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Christian Marriage Perspectives

Christian marriage is simply marriage between Christians and has a higher and more supernatural character because they may have a higher and more supernatural character; its responsibilities are more intense because the responsibilities of them are more intense. Consequently the Church has always and rightly laid down rules to ensure that in this important regard the conduct of them is such as befits their calling. But the Church has never treated Christ's saying as so absolute that it admits of no exceptions.

In the Western Church the relaxation has come chiefly through a growingly intricate series of rules as to what constitutes a marriage; when these rules are not strictly observed at the beginning of the union, it may be dissolved no matter how long it may have endured, no matter how happy it may have been, no matter how many children may have been born of it. And these rules change constantly; marriages that were perfectly valid ten years ago may be pronounced null and void if contracted under similar circumstances today.

That many of these rules are wise and sensible is not the point; the point is that in enforcing them the Latin Church appeals beyond Christ's actual words to a higher principle. When, for instance, among Roman Catholics of the Eastern Rites (the so-called Uniats") at the present time marriages are blessed as sacramental which would be utterly rejected among those of the Latin Rite, it is admitted frankly that a sage expediency and not inexorable law is the guide.

In the Eastern Churches, including the great Orthodox Church, a theory of "moral death" has been evolved, which in practice leads to liberality in permitting remarriage after divorce and for many reasons outside of adultery. The result is today that members of the Anglican Communion are finding that they can retain their full standing as Catholics and obtain release from evil marriages by transferring their allegiance to the Orthodox Communion.

To say, then, that the voice of Catholic tradition teaches that all remarriage after divorce is sinful is to say something that is glaringly untrue.

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