Divorce, Catholic Divorce and Following Christ as Counter-Cultural Living

Divorce, Catholic Divorce and Following Christ as Counter-Cultural Living October 12, 2013

Divorce is one of the plagues of modern America. It is the root cause of much of the misery of our modern life. The damage it does to our children and their children and their children’s children is incalculable. It is almost as if we have visited a social plague of Biblical proportions on ourselves with our disregard for marriage, home and family.

And we do disregard these things.

Social policy, especially as it pertains to how business activities are regulated, do not ever seem to consider the good the family. If you want to see what people really care about, look at what they serve. Judged by that standard, American government — and the American people as well — consistently put the Almighty dollar ahead of families, including, or perhaps most especially, children.

Divorce is a cause and a symptom of these values, as well as a result of them. In this way, we have created a divorce cycle that feeds on itself and appears to be endangering the survival of the institution of Holy Matrimony in the larger society. If we are heading toward a society where only certain groups of people maintain stable homes and families, there is no better place for one of those groups to form than among faithful Catholics.

It appears that the foundation for this sort of thing may already be in place.

According to a recent study by the Applied Research Apostolate at Georgetown University, Catholics divorce. In fact, Catholics divorce a lot. But compared to those other guys and gals out there, Catholics don’t divorce so much.

I suppose it’s a relief to learn that we’re not as prone as non-Catholics to steer our marriages — and our lives and our children’s lives — onto the rocks. In fact, I know it’s good news. The study shows that 28% of Catholics have been divorced at some time in their lives. I am assuming that this includes people who converted to Catholicism after they were divorced. If that’s true, the numbers for cradle Catholics might be even lower. Catholics who are married to other Catholics divorce at the slightly lower rate of 27%, so there may be something to that notion.

Protestants divorce at a rate of 39%, other faiths at 35% and people of no faith at 40%.

What this means is that, while we’re far from the point where we need to pop open the champagne and begin congratulating ourselves, we have a basis of solid Catholic families on which to build. Our ultimate goal should be the conversion of the larger society. But for now, I think it’s more than enough for us to look to ways to strengthen and build strong Catholic families which can raise children who will grow into productive and faithful adults.

I’ll talk about this more later, but we’re going to have to face the reality that our society is inimical to us and our values. If we want to live the true good life of stable homes that produce children who grow into equally stable adults, we face the necessity — not the choice, but the necessity — of pulling our families and our kids out of the cesspools of modern life.

We can no longer rely on the larger culture to be a safe place for our kids. And we certainly cannot rely on the larger culture to teach either us or them about what matters in life. Following Christ has always been counter-cultural. It was a scandal to the larger society from its beginning. In a very real way, we simply need to go back to our New Testament Gospel roots and live out our faith as the countercultural force it is and always has been.

From Catholic News Agency:

.- Recent studies on marriage show that while their rates of divorce are significant, U.S. Catholics are less likely to divorce than people of other religious affiliations.

“Although the Catholic ‘divorce rate’ is lower than the U.S. average it is still a daunting figure,” said the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

In a Sept. 26 blog post, the research group explained that divorce among Catholics “represents more than 11 million individuals,” many of whom “are likely in need of more outreach and ongoing ministry from the Church.”

In its article, the organization explained that different ways of tallying divorce and marriage rates create a range of different divorce figures, including the oft-quoted statistic that “half of all marriages fail.”

Looking at national surveys, “Catholics stand out with only 28 percent of the ever-married having divorced at some point,” the blog post stated, compared to more than 40 percent of those with no religious affiliation, 39 percent of Protestants and 35 percent of those of another religious faith.

Furthermore, Catholics who marry other Catholics are also less likely to divorce than Catholics married to people of other faiths.

A 2007 survey from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate estimates that only 27 percent of Catholics married to other Catholics have ever experienced divorce, compared to nearly half of Catholics married to Protestants or to spouses with no religious belief.

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50 responses to “Divorce, Catholic Divorce and Following Christ as Counter-Cultural Living”

  1. “The damage [divorce] does to our children and their children and their children’s children is incalculable.”

    Thank you for saying this. One of the most profound, haunting statements I have ever seen is this –

    “Divorce is when a man and a woman put down their cross and make their children pick it up.”

  2. Not to mention the possible side effects of Obamacare resulting in couples having to divorce in order to pay their taxes/Obamacare premiums. I saw a table of rates and if my husband can’t find work soon (being laid off in Dec), we won’t be able to afford Obamacare … as a married couple … sigh … I guess my contempt for my relative who married a foreigner so he could get a green card, but who lives 4 states away from her will have to go away in the face of my own pending corruption … sigh …

  3. An interesting exercise would be to net the Catholic divorce rate against some reliable source for rates of domestic violence and, a different statistic, severe mental illness. A number of the faithful (and fallen-away) Catholics I know who are divorced with an annulment-worthy situation fall into one or both of those categories. Which are problems of a different nature, and requiring a different kind of intervention, than the problem of couples divorcing over simpler, much more resolvable problems.

  4. The only way I know that would make any sense would be if all the different faith and no faith groups were included. Of course one of the problems is that there is a large disparity between reported vs actual cases of domestic violence in all groups. From my casual observation during my years as an anti-God person who hung out with atheists and unbelievers of various degrees almost entirely, I think the incidence of rape/marital rape/battering among them is quite high. Ditto for misogyny. The men in the trendy unbeliever/atheist groups that I spent my time with advocated all the “right” stands on the political issues that feminists espoused, but they were actually far more misogynistic in how they treated women than the men with other philosophies that I met later.

    There is no misogynist like a self-righteous “pro choice” anti-God misogynist. I speak from experience.

  5. This was a very interesting read and it spurred me to go look up divorce rates across Europe. I couldn’t find that broken down by religion, but it did seem like the protestant countries had a higher divorce rate than the catholic. Both Italy and Ireland had very low rates. England and Germany and the Scadenavian countries had about the same as the US. Old soviet satelite countries had very high rates.

  6. If your spouse in not employed, you will likely be eligible for substantial subsidies to help pay for an insurance policy from a private company through the Affordable Care Act exchanges. A family of four making less than somewhere in the neighborhood of $94,000 a year will get tax credits to offset premiums. Also there is no such thing as an “Obamacare Premium” as the exchanges simply provide subsidized access to private plans through existing insurance companies. If you have access to employer based insurance, you will keep that.

  7. Of course that ignores the terrible conditions in some marriages, conditions improved by divorce and maybe remarriages.

  8. That’s very true. Until my early thirties when I went into teaching I never thought divorce was such an evil, although having previously been a police officer I knew that cohabitation was. However when I start teaching I saw first hand the devastation that divorce brings. I am so annoy, as with contraception and the rearing of children, when society puts the wants of adults ahead of the needs of children.

  9. Physical and emotional abuse yes. But the Church calls for a civil divorce and chastity; which in the long run is better for the children. However the majority of divorces are not for these.

  10. The difficulty is that a house that is broken affects all the members of the house; and this isn’t just in human, marital divorce, it means the Church as well. As with contraception, which was once seen as sinful by all the churches, the acceptance of it by Protestant denominations means that in practice it is accepted by Catholics.

  11. Are divorces abused-based forty-seven percent of busted marriage covenants (US divorce rate, 2011)? thirty-seven?? twenty-seven??? seventeen??? seven????? (see Abraham Intercedes for Sodom, Genesis 8:16-33)

    Divorce has become an muti-billion dollar institution, thanks to the advent of “no-fault” divorce (do some research). EIGHTY-PERCENT of all NFD (“no-fault” divorce) are filed by Women, partially because divorce has been financially incentivized. Divorce is a leviathan industry based on individualism at the expense of the collective.

