Divorce and Remarriage in the Case of Adultery: What Does the Bible Really Say?

Edmund Blair Leighton, Signing the Register (19th-20th c.)

Last year, Pope Francis called for an extraordinary general assembly to address “the pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization.” It hasn’t even begun and there are already rumors that this might lead to the Catholic Church overturning Her two thousand year old prohibition against divorce and remarriage, at least as that prohibition applies to cases involving adultery.

For those who think that the Church’s teaching can and should change, the strongest argument comes from Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, in which Jesus seems to carve out an exception in His teaching against divorce and remarriage:

  • Matthew 5:32. The RSV:CE translates Jesus’ words here as: “But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity [πορνεία, porneia], makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery [μοιχάω, moichaō].
  • Matthew 19:9. The RSV:CE reads: “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity [πορνεία, porneia], and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery [μοιχάω, moichaō].”
The Protestant website GotQuestions? is hardly alone in claiming that these verses “allow divorce only in the case of the adultery of the other party.” Indeed, virtually every Protestant denomination permits divorce and remarriage in at least some cases (as does the Orthodox Church, sort of). So does Jesus permit such exceptions in these two passages? And can we expect the Church to change Her teachings to allow such an exception?

The answer to both questions is a resounding no. Here’s why:

What these Passages Really Mean

Both Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 contain an absolute prohibition against divorce and remarriage, but acknowledge that this prohibition doesn’t apply when there’s no actual marriage.

That is, the “unchastity” in question isn’t Bob cheating on his wife Alice. It’s the unchaste relationship between Bob and Alice themselves. If Alice and Bob are civilly married, but aren’t married in the eyes of God (for example, if they’re siblings, or of the same sex, etc.), they are free to “divorce” and remarry.

Now, I realize that this interpretation flies in the face of what you may have heard, but the case for it is iron-clad. Consider the following evidence:

1. There’s No Adultery Exception in the Greek.
Guercino, Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery (1621)

Relatively few Biblical doctrines turn on the precise Greek wording of a Biblical passage. This happens to be one of them. Fortunately, it’s straightforward.

Jesus talks about divorce and remarriage being adultery except in cases of “porneia.” Protestants tend to claim that porneia means an exception for “adultery,” but that interpretation can’t be right. There is a Greek word for adultery, and this isn’t it. Jesus actually uses the Greek word for adultery, moichaō, in both Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, but only to say that the divorced-and-remarried person is guilty of it.

In fact, the word porneia is never translated as adultery in the New Testament (at least in any of the major English versions of the Bible), and it’s used to describe a variety of sexual sins, but never simple adultery. Jesus also explicitly distinguished porneia from adultery (condemning them both, but as separate sins) in Matt. 15:19 and Mark 7:21. Paul also distinguishes porneia from adultery (Galatians 5:19).

2. Advocates of a Divorce Exception Can’t Agree on Which Exception, Exactly.

So, having just seen that porneia never means simple adultery, we’re left asking: what exception is Jesus allegedly creating here? GotQuestions claims He is allowing “divorce only in the case of the adultery of the other party.” But where’s the reference to anything about it needing to be the other party’s adultery? GotQuestions is adding something to the text that isn’t even remotely there. Furthermore, how would that work, exactly? Bob cheats on Alice, so she divorces him and remarries, and he’s left in some sort of weird marriage limbo, where he’s no longer married to Alice, but isn’t allowed to be married to anyone else, either?

Again: what is this alleged exception, exactly? You’re allowed to divorce and remarry if your spouse commits adultery? What about your own adultery? What about sexual infidelity that stops short of adultery? What about non-sexual infidelity? Where does this stop, exactly? GotQuestions shows the problems with this view. Elsewhere, it claims all sorts of exceptions to the prohibition against divorce:

It is our view that there are certain instances in which divorce and remarriage are permitted without the remarriage being considered adultery. These instances would include unrepentant adultery, physical abuse of spouse or children, and abandonment of a believing spouse by an unbelieving spouse. 

If you take porneia in the broad sense, allowing remarriage where there’s been sexual immorality in the marriage, it would blow a huge hole into the permanence of marriage. After all, if marriages are permanent unless one partner commits a sexual sin, how many marriages would survive? The exception would quickly swallow the rule. The people claiming that Jesus is creating an exception don’t seem to have a clear understanding of what this understanding is, or what the limits of it (if any) are.

This isn’t idle speculation, either: Evangelicals are among the most likely to divorce (even worse than non-religious Americans). This marriage crisis isn’t assisted by preachers claiming that divorce and remarriage are okay in the (all too frequent) cases in which one or both partners have committed sexual sins.

3. Jesus is Presenting a Radical Teaching

For those who claim that Jesus is creating an exception for adultery (or for sexual infidelity or immorality), consider the Biblical context. The Pharisees asked, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” (Mt. 19:3).

Alexandre-François Caminade, The Marriage of the Virgin (1824)

This question arose out of a dispute between two Jewish schools. Deuteronomy 24:1 permitted a man to divorce his wife if “he has found some indecency in her.” Was this indecency referring to adultery, or any fault? The great rabbi Hillel the Elder had claimed that it permitted divorce for any indecency, opening the door to divorces over completely trivial matters. More conservative rabbis claimed that the indecency in question was adultery. So those were the two camps (and basically, the Protestant positions today).

If Jesus was saying that there’s an exception for divorce, all He had to do is say that the conservative camp was right. But He doesn’t. Jesus rejects both camps, saying (Mt. 19:4-9):

“Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female,  and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’? So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” 

They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.”

So Jesus calls us back to the indissolubility of marriage, the Pharisees invoke Deuteronomy 24:1, and Jesus revokes the adultery exception to restore marriage to its state prior to the Law.

This teaching is so radical that His shocked Apostles say “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry”  (Mt. 19:10). And Jesus doesn’t disagree, instead using the opportunity to call those who can handle it to the ideal of celibacy (Mt. 19:11-12). The reaction of the Apostles makes no sense if Jesus is just saying that the pre-Hillel Jewish divorce laws apply. Nor does Jesus’ repudiation of the Mosaic exception.

4. The “Infidelity Exception” is Contrary to Scripture

Whether you argue that Matthew’s Gospel contains an exception allowing divorce and remarriage in the case of adultery, infidelity, or any other instance, you’re going to run into a huge Gospel harmonization problem. Here’s what Luke 16:18 says on marriage:

Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

That’s it. There’s nothing before or after this verse to mitigate its punch: it’s an absolute prohibition against divorce and remarriage. We see this absolute prohibition in Mark 10:11-12 as well.

To hold to the adultery exception is to hold that Jesus taught one thing (divorce and remarriage is okay in some cases) to the Jewish readers of Matthew’s Gospel, while teaching a contradictory thing (divorce and remarriage is never okay) to the Gentile readers of Mark’s Gospel. No faithful Christian can hold to such an incoherent position, since it amounts to claiming that either Matthew or Mark and Luke are presenting a false teaching.

Even leaving aside the impossibility of harmonizing the “infidelity exception” with Mark and Luke’s Gospel, how can one harmonize it with the rest of Matthew’s own Gospel? In Matthew 19:6, right before the verse in question, Jesus says that the spouses are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.

5. The Greek Term in Question Actually Refers to Unlawful Marriages

Antoni Brodowski, Oedipus and Antigone (1828).
In the Greek myth, Antigone was the daughter of
Oedipus and his mother, Jocasta. 

The word porneia literally means something like fornication, but is used throughout Scripture (both in the New Testament and the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament) to refer to marriages contrary to Levitical law, particularly ones involving incest.

The Book of Leviticus created stricter rules governing incest than what was observed the pagans: for example, your in-laws (Lev. 18:8, 15, 16), your aunt through marriage (Lev. 18:14), or the daughter or sister of a woman that you’ve been sexually involved with (Lev. 18:17-18), even though you’re not actually blood relatives with any of these people. All of this was based upon the idea that, in marriage, the two become one flesh: so your in-laws become, in a real way, a part of your family.

The Gentile pagans didn’t have these rules, and the Jews were often scandalized and disgusted by Gentiles’ marriages. We can get a sense of this from 1 Corinthians 5:1, in which St. Paul says, “It is actually reported that there is immorality [πορνεία, porneiaamong you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife.” When Paul wants to say that this sexual relationship is wrong, he does so by saying that it’s even worse than the porneia practiced by the pagans.

At the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:20, 15:29, and 21:25), these Levitical anti-incest laws were left in place, as one of four parts of the Levitical law that remained in place on the early Christians (the other three involved food sacrificed to idols, food with the blood in it, and meat that had been strangled, all of which come from Lev. 17:8-14; the porneia rules come from Lev. 18:6-18).

In other words, a Gentile couple who were also in-laws (e.g., a man who married who married his sister-in-law) might be married in the eyes of the pagans, but in the eyes of the early Church, they were engaged in porneia, fornication. This explains why a word ordinarily meaning fornication is used: fornication refers to sex between unmarried parties (that is, it’s premarital, not extramarital), and so the term captures that there’s no real marriage here.

This harmonizes Matthew’s Gospel with Mark and Luke’s: allowing divorce and remarriage where the marriage is invalid doesn’t contradiction the absolute prohibition against divorce and remarriage.

Take a modern example: there are Catholic and Evangelical groups fighting to preserve marriage and stymie the divorce epidemic. Most of these groups are also against gay marriage, and are naturally in favor of people getting civil divorces to get out of these sham “marriages.” It’s not really divorce, because it was never really a marriage. There’s no inconsistency here: both of these positions flow from the idea that, in a true marriage, God (not the state) joins the spouses together in a permanent and indissoluble bond.

6. This is the Teaching of the Council of Trent

My non-Catholic readers might not care about this last point, but my Catholic readers should. The Twenty-Fourth Session of the Council of Trent explicitly rejects (and condemns) the proposition that you can divorce and remarry, declaring it contrary to “evangelical and apostolical doctrine”:

CANON VII.-If any one saith, that the Church has erred, in that she hath taught, and doth teach, in accordance with the evangelical and apostolical doctrine, that the bond of matrimony cannot be dissolved on account of the adultery of one of the married parties; and that both, or even the innocent one who gave not occasion to the adultery, cannot contract another marriage, during the life-time of the other; and, that he is guilty of adultery, who, having put away the adulteress, shall take another wife, as also she, who, having put away the adulterer, shall take another husband; let him be anathema.
This should make it clear: as Catholics, we don’t need to worry (or hope) that the Catholic Church will change Her teachings in this regard, because She can’t. She’s bound by the words of Christ.

Conclusion

Much more could be said on this score, but hopefully, it’s clear that (1) Jesus didn’t permit divorce and remarriage, even in cases of adultery; and (2) the Church can’t permit divorce and remarriage, even in cases of adultery.

32 Comments

  1. Very nice. I was just looking for something like this and found nothing as good and pithy as this.

    Here is my question: are the rules re: admission to th Eucharist discipline or doctrine? It seems to me that, in light of the above, and the teaching about presenting yourself unworthily that the church must teach that it is a vey bad idea for a remarried person to present himself unless he is convinced the first marriage was invalid. But is the church bound to enforce that through canon law? It seems that (arguably) what is in or not in canon law is a question of discipline, not doctrine.

    Now it seems like such a move would be extremely unwise and certainly would confuse and misguide the faithful. But would it be heresy? I don’t want to commit the error of creeping infallibilism.

    1. Latenter,

      The following teachings are dogmatic:

      – If you divorce and remarry, you’re committing adultery.
      – Adultery is grave matter. Combined with knowledge and consent, it’s mortal sin.
      – Those who are in a state of mortal sin may not receive Communion without incurring further mortal sin.

      So a person who is divorced and remarried should not go up to receive Communion. That part is straightforward, and I don’t see how it wouldn’t be heresy to deny any of those three points.

      What’s less straightforward is what a priest (or EMHC) should do if a remarried divorcee does come forward. Here, we ought to be mindful of the pastoral and prudential considerations that St. Thomas Aquinas laid out.

      I.X.,

      Joe

  2. Joe, while this is certainly logically impressive, do you think Jesus would have said the same thing if his audience were abused or abandoned wives, rather than men looking to get rid of a wife “for any reason”? Throughout his life, Jesus tends to be harsh with the heartless and compassionate with the broken-hearted. Is there a danger here that the Church has taken the harshness aimed at the heartless and turned it on the broken-hearted?

    1. Jesus would certainly be compassionate to the woman who was left alone. His grace would abound for her and her grief would be the cause of many blessings for her and others. He Himself was also abandoned and abused. But compassion is an attitude that differs from situation to situation. Truth is always truth, regardless of situation. When He teaches that a certain thing is sinful, it is sinful. The Church is simply being obedient to this revealed truth. This is an example, but If we have had something stolen from us that we have invested every penny into, no matter how much grief the theft has caused us, it would never be justifiable that, after having lost our savings, we should be take something that belongs to another person, or to sell items that we do not own in an attempt to buy a replacement to appease our grief. Both the buyer and seller would be reprehensible. The seller for theft and by owning something which they have not rightfully obtained, and the buyer for possessing stolen goods, no matter what they paid for them.

      God, however, most certainly does not want anybody -especially the unfortunate- to be led to sin on account of sins committed against them. To be momentarily happy at the expensive of our souls is the way of the world, but sorrow and holiness is the way of the cross. This woman would be receiving her calling to be a saint, and choosing obedience, to be repaid a hundredfold by The Bridegroom in Heaven.

      But I am not Joe. God bless you.

  3. 3 and 6 are the strongest points. I’m still not convinced, however, that there aren’t circumstances were oikonomia can be used by a bishop to admit someone to the Eucharist in an irregular “remarried” situation. Epiphanios of Cyprus, Lactantius, Basil, John Chrysostom, the local Synod of Neocaesara, and Trullo canon 87 (given as canon 25 in some sources) all speak of it. Archbishop Elias Zoghby said at the Second Vatican Council that “even the Church of the West maintained this practice for many hundreds of years with the positive approval of many bishops, popes and synods; and in fact, never attempted to condemn it in the East, even after it had ceased to practice it” (The Melkite Church at Vatican II, p.24). Cardinal Kasper is for it, and Pope Francis has speculated on it publicly once (the plane interview), and possibly authorized it once if the Phone Call Incident is indeed accurate.

    From the Plane Interview:

    About the problem of Communion to those persons in a second union, that the divorced might participate in Communion, there is no problem. When they are in a second union, they can’t.

    I believe that it is necessary to keep this within the entirety of pastoral care of marriage. And for this it is a problem. But also… a parenthesis, the Orthodox have a different praxis. They follow the theology of economy, as they called it, and they give a second chance, they allow it. But I believe that this problem, and I close the parenthesis, must be studied in the framework of marriage pastoral ministry.

    And for this, two things: first, one of the themes to be consulted with the eight of this council of cardinals, with whom we’ll be meeting the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of October, is how to move ahead in the pastoral care of marriage, and this problem will come up there.

    I strongly suspect that there will be a reform for less hoop-jumping for those in situations where a decree of nullity is appropriate, and I suspect even some limited circumstances where those in irregular circumstances will be welcomed to the Eucharist.

    I might be eating crow in October. But we shall see.

    1. My understanding is that the Pauline privilege only applies under the following circumstances 1) the marriage is natural but not sacramental such as a civilly contracted marriage 2) the marriage was contracted by two unbaptized persons (if any Christian is married than regardless of denomination it’s considered sacramental) 3) one spouse gets baptized and the other unbaptized person decides to leave the marriage

      My understanding is that natural marriages are different than sacramental and therefore can be dissolved simply because there was no contract with God.

    2. The injunction is that the unbaptized person wishes to live peacefully with the Christian.

      So deciding to leave is not the only possibility. It also applies when all the other conditions apply and the unbaptized spouse endeavors to make it impossible for the Christian to practice Christianity.

