- Posted by Mary's Advocates
- On May 24, 2018
by Bai Macfarlane
If nobody was ever prosecuted for murder because every defendant was judged to have suffered from temporary insanity, we’d live in a very dangerous culture. This is what seems to be occurring with too many US dioceses canon law treatment of marriage. Canon law is the system the Church is supposed to follow to ensure justice in the relationships amongst her members.
Catholics who are married are, by default, obligated toward their children, the society, and each other, to stay together maintaining a common marital household. Clearly, they aren’t supposed to break up. In specific limited circumstances, there are legitimate basis for separation of spouses; and in even more limited circumstances, there are legitimate basis for filing in the civil forum for divorce or civil separation. This is doctrine, Catechism, and Canon Law.
Recently, I was helping a woman in an Eastern state plea with her diocese to intervene in her divorce case and instruct her husband of his obligations as a Catholic. Her diocese had previously rejected her petition for them to implement the canon law on separation of spouses.
With my help, she sent her diocese quotes from professors of canon law at Catholic University of America, and authors of books published by the Canon Law Society of America. The authors said that either party to a marriage can start a canon law case with an action for separation of spouses, and the other party might countersue by starting a case for the invalidity of the marriage (or visa-versa). In other words, at Catholic U, and at the Canon Law Society of America, it is recognized that spouses have a right for a judgement when one claims there is a basis for a decree of separation of spouses (such as abandonment). Furthermore either has a right to a judgment when one claims there is a basis for a decree of invalidity of the marriage. The judgment could be affirmative or negative.
However, for at least a generation, virtually no-one has ever heard of a decree from the Church answering a petition in a case of separation of spouses. Instead, the only marriage decisions the Church canon lawyers issue are decrees of invalidity of a marriage, and the majority of those are on the supposed-ground of psychological incapacity to consent.
It is ludicrous to pretend that in virtually every single marriage break-up, the reason for the break-up is that the marriage is invalid. Publish statistics show that there are dozens of dioceses that grant annulments to 100% of the petitioners.
If we were properly implementing the code of canon law, we would see a mix of marriage cases in which one party was judged to be a malicious abandoner, a dangerous abuser, or an unrepentant adulterer; these judgements would be forthcoming from cases of separation of spouses. We would see a mix of judgements in which one party was judged to be a liar who never intended sexual fidelity or openness to children, or one party was judge to have been psychologically incapable of marriage; these judgments would be forthcoming from cases of invalidity of marriage. Each spouse can make his or her own allegation about what is happening with their marriage that resulted in the break-up.
In all cases, the Church–not the state–would be the authority determining the obligations of the parties toward each other and their children after the Church trial.