Jesus Rejected Unlawful and Unchaste Marriages in His Own Day – Here’s Why and Where

100714Monday’s decision by the Supreme Court not to take up numerous state appeals regarding same-sex unions pretty much signals that the secular redefinition is here to stay. This is really no surprise given the rather deep confusion about sexuality and marriage in our culture. The polygamists and any number of other groups demanding recognition for their aberrant notions of marriage are sure to follow with all due haste. And what is to stop them, legally, at this point? The word “marriage” is now largely meaningless since, if marriage can mean anything, marriage means nothing, in the linguistic sense. At my parish, we celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and are retooling our documents with this new designation wherever possible.

While Jesus did not directly address the issue of same-sex “marriage” (since such a bizarre notion would not even have occurred to anyone in the Jewish world of his day), he did address the notion of illicit or unchaste unions. He did this in the “Matthean exception” (Matt 19 and Matt 5). While Jesus forbade divorce, He set aside or excluded certain unions that were illicit or unchaste and indicated that these were not unions to which one should cling. In effect, He said that they are not marriages at all so the term “divorce” does not apply to them and they should be set aside.

Consider the text from Matthew 19. Let me first present the text itself and then provide some background and interpretation. (I am using the Catholic NABRE translation.)

[Jesus said], I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery (Matt 19:9).

The RSV (Catholic Edition) translates the passage this way: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery.

Now the phrases, “unless the marriage is unlawful” and “except for unchastity,” are translations of the Greek phrase  μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ (me epi porneia). The usual meaning of the word porneia is “fornication” (i.e., sex between two unmarried people). However, depending on the context, porneia can also refer to other forms of sexual contact that are illicit or irregular by biblical standards. For example, many Greek lexicons (e.g., Strongs and Thayer & Smith) define porneia broadly as “illicit sexual intercourse” and then go on to define porneia to include fornication, homosexual activity, lesbian activity, sexual intercourse with animals, sexual intercourse with close relatives (as spelled out in Leviticus 18), or sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman. Protestants tend to include adultery in the definition of porneia more so than do Catholics. The reason that Catholics in general do not is that there is another Greek word specifically for adultery: μοιχᾶται (moichatai). Therefore we do not consider adultery to be grounds for divorce based on either Matt 19 or Matt 5.

So, fundamentally, porneia most often means fornication (pre-marital sex) but can mean other illicit things as well.

Why then does Jesus utter this “exception” to the otherwise air-tight prohibition of divorce? The answer would seem to lie in the influence of certain Gentile notions, which the Lord wanted to be clear to exclude, at least in the settings Matthew recalled. The Gentile world was a very sexually confused—even depraved—world. All sorts of strange sexual practices were tolerated and even tied into some of the pagan religious practices. Gentile notions of marriage were often at wide variance with Jewish ones. Gentiles often called “marriage” what Judeo-Christians would call incest. There were also difficulties encountered with  homosexual behavior and other sexual liaisons that the Christian Church could not and would not recognize as legitimate or anything but sinful. (The most thorough discussion of this background can be found in the Navarre Biblical Commentary.)

So, in effect, Jesus is declaring that certain so-called marriages that featured porneia (some form of illicit sexual union) were not marriages at all, and that His forbiddance of divorce should not be seen as applying to these illicit unions. The implication is that since such unions were not considered marriage at all,  one could and should leave them without being guilty of divorce. The bottom line is this: there was a defined understanding of marriage that Jesus insisted upon, and He freely declared that just because someone called something a “marriage” didn’t make it a marriage.

Many today want to redefine marriage into something other than one man and one women in a fruitful (child-bearing) relationship until death do them part. I have little doubt, based on biblical evidence alone, that Jesus would declare such unions as “not marriages at all,” since He clearly set aside certain unions of His day by calling them unlawful, or more specifically, unchaste.

To those who would argue that Jesus did not specifically mention homosexual unions, I would point out, as already noted, that the term porneia can and does include all forms of illicit sexual unions: incest, fornication, and homosexual acts. Hence His use of the word here does include an exclusion of unions based on this form of unchastity.

As an aside, many today argue that Jesus never explicitly mentioned homosexual acts (though I’d like to point out that also didn’t explicitly say “Don’t beat your wife,” either) and they seek to conclude from His “silence” that He therefore would approve of homosexual acts. But of course Jesus does address the sinfulness of homosexual acts—through His appointed spokesmen, the Apostles, to whom He said, “He who hears you hears me” (Luke 10:16).  The New Testament teachings of the apostles, who speak for Jesus, clearly describe homosexual acts as sinful (e.g., Rom 1:18ff, 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:8-11) and contrary to nature (paraphysin – Romans 1:26).

Hence, the term porneia (here understood widely as unchastity) surely does include homosexual acts (as any Greek dictionary will affirm). In the Matthean exception or exclusion, Jesus thus sets aside unchaste or illicit unions since they are not true marriages at all. Divorce does not apply to them and such unions should be discontinued since they are unchaste.

49 Replies to “Jesus Rejected Unlawful and Unchaste Marriages in His Own Day – Here’s Why and Where”

  1. I read where a Catholic cardinal suggested Tuesday that the phrase, “living in sin,” for cohabiting couples should be banned saying it alienated people from the Church. ” To label people is not helpful.” the unnamed prelate was quoted as saying at the synod . “The Church should instead encourage a ‘gradual’ reproach with unmarried couples.” the cardinal urged. I guess it’s better to laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.

    1. Yes, I guess it has some pretty clear differences with the stated cardinal. It’s not particularly good to be in sync with the Billy Joel songthat you “here!

      1. +“JESUS CHRIST, yesterday, and today; and the SAME for ever.” – Hebrews 13:8

        Our LORD’s eternal nature is . . . absolute . . . unchanging . . .

        The Extraordinary Synod on the Family’s rules specifically preclude identifying the aforementioned cardinal re the above suggestion re the . . “watering down” . . . (final destination . . . oblivion) . . . of the nature of mortal sin . . . however . . . the Cardinal . . . Father ____?____ . . . would do well to read . . . reread . . . and reread again . . . and meditate . . . at length . . . upon the passages in 1 Samuel of Sacred Scripture . . . re the clearly outlined judgement of GOD proclaimed against the . . . GROSSLY NEGLIGENT . . . High Priest Heli (Eli) . . .

        “[12] Now the sons of Heli [Eli] were children of Belial, NOT knowing the LORD …[17] wherefore the SIN of the young men was exceeding great before the LORD: because they withdrew men from the sacrifice of the LORD.” – 1 Samuel 2:12, 17

        “[10] And the LORD came and STOOD: and he CALLED, as he had called the other times: “Samuel, Samuel.”

        And Samuel said: “Speak, LORD, for thy servant heareth.” [11]

        And the LORD said to Samuel:

        “Behold I do a thing in Israel: and whosoever shall hear it, BOTH his ears shall tingle. [12] In that day I will raise up AGAINST Heli all the things I have spoken concerning his house:

        I will begin, and I will make an end.

        [13] For I have foretold unto him, that I will JUDGE his house for ever, FOR INIQUITY,


        [14] Therefore have I sworn to the house of Heli, that the iniquity of his house shall NOT be expiated with victims nor offerings FOR EVER.” – 1 Samuel 3:10-14

        Quote from “The Catechism of the Catholic Church” . . .

        Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a GRAVE VIOLATION of GOD’S law; it turns man AWAY from GOD, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to Him.

        LORD have mercy . . .

        Thank you Monsignor for so . . . courageously and often . . . taking seriously the watchcare over the souls GOD has entrusted to your care . . . as a . . . true . . . “teaching priest” . . . in Christ’s Holy Roman Catholic Church . . . may GOD continue to . . . richly . . . bless . . .

        . . . all for Jesus+

  2. Do you think it includes marriages in which either the husband or wife is open to divorce…

    1. Troubling and hopefully something considered within marriage preparation. But thoughts and doubts are not explicit actions.

    2. I’m not an expert, but the Catholic Church’s official lawbook, The Code of Canon Law, says in number 1134 “From a valid marriage there arises between the spouses a bond which of its own nature is permanent and exclusive.” So maybe couples that believe in divorce should renew their vows?

  3. How does this relate (if at all) to the question of a civil marriage (e.g. justice of the peace) between a man and woman? If a man and a woman “marry” in this way, it really doesn’t exist in the eyes of the church, right? Please correct me if I am wrong on that point.

    So, by extension, if the Church considers civil marriages as a nullity spiritually speaking, why should she care how the civil world defines marriage? Why not just go our own way and keep the sacrament separate from the decaying morality of the civil world? After all, no one (yet) can take that away. I very much like the idea of using “Holy Matrimony” as a term of distinction.

    I ask this as someone who agrees fully that so-called “gay marriage” is indeed an abomination spiritually/morally, but has a strong inclination to “live and let live” nevertheless.

    Food for thought – thanks as always for the sincerity of your posts, Monsignor!

    1. This is not a discussion about civil marriages per se, I am a Christian talking to fellow believers and I want them to understand that our sacred texts have things to say about marriage. But we should “care” how the State defines marriage, especially when that is dramatically changing just now. We all live in communities, and we ought to care what our neighbors and fellow citizens say think and do. It’s pretty short-sighted to just want to live in an enclave because sooner or later that enclave erodes when everything around it becomes acid. Currently there is a maniac at the door and just saying “ignore him” may work for a day, but sooner or later he’s going to break the door down and walk in with seven friends…. We therefore ought to care about the govt and also ought to care that so many of our fellow countrymen have been deceived and are being carried off as prey in the jaws of the lion.

      Let me finally assure that the advocates of Same Sex unions do not collectively share your live and let live policy. They are already hauling people off to court such as photographers and caterers, in other countries clergy are being arrested, sued and otherwise punished and threatened. Not exactly live and let live.

      1. I completely agree. The question of gay marriage implicates the role of the state in promoting morality. In Catholic teaching it is incumbent on the state to promote morality.

        Of course, the state has to consider the concrete situation of its people when making its decisions. For instance, if 100% of the people were in favor of gay marriage, what sense would there be in making gay marriage against the law? Should the state, in that case, jail its entire citizenry? What if it just fined its entire citizenry? In that case, how long would the state even continue to exist? Not long, I don’t think.

        So there is an argument for ‘live and let live’ to be made in favor of accepting that the state will ratify gay marriage. But, since this promotes a mortal sin, Christians everywhere should be doing everything in their power to convince others that homosexual sex is unnatural and should not be directly or indirectly promoted by the state. The same approach we have taken to abortion should be taken in regard to homosexual sin.

        1. Jailing people for a disagreement of opinion, not actions?

          That seems to be quite a straw man. Try a better argument.

          Yes, the Church respects the laity and teaches that God’s Truth can be revealed to everyone. However, that is not an endorsement for the Church to stay quiet when it is in the minority. Pagans had more votes once, sinful kings had more nobles, Nazis had more power, Communists had more tanks. They all fell while the Church reigns. If the Church abandons Christ, it will fall with the rest of the failed ideologies that debase themselves to the worst demands of corruptible humanity. Only the Church that serves God and His people will endure.

      2. I do agree that the supreme irony in this whole debate is that those who are pushing for gay marriage are doing so under the banner of “tolerance.” In fact, they are the least tolerant of all — their tactic is to demonize (no pun intended) anyone who opposes them. In fact, a couple of years ago, I made a Facebook post that was a very mild criticism of same-sex union proponents, and someone whom I considered a friend “un-friended” me and accused me of “hate speech.”

      3. The main danger involved in the redefinition of marriage, which Monsignor already indicated, is the loss of religious freedom. People are being legally prosecuted for refusing to participate in gay marriage ceremonies (photographers, bakers, etc.), regardless of the fact that to participate even peripherally in the ceremony is to participate in, or at least give the appearance of approval of, the sin, which is sinful in itself. It’s called “giving scandal.” Far more grave is the fact that it could also lead to churches being forced to officiate in such ceremonies. We have already seen faith-backed orphanages close their doors rather than obey the requirement to allow same-sex couples to adopt. We could end up seeing churches forcibly closed for the “crime” of refusing to officiate at gay unions; then the faithful would be deprived of the life-giving sacrament of Holy Eucharist, and the healing sacrament of Penance, or Reconciliation. That is how grave this whole homosexual battle is. (I really dislike the fact that they have hijacked a word that used to mean “cheerful,” to the point that people are rewriting lyrics to old songs in order to eliminate the word “gay.”)

      4. Revelation includes the opinion of JESUS CHRIST in the New Testament on HOMOSEXUALITY.+<3 —

    2. Why should she care how the civil world defines [marriage, death penalty, food aid, abortion, organ harvesting, sex trafficking, etc.]? Why not just go our own way and keep the sacrament separate from the decaying morality of the civil world?

      Because the Church and its members have a call to share the Gospel. The civil state should be no more removed from the influence of religious citizens than the influence of nonreligious citizens, whether the issue is marriage or welfare. Unfortunately too many demanding silence on the marriage question seek cover for their own sexual sins, to gain rewards from politicians/friends for acting as a quisling, and/or to protect their heads from the threat of punishment.

      Are we really less discouraged to live the Gospel than those scared apostles were in the days between the Crucifixation and Pentecost?

  4. Jamier:

    Check a catechism, but if either one truly believed at the time of the marriage ceremony divorce/”remarriage” was OK, may not be valid marriage. If they dont believe this anymore, not sure. Check with a goodpriest or canon lawyer!

  5. Jamier-that is, divorce with “remarriage” was a good option if things get hard.

  6. Monsignor,

    Thank you for taking the time to write this. I’ve made a copy. It’s a keeper.

  7. I have seen the argument that the porneia exception in Matthew wasn’t originally understood to refer to invalid marriages (as the current Catholic interpretation says). Apparently the early Church fathers all seemed to agree that this actually referred to real marriages in which adultery had occurred. However, the early church fathers still believed that adultery didn’t justify remarriage – but rather only a separation of the spouses. This argument can be found here:

    I seem to also remember reading material directly from Augustine where he acknowledges that adultery justifies divorce (but still not remarriage). I’m trying to look that up and if I find it I’ll add a reference here.

    In my own view though, when reading the plain text of the scripture, it does appear that there is a clear exception to the rule about divorcing in the case of adultery or other sexual immorality. The presence of the “porneia” clause seems too brief for it to be referring to a more complex concept such as the situation of an invalid marriage. And just the grammar itself (albeit read in English) seems to imply more than just a justification for divorce, but also seems to allow for remarriage as well. Apparently the church fathers ruled out remarriage based on this clause because of the other gospel texts which contained no such exception. Logically, however, why not negate the exception entirely for that same reason? Clearly Matthew’s gospel is communicating some additional information that is not present in the other gospels. In other situations, when one gospel contains information that the others don’t, the more informative gospel is assumed to contain correct information and this is not negated by the absence of that information in other gospels. Given these facts, I wonder if the prohibition on divorce and remarriage according to Christ is as ironclad as the Church claims. I’m obviously not an expert or a scriptural scholar – these are just my personal thoughts.

    1. I’m aware of the positions of some of the church fathers in this is clear that in history some Catholics theologians did hold that porneia here referred to adultery. However, I think in this rare case the modern and widely held Catholic position which I report in the post above is superior. if Jesus had wanted to say adultery he could’ve easily done so, and uses the Greek wordfor adultery later in the very same sentence. Further, it’s a kind of strange logic to say that Jesus is saying that you can’t get divorced and remarried because to do so is committing adultery, and then say unless adultery is been committed that it’s okay to get divorced. There is a kind of internal inconsistency. The other inconsistency is that the fathers would say that you could get divorced, but could not get remarried. Just looking at the text even in the Greek The conclusion once again seems to violate the logic of the Lord’s statement.

      1. By the way, it is worth mentioning as well that there is hardly consensus among the church fathersin this particular matterand that there’s enough diversity in church history to say thatThe current position among most Catholic theologians is not an abandonment of the ancient teaching.

  8. I think the difference between your position and mine is that I root my reflectionsin the revealed text of Scripture. I’m not sure what your rooting yours in, seems to be kind of a combination of evolution of thought, and in skepticism a relativism regarding what can reasonably be known etc. whatever. The church passes through, the moral law does not change. I think your position is for bolder than mine at least they claim to know what I think Jesus would say based on his actually revealed word where you make the claim based on very vague so if interpreted and I would argue incorrect notions.

  9. Jesus did not create gay people. At no time does any Gospel record Jesus creating anyone for that matter. Creation came through the Father.

    Your assumption certain people are “created gay” is indicative of your rather narrow view of humanity and sexuality. Though some people are born with an attraction for their own gender, they are not born with a more potent sex drive then their hetero brethren. In that, we are all on the same playing field.

    So when a person chooses to engage in a sexual act outside of Holy Matrimony, be it with the opposite gender or their own, it is a sinful ACT.

    Using our free will to choose sinful acts (i.e. Self over God) destroys Gods life within us. The more the self is chosen, the less room we have for God. This leads to soul-death unless one repents and once again choose to love The Lord over oneself.

    This is not the Church being stuck in the dark ages, it is simply the truth. You can deny it all you want but you can never change it.

  10. In Today’s world, Marriages generally come about when a Man and Woman meet, date, fall in love and then marry. In Jesus’ days and in most places until rather recently that wasn’t the case. Marriages were arranged by the families. Being in “Love” with one another had nothing to do with it. You would co-habitat with your selected spouse, have children, survive, not out of Love, but out of family arranged obligation. So I guess this wouldn’t be an “unlawful” marriage, but it sure wasn’t out of two people loving each other!

  11. “The Gentile world was a very sexually confused—even depraved—world. All sorts of strange sexual practices were tolerated and even tied into some of the pagan religious practices. Gentile notions of marriage were often at wide variance with Jewish ones. Gentiles often called “marriage” what Judeo-Christians would call incest. There were also difficulties encountered with homosexual behavior and other sexual liaisons that the Christian Church could not and would not recognize as legitimate or anything but sinful.”

    To me, that is an overreach. I do not think homosexual marriages existed in any gentile community. Even today, while most of West have redefined marriage, the gentile world in Asia and Africa still treat homosexuality with averse. Women are treated badly in these societies. Many of these nations permit divorce, to help women from abuse, but even divorce is relatively new and a Western import. See:

    Gentile world did practice polygamy, but so did the Jews. The “incest” in the gentile world were mostly cousin marriages. That wasn’t considered awful in early and medieval Christian world or the Jewish world as well.

    1. I don’t recall saying there was homosexual marriage in Gentile communities. I mentioned incest. It is unarguable that the Gentile world had become sexual depraved. It did not start that way, but, much as has happened with us, it ended that way. Note Paul’s descriptions, St. Augustine (esp In City of God) and most of the the early writings of the Fathers and other historical sources such as the Didache, the didacalia etc. describe everything from orgies, prostitution in the pagan temples, general disease, infanticide, etc. Pagan authors also such as Cicero et al lament rampant promiscuity but did not think it was reasonable to ask young people to I’ve chastely.

      1. Any culture would nose dive into sexual immorality once they reject God. The Roman Empire, with its “imperial cult”, indeed was rejecting God. Need not be “gentile phenomena”. St Paul also says this of gentiles: “wherever I look I find you scrupulously religious” (Acts 17).

    2. My post is not particularly for you but it’s where my cursor landed on this page. I just wanted to have some input.

      When I commit sin, I ask for forgiveness and do my best not to wallow in the dirt too long. When I find myself searching for examples of why I am right in my actions, then I know I’ve potentially a problem. It is, just that simple. There need not be any judge on earth, not even me, so let us not judge one another. There is only one Judge and He, is above us all. The fact that some choose to search in and among themselves for “The Truth”, that they know, is above us and clearly stated in the Word of God and the Words inspired by God, is telling of the kind of truth for which they search. Yes, there are times when even the Church has been on the wrong side of truth but She has and at least attempts to right herself by pursuing union with God. If ones actions are not in union with God, then just say so and hold your head up. Say it’s your thing, say it’s just me, say God’s Truth is of no consequence or that it’s between you and God. At the least, tell your truth. That I would at least respect.

  12. Since most members of the SCOTUS are catholic, do their actions or lack thereof excuse them from their decision? Aren’t they and politicians called to answer not only with their secular views but also of what is their faith? So how would one interpret such response — lack of courage? Maybe that is why America is become what it is today due to the lack of courage of its leaders at all levels, yes, to include the church as an institution. We can all quote Sacred Scripture to try and justify our positions, thoughts, responses, etc. But sadly within the church, no one wants to stand in the pulpit to truly be courageous, merciful, right and just when it is warranted. Are we close to adopting and making Rodney King so famous, “Can we all get along?”

    Today’s responsorial psalm, “Go out to all the world and tell the good news.” Isn’t that what we are called to do? And if we are persecuted and suffer for boldly telling the good news, shouldn’t it be for the greater glory of God? As St. JPII boldly proclaimed, “Be not afraid.”

  13. ‘Therefore, how can something created by God be wrong or evil or against nature?’

    It’s an interesting question, but Catholicism teaches that’s what God does all the time. We have to believe either that God has a plan for nature and that He allows that plan to be violated regularly, or we can believe that every single thing God does is natural and therefore in that sense good.

    If everything God does is ‘nature’ and therefore good then there is no distinguishing between good and evil anymore. All things of whatever kind are good, even if we can’t understand their goodness. Since God is good, and He creates all nature as good, then everything that happens is good. That includes all killing, all stealing, all thoughts of lust and coveting: everything that happens in the physical and moral universe must be good. That means, for example, that killing God on the cross was, in itself, good.

    That is, it was good not by reason of the result, i.e., that we are saved from it. No. If God made everything good, then killing God was good in itself. That is, I think, absurd.

    The Church teaches differently. Instead of everything in the universe being good just because God created or allowed it, the Church teaches that God allows evil things to be created in the physical and moral realm. Then, He brings good out of those things. But first He allows evil things.

    God Himself accepted this universe when He died on the cross. He accepted evil, but good came of it.

    Homosexual inclination is just one physical [not moral] evil that God allows. [Homosexual acts, not homosexual inclination, are immoral.] Through the cross, good can come out of this evil. But if people promote the evil and accept the evil and call the evil good, then the cross cannot make it into something good. In the same way, if we can’t accept that the killing of God was an evil act, then we cannot repent, and receive the benefits of that act.

    Homosexual inclination is like any other deformity or cross of nature in this world. [Heterosexual lust is also a cross of nature.] May God grant us all the grace to carry our crosses and to not condemn others for the crosses they may carry.

  14. “Monday’s decision by the Supreme Court not to take up numerous state appeals regarding same-sex unions pretty much signals that the secular redefinition is here to stay.”

    For the next few years, sure, but remember that 100 years ago Prohibition looked inevitable and “here to stay”, leading to the passage of the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution in January, 1919.

  15. It is pitiable and cowardice on the part of SCOTUS simply not take up the appeals in the lower courts. They just followed the AG Eric Holder. DOMA is still the law on marriage and it should be upheld until it is repealed by Congress. What is happening? Is it now the minority that rules? This is preposterous and incredulous. May GOD have mercy on us for we are not anymore respecting the laws and ruled by laws. Our politicians are now afraid their careers will go down the drain if they do not support the LGBT because of the power of the chattering classes, the media and the so-called intellectuals, the academe. LGBT must be treated with respect but for them to impose their way of disordered life, it is another thing.

  16. I hope when you have a moment to look up the life story of Bella Dodd.
    She eventually came to the faith.
    Bsp Sheen became her mentor.
    Chilling yet hopeful. AMDG

  17. Thanks for this, but I think there is some confusion here. You say:
    `For example, many Greek lexicons (e.g., Strongs and Thayer & Smