If Jesus made an exception for divorce in cases of adultery, why doesn't the Church?

By November 8, 2014 13 Comments

Full Question

In Matthew 19:3-9 when the Pharisees are questioning Jesus about divorce, Jesus seems to make an exception in the case of adultery. Why, then, doesn’t the Catholic Church follow what Jesus says in the Bible and allow divorce in such circumstances?


Let us recall first of all that Matthew’s audience was mainly Jews, and only Matthew’s Gospel has this exception clause.
The word “adultery” is not what Jesus said, although many Bible translations use this word. If Jesus intended to say adultery, he would have used the word moicheia, meaning “adultery,” but instead he used the word porneia, meaning illicit or invalid.
His audience, the Jews, knew exactly what Jesus meant. Leviticus 18:6-16 list marriages that are illegal for Jews because they are between certain degrees of consanguinity or were with a Gentile, which was forbidden. The Jews knew this, and this is why Matthew’s Gospel includes this exception. The Catholic Church does follow what Jesus says, when his words are properly translated.


  • Im merried women in a judge but after 7yrs I broke up my husband cause I cant survive him he always cheating me and pauch me when he is drunk.Then now I found a boy and he want to marry me in the church.Is that possible?Im not yet annulled what will I do?

    • daniela says:

      The church never use to recognize civil marriages. I would go talk to the priest. I think you only havr to get it annuled if its in a church. I would look into it i married my husband by law first and to be able to receive the sacraments and not live in sin we remarried by the church. Talk with a priest and see because civil marriage isnt really a marriage in my eyes God is nowhere in the ceremony. Catholics should always marry through the church.

  • Doug Dunklin says:

    Actually, porneia means illicit sexual activity, to include adultery.

  • maggie abare says:

    Okay guys take a look at Matt 5:-31-32, Matt 19:3-10, Luke 16:18:. Malachi 2:16, Mark 10:11-12, 17-19, Luke 18:19-20, Romans 72-3. The Catholic Church teaches (although not a popular teaching) that an attempted marriage after a divorce is gravely sinful. Wildly unpopular, but the truth and is anchored squarely in the above mentioned Matt 5:

    • marmay says:

      Maggie Abare, the Catholic Church is referring to a valid Sacramental Marriage, which is indissoluble.

      • Bob says:

        The Catholic Church views a civil marriage as licit and it must be annulled before being married in the Church. The Church recognizes marriages by protestant faiths or no faith at all (Justice of the Peace) as licit. Any licit marriage requires an annullment after divorce if you want to remarry in the Church.

        • Bob, it is more proper to say “a decree of nullity must be granted” as the Church doesn’t cause anything, which would be implied by using the words “be annulled” but merely comes to a determination of the true situation regarding the existence of a marriage.

  • Moise Bello says:

    let’s be careful, these are very important subjects of the faith. Let’s not lead each other into heresies.

  • meldy says:

    I meet my ex husband through dating site…I don’t have physical and emotional attraction to him but I did married to him for 18yrs ,but during the time I was married to him I learn how to love him,cherished him and value the marriage I have with him ….but all along on my marriage life I was used up physically and financially, and he betrayed me for more than 10yrs of my marriage for not having children….I’ve been through he’ll back to back when I was married to him, and I told my family that even if I have to committed sin I’ll do it to get out of my marriage. and I did ….one evening my best friends invite me for a dance it was a very lame night and I urge my best friend to go somewhere else where there is crowd. ..this,thing happened before my divorce. ..that night I meet someone, the next day he Give me a call ….I told him right there that I was married. but he was very possive person, I was young when I got married and never been with anyone before him, so I was curious what is like to be with someone younger ,my ex husband was 27yrs older than me…I’m desperate on my curiosity and I also manipulated by someone who has experienced so I did committed the sin that God has been forbid ….I bet the shit out of my soul for not forgiving myself for more than two years and most the time I’m suicidal but I asked God to give me….what shall I do to help me move on and find peace

  • Porneia has a broader meaning than adultery. Any illicit sexual
    behaviour can justify separation.

  • Jonathan Carp says:

    πορνεία certainly does not mean “illicit” or “invalid.” It means “fornication,” or “harlotry,” or “sexual immorality,” and certainly subsumes adultery.

  • Mari says:

    It was Moses, not Jesus who permitted divorce (because of the hardening of hearts). I think the better question might be, “was God the one who really actually joined the marriage in the first place?” People get into relationships that God never intended in the first place, from then on, it’s totally a matter of faith for the individuals involved. God is a loving father, He wants His children to have life. The bible also teaches us to seek peace and pursue it. Whatever decision a person makes, it should be the one that will draw them closer in their relationship to God, not opinions of men.

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