Showing posts with label divorce. Show all posts
Showing posts with label divorce. Show all posts

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Uninformed Rebellion Against the Holy Father

The Holy Father confirmed that his words—on bishops and confessors needing to evaluate each case of the divorced and remarried person to determine whether all elements of mortal sin are present instead of assuming they exist—are not an opinion but teaching of the ordinary magisterium. According to Canon Law 752 [∞], we are bound to follow that teaching, and not act against it.

While the secular media has ignored this story so far, it is stirring up dissent among a certain set of Catholics who argue that this contradicts previous teaching and, therefore must be ignored. Some have gone so far as to argue that Catholics are bound to not follow the Pope on this matter because it is a “heresy.” These critics are under a delusion that the Pope can be corrected by the bishops—some even going so far as to think he can be removed from office.

The fact of the matter is there is no such provision in Church teaching. Canon Law #1404 tells us that the Pope is judged by no one [†]. Canons 1372 and 1373 [§] tell us that the person who is tries to appeal to a council of bishops or try to stir up opposition to the Pope are to face the proper sanctions. In other words, the Church teaching doesn’t support them—it indicts them.

These critics falsely assume that grave matter is mortal sin, instead of being one part of it. Nobody denies that remarriage after divorce is grave matter—that is, no circumstances can make it a good act. But we need to remember that the Church has always taught that a mortal sin involves grave matter, full knowledge that it is evil and sufficient consent to that act. As Pope Francis points out in Amoris Lætitia:

302. The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly mentions these factors: “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.”  In another paragraph, the Catechism refers once again to circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility, and mentions at length “affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability.” For this reason, a negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the imputability or culpability of the person involved. On the basis of these convictions, I consider very fitting what many Synod Fathers wanted to affirm: “Under certain circumstances people find it very difficult to act differently. Therefore, while upholding a general rule, it is necessary to recognize that responsibility with respect to certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases. Pastoral discernment, while taking into account a person’s properly formed conscience, must take responsibility for these situations. Even the consequences of actions taken are not necessarily the same in all cases.”

This is not about letting people come to Communion if they feel called. Nor is it about accepting remarriage. This is about determining cases of reduced culpability. The person who has been properly taught and freely chooses to perform that act anyway does commit a mortal sin. But if the conditions interfere with knowledge or consent, the sin is not mortal even though it is still serious.

That doesn’t mean we let the person continue in their sin. For example, the alcoholic or the sexual compulsive may have reduced culpability, but the confessor works with them to get them in right relationship with God and His Church. Such people might be encouraged to receive the Eucharist, but no confessor would tell him his actions are morally acceptable. This is the situation for some of the divorced and remarried. In some cases that may mean helping the person get an annulment. In others it may involve helping them accept living as brother and sister instead of as husband and wife. If some of them have diminished culpability (that is, so the sin is not mortal in their case), they might be able to receive the Eucharist. 

If the person is unrepentant, and has no intention to change, and somehow deceives their confessor, they will face judgment—God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7).

The problem is, the critics assume that any abuse that might arise from a negligent confessor or a lying penitent is willed by the Pope. No doubt there are priests out there who say, “that doesn’t matter.” But that is incompatible with the Pope’s call for repentance. The whole point of his Year of Mercy was to get people reconciled. If he just wanted moral laxity, he wouldn’t be telling priests to be available in confession and urging people to go.

This rebellion is born out of the assumption that the Pope must be a heretic. Under this begging the question, whatever he does is interpreted through that assumption and used as evidence—even though the interpretation itself needs to be proven.

But these critics show they are mistaken about what the Pope is doing and what the Church teaches on culpability. Since they are wrong, their conclusions cannot be accepted as true.


___________________________________

[∞] can. 752† Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.

[†] can. 1404† The First See is judged by no one.

[§] can. 1372† A person who makes recourse against an act of the Roman Pontiff to an ecumenical council or the college of bishops is to be punished with a censure.

can. 1373† A person who publicly incites among subjects animosities or hatred against the Apostolic See or an ordinary because of some act of power or ecclesiastical ministry or provokes subjects to disobey them is to be punished by an interdict or other just penalties.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Reflections on Divorce, Remarriage and the Church (Part II): The Patristic Problem

In my first article, I dealt with the appeal to the so-called Matthew Exception regarding Divorce and Remarriage, showing that to claim that it allowed the victim of adultery to remarry is to read the Scriptures selectively. Now I turn to the appeal to the Patristic authors. Some who hold to “The Bible Alone” may find this article irrelevant but for those who recognize the authority of Sacred Tradition, the issue of how the Scriptures were interpreted by the early Christians can demonstrate whether an interpretation is authentic or not.

Why This is Important

The reason this is important to consider the writings of the early Christians is that it bears witness to their practices and beliefs. If we find no mention of a practice, or indeed see the opposite asserted, by the Church Fathers then it demonstrates that the alleged practice was a later change. So in terms of the “adultery exception” permitting remarriage, to claim that the Catholic teaching goes against the ancient practice, we would need to look and see how they handled the concept of divorce and remarriage.

Distinguishing Between Doctrine and Discipline

We also need to be aware of the difference between the moral teachings Christ demanded we follow and the disciplines the Church has decreed for the good of the faithful. For example, the Church will never abandon the belief that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. It may at times decree reception on the tongue or in the hand, and may decree reception of both kinds is permissible or denied depending on the needs of the people and whether any errors of understanding need to be combated.

Sometimes Disciplines are mistakenly viewed as Doctrines by some individuals, and when the Church changes a discipline, she stands accused of changing a doctrinal matter. Because of this, the Church recognizes it is the magisterium which has the power to bind and to loose and can interpret how the beliefs of the Church are to be understood.

The Perspective of the Patristics on Divorce and Remarriage

One interesting thing about the view of the Patristics was over the concern that the one who divorced his or her unfaithful spouse over adultery was guilty of causing her or him to commit adultery regardless of whether the innocent spouse remarried. We forget this today, because the Church has decreed what is and is not allowed. Unfortunately this view tends to be forgotten in the reading of the texts, and a reading of the texts tends to be given modern applications inserted instead of the original intent.

Also we need to recognize that the patristic writings are acting on the assumption a marriage is valid.  An invalid marriage does not exist in fact though it may be assumed in law.

Did Divorce force the guilty spouse to be an adulterer/adulteress?

For the Patristics, there was a question as to whether the separation of spouses itself was a sin which made the other spouse an adulterer/adulteress. Generally the recognition was that at some times a unfaithful spouse may behave in such a way that made it necessary for the innocent spouse to separate for his or her spiritual good. However, in no case did they recognize that this allowed remarriage on the part of the innocent spouse. They strongly take the position of St. Paul as laid out in the first article: If they separate, they must either remain single or reconcile. Here are a few samples of what some of the Patristics have written. This is hardly an exhaustive list and many more examples exist that are not cited.

St. John Chrysostom (AD 347-407) for example wrote in his Homilies on 1 Corinthians:

Now what is that which “to the married the Lord commanded? That the wife depart not from her husband: (v. 11.) but if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled unto her husband.” Here, seeing that both on the score of continence and other pretexts, and because of infirmities of temper, (μικροψυκιας.) it fell out that separations took place: it were better, he says, that such things should not be at all; but however if they take place, let the wife remain with her husband, if not to cohabit with him, yet so as not to introduce any other to be her husband.

