On cohabitation: laying down the law in Santa Fe

On cohabitation: laying down the law in Santa Fe April 6, 2011

The Archbishop there, Michael Sheehan, has issued a pastoral letter that was read at all masses this past weekend.

A snip:

We have three groups of people who are living contrary to the Gospel teaching on marriage: those who cohabit; those who have a merely civil union with no previous marriage; and those who have a civil union who were married before. These people are objectively living in a state of mortal sin and may not receive Holy Communion. They are in great spiritual danger. At the best – and this is, sadly, often the case – they are ignorant of God’s plan for man and woman. At the worst, they are contemptuous of God’s commandments and His sacraments.

He goes on to explain:

These people may not be commissioned as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, not only because of scandal, but even more because one commits the sin of sacrilege by administering a Sacrament in the state of mortal sin.

Nor are such people to be admitted to the role of sponsor for Baptism or Confirmation, as is clearly stated on the Archdiocesan Affidavit for a Sponsor. It is critical for the sponsor to be a practicing Catholic – and can anyone be seriously called a practicing Catholic who is not able to receive the sacraments because they are living in sin?

Read the whole thing.

Related: A few words from canon lawyer Ed Peters.

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52 responses to “On cohabitation: laying down the law in Santa Fe”

  1. I agree with both Joseph W and Rom Cath. And piggybacking on Joseph W’s comments, I will add that IMHO, it is a bishop’s duty to tell the faithful what we NEED to hear whether or not it is something that we WANT to hear.

  2. From an earlier part of the letter: “there are only two lifestyles acceptable to Jesus Christ for His disciples: a single life of chastity, or the union of man and woman in the Sacrament of Matrimony. There is no “third way” possible for a Christian.””

    This and the above snip are like water – pure, simple and essential for life.

    Give me more to drink!

  3. What an upside down world we live in that the Bishop, only reiterating the teaching of the Church, will be criticized.

    I think the challenge now comes in applying this pastorally, for those who are in this situation.

    These teachings can be affirmed all the while welcoming those to enter more deeply into the mystery of God’s life through addressing these issues.

    As one who used to be in that situation, and was challenged by a parish priest who would not give me communion because of the irregular situation i was in, it made me ask myself, ‘what is my faith worth to me, and what is the Eucharist worth to me’. It became an occaision of grace and personal growth.

  4. Way to go, Archbishop Sheehan! We need more of our priests to stand up for the Church’s teachings!! Not water them down so that everyone can “accept” them easily.

  5. Archbishop Sheehan is going on my prayer list in the good column. I wish my own bishop would get out of the luke warm water. May we all work for reformation first and foremost in our own hearts as Blessed Peter Favre exorts.

  6. Finally. A bishop who knows where to go and what to do most effectively to defend marriage instead of wasting time and money on the measely pecentage of the population who desire same sex “marriage”. Curious: anyone know if the Archdiocese of Santa Fe requires cohabitating couples to separate as preparation for matrimony?

  7. There are many, many brother Bishops who’d do very well to take a lesson from this man on preaching the Gospel out of season.

  8. I like that the bishop was cleasr. It is the kind of statement I wish we got more often on many issues.

    I do have one, perhaps minor, issue. If I may be so bold as to suggest that “These people are objectively living in a state of mortal sin and may not receive Holy Communion. They are in great spiritual danger. At the best – and this is, sadly, often the case – they are ignorant of God’s plan for man and woman. At the worst, they are contemptuous of God’s commandments and His sacraments” may not necessarily apply to those ignorant of God’s plan. Sadly, in many places people who call themselves Catholic are clueless about what the Churches teachings are. We are taught that ignorance of the gravity of the matter may reduce culpability and that might apply here. Not to mention a stern admonishment that none of us are ever to judge anothers state of sinfulness since we can not see as God sees. And the natural law today is cohabitation so I don’t think an appeal can be made on that behalf. I would not want to water down the bishops strong teaching, I just worry about condemnations of sin rather than emphasizing the gravely scandalaous situations. Maybe just nit picking. 🙂

  9. WOW, I’ll bet this hasn’t happened in awhile…
    …(8) comments in a row that whole heartedly agree.

    Is this a first, Deacon Greg?

  10. Mark S. I kind of agree with you. I always thought that for mortal sin to be present three factors MUST be present: 1) grave matter, 2) full knowledge that the act is grave matter, and 3) full consent of the will. I think only God makes the judgment on whether it’s mortal sin, along with our conscience. So it might have been more technically correct to say that these living arrangements are “gravely disordered” or “gravely sinful objectively,” but not sure.

  11. “And the natural law today is cohabitation so I don’t think an appeal can be made on that behalf.”

    Natural does not change, and does support the permanence and and one man one woman parts of marriage – including that a vow should be made to express this permanence, rather than just shaking up.

    What supports cohabitation is popular culture, which is very much a different thing from natural law.

    Natural Law does not by itself know about the Church or being married in it (taking Natural Law to mean that part of Divine Law that can be arrived at without revelation), but I think it’s safe to assume that a person who calls himself Catholic has at least some responsibility to find out what that means.

    And finally, while we cannot make judgements about the final destination of souls, we can point out that actions are grave matter. It would be hard to claim both absence of full knowledge of the grave nature of the actions and absence of responsibility for that knowledge while still calling oneself Catholic. And, of course, when a letter like this is read to you, it becomes even harder.

  12. All practicing Catholics in the US would know that sex outside of valid marriage is a “mortal” sin.
    If for some strange reason a few did not, the good Abp Sheehan has made certain those in his Diocese do now, and therefore they must cease immediately.

    In addition to the 3 factors for a sin to be mortal, the following quotes from the CCC also apply:

    CCC: ” 1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin. ”

    CCC: ” 1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man “takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.” In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits. ”

    We all know that it is a SACRILEGE to receive the Holy Eucharist in the state of mortal sin, and therefor commit an additional mortal sin.

    It’s good to hear about a Bishop who completely adheres to the Doctrine of the Church.

  13. I have been happily married for 30 years to a protestant man who was married and divorced before; we married in a civil ceremony.

    I go to Mass every week, have raised not only our children but his daughter from that marriage in the Catholic Church.

    I am also a Godmother to two children, have washed feet on Holy Thursday, given ashes on Ash Wednesday,volunteered in various ministries in my church including working with the Nuns from our convent, and believe I am a good role model regardless of the fact that I do not receive Communion.

    My husband respects the Church but does not believe that the Catholic annulment process is a valid process. Many non Catholic’s believe it or not agree, and I have to respect that.

    I thank God my pastor, my church family who apparently are much more understanding and less inclined to judge others circumstances.

    Wow and here I thought I was Catholic!

  14. I am amused by most of the commenters here….as if they were themselves above sin….and sooooooo happy to hear that the Bishop is “sticking it” to those who sin by cohabitating. Well, he could have addressed YOUR sin ..and what would you be saying here then….Some of our commenters go around with bags of rather large stones! While the Bishop has a duty to warn of sinful behavior, we have no right to form a “bandwagon” of self-rightousness and go after the “sinner of the moment” with such vehemence. One can NEVER comment on the state of another’s soul without committing sin themselves. Maybe we should all head for the confessional! and after confessing, repent of this kind of comment on sin and the sinner!

    Ya’ll are correct, we don’t know for sure they are going to hell; the Catholic Church (instituted by Christ Himself) says they are and they have a right and obligation to say that. But of course when they get to the pearly gates, Christ COULD change his mind OR they could have repented…
    …but WE ARE NOT THERE AND WON”T BE THERE WITH THEM, so we have to tell them NOW before they get there.

    Sheesh, get a life all you NON and NON believing Catholics…

  16. I would love to hear some thoughts about what people here, who are knowledgable of God’s Truth, think of my situation and what I should do. I was married civilly 12 years ago to a non-Catholic man who had previously been married twice. I had completely left the Catholic Church in my teen years, and was very close to being an atheist, (and had also been previously married). 2 years ago I returned to the Catholic Faith and learned SO much about our faith that I had NEVER learned in my childhood, and completely changed my ways, started going to daily Mass, had my children baptized and enrolled in Religious formation at our local Catholic Church, etc. I immediately went to my parish priest to see what I could do to have my marriage convalidated, but was bereft to find out that my husband would have to have his previous 2 marriages annuled, which likely will not happen, in large part due to the fact that he does not agree with the necessity of doing so, we have zero money to pay all of the filing fees, etc, (I stay home and homeschool our children), and we do not even know how to find his first ex-wife. My husband spoke to the priest several times before deciding he would not go through with the process, mostly because of a fear that after all of the time and money put into it, one of the marriages might not in fact be annuled, and then this would all be for nothing. So I am not in a state of grace, can not receive Communion or Absolution, etc, but the woman in charge of our church’s Faith Formation (CCD) program has been begging for my help in teaching the Faith Formation classes for the 2nd and 5th graders for the next year. I told her that I did not feel comfortable because I am not in a valid marriage and cannot receive the sacraments. but she is literally begging for my help because they do not have enough teachers, and she knows that I very strongly agree with everything the Catechism teaches and would impart the truths of our faith to our youngsters very faithfully. What to do? I feel guilty not helping a very necessary program, but I also see how it could cause scandal. I have been praying about this for a long time, but part of the problem is that our parish is a relatively liberal place and our priest thinks it is ridiculous for me not to teach based on my marital situation. What would you do? What would any of you want for your children: to be taught by someone who agrees with everything the pope teaches and follows the Catechism faithfully but is not in a valid marriage or a state of grace, or have someone who is very liberal in their teachings and does not necessarily convey the truths of our faith??? I am so confused and unsure of what to do and would love to hear any thoughts if possible on this topic…my sincere and deep apologies if this is not the right place to ask this and if I am taking up too much space with my writing this…

  17. Mortal sin and venial sin are made up. Jesus never spoke
    of different kinds of sins. The annulment process is
    man made. Jesus never taught about annulments.
    The kids of today have it right. There is too much emphasis
    on sex both in the church and outside of the church.
    Relieve those powerful sexual urges before making the
    decision as to who to marry. Priests have a nerve to
    talk about sin when all the child abuse is going on.
    Wake up. The times have changed. We have evolved.

  18. Jesus ate the Last Supper with Judas, but Archbishop Sheehan refuses communion to scores of parishioners.

    When did one holy, catholic and apostolic church become one of many dogmatic, exclusive, and insular clubs?

    Thankfully, our God is more tolerant than His “followers.”

  19. Wrongo, Betty Lou and all you NON and NON believing (jen)Catholics…

    Try looking up 1John 5:16-17
    It clearly gives a distinction between mortal and venial sin.

  20. Kerry,
    I woukld immediately go to your diocesan tribunal office and give them your story. There is NO REASON in the world why you shouldn’t be able to get this straightened out.

    Continue to have faith and know that you are a child of God.

    Peac e to you

  21. Anne, your presumption re premarital sex is probably not justified given the catechesis of the last 40 years… In any case, my point was merely one of moral theology; I don’t think it’s technically correct to pronounce something a mortal sin unless those 3 conditions are known to have been met. There are surely more than a few cradle Catholics who don’t know that premarital sexual relations are grave matter; and I know having gone to school with many over the course of many years. The response was usually “it’s natural” and “my conscience tells me it’s ok.” Now having said that, i definitely support the bishop getting the facts and truth out there. High time.

  22. Kerry,
    First it is wonderful that you have come back to the Church.

    Inability to pay the fees should not deter you from seeking and annulment. I don’t have time to research it, but I seem to remember that Canon Law has a provision for inability to pay.

    I know that in our diocese it is never a factor. Also, inability to contact a witness does prevent an annulment from going through.

    God Bless

  23. Kerry,

    The Samaritan woman at the well in the recent Sunday Mass reading had five husbands and was currently living with a man not her husband. But still, Jesus sent her to evangelize the Samaritan village and she was quite successful at it.

    We are ALL sinners.

    I think that if your priest wants you to teach, you should teach.

    Jesus invited Judas to the last supper, despite knowing that Judas had betrayed him. According to St Augustine and others, Jesus even invited Judas to receive Holy Communion.

    The ways of God are much higher than the ways of men, who are often too prone to judge others.

    God Bless

  24. It would be wonderful to live in the world envisioned by Archbishop Sheehan. A pure world in which decisions of the heart and home are easily made.

    But, as it is, our world is a much more complex place. And it is inhabited by many complex people who face complex life challenges.

    I pray that God will be with us in our complexities.

    “Thy will be done.”

  25. In the bishop’s full letter, he mentions that some couples excuse themselves because of the cost of a wedding; he rightly points out that many couples spend far too much on weddings, which do not have to be so expensive.

    However, a quick glance around the Internet showed me that parishes in Santa Fe routinely charge couples between $600 and $1000 for the wedding–and those are the costs for parishioners.

    A lower-income couple already living together and struggling to make ends meet might find the idea of needing $1000 for a Catholic wedding to be too expensive, especially in the present state of the economy.

    I don’t know if pastors make it clear to such couples that these costs are for such things as a wedding coordinator, musicians, etc. and that a simple ceremony need not be so expensive–or, indeed, if parishes are willing to wave the “mandatory” fees when a cohabitating couple wishes to marry without a lot of pomp and ceremony.

  26. Erin,

    Parishes do not charge a fee. Unfortunately, the process of giving an offering of thanksgiving has been so regularized at some parishes that it appears to be a fee .. and is even treated as such. But canon law forbids the parish from charging a fee for Sacraments, so cost can never be an excuse for not getting married.

    Every parish that I have ever belonged to would gladly marry a couple who could not afford to give an offering. Any couple who took the time to actually talk to the priest about getting married would know that. And that says a lot, people are making huge life decisions with no spiritual direction.

  27. Regarding annulments:

    If I remember correctly, if a person has divorced and remarried more than once, it is only the first marriage that was valid and needs to be annulled. The second or third marriage was not valid if the original spouse (the 1st spouse) is still alive.

    It’s not unusual for an ex-spouse to refuse to respond to the tribunal or to refuse to engage in the process. If the tribunal makes a good faith effort to find the first spouse, but cannot find him or her, the annulment process can proceed.

    An annulment means that the criteria for a sacramental marriage were not present. Does your husband think that his first and second marriages were sacramental?

  28. I believe that the comment stated by oldestof9 (24) calling me a non believing non Catholic is insulting- uncalled for and clearly over the line of Deacon Greggs comment rules. It deserves to be considered for deletion.

  29. Kerry,

    I’d say simply, talk to your priest about it. Your witness of refraining from Communion because of your situation is a great testimony of faith. Let him decide.

    As to the fees involved with an annulment, most diocese will waive them in case of financial need.

  30. Kerry,

    I should add, the annulment process in your case should be fairly easy. If your husband was not Catholic when he was married before, then all you should have to do is establish that neither was a Catholic wedding. That doesn’t require the participation of former spouses. Of course there are all kinds of details that can complicate your particular situation, so it may in fact be more complicated. But it never ceases to amaze me how often parishes treat these things with pastoral tone-deafness.

  31. Thank God for giving Arch Bishop Sheehan the courage to tell it like it is. For too long the catholic leadership have acted like referees who wanted to be liked but not necessarily respected. No one necessarily likes the refs but try and play a game without one. The Archbishop is performing his God given task. Set out the rules and the consequences of not following them.
    It is funny how people think we are judging them when we judge their actions. We are not judging them for we do not know God’s workings. But we can definetly see each other’s actions and know whether those actions are appropriate and conducive to a functioning healthy society. We can also see that our actions of the last 30 years are not leading to a healthy society. It is painfully obvious our children will be raising their children in a less moral world than we enjoyed as children and we should be ashamed of ourselves.
    Pray the Holy Spirit will descend on more of the Archbishops and we will all find the courage to turn toward Goodness itself God.

