This week, the synod fathers are discussing part two from the Instrumentum Laboris “Discernment of the family vocation.” This section focuses on the indissolubility of marriage and the bond between the family and the Church. During the Vatican press briefing, I hope a reporter asks an English-speaking spokesperson about the Church’s intervention prior to anyone filing for civil divorce (particularly Instrumentum Laboris §59 and The Code of Canon Law §1151 and §1692).
Instrumentum Laboris §59 shows that parties to a marriage have the responsibility of maintaining the common life (that is, living together). When difficulties arise, discerning one’s obligations is not supposed to be done alone, but with the community so that each can assess and repair what was omitted or neglected. The Code of Canon Law §1692 shows that no one may file in the civil forum without first getting the bishop’s permission. Canon 1151 shows that parties are obligated to live together unless a morally legitimate reason excuses them.
The Catholic Church is called to be a peacemakers and face the real enemy who is destroying families: The Devil. He is firmly established within the institution of no-fault divorce and holds great influence in leading a spouse to break apart his family when there is no moral reason to do so. In recent history, the Church in the West has been largely silent in the face of this takeover. If the Church were to apply her Canon Law about separation and divorce she would gently correct with forbearance those entrapped by the devil and doing the devil’s will, as described in Second Timothy 2:24-26.
Pope Francis, in his September 27 speech at the Festival of Families, described how God gives his love, beauty and truth to the family, but “Men, because of the devil’s astuteness, learned to have divisions among themselves.” In 2014, on June 1, the Pope taught that “Families are the domestic church where Jesus grows in the love of a married couple, in the lives of their children. This is why the Devil attacks the family so much.”
In the United States, many normal, decent Catholics have been defendants in no-fault divorce and carry the cross of the unjust separation decree that was forced on them and their children in the civil forum. It is time for the Church to reach out to marital abandoners who force no-fault divorce on their families and to the Catholic divorce lawyers who profited from it.
Catholic canon law forbids anyone from filing for civil divorce without having the bishop’s permission first. The marriage ceremony occurred in public in a Catholic Rite and civil divorce is not supposed to be sought on one’s own authority, without official, documented intervention of the Church. If dioceses implemented the canon laws, a spouse who is unhappy in his marriage should be pointed to spiritual advisors, counselors, programs, and mediators that have experience helping couples. If there was a situation in which one spouse was gravely abusive or committing adultery, the Church could instruct the family about the parameters of a separation plan that is in accord with divine law.
Erroneously, a number of diocesan personnel tell unhappy spouses that it is alright to petition for no-fault divorce in the civil forum. The civil forum purports to relieve a dissatisfied spouse of his obligation to maintain the common conjugal life, but this obligation is not a merely civil effect of marriage, so it should not be decided by the civil courts. Divorce courts also purport to have jurisdiction over financial obligations of one party toward the other, but the obligation to help one’s spouse is not a merely civil effect of marriage. This is part of the mutual help that is required of a spouse in the Church’s list of obligations of spouses toward each other. Further, parents have the duty and right to educate and raise their children and it is a violation of natural and divine law to forcibly separate children from a decent mother or father, just because the other parent wants to abandon the marriage.
Pope Francis’ invites Church leaders to walk with their sheep. We heard from Cardinal Robert Sarah at his keynote address (see here) at the World Meeting of Families that “all those wounded by personal sin, and the sin of others … can and must find in the Church a place for regeneration, without any finger being pointed at them.”
Pope Francis is not hesitant to reach out to those who are doing the devil’s will. Remember how he spoke to the members of the mafia on March 21, 2014, “Please change your lives, convert, stop doing evil. I ask on my knees and for your own good.” . . . “There is still time not to end up in hell, which awaits you if you continue on this road.” Pope Francis said, “You had a papa and a mamma. Think of them, weep a little and convert.”
Stephen Baskerville, author of “Taken into Custody, the War Against Father, Marriage and the Family” listed the injustices (see here) thrust on normal decent spouses by divorce lawyers, at the request of marital abandoners:
Parents are ordered out of their homes (“divorce”); Parents are told they may not see their children, on pain of arrest and incarceration (“child custody”); Children are summarily removed from their parents, with no evidence of wrongdoing (“child abuse”); Parents find their property, including their homes, are summarily confiscated (“division of property”); Parents are summarily ordered to pay huge sums to officials they have not hired for services they have neither received nor sought, on pain of incarceration (“reasonable attorneys’ fees”); Parents are summarily ordered to pay staggering sums to which they never agreed, assigned “debts” they did nothing to incur, and their wages are confiscated, all on pain of incarceration (“child support”).
Those wounded by the sin of marital abandoners can ask the Church to recommend mediation and, if needed, gently correct the one forcing a family break-up by informing him of the canon law designed to protect justice and promote reconciliation – true healing. see here.
The idiom “the elephant in the living room” refers to a big problem that is easily noticeable, yet nobody is willing to discuss or even acknowledge it. The elephant in the living room needs to be called out – rampant separation and divorce is not Catholic and causes untold damage and suffering.
Bai Macfarlane is the founder of Mary’s Advocates. On Sept. 26, 2015 she presented a paper in Rome that was distributed to the delegates at the Bishops’ Synod by Human Life International Rome. Text of oral presentation given Sept. 26, 2015 (15 pages) see here
Left to right: Isabel McPhilips, Cardinal Raymond Burke, Bai Macfarlane