Religion & Law

This website is a compilation of thoughtful insight on Religious Law vs Civil Law - subject Marriage Dissolution. This website is not meant to give legal advice but instead to stimulate insightful thought.

Wisdom Speaks

Pope John Paul II Speech to the Roman Rota

January 28, 2002

This quote is an excerpt from a teaching to the court that makes religious decisions in Rome. Pope John Paul II - Discourse to the Roman Rota on Divorce - 28 January 2002.

"It could perhaps seem that divorce is so firmly rooted in certain social sectors, that it is almost not worth continuing to combat it by spreading a mentality, a social custom and civil legislation in favor of the idissolubility of marriage. Yet it is indeed worth the effort! Actually, this good is at the root of all society, as a necessary codition for the existence of the family. Its absence, therefore, has devastating consequences that spread through the social body like a plague."

"Among initiatives should be those that aim at obtaining the public recognition of indissoluble marriage in the civil juridical order. Resolute opposition to any legal or administrative measures that introduce divorce ... must be accompanied by a pro-active attitude, acting thorugh juridical provisions that tend to improve the social recognition of true marriage in the framework of legal orders that unfortunately admit divorce."

"To give a valid and complete response to this problem one must begin with the word of God. I am thinking concretely of the passage of the Gospel of Matthew that recounts Jesus´ conversation about divorce with some Pharisees and then with his disciples (cf. Mt 19,3-12). Jesus goes radically beyond the debates of his day concerning the factors that could justify divorce asserting: "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so" (Mt 19,8).

According to the teaching of Jesus, it is God who has joined man and woman together in the marital bond. Certainly this union takes place with the free consent of both parties, but this human consent concerns a plan that is divine. In other words, it is the natural dimension of the union and, more concretely, the nature of man created by God himself that provides the indispensable key for interpreting the essential properties of marriage. The further reinforcement that the properties obtain in Christian marriage by virtue of the sacrament is based on a foundation of natural law that, if removed, would make incomprehensible the very work of salvation and elevation of the conjugal reality that Christ effected once and for all.

Indissolubility is not an ideal but a natural law requisite of universal applicability

Countless men and women of all times and places have complied with this divine and natural plan, even before the Saviour´s coming and a great many others have done so after his coming, even without knowing him. Their freedom expands to the gift of God, both at the moment of their marriage and throughout their entire conjugal life. Yet the possibility always exists of rebelling against that loving plan: then returns the "hardness of heart" that had led Moses to permit divorce but which Christ definitively overcame. To such situations as these, one has to respond with the humble courage of faith, a faith that supports and corroborates reason itself, to enable it to carry on a dialogue with all who are in search of the true good of the human person and of society. To treat indissolubility not as a natural juridical norm but as a mere ideal empties of meaning the unequivocal declaration of Jesus Christ, who absolutely refused divorce because "from the beginning it was not so" (Mt 19,8)."

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