Defending the Truth About Marriage

The Catholic Church is the only major institution that still teaches the truth about marriage: that it is an indissoluble, lifelong union between one man and one woman, open to the transmission of life. And one of the consequences of this truth is that divorced persons who have remarried while their spouse is alive may not receive Holy Communion. This is grounded in the clear words of Jesus Christ, who said, “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

This has also been part of the Tradition of the Church since the early centuries of Christianity, with St. Augustine writing that “it is unlawful for one who leaves her husband, even when she has been put away, to be married to another, as long as her husband lives” and St. Jerome writing that “A husband may be an adulterer or a sodomite, he may be stained with every crime and may have been left by his wife because of his sins; yet he is still her husband and, so long as he lives, she may not marry another.” The pertinence of this teaching to the present age is clear. We now know how damaging divorce is for children, even for the adult children of parents who undergo divorce. And we also know that the Church’s teaching remains efficacious: Catholics, at least in the United States, divorce at a lower rate than non-Catholics.

Yet, despite this, the Church has seen extensive debate over the past year over Cardinal Kasper’s proposal to admit remarried divorcees to Holy Communion. Kasper’s proposal has won widespread support among self-professed “progressives,” and it is not hard to see why: if the Church can overturn a teaching that is grounded in the clear words of Jesus Christ and in clear apostolic Tradition, there is no teaching of the Church that cannot be changed to suit the demands of this age, or of any age to come.

Ignatius Press’ book Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church is a valuable and timely defense of the truth about marriage. Contributors to the book include the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, as well as Cardinal Walter Brandmuller, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, and Cardinal Raymond Burke, plus the book’s editor, Robert Dodaro, O.S.A., Patristics scholar John Rist, biblical scholar Paul Mankowski, S.J., and Archbishop Cyril Vasil, S.J., an expert on the Eastern Church.  The book’s perspective is clear. As Fr. Dodaro explains in his excellent introduction, “The authors of this volume jointly contend that the New Testament presents Christ as unambiguously prohibiting divorce and remarriage on the basis of God’s original plan for marriage set out at Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 … civil marriage following divorce involves a form of adultery, and it makes reception of the Eucharist morally impossible (1 Cor 11:28), unless the couple practice sexual continence. These are not a series of rules made up by the Church; they constitute divine law, and the Church cannot change them.”

Remaining in the Truth coverAlthough each of the essays contained in the book is well worth reading, the contributions of the two Jesuits are particularly worthwhile. Fr. Mankowski offers a thorough examination of all the biblical texts in which Jesus’ teaching on marriage is set forth, including St. Paul’s prohibition of divorce in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, a prohibition that Paul emphasizes comes from the Lord, not from him. In considering Mark 10: 2-12, Mankowski notes that “In contrast to a sentimentalism common in our own day that views openness to divorce as a manifestation of charity, Jesus distances himself from the ostensible ground of the concession [to divorce found in Mosaic law] (“your hardness of heart”) and proceeds to place himself in the paradoxical position of a new lawgiver vindicating the original and divinely ordained union of man and wife.” Indeed, Jesus “is stating as emphatically as possible that the oneness of husband and wife is divine will and not a human contrivance.”

To those who contend that Jesus’ teaching on divorce and remarriage is too hard to live up to, Mankowski reminds us of the help that Jesus promised to those who would follow Him: “Under the old dispensation it may have required heroic moral and physical courage, as well as a love of godliness, to remain true in practice and conviction to God’s creative will in the matter of nuptial fidelity—but under the new covenant, even ho mikrotetos, the least in the Kingdom, will be given the strength to stay faithful, and to do greater things besides.” Contrast this to Cardinal Kasper’s statement, made in one of the many interviews he has given on this subject, that those who live together as brother and sister following divorce and remarriage, out of obedience to the Lord, are engaged in a “heroic act, and heroism’s not for the average Christian.” One wonders what the early Christians would have thought of Kasper’s statement. As John Rist notes, those early Christians “stood out … for a strictness on sexual matters of which they boasted—even when they failed to live up to their own ideals,” and many of them, perhaps not coincidentally, also chose martyrdom rather than burn a little incense to Caesar.

Archbishop Vasil provides a thorough examination of Eastern Orthodox teaching on divorce, looking at how the individual Orthodox Churches deal with divorce and remarriage, examining the many grounds for divorce recognized by those Churches, and looking at how those Churches handle decrees of divorce issued by civil courts. Since Kasper has sought to justify his proposal by appealing to Eastern Orthodox practice, this essay is of critical importance. The picture Vasil paints is not pretty: “A look at these approaches to marriage questions in some Orthodox Churches leads us to conclude that, in concrete practice, the Orthodox Churches either endorse civil divorce or recognize them more or less overtly.” Elsewhere, it is even worse: “Many Orthodox Churches do little more than simply ratify the divorce sentence issued by the civil court.” This easy acceptance of divorce in the Orthodox world has caused concern even for some Orthodox writers. Vasil cites Alvian Smirensky, who, in analyzing the decrees of the Synod of Moscow in 1918, “indicates that unfortunately … only fifteen lines are dedicated to the question of indissolubility, while seven subsequent pages describe the ways in which it is possible to dissolve the indissoluble bond.” This is the end of the path on which Cardinal Kasper is asking us to begin walking.