  32. A retired active Catholic woman I know in our parish lost her husband to cancer. She called the rectory to request a priest come give a blessing at the local funeral home. The rectory secretary stated the priest would call her back with his schedule.

    A while later there is a knock at the door, it was the priest. She thought he was there to comfort her.

    He had church documents with him to verify if she had an annulment of her previous marriage. The priest stated he could not do a blessing or have a Catholic burial if their marriage was not properly annulled.

    She was horrified. Her first husband had passed away and she remarried in the same Church to the new husband.

    She could not believe that this priest did this to her and had no idea what he was talking about.

    She has not been back to the church since that day.

  33. It depends on the Diocese, and the policies of the Bishop regarding ‘annulments’. I wish it was consistent in all parishes, in all dioceses. As an Advocate, I can’t speak to any other diocese, but please, people, call your parish! Or your diocese! The process SHOULD be consistent, holy, caring for the sanctity of marriage, and within the law. But it is not the same in each diocese! But, please, don’t give up. In each case, you can appeal to the diocese of either spouse, the diocese of where the marriage took place, or where either spouse, Catholic or not, lives. Try! There are so many reasons that it was NEVER an actual marriage- even if you stood up in the Catholic Church with witnesses and married!

  34. I agree that easy and unquestioned acceptance of pre-marital sex and cohabitation as “normal” behavior even for “good” Catholics has caused great scandal. On the other hand, it is my understanding that cohabitation is NOT a canonical impediment to marriage, and the Church should try to make it easier, not more difficult, for cohabiting couples (particularly if they have children) to “regularize” their situation by marrying.

    Some of you may be old enough to remember when “mixed” Catholic -Protestant couples weren’t allowed to marry during Mass or even in the church building — only in the rectory with the priest and a couple of witnesses present.

    Perhaps that is the way cohabiting couples who will not or cannot separate prior to the wedding should marry — outside of Mass and with a minimum of ceremony. In fact, if it became common practice for cohabiting Catholic couples to be married in this fashion, it might actually remove some of the social pressure cohabiting couples (or just plain poor couples) have to postpone marriage until they can afford their “dream” wedding.

  35. To Mark S. and others who may be confused: The bishop covered the issue of mortal sin when he said they are “objectively” living in mortal sin, meaning they may be ignorant of their situation and therefore not guilty of mortal sin. This is very precise language which leaves no room for doubt as to the licitness of certain behaviors.

    As to the state of an individual person’s soul, no one but God can know. But the clear teaching of the Church must be enunciated and the sin of scandal must be avoided. The bishop, as chief teacher of his flock, has an obligation to state clearly what those teachings are, which he has done.

    His statement helps those who are unsure of what the position of the Church is, and it also helps those who are not in a state of grace clarify their situation so they may rectify it. That is being pastoral, not judgmental.

    May God bless this brave bishop!

  36. “Mortal sin and venial sin are made up. Jesus never spokeof different kinds of sins.”

    Betty Lou, dust off your Bible if you own one. You really need to read it again.

  37. Michele (#39) said it best – if only the real teaching of the Church on marriage, divorce and nullity could be taught and consistently held from diocese to diocese.

    One place where I worked did a fantastic job with this, with the Tribunal staff making sure they “rode circuit” from parish to parish to explain it, answer questions, set up appointments and so on. Of course, they also bust their butts training and supporting clergy and lay ministers as Advocates to get cases going and ready for the tribunal.
    Sadly, another midwestern archdiocese did nothing of the sort. No lay advocates of any kind, which translated to very overworked deacons and priests. I suggested doing sessions as part of Adult Faith Formation, and got a pushback from my boss, stating “I don’t think the Tribunal would like that very much; they’re too busy as it is.” Sigh.

