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Question Corner: Dating divorced individuals

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Dating divorced individuals

Q. I have a question regarding dating people who are divorced (Catholic or non-Catholic). At my age (42) it seems like the majority of those in the dating pool are in fact divorced. Many of these potential dates are through online dating apps, which don't list the person's whole history.

Then there is the issue of knowing whether the person's marriage was even valid to begin with. These are questions that, I feel, need to be asked over the course of several dates. So, my question is this: Is it OK for a Catholic to date someone who is divorced? (Bel Air, Md.)

A. Certainly before entering any kind of serious romantic relationship, a Catholic should know whether the person he or she is dating is free to marry in the Catholic Church. (And it is good to consider how quickly — especially at the age of 42 — a dating relationship can become serious.)

In terms of knowing whether someone's previous marriage was valid in the church's eyes, it is safest to presume that it was. Certainly, two non-Catholics have no responsibility to get the Catholic Church's approval before marrying, and the assumption is that the couple was in good faith and that their decision must be honored.

I can understand — especially with the advent of online matches — that you wouldn't want to "grill" a potential date at the very outset on the circumstances of their first marriage; but fairly early in the relationship you would want to know that, should you decide to marry, the two of you would be free to marry in the church.

Should your dating partner need a church annulment from a previous marriage, you should know in advance that that process could take several months. The questionnaires are extensive and seek to examine whether there was some reason — psychological or emotional — that may have hampered the first couple from entering into a permanent relationship.

Bowing at name of Jesus

Q. I am a "cradle Catholic," born 90 years ago. I am troubled by the lack of reverence given of late to the name "Jesus." From childhood, that name has always prompted me to bow my head in reverence, but I never see that done anymore. I, as a party of one, am asking people to restore this simple gesture of respect. (Duluth, Ga.)

A. The custom of bowing at the name of Jesus has a long history in the church. It takes its origin from something St. Paul said in his Letter to the Philippians (2:9-10): "God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend ... and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."

To kneel or genuflect at every mention of Jesus might distract from the flow of prayer, and so in the 13th century Pope Gregory X found a reasonable accommodation. In 1274, he wrote this to the Dominican friars:

"Recently, during the council held at Lyons, … we have also judged it proper to persuade the faithful to demonstrate more reverence for that Name above all names, the only Name to which we claim salvation — the Name of Jesus Christ, who has redeemed us from the bondage of sin. Consequently, in obedience to that apostolic precept, 'In the Name of Jesus let every knee be bent,' we wish that at the pronouncing of that Name, chiefly at the Holy Sacrifice, everyone would bow his head in token that interiorly he bends the knee of his heart."

The custom took hold and became part of the church's regular practice. So, you are correct in bowing your head when you pronounce or hear the name of Jesus. Although there is no absolute "rule," it is a worthy custom that deserves to endure, reminding us that there are lofty realities that transcend and protect us.

Do priests forget confessions?

Q. Do Catholic priests forget what they are told in confession? (City and state withheld)

A. Yes, we do. Part of that is due, I'm sure, to the grace of God; but another reason might be the repetitive nature of most confessions. I always try to remind myself, when I enter the confessional box, to stay alert and to remember that my role is to put the penitent in touch with God.

Rather than have confession become simply a repetition of regular faults (and that is fine), I often try to engage penitents also with regard to their spiritual life by asking them, for example, "Do you try to pray each day?" Normally, within a few minutes of leaving the confessional, I have forgotten nearly all of the sins people have confessed.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021