Are Catholic Shepherds Not Teaching the Sheep the Truth About Divorce?

Written by on 07/13/2017

Bai MacFarlane is the founder of Mary’s Advocates, an organization which helps Catholics use Canon law to help prevent the unilateral breakup of their marriages. In an interview on The Mike Church Show yesterday, Bai explained how, despite Canon Law being clear on the issue, her organization was prohibited from receiving an imprimatur for a brochure which explains to Catholics that they need to receive the permission of the Bishop before seeking to obtain a divorce, all because of a non-official statement from Cardinal Coccopalmerio from the Congregation of Canon Law at the Vatican.

In addition, a Canon Lawyer from the Diocese of Detroit named Ed Peters criticized MacFarlane, without mentioning her specifically, in a piece he wrote for the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. He basically offered the opinion of “renowned Roman canonist Felix Cappello” who “advised priests against requiring Catholics unaware of the canonical separation requirements to undertake a formal canonical process in regard to discontinuing conjugal life.” In layman’s terms, “What they don’t know won’t hurt them,” or “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Bai MacFarlane is not the only one making the case that Episcopal permission is required for separation and divorce. Civil lawyer Clay Rossi, wrote a piece for One Peter Five on the Catholic lawyer’s dilemma, in which he defendeds Bai’s efforts to protect marriage and states that practicing Canon lawyer Fr. Dean Perri supports Bai’s interpretation of this Church teaching. Bai MacFarlane and Clay Rossi are making the case that Church shepherds are keeping their sheep in the dark about this teaching on purpose because it would be unpopular, and they do not want to suffer the indignity of disobedience of the sheep in this matter.

Bai explains, later in the interview, what the effects would be on divorce if the Church began to reinforce, and enforce, the necessity of obtaining episcopal permission for separation and divorce, and how the implications could play out in a divorce scenario, especially if the abandoning spouse asks for an annulment on the much abused excuse of psychological inability to consent to the marriage.


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