Monday, October 20, 2014

A Huge Step Forward

We were now attending Mass each week as a family. Our faith life began to grow. I found myself missing the Eucharist more and more each week. As the patriarch of Clan Collins I needed to get our family into a right relationship with God. How does a Catholic, civilly divorced and remarried outside of the Church go about reconciling this relationship?

According to Catholic teaching there are only three ways this can be done:

1: Your original spouse dies. Once your spouse dies you are no longer bound by the sacrament of marriage and are free then to marry again (until death do us part…remember?).

2: You and your current spouse take a vow to live as brother and sister. You see, it’s all about the sex. Sex is reserved to one man and one woman bound together in a covenantal marriage. Notice that I did not say a sacramental marriage. It is possible to have a Church blessed wedding that is not sacramental. This is often the case between interfaith marriages (a Catholic and a Buddhist) or in the case where one of the spouses is not baptized. The marriage is recognized but it is not a sacrament and you do not receive the sacramental grace that goes along with it.

Couples in my situation can take a vow to live as brother and sister, that is, live in a sexless relationship. Once done I could receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and then be able to start receiving the Eucharist again.

3: You can seek an annulment.

Seeing my original wife was not dead and that there was little chance of this new marriage going sexless seeking an annulment was my only choice if I wanted to right this relationship with God.  An annulment is not a Catholic divorce. If a person can show where there was something not correct with the first marriage then that marriage can be declared void – it wasn’t a marriage from the start.

So what constitutes a valid marriage, which can never be annulled?

There are three basic requirements for two people to wed in the Catholic Church:

1: The couple must be capable and free to marry – they must be a man and a woman of proper maturity who are free from any impediment to marry.

2: The couple must be freely giving their consent to marry one another. No arranged or shotgun marriages allowed.

3: They must follow the canonical matter and form required by the church.

An annulment in the Catholic Church is a very serious matter. The Church is basically ruling that a conferred sacrament was never really conferred in the first place. This is something they have to be absolutely sure about. If your first marriage was indeed a validly sacramental marriage and they allow you to remarry the sin is on the person who allowed it. I am sure there is no honest priest who wishes his soul be damned to hell just to let a couple he will likely never see again unknowingly commit adultery.

Because of this the Church has a very arduous, thorough and legalistic process that must be completed. Each spouse is appointed an advocate.  Something a kin to a deposition must be completed by the person seeking the annulment as well as at least four witnesses who knew the couple before and after the marriage. The other spouse is given a chance to give their side of the story and contest the annulment if they so desire. The couple must also be civilly divorced before starting this process.

Once all of the paperwork is complete the advocates go over it and it is brought before a tribunal for review. If the tribunal feels that there are grounds to proceed the petition for annulment is then sent to a judge for a ruling. If the judge finds just cause to issue the annulment it is automatically sent to the court of second chance. There everything is reviewed once again and a final decree is then issued. If both judges come to the same conclusion a decree of nullity is issued and both parties are free to marry again.

Like I said, this is serious stuff. The Church has to make sure that it gets this right.

But all the thoroughness comes with a price. My annulment was pretty straight forward. It still took the better part of ten months to complete. This is the process the recent synod on the family has been discussing. How can we be thorough and correctly review each petition yet speed things up and make it an easier process?

I thought my annulment was pretty cut and dried. I was surprised at the amount of time it took. My ex had hidden the fact that she was gay from me so I did not have the knowledge I needed in the beginning to make an informed choice. The grounds on which my annulment was filed was indeed deception on her part even though it was not a wanton or malicious act. She was struggling with that issue at the time we were dating so neither of us were “free” to marry when we made the decision to do so.

As for me they ruled that I lacked the proper maturity to be able to marry. My ex was the first person I honestly dated and therefore they felt that I jumped into marriage far too quickly. In retrospect they were right. In the end they granted me the annulment which made it possible for me to remarry.

My wife was also married before. Her husband was “Catholic” although he didn’t actively practice, if he believed any of it at all. She also had to have her first marriage reviewed for validity although she did not have to petition for an annulment. Her review was much simpler than mine. First, she wasn’t baptized. Second, her ex had been married several times without ever seeking an annulment. Third their marriage lacked the proper form and matter to be considered a valid marriage. Form and matter is a topic of another discussion and another time. It was ruled that she was also free to marry.

That was the largest hurdle in getting this relationship right with God. We were both now free to marry and we could get our marriage blessed by the Church. Seeing my wife was not baptized we could have a blessed marriage but not a sacramental one. If we had a blessed marriage and she were to get baptized it would instantly become a sacramental marriage and we would receive all the grace the sacrament brings with it.

We were taking big steps forward and God had many more blessings in store for us.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Respect Life Month

A life to be celebrated or a burden to be terminated?

