Unexpected Catechism

Married in the Catholic Church. Divorce not recognized. Hence, the marriage preparation classes, where people decide not to get married.

Went through the marriage preparation class. Never wavering in decision to get married.

Ended up civilly divorced, sixteen years later. Still married religiously, which continues to provide some degree of something, fifteen years post-divorce.

Thought since religious divorce was impossible, civil divorce would be equally so. In 1994, when my marriage was first unravelling (and sputtering LOW LOW LOW LOW until legally ended in 1997) the new Catechism of the Catholic Church was published. Rushed out and bought two copies; one for home and one for travel. Surely the prohibition against religious divorce would provide the impediment to civil divorce.

At the time, the Catholic Church was being globally criticised by those who believed that its prohibition on divorce meant that people were compelled to stay in abusive relationships. They denied it was so.

Went to the new Catechism. Here it is: Paragraph 1649, which has the appearance of a quick add-on, with a slightly different typeface, in the version I picked up:

Yet there are some situations in which living together becomes practically impossible, for a variety of reasons. In such cases, the Church permits the physical separation (their emphasis) of the couple, and their living apart. The spouses do not cease to be husband and wife before God, and so are not free to contract a new union. In this difficult situation, the best solution would be, if possible, reconciliation. The Christian community is called to help these persons live out their situation in a Christian manner and in fidelity to their marriage bond, which remains indissoluble.

Went to the priests; more than one. This passage means there is a religious obligation to try to reconcile, right? From more than one priest, no answer.

So an acceptance that certain circumstances require separation, without any apparent obligation to try to reconcile. There is a religious obligation on the part of other Catholics to be supportive of the couple during this difficult time, but also no obligation there to encourage attempts at reconciliation. I did not encounter one Catholic trying to help put things back together. Plus, no aversion to civil divorce. Once one is on this particular train, there seems to be no stations in between. With all the crowd, Catholic and non-Catholic, almost cheering: do it to it, and fade.

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This entry was posted in Catholicism, Family, Ottawa Reflections, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Unexpected Catechism

  1. On June 6, 2012, Lorne commented as follows (e-mail correspondence reproduced with permission):

    I would say from what you quoted that there is indeed a religious obligation to attempt reconciliation.

    Not being Roman Catholic, I’m reluctant to wade into areas of Catholic theology, especially since I haven’t spent much time studying it. Scripture seems to me to be at odds with the Roman interpretation of divorce. Jesus was not a fan of divorce (understatement), but my interpretation of those passages would be more to do with the issue of remarriage. I believe that is why the Roman Catholic church does not allow divorce, but does provide for annulments. The annulment process has always struck me as straining at gnats and swallowing camels, though I understand the human attempt to deal with a hard scripture passage.

  2. On June 6, 2012, Neil Remington Abramson commented as follows (e-mail correspondence reproduced with permission):

    My own view is that theory is fine, but one must be able to see practical application of it with real observable results, or else the theory is just pie in the sky. The Roman Catholic man who lives as if married, when divorced, instead of just becoming an Anglican or an agnostic, should be honored. But these good men are not the majority. And one should not pretend that the theory is the general case, or else one is self-deluded, and one’s eyes are not open to see the many gender-based injustices.

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