Why are singles neglected in organized religion?


Published: Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 1:22 a.m.
Q:I've become increasingly distressed over the neglect of single people in organized religion. Whenever you read about some Christian group campaigning for something it always has to do with "helping families." I can't find any biblical justification for the belief that families are more important than singles, or that the church has any greater responsibility to care for families. In fact, James 1:27 tells us that "pure and faultless religion is to look after widows and orphans" - people who are NOT families. Can you explain the justification for the preferential treatment of married people/families in religious institutions?
A:We generally agree with your complaint, but you should know that churches and synagogues in densely populated urban areas or suburban churches with very large memberships do indeed offer programming for singles and single-parent families. These activities, we agree with you, don't always get the publicity they deserve. We also agree that religious institutions could do more than they do for singles.
There are two problems, however. Institutions serve the people who actually show up, and more married people show up and take on the responsibilities of volunteering their time in religious institutions than single people. The second problem is historical. All the Abrahamic faiths were formed hundreds of years ago, when the period between sexual maturity and marriage was very short. People married young and died young. This meant that in their formative periods, Western religious groups really only dealt with children and married people.
The phenomena of a long period of time between puberty and marriage, high divorce rates, children born out of wedlock, and people who choose to be single as a lifestyle choice developed relatively recently.
Religious institutions do need to address the spiritual needs of singles with compassion and urgency so they feel welcomed and valued in the faith community.
Q:In a previous column, you wrote that, "If divorced people remarry without first procuring an annulment of their previous marriage, then marry outside the (Catholic) Church, they are then - and only then - unable to receive the Eucharist."
I beg to differ. I was originally married in the Church in 1971. I was divorced in 1974. I did not get an annulment, although probably could have, as I had grounds. Nevertheless I married a divorced Catholic man in 1979. He also did not have an annulment. We married outside the Church and accepted that we were no longer members in good standing.
Fast forward 24 years. My husband's first wife died. In contemplating our upcoming 25th anniversary, I approached a Catholic priest to ask about getting a long overdue annulment. He said I had another alternative - an "Internal Forum." We supplied him with all our documentation - marriage certificates, proof of my husband's first wife's death, divorce papers, birth certificate for my son - which he then took to a forum of priests for review.
The priest explained that my second marriage, of long duration, was really my true marriage and that if we in all good conscience were married in the eyes of God, we could then have a Catholic wedding ceremony, bringing us back into the fold. That's what we did.
Why does the Church not publicize this alternative to annulment? My entire petition took only three weeks, and marrying in the Church relieved us of the heavy burden of living outside of our faith. Please explain this procedure so every knows of its availability.
A:An Internal Forum is only possible if the invalidity of the previous marriage cannot be proved, and this is not as easy as you think. An Internal Forum is a very difficult and rare procedure. In general, the normal procedure for securing an annulment must be followed.

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