Q7 Do some marriages die? The practice of the Orthodox Churches.
The Orthodox Churches have always recognized that Marriage was a solemn Sacrament; yet, at the same time, their pastors recognized that the spiritual bond of love that sustains every marriage can “die” due to abuse and neglect on the part of one or both partners. After a year of grief and of penance, therefore, those who recognize that their marriage has died are permitted to file for civil and church divorces that open up the possibility of entering a second marriage. Here is how the Orthodox speak of this issue:
Marriages end either through the death of one of the partners or through ecclesiastical recognition of divorce. The Church grants “ecclesiastical divorces” on the basis of the exception given by Christ to his general prohibition of the practice. The Church has frequently deplored the rise of divorce and generally sees divorce as a tragic failure. Yet, the Orthodox Church also recognizes that sometimes the spiritual well-being of Christians caught in a broken and essentially nonexistent marriage justifies a divorce, with the right of one or both of the partners to remarry. Each parish priest is required to do all he can to help couples resolve their differences. If they cannot, and they obtain a civil divorce, they may apply for an ecclesiastical divorce in some jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church. In others, the judgment is left to the parish priest [as to] when and if a civilly divorced person seeks to remarry (The Stand of the Orthodox Church on Controversial Issues).
The Roman Catholic Church honors the Orthodox traditions because they provide true and ancient ways of following the way of Jesus that conform better to the needs and the theology of its adherents. Due to the ecumenical dialogues following Vatican II, Catholics may marry Orthodox believers using the Orthodox rites.
Is it possible that the Orthodox marriage traditions could provide a fair and godly solution to the impasse created by the recent Catholic tradition that causes so much undeserved suffering because divorce is always ruled out as contrary to the mind of God?
Here is the sad situation within the Catholic Church today: The abandoned wife is asked to imagine that “God only honors her first marriage”; whereas, in reality, she knows full well that “her first marriage died a long time ago.” Must her Church become her enemy and her punisher? Or is the enemy, in effect, those pastors and cardinals who claim that God has bound their hands?
[Note: Pope Francis has not brought forward the experience of the Orthodox Church. Cardinal Walter Kasper most definitely has.]
##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. . . .
 Cardinal Ratzinger, in his study, CONCERNING SOME OBJECTIONS TO THE CHURCH’S TEACHING ON THE RECEPTION OF HOLY COMMUNION BY DIVORCED AND REMARRIED MEMBERS OF THE FAITHFUL, tries to show that the Church does not have the authority to legislate in contradiction to the clear intent of the Lord Jesus. To argue in this direction, however, is to sanction, in the name of Jesus, legal claims as having precidence over concern for the human suffering and welfare of those who are in difficult circumstances. I argue that this essentialist and legalistic approach to religious norms is foreign to Jesus. This can be seen in the way that Jesus defends his disciples when they are accused of violating the Sabbath rest when they take the edge off their hunger by “harvesting” some small grains of wheat with their hands and then eating them. The Pauline Priviledge and the Matthean exception [pornea] also serve to demonstrate that “abolute indissolubility” cannot stand up as representing the mind of Christ and the interpretation of the Church. Cardinal Ratzinger thus mistakingly harmonizes Jesus with his own personal interpretation of canon law by bending the sources to fit his point of view. See http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19980101_ratzinger-comm-divorced_en.html for an appreciation of Ratzinger’s point of view. See cdn.theologicalstudies.net/65/65.3/65.3.1.pdf for an extensive refutation of Ratzinger.
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