Friday 23 July 2010

Father Ignatius, Joanna and George.

A few months after Joanna Hill was unwittingly introduced to George Lomas by Father Ignatius, the couple fell deeply in love.

One evening they visited Father Ignatius in the Parish House, and after they had settled down to tea and biscuits George said:

“Father … we have some good news. Joanna and I are in love and we would like to get married. We hope you’ll do the honours, so to speak …”

“That’s good news for you two …” said the priest gently, “but there’s some difficulty with me officiating at your wedding …”

“I don’t understand …” said Joanna somewhat concerned at the news.

“You are divorced Joanna …” said Father Ignatius in his gentle voice, “the Catholic Church does not recognize your divorce … you are still married and therefore you cannot marry again in Church …”

“What do you mean?” said George, “she is properly divorced in Court …”

“Yes … that may well be so …” continued the priest, “that’s a civil divorce, but unless the marriage was annulled by the Church she is still married … the Church bases its teaching on the words of Christ … ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her: and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery,’ ”

“But that’s crazy …” interrupted George raising his voice a little, “are you saying that if I, as a single man never having been married … if I go around with various women, you’d forgive me in Confession. But if she marries me you’re accusing her of the graver sin of adultery?”

“Joanna was married in a Catholic Church, this one I believe, to a Catholic man and her being Catholic …” explained the priest still maintaining his composure, “this being the case … and seeing that the marriage was not annulled by the Church, then she is still married …”

“Hold on a minute …” George interrupted again, not noticing for a moment that poor Joanna was wiping her tears silently, “you said she married in a Catholic Church … so if she had married in an Anglican Church, or any other church, you would not have recognized the marriage …”

“That is strictly true …” said Father Ignatius, “if Joanna as a Catholic had married in an Anglican Church without the permission of the Catholic Church, and without the presence of a Catholic priest, then that marriage would not have been valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church. And in all probability she would have been able to marry again in the Catholic Church …”

“This is totally mad …” said George getting a little angry, and still ignoring Joanna, “she married at 19 Father … and divorced her husband when she was 22. She was a mere child when he walked out on her and left her holding the baby … literally.

“That was over ten years ago Father … At the time she hardly cared about the Catholic Church … if truth be known … and hardly bothered to seek an annulment … assuming this would have been possible without a Catholic inquisition …”

“George … stop it …” Joanna cried loudly.

“I’m sorry love …” he replied holding her hand gently, “I hate to see the Church … our Church … mistreat you so …

“I’m sorry Father for getting angry …” he apologized to the priest, “but you can see our dilemma …

“For whatever reason, regardless of who was innocent and who was at fault, this young couple in their early twenties divorced in a Civil Court.

“Is the Church seriously suggesting that Joanna cannot be intimate with a man for the rest of her life? Or else you’ll accuse her of adultery? Is that reasonable Father?

“Or do you want her to come to confess every time the two of us go to bed when we’re married?”

“Stop it … stop it …” Joanna cried loudly … “this has gone too far … I want to go home …”

She stood up and made her way out of the room followed by George.

Father Ignatius followed them silently to the front door, not having the chance to explain himself or the Church’s position.

The couple married in the Civil Court three months later.


  1. There are so many couples going through this situation out seems so unfair to these people.

  2. I am in the process of annulment now. It is a long and difficult process, but one that is necessary. So many misunderstand or just plain don't understand the Church's teaching on divorce. I understand the anger and frustration of so many, but I wish George had stuck around to hear the rest of Fr. I's explanation. The Church, like a good parent always knows what is best for us, even if we can't always see that.
    Thanks for this one Victor.

  3. I myself believe the church does a lot of damage to innocent people with these conditions.
    A marriage cannot be annulled if two people have lived together under God in a marriage, as that would be a lie.
    I remained 30yrs married to someone who believed he could and did have many other women. By remaining I hurt and harmed(for life) my 4 children.
    But you think you are doing the right thing by God and thats what makes you stay. Finally my health failed from the stress and abuse. I was placed in a 'safe house' until L got my life together.I had no plan to marry again, once hurt, twice shy.
    I studied the New Testament and found two reasons for divorce.
    1. Adultery.
    2. If your unbelieving spouse leaves you.
    then it is stated it is better to remain single BUT, if you burn with passion, THEN, you should marry (to be with one person)...
    This knowledge helped me from fretting into an early grave...there was no way I wanted to do the wrong thing by my God!
    I married again almost 10years later and God(my loving all knowing Father) chose my husband for me. There was no way I wanted to marry in a Court House...That is not God for me. So we married in a Wedding Chapel in Pigeon Forge Tennessee,Dolly Parton country. God is Good.

