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Here is an excerpt from an email I recently received that seems to echo a complaint many others have:

I have spent time looking over the web site, and while I think the ministry you guys are doing is great, I don’t like all the concepts about divorce… You are making a home for those who are divorced and a path toward sinfulness. I truly hate it that someone ends up painfully divorced but leading them to sin is not the answer we as a Church should be sending…

Taking this complaint at face value, I understand why it bothers some people that the issue of divorce is discussed at CatholicMatch and that divorced Catholics are permitted to use the site. We know the Church teaches divorce is a grave sin (CCC 2384) and we know it’s not what God intended for the family. This point was driven home in a very painfully accute way for me, a conservative Catholic, when I was divorced against my will many years ago. But I was consoled by the fact that, according to Church teaching, I and others like me had not committed a grave sin and were to be welcomed in our parishes (CCC 2386).

I also understand the frustration people feel when divorced and non-annulled Catholics turn up in their search for a Catholic spouse. I would like to make two distinct points on these matters:

First, the CatholicMatch website is a tool, and it’s unfortunate there are people who abuse this tool by blatantly ignoring the CatholicMatch “Terms of Use” policy regarding divorced Catholics:

3. Registration Obligations

Please be aware that divorced members who are not free to marry in the Catholic Church are permitted to use CatholicMatch but not for romantic purposes. If this is your situation, we encourage you to contact your parish priest or diocesan marriage tribunal to determine if you are a candidate for the annulment process.

So it is laid out immediately that in order to date, one must be free to do so and must otherwise refrain from using the service for romantic purposes.

But second, take a moment to look a little deeper than just face value and you’ll see there is a valid purpose behind addressing divorced Catholics and their circumstances. We are doing both what we are commissioned to do by virtue of our baptism, and obeying what the Holy Father and his predecessors have asked us all to do—evangelize. Pope Francis has exhorted every Catholic to extend a helping hand to those in divergent situations such as those who are divorced, with the goal of helping them find healing within the Church. The same has been said by Pope Benedict Emeritus and Blessed John Paul II during their papacies:

You all know that this [divorce] is a particularly painful situation. Given these people’s situation of suffering, it must be studied . . . None of us has a ready-made solution because each person’s situation is different . . . The Christian faith involves giving oneself to the community of the Church, a community that promises each believer that he or she will never be left alone in suffering and that calls each Catholic to reach out to others. —Pope Benedict XVI’s Comments on Ministry to Divorced and Civilly-Remarried Catholics, Conference with priests, religious and deacons, July 25, 2005

I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church, for as baptized persons they can and indeed must, share in her life. —Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio

So yes, in following the admonition of the Popes, CatholicMatch does make a home for those who are divorced, which is a fantastic alternative to bars and Protestant churches. Not only does CatholicMatch serve as a tool to reach out and evangelize, but it acts as a stepping stone from brokenness to new life through providing a place to find social relationships. Being divorced does not mean one must be a hermit. It is very important for divorced people to have social relationships to help with the healing process. And believe it or not, for every one person complaining about the one article posted each week addressing divorce, there are three times that amount complaining the Church is not doing enough to help divorced Catholics.

Several authors on this site as well as myself write articles to inform divorced Catholics about what the Church teaches regarding divorce and annulment and help them feel connected to their family in faith. Here are a few of the many articles I’ve written that explain these issues:

3rd Most Common Mistake Dating After Divorce

The Attraction Factor: Are You Free To Date?

Divorced, But Not Annulled: How CatholicMatch Can Help

I hope this helps explain why it is important to continue serving the divorced community through publishing articles that address their concerns and answer their questions. As for divorced members on the site, my hope is they will follow the terms of use set forth regarding their circumstances and find a path to healing and possibly a new relationship through the annulment process.

I appreciate everyone’s feedback, so feel free to send your comments and questions to asklisa@catholicmatch.com.

(This post has been read 1,794 times)

13 Comments

  1. Patrick-955401 April 21, 2014

    Well done, Lisa. You laid out a compassionate response to an issue of great suffering for divorced Catholics.

  2. Luz-1055440 April 21, 2014

    Hello. Any human being, divorced or not, Catholic or not, should receive compassion.
    In all honesty, It does NOT cause me or anyone else an inconvenience that they are able to participate in the site. One can easily create filters so that one can look for people who can marry in the Church. Divorced people are persons who have experienced great pain, so, yes, definitely one can see there is a great need to be welcoming to them. We as Church should be kind, rather than throwing stones. Jesus was compassionate.
    I would like to ask a question, however. Is it bad for the ebusiness site to have the fora and the institute accessible outside of Catholic Match dating areas? (let us remember this is a business that needs to be economically sustainable to continue existing).
    I totally understand there is the need to have divorced people welcome, or anyone for that matter.
    The web site docs not necesarily have to forbid divorced people from accessing the dating area, people have *their own conscience* and can make the decision if they want to engage in some conducts. The Bible, in the words of Jesus, is very clear in that respect, and I am sure everyone in this site has read or heard the words.
    Still, the point the email you shared is very valid, about creating an opportunity to sin, which I am sure, is far from the intention of the founders.
    Why not giving the divorced the opportunity to be part of the family of catholicmatch GIVING THEM THE OPTION to acquire an account that does not access the dating parts of the site?? They could convert their account to full access to dating once they get an annulment or in the event they merely change their mind.
    Giving them the *explicit* option to choose an account with no-dating access is for THEIR benefit (explicit option in the sense of not just creating a post to say they can do that now by inactivating their account so that it is not needed).
    Any person who is divorced and who wants to read the advice and fora, and not get distracted from their intention to remain faithful to the spouse who divorced them because they love God and really want to follow the teachings could do so. Even if only a 1% of the divorced users chose to enroll in CM with no dating access, it would be well worth it for the sake of the people salvation (it is clear to me it may not be good idea in economic sense, and I am not meaning to be judgemental). This would creta the community environment described In the posting while at the same time giving people an option to choose not get too tempted by making that one random search or tempted by sending an innocent wink to that cute person…
    This is not about being rude to anyone. It is about giving people an option to get far of the occasion of sin while still welcoming them in community…
    Jesus was very compassionate when he met the woman at the well. He knew she had married 5 times, and was living with a 6th man. Jesus just mentioned what she did and told her about honoring God in spirit and truth…

  3. Patrick-341178 April 22, 2014

    I think there are plenty of divorced catholics using this site for romantic purposes. I went on a date with one. I kept an open mind and asked her about getting an annulment, but she was rather unspecific about it. It turned out to be a moot point as we were one date and done (shocking I know), but I dont think she was aware that she was only supposed to be using this site for friendly purposes.

    It may be in the terms of use, but I dont think many divorced catholics on this site realize that. Or, they do and simply ignore that. That does leave me to another question. Should any “free to marry” catholic never date a divorcee until their annulment is complete?

    • William-607613 April 23, 2014

      Patrick,

      A person who is divorced without an annulment should not be dating, although I do think that there are divorced people on this site who simply don’t know this.

      Because a divorced person without an annulment should not be dating, by extension, that means that you should not be dating a divorced person who does not have an annulment.

      The purpose of dating in the Catholic sense is to discern compatibility for marriage; it is NOT for companionship. A person who is not free to marry in the Church cannot take that final step (of marriage) in a relationship, so the whole question of trying to discern compatibility with this person goes right out the window; you already KNOW you are not compatible for marriage.

  4. Deb-866442 April 22, 2014

    Oh the judgment! Judge not, lest you be judged. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others who trespass against You.” I personally have been divorced. Oh My! I made the error of judgment in my early, self-absorbed 30s…..God has forgiven me. Several priests have absolved me of this sin, as I confess it often, living with the personal guilt every day! I think folks need to THINK about casting stones on this site! WHO IS WITHOUT SIN HERE? I have a dear friend who had an abortion when she was young, and guess what? God blessed her with a child at the age of 41 anyhow! SO apparently HE can forgive grave sins. The Church, and the congregation need to stop passing so much judgment and stop flogging those who make terrible mistakes in their lives. (And put away the bag of Stones!)

  5. Marge-938695 April 22, 2014

    Great comments, y’all.
    Unfortunately, there are numbers of Catholics (here and elsewhere) who think that being divorced is an indication that one believes that marriages are disposable. These folks don’t have enough charity to even try to imagine the pain some members are suffering.

  6. Tess H. April 23, 2014

    Although I have devoted much of my life to the Church, raised my children in Catholic schools, and have a deep connection to Christ, the saints and the Holy Mother, and the pope, I feel disinfranchised from most Catholics now just because I am divorced. I’m pretty hurt and angry over this article and some of these comments. I think it is a grave over statement to call CatholicMatch a ministry. It’s a online dating site – and just like Match.com or OKCupid it comes with some rather distasteful outcomes – including unsanctioned romantic relationships and fornication. I joined and unfortunately did not read the full disclosure and did not understand that as a divorced Catholic I would not have the full services of the site. I answered the questions honestly and paid the same fee as everyone else, but was not allowed a matching feature. I was told I had to submit proof that I am free to remarry. It’s a dating site, not a sacrament. When I asked for a refund, I got no response. I fully understand the rules and respect the site’s goal to abide by them and I certainly don’t want to be on a site where I am not welcome. What you are forgetting is there are many non-denominational churches and sites that will capture many disheartened divorced Catholics (along with their volunteer hours, skills, children and money). What’s worse is hearing someone say, “If you re-marry without an annulment, you will be denied communion.” That is the dark cloud that hangs over a divorced Catholics’ head. Communion is now a weapon. Do you feel my pain now? Do you see how difficult it is to remain a Catholic after a divorce. Leaving would be much easier and a lot less lonely.

