Open Letter to His Holiness, Pope Francis; His Eminence, Walter Cardinal Kasper; The Synod of Bishops, and the Catholic Church at Large

October 1, 2014

Dear His Holiness, Pope Francis; His Eminence, Walter Cardinal Kasper; The Synod of Bishops, and the Catholic Church at Large,

I am a divorced Catholic. In fact, I have been divorced twice. I have also been annulled and remarried twice in the Church. I am in a sacramental marriage to Monica, a wonderful, devout Catholic woman. Together, we have seven beautiful children, all of them gifts from God.

I have spent the last ten years ministering to divorced or separated Catholics. During this time, I have started a ministry for divorced Catholics in my parish, co-authored a book (Divorced. Catholic. Now What?), host a website (, developed divorce recovery programs (Journey of Hope), host a blog (, write Daily Inspirations read by thousands worldwide, presented at conferences, have appeared on EWTN television, and have been a guest on Catholic radio programs. Never would I have ever imagined myself being so involved with ministering to divorced Catholics. Yet, it is a total blessing how God has turned my suffering and pain into an opportunity to help others recover from divorce, rebuild their lives, and claim the abundant life He created each of us to live.

I am writing this letter in response to the comments (revealed by the press) made by Cardinal Kasper during his address at the Extraordinary Consistory on the Family on February 20, 2014. I am so encouraged that the needs of divorced Catholics, remarried outside the Church (referred to in this letter simply as “divorced and remarried Catholics”) is an area that you are challenging the Church to address. For too long, all divorced Catholics, remarried or not, have had to suffer because of the lack of support from the Church, a church that many divorced Catholics dearly love and have committed their lives to serving. I applaud your leadership in prioritizing an issue that has been woefully underserved by the Church. I wish to help you in this effort.

Based on my personal experience, both having been part of the annulment and (sacramental) remarriage process, and one who has ministered to so many hurting divorced Catholics, I wish to offer a potential solution to the problem of divorced and remarried Catholics not being able to fully participate in the life of the Church and her sacraments.

The Challenge

The plight of divorced and remarried Catholics has been well publicized recently. Their being unable to fully participate in the sacramental life of the Church, particularly not being able to participate in the Sacraments of Reconciliation or the Eucharist, is an ache felt by the entire Body of Christ. I have many emails from divorced and remarried Catholics that are filled with pain, anger, and despair over what they perceive as being abandoned by their Church. Here are a few representative excerpts:

Annulment?…what for.I’ve done nothing wrong and I certainly dont have $500 to pay for an annulment when that money is better spent on contributions to the church.– Brad

My wife and I were both previously Catholic, and both remarried. Communion is an important part of our lives, but we cannot receive communion at a Catholic church so we are regularly attending a Methodist church where communion is open to everyone. We feel that ancient traditions in the church drive so many people just like us away. What other choice do we have? The Mass is for participating in communion not for watching everyone else participate. We’d love to come back to Mass and take an active part, but the Catholic church in its wisdom prevents us.Willi

I am well aware of the fact that as a divorced and remarried Catholic that I am not able to receive Holy Communion…. what I was not aware of is that we are not even able to receive a blessing…come on now!“ – Maureen

“I was remarried 12 years ago and have never felt that close to God since.  Not because of my divorce and remarriage but because I could no longer partake in the sacraments.  No matter how hard I tried to feel connected I just couldn’t.  When I was able to attend Mass I would feel lonely and empty…The Church has created a group of people with no hope of ever being forgiven and let back into the fold.  For me going to Church is not enough.  Without the sacraments it is just too painful.   I remember the story of Jesus saying if you lose one sheep you leave the others to find it.  I guess that only applies to those not remarried.” – Terri

Your leading the Church to focus on Christ’s core teachings of charity and mercy is refreshing, timely, and so needed in our world today. Your call to Catholics to not condemn, but walk with, divorced Catholics is a wonderful example of this. Thank you so much for your efforts.

Many of the responses that I have read in the press by clergy to Cardinal Kasper’s comments seem to focus on the doctrinal issues underpinning the Church’s position preventing divorced Catholics from receiving the sacraments. I am not a theologian. While I consider myself to be very well-formed and catechized, my insights and recommendations are as a lay-Catholic. I don’t feel particularly well qualified to enter a doctrinal debate. I do, however, have a very thorough understanding of the Church’s teaching on the Sacrament of Marriage. I also have direct experience being in non-sacramental marriages. My knowledge and experience tells me that the Church is very clearly teaching the Truth regarding the indissolubility of a sacramental marriage. I am confident that the Holy Spirit will lead all those in Church leadership involved in this discussion to reaffirm the Truth regarding the sacrament of marriage. Therefore, I will not make that issue the focus of my letter. Instead, I wish to outline what I believe are the causes of the problem and provide very concrete recommendations for a solution.