  4. Excellent. My youngest daughter married in the Episcopal Church to a man divorced from his first wife. There was talk of annulment, but so far there has been no initiative taken. I just continue to pray. Thank you for this post...sequel? Cathy

  5. Thank you Zen, Karinann, Crystal Mary and Cathy for your comments and your stories. I really appreciate that you took the time to write in.

    I fear that our Church does a lot of harm in maintaining its position:

    1 They really can't have it both ways. They can't quote Christ and say divorce is wrong and re-marrying is adultery. And then say but it is OK if we annul your previous marriage. This is putting priests above God. It is either right to divorce and re-marry, or it is not.

    2 Annulments are very difficult and take a long time. More than most people can afford to wait. Some find it intrusive and wrong to justify their decisions, divorce etc to priests.

    3 In the case in this story: Joanna divorced aged 22 when her husband left her. Leaving aside apportionment of guilt and blame for a moment; at the time, she was herself a mere child (some would say) with a baby in her hands, and not particularly church inclined. She lived her life as best she could in raising a child.
    She may, or may not, have been intimate with other men - this is immaterial for the time being.
    Now, 10 years later, she meets George and wants to marry him.
    What grounds are there for an annulment of the previous marriage after such a long time?
    The facts are: two youngsters married, had a child and divorced.
    The Church would, most likely, NOT annul the previous marriage, and thus condemn her to chastity for life from age 22. Is that reasonable?

    4 I have known a man who was excommunicated (cannot take Holy Communion) - his sin: he married a divorced woman. He was single at the time and a Catholic. He was excommunicated because he encouraged her into a second marriage (she was Catholic too) and into adultery.

    5 I believe excommunication, and other exclusions, still apply now to Catholics who divorce and re-marry. Which leaves some people no choice than to leave the Catholic Church altogether, or worse still, stray away from God. All at the hands of their Church - some may say.

    I really wish a priest or other Catholic "in the know" would write in and clarify the present position. I have researched this as best I could for this story.

    If you know anyone who can shed light on this - please lead them to this story.

    Thanx and God bless.

  6. Victor,
    When I began my annulment process I bought the book "Annulments and the Catholic Church" by Edward Peters, a devout Catholic and Canon Lawyer. The foreword to the book was written by Archbishop John J. Myers- Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark, NJ where I live.
    The book answers a lot of the commonly asked questions and concerns regarding annulment.
    I truly understand the hurt people feel when faced with the teachings on this topic and my prayers are with them for healing.
    Your post and the discussion it has produced are wonderful. I think I may need to post about my own experiences in this process so far. Stay tuned and God bless :)

  7. Thank you Karinann for this book which I hope will help readers. I have visited your Blog and read your post on this subject.

    Thank you for your willingness to help others and for your honesty.

    God bless.

  8. Interesting discussion and post. Thanks.

  9. Hello again dear friend,I went with a friend of mine to talk to the panel for her annulment. She came away completly destrroyed...her youngest child of three, was still in a stroller. Later she turned so sour against God and almost committed suicide. Years later she has finally returned, but now goes to a different denomination...
    Myself, I stick close to Him, the lover of my soul.
    The books written by Madame Jeanne Guyon are my recommendation.

  10. My mother and biological dad were married in the Catholic Church. He was an alcoholic and beat her. She divorced him, remarried him again, and divorced him when he continued to drink, beat her and then abandoned all of us.

    She remarried my Daddy, and the Catholic Church did just as you said.

    She and my Daddy joined the Methodist Church, and I'm a Methodist to this day.

    I still have her white book, and my sister told me how hurt she was.

    It is sad, but she never stopped loving God, never lost her faith, and had all of us baptized in the Methodist Church. My older brother and sister would not attend, and still do not.

    It's sad, how the things work. I wonder how many people lose faith because of the workings of the Church?

  11. I forgot to mention that she died three years after she married my Daddy, and he never married again.

  12. Hello Colleen, Crystal Mary and Joey,

    Thank you for writing in.

    I researched as well as I could the position of the Catholic Church before writing this story. I don't claim to be an expert of their up-to-date teachings on divorce and re-marriage or annulments. Perhaps someone in authority can join this discussion and let us know - a priest perhaps.

    God bless.

  13. The Catholic Church does nothing to heal valid marriages, while it pushes, literally "like hell" to find reasons to justify annulments.

    I am a former Catholic over this.

