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Permission for Divorce and the Catholic Lawyer’s Dilemma

We live in an age of demagoguery, where would-be petty tyrants grasp at power from behind the stalking horses of “oppressed” or “powerless” surrogates. We must “help the kids” or “save the planet” or do something-or-other for the peripheral groups of people who live at the margins of society. (Or is that the marginalized groups of people who live at the peripheries of society? I forget.) The trend is rampant in the secular world and fast becoming entrenched in the ecclesiastical one. We’ve forgotten that at the heart of the Catholic social teaching is the “common good.” That means we should work for justice and fairness, taking into account the needs of everyone.

If you want to scandalize the “preferential option” social justice warrior crowd, send them to Exodus 23:3 (“Neither shalt thou favor a poor man in judgment.”).

The myopia of focusing on a narrow segment of society (or the Catholic faithful) most oftentimes produces decisions bad for the welfare of the whole. Take for instance a recent online debate in Catholic circles. A serious question has emerged as to whether Catholics must seek permission from their bishops before approaching civil courts to obtain a divorce. The impetus was a brochure written by Bai Macfarlane of Mary’s Advocates – a Catholic group dedicated to reducing unilateral no-fault divorce in the United States. Macfarlane’s brochure took the position that Church law requires Catholics in the United States to get approval from their local ordinary before filing for divorce. She approached her local ordinary, Bishop Daniel Thomas, for permission to publish the brochure. Permission was denied, as Bishop Thomas disagreed that Macfarlane’s statement was a correct exposition of canon law. Macfarlane, who is not a canon lawyer, disagreed, and on May 13, 2017, Mary’s Advocates filed a recourse to the Congregation of Education to resolve the dispute.

The dispute drew the attention of Dr. Edward Peters of the canon law blog “In the Light of the Law.” Peters offered a scholarly reply, taking the position that Macfarlane is incorrect. Peters, in part, offered the opinion of “renowned Roman canonist Felix Cappello,” who “advised priests against requiring Catholics unaware of the canonical separation requirements (which would have been most Catholics, then as now) to undertake a formal canonical process in regard to discontinuing conjugal life” – in other words, the tried and true avoidance mechanism of  “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

While it would be tempting to dismiss Macfarlane as a dilettante lost in the thickets of canon law, at least one formally trained, practicing canon lawyer, Fr. Dean Perri, is apparently supportive of her interpretation. Moreover, Fr. Perri raised an important principle: marriage is a public good that requires a public forum.

Because I am not a canon lawyer, I can’t opine on whether Macfarlane is correct or not. But because I am a civil lawyer, I can opine as to why the recognition of marriage as a public good is paramount to understanding the broad spiritual consequences in play.

The position of the “renowned Roman canonist” arguably promotes some of the favorite vices of the modern-day Church: sloth, cowardice, and pride. Can anyone argue that it’s easier for the churchmen if the sheep remain blind? Imagine the boat-rocking you’d create by telling couples that their marriage is not their exclusive, personal plaything. They might not like that. Even worse, they may not listen to you after you do inform them of the rules. And sheep who don’t listen to the shepherd can hurt the pride of a shepherd who has become enamored of his own authority.

Instead, the path of least resistance for the churchmen is to let their charges run off to divorce court while they bemoan Catholic couples’ lack of a true understanding of the sacrament of marriage (even though they won’t tell couples the hard truths) and then come up with a “pastoral” solution (like Amoris Laetitia) to ostensibly “help the children” who have been damaged in the fallout. Under this model, marriage has been reduced to pure family business (or the “internal forum”) and misses the essential “common good” implications.

Here’s one implication that strikes close to home for me as a lawyer:

In most instances, people will retain a lawyer to assist in a divorce. If that lawyer is a Catholic, there are serious moral implications to his assisting in the civil divorce proceedings. While there are gray areas, it is likely accurate to say that when a lawyer represents a client in a civil divorce of a sacramental marriage where the express object of the client is to “remarry” another, that lawyer’s cooperation results in his or her being guilty of a mortal sin. The spectrum of scenarios in a divorce of a non-Catholic couple also presents a host of moral pitfalls for the lawyer, particularly if the marriage is valid even though not sacramental.

Contrary to popular humor, lawyers have souls, and those souls are precious to God. Most Americans have been poorly catechized over the past 50 years, and lawyers are no exception. The practice of law poses a daily moral hazard, and the Church has done little to educate its legal practitioners about their responsibilities as Catholic lawyers. How many unthinkingly make their living from repeatedly putting asunder what God has joined – essentially functioning as matrimonial abortionists – without their pastors and bishops ever warning them?

Despite the prescriptions of “renowned Roman canonists,” there is a wider issue. My brothers and sisters in the law deserve to have firm guidance on how their law practices may be affecting their souls. Don’t Catholic lawyers have the right to see canon law enforced and the local bishop giving or withholding approbation of civil divorce proceedings, so they can know whether it is morally safe for them to assist a potential client?

I have no idea how Rome will rule on this issue. However, I fear that the truly public dimension of marriage and divorce will get left out of the reasoning. This is about not just a man and a woman, or even a family. This is about how divorce affects society, including the role that the men and women of the learned profession of the law are asked to play in a public matter. The Pharisees here are not the “doctors of the law,” but those who refuse to lift a finger to assist in the moral burdens that American Catholic lawyers face every day.

St. Thomas More, pray for us!

168 thoughts on “Permission for Divorce and the Catholic Lawyer’s Dilemma”

  1. It seems to me that the intertwining of Catholic, sacramental marriage and civil “marriage” is a clunky and confusing thing. Civil “marriage” by itself is not a marriage before God to begin with, let alone when even homosexuals can now obtain a civil union labeled as “marriage”. I think that Catholics should just abandon the Protestant-made, civil union system even though being civilly married saves on taxes. And I bet that 99% of American Catholics don’t realize that their Protestant friends aren’t really married before God even though they got civilly “married” in front of a Protestant minister in a mock-Catholic ceremony devoid of much of its original content and, of course, validity. But yet, once they do that, they get a societal-free-pass on fornication, since in reality a Protestant couple is not married at all. And so denouncing soley-civil-union-marriages can be as simple as what Christ said to the Samaritan woman at the well: “The man you have now is not your husband.” That would certainly be shocking

    • The Church considers the marriage of two properly-baptized Protestants a valid marriage. I believe this is based on the idea that marriage is a natural right of men and women. Yes, such marriages are not sacramental. But they are valid and tribunals considering nullity (say, if one of such a couple later converts to Catholicism and the Protestant partner seeks a divorce. If said converted-Catholic man or woman later wishes to marry a Catholic in the Church, the tribunal will consider the first marriage valid unless there are other reasons to grant a decree of nullity.)

      • What are your sources to say that the nebulous idea of a “natural marriage” is in any way comparable to the Catholic sacrament of marriage in regards to validity? I expect that such a view point is a newly-devised, non-dogmatic idea promulgated by the same theologically-errant bishops who are currently trying to let adulterers receive Holy Communion while in a state of mortal sin. It should be emphasized that not everything that “the Church considers” to be true these days is worthy of belief. The current climate in the Church is very hostile to orthodoxy, and tends to downplay and lie about the necessity of the Catholic Church in all regards. So to say that “marriages” outside the Church are valid sounds false and compromising to me.

        • Father Paul Sretenovic has a couple of articles at, which will explain (with references) the traditional teaching of the Church.
          There are plenty of other resources, too, should you wish to explore this topic further; I would hope that you do.

          • I would think that Mary and Joseph were in some sort of a Jewish marriage codified in the Law, no? And nevertheless, if “natural marriage” existed before the time of Christ, now that He has established sacramental marriage, don’t you think that it would be like the Old Law versus the fulfilled Law, where the older form of marriage has been fulfilled in the form of sacramental marriage, hence the old marriages are no longer valid just as the Old Law no longer has the power to save? I think that the parallels are striking, actually.

          • Validity either exists or it doesn’t. After death, *no* marriage continues. A natural marriage occurs in time, not in eternity. It cannot be rendered “retroactively” invalid, even by God Himself!

          • No. This is not Church teaching, not at all. I was trying to reassure you that you needn’t worry quite so much as to whether your Protestant acquaintances are all living in adultery. Please read the older Catechism, or the 1917 Code of Canon Law, if you’d prefer to avoid sources from the last 50 years.

          • But thank you for suggesting a source for me to read, if, in fact, it explains the traditional understanding of marriage as the domain name would imply. As you probably know, a lot of errant ecclesiology has appeared in the past fifty years, and I’m skeptical of anything that sounds like compromise, which is what the idea of natural marriage continuing to have any validity past the time of Christ sounds like to me.

          • Thank you, but I was posing those questions to another commenter as an aid in his thought process.
            This discussion has become a rabbit-hole, detracting from the original post, and I’m not participating in it any further. But I wish to respond to you personally, since I’m aware of your fight against the divorce-nullity decree behemoth. Your work is praiseworthy and I wish you the best.

        • You are extremely confused.

          Neither baptism nor membership in the Catholic Church is necessary for a valid marriage. There are billions of validly married Hindus, Muslims, Muslims, Jews, and atheists.

          Any valid marriage between any two baptized people is the Sacrament of matrimony. Two Protestants. Two Catholics. Or one of each.

      • You are confused. The valid marriage of ANY two baptized people is the sacrament of matrimony. Two Protestants, two Catholics, or one of each.

        • I was simplifying since this is a combox discussion. If the relevant canons are observed, the marriage of any two baptized people is valid, as you say, but the situation is murkier when, for instance, a baptized Protestant marries a baptized Catholic outside the Church with no dispensation from the Ordinary. (I was not assuming that the relevant canons have been observed (which is often the case in mixed Catholic-Protestant marriages), which you do seem to presume.) The terms “validity,” “natural bond,” and “sacramental” have specific meanings in canon law, and these are very complex terms to address in a combox.

    • Whoa! I had never considered non sacramental marriages as civil unions because they have been referred to as natural marriages.

    • Under canon law, a marriage is assumed to be valid unless and until proven otherwise (can. 1060).

      The Catholic Code of Canon Law is binding on baptized Catholics — but *only* on baptized Catholics. Because *Catholics* are required to marry in a *Catholic* ceremony, attempting marriage *outside the Church* results in a canonically invalid marriage.

      Non-Catholics are not members of the Catholic Church and are thus not bound by any provision of canon law. Such marriages are assumed to be valid unless and until any *other* canonical impediment is proven to exist.

      • You are somewhat confused. The valid marriage of ANY two baptized parties IS “sacramental.” I.e., is the sacrament of matrimony. Two Catholics, two Protestants, or one of each.

    • You are very confused. Protestant marriages ARE presumed valid by the Catholic Church. And any valid marriage of two baptized people is the sacrament of matrimony–whether the parties are Protestant, Catholic, or one of each.

    • Whoa whoa, anyone, pagans, Protestants an hippies are able to get married. The Catholic Church need not exist for marriage to exist. That’s why this free and easy annulment business is so demonic. It makes into reality, the doubt of all marriages.

      The Vatican ii religions Annulments policy destroys even pre Christian sacraments. It’s incredible what vii has done. Now, no one can really know if hey are married, ever. Why? Because they could always get an annulment…

    • Marriage is created by GOD..i.e. Adam and Eve were married. Truly married. However, SACRAMENTAL MARRIAGE is a specifically Christian institution fulfilling the design intended by GOD, but only achievable with the graces of the Eucharistic Jesus. Sacramental Marriage is one of the SEVEN Sacraments of the Catholic Church, and cannot be duplicated elsewhere – but to say that others are not truly married in the natural sense marriage has existed since the time of Adam and Eve is wrong. The very quote you cite by Jesus affirms the existence of non-sacramental marriage – if only you took the time to really think about it instead of tossing it in as a false prop for your specious argument.

    • Hi Dom’nic. Presently in the U.S., the states require priests to force parties to get a civil marriage license when the priest celebrates matrimony. Though bride and groom intend to accept the obligations of True Marriage as defined by the church, the residents of the state, (along with the court system) “pretend” that the parties entered a “no-fault-divorce-marriage.” This is as ridiculous as the state confiscating your car after you finished paying off the loan. You and the bank agreed that you were buying the car, but the state (without warning you) decided you were leasing the car, and the term ended when the loan was paid in full. The state would take your car and give it back to the dealer.

  2. This is a brilliant article. I could say the same is needed by we physicians (it’s getting really, really subtly pushy out there on softening the lines regarding euthanasia…and transgender surgery is becoming common…..not just for surgeons but for all the ancillary staff (hormones, counseling —- 50+ gender designations now!!!, chaplaincy, etc.)…..also for financial advisors (is it licit to sell a life insurance policy or other vehicle to a same-sex couple??) and other professionals. There are black and white lines in the moral order but there are precious few in the application of one’s professional knowledge to the modern marketplace.

    • I feel your pain. Attending bridal and baby showers in the workplace has become a litmus test for support of “gay marriage” and artificial insemmination of lesbians with coworkers falling all over themselves gushing approbation. Being known as a devout Catholic, of course, I don’t attend and it’s probably noticed and eventually it might get me in trouble.

