What Jesus Said About Divorce

Pope Francis concluded his homily during the Canonization Mass of Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II by invoking the intercession of the two new saints as the Church journeys towards the upcoming Synod on the Family. He finished his homily with the beautiful words, “May both of them teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves.”

The Church is called during this time in preparation for the Synod, to reflect ever more deeply on the teaching of Jesus Christ with regard to marriage, a teaching that is full of mercy: hoping, forgiving, and loving to the end. We see Christ exercise his pastoral teaching on marriage in various places throughout the Gospels: during the wedding at Cana, in conversation with the woman at the well, and in his response to the woman caught in adultery. In this article, I wish to focus primarily on Christ’s teaching on marriage in Matthew Chapter 19:3-11, a teaching that is echoed in each of the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus’ teaching, though sometimes difficult for us to accept, is always full of love, mercy, and compassion.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 19, we read the account where the Pharisees approached Jesus to test him, and offered him a challenge.

“Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” (Mt 19:3)

Notice, the Pharisees were not asking whether or not divorce is lawful, but rather they were asking Jesus about the appropriate grounds for divorce of which he considers to be lawful. This question was proposed to Christ by two different schools of the Pharisees. On one hand was the Hillel School which claimed that any number of reasons could be grounds for divorce as long as the man gave the woman a bill of divorce. On the other hand, the Shammai School claimed that a man could divorce his wife only for very serious reasons, such as infidelity. So, this question was proposed to Jesus to test him on his interpretation of the Mosaic Law found in the Book of Deuteronomy, “When a man, after marrying a woman and having relations with her, is later displeased with her because he finds in her something indecent, and therefore he writes out a bill of divorce and hands it to her, thus dismissing her from his house” (Deuteronomy 24:1).

The Pharisees question is one of a subjective vs. objective interpretation of this passage from Deuteronomy. The Hillel School took a more subjective approach to its interpretation, emphasizing that it is the man who “finds in her” something indecent. While the Shammai School took a more objective approach, claiming that there are certain definitive criteria to determine what is “indecent.” The Pharisees question is also this: Should the Mosaic Law with regard to divorce be interpreted in the man’s favor (Hillel) or in the woman’s favor (Shammai)? It is a question which places a specific interpretation of the man’s rights under Mosaic Law against the compassion and fidelity that is owed to a faithful wife.

If Jesus answered that divorce was only lawful for serious reasons such as infidelity, those in the Hillel School would claim that he was not honoring a man’s rights in the law handed down from Moses. On the other hand, if Jesus answered that a man could divorce his wife for any number of reasons; those in the Shammai School would claim that Jesus has little or no compassion for women. This question of the Pharisees is one that continues to resound to this day. It could be summed up as a question of the law vs. love, doctrine vs. compassion, theology vs. pastoral charity.

It is striking that Jesus does not enter this debate on the grounds that it was proposed. But, rather his answer reveals that according to the Divine plan, there is no opposition between the law and love, between doctrine and compassion, between theology and pastoral charity. Christ’s answer to the Pharisees demonstrates that God’s law is a law of love, that His doctrine on marriage is full of compassion, and that theology and pastoral charity are always united.

“Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ 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’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mt 19:4-6).

Christ’s doctrine on marriage is one that is full of love, because it reveals the very essence of love. Love by its very nature is faithful, forever, and fruitful. Love is always grounded on truth, as it does not permit lies or deception. A temporary agreement could rightly be called a legal contract, but love knows no end. And love is never selfish or self-seeking but rather always expands in service to another. Christ reveals that a husband and wife are called to the Law of Love that is inscribed in our nature by the Creator “from the beginning.” Yet, the Pharisees continue to argue on the grounds of the Mosaic Law.

“[The Pharisees] said to him, ‘Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss [her]?’ [Jesus] 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’ ” (Mt 19:7-8).

The Pharisees response to the Divine teaching about the indissolubility of marriage is to again invoke the Law of Moses. Christ again responds by revealing the truth about marriage “from the beginning.” The concession that Moses granted which allowed for divorce was not an act of mercy, but rather an explicit recognition of the need for a savior. The people, on their own accord, were simply incapable of loving one another as God loves. Their “hearts” had become “hardened” and darkened by sin. Moses could not save the people from their sin. In the hardness of their hearts, the law of God had become burdensome, and so Moses permitted divorce for a time, awaiting a redeemer who could turn their hearts of stone into natural hearts, hearts capable of love. (See Ezekiel 11:19.)

It is important to note that Moses was not acting out of mercy, but out of obligation when he permitted divorce. Mercy always recognizes the full weight of sin, a weight that demands the punishment of death. Christ is the One capable of exercising mercy, because as the sinless One, he accepted the just punishment for our sins and offered the forgiveness of God. Our works of mercy, the mercy that we show to others, are only true mercy if these works are connected to the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Mercy always recognizes the full evil of sin, but Christ’s mercy allows sinners a new opportunity to reform their lives and live according to the truth that will set us free. (See John 8:32.)

