Catholic Marriage: The Real Deal

During the years I spent working as a parish secretary, I observed the heartbreaking reality of our Catholic family’s understanding of and living out of marriage. Registration cards and sacramental needs revealed that an astonishing number of non-married couples cohabitate, and a high number enter invalid marriages by seeking a civil marriage without the permission of the Church. The number of annulments sought was alarming but also understandable in light of the various ways secular culture has penetrated Christian thinking and living.

One of the most heart wrenching situations I saw entailed people who were unable to validly enter marriage with their new partner due to a non-annulled marriage. Some of these couples entered civil marriages with their new partner, while others declined to move forward without the Church’s permission. Unlike couples who could remedy the situation through marriage or a convalidation, these couples had no assurance that theirs would be remedied in the manner they desired. Their future lay in the decision of a marriage tribunal. Observing the pain that those situations can bring, I began to see God’s wisdom in the Ninth Commandment: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” (Deut 5: 21). Although this command to control desire may be difficult to live, following it is essential to our spiritual and emotional well-being.

Moving on with a Discerning Heart

As everyone who suffers the pain of separation knows, life eventually moves on. We meet new people, form new friendships, and sometimes fall in love. Although we might try to forget about the past, a valid marriage bond does not. If we conform our mind to that of the Church’s, we must presume with the Church that the marriage is valid unless an annulment declares otherwise. Since an annulment may not be granted, people must be vigilant about the attachments they form. The same passion that leads to marriage can in this case lead to coveting our neighbor’s spouse and later to adultery.

If you find yourself in one of these difficult situations, do not discern alone. Turn to God through prayer and seek counsel from a priest. Do not let the fallen Angel of Light use your passion to blind you. Seek the assistance of one of God’s anointed ones in order to see your situation with the eyes of faith. A priest can consider your circumstances and provide you with wise counsel. As you walk this difficult path with the Lord, be assured that your path is one of salvation. If you call upon the Lord, He will see to it that you can say with the Psalmist, “I delight to do thy will, O my God; thy law is within my heart” (Ps 40:8).

The opinions expressed by the DPS blog authors and those providing comments are theirs alone; they are not necessarily the expressions or beliefs of either the Dead Philosophers Society or Holy Apostles College & Seminary.