      • Hi, Lilian. You describe it well. It’s almost a contest amongst co-workers to see who can be most gleeful, most overt, most bobble-headed nodding, most jaw-cracking wide-smiley about these things. For awhile your absence will be noted as simply an absence, but over time, if you are present for normative events and not the LGBT types, people will surmise. Unless you have had truly “other things already scheduled” that you can mention as conflict, they already know. There’s a strange and strong scanning going on, all the time, to assess consent. Note how the eyes of the circle discussing the events slide around and heads turn to see who is on board. I sometimes wonder if that is more REAL belief that all this is good and demanding others assent, or that these poor souls feel trapped into consent by needing their job, etc. and are desperately looking to not be alone in their misery. I do not think they can get you into trouble of any legal type, for not attending extra-work social events, but you may find you are shifted towards the periphery of those believed to be “team players.” God bless you and I wish you well!! Julia

        • I’ve lost two (untenured) jobs in Education for just this discovery about me. And now find it impossible to be employed in the area of my choice. Truly a persecution.

          • God bless you, Mortimer, it is indeed a persecution. Education is a particularly difficult area for all of this. The Cheshire, CT school system recently held a high school level, double-period, not-announced-to-parents until just before LGBT “educational” event that students were not allowed to opt out of!!!!!!! All parents could do was keep their kids home from school that day. Teachers who protested were silenced. I lost a FT faculty position (it would have led to tenure) in Health Sciences awhile back, with my contract not being renewed literally 30 minutes before the end of the previous contract……..for reasons nobody could ever articulate. I was known as the campus Conservative. Relevant??? I may never know, but for sure one is marked out.

          • visit my site and tell me what you think of it. The Vestibule of the Church is and always has been an integral part of the spiritual process that is the Church, i.e. The People of God. The Vestibule comprises the mission of the Laity in and to the world. Perhaps you can help me launch this.

    • if a baker can’t refuse to bake a cake for gay marriage couples…how is a doctor going to refuse a request for euthanasia?? or perform a transgender surgery???

      • Your exclamations are appreciated and point a truth that you grasp well. All we have right now is First Amendment protections, and these were strengthened recently by an order of President Trump’s. But it is not a lock-down-tight situation in hospitals, there are many gray areas. Believe me, euthanasia happens, but so slowly and ambiguously that to lay eyes it would never appear as such. Transgender assignment surgery happens and chaplains and others are expected to “ally” patients. It’s relentless.

        • we sheep are scattered and out there very much alone. I am convinced it is time for we sheep to take certain matters into our hands, and use what Vatican II document on the Laity says we have – the charisms and mission latent and dormant symbolically in The Vestibule. Circle the wagons! Show up! Unite in real life. all that. Pl. cf. and be sure to press the button and go to the second page. ty

  3. Imho, every Catholic lawyer who is serious about his Catholic Faith should belong to the American Catholic Lawyers Association Chris Ferrara (who writes for the Remnant and occasionally posts on 1P5) is President and Chief Counsel.

    It is a non-profit organization, so you can give a tax-deductible donation to help support the American Catholic Lawyers Association (that’s ACLA not the other one!)

  4. This is where ” the rubber meets the road ” and true disciples must hold fast to our beliefs regardless to the consequences as we witness to Truth. We must carry His cross and show how important Truth is!!!!

  5. “I have no idea how Rome will rule on this issue.” Rome has already ruled. JP2 said follow the law in 1983. I predict that Rome will answer with “don’t ask, don’t tell” on Bai MacFarlane’s question to them. Ed Peters knows what the canons plainly mean, but reconciles current praxis with his conclusion that they must be “symbolic.”

  6. I’ve thought about the same thing, but the reality of no-fault” divorce adds an additional “gray area” layer. For example, a wife can divorce her husband even if the husband disagrees. In a situation like this, a Catholic attorney, I think in good conscience, could represent the husband in the divorce proceeding in order to protect him from being taken advantage of from the wife’s attorney.

    • Hans, the missing piece to this is that someone in authority needs to identify the guilty in the innocent spouse so that the Catholic lawyer knows who to represent. If canon law were followed, the innocent and guilty spouse would be identified.

      • The question isn’t who’s guilty, but rather whether or not the marriage is sacramental. If a marriage is sacramental a civil divorce won’t change the sacramental validity of the marriage. In civil divorces, the attorney’s role mainly has to do with protecting his or her client’s propert rights and ensuring the best possible outcome for any children that would be unfortunately involved.

        • Hans, since all marriages are considered valid until proven otherwise, it is about who’s guilty and who’s innocent regarding the separation.. the spouse who is acting in juststice is the one the Catholic lawyer should be defending. Who is to judge?

        • There are two Church investigations that could occur for couples that “breakup”: 1) separation of spouses, and 2) investigation about validity. When a separation occurs, the outcome should be in accord with divine law for both those with invalid marriages, and valid marriages. If the marriage is invalid, canon law requires the Church’s decree to instruct the parties of their obligations toward each other and their children. No-fault divorce wrecks all of this. If your daughter “married” a lying playboy that never intended sexual fidelity, he should be required, as much as possible, to repair the damage he’s caused your daughter and your whole family. In no-fault divorce both parties are treated the same. Furthermore, in no-fault divorce, your grandchildren will be ordered to spend overnight visits with this man who could expose them to all sorts of sexual deviance. The civil forum has no interest in protecting children from being given scandal.

          • I’m not defending the “no-fault” system, my comments were only meant to pertain to the moral culpability of lawyers representing parties in a civil divorce.

          • Hans, how are lawyers able to know with any certainty which party in No-Fault is acting with justice – if there has been no determination from the local bishop?

          • Look, I would be ecstatic if the Church would take back jurisdiction over marriage, but until that time comes, lawyers can’t know with certainty who is at fault and can only protect their clients’ rights afforded to them by law.

        • Tribunals do NOT investigate whether a marriage is “sacramental.” They investigate validity. And va!id marriage is a sacrament if both parties are baptized.

          • Tribunals investigate whether one or other of the married couple did not intend to keep their marriage vows; knew they should not be marrying and therefore made false vows. Only then can a marriage be annulled. For example if a man knows that he is in love with another man and still marries a woman – he is making false vows.

  7. Good luck with the Church clarifying any of this . Pope Francis himself has stated that most marriages are invalid thus indirectly encouraging divorce. And the other point. The Church itself, with its nearly 100% approval of annulments, is clearly the most guilty party in the collapse of marriage. Who is going lecture the Church on the need to protect marriage?

