Annulment may not matter to my parish priest or the Pope but lies, deceit and hypocrisy mattered a great deal to me — give me an honest divorce

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.Image

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.


Evangelisation will take the church back into the dangerous waters of arrogance and control.

3. The Pastoral Care of the Family in Evangelization
a) What experiences have emerged in recent decades regarding marriage preparation? What efforts are there to stimulate the task of evangelization of the couple and of the family? How can an awareness of the family as the “domestic Church” be promoted?

The Catholic Church continues to affirm the family as being the significant purpose of marriage, though the partnership is also given prominence by parish priests, who realise that there may not be children for years, if at all. The importance of the marriage being between two Catholics seems to be of less concern, as parish priests are pragmatic, and realise they are lucky to have the couple in their church at all. The fact that any subsequent children will be baptised is usually assumed — otherwise why would the couple bother to marry in the church, when they could do so in their reception hotel, or on a foreign beach instead.

Demographic shifts have seen an increase in investment in resources addressing mixed marriages, especially with respect to pastoral concerns. This is evidenced by the Bishops’ Conference and the recommendations to consult and involve and have a continuing dialogue with those affected.

Since the sacramental status of baptism of other Christian denominations was legally validated in 1970, there has been considerable progress in Christian ecumenism and such marriages can point to Christian unity. However, by highlighting the issue of children, it’s evident that inter-religious marriages have been far more problematic: whilst such marriages can be seen as opportunities for growth, there remain many challenges to faith, especially in the wider community context. Nevertheless, recent pastoral initiatives, especially those that seek affirmation of the other denomination, have fostered new theological reflections that may point a way to something analogous to ecumenism. Time will tell how all these pastoral and theological developments in inter-religious marriages will affect Canon Law, which appears to be increasingly left behind.

Pope Benedict XVI spoke of matrimony as “a Gospel in itself, a good news for the world of today, especially the de-Christianized world.” This shows how much of an anachronism he was.

Evangelisation will cause resentment amongst those who want to learn, to think and to develop spiritually. Evangelisation will take the church back into the dangerous waters of arrogance and control. 

Pope Benedict hinted at how little he understands, when he said, “the problem of divorced and remarried persons is one of the great sufferings of today’s church. And we do not have simple solutions.” He also said that “even if it is not possible to receive absolution in confession, [divorced-remarried Catholics] can nevertheless have ongoing contact with a priest, with a spiritual guide.”

Anyone who has made any form of spiritual progress, as many former Catholic priests and laity have, will see the sad prospect that these words offer for the continuation of the Catholic Church. Go to Austria, the Netherlands or Scandanavia and see how Catholic priests there spiritually inspire the members of their church, despite the arrogance and opposition from Rome.