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Pope Benedict XVI to marriage tribunals – shun ‘pseudo-pastoral’ claims February 1, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, Society.

On Father Z’s blog, Father Z posts a story from Catholic News Service regarding Pope Benedict XVI’s recent speech before jurists and tribunal members of the Roman Rota.   The subject is annulments, and Pope Benedict XVI is very concerned that far too many annulments are being granted, thus becoming a form of ‘Catholic divorce.’

I had seen this last week, but didn’t have time to post on it.  I’m probably not going to make myself any more popular, so I may lose half my readership, but  bravo to the Pope.   There have been two moral cancers eating away at the Catholic community, particularly in the United States, divorce and contraception.  These two issues are probably the two most divisive, because so very few Catholics follow Church doctrine on both these issues.  With regard to divorce, many feel those seeking divorce in the United States and other places have been unfortunately aided in thier unbelief  by this tribunal and annulment process, which grants annulments to the vast, vast majority of Catholics seeking them.    There is a fear that, many times, these annulments are granted not because the marriage was truly invalid (as the definition of an invalid marriage stretched beyond all meaning), but because the divorce has already occurred, a divorced Catholic wants to remarry, and the Church, in trying to be what Pope Benedict calls ‘pseudo-pastoral,’ engages a tribunal to generate the documentation for an annulment.  

The Church recognizes that divorce is having a very negative impact on society.  The US Bishops conference, as I have recently related, is engaging in activities to try to strengthen sacramental marriage.  But in this tribunal process (there is one in the Dallas Diocese, there is a column on it in the diocesan newspaper  in every issue), the Church has created a situation where marriages that were seen as perfectly valid for years, even decades, are examined in great detail to try to find some reason to declare them invalid.  That has to be the case, as the number of marriages examined by tribunals upheld as valid is less than 10% (an estimate I received from a Catholic marriage counselor – even conservative estimates in defense of tribunal decisions state they annul over 80% of marriages).  Either valid marriages are wrongfully being declared invalid to allow already divorced people to remarry in the Church and receive the Blessed Sacrament after doing so, or the Church is conducting a whole bunch of invalid marriages – either way, it’s scandalous. 

 I know there are many divorced Catholics who probably won’t take kindly to this post.  They will ask how I can be so cruel, to deny them happiness.  Some in the Church may ask, how will they be helped if they are cut off from the Sacraments?  Shouldn’t we try to do everything we can to make their new marriage, which they really, really want, valid in the Church so we can all hold hands around and receive the Blessed Sacrament?  Shouldn’t we be pastoral

Sorry, no, and I think this is Pope Benedict’s main point.  While sentimality may make the above arguments sound plausible, that is not true charity.  Read the Pope’s words.  Real charity means telling people the Truth as God has revealed it to us, no matter how hard.  In Luke 16:18 Jesus says:  “Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”  

Jesus solidified his stand against divorce in Mark 10:7-9…

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

St. Paul also addresses divorce, comdemning it.  That is why, for essentially the first one thousand nine hundred and fifty years of our Church history, Catholic divorce was almost an oxymoron.  The number of cases of annulment in the US has increased from 300 per year in 1960 to almost 80,000 per year today.  Now, did that previous lack of divorce always mean every married person was happy?  No…..many were not.  Many made  bad choices, and they had to live with those choices. Nevertheless, it was God’s Will, His Perfect Will, that they be married, in the Church, and what He had joined was not, is not, to be separated.  There is no escape clause except in truly horrid situations involving abuse and/or neglect, which doesn’t happen in the vast majority of marriages.  Those who wound up in unhappy marriages did the best they could, and offered up their sufferings in union with Christ’s, in order to be more pleasing to God and to atone for sins, their own and others. 

I know in our modernist, self-oriented and pleasure-seekign culture, denying oneself and accepting the consequences of one’s actions is a heresy from the Church of the Self.  But being Catholic has always been about self-denial, self-sacrifice, in order to attain to the far greater good of God’s glory.  There are far too many Catholics who have bought into the Church of the Self, and who want to live their lives as the world, not the Faith, dictates.  I am not saying that every single Catholic who divorces is in this category, but I would hazard that many are.  I think the Pope shares my concerns that far too many valid, Catholic marriages are being declared invalid, in order to allow an already divorced person to remarry in the Church. 

NOTE: In an earlier post, I stated that Catholics have a higher divorce rate than the general population.  This is not quite correct – while the number of Catholic divorces divided by the number of Catholic marriages yields a Catholic divorce rate in excess of that of the general population, this is deceiving, because apparently some self-described Catholics have been divorced and remarried several times.  A more accurate representation is in the percantage of Catholics who have been divorced.  By this measure, the Catholic divorce rate is somewhat lower than the general population, and is slightly less than the average for self-professed Christians.  Hardly something to brag about, but something that needed to be clarified.


1. Karl - February 2, 2010


A Former Catholic,
thanks to divorce/annulment

2. tantamergo - February 2, 2010

Not sure what that means.

3. Mary - February 3, 2010

Perhaps another area that needs to be researched and probably changed is the initial marriage preparation process. The truth should be laid out in front of the couple and they should be encouraged to spend much time in prayer before moving forward.

Fr. Corapi talks about a couple who came in to discuss marriage with him. He asked ‘What do you want for each other’? The answer was wealth, happiness, a good home, a good job, a dog named Rover… Then Fr. explained the truth – your #1 goal should be everlasting life – heaven – for your spouse.

For better or worse…

Tough times makes the heart grow fonder – it’s definitely true. Spouses should be encouraged to stick it out, not do what feels good.

I am making a challenge to those of you reading this – perhaps it’s time to challenge those we come in contact with – to encourage people to stick together, and watch our words when complaints come out about the spouse, our own or another.
A challenge to you priests – speak on these and other tough subjects from the pulpit. We all need to hear it, even I do, subjects such as this, and encouragement to try to live according to God’s will.

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