Such a case involves Derek and Geraldine. They were in their early thirties and they had a daughter aged about five.
As sometimes happens in life they grew apart and both of them became unfaithful to their wedding vows. Derek became friendly with his secretary at work and Geraldine met the brother of a friend from school and did the same.
In time Derek and Geraldine divorced and they moved in with their new partners. Derek is now the father of a young son from his new, un-married, partner.
At the time, the kind priest tried his best to help them save the marriage. They came to him for advice and he tried to persuade them to forgive each other, to consider their young daughter, and he even arranged for them to obtain marriage guidance advice. But somehow, he felt that they were only going through the motions. In their hearts they had both decided to end the marriage and start anew with their new found loves.
After the divorce … quite a while afterwards, Derek did come to confession. He deeply regretted his role in the breakdown of the marriage. He sought genuine forgiveness, having accepted that there was no way of turning the clock back. He was now with his secretary who was, at the time, expecting his baby.
The priest did of course give him absolution, but warned him of the Church’s view regarding his co-habitation with his partner. Derek understood the situation and never again came to church.
A few months later Geraldine approached the priest with a view to marrying her new partner. Father Ignatius explained the difficulties involved, and she later married in a Civil Ceremony at the Registry Office. She too stopped attending church.
A few days ago Father Ignatius was standing in the queue outside the Fish and Chips shop opposite the church looking forwards to a fish supper washed down with a bottle of ginger beer when he heard a young voice shouting “Daddy … Daddy …”
He turned round and saw Geraldine a few feet away with her daughter who’d now grown a little. The young girl had seen Derek on the other side of the road and called out to him.
Derek came across to greet his child when Geraldine said, loud enough to be heard by everyone, “You know you’re not allowed to see her outside pre-arranged visiting times. If you don’t go away I’ll tell my lawyer to start proceedings …”
Derek walked away without saying a word whilst Geraldine left in the opposite direction dragging a screaming child crying to her father “Daddy … don’t go Daddy … don’t leave me …”
Suddenly the priest lost his appetite and left the queue to go to his church.
He sat at the front by the statue of Our Lady and prayed for that little girl. He could still hear her screams in his head. He prayed and prayed as tears rolled down his cheeks.
“Why are people so cruel?” he asked himself, “and why do they use innocent young children in their games of emotional blackmail?”
Eventually he got up as he knew what he had to do.
He went to see Geraldine at her home. The child was asleep on an armchair having tired herself of crying.
The priest explained what he had witnessed and how it must have affected the young child. He tried using every reasonable argument that he could muster; yet he felt that he was being listened to politely but not taken seriously enough for Geraldine to change her ways. He detected some hurt still there in her heart which somehow translated into bitterness and retaliation towards her ex-husband.
He left feeling terrible as he handed the situation over to God.
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