Wednesday, August 14, 2013

CP 217 So my children are bastards?

CP 217 “So my children are bastards? The hypocrisy of annulment…

Soon after I took up the call to the Immanuel Church in Canberra I was approached by a dignified lady who asked, “Would the Lutheran Church be willing to take the wedding of my daughter who is a Roman Catholic?” “Why do you ask?” I replied. She told me her story.
Her husband had an affair with his secretary. He soon left his wife and the four children. He wanted to marry his lover, and to do it with the blessing of the Catholic Church. With the support of his friend, the parish priest, he applied for the annulment of his marriage to his then wife. To her shock the annulment was granted by the Church. Her husband then married his secretary in the Catholic Church with the blessing of the Bishop.
(For the un-initiated, when the Roman Catholic Church declares the annulment of a marriage, in the eyes of the Church it is as though there was never a marriage in the first place, even though that first marriage was recognised by the Civil Government.)
This woman subsequently approached the said priest of her local church, where the whole family had attended Mass, week by week, for years, and asked him that question... “So my children are bastards?”
It is not difficult to comprehend the depth of the offence she had suffered and the anger she carried within. She was right to be indignant. Personally, from that day to this I have not lost my conviction about the shameless hypocrisy and dishonesty which accompanies the Roman Catholic practice of annulling a marriage and pretending there was no marriage in the first place. It stinks. It is morally and ethically repugnant. There is nothing, not a skerrick of anything, which can justify the practice in the teaching of Jesus Christ, or in any other part of scripture. I believed it was a disgrace then and I believe it’s a disgrace now!
I encountered this sham (shame!) many times. To top it off, on at least three occasions representatives of the RC Church offered to arrange the annulment of the marriage of Lutheran Church members who were divorced, and whose Catholic partner wished to marry in the Catholic Church.
Look, I don’t like divorce. The marriage vows we all make are sacred. Marriage is for life. As Jesus said, “What God has joined together let no one separate.” He has done the gluing. The first instinct with a couple who are coming apart is always to heal and restore so that the marriage covenant can be upheld and the couple live together in a safe and healthy way. However, marriages do break down irretrievably. Some cannot be restored. Staying can be destructive in all sorts of ways. It is difficult, if not impossible, to live with constant lies and deceit, or with unending verbal or physical abuse. In some of those situations I could not in good conscience encourage a partner to stay.
So where is the hypocrisy and dishonesty?
The answer is simple. The RC Church is passionate in its defence of marriage and its opposition to divorce. Divorce is not an option in Catholic teaching. However, relationships do sometimes get to being beyond repair. Rather than face the uncomfortable reality of breakdown, the dishonest fantasy of annulment is introduced. Annulment is nothing less than semantic rubbish. Why not cut the dishonesty, confess the sin and failure, seek the forgiveness of God, and allow people to move on under the covering of grace?
The spiritual un-health of the practice.
There is a pastoral point to make here. If there was no marriage in the first place there is a danger of seeing no need for repentance and accountability. There is no need to examine one’s heart and confess failure and inadequacy. There is no need to admit the wounding for which we are responsible. The risk is that we rob ourselves of that opportunity to grow in grace and truth by not letting the light of Jesus shine in our dark places. All of which cedes ground to the devil.
There you go. Got it off my chest after 30 years. Happy to get reactions.  Fred


Anonymous Ruth said...

Hi Fred. Thank you for what you have shared. I agree with you about the inconsistency of the stance of the RC Church on annulment of a marriage. One wonders what an annulment of a marriage says to the RC priest who had officiated at the marriage, giving it the blessing of the RC Church? And it's a double-whammy for the spouse not wanting the annulment, and children of the marriage. It's giving a sentence of death rather than ministering life. So sad and unlike Jesus.

6:49 PM  

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