Divorce attorney and receiving communion


#1

I practice family law, including divorce. I was told by a priest that since I sometimes represent people in divorces in which there was no physical abuse or "good reason" for the dissolution that I should not receive communion. Is this true?


#2

Oh wow. This must have been upsetting to hear. I don't know the answer to this one, but my guess is that the priest might have been a bit extreme. Have you tried the Ask An Apologist forum? This sounds like a question they could answer for you. I hope you find your answer soon. :gopray:


#3

Isn't this similar to defense attorneys who defend the guilty, pro bono excepted?


#4

Thanks for the responses thus far, everyone! This priest told me that I should turn away clients who don't have a "good reason" for the divorce. With regard to a public defender representing a guilty party: in that case, even if the person is guilty, the attorney could be there to ensure that the guilty party's rights as the accused are not violated. Basically, an attorney would be present for the guilty to ensure that the technicalities are followed.

However, I only practice civil law and, theoretically, I could turn away people because I don't like the case, though this would NOT go over well in my firm.


#5

My suggestion is that if you are anywhere near your Diocese offices, make an appointment to see the Chancellor. He will be in a position to give you a difinative answer. If you are not that close to your Bishop's offices, try to find the nearest Jesuit institution to you...you should be able to find one on the internet. Make an appointment with a Jesuit priest and pose your questions to him. Jesuits are used to such questions and are especially equipped to provide you with a difinitive answer.
If a "Jebbie" is not available, try a Dominican.


#6

I would urge you so council your Catholic spiritual adviser in this matter. I also commend you for allowing your Catholic conscious to potentially spill into your civil life - the world would be a better place if we followed your example.

I remember correctly, Catholic teaching is really clear that you can't engage in helping in a sinful act (needless divorce) even if it least to a later outcome is good (feeding your family). From what I can see, the priest was correct in that you should probably refrain from communion until your are absolved and have the intention of abetting this sin no more.

Given that one has to be a bit pragmatic, I would say that focusing your attention on parts of family law that are constructive would be a reasonable course of action until you are able to fully remove yourself from the proceedings of unjust divorce.


#7

I second looking at the ask an apologist forum. There is so much you cannot know about a marriage that I think you would be in a difficult position to evaluate what is needless or not. It is certainly legitimate to ensure the fair distribution of assets if the other spouse is the one that wants the divorce,or if there is abuse, etc.

My gut feeling is that if the rule was as your priest stated, there would be no question about it, and you wouldn't need to come on here to ask; that being said, let's see if someone comes up with a more definitive answer. I'll look around too,


#8

It seems to me that an attorney is not in a position to know whether or not a marriage is valid or if the seperation is necessary or not. His job is to protect his client's legal rights. Legal advice is the attorney's specialty, not moral, spiritual, or marriage advice. Besides that, there are alot of people who don't want a divorce, but their spouse insists upon it. The need a good lawyer to protect their rights and their children deserve to have their rights protected as well, regardless of whether the marriage could have been saved or not.


#9

Well you do not grant the divorce -nor are you one of the parties divorcing -the response from the Priest just needs to be put in the "bizarre" category-

so Catholic Physicians should not receive communion if they write a prescription for birth control pills or should not attend at a Hospital that performs the occasional D & C

How about Catholic military officers who "do not turn the other cheek"

Or the catholic landlord who rents an apartment to a gay couple

Recognize the bizarre as bizzare-avoid that priest like crazy

It seems the Church intermittently tries to drive out Professionals -Politicians oh I forgot Nuns also


#10

I agree about following up with someone else. My gut feeling is that you don't have all of the information on the whole marriage. If the couple are Catholic after their divorce they may go on to apply for a decree of nullity. If it's granted then there wasn't a marriage anyway. The tribunal would have the final say based on information and testimony you are not privy to. You are working for the couple to obtain a civil divorce. How they move on with their lives spiritually is on them.


#11

**My first impression is no. **Defending an accused person helps a court get to the real truth.
Defending an innocent person and gaining them their just freedom is holy. Just thought of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” on the innocent client thing.

And being a DA is not a sin even though you occasionally might help condemn a “looked guilty” innocent ( a horrible thing!) by accident as you enforce justice and the rule of law (virtuous).

With a divorce attorney its a bit different. Divorce is not allowed by the Church. People THINK that an annulment is the Catholic version of Divorce, but it is not, it examines the sacramentality of the bond and whether in truth it ever existed. It does not put asunder what God has joined together.

I can certainly see a problem with a practicing Catholic getting involved with a sinful practice. It is at least an occasion of sin and something to be very careful about.

Malachi 2:16 For I hate divorce, says the LORD, the God of Israel, And covering one’s garment with injustice, says the LORD of hosts; You must then safeguard life that is your own, and not break faith.

17 You have wearied the LORD with your words, yet you say, “How have we wearied him?” By your saying, “Every evildoer is good in the sight of the LORD, And he is pleased with him”; or else, “Where is the just God?”

A “divorce lawyer” who is protecting a client from being cheated by an “ex-spouse” might be working for justice. But I do not blame the priest for putting a bit of sober counsel into the lawyers’ ear - and err on the side of caution if he errs at all.

Our Lord after all loves each person. Sometimes even a seemingly unholy union is blessed by a child created by Him in recognition of their covenant.

Worldly folk easily toss aside God’s law and the guidance of the Church for the fashion of the day. “Divorce” was a breathtaking word in the 1930s. Now it’s so common that it barely raises an eyebrow. But if God hates it, stay away. I am divorced myself. Not my choice. My ex-spouse has passed away (God forgive her) so I suppose I MIGHT call myself a “widower” now and be half-correct.

The Lord wishes to BE received in the Eucharist, it is true. AND by the lawyer too.
But “not being in the state of mortal sin” is the wedding garment necessary not to be
thrown out of the reception (to recount one of Jesus’ parables) … and a priest that is supposed to warn someone and doesn’t might be risking his own salvation.

THE WATCHMAN MUST WARN THE SINNER OR RISK PUNISHMENT

Ezekiel 33:1 Thus the word of the LORD came to me: 2 Son of man, speak thus to your countrymen: When I bring the sword against a country, and the people of this country select one of their number to be their watchman, 3 and the watchman, seeing the sword coming against the country, blows the trumpet to warn the people, 4 anyone hearing but not heeding the warning of the trumpet and therefore slain by the sword that comes against him, shall be responsible for his own death.

5 He heard the trumpet blast yet refused to take warning; he is responsible for his own death, for had he taken warning he would have escaped with his life.** 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and fails to blow the warning trumpet, so that the sword comes and takes anyone, I will hold the watchman responsible for that person’s death, even though that person is taken because of his own sin.**

7 You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me. 8 If I tell the wicked man that he shall surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked man from his way, he (the wicked man) shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death.

9 But if you warn the wicked man, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself.


#12

[quote="cmodrmac, post:9, topic:295922"]

so Catholic Physicians should not receive communion if they write a prescription for birth control pills or should not attend at a Hospital that performs the occasional D & C

[/quote]

Warning opinion alert.

Yes to the first part. No to the second part. A catholic physician that prescribes birth control for contraceptive purposes is directly cooperating in an act that the church teaches is immoral. This is no different than a physician that helps in an assisted suicide.

Attending at a hospital that performs abortions is okay as long as the physician is not performing the abortions or referring patients for an abortion.


#13

[quote="Allegra, post:8, topic:295922"]
It seems to me that an attorney is not in a position to know whether or not a marriage is valid or if the seperation is necessary or not. His job is to protect his client's legal rights. Legal advice is the attorney's specialty, not moral, spiritual, or marriage advice. Besides that, there are alot of people who don't want a divorce, but their spouse insists upon it. The need a good lawyer to protect their rights and their children deserve to have their rights protected as well, regardless of whether the marriage could have been saved or not.

[/quote]

Like. :thumbsup:


#14

[quote="CaptFun, post:11, topic:295922"]
With a divorce attorney its a bit different. Divorce is not allowed by the Church.

[/quote]

This is not actually accurate. Sometimes divorce is forced upon an innocent party, and so there could be no problem with representing said party. Also, there are some circumstances where the Church sees it as perfectly legitimate to actively seek out a divorce.


#15

[quote="maltmom, post:10, topic:295922"]
I agree about following up with someone else. My gut feeling is that you don't have all of the information on the whole marriage. If the couple are Catholic after their divorce they may go on to apply for a decree of nullity. If it's granted then there wasn't a marriage anyway. The tribunal would have the final say based on information and testimony you are not privy to. You are working for the couple to obtain a civil divorce. How they move on with their lives spiritually is on them.

[/quote]

This seems like the best answer. I would add that you could always counsel them that their legal separation does not seperate them in the eyes of God......;)


#16

[quote="evagisele, post:1, topic:295922"]
I practice family law, including divorce. I was told by a priest that since I sometimes represent people in divorces in which there was no physical abuse or "good reason" for the dissolution that I should not receive communion. Is this true?

[/quote]

  1. Are all the people you represent validly married in the eyes of the Catholic Church?

  2. Are you causing Catholics who are validly married in the eyes of the church to put asunder their marriages?

  3. Are you merely assisting people who have chosen to dissolve the legal ties of their union do so in a way prescribed by law so that their attendant legal and financial rights and responsibilities are upheld, and in a way which protects the children?

  4. Is it up to you to judge which is an adequate or just reason, or just to represent one of the parties in a stressful situation?

  5. By helping with a legal divorce are you in any way judging whether the party you represent was validly married in the eyes of the Church, or may have a reasonable chance of having their marriage annulled?

  6. By helping the parties protect the rights of children, and the legal and financial rights of the parties are you promoting justice in a tough situation?

  7. Are you the proximate cause of the divorces you handle?

  8. Do you have a chance to model Catholic behaviour during the process?

I studied law (got my LLB), but didn't practice because I became a friar for a few years and then a prison Chaplain. However, I know that "lay" people (and that priest is a lay person in this instance) misunderstand the role of lawyers in society.

If no Catholics were involved in family law that would be a serious situation.


#17

I am a recent law school graduate. During my tenure as a Rule 9 (limited license) at University Legal Assistance, I, too, was asked to handle some family law cases involving divorce. My parish priest told me that I was not to worry because the divorce action had changed from an adversarial proceeding to a "no fault" petitioner/respondent action. He told me that most people have already made up their minds at that point, and if not to perhaps advise them to seek counseling and work things out. However, if they had already made up their minds, there is nothing inherent in the proceeding that would allocate fault or determine the legitimacy of the marriage.

That said, I ultimately rejected most of his argument. I am not a petition dispensing machine alienated from the ultimate act (i.e. divorce). And besides, in most states (as it is in Washington), even in petition one must allege the marriage is "irretrievably broken." This is patently false from a Catholic position. This leads me to the one caveat that I can see. If an annulment is granted by the Church, then the marriage is a nullity. In which case, I would have to problem counseling a divorce because such a marriage was never a "marriage" in the sacramental sense.


#18

[quote="benjohnson, post:6, topic:295922"]
I would urge you so council your Catholic spiritual adviser in this matter. I also commend you for allowing your Catholic conscious to potentially spill into your civil life - the world would be a better place if we followed your example.

I remember correctly, Catholic teaching is really clear that you can't engage in helping in a sinful act (needless divorce) even if it least to a later outcome is good (feeding your family). From what I can see, the priest was correct in that you should probably refrain from communion until your are absolved and have the intention of abetting this sin no more.

Given that one has to be a bit pragmatic, I would say that focusing your attention on parts of family law that are constructive would be a reasonable course of action until you are able to fully remove yourself from the proceedings of unjust divorce.

[/quote]

I don't know if my situation would be considered similar, but, I have worked for the Dept of Social Services in California for many years. For many of those years my job included processing Medi-Cal (Medicaid) for a program called Minor Consent. In California a minor can receive medical coverage for certain conditions without the knowledge or consent of the parent. One of those conditions is pregnancy. I did not ask, but they usually offered that they needed an abortion. It was an expressed condition of my employment that I process these applications.

When I returned to The Church and went to confession after many years I was extremely distraught about my part in this abomination. My confessor asked me if the girl took a taxi to the abortion clinic would that make the taxi driver culpable? When I said no he said it was no different in my case.


#19

@Triumpguy. I like the analysis.


#20

[quote="tlimon, post:17, topic:295922"]
I am a recent law school graduate. During my tenure as a Rule 9 (limited license) at University Legal Assistance, I, too, was asked to handle some family law cases involving divorce. My parish priest told me that I was not to worry because the divorce action had changed from an adversarial proceeding to a "no fault" petitioner/respondent action. He told me that most people have already made up their minds at that point, and if not to perhaps advise them to seek counseling and work things out. However, if they had already made up their minds, there is nothing inherent in the proceeding that would allocate fault or determine the legitimacy of the marriage.

That said, I ultimately rejected most of his argument. I am not a petition dispensing machine alienated from the ultimate act (i.e. divorce). And besides, in most states (as it is in Washington), even in petition one must allege the marriage is "irretrievably broken." This is patently false from a Catholic position. This leads me to the one caveat that I can see. If an annulment is granted by the Church, then the marriage is a nullity. In which case, I would have to problem counseling a divorce because such a marriage was never a "marriage" in the sacramental sense.

[/quote]

[quote="tlimon, post:19, topic:295922"]
@Triumpguy. I like the analysis.

[/quote]

Triumpguy provided an examination of conscience for deciding which cases to handle and how to handle them. When we act against conscience, we sin against God.
I would disagree that those who file for divorce have "already made up their minds." I have read that 90% of divorce cases are uncontested (it was years ago and I don't remember the source), and that many would change their mind if the spouse "claimed" the marriage worth saving. Emotions, especially anger and a sense of betrayal, run high between spouses at this time. Pride can keep the protaganist from withdrawing his/her petition while the defendent needs to take protective measures that further alienate the spouses.
If spouses hear that divorce is not the freeing decision they imagine it to be, they may be more willing to try retrouvaille or other programs meant to help couples overcome their difficulties. How many are informed of the possible negative consequences of divorce? When a person has a heart attack, every reasonable effort is made to save the person's life. Unfortunately, the same does not seem to be true for marriages in trouble. Every fault the spouse has is magnified as hope diminishes. Outsiders often contribute to this fault finding and magnification.

Scripture says the "Lord hates the man who covers his garment (wife) with blood." St. Paul tells the woman who "must separate" to seek reconciliation. Jesus also told his disciples to "flee from prosecution." That would include persecution that is happening within the home. Domestic abuse would definitely be a different case, a situation in which the woman needs to separate for her own safety and that of her children, and not be in a hurry to return.

Note: A degcee of nullity (an annullment) is not granted until after the divorce. 85% of divorced Catholics do not seek an annullment and only about half of those sought are actually granted. Liturgical magazine article I read].

Civil divorce was explained to me as a "division of property" in the eyes of the Church.


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