Approaching your Ex-Spouse for an Annulment
This is where it gets tricky; you desire an annulment*, but your ex tells you that it's "Catholic divorce," or that your children will be illegitimate! Painful and untrue words.
First, pray! Consider a novena (my favorite is Our Lady Undoer of Knots) to help till the spiritual soil for this conversation.
Examine your own conscience. Do you need to ask for forgiveness from your ex? Explain (charitably) your choices? Own your part in the dissolution of the marriage? Do you need to go to confession before this conversation takes place.
Third, be generous of heart. Although the marriage has ended, both of you should still be pursuing a journey of Faith. Perhaps you still need to parent together?
Divorce tends to be reactive, can you move the relationship to a positive place by being proactive?
Explain what an annulment is NOT!
It does not say that you were never legally married, nor does it make the children illegitimate. It is not a Catholic divorce.
Explain what an annulment is. The annulment process helps you explore the understanding you had of what makes a valid sacramental marriage at the time of your wedding. During the process an investigation of if you had enough information and/or ability to carry out those sacramental promises. It is an opportunity to look at what went wrong, ineffective patterns and it helps you begin to identify areas that need improvement in your relationships. I found it helpful to realize that we were not fully informed about what we needed to do (before marriage) in order to have a healthy, sacramental union. It allowed me to stop blaming myself and my ex and to move forward with new understanding and wisdom. It can be a very healing process.
Give it time. All the changes that go along with a divorce can be overwhelming. Be as gentle as you can in approaching the subject of annulment. Let your ex know that you are not saying that they did not matter or that your marriage wasn't important to you, rather you want both of you to move on in a positive way to a grace-filled future.
*Remember, not all divorced Catholics who apply for an annulment will be granted one. Discuss your specific situation with your priest.
What does Church teach about Divorce?
The short answer is that divorce should not exist according, not just to the Catholic Church, but from the words of Christ on marriage. “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery.”Matt 19:9 (all three synoptic Gospels mention this teaching)
However, the Catholic Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, does not look at divorce just as a legal matter, but as a sacramental one. A valid Catholic marriage must be entered into freely, faithfully, be open to life and with the expectance of permanence! If these elements are not present at the time the marriage takes place, the marriage itself may not be a valid sacramental union. (This is what the tribunal will look at if considering annulment.)
But it is important to note, that there are other choices besides annulment. Living a chaste life, outside of another relationship, is a choice. Even separating (possibly legally divorcing), but continuing to live out your marriage vows (though separate) is another choice.
Where can a divorced person start to find help?
Discuss situation with your priest; effective pastoral care will be nurtured if we are willing to discuss our pain, fears, frustrations and even needs.
Make choices about your specific situation.
Spend time wisely.
Begin annulment process if appropriate.
Let others know of your needs.
Who can receive Communion?
Easy answer: Anyone living in a state of grace, but I think that this question is the wrong question. I think there is a lot of misinformation about the Eucharist in general. Receiving the Eucharist is not a prize, it is a serious commitment to our belief in the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present there. It is a tangible sign of God’s covenant with us. I think the question should be; Do I understand the truth found in the Eucharist and have I discussed my current situation with a priest?
For more information on this topic read The Three Things Divorced Catholics Need to Know! Available at OSV.com, Amazon or ask for it at your local Catholic or neighborhood bookstore!