Schaff, P. (1997). The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Vol. XII. Chrysostom: Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians. (106).

I figured I would start with him, because he is sometimes wrongly cited as a justification for remarriage after adultery. We see here that he is not permitting remarriage, but pointing out that Christ has forbidden it.

Another interesting work is St. Augustine’s (AD 354-430) On the Good of Marriage, where he writes as follows:

3. This we now say, that, according to this condition of being born and dying, which we know, and in which we have been created, the marriage of male and female is some good; the compact; whereof divide Scripture so commends, as that neither is it allowed one put away by her husband to marry, so long as her husband lives: nor is it allowed one put away by his wife to marry another, unless she who have separated from him be dead.

Schaff, P. (1997). The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Vol. III. St. Augustine on the Holy Trinity, Doctrinal Treatises, Moral Treatises. (400).

Note here that the sole case where remarriage is recognized by Augustine is the death of one spouse.

Lest someone accuse us of only focusing on the fourth and fifth centuries (claiming earlier writers would allow for it), we can also look back to the work known as The Shepherd of Hermas (sometimes just known as The Shepherd) was written sometime between AD 88 and AD 157, and has this to say about divorce and adultery:

And I said to him, “What then, sir, is the husband to do, if his wife continue in her vicious practices? [Arnobius’ note. “Vicious” in this case refers to the practice of vice, not cruelty] ”And he said, “The husband should put her away, and remain by himself. But if he put his wife away and marry another, he also commits adultery.” And I said to him, “What if the woman put away should repent, and wish to return to her husband: shall she not be taken back by her husband?” And he said to me, “Assuredly. If the husband do not take her back, he sins, and brings a great sin upon himself; for he ought to take back the sinner who has repented.

Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (1997). The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. II : Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. Fathers of the second century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire) (21).

Marrying another would of course preclude taking back the repenting spouse.  So remarriage after divorce for infidelity seems to be excluded as a valid interpretation of Matthew 5 or Matthew 19.

So here is the problem with the claim that the Catholic view is a later view: While the Patristics authors do acknowledge that one might have a need to separate from their spouse, but not a single one of them sanctions remarriage while the sinning spouse still lives. Those who discuss the issue say it is forbidden.

So the question is when [Not A] becomes [A] and who had the authority to make such a decree?  If the Patristics rejected it, one either has to argue the Patristics were wrong, bringing up the question "On whose authority can we judge this?" or else admit such a view is an innovation.

What about St. Basil the Great?

I’ve noticed certain groups [I don’t intend to say all groups] of Eastern Orthodox try to invoke St. Basil the Great to justify their position (they permit a second and third marriage, but no more, with a brief period of excommunication in between). These groups cite St. Basil the Great claiming he “referred not to a rule but to usage” and through him claim that a person wronged by infidelity may remarry. The claim invokes The Second Canonical Letter to Amphilocius though it seems they mean the First letter, where it says:

IV. In the case of trigamy and polygamy they laid down the same rule, in proportion, as in the case of digamy; namely one year for digamy (some authorities say two years); for trigamy men are separated for three and often for four years; but this is no longer described as marriage at all, but as polygamy; nay rather as limited fornication. It is for this reason that the Lord said to the woman of Samaria, who had five husbands, "he whom thou now hast is not thy husband." He does not reckon those who had exceeded the limits of a second marriage as worthy of the title of husband or wife. In cases of trigamy we have accepted a seclusion of five years, not by the canons, but following the precept of our predecessors. Such offenders ought not to be altogether prohibited from the privileges of the Church; they should be considered deserving of hearing after two or three years, and afterwards of being permitted to stand in their place; but they must be kept from the communion of the good gift, and only restored to the place of communion after showing some fruit of repentance.

But it doesn’t work. Restoration requires repentance,and repentance is to "feel or express sincere regret or remorse."  To feel regret or remorse indicates a wrongful action which one wishes to make amends for.

Indeed the Orthodox toleration of a third marriage, even if their interpretation of St. Basil were correct (which I do not concede), runs afoul of St. Basil who calls a third marriage "limited fornication."  If it is fornication, and "no longer described as marriage at all" it cannot be sanctioned.

As a matter of fact, reading the first letter brings us to section IX, where it says:

Here then the wife, if she leaves her husband and goes to another, is an adulteress. But the man who has been abandoned is pardonable, and the woman who lives with such a man is not condemned. But if the man who has deserted his wife goes to another, he is himself an adulterer because he makes her commit adultery; and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has caused another woman's husband to come over to her.

Note it says absolutely nothing about the wronged spouse remarrying. It only says he is not to blame for his wife’s infidelity. In other words this is an explanation of Matthew, stating that the man who puts his wife away for sexual immorality does not make her an adulteress. It does not justify remarriage.

When it comes to sanctioning remarriage after divorce in the case of adultery, we can see St. Basil did not intend what is attributed to him. Note what he says in his second letter:

XLVIII. The woman who has been abandoned by her husband, ought, in my judgment, to remain as she is. The Lord said, "If any one leave his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, he causeth her to commit adultery;" thus, by calling her adulteress, He excludes her from intercourse with another man. For how can the man being guilty, as having caused adultery, and the woman, go without blame, when she is called adulteress by the Lord for having intercourse with another man?

Such a statement makes it seem very unlikely that St. Basil sanctioned remarriage for the innocent spouse. He says exactly the opposite… that she would be an adulteress if she did remarry.

Understanding "Digamy"

In response to the claim that St. Basil proposed certain tolerations of Digamy as meaning he permitted remarriage after divorce for infidelity, we need to first look at what Digamy was for the early Christian.  We need to realize that among some early Christians, there was a belief held by a few that the widow or widower ought not to remarry at all. Those who did were accused of digamy (remarrying after the death of a spouse) by those who held this belief. (The Catholic Church holds this to be a misinterpretation of Paul).

However, there is an interpretation which is consistent with the Catholic teaching, which holds that while a married man might enter the priesthood [The Latin Rite practice of ordaining only celibate men to the priesthood is a discipline and not a doctrine], a man ordained to the priesthood may not marry.  Hence Patristic writings against clergy who committed digamy.

The reason the distinction of widows was made is due to Paul's teaching in 1 Timothy 5:

9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years old, married only once,

10 with a reputation for good works, namely, that she has raised children, practiced hospitality, washed the feet of the holy ones, helped those in distress, involved herself in every good work.

11 But exclude younger widows, for when their sensuality estranges them from Christ, they want to marry

12 and will incur condemnation for breaking their first pledge.

Digamy is not divorce and remarriage (that is a modern interpretation. The Church called divorce and remarriage serial polygamy). Digamy is remarriage after the death of a spouse. In ancient times, if the woman was enrolled in an order of widows or if the man had entered the monastic life after the death of a spouse, a remarriage was digamy. This is what St. Basil was referring to this in his Second Letter when he wrote:

XXIV. A widow whose name is in the list of widows, that is, who is supported by the Church, is ordered by the Apostle to be supported no longer when she marries.

There is no special rule for a widower. The punishment appointed for digamy may suffice. If a widow who is sixty years of age chooses again to live with a husband, she shall be held unworthy of the communion of the good gift until she be moved no longer by her impure desire. If we reckon her before sixty years, the blame rests with us, and not with the woman.

