Separation in Accord with Divine Law – Fr. Paul Check
- Posted by Mary's Advocates
- On December 20, 2016
Tough Moral Questions, Catholic Answers Live
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Fr. Paul Check
Fr. Paul Check was answering tough moral questions as the guest of his brother, Christopher Check, who is president of Catholic Answers. Bai Macfarlane, founder of Mary’s Advocates, asked what a separation plan would look like that would be in accord with Divine Law – when the reason for separation of spouses is hardness of heart by one of them.
Bai asked this question because, when implementing canon law for separation of spouses, separation plans should be in accord with Divine Law. With unilateral no-fault divorce, a spouse who is voluntarily hardening his or her own heart, is commonly awarded financial support, designated as the residential/custodial parent, and prevents the aggrieved spouse from maintaining natural, every-day, interactions with the children. These arrangements are made, even though the one hardening his or her heart is the aggrieving party, according to natural justice.
Fr. Check says that, in accord with natural justice, the aggrieving party is obligated to pay support. Separation should protect the aggrieved party from grave harm caused by the aggrieving party. Father recognizes that the civil forum, because of no-fault divorce, does not always protect the aggrieved party.
Fr. Paul Check holds an STB from the Gregorian University and an STL from the University of the Holy Cross, both in Rome. He teaches fundamental moral theology and sexual and medical ethics to seminarians and permanent deacon candidates in the Bridgeport Diocese, and will soon direct their undergraduate seminary.
From 42:07 – 47:15, Catholic Answers here
What does a separation of spouses look like when the reason for separation is the hardness of heart of one of the spouses? This comes from the Catechism that says divorce is immoral and a grave offense against nature and only tolerable in certain circumstances, and then it footnotes over to the canon law. The canon law talks about how separation should be in accord with Divine Law. So, with no-fault divorce, that got changed, so what would a separation look like that would be in accord with Divine Law?
Fr. Paul Check
It got changed in the positive law. Great question.
Let’s make a distinction here. With no-fault divorce the civil law changed, and from our point of view, regrettably. Because, it made it much easier to dissolve (in the idea of the civil authority) marriage, even though it doesn’t touch the sacramental bond. So the church does not accept the idea of no-fault divorce. In fact, divorce is, from the standpoint of the church, a legal fiction. And its something that she tolerates when one of the spouse’s rights are being attacked or undermined and threatened in a very serious way. So, things like: adultery, so that’s a grave breach of trust; or physical abuse; could also be emotional and psychological abuse of a grievous form; also to protect the patrimony or inheritance. I think that these are examples that are given in the code.
Essentially, what the Church says is the civil authority may be called upon and to protect the rights of the aggrieved party. And the hardness of heart refers to the party who is doing the aggrieving, because they have been unfaithful, or abusive, or whatever the case might be. So, the separation in this case, without touching the marital bond, without dissolving the covenant, because that is not possible — the mayor can’t dissolve a marriage bond any more than he can say you are not baptized anymore. The civil authority is there to protect the rights of the aggrieved party. Does that help?
Well, I was asking what kind of plan would be in accord with Divine Law, when the only reason that the spouses are separating is that one has hardness of heart. What would that look like? If a husband abandons his wife because he’s got a hard heart, what kind of separation plan would be in accord with Divine Law.
Fr. Paul Check
Well, as I said, it is to protect the rights of the aggrieved party. And the code presumes that the aggrieved party is going to the pastor of the parish, and talking with the priest about how this is going to be done. But that means there may be times when a house is divided to protect the children from a parent who is drinking too much, or is on drugs, or is physically violent. So there may actually wind up being two households established. That is what it could look like. Now we always hope for reconciliation. But, if its impossible for the home to be maintained without a certain modicum of peace and harmony, then that separation can in fact be physical, but it does not touch the marriage bond both parties. Bust parties must continue to live their married vows. How is that Bai, is that helpful?
If the aggrieved party is the woman whose husband is abandoning, what would that husband’s obligations be towards the woman and the children? because the no-fault divorce courts don’t address this anymore?
Fr. Paul Check
Well, according to the natural law, according to natural justice, he has the responsibility to support them. I think the difficulty we have here is with the civil law, not with what the code of canon law permits. You are right to cite the Catechism. Its a grave offense against the natural law, as the Catechism says. And civil divorce does not touch the marital covenant. But the problem here is that the civil law is not necessarily protecting the rights of the aggrieved party. If someone abandons, then that spouse, if he is the breadwinner (if she is the breadwinner), they have the obligation to support the children.