dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

'A Second Guilt'

I hope that Jim Pauwels, Carlo Lancellotti, and others who have questions or objections after reading the short sample of our Cardinal Kasper interview below will read the whole interview here. And if they still have questions after that, they may want to look at Cardinal Kasper's speech before the consistory in February, which is now available in English translation here.

Kasper is clearly talking about cases where an annulment is either impossible or inappropriate. He is talking about people who have repented for the failure of their sacramental marriage (if they were responsible for its failure), cannot be reconciled to their spouse, and now, years later, are in a civil marriage with another partner. For them to quit this partnership could do tremendous damage—to their new partner and to their children if they have any. This is what the cardinal means when he says that a person in this situation could not walk away from this partnership without incurring new guilt. Some will say that's not a problem as long as the remarried person and his or her partner are willing to live "as brother and sister." But, as the cardinal recognizes, unless both partners are willing to do this, the decision by one of them to do so is likely to destroy the relationship. It would also require a kind of moral heroism that the church has been very hesitant to demand in most areas of life.

Imagine a woman with small children who was married in the church and has been abandoned by her husband. She did not want a divorce; she does not want an annulment. She doesn't believe that her marriage was invalid just because her husband failed to keep his vows. She spends months, maybe years waiting and praying for reconciliation with her spouse, who does not want reconciliation and has perhaps already started a new family with someone else. Finding it very difficult to support her children alone, and knowing that they would be better off with a father figure in the home, she meets a man who is decent and faithful and wants to help her raise her family. He is not a Catholic. Eventually they marry. Years later the woman starts going back to church. She attends Mass every week; she enrolls her children in CCD and makes sure they are confirmed. She participates in the life of the parish and wants to be able to receive communion again.

What can she do? Some would say that, given her circumstances, her only option requires moral heroism. She must refuse to have sex with her new partner, whatever the consequences for her him or her children. Some will say that if he really loves her, he will accept this decision and remain faithful to her and their children, even though he himself isn't Catholic and cannot fathom the burden she has been asked to take up. Some will say that if he doesn't accept this decision, then she is better off without him, whatever the practical difficulties involved, however much heartbreak, resentment, and loneliness this causes.

Others, including the cardinal, have pointed out that the ancient church had other ways of dealing with such situations and that the Eastern Orthodox still do. Those ways do not require the dissolution of the first marriage, but they do require that we let go of a kind of perfectionism that ends up alienating many people who are eager to receive the sacraments. As Kasper points out, Pope Benedict has already suggested that someone in the situation I've just described, having confessed her sins and done penance for them, can have spiritual communion with Christ. But the same sin that is considered so grave that it prevents somone from receiving communion would premumably also prevent full spiritual communion with Christ. To say otherwise is to drive a wedge between Christ and his church. The church's power to loose and to bind is a power Christ gave it, and no servant is better than its Master.

UPDATED

About the Author

Matthew Boudway is an associate editor of Commonweal.

219 comments
Close

219 comments

Commenting Guidelines

  • All

Mr. Boudway - thanks for this.  Here is a comment I just posted on your original post:

JP - M. Boudway has just posted another context to Kaspar's remarks about annulments.

But here are some other remarks: 

http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/cardinal-kaspers-interview

 

Along with Mr. Gibson's point; here are some highlights:

"One of the least remarked aspects of the whole discussion about divorce and remarriage is that before the 1917 Code of Canon Law was adopted for the universal Church, in this country and most others, the parish priest dealt with the issue. To be sure, there were far fewer cases of divorce back then, although spousal abandonment in immigrant communities was not unknown. It was a canonical procedure, to be sure, but undoubtedly a pastor dealing with people he knew brought that pastoral element to the situation in a way that a canonist on a tribunal dealing with a stack of papers cannot. And, to be sure, very few of those pastors had extensive training in canon law. But, for all that surety, I suspect the system was better at avoiding what Kasper here calls "jurisscience" and exercising, instead, jurisprudence."

(rather than suggesting that the current US methods can be a model for the world?)

"....but Trent. We who still live in what can appropriately be called the "post-conciliar period" need to ever be reminded that there were councils before Vatican II and, in many ways, the reticence of earlier councils on certain issues, their "very cautious" approach to certain theological issues, is a thing to be admired. I was discussing this whole divorced and remarriage issue and the different way the Orthodox handle it with a very conservative priest friend. And he told me something interesting. "If I ask an Orthodox theologian," he said, "if I am a validly ordained priest, the theologian will reply only that I am not a priest of the Orthodox Church. When pressed, the Orthodox theologian will refuse to answer my question about the validity of my orders. They do not believe it is right to put excessive limits and proscriptions on the action of God's grace." This was a key insight. There is much, very much, to admire about our Western penchant for legal thinking, but it can sometimes lead us to ask questions that it is not the Church's business to ask, still less to answer."

Love his reference to the sacrament of matrimony and how Trent was influenced and impacted by a local, significant political reality - the islands of Venice.  Does put this whole discussion about indsolubility into a new context and light?

This discussion on divorce and remarriage will continue, and it is just so damned healthy to see the discussion being held in the open, with cardinals unafraid to contradict each other. It thrills me to see two nonordained journalists having a deep and penetrating conversation with a Vatican cardinal. And, the fact that, under Francis' leadership, this issue will be less about internal Vatican workings and more about following synodal processes, this is something that opens up a truly new chapter in the life of the postconciliar period. These are exciting times and the deepest level of excitement comes from the sense that the Spirit is moving. 

 

 

 

"But the same sin that is considered so grave that it prevents somone from receiving communion would premumably also prevent full spiritual communion with Christ"

 

"Presumably" is doing an awful lot of work in this sentence! In fact, that's not true at all.

 

I am a sinner. Many times on Sunday I have to admit that my sins are serious enough that I should not approach the sacrament without going to confession. I do not go but I ask the Lord to keep me with him in spiritual communion. Then I go to confession, and I go back to communion. But then I sin again. That's the Christian life for most people, divorced or not. If you are remarried, unfortunately, you have put yourself in a situation where not to sin is humanly almost impossible, that's it. Jesus loves you all the same.

 

If I claimed that I do not sin , and that after getting absolution my next sin is not a sin, I would an hypocrite. That's what is being encouraged: hypocrisy, not mercy.

 

Mr. Lancellotti - understand your personal perspective but your approach and feelings do not and should not dictate the pastoral practice of the church.  Your personal approach may be commendable but it is only one way of understanding the theology, scripture, and tradition of the church.

In fact, many would disagree with your interpretation of what the eucharist is and what and why we need to partake of the body and blood of Christ...it is not a *means test* - as Francis has said well, the eucharist and the church are more like a hospital for sinners and we need to participate and receive the body/blood of Christ because it heals, supports, and builds up the body of Christ.

Your judgmental comments about remarried are unfortuante - they are your comments only and ignore the reality of the pastoral situation; the reality of the world (which VII called us to work with (not ignore or judge or deny and withdraw).  You make the sacrament of marriage as if it is the cornerstone and central part of our faith - it is not.   You have denigrated and lowered the conversation by your own ideological comments - that has nothing to do with our call to mercy, justice, or being a sacramental church.

Bill:

"Your judgmental comments about remarried are unfortuante"

 

What judgmental comments? That having sex with somebody one is not married to is a sin? You find that judgmental? Really?

 

Obviously there is plenty of space for pastoral judgment in these matters. But to state that, as a general rule, "whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery" is not judgemental It is te Gospel of Matthew, chapter 19 verse 9.

Actually Bill's comment about "judgementalism" reminds me of a major cultural characteristic of countries heavily influenced by Protestantism like the US. This Calvinist idea that being a "sinner" is some kind of condemnation.

Realistically, being a sinner is very normal. And shedding light on our situation of weakness and on our need for God's grace is salutary, not "judgmental." This is why the obsession to "change the rules" so that "we are no longer in sin" is the very opposite of a pastoral approach. A pastoral approach judges individual cases and applies rules humanly, it does not try to pretend we are all just doing fine. I am not. We are not. People who were in a perfectly valid marriage and remarry have a problem in their spiritual life, no matter how many absolutions and even communions they get. Telling them they have no problem means lying to them and does them no good.

As Augustine said, all of Catholic moral theology can be summarized as

"Know right from wrong, do what you can, pray for what you cannot"

The three are inseparable.

Yikes, when my name appears in a post, usually it means I have done something even wronger than usual :-)

Matthew, thanks for the gentle prompting to read the entire interview.  I've now skimmed through it and will return to it later.  I do note that he concedes that there are a multiplicity of issues to work through.

I expect that it's clear from my comments that (a) I don't disagree that this is a large pastoral problem that needs to be addressed, and (b) my view is that the best path forward is to reform the institution of annulments.  I do understand that many folks hope that a way can be found to just bypass or retire the annulment process entirely, particularly as this seems to be what has happened in many/most of the other Christian denominations.  I don't think that's a possibility.

As to how the annulment process can be reformed: I expect there are many, many possibilities.  One possibility, which I've put forth a couple of times now (believe me, in all modesty and humility!) is that the rest of the world become aligned to what is viewed in the US as "best practices".  My understanding is that a substantially higher percentage of annulment requests are granted in the US than is the case elsewhere, and that one reason for this is that US tribunals take a more expansive view of circumstances that could impede the couple's consent than is the case elsewhere.  I'm persuaded by US canonists who sincerely believe that this US approach is both realistic and holy, and indeed merciful.

I'd characterize that proposal as a modest flavor of reform, although I daresay it wouldn't be viewed as modest across the church.  I expect it would represent a tremendous improvement in other places, but naturally it doesn't change any possibilities for Americans who are divorced and civilly remarried.  But my pastoral observation is that many such Americans don't  avail themselves of the existing annulment process; many of these folks might be able to obtain a decree of nullity for the previous marriage if they did so.  And further reforms (making it less expensive, less time-consuming, less burdensome) might incentivize more people to at least try the annulment route.

More radical reforms of the annulment process certainly are possible.  I see that Bill d has now quoted a couple of times a passage from a Michael Sean Winters post, suggesting that a parish pastor somehow be empowered to exercise judgment and issue something that would be the legal and theological equivalent of a decree of nullity (at least I think that is the inference).  My humility and modesty is such that I haven't ventured to comment here in the past with such a suggestion, but I admit that the thought has crossed my mind before.  To draw a parallel: when preparing a couple for marriage, I am supposed to ascertain that there are no impediments. To that end, I go over a questionairre with each of the prospective spouses.  I also have another questionnaire which needs to be filled out in my presence by witnesses; these are a sort of deposition.  It's a bit of a paperwork rigmarole, but we get through it pretty expeditiously (it usually takes two meetings, max), and there are rarely any issues.  And compared to what happens in an annulment procedure, it's practically nothing.  It seems to me that, conceptually anyway, a pastor (or even a deacon) could do something comparable: walk trhough some questions with the petitioner, and then exercise some judgment.  Easy peasy.  Maybe, anyway.

 

Thanks, JP - not sure I am suggesting any practical process - merely citing the history and our tradition which most probably are completely unaware of.

Jim P.:

 

not only I agree with you, I expect that is what will probably happen at the synod (a combination of better marriage preparation and some simplification of the annulment process).

To be honest, I also suspect that the problem will largely solve itself in the next couple of decades as Church marriages become fewer and fewer, as is happening all over Europe. Speaking of historical contingencies, there as been a roughly 50 year window in which there was a large number of people who felt culturally compelled to marry in Church but really did not know what they were doing. In the future, things will probably be very different.

 

 

I dont think difficult or exceptional hypothetical cases provide a useful way to think about a general problem.  Individual circumstances matter too much.  And presumably, that is what the annulment process is designed to deal with.

On the chance tha tthe dicsunnion begun on an earlier post is not being continued here I will post here the comment I posted there for C. Lancellotti:

You have grounded your objections to modification of the Church's pastoral practice regarding divorce and remarriage on Jesus' absolute prohibiiton against divorce.  You neglect, however, the wider evidence in the New Testament which did not treat of his teaching as absolute, as it allowed for exceptions, as in the case of the Pauline provilege and the exceptive clauses in the synoptics.  I recommend that you read Fitzmyer, S.J., Joseph A. "The Matthean Dovorce Texts and ssome New Palestinian Evidence." Theological Studies (37) 1976, 197-226.  

Salient for the discussion here:

"If Matthew under inspiration could have been moved to add an exceptive phrase to the saying of Jesus on divorce that he found in an absolute form either in his Marcan source or in "Q," or if Paul likewise under inspiration could introduce into his writing an exception on his own authority, then why cannot the Spirit-guided institutional Church of a later generation make a similar exception in view of problems confronting Christian married life in its day or so-called broken marriages (not really envisaged in the NT) -- as it has done in some situations.  The question here is whether one looks solely at the absoilute prohibition, traceable to Jesus, or at the "process of understanding and adaptation" which is in the NT itself and "with which the modern Church can identify only by entering into the process and furthering it" (224-25).

Mr. Lancolletti - sorry, don't buy your comment.  Your starting point is actually Calvinistic and Pelagian.  Your total focus - to paraphrase:

"Realistically, being a sinner is very normal. And shedding light on our situation of weakness and on our need for God's grace is salutary, not "judgmental." This is why the obsession to "change the rules" so that "we are no longer in sin" is the very opposite of a pastoral approach. A pastoral approach judges individual cases and applies rules humanly, it does not try to pretend we are all just doing fine. People who were in a perfectly valid marriage and remarry have a problem in their spiritual life, no matter how many absolutions and even communions they get. Telling them they have no problem means lying to them and does them no good.

As Augustine said, all of Catholic moral theology can be summarized as

"Know right from wrong, do what you can, pray for what you cannot"

Let's start with the *reality* that this issue is both complex and nuanced (not as black and white as you want to make it).

Second, you quote Augustine...fine, but he isn't the absolute be all theologically.  As Cardinal Kaspar and others have tried to show, the tradition and practice of our church (east and west) is much more nuanced.  In fact, we have many Fathers and Mothers of the Church who disagree with Augustine or express the reality of God's grace in the world from a different perspective.  You have basically taken a Baltimore Catechism approach which is based upon *atonement theology*.  Atonement theology is found in statements such as - e.g. start with sinner, focus on our situation of weakness, etc.

And yet, this conflicts with the reality that God created the world *good* and that human beings are made in the image of God.  This type of approach sees the sacrifice of Jesus as some sort of ancient sacrifice to the gods routine.  Catholic theology rejects this.  This type of *catholic guilt* needs to be corrected or, at least, be more balanced.

Catholic practice believes that God's mercy can forgive sin - so, why does that mean that a remarriage requires a certain type of lifestyle, etc.  Doesn't this say that the sin is not forgiven?  Do you realize that your comments sound like *you know what God does and does not do - you know what is acceptable and what isn't*....this is totally opposite the gospel parables, the stories of Jesus, the absolute offer of mercy without explanation; without any human amount of restitution, control, or effort.

Here is an interesting link:  http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/are-we-saved-jesus-death-cross

Kay points that coorespond to what Kaspar says in the interview:

"To obsess over his sacrifice, suffering and death, I think, is to distort the essential message -- that we are God's beloved,:  (sorry, but your statement about remarriage/sin is an obsessin that rejects and controls what God may or may not give.  Who are you to decide that with your man made rules?  As Kaspar states - we need to go back to the scriptures - to the gospel message.

"..... prefer to think we are saved by Jesus, by the coming of the Second Person of the Trinity into our world to announce God's love and forgiveness. We are saved by his birth, by what he did and said in his public life, and yes, by his passion, death and resurrection. It's all of one piece: the Son of God in our midst. But I do not see much about this approach in the liturgy or in ordinary homilies."

Nor do I see much of this in your comments about the sacrament of marriage and remarriage.You comment about *changing the rules* - well, isn't this exactly what Jesus did?  You sound more like a Pharisee responding to a parable of Jesus. (thus, my comment about an ideology).  You say that this this isn't pastoral - but the opposite.  Really?  Think you miss the point of the parables....the parables do not judge, they invite, call forth, and give mercy.  This doesn't mean that there are no rules (your argument knee jerks to the other extreme).  When you deal with human beings and their choices, remarriage may have actually been a very honest, just, and responsible decision that cooperated with the grace of God. And a pastor would respond lovingly and would balance between judgment and mercy - but, a pastor would not apply a black and white answer (which is what you do despite your attempt to explain this away)  Who are you to judge?

" I do understand that many folks hope that a way can be found to just bypass or retire the annulment process entirely,"

Jim P. --

I agree.  And the reason some people are very, very much against annulments is because they view annulments as a kind of fake divorce used so that the Church won't have to admit it was wrong about no divorces.  Other people (strangely, to my mind) don't want to admit that they made a mistake in the first place and entered into an invalid marriage.  Oddly, it is sometimes the *parents* of the spouses, not the spouses, who most object to annulment.  In any event, the Church needs to make it very clear just what an annulment is and what it isn't.

About your pre-marriage process.  It sounds as if it could help avoid a lot of heart-ache in the future.  But if it's really effective and half of the current matrimonies aren't matrimony in the first place, then half of the couples asking to marry in the Church will have to be told they can't or else they'll have to change their view of what matrimony is before making their vows.  The only real solution, I think, for the vast majority of cases is that the catechsis be more effective.

I also truly believe that if the Church banned the super-elaborate weddings performances so many put on these days that not nearly as many people would be asking to marry literally "in the Church".  Two attendants each, no wedding dress trains, short wedding veils, two bouquets of flowers on the altar  might do a lot for the institutioon of Holy Matrimony. 

 

So here's a solution: don't bother getting married until you are really, really sure, maybe when you are 35 or 40, that way, when you do get married everyone will be so grateful that you are no  longer living in sin they will totally forget that you didn't get married earlier.  It will be kisses, rainbows, lollipops and sunshine all the way.  Whereas, remarriage after divorce is a life long stain that allows people like Carlo to mock you forever as being an adulterer.

I am pretty sure that's the message millenials have digested.  Divorce and remarriage are the last generation's problem.  The current generation isn't bothering with marriage at all.  I wonder when the Church will turn its attention in their direction. 

The hypothetical given is such an outlier that it's hard to take it seriously.  I do know people in that kind of situation, but the wife is rarely like Griselda, waiting and praying for her good for nothing spouse to have a change of heart and come back.

 

 

Sometimes, I feel like requiring anyone demanding others live a celibate life live an actually celibate life themselves. Otherwise, they are laying heavy burdens upon others while enjoying the fruits of a system that works well for themselves.

Matthew's hypothetical is heart-wrenching, but I've also heard similar tales. Such matters are better left to one's local pastor and spiritual director and shouldn't be dependent on bloated cadres of canon lawyers.

Three additional observations:

- It is not good to legislate based on extraordinary situations.

- Rome really, *really* has very little confidence in its pastors to make good judgments. Otherwise why reserve the law to ecclesial courts and to Rome? How do pastors feel about being sidelined while they watch people flounder?

- Despite Paul's admonishment about receiving unworthily, Christian practice hasn't always withheld the sacraments from sinners, even public ones. When is sacramental grace more needed than human law?

This bodes well, it seems to me, for an eventual acceptance of same-sex marriage by the Church, although almost certainly not as a sacrament administered by the Church. So perhaps I should say this bodes well for the acceptance by the Church of couples in same-sex civil marriages. If the Church can bring itself to accept civil marriages that unite couples in "adultery," then eventually it could accept civil marriages that unite same-sex partners. Of course, it may take hundreds of years. 

For well over a thousand years Christians were married the same way non-Christians in the same locations were married (by the state or whatever body held jurisdiction over marriage). I am pretty sure it wasn't until the Council of Trent that getting "married in the Church" (i.e., having a marriage ceremony presided over by a priest) was required. And I don't believe much emphasis was put on the "indissolubility of marriage" until the Church decided it was in control of all marriages. Still, having been educated in Catholic school in the 1950s and early 1960s, I would have to say that Cardinal Kasper is proposing a drastic change and giving the kind of rationale for it that could be used to change almost any Church practice while claiming he is being consistent with what the Church has always taught. 

Bill:

 

I see little connection between what I wrote and your response, so I am somewhat at a loss.

Certainly atonement theology has nothing to do with this questions. Sin, i.e. the inability to love adequately, and the continuous need for God's forgiveness are very basic human experiences.

As for "the sacrament of remarriage" (your words), I never heard of it before.

But if it's really effective and half of the current matrimonies aren't matrimony in the first place, then half of the couples asking to marry in the Church will have to be told they can't or else they'll have to change their view of what matrimony is before making their vows.  The only real solution, I think, for the vast majority of cases is that the catechsis be more effective.

Hi, Ann - just speaking from my own experience (which, I should stress, is pretty limited): with one possible exception, I think every couple I've worked with for a wedding understood what they were getting themselves into, and sincerely meant every word of their consent on their wedding day.  I've never had a couple younger than their middle '20's; people get married a good deal older these days than was the case in my parents' day.  They're mature adults with some life experience.  Yet some of my couples have subsequently had marriages end.  

The church really does try - insists - that the marriage prep unearth any issues beforehand that would indicate that the marriage won't succeed.  One outcome of the emphasis on preparation and examination before the marriage is that a lot of couples say, "No thanks" to getting married in the Catholic church.  It takes months to get to the wedding day in a Catholic church.  And there are a lot of quicker (and, frankly, cheaper) ways to get married.  And all of the cultural barriers to getting married outside the church came crashing down a long time ago.

As for catechesis - I agree; but see my comment in the previous paragraph.  At this point, I think it's fair to say, not only about weddings and marriage but for adult catechesis in general, that the supply  of catechesis offered by the church greatly exceeds the demand of the membership.

