Remedying the Divorce Culture

Divorce is more common in my extended family than in society at large. My childhood home was a broken home. This experience fostered within me attentiveness to both the often-difficult circumstances faced by couples today and the Church’s teaching related to marriage and divorce.

Over the last few months divorce, remarriage, and reception of the Eucharist have been in the news, which provides a good opportunity to clarify the Church’s teaching about divorce.

Jesus’ familiar words in Matthew 19:6 are a fitting starting point. Our Lord says of marriage: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” A valid marriage, united through the consent of spouses will perdure “until death do us part.”

Unfortunately, lifelong marriage seems to be a “pipe dream” in our society that frequently defines marriage as whatever you want it to be for as long as you want it to be. Divorce is seen by many as an accessible escape hatch to avoid both the minor and major difficulties of marriage. Pius XI recognized this in Casti Connubii when he emphasized good will, cooperation, fidelity, and peace within marriage are “weakened by the presence of a facility for divorce.”

In light of Jesus’ words and our cultural milieu I highlight five essential teachings for remedying the dominant divorce culture and its problematic consequences.

Firstly, civil divorce is not the only option for troubled marriages. The Church permits, in certain circumstances, a physical separation of a husband and wife who remain married but need to remove themselves from a toxic or dangerous situation. Separation, John Paul II emphasized, should be a “last resort” following the “breakdown of valid marriages.” Though challenging, this option allows for time, space, healing, and reconciliation. It honors the marital bond while avoiding divorce.

Secondly, opting for divorce has serious moral ramifications. Divorce is, the Catechism teaches, “a grave offense against the natural law” and against the dignity of marriage. “Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society … its contagious effect … makes it truly a plague on society.” While divorce should be avoided at all reasonable costs, sometimes divorce is thrust upon an innocent spouse. Such a spouse is an “innocent victim” and not guilty: “There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage.” When freely chosen, however, divorce is immoral.

Thirdly, when a couple, who has validly married in the Church, separates or divorces it is essential to remember that civil law does not actually end their valid marriage. Fidelity to their marriage vows is a must. Such couples, John Paul taught, should be “aware that the valid marriage bond is indissoluble” and “refrain from becoming involved in a new union.” Only upon receipt of a declaration of nullity or if the previous spouse dies can one pursue involvement in a new union.

Fourthly, those who are divorced and are not in a new union may receive the Eucharist. Over the years I have heard numerous stories of men and women depriving themselves of the Eucharist because of divorce alone—a tragic misunderstanding. John Paul stressed that such a person should not face “any obstacle to admission to the sacraments.” (This is also true for those who receive a declaration of nullity.) If all grave sins have been forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance and if the person has not “attempted a second marriage,” a divorced Catholic may receive the Eucharist.

Finally, separated spouses, and those who are civilly divorced, especially those who have had divorce forced upon them, are owed service and love from the Church. St. John Paul II recognized the difficulty of these situations. He therefore called the Church to offer solidarity, understanding, and support so that a separated spouse might be strengthened to live in fidelity to his or her vows, to forgive, and to harbor the hope of possibly returning to live as spouses in a faithful marriage.

The consequences resulting from the civil divorce of so many validly married Catholics are truly troubling and often tragic. We cannot become comfortable with the culture of divorce that so impacts society and, we must make every effort to foster a culture of marriage in our own marriages, our homes, the Church, and society at large. It is our obligation and privilege to stand up for the permanence of marriage and to walk alongside those who suffer from troubled marriages, civil divorce, and its consequences.

Both John Paul II and Pope Francis have emphasized the need for pastoral care that remains sensitive to the challenges and circumstances of spouses while being equally committed to the truth that marriage is “until death do us part.” Commitment and attentiveness to these five teachings of the Church, along with a deep appreciation for marriage itself, is necessary for remedying the culture of divorce that permeates society and successfully fostering a culture that honors marriage.

Editor’s note: The image above titled “The Pastoral Recreation” celebrating family leisure was painted by William-Adolphe Bouguereau in 1868.

Arland K. Nichols


Arland K. Nichols is the founding President of the John Paul II Foundation for Life and Family.

  • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

    I can’t remember who first said it, but one Catholic writer/teacher commented that he could tell, within the first few days of a new semester, which students were from “broken homes” (as we used to call the tragedy). They always seemed to lack self-confidence, had shorter attention spans, seemed anxious and worried, simply had a troubled, distant look on their faces in a distracted moment. For the first fifteen or so years of my teaching career, I too could detect the child from the “blended family” or the “mono-parental family.” But not any more. Both divorce and other social problems have become so severe, and the use of “isolating technologies” so ubiquitous, that almost all students have what I call the “air of absence.”