    Many of the couples I became friends with while raising my children when I was married are now distance. What is ironic is that I recently had coffee with a few of the ladies from the old crowd and when I mentioned what a great experience I had at Reconciliation with a new priest they looked dumbfounded — most of them had not been to confession in 7-10 years. I understand CatholicMatch is working to create a Catholic experience an that’s a beautiful goal, but my point is, what does a good Catholic look like who would make a good Catholic spouse? The divorce / free to marry aspect is measurable but cannot provide accurate results.

    Annulment is a process that from a non-divorced person’s view looks a bit daunting and time consuming, but for those out of a painful marriage it is an enoumous and confounding step that threatens our emotional security all over again as we re-live and reconnect with a terrible part of our past. Catholics seldom divorce because the marriage was inconvenient or “we grew apart,” but rather it was a disaster that ruined many aspects of our lives. Marriage, divorce and annulment are not to be taken on lightly or without vital support from family and community. I’m well aware that this issue cannot and should not be addressed from a dating site, but feel compelled to share what it’s like to be a divorced Catholic.

  7. Marian-992112 April 23, 2014

    Tess, I am so sorry for your experiences. You have clearly experienced a lot of pain. I just want to voice to you and Lisa that this site has been a ministry to me, so her idea of ministering is possible. I’m not Catholic and came here through my Catholic BFF. Did I understand the rules? No. But I’ve ended up using this site as a safe place to simply remember there are good men out there, and as one of the rare places where divorce is covered both Biblically and compassionately. I have, to my great relief, never felt they condone or excuse it. I have found help and insight how to make it through, hope for my character and life in the future, and the smallest bit of hope that maybe God may still be both wise and good. I believe their motive is to make healthy marriages. If that means right now this site is simply a place where I spend time learning what a healthy relationship with God and man looks like, than I am grateful they are willing to provide the foundation. I truly hope you can experience healing and hope in your life. Xx

    • Tess H. April 24, 2014

      Thank you.

  8. Patrick-341178 April 23, 2014

    William,
    As I wrote in my post, I do not believe the divorced lady I went on a date with was aware of this, nor was I. I don’t have a strong opinion whether or not divorcees should be allowed or not on this site. But, if they are allowed, I really don’t see how they can be stopped from dating on this site. The reality there are only a small percentage of people on this site who would be willing to pay membership dues simply for purposes of friendship.

    I only went on one date so it wasn’t like I was seriously considering entering into a relationship with this respective woman. As I wrote in that post, I made a point of asking her about the annulment process, and when she really didn’t seem interested in even really starting the process, I knew that it wasn’t going anywhere.

    She is a nice person, so I don’t regret going out with her. However, moving forward, I will respect the spirit of the terms of service and avoid future dates with non-annulled divorcees.

  9. Emma-1018020 April 24, 2014

    Thank you, Lisa, for such a wonderful post. I think it’s wonderful that CatholicMatch has chosen to uphold ALL of the aspects of Catholic teaching on divorce: all too often we see the don’t, and forget that there is often a do associated with it. While personally I’m not in a position to utilize those resources, I’m happy to see that they are available and that there are people here committed to helping people to achieve peace and happiness with themselves. Thanks again for taking a stand! :)

  10. Tina-1066851 April 25, 2014

    I agree with some of what is being said, however, I have come on this site to find friendships and companionship. At this point in my life after my divorce, I am not in a hurry for romance. I didn’t ask for my ex to have an affair and leave me for a younger woman. I did what I needed to do with dignity, I filed for divorce!
    I am not trawling around for men, but I would like to meet someone out there who shares my beliefs and my interests. I will be filing for an anullment, but it will be hard for me, just like the divorce was.
    I think people need to walk in my shoes for a while to understand, romance is not what I need right now, but I am terribly lonely sometimes and thats why I am here!

  11. Michael-414867 April 25, 2014

    Interesting article in this month’s Catholic Spirit regarding this matter:

    “In its approach to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, the Catholic Church needs to find a middle ground that does not destroy or abandon doctrine, but offers a “renewed” interpretation of church teaching in order to help those whose marriages have failed, Cardinal Walter Kasper said.

    “I propose a path that goes beyond strictness and leniency,” the German cardinal and theologian told Vatican Radio March 10.

    An approach that avoids the two extremes “isn’t against morality, it isn’t against doctrine, but rather, (is meant) to support a realistic application of doctrine to the current situation of the great majority of people and to contribute to people’s happiness,” he said, speaking in Italian.”

    http://www.austindiocese.org/article/14280/cardinal-calls-reinterpret-doctrine-help-families

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