    Father Ignatius committed a terrible error when he said:

    “That’s good news for you two …” said the priest gently, “but there’s some difficulty with me officiating at your wedding …”

    He took the cowards way out and left the weight of adultery awareness on the Church.

    To date, as a married person is adultery.

    I am not going to argue here. I have suffered too much for our valid marriage and I remain faithful to it as the Catholic Church mocks it by accepting my wife and here long time lover, as husband and wife, in all but a Catholic ceremony.

    The Church is lost, it knows it, but cannot face it. There are those like me who have spoken out against its sinfullness but we are marginalized and ignored because we have no power to make the Church see its terrible ways.

    Get over the "injustice" of divorce. If you are abandoned as I am, suck it up and be faithful and work to save your soul and the soul of the one you made your promises to, as best you can.

    To those who did the abandoning. You are going to Hell unless you repent and try, as best you can to heal your marriage and to save the soul of your spouse.

    Good day.

  14. Dear Joey,

    I am very sorry for your circumstance. My wife and her adulterous partner have to teen age girls.

    To me, they are the sisters of our five childrenand they are loved by God. This is all I need to know to love them as well.

    This, does not, however excuse their parents adultery and the damage it does.

    I would ask you to pray for your mother and the two men in her life. She has faced God and knows what the truth is, as you will one d ay when you are in His presence.

    We cannot know the disposition of another's soul and we cannot judge them eternally, for to do so is to take the place of God, whom NO ONE can. It destines one for eternal separation from God in the absence of repentance, as does all serious sin.

    When people separate, there are reasons for which there may be justification, but far too often, the reasons are insufficient. Your mother did not have to be a punching bag, nor did that justify another marriage, however.

    Two wrongs do not make a right. You live because God loves you, as he loves your mother, your father and the man/husband from whom she separated herself. Do not blame the Catholic Church for teaching the truth. Blame those who fail to take the effort to live up to their promises, but, like Christ, love them. Always. Christ is love. His does not stop. Imitate Him.

    I am the anonymous at 17:27.

  15. Dear Victor,

    You wrote:

    4 I have known a man who was excommunicated (cannot take Holy Communion) - his sin: he married a divorced woman. He was single at the time and a Catholic. He was excommunicated because he encouraged her into a second marriage (she was Catholic too) and into adultery.

    5 I believe excommunication, and other exclusions, still apply now to Catholics who divorce and re-marry. Which leaves some people no choice than to leave the Catholic Church altogether, or worse still, stray away from God. All at the hands of their Church - some may say.

    The excommunication for remarriage after divorce, without nullity ended, in the US, in 1977. I do not know if it existed elsewhere. This is certain.

    People always have the choice to repent and follow what the Church teaches. It is their choice. Do not put that on the Church.

    Our choices make life complicated.

  16. I don't blame the Church for my Mother's circumstance, Victor.

    I believe she repented, just as I repent for my sins, and I am forgiven by God.

    We have such a loving, merciful Father. I thank God that we do not have to be a member of the Catholic Church to be loved and forgiven by the One who loves us, and the One serve.

  17. Hello Anonymous,

    Thank you Anonymous for your contributions to this discussion. I pray that God may help your healing in what you have gone through and also that of others in this situation.

    I was not aware that excommunication ended in 1977. The case I speak of happened before then. The individual concerned was excommunicated for marrying a divorcee.

    Hi Joey,

    May I correct a possible missunderstanding. I did not suggest that you blame the Church for your, or your mother's circumstances. You may have mistaken someone else's post for mine.

    Dear readers - all of you.

    I am aware that this story, ficticious as it is, may have stirred emotions and re-awakened hurts long forgotten and buried. The Father Ignatius stories, whether humourous, instructive or just aimed to entertain, are, to the best of my abilities, based on facts. The current story (Fr I, Joanna and George) is a sequel to the previous "Unwitting Deception" story, where I say that Joanna is a divorcee. As stories go, I could not, in all honesty write a romantic sequel without pointing out the pitfalls such a couple would encounter if they wish to re-marry in the Catholic Church. So I researched, and researched again, on the current position before writing the story. I hope, and pray, that I got my facts right. If I haven't then perhaps someone in the know, (a priest, monk or nun, or Catholic Counsellor perhaps), would write in here with the Church's current views on divorce, annulments and re-marriage.

    Thank you for your understanding. Please feel free to contribute here.

    Thank you Anonymous and Joey. May God bless you and your loved ones.

  18. You have certainly raised a lively discussion, Victor. My former parish priest, who had worked extensively with women in prison and battered wormen, wrote a book about divorce. I guess it was not quite Orthodox Catholicism because he got summoned to Rome to explain it.

