I had some thoughts and maybe slight frustrations about the Church’s conversation surrounding marriage and divorce. Everyone’s experience may be different, but I believe there are many crucial elements that are left out of the conversation, which leaves spouses feeling they lack support from the Church.
The Church strives to assist people in understanding the calling to marriage. The Church wants to fight against a culture of divorce. But I think if we understand today’s culture, people do not want a marriage to fail, so they do not get married in the first place. No one wants to be divorced! Current culture often uses legal divorces to make money at the expense of the already fragile individuals. So the Church can help those who have been divorced by first building a future culture surrounding the vocation of marriage.
Before making divorce, or in the Church an annulment so strict, let’s make sure that people understand what they need to be ready for marriage, both as an individual and a couple. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), to be married is an intense calling with values that can only be attained with the help of God. One of my favorite marriage quotes, often misquoted, from the bible is from Ephesians 5: 25 and 28-29.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it; and
28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourished and cherished it, even as the Lord the Church:
While both men and women have their calling within the marriage…that in itself is a huge calling! Both are responsible for the sanctity of the marriage, and it should reflect God’s relationship with us. It almost makes it sound impossible, but for the grace of God, to be married.
I also feel the Church has a deep chasm to cross when understanding the sexuality of man. The Theology of the Body was revolutionary because it was the first extensive time the Church committed to helping understand the Catholic teachings on the human body and the sexual aspect. For a long time, and even still now, sexuality was something to be suppressed and controlled. With the sexual revolution during the time Pope JPII wrote Theology of the Body, there was a very selfish view of sexuality. But people were willing to be open to discussing it and acknowledge it as a huge reason we even exist. Unfortunately, my parents did not feel comfortable translating any theology they had learned to teach their children. We never even discussed sexuality from a scientific perspective. And somehow, we had nine siblings! When you ask any teacher in the Church about the questions many of us face, the answers always seem canned. We crave real discussion. And I am not sure the clergy of the Church has the experience to speak to it. They have struggled with a lack of understanding and perversion of sexual nature, as seen during the Sex Scandals. We need laypeople of the Church, who have experienced living in today’s culture and perhaps struggled with their own sins, to develop further teaching on this theology.
When the Church first developed their theology, Augustine was strict because he personally struggled with his chastity! People were married for political gain as soon as they hit puberty. In the not so distant past, people were married younger because they were able to obtain an education, home, and job to support married life. Now people have to wait until they are almost past their childbearing years before they can afford marriage and family. It cannot be natural to wait until your mid 30’s acknowledges your sexual nature. These are all issues addressed in encyclicals. Let’s find a way to bring it into the marriage preparation as well as our catechesis. A puritan attitude towards sexuality will only create the issues we face today.
Sex is natural, it is beautiful, and we need to understand it to treat it in the right hierarchy, acknowledging first that the human person must be respected.
After leaving home, it was indeed a struggle to connect with my faith as I traveled the world in the military. When I met someone and thought I was ready for marriage, I felt I had reached the most adult of my sacraments and was excited to live out the vows. Due to aspects of military jobs, a lot of the preparation was provided through distance learning. I am grateful that it is available because I might not have been able to get married in the military if that wasn’t an option. It did not, however, help us get to know one another, nor did any of the educators know us well enough to guide or decisions. Ultimately, I enabled my husband through the marriage prep and shortly after being married found that he did not have the slightest idea or desire of being married, as Catholics understand marriage. In my case, after a few years of something I would not say was ever a marriage, I was grateful for a mutual divorce that did not put us more in debt or cause any more ugly pain than was already present. I am currently working with my parish to go through an annulment.
Along with working toward better marriage preparation, I hope to use my abilities as a working mother to encourage businesses and culture in social responsibility; to understand the need for work-life balance because their employees need to take care of their family. Respect employees as people with lives and families outside of work, both mothers and fathers.
Faith and family, then everything else.