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Divorce & Annulments

I often hear people who are suffering through tragedies such as divorce ask, “Why would God allow this to happen?” But my question is, why do people always blame God for what happens to them? Don’t you realize God gave everyone a free will?

You don’t always make good choices. You, me, and everyone else have made some pretty bad decisions in our lives. But God will not force us to choose what is right over what is wrong. That is His gift to us as human beings and you are free to choose what you want in life. Killing, stealing, rudeness, lies, gossip, abandoning your spouse and children, substance abuse… whatever it is, it’s all your choice. So if you are free to choose what you want in life, and you know for a fact that you don’t always choose wisely, it’s safe to say that suffering will be caused as a result of poor choices made. And in the realm of divorce, there are lifetimes of suffering caused by one person’s decision to have an affair and cheat on their spouse, or to allow an addiction to ruin their family or any of the many other reasons why divorce is so rampant in our society. God allows our suffering because He will not take away the gift of our free will.

So it stands to reason that most of what we suffer in life is a direct result of our poor choices, or someone else’s poor choices that affect us. But that doesn’t mean you should adopt a “victim” mentality.

Consider this gentleman’s situation:

I have always been faithful to God and faithful to my wife. I’ve struggled to build my career for my family’s benefit and raised my kids as good Catholics. But when Kathryn left me, I kept wondering—after being true to God and my family—how could God take away my marriage? How could he allow my children to suffer so much? My family was my whole life and now I feel all my dedication and hard work has gone to waste.

I had to believe there was some bigger reason for what was happening. Nothing made sense to me at that point, not even going to work in the morning. I always had blind faith, but when my wife filed for divorce, my world disintegrated around me and I couldn’t buy into that theory anymore. I needed more than that because if I didn’t find a real reason to sustain hope for my future, I saw very little value in continuing to practice my faith at all.

This gentleman, Michael, who spoke those words many years ago, is a very happy, pleasant, and productive person today, but probably not for the reasons you think. He didn’t run out and find another woman to replace his wife. He struggled mightily for a very long time with the anguish of watching another man become his children’s live-in dad, as he did the best he could to parent them from afar. He sold the home he raised his family in to strangers and opted instead for a small apartment so he could afford the legal bills, child support, etc. He’s suffered tremendously because of other “good Catholics” who have tried to block him from serving in his own parish because he is divorced. So, how is it this man is as happy as he is?

Because he made the best decision he’s ever made… he chose to rely solely on God to get him through that difficult time. He didn’t blame God, he trusted Him implicitly and carried his heavy cross with love and humility.

Romans 8:28 tells us: We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to his purpose.

God may not force you to choose what is right and He may not step in and block your way when you’re about to do something terrible, but He will take the aftermath of your divorce and use it for your good. So don’t let your divorce turn you into a victim. Don’t play that blame game. Embrace your cross and let it change you.

There comes a time in your life when you have to take a step out in faith and really believe that God has a plan for your life. This may seem contradictory to your current situation, but remember, things are not always what they seem. You are in the thick of the situation. Your emotions might overwhelm you, but God knows your pain! He knows what you are going through, He is very aware of what is happening in your life, and He is trying to help you learn and grow through these circumstances.

I look forward to hearing from you at asklisa@catholicmatch.com. You can also follow me on Twitter at @lisaduffy.

 

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10 Comments

  1. Douglas-984666 October 3, 2013

    Unfortunately, this type of scenario is all too common. Even if a man does everything right (or at least does the best he can with what he’s given), even then, the allowance of “no fault divorce” strips him of any legal protection.

    The woman keeps the nice house in the suburbs, the man moves into a studio apartment. The woman gets custody, the man gets limited visitation rights and has to pay the child support.

    I especially liked the line about the “good Catholics.” While this isn’t part of our doctrine / domga, this is unfortunately part of our culture. My experience with the environment at Roman Catholic parishes has been that gossip, slander, and back-stabbing are kind of just accepted as normal in day-to-day affairs.

    My advice for any Roman Catholic feeling alienated from his parish would be to get involved in another church. No, I didn’t say another parish. I said another church. Yes, you should still go to Mass to fulfill your obligation. Yes, you should still see one of their priests if you need to make a confession. I’m not advocating apostasy. However, if you need emotional support, if you want to enjoy warm fellowship in a welcoming environment, if you want to feel truly “at home,” DO NOT look to the Roman Catholic Church.

    At the best, they will stand passively in the background and say “offer it up,” “bear your cross,” and any other number of pious platitudes. At worst, they will kick you while you are down.

    A few years ago, when I was feeling alienated from the Church, I made the decision to become involved at a local Anglican / Episcopal church nearby. Beautiful liturgy, splendid hymns, great preaching, welcoming, supportive environment, and some very nice treats at the coffee hour. And now I’m in their choir.

    To be sure, I double-checked with several Roman Catholic priests about whether my habit of double-churchgoing (Confession and Catholic Mass Saturday evening, Anglican service Sunday morning) was permissible. The answer was yes. “Permissible but not advisable.” But as long as you still cover your obligation, and refrain from receiving communion in the other church, you remain in good standing and in a state of grace.

    Granted, I have run into some “sticky situations.” For example, many “good Catholics” from my old college are worried that I’m “giving scandal.” At the same time, my Episcopalian friends ask questions like “Hey, how come you never receive communion, come on, you’re one of us now.” These types of situations require individual discretion.

    End of rant. I’m not advocating apostasy. Satisfy your obligation and confess your sins to validly ordained priests. But for all other needs, look elsewhere.

    P.S. After visiting an Episcopal church for two years, I am now seen as “one of them,” even though I am not an actual Episcopalian. I have been a practicing Roman Catholic for 8 years, but no one has ever told me “you’re one of us.”

    • Um-370126 October 3, 2013

      Douglas,

      My heart goes out to you.

      Don’t even get me started on how repugnant I find “Good Catholics” to be. I hope I stand next to them on judgement day & watch Jesus look upon them with shame and disgust. What ever happened to ‘love thy brother’?!?

      I found this that you wrote to be most hilarious: “To be sure, I double-checked with several Roman Catholic priests about whether my habit of double-churchgoing (Confession and Catholic Mass Saturday evening, Anglican service Sunday morning) was permissible. The answer was yes. “Permissible but not advisable.” But as long as you still cover your obligation, and refrain from receiving communion in the other church, you remain in good standing and in a state of grace.” Yes – as long as you still give your 10% each week you’ll stay in the good graces of the church…it’s amazing how money does that!!

    • Michael-780154 October 4, 2013

      Wow, Douglas. I pretty much went through what was described in the blog entry… to the T. Dealt with a loser, sexist “family court” system in South Carolina and pretty much had to give away my children (or be willing to accept a $125,000 legal fee to contest custody) since mom gets custody 93% of the time in the county where I lived…pretty much only loses custody if she’s a druggie. So have been there (divorce/no custody), done that, and now parent from afar. Welcome to the era of women who can do it all without men, and where men have no rights to our children (born and unborn.) Pay the bills but don’t have the ability to truly affect them as they grow. 59 overnights a year? Shameful. Sounds a little like slavery.

      Sour grapes. Sorry. My point is that I came into the Catholic church well after my divorce was final. It has been the single biggest blessing in my life. Though I began attending prior to my divorce being finalized, at the invitation of a cradle Catholic going through divorce, I felt the most amazing acceptance and welcome. I think the reception a divorced Catholic gets depends on his/her parish. THAT is the Bottom Line.

      I will say that it is IMPOSSIBLE to find single women in any Catholic parish I have attended. Harder as a relatively older single guy not in my twenties or early thirties. And it is terribly hard to go to Mass and see families with children, while being alienated from mine by an unfair legal system that uses loving dads for profit. But, I did recently meet someone here and am working with her to discern whether we may have a future together. We will see how things go. There is hope for all.

