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Divorce, annulment and the Catholic Church

He also wrote about marriage and divorce questions in leading national publications, and addressed the subject before the Canon Law Society of America and other organizations. Somehow he even found time to write a book titled The Dilemma of Divorced Catholics. Critically well received, it has gone through several reprintings and underwent some revisions after the church introduced its new Code of Canon Law in 1983.

And now I'd like to share some very good news with Christopher friends and other readers of this column. Father Catoir has revised and updated The Dilemma of Divorced Catholics to reflect not only the Code of Canon Law but also the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was first published in 1994.

Subtitled "Where Do You Stand With the Church? What Is the Internal Forum?," the book will be published next month by Catholic Book Publishing/Resurrection Press. What's more, it's a special pleasure to recommend the book to all of you.

Father Catoir's book will make its newest appearance at a time when divorce has reached appalling levels in our country, and when Catholics, sadly, are all too often victims of failed marriages themselves. When that happens, Catholics - especially those Catholics concerned about their standing in the church - are eager to "regularize" their situation, but it isn't always that easy. And that, in particular, is just what Father Catoir addresses.

"I have tried to express my compassion for people in marital difficulty while at the same time remaining faithful to the church's teaching," he writes in his introduction. "Marriage is an indissoluble bond. I respect the teaching authority of the church and submit to that authority in complete peace."

Well, what about annulments?

"The question before every church tribunal is this," Father Catoir continues. "Which of the marriages presented for an annulment are truly valid, and which are not? No one questions the fact that marriage is indissoluble, and that a truly valid marriage bond cannot be broken or dissolved, and that no one can validly begin a new marriage while an existing valid marriage is still in possession, but we can and must ask questions if a serious doubt exists concerning the validity of a specific marriage."

And those are the questions that are at the heart of this newly reissued book. There's little doubt that marriage annulments in general are among the most misunderstood (and, often, the most widely misrepresented) facets of the church's teaching. That's why an individual reader needn't be involved in a difficult marriage situation personally to learn something from a reading of Father Catoir's book. All of the annulment information (and misinformation) you've ever heard gets a clear airing here, in a readable question-and-answer format that will be easy to understand. And of course, those who know the heartache of marital problems themselves will benefit from this book in a special way.

Father Catoir remains a staunch friend of The Christophers, and we continue to admire all he does to extend the Christopher message of hope, love and joy. In this new book, you'll see a vibrant example of just what we mean.

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Dennis Heaney is president of The Christophers

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For a free copy of the Christopher News Note: "What marriage means, why marriage matters," write: The Christophers, 12 East 48th St., New York, N.Y., 10017; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org.

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