Jimmy Akin, ask Talk about Separation
- Posted by Mary's Advocates
- On February 24, 2017
I’m writing you about your answers yesterday on Catholic Answers Live (Feb. 23 first caller 7 pm). For one caller, you told her that she and her husband should refrain from sexual relations because relying on a man’s vasectomy to avoid pregnancy is outside of God’s plan.
With another caller, you discussed how he didn’t seem to have quick-to-identify grounds for annulment, but pointed him to resources where he could learn more (e.g. your book and Ed Peters website). The caller, from what I recall, said he married his wife in the Catholic Church over 30 years ago, and his wife divorced him. He said he wants an annulment and wondered what ground could be used.
When talking to the lady about her husband’s vasectomy, you gave some detail about God’s plan for sexual activity, which may have not been what the caller wanted to hear. However, you taught her and your listeners the Church’s teaching.
In the future, when you get a caller asking about divorce and annulment, could you consider going into more detail about grounds for separation and civil divorce. Even it if is not what the caller wants to hear, you would be spreading the Church’s teaching and maybe inspire someone to keep their marriage together. Below are some ideas.
As the founder of Mary’s Advocates, I work to reduce unilateral no-fault divorce, and I find there is much talk about grounds for annulment, even in overly simplistic inaccurate ways. For example, immaturity in a general way is not a ground for annulment (see here), though some people think it is. There is too little discussion identifying marital abandonment, describing the legitimate grounds for separation of spouses, and pointing to the Church’s role before divorce is filed.
Ideas I Ask you to Share with you Caller
After having been together for over 30 years, having one’s wife get a divorce must have been devastating.
Unfortunately, in the United States, with the practice of no-fault divorce, there is no attempt to ask someone to keep their marriage promises.
To add insult to injury, no accommodation is made in the civil court for the person who kept their marriage promises.
If you were gravely dangerous, committing adultery, or making it impossible for your wife or your children to practice the faith, your wife would have had a legitimate reason to be separated from you, but that is different than civil divorce.
For Catholics, we have Catechism teaching that divorce is immoral and a grave offense against nature and only tolerable in certain circumstances as specified in canon law (CCC. 2382-2386). In Canon Law, it shows how separation of spouses is not a private matter and your wife should not have filed for civil divorce without first involving the diocese Promoter of Justice. Furthermore, the bishop or his mandated delegate only has competence to judge whether a separation plan is in accord with Divine Law.
If you did nothing severe breaking your marriage promises, and your wife filed for divorce, you sound like someone who is on the receiving end of a malicious abandonment. As painful as that is, Jesus was abandoned by his people, who sent him to be crucified. Jesus invites you now to keep your marriage promises, and join your suffering to His, for the good of His Church and the good of your wife. See Col. 1:24.
There is a growing movement of separated faithful, both amongst Catholics and other Christians, who are sometimes called standers, who pledge to uphold their marriage promises even though the other spouse has broken them. The USCCB has a book-review HERE of a book for them: “The Gift Of Self: A Spiritual Companion For Separated And Divorced Faithful To The Sacrament Of Marriage.” Just like Jesus loves his people and remains faithful despite rejection, you could do that too.
Rather than wanting an annulment, what you might want is a decree (or sentence) of separation of spouses in which you and your wife’s status is officially defined. You are separated, and married Catholics are not supposed to be separated. Presently, it appears to outsiders (who know the Church’s teaching) that you’ve done something so horrible to your wife that she had a just cause for separation from you. Your name is being dragged through the mud.
By you asking for an ecclesiastic investigation about separation of spouses, the diocese is obligated (as much as possible) to try to persuade you two to reconcile. Canon law says that a mediator can be employed. By a mediator, someone who has experience helping couple strengthen their marriage could meet with you and your wife to try to get her to cooperate in reconciling.
In tomorrow’s Mass readings, Jesus teaches:
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.” (Mark 10:6-9. Friday 7th week Ordinary Time)
When your wife divorced you, she appears to have separated what God has joined.
In the end, if your wife refuses to cooperate with those experienced helping couples, the Church, not a no-fault divorce court, has competence to give instructions about a separation plan that is in accord with Divine Law (canon 1692 §2). If it turns out that the reason your wife broke her marriage promises is because she never actually made them in the first place, you could have a ground for invalidity of your marriage. In those cases, the Church, not the no-fault divorce courts, has competence to instruct your wife of her obligations toward you and your children (Dignitas Connubii Art. 252, 1983 CIC can. 1689, Motu Proprio Mitis Iudex c. 1691 § 1).
I’d welcome a comment from you on the post.