"Defending the family": Legalizations of no-fault divorce and of same-sex marriage

I understand that many Catholic groups in the United States are doing what they can to stop the legalization of same-sex marriage. (I’m a Canadian, and same-sex marriage has been legal here for quite a few years now, and despite many of the claims in the USA that legalizing same-sex marriage will negatively affect society and the family, this has not been the case in Canada)

I was wondering if Catholic groups worked as hard in the past to stop the legalization of no-fault divorce? I understand that a lot of Catholics see their fighting against same-sex marriage as “defending the family” and not discrimination against homosexuals, but I was wondering if they did any work against divorce when no-fault divorce was legalized?

Divorce obviosly affects marriage and the family much more than same-sex marriage does, and fighting against it would surely be an example of “defending the family”, which I do agree is the bedrock of civilization.

I was interested in the history here if anyone was aware of it. But from what I observe today, when it comes to no-fault divorce, Catholics do not consider this a place to defend the family, despite the fact that it has huge negative effects on the family, children and society, much more than same-sex marriage ever could.

From what I understand, 85% of annulments granted by the Church are done in the USA, which seems a bit odd because the population of the USA is about 5% of the world population and less when it comes to the population of Catholics worldwide. This ridiculous situation has given rise to the term “catholic divorce” as a euphemism for an annulment. The existence of such a term gives more support to my observation that Catholics today do not do much to fight against divorce and thereby “defend the family” as they claim they are doing when they fight against same-sex marriage. In fact it seems from this statistic that they tacitly approve of the destruction of the family through divorce despite priding themselves in that Catholics Come Home commercial, saying “we defend the family”. But perhaps history will tell a different story.

Thanks in advance. :slight_smile:


This is not true. The Church certainly recognizes divorce as a grave violation of the family and its stability. Inividual Cathalics do as well. However, the political cliimate makes repeal of such laws unlikely. No fault divorce is a grave evil.

Non sequiter.

People will alway be ignorant.

What would you like Catholics to do to fight divorce?

Or perhaps people are just ignorant of history.



Oh good. Perhaps I will try and research this a little when I get back to college for the fall and have use of the library. I was hoping this was the case because I think it would be consistent.

As for the rest of your post, I realize that it says in the catechism that divorce is a grave matter. But many catholics don’t read that and rely on what the priest says to them in the sunday homily.

Perhaps in response to your question on what Catholics could do to fight divorce, for one, perhaps priests and the bishops could start speaking out against divorce like they do for same-sex marriage? This also goes for pornography and sexual impurity, which I have never heard spoken about from the pulpit despite the veritable pandemic of these pestiliences in society today, which are also probably much more damaging to children, families and society than same-sex marriage could ever be.

A second idea I have, is maybe ecclesiastical tribunals could stop handing out annulments like candy? This ties into that statistic which you thought was a non sequitur (yes, maybe techinically an annulment is not the same as a divorce, but the effects are largely the same for broken families).

Yes, the Church opposed divorce. In fact, the Catholic Church, following Jesus’ teaching, does not recognize divorce. A valid consummated marriage cannot be undone.

No fault divorce particularly is an injustice to the marriage bond, since it civilly invalidates the marriage vows from the outset. The vows say ‘till death do we part.’ But the divorce laws say either party can cancel the marriage at any time for any reason. The vows become less binding than a home mortgage.

Not only that, but in the past, a great many women were homemakers and spent decades of their lives supporting their husbands and children in this capacity. The divorce law then recognized that contribution by providing for alimony—in effected liquidated damages—for a spouse who was abandoned, perhaps for a younger or newer model. Now, she’ll likely only get child support.

My priest regularly speaks on such topics. Do not equate your specific experience with the Church as a whole.

see link above regarding NY bishops.

Again, your experience.

It is really offensive when people make accusations against the good people of the Church with no facts at all.

There are many, many cases of Ligamen and Lack of Form which account for a large number of US cases. These are not contentious trials, these are factual cases, paperwork only as they are invalid on their face.

Cases with no merit never go to the tribunal. Therefore, it is not accurate to say 85% of cases are approved. Eighty-five percent of the pre-screened cases that make it to the tribunal are found to have merit-- not surprising when they are pre screend and not even sent to the tribunal if they lack merit. And again, lack of form and Ligamen are very prevalent, these are not even cases with disputed facts.