In order to understand the plight of the divorced Catholic, it is necessary to understand some of the direct causes that led them to their present circumstances. It is easy—though not Christian—to take the approach that divorced Catholics are “just getting what they deserve.” Certainly, everyone has free will and must ultimately take responsibility for their decisions. However, the Church must understand the factors and forces that have influenced the divorced Catholic to marry outside the Church—factors and forces the Church has either directly contributed to, or is culpable for, because of its inaction.

In my experience, here are the key reasons why many divorced Catholics remarry outside the Church:

  • Woefully inadequate support by the Church for a Catholic experiencing divorce. When a Catholic is grieving from the end of their marriage, the first place they typically turn for help, support, and answers, is the Church. While it has certainly improved from when I went through my last divorce in 2000, the availability of divorce support ministries at the parish level is still woefully inadequate. It is not uncommon in the United States and Canada for less than ten percent of parishes in a diocese to have any type of divorce support programs or ministry. If a divorced Catholic can’t find help and healing in their Church, they will keep seeking until they find relief. This opens the door wide for them to leave the Church. It also leaves them vulnerable to seeking their healing in other relationships. Often, these relationships lead to marriage outside the Church.
  • Poor training by priests, deacons, and laity on the Church’s teaching regarding divorce. Divorce is a relatively new phenomenon, surging over the last thirty years. Priests and deacons trained prior to the 1980’s may have had little, or no, training on how to apply the Church’s teaching on divorce. Worst still, they spread wrong information to divorced Catholics. The most common, and most damaging, is that merely experiencing a divorce will prevent a Catholic from participating in their faith and receiving the sacraments. So much damage has been done to the faithful by the spread of this one falsehood. This misinformation, and its associated misconceptions by the faithful, has driven many Catholics away from the faith at the very time when they needed their faith the most–especially the sacraments!
  • Protestant churches do a much better job ministering to divorced Catholics. As mentioned above, when divorced Catholics are in pain, they will seek relief. If they knock on the door of their parish and no one can help them, or if they feel unwelcome or judged, they will go elsewhere. The Protestant churches, as a whole, have done a much better job in ministering to divorced Catholics. While they don’t have the fullness of the faith, especially the sacraments, they do deliver Christ’s message of charity and mercy in a consistent and potent way through organized and wide-spread ministries to divorced people. In the United States, it is not uncommon to drive by a Protestant church and see a banner promoting their particular divorce ministry or support group. This makes all divorced people feel welcomed, including disillusioned Catholics. Lured by the experience of Christ’s love embodied in these ministries, many Catholics end up leaving their faith for a church that is meeting their needs. This sets the stage for the Catholic to eventually remarry outside the Church. It is only later, usually because of a yearning for the sacraments they can’t receive in a Protestant church, does the Catholic desire to return to the Church. It is then, that the wounds from their previous experience with the Catholic faith are reopened when they find they are now excluded from the one thing they hunger for the most: the Eucharist. This is a hunger that only the Catholic Church can fill. When they find they can’t participate, they are reminded all too vividly of the stain of divorce, and the resulting discrimination. This pain is amplified all the more when they perceive this coming from the one place they trusted the most—the Catholic Church.
  • The annulment process is much too complex, confusing, and intimidating, acting as a significant impediment to divorced Catholics. It is common that the person initiating the annulment process (petitioner) fought hard to save their marriage, and despite their best efforts the marriage ended in divorce. When they approach the Church for an annulment, all too often the people involved in administering the process have never been through it themselves. This can create a less than compassionate atmosphere, making the process seem very cold and legalistic. As a result, the process can seem very judgmental, even punitive, to the petitioner. At a time when the person seeking the annulment needs an abundance of mercy and compassion, the annulment process delivers just the opposite, driving Catholics away or causing them to abandon the process.
  • The annulment process often takes way too long to complete, discouraging divorced Catholics from going through the process. It is my experience that the processes in place at many tribunals for administering the annulment process are antiquated and were never designed to handle the volume of cases filed in the present day. This, combined with understaffing at many tribunals, makes it rare that annulments can be completed in less than twelve months. Eighteen to twenty-four months seems to be the norm, and in some tribunals, sadly, even longer. Often times, the bureaucracy inside the tribunals, due to its legalistic nature, adds to the delay. While certainly not condoned by the Church, the truth is that a significant number of petitioners are seeking an annulment because they are in a new relationship and wish to get married again. Their desire is to marry in the Church. However, when they approach the Church and are confronted with the complexity of the process, and the long processing time, they become frustrated and disillusioned. Anxious to move on with their lives, and past the stigma of divorce, the inefficiency of the annulment process is actually driving them to get married outside the Church. In essence, it is having the exact opposite effect from which it was intended.
  • Woefully inadequate catechesis during the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s has greatly contributed to the problem. Many Catholics going through a divorce over the last thirty years were poorly catechized in their youth. This, combined with a trend toward streamlining pre-Cana preparation (in many dioceses down to a single 7-8 hour class), has resulted in a very poor understanding of the permanent nature of sacramental marriage. I would estimate that the majority of Catholics, and non-Catholics marrying a Catholic, do not understand the beauty, spiritual depth, permanence, and responsibility the Sacrament of Marriage is to the Church and to society in general. I am not sure I am saying anything new here, however, what must be understood is that these very same Catholics are getting remarried ignorant of this truth. Later, when they yearn to return to their Catholic faith, they feel blindsided by the annulment process, a process that seeks to reaffirm the sacramental truth that the petitioner never fully understood. It is not uncommon for divorced Catholics to believe a civil divorce is recognized by the Church as ending their marriage. This misunderstanding is a significant cause of the anger and resentment that occurs when the divorced Catholic is confronted with the Truth of the faith when seeking to return to the Church.

The Solution

Cardinal Kasper’s motivation is right; his approach is not. He is trying to be a compassionate and merciful servant to the faithful by offering potential solutions to the current alienation divorced and remarried Catholics experience when approaching the Church.

The solution to the challenge of how to give divorced and remarried Catholics a compassionate and merciful pathway back to full communion with the Church lies in a pastoral approach, not in doctrinal reinterpretation or manipulation. I am very confident that this challenge can be met in a relatively short timeframe, with great positive impact, while fully supporting and reinforcing the doctrine of the Sacrament of Marriage.

I believe the most compassionate thing one can do is to help others live the Truth. That certainly is the role of the Church. Unfortunately, the approach taken by the Church to-date in helping divorced Catholics live the Truth of our faith has resulted in a less than compassionate experience for them.

I propose the following changes will allow the Church to provide a more merciful and compassionate pathway back for divorced and remarried Catholics so they may fully participate in the life of the Church:

  1. Proactively minster to Catholics experiencing divorce so they don’t leave.
  2. Revamp the annulment process to make it faster and more compassionate.
  3. Create a new process for divorced Catholics to come back into full communion that celebrates their return to the Church.

Here is each change in detail:

1. Proactively minster to Catholics experiencing divorce so they don’t leave.

a) Make a divorce recovery ministry a standard offering at the parish level. This ministry would do the following:

  • Embrace Catholics from the earliest stages of divorce, and throughout the following recovery, rebuilding, and renewal phases, where they can experience the compassionate and merciful love of Christ in the context of the sacraments and the Catholic faith. The more welcome divorcing Catholics feel from the very first time they approach the Church, and throughout their entire divorce experience, the less likely they will ever leave. Plus, the more engaged they are with the Church, the greater the opportunity to minister to them and help them stay close to the sacraments—the very thing that will bring them the greatest healing. (If you have to go through a divorce, thank God you are Catholic!)
  • Provide a place where they are made to feel welcome in the Church and are encouraged to participate in church life, especially the Mass and the sacraments.
  • Provide spiritual guidance, by a priest or other qualified person, to resolve any issues specific to their circumstances that might inhibit their receiving the sacraments.
  • Assist with providing counseling, or referral to a qualified Catholic counselor. Sadly, it is far too common that Catholics experiencing separation or divorce are referred to non-Catholic counselors, who, while certainly trying to do good, don’t support the Catholic beliefs regarding the permanence of marriage. As a result, in an indirect way, the Church is contributing to Catholics leaving the faith.
  • Be a resource to teach the divorced Catholic about the annulment process and answer any questions they might have to eliminate confusion and mitigate any potential feelings of rejection.
  • Provide long-term support to divorced Catholics. Divorce recovery takes time—often a long time. The Church needs to accompany divorced Catholics on this uncertain and painful journey so they can experience full recovery. Further, this is another opportunity to form and catechize Catholics in their faith. Recovering from divorce is typically a time of reassessment of life’s meaning and purpose. Being reintroduced to the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith offers the divorcee the opportunity to realign their life around this faith. This will create more vibrant, committed, and joyful apostles, elevating the entire Body of Christ.
  • Provide similar levels of support and outreach to single parents as the Church does for unwed mothers. Divorce is devastating financially. This affects single parents in particular as they often face significant financial hardship raising children with greatly reduced income. This is further compounded if child support payments are delayed or stopped. This financial pressure often causes single parents to seek out remarriage as a means to alleviate this pressure and provide security for their children. This motivation is a cause for marriage outside the Church. It is not uncommon for Catholics that have pursued this route, to want to return to the Church once the initial financial uncertainty has passed. Providing support and outreach from the start of a single-parenting situation will make the Church a place of refuge, instead of a relationship outside the Church. Further, marriages established with these types of unhealthy motivations have a high failure rate and perpetuate the cycle of divorce.
  • Provide support for kids experiencing divorce. Parents will often seek help for their children to cope with divorce before seeking help for themselves. If the level of divorce support in Catholic churches is poor for adults, it is even worse for children. This forces Catholics to seek help outside the church, typically from Protestant churches. As mentioned above, Protestant churches wealth of programs draws divorced Catholics away from the Church. Offering vital divorce support programs for adults and children will keep them close to the faith.

(NOTE: In areas where there is not enough critical mass at the parish level, the diocese must be willing to step in and provide programs and resources. If not, the Catholic goes elsewhere.)

b) Train priests, deacons and lay ministers how to effectively minister to Catholics experiencing separation and divorce.

