“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery.”
Every so often I find myself on the same page as Pope Francis. This may be because I read the same Gospel passage…
In Mark today Jesus comes across Pharisees who ask him a trick question: Is it lawful for a husband to divorce a wife?
Notice that the question is about a husband leaving his wife, not vice-versa, because Moses allowed a husband to dismiss his wife. In his answer, Jesus retorts that whether a man, or a woman, divorces his or her spouse, he or she commits adultery. Jesus brings husband and wife on an equal footing — this in a patriarchal society.
We also have the line, “what Godde has joined together, no human being must separate.” From this, I assume, comes the Church doctrine that divorce is unacceptable once Godde has blessed a marriage. (see recent Vatican Insider article)
Interestingly today in his homily, Pope Francis declared “…when [their] love fails – because many times it fails – we have to feel the pain of the failure, [we must] accompany those people who have had this failure in their love. Do not condemn. Walk with them – and don’t practice casuistry on their situation.” (see also John Thavis’ blog).
As a laywoman reading the Church news, I feel there is a minuet taking place between the ‘Vatican’ per se and Pope Francis, as in a bad cop-good cop act, between the harsh reality of Catholic doctrine and the kind mercy of the Spirit.
Where does this leave a remarried Catholic man or woman at the time of the Eucharist? Outside looking in, de facto excommunicated.
Now if the divorced man, or woman, happens to have the money to hire a lawyer to have his, or her, marriage annulled (proving that his or her spouse never intended truly to marry…), this divorcee can remarry, as if his, or her, children had never been born and years of married life had never taken place, — and receive the Eucharist every Sunday on the side of his, or her, new spouse. (Note here my profound distaste of the marriage annulment system)
It just happens that I have been married for forty-three years to the same man (a saint in his own right). Why did we stay married for so long when some other married friends have not? Why have we been faithful when others have not? Why can we forgive our wrongs? Why can we still talk for hours together? Why are we still turned on by each other…
I know why my friends divorced. They found themselves in an impossible situation, where they were treated in a disrespectful and unloving manner which was destroying their soul and their spirit. The fact that Godde would want to give them another chance at marital happiness does not surprise me. Godde is merciful and compassionate. If Godde can be, why can’t the Church be as well?
My Feminist sisters point out that the Roman Catholic Church is a patriarchal organization, a mens-only club, made up of celibate men (yes?). How can a man who has chosen celibacy begin to fathom the depths of a marital relationship? Even more, how can a vast number of celibate men gathered in one room hope to empathize with the abyss of marital angst and despair? I am not sure.
All I know is that when I read the Vatican Insider article, I felt a profound disconnect between Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and little old me. My Church somehow is inclusive, generous, compassionate, kind, welcoming, smiling. My Godde does not bring me down; She empowers me, liberates me, fills me with hope and joy and love…
I ‘know’ that Pope Francis is moved by the Spirit. Kindness in one of the many signs we all can witness. I am sure he is welcoming to all, whatever their marital status or sexual orientation happens to be. It remains to be seen, however, whether he and the coming Synod of Bishops on the Family can share in the movement of the Spirit rather than in the rigidity of ancient patriarchal doctrine. My guess is as good as yours.
PS: Some of the longest-lasting couples I know are gay…
Art: March Chagall, Marriage