- Posted by Mary's Advocates
- On April 25, 2017
Choosing to Not Take Sides can be a Sin of Omission
In a discussion about marriage, have you heard someone refer to those who experience divorce?
If I assaulted you, stole your keys, and drove away in your car containing your children, how would you like to be referred to as someone who experienced the loss of your keys? We understand there is a big difference between someone who left his keys on the kitchen counter, only to thereafter grab them, compared to your problem wherein you were an assault victim whose children were abducted.
Those responsible for upholding justice would have no reason to prevent assault, auto theft, and child abduction, if no one would accurately describe your problem, and instead everyone only blithered about you experiencing the loss of your keys. Those responsible for the ethical upbringing and protection of children would see no reason to intervene if they only heard about you experiencing the loss of your keys.
To ensure a just society, we need to make the distinctions between accidentally leaving keys on the kitchen counter, handing keys to a new buyer who paid for a car, and having one’s keys stolen by an attacker who abducts one’s children.
We are avoiding the truth and hurting ourselves by lumping all parties in divorce together and saying they experienced divorce. Divorces occur for one reason: one or both spouses file for divorce. Moreover, with unilateral no-fault divorce, anyone can force a divorce on a spouse who does not want it. For Catholics, divorce is nothing more than separation of spouses with a public record made of the separation plan which includes four aspects that will be enforced by the powers of the state: a divorce decree splits assets and debt; splits children with some parenting plan; orders one spouse to pay support; and frees both to enter another civil marriage.
For Catholics, spouses are obligated to uphold their marriage promises, and only in limited circumstances is separation of spouses tolerable. An innocent spouse is justified in separating when the other has committed serious offenses against the marriage, such as adultery or dangerous abuse.
In the secular culture, spouses are taught everyone has a right to a no-fault divorce. No distinction is made between the party who reneges on the marriage promises and the party that is relying on those promises being upheld. Practically speaking, this means children are being forcibly separated much or most of the time from an innocent spouse. Under threat of jail, innocent spouses are being ordered to pay support for a second household in which they are not allowed to live with their children. Abandoning spouses are being relieved of their obligation to contribute their full share toward the maintenance of the family home. Because of no-fault divorce, those who have a morally legitimate reasons for separation of spouses, are often worse off financially after divorce.
“The conflicts that most often lead to divorce are insecurity and selfishness in husbands, and loneliness and selfishness in wives,” says Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, founder of the Marital Healing Institute. His statement was in the newly released book from the JPII Institute, Torn Asunder: Children, the Myth of the Good Divorce, and the Recovery of Origins, in which he contributed a chapter. Fitzgibbons furthermore said in an article in TheCatholicThing.com, “The spouses who are not happy and who want to pursue divorce and a decision of nullity most often refuse to address their own weaknesses. Instead, they portray themselves as victims of insensitive treatment or emotional abuse.” With his institute, he helps clients heal their relationship rather than divorce.
In polite company, it is considered uncouth to meddle when a family is experiencing divorce. Gentle acquaintances will say “I don’t want to take sides. I love the both of you, and I’ll pray for you.” This is absurd!
The Catechism teaches that divorce is immoral and a grave offense against nature and only tolerable in certain circumstances. Divorce is a plague (that means it is contagious). In the face of grave sin, it is charitable to admonish the sinner.
- To an abuser, a friend should say, “How can I help you control your temper?”
- To an adulterer, a friend should say, “You are better than that, your children need you to keep your marriage promises.”
- To a selfish, lonely, abandoning wife, a friend should say, “You promised to be faithful to your husband in good times and in bad. Let me point you to resources where you can learn how others got through tough times in their marriage.”
- To a selfish, insecure, abandoning husband, a friend should say, “You’re not the first person that was painfully dissatisfied with his marriage. You can take this opportunity to learn how to be a more loving husband, and your children will thank you years from now when they have an intact home in which to bring your grandchildren.”
- To the priest who talks to someone in a confessional about divorce, he should say, “If you are the cause of your divorce, before I can absolve you of your sins, you need to have the firm resolve to make amends, which means you have to try to work to reunite with your spouse. A civil divorce does not end your obligation to maintain an intact home with your wife and children.”
Not taking sides in a divorce situation is taking sides — taking sides with the person who has invoked the power of the state to force on a family a no-fault divorce. For Catholics, separation of spouses is supposed to be in accord with Divine Law not in accord with no-fault divorce practice. Even for those who need an annulment because they have an invalid marriage, the Church’s judgement is required to include instructions to the parties of their moral and civil obligations toward each other and their children.
The next time you hear someone refer to those who experience divorce, please ask him to make the distinction between those who reneged on marriage promises and those who didn’t.