Vatican Council Takes More Empathetic View on Divorce

Global leaders and influential advisors are beginning to take a more empathetic view of divorce.  During recent Vatican meetings, the Pope and bishops debated on the topic of divorce, and remarriage after divorce. Reports of the outcome of these difficult conversations shocked many, but is a relief for Catholics going through the divorce process.m

 A Changing World   

The Church is experiencing the effects of a changing culture surrounding divorce.  According to Pope Benedict, Catholic families need to avoid “a near-exclusive focus on imperfect family situations.” This statement is a call for a more open-minded view of what family life looks like today, specifically with divorce as a factor. A wider understanding and acceptance of divorce being a personal and situational choice for a family can only help those beginning the divorce process, especially in religious communities.

Catholic Marriage is a Sacrament

Sacraments in the church are sacred events that are viewed as outward symbols of God’s Grace and Love. Marriage is taught to be a sacrament that is only performed once in a person’s life, therefore making divorce a violation of a sacred act. Historic Catholic doctrine states, “A marriage can be dissolved by no human power and by no cause, except death. (Canon 1141.)” This unforgiving stance has left many people unsure of where to go when seeking a divorce.  Bishops leaving this Vatican conference have stated “it (previous church doctrine on divorce) doesn’t reflect their views and (they are) pledging to make changes to the final version.”

Annulment is Still Necessary

Reports say that there is no change in the church’s stance on annulment, or the process by which the church invalidates the marriage and forgives the couple of their sins. Marriage is sacred, and the ending of it is a serious matter in the church’s eyes. Annulment is still seen as necessary in order to receive communion or to re-marry. Annulment occurs after the divorce process is completed. The couple must work with the church in order to continue living with full access to church services.


The new, more open and forgiving stance the church is calling for allows for a more inclusive and forgiving church community. This can be a source of comfort for families going through the process of divorce and beginning to date again after the divorce and annulment process is completed.

Winfeild, N. (2014, October 14). Catholic bishops step back from paper on gays, divorce. The Detroit Free Press. Retrieved March 29, 2015

Catholic Church. (1997). Catechism of the Catholic Church: Revised in accordance with the official Latin text  promulgated by Pope John Paul II (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference.