I once met a young couple desiring to have their marriage blessed by the Catholic Church so they could practice the faith and, for anonymity, I will give no further details regarding time, place, or circumstance of encounter. He was a baptized Mormon converting to the Catholic faith. She was a baptized Catholic completing her Sacraments. They were civilly married with one daughter.
In discovering the husband had a prior marriage, he was told he would have to pursue an annulment. If an annulment was acquired, it guaranteed that his prior marriage was nullified (an-"nul"-ment). It guaranteed that his prior marriage did not exist. Sure, he married his baptized Mormon ex-wife in a ceremony, making it a valid marriage, but perhaps either one of them went into the marriage with the wrong intention. Perhaps one of them did not intend to fulfill the vows he or she took to the other. The court in the Catholic Church had to determine if anything like this occurred during that first act of marriage. If it did, the marriage did not actually take place. If it did, the husband was free to marry.
Even though I have spent years studying this stuff, I still find it confusing.
Even though I have spent years studying this stuff, I still find it confusing. I can only imagine how confusing it can be to the greater public. Why is there a court in the Catholic Church that determines if a marriage did exist? Why can a husband not re-marry within the Catholic Church even though he is divorced? Why was it going to take this couple a year before they were able to *potentially* have their marriage blessed by Catholic Church (it takes about a year to receive a decision on an annulment)? Why is the Catholic Church so standoffish? It is almost as if they push people away with all their rules and regalities.
Perhaps the common opinion is as such. However, in trying to understand it myself, and then in explaining it to the couple, here is the answer I procured.
The state legally grants marriages and divorces. A civil marriage is granted by the State of Ohio, let's say. Two people take vows to each other and they enter into a valid marriage. If the two people one day decide to leave this valid marriage, they go to the State of Ohio and, if approved through the state's process, are given a divorce. In the eyes of the State of Ohio, these two people are free to re-marry on good conscience.
Now, from the Church's perspective, Jesus Christ established His Church while he was living, breathing, and walking on earth two-thousand years ago. He has said it will be so regarding marriage in His Church:
"It was also said,
He also said in reply, when "some Pharisees approached Him...saying, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?,' ... [He said,] 'Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate'" Matthew 19:3-6.
The Church holds to what Jesus instituted in it regarding marriage. He said that when two marry, they become one flesh. What the court in the Catholic Church does is make sure the two that had married had not become one flesh during that act of marriage. Otherwise, there is nothing the court can do. Jesus Himself said "what God has joined together, no human being must separate" Matthew 19:6.
If the annulment is granted, meaning, if a marriage did not take place and the two were never actually joined together into one flesh, then the husband is free to marry on good conscience in the eyes of God. If the annulment is not granted, meaning, if the two were actually joined together into one flesh during that act of marriage, then the husband is currently living in adultery with his new wife in a marriage that the State of Ohio recognizes but God does not recognize. In the eyes of God, the husband is still joined together as one flesh with his prior wife.
How difficult to tell a man in a marriage recognized by the State of Ohio, happy and healthy with a lovely woman and darling daughter, that he must refrain from sexual intercourse with the woman because in the eyes of God he is not yet married to her! How much more difficult it is to tell the woman that she cannot have a child this coming year until an annulment is granted by the court of the Catholic Church - a child she desperately desires!
In times as such, we see how large a gap there is between the culture today and Jesus Christ's hope for man. How commonplace divorce and re-marriage is in our society and how few teach the truth of the matter: what the state recognizes as good conscience regarding marriage may not truly be good conscience regarding marriage.
...what the state recognizes as good conscience regarding marriage may not truly be good conscience regarding marriage.
The only thing I could say to the dear couple was, "God blesses those who live in His will for their lives. If you two refrain from sexual intercourse and live together as brother and sister during this time, prayerfully growing closer together, the Lord will greatly bless you. Your actions will show your intention of heart to follow His will. He will bless you for it."
Jesus told us to “be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come” (MK 13:33). For “of that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (MK 13:32). Yet even Peter, James, and John could not watch, keep awake, and pray in the hour our Lord needed them. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the hour His soul was sorrowful, even unto death, and His body was sweating drops of blood.
How, then, are we, modern-day Catholic Christians, two thousand years later, expected to keep vigilant when even the apostles found it difficult while the Bridegroom was present? For starters, we need to make sure that representatives of Catholicsm in the public square are representing the one, holy, Catholic, apostolic faith; and, if they are not, ask them to stand down.
Of utmost importance to St. Paul was guarding the deposit of faith. So much so he twice admonished St. Timothy to guard the deposit. If we are to join Stephen Kokx in the battle we firstly must start with articles like “Proud To Be A Cafeteria Catholic” by Huffington Post’s Catholic blogger, Rea Nolan Martin.
Martin argues that Christ was a cafeteria Jew challenging the status quo of His time. Christ was not a cafeteria Jew. He fulfilled the Old Law with the New. In turn, however, she challenges what she believes to be the status quo of our time, the Catholic Church, on four points of doctrine: women ordination, homosexuality, divorce, and birth control.
These four points of doctrine are popular today. Turning to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) and the Sacred Scriptures, a response to Martin can be found.
Women Ordination: “The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry…The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible” (CCC 1577).
Homosexual Acts: “’Homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved” (CCC 2357).
“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such a thing is an abomination” (LV 18:22 – Old Testament).
“Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites...will inherit the kingdom of God (1 COR 6:9, 10 – New Testament).
Birth Control: “’Every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible’ is intrinsically evil” (CCC 2370).
Divorce: “Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death…Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society” (CCC 2384, 2385).
As we see, a direct response is found.
Dynamic Catholic, an organization founded by Matthew Kelly, has an excellent parish book program enabling the purchase of its books and materials in cheap, bulk form for Catholic parishes across the country and throughout the world. In one of Kelly’s books available in the parish book program, Rediscovering Catholicism, he discusses the idea that today’s American Catholics are a great body fast asleep. They need only be woken up to make waves as a united front.
Jesus stood before Peter, James, and John in the Garden of Gethsemane and, with His own voice, spoke to them to wake them up. It is our turn to speak to the great body of American Catholics and wake them up with true and accurate teaching of the faith, making them hold fast to its deposit in their private lives and in the public square.
Therefore, I speak to Martin at Huffington Post. Please stand down.
Starbucks latte, how I love you. You are sugar and spice and everything nice. I wish I could have you every day. Once a week would be enough for me. Once a month? Year!? No? Why(!), oh Starbucks latte, will you not let me have you??
I know my friend says sugar is evil. I know I started eating whole foods on the Whole 30 Program. I ask you, though, Starbucks latte, why now do you make me sick? Why is your sugary sweetness the worst kind of sugar available? Why does your spice tear my insides apart? Why are you good for my mind but my body's worst nightmare? What happened to us, oh Starbucks latte, I am not all mind... I am body too! Oh Starbucks latte, how I miss you.
So it has been bothering me, quite a bit, since I first heard that our Attorney General, Mark Herring of Virginia, was going to violate his oath of office and work to destroy a law that the citizens of Virginia voted into place. No, he is not stepping down from his job because he disagrees with this law that he is supposed to uphold. Instead, he has announced that he will fight to overthrow it - not legislatively, as laws were meant to be fought in a nation run 'by the people and for the people'. Instead, he will use the time worn liberal method - a handful of individuals, making Constitutional law that will bind all peoples without their consent. (Kind of like Parliament and the King.... but I digress.)
Aside from the fact that these are dangerous times, when those in authority from the President on down are actively violating the Constitution of the United States - without batting an eye, AND without protest from the Major Media sources; (Look up Germany in the early days of Adolph, and you'll see why I label these times as 'dangerous') is the fact that Mark Herring claims to be a Christian; i.e. a disciple of Christ.
And so at the heart of it, violation of our Constitutional rights is only one of the reasons I was so upset - and not even the major one. I finally sat down and wrote Mr. Herring a letter today - and in it, I brought up the real tragedy of his actions. I enclose it below:
Dear Attorney General Mark Herring:
A dear friend of mine reports that you are a member of their Church in Leesburg, VA; and so I write this letter as one Christian to another.
By now, I am sure that many have pointed out the discrepancy between your job as Attorney General, and your refusal to do that job and follow Virginia law – duly enacted via the representative process that undergirds our entire system of living. As a lawyer myself, I know that I have often stepped down from cases wherein I felt, as a Christian, I could not represent the beliefs and/or opinions of another. You too Sir, have a duty to do this. If you are unable to do the job you were elected to do – your option is simply to step down from that job. For your opinion is not above the law. This is not a dictatorship; and, as a Christian, you of all people should not be so self deceived.
But I am not writing concerning politics. I am writing concerning love. I have been involved in the Healing Ministry. In this ministry, we have watched as the power and glory of Christ has radiated once again into this world. Deep wounds: emotional, physical, psychological, etc. are being healed. Most are being healed dramatically and miraculously. It is an amazing thing to see.
As such, I have seen over and over and over again, the deep wounds of same sex attraction healed. In every case, after receiving the healing of wounds that go back to very early childhood; ‘gay’ individuals have lost their attraction to the same sex – and developed the attraction they, and all of us, are born with – attraction to an opposite sex individual who God ordained to complete us, and make us whole. Even basic biology shows this fact in a physical way. God has made the world perfect; yet we, in our woundedness, often grab imperfection as ‘good enough’. We choose temporary happiness over abundant joy. We give up hope.
By siding with those in the ‘same sex marriage’ movement; you join with these broken individuals and tell them that there is no hope – this is all just ‘good enough’. Yet as Christians, we know that there is ALWAYS hope. Always.
My daughter had an eating disorder; only 85 pounds, she looked in the mirror and saw a ‘fat’ person. My husband and I had 2 choices. We could take the easy route, the one that caused us the least amount of work – and tell her she was right. Her ‘belief’ was proof enough. And then we could have all moved on with our lives. But we loved our daughter, and because of that, we had to take the hard road – we had to point out the truth about her incorrect assertions, endure her wrath for doing so, and then walk with her through her healing. Today she is a vibrant young woman who exudes the joy of Christ to all she meets.
That’s what Christian discipleship is all about – loving even when it is hard, and inconvenient. Like teenagers, those in the gay rights movement loudly proclaim that their state of brokenness is just fine; and everybody had better accept it. As a society, this leaves us all with a choice also. Today, most of those in America around us – those who do not love – are content to jump on board and be ‘liked’ and ‘popular’. Most therefore are telling these broken people: ‘there is no hope; so choose what makes you ‘happy’ for the moment, what you ‘want’; and simply accept ‘who’ and ‘what’ you are.’ Even though ‘what’ they are – is a child beloved of God. And as any good Father, God does not leave them in their brokenness. He calls them higher, to a life of wholeness, and love. But as with all things worth having – it does not come without effort, and perseverance.
It is interesting to note that today in our current post Christian ‘MTV’ culture, to believe and proclaim that we are all capable of living in wholeness has been termed as ‘hateful’. Is it not amazing, and prophetic, that in these days – to love has been redefined as ‘hate’, and to show gross indifference to the plight of broken people all around us is now considered ‘compassionate’ and ‘loving’?
It is surely, however, understandable. For all love comes from God – it does not exist where He is absent. Since our culture has removed Him from our midst, and marginalized all those who still know Him – we are experiencing a lack of love in epic proportions - much like the world pre-Christianity. It sure did not take us long to revert.
And so I write you this letter in the hopes that, as a self professing Christian, you will educate yourself and realize that perhaps, just perhaps, your ability to develop an ‘opinion’ outside of the Word of God is flawed. Turn to the Lord, and ask for help in learning to love – really love; and then ask for the strength to walk that love into existence in this world.
May God bless you in this, and all things.
Susan Fox, Attorney
Ashley and Susan
Two women asking the world to not just hope, but to Hope in Love.