In April, Pope Francis released a document, “On Love in the Family,” urging mercy in the treatment of couples who remarry after a divorce, rather than an annulment. This week’s clergy discuss what the Bible says about acceptable reasons for divorce and the possibilities of a second chance at matrimony.
Rabbi Levi Gurkov
Chabad of Oceanside
The Jewish view is that, yes, it is absolutely permissible, and actually strongly encouraged, to remarry. The Torah view is that Adam, the first being created by God, had a dual part to himself — a female aspect and a male aspect. And when God separated the female aspect from the male aspect, he set them apart, not as polar opposites but as complements to each other. And ever since then, every human being, whether male or female, has an incomplete soul awaiting its completion by finding its soul mate, its counterpart, or its better half. If you are compatible, you are complete as a human being, and it is bliss. If, unfortunately, you reach a point when it’s detrimental to stay in that union, then the Torah prescribes the manner under which this union is to be dissolved. The divorce process, known as a “get,” gives both parties the opportunity to go on their journey to find their missing piece of the puzzle — to match their soul. I do a lot of matrimonials and lot of gets, and I can tell you that in the Torah view, marriage is a very sacred union, known as “kidushin,” or an act of sanctity and of holiness. The happiness between the spouses in the second marriage deserves to have the same blessings for a happy and healthy future in peace and harmony and shouts of “Mazel Tov!”
Outreach pastor, Island Christian Church, East Northport
God’s view of marriage is that it is holy and sacred. In the Old Testament, the prophet Malachi says that God hates divorce, “for it covers one’s garment with violence.” That means that God views divorce as a “gross act of sin, like blood splattered from a murder victim on the killer.” (Malachi 2:16) In the New Testament, when Jesus is asked by the Pharisees if it’s lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason, Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24, which says, “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife so they are no longer two, but one flesh.” This is where you hear the well-known quotation in Christian wedding ceremonies, “what God has joined together let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:6) In God’s view marriage is a covenant relationship, and a covenant relationship is until death. However, there are times when God considers divorce as the lesser of the two evils. Jesus affirms that divorce is acceptable in cases of sexual immorality and the apostle Paul, who also affirms that marriage should be for life, but states in 1 Corinthians 7:15 that divorce is permissible if the couple is unequally yoked. For instance, if two unbelievers marry, and subsequently, one becomes a believer, they are then unequally yoked. If the unbelieving spouse wishes to depart, the Bible says let them. “A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances.” However, if the unbelieving spouse is willing to stay in the marriage, then the believer should allow that and not divorce their spouse.
The Rev. William F. Brisotti
Pastor, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal R.C. Church, Wyandanch
In the Roman Catholic Church, as in all Christian churches, the understanding is that marriage is forever, a lifetime commitment. However, gradually, we’ve become more accepting of divorce because we understand that we’re imperfect beings. We make mistakes, and things can change in the course of our lives. I remember that when I was a kid, I had friends whose parents divorced when the children reached the age of 18 or 19. I realize now that there must have been a problem between these married couples all along, but at that time there was a strong taboo against divorce. In the late 1960s, after Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church started expanding the annulment process, and making it more accessible. The process is not a divorce, but it increases the ways people can qualify for annulments in a relationship that was doomed from the beginning, for instance, in which there was deceit or no desire to have children. Now, Pope Francis is opening up a space of understanding and mercy toward divorced Catholics who remarry in good conscience. You don’t have to be perfect before you participate fully in the church. Pope Francis says in his “Evangelii Gaudium” that the Eucharist is “not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.” The last thing we say before the receiving Holy Communion is, “Oh Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and my soul will be healed.” The Pope is emphasizing that whole concept so that people who are involved in second marriages will not feel alienated from the church.