Divorce and Remarriage: Somebody has some Explaining to Do

In the old, much beloved, I Love Lucy TV show, whenever Lucy messed something up, or seemed to have messed something up, her husband Ricky would tell her, his voice rising with frustration: “Lucy, you’ve got some explaining to do!”

A lot of people today take this same attitude toward the Catholic Church, in relation to her moral teaching.  She has a lot of explaining to do.  It’s as if she’s not only messed up, like the lovable but disaster-prone Lucy, but is actually guilty of some misdeed or crime.  Where does the Church get off insisting on such a strict morality, anyway!

7 Consecration

Such complaints are made with special force with regard to the Church’s teaching on sexual morality–for example, her teaching on divorce and remarriage.  The Church does not permit divorce and remarriage.  Of course, she can’t stop people from doing it.  But she can, and does, insist that it is wrong.  Where does the Church get off insisting on such a strict and apparently unforgiving standard, anyway?  And why would she insist on such a teaching?  Isn’t this more of the work of the celibate old men who just don’t understand?

Well, if the world is going to say that the Church has some explaining to do, it will be only fair to let her explain herself.  And she has explained herself in (among other places)  the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Here is a key passage:

1650 Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ– “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery”– The Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence.

It turns out, then, that the Church’s rather rigorous teaching on marriage is based not on the words of some little known celibate old man, but on the words of one very well known and important celibate young man.  The teaching is based on the words of Jesus Christ, whom faithful Catholics believe to be God.  Perhaps, then, Christians at least, and even all those people who claim to respect Jesus as a moral teacher, could cut the Church some slack and acknowledge that it has good reason to think that it is not just imposing some man-made morality on human beings but in fact preserving what was delivered to her by her divine founder.

We can concede that from the standpoint of contemporary, easy-going morality, the Church has some explaining to do.  But from the standpoint of the words of Jesus, it is the world that has some explaining to do.


Categories:Culture Marriage

  • Teresa

    And I’ll again ask this question – if one spouse commits adultry, abandons the other, becomes an addict or the like, how is the other to be held guilty?

    • CT

      Teresa, I am in this situation, My fiance and I have been together for 1 1/2 years, his marriage was dissolved in court. The ex-wife is a convert, and committed adultery when she was married to my fiance. Soon the first marriage was dissolved, she married her current husband who is a Knight of Columbus. The marriage took place outside of the Catholic Church because she and her current husband (who also is divorced) refused to get an annulment.

      Contrary, my fiance and I are the ones being punished and have been waiting for a year because he filed for annulment and his ex-wife refused to cooperate. We do not live together and have been waiting for the annulment while his ex-wife has gotten her happily ever after. Can anyone provide us a good justification why me and my fiance’s future being held up by the hands of someone who had already committed adultery during her first marriage and had no intent of fulfilling her promise in front of God?

      Why is the one who had full intention in fulfilling his promise to God being punished? Why is our future being held up by someone who still goes communion, act like she is a saint and attends the Knights’ outings when the Knights supposed to protect the family value? Please someone explain this to me.

  • Eric Johnson

    As I read this, it seems like another way to suppress women’s rights. No one knows for sure what Jesus said and even if we did know exactly what he said it would still be interpreted in many different ways. The Catholic Church’s interpretation is just one of many.

  • http://CatholicVote Kris

    Annulments are available through the Church for cases like abuse. If your spouse has vowed before God to love and honor you all the days of your life and is now abusing you, the vow was not meant and therefore can be annulled. These situations happen and the victim can be free to find a spouse who will love and honor them and marry again. The Church does not expect people to live with abuse. Please talk to a priest.

    • Emily

      Actually, no. An annulment is for situations where there was not a valid marriage to begin with. Not a change. Many abuse cases can be linked back to the marriage never being valid in the first place because of the spouses intentions. But an annulment has nothing to do with a change in a spouse during the marriage. It is about if it was valid or not when the wedding happened. However, if there is an abuse that happened because of a change in the spouse in a valid marriage, you can be granted separation. Not annulment though.

  • Pattie

    Interestingly, even our separated Christian brethren who believe in “solo scriptura” manage to ignore the very words of Jesus in this passage (…and others, but that is another post).



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