Seven-digit discretion :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

Seven-digit discretion

Marge Fenelon

I read an article recently about golf pro Tiger Woods and his wife, Elin Nordegren Woods divorcing. Divorce is always tragic, described by the Catechism as “a grave offense against the natural law” (CCC 2384). Still, this one doesn't come as a surprise, humanly speaking.

Equally unsurprising was the joint statement released by their lawyers: "We are sad that our marriage is over and we wish each other the very best for the future," Yahoo Sports reported in an August 23 article. "While we are no longer married, we are the parents of two wonderful children and their happiness has been, and will always be, of paramount importance to both of us."

That’s what you’d expect any set of committed parents to say, under the circumstances. What did surprise me, however, was the next line in the article:

“Terms of the divorce were not disclosed, but it's likely that Elin Woods will receive a handsome financial incentive in return for her silence. Chances are it won't approach the outlandish $750 million figure bandied about earlier this year . . .”

Financial incentive? A mother needs financial incentive to keep quiet about lewd, private details of her marriage so as not to harm her children?

I’m not picking on the Woods themselves. Indeed, I feel sorry for them and appreciate the tragedy of their situation. I merely want to point out that they’re victims of a society gone haywire in which celebrities bear the cost of their fame in some of the most devastating ways.

Even more tragic is the possibility that any children involved will be devastated right along with the couple. I don’t doubt that crafty lawyers, pompous publicity agents, and the rampant indiscretion that goes with the territory of being married to someone whose name is a household word - first because of his skill, and then because of his mistakes - influenced Elin Woods.

This reminds me of the “I’ll give you a quarter not to tell Mom ...” games we used to play as kids.”

Do you remember coming home late and bribing a younger sibling not to tell your mother? Or, perhaps you were the younger sibling accepting the bribe. Of course, a rule was violated, but in some contorted way, using money to buy silence seemed like a viable solution. And it probably worked, at least once.

Well, somehow we’ve taken child’s play and turned it into real life. But now it’s not just quarters, it’s dollars – hundreds of millions of them. The old adage “money can buy anything now applies to truth and righteousness, at least in some circles.

Do you remember what Jesus did when he discovered the dishonesty of the money-changers in the temple?

“And Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons” (Mt. 21:12).

Jesus chased the money-changers out of the temple because they were exchanging money for things that should not have a price.

We should be putting our children first regardless of cost. That goes for those of whom we are biological, adoptive and foster parents as well as the children of our relatives, friends, fellow parishioners, neighbors and even those with whom we have no direct contact. They are all our children because they are God’s children.

Our Lord showed us the way. He had been traveling with his disciples, preaching, healing and converting. They were all hot, tired and likely hungry. While mothers were bringing children to him, to have him bless them, the disciples wanted to shoo them away.

Jesus, however, would not allow it.

“But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God’” (Mk. 10:14).

The idea of seven-digit discretion came about not as much from action as from attitude. It may not be the attitude we ourselves hold, but others hold it and we have to work our hardest to charitably, prayerfully, yet diligently counter it. But no mother should be offered financial incentive to protect the innocence and dignity of her children.

Topics: Family

Marge Fenelon is a Catholic author, columnist, and speaker. She's the author of When's God Gonna Show Up? and When's God Gonna Call Me Back? (Liguori Publications) and a regular columnist for the Milwaukee Catholic Herald. She and her husband, Mark, have four mostly-grown children and are members of the International Schoenstatt Movement. Visit her website at

View all articles by Marge Fenelon

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