Resolutions and the Pope

By 8 January 2014News

Every January, so it seems, the press pick a day and announce that it is “divorce day”. They usually plump for the first working day back after New Year’s Day. Apparently this year it was Friday 3rd January. They have also dubbed the first Monday back after the seasonal break “Blue Monday” – that was Monday this week (6th January) in case you were not feeling grumpy enough to realise it. Blue Monday is also apparently “divorce Monday” (in addition to “divorce day” the previous Friday!) with many people either seeing a solicitor to start the ball rolling for a separation or divorce, or actually issuing proceedings, now that the relatives have left and the children gone back to school. Whilst we often see an upturn in enquiries during January, we wouldn’t want you to think that half of East Anglia has been beating down our door these last few days; but if you would like to discuss anything with us, you know where we are.

This month is also the busiest time of the year for relationship counsellors. This is a slightly more positive statistic, as despite the well reported strains on all sorts of relationships over the festive period, many people decide to try to sort out their problems through counselling or other therapeutic services before taking any final decisions at the start of the year. We heartily endorse this approach, and there are many excellent counsellors in the Cambridge area to whom we can discreetly refer you, if you would like to get some help with improving things at home.

New Year is a time for making, then usually failing to keep, resolutions. Going to the gym, reading something improving, learning a language all seem to come and go. If you have resolved to work on your relationship – that’s positive, and we wish you luck. If you have resolved to move on, may we recommend doing so calmly and without the much vaunted stampede to the courts.

It seems that even the Pope has been getting in there with the ‘divorce day’ feeling. Although apparently stemming from comments made last year, the press this week have been reporting on something approaching a resolution from the Vatican – namely being nicer to alternative families and the children living within them.

A while ago we wrote a few blogs about the three main Abrahamic religious faiths and their approaches to marriage and divorce. Following on from that, we were very pleased to read that Pope Francis has been hinting at a possible softening of the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church towards those families whose situation differs from that seen as “conventional” by the church. In October this year there will be discussions about the church’s approach to family life at the Synod of Bishops’ meeting in Rome. In advance of that the Pope has asked his bishops across the world to canvas the views of Catholics within their diocese on whether the churches are reaching out sufficiently to divorced and remarried couples, to cohabitating couples, to single parent families and to gay couples and their children. The church is seeking opinions on how best to deal with these issues.

This rather interesting Pope is also interested to learn whether the church’s ban on artificial birth control is accepted and if not, why not. Plus, we have read that there may also be a relaxation of the present ban on divorced people who have remarried receiving Holy Communion.

Here in England a number of Catholic bishops have issued letters calling for greater understanding and compassion for those faced with marital breakdown.

This looks like a very positive step in helping to bridge the sometimes yawning gap between faith, doctrine and family life, although following some excited press coverage, the Vatican has already played down hopes of major doctrinal changes. Nevertheless, Pope Francis has spoken in the past about the need not to judge people and warned against Catholics being obsessed with issues such as gay marriage, abortion and contraception. The Pope has indicated his concern that as a result of the Church’s present opposition to homosexuality, same-sex marriage and divorce, children living within separated or same-sex families children may feel unwelcome within the Catholic Church, and has warned against administering “a vaccine against faith to them”.

Steps towards inclusivity, however small, should be welcomed in our opinion, and naturally, we support any changes which will help Catholic couples and families reconcile their personal situation with their faith, although it seems the Roman Catholic Church does has some way to go in truly embracing what we see in the world as modern family life.

So whether your new year’s resolutions involve less cake, more exercise, getting counselling, moving on, or updating your theological doctrine, we wish you the very best of luck with them, and a happy new year!

As always, if you would like to make an appointment to discuss a family law matter with us, please give Adam, Gail, Sue or Simon a call on 01223 443333.