    • Ford Oxaal

      And education is then compromised, not to mention classroom education — no matter how great a teacher you are. The neighborhood effects are profound.

      • Thomas

        Thank you for stating this.
        While there is a pressing need to reform education, some people mistakenly lay all of the blame at the foot of the teacher. This statement, no doubt, will draw some fire from readers here who want to take it to the next level, which is fine, but I am simply stating that at the core, I believe that if the student’s home life is a mess, I find that I don’t have enough bandages to close the severed artery.
        So, you are correct about the exponential crippling effect of the breakdown of the family.

        • Ford Oxaal

          As if teachers don’t have enough on their plate! I taught for a year at a Catholic boarding school and had 104 students and six periods a day in two subjects. It was a blast, but a lot of work. Of course there was June, July, and August 🙂 But in reality, the teacher and the school are simply an extension of the family — whether they realize it or not, and whether that family is firing on all cylinders or not. And then you have another class of teachers who just want a job and job security, but aren’t really into teaching. These tend to be completely politically driven, have an inflated view of their own ‘entitlement’, and command no respect from the students who instinctively sense and attack weakness. The whole thing spirals downward in a negative feedback loop. The voters then try to take the easy way out by throwing money at it, which is like dumping gas on a fire. You start to see where the impetus for home-schooling comes from. This leads mostly to moms getting out of the public workplace and back into the private workplace, i.e., the home. Just because some gargantuan corporation isn’t making direct profits on stay-at-home moms does not mean those moms don’t do the lions share of positive neighborhood effects in all of society. A good stay-at-home mom has ten times more positive impact than a mom who outsources raising her children so she can be a corporate serf and wear an attractive work outfit. And the poor single moms — IMO they should be able to get genetic verification of the Dad and garnish his wages (unless she has refused his marriage proposal or something).

          • Thomas

            You make good points, which is why I followed a Google topic you provided. “Philosophy in Defense of Common Sense” looks like a good read. I’ve made some connections between geometry and philosophy and I like to share them with the kids. Kids are really intrigued by ideas, but in the public school system, they don’t get to hear about them.
            How can I provide you my email address? You seem like a good person to talk with about teaching. I taught for 13 years in Catholic schools. Fortunately, it was there that I learned that parents were the primary educators for the children we teach, and as such, they deserve our respect.

            • Ford Oxaal

              Thanks! You can call IPIX ( during business hours, and we can connect there.

    • Thomas

      I teach on the high school level. When I work with students who are deficient in basic mathematics, I will ask them “why the gap?” “What took place back when you should have learned this years ago?”
      Many of them respond that their parents were divorcing and they missed time in school. As we all know, missing more than a few lessons in math can be catastrophic if you don’t remediate right away.
      I think, “these poor little ones…victims of the sins of others.”

  • Vinnie

    Has there been any official Church explanation of the recent “cold call” by Pope Francis where he supposedly told a divorced and, I believe, re-married Catholic woman that it was permissible to received communion? As stated in this informative essay, there are many different circumstances in troubled marriages, with some more complicated than others. That may have been the case with this call, with possibly many details unknown to the general public, but I’m curious if there has been any explanation since the call was made public.

    • mikidiki

      Please do not ask contentious questions, curiosity (it is believed) killed the cat.

      • Barry Penobscott

        Would that be Schrodinger’s cat that was killed?

        • mikidiki

          This is, I believe, unlikely in that some theorise the cat could be both alive and dead at the same time. Quantum mechanics is not as clearly enunciated as the Catholic Faith.

    • Crisiseditor
      • Vinnie

        Thanks very much for that info. No wonder I hadn’t seen anything on it.

    • James

      Whatever he said was private and it seems specific to the facts of her situation, which have not been made public.

      Perhaps they do not know that they have grounds for an annulment of the prior marriage? Or perhaps her husband’s first wife has died and they are now free to marry in the Church? We don’t know and it is not our business to speculate.

  • Teresa Trujillo

    My husband and I healed our troubled marriage through a Catholic lay ministry called Retrouvaille ( There are communities around the world of married couples who have struggled and regained their footing through this ministry.

    Too many parish priests do not know of this important ministry, and even more think that they have the biblical answers to healing a troubled marriage. Yes, there are answers in the bible, but not to what happens when the secular world tells you to leave and just start over. Not when the pain and loss of trust has crept into your daily life.

    The Church needs to do a better job of fostering lifelong connections to others who can help when the struggle seems all uphill.

  • It seems to me that the Church washes her hands before a troubled marriage, leaving to faithful, even devout, spouses to commit an immoral act before knowing whether their marriage was valid or not. In some countries, a civil divorce is not required to start the annulment process and then the spouses would not only have an informed conscience if they still seek divorce, but the Church would walk along with them. Instead, the distresses spouses are thrown in the street and to not bother the Church with their troubles. In this sense, Francis is right about the shepherds smelling of the sheep and the Church getting soiled ministering to her flock. May it be so when dealing with suffering spouses.

    • James

      The laws are different in different countries.

      In Italy, IIRC, a Catholic annulment serves the same legal effect as a divorce, therefore, one does not have to do both.

      In the United States, however, a Catholic annulment has no legal significance. In fact, in some states, a party unhappy with the results of the tribunal could sue the Church for granting an annulment prior to the divorce for alienation of affection. The Church does not want to become entangled with these laws and, therefore, requires the parties to already have a civil divorce.

      You are right that the Church should do more to help struggling marriages, but that is a separate issue.

  • The best line in the piece: “When freely chosen, however, divorce is immoral.” OK then – when freely chosen, armed robbery is also immoral. The Church does not assign any penalties specifically to armed robbery, so those criminals may receive communion along with the divorced, right? Arland Nichols got pretty close to the Catholic divorce dragon – hit it on the tail w/ his sword – and lived to tell about it.

    • Ford Oxaal

      I think the article is referring to no-fault civil divorce where you have no choice — your spouse just makes it happen. In that case, you are divorced, but you did not freely choose to divorce.

      • Right, but the author needs to be specific. I’m thinking there is willful mass confusion about this because to call a spade a spade will result in martyrdom (if you are a Bishop).

    • Art Deco

      If you’ve committed a grave sin, confession and repentance are necessary. Continuing to cohabit with your concubine in incongruent with that.

      • Remaining separated from your spouse without separation decree (sans adultery) is also incongruent with repentance.

        • Art Deco

          Of what would you be repenting in that case?

          • Abandoning your rights and duties of the married state (canon 1151). This is sub gravi.

            • Art Deco

              Well, the person I know best who lived for an extended period of years ‘separated’ from her husband was turned out (by the fitfully employed husband, who had been planning on living there with his mistress) of the apartment just rented with the aid of a security deposit she had earned and provided. (By the way, the mistress was a physician who could have provided the security deposit her own bloody self). I’ll be sure to tell this displaced wife she abandoned the rights and duties of the married state.

              • Did she have just cause for separation? Did she ever get a decree of separation?

                • Art Deco

                  It is hard to tell if you are particularly serious. Her ‘just cause’
                  was that her husband was shacked-up with his mistress and she had no
                  place to live. No she did not petition any ecclesiastical courts.

      • James

        The Church has also long considered marrying your concubine to be repentance, assuming you are both free to marry.

    • T

      John, that does seem unfair. Pope Francis has hinted at ending “the wafer wars” when he said that the Eucharist is “not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness … The Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.” Last year the German diocese of Freiburg issued guidelines that allow the divorced and remarried to receive communion. Whether “the wafer wars” will truly end and the Eucharist will become available to everyone remains to be seen. This is not to say that Catholic teaching on divorce is likely to change, but only that Church “discipline” over divorce may change in the (near) future.

      • Yo Mr. T., The point I am making is that just because there is no specific penalty in canon law against something does not mean it cannot be a mortal sin (divorce / armed robbery / mass puppy torture etc). The Eucharist is available to every Catholic on the planet right now – as long as one is in a state of grace.

  • Dana R Casey

    I struggle deeply with this. I will honestly admit to being married to my third husband. My first two husbands were not at all committed to marriage even though I was. I have looked into annulments within the church and I seem to have plenty of grounds on which to get my marriages annulled: my first husband revealed after we were married that he never wanted children though we certainly talked about it before hand. My second husband never had the maturity to really make such a commitment and then he abandoned me and our small children. I was not married in the Catholic church any time. My current marriage is full of faith, my husband is committed to our faith, he raises my children as his own. The marriage is fully committed and feels deeply blessed. IF I did get annulments, what would that mean to my children. Do I tell them that my marriage to their father didn’t count? What would that do to them?

    I understand that we as a culture do not treat marriage as the serious life long commitment it should be and that lack has contributed to the crumbling of our culture, but the fact that if I paid enough money and presented my case in the right way, I could just as easily get annulments for my first two marriages as I can get a civil divorce, seems to me that the church is playing a semantics game. AND as one priest told me when I discussed my concerns “Not all marriages were joined by God in heaven.”

    Ironically, I also feel deeply that the church has become too much about making people feel good and not enough about teaching the hard truths. The more the church forgets itself and joins liberal popular culture, the more of the faithful walk out the doors.

    I am in a quandary and I beg God’s forgiveness in any part that I played in my failed marriages, but I cannot feel that my marriage to my wonderful husband is anything but blessed by God. If God thinks that I am wrong for taking communion, I will talk to God about it.

    • Ford Oxaal

      If I were you, I would find an older, Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter priest ( — they do seven years in the seminary, and know what they are talking about), so you can be as sure as is humanly possible that you are getting the proper advice. If you know in your heart you are getting feel-gooder pabulum, you must find a better advisor.

    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

      I second the opinion of Ford Oxaal. God bless you, and good luck!

    • Patricius Aurelius

      I pray that you will seek and recieve better councel.
      As for “the marriage didn’t count”, the Church teaches that you did have a valid civil marriage, it was just not a sacramental one. The Catholic church is one of only a few that teach that marriage is a Sacrament. This leads to a question that I have not had answered: If a declaration of nullity states that a marriage was not Sacramental, do you need it for a marriage that was not considered Sacramental by the minister officiating the wedding?
      I wish you the best and hope that you will be able to have your marriage blessed in the Church and be in full communion with Her.

    • ForChristAlone

      If you can go to God directly about it and do not need the Church, why avail yourself of communion? Wouldn’t it be equally possible to take bread and wine yourself and consecrate it such that it becomes the Body and Blood of Christ? Why would you need a priest for this? Either you need the Church or you do not. Which is it?

      If your third husband turned out like the first two, would you then say it was not blessed by God? Something is blessed by God only if it turns out as we want it? Does “For better or for worse” mean anything to you?

      Just asking….

      • Elwin Ryan Ransom

        I wrote a detailed answer to you through my email, but I don’t see it here. Let me see if I can find it. If not, I will write another in a few days.

    • James

      Don’t be more Catholic than the Pope. You have a solid third marriage and likely grounds for annulment of your first two marriages.

      If your first husband never wanted children or falsely said that he wanted children when he didn’t, then he never really agreed marry you. He said the words, but didn’t mean them. It sounds like you were deceived and an annulment recognizes this fact.

      If you or your first husband were baptized or received into the Catholic Church and married outside the Church without dispensation and was not later convalidated, then you have grounds for annulment due to defect of form. That’s a documentary annulment (automatic) and no further inquiry is necessary.

      You DO have grounds for annulment of your second marriage because you were not free to marry because your first marriage was not annulled when you married, nor was the marriage ever convalidated. This, too, is a documentary annulment.

      Getting an annulment does not mean that the marriage “never happened”. It means that what the marriage you had (putative marriage) was not really a marriage. It does not mean that the children are illegitimate.

      The way out of your quandry is not to proudly “talk to God” about taking communion and proudly announce to the internet how the Church has gone soft, but to avail yourself of what the Church gives you. Take your first marriage to the tribunal. If the annulment is granted (and I believe it will be), then, assuming no other impediments, you will be free to have your third marriage convalidated and your quandry will be solved.

      • Elwin Ryan Ransom

        James, First I want to thank you for your serious and thoughtful reply. I am sure that your analysis of my particular situation is correct.

        I do want to point out that you did not address my concern that the church far too easily grants such things and thereby trivializes them making them a de facto civil divorce. I know personally of a man who was married to a woman for 40 years and had 11 children with her. They, both Catholics, were married straight out of high school in a Catholic church. He started having an affair with a 28 year old woman and divorced his wife. He left his wife penniless. The church granted him a nullification and, as he and his bride were on their way to be married in a Catholic church, they were both beheaded in a car accident. God’s judgement.

        I do not proudly brag about speaking to God. Jesus Himself said that we should speak to the Father. Nor do I proudly call out the church; I love the church and do not want to just attack her. The church has at times been rightly chastised for failing. The painful recent sex scandals are one example. Had the church been honest in their dealings with the few priest who actually committed such heinous sins, the effects would have been less detrimental. Martin Luther was right when he criticized the indulgences being sold. Look at the result of the failure of the church to pay attention to that chastisement, centuries of fighting and death.

        The church has lost her way in so many ways. She has become weak and wonders why so many walk out her doors never to come back. She is too often hypocritical and people see through that and leave too. This current pope is more concerned with worldly politics than his own soul and yet most of the church and the world praise him. Should we NOT call out the church when she deserves calling out?

        I am still waiting for an answer on HOW these nullification or annulments or whatever they are called are not a semantics game especially considering how easily many of them are granted. If I pay enough and if I word my stuff just so, I can make it happen, but does it change anything really? Only God can be my judge in the end no matter how the church might try to manipulate its dogma to accommodate the modern world. The doctrine of the church is whole and good and the word of God, but the church does not always follow its own doctrine.

        • James

          Be careful you don’t become a Luther yourself. Either Jesus meant what He said when He said “You are Peter and upon this rock I shall build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” or He did not. There is no middle ground. The Church has somehow survived 2000 years of incompetent and corrupt and corrupt Churchmen, so I think there is something to that.

          Yes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI were concerned about the number of annulments granted in some jurisdictions. They were also concerned about the number of tribunals that nullified marriages for vague psychological reasons. Even so, a marriage that a tribunal nullified for vague psychological reasons may be in fact null on other grounds. It seems more of a matter of lazy tribunals not being very thorough than “accomodating the modern world”.

          Many annulments are easily granted because one spouse
          was Catholic but the couple married outside the Church. This seems to be a very American problem for reasons beyond the scope of this thread.

          At any rate, the marriages of others is not your concern. As for your case, It sounds like you were defrauded by your ex-husband in your first marriage and your second marriage was outside the Church. You’ve never had a “real marriage” and the annulment process simply recognizes this. It’s not a matter of paying the right people, it’s about applying the law of the Church to the facts. Furthermore, it is rash judgment to assume the worst about others, including diocesan tribunals.

          As for the man you know personally, there may be many reasons why the marriage of two people right out of high school was invalid. I don’t know the facts, and neither do you. The annulment process looks at whether the marriage was valid from the beginning and if not, whether any defects were cured, not whether a person “deserves” to be remarried. It’s not a “Catholic divorce” at all and tribunals consider entirely different matters than divorce courts. Nor does an annulment negate the sin of adultery.

  • tom

    The women of the former Western Civilization have gone off their rockers.

    • TheAbaum

      Along with men. The ladies don’t get all the blame.

      • Art Deco

        Not all, no. The thing is, much public discourse over the last four decades implicitly or explicitly denies that women bear any responsibility for the parlous state of social relations with regard to marriage and child bearing. Nearly all of the ‘man up’ babble you hear from social conservatives is an exercise in scapegoating young men; evangelical outfits like Focus on the Family have taken to agitprop on the virtues of single mothers, &c.

        I got involved in discussions like this about eight years ago when some bone-head school administrator named Moore published an article in the Claremont Review which made not a whit of sense unless you began with the assumption that the disposition and behavior of young women has remained frozen in amber since 1958. Much to my astonishment, an ecumenical discussion forum on this article (with almost no participation by women) was filled stem to stern with characters for whom reasonable discourse on such matters incorporated reflexive repair to scapegoating the male population and reflexive excuse-mongering when it was pointed out that men and women are a mutually-reinforcing dyad. The epitome of idiot sentimentality was reached by a lapsed attorney who insisted that no man who ‘truly loved’ his wife would ever be subject to a divorce suit.

        • TheAbaum

          “the thing is, much public discourse over the last four decades implicitly or explicitly denies that women bear any responsibility for the parlous state of social relations with regard to marriage and child bearing.”

          Moreover, if you’ve been privy or party to the goings on in domestic relations courts, you can see how the bias against men is institutionalized.

          In a prior life, I dealt with Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs) which divide pension assets. Created by the Retirement Equity Act of 1984, it was intended to remedy the situation (that was still normative then) of some corporate high flier benefiting from a devoted wife, and dumping her, penniless for some PYT half his age. As usual, the law was written for one purpose, and applied differently.

          I’ve seen orders directing the division of the man’s plan assets even when the woman has a career and retirement plan of her own. What’s yours is hers and what’s hers is hers.

          That having been said, we still bear some blame.

          • Art Deco

            The situation you describe was never ‘normative’. In 1966, as today, about two-thirds of the plaintiffs in divorce suits were wives. The probability of a divorce suit drops dramatically with age, but in late middle age, two-thirds of the filers are still female. Roughly two-thirds of all divorces have no distinct or specific antecedents – no alcoholism, no adultery, no violence, nada.

            As for the executive who dumps his long-time wife for a trophy, that happens, but, as Flannery O’Connor once said, literature deals in the possible, not the probable. I do know a professional man who at the age of 49 sued his wife for divorce. The 2d wife is the same age as the first wife, less attractive, and came with a semi-disabled son in tow (she’s not a hoarder, though).

