Choose a topic from Vol 2:


Proof of God's existence
God's nature
Supreme control over all things and the problem of suffering and evil


Destiny of man
Immortality of man's soul
Pre-existence denied
The human free will
Determinism absurd


Necessity of religion
Salvation of the soul
Voice of science
Religious racketeers
Divine revelation
Revealed mysteries
Existence of miracles

The Religion of the Bible

Gospels historical
Missing Books of the Bible
The Bible inspired
Biblical account of creation
New Testament problems
Supposed contradictions in Sacred Scripture

The Christian Faith

Source of Christian teaching
Jewish rejection of Christ
Christianity a new religion
Rational foundation for belief
Causes of unbelief

A Definite Christian Faith

Divisions amongst Christians
Schisms unjustified
Facing the problem
The wrong approach
Is one religion as good as another?
Obligation of inquiry
Charity and tolerance

The Protestant Reformation

Meaning of "Protestant"
Causes of the Reformation
Catholic reaction
Reformers mistaken
The idealization of Protestantism
The Catholic estimate

The Truth of Catholicism

Meaning of the word "Church"
Origin of the Church
The Catholic claim
The Roman hierarchy
The Pope
The Petrine text
St. Peter's supremacy
St. Peter in Rome
Temporal power
Unity of the Church
Holiness of the Church
Catholicity of the Church
Apostolicity of the Church
Indefectibility of the Church
Obligation to be a Catholic

The Church and the Bible

Catholic attitude towards the Bible
Is Bible reading forbidden to Catholics?
Protestant Bibles
The Catholic Douay Version
Principle of private interpretation
Need of Tradition
The teaching authority of the Catholic Church

The Dogmas of the Church

Revolt against dogma
Value of a Creed
The divine gift of Faith
Faith and reason
The "Dark Ages"
The claims of science
The Holy Trinity
Creation and evolution
Grace and salvation
The Sacraments
Holy Eucharist
The Sacrifice of the Mass
Holy Communion
The Catholic Priesthood
Marriage and divorce
Extreme Unction
The resurrection of the body
The end of the world

The Church and Her Moral Teachings

The Inquisition
Other superstitions
Attendance at Mass
Sex education
Attitude to "Free Love"

The Church in Her Worship

Magnificent edifices
Lavish ritual
Women in Church
Catholics and "Mother's Day"
Liturgical Days
Burial rites
Candles and votive lamps
The rosary
Lourdes water
The Scapular

The Church and Social Welfare

Social influence of the Church
The education question
The Church and world distress
Catholic attitude towards Capitalism
The remedy for social ills
Communism condemned
The Fascist State
Morality of war
May individuals become soldiers?
The Church and peace
Capital punishment
Catholic Action

Comparative Study of Non-Catholic Denominations

Defections from the Catholic Church
Coptic Church
Greek Orthodox Church
Anglican Episcopal Church
The "Free" or "Nonconformist" Churches
Church of Christ
Seventh Day Adventists
Plymouth Brethren
Catholic Apostolic Church or Irvingites
Salvation Army
Christian Science
British Israelism
Liberal Catholics
Witnesses of Jehovah
Buchmanism or the "Oxford Group Movement"
From Protestantism to Catholicism

To and From Rome

Conversion of Cardinal Newman
Why Gladstone refrained
The peculiar case of Lord Halifax
Gibbon the historian
Secession of Father Chiniquy
Father Tyrrell, the modernist
Bishop Garrett's departure
Judgment on lapsed Catholics
Protestant apathy towards conversion of Catholics
Principles for converts to Catholicism
God's will that all should become Catholics

Marriage and divorce

793. Did Christ institute the marriage ceremony as we have it today?

He instituted marriage as a Sacrament. The ceremonies of today accompanying that Sacrament have been instituted by the Church in virtue of the authority to do so, given her by Christ.

794. Does the Roman Church forbid divorce under any circumstances?

A civil divorce on the understanding that it gives a legal right to separation, but that it in no way dissolves the latent bond of marriage and gives no right to remarriage whilst both parties still live, is permitted at times for very grave reasons. But under no circumstances does the Catholic Church permit divorce in the sense of abolishing the bond of marriage and as giving a right to remarry, where baptized people are concerned.

795. If two Protestants marry in the Protestant Church, get a divorce, and then marry other Protestants, again in the Protestant Church, are their second marriages valid in the sight of God?

No. When two Protestants marry, their marriage is valid in the sight of God. Now it is certain that Christ absolutely forbade divorce, and remarriage whilst the former partner is still living. Protestants, therefore, cannot, any more than Catholics, contract a second marriage valid in God's sight whilst a former wife or husband is still living. No civil divorce can give them the right to do so as far as God is concerned, for no legislation of men is really valid when it is opposed to the legislation of God. The State may tell Protestants that they are free to contract second marriages after getting a civil divorce. But if Protestants accept that permission, then they accept the principle that human laws have higher authority than the legislation of Christ Himself. We Catholics can never admit that, and to your question I must reply that, whatever civil law may say about it, a second marriage of a divorced Protestant whilst his first wife is still living, is simply null and void in the sight of God.

796. I cannot understand the refusal of your Church to sanction divorce and remarriage.

I am afraid that is because you are a humanitarian rather than a Christian. Christ forbade divorce and remarriage; and the Catholic Church has no option save to maintain His law. Marriage is the foundation of collective life, and symbolizes the life-giving union of Christ with His Catholic Church, a permanent union never to be broken, but to last all days till the end of the world. And the union of two Christian people who marry should last till the end of their lives.

797. I am sure that many people who would otherwise join your Church refuse to consider it because of its attitude to this question.

I am sure of that also. But the Catholic Church cannot water down Christian obligations in order to gain converts. She is not here to adjust Christian teaching to the desires of men. She is here to lift men to Christian ideals.

798. Protestant Churches permit divorce and remarriage. Why does your Church stand apart, and demand more than others?

Protestant Churches, I admit, have failed hopelessly to safeguard Christian ideals of marriage. The stability of marriage is recognized practically, and firmly defended, only by the Catholic Church. And she stands apart from the laxity of other Churches because she sees more clearly than they, and knows by divine wisdom what is the right attitude in this matter. She knows that she is divine and that she must watch over the world in the name of God. She is charged with the care of morality, and makes her stand where others give way. Her prohibition of divorce safeguards the moral welfare of the married; prevents thoughtless marriages and easy separations; protects women, so unequal to men in the contract by fragility and need of support; and benefits the children, future humanity itself, by securing for them a permanent home and continuous education. Divorce is bad for society, for individual morality, and for human life in its totality.

799. You must admit that unhappy marriages benefit no one, and do great harm.

Unhappy marriages are likely to be far fewer where possibilities of divorce and remarriage are excluded. People accuse the Catholic Church of not recognizing the real conditions of life. But in reality, she knows the best conditions of life, takes higher views, and refuses to allow that a valid marriage can be broken by divorce. Where marriage is an absolute failure and grave evils can result from continued relations, the Church permits separation; and, if necessary, civil divorce for the sake of legal obligations. But this civil divorce gives the right to separation only, not to remarriage whilst both parties still live. It is absurd to want a law safeguarding good marriages and breaking up bad ones. Such a law would react on the minds of those contemplating marriage, of parents, married couples, and children. It leads to doubt, instability, and infidelity. It is no use saying that civil divorce laws take precautions. People easily find a way through such precautionary measures, and it ends in the rule of pleasure, with the tide of divorces ever increasing.

800. What Scripture support is there for the absolute indissolubility of Catholic marriages?

Marriage is dissolved by death. But apart from that, a perfected marriage in the Christian law cannot be dissolved. Thus, in St. Mark X., 11, 12, our Lord says, "Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if the wife put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery." In 1 Cor. VII., 39, St. Paul says, "A woman is bound by the law so long as her husband liveth; but if her husband die, she is at liberty."

801. In Matthew V., 31, 32, Christ said, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting for the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery."

That text does not mean, as some people seem to think, that Christ allowed divorce where adultery has been committed. We get the right interpretation from the context and from parallel passages. The context shows us that Christ was abolishing previous permissions of divorce. Parallel passages give us absolute prohibitions with no conditional clause thrown in by way of parenthesis. The passages quoted in the preceding reply leave no loophole of escape. Death alone really breaks the bond of marriage. How, then, is the text from St. Matthew to be understood? There is but one possible interpretation. Our Lord indeed intends to forbid divorce, but He does not intend to forbid permanent separation when adultery has been committed. He, therefore, takes care to exclude this latter case from His decree, throwing in the exception by way of parenthesis. The correct sense, then, is this: "Whosoever shall put away his wife (I am not speaking of mere separation without remarriage, for that is lawful in the case of fornication), but whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another commits adultery." The Christian law absolutely forbids divorce and remarriage whilst the first partner still lives. Those who accept such divorce abandon Christianity and deny the authority of Christ. No permission given by civil legislation can avail against the prohibition imposed by God. According to the teachings of Christ, divorced and remarried people are simply living in adultery.

