In the comments of a recent post I wrote:
I understand divorce to be something like killing. It is sometimes necessary and moral, but those times are strictly limited within a few circumstances. And saying someone isn’t divorced is like saying someone wasn’t killed, or isn’t a killer.
which struck sympathizers and members of the Roman Catholic Church as not only wrong, but wrong-headed. Also, Scott has posted on the topic of sacramental marriage and, as I wrote this, he asked me to expound on a comment I left there.
Some discussion followed which, at the time, I thought was distracting from my point, and our collective points of agreement. Now it seems to me like I may have been wrong on both those secondary points; that the teachings of the RCC, the confusion and ignorance of the laity across all denominations, and what is manifest–what is real–may a rather large component of the engine which grinds modern marriages..but particularly the once-married-always-married teachings of RCC.
Possibly, I said.
I intend to handle this subject with care, and it is my hope that I won’t bruise anyone too bad. For now, I’m just going to state my beliefs, and upon what they are based.
The crucial statement is from Jesus in Matthew 19
4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
Earlier, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:
31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
So divorce should not happen, but can. Divorce was allowed previously according to a writ, but no marriage was intended to end in divorce. Divorce is only allowed as an exception if there is sexual immorality.
There are still a lot of specific questions one could ask What is meant by sexual immorality? Whose sexually immoral offense creates an exception? How should this adultery be treated? Is it an instance of adultery, or a perpetual state? What do we mean by adultery: desecration, or betrayal?
My next source is a long passage in 1 Corinthians 7 on marriage, marital relations, its ends, and its endings. The key point is here:
10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.
Generally, I fully trust the translators of the Bibles I use because I have done some research on them before I choose the translation. And I don’t like the practice of sifting and isolating words in the Bible as if I were a necromancer and the words entrails. In this case, I looked up the word translated as unmarried and I learned that this particular word is only used in 1 Corinthians 7, and it is used three times; v. 8, 11, 32. In v. 8 it is referring to never-married people, in v. 11 to those divorced, and in v. 32 to who–by not being married–“is anxious for the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord.”
The point being: It seems there is no distinction here. That is: Divorced people really are divorced. They are unmarried. They are not metaphysically married, but only visibly separated; nor metaphysically married but living in an adulterous remarriage.
This seems like a good time to remind everyone that the beginning of this was my statement that I viewed divorce as something like killing. It is sometimes necessary and moral, but those times are strictly limited within a few circumstances. And saying someone isn’t divorced is like saying someone wasn’t killed, or isn’t a killer. I believe this is a fair judgment and in keeping with the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount.
The difference of desecration and betrayal is an interesting point; related to our modern confusion, and a great contributor to the practice of divorce.