Book Review

Torn Asunder
Children, the Myth of the Good Divorce, and the Recovery of Origins

Edited by Margaret Harper McCarthy
Eerdmans (29 Feb 2016)
ISBN: 978-0802872050 (Also on Kindle)

Book CoverThis is essential reading in the light of Amoris Laetitia. We need to always accompany those whose marriages have ended and who are in sexual relationships with those who are not their spouses. But this does not mean compromising on God's laws. In this book, a team of experts in various disciplines including psychologists, philosophers and theologians argue that there is no such thing as a good divorce. It is especially hard on the children.

For the child, divorce is rather like an existential loss of meaning. Their whole world changes following the divorce of their parents. Some of these children try and wipe out the experience of divorce from their minds but with limited success. What they really experience is deprivation.

There are real social consequences to no fault divorce. We are being told that the family is not the basic unit of society. What matters is the individual and his or her rights. Thus the family is portrayed as a burden on the individual and his right of expression. But what we fail to realize is that when the family is weakened, all authority is granted to the state. 

But what happens when the individual comes to believe that his primary obligation is to himself and not his family? A culture of selfishness is hardly conducive to marital stability. In such societies, divorce rates are bound to go up. 

Studies reveal that marital breakdown is owing to selfishness and poor communication between spouses. Children whose parents divorce for good reasons such as abuse are damaged. But so are the children whose parents simply drift apart and "divorce amicably". What, for them,  is the point of marriage? For them, the very idea of marital indissolubility becomes a goal that is a mere ideal. To put it bluntly, they end up like so many German Catholics.

So what is the remedy? What is needed, say the authors, is the practice of the virtues. We need to be less self-centered, more sacrificial in our lives. How important forgiveness is in marriage. It is the Catholic vision of man and woman and the nature of marriage that will remedy the present crisis in marital relations.

At present, this Catholic vision is being clouded because, to paraphrase a famous German, we are listening too much to the German Catholic Church, a Church now surely in a state of schism. If we are to accompany those whose marriages have ended and who are in non-marital relationships, how much more ought we to accompany their children?

In summary, a very important read.

Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevathasan