Summary: A divorce is a legal matter. God is against it, but in some grave circumstances, it may be necessary. A Church annulment is saying that the marriage consent was substantially defective.
Jesus is comparing and contrasting divorce and remarriage from what Moses allowed to his teaching.
The same can be done today.
e.g. We are aware of King Henry VIII of England who could not divorce Catherine of Aragon, with whom he had been unable to conceive a son, and since he could not get a church annulment, he created the Church of England.
A few years before that, Martin Luther left the Church on October 31, 1517, with his 95 theses nailed the church doors at his parish in Wittenberg, Germany, which set the stage for multiple Christian denominations with different teachings on marriage, divorce and remarriage.
Speaking of Lutherans and Roman Catholics, it reminds me of a story about the Reverend Vincent Heier, a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of St. Louis who invited some Lutherans in his area to hold a meeting in the St. Louis Cathedral. He welcomed the Lutherans by saying, “We are pleased to provide the cathedral. Please don’t nail anything to the doors.”
We have obviously come a long way in terms of ecumenism and we have also come a long way in understanding how things like untreated addictions and psychological dynamics could possible nullify a marriage, just to name a couple examples.
Generally speaking, however, Jesus is teaching us in our Gospel today, that, when it’s the first marriage for both, that is the valid bond, and Jesus says that a divorce and subsequent remarriage is tantamount to adultery.
It may not feel like such especially when the first marriage may have been so difficult. You will notice here that adultery is not in connection with the divorce, but about divorce and remarriage.
The Catechism teaches in no. 1623 that the spouses are ministers of Christ's grace in sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church. They confer Christ’s grace upon each other.
John and Mary are the ministers of the sacrament of marriage if they are both baptized; the bishop, priest or deacon just asks for and receives their consent.
The shortest sentence in the English language is “I am,” the longest is “I do.”
A divorce is a legal matter. God is against it, but in some grave circumstances, it may be necessary.
A Church annulment is saying that the marriage consent was defective, but only if there is evidence as a fair share of annulment cases either go inactive, or get a “no-go” designation because the whole case is simply a “he-says, she-says” scenario.
Love is in the will, and marriage consent is an act of the will. Love is to will the good of another. And to repair defective matrimonial consent is also an act of the will.
E.g. Let’s say that a marriage was invalid not because of any impediment but solely because the consent of one or both of the parties (i.e. a man and a woman) was substantially invalid because of the constant use of contraceptives (which constitutes an intention against children).
Or, let’s say that one of the parties married while still in an active addiction of some sort.
But then, later in the marriage, both of the parties realize that their use of contraception was not only sinful but was invalidating their marriage so they stop.
Or, the party with the addiction gets in sustained recovery.
In these cases, the private and secret act of consent given by the parties or party responsible for the defect, actually makes their marriage valid. [See canon 1159 in the 1983 Code of Canon Law].
In other words, if they ever had a good day, and willed the right things, their consent gets healed.
I conclude with the first few lines of Benediction by Nicholas Samaras, [Bless]:
For what we are given.
For being mindful of what we are given.
For those who grieve and those who celebrate.
For those who remain grateful in the face of everything.