            I recently heard a story of an attorney (female) who got interested in efforts to reform family law after a day at court with a client wherein she saw a magistrate rule on eight cases and find for the wife eight times; among these were rulings on two issues where the husband’s interest was not opposed by the wife.

            Family court judges do not have any excuses here. Having been in these discussions here, there, and the next place, I have come to the conclusion that men tend to react to these situations with a series of templates most of which are incongruent with a judicious resolution of much of anything. One template was manifest with the aforementioned attorney: a witless sentimentality (which I suspect is common if not modal in evangelical circles). A mean-ass version of that was manifested in my home town by Justice Robert Kennedy, whose conduct during divorce cases was such that an advocacy group was able to persuade the chief administrative judge to debar him from ever being assigned any (not made public, of course). Another template is manifested by the writer Robert Stacy McCain, who seem to fancy that men who have trouble with women are losers who deserve everyone’s contempt.

            • tamsin

              Women: can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

          • tamsin

            Men: can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

  • Tony

    It is a little sad, but telling, that there are only 22 comments on this article as I write this, but any article on deviant sexuality will garner hundreds of comments. Yet Catholics MUST insist upon the indissolubility of marriage, and must begin to fight the good fight to revisit the bad laws that have left us where we are now.
    Here’s a case in point. If divorce courts regularly denied alimony and child custody to the adulterous spouse, and regularly awarded the house and the lion’s share of the common assets to the faithful spouse, we would not be having any discussion of same-sex pseudogamous relations, because no men would be so stupid as to put all they own on the line.

    • Ford Oxaal

      Exactly correct. The fact is, there is no civil marriage in the USA. Civil marriage has been effectively nullified in all 50 states — either party can walk away. So called ‘same sex marriage’ is just a dance macabre on the grave of civil marriage.

  • Bai_Macfarlane

    Hello Arland,

    Thanks so much for supporing marriage? Would you find any use for a book supporting those those who remain faithful to marriage even after divorce or separation. I’d like to send you a copy of “The Gift of Self.” For more info, see

    You might be interested in the fact that some of us are working to have the Church instruct a marital abandoner of his or her obligation to reconcile the marriage and restore common conjugal life.

    An updated Vindicate Rights Petition is available from catalogue wherein the petition to the Bishop is now split into parts:

    – Reconciliation
    – Rights
    – Separation Decree
    – Initiate Process to Inflict Penalty
    – Repair Material / Financial Damages
    – Prevent Sacrilege and Scandal
    – Request For Suspension Or Simultaneous Adjudication, Response To Accused-Spouse’s Filing For Decree Of Invalidity

    A multi-sectioned word.doc available as free download. The Petition to Bishop is 5th section

    – Instructions (6 pages)
    – General Facts and Circumstances That Will Prove the Allegations (6 pages)
    – Wife’s Cover Letter to Bishop for Petition (5 pages)
    – Husband’s Cover Letter to Bishop for Petition (5 pages)
    – Petition to Bishop to Pursue Reconciliation, Separation, Penal Process, Denial of Holy Communion (5 pages)
    – Historical Background of the Rights on Which the Petitioner Bases the Case (10 pages)




    1) Petitioner asks the Bishop of __________, in the state of _________, to cite the Accused-spouse for the purpose of implementing the pastoral means of agreement and conciliation, in order for the conjugal life to be reestablished peacefully, according to the prescript of canon 1695. As described in canon 49, Petitioner asks the Ordinary to issue a singular precept urging the Accused-spouse to uphold the lawful obligations to maintain common conjugal life.
    2) Parties lawfully contracted marriage on date of __________ at church of _____________. The Church was in the state of __________ in the city of ___________ (Attached Certificate of Marriage). On the date of _____________, the Accused-spouse abandoned conjugal life. Further description is provided in the attached: General Facts and Circumstances that will Prove the Allegations.
    3) Petitioner will participate in mediation in hopes of restoring common conjugal life (cf. c. 1446 §2). Petitioner is unaware of any offenses Petitioner has committed against the Accused-spouse meriting the separation of spouses. But if any morally legitimate cause for separation exists, Petitioner asks to be informed of said offenses and given the opportunity to demonstrate that Petitioner can reform own behavior.


    4) The Petitioner is pursuing and vindicating rights associated with the Accused-spouse’s obligations to maintain a common conjugal life.
    5) The Petitioner claims the right to the common conjugal life and rights to those things that belong to the partnership of conjugal life. The Accused-spouse is bound by a special duty to work through marriage and family to build up the kingdom of God. Accused-spouse is reneging on obligations (cf. cc. 104, 226 §1, 1151, 1135). Petitioner asserts that there is no legitimate reason for separation, no legitime separationis ratione vel alia iusta de causa.
    6) (Optional) For children born to this marriage, or adopted, the Petitioner claims the parental right to educate children in all ways natural to any child born to married parents; and the Petitioner claims the right to take care for the physical, social, cultural, moral, and religious education of children (cf cc. 226 §2, 1136).
    7) (Optional) Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law, immoral, and gravely wounds the deserted spouse and children (CCC 1607, 2383-2386, damna gravia, profunde vulneratis, citing CIC cc. 1151-1155).

    Separation Decree

    8) In conformity with canon 57 §1, if Accused-spouse does not restore common conjugal life, Petitioner asks the Ordinary to issue a singular decree of separation of spouses on the ground of malicious abandonment, in accord to canons 1151-1155. Petitioner reserves the right to be advised of allegations Accused-spouse makes against Petitioner and to defend against said allegations.

    Initiate Process to Inflict Penalty

    9) In accord with canon 57 §1, the Petitioner proposes plea to obtain a decree initiating the process to inflict or declare a penalty. The Accused-spouse has illegitimately abandoned marriage.
    10) (Optional) The Petitioner is accusing others who should be admonished or penalized, because they are explicit, formal, cooperators with objective evil. The Accused-spouse is the primary agent of morally wrong behavior: marital abandonment and all that it entails. Others accused are formal cooperators because they are willing participants explicitly supporting and enabling the evil. They are also necessary, material, cooperators with objective evil, because without their material cooperation, the wrongful marital abandonment or divorce could not continue to occur.
    11) The Petitioner asks the Ordinary to exercise fraternal correction, rebuke, or other means of pastoral solicitude in an attempt to sufficiently repair the scandal, restore justice, and reform the Accused (cf. c. 1341).
    12) If the Accused does not repent, have the firm resolve to stop offenses, and make, or at least seriously promise to make, reparation for damage and scandal, the Petitioner proposes punishments would be appropriate in accordance with the law:

    Canon 1315: Person in legislative power can strengthen divine or ecclesiastical law.
    Canon 1319 §1: Insofar as a person can impose precepts in the external forum in virtue of the power of governance, the person can also threaten determinate penalties by precept, except perpetual expiatory penalties.
    Canon 1371, 1o: Accused rejects moral teaching mentioned in Canon 752.
    Canon 1371, 2o: Accused does not obey command of his Ordinary.
    Canon 1393: Accused violates obligations imposed by Penalty.
    Canon 1397: Accused gravely wounds graviter vulnera the Petitioner (Optional) and children.
    Canon 1399: Accused is externally violating divine and canon law.

    …etc. …

  • hombre111

    Divorce is a violation of natural law? That’s all? And then there is the poverty-stricken idea of marriage developed by canon lawyers in the 12th. century and written into the 1917 Code: “A ratified, consummated Christian expression give symbolic expression to the indestructible love of Christ for his Church,” ergo, what is a “symbolic expression” suddenly contains a metaphysical core that cannot be dissolved. Somehow, it is sex that makes the sacrament, which would mean that Joseph and Mary were not sacramentally married. How about, When “two baptized Christians commit themselves to one another with a marital live informed by the of Christ, their mutual love and commitment flowing from an anointing of the Spirit?” –Gelpi

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      Pope Alexander III (1159-1181) in answering a case propounded to him by the Archbishop of Salerno, declared that if consent de praesenti [“de præsenti” is, of course, an ellipsis for “de præsenti tempore” – “words in the present tense”] was expressed by such words as these Ego te accipio in meam et ego accipio te in meum [I accept you as mine and I accept you as mine] whether an oath was interponed or not it was unlawful for the woman to marry another and if she should contract a second engagement by promise even although followed by sexual intercourse she should be separated from the second and should return to the first husband. [Corpus Juris Canonici Decretales Gregory IX lib iv tit iv cap iii]

      In the famous decretal “Veniens ad nos G,” written to the Bishop of Norwich between 1176 and 1181, the same Potiff returns to the question, “A certain William appealed to us, and showed in his report that he received in his house a certain woman by whom he had children and to whom he swore before many people that he would take her as wife. In the meantime, however, spending the night at the house of a neighbour, he slept with the neighbour’s daughter that night. The girl’s father finding them in the same bed at the same time compelled him to espouse her with present words. Recently, William standing in our presence, asks us to which woman he ought to adhere. Since he could not inform us whether he had intercourse with the first woman after he had given his oath, we therefore order you to examine into the matter carefully, and if you find that he had intercourse with the first woman after he had promised he would marry her, then you should compel him to remain with her. Otherwise, you ought to compel him to adhere to the second one as his wife, unless he was compelled by a fear which could overcome a steadfast man.” [Decretales 4.1.15] This remained the law of Scotland until 1940.

