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Others said their divorces had been so contentious that they did not want to take part in a process in which the church asked them to share information about their romantic or emotional lives or sought to contact their former spouses.

“I was married — I entered into it with the right ideas, and to say different would be a lie,” said Carol Trankle, 72, of Rapid City, S. “I consider myself a Catholic to this day,” she said.

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The efforts to change the annulment process seem to be paying off in some parishes.“Despite the fact that going through an annulment certainly brings up painful memories, can take a long time and can sometimes seem unfair — I would not want the church to lower the bar or standards for annulment,” said Leah Campos, 42, of Arlington, Va., who is trying to annul her marriage.

“I still respect the sacrament of matrimony and the church’s desire to keep it sacred against the will of our coarsened culture.”Still, for many, the church makes too many demands for re-entry to church life.

He has set in motion a high-level debate about whether and how the church could change its posture toward them without altering a doctrine that declares marriage to be permanent and indissoluble.

The battle lines are clear: Some high-level church officials, most notably the conference of German bishops, want the church to relax its rules so that divorced Catholics can more fully return to church life, particularly by receiving communion, even if they have remarried.

Others have abandoned institutional religion altogether. Often, that is not their preference.“Everyone can say, ‘Go get another flavor of soda if you don’t like this one,’ but I don’t want to be Methodist or Lutheran,” said Andrea Webb, 47, of Palm Harbor, Fla., who stopped going to church after deciding she would be able to get an annulment only if she criticized her ex-husband in ways she did not believe were truthful. Webb added, a priest told her that her status was akin to that of an adulterer, so she could not receive communion.

Then, she said, she was particularly aggrieved when a priest she knew was accused of abusing minors.“I wasn’t worthy to receive communion, and the guy giving communion was a molester,” she said “It seems terribly unjust.” Many parishes now have outreach programs for the divorced, and some have liaisons to help those who are divorced get through the annulment process.

Is it true a new relationship will be the healing balm for your broken spirit? During my post-divorce years, I remember driving home from work dreading the thought of walking into a cold, dark apartment with no one to greet me, no one to hug me and ask how my day was. There was no one to cook for, and I often didn’t eat dinner because, well, what would be the point?