Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Joshua 24:1-13; Matthew 19:3-12)
Jesus claims in today’s gospel that the only case in which married people may divorce is porneia. The New American Bible translates this Greek word very generally as unlawful. Thus, it seems that any infraction of the Church’s canons regarding the legitimacy of a marriage would give grounds for divorce. Biblical scholars, however, find a much more restrictive meaning to the word – an incestuous relationship. Paul attests that this occurred among Christians in Corinth and insists not that the people involved may divorce but that they must.
The Church rightfully upholds the indissolubility of marriage. It is plainly God’s will as Jesus explains. The real question is whether it is right in making as many exceptions as it does. Many ridicule the Church for doing so by calling annulments “Catholic divorce.” But the Church has an exulted view of marriage that goes beyond superficial promises and physical consummation. It expects people to know what they are promising, to believe in the efficacy in what they are saying, and to have the power of spirit to carry out their assumed responsibilities. Anything less in its view is not a true marriage.
Because marriage is so central to human living, it must be supervised with extreme care. The Church proceeds to do so by trying to provide adequate preparation, by allowing for annulments when couples won’t or can’t take that preparation seriously, and by not granting divorces on a whim.