The People Speak Out

Local voices connecting globally

This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.  (Pope Francis)

Canon Law 212 calls upon the laity to speak up:

2 - The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

§3. - According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

At his public audience on August 5, 2015, Pope Francis made the following remarks, urging that those who are divorced and remarried be welcomed:

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

With this catechesis we continue our reflection on the family. After speaking, the last time, about the wounds of families because of misunderstanding of the spouses, today I would like to give attention to another reality: how to take care of those who, following the irreversible failure of their marriage bond, have embarked on a new union.

The Church knows well that such a situation contradicts the Christian sacrament. However, in his gaze the teacher always draws from a mother’s heart; a heart, animated by the Holy Spirit, always looks for the good and the salvation of people. That’s why she feels the duty, “for the love of the truth”, to “discern situations.” As St. John Paul II expressed the situation in his Apostolic Exhortation “Familiaris Consortio” (no. 84), for example, he drew attention to the difference between those who have suffered the separation compared to those who caused it. You must make this discernment.

If we look at these new bonds through the eyes of young children – a look from one who is small – with children’s eyes, we see an even more urgent need to develop in our communities real welcome to the people living these situations. It is therefore important that the style of the community, its language, its attitudes, are always attentive to the lives of these little people. They are the ones who suffer the most in these situations. Moreover, how can we recommend that these parents to do everything to educate their children in the Christian life, by giving them the example of a faith practiced with conviction, if we kept the parents away from the life of the community, as if they were excommunicated? You must make sure not to add more burdens to those that the children in these situations already have to bear! Unfortunately, the number of these children is really great. It is important that they experience the Church as a caring mother to everyone, always willing to listen and to encounter.

In these decades, in truth, the Church has been neither insensitive nor lazy. By the profound work done by pastors, led and confirmed by my Predecessors, there is a growing awareness that we need a fraternal and attentive hospitality, love and truth, towards the baptized who have established a new relationship following the failure of the sacramental marriage; in fact, these people are not excommunicated — not excommunicated! — and should never be treated as if they were: they are always part of the Church.

Pope Benedict XVI spoke on this issue, calling for careful discernment and wise pastoral care, knowing that there are no “simple recipe” (Address to the Seventh World Meeting of Families in Milan, June 2, 2012, answer n. 5).

Hence the repeated invitation to pastors to manifest openly and consistently the community’s willingness to welcome them and encourage them, that they may live and develop more and more that they belong to Christ and the Church through prayer, by listening to the Word of God, by coming with frequency to the liturgy, by Christian education of children, with love and service to the poor, and by a commitment to justice and peace.

The biblical icon of the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11-18) sums up the mission that Jesus received from the Father: to give his life for the sheep. This attitude is a model for the Church, which welcomes her children as a mother who gives his life for them. “The Church is called to be always the open house of the Father […]” – Nothing behind closed doors! No doors closed! – “Anyone can participate in some way in the life of the Church, everyone can be part of the community. The Church […] is his father’s house where there is room for each one with their life’s challenges”(ibid., Evangelii Gaudium, n. 47).

Similarly, all Christians are called to imitate the Good Shepherd. Especially Christian families can collaborate with Him in taking care of wounded families, accompanying them in the faith life of the community. Each plays its part in taking the attitude of the Good Shepherd, who knows each of his sheep and excludes no one from his infinite love!{jcomments on}

I am 72 tears old and have been married 41years. The person I am writing about is my oldest son, who married a women who had mental problems which manifest themselves in drug use. He divorced her after paying her medical bills and charge bills.; there were no children. He only goes to church when there is a special occasion, i.e. wedding or funeral. I am sure he feels not welcomed by the church. However, we have an awesome priest at out parish who says ” no matter what has happened in the past you are welcome at the table of Communion…Christ would never refuse to feed anyone”. At those masses my son and his fiance take communion. All the Church should practice this philosophy, in my opinion.{jcomments on}

At every meeting, diocesan, deanery and parish levels, it was always a consensus that it is a scandal that the Church forbids divorced and remarried Catholics to received Holy Communion.
A divorcee I knew brought her three children to Mass every Sunday until they left for University and now none of them attend. She stopped when they all had left home. She had fulfilled her duties.{jcomments on}

I am a divorced Catholic woman. I have not yet remarried, but neither have I attempted to gain an annulment. The idea of seeking an annulment to declare that no “valid” marriage ever took place causes me anger and frustration. This process suggests that some imperfection existed at the time of the marriage. Does the Church think anyone gets married who is without imperfection? Clearly the celibate male hierarchy has no real understanding of marriage and has idealized it beyond reality.

My husband and I married with full hearts and full commitment to each other. We brought the best that we had to the marriage. We raised our children and created a life together for 30 years. When I came to see that he suffered from multiple addictions, I tried to work with him for 4 years toward recovery. That failed. After nine months of daily prayer and meditation, I felt strongly guided by the Holy Spirit to leave him and create a healthy life for myself and for my children.

The process of annulment suggests failure because we had imperfections. My actual experience suggests that we are all imperfect and the marriage relationship is an opportunity for mutual growth beyond those imperfections. Sometimes growth happens; sometimes not. Rather than setting up judges to determine whether a couple is worthy of annulment, the Church would have served me better by supporting my prayerful discernment, honoring my individual conscience, and offering solace during the painful time of divorce.

I still have not sought an annulment, and I will not…even if I decide to remarry.{jcomments on}

I sent the following letter to my bishop:

Rev’d Marcus Stock,
Bishop of Leeds,
Bishop’s House
13, North Grange Road

February 2015

Dear Bishop Marcus

I write in response to the invitation of the Bishops of England and Wales to reflect on the gift of marriage and family life. Forgive me for writing anonymously; I do so to protect the identity of my husband and children.

I was raised in a “good Catholic family”. I learned my catechism and was drilled in all aspects of my “duties”.
• Mass on Sundays, followed by Holy Hour in the afternoon;
• Novena devotions on a Wednesday;
• Daily Mass (and First Fridays especially). As a girl, I was taught to “answer” the Mass in Latin for the times when there was no male “server”.
• Confession on Saturday night, then shoe cleaning and baths so we would all be smart and clean for Sunday Mass;
• Reciting the Rosary nightly during the months of May and October.
• I attended a Catholic primary school, grammar school and then a Catholic girl’s college.

You would be hard pressed to find something I didn’t know about the seven sacraments, the seven deadly sins, the seven virtues, the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit (Ghost).

But home was very unhappy because my parents were “trapped” in an unhappy and unsuitable marriage. My failures were picked over like a chicken carcass and any successes I had were never celebrated, in case I became “proud”. We had “duty” drummed into us at home and at school but no one ever told me that God loved us.

You may find that hard to believe that in 3 Catholic institutions and a “Catholic home” I did not experience a God of Love. In fact, I was in my forties before I came across a very holy priest who changed my life. I also heard some of Richard Rohr’s early tapes and read Gerry Hughes’ “God of Surprises”.

But in the 60s I couldn’t wait to leave home to get away from the bitterness and the scathing remarks. The only real way for me to do that was to get married and, in any event, I wanted to be married (I had a very romantic notion about falling in love and, to be frank, marriage was the only legitimate way to find out about sex).

Really I was in just love with the idea of “being in love” and my relationship with my future husband was very superficial. At one point I broke off our engagement, partly because I had serious misgivings and partly because I wanted a bit of drama. I was quite an intelligent girl, but emotionally I was extremely immature. My fiancée was a good Catholic and “ticked all the boxes” and I thought I loved him.

I recall my wedding day and thinking as I walked down the aisle, “Why am I doing this?” But I felt it was too late to stop it. The marriage has never been happy and we were sexually incompatible from the outset. We were both virgins when we married and I regret not having lived with him for a short time, as this would have made it clear to us both that we were unsuited. From very early on I fantasied about him being killed, so I would be free to remarry. Please understand, I never wanted to hurt him or for him to suffer, but I simply wanted OUT. Sadly, there was no way because of the “permanent bond”.

We had 5 children and now they are all grown up and away from home. Almost 50 years on and I still long for freedom. Marriage for me is a martyrdom of pinpricks. We have been together all these years and I kept and keep to the contract because of the seriousness of the promises I made, the fear of hell and also for the sake of the children. They simply would not understand if I left their father now.

I would be happy with a separation, although I am sure that, given my age, there will never be a true love for me. Extrication seems impossible, because the children somehow see us as a model of togetherness (because we have always been there) and financially we are tied together. I don’t want to hurt him or the children or my husband but it would be just wonderful to have some peace and space in my life and not spend each day trying not to nag or indulge in sarcasm. I do not like my husband’s habits and day by day find them harder to tolerate. I know he is a good man in many ways and tries his best but he has never been right for me and, sadly, he has been deprived of a truly loving wife. I know he deserves much better than me.

Although I see my children as precious gifts, I cannot see this marriage as any kind of a gift and I wish I had had the courage to ignore the Church’s teachings as soon as this appalling mistake was clear. At the time, the Church was very quiet about annulment but I believe that had there been better preparation for marriage and support and teaching for couples post marriage, I would have met the criteria for annulment as I simply did not have the maturity to make a binding decision.

Looking at the document I see it says:
“We believe that times of difficulty in marriage and family life can also be moments of growth in holiness and love and therefore have a special claim to the church’s pastoral ministry.”

Some of the post Vatican 11 initiatives seem to have disappeared: the involvement of lay people in marriage preparation (we didn’t have that); “Marriage Encounter” Catholic Marriage Advisory Council. It seems the only people who know anything about marriage are not themselves married.

Considering the questions:

1. What are your joys and hope of marriage and family life today?
For me there is no joy and little hope in my marriage. Only daily Mass gives me the strength to carry on.

2. What are your struggles and fears of marriage and family life today?
Just daily struggles to be patient, kind, tolerant, when I really want to scream and rant.

3. How can we better understand marriage as a vocation?
Only Saints should consider marriage – St Paul had it right! “It is better to remain single..”

4. How does your marriage enrich you? – I wish I knew

5. How does your family life enrich those around you? –
Our children see the “front” that we put on and we have one daughter and one son very happily married for which I thank God daily.

6. In what way, through the abiding presence of God, is your family “salt of the earth and light to the world” and a
place of and for the handing on our faith? –
We tried to hand on our faith to our children, but they have been put off by the dreadful liturgies we have to suffer. One does attend a more “joyous” church. The others have a residual faith and good morals and social conscience but see communal worship as a sterile waste of time

Please pray for my husband and me and for some good to come from this consultation.

I remain one of your lost sheep

May God bless you.{jcomments on}f