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:
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:
I appreciate everyone’s feedback, so feel free to send your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.