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The Catholic Church looks at Marriage and the Family

familyYesterday cardinals gathered in Rome for a consistory, an occasional formal meeting with the pope. The main purpose of a consistory is to appoint new cardinals but other important matters may also be discussed.

Next October there will be an extraordinary Synod of Bishops which will discuss the family. There have only been two extraordinary assemblies like this in modern history (1969 and 1985). So the Church is taking the matter very seriously.

In preparation for that synod in October Walter Kasper of Germany yesterday said that this present meeting will discuss and help the cardinals understand the challenges that families face today, and not to discuss changing Church doctrine. Their efforts, he said, are to go back to the roots of the doctrine itself, which is the Gospel. He explained how the cardinals should approach thorny issues like marriage and divorce, etc. during these sessions, to balancing loyalty to Christ's words and mercy; to understanding God's mercy in a person's life, and therefore in the Church's pastoral work.

I'd say there will be much interest among Catholics in the results of these discussions in the lead up to October.

Only respectful comments welcome please.


And some curiousity from non Catholics.
Hugs, Jon
If I recall correctly the gospels have little to say about marriage and family other than about a rather fine wedding feast at which some darn good wine was produced :o)

The OT, on the other hand, presents us with some pretty disturbing stuff!

The bottom line still tends to be just how much a bunch of celibate males think they know about something they will never experience and will certainly never experience from the PoV of the 52% of the population they are not.

Edited at 2014-02-21 17:00 (UTC)
And some Pharisees came up to Him, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. And He answered and said to them, "What did Moses command you?" And they said, "Moses permitted a man TO WRITE A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND HER AWAY
But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE. FOR THIS CAUSE A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH; consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (Mark 10:2-12)
As used in the older style marriage service as I recall.

One could say the Prophet was condemning sexism here, not divorce.

And if my husband was drunken, abusive and violent (as he is most certainly not)?
But surely even "a bunch of celibate males" can reflect on such passages and interpret them for their followers.

Non-Christians no doubt have their own basis for defining marriage.
As I mentioned I'm not sure they can speak for the 52% of the population they are not with zero representation from that 52% and what of the violence and abuse I mention?

You see, I know it isn't deliberate but you demonstrate just how easily celibate people can miss multiple points in how relationships actually work.

Recall that I am, in point of fact, a Christian, albeit of a different sect to your own and that not all Christians define marriage in the same way as your own sect.

It wasn't so long ago men were defining how big a stick was reasonable with which to beat a woman...........

Change needs to come.

Edited at 2014-02-21 17:51 (UTC)
In my experience Catholics who have difficulty in their marriage run first to their celibate clergy for counselling rather than to state services.
But surely even "a bunch of celibate males" can reflect on such passages and interpret them for their followers.

I have no difficulty with 'a bunch of celibate males' gathering together to discuss the family, the Gospel (according to whomever they choose) or any number of other things such as the latest sports scores. However, I do have a problem with their interpreting these things for others.

The clergy are normal everyday people whose understanding will be colored by their own intelligence, individual interpretations of the text and their scope of personal experience. Who has the right to say that their parishioners will actually want their interpretations. Isn't it a bit pretentious to assume their 'flock' will be interested at all in taking someone else's word for these issues?

For hundreds of years the gospel was only written and disseminated in languages other than the standard vernacular spoken daily by the 'flock' the priests were guiding. One of the major reasons for Luther's excommunication was his desire to deliver the gospel to the masses in their common tongue.

Given the fact that the gospel has now been translated into almost every current language, why can't the individual people read it and make their own conclusions about issues such as the family and what is correct within their viewpoint? After all, that's what you yourself do. You take what is said by your clergy, but you also put your own personal interpretation on what is right and wrong within your eyes. Why would someone who is employed by the Roman Catholic Church have any better, more current, or more accurate interpretation than the common man?

I'm sorry, but I respectfully find this a bit pretentious on the part of the Church.

