The vast majority of civil divorces in our society today are “unilateral” divorces. In other words, one spouse forces the civil divorce on the other. The spouse who does not want the divorce can do nothing to stop it. She could hire Perry Mason, Ally McBeal and even the clever Matlock to team up but they will lose the case and she will be pronounced "divorced."
The vast majority of modern civil divorces are for reasons such as "falling out of love, not being loved the way I deserve to be loved, we have nothing in common, I am not happy, I am miserable, I will always be not happy and miserable with that person, I am emotionally neglected, etc..." Only a small percentage of civil divorces occur for reasons our Holy Church would recognize as "morally licit."
It is a grave sin to force a civil divorce on a spouse who has not been guilty of a grave sin that warranted the civil divorce.
If the abandoned spouse truly cares for the soul… the eternal destination of her husband’s soul… then she will desire that her husband see that he is in the midst of a grave offense. For if he does not see that he is in the midst of a grave offense then he will not see a need to repent of the grave offense. And if he never sees a need to repent of the grave offense then he will die in the grave offense. And if he dies in the grave offense… well… St. Matthew (7:23) and St. Luke (13:27) made it pretty clear what our Blessed Lord said about that.
She would then likely follow our Blessed Lord’s instructions given to us for when someone “sins against us.” These step by step instructions are found in St. Matthew’s gospel, chapter 18 verses 15-17.
Hopefully one of the first two steps will “gain thy brother”, or in this case, “gain thy spouse.” However, it may be likely that neither of the first two steps will produce true repentance… because your spouse has rationalized and justified why his divorce is okay with God. He may even say that he has prayed about it and God has said it is okay… maybe not even his fault.
The third step should then be taken. But we must remember that the abandoned spouse should not be taking these steps to “force their spouse to come back.” The abandoned spouse should be pursuing these steps for the sake of their spouse. Because the abandoned spouse realizes the truth of the situation is that the beloved has placed himself out of communion with his Heavenly Spouse by placing himself out of communion with his earthly spouse (for no morally licit reason). It is for the sake of her husband’s soul (and the souls of the children and others who have this as an example) that she would follow our Blessed Lord’s step by step instructions.
So the question is, “What does step number 3 look like?”
I know of no official Holy Church teaching on this but it seems likely to me that the abandoned spouse would go to the priest of the spouse who has abandoned the marriage. Remember, after step two there are now what Sacred Scripture calls “witnesses.” The priest would then insist on meeting with the spouse who has abandoned the marriage. The priest would stand strong, grounded in truth, and hear the abandoning spouse out and then charitably help him see that he is not to receive Holy Communion while in the midst of this “grave offense.” The priest would gently but firmly explain that he will even have to deny Holy Communion if he persists in this grave manifest sin.
Of course all of this would be done for the sake of the one lost sheep. So that the one lost sheep will return to the flock he has left. It is not the priest or the Holy Church “closing the door” on the sinner, but the sinner "closing the door" on the Holy Church and the priest helping him see how he may "open it" again.
The problem that many abandoned spouses have, however, is that they find a priest unwilling to make that stand. If that is the case then, out of true charity for your spouse, perhaps going to “tell the Church” in Matthew 18:17 must look something like this…
For example, let's say that John up and abandons Carol and their children. Carol has committed no grave sin worthy of the abandonment but John is just tired of being "harped on" and asked to do so many chores around the house and he is ready for more free time with the buds drinking the buds. He gets the judge to rule that the children should spend half of their lives outside of the marital home and with him in his new bachelor pad. John still believes himself to still be a faithful Catholic and even takes his children to Mass where they watch him receive Holy Communion.
I pray that we still hold marriage in enough esteem to see that this is gravely sinful on John’s part. Carol, grounding herself faithfully in the life of the Holy Church and prayer would obey our Blessed Lord’s instructions in Matthew 18:15-17. If Carol finds a priest who makes excuses as to why he will not follow through on the third step then Carol now has a way to officially approach the Holy Church to help her husband.
Again, this is for two Catholics and only really useful when the abandoning spouse thinks that they can abandon the marriage and somehow remain a faithful Catholic.
God bless the people who spent a whole lot of time working on this. I pray that it helps bring souls back to Christ and children back to intact homes.
LOVE SO AMAZING