Dear Cardinal Kasper,
There’s something I don’t think you understand about the whole divorce, remarriage without an annulment, and receiving the Eucharist thing. There are many who say you want to change Church doctrine. I am hoping there is less to it than that.
I am hoping you are a man, human as we all are, trying desperately to alleviate the suffering of those innocently wronged by divorce, especially those innocently wronged by divorce yet brave and trusting enough to seek Love again. I am hoping that you want to change laws about receiving the Eucharist to alleviate the pain you bare as a member of society lukewarm in the redefinition of Marriage. I am hoping you want to change law because of pain you feel while telling someone who dares to love again despite a painful past, that the expression of that love is sinful. I am hoping you, as a Catholic who knows the Eucharist as the Body of Christ, want to change laws because you understand that to deny a wrongly wounded soul such a gift causes that soul even greater suffering than previously endured.
I am also hoping to change that.
I am hoping that you have heard a few too many times from nearly innocent men and women left by spouses but willing to risk everything to marry again, but I am more hoping that your heart is open to listening to those of us in similar situations yet wanting to keep Church law as is. I am hoping that you want to change laws because of a limited understanding of kindness rather than a limited faith. I am hoping it is a case of the squeaky wheel got the grease because the squeaky wheel has for a long time been the divorced and remarried rather than the silent faith-filled spouses left quietly behind.
I am hoping it is not too late
for the rest of us to stand up and tell our stories,
to be the squeaky wheel for once.
My husband and I married in 1995. We had four beautiful children together and thought our family was complete when we discovered we were pregnant again in early 2009. Despite complications that had me very ill and caused concern for the baby, I had accepted the fact that I carried life inside me and happily thought we were the perfect couple as we lined up with others to renew our vows in our Catholic Church that Valentine’s Day. Little did I know that about that time, my husband had reconnected with a former girlfriend on Facebook, would suddenly announce he was leaving that Mother’s Day, and move out only one week later.
The next several years were a whirlwind of agony and confusion I would not wish on anyone and included multiple court dates, tens of thousands of dollars, a divorce the children and I did not want and an annulment, filed by my ex, that I still question. Worst of all, it included a loss of self as I, no longer Wife and full time Mom, questioned who I was created to be, and it included a questioning of my Catholic faith as the Church was often bumbling, inept, foolish, and on some occasions just plain mean in its handling of our heartbreak.
I know firsthand how poorly the Church handles divorce and annulments, and yet, I still question those who would make changes you suggest.
One of the first and greatest tragedies of divorce, especially a one sided divorce, is the loss of self and the isolation the wounded experiences. In many instances, the divorced individual feels an extreme loss of communion with other members of the Body of Christ; it is easy to see why one would mistake the communion of community for the Communion of our Lord and Savior. I can see why some, in their desire to offer communion, instead offer Communion. In many ways, offering Communion once a week is a quicker and easier solution than sacrificing real time with a wounded soul. Communion takes about 10 seconds per person. Little effort would be required to throw a few more people in the mix, but there are problems with offering Communion in such a way.
This Communion is a Holy Communion. It is not a communion defined in a dictionary but a Communion undefinable without Jesus Christ. Catholics now too often approach the Eucharist with a lack of understanding of the meaning of The Body of Christ. It has become a communion, a gathering place, a thing we do because it’s what we do rather than a thing we do because of what was done for us. Without the Eucharist being the Body of Christ, we can offer simple bread and dole it out to anyone, but this Bread is special. It is THE Bread of Life, and it is for more than a simple communion.
I think back to that period of total blackness after my husband left. We had gone to Mass together every Sunday, prayed around the dinner table every evening, and had held hands as we fell asleep together every night. I believed “The family that prays together stays together.” How had God let this happen and what was the point of being Catholic when being Catholic was so hard and it didn’t seem to pay off anyway? I went to other amazing Christian churches, where the belief was real, where the teachings were good, where the people were far more holy and Christ-like than I or any Catholics I knew, but they missed one thing – The Eucharist.
It is the Eucharist that helps the divorced remain Catholic. It is the Eucharist and a continual striving to be forgiven and made worthy that gives the divorced Hope for a better tomorrow. It is because the Eucharist is not something everyone can or should attain, that we strive to keep pure and worthy of the Body of Christ. It is not in our being worthy that we are able to receive, but in our striving to be worthy that Christ’s forgiveness makes us worthy. If the Body of Christ is receivable by all, why bother striving to be worthy?
I’ve done a lot of coaching. I’ve been a teacher, youth minister, and Mom. I’ve worked with people long enough in enough different capacities to know, as long as we realize we’re in the game, we play to our opponent’s level. When we face a good team, we play harder. When we face a sloppy team, we play sloppy. When a teacher has high expectations, students learn more. When she doesn’t care, the students don’t either. When a parent Loves completely, the children learn to Love. When she puts others down, the children mirror bullying in their relationships.
If we want to value the Eucharist and Marriage in the Catholic Church, we must raise the game plan, even if that means remaining celibate and chaste upon the departure of a true spouse. We must make the Eucharist something to strive for. By allowing divorced and remarried to receive the Eucharist, you deny a sin exists and deny them the chance to strengthen themselves spiritually through striving to be better, and make no mistake, Catholics living together outside of the Catholic Church Marriage is sinful.
If remarriage without an annulment outside the Catholic faith is acceptable, we question the value of Marriage granted by the Catholic Church. Why bother with the fuss, if marriage granted by another institution carries the same weight and grants the same blessings? Why bother with marriage at all for that matter? If two people love each other isn’t that enough?
Additionally then, shouldn’t we question whether there is any limit to divorce and remarriage? Is it okay for the second, third, and fourth marriages, but not for a fifth? Who is to say whether the last marriage was legitimate or not without an annulment process? Without a need for an annulment, would it be the cheating spouse who makes that call or the faithful, but hurting and bitter, spouse who was left behind?
I am no fan of the annulment process, but there is a need for a third, separate party to discern whether or not a Sacrament took place before allowing a married couple to separate. Divorce is too traumatic an experience, even when it frees one from an abusive spouse, especially when it frees one, for individuals to ascertain whether vows were real, whether the Lord Blessed the union, whether this period of divorce is really the “for better or worse,” part of marriage, whether this period of singleness is faith’s call to inaction in, “Be still and know that I am God.”
As was said earlier, the divorced, in their isolation, crave communion of community. In their suffering human form, they need that reaching out by those who care, that human interaction and validation. There will be a time when receiving Christ, or rather when Christ receives us, that we need nothing else, but as we are now, humans need one another, as the Father knew when He created Eve.
The problem is that people mistake this idea of companionship for need of a dating relationship. One of the greatest post-divorce tragedies, especially when children are involved, is the number of people who jump into new relationships mistaking the craving for human intimacy with the craving for human sexuality. Simply doling out Communion does little to satisfy real craving for human contact.
It is understandable that one would want to offer Communion to those divorced and remarried, but it is often the adulterous spouse rather than the innocent spouse who seeks the remarriage in order to justify actions. The cheating spouse receives consolation in his paramour while the faithful spouse receives consolation in the Eucharist, in Communion with the Body of Christ when communion with her husband is no longer possible. To water down that Body and make it accessible to the cheating spouse makes the faithful spouse wonder if her Communion with Christ is as valuable as she had thought. To offer Communion to an adulterous spouse who has married the woman he had an affair with helps justify his cheating and abandonment, the third party’s adulterous behavior, isolates the faith-filled spouse even further, and sends future generations mixed (at best) messages about Marriage, infidelity, and accountability.
It also makes the loyal spouse question her celibacy at a time when she is vulnerable and apt to fall to temptation quickly searching to fill the void left by a departing spouse. In these cases, the need for companionship and validation of worth reach far beyond the need for sex, yet in our culture these opposite concepts are so intertwined that few even realize they have options. An abandoned spouse may think that since divorce and remarriage outside of the church are acceptable, she should not wait for an annulment to begin a relationship. The annulment process, despite its many faults, gives an additional separation period to find clarity and to redefine the Self as a Child of God rather than as a missing piece of a couple.
It is a question of what value Marriage and annulment and the Eucharist have in the Catholic Church. If there is no Blessed union then by all means, let’s accept marriage and remarriage as well as marriage in all its forms; let’s take away any meaning of marriage and commitment and make it a word we toss around casually. Why not get rid of marriage all together and just have friends with benefits as some people crassly put such unions?
If there is no Body in the Body of Christ and we believe, as our brothers and sisters in other Christian denominations, that the wafer is just a wafer, a simple representation of the Last Supper rather than a literal Bible translation, then by all means let’s invite all sinners without asking them to strive for more to partake in communion.
But if there is more, we must stand for more. If Marriage is a meant to be a lifelong union of one man and one woman then we must be sure it is held to such a standard. If we believe that Christ returns to us, but that we, like the woman at the well, are called to go and sin no more, then we must go and sin no more in order to receive Him.
Cardinal Kasper and those wishing to change Catholic law, I hope you consider what I have to say – but only a little. My side is based on feelings and experiences, just as those with opposing viewpoints base their ideas on feelings and experiences. I hope you see the Body of Christ as the Sacred, perfect piece of ourselves while being totally separate from ourselves, as something we must strive to attain rather than as something we can lower and grab greedily at, rather than as something we are owed .
Finally, I do believe changes should be made to the divorce, annulment, and remarriage process and have posted those changes on my website SingleMomSmiling.com. I would love to receive comments from the opinions of others on this issue and on the changes I suggest as well.
In the meantime, I promise to keep you and especially those struggling with family issues in my prayers.
Are you struggling with Marriage, Family, divorce, single parenting, faith? I’ve recently formed Divorced & Still Catholic, a new Google+ community, and hope you will join, share and discuss posts, and support one another.Divorced & Still Catholic is for the separated, divorced, and annulled but also for those struggling within marriage and those thriving within strong marriages who can provide example and encouragement. Thank you and God Bless…