- Erulisse (one L)
Thank you for those valid points but as I said above in my experience Catholics who have difficulty in their marriage run first to their celibate clergy for counselling rather than to state services. Why I wonder?
Actually, that's easy. They run to their clergy because the position is one that sets itself up as a 'friend' as opposed to having someone assigned to provide counseling for you and who has never met you before. Given the choice of spilling your guts to someone, wouldn't you prefer it to be someone you know, more or less intimately, than to a total stranger?

Realistically, counseling rarely works in any case. But I must point out that most clergy are not trained psychotherapists or psychiatrists, or even trained counselors. In this instance, I suspect you get what you pay for. You pay nothing, you get nothing.

Then again, we were originally talking about this meeting of clergy for the purpose of discussing the family in the context of the Gospel and other frames of reference. I don't want to wander too far away from your original precept.

- Erulisse (one L)
It's also important to note that Jesus is commenting on a particular situation, that in which the man casts off his wife, without needing to give a reason. He responds by saying, "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."

If the problem posed to Jesus had been different, for example, "If a woman is treated cruelly by her husband, should she have the right to divorce him?" the answer may have been quite different. Sadly we don't know what Jesus might have said about divorce in different situation because his teachings are not recorded in the Bible.

In my view, taking a pronouncement about one, very particular situation and making it apply to all marriages is not necessarily following Christ's teaching at all.
It's also important to note that Jesus is commenting on a particular situation, that in which the man casts off his wife, without needing to give a reason.

Is he? I don't read it that way; in Judaism, a divorce consists of the husband delivering the סֵפֶר כְּרִיתֻת bill of divorcement (nowadays called a get, which derives from an Akkadian word for a legal document, and ultimately from a Sumerian word for a clay tablet) into the woman's hand. This is the situation described in Deut. 24:1, which Jesus is quoting, and is still the case today, regardless of whether the man or the woman initiates the divorce.

"What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."

Mmm, that's interesting. Do you happen to know whether the original Greek supports that interpretation? (It's all Greek to me!)

I have to say, I find Jesus's pronouncement on divorce difficult to understand or sympathise with. I'm not an expert on the NT, so I don't know what lies behind it, but it does seem to me it has locked many people into loveless marriages over the last two thousand years.

People are human, they make bad decisions, or change, and sometimes marriages don't work.
I'm sure it is for this reason that the cardinals in Rome for this Synod consider it necessary to revisit this theme.

I have always understood that in the Bible's use of the word "man" all people as distinct from animals or spirits were included.
I admit was being deliberately disingenuous. I am ignorant of Jewish divorce practice, but was it the case in Old Testament times that a woman could divorce a man? I always assumed not, but I would be delighted to be proved wrong. However, I am fully aware that wherever "man" is used in the Bible, "mankind" is to be understood and that it's assumed to apply to women as well as men. Thus my real point was about extrapolating Jesus's views on marriage from just one reply to a question. As you say, based on the rest of the gospels, he doesn't seem like a man who would be so rigid and who would condemn people to an unhappy marriage for life when a divorce would free them from it.

As I understand the situation: in that society it appears that it was a man who always initiated the separation.

It is interesting that in Matt 1:19 we have the passage "when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.…"
I am ignorant of Jewish divorce practice, but was it the case in Old Testament times that a woman could divorce a man?

I don't think there is enough evidence to tell, from Old Testament times, but, to be fair, in an overwhelmingly patriarchal society, I doubt it. And even if women could, it would probably not be in their best interest to do so: unless their father took them back in, they'd be left without means of support. That's why the Mosaic law that a rapist must marry his victim, which seems so outrageous to modern sensibilities, was actually doing the woman a favour in the culture of those times.

Regarding the time of Jesus, I really don't know whether a woman could initiate divorce, but I still doubt it. There's probably evidence, though, unlike OT times.
I'm sorry but I have been forced to block some people from commenting because of their rude and discourteous comments.
By some people people I assume you mean the splendid seaivy who, as I have no doubt you are aware, is a woman whose knowledge of Catholic theology & history is scholarly.

