“The Catholic Church is too uptight about divorce. People ought to be able to freely divorce and remarry if they choose.”
The Church’s teaching on divorce is humane, just, and rooted in the teaching of Jesus.
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The Church’s teaching is humane, for it recognizes that there can be legitimate reasons to obtain a divorce under civil (secular) law: “If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense” (CCC 2383). Thus nobody is required to live in an intolerable or unsafe situation, such as with a physically or emotionally abusive spouse.
The Church’s teaching is just, for it recognizes that the spouses have made a serious commitment to each other in marriage. There must be grave reason to justify civil divorce, because divorce “introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society” (CCC 2385).
The Church’s teaching is rooted in the teaching of Jesus, who took a strong stand against the permissive attitude toward divorce in the ancient world. Stressing that marriage was instituted by God, so that husband and wife are joined together in a divine institution, Jesus famously stated: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6).
He also warned that—because they are united together in this way—they are not free to marry other people if they do divorce: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11–12; cf. Luke 16:18).
This same teaching is reflected in the writings of Paul, who specifically tells his readers that the teaching comes from “the Lord”—i.e., the Lord Jesus (cf. 1 Cor. 1:2–3). He writes: “To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband)—and that the husband should not divorce his wife” (1 Cor. 7:10–11).
Editor’s note: Jimmy Akin’s new book A Daily Defense comprises 365 one-page defenses (plus one for leap year) of typical challenges to the Catholic Faith. These daily doses of apologetics are designed to arm the reader with short-form answers and tips for delving deeper into any particular subject. Through the end of the year, the Catholic Answers blog will run occasional excerpts.
This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Catholic Answers.