Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Wednesday, October 09, 2013


Vatican Cool to German Challenge to Divorce Rule ...

The Vatican put a German diocese on notice Tuesday that it disapproves of its challenge to church teaching on whether Catholics who remarry can receive Communion .... The diocese of Freiburg issued an official set of guidelines this week explaining how such divorced and remarried Catholics could receive the sacrament .... Church teaching holds that Catholics who don't have their first marriage annulled, or declared null by a church tribunal, before remarrying cannot participate fully in the church's sacraments because they are essentially committing adultery. The issue has vexed the Vatican for decades and has left generations of Catholics feeling shunned by their church ...

I once looked into getting an annulment. Most churches have a marriage tribunal website: here's the one in New York, where an annulment costs $1000+. I was aghast at the byzantinian complexity of the process and the high cost of it - I couldn't believe most divorced Catholics went through it. As it turns out, most don't. According to a post at Georgetown University's research blog for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), only about 15% of divorced American Catholics ever even apply for an annulment ....

In the CARA survey we also asked Catholics who had experienced divorce if they had ever sought an annulment. Only 15% indicated that they had. As shown in the figure below, requests for annulments have declined in the United States along with marriages in the Church. In the most recent year with available data there were 6.5 marriages celebrated in the Church for every single case for declaration of nullity of marriage introduced by Americans. It is important to note that 49% of Church annulment cases introduced globally in 2011 were from the United States followed by Poland (6.4%), Brazil (5.6%), and Italy (5.1%).

Here are two charts from the above cited blog post (click to enlarge) ...

This means that at least 85% of divorced American Catholics - and almost a third of Catholics are divorced - are considered by the church to be unworthy of communion .... that's a lot of people. I'm glad the German church, at least, is trying to change this.


Anonymous Henry said...

Hi Crystal,

It has been a long time since I have dropped by and I wanted to just say a quick hello. I hope you are well and your sister too.

I am a bit confused by your post though. You seem to be implying that most divorced Catholics don’t go bother to seek an annulment because it’s too expensive and cumbersome – is that what you are trying to say?

While there are certainly many reasons why a person may not want to apply for an annulment, perhaps one big reason may be that Faith is a background issue for many people and that their primary worldview, either declared or undeclared, is one in which “the mind of Christ” is not even a blip.

Of course you realize that this is only an issue for Catholics who are interested in remarrying, so, if a person doesn’t plan to remarry (and plans to abstain from engaging in Adultery) they can receive Communion. Obviously, as you well know, Adultery is one of those things that the Church cannot dismiss because God Himself has said a few strong things about it - ; )

Lastly, I did apply for an Annulment and I can tell you that in the New York Diocese it wasn’t as complicated as it seems and that the fee can be waived or reduced. And I did it anyway even though I don’t plan to marry again because I wanted to be certain of Christ’s will for me.

Much peace my friend.


1:49 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Henry,

It's good to hear from you. I hope you're well too :)

No, I don't know why most divorced Catholics don't apply for an annulment. The price and the process just kind of shocked me.

Yes, that bit in the NT where Jesus speaks about divorce - I worried about it, thinking that I was going to be somehow chained for all eternity to the EX. I prayed about it, talked to a priest I knew, but I'm still not sure what to think.

One thing though - I'm not convinced that an annulment makes any difference. The church saying a marriage that happened wasn't 'really' a marriage seems pretty disingenuous to me, a way to officially follow what Jesus said about not divorcing, while actually allowing divorce for a price.

Maybe Keith Ward was right in what he said on the subject - that Jesus didn't actually mean divorce was always wrong ...

2:29 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

I am not sure if you have seen the article: Divorced Catholics and the Eucharist (here’s the link: but you might it interesting. This too:

You wrote: “The church saying a marriage that happened wasn't 'really' a marriage seems pretty disingenuous to me, a way to officially follow what Jesus said about not divorcing, while actually allowing divorce for a price.”

That’s a very interesting belief Crystal but one clearly not founded on personal experience or fact (in my opinion). Additinally, it seems to me that you may have some confusion about this matter and that’s why I proposed the articles in my first paragraph.

My experience with the people in the Marriage tribunal was that they were doing their best to discern if my wife and I entered into the covenant with complete freedom and that’s why I was asked to write a detailed narrative and the people I asked to be my witnesses (who knew both of us while we were dating, when we were engaged, and at the time we exchanged vows) were asked to do the same. I certainly did not get the impression that they were trying to find a loophole so that I could get the annulment, even though I eventually did get one.

Regarding Keith Wards opinion, he did not mention that there is a Jewish tradition that in Messianic Times the stricter rulings of Beit-Shammai (rather than Beit-Hillel) will become the standard.

Nice to hear from you my friend.

Peace - Henry

9:46 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Thanks for the links - I'll take a look. I think my marriage would have been annul-able according to the tribunal website because we weren't Christians or Catholics and weren't married in a church.

And that's the loophole thing - saying that some marriages aren't real or valid for certain reasons - complete freedom being one of them, not being a Catholic being another - so that then there's no penalty for ending what never actually existed. Seems contrived.

Maybe I'm just being cynical, though :)

10:12 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...


What you are calling "contrived" others call "pastoral" so it clearly depends on one's starting point and expected outcome. In fact, there are many that believe that the Church in America is too lenient because the majority of annulments are granted in the US.

But marriage, as you well know, is not an easy vocational path (not to say that the others are easy either) and that's why I believe that marriage preparation classes need to be strengthened and be more than a "go through the motions" affair. Especially because marriage requires that both the man and the woman SACRIFICE and COMPROMISE, something men and women are not willing to do for a variety of reasons, including a cultural education we've absorbed by osmosis.

Nothing wrong with cynicism if it's not misplaced - ; )

I have to try to get some sleep because it's almost 2am here!

10:46 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

It's getting late here too :) Thanks for the discussion.

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...


I forgot to tell you that I am reading a very helpful book: Sacred Story: An Ignatian Examen For The Third Millennium.

I am recommending it to you because you like Ignatius’ Spirituality.


1:30 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


Thanks - that looks like a really good book! :) I do like Ignatian spirituality but haven't read all that many books about it, aside from ones by William Barry SJ

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Ross said...

One clarification. Not all Those who are divorced are in a state of sin and thus unable to receive the Eucharist. It is really only those who are divorced and subsequently remarried without a declaration of nullity.

6:08 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


Thanks. I should have made that point more clearly.

7:37 PM  

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