4. Pastoral Care in Certain Difficult Marital Situations
a) Is cohabitation ad experimentum a pastoral reality in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage?
Cohabitation ad experimentum is a good example of how out of touch the Church is with its lay members. In the late 1960s to early 1980s couples who chose to live together before marriage were described by embarrassed parents and media as having entered into a ‘trial marriage’.
Nowadays many unmarried couples choose to live in ‘unmarried’ state permanently — their reasons are as varied as there are couples.
The most common domestic arrangement of this sort is between sexually active couples who have declared their temporary fidelity to one another and either through desire or expedience wish to co–habit.
The percentage is readily available from polls, censuses and the Office for National Statistics data suggests the number of people who cohabit has doubled to 2.9 million since 1996. In the same time period the choice of marriage venue shows a decrease from 50% to 30% for religious premises, the remaining 70% who do choose to marry are split 10% in register offices and 60% in other approved premises. So it seems that there are possibly a greater percentage of ‘religious’ couples who co–habit now amongst the overall numbers that have doubled.
b) Do unions which are not recognized either religiously or civilly exist? Are reliable statistics available?
Of course they do. Step out of your door, ask the next person going by if they know of any couple who live together but are unmarried. You will not find an adult who does not know someone.
The statistics are readily available: ONS gives the number at 2.9 million.
c) Are separated couples and those divorced and remarried a pastoral reality in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage? How do you deal with this situation in appropriate pastoral programmes?
Yes. There numbers reflect those is society in general.
The percentage is available by interpolation of the ONS figures.
I deal with the situation by accepting that the pressure on marriage is hard: marriages last far longer than ever they used to as life expectancy was shorter — particularly for males. People live lives these days that allow them to develop and change as individuals, you may no longer have the same goals as a couple.
I am not involved with, or aware of pastoral programmes, nor do I see the necessity for any. The Church, under its current constitution cannot help. Individual priests privately do.
d) In all the above cases, how do the baptized live in this irregular situation? Are they aware of it? Are they simply indifferent? Do they feel marginalized or suffer from the impossibility of receiving the sacraments?
The baptised act as intelligent and caring beings and understand that their consciences are informed, and the Church needs to question its own collective one.
e) What questions do divorced and remarried people pose to the Church concerning the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation? Among those persons who find themselves in these situations, how many ask for these sacraments?
If the Catholic in this situation can live happily with her/his conscience, there is nothing to mention in Confession, they do not need to be Reconciled with anyone, there is no bar to the Eucharist. The Church is the only body that needs the Sacrament of Reconciliation: it has a need to be reconciled with the larger, lay part of itself.
f ) Could a simplification of canonical practice in recognizing a declaration of nullity of the marriage bond provide a positive contribution to solving the problems of the persons involved? If yes, what form would it take?
Of course it would. The Church should consider the forms of annulment offered in each legislative state and agree, where appropriate that the situation that is revoked by a just legal power is recognised by itself.
It should stop the hypocrisy that I was subjected to, where the priest said that as I was young and my mother was known by him to be a bully, I had grounds for annulment. When I suggested that to make my children illegitimate was abhorrent and asked had he forgotten that my mother opposed the marriage and signed the form giving her consent as I was under 21 to say that it was in spite of her will. He replied that none of that really mattered as long as we fulfilled the Pope’s annulment criteria. I told him that it may not matter to him or the Pope but lies, deceit and hypocrisy mattered a great deal to me, that I would proceed with a civil divorce and still attend church and communion with my children — even if I re–married.
g) Does a ministry exist to attend to these cases? Describe this pastoral ministry? Do such programmes exist on the national and diocesan levels? How is God’s mercy proclaimed to separated couples and those divorced and remarried and how does the Church put into practice her support for them in their journey of faith?
I am not aware of a ministry to deal with these cases, just the local priest who deals with it individually and refers to the Bishop when he’s unsure, or embarrassed by the Church’s hypocrisy.
- Could this be where the Synod on the Family is headed? (veneremurcernui.wordpress.com)
- Advise the Bishops about Marriage and Family Life (gaudetetheology.wordpress.com)