  • For many Catholics, their divorce is a pivotal moment in their faith when they turn refuge, compassion, and support. Since divorce is a relatively recent phenomena within society and the Church, many priests and deacons have not received formal training on the best ways to minister to a Catholic experiencing divorce. As a result, priests and deacons fallback on their doctrinal training, causing them to focus on the “laws” of our Faith. This is often received as cold and disconnected by the divorcing Catholic. As a result, divorcing Catholics often complain of a lack of understanding and compassion for their situation.
  • The Church needs to update its training for priests, deacons, and any lay person who deals with divorced or separated Catholics to make sure they know how to minister to them in a merciful way. Christ taught the doctrines of our faith with love and mercy. This helped people see the redeeming value in living these doctrines, even if it was difficult. It gave them hope, in spite of their suffering. He often criticized the Pharisees for focusing only on the law and detaching it from love. So often, the divorced Catholic turns to the Church at a time when they are in great pain and extremely vulnerable. The Church must do everything possible to make sure they are received with compassion and love. Deacons can play a vital role here.

c) Raise public awareness among Catholics regarding what the Church teaches about divorce and how to best help someone they know that is experiencing divorce. The Internet is an ideal means to provide this information.

2. Revamp the annulment process to make it faster and more compassionate.

a) Implement the parish-level divorce ministry (mentioned above) so that by the time a divorced Catholic can file for an annulment, they are not blindsided by the Church’s position on marriage and have had time to learn about the process.

  • Often times, the annulment process is presented to the divorced Catholic as a formality of the Church—simply some forms to complete. This ignores the tremendous healing that can occur by honestly reviewing a marriage and understanding the reasons for its failure. Plus, by disconnecting the annulment process from its pastoral benefits perpetuates the perception that an annulment is just a “Catholic divorce” and a means for the Church to make money. Having a ministry whose focus is to serve divorced Catholics will help the annulment process be presented in the proper light. It will also provide the opportunity to better educate potential petitioners, helping to reduce confusion and animosity.

b) Increase education regarding the annulment process so the divorced Catholics will better understand it, particularly the grounds, so they can better assess their personal situation and have a degree of hopefulness in the process. This will prevent them from leaving the Church out of disillusionment.

c) Consider a separate process in the Tribunal for divorced and remarried Catholics.

  • Most tribunals lump all petitioners together and process them the same way. For a divorced and remarried Catholic who is trying to return to the fullness of the faith, this can result in a wait of 1-2 years. For someone who has mustered the courage to return to the faith, who is typically anxious and excited to take the steps necessary to return, and who has been without the sacraments for a long period of time, this can be very discouraging. As it is, the divorced and remarried Catholic typically experiences the annulment process as a cold, heartless barrier to their being able to return fully to their Catholic faith. The extremely long time to complete the process magnifies their sense of disconnection and increases their frustration. The result is that many give up on their annulment petitions.
  • Creating a separate process within tribunals to handle petitions from divorced and remarried Catholic will allow the process to be tailored to their specific needs and allow a level of sensitivity to be maintained. Further, by creating a separate process in the tribunal allows resources to be allocated to this more time sensitive group and allows their annulment to be processed more quickly.

d) Dramatically streamline the annulment process to be done in less than 6 months.

  • The processing time for an annulment is an impediment for divorced and remarried Catholics returning to the Church. Annulments must be completed in six months or less. Creating a separate process as mentioned in Item #3 above, is the first step in achieving this goal. It will allow an annulment process to be tuned to the unique needs of the divorced and remarried Catholics, and it will also allow resources to be allocated as needed to ensure the timely completion of annulments.
  • Not only should a separate process be created for divorced Catholics within the tribunal, but a streamlined process should be implemented as well. Some suggestions for streamlining the annulment process for divorced Catholics include:
  1. Identifying the grounds at the beginning of the process (with the help of a the sponsor/case manager).
  2. Allowing affidavits from witnesses that speak specifically to the identified grounds to be submitted with the petition.
  3. Allowing an affidavit from the former spouse if they do not wish to proceed in the process to be submitted with the petition.

All the above will greatly reduce the waiting time during the annulment process associated with waiting for witnesses and former spouses to respond.

e) Do not charge for annulments; make them free.

  • For some, the fee charged by the tribunal is a financial hardship. For many, it is an emotional hardship. While tribunals have very sound reasons for charging a fee, it creates suspicion and angst for many. When a divorced and remarried Catholic works up the courage to approach the Church for full communion, the fee comes across as punitive. They receive it as they have to “pay” to return. This sends a message very contrary to the merciful love that is at the heart of Christ and His Church. In the Gospel story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), the father did not make his son pay when he returned, just the opposite. The father spent money to celebrate his son’s return. The Church should be willing to do the same for divorced Catholics seeking an annulment.
  • There is an appropriate time to recoup some of the costs associated with a divorced Catholic returning to the Church; it is during the convalidation process. This is after the annulment has been granted, and the fees charged are aligned with the marriage preparation process, not with the annulment process. Since the fee is aligned with the restoration of full communion and not the dissolution of marriage, it would be better received. More suggestions follow on how to improve the convalidation process so that it properly celebrates the returning divorced Catholic to the faith.

