Confused about this passage


#1

I think this is the right place to post this question because it might have to do with scripture interpretation. And I sure do hope I am not opening a huge can of worms or offending anybody, but this passage baffles me a little bit.

Mark 10:11-12: "And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

That seems really straightforward. Yet we live in an age of many people divorcing and remarrying. Even Christians.

Why? Do Christians just ignore those verses or is there an interpretation that I don’t know of that people are using so those verses mean something other than what they seem to be saying?

I am familiar with the Catholic Church’s teaching on this. What about non-Catholic Christians take on it?


#2

Having been a few different forms of Protestant, it varies greatly from church to church. Some give a few circumstances where they accept divorce. Others don’t accept it at all. A few just don’t concern themselves with it because they want to fill seats and coffers.


#3

What I hear is that the first “marriage” was not really a valid marriage because the actions of the individual spouse indicate that he/she did not take his/her vows seriously. So since there was no real or valid marriage in the first place, the spouse is allowed to get a civil divorce and then get married validly. Although you have to go through a civil divorce, that is merely a legal formality keeping with the laws of the country, but it does not touch upon whether or not the first civil marriage was actually a valid marriage in the eyes of God. So getting back to the words of Our Lord, it says whoever divorces his wife and marries another. But if the first marriage was not a valid one, then the person you are divorcing is not your valid wife.
That is what I have been hearing from some Catholics.
Another line of reasoning used by some Protestants goes like this: The marriage has died because of the actions of a spouse. Since the marriage has died, your spouse is really not your wife. She was your wife as long as the marriage was alive. Now that the marriage is dead, she is no longer your wife and therefore you are free to get married, because you are no longer really married and therefore you are not going against the words of Scripture.
IMHO, this looks to me like it could be a way of getting around the words of Our Lord. Actually, Cardinal Kasper also critiqued some aspects of this line of reasoning used by Catholics to defend marriage annulments at least implicitly in an article in America magazine.


#4

While the passage in Mark’s Gospel appears to give a blanket condemnation of divorce and remarriage, the analogous passage in Matthew’s Gospel says “whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery.” Now, you can certainly argue that these Protestants are mistaken to interpret “the cause of fornication” to mean an act of adultery destroying an otherwise-valid marriage, but they’re not making it up out of nowhere.


#5

Hi JohnGerard, do not be confused, it is just as stated. Last Sunday Gospel Reading was on this very subject.
“What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”
What can be clearer than that!
The emphasis is on **" God joining together", i.e validity **of the marriage.
When the Church allows annulment, it is deemed that the marriage had not been valid for whatever reason.
When “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce…” Jesus said it was for the Jew’s “hardness of heart” that he did so but it had not been so from the beginning.


#6

But, from a Catholic perspective, they kind of are ‘making it up’. The translation of ‘porneia’ (which you, accurately, mention that non-Catholic Bibles translate as ‘fornication’) that’s found in Catholic Bibles (for example, the NAB) is ‘unlawful’.

So, from a Catholic theological perspective, it’s not about a case of ‘fornication’ at all, but about a marriage that was not sacramental from the beginning. (For instance, a marriage between two people closely enough related that the marriage itself was void.) Tomdstone gives another example – consent is required for a valid marriage, but if one spouse does not truly consent to some aspect of Christian marriage (e.g., permanence, fidelity) at the time of the marriage, then no valid bond is created (although, from a civil perspective, they certainly entered into a civil marriage).

But, for those who are validly married, this past week’s Gospel reading holds true: divorce followed by a subsequent (civil) marriage means that the person is committing adultery.


#7

This is one particular case; it’s not just that all annulments are based on one spouse “not taking the vows seriously.”

There’s more to it than that: since both spouses – together! – are what make matrimony a sacrament, then both spouses must meet the criteria for a valid sacrament: they must both consent to Christian marriage (as the Church understands and teaches is) and they must be free of impediments (e.g., not already married to somebody else). So, if only one spouse consents to Christian marriage, then a valid sacrament has not been entered into. For example, if a person does not intend the marriage to be permanent, or intends always to refuse to allow children to come from the marriage, or does not intend to be faithful to his spouse – at the time of the wedding itself – then there’s no valid sacrament.

I appreciate that you’re attempting to synthesize your understanding of the Catholic teaching, but it’s a bit more nuanced than “one spouse wasn’t serious”. :thumbsup:

IMHO, this looks to me like it could be a way of getting around the words of Our Lord.

Well, on one hand, I agree. On the other, we have to make sense of Matthew 5:32; after all, there is an ‘unless’ there. Nevertheless, “there is no divorce… except…” does sound a little bit like the Monty Python ‘inquisition’ sketch. So, we have to make sure we don’t interpret it as if Jesus were uncertain about what He was saying. “Unless no valid marriage was there in the first place” seems a reasonable interpretation, since it offers an exception clause that nevertheless does not weaken the statement itself: for valid marriages, there is no divorce.

Actually, Cardinal Kasper also critiqued some aspects of this line of reasoning used by Catholics to defend marriage annulments at least implicitly in an article in America magazine.

Do you have a citation? That would be an interesting read… especially given all the attention to his (putative) statements about the potential for divorce and remarriage in the Church…


#8

Walter Cardinal Kasper has said that in some cases a marriage annulment is a divorce in a Catholic way, in a dishonest way.
americamagazine.org/content/all-things/cardinal-kasper-some-fear-domino-effect-synod-family


#9

Yes. That is the general gist of it from a Catholic perspective. Here’s a link to a tract that explains it well:

catholic.com/tracts/the-permanence-of-matrimony

Another line of reasoning used by some Protestants goes like this: The marriage has died because of the actions of a spouse. Since the marriage has died, your spouse is really not your wife. She was your wife as long as the marriage was alive. Now that the marriage is dead, she is no longer your wife and therefore you are free to get married, because you are no longer really married and therefore you are not going against the words of Scripture.
IMHO, this looks to me like it could be a way of getting around the words of Our Lord.

Hmmm. That’s interesting. I have never heard of that. I agree with your assessment, though that that is just trying to get around the words of Jesus. For one thing, if I get tired of my wife I can just have an affair to end that marriage. So maybe I can get a new, better, younger wife…until I want to have an affair and end that marriage, maybe this time I’ll look for a wife who is rich instead, etc. Would that really be a legitimate way to have more than one valid marriage? I don’t think so. Or maybe it doesn’t have to be that extreme. Maybe the actions of the spouses can just be “irreconcilable differences” or “we just grew tired of one another”…then we can move on to better, younger, richer new spouses.

But here’s a bigger problem with that kind of thinking: it directly contradicts the words of Jesus Christ. Mark 10:9 “What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”

Here Jesus is saying that nobody can dissolve a marriage…NOT EVEN THE COUPLE THEMSELVES! I don’t see how there is an exception for the married couple here. So the actions of a person, even the spouses themselves, cannot cause a marriage to die.
So the reasoning of some protestants that you stated above would completely contradict Jesus’ words.

Actually, Cardinal Kasper also critiqued some aspects of this line of reasoning used by Catholics to defend marriage annulments at least implicitly in an article in America magazine.

I’ll have to check that out.

Thanks for your thoughts.


#10

There is a way of getting around that. What God has put together, no man will put asunder, but the circumstances have caused the marriage to die. The couple took the vow until death do us part, and now the marriage has died and so they are free to part because the marriage is no longer alive. It is not a man who has put the marriage asunder, it is the unfavorable, unforeseen and unintended circumstances that have caused the marriage to die. Once the marriage has died, then the spouse is no longer your wife so you are not putting your wife away and marrying another. The civil divorce part is just a formality to avoid your getting into legal tax troubles with the government.


#11

Hey Bran,

In the passage you cited above you forgot to finish the verse…it reads:

“…and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

I would say that the passage in Mark’s Gospel does, indeed, give a blanket condemnation of divorce and remarriage. Matthew’s does as well. They don’t give a blanket condemnation of divorce.

I don’t see how the passages, like in Matthew, negate Jesus’ words in Mark that say to remarry is to commit adultery. It isn’t the divorce that I am questioning…it is the remarrying.

In the verse you brought up in Matthew, the divorce is allowed, but not remarriage. Again, “no man can put asunder” what God has joined not even through “the cause of fornication”. That’s why there can be no remarriage.

So even if a divorce occurs, the woman is not free to remarry. Combining this with Jesus’ words in Mark 10 we can say that the man isn’t free to remarry either.

Now, you can certainly argue that these Protestants are mistaken to interpret “the cause of fornication” to mean an act of adultery destroying an otherwise-valid marriage, but they’re not making it up out of nowhere.

Even if “the cause of fornication” is a correct interpretation, the very same passage says to marry a divorced woman is to commit adultery. Does that mean if I continue my line of thinking from a previous post and want a new wife…prettier, younger, richer, etc. I can have an affair, end my marriage through my actions, and just make sure that the new wife I choose was never divorced before? I don’t think so.

I understand there are valid reasons for a civil divorce. I don’t see how that means there are valid reasons for remarriage in light of the words of Christ. That’s the part I don’t understand.

Peace.


#12

Whoa. In other words, when spouses take their vows and say “until death do us part” it can mean either physical death or “the death of our marriage”? Whoa. Doesn’t that basically take marriage vows and make them meaningless? “I vow to be with you until circumstances make it so I don’t want to be with you anymore because our marriage has died.” Whoa.


#13

Thanks odhiambo.

I agree. I think what I meant by confused was confused as to how people could misread Jesus’ teaching on remarriage.

God bless.


#14

Hey newcalling,

yeah, it isn’t the divorce part that I’m confused about. Even the Catholic Church allows for civil divorce. It’s the remarriage part. Jesus’ words in the Gospels seem very clear about remarriage.

Thanks.


#15

Hey Gorgias,

Thanks for your comments on this topic. They are very helpful. How about one more…

What do you think…it looks to me like even with a divorce being allowed in Matthew 5:32, the end of the passage reads :"…whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

That seems straightforward, doesn’t it? We can’t remarry a divorced woman without committing adultery. Am I missing something? Just trying to understand.


#16

There are similar objections to the lenient rules for granting a marriage annulment. A beautiful Lutheran lady was interviewed on CBS 60 minutes and she said that she was suing the Catholic church for fraud because the Church misled her into thinking that she was validly married. She said that she did everything the Church required including bringing up her children as Catholics and as she was a good Christian she would never live with a man who was her husband. But now the Catholic Church tells her that the man she was living with was not her husband and therefore the Church deceived her and further has ruined her reputation and besmirched her character. She said that there was never any question of the validity of the marriage until after twenty years of marriage, her husband decided to “date” a younger woman. After being unfaithful to the marriage of 20 years, he then applied and got a marriage annulment. So if you are going to say “Whoa” to the Protestant idea that a marriage can die, why don’t you say the same about the lenient Catholic marriage annulments. Also Take a look at the book by Sheila Rauch Kennedy and she has a webpage in which she describes her anger at being told that her marriage to a Kennedy was annulled. When she asked her husband to explain what it meant, he told her that the Catholic annulment process is Catholic gobbledygook. He added that no one really believes it. This is her testimony in her book. So are you going to be evenhanded on this or do you give Catholics a free pass, but for those who say that the marriage died you say “Whoa”?


#17

Am I to understand that you are agreeing that we shouldn’t be too lenient with divorce and remarriage in order to remain obedient to Christ’s words?

A beautiful Lutheran lady was interviewed on CBS 60 minutes and she said that she was suing the Catholic church for fraud because the Church misled her into thinking that she was validly married. She said that she did everything the Church required including bringing up her children as Catholics and as she was a good Christian she would never live with a man who was her husband. But now the Catholic Church tells her that the man she was living with was not her husband and therefore the Church deceived her and further has ruined her reputation and besmirched her character. She said that there was never any question of the validity of the marriage until after twenty years of marriage, her husband decided to “date” a younger woman. After being unfaithful to the marriage of 20 years, he then applied and got a marriage annulment. So if you are going to say “Whoa” to the Protestant idea that a marriage can die, why don’t you say the same about the lenient Catholic marriage annulments. Also Take a look at the book by Sheila Rauch Kennedy and she has a webpage in which she describes her anger at being told that her marriage to a Kennedy was annulled. When she asked her husband to explain what it meant, he told her that the Catholic annulment process is Catholic gobbledygook.

First, how do you know annulments are lenient? Because annulments occur at all they must be lenient? You do realize that not everyone who goes through the annulment process is granted one, don’t you? Some people are told that their marriage is valid and that they are not free to remarry. But in the single explanation given so far for a Protestant interpretation if the couple decides that their marriage is dead through some circumstances or actions or whatever…then the marriage is dead. That probably amounts to what, about 100% of the people who think that way, also thinking that they are free to remarry? In other words, about 100% annulment rate.

I’d say that is way more lenient.

Do any Protestants or Protestant Churches say at that point, “You/I can divorce. But you/I are not free to remarry because you/I have a valid marriage already.” ?

He added that no one really believes it. This is her testimony in her book. So are you going to be evenhanded on this or do you give Catholics a free pass, but for those who say that the marriage died you say “Whoa”?

I think I am being honest. The Catholic Church acknowledges the indissolubility of marriage. I am no expert on the annulment process. I am curious about how Protestants interpret the verses that I’ve listed below and I’ve heard one other interpretation about marriage dying.

I apologize if my show of emotion with the “whoas” bothered you. It seems like it might have. I guess I should try to write with less emotion. I should have just said what I think: the idea that a marriage can end because the married couple decides that it is dead makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. I believe it is unbiblical (at least, I couldn’t find anywhere that said that), and a man-made tradition that disregards Jesus’ words.

It also ignores Paul’s words in Romans 7: 2-3: “Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies she is discharged from the law concerning the husband. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.”

It is clear that a marriage ends when a person dies. (biblical)

Not when a marriage supposedly dies. (man-made idea)

I imagine that when an annulment occurs, oftentimes, no matter what the outcome, somebody isn’t gonna be happy about it. If it is granted, someone may be happy, someone may not. If it is denied, someone may be happy, someone may not.

Finding examples of people who are dissatisfied with the annulment process (as you mentioned above) proves nothing.

To rephrase my original question, I’m curious to know how non-Catholic Christians interpret these verses:

“…whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matt. 5:32),
“…he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9)
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12)
“Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” (Luke 16:18)

and Saint Paul:

“To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) and that the husband should not divorce his wife.” (1 Cor. 7:10-11)

Please understand that my only intent with my original post was to try to find out how non-Catholic Christians interpret the words in the verses above. So far you’ve given me one explanation about marriages dying that I had never heard of before but that also makes no sense to me. I imagine going through an annulment process or divorce would be horrible. I’m not trying to judge those things or people that have been through them. I empathize.

But I don’t think I should have to avoid understanding parts of the Bible that I am confused about because the topic might not be pleasant.


#18

Because of the following:

  1. The testimony of the Lutheran lady on 60 minutes. She said that she did everything that the Catholic Church had asked her to do and the marriage was going fine for 20 years or so, until her husband had decided to date a younger woman. Then all of a sudden she was told that she was not married validly to a man which she thought was her husband which she regarded as a serious insult to her character and reputation. As a good Lutheran Christian she would never live with a man who was not her husband and the Catholic Church deceived her into believing that this man was her husband for 20 years.
  2. The testimony of the Protestant Sheila Rauch Kennedy who says that her Catholic husband Joe Kennedy explained the Catholic annulment process to her this way: “of course I think we had a true marriage. But that doesn’t matter now. I don’t believe this stuff. Nobody actually believes it. It’s just Catholic gobbledygook.”

nytimes.com/books/97/06/08/reviews/970608.08lydont.html
articles.philly.com/1997-04-23/living/25530247_1_sheila-rauch-kennedy-annulment-marriage
3. The statistics show a huge increase in annulments from before Vatican II to after Vatican II.
4. His Eminence Walter Cardinal Kasper has said that in some cases a marriage annulment is a divorce in a Catholic way, in a dishonest way.
americamagazine.org/content/all-things/cardinal-kasper-some-fear-domino-effect-synod-family


#19

The Roman Catholic annulment process makes no sense to some Protestants as you can see from the examples of Sheila Rauch Kennedy, who wrote a book about it, and others with similar experiences. Apparently, it even makes no sense to Cardinal Kasper, at least in some cases. So you should be evenhanded about this. If Catholics can find loopholes to divorce, then why is it wrong when Protestants do the same?


#20

This is one side of the story only. You don’t even know the other side. You don’t even know if she is telling the truth. She might be. She might not be. Not the best way to make a judgement, probably.

  1. The testimony of the Protestant Sheila Rauch Kennedy who says that her Catholic husband Joe Kennedy explained the Catholic annulment process to her this way: “of course I think we had a true marriage. But that doesn’t matter now. I don’t believe this stuff. Nobody actually believes it. It’s just Catholic gobbledygook.”

Since it wasn’t Pope Joe Kennedy teaching on a matter of faith and morals, it doesn’t really matter if he thinks it is gobbledygook. Who says he is right? If I can find a Catholic who says it isn’t, would you believe him?

You know, there are people who think the Church’s teaching on abortion is gobbledygook. Or on the Eucharist. Or on contraception. Or on Euthanasia. Or anything. So what?

nytimes.com/books/97/06/08/reviews/970608.08lydont.html
articles.philly.com/1997-04-23/living/25530247_1_sheila-rauch-kennedy-annulment-marriage
3. The statistics show a huge increase in annulments from before Vatican II to after Vatican II.

I agree. Like I said, I’m not an expert on annulments.

But you’ve still got 100% annulments with non-Catholics who decided that their “marriage died” and so divorced and are think they are free to remarry. OR do some non-Catholic Christians/Churches say “You can divorce…but you are not free to remarry.”

Do you know of any? I’m curious.

  1. His Eminence Walter Cardinal Kasper has said that in some cases a marriage annulment is a divorce in a Catholic way, in a dishonest way.
    americamagazine.org/content/all-things/cardinal-kasper-some-fear-domino-effect-synod-family

And he is entitled to his opinion.

Remember, divorce isn’t the question I have it is the remarriage. The bible reads really clearly about remarriage even after a divorce.

The Catholic Church says: We can have one valid marriage per lifetime. An annulment doesn’t cancel a marriage. It says that a valid marriage never existed.

There’s no way that you or I can know all of the details of that process unless we experience it ourselves, or hear the intimate details about it from both parties involved (which I really don’t care to do).

It seems that the non-Catholic Churches say: Divorce and remarriage is acceptable if you think your marriage died.

I guess we may have to agree to disagree but it is really obvious to me which one of the two is taking the bible and the words of Jesus more seriously and which one isn’t.


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