Bishop’s Permission Required Separation/Divorce
- Posted by Mary's Advocates
- On April 12, 2016
Catholic Answers Live, Fr. Gerald Murray,
Popular Canon Lawyer Commentator
Canon lawyer Fr. Gerald Murray, J.C.D. taught listeners that the bishop’s permission is required in cases of separation of spouses. Last Friday’s broadcast of “Catholic Answers Live” is now on archives. A caller asked Fr. Murray about the canonical requirement for a catholic to have the bishop’s permission for separation.
I have a question regarding canon law, and following or implementing canon law, regarding if a spouse wants to separate. […] I understand there is a canon law that would require that spouse to go to the bishop to review the situation and see if there are any grave reasons or any justifiable reasons for separation. […] Could you provide any thoughts on that? And secondly, is it followed or practiced in the U.S.?
Yes what you are referring to is in canon law. It is regarding an ecclesiastical separation of bed and board, because once you are married in the Church, there is an obligation to cohabit. That is part of the rights within marriage to mutual support and the marital union. So the Church canon law says before you would break that relation of living together you would need to get the Bishop’s permission. Now it is commonly ignored, but there is no reason that you shouldn’t do it if the case presents itself.
In Father Murray’s answer, he didn’t have time to make the distinctions in canon law about situations wherein a party is allowed to separate on his own authority for the short term. In the case of grave danger in delay or adultery, the innocent party can separate on his own authority. According to canon law, in no case can a party with a Catholic marriage, however, file for divorce or civil separation without first getting the bishop’s permission. For more information see Mary’s Advocates’ menu item “Terms of Catholic Marriage.” To find a template Canon Law petition designed for a party that wants to keep their family together and try to stop a no-fault divorce, see Mary’s Advocates’ “Petition Bishop.”
Moreover, Pope Francis’ exhortation Amoris Leatitia (The Joy of Love) could be an invitation to the USCCB to do something to protect Catholic spouses from no-fault divorce. With no fault divorce, at the request of one spouse, the civil forum will force a divorce on children and a faithful spouse that wants to keep the family together, even though the faithful spouse did nothing grave enough to justify separation.
Many countries are witnessing a legal deconstruction of the family, tending to adopt models based almost exclusively on the autonomy of the individual will. Surely it is legitimate and right to reject older forms of the traditional family marked by authoritarianism and even violence, yet this should not lead to a disparagement of marriage itself, but rather to the rediscovery of its authentic meaning and its renewal (Amoris Leatitia Par. 53).
…Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling. Hence, our most important pastoral task with regard to families is to strengthen their love, helping to heal wounds and working to prevent the spread of this drama of our times. (Par. 246)
“Fr. Murray has appeared as a commentator on religious topics on various television and radio outlets, including EWTN, EWTN Spanish, Fox News, Fox Business News, MSNBC, NY1, Radio Maria, Relevant Radio, Fox News Radio and the Voice of America. He is fluent in French, Spanish and Italian, and has a working knowledge of Portuguese. He served in US Naval Reserve Chaplain Corps from 1994 to 2005” (bio and full April 8 broadcast found here).