      Oh, and I have to chuckle about “good Catholics.” The “good Catholic” I met last year, who wanted to date me before my annulment was final, moved on (finally) after I told her (repeatedly) I wasn’t interested due to lack of an annulment at the time. She is now dating a non-annulled divorced guy. As a new Catholic, I think that is against the rules. As Catholics, I think we have to be careful to leave the judging to God but really must take time to be introspective on how faithfully we are living our faith…and to welcome and be kind to others who are struggling. Divorced folks–especially faithful men–need to be included, and need support and cheering.

      • Douglas-984666 October 4, 2013

        The modern Catholic man is in a triple bind. A body and mind that is hardwired for sex, combined with a religion that forbids (on pain of mortal sin) ANY expression or sexual outlet outside of the confines of marriage, and then that combined with a legal, political, and socioeconomic system that creates every possible disincentive and hindrance to marriage and procreation. We are trapped on every side.

  2. CatherineRose-996317 October 3, 2013

    Douglas, in my eyes you are one of us. Seeking a close relationship with God, and yearning for a place to belong in a faith-filled community, put you here whether others (or yourself) acknowledge it.

    I’m sad to hear your Catholic-church-going experiences have been so unloving. I’ve had some experiences like that myself. I’ve moved parishes, several times, and will not settle for just attending Mass and ‘fulfilling an obligation’. If it means anything, I encourage you to continue on your search, and not brand all of us in the sad way you’ve seen so far. I respect your search.

  3. Douglas-984666 October 3, 2013

    Thank you for those kind words. I think perhaps one of the negative side effects of the Church making Sunday Mass obligatory is that it attracts a lot people who, though not exactly “devout,” really do not want to commit mortal sin either. I almost feel as though revoking the Sunday obligation would be a move in the right direction, and it would reveal more clearly who is truly devout and who is not. Many Catholics are not aware of the fact that holy days of obligation are NOT a matter of doctrine (like contraception) but of discipline (like priestly celibacy and not eating meat on Fridays). I remember a few years ago when, due to a tremendous snowstorm, all Catholics in the archdiocese were absolved of their obligation. At least in theory, the Vatican could change the cannon law to make Mass attendance voluntary, rather than obligatory. Or, they could make missing Mass a venial sin, rather than a mortal sin. In the Anglican church, there is no “obligation,” but they use other approaches to attract people and keep them coming back every Sunday (beautiful liturgy, splendid hymns, great preaching, welcoming, supportive environment, nice treats at the coffee hour, etc).

    The good news is that the state of alienation in which I found myself two years ago has largely been resolved. However, I’m still attached to the “other side” of the Tiber. Since visiting other churches is not explicitly forbidden, I don’t see any reason to detached myself at this time.

    You are completely correct to say that “seeking a close relationship with God, and yearning for a place to belong in a faith-filled community, put you here whether others (or yourself) acknowledge it.” For if that were not the case, I would have gone to AnglicanMatch instead.

    The drawbacks to being in a Catholic Church are comparable to being a student at a “suitcase college” (where everyone lives locally and goes home for the weekend). It works perfectly fine if you have friends and family in the area, and have the luxury of going home every Friday evening, but if your home is far away and you do not already have any connections, it’s going to be a rougher experience.

    The negative experience I often cite is the time I was scolded for decapitating a muffin at the coffee hour after a Tridentine Mass. I prefer the top part of the muffin because that’s where most of the flavor and caramelized sugar are. Granted, decapitating a muffin is not a good thing to do, and I probably deserved the scolding, but my thought at the time was “Gee guys, you’ve been ignoring me for 3 years, and the one and only time someone comes up to talk to me, it’s for decapitating a muffin?”

    Anyway, rather than complaining and rambling, I will suggest a few positive alternatives.

    1. Sunday Mass should become voluntary or, at most, obligatory under pain of VENIAL sin.

    2. Priests should be allowed to marry and encouraged to take work in other fields. This way, they could gain more experience from the real world, and thus be better able to relate to their flock and preach relevant homilies.