Oh, they were “dissapointed”. Wow, that’s really hard hitting of them against something that will damage children, families and society much more than same-sex marriage ever could. Compare that with what Cardinal Bergoglio said about same-sex marriage:

“Let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

Read more: ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/cardinal_bergoglio_hits_out_at_same-sex_marriage#ixzz2dDSCsHuM

Yes, this goes with what I’m saying, that in America the Catholic Church seems to tacitly approve of divorce thanks to these ecclesiastical courts, handing them out like candy in a hugely disproportionate ratio to the rest of the Catholic world, contrary to their claims of “defending the family” when it comes to their stand against same-sex marriage.

Okay, I’m sorry, my numbers were off. It’s more about 2/3rds of all annulments that are granted in the USA, despite only having 6% of the world’s Catholics:

Questions raised about easy annulments
The United States accounts for two-thirds of world’s Catholic annulments. Some call the process too lax

By Brian Fraga - OSV Newsweekly, 5/20/2012

If a recent Vatican conference is any indication, some Church leaders would like to see annulments harder to come by.

It is an issue that arises regularly, given statistics that show the United States — home to about 6 percent of the world’s Catholic population — accounts for about two-thirds of annulments granted each year by Church tribunals globally.

Some observers and Church leaders believe that Canon Law — especially Canon 1095, which invalidates marriages for lack of discretion or due reason and causes of a psychic nature — has been interpreted so broadly that virtually anyone can be granted an annulment for almost any reason.

“Some have called Canon 1095 a loose cannon, and in a way it is,” said Msgr. Ronald P. Simeone, the judicial vicar of the marriage tribunal for the Diocese of Providence, R.I. “What that shows is that we have to be more careful and diligent in sticking to the truth of the law, and not easing the way for a pastoral decision that may not comport with the truth of the case.”


it seems this thread has moved from honest inquiry to axe to grind without regard to facts.

Exiting threaad.

I always wondered about how traditional marriage and traditional family life fared in Canada after same sex marriage was made legal. I take it you mean that there has been no corresponding decline in the traditional marriage rate since same sex marriages were made legal? Or that there has been no significant increase in the number of persons identifying themselves as homosexual since same sex marriage was legalized?

I do wonder, however, if the question you posed is, indeed, an axe to grind over opposition in the United States to same-sex marriage, cloaked in a discussion of the supposed inconsistency in the level of opposition by conservative Americans to the expansion of no-fault divorce laws 30-40 years ago compared to the level of opposition displayed today to legalization of same-sex marriage. If we US Catholics cared so much about “the family” why wouldn’t we have tried as hard or harder to oppose divorce liberalization laws as we do same sex marriage?

There was quite a bit of opposition to laws liberalizing divorce back in the day. However, too many non-conservative Christians and non-Christians favored liberalizing those laws and they were successful in carrying the day. I remember people thought of liberalized divorce as a way to help abused spouses and children escape danger, and that would result in less harm in a bad situation. Although Catholics may not have supported divorce, divorce was recognized and accepted for dire situations or abandonment since the early days of the republic.

So has one-man one-woman marriage. It’s been so strong a notion that Utah couldn’t get admitted to the union until it conceded the point. Therefore the majority of Americans, including Catholics, don’t want to legally recognize a same sex relationship as called a “marriage”. They may accept same-sex civil unions but they don’t want the name “marriage” applied to them. It may be just definitional for some, but calling a same sex relationship “marriage” is like describing a purple sunset as a blue sky.

No fault was a thing in America before I was born, so I don’t know about that. I know that in Ireland, the Catholics got quite worked up about preventing a liberalization of divorce laws. I have been thinking lately though, that the legalization of same-sex marriage is an afterthought in the destruction of marriage. Western societies wrecked the institution years ago with divorce and sexual permissiveness. When our society starts rejecting core ideas of marriage (that it is lifelong and procreative), is it so surprising that it is willing to change its composition?

Personally, I don’t view “no fault” divorce as any worse than “at fault” divorce. The spectre of one spouse levelling accusations and proving fault on the part of the other is far from edifying.

It is proper for Catholics to view a Catholic marriage as having certain characteristics according to our faith. But it is questionable that we ought to seek to impose those characteristics on others (civilly married).

