Dating before annulment
“His response to me was, ‘Anne, I don’t want your husband to feel uncomfortable in the Church.’” Unfortunately, Sweet told OSV, that response is not atypical. “We’re putting Band-Aids on bloody wounds, but leaving the real problems untouched.” Those Band-Aids, of course, are important. Other times, it’s all that people will let the Church do.“Too many Catholics, priests included, are afraid of making waves, of what people will think,” she said. But regardless, it’s a level of support the Church should not be content to give.And it’s a good first step for those going through divorce. “Divorced Catholics are suffering in a different way,” said Craig Dyke, who chairs the Diocese of Peoria’s advisory board for divorced and widowed ministry.“They’re dealing with anger, hurt, frustration and the misconception that the Church has turned her back on them. They need to hear the Church’s teaching in all its strength.” To make matters worse, however, plenty of Catholics involved in ministering to the divorced and separated don’t want to give that.Those groups offer comfort, support and a safe place to talk ... But they also generally neglect to communicate the truths Catholics most need to hear about sex, marriage, suffering, and salvation ... Likewise, some Catholic-based groups, such as Beginning Experience, focus solely on helping people deal with the emotional pain of grieving the loss of a spouse, but don’t do direct evangelization and catechesis.That may be fine when it comes to their outreach to widowed Catholics.Accompanying that belief are other questions divorced Catholics have about their standing in the Church: Are they excommunicated? Can they continue in lay apostolate work or liturgical ministries?If they apply for an annulment, does that mean any children they have will be considered illegitimate?
“When my husband left me and our five children for another woman, I begged our priest to talk to him,” said Anne Bennet, who has been separated from her husband of 15 years for the past two years. So should we.” “It’s triage,” Sweet said, summarizing the problems with much of Catholic divorce ministry.
“They think of marriage as something that lasts for ‘as long as we both shall want,’ not ‘as long as we both shall live,’” said Father Roger Landry, a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Mass. Others’ is.” Buying into cultural misconceptions like that one, as well as misconceptions about God, marriage and the meaning of life, aren’t just problematic because they can lead people to divorce.
Much of the reason for that, said Frese, is that “Catholics have been infected by the culture’s idea that we’re somehow entitled to happiness. They’re also problematic because they can lead people to rush into new relationships, believing that’s the answer to their unhappiness, ignore the Church’s teachings on chastity, and repeat past mistakes, mistakes which more often than not cut them off from the Church and the sacraments.
“In the immediate aftermath of divorce, you feel like you’re not wanted by anybody,” said Greg Mills, president of Catholic Divorce Ministry (formerly the North American Conference of Separated and Divorced Catholics).
“Your self-worth is zero.” Helping people address those wounds is a serious challenge for most priests and lay ministers, many who have little to no background in counseling.