Letter to Over Half Dioceses' Bishops
September 15, 2010
We bring our concerns to you (and 100 U.S. bishops) asking you to correct any false teaching spread by those in your charge. Inconsistent teaching exists regarding divorce. See attached.
Catholics who say they uphold Catholic moral tenets commit grave sins, numb their consciences, and wreak havoc in the social order because of disinformation. Routinely, children are virtually abducted from a reliable spouse who does not want divorce.
Commonly, people say, "Divorce is not a sin; the divorced are in good standing with the Church and can receive Communion; only those who attempt a second marriage without an annulment are doing anything wrong."
Please publicly and definitively clarify what Christ and his Church holds true:
What are morally licit reasons for separation in contrast to immoral ones?
What principles circumscribe separation decrees that are "not contrary to divine law" as required by canon 1692?
When there is no morally licit reason to separate, is forcing children to go back and forth between mom's place and dad's place a "merely civil" effect of marriage, as referenced in canon 1692?
When one parent is an adulterer, grave abuser, or refuses to let the family practice Catholicism, is forcing children to go back and forth between Mom's house and Dad's a "merely civil effect" of marriage (cf. can. 1692)?
For whom, and in what circumstances, is divorce a grave sin; what is the suitable pastoral care for those for whom divorce is a grave sin?
Can a priest absolve in confession a marital abandoner (or adulterer) who has no intention of reconciling with the innocent spouse after the abandoner broke the family in two for no morally legitimate reason?
Is a priest, without any thorough investigation and without any authoritative decree from the local bishop, in a position to recommend, encourage, or give permission to a spouse to file for divorce in civil court?
Divorce is the process whereby the civil court system is invoked to create and enforce separation decrees that force children to go back and forth between two households, split all the marital property in two, and force the spouse who loses the children to pay the other. Everyone is financially devastatedÐthe family no longer has two parents contributing to maintain one house. The Pontifical Council of the Family says the children are "orphans of living parents." The emotional devastation continues as long as the separation continues.
In 80% of divorces, one spouse did not want to separate, according to research published by sociology professors at the University of Pennsylvania and John Hopkins University (Furstenburg 22). With the enactment of no-fault divorce laws, anyone can divorce for the simple reason that a spouse says they are incompatible, or live separated. According to the USCCB survey of U.S. Catholics, sixty percent of Catholics think that falling out of love is an acceptable reason for divorce (Gray 57).
When one chooses to abandon marriage for no morally legitimate reason, or to have an adulterous partner, one remakes that choice every day. Innocent spouses and children who hope their intact family will be restored cannot force the abandoner to reconcile. Yet, the Church can admonish the abandoner to do so. In confession, Catholics cannot be absolved of a sin unless they have the firm purpose of amendment to avoid that sin in the future. How can abandoners, who refuse to reconcile, receive communion without committing a sacrilege?
Diocesan staff and priests could provide the moral teaching that motivates abandoners to unite their families. For spouses who refuse, the correct teaching could prevent scandal and slow the plague of divorce (cf. CCC 2385).
Could you let us know whether you post something on your website that answers the questions above? Please correct any misleading information promulgated by your staff. We look forward to receiving your reply so we can share it with those who care about charity, true Church teaching, and just canonical practices.
Ohio, Bai Macfarlane, Founder Mary's Advocates
California, Martha M.
Washington, Jodi W.
Illinois, Bryan Hofmann
Iowa, David Borer
New York, Deborah Nuzzo
New Jersey, Susan R