  8. I am no canon lawyer, just a layman using common sense regarding Church matters. For any bishop to give their permission for Catholics to apply for divorce in a civil court would undermine and compromise the Catholic position on divorce, and also condone the civil court’s jurisdiction. This would erode the Catholic position on divorce. This is a no brainer.

    • Watosh…don’t forget to remember that “Reason” is also “fallen” and darkened…Nevertheless, you make a great point…a bishop cannot give anyone permission to file for civil divorce. I suppose that AFTER a decree of annulment has been issued, a “nod” to go and get a civil divorce can be assumed.

      • The bishop can do so in situations where thst is the only remedy to secure the safety of the children. However, the real focus of this discussion by Mary’s Advocates is the requirement to request permission before separation, which can be granted, for example, in cases of adultery.

        What permission before divorce really challenges is the requirement to get a divorce before annulment.

        • I was not implying that permission to separate should not be sought with the permission of a Bishop, see my more detailed response following the comment of Macfarlane below. I am not sure exactly what is referred to when you speak of “permission before divorce.” If someone got a divorce before they received permission to separate, they would still need a Bishops permission to separate, and this could affect the obtaining of a permission to separate that would depend on the individual case I would say.

      • Hi mortimer. It is not a decree of annulment that is required before civil divorce. It is a decree of separation that is required before a party files for civil divorce. Canon law specifies that the government forum is not competent to relieve a spouse of the obligation to maintain the common conjugal life (i.e. intact home). The bishop or his mandated delegate is the only person with competence to make two considerations before giving permission to file for divorce: whether the plan sought in the civil forum is in accord with divine law — whether the church decision will have civil effects. To learn more about civil effects, you can read about a church case in which the government would consider a woman to be a criminal abandoner if she was not living with her husband.

      • Even darkened reason ought to see the danger of a Catholic bishop giving permission for a Catholic couple to file for a divorce with the State. Yes the Church understands that there can be instances in which a separation is warranted. In such instances it then is up to the parties to decide whether there is a need because of some civil legal concerns a writ of divorce is sought. But for a Catholic Bishop to give anyone permission to seek a divorce strikes me as recognizing the State’s jurisdiction over marriage. And it can give the impression that a Catholic Bishop is legitimizing divorce in certain instances. We Catholics have to live in a secular State and tolerate the situation out of necessity, but we should never legitimize the State’s assumed jurisdiction over Church matters. I am personally very sensitive to such dangers in witnessing how “Americanism” has influenced many American Catholics.” The Catholic church can recognize the state of “separation” but should not appear to recognize the validity of “divorce.” A divorce action to me is something the State recognizes, but Catholics don’t. Of course I am an old school, unreconstructed Catholic in my thinking, and while my reason may be darkened because of our fallen state, I find if one lets reason be guided by one’s faith, one generally comes out on the side of right reason.

        • You are not an “old school, unreconstructed Catholic.” You are merely someone pontificating on a matter about which you have read nothing, learned nothing, and know nothing.

          • MichaelMaedoc , major process problem? Actually, this function can be delegated and once spouses know they will have to actually have “fault,” they will stop divorcing so much.

          • Separation is one thing divorce is another in my understanding, even though they both represent the end of a couple’s marriage. Divorce, again in my understanding which some have found markedly deficient, is the cancellation of marriage contract that is to say in the eyes of the secular State the contract is concealed leaving each partner to enter into another marriage contract and if and whenever they so desire. That is they face no impediment should they want to enter into another contract that the State considers a marriage arrangement. A Catholic couple married in a Catholic ceremony may separate but to remain in good standing in the Church they need to get their Bishop’s permission, and in getting the Bishop’s permission this does not permit them to be married in a Catholic marriage to another person. Of course a Catholic couple can just separate without the Bishop being involved but then they end up in a sort of limbo. I am really not sure of where this axiom of law that you reference is relevant to thither obtaining either a separation or a divorce, Now no spouse can judge of of their own marital situation in the sense that they cannot by themselves satisfy the legal or the religious requirements posed by the civil or Church authorities, rather they need to have some external authorization, but on the other hand any spouse may elect to decide whether they want to live with their spouse. that is certainly something they would be the judge of. But I am not sure that I understand the point that you were trying tomato, I am sorry. Are we speaking the same language?

          • Watosh – “any spouse may elect to decide whether they want to live with their spouse. that is certainly something they would be the judge of. ” When they say vows, that is their chance to decide – for life. If they need to back out of that contract, they can’t be their own judge of he said / she said. Canon 1696 says that the promoter of justice is to be used in all separation cases.

        • There is no canon law that requires a civil divorce before an investigation of an accusation that a marriage is invalid. There is canon law requiring an Church investigation before a party files for divorce.

    • Hi Watosh, Please see some history on this situation on Mary’s Advocates > Research > Catholic “Divorce” The Catechism teaches that civil divorce is tolerable in certain situations. For us, divorce is really only “separation of spouses” with some effects in the civil forum. We can imagine a situation in which an innocent spouse has a just, fair, reason to be separated. The ecclesiastic authority has competence to make sure there is a just cause for separation. The authority is supposed to judge the parameters of a separation plan that is in accord with divine law.

    • In UK you can’t apply for an Catholic annulment unless you have FIRST been granted a civil divorce! So your theory is a no-brainer too, right?

      • This seems a little odd, when one reflects on the ramifications that could ensue. And it could serve as an incentive for Catholic couples to get a divorce. It also might br an impediment to any reconciliation while applying for an annulment. It also seems to me as recognizing divorce, or at least give that appearance. But nothing that the Catholic Hierarchy does today surprises me. Of course as we live under civil at times accommodations may make sense, still the Church must be careful not tone under the influence.

        • Watosh – recognizing divorce, exactly. We have all heard that “the Church does not recognize divorce.” Well, things are fairly easygoing for “daters” during annulment and the tribunal openly admits that it accepts divorce as “proof” that there is no hope of reconciliation?

          • That I believe is wrong, (I might add that is not the only thing I think is wrong with the Vatican II Church) It would appear then that they are thus led to accept the process of an annulment to put a catholic endorsement of the action. What about States that have “no fault” divorces in which do not encourage efforts at reconciliation. And if we grant annulments on the grounds the parties were not mature enough to know what they were doing when they exchanged marriage vows, then maybe they might not be mature enough to make the decision to divorce. How many divorce lawyers encourage reconciliation? Some may, but I doubt that many lawyers do when a divorce earns them a good fee. No, I don’t agree with those in the Church who have adopted divorce as a ticket to an annulment.

          • “maybe they might not be mature enough to make the decision to divorce.” All divorce or permanent separations must be vetted, just like all claims to invalidity must be investigated.