    As for the George’s situation, factual or not – that’s an incredibly tough call. If the irregular marriage was not common knowledge, the priest in question could have been present without giving any “mixed messages.” Imagine if he went forward and did the prayer service/blessing for the deceased husband with many knowing the situation. Before too long he might be called before his superiors – or worse, public opinion – and be accused of giving “official” sanction to an irregular marriage. Imagine the calls other priests or deacons would get over time – “Father X blessed a man who was in an irregular marriage, why can’t you?” His presence to the bereaved wife to discuss the matter, though not the best way to handle the situation, might have been an attempt at prudence.
    It could be a lot worse, though – Father X could’ve replied that he hadn’t seen the widow’s envelopes showing up in PDS lately, and so he couldn’t consider her an “active stewardship parishioner.”

    Like the deacon said above – it’s about the complexities.

  38. Rom Cath:

    I think you’re confused – mortal and venial sin are NOT made up (1John5:16-17) I’m the one who says they are NOT made up. Betty Lou said they ARE made up.
    You are right JESUS never gave the statement in 1John but the author of 1John did. Are we picking and choosing what we believe, don’t believe and how we personally believe it? The scripture I quote is the teaching of the Catholic Church.

    I love all of you and want you ALL to go to heaven.

  39. Catholic Answers has a list of teachings from the Chruch Fathers on divorce and second marriages. Search for “divorce” there in the fathers section. The fathers indicate that the eucharist is not to be given even to those on their death bed unless they had previously repented of such a marriage and separated from their second ‘spouse’. A must read.

    This teaching seems to be contradicted by the archbishop’s letter, when he mentions ‘danger of death’ as an exception.

    “Whoever loves father or mother… more than me….”

  40. @oldestof9;

    Also, in John 19 – when Our Lord is in front of Pilate after being scourged – Jesus *Himself* tells of varying degrees of sin:

    “Pilate, therefore, saith to him; Speakest thou not to me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and I have power to release thee?”

    Jesus answered; “Thou shouldst not have any power against me, unless it were given thee from above. Therefore, he that hath delivered me to thee, hath the **greater sin**.” (emphasis added)

    Catechist Kevin

  41. Thanks “CK”. There are others also.
    1 Cor 6:9-10
    James 1:14-15
    Gal 5:19-21
    Eph 5:5
    Look everyone, I don’t want to get off post but please know what many (not all but many) TRUE Catholics believe before consigning them to the far reaches of the “PIT”.
    We are much more scripture based than you believe…we are the MOST scripture based Christian denomination in the world……..

    Peace to all

    Oh, by the way…hurray for bishop Sheehan!

  42. Thanks Nettie but the word “objectively” can easily sound like a pronouncement of a truth. From that wiley source Wikipedia: “While there is no universally accepted articulation of objectivity, a proposition is generally considered to be objectively true when its truth conditions are met and are “mind-independent”—that is, not met by the judgement of a conscious entity or subject.” Yet that is EXACTLY what being in the state of mortal sin is, a completely mind -dependent status. Again, I merely point out what seems to me the only quibble in the profoundly clear and orthodox and timely teching of the bishop. I find it too easy for myself to look at another and say they are in sin and thus sin myself by judging what I cannot know with certainty. If I repeat what I think I know, I may sin by defaming by condemning unjustly. This sort of teaching moment simply makes it easier to feel self righteous. I completely agree that there is grave matter and full consent of the will but, prior to hearing the bishop’s words, a person might be ignorant of the gravity. As for natural law, it is that which members of the human family know to be true knows because they are human, independent of revealed truths. Today, if you asked random humans in the US or Europe or anywhere if cohabitation is wrong, what answer would you get?

    Catechesis is what is needed and I thank the bishop profoundly for his words. My points really do belong on the periphery. I completely support what he did and the venue(s) he chose to get the teachings out.

