Friday, 13 November 2015

The Great Divorce

I have blogged many times about the issue of divorce and remarriage: ranging from the guest post by my brothers Welcoming Cardinal Kasper's Pastoral Solicitude, to the post in which I suggest that ++Kasper et al are Underestimating the Love and Compassion of God

Yet here I go again: for I think there is still more to be said, even at the risk of being called of all sorts of names by the Holy Father. 

The Church is bound to preach the Gospel of Christ, as received from Him and handed down by Apostolic Tradition and Teaching, both in the Gospel and through the inspired work of the Magisterium.

The Church is also bound to manifest Christ's love, mercy and forgiveness. But that cannot be set in opposition to preaching the Gospel and calling sinners to repent: for that is what Christ did, and that is the mission He entrusted to the Church.

The Church is not, however, bound to make people happy or feel good: indeed the Gospel warns us that we must take up our Cross, if we are to follow Christ.

Many people seem to think it unmerciful of the Church 'not to forgive divorce and remarriage.' This post is my further musing about the profound misunderstandings inherent in that point of view.

However, I have yet to hear anyone who espouses that view claim that the Church should offer absolution and unconditional forgiveness to, say, a paedophile priest who is clear that he has no intention of changing his predatory behaviour.

So I presume that they do not see divorce, or remarriage, as harmful in the same way. Yet they are.

Divorce (if more than a merely prudential measure necessary to protect oneself or one's children) is a sin against faith, hope, and charity. It is a sin against Faith, since Christ has taught that marriage cannot be ended in this way. To believe in divorce is to disbelieve in Christ's teaching and the Church's.

It is a sin against hope, since it despairs of God being able to bring good out of one's fidelity to the Sacrament of Matrimony, despite all the trials along the way.

It is a sin against charity, since the fundamental promise we make is to love our spouse until death us do part.

One cannot sin against faith, hope and charity without harming oneself and others. So in order to repent of divorce, and 'sin no more' (a Gospel requirement) we must stop believing in divorce. If divorced, we must recognise that reality: that we are still married to our spouse, with all the obligations that entails. We must seek hope, trusting in God's infinite love and mercy to bring good out of our suffering. We must seek to love our spouse, even if necessarily separated, even if they have entered a new relationship, even if they are abusive. We may have to love him or her from a distance, and that love may have to be manifested principally through prayer and fidelity to our marriage vows, but our duty to love him or her is undiminished.

Divorce is also a sin against the Sacrament of Marriage: not just that particular marriage. It manifests a disbelief in marriage itself, for the nature of marriage is lifelong. That is one of the reasons it makes a 'second' marriage impossible. If one disbelieves in marriage, one cannot contract a valid marriage. That, of course, is a secondary reason; the principal reason a second marriage is impossible is that one remains married to one's first spouse, despite any divorce proceedings.

So is divorce an unforgivable sin? Or a worse sin than any other? By no means. But, like any other sin, it does harm; and therefore the Church, in dispensing Christ's mercy, must ensure that the penitent is not left self-harming. That is why repentance and amendment are an important part of the process; and that is why a 'second marriage' must also be the subject of repentance and amendment. To suggest anything else is to deny the Gospel, and to deny the true mercy of Christ. And that would be a terrible divorce indeed!


onemanarmywithfsfa said...

I am no expert in Scripture nor am I a learned man. But I do feel that divorce is never the right thing for any Catholic/Christian couple. Most divorces/separation often takes place for unfaithfulness or infidelity etc. committed by the other. I wonder what happens to the faithfulness and fidelity of the one who considers oneself truly "FAITHFUL" or is full of "LOVE" or "committed" to his/her vows? We (Clergy and Laity) should always be aware that God is EVER FAITHFUL to each one of us - no matter how many times we fail HIM or disobey HIM. His LOVE and MERCY endures FOREVER....

Since NONE (Clergy & Laity & Couples) OF US ARE WITHOUT SIN (to believe otherwise only goes to prove that the TRUTH is not in us and we are deceiving ourselves), it must be pretty obvious to each one of us that we are not perfect in any manner. Each one of us do fail God (i.e. is unfaithful to Him or disobeys Him one way or the other) again and again... YET, the Lord God does not stop loving us nor does He disown us the moment we fail Him the second time or the hundredth time nor does He put an end to our life the moment we fail Him. So, cutting off relationship for some faults or unfaithfulness - is no ground for divorce - for God does not do so to us for the many sins we keep committing everyday. We (Clergy, Laity or Spouses) cannot and should not act holier than God by refusing to forgive the wrongdoer or the one who is unfaithful to us. When the Lord (THE ALL GOOD) forgives our numerous sins - including unfaithfulness and apostasy (what Peter did, according to me is no less than apostasy), we puny mortals (no less without sin) should not hold ANY sin committed against us as unforgivable. If God stops loving and forgiving, we ALL will be FINISHED. Therefore we should continue to love and forgive the other (who wronged or continues to wrong us) so that he/she may survive or be spared.... The Lord as we ALL know came into this world to SAVE not to CONDEMN... Let us (the "good" ones, the "loving" ones and the "faithful" ones) therefore join Him in this Mission of SAVING SINNERS by reaching out to help those who fall and fail - so that they may find salvation... He does not wish that ANY of us should PERISH...... We can at least try to see that the ones we "love" or "loved" once upon a time - are not condemned...

Ben Trovato said...

Thanks for your comment.

One of the problems with a modern conception of marriage is that 'it is all about love' is misunderstood. A simplistic and romantic notion of 'being in love' means that when one or other (or both) no longer feels 'in love' they deem the marriage ended, or at least beyond repair.

In truth, that is when love has its work to do: it is easy to love when we feel like it; it is when we do not feel like it that we have to work at it. And when we do, Love Himself takes a hand, and astonishing resurrection is possible.

As you say, God's fidelity to us is the model of our fidelity to each other: St Paul compares marriage to God's love for the Church; which is another reason why divorce is impossible...