3. Create a new process for divorced Catholics to come back into full communion that celebrates their return to the Church.

Just as the prodigal son was celebrated by his father upon his return, the Church should celebrate the return of divorced and remarried Catholics. Here is what I propose:

a) Create a separate process similar in concept to the RCIA process that works directly with divorced and remarried Catholics to guide them in the return to full communion.

  • For the sake of this letter, I will call this new program: Embrace. Like the RCIA program, the Embrace program would work very closely with divorced Catholics during the annulment process (if one has not already been obtained), catechize them on their faith, particularly on the Sacrament of Marriage, in preparation for their convalidation, work and catechize with their spouse, and conclude with a celebration at their convalidation. As importantly, this process can minister to those divorced Catholics who are not granted an annulment. Unlike most convalidations, which are handled privately, it is suggested that the couple be given the opportunity to share their convalidation with the parish community so that they can be properly welcomed and congratulated. This is a time of great joy for the couple and the Church and should be treated as such. The Embrace process would do just that. A lost sheep has been found and should be received with great joy! (Luke 15:1-7)

b) Make a concerted effort to reach out to divorced Catholics and invite them back into this new and more compassionate process.

  • Fortunately, with the advent of the Internet and social media, reaching people is easier and more cost-effective than ever. I suggest mounting a social media campaign with the purpose of finding divorced and remarried Catholics and inviting them to return to the church. Facebook, dating websites, and Catholic websites are just some of the readily available means to effectively reach out to divorced and remarried Catholics and invite them back into the merciful love of the Church. Other, more traditional means of reaching these Catholics, such as, church bulletins and diocesan newspapers should be utilized as well. The focus of these promotions is to target divorced and remarried Catholics and invite them to investigate returning to their faith. This new process will make it more attractive and easier than ever for them to return. The Church has an apostolic duty to go searching for these lost sheep.

c) The Embrace process would be a powerful way to keep divorced Catholics from leaving the Church.

  • One of the initial tasks of the process would be to assess the grounds for an annulment and if it is deemed there are sufficient grounds, allow the divorced Catholic to continue on with the convalidation preparation while the annulment is being processed. If deemed there are not sufficient grounds, the Embrace participant would be put on a different track that would minister to them and help them adjust to life in the Church without the sacraments.


One of the consequences of having grossly inadequate support for divorced or separated Catholics is the widespread dilemma of divorced Catholics remarrying outside the Church. This creates an ache in the hearts of these Catholics as they long to return only to find difficult obstacles in their way. It creates an ache in the heart of the Body of Christ as it longs for all its sheep to return to the fold.

The good news is that a real solution is available and, with coordinated effort, can be implemented in a relatively short timeframe. The combination of providing proactive, on-going support for separated and divorced Catholics at the parish-level so they stay close to their Catholic faith, along with streamlining the annulment process in conjunction with celebrating the return of divorced and remarried Catholics, will keep more Catholics from leaving and help provide a loving pathway back for those who have left.

Thank you so much for taking the initiative to address the challenges of helping divorced and remarried Catholics return to full communion with the Church. This is a difficult issue and I look forward with joyful anticipation to how the Holy Spirit is going to guide all those involved with finding a solution. I stand at your service to help.

Your Faithful Servant,
Vincent Frese, II

Originally posted 2014-10-01 10:09:58.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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28 thoughts on “Open Letter to His Holiness, Pope Francis; His Eminence, Walter Cardinal Kasper; The Synod of Bishops, and the Catholic Church at Large

    • Vince is there a future plan to have your published book and workbook and online inspirations to Spanish.. I lead a group in my parish and the book we work with is not as rich as yours.. we would be so blessed if your material is in Spanish. We have 35 members they would buy the bundle.
      Please let me know thanks

      • Thank you for your kind words about the book and Inspirations. We do not have the book or workbook in Spanish. That is something we are considering, but I do not have a timeline. I wish I could be more helpful.

        Live Abundantly,

      • Susan,

        We have had interest in a Spanish translation, but that project has not been initiated. I don’t have a specific timeline. I know that is frustrating. Perhaps in the near future.

        Live Abundantly,

  1. Here’s a streamlined process —
    Ask the petitioner, “In your vows at your wedding, did you promise to love and honor your spouse all the days of your life, until death do you part?” (Yes)
    “You do know what until death means?” (Yes)
    “Petition denied.”

    How is that? But for some reason, I get the impression that the whole process is all about “getting the annulment,” and not about discerning the truth. It’s all outcome-based. In which case, no marriage is safe from ad hoc nullifcation.

    • Dear Bender,

      I, like you, wish that everyone’s “yes” was unconditional and lifelong. There would be no divorce. Sadly, that is not the reality that we, or the Church, deal with. The annulment process is an attempt to understand each person’s understanding of the commitment they were making and any external factors that were in place at the time of the marriage that might have undermined a free choice. In a perfect world, the commitment would be perfect. Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world with people who are fallen by nature. Thank God for our Savior as clearly we all NEED Him.

      While the annulment process is not perfect, it does strive to uncover the truth and render a decision accordingly. The Holy Spirit guides the process and so we can trust that the decision does reflect the truth. Having said that, it is administered by humans, and humans are fallible. We are called as Catholics to be obedient to the Holy Father who is ultimately over the process. Pope Francis is showing great leadership in attempting to make sure the annulment process is accurate AND fair. The Holy Spirit is at work in him!

      I invite you to an upcoming on-line workshop we are having on annulments. This may shed some light on this complex issue. Stay tuned to for dates and times.

  2. My 41 year marriage ended in divorce a month ago. When I was 21, my ‘yes’ was unconditional. For all of my marriage it was unconditional. When problems started I read every book, went to every seminar about strengthening ones marriage, being ‘unevenly yoked’. But when he started using my Catholic faith as a reason for me not be able to leave and him not needing to live in accordance with our vows, I felt I could not get away from the his mental cruelty. I sought professional help for spiritual guidance from the church and professional counselors. One time I went to morning Mass before meeting with our priest. The readings and homily were about believing we are the child of God. Deep in my heart I realized I really was a child of God and God plan for me was not to sacrifice my mental health. I was very lucky because the priests and spiritual counselors assured me that my life was precious and valid to God. God didn’t want me to sacrifice my sanity for his sake. I have never felt more loved than when I finally accepted Gods grace fully. Good things came from God, like a loving and accepting Catholic faith community in my new neighborhood that is helping me heal and truly live my faith abundantly. While I morn the loss of my marriage; I rejoice in my new life in Christ. Amen! Thank you for your daily inspirations. Another blessing from God!!

    • Christine,

      You are so on the right path! Stay close to Christ and the His Sacraments. The Church does not advocate you putting yourself or your children in jeopardy to preserve a marriage. (CCC 2383 and 2386) Keep practicing your Catholic faith. It is the key to your recovering from divorce!

      In Christ,

  3. Tears came to my eyes reading your letter. Because I want to be remarried in the Church and feel it is impossible.

    I married in the Church in 1996 and received my civil divorce in 2007. When I finally found the “right” person, I attempted to start the nullification process with one of the parish priests. Unfortunately, I was turned away and simply told to go to the tribunal. To this day it seriously pains me that I did not remarry in the Church. But I don’t even know where to start if a parish priest would not help me.

    Pope Francis’ message is refreshing. But I feel like it doesn’t translate well down to the parish level. How can someone like me get assistance?

  4. All this information is so true. After 46 years of marriage, my husband was won over by a woman he works with. I was so devastated that I actually felt suicidal at times. The nun at our parish referred me to your website ( This really helped me. All the feelings described fit what I was going through. The Church does need more updated help with the annulment process. (I have not started yet, but I think it will give me closure on the “death” of my marriage.) These ideas, however, will probably require work by lay people. There are not enough religious. Thanks again, Vince. You are God’s angel!

    • Patricia,

      Thank you so much for your feedback! I am so happy that Our Lord was working through your nun friend and that you are on a much stronger path. Our Lord is with you every step of the way.

      I am doing a lot of work on clarifying the information surrounding annulments. I just released an ebook on the subject. I plan on offering a workshop soon as well. Keep the faith!

      Live Abundantly,

  5. Great, simply wise, very smart. When I was reading it I thought it would be a huge blessing if people with your knowledge and experience would work assessing a vatican committee for divorcees

  6. Nowhere have I seen such a grasp of all that is involved in divorce, separation, remarriage and what is needed for Catholics to live their faith close to the Church in these circumstances.. And sometimes innocent parties who never wanted to be divorced. You are unparrelled in your understanding of the pain, of the healing needed,, and the ways to healing. How gracious of our Lord to have picked you and transformed you into the invaluabe help to those
    of us who suffer this loss, lonliness and pain from a divorce and remain faithful to our vows in a Sacramental marriage.
    Some, alone for years where our Catholic spouse has left us.
    Your writings are a consolation and an encouragement to go on , so much strength comes from being understood and cared for, even where annullment is not possible. Thank you for your true Catholic guidance. All things are possible with God.

  7. Thanks for this Mr. Frese. I was married and divorced by 25, and I’ve been divorced for 16 years. I think it’s possible that part of the healing process for anyone who’s suffered emotional trauma is to have the opportunity to talk with someone one-on-one. In our diocese we have absolutely zero resources – no available spiritual directors and no counselors faithful to Church teaching. I’ve found even attending retreats or conferences do little good since they rarely address issues that divorced Catholics face. If one were preparing to be a celibate religious, you’d go through years of preparation, and you’d have the financial and emotional support of an entire community. Divorced Catholics are asked to make the same sacrifices, alone, and you get assigned to your state in life, often due to someone else’s choices, by getting a letter in the mail. Sad.

    • What you are experiencing is sad. I am so sorry. I would check with your Diocese website. Most Catholic Diocese has what is known as “Catholic Charities.” This office provides counseling on a sliding scale based on your ability to pay. I would also suggest the Recovering from Divorce Online program. It is available to you 24/7 to give you insights in dealing with divorce as a Catholic. It has helped thousands recover from the pain of divorce. Your Catholic faith is the key to your healing from divorce. Live it fully!

      Live Abundantly,

  8. Dear Brother,

    I am a 37 years old Catholic woman, born and raised in Latin America. I married in the church with a Hindu man (using cult disparity dispensing), and my marriage last 7 years. I have a 5 years old child. Painfully, I asked for divorce due to emotional abuse.

    As woman, I would love to find someone who can be my life partner. I know that I have a lot to give; that I could be, with God’s help, a good wife. And many people tells me that we (divorced Catholics) have the right to “happiness”, that my marriage could be an “easy case” for nulity. But I know what I have swear on the altar the day of my wedding. And in my conscience I know that my matrimony is valid. Why I should ask a nullification? To be open for a new love? If so, where I left the promises that I did to my husband in front of God?

    My husband (and I call him my husband because in front of God he is still my husband) has done many wrong things to me. However, my promises does not depend of what he will do or did to me, but from my fidelity to God. Each one of us knows if our matrimony was a valid one or no. If we did our vows without coercion, freely and voluntarily, that vows are valid. I freely went to ask the sacrament to the church and to ask God to join my life with my husband’s. And Jesus said “what God has joined, man can’t separate it”

    Why we need to remarry? It is our human side who longs for affection in a human perspective. However, we are not only merely humans, but children of God. And despite what the world says and offer know, we are called to be “salt and light”. If a catholic can easily “nullify” a SACRAMENT, where is the sacred character of this? Can we nullify a Baptism? Why we pretend to “improve” the process to nullify a matrimony? What is the difference between both of them, so one can be easily nullify and the other no?

    We human beings make mistakes. Some people, at some point in our matrimony, we discover that the relationship has become unsustainable. And the church allow us to separate from our partners if they are a danger to us, or the life becomes unsupportable. This does not separate us from God. However, even in this situation, we should be able to turn to Christ, and to help him to carry the Cross with our pain, and our sorrow. Who knows if God is calling us to consecrate our life to his service while being a lay catholic in the world, through the fidelity to our spouse? Why we long a “human love” if we have God’s love, that is the only one who can really fulfill our hearts? Why we make us ourselves available to find a new love, if we have a promise to fulfill? It will not be easy to close our hearts, as it is not easy to follow Christ and his church. But with God’s grace we can obtain the grace to keep our promises. We promised to be faithful “for better or for worst”. And what is worst than a divorce! We promised it“until death separate us”. We did not add it “or until a Tribunal nullify our matrimony”

    If a Catholic wishes to remarry, is a personal decision. Before to remarry, I would think: Is this new person more important for me than receiving Eucharisty every Sunday? Is his/her love more important for me than Jesus’ love in the Communion? And each of us will take a decision as per our hearts.

    At that point, we need to make a choice, a radical one. “Because who is not with me, is against me” We can’t go against Christ wishes for matrimony “until death separate us”, and then we “want” (sometimes we “claim”) to receive him in the Communion. The Eucharist is not a right, it is a grace, a gift. We can’t force God to give us anything, even more to give us something so sacred as his Blood and Body if we are not ready to take in our life’s the Chalice and the Cross that he took.

    I think that God will be more happy to see that there is just a handful of real Catholics who are committed to follow Christ in everything despite our weakness, than a church full of people who does not even know and BELIEVE that is CHRIST in person who is in the Eucharist. If Christ and your new partner are in front of you, who’s love you long the most?

    I am not the only one starting this pathway. I found on internet an Spaniard group called “Betania”, for divorced people who want to follow Church’s teachings about matrimony, and to live fidelity “until death separate us”. Let’s encourage each other, not to search an “easy” nullify process, but to be brave and have the courage to take the Cross and to follow Christ until the end.

    May God bless us

    • Cynthya,
      I agree with you, you are spot on, in my opinion, and although I am not Spanish(by the way your English is amazing, I always admire the bilingual),I will check out the website you stated. I also believe in the vows until death parts the covenant, even if that vow wasn’t even said.(We still made the promise!)Like the prodigal son was convicted of his sin, and returned, we will pray until death parts us, that our spouse will come back to God, and the marriage, but first and foremost, no matter what, to repent to God. It is about the salvation of their souls which is why we pray, and not so that we will have the comfort of them back to remarry us, but to save their souls! I do not mean any disrespect by disagreeing with the author of this book and website, because he is truly trying to help with the suffering of those in this beyond words painful and unreal process(our flesh is being ripped apart while we are still alive), but I do have to agree with the Author and Finisher of my faith, Who said: “Remain single or be reconciled to your spouse.”
      If you hadn’t written this, Cinthya, I doubt I would have written also, so I thank you, and hope Vince will agree to disagree. He is at peace with his decision to remarry. God bless us all. Happy new decade, 2020.
      Through Christ our Lord, I pray
      in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

