Monday, April 17, 2023


By Tim Rohr

Once in awhile I come across stuff that is not the usual JungleWatch stuff, but choose to share it nevertheless. So here's one titled


A shorter title would be "Pope Benedict reaffirms that divorce and abortion are grave (mortal) sins." Here's what he says:

The Church's ethical opinion with regard to divorce and procured abortion is unambivalent and known to all: these are grave sins which, to a different extent and taking into account the evaluation of subjective responsibility, harm the dignity of the human person, involve a profound injustice in human and social relations and offend God himself, Guarantor of the conjugal covenant and the Author of life.

Benedict had a deep theological mind, so his choosing to place both divorce and abortion, issues which are almost always addressed separately, at the same ethical level is worth pondering.

It doesn't take a deep theological mind like Benedict's to understand that divorce IS abortion: that which is indissoluble pursuant to God's Law is dissolved pursuant to man's, and results, as Benedict says, in an offense to "God himself." 

Despite the Church's very clear, unwavering, and perennial teaching, as Benedict demonstrates here, divorce, especially in the present so-called "age of mercy" (a la "Francis")  has become one of the most misunderstood and confused things in Catholicism.

At the end of this post, I will include references to both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Canon Law relative to divorce. However, for the purposes of this post, I will share the following in my own layman's terms:

  1. There is no such thing as divorce if you are a Catholic (or a non-Catholic Christian for that matter - but that's another post). 
  2. The sacramentally married are married "until death do we part," regardless of the civil effects of legal papers.
  3. A spouse who has been abandoned or who had just cause to separate (e.g. self-defense) is the "innocent" spouse and has not committed a mortal sin by civilly divorcing or separating.
  4. An "innocent spouse" may continue to receive Holy Communion as he or she has committed no sin - provided that he or she is otherwise in a state of grace.
  5. The spouse who abandons the marriage, assuming he/she willfully abandoned the marriage without what the catechism terms "just cause," is guilty of grave (mortal sin) and cannot avail him or herself of the sacraments without committing sacrilege even if he or she does not remarry.
  6. A civilly divorced spouse, regardless of who is the innocent spouse is living in grave (mortal) sin if he or she is engaging in sexual relations with a person or persons other than with whom he or she is sacramentally married. 

I know. All tough stuff. And in my experience. This "tough stuff" is the NUMBER ONE reason so many Catholics flee The Church for other churches which appear to be much "kinder" to divorce, remarriage, or other stuff that properly belongs to the sacramentally married. 

Here's what The Catholic Church officially teaches.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (LINK):

1650 Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ - "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence.

2384 Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery: If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery, and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another's husband to herself.

1665 The remarriage of persons divorced from a living, lawful spouse contravenes the plan and law of God as taught by Christ. They are not separated from the Church, but they cannot receive Eucharistic communion. They will lead Christian lives especially by educating their children in the faith.

2385 Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society.

2400 Adultery, divorce, polygamy, and free union are grave offenses against the dignity of marriage.

2386 It can happen that one of the spouses is the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law; this spouse therefore has not contravened the moral law. There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage.

1614 In his preaching Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning: permission given by Moses to divorce one's wife was a concession to the hardness of hearts. The matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble: God himself has determined it "what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder."

1664 Unity, indissolubility, and openness to fertility are essential to marriage. Polygamy is incompatible with the unity of marriage; divorce separates what God has joined together; the refusal of fertility turns married life away from its "supreme gift," the child (GS 50 § 1).

2383 The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law. If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.

Canon Law's ultimatum is here:

Can. 1141 A marriage that is ratum et consummatum can be dissolved by no human power and by no cause, except death.

However, the Church recognizes legitimate grounds for separation, and in the case of marriage involving unbaptized persons, dissolution. The canons addressing these matters are here beginning at Can. 1141.


  1. Well-known Catholics on Guam testified in favor of Guam's no fault divorce bill when it was being considered by the Guam legislature.

    1. This is a paraphrase from “Taken into custody” by S. Baskerville: No fault divorce has led to a regime of involuntary divorce, forcible removal of children, knowingly false accusations, and precisely the kind of slavery against which the 13th Amendment is directed and which now has been reintroduced into family law through coerced child support.

  2. Yes, divorce and abortion are almost always addressed separately, but both are fruits of liberal ideology: that persons should be able to be free from all unchosen relationships and responsibilities, and that even the most fundamental relationships of mother/child and husband/wife can be severed in the name of liberty.

  3. All of the above: TRUE. Perhaps I'll address more of this in a future post. The Church can NEVER fail us...but its representatives...even popes, can.

  4. So it is true that society is indeed becoming softer by the day as the world condones such abominable practices like divorce, abortion, gay rights, etc. We need to pray for how much our shattered world has become. This is NOT what God would have wanted for us to delve into.

  5. As the Church goes, so goes the world. Never mind society. Pray for our Church, and particularly the pope. The current one.