The Story of Theresa and Joseph
Theresa and Joseph are our Confirmation names, and are what I am using in this story. I do not want to harm my spouse in any way, nor my children.
Unknown to me, as we prepared to marry, there were lawyers meeting across the country, preparing to make it very easy for one person to destroy what we were trying to put together. Having succeeded already in California to 'sell' the idea to then Gov. Ronald Reagan, as we said our vows June 27, 1970, the laws began changing across the nation.
In our immediate family, the first evidence of these changes to 'NO FAULT" divorce was felt in our family as Joseph's father announced to his mother that he "did not love her anymore. It's nothing you did, nothing you said, I just don't love you anymore." With that, divorce entered our family and its effects in the adult children, and in the young pre-teen have been felt from that time on.
As I watched my husband hurt so badly, I felt confident that he would never do this to his family, as his anger at his father was palpable. Yet, just barely eight years later, he suddenly 'had to talk to his Dad', and a few weeks later used the same EXACT words to tell me, that he also did not love me. A second generation, victim to the new no fault unilateral divorce laws.
We had worked together through infertility, had adopted two children, and then agreed to try one more time to conceive a child with a different doctor. The son who was born as a result was not even ten months old at the time. Our oldest had JUST turned seven. I could NOT believe this was happening, and fell apart, begging him to stay. He did agree to counseling, and we stayed with the counselor through the diagnosis of alcoholism, and beyond. He also saw one himself, who told him that the diagnosis was correct. And a third, who said, he saw many 'red flags', but "until he admits there is a problem, there is no problem.... " Joseph heard only the last four words.
The first signs of that beginning could easily be traced to after his parent's separation, as he gradually began to drink daily, then more each day, with many changes resulting in both of us.
I went to our pastor, who was beside himself by the sudden number of his parishioners described by him as "good, practicing Catholics, involved in the Church" coming to him—he said that at that moment, there were twelve other families, all from our side of town alone who were going through this. He was supportive, even helping on occasion financially with a temporary loan to tide us over when car repairs, etc came up unexpectedly. But he had no words of hope, no way to help us, and did not offer to speak to Joseph alone or with me. He knew from the others it would not make any difference. He reassured me of MY position in the Church, however. And, later, I remembered that he had NEVER ONCE suggested the 'divorced, separated, and widowed' group that had begun in our area.
I had two attorneys tell me to 'leave your religion at the door' when I told them that I was Catholic and did NOT want this to happen. My Godfather, also a Catholic Lawyer, told me the same thing.
The man I hired was Catholic, and understood, but clearly told me that there was nothing I could do to stop it, but that I could say whatever I wanted to say in court.
When last minute changes were requested regarding the custody of the children, my attorney told him that I could easily be convinced of them if Joseph called off the hearing that very day and checked into a treatment center of his choosing, and stayed with it and the after care. The papers were signed 'as is', with me being granted sole custody. I don't think Joseph realizes to this day that he chose the current beer over his marriage, his wife, and... his children.
The Judge had already stated as he came into the courtroom that he WAS going to grant divorce today, as 'this has gone on long enough'. He'd heard not one word of testimony. Later, when asked under oath, I clearly stated this marriage was NOT irreconcilable, and that I did not want a divorce.
The strongest Catholics would pray for marriage healing, all the while also reminding me that it takes two, that God may have something better in store for me, that God never closes a door without opening a window, and that God forgives even divorce. And there were many who told me that if I really loved Joseph, I would let him go, get on with my life, because I would want HIM to be happy no matter where he was, or whom he was with.
I was told that some had sought counsel with Spiritual Directors and prayed, and "God told me I could get a divorce". My response was, after doing 'word searches' with a Catechism, Bible and concordance on 'love, marriage, divorce, covenant, faith, and forgiveness":
"But God hates divorce! He is a witness to our Covenant, and remarriage is adultery! God doesn't change, and isn't man who lies. And he tells us to remain single or be reconciled!"
They would say "Well, God may have called YOU to that, but He told ME I could get a divorce."
I reminded them that my name does not appear anywhere in any version of any Bible, and that Jesus said it, not me.
I watched as one after another of our friends and acquaintances divorced and married someone else. I was slowly becoming an enigma, and many thought I was indeed, nuts.
A relative has married out of the Church to a man divorced several times already, and another relative has told me 'but this one will last'. Some are upset with me that I did not attend the ceremony, and that I have said she should not be receiving the Eucharist. I say it in Love, and fear of her salvation, but they believe that I am rigid, unhappy, and unforgiving.
Our Catholic counselor told me he had a Jesuit priest brother who had told him that if there is no marriage, there IS no marriage. He said my stand was ok for a while, but he hoped that I would be able to move on and not be in the same place ten years later.
I am, because… God has not changed!
I have been counseled by many priests over the years to seek an annulment and 'Trust the Holy Spirit" but that did not seem to be what God would have me do. I was told by one priest speaking to several of us that IF our spouses suddenly after five or ten years became mentally ill, we probably could not have an annulment as we had vowed in sickness and health, BUT that IF he became alcoholic, we would be able to obtain one because an alcoholic cannot love or commit to anyone.
I asked him if he accepted the disease concept of AA, and when he said "YES, good group", I asked him how MY vows were any different than those of the wife of a mentally ill person. "We are in sickness, poorer and worse right now, but my vows are still binding, aren't they?" He said he had never quite thought of it that way, and would have to give it some thought. I never saw nor heard from him again.
I have found only ONE couple that had been found to have a valid marriage with that verdict reached in about 1981, in our Diocese.
I waited for results as one soon to be second wife called a man's first wife and had a two-hour discussion about the first marriage, finally agreeing on what had happened, with the promise that his first wife would, indeed, cooperate in the process after all. The soon to be second wife had not even known these two as a couple! This was after he had told me HE trusted the Holy Spirit, and IF this were of God, the Tribunal would find the marriage Null. If not, then he would know that he could not marry again, while still making the plans to do so.
The verdict was "NULL" and returned from the Court of Second Opinion in agreement. That Tribunal is even more liberal than our own Diocese is.
I do not think that this is the work of the Holy Spirit, in all honesty! I have still not heard of ANY 'Valid' marital findings after nearly 20 years.
I would, if necessary, appeal to the Roman Rota, and not depend on either Tribunal's opinion.
Just over two years ago, again, three different priests in a week again encouraged me to seek an annulment and be free. I began to search online for forms, and told my children that I was praying about it.
I upset my son immensely. His comment was "MY DAD divorced my mother when I was a baby and has NEVER really been a father to me, and now my MOTHER wants them to say I am a B….!" Though I explained that this is NOT the case, he was very hurt.
(Our three children, though schooled in Catholic schools through High School at my expense, now hardly practice their Faith. All three have gone the world's way in co-habitation prior to one being in a Church marriage and one in a civil marriage, following the example of grandparents, and parent.)
Every letter I had ever seen that my friends had gotten as respondents from any Tribunal had referred to them as 'former spouses'.
That, in spite of the fact that God and the Church do not recognize Civil Divorce. Until a Tribunal finds a marriage to have been NULL from the very beginning, that marriage is to be considered valid and still in existence. All marriages are to be viewed as valid until proven Null.
We are not 'former' spouses, at all, unless, and until a finding of evidence points to a Null ruling.
When researching for forms used to begin the process, in one Diocese after another, I found I could not sign THESE forms any more than I could sign divorce papers so very long ago. I learned, in order to have our marriage examined, I must sign a form that said I believed my marriage to have been null from the very beginning, and swear to it.
I would have to lie in order to do so.
I did not sign anything other than child custody and financial papers way back then, and I won't sign something as insidiously evil as those forms now.
My marriage is to be PRESUMED VALID until proof of the contrary is found. He is my spouse to this day, in the eyes of the Church and of God, to Whom I must answer some day. I realized that a petition for nullity was impossible for me when I read the forms to begin the process.
I have very good and strong Christians and Catholics telling me all the time that I need to get on with my life, that God does not call us to be unhappy, that perhaps I have peace in my decisions, but someone else who does NOT has the right to marry again. They now tell me that I fit under the category of the 'adultery exception' of Jesus' own words, since Joseph has married again civilly.
They quote one verse of Scripture to me to prove it, and discount, explain away Jesus' very clear words on the subject in four separate places-- Matt 5:31-32, Matt 19, Mark 10 and Luke 16:18. They often quote the words in 1 Cor 7:15 as their proof for me, saying that I am no longer bound, because God has called us to peace.
They forget to keep that verse in CONTEXT. It does not say that I can marry again, but only that I should let him go, and live in peace. Before that, very clearly, St Paul says differently from what they try to teach me…. And he says it is from the Lord, not him.
"To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband)—and that the husband should not divorce his wife..
To the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.
For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace. Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?" (1 Cor 7:10-16)
NO place in this passage does this change what Jesus had to say four times in the Gospels! And no place in His Words did He ever say that today's 'EXCUSES' that the US Tribunals use to find NULLITY were grounds for marrying again. Our Holy Father, JPII has clearly spoken out against this so often.
WHEN will our Church work toward saving the precious first marriages and speak TRUTH to her people?
"MY PEOPLE PERISH FOR LACK OF KNOWLEDGE", and so do His Peoples' marriages, families, and children.
GOD, HAVE MERCY ON YOUR PEOPLE~JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU!
"For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by your instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you have not kept my ways but have shown partiality in your instruction."
And this again you do. You cover the LORD's altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor at your hand. You ask, "Why does he not?"
Because the LORD was witness the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Has not the one God made and sustained for us the spirit of life? And what does he desire? Godly offspring. So take heed to yourselves, and let none be faithless to the wife of his youth.
"For I hate divorce, says the LORD the God of Israel, and covering one's garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless."
You have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet you say, "How have we wearied him?" By saying, "Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them." Or by asking, "Where is the God of justice?" (Malachi 2:7-17)
"Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.
"For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. (Malachi 3: 1-6)
I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad,
in sickness and in health.
I will love you and cherish you,
ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE.
The gift of the sacrament is at the same time a vocation and commandment
for the Christian spouses, that they may remain faithful to each other forever, beyond every trial and difficulty, in generous obedience to the holy will of the Lord: "What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."
To bear witness to the inestimable value of the indissolubility and fidelity of marriage is one of the most precious and most urgent tasks of Christian couples in our time. So, with all my brothers who participated in the Synod of Bishops, I praise and encourage those numerous couples who, though encountering no small difficulty, preserve and develop the value of indissolubility: Thus in a humble and courageous manner they perform the role committed to them of being in the world a "sign"--a small and precious sign, sometimes also subjected to temptation, but always renewed--of the unfailing fidelity with which God and Jesus Christ love each and every human being. But it is also proper to recognize the value of the witness of those spouses who, even when abandoned by their partner, with the strength of faith and of Christian hope have not entered a new union: These spouses too give an authentic witness to fidelity, of which the world today has a great need. For this reason they must be encouraged and helped by the pastors and the faithful of the church. ~~FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO Pope John Paul II