February 27, 2014

Fr. Z, Dr. Peters and me...

I posted a passionate response to a post by Fr. Z entitled QUAERITUR: Wearing protest clothing and denial of Holy Communion. My comment elicited  responses not only from Fr. Z, but Dr. Ed Peters, the Canon Lawyer, who's blog is here.

I suppose the author of a post sees what he writes in a different light than the reader. I did not think my response an attack on Fr. Z but more so an attack on the broad statement he made to which I responded. Oh well, something to keep in mind the next time I get passionate...but in no way apologizing for the post. At any rate, my respect for Fr. Z and his blog remains untarnished.

Feel free to state your views...all will be published within the guidelines of my stated policy. You certainly won't offend me...

I have posted my comments to Father's post and his comments-within-my-comments. The exchange elicited a flurry of followup responses and which I posted a few below also. I think it all lends well to the variety of passions within the layity on the matter of divorce and/or annulments.

 To see the entire thread, go here.

("Dave H" is obviously me)

DaveH says:
“First, remember that divorce is not objectively sinful, and it is certainly not sinful with the gravity that homosexual activity is sinful. Sad as they are, there are legitimate reasons for divorce. The Code of Canon Law recognizes this.”
“Legitimate Reasons”, Father? There are no legitimate reasons – short of unrepentant and routine physical, psychological or moral abuse on spouse and/or children – for divorce.[Those sound like reasons.] Divorce is evil – and is recognized by the Church as such in CCC #2384 & 2385 – and serves no useful purpose other than fulfilling the selfish desires of one or both spouses. [Not in every case.] As far as I know, the Church gives no legitimate reasons other than a sub-text to CCC #2383 saying “If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.” What #2383 does state definitively is that “The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law.” Though I probably should be intimately familiar with The Code of Canon Law as regards to marriage (I am in the 4th year of an unsolicited, unwanted and unnecessary divorce and annulment) I have read many of the Canons that concern marriage and do not recall any that legitimizes divorce (please correct me if I am wrong). There are many, however, that promote reconciliation and the good of the children – 1134,1136,1141,1151-1155 – and there are probably more that promote the healing of the existing marriages. It is this healing that is constantly and routinely ignored by Holy Mother Church and many of the Bishops, especially in the USA. When was the last time anyone read a report that touted the number of troubled marriages saved through diocesan intervention programs? It seems the focus has always been on the divorced and re-marrieds – “the service after the sale” of a civil divorce – as opposed to intervention programs to save troubled marriages and families – “the service before the sale” of civil divorce, which may then remain unnecessary. I know of the USCCB’s For Your Marriage website and the helps they list – but what of the Bishops and Tribunals? Do they even know of its existence? Do they even make a stab at trying to protect and save a SACRAMENTAL MARRIAGE, rather than trying to promote its destruction through a more or less easy annulment process? What is more important in God’s eyes – the good of the children or the good of the spouses?
My apologies Father, if I appear to ramble…I do not mean to do so. [That's what happens when people are a little out of their depth.] Divorce may not be objectively sinful within a very precise and defined window, [ERGO....!!!] but what is it then to the children of divorce when that window is laid wide open and they are sacrificed before the secular altar of a civil divorce court? “Irreconcilable differences” is just a catch-phrase for the selfishness of one or both spouses, who have given up their desire to sanctify each other’s Souls. What is divorce then? Is it still not objectively sinful even though it destroys the safety and security of a child’s home and future simply because Mom and Dad aren’t adult enough to reconcile their “irreconcilable differences” or Catholic enough to “live the lie” for the good of their children?
I have watched with no legal recourse available to stop it because of No Fault Divorce, as my spouse decimated a family through her subjective application of established divorce methods that resulted in destroyed parent-child relationships, and fought every attempt of mine these past three years to heal those wounds. I have children in open violation of the 4th Commandment and basic Catholic Charity, and she has done nothing to prevent it. Nor has the Church done nothing to abet this travesty. They did in fact promote it all throughout her annulment proceedings and eventual re-marriage.
Divorce is pure evil, Father, and is nothing more than a destroyer of marriages, families and Souls. And it is this that the Catholic Church “tolerates” and tacitly promotes. There can be be no “legitimate” reasons for divorce in the Catholic Church, short of danger to life or Souls. It is a detestable, cancerous, pus-oozing wound and deserves to be treated as such.
[Now... breathe into a paper bag. I answered the questions.]

