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Pain all round

posted by awelborn

Greg Popcak helpfully comments on the situation of a couple who seemed to be doing everything right possibly getting divorced.

In my capacity as a Catholic marriage counselor who has done over 10,000 hours of exclusively Catholic counseling since 1999 with a very seriously Catholic population, I can tell you that outward signs of piety speak little to what is in a person’s heart. You would be shocked to know the kinds of things daily communicants, fifteen-decade a day, Eucharistically devoted people are capable of. Just trust me on that one. People–even pious people–are broken people. Sin affects us all. Public piety, and outward compliance with the rituals, guidelines, and requirements of the faith can be an expression of a rightly ordered heart (indeed, a rightly ordered heart must give God his due through such expressions), but we have only to look to scripture and see Jesus’ condemnation of the Phasisees to recognize that there can often be a very dramatic difference between how one looks and how one’s heart is ordered…

and, this, which is very important:

4. Stop putting your faith in people. Even pious people are just people. They will never fail to disappoint you. Only God deserves your admiration and devotion. Only Jesus is your hero. Accept no substitutes.

And I post this, not because I want anyone to take an undue interest in someone’s personal life, but because it seems to fit the discussion brewing here over the past week.



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Marybonita Kirk

posted March 27, 2004 at 9:58 am


I am what you would call a RadTrad (I guess) and have thought a lot about this subject because I have constant contact with both types of people. There are within the traditional community uncharitable people who carry rosaries and say them. I know Charismatics who praise God and try to live a faith-filled life but who in their worship do absolutely cracked antics (jabber in “tongues” for example and show you their gold-hued rosaries from Medjugorje).
It is a puzzle sometimes. I believe that it is part of Satan’s shell-game. God is chastising us for playing with dangerous ideas for the last hundred years. While looking for fire from the sky we neglected to recognize a true chastisement: darkening of the intellect.
In the present storm the only sure beacon must be what the Church has practised for centuries even while full of sinners. That is why I and my family now adhere to the ancient Catholic practices and shun the “novelties”. Tradition is still there – a miracle in itself since there seems to have been a gargantuan effort to modify and even erase those practices.
If I may add one more thing, through Tradition my faith has been restored and I thank God for that. My prayers were answered through prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I believe the Church will be restored through her intercession.
Our Lady of Fatima – pray for us!



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Chris-2-4

posted March 27, 2004 at 10:19 am


A revised draft of the comment I tried to post on Friday. (Hopefully, it is better after reflection…)
I agree with Greg P. to a certain extent because I think we all realize that a person’s outward signs can be deceiving. In fact, I agree with the majority of what Greg says in his full posting at his site and especially the overall tone he used. But I do take slight exception with one of his premises and here’s why. We profess that the good works a man does (which includes acts of piety) are, in actuality, Christ working THROUGH us. And in order to allow Christ to work through us, we must open up our hearts to allow this. Piety is a GIFT of the Holy Spirit, it does not come from our own efforts. I don’t think that people on their own are cabable of such acts. A Holy Spirit filled person may practice piety, and perhaps a man so depraved that he has been almost completely corrupted can “fake” piety. But I don’t think that it is likely that lazy spiritual people can show such outward signs of piety. So, I feel it is wrong to say that “outward signs of piety speak little to what is in a person’s heart.” What we could say is that outward signs of piety do not indicate a perfect state of grace, but that is too obvious to bother saying because we are all subject to sin. But being tempted and succombing to sin does not say anything about one’s heart but about one’s ability to persevere.
Furthermore, we extol the virtues of the Saints and Martyrs because of their witness by outward signs of piety and charity. These witnesses are important to us as “role models” in helping others to see what to strive for. This does not mean we are putting our Faith in them which Greg rightly points out we should not do.
Bud’s work has had a profound impact on my own spirituality and I take this news sadly, but I do not think that we should begin to question the man’s heart because the overwhelming majority of his work indicates that his heart is in the right place. He is obviously struggling spiritually and I feel we should pray for him that his head will be moved by his heart, not that his heart will be turned.
But that’s just my not-humble-enough opinion…



