Arnold and Maria's 'Catholic' marriage

Even on a remote tropical island, it's been hard for me to escape news of the disintegration of Arnold Schwarzenegger's marriage. My former governor and the First Lady announced their split last week, and the story has only gotten more sordid since. As everyone now knows, it turns out that Schwarzenegger sired a secret love child with a family employee before he took office in a special recall election. Unlike his other affairs, wife Maria Shriver reportedly did not know about this one until after Schwarzenegger, who seemed like he was looking for a job when he spoke at the L.A. Press Club awards last June, left office this January.

Coverage continues as the fallout keeps spreading, most recently putting on hold Schwarzenegger's "Action Hero" comeback and reportedly leading Shriver to hire a divorce lawyer.

One news article that caught my attention was this one from the Los Angeles Times, published before the latest revelations. It unravels the story behind the Schwarzenegger-Shriver split, sans love child. Of relevance to this blog is this quote:

"There was such a void," said the friend, "and when she looked around, she realized her husband could never even think of filling it."

When asked why Shriver stayed in the marriage for so long if she was so unhappy, the friend responded: "Part of it is family legacy, part of it is Catholicism. But the most important thing was their four kids."

That's the only mention in this story of Catholicism. Obviously, divorce is not accepted by Roman Catholic doctrine. (Neither is adultery, governor.) And, almost as obviously, the Kennedy clan, of which Shriver is a member, is Catholic.

But what I wondered was whether that freed the reporter from further exploring the religious angle to this story.

Is it enough to tell readers that Schwarzenegger and Shriver are both Catholic? Or do we also need some explanation as to how Catholicism shaped their marriage? My guess is that Catholic doctrine meant a lot less to their marriage than, say, that of Tolkien.

Remember Schwarzenegger's line about lifting weights and sex from "Pumping Iron?" Or when Shriver unconvincingly defended her husband in 2003 after sexual allegations damaged his gubernatorial campaign? This was a California First Family that had a lot of problems caused entirely by decisions unrelated to Catholicism.

As PGA.com producer John Kim quipped: "If Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger can't make it...who can? Oh wait....anyone else."

So maybe reporters should explain just how Catholic the Schwarzenegger-Shriver marriage is (or soon-to-be was).

Shriver was a self-styled "Cafeteria Catholic," and yet this blog post today from Bill Zwecker of the Chicago Sun-Times uses the dreaded D-word when referring to Shriver's religious beliefs:

Friends of Shriver tell me her decision to hire mega-divorce lawyer Laura Wasser proves to them the devout Roman Catholic has reluctantly decided her marriage is so irreparably broken that divorce is her only course of action.

Devout how? Because Shriver told Sally Quinn she is a "Catholic in good standing?" Because she chooses which Catholic tenets she wants to follow?

“I find that I don’t spend a lot of time trying to square my own daily life with the institutional ‘Church.’ I pick and choose,” Shriver sums up regarding her approach to her Catholic faith. “I remember doing a long time ago a show about cafeteria Catholics, American cafeteria Catholics. And I think I’m probably a cafeteria Catholic.”

The statements Shriver has made about her Catholic faith call into question exactly why she would care about the Church's position on divorce. It sounds more like a cultural hurdle than a religious conviction.

But, as far as my Google searching ability informs me, no reporters have explored this issue in any depth. Instead all we have are a few meaningless references to Shriver sticking with her philandering husband because she is Catholic and good Catholics don't get divorced.

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