I say to you, whoever divorces his wife
(unless the marriage is unlawful)
and marries another commits adultery.”
This passage from Matthew’s Gospel seems simple enough. If a marriage is lawful, it’s forever. There are no practice marriages or trial marriages. Marriage is exactly what it appears to be, a permanent union between a man and a woman.
Marriage has been in the news lately because of Judge Vaughn’s ruling in California last week that in spite of the clear wishes of 7 million voters, same-sex “marriage” is now legal in that state.
I just finished a course this summer on Canon Law, particularly the laws governing marriage and baptism. Not once in ten hours of classes did father say anything about marriage between two men or two women.
Here’s the thing, eventually the Supreme Court is going to rule on what constitutes a civil marriage. Whatever they decide has nothing to do with sacramental marriage. Jesus made that very clear.
This Gospel passage also explains the issue of annulments, a practice of the Church that’s always been controversial. If marriage is forever, how can the Church “annul” a marriage. Isn’t it just a way for the Church to get more money?
The short answer is no. Jesus says “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife( unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” Unless the marriage is unlawful.
The Church doesn’t nullify a marriage, it declares, under certain circumstances that the marriage wasn’t lawful in the first place which is exactly what the Gospel says today. I’m not going to try to give you a course on Canon Law. It’s very complicated and I don’t expect any of you will ever need to use it. But you will hear the comments from non-Catholics, and maybe even some Catholics criticizing the Church’s rules on marriage.
This one sentence from this one Gospel should be enough. Jesus said “no divorces” but He also allowed for the fact that some folks attempt marriage and fail. God, in His mercy makes allowances for those failures.