802. Modern Biblical criticism has made more involved the dispute between the wide and narrow concepts of divorce expressed in differing passages from Matthew and Mark.

I deny that the differing passages of Matthew and Mark express wide and narrow concepts of divorce. They do not. They both express the same equally strict Christian concept that marriage between Christians is binding until death. Some modernist critics may claim that there is a conflict between the passages in Matthew and Mark. But that says nothing. These criticis say and unsay all kinds of things. And their verdicts are confounded by wiser critics than themselves. Moreover, the wrangling of critics outside the Catholic Church avails nothing against the authoritative teaching of that Church on the subject; save, of course, for those seeking an escape from Christian obligations. These people make much of the critics, not because they are convinced of the worth of what the critics say, but because it gives them an excuse to do what they want to do. Moral weakness is intelligible, but at least let us be straight and honest.

803. The tendency of the times is to recognize that the matter must be treated not through the letter but in the broad spirit of Christianity.

Christianity, then, must be adjusted to the tendency of the times. As the times change, Christianity must change. But if it changes, it is no longer the Christian religion. It will be another religion masquerading under the name of Christian. As for recognizing that the matter must be treated in the broad spirit of Christianity, the advice must be: "First catch your hare." In other words, it is necessary to recognize the broad spirit of Christianity before one can be guided by its light. The whole dispute is between the sacramental and secular views of marriage. The Christian view is the sacramental; the un-Christian view is the secular. And the spirit of Christianity will have to be broad indeed when it can accept the un-Christian view without any qualms of conscience.

804. The peoples of the civilized world have recognized through the law of the land the civil concept of marriage.

In their estimate, therefore, the civil concept has supplanted the Christian concept. And the source of authority for this change is simply that people want it, and that the law of the land approves it, with no reference to God's authority. One hears the echo of the old cry, "We have no king but Caesar!"

805. I am a Protestant, but my Protestant wife has divorced me, and married again.

She had no right to do that, of course. And so far as the Catholic Church is concerned, her bond of marriage with you is still binding.

806. I would now like to marry a Catholic girl, but the Catholic Church will not marry us.

You are not free to marry again whilst your wife still lives. And the Catholic Church has no option in this matter. She is here to see that the law of Christ is observed; not broken.

807. Personally I am opposed to easy divorce laws, and think it a great mistake for any Government to enable people to get a divorce whenever it suits them, and over trifling disturbances.

I agree with that wholeheartedly. But I cannot agree with your further remarks.

808. If, however, a man has been divorced through what is really no fault of his, I think that the Catholic Church should permit remarriage.

The Catholic Church is not free to permit it. Christ Himself has given the law, "What God has joined together let not man put asunder." Matt XIX., 6.Once two people have validly received the Christian Sacrament of Matrimony, they have entered into a contract binding until death. The Church must insist upon the necessity of observing that law. And the matter is so serious, that exceptions cannot be made. There is scarcely a general law in existence which does not hurt somebody. But if the common good demands a rigid general law in important matters, the general good must prevail over the occasional hard cases. But, in any case, the Catholic Church lacks the right to tamper with this positive law of Christ

809. Surely the Catholic Church should make an exception for a good Catholic who has been fervent in her religion, has always given good example, and done many services to the Church!

Previous fervor in one's religion does not give the right to later laxity. Nor can any years of good example give the right to set a bad example; whilst former service of God and the Church cannot justify any subsequent offense against God, or subsequent violations of the laws of the Church.

810. By refusing to marry us the Catholic Church robs us of mutual companionship and comforts of home life.

The appeal to what is expedient from your point of view cannot outweigh that which is right from God's point of view. The girl must look elsewhere for a husband. You yourself are not free to marry whilst your wife still lives. This probably sounds hard to you. And it is hard. Not for a moment would I deny that. But do not blame me for your difficulty. I am but stating the law of Christ, and Christ never promised that the observance of His laws would always be easy. Nor did He say that we are dispensed from it when it becomes difficult. When Christ gave the law that one who puts away wife or husband, and marries another, commits adultery, the disciples saw the possibility of such hard cases, and said, "If the case of a man with his wife be so, it is not expedient to marry at all." Matt. X., 10. But our Lord did not mitigate His prohibition. I have deep sympathy for you in the trial God has permitted to come upon you. But there is only one thing to do, take up your cross and carry it for the love of Christ, faithfully keeping His law, even though your wife has violated it.

811. If the Catholic Church won't marry such people, and they marry elsewhere, you know that they and their children will be lost to the Catholic Faith.

Where before you appealed to expediency from your point of view, you now appeal to expediency from the viewpoint of the Catholic Church. But the case is in no way improved. We must stand to principle, even though the heavens fall. What is merely expedient cannot dispense us from what is known to be right. The Catholic Church cannot adjust the teachings of Christ to the will of men. She must persuade men to adjust their conduct to the teachings of Christ. If the girl you mention marries you outside her Church, she will know in her own heart that before God and in conscience she is not married to you at all. She will also be deprived of the rights and consolations of her religion, and all that you can offer to take the place of God in her soul is yourself. And I am sure you do not think that any human being could be a sufficient substitute for God in any human soul. If you wish to make the girl happy, you will not do so by marrying her. If you desire her good, you will rather advise her to look elsewhere for someone who is free to marry her.

812. What advice can you give which will satisfy both the Catholic Church and myself?

You might have brought the girl into it, too. However, the only advice I can give you which accords with the laws of the Catholic Church is that you should cease to contemplate any further marriage whilst your wife still lives. I cannot offer you the satisfaction of your own wishes in this case. I can but offer you the opportunity of Christian self-denial for the love of God.

813. Will you kindly say whether the Catholic Church has ever granted a special dispensation for the annullment of a marriage?

The Catholic Church has often declared marriages thought to be valid to be in reality null and void. These declarations of nullity merely say that no real matrimonial bond ever existed, owing to some invalidating impediment at the time of the matrimonial contract. But you evidently have in mind the case where a marriage was not null and void from the very beginning, yet where the Catholic Church has granted a decree nullifying an existent marriage bond. The Church has the power to dissolve such a marriage, and has done so, but never in the case of two baptized Christians who have both contracted and consummated their marriage. The death of one of the parties can alone dissolve such a marriage, and the Catholic Church declares that neither she nor any other power on earth can do so. Where other types of marriage are concerned, those who desire a decision can but submit their particular cases to the proper ecclesiastical tribunals which are appointed to consider whether the Church has the power to annul them, and whether there are sufficient reasons to justify her use of that power.

814. Was Napoleon's marriage to Josephine performed by a Catholic priest in a Catholic Church?

Napoleon first contracted a merely civil marriage with Josephine. This marriage being invalid in the eyes of the Catholic Church, Napoleon decided to put things right, and married her according to the requirements of the Church.

815. When Napoleon divorced Josephine and married Marie Louise of Austria, was this second marriage performed by a Catholic priest in a Catholic Church?

Napoleon's union with Marie Louise cannot be called a marriage. He forced a decree of nullity from some subservient and unauthorized clerics, and compelled others to officiate at his marriage ceremony with Marie Louise according to the religious rites of the Catholic Church. But this attempted marriage was a mockery, and has never been acknowledged by the Catholic Church as valid. His first marriage with Josephine had been rectified, was valid, and could be broken only by his or her death.

816. You say that the Roman Church does not allow divorce and remarriage, yet the Pope gave Marconi a dispensation for a divorce, and allowed him to marry again.

That is not correct. In 1905 Marconi went through a marriage ceremony with Miss Beatrice O'Brien. Miss O'Brien, despite her name, was a Protestant, and Marconi was a very ill-instructed Catholic at the time. Neither of them intended marriage in the Christian sense of the word at all. Christian marriage is a permanent contract until death. Yet these two intended marriage only until they should grow tired of each other. They may have thought that was all right, but it wasn't all right; and what they thought to be a marriage was simply null and void as a Christian Sacrament. Eventually they grew tired of each other, and got a civil divorce. Long after their civil divorce, the case was put to Rome, and a verdict was sought as to how the former experimental marriage was regarded in the eyes of the Catholic Church. The verdict was, "Null and void from the very beginning." This was not a decree of divorce breaking any existent bond of matrimony, but a decision of nullity, declaring that no bond of matrimony had ever existed, and that the parties had really been single people, however erroneously they might have thought themselves to be married. And being single people, they were free to marry whom they might please.

817. Does not the Marconi case refute Rome's boast that she does not tolerate divorce?

The decision really emphasizes how rigid the Catholic Church is in her vindication of marriage against divorce, and in her doctrine that death alone can break the bond of a valid marriage. For here she declares that a marriage is no marriage at all unless the parties do enter into the contract on the understanding that death alone can terminate it. The Marconi case, far from showing that the Catholic Church does permit divorce, is but a further indication of the rigid attitude of that Church against divorce.

818. Am I to infer that the first alliance was merely a Companionate Marriage? If so, of course, your explanation holds good.

In reality it was no more than a Companionate Marriage, though the ceremony took place in an Anglican Church, and was recognized by civil law.

819. If the marriage was civil, it was perfectly legal.

The State declared that they were to be treated legally as husband and wife. But they were not husband and wife in reality and before God. The only form of marriage recognized for Christians by the Christian religion is a permanent contract binding until death. If two Christians go through a marriage ceremony intending a temporary contract or a trial marriage only, they do not contract a true marriage at all before God, whether their marriage is acknowledged by civil law or not. Now Marconi's first marriage was a temporary contract only. The State regarded them as married, but in reality and before God they were not married at all. The State ceased to regard them as married when it granted them a civil divorce. And then they were legally, as they had been all along in reality, single people.

820. If their marriage was legal, the annulling of the same by the Pope is only divorce under another name.

That does not follow. The fact that a marriage is legal does not mean that it is a true and binding marriage in the sight of God. The civil law will accept the marriages of divorced Christians as legal, though such marriages are forbidden by God, and not recognized by Him as marriages at all. Christ said clearly, "He that puts away his wife and marries another commits adultery." If the second marriage were valid, he would not be living in adultery. It is evident, therefore, that not every legal marriage is a true marriage from the Christian point of view. Now after Marconi had secured a civil divorce releasing him from civil obligations, the case was put to Rome, asking whether the marriage had ever been a true marriage from the Christian point of view. The reply was, no. This was not a divorce annulling any existent bond, but a declaration that there had never been any bond in the sight of God at all. Surely you can see the difference between the breaking of a bond, and the declaration that no bond had ever existed.

821. Because the parties merely agreed between themselves privately that the marriage would last only as long as they wished, the Church declares it null and void.

Here you are mistaken. It is certain that Christian marriage is essentially a permanent union until death. A condition made by the parties against this essential requirement would invalidate the marriage, even though made privately. But here is the point to be noted. If a declaration of nullity is sought from the courts of the Church, the Church will not accept the word of the parties concerned that they agreed privately to limit their consent to a given period. If they went through the form of marriage, the presumption stands for the validity of that marriage until outside proof is forthcoming that the parties did agree to a temporary contract only. In the Marconi case, outside proof was available; for prior to the marriage, the girl's mother extracted a promise from Marconi that the girl was to be freed as soon as she found that she was not happy, and that she was to be granted a divorce in order that she might marry somebody else. If the two had merely agreed privately, and no evidence was available save their own, they would not have secured any decree of nullity. They would have been told that if, indeed, they had limited their consent, their marriage would be invalid before God. But as they could not prove that in the external order, the marriage must stand, and their obligation would be to rectify their defective consent at once, and render the marriage valid in conscience by mutual agreement of permanency until death.

822. Then people have only to say afterwards that they did not intend a permanent union, and ask the Church to declare it null and void!

I think I have already shown that your impression is not justified. Of course, since the parties make the contract, and it is essential that they intend a permanent contract, the parties could invalidate the marriage by refusing to intend a permanent contract. But the Church teaches that this would be gravely sinful, and that such a mock marriage would be no marriage at all, and that any attempt to live as married people would be mortal sin. So that she leaves no one free to make such a contract. If a couple did contemplate such a temporary contract, and the Church knew of the conditions beforehand, the Church would refuse absolutely to perform the marriage. If the parties made the condition privately, and the Church did not know, the Church can but take it for granted that they intend a true and permanent marriage in the Christian sense of the word, and perform the ceremony. But their merely saying afterwards, as you suggest, that they really didn't mean a permanent marriage, and will the Church please give them a decree of nullity will be of no use. The Church won't take their word for it, will refuse the decree, and order them to rectify their defective consent.



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