The “Orthodox Practice”: A solution to divorce, remarriage and Communion?

The “Orthodox Practice”: A solution to divorce, remarriage and Communion?
By Dr. Jeff Mirus


There are some middle-ground topics generally geared toward the goal of restoring more divorced Catholics to the sacramental life of the Church- specifically, the issue of getting an annulment. At this point in time, the United States is on par with a whole lot of other countries when it comes to the rate of divorce among Catholics, but the US is all by itself when it comes to the likelihood of getting an annulment. This is partly because some people are taking advantage of a relatively easy system, and that gets its share of criticism. But a great deal of why that’s possible has to do with a comparatively high number of basically lawyer-type people who are very well trained in Catholic law and comparatively very available to divorced Catholics who would like to have an expert take a real look at the situation and find grounds for an annulment, if there are grounds. This is unique to the US- other parts of the world, if there is a lot of divorce and even if people are inclined to seek an annulment, they don’t have representation available to see it through.

So the most likely topic that will be next up for serious debate is the question of whether Catholic bishops want the rest of the world to look a bit more like the US when it comes to this situation or if they want the US to even things out by calming it down a bit. More specifically, the most likely thing is they’ll explore how much they want to elevate the number of well-trained experts in Catholic marriage law and make them more widely available, which would presumably lead to a greater number of annulments and therefore a greater number of people who can be restored to full Communion (although technically they would never have to depart from it, as an EO Christian would during a period of penance).

There are some who view this discussion as a bridge to the thing they really want to talk about- aligning the West a bit more with the Eastern perspective on divorce and remarriage. The more annulment-focused discussion may help to broaden and solidify support for the goal of returning more Catholics to full sacramental communion with the Church. But there are a number of concerns that may wind up being permanent roadblocks to the Orthodox solution. I’m not entirely sure if the roadblocks will wind up being insurmountable but I am quite sure that more tangentially-related items with some shared goals will be explored for quite some time before this one gets a really thorough look in an official capacity.

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