Friday, November 5, 2010

A Grammer lesson

Earlier this week (or maybe last--this week has been a blur!) I happened to notice, when I was reading news articles, several headlines like this one off to the side of the page, grouped under the "Entertainment News" section.

I don't make it a habit to read "Entertainment News." The cult of celebrity isn't something I admire about our nation. But when I saw the headlines about Kelsey Grammer and his wife divorcing (and Grammer's younger current girlfriend), I had two thoughts in quick succession. The first was that any woman who becomes a man's third wife (unless he has had the deep misfortune to be a widower twice over) ought to know that her divorce from that man isn't a matter of "if" but of "when." The second thought was simply that my level of respect for a man who dumps his wife (and walks out on his children) for a younger woman is zero.

Lest my gentlemen readers immediately cry foul, I will hasten to add that I have a similar feeling about women who dump their husbands for--not necessarily younger models (since society tends to laugh at older women who get into the business of acquiring boy-toys) but certainly richer or more successful ones.

Divorce is a complicated business to discuss. The truth is, I don't have a lot of respect for many people who have engaged in it--but this must be said with a few caveats. A man or woman who must legally separate from a spouse who is physically or significantly mentally abusive is merely protecting himself or herself (and, possibly, the children). A man or woman who must legally separate from a spouse who is committing serial adultery with no repentance and no believable promise of reform is also protecting himself or herself, from the potentially deadly venereal diseases the spouse is bringing home to them. There are, perhaps, a handful of other reasons why a person might have to separate from a husband or wife (e.g., alcoholism/drug abuse for which the spouse refuses to seek help, involvement in some serious crimes which place the innocent party at risk, total spousal abandonment, etc.). To take the necessary steps to protect oneself in these types of situations is not an attack on marriage, but the protection of one's own life and the lives of one's children.

And while the Catholic Church does not recognize divorce at all, it should go without saying that I don't think it a bad thing for a man and a woman whose marriage has been declared invalid by the Church to separate--in fact, since they are not married, there would likely be sin and scandal should they remain together. Those who seek annulments should not be thinking of it in any way as "Catholic divorce," since it is no such thing; but if the Church declares that you weren't properly married in the first place, then you ought not remain together.

Having gotten most of the obligatory exceptions to the rule out of the way, I'll return to my premise: I don't have a lot of respect for divorce. I have plenty of respect for the innocent party in a divorce action, the person who thought that his wife or her husband would at least agree to counseling, the person whose life is unraveling around him or her, the person who finds himself or herself fighting for things he or she once took for granted, like access to the children. But for the person who initiates a divorce action, exceptions above excluded, I simply can't find a great deal of respect or sympathy.

When you research the common causes of divorce, you find that the big reasons, the ones that involve abuse and infidelity and so forth, don't usually end up on top of the lists. The sort of things that do end up there are things like poor communication, incompatibility of various types, personality differences, and different expectations about things like chores and children. For these sorts of reasons, reasons that some decent counseling and a desire to preserve the marriage can often overcome, people are willing to destroy their own families.

Because divorce is destructive of families, harmful to children, and detrimental to society. There are plenty of statistics available that will illustrate all of these points. We've gotten in the habit, as a nation, of disregarding those statistics, though, in favor of the idea that the happiness and sexual fulfillment of adults are the key ingredients of a happy and stable society, that so long as these things take precedence over every other concern, all will be well. We've tricked ourselves into thinking that divorce is no big deal, that it's just the natural result of trying to make a lifelong committment out of what ought to be a few years' diversion; we've consoled ourselves with the idea that kids are resilient, and that so long as they have some good role models somewhere it doesn't really matter if they're on their third set of step-parents (and, hey, that means more Christmas gifts, too, so it's all good, right?).

Far too often, though, divorce is nothing but adult selfishness at the expense of the innocent children who suffer the most from having Mommy and Daddy live at different homes, or in different zip codes, or even in different time zones. When the safety of the innocent is at stake in the marriage in the first place, as I said above, there may exist so compelling a reason to take the step to separate legally that the innocent party must consider it; but to decide to tear one's family into shreds so that one can shack up with a younger or richer or hotter person instead is the kind of behavior that just screams "pathetic loser" to me.


Anonymous said...

your final statement is exactly the opposite of the presumed reality. especially among the catholic clergy.

end of my discussion

Erin Manning said...

Anonymous, I wish you'd clarify what you mean.

L. said...

People who act irresponsibly...yeah, I would not argue that they are irresponsible people.

But I imagine there were people who thought I was a "pathetic loser," too, because I lived apart from my partner when he went back to Tokyo for his job, and I decided to stay in San Francisco with the kids.

"Mommy and Daddy" were living in different time zones because apparently, "Mommy" was too selfish to quit her job to follow Daddy back to his country again, and selfishly wanted her kids to speak English, not Japanese.

Actually, I don't "imagine" that people thought I was a pathetic loser, I KNOW it -- because some of them said it to my face.

Sometimes what looks selfish on the surface might actually be something else, entirely.

Erin Manning said...

L., do you really not comprehend the difference between "Mommy and Daddy are living apart for the moment because of necessities of life such as work or military service or the need to care for an elderly relative etc." and "Mommy and Daddy are living apart from each other because Daddy decided he'd like to play around with some young hot-bodied chick who doesn't want to be bothered with kids and thinks it's a total drag that her new rich stud has any in the first place..."? I'm talking about divorce, not temporary geographic distance between couples who are still fully married to each other.

L. said...

No, in our case it was, Mommy decided to live apart from Daddy because there were more important things than being with Daddy. While we ended up staying together, I was not 100% sure this would be the case.

So nope, I see no difference, except that it didn't innvolve sex. There was certainly no difference in how people perceived it from the outside, when they told me I was acting selfishly, for my own happiness, and tearing my family into shreds (temporarily, at least, with the risk of making the shreds permanent).

People said they were "only thinking of my kids" when they told me what a huge mistake I was making.

The experience made me much less judgemental -- even to those people who DO leave their spouses for another. It may look obvious, but I don't really know what's going on with any couple, on the inside.

scotch meg said...

L, You know, there was another side to your story - which might be portrayed as "Daddy was too selfish to find a job that would keep the family in the US, which was where everyone needed to be." Family life is not all about Daddy's job, which can be every bit as out of sync with that family as having a mistress. You are right that it's hard to judge what is going on inside a family.

Men get more sympathy for the demands of their job than the demands of a mistress, but that doesn't make the situation any better.

The point being that the commitment has to be to the family first and to working things out between husband and wife, even if that takes time, even when "there is no time".

I guess my question would be whether you were willing to accept financial sacrifices if that's what it meant to keep your family together in the US while your husband looked for another job. Or to accept the lower totem pole position that can come from giving up a work opportunity.

I saw an uncle, who worked for IBM, move his family every two to three years like a military family, and then give up promotions to stay put while his kids were in high school. More recently, I saw a friend's husband resign his commission in the Army to stay put, both so he could finish a degree (a personal goal) and so his family could stay put through high school (a family goal).

It is a two-way street. Even when men walk out on their wives and into a "relationship", there are people
who are sympathetic to the husband. They think the wife was a witch (it's her fault) or the kids are mean not to want to see their father (the kids should sympathize with "true love").

And I'm not suggesting it's always the dad... I have seen mothers abandon their family commitments, too.

L. said...

"I guess my question would be whether you were willing to accept financial sacrifices if that's what it meant to keep your family together in the US while your husband looked for another job. Or to accept the lower totem pole position that can come from giving up a work opportunity."

--> Husband is a career government worker: employed by a foreign government, not a U.S. citizen, and unwilling to leave his lifetime career-track job.

I have a job. I could have supported us. In fact, I did support myself and three kids, for over a year. If the marriage hadn't survived the test, the kids and I would have been financially all right -- though certainly emotionally compromised.

I took a chance. It ended well, but I took a chance, to do what I thought was better for the kids in the long run.

Anonymous said...

I was abandoned by my wife. I have always been considered "deserving" of my wifes adultery, from the beginning by those wearing ROMAN COLLARS.

For 20 plus years this adultery is "peachy" with the
Catholic Church. Denial of my wifes fake nullity case made/makes no difference to these corrupted men in cassocks.

Their promarriage line is B.S.. Benedict knows the score but will do nothing, when in fact, hundreds of priests, bishops and canon lawyers in the U.S. should be fired, outright. He has no one to replace them with and they have deep support among the
fully corrupted laity.

This is the anonymous.

Anonymous said...

The perverse corruption involving divorce and nullity crosses all divides politically and morally/ethically, conservative, liberal, democrat and republican.

It is THE "protected sin" in the Catholic Church. Its
ubiquity and damage is far worse that what has resulted from the child abuse debacles.

Outside of Bai Macfarlane, this is a dead issue.

That loser new Cardinal, Burke, should, long ago have called Benedict onto the carpet for his inaction in this regard. Both should resign!

There red, you have my comments.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Red-- I think you anonymous is the same guy who shows up at other blogs (Patrick Madrid, WDTPRS, Creative Minority Report) any time there is a discussion at divorce to complain about how priests helped his wife do him wrong.

He's obviously in a lot of pain--I think he needs prayers more than anything!

scotch meg said...

L., your response demonstrates exactly what I was talking about. You stuck to your guns because you had a clear sense of what was best for your children. It worked out, and I am glad that it did. But the problem was inflexibility - which is a two-way street. I don't see it as just "your" problem at all. Thanks for sharing.

L. said...

Yes, I did indeed, and that's my point. People still called me "selfish" and a "loser" to my face. Sometimes what looks like irresponsibility really IS what it looks like -- but not always. I am more willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, even in cases that seem clear-cut.

The sad anonymous comments above also illustrate this point. There are two sides to every story. I somehow doubt a priest would give his blessing to an adulterous woman cheating on her husband -- perhaps the woman lied to the priest about something like marital abuse, and the husband lost both his marriage and his reputation.

