“God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it’. […] That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh” (Gn 1:27–28; 2:24). Ever since the beginning, God has blessed the union between man and woman, in such a way that, once united, they are no longer two, but one. Owing to this necessity – which we could almost call ontological –, matrimony has always been surrounded by some form of ritual commitment with ethical and moral rules ever since Antiquity, whether among pagans or Jews.
Christ sealed it with the formal obligation of indissolubility, especially registered by Matthew in his narration of the Pharisees’ attempt to trap Jesus regarding this matter: Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?’ He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mt 19:3–6). And he further declared: “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery” (Mt 19:3–6).
From the earliest times, Christians have striven to abide by their Master, living matrimony as a sign of faith, as one of the oldest documents of primitive Christianity attests: “Christians are indistinguishable from other men […]. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives” (Letter to Diognetus, no. 5). In the rite of matrimony, in the very act when the Sacrament takes place precisely when the bridegroom and bride declare mutual consent, the formula to be pronounced by the minister of God immediately says: “You have declared your consent before the Church. May the Lord in his goodness strengthen your consent and fill you both with his blessings. What God has joined, men must not divide.” It is God who unites them for life. Consequently, there does exist a family morality that should be followed and loved.
And if these rules seem “overly rigid” to some, it should be kept in mind that they were given by God himself. They are not “pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications” of human making. Evidently, in its pastoral mission, the Church helps and guides those who find themselves in irregular situations, but any and every action that pastors take should seek a solution that does not contradict the Law of God – a solution grounded in the truth, and in coherency between the choice of life and the faith professed.
Note: Regarding these “situations in which a man and woman, for serious reasons cannot fulfill the obligation to separate’, the note related to this paragraph (n. 329) leaves the door open so that, in living together, there is no preoccupation with a relationship modo uxorio, that is, the sin of concupiscence, with this cynical explanation: “In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living ‘as brothers and sisters’ which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, ‘it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers.’”
Enter the various parts of our study
II – The matrimonial bond is not dissolved by anyone or in any case even after separation or civil divorce. Situations of apparent amendment in irregular second unions are still adultery
III – By what criteria can pastors adequately discern the individual cases of divorcees? How should the legitimate and illegitimate be defined in this pastoral discernment?