Have you been divorced and wondered what to do with your wedding ring? The issue of whether or not blessed wedding rings can be sold or altered in some way is a common source of confusion for many men and women who don’t want to keep their rings after their divorce.
When I went through my divorce 19 years ago, I did not ask for alimony and I left most of our possessions to my ex-spouse. This may sound odd to you, but my reasoning was such: It was my marriage I wanted, not a bunch of stuff (and we had plenty). If I couldn’t have my marriage, then I didn’t want the things associated with it.
So I had to start from scratch in building my new life, and frankly even with working two jobs I was starving to death! I had to pay my bills on my income alone, including all the lovely brand new legal fees that were racking up. I was embarrassed to tell my family how bad it had become, so I began hocking the few things that I had instead to get me through some rough spots.
The first to go was one of my most beloved items, my 12-string guitar. I had played it for years and kept it in pristine condition. It was so hard to let go.
That helped, but eventually I needed more help so I sold my big 28″ box television set (this was 1993). Finally, it came to the point where things got really desperate and I needed a bigger ticket item to help fill in the gap. So, I hocked my wedding ring. Painful, yes, but necessary. But shortly, thereafter, I wondered if I had done something wrong. Wasn’t my wedding ring a sacramental?
I had known other divorced women who had taken their wedding rings and had them melted down and formed into a different piece of jewelery, often with the same stones, but now it had a completely different significance. I had never heard them utter one iota of guilty feelings, but I felt that way nonetheless. So what is the truth about selling sacramentals, and in particular, blessed wedding rings?
First, it’s important to understand the term “simony” which refers to the buying and selling of “spiritual” things, namely indulgences (CCC 2121). This was a practice back in the middle ages with indulgences. Individual Catholics did sell indulgences–but in doing so they acted contrary to explicit Church regulations.
In 1967, Pope Paul VI wrote the Apostolic Constitution, Indulgentiarum doctrina, which thoroughly lays to rest any doubts or confusion about this issue of selling indulgences. It states:
(40) Unfortunately, the practice of indulgences has at times been improperly used either through “untimely and superfluous indulgences” by which the power of the keys was humiliated and penitential satisfaction weakened,(41) or through the collection of “illicit profits” by which indulgences were blasphemously defamed.
This declaration would extend into the area of sacramentals if the object itself was sold under the guise of having a greater value than normal because of a blessing attached to it. For example, if someone tried to sell you a Miraculous Medal or scapular that had been blessed by the Pope or a saint, and stating the object had a much greater value than one that had not been blessed and therefore has a higher price tag. This would be contrary to Catholic teaching.
The Church provides us with sacramentals (primarily articles that have been blessed, such as rosaries, crucifixes, holy cards, etc. but can also be prayers), for the purposes of instilling piety in the one who possesses them.
Wedding rings are certainly reminders of the sacramental grace conferred on a married couple, but if the marriage ends in divorce and especially if it is declared null, this is no longer the case. Therefore, the Church does not mandate that wedding rings must be kept or cannot be sold. What happens to a wedding ring is a very personal decision and is left up to the spouse who remains in possession of it. I’m sure there are many people out there who would never dream of giving up their wedding ring even after their divorce. But just as a person who owns a home that has been blessed and sells it to someone else to move to a different home, there is nothing wrong with selling your ring unless you are trying to sell the blessing that was attached to it.
So, if you’re hungry and you need to eat, go ahead