  43. I am so grateful for all of you who responded to my question about teaching CCD despite my marital situation, I appreciate each and every answer. To clarify, my husband was married once to a Protestant and the second time to a Catholic, and although I too initially thought only the first marriage would be considered valid (and thus only one annulment needed) my priest found out that actually they both are valid and thus in need of annulments, much to our chagrin. (I have since clarified this with the Marriage Tribunal in our diocese). Although inability to pay is not supposed to matter, it is also a matter of pride for my husband; when he was speaking with the priest and filling out the initial paperwork, he was too embarrassed to mention that the initial filing fees (somewhere around $70) were too difficult to manage. I also know that the cost of annulments do not even cover the actual costs involved, so there is some guilt on my part at not even paying the approx. $1,000 each of them should cost, especially when there are those in even worse financial than us. I am fairly certain his first marriage would be found to be non-sacramental, as there were a lot of psychological issues with the first wife, but am unsure if the second would be considered valid. It would be so painful to go through 2 of these processes, especially when my husband is already resentful of my return to Catholicism and thus the need for the annulments, and then find that we still cannot have our marriage convalidated!
    Thank you again for your time in responding, may God bless each and every one of you, and please, if it is not too much to ask, pray for my situation once or twice, it would mean so very much to me!!

  44. My husband and I are converts to the faith. My husband and I were both married twice before –outside the church (of course–being that we are converts 🙂 )and we required 2 annulments each for our marriage to be blessed. We chose to remain incontinent within our marriage until the process was finished–it took over 2 years. We are not well off financially and paid the fees. My first ex-husband would not respond at all but I had other witness’s…It was really quite simple and it was a PRIVILEGE to go through the process. When you have sinned in such a grave way against marriage–whether you KNEW it or not–it is a PRIVILEGE to spend that time separating yourself from the sin and trusting God for your marriage. I admit all of this readily for anyone who will listen…Anyone who has sinned against marriage in the past and then finds themselves understanding what they have done–you are EAGER to make it up–to change truly. The difference in our marriage is just short of Heaven. We are best friends now and truly love each other. I have a security and a home in this marriage I have NEVER had. It is worth every penny and every tear! I will certainly pray for you Kerry and all those who are suffering in this situation. God will find a way for you. All the talk about Mortal Sin whatever–whether you KNOW what you have done is mortal or not you will suffer the adverse effects! People should not keep on in their suffering regardless! When I think of the pain I lived through because of the WRONG thinking about marriage! What I put my kids through! The pain on earth is horrific enough! That is reason enough for people to know they can be set free!!! That they can go to God whatever their situation and He will set them free–whether their spouse will help them or not…Don’t leave the patient bleeding in the hallway because there isn’t a bed! God will help you. I knew a woman who couldn’t take communion for 25 years–until her husband died…he refused to get an annulment–same type of thing–pride…she waited 25 years. It was a very sweet reunion! So I think just acknowledging what has happened and trusting God to help–praying for your spouse and doing your very best to separate yourself from the sin–God will surely bless that and every tear you cry! I feel teary just thinking about it for you! God Bless all who are suffering and are humble enough to ask God for help!

  45. Hi Vonda,
    Wow, what an inspiration you are!!! Just 2 quick questions…so did you have to do a total of 4 annulments, and were they able to be done simultaneously? I have heard that most annulments take about 18 months. My husband unfortunately would likely divorce me if I said I would like to live chastely for the entire process (which I know doesn’t say a whole lot for our rather difficult marriage!) and since we have young kids together (and I homeschool them so do not have a way of supporting myself) I feel I cannot risk such a thing, as much as my heart tells me otherwise. My other question is regarding your decision to go through with the annulments, were you both equally committed to the process? And committed to living as brother and sister? My husband is a lapsed Methodist and is quite anti-Catholic (although he has allowed me to have our children go to church every Sunday, go to CCD, and receive the sacraments) and so sees NO reason whatsoever to go through all this, and since he is the only breadwinner, and we are barely hanging on by a thread financially, he is absolutely not supportive of the process, although for my sake he was at least willing to meet with the priest several times to consider the possibility. Thank you again so much for sharing your incredible story of faith, it truly is so beautiful and inspirational!!

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