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Divorce & Annulments

So, do you all remember “Reflecting and Reconsidering,” the guy who wrote to “Dear Mary Beth” a few months ago? He told me about how he, like “Holding Out” (whose letter I had addressed previously), struggled with the idea of dating a woman with a history of what he called “life experiences” – in other words, a woman who wasn’t a virgin.

He wasn’t just talking about women who didn’t share his beliefs about the sanctity of marriage, but also about any woman who had been divorced, annulled, widowed or committed sins against chastity that they had repented of.

He recognized they hypocrisy of his position, being divorced and annulled himself. But he nevertheless acknowledged his strong preference for a “non-married, non-divorced, non-widowed, childless, virgin woman,” and that he had hesitations about dating any woman with a sexual past.

Well, I got a letter from him recently. (Actually, I got a letter from him several months ago, but I didn’t find it until recently.) This, in part, is what it said:

          I am pleased to inform you that I believe I have met my next wife and yes, she comes with life experiences, but I truly believe that God has given me the grace to accept this person in the state that she comes to me.

          It is very comforting that I feel no jealousy or insecurity in our relationship despite her life experiences. She is a woman of great courage…and is a devout Roman Catholic.

          I have once again been blessed in this life by God. I look forward to sharing the rest of my life with this beautiful and precious lady. 

          I thank God for giving me the grace to receive another person into my life despite my naive views and beliefs of a women’s virginity. For I have been, am, and will be blessed – Amen!

          May “Holding Out” receive the same grace and find the woman of his prayers in the near future.

          As noted in my subject line, I am living “A New Life”!

 

I wrote back to him just to make sure that the intervening months hadn’t brought any unhappy changes in their situation and to get his permission to post excerpts from his letter again. He happily agreed and confirmed that he was indeed still looking forward to a future with his beloved.

Is this beautiful or what? 

I share it with you not only because I’m very excited for Reflecting and his new love, but also as a reminder to those of you who are still holding on to the narrower ideas that Reflecting struggled with.

In whose shoes would you rather be standing right now? Your own, alone with the perfect image of your imaginary “spotless” bride?  Or his, standing next to a very real, beautiful, holy woman of God, looking forward to a future that was clearly destined by Him?

A lot of the responses to the original letter from Reflecting hinged around the idea that a man has every right to expect a virginal bride because relationships before marriage should be chaste.  And indeed they should – just as Adam and Eve shouldn’t have disobeyed God, and the Good Thief shouldn’t have stolen whatever he stole, and St. Augustine shouldn’t have spent all of those years with a mistress before the conversion that put the “St.” before his name.  

But the reality is that all of those bad choices happened. God knew they were going to happen from the beginning of time. And yet He had a plan, a plan that took their sin into account and created something very beautiful for His glory. Augustine’s repentance made him a powerful witness for centuries of Catholics struggling with sexual sin, just as the Good Thief’s recognition of his sin made him an integral part of the very passion of Christ Himself.

God does the same for all of us. He has a plan – for you, for me, and for each one of us. Our job is to remain close to Him, get out of His way and remain open so that we can recognize the plan when we see it.

The beautiful thing about Reflecting’s original letter to me was that he wasn’t defending his position. He was struggling with it. He recognized the inconsistency and he was very honestly and courageously bringing it to God.

If you have a plan that you believe may be better than God’s, or standards that are perhaps higher than His, I would highly recommend that you do the same. That is, if you’re open to the same kind of happy ending that my friend Reflecting has found.

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4 Comments

  1. Shaun-204121 December 12, 2011

    I noticed on some profiles that a person is divorced ( not annulled) and on their profiles they say they can marry in the church. I thought that you need an annulment for this to occur. Are there other options? Also, should I be interested in dating someone who is divorced and not annulled? I want to be sure. Thanks.

    • MaryBeth-278310 December 12, 2011

      Shaun — if someone is divorced and their spouse is still alive, they need an annulment before they can re-marry in the Church. It is possible that some people are just checking the wrong boxes on their profiles, but it’s something you should clarify. As for dating people who are not annulled, I wrote an article about that several years ago, which you can find here: http://www.catholicmatch.com/blog/2007/06/to-date-or-not-to-date/

  2. Candace-587406 December 13, 2011

    Amen sister! :)

  3. Paul-111530 December 17, 2011

    I question the wisdom of this article. It doesn’t seem to differentiate between guilt of sin vs. effect or condition due to sin. For example, if a person wants nothing more than to be a pitcher for the New York Yankees, and unfortunately severes his arms off in a careless accident, even of he fully repents for his carelessess he is no longer able to pursue his dream. When two people become one flesh it unites two selves into one; a total self gift that can never be fully taken back, even when a relationship is repudiated. That bonding on the natural level is real and permanent in nature, so much so that it has the power to make a marriage unbreakable. What does this power, then, do for two who become one flesh outside of marriage? Nothing? That seems to be a denial of human nature. Since the life/self that is literally mingled in intercourse is not temporary in nature it is not abnormal for men to be unable to cherish a woman as his own flesh who has already become one flesh with someone else. I don’t think this is a lack of grace, but a recognition of nature. Politically incorrect and painful as this might sound, I think there is precident for this thinking throughout Scripture and history. There is a reason why the feminine principle of the covenants within the OT had to be spotless and why women were always expected to be virgins on their wedding day, until, that is, “the pill” turned the sexual world upside-down in the 1970′s. I don’t think this has anything to do with forgiveness or holiness — I am well aware that a repentent prostitute could enter the kingdom of God far earlier than a virgin. Rather, this is about the temporal state of life that marriage is.
    This is not Church teaching so please feel free to refute my very fallible thoughts with reason rather than emotion. Thank you.

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