Roman Catholic Divorce Issues

It is the joy and curse of being Roman Catholic that your faith remains in a fishbowl. This is no more true with respect to any issue than with divorce. There is no shortage of media discussion of the approach Roman Catholic priests and lay persons take to divorce, annulment, and remarriage.

For a look at all the faith perspectives available, click here.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has an informative web site. Check out their page on the Metropolitan Tribunal. It has lots of information about annulment. You could also check out the New Advent Catholic Supersite, which has a good collection of articles.

Here’s a paper on Remarriage in the Church (including a description of something called the “Internal Forum”) from the Association for Rights of Catholics in the Church.

Here’s a site called that strives to help Catholics deal with all kinds of thorny issues, including marriage, divorce, and annulment.

You may want to check out the North American Conference of Separated and Divorced Catholics, which says it strives to “make known Christ’s abundant love so that all who suffer from separation and divorce might experience healing, reconciliation and new life.” You won’t find extensive resources available on the web site, but you will find information about the organization.

Here’s a page for a similar organization in the U.K. The U.K. organization’s page includes this message, which is important enough that I’d like everyone using this page to read it:

To all separated and divorced Catholics
The Church wants you to know that you have never ceased to belong, whatever your circumstances. The Pope and the Bishops have emphasised this.

You matter – we care. 

We want to help you do everything possible to come out of the isolation you may be experiencing. If you feel the need to heal the hurt, we want to help you along with all of us to achieve the healing you desire.

Each of our self-help groups has a spiritual adviser. We welcome you and we start from where you are. It does not matter what you feel your position is with regard to the Church. Experience shows that it is a great help to be in the company of others like yourself. They understand; they do not judge.

You can contact us in complete confidence. If there is no group near you, we can still offer support through our helpline

There’s a wonderful, and I think comforting, article in the Los Angeles Times on March 3, 1997. The title of the article is “Butting Heads with the Pope,” and it lays out the struggles Catholics around the world are having as they try to reconcile the pronouncements from Rome with the world in which they live, work, and suffer. The article is copyrighted, so it wouldn’t be legal or fair for me to reproduce it here. It’s in the Life & Style section, Part E, Page 1.

The gist of the article is that, though many Catholics disagree with the teachings of their church when it comes to sensitive issues like divorce or birth control, they must deal faithfully with those teachings and cannot simply laugh them off or ignore them. Particularly painful to many Catholics is the Church’s position that Catholics who divorce and remarry without benefit of the lengthy, painful, and costly process of annulment may not receive the Eucharist — may not take communion.

The article describes one parishioner’s conversation with her priest in which the priest heard her struggle and then told her, “You have punished yourself long enough. Receive Communion every Sunday. God has forgiven you.” The article describes what it calls a “radically individualized American Catholic culture,” in which each Catholic wrestles with the tough moral issues on his or her own in consultation with his or her priest.

The Vatican has tightened the requirements for annulment, in a move designed primarily to make annulments harder to obtain in the U.S. Here’ the entry on the changes from my blog, dated 2/9/05.

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