Divorced: Getting A Little Personal: UPDATED

UPDATED: Pope Francis today spoke to reporters aboard the Papal Plane – He responded to a question about divorced and remarried catholics.  I think it’s fascinating and important.  I’m updating this post because it got so many views and the words of the Holy Father may be helpful:

On giving the Sacraments to remarried divorcees

“This is an ongoing issue. I think this is the time to show mercy. Times have changed and the Church faces many problems, partly because of the negative testimonies of certain priests. Clericalism has caused a lot of wounds and these wounds need to be healed with mercy. The Church is a mother and in the Church we need to be merciful towards everyone. We shouldn’t just wait for the wounded to come to us, we need to go out and search for them. I think the time for mercy has come as John Paul II predicted by introducing the Feast of Divine Mercy. Divorced people can take communion, it is those who have divorced and remarried that cannot. Here I must add that the orthodox follow the theology of economics and allow second marriages. When the commission of eight cardinals meets at the beginning of October we will discuss how to proceed. The Church is taking a very close look at pastoral initiatives for marriage. My predecessor in Buenos Aires, Cardinal Quarracino always used to say: “I consider half of today’s marriages to be invalid because people get married without realising it means forever. They do it out of social convenience, etc…” The issue of invalidity needs to be looked into as well.”

Read the translation of the entire “press conference” here.

Things got a little personal at the end of my Masses this weekend.  You see, it was a “deacon preach” weekend, which meant I wasn’t able to preach on the beauty and permanence of Marriage.  The deacons I must say, preached beautifully about life (This is respect life Sunday) and about marriage.  But as I was listening to the readings and the Gospel I thought that there may be a number of people who felt uncomfortable at hearing these words:

Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”  In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.  He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

My own parents were divorced around the time I was fifteen years old.  I thought of them and I thought of the countless others who have gone through the difficult and painful experience of divorce.  Marriage is meant to be forever – but sometimes it just doesn’t work.  The Church recognizes that, the church empathizes with those who carry this heavy cross.

After the Post-Communion Prayer I offered a few words to the congregation about this.  I spoke to them about the difficulty that so many of our fellow Catholics have hearing these words from the Gospel.   Divorce is unfortunately a reality in our world.  I told the congregation that I know this reality first hand, as my own parents went through such an experience.  But the divorce for my parents wasn’t the end of the story.  Through the gentle encouragement of a kind priest my parents went through the annulment process.  It was probably the most healing experience that could have happened to my family.

So many people misunderstand the Church’s teaching of divorce, annulments and remarriage.  I encouraged those in the congregation to speak to me or another priest about getting an annulment to help move on with their lives.  I’ve heard of so many people staying away from the Eucharist because they are divorced and as a result cannot receive communion.  NO!  Divorce in and of itself is not a sin, is not a reason to stay away from the Eucharist.  Being remarried outside of the Church would be a reason one should not receive Holy Communion.  The Church recognizes the difficulty that so many people have when it comes to this area of life.  She stands ready to assist those who are in pain.

Please pass these words on to those who are struggling with this reality right now. Divorce is an ugly, painful experience.  It should always be a last resort.  But it is something that is sometimes unavoidable.  This reality doesn’t change the Church’s teaching on the beauty and permanence of marriage.  It enhances the fact that the Church is mother and is home.  No one should ever unnecessarily feel separated from her.  The Church helped my family – and in helping my family it became clear just how much the Church is my family too.

Of Interest: 

Pope Benedict spoke on Marriage during his homily for the openening of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.

The theme of marriage, found in the Gospel and the first reading, deserves special attention. The message of the word of God may be summed up in the expression found in the Book of Genesis and taken up by Jesus himself: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24; Mk 10:7-8). What does this word say to us today? It seems to me that it invites us to be more aware of a reality, already well known but not fully appreciated: that matrimony is a Gospel in itself, a Good News for the world of today, especially the dechristianized world. The union of a man and a woman, their becoming “one flesh” in charity, in fruitful and indissoluble love, is a sign that speaks of God with a force and an eloquence which in our days has become greater because unfortunately, for various reasons, marriage, in precisely the oldest regions evangelized, is going through a profound crisis. And it is not by chance. Marriage is linked to faith, but not in a general way. Marriage, as a union of faithful and indissoluble love, is based upon the grace that comes from the triune God, who in Christ loved us with a faithful love, even to the Cross. Today we ought to grasp the full truth of this statement, in contrast to the painful reality of many marriages which, unhappily, end badly. There is a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage. And, as the Church has said and witnessed for a long time now, marriage is called to be not only an object but a subject of the new evangelization. This is already being seen in the many experiences of communities and movements, but its realization is also growing in dioceses and parishes, as shown in the recent World Meeting of Families.