    Statistics demonstrate that most divorces are not for reasons of abuse (do some research).

    The only ones benefiting from divorce are legal professionals, real estate agents, bankers and other mammon lovers.

    Do some research, please. Divorce is one of the plagues that is destroying the family, the basis of Society.

    For I hate divorce,
    says the LORD, the God of Israel,
    and the one who covers his garment with violence,
    says the LORD of hosts.
    You should be on guard, then, for your life,
    and you must not break faith.
    Malachi 2:16

    [3] Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” [4] He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ [5] and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? [6] So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” [7] They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss [her]?” [8] He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. [9] I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” [10] [His] disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” [11] He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted. [12] Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”
    Matthew 19

    To the married, however, I give this instruction (not I, but the Lord): A wife should not separate from her husband.
    1 Corinthians 7:10

    May God Save us all.

  12. Please remember that remarriages have a higher divorce rate than original marriages. This is not the answer, as evidenced by the teachings of the Word of God made Flesh and by His Spouse, Holy Mother Church.

    Word of man or Word of God…

    God Love you

  13. God Bless you for your witness and your public service. May the Lord Bless and keep you and yours safe always.

  14. Staying together in a terrible marriage “for the sake of the children” can be worse for them than divorce. A friend’s parents did just that and she told her mother that she had always wished that they did divorce because living in a home with parents who were obviously so unhappy with each other (Dad was an unrepentant womanizer) did her more harm than good.

  15. Certainly, there are situations where a civil divorce is preferable because the damage to the children is EVEN WORSE if the parents stay together. The point is, don’t kid yourself that divorce does not harm the kids, and often seriously.

  16. Like I said, in certain circumstances, a divorce is better than staying together, for all concerned. Ideally when 2 people marry, they will always stay together, in reality—some do and some don’t. In December I will have been married 49 years, but I have never had a reason to want out of it. I wouldn’t have stayed married because I had been married in church should some situation have arisen that would have been best solved by leaving the marriage and getting a divorce. By no means, (except in a case of abuse,physical/mental or both of either the spouse or a child/children, should a couple remain together as it is worse for all involved, especially the children) should marriage be taken lightly, and with the exceptions I mentioned, the couple should do whatever is possible to remain together. But I disagree with your last quote from 1Corinthians 7:10. A wife most certainly should separate from her husband if he is cheating on her or abusing her (or the kids). A man does not OWN a woman. As for lawyers etc.—-people do not get a divorce in order to give lawyers work, any more than people get sick to give doctors work. I don’t think one should have to apply for an annulment if there was abuse involved in the divorce—a civil divorce should satisfy the Church, but then I don’t know the rules. If I understand correctly, and I most certainly may not, an annulment can take quite a long time to receive.

  17. I have known at least 2 remarriages that worked out fine—and are still married 40 years later etc. Not all remarriages are bad.

  18. My cousin stayed married until his 2 went to college then he and the wife divorced. By that time, they were old enough to realize it was for the best. The were not happy together at all, but he stuck it out. No abuse or cheating by either party, it was just a lousy marriage.

  19. St Monica suffered greatly at the hands of her abusive, pagan husband and her perseverance converted him and St Augustine and saved their souls, all in faith in God’s Love and Commandments. Sorry that you disagree with Holy Scripture and the example of the Saints. God Love you!

  20. With respect, St. Monica didn’t live in the 21st century. I seriously hope that a woman today would leave WAY before suffering greatly. Most men do not stop abusing, no matter how often the say they are “sorry”. What is unfortunate is the women who are too afraid to leave, due to the belittling and degradation they receive from the man. They are made to feel that they are responsible and deserve it, as they are told that so often. I taught with a teacher who was being abused, and when if finally came out, she was persuaded to leave her husband. She kept it hidden for a long time. Also, if there are children watching the abuse, many times it is continued another generation, due to the horrible example shown to them. Divorce is a necessity at times.

