Marriage, Annulments and Guidance
By Larry Plachno
Anyone watching what is going on in the Vatican is well aware that there have been some discussions recently over marriage and annulments. For the most part, both sides base their positions on the importance of marriage to our society, the sanctity of marriage in Christianity and the positive impact of marriage on children. Some of this is spilling over into other areas of Christianity and is increasingly becoming more public.
Some people will suggest that the starting point was “Amoris Laetitia,” Latin for “The Joy of Love,” from Pope Francis in early 2016. It was described as a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation and was directed to both the clergy and the laity. While numerous items were covered, it mentioned simplifying the annulment process, bringing divorced and remarried Catholics back into the church and helping families. There was even some later comments of allowing bishops to handle annulments in a simple manner. Several members of the clergy and laity expressed concern over maintaining the sanctity of marriage.
Unfortunately, the situation can be complicated by people trying to drag in political correctness. I can try to explain what is going on but will step lightly through those areas where some people say that God and statistics are sexist. I will try my best not to take sides but to explain how modern reports and statistics are stressing the importance of marriage on both society and children.
God and Marriage
As always, the best place to start is at the beginning. Since God is a supreme being, He incorporates both love and guidance. However, since we humans are only human, God had to find another way to bring love and guidance together on the earth. This happens in marriage when the love of the wife and mother combines with the guidance of the husband and father. Theologians have repeatedly mentioned that marriage is very special since it is the reflection of God on earth by combining the love and guidance of the spouses. It is also noted by many that the first public miracle of Jesus Christ supported marriage at the Wedding Feast at Cana.
Wives and husbands are equal but different. When their child is released from jail after doing something wrong, the typical mother embraces him in love to welcome him home while the father provides guidance and chastises the child for what he did wrong. Another oft-heard comment is the mother who addresses her misbehaving children with “Wait until your father gets home.” The examples and statistics are numerous.
Marriage and Social Problems
Today’s modern computer-generated statistics and reports endorse the love of God and love of neighbor admonishments of Jesus Christ. Most social problems, and other unwelcome happenings, are caused by not judging our actions and decisions as good or evil and by not defining good as what is best for other people and society.
Marriage is indeed very special because in addition to being a sacrament, it is the overwhelming factor in reducing and eliminating most social problems. Married people are less likely to commit crimes or be the victim of crimes. Married people are less likely to be homeless or live in poverty. Married people are less likely to need government assistance and, with the exception of certain major diseases, married people are more likely to be healthy and live longer. Marriage is at the top of the list in being good for people and society and hence is highly supported by Christianity.
What is getting increasing attention is that marriage impacts more than just the wife and husband. There are a huge number of reports and statistics showing that children brought up in a household with a mother and a father do better than other alternatives. The guidance of paternal supervision is also getting more attention. The single biggest factor that determines whether a child will end up in prison is being raised without the guidance of a father. Moreover, the high crime areas of big cities tend to have something in common – a high percentage of children being raised without a father in their household.
The Two Sides of the Issue
At this point the two sides of the issue become obvious. One side stresses the sanctity of marriage. “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” This position stresses that in addition to being a sacrament, marriage should be forever. Since marriage helps society by reducing crime, poverty and homelessness while improving health and longevity and the wellbeing of children, it should be strongly supported and defended. It has been said that if annulments are easy to obtain, it not only cheapens marriage but gives the impression that marriage is not forever.
The other side of the issue is that if the marriage is truly over, refusing an annulment prevents one or both spouses from entering into another marriage that will reduce crime, poverty and homelessness while improving health and longevity. While an obvious touchy subject, there is no justification for saying that both spouses should be punished if a marriage fails. One of the spouses may be a victim and should not be punished for the actions of their partner. Another key point is that preventing a remarriage could leave children growing up without the advantage of paternal guidance. Hence, the children are being punished for the actions of the parents.
This reminds me of the famous Charles Dickens novella titled “A Christmas Carol.” What is better, the ghost of marriage past or the ghost of marriage future? Should we consider what will happen to Tiny Tim or not? The original marriage may be gone and possibly beyond preservation, but there is no guarantee for another marriage in the future.
The one comment I will make is to ask whether a couple contemplating marriage are aware of all of this? We teach history, civics and math in school but do we teach the advantages of marriage in reducing social problems and the advantages of parental and paternal supervision of children? Are these topics brought up in religious education or in a Sunday homily? All points to ponder.
Larry Plachno is a successful businessman, publisher, author, and composer of an incalculable number of articles relating to family, life issues and associated problems and solutions. This barely scratches the surface of what Larry really is. His love of God, family and country is inspiring.
For years now Larry has shared his writings with us here at the ProLifeCorner and we are truly humbled by his generosity.
Larry is also an ardent blogger and is a prolific writer. You can follow his work at: www.unselfish.org