What If Second Marriages Were Handled With Probation?

As I was reading over the conditions of Bishop Robert Finn’s probation, I was wondering what would happen if the Church handled divorced and remarried Catholics in a similar way. Two years of good behavior, then a return to the sacramental life of the Church. I hear and read a lot from the Catholic Right making distinctions between justice and mercy. Bishop Finn experienced mercy. Maybe that’s an experience worth sharing.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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7 Responses to What If Second Marriages Were Handled With Probation?

  1. Justin says:

    If the bishop were to persist in violating the law, his probation would be revoked; the mercy of probation is premised on obedience going forward. A person married in violation of the law of the church who remains in that state remains in violation of the law as it stands, which is based on the premise that the marriage bond cannot be dissolved. So I don’t think the analogy to the bishop’s probation works. I think it would work if the Church taught that marriage should not be dissolved, rather than that it cannot.

  2. Todd says:

    Except, Justin, that I’m not talking about the marriage bond, but about the divorced and remarried readmitted to the sacraments.There can be some acknowledgement of the end of a sacramental marriage, but after a probationary period, in which the believers demonstrate a better attempt at church life and a second marriage, they could be returned to the good graces of the sacramental life. Theology remains the same. Only administrative practice changes.

    • Liam says:

      The problem in sacramental theology arises in part because in the West the ministers of the sacrament are the couple themselves, while in the East the minister of the sacrament is the priest on behalf of the Church, so in the East the theology developed that the Church had more authority over the marriage, but that theology couldn’t readily translate to the West because of the West’s sacramental understanding.

  3. Jimmy Mac says:

    Don’t forget that cases of annulment (Catholic divorce) are predicated on the existence of a civil divorce … or so I have been told.

    Ergo, divorce is not only allowed but required.

    • Liam says:

      Yes, I believe that’s because in civil law the Church could otherwise be liable in tort for interference with the marriage if it proceeded with an annulment case where the a civil divorce had yet to be obtained. That said, while divorce in and of itself is not considered sinful, a civil divorce for unjust reasons and without the consent of the wronged spouse would be considered sinful matter on the part of the wrongful spouse. People often neglect that side of things…

  4. Jimmy Mac says:

    There’s also an unsupportable assumption that, just because a marriage is witnessed by a priest, therefore is has been put together by God and cannot be put asunder. That’s quite a claim to make, considering the woeful record of marriage successes among Catholic couples.

    • Liam says:

      Well, it’s a presumption in canon law, but it is rebuttable. When it’s rebutted successfully, a decree of nullity can tie a bow on the matter.

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