Dr. Peters response (for which he received a Gold Star):

Dr. Edward Peters says:
1. Fr. Z’s approach re Communion and dress is correct. See my Advisory Opinion at the bottom of this page: http://www.canonlaw.info/canonlaw915.htm.
2. The original question reflects what I see incessantly, namely, not the slightest effort to track down an answer on one’s own. These topics (e.g., working for divorce lawyers) have been handled repeatedly in the literature. Are people truly unaware of the most basic moral and catechetical guidebooks? I’ve lost count of the number of elementary Catholic life questions posted on the internet with an “ah-ha! gotcha!” tone as if no one had ever thought of them before. I suppose this is the price of the last generation’s failure to pass along our tradition. Anyway.
3. DaveH needs to set aside his obvious grief over divorce and, instead of lashing out at Fr. Z (or at least his reasoned answer), understand what the Church ACTUALLY SAYS about divorce, and accept it. The Truth is true.
Bottom line: If folks can’t post calmly, they really shouldn’t post at all.
Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

My response to the above responses (which did not get published, unless I missed something):

OK, Father...I breathed into the bag as you suggested and thanks for answering the questions.  Agree that physical, psychological and moral abuse are valid reasons for allowing the divorce of Catholic spouses and would negate the selfish label I applied. But "irreconcilable differences" such as was in my case does not constitute any of the former three listed. As 80 percent of divorces fall under the "irreconcilable differences" category, it should throw the red flag up to any priest/diocesan official to investigate these differences and not rely on the subjective statement of one spouse that the marriage is over and non-repairable, as again, was in my case. It seems that once a divorce is in hand, it provides the validity to substantiate the "irreparably broken marriage" meme and the impetus to green light annulment proceedings, rather than call both parties to counsel and try to preserve the marriage and family.  What are Canons 1151-1155 for if they are not meant to help troubled spouses restore conjugal living, as the wording of some authoritatively state?

While I may be a little out of my depth from a moral theology position,  so were the diocesan officials who streamlined the destruction of my family at the expense of 10 children.  It was left to me - a layman; a Husband; a Father - to singularly defend the Sacrament of my  22 year Marriage from annulment...while having to set and watch as the Diocese and my spouse worked to destroy it. So please forgive me if I seemed more than a little passionate before. I have every right to be. I neither wanted nor promoted either divorce or annulment, but I was a silent voice among the cacophony of no fault divorce and annulment devotees. It was a no-win battle, but one I was nevertheless morally bound to fight. 

Dr. Peters, thank you for your comment. Obvious grief? Most assuredly... and rightly so as I watch the continued spiritual decline of 4 of my older children most affected by their Mother's divorce/annulment. My grief is at times overwhelming as I consider the possible loss of their Souls, only bearable by the comfort of their Baptismal Consecration to Our Lady and the knowledge she will not let them suffer damnation. The only Truth that needs to be stated - is that divorce causes verifiable, untold destruction of families. I obviously (and perhaps embarrassingly) lack a Canon Law degree, but in my layman's mind if a man-made Canon Law leads to or tacitly condones this destruction of families, I find it hard to believe it serves any moral good and needs to be modified or abolished. 

And a few of the responses to all the above: 

mamajen says:
DaveH says there are no legitimate reasons for divorce, then lists several. LOL

