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Moral Questions

How a Divorced Mother Should Act
at Her Husband's Death

Fr. Paul Sretenovic


I divorced from my husband after 18 years of marriage. He wanted to marry his secretary- which he did - and she passed away nine years ago.

I just found out his death is imminent. My question is: Do I attend his Mass or other funeral services? What is proper so as not to embarrass our grown children?

     Thank you,

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Fr. Sretenovic responds:

Dear J.O.M.,

The way you placed your questions is a little simplistic. You don't give me any data about his religious life, the relations between you and him at the present, as well as his relations with your children. Your questions are not even clear about whether you want to follow the Catholic doctrine on this issue or just want to have some orientation in order to avoid social embarrassment. Let me suppose the first: you want to be faithful to the Catholic doctrine.

Given that before God and the Catholic Church divorce does not exist, your first marriage is still what counts. In other words, the man who is now dying was and still is your husband. When he spent nine years living with another woman he lived in concubinage before God. However, since that situation ceased with her death, you have toward him the normal obligation of a wife.

This obligation translates in a practical way in the urgent necessity of finding a good traditional priest to visit him in order to prepare his soul to appear before God's judgment. This is the first and most important thing for you to do. You and your children have also the obligation to pray insistently for his soul and to offer sacrifices to attract Our Lady's mercy, all the more so since he had a very bad life.

If time allows, that is, if he does not die immediately, you should ask the priest to try to reconcile you with him before he dies. While it is most important that he receive the forgiveness of the Church for his sinful life, it is also convenient for him to have the forgiveness of his wife and children. This would shorten his stay in Purgatory. To reach this reconciliation you should be open to ask forgiveness for the wrongdoings you may have done in the past that favored him separating from you.

If he dies before these things are accomplished, you may or may not attend his funeral services as long as it is not a New Mass. The normal thing to do would be for you to attend. When he does die, I would be more than happy to offer a Traditional Requiem Mass for him in my chapel at Garden Grove, California, especially if he would not otherwise have one. Please, let me know.

Regarding the possible embarrassment of your grown children (you also forgot to explain what this would be) I suggest that you just explain to them that before the Catholic Church you still are his wife. If this explanation is difficult for you to make, print a copy of this advice I am giving you and tell them that you are following my orientation.

I hope this will help you in this hard time.

Be sure that I will be praying for him, for you and for your children,

     In Jesu et Maria,

     Fr. Paul Sretenovic


Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted August 19, 2008

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