More divorces spell out religious practice in custody agreements

More divorces spell out religious practice in custody agreements December 27, 2011

And it can create quite a few complications.

From the Washington Post:

A cultural shift in thinking about parenting and gender roles has led to a surge in divorced couples agreeing to more detailed shared custody arrangements that increasingly spell out how they will practice and talk about their religious faith.

Agreements of the past stuck largely to the question of where the kids would spend such holidays as Christmas, but today such accords can stipulate religion, denomination and doctrine. Episcopalian, not Catholic. Sunday school through high school, no stopping earlier. Agreements even clarify which parent will pay for a bar mitzvah and which controls its guest list.

But can parents predict down the road what will be important to them, or even what they will believe, to the level of certainty that can be expressed on a piece of paper that can be enforced by a judge?

“The thing that has to be impressed on parents is, you don’t want to confuse your kid,” said Darcy Shoop, a Rockville divorce attorney who recently crafted a settlement that bars one parent from celebrating Christmas with her children in their home. “You have to be careful with this stuff.”

For the 14 years Marsha Lopez, who is Jewish, was with her former husband, a Catholic, their different religious backgrounds played out in scenes like this: a wedding led by a priest-rabbi team, Star of David Christmas tree ornaments made of pipe cleaners, interfaith holiday cards.

Not a lot needed to be said, the 38-year-old Bethesda epidemiologist recalled last week. “We were on the same page.”

The custody agreement the couple worked out last year gets a lot more specific. The document bars either parents from speaking critically of the other’s faith and from “sharing their religious experience” in a way intended to make the children think they are “one or the other,” either Catholic or Jewish.

Although such detailed agreements might seem cold and awkward, they help families of divorce, parents and divorce professionals say. They can stave off fights and ease more challenging periods, such as holidays.

December has its own set of sometimes heartbreaking faith issues for separated families.

Lopez bought herself a Christmas present this year after her 5-year-old daughter worried that there were no gifts for Mom under the tree. Because Lopez is Jewish, her own family didn’t give her Christmas gifts, but Lopez still puts up a tree because that’s what she did for years with her ex.

“She said, ‘Isn’t Santa going to bring something for you? You don’t have anything,’ ” said Lopez. “I got myself a to-go French press coffee cup and wrapped it.”

The most painful aspect of the holiday, she said, was when her 7-year-old son asked how Santa would know to bring presents to her house Friday morning, when Lopez celebrated Christmas with the children because they would be with their father for the actual holiday.

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60 responses to “More divorces spell out religious practice in custody agreements”

  1. One more reason that divorce is a blight, a scourge to society. A tragedy and a devastation to families. Sure, this avoids the catastrophes of courts deciding children’s religious practices, but we tolerate (I use that term carefully) divorce far too much in our society. What a shame people have to do this.

  2. And yet, people make mistakes. They choose poorly in terms of marriage, and many clergy seem content to offer marriage as a graduation present from private tutoring instead of the beginning of a sacramental journey and an encounter with Christ.

    We need less attention, please, on what homosexuals are doing outside the Church, and more focus on developing communication skills, sacramental awareness, a sense of community, and other skills for living in community.

    Sometimes I think marriage has to be defended from the clergy.

  3. Divorce is a disaster for children, an absolute disaster. But it’s all about making the adults happy right? Children are just accessories, something nice to have, they’ll learn to deal with whatever whackadoo arrangements their parents put them through. But it’s ok, you can always jet off to Paris because Christmas without your children is making you sad.

    What a nauseating article.

  4. The Church tells people what it takes to make marriage work, but it is so dramatically different from what they hear elsewhere that they simply find it incomprehensible. The most telling sign is the large number of couples who are living together at the time of their Catholic wedding ceremonies, quite often not with the first person with whom they have shared a household. We know that what they are readying themselves for is not lifelong commitment but (at best) serial monogamy, yet they are unwilling to choose a different lifestyle than the one favored by their peers, even in the days immediately before a Catholic wedding.

    One of my son’s friends just sent us a Christmas card with photos of four small children he and his new partner are raising: his two little ones, her little one, and the new one they just brought into the world. “From Our Modern Family to Yours” the caption reads. This young man went through one partner after another during college, then shacked up for a couple years with a girl he did not want to marry at all. His lavish Catholic wedding feast was still a fresh memory when he and his wife divorced and he moved in with his new partner. Modern family? Modern perhaps, but not a family, and those four little kids are suffering the consequences.

  5. Todd, I agree that homosexuality has become too much of an obsession in certain quarters, but when there is a movement involving something as sacred as marriage, the Church does well to respond.

    I don’t see it as an either-or thing. If the Church catechizes the faithful properly and clearly about the true meaning and dignity of marriage, then the question of “gay marriage” practically answers itself. If pre-Cana also gives guidance on overcoming the bumps along the way of a good marriage, then I hope divorce will be less frequent.

    I think the trend to spelling out matters such as religious practice by an agreement incorporated in the decree is preferable to leaving it as a potential battleground.

  6. “I don’t see it as an either-or thing.”

    Neither do I. The problem is that our bishops seem to act as if it were. How much press time in New York and Chicago about gays as compared to, say Marriage Encounter … communication issues … family finances … starting young couple groups in the parish.

    “If the Church catechizes the faithful properly …”

    Two things here.

    Not every problem can be solved by assuming people are stupid and just need more book-learnin’ on church stuff.

    The bishops seem too focused on what non-Catholic gays are doing, and not enough on their own flock.

  7. Ann
    Your words are very harsh and ignores the very real pain that many couples and families go through. There are some very valid reasons why couples feel they cannot stay together and sometimes it is the best thing for the children. In fact, keeping children in a home where there is domestic violence may actually amount to child abuse in some jurisdictions. Please don’t judge what you don’t understand or know.

  8. Gee Todd, I wish you had become a priest and maybe a Bishop so that you could solve all the church’s problems.

  9. The problem with marriage prep is that we wait until the pre-cana visits when the couple wants to get married to really begin talking about the sacramentality and permanence of marriage. To properly form people for marriage the catechesis on marriage needs to start when they are young children going through the religious ed or parish school programs. We need to teach on the ideal marriage starting young so that they will be hearing the church’s teaching on marriage early on to counter what society teaches about marriage. We need to instruct on the permanence of marriage, the sacrmental nature of marriage, co-habitation and the damage it does to marriage, and the role of children in marriage. You cannot instruct and form a couple in 6 months of pre-cana right before they get married.

  10. Unless you’re one of those kids, their psychologists or their child welfare case worker, you have no basis for saying they are “suffering the consequences” of a new marriage and mixed family.

  11. As for “co-habitation and the damage it does to marriage,” we may also need to be prepared to be honest about it. Studies show that people who have lived lives of promiscuity tend to have more difficulties in marriage. But they also show that couples who were faithful to one partner, though that might have involved pre-marital sex with that partner, had no significant future danger of divorce greater than a couple who did not have sex until after marriage.

    I’m inclined to think that pre-Cana needs to be blown up, and we need to approach marriage preparation as a lay-led initiative utilizing the model of apprenticeship and peer guidance.

  12. Maybe it is because I grew up in an earlier generation (born in 1960, just as the Church was beginning to change) or because of the example set by my parents, but I never doubted that when I married it was forever. That was one of the first things my late husband and I talked about after he proposed: that he better be darn sure this was what he wanted because once we were married, there was no do-over. He believed exactly the same thing – that this was a one-time thing – and we were engaged for an additional 18 months just to be sure we were really certain this was what we wanted. Three months before the wedding, I was with him as he went through open-heart surgery and was the person responsible for taking care of him during his recovery (both sets of parents moved to other states within a week of each other). We were devotedly and ecstatically married for 23 years until his heart condition eventually took him Home in 2009.

    As an aside, our Engaged Encounter and Marriage Encounter were next to useless – the first did not address the challenges faced by inter-faith couples and focused on unimportant symbols like shared checking accounts (which supposedly showed a lack of unity) while creating division with important symbols like the Eucharist. We even had the senior couple on our EE tell us that what we did when we were at home was not their concern but we shouldn’t sleep together while we were on the retreat since the Blessed Sacrament was down the hall. I am willing to acknowledge we may just have had bad leaders for both Encounters – but that is a problem in and of itself. For us, the pre-Cana was the more useful in helping us prepare for marriage and for making sure we addressed all the key issues.

  13. You are absolutely right Deacon Steve. By the time people show up to pre-Cana they are already heavily invested emotionally and maybe even financially in the wedding/marriage and are unlikely to want to listen to anything that might point them in the opposite direction. I think it mainly amounts to jumping through hoops.