The mercy of Christ with regard to the teaching on the indissolubility of marriage is demonstrated most poignantly in John Chapter 8, the passage of the woman caught in adultery. We see here how the law and love, doctrine and compassion, theology and pastoral charity, are perfectly compatible in Christ’s great act of mercy towards the woman. Again, the Pharisees try to trap Jesus. But, Jesus answers in a way that is full of mercy as he clearly recognizes the truth of the reality of sin while forgiving the sinner. Christ always meets people where they are, but he never leaves them where they are. One who encounters Christ is always changed, as we can presume that the woman caught in adultery did not later return to her sinful ways following a brief period of penance.

Cardinal Carlo Caffarra in his March 14, 2014 interview in Il Foglio, beautifully described the Mercy of Christ given to the woman caught in adultery.

“For a woman caught in the very act, the demands of the Mosaic Law were clear: she should be stoned to death. In fact the Pharisees asked Jesus what he thought precisely in order to draw him into their perspective. If he had said “stone her” they would have replied: “Look, He preaches mercy and eats with sinners but when it comes to it even he says “stone her.” If he had said “don’t stone her” they would have replied: “And this is where mercy leads us: it destroys the Law and every legal and moral bond.” This is the typical view of casuistic morality which takes you into a blind alley where you have to choose between the person and upholding the norm. The Pharisees try to trap Jesus in this blind alley. But Jesus doesn’t accept their perspective at all; he says that adultery is a great evil and that it destroys humanity, also of the person who commits this act. Jesus, in order to overcome this evil, doesn’t condemn the person who has committed this act; rather he cures the person of this great evil and commands her not to enter into this evil again. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and do not sin again.” This is the mercy of which only the Lord is capable. This is the mercy which the Church, from one generation to the next, announces.”

In the beautiful passage of Christ’s response to the woman caught in adultery, Jesus demonstrates the truth about mercy, love, and forgiveness. And, this truth about love and mercy is our hope as Christians. Christ offers us the capacity and the ability to change, “relying not on our own strength, but on the help and grace of the Holy Spirit.” (CCC 1817) Christ calls us to love in a way that we are not capable of on our own. In his Incarnation, Christ does not destroy our human nature but elevates it, revealing our true calling to live as sons and daughters of God.

Christ’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage may seem outdated in modern times or difficult to accept, but his teaching is clear and unequivocal, held by the Church for nearly 2,000 years.

“I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery” (Mt 19:9).

Jesus clearly demonstrates the truth about marriage, that it is ordained by God to last “until death.” Marriage reveals the truth about God’s love, a love that is faithful to the end. Truth and love, theology and pastoral charity, are perfectly united in this teaching of Christ.

There are some in the Church today who are proposing various “solutions” whereby someone who is divorced and civilly remarried can be admitted to Holy Communion. These “solutions” claim that we can somehow separate Christian doctrine from pastoral charity. This is a claim that is absurd for a Christian, as it would in effect be living as if Christ’s teaching no longer applies. We must be clear that any “solution” that does not honor the explicit teaching of Christ, a teaching that is full of love and hope, would in turn not be merciful. Such a “solution” would instead be the very negation of mercy. It would be the equivalent to Christ saying to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you, so you are now free to continue your adulterous union.”

Such a “solution” would not be Christian but would be an attempt to move “beyond Jesus” to what we perceive to be more compassionate. It would not only negate Christ’s teaching on marriage, but would also negate his teaching on love and mercy. It would in effect be a claim that we now know better than Jesus, and that one can be saved while disregarding his teachings that we find to be too difficult.

Unless they were willing to agree to live perpetually “as brother and sister,” we simply cannot admit those who are divorced and civilly remarried to the Sacraments and still remain faithful to the teaching of Christ. But the questions still remain … How does the Church exercise charity towards those in this situation? How does the Church call those living in an objective state of adultery to the heights of holiness to which all the baptized are called?

Let us return again to the words of Pope Francis during his homily at the Canonization Mass, “May both [Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II] teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ.” Certainly there are many people in the Church today who have been divorced and civilly remarried. The pastoral solution for the Church is that we must more deeply enter into their wounds, helping them to carry their daily cross. Faithful to the words of Jesus, certainly the Church can do a better job of providing the support and encouragement necessary to help these couples live in complete continence. This is certainly not easy, but it is filled with the hope that comes from Christ, a hope that does not rely on our own strength, but on the power of the Holy Spirit. Trusting in the Lord’s promise and frequently receiving the grace of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist, these couples faithfully committed to live in complete continence can reach the heights of sanctity to which all the baptized are called.

Many today will complain that this is too hard, who can accept it? (See John 6:60.) Wasn’t this the very attitude of the disciples when Christ gave his teaching on marriage in Matthew 19?

“[His] disciples said to him, ‘If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry” (Mt 19:10).  

