Divorce and Healing
Marriage and Respect Life
400 E. Monroe
Phoenix, AZ 85004
Director of Marriage and Respect Life
Coordinator of Respect Life Parish Leadership Support
“When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan. Great crowds followed him, and he cured them there. 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.”
—(Matthew 19: 1-6)
“Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery.”
No one who is in love with their spouse enters into marriage with the intention of getting divorced later. But it is no secret that divorce rates have skyrocketed in the past century and now our society has accepted divorce as an almost normal or expected state of affairs. But as the words of Jesus tell us, God never intends for what he has joined in marriage to be torn apart by man. But how can a couple maintain a strong marriage in the face of both internal struggles and a society that at the very least tacitly encourages divorce (if not outright endorses it)? Here are some helpful suggestions:
- Discern your vocation to marriage and if you decide to marry someone, engage in rigorous marriage preparation.
- If your marriage is experiencing problems, seek help and do not ignore the problems or warning signs.
A great tool for marriages that are having difficulties is The Retrouvaille program, which is an international effort to help couples rediscover their relationship and to reconnect with each other. There are weekend retreats available and other information at their website. Please visit their website for help so that your marriage can be healed and restored to the holiness, healthiness, and happiness that God intended for it.
- If it appears that your marriage problems have become unsolvable, you may consider engaging in a brief time of separation.
You may also want to investigate whether your marriage was ever valid in the first place. If it was not a valid marriage, then you are free to marry again in the Catholic Church provided that your first marriage was annulled. For more information on annulments, visit the office of the Tribunal.
It is said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In other words, the best way to prevent divorce is to not marry someone you would be likely to divorce in the future. When marriage is entered into hastily, or for the wrong reasons, it doesn’t take long for the foundation of a life-long relationship to crumble. The Diocese of Phoenix offers an excellent marriage preparation program, Our Covenant of Love, that can help you discern whether or not to marry your fiancé and can provide you with tools and skills that will help you and your fiancé build a solid life-long, and happy marriage.
Q: Is an annulment just a Catholic version of divorce?
A: Divorce is the dissolving of a valid marriage and is not permitted in the Catholic Church. What God has joined man should not tear asunder. However, an annulment is an official recognition that a valid marriage never took place and that there is essentially nothing to “divorce.” An annulment is not a civil divorce and only has ramifications within the Catholic Church. For more information on what is considered a valid marriage and how to obtain an annulment, visit the Diocesan office of the Tribunal.
Q: Didn’t Jesus say that divorce was acceptable in the case of adultery?
A: This question refers to Jesus’ command in Matthew 19:9, which the NIV translates this way, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Jesus is not referring to adultery, which is described with the Greek word moicheia, but instead to general sexual immorality which is referred to by the word Greek porneia. Jesus is referring here to marriages that are unlawful due to sexual immorality (such as marriage between family members), and not to the act of adultery within marriage itself. Otherwise, Jesus command to not divorce would be moot because anyone who wanted to divorce their spouse could simply engage in adultery, obtain a divorce, and then atone for their sin later. Instead Jesus was affirming that all valid marriages may not be divorced.