    Understanding the purpose of marriage and sex has to take place before dating begins so they start off on the right foot.

  14. Good leadership is key. We had exactly the opposite experiences: a very good EE, and a very poor pre-Cana. The priest leading the latter started off by telling a sexist joke in very poor taste. I had to reassure my wife, then-fiance, who was on the verge of walking out.

    So yes, if there is a good way to vet the people responsible for marriage formation, including the ability to eject priests and couples who do harm, then I’m all for it.

  15. My wife and I lived together for a decade before formally tying the knot, and we’re going on 17 years together now, which is longer than anyone in my recent family history or most of my friends who married with little or no co-habitation before marriage.

  16. So are you saying living in sin for a decade assures a permanent marriage when you finally decide to make a commitment?

  17. Sounds like he’s saying that living together before making a religious or civil commitment is no guarantee of failure.

    Let’s be honest and realistic: couples who live together make all sorts of commitments. Just not two: a civil partnership or a religious ceremony.

  18. Deacon Steve
    I think your idea is the only real solution but unless the children attend Catholic high school, there is no formal opportunity for religious education and formation after Confirmation. Teenage youth groups vary from parish to parish – some have stronger programs than others. There should be more educational opportunites for adults as well. I am surprised there are not more online theology and spirituality courses offered for adults.

  19. That’s why it has to start well before Confirmation. When they talk about creation, “male and female” and the nuptial meaning of the body should be part of it in an age-appropriate way. When they talk about sacraments, ditto. Anybody who thinks children aren’t absorbing our post-christian, hedonist cultures attitudes toward sexuality by the time they are in middle school is kidding him/herself. We’ve got to get to them before the non-Christian
    values” have been established as normal in their minds.

    Then the catechesis has to continue as part of whatever happens in the high school years, and remedial or reinforcing adult education should be there to. But we’ve got to begin before the culture gets to them.

  20. NONE of you seem to get it. A lot couples get married in the Church because it’s what their parents want or it’s what they were raised with, NOT what they really believe. Having worked for the Church in parish work for more than 20 years, I can tell you that a lot of couples go through PreCana etc, do what they have to do and say what they have to say to get married in the Church. Later, they’d tell me they didn’t believe some or al of it, but wanted a “Church Wedding” to please their parents etc. It’s NOT a lack of understanding or knowledge. It’s that they DON’T believe it and never have.
    My OWN experience with Pre Canna is that it’s worthless. My now ex(I am remarried after annulment), who wasn’t Catholic, but assured me that she understood and respected my beliefs, actively participated and even tested strongly with regard to the couples test we took. Within a year of our being married she went after my beliefs and made pracaticing my faith as difficult as she could. Later, I would discover, barely 2 years after we were married that she’d had at least one affair and maybe more.
    It was during the annulment process that I learend that I had been a vcitim of a “bait and switch” . She figured that she could manipulate me into doing whatever she wanted and was stunned when I finally refused and moved out.
    WHY did she go through this? Because she was in her 30’s and was afraid that her friends and family would think that she was a lesbian. She also it clear in her response to the annulment petition that, because she was a Protestant ,Catholci “Rules” didn’t apply to her and she had only gone along with a Catholic ceremony was because it was important to me despite insisting to me all during our courtship that she shared my values. This also points out why there are so many divorces as well and it’s what I learned the hard way- PEOPLE DON’T CHANGE. THEY ONLY REVEAL THEMSELVES. PreCana is pretty easy to game.
    Besides, money, this is also why many couples cohabit, to learn first hand, what a person is really like to live with. You can pray , teach etc, but I don’t see this changing any time soon. These days over 40% of all marriages are civil, so good luck.

  21. There are legit reasons for divorce but there are way more invalid reasons. I agree if there is violence in the home, divorce has to be a viable option. But the dirce rate would be one quarter what it is now if people only divorced for valid reasons.

  22. Jeff Stevens at the top of this comment thread expressed exactly what I feel on the issue and he said way better than i could have. Divorce is a blight to society. Unless there is violnce in the family or some other such extreme situation, divorce is about me first and not the children. It is the opposite of Christ’s edict of service before self.

