When May Husband & Wife Separate? – Miller, 1957
- Posted by Mary's Advocates
- On February 3, 2020
- Scholarly Resource
St. Louis, August 28, 1957
Joseph E. Ritter
Archbishop of St. Louis
III. TEMPORARY SEPARATION
There is only one reason for which a married person may permanently separate from a lawful spouse, and that is certain adultery as explained above. However, this is not the only reason that makes separation sometimes advisable and even necessary. But for any reason other than adultery, the separation (*14*14*) effected must be considered temporary, not final, even though it may seem quite improbable that the situation will change and that reconciliation will ever become possible. …
(*15*15*) For such separations to be lawful. two things are necessary. The first is a sufficient reason ; the second is per¬mission from the proper authorities in the Church.
A. Sufficient reasons.
The Canon Law of the Catholic Church lists a number of sample reasons on the basis of which one partner to a valid marriage may apply to the Church for permission (*16*16*) to separate temporarily from the other. They are: …
(*17*17*) B. The permission of lawful authority.
Married individuals who think they have one of the above sufficient reasons for separating from their partners must present their case to the bishop or chancery of their diocese (usually, but not necessarily, through their pastor) , and must abide by the decision handed down. The only exception is when the reason is certain (for example, the husband has been injuring the wife physically) and when there is great danger to the innocent person in remaining under the same roof with the guilty one. Even here it is always advisable that the pastor be consulted (*18*18*) or told fully about the situation requiring an immediate separation.
This matter of the importance of consultation with one’s pastor or at least with any priest cannot be overstressed. Through such consultations many a marriage has been saved from the rocks; without them, many a foolish mistake has been
IV. SEPARATION AND CIVIL DIVORCE
Even when there has been ample reason for an innocent spouse to separate permanently or temporarily from the partner, and even when the separation has been approved by the authorities of the Church, the innocent person may not apply for a civil divorce except under certain very definite conditions.
These are four in number:
- That there be a grave reason for seeking a civil divorce over and above the separation that the Church has granted. Examples of such reasons would be the need of a wife to have the courts force her separated husband to maintain her and the children; the need of one for protection from the threats or persecution of the other, etc.
- That permission to institute divorce proceedings be granted by the bishop or his representative. It is seriously forbidden to Catholics, no matter how grave their reasons, to apply for a divorce without the permission of the bishop. As usual, the parish priest may be the intermediary in applying for this permission.
- That the person applying for a divorce fully understand that a civil divorce cannot destroy the bond of a (*20*20*) valid, sacramental, consummated marriage. In some dioceses it is required that the one asking permission to seek a civil divorce swear under oath before the bishop or his delegate and two witnesses that he (or she) has no intention of attempting to destroy the marriage bond.
- That scandal be removed insofar as possible. Thus the one seeking the civil divorce is bound to make it known to relatives and friends that for grave reasons the Church has granted permission for the seeking of a divorce. Moreover, he (or she) should make it clear to all that he knows that no civil divorce ever frees a validly married Catholic from his marriage bond.
A Catholic who is applying for a civil divorce or who has received one with the permission of the bishop is perfectly free to receive the sacraments and live a full Catholic life. He must beware, however, of making himself unworthy (*21*21*) of this and giving great scandal by taking up regular company-keeping as if he were free to marry again.