Read the entire homily here.

Check out the USCCB’s fantastic website For Your Marriage to enhance your marriage and to help gain some understanding on the Church’s teachings of marriage.

  • David

    It seems somewhat inconsistent on the part of the church to acknowledge divorce as a reality while at the same time it fights marriage equality. Just as with pro-life issues, we need to be consistent from womb to tomb including issues like the death penalty. The church needs to work as voraciously to outlaw divorce as they do to slow marriage equality. Or, maybe that would just be to much for the faithful to accept so the church only chooses to focus on the relatively small number of folks seeking marriage equality within out society. All that said, I applaud your efforts to make sure that the divorced in your parish feel welcome. Next up the the LGBT community?

    • Fr. Michael F. Duffy

      No one in the Church wants to outlaw divorce. The LGBT community is always welcome in the church – but that doesnt mean the church will water down her teaching on human sexuality. The Church may say no to same sex “marriage”, but she always says yes to the individual who is made in the image and likeness of God. See this youtube clip

      • Ted Seeber

        I saw this comment all last week and held my tongue- but the first sentence really bothers me. “No one in the Church wants to outlaw divorce.”

        I for one would like to outlaw divorce as we know it. We still need to protect abused spouses, but serial monogamy often leads women to picking the wrong men over and over again. And there is always great danger to the children from step parents- the “evil step mother” trope in fairy tales is there for a reason.

        Wouldn’t it be far better if we had a community that supported marriage?

  • http://recoveredcatholic.com Christina

    As a Catholic revert, I can attest to the difficulty that some have when hearing this Gospel reading. Unfortunately, my parents have left the Church and regularly cite their disagreement with annulments as one of the reasons they left. My mom is very bitter about her own parents’ divorce and insists that the Church sees her as an illegitimate child. No matter how much I try to explain the Church’s position to the contrary, she refuses to hear me out.

    Our priest has delivered beautiful homilies on this subject in recent months. I wish my mom was there to hear them!

  • nora

    Thanks for the reassurance about divorce. I certainly did feel alienated after Mass this morning

  • Marie

    Father, The Catechism states that divorce is a grave offense. Please don’t spread the fallacy that it is not. There is no question that people who are divorced need to be ministered to, but Pope Benedict would point us to the Catechism beforehand concerning the effect of divorce on the instigator of it, the innocent spouse, the children involved, and society as a whole.

    • Fr. Michael F. Duffy

      Marie – no where do I indicate that divorce is not a bad thing. It is however, as a I said in my post and Pope Benedict said this morning, an unfortunate reality – and Holy Mother Church understands that and is cognizant of that reality. Thus the availability of annulments. I know of no moral theologian who would say that divorce should keep one away from the Sacraments.

      Please see Familiaris Consortio number 83:

      83. Various reasons can unfortunately lead to the often irreparable breakdown of valid marriages. These include mutual lack of understanding and the inability to enter into interpersonal relationships. Obviously, separation must be considered as a last resort, after all other reasonable attempts at reconciliation have proved vain.

      Loneliness and other difficulties are often the lot of separated spouses, especially when they are the innocent parties. The ecclesial community must support such people more than ever. It must give them much respect, solidarity, understanding and practical help, so that they can preserve their fidelity even in their difficult situation; and it must help them to cultivate the need to forgive which is inherent in Christian love, and to be ready perhaps to return to their former married life.

      The situation is similar for people who have undergone divorce, but, being well aware that the valid marriage bond is indissoluble, refrain from becoming involved in a new union and devote themselves solely to carrying out their family duties and the responsibilities of Christian life. In such cases their example of fidelity and Christian consistency takes on particular value as a witness before the world and the Church. Here it is even more necessary for the Church to offer continual love and assistance, without there being any obstacle to admission to the sacraments.

      • Karl

        If a spouse abandoned their marriage and has no intention to work to heal it. That spouse should not take communion. The priest who advises them XXXXXXXXXX

        • Fr. Michael F. Duffy

          Karl I will not allow you to malign the priesthood in this comment thread. You are right however, that married couples have a responsibility to work towards fixing their marriage. But look to Familiaris Consortio – Written by BLESSED Pope John Paul II

          “The situation is similar for people who have undergone divorce, but, being well aware that the valid marriage bond is indissoluble, refrain from becoming involved in a new union and devote themselves solely to carrying out their family duties and the responsibilities of Christian life. In such cases their example of fidelity and Christian consistency takes on particular value as a witness before the world and the Church. Here it is even more necessary for the Church to offer continual love and assistance, without there being any obstacle to admission to the sacraments.

          • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

            Karl does have a point, though I don’t always agree with how he states it. I do think it is noteworthy that in a zeal to show compassion to (most typically) women who frivolously divorce their husbands (in a much smaller percentage of cases it goes the other way), the Church has a strong tendency to ignore the victim of the crime. The Church does this by giving the frivorcing spouse an easy annulment and permission to marry her lover, among other things.

            I’m reminded, in an odd way, of St. Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli. The cause for St Maria Goretti’s canonization could not proceed until Alessandro had admitted to his crime; otherwise it would be tantamount to the Church finding Alessandro guilty of murder, even though he protested his innocence. Yet the Church annuls the marriages of frivorcing spouses regularly against the will of the objecting spouse, in effect accusing the upright spouse of entering into an invalid marriage. It is no wonder that so many frivolously divorced men end up leaving the Church after such an atrociously unjust experience.

        • MsDiva68 .

          A lie can never be “healing.” Plain and simple. The rest is all rambling dross.

      • James

        I am not a theologian but I am fairly confident of my knowledge of annulments. An annulment means that the marriage never actually happened. An example would be if one person had false intentions, like lying about wanting children. Another case would be if the couple was married before they understood what they were doing. But these reasons do not allow any marriage to be dissolved. Trouble down the road does not mean that the marriage was not originally sanctified.

        If the couple had a good marriage for years and at some point it “just didn’t work out” then it is probably the case that they were truly married. In this case it is a mortal sin for the couple to willingly be separated. Obviously the husband cannot control the wife so if they are separated against the husband’s will he is not in mortal sin. However, the only thing he can do is try to repair the marriage. He may not marry again because he is already married. Doing so is itself a mortal sin, just as Jesus said in last week’s reading.

        I hope I don’t come across as too negative but this is Dogma. If you think any divorce can be turned into an annulment then you are a modernist and anathema. Only in special cases is an annulment applicable.

        • Fr. Michael F. Duffy

          James, it is not up to you or to me to decide which marriages that end badly can receive an annulment. Only the tribunal of the diocese or the Rota may decide that. But one would not know if they may receive an annulment unless they apply for it. MY point is that for those marriages that are beyond repair, the annulment PROCESS can be a healing one. Even if one is not awarded. Please use caution when declaring someone “modernist and anathema.”

          • bob

            Interesting post, thanks.
            I have a handful of questions if you have time to answer them.
            I’m curious to know what percentage of US annulment applications are ultimately approved? Does anyone keep data on that? I’m of the impression that most annulments are denied and that unless you can demonstrate bad faith on one part or the other, you chances are slim. But perhaps this impression is false.
            I also think a post on the annulment process itself may be of use. You say it is a useful process regardless of how it turns out. I’d be interested in knowing what standards are applied to evaluating the applications, and what actually happens during the process. (Could be a future post.)
            Finally, that person’s remark about the “legitimacy” of children born in non-sanctified marriages got me wondering: What is the church’s view of such children, and more importantly, does the church advocate that an “adulterer” — a person who divorces, and fails to get an annulment, then remarries — should leave his current marriage and return to his former spouse, even if there are children in the new marriage?
            I know it’s a lot. Any insight you offer is most appreciated.

          • Fr. Michael F. Duffy

            Bob – I do not know the answers to your questions – It is my impression that most of the annulments that are applied for are granted. There may be specific data, I do not have it, nor do I know where it would be. A child is a child of god – born in or out of wedlock. First – no one can ever be illegitimate in the eyes of a God who willed that person into being. Catholic Update answered this very question:

            The parents, now divorced, presumably once obtained a civil license and entered upon a legal marriage. Children from that union are, therefore, their legitimate offspring. Legitimate means —legal.— The civil divorce and the Church annulment do not alter this situation. Nor do they change the parents— responsibility toward the children. In fact, during annulment procedures the Church reminds petitioners of their moral obligation to provide for the proper upbringing of their children.

            I dont know how the Church would respond to your last question. If the first marriage was never annulled then they are bound by that marriage bond. The second “marriage” would be invalid in the eyes of the Church. having children from the second relationship would not change the fact of the first marriage bond. That situation would need to be dealt with very carefully and pastorally.

          • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

            When I looked into this a few years ago the data I found was the opposite of your expectations: most annulments were granted. As I observed at the time, we probably have to conclude that either a very large percentage of marriages are invalid or that there is something very wrong with the annulment process. I don’t pretend to know which.


          • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

            On the other hand, this also old and much better researched article casts doubt on there being a problem with the tribunals:


            It would be great is someone researched this to give us a better idea of the objective state of affairs.

        • Thomas R

          As I understood it “separation”, not divorce, could be allowed even in cases where annulment was not an option. As long as neither part of the separated couple engages in any romantic/sexual adultery type actions. At least I seem to recall reading of Catholics, in ye olden days, who physically separated from their spouse and lived basically as spinsters.

          • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

            A permanent separation may be the best of bad options in some cases, even where the marriage is a valid one. In such a case, one spouse may use the legal benefits of marriage to continue to oppress or abuse the other, especially economically or with regard to raising any children they may have. In such a case, if I understand it correctly (few matters in the Church are as complicated as marriage), the Church acknowledges that a civil divorce may be permitted to protect oneself and/or one’s children. But the Church does not acknowledge that the sacramental marriage is thereby dissolved; only that the legal and civil ties are dissolved.

            Also, there is the rare case of the “Josephite marriage” in which a couple marries, but vows never to consummate the marriage for reasons of piety. This may account for some, at least, of the historical cases you have heard of.

      • Louise

        But Father, with all possible respect, I think it is important that we not suggest that annulments are merely Catholic divorce. It is entirely possible that a divorcing couple may be in an invalid marriage, and thus may be entitled to an annulment, but it is just as possible that for many divorcing couples, their marriage was valid and no annulment is possible. Of course, everyone who is divorced and remarried should look into annulments but i think we need to be wary of implying that it’s as simple as get divorced, get annulment, get remarried. I notice this has been mentioned, so I should add I’m not calling anyone anathema ;). But I do think this is something to be careful of, just because I live in an area with very few Catholics, and one of the first charges made by those who dislike Catholicism is that we are hypocrites because we don’t allow divorce but we have annulments.

        • Fr. Michael F. Duffy

          You are right, Annulments do not apply to every divorced couple. For those marriages that are deemed valid the Church would call the couple to either work out the issues, or to live chastely, separately (still married) as their situation would warrant.

  • Virginia

    Why bother getting an annulment, if I know I’ll never remarry? After 27 years of marriage, my husband not only cheated on me, but got the woman pregnant!!! Do you think I can ever completely trust another man, ever again???

    • bob

      Not all men are your estranged husband.
      In fact, only your husband is your husband. I appreciate that what he did has created some trust issues for you, but you do yourself no favors by allowing yourself to become embittered and hardened against all men.

    • Sophia

      Amen…! The Church does not help with this aspect of the difficulty faced by an innocent spouse who’s not only abondoned but also left with a life in ruins and a shattered ability to trust. The availability of annulments does NOTHING to effect, prevent, or even minimize the damage! Usually, they ignor such things because they are basically handled and viewed by the Church in the same manner as a “no fault” divorce…in otherwords, with an “I’m OK, You’re OK” mentality…”nothing’s really happening that’s wrong; it just didn’t work out”. Whether acknowledged or not, even when divorce is absolutely necessary for the protection of the innocent, no one involved is OK (as in, unharmed) when there is a divorce.
      When my marriage was in trouble and my husband and I both turned to the Church, particularly seeking out priests faithful to Church teaching thinking they would certainly be concerned and interested in helping to save the marriage, the message was: go get your divorce and when it’s all over come back and we’ll help you get an annulment. It was at that point that my husband gave up and set himelf on a course of distruction…to himself, to our marriage, and to me. That path of distruction in the end lead to his death …and all along, rather than help with the devasting problems at hand, my parish priest and others in the Church that I turned to, treated me like I was overreacting and being stubborn about not wanting a divorce…reasoning that an annulment was the way to bring healing to the situation and a divorce was the necessary first step towards annulment. GEEZ!!! What a convoluted and horrible way to treat someone in trouble. (So, we don’t believe in divorce, but we do believe in annulment; and you have to get a divorce to get an annulment, so basically we must do something we don’t believe in in order to …blah, blah, blah…how convoluted and confusing is that!?!) All an annulment would have done in my case was make me “legally” free to marry again in the Church. I wanted help for my marriage and my husband, not a way out. The message to me/us was loud and clear: The Church believes in the sacredness of marriage, just not mine/ours! The Church believes in the sacrednes of human life/persons, just not mine or my husband’s! I got a divorce against my will. I did not want or seek an annulment. When my husband died I knew in my heart and soul that I lost him in the only way I was ever meant to…and it was all so very sad…for him most of all and for me! Thank God, I’m OK now…but my husband is dead. An annulment would not have changed that for him…nor would it have wiped away the hell I went through alone. Time has healed that. Though legally free to marry in the Church I too would find it very hard to trust again. I most definitley would find it near impossible to trust the Church if I were ever to consider marrying again.
      I believe that the notion that annulments are “healing” is a great myth! Time heals and the love and support of others who value individual persons as persons worthly of love and support, heals. Divorce happens…and sometimes it is absolutely necessary. But annulments don’t heal that; they simply make one “legally” free to remarry while at the same time denying the sacredness of …even the existence of… another marriage. How can that help to heal the widespread prevailence of broken marriages in our culture? How can one know and trust in the sacredness and validity of any given marriage? According to the logic of annulments, one first has to get divorced to find out!!!!!!! That’s a convoluted and horrible thing to be promoting as a “pastoral” measure in the name of healing! It’s foolish and it’s a cop-out and it stinks!!!

