July 15, 2014

Divorce, Non Serviam and the Venerable Fulton Sheen

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NFD is now the law of the land. Once one is started, it will drive you - willingly or unwillingly - to the Petitioner's end. You will have very little say in the matter if you're a Respondent: if you don't want to sign the papers or you don't show up in Court, its a default judgement against you.  Here in Kansas (and maybe other states also... I don't really know) you have a chance to contest (see here) if you have enough money (and what respondent does?). You'll have very little to offer in the defense of your Marriage - civilly speaking - as it appears most everything and everyone is against you, including every state in the Nation. The first was California in 1969. The last was New York, which went into effect in October 2010 (the final "brick" to be clicked into place... and the same month and year our 22 year and 10 child marriage was civilly extinguished). You now find yourself and your marriage in the proverbial "no win scenario";  a"catch-22" decision;  the "Cornelian Dilemma".

NFD has been as much a scourge to Catholic spouses, parents and children as non-Catholics for close to a half-century. NFD has caused decimation and destruction to families and parent-child relationships and, in my opinion, does nothing but placate the singular desire(s) of the one spouse, while forcing the other to pursue courses of action that are neither wanted nor promoted. The seemingly incessant legal battles simply add to contentious spousal relations. One Catholic spouse is forced to participate simply in their own defense and, conversely, willingly participates in defense of the children, though they (the children) do not know it as such.  In short, NFD is nothing more than the live abortion of a nuclear family, its relationships and its children. In its warm and fuzzy nom de plume, we know NFD as the acronym for No Fault Divorce. Stripped of its modern-day beauty as a healing for marital woes and with it now standing before you and your family with its Full Frontal Nudity and ugliness exposed, it stands for 'Nuther Family Destroyed, for that is its inherent and unchangeable nature.

If you Google "Children and Divorce" you will find on the first page alone 8 entries on the subject which detail the "do's and do not's" of how to tell kids Mom and Dad are separating. [Note: here I used the neutral/nice derivative "separate", rather than the more stark and painfully descriptive 

"d-i-v-o-r-c-e". The former denotes the possibility of reconciliation, the latter the impossibility, which in and of itself, can be a hard reality for children to accept. They always want - and deservedly expect - the fairy tale ending to a family crisis that, sadly, will not be forthcoming.]

Years of research has been done that have established necessary guidelines and principles to be followed in telling children Mommy and Daddy can't don't want to live together and can't no longer Love each other as husband and wife. This professional research means that we Catholics should rely on their good judgment and expertise concerning children and their best interests when they are involved in a divorce. Why? Because one or both spouses have been emotionally compromised, which means that Reason has taken a back seat and that you need to sit down and let the professionals guide you. Why? Because of the innocent, whose lives you are about to radically change and forever alter. Besides, if you were unsuccessful in trying to heal your own marriage without seeking professional help, what makes you think you will know what is in the best interests of your children by following your past - and unsuccessful - actions? What makes you think you will know what you should and should not tell them? What makes you think you will do everything right that will preclude further damaging precious Parent-Child relationships?

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As a Catholic you must, in my opinion, follow professional guidelines, despite your passions telling you that your personal "irreconcilable differences" are the new benchmark of divorces and as such you are justified in establishing your own guidelines and forgoing those set by professionals. There is just one problem with that, however... you can't. Well, Hmm...I guess you can, since we poor mortals have Free Will and all that. And can choose to exercise it however we want. But you shouldn't. Why? Because it isn't entirely ABOUT YOU when children are involved! Whatever else you feel your spouse is, in Our Lord's eye's and by virtue of their Marital vows, they remain your children's Mother or Father. Because of that, you have neither the right nor the privilege to set your own rules when telling your children about your divorce. You have neither the right nor the privilege to exclude your spouse from the discussion. You have neither the right nor the privilege to break Spousal confidences to your children to support your positions. You will, however, have every right and privilege to consider and to follow what Our Lord said concerning His Children:

"But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea."

We Catholics, knowledgeable in our Faith and knowing the high regard Our Lord has for children, should think twice about compromising any of them, don't you agree? They do, after all, truly belong to Him, do they not?

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Consider the following established guidelines, most of which are repetitive in any of the links that you click in your search:
  • Do not keep it a secret or wait until the last minute. 
  • Tell your child together with your spouse. 
  • Keep things simple and straight-forward and don't share more information than your child is asking for. 
  • Tell them the divorce is not their fault. 
  • Admit that this will be sad and upsetting for everyone. 
  • Reassure your child that you both still love them and will always be their parents. 
  • Do not discuss each other's faults or problems with the child.
    (Source for the above here)
  •  Pick a relaxed time of day, when there are no impending commitments.
  • Acknowledge that it's a sad situation and that your child is likely to experience big, painful feelings. Allow your child to cry, become angry, or have other natural reactions. 
  • Reassure them that you and your ex-partner love them and will keep them safe, whether you're together or not. 
  • Avoid blaming the other parent. This isn't the time to share adult problems with a child. When kids are in their teenage years, you may want to share more information.
  • (Source for the above here)

  • Don't speak badly about your spouse in front of your child.
  • Don't force your child to choose sides.
  • Don't use your child as a messenger or go-between.
  • Don't argue or discuss child support issues in front of your child.
  • (Source for the above here)
If you leave your spouse out of the family discussion, you've already demoted him or her in the eyes of the children to a mere figurehead. If you break Spousal confidences with the children to re-enforce your position, they will run to your side to be willingly wrapped into your emotional cocoon. Re-enforce the subjective notion to your children that your spouse hasn't loved his or her children since the onset of marital troubles, and they (the children) will backdate that to day one of their existence and will forever be at odds with one parent - and the Fourth Commandment. Is this good parenting? Is this sacrifice for the good of the children? Is this Love?? 

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I am not and never will be an advocate of divorce to solve marital troubles. My opinion and experiences are firmly anti-divorce and I am convinced the whole process does more harm than good to the children involved, mainly because many of the above principles must be and have been egregiously violated. Children are forced into adulthood and effectively isolated from one parent, which will possibly take many decades from which to recover. I am into my 5th year of this travesty and some of mine have yet to forgive and seem willing to let it remain so. Heartache and sorrow multiplied by infinity...

 A friend once wrote that "...a divorce destroys the marriage of the future and an annulment destroys the marriage of the past."  A true enough statement, but I might add that buried within its framework is another stark and hidden Truth - what is left in-between are the children, caught in the void between a marriage that will never be and a marriage that never was! How is that in their best interests? How is that being a good Catholic parent? How does that reflect Parental "Love"?

The Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, speaking on The Three Forms of Love (transcript here) stated very succinctly the fallacy of divorce + remarriage = happiness:

"...Instead of seeing that the basic reason for the failure of marriage was the refusal to use married love as the vestibule to the Divine, the divorced think that the second marriage can supply what the first lacked. The very fact that a man or a woman seeks a new partner is a proof that there never was any love at all, for though sex is replaceable, love is not." 

And he offers also, the remedy to what was stated above:

"...Now, what kind of love is agape? Love is...something that is unreciprocated; is loving when love is not returned. It's loving people not because of their functions or their color or anything else, but loving them simply because they are persons."

is loving your Spouse, as Christ Loved us. It is Loving your Spouse despite the harsh words and criticism's he or she spits at you, as Christ Loved those who did no less to Him. It is Loving your Spouse by willingly and lovingly carrying the Cross they refuse, as Christ does for us when we refuse our own. Christ never abandoned His Cross for Love of us...how can one abandon the Cross of their Marriage - and the consequent Love of spouse - should a marriage become a difficult one?

The Catholic Church and her Bishops should begin to work more diligently to assist Catholic Spouses in preserving their Sacramental marriages by (1) enforcing and applying the Canon Laws that concern reconciliation and (2) remind couples in PreCana conferences the serious nature of and what is meant by Fidelity, Permanency and "till death we do part". By doing so, they may correct the backdoor problems currently being experienced in Catholic Marriages and which is the Raison d'être of the Synod. If assistance in repairing the foundation of the marriage can be done at the earliest stages of cracking, rather than simply abandoning the marriage to build anew, much of the Synod's necessity for existence would be moot and perhaps more fervent and vibrant parish familes would result. It obviously has to start with the spouses themselves, for without their willing co-operation in the preservation of their own marriages and families, no amount of force - Canonical or otherwise - could ever hope to preserve "what God has joined together..."

I could find no more fitting ending to this post than that written by Chris Faddis, who discovered - or perhaps already knew - the Agape Love the Venerable Bishop Sheen spoke of:

“Till Death”

As if I could keep you longer, I placed this ring back on your finger today. It had fallen off a few times.

Oh, that this ring could keep you here longer. It is a mark of our commitment; it is my promise to love you with my whole heart, and yet there is a love greater than mine that will take you soon. How could this mere piece of gold compare to the love of God, which loves you completely, wholly, and perfectly?

It cannot, so I will hold your hand a little while longer. I will keep putting this ring back on your finger. But when the time comes and He asks you for your hand, you are free to go. Go to that perfect love which makes all things new. Go and be whole again. For now, till death do we part. 

(From It Is Well: Life in the Storm by Chris Faddis, available from http://itiswellbook.com/)

Copyright 2014 David Heath - All Rights Reserved