Thank You, Pope Francis!—13 Years Later But I'll TAKE IT


Pope Francis' statement is 13 years too late for me, but I'm OK with that - now.

In August 2002, my divorce was final. When the judge signed the decree my immediate reaction was happiness. I thought I was free! I thought I would be happy (finally) because of a little ink on a piece of paper. Oh, the silly things I used to believe ...

It didn't take long before I started to feel suffocated by guilt. I was sure that God was going to punish me (by death) for getting divorced AND that I deserved it.

A bit irrational? Maybe. But, seriously, how many people make it through divorce without at least one irrational thought?

For this particular thought though, I had help in coming up with it. You see I was raised pseudo-Catholic.

My parents were both raised Catholic and went to parochial schools. However, outside of the baptisms for my younger siblings and attending funerals, I don't remember us attending church as a family. Despite this, Catholic-ish teachings certainly made it into my psyche and one of those teachings was that if you got divorced, you committed a serious sin. So serious a sin that as a result you weren't allowed to be a part of the church anymore.

But, it wasn't only Catholic guilt that I felt after my divorce.

You see, shortly after meeting my first husband, I decided to embrace his religion and became a Southern Baptist. And guess what ... They didn't look too kindly on divorce either.

My beliefs of this double-religious guilt produced tremendous fears and I was so stress out that I developed hives. To help me relax and hopefully shed some of my guilt, I decided to take a vacation. But instead of looking forward to the trip, I found myself actually dreading it because I figured this would be God's chance to get me in a plane crash. (Yeah, OK, I was pretty irrational by this point.)

As you probably guessed, God didn't take me out with a plane crash or in any other deathly way because I got divorced. (Unless you consider me ditching the persona of guilt-ridden woman a death.) What did happen as a result of my divorce was that I explored religions and my relationship with God.

I think that if back then I had had some reassurance that my divorce was OK in the eyes of God, that I wouldn't have been so miserably distraught with guilt. So, from that standpoint I'm extremely grateful that Pope Francis made the statement:

"People who started a new union after the defeat of their sacramental marriage are not at all excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way. They always belong to the church."

I sincerely hope that his message eases the pain that many divorced and divorcing Catholics feel.

However, if I had had his reassurances 13 years ago, I doubt that I would be the person I am today: confident in my place as one of God's most loved children—just like everyone else.

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Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach and advisor helping people who are considering divorce make a smart decision about staying or leaving their marriage. You can join her anonymous newsletter group for free advice or email her at for a free consultation. Don’t let the worry about divorce ruin your life, help is available as soon as you’re ready.