The truth about marriage was one of the truths that the Catholic missionaries carried with them wherever they went.  Cardinal Brandmuller’s essay focuses in large part on Frankish king Lothair II, who sought to divorce his wife for infertility and marry his mistress, with whom he already had a son. In doing this, Lothair was acting in accord with the inherited customs of the Franks, and “[t]he dispute became so fierce that at one point a Frankish army even invaded Rome and threatened the Pope.” The Pope refused to submit, and both Lothair and his mistress were excommunicated by Pope Nicholas I.   The end result was that the Christian understanding of marriage became the accepted view in Lothair’s kingdom: “Everything about the episode shows that a process had begun by which the Christian understanding of marriage gradually was to prevail over received, pre-Christian forms and norms of marriage among those peoples who had now been converted to Christianity.” Thanks to the influence of the Catholic Church, divorce became impossible in most of Europe for most of history.

Once the Christian view of marriage was established, the Church tenaciously resisted attempts to legitimize divorce. As Cardinal Muller notes in his essay, “there is evidence that groups of Orthodox Christians on becoming Catholic had to subscribe to an express acknowledgment of the impossibility of second or third marriages.” More famously, “The schism of a ‘Church of England’ … came about not because of doctrinal differences, but because the Pope, out of obedience to the sayings of Jesus, could not accommodate the demands of King Henry VIII for the dissolution of his marriage.” In our own time, the Church has unsuccessfully opposed the legalization of divorce in Ireland, Italy, and Malta, and successfully resisted the legalization of divorce in the Philippines. It is hard to see how Cardinal Kasper’s proposal can be accepted without repudiating this long history of the Church’s defense of marriage, a defense that, as Cardinal Brandmuller writes, “is witnessed not least by those saints who suffered martyrdom for it following the example of Saint John the Baptist,” including Saint John Fisher, Saint Thomas More, and the London Carthusians butchered by Henry VIII.

Acceptance of Kasper’s proposal would mean more than the repudiation of the Church’s history. It would also entail the repudiation of Her sacramental theology and moral teaching. As Cardinal Caffarra notes, the Church understands the marital bond to be “the work of Christ in the Church and … thus unassailable, whether by the spouses themselves or by any or every civil or ecclesiastical authority.” Such an understanding cannot be reconciled with Kasper’s proposal. Moreover, “If the Church were to admit the divorced and civilly remarried to the Eucharist, by that very fact she would recognize the moral legitimacy of living more coniugali with a person who is not the true spouse,” thus indicating that non-marital sex was licit. The acceptance of Kasper’s proposal would also “persuade … any attentive person of the idea that, at its heart, there exists no marriage that is absolutely indissoluble, that the ‘forever’ to which every true love cannot but aspire is an illusion.” Finally, arguments supporting Kasper’s proposal, as Cardinal De Paolis notes, tend to appeal to “a situational ethic,” or a belief that the end justifies the means, or to proportionalism, or to the notion that there are no intrinsically evil acts, all ways of thinking about morality that the Church has repeatedly disavowed, most recently in John Paul II’s Veritatis Splendor.

As Archbishop Vasil notes in his essay, “Faith in supernatural principles is now more than ever subject to humiliation.” The acceptance of Cardinal Kasper’s proposal would further that humiliation.   In a video interview with the Catholic News Service in October 2014, Kasper rejected calling remarriage after divorce “adultery”—the language used by Jesus Christ—because those in second marriages would be “insulted” and “offended.” (Scripture tells us Herodias felt offended when John the Baptist told her that her marriage to Herod was not lawful, but Scripture also tells us that “among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist.”) Kasper stressed the many “positive elements” found in such second marriages, including in the “sexual relationship.”

He even said that remarriage after divorce is a manifestation of “the mercy of God,” turning Christ’s words in Luke 16:18, Mark 10:2-12, and Matthew 19:3-9 on their head.   So far, Kasper seems to draw the line at two marriages, but there is no logical reason for not seeing third, fourth, and fifth marriages as also manifesting “the mercy of God,” since those in third, fourth, and fifth marriages would no doubt affirm that there are “positive elements” in those marriages. No person in a difficult marriage watching that interview would conclude that there is any reason why he should not divorce, and no divorced person watching that interview would conclude that there is any reason why he should not remarry. Thus, under Kasper’s proposal, the Church would go from treating Christ’s prohibitions of divorce and of remarriage after divorce as being normative to treating them as being superfluous.

