Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time – Odd Year

Posté par diaconos le 13 août 2021

Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time - Odd Year dans Religion 23771

Divorce is the official break-up of a civil or religious marriage previously binding two or more persons in the case of polygamy. In law it is distinguished from de facto separation, which has no legal consequences, and from legal separation, which is legally recognised but leaves the marriage intact. It should not be confused with the annulment of a marriage, which consists of declaring that it never took place. In ancient Greece, divorce existed in various forms depending on the city.

In Athens, it could be obtained by mutual consent or on the initiative of one of the spouses. In practice, the dowry constituted a powerful brake: when the marriage was dissolved, the woman recovered her dowry – except in the case of adultery – with an interest of 18%. The woman had the right to ask for a divorce herself, but most often the request was made through her legal guardian (father, brother or any other male relative): the request, duly justified, was submitted to the archon who examined it and decided whether or not to grant it. Ill-treatment was a valid reason for separation, but not the husband’s infidelity.

In the Hellenistic period, divorce was further formalised: legal documents recorded the divorce and determined its consequences. The most important provision concerned the dowry, which was returned to the ex-wife. She was never entitled to any share of the household goods. The Romans practised divorce. At first, the right to divorce was reserved for men, but very quickly women obtained this right. Marriage, which was at first a religious and social ritual, became desecrated like the rest of Roman society. It was codified in law.

At the end of the Empire, divorce became barely formal, because for reasons of simplification, marriage was assimilated to a contract. Single people were still disadvantaged by the law. In the early Middle Ages, marriage was not consecrated and written contracts fell into disuse. Marriage was only used to seal alliances. It was considered normal to be able to break up a marriage. The Roman Catholic Church is not very supportive of divorce and considers marriage to be indissoluble. However, the rules on this matter appear mainly in decisions of particular councils, which often dealt only with particular cases and gave contradictory answers.

In Thailand, during the Ayutthaya Kingdom (1350-1767), divorce was relatively easy. The husband returned his dowry to his wife and the children were divided: those of odd rank (the 1st born, the 3rd, the 5th, etc.) remained with their mother, those of even rank (the 2nd, the 4th, etc.) with their father. Divorcees could remarry.

From the Gospel according to Matthew

03 Some Pharisees came to him to test him and asked him, « Is it lawful for a man to send his wife away for any reason? » 04 He answered, « Have you not read this ? From the beginning the Creator made them male and female, 05 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 06 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 07 The Pharisees replied, « Why, then, did Moses require that a certificate of divorce be given before a woman could be divorced? » 08 Jesus answered, « Because of the hardness of your hearts, Moses allowed you to put away your wives. But in the beginning it was not so. 09 But I tell you, if anyone puts away his wife – except in the case of an illegitimate union – and marries another, he is an adulterer. »

10 His disciples said to him :  « If this is the case with a man and his wife, it is better not to marry. » 11 He answered them, « Not everyone understands this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 There are some who do not marry because they are not born able to do so; there are some who cannot marry because they have been maimed by men; there are some who have chosen not to marry for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who can understand, let him understand. (Mt 19, 3-12)

Is it permissible to put away one’s wife for any reason ?

Jesus had already answered this question in the Sermon on the Mount. The Pharisees asked it to tempt him. What made it a captious question was that it was then hotly debated between two Jewish schools, that of Hillel and that of Shamai, the former very relaxed, the latter more severe on divorce. Moreover, the example set by Herod Antipas, who reigned over Perea, and the end of John the Baptist, who had taken it over, made a rigorous solution of the question rather dangerous, while a free solution would have put Jesus in contradiction with John the Baptist.

For some reason, the husband would have a complaint against his wife: this was the temptation, the trap set for Jesus by his adversaries. The complete and true idea of marriage supposes above all that the two are one heart and one soul; all that has to do with the flesh, in the restricted sense, is only the inferior link of this union; but as the word flesh, in Scripture, embraces the whole man, his entire being, this idea is well expressed by this word: one flesh. This is the absolute and indissoluble intimacy of marriage, which God had in view from the beginning of man’s creation, and which Jesus confirmed with his authority.

Furthermore, this statement is a condemnation of polygamy, which completely destroys the true concept of marriage. The Pharisees thought they had the authority of Moses. But they exaggerated the scope of the legal provision they invoked, for Moses neither commanded nor intended to facilitate divorce; on the contrary, the purpose of the formality he prescribed was to hinder it. Jesus corrected the expression of the Pharisees by saying permitted.

This was not God’s intention. If Moses had permitted it, it was as a necessary evil, intended to avoid greater evils, and only because of that hardness of heart which made you incapable of rising to the divine thought and putting it into practice. If one asks how God, who is immutable, could sanction this deviation from his own law, the answer lies in the fact of the fall and the sin that has taken place since man’s creation. This was the thought that Jesus expressed with this energetic word: the hardness of your heart.

Jesus admitted only one legitimate cause for divorce, and he forbade marrying a repudiated woman. In so speaking, he was speaking from the standpoint of his kingdom, and his followers were not to conform to this principle, the only one on which Christian marriage rests. No Church under the authority of Jesus could sanction another. Is it wrong, then, for civil society in countries which bear the name of Christianity to legislate for other causes of divorce and to allow separated spouses to contract a second marriage ? Should all the citizens of a country be bound by a Christian principle ?

« If this is the condition of a man in relation to a woman, it is not expedient to marry. (Mt 19, 10) The disciples made this observation to Jesus after the Pharisees had gone away. They themselves thought that the condition Jesus imposed on the man with regard to the woman was too harsh. They thought that if the man could not break a mismatched union, if he had to put up with all the faults and vices of his wife, except the one indicated by Jesus, it was better not to marry. This is only about the condition of the husband in relation to the wife, because in the East and in ancient times equal rights were not recognised for the latter. It is quite different under the Gospel.

In order to make his thought clearer, and the moral nature of the gift he had in view, Jesus distinguished three cases : those who, from their mother’s womb, because of their particular organisation, are unfit for marriage, those who have been made so by men; in these first two cases the gift of continence is understood in a corporeal sense and has no religious value, and finally those who have voluntarily taken this resolution for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, not in order to merit it, but in order to dedicate themselves to it entirely and without earthly impediments.

Thus Jesus, in answering the disciples, stated a fact, but did not demand this sacrifice, any more than did Paul in his counsels. There is nothing in these words which is unfavourable to Christian marriage, nor which attributes to celibacy a particular sanctity, much less an argument in favour of the forced celibacy of a whole class of men.

Deacon Michel Houyoux

Links to other Christian websites

◊ Is it permissible to put away one’s wife for any reason ? : click here to read the paper →  The adultery

◊ Father Nicolas Derpich  : click here to read the paper → 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II

♥     Divorce, Remarriage, & Adultery | What Does the Bible Say ?

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