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The Roman Catholic Church and divorce: a complex interplay

"There should be a way to resolve this," says one non-practicing Catholic in referring to a fundamental schism in the Roman Catholic Church that has affected many millions of divorced persons across the world.

That dividing line is marked on one side by historical church doctrine that deems marriage between Catholics as a sacred and indissoluble rite and on the other side by the aforementioned millions of divorced Catholics who are barred from taking communion because of their marital dissolutions.

In the United States, approximately 11 million Catholics have reportedly divorced. Research conducted within the church posits that about 28 percent of all American Catholics who ever married are now divorced.

And, understandably, many of them are struggling to find some resolution that acknowledges the secular reality of divorce while at the same time allows them to participate in their religious faith.

Many divorced Catholics continue to go to church and simply do not take communion. Others defy the traditional church stance and participate in the rite. Still others leave the church for other Christian denominations and faiths.

As noted in a recent media article discussing Catholicism and divorce, "the church does offer a solution" in some instances for divorced members who want to feel fully included and comprehensively embrace church traditions.

That is an annulment, which, if approved at a petitioner's local church level, has the effect of voiding a marriage for one or more reasons. Many divorced Catholics have availed themselves of this process, but far more have not, finding it to be cumbersome and intrusive. Reportedly, only about 15 percent of divorced American Catholics pursue an annulment.

A Vatican synod will convene later this year, with a central agenda item being potential changes to the church stance on marriage doctrine. Ultimately, Pope Francis will weigh in on the matter.

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