Wednesday, 7 December 2016

In Defence of Divorce

"And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery--unless his wife has been unfaithful." Matthew 19:9

"Let no one split apart what God has joined together." Mark 10:9

Christ's teaching seems clear and unequivocal.

So, at the risk of unpopularity let us consider this teaching in today's modern world. We live in a broken society indeed, and everywhere, the pursuit of self seems to be put to the fore at the expense of personal responsibilities and promises made under oath to God and one's spouse.

It is indeed true and achievable that a couple remain together through thick and thin "till death do us part!" Previous generations managed it all right; so why not us, one would wonder. Why is the rate of divorce so high these days? Have we made it easier and guilt-free perhaps?

In Christ's teaching above, He seems to make an exception as to when divorce is acceptable, or allowed. But what would He teach in modern society?

When one spouse is perhaps addicted to drink, drugs, gambling, crime or indeed there's violence in the marriage? 

Does "till death do us part" still apply? Would God want that a couple remain together in a living hell where violence to the spouse and children are almost a daily occurrence? 

Does God want us to "stand by your man" (or woman), come what may and treat the affliction as a disease, which perhaps it is, and suffer "in sickness and in health"?

Let us not make light of divorce. It is arguably the most shattering of experiences one can go through in life and causes immeasurable hurt not only to the spouse, but to children and family and friends too. The feelings of betrayal, failure and complete despair never goes away with some people. But tragically, divorce is a fact of life. 

There are cases where, for the safety and well-being of all concerned, divorce, with all its ugly implications, is the only way ahead. 

It is wrong, totally wrong, but at times one should do the wrong thing for the right reasons.

Many churches have now pragmatically accepted that divorce is at times necessary. One would hope and pray that God too sees it this way when we get to meet Him.

Life after divorce can be re-built in some cases, but sadly not always. The fear of betrayal runs deep sometimes jeopardising any future relationships.

The Catholic Church has a complicated procedure as to when a divorced person can marry again, and a previous marriage can be nullified; and when it would be adulterous to marry again or live with a new partner. 

To nullify a marriage can be a long and difficult process taking months, if not years, depending on which priests, bishops and dioceses are involved. In some cases marriages are not nullified meaning that a divorced person cannot re-marry or have a partner under pain of being adulterous and therefore excommunicated - cannot take Holy Communion. Not surprisingly, under these conditions, many Catholics choose to ignore their Church altogether and either marry in a civil ceremony or in another denomination.

Perhaps the Catholic Church needs to reconsider its teaching and dogma on this matter. But this is a debate for another day.

15 comments:

  1. Dear Victor ... as a pastoral counselor, I appreciate your perspective. Divorce has been and will continue to be a complex, sad, difficult fact of life.

    No wonder God hates it so as families are torn from top to bottom.

    He loves us dearly. Thank you for showing His grace and mercy today ...

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    1. Yes indeed Linda, divorce is complex, sad and very difficult an issue in modern society. But unfortunately, it is a fact of life all too often; especially in cases where there's violence involved and cruelty. I've seen it all too often.

      God bless.

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  2. Oh boy, Victor, you don't seem to understand the Catholic doctrine on marriage. Yes, there are conditions where a married couple are allowed to separate (divorce is a legalism for the state) but you cannot remarry. It is the remarriage that puts one in a state of sin adultery), not the separation.

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    1. Hello Manny,

      It is great to see you visiting me again. Thanx.

      Yes, I do understand the catholic Church's doctrine on marriage and how cruel it can be. Believe me, I have researched it fully.

      As you say, there are cases where the Catholic Church allows couples to separate (divorce) but in some cases the Church does NOT allow the marriage to be nullified. This in effect means that both partners in the broken marriage cannot re-marry, or live with new partners, under pain of mortal sin. This is wrong for the Church to take such a position and thus stop a person (perhaps the innocent one in the marriage breakdown) from finding new love, and from ever starting a family. Not surprisingly, under such strict rules, people marry again in a civil ceremony or in another church.

      There are many other instances where our Church's stance on divorce and re-marriage is totally illogical. And certainly not what Christ meant when He spoke against divorce. To deny a person the right to re-marry and find new happiness is wrong; which is what a refusal to nullify a previous marriage in effect does.

      God bless.

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    2. What do you mean it's wrong for the church to have such a rule? It's not the Church's rule. It's Christ's rule. And that's exactly what Christ had in mind. The words are very clear. I don't know what you're referring to that is illogical. First off, new happiness does not have to involve marriage. Maybe Jesus had exactly that in mind when He said it. Maybe the happiness you're supposed to find is in God, and maybe if remarrying was so easy, everyone would divorce when you didn't need to, which is where society has come to. There's a such thing as tough love, and maybe that's what Christ also had in mind. A society that is only looking for self pleasure without any suffering is not what God intended, as you can see by the crucifixion.

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    3. Manny, I think I understand what you are saying. But please let me add this: God is love. God loves us so much that He redeemed us with Christ. God wishes for us to enjoy this life and not endure it as a living purgatory or hell.

      Now let me give you an example. A young Catholic couple married at age 25 or so. After a few years happily together the husband decided life would be better in Canada. Not surprisingly, the wife did not want to leave her family, friends, job and country and travel to somewhere new. After several arguments and disagreements he packed his bags and left her. Technically, they are still married. She can divorce him in the civil courts for abandonment. But our Church does not see this as grounds for annulment. She cannot re-marry.

      Does a loving God wish her to remain single, alone, not find love again, and not have any children for the rest of her life? Is she to be punished for circumstances not of her making?

      Not surprisingly, many people in her position re-marry again in another non-Catholic church, or in a civil marriage.

      God bless.

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    4. "Does a loving God wish her to remain single, alone, not find love again, and not have any children for the rest of her life? Is she to be punished for circumstances not of her making?"

      Who says it's a punishment? Celibacy is idealized all over the New Testament. Monks, nuns, and priests are required to be celibate. You're thinking with a mind of this world. God doesn't think with such a mind. If you're going to think like that, then you can't answer why a "loving God" allows children to have cancer. You're reducing God to a sentimental pet. God loves you, yes, but he loves you with a fuller understanding and knowledge. Apparently Christ thought enough of the sacrament of marriage, which if we were to get into the theology goes back to Adam and Eve, to limit it to once.

      If someone turned their back on Christ's word and Christ's Church for what amounts to adultery they will have to answer for it. In fact, it's a grace the Catholic Church insists on it. It's not a Church rule; it's a universal rule. It means the difference between salvation and not.

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    5. Manny, I am so glad that you returned here; please come back again to continue this discussion.

      I agree with you that divorce is wrong; but sometimes it is necessary. Believe me I have seen many examples where divorce was the only solution. I have known Catholic priests suggest that in certain circumstances divorce is indeed what should happen. Can you imagine that? Catholic priests recommending divorce?

      In the case I mentioned before; is it really right that a young woman who has done nothing wrong, should be denied the pleasure and the gift of motherhood because her husband decided to leave her and go to another country?

      In this case, it is a punishment. Punishment by circumstances and by Church edict. She planned and agreed to marry. She hoped to have a loving family with a loving spouse. Something many of us aspire to. But after marriage, things changed and her husband went to Canada. Is she to be denied a second chance at finding happiness? Is that really what God wants for her? Monks, nuns and priests are celibate because they choose to be so. This woman chose to have a loving husband and family; but it went wrong. Through no fault of her own. It is understandable that she did not want to pack her bags and go to Canada or any foreign land because her spouse wanted to. Would you do that? Give up your work, family and home because your spouse wanted so?

      I've seen other cases where violence, drink, and drugs made marriage a living hell. Does a loving God want people to remain together in such circumstances?

      This is a very difficult subject, Manny. But then, every so often I do tackle controversial subjects so that we may all think deeply and debate.

      I think you'll find my book "To Love A Priest" just as controversial. I'd love to hear your views on that.

      God bless you and your family.

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    6. Well, I was only now able to come back. I won't argue any longer. It's between you and Christ.

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  3. I, too, have seen the effects of the ravages of divorce. It is heart-wrenching indeed. I will never forget the day my sister and brother-in-law (whom I loved very dearly and felt more like a big brother to me) sat on our living room sofa when I was 9 years old and told Mom, Dad, and me that they were going to get a divorce. Oh, it hurt! I still feel that pain all these years later. I think it hurts the family members more deeply than people realize, as they assume that "in-law" will be in their lives forever. I also think of how Jesus told His followers and listeners that God had only allowed divorce to even begin "because of the hardness of their hearts". It is just a sad topic to me, all the way around...one that is heavily argued over, separating many friends, in the process. God bless each one who is hurting...whether a victim of abuse or one that is wounded by the aftermath of the divorce of loved ones or the precious little children involved or all of the other countless scenarios of pain in our modern world. I just feel so bad for everyone involved and hope each person can come to terms with God's will and Holy Word. It is what we will all be judged by when we leave this world. God bless you, Victor. Have a merry Christmas, my friend. :)

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    1. Thank you Cheryl for your sweet and well thought comment. Yes, family and friends do hurt also when a couple divorce. It is sad and it is wrong that people divorce. Sadly there are times when it is the only solution. Especially when there is violence and danger to spouse and children.

      I join you in prayer for all who suffer thus.

      God bless you.

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  4. i think every religion want it's follower to be happy because it is only the state of happiness which form a healthy family tree and if one of them or both are miserable no religion force them to be together and cause harm to the all lives related to them.
    i belong to a Muslim religion and want to share a incident when a man cam to our prophet said in his sermon that if a woman wants divorce don't ask her even reason of it and divorce because if you force her she may be live with you but in unhealthy environment because she will be unhappy

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    1. Thank you baili for your kind and nice comments. Divorce causes hurt and pain to many people.

      God bless you.

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  5. Hi Victor! Catholics are not immune to marriages that don't work out, I'm sure some divorces seem frivolous to others, but who knows what happens behind the front door? I can't judge why a divorce happens.

    Jesus did say that he didn't want divorce. In the old testament, the prophet Malachi proclaimed for God: "For I hate divorce". I think his opinion is clear. But don't we have have to balance that with the pain of marriages that are living nightmares? I think the church is doing the best it can to balance these two sides.

    I have a very good friend from childhood who married, had five children, and then got a divorce. It was so hard for her kids, and her life has been difficult since. Who would choose that? Certainly her married life must have been awful to trade it for a difficult way in life now.
    Divorce is not an easy thing to tackle. It's good that you started some discussion on it, and were willing to address a tough teaching with such care and sensitivity. It's just like you to have such a generous heart for God's people.
    Blessings,
    Ceil

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    1. Thank you Ceil for your kind words. You are right, divorce is very difficult and hurtful, not just for the couple involved, but for the children, family and friends. I have seen many cases where divorce is the only solution, sadly. As you say, the Church is beginning to come to terms with it. I know priests who would support divorce in certain cases. The problem is whith what happens afterwards. Nullifying a marriage and allowing people to re-marry and re-find happiness is not always a clear option. Often our Church does not nullify a previous marriage. This adds more hurt to an already painful situation.

      God bless you, Ceil.

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