 

I also suspect that the problem will largely solve itself in the next couple of decades as Church marriages become fewer and fewer

Carlo: it seems to me the church can at least stem the tide on this trend by teaching/reminding its members that marriage, among all the other things it is, is also a sacrament.  In our marriages, we encounter God.  There are blessings available in the church's way of doing this that may not be available elsewhere.  

 

 

Alan Mitchell:

"The question here is whether one looks solely at the absoilute prohibition, traceable to Jesus, or at the "process of understanding and adaptation" which is in the NT itself and "with which the modern Church can identify only by entering into the process and furthering it""

 

Bah, asking the question to such degree of abstraction is not especially helpful. One can just answer, as generally, that "understanding and adaptation" should never void the deeper intention of the original prohibition.

I would add that already interpreting Jesus's teaching as a prohibition is very reductive and moralistic. Before "prohibiting" anything, Jesus recognized a salvific act of God ("what God united..."). What you call a "prohibition" is actually a "protection" of a divine gift which we want to squander.

Jim P.

 

"Carlo: it seems to me the church can at least stem the tide on this trend by teaching/reminding its members that marriage, among all the other things it is, is also a sacrament."

 

Of course! I would really hope so...

Keith Ward wrotes a bit about what Jesus may have meant by what he said about divorce ....

http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/theres-nowt-so-queer-as-fol...

"[...] First, Jesus' moral teaching in general seems to be stated in very exaggerated terms that cannot be taken literally, but that point to the ideal moral attitudes that should govern human life (we might think of Jesus' statement that a camel cannot go through a needle's eye as such a case, pointing out the difficulty, but not the absolute impossibility, of combining great wealth and Christian discipleship). So if we try to take one consistent way of interpreting Jesus' moral teachings, it has to be a non-literal way, but a way which does not in any way undermine the importance of absolute moral commitment. The commitment will be, however, not to external acts but to inner attitudes. Such attitudes will normally issue in external acts of a specific sort. Life-long commitment will normally issue in no divorce. But in hard cases, the required attitudes of true care for another and respect for their wishes can remain, or even be strengthened, by making an exception to the normal rules.

Second, Torah permitted divorce, as did all the Rabbis of Jesus' day. The disciples may have been shocked at the severity of Jesus' teaching, but it was shock enough to them that he made divorce extremely difficult, when they were obviously expecting him to have a more liberal attitude (that itself is perhaps a clue to the general nature of Jesus' moral teaching. He was generally liberal or humane in his interpretations of Torah, arguing for healing and for picking ears of what on the Sabbath - both allowed by liberal interpretations of Torah, but contested by very conservative readings). And according to Matthew, Jesus did not mean actually to contradict Torah in his teaching.

Third, the literal interpretation of the divorce aphorism in the Sermon on the Mount would be uncharitable to innocently divorced women, and I cannot accept that Jesus' teaching was ever uncharitable. True love of neighbour will sometimes involve marrying, and taking care of, women who have been left alone through no fault of their own, or by a tragic breakdown of marriage. And it will sometimes involve letting a wife of husband go, when they do not wish to continue a relationship further. These are hard cases, and it would be a mistake to build a set of moral laws on hard cases. It is better to do as I, at least, believe Jesus did, and that is to set out the moral ideals that should govern human life, and leave hard cases to careful and particular consideration in often unforeseen situations. The underlying principle that I would find in the sermon with regard to sexual morality is that life-long commitments of loyalty and trust, for better or for worse, are of great value, and should never be intentionally undermined (5, 31 - 32). In addition, it is wrong to make such relationships merely instrumental to gaining momentary pleasure, so that personal gratification is regarded as more important than a fully personal relationship of shared concern and experience (5, 27 - 30). Both these principles are fully consistent with love of neighbour, and they spell out what such love implies. In the form in which I have described them, they do not mention sex or gender at all. They are about friendship in general. And that, in my view, is how they should be taken ....."

. . . . teaching/reminding its members that marriage, among all the other things it is, is also a sacrament.

In reading the history of marriage in the Church, I found it interesting how long it took for marriage to be recognized as a sacrament. I don't really think the groundwork was there until sacramental theology developed in about the 13th century. And believing that marriage was an "outward sign instituted by Christ" requires practing a half hour a day, like the Queen in Through the Looking Glass. 

There are many seeming paradoxes in Scripture.  Such as the passage cited by Carlo and others re: the indissolubility of marriage, and the account of the woman at the well.  We are told that this woman had been married 5 times, and was apparently just cohabiting with #6.  Pretty messy, even by today's standards.  The gospel conspicuously doesn't say that Jesus told her "Go figure out who you're really married to, get your ducks in a row, then we'll talk about this living water." He met her where she was.  Do these two messages contradict each other? I don't believe so. If Jesus had met the woman before the whole train wreck started, I'm sure he would have advised her to choose a different path. But He realized that the past is over, and can't be changed.  There is a saying, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life."  I imagine the rest of her life was much different than the first part.  People fear that the Church is like a house of cards; if anything shifts, the whole thing will come tumbling down.  But it is rather built of living stones.  As someone mentioned,  the Orthodox churches have a somewhat different approach to divorce and remarriage. They still teach the indissolubility of marriage, the same as the Catholic church does. But they have a different way of dealing with failures pastorally.

 

Carlo Lancllotti

Bah, asking the question to such degree of abstraction is not especially helpful. One can just answer, as generally, that "understanding and adaptation" should never void the deeper intention of the original prohibition.

 

Why Bah? We have a saying of Jesus that appears to be an absolute prohibition against divorce, and we have two concrete adaptations from NT authors writing after Jesus's time, which make the absolute prohibition conditional.  Is that not a real change?  Whether these void Jesus' orginal intention cannot be known because we have only the saying and we lnow nothing of his intention.  What you state as the original intention of Jesus is only what you would like it to be, not necessarily what it actually was.  Besides where does the idea that any later undersanding and adaptation cannot void an original intention come from? I suggest you read the entire Fitzmyer article to get an appreciation of the process of adaptation as he laid it out before you come up with an arbitrary rule of understanding and adaptation that fits your preference.

Katherine - (tongue in cheek); you must have missed the part the gospel writer left out about the woman at the well - it had to do with her failed annulment processes.   It made the story too long and didn't fit the gospel structure.  Oh well!

I don't think that judging whether or not OTHERS are eligible to present themselves for Holy Communion is really consistent withthe gospel.  We're enouraged not to judge others.  The onus is really on the communicant themseleves to judge whether or not they are fit to receive, as St Paul said.  If the communicant does not think they are in a state of mortal sin, then it really isn't anyone else's perogative to judge them unfit.

The gold standard here is Christ's attitude to Judas, when he knew Judas had already betrayed him.  But still Jesus admits Judas to the last supper, greets him as friend at Gethsemane, and, according to many patristic fathers, gave Judas Holy Communion.

Sometimes it seems to be so hard for us to really grasp just how merciful and forgiving Christ really is and how he loves his enemies so dearly that he gives them his body and blood.

Lets have more of Christ and less of narrow judgemental lagalism.

God Bless

Speaking of the woman at the well, the Japanese bishops meantioned her and how Jesus responded to her (saying nothing negative about her marital status) in their family synod survey ...

"In developing a pastoral orientation, it is perhaps important to recall that the only time in the gospels that Jesus clearly encounters someone in a situation of cohabitation outside of marriage (the Samaritan woman at the well) he does not focus on it," they state. "Instead, he respectfully deals with the woman and turns her into a missionary." ...

http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/japanese-bishops-vatican-mindset-do...

Alan Mitchell:

 

"Whether these void Jesus' orginal intention cannot be known because we have only the saying and we lnow nothing of his intention."

I disagree. What we say reveals what we intend.

If the saying does not reveal an intention (or, if you prefer a "value"), then the saying is pretty much useless, and basically we can do it whatever we want (which is more or less what you and Fitzmeyer are advocating anyway).

Chris SUllivan:

 

"If the communicant does not think they are in a state of mortal sin, then it really isn't anyone else's perogative to judge them unfit."

 

That's for sure, but it is a false dicothomy. I can only determine whether I am in a state of mortal (or venial) sin if I have a formed conscience, and conscience is formed in a relationship (with God and with the Church, including its aspect as teacher).

Carlo Lancellotti

Your responses to what I have written do not engage the issues seriously.  You simply dismiss what you do not agree with.   You have not read what Fitzmyer wrote and yet you characterize his considered opinion on thss matter as simply "doing what he wants to do."  By the same token, that charge can be turned on you.  So continue to think what you want to think regardless of the evidence that challenges your view.

Crystal,

The sad thing is that cohabitation outside of marriage is one of the few things that will cause the Church to exclude you from its missionary and charitable activities.

Thank you, everyone, for a thoughtful and spirited discussion.

I take Barbara's point about the distance between much of this discussion and the real calculations and choices of many young adults today, including many Catholics. With her usual wit, she suggests that my hypothetical case is too uncommon to worry about. Maybe it is uncommon, though I suspect it's more common than many now suppose. It's easier for us to assume that, when other people's marriages end, it's because both spouses wanted it to end; or to assume that if it has failed, both spouses are equally guilty for the failure. I think there is a lot of unnoticed abandonment in our society—unnoticed, that is, by all except the persons directly involved and those very close to them. And much of the abandonment that is noticed goes unmentioned.

In any case, Kasper acknowedged that the kind of reform he sketched at his speech before the consistory might not affect many people. It would not solve all the many problems that afflict the sacrament of matrimony today. That doesn't make it unimportant. One of the problems with the status quo is that it fails to distinguish between those who desert their spouses and those who are deserted; both are likely to find themselves in the same predicament with respect to canon law, but the two moral situations are radically different, and this needs to be reflected in pastoral practice if not also in the official rules governing who gets to receive communion. This is what justice requires. The German bishops recently suggested that the church's commitment to fidelity ought to be expressed in special efforts to reach out to those who have been abandoned. This is what mercy requires.

Finally, Jim Pauwels argues that most of these problems could be solved by improving and expanding the annulment process. I'm not so sure. I think the annulment process, at least in the United States (which has 6 percent of the world's Catholics and 60 percent of its annulments) may be encouraging an attitude that undermines the church's moral teachings and defies common sense. I think it encourages people to assume that if a marriage fails, it must be because there was something gravely wrong with it from the moment it began—something so wrong that the marriage did not even exist, as everyone believed it did until one or both spouses decided they wanted to end it.

This is make-believe—and a basic misunderstanding about what promise-making and promise-keeping involve. No matter how good their pre-Cana program, no matter how many compatibility tests they take, no one arrives at marriage totally prepared for what their vows will require. To be totall prepared in that way, one would need not just maturity but omniscience. So, if perfect understanding of what one's vows will turn out to require were a condition of making a good vow, then no one could ever make one. Likewise, if every speck of ambivalence can be treated in retrospect as a disqualifying reservation, then there would be very few valid marriages. People turn out to be more wounded than they know, and, of course, people change. Neither of those facts excuse the breaking of a promise, and neither should they lead us to believe that a promise never counted to begin with.

But the divorced and remarried Catholic has made new promises, which he or she cannot break without doing great damage. That fact needs to be taken into account, not only by parish priests but also by the cardinals who will meet in Rome this fall.

 

Alan:

"You simply dismiss what you do not agree with."

If you say so.

The piece by Fitzmayer you posted was perfectly clear, though, and so were your hermeneutical assumptions: that we cannot know Jesus's intentions. Essentially you are submitting theology to scriptural exegesis, understood positivistically. If you are unwilling to question this assumption, we really have nothing to talk about, whether I read the rest of Fitzmayer's article or not!

 

The meeting of Jesus with the woman at the well speaks volumes. Augustine et alii and Carlo would flagellate her.  Jesus made her an apostle.

Matthwe:

"But the divorced and remarried Catholic has made new promises, which he or she cannot break without doing great damage."

In this discussion, breaking promises is not a big problem. If I break a promise and repent, I get my absolution, try to do amends as well as I can, and go on with my life. The big question is whether the first marriage was real or not, if it was something God did or not. If it was, I have a serious problem. If I remarry I am objectively living in contradiction with God's plan for my life as manifested by the sacrament I received earlier. Pastorally, this can be handled in various way. But just to say that there is no problem, and that I should just get communion as if there were no problem, does me no good. It actually papers over a real difficulty. That's why really the only way out is if there is a convincing case that the original marriage was null. We can try and do a better job at determining that. But just to try and say that we can get absolution and then live more uxorio as if we were married again is the pastoral equivalent of medical malpractice. It does not do anybody any good.

Cardinal Kasper would profit from reading Brideshead Revisited.

Bill:

"Augustine et alii and Carlo would flagellate her."

That's an insult. I would welcome an apology.

The big question is whether the first marriage was real or not, if it was something God did or not.

No, Carlo, that isn't the big question—at least not for Cardinal Kasper. He does not question the indissolubility of sacramental marriage. He questions your inference about what the continuing reality of that marriage means for the woman in my example. You think she has put herself "in a situation where not to sin is humanly almost impossible, that's it." So, she has made her bed, so to speak, and now she must lie in it. You will not shed a tear over her inability to receive communion without breaking up the home she has now.

No one is papering over any difficulties. Some, including Kasper, are suggesting that current canon law may not be adequate to important difficulties that many Catholics face today. Do you regard the Eastern Orthodox approach to this problem as a brazen denial of Christ's teaching? As Kasper points out, the Orthodox do not deny the indissolubility of matrimony. But neither do they allow the best to be the enemy of the good; they understand that the best is sometimes no longer an option. 

Matthew:

"You will not shed a tear over her inability to receive communion without breaking up the home she has now."

I do not see why you (too) feel the need to question my sympathy for her situation. It is precisely because I care that I think Cardinal Kasper's response does not ultimately help her at all.

Receiving communion is not an end in itself. Communion is given us for our sanctification. If her situation (living with a man who is not her husband) is objectively an obstacle to the fulfillment of her vocation, that's not going to change one iota. Sacraments are effective but they are not "magic."

Your constant meme:  "In this discussion, breaking promises is not a big problem. If I break a promise and repent, I get my absolution, try to do amends as well as I can, and go on with my life. The big question is whether the first marriage was real or not, if it was something God did or not. If it was, I have a serious problem. If I remarry I am objectively living in contradiction with God's plan for my life as manifested by the sacrament I received earlier."

Sorry, again, you ignore reality and you make assumptions that you can not know.  For example, many marriages end because one spouse leaves, abandons the other spouse, was incapable of living a lifelong commitment - and you then require the other spouse to just *exist* - that's not life; it isn't repentance or sorrow....it is a narrow, legalistic approach to life.  The remaining spouse has not failed morally - so, why should that spouse not be able to move on with their lives (including remarriage) and that this does not banish them from participating in the eucharist fully.  For many of these spouses, the end of the first marriage is tragic, creates significant inner turmoil, etc. and tthe decision to move on - which may eventually result in another marriage - is not necessarily an easy decision and it make evolve over years. 

Yet - you say:  "If I remarry I am objectively living in contradiction with God's plan for my life as manifested by the sacrament I received earlier."   How do you know this?  Appears that you are playing God.  How do you know that it is God's plan for my life?  You appear to need nice, neat categories that can tell you whether you are right, correct, etc.?   Fact - our faith journey just doesn't fit those nice, neat categories (and it didn't for more than a thousand years of church history).  How do you know that a remarriage is a *contradiction with God's plan for life*?  So, a person makes a covenant - does this *mark* them for life?  Sounds like the *ontological change* argument in terms of the sacrament of orders which is one theological explanation but doesn't really capture what ministry/orders is about in terms of lifelong service.  Think Kaspar is trying to recapture the poetry and language and images of the gospel....rather than the late legal developments of the church.

The sacrament of marriage is a *covenant* between two people witnessed and recognized by the church.  Why assume that covenants require *perfection* - yes, we understand that the covenant is forever but we also understand that the human journey is filled with failure.  Your stance is that this one covenant marks you for life and does not allow any other type of decision, change, etc.  Yet, catholicism & the gospel message is built upon the concept of *metanoia* - which is an internal re-ordering and change.  The Christian life is a journey filled with mystery and faith....mystery and faith by their essence means that we believe without black and white proof.  Yet, your stance on marriage is black and white, it demands perfection, it ignores human failure and the need for metanoia.  Often, a remarriage is an excellent example of metanoia.  (again, don't think you can move forward by only using extremes e.g. multiple marriages, folks who care less, etc.  Kaspar is looking at the serious, committed catholic who has faced the end of a first marriage. He is suggesting ways to handle remarriage without ignoring the first marriage or saying it wasn't real.  Have many friends and family in remarriages - in almost every case, their remarriage is strong, committed, and loving....and, at the same time, they continue to deal with the history and spouse/children/families from their first marriage - it just doesn't disappear)  Why should this forbid them from participating in the eucharist....it is hypocritical and is a legal solution that ignores the reality that we share a journey of love and that our faith is a mystery.

Receiving communion is not an end in itself. Communion is given us for our sanctification. If her situation (living with a man who is not her husband) is objectively an obstacle to the fulfillment of her vocation, that's not going to change one iota.

Agreed. Only for you, Carlo, this does not seem to be an "if," and I wonder why. You appear to be unduly certain that God wants her to leave her current partner, no matther what effect this has on him, her, or their children. 

Bill:

"Your stance is that this one covenant marks you for life"

If it is a sacrament, i.e. an act of God, how could it be otherwise? That's where our positions are irreconcilable, I think. Your notion of "covenant" is not sacramental.

Matthew:

"unduly certain that God wants her to leave the man who is not her husband"

I never said that, especially if there is any reason to think that her first marriage may have been null, which nowadays is probably very often the case.

But if the first marriage was a real sacramental marriage, and she feels she has to keep living with the new man, I think it is best for her (let me stress: for her) to refrain from receiving communion as the Church commands, and just entrust herself to God's mercy.

I will stress again the difference betwen a Puritan and a Catholic understanding of morality: what matters is to know what is right, do what we can and if we cannot entrust ourselves to God. Pretending everything is all right does not do anybody any good, even if you get communion.

Priesthood is also a sacrament which marks one for life.  However a priest can be laicized and released from his vow of celibacy and be allowed to marry in the Church. Just wondering why there couldn't be a parellel "releasing from vows" of someone whose marriage failed, particularly if they were the wronged party?

I think it is best for her (let me stress: for her) to refrain from receiving communion as the Church commands, and just entrust herself to God's mercy.

You write as if God's mercy and the church's sacraments ran on separate tracks. They don't.

[W]hat matters is to know what is right, do what we can and if we cannot entrust ourselves to God.

The right thing for us to do in any circumstance is never more than what we can do.

Pretending everything is all right does not do anybody any good, even if you get communion.

But who's pretending everything's all right? If everything has to be all right before one can receive communion, no one should receive it. If anyone's the puritan in this discussion, it's you.

 

"Why assume that covenants require *perfection* - yes, we understand that the covenant is forever"

Bill deH. --

No, the covenant is until the death of a spouse.  Not so long ago Cdl. Dolan was talking the same way.  Where is this coming from?
 

Matthew:

"The right thing for us to do in any circumstance is never more than what we can do."

There is a theoretical "can" and what we are really able to do, and there is a big gap between the two.

"But who's pretending everything's all right? If everything has to be all right before one can receive communion, no one ever should."

You know as well as I do that in this context "being all right" means having confessed and repented, which implies at least a tentative committment to try and sin no more.

"Just wondering why there couldn't be a parellel "releasing from vows""

Katherine --

You might be on to something there.  What does Jesus say about matrimony? "What God has joined together let no man put assunder". It seems to me that the sentence is a general *command* for people not to wreck marriages, it is not a general *statement* that "No marriages can be ended".  Even in civil law the commands (laws) are expressed in general terms, but the law also recognizes that sometimes higher laws require that there be some exceptions to the lower law.  For instance, if a civil law might command "Do not trespass on another's property", but if there is a fire it is permitted for someone to trespass in process of saving someone from the burning house.

Jesus also says, "Whatever you shall bind on Earth shall be bound also in Heaven, and what you shall lose on Earth shall be losed also in Heaven".   Given the statement/promise that He is *delegating* authority, it seems to me that it could be interpreted to apply to the delegation of the authority of the Church to uncouple spouses who are found to be in moral dilemmas or intolerable circumstances.  In other words, Jesus might have intended that the promise about binding and losing would apply to marriages/matrimony.  

No, such uncoupling would not be an annulment -- an annulment is a statement that, contrary to popular belief and even contrary to the belief of one or both of the spouses -- there was no marriage in the first place.

By the way, such statement/promises are what the contemporary philosophers of language call  "performative utterances".  They both say something and do something, and they're particularly important in law.  In the binding-losing perf. utterance Jesus has made the statement that something will happen *and* He has given His promise that it will be so. 

Katherine --

In saying what I just did,  I didn't mean to minimize the great necessity for wisdom and a sense of justice that will be required if the Church were to make such judgments losing some bonds.  Many new questions will undoubtedly arise if the laws are losened, and there will be the possibility of injustice in other ways if the laws aren't wise and fair.  No matter how you look at it, the problems are humongous.

But neither is that to say that theology is irrelevant.  Theology is no more irrelevant when dealing with moral judgments than math is irrelevent when building bridges and skyscrapers.  Both are the application of *real general knowledge* to specific cases.  It really drives me up the wall when some people try to claim that mercy knows no theology.  "Mercy" acting out of ignorance can do much harm.

Ann - the covenant is forever - and yes, with the death of a spouse, it is permitted to remarry.  But, that first covenant is still forever.  Kaspar may be using this example (death of a spouse) as a parallel to the death of a first marriage (but in terms of a spouse who leaves or abandons or has significant inability to live their marriage e.g.may be a danger to the other spouse/family; etc.)

I agree with Ann;  To make Jesus' statements into an absolute hard line prohibition of divorce & remarriage seem to assume way more than what the text actually says.

