Monday, June 29, 2009

Catholic and Protestant Teaching on Matrimony

  • What does the Catholic Church teach regarding marriage, divorce, and remarriage? How does the Catholic Church's teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage differ from some protestant denominations teaching on this subject?
The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is for a lifetime. "What God has joined together let no man tear asunder." Now, in extreme cases (such as, when one of the spouses becomes abusive) the couple could go to court and file for a "divorce," but that would just change the status of the relationship in the eyes of the state. In the eyes of the Church, the couple is still married, which means that neither one of them would be allowed to remarry. They could separate and live under different roofs, but technically they would still be married.

I know this seems harsh, but the Church believes that matrimony is a sacrament, one where two people stand before God and make a solemn oath to give of themselves to each other totally and faithfully, forever. God responds by blessing the union and granting the couple a sacramental grace that they can draw from when times are difficult. These two people brought God into their arrangement. The Church takes that very seriously. As with any oath, if you are going to invoke the name of the Lord, you better make sure you mean it.

As for annulments, some people think they are basically the equivalent of "Catholic divorce," but they are not. An annulment basically acknowledges that certain circumstances were in place that invalidated the sacrament that was celebrated. In other words, it has been determined that a valid sacrament was never celebrated, in which case the man and woman are free to marry someone else.

St. Paul says that the union of man and woman is a great mystery that pertains to Christ and His Church. What he means is that the union of man and woman in a way points to the union between Christ and His Church, the Bridegroom and His Bride. Just as Christ is utterly faithful to his bride, even "jealous" over her, so must the husband be faithful to his wife. Just as God demanded complete faithfulness from Israel, and described her idolatry as a type of adultery, in which she "played the harlot" instead of being singularly His, so to is the wife called to be singularly devoted to her husband. The married couple has the opportunity to work with the Creator of all things in bringing new life into the world, and they are called, in their marital embrace, to be an image of the Trinity.

Yes, that's right, an image of the Trinity. Within the Trinity is a community of persons, one in which the Father completely loves the Son, the Son completely loves the Father, and their love is itself a third Person, the Holy Spirit. Similarly, in the marital sex act, the husband gives of himself completely to his wife, the wife gives of herself completely to her husband, and their love creates a third person, the child that they bring into the world.

That's what the Catholic Church teaches about marriage. My impression of Protestantism on the other hand is one in which marriage is viewed as a simple contract or promise between two people. It is certainly not a sacrament (a source of grace) or an oath made before God. Rarely do I see Protestant theology draw it's understanding of marriage from the relationship between Christ and the Church, or from the community of persons that exists within the Trinity, or from the nature of Adam and Eve's relationship before the fall. This I think explains why so many Protestant churches condone divorce and remarriage. They simply do not have the same exalted view of marriage that the Catholic Church has. Of course, I am really in no place to speak for Protestantism regarding matrimony. I also realize that many denominations do in fact hold matrimony in high regard.

Would you be willing to read what the Catechism has to say about the Sacrament of Matrimony? It really is an eloquent and beautiful meditation upon this topic. See nos. 1601-1666.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You have no idea what you are talking about on a practical level.

In many cases annulments are merely a smoke screen to justify adultery and are simply divorce by another name. To not acknowledge this reality is to do even more damage than the Catholic church is doing already.

I know what I am talking about. I battled the Catholic Church for twelve years before I "taught it" that our marriage is valid, even though it still supports my wife and her adulterous partner, actively, now twenty years after priests "promised" my wife the "annulment she deserved". Yes, the Rota ruled twice in favor of our valid marriage, so I have formally defected from the Catholic Church as a result. I had to leave the Church to be a real Catholic. So, I AM more Catholic than the Pope.

Shut your mouth and open you mind you phoolish phatty!


Anon

BTW thank you for allowing anonymous comments. Many do not, making them worse than scum.

I would email you to tell you who I am if you had a real desire to know. But I would caution you about not even entertaining the thought that you might change my mind in these regards. You would be totally wasting your time. I am right, period! On these issues the Catholic Church practices are apostate, not in theory, but in practice.

Thanks.

phatcatholic said...

Anon .... you'll have to excuse me, I didn't quite understand your comment. Are you saying that your wife received an annulment even though the Rota said twice that your marriage with her was valid? If that's what happened, then I can definitely understand why you would be so angry, and I have no intention of saying that you aren't allowed to feel that way.

I don't really feel that it was necessary to tell me to shut up or to call me foolish. I realize that what I was presenting in my post was the ideal, and I am certainly aware of the fact that the church does not always live up to that ideal like it should. It is a grave scandal whenever things like that happen. But, let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Just because the church did not live up to the ideal in her dealings with you, that does not mean that the ideal itself is erroneous.

Also, what makes you think that I have no desire to know who you are? Why did you just assume that I wouldn't care? Why did you post anonymously? You should know that I do care and I am sorry that this has happened to you.

Peace of Christ to you,
phatcatholic

Anonymous said...

I read your article and I don't understand why you would say that the Protestant church does not take marriage seriously or that it does not use the comparison of Christ and the Church to marriage. You should study various Protestant viewpoints on marriage as it is very obvious what you are saying is untrue. As a convert to the Catholic Church, I understand your desire to point out the differences b/t Protestant and Catholic but this is simply not one of them. Instead of an annulment, Protestants refer to "biblical divorce". By this they use the examples given as to adultery etc. to determine if someone is free to marry. They just don't go through an official annulment process. As to the annulment process itself it is actually very different from a biblical divorce. Biblical divorce acknowledges a marriage took place but that one person committed adultery and left their spouse which according to the Bible gives the left behind spouse the right to remarry. Catholic annullments actually say a valid marriage never even existed. As someone who is Catholic and was left behind by a Catholic spouse who abandoned me for another woman...I happen to struggle with the idea that the Catholic Church says I never even had a real marriage. It's bad enough that my spouse cheated on me, left me and remarried. Now I get a slap in the face telling me my marriage was never real anyway? I prefer the idea of biblical divorce. At least it acknowledges that I was married instead of attempting to pretend it never happened. An annulment says my husband did not know what he was doing when we got married and that it was somehow invalid . He knew exactly what he was doing. He made a choice with free will to commmit adultery. Instead of pretending that didn't happen, we should acknowledge that he used his free will to abandon us.

phatcatholic said...

Anon, your words will be italicized.

I don't understand why you would say that the Protestant church does not take marriage seriously or that it does not use the comparison of Christ and the Church to marriage.

That's not exactly what I said. I said that I rarely see Protestant denominations speak of marriage in those terms, but I also said that I have no doubt that there are Protestant denominations that do hold matrimony in high regard.


Instead of an annulment, Protestants refer to "biblical divorce". By this they use the examples given as to adultery etc. to determine if someone is free to marry.

The Bible does not allow people to divorce in the case of adultery. The verse you are referring to is Mt 5:32, which says: "But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; ..." Other translations say, "except for fornication" or "except for adultery." But these translations don't really get at the proper meaning of this verse.

Once one investigates the underlying Greek, then he finds that Jesus was actually referring to unions that were invalid because of some impediment. I explain all of this in greater detail here:
http://phatcatholic.blogspot.com/2006/10/short-post-on-divorce.html


As someone who is Catholic and was left behind by a Catholic spouse who abandoned me for another woman...I happen to struggle with the idea that the Catholic Church says I never even had a real marriage.

No one is questioning your intentions or your resolve to remain with your husband forever. But sometimes, despite our best intentions, impediments are present that invalidate a sacrament. If you read Canon Law, you'll find that each of the seven sacraments have their own impediments. Each sacrament comes with it's own necessary conditions, and when these are not met, then the sacrament is invalid.


An annulment says my husband did not know what he was doing when we got married and that it was somehow invalid.

There are other impediments to matrimony besides just not knowing what you are doing. These include:

-- Being under the canonical age
-- impotence
-- consanguinity
-- lack of intention to be faithful
-- lack of intention to have children (sterility is not a ground)
-- psycho-sexual incompatibility (e.g. abnormal sexual demands or one person being homosexual)
-- psychological abnormality
-- lack of consensus ad idem (e.g. a very different understanding of marriage)
-- deception (e.g. marrying simply to obtain an inheritance upon the death of a spouse)
-- Pauline privilege (when 2 non-Christians marry and one subsequently becomes a Christian, resulting in the breakup of the marriage)


He knew exactly what he was doing. He made a choice with free will to commmit adultery. Instead of pretending that didn't happen, we should acknowledge that he used his free will to abandon us.

No one is denying that he knew what he was doing when he committed adultery. No one is denying that what he did was wrong. All I'm saying is that, according to Scripture and the Catholic Church, there are legitimate impediments that can invalidate the sacrament of matrimony and that if those impediments are not present, then a couple once married remains forever married, regardless of whatever indiscretions one or the other may commit.

I realize that this is all very difficult to take, but I feel responsible to tell you the truth. I also think that, if you have legitimate grounds to pursue an annulment, then that will be the process that will finally enable you to move on in a way that is in accordance with God's will. If you do not have grounds for an annulment then you are faced with the challenge of accepting the truth of Scripture and the Church, even though this means a great deal of suffering and heartache.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

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