St. Jerome on Both Marriage & Divorce and Remarriage

2 Apr

Caravaggio_-_San_Gerolamo

Of late I have heard many people spouting that the prohibition on Divorce and remarriage was not always so in the Catholic Church. I have heard them say that the early church was not firm in it’s teachings on this matter. I have heard it said that Jesus taught “compassion” trumped the Sacrament of Matrimony.

I beg to differ. More importantly, St. Jerome himself (author of the Latin Vulgate Bible), very strenuously objects. Read what he had to say on the indissolubility of marriage and then ask yourself if you truly accept and believe authentic Catholic Teaching from the very beginning of the Church.

There is a gem in the last paragraph that explains exactly why celibacy was considered better, because in the Catholic Church the Yoke of Marriage is a very heavy one, as the Apostles themselves realized.  It can be a joyful one only if men and women work together in marriage. This letter makes clear just how seriously Christians took marriage in great contrast to societies they lived in who openly supported divorce (romans, jewish people, etc..)

Oh yes – there is one other item to be pointed out – if the wife is put away for “fornication” it would mean that she was put away because it was discovered that she had been unknowingly promiscuous before the marriage. After the marriage it would have been properly termed “adultery”. Misrepresentation is one of the clear grounds for declaring the marriage nullified – meaning it never happened and thus she would not be an adulterer because her husband put her away and she remarried. St. Jerome is wonderful in his clarity.

Letters of St. Jerome 360 AD. Letter #55 Paragraph 3

3. I find joined to your letter of inquiries a short paper containing the following words: ask him, (that is me,) whether a woman who has left her husband on the ground that he is an adulterer and sodomite and has found herself compelled to take another may in the lifetime of him whom she first left be in communion with the church without doing penance for her fault. As I read the case put I recall the verse they make excuses for their sins.We are all human and all indulgent to our own faults; and what our own will leads us to do we attribute to a necessity of nature. It is as though a young man were to say, I am over-borne by my body, the glow of nature kindles my passions, the structure of my frame and its reproductive organs call for sexual intercourse. Or again a murderer might say, I was in want, I stood in need of food, I had nothing to cover me. If I shed the blood of another, it was to save myself from dying of cold and hunger. Tell the sister, therefore, who thus enquires of me concerning her condition, not my sentence but that of the apostle. Do you not know, brethren (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman which has an husband is bound by the law to her husband, so long as he lives; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then, if, while her husband lives, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress.Romans 7:1-3 And in another place: the wife is bound by the law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.1 Corinthians 7:39 The apostle has thus cut away every plea and has clearly declared that, if a woman marries again while her husband is living, she is an adulteress. You must not speak to me of the violence of a ravisher, a mother’s pleading, a father’s bidding, the influence of relatives, the insolence and the intrigues of servants, household losses. A husband may be an adulterer or a sodomite, he may be stained with every crime and may have been left by his wife because of his sins; yet he is still her husband and, so long as he lives, she may not marry another. The apostle does not promulgate this decree on his own authority but on that of Christ who speaks in him. For he has followed the words of Christ in the gospel: whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced, commits adultery.Matthew 5:32 Mark what he says: whosoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery.Whether she has put away her husband or her husband her, the man who marries her is still an adulterer. Wherefore the apostles seeing how heavy the yoke of marriage was thus made said to Him: if the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry, and the Lord replied, he that is able to receive it, let him receive it. And immediately by the instance of the three eunuchs he shows the blessedness of virginity which is bound by no carnal tie. Matthew 19:10-12

Pax Christi,

Colin

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5 Responses to “St. Jerome on Both Marriage & Divorce and Remarriage”

  1. John Farrell January 23, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

    All of this is moot if you were “never really married” in the first place, right?

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    • Dona Eis Requiem January 23, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

      I see no mention of annulment by St. Jerome. Without expanded grounds such as we have seen dramatically inflated in the last few years by redefining what constitutes those 4 grounds in canon law. carried from the Jewish law of Christ’s time. Marriages are failing only because failure is an option, and marriage and it’s core basis and tenants are no longer supported by the societies in which we live. People like the wisdom of their neighbors and friends more than they wish to follow the much harder and unpopular commandments of God.

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      • John Farrell January 23, 2016 at 1:42 pm #

        “Annulment” has always existed in some form. Today, because it is misused, all the marriage do’s and don’ts can be ignored if you “want out.” As you say, “failure is an option.” I’m thinking until the fence is put back up, not as much point in telling married sheep how to get on.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dona Eis Requiem January 23, 2016 at 1:45 pm #

        I could not agree more – until the permanence of marriage is reflected by the actions of the tribunals and the words of the priests then this abomination of divorce and remarriage in total opposition to the words of Christ himself will continue. Annulment has been of late used as a vehicle to “make it legal”, but God sees right through such machinations of men.

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