She later lost her job at a Catholic high school when she remarried, and then left Catholicism — for a time thinking that she was putting her soul in danger by doing so.Losing Members Many others have followed a similar path: When bishops survey parishes — as they did last year at the behest of the Vatican — they reach only a fraction of those affected, because many divorced Catholics are no longer in the pews.Pamela Crawford, 46, of Virginia, is having none of that.
A significant number have left for Protestant churches, where they feel more welcome.
Others have abandoned institutional religion altogether. Often, that is not their preference.“Everyone can say, ‘Go get another flavor of soda if you don’t like this one,’ but I don’t want to be Methodist or Lutheran,” said Andrea Webb, 47, of Palm Harbor, Fla., who stopped going to church after deciding she would be able to get an annulment only if she criticized her ex-husband in ways she did not believe were truthful. Webb added, a priest told her that her status was akin to that of an adulterer, so she could not receive communion.
Mark Garren does not take communion when he goes to church.
Sometimes he walks up to the priest, crosses his arms over his chest and touches his shoulders to signal that he is seeking a blessing. Garren, a 64-year-old Illinoisan, remains in his pew, watching with slight embarrassment as the rest of the row moves to the front of the church.
The battle lines are clear: Some high-level church officials, most notably the conference of German bishops, want the church to relax its rules so that divorced Catholics can more fully return to church life, particularly by receiving communion, even if they have remarried.
Traditionalists are pushing back fiercely, arguing that the indissolubility of marriage is ordained by God and therefore nonnegotiable.Some Catholics said they did not want to annul their marriages because of how it might look or feel for their children — although in the eyes of the church, an annulment has no implications for the legitimacy of children.Others said their divorces had been so contentious that they did not want to take part in a process in which the church asked them to share information about their romantic or emotional lives or sought to contact their former spouses.Like many Catholics, he is hoping for a change.“A lot of people would like to be practicing and aren’t,” he said.“There should be a way to resolve this.”Beyond the issues of church doctrine and procedure are complaints about how divorced Catholics are treated at the parish level.Pope Francis, who plans to make his first trip to the United States in September to attend a conference on families, has acknowledged the concerns of divorced Catholics.