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When she had finished, he finally speaks: “Then why did you have all those kids? The trauma of divorce has affected the lives of at least 8 million Catholics, and the number continues to increase.
As her husband sank more deeply into alcoholism and began laying up the week’s pay against the horse-flesh at Portland Acres, Ruth held on through five kids: “I knew divorce and birth control were deadly sins before I was old enough to know what they were.” Thirty years later, the kids gone, worn out, she locked the door and filed the papers. And the young priest with the open face and stole made from natural fibers takes it all in. ” Too tired to slug him, Ruth walked away for good.I travel all over the place, and I’ve found this is the single largest reason people are leaving the church today.” Father James Provost of the Canon Law Society of America (CLSA) says he lacks adequate statistics to reach any conclusions about divorce among U. Catholics: “There are no hard data available; the federal statistics don’t ask for religious background.” But Kathleen Kircher, executive director of the North American Conference of Separated and Divorced Catholics (NACSDC), says that “Catholics are pulling their fair share of the U. divorce ratio and represent about 25 percent of the population and account for about 25 percent of all divorces.” A 1980 Gallup poll concludes that Catholics are just as likely to divorce and remarry as any other group in American society.It’s a shame that so many divorced Catholics like Ruth believe they don’t belong in a parish anymore, says Eunice Dohra, a divorced mother of seven.Catholics who remarry without annulment have an irregular status, but “they are not excommunicated, are under no special penalties, and are not excluded from receiving the Eucharist if they believe they should receive it.” Father Edgar Holden, director of the tribunal of the Seattle archdiocese, agrees.“Nothing in church law forbids a person with irregular status from receiving the Eucharist. We suggest that if people feel unable to reach a decision on their own, they ask their pastor or spiritual director for assistance.” Despite official recognition, increasing numbers, and assurance that they are still a part of parish life, a number of divorced Catholics report that well-educated, well-meaning, non-divorced Catholics send out the message, “Come to church but stay way back.” “I was teaching at our parish school at the time I divorced in 1977,” says Mary Ellen, a Chicago woman.
Ruth, 67-year-old pre-Vatican II daughter of the church in Portland, Oregon, married a blue-eyed dandy with a weakness for the grog.