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Ellyn

posted March 27, 2004 at 11:34 am


Beautifully articulated.
Haven’t read all of what Popcak has to say, so I don’t know if he has anything to say about the emphasis our society puts on personal happiness. I see a lot of media (even Christian/Catholic media) aimed at couples interested in developing a ‘happy’ marriage. Are we being encouraged to settle for nothing less than a ‘happy’ marriage? (And I’m not talking about forcing people to stay in sick, abusive situations, but about leading people to think that if they aren’t ‘happy’ they are being abused.) Don’t even get me started on the pop literature that prattles on about soulmates.
How much is addressed to couples who don’t have ‘happy’ marriages? What about people who realize after X number of years that they didn’t marry their soulmate? And now they know that they have no real reason to vacate the vows they made on their wedding day…..and why can’t they be ‘happy.’
Are we idolizing ‘happiness?” Do we worship well-known, ‘happy’ Catholic couples? (And, yes, now we’re seeing the fall-out from putting celebrity ‘happy’ Catholic couples in a special niche of admiration.) Is it time to start asking God to help us be happy even if we aren’t ‘happy?’



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Matt W.

posted March 27, 2004 at 11:53 am


Chris,
Perhaps one way to put it would be to borrow the qualifying tag line from mutual fund ads, “past performance is not a guarantee of future earnings.” I agree with you that people’s outward signs do speak to what is in their hearts, but Paul said that we must endure to the end. No matter how pious we are, we are all still capable of turning away in ways large and small.
I do not say this to condemn the parties involved, as I know nothing of the situation, but I take it as a warning that we all must be vigilant. We must remember that our own “Fiat” is a continuous thing.



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caroline

posted March 27, 2004 at 3:55 pm


I don’t know anything about these folk, never heard of them before. I once dated a very pious man. His piety attracted me at first, seemed like good Catholic husband material, but in the end it turned me off. It was not hypocritcal piety, and that this man would always put God before me was fine and the way it should be, but there was something very controling about his piety. As I say, I do not know these people nor do I have any idea of what their problem is. All I know is what my problem might have been.



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Peg

posted March 27, 2004 at 6:58 pm


Without going into detail, I want to say from personal experience that all things are possible with God when it comes to marital problems and I will add my prayers to everyone else’s here for these two good people and their family.



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David Kubiak

posted March 27, 2004 at 7:57 pm


There seems to be the assumption here that someone who is seriously religious and blessed by God will never have their marriage fail, therefore the husband in this case was a pious fraud. Is this good theological reasoning? I can easily imagine someone becoming unable to stand the company of a spouse any longer without involving him or herself in sin — the Church has always recognized the concept of ‘separation from bed and board’. Mr. Popcak’s comments seem both arrogant and pompous to me, unless he knows specific facts of the case the press does not.
And what a terrible thing to say: “Stop putting your faith in people.” Unless you spell Faith with a capital f this dictum undermines the basis of all civilized human relations.



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Kevin Miller

posted March 27, 2004 at 8:36 pm


Uh … that’s not what Greg said (that Bud must be a fraud).
And you do have to be prepared for people to disappoint you. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be human relationships – it’s just to say that we are not God.



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David Kubiak

posted March 27, 2004 at 11:32 pm


Point taken. I should have said “either the husband or the wife or both are pious frauds.”
The theological question remains. Can it be
assumed that a right relationship with God insures that you will be able to live with your spouse til death do you part? Or better put, if you find that you can no longer tolerate your spouse does this fact mean that your relationship with God is deficient?



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Nance

posted March 28, 2004 at 8:52 am


Or better put, if you find that you can no longer tolerate your spouse does this fact mean that your relationship with God is deficient?
I’d suggest the exploding annulment numbers say no. You know, I don’t practice Catholicism anymore and look in on this blog mainly for the snappy writing and interesting selection of topics, but every so often a story like this pops up that just fascinates me. The reactions of so many — not so much here, but certainly in the linkage — hints at the presence of a vast bloc of adults who seemingly think like children. If one has reached middle age without learning this lesson, let me lay it out here: No one is qualified to judge a marriage other than the people in it. That flawed, complicated, ever-changing adults might sometimes find a marriage just isn’t working anymore — yes, even for reasons as ephemeral as “personal happiness” — should neither surprise or alarm us. Certainly, the welfare of children should receive the highest priority. Certainly, divorce, like marriage, should not be entered into lightly. But I don’t think a “sick, abusive” situation is the only justification for divorce, and neither does your own church, to judge from the annulments I’ve seen granted in my own social circle.
What I do think: There’s nothing more pathetic than a partner who cannot face reality, and Mrs. Macfarlane’s public statements on her situation are horrifying. Going to the media? Setting up a website? What does she want? To save her marriage or humiliate her soon-to-be-ex husband? This is wreck-on-the-freeway ugly.
I know lots of you folks only want to read meditations on marriage through the filters of God and Church, but I read this column — by a divorced San Francisco agnostic, no less — a few years ago, and it’s never really left my mind. It seems to capture the essential mystery of human relationships as well as anything I’ve read in a religious text. Ladies and gentlemen, The cactus has yellow flowers. Take or leave.



