People get married with the intention of staying together and building their marriages in Christ.
But what if, as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website ForYourMarriage.org points out, a marital relationship ruptures "for any one of myriad reasons, and despite all attempts to remedy their situation," a couple ends up in "very uncertain and sometimes fearful circumstances."
Put bluntly, it’s not good news, but some Catholics find themselves in a civil divorce.
Since these circumstances often cause much confusion and misinformation, where can a faithful Catholic turn to for help and answers?
Some excellent resources are available on healing from divorce. For one, ForYourMarriage.org answers some basic questions on what the Church believes and teaches about marriage and divorce.
"The Church believes that God, the author of marriage, established it as a permanent union. When two people marry, they form an unbreakable bond. Jesus himself taught that marriage is permanent (Matthew 19:3-6), and St. Paul reinforced this teaching (see 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 and Ephesians 5:31-32)," ForYourMarriage.org’s page on divorce states. "The Church does not recognize a civil divorce because the state cannot dissolve what is indissoluble. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2382-2386."
"Divorced people are full members of the Church and are encouraged to participate in its activities," the webpage also notes. "Divorced Catholics in good standing with the Church, who have not remarried or who have remarried following an annulment, may receive the sacraments."
There is also The Catholic’s Divorce Survival Guide (CatholicsDivorce.com), a 12-week series that can be done as a parish program or on an individual basis. Among those endorsing the program is San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.
The series, put together by Rose Sweet, is aimed at healing the divorced person from the inside out. It brings together a number of well-recognized Catholic experts, including clinical psychologist and Register columnist Dr. Ray Guarendi, EWTN host Father Mitch Pacwa, author Father Donald Calloway of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception and Rose Sweet herself.
Sweet, who was divorced, had her marriage annulled and has since remarried, has been in this ministry for more than 20 years.
As she was going through the difficult process herself, she looked for good Catholic resources and found none, except for a couple of good books by a canon lawyer on the annulment process.
From her experience, Sweet said, "If the average person can’t find answers at the Church, they leave and go to the Protestant mega church down the street."
With her series, Sweet wants people "to get their questions answered — and in a way they can understand it, to know in simple terms what the Church teaches," she said. "Our resources tell them the why behind the what."
Besides the experts, 12 ordinary men and women share their stories from divorce to healing.
She has also written the books Rebuilding After Divorce: Making Your House a Home and How to Understand & Petition for Your Decree of Nullity (both from St. Benedict Press).
Sweet has taped five shows on rebuilding one’s life after divorce and annulments to air this spring on EWTN’s Women of Grace.
Lisa Duffy and Vince Frese have been on the show to talk about the topic as well. Their Journey of Hope support program helps Catholics who have gone through divorce or separation to achieve healing and a renewal.
Journey of Hope (DivorcedCatholic.com) offers a 13-week program, podcasts and books to help those who are divorced discover and fully live the beauty and the wisdom of their Catholic faith and have "a deep connection with Jesus Christ," who heals them and restores their hope.
The Journey of Hope program, which can be found in parishes throughout the United States, Canada and elsewhere, considers topics like anger, praying in times of distress, self-worth and letting go and forgiving.
Among their different resources is a new book co-authored by Duffy and Frese, Divorced. Catholic. Now What? Navigating Your Life After Divorce (Journey of Hope Productions, 2012), which offers practical tools and tips.
As Sweet put it, "Our resources dispel the myths and give them practical help. It’s so important for them to do right in the eyes of the Church."
is the Register’s staff writer.