Note here, we see that a widow (one whose husband is dead) is considered guilty of digamy if she remarries.  See the section on Digamy below.  St. Basil is speaking, in the case of women under 60, that a woman under 60 ought not to be enrolled in an order of widows according to the teaching of St. Paul.

Because the context of what digamy is is different than how later interpretations applied it, it cannot be said such texts can justify remarriage after divorce.

Conclusion: Where is the Evidence to Justify Remarriage after Divorce?

To justify remarriage after divorce on Christian grounds requires an authoritative source and an authoritative interpretation. The Catholic Church rejects the idea that a valid, sacramental marriage can be broken at all so long as both spouses live.  Only if the marriage is invalid may the partners marry someone else.

Those who seek to justify divorce after remarriage through the Patristics must necessarily choose the a limited and isolated selection of passages, which seems to require ignoring contrary claims.  Does it really seem credible to claim that outright condemnation of divorce and remarriage is merely a non-binding opinion, but the interpretation of St. Basil, which he did not himself say, is doctrinal?

In the first article I have demonstrated that the citation of Matthew as an exception for adultery has no basis either in the Scriptures themselves. In this second I have shown the weakness of the appeals to the Patristic writings commonly cited on the subject.

A claim that divorce and remarriage after infidelity was accepted as valid by the Christian Church requires proof.  Therefore any challenge to the Catholic teaching by appealing to the Eastern Orthodox claim requires us to ask for the evidence.

Since neither the Scripture nor tradition can be used to prove this, any challenge must say that the whole of Christian belief was wrong and only now can we understand what our Lord really meant.

This is a view which cannot be justified.

Reflections on Divorce, Remarriage and the Church (Part II): The Patristic Problem

In my first article, I dealt with the appeal to the so-called Matthew Exception regarding Divorce and Remarriage, showing that to claim that it allowed the victim of adultery to remarry is to read the Scriptures selectively. Now I turn to the appeal to the Patristic authors. Some who hold to “The Bible Alone” may find this article irrelevant but for those who recognize the authority of Sacred Tradition, the issue of how the Scriptures were interpreted by the early Christians can demonstrate whether an interpretation is authentic or not.

Why This is Important

The reason this is important to consider the writings of the early Christians is that it bears witness to their practices and beliefs. If we find no mention of a practice, or indeed see the opposite asserted, by the Church Fathers then it demonstrates that the alleged practice was a later change. So in terms of the “adultery exception” permitting remarriage, to claim that the Catholic teaching goes against the ancient practice, we would need to look and see how they handled the concept of divorce and remarriage.

Distinguishing Between Doctrine and Discipline

We also need to be aware of the difference between the moral teachings Christ demanded we follow and the disciplines the Church has decreed for the good of the faithful. For example, the Church will never abandon the belief that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. It may at times decree reception on the tongue or in the hand, and may decree reception of both kinds is permissible or denied depending on the needs of the people and whether any errors of understanding need to be combated.

Sometimes Disciplines are mistakenly viewed as Doctrines by some individuals, and when the Church changes a discipline, she stands accused of changing a doctrinal matter. Because of this, the Church recognizes it is the magisterium which has the power to bind and to loose and can interpret how the beliefs of the Church are to be understood.

The Perspective of the Patristics on Divorce and Remarriage

One interesting thing about the view of the Patristics was over the concern that the one who divorced his or her unfaithful spouse over adultery was guilty of causing her or him to commit adultery regardless of whether the innocent spouse remarried. We forget this today, because the Church has decreed what is and is not allowed. Unfortunately this view tends to be forgotten in the reading of the texts, and a reading of the texts tends to be given modern applications inserted instead of the original intent.

Also we need to recognize that the patristic writings are acting on the assumption a marriage is valid.  An invalid marriage does not exist in fact though it may be assumed in law.

Did Divorce force the guilty spouse to be an adulterer/adulteress?

For the Patristics, there was a question as to whether the separation of spouses itself was a sin which made the other spouse an adulterer/adulteress. Generally the recognition was that at some times a unfaithful spouse may behave in such a way that made it necessary for the innocent spouse to separate for his or her spiritual good. However, in no case did they recognize that this allowed remarriage on the part of the innocent spouse. They strongly take the position of St. Paul as laid out in the first article: If they separate, they must either remain single or reconcile. Here are a few samples of what some of the Patristics have written. This is hardly an exhaustive list and many more examples exist that are not cited.

St. John Chrysostom (AD 347-407) for example wrote in his Homilies on 1 Corinthians:

Now what is that which “to the married the Lord commanded? That the wife depart not from her husband: (v. 11.) but if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled unto her husband.” Here, seeing that both on the score of continence and other pretexts, and because of infirmities of temper, (μικροψυκιας.) it fell out that separations took place: it were better, he says, that such things should not be at all; but however if they take place, let the wife remain with her husband, if not to cohabit with him, yet so as not to introduce any other to be her husband.

Schaff, P. (1997). The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Vol. XII. Chrysostom: Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians. (106).

I figured I would start with him, because he is sometimes wrongly cited as a justification for remarriage after adultery. We see here that he is not permitting remarriage, but pointing out that Christ has forbidden it.

Another interesting work is St. Augustine’s (AD 354-430) On the Good of Marriage, where he writes as follows:

3. This we now say, that, according to this condition of being born and dying, which we know, and in which we have been created, the marriage of male and female is some good; the compact; whereof divide Scripture so commends, as that neither is it allowed one put away by her husband to marry, so long as her husband lives: nor is it allowed one put away by his wife to marry another, unless she who have separated from him be dead.

Schaff, P. (1997). The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Vol. III. St. Augustine on the Holy Trinity, Doctrinal Treatises, Moral Treatises. (400).

Note here that the sole case where remarriage is recognized by Augustine is the death of one spouse.

Lest someone accuse us of only focusing on the fourth and fifth centuries (claiming earlier writers would allow for it), we can also look back to the work known as The Shepherd of Hermas (sometimes just known as The Shepherd) was written sometime between AD 88 and AD 157, and has this to say about divorce and adultery:

And I said to him, “What then, sir, is the husband to do, if his wife continue in her vicious practices? [Arnobius’ note. “Vicious” in this case refers to the practice of vice, not cruelty] ”And he said, “The husband should put her away, and remain by himself. But if he put his wife away and marry another, he also commits adultery.” And I said to him, “What if the woman put away should repent, and wish to return to her husband: shall she not be taken back by her husband?” And he said to me, “Assuredly. If the husband do not take her back, he sins, and brings a great sin upon himself; for he ought to take back the sinner who has repented.

Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (1997). The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. II : Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. Fathers of the second century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire) (21).

Marrying another would of course preclude taking back the repenting spouse.  So remarriage after divorce for infidelity seems to be excluded as a valid interpretation of Matthew 5 or Matthew 19.

So here is the problem with the claim that the Catholic view is a later view: While the Patristics authors do acknowledge that one might have a need to separate from their spouse, but not a single one of them sanctions remarriage while the sinning spouse still lives. Those who discuss the issue say it is forbidden.

So the question is when [Not A] becomes [A] and who had the authority to make such a decree?  If the Patristics rejected it, one either has to argue the Patristics were wrong, bringing up the question "On whose authority can we judge this?" or else admit such a view is an innovation.

What about St. Basil the Great?

I’ve noticed certain groups [I don’t intend to say all groups] of Eastern Orthodox try to invoke St. Basil the Great to justify their position (they permit a second and third marriage, but no more, with a brief period of excommunication in between). These groups cite St. Basil the Great claiming he “referred not to a rule but to usage” and through him claim that a person wronged by infidelity may remarry. The claim invokes The Second Canonical Letter to Amphilocius though it seems they mean the First letter, where it says:

IV. In the case of trigamy and polygamy they laid down the same rule, in proportion, as in the case of digamy; namely one year for digamy (some authorities say two years); for trigamy men are separated for three and often for four years; but this is no longer described as marriage at all, but as polygamy; nay rather as limited fornication. It is for this reason that the Lord said to the woman of Samaria, who had five husbands, "he whom thou now hast is not thy husband." He does not reckon those who had exceeded the limits of a second marriage as worthy of the title of husband or wife. In cases of trigamy we have accepted a seclusion of five years, not by the canons, but following the precept of our predecessors. Such offenders ought not to be altogether prohibited from the privileges of the Church; they should be considered deserving of hearing after two or three years, and afterwards of being permitted to stand in their place; but they must be kept from the communion of the good gift, and only restored to the place of communion after showing some fruit of repentance.

But it doesn’t work. Restoration requires repentance,and repentance is to "feel or express sincere regret or remorse."  To feel regret or remorse indicates a wrongful action which one wishes to make amends for.

Indeed the Orthodox toleration of a third marriage, even if their interpretation of St. Basil were correct (which I do not concede), runs afoul of St. Basil who calls a third marriage "limited fornication."  If it is fornication, and "no longer described as marriage at all" it cannot be sanctioned.

As a matter of fact, reading the first letter brings us to section IX, where it says:

Here then the wife, if she leaves her husband and goes to another, is an adulteress. But the man who has been abandoned is pardonable, and the woman who lives with such a man is not condemned. But if the man who has deserted his wife goes to another, he is himself an adulterer because he makes her commit adultery; and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has caused another woman's husband to come over to her.

Note it says absolutely nothing about the wronged spouse remarrying. It only says he is not to blame for his wife’s infidelity. In other words this is an explanation of Matthew, stating that the man who puts his wife away for sexual immorality does not make her an adulteress. It does not justify remarriage.

When it comes to sanctioning remarriage after divorce in the case of adultery, we can see St. Basil did not intend what is attributed to him. Note what he says in his second letter:

XLVIII. The woman who has been abandoned by her husband, ought, in my judgment, to remain as she is. The Lord said, "If any one leave his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, he causeth her to commit adultery;" thus, by calling her adulteress, He excludes her from intercourse with another man. For how can the man being guilty, as having caused adultery, and the woman, go without blame, when she is called adulteress by the Lord for having intercourse with another man?

Such a statement makes it seem very unlikely that St. Basil sanctioned remarriage for the innocent spouse. He says exactly the opposite… that she would be an adulteress if she did remarry.

Understanding "Digamy"

In response to the claim that St. Basil proposed certain tolerations of Digamy as meaning he permitted remarriage after divorce for infidelity, we need to first look at what Digamy was for the early Christian.  We need to realize that among some early Christians, there was a belief held by a few that the widow or widower ought not to remarry at all. Those who did were accused of digamy (remarrying after the death of a spouse) by those who held this belief. (The Catholic Church holds this to be a misinterpretation of Paul).

However, there is an interpretation which is consistent with the Catholic teaching, which holds that while a married man might enter the priesthood [The Latin Rite practice of ordaining only celibate men to the priesthood is a discipline and not a doctrine], a man ordained to the priesthood may not marry.  Hence Patristic writings against clergy who committed digamy.

The reason the distinction of widows was made is due to Paul's teaching in 1 Timothy 5:

9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years old, married only once,

10 with a reputation for good works, namely, that she has raised children, practiced hospitality, washed the feet of the holy ones, helped those in distress, involved herself in every good work.

11 But exclude younger widows, for when their sensuality estranges them from Christ, they want to marry

12 and will incur condemnation for breaking their first pledge.

Digamy is not divorce and remarriage (that is a modern interpretation. The Church called divorce and remarriage serial polygamy). Digamy is remarriage after the death of a spouse. In ancient times, if the woman was enrolled in an order of widows or if the man had entered the monastic life after the death of a spouse, a remarriage was digamy. This is what St. Basil was referring to this in his Second Letter when he wrote:

XXIV. A widow whose name is in the list of widows, that is, who is supported by the Church, is ordered by the Apostle to be supported no longer when she marries.

There is no special rule for a widower. The punishment appointed for digamy may suffice. If a widow who is sixty years of age chooses again to live with a husband, she shall be held unworthy of the communion of the good gift until she be moved no longer by her impure desire. If we reckon her before sixty years, the blame rests with us, and not with the woman.

Note here, we see that a widow (one whose husband is dead) is considered guilty of digamy if she remarries.  See the section on Digamy below.  St. Basil is speaking, in the case of women under 60, that a woman under 60 ought not to be enrolled in an order of widows according to the teaching of St. Paul.

Because the context of what digamy is is different than how later interpretations applied it, it cannot be said such texts can justify remarriage after divorce.

Conclusion: Where is the Evidence to Justify Remarriage after Divorce?

To justify remarriage after divorce on Christian grounds requires an authoritative source and an authoritative interpretation. The Catholic Church rejects the idea that a valid, sacramental marriage can be broken at all so long as both spouses live.  Only if the marriage is invalid may the partners marry someone else.

Those who seek to justify divorce after remarriage through the Patristics must necessarily choose the a limited and isolated selection of passages, which seems to require ignoring contrary claims.  Does it really seem credible to claim that outright condemnation of divorce and remarriage is merely a non-binding opinion, but the interpretation of St. Basil, which he did not himself say, is doctrinal?

In the first article I have demonstrated that the citation of Matthew as an exception for adultery has no basis either in the Scriptures themselves. In this second I have shown the weakness of the appeals to the Patristic writings commonly cited on the subject.

A claim that divorce and remarriage after infidelity was accepted as valid by the Christian Church requires proof.  Therefore any challenge to the Catholic teaching by appealing to the Eastern Orthodox claim requires us to ask for the evidence.

Since neither the Scripture nor tradition can be used to prove this, any challenge must say that the whole of Christian belief was wrong and only now can we understand what our Lord really meant.

This is a view which cannot be justified.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Reflections on Divorce, Remarriage and the Church (Part I): Did Matthew Make an Exception?

Preliminary Disclaimer

This article is on the subject of seeking to end a valid marriage on the grounds of adultery by way of rejecting the authority of the Church.  It is not a commentary on annulments.  Nor is it a judgment on those who seek them. 

I do not claim the authority to make judgments on whether the Church should or should not grant  an annulment in any individual case.  A person wondering if they have grounds for annulment should contact their parish or diocese for information.

My only intent for this article is to explain why certain attacks against the Church on this subject are in error.

Introduction: Appeal to Emotion to challenge the Church

While the recent abuse stories are the most headline grabbing attacks on the Church, there are always the tried-and-true attacks on the Church from within and without, which essentially seeks to portray the Church as “heartless” because she believes she cannot compromise on certain issues. Whether it is an issue like contraception, or divorce, or abortion or so-called “gay marriage” (it is interesting to note that all these objections tend to focus on the area of sexual ethics) the position is presented that the Church is a heartless bureaucratic institution which clings to “rules” which Christ would not approve of.

Usually such a position is demonstrated with either the appeal to fear fallacy or the appeal to pity fallacy. An example is given (such as a family with “too many children” or the “abandoned spouse” or the woman with a “health condition” or two people “who truly love each other”) to whom we are supposed to have sympathy for. Because they are in a situation where the Church must say “No,” the argument is the Church is “cruel” in doing so.

Fallacies don’t prove anything

The problem is, this doesn’t prove the Church is wrong. Indeed, the attack against the Church is based on the unwarranted assumption that God is primarily interested in our material well-being, and that the concern for our spiritual well-being is unimportant.

The objection tends to run along the lines of:

1. The situation I am in is harmful because it makes me unhappy

2. God does not want to harm us

3. Therefore this situation which makes me unhappy is against God's will.

In certain areas of Church moral teaching, we see this sort of appeal.  "God knows we can't afford to have more children right now.  The Church condemns contraception.  Therefore the Church teaching is against God's will."  Or "God doesn't want me to be alone and my spouse abandoned me.  The Church forbids remarriage after divorce.  Therefore the Church is wrong."

Denying Happiness? Why this argument is missing the point

The problem with these arguments is that it frames the issue in the wrong way.

Because the dissent against the Church on the issue of Remarriage is so common, one needs to look at the issues and why the attacks against the Church fundamentally miss the point and negate that which is binding about marriage.

The problem of the objection against Church teaching is that it confuses the cause of the situation with the Church teaching on the situation.  For example, if a person in a valid marriage is divorced, the Church teaching is that so long as both partners live, they must reconcile or remain single.

Now in this society which dismisses marriage as unimportant and divorce as even less important, the complaint may be raised that the spouse who was treated unjustly is doomed to suffer because of the Church teaching, which means they can never remarry.  "How can the Church deny a person their happiness?"

The Church didn't deny the person their happiness.  The unfaithful spouse did that.  The Church can only say, "Christ has forbidden remarriage if the marriage is valid.  If your marriage was valid, we cannot remarry you while your spouse lives."

Remember that the Sacramental Marriage is a vow made before God to remain faithful to each other for life.  One may be unfaithful in this lifelong vow, but that person's sin does not change the fact that Christ decreed the valid marriage to be unbreakable.

In marriage, there are no longer two people, but “one flesh” (Gen 2:24). A bond is formed which endures as long as both the husband and wife live.

If He did not give us permission to break a marriage, how can we, on our own, to declare such a marriage ended and expect God, who says “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16), to accept it?

This is why the "how can the Church deny a person their happiness?" argument is not only wrong, but is actually an appeal to fear (that it might happen to you) and pity, which ignores the actual question: IS the marriage valid?

Appeals to Reject the Church Authority

Because the actual question is a stumbling block, many try to get around it by appealing to another authority against the Church.  They invoke Scripture or Tradition, and ignores the question: Who has the authority to interpret Scripture and Tradition?

In this article I would like to look at the invocation of the Gospel of Matthew and the so-called exceptions to the norm.

A Look at the So-called “Matthew Exception”

Some people who object to the Catholic position try to cite Matthew 5 and Matthew 19 to argue that a spouse who is victimized by an adulterous spouse may remarry. The Eastern Orthodox churches tend to hold this position, and some stricter Protestant denominations do as well. Matthew 5 reads:

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.’

32 But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Matthew 19 reads:

3 Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?”

4 He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’

5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?

6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

7 They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss (her)?”

8 He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

9 I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”

10 (His) disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 He answered, “Not all can accept (this) word, but only those to whom that is granted.

12 Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”

The argument put forward by those who favor the so-called Matthew Exception is that Christ permitted divorce and remarriage on grounds of adultery.

A Look at the problems of the Adultery Assumption: Porneia and Moichaō

The passages of Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 are sometimes translated as "except for fornication" (KJV, ASV), sometimes technically correct but misleading “except for unchastity” (as in the RSV) and is sometimes mistranslated as "except for unfaithfulness" or the like in some of the modern semi-paraphrased versions. 

Why do I say it is a mistranslation?  Because the Greek word used in both Matthew 5 and Matthew 19 is πορνείᾳ (porneia) which is used in the sense of fornication, homosexual acts and immorality.  It is almost always used in the sense of sexual sins among the unmarried (see 1 Cor 7:2).  In contrast, the word for adultery is derived from μοιχάω (moichaō) which means to have sexual relations with another person's spouse.  Indeed, it is the word used in the above verses where Christ says the person who marries another, except in the case of πορνείᾳ, commits adultery (μοιχᾶται).

Porneia is not moichaō.  The words are specifically different in the Greek of the New Testament, and the person who wants to argue that Christ intended the “adultery exception” needs to explain why Christ did not say that: whoever divorces his wife, except for moichaō, commits moichatai.

This is especially relevant when we look at Matthew 15:19 where it says:

19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy.

In Greek, we see what is written as “adultery, unchastity” is μοιχεῖαι, πορνεῖαι in the Greek (moicheiai, porneiai). Christ, in the Gospel of Matthew, makes a clear distinction between the two.

Another Problem with the Appeal to Matthew: Scriptural Disagreement?

There is another problem with the appeal to Matthew and the so-called exception.  That problem is that the other gospels which do not include this exception. Mark 10:11-12 reads:

11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her;

12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Luke 16 reads:

8 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

So here is the problem. If one wants to argue that Matthew permits exceptions to the command of no divorce; such a view needs to be reconciled with Mark and Luke, which makes no such exception, or else admit the Scriptures contradict.  Now, is Matthew more lenient than Mark and Luke?  Or are Mark and Luke harsher than Matthew?

Either way, one would have to decide whether Matthew erred or whether Mark and Luke (and Paul), and on what basis is this to be accepted?

There is only one view which protects inerrancy of Scripture and shows there to be no conflict.  That is the recognition that Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience who were aware of the Law and the forbidding of marriage between men and women in certain degrees of relationship. 

Indeed, we see such a case in Matthew 14:3-4:

3 Now Herod had arrested John, bound (him), and put him in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip,

4 for John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

The relationship of Herod and his brother's wife was prohibited in Leviticus 18:16 and 20:21.  In other words, it was a sinful act which God opposed. Regardless of Herod’s feelings for Herodias, their relationship was forbidden by the Law and could not be considered a valid marriage.  

The Catholic Church understands that the so-called “exception” of Matthew was not sanction of divorce and remarriage for cases of adultery, but for ending an invalid marriage and entering a real one.

This is why annulment is not a “Catholic Divorce” but rather an investigation into whether a marriage was valid to begin with. If it was not valid, then there was no marriage to begin with. If it is valid, then it quite simply exists regardless of what one or both spouses do.

The Problem of Paul for the “Matthew Exception”

1 Corinthians 7 also shows that those groups who argue for the “adultery clause” are in error. He writes:

10 To the married, however, I give this instruction (not I, but the Lord): a wife should not separate from her husband

11 —and if she does separate she must either remain single or become reconciled to her husband—and a husband should not divorce his wife.

Paul does not include the notion that one may remarry if the other spouse is unfaithful. Now some may try to argue that “should” means that it is not approved but permissible. However, “should” appears only in some translations (NAB, NASB, NRSV, RSV) and not at all in the Greek.

Debunking the Fallacy of amphiboly in reading Paul

There is a fallacy of amphiboly to interpret “should” as permitting. Those who argue such tend to take the definition of “should” in the sense of one of the following:

  • used in a clause with ‘that’ after a main clause describing feelings.
  • used in a clause with ‘that’ expressing purpose.
  • (in the first person) expressing a polite request or acceptance.
  • (in the first person) expressing a conjecture or hope

(Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.)

However, these are not the main definitions for “should.” The word “Should” is derived from shall (remember the Ten Commandments with “Thou shall not…”) and the primary definition is actually “Used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness.” (Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.”)

For Paul, Porneia and Moichaō are not the same thing

Another problem Paul poses for the “Matthew Exception” argument and the claim that porneia refers to adultery is the fact that Paul uses Porneia in 1 Cor. 7:1 when he says:

1 Now in regard to the matters about which you wrote: “It is a good thing for a man not to touch a woman,”

2 but because of cases of immorality every man should have his own wife, and every woman her own husband.

Immorality is πορνείας (porneias) in the Greek. If Adultery is “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their husband or wife” then it follows that marriage cannot prevent adultery, simply because adultery presupposes the existence of marriage. Indeed, Paul would be speaking nonsense.

Conclusion

I believe we have demonstrated here that the invocation of Matthew 5 and Matthew 19 to justify remarriage after divorce in the case of adultery is one which must ignore the whole of Scripture and cite it selectively.

In my next article I will look at the appeal to the Early Christian Fathers (known as the Patristics) which some attempt.

Reflections on Divorce, Remarriage and the Church (Part I): Did Matthew Make an Exception?

Preliminary Disclaimer

This article is on the subject of seeking to end a valid marriage on the grounds of adultery by way of rejecting the authority of the Church.  It is not a commentary on annulments.  Nor is it a judgment on those who seek them. 

I do not claim the authority to make judgments on whether the Church should or should not grant  an annulment in any individual case.  A person wondering if they have grounds for annulment should contact their parish or diocese for information.

My only intent for this article is to explain why certain attacks against the Church on this subject are in error.

Introduction: Appeal to Emotion to challenge the Church

While the recent abuse stories are the most headline grabbing attacks on the Church, there are always the tried-and-true attacks on the Church from within and without, which essentially seeks to portray the Church as “heartless” because she believes she cannot compromise on certain issues. Whether it is an issue like contraception, or divorce, or abortion or so-called “gay marriage” (it is interesting to note that all these objections tend to focus on the area of sexual ethics) the position is presented that the Church is a heartless bureaucratic institution which clings to “rules” which Christ would not approve of.

Usually such a position is demonstrated with either the appeal to fear fallacy or the appeal to pity fallacy. An example is given (such as a family with “too many children” or the “abandoned spouse” or the woman with a “health condition” or two people “who truly love each other”) to whom we are supposed to have sympathy for. Because they are in a situation where the Church must say “No,” the argument is the Church is “cruel” in doing so.

Fallacies don’t prove anything

The problem is, this doesn’t prove the Church is wrong. Indeed, the attack against the Church is based on the unwarranted assumption that God is primarily interested in our material well-being, and that the concern for our spiritual well-being is unimportant.

The objection tends to run along the lines of:

1. The situation I am in is harmful because it makes me unhappy

2. God does not want to harm us

3. Therefore this situation which makes me unhappy is against God's will.

In certain areas of Church moral teaching, we see this sort of appeal.  "God knows we can't afford to have more children right now.  The Church condemns contraception.  Therefore the Church teaching is against God's will."  Or "God doesn't want me to be alone and my spouse abandoned me.  The Church forbids remarriage after divorce.  Therefore the Church is wrong."

Denying Happiness? Why this argument is missing the point

The problem with these arguments is that it frames the issue in the wrong way.

Because the dissent against the Church on the issue of Remarriage is so common, one needs to look at the issues and why the attacks against the Church fundamentally miss the point and negate that which is binding about marriage.

The problem of the objection against Church teaching is that it confuses the cause of the situation with the Church teaching on the situation.  For example, if a person in a valid marriage is divorced, the Church teaching is that so long as both partners live, they must reconcile or remain single.

Now in this society which dismisses marriage as unimportant and divorce as even less important, the complaint may be raised that the spouse who was treated unjustly is doomed to suffer because of the Church teaching, which means they can never remarry.  "How can the Church deny a person their happiness?"

The Church didn't deny the person their happiness.  The unfaithful spouse did that.  The Church can only say, "Christ has forbidden remarriage if the marriage is valid.  If your marriage was valid, we cannot remarry you while your spouse lives."

Remember that the Sacramental Marriage is a vow made before God to remain faithful to each other for life.  One may be unfaithful in this lifelong vow, but that person's sin does not change the fact that Christ decreed the valid marriage to be unbreakable.

In marriage, there are no longer two people, but “one flesh” (Gen 2:24). A bond is formed which endures as long as both the husband and wife live.

If He did not give us permission to break a marriage, how can we, on our own, to declare such a marriage ended and expect God, who says “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16), to accept it?

This is why the "how can the Church deny a person their happiness?" argument is not only wrong, but is actually an appeal to fear (that it might happen to you) and pity, which ignores the actual question: IS the marriage valid?

Appeals to Reject the Church Authority

Because the actual question is a stumbling block, many try to get around it by appealing to another authority against the Church.  They invoke Scripture or Tradition, and ignores the question: Who has the authority to interpret Scripture and Tradition?

In this article I would like to look at the invocation of the Gospel of Matthew and the so-called exceptions to the norm.

A Look at the So-called “Matthew Exception”

Some people who object to the Catholic position try to cite Matthew 5 and Matthew 19 to argue that a spouse who is victimized by an adulterous spouse may remarry. The Eastern Orthodox churches tend to hold this position, and some stricter Protestant denominations do as well. Matthew 5 reads:

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.’

32 But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Matthew 19 reads:

3 Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?”

4 He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’

5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?

6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

7 They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss (her)?”

8 He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

9 I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”

10 (His) disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 He answered, “Not all can accept (this) word, but only those to whom that is granted.

12 Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”

The argument put forward by those who favor the so-called Matthew Exception is that Christ permitted divorce and remarriage on grounds of adultery.

A Look at the problems of the Adultery Assumption: Porneia and Moichaō

The passages of Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 are sometimes translated as "except for fornication" (KJV, ASV), sometimes technically correct but misleading “except for unchastity” (as in the RSV) and is sometimes mistranslated as "except for unfaithfulness" or the like in some of the modern semi-paraphrased versions. 

Why do I say it is a mistranslation?  Because the Greek word used in both Matthew 5 and Matthew 19 is πορνείᾳ (porneia) which is used in the sense of fornication, homosexual acts and immorality.  It is almost always used in the sense of sexual sins among the unmarried (see 1 Cor 7:2).  In contrast, the word for adultery is derived from μοιχάω (moichaō) which means to have sexual relations with another person's spouse.  Indeed, it is the word used in the above verses where Christ says the person who marries another, except in the case of πορνείᾳ, commits adultery (μοιχᾶται).

Porneia is not moichaō.  The words are specifically different in the Greek of the New Testament, and the person who wants to argue that Christ intended the “adultery exception” needs to explain why Christ did not say that: whoever divorces his wife, except for moichaō, commits moichatai.

This is especially relevant when we look at Matthew 15:19 where it says:

19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy.

In Greek, we see what is written as “adultery, unchastity” is μοιχεῖαι, πορνεῖαι in the Greek (moicheiai, porneiai). Christ, in the Gospel of Matthew, makes a clear distinction between the two.

Another Problem with the Appeal to Matthew: Scriptural Disagreement?

There is another problem with the appeal to Matthew and the so-called exception.  That problem is that the other gospels which do not include this exception. Mark 10:11-12 reads:

11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her;

12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Luke 16 reads:

8 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

So here is the problem. If one wants to argue that Matthew permits exceptions to the command of no divorce; such a view needs to be reconciled with Mark and Luke, which makes no such exception, or else admit the Scriptures contradict.  Now, is Matthew more lenient than Mark and Luke?  Or are Mark and Luke harsher than Matthew?

Either way, one would have to decide whether Matthew erred or whether Mark and Luke (and Paul), and on what basis is this to be accepted?

There is only one view which protects inerrancy of Scripture and shows there to be no conflict.  That is the recognition that Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience who were aware of the Law and the forbidding of marriage between men and women in certain degrees of relationship. 

Indeed, we see such a case in Matthew 14:3-4:

3 Now Herod had arrested John, bound (him), and put him in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip,

4 for John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

The relationship of Herod and his brother's wife was prohibited in Leviticus 18:16 and 20:21.  In other words, it was a sinful act which God opposed. Regardless of Herod’s feelings for Herodias, their relationship was forbidden by the Law and could not be considered a valid marriage.  

The Catholic Church understands that the so-called “exception” of Matthew was not sanction of divorce and remarriage for cases of adultery, but for ending an invalid marriage and entering a real one.

This is why annulment is not a “Catholic Divorce” but rather an investigation into whether a marriage was valid to begin with. If it was not valid, then there was no marriage to begin with. If it is valid, then it quite simply exists regardless of what one or both spouses do.

The Problem of Paul for the “Matthew Exception”

1 Corinthians 7 also shows that those groups who argue for the “adultery clause” are in error. He writes:

10 To the married, however, I give this instruction (not I, but the Lord): a wife should not separate from her husband

11 —and if she does separate she must either remain single or become reconciled to her husband—and a husband should not divorce his wife.

Paul does not include the notion that one may remarry if the other spouse is unfaithful. Now some may try to argue that “should” means that it is not approved but permissible. However, “should” appears only in some translations (NAB, NASB, NRSV, RSV) and not at all in the Greek.

Debunking the Fallacy of amphiboly in reading Paul

There is a fallacy of amphiboly to interpret “should” as permitting. Those who argue such tend to take the definition of “should” in the sense of one of the following:

  • used in a clause with ‘that’ after a main clause describing feelings.
  • used in a clause with ‘that’ expressing purpose.
  • (in the first person) expressing a polite request or acceptance.
  • (in the first person) expressing a conjecture or hope

(Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.)

However, these are not the main definitions for “should.” The word “Should” is derived from shall (remember the Ten Commandments with “Thou shall not…”) and the primary definition is actually “Used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness.” (Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.”)

For Paul, Porneia and Moichaō are not the same thing

Another problem Paul poses for the “Matthew Exception” argument and the claim that porneia refers to adultery is the fact that Paul uses Porneia in 1 Cor. 7:1 when he says:

1 Now in regard to the matters about which you wrote: “It is a good thing for a man not to touch a woman,”

2 but because of cases of immorality every man should have his own wife, and every woman her own husband.

Immorality is πορνείας (porneias) in the Greek. If Adultery is “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their husband or wife” then it follows that marriage cannot prevent adultery, simply because adultery presupposes the existence of marriage. Indeed, Paul would be speaking nonsense.

Conclusion

I believe we have demonstrated here that the invocation of Matthew 5 and Matthew 19 to justify remarriage after divorce in the case of adultery is one which must ignore the whole of Scripture and cite it selectively.

In my next article I will look at the appeal to the Early Christian Fathers (known as the Patristics) which some attempt.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

On Hard Cases: Appeals to Pity, Appeals to Fear

One of the attacks against the teachings of the Church involve not the use of reason and logic, but of exploiting emotion.  Generally, the teaching of the Church is given, a sad case is presented as a counterpoint, and the conclusion is that the Church teaching must be bad because of this case.

The problem with these appeals is that they have no bearing on whether what the Church teaches is true and just.  There will always be cases where a person winds up on the wrong side of a law.  However a law can only be changed if two circumstances exist:

  1. The law is in itself unjust.
  2. The people asked to change the law have the authority to make such a change.

Is a Law Unjust?

Catholics believe God is infinitely just and merciful.  Therefore, if God reveals to us His will, this will is not to be considered unjust.  We may not understand some teachings which are revealed, but this reflects a personal failure, and not evil on the part of God.

Unlike Euthyphro, where Socrates asked whether a thing was good because gods loved it or whether things were loved by gods because they were good (making the gods either arbitrary or less than the good they were bound to), the Christian believes good reflects what is God's nature in itself: An unchanging God does not change morality over time (though under the idea of Divine Accommodation, over time, God may increase our understanding to turn away from some evils).

So for the Christian, if God reveals to us and we trust God is perfect goodness, it follows that we must hold that what God reveals is just and good.

Does the Church have the authority to make a change?

The understanding of the Catholic Church is that certain things, taught by Christ can never be overturned.  Yes we do believe that Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18 indicates the Church is given the authority by Christ to bind and to loose.  However, we also believe that this authority does not give the magisterium the authority to contradict what God has declared.

Thus, you will never see the Church declare fornication is allowed.  You will never see the Church permit remarriage after a divorce, unless the marriage was in fact invalid from the beginning. You will never see the Church permit homosexual "marriages" or female priests.

There are certain practices within the Church which are binding, but not doctrine.  We believe these fall under the authority to bind and to loose.  At times the Church may bind to prevent an abuse or to loose to prevent a misunderstanding.  These things are carried out for the good of the Church, and can be changed.

For example, the Church can tighten or loosen rules on fasting.  The Church can decree that the laity can receive from the chalice or deny the chalice to the laity.  (She has, at different times, ordered one or the other to clarify a point necessary for the people of the times).

The point to consider here is, when the Church does follow the teaching of Christ, she does not have the authority to loose, even if the values of society demand that she does so.

With this in mind, I would like to look at the fallacies of Appeal to Pity and Appeal to Fear, how they are applied against the Church in two issues (abortion and remarriage after divorce) and why we cannot accept it as a valid reasoning to overturn the Church teaching.

The Appeal to Pity

The extreme example of what is wrong with the appeal to pity is the apocryphal case of the person who murders his parents and then appeals to the court for clemency because he is an orphan.  The reason this appeal is fallacious is because the reason the person appeals for pity is on account of the fact he is suffering the consequences for the act of evil.

This often comes into play when the issue of legalized abortion is discussed.  The slogan invoked is the so-called back alley abortion and women dying from them.  The appeal to pity is made: If abortion was legal then, these women wouldn't have died.

There is a problem with this however.  It has no bearing on whether or not abortion should be legal.  If something is illegal for a good reason (like for example, the fetus being a living human person), then the person who makes use of the illegal abortion is suffering the consequences for breaking a just law. 

Now it could be considered just to say that a society which outlaws abortion has the obligation to help women who become pregnant (certainly I believe we need to practice what we preach here) so they did not feel the need to consider a need to perform an illegal act, but even if such a society did not, it does not change the fact that if abortion is killing a human life, it cannot be tolerated, and a person who dies from an illegal abortion is not an innocent victim, but a person who has died because they have sought to break a just law.

Does this seem harsh?  Perhaps it does.  However, given that we believe God has condemned sexuality outside of marriage, and that we believe that abortion is the killing of an innocent human life, it follows that the person who violates the requirement of chastity and then seeks to kill the resulting child has done a great wrong.

St. Jerome described this in the 4th century in his Letter XXII, To Eustochium:

You may see many women widows before wedded, who try to conceal their miserable fall by a lying garb. Unless they are betrayed by swelling wombs or by the crying of their infants, they walk abroad with tripping feet and heads in the air. Some go so far as to take potions, that they may insure barrenness, and thus murder human beings almost before their conception. Some, when they find themselves with child through their sin, use drugs to procure abortion, and when (as often happens) they die with their offspring, they enter the lower world laden with the guilt not only of adultery against Christ but also of suicide and child murder. Yet it is these who say: “‘Unto the pure all things are pure;’ my conscience is sufficient guide for me. A pure heart is what God looks for.

The example of cases such as rape and incest are also employed, and quite effectively.  The image of a woman forcibly violated and then forced to bear the rapist's child is one which is disturbing to most people.  We do need to remember something here.  The evil done was by the rapist.  Not the unborn child.  So, the principle remains here: Do we have the right to kill an innocent person?  We do not.  It is indeed a terrible trial for the woman to be sure, but we as Catholics must believe that the ends do not justify the means, and we cannot choose an evil means to reach a good end.

Is that hard?  Of course.  Is it a trauma for the woman in question?  Undeniably.  But is it just to kill an innocent life?  Never.  It would be responding to evil with evil.

Finally, there is the case of "what if the child is mentally or physically deformed?"  No person wants their child to be unhealthy.  However, the Church believes that human life is sacred in itself, and not based on the functionality of the person.  So because the child is not in perfect health does not give one leave to take his or her life.

Another appeal to pity is the attack on the Church teaching on divorce and remarriage.  The popular case is to present a woman mistreated by her spouse, claiming that if she remarries she is cast out of a "cold and heartless" Church for the crime of finding love again.  Or, the Church is condemned for keeping such a woman alone for the rest of her life.  This too is an appeal to pity.

The argument often presented takes this form:

  1. God is not cruel
  2. The Church teaching on divorce is cruel because if forces a wronged spouse to remain alone for the rest of his or her life
  3. Therefore the teaching on divorce is not from God.

However, If we understand Christ's teaching on divorce properly, we see He did not sanction divorce and remarriage while both partners remain alive.  Even the so-called Matthew Exception in 5:32 does not sanction remarriage for a spouse whose partner has been sexually unfaithful.

St. John Chrysostom for example has taught (Sermon XVII on Mathew):

And observe Him everywhere addressing His discourse to the man. Thus, “He that putteth away his wife,” saith He, “causeth her to commit adultery, and he that marrieth a woman put away, committeth adultery.” That is, the former, though he take not another wife, by that act alone hath made himself liable to blame, having made the first an adulteress; the latter again is become an adulterer by taking her who is another’s. For tell me not this, “the other hath cast her out;” nay, for when cast out she continues to be the wife of him that expelled her.

The 2nd century text, The Shepherd of Hermas also shows how the early Church understood the teaching of Christ (The Fourth Commandment, Chapter I)  [the "vicious practices" referred to in the text here is speaking of a faithful man with an adulterous wife.  "vicious" is to be understood as "performing vice," and not "brutality"]:

And I said to him, “What then, sir, is the husband to do, if his wife continue in her vicious practices? ”And he said, “The husband should put her away, and remain by himself. But if he put his wife away and marry another, he also commits adultery.” And I said to him, “What if the woman put away should repent, and wish to return to her husband: shall she not be taken back by her husband? ”And he said to me, “Assuredly. If the husband do not take her back, he sins, and brings a great sin upon himself; for he ought to take back the sinner who has repented.

From these examples (and there are many more), we can see that the teaching of the Catholic Church was not arbitrarily decided on, but rather from the beginning this was seen as the faithful application of Christ's teaching.

So the appeal to pity in the case of the person who marries a person in good faith but that person turns out to harm her does not change the fact that the Catholic Church feels bound to the teaching of Christ.  Where the marriage is valid, there can be no remarriage while both partners live.  [This is why the Catholic practice of annulment is an investigation into whether the marriage was invalid.  If it is invalid, there is no marriage.  If it is valid, no authority can break what God has joined.]

In both of these examples, the appeal to pity is seeking to use an example for the overturning of a just teaching.  For those who appeal to mercy, we need to remember that while mercy does indeed require the seeking to help others as much as possible (in opposition to a cold bureaucratic legalism), mercy cannot overturn justice… or it is no longer mercy, but merely false compassion.

The Appeal to Fear

The appeal to Fear often is similar to the scenarios presented in the appeal to pity mentioned above.  However, instead of presenting a hypothetical situation, it appeals to the fear of "what if it happens to you?"  Let's face it.  No woman wants to be sexually assaulted and become pregnant.  No man would want his spouse, or relatives or friends to suffer this either.  Nobody wants their child to be born deformed.  No person wants to have a spouse be unfaithful in a binding marriage.

However, we need to realize that such a (valid) horror of such a thing happening does not make it permissible to set the just law aside.  That would be arbitrariness.  If the unborn child is indeed a human life, then we are not permitted to kill it out of expedience.  If the marriage is valid and binding in the eyes of God, we cannot call "Mulligan" if it turns sour.  If we promise to marry for better or for worse, and it turns out "worse," the marriage still exists even if we must "put our spouse away" to protect ourselves from evil, and so we would not be free to remarry.

Justice, Mercy and the Requirements of Catholic Faith

Such things may seem cruel to those outside the Church who do not accept what we believe, or to those within the Church who either do not understand or else reject the teachings of the Church.  However, if one believes that God has required certain things of us, then we must obey these things and not clamor for the Church to change that which she cannot change.  If we believe that Christ has given the Church the authority to bind and to loose, and protects her from error, then we must accept that when the Church teaches, it acts with an interest in our salvation and not from "insensitivity" or "power" or "control."

If God is perfectly Just and Merciful, it stands to reason that His Justice will not be merciless, yes.  But it also stands to reason that His Mercy will not set aside justice either.

We who are sinners may at times fail to see things as God wills them.  This does not make God, nor the Church who seeks to follow Him, unjust or merciless when hard cases arise.  It does mean at times we are called to unite our sufferings to His, offering up he pain in our lives to Him, trusting He will sustain us, even when life seems impossible.