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Kevin Miller

posted March 28, 2004 at 10:14 am


Greg also didn’t say that one of the two must be a fraud. He just made the general point that external observance doesn’t GUARANTEE true piety, and that when externally observant people divorce, that doesn’t NECESSARILY mean piety doesn’t work.
It is possible that one will have a right relationship with God but that one’s spouse won’t and will do things that are genuinely intolerable. (In Love & Responsibility, Wojtyla has some pretty harsh things to say about the effects of infidelity. And then, of course, there are people who endanger spouses/children through abuse.)
On the other hand, in many cases, someone with a right relationship with God will by definition be able to handle a situation that someone else might not be able to handle, I think. Remember: love, including marital love, is fundamentally an act of the will, not a (mere) emotion.



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Amanda

posted March 28, 2004 at 12:17 pm


Amy has warned us to be nice, and although it’s hard, I am trying. Really.
A smarter Catholic on another blog noted Gregory the Great’s “It is better that scandal arise than that the truth be hidden,” in regards to this situation. I really don’t think that this is about a chance (during Lent of all times) to gossip or further a scandal. I think that most of St. Blogs is a little kinder than to let this happen.
Mrs. MacFarlane is trying to bring light to this regrettable situation while revealing the injustices that occur in “no fault” divorces. She is ready to reconcile. She is ready to keep her family intact. Unfortunately, Mr. MacFarlane is unable to make the same claims.
Are we afraid of a scandal or are we afraid to know the truth about the situation? Would we say the same of pedophile priests? Of course not. The truth is important. It’s important to stand with and support the innocent.
The world certainly won’t stand with her.
If you haven’t already, please pray for the MacFarlanes and for their children.



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Liz

posted March 28, 2004 at 2:09 pm


Their work has touched my life. Please just PRAY, PRAY, PRAY, for them.



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Kevin Miller

posted March 28, 2004 at 3:16 pm


That’s the most important thing, I think. And I’ll note that one can do that without having to know all the details of the situation.



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Nance

posted March 28, 2004 at 3:50 pm


Are we afraid of a scandal or are we afraid to know the truth about the situation?
And what do you suppose the truth of the situation would reveal? This is my point: Where marriage is concerned, there’s very little objective “truth” to be known. Mrs. Macfarlane’s position, to judge from her website, is that she doesn’t want a divorce. Her husband does. What do we do in this situation? Force Mr. Macfarlane to stay married? Every lawyer I know who’s practiced both no-fault and fault-finding divorce favors no-fault by a landslide. Of course no-fault divorce makes it “easier,” but you can see the alternative — one adult forced to sue another for things like “cruelty” where none exists, only the sad truth that one party doesn’t want to be married anymore. It’s a free country. And as Donald Rumsfeld points out, freedom is messy.



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Rich

posted March 28, 2004 at 4:54 pm


So Nance,
If there is no “objective” truth in marriage,
what kind of truth is there? In the end the only
other option would be a relativistic “what is true
for your marriage may not be true for mine”. While
the secular culture has accepted that, the Catholic
Faith does not. Mrs. MacFarlane is protecting her
marriage as she thinks is best. She deserves our
prayers, not a lecture. And yes telling Mr. MacFarlane he remains married (which in the end might be up to a marriage tribunal instead of the courts) is harder, but as Catholics we look to what is best for our relationship with God, not what seems convenient for our lives.



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Fructus Ventris

posted March 28, 2004 at 5:00 pm


a reflection on marriage

The cactus has yellow flowers Found via the comments section of Amy Welborn’s blog….



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Amanda

posted March 28, 2004 at 5:57 pm


Nance, how can you blame a woman for fighting to save her marriage?
Divorce and remarriage are so commonplace that we really are no longer incensed by this insult to a beautiful sacrament. As Christians, we should be mourning its decline, not accepting it as business as usual.



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Nance

posted March 28, 2004 at 6:13 pm


Nance, how can you blame a woman for fighting to save her marriage?
It’s been my experience that by the time a woman reaches the newspaper-interview-and-website stage of her battle, the fight has ceased to be about the marriage and is instead about humiliating and punishing her husband. But that’s just me.