          • ‘maybe they might not be mature enough to make the decision to divorce” ? Exactly my point, so why make the getting a divorce grounds for an annulment and grant annulments on the basis that the parties were not mature enough to enter into a valid marriage? Doesn’t make sense to me.

  9. The article seems to show the need for Catholic lawyers to get some formation both in Canon Law and Moral theology. As for the question of the need for a Catholic to get permission from the local ordinary to get a civil divorce, I agree with Dr. Peters. Firstly, the civil divorce applied by the State in the mind of the Church is only a means for fixing up some issues regarding the marriage, like money matters. Civil marriage in itself is not considered real marriage for baptized Catholics. If a person truly needs a separation for valid reasons, domestic violence, for instance, I see no reason why he or she should have to get a permisison from the local Ordinary. Traditionally,Catholic moral theology, while inviting the innocent victim of adultery to forgive the culpable one and attempt to maintain the common life, has also allowed the innocent vicitm to separate. There doesn´t have to be an official document of the Magisterium to resolve every matter. That is why a commonly held criterion in moral theology and canon law is to follow the opinion of respected authors who are known for their fidelity to the Church’s Magisterium.

    As for this: “that lawyer’s cooperation results in his or her being guilty of a mortal sin”. Moral theology has a chapter on coopeation in the evil produced by others. There is a distinction between formal and material cooperation, the latter being doing something without which the sin could not have been committed, and this is never allowed. Then material cooperation is divided into remote and proximate. For instance, a janitor in an aboriton clinic would only be remotely cooperating in the evil that goes on there, a nurse who actually works in the operating room would be proimately cooperating, even if she did not agree with the abortion. That would not be allowed. Formal cooperation also involves the intention to cooperate in the evil, as the sin is in the will. In the case of the the lawyer, one would need to examine what kind of cooperation it is. Also scandal may come in. Let us recall what St. Paul said about eating meat sacrificed to idiols. Whilst idols are nothing and thus eating is not in itself forbidden, but if that is going to scandallize a brother who has a not so well formed conscience, St. Paul says he would avooid eating meat., So, I think a Catholic lawyer would do well to consult some of the solidly orthodox canonical and moral theology works, in order to avoid,on the one hand laxity, and on the other rigidity.

    • Hi Thomas, Before you keep agreeing with Peters, please read my rebuttal.

      and read the sources that support my conclusion.

      and consider that virtually all the divorces in states with no-fault divorce are granted on the grounds of the no-fault. The canon law requires the intervention of the Promoter of Justice in all separation of spouses cases. The Church has interest in ensuring that separation plans are in accord with divine law. No relief is available in the civil forum for the innocent victim of an adulterous spouse. No-fault divorce decrees treat the innocent equally to the victim. Consequently, abandoning, adulterous women are empowered to kick out of the marital home a good husband; the husband is ordered to pay adulterous wife money to live with the children in a home where mom and her new adulterous partner live.

  10. “Don’t Catholic lawyers have the right to see canon law enforced…” I would say they have not only the “right” but the “duty”, as do all faithful Catholics.

      • Unfirtunately, it seems far too many dioceses have bought into Modernism and are willing to follow or allow the societal trend of “musical spouses” (or the “Divorce Dance” — if it isn’t working, we’ll just get a divorce). The statistics are that Catholics get divorced as readily as non-Catholics.

    • Mike44R, All Catholics have a right to see canon law enforced, you could say. This is why Ed Peters says that the separation canons must be “symbolic.” What other possible explanation could there be?

  11. this is but ONE AREA of “common good” discussion…it is weak by itself and cannot stand in the face of the monstrous opposition that is out there. MORE AREAS of where the “common good” is at stake need to be identified and linked with this issue of marriage as a pillar of public civil life. Abortion is another similar area where private vs public policy is fudged over with catastrophic results. We are seeing DIVORCE as an equally devastating public institutional SIN, like slavery was, with generational damage extending far and wide into the future. Good article. Should be MANDATORY reading for discussion in all Catholic Law Schools !!!! starting asap.

  12. I agree that the issue can be difficult, but there’s certainly plenty to read on the matter. When it comes to civil divorce, it may be legitimate for Catholics to pursue this for the sake of certain legal consequences, even if they recognize that their own marriage is indeed valid. It is with an eye to this that Catholic lawyers could assist with such a process, though it is more nuanced.

    Father Cappello’s principle on this matter seems to follow the precedent set by the Holy Office on a number of related issues. His work is a little out of date (with the current Code and all), but his work remains an excellent resource in studying canon law and its principles. Besides his scholarship, his sanctity is well-attested and he may some day be a patron saint of canon lawyers.

    • The “renowned canonist” Ed Peters quotes Father Cappello. I quote Alford, Rev. Culvar Bernard, and the paper he gave at Conference of Priests of the Diocese of Albany
      November 3, 1948. Fr. Bernard (with the imprimatur of his bishop) taught with absolute clarity that a party MUST have the permission of the bishop to file for divorce. In Bernard’s day, there were dissenting teachers. Bernard wrote: “Since we so frequently encounter this application of modern philosophy, so utterly contrary both to the traditional concept of Christian marriage and to the doctrine of the Church, it may be well to remind ourselves briefly of the Church’s teaching on the phases of conjugal life embodied in our present case.”

      • I skimmed the article and will take a closer look later. I don’t doubt that Fr. Alford has an erudite take on the matter, though an Imprimatur would not exclude the possibility of other accounts being correct. This question first came to my attention while reading a book from the late 19th century by an S.B. Smith called “The Marriage Process in the United States”. In that book, he names a number of processes that can go before the ecclesiastical tribunal (including separation cases) but then says the only sort of case a tribunal is obliged to hear are those related to nullity of matrimony. So also, it seems an ecclesiastical tribunal could decide to defer to civil courts, or just refuse to hear the case, and so leave it to the civil court.

        I was looking around your website, and I am certainly glad to see all the resources you have available for helping couples renew their marriage as well as for pointing out the pitfalls of no-fault divorce. Nevertheless, it seems pressing the canonical point will not be helpful, for a number of reasons (most of which Peters has already considered). At least one of your articles made a reference to Coccopalmerio’s private response on the matter, and though it is not an Authentic Interpretation, I think his letter falls in line with the jurisprudence and practice of the Roman Rota. I will look around this summer for relevant cases, and if you know of any since 1983, I would certainly be interested in taking a look.

