Saturday, April 13, 2013
What if I'm Catholic and Divorced?
The sacrament of marriage is highly regarded in Catholic Church.
“Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family - a domestic church.” – Blessed Pope John Paul II
The Church affirms that separation and marriage failure can be the cause of much heartache and anger for everyone involved. Catholics can be assured, however, that the Church ensures and seeks to uphold the moral and spiritual welfare of all involved. The dignity of the person and the protection of the sacrament of marriage is paramount.
If you are a Catholic and are currently divorced or have been divorced before, there are some very important things you should know.
When Christ was asked by the Pharisees if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause (Matthew 19:3), Christ replied this way:
“He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female’, and said, `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.’" – Matthew 19:4-6
It is for this reason that Christ’s church, the Catholic Church, is fervently opposed to divorce and maintains the indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage.
“The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble. He abrogates the accommodations that had slipped into the old Law. Between the baptized, ‘a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death.’” – CCC, par. 2382
“Divorce is immoral also because it 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, par. 2385
God Himself created marriage. By the sacred union of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, it is clear that from the beginning man and woman are made for each other. In becoming “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24) the two are no longer two but one and inseparable, freely and willingly giving of each other’s whole selves reflecting the unitive covenant love the Heavenly Father has for us.
“The married couple forms ‘the intimate partnership of life and love established by the Creator and governed by his laws; it is rooted in the conjugal covenant, that is, in their irrevocable personal consent.’ Both give themselves definitively and totally to one another. They are no longer two; from now on they form one flesh. The covenant they freely contracted imposes on the spouses the obligation to preserve it as unique and indissoluble. ‘What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.’” – CCC, par. 2364
Christ’s own teaching on the indissolubility of marriage is echoed in the writings of St. Paul in his letters to the Romans. St. Paul, stemming from Christ’s teachings, explicitly states that the marriage covenant is ended only by the death of the spouse (hence why we declare in our wedding vows “til death do us part”) and that “remarriage” or pursuing a relationship with another while the spouse is still alive is considered adultery, a mortal sin. This applies to both men and women.
“Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies she is discharged from the law concerning the husband. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.” – Romans 7:2-3
“Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery:
If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery, and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another's husband to herself.” – CCC, par. 2384
While this truth may be difficult to accept, if you are a Catholic and divorced, you needn’t despair nor feel despondent. It should be noted that a separation between the husband and wife while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law (CCC, par. 2383).
“It can happen that one of the spouses is the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law; this spouse therefore has not contravened the moral law. There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage.” – CCC, par. 2386
The Church, through her wisdom - guided by the Holy Spirit – as Christ redeems the human race from sin by His death and resurrection making each of us a new creation in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17), so too the Church works to free God’s children from the burden of divorce.