The disciples clearly understand human nature and rightly discern that the teaching of Christ is extremely difficult if not impossible to fulfill on our own. But, unlike Moses, who was pressured to give in to the demands of human nature out of obligation, Christ offers something new. The path to living the truth about marriage, the ability to accept the words of Christ, requires that we be granted something, or rather Someone, as a Gift from God. It is only when a person is granted the Gift of the Holy Spirit that they can live the truth of their sexuality according to their state in life. This is the hope that comes not from our own power, but from God.

“Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted” (Mt 19:11).

Allowing the divorced and civilly remarried to be admitted to Holy Communion, does not represent a docility or openness to the Holy Spirit, but rather the very denial of the power of the Holy Spirit to heal us and transform our lives. So, the proposed “solution” allowing for Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, would ultimately be based on a false understanding of love and mercy, and a denial of hope. Certainly, those who are divorced and civilly remarried deserve better than this.

The proper pastoral solution for those who are divorced and civilly remarried, a solution founded on the very words of Christ in Sacred Scripture, can be found in St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio #84. Every Catholic should take this time leading up to the Synod as an opportunity to read or re-read the wisdom and pastoral insight found in Familiars Corsortio.     

The Synod will certainly have the challenge of discussing how to effectively evangelize and catechize those Catholics who have been divorced and civilly remarried. Perhaps for many of these couples, the Church could encourage them to look into the annulment process, in order to lawfully determine the validity of any previous unions. For those for whom this is not a possibility, the Church must find pastoral ways to encourage these couples to live separately or at the very least “as brother and sister.” This is a cross that is difficult, though certainly not impossible, with the grace of God and the assistance of the Church.

In addition to finding pastoral solutions to help those who are divorced and civilly remarried carry their cross, the Synod will also need to address the root causes of divorce. Not the least among the root causes of divorce is a widespread grave lack of understanding and acceptance of God’s design for marriage, a lifelong union of man and woman which is ordered to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. To this end the Church as a whole could certainly look to more widely incorporating St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body throughout the entire catechetical process.

With the great crisis affecting marriage and family life in today’s culture, the Synod Fathers will certainly have much to discuss at the upcoming Synod.  It would not be charitable to those who are divorced and civilly remarried to disregard 2,000 years of fidelity to Christ’s teaching in an effort to be seemingly compassionate or pastoral. To do so would be to deny the truth about love, mercy, and forgiveness, and to give way to hopelessness.

Editor’s note: The image above depicting Christ with the Samaritan woman at the well was painted by Francesco Fernandi (1679-1740).

Daniel Thimons


Daniel Thimons is the Director of the Marriage and Family Life Office for the Diocese of Columbus, OH. He earned his MTS at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Catholic University of America. He resides near Columbus with his wife, Megan, and their four children.

  • jeremiah_methusela

    What concerns me is exactly why this issue has been brought up now (by several high-level prelates) and not way back some three or four or more centuries ago ? What I was taught at school (from the famous penny Catechism) was that marriage is for keeps. For ever and ever : richer or poorer, sickness and health etcetera, wonderful inspiring words of dedication to each other, which we uttered before God and our families and friends, all the time standing on the very altar of sacrifice.
    We believed in our vows intensely, it was taken for granted. The Anglicans drove off the main highway back in 1930, allowing contraception “in principle”. This action, as the late and great Father Paul Marx OSB said was going through the gateway, the gateway of contraception. So true – just look at the present state of the Anglicans, where it has reached the unbelievable situation where a US “bishop” of the Episcopalian Church has just divorced his homosexual “wife”/”husband” (strike out which does not apply). What is going on ? What is Cardinal Kasper up to ? Has he lost his faith ? His mind ? Has he been preparing for this for some time now ? Does he truly think he, a mere earthling, can change the Divine Words of Scripture ?
    Are not these issues the evil fruit of liberalism ? Do they not spring from the same source ? I cannot believe that any Catholic bishop would/will contradict the words of our Lord and Master and that includes he who prefers to be known as the Bishop of Rome. There is no fine line we are discussing, no delicate point of theology or Canon Law, divorce is divorce. Divorce your wife (or vice versa) and you leave the Church. No-one may change that self-evident truth.
    I still do know why it has been brought up now in hi-vis dayglo, light-flashing brilliance by a Cardinal of the Church.

    • BillinJax

      Nice to know there are still Catholics that remember what Catholics are and what they are required to believe in faith and action. .

    • Art Deco

      What is Cardinal Kasper up to ? Has he lost his faith ? His mind ?
      Has he been preparing for this for some time now ? Does he truly think
      he, a mere earthling, can change the Divine Words of Scripture ?

      Perhaps the work of a bored careerist tired of petty conflicts (or, more likely, an intermediary for such types among the parish clergy). Or perhaps the work of an ambitious academic. Telling people they cannot have what they want in the parish you supervise is not ‘nice’. Accepting received teaching and making incremental clarifications is not ‘bold’ or ‘sophisticated’.

      • fderf

        German clergy receive money from the government. Many Germans who do not receive the Sacraments are de-registering so they don’t have to pay the tax to the Church. (Some want to be un-baptized).