  23. Manny
    Unless you live a person’s life, how are you to really know when a reason is valid and when it is not? In any event, my words were directed to the harshness of the previous comment. Divorce is emotionally devastating to all those involved because there are bonds that are broken. Even for a person who wants a divorce, the process puts your heart through a blender. I think the Church needs to be more supportive and present with pastoral counseling to couples who are going through a rocky period. How many Catholic programs are there for marriage counseling?

  24. PC nonsense! Anyone whose mind is not addled with relativistic tolerance for wrongdoing knows that little kids need their mommies and their daddies with them. That’s clear enough in the newspaper account with which Deacon Greg began this thread. Nowadays the baneful consequences of family breakup are even being recorded in academic studies, but the testimony of children is evidence enough for all but the hardened of heart.

  25. ron, I think you overstate the case. If all children absolutely need their mommies and daddies, then those who lose a parent or, worse still, are orphaned are ruined.

    We wouldn’t object to orphan being raised by a maiden aunt, or two maiden aunts. We wouldn’t object if an impoverished widow sent her child(ren) to live with relatives.

    So let’s not exaggerate the importance of having children raised by their parents in a nuclear family unit.

  26. I would not presume to say anything of the sort. But the experience of more than a few of us gives the lie to the idea that pre-marital cohabitation is universally destructive to later marriage.

  27. Manny. I think Kevin’s comment at 6:39 p.m., just before yours, gives a fine example of a situation where there was no violence, but divorce (and annulment) was appropriate.

    I agree that divorce often happens in cases where couples are unwilling to make an effort to make the marriage work, but I think your sweeping generalization and harsh judgment overstates the case.

  28. The problem begins, really, with the phenomenon of “cultural Catholics” and Catholic-in-Name Only, a phenomenon which the Church itself actively fosters, albeit unintentionally. For centuries, they have worked to try to ingrain Catholicism so deep in captive cultures that it became second-nature, almost automatic. You’re baptized because your parents were, you’re confirmed at some ridiculous young age, and you were taught to never question things too much. Even if you finally make an informed decision to leave, you can’t. The Church simply doesn’t recognize such a thing as a former Catholic.

    They got their wish. Hundreds of millions of people who have no real investment or belief in the doctrine. They’re Catholic by accident of birth, basically. They’re stuck with the Church, but of course the reverse is true also. Both parties for the most part realize it’s a sham but they have too much invested to get out. The CINO’s continue the pro-forma tradition to satisfy the parents and grandparents. I’ve seen this at work even within my own family. Even when the older generation themselves are CINOs, they still pressure their kids to get the baptism and church wedding because it’s the expectation of their caste and social network, so to speak.

    The Church plays along because numbers are power (and money). It’s become like the old Soviet economy – a mutual delusion. The people pretend to work, the state pretends to pay them.

    This sham will only end if both sides grow up and stop pretending. The Church needs to stop pretending that every human being on the planet is a Catholic deep down or wants to be. They need to reserve their sacraments for people who make an informed, independent, ADULT decision of belief, and they need to have some formal mechanism for recognizing when people leave of free choice. The people, for their part, need to then grow up and stop playing a game to try to win others approval. If you’re going to call yourself Catholic, be one. If not, be yourself and no one will think less of you.

  29. Confirmation is too late to start. We have to start earlier because most of a person’s morality is formed by the time they are done with Jr. High or Middle school. We need to start forming them earlier as to what a real marriage is about. We need to be honest and not lead them to believe that marriages never have arguements or disagreements. We need to show them that marriages can be healthy and lasting even with those things in a marriage. Permanence in a marriage is a concept that is foreign to many people because of what they see in homes, on tv and in movies. We need to help them see that marriages can last, and that it is important to invite God into the relationship. We need to show them the facts about co-habitation and that those couples are twice as likely as the norm to get divorced. We need to show young boys what it truly means to be a husband and father, and young girls what it means to be a wife and a mother. We need to counter the examples given that make husbands and father irrelevant. And all this cannot come just from the clergy. They will dismiss it when we say it because we are supposed to say those things. This is an area where the laity and clergy absolutely must work together to get the message out.

  30. The earlier you start and the way you follow through on any education topic gives much greater chance of success. However, what they see as examples from those that mean the most to them is going to have the greatest influence. Parents who care little for their kids and are lost in what is important to themselves will teach this to their kids. The results are all around us.

    The Catholic Church teaching is well laid out and all parents need to first understand Church teaching and then make sure they teach it to their kids. It is part of being a Catholic parent which is our responsibility when we are given Children by God. Those who live outside the Church teaching are abusing their children and their God. Unfortunately, all people do this to some extent because we are human, but some live outside in open dissent and in doing so, give their children the worse lesseon possible.

  31. It doesn’t sound like children were involved. If there were i wouldn’t consider that a valid reason. No I don’t consider infidelity a reason to break up a family with children. Obviously it takes two to commit to a marriage and if one party leaves without the other party having a say, then it’s a broken marriage and Church rules apply. Annulments frankly are a sham. The Catholic Church in the US has essentially accepted divorce.

  32. kenneth, what a sad synical view of your church and other people.

    Kevin, you seem to be saying you were involved in parish work for over 20 years, and yet you seem to be saying during that entire time you saw a whole lot of people who were only going through the motions in pre cana. Wonder what you did during that time frame with the parish priest on this issue to improve the situation.

    So many here seem to look at the Church as an abstract set apart thing that they do not have personal responsibility to improve. I have worked with our parish to make the entire process one that is one of the toughest in the area for couples to go through successfully and we do not agree to marry all who come here and certainly none that are here for the ‘church wedding’. This was driven by a group of us that put the program together, staffed the program, and continue to work to improve it. We reject about 30% of those who come here even as we know many of them go to other parishes. But our success rate is outstanding in the marriages performed here in both quality and longevity. They are also open to life and tell us this is another critical part of their success, our strong NFP program requirement. The leading family has 9 children. Because of this, we also have a strong education program with lower rates for larger families and a strong teaching program driven around the Catholic teaching on the virtues required for their lives. I like some of Deacon Steve suggestions and plan to bring them up in the next meeting.

    The priest often has a hard time creating this environment in today’s world and it is best if the lay people join forces and drive this type of program.

  33. I am in a tricky position here as I hold to teaching against divorce, but I nevertheless paid for one sister’s divorce. I have struggled with this at times, but the man was in-and-out of prison so much my nephew (when playing) would say “and this is the part where the daddy goes to jail.” And my sister’s ex had intense alcohol problems, even peeing on my wheelchair once because he was so drunk he thought it was a toilet. Further I later learned he had dealings with organized crime. Also their marriage was by a “Justice of the Peace.” I know now that such marriages can be seen as valid, and she took it more seriously than I thought, but she did manage to get it annulled. And I think if she’d stayed married to him it would have been bad for my nephew. I mean him thinking Dad’s, almost naturally or inevitably, go to jail every so often was almost certainly not the best environment.

    Still since then his biological father has reformed. He’s been sober for over a year and has a new family. That being said I don’t really regret what I did. For all I know he would not have reformed if he’d never been divorced. Maybe the divorce was necessary for him to “hit bottom” in the right way. And I can’t see how my sister’s marriage really could have worked out as it was. (I don’t want to overdo his faults though or mislead about them. He didn’t hit her or his son i.e. my nephew. He was more of a thief and drunk who sometimes assaulted grown men. So far as I know he did not hit kids or women)

  34. Annulments might be misused, but they’re not “a sham.” I think the purposes originally were more limited to incest and fraud.

    If a person got married, and a few months later found out they’re half-siblings, would you really say they must continue the marriage if she’s pregnant? Or if a con-man marries a woman, and has a kid with her before fleeing with her cash, would you really say their marriage was real? That she must track him down and make it work?

  35. Both common sense and academic studies note the distinction between the circumstances of children who lose parents to accident/illness and those whose parents abandon them for new sweethearts. Only one of those groups grows up with a sense of worthlessness and rejection which is likely to plague them all their lives. The symptoms are numerous and include increased likelihood of poor performance in school, at work and in personal relationships. Catholic teaching on the vital need for married, two-parent households is unambiguous, yet we seldom hear it because it makes those who can’t live up to it feel bad.

  36. Manny the fact that we can grant so many annulments is a testamony to how poorly we are catechizing the people on marriage. There wouldn’t be so many annulments if our preparation process didn’t lead to so many marriages have defects in consent or lack of form because the couple decided to get married while sky diving etc. If we do good catechesis on marriage, then do good pre-cana with the couples, we will see divorces and annulments drop.

  37. First, let me say, that the couples I was referring to were smart enough NOT to say or do anything to lead to any questions being raised. They knew how the game was/is played. LATER, I’d find out through the grapevine. Even if I knew, it was not in my purview to deny the sacrement to a couple, especially when I couldn’t prove anything and neither could the priest.In short there was nothing that I could’ve done to change the situation. So we went ahead and married them. YOU may deny them, but even YOU admit that many of those you reject go to other parishes. So what do you really accomplish?

    Sadly, I think Kenneth may be on to something as well.

  38. No, Deacon Steve, it isn’t a lack of teaching about marriage or a poor preparation process, either. It really has more to do with what I learned the hard way, PEOPLE DON’T CHANGE. THEY ONLY REVEAL THEMSELVES. No matter how good the preparation process is, it highly unlikely to reveal anything a couple or a member of the couple wishes to keep hidden or unbdiagnosed persoanlity or emtional probems. It wasn’t until my ex and I had been divorced for about 2 years that HER friends began to give me information, THAT had I known it at the time would have led me to call off the wedding. When I asked why they hadn’t told me, they said “We thought YOU were different from her past boyfriends and that she seemed really happy with you and we were convinced that she had really changed.” We didn’t want to mess anything up”.
    Unless, the Church want to spend the money to hire full time investigators, it’s going to be pretty difficult to know which couples are legit and which aren’t.

  39. Yeah, well let me tell you, Manny, what’s it’s like to find out that your spouse has been cheating on you. It’s like being punched in the face and to know it and stay when you know that they’re NOT going to change, whether there are children or not, is masochistic. Sometimes, ,you have to draw a line in the sand and say “NO FURTHER!” NO ONE SHOULD BE A PUNCHING BAG EITHER PHYSICALLY OR MENTALLY!

  40. I don’t think I’m being cynical at all. What’s cynical are the people gaming the system for a religion they don’t really believe and the priests who enable that. All I’m really advocating is that people, adult people, do an honest examination of their beliefs and consciences and then make a good faith effort to act on those.

    The Church needs to stop asserting ownership over the souls of people who don’t want to be there, and the people who don’t really want to be there need to grow a spine and stop playing a role for mom and dad or society or whoever.

  41. This is a response to Kevin.
    I hear what you are saying about people revealing their true selves after the wedding and I agree that many marriages are probably frauds. But I disagree with you that people don’t change – we all do – sometimes for the better and sometimes not. The secret to a good marriage, IMO, is to allow a spouse to change while still maintaining the basic life-long committment of marriage.

  42. Kenneth, I see where you’re coming from and I don’t think that you’re being cynical at all. You’re calling them as you see them. You may already know that weekly Mass attendance is only about 30% so all this stuff about marriages really shouldn’t surprise anyone.

  43. Steve is incorrect on two points.

    First, American Catholics choose to pursue declarations of nullity because there is still a fairly wide respect for the Church and its laws.

    Second, and more seriously, is the fallacy that if people were more educated (that is, less stupid) they would make better choices. The Church needs better ministry to couples, by couples, before and after the wedding day. It will help if we can get past the information/education/graduation approach to sacraments.

  44. With all due respect, Oregon Catholic, another way to read that is not that people change, but certain aspects of one’s personality come to the fore when and if certain conditions arise. I do agree that that keeping one’s committment to one’s spouse is the secret to a good marriage. However, everyone has their limits.

  45. AMEN TOD!!!
    Many people make bad marriage choices for a number of reasons or conditions that may cloud their judgement and hence the rise in legitimate annulments based on “lack of maturity” etc. Many were and are well intentioned, but have no idea of the underlying problems until they appear during the stresses and strains of any marriage, good or bad. Families of orgin matter as well. Spouses who come from extremely dysfunctional families, as I learned my ex did, may have NO idea what good marriage or family really looks like.
    Likewise, the United States, is, according g to my research, the #1 country foro annulments. In many other parts of the world, Catholics don’t bother to even try for annulment because Church ceremonies aren’t recognized. This is especially true in Europe. Many CAtholcis there marry in civil ceremonies and maybe later, have a Church ceremony. Others don’t even bother with that. Many Catholics here at least care enough to try and many, myself included, learn some very valuable lessons and gain some valuable insights during the process. At it’s best it can help heal the wounds of divorce.

  46. Kevin, I think there is a lot that can be done to change the situation and that the program we have put in place seems to be improving things with successful Catholic families that are clear examples that working hard toward this goal is worthwhile, but never easy. Yes, some who we reject do go elsewhere and are given the sacrament of marriage, but quite a few are starting to take a long hard look at themselves and their potential spouse to see what values they hold as most important. Frankly, that is a good role for the Church and one it should never take lightly because it involves a sacrament.