    • Canonical Separation

      1960 Dec. c. Fiore diei 29 nov. 1960
      1971 Dec. c. Bejan diei 13 january 1971
      1952 Dec. c. Felici diei 28 maii 1952 in t. XLIV dec. LIII
      1973 Dec. c. Rogers 23 oct. 1973 nn. 2-3
      1964 Dec. c. De Jorio diei 20 maii 1964
      1976 Dec c. De Jorio diei 15 dec. 1976
      1975 Dec. c Huot diei 17 aprilis 1975
      1974 Dec. c. Ferraro diei 17 dic. 1974
      1968 Dec. c. Canals diei 20 nov. 1968 SRR dec. vol LX p. 762
      1975 Dec. c. Masala Tolosana diei 19 febr. 1975 n. 6
      1967 Dec. c. Lefebvre XIX/1967 n.2 pag. 94
      1965 Dec. XLII/1965 c. Bonet n. 2 p. 256
      1973 Dec. c. De Jorio 18 julii 1973 n. 8
      1929 Dec. LXIII/1929 n. 4
      1962 Dec. XXVII/1962 c. De Jorio n. 3 p. 104
      1932 Dec. c. Jullien diei 13 maii 1932 Dec. XIX in SRR Dec. 1932 t. XXIV p. 171

      1938 Dec. c. Wynen 30 maii 1938
      1948 Dec. c. Heard diei 15 maii 1948
      1957 Dec. c. Pinna 29 oct, 1957 n. 4
      1970 Dec. c. Annè 28 februarii 1970 n. 4
      1987 Dec. c. Stankiewicz 26 februaruu 1987
      1976 Dec. c. Pompedda diei 26 iulii 1976

  13. Just as our Blessed Mother predicted at Akita, the Church will be full of those who compromise. This compromising has pitted cardinal against cardinal and priest against priest and in the Catholic community, laity against laity.
    The compromising is the desire to make the Church lite, to soften the words of the Gospel and to change those that are not pc enough in compassion, acceptance with a loosening of the old tradtitional rigidity of being too Catholic.

  14. As I understand it a Catholic who is seeking an annulment from the Church is required to get a civil divorce first. That is odd to say the least….why not after the annulment is
    granted ? The couples first concern should be their relationship with Christ and his Church. Catholics receive the sacrament of Matrimony witnessed by a priest. The state has a right to know who is married but the state does not marry Catholics. If
    Catholics think their marriage is invalid logic says find out from the Church.

    • “but the state does not marry Catholics.”

      I even question that part at this point. There is not a Catholic priest or bishop in the U.S. that will perform a wedding ceremony and facilitate the Sacrament of marriage without the couple having first obtained a wedding license from the state. Regardless of intent or doctrine, the church has ceded the authority of marriage over to the government in action, if not in spirit.

    • Applicant: My wife (of 25 years and five kids) and I are separated and I’m wondering if our marriage was really valid at all since I was rather immature (only 25 and president of my Parish Council) and she has had needed to see a psychologist.
      Tribunal: Well, first you need to get divorced and then you need to pay $800 and have your friends and family write in detail all of the worst things they can think of about you so we can process the request and determine whether or not your marriage was truly valid.
      Applicant: So I have to get divorced in order to find out if I’m truly married?
      Tribunal: Precisely. Most people find the process to be very “healing” for them.

      (“Healing”? Sounds dystopian to me.)

    • Priests are strictly forbidden to discuss, in reference to any particular situation, an annulment unless there has already been a divorce. And for good reason: A priest would thereby open himself up to a lawsuit for alienation of affection or similar damages.

  15. I wrote a response to Ed Peters complaint about this One Peter Five article.

    Cardinal Coccopalmerio is on one side. Cardinal Raymond Burke is on the other. This is not some abstract esoteric debate that is irrelevant for the average citizen. This controversy centers on whether, or not, children are forcibly deprived of everyday access to a decent parent who promised, before those children were conceived, to be faithful to his spouse. The debate’s resolution will affect whether, or not, residents of a state, through the actions of their civil courts, can gang up on a decent husband to drain his bank account and make him homeless, at the request of his wife who betrayed him and reneged on her marriage promises.

    • Do you have anything in writing from Cdl. Burke refuting or disagreeing with the letter of Coccopalmerio on the issue of interpreting c. 1692? I can readily believe he would invite you to a symposium–you have an interesting take on a controversial issue–but this does not amount to Burke on one side against Coccopalmerio (at least not on this issue).

      As for the debate’s resolution: the factual reality in the United States is that ecclesiastical tribunals have no effects in civil law, and so I do not see how this canonical debate will at all affect the situation you mentioned at the end of your comment. Now in other countries (such as Italy or Malta) where the State accepts ecclesiastical annulments as valid in the civil forum, you are entirely right as to the importance of the consequences with respect to canonical separation.

      One more point worth mentioning: In the previous Code, a woman could not petition for nullity in her proper domicile (if it differed from her husband) unless there had been a prior canonical separation: without the canonical separation, her domicile remained the same as her husband’s, and required her to petition wherever he had domicile. Since in the current Code, spouses have their proper domicile, regardless of the domicile of the other spouse, and also since there is greater latitude with respect to where the case is initiated, canonical separation has less importance in the new Code for these reasons. (This is just a side note of some relevance for understanding the role of canonical separation in the juridical ordering.)

      On your page, there are some references to a Canonist Fr. Dean Perri: perhaps you could ask him to write a more canonical account of these issues, explaining your side of the issue. As many texts as you are familiar with, this is not a substitute for expertise in canon law.

      • To your point, “ecclesiastical tribunals have no effects in civil law,” I have a response. Mary’s Advocates interest is in curbing unilateral no-fault divorce. The US constitution forbids states from making laws infringing on the obligations of parties in a contract. Those who marry in a Catholic ceremony accept the obligations of marriage as defined by our doctrine and canon law. We do not accept the state’s-no-fault-divorce-marriage obligations and rights. When a civil judge purports too have the competence to relieve a plaintiff of the obligations promised in the party’s marriage contact, the civil judge is interfering with the defendants constitutional rights. On our website we invite a defendant to insist the the state stop interfering. Furthermore, we show couples how to sign their marriage promise and create a written record of their marriage agreement. A written record of a contractual agreement is simpler to uphold in civil court. See the “True Marriage Proclamation Set.” The “True Marriage Proclamation Set” was reviewed by Fr. Rocky Hoffman, who has a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome. He’s also the Executive Director of Relevant Radio and he says, “All pastors recognize the need for better preparation for the sacrament of Marriage. The ‘True marriage Proclamation Set’ can be a powerful tool to help spouses deeply consider what they are doing in the presence of God.”

        See “True Marriage Proclamation Set”

        • This is a very interesting angle of approach. I wish you the best with it. I definitely hope this topic is revisited from time to time here.

