But What About Paul?

In my last essay, I discussed how divorce is pretty much never okay. Since then, some questions have been raised to me about Paul’s teachings on divorce, and I’d like to address them now.

Before I dig into the scripture, however, I’d like to express my bewilderment at how many Christians are so quick to come to the defense of divorce.

Take for example this article. The author, although condemning divorce to some degree,  comments that people use divorce as a “smokescreen” in the same-sex marriage debate. He goes on to mention that same-sex marriage is always wrong, while divorce isn’t. He’s careful, however, to use the term “illegitimate” divorce, to draw a difference between when it is and isn’t a sin.

The author overlooks the fact that once two people are married under God, they remain that way until death. The only thing that can separate spouses is an annulment, and again, we can recall that in the instance of an annulment, there was no valid marriage to begin with.

Even in cases where a civil separation or divorce is necessary for the safety and well being of a spouse or the children, the covenant remains.

Even if your spouse cheats on you, the covenant remains.

So now lets move into Paul’s teachings and discuss this a little further.

The questions that arose after my last blog deal mostly with Pauline privilege — 1st Corinthians.  It seems Paul allows for divorce in the instance when one spouse is a believer and the other is not.

However, lets look at the entirety of the scripture:

To the married, however, I give this instruction (not I, but the Lord):* A wife should not separate from her husband and if she does separate she must either remain single or become reconciled to her husband—and a husband should not divorce his wife.To the rest* I say (not the Lord): if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she is willing to go on living with him, he should not divorce her; and if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he is willing to go on living with her, she should not divorce her husband.

Here we see Paul expressly forbidding divorce, so long as the non-believing spouse is willing to remain with the believing spouse.

If the unbeliever separates,* however, let him separate. The brother or sister is not bound in such cases; God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband; or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

It is this piece that is brought up, out of context, to defend divorce is such cases. But here, Paul says nothing that is agains Church teaching or in favor of divorce.

Let’s recall what the Catechism says about abandonment of a spouse from another:

It can happen that one of the spouses is the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law; this spouse therefore has not contravened the moral law. There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage. 

During the time that Paul wrote this, the world was undergoing a huge conversion. Many people were being baptized, joining the Christian faith, and receiving a new life. This would very obviously cause problems in marital relations, and this was Paul’s answer. Don’t divorce, but if they leave, let them.

Now, to be fair, most of the people who defend divorce do so in only certain situations like infidelity and in the case of a non-believing spouse. But never do these people even hint at the idea that a marriage bond may still remain, even if the two are separated. Nor do they mention leading a chaste life.

The implication is that in these two situations, it’s acceptable to find another spouse, preferably Christian, who will stay true to the marriage and not lead the other astray from the faith.

But this is false, because as I’ve stated over and over, the marriage bond still remains. Therefore it is still adultery. The only way for two spouses to separate and remarry is through the annulment process.

Catholic views on divorce don’t hold much water with the Protestant churches. Those denominations do not fall under Catholic authority, and thus we are presented with a grave issue. Protestants do not have the annulment process available to them — and that is another crucial reason for Catholics should pray for our fellow Christians and continue to do so until we are reunited as one body, holy, Catholic, and apostolic.


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