  • BillinJax

    The reason we have a rapidly evolving secular society is that currently a major
    portion of our citizens have been raised in homes without a mother and father
    who have or planned to be married to each other for life and were mostly
    educated in schools where God and prayer had been excluded from the curriculum.
    When family life where children were welcomed as a gift from God by two god
    fearing adult parents, one working and the other at home, and not seen as an
    accidental by-product of sheer physical passion there was a good chance for
    them to become responsible members of society. Unfortunately modern living, led
    by the uncontrolled lust in the hearts of mankind and liberalism’s always
    enticing boast of freeing mankind from the bonds of religious scruples, in the
    last century handed evil the lethal weapons to destroy families.

    The beauty and wonder of the Conception of a child in the
    womb of its mother was chosen as a target at the very beginning of socialism
    and its liberal agenda to accomplish the “fundamental transformation of America”
    way before the current regime and their announced messiah appeared on the
    national scene. The cry from the desert of dome was that the world God had made
    for us was in grave danger of Over Population. We had to save the earth from
    being over run with new life? The pictures accompanying every deceitful article
    echoing that cry were not of cute toddlers in their mother’s arms or on happy
    playgrounds or in pleasant classrooms learning of the beauty of God’s good
    earth. No, we were shown starving skin and bone figures in poor countries of Africa
    and Asia where Christian missionaries were trying to
    bring the truth of the gospels to the people. Ironically this deceitful
    campaign gained support at a time when tens of millions of innocent humans all
    over the world had just been ritually slaughtered by godless dictators and
    imperial rulers before, during and after World War II.

    Contraception in all its forms, as part of the selfish
    passion for freedom from individual responsibility, was hailed as a redeeming
    blessing for not only married couples who wished not to have the obligation of
    raising a family but also to any and all who desired to be romantically
    involved prior to or in lieu of marriage. The personal benefits and blessing of
    conjugal love which God had reserved for married couples to have families and
    procreate were transformed and disguised as simply human rights suddenly
    ordained and made available by the secular progressives to everyone without
    having to pledge eternal companionship or bare the obligations of parenthood.
    Giving those with a taste for such freedom, the media offered public cover by
    naming their cause a Sexual Revolution. Driven by the desire to avoid personal
    responsibility at any price¸ rejecting any mention of chastity, this was the harbinger of societal
    perversion as well as the precursor and foundation for what eventually became
    our own national plague, Abortion.

    One might easily define the demise of American family life by its two most
    revealing concepts, contraception and abortion. One opposed the creative nature
    God granted to the union of a man and a woman joined in Holy Matrimony and the
    other sought to challenge the very involvement of God in the equation. Both
    have at the center of its premise the denial that man is the product of the
    goodness and abundance of God’s love and that man was not made in His image and
    likeness. Therefore, there is no such thing as procreation and God had no
    purposeful design for the ability of mankind to reproduce.

    Liberalism, like Humanism, stops short of denying the existence of God least they lose the
    basis for the goodness of man which provides them some footing to espouse
    their false philosophy of life. This is the same as the satanic Temptation of
    Christ when he was asked to forsake his divine nature and simply be human
    and follow the commands of one who would provide him with all he would
    ever need. The lord of lies has hope; hope that we do not recognize him among
    those who have unknowingly followed him and wish to control us.

    The world witnessed recently the liberal dominated democratic national convention purposely attempting to remove all mention of God from their platform to proudly but foolishly proclaim what could be called a doctrine of the cultural of death. However, they reasoned prior to the
    election was not good timing for exposing the under belly of their agenda and
    leaders hastily overruled the mobs there present shouting for its approval.

    When in God’s name is the Body of Christ going to publicly admit
    we have many elitists in our fold as politicians, entertainers, educators, or
    media reporters who are giving aid and comfort to the evil enemies of our
    faith, identify them and officially notify them they can not be in communion
    with us and continue to cooperate in the erosion of our values and doctrines?
    Hopefully our new Pope Francis, with the fervent prayers of the faithful, can
    turn the tide of tyranny in the Church and if need be become a smaller but holier flock for him to shepherd.

  • Vinnie

    The Church must stay the beacon of the truth of God no matter what happens on the earth.

  • Christopher

    You manipulated the language of Matthew 19:9, the part in brackets should be “unless for sexual immorality” not “unless the marriage is unlawful.” I can´t believe CRISIS published this false and ideologically driven article. The Church´s Magisterium will rightfully explore the limits and frontiers of the Petrine power of the keys in realm of marriage, and one must submit to what she says without trying to stupidly manipulate the debate. The Church, in the pauline and petrine privileges, already exercises her Keys in regards to marriage. Is there a possibility that Christ´s words might legitimate divorce on the grounds of “porneia”? I don´t know, but there is a possibility that the power of the Keys in this sacrament extends to this.

    • Crisiseditor

      The author is using the Catholic Study Bible (New American Bible translation) which contains a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur from Cardinal George’s Archdiocese of Chicago; hardly a hotbed of heresy. Crisis readers do have a great interest in learning about and defending long established Church teaching, even if you don’t. Your desire to see the Church change its teaching to accommodate the divorce culture is quite transparent. Your appeals to Petrine authority can not hide your rejection of authentic Church teaching defended by Mr. Thimons. Despite claims to the contrary, your grievance is not with Crisis but with the Magisterium itself.

      • Mopsuestia

        All the same, Christopher is correct in pointing out that the translation presented by the author is flat-out wrong, and thus his argument concerning Jesus’ teaching on marriage is profoundly misleading.
        No Nihil Obstat or Imprimatur can change the fact that the Greek, which makes an exception for “porneia,” means something entirely different than an exception for “unlawfulness.” The Magisterium cannot willy-nilly dictate and change the meaning of words with well-established lexical usages. To do so is, in fact, a form of relativism.

      • Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur from Cardinal George’s Archdiocese of Chicago
        Are these in themselves sufficient?
        hardly a hotbed of heresy … perhaps …
        The liturgical reflections in the World Library Publications Missalettes (WLP) that my parish uses feature what I would call a ‘speculative gospel’ and borrowing from the Vatican, have ‘radical feminist themes’. These missalettes have the Ecclesiastical Approval given by Rev. Msgr. John F. Canary, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
        I expressed my concerns to WLP, my parish, my Bishop, and His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago, from whom I received no response.

    • Sign

      Let us be kind and say you are confused.

    • Paul

      It appears that you are unaware of the authentic Catholic doctrine concerning the sacrament of Marriage, solemnly and infallibly defined by the Council of Trent:

      “If any one saith, that the Church has erred, in that she hath
      taught, and doth teach, in accordance with the evangelical and apostolical
      doctrine, that the bond of matrimony cannot be dissolved on account of the
      adultery of one of the married parties
      ; and that both, or even the innocent
      one who gave not occasion to the adultery, cannot contract another
      marriage, during the life-time of the other; and, that he is guilty of
      adultery, who, having put away the adulteress, shall take another wife, as
      also she, who, having put away the adulterer, shall take another husband;
      let him be anathema.” Council of Trent, 24th session, on the sacrament of marriage, canon VII.

      Accordingly, I strongly suggest reconsidering your view that “divorce on the grounds of ‘porneia'” is possibly legitimate.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Notice the rather curious phrasing, “”If any one saith, that the Church has erred, in that she hath taught…”

        This was designed to condemn the Reformers, who did say Rome was wrong, without specifically including the famous “economia” of the Orthodox, which they define as “the suspension of the absolute and strict applications of canon and church regulations in the governing and the life of the Church, without subsequently compromising the dogmatic limitations.” Now, this may well strike us as, frankly, incoherent, but it means that the Orthodox both insist that marriage is indissoluble, whilst permitting divorce and remarriage in practice.

        The Tridentine canon is an interesting example of early ecumenical sensitivity.

        • DE-173

          “This was designed to condemn the Reformers”

          Can we please stop using the term “Reformers” (and certainly not capitalize the term)?

          Luther, Zwingli, and the others REformed nothing. At best they deformed, divided and truncated authentic Christianity with ideas that have taken five centuries to bear fruit. Thirty-some odd thousand denominations, all professing widely variant creeds, are the fruit of Sola Scriptura.
          I prefer Deformers. Heretics will do. Luther was no better than Arias. Much evil is countenanced when one concedes language.

  • I am a divorced and civilly remarried man. A year ago I was blessed and privileged to be received into the Catholic church. I receive the Sacraments each Mass but I did not enter into a “brother-sister” relationship with my wife upon entering the church, nor during my time in RCIA. I entered a brother-sister relationship with my wife on June 11, eight years ago. We did so because of what the Lord impressed on our heart from the words of Jesus in Matthew, while listening to the Bible on tape while driving the car. And this did not happen while we were together. It was an individual experience. I heard those words (which I had read many times before) and began to wonder. My wife heard them and began to wonder. And that evening in June she asked me what I thought. I told her that after more than 40 years of faithfully serving God, many of them as a Pentecostal pastor, I had no answer. But we need to carefully examine the issue. We have not shared the same bed since.
    This is a marvellous article. God’s grace is indeed sufficient. I did not become celibate in marriage in order to be admitted to the sacraments. I was received into the church and admitted to the sacraments because I was already living in obedience to the Word of God. But let me tell you, being able to weekly receive the Body and Blood of Christ is well worth ANY price that a man would have to pay. To lower the requirements would be to do great disservice to the communicant, and devalue the Sacrament. My sexuality is FAR from dead, but If we have to choose between a sex life and a Sacramental life, a man would be a fool to choose sex.

    • ForChristAlone

      I am hoping that the Crisis Editor invites you to write a piece for this site on your understanding of the sacrmanetal life of the Church. Your testimony is invaluable. You are someone to be held out as truly understanding the sacramental life of the Church. Thank you for this testimony.

