CATHOLIC CHURCH MUST EMBRACE DIVORCEES
|Pope Francis celebrating the marriages of cohabiting couples|
Pope Francis set an important precedent in the past week when he celebrated the marriages of couples - some of whom were cohabiting and had children.
Most people accept that the "ideal" is for a man and a woman to marry, stay together in love for life and bring children into the world that will benefit from a happy home and a good mother and father.
Those of us who grew up in that kind of situation should regard ourselves as having been very fortunate and blessed.
But in life achieving the IDEAL is not ALWAYS possible for EVERYONE.
Most, if not all people, begin a marriage with the dream and the hope that it will be a good, permanent marriage.
But life is full of disappointments, mistakes, infidelity and unforeseen circumstances.
I have been celebrating the marriages of divorced people for nearly 30 years now. Many of those I married had been chased away from the doors of churches and priests houses by priests lacking in compassion - priests who put man made laws before the teachings and message of Jesus.
Some of these couples were chased away by priests who were in sexual relationship both with men and with women. Is that not hypocrisy?
I have dealt with one or two couples who refused marriage by Father Michael Cleary who had been cohabiting with Phyllis Hamilton for many years and who had 2 children with her!
I'm sure that Bishop Eamon Casey who was the bishop of both Kerry and Galway would have refused to marry divorcees in spite of the fact that he himself seduced Annie Murphy and had a son with her called Peter.
For years Father Ivan Payne of Dublin, who went to prison for sexually abusing Andrew Madden and other worked in the Dublin archdiocese annulments office where he decided who could and couldn't have church annulments and who could and couldn't remarry in church.
The whole system of church annulments is pretty corrupt anyway. A woman could be refused an annulment in Ireland but go to the USA and get one there - especially in she had an uncle a bishop or monsignor or had plenty of US dollars to hand over to the church.
The Roman Catholic Church - and all churches should approach marriage, divorce and remarriage with the compassion of Christ:
I would suggest the following guidelines:
1. The ideal of the marriage of one man and woman for life is a Christian ideal and an ideal that should be promoted. The churches should INVITE (not coerce) people to uphold this ideal.
2. When a marriage fails everybody involved should do their very best to repair and save the marriage through counselling etc.
3. When it becomes abundantly clear that the marriage is dead we should accept that with a sense of sadness and regret and we should all do our best to support the couple in their time of difficulty - and if there are children involved there should be a massive effort by everyone to see to it that the breakdown of the marriage should have as little negative impact on the children as possible.
4. When the marriage is over we should all do our best to encourage the separating man and woman to handle the tragedy with as little bitterness as possible. Each partner should be sensitively invited to reflect on what caused the breakdown and to voluntarily "own" their responsibility for the break down.
5. Ideally separation, annulment and divorce proceedings should be conducted in a non-combative spirit and children should not be used as weapons or ammunition.
6. In the context of church, worship and access to Communion and the sacraments people should not be treated as failures or lepers and should be encouraged to remain part of the Christian community and along with all the rest of us "sinners" they should be made welcome at the Lord's table.
7. In a clear case when one party is totally innocent in the breakdown of the marriage that party should be able to be divorced and remarry in church whenever they wish. If there is a "guilty" party then that party, especially if they acknowledge their failure, and are sorry for it, should be able, in time, to marry again in church.
I believe that this approach is supported by Jesus in the Gospels when he allowed for divorce in the case of infidelity.
I believe it is further supported by the attitude of the early church and church fathers like St Basil of Caesarea who allowed second marriages on the grounds of COMPASSION even if the second marriage was not as sacramentally pure as the first marriage.
I hope Pope Francis actions within the past week will encourage all to look at divorce and remarriage in a less judgemental way.