      However, following the ancient tradition of the Church, Alexander III declared that “After a lawfully accorded consent affecting the present, it is allowed to one of the parties, even against the will of the other, to choose a monastery (just as certain saints have been called from marriage), provided that carnal intercourse shall not have taken place between them; and it is allowed to the one who is left to proceed to a second marriage.” [III Decretal., xxxii, 2]

      • hombre111

        I am impressed by your research, but it makes my point. The pope was following the tribal traditions of the pagan Germans. It all came down to a question about intercourse, betrayal, and forced marriage. Compare this farce with the lyrical understanding of marriage proposed by Pope John Paul in his Theology of the Body. Tell me which one describes a real sacrament.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          These decretals were the law of Scotland until 1940 and, for the next 40 years, declarators of marriage were sought on the basis of them.

          The Scottish Reformation happened in 1560, three years before Tametsi, so marriage required no notice, no formality and no record of any kind.

          Usually, a man died and a woman wrote claiming a marriage and, hence the inheritance, on the basis that his second marriage was bigamous and void. The widow and children usually bought off the claim, regarding half a loaf as better than no bread. The law was a blackmailer’s charter..

          • hombre111

            Don’t know about Scotland. But the Church did get involved in marriage to protect the woman from so-called secret marriages, which led to the dilemma you describe. But that is beside the point. The question is, how in the world did this nonsense get to be called a sacrament, and ergo, indissoluble? A guy could be baptized for purely cultural reason, not give a hoot about his faith, marry somebody else in similar spiritual circumstances, and then, thanks to consent and intercourse, they are magically and mysteriously bound together for life by a sacramental bond whose permanence comes from the fact that it is a symbol of Christ’s love for his Church.

            Commentators note that, in his Theology of the Body, Pope John Paul made a foray into the philosophical understanding of the human called “personalism.” If I remember correctly, personalist theologians like Dietrich von Hildebrand insisted that the medieval contract theory completely missed the interpersonal quality of a marriage. They said it was too impersonal and too focused on “goods.” It was the interpersonal blending of two lives. Only within that framework can we talk about a symbol of Christ’s love for the Church.

            • Michael Paterson-Seymour

              Besides the contract theory, which came ot exclusively dominate, there was another, associated with the Paris School of the 11th century, (Ivo of Chartres, Hugh of St Victor) based on St Paul, “The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.” [1 Cor 7:4] They saw marriage, not so much as a contract, but as a mutual grant or gift of the person. It is this that makes them “one flesh” by giving to each power over the other’s body; the sexual union is mere matter of fact. As the great English legal historian, F W Maitland put it, “We must distinguish between the perfection of a legal act and the fulfilment of obligations which that act creates.”

              It is a pity this notion was not more fully developed, for the “personalist” understanding is already implicit in it.

  • Ximenes

    We need to examine what happened in America during the late 60s and early 70s when no-fault divorce laws were gradually instituted in all fifty states with almost zero public discussion. How did this happen and what is the reason for the US Catholic Church’s (non) response?

    • samdeatton

      How did this happen? Go to the “Stolen Vows” website. What is the reason for the US Catholic Church’s non-response? Don’t know that one.

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  • Thomas Sharpe

    The time for consideration on this is over. The reports are in. The general population and cafeteria catholic’s divorce at the same rate, somewhere between 40% and 50%. Those who are catholic and those who just like living naturally, use some form of N.F.P. and do not use contraception, divorce at less than 1%.

    Now as an engineer, if someone proved that a manner of coupling failed in excess of 40% if bonded a certain way, and another method of coupling failed at less than 1%. I would immediately order training and full implementation of the 1% method. (And expect to be fired, deserving, if I didn’t.)

    So why aren’t Bishops and Priests providing talks on this, encouraging this, and classes for everyone?
    Not sure. But I venture a guess that if ever there was proof of the existence of the evil one… (who by the way is fairly smart, knows about this failure rate and all the evil that comes from divorce, not to mention other fruits of contraception such as abortion and same-sex marriage…), it is the total lack of N.F.P in parishes.