Don’t you think you are overreacting?..
I don’t know why annulments are so “popular” in the US vs other Catholic countries.
In Portugal a friend of mine had to wait for almost 7 years for the annulment process to reach a conclusion because it was thorougly investigated. Can you say the same for the US cases?

On the other side, I don’t see how a bigger number of annulments has anything to do with the legalization of no-fault divorce or the so called “same-sex-marriage”.
The Church everywhere I could see has struggled against divorce and the so called “same-sex-marriage”. It is possible that in some places not as adamantly as in others, but the principle was there.
Just because Canada didn’t turn into “Sodoma and Gomorra” after the legalization of the so called “same-sex-marriage” doesn’t mean that Canada doesn’t have its problems either. It’s not like Canadian youth are that into religion… and I could bet that without immigration the prospects for population growth/maintenance are not as rosy as you might think.

God Bless,

I agree.

I have been divorced and I am thankful for the no-fault laws.

Before our state instituted no-fault divorce a couple had to have been separated for over a year before filing and the divorce itself took an average of 3 years while both parties spent a ton of money on attorney fees and trying to gather proof of some kind of fault. Can you imagine the burden that put on the poor/low income? The frustration and resentment and anger that caused people who felt forced to stay in unhappy marriages because they literally couldn’t afford the fees? The damage done to kids who got to watch their parents fight and argue and possibly abuse each other for years after they otherwise would have split? The mud slinging in front of family (including telling the kids bad things about the other parent so they would be “witnesses” to fault), friends, attorneys, private investigators, and judges just to get a divorce granted?

No, thanks.

As stated previously, we in the US have a high annulment rate because 1) the case is pre-screened before being submitted which makes it more likely to end in annullment as the weak cases never make it to the tribunal and 2) an awful lot of Baptized Catholics, who are obligated to marry within the Church, marry civilly or in a Protestant ceremony without dispensation. Since a Catholic’s marriage must be made within the Church to be recognized, if those Catholics who married civilly divorce and want an annulment it it only a matter of paperwork. They violated Canon law and their marriages were automatically invalid.

And there are cultural reasons, as well. About 50% of marriages end in divorce. Few believe that marriage is permanent or that fidelity is non-negotiable. If one does not understand Catholic teachings on marriage, one cannot consent to a marriage as far as the Church is concerned. If one cannot consent to a marriage due to lack of understanding, they have not actually made a valid marriage and can have their marriage annulled.

And anyone who thinks the tribunal process is a rubber stamp process is cracked. I applied for my annulment at the end of June. The initial set of paperwork was a total of 19 pages typed and printed from my computer. In addition, I needed to submit the contact information of no less than 5 witnesses who knew myself and my former spouse before and during the marriage. I also had to submit my ex’s contact information. They will all receive questionnaires in the mail they’ll have to fill out and send back and they will be interviewed by phone. I also needed to submit the divorce decree, any applicable reports from therapists and counselors, police reports, arrest reports, and I could be asked by the tribunal to submit to a psychological evaluation. This process will take between 12 and 18 months.

I know, I know…12-18 months is fast. Consider, however, that my divorce only took 3 months from filing to final. Maybe to some that is a fast annulment, but there is a good reason why we’re faster in the US than some other countries.

"American tribunals keep sufficient and reliable office hours, their telephones work, their mail is delivered on time, and if their photocopy machine breaks down, replacement parts are not six months away. Most of the parties and witnesses in an American nullity case will be able to drive to the tribunal in their own car on a paved road without hindrance by anything from fuel shortages to partisans in civil wars. In an almost incalculable and invisible number of ways, American Catholics have the leisure-in the classical sense of the word-to worry about their juridic status in the Church. Do we really expect a plethora of nullity cases to be processed from Catholics in communist China, Bosnia, or some third-world drug republic?

Well, one might rejoin, what about those countries where a Hobbesian hell does not hold sway? For the most part, such countries are either industrialized Pacific rim nations like Japan, with virtually no Catholic population, or they are a western European country like France or the Netherlands with what, in comparison to the U.S., can fairly be called a notably apathetic Catholic population."

The above is from canonlaw.info/a_annulments.htm

By apathetic, they mean that a lot of Catholics in other countries don’t care enough to bother with the annulment process and simply remarry civilly.

In addition, we have fast and reliable internet. Computerizing the annulment process made a huge difference. When I submitted mine, I was informed that I would need to submit my application burned to disk. The tribunal here and the tribunal of 2nd instance only have a printed paper copy for signatures and formality, but they actually use the disk when processing.

Well reason number 1, is not a good reason for the high number of annulments, it is though a good reason for them being faster… (not sure if that’s a good thing though).
And reason number 2 makes American Catholics look bad… so it doesn’t really help making the case that 1ke was passing that American Catholics are that well catechized about the importance of marriage, and the dangers of no-fault divorce.

I did appreciate the article, though. Thank you, as it really puts into context the whole discussion about no-fault divorce and the so called “same-sex-marriage”.
What comes across to me personally is that:
1- A lot of Catholics in the USA don’t learn how to treat with respect the Sacrament of marriage (since there are so many annulments due to Vegas style marriages that are canonically invalid).
2-The preparation for marriage seems pretty substandard (so many annulments due to consent issues)
I don’t see the numbers as an accusation against the courts.

Just my thoughts…
God bless,

Well, I think the OP is right on the money. The Church has been clear about how same-sex marriage debases the family, is not in line with God’s plan for the family, etc. (which I agree with). When the question comes to divorce, we hear (at least in relative terms)…crickets. A lot of Catholics, and a great deal more Catholics than can be said regarding same-sex marriage, don’t think that it’s a big deal, accept divorce if it is done for frivolous reasons (such as “falling out of love”), etc. Plenty of Catholics have divorced, and even annulled, for those very same reasons. I think this has to do with a desire of the church to not “offend” people (church members, and those outside the church as well)–there are far more divorced Catholics than homosexual Catholics, for example.

In any case, this is a serious problem. I would even say (and I don’t like saying this) that the authority of the Church on “traditional marriage” (one man, one woman for life) has been undermined for this very same reason. When people aren’t willing to defend “for life”, everything else seems to fall apart too.

Not a legitimate reason for divorce, and not a legitimate reason for no-fault divorce (not from a Christian, Catholic perspective, anyway).

I greatly appreciate #1. As someone trying to become Catholic, I’m happy that I had a priest to screen my annulment application and tell me what he believed my outcome would most likely be. Screening the cases in advance on a pastoral level saves the tribunal time and doesn’t keep the applicant in false hopes.

#2 I can’t speak much to as I am currently in RCIA and do not know what will be taught in the future or what classes are like elsewhere. Most of the annulment cases I personally know of are converts, like myself, or those who are marrying a Catholic. A lot of us are people who were raised in other faiths where the ideal was lifetime marriage, but it was still acceptable to divorce and there would be no religious barrier to remarriage afterward.

The priest and the team that handle religious education can talk about the Sacrament until they are blue in the face, but it doesn’t mean much if the people walk out of church and go home to friends and family that have been divorced. A person may be told that marriage is for life, but it’s not going to be fully understood if that is not what that person sees every day.

How is it Christian to force people to continue a miserable marriage against their best interests? Especially if that marriage is psychologically damaging their children?

How is it Christian to insist someone be blamed for the failure of a marriage, which takes two people working hard, to be successful?

How is it Christian to impose financial and emotional hardships on people who don’t have the funds to pay for a lengthy legal divorce process?

Ad misericordiam. And, again, those are not biblical justifications for divorce (at most, this would permit only a separation). A great deal of divorces go along the lines of “I’m no longer in love” or “I need to find myself”, etc. Anyone who seeks to dissolve a marriage (state or church) should have to prove that the divorce is justified. If you have a genuine reason for divorce (namely, that you were wronged by your spouse by, say, adultery), then there is a fault and there is no reason to want a “no-fault” divorce.

I am sorry, but I don’t think it is correct for you to say that the Church dissolves a marriage, an annulment procedure just concludes that the sacrament of marriage never really happened… if “it” never happened “it” doesn’t get “dissolved”.

I never said that the “reasons” you expouned were intrinsically bad, I meant they were bad for the defense of the position that the Church is doing a swell of a job making sure that Catholics understand the importance of the Sacrament of marriage and the evil of divorce.
I am really not here to judge you or the Church court system on the merits of the cases, I am judging on why are there so many cases.
(I am using the word “judge” loosely here)

God bless,

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