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.