Religious Liberty Violations in No-Fault Divorce
- Posted by Mary's Advocates
- On September 24, 2018
Mary’s Advocates’ Letter
24 September 2018
On the March 19th Committee for Religious Liberty podcast, I heard Archbishop Kurtz describe the nurse who was given a choice she could not accept: choose between leaving her profession, or voluntarily assisting in the murder of pre-born babies. Because the Committee develops educational materials on critical issues, I bring you a request.
Will you please include unilateral no-fault divorce on the Committee’s list of religious liberty issues? We could use a fact sheet describing the coercion felt by the defendant who wants to keep his family together.
Like the nurse that Archbishop Kurtz described, a defendant in no-fault divorce is given a choice he cannot accept: watch a divorce judge deprive him of his ability to practice his parental vocation and marital rights, or voluntarily assist in the permanent mutilation of his own family by signing a divorce agreement. With a parenting schedule and custody order, he and his children are deprived of their right to have everyday access to each other. His right to his spouse’ contribution toward the good of the spouses is lost with the court’s property split, which results in financial devastation. Moreover, he’s often ordered to support the spouse against whom he committed no offenses justifying permanent or temporary separation.
State divorce courts infringe on religious liberty. If legislation is not passed to protect Christian marriage from unilateral no-fault divorce, we can still protect marriages using existing constitutional principles. Can I introduce your Committee to religious liberties legal expert, Whit Brisky, who works for clients defending their constitutional rights against the practices of states’ divorce courts?
Catholics have conscience rights in marriage and in cases of separation of spouses (a.k.a., civil divorce). Besides entering a sacrament, bride and groom enter a contract to uphold the obligations of marriage as described by our Catholic doctrine. Bride and groom promise, for example, to raise children in accord with the laws of Christ and His Church. Parties’ agree that each has the right to live with party’s children in a common marital home, and the support from the other in the common home, unless a legitimate reason for separation of spouses exists.
Because our Catechism and canon law delimit grounds for separation of spouses, and because our church polity show that competence to judge parties’ obligations was never relegated to the civil forum, the obligations and rights of marriage are religious liberties issues. Moreover, the state violates priests’ rights when the state forces brides and grooms to contractually accept the obligations of marriage defined by the legislators’ no-fault divorce statutes. It is a violation of religious liberty for the states to effectively rewrite the marriage agreement of everyone participating in the Order of Celebrating Matrimony, and, instead, enforce a contract the parties never entered.
Presently, because of unilateral no-fault divorce, the obligations of parties decided in the civil forum are contrary to natural law, divine law, and the common good. The states have never been asked to prove how it serves a compelling public interest to deprive fit parents of the fundamental liberty to have everyday access to one’s own children (strict scrutiny test) or force him to support an abandoner. Courts have no expectation for the party causing the break-up to reconcile or to repair damage, whether the marriage is valid, or not. There is no interest in preventing the giving of scandal to children who are routinely ordered to live with, or spend overnight visits, with an abandoner or adulterer.
With the non-profit organization Mary’s Advocates, I work to reduce unilateral no-fault divorce and support those who are unjustly abandoned. We publicize Catholic magisterial teaching about separation and divorce and constructional principles that could be implemented to serve justice. Please let me know if we could discuss further.
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Director, Mary’s Advocates
 (Ecumenical Council, Magisterium, Plenary Council, and Canon Law) Yr. 1563, Council of Trent, Sess. 24, Can. 8 & 12; Yr. 1840, Sacred Congregation of the Council (S.C.C), Codicis Iuris Canonici Fontes. Vol. VI, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1932, page 345-350, Fontes, n. 4069; Yr. 1883 S. C. de Prop. Fide, instr. a. 1883. De processu matrimoniali. Codicis Iuris Canonici Fontes. Vol. VII, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1935, p. 479-492, Fontes, n. 4901; Yr. 1886, Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, no. 123, 126; Yr. 1983 CIC can. 47, 1611, 1689 & 1692; Yr. 2015 Motu Proprio Mitis Iudex c. 1691.
Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, Chairman
Archbishop of Louisville.
Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio
Archbishop for the Military Services, USA
Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Philadelphia
Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann
Archbishop of Kansas City, KS
Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge
Bishop of Arlington
Most Reverend Frank J. Dewane
Bishop of Venice
Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades
Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend
Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez
Bishop of Austin
Most Reverend Robert Barron
Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles
Most Reverend William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore
Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera
Bishop of Scranton
Most Reverend James D. Conley
Bishop of Lincoln
Most Reverend Robert P. Deeley
Bishop of Portland
Most Reverend John M. Quinn
Bishop of Winona
Most Reverend Nelson J. Pérez
Bishop of Cleveland
Jason Adkins, Esq.
Executive Director, Minnesota Catholic Conference
Executive Director, Becket Law
Carl A. Anderson
Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus
Kevin Baine, Esq.
Co-Chair, First Amendment Practice Group, Williams & Connolly LLP
Member, Vatican Secretariat for Communication
Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon
Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University
Deputy Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus
L. Martin Nussbaum, Esq.
Partner, Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP
Host, EWTN Morning Glory radio show
President, Our Sunday Visitor Institute
Anthony Picarello, Esq.
General Counsel & Associate General Secretary
Jonathan Reyes, Ph.D.
Assistant General Secretary for Integral Human Development
Hillary Byrnes, Esq.
Assistant General Counsel & Lead Staff to the Committee for Religious Liberty
Associate Director, Office of Government Relations
Aaron Matthew Weldon, Ph.D.
Religious Liberty Program Specialist
Executive Assistant, Office of the General Counsel