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tempting him. But he answering, saith to them: What did Moses command you? Who said: Moses permitted to write a bill of divorce, and to put her away. To whom Jesus answering said: Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you that precept. But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother; and shall cleave to his wife. And they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark. X. 2-9).
Words could not express more clearly the unity and indissolubility of marriage. Our Lord reminds his hearers that the Mosaic bill of divorce was merely a temporary concession granted “on account of the hardness of their hearts,” that went counter to the primitive perfection of marriage. He then lays down the new Christian law, and restores the primitive indissolubility of the marriage contract. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
The disciples, thinking that perhaps they may have misunderstood his public answer to the Jewish teachers, questioned him again privately “concerning the same thing."
“And in the house again his disciples asked him concerning the same thing. And he saith to them: Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if the wife shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery" (Mark x. 10–12).
By these words our Savior clearly teaches his Apostles that the Mosaic bill of divorce is abolished forever, and that the Christian man and wife cannot remarry alter being divorced without being guilty of adultery.
The Gospel of St. Luke sets forth the same doctrine : “Every one that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery; and he that marrieth her that is put away from her husband, committeth adultery” (Luke xvi. 18).*
Could the condemnation of divorce be put more strongly ? A (the husband) is validly married to B (the wife). If A divorce B and marry C (another woman), this second marriage is declared an adulterous union; if D (another man) attempt to
* It is interesting to find both these texts quoted by the 113th Protestant Episcopal Council of South Carolina to show that the Gospel confirins the State law against remarriage after divorce, The Living Church, September 24, 1904.
marry the repudiated wife (B), this union is also declared adulterous.
Before discussing the disputed passages in St. Matthew's Gospel, let us first consider St. Paul's inspired commentary on the Savior's teaching. Surely his interpretation is of more value than that of the modern schismatic Greeks, or the leaders of the Anglo-German revolt of the sixteenth century, whom Dr. McKim and his school follow.
St. Paul says: “But to them that are married, not I but the Lord commandeth, that the wife depart not from her husband. And if she depart (i.e., if she be divorced from bed and board on account of adultery, or some other grave cause), that she remain unmarried, or (if she choose to condone the offense) be reconciled to her husband. And let not the husband put away his wife" (I. Cor. vii. 10, 11).
In the same letter he teaches that the consummated Chris. tian marriage can be dissolved only by the death of one of the married couple. “A woman is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth ; but if her husband die, she is at liberty; let her marry to whom she will; only in the Lord” (Ibid. 39).
He teaches the same doctrine in his letter to the Romans: “For the woman that hath an husband, whilst her husband liveth is bound to the law. But if her husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. Therefore, whilst her husband liveth, she shall be called an adulteress, if she be with another man; but if her husband be dead, she is delivered from the law of her husband; so that she is not an adulteress, if she be with another man” (Rom. vii. 2, 3).
It is a universal law of Scriptural interpretation, that cbscure and doubtful passages ought to be viewed and interpreted in the light of clear and certain texts.* Bellarmine t pointed out long ago that the early Christians, who possessed only the Gospels of St. Mark and St. Luke (and we may add the Epistles to the Romans and Corinthians), would surely have been deceived by the Evangelists if, as the modern Protestants maintain, the marriage bond was dissoluble.
It may be well to state that Catholics do not pretend to arrive at their infallible certainty on this important doctrine by mere critical arguments or mere private opinions about certain Bible texts. The history of the past four hundred years is ample proof that the Bible interpreted by the individual can be brought forward to deny in turn every single teaching of Christianity and theism. As Mr. Mallock once said: “To make it (the revelation of God) in any sense an infallible revelation, or, in other words, a revelation at all, to us, we need a power to interpret the testament that shall have equal authority with that testament itself.” ". With an interpreter divine, infallible, and authoritative, even as Jesus Christ was, Catholics alone can have divine certainty on this question of divorce. We have seen + that from the earliest ages the Fathers of the Church were unanimous in declaring that adultery did not dissolve the marriage bond. The same doctrine was taught by innumerable councils—provincial and general—from the fourth century till the sixteenth, e. g., Elvira, 313 A. D., Arles, 314 A. D., Milevis, 416 A. D., Hertford, 673 A. D., Soissons, 744 A. D., Friuli, 791 A. D., Florence, 1439 A. D., Trent, 1545– 63 A. D. But as our Protestant brethren will not admit the existence of an infallible guide to interpret the Sacred Scriptures, let us meet them on their own ground, and see if the two obscure texts of St. Matthew's Gospel cannot readily be reconciled with the Savior's teaching in St. Mark and St. Luke. The first text, Matt. v. 31, 32, is as follows: # “And it hath been said: Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting for the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery; and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.” Some interpreters š have called attention to the fact that in both the classical Greek and the Greek of the Old (Septuagint) and New Testament the sin of unchastity before mar
* This principle is maintained by The Living Church, October 1, 1904, p. 719, in view of these very texts.
+ De Mat., Cap. xvi. n. 6.
* Is Life Worth Living 2 Ch. xi. p. 267. Putnam, 1879. # Cf. CAtholic World, March, 1905.
# It may be interesting to quote the views of some of the members of the Protestant Episcopal Convention, who hold the Catholic interpretation: “The passage in St. Matthew, taken on its face, gives permission for divorce for one cause only. It gives no permission for a man or woman to remarry under any circumstances" (Rev. Dr. Oberly, of New Jersey). “A proper reading of Matt. xix. 9 will show that our Lord did not make an exception by implication of adultery as a cause of divorce" (Rev. Robert Richie, of Pennsylvania).-The Living Church, October 22, 1904, p. 847.
§ Dollinger, The First Age of the Church. Appendix.
riage is generally called porneia, and after marriage moicheia. As the word porneia is used in the above passage, they maintain that our Lord, speaking only to Jews, told them it was lawful to put away a wife who was found guilty of ante-nuptial sin. With the Jews this was not regarded as a dissolving of the marriage bond, but as a declaration of nullity, for among them marriage with a virgin was alone regarded as valid.* When Christ, however, laid down the Christian law of marriage (Mark x. 2-12; Luke xvi. 17), he forbade divorce under all circumstances.
The most common and most natural interpretation, however, grants that porneia does mean adultery, and that our Lord was speaking of marriage in general, and not merely of marriage under the Jewish law; but it declares that he does not speak of divorce with the right to remarry, but divorce in the sense of a perpetual separation on account of adultery. The meaning of Matt. v. 32, therefore, is: “Whosoever shall put away his wife and refuse absolutely to live with her again, which he may not do unless she is an adulteress, maketh her to commit adultery, by exposing her to the danger of living with another in an adulterous union.”
To realize that this is not a forced interpretation, let us consider the scope of our Lord's teaching, and the context. Now it is evident that Christ is opposing a new and higher legislation to the old Mosaic law of divorce. (“It hath been said.”—“But I say to you.”)
But if according to our Savior's teaching adultery is to dissolve the valid Christian marriage, wherein lies the superiority of the new law ? On the contrary, it would appear to be far more lax than the old. The Mosaic law permitted divorce only to the husband, t and decreed death to the adulteress. The Christian law, from the Protestant standpoint, would allow both husband and wife to sue for divorce, and would put a premium upon adultery, by declaring the adulteress free of the bond that had become irksome to her.
Dr. McKim would, no doubt, object to this last statement, and maintain that the guilty party has no right to remarry. But we remember that he quoted with approval the following in The Living Church of July 30, 1904: “ Adultery is the one cause which destroys marriage physically by confusion of blood. It is the one cause which takes away the very ground of the mutual contract, and makes its continuance impossible. It is the one cause which destroys the social or civil contract,
* The same idea is held to-day by the natives of the West Coast of Africa. + Josephus. Antiq. Lib. XV., c. vii. n. 10.
1 Deut. xxii. 22.
But if "adultery destroys marriage,” and makes the continuance of the mutual contract impossible, why illogically teach that the innocent party is free to remarry, while the guilty one is not free? Surely this modern theory is fraught with strange consequences. For suppose that a man commits adultery without his wife's knowledge, and still continues to live with her-no impossible case-it would follow that she a good woman is, despite herself, living in adultery with one whom she supposes to be her husband. Her children born after her husband's adultery would be also illegitimate ! * This is surely a reductio ad absurdum.
Again, if we carefully consider the context, we will discover that the Savior plainly declares the marriage bond unbroken after the separation for adultery, for he says that the repudiated wife who remarries is guilty of adultery (“maketh her to commit adultery"), and the man who marries her is also an adulterer (“and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery").
Does it seem probable that our Savior would desire to favor an adulteress rather than an innocent wife ? Yet on the Protestant hypothesis, he would have done so. For if an innocent woman be put away without cause by her wicked husband, she would be denied the right to remarry, whereas to obtain that privilege she has only to commit adultery. Such a doctrine is unworthy of the Son of God.
The other alleged exception is found in Matt. xix. 3-9: “ And there came to him the Pharisees tempting him, and saying: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause ? Who answering, said to them: Have ye not read, that he who made man from the beginning, Made them male and female? And he said: For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife and they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. They say to him: Why then did Moses
* The Living Church, September 10, 1904.