  47. Kenneth, if the Church is “asserting ownership over the souls of people who don’t want to be there” I have missed that in my lifetime as a Catholic.

    I agree with you that “people who don’t really want to be there need to grow a spine and stop playing a role for mom and dad or society or whoever.” I think the Church should help in this discernment process. But if you see infant baptism and the other sacraments such as first Eucharist or first Reconcilliation or even Confirmation now provided to youth as some evil that should stop, I disagree totally. In another post the discussion seemed to agree that the Church needs to do even more to educate starting at a very early age and I think that is true if done in conjunction with the parents. Were we might agree is when I see people who seldom come to Sunday Mass suddenly appear for some massive wedding plans and this is something we look at as part of the process of making decisions on who to support for the Sacrament of marriage in our parish. The issue is not the Church “asserting ownership” but the Church not asserting more ownership by protecting the Sacraments from being defiled when those known to be in grave sin are allowed to receive. The Church clearly teaches that we should not recieve a Sacrament in grave sin and that we must go first to Reconcilliation with God. That is why we should see known politicians who are in serious dissent on non negotiable teaching of the Church such as abortion being turned away from the Sacraments. In a way we are in agreement for if the Church took the stance to clearly uphold canon law and Church teaching rather than to provide wiggle room for those who do not clearly support Church teaching, we would soon lose those who are not truly Catholic in practice anyway.

  48. Manny, I disagree that infidelity is not a valid reason to end a marriage – it all depends on the couple and the effect it has on trust. To hold such a position would, IMO, give some an excuse to commit infidelity and then expect to be forgiven.

  49. It’s worth pointing out that infidelity, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily a valid reason for annulment. A lot of people find that surprising.

  50. Yes, deacon. It’s what the infidelity says about the marriage commitment and the damage done. A one-night stupid decision while drunk is sooooo different than an affair.

  51. My point entirely, Oregon Catholic about revealing oneself. An affair or affairs can reveal a previous mindset unknown to the victim and therefore could part of annulment case.

  52. “Kenneth, if the Church is “asserting ownership over the souls of people who don’t want to be there” I have missed that in my lifetime as a Catholic.”………….

    Under Canon Law, the act of baptism makes you irrevocably Catholic forever. More than that, the Church does not even allow one to formally quit it’s Earth-bound organization. For a few years, they did. It was called “formal defection.” That ended abruptly about a year ago after people started using the procedure in significant numbers. Even when they had it, it was not all that user-friendly. You had to submit a notarized letter and it was tricky to learn who exactly to direct it to in the labyrinth of a large archdiocese.

    Of course people can simply stop participating, but the Church still counts them as Catholic. One in every 10 adults in the U.S. is a former Catholic – about 23 million Americans. If you counted them as a “denomination” for demographic purposes, they would be the second largest in this country. Every last one of them is still Catholic according to the Church’s books.

    That kind of disconnect has consequences. I believe one of those consequences is the CINO phenomenon. You have millions of people who don’t really buy into the faith but they’re stuck with the label, so to speak. The can’t formally quit or even be thrown out. It’s not so surprising that some of them would simply opt to re-define Catholicism on their own terms.

  53. How do you tell a person has been baptized Catholic walking down the street? If you do not want to be part of the Catholic Church, you probably could care less if you were baptized or not. You simply stop going to Church every week which puts you in ever growing state of grave sin. Yes, the door is open to come back, but that requires you to reconcile your sin with a sacrament. Why is it you need to go through this paperwork?

    I agree that many counted are not really Catholic. We had a huge number vote for the pro abortion Obama last election. Many of them still think they are Catholic.

  54. “How do you tell a person has been baptized Catholic walking down the street?”………

    That’s not really the issue. It’s not a matter of having some scarlet letter or facial tattoo which marks me out has being or having been Catholic. The issue is that the Church has a vested financial and political interest in claiming very high membership numbers – 1.3 or 1.6 billion, whatever that number is these days. That number makes politicians sit up straight and take the church very seriously. Numbers mean clout, and money. The numbers are built on a lie, but one that no one wants to look too closely into. Who cares if most of them are cinos? The money still rolls in. It matters cause the CINOs don’t play ball by the valtican rulebooks

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