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,