"it is true that the Church must uphold Christ's teaching on marriage," the Most Rev. Peter L. Gerety, archbishop of the Catholic archdiocese of Newark told a meeting of 600 separated and divorced Catholics.
"But at the same time, she must help people who are in pain, who have suffered from broken homes - and she must above all embrace them with the love of Christ."
Speaking at the mass closing a "Day of Celebration," sponsored by the Office of Ministry to Divorced Catholics of the Newark archdiocese, Gerety said, "God loves you, His church loves you, and we ask you to become ministers of that love to others."
The Rev. Edgar Holden, director of Newark's divorced ministry, said that one of the Catholic church's "best kept secrets" was a 1973 Vatican directive urging the bishops of the world to "exercise special care to seek out" divorced Catholics. "Unfortunately, this hasn't materialized," Holden said.
The Rev. Vincent Doyle, head of the marriage tribunal in the Newark archidocese, in a workshop on annulments, told the group, "we are not the ogres we have been painted. Annulments are not possible in every case, but in the last decade, we have seen the number granted in this country grow from 442 to 25,500. The process has become more human, with marriage no longer looked upon simply as a legal contract granting certain rights on a lifetime basis."
The Rev. John Cator, executive director of the Christophers and a former head of the tribunal in the neighboring Paterson diocese, told of meeting a couple during one of the intermissions "who spoke to me of their pain in living without the sacraments through 20 years of a second marriage which was in every way one of love for each other and for their family."
"I said to him that I was hearing of something that simply does not add up to mortal sin," Catoir said.