Fr. Mitch Pacwa – Repair Deafening Silence on Divorce
- Posted by Mary's Advocates
- On May 7, 2019
Dear Fr. Pacwa,
cc: Doug Keck, EWTN President and Chief Operating Officer
. Daniel A. Burke, President and Chief Operating Officer of EWTN News
On your recent EWTN Live show, listeners learned that no-fault divorce deconstructs the family and violates the protections in the U.S. Bill of Rights. Would you please teach your audience that no-fault divorce also violates the protections in the Catholic teaching and the Code of Canon Law?
In your May 1st interview with Dr. Morse, she described her Institute’s recent Survivors Summit in which Professor Stephen Baskerville showed how no-fault divorce violates the rights that are guaranteed in our Bill of Rights. He’s the author of Taken Into Custody, the War against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family, and The New Politics of Sex: The Sexual Revolution, Civil Liberties, and the Growth of Governmental Power. During your interview with Dr. Morse, you gave a plug for her new book The Sexual State; How Elite Ideologies are Destroying Lives and Why the Church was Right all Along. You wished people would read her book to pull away the curtain, as the first step, and then you asked, “How do we start to undo this mess?”
Excerpts taken from full interview HERE
Seeing what’s behind the curtain (that is, knowing what is truly happening) is necessary prior to correcting a problem. In your role at EWTN, as an all-around expert, you can do your part to correct the problem by helping the faithful understand what is really going on. Pope Benedict recently wrote, “that in the 20 years from 1960 to 1980, the previously normative standards regarding sexuality collapsed entirely.” He says, at the same time, “Catholic moral theology suffered a collapse that rendered the Church defenseless against these changes in society.”
There has been a deafening silence about the Catholic teaching regarding separation of spouses and divorce. Will you please correct that?
Many Catholics mistakenly repeat that all separated or divorced persons can receive Communion, and any divorcing person can decide for himself that his separation or divorce is not a grave sin. However, just like we are required to get an objective ecclesiastic judgment prior to being free to marry a different person, we are also required to get an objective ecclesiastic judgment prior to petitioning in the civil forum for divorce. A priest, in the private forum of confession, does not have competence to make this judgment. Furthermore, we aren’t even supposed to be separated (long term) without an ecclesiastic judgment; this is because marriage pertains to the public good.
These judgments are aimed at preventing scandal, inducing an offender to repent, and protecting the rights of children and normal spouses from the harm caused by a spouse that reneges on the marriage promises. One who married in a Catholic ceremony is not supposed to separate from the other spouse unless the other did something terribly grave, like dangerous abuse or adultery. Too many no-fault divorces are for soft reasons, like “I didn’t feel like being married to him anymore.” Moreover, a spouse is not supposed to be his own judge deciding he has the right to remain separated. If he were to decide independently to separate, he’d be violating obligations that are sub gravi (i.e. the stuff of grave sin).
Most importantly, concurrent with any diocesan moral correction, there could be direction to resources that are expert at helping couples reconcile, in lieu of no-fault divorce lawyers and all the court-ordered hangers-on who extract funds from the family.
Below, I’ve listed Catholic sources to assist you in deciding how to cover this topic. Notably, these norms had been in effect long before the civil forum deconstructed marriage altogether with unilateral no-fault divorce. In no-fault divorce, the Catholic who flawlessly consented to marriage, who did nothing grave justifying separation of spouses, routinely has his property and children taken away by the immoral divorce process. For Catholics, marriage cases include not only judgments about validity of a marriage, but also about separation from bed and board (both permanent and temporary). These norms have not been abrogated by the 1917 Code of Canon Law, nor the 1983 Code of Canon Law.
With your help, abandoned spouses and children of divorce will know that the Church is on their side, rather than tacitly condoning (by silence) all marriage breakups.
- 1563: “If any one saith, that matrimonial causes do not belong to ecclesiastical judges; let him be anathema.” (Canon 12, Council of Trent)
- 1860: The conditions under which the seeking of a civil separation (the so-called “separate maintenance”) is tolerated are set down in a response of the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office. 1) there must be present just causes for the separation in the Judgment of the bishop; 2) there must be no other tribunal to which the Catholic can go to obtain a separation which would be recognized by the civil law; 3) the sentence of the civil tribunal must have no other effect than that of separation. (Translation by Forbes. Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office. Collectanea Sancti Congregationis de propaganda fide Vol. 2 Ann. 1867-1906. n. 2272)
- 1883: “Marital cases pertain to the ecclesial judge, who alone has the competence to bring judgement regarding the validity of a marriage and the obligations deriving from it.” […] “In marital cases the spouses are under the power of the bishop in whose diocese the husband is domiciled. There is a place for exception if the conjugal fellowship should have been laid aside either through separation from bed and board or by malicious desertion committed by the husband.” (Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in its Instruction sent to the bishops of the United States. Codicis Iuris Canonici Fontes. Vol. VII. Fontes, n. 4901.)
- 1885: “124. Since it is established by law that by marriage two spouses become one flesh; and by God’s will the marriage bond is so intimately and strongly forged that it cannot be broken or removed by any human power: it clearly appears that a most serious guilt attaches to those who seek to dissolve their marriages by appeal to the civil authorities, or, what is worse, obtain a civil divorce and attempt a new marriage, in spite of the lawful bond which still exists in the sight of God and His Church.” […] “126. We lay down the precept to all those, who are married, that they not enter civil tribunals for obtaining separation from bed and table, without consulting ecclesiastical authority. But if anyone should have attempted it, let him know that he incurs grave guilt and is to be punished through the judgment of the bishop.” (Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, US Bishops Conference)
- 1910: “It has been the constant jurisprudence of this Sacred Tribunal and of the Sacred Congregation of the Council that great caution should be used in granting separations from bed and board, because separation is directly opposed to the very purpose and ends of marriage.” (Roman Rota Decision S. Rom. Rotae Dec., Vol. II (1910), Dec. XXIV, n. 11. from Kelly, pg. 199)
- 1930: “Although cohabitation is not ‘of the essence of marriage yet separation from bed, board and cohabitation, even temporary, is a serious matter inasmuch as it is public, is contrary to the obligations of marriage, and is fraught with dangers to the consorts.” (Rota Decisions, (1930) Vol. XXII, from Alford, pg. 524)
- 1946: “It is certain that a Catholic is never permitted to approach the civil courts seeking the dissolution of his marriage without the permission of the Holy See or of the local Ordinary.” (Canon Law Society of America, The Jurist. Fr. James Kelly, JCD. pg. 219)
- 1947: “Since matrimonial cases pertain to the Church, it is not permissible for spouses to seek a civil divorce, unless they have obtained a canonical license of separation first.” (Cappello, no. 838. Pontifical Gregorian University, English Translation by Mary’s Advocates)
- 1948: Married people are obliged, sub gravi, to live a common conjugal life. Married people ought not to separate on their own authority, except in the rare instances provided for in the Code, and never should seek a civil separation or divorce without authorization by the Bishop. (Alford, to priests of Albany)
- 1958: ” Q. What are the sins against marriage?” [… ] ”Unlawful separation, Divorce.” […] “Q, Is a validly married person ever allowed to separate? A. Yes, but only for a very serious reason and only with permission of the bishop.” (Archdiocese of Chicago, Catechism for Adults, pg. 104)
- 1963: “the Catholic lawyer should know that the Third Council of Baltimore forbids Catholics in the United States to approach the civil court for the purpose of obtaining a separation a thoro et mensa (from bed and board), without first consulting the ecclesial authorities.” (Archdiocese of Detroit. Catholic Lawyers Guide. pg. 110)
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Director Mary’s Advocates
With the non-profit organization, Mary’s Advocates, I work to reduce unilateral no-fault divorce and support those who are unjustly abandoned. We invite parties to set in writing their intention to never be subject to no-fault divorce by signing a marriage Covenant and Arbitration Agreement. We show an abandoned spouse how to petition the bishop asking for the implementation of the canon law protecting marriage in a case of separation of spouses.