not understand? The married Catholic rarely has a case for invalidity. If a baptised Christian vows for life before God and man, that’s it…One can only validly marry once. Because my wife abandoned our marriage doesn’t free me to do so. Faith is what is called for not an annulment based on psychology. Please question your priests about the use of weak psychology to determine nullity.
I was relieved to discover that this wasn’t a soap box letter about her (truly awful) personal abandonment experience. On the contrary, Bai writes concisely and in an informed manner. I pray for her and for her family.
This is from JP2’s Familiaris Consortio, “But it is also proper to recognize the value and witness of those spouses who, even when abandoned by their partner, with the strength of faith and of Christian hope have not entered a new union: these spouses too give an authentic witness to fidelity, of which the world today has a great need. For this reason they must be encouraged and helped by the pastors and the faithful of the Church.”
It does not say the world is in great need of spouses who when abandoned petition the tribunal and seek a new union.
JP2 is saying the world is in great need of us. It reminds me of the Zenit piece about the St. Mary of Cana group and the bishop from Italy who said being a separated spouse is like a vocation within a vocation.
We are the faithful and we are encouraging and helping each other. It would be nice if pastors and other faithful would help and encourage also, like JP2 exhorted them to, instead of cowtowing to the whining of the divorced and remarried. OSV are you listening?
Your fellow authentic witness to fidelity,
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