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Nance

posted March 28, 2004 at 6:14 pm


Nance, how can you blame a woman for fighting to save her marriage?
It’s been my experience that by the time a woman reaches the newspaper-interview-and-website stage of her battle, the fight has ceased to be about the marriage and is instead about humiliating and punishing her husband. But that’s just me. And if anyone’s willing to lay money that one or both of the Macrfarlanes won’t be granted an annulment after a decent interval, I’ll take that bet, too.



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Amanda

posted March 28, 2004 at 6:23 pm


I believe that Bai is making one last effort to do what it takes to raise awareness and hopefully prayers.
As for an annulment, that’s a bet I won’t take. Apparently Bud is already planning on seeking an annulment.



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Rod Dreher

posted March 28, 2004 at 9:06 pm


I don’t know anything about the Macfarlanes, but boy, Nance seems to be right-on about the hopelessness of a marriage that has to be saved by one party going to the newspapers, etc.
I liked this from Greg: 5. Stop confusing piety with a rightly ordered heart. The former flows from the latter, but the former does not necessarily prove the latter.
Emphasis on “does not necessarily prove.” The scandal should have taught all of us for good that appearances can be deceiving. And that goes for both the left and the right within the Church.



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TSO

posted March 28, 2004 at 9:35 pm


Piety may not prove a rightly-ordered heart, but one hopes that prayer and sacraments influence the heart even if cause and effect can’t be measured. (The tendency in our faithless age is that if we can’t measure it, it doesn’t count.) And cop out or not, Graham Greene was asked why he was such a bad Catholic and he said (paraphrasing here) that the questionner couldn’t imagine how worse he’d be if he weren’t Catholic.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted March 28, 2004 at 9:49 pm


The reaction of the Apostles to Christ’s teaching against divorce is still the reaction, in their hearts, of many Catholics today. All the more reason to adhere to it all the more strictly. Little credit will be given by God I think for following only the easy sayings of Jesus. As for the annullment mills in ceaseless activity in our country, they mock the words of our Savior on this subject. The World is becoming a much colder place and divorce, as always, is helping to diminish the amount of love in it.



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Frank Gibbons

posted March 28, 2004 at 10:29 pm


Perhaps Bud McFarlane has overdosed on religion. Orthodox Catholics have to lighten up a bit and put the religious stuff aside once in awhile (and that may mean taking a break from blogging as well). We all need to relax and realize that orthodoxy is only worthwhile when it proceeds from knowing the love of Christ.



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john hearn

posted March 28, 2004 at 11:10 pm


A broken mirror,
Shattered shards on rocks and sand
Reflecting the sky.



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Too Personal

posted March 29, 2004 at 9:45 am


Unless one has been through it, it is impossible to conceive of the baggage that may be brought into a marriage by persons who to all outward appearances are good, sound, mature devout orthodox Catholics. And the foibles and faults of the one partner may play off of the psychological weaknesses of the other. Nor are the procedures of the Church any better than the divorce courts in seeking resolution. In my case I was told privately that the refusal of an annulment was ‘pastoral'; the tribunal was afraid that my partner might commit suicide.



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Jonathan

posted March 31, 2004 at 10:45 am


[It's been my experience that by the time a woman reaches the newspaper-interview-and-website stage of her battle, the fight has ceased to be about the marriage and is instead about humiliating and punishing her husband. But that's just me.]
So Nance, how much ‘experience’ have you actually had of pious Catholic women going public with their marital problems to humiliate their practicing Catholic web-site running husbands who are divorcing them? Personally this is the first such case I have ever come across, but hey, that’s just me.
[What do we do in this situation? Force Mr. Macfarlane to stay married?]
No, Nance, we PRAY and ‘heap coals of fire upon his head’. (Proverbs 25:21). We write to Bud and so him the gross hypocrisy of his position on the one hand making money from espousing the sanctity of marriage and on the other hand divorcing his wife and abandoning his 4 children.
And as Donald Rumsfeld points out, freedom is messy.
Rummy is absolutely right, and both divorce lawyers and Haliburton make a boat-load of money clearing up the mess “freedom” causes. Neither can be said to be very objective in their analysis of whether “freedom” or easy-divorce are desirable in society.
I assume you aren’t named after Nancy in Oliver Twist.
As long as he needs me
Oh, yes, he does need me
In spite of what you see
I’m sure that he needs me
Who else would love him still
When they’ve been used so ill?
He knows I always will
As long as he needs me



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poker 133

posted December 9, 2005 at 8:37 pm


poker 133

poker 133



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quick divorce

posted November 12, 2007 at 11:11 am


Let him do whatever he wants



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