Q7 African missionaries dissolving marriages
#3 During the last three centuries, Catholic missionaries in Africa have adamantly maintained (a) that the exposed breasts of African woman was provocative and immoral and (b) that African men had to give up their second and third wives when they converted to Christianity. In the first instance, missionaries collected the used bras from European women and insisted that African converts wear them. In the second instances, the very stable and traditionally honored second and third wives were abandoned and many of them suffered greatly due to their forced abandonment of husbands and children. Just as the European bras cause itching and sores on their bodies, the discharge of 2nd and 3rd wives led to the prolonged spiritual suffering of needlessly separating husbands from their wives and separating children from their mothers.
At the time, the Catholic missionaries rigidly imposed their bras and their monogamy upon the Africans as though this was the only route that God allowed for them. Modern scholars acknowledge (a) that monogamy is curiously absent in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures as a requirement of God and (b) that the missionaries in the past never imagined that the rules of God in the Hebrew Scriptures frequently required a man to take on a second or third wife.
Q8 Please explain when a man was required to take a second or third wife.
A8 The rule that a man who dies without giving his wife a child must necessarily become the wife of his brother was honored as a practice of justice and decency in the ancient world.
What is so astonishing to us today is that foreign missionaries were so culturally insensitive to the prolonged suffering imposed by European bras and imposed divorces. When a rule causes extensive and unnecessary suffering, the suspicion must always be that the rule itself might not have ever been required by God in the first place. The possibility of returning to polygamy, however, must be examined within a larger cultural context.
In this regard, recall how slavery was justified by American churches on the basis of the Hebrew Scriptures, and it was only when the suffering of the plantation slaves was fully registered that the Quakers became the first to ban slavery as “ungodly.” Other churches followed.
##Have you made any discoveries here? Have you been unsettled by what has been said? Have I missed something? In any case, your comments are very welcome. Post them below. . . .
[Note: Pope Francis has not brought forward these cases. I do so here because I believe that they have a bearing upon the perception of Cardinal Burke that nothing has changed in the Church’s mindset regarding marriage.]
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