  21. Conditions improved by divorce, yes. By remarriage? Are you kidding? If a person made a mess of a relationship, it is very likely that they will do so again, especially if they think that if everything goes wrong they can just divorce again. The patterns of sin and error in people’s behaviour are lifelong, and divorce does not alter them.

  22. And I have known people who won the Legion d’Honneur and the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Vittorio Veneto. Most people don’t, though. There is no worse argument than “I know a person who…”

  23. I tend to agree. I haven’t watched that specific area so much (although I know a thing or two about domestic abuse), but it corresponds to my experience that there is nobody as tyrannical and unreasonable as a self-proclaimed progressive, and there is nobody more given to identifying and persecuting heretics than a self-proclaimed progressive Christian. I shall never forget when one of them, after months of knowing each other and debating each other, said as if surprised: “So you are not a Fundamentalist?” – because, you see, if one did not agree with his brand of watered-down religiousness the only thing one could be was a literalist. His subsequent acts proved that he still regarded me as a threat and to be got rid of by any means necessary. I think it can be shown that the stronger the faith in the progressive improvement of humanity, the stronger the hatred for humanity as it is.

  24. ABsolutely. In fact, I can say with authority that it takes decades before the children themselves realize in just how many ways they have been damaged.

  25. We believe that no man can dissolve what is bound in heaven but I find it hard to accept that a bad marriage, such as one that involves an abusive relationship was made in heaven. As I’ve seen with my “BFF”,she and her children have been damaged by living in a home with an abusive husband/father and now, the boys in particular are beginning to show some of their father’s traits behavior.

  26. A bad marriage can do far more harm to both the couple and the children than divorce. A bad home environment forces everyone to carry crosses; a divorce can lessen the burden for all concerned.

  27. grace, conversion, mercy, the sacraments. that is the answer. struggling and carrying the cross Christ gives us.

  28. hence why if this is actually needed, the church has the annulment process. lets just run away from our crosses rather than carry them with christ, thats a great christian attitude.

  29. The last sentence is your opinion, Fabio. It is obvious that just like a first marriage, remarriages don’t always work out, but some do, and (to once again use what you find an awful argument ) I have had the privilege to know a couple of successful remarriages. . My sister-in-law took 4 marriages before she found the “right one”, and has stayed with this one over 25 years. Who knows what works and what doesn’t? She fortunately has had no children.

  30. Frankly Brian, under these circumstances, I’m kinda in favor of jail time for dear old dad. In fact, I’ve written laws to send guys like this to jail. I have no apologies about that and no regrets. A man who beats up his own wife is lower than dirt, and an absolutely sorry excuse for man. He doesn’t deserve a family.

  31. Carrying a cross doesn’t mean putting up with physical and/or verbal abuse or watching your children being hit and degraded. On the contrary, the person(s) being mistreated should get out ASAP, get a civil divorce and if Catholic, worry about an annulment later. The abuser belongs in the closest jail.

  32. Ken I’ve passed too many laws in 18 years to enumerate or even describe. However, I know I haven’t done anything about intervention when batterers get out of prison. Others have, though. As for counseling, I’ve worked hard to create and fund domestic violence shelters. I am not interested in working for the batterers. Others do that, which is ok by me. I’ve always voted for those bills.

  33. Exactly. You had the privilege to know such people. That means that you hardly expect theirs to be the pattern – otherwise how would you admit that it is a privilege to know such rare characters? i despise Don Juans and ladies’ men, because I regard them as exploiters and people who despise the very women they exploit. However, one man I knew very well was the exact opposite. He never, but never, told, let alone bragged – I had to find out by chance or inference; he was never anything but complimentary and charming to women he had “known”, and in most cases he stayed friends (and in the one case where there was a decisive break-up, I know from experience of my own that he was more than justified) and always treated them as adults and as individuals. I had the privilege of knowing such a person. It was a privilege, and, being a privilege, it was and remains rare.

  34. Unfortunately, many people believe that they must stick it out, even if they are being abused; it hardly matters if it is the primary cause of divorce these days. As for those who are unwilling to compromise, have money problems, etc., I’d like to think that, at least for Catholic couples, these potential problems and how to overcome them were discussed in the Pre-Cana classes they took before their marriages.

  35. Carry your own cross but do not burden your children with it. It doesn’t make good Catholic children; it makes resentful, angry children who grow up to be resentful, angry and possibly abusive adults. Yes, we have annulment but you also need to get a civil divorce and as far as I know (judging from the people in my life who have obtained annulments), the divorce comes first.

    I’m not in favor of people getting a divorce because they’ve grown apart or because they have money problems but if someone is serially unfaithful or abusive, the marriage must end. In the case of an unfaithful spouse, remember that it’s not just a case of cheating; they can be putting the other person in danger of contracting an STD or worse from them.

    No one should put their health and well-being at risk.

  36. As evidenced by a couple of comments here, even physical abuse is no reason to divorce. One even mentioned a saint who “stuck it out”. Thus my comments tending to focus on the abuse aspect. I would hope that couples would give honest effort to stay together, if no abuse is involved. But at times even without a physical/verbal abuse danger, it isn’t possible. Staying together just because the Church performed the sacrament shouldn’t be the only reason if indeed the 2 people involved (and perhaps children) are miserable.

  37. As I said, ST. Monica didn’t live in the 21st century. I was aware of the fact she may not have had a choice. Using her as an example of “sticking it out” really doesn’t apply to now. Yes, I do understand what the Church’s understanding of marriage is, however there are times, and I will stop, when even that is no reason to continue in a married state. My not being of the Faith doesn’t mean I think marriage should be taken lightly.

  38. That is what makes it so hard sometimes for a woman to leave when she should, no matter what faith or lack of it is involved. They are troubled too, and afraid to leave and be on their own. That was the case I mentioned above concerning the teacher I taught with—but she was finally convinced to leave the abusive situation.

  39. Depends on what you call “comfort level”. Is constant, heated arguing between the parents considered a healthy comfort level for children? Is a cheating father or mother considered a healthy comfort level for children? Is a parent who is addicted to gambling the family money away considered a healthy comfort level for children? Baring the obvious of abuse to one spouse, what is a healthy comfort level for raising children? Just what is “sacrificing” the children mean when they are living in a house full of distrust, or hate between the parents? Does that produce healthy adults when all those kids see is adults that dislike each other intently and would really rather be somewhere else, but are ‘sticking it out” for the kids? What is the comfort level of 2 arguing adults?

  40. Guess it is better to see bickering, hateful adults instead of what a child(children) deserve—an example of adults that love and respect each other. Is that role model OK, living with 2 parents who actually dislike/hate each other or do you think it is better to have them separate and hopefully care enough about the child(children) to share custody? Either way all are affected, right? And as you well know, there are adults as far as age is concerned but otherwise—not so much.

  41. I’m not excusing juvenile behavior by adults—-I’m mentioning that there are some “adults” that never “grow up”. Not an excuse, a fact. I’ve known a few. I agree with you that those who have married and procreated aren’t necessarily ready to do the “hard work” that comes with that AND keeping a relationship with the spouse as well. There is no test of “adulthood”. Those with juvenile brains in an adult body do marry. I married 2 weeks short of 19, and my husband was 3 weeks from 20. According to some studies the brain doesn’t finish maturing until the mid 20’s! By my mid-20’s I had 1 child and 1 on the way. Was I mature? Who the heck knows, but I’m still married after almost 49 years. Has it all been easy? Of course not, but I do not remember ever going to bed upset or angry with my spouse. Maybe we are the exception—All that to say—I’m not excusing parents who wish to divorce because there is a bit of trouble, and as you put it “throw the kids under the bus”. Some of those parents may be working on the same level mentally as their children.