January 17, 2012
Recourse to civil divorce
By Father Rocky Hoffman *

By Father Rocky Hoffman *

In  the “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” Part Three, IV.  Offenses Against the Dignity of Marriage, Divorce, 2383, it states, “If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.”  Will you explain this statement specifically in reference to legal rights and protection of inheritance?  

The section you cite appears in the Catechism’s presentation of the sixth commandment, “Thou Shalt not commit adultery.”
When a couple gets married in the Church, there are civil legal effects and canonical (Church) effects to the marriage.  The “ensurance of legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance” is a broad category, and a specific listing of all situations where a civil divorce would be justified is not practical here.  So let me illustrate for you a common case where civil divorce would be justified because it would ensure legal rights, care of the children, and protection of inheritance.  It’s the case of a spouse who has become an addict, whether to drugs, gambling, or alcohol.  Sadly, in this case, the chaos caused by the addict could ruin the entire family.  That is not fair.
In this case it is possible for the wife (or the husband, as the case may be) to seek a divorce in civil court to protect herself and her children.  In pursuit of his pleasure, and addict could leave the family destitute.  So, a civil divorce would at least allow her – in most states – to protect half of the family’s assets from further erosion.
In this case, while the couple has been granted a civil divorce with attendant consequences for the family assets, it does not mean they are no longer married in the eyes of the Church or in the eyes of God.  If they have a reasonable doubt that their marriage was valid in the first place, they have a right to petition the competent ecclesiastical authority (their bishop) to review their marriage and determine if it is null. If in fact there was a serious defect at the time of marriage, the bishop’s tribunal will declare the marriage null.  That is an annulment.

Rev. Francis J. Hoffman, JCD (Fr. Rocky) is Executive Director of Relevant Radio.  Ordained as a priest for Opus Dei in 1992 by Blessed John Paul II, he holds a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, an MBA from the University of Notre Dame, and a BA in History from Northwestern University.  His Question and Answer column appears in several Catholic newspapers and magazines across the country.

« Previous entry     Back to index     Next entry »
Ads by Google
(What's this?)
blog comments powered by Disqus


Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google

Featured Videos

Cardinal Luis Tagle to Pope Francis
Cardinal Luis Tagle to Pope Francis
Pope Francis in the Philippines: Manila Welcomes the Pope
Pope Francis in Sri Lanka: Highlights
Pope Francis in Sri Lanka: Interview with Cardinal Ranjith
Pope Francis in SriLanka: Inter-religious Faith Meeting
Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Family thrilled to see Pope Francis in Istanbul
Syrian Refugee, Sara, 14, Before Meeting Pope
Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
One year after Haiyan: Philippines rebuilds homes, lives
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day

Liturgical Calendar

January 26, 2015

Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mk 3:22-30


Daily Readings

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »


Homily of the Day

Mk 3:22-30

Text only

Follow us: