Pope Francis has made several public statements on divorce since being elected to the Catholic Church’s highest office and his comments are creating quite a stir. Instead of the usual punitive tone, he’s forgiving and understanding and compassionate. He isn’t the first to speak generously on the topic but since he is the most powerful, he can’t be quietly ignored.
It is welcome news! Unfortunately, it comes after centuries of what can only be described as psychological abuse.
The long standing Catholic teaching on divorce is any divorced person whose been remarried cannot take communion in the Catholic Church. That is a scary thought if you happen to believe what Catholics teach about heaven, hell and purgatory.
But since the Pope has spoken, Catholic leaders are debating whether or not divorced and remarried Catholics should be allowed to take communion. It is definitely a positive turn of events but the clerics get no credit for thinking logically or forwardly or compassionately.
The debate was inevitable. Circumstances forced it. Logic was not a factor.
In this case Reality gets the credit.
Barna data suggests the number of divorced Catholics is perilously close to 30%. Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate estimates the number of USA Catholics who have been divorced and remarried without annulment is 4.5 million. That doesn’t include divorced folks who haven’t remarried.
You don’t have to be very clever to realize you can’t treat such a large number of congregants like unwanted infections and expect widespread peace. That’s a lot of squeak to ignore.
Of course, if the ramifications were clear it wouldn’t be so bad, but when it comes to communion and divorce, confusion reigns.
A few divorced individuals can take communion. The squeaky clean ones. The ones whose marriages were worse than an inquisition in the middle ages. But these can only partake if they’ve never been remarried, or in the unhappy event they have remarried, they must agree to remain celibate even though married or get the first marriage annulled.
All other divorced individuals know they can’t take communion. That part is clear. What they can’t be sure of is whether or not getting to heaven at the end of their journey is possible. Some say it is. Others aren’t so encouraging. No one seems to be certain.
To be fair, Catholics tend to be hazy about anyone getting to heaven. The best any Catholic can do is aim for Purgatory and hope the stay is short.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting Catholics won’t go to heaven, at least some of them anyway, but they tend to be uncertain about the idea and candle makers love it!
I’ll talk further about the relevance of communion shortly but that’s not the only issue. The angst is made worse by the complexity of all the other divorce regulations.
A good example are the rules governing Church Membership for the divorced. We know they are treated differently but a look into Cannon Law reveals just how big the difference is. The following conditions on divorced membership illustrate the tangle. Read more
Is Marriage Really Marriage?
There was a time in the not too distant past when divorce was treated like a criminal offense. To initiate the process at least one mate had to be guilty and once guilt was established punishment was meted out. The laws were controlling and the outcomes were chaffing.
The process actually made things worse. If the parting couple was unhappy with each other before the divorce they hated each other after and the feud spread. Friends and family got caught up in the hostilities too. Not smart.
How The Divorce Process Played Out
You can imagine how the scenario played out. One person, the petitioner, produced sufficient evidence to prove their partner was at fault and the effect of that is obvious. Not only would the partner feel smeared, there was also nothing they could do about it, that is, if he or she really wanted the divorce. An effective defense meant staying hitched. That’s how it worked. If the alleged fault couldn’t be substantiated the couple was sent home to live unhappily at odds ever after.
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The accused was between a rock and hard place. Either prove innocence and live with someone who doesn’t want you or accept the blame and be smudged for life. It was a LOSE-LOSE situation. Read more
Disagreement Between Mates
Is Not A Minor Issue
Or so says NBCNEWS.com which reported on a study done by Kenneth Leonard, Ph.D., at the University of Buffalo.
Study data was compiled by following newlyweds over a nine year period and the conclusion was couples who consume alcohol at the same rate have a better chance of staying together than those who don’t.
Imbibing wasn’t the problem. Couples who abstained completely, rated no better on marriage durability than couples who drank heavily. It was disparity in the quantities consumed that made divorce likely.
Of course, the question is, why would a difference in alcohol consumption encourage divorce? The study provided no definite answers but the author said the findings give a couple of hints:
- The difference may mean a couple is less likely to socialize together. Not a good thing since marriage is considered one of the closest of social units.
- Different opinions about alcohol consumption suggests a lack of compatibility, the second most common reason for divorce, and it isn’t a minor issue.
The reasons for not drinking, or drinking very little, are often personal, even moral. That’s not a surprise. Alcohol has induced abuse of all kinds, automobile tragedies and relationship fails all of which leave indelible marks on those who live through or observe it closely. Partners with firsthand experience won’t easily accept a repeat of history.
To avoid getting into trouble early, wise individuals will ask the right questions before they say “I do.” They’ll also realize that getting married is nothing like becoming a missionary.
The Seed of Every Catastrophe
Divorce is often thought of as an “out there” kind of experience. Not only does it shatter the image of the so called “normal” home, it is obvious to everyone. There is no hiding or covering up. What isn’t seen or readily understood, even by those going through this experience – or witnessing it closely – is the underlying turmoil for every person involved, interested onlookers included.
Every person responds emotionally to divorce whether their connection is immediate or distant. The point made in this fictional narrative is that what counts most is how those emotions are managed. Divorce doesn’t need to be a wrecking ball.
In The D-Word: Divorce Through a Child’s Eyes, the author, Tara Eisenhard, does a great job of exposing the underside of an ugly divorce. She takes us on a one year divorce journey through the eyes, or maybe I should say heart, of a preteen girl, Gina. Although Gina is the main character she isn’t alone. The author manages to illustrate a complex range of emotions stemming from a badly managed divorce and everyone makes a contribution: The divorcing couple, female siblings, male siblings, younger and older siblings, friends of siblings who’ve experienced divorce and those who haven’t, friends of the divorcing couple, aunts, uncles, grandparents on both sides and even step relatives.
It is through Gina that readers will be sad, happy, angry and eventually relieved but all the other characters help fill out the picture.
It’s all there. Parents becoming emotionally dependent on children. Grandparents who wish well but whose input only hurts. Friends who encourage rather than alleviate the friction. Children absorbing the blame and the responsibility.
Though the characters and the story line are fictional, their experiences are true to everyday life. Everyone can identify with one or more characters. Read more
Filed under: Book Reviews, Divorce, Personal Development
Life After Divorce
Naked Divorce for Women won’t help you avoid a divorce or provide legal advice for getting one but it will help you get over one. In a word this book is about recovery.
The title is telling. Divorce is stressful not only because it is hurtful, inconvenient and demoralizing, but also because it leaves one feeling exposed and exposure is the particular sensation that Adele illustrates well throughout her book. She bravely bares all in an attempt to help others navigate the climb from the chaos of divorce to the order of recovery. Her writing isn’t coldly clinical. It is personal.
But don’t get the wrong idea. This book, though it targets the pain, doesn’t encourage anyone to live in it. Instead, Adele highlights individual responsibility before and after the divorce: responsibility, that is, for the failed marriage and the recovered life. Self-pity, bitterness and revenge are understood but not encouraged or entertained.
Though Adele writes from a woman’s perspective and for women going through divorce, the principles she lays out are drawn from her background in change management and are good for managing any kind of transition. They can apply to both genders too.
She writes broadly covering many related issues: hormones, friends, family, work relations and more but at the core of the book is a 21 day program for recovery which emphasizes diet, physical exercise and the importance of maintaining a balanced routine, among other things. But don’t worry. She doesn’t take an extreme approach to dietary regulations. You only need “limit” coffee and chocolate, not eliminate them.
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Adele’s program brings immediate relief but it isn’t a quick-fix or a laid-back approach. The 21 day program involves a commitment of 90 to 120 minutes each day during the week and a bit more time on the weekend. The program is described as a cocooning process that enables transformation from a troubled, out of control state to a more settled and focused you.
21 days may seem like a long time but as Adele points out, compared to the scope of an entire life, 21 days is only a small part. Read more