THE SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE
[continued from yesterday]
...Further, the Church, although she insists that the marriage bond lasts only till death, although she allows remarriage after the death of one of the partners, yet she looks upon such remarriage as something less perfect.
Her ideal is that a marriage should be so distinctly one and perpetual as to exclude any other marriage even after the first has been dissolved by death. A marriage is not merely a union of two In one flesh, but also of two in one spirit. The more perfect thing, therefore, would be to consider the bond of love lasting right through death.
The reason why the Church allows remarriage after the death of one of the partners is because there are other ends of matrimony besides mutual love. To give expression to her wish, however, and to mark the distinction between the more perfect state and the less perfect state, the Church does not give the nuptial blessing in cases where the bride is a widow if she has received it in a previous marriage. She gives it where the bride is being married for the first time, even though the bridegroom be a widower.
Having regard to the dignity of the bride, the Church in this case overlooks the defect in the bridegroom. Her end is achieved by withholding the blessing only in the case of the marriage of widows, as stated above.
This brings us to the all-important question of divorce. If both the natural and divine laws maintain the unity and perpetuity of the marriage bond, then no power on earth, not even the Church, has power to grant a divorce.
"What, therefore, God hath joined together let no man put asunder."Here, on the threshold of the question it is necessary to make a clear distinction of terms.
When it is said that no power on earth can grant a divorce, divorce must be understood in a particular and strict sense of the word. Let us distinguish then between three kinds of separation.
First, there is a separation which implies that the husband and wife are allowed to live apart. It is called in juridical language a judicial separation. It is called in theological language separatio a mensa et thoro, or separation from bed and board.
Its meaning is that, although the parties are separated from each other, yet they are not free to marry again. If they were allowed to marry again the separation would be said to be a vinculo, or separation from the bond. The actual contract or tie would be broken.
Now the first kind of separation is allowed by the Church whenever there is a grave reason, such, for instance, as the misconduct of one of the parties. But the second kind the Church allows never. The bond which has been made by God may not be broken by man. One of the parties may forfeit certain rights of marriage through infidelity to the partner, but can never thereby acquire the freedom to marry again.
And further, the Church makes no distinction in this respect between the innocent party and the guilty. A bond is a bond, the contract is a two-sided one, and, therefore, as long as the bond or contract remains it must bind both the parties.
However unfair it may seem to the innocent party, yet it is God's law and God will see to it that those who observe His law, will, in the final balancing, receive their just reward.....
From Marriage and Parenthood, The Catholic Ideal
By the Rev. Thomas J. Gerrard
Author of "Cords of Adam," "The Wayfarer's Vision," ETC.
Copyright, 1911, by Joseph F. Wagner, New York.