Divorce seems to be a taboo subject in the Catholic Church; however, the Church still seeks to provide hope for individuals going through it.
While marriage is a lifelong covenant by which a man and a woman enter a communion of life and love with each other, the Church is also obligated to provide support to those whose marriage has ended. An annulment process may be requested when it can be shown, with moral certainty, that a marriage was missing some essential elements to be considered a valid sacrament.
In addition to the annulment process, there are more resources that the Church offers to support divorced Catholics. Spirit of Christ Parish in Arvada is home to an active divorce ministry that provides compassionate Christian education and awareness that helps those dealing with separation or divorce to heal and rebuild their lives.
The “Surviving Divorce Program” at Spirit of Christ Parish includes ongoing leader support, personal guides for participants, and resources for anyone who wants to know more about what the Catholic Church teaches about love, sex, marriage, divorce and annulments. The goal of the program is to guide those who have been separated or divorced and are in need of a deeper knowledge of the love of Christ through his Church.
“We offer some guidance where [divorced Catholics or those in the process] can learn some teachings about the Church, their relationships and also help welcome them back if they’ve been away from the Church,” said Deacon Charles Hahn, Permanent Deacon at Spirit of Christ and an active member of the Divorce Ministry.
Most of the time, divorce is seen as a civil matter where a married couple takes care of only the civil responsibilities, leaving aside the fact that a sacramental marriage is a commitment between a wife, husband and God, which a civil judge has no authority over. Nevertheless, it’s not surprising that many times these individuals decide to leave the Church when they don’t find the support they need during those difficult times or simply don’t feel welcomed by the Church when they need it the most. One of the greatest challenges a divorced Catholic must face is the Church itself.
“A lot of churches and parishes don’t want to address it,” Deacon Hahn explained. “A lot of times, people you have been friends with, in ministry or some type of church group, don’t really understand the issue, so then you pretty much get shunned. A lot of people who saw me coming into Church would turn and walk the other way when they found out I got divorced.”
At the same time, Catholics tend to misunderstand the concept of divorce in the Catholic Church. There is no such a thing as divorce in the Catholic Church; however, if a person demonstrates that his or her marriage was not valid at the beginning when they said their vows, then the Church has the right to revoke that marriage. In order to have this done, the petitioner must apply for an annulment and get it approved by the Church tribunal.
The divorce ministry supports Catholics through the annulment and divorce process and offers them hope through it all.
“It’s very important that people know that this is out there,” Deacon Hahn said. “They’re not alone in this, the Church is there to support them. They have someone that will be there for them, from the very beginning all the way through the divorce or annulment process.”
Every marriage has challenges, hence the Catholic Church also offers a wide range of programs for families and couples in trouble who are struggling and wish to save their marriage. Any divorced person in a state of grace is welcome and encouraged to attend Mass and receive the sacraments as often as possible.
For more information about the Archdiocese of Denver marriage and divorce programs visit: archden.org/marriage/marriage-help/