At no point was she either rude or discourteous - she simply stated her opinion with erudition, knowledge & humour.

You, my friend are typical of your kind: so long as we agree with you, you embrace us; if we argue nicely, you tolerate us. But if we disagree, or - heaven forfend - employ humour, knowledge & fact, you either repeat your often bigoted convictions ad nauseum, 'de-friend us (you have done this to me twice now only to re-add me -???) or ban us.

Very grown-up.

And yes - I get it - I'm banned. Goddess knows how I'll cope not being subjected to misogyny & bigotry - I shall console myself by wondering, 'What would Jesus do?'
Thank you for that. I have no difficulty at all with people who differ from me. In fact 99% of those who comment on my posts are not Catholics or even Christians. I love to hear how others feel about our beliefs and practices.

I do not consider myself in an argument. So whether people agree with me is not important to me. But in this particular post I specifically asked for courtesy in replying.
Which you got!

Everyone whose attention has been drawn to both mine & engarian's comments agree that no rudeness or discourtesy has been afforded you. This includes people who before today didn't know your site existed but have read about this issue on mine & seaivy's LJs.

You seem to have a problem distinguishing between robust, reasoned discussion & rudeness. And since by the very nature of your political & theological posts you invite controversy, you can hardly complain when people with opposite views state them as vehemently as you do.

And you are naive if you believe you do not consider yourself in your arguments. It's a contradiction in terms & fools no-one.

All of us are here on your list because we were specifically invited by you, although what your criteria were are unknown to me. I have found your posts to be one of two polarities - either totally innocuous such as when you discuss architecture, plays/musicals or things such as the weather, or calculated to drive those of us reading to comment on a topic of current public policy or theology. When you post the second variety it will inspire comments that you may not always agree with. It's the risk you take when opening a door like that.

I would be the last person to tell you that you should tolerate rude or discourteous behavior, but seaivy 's comments were neither. Instead she exercised her marvelous sense of humor while commenting on a topic that could have become heavy and inflammatory. I very much doubt that she was either rude or discourteous.

If you want all of us to agree with you, then why post questions of a controversial nature? If you open your board to interchange from this multi-faceted group of people you have invited to participate in interchange, you will occasionally get comments that you might consider less than focused or on-point. But that doesn't negate the value of their contribution.

These comments were not a personal attack toward you or your personal beliefs, they were a comment on the topic you had presented. You may have considered the words to be irreverent, but that's not either rude or discourteous, that's opinion. Comments are what you invite us to do. Your banning a commentator makes many of us wonder when we will receive such a sentence from you.

- Erulisse (one L)

Edited at 2014-02-22 17:01 (UTC)
Thank you for sharing your insightful words on this important subject. I am glad Pope Francis and the cardinals are struggling with the issues surrounding marriage and I pray they will be guided by the Spirit.
Thank you. I hope they reach an understanding that will do justice to all.
I will take great interest in following the proceedings. I do not, however, expect to agree with their conclusions - after all, I am not a Roman Catholic or even a Christian.
My only concern is that whilst any changes to the interpretations of the teachings of the Church will primarily affect the members of the Church, we all live in the same world and have to find some way of getting along.
For example, there are people out there who call themselves Christians but display petty, spiteful behaviour without a hint of the love and compassion that Jesus preached (the Red Letter Bible is your friend for quickly picking out His words). Then there are people who don't make a big deal of their faith but live those teachings every day. My point: no matter how carefully the conclusions are worded, there are individuals in existence who will twist it into an excuse to be cruel and divisive in the name of Christianity. Your true Christian will not, but they aren't the ones who like to go screaming to the media.
If we can all maintain perspective and respect for each others' beliefs and ways of life, then this doesn't have to cause trouble - and all of us will gain knowledge and insight.