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12/18/2016 8:26 am  #21

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

Jeremy Taylor wrote:

But is it not generally the Catholic position that moral laws like this are rationally defensible? That they are not arbitrary commands?

It is certainly the Catholic position that moral laws are reasonable. They are, to quote Anscombe, "not mysteries of faith like the Trinity". I don't believe anything I wrote implied that the prohibition on a second marriage was arbitrary - I was just giving a few points to consider in relation to the teaching. Though it's worth noting that saying something like "I personally don't see the reason for the teaching - therefore the teaching is arbitrary - therefore I shall ignore the teaching, despite the clear Scriptural basis and long standing Church teaching" is clearly wrong.

Jeremy Taylor wrote:

​Maybe I'm wrong, but there does seem to a lot of work being done in the Catholic account by the idea that marriage creates a more or less insoluble bond. If it is, or can be, dissolved with death, why can't it be dissolved before death (in fact, it can be in a few circumstances, as Greg mentioned earlier)?

The primary idea is that marriage creates a bond that can't be destroyed by the will of one person (or both) to end the marriage, not that "your souls are bound for all eternity" or anything like that. Dissolution at death is, as I said, hardly comparable to a human decision.
As for the Pauline and Petrine privileges: they aren't commonly invoked, and seem to be based on the principle that nothing is so important as a person's salvation - therefore a marriage which poses a serious obstacle to salvation can licitly be dissolved. Presumably the justification is that God, acting through the Church, wills to dissolve the bond because He unconditionally wills the person(s) involved to be saved. But such a dissolution, I suspect, has to be seen as a special dispensation (see St. Thomas on Abraham "putting away" Hagar), not at all in the normal way of things.

Jeremy Taylor wrote:

I can completely understand that easy divorce is abhorrent. But I'm not sure why it would be morally wrong for divorce if your spouse enjoys beating you black and blue, or if your spouse has run off years ago, or if your spouse is a serial adulterer.

It isn't about moral abhorrence so much as metaphysical impossibility. It's worth remembering that the Church doesn't forbid divorce so much as deny that it has any real effect on the marriage.
Obviously it is perfectly fine to leave off living with your spouse if you are being abused, but that doesn't mean the marriage bond itself is dissolved. As a general answer, even the fact that one of the couple has seriously dishonoured the marriage bond doesn't destroy said bond.


12/18/2016 3:52 pm  #22

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

Christ himself does seem to allow divorce on the grounds of adultery (and I know at least some Orthodox priests interpret this to include all faithlessness, like abandonment, chronic abuse, or drug addiction), in Matthew 5:31-32. But leaving aside scripure, it is certainly the case that a distinction between the human dissolving of a marriage and death dissolving can be drawn. But I am wondering why there can be no human dissolving of it, other than Jesus seems to say this. I could understand if the point was the bond is eternal, but in both life and certainly death, even the Roman Church itself doesn't hold it to be indissoluble.

Are there not behaviours that more or less preclude the good of marriage? It seems a stiff penalty to deny one spousw all the comfort and support of a marriage because, for example, the other is violent.


12/19/2016 5:15 am  #23

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

Jeremy Taylor wrote:

Christ himself does seem to allow divorce on the grounds of adultery (and I know at least some Orthodox priests interpret this to include all faithlessness, like abandonment, chronic abuse, or drug addiction), in Matthew 5:31-32.

A lot has been written, as you can imagine, on what Jesus meant here (largely because the word used, porneia, doesn't have a single clear meaning, and there is a different word used for adultery). Suffice to say, it's hardly the sort of uncontroversial claim that could settle the debate over divorce. I also can't help but think that, if the marriage bond is dissolved by adultery, the marriage bond becomes a joke. You are bound to faithfulness.... until you are actually unfaithful. Why have a marriage bond at all?
In any case, there are articles dealing with this question from a Catholic viewpoint on CatholicAnswers, ShamelessPopery, and I'm sure many other places.

Jeremy Taylor wrote:

It seems a stiff penalty to deny one spous[e] all the comfort and support of a marriage because, for example, the other is violent.

No argument on the last front - it must be a hard teaching to live by. Certainly, as Christians, we should do all that we can to comfort and support people in those (or similar) situations. But be careful of treating marriage as if it is totally necessary to lead a fulfilling life - that certainly isn't compatible with the Christian view. And I'm sure it hasn't escaped your mind that divorce itself denies a spouse the comfort and support of marriage, just for a potentially shorter period of time.
On a slight tangent, the ideal scenario here obviously isn't "the husband and wife separate for good" (whether or not you think that could involve divorce), but rather "the abusive spouse is called to genuine repentance and changes their ways, healing the relationship". Obviously this may not occur in many cases, but it's best not to discount it altogether.

Last edited by Alexander (12/19/2016 5:25 am)


1/31/2017 9:48 am  #24

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

Jeremy Taylor wrote:

Christ himself does seem to allow divorce on the grounds of adultery (and I know at least some Orthodox priests interpret this to include all faithlessness, like abandonment, chronic abuse, or drug addiction), in Matthew 5:31-32.

The sense of that passage is clear if we read the Greek text and put it in context with other NT passages. Using English translations from the Berean Literal Bible, quoted from, the passage is:

Matthew wrote:

"But I say to you that everyone divorcing his wife, except on account of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever shall marry her who has been divorced commits adultery." (Mt 5:32)

Where "sexual immorality" = "porneias", while "commits adultery" = "moichatai". Both terms are found again later in the list of sins:

Matthew wrote:

"For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immorality, thefts, false testimonies, slanders." (Mt 15:19)

Where "adulteries" = "moicheiai" and "sexual immorality" = "porneiai". Therefore, it is clear that the meaning of "porneias" in Mt 5:32 is something other than adultery. And the key to determine what that meaning is resides in the passage about the Council of Jerusalem, both in the address by James and the decree by the Apostles:

Luke in Acts wrote:

"Therefore I judge not to trouble those from the Gentiles turning to God, but to write to them to abstain from the pollutions of idols, and sexual immorality, and that which is strangled, and from blood." (Acts 15:19)

Luke in Acts wrote:

"For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us, to lay upon you no further burden, except these necessary things: to abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what is strangled, and from sexual immorality. Keeping yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell." (Acts 15:28-29)

Where in both passages "sexual immorality" = "porneias". It is clear that neither James nor the Council were restating the Ten Commandments, otherwise they would be skipping the prohibition to kill, just to name one. Rather, they were stating prohibitions in addition to those in the Ten Commandments that were deemed necessary for a peaceful coexistence between Christians of Jewish and Gentile backgrounds in communities having both. Therefore, "porneia" is definitely not "adultery" as prohibited by a Commandment, but a union forbidden by Mosaic Law because of the degree of closeness between the man and the woman, e.g. between a man and the wife of his (probably already dead) father, as denounced by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians:

Paul to the Corinthians wrote:

"Sexual immorality is actually reported among you, and sexual immorality such as is not even among the pagans, so as for one to have the wife of the father." (1 Cor 5:1)

Where again "sexual immorality" = "porneia".

Last edited by Johannes (1/31/2017 10:41 am)


1/31/2017 10:23 am  #25

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

Jeremy Taylor wrote:

Interesting. It is interesting, though, also, that other traditional branches of Christianity, including even the Eastern Orthodox Churches (not known for innovations), don't take quite such an absolute stand. Does anyone know what the practice and teaching of the early Church and Fathers was? Doesn't Paul himself imply some recourse for remarriage, at least if one partner is an unbeliever and abandons a believer?

AFAIK, the Eastern Orthodox's acceptance of divorce is based on the interpretation that the authority to "bind and loose" given to the Apostles in Mt 18:18, and to Peter in particular in Mt 16:19, extends to the possibility of dissolving a marriage:

Matthew wrote:

"Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on the earth shall have been loosed in heaven." (Mt 18:18)

Based on this interpretation, the Eastern Orthodox interpret the passage on divorce:

Matthew wrote:

He answered, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Mt 19:4-6)

as meaning that a purely human power, be it the spouses or the State, cannot separate what God has joined together, but a bishop can, because of the authority granted in Mt 18:18.

In the Catholic Church, the hypothetical possesion of such an authority by the Pope has been explicitely discarded several times by the Popes themselves, and clearly if the Pope does not have it, neither do the other bishops. A summary of the pontifical statements on this subject was given by John Paul II in his January 21, 2000 address to the Roman Rota:

John Paul II wrote:

 6. Today's meeting with you, members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, is an appropriate setting for also speaking to the whole Church about the limits of the Roman Pontiff's power over ratified and consummated marriage, which "cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death" (CIC, can. 1141; CCEO, can. 853). By its very nature this formulation of canon law is not only disciplinary or prudential, but corresponds to a doctrinal truth that the Church has always held.

Nevertheless, there is an increasingly widespread idea that the Roman Pontiff's power, being the vicarious exercise of Christ's divine power, is not one of those human powers referred to in the canons cited above, and thus it could be extended in some cases also to the dissolution of ratified and consummated marriages. In view of the doubts and anxieties this idea could cause, it is necessary to reaffirm that a ratified and consummated sacramental marriage can never be dissolved, not even by the power of the Roman Pontiff. The opposite assertion would imply the thesis that there is no absolutely indissoluble marriage, which would be contrary to what the Church has taught and still teaches about the indissolubility of the marital bond.

7. This doctrine that the Roman Pontiff's power does not extend to ratified and consummated marriages has been taught many times by my Predecessors (cf., for example, Pius IX, Let. Verbis exprimere, 15 August 1859:  Insegnamenti Pontifici, Ed. Paoline, Rome 1957, vol. I, n. 103; Leo XIII, Encyc. Let. Arcanum, 10 February 1880:  ASS 12 [1879-1880], 400; Pius XI, Encyc. Let. Casti connubii, 31 December 1930:  AAS 22 [552]; Pius XII, Address to Newlyweds, 22 April 1942:  Discorsi e Radiomessaggi di S.S. Pio XII, Ed. Vaticana, vol. IV, 47). I would like to quote in particular a statement of Pius XII:  "A ratified and consummated marriage is by divine law indissoluble, since it cannot be dissolved by any human authority (can. 1118); while other marriages, although intrinsically indissoluble, still do not have an absolute extrinsic indissolubility, but, under certain necessary conditions, can (it is a question, as everyone knows, of relatively rare cases) be dissolved not only by virtue of the Pauline privilege, but also by the Roman Pontiff in virtue of his ministerial power" (Address to the Roman Rota, 3 October 1941:  AAS 33 [1941], pp. 424-425)With these words Pius XII gave an explicit interpretation of canon 1118, corresponding to the present canon 1141 of the Code of Canon Law, and to canon 853 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, in the sense that the expression "human power" also includes the Pope's ministerial or vicarious power, and he presented this doctrine as being peacefully held by all experts in the matter. In this context it would also be appropriate to quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with the great doctrinal authority conferred on it by the involvement of the whole Episcopate in its drafting and by my special approval. We read there:  "Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God's fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom" (n. 1640).

8. The Roman Pontiff in fact has the "sacra potestas" to teach the truth of the Gospel, administer the sacraments and pastorally govern the Church in the name and with the authority of Christ, but this power does not include per se any power over the divine law, natural or positive. Neither Scripture nor Tradition recognizes any faculty of the Roman Pontiff for dissolving a ratified and consummated marriage; on the contrary, the Church's constant practice shows the certain knowledge of Tradition that such a power does not exist. The forceful expressions of the Roman Pontiffs are only the faithful echo and authentic interpretation of the Church's permanent conviction.

It seems quite clear then that the non-extension of the Roman Pontiff's power to ratified and consummated sacramental marriages is taught by the Church's Magisterium as a doctrine to be held definitively, even if it has not been solemnly declared by a defining act. This doctrine, in fact, has been explicitly proposed by the Roman Pontiffs in categorical terms, in a constant way and over a sufficiently long period of time. It was made their own and taught by all the Bishops in communion with the See of Peter, with the knowledge that it must always be held and accepted by the faithful.

In this sense it was reaffirmed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Besides, it is a doctrine confirmed by the Church's centuries-old practice, maintained with full fidelity and heroism, sometimes even in the face of severe pressures from the mighty of this world.

The attitude of the Popes is highly significant; even at the time of a clearer affirmation of the Petrine primacy, they show a constant awareness that their Magisterium is at the total service of the Word of God (cf. Dogm. Const. Dei Verbum, n. 10) and, in this spirit, they do not place themselves above the Lord's gift, but endeavour only to preserve and administer the good entrusted to the Church.


Last edited by Johannes (1/31/2017 10:27 am)


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