There is another way, as the authors of this book eloquently remind us. I will give the last word to Archbishop Vasil, whose essay concludes with the perfect rejoinder to Kasper: “All this brings us to consider whether ‘hardness of heart’ is a convincing argument to muddle the clearness of the teaching of the gospel on the indissolubility of Christian marriage. But as a response to the many questions and doubts, and to the many temptations to find a ‘short cut’ or to ‘lower the bar’ for the existential leap that one makes in the great ‘contest’ of married life—in all this confusion among so many contrasting and distracting voices, still today resound the words of the Lord: ‘What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder’ (Mark 10:9), and the final consideration of Saint Paul: ‘This is a great mystery…’ (Eph 5:32).”

Editor’s note: The image above titled “The Wedding Procession” was painted by Guillaume Seignac in 1904.

Tom Piatak


Tom Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He earned his JD from the University of Michigan Law School.

  • Harry

    Fr. Mankowski offers a thorough examination of all the biblical texts in which Jesus’ teaching on marriage is set forth, including St. Paul’s prohibition of divorce in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, a prohibition that Paul emphasizes comes from the Lord, not from him. …

    In our own time, the Church has unsuccessfully opposed the legalization of divorce in Ireland, Italy, and Malta, and successfully resisted the legalization of divorce in the Philippines.

    I agree wholeheartedly with this article but I think a little clarification is needed for the sake of those in homes where an abusive husband/father creates a situation where separation is obligatory to protect Mom and the kids from physical abuse and devastating emotional trauma. If establishing that protection requires a civil divorce and court orders prohibiting Dad from being near the rest of the family — so be it. Catholic opposition to civil divorce does not mean Mom can’t do whatever is necessary to protect herself and the well being of the children, including taking such measures. When such measures are required, and Mom and Dad do indeed have a valid marriage, then they are married for life according to the Church even though the marriage has ended civilly. Neither would be free to remarry. I think the Church is opposed to civil divorce where that means one is free to remarry, not where civil divorce is obligatory for the safety of Mom and the children.

    I point this out because Church opposition to civil divorce, when misunderstood, has caused women to stay in abusive situations and to subject the children to ongoing abuse when that isn’t at all what the Church was asking them to do.

    But to them that are married, not I but the Lord commandeth, that the wife depart not from her husband. And if she depart, that she remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband. And let not the husband put away his wife.
    — 1 Cor 7:10-11

    St. Paul’s “And if she depart,” realistically acknowledges that a departure will be required in some cases.

    These remarks could apply to the case of an abusive wife/mother as well, although that doesn’t seem to be the case as frequently as the abusive husband/father.

    • FernieV

      The Church teaches that it is possible to have recourse to civil divorce when it is the only legal way to safeguard the rights of the innocent party. In some cases it is even a duty. What it is not permitted is for those who are divorced to seek a second “marriage” as this would be equivalent to living in adultery. The whole point of this article is to prove that the divorced and “remarried” Catholics cannot receive Holy Communion.

    • ” If establishing that protection requires a civil divorce and court orders prohibiting Dad from being near the rest of the family ”

      I would ask you to consider a world where such a case is not treated in courts, but in hospitals. Where abuse is seen as a mental illness of the abuser, rather than as a mere crime for which *any* court ordered action would be woefully inadequate.

      What is the duty of a wife in that case? I would still say separation to protect the children- but separation of a form where the children’s life isn’t threatened by poverty, and where the father gets the treatment he so desperately needs to be a father.

      • Paddy

        Good points all around. The Church could nip a lot of this in the bud but seems to be AWOL. Pastoral counseling has gone out the window as a reference to a social worker or CATHOLIC divorce lawyer is an option these days. How a priest can send upwards of 6 years in seminary and not know how to counsel married couples, successfully, escapes me.

        • I think this is a result of the same set of interconnected issues that drove homosexuals into the seminaries in the 1950s and 1960s, and created the majority of the sexual abuse scandals. Even the priests were not immune to the disaster that was the sexual revolution.

          It’s been more than 60 years since the Catholic Church was courageous enough to stand up for these issues. We aren’t going to turn it around overnight.

          • Paddy

            There are better seminaries now, but I doubt they even touch on treating torn marriages at the parish level. I suppose there are licensing laws and malpractice issues, too.

        • Sheryl

          Priests cannot counsel anyone anymore because the emphasis is on mental problems rather than the spiritual. The Ten Commandments are being broken; when they were taught, those old enough to have been taught before Vatican II know that the Confession lines on Saturday were long, and guilt for hurting family members in any way was a constant reason for examination of conscience.

          Now people are taught to blame others not themselves; what is worst of all is the widespread belief that no one goes to hell.

      • Terry Mushroom


        If the abuser is mentally ill this should certainly be recognised and the condition treated. But sometimes the abuser can be just plain vicious and deeply unpleasant.

        BTW, a man can also be abused.

        • All abusers are mentally ill. People are not vicious and deeply unpleasant for no reason at all (even me).

          And yes, sometimes it is the father who must protect the children from the mother. I’m well aware of one case quite close to me, who at least *tried* to get his wife treatment.

          • Terry Mushroom


            We must agree to disagree. Certainly mental illness can play a part in abuse. So can evil which springs from choosing good against evil.

