- Posted by Mary's Advocates
- On November 4, 2019
- Scholarly Resource
The Catholic Church has always steadfastly defended the stability of the marriage bond. In her legislation she enjoins upon married couples the necessity of living together. Those who violate this law are liable to ecclesiastical punishment. In her Code of Canon Law the Church does not even take cognizance of a civil court that would presume to tamper with the bond of marriage. The Third Council of Baltimore, (note 6) however, legislating for the United States, decreed that Catholics may not approach the civil courts either for separation or divorce without the consent of the Bishop of the diocese. If they violate this law they are to be punished by the Bishop.
In the Code of Canon Law provisions have been made for the possibility that some people might seek permission for such a separation.(note 7) With one noteworthy exception all petitions for separation are to be presented to an Ecclesiastical Judge who will decide under what circumstances and for how long a period of time separation can be tolerated. The exception to be noted is the case of proven adultery. Canon Law states that if adultery is certain, never condoned nor compensated for by adultery on the other side, the innocent party may separate forever without seeking ecclesiastical permission. The innocent party, however, in this case may not approach the civil courts without obtaining the permission of the Bishop of the diocese.
Note 6. The Third Council of Baltimore (Nov. 7 to Dec. 7, 1884) was a gathering of the leading Catholic Bishops of the United States. The decrees of such a council are binding upon all American Catholics.
Note 7. Codex Juris Canonici (1918) Canons 1128-32.
As a general rule we endeavor to have the parties confront each other as soon as possible in order to be sure we have the true state of the question. In those cases where one party appears without the other, we issue a subpoena for the other party. Sometimes the case may be disposed of in one hearing. More often there will be more than one hearing, for obvious reasons. We are trying to reestablish homes, not destroy them. On occasions the Judge will impose conditions to be fulfilled by one or both parties. He may permit a trial separation and fix a date for the return visit of the parties. Sometimes the Judge may advise a visit to the psychiatrist, doctor, financial expert, or members of Alcoholics Anonymous we have attached to our staff for consultation purposes. The Judge’s decisions are binding in conscience, and contumacious people are informed that their refusal to cooperate has caused them to lose the right to receive the sacraments.