  9. Wow, if only this was in spanish to inform our spanish culture of what your mision with the church has been these years. Our blessings

  10. Hi Vince, Are there any updates to this? You wrote this excellent letter, complete with an action plan, over six years ago. Nothing has changed…has it? Our Holy Father Pope Francis speaks the right words, but I don’t see that they result in real changes. There are no support groups at any Catholic parishes within forty miles of where I live. It is hard to believe that the Catholic Church is capable of real change. Perhaps it is just too much bureaucracy. I wish the Pope could appoint you to be in charge of this dire problem in the United States. God bless you and your mission.

    • Pat,

      Unfortunately, I wish I could say that things are much improved. They are not. The silver-lining from the COVID pandemic is that people are getting more comfortable meeting virtually. We plan to leverage this by providing more virtual options. Keep on the lookout for some exciting announcements. Thanks for your kind words!

      Live Abundantly,

  11. Wow! Over and over – as I read this letter – I was nodding my head and saying “Yes!”. Then I noticed it was written several years ago and wondered the same thing Pat asked in a recent (January, 2021) message – has anything changed? Your reply was, sadly no.

    As your letter mentions, divorce recovery ministries are not hard to find in protestant churches. I went through such a program for my divorce back in 2015. I have remained active in that ministry over the years. I am now on the volunteer lay leadership team of that program. Every year, I see people helped with such ministries. I know of at least one divorced Catholic who now attends Sunday services at that protestant church.

    In addition to the healing I was getting from a divorce recovery ministry, I was also renewing my Catholic faith. I got my marriage annulled, even though I wasn’t even dating anyone. I took RCIA to relearn everything I forgot. I very much enjoyed that RCIA class. I went to Confession (after probably 30+ years!). I was becoming active again in the Church.

    But then, I became engaged to a beautiful woman. You would think that would be a happy statement. I consider her an answer to my many prayers asking Him to send to me a spouse. But, my Church will not marry us because SHE has not obtained annulments (2 prior marriages). And, if I do marry her, my Church will not recognize it and I will not be able to fully participate (receive the Eucharist). How can I continue to say the Catholic Church is “my” church??? We have examined the annulment process for her, but (again as you say in your open letter), there is so little empathy or compassion; just rigid, extremely hard rules and process.

    Anyway, I applaud your letter, and your programs and books reaching out to divorced Catholics. I just recently arranged a meeting of several divorced Catholics here where I live, so we can gather and share our experiences of being Catholic and divorced. We have not yet met, but I anticipate we all are very much struggling with precisely the things you state in the letter.

    Thank you for what you do.

    • Bill,

      Thank you for taking the time to write such a thorough and heartfelt letter! I admire your persistence in pursuing your faith. Don’t lose hope regarding your fiance getting an annulment. As you have discovered, the Church is the source of all Truth, and, even though it is hard to understand in the case of the annulment requirement for your fiance, the Church’s position on the permanence of marriage is equally true. While it can be daunting and confusing for a non-Catholic to go through the annulment process (and even Catholics!), it is the path to ultimate peace in both your lives and your marriage. If your fiance is reluctant, possibly it is because she does not understand the process. I will email to you a link for my ebook on annulments. Possibly this may answer any questions your or she may have. I assure you, I know many couples in similar circumstances to yours, and those that went through the annulment process and were married in the Church as so happy they did and are blessed every day by that decision. I would encourage you and your fiance to take the same path.

      Live Abundantly,

  12. Dear Mr. Frese, I just finished reading your letter with your excellent composition of how the Catholic Church has treated divorced Catholics in the past. You did not only bring to the heads of the issues at hand but listed each one and the reason you felt the Church was not assisting divorced Catholics to become better Catholics, but you also provided and proposed excellent solutions to the issues. I found your letter a saving grace for all divorced Catholics. I have felt a burden of guilt and not “being worthy” of God because of the way the Church stipulated how sinful I am for being divorced. I too was married twice with the Catholic Church and divorced and annulled twice. I try not to look back because it is very painful as you have said. My first marriage was in 1968. I have two adult daughters, who I feel still have never gotten over the divorce with their father but they tend to turn their anger towards me, even though they were only 2 and 5 years old at the time. I felt much relief reading your letter because I know it was instrumental in getting the treatment of divorced Catholics & the process of annulments tweaked to be more friendly. Although, there is always room for improvement, I am so grateful, God has put you and the Separated &Divorce Catholic Ministry into my life. It may be too late for me, but maybe some day soon, a Ministry for the children of all ages of divorce parents could be initiated. The pain, hurt & anger festers in the world and I wonder if it contributes to the dissolving of the nuclear family that sparsely exists today. God Bless to you and your Family.