            • I’ve never heard of a good reason for abuse. I’ve never even heard of a rational reason for abuse.

      • Louise

        Absolutely, Theodore. This would save *many* marriages and lives.

        • Lives especially. For those who are mentally ill, the risk of murder-suicide upon receiving divorce papers is quite the hidden scandal (every single one of the last 12 cases of murder-suicide that I am aware of, involved divorce due to abuse).

  • ” Contrast this to Cardinal Kasper’s statement, made in one of the many interviews he has given on this subject, that those who live together as brother and sister following divorce and remarriage, out of obedience to the Lord, are engaged in a “heroic act, and heroism’s not for the average Christian.” ”

    I am a divorced and remarried Christian who came to a Biblical understanding of this issue 6 years before entering the Catholic church. I find the idea that my chaste life is an act of “heroism” to be impaired. My wife and I live as brother and sister because the Word of God tells us to do so, because it is the only godly way to live, and because we are sustained by the Holy Spirit.

    It became a very important part of the miracle of my becoming Catholic.

    • FernieV

      Thank you for your brave testimony. Many people do not believe that it is possible to live a chaste life. And it is possible with God’s grace, that come to us through the sacraments and prayer. The devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is also invaluable.

    • Fran

      I know first hand the difficulties that come with this kind of “heroism”. I don’t dwell on it. What I am so thankful for is the HUGE burden that was lifted when my husband and I decided to live a chaste life under the same circumstances.

      • Praise God. I SO understand!

      • Martha

        Please don’t take this the wrong way; living in a celibate relationship (chaste is something that applies to all states of life) must require a great deal of fortitude, and other gifts of the spirit, but does it not still constitute scandal? People can be very jaded, and will indeed have a difficult time believing that you’re not fornicating. How should that be answered when dealing with ‘brother/sister’ relationships? I wonder if establishing separate households still isn’t the most charitable answer.

        • I wonder if establishing separate households still isn’t the most charitable answer.

          That isn’t always possible. Given the prevalence and presumption of non-marital relations, what assurances would separate households provide?

          • Martha

            Very true.

        • Fravashi

          “but does it not still constitute scandal? People can be very jaded, and
          will indeed have a difficult time believing that you’re not

          What other people think about a couple’s chaste arrangement is immaterial. Indeed, why would a couple’s private life be the subject of speculation on the part of other Catholics? In any case, it’s better for a loving couple to live together.

          • Martha

            ‘In any case, it’s better for a loving couple to live together.’

            You lost me on that one, Fravashi! Hope you didn’t mean that as a blanket statement.

        • Among Christians there must be some degree of trust. Although 99.9% of non-married couples in society are fornicators, I trust that my fellow Catholics who are dating or engaged are chaste. I do not presume that they are sinning; at least I try to not do so.
          The good thing about the Church is that, for the most part, she assumes the good rather than the bad.
          Having said that, I built a self contained hermitage in our basement. I live there full time. I do not see my wife at all during the week and we reconnect on the weekends. From bedtime Sunday to supper time Friday we have no contact. She has her living space, I have mine. We visit with each other, and although we are deeply in love, we carefully maintain our chastity before God. In our conduct with each other we do nothing to stir up desires we cannot legitimately fulfill. It was this way before I had any thought of becoming Catholic.
          Interestingly, when some of my Pentecostal friends have found out about our life, they were quite scandalized!

    • St JD George

      I’m not crazy about the “brother and sister” analogy because that doesn’t capture quite the bond and relationship, but having walked that path too I can say that it neither felt like a sacrifice or an act of heroism, just a desire to follow Christ and having accepted him into my life then felt quite natural.

    • “I find the idea that my chaste life is an act of “heroism” to be impaired.”

      Many people who do heroic things find those actions to be ordinary, routine and necessary. It may not be difficult given your acceptance of other ideas, but it is most unpalatable to those who will not accept those other idea, less there be boundaries placed between “I want” and “I should”.

  • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

    Hey, if Mayor Jimmy Walker could go to Mass every Sunday and not receive before the whole of the world, knowing himself a Catholic living in sin, so can the rest of us.

    • Paddy

      Cardinal Hayes, born in the Five Points, denounced Walker for his immorality and ordered a raid on the Birth Control League. I can’t imagine him leading the parade with a gay float in tow, can you?

  • publiusnj

    Excellent scholarship in this article; thank you. I particularly liked the contemplation of whether remarriage after divorce is “merciful” or “hard hearted.”

    The reality is that if the Church entertains remarriage as proposed by Kasper, it is really saying that the vow “until death us do part” is just a meaningless frill that the Church continues to throw in because it doesn’t want to admit that there really is nothing there. Christian marriage will have become indistuinguishable from civil marriage; a mere Potemkin Village of marriage. IOW, a fraud and a deceit.

    In truth, Remarriage Divorce means that the vow ought to be changed (if there were any truth in the pope and church) to “until one or the other of us changes our minds and wants to head off on a new more pleasurable direction.” Other vows ought to be changed too. For example, the ceremony ought to make it clear that: “if we want to accept children from God that doesn’t mean we have to live with them for any particular length of time any more than we need to live with the spouse to whom we have supposedly pledged our troth.”

    What makes Remarriage Communion so “hard hearted” is the renunciation of Christ’s clear command that when we marry we are no longer two flesh but one. Under Francis’s/Kasper’s new Dispensation, every body will be allowed to enter into an allegedly Christian Marriage without giving up their freedom to just chuck the adventure when we find something or somebody more attractive for the next leg of our lives.

    I hope the Synod can resist Francis’s likely games but I am really worried about his trying to pack the Synod. His recently announced new Cardinals (including cardinals from Myanmar, Cape Verde and David, Panama of all insignificant places, but not LA, or Paris) suggest that Francis knows how to pack a deliberative body better than FDR did when he tried to pack the Supreme Court. Pray for God’s strong hand on His Holy Catholic Church.

    • geist

      Packing the court? Not so! It is the stirrings of the Holy Spirit, as guaranteed by Pope Francis himself! Very surprising sometimes!

  • mgardener

    If the church can annul marriages, why can’t the state?
    I truly do not see through the hypocrisy of the church saying people cannot get divorced, yet the church can in effect give them a divorce and they can start fresh.
    If Christ said “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
    So why can the church?
    Let me be clear. There are marriages that should be dissolved.
    It appears to me, as someone who has been accused of cherry picking and being a ‘cafeteria catholic’, that you cannot complain about divorce and deny people communion based on their divorce yet in essence the catholic church does the same only they use a different name.
    The church uses divorce to alienate people from their church and from God.

    We are all sinners and we all do our best. Only God knows what is in our hearts and minds.
    Pope Francis said is best, ” who am I to judge”? I think it would behoove all of us to do less judging and finger pointing and be more accepting and welcoming.
    Jesus was a great example to us all.

    • Jesus didn’t welcome the money changers to the temple.

    • There are state annulments.
      A divorce ends a marriage (or legal speak, bifurcates it) a declaration of nullity says that one never happened.If you are going to rant and rave, at least understand the concepts.

      • Louise


    • Terry Mushroom


      “…the church can in effect give them a divorce and they can start fresh..”

      An annulment is a statement that no marriage existed in the first place. That’s not a divorce.

  • David

    I’m confused……so where does the Church’s annulment process come in? I am a divorced and remarried Catholic that was remarried in the Church after the annulment process. This entire article makes me think I am still “married” to the ex and committing adultery with my 2nd wife????

    • Annulment means the marriage to the ex, never actually happened.

    • Harry

      Annulment means a sacramental marriage never happened. Your first marriage, as a civil marriage, happened. For whatever reason the marriage tribunal, when you got an annulment, decided that first marriage was not a sacramental marriage. If you want to know exactly why, contact them.

    • publiusnj

      You are right. You must be confused if you went through the Annulment Process after having gotten a Civil Divorce but cannot distinguish between Divorce and Annulment.

      • Steve Frank

        Is the annulment process considered infallible? I read a statistic that said ”in the early 1960s, about 300 declarations of nullity came from the United States each year; today that annual figure has grown to over 60,000″. If that stat is accurate, you can’t blame people for thinking an annulment has become nothing more than a back door method of divorce for Catholics who want to remarry. It appears to many non-Catholics as though the Church is now trying to have it both ways, sticking to it’s guns on divorce but finding another way to accomodate the cultural changes that have occurred since the sexual revolution. I know this is anecdotal, but I have known six couples in my lifetime (amongst friends, relatives and aquaintances) who have divorced and then applied for annulments once they became involved with another person they wished to remarry. All six were successful in obtaining them. One of the persons was a former boss who mocked and ridiculed the Church through the whole process….she told me the whole thing was a farce and the only reason she went through with it was to please her mother who refused to attend her second wedding unless it was a legitimate Catholic wedding….so she applied for an anulment and got it. When people hear stories like this, can you blame them for thinking there may be some hypocrisy at play amongst the church heirarchy on this issue? The other stat I read was that the vast majority of annulments are granted in the US even though it only represents a fraction of the total number of Catholics in the world. With such a high success rates of obtaining an anullments in the US, one of two things is true, either the church is granting far too many invalid anullments, or most marriages that take place are not valid marriages at all.

        • Paddy

          For years, Catholics complained that only the connected….like Henry VIII and the Kennedys…could get annulments. Now, folks are complaining that they’re too easy to get? Most marriages are valid and work. Some are voidable ab initio, for annulment purposes. If a couple lies during the annulment process, it’s their problem for adding to the corruption of the Sacrament of Matrimony and well know they are living in grievous sin.

          • Steve Frank

            If most marriages are valid then I would expect that most applications for anullments would be rejected. But that does not seem to be the case at least in the US.

          • Joseph

            Um…Henry VIII’s request to the Pope for an annulment was rejected. So even the connected had some difficulties.

        • publiusnj

          Where would one ever get the idea that the annulment process was–or even could be–“infallible”? Kinda like the infallible US Supreme Court, perhaps?

