Hello. Thank you for taking the time to address this question. Is a man allowed to get a divorce if his wife is unfaithful or a wife a divorce if her husband is unfaithful? In Scripture Jesus says:

Matthew 19:9:
I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

Matthew 5:32:
But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

God bless you.


Hi Juicekman,

I have always read this to mean that if you divorce your wife because she committed adultery, then your divorce is not the cause her future or current adultery. However, especially in Christ’s time, a woman really needed to be married in society or she would face almost certain poverty, so if she were innocent but her husband divorced her, she would need to remarry. Christ considered that marriage adulterous, but the fault would lie with the husband who basically forced her into that position, and apparently that also holds if the wife divorces the husband. That is just my reading, though, and it makes sense to me, even though I’ve never heard anyone else say it.

I do not see this passage as a green light to remarry if one’s spouse is guilty of adultery.


What version of the Bible is that taken from?

This quote is from the Douay-Rheims version and the explanation is from New Advent newadvent.org/bible/mat019.htm Imprimatur. +James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore, September 1, 1899:
"5:32. But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.
Ego autem dico vobis quia omnis qui dimiserit uxorem suam excepta fornicationis causa facit eam moechari et qui dimissam duxerit adulterat

19:9. And I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.
Dico autem vobis quia quicumque dimiserit uxorem suam nisi ob fornicationem et aliam duxerit moechatur et qui dimissam duxerit moechatur"
New Advent:
"Except it be, etc… In the case of fornication, that is, of adultery, the wife may be put away: but even then the husband cannot marry another as long as the wife is living. "

This is me talking now:
The Church encourages people to forgive their spouses for adultery, but if the spouse has no fault (like explained below) they can stop sharing conjugal life with their spouse, but the bond still remains. This is a quote from canon law, under the CHAPTER IX : THE SEPARATION OF THE SPOUSES, ARTICLE 2: SEPARATION WHILE THE BOND REMAINS:
"Can. 1152 ß1 It is earnestly recommended that a spouse, motivated by Christian charity and solicitous for the good of the family, should not refuse to pardon an adulterous partner and should not sunder the conjugal life. Nevertheless, if that spouse has not either expressly or tacitly condoned the other’s fault, he or she has the right to sever the common conjugal life, provided he or she has not consented to the adultery, nor been the cause of it, nor also committed adultery. "


The Catholic Church forbids divorces, but permits an indefinite separation a mensa et toro (“from table and bed”).

There are other sayings of Jesus about divorce that prohibit it absolutely (Matt19:10 Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18; also1 Cor 7:10-15 Eph 5:21-33), and most scholars agree that they represent the stand of Jesus.

In Matthew 19:9, the word used is “porneia.” The problem lies in the interpretation of this word.

While some translations have “marital unfaithfulness” there are other interpretations.

*“I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” * **NAB **Catholic
*“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” * ** NIV **Protestant
*“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” * KJV

While most Protestant Greek dictionaries define the word “porneia” as fornication or adultery, in the KJV, the Greek word “porneia” is translated as fornication, which takes place between two unmarried persons, otherwise it would be called adultery.

In the following passages the Greek word “porneia” is translated as “unchastity.”

Matthew 15:19
*“For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy.” *

Mark 7:21-22
"From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly." NAB

Notice that both “unchastity” [porneia] and “adultery” are prohibited. Therefore, from these passages we can see that porneia does not mean adultery as that would be redundant.

Other passages in Scripture where the word “porneia” is used make it clear that it ss a reference to an unlawful and thus invalid marriage, such as where there is a close blood relationship.

Acts 15:28-29 Leviticus 17:7 Lev 17:7 Lev 17:15 Lev 18:1-6
1 Corinthians 5:1-5

As such it is a case for annulment rather than divorce. An annulment means that there never was a Sacramental marriage.


This isn’t quite true. The Catholic Church do accept divorce, as it is necessary for the purpose of legalities such as children and property, etc. It is remarriage after the divorce that the CC forbid.


The Church does not recognize a civil divorce. If your state hands you a Divorce decree, you are only divorced in the eyes of the State. In the eyes of God and the Church you are still married, and are expected to be faithful to your spouse, even if s/he is not faithful to you.

This is unless a tribunal in your diocese has given you an anullment, declaring that a valid marriage never existed. In order for that to happen, you must prove conclusively that one or the other of you did not actually intend to enter into a marriage as the Church defines marriage.


know these are not Catholc links, but I found them to be the best biblical exegeses I’ve seen so far regarding the porneia exception in a way that backs up the Catholic position:



One of the views put forth in both links is that because the porneia exception is found only in Matthew and since Matthew is considered to have written to a Jewish audience, the porneia exception is really directed at unfaithfulness during the betrothal period before marriage (which is something either unique or practiced most formally or seriously by Jew’s of Jesus’ time and is a concept lost in modern-day times).



From someone who divorced my first husband for infidelity, and then married again without an annulment, my strong advice is do everything you can to save your marriage!

20/20 hindsight, I know now that I did have options: both of us talking to a priest, Retrouville, Marriage Encounter. But I left without any thought of what I was doing. I lost my faith for awhile, met another man, married him. Now I am once again strong in my faith, and absolutely miserable that I cannot, at this time, participate fully in the Church.

If you truly have done everything you can and still see no other alternative to divorce - you should keep in the front of your mind the definite possibility that you may never be able to marry again. My annulment is on hold until I can find a witness, which I haven’t been able to do. Annulments are not given out as freely as some might have you think; it’s a difficult, lengthy process with no guarantee of success.

Anyway, that’s my two cents.

Good luck and God bless,



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