For a Catholic couple who married in the Church, divorce is one of the worst things in the entire world. I fully believe that.
But what about for people who didn’t get married in the Church? Most people think divorce is no big deal, and get married with it as an option in the back of their mind. If such people ask our opinion for their situation, should we say that divorce is pretty much not an option, as I would if it were a Catholic couple?
I believe that 99% of couples, if they worked hard enough, could be happy in their marriage. As puzzlannie alludes to, the option of divorce–not problems between the spouses themselves–is typically the biggest problem. With divorce as an option, spouses only need to work so hard and be so patient, and if that fails, they just get divorced. Further, when someone thinks he can get divorced, when some other female seems particularly attractive or interesting, he thinks about what he is missing and what he could be with.
And frankly, for children’s sake–what children need are parents who love each other and love them, not parents who are happy. And here I use love as a verb, a habit of loving, gracious acts, not a feeling that can come and go.
So, should we hold couples to our standards of marriage even though that is not what they believe they entered into when they got married? I suppose that is probably the best stance, in light of the observations I made in my above post. But still, it feels a bit tricky–I say “It doesn’t matter whether you love him or not, marriage is for life” and the non-Catholic might say “Well I never promised to stay with him if I stopped loving him.”
This is an issue I grapple with as well. I have a very dear friend whose father is a Lutheran pastor; said pastor is twice divorced. :shrug: I mean, if even the spiritual leader of a community can divorce- twice! Why should a layperson not find it totally acceptable?
I came into the Church (having previously been) the unbaptised, agnostic offspring of an atheist…and I was divorced from an atheist as well. Imagine my surprise learning years later that my exceedingly young, very-brief marriage (months, not years) was considered every bit as valid as a properly-prepped Catholic marriage because (drumroll please) I years later learned via his half-sibling that, for whatever reason, he was baptised by a family member as an infant.
Pauline Privilege became invalid, had to start from scratch with a formal case.:shrug: