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

  • Jenni

    I was a battered wife for four years. My mother and I went to our family priest to seek guidance, and we were told that God would not condone my now ex-husband’s actions towards me. So after my civil divorce, the archdioceses of the state where I lived at the time granted me an annulment on those grounds. So I filed all of the annulment paper work, and once that was granted, God brought my current husband into my life. I am much happier, and thank heavens that the Church has annulments for cases where a spouse is being abused and is needing to get out; especially when they are young. Now do believe me I made several attempts to save my first marriage, but he would no do any of the work to help save our marriage. So those were the results.

  • Mammamia05

    the links i see today 3/6/14 posted seem to have no idea what the Catholic church teaches. the article quotes the teaching “1650” directly from the Catechism. buy it -read it..it is beautifully amazing. the church knows people are violent-those are grounds for “annulment” which in church speak means a MARRIAGE NEVER EXISTED- according to church teachings..the way the church teaches–when people get married–it is public. they bind themselves civilly and try to bind themselves sacramentally–if they ascribe to “marrying in the church.” Only if a person is married in the church can they then ask the church for an annulment–if they want-if they desire to “be in good standing.” if the person does not give a crap about the churches teachings–then they can freely just complete their civil divorce and move on. god granted humans FREE WILL. the Church simple tries to advise its FOLLOWERS and the general public–what it holds as beliefs. Followers & the public (unchurched) can always act freely–that is your GOD GIVEN RIGHT– the Church teaches. Do what you want-you have to answer to it one day–or so the Church teaches. Why does everyone get so upset. do what you want–you go FREE WILL –take responsibility for your actions. Maybe just come to or come back to– the church for guidance. God Bless YOU.

  • Fr. Michael Klos

    Actually, Tracy, the Church does not say that you have to stay in such a relationship. There is even a provision in Canon Law for the separation of spouses under such circumstances. The rub is, the marriage bond is still intact. But then, if you were to consult a canon lawyer you might be able to determine if there is any chance that your marriage was invalid to begin with and then go the divorce and subsequent petition for a declaration of nullity route.

  • Lori

    I am Catholic and am waiting for an annulment so my second husband and I can validate our marriage in the church. We are civilly married and have chosen to be celibate and live as brother and sister, until the annulment process, through the archdiocese, is completed. We can still receive his precious body and blood as long as we live this way. Once the annulment is granted we can validate our marriage through the church. My annulment went through in one month. My husbands has taken much longer… it’s been over 2 years now. ugh. Why is this taking so long? Just a comment about an abusive marriage. I don’t believe the church would deny an annulment/divorce.

  • Terri

    We have no idea what Jesus said.

  • Anonymous

    My husband was a great guy in many ways but he was not a good husband. He was depressive, selfish, resentful, unforgiving, mean sarcastic and never said a kind thing about our marriage…it was only spoken of as the butt of jokes. He had a terrible temper that sometimes turned to white hot rage. He left me, he betrayed me, he lied to me.

    I kept the family together and kept his place for his to return to (and he did). He would have surely divorced me for the new model he picked out (and briefly snuck around with) if not for the rules of the Church – he didnt want to not be in communion with the Church of his youth.

    I had every reason to divorce him but I never felt God lead me in that direction. Gods purpose became much clearer when he died suddenly at a relatively young age.

    I am sure that he went to purgatory (and later heaven) and I believe that our marriage was a large part of why. I prayed ardently for him for YEARS.

    If we belonged to a divorce/remarriage church, I am certain that his soul would have been in peril.

    It wasnt fun having such a difficult spouse but I feel like I did what God asked and He has blessed me.

    I wouldn’t advise people to tolerate as much abuse as I did but I put my life on the line and did what I said I would do and it probably made the difference in this man right now being in heaven or hell.

    I don’t like temporal suffering any more than you all do but this is a much bigger issue that out temporary worldly preferences and I have earned the right to point it out.



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