Identifying the meaning of this USCCB passage on marriage

I am not so well versed in marriage, or at least not so well as I could be. I am just confused as to what this all means.

Here, the link:

Here, the excerpt: While it true that the Roman Catholic Church does not grant dissolution of the bond of a consummated sacramental marriage, it remains a question among theologians whether this is founded on a prudential judgment or on the Church’s perception that it lacks the power to dissolve such a bond.

Study of the history of our various traditions has led us to conclude that some at times may raise a particular theological explanation of relatively recent origin to the level of unchangeable doctrine. The Second Vatican Council’s “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” stated that there was need for a renewal of the Roman Catholic Church’s understanding and approach to its teaching on marriage. That council implicitly recognized that teaching on marriage had frequently proceeded from a biological and juridical point of view rather than from an interpersonal and existential one.
[end excerpt]

Obviously this doesn’t mean the Church has designs on permitting the dissolution of a sacramental marriage! But what on earth does it mean?

Thank you for explaining.

Edit: oops. Probably the wrong forum. Please move it to a more appropriate place if need be.

It is a distinction of does not vs cannot, one which the Church herself has not declared. So, the Church does not dissolve valid, sacramental marriages but it has never declared dogmatically that it cannot.

Compare this with ordination of women. The Church does not ordain women, and has never done so. It is only in the last 25 years that the Church declared definitively it cannot ordain women.

See the distinction?

Oh, my… it seems there is a long staircase before me that only gets larger the closer I approach! One thing after another I find that I have misinterpreted. Here, in this instance, I would have thought it to be definitively impossible to dissolve a valid, sacramental marriage. If I understand you rightly, it is rather this: that the Church may or may not (She has not declared) dissolve them, but so far it has always been the practice not to.

Thanks for the article.

This was particularly interesting to me because of recent things going on in my life.

I offended my marriage with my wife and fell back into flirting with other girls. My wife discovered some of my behavior and I have been very convicted of the ugliness of it all and am remorsefully seeking her and God’s forgiveness for this sin.

My wife was very hurt by my flirting , sometimes very inappropriately, but decidedly and graciously forgave me. During her ‘hurting’ discovery of my behavior, her sister in law was hounding her to divorce me and never let me see my children again.

I told my wife that I realize she has a certain right because of my unchastity to legally divorce me as a means to seperate with me. I was not interested in telling her how she is obligated to remain with me if I am to have such unchastity in my heart and behavior. But her sister in law really had no moral right to encourage divorce because in the Churchs’ view, there is no divorce. There is only seperation without remarriage, or there is an annullment which means the marriage was invalid from the beginning. In our case, Im not sure how on God’s earth our marriage could possibly be declared invalid by the Church, so there is really no point in divorce.

This would certainly not give me a right to treat our marriage wrongly, and on the contrary, the Holy Spirit has helped me to turn from my sinfullness in order to give my wife a pure devotion which can heal her hurt.

In the end, my question is is it ever right to encourage the divorce of a Catholic couple? I can understand when a spouse is repeatedly abusive and harmfull, that for the safely of the other, seperation may be healthy and wise. But would it ever be approved behavior by the Catholic Church to encourage divorce?

I wouldn’t put much stock in this. This is a document produced by a joint commission of Catholics and Orthodox and was an attempt to make a common statement about marriage. The Eastern Orthodox believe they can dissolve marriages, and so it seems this was an overzealous attempt to try and find common ground in this area. Pope Benedict explained how these kinds of documents should be viewed:

[quote=Benedict XVI]Today, moreover, one of the fundamental questions is the problem of the methods adopted in the various ecumenical dialogues. These too must reflect the priority of faith. Knowing the truth is a right of the conversation partner in every true dialogue. It is a requirement of love for one’s brother or sister. In this sense, it is necessary to face controversial issues courageously, always in a spirit of brotherhood and in reciprocal respect. It is also important to offer a correct interpretation of that order or “hierarchy” which exists in Catholic doctrine, observed in the Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio (n. 11), which in no way means reducing the deposit of the faith but rather bringing out its internal structure, the organic nature of this unique structure. The study documents produced by the various ecumenical dialogues are very important. These texts cannot be ignored because they are an important, if temporary, fruit of our common reflection developed over the years. Nevertheless their proper significance should be recognized as a contribution offered to the competent Authority of the Church, which alone is called to judge them definitively. To ascribe to these texts a binding or as it were definitive solution to the thorny questions of the dialogues without the proper evaluation of the ecclesial Authority, would ultimately hinder the journey toward full unity in faith.

The Church has over and over again taught the doctrine that a true sacramental marriage cannot be dissolved. What God has joined, let no man put asunder.

Again, the Church has taught over and over that a sacramental, consummated marriage is indissoluble (if a marriage could be dissolved, it wouldn’t be called indissoluble). This is affirmed in the Code of Canon Law (1141) and by the CCC and by many Popes and Councils, including Vatican II in the document Gaudium et Spes. Not even the Church has this power. Here are two examples of crystal clear declarations by Popes concerning this matter.

[quote=Pope Bl. Pius IX, Verbis exprimere]This permanent and indissoluble firmness of the marital bond does not derive from ecclesiastical discipline. For the consummated marriage, this firmness is solidly based on divine law and on the natural law: such a marriage can never be dissolved for any reason, even personally by the Supreme Pontiff, not even if one of the spouses has violated conjugal fidelity by adultery.


[quote=Pope Pius XII, Address to Newlyweds] The Christian marriage bond is so strong that, if it has attained its complete stability through the exercise of conjugal rights, no power in the world, not even Ours, that is, as Vicar of Christ, can rescind it.

I agree. Thanks for those quotes, they are definitely clear and firm. Even the Church does not have the power to dissolve a marriage, even when one spouse has commited adultery. Only a legal, civil divorce is permitted for the sake of seperation of couples, out of intentions for the safety and health of persons.

Yet, annulments are pronounced all the time. What does this mean? That there are many invalid marriages out there, in which couples actually think they are married by God but are not, and only the ones that seek an end to their relationship become aware of it? Or does the Church find illigitimate excuses to hand out annulments? I dont want to assume that at all. I think the local Churches should take more responsibility to draw out these members who are in unhealthy unions with one another. Confront them. Address the problematic marriage scenarios in homilies. Too many half hearted Catholics justify their unions because they are not held accountable to the reality that they may not be living together in a Sacramental marriage.

We, as society, are so difficult to discipline and lead to observe the commands of Jesus!

No, they don’t.

We’ll, no… Not if you think it through.

The Church does not and cannot dissolve valid sacramental marriages, even through a dogmatic declaration. The reason lies in Matthew 19:6.

God does not make mistakes!

If an investigation determines a marriage was not valid when it took place, the Church is not dissolving a valid marriage, but is determining the marriage was not valid…

Do you see the distinction?

Furthermore, even when the faithful are excommunicated, sacraments received up to that point cannot be declared by the Church as invalid. The same holds true for the defrocking of priests…if defrocking affected post-facto sacraments administered by defrocked priests, countless baptisms, a solutions, marriages would also be invalid.

You completely misunderstood what I said.

Go back and read what I wrote, because I did not write what you assert above.

This is what you said:

***It is a distinction of does not vs cannot, one which the Church herself has not declared. So, the Church does not dissolve valid, sacramental marriages but it has never declared dogmatically that it cannot. ***

Again, the Church cannot dogmatically declare it can dissolve valid sacramental marriage.

If you are contending it can, you are mistaken.

They believe someone can divorce and remarry twice after getting married the first time. It seems to me, either they believe marriages can be dissolved or that someone can be married to multiple people at the same time (polygamy).

You can’t argue with 1ke about this, he has a disclaimer (his signature) :wink:

This is something I’ve wondered about myself. Jesus said"what God has joined let no man put asunder". Yet He gave the power to His Church to bind and loose (“whatsoever you shal bind on earth, shall have been bound in haeven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven”.) If the Church, in God’s name, determines that a marriage has been dissolved by God, why would it not be ipso facto, dissolved?


But the Church will not do such a thing because God does not Will it, just as Jesus said.

God allows us to sin, and if one person in marriage sins in that he has ruptured the marriage, why would the church be wrong to recognize this?

Jesus didn’t say that marriage could not be sundered, only that it should not be, that is, that one should not commit the sin of sundering it. But to acknowledge a sundering, when done, is not to condone it, but rather to begin a process to heal the wound created.


That is not what they believe.

Here is a summary of their belief.

He is a she.

I hate when that happens, sorry. Thanks for letting me know :wink:

It means that the Church hasn’t made a final authoritative declaration on the issue. Thus, the Church leaves the possibility of taking (roughly) the Orthodox position on marriage open.

I’m not sure why this is a bad or terrifying thing, but you seem to be terrified by it. Can you explain?

I read the link and it specifically says marriages can be dissolved. Granted, it is not the Church authority that dissolves it but rather Church authority that recognizes the dissolution, so I was mistaken in my original post, and they do say to dissolve a marriage is a sin on a spouse’s part, but in the end the dissolution is truly effective.

[quote=article]“But man is free and can dissolve his marriage…”
“Divorce does not heal the diseased marriage but kills it. It is not a positive action or intervention. It is about dissolving the “mini-Church” that has been formed through the marriage relationship.”
“We need to be very clear in this as when Christ teaches that marriage may not be dissolved that does not mean that He is stating that it cannot occur.”
“In other words, it is the offence that breaks the bond.”
"…the bond that was originally considered indissoluble is already dissolved and the law can offer nothing to replace grace and can neither heal nor resurrect, nor say: ‘Stand up and go’”.

I think they need to use a new word and not use “indissoluble,” which means unable to dissolve. Their position is that you shouldn’t dissolve a marriage, not that you are unable to dissolve it.

Christ says whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, He doesn’t add “unless the internal symphony of the original marriage cannot be salvaged” like this article does.

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