  4. The problem that I find today is that so many Catholics are baptized but almost completely uncatequised. They are Catholics in name, but have never been interested in going more than skin deep in the study of the Lord. I myself was living in this state for many years without any other Catholic pointing me to the real meaning of faith and life. I didn’t really understand what Holy Communion was until I was about 20 years old, even though I received it almost every week. Luckily, I stumbled across a copy of the Life of St. Francis and everything changed in an instant…in one day. On the second day, I wanted to be a Friar Minor and to follow the way of life of St. Francis, which is also to follow Christ in everything, and always.

    The point is that I never knew or had the joy of the Catholic Faith before this conversion, even though I always went to Mass through family custom. It was like I was sleep walking in all the practices of the faith, but with habitual sin that also operated in me without any control except for my general and cloudy instinct for knowing good and evil.

    I’m sure there are many similar Catholic sleepwalkers out there, and like I did, they make many bad decisions in that state of spirituality. I think the Holy Father is concerned about these…the Catholics who are ignorant of almost everything relating to Christ and His Church, except for the ceremonials that they occasionally participate in, but don’t really understand. Can these Catholics really understand what the Sacrament of Matrimony is when they don’t understand what any of the other Sacraments are? Baptized yes, but unconverted also. They are like spiritual orphans abandoned in their early youth, with no one having the time, will or knowledge to spiritually help or teach them. Even St. Francis was like this in his youth. And it is this spiritual conundrum that I think the Vatican is trying to sort out with the calling of the extraordinary general assembly.

    Moreover, because of this deficit of true catequises in the world, blogs such as this one are so essential. If anything can help the multitudes of these uncatequised… it is the internet. All the information is there. We just have to help others to surf the right subject matter. That is, everything concerning Catholic theology.

  5. Great analysis, but a couple of things to consider. First, Greek dictionaries as well as the Septuagint translation seem to indicate that the term porneia is actually broader that adultery. The use if the term is used to describe not only illicit marriages but also general acts of immorality. If so, while it is true, as you note, that the exception in applying this to dissolving marriages may become the rule, the consequence cannot be used to justify changing the definition to fit the situation. We are admonished in the Bible to not add anything to, nor tske away from, the Word.

    Second, the difference between Matthew and Luke. Both passages relate to each Apostles vuew of the same event. And there are many instances in the New Testament where that happens. So do we take the more or less restrictive view of what is actually Gospel? If more restrictive, are we limiting Gospel to only those overlapping passages that are in full concordance? That would accommodate the position that Luke trumps Matthew, but would render the full Sermon on the Mount from Gospel, would limit the Passion to a few passages and even eliminate the complete Magnificant of our Mother.

    Certainly some things to think about.

    If we have faith, believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the Pope’s infallible guidance from God, we can trust in our shepherds to do God’s will. This is an emotional issue in both sides, but emotion and God’s will are not parallel paths.

    We can pray, not for any particular outcome, but pray for God’s grace to guide our Church and our Shepards. And leave the torches and pitchforks for another aside. Trust in the Trinity to do what He has done since the beginning.

  6. I think that you forgot the 1 in Leviticus 18:14 and 18:17-18 in section 5. Otherwise, you’re quoting from the priestly ordination ceremonies. Other than that, great job! Loved it.

  7. Very good…and now we see what the true catholics will do as Bergoglio changes the doctrine regarding the sacrament of marriage…I’m very curios about this….A SCISMA is coming….

    1. Joseph,

      What you’re claiming is heretical. The whole point of papal infallibility is that no pope can alter Catholic doctrine. Anyone who doesn’t believe that is rejecting Vatican I, not Vatican II.

      I.X.,

      Joe

      1. So I stumble into your blog almost two years later.

        While the Pope may not alter doctrine, promoting a change in practice which in effect defies doctrine will cause a shift in the minds of the faithful. It will be a case of the Pope says it’s ok to…

        Furthermore, a promotion of practice contrary to doctrine is in fact a promotion of hypocrisy. We may say the Church teaches such and such but we can live contrary to it because the Pope said that is ok.

  8. The shifting sand on which the whole article is based is exposed in the second sentence when the author reveals the translations that are used. Jesus’ never gave the grounds of divorce as “unchastity” but as “unlawful marriage” meaning incest and marrying your fathers wife and other equally grave disordered relations which were common among the Greeks which is why Peter said it was better that no one ever get married and Christ replied all things are possible with God. Sadly, we have a new crop of liberal theologians looking to change Christ’s teaching by changing Christ’s word. Another example of this I heard on Catholic radio when in advertising a free audio Bible(supposedly approved by Pope Benedict XVI) and reading a passage, a well known admonition by St. Paul against “fornicators, sodomites and adulterers” suddenly was now changed to “temple prostitutes”. Not even close to the same, but it leaves some wiggle room to change teaching on homosexuality for liberals. This is why so many people who really want to know their faith read no Bible written later than the Dhouay-Rheims version. They know there has been some monkey business going on. Sadly men are much more interested in getting God’s Word to conform to their sin than to get their lives to conform to God’s call to prayer, sacrifice and virtue.

  9. I should add that most of those who want to argue a marriage never existed, got married in Catholic or Christian churches and knew full well that they were entering into a lifetime commitment, but when difficulties arose, God was not where people turned. How is it that He is God and was present at the ceremony and yet is now incapable of helping the parties grow in virtue and love? It’s not. How is it possible that He was invited into the marriage at the ceremony and yet was never there? It’s not. He ate with sinners because the righteous did not need healing. Would he not come to the wedding of sinners if he was invited because they are sinners? People may have walked away from Him, but He did not walk away. He is always waiting for our hearts and eyes to turn to Him that He might heal us.

  10. I am no scholar and have little education, but i do know this, some words in Amharic do not translate into Greek or Latin without losing their meanings, i wish someone would touch on this, because
    i am sure that when these words were uttered by Jesus it was in Amharic!

    1. Margarett, yes. Under the Mosaic Law, a man was actually required to marry his brother’s widow if her first husband hadn’t borne her any children (cf. Matthew 22:24).

      In any case, while the bar against consanguinity remains (that is, you can’t marry a blood relative), my understanding is that the restrictions against affinity (marrying in-laws) have been greatly reduced. The only affinity restriction that I know of is canon 1092, prohibiting affinity along the direct line (e.g., marrying your son-in-law).

      I.X.,

      Joe

  11. Joe, excellent fundamentalist approach to the relevant scripture passages! Only one problem: the Catholic Church doesn’t follow such practices when interpreting scripture. The then-named National Conference of Catholic Bishops published a statement in 1987 which included the following excerpts:

    • Fundamentalism indicates a person’s general approach to life which is typified by unyielding adherence to rigid doctrinal and ideological positions—an approach that affects the individual’s social and political attitudes as well as religious ones. Fundamentalism in this sense is found in non-Christian religions and can be doctrinal as well as biblical. 

    • Biblical fundamentalists are those who present the Bible, God’s inspired word, as the only necessary source for teaching about Christ and Christian living.

    • A further characteristic of biblical fundamentalism is that it tends to interpret the Bible as being always without error or as literally true in a way quite different from the Catholic Church’s teaching on the inerrancy of the Bible. For some biblical fundamentalists, inerrancy extends even to scientific and historical matters. The Bible is presented without regard for its historical context and development.

    • We observed in biblical fundamentalism an effort to try to find in the Bible all the direct answers for living—though the Bible itself nowhere claims such authority. 

    Needless to say, the situation with Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage is far more complex than you present it. I refer you to a summary of theology on the matter — including the perspective of bishops — at the following URL.

    https://www.academia.edu/7172448/Is_Church_teaching_that_Christian_marriage_is_indissoluble_incontrovertible

    1. Greg,

      Your whole argument appears to be “Fundamentalists also believe in the Bible, and Fundamentalists are wrong, so therefore the Bible is wrong,” which is a combination of so many logical fallacies I’m not sure where to begin.

      First, there’s the ad hominem: belief in the Bible is bad because “Fundamentalists” do that!

      Second, there’s the fallacious argument from authority, appealing to the 1987-vintage NCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee on Biblical Fundamentalism as some sort of quasi-Magisterium … even though Apostolos Suos explicitly declares that these committees possess no Magisterial authority: “The very nature of the teaching office of Bishops requires that, when they exercise it jointly through the Episcopal Conference, this be done in the plenary assembly. Smaller bodies —the permanent council, a commission or other offices—do not have the authority to carry out acts of authentic magisterium either in their own name or in the name of the Conference, and not even as a task assigned to them by the Conference.”

      Third, there’s the implicit syllogistic. After all, all Fundamentalists breathe air, and all Fundamentalists are wrong, so therefore, breathing air is the “Fundamentalist” approach, not the “Catholic” approach. If that argument looks terrible (and it should), perhaps you should revisit your own argument.

      I note that you don’t actually manage to address any of the argumentation of the post, other than linking to an eleven page paper that you didn’t bother to summarize. Your comments on “Fundamentalism” aren’t even specific to marriage … which, you’ll find, the Magisterium takes a very clear stance on, one much stricter than many of our Fundamentalist brothers and sisters.

      I.X.,

      Joe

    2. ???

      Joe,

      You said,

      “Your whole argument appears to be “Fundamentalists also believe in the Bible, and Fundamentalists are wrong, so therefore the Bible is wrong,”

      Unless you’re reading something other than the comment by Greg Colley above, I’m not sure where you got that. According to the comment above, he said that he was presenting excerpts of a Catholic document. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that means “quotes” from that document, doesn’t it?

      And, none of those quotes come close to saying what you are claiming he says. I did not, however, follow the link. Is that where you are getting your summation of his argument?

      If I were to summarize his objection (and that is an exceedingly strong word) to your article, it would be that “the Catholic Church does not use the Bible alone to interpret Scripture.” Making the Catholic approach fundamentally different from the “Fundamentalist” sola scriptura approach.

      As for me, I see nothing wrong with a little sword fighting. If the Bible alone is all they will consider, the Bible alone supports all Catholic Doctrines. I know you and I disagree on that point, but, se la vie.

    3. De Maria,

      Perhaps I’m misreading his comment, then. He said (I take it sarcastically), “excellent fundamentalist approach to the relevant scripture passages! Only one problem: the Catholic Church doesn’t follow such practices when interpreting scripture.”

      My approach wasn’t actually “Fundamentalist.” He cites a document saying that “Biblical fundamentalists are those who present the Bible, God’s inspired word, as the only necessary source for teaching about Christ and Christian living.” But as you can see from the above post, one of my arguments was that the Council of Trent settled this infallibly. How is that an argument that a “Fundamentalist” would make?

      Of course, most of my arguments were based on the Bible alone, for the simple reason that not all of my readers are Catholic (and you don’t have to be Catholic to know what the Bible says on this issue). Pretending that Catholics can’t present arguments that only use the Bible is an absurd objection, though: otherwise, you’d have to throw out a wide corpus of Patristic writings that do just this.

      As Catholics, we believe in the inspiration of Sacred Scripture. It’s true that we believe that (a) Scripture should be read through the lens of the Church, and (b) God reveals Himself in ways in addition to Scripture, but we still believe Scripture is the word of God. To be ignorant of the Scriptures is to be ignorant of Christ, as St. Jerome said. So we can’t disregard the clear teaching of Scripture just because we don’t believe in Scripture alone. We believe in Scripture plus Tradition, not Scripture minus those parts we dislike.

      The non-binding NCCB subcommittee document that he cited is problematic, in that it presents a speculative (and non-traditional) view of inerrancy as if it were the official Church teaching, which it isn’t. But while I disagree with their treatment of inerrancy, it’s immaterial. Nothing in that document was even related to marriage, an area of doctrine upon which there isn’t serious ambiguity. The points that I made in the above post are the teachings of the Catholic Church, pure and simple.

      I.X.,

      Joe

  12. Ok, I don’t know which of us has understood him correctly.

    But I agree with you that we are free to use Biblical references to support our arguments. Especially when Fundamentalist Protestants reject every other sort of argument.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *