Category Archives: Divorce

Catholics don’t like sex (WRONG!!)


-by Theresa Zoe Williams

“In his book detailing his and his family’s conversion to Catholicism, The Catholic Church Saved My Marriage, Dr. David Anders points out four radical areas of the Church’s teachings on sex and marriage—teachings that helped bring him into the Church. “Protestants and Catholics have different views of marriage, I came to understand, because they have different views about the foundational concepts of morality, spirituality, salvation, and human happiness.

Catholics believe that the ultimate end of human life is loving union with God and neighbor. Aided by grace, we ought to bend every fiber of our being toward that end. Catholic ideas about marriage and contemplative life reflect that lofty calling. The Protestant tradition also extols loving union with God but has always been more skeptical about the Christian’s moral potential,” Anders writes. So let’s look at what the Church teaches and what convinced Dr. Anders and his family of the truth of Catholicism.

1. Contraception and sodomy

On this very first point, Anders makes the distinction that Catholic teaching forbids both while Protestantism has never broadly decried these except outside of marriage. This is probably why Catholics get the “prude” label so often, because the first discourses on sex is a list of “Nos.”

But really, these Nos are really yeses to so much more. To say no to something less good or even bad (as contraception is both morally and physically) is to say yes to something better, greater. A common criticism of Catholic teaching in this area is that Catholics just want you to have as many babies as possible, reducing women to embryo incubators and sex to a means to an end only. Neither of these things is true, of course, and that’s exactly what Dr. Anders discovered.

“No, Catholic don’t think you should have as many babies as you possibly can,” Anders writes of his discoveries in his studies. “No, the pope is not simply trying to grow the Church through fertility. And, no, Catholic opposition to birth control does not mean the Church is heedless of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, or other dangers associated with sexual activity. Rather, I found that Catholics have developed a rich theology of the human person that takes full account of man’s social, sexual, and psychological nature. Moral theology, I came to understand, is more than just listing all the prohibitions mentioned in Scripture; it is the science of human happiness. Just as a physician prescribes treatments for the flourishing of the body, the moral theologian seeks the flourishing of the whole person by asking, ‘How can man act in the world to achieve his true good?’”

2. Virginity, celibacy, and continence

It’s no secret that Catholics hold virginity and celibacy in high regards, sometimes the highest of regards. So many of the early saints are name Saint So-and-So, Virgin Martyr. And the early Fathers talk extensively about celibacy. These concepts and teachings have been with Catholics from the very beginning. And, sometimes feel really outdated because of that. Or, it seems oppressive. These can be valid criticisms, if the Church’s teaching meant only the denial of the sexual appetite. But it doesn’t. The Church’s teachings on virginity and celibacy actually are meant to point us towards heaven even more, that our bodies are actually symbols of Christ and divine love.

Dr. Anders found answers and inspiration in the early Christian ascetics: “These Christian ascetics were motivated not by hatred of the body or by a craven fear of damnation but by the promise of friendship with God. Augustine did not despise marriage; indeed he wrote one of the great Catholic treatises praising marriage. What Augustine, Antony, and other ancient Christians valued most, though, was the idea of a life given wholly to God. Marriage is a good state of life, but Christian contemplation is better.”

What’s even more astounding about this teaching of the Church is how widespread it was. Anders also picks up on this. “When I started reading about this ancient spirituality,” he writes, “I was surprised by how widespread it was. From Ireland to Persia, ancient Christians were almost unanimous in their praise of virginity and continence. Whatever else might be true about them, the earliest believers surely did not share modern Protestant attitudes towards sex.”

3. Why Catholics can’t divorce

Just to start off on the same page, no, annulments aren’t “Catholic divorces”. There is no such thing as a Catholic divorce. An annulment is a dissolution of a marriage, a ruling that finds that no sacrament was conferred in by the partners to each other during the wedding. You can’t end a marriage that never was. And that brings us to the Catholic view of marriage versus the Protestant view of marriage. To Catholics, marriage is a sacrament, but to Protestants, a marriage is a simple civil contract. If marriage is just a civil contract, of course it can be broken and dissolved. But if marriage is a sacrament, a visible sign of an inward grace, then that’s not something humans can just undo.

“The differences between Protestant and Catholic teaching on marriage have their roots in two fundamental issues. First, the Protestant Reforms thought that Catholic teaching on human sexuality was just too difficult. Second, the Reformers resented the authority that the Catholic Church exercised over Christian marriage. The way they tried to solve these ‘problems’ theologically was to naturalize Christian marriage, removing it from the realm of the supernatural. A major part of the Reformation, therefore, was an attack on the sacramentality of Christian marriage. The Reformers never denied that god instituted marriage at the creation of Adam and Eve. They simply denied that Christ elevated marriage to a sacrament,” Dr. Anders writes. This distinction is paramount to a Catholic understanding of marriage.

4. Marriage is a sacrament

So, Catholics believe that Christ did indeed raise marriage to a sacrament, and that makes all the difference. But a Protestant or non-Christian would firstly ask where this can be found in Scripture. I submit four Scriptural references for consideration, which Dr. Anders affirms: Matthew 19:8; 1 Corinthians 7:11, 17-20; 1 Corinthians 6:15; and Ephesians 5:25-32. One from Jesus’s own mouth and three from St. Paul, whom the Protestants love.

Dr. Anders writes of these Scriptures: “The first and most obvious fact was that Christ established a clear distinction between marriage under the old law and marriage restored by Christ. When the Pharisees questioned Jesus about divorce in the Mosaic Law, he acknowledged that Moses allowed this because of their ‘hardness of heart’ (Matt. 19:8). But now, Christ was calling his disciples to the perfection of marriage only possible by grace. Second, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul holds the marriage of two baptized Christians to a higher standard than that of a Christian to a non-Christian. In 1 Corinthians 6, St. Paul teaches that Christians must not engage in sexually immoral behavior. Paul teaches that a Christian’s very body has been permanently changed in a way that identifies him with Christ and thereby affects his sexuality. The Christian literally carried the body of Christ with him into the marriage bed. In the fifth chapter of Ephesians, St. Paul clearly teaches that Christian marriage is a sign or symbol of Christ’s marriage to the Church. St. Paul connects the holiness of Christian marriage to the mystery of Christ’s Body, the Church. As holiness flows from Christ to the Church, so, in a way, holiness flows from the sanctified bodies of the baptized spouses, because of their union with Christ.”

The Catholic way of life, especially as concerns sex, truly is radical. But it is transcendent. Catholic sexual ethics call us out of the ordinary of this earthly life and point us to the eternal and infinite. It’s not an easy path, as Dr. Anders found out, but it is good and fulfilling.”

Love & prayers for strength, patience, fidelity (in SO many ways) and love for all those married,
Matthew

Faith & Works

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-by Vince Frese

You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was competed by the works. – James 2:22

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“I vividly remember getting the call from my divorce attorney telling me that my spouse was seeking full custody of our children. That shook me to my core and threw me into full-on crisis mode. I did not want to lose my children! Like any good Catholic I began to storm heaven with my many prayers begging God to help me. And pray I did. I prayed rosaries, novenas, devotionals–everything I could think of. In my mind the more I prayed the better. Surely, I thought, praying all four mysteries of the rosary was better than just the daily mystery. And, a Divine Mercy chaplet morning, noon, and night was better than just one. And so this went on for several weeks. Then, one day my attorney called. He asked me if I had put together the affidavits from my witnesses testifying to my ability to parent my children. I was now even more panicked. While I had been praying like crazy, I had failed to do much else.

When we are in crisis it is typical for us to fall on our knees and beg for God’s help. Most of us, me included, are not bashful to ask God for help. We are filled with hope that God will miraculously come to our rescue and put an end to our misery. But prayer is only half of the equation. God wants us to put our faith into action. We must pray and act. Certainly, prayer is an essential ingredient to living our life of faith, yet, God gave us free will and many talents to use in conjunction with our prayers. We are coworkers with Christ working together to fulfill His plan. So, if you are feeling overwhelmed, in crisis, or downright frustrated, keep praying, but be sure you are getting busy working on your problems, too. Jesus is a faithful partner who will magnify all your efforts and make them bear fruit.”

Love, Faith, & Hope,
Matthew

Divorced Catholic: for He commands His angels…

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-by Vince Frese

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“If God really loves me, where is He NOW when I need Him the most?” was the thought that ran through my mind often during those first weeks and months when my divorce hit. Sure, I read over and over in the Gospels how God will never abandon me. How even the hairs on my head are numbered. How he feeds the birds and I am so much more important to him than birds. And how he will give me rest. I so wanted to believe all that, but my reality frankly was very different. I often felt very alone—even abandoned.

As I look back on those dark days, I now realize that God did not abandon me, far from it. While he didn’t show up physically at my door step offering to take care of me, what He did do was send His angels. People started appearing in my life that I either did not know, or had not seen in a long time, ready to help. I had a woman from my kids’ school suddenly start to drop dinner by once a week. An old friend called out-of-the-blue and offered to help me with the kids. People at work started to pick up my slack when I had to be out for all the court proceedings. A dear friend made it a point to stop by once a week and take me out to lunch and patiently listen to my endless ranting. Then the emails and letters of encouragement started to pour in.  No, God did not abandon me. He revealed his incredible mercy by sending his legions of angels to me in the form of all these people to look after me and walk with me in my darkest days. In all my pain, I just didn’t recognize it. Keep trusting in God, He is sure to send angels your way. My bet is that he already has.

“For He commands His angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go.”
—Psalm 91:11

Love & healing; Jesus, Divine Physician, heal us!!!
Matthew

The Wise & The Foolish

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-“Wise & Foolish Virgins”, oil on panel by Frans I Floris, 16th century, 118 × 132 cm, in private collection.

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

“And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; let us go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.

“Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But He answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

-Mt 25:1-13

With the divorce rate in California above 70%, and assaults, disregard, and insults towards and dismissal of the institution of the family, the foundational building block of society, rampant in our modern dialogue, the mockery of the institution that is Hollywood marriages, I thought you might appreciate this reflection.  The sinner always seeks to deceive and delude himself and others, eagerly, of the normality and praiseworthiness, mitigation of his sin. I know I do. How can/could he/she do otherwise? To admit?…The Prince of Lies is a great liar. Gen 3:5.

The nature of things are not changed by calling them something else, no matter how hard we try or want to to justify ourselves to ourselves and to others, to our consciences; to silence, to salve, to inebriate, to numb, to anesthetize, anything, even the eager, quick sale of our souls, at a substantial loss, rather than to listen to that.

The truth is always hardest, yet it remains the truth, regardless of us or our ravings or madness/delusions. We have been here before, many times. Read your history and the Scriptures. Jonah 3:4. This is not new. There is a saying, “There are no new heresies.” We just repackage, recycle, and reoffend. Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison. Concupiscence.

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-by Br. John Baptist Hoang, OP, fellow UVA alumnus

““Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.”
—1 Corinthians 9:25-26

The 2005 film, Cinderella Man, tells the remarkable story of Irish-American boxer James J. Braddock (1905-1974). Braddock, played by actor Russell Crowe, enjoys a successful career as an amateur boxer until life takes a turn for the worse at the threshold of the Great Depression. Like so many other Americans during that tumultuous time, Braddock struggles to make ends meet, barely managing to support his wife and three young children. In the end, however—as the title of the movie suggests—his life plays out like a modern-day fairy tale. His boxing career gradually picks back up, and the film ends triumphantly when he becomes the heavyweight champion of the world. He and his family, as the saying goes, live happily ever after.

Braddock is portrayed as the kind of person we all want to rally behind. Yet our sympathy for him goes beyond mere support for the underdog, mere pity for his life of hardship. There is actually something we come to love in James Braddock: he is a good man. He sacrifices everything he has for the sake of his wife and children. He sacrifices his own pride when he makes a desperate decision to beg for money from the rich and powerful. He risks his own life every time he steps into the ring to fight men who are quite capable of killing him. This is what evokes our admiration and sympathy: to see a man offer himself in love.

Of course, the protagonist has to have an antagonist, and the drama reaches its climax when Braddock faces his nemesis for the heavyweight title: the young and cocky Max Baer. But, whereas in many movies of this type the final fight scene is an epic battle between good and evil, in this film things are a little different. Baer isn’t evil; he’s just foolish. He’s portrayed as a playboy, who spends his time “fooling around” with several women.

Although this is a very inaccurate portrait of the real Max Baer, it is nevertheless a dramatically effective characterization, and it serves to draw out a distinction between two types of people: the just man and the fool. Braddock is the good and just man who remains a faithful husband and father throughout his life, while Baer is the fool who pursues a life of empty pleasure. Of course, Baer, for his part, regards Braddock as the fool, and in a sense this is true. Braddock is a fool for love and goodness; he is a fool in the eyes of the world. But in the eyes of God, he is both wise and just; he is a “good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:3). Heavyweight title or no heavyweight title, his story reminds us that “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25).”

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-James Braddock and Family, North Bergen, New Jersey, 1936. Standing is Braddock’s wife, May, and from left to right are his children: Rose Marie, Howard, and James, Jr.

Love,
Matthew