          Of course, the annulment process is NOT–repeat NOT–infallible. As Pope JPII recognized, there have been clear abuses of the annulment process. That said, the sheer volume of divorces swamps anulments by a factor of 20 or more.

          Do some people pursue annulments in bad faith like your friend? I don’t know but I would assume some do. Nevertheless, someone who pursues an annulment in bad faith usually would be doing so for social or familial reasons rather than as a matter of conscience. Ipso facto, a person who cares enough about the Church’s rules on Annulments and Marriage to seek one for reasons other than familial ones must realize that there is a God and He will repay. That is the closest to mind reading I will try to engage in. Such an exercise is usually a reflection of our own prejudices rather than actual mind reading.

          • Steve Frank

            So if the process is abused and a particular marriage is declared null and void that is not null and void in the eyes of God, is the second marriage now adulterous?

            • publiusnj

              You are ahead of my Moral theology headlights. I have no idea. One way or the other, though, the abuser is a sinner. The rest I will entrust to the Perfect Mercy and Justice of God. I don’t know what Jesus is going to do with my sins either, but I don’t fret about that because I recognize that Jesus will be the Judge, not I.

            • GG

              If people lie, or abuse the process, they are liable. This process is not infallible. It is a moral certainty.

          • “Do some people pursue annulments in bad faith like your friend?”
            A Kennedy did.

        • Martha

          Agreed, Steve. Scary statistics. It is clearly being abused.

  • Sadly, too little, too late. The damage by the Kasperite faction is already done.

    • Paddy

      With an American illegitimacy rate ( similar to the rest of the former West) approaching 60%, divorce is a secondary problem. No one’s getting married and then having kids.

      • I usually find that divorce in the previous generation is often a cause of that.

        • Paddy

          Even earlier, a lot of it was encouraged when the bishops sat mute as “Catholic” lawyers took $$$ to break up marriages.

          • Paddy

            Even earlier, earlier, Catholic pols, in league with the bishops, voted ever increasing amounts of welfare to “single moms” to the point that the public remuneration for fornication was a month’s call for celebration……when the eagle flew. The Church stands by this misconception of Charity to this day. God only knows why.

            • mitch64

              Unfortunate as it is marriage is becoming a thing of the past for low income households..which of course, helps keep them in that income category. Which leads to more kids growing up with a single parent and doing the same and so on, and so on, and so on…for white h.s. drop outs the illegitimate birthrate is 42 and for black drop out its over 90 percent…and yet no one is doing anything about it but throwing good money after bad as they say.

              • Paddy

                Exactly. Young whites, often saddled with school loans, are financially better off copulating, sans marriage, and getting money cranked from the Democratic Machine which the bishops too often applaud. The honest couples just get taxed to death and are then asked to be more charitable in the Sunday sermons. meanwhile, the church is busing with ESL classes so illegals can grab young Americans’ jobs from them. Is this God’s work or Satan’s?

                • mitch64

                  Paddy, most of the ESL attendees are taking jobs that young Americans would feel was beneath them. The guys who do my spring and fall tree trimming sometimes work in 95 degrees on a weekend off of their regular job.(now I have no idea about their status but I have never asked…so yes, I am part of the problem but these guys haul butt…) However, (and this is another topic) I agree to an extent that the Church and the govt should be working on job skills training for the poor who are citizens. The best way to get people married is for them to have a stable life and income, etc

                  • “Paddy, most of the ESL attendees are taking jobs that young Americans would feel was beneath them. ”

                    You’d be surprised how many jobs increase in esteem, as the pay goes up. This sounds like John McCain’s infamous nobody wants to pick lettuce comment of some years ago, as if he’s acquainted with picking anything but pockets.

                    • mitch64

                      Sounds good, and in some instances is true,but for the most part people truly don’t want to pick lettuce…look at how many people are on assistance. Also, if you work with young people you will see it is, for the most part true, a “culture,” of coddling has created people who think they are going to run a corporation instead of learning the ropes. If you ever have an intern ask them to make some copies or file and take a look at their faces…”I thought I was going to do real work!”

                    • Paddy

                      Let illegals in on a lettuce picking visa…then send them home.
                      Most American kids are smart and hardworking in my experience.

                    • mitch64

             they get to keep the lettuce. I agree that everyone in this country should be hear by legal means, so no debate there…(I still can’t figure out why people find it so hard to become legal citizens but…) but if they did become citizens they still would fill a service “void,” that most of our middle class kids wouldn’t fill. Remember it was our forefathers from Ireland that were willing to do the crap that no one else wanted to do that set them on the road to success.

                    • Oh I have experienced those folks that think their strategic management course makes them C-Suite ready.

                    • Paddy

                      I’ve known folks driven out of jobs by illegals because they charge the min. wage and that’s too much for crooked employers and other skimmers.

