Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Not Divorced from My Faith: Divorce Is a Traumatic Reality for Many Catholics, the Church Should Reach out to and Welcome Divorced Catholics, Not Add to Their Pain by Judging and Rejecting Them

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Not Divorced from My Faith: Divorce Is a Traumatic Reality for Many Catholics, the Church Should Reach out to and Welcome Divorced Catholics, Not Add to Their Pain by Judging and Rejecting Them

Article excerpt

THIRTY YEARS AGO I WALKED DOWN THE CHURCH aisle on my father's arm to be married. The church and reception were filled with well-wishing family and friends. Little did I suspect that 14 years and three children later, we would be divorced. Since that time I have been through the annulment process and am now remarried and a stepmother to three children, yet the shock and stigma of divorce still affects me. I often still wonder how this happened to me.

Most couples enter into marriage with every intention and hope to be together forever. Marriage preparation programs like PreCana give couples a good preview of the skills they will need to achieve a successful marriage. Yet divorce continues to be a traumatic reality in many Catholic families. It rends families apart and leaves everyone wounded and hurting. It destroys trust in children as well as in adults. It takes years to recover from divorce, and it leaves a void that can only be accepted, never filled.

I had a very difficult time with my divorce. I had been taught that good Catholics do not divorce. I believed that if you kept the rules, attended church, and lived a life of faith, you'd be rewarded with a successful marriage, good children, etc. My parents had been married more than 40 years. They had disagreements, but they worked things out. When I ran out of tactics to save my marriage, I felt lost and abandoned.

Years later I heard a priest equate the pain of divorce with the pain Jesus must have experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane. Hearing that, I felt that God understood the isolation, alienation, and profound sadness I was feeling. Jesus must have felt similarly when his people turned their backs on him.

Catholics who are divorced often feel judged by their fellow Catholics. And misconceptions abound. At divorce support groups, attendees often share their sadness that once they were divorced, they were told they could no longer be eucharistic ministers. I have received phone calls from teachers who feared being removed from their positions in Catholic schools because they were going through a divorce. Protestant churches are populated with many divorced Catholics who have given up on their own church. …

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