  1. Admonishing David H for his emotional response or understanding of canon law and theology does NOT address his concern about the post. All too often – actually nearly all the time – the discussion on this topic does not deal with the observable and measurable gravity of marital abandonment and the devastation left in its wake. Divorce is not intrinsically evil, which is what I understand Fr. Z means by objective, but it is most often objectively evil. Divorce with marital abandonment is often murder in the heart, neglect of the children’s well being and a direct violation of the natural rights of the abandoned spouse and children.
    Back in September of ’13, Fr. Z addressed the concern of separation and the canon law related to it and of course we should respect the limited focus of this post. However, the ease with which we justify the idea of a divorce firm when little or no effort is made to build family law firms that seek reconciliation and buck the no-fault divorce system. There has been serious neglect within the Church since no-fault divorce hit.
    We should be careful how we compare the gravity of acts of sodomy to divorce as if acts of sodomy are clearly more grave, because they are a sin against nature, than the destruction of the family and violation of vows and natural rights that come with divorce and abandonment. Isn’t justice a higher virtue than chastity and wouldn’t the violation of justice then be more grave? Or, are differences in gravity incommensurable due to the very different nature of the acts?
  2. stephen c says:
    Many people are in a situation similar to David H, and they feel that they have been mistreated either by (a) a legal system itself or (b) by indifferent or unkind people who are misusing the prudential give and take present in any legal system (including, presumably, the system known as canon law) for selfish purposes. As a lawyer for the last 20 years, and particularly as someone who spent a large part of my previous adult life in another profession, I have the utmost sympathy for non-lawyers who are in a situation where they are not sure what is happening, from a legal point of view, but who sense (correctly or incorrectly) an injustice being carried out, with themselves (0r worse) loved ones suffering from that injustice, and I completely understand their desire to speak passionately on the subject (whether I agree with their general opinions or not). Of course, there is no way for someone without the actual details (which should not be set forth in public on the internet, that is for sure) to know how to respond either to David H’s personal situation, or even to that of a lawyer, like the one discussed in Father’s blog post, whose firm or court handles some (or, although one hopes not, almost all) forms of divorce. Anyway, David H, you and your loved ones are in my prayers.

joeclark77 says:
I can see where DaveH is coming from. My wife is going through RCIA and I have been attending, as her sponsor. During a recent lecture on the Church’s teachings about marriage and divorce, the deacon couldn’t seem to decide whether there was a distinction between a marriage being “valid” and being “sacramental” or “sacramentally valid”. He was practically advertising how easy it would be to “annul” my marriage if the slightest detail wasn’t kosher. If either spouse wasn’t Catholic at the time of the wedding, or if the wedding wasn’t held in church because you didn’t know it was required, or if you can state in hindsight that you weren’t “open to children” because you didn’t then know that contraception was forbidden, the Church seems happy to “annul” your marriage and endorse a divorce. At the same time, the deacon was saying the Church teaches that marriages between non-Catholics were considered “natural and good”. So which is it? Is there any space in which a marriage can be “non-sacramental” but still “valid”? It seems to me that my parish would happily “annul” the marriages of Joseph and Mary, Zachariah and Elizabeth, the couple from Cana, etc, on the grounds that their marriages didn’t count because they weren’t Catholic on their wedding days.
I would like to hear the Church tell me that it would NOT like to see me abandoning my wife and shacking up with someone new. Instead I’m hearing that if I want to do that, “we’ll find an way” to make it happen. No doubt that’s what DaveH’s parish office told his wife when she asked.

MarkJ5621 says:
“DaveH needs to set aside his obvious grief . . .” Did you intend to add insult to injury . . . because that is how your comment “came off”.
Dave: I went through a horrible divorce.
Dr. Peters: Get over it!
Jill: I was tortured in Auschwitz for three years.
Dr Peters: Get over it!!
Henry: My entire race of people was destroyed. My family was tortured and killed in front of me.
Dr. Peters: Get over it!!!!
Jesus: I am the Son of God. I was brutally flogged and crucified.
Dr. Peters: Get over it!!!!!
Really, Mr. Peters? Absolutely NO compassion for a man who obviously suffered at the hands of a treacherous woman? Dave does appear to know the TRUTH. The canons he quotes are legitimate. He makes some good points which you ignore . . . and you JUST got done complaining about how people don’t make an effort to understand church teaching! Dave obviously HAS done at least a fair amount of research. Give him some credit! Where do you draw the line? Does a typical lay Catholic have to spend 12 hours a day pouring over the writings of the saints, the encyclicals, the Catechism, Canon Law, etc. before you will even give them the time of day? Seems a bit unreasonable to me!

Scott W. says:
I think you are out to sea MarkJ and I think your comparing Dr. Peters to telling Our Lord to get over it wildly unfair and uncalled for. The advice isn’t, “get over it!” But rather see a therapist rather than spew vitriol against Fr. Z and the Church for posting a perfectly reasonable entry. We do Dave no favors by indulging false compassion.


  1. Well I think it's way past time that if compassion is the rule of the day (which it is, seeing how often it over-rides reason) then at least a tiny bit could be spared for those who have suffered an unwanted divorce and really - the Church *should* be on their side. Not berating such tortured souls for being "unreasonable." Atrocious.

    Catholic Mama

    1. From my personal perspective, it is most apparent that Reason has been subdued by the Passions,much to the detriment of the greater good of those involved. Someday, it will change, but maybe not in my lifetime.


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