    Along other lines, I am not sure if I have had a chance to let you know that my Blest Atheist blog went down, and I replaced it with 100th Lamb ( The explanation is there.

    Have a blessed weekend!

  19. Hello Elizabeth,

    Thank you for writing in. I have been trying to get Blest Atheist without success. I'll try your new Blog right away.

    Regarding the Church's position on divorce etc ... There is no doubt that they sometime take too long to annul a previous marriage, longer than most people can afford to wait for one reason or another. In some countries the Church still excommunicates those who re-marry without a valid Church annulment - i.e. the message is - you re-marry when I tell you so. Sometimes, in some countries, the Church does NOT recognise a previous marriage if it was not Catholic - i.e. marry Anglican (or whatever), get divorced, and you are free to marry Catholic. In some cases annulment is not allowed - i.e. in my story the case is simple: two young Catholics, married in a Catholic Church, separated for whatever reason and divorced after having a child, 10 years ago. After such a period it is unlikely that the Church would agree an annulment thus condemning both individuals to a life of chastity.

    All these anomalies seem unfair to many and they leave the Church.

    Church leaders appear to have forgotten something important.

    God is love and God is forgiveness. He forgives many sins far more serious than divorce, and when sin is forgiven the person is healed to go on with their lives once again. Christ proved this many times when He forgave sinners.

    The Church appears to withhold forgiveness in the case of divorce in some instances by not granting annulments - and regardless whether the individual has repented to God, in Confession even, they are further punished through excommunication if they marry again. This seems to imply that the power and authority of the Church is higher than that of God and they withhold what God has forgiven.

    God bless you Elizabeth. Thanx for writing in.

  20. Victor, however did I miss this has stirred a bee's nest, has it not.
    Sadly I see all positions, the church's, the battered wife, the alcholic husband and all the broken hearts involved.
    I would say that anything done cannot be undone by God.....I am a widow and almost remarried but he was divorced and we couldn't be married in the church, I knew I wouldn't be happy without the sacraments so we broke it off. He has remarried and I am alone, not sure what the lesson is here.........:-) Hugs

  21. Oh.. Victor, I thought it was you. I'm so sorry. Bless your heart. You are so kind, and off I went. Please accept my apologies.

  22. Thanks for your response, Victor, and for the post that has flowed from it and the rest of the reactions here.

  23. Hello Bernie, Joey and Elizabeth,

    Bernie ... the lesson here is that you are a wonderful person who chose the Sacraments instead of re-marriage. God loves you for it and will bless you always.

    Joey ... no apologies needed. Thank you for visiting here again.

    Elizabeth ... all I was trying to do here is follow up on the story "Unwitting Deception". George and Joanna met and fell in love. Father Ignatius could not exactly welcome them with open arms and marry them - could he? The Father Ignatius stories are set in the late 1950s early 60s (that's why there's never a mention of computers, cell-phones and similar modern technology). At the time, he would have reacted the way he did - right or wrong as it may be.

    Unwittingly - I stirred up a whole debate on the issue of divorce, annulment and re-marriage. Now there's irony, considering the title of the previous post "Unwitting Deception"!

    God bless you all for your contributions.

  24. Joey, you say your biological dad was an alcoholic. This is certainly grounds for an annullment in the Catholic Church, although ofcourse each case is individual. Being an active alcoholic is actually possible grounds for the church refusing to marry someone as the person affected is not actually living in the real world a lot of the time and unable to make a decision of clarity.

  25. Thank you Shadowlands for your helpful contribution. The grounds for annullments aren't always very clear ... decisions are made by "tribunals" as I understand it and take a long time. And as you say, each case is seen on an individual basis.

    God bless you Shadowlands.

  26. I could read the pain and hurt that people have in their hearts over this issue from reading the comments they left here. I have quite a few friends that are divorced or seeking annullments. As common as broken marriages are, many Catholics find themselves "stuck" in this position and unable to find the answers or help they need. I read Karinann's post and was touched by her honesty. I read yours yesterday after seeing her post and I can see that there are many people that feel trapped by this and don't know what to do. It's a heartbreaking reality in our days.

  27. Greetings Mary,

    You're so right when you use the words "stuck" and "trapped". That's exactly what happens when the Church deals with annulments. They take too long, longer than some people are prepared to wait, and they do not always grant annulments.

    People feel that they are being punished twice: once with the pain and hurt of the breakdonw of the marriage, and a second time by (seemingly) un-caring Church leadership.

    God bless you.



God bless you.