God Bless

Carlo --

Where is it written that matrimony "marks one for life"?  Baptism does.  Holy Orders does.  At least that's the way I was taught it.  But matrimony is only for the life of the couple -- when one dies it's over.  Sad, but that's the way the Lord seems to want it to be.  Not that the love of the couple does not continue, I'm sure it most often does.  But according to your thinking a second marriage even after the death of a spouse would be adulterous.

""Your stance is that this one covenant marks you for life"

"If it is a sacrament, i.e. an act of God, how could it be otherwise?"

Carlo --

Matrimony doesn't "mark you for life".  When one spouse dies the marriage is over, and the surviving spouse is still unmarked.  If that weren't the case, then a second marriage would be adulterous.  

I was taught that Baptism and Holy Orders do "mark the soul" forever, but not Matrimony.   Where is your idea coming from?

"Ann - the covenant is forever - and yes, with the death of a spouse, it is permitted to remarry.  But, that first covenant is still forever."

Bill deH. --

Where did you get this teaching?  Who said so?  When?

And if this has been taught at some time (though I've never ever heard of it), then why is it relevant to this didscussion?  

Are you saying that a second marriages after the death of a spouse is tolerated, but not on a par with the matrimony of the first one?  That surely would be news to a lot of people who have married widows and widowers, and to the widows and widowers too.

"...the eucharist and the church are more like a hospital for sinners..."   What a truly wonderful remark!!!  It would seem common sense alone would suffice to convince us all God seldom felt the need to save the likes of Teresa or Romero.  Evidently, common sense ain't that common.

Ann - not trying to draw a line in the sand; merely reflecting some of the theology that has been expressed.

So, VII used the language of *covenant* to indicate that marriage emphasizes the relationship between Christ and his church (this relationship does not end with the death of the people of God).  Not disagreeing with your question, but marriage is more than just two physical bodies that will eventually pass away......marriage is a *meaning* and *interpersonal union* of people that are both physical and spiritual (we do believe that our journey does not end with death and that we will rise in a bodily sense).  You appear to tie marriage to *physical being* only.  One end of marriage is generativity - thus, a marriage may result in children, family, etc......this continues even when one or both spouses die.....or when the remaining spouse remarries.

Guess we need to make distinctions - marriages do end with the death of a spouse in one sense but, in a sacramental sense, that first marriage (its meaning, achievements, etc.) continues just like the covenant between Christ and his Church.  Yet, we are human and live in the physical world and we experience the end of marriages before the death of a spouse - thus, we need to expand our understanding of the *death of a marriage* and, IMO, Kaspar is also expanding our understanding and practice that this may result in a second marriage and that the church has the sacramental means (penance, eucharist, etc.) to heal and support this remarriage.

Here is a long but interesting article:  http://www.ts.mu.edu/readers/content/pdf/64/64.1/64.1.5.pdf

Also, recommend Jospeh Martos and his articles about the sacrament of marriage and even annulments (which he is not a big supporter of).

 

Give credit to Rita Ferrone who posted this on the PrayTell Blog - it is an excellent, well-written analysis and summary of the above discussion points:

http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2014/02/18/divorce-and-remarriage-what-are-we-fighting-about/

 

Highlights:

"Not permissible or not possible? These are two different things. If we regard divorce as impermissible (as we do a host of other deeds) and someone does it anyway, perhaps with irreparable consequences, the possibility remains open to seek forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance and be reconciled. If not possible, then the system of annulments is the way to respond because if it was ever a marriage, it is still binding: the definition determines this outcome.

The sacramental-legal synthesis which we have inherited from the Middle Ages is venerable, but is itself the result of development. Should it be considered simply the self-evident consequence of obedience to the command of Jesus? Or can this synthesis be revisited when pressing pastoral realities demand it–without putting the teaching of Jesus into the shade? Is an increase in annulments the only way forward for those who wish to readmit divorced and remarried Catholics to the sacraments, or are there other ways forward that have their own integrity?

I believe that most Catholics do NOT want marriage to be defined as a contract to be entered into and left at will. The sacramentality and permanence of marriage is important to them, as is fidelity to the teaching of Jesus. If that’s the case, then what are we really disagreeing about? I suspect it’s this synthesis of law and sacramental theology. It’s important that we distinguish, lest the false dichotomy of “mercy” vs. “faithfulness” close off a discussion that is timely and necessary."
 

Wow - the discussion as really taken off since I was last able to check in.  Just a few quick remarks for now:

Matthew - I agree that the patient-Griselda (or patient-to-a-point Griselda) cases are difficult.  Christianity can be very hard, and not just for the Griseldas of the world.  I don't know what the solution is, but I certainly wouldn't want to stop Cardinal Kasper from searching for a merciful solution.  It would be wonderful if one could be found.  

Also - very good point re: promise-making and promise-keeping.  I happen to think that the failure to take our promises seriously is endemic, the implications are far-reaching, and it is important that the church maintain its commitment to the binding nature of the spoken and written word.  And it seems we agree that the annulment process really can't be a back-door way to "Catholic divorce".  That means that, even if the annulment process is reformed in some way, some petitions will continue to be rejected.   That in turn means that some petitioners will be disappointed, crushed, broken-hearted, angry, and whatever other negative emotions accompany the dawning realization that previous life choices and even circumstances beyond one's control have placed real limits on one's future possibilities.  It is hard.  I am sorry for folks in that situation.  I would do what I can for them.  I would talk with them, spend time with them, pray with them, if those things are helpful.  But I can't make the past be other than it is, and neither can the church.   

Katherine - interesting point re: the woman at the well.  My initial thought is that John shaped that story and placed it where he did in his Gospel for theological reasons, and those reasons probably didn't include an intention to illustrate that Jesus  thought multiple civil divorces and remarriages were just fine.  I think it's more likely that (one of) the intention(s) was to teach that even sinners and even Samaritans could be included in his plan of salvation.  If we're going to search the Gospels for applicable passages - always a worthwhile task - an apposite episode might be that of the woman caught in adultery, whose life is preserved but who also is admonished to go and sin no more.

Todd - I saw your remark suggesting that the church authorities don't really trust their pastors.  I agree that there are limits to that trust, but they do trust pastors with quite a bit, including sacramental ministry and oversight.  And every pastor already is approached by couples who want help with a troubled marriage.  If pastors are to be entrusted with something like a judicial function that allows them to issue something like a decree of nullity, I would assume that there would need to be some additional formation given them, and that they would need something like faculties or a license to perform this function (the implication being that it could be yanked if they abuse it).  I don't think it's unworkable, and just based on the pastors I know, most of them would be equal to the task.

 

I wonder, when speaking about the "intentions" of Jesus, how we imagine him thinking about marriage during his public ministry, which was directed to Jews and only Jews. Do we really imagine that when he was teaching about Jewish marriage and Mosaic Law, he was thinking ahead to the Catholic Church, in which there would be the concepts of sacramental and natural marriages? Did Jesus really think about (and institute) sacraments? (If so, why did it take so long for marriage to be recognized as a sacrament? Were his intentions really not discovered for a thousand years?) Did he intend for priests to perform the sacrament of marriage? Did he foresee the Pauline Privilege, the Petrine Privilige, and the annulment process? How much of what Catholics believe about the indissolubility of marriage comes from Jesus, and how much comes from the Church? And is everything taught by the Church really implicit in the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament in general? 

I suppose one could ask similar questions about a great deal of what the Church teaches in the 21st century, which is why this is such a challenging debate. Is everything that the Catholic Church now is to be located in the teachings of Jesus and the writings of the New Testament (and "Tradition")? Did Jesus really imagine the papacy and the priesthood? Did he imagine confessionals, communion wafers, confirmation, cassocks and albs, and marriage tribunals? 

And is marriage, like the sabbath, made for man? Or is man made for marriage? 

All good questions, David. Especially the last one.

My gratitude to Matthew, Grant and others who have spoken eloquently, cogently and persuasively in favor of mercy for Catholics who find themselves in such unfortunate situations as addressed here this week and by Cardinal Kaspar.   Thank God.  It's time.  More than time.

And a word to those who speak rather disparagingly of the annulment process as a convenient "pass" for those who qualify to move on to a normal life.   I offer a testimony from the trenches.   

The Church granted me an annulment over twenty years ago, and I have never remarried.  Nevertheless, being granted the annulment offered a bit of validation and truth, and it is helptul to me as I make sense of my journey, as we all must.  The annulment process was one component of healing that helped balm the pain of a series of "bad breaks", one of them being the rather primitive and certainly inadequate pre-marital preparation that was available over 50 years ago when I naively "walked down the aisle".   Thank God there is greater wisdom and insight available now both for those preparing to enter marriage and for  a resolution of difficulties for those whose "unions" have failed -- or never were authentic unions.

Thank God the Tribunals are equipped with more sophisticated psychological insight nowadays to address the delicate issues involved in human development and the individuals' capacity to enter into a "covenant", a word not even breathed in marriage prep 50 years ago. 

There is so much pain involved for everyone when a family breaks apart, lifelong repercussions emotionally and otherwise.  ( This blog even has discussed recently the pain of feeling marginalized in one's parish, which may seem like a place for intact families and couples only.  Single-again people deal with that perceived exclusion,  as well as the never-married singles, and countless other negative consequences. )

It's an imperfect world and no one escapes suffering; indeed, we are made holy in embracing the cross that is ours.   As Jim P said, it's so sad that often there is little or nothing that can be done to reverse what has happened in one's history, things often beyond one's control.   But, in our Church, our Mother, let there be a little compassion for those who have borne a good share of injustices, even some for which our "Mother" can share responsibility.  Mercy for those who needed and found a second opportunity for  partnership and mercy for those who qualify for an annulment and may or may not have remarried.

I find a grace of healing in this discussion as I read each entry of someone who is struggling to figure out the perplexing issues involved regarding the marriage covenant and/or failure of it, especially those who persist in asserting a merciful  (rather than legalistic) view.   May the merciful Jesus guide us all.

Forgive me for asking, but what value does all this back and forth and scoring points off one another offer to someone to someone going through a painful divorce?  What warmth does it give them?  Why should they care about of this?

A marriage should last forever. That should be a given. The problem with granting exceptions which I believe there should be, is that there is a slippery slope where people beging to get out of marriage for trivial or selfish reasons. Many European men have no problem with this because there is the ubiquitous mistress. And more European women have had affairs if truth be told. Just ask Erasmus. 

Even a cursory glance at the contemporary  scene impels one to realize that too many marriages are broken because of whims, selfishness and a sense that one "deserves" better. During the sixties a phrase began to circulate about the shortness of marriage. It was said that: "We live in an age of revocable commitment."  Which is really a contradiction in terms. It is not a commitment if it is revocable. 

The words of Jesus are important.  A commitment is a commitment. But He did say "except in the cse of adultery." So I would say that the person who is left for selfish reasons has a right to get married again. 

A clerical class out of touch with people has developed onerous rules because they felt/feel the sheep must be herded. But if they were in touch they would have worked out these things and helped people through them.

Augustine said that at the end God will sift the wheat from the chaff even inside the Church. So let people make their decisions in conscience. Bernard Haring used to advise that the way married people treat each others in every transaction fulfillls the bond of marriage. Not some contract which is a lifeless thing. 

So concern for others should motivate our help with those who are remarrying. Not referring to Canon law and misinterpreting the words of Jesus. Let the mercy of God prevail. If people treat one another well, pray togetherand sacrifice for each other, who are we to judge?

 

Sometime I have found that the things I used to think of sins really are not sins at all. And that the real sins involve my lack of care for the poor, etc. A lot of what the official church listed as "sexual sins" are found -- after due examination -- not to be sins at all.

It seems the discussion reflects the efforts of the community (this one and the larger ecclesial community) to come to grips with our corporate blind spots, to review ithe church's past definitions in order to foment more just ways of addressing pain such as yours .    People care about the points discussed here because they care about you and others caught in a painful, life-damaging situation.

You see here a deacon who has walked the journey with individuals in such pain as you are experiencing, and that is one instance of compassion in the church.   The contributors of these posts and the Cardinal representing the higher echelons of leadership are impllcitly demonstrating their care and compassion for persons like yourself.   This is all a part of finding our way, of being something of the community disciples of Jesus Christ should be.

As a divorcee of many years, my heart aches for you in the sorrow you are enduring, and I, for one, will keep you in prayer as you find your way.    May "Wisdom"  who seeks you in all solicitude meet you with divine graciousness in all the ways you are in need, Kevin.  

Katherine Nielsen (May 8) noted the difference in the way the church handles cases of priests who request release from their vows (although "marked" for life, they are permitted to marry and take communion) and the way the church treats laity who divorce and remarry.  Jim Pauwels and others also discussed pre-marriage preparation.  

The subject of vows was raised in an article called "I do" Undone by John Garvey in the Dec 9, 2013 issue of Commonweal.    My comment was later printed as a Letter to the Editor. Since the article and letters are "premium" content available only to subscribers, I will copy and paste part of what I wrote vis a vis the "permanent" vows of Holy Orders and those of marriage.

The author wrote:  I had a complicated conversation with a Catholic priest, a friend, who was considering leaving the priesthood to get married. (In the end he did not.) His argument was that the vows he had made as a younger man were not made by the person he had become. I pointed out that the same is true of anyone who has been married for a long time. It is true of anyone who says, in effect, “This is who I will try to be from now on,” or “This is what I claim to be, whatever else may change.”

My comment (later printed as a letter) in part:

The priest's comment about not being the same person that he was when he was ordained is very true, and is true of those who marry also.  These vows should not be broken lightly, but they should not be considered immutable under all circumstances either.  A priest who is miserable will not be an effective priest. Some marriages are so miserable that the couple should separate or divorce, especially if there are children who are impacted by the parents’ misery.

 In some ways, it is more understandable that marriage vows are broken than that the final vows of priests and religious are broken. 

Most couples who marry make the decision after a relatively short time of knowing one another (compared to those who take religious vows), from a few months to a few years. They usually marry within six months to a year of becoming engaged. They are given very little preparation for marriage, and none for the demands parenthood will bring - being 'open" to parenthood is a requirement for marrying in the church, which seems unconcerned about the suitability of the individuals to be good parents.  

Priests are in formation - immersed in it and removed from the "world" - for years, unlike individuals who marry, who are not removed from the world for years and immersed in marriage preparation.  Priests and religious take temporary vows, leading to final vows. Couples who intend to marry do not have these "trial" vow periods, nor does the church approve of cohabitation, which would provide a sort of “immersion” experience for couples before taking “final” marriage vows. 

Priests and religious who decide to leave the priesthood or religious life after final vows - even with years of preparation, immersion, discernment, and stages with temporary vows before making those final vows, are usually permitted to leave without being punished by the church through the withholding of sacraments as long as they follow correct procedure. Couples who decide to divorce are usually told they may not participate in the eucharist.  They may be offered the expensive and painful option of annulment, which many refuse to do because it forces them to deny that the marriage was ever "valid", which many see as a distortion of truth. They must also obtain the cooperation of a former spouse who may not wish to cooperate, and they must lay out their "dirty linen" to a tribunal of strangers who will “judge” them and the “validity” of their marriage. It is not surprising that so many divorced people choose not to seek annulments. 

In an ideal world, nobody would ever break religious or marriage vows. But we don’t live in such a world.

Thank you, Carol, but I'm really happily married and crazy in love with my wife.  I simply found myself shaking my head at the insularity of this two-day conversation, which seems to me so removed from real life--real life just as you describe it in your own situation.  The subject is so important and yet the tone of the back and forth suggests a church grudging in its kindness, one that cultivates in its member a habit of thinking first about what's in bounds and what's out than on simply "How do I help?"  Jesus must be scratching his head.

My best to you as well, Carol. And thank you again for your impulse to kindness.

 

 

Bill deH. --

I noted in my comment that where there is love in the marriage that the love of the spouses will no doubt continue, and no doubt it will be a special sort of, individual sort of love.  But I also remind you that Matthew seems to say that there won't be marriage in Heaven.  

So, yes, if you want to talk about heavenly marriage, then there needs to be some re-definition of "marriage", or, rather, "matrimony".  (Or does "marriage" also need to be re-defined? Either that or "adultery" needs re-definition.)  

Ann Olivier,

It's coming from an apologetics that seeks to defend the position rather than discern the truth. People start saying whatever answers the current objection without thinking about how this fits into the larger whole. I see this a lot in discussions about gays and lesbians getting married. Adoption, the foundation of the pro-life movement's policy for unwanted pregnancies, gets painted as a horrible crime against the child in order to avoid giving credit to those gay and lesbian couples who take in children in need of a home and raise them as their own.

“So here's a solution: don't bother getting married until you are really, really sure, maybe when you are 35 or 40, that way, when you do get married everyone will be so grateful that you are no longer living in sin they will totally forget that you didn't get married earlier.”  

be·troth·al     : the act of promising to marry someone

                       : an agreement that two people will be married in the future

 

Re:  abolition of annulments:

In their 2002 book, “Catholic Divorce:  The Deception of Annulments”, Joseph Martos and Pierre Hegy state:

“Because the grounds for annulment have become so broad that practically anyone who applies for one can obtain it, many observers now regard annulments as ‘virtual divorces.’  After all, the same grounds for divorce in a civil court have ‘become grounds for the nonexistence of marriage in an ecclesiastical court.’  (Page 23)  To add to the deceit, many couples who receive annulments do so believing that their marriage was, in fact, sacramentally valid – that the marital bond did exist but that, over time, it began to break down.  These couples, understandably, choose not to disclose this part of the story to marriage tribunals so that they can qualify for an annulment.”     http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/2586453/posts

In other words it has become the Catholic game of “nudge-nudge, wink-wink.”  (Monty Python fans will recognize that term.)

 

Ann & Ryan - sorry, only stating one of the theologies - it is not my theology nor would I write an disertation on it.  Agree with Kevin McDermott's feelings.

Covenant emerged as a theological explanation for the sacrament and Vatican II continued and reframed it.  Covenant has an ancient history, meaning, pedigree but find that when language such as covenant is used because marriage is like the bond between Christ and Church - we start to have problems with lived human experience.....the same approach is used too often to explain the sacrament of orders (remember some of the stuff you read during the Year of the Priest)...the whole bridegroom of the church stuff (can't say the real word).  this sacrament is also explained as a covenant and borrows the same type of theological explanation connected to the Thomistic philosophy which explains it using categores such as ontology.  You do realize that these explanations are borrowed from philosophy (not scripture); that they are time limited in terms of meaning, etc.  Would suggest that it is time to move past the Thomistic categories which hold us back from reframing a living, sacramental experience.

Same with the OT understanding of *covenant* - it spoke about God's love for humankind and his everlasting commitment - and acknowledged that humans are on a journey and broke the covenant over and over.  (thus, perfect in one direction; imperfect in the other direction which doesn't mean that we don't try to commit - see Rita Ferrone's analysis above; she says it better)

 

Thanks, Jim McCrea - didn't have time to make that link or copy/paste from Martos.

I do not doubt for one moment that people entering the priesthood, religious life or marriages have the goal of their covenant being forever.

Reality has a way of taking the bloom off of the rose.  Many priests are released from their vows of obedience and celibacy.  Many religious are release from whatever vows they make when the make their professions.  The decisions about these releases seem to be made, either as first recommendation or final approval, by male clerics.

Married laity evidently are not releasable from their covenants that were witnessed by male clerics.  Oh, they can play the annulment game (and these process might even be valid in many cases), but to do so requires a belief that their marriage covenant wasn’t valid to begin with.  In other words, it isn’t a question of d-i-v-o-r-c-e because it wasn’t a marriage.

What is wrong with this picture?

Jim - the priest being laicized is not as clean as you think or make it out to be.  JPII stopped all priest leaving requests for almost 15 years until a core group of bishops convinced him that it was only harming their families, spouses, children.

In some, if not most, cases, the priest has to provide grounds for why he is leaving - these are usually around statements that he did not understand the lifelong vow; he was not psycholoically capable of a lifelong vow; he was immature, etc.  Not exactly what most wanted to say - but to achieve a clean leaving, many just went along with some psych grounds.  No different that the degree of nullity in annulments - and, yes, the same game playing can happen.

My question - why force or put folks in that situation to begin with?  Even fully mature and solid folks make mistakes - as those of us in the behavioral field are wont to say - what is normal?

I guess Carlo's argument falls if marriage is not a sacrament. The hierarchy did not finalize the number as seven until the 12th century with the councils of Lyons and Florence. In fact at this time we start hearing about infallibility for the first time. Now we know the pope is not infallible, Carlo. Then marriage falls also. Correct? But then again, how can we think straight without Canon Law?

Somebody, on this thread or the previous one about Cardinal Kaspar, maybe Barbara, raised a point about the Millennials and their views on marriage. Frankly, I think how the Church catechizes children about marriage is probably more important point than anything the Church does about marriage-after-divorce, annulments, or marriage prep.

How do kids under 18, for whom divorce is a common part of the landscape--probably in their immediate or extended families, certainly in those of their closest friends--make sense of what the Church teaches about marriage when more than half the marriages they see run counter to the Church's ideal? For children of divorced parents, Church teaching must raise a lot of questions and some emotional tensions.

At some point, the kids must realize that their parents are sinners for whom the sacraments are beyond the pale. This may be hard to take if the child is of an age to understand that the reasons for their parents' divorce were complex and, in some cases, happened in order to protect them from abuse or neglect. These kids are going to question Church teaching, and, without some loving guidance from the parish, feel that they have to choose between their parents and the Church.

I find this discussion interesting because new views are proposed on marriage, things I had not thought of before and that might help reconcile the supposed indissolubility of marriage and reality of marriage, divorce, and second marriages.

I got an annulment some years ago. I was clear to me that I was no longer married, and I had only two choices: either go through the annulment process and get my official status in the church aligned with my current personal reality, but at the cost of putting a question mark on my past (what did I live in for many years if not a marriage?), or keep my official status in the church disconnected from my current personal reality, while preserving the notion that I had lived in an (imperfect) marriage. I filed, pointing out the defects of my past marriage, and left it to fate (i.e. to the anonymous tribunal) to decide the outcome, unsure what I wanted it to be, and hoping that there would be some truth in the decision. 

When the result came out and the annulment was granted, my children and ex-husband (or rather, ex-something-that-is-not-a-husband) were all quite upset. I was surprised that a mere piece of paper from an unrecognized authority (for them) would affect them so much.

The tribunal was careful to specify that the annulment did not make my children illegitimate, but did not explain why not. It was still good, though, because my children were worried about it, so I could reassure them even if I could not explain it - I could say I knew it from church authority. Funny how an authority that is not respected and routinely criticized still has power over the very people who sometimes speak of it with great contempt!

In retrospect I am very glad that the annulment was granted. I could not imagine hanging on for years and years to a past that is past, like the parents of a dead child who keep his bedroom as it was when he was alive and who organize their lives around the memory of the past. (That's basically the view of the world that the church institution proposes to divorces whose marriage was not annulled, right?)

What I have learned is great skepticism about sacramental marriage, so this thread is interesting because it is trying to propose other ways to think about it. I appreciate it.

I remember the day I received the annulment. I went outside, and suddenly every man walking on the street looked extremely attractive. Humanity had all at once become brighter, as if the sun had come out from behind the clouds!

 So much for making light of the church institution...

 

The difference between Orthodox and Catholic marriages is that in Catholic marriages the two people marry each other and the Church witnesses it. In the Orthodox church the church literally marries the two people. That is why in Orthodox marriages there is no exchange of vows.

That accounts for the different practices and why the Orthodox is, or should be, more involved in divorce.

As for the Catholic church, the best criteria for annulment should be the couple. If they are able to arrive at a consensual understanding that one or both was not really prepared for sacramental marriage, that should rectify it.

The problem is that oftentimes one part of the couple feels that it was a marriage and that it is not fair that the person should be free to marriage. It is unjust. They feel hurt and betrayed.

This is why divorce and remarriage is messy, painful and screams for a pastoral and not canonical solution as so many have said.

Cardinal Kasper and Pope Francis are accurately grasping the real issue.

Nobody likes divorce and few people go in thinking that they will not be together forever. Life happens and people change. Divorce is not a good thing and obviously it would be better if there were fewer divorces. This is not to judge, malign, or find fault with people who discern that their marriage no longer functions. It is just that as a faith community, we need to respond with compassion and support.

And certainly, underscore what marriage is in a Christian context for those entering into marriage in a Catholic church. Grooms, brides, groomsman, and bridesmaids coming in to their wedding day hungover from the rehearsal party the night before does not quite bode well for a happy future!

 

@George D: 

Cardinal Kasper and Pope Francis are accurately grasping the real issue.

And it seems Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople fully agrees. Commenting on the Roman Church's upcoming synods, he said: 

"What is most significant is that Pope Francis is squarely facing the realities of Christ's flock, and in imitation of Jesus the good shepherd, leading the flock with compassion and grace."

From this CNS interview: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1401920.htm?utm_source=twit...

 

And certainly, underscore what marriage is in a Christian context for those entering into marriage in a Catholic church. Grooms, brides, groomsman, and bridesmaids coming in to their wedding day hungover from the rehearsal party the night before does not quite bode well for a happy future!

But if children were properly catechized about the true nature of a sacramental marriage, would they be coming in hung over before such a solemn but joyful event? Something is not working earlier on in the lives of children and their families. Pre-Cana prep is not going to fix this. Meaning no disrepect to those who do pre-Cana.

Anglicans require some kind of examination prior to remarriage after a divorce, which can only, as I understand it, happen once and is conducted by the pastor marrying them. Marriage is, however, considered a "minor sacrament," as opposed to a "major sacrament" like baptism, a distinction I never quite grasped. 

Jean,  I am not an expert on this, but have tried to learn a bit since I have been spending my Sundays in Episcopal pews for several years now.

The language used for sacraments within the Anglican communion varies somewhat. All accept the seven sacraments, but most consider only baptism and the eucharist as having been instituted directly by Christ - they are called the Sacraments of the Gospel.  Some refer to the other five sacraments as either sacraments or as sacramental rites.  The Sacraments of the Gospel are necessary for all, but the others are optional.

True story; names changed: Rick left his wife  Irene when he learned that she was pregnant.    Irene obtained an uncontested divorce.  Later  Irene arranged that little Janie  visit with Rtck and his parents on a regular basis . When Janie was six Irene married Joe, a man of strong character.  A t ten years of age Janie told me: "Dad Rick is a pal but Dad Joe is my real dad."  

 

 "Dad Rick is a pal but Dad Joe is my real dad."  

Out the mouths of babes and infants. You have established a bulwark against your foes, to silence enemy and avenger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anne, I was an Episcopalian for 20 years, and the way I finally came to understand it--and this is more a practical than a theological explanation--baptism and receiving the eucharist are those with which we cannot live as full members of the Body of Christ. The others are  situational (confession, annointing of the sick, and confirmation) and used to bring someone closer to God in certain circumstances, or vocational (marriage, ordination). 

You can't go around calling yourself an Episcopal priest without being ordained. You also can't present yourself to an Episcopal congregation as married without a valid and legal marriage, and once your marriage is recognized, you cannot be married in the Church without grounds for the invalidating the original marriage. If I understand it correctly, the original marriage is not necessarily "annulled," as if there never was any marriage, but is dissolved because there is no longer any true marriage there.

Here's an example. I doubt it presents a way forward for Roman Catholics, but it makes sense to me:

An Episcopalian  friend's husband abandoned his family to live with his pregnant girlfriend. She divorced him in order to force him to pay her child support. The kids were teenagers, and she lived an upright and chaste life maintaining a stable home for her children. She occasionally kept company with a single gentleman friend.

At age 50, she and her friend decided to marry. He wanted to marry in the church, so they consulted with the parish priest, and there was a period of counseling, reflection, and some investigation by the priest, who discussed the woman's situation with her former priest and with her ex-husband. In short, the process of nullifying the marriage to the satisfaction of the church was left to the priest, who would marry and pastor the couple. 

There was no question that her children would be "illegitmate" because my friend was considered legally married at the time to her previous husband, but his subsequent infidelities and reluctance to pay child support, his refusal to play any significant role in his children's lives or consider reconciliation, had dissolved the marriage.

My friend and her new husband could, of course, have simply gone to a JoP for a civil marriage, and their Episcopal priest would have allowed them to take communion. However, if he/she was doing her job right, there would have been urging to have the marriage blessed and the same investigative process undertaken before that ceremony.

 

Of course, it seems to me the "hard liners" can ask, "What is a mere lifetime of pain and anguish and lonliness on earth when the compensation for doing the right thing here—although it may be agonizingly difficult—is eternal bliss?" (And the penalty for doing the wrong thing is eternal torment.) How do you deny that 80 or 90 years of sheer misery is a small price to pay for eternal happiness? 

 

you then require the other spouse to just *exist*.

I doubt that single or divorced people consider their life a forced existence.  Maybe they dont like the circumstances, things are not going the way they planned, etc, but to characterize their lives as 'just *exist*' raises the married state to the ultimate way a life should be lived.  That is certainly not anything I recall in the Bible or the Catechism.

don't bother getting married until you are really, really sure, maybe when you are 35 or 40,

Ok, so lets just ignore the biological fact that women are much less fertile at this age.  Or that children raised by non-married couples have much worse life outcomes.  But hey, its all about the 2 adults, no one else.

I don't see any universal way out that would be just to all concerned.  Consider the matter of the children involved. They have a right to be raised by their own parents, don't they? Shouldn't they have their own lawyers in divorce proceedings to be sure that their interests are considered equally?  On the other hand, insisting that two people who loathe each other stay together for the children's sake also does't seem a practical solutiont.

So discouragement, if not prevention, of marriage for those not mature enough would seem the best solution.  Ideally there would be no marriages between de facto adolesceents regardless of their chronological ages.  But how to measure maturity? Could "trial marriages" solve that problem?  Or co-habitation? I'm quite sure that many who co-habitate do so becaause their parents were divorced and they don't want to marry an inappropriate partner by mistake.  (I knew one co-habitating person like that very well.)   But as I see it, co-habitation works out in some cases, but mostly it causes heart-ache and wasted fertile years for the young women who are indeed ready to marry.  And, of course, there will be guys who would take advantage of such a system -- enter into the relationships without any real sense of any sort of committment.

David,  I was once a person who was prepared to live "80 or 90 years of misery" in a moribund relationship, assuming that was what God required of me.   If nothing else, there would be stability and financial security.    Thankfully, in deep and continual prayer, I was confronted with a God who was not as willing to settle for the moribundity and emotional abuse, the inauthenticity of it, as readily as I was.   

Very important here in this thread that folks have cited the passage where Jesus tells us "the sabbath was made for humankind,  not humankind for the sabbath".      And in the OT: "Deep within I will implant my law, I will write it in their hearts...".     "I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart...."

Even while we revere and cherish the commandments and laws of God and our church, we also live in and listen to the Holy Spirit alive in our hearts.   One can "hear" some surprising things.  One  of them might be that God takes no joy in meaningless, life-negating  misery but may have another way of a child of God to flourish.    Although that is a crude condensation of decades of trying to fathom the divine munificence.

Ann, in some states, divorcing parents are required to go through a program that outlines the deleterious effects divorce has on children. Some divorce judges have also ordered parents to provide for a single domicile for the children, with parents required to do the shuffling back and forth for custodial periods until the youngest child is 18.  Regardless of the Church's teaching on marriage, I think these arrangements at least give the kids a better chance at a stable life and could reduce social problems resulting from blighted childhoods further down the road.

Not surprisingly, my views about cohabitation at 20 are far different than they are not at 60. At 20, I believed an invitation to cohabit was a step toward permanence and commitment. At 60, I believe it is a way for men to get free sex and maid service ... or for some women to trade sex for temporary material benefits. Of course, people can get married for the same reasons. But at least they get a 50/50 split if it doesn't work. In cohabitation, women are usually the ones who lose any "sweat equity" the put into the common household. 

Whatever the orginal saying of Jesus was in the sayings source Q, when it got into Matthew 5:48 it was recorded as, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perect."  In Luke 6:36 the author recorded it as."Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."  Both are part of the scriptural tradition, so take your pick.  I think I know which version Pope Francis has chosen.

"I don't see any universal way out that would be just to all concerned."

There often isn't any way -  the death of a relationship is inherently tragic and that's probably as it should be if the relationship was once meaningful. The church can't make everything ok in these situation by trying to force people who aren't in love to stay together. Life is messy and there isn't always a way to live it painlessly, said me who was divorced by a husband who dumped me for someone else. 

Jean @ 3:45 has made some really important observations about cohabitation. It made me recall a secretary I once had who was the mother of four children, unmarried. We were talking one day and I asked if she was divorced. No, she said, unmarried. And, with a cold eye, she followed up with a statement I never forgot: "My mistake. You can't get them to pay for ANYTHING."

But apparently more children are now born to unmarried people under 30 than to married people ... http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/18/us/for-women-under-30-most-births-occu...

Fathers are still legally responsible for their children even if they're unmarried ... http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/unmarried-fathers-and-chil...

Think of the many people with children who atr unmarried but still responsible and good parents  ... Brad Pitt for instance  :)

"My mistake. You can't get them to pay for ANYTHING."

I have heard a similar tale from a friend whose partner left her. She told me she wished that she had gotten married and then divorced so that he would pay child support. She said women's rights were protected much better within the frame of marriage.

I also know that it is on the minds of many parents when their daughter gets married: they push for marriage, not necessarily out of conviction that the man is the right one, but also because, if he is not and they have children, when they break up  things will be better, relatively speaking, if they first get married. That's what marriage is good for: divorce.

Bill DeH:  yes, that is true.  However, a priest CAN be laicized and then marry.  A married lay person, in the eyes of the church, cannot be divorced, only have their non-marriages annulled.

What is wrong with this picture?  Did the priest have to attest that he really hadn't been a priest?

So marraige is really all about planning for your financial security after divorce?  Yikes!

Re: Rights of unmarried people to property

It seems that this is more of an American legal issue. In Canada, and in most other commonwealth countries, the tradition of "common-law" applies. That means that if two people have been living together for one year as husband and wife, they are considered married by the common law. Even if not married by a justice of the peace or clergy, the status of the relationship, as far as the law is concerned is "common-law" spouse. 

As for the impact of children, there is no way to sugar-coat it. As a friend told me, his greatest regret in divorce was wrecking his children's family. He said that although we all say it is better for kids, etc, that really is b.s that we collectively throw out for public consumption. In most instances, it isn't. However children are resilient.

By almost every single measure of well being, children fare better in a home with a stable mother and father. That this is not always present is certainly true, and that people have all kinds of reasons for divorce that are not for anyone else to judge is also true, but so is the findings around conditions for childhood flourishing.

Oh, and if we want a measure of how well we are doing as a country, consider that two of the top five pharmaceuticals sold in the developed Western world are anti-depressants and anti-anxieties.

Geez, Rita - would suggest that you can find stories of failure on every side (not just male)???

Jim McCrea - fact; once annulled, a person can legally and officially marry in the church (because the first or second marriage never existed - talk about denial or living in some type of *thought universe*)

LIke annulments - studies indicate that fewer than 40% of all priests who left since 1965 ever approached Rome to be laicized  (so, similar to the annulment pattern).  That alone says something about what Franics/Kaspar are saying and starting.  In both annulments and laicizations, the church has built a system of criteria or causes that usually revolve around maturity (based upon being able to understand *forever*; able to live that *forever*; various psych grounds; etc.  About 20 years ago, Rome tried to get the US bishops to narrow the psych reasons and be more stringent about graning annulments (but, by then, the older, complicated system of local canon law board rules; this then has to go to the nearby archdiocesan canon lay board; and then to Rome - US petitioned to streamline this....which also says something about both this issue and the process).

The difference between laicization and annulments - priest has to have a canon lawyer to help facilitate the petition to Rome (form, etc from Rome).  There is no local board involvement, etc.  Annulments are local with Roman approval process.

George D - there are lots of reasons for why anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications are usually in the top five dispensed.  Your broad statement is really *Fox News* like - on the surface, appears to be a fact; but underneath, it conceals and ignores actual truth, reasons why, etc.  That's not to say that these medications are not over-prescribed - they are.  Secondily - to casually suggest that it is today's society, cultures, etc. that cause this over-dependence - well, that is misleading at best.  Would you rather live now or in Europe during the 100 years of religious wars in the 17th century?

It's easier to "get them to pay" for children in the picture if you're married b/c the divorce process will set child support payments, establish paternity, and make provisions for custody. 

I'm a child of divorce.  I had two step-fathers, never knew my father.  It does take a toll but I'm not sure if it's more of a toll than having parents that don't love each other or parents that hate each other or parents that beat each other, etc.   ... what does that teach children about what love relationships and marriage are supposed to be like?

Bill 

It isn't Fox News and I am simply stating a fact concerning the existential reality of a large swath of the population. It can be due to the medicalization of human experience, or any number of reasons. But the fact remains:

1. These pharmaceuticals are prescribed in large numbers. They constitute a lucrative business for pharmaceuticals and institutional mental health.

My view is that the we are not seeing an epidemic of mental health illnesses (I am sympathetic to Szasz, Porter, Foucault, et al. in that regard). We are seeing a response to a society that is becoming corporatized, bureaucratized, and many people feel a loss of control over their community and their politics.

Just look at the sharp decline in membership in community groups, the development of big box stores, relationships drowned out by t.v. and the internet.

A multitude of factors, I agree, but to say all is fine with today's society is to not look deeply enough at the signs of the times. And divorce and unstable relationships are just part and parcel of a larger theme.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (fact check a LOT of unhappy people)

And a stable, life giving, relationship is a balm and support and for many people that is a far away dream and that can be nothing else than a tragedy. I am not saying that I live in any Ozzie and Harriet never never land because I don't. And I certainly understand that choice of divorce but I am pretty sure that I am on solid ground saying that if there is a way for it to be avoided, we should try. I don't know one divorced person who would say otherwise.

I think to assume the choice is between a divorce and a happy marriage is misleading - it's usually a choice between divorce and a bad marriage.  And bad marriages are bad not just for the people in them but for the kids too.  WebMD - "Bad Marriages Take A Toll On Kids" ... http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20090605/bad-marriages-take-a-toll-o... ...

“Our findings suggest that exposure to parental conflict in adolescence is associated with poorer academic achievement, increased substance use, and early family formation and dissolution, often in ways indistinguishable from living in a stepfather or single-mother family,” says Kelly Musick, PhD, an associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University.

Crystal, thank you for pointing out that it's not always the best thing for kids to live in a house with parents who hate each other - even in the absence of physical abuse.  I am the youngest of five. My parents didn't divorce until I was 17, but they separated when I was 10.  Life was far more pleasant for the kids once that happened.  It was a huge improvement over living in a home with palpable tension and dislike between the parents. There was no physical abuse and not even much verbal abuse, at least in front of the kids but a cold, unloving atmosphere is not healthy for kids either. My dad chose to travel a lot on business and that was good for all of us. The separation was even better that the breaks we got from his business trips for those of us still at home.  The oldest was in college by that time.  Divorce does not mean forever dysfunction for the children. Of the five of us, only one got divorced and there were some very unusual circumstances surrounding that marriage, as my sibling has a serious disability (from birth). . After a while, the spouse wanted out. The rest of us have been married from 40+ to 54 years.  One good parent is better for kids than two miserable adults living in the house.

Correction - there was no verbal abuse in front of the kids.  The fighting must have taken place behind closed doors most of the time, but we sure didn't miss the emotions involved even if we were mostly spared witnessing the words.

Anne,

That was my experience too.  My first stepfather molested me so it was a relief to see him go.  And when my second stepfather and mother divorced when I was a teen, that too was a  a good thing because they argued so much.  That second stepfather disappeared from our lives after the divorce, but all these years later we have reconnected and go out to lunch every now and then  :)  I'm divorced but my sister has been happily married for many years.

"We are seeing a response to a society that is becoming corporatized, bureaucratized, and many people feel a loss of control over their community and their politics."

George D. --

The "crunch con" movement holds that the best solution is to live a simple life in a small town.  But do small towns have less divorce than large ones?  And living such a life means giving up the materialism that is now the American preferred way of life.  Even Rod Dreher, who invented the term "crunch con" admits that it isn't practical for many, many people.  He recommends chosing to live in one place and forming your own community there.  In oher words, it's commit to one place and one community.  (But isn't that a similar problem to marriage -- a commitment to one person?)

 

Oops --  that should be "crunchy con" (meaning "crunchy conservative" -- think granola, etc.:-)

Oops --  that should be "crunchy con" (meaning "crunchy conservative" -- think granola, etc.:-)

Hey Ann

 I am not familar with crunchy conservative, but am VERY familiar with granola, etc., people LOL. I guess I  could be described as a fellow traveller in that movement. I would be conservative if by conservative you mean moderate, stable, no quick emotional swings, good, solid work ethic - yes i value all of those things. But almost none of the cruncy con types I know would vote conservative and few are Catholic. Mostly various forms of spirituality, yoga and so on. Health food and that kind of thing. Most Green party and/or NDP. Of course the Green party is kind of conservative I find actually. They don't link environment to economic policy so have some issue with that.

I realize this is drift but I do actually go to the Farmers Market when I can, I try to live as simply as I am able to.

I don't think it is so much moving to country and raising free range chickens and eggs, gardening, and composting as it is just living simply. Not that I am anywhere near that.

Yes, there is the issue of divorce of course and all the subsequent drama (can I still be friends with both without feeling torn loyalties and so on). 

Crystal, thank you for pointing out that it's not always the best thing for kids to live in a house with parents who hate each other - even in the absence of physical abuse

 

The statistics dont show that to be the case.  While you may feel that way about your individual situation you 1) dont know how the outcome might be different if they had stayed together so 2) you cant say your actual situation was better.  Regardless, in the absence of physical violence, the statistics show children raised by their natural married parents do better than those whose parents are divorced or never married.

It seems to me that perhaps rather than focusing on the 6-12 months of marriage prep, or how to handle those post divorce, we should be focusing on providing help and support during the (hoped for many) years of marriage.

 He recommends choosing to live in one place and forming your own community there.  In oher words, it's commit to one place and one community.  (But isn't that a similar problem to marriage -- a commitment to one person?)

The trend is in the opposite direction. Change jobs, be flexible. Comparies will send you wherever your work is needed at the time, and that can change every year. In the US people are advised to be always on the go, ready to change jobs as soon as an opportunity arises, so as to have a variety of experiences. Occupations evolve rapidly and you have to constantly adjust to the progress of technology or the changing needs. In Europe now students are asked to embrace internationalism, they do many internships abroad and do not spend much time in the same place. The story, on the faculty side, is that we must always pressure them to fight their tendency to narrow-minded attachment to a single place, and put in various rules to force them to travel a lot and discover many different places. Sometimes it seems that stability is equalled to provincialism, and there is an effort to promote an organization of the studies that develops instability. 

George D. --

Yep, you're a crunchy con.  Try Dreher's blog.  Nice guy.  A character.  Has pet chickens, but very bright and concerned abou being a good parent and a good citizen.  He also makes me wonder about the current definitions of "liberal" and "conservative".  I think the definitions need to be shuffled somewhat (e.g., "anti-corporation" no longer seems a characteristic of liberals only, and "pro-green" is no longer exclusively liberal --  both libs and cons go to Whole Food these days).   Maybe we need three new  basic classifications -- far right, far left and in-the-middle.  But we digress.

"It seems to me that perhaps rather than focusing on the 6-12 months of marriage prep, or how to handle those post divorce, we should be focusing on providing help and support during the (hoped for many) years of marriage."

 

Bruce --

 

Indeed.  But it seems to me that the help kids need most is what they get during the many years of parenting the get prior to their even thinking of getting married.  Yes, the example parents give is terribly important, but  I was astonished today by a Pew report that says that the average American mother spends only 1.4 MINUTES per day speaking to and listening to her children, and the average father speaks only .4 minutes per day.  How in the world can kids learn to articulate their values with such little discussion as that??  But these days Americans are money rich and time poor, especially mothers.  Parents don't have enough time to do what they need and want to do.  What the solution is, I have no idea.

Claire --

I fear you're right.  Really scary.  And is such an economic system actually very "practical" in the long run?  Can people live like that and not be turned off eventually against such a system?

But, yes, such a system does offer the new as always the best value.  Hmph.  (Yes, I'm turning conservative in my very old age.)   And this affirming of the new does tend to favor dumping unsatisfactory spouses in favor of untried ones.

I think we keep coming back to the question:  how does a young person tell the difference between momentary attraction and long-term love?  IS there such a test?

The trend is in the opposite direction. 

 

Yes. Gobalization, corporatization, "free" trade. Adapt to the new reality. Don't question, don't change. Any politician who dares to question the orthodoxy of the new order is marginalized, made irrelevant, and rolled over.

I have seen the impact in how changes in local economy impact family. Some communities where the mill was the major employer are shut down. Families had very nice home, lovely cottages on beautiful lakes, nice quality of life. Partners now have to relocate and work far away sending cheques back to partners at home. Not unlike long deployments in the military. And if you have studied at all the impact of lengthy deployments on the families of service men and women, you can see what all of this is doing.

Pope Francis and church officials have inspiring speeches about this. Even UN officials speak similarly? The need for the economy to serve the person and family. Is anyone really listenting?

So when we are talking about marriage and divorce, the reality is that there are many factors. And if we want to support the family, there are economic and social policy implications.

 

 

 

George D - don't want to sidetrack the discussion (altho, what can one say when Dreher is recommended?)

Work for the largest behavioral health company in the world - we have more MHSA data that even the federal government.  Some items you are leaving out:

- mental health and substance abuse are medical conditions 90% of the time

- we need to continue to de-stigmatize treatment of mental health and substance abuse

- to this point, lots of the increase in those medications has to do with de-stigmatization; the realization by PCPs that these are medical conditions; etc.

- the medical community has year in and year out continued to increase their ability to identify and treat conditions such as cardiac attacks (60% of heart attack victims will become depressed - if you don't treat the depression, the risk of more attacks elevates);  diabetes (40% of all diabetics become depressed - same phenomenon - oh, and diabetes is increasing by 100s of percentage points in the US alone).

- could go on and on with actual facts and data

Your points might be a conclusion but, in fact, believe that they only lead to continued stigmatization and some type of belief that they have no connection to medical conditions.

Yes, data indicates that 20% of the time these medications are not prescribed appropriately nor are they used in conjunction with other therapies that would allow for better outcomes.  BTW - more than 50% of all depressives are in this state for genetic or family history reasons - they will have repeated depressive episodes which means that for most of these folks, evidence suggests that they will have to remain on a low dose of anti-depressants for years.

Bill

i have worked in mental health for over 20 years and so hardly want to support stigmatization. I am not anti-med but framing mental health as a medical condition treatable with medication is troubling. There are array of psychological and even psychospiritual method that are as effective, if not more, than medication. Just look at the research around mindfulness and improved mental health status of people who meditate regularly.

And there are many people who are prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxieties without meeting the clinical criteria for these disorders under the DSM. It is symptom managment and I am just suggesting that there are far better and more cost effective alternatives.

As for medical conditions, obesity is now considered a disease by the AMA notwithstanding concerns over defining it in that fashion. So much for rigour around classification and definition of disease!

Current levels of spending on health care are not sustainable. I support a publicly funded, accessible system but we should aim at prevention and promotion as most medical conditions including mental health are preventable through lifestyle and diet changes.

Sorry for drift....last word yours.

 

Agree with you - guess we just each fall on a different focus on the same continuum and we both understand and value the context, treatment, etc.

BTW - I spend most of my time supporting EAP and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to support any type of medication - we try to enforce a two pronged approach (not medication only).  But, this can be an uphill climb with PCPs.

Next month we begin a new enhancement - we will start to use computerized cognitive behavioral therapy via EAP access; PCPs; or triggered by prescriptions.  It is our hope that this will improve outcomes and decrease over-reliance on medication only.

We are exactly on the same page....appreciate both your comments and your 20 years of ministry in this field (whether it is work or not; it is a ministry).

Bruce, the statistics show many things - among them that in some cases, children fare poorly after divorce. But there are nuances to those findings, many related to demographic characteristics.

So there are also cases where the children do better in a home without significant tension.  I know that in my family, we younger kids were way better off once our father was no longer around very much. We did not have "poor"outcomes. All of us were top-notch students and winners of academic scholarships who went on to earn graduate and professional degrees. The boys were also top athletes.  These "successes" were the result of the discipline, sense of responsibility etc instilled in us by our mother.  If there is one "good" parent, children are better off than in homes where there are two "weak" parents or where the parents are so consumed in their own anger and misery that there is little positive energy left for the kids. All in my family have had successful marriages (except the one with unusual circumstances) and all have achieved worldly "success" also in our chosen professions.  The destructiveness of our father's general coldness and rejection of his children would have been worse had he been around more. Please let generalities be generalities and let the couples involved try to make the best choices for themselves AND for their children. Sometimes that means ending the marriage. If done in a responsible way, it can be the least harmful course for all.  I don't think that outsiders can make the decision for those who are living in the particular marriage and family. 

There is no possible way to fully prepare couples for the challenges that they will meet in marriage.. What can be done is to encourage young adults to complete their educations and defer marriage until they are a bit older, and have developed at least a bit of mature self-knowledge and self-understanding.  Studies (for Bruce and others) show a strong correlation between education level and age at marriage and divorce. I have lived my entire adult life in what are essentially self-selected micro-communites where almost everyone I know well had at least a college education, had waited at least until after college to marry (usually several years after college), and, as a result of their educations, achieved a reasonable level of financial security.  In these somewhat self-selected communities, including neighborhood, profession, church community (usually a function of neighborhood), and family, I have personally known well only a tiny handful of people who divorced.  Two friends married young (right out of college) and divorced before there were any children.  Both second marriages have lasted 35+ years now.  One friend dropped out of college and married and later divorced. She had two children and never remarried. In my neighborhood and community (where christians are the minority) only one neighbor in 40 years got divorced. Another neighbor was divorced before marrying the man we knew (they moved in next door the year they married). She and her second husband had a beautiful marriage until he died a couple of years ago. She had married at 19 the first time and divorced a couple of years later. There were no children from the first marriage. Divorce is obviously easier when there are no children. Studies (there they are again) also show that the divorce rate is higher in second marriages which try to "blend" families than in first marriages and is higher than for second  where there are no children from earlier marriages.  Step-parent issues can be significant and perhaps some should defer entering another marriage until children are out of high school.  Those who divorce with children face some hard choices when it comes to deciding whether or not to remarry.  The common denominators in all of these very long marriages of my family, neighbors, work colleagues and general community are not religion, but age at marriage, educational background, and employment that provided enough financial security that money problems are not an enormous stress.   Divorce rates are highest in the "bible" belt states and lowest in the northeast. These figures do not correlate with religious participation but with age at marriage and education. And, probably, also with median income and unemployment rates.  I'm sure there are studies on the relationship of those factors with divorce rates also.

Not all marriages can or even should be saved. But I agree with whomever above said that there needs to be something more than pre-Cana to support marriages. I've made this point many times, but perhaps it bears repeating for parishes to see how they might better support Retrouvaille. These sessions are not offered very frequently in some areas (once or twice a year in my diocese), and they require a considerable time commitment on the part of troubled couples. They are supposed to be low-cost, but $50 can be difficult for strapped couples to cough up.

Parishes can help out not only with costs, but by urging the diocese to offer more frequent sessions, and can help couples by offering to help with child care.

It would also be good for parishes who have marriage support staff (usually deacons) to advertise its availability in the church bulletin. 

Finally, the parish might want to think generally about what it does to help couples with the stresses that wear on marriages. Money, substance abuse, stress caused by "baby blues"--all these are big factors in split-ups that parishes might try to help address creatively. 

I also think there's a perception that single parents are not welcome in Catholic churches, and strengthening single-parent families might be another effort to look at.

Finally, divorce is on the rise among middle-aged couples (mid 50s to mid 60s). Studies about why are thin on the ground, but this can be an incredibly stressful time of life, sandwiched between the kids going off to college and needing help getting started in life and elderly sick parents. Respite programs can help here.

If your faith really supports marriage, it seems to me that doing one or two things on this list would be a step in the right direction.

I've read that young people don't date anymore.  That's a pity -- it's a way to get to know not only a variety of people of the opposite sex, but yourself as well.  Maybe the lack of dating is also a factor in the divorce rate.

Ann, I guess it depends on how you define dating.  I see young people now going out in mixed groups a lot.  Also they are more likely to have platonic relationships with the opposite sex than previous generations.  My mom used to say there was no such thing as a purely platonic relationship; I still haven't figured out if she was right or not. When I was young the priests and sisters used to tell us that "going steady" was an occasion of sin (it didn't keep us from doing it, though.)  Maybe what has declined is formal courtship. There is a mentality that a girl "owes" a guy sex for dinner and a movie. Which seems a really good argument for Dutch treat.

Katherine --

What I meant by "dating" was going out with one fellow or girl at a time in order to get to know each other better.  It usually meant at least a movie, maybe dinner and maybe dancing at a night club, or going to a ball game or the museum, whatever.  It was non-exclusive -- if you went out with a guy one evening, then the next evening you might go out with a different.  I knew an extremely popular young woman who regularly had dates Saturday afternoons and evenings and Sunday afternoons and evenings.  She really had her pick :-)  Exclusive company keeping was "going steady" or being engaged.  So there were steps and stages before marriage with a good bit of looking around for the right one.  Where I come from going steady was not discouraged.  

These days there's a lot of group get togethers (complete with hooking up in some circles).  But while I think it's good to meet a lot of people in groups, you really don't get to know people that well at a party with all the distractions there.  At least that was how it was when I was young, a very long time ago.

 

 It was non-exclusive -- if you went out with a guy one evening, then the next evening you might go out with a different.

Currently referred to as "hooking up". Dinner, movie, dancing....but usually centred on sex.

Hi, folks, I've been away for a few days, so sorry if this comment is somewhat late.  I see that several commenters have noted that, whereas marriage is permanent in the eyes of the church, a priest can be laicized, and this seems unfair and maybe even hypocritical.  I want to suggest that the two cases are not as parallel as they seem at first sight.

Let me preface these comments by noting that I'm not an expert in sacramental theology.  What follows is my understanding, but I'd welcome correction if anything I say here is not right.

In the eyes of a church, when a man is ordained into holy orders, the 'character' that is conferred upon him - whatever it is that changes by the conferral of the sacrament - is permanent.  "You are a priest forever".  Thus, even when a priest leaves active ministry, is laicized and marries, he still remains, in a very real sense, a priest.  If I'm not mistaken, canon law provides that he can exercise some presbyteral ministry in extreme/emergency situations.  

Now, a lot of what comes to mind when we picture a parish priest actually is non-essential / disciplinary:  he works for the church, he lives on the parish grounds, he lives a celibate life, the diocese pays him his salary and benefits and is responsible for supporting him in his retirement, and so on.  All of those things are subject to change.  And those disciplinary practices are the things from which a priest is dispensed when he is laicizied. 

But here's the thing: in an important sense, if a laicization is an apple, a decree of nullity is an orange.  A decree of nullity doesn't pertain to discipline - it pertains to the validity of the marriage itself.  A decree of nullity states that there was something defective at the time of the couple's consent that makes the validity of the marriage itself defective.  The parallel for priestly ordination would be if the church were to investigate a priest's ordination and decree that there was something defective at the time of the ordination.  (Perhaps this has happened, although I've never heard of it.  Maybe the church would even issue a "decree of nullity" for an ordination.   That wouldn't be same as a laicization, though.)

The church doesn't have the authority to just dispense of any marriage it feels like.  The church is the steward of our spiritual patrimony, but it is not the Master.  Still, the church does what it is able.  And what it is able to do is identify that subset of marriages in which there was an issue *at the time of consent*.  We might think of this as the church mercifully doing what is possible, while also recognizing that there are limits to mercy in this instance, because there are limitations on what the church is able to do.  

Bottom line, divorce is more common today because how people view both marriage and women has changed.  To paraphrase Christ, was marriage made for man and woman, or were they made for marriage?  Today, people say marriage needs to serve the good of the couple, or forget it...unless there are children involved, then some arbitration may be required.  Jesus, of, course, said marriage was meant to be a lifelong bond, and that a man getting a divorce certificate to get rid of a wife and another man colluding with the situation to acquire the woman he'd divorced -- the very situation the Herods had been involved  in that earned the wrath of John the Baptist -- amounted to nothing more than adultery itself, a sin righteous Jews feared.  But of course, he said the same of merely looking at a woman with lust.

From this teaching, the Western church has come through a couple millenia of theologizing to believe a Christian couple create a marriage bond or sacrament that amounts to an invisible bond, separate from the actual relationship, that cannot be broken or set aside by anyone, including the church.  While the Eastern church believes such marriages are sacraments, they don't see the bond as separate from the relationship itself, which clearly can be broken, even though to do so is a serious sin.  There's a big difference there, and it explains why the West has a lot bigger problem on the pastoral level than the East.

 

Try as churchmen will in the West to deal with this, I don't see how any satisfactory pastoral solution can be found until the theology is addressed...and reformed.

 

 

 

Matthew, I realize that we all expect the Church to operate at glacial speed, but the situation you describe is pretty close to what I saw happening aroundme when I was a teenager, 40 years ago.  A family of 7 kids moved into my neighborhood, range of ages between 6 months and 14, their mother working a part time job and their father having left.  Just left.  No note, no nothing -- waited for mom and kids to visit her family for a few days and when they came back he and all of his stuff were gone.  He would call every year or so from undiscslosed locations, and eventually, they figured out that he had remarried without getting divorced (which would have led to proceedings and discovery of his whereabouts and support orders).  So he was a bigamist.   He was also an alcoholic.  I was struck, and even the most Catholic of my neighbors were struck, by how Mrs. M refused to take any steps to get divorced even though being married made it harder for the "system" to impose and carry out support orders, authorize benefits, and so on.  I am convinced now that she just never wanted to confront the issue of remarriage.  Her kids were scarred in numerous ways, from having an alcoholic father, some, and no father within living memory, others, and being raised in serious hardship and continuing conflict (three oldest girls, in particular).  I can't say whether they were better off with or without their biological father, but the notion that she had made her bed and had to lie in it forever however discouraging or unhappy the consequences is not something I accepted even then, and now that most of the culture has moved on, eventually, if not already, not many people really care what the Catholic Church thinks about marriage and divorce anymore. 

To understand what Jesus was talking about regarding divorce requires understanding marriage laws, women's place and the meaning of adultery in first-century Israel.  For one thing, men could not commit adultery unless it was with another man's wife.  Adultery was considered a form of injustice like stealing (literally his greatest possession, his wife) against another man.  Betrayal of the wife didn't have anything to do with it.

 

We assume Jesus was most concerned about the impact on women, and that may be.  But he spoke within the ,Jewish context, and seemed to be pointing out hypocrisy, as was so often the case, saying acting on the desire for a new wife -- the only purpose of divorce in that culture -- was adultery, plain and simple.  The formality of first obtaining a “git“ or divorce didn't change that.  To interpret this as meaning the marriages of his followers (and them primarily) constituted an invisible bond that could never be broken seems a stretch...and one that took centuries and some heavy doses of Greek philosophy mulled over to create.

 

 

I wonder how people come to be so confident about marriage practices in the first quarter of the first century of the Common Era in Palestine.

I'm  struck by how dissonant my comments seem from the de facto hard cases being discussed at the moment.  But in many ways that's the point -- what Jesus taught seems woefully out of whack  with where the Church went with it over time.

 

How do people get to know about first-century Judaism?  Study the sources.  Or do you think everybody just makes these things up?

In Matthew's gospel, Jesus says, "I want mercy, not sacrifice."  In other gospel passages, Jesus tells his followers to forgive without limit.  In Luke 15, it is God in the persons of the shepherd, the woman, and the father who initiate pursuing the "lost" to find and bring them back to where they belong.  Jesus elsewhere tells his disciples not to hinder the children wanting to approach him.  Jesus identifies himself as a physician for sinners. Jesus approaches those who are not considered by "righteous" folk to be worthy of being approached.  All of us are children of God.  All of us are sinners.  We cannot heal ourselves.  When we repent, we are expressing God's prior healing.  If a divorced and remarried Catholic sees no reason to say "I'm sorry," perhaps it's because the person's otherwise responsible lifestyle in a second marriage has been all along a sign of God's healing.  The exchanges between Mr. Lancellotti, on the one hand, and fellow bloggers, on the other hand, exemplify for me the Church of Law vs. the Church of Love.  I think the Orthodox have it right with their concern for oeconomia.

How do people get to know about first-century Judaism?  Study the sources.  Or do you think everybody just makes these things up?

These sources are? (And I mean the ones that let us know about early 1st century marriage practices.)

I bring this up because there is a tendency in scholarship (or perhaps the popular reiteration of scholarship) to promote the apparent progressive nature of Jesus' teachings vis-a-vis a less-enlightened contemporaneous Judaism, e.g., Jesus does right by women where Judaism had previously wronged them. Now, I am not proposing that Jewish marriage practices were especially fair with respect to women, but I am suggesting a) that we should be more cautious than people here are being when it comes to making claims about what those practices actually were, and b) that there is nothing in the NT source material that actually suggests that Jesus is arguing on behalf of women's needs. 

Beverly, thank you for your comments.

Jim Pauwels, the distinction you make between releasing priests from the vows of celibacy and releasing married couples from vows of staying married "till death" seems to be a way of trying to make it OK for priests to break their lifelong vows (because celibacy is only a "discipline")  while insisting that there was a "defect" in a couple's marriage that meant there never was a marriage in the first place. Most divorced people disagree. There was a valid marriage, but the bond is broken.

Some go through the annullment process and all the hoops the church imposes because they are caught in a bind. They do not actually believe their marriage was not valid or was defective on their wedding day, but if they wish to remarry and stay in the church they are essentially forced to go along with what many believe (rightly) is a procedure based on a lie. Some simply refuse because they see it as a lie and do not wish to be hypocrites. 

I doubt that anybody in a long-lived marriage could not find something that the church could somehow call a "defect" on their wedding day which meant there was never a "real" marriage. Nobody who gets married truly understands what they are promising for a lifetime.  That fact that so many marriages do last almost seems like a miracle, but as pointed out earlier, success seems largely correlated with age at marriage and on education.  So, immaturity at marriage may be a "defect" and unrealistic expectations may be a "defect" (probably present to some degree when every couple makes vows).  How often do people truly reveal themselves before they have lived together for a fairly long time?  How well do most people even know themselves in their youth and young adult years?  How long are the masks of the "good" self that attracted a spouse kept in place before they start to slip?  How does one know how resilient they and their spouses are before they've hit the rough patches, faced the tragedies and challenges that enter all marriages?   Some would say that men who make a lifelong vow of celibacy long before they've actually been tested, had a "defect" present at the time of their vows also.

Splitting canonical hairs or even theological hairs does not help.  The church does not treat priests who wish to become laicized with kid gloves, but from what little I know, they are not forced into the humiliating process that too many annullments become, from what I have been told.  And once they are laicized, they are free to violate the "lifelong" vow they took while remaining permanently "marked" as a priest. Why does the church make it so much harder for the divorced?  It says a priest is permanently marked and any "defects" present at ordination don't change that. But it has to humiliate married couples involved in divorce by insisting that the marriage was never valid in the first place due to "defects". These distinctions seem like semantic theological/canonical games and  simply another example of clericalism at work in the eyes of many.

That tendency among scholars to elevate the teaching of Jesus especially with regard to women while denigrating the Judaism of his time was indeed unfortunate, but more widespread in the past than today.  Jewish and biblical historians have gone a ways to set the record straight.  I'm thinking of folks like Raymond Collins, Paula Fredriksen, William Loader, Amy-Jill Levine, not to mention Geza Vermes, Jacob Neusner, David Stern, etc., etc.  I never meant to imply Jesus was completely out of line with other first-century Jewish teachers, although all Christians clearly consider him special.

Barbara's story of the bigamist and his family points out what's wrong with church communities generally. Why didn't someone in the parish try to help make this woman's life more bearable instead of, apparently, commenting on what she ought or ought not to have done?

 

"In the eyes of a church, when a man is ordained into holy orders, the 'character' that is conferred upon him - whatever it is that changes by the conferral of the sacrament - is permanent.  "You are a priest forever".  Thus, even when a priest leaves active ministry, is laicized and marries, he still remains, in a very real sense, a priest.  If I'm not mistaken, canon law provides that he can exercise some presbyteral ministry in extreme/emergency situations."

Jim P, With all due respect you presume that they are apples and oranges. only to write some serious nonsense. What people are saying here if he is still a priest then he should still be bound by whatever a priest is bound to. As a married person, according to Canon Law is still bound to whatever a married person is bound. 

To say your reasoning  is feeble would be a compliment since there is zero reason in your comparison. Spare us. 

Beverley --

Although the official Church might not make things up, it does conveniently forget the very sort of facts you're remembering for us.  This dis-remembering is embedded in Vaticanese == using the old sounds and marks (e.g., "adultery" and "marriage"), but assigning somewhat different meanings or even radically changing the meanings over time.

In a way this is understandable because it's also true, I think, that many people find it impossible to consider new ideas/definitions to meet new circumstances, while many others will leap to change the meaning of a word in order to justify their own inclinations. And then  there are the people who say that all lanaguage is arbitrary and all rules are arbitrary, so anything goes. It seems we're all susceptible to fooling ourselves.  Sigh.

 if a laicization is an apple, a decree of nullity is an orange.

Ok. Then what's the apple for marriage? Or, if there is no apple for marriage, why not?

 

Jean, at that time, there was a Catholic support group for divorced and separated spouses.  She actually went out with a few men, but she was adamant about no divorce, and the men moved on.  Our neighborhood was very tight, and there were acts of kindness and mercy shown to this family, by Catholics and non-Catholics alike.  Everything from including one or more of the kids (i.e., friends of their own children) in trips to get ice cream or going to the zoo, getting them to little league games, and in one case, making sure that the younger ones had bicycles.   My mother drove them around to activities a lot. 

My point, I guess, is that there should be some kind of "no fault" divorce/annulment that doesn't require a lot of special pleading.  She should not have needed to feel like her life was over, at least until her husband died (which he eventually did, after kids were all grown, and she did remarry).  Father abandoned his wife and 7 kids and they didn't even know where he was and she's the one who needs to beg for mercy?  Who cares whether the marriage was originally valid?

If anyone is interested, Cyrus Adler's book, Jewish Marriage Traditions, is helpful re the Hebrew point of view.

Ok. Then what's the apple for marriage?

Claire - I suppose it would be a mutually-agreed-upon separation.  I.e. still married but no longer observing the "disciplines" of marriage.  If that doesn't seem like a perfect parallel to laicization, it's because the original comparison, of an annulment to a laicization, isn't apt, for the reasons I attempted to spell out.

The bottom line in all this is that there is no "Catholic divorce".  My view, and my prediction, is that this upcoming synod won't invent it.  

 

 

Sheesh, Bill M, if that's the most due respect you can show, I'd hate to see what you'd say to someone from whom you're withholding it.  At least show me the respect of showing me where I'm wrong. 

 

 

If the synod remains pastoral with no call for re-evaluating Catholic assumptions about the sacramental bond, I'd guess the only hope for mercy would be in how the annulment process proceeds.  It could hypothetically be left up to the couple, or at least the faithful Catholic involved to make the ultimate call on whether or not the first marriage was valid. That would likely result in more widespread abuse -- and scandal-- and yet bring justice to many who cannot find it today.  Which would Jesus hate the most, the potential for abuse or injustice?  I think the gospels made that fairly clear.

From Matthew's original post:

Kasper is clearly talking about cases where an annulment is either impossible or inappropriate. He is talking about people who have repented for the failure of their sacramental marriage (if they were responsible for its failure), cannot be reconciled to their spouse, and now, years later, are in a civil marriage with another partner. For them to quit this partnership could do tremendous damage—to their new partner and to their children if they have any. 

It's not clear to me why an annulment would be either inappropriate or impossible in the scenario being described.   Certainly it wouldn't be impossible.  An annulment proceeding can be opened after the person has remarried.  

I do understand that it could be awkward, from a family/social point of view, because the person already is remarried, is settled in a new family who may not be aware of the prior "irrugularities", and so why rock the boat?  Well, one reason is that sin is real, it matters, the implications could be dreadful - much worse than a difficult conversation with one's current spouse and children - and so it might be worth taking action to solve the problem.

Just trying to look at it objectively, the person already has remarried, so in a sense, the problem already exists.  Pursuing an annulment isn't going to make the problem any worse than it already is, and conceivably it could actually solve the problem.  The worst that can happen is that the petition is denied - but then she is right back where she is already.   If she is trying to do things right by the church, she should be living as brother and sister with her new spouse already, whether or not she pursues an annulment of the previous marriage.  So why not try for the annulment and live like a married person again?  To me, it seems like all upside and very little downside to going after the annulment.  Nothing ventured, etc.

 

Jim McCrea - fact; once annulled, a person can legally and officially marry in the church (because the first or second marriage never existed - talk about denial or living in some type of *thought universe*)

 

Bill deH:  as I understand it, getting an annullment requires also having obtained a civil divorce ... is that true?  So one has to commit a sin in order to have a non-marriage declared non existent.

Yes, that "thought universe" is wierder each time I think about it.

This just proves to me why most gays and lesbians are not remotely interested in church marriages.  Too wierd all the way around.  Besides, what fun is a church marriage if one of the partners can't pretend to be eligible to wear virginal white?  And who would place the bridal bouquet at the statue of the BVM?

Could someone explain why those whose marriage failed are automatically been judged as having commited a sin?  

Basic personality incompatibility discovered too late in the relationship (after the marriage) is not a sin.  Certainly some marriages fail because of sins - those who are unfaithful while married, or who lie to their spouses in other ways, etc, but not all marriages fail because of the "sins" of the partners. That's one reason the civil authorities had the wisdom to pass no-fault divorce laws.

Jim P, purely anecdotal, but I have read and heard that there are sometimes serious obstacles to people who seek an annulment. Some are financial, some are due to an uncooperative ex-spouse, and some are strictly personal because washing one's dirty laundry and having to speak of incredibly intimate aspects of a failed marriage in front of a group of (usually) celibate strangers whose main concern is canon law and finding a "defect" that renders the marriage 'invalid" is an exercise in humiliation that many don't wish to undergo. The requirement for witnesses can be another obstacle and also humiliating.  Many also feel it's hypocritical to participate in a process that declares a marriage that was once a very valid marriage, invalid throughout. It seems dishonest.

Jim,

A quick point of clarification. In the passage you quote, I did not mean to suggest that an annulment would be impossible or inappropriate because one of the spouses from the first marriage is now remarried. I meant that, in the kind of case Kasper is considering, there are no grounds for an annulment: the sacramental marriage failed, but not because of any defect that would justify an annulment. To repeat something I wrote earlier, the fact that someone breaks his vows does not, by itself, demonstrate that his vows were no good to begin with. When we look back at any failed relationship, it is always tempting to imagine that it was always bound to come to grief. And, of course, any relatioinship that does end up failing—whether a marriage or a friendship—will have been flawed all along because all relationship are flawed, including the ones that don't fail. A perfect relationship would require perfect human beings. And yet some imperfect human beings manage to keep their promises.

One good parent is better for kids than two miserable adults living in the house.

 

Anne:  that opens an entire new vista as to (1) single parenting and even (2) two non-miserable adults irrespective of gender.

But that's not the subject of this extended conversation, but the vista exists nonetheless.

"Ann - the covenant is forever - and yes, with the death of a spouse, it is permitted to remarry. But, that first covenant is still forever."

 

That's good Mormon theology:  marriages seal a couple for time and eternity.

My statement about Mormon theology wasn't to be in quotes.

Could someone explain why those whose marriage failed are automatically been judged as having commited a sin?  

 

Perhaps someone will explain that, but my take, which I believe is also the church's, is that getting a divorce is not a sin per se.  We live in the no-fault divorce era, so a couple can get a civil divorce for virtually any reason or no reason in particular.  The church might say that some of the grounds for divorce are amply justified, and perhaps some of them aren't.  The church would want to examine each case before reaching a judgment.  But getting a divorce isn't automatically a sin.  Thus, being divorced wouldn't bar one from receiving communion.

 

Jim P, purely anecdotal, but I have read and heard that there are sometimes serious obstacles to people who seek an annulment. Some are financial, some are due to an uncooperative ex-spouse, and some are strictly personal because washing one's dirty laundry and having to speak of incredibly intimate aspects of a failed marriage in front of a group of (usually) celibate strangers whose main concern is canon law and finding a "defect" that renders the marriage 'invalid" is an exercise in humiliation that many don't wish to undergo. The requirement for witnesses can be another obstacle and also humiliating.  Many also feel it's hypocritical to participate in a process that declares a marriage that was once a very valid marriage, invalid throughout. It seems dishonest.

This is getting to be a very long thread, and there is another one on the top page of dotCom, too,  but for the sake of anyone who hasn't plowed through all the comments: my basic recommendation for reform would be to reform the way that annulments are handled, and Anne, I think you name a number of areas that would be candidates for reform.  Certainly, money should never be an obstacle.  Fwiw, one year, our parish offered to pay for annulments.  I think we had about 10 people who took us up on it.  And perhaps there are ways that are more pastoral and less intrusive to gather the necessary facts and reach a judgment.  

 

in the kind of case Kasper is considering, there are no grounds for an annulment

Matthew, thanks for that clarification.  If we set up the hypothetical such that we assume there are no grounds for an annulment, then - as I commented earlier, I don't know what can be done.  (Needless to say, "I don't know what can be done" is not the same as saying, "Nothing can be done.")

 

One good parent is better for kids than two miserable adults living in the house.

 

The statistics dont bear this out.

Bruce,

You are pointing to overall probabilities for kids whose parents are married versus kids whose parents are divorced while what matters is the conditional probabilities for kids in a family that is considering divorce.

Divorce is like an amputation. Amputees probably have worse outcomes than non-amputees, but we shouldn't infer from this that we should never amputate a limb even when someone has gangrene.

We have to deal with people in the situations that they are in, not in an idealized situation.

Thank you Ryan,   There are generalities and there are particular cases. 

I know from personal experienace and that of others I know that sometimes children are better off in a home with one parent than with two.  Bruce does not want to look at individuals nor does he want to look at the nuances that may be found in the statistics, especially those related to demographic and socio-economic factors. 

I will no longer comment as I have already stated my argument more than once, and clearly Bruce has no respect for the individual, personal experiences described by a couple of us in this thread for whom the separation and subsequent divorces of our parents were an improvement over living with both of them in the same household.  Some children  would be better off if the parents don't divorce. Perhaps a majority would be better off in that case. But not all.

Some children are not better off in homes with two miserable parents, and children are definitely not better off in a home where they witness or personally experience physical, verbal or emotional abuse. 

Sorry for the fast edits  that created a redundancy.

There was no canon law and no marriage tribunals for well more than a thousand years. Marriage was not clearly acknowledged to be a sacrament until the 13th century. It has been only a few hundred years since Catholics would even think of looking to "The Vatican" for a solution to the practical problems which arose in the course of the everyday life of the church. We are talking about "rules" that the leaders of the church have established to regulate marriages. A church law states that baptized Catholics (they could be heathens in terms of practice) can only enter a valid (canonlawspeak for real) marriage by having it witnessed before a priest and two witnesses. More recently the law was modified to give the bishop permission to permit someone other than a priest as the church's official witness. Another church law states that any marriage between two non-Catholics is presumed to be valid. The presumption is that such laws serve to preserve and uphold the teachings of Jesus on marriage and divorce. Where is the conversation about what those teachings mean and how they are to be applied in a culture which has redefined the meaning of sexual activity and the meaning of marriage? Any ordinary Catholic (one who just goes to Mass some Sundays) happening upon this forum would be in a quandary as to what this whole discussion is about.

Why are focused on law and only on one teaching of Jesus. The NT is full of teachings. There's this woman caught in the act of adultery. The Law calls for stoning her to death. Jesus finds just the right thing to say to get the stoners to drop their stones. Then he forgives the woman and bids her to sin no more. His mercy was an invitation to her to live in the kingdom of God. There's a young man who grievously insulted his father by demanding his share of the inheritance, who dishonors his father by leaving home for a far away place in which he squanders the inheritance. Broke and hungry he rehearses a confession so he can get a job on his father's ranch. The father ignores the confession and restores him as a son. Would he not have been justified by the law to turn his back on the son? Pope Francis desires to rebuild the church on a foundation of mercy as rooted in the NT. There are people in great pain whose marriages have failed. Some of them are coming to the pastors of the church and asking for something to eat. Shall we offer them the scorpions of "The Law", or shall we find a way to invite them to live more fully in the kingdom of God?

 

 

Anne, basically I think you have a very valid point: not all spouses involved in a divorce have sinned.  There are those cases, such as abandonment and abuse where there is undoubtedly an innocent party, and according to Matthew's gospel Jesus himself made an exception for adultery (or literally, sexual indecency).  Traditionally, the churches have had to call divorce a sin because Jesus referred to it as adultery, even though the act he actually talked about was a two-step affair, i.e., getting a divorce and then remarrying, or as some interpret his words today, divorcing *in order to* remarry.

I wasn't taught that all divorcees are guilty of something, and therefore all divorcees have to repent.  (I think that is a presumption of the Orthodox Church and maybe the Anglican one, not the Roman one.)  

As I learned it, sometimes the problem is a matter of an honest mistake, and honest mistakes aren't sins, though they can invalidate some marriages.  For instance, if a husband has been reported dead, his wife remarries, but he really is alive, then her second marriage is an invalid one, but she is not guilty of anything.

Once more it seems that people in different parts of the country are taught different things.

What I've been trying to get at re Jesus and what he may have actually been condemning with regard to divorce and remarriage may be seen in an old Coen brothers movie called “A Serious Man.“  In the film, the Job-like main character is informed one day by his wife that she has fallen in love with his best friend Saul.  Saul, the “serious man“ referred to in the title, is a very religious man and has no interest in “hanky panky.“  Instead, he demands his friend get a “git“ (a bill of divorce via the rabbi) so that he can marry his wife, and all will be “on the up and up“ with God.  I suspect this kind of thing may be what Jesus was talking about, not what gentiles later came to understand.  At least it's the kind of hypocritical behavior he tended to condemn even as he forgave the marginalized sinner.

 

 

We need to be careful about leaning too heavily on the guilty/innocent framework. While it can be useful to show the injustice of the current system, we mustn't try to fit every divorce into it. My understanding that this is how many Evangelical organizations operate, which leads to a competition to see who can badmouth their ex-spouse the most in order to be the one who is allowed to stay.

I think Beverly is right that Jesus was more concerned about the suffering experienced by a divorced wife than about some metaphysical sin. To use this to force those who wish to divorce to suffer is a cruel irony.

I think Catholic  churchmen today, like  Cardinal Kasper, are more likely to refer to divorced spouses needing to admit their “sin“ and seek reconciliation with the Church simply because that kind of talk is in the air.  Ironically, it's very “today.“  In the old days, we were all more precise because we went to Confession a lot and we knew sins when we'd see them.  No mincing or hyperbole allowed.

Why is that hypocritical?

I think Beverly is right that Jesus was more concerned about the suffering experienced by a divorced wife than about some metaphysical sin

This is kind of what I was getting at earlier: where is the evidence for this? 

Ryan --

You raise an important point.  If all is left to the individual to decide whether or not a marriage is dead, then I daresay that there will be individuals who manipulate that system.  Consider what would happen if the Church OKed no-fault divorce whenever one spouse claims the marriage is over.  There would undoubtedly be, for instance,  men who. being in mid-life crisis, would claim that their marriages are totally dead.  Some of the wives might not agree, but, with no-fault divorce he'd get one, even though she  and their children in high school and college would likely suffer greatly financially. In other words, some marriages might be saved if it weren' so easy to get a divorce as it is now.

This is tangential, but Sen. Elizabeth Warren (an expert on the subject) has just posted some figures about the grim financial facts women in the workplace face, including especially single mothers.  Our culture needs desperately to face some facts about how the system does and doesn't work, and then do something(s) about it.  We need some threads on the subject. 

(4) Elizabeth Warren Fan Club (TM)

Ann Olivier,

My main concern about making divorce harder is my belief that no fault divorces have had a major impact in reducing the levels of domestic abuse.

some marriages might be saved if it weren' so easy to get a divorce as it is now.

 

Ann:  but what kind of marriage would be saved ... a de facto marriage or one that is truly a marriage that both parties value and treasure?  Why is the form better than the substance in way too many cases?

I had friends who fought viciously for 35 years but kept their marriage together "for the sake of kids."  Then they divorced and at least one of them went on to have a very happy marriage, stopped drinking and basically learned how to live and love again.  The kids, btw, appear to resent mightily the kind of household in which they were raised.

Ann

The problem with that logic is that women are more likely to initiate a divorce than men (66% to 41%) according to AARP. That finding has been replicated before.  Also many more men than women stay for the sake of the children (58% to 37%). It is true that women have to prepare more financially than men. Another study found that women were more likely to blame their spouse for the dissolution than men who were more likely to blame themselves or jointly.

Bottom line is that the Vatican should consider women, social scientists, and people with pastoral experience if it is to be a good outcome at the upcoming synod.

 

http://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/general/divorce.pdf

Ryan --

I don't think the case of the woman living in adultery is relevant here -- it's not a question of divorce and remarriage.  The point of the adulterous womans case is that we must forgive but  must also honor marriage committments.  He's not saying, "Poor thing, you're so frustrated and miserable I'm going to forgive you, and it's OK to go and live with your married boyfriend."

Look at it this way.  When women divorced they are left wih less earning power and the children to attend to day and night and day.  If a woman thinks she'd and her children would be better off with the husband at home, then I say they have a great big case.  Why should they have the harder life if he's the guilty one?  

I confess I'm very much influenced in my thinking by the Updike Maples stories, which are a fictionalization of his own adultery and divorce.  Updike (to his credit) NEVER claims that he is not guilty for the aduletry AND for divorcing his wife and leaving his children.  (He was not an otherwise abusive husband or father.)  Maybe we should have a thread on the Maples stories. (No, I haven't read them all.)  But then I guess we'd also have to read the new biography of him that's just out.  (He went on to even more adultery in his second marriage, but his second wife also played around.  They stuck it out.)  What I have to think is grossly unfair is when the first wife and kids end up worse off than the second family.

Not for a second do I doubt the complexity of all marriages, but that doesn't mean that  that the old divorce laws didn't have some advantages for the injured wives and children.

Somewhere way back I posted a comment about Jesus' absolute prohibition against divorce and how that was altered by Paul and Matthew to allow exceptions.  In that post I referred to an article by Fr. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J. that exlained the  Matthean exception in terms of the rabbinc debate on the causes for divorce, as evidenced in the schools of Hillel and Shammai.  His argument places Matthew's exception squarely in the Jewish context of his day and indirectly supports those comments here that stress that we must understand the NT teaching on divorce in the context of the first century CE.  At the end of his article Fr. Fitzmyer raised the question of why the Church could not follow Paul and Matthew and change its understanding of divorce..  In view of John Feehily's excellent comments on how late the Church got into the regulation of marriage @5:02p, I am grateful for his reminder that there is much in the NT worth considering in sddition to one text prohibiting divorce, and one which I would add was re-interpreted by Paul and Matthew, and that the NT teaching on mercy should prevail.  I stand with Fr. Fitzmyer.  If Paul and Matthew could alter the teaching of Jesus on divorce, why can't the Church of today find a way to do the same?

"What people are saying here if he is still a priest then he should still be bound by whatever a priest is bound to. As a married person, according to Canon Law is still bound to whatever a married person is bound."

 

Jim P,

I did explain where you were wrong in the above statment. The priest does not get a bye because he is a priest forever (by your logic.) If a married person is still not allowed to remarry, neither should the priest be dispensed from his vows. 

Alan - I just want you to know that I've read your comments and really appreciate the reference to the Fitzmyer article.  It seems to be available online here, and I am reading through it as I am able to find time.  (It is a pleasure for a non-scholar like me to read accessible and well-reasoned biblical scholarship like Fitzmyer's article.)

You've noted that even in NT times the church seems to have been adapting Jesus' seemingly absolute prohibition on divorce to situations that arose in the early Christian communities, and suggest that the church could follow this precedent by enacting Cardinal Kasper's merciful suggestion.  I don't argue with Fitzmyer's interpretation.  I would add that the church authorities themselves seem to more or less see themselves as acting in the interpretive tradition that Fitzmyer notes; cf the preface to the 2001 Norms on the Preparation of the Process for the Dissolution of the Marriage Bond in Favour of the Faith. The preface contains a historical synopsis (as interpreted by the CDF, at that time under Cardinal Ratzinger's leadership) of how the church has adapted the core NT teachings to changing circumstances in different historical periods.  So I think it is a hopeful sign that the church authorities see themselves as standing in a tradition of interpreting and adapting NT marriage and divorce precepts to concrete situations.  

That said: I am not sure how to get from what church sees itself as able to do, as described in that  2001 instruction, to where Cardinal Kasper would like it to go.  From what I can tell, all the interpreting and adapting has been done within the constraints of what is permitted by the pauline privilege.  I suppose the so-called Petrine privilege can be viewed as a modification of the pauline privilege.  But both of those 'privileges' pertain to marriages in which one or both spouses was unbaptized at the time of consent.  The scenarios to which Cardinal Kasper's merciful exception would be applied seem very different; the baptimsal status of the spouses doesn't seem applicable.  I don't know what specific biblical warrant there would be for such a merciful exception.  

Bill M - according to the logic of the church, when a priest is laicized, he is released from priestly ministry and the promises he made (including the promise not to marry), but he retains the 'character' of a priest.  The changes wrought in his being by the sacrament of ordination cannot be undone.

Also according to the logic of the church, when a couple declares their consent on their wedding day, if all the elements of consent are present, then each spouse is bound by their consent for as long as both spouses live.   Even if they separate, even if they get a civil divorce, even if one or both of them remarries, the original marriage bond remains intact.   In that narrow sense, these two different things - the effects of the sacrament of ordination, and the validity of the marriage bond - are somewhat similar: neither can be undone by a mere legal declaration.  

But as I said previously, despite that point of (sorta) similarity, they really are apples and oranges.  Ordination is a sacrament, whereas a marriage may or may not be a sacrament, and it is not the sacrament or its effects that make marriage permanent, but rather the integrity of the consent and its subjection to divine law as recorded in sacred scripture.

It's not a very apt comparison - that's all I'm saying.

 

 

Jim P.

I think there is much the Church can do.  It is not a question of just applying the Pauline, Petrine, or Matthean exceptions in the current situation.  Fitzmyer's point is that once later individuals changed Jesus' absolute prohibition against divorce it ceased to be absolute.  Therefore today the Church can create further exceptions depending on current needs.  I think he is suggesting that the theology of marriage needs to be re-thought and there is nothing stopping the Church from re-formuating it, except the will to do so.  The ability of the Church to make further exceptions does not rest on biblical warrant because there is an evolving tradition in the Church regarding marriage as John Feehily has pointed out.

It's odd to claim that Jesus (some real person) said X about divorce, and then other people changed it. I think it's fair to say that Mark's Jesus says X about divorce, and then Matthew changes that, but it's not as if there is some ur-statement spoken by Jesus that is subsequently adjusted by a series of texts. Rather, when it comes to the NT, you have some texts interacting with one another with respect to divorce (e.g., the Synoptics), and then other texts (e.g., certain Pauline material) dealing with the same subject, but not in interaction with the other texts (which are later anyway). I suspect that things would be less fraught if people ditched the idea that the balancing pin of the discussion is "things Jesus taught."

Jim Pauwels said:  " I am not sure how to get from what church sees itself as able to do, as described in that  2001 instruction, to where Cardinal Kasper would like it to go.  From what I can tell, all the interpreting and adapting has been done within the constraints of what is permitted by the pauline privilege.  I suppose the so-called Petrine privilege can be viewed as a modification of the pauline privilege.  But both of those 'privileges' pertain to marriages in which one or both spouses was unbaptized at the time of consent.  The scenarios to which Cardinal Kasper's merciful exception would be applied seem very different; the baptimsal status of the spouses doesn't seem applicable.  I don't know what specific biblical warrant there would be for such a merciful exception.  "

It seems to me the possibility of movement is not to create expansive permission to divorce and remarry but possibly to create a process where a divorced and remarried person can get their confessor's permission to receive the sacraments under some circumstances.  A similar change has already occurred with respect to suicide.  There was a time when it was taken for granted that we were 100% certain a suicide was in Hell, so a suicide was denied a Catholic funeral and denied burial in consecrated ground unless there was proof of insanity.  Today that is no longer the case.  The church understands that most suicides are driven by factors such as severe clinical depression or PTSD, and though the act is objectively a mortal sin, most suicides are not subjectively in a state of mortal sin.

The church implicitly acts as though not every person irregularly married after divorce is in a state of mortal sin, as we do not deny a Catholic funeral to those in that situation.  (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had a Catholic funeral, though she was living with a separated man still legally married to another woman.)  It does not seem an impossible stretch to allow the irregularly remarried to receive communion.

Abe Rosenzweig

It's odd to claim that Jesus (some real person) said X about divorce, and then other people changed it.

Actually, it is not so odd.  You can read why Fitzmyer believes the absolute prohibition goes back to Jesus here.  Now what you propose is not implausible, Mark may have created the absolute prohibition.  That could explain why Luke repeats it.  The difficult part come when Paul replicates it in 1 Cor 7:10-11 where he claims it comes from Jesus, thus distinguishing it from the exception he makes in 7:12-16.  This phenomenon is called "multiple attestation," which some NT scholars think is a reliable criterion for determining whether a saying comes from Jesus.  Obviously, how much of what Jesus actually said is difficult to determine in the Gospels with certitude, but there are ways to determine reasonably what may be reliable Jesus tradition.  

It seems to me the possibility of movement is not to create expansive permission to divorce and remarry but possibly to create a process where a divorced and remarried person can get their confessor's permission to receive the sacraments under some circumstances.

Anne E - thanks for that comment.  Fwiw, I think such an exception could be problematic, both from the point of view of the integrity of matrimonial consent, and from the point of view of the integrity of the sacrament of reconciliation.  (And, I'm sure some peope would argue by extension also the integrity of the sacrament of the Eucharist.)  I do see that this probably reads as a rather curmudgeonly opinion - sort of ant-merciful; but really, can mercy, as holy as it is, just ignore the integrity of the sacraments?  Mercy at the expense of the church's sacramental life doesn't seem very genuine to me.  But maybe someone can devise a clever approach that doesn't put sacramental life at risk.

I agree with folks who have noted that it is good for the church to grapple honestly and openly(!) about these real-life, difficult pastoral problems.   A solution such as what you're describing here would certainly be merciful, and I can see how it would appeal to Francis.  He's full of surprises.  We'll see what happens.

 

Jim P.

Without mercy the Sacraments are empty, as mercy is a constitutive part of Catholic sacramental theology.  What is Baptism without mercy? What is the Sacrament of Reconciliation without mercy?  Who can receive the very life of God were it not for God's mercy?  You draw too sharp a dichotomy when you marginalize mercy.  Why do you place "sacramental integrity" over mercy?  It sounds awfully legalistic.  And what is sacramental integrity if the "sign instituted by Christ to give grace" does not include mercy.  What is your theology of grace?  

Aquinas held that mercy is the greatest of the virtues.  He distinguishes two parts of it: first, the unhappy feeling we feel when we see another in misery and, second, the actually helping to relieve the misery of the other person.  The latter is most important.

ISTM that the big question we've been asking about the divorce-remarriage and reception of Communion problem has been:  what will truly help *all*  of the people involved in the break-up of marriages? But that is an ambiguous question --  we're talking about many marriages, so *maybe there is no one answer*.  Maybe the answers should differ as the individuals and their situations differ.  In other words, much of this has to be a matter of prudence.

On the other hand, given that we're dealing with shared human nature, maybe there are some things that all divorce problems share, and some universal statements might need to be made, or at least some *generalizations* need to be made.  (Generalizations are statements which are true of most cases, though not necessarily all cases.  Universal statements are true of all.)  

Maybe mercy, the relief of suffering, cannot be equal in all cases.    

You draw too sharp a dichotomy when you marginalize mercy.  Why do you place "sacramental integrity" over mercy?  It sounds awfully legalistic.

Alan - if you perceive that I'm trying to marginalize mercy, you misunderstand me.  I've been trying to give it its due throughout this conversation.  I've also been trying to give due weight to a church practice that is rooted in a teaching by Jesus that is about as legal in character as anything he ever said.   I hope we can talk about divine law and our obligations to it without being accused of being legalistic.  

If the only way to refrain from marginalizing mercy is to rip inconvenient pages out of the bible, then maybe our standard of what constitutes marginalizing needs some revisiting? 

From our point of view, it might seem even more merciful if God would just redeem all of us, hey presto, without imposing any obligations of discipleship on us such as requiring that we change our lives or embrace the cross.  But for whatever reason, that doesn't seem to be what the plan calls for.  Do we therefore rail at God for his lack of mercy?

It doesn't seem completely impossible to me that God's plan for some people, given their free choices and the promises they've made, could be very difficult.  It also doesn't seem completely impossible that the fullness of his mercy may not be made manifest to us in this life.

 

Jim, marriage was not considered to be "sacramental" for more than half of the church's existence.  It is a "recent" development.  Even with my limited understanding of the church's position on divorce and remarriage, it seems to me that you are conflating (if not confusing) what Jesus said about divorce, which would really apply with equal force to annulments, and the Church's position on annulment, which is related to but hardly draws a direct line back to Jesus's statements in the NT.  There are other equally "extreme" statements by Jesus that have not been interpreted legalistically at all, such as, selling everything you have and abandoning your family if you want to be a true disciple.  We see this in the context of an intent to instill a radical rethinking of one's relationship to God versus earthly things.  Why would Jesus's statements on divorce not be intended in the same context, to instill a radical rethinking of one's relationship to one's spouse; not as an injunction against divorce where one spouse has already been subject to marital abandonment or cruelty by the other.  Heck, even "I changed my mind, I didn't realize what I was doing" ought to be good enough, at least in the absence of children, for just unwinding the relationship.  In my view any divorce within the first three years in the absence of children should just automatically entitle the parties to a do over.

And in any event, in situations where one spouse "proves" to be inadequate, I don't think you need a lot of inquiry into whether a marriage was ever valid.  Somebody who made a valid marriage wouldn't do those things.  The Church should take a page from the uniform law on the termination of parental rights and come up with a list of things that are simply inimical to a valid marriage, and when a divorce is sought and one of those factors is present, there should be no need for special pleading for annulment.  

The process is never going to be perfect -- there will always be people who see others as getting undeserved mercy, but the point of mercy is that it is largely undeserved.  Erring on the side of mercy is the better result.  And in any event, at least in the U.S., for all the claims that annulment is a serious inquiry, something like 90% of requests are granted, so why make people go through such a protracted process if the standard for mercy is actually pretty low?

Since the Catholic Church believes that the evangelists (editors, etc.) were inspired, aren't the words of Jesus reported by Matthew to be accepted as the words of Jesus, whether Jesus actually uttered them or not? 

Also, wasn't Jesus himself weighing in on a controversy about Jewish Law? Unless we imagine him as thinking ahead to the thirteenth century, it is difficult to argue that he was talking about "sacramental marriage." 

It seems ironic to me that much of what Jesus said had to do with Jewish Law, and yet only a tiny, tiny minority of Christians feel obligated by anything in Jewish Law. Nobody even takes seriously the dietary prohibitions left intact in Acts 15, "namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals . . . ." 

 

Alan, it is a very good article and provides a thicker context for understanding divorce in that period/region that challenges the overly simplified representation that one often encounters. As for multiple attestation, well, I am not so sure that the attestation for a discernible "authentic" Jesus statement on divorce is so mutlple or clear. In the decades since Fitzmeyer's article, the citeria of historical Jesus scholarship have been interrogated pretty thoroughly, and that goes for multiple attestation, as well. (Goodacre observed not that long ago how strange it was that a unit might be accorded the air of historicity when it was seen as somehow satisfying both the criterion of embarrassment and multiple attestation--and I'm not sure if the statement under question doesn't evoke that strangeness). My own take is that any presentation of a teaching of jesus is so deeply embedded in the rhetorical strategy of its current textual context that to push the literary away in search for the historical is probably to miss the point.

 

An additional note: Obviously, the Matthean Jesus provides an exception, whereas the Markan jesus does not. I'm not sure, though, why this provision necessarily should be interpreted as stemming from "mercy." The same goes for the Pauline qualification in 1 Cor 7.

Jim P.

I must have misunderstood you because your response to my post does not square with what you wrote on May 13 @ 5:45 pm

I do see that this probably reads as a rather curmudgeonly opinion - sort of ant-merciful; but really, can mercy, as holy as it is, just ignore the integrity of the sacraments?  Mercy at the expense of the church's sacramental life doesn't seem very genuine to me.  But maybe someone can devise a clever approach that doesn't put sacramental life at risk.

And do you really believe that it is God's plan for some people to live difficult lives, and who must wait for the afterlife to experience the mercy of God?

I don't think Pope Francis sees it that way.  Rather he seems to be saying quite frequently that the Church should administer mercy at all times -- you know, the field hospital metaphor.

 

 

 

Alan - yes, I do think you misunderstood me.  I noted in my May 13 5:45 comment that my view, which is one of skepticism that the church has carte blanche to just do whatever seems the most merciful thing imaginable for a person who has invalidly remarried, unconstrained by any sacramental or biblical considerations - I noted that my view could come across as somehow lacking in mercy.  (I don't think it's lacking in mercy; I just think it's rooted in reality.)  And your subsequent comments have pretty much fulfilled my prediction :-), as it seems you do think my views are notably lacking in mercy.  

And do you really believe that it is God's plan for some people to live difficult lives, and who must wait for the afterlife to experience the mercy of God?

Well, what I wrote is that "it doesn't seem completely impossible to me" that God may not reveal the fullness of his mercy to all his believers in this life.  I wouldn't be so bold as to claim to know God's plan for other people, or even myself, with certainty.  Yet as we look about us, we see quite a bit of sinfulness and suffering going on, with no mercy in sight.  Why does God permit that?  Is God lacking in mercy?  (These aren't rhetorical questions, btw.)  One possibility is that the fullness of that mercy isn't made known in this lifetime.  I hope that's true: that a merciful fate awaits both sinners and sufferers in the next life.

I don't think Pope Francis sees it that way.  Rather he seems to be saying quite frequently that the Church should administer mercy at all times -- you know, the field hospital metaphor.

My view is that Pope Francis also is constrained in this matter: by divine revelation, by the sacramental economy, by facts and circumstances.  Mercy can be administered in many ways, not all of which involve offering communion to those who are not disposed, nor claiming the authority to unbind what the church seems to lack the authority to unbind.  

 

Obviously, the Matthean Jesus provides an exception, whereas the Markan jesus does not. I'm not sure, though, why this provision necessarily should be interpreted as stemming from "mercy." The same goes for the Pauline qualification in 1 Cor 7.

Abe - I agree.  

Earlier, I linked to a Roman document that notes that the church, in the 16th century, tried to figure out what to do about the existing marriages of polygamist converts.  It seemed that it figured out a way to invalidate the multiple marriages (it would be interesting to know more details, but the doc doesn't provide any).  But I wouldn't characterize that as stemming from "mercy", either.  More like problem-solving.

 

The Bible often reveals the truth via the tension between two positions rather than laying out a systematic theology in a single voice. Finding the truth requires looking at the whole rather than choosing the anchor of one of its guy-wires.

Abe Rosenzweig

As an historical scholar I do not push the literary aside in my exegesis, but the rhetorical character of a New Testament text does not make it impossible to read it historically.  So on that I think we will have to disagree.  You might find Fitzmyer's book, The Intepretation of Scripture: In Defense of the Historical Critical Method interesting.  

I don't believe I linked the Matthean and Pauline exceptions to mercy.  My point was if they could alter the teaching of Jesus, for whatever reason, then the Church can do that today, i.e. find exceptions that respond to the contemporary situation of married Catholics. 

I recently read a wonderful text by Augustine on how to read Scripture, in his Confessions, book 12. For example, in chapter 18, after proposing a variety of possible interpretations of the same sentence: 

Since, therefore, each person endeavours to understand in the Holy Scriptures that which the writer understood, what hurt is it if a man understand what Thou, the light of all true-speaking minds, dost show him to be true although he whom he reads understood not this, seeing that he also understood a Truth, not, however, this Truth?

or a little later:

But which of us, amid so many truths which occur to inquirers in these words, understood as they are in different ways, shall so discover that one interpretation as to confidently say that Moses thought this,and that in that narrative he wished this to be understood, as confidently as he says that this is true,whether he thought this thing or the other? ... 

Let no one now trouble me by saying, Moses thought not as you say, but as I say. For should he ask me, Whence do you know that Moses thought this which you deduce from his words? I ought to take it contentedly, and reply perhaps as I have before, or somewhat more fully should he be obstinate. But when he says, Moses meant not what you say, but what I say, and yet denies not what each of us says, and that both are true, O my God, life of the poor, in whose bosom there is no contradiction, pour down into my heart Your soothings, that I may patiently bear with such as say this to me; not because they are divine, and because they have seen in the heart of Your servant what they say, but because they are proud, and have not known the opinion of Moses, but love their own—not because it is true, but because it is their own. Otherwise they would equally love another true opinion, as I love what they say when they speak what is true; not because it is theirs, but because it is true, and therefore now not theirs because true.

 

Jim P.

Thank you for your response to my post.  I think I understand your take on mercy now.  All I can say is that we do not believe in the same God.

Maybe nobody is still reading, but after catching up, I will add one more comment.

I see this discussion continued for a long time. In re-reading it, it makes me wonder why we human beings so complicate things in a way.  Our evangelical friends are known for the lovely acronym WWJD that really asks the right question -  What Would Jesus Do?

Maybe it would be good to get away from the heavy burden of centuries of  sacramental theology and canon law and the always somewhat ambiguous interpretations of scriptures that were written long after Jesus lived by people who were not eye-witnesses.

Not only should scriptural interpretation be considered, along with the culture and marriage customs of the times, but also a bigger picture.   We know that marriages were arranged in that era primarily as a way to cement family alliances and safeguard whatever family wealth existed. Marriages were common with close biological family members - first cousins often and Jesus said not a word about that. Marriage then was undertaken at a time in history when lifespans (especially for women who, if they survived childhood diseases often died in childbirth) were decades shorter than now and so also was the duration of many marriages "until death".  Expectations of marriage on the part of the brides and grooms were totally different than the expectations now in most of the world. Jesus' words on divorce then simply cannot be strictly applied to marriage in the 21st century.

In looking at the big picture of what Jesus taught through words and actions instead of isolated passages we meet a pretty nice guy - he could be blunt about how we should try to live, but also very forgiving, very merciful.  Somehow I don't think Jesus would want couples who marry to live in sheer misery for their whole lives because they changed as people throughout their lives, or discovered that their personalities really just didn't match in day to day close contact (maybe the church should encourage cohabitation before marriage?)  nor would he want their children to grow up in homes where the parents really don't like each other.   It seems to be men, men full of their own authority and pride and who are not even married who make demands on ordinary people that Jesus himself might not make. Jesus was kind. 

The church gives little support to marriage. Basically it says not to live together in order to get to know one another - which really means do not have sex - before getting married, then start out on a lifetime together where you will be expected to have children at the church's demand that your marriage be "open" to children even though some individuals are not interested in being parents nor well-suited to be parents etc.  The church places a lot of demands on couples but once they're married the best they can do is say "don't use modern birth control".  Maybe the church should offer a series of temporary vows so marriage compatibility can be tested just as the church allow priests and religious to enter those vocations in stages in order to decide if they really can make a permanent vow. 

The church puts most couples through a lot of hoops in order to marry in the church.  There are lead times of 6-12 months after getting engaged, marriage prep courses, mandatory NFP courses, pre-Cana weekends etc. But while there is a good and needed attempt to identify potentially serious problems that could arise after the marriage, there is no attempt at all to see if the couple really should be pushed into agreeing to have children if physcially able to.  The church should prepare couples for the demands that parenthood bring. It should tell them how having children will dramatically change the nature of their relationship and, while children bring joy, they also create a lot of stress. The first spike in divorce rates comes about one year after the birth of the first child.  It spikes again after children have left home, perhaps because those couples who stayed together for the children are so worn out from the effort that there are no emotional reserves left for one another.  The church should not demand that all couples wishing to marry agree to have children.  They reduce marriage to a utilitarian function in doing that instead of celebrating the love relationship of the couples themselves as being good and holy in and of itself.

There should also be support for families that have divorced - for the spouses and for the kids, instead of just treating them as pariahs and sinners. They need even more support than do those in good marriages.

The official Catholic church is so cold and heartless in so many ways even though there are millions of kind, generous, loving and merciful people in its ranks. Unfortunately, they aren't the same people who make the laws. Perhaps Francis and Kaspar will be able to introduce a more loving, Christ-like way of handling these difficult issues.

Thank you, Anne.

This makes comment #200.

What Would Jesus Do?

Anne - there is no topic for which this question is easier to answer than for marriage and remarriage.  He told us what to do.  Flat out.  And those words are the fundamental problem  for Cardinal Kasper's proposal.  

I do understand your larger point.  Jesus' words concerning remarriage don't seem of a piece with the Jesus we get to know in so many other Gospel passages.  Yet there those words are.  Like you, I'd like to see a way that love and mercy can be extended to people who are in seemingly-insoluble pastoral predicaments.  Whatever that way may be, it needs to take into account, and honor, Jesus' teaching on remarriage.

Anne Chapman

You raise all of the right questions about the interpretation of Scripture in the Church today.  Asking "What would Jesus do?"  is not an inane question.  As I have pointed out,  even within the span of the compositioin of the New Testament this question was, in a way, asked and answered the ways that Paul and Matthew made exceptions to the words of Jesus.  Catholics are not biblical fundamentalists, which means the text always had to be interpreted and reinterpreted.  As the Pontifical Biblical Commission stated in its landmark document The Interpretaton of the Bible in the Life of the Church, for Catholics Scripture has always to be actualized anew.  Since we are not of a fundamentalist biblical tradition the question of Scriptural inerrancy is not narrowly interprested.  In fact, Dei Verbum really did not define biblical inerrancy.  Rather it stated very clearly that the truth of the Bible is "that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation."  Thus inerrancy for Catholics does not reside on the level of the words of Scripture but rather in the deeper truths that it communicates.  Those truths are to ne interpreted and re-interpreted.  Thus, the Catholic tradition on Scripture does not prevent the Church from finding a way to reinterpret the bibilcal teaching on divorce and remarriage in a way that benefits Catholics today, who suffer under circumstances that may not have been forseen by the biblical authors.  All it takes is the will to do so.   The lack of will can no longer be justified by saying " Jesus won't let us."

Thank you Matthew and Alan. 

Jim P,  I simply have to disagree with you. It is not at all as cut and dried as you seem to think. The Jesus that I know from the totality of the gospels simply does not match the strict constructionist, almost literal-fundamentalist interpretation that you favor.  He was not cold and heartless.

I am not a scripture scholar, nor an expert on the cultures of the time when Jesus lived.  We know the gospels were not written by eye-witnesses and we know that there was a lot of input from the authors of the gospels, who tailored their messages for particular audiences. But there is a whole lot we don't know about both the culture of the era, the true history, and even Jewish practice. 

My interpretation, which I admit is totally not based on serious academic scholarship, but is more intuitive combined with what little I do know about the era, is that Jesus was trying to protect women from divorce, because unless a woman's dowry was significant and she had full control over it after a divorce (which some did apparently), she could very well be left in poverty with no way to support herself.  Women had little power in that patriarchal era.  I have sometimes wondered what Augustine's concubine, who was his companion for years and the mother of his child, did after he "converted" and he tossed her out. After all, he couldn't marry her because she was the wrong social class. How did she live after his newly "christian" understanding kicked in and she was now an "occasion of sin"?  Just how "christian" was his behavior?

Anne,  I appreciate your persistence in putting forth your insights (esp. at 12:15 pm. May 16) in this discussion.    You bring up many points that are deserving of serious reflection by  those who are charged with formulating "policy" for us.  (Hope they're listening!)   Yes, as Jim Mc notes, there are a couple hundred comments on this subject, maybe making up for the 2,000 years when we, the non-ordained  (and women!), couldn't get in a word edgewise.    

As Anne suggests, the people who make the (marriage) laws are not the ones left holding the bag when the laws are inadequate to the situations that come up.   And, those who most care about remaining in communion with the Church are  sometimes those who seem to pay the biggest price for having taken to heart laws and prescriptions that may be all but impossible to carry out in the messiness of individuals' lives.

Alan, thanks for the many reminders of how scripture may or may not apply to present day moral issues.  

It gives evidence of how much the Holy Spirit is and has been at work in the people of God that so many who have contributed comments here cannot be "separated from the love of Christ", which in some way they have experienced in their lives.    People intuitively know something of Jesus' thoughts and ways.   "I know mine and mine know me", as we hear in this week's gospels. 

 

Anne --

I'd be interested in your opinion as to how the thinking (and laws) of the Church might change that would preserve the essentials of marriage as you think Jesus thought of it.  You don't have to be a total expert to have a valuable opinion.  Every teacher will tell you that highly interested students often ask fresh, valuable questions and have valuable insights.  Sometimes mastery of a subject prevents the experts from seeing the forest.

What do you see as the very most fundamental issues and what what do you think might sove them?  I don't mean the fact that many are in pain.  That's the problems and indisputable.  And I don't mean that the Vatican theologians are too far from the facts to judge well -- that's a problem of method.  What do you think are the basics     -- basic problem(s) and possible solution(s)? 

I have no idea really, Ann, except that there needs to be more understanding of the real lives of real married people on the part of the hierarchy, and I honestly don't know how to accompish that with male celibates. So dropping mandatory celibacy might be a good start.

I believe Jesus was the epitome of compassion and, as stated before, I think his few words against divorce have to be taken in context. This is why I think they were meant to protect women, due to the realities of the culture of the era of history in which he lived.  I do not for a minute think that Jesus wants people to stay in miserable marriages throughout their lives.

Throwing out a few thoughts as they come to me. I really haven't thought about this in the terms of your questions, and I am, of course, totally ignoring theology.  In general, I suspect theology can complicate matters because it is too theoretical and abstract and simply pleases the intellectual minds who devise it in their utopian, academic ivory towers.

Basic problems - the church hasn't come to terms with modern marriage in the developed countries of the world.  They haven't come to terms with lifespans that are now on average more than 80 or even 90 years for those who survive past mid-life.  Part of not coming to terms with modern marriage is that the institutional church (can't separate this from the celibate males I'm afraid) hasn't come to terms with the total revolution in women's lives, especially in the last 50 or so years, and the men of the church really have no insights at all about women. They are highly defensive in their reactions towards women (and the men who support them, especially clergy who may find themelves excommunicated)  who dare suggest that they are fully equal to men and should also be in the church and in marriage. They love to blame many societal woes on "feminism".

In one sense they are right - most women in developed countries are not going to go back to their traditional roles unless they themselves choose them - on their own terms.   The men of the institutional church rant against "radical feminism" and seem to define that as women not "knowing their place", inventing a new term to describe that  - "authentic Catholic feminism" which really is just old-fashioned patriarchal preferences for women to devote themselves to husband and family (and church - as a helper to the men in charge, or as a volunteer of course, not as an ordained priest).  Many women choose to undertake the "traditional" role - but it is their own choice.  If it is not, then there will be problems.

People no longer marry for all the same reasons they did for most of history - it's not just a business contract anymore, conducted between families, with no say on the part of the young men and women who were married off in order to preserve family wealth (if any), to provide a "legal" sexual partner for the man and, especially important, to provide children who would not only carry on the family name, but usually the family business. Children were economic units - factors of production in the family "business" once old enough.  They were also the social security for parents (and these factors are still at play in the poorest countries of the world). 

I am focusing on women in this because the dramatic changes in women's lives most certainly have had an impact on divorce rates. They have alternatives now, and for most of history they did not.

Most educated women are no longer willing to trade their whole lives for male economic support as they did for most of history. Someone noted that 2/3 of divorces are initiated by women, and I read today that when the women are college educated, that rate goes to 90%.  There is a lower overall divorce rate with couples who marry later and have more education. But when these couples do divorce, the women are initiating it.  They have alternatives, they have careers that pay well enough to support themselves and their families.

It's possible that those who "prepare" couples for marriage need to get into more depth on roles within the marriage and especially on expectations. Studies show that even though men do more than they once did in terms of household upkeep and childcare, the women still do the lion's share.  Men have much more leisure time than women.   Men need to understand that the work of the marriage is a partnership - too many still think housekeeping and child care are "women's work".   I decided to do a quick research run through the data today because of your question.  I found an interesting website written by a rather vehement woman, with piles of information that I did not have time to go through.  But she brings up some interesting nformation and ideas.  This observer thinks it's not just one thing usually that leads to divorce, but an accumulation, until there is finally a "straw". For example: "

Thus, because of deeply ingrained, learned and habitual anachronistic social expectations and gender roles within marriages, marriage in the reality of its practice does indeed conflict with notions of gender equality. In this way, often on a subtle level in cumulative effect, the state of marriage frequently is subconsciously felt by many women as demeaning and subordinating. This is, purely and simply, something that men just do not generally fathom.

("No, we really are NOT okay with being #2, however mildly, unconsciously, or benignly this continuously manifests in so many itty, bitty ways ...We are full-fledged equal adults who expected to treated as such, and we did not expect that to change when we got married. At first we did not notice or care much about all the little signals of differential status. But sometimes the "dawning" is slow...when we have achieved a measure of age and success and status in our own right, and when the compensating benefits of being protectively adored as 'the little woman' diminish, or just have vanished with the presence of discord from other problems in the marital relationship.")

As women gain more and more options to being married, they can and will demand (and ARE demanding) within marriage more and more compensatory benefits to make up for this detriment and they will tolerate less (cheating, arguments, having to carry a bigger housework burden, and so forth) that makes them unhappy. But happiness is relative.

She quotes a couple of things from "Dear Abby"

From a younger woman

"We did everything together when we were first married; we were convinced that our marriage would be one of equals. In fact my income was higher than his. Here I am on a Saturday morning six years later. How did it happen that I'm stuck in the house with a sick infant, a whining toddler, the breakfast dishes and three loads of laundry, while he can get a phone call to play tennis with someone else at 9 a.m. and cheerily just walk out the door ten minutes later?")

Older women are also now initiating divorce more frequently.

Dear Abby: Now that my husband is retired, he spends his days reading, watching television, or playing golf... If anything, my own workload has increased. I want to know: when is it my turn to 'retire'?"

http://www.thelizlibrary.org/site-index/site-index-frame.html#soulhttp:/...

Some serious research needs to be done. Perhaps there needs to be a lot of talk about expectations with engaged couples, what each partner is subconsciously assuming will be the division of labor in the marriage, for example. Why do so many young husbands tell friends (who call them to play tennis) that "I'm babysitting for the kids while Ann goes out".    They are his children - he is not babysitting. But I have heard that very often!   I have also heard a lot of anecdotal evidence that supports what this woman says. A couple of friends have told me of their daughters choosing to divorce after 10 or so years of marriage because although they had given birth to only two kids, they felt like they had three children instead.

I have focused on women in this because women initiate most divorces, and because I happened to stumble on an interesting website. I don't know if men are simply more satisfied in marriage than women and so don't seek divorce, or if they simply are more willing to put up with a strained and unhappy marriage. Or, perhaps, they are so clueless, they don't even realize how unhappy their wives are until it's too late.

I don't think I answered your questions - just presented random thoughts as they hit me. I will think some more about this, because I do not have any "solutions". 

Pastorally, with those who have divorced and remarried, perhaps the Catholic church should emulate the Orthodox and let the pastors handle it. Bill De Hass already pointed out that this was the practice in the Catholic church also until 1917 or so.  It's clear that the church's hardline is not stopping divorce. So perhaps they could at least help divorced couples and their children pick up the pieces instead of making everything so much harder.

There is a good piece in The Tablet today also -

http://www.thetablet.co.uk/blogs/1/372/how-might-the-church-make-space-f...

From that blog:

The Tablet’s report quotes a spokesman for the bishops asking, "How can the Church pastorally care for those people who have fallen short?” I would suggest, if I might, that attitudes have to change. "Fallen short" is judgement. Pastorally accompanying me with that attitude would have compounded my powerlessness and distress. I am an educated professional who had married someone who became gripped by an addiction that changed his personality. I did not have power to predict the future before I married him. I needed understanding and support, not teaching.

Similarly, using words like "failed" to describe marriages that break down implies we have done wrong, and most of us have tried very hard to make relationships work. We have experienced pain, isolation and lack of understanding from many – but not all – priests and fellow parishioners. I did not find many teachers in my local secondary Catholic school very helpful when one teenage son struggled.

Anne --

 

Thanks for your response.

 

I agree that mandatory celibacy needs to stop.  However, I fear that the first step takn by Rome will be allowing priests to be married -- but not bishops.  That is the way it works in the Orthodox Church, and Rome will undoubtedly follow.  But *bishops* are the main structural problem and they will probably stay single.  I've been saying for years that marriage should be a *requirement* for being a bishop.  

 

Yes, no doubt women's ability to earn their own way has fundamentally impacted marriage.  And, yes, leisure time is a grew problem in the U. S. for both men and women, but I agree that women still are short-changed in the matter.  I don't understand how many of the married, professional young mothers I know get all their work done.  They're time poor.  But hopefully that's a solvable problem, though I know only too well as a single woman how easily it is assumed by many men that women't just don't quite measure up to non-motheerly roles as well as males do -- as if being, say, a programmer or an artist, had anything at all to do with either sex or gender.

 

As to simplifying the annulment process, I fear that leaving individual cases up to individual pastors won't be a panacea.  The pastors might mean well, but in my experience most priests are also sexist to some degree, and I suspect that the young ones, being mainly very conservative, will only be more of the same.  But maybe not.  (I don't actually know any young priests.)  The pastors will need some real consciousness raising, but they would have the advantage of knowing the individuals involved.

 

At this point both theologically and pastorally it's just a hell of a problem, so I don't expect too much from the synod.  But at least it's a start.

Anne --

 

Thanks for your response.

 

I agree that mandatory celibacy needs to stop.  However, I fear that the first step takn by Rome will be allowing priests to be married -- but not bishops.  That is the way it works in the Orthodox Church, and Rome will undoubtedly follow.  But *bishops* are the main structural problem and they will probably stay single.  I've been saying for years that marriage should be a *requirement* for being a bishop.  

 

Yes, no doubt women's ability to earn their own way has fundamentally impacted marriage.  And, yes, leisure time is a grew problem in the U. S. for both men and women, but I agree that women still are short-changed in the matter.  I don't understand how many of the married, professional young mothers I know get all their work done.  They're time poor.  But hopefully that's a solvable problem, though I know only too well as a single woman how easily it is assumed by many men that women't just don't quite measure up to non-motheerly roles as well as males do -- as if being, say, a programmer or an artist, had anything at all to do with either sex or gender.

 

As to simplifying the annulment process, I fear that leaving individual cases up to individual pastors won't be a panacea.  The pastors might mean well, but in my experience most priests are also sexist to some degree, and I suspect that the young ones, being mainly very conservative, will only be more of the same.  But maybe not.  (I don't actually know any young priests.)  The pastors will need some real consciousness raising, but they would have the advantage of knowing the individuals involved.

 

At this point both theologically and pastorally it's just a hell of a problem, so I don't expect too much from the synod.  But at least it's a start.

You have a point about the priests, especially the younger priests.  It's a bit of a crap shoot, but from what I have heard, the tribunal process can be the same and requires a whole lot more hoops.  It is true that Orthodox bishops cannot be married, but the RCC could choose another model, such as the Anglicans.  I have a very close friend who is Orthodox and I know from her that some Orthdodox bishops were married at one time. Her own priest (of many years in her parish) was appointed to be a bishop after his wife died.

Perhaps the divorced/remarried should just follow their own consciences and go to communion if they believe they are not "guilty" of anything other than being unable to go through all of the man-made hoops of the church. 

It is interesting  that so many bishops in Europe, especially the German speaking countries and also the UK are pushing for changes that would allow divorced/remarried to officially be able to go to communion.  And, since I have become totally cynical about the hierarchy of the church during the last ten years or so (I very naively trusted them for the first 55 or so years of my life), I can't help wondering if part of their sudden outspoken concern for the millions of divorced/remarried is as much about the future collection take than genuine compassion.  If these couples cannot be full members of the community, they not only won't give now, but their children will probably not be active Catholics in the future.  The German bishops are already refusing the sacraments to any Catholic who has un-registered from the tax collected by the German govt on the church's behalf.

I don't think it's adequate to ask what Jesus would do, exactly.  I think it is important to look at the context in which Jesus was speaking -- which was to attack front and center the practice of juridical sleight of hand when it came to disposing of one's no longer young or preferred wife.  It was to prohibit men from abandoning their wives just because. In particular, it was to vilify an interpretation of the law by the rabbinical class that was clearly intended to excuse if not actually enable this one-sided and typically cruel practice. And the ultimate insult was that this highly technical exercise was passed off as elucidating the intent of the law as given by God.  Hence, the reaction of Jesus "let no man put asunder . . ."  

Fast forward a few thousand years and the church is applying this teaching pretty much across the board no matter what the context, and its "technical" interpretation of Jesus's words spawns its own cruel consequences.

And just to emphasize: I don't think anyone has ever understood Jesus' words in this instance as being directed at situations where spouses agreed to separate.  Spouses were never "equals" -- not in the legal sense -- and I do not know the circumstances under which wives could obtain a divorce, if ever, from their husband.  Likewise, Jesus' words were not directed to wives whose husbands had already left (or to husbands whose wives had already left).  To use this one incident as a hamfisted one size fits all defense of doctrinal orthodoxy is silly. 

I don't think it's adequate to ask what Jesus would do, exactly.  I think it is important to look at the context in which Jesus was speaking -- which was to attack front and center the practice of juridical sleight of hand when it came to disposing of one's no longer young or preferred wife.  It was to prohibit men from abandoning their wives just because. In particular, it was to vilify an interpretation of the law by the rabbinical class that was clearly intended to excuse if not actually enable this one-sided and typically cruel practice. And the ultimate insult was that this highly technical exercise was passed off as elucidating the intent of the law as given by God.  Hence, the reaction of Jesus "let no man put asunder . . ." 

I cannot agree with what you write. There is absolutely NOTHING in the text that allows for this sort of extrapolation, and, as I’ve been saying all along, what we know about the context in which Jesus was speaking is not enough to make such a sweeping (and reductive) claim. This kind of argument is wishful thinking that does what historical Jesus writing is so notorious for doing, which is to project a Jesus that is amenable to the modern writer and their ideal audience—in this case, a Jesus with a  progressive atitude toward the social location of women. At the level of the text, this does not work, because Jesus directs his prohibition against divorce toward women, as well as men (it’s worth noting that Paul directs his prohibition toward women, as well). Thus, I wonder why the actual words of Jesus as reported in the text don't do more to unsettle you from the position you take. You say:

Spouses were never "equals" -- not in the legal sense -- and I do not know the circumstances under which wives could obtain a divorce, if ever, from their husband.  Likewise, Jesus' words were not directed to wives whose husbands had already left (or to husbands whose wives had already left).  To use this one incident as a hamfisted one size fits all defense of doctrinal orthodoxy is silly.

But, again, if you take a fresh look at the text, you'll see that Jesus clear;ly does anticipate that wives can obtain a divorce. (Not to mention that he does not at all touch on the situation of spousal abandonment, so I do not know why you can claim that Jesus does not include abandoned spouses in his prohibition).

Now there are two main things that I think the discrepancy between what jesus says and what you say he says should bring forward. One is the possibility that marriage practices were not as simple as we represent them (that is to say, the context in which Jesus was speaking--which is what you point to--is not as readily grasped by us as we may like to think). The second is that it may be a big mistake to believe we can isolate the context of a rhetorical dosument and treat that context as a control that has the last word on how we untangle the document.

19 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

So Abe, explicate away.  I like being educated about these things.  Where does Jesus specify that this was aimed at women seeking divorce?  Where does this explicate that spouses were equal before the law?  Are you seriously contending that they were?  I am actually not contending that Jesus foreordained such an arrangement -- indeed, the opposite -- that he did not, and that for that reason alone this series of pronouncements is exceedingly difficult to apply where persons are not assumed to have superior and inferior legal status, as they assuredly did in the time of the NT when it came to men and women.  I am actually not contending for an interpretation that shows Jesus was ahead of his time.  He wasn't, at least, not by that much, in my view, rather that because he was not it is problematic to adhere to the words as spoken and apply them in our rather radically different society to the form in which hardened hearts arise in the here and now.  If you want to make an alternative case, please, I am all ears, but don't attribute to me words I didn't write.

First of all, I never said that spouses were equal under the law. What I said was that we don't really have a great sense of what constitutes "the law" at that time. You mentioned the "rabbinical class" a few comments above. Well, who were they and what were they teaching? And while I don't think any sane person should argue for equality betwene spouses at that time, I do think that we should avoid blanket statements along the lines of claiming that only men could sue for a dicorce. We don't have loads of evidence, but what we do have doesn't allow for that claim to go unchallendged. It doesn't matter what a rabbinical text from centuries later says: we have documentation from the 2nd Temple Period that indicates that women could sue for divorce. It's sparse, but that is true for the whoel shebang.

Second, you certainly have claimed that Jesus was seaking to prohibit men from abandoning their wives, and you have claimed  that he was seeking "to vilify an interpretation of the law by the rabbinical class that was clearly intended to excuse if not actually enable this one-sided and typically cruel practice." Again, who is this rabbinical class and how do you know its interpretation of the law?

Finally, please read Mark 10:1-12 (especially 12: "and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery"). Or do you think that only Matthew counts?

No, of course Mark counts.  My understanding of the interpretation of the law at the time comes from prior study.  I would have to go back and resurrect it to give you the exact details, but my understanding is/was that divorce was made comparatively easy for men, as it is today in some Arab societies, but difficult for women.  No doubt social status of the wife and her original family were a significant check (or not) on what a man could expect to get away with without consequence.  And since a man could take multiple wives, the downside of keeping the first one was probably fairly limited.  The Bible has several examples of women who were favored by their husbands in spite of "defects" that probably could and did lead to divorce -- that is, infertility -- Hanna and Sara.  So of course, you can say that women were "property" in the legal sense and that does not mean that they were treated as property in their relationships with others.  One hopes that was never the norm, but being denominated as property clearly had consequences for their rights -- like who had the right to determine their marital arrangements, what happened (and who was considered to be the injured party) in case of rape, what they were "worth" if they could not conceive, inheritance, and so on.  Some of these consequences are no doubt the result of human nature, to devalue the worth of one who has no rights. 

And I actually wrote that I was uncertain of what rights women had to obtain divorce, which is true.  I don't know, which I admit, but that is sort of the opposite of a blanket statement.  It would, indeed, be fatuous to suggest that women had equal rights, but in my view that makes the application of the text in the here and now harder not easier.  That's what bugs me most about this particular argument from biblical literalism (which you are not making but others are). 

We've seen that the official Church has sometimes changed dogmas.  My question to the theologians is:  when and why is this done?  

 

It seems to me that change has generally been a matter of re-interpreting Scripture.  What I can't help but wonder is whether Mark 10-9 has been interpreted as a universal command (one directed at everyone) when in the original Greek it was only a  *general* command, (one which may or may not be addressed to everyone)..  

 

Consider these Catholic translations:

 

Douay:    "God has joined the two together, so no one should separate them.”

 

The Douay interpreters obviously interpreted the Greek koine original as a universal command -- it is says that "no man" shall sunder the marriage bond.  But look at another Catholic translation:

 

Revised Standard Version Catholic:"What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

 

In this version the negative "not" covers the verb ("let not"), not the subject "man', which is indefinitely either "all men" or "some men".  , In other words, this version of Mark 10-9 is merely a generalization, not a clearly universal one.  

 

Consider several Protestant translations of Mark 10-9:

 

Kindd James:  "So a man must not separate what God has joined together.”

New International Readers' Bible:   "So a man must not separate what God has joined together.”

New American Standard:  " So a man must not separate what God has joined together.”

 

None of these have the clear form of a universal statement.

 

My question to the linguists is:  what sort of commands is the koine Greek one?  A definitely universal commands or merely  a generalization which applies only to most marriages?

 

Here's the koine Greek (which I can't read, sigh) at Gateway Bible".  Some of you Jesuit boys might help with this

.

Mark 10-9 TR1550 - κακειθεν αναστας - Bible Gateway

And here's the Greek (I hope):

 

 ο ουν ο θεος συνεζευξεν ανθρωπος μη χωριζετω

 

I want to use this medium to testify of how i got back my husband after divorce, I and my husband have been together for 6 years with 2 kids, last year he filed a divorce against me, i did all i could to stop him but all to no avail until a friend of mine told me about a spell caster on the internet who helps people regain back lost love, when i contacted this spell caster via email he helped me cast a re-union spell and my husband came back to me within 48hours and we are happily together again as one family. Contact this spell caster for your relationship or marriage problems via this email ikedispiritualtemple@gmail.com Goodluck

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment