Divorce used to carry a horrid stigma. If you divorced, you were a loser, your children were slated for a life of crime or worse, and you and your progeny were largely to be cast on the dust heap of society.
Not so much anymore. Obviously with roughly one-half of marriages ending in divorce, our society is coping better and better with the concept. Margaret Meade called monogamy the hardest of all human marital arrangements. She advocated that the most natural human condition is serial monogomy. She may have been right.
Now, the Pontif has weighed in on the issue and, as is true with much of what Pope Francis says, it is worth thinking about. Until Pope Francis recently declared otherwise, Catholics couldn’t divorce and remarry and remain within the church. If they did remarry, they were committing adultery and they could not partake of the sacraments. Of course, there was that whole eternal damnation thing, too. Now, according to the Pontif, things have changed or at least, been re-interpreted.
Pope Francis wrote that a husband or wife who divorce by civil statute and remarries, with both parties having full understanding and giving their consent, can not necessarily be said to sin. The remarried parties can partake in the sacrament. Wonderfully, the Pope wrote that no one can be condemned forever.
The difference, according to His Holiness, is reading Christian teachings as though justice and mercy are separate things. Instead, he said the important thing is to abandon a legalistic obsession with what is permitted and what isn’t, and instead strive to integrate divine justice and divine mercy. “There aren’t two things, only one. For God, justice is mercy and mercy is justice.”
There is an old phrase in legal circles, “In criminal law, you see bad people at their best. In family law, you see good people at their worst.” Unfortunately, many practitioners approach the practice as though the other party is the bad guy. But what if they seldom are bad guys? What if the way to approach a family law case is to treat all parties with courtesy, dignity and respect, remembering that this is but a phase of life and the parties will move beyond this phase and have to face each other and themselves in new settings throughout the rest of their lives? What if we approach our families in this transition with an attitude that all is forgiven?
Courtesy, dignity and respect. This sums up our Firm’s operating principle. It always has been. Now we’ll add to it: “justice is mercy and mercy is justice.” So sayeth the Pope.
May justice be done.