Thursday 11th May, 2000

Cathy arrived with Maddy arrived on the Island at lunchtime. We sat down on the beach for a while, and as Maddy was playing in the sand, I reopened the discussion which we had not talked about since Sunday evening.

I said that I had now fairly well decided to make the move to the Catholic Church. I could still change my mind , but that was my current resolve.

I pointed out that it was not a matter of disagreeing with any particular Lutheran doctrines, but rather an acceptance that the Catholic Church was the true Church.

I pointed out also that I would not take any steps that would put Cathy and Maddy’s welfare into question; that I loved them and was committed to our marriage and family.

I said that I believed that I could get some temporary jobs in libraries through an agency to tide us over in the mean time, but that in the long run I would be wanting to do some work in the church somewhere and somehow.

Then I broached the difficult subject of annulments. I pointed out that according to the Catholic Catechism, persons who are divorced and remarried cannot receive communion; that I had thought about this a lot, and decided that I couldn’t join the Catholic church because I recognised its authority and then not obey in this area. So I had decided that I would become a Catholic even if it meant that I could never actually receive holy communion in the Catholic church; but that I every confidence (based on Fr D.’ “Don’t Worry”!!!) that I could get my first marriage annulled.

However, and here is where things got really, really sticky, before I could point out the next logical step, Cathy got there before me and said: “There’s no way I will be getting an annulment of my first marriage”.

That terrified me. So I let it sit for a bit there. Cathy had already begun to shed some tears as we were talking, and I didn’t think it was the place to pursue things then.

Later, I was bathing Maddy, when it suddenly occurred to me that according to the Catechism:

1625 The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and woman, free to contract marriage, who freely express their consent; "to be free" means:
- not being under constraint;
- not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law.

And I realised that there was every chance that her first husband had not actually been baptised. When I asked, Cathy said that there was a chance he was baptised as a child, but that at about 17 years of age, he had been baptised by the Mormons. Well, this was a revelation, and I must say that I reacted with some relief, because I then knew  that getting an annulment of Cathy’s marriage would be a simple and straightforward matter. The difficulty was that Cathy would interpret this as a denial of half her life in which she and Ian were partners.

I had to handle this carefully, I knew, so I raised the matter with Cathy by saying that I could just let this rest, but I wanted her to listen. I explained that if there was a chance that both of us could receive annulments, our marriage could be recognised and blessed, I could receive communion, and perhaps have a chance of ministry within the church. Without it, I could not. Again, tears followed. I understand what Cathy is feeling. She feels that the Church is being legalistic and denying God’s grace by requiring annulments. She also feels that I am asking her to deny something that was very precious to her, and that she strove to maintain--her relationship with Ian. I feel really bad having to press the issue.

In reflection, I am now finding myself in a most ambivalent situation. I want to become a Catholic. I believe that the Catholic Church has Christ’s authority to teach in a way that no other ecclesial community has. This belief has undermined my confidence (what there was of it) in the Lutheran church, such that my ministry in the Lutheran church will now be particularly difficult to maintain. On the other hand, I am seeing a situation in which I will have to give up pastoral ministry, perhaps even give up receiving communion (which is the whole point of being a Christian, let alone a Catholic), have to go through all the messy business of annulments etc., and face a time of financial uncertainty to boot as I go through uncertain employment.

Is this whole thing just some big joke being played by devil, or is it Christ really testing me? It all feels similar to the tests that I have had in the past. The business about the church not being willing to ordain me back in 1991 ; or the time when my first wife separated from me and all the angst I went through with that.  This is just, just like that.

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