Pastorally sensitive Catholics across the world have rejoiced at the new Pastorally Realistic wedding vows being proposed by the enlightened German bishops.
The new version goes: 'Do you X take Y here present to be your lawful wedded spouse?... For better, for richer, in health; till death (or divorce) do you part?'
These are truly vows for our times: so that nobody need feel any negative feelings (such as guilt) should they need to move on from their marriage and try again with someone else.
Hardliners, of course, are in uproar. One said: 'It is not we, but Christ, who said: 'what God has joined together, let not man put asunder,' and likewise 'whoever leaves his wife and takes another commits adultery.'
But the German bishops know better.
We are not quite there yet, but the reasons for the exclusion of those who have attempted a second 'marriage' whilst still married to someone else are precisely the same. Marriage is a true and irrevocable spiritual bond; when either party promises 'for better or for worse, for richer of for poorer, in sickness or in health, till death…' he or she is not making that promise to the other person, solely, but also to God, and to the whole community.
For better or for worse means, inter alia, even if my spouse turns out to be unreasonable, adulterous and ultimately deserts me. That is the point of the vow.
Of course there are situations which are grossly unjust; where somebody is betrayed by a spouse and left abandoned. But that is part of what they promised at their wedding; and further there are many who work out their salvation in just such tragic situations by being faithful to their promise: and we can be sure that God will reward them fully.
But to suggest that those already married can contract new marriages while their spouse is still living is against the clear teaching of Scripture, of Tradition, and of the Magisterium; it is also against the interests of society and above all of children: let those who doubt look about them!
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