                    • mitch64

                      I agree, but that’s penny wise and pound foolish for them. Those people who are fine trimming my trees and shrubs will all of a sudden have those brick laying skills when I am thinking of putting in a new patio. Uh, thanks but no thanks, I do want my patio to last longer then 6 months. Which is doubly stupid as most of my union buddies like to jobs on the side or when they are laid off. and they know what they are doing.

                  • Paddy

                    Not true. American bricklayers, drywall and painting teams have been essentially eliminated because employers can save about 1/3 their labor costs with no headaches like UIB, WC, tax audits etc.

                    Hire American ! As for the American church: Support American Catholics FIRST, you creepy crawly “do-gooders”.!

                    • mitch64

                      A lot of those problems stem from unions but that is for another discussion. As for your second paragraph..I agree that everyone should hire American and from their long as they do a good job at a competitive price.

              • Paddy

                Worse, too many Catholic institutions run around cleaning up after these profligate libertines on the Dole. There’s little left for the offspring of Catholic marrieds.

                • mitch64

                  I wouldn’t say cleaning up as much as enabling them.

                • And that’s something welfare state advocates (cue Hombre111, JDonnell) either don’t know or don’t care to understand-the welfare state takes money from parents whose children have a superior claim to their eaernings-and uses it to feather the beds of serial fornicators-in many cases encouraging the social pathologies that cause the problem.

                  The rise of the welfare state is inextricably linked to the fall in public morality-and I’m know sin always existed-but its been a long time since its been so publicly accommodated and celebrated.

          • Yes, true- but I was talking about the illegitimacy rate. Many times you’ll find people avoiding marriage if their parents are divorced, because they themselves no longer see the point of the institution.

            • Paddy

              Absolutely. It’s all part of a destructive mosaic, often supported by the post-Vatican II Church and Dem-voting “catholics”.

      • If you do the “right thing”, go to school, and get jobs and are married, then you often have to balance a mountain of school debt, while paying higher tax rates on your income.
        If you do the wrong thing, fool around, the girl gets pregnant, then she’s “a single mom”, eligible for all kinds of subsidies (food stamps, subsidized rent, daycare, etc, etc). Even if you have loans, you pay less taxes and might qualify for the EITC.
        The government is subsidizing illegitimacy, so there’s a reserve army of the dependent.

        • Paddy

          If American woman won’t have kids then we’ll have to bring them in from mexico or perish. It’s a sin.

          • I have no objections to Mexicans, as long as they enter legally. I much prefer Mexican people, their culture and their food to people who believe Jesus was a mere prophet.

  • BM

    In his great work, the Magna Moralia (4, 27), Pope St. Gregory the Great gives an interpretation of Christ’s words in Matt. 8, “Let the dead bury the dead”, that bears upon this newly minted formula to always find the “positive elements” in a sinful thing. Pope Gregory wrote: “The dead also bury the dead, when sinners protect sinners. They who exalt sinners with their praises, hide the dead under a pile of words.”

    • GG

      Excellent point.

  • Sheryl

    Cardinal Caffarra is quoted as saying that the Church understands the marital bond to be “the work of Christ in the Church and … thus unassailable, whether by the spouses themselves or by any or every civil or ecclesiastical authority.”

    Ecclesiastical authority includes American diocesan marriage tribunals. I wonder what the Italian Cardinal would think of Sister Marianne Burkhard’s Exclusion of Partnership ground for nullity. She is the JV of the Peoria, Illinois, tribunal, and I have a copy of her email to a Respondent in which he asks her what the ground for nullity might be in his case and what evidence shows “Exclusion of Partnership.”

    Evidence includes, she writes:

    “This has to do with good communication, with each partner learning to realize where and when the other needs help – with house work, taking care of the children, sharing decision making, offering moral support, sharing children’s discipline, sharing leisure time, etc.”
    House work? You can have your marriage declared null by an American tribunal because you did not share the house work?
    This nonsense as well as the teaching published by the Canon Law Society of American by Fr. Lawrence G. Wrenn in his books on judging invalidity needs to be condemned. No marriage will ever be valid until it is clear that marriage is what Tom Piatak says it is in his first sentence.

    • Paddy

      I’d respond, but I have to get the vacuum cleaner moving!

    • GG

      That is the worst type of legalism. They use the law in a way that is not at service of the truth. It is a scandal and decadent.

  • Louise

    Wonderful article! Such a relief to read. 🙂

  • M.J .

    Good article and interesting comments ; good to see how couples who are remarried do take the Church guidelines in fidelity .
    Sts Ann and Joachim are said to have lived in abstinence for 20 years , before bringing forth Bl.Mother , in the PreFall plan of Immaculate Conception, non carnally , as per writings of Bl.Emmerich .
    The recognition ,that in the depth of hearts , all carry some rebellion and hatred towards God , which is going to come out as selfishness , pride and such ; that reality and the ways to deal with same by letting God be God , by accepting the truth that , in every act against His children, it is God who is being targeted , even if indirectly , and that efforts to mend same can help to bring His love into hearts and relationships more , can possibly help to prevent and heal many !
    Thus , the act of dying to the self , by first seeing sin for what it is , as a choice against God , and not just directed towards the ‘self ‘ of the other , can help the offended , to have less of the sting of sin as a personal attack alone , by seeing the wider realm ,that any hatred , resentment etc : , is truly towards God , may be from leftover wounds ;
    the one who acknowledges same , thus can stand in for both , asking for mercy ,also for whoever might be contributing , even if seemingly well meaning but possibly themselves needing deliverance from similar traits and even for family lines that too might carry such traits !
    Good thing is , every such occasion can also be a deepening of The Kingdom experience , if such is what has been willed by The Lord , by letting one know that , for all such offenses against God , He alone can bring the help and thus one need to be faithful to the best of one’s ability to The One whose help is going to be needed , on an ongoing basis !
    Thus , The Church teachings that guide couples to stay away from foolish choices against The Lord and His holiness and fidelity !
    May the domestic church of the family flourish and bring forth good fruit that rejoice in the truth of His Kingdom !

  • JGradGus

    However it gets sliced and diced, the concept of “annulment” is the elephant in the room. Declaring that “a true marriage never took place” so therefore the marriage is null and
    void, can be viewed as just another way of saying these two are no longer married – an annulment is man putting asunder what God has joined by declaring that God did not really join these two people. How can man (or in the case of a marriage tribunal, a group of people) make such a determination? The answer is because the Church has said they are empowered to make this determination. Also, if a tribunal can be given the authority by the Church to make this determination why can’t a parish priest be given this authority?

    • Because it requires special training that’s above and beyond the duties of a parish priest.

      • Or the time. My wife always comments on how much time our priests spend at the hospital where she is a nurse. JGradGus seems to think priests have extra time.

  • Vinny

    “Catholics, at least in the United States, divorce at a lower rate than non-Catholics.” Need to define “Catholics.”

  • Jay

    What is going to happen when the Pontiff changes the practice (and essentially changes the doctrine) of the indissolubility of marriage? I don’t think it’s possible to allow for divorced/remarried to receive communion without being in a state of mortal sin. I predict he will change the practice – his moves in the Curia, his homilies all show that he is most likely going to change the doctrine. I’ve heard orthodox Catholics go so far as to say this move will prove he is an anti-pope. Do many of you believe this will be the tipping point of a schism?

    • JP

      Like the prohibitions against artificial birth control, the doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage will remain on the books. They just won’t be taught anymore; as you point out the “practice” will change. Catholic marriage will become a dead letter.

  • Mariana

    Tom, since the dawn of the “sexual revolution” there have been many catalysts responsible for the rise in the divorce rate, one in particular that is often overlooked is pre-marital sex. Presently, we live in a culture that celebrates sex out of wedlock, where pre-marital sex has been accepted as a given. We “marry” ourselves to others without first seeking the Lord’s approval, and without His Blessed Sacrament. Subsequently, the wedding is conducted as a mere formality, usually when a couple decides they would like to have children. How can this type of culture uphold, or give credence to, the sacredness of the Sacrament of
    Matrimony? We hear so often about the indissolubility of marriage and the
    permanence of the marital bond. Rarely are we told that the decisions couples
    make before marriage will have a critical and lasting impact on their hearts, emotions, lives and their relationship, and may very well determine the success of their marriage. Most
    importantly, their decision to partake in or abstain from pre-marital sex will either weaken or strengthen their marital foundation. Moreover, this decision may significantly impact the validity of their marital vows. The problem today is when a couple approaches the Church to be married this decision has, more than likely, already been made.

  • Mariana

    Our Lady told the children at Fatima that our Lord was not pleased with many marriages. The key words we should focus on in the directive “What God has joined together, man must not separate” are: What GOD HAS JOINED together. In this sexual revolution era of rampant fornication and pre-marital sex, how can the Church be certain of which marriages God has joined together? How can she know which couples have truly obeyed the tenets of our faith and prayerfully discerned whether or not they should commit for life? The problem today is not that divorce or annulments are too easily granted, it’s that pre-marital sex has distorted couples’ ability to use sound judgment when determining whether or not they should partake in the marital sacrament.

  • Caritas06

    Good and thoughtful article. I have family members who were divorced, through no wish or fault of their own and certainly would want them treated with mercy. But what Cardinal Kasper describes seems to me to suggest that Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More died in vain. And I find that hard to accept.

  • Jdonnell

    Cardinal Kasper has dared to point out as a basis for his view that divorced and re-married couples should be allowed to receive communion that “Mercy is God’s justice.” His book, “Mercy,” which does not deal directly with the marriage issue, is a brilliant discussion, done in terms of generosity and love, rather than with the often nasty, vindictive attitude of some of his critics.

  • Parque_Hundido

    I agree with this biblical standard. Those found guilty of adultery should be stoned to death. Question: what will you do when your church loses two thirds of its clergy to stoning?

  • Bill Rector

    How do you explain Matthew 19:9 where Jesus Himself says “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”? This seem to clearly allow for divorce when one of the partners is unfaithful