Let ‘divorced Catholics who remarry’ return to the sacraments

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By Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, Ph.D.

“Divorced Catholics who remarry, as well as their children, deserve better treatment from the church.”

This was heard from Pope Francis himself as he warned pastors against treating those couples as though they were excommunicated.

It all goes back to certain practices: Catholic teaching considers divorced Catholics who remarry as living in sin, and we are not allowed to receive Communion, thus leaving numbers of these ranks feeling isolated and shunned by their own church.

The aforementioned is not limited to America; it has become more illustrated in the homeland where divorce is not acceptable legally.

Since this writer learned how divorce broke up families, and yes, even clans, it has been a ‘no-no’ to entertain families of divorced Catholics because certain admonitions had to be observed. They were treated as no longer members of the flock.

They were forced to maintain non-reception of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist because of their civil status.

In college, I had a very close friend who was one of the four children of divorced parents. She was not accepted as a member of our religious group. How I missed her when we had to gather together in league with others. I learned later how she finished her medical studies with honors, left for America where she was able to maintain her independence, how she settled as a ranking physician, marrying another colleague and how they pursued their lives away from divorce.

Over time, in the homeland, divorce became an ugly word. It was not mentioned at all in polite society. In fact, descendants and members of divorced families were treated differently. They could not be seen in one another’s company because Catholicism was the most dominant among religious creeds.

But matters changed when America opened its doors to all kinds of ethnicities. Those who were able to successfully divorce and lived independently bereft of prejudice continued to live a life based on what they believed in as they proceeded to maintain themselves in North America. Their heirs no longer feel deprived of receiving the sacraments just like their Catholic counterparts.

Pope Francis has strongly stated: “People who started a new union after the defeat of their sacramental marriage are not at all excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way.

“The church knows well that such a situation contradicts the Christian sacrament. Still, the church must always seek the well-being and salvation of persons.”

Other than being widowed, the sole way for Catholics who marry in the church to remarry is receiving an annulment. This has been practiced in the Philippines through the years.

People who’ve gone through the annulment process know how long and complicated it is. “That long, complicated process essentially involves examining whether the marriage never existed in the first place. Grounds for annulment include refusal by a spouse to have children.”

In his papacy since 2013, Pope Francis has often strongly said that ‘situations should be seen through the eyes of others.’

“If we look at these new ties with the eyes of young children – we see ever more the urgency to develop in our community true welcome toward people living in these situations.”

Indeed, there is hope through Pope Francis when bias will no longer be felt by those who have gone for divorce through returning to the sacraments.

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