(First Things) Robert Spaemann–Divorce and Remarriage

he divorce statistics for modern Western societies are catastrophic. They show that marriage is no longer regarded as a new, independent reality transcending the individuality of the spouses, a reality that, at the very least, cannot be dissolved by the will of one partner alone. But can it be dissolved by the consent of both parties, or by the will of a synod or a pope? The answer must be no, for as Jesus himself explicitly declares, man cannot put asunder what God himself has joined together. Such is the teaching of the Catholic Church.

The Christian understanding of the good life claims to be valid for all human beings. Yet even Jesus’s disciples were shocked by their Master’s words: Wouldn’t it be better, then, they replied, not to marry at all? The astonishment of the disciples underscores the contrast between the Christian way of life and the way of life dominant in the world. Whe­ther it wants to or not, the Church in the West is on its way to becoming a counterculture, and its future now depends chiefly on whether it is able, as the salt of the earth, to keep its savor and not be trampled underfoot by men.

The beauty of the Church’s teaching can shine forth only when it’s not watered down. The temptation to dilute doctrine is reinforced nowadays by an unsettling fact: Catholics are divorcing almost as frequently as their secular counterparts. Something has clearly gone wrong. It’s against all reason to think that all civilly divorced and remarried Catholics began their first marriages firmly convinced of its indissolubility and then fundamentally reversed themselves along the way. It’s more reasonable to assume that they entered into matrimony without clearly realizing what they were doing in the first place: burning their bridges behind them for all time (which is to say until death), so that the very idea of a second marriage simply did not exist for them.

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One comment on “(First Things) Robert Spaemann–Divorce and Remarriage

  1. Terry Tee says:

    I am a little surprised at the writer’s comments (helpfully highlighted in bold by our hard-working elves). Of course I would agree with him, but there is a problem here. IF it can be shown that someone entered into marriage with incomplete understanding of what it involved, then this in RC understanding could be grounds for annulment under the heading of ‘Lack of Due Discretion’. (I write as a Catholic priest.) The article therefore seems to me to undermine its intention of stressing the uniqueness and indissolubility of marriage. Whether you regard the annulment process itself as valid is something on which I suspect readers of this site would express differing opinions.