    3. If enough parishioners were willing to volunteer their time and resources, parishes could have lunch and / or a coffee hour after the main Mass.

    4. Choir directors should be more picky about whom they admit, and even hire a few professional cantors.

    I do not advocate that the church should change any of its teachings, but it may need to change some of its practices and disciplines in order to stay afloat.

    • Um-370126 October 3, 2013

      Douglas,

      You’ve got some pretty radical ideas at the end of your post…better watch out or you’ll be ex-communicated!! LOL! I’m joking (for those of you with no sense of humor). I especially like #2…I find it hilarious to receive maritial advice from priests, pastors, etc. who have never been married.

  4. Lisa-727959 October 3, 2013

    Dear Douglas and Um,

    Thanks for sharing your candid thoughts about my post and I’m truly sorry for anything either of you have suffered on behalf of Catholics who are judgemental. But I’m surprised to see you both doing exactly what you don’t like others doing… judging.

    Watching others be looked upon by Christ with shame and disgust is not what a real Christian hopes for. It only reveals a heart that clings to the resentment of past hurts. How can you ever be happy in life if your heart is full of resentment?

    The sole purpose of our Church is to hand down the teachings of Christ and dispense the sacraments. It is not responsible nor is it obligated to hold lunches or offer support groups or extra activities. That is the job of the parishioners.

    I understand full well that some Catholics look down upon their fellow parishioners because of their circumstances because I’ve been there, myself. But telling people to do the bare minimum to remain Catholic and go find community somewhere else is really not a great response. Why? Because if your heart is really in the right place, you will stand up and start being the one to change the problem. You will be the one to extend your hand in friendship and bring those who don’t talk to you into a conversation you started. If you see the need for support groups, start one! I did!

    My point with this article and with this post is the same: My friend didn’t become bitter, he trusted in God and acted. And with that, God used his circumstances to usher in a new and happy life for him. I hope that you would both consider that as the best option. Instead of disparaging others against the Catholic Church, jump in and offer a hand to help! Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

    Sincerely – Lisa Duffy

    • Douglas-984666 October 3, 2013

      Not so much a “bare minimum” approach, as much as a “compartmentalization” approach. As someone who attends Mass during the week, prays the Rosary, and recites the Divine Office, the term “bare minimum” isn’t really applicable.

      Each thing serves it’s purpose. While the Catholic Church contains the fullness of truth in all matters of faith and morals, it does not always have the ability to address all practical needs. So – if there’s another church that can address those needs – I say go for it. If one store only sells food, another store only sells office supplies, and one store only sells toilet paper, then I have no problem shopping at three stores.

      Compartmentalization is necessary so that a problem in one part of our life does not infect another part of our life. I don’t try to start a romantic relationship with someone already established as a platonic friend, because that could ruin the friendship. I don’t date co-workers, because that could make my job my difficult (a distraction if it works, an awkward embarrassment if it doesn’t work). Same idea applies here. The Catholic Church satisfies my spiritual needs (the Sacraments, especially Confession and the Eucharist) and the Episcopal Church, my secular needs (companionship, fellowship, friendship, music, art, culture, etc). Yin-and-yang.

      In an ideal situation one church would meet ALL needs, but for most people that’s not the case.

  5. Adel-818653 October 4, 2013

    Dear Douglas,
    I am sorry that you did not get the support from your own parish. In my part, I have been so active with my parish that when they found out that I was divorced, (left behind), they were very supportive. I even joined the Beginning Experience group, (for those who are divorced, separated, widows and widower) in our church.
    I did go to another church, at times, on Sundays since I attend Saturday masses too. I went because I could not get enough of how God loves me that their sermons and singing also helped me with my pain. I did not go received communion from the other church. I now go with the Anglican Church with their medical missions. I enjoy going with them outside the country for the last 4 yrs. (2x in Honduras and 2x in Peru). I only attend the Anglican Church service when we have our commissioning mass for our medical missino team.
    Good luck and God Bless!
    Adel

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