I'm not disagreeing with Eric's post, per se, just saying that things aren't always what they appear to be. The post hit a personal nerve, and prompted me to say something, because two years ago, I faced harsh criticism from certain members of our Catholic community, for my personal decisions that weren't any of their business.

Deirdre Mundy said...

One quick thought-- perhaps (and this is where modern society really falls down on marriage prep, I think) doing what's best for the children needs to begin BEFORE there are any children--before you choose to get married!

I've seen so many couples divorce because they didn't make sure they agreed on things like kids and jobs and religion and whatnot BEFORE they got married. I think many young people get so caught up in courtship and romance that they just ASSUME everything will work out 'because they're in love.'

Marriage prep needs to start LONG before a couple is engaged.... Probably in high school.

Anonymous said...

All that matters is living your word. If your word through your promises, especially those made in public on an altar, means nothing and others who call themselves followers of Christ, especially clergy, are readily helping you to violate those public promises while knowing the reality behind that public violation, the situation is already at critical mass and needs attention.

Society is paying the price for lack of addressing these situations, in countless numbers.

Of course, in every instance, the circumstances contributing to the separation of spouses are unquestionably relevent. But in the face of a desire of a spouse to reconcile, especially when there are minor children involved and the God parents of those children have expressed their desire to the clergy that what is going on is simply
abandonment of a marriage, the Church, canonically, should intervene rather than, what is overwhelmingly done, which is to encourage divorce in order to facilitate the annulment process.

Then, what do you have many years later when the testimony of those Godparents, is finally considered in Rome, the situation is finally understood by six men halfway around the world, and these men, apart from the personal charisma of both the petitioner(abandoning spouse) and the respondent(the abandoned spouse) and their only, rational, Catholic, conclusion is that nullity has not been proven?

What do you have, when the story of the abandoned spouse is confirmed in the very texts of the Roman decisions, which show two, less than perfect spouses, but nevertheless validly married spouse, one of whom remains faithful wgile the other long ago remarried, civilly, and is fully welcomed in the Catholic Church?

There are many people in this circumstance.

Charlotte said...

Yes, Erin, that anonymous is an infamous "Rome didn't give a rat's a*s about my divorce" troll. He's everywhere. Know that if you engage him, he won't give up.

Amongst other trolls......

L. said...

We are everywhere, Charlotte. ;)

Erin Manning said...

Thanks for the troll alerts!

I will bear them in mind--though perhaps a discussion of the Church's view of annulments might be in order sometime.

Anonymous said...

Hard to tell the trolls from the self-righteous here.

I expected better, here.

A Passer-Bye

eulogos said...

The Anonymous here has been playing this same tune on Catholic blogs for as many years as there have been blogs. I think he is Karl T Perkins, or sometimes Peter Karl T Perkins.

His posts over the years show real psychological rigidity. My guess is that he was found to be psychologically unable to enter into marriage with any real "give and take" between the needs and desires of the two people involved, which was judged to make him incapable of consent to what marriage really involves and requires. His wife was given an annulment and remarried on the strength of it. He then appealed to Rome and after a length of time the annulment was reversed. Some priests who already knew the new couple as a married couple felt that the second marriage was the real one and continued to allow them to participate in the parish as a married couple. Mr. Perkins protested and his behavior only confirmed them in their opinion.

This involves two different ideas of what constitutes consent in marriage, of what is required in an individual to make such a consent. That would be an interesting discussion.

But Mr. Perkins should not be invited to it.

He also showed up recently on an Anglo-Catholic blog making disparaging comments about Catholicism in an attempt to discredit or discourage people from entering the ordinariate. The blog moderator there immediately cut him off. I think the same should happen here. He does need our prayers, however.

Susan Peterson

theresa said...

If the Roman Rota reverses declaration of nullity, "priests" have no business deciding against the validity of the marriage and for the validity of a subsequent attempt at marriage by one of the spouses. Though I usually lurk here and am without a blog of my own, I hope I'm not dismissed as a troll for coming out of lurkerdom to object to such a statement.

John Thayer Jensen said...

'reversing' a declaration of nullity would mean, I think, when the declaration had been appealed and the higher court overturned the decision of the lower. If that is what happened, persons have no business getting married if an appeal is under way. Presumably there is some canonical time during which an appeal can be made.

Erin Manning said...

Everybody, I think there are some general things we can say about decrees of nullity, the appeals process, etc. The problem is that the anonymous poster in question appears to be presenting his side of a case about which nobody here knows the full details--and apparently he has a history of doing this on other blogs as well.

At the very least, this is not a healthy pursuit for the poster; at worst, he could be seriously and gravely misrepresenting a situation. Certainly his object seems to be to cast aspersions on the clergy and others who have ruled against him for whatever reason.

Since this post in know way was an invitation for someone to disparage the Church in this way, I'm going to close comments on this one--with one general remark: if a person has truly been dealt an injustice by the annulment process, he must seek recourse through the proper channels, not complain about it anonymously on blogs where by the nature of the conversation only one side, and that incomplete by its nature, can be presented.