Uptight About Divorce, ain’t people suppose to be able to freely divorce and remarry if they choose?

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“The Catholic Church is too uptight about divorce. People ought to be able to freely divorce and remarry if they choose.”


The Church’s teaching on divorce is humane, just, and rooted in the teaching of Jesus.

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The Church’s teaching is humane, for it recognizes that there can be legitimate reasons to obtain a divorce under civil (secular) law: “If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense” (CCC 2383). Thus nobody is required to live in an intolerable or unsafe situation, such as with a physically or emotionally abusive spouse

The Church’s teaching is just, for it recognizes that the spouses have made a serious commitment to each other in marriage. There must be grave reason to justify civil divorce, because divorce “introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society” (CCC 2385).

The Church’s teaching is rooted in the teaching of Jesus, who took a strong stand against the permissive attitude toward divorce in the ancient world. Stressing that marriage was instituted by God, so that husband and wife are joined together in a divine institution, Jesus famously stated: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6).

He also warned that—because they are united together in this way—they are not free to marry other people if they do divorce: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11–12; cf. Luke 16:18).

This same teaching is reflected in the writings of Paul, who specifically tells his readers that the teaching comes from “the Lord”—i.e., the Lord Jesus (cf. 1 Cor. 1:2–3). He writes: “To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband)—and that the husband should not divorce his wife” (1 Cor. 7:10–11).

By Jimmy Akin


1 comment

  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    I actually like this rule. When divorced parents are denied communion at mass, it becomes very uncomfortable to go to church with the kids and explain that one can’t take communion because one has sinned by getting divorced, even if the divorce made all the sense in the world.
    As a result these parents bail out of the Church and take their kids with them, and at that point, they are generally lost to the Church forever – and that’s a good thing! I think the Pope sees how this policy costs the Church members, and given that, at least in the US, Catholic membership and attendance (you can’t really drop your membership – I’m sure they keep me on the rolls in order to inflate their numbers), are falling off of a cliff, it’s understandable that he would want to make it easier for these divorced people to stay in the Church so the kids don’t fall out of the clutches of the disordered, celibate virgins dressed in robes, but the conservative Church hierarchy is going to fight him every inch of the way in order to uphold obsolete Iron Age laws written for another time and place, and no longer applicable to our society. Back then, divorcing your wife meant that she became a prostitute or she starved to death, or lived in abject poverty. That is no longer the case.

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