A friend of mine wrote "I decided to take a break and just read your piece on marriage. You're right, I think the tribunals are granting too many annulments, but I think the flip side to that is that people aren't taking marriage seriously enough to begin with. It's too easy to get married in our society, in my humble opinion. It's taken as a rite of passage like graduation."
Personal details omitted.
I wrote back:
Subject: marriage and annulments
Date: Tue, 02 Mar 2004 16:39:09 -0800
Thanks for reading my blog of the day. I love hearing from you. And I respect your ideas and am pleased that you tell
me about them.
I believe that the Church teaches what Jesus stated, that a marriage is forever. You become one flesh. You cannot break the marriage bond with your husband or wife any more than you can break the parental bond you have with a child. These relationships are fleshly and real and irrevocable. Even if your child is a monster, that child is still your child. Same thing applies to your spouse.
So what do you do if have a bad marriage? Accept it. If you are not in danger, you live with it. If you have to separate to protect yourself from harm, you can, and you can divorce if the situation requires it, but you can't then get married to someone else, because to do so is adultery. The legal bond can be broken, but the spiritual physical bond cannot.
Bad things happen in everyone's life. Whatever our sufferings are, we need to offer up our sufferings to God. A bad or mediocre or ill-judged marriage is a suffering that can redeem the people in that marriage. Having to live alone when a marriage fails or a partner leaves is similar.
So your brother who was left by his wife, he would be called to live a chaste life in obedience to Christ by this interpretation. There is no way to dissolve away the bond that happens in a marriage irrespective of the worthiness of the partners.
St. Monica was abused by her unfaithful husband. By her humility and prayers she won him over eventually. By her holiness he was saved. That is real love, I think, to love someone that mistreats you so that you can help to save his soul. Today we would say she should have left him, and maybe so. But her staying and praying for him in a world that didn't give her the option to leave sanctified her husband and may have contributed graces that might have led to the conversion of her son. It all comes under taking up our cross and denying ourselves. When we do so, dying to ourselves, we bear spiritual fruit.
St. Monica's marriage was part of her cross. My not being married is part of my cross. If I had been in a valid marriage and the chance came for me to marry again, the fact that I could not would have been a severe cross, but one that I would bear because of my love for the teachings about marriage and trust that God knows best. The simple fact that I cannot find anyone even though my marriage was not valid is also a cross.
Marital happiness is not a right. We don't need marriage for intimacy, or we shouldn't have to. Families and friends can be sources of intimacy, but they aren't much in this society. People grow up and leave the family that loves them (if they are lucky enough to have a loving family) and gamble everything on finding a special person to love them and mate with them.
We hear nothing about how you can be a fulfilled human being without a marriage partner. Divorce without the possibility of remarriage is unthinkable to many of us, but we are culturally conditioned to think that way.
Even if some of us have to live with lonliness (which I do), that is something to be accepted as coming from
God. If it is due to our disobedience then we can see it as a penance.
We think we deserve to make mistakes and walk away from our mistakes. Our early sins (such as not listening to our parents who warn us against an unsuitable mate) can ruin our lives in the worldly sense. But even ruined lives can be redeemed and made fruitful and satisying by the grace of God.
We expect too much from marriage at the same time that we don't recognize it for the unbreakable bond that it is.
We don't expect our kids to fulfill us, or we shouldn't. We give birth to them and then live with who they are. They don't exist to make us happy. Same thing applies to spouses.
The source of our joy is God alone. If we get happiness with another person that is wonderful, but we still need to be careful not to let the other person take the place of God. And even people I know who are in good marriages speak of lonliness. Nobody can fufill the deepest longings of our soul.
So, if I were on a Marriage Tribunal (which there is 0% of a chance I ever will be) I would probably say this: If any of your siblings were raised Christian and married in a Christian church, then their marriages are valid, unless they weren't physically consunmated.
So in the case of the sister who married the abusive man, if she was married in the Catholic Church, she has a right not to be abused, and so she has the right to separate and even divorce. But not to remarry, I would think.
I think your parents had it easier. There wasn't an option for divorce so they stayed and everyone was better off.
The well-to-do girl and the Oakie guy, and their marriage endured. That's great.
I am a real hard-nosed toughy, eh?