Choose a topic from Vol 3:


Reason proves God's existence
Primitive monotheism
Mystery of God's inner nature
Personality of God
Providence of God and the problem of evil


Immortal destiny of man
Can earth give true happiness?
Do human souls evolve?
Is transmigration possible?
Animal souls
Freedom of will
Free will and faith


Religion and God
The duty of prayer
The mysteries of religion
Can we believe in miracles?

The Religion of the Bible

Historical character of the Gospels
Canonical Books of the Bible
Original Manuscripts
Copyists' errors
Truth of the Bible
New Testament "contradictions"

The Christian Religion

Christianity alone true
Not the product of religious experience
Compared with Buddhism, Confucianism, Mahometanism, Bahaism, etc.,
Rejected by modern Jews
The demand for miracles
The necessity of faith
Difficulties not doubts
Proofs available
Dispositions of unbelievers

A Definite Christian Faith

One religion not as good as another
Changing one's religion
Catholic convictions and zeal
Religious controversy
The curse of bigotry
Towards a solution

The Problem of Reunion

Efforts at the reunion of the Churches
The Church of England as a "Bridge-Church"
Anglicans and the Greek Orthodox Church
The "Old Catholics" of Holland
Reunion Conferences
Catholic Unity
The Papacy as reunion center
Protestant hostility to Catholicism
The demands of charity

The Truth of Catholicism

Necessity of the Church
The true Church
Catholic claim absolute
A clerical hierarchy
Papal Supremacy
Temporal Power
Unity of the Church
Holiness of the Church
Catholicity of the Church
Catholic attitude to converts
Indefectible Apostolicity
Necessity of becoming a Catholic

The Church and the Bible

Catholic belief in the Bible
Bible-reading and private interpretation
Value of Tradition and the "Fathers"
Guidance of the Church necessary

The Dogmas of the Catholic Church

Dogmatic certainty
Credal statements
Faith and reason
The voice of science
Fate of rationalists
The dogma of the Trinity
Creation and evolution
The existence of angels
Evil spirits or devils
Man's eternal destiny
The fact of sin
Nature and work of Christ
Mary, the mother of God
Grace and salvation
The sacraments
Holy Eucharist
The Sacrifice of the Mass
Holy Communion
Marriage and divorce
Extreme Unction
Man's death and judgment
Resurrection of the body
End of the World

Moral Teachings of the Catholic Church

Catholic intolerance
The Spanish Inquisition
Prohibition of Books
Liberty of worship
Forbidden Socieities
Church attendance
The New Psychology
Deterministic philosophy
Marriage Legislation
Birth Prevention
Monastic Life
Convent Life
Legal defense of murderers
Laywers and divorce proceedings
Judges in Divorce
Professional secrecy

The Church in Her Worship

Why build churches?
Glamor of ritual
The "Lord's Prayer"
Pagan derivations
Liturgical symbolism
Use of Latin
Intercession of Mary and the Saints

The Church and Social Welfare

The Church and Education
The Social Problem
Social Duty of the Church
Catholicism and Capitalism

Marriage and divorce

878. Does not marriage give people the best chance of the best kind of happiness?

Not necessarily. Christian virtue and fidelity to God's laws give the best chance of the best kind of happiness, the eternal happiness God intends for men of goodwill. If, however, you wish to restrict matters to this world, even then marriage does not necessarily give the best chance of the best kind of happiness. It can do so to given types, but only then when entered upon after due consideration, and virtuous preparation, together with high ideals and the determination to observe the laws of God relative to the married state.

879. Why does the Roman Catholic Church forbid divorce and remarriage in spite of the teaching of the Bible?

The Catholic Church strictly observes the law of Christ in this matter.

880. According to Matthew V., 32, Christ said, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and marry another, maketh her to commit adultery."

Christ allowed permanent separation without remarriage, if adultery has been committed by one of the parties. What He meant was this: Whosoever shall put away his wife (I am not now speaking of mere separation without remarriage, for that is lawful in the case of infidelity), but whosoever puts away his wife and marries another commits adultery himself and by his adulterous union forces his wife into adultery if she marries another. That is the only possible interpretation in the light of the context and parallel passages. If the man who marries the woman so put away commits adultery, she must still be the wife of the one who dismissed her; and if she is still his wife, he must still be her husband, and forbidden to take a new wife. If we turn to parallel passages, we find St. Mark recording Christ's words absolutely, "Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another; committeth adultery against her." Mark X., 11. In St. Luke also we have the words without any parenthesis. "Everyone that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another committeth adultery; and he that marrieth her that is put away from her husband, committeth adultery." Luke XVI., 18. For a Christian, then, there is no such thing as divorce from a valid marriage, and remarriage, whilst the first partner is still living. Attempted remarriage results in a sinful union only. You can have divorce, and give up Christianity; or you can have Christianity, and give up divorce. You cannot have both.