The answer to that question currently depends on the will of the mother. If the mother wants the child then it is considered a life and protected to the full extent of the law. If the mother does not want the child she is free to have it murdered and removed from her womb.
This is one of the most divisive issues in the United States today – Pro Life vs. Pro Choice.
Let’s take religion out of the argument for just a moment. They only reason this is an issue today is because we as a people, a society and a country have not decided when a human life begins. Once we do that this argument is over. This is funny to me because science has determined when all other life begins and that is upon conception of that life. The opinions seem to change a bit when we are dealing with the human animal. Then majority opinion is still at conception but some change their minds. Why?
Again, leaving religion out of the discussion, the Constitution of the United States protects ALL HUMAN LIFE within the borders of this country and our territories. One cannot be deprived of their life without due process of the law. If we were to officially define life as beginning at conception it would mean that babies are protected from the moment of conception. One could not abort a baby without due process of the law or, in other words, one would have to prove what crime, punishable by death, the baby had committed in order for it to be put to death and removed from the womb. This would end abortion.
I will only make one comment from the religious side of this coin;
No society that ever practiced child sacrifice has survived. God has wiped them all from the face of this planet. We are next in line if we do not change our ways. Make no mistake – abortion is child sacrifice. Children are sacrificed every day to the gods of convenience, selfish desire and ignorance. More children have been sacrificed (murdered) by abortion than by any of the recognized evil men have killed – Hitler, Hussein, Chairman Mao, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Stalin – all murdered less people than the number of aborted babies in this country alone. 57,243,184 since abortion was legalized in 1973. 837,450 this year alone.
October is Respect Life Month. Each and every one of us is a masterpiece made by God. We should not only respect life but we should cherish and celebrate it.
For the record, the baby pictured at the beginning of this post is a life that is celebrated. That is my youngest daughter – Madelynn Nicole.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Baby steps forward.

I had been back to attending weekly Mass for about a month when my wife surprised me by telling me that she would like to go with me.  This was a pleasant surprise to me seeing the Catholic faith was the only Christian faith my wife once told me she would not consider. Now she was willing to give it a try. The next week that our children were with the “others” we attended Mass together for the first time as husband and wife….kind of.

She came away from Mass full of questions, which showed interest. We went together again and more questions – more interest. It wasn’t what she expected. She didn’t agree with everything she saw but then again she didn’t understand everything she saw either. She had always wanted a family faith life so it wasn’t long before we started taking the kids with us every week.

Now I said that we attended Mass as husband and wife…kind of. We were husband and wife in the eyes of the state. We had the signed license. We went through the prescribed ceremony. But in the eyes of the Catholic Church we were adulterers.  We were sinners committing mortal sin and therefore could not fully participate in the Mass.
In the Catholic Church marriage is one of the seven sacraments. As we learned in a previous post a sacrament is a sacred oath taken until death. Marriage being a sacrament explains the “until death do us part” business you always hear at weddings. You also always (used to) hear a part that basically goes like “what God has joined together let no one separate”.

This goes all the way back to creation itself. God created man and then woman. He joined the two together and made them one flesh, the first marriage. How did that end? Woman, who could not be told what to do, ate the apple and now I have to wear pants. Ok, maybe it’s not that simple. Plus if Adam had done his job and protected his wife none of that would have happened. So it’s really man’s fault I have to wear pants. Figures.
Jesus reaffirmed this with his teaching to the Jews when they questioned him about divorce. Moses, a man, allowed divorce because their hearts had hardened to the will of God. Jesus reminded them of the first marriage and that man and woman are bound together as one flesh which cannot be separated. This is the Catholic belief and teaching. Once married a man and woman are bound inseparable until one of them dies. Only then is the survivor allowed to remarry. There is no such thing as a divorced Catholic.

Both my wife and I had been previously married, I in the church and she in the backyard. Seeing the Catholic Church doesn’t recognize the word “previously” we both were “currently” married to other people. That made us adulterers with mortal sin separating us from a right relationship with God. We could not partake in the fullness of the Mass and could only watch from a distance.

The important thing was that we were at Mass, together, with our children, desiring to be in a right relationship with God. Where there is a desire God will provide the path for healing.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Knights of Columbus

I interrupt the regularly scheduled blogcast to bring you this breaking news:

Today I completed my second and third degrees in the Knights of Columbus.

The Knights of Columbus is the largest Catholic men’s fraternity in the world. The following is taken off the Knights of Columbus website:

“Thanks to the efforts of Father Michael J. McGivney, assistant pastor of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven and some of his parishioners, the Connecticut state legislature on March 29, 1882, officially chartered the Knights of Columbus as a fraternal benefit society. The Order is still true to its founding principles of charity, unity and fraternity.

The Knights was formed to render financial aid to members and their families. Mutual aid and assistance are offered to sick, disabled and needy members and their families. Social and intellectual fellowship is promoted among members and their families through educational, charitable, religious, social welfare, war relief and public relief works.

The history of the Order shows how the foresight of Father Michael J. McGivney, whose cause for sainthood is being investigated by the Vatican, brought about what has become the world's foremost Catholic fraternal benefit society. The Order has helped families obtain economic security and stability through its life insurance, annuity and long-term care programs, and has contributed time and energy worldwide to service in communities.”

A Catholic men’s fraternity that promotes Charity – Unity – Fraternity. Brothers helping brothers and their widows and orphans. If you are a Catholic man and you are not a Knight why aren’t you? There is a huge difference between the Knights sending condolences to your wife upon your passing and the Knights sending condolences with a check upon your passing. If you are not a Knight give it a look. Give me a holler. If it’s not for you then no harm, no foul. It’s hard to turn away from a group of Catholic men publicly living their faith, putting their money where their mouth is and leading with charity, unity and fraternity. You may find it to be one of the most rewarding things you ever do.

Now back to the regularly scheduled blogcast.