The mail service in our rural community is deplorable, and my wife and I have adapted to the Register arriving several weeks late. Thus, we were not surprised when the Nov. 7 issue arrived on Dec. 9, but having read it, we regret that it had arrived at all.
The column “Annulment: Discerning the Truth of the Past” filled us with dismay. It is clearly an apology for annulment, even of marriages of 20 or 30 years. (Marriage is a lifelong dynamic process, always developing, as is love.)
The annulment rate in the United States, as measured in 2004, was 60,000 per year (canon lawyer Edward Peters, Annulments in America, November 2004). Ms. Deffner says the annulment rate has dropped significantly because the marriage rate has also dropped. The role that annulments may have played in the declining marriage rate seems not to have occurred to her. But when you cheapen the sacraments, you reduce loyalty to them.
Marriage is a commitment made without reservations. You cannot cross your fingers at the wedding — the sacrament gives you the grace to develop a marriage blessed by God. What does the Bible say about the insolubility of marriage? Jesus said, “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder” (Mark 10:9).
In the same vein, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1615) says, “This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem a demand impossible to realize. However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy — heavier than the Law of Moses. By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the reign of God. This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life.”
There are certainly reasons for annulment, but 60,000 per year? How can one defend that? Liberals often say that abortion should be legal and rare. One doubts that they care a fig whether abortions are rare. Similarly, one can say, with equal credibility, annulments should be legal and rare. How rare is 60,000 per year? How do you apologize for that?
William and Josette Stimson
The editor responds: At the end of the article, Elisabeth Deffner quotes the Holy Father as having “reminded members of the Church’s highest marriage tribunal, the Roman Rota, to consider marriages valid until proven the contrary.” You are correct in emphasizing the indissolubility of the marriage bond, but annulment never breaks a marriage bond: It simply recognizes that no such bond ever existed. That’s “the contrary” that can be proven: An annulment of a “marriage of 20 or 30 years” is a court’s finding — finding, not arbitrary decision — that it was a marriage of 0 years, since there never was a marriage in the first place. Something that doesn’t exist can’t “develop,” and indissolubility is simply inapplicable. It isn’t “cheapening” a sacrament to recognize that it isn’t present; in fact, the opposite is true. That said, we agree wholeheartedly that every single pseudo-marriage which is annulled is a tragedy and that the 33,000 annulments in the United States in 2008 (Peters’ article actually refers to 1991, not 2004) were far too many tragedies.
In a letter to the editor, one of your readers tried unsuccessfully to make a case for women’s ordination (Nov. 7). But he forgot a few things: He speaks of a drop in vocations that occurred after Vatican II, but not of the possible causes of this drop. This was also around the time that the sexual revolution, birth control, so-called “free love,” etc., was happening.
Along with birth control came a drop in the birth rate. Once sex was separated from its holy beginning (love) and end (procreation), abortion was “needed” when the initial contraception failed, and divorce was easier, since the requirement to love and commit for life before sex was “old school.” Divorce had its own fallout. It has been reported that up to 70% of men who consider themselves homosexual either grew up in a household where the father was absent or where the father was weak and the mother took the leadership role.
Fast-forward: The families that do remain intact today are smaller and do not lend themselves to the priesthood because if the boy in these “perfect families” became a priest, there would be no one to carry on the family name. According to the late Father Paul Marx (Human Life International), “If someone says they want more priests, tell them to have more children.”
But what about the “aging priesthood” and women who believe they are not being called to marriage but to the religious life? This is an important question, as is its counterpart: What about the aging nuns? A good Catholic education used to cost very little when nuns and priests did all of the teaching. A vocation to the religious life could bring countless blessings to students, patients and everyone else whom the consecrated woman’s life touched.
The fact of the matter is: Women can’t be priests (or priestesses) because they are not capable of being a husband, as Christ is the bridegroom of his bride (the Church). The priest acts in persona Christi as the bridegroom and provides for, and protects, his bride. But women, too, can have a calling to the religious life, and for these women, Our Lady is the model. She was able to assist in the salvation of the world, not because she wanted to be a father, but because she answered God’s call to be a mother. In the same way, women who have an authentic calling today are seeking a religious order of nuns whose charism is in line with that call. By now, it should be obvious that any other relationships would be unnatural, sterile or destructive, just as we have seen above, when the ’60s crowd began attempting to destroy the natural relationship between a husband and wife.
Catholics Next Door
Regarding “The Catholics Next Door — and Via New Media” (NCRegister.com and this issue): Thank you for this great interview with two amazing leaders in Catholic social media. As pioneers, Greg and Jennifer [Willits] set the standard not only in technical expertise, but more importantly in true faithfulness to the Church and to Christ’s call to evangelization. May God continue to bless their family and their apostolate.
Founder of CatholicMom.com
We Didn’t Forget
After reading the Register, which, by the way, I really look forward to receiving, this morning, I was disappointed in that the excellent article by Joseph Pronechen (“More Causes for Jubilation,” Nov. 7) didn’t include Father Patrick Peyton, unless Mr. Pronechen was focusing only on Americans being considered for sainthood.
We are working on Father Peyton’s sainthood at our parish, St. Charles Borromeo, in North Hollywood, Calif., as one of the chapters throughout the country. Three times a year we have special Masses, Rosary, etc. for the cause of Father Peyton.
Mary Beth Legg
North Hollywood, California
The editor responds: The first part of Pronechen’s article, which was published in the Oct. 24 issue of the Register as “Sanctity: Made in America,” included a lengthy portion on the cause for Father Patrick “The Family That Prays Together, Stays Together” Peyton.
Thanks, Bishop Olmsted
Regarding “Bishop Strips Abortion Hospital of Catholic Status!” (NCRegister.com):
Thank God for willing servants like Bishop Olmsted, who are willing to seek and follow his will rather than man’s and unafraid to proclaim that!
I pray the Lord will bless and keep him, and that he will raise up many others like this good bishop to truly lead his Church!
Bishop Olmsted did not break any laws over the removal of the hospital’s Catholic status. The bishop was only exercising the Church’s right under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to determine which hospital it should associate itself with. The Catholic Church did not send the Swiss Guard to force the hospital to comply with canon law. The hospital in Phoenix is free to perform all the abortions it wants. Just do not expect the hospital to enjoy official Catholic status. … However, the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience under the First Amendment allows Catholic hospitals to provide health care pursuant to Catholic health-care practices. I believe that if a person does not agree with Catholic health-care practices, he or she should make the proper arrangements to receive treatment in a non-Catholic hospital.
Thanks so much for posting the bishop’s full statement. I have not followed this issue particularly closely, but what little I have seen gave no indication that there were serious moral problems in this health-care network for the past seven years (at least, I would presume), and that the bishop’s decision was in light of all of this, with the abortion only one serious issue in a long line of immoral practices. My hope is that the bishop’s stand will ignite a fire in the souls of our other U.S. bishops and that they all will follow suit in holding those who wish to bear the name “Catholic” accountable to the meaning behind that name (I’m thinking of “Catholic” colleges/universities).
In our story “Meet the Catholics in Congress” (NCRegister.com, Dec. 7), we inadvertently omitted Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., who defeated incumbent Democrat Scott Murphy in New York’s 20th congressional district.