      • Scott W.


        • DE-173


          • Joselito Paraiso


    • RufusChoate

      The world and the Church has great need for such heroes as your wife and you. God Bless you both.

    • Objectivetruth

      “but If we have to choose between a sex life and a Sacramental life, a man would be a fool to choose sex.”

      One of the best lines I’ve heard in a long time. One can even substitute the
      word “sinful” for “sex”.

      Thank you!

    • Charles Ryder

      That’s an amazing testimony. Thank you, and God bless you and your family. I wish I were this brave.

    • God bless you @Ken R. Anderson, your wife and all near and dear to you and may you not lose your reward …
      Rev 22:11-12 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy. Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done.

  • je

    Absolutely beautiful!

  • Scott Trick

    I married a divorced woman. Together we started a website for divorced families. Please check it out and let me know what you think! It is http://www.brokenfamilysolutions.com

    Look forward to your comments!

    • Art Deco

      It’s half cliche, half Saturday-Night-Live parody advertisement ca. 1979.

    • Jude

      A whole website dedicated to making the sin of divorce and remarriage okay? Why on earth would you post that here? You are married to another man’s wife? Did you mean to say that there had been an annulment?

  • Pingback: What Jesus SAID about Divorce from Crisis BLOG | On God's Payroll()

  • Melanie Reed

    My question is why is this all right to live as “brother and sister” but in the same house with the same last name as if married? Is the real spouse still living? Is their return (their salvation) and the healing of this marriage not being prayed for? Where is the shepherd of this marriage (the husband) not actively praying for the return of this little sheep? Should not the one see this as only a half repentance? There are too many of us, who because of obedience to the Lord on the scriptures, live a life alone and difficult both financially and family wise, bearing the stigma of a scripturally unlawful divorce because our mates, who were baptized, unlawfully left us. We do this because there is no other way but to hope in God for the prodigal’s return. When we do otherwise, we only open the door for Satan and put temptation in the way of all other marriages and weaker members who think they can rationalize sin. Would it be loving to do that? Hardly. It may be hard to live with your lawful mate but we have done it for over 2000 years in the church because that is what love does. It may be hard to give up that idea of companionship but if it is not lawful, how is going around telling people you don’t have sex (which is none of their business anyway) helping and holy? But now it has gotten so bad that we keep lowering the expectation. Anything less than cutting yourself off fully from the adulterous union is trying to hold onto some illicit earthly pleasure.

    • Melanie Reed

      I will also add, when you hang onto to a remarriage after divorce, you are impeding the work of the Holy Spirit to reunite those praying for their prodigal’s return. Many prayers and tears go up to heaven about this. Frankly, the government had no business stepping into church affairs and deciding when a marriage was no longer. Yet many in this country have agreed with them since 1966 and put all of our marriages at risk. Again, I will say that I was looking to the Catholic church to be the holdout and protection of God’s word on this where I would feel safe. But while it says one thing on the surface, I have found through a long look that many of her members are simply trying to find ways around what it says about the permanence of marriage. How can I trust that or any who do?

      • Shannon Marie Federoff

        You talk as if it is only the sharing/ not sharing of a bed that is at stake. What about children conceived from that second union? Do we deny them the right to be raised by their father? I think the idea of living as brother and sister, so the children can be raised by their parents, is a lofty but livable compromise.

        But, OH, what a mess modern Catholic marriage preparation is! Staring at home, with the parents as the first teachers…. and don’t get me started on the stale and impotent “Engaged Encounter” weekends!

        • Melanie Reed

          First, we do not ever compromise on the Word of God. Not for any worldly and sinful rationalization. On the contrary, I am glad you bring up the obvious implication (though a secondary consideration) of my comment. Thank you! Yes, let us talk about children and see where God stands scripturally on whose rights are being infringed on. I am glad you bring up children having the right to be raised by their father – and that would be the children of the original union. NOT the children of the sin. Sin has painful consequences; it hurts people (not the least of which is our Creator who has not changed his will, his oath, and his counsel on this) which is why we should not do it. And yet we are playing on the emotions of people and manipulating them with the emotional arrogance and cruelty of the present and forgetting the rights and needs of the past who have been dealt with unjustly. But even if the original marriage did not have children, the books of Malachi, Hosea, and Genesis (Sarah) have laid a very clear picture of where God stands on the matter. And these are the building blocks of the scripture where Jesus himself corrects the Pharisees by reminding them of those facts: “Such has not been the case from the beginning….” Paul even makes the distinction of the spiritual nature of being “children of the free woman and not the slave”. The bible also has very strong words on how God sees the woman, the wife who has been displaced by this so called “new act of love”. ” “This is the way of an adulteress: She eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.’ 21 “Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up: 22 a servant who becomes king, a fool who is full of food, 23 an unloved woman who is married, and a maidservant who displaces her mistress. 24 “Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise:” (Proverbs 30: 20-24) Please note verse 23. Not a one who has done this treacherous thing (Malachi) – what God calls violence to the innocent mate, are fooling him. We may be able to fool those who want to indulge in the comforts and illicit pleasures of sin, who have agreed on it, but we will not change our Holy God. As I said before, the tears of those these ones have betrayed for their lust – and make no mistake – that is what it is when we stubbornly insist as did Herodias and Herod on an unlawful second, third or fourth marriage, do not go unheeded by the Father. He will see that justice is done. It is time that people saw through these so-called pictures of family “love”. Romans tells us: “Love must be sincere; hate what is bad cling to what is good” And God has said: “I have hated a divorcing …” What do people think is going to happen, especially the men whose responsibility was that wife of his youth for whom he was to lay down his life? What do they think they are going to say on Judgement Day that will make what they knew full well they were doing go away? Please give me mercy when I didn’t show it to my own flesh?

