Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Sad Stories

I have a friend who is ill.  It is a debilitating and degenerative illness: she is getting worse, and it makes her increasingly irritable.  She is, of course, aware of this.  Her husband, a professional man with a responsible job, has left her for another woman.  She is alone, now, and getting increasingly ill.

I have another friend.  She has four children.  Her husband, another professional man with a responsible job, has left her too.  She is alone, now, struggling to cope with the children, and all that entails.

Both of their husbands, of course, had promised to stay with them for better or for worse; to give up all other women for them, and so on.

Why do I mention this?

Because I believe that in both of those cases (and doubtless in many thousands of others), the husband would not have left if divorce and re-marriage were not acceptable in modern society.

This is the problem when hard cases are allowed to drive the law in a permissive direction: innocent people suffer - and it is almost impossible to turn the clock back.  The fantasy that such changes only affect those who would otherwise be stuck in a bad marriage is quite false.  Every marriage is at least potentially weakened by such laws.

And of course, not only the abandoned women (or abandoned men), but also the children, are the victims - and ultimately we all are.

That is one reason why I believe any move to mask the dreadfulness of divorce and 're-marriage' in the Catholic Church would actually be uncharitable: it might ease the pain for many, but would have the unintended consequence of increasing it for many more, for generations to come.


Anonymous said...

Funny, isn’t it, the way things work out? I have been working an 86 yr old man at the hospice (where I work). He is (was – he died earlier last week) very anxious about dying (he had metastatic stomach cancer) – not because of his death, but because it would mean leaving his same-sex partner of 56 years alone (his partner is in his mid-80s himself and rather frail and my client had been his carer, until cancer turned the tables). I met with him several times over the course of the past few weeks and I was struck by the man’s selflessness. His concern was not for himself, but for those he was leaving behind. It is curious, don’t you think, that these two men, utterly devoted to each other have fulfilled their ‘vows’ to each other and sticking by each other through better or worse, richer or poor, in sickness and in health; yet here you tell of heterosexual marriages that have failed, under the same test – or because of infidelity. What has been a curious contrast to the same-sex couple is the work I have been doing with a married couple where the wife said to me, that I had to understand that her husband was an evil man! And I must say, personally I found it hard to decide who, out of the two, was the nastiest: the pair seem locked together in a marriage of mutual loathing; why they married is a mystery!

As an aside I watch the excellent BBC 4 program Catholics, last weeks (which I assume many Catholic bloggers have found little to complain about, as there has been a general silence on the program – oh how different it would have been if the BBC had got it wrong; the fact there is silence when the BBC gets it right, reveals something of the unwholesomeness of some of our blogging buddies!). I was struck by how many of the women interviewed at Westminster Cathedral were divorced! Tho’ with a little thought this shouldn’t come a surprise. When you consider Ireland leads Europe in the single-parent family stakes - despite 50% mass attendance - I think Cardinal Keith O'Brien’s recent rant is really a case of closing the stable door long after the horse has bolted. The breakdown of the family unit has complex social & economic reasons and the greatest breaches in this bastion of society occurred long before gay-marriage was mooted. It is just easier and far less challenging to cardinals, clerics and congregations alike to believe the blame has a convenient location! I is always easier to point the finger of accusation, rather than brave the more painful task of looking in the mirror...

Ben Trovato said...


There is much you say that I agree with: certainly the origins of the catastrophic failure of so many marriages, including Catholic marriages, have roots that go back very much further than the present attempt to re-define marriage.

Indeed, that was part of the point of this post: that marriage has been weakened for us all by apparently 'kind' concessions granted to deal with (once) extraordinary situations.

When my grandparents divorced in the 1920s, it was regarded as a rare and desperately sad event. It carried a lot of social stigma. It was very tough for them, and for my mother and her sister.

My mother's view, which I inherited and share, was that that was a good thing. Making divorce (and subsequently adultery and fornication) socially acceptable has been demonstrably bad for society, particularly for children.

I don't have a television, so have not seen 'Catholics'.

I will pray for your late client and his surviving partner.