The spread of the Schism


In case it wasn’t clear…

If what I was saying was correct, according to those Canonists who were proponents of consent and consummation, there would be a small window of opportunity (before consummation happened but after consent to marry) where if a woman fornicated, a man could divorce her and marry another (a position later rejected by the Church).

If this is so, I am saying this might better explain some of those texts cited that I took a glance at involving the “fornication clause”.


The big problem with the Roman position is this: It is undisputed that Christ is quoted in one gospel as saying that divorce is adultery, without any exception, and in another gospel as giving adultery by a spouse as an exception.

The Orthodox position allows for the validity of both statements, the more “liberal” one simply specifying an exception not mentioned in the first. This accords with the time-honored principle of interpretation: where there are two passages on the same subject, and the two don’t conflict except that one is more specific than the other, they shall be harmonized so that the more specific one is accommodated.

In contrast, the Roman position basically renders the more specific saying to be a nullity. Which, unless one is prepared to regard it as spurious, is to disregard a saying of Christ.

An easy call, in my opinion.


The Catholic interpretation doesn’t ignore that verse, but it explains it to mean that separation could happen with adultery but not remarriage. The reason is that the last part of the verse talks about whoever marrying the woman also committing adultery, but it doesn’t give an exception. There’s a quote I found by St Augustine, in fact more than one, where he directly says that remarriage after adultery is not permissible and the marriage still exists. He says its less grave because of adultery and that’s why the civil law at his time maybe permitted it, but its still adultery to remarry even in that case.

This is the third interpretation besides the two you provided. The verse is of course not spurious. But the more specific part is not about remarriage, in the Catholic interpretation, but about separation only.

In ancient church writings they used the word divorce to mean everything including separation and annulmemt so it need not mean the dissolution of the marital bond.


Consummation is not at issue here. Where consummation becomes an issue, it is explicitly stated. Here is just the standard fare of divorce and remarriage in unions, regardless of consummation status. And, as far as I know, consummation only got a lot of ink spilled on it beginning in the ninth century.


You might find this an interesting read, since you’ve been reading up on a lot of Augustine lately on this issue:


I’ll try to give my thoughts on each quote…

“I wrote two books on adulterous marriages, following the scriptures as closely as possible, with the intention of solving a very difficult problem. I do not know whether I was able to do this in a very clear way. Quite the contrary, I do not think that I concluded the matter, although I shed light on many of its obscurities. An intelligent reader will be able to judge it.”

“After dealing with these points and discussing them in this way to the best of my ability, I am not unaware that the whole question of marriage is still very unclear and most complex. I would not be so bold as to claim that I have yet unraveled it fully, either in this work or any other, or even that I could do so now if pressed”

Here there are two interpretations… One is that he doubted his view, and the other is that he only doubted how well he explained it.

“Again, I certainly discussed here very carefully the precept forbidding the dis-missal of one’s wife except on account of fornication. But what the Lord wanted to be understood by the fornication on account of which he would permit a wife to be dismissed must repeatedly be thought through and investigated”

This doesn’t seem like a big deal as in my understanding he’s talking about separation here, not remarriage, and the conditions for separation were at some point clarified by the Church…

“Although it is lawful to put aside a wife who commits adultery, I should be surprised if this meant it is also lawful to take another wife. On this point sacred scripture raises a difficult problem”

It sounds here like he is acknowledging the difficulty of.the problem. It makes me wonder how defined this teaching was at the time. The Catholic interpretation would be that it was not extremely defined until later so some confusion as to the meaning was there. The support for this view is that if remarriage was a fully accepted practice everywhere, as it is for the Orthodox, St Augustine probably wouldn’t even have considered this other point. His hesitancy seems to point to some lack of definition at that period of history. So to know which explanation is correct… I guess it all goes back to.the Papacy… If the Papacy is infallible then this matter was later clarified . The Orthodox would say their view would be the correct one. I think St Augustine’s quotes here show that the Church was still trying to clarify these points fully… If the idea of remarriage being adultery has no ground in tradition at all, I don’t think St Augustine would have pursued it?

“He then continued: 'Nevertheless, I do not see how a man can be allowed to marry someone else, if he leaves a wife who has committed adultery, while a woman is not allowed to marry someone else, if she leaves a husband who has committed adultery”

Well here he’s saying the Catholic position

“It does not seem that someone who has divorced his wife for adultery and mar-ried another should be equated with those who divorce and remarry for reasons other than adultery. Even in the divine scriptures it is so unclear whether a man, who is certainly allowed to divorce an adulterous wife, should nevertheless be regarded as an adulterer himself, if he marries another, that, in my view, he errs in an excusable way”

This to me is the most serious quote. Yet St Augustine does say the man errs. It seems like he is saying “this is so.complicated that maybe these people are wrong, but invincibly ignorant!”. I do wonder that… I don’t know of course.

In the end everything seems to come down to the question of Papal infallibility… I think that’s the biggest question in the Catholic / Orthodox discussion


Looks like I goofed according to this site I was reading. The author says that a marriage that has been ratified (consent) but not yet consummated, can be dissolved by the Roman Pontiff (about 8th paragraph down.)


Just doing some research on the remarriage question…

In support of the Catholic view, there’s Clement of Alexandria as well:

“You shall not put away your wife except for fornication, and [Holy Scripture] considers as adultery a remarriage while the other of the separated persons survives.”

This quote suggests that the reason to separate could be fornication, but then says its adultery for the separated to remarry. This must refer to the same couple, since those are the only separations he acknowledges.


After reading Matthew 19:3-9 where Jesus speaking to the Pharisees says to them :“Therefore let no man separate what God has joined.” Jesus also said the only real reason why Moses allowed divorce was due to the stubborness of the Jewish people. " But that in the beginning it was nt so." (Lewd conduct was a separate matter) Which I think Jesus was referring to Lv. 18:6-23 Which to me makes sense as all would have understood that in Jesus’s day. Yet, it seems to me that Jesus is also saying that those who commit adultery, fornications etc. are not to remarry whether it be husband or wife that to do so is considered adultery.

 Accordingly, since Jesus gave the authority to Peter to bind and loose, Does the Church have the authority  to unbound a marriage due to adultery or fornications by either hunband or wife? That seems to me to be the real issue that although Jesus spoke against divorce, can the Church unbound it?  Also according to Jesus, its God's will that what has been joined in marriage no one that is no man can separate a marriage,  which means  in a way divorce is a man made authority,


Interesting topic!


First, I think this is your article, so forgive me for not addressing you directly. Like I said, this has peaked my interest, so when time permits, I would love to dig in to this some day. I was able to “poke around” a little bit last night (pardon the Grateful Dead reference, I’m a fan :slight_smile: )

One of the first sources I came across was a book entitled “Pope Gregory II on Divorce and Remarriage” by William Kelly, found here:

On pg. 67 he starts talking about Canon 10 from the Council of Arles (given in the article by the Othodox author as evidence for their position), and seems to hold the opposite opinion as you, while admitting that the Canon can be read two ways. After this, Kelly talks about the Council of Agde (another evidence given by the Orthodox author.) FWIW, I don’t know what the Creed of the author is (if any), but it looks like a 2016 publication from what I remember.

I also consulted the article “Divorce (in Moral Theology)”, from the* Catholic Encyclopedia *.

A couple of things I made mental note of while skimming were:


The term divorce (divortium, from divertere, divortere, “to separate”) was employed in pagan Rome for the mutual separation of married people. Etymologically the word does not indicate whether this mutual separation included the dissolution of the marriage bond, and in fact the word is used in the Church and in ecclesiastical law in this neutral signification. Hence we distinguish between divortium plenum or perfectum (absolute divorce), which implies the dissolution of the marriage bond, and divortium imperfectum (limited divorce), which leaves the marriage bond intact and implies only the cessation of common life (separation from bed and board, or in addition separation of dwelling-place). In civil law divorce means the dissolution of the marriage bond; divortium imperfectum is called separation (séparation de corps).

This leads me to believe that when “divorce” is mentioned in a document one has to be careful to figure out which is meant. (Duh, right? Sorry to insult anyone’s intelligence.)

2.) Also in my mind, was the positive evidence given for the teaching of the Catholic Church.

The practice of the faithful was not indeed always in perfect accord with the doctrine of the Church. On account of defective morality, there are to be found regulations of particular synods which permitted unjustifiable concessions. However, the synods of all centuries, and more clearly still the decrees of the popes, have constantly declared that divorce which annulled the marriage and permitted remarriage was never allowed. The Synod of Elvira (A.D. 300) maintains without the least ambiguity the permanence of the marriage bond, even in the case of adultery. Canon ix decreed: “A faithful woman who has left an adulterous husband and is marrying another who is faithful, let her be prohibited from marrying; if she has married, let her not receive communion until the man she has left shall have departed this life, unless illness should make this an imperative necessity” (Labbe, “Concilia”, II, 7). The Synod of Arles (314) speaks indeed of counseling as far as possible, that the young men who had dismissed their wives for adultery should take no second wife" (ut, in quantum possil, consilium eis detur); but it declares at the same time the illicit character of such a second marriage, because it says of these husbands, “They are forbidden to marry” (prohibentur nubere, Labbe, II, 472). The same declaration is to be found in the Second Council of Mileve (416), canon xvii (Labbe, IV, 331); the Council of Hereford (673), canon x (Labbe, VII, 554); the Council of Friuli (Forum Julii), in northern Italy (791), canon x (Labbe, IX, 46); all of these teach distinctly that the marriage bond remains even in case of dismissal for adultery, and that new marriage is therefore forbidden.
The following decisions of the popes on this subject deserve special mention: Innocent I, “Epist. ad Exsuper.”, c. vi, n. 12 (P.L., XX, 500): “Your diligence has asked concerning those, also, who, by means of a deed of separation, have contracted another marriage. It is manifest that they are adulterers on both sides.” Compare also with “Epist. ad Vict. Rothom.”, xiii, 15, (P.L., XX, 479): “In respect to all cases the rule is kept that whoever marries another man, while her husband is still alive, must be held to be an adulteress, and must be granted no leave to do penance unless one of the men shall have died.” The impossibility of absolute divorce during the entire life of married people could not be expressed more forcibly than by declaring that the permission to perform public penance must be refused to women who remarried, as to a public sinner, because this penance presupposed the cessation of sin, and to remain in a second marriage was to continue in sin.

Anyway, one can read on from there (both up and down.)



There was a Pope, either Pope Leo or Pope Gregory, who was asked about adultery/remarriage question, and said that **neither **spouse can remarry? I just can’t remember where I read that or which Pope it was. Maybe I posted on this in one of these threads… I’ll keep looking but if someone remembers or knows that would be great!! :slight_smile:


The CCC addresses these points

starting with paragraph 1625


Pope Francis Reforms Annulment Process: 9 things to know and share


Answering Pope Francis on Invalid Marriages

Some overall topics responded to

Isn’t It Just a Catholic Rubber-Stamp on a Divorce?


*] If my mother annuls her marriage to my father, does that mean my siblings and I are illegitimate?

*] Does my annulment mean that my ex and I were living in sin, and are our children illegitimate?

*] Why does the Church not see adultery as grounds for an annulment?


Hi Steve B. I have a copy of the CCC Book. My post was just a comment on the OP post.



If canon law is reflected in secular law, as in the Kingdom of Italy, it is widespread.

Only to the extent that such particular was in perfect agreement with its counterpart (canon with secular). The truth is, barring one or two popes, papal tradition/roman tradition on marriage is plain to see. The popes condemned remarriage bluntly.

The only time one sees canon law for the modern Catholic view practiced in secular law begins in the final decade of the eighth century under Charlemagne, while some of his successors even reverse that decision, such as King Lothar I of Italy.

Canon law in Rome has principally remained the same on this issue for two thousand years. This is not the east where secular law dictated ecclesiastical law. In the west secular law and canon law often agreed but were never in perfect harmony even on those points in which they find some agreement. Hence it is reckless and straw man-ish to base the history of Roman ecclesiastical law on remarriage on the image of secular law no matter how similar on the surface. It’s just bad science.

If history were so easy, us historians and historians-in-training would have ceased to exist long ago. There would be no reason for future research

You’re dodging the bullet. You made the claim that a oaractice was widespread. Considering your remark above, claiming allowance for divorce and remarriage was widespread is completely deceptive and reckless:shrug:

Things that are widespread are easy to see. There is practically no evidence for the stuff you are claiming other than wishful interpretations and unnatural extrapolations from ambiguities and exceptions.


The articles are indeed mine. My problem with the Kelly’s interpretation is that he doesn’t point out where in the canon indissolubility is explicated. Remember that a number of Eastern and Western Fathers advised against remarriage, even in cases of the death of a spouse. Advise against remarriage in no way establishes indissolubility.

That’s all well and said, but the examples in both of my articles are instances of permitting remarriage. If it was merely separation, such would not have been permitted.

Yes. I’ve never doubted the positive evidence for the Catholic position. However, as I have shown, there is positive evidence for two other traditions that go far back in time in the Latin West as well: 1.) divorce and remarriage was forbidden to only women and 2.) divorce and remarriage was permissible to all. As for the interpretation of Arles, the forbidding of remarriage is qualified with “as long as possible.” It’s the ideal, as the Orthodox Church teaches. As for the other councils, I have yet to look at them, so I cannot say much. As for the issue of Pope Innocent I, we have evidence that he approved of divorce and remarriage in a ecclesial case. See the following:


A grossly simplistic view of history that betrays an outdated historical understanding.

First, I never made broad sweeping claims of Roman ecclesiastical law. I made the claim that in the Latin West, there was a vibrant tradition sanction in both canon law and priestly counsel that divorce and remarriage were permitted and widespread. That’s a different claim.

Second, you’ve misunderstood the argument I made. I claimed that canon law helped to reverse secular law, as in the case of the Synod of Rome in 826. That’s not as you characterized it. And if it was so, I’d still be on fairly firm ground. As I have presented here already, both the Visigothic and Frankish Churches have formal councils and penitentials that permit the practice alongside with their secular laws. I’d regard that as a widespread practice.

No, actually you’re dodging the bullet. A number of people here and elsewhere have provided healthy counterarguments using both the sources I presented and consulting other secondary sources from online. You’ve done nothing on the sort, but only have complained. You’ve quibbled with me on the Latin in the past, but I’ve provided grammatical reasons in response to your arguments in favor of my arguments. Those arguments have yet to be answered. On numerous occasions, I’ve provided the professional academic literature to which I am pulling from, but never once have you engaged it.

If it is sanctioned in wholesale churches spanning over 2,000,000 square kilometers (not to mention the Greek East and its churches), as evidenced in church synods and penitentials, which were used by the average priest, then it was widespread. You’re blinded by the firm precedent set in the Latin West during the High Middle Ages and are trying to read that back onto the Early Middle Ages. That’s pseudo-science.


No you claimed it was widespread, that is more than just a mere exception or minor and “vibrant” (this is funny):rolleyes: “tradition”. Bare in mind that not everything tolerated is a tradition,** some things are just errors**.

Second, you’ve misunderstood the argument I made. I claimed that canon law helped to reverse secular law, as in the case of the Synod of Rome in 826. That’s not as you characterized it. And if it was so, I’d still be on fairly firm ground. As I have presented here already, both the Visigothic and Frankish Churches have formal councils and penitentials that permit the practice alongside with their secular laws. I’d regard that as a widespread practice.

That is a stretch of epic proportions to call it widespread. In some regions, for a time, the error was tolerated for whatever reason. Yet you cannot show the true antiquity of these practices and that is where your argument crumbles. Lastly Rome although ambitious was not in the habit of destroying regional customs if they proved to be authentic. However by the time of Charlemagne most of these variances were being erased. I wonder why the franks and the Visigoths never objected to such changes or at least maintained their practices like the east? The practices were novel. That is why. In the east, it was only widespread because of imperial force.

The church has history of permitting erroneous practices. It’s bad practice to conclude that tolerance of erroneous practices is evidence of a traditiion. A tradition has long historical existence dating back to the time of the apostles and is not exceptional but a norm.

By your loose rendering of tradition, even errors like Gnosticism, monothelitism, Monophysitism, Arianism and nestorianism can be called traiditions as certain regions adopted these beliefs for periods (decades and sometimes centuries). Again, bad science. This is because you’re driven by a wanting desire to legitimize a novelty. A practice that started in the east in the reign of Justinian (or rather was made church law).

The last part and most crucial part to determine a tradition is if a tradition lines up with scripture. Again that is where divorce and remarriage truly crumbles. Our lord in scripture called that, exceptionlesly, adultery which is a mortal sin. Heresy can never be a tradition as heresy by its very nature is innovative.

No, actually you’re dodging the bullet. A number of people here and elsewhere have provided healthy counterarguments using both the sources I presented and consulting other secondary sources from online.

Because I’ve actually done that with you before :shrug: no need to do it again because I know how you argue. When evidence is presented that flatly contradicts you, you still find some way to twist is in order to say something it isn’t saying. That’s why I don’t bother anymore. It’s one thing to do this when we are dealing with ambiguous texts but you do this with blatantly explicit texts. It’s a weird intellectual dishonesty and cognitive dissonance.

Lastly I have a lot of things to do in my life than read large amounts of books just to debate on an Internet forum. I read my own stuff but that already takes enough of my time. Suffice to say sourcing the fathers should be enough. It works for the church at its councils and it should be good enough here. The fathers and tradition are always first. I read my fare share of scholarly works but I don’t ever make the error of placing that above the fathers themselves. This where you go wrong.

If it is sanctioned in wholesale churches spanning over 2,000,000 square kilometers (not to mention the Greek East and its churches), as evidenced in church synods and penitentials,

Firstly that’s a huge claim. Deceptive too, assuming every diocese adhered to these customs within that area. Latin bishops are a lot more independent than their Eastern counterparts. Synods did not and still do not hold the same importance as they do in the east. This is mainly due to the ceasaropapism in the east which really implemented synodal decisions. How many bishops were at these coucils? Were these national or provincial/regional councils? These are important questions that need to be answered. Even then, these practices are still not classed as widespread. It’s still a small minority in the grand scheme of things. It’s exceptional.:shrug: and those exceptions did not last for long.

Even Arianism was sanctioned at a point. For how long is crucial question. The antiquity of such practices even in these areas is nonexistent. That’s is the problem. These practices were novel and were erased over time like every other error.


Again, you’ve missed the nuance, so I will point it out directly. Canon law in Francia and Visigothic Spain is not Roman canon law. They each had their own canons.

I’ve made explicit reference to the appropriate secondary literature on this subject that discusses the antiquity of the practice. And on what basis do you suppose their wasn’t resistance? There was actually. It’s supremely odd that you claim the Byzantine practice was a consequence of purely imperial force, while the eradication of divorce and remarriage in canonical tradition in the Latin West was precisely because of imperial force (Frankish).

As I’ve said before, read the books and articles that I’ve cited in the said articles.

This is historical drivel. If you bothered to read anything that I’ve referred you to, you’d realize that the practice of divorce and remarriage in the Church did not originate with Saint Justinian. It dates back much farther. Again, read the books and articles that I’ve referenced and excerpted in my own work. Also, none of those heresies listed were taught by any of the Church Fathers or the most Holy Apostles. Don’t issue such non sequiturs.

Have you ever read Matthew 19:9?

No, you haven’t. You just quibbled over my interpretation of the various translations I made because it rustles the jimmies of your own faith. That’s not my problem. You never engaged the grammatical arguments I made that justified my interpretations. Nor have you ever engaged with the secondary scholarly literature that I pointed to, which overwhelmingly agrees with many of my interpretations, especially concerning the Synod of Rome in 826, which you were adamantly opposed to.

And you call me intellectually dishonest? I’ve managed to both read the Fathers as well as scholarly works. I use the latter to understand the context and world in which the former lived and wrote in. You’re attempting to paint me as blasphemous to cover up your own unwillingness to read. Also, I don’t read to debate on internet forums. This is just a by-product of my love for history and simultaneous learning about the history of my faith. Don’t tell me that you’ve been quote-mining this whole time elsewhere just for the sake of debating on the internet. That would be disappointing.

I don’t like to advertise this, mostly because it can come off as pretentious, but the reason I read so much is because history (especially religious history) is the profession I am training for. I’ll say no more. Credentials are useless with pseudonyms on the internet, which is one (but not the only) reason why I recommend so many readings for those who are curious rather than waving my credentials in the air. But you’ve tried to paint me as a no-lifer on a web forum, and I’ll not let you do that without some modicum of contention.


What makes you think that?

Except they do, especially when the corresponding Visigothic, Merovingian, or Carolingian king signed off on their decisions. For more information on this matter, see:

Gregory Halfond, The Archaeology of Frankish Church Councils, AD 511-768 (Boston: Brill, 2010).

As I’ve said elsewhere, the book is a tad expensive, so I recommend finding it at the library. Let me know if you have trouble finding it.

Claims of Caesaropapism in the Christian East are grossly exaggerated, as current scholarship acknowledges. Please see the following article, which argues clearly that is it better described as synergy between Church and State, and when the state tried to change doctrine and dogma, it was successfully resisted:

Daniela Kalkandjieva, “A Comparative Analysis on Church-State Relations in Eastern Orthodoxy: Concepts, Models, and Principles,” Journal of Church and State Relations 53, no. 4 (Autumn 2011): 587-614.

Yes, as initially spearheaded by Charlemagne’s imperial edict of Admonitio generalis in 789, but somehow that doesn’t qualify as caesaropapism in your book. This double standard of yours is quite amusing to say the least.


What about the fact that currently the Orthodox Church allows divorce and remarriage for more reasons than adultery? why is there this further departure from even the view we are discussing?

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