          • Shannon Marie Federoff

            “Children of the sin?” Dear Lord, don’t ever call a child that again! Every blessed one of them is a child of God, no matter WHAT the circumstances of their conception (marital, premarital, extramarital, conceived in rape or incest).

            All I am saying is that this gets very complicated when the second relationship has new biological children involved, and we need a pastoral way to address that. Its not a simple matter of “go back to your first husband.” There is a very good chance that first husband may not want to raise another man’s child, and the child will be rejected.

            God’s first attribute is love… yes, even for those children conceived outside of holy wedlock.

            • Melanie Reed

              Excuse me? Please don’t assume lack of love or barbarity for stating a truth. I appreciate your understanding on this matter. They are free to have a relationship with God because of Christ despite how they came into the world. But the scriptures do make a differentiation about being born of man’s will or God’s will. (John 1:13; http://biblehub.com/john/1-13.htm) And we today do not want to consider such matters because we have reduced the scriptures into an edited version of the New Testament, distilled into a notion of “feeling” love rather than its Holy reality. But it is those who sinned who put them in the position just as Adam and Eve put the human race in the position we are in because of their sin. This then emphasizes the Holiness of procreation, the immense responsibility of the act and the children who come from it. This is the point on which the modern understanding, with respect, often pushed forward by unbalanced feminine compassion (a misuse of what is good) does not see the truth of the matter – that the sin must be addressed, must be answered for and not shoved under the blanket, so to speak. The children of the adulterers are of course NOT responsible for the predicament – how could they be? But God addresses that in Malachi as to why the situation is the way that it is. And we used to understand that in earlier times. As to practical matters, we can love without breaking God’s law and that seems to be the rub on which the modern mind somehow cannot come to terms with the fact that, yes, you can turn the clock back. G. K. Chesterton makes the simplest and most credible cases for it in this way: “If I am to discuss what is wrong, one of the first things that are wrong is this: the deep and silent modern assumption that past things have become impossible. There is one metaphor of which the moderns are very fond; they are always saying, “You can’t put the clock back.” The simple and obvious answer is “You can.” A clock, being a piece of human construction, can be restored by the human finger to any figure or hour. In the same way society, being a piece of human construction, can be reconstructed upon any plan that has ever existed.” -G. K. Chesterton, IV. The Fear of the Past, Part One: The Homelessness of Man, What’s Wrong With The World, 1910 And that is exactly, what is curiously wrong with this thinking of continuing to live in sin, mouthing some empty apology which passes for real repentance – which is “Go and sin no more.” The adulterous woman does not go back to the husband of another woman because the prefer each other’s company and say: “we’ll I’ll act better now that I have things to my liking.” How selfish! And how wrong! Yet it is done every day mocking God.

              You say “but what if they (the husband/father) doesn’t want to do his duty?” Well, the simple answer is that you wait and pray for him to do it. The same for the wife/mother. No matter how long that takes. The waiting is implied for both in the scripture: “But a wife should not depart from her husband, but if she should depart, let her remain unmarried or else make up again with her husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:10) You leave the way open for the prodigal to return – as God did for us. Indeed, you are “out on the road” looking for them as did the Father in the story. Those who do not love justice to those who they have wronged are always slyly looking for what they think are exceptions but God sees the heart. The truth is, as uncomfortable for all of you who have remarried thinking you knew better than God, is that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of abandoned spouses who are praying right now for their prodigal mate’s return. Who do you think whose cause of justice and love God will defend based on his Word? Many of the remarried have tried to assert that the divorce was “necessary” or “amicable” and nothing could be further from the truth. What has happened is a divorce culture supported by a “no-fault” divorce law that shoves the divorce on to the innocent mate whether they want it or not and leaves them no way legally to really fight it to save their marriage in the court room. But we will continue to fight the battle in the heavens! For the family, the real family, is what the congregation is based on.

  • A good rebuttal to What Cardinal Kasper Really Said About Divorce
    Ml 2:13-16 And this again you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor at your hand. 14 You ask, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Has not the one God made and sustained for us the spirit of life? And what does he desire? Godly offspring. So take heed to yourselves, and let none be faithless to the wife of his youth. 16 For I hate[i] divorce, says the Lord the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless.

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  • Melinda

    Happy Father’s Day, Dan! Great article!

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  • Randall Ward

    The heart of the gospel is forgiveness. Most of us sin the same sins every day and never quit, yet we are forgiven if we only ask. One sin is not more great than another in God’s eyes, as the Bible tells us. Some are 1% close to God and some are .5% close to God, yet both are forgiven if we trust in God and ask for forgiveness. He knows we can’t stop all our immoral behavior while we are on earth. Yes the goal is to be like Jesus, but no one attains that goal on earth, and God is well aware of it; that is why Jesus died on the cross for us. He did what we can not do.

    • Melanie Reed

      Sir, what you say would sound like the truth, if it were not for the explicitly spelled out provisions of what repentance looks like in the Bible and the difference maintained as to the cleanness of the church and the expectations Jesus has of a member of that body. We do leave those outside to God’s judgement. We give them a lot more leeway as to a blanket forgiveness knowing that it is in God’s hands since they are lacking a full relationship with God and the Holy Spirit. That is what Jesus says when he says: “For they know not what they do.” But as to those inside the body of Christ, Jesus gives us something different: When he goes to Zacchaeus house, and hears his repentance (he makes amends for what he has done wrong) here is what Jesus says: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” This is a fitting illustration of what real repentance looks like (Its not just worldly regret voiced with an empty apology and a ‘Hail Mary’) Its this desire to see justice done to the ones we have wronged that Paul later makes a comparison about when he compares worldly regret vs “…godly sorrow that leads to repentance”. What too many of us want today is for others to look the other way past our sin, join in with us, and let it go if we hear “Sorry!”. Yet that is missing the point that Jesus here makes: “So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.” (Luke 17:3) If they repent. That is a very strong clause and often overlooked as we water things down for our liking. But God does not change. It is we who are to do the changing. And yes, it is hard. But goodness, we do have the Holy Spirit! Let us not grieve him.

      • Randall Ward

        No God does not change, but the way He deals with people does. In the OT God moved the people from killing a whole tribe to only killing the “bad guy” in the other tribe. We should understand that God did not like any killing at all, but He obviously wanted to deal with people as they were instead of making them robots. God hasn’t changed and He still deals with people where they are. Jesus taught us that rules are fine but the heart is more important.
        The problem some Christians have is they don’t know the debth of their sin; they are like prophets in the OT that told God how perfect they were, until God revealed the truth to them and they repented in dust and ashes- once they saw their whole sin. We that condem divorced people are just like that; they are a lot worse than us, and cannot be forgiven if they don’t get divorced again and remain single. Remember that Jesus let his followers pick grain on the Holy Day, even though it was against the law. Divorce has always been against the law in the OT and NT. Behind the prohibiton of divorce was the fact that a women in OT times would be left alone with little hope of being well off. That fact is the heart of prohibiting divorce. Things are different now, but not entirely different. Women still have a hard time, so divorce is not good, but that doesn’t mean it is unforgivable; there is only one unforgivable sin.

        • Melanie Reed

          Actually, the only thing that has changed is that there has not been a punishment meted out for every transgression. That is the way the scripture puts it. That is not so that everyone can sin as they please or claim I’m just too sinful to try. Indeed, that kind of attitude was happening in the congregations in the apostles’ time and they set them straight on that. But it is a characteristic of those living in the last days in 2 Timothy 3:1-6. That scripture is talking not about the world but of those in the Christian congregation who “…having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.” These were ones who snuck into the congregation to spread ideas that repentance wasn’t important and that forgiveness was little better than a cover for ones self-indulgence. The true evidence of the Holy Spirit would not be with them. In fact, all of 2 Timothy discusses this. It doesn’t instruct us to have a lackadaisical attitude about these ones, it doesn’t even tell us to pray for them. It has a very strong and interesting warning: “From these turn away”. They were taking grace and using it for loose behavior and lawlessness. In effect, the scriptures tell us, “…crucifying the Son of God afresh” These are strong words. But they make a point about missing the point of grace to help us not to sin, instead of to sin. If a person is still dead in their sins, there is no point to forgiveness. Its just a bully who wants to tell God how its going to be. Its someone who is trying to mock God and the whole point of love.

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  • steve


    What Jesus said, Mark 16:16 “He who who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.(NKJV)

    What Jesus did not say. Jesus did not say who has believed and already been saved should be baptized as a testimony of their faith. To believe what Jesus did not say requires at least one of the following. Willful ignorance, dishonesty, or lack of prayer for the truth of God.

    What the apostle Peter said, Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, (NKJV)

    What the apostle Peter did not say. Repent because your sins were forgiven the minute you believed in Jesus and now be baptized because Jesus commanded it so you can join the Baptist church or any other church. Peter and the apostle never said water baptism was not essential to have sins forgiven.

    Men have only two choices, believe what Jesus and the apostle said or believe what men have declared as the truth.

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http//:steve-finnell.blogspot.com