Anticipation Rises as Roman Catholic Church Studies Divorce

Proud Maryland residents are aware that the state flag features a couple of red and white crosses.

There are probably those who think that the insignia is meant to reflect the state’s ties to the Roman Catholic Church. After all, historically speaking the Maryland colony was established with the specific intent of being a haven for Catholics who were excluded by civil law from participating in many aspects of public life in other British colonies. The Maryland government website, though, reveals that the crosses represent the crest of the maternal family of George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore.

Acknowledging the deep Catholic roots of the state, though, we suspect there may be more than a few readers paying close attention to the doings of the church around the issue of divorce. Specifically, anticipation is likely building around the scheduled October Synod on the Familyduring which synod participants will dig into whether and how the church can help spouses and families of divorce participate more openly and fully.

As things stand now, common doctrine is that divorced Catholics can’t remarry unless they obtain an annulment stating that in the eyes of the church the first marriage never took place. Annulments aren’t easy to get and those Catholics who remarry without one are ineligible to receive Holy Communion.

This is a big issue for faithful Catholics on both sides of the fence. Traditional interpretation of common doctrine is that God outlawed divorce. In trying to strike a balance between that spiritual ideal and temporal reality, many opt for a legal separation which ends the civil marriage contract, and leaves the spiritual marriage intact.

But those with a more pragmatic view observe that divorce has always been around and question whether it isn’t time for some softening of spiritual penalty in the event that a divorced person does remarry without an annulment.

That is a question that is beyond the scope of our focus on family law in the temporal realm. But it will be interesting to see what comes out of the October synod.