      • Another concern of Mary’s Advocates is the prevention of the giving of scandal. Every time a professed Catholic spouse abandons a marriage and the Church leadership remains silent, scandal is given to everyone who knows the couple. Silence is viewed as acceptance. The Catechism teaches that divorce is immoral and a grave offense against nature and only tolerable in certain delimited circumstances. Those circumstances are to be judged with the intervention of the Promoter of Justice of the Church, not by a civil no-fault divorce judge. A tribunal judge does not have competence to give a party permission to approach the civil forum.

        Code of Canon Law Annotated. University of Navarra. 2004, shows “Since divorce laws have proliferated in many countries, the need to request the diocesan bishop’s authorization is a necessary precaution, which prevents the fostering of trials whose judgments violate precepts of divine law, to the detriment of the spouses and with the risk of scandal to others” (on canon 1692).

      • Even if the bishop thought that a Church decree of separation of spouses would not have civil effects (which I would debate) this does not mean that the Church is relieve of its obligation to teach the faithful about moral duty. The Church teaches that abortion is wrong, even though the civil forum pretends that a every woman has a right to abort her baby. The Church should teach that marital abandonment is wrong, even though the state pretends that every one has the right to a unilateral no-fault divorce and all the support, property, and parenting orders that accompany it.

        • Indeed. Scripture doesn’t often tell us that God hates something. But it does tell us that He hates divorce.

          • Hi Deacon Augustine. Will you please contact me directly. E-mail I did not see any contact information in your Disqus profile. I’d love to correspond with you in an ongoing basis and tell you about the resources that Mary’s Advocates has developed to help faithful spouses.

          • You’re doing as Bai did – causing grief by generalizing. Please read my post above and tell me that God would be pleased if I had believed what you said and stayed with a man who would have damaged my children morally, spiritually and psychologically? You might find it acceptable to have people stay in a marriage and damage their children’s souls – I would NOT. It was a very experienced priest who finally told me to apply for an annulment; but didn’t patronize or generalize – HE recognized the dangers thank God!

          • “God hates divorce” are the inspired words of the prophet Malachi. They are true and they are not generalizing.

            That doesn’t detract from the fact that sometimes divorce is the only solution for the safety of one of the spouses and/or the children. That doesn’t mean that God will ever love divorce, though. Just as when taking a life can be necessary to defend one’s own life or the life of another, God will still not love the act of killing just because it is justified in a particular case.

          • The Church doesn’t agree with you otherwise I wouldn’t have got an annulment and be free to re-marry!

          • Babs, what is going on in the USA is largely “katholic divorce.” This is why the article mentions “don’t ask, don’t tell.” If questions are answered, the jig is up.

          • Firstly – Malachi has been largely debunked. Secondly – God is perfect Love; it is not POSSIBLE for God to Hate. To say that He hates is Blasphemy.

          • Really??? The last book of the Old Testament has “been largely debunked”? You are either very confused or have been sorely deceived. I will pray for you.

          • I’m talking about the prophecies of the Popes by St Malachi! Please don’t pray for me – I neither need nor want your false piety!

        • Excuse me if I point out with respect that by your blanket condemnation of “Failures” who “abandon” their marriages you cause harm and suffering to people you do not – and never will – meet.
          I am one of those “Failures” who married a man in good faith and with the intention of being married for life only to find out after we were married that he KNEW [ and his mother knew] that he should NEVER have married and was totally and seriously unsuited to married life. I got an annulment from Rome but never had any other relationship or remarried because in spite of the annulment I STILL think marriage is forever. So – before you suggest educating people like me [ and we are legion!] on the sanctity of marriage and the “failures” who abandon that” , do a little more research as I find your glib phraseology and generalizations offensive. Again , although I am annoyed, I mean no malice, but I am upset.

      • In my conclusion to my paper “The Current Marriage Crisis in the Light of the Original Creation and the Code of Canon Law” I asked that canonists, and theologians would start writing about the common reasons for separation of spouses and start instructing the faithful of separation plans that would be in accord with divine law. It would be great if Cardinal Burke would write a treaty on the whole issue, but as you can guess, he doesn’t report to me. Neither does Fr. Dean Perri. L.O.L.

      • You’re putting the cart before the horse. The issue isn’t whether the state accepts an ecclesiastical declaration of nullity to secure the merely “civil effects” of a legal separation (though some would have us believe that). The issue boils down to the fact that a large number of married Catholics are abandoning their marriages on less than justifiable grounds, thereby sinning and causing grave harm to their children.

        A sacramental marriage is an “ecclesial reality” within the Church and should be governed as such. Canon law has for its ultimate objective the salvation of souls; it exists to protect the faithful, not throw them to the wolves. “When one of you has a grievance against a brother, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? (1 Cor 6:1)” Cf. Aquinas, ST, Supp 62, 3.

      • To your statement, “In the previous Code, a woman could not petition for nullity in her proper domicile (if it differed from her husband) unless there had been a prior canonical separation: without the canonical separation, her domicile remained the same as her husband’s, and required her to petition wherever he had domicile” I have a comment.

        In the old code a woman could not petition for nullity unless there had been a prior canonical separation. In the new code neither party can petition for nullity without a prior canonical separation. A party could petition for both canonical separation and canonical nullity simultaneously.

    • Keep up the good work, Bai. Divorce is a plague that harms everyone, but especially children. Catholics don’t really seem to understand that their marriage isn’t simply a private arrangement, which they can tinker with at will. The most realistic analogy would be that of a religious order.

      • Hi Juris Doctor, from your Discus profile, I see you are a lawyer living in Portland. Are you in any position to help me keep up the good work, by financially supporting it? I’ve been working full time on Mary’s Advocates for two years and survive month to month on donations. There is no long-term funding program – simply the Grace of God inspiring those who want me to keep going. Can we correspond via Email

        • I’d be happy to chat more with you via email (incidentally, I believe you’ve already emailed my wife!). But don’t let the J.D. fool you. I am not a practicing attorney (long story) but the head of just one more struggling single-income domestic church. But I’d be happy to help as time or resources permit.

  16. Good points, and a much needed perspective. The “concordat theory” strikes me as perfectly backwards, since wouldn’t we expect the Church to insist on applying the separation canons precisely in those nations whose laws are not in accord with the natural law? Wouldn’t the Church want to protect her children from an unjust legal system that promotes the legal fiction that we can simply cut the baby in half? If Catholics don’t take marriage seriously, no one will.

    • Juris D, perfect response. Coccopalmerio n company serve the law inside out and everyone is so brainwashed that they say “OK.” Repeat after me: “there is no contract..there is no contract..”

