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By Father Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.

What You Heard Was Inaccurate

Q U I C K S C A N

Can an Ex-spouse Veto an Annulment?
Clerical Pedophilia Cases Are Causing a Crisis of Faith
Is Self-Forgiveness Needed Also?
Eucharistic Adoration: What, Where, Why?
When Did 'Catholic' Become a Religious Term?


Can an Ex-spouse Veto an Annulment?

Q: In college, my husband married a young woman in a non-Catholic Church. After he discovered her infidelity, they divorced. Ten years later when we were planning to marry, we were told that he had to get an annulment, but to do that his ex-wife would have to sign a document giving him "permission" to remarry.

I couldn't expect him to track down this woman and ask her to sign such a document. So we married in a Protestant Church in 1987.

Now we would like to have our marriage blessed by the Catholic Church. Does he have to have an annulment for this to happen? If so, where do you start?

A: The person who did not initiate an annulment case is called the "respondent" and must be informed that a case has begun. The respondent must be given an opportunity to give testimony. That person, however, does not control the outcome of the case and is never asked to sign a form giving "permission" to remarry. I am sorry that someone gave you incorrect information on that subject.

A "declaration of nullity" decree is issued, usually by three judges, on the basis of documents and testimony, with legal representation for both ex-spouses.

In the September 1998 article "Understanding Annulments," Father John Catoir, J.C.D.,answers four very common questions about annulments. Sister Victoria Vondenberger, R.S.M., J.C.L., head of the tribunal office for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, wrote a sidebar entitled "What About the Rights of the Respondent?" Tribunals require that a good-faith effort be made to find the respondent.

Annulment cases begin at the local parish level. Someone on the parish staff collects the documents and testimony needed. Some dioceses have trained deacons, members of religious communities or laypeople to help prepare tribunal cases.

Far from being a disagreeable, traumatizing reliving of the past, the annulment process has helped many people reach "closure" on an invalid, non-sacramental marriage and prepare for a more Christ-centered second marriage.

Clerical Pedophilia Cases Are Causing a Crisis of Faith

Q: I am having a crisis of faith because clerical pedophilia cases in
the United States have been covered up. Why shouldn’t I seek out another Church?

A: Yes, these sexual predators have caused terrible harm to young children, to their families, to parishioners and to the Church at large. And yes, many people's confidence in the integrity and competence of Catholic leaders has been severely damaged.

Human beings sin. Period. That does not in any way excuse what has happened in these cases. It was abuse—plain and simple. And for those cases brought to civil trial, no matter how those trials end (whether you think justice was done or justice was denied), the guilty parties must still face God's judgment on their actions.

But if human beings sin, what guarantee exists that this sin or some other terrible sin will not arise among the members of whatever group you may join after leaving the Catholic Church?

We believe in Jesus Christ, the Scriptures, the sacraments and that Jesus protects the Church from major and permanent error. This does not eliminate the possibility of scandal. The Church has experienced some pretty bad scandals over the centuries.

At one time, many doctors and other medical professionals thought that pedophilia could be cured. Few professionals say that now.

Some decisions by Catholic leaders were based on that earlier, erroneous information. Other decisions were simply a refusal to admit the seriousness of what was happening, a refusal to admit that there was a clear pattern of deviant behavior that needed to be confronted effectively. The rights of victims should have been the Church's primary concern but all too often were not.

Other religious or secular organizations are dealing with the same issue. None of this will undo the living nightmare that victims have already experienced. None of this will take them back to their pre-abuse innocence. We all know that.

All Catholics—especially leaders—need to be vigilant in this matter. Even when an accusation proves to be groundless (for example, the one against Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin), all such accusations need to be taken very seriously.

Catholic bishops in the United States have been addressing cases of clerical pedophilia more effectively in the last 15 years. In 1993 they formed an Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse; it developed three volumes of resource materials under the heading "Restoring Trust." Last February 19, Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement entitled "Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests." There is a special feature on this site that goes into this topic in greater depth.

May all members of the Church treat pedophilia (by clerics or anyone else) with the seriousness that it requires.

Is Self-Forgiveness Needed Also?

Q: I realize that people can confess their sins and can believe that God has forgiven them. But what if I confess a sin, yet cannot forgive myself for it? Should I be concerned only with God's forgiveness? Is self-forgiveness important?

A: People sometimes build themselves up by thinking that their sin exceeds God's power to forgive it. If they truly believe that God has forgiven them, then isn't it a form of blasphemy not to forgive oneself for a sin already forgiven by God?

Not forgiving myself for some sin already confessed and forgiven may be a way of placing my life "on hold," of saying that my past must dominate my present and future.

Forgiving myself for a sin already confessed does not mean totally forgetting that sin. If I link forgiving and forgetting, I may refuse to do the one because I humanly cannot do the other.

Eucharistic Adoration: What, Where, Why?

Q: What is adoration of the Blessed Sacrament all about? How can praying in an adoration chapel help me grow in my faith, in my relationship with Jesus? I'm interested in doing this but I do not know what to expect.

A: Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is the most solitude that some people ever have. Here they can read the Scriptures, speak to God in their own words or listen to their heart in a unique way.

People can, of course, do all of this without being in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Making a commitment for eucharistic adoration, however, may be the best way some people can pay better attention to their spiritual life—to ask whether it's growing or slipping. People can ask these questions without praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Doing so there, however, may encourage more honest answers and a greater readiness to be Jesus' disciples in all circumstances of life.

Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church describes the Eucharist as the "source and summit of the Christian life" (#11). Eucharistic adoration is one way of recognizing that and cooperating with the grace of this sacrament.

You can buy meditation resources at your local Catholic bookstore or at www.StFrancisOnline.com.

When Did 'Catholic' Become a Religious Term?

Q: I know from Church history that we date ourselves to Jesus' time and that St. Peter took over after Jesus ascended into heaven. I also know that the word catholic means universal. When exactly did members of this Church begin calling themselves Catholic?

A: The Greek word katholikos indeed means universal; originally, it had no specific association with religion. We still speak of someone who appreciates many artistic styles or genres as having a catholic taste in art. The same would be true of music or any other area influenced by personal preference.

The first documented religious use of this term appears in a letter by St. Ignatius of Antioch (martyred 107 A.D.) to the Smyrneans (residents of a city in modern-day Turkey). Christians were catholic in the sense of being everywhere, at all levels of society and for all time.

For the first 1,000 years after the death of Jesus, the terms Christian and Catholic described the same group of people. The Nicene Creed proclaims, "I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church."


If you have a question for Father Pat, please submit it here. Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Ask a Franciscan, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.


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