Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.
LUKE 16:18 NAS
A lot of electronic ink is being spilled these days in the Catholic blogosphere and press over the current issue of possibly admitting divorced and remarried people to take the eucharist at Mass. Cardinal Kasper is the whipping boy in this controversy as he is the one most vocal on this potential change. The problem for him is that words mean things, and the meaningful words in this debate are the words of our Lord. But to his credit, Kasper is trying to remedy a problem he did not create. If we need someone to blame, I recommend the poster boy of divorce and remarriage--His Majesty King Henry VIII.
The story of King Henry VIII is well known. While Protestant revolutionaries like Luther and Calvin were interested in spiritual and intellectual issues, Henry VIII wanted a wife that would give him a male heir. Frustrated, Henry sought a divorce from his wife, and the Catholic Church would not grant it. So, Henry schismed out, and the Church of England was born. Henry's own marital life would be nothing but frustration, and I encourage you to read Hilaire Belloc's Characters of the Reformation for a better understanding of what happened.
The reason Henry VIII's actions loom so large today is because he made it OK for Protestants to divorce. It wasn't instantaneous, but the corrosion of history, heresy, and hardened hearts have made it that even pastors of Protestant churches are often divorced and remarried multiple times. The Protestants took Holy Matrimony and made a mockery of it such that today the only people that seem to want to get married are gays and lesbians if only to make the mockery complete. The only institution that holds out on the older and correct view of Our Lord is the Roman Catholic Church. The wolves are now at the door seeking to break in and devour what is left of the sanctity of marriage. But if Jesus is truly the Lord, the wolves will leave hungry because the Church can never change on this matter. If Catholicism did not cave on contraception which had way more wiggle room than this issue, this matter explicitly addressed by Jesus Himself makes it a moot point. I am mystified as to why the issue is even contemplated.
There is definitely a pastoral issue, and that certainly needs to be addressed. When I became Catholic, the first question out of the gate beyond learning my name was learning my marital status. Fortunately, I am the man of only one wife, and I credit God's Providence on that because I could have married multiple times before to women I would have certainly divorced at some later time. Some part of me knew that marriage was a permanent thing even in my fevered atheist brain. On a most practical level, here are my words of advice on dating and marriage:
1. Refrain from fornication. This will save you from STDs and child support payments. Plus, it is easier on the heart if you break up, and it eliminates all bad people from your life when they dump you for turning them down for sex.
2. Strive to not get married. Being single is a blessed state to be in. It frees you to do things you can't do with a family, and I don't mean immoral or immature things. I don't know why people have gotten the idea that being single is somehow inferior to being married.
3. Never marry a divorced person. There is a reason they are divorced. You will discover the reason when you go through your divorce from that person.
4. Marry once and only once. "One and done" is my motto. You should marry only one time and just live with however it turns out. If your life is wedded bliss, great. If it is less than bliss, stick it out. If you bust up, don't remarry. If you find yourself a widow or widower, don't remarry. Death or divorce doesn't matter because the comparisons will still get made. It doesn't seem fair to either spouse.
These are just practical rules meant to save you grief. The problem for people is that they marry for selfish reasons. They think marriage leads to self-fulfillment and self-actualization. The reality is that marriage and family life are about self-denial. This way of self-denial is actually the path of self-fulfillment. But this requires maturity that comes only through faith in Jesus Christ.
I came to these rules before I was Catholic. These rules are not moral rules so much as the horse sense I acquired through doing it the wrong way. In some ways, my rules are probably harder than what the Church tells us to do because it is certainly permissible for a widow or widower to remarry. My rules are merely prudence. I've witnessed enough disaster from other people's divorces to know that I don't want it. These rules are meant simply to keep people from making a mess of their lives. But people still make those messes, and they land on the doorstep of Holy Mother Church wanting the messes fixed.
Protestantism made this disaster because it demoted marriage from being a sacrament. It became a contract between two parties and a matter for the courts. As no-fault divorce laws came to be, marriage slid further into the pit. It is my personal opinion that no marriage constituted in such a way can ever be valid. But my opinion does not matter. The Church is tasked with this matter and possesses the authority in these matters. But make no mistake about this. The Roman Catholic Church did not create this disaster. This sad state of affairs is the fault of those disobedient to the clear words of Jesus Christ. There can be no solution to this without a return to obedience.
I do not know what the outcome of the current synod will be on this contentious issue. I can certainly agree that people converting to the Catholic faith should be given some easier way to rectify these things in the courts in canon law. I am not nearly as understanding of those cradle Catholics who knew better and chose to disobey.
To end on a positive note, it would be nice if people returned to that sacramental view and understanding of marriage. Marriage is for life, and it is a means of grace. Marriage is the foundation for family life, and families thrive when marriages remain intact. People should take marriage seriously. If they did, they would be much better off. As for marriage advice, I do not think I have been married long enough to be an expert on the matter. But I can say I have learned one thing both from successful marriages and from the short time I have been married. The couple that prays together stays together. Couples need the Lord to be successful husbands and wives.