  17. CT Rossi, Bai Macfarlane and Dr Peters: I have a question I hope you all of you can answer. It should be a simple question to answer, I’d think…

    Since the process may involve a civil divorce BEFORE a Bishop may even be informed of trouble, it does indeed appear as if one may get civilly divorced before they {can} find out from the Church if their marriage was valid in the first place. In fact, by some statements, it appears this almost MUST occur.

    So, I have a question:

    How many cases occur where a civil divorce is first obtained after which the Church then rules said civilly-dissolved marriage to be a valid marriage in the first place?

    I submit that this number will shed much light on how independent of the civil order the Church is operating.

  18. Mr. Rossi, I am glad that a lawyer is concerned about mortal sin in regard to Catholics divorcing.

    Actually Catholics commit a lot of mortal sins, ostensibly, before they contact a lawyer. They are not reminded, for example, that it’s a mortal sin in most cases to refuse conjugal relations, which is the only right they exchange when they marry.

    They have been misled to believe that their “relationship” is what counts, and if it’s not happy or successful or fulfilling, they can separate by kicking the other spouse out of the house (often like the Gestapo knocking on the door in the middle of the night), file for divorce, petition for nullity, and get on with dating.

    “The church” is there to help with the diabolical process of breaking up a family, but “the church” has nothing to offer the children in the next room crying themselves to sleep night after night because they just want mommy and daddy back together.

    Mr. Rossi, please keep demanding a Catholic lawyer’s right to know when he should not be helping this sickening plague on society. Jesus said that a woman is not to leave her husband, and if she does, she’s either to return to him or spend the rest of her life alone. There aren’t any other choices.

    • Unless he was never her “husband” to begin with, which is what the Church rules on. The Church decides whether a sacramental marriage even occurred. And if they have not decided against, then the marriage remains fact.

      This, I assume, is the point of this “lawyer’s dilemma”: the conflict between his legal practice of facilitating civil separation against the sacramental reality of continued marriage as seen through God’s eyes, upon which we will all be judged.

      Individual Catholics, married persons or their divorce attorneys, do not get to make this decision themselves.

        • Which is a sacrament.

          Yes. They judge whether a marriage actually occurred. If it did, then no man, even a divorce attorney, can unbind that sacrament. And if a divorce attorney does, then he is placing himself in a precarious spiritual position. I empathize with this dilemma.

          • A marriage is a sacrament if both parties are baptized. It’s a marriage (presumed) if one or both is not baptized. The huge problem in America is that tribunals declare marriages invalid on grounds that the parties didn’t know about when they were married.

            One Respondent was told by the tribunal judge that Exclusion of Partnership might be used in his case. He never heard of such a thing. Who has?

            He was told that things like not helping with the housework might be evidence. Would he have done the dishes and vacuumed like crazy if he had known? Silliness, I know.

            But back to the lawyers’ problem with complicity in sin. If divorce is stopped before it happens, petitioning for nullity might be very rare. So Mr. Rossi’s cause is important.

          • My takeaway is that divorce should be extremely rare for Catholics. And Catholic divorce attorneys should be extremely cautious for the sake of their souls.

    • So if a Catholic woman is happy to have conjugal relations with a non-Catholic husband but HE refuses because he won’t have another child, and he won’t use male contraceptives – but he insists that SHE take the Pill or get out of the bedroom – ACCORDING TO YOU – SHE is committing ONE mortal sin because she won’t sleep with him OR another mortal sin by taking the Pill in order to keep him happy?……….Sorry but you need to get real here!

      • Catholics are told that everyone can use contraceptives. No problem. The Church actually teaches that no one can, but do you think that teaching is going to get any attention?

        No, Catholics have exactly the Church they have demanded. They can use the internal forum of their individual consciences for whatever it is that they think they need.

        Pope Francis has assured us that no one goes to hell ( A.L. # 297), and there is no reason for you or anyone else to be upset at the minority of us who would like the official teachings of the Church to be preached, taught, and enforced.

        That is not going to happen.

        Unless God intervenes in some mysterious way as, He did on November 8, 2016, in the USA.

        But I think that you can sleep well.

        • Ah, but I am a cradle Catholic. Contraception isn’t an option. I believe the True Church teaching – not the sinful move-with-the-times version.

  19. Hi, Bai — I understand your statements.

    I was instead responding to the immediately previous post to mine, by “Dom’nic.” He offered *grossly inaccurate* information, essentially stating that none but a *Catholic* marriage ceremony results in a “valid” marriage under the Code of Canon Law. Further, he stated that sexually active *non-Catholics* who marry in a *non-Catholic* ceremony are, in fact, engaged in “fornication.” This is certainly an incorrect statement of canon law and Catholic teaching.

  20. I am not sure that it is clear to folks that there is a difference between the person being abandoned and the person actively filing for divorce.
    When a divorce is caused by pure selfishness, when the divorce results in abandonment and impoverishing the wife for instance, when the divorce results in parentless children devoid of a home life because the husband has left for a younger model, how can THAT not be a sin? When angry control-freak sneaky wives abandon their faithful loving husbands, unjustly take the children, how can THAT not be a sin!?

    Instead of using exceptions to prove why divorce isn’t always bad, why don’t we look at the zillions of worst case scenarios and see the sin?

    Certainly marrying out of the Church is wrong. ‘Taking’ the Sacraments unworthily is even worse. But to abandon the spouse for selfish reasons, that is a sin too!

    Self-examination is warranted here. Wouldn’t you want your bishop to say “yea you have a reason, its okay” or “I see no just reason for this marriage to be abandoned”. Why willingly take on the guilt?

    • Tina, all voices are telling them “it’s your decision.” “divorce is not a sin if your conscience is clear,” etc. When did the Church give a spouse or the state the right to set terms of permanent separation?

      • I’m with ya John!
        We can no longer depend on just laws to uphold family protections. For instance I know an individual whose father was thrown into the local jail for “lack of support” – the man drank all their money away, frequently lost his job due to alcoholism, and his family went hungry, couldn’t pay the rent, not enough clothes, etc – but that was back in the day. That wasn’t even a divorce situation!
        When morality is no longer fashionable, we should be able to depend on the Church as a last resort. Instead the mores of our broken society have washed over the Church and overshadows its old disciplines.
        One side says its not a sin because they are using the ‘good’ exceptions for the rule, rather than looking at all the evils that cause the selfish sinful types of divorce.
        I really don’t understand why this is so hard to accept.

        • Hard to accept b/c we’ve been doing it wrong since the Beatles and the does not seem to be any bishop who will face the music and flip the boat over. All are brainwashed – “divorce is just civil effects – not our jurisdiction.” Huge lie. The lie is so entrenched that nobody can get past the guards to expose it.

  21. When the focus went from the raising and protection of children to the happiness of the spouses, suddenly divorce can be explained away.


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