The record of the universal Christian church in handling divorce is, at best, terrible. Until fairly recent times the church looked upon divorce simply as evidence of personal moral failure on the part of the partners and essentially wanted nothing to do with either of them.
My own 1995 divorce was complicated by the fact that the primary reason for the divorce was that my wife at the time had an affair with our pastor. Individuals in the church -- and especially one of our associate pastors -- were a great help and support to me at the time. But even so the church had no liturgy of healing to bless me and send me on my way into my new life.
I raise all this today because of this excellent column written recently by a Lutheran clergy friend, Russell E. Saltzman. Russ also has experienced divorce and, as a pastor, has had to help others through the process.
So he knows what he's talking about when he writes that "what churches are offering to the divorced is indifference. The failure is pastoral, dismissing the attendant sense of deep regret and grief of failure without offering any remedy through the gospel. Divorce among Christians isn’t so much tolerated today as it is merely ignored."
I suppose none of that should surprise us. The church's record of dealing with any matter in which sexual relations play a part is, overall, miserable. A don't-ask, don't-tell approach is common and leads simply to more pain and not to healing.
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PICKING A NEW POPE
Pope Benedict XVI may change some Vatican rules to allow the conclave that will choose his successor to gather earlier. The change many of us would like to see would be to have the whole selection process be in the open. But that's not going to happen at least this time.
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.
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ANOTHER P.S.: Care of Poor People (COPP), Inc., could use your help to prepare for its March 30 event in Kansas City that will provide clothing and other help to people in need. For details, click here.