Monday, March 09, 2015

A Pastoral Solution?

A pastoral problem:
'A' is from a South American country, she married 'B', the marriage was not that good from the beginning but she has been refused an annulment on the grounds of 'lack of due discretion'. 'B' was a political activist and was imprisoned by the then regime, many people were killed but there is no evidence 'B' was, indeed he might well have informed on his friends, which resulted in 'A's' two brothers being killed, he might well have gone into hiding and changed his identity. 'A' came to Britain 25 years ago, she tried to find 'B'. Reports said he had been killed, whilst other said he had fled to Germany and had changed his name and had started a new life, afraid of 'A's family. 'A' has 'married' again but has not been to Holy Communion since, though she goes to Mass more or less weekly.
Simply because of the lack of hard and fast evidence it is impossible to come to a judgement that 'B' is dead and 'A' is free to marry. For those Christian women kidnapped women in Syria and Iraq, after the trauma  of rape and shame and forced conversion and forced marriage it is possible in the Middle East that there will be many men, who are uncertain whether their wives are alive or dead. What is the pastoral solution, indeed what is the theological solution?
Presumably here the local Bishop or even parish priest has to make a decision, either that 'B' is dead and 'A' can marry or else he is alive and she cannot but actually there are more nuanced solutions which some might take, that 'B' though he might not actually be dead, is effectively dead as far 'A' and the marriage are concerned.
The problem is the lack of formal evidence, and of course, being blunt, 'A' could be lying her head off.

It seems that this type of situation: lost, possibly dead or enslaved wives and husbands, that lead the Eastern Orthodox Churches to find ways to relax Jesus' teaching on marriage and consequently on the reception of the Holy Eucharist in the seventh and eighth centuries. A thousand and more years on and the standard practice in many Orthodox dioceses is that re-marriage is almost automatic on presentation of a civil certificate of divorce and most priests can be persuaded to forgo the once customary gradation of rites for second or third marriages.
A friend, a Greek Canonist suggests that it was the wars that marked the rise of Islam that brought about the change in the Orthodox understanding of marriage, together with a rather Eastern approach to marriage as a 'sacramental act' of the Church rather than the Western rather tighter understanding of seven distinctive sacraments of which marriage is one.


Annie said...

A person can be declared legally dead after 7 years, in the U.S. and Great Britain, and then can remarry. That seems like a reasonable approach to use with Catholic marriages too.

Jacobi said...

This situation is as you suggest Father probably quite common. It is also quite clear.

The F/M marriage is valid and has been judged to be so

The family difficulties, which may have caused the deaths of F's brother, while unfortunate, are irrelevant

F tries on moving to UK to find M, failed, and has re-married civilly.

That civil marriage is invalid in the eyes of the Church and F is therefore living in a state of Mortal Sin.

She attends Mass, which she should do, but does not receive Holy Communion, which is correct. A good Catholic woman. That is an opinion - not a judgement.

There is nothing her local bishop, or anyone else, can do short of reliable evidence that M is dead.

Your comment on how the heretical position of the Orthodox on such matters arose, reminds me of my common response as a boy when I was told off which was, well W---- did it!, and my elders response was, well if W---- jumped off the ----- Bridge , would you?

That always ended the exchange!

Fr Ray Blake said...

I think many bishops would apply an 'internal forum solution' in such a case, however as I suggest she could be lying or deceiving herself.
My quoting of the Orthodox 'solution' was not a recommendation to follow suite but to indicate how a 'pastoral' solution can become an abuse.

Deacon Augustine said...

When you say she has "married" again, did she secure a declaration of death of her husband from the civil authorities before "remarrying"?

If she did not, then she could be charged with bigamy in civil (criminal?) law, never mind the moral position of her predicament.

I ask this rhetorically, of course, because I know you would not want to interest the authorities in this lady's situation.

Your illustration of the "Orthodox" situation is interesting, though. For the past 50 years, when any "liberalization" has taken place, we have seen that every exceptional or extraordinary case becomes the norm in short order. If the Church were to follow the Greek heresy, it would be the de facto end of permanence in marriage. Every marriage would become a provisional union. I also suspect that the Church would cease to be the Catholic Church - it would have divorced itself from Christ.

Liam Ronan said...

At the minimum, and although it would not be entirely dispositive of the matter, I would expect that 'A' would have filed a missing persons report with the competent authorities at some time and that such a report might be produced during the annulment proceedings as evidence of 'good faith' insofar as efforts to locate the missing spouse.

Additionally, perhaps if 'A' had placed a 'personal advert', etc. in local newspapers in an unsuccessful effort to locate 'B' that evidence might be considered as further corroboration for the tribunal.

But a declaration of death from the duly constituted legal authority (or most reasonable substitute) ought suffice.

I think this is a matter of what a reasonable person might conclude on such evidence as is available.

JARay said...

Surly if she is lying her head off then all culpability lies with her and not with the ecclesiastical body granting her an annulment. I think that if I had to give an opinion in her case I would be in favour of granting the annulment but would certainly insist on the civil marriage being rectified. If the first husband has been missing for "x" number of years then indeed a presumption of death is indeed sensible, particularly in the rather bizzare circumstances.

B flat said...

Dear Father,
The suggestion that exceptional solutions to a comparatively rare problem quickly become the general and universal rule, is very persuasive. I have seen this in my own lifetime and am convinced that this is true.
The subject here is so sensitive, I believe, not only because marriage is the context in which most people start their lives , live them , and hope to die, but more importantly,
because it touches the heart of our Faith. Deacon Augustine echoes something written by Fr Hunwicke wrote on 7th March quoting Bp Kirk.
If the Church can go wrong in this question, then where is the rock on which she stands? No wonder people are disquieted.
One question: what is the source of that very disturbing picture at the head of your post? They look like Coptic women, imprisoned in a cage, being driven to where and what? Is this the future for Europe?

RichardT said...

Prof. Peters wrote about Canon law and presumed death:

It seems Canon law is stricter than most State law.

Note that this would not be an annulment of the first marriage, but a declaration that the first husband is presumed dead so therefore she is deemed to be a widow.

Pétrus said...

I would echo the views expressed above. If she has taken steps to find her husband then surely a declaration of death is required before she can even civilly remarry.

If she has obtained this declaration then surely the Church would have no problem with her remarrying as a widow. If she hasn't obtained this declaration then surely she is guilty of a criminal offence (bigamy) in the eyes of the state.

gemoftheocean said...

Can an annulment on *other* grounds be sought? Suppose, for instance, that he had not revealed something important about his character or state of being. For instance, in one canon law book or commentary I read, they gave the case situation something along the lines of "Before we married, he said he was rich, and I wanted to be married to a rich man. " And the book said, no matter how distasteful it might seem to some, this would be grounds, if she queried him before the wedding and he misrepresented himself. Ditto if he was a secret drug addict, any number of things. Therein lies the problem, of course, in getting someone to corroborate. But IIRC, this can *sometimes* be worked around. Also IIRC there are 16 or so broad grounds on which an annulment can be given. So in theory, up to 16 ways to skin a cat. A defect of form, or cult, for instance is usually a paper push, no?
Might be easier to prove than trying to prove he's dead.

JARay said...

I think that Deacon Augustine's comment is spot on! I find myself in total agreement with what he has said.

Frank Karwatowicz said...

In post war Ii in Germany we asked the Red Cross in helping us locating various relatives scattered through out the world with considerable success.
I would think such a document or notice would give strong support that a given person has indeed make an honest effort in searching for a missing person.

Archimandrite Gregory said...

It is so sad when I read comments like the ones that appear here. So easy to condemn the Eastern Church when the Roman Church is in such theological disarray. And what happens when Rome softens the current position? Will all of you cover for the Pope and the liberal theologians? We should be careful with the criticisms of others when our own houses need a clean sweep.

Liam Ronan said...

A Decree of Nullity is not infallible in any event whether the Tribunal was awash with evidences or no.

Thomas said...

I think the self-righteous tone of some of the comments about the Eastern churches is unfortunate and unhelpful. But the fact remains that it is Rome alone that has held to the explicit teaching of Christ on marriage through the ages. That is why the present crisis is of such magnitude.

It is also clear that the intention of the doctrinal revolutionaries is to go far beyond a few hard cases and the canon law of annulments. Their real goal is to bring down the whole edifice of the Church's moral teachings about personal relationships. They showed their hand about that already at last year's Synod.

It is true the Church is full of theological tensions, scandals and other troubles, as so many times in history. However, that shows all the more clearly that it is through Our Lord's grace and favour that the gates of Hell do not prevail against the Church, not through any virtue in its members.

The truth will prevail and Rome will not fail, but that doesn't mean we can afford to be complacent. Didn't Our Lady pray in tears at the foot of the Cross, even though she believed with a perfect faith that her Son would be victorious in the end?

Deacon Augustine said...

Archimandrite Gregory, why do you assume that anybody would "cover for the Pope" if he embraced heresy? Catholics are not papolaters and there are several examples from the past where Popes have been opposed for teaching heresy or even anathematized for failing to teach the faith in the face of heresy.

The Pope is only the servant of Tradition, not its master. While we believe that God will prevent a Pope from ever formally defining heresy as binding on all the faithful, the man in the white cassock can err just like the man in the black εξώρασον.

He has no power whatever to contradict Dominical doctrine, and if he tries to he will be resisted.

Frank Karwatowicz said...

At the very least I will deny him at least three times

dcs said...

a Greek Canonist suggests that it was the wars that marked the rise of Islam that brought about the change in the Orthodox understanding of marriage

No, it was pressure from the State as Abp. Cyril Vasil' points out in his contribution to Remaining in the Truth of Christ. The Orthodox "understanding" first showed its ugly head under Photius.