  • http://www.DaleAllan.com Dale

    Dear Fr. Duffy,
    Great article – thank you! My parents were also divorced when I was a teenager, and like you, I saw the pain this caused them. This weekend at mass, our deacon did a great job describing the compassion and forgiveness of Christ. Christians should recall that when Jesus was being unmercifully crucified on a cross, he pleaded, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” As sinners, which we all are, we should stop judging, start repenting, and remember that we are so blessed to have a forgiving God.

  • Ryan

    Fr. Duffy, thank you for reiterating the themes of this Sunday’s gospel.

    As a newly divorced father of 4 children, of which I have primary custody, I have needed help from every avenue. I have found quite a bit of support from my parish priest who echoed exactly these sentiments when I went to him with my story. I was shocked when he said leaving my wife was the right thing to do.

    Getting the divorce was the right thing to do. My ex-wife was a terrible influence on the children, and caused much more harm than good. After she left us and the children, my children are doing better in school and becoming more responsible. I am finding it challenging to keep my household running, my kids involved in school, but the broad support of the Church has been unexpected, incredible, and very touching.

    Although a religious marriage can never be broken, there are many reasons why a “legal” marriage can and should be ended. In my opinion, we should avoid the confusion and controversy and just rename the legal definition of marriage to something else altogether. Two people who do nothing more than sign a piece of paper in front of a judge shouldn’t be allowed to call themselves married.

    • Ted Seeber

      ” I was shocked when he said leaving my wife was the right thing to do.

      Getting the divorce was the right thing to do. My ex-wife was a terrible influence on the children, and caused much more harm than good.”

      If she was that insane, why did you not commit her to a mental institution instead of getting the divorce?

      If she was merely a sinner, why not recommend the Sacrament of Reconciliation instead of recommending a divorce?

      MANY unanswered questions there- did nobody fight for the “one flesh”?

      • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

        @Ted – Many unanswered questions, for which a public blog’s combox is not the proper forum to ask, much less answer.

        Unless we know Ryan directly, (which I do not,) we are in no position to fight for the one flesh union, or to advise him on courses of action that may or may not be available to him. What we do know is that he sought the best counsel he could, and made what he believed to be the best decision according to his responsibility as a husband and father.

        We can argue about abstract hypotheticals till the proverbial return of the bovine, but with regard to a particular man’s decision, we must recognize the limits of our knowledge, our ability, and our responsibility. Ultimately, we must trust the grace of God to bring all things to good for those who love him and seek his will.

        • Ted Seeber

          I don’t do hypotheticals. I do reality in accord with the teachings of the church.

          Let no man separate what God has brought together. And when a man and woman are joined in Holy Matrimony- they become a new person. Why are we as quick to kill the married person?

          Then again, this is the culture of death- and the Way of Death, isn’t it.

  • Ted Seeber

    I am convinced that at-will divorce is a greater evil than physical spousal abuse and when children are involved, is in and of itself a form of child abuse.

    To that end, I tell my wife if I ever become violently abusive, I would rather be committed to an insane asylum than be divorced.

    No-Fault divorce was the start. Then came the “Summer of Love” which separated sex from pro-creation. Then came the genocide of 54 million of our fellow GenX, GenY, and Millennial Generation Americans. Anybody who thinks these events are not connected, is not thinking in reason.

    Having said that- *every sinner deserves forgiveness* and the ability to be forgiven. I see no reason to keep such sinners away from the sacraments. But let us not pretend that there is nothing horribly wrong with the assumption that a marriage can go bad.

    • Sophia

      Well said, Ted! Thank you!

  • http://www.lutzlaw.com Eric Szvoboda

    Wonderful article! Thank you for sharing all of this openly with us. I wish you the best in your life!

  • Marie

    I would love to pass this along to a friend or two, but some of the bitter comments take away from the otherwise comforting message of the article.

  • ajesquire

    Father, it’s nice to hear actual COMPASSION from a Catholic blogger. The tone of the comments to your post is no surprise.

  • Pingback: Its all Greek to me « Zippy Catholic()

  • Karl

    It is blatent HERESY to claim that a marriage is broken beyond repair.
    A marriage never breaks. People sin! Or they die.

    I am sick of priests like you spouting garbage.

    Retract that statement, here in public or tell me who your bishop is?
    If you will not retract it, I will forward it to him and demand he
    addresses it with you and requires you to retract/refute it in public,
    here, to address the scandal made by a priest!


    • Ailina

      Wow, Karl. I was married to a man who never thought marriage was really meant to be a permanent institution. He lied when he spoke his wedding vows. He lied throughout our marriage. He felt he had the right to bed other women while he was married to me, and told me so, after I stumbled upon evidence of his unfaithfulness. He would regularly abandon the children and me while he went off to have his fun. He put our lives in danger due to his association with people who were dangerous. to the point where the police had to become involved. I would call that a non-marriage, a marriage broken beyond repair.

      • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

        I don’t think Karl is describing a universal phenomenon or claiming that all marriages are valid. If he is describing a real and pervasive phenomenon, that doesn’t make it about you. But he can speak for himself, of course.

        • Ailina

          No, it isn’t about me. However, I know of enough people who’ve stuck in marriages that caused even worse problems down the road.

          • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

            So you are all in favor of divorce for some people, then?

  • Karl

    Bob Vasoli’s book about annulments exposed this mess 15 years ago.

    I know numerous Catholics who have seen what priests do to support
    adultery and encourage divorce. It is a fact. I do not traffic in
    falsehood. It does not matter if there are great numbers being
    wronged. The Church should address accusations such as mine and
    those I know, by employing independent people to look into them.

    The Catholic Church cannot police itself in these matters. That is


    • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

      Thanks for the book recommendation, Karl.

  • The Rev. Robert Plested

    ” Marriage is meant to be forever – but sometimes it just doesn’t work.”
    Greetings, Fr. Duffy,
    I want to add to your great comments, and fill a couple of spaces that I saw in the response your writing evoked.

    Marriage is not for ever, unless one is a Mormon. The standard for marriage- the point at which all who marry should aim- is that it be as long as both partners live, and as the Anglican Book of Common Prayer states, “Until we are parted by death.” A marriage ends when one partner dies. The other is free to then take a new partner, if one is desired and needed. Traditional doctrines concerning marriage also accept the concept of nullity based on sme very precisely described elements that existed prior to the blessing of the union. However, one must also consider that civil law as well as Canon Law are both included in marriages. Civil law says that people may divorce, and no fault need be attributed to either party. Whatever children that are born of that union are not considered as illigitimate. So, too, Canon Law recognizes that marriages entered into under conditions other than those prescribed as Christian Marriage, reach an irreconcilable state due to previous impediments, it is considered that the spiritual elements presumed at the time of the Church’s blessing did not exist. Grounds for nullity are recognized as having existed prior to the marriage, and the spiritual marrage (the one about which the Church is most concerned and which it wants to nourish) has not existed since its inception. However, it does state that the children born of that union are not to be considered as illigitimate.

    God Bless, R+

  • Ben

    People who get divorced just get remarried outside the church, if they don’t get an annulment. They may continue to go to church and stay in a nominal way receiving communion despite the fact that they should not. Unfortunately divorce is a reality and most people can not live up to the high standards the church sets….so they LEAVE. So now they are not in the Catholic Church but practice in whatever protestant church they find. What happens to their soul if they die in this state of sin according to the Catholic Church? Are they saved and make it to heaven? God is mercy and I am so glad he is the one that will resolve this.

  • James Morgan

    Annulments are often granted on the flimsiet of grounds. I know a couple who received an annulment on the grounds of immaturity. She received her undergraduate degree from St. Mary’s of Notre Dame and her graduate degree from Stanford University. His degree in nuclear physics was from Notre Dame, and he was a naval officer. Where’s the evidence of immaturity?

    Divorced couples can sometimes remarry under the Church’s Pauline Privilege, or Privilege of the Faith, law in cannon law. I did.

  • http://optimum.net Virginia

    This is in response to Bob:

    You have a valid point; however, I am not ” embittered and hardened against all men.” I am simply saying that, at this stage of my life, I now realize that for a marriage to be successful, both spouses have to give themselves totally to each other. I know I am unwilling to make a permanent commitment like that ever again; therefore, I never applied for an annulment.

    • Sophia

      I’m with you, Virginia! In order to trust another, that other has to be trustworthy…and in today’s world that can be extremely difficult to determine. And after the shattering experience of being betrayed by those you trusted and wanted to believe in with all your heart, mind, and soul, it is very reasonable to not want to go down that road again. Failed marriages are not a “whoopsie…I made a mistake. They are a heartbreaking experience for the individuals involved and the culture at large.

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  • Karl

    It is a fact that there is no justification for a permanent separation except in the case
    of adultery and this itself encourages failing to forgive thoroughly and I believe would be rejected by Christ today.

    The reality is that in specific cases the priests and bishop know well, exactly what is going on and are fully capable of getting to the bottom of things when those who call
    themselves catholics cooperate. If a person identifies themselves as a catholic the bishop should intervene, when requested by the other spouse and excommunicate, forthwith, a spouse who refuses to cooperate with information and with sincere a sincere effort to broach spousal differences.


    This is reality in numerous cases I know of. It is true in ours.

    If a spouse has abandoned another, their must be consequences! Not a slap on the
    wrist but public accounting before the bishop, in the presence of those abused by the

    What exists now is “he said she said” with the abandoned spouse getting shafted BIG TIME.

    The Church is obliged to stop this. If it does not, my sincere prayer is that God allows it to be persecuted terribly until our lousy bishops are removed, resign or hopefully, grow up from the turnips that they are, and repent.

  • Jackie

    I appreciate your words. There are many good Catholics who do not understand that just because a person is divorced, that it does not mean they are sinning or have sinned. My own mother was left after 25 years of marriage by my father for a younger, prettier ‘model’. My mom thinks her marriage is valid (and has no evidence indicating otherwise) so she live a life of quiet continence. She goes to mass 3 -4 times a week, confession monthly, and says the office and the Rosary including prayers for my father, along with having to rejoin the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom for 23 of those years). With all that I know well-meaning Catholics (including at least 2 Religious Sisters) who said she should not receive Communion because she is divorced. My mom is trying to live a virtuous life and should not be hammered on both sides. (One that she is sinning because of being divorced and the well-known other side of the non-Catholic that she should just get remarried)

  • Marcy DAmbrosio

    I would love to introduce you to Retrouvaille.

    … a lifeline for Marriages
    A program to Help Couples Heal and Renew their Marriages.
    Do you feel lost, alone or bored in your marriage?
    Are you frustrated, hurt or angry with your spouse?
    Are you constantly fighting? Or, do you simply shut down?
    Have you thought about separation or divorce?
    Does talking about it only make it worse?

    … Retrouvaille provides marriage help!

    What is a Retrouvaille Program?

    The word Retrouvaille (pronounced re-tro-vi with a long i.) is a French word meaning rediscovery. The program offers tools needed to rediscover a loving marriage relationship. Thousands of couples headed for cold, unloving relationships or divorce have successfully overcome their marriage problems by attending the program.

    The Retrouvaille Program consists of a weekend experience combined with a series of 6-12 post-weekend sessions over 3 months. It provides the tools to help put your marriage in order again. The main emphasis of the program is on communication in marriage between husband and wife. It will give you the opportunity to rediscover each other and examine your lives together in a new and positive way.

    To find out more about Retrouvaille or when and where the next weekend will be held go to: http://www.retrouvaille.org

  • http://optimum.net Virginia

    It is not up to any of us to decide who is/isn’t eligible to receive Holy Communion. Let us all ponder Matthew 7: 1-2.

  • Karl


    If you are implying the “judgement” of a soul regarding salvation, you misread and, seemingly, misunderstand Matthew. God, alone, judges a soul.

    If you are implying that we should not address sin and behaviors which condone or support it, you are simply wrong. We are obliged to address sin or we take on the consequences and responsibilities for that sin, by NOT addressing it, when confronted with it.

    Please, clarify your statement.

  • Karl


    The problem is Ted, the Church has dropped the ball. Its teaching should be clear, even
    in the minutia, so that behaviors are without ambiguity. It chooses, rather, to avoid directly confronting wounded marriages and working to heal them. It turns its back on those who seek its help. Our bishops know this well, as does the Pope. They simply do not care to invest their efforts in the dirty work. The far easier way is to waste time talking, under the false guise of teaching(they know they are duplicitous), and let divorces multiply feeding civil courts and marriage tribunals, ultimately destroying families, children and society.

    The answer is NOT just better catechesis and preparation. It also entails, holding to account and confronting bad behavior, with canonical actions.

    • Ted Seeber

      Yes, the Church has often dropped the ball when it comes to catechisis in the last 2000 years. Culture is a moving target, and we must always adjust discipline to match the Doctrine and Dogma of Tradition to what people can accept.

      However, in the last 40 years or so, there has been a distinct tendency to claim that sin isn’t sin- to claim, as Father did above, that the Church has no problem with sin and that sin should be legalized.

      Ant that we must never do.

  • http://optimum.net Virginia

    This is in response to Karl:
    This is a response to Karl:
    I personally know of couples who are divorced and remarried without annulment, who receive Communion and were granted Catholic funeral Masses. What I am saying is that we don’t know all of the circumstances; only God does. I asked a priest about this ( a religious order priest;not one of my parish priests) why so many celebrities and politicians who lead dissolute lives are often given Catholic funeral Masses. He said that the Church trusts in God’s mercy. If, therefore, a religious order priest does not judge people, who are we lay humans to decide who can/can’t receive Communion? That’s all I meant by Matthew 7:1-2.

    • Ted Seeber

      I find that to be lying, and thus a sin in and of itself!

  • Karl

    Yes, you know real scandal.

  • http://optimum.net Virginia

    Spending the majority of one’s adult life working in the inner city has a tendency to make a person more liberal.

    • Ted Seeber

      If liberal means allowing people to hurt each other without telling them that they are wrong, then I think you just hit upon why the inner cities in America are hotbeds of crime and immorality.

  • Lorraine Cortina, DRE

    Fr. Duffy, thank you so much for your compassion for those who are divorced & remarried. I am divorced & went through the annulment process 16 yrs ago. I spent 4 yrs in the Buffalo Diocese working as a DRE, invited to be part of a diocesan evangelization group called “Come & See” in the area of divorce & annulments & was invited & trained to become an annulment companion. Bishop (at the time) Mansell believed someone working through the process, which can be painful, should be offered an option to speak with someone who has been through it, if needed.

    Upon returning to the RVC Diocese, I was invited to work with the Family Ministry in the area of divorce & annulments & privileged to facilitate yearly annulment info evenings with a member of the diocesan tribunal.The priest gives the canonical explanation of annulments; I give a witness talk about the healing benefits of the annulment process.

    Most people think an annulment is something you would seek only if you plan to remarry. Unfortunately, many never even consider the process for that reason, or that there could be any other reason, because of all the misinformation circulating from word of mouth or the media regarding the cost, (I’ve heard estimates for fees of $10,000 or more), that their children will be illegitimate or they need the consent of their former spouse, to name just a few reasons.

    The people who work in the DRVC Marriage Tribunal, priests to the secretaries are truly caring & compassionate, if finances are a difficulty, they will work with the petitioner. Annulments are not the money making “industry” for the Catholic Church many who don’t know any better profess it to be!

    I think part of the Church’s mission to is to get the word out there, correcting these “myths” & promoting the annulment process as a way to heal & grow, to get rid of, or lessen, the residual negative emotions left by the divorce & not something a Catholic does only if they wish to marry in the Church.

    The annulment process is a way to heal & have a profound experience of the love & compassion of the Catholic Church.

  • stefanie

    Father, thank you for bringing this up to the front again. It is very important. It is such a scandal that the 2nd largest Christian ‘group’ is former Catholics. Most of these are ‘former’ because they are divorced or they are the children of divorce. Thank God that you were able to heal enough from that experience that you are able to continue to walk with the Church. We need more testimonies such as yourself.
    I am not a child of divorce nor am I divorced. But my husband was divorced three times before we met. I am his fourth wife. When he was a catechumen, the Church — it came from the Vatican — granted an annulment in favor of the faith — my faith. The mercy shown by the Church — indeed at the Church’s headquarters — is the very reason why we are filled with gratitude and why we volunteer at the parish. It would be wonderful if every Catholic could know that mercy in their own lives and — in gratitude, come forward to serve. The Sacrament of Reconciliation does this , too — but so few partake…
    A question: Is the Sacrament of Reconciliation valid for people in the divorced-remarried-without-Church-annulment? Wouldn’t that be ‘sufficient’ for forgiveness of a sin against the Church? (Just wondering — as an RCIA director, we get many questions that aren’t covered in the CCC or RCIA guide book by the USCCB.)

  • Yvonne Stoops

    Thank you so much for these words of hope ! There is a Catholic peer-ministry that offers bereavement programs for those who find themselves single again – through divorce, separation or death. Please check out http://www.beginningexperience.org Many have found its programs helpful before or during the annulment process – and beyond.