When cracks appear in love

Fr Ireneusz Skubis

From time to time we are shocked by the news that our acquaintances, otherwise good and valuable people, cannot solve their marriage problems and take legal actions, which often end in a civil divorce. Naturally, on the one hand, this affects their closest people, first of all the children and also teenagers who suddenly feel very confused and think that all things seem relative. On the other hand, the spouses, whose ambition, pain and humiliation that are most frequently connected with the marital infidelity, cannot stop this avalanche, crushing their family. These matters are by no means easy, they touch the so-called living human tissue. But must they actually end this way? To begin with, sacramental marriages - contracted before God - cannot be annulled as simple as that. We do remember: 'What God has united, man must not divide' (cf. Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9). No one. But we also know that we, weak and sinful human beings, can go astray and leave the way that we follow, the way that we lead our relatives to God. This has happened to the people who were most self-confident. What should we do then? Let us remember: in every complicated situation we should stand in the truth. In the truth before God and before another person. The Marriage Encounter, which is a movement for couples who want to renew their relationships and which has already helped many couples during weekend retreats, can turn out very helpful. A priest can always offer help and he can suggest solutions in very complicated cases. However, sometimes the only solution is separation, temporary division of the spouses who still have the possibility to be united again, taking into account the good of the spouse and children.
Sometimes it can happen that the couple got divorced in the civil court and they have married again. What they need is the so-called divorce in the Church. That is completely wrong. Since if a marriage was valid, nothing can render a contracted marriage invalid (compare the above mentioned biblical passages). Yet, because of certain reasons, which are examined in detail, the sacramental marriage is rendered invalid. All conditions and regulations concerning validity or invalidity of marriage are included in the appropriate canons of the Code of Canon Law. The book by Janusz Grezlikowski, recently published in the series of Niedziela Library, having the intrigue title 'What after divorce?' deals with the issue, too. Generally speaking, one of the obstacles to contract a valid marriage is compulsion that is exerted on one of the parties (compulsion must be obviously proven). The other obstacles are: age, another bond of marriage (for example if someone has already contracted a marriage) or sexual impotence, etc.
Other obstacles, which have been noticed recently, are of psychological nature. But I want to repeat: it is the bishops' tribunal and experts in psychology and psychiatry that investigate the matter in detail. They give their opinions, which help to judge if the marriage has been contracted valid or invalid. And one cannot speak about divorce or matrimonial nullity - the term 'annulment' assumes that at first marriage was valid.
Obviously, if the ecclesiastical tribunal states that a marriage was invalid, the defender of the marital bond is to question that sentence and directs the case to the second instance tribunal. If the judgement of the second instance differs from that one of the first instance the case is directed to the third instance tribunal, which is the Tribunal of the Apostolic See.
Coming back to our marriages, which experience various crises, one should stress that love for another man and love for God is not given once and for all, with the same intensity of experience. Both parties must care for love, must cherish it and sometimes fight for it. And it is a treasure that is worthy of fighting for. Since it is never limited to two people who experience it but it always concerns many loved ones whose lives it shapes and for whom it brings support.
Certainly, God gives invaluable help for our closest relatives. Let us only ask for this help.

"Niedziela" 6/2006

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl