GRAND RAPIDS, MI - Prompted by an MLive reader's question, Rabbi David Krishef and his panel of clergy share their views on marriage, divorce and remarriage in this week's Ethics and Religion Talk.
As you'll see, the Catholic response here differs from the evangelical view, which differs from the Muslim take, which differs from the Jewish perspective. Yet, all of the answers share similarities as well.
Ethics and Religion Talk, by Rabbi David Krishef
Reader Terry Jolink asks, "is it permissible for couples to divorce, or remarry (to each other or to other people) after divorce?"
Here are responses from the panel:
- Sister Mary Timothy Prokes, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist in Lowell
"Jesus responded to this question by appealing to the plan God had 'from the beginning' in creating human persons male and female: 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one…so they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.' (See Mt.19:3ff)
"Catholic faith receives this teaching joyfully and recognizes an authentic consummated marriage between a woman and a man who are baptized as a sacrament, an unbreakable love-union that images Christ’s fidelity to His Church. So, divorce in a civil court cannot dissolve a true sacramental marriage, even if a couple goes through a legal divorce and 'remarries' a new partner.
"At times, the obtaining of an 'annulment' is misnamed 'Catholic divorce.' There is no such thing, however. An 'annulment,' rather, is an official recognition by a marriage tribunal (after careful, requested judicial investigation) that, right from the beginning, there never was a true marriage. Every marriage is presumed to be valid until proven otherwise. Sometimes, however (for various reasons), those who marry are incapable of fulfilling the conditions of a sacramental marriage. If sufficient evidence proves that a vital criterion was lacking, an annulment can be granted.
"The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that 'separation of the spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided by canon law.' This does not mean the dissolving of a marriage. The Catechism further notes that 'If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense,' but neither does it terminate a true marriage."
- The Rev. David Christian, associate pastor of Resurrection Life Church in Grandville
"God joins man and woman in marriage when they say their marital vows, but soon crises arise when poor communication flows from their hidden childhood hurts. If marriage vows are then broken through infidelity, harm or abandonment, divorce will be an option that is often avoidable. Regarding remarriage possibilities, your local church leadership will guide those conversations. Safety, not happiness must be the focus.
"Today anyone can easily divorce their spouse. The common reason: 'With another partner I’ll be happy, and therefore my children will be happy.' No-fault divorce laws and the courts favor the one seeking divorce, oblivious of its harm to children.
"Jesus said, 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God,' and then reconciled man with God on his cross. When Christians divorce, they should remain single or reconcile (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). Godly repentance and forgiveness must be carefully coached into the reconciliation process (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)."
- Aly Mageed, a Shura member (roughly equivalent to an elder or a member of the Board of Trustees) of the Islamic Mosque and Religious Institute of Grand Rapids
"As far as divorce, it is allowed in Islam as the last resort of non-reconciliation (Quran states that the most hated allowable practice to God is divorce). A couple could remarry after divorce. This, however, should be taken very seriously and not to be abused. Islam considers the institution of marriage as the most sacred and most important unit for a strong healthy society."
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Deuteronomy 24:1ff permits divorce. There is no basis in the Hebrew Bible to forbid divorce. "A man takes a wife...she fails to please him because he finds something obnoxious about her, and he writes her a bill of divorcement." The Biblical grounds for divorce are vague, resulting in a broad range of reasons for divorce. Later Rabbinic law decreed that a man may not divorce a woman against her will, and that under certain circumstances, a Rabbinic court may compel a man to give his wife a divorce. There are no restrictions regarding remarriage, except that which Deuteronomy imposes: If she remarries after divorce and the second husband dies or they divorce, she may not remarry the first husband.
I realize that there are very good reasons to avoid divorce by going to marriage counseling, and there are also very good reasons, if there are minor children involved, not to remarry. However, these are questions for the rabbi, pastor and/or therapist to deal with on a case-by-case basis. Bottom line - Jewish law permits divorce and remarriage.
As always, we'd like to hear your feedback and questions for future columns. Send your questions to EthicsandReligionTalk@gmail.com.
Ethics and Religion Talk is compiled and written by David Krishef, rabbi at Congregation Ahavas Israel in Grand Rapids. Krishef takes questions from readers and shares them with a panel of clergy, then provides the responses in collaboration with MLive.com reporter Matt Vande Bunte. Please submit questions from your own day-to-day encounters to EthicsAndReligionTalk@gmail.com.