Abandonment… No single issue in Sacramental Marriage troubles me more greatly than this issue. Spouses of both sexes are equally represented when they have told me of their circumstances. The suffering caused by this grave sin never ceases to tear my own heart asunder, just hearing about it is deeply moving.
Often, people do not seem to understand what love is. I think this is an issue compounded by the fact that we have only one word for love in English. Therefore, we cannot easily separate whether we are talking about Eros (Erotic/Romantic love), Agape (Unconditional Love), or Storge (Familial Love) when we discuss “Love”.
More importantly they fail to understand the obligations of Sacramental Marriage properly and their views of marriage are based on current civil interpretations of marriage wholly incompatible with Catholic Sacramental Marriage. This is likely based on the fact that in western society people frequently enter the sacrament of marriage under the influence solely of Eros and the misguided notion that the sole purpose of marriage is to make them happy. Such emotional attitudes are the primary cause of many failed marriages.
As I am going to shock many people – let me detail the purpose of marriage according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1601 “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”84
But wait, I see “the good of the spouses”! Does that not mean I am supposed to get everything I want and be happy in marriage? The answer is absolutely not. Marriage is for the spiritual good of the spouses, not to cater to their whims, extramarital lusts, or material gain. This means, in short, that one of your key jobs in marriage is to get your spouse to heaven!
What of happiness? Does it also have a place in Sacramental Marriage? Of course, but it is not the kind of happiness that lets you changes spouses frequently, nor is it the kind of happiness that comes from putting your interests first at the expense of your spouse and children. It is a deeper and more abiding happiness found in reciprocated service to the spouse. My grandmother expressed it best as she often reiterated that “We make ourselves happy. Your husband or wife simply shares the joy you create.”
Then of course we come to the crux of the matter. The fact is that marriages, even Sacramental ones suffer from the grave mortal sin of abandonment. The Catechism has some harsh words for those who abandon spouses:
2386 It can happen that one of the spouses is the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law; this spouse therefore has not contravened the moral law. There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage.178
Read it again… Sobering is it not. Sacramental Marriage is bound by the MORAL LAW, not the civil law. The moral law is God’s law, and the civil law is just made up by men.
Now I want you to stop and think about why this would be a grave mortal sin that imperils your soul. We could start with the emotional and financial hardships it imposes on the abandoned spouse. It might be good to think of the effect of abandonment on the children. Liberal news outlets and talking heads will tell you how it does not affect or damage children – but I have seen this evil firsthand. It does tremendous damage to the children. But I will let the facts speak for themselves because in all honesty, someone reading this is going to be in denial of the truth.
- 77% greater risk of being harmed by physical abuse
- 87% greater risk of being harmed by physical neglect
- 74% greater risk of being harmed by emotional neglect
- 220% greater risk of being educationally neglected
- 80% greater risk of suffering serious injury or harm from abuse or neglect
- 90% greater risk of receiving moderate injury or harm as a result of child maltreatment
- 120% greater risk of being endangered by some type of child abuse or neglect
No matter which spouse abandons the other – the net effect on the family is disastrous all around, especially with the odious no-fault divorce laws across the country which make a spouse as disposable as a tissue paper. To understand just how disastrous this is you need to understand the facts and the statistics on the effect that a choice to end the marriage will have. Effects not just on your spouse, but on your children. After reading this study linked to through the quote below, you will be unable to claim that a spouse dissolving a marriage does not harm the children, or the other spouse.
Child poverty is an ongoing national concern, but few are aware of its principal cause: the absence of married fathers in the home. According to the U.S. Census, the poverty rate for single parents with children in the United States in 2009 was 37.1 percent. The rate for married couples with children was 6.8 percent. Being raised in a married family reduced a child’s probability of living in poverty by about 82 percent.
Now consider that the damage you are doing to your spouse and children is simply an additional sin against God, your spouse, and the children. Then take a selfish moment and consider you immortal soul. To repent this sin you must seek to sin no more. That means that the only path to repentance and reconciliation with God is to return to your spouse and reconcile, and if reconciliation is impossible to live your life chastely and pray for your spouse daily after making every possible attempt at reconciliation.
I know, it comes across as harsh. I would remind those in sacramental marriages that they entered them freely and accepted the responsibilities that the Sacrament of Matrimony entails. I would also remind those same people, that upon hearing Jesus declare that divorce was impossible his own disciples exclaimed “then it is better not to marry!”
Jesus’ Teaching about Divorce
…9“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” 10The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” 11But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given.…
The solution is easy. Make the commitment each morning to Love your spouse in the sense of Agape and Storge Love. Eros will come and go throughout a marriage. Marriage requires a choice to have a greater love than mere erotic or romantic love. If your relationship is damaged such that your trust is broken and your spouse is distant – I highly recommend reading and following The Love Dare a 40 day program to help rebuild your marriage. If you want to see what the love dare is about you can watch the movie Fireproof (unfortunately DVD only on netflix right now). In addition you should speak to your priest about what programs or ministries are available through your parish or diocese to assist you.
For the love of God, the welfare of your Husband or Wife, and for your Children, please make that commitment right now and again each morning to love your Spouse as Christ loves you. If you are separated or divorced this still applies to you as no Sacramental marriage can be dissolved by civil laws. Take a moment to save your family and your immortal soul and return to your rightful spouse and reunite your family.