The U.S. Church is living through another scandal, and the perpetrators are not priests; the perpetrators are parents, says Mary “Bai” Macfarlane, a mother of four. Although millions of American homes are broken by divorce, the U.S. bishops tend not to speak out against it and canon lawyers seem to defend divorce instead of marriage, she says.
The issue is close to home for Macfarlane, who, after nearly 14 years of marriage, finds herself as the defendant in no-fault divorce case in Ohio. Her four children have been taken away from her because she has insisted on home-schooling them. She has recently joined with others in a grass roots movement to protect children and parents from no-fault divorce.
“Millions of Catholic parents are divorcing and stealing from their own children their God-given right to an intact home, and by example, are teaching their own children there is nothing unnatural or wrong with divorce,” says Macfarlane.
“These parents are remarrying too, and their actions are condoned by the U.S. tribunals, which totally ignore two sections of canon law, and invented a newfangled interpretation for another canon law.”
Macfarlane says U.S. tribunals, under the direction of the Canon Law Society of America (CLSA), “are teaching that almost every divorce is acceptable,” which is in clear contradiction to the teachings of the Pope and of the Church.
CLSA claims modern psychology lets them diagnose that most people were incapable of promising to be married in the first place, never had a Christian marriage, and have done nothing wrong by obtaining a no-fault divorce, says Macfarlane.
“The bishops are supposed to be our shepherds and their silence about the evil of divorce is leading many into sin, and breaking the hearts of millions of American children,” she told CNA.Canon law revisited
The current code of canon law, published in 1983, states that married couples cannot live separately without a decree from their bishop, unless there is an immediate danger (canon 1153).
It also stipulates that only after obtaining permission to separate, one can file for civil divorce after again obtaining authorization from one’s bishop. The bishop cannot give that authorization without being ensured that no civil court orders would contradict divine law (canon 1692).
However, even before that 1983 canon law was published, popular writers and editors for the CLSA were already granting annulments for unacceptable reasons, says Macfarlane.
In fact, as early as 1970, CLSA author, Fr. Wrenn, published a book in which he taught that if spouses are unhappy, they are not satisfying a requirement for marriage, Macfarlane points out.
In addition, the Pope’s official teachings on marriage state that a bride and a groom have to consent to three essential obligations of marriage: permanence, exclusivity and openness to children.
But several CLSA writers, including Fr. Wrenn, James Beal and Raymond Burk, had added a fourth essential obligation, “an interpersonal relationship.”
In other words, says Macfarlane, the fourth obligation was interpreted to mean that “if you had marriage trouble, you could find some psychological excuse, such as immaturity, or any psychological disorder to prove that you, or your spouse, were incapable of a valid marriage promise.”
Bai Macfarlane also points out that the CLSA works closely with the North American Conference of Separated and Divorced Catholics, which teaches one can dissent and remain a faithful Catholic; premarital sex, abortion, birth control and practicing homosexuality are fine.
“Unless parents do their own research, they aren’t likely to know CLSA contradicts official church teaching,” she says.
As a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame, Macfarlane conducted a survey of the theology department, which was described in a 1984 Fidelity Magazine article, "Is Notre Dame Still Catholic?" She was one of the founding members of Notre Dame's Knights of Immaculata Club and graduated in 1985 with a degree in mechanical engineering.
She married Dec. 8, 1990 and shortly thereafter began a Catholic lay apostolate with her husband; they have four sons from age 3 to 12.
More information about the subject and her current ministry is available at: http://www.marysadvocates.org/clsawho.html