Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The Permanence of Marriage

As with many areas of Catholicism my desire to find out more has been stirred by debate. The debate of marriage has arisen many times among friends at university and coming from very diverse backgrounds and faiths we all have differing opinions and the discussion that evolves can be very interesting.

The area of Catholics and the breakdown of marriage from my experience appears to be a matter that individuals only really know a lot about if they have had the unfortunate business of being involved in such matters themselves, or perhaps as a priest, close friend or relative. Consequently I have found that if one is not careful they can make harsh judgements based on ignorance and misunderstanding.

After debating this topic among friends I decided as we all live in a world where divorce is becoming more frequent I should find out more so I got hold of two books both of which I have found very useful.

Firstly- What Binds Marriage?: Roman Catholic Theology in Practice by Timothy J. Buckley. (If you click on this picture I have included a link and you can browse through a couple of the pages).

and secondly- Divorce and Second Marriage. Facing the Challenge of Kevin T. Kelly.

both were very insightful books and I would struggle to recommend one over the other.

In the debate which I was involved the particular statement that had unsettled me had been:

"It may be against the Catholic Church's laws to marry a divorced person without annulment; however, doing so will only hurt your relationship with the Catholic Church. You can still have a good relationship with God..."

It took a little more searching before I could find an answer to this question which seemed to portray my thoughts well, in reply to one of my threads on Facebook someone wrote:

Modern man has a tendency to think that the "will of God" is always the same as their own desires. If the Church says something contrary to their own desires, then the Church must be wrong.However, the will of God is primarily transmitted through the Catholic Church. Far from being antagonistic, the teachings of the Church are in accord with the will of God.

One of my favorite passages from the Church Fathers comes from St. Augustine, and I think its relevant here:"Let us love our Lord God, let us love His Church: Him as a Father, Her as a Mother: Him as a Lord, Her as His Handmaid, as we are ourselves the Handmaid's sons. But this marriage is held together by a bond of great love: no man offends the one, and wins favour of the other. Let no man say, "I go indeed to the idols, I consult possessed ones and fortune-tellers: yet I abandon not God's Church; I am a Catholic." While you hold to your Mother, you have offended your Father. Another says, Far be it from me; I consult no sorcerer, I seek out no possessed one, I never ask advice by sacrilegious divination, I go not to worship idols, I bow not before stones; though I am in the party of Donatus. What does it profit you not to have offended your Father, if he avenges your offended Mother? What does it serve you, if you acknowledge the Lord, honour God, preach His name, acknowledge His Son, confess that He sits by His right hand; while you blaspheme His Church? Does not the analogy of human marriages convince you? Suppose you have some patron, whom you court every day, whose threshold you wear with your visits, whom you daily not only salute, but even worship, to whom you pay the most loyal courtesy; if you utter one calumny against his wife, could you re-enter his house? Hold then, most beloved, hold all with one mind to God the Father, and the Church our Mother. Celebrate with temperance the birthdays of the Saints, that we may imitate those who have gone before us, and that they who pray for you may rejoice over you; that "the blessing of the Lord may abide on you for evermore. Amen and Amen."-Expositions on the Psalms, Psalm 89 (88)

The Church is the Bride of Christ. Since Christ is God, and God is our Father. His Spouse, by extension, is our Mother. The two are of one Will, and would be impossible to have a bad relationship with one and a good relationship with the other.

Its common practice for parents to leave their children some portion of their estate when they die. Yet, if you despise your Father, do you expect your Mother will leave you an inheritance? Or if you despise your Mother, do you expect your Father to do the same? If we desire our spiritual inheritance and riches (Heaven), then we must love both our parents: the Blessed Trinity and the Church.

However this being said there are those out in the world who undoubtedly consider this to be wrong and would use their lives as a example.

My research has certainly been an eye opening experience and I would not consider it complete but simply paused at this moment in time. The most important thing I have learnt in all my research is that above everything divorce is the sorrowful breakdown of a family unit which devastates the lives of all those involved and for a practising Catholic is can place them in a daily spiritual turmoil and struggle with their most inner self.

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