Father Gavin Vaverek, pastor of St. Patrick Church in Lufkin and a canon lawyer and defender of the Bond for the diocesan Tribunal, will present a session on “Dealing Successfully with Failed Marriages” Saturday, March 25, 10 a.m.-noon in the Margil Center at Sacred Heart Church in Nacogdoches, 2508 Appleby Sand Road.
The session will offer a brief explanation of the how and why of the Church’s respect for every marriage and the processes for establishing that a failed marriage was in reality never what Christ intended marriage to be. The session will also offer the specific steps those in failed marriages can take to begin moving forward in addressing their situation with the help of the Church.
Father Vaverek said the session is part of an outreach by the diocese to encourage those in failed or irregular marriages to come forward and begin rectifying their situation by taking advantage of the diocesan Tribunal.
“Pope Francis has made a great effort to make the Tribunal more accessible to people,” he said. “Our diocese has invested a lot in our Tribunal. We have a good number of canon lawyers to serve as judges, we have no large backlog of cases, and since Pope Francis eliminated the second instance automatic appeal, we’ve basically cut in half the amount of time (a case takes) because it’s heard only by us and not by (the Tribunal in) San Antonio. So we’re in a position where we can deal with more cases than we’ve been seeing. And we can get a judgment rendered in 6-12 months instead of 18-24 months.
“So we’ve been putting in place the steps to be able to do some outreach to invite people to consider it,” he said.
The session also is intended to correct the various misunderstandings of the Tribunal and marriage process that are so common.
“Practically, we find continually that people have a lot of misconceptions about the process,” Father Vaverek said. “There are people who think that because they’re divorced, they can’t go to Communion. That’s not the issue. The issue is whether they’re divorced and remarried. And sometimes that can be dealt with fairly readily. Sometimes it’s a longer process, but it’s not as long as it used to be.”
The issue of rectifying marriages within the Church has a direct bearing on the faith lives of Catholics.
“As Bishop (Álvaro) Corrada told a cardinal in France when the cardinal had commented about how, in the United States, ‘they’re so crazy about annulments,’ Catholics in the United States want to live their faith. They want to attend Mass and receive Communion.
“Religious practice is higher here than anywhere else in the developed world,” Father Vaverek said. “People want to be able to participate, including in the celebration of the Eucharist. Our culture comes from a very legalistic, law-and-order tradition, and, unlike in Europe where people aren’t necessarily so constrained by this, our people will allow themselves to be kept from this full and active participation by their situation. So if we can relieve them of that barrier, then it’s our obligation to do everything we can to restore them to the full practice of their faith.”
The session is aimed at those who work in Christian Initiation and encounter people with marriage issues “so that they have good information and can accurately help those they encounter,” he said.
“And, hopefully, we’ll also attract couples or individuals who have these issues in their lives and who have been hesitant to talk to their local priest about them.”
Whatever the individual or couple’s situation is, Father Vaverek stressed that “we have a number of well-trained and experienced people who can help. We want to help as many people as possible correct their situations so that they can return to a full life in the sacraments.”
The session is free, and no registration is required.