This is the conclusion to last week's column on faithfulness in marriage. The Church teaches:
Toward Christians who live in this situation, and who often keep the faith and desire to bring up their children in a Christian manner, priests and the whole community must manifest an attentive solicitude, so that they do not consider themselves separated from the Church, in whose life they can and must participate as baptized persons:
They should be encouraged to listen to the Word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts for justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God's grace. (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1651)
There are many who could not avoid divorce even though they would have preferred it otherwise. The Church looks upon them as still married but living apart while civil law considers the bond of matrimony dissolved. If the divorced person does not attempt another marriage (which would be considered invalid), he or she is in full communion with the Church. If the divorced Catholic has remarried, this union is not recognized by the Church. They are seen as living together as a couple outside marriage, contrary to the sixth Commandment. Yet, they are not separated from the Church. Never should they be judged by any one of us. Rather, they should be treated as we would treat others—the way that Jesus would treat them here and now—with love and respect. We hope that their situation can be straightened out. But, nevertheless, if it cannot be, we remain their friends.
A Church annulment is another matter. It is not a Catholic divorce. It is a finding and a declaration that there was something lacking in the Church marriage that made it invalid. Even though everything looked all right, there were facts, hidden to most people, that prevented a true marriage to occur. There might have been a lack of freedom or some other invalidating element. If this is determined by a Church marriage tribunal, even years later, the annulment can be declared.
It should be noted well that the children of a marriage which is annulled are not in any way considered illegitimate. They remain the same as any other children. Moreover, no stigma should be applied to any child of any union whatsoever. They are children of God and loved by Him and should be loved by us.
Next the Church teaching on marriage continues with The Domestic Church. Now, I want to wish you a good Labor Day tomorrow. Labor is a way that we do God's will in society by helping each other through our work contribution. We remember the example of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. They all worked—and probably very hard too. May each of us do our jobs well, whether at home or in the workplace. May we always know God's blessing upon our good labors.