881. Is it not wicked to forbid unhappily married people the further chance of a happy marriage?

That depends upon how you would define the term wicked. On my definition that is wicked which violates the law of God, it is extremely wicked for men to take it upon themselves to abrogate an obligation imposed most strictly by God. Yet even apart from this, it would not even be a kindness to give unhappily married people a further chance of finding happiness in another marriage. If they showed so little prudence in the first place, you only offer them the chance of further misery. There is no guarantee that they will not make an equally silly mistake again. However, even granted a possibility of success in the second, third, or fourth venture, no human considerations can avail against God's law.

882. So the Catholic Church gives the unhappily married no further chance of marriage?

The Catholic Church is not responsible for the refusal. She had no say in the prohibition of divorce. God forbids it, and the Church but declares the law of God. Christ clearly said, "If a man puts away his wife' and marries another he commits adultery." St. Paul definitely repeated that law of Christ, saying, "A woman is bound by the law as long as her husband lives, but if her husband dies, she is at liberty." And, of course, since marriage is a mutual contract, it cuts both ways. The husband is subject to the same conditions as the wife. Since the Church claims to be but repeating God's law, it's no use in your attacking her attitude on the subject. The only way you can make headway is by trying to disprove her radical claims to be the teacher of faith and morals authorized by God in this world. However, the answer to your question is that the Catholic Church opposes divorce because God forbids it.

883. Why hinder the dissolution of a hateful bond where husband and wife are enemies, and children brought up in an inhuman atmosphere of hatred and deceit?

Loosen what you call the hateful bond, and grant facilities for divorce, and there will be still more homes in which husband and wife are enemies, the children will be in a worse atmosphere, the best instincts of humanity will be still further outraged, and the evils in society will be incalculable. Divorce is an insult to human nature, and will have its sure revenge. Marriage is a human contract based upon man's rational will. It is not based upon passing emotion and passions. Man is a little nobler, after all, than the mere animal who mates according to the lust of the moment. Divorce, fosters the very evils you urge. It injures the idea of real love, which is unchanging and deathless. If marriage cannot be terminated during life, people will be induced to make sure before they enter that state. Having entered it, they will be strengthened in good will and cooperation, overcoming their faults, and practicing mutual charity. But the very prospect of divorce weakens their determination miserably. The hope of finding happiness in another marriage actually fosters present discords, and gives reason for the creation of still more grievances. If divorce is easily obtained, people will marry through passing attraction and passionate lust, and without true love based on appreciation of character. After all, there will be a way out later on! Will a man be wholeheartedly devoted to any woman whom he expects to abandon after a few years or months? The children need the influence of both parents, the authority of their own proper father and mother. The worse conduct inspired by the prospect of divorce on the part of the parents gives greater scandal and disedification, and whether they go with the father or the mother; the children are subjected to a new partner who cannot have the same interest in them, even if sheer brutality of treatment be not their lot. Finally, the best instincts of humanity are outraged by divorce, for if the marriage bond be dissolved at will, you have but legalized prostitution and promiscuity. It is because people speak as you do, and act on your principles that there is a rapidly increasing corruption of morals, tending to a logical result in the matrimonial degradations of Communism. Outraged human nature revenged itself on the degenerated Greeks. Pagan Rome yielded to the Greek culture, and when Roman matrons related the story of their successive husbands, Rome was doomed. Your views are simply a reversion to paganism and brutality, and they spell the destruction of the social good.

884. The reform of the divorce laws is urgent.

In other words, you want to make divorce and remarriage easier still. We must adjust even the laws of Christ to suit what men want. Christian standards must be abolished. In his book, "Anthony, Viscount Knebworth: A Record of Youth," by his father, Lord Lytton, there occurs a most illuminating remark about modern morality. Anthony was not, and died without becoming a Catholic. But he was very straight and honest. So listen to his words. He wrote to his faker, "A man does wrong and then argues, `That can't have. been wrong. If there is anything wrong, it must be the morality which condemns what I have done as sin. And so he scraps that bit of religious teaching. In other words, man is daily pitting his puny judgment against God's. I have done it so often myself, and it is so grotesque really, the attempt to change Christian teaching in order to make oneself a saint instead of a sinner." Those words of Anthony's reflect a very common attitude, and are really the explanation of the desire to water down the divorce laws to suit those who do not want to observe them. Not to stop doing what is wrong, but merely to call it right because one wants to do it, is hypocrisy itself.

885. We don't want to say anything to undermine the sanctity of the married state. No one wants its ideals weakened. But there are good reasons why men and women who marry in haste should not be left to repent at leisure.

The burglar said, "I don't want to undermine the sanctity of your right to life. Not for a moment would I weaken the ideals which vindicate that right. But there are good reasons why I should acquire certain pleasures your money will give me if I violate the law just this once." Whereupon he split the skull of his victim with an axe.

886. There are, of course, some who view divorce and remarriage as the violation of a sacred ordination.

There are, if it be a question of divorce from a valid Christian marriage with the intention of another attempt at matrimony whilst the first partner is still living. About four hundred and fifty million Catholics take this view, and a vast number of Protestants who still retain their Christian convictions as regards marriage.

887. But civilization has lived long enough to recognize that there is often more wickedness in a strict adherence to religious traditions than in sensible modifications of those ordinances.

The sweeping reference to civilization is absurd. That section only which has drifted from Christian moral standards is clamoring for easier divorce. Still worse is the jump from sacred ordinances to religious traditions to prepare the way for talk of modifications. We are not talking of religious traditions; we are talking of God's law; and if there is any wickedness it is in the suggestion that men are free to modify or even abolish God's law instead of obeying it.

888. The Sermon on the Mount gives evidence that divorcement was considered a social necessity even in those early days.

Christ mentioned the fact only to declare that henceforth such laxity was to be absolutely repudiated and abolished. To quote a custom mentioned by Christ, yet not to mention that He was abolishing it is anything but honest.

889. Modern usage has perpetuated the right of judicial termination of the marriage tie.

A right has to exist before it can be perpetuated. The marriage tie cannot be terminated by civil law. "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder" still holds good. The truth may be that modern usage tends more and more to ignore God's law, and wrongfully takes matters into its own hands in favor of whatever it pleases men to do.

890. It is only seemly, therefore, that relief should be reasonably easy without offering any inducement to hold lightly the duties which men and women owe one another in marriage.

Do you really think that we offer less inducement to take marriage duties lightly by making divorce easy than by a rigid refusal of divorce?

891. The words of Gibbon on Justin's divorce reforms still have an interest in modern times: He yielded to the prayers of his unhappy subjects and restored the liberty of divorce by mutual consent; the civilians were unanimous, the theologians were divided, and the ambiguous words which contain the precepts of Christ are flexible to any interpretation that the wisdom of a legislature can demand.

That is a correct quotation of Gibbon's words; but Gibbon is wrong in his interpretation. Firstly, Justin's legislation permitting divorce by consent cannot be called a reform. It was the abolition of the true reform law made by his father, Justinian, to suppress the abuse of divorce. Modern times find Justin's law of interest precisely because it was the retrogression to an abuse. And the moderns want just that. Secondly, it must be remembered that the legislation of these Byzantine Emperors did not voice the' mind of the Christian Church. Whatever may have been the aberrations of civil legislators during the ages, the Church has ever taught that divorce and remarriage are not permitted to validly married Christians. Gibbon himself does not give a true picture of the state of affairs. When, in 556 A. D., Justinian legislated against the abuse of divorce, those guilty of laxity protested, and Justin II. abolished his father's prohibitive law to please them. I deny, of course, that the New Testament is really ambiguous on the subject. But Gibbon is right when he says that the words are "flexible to any interpretation a legislature can demand." It would be difficult to quote any passage in the English language which politicians will not find flexible to any interpretation they themselves wish to impose upon it.

892. Mr. Justice Swift, at Birmingham, England, said indignantly: ''Those who talk about the sanctity of marriage, who lay the greatest emphasis upon 'let no man put asunder,' do not realize the pain and suffering we see here, the broken lives, the misery of years that these cases mean."

Firstly, the One who first laid emphasis upon the words "Let no man put asunder" was Christ; and, as God, he foresaw all the consequences of that law, yet thought fit to give it. His own disciples foresaw the difficulties, and said to Him: "If the case be so, it is not expedient to marry at all." And Christ did not deny the possibility of hardship in certain cases. Secondly, Mr. Justice Swift is wrong in thinking that only judges in a divorce court see the broken lives, pain and suffering, and misery of years that these cases mean. Priests see far more cases than those that actually arrive at the divorce courts. They are constantly dealing with domestic trials; and they have seen far more pain and suffering, broken lives and misery of years through the facility with which divorce can be obtained than through the rigid observance of Christ's law forbidding divorce. I could amplify that, did time permit. But it will be enough to add that the sum-total of marital happiness has certainly not increased in a world widely accepting divorce, and crying out for its still further extension. Emotion over particular cases has simply rendered the judge blind to universal issues.

893. A book by a recent writer says that "behind this conflict of opinion lies the fundamental contradiction between the sacerdotal and the secular concepts of marriage."

The new ideas mean the abandoning of Christianity. Of course, it would not do to say so openly. Ours is a Christian civilization. We are not pagans. So the old trick is employed by speaking of the sacerdotal concept instead of the Christian concept of marriage. But one must prove that what is termed the sacerdotal concept is not the Christian concept. Again, since your author mentions a conflict between but two concepts, the sacerdotal and the secular, will he tell us that the secular concept is the truly Christian concept, and that it is the sacerdotal concept which is un-Christian ?

894. The central difficulty lies in the variance between the two ideas of marriage as a contract and a sacrament.

In other words, the question is as to whether marriage is still to be regarded as a sacrament integral to the Christian religion, or merely a social agreement as unconnected with that religion as a partnership in business. What you call the sacerdotal view is that marriage is a Christian Sacrament; the secular view is that it is merely a civil and rescindable partnership having no real connection with the Christian religion. So the problem is, after all, are we to take the Christian view of marriage, or not?

895. Will you solve this case: An Anglican man married an Anglican woman in the Anglican Church.

Such a marriage would be binding until the death of one of the parties.

896. Later she divorced him, and married a Catholic, but not in the Catholic Church.

That second marriage was not a true marriage in the sight of God. Nor could it have taken place in a Catholic Church, for no priest could assist at the second marriage of a divorced person whose former partner is still living.

897. The woman now wants to become a Catholic, and the Church will not receive her, because it says the first marriage is binding. How can the Church refuse to save a soul?

The Church cannot refuse to save a soul, but souls can refuse to save themselves. In this case, the second, marriage is not valid, and it is not lawful for her to live with her second husband as his wife. If she insists upon continuing as the wife of the second man, the Church cannot admit her to the Sacraments, even as her Catholic husband cannot be admitted to them.

898. Since the Catholic Church is the only true Church, she can't be bound by the first marriage according to the man-made laws of the Church of England.

If you believe that the Catholic Church is the only true Church, you should accept her verdict that the first marriage is binding. The Church does not teach that all marriages between non-Catholics are null and void. She legislates for her own subjects. While she declares that God's legislation does bind all non-Catholics she does not make laws for those who are not Christians and modifies her legislation in cases of its application to Christians who are not Catholics. If two Anglicans marry, whether in the Anglican Church or merely in a Registry Office, that marriage is valid and binding, and death alone can break it in the sight of God.

899. The Church is losing two souls instead of one, by acknowledging the laws of the Church of England.

She does not acknowledge the laws of the Church of England. She acknowledges her own laws, and her own laws say that, whilst Catholics cannot contract valid marriage outside their Church, Protestants can, provided both parties are Protestants, and this, whether they marry in their Protestant Church, or merely in the Registry Office. In the case you give, an Anglican woman married an Anglican man in the Anglican Church. That marriage was binding in conscience and still is, despite the civil divorce. The second marriage is, therefore, invalid. The Church is not losing two souls by her attitude. The two souls are forfeiting the privileges of the Catholic Faith by their determination to continue in an unlawful union instead of separating, as they should, from each other.

900. Can she get a dispensation to be received into the Church?

No. The Church is here to keep God's law, not to break it. And it is the law of God, taught by Christ, that if a woman puts away her husband and marries another, she commits adultery. The Church can't say that it is all right for her to continue as she is when it's all wrong. Her first marriage is valid, and unless she and her present partner agree to live separately, she cannot be received into the Church. We can't have it both ways, proud of our Church because of its fidelity to the law of Christ forbidding divorce, yet desiring her to relax her fidelity when convenient.

901. Can you tell me what can be done in this case?

Yes. The two in question should agree to live separately. The Catholic man should return to the practice of his religion. The non-Catholic woman should receive instruction and be received into the Church.

902. In dealing with dispensations granted by Rome for civilly divorced persons to remarry, you have often explained that there is a difference between a decree of nullity, and a divorce strictly so-called.

That is true. Often enough a marriage accepted as valid by civil law lacks the conditions required for validity according to the laws of the Christian religion. If, upon request, and after full inquiry into all the circumstances, Rome grants a decree of nullity in such a case, she merely declares that such a marriage was null and void from the very beginning, and never was binding in conscience. Such a decree breaks no existing bond of marriage, simply declares that the parties to it are and have always been single people so far as that particular contract is concerned, and tells them that they are free to enter into a valid marriage with anyone free to marry.

903. Does Rome recognize as valid the marriage of two non-Catholics, one of whom is a baptized Christian and the other not?

She recognizes it as a valid matrimonial contract, but does not grant that it has the peculiar religious quality of a Christian Sacrament.

904. I have heard of one such case where, after a civil divorce, one of the parties became a Catholic and was permitted to marry a Catholic. If Rome recognized the first marriage as valid she could not have issued a decree of nullity, but must have allowed the breaking of an existent bond.

It is true that Rome could not issue a decree of "nullity from the very beginning" in such a case. But, since the first marriage was not a Sacrament, the Church using what is known as the Pauline privilege as taught by Saint Paul designates it as a valid contract but not a Sacramental union and, therefore, has the power to dissolve the purely natural bond in favor of the Christian Faith should one of the parties later become a Catholic and desire to marry a Catholic.

905. If both parties to the first marriage had been validly baptized as non-Catholics, could the Church have granted a similar permission?

No. For the Church declares that, if two baptized Protestants contract marriage, they contract a valid Christian and Sacramental marriage wherever it takes place. And that Sacramental marriage is binding in Christian law until the death of one of the parties. The Catholic Church, therefore, could not sanction the divorce and remarriage of such partners, even though they are willing to become Catholics.

906. On what grounds do you claim that the Church has power to grant such annulments where, through lack of baptism, a valid matrimonial contract is not Sacramental?

On the teaching of the New Testament itself. There it is evident that the merely natural bond may at times give way in favor of a marriage according to the Christian law under special circumstances. For example, a somewhat similar case is given by St. Paul in 1 Cor. VII., 15. There he deals with the case in which a married person is converted to the Church, but not his or her partner. And St. Paul says that, if the unbelieving partner is willing to live in peace with the believer, the marriage must stand. But, if the unbeliever refuses to live with the believer, and departs, the believer is not under servitude in such a case. That is, the believer is released from the obligations of the first marriage if he desires to marry a fellow believer in the Christian religion. Thus the natural bond of a former marriage with a non-Christian would give way in favor of the Christian Sacrament of Marriage with a fellow Christian. The foundation for the power of the Church to dissolve the merely natural bond of marriage with a non-Christian who is unwilling to continue to fulfill marriage obligations is clear.

907. Does not the granting of such "decrees of nullity," and "dissolutions of the natural bond" in special cases, show that money carries weight with Rome?

No. Every case is weighed on its own merits independently of the financial circumstances of the persons concerned. If the first marriage were a true Christian marriage and both parties were still living, not all the money in the world could avail to secure permission from the Catholic Church for another marriage. Even today, as I am answering your inquiry, the news has come that the Pope has refused to sanction any second marriage of Princess Charlotte of Monaco. She married Prince Pierre de Polignac, but got a civil divorce from him two years ago. She was anxious to remarry, and her father, Prince Louis of Monaco, made a special journey to Rome to ask permission for her to remarry. The case was weighed on its merits. The Papal decision was that her first marriage was undoubtedly valid and that civil divorce could not give a right to a second marriage so long as both parties still live. Money and social standing do not weigh with the Roman Tribunal. If applicants for a decision can pay the legal expenses involved they are requested to do so. If they cannot, a reduction is granted, or even a total remission. And those able to pay the expenses are not in the least more likely to get the decision they want. All depends upon the evidence itself. A study of the cases submitted during the ten years from 1920 to 1930 shows that, whilst sixty-six per cent of those who could pay got a favorable decision, eighty-nine per cent of those who could not pay were granted the verdict they desired.



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