Divorce, American Style

Divorce, American Style

Bai McFarlane talks with Zoe Romanowsky at Godspy.com about divorce and Catholics. This is no theoretical swim in the theological depths. It is rooted in Bai’s very messy, very public divorce battle with her prominent husband, Bud McFarlane.

If you’re looking for the messy details of their private life, don’t bother to read it. But if you want some very interesting insights into the problems that Divorce, Inc., have presented society; or her prescriptions for how the Church could start to help rather than hinder the saving of marriages; or her take on the lofty and beautiful description of marriage in Church documents that bears little resemblance to what most people experience, then this is the interview for you.

I had heard that most American tribunals won’t even take an annulment petition until after a civil divorce is final, which doesn’t make sense at all. As a child of divorced Catholic parents I can second much of what she’s saying about the whole thing, especially with regard to the effect of divorce on adult children, not just when they’re adolescents or younger. 

  • In England, from about the year 1000 AD until the last half of the 19th Century, all marriage, divorce, annulment and alimony proceedings were handled by ecclesiastical courts.  These courts became “civil”-ized after the takeover of the Church by Henry VIII, but the essential law remained Roman Catholic canon law.  In fact, divorces were simply not granted, because they were illegal, and required a private act of Parliament. 

    Fortunately or unfortunately, ecclesiastical courts were never established in the U.S.  Each province or colony developed its own ad-hoc system for adjudicating marriage cases.  In Massachusetts Bay, for example, jurisdiction was granted to the Governor’s Council until 1786, and there’s an open question as to whether some residual jurisdiction remains vested in the Council. 

    The Massachusetts General Laws, ch. 208, s. 33, still allow the courts to hear divorce cases “according to the course of proceedings in ecclesiastical courts”, meaning the ecclesiastical courts of Britain at the time of our national “divorce” from that realm.  Again, this course of proceedings is essentially the pre-Tridentine Roman Catholic canon law.

  • Prayers for Mrs. McFarlane and all other spouses subjected to abandonment, aka civil divorce and canon annulment.

    There exists a very kind God who sees your pain and does not abandon.



  • I just finished Bud’s “Conceived without Sin”.

    Doubt he was inspired to file for divorce while praying in front of our Blessed Sacrement.