Why Can’t the Wronged Spouse Remarry?

Q. What about the wronged spouse ? If one commits adultery? Then what?

What about people who’s spouse divorces them, and it is beyond their control? If my spouse commits adultery and then divorces me, where I have no choice, then am I condemned to a chaste unmarried life forever?

A. This is exactly why Jesus’ disciples said,

“If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.” Mt. 19:10

But, you could seek a declaration of annulment. If that was granted then you could then marry. Many marriages performed in our culture are invalid because we are all influenced by our culture and go into marriage with out the necessary commitments for a valid sacramental marriage. If a declaration of annulment was not granted then a faithful Catholic would obediently live a celibate life until perhaps the unfaithful mate died. Then you would be free to marry. The Catholic Christian life does not include a promise of a happy marriage. Marriage is a sacrament to enable us to live our vocation and accept in all docility suffering as a purifying fire in our lives. Living “a chaste unmarried life forever” is preparation for our unmarried state in Heaven. It is a sacrifice for sure but it is not a condemnation. It is an opportunity to live for God and not for self which we are all called to do. Most of us go through life thinking we are living for God until we bump into something like this where we actually have to make a concrete choice to live for God and take up our cross and follow Christ (Who never married) or turn from Him and seek our own pleasure and happiness.

Matt 19:3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 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’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” 8 He said to them, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who married a divorced woman, commits adultery.”
The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.11 But he said to them, “Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”

Q. Divorce in these passages are a verb in which one of the spouses carry out the divorce. It prohibits one person from divorcing another. It seems clear that the passages condemn the one who initiates the divorce, not the innocent spouse that never wanted a divorce in the first place

A. Where? Humanly speaking it does seem unfair for the wronged spouse not to mention the chaos caused in the lives of children of divorce and remarriage. But there is nothing in the passage that limits remarriage to the spouse who initiates the divorce or commits adultery. The Christian life is a life of obedience and self-giving. This is opposed to our culture that tells us if it feels good do it. The sin of Adam and Eve was precisely in deciding that the fruit of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil gave them the right to decide for themselves what was Good and what was Evil. They could ignore God.

Our culture is the ripened fruit of their choice.

6 Responses

  1. paul states that if the unbeliever departs, then the believer is set free. such was the case in my life and i dare for anyone to prove that my steps were not ordered by the Lord.

    • The Bible says that once you are married then you are married to that person forever in God’s eyes. You cannot take what you want out of the Bible and disregard the rest. If you remarry then you are commiting adultry. And the person you are married to is commiting adultry with you. It doesnt matter how long you have been married. God is never changing. The rules that he had established in the disciples days are the same He has for us in this day. God planned everything out for us. So I am not disputing that God didnt know where your life would go. He knows all the mistakes you are going to make before He even made you. But it is your choice to live the right way. You made a selfish choice. Do not try to justify it by taking bible verses out of context.

  2. This is distressing since I was divorced and remarried before I even knew of the debate. But I still do not think the question is being answered. In the divorce passages, the greek word “apoluo” is a verb meaning “to divorce.” So it is an action that one does. Every passage states that the one who acts…the one who divorces (apoluo) is wrong and committing a sin. Not a single passage clearly states that if a spouse divorces you, that you are in a state of sin if you remarry. You wrote in your response that no passage states that it is okay for the innocent party to remarry. But in reality it does not say either way. Except in 1 Corinthians 7:15 it states that if a non believer leaves you, you are not bound. So all the divorce passages say that the one divorcing (committing the act) is the one who sins. None address the one being divorced or left beyond his or her control…except for 1 Corinthians 7:15 which seems to state the one being left is not bound. So it is hard to see by scripture how the one being left beyond control is in a state of sin upon remarriage.

    • I am not saying that the innocent party in adultery or the one who does not want divorce is sinning when they are divorced by a spouse. But, they still may not remarry without a declaration of annulment, which determines whether or not a valid marriage was ever even contracted. Many weddings don’t actually accomplish marriage as defined in the Catholic Faith. For instance if one of the partners says “I do” but in his heart and mind qualifies it with, “maybe” or “as long as I am in Love” or “as long as someone better doesn’t come along” etc. This type of vow would be grounds for an annulment.

      Marriage is for life. We should look at it as generally a one shot deal and choose VERY carefully. It might help you a lot to read this entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia.


      If you get bogged down read the 1st paragraph and then go to #3 which deals most with your question.

      Based on I Cor. 7 there is something called the Pauline Privalege where the unbeliever leaves. You can read a clear explanation here. http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1993/9312qq.asp

  3. I also forgot to mention that your use of Matthew 19:10 ““If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry,” as a proof that the person who is being left should not remarry, is not quite true. That passage is still referring to the person who initiated the divorce. In Matt 19:9 it states that “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, committs adultery.” Matthew 10:10 then refers to that one who divorced his wife. So it is still referring to the person who was “apoulo” or divorcing. Matt 10:10 is not saying anything about the person being left; which is what I was asking and what you used Matt 10:10 as a proof text for. Also that is something the disciples are saying and not Jesus. And they seem to be saying that in that situation (the one described in 19:9) that it is “better” not to marry. And it also seems like they are saying that if that is the way marriage is, then maybe it is better “not to marry,” as in not to marry in the first place. Either way it does not indicate that they are saying it is a mortal sin that will cost one his salvation.

    • I wasn’t using: Matthew 19:10 ““If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry,”
      as a proof that the person being left should not remarry, just that the disciple clearly realized once married always married until death. There was not escape through divorce. So some said, in that case it is better not to marry.

      Mt 19:9 does not give permission to remarry once a spouse commits adultery. Then all most women who want to divorce would have to do to remarry would be to deny their husbands the marital embrace and before long they would be likely to commit adultery and voila. the depriving wife would be free to remarry. I don’t think so.this interpretation does not agree with the parralel passages in the gospels and St. Paul. See #3 in the Catholic Encyclopedia linked above.

      God hates divorce Mal 2:16. But in some cases it may be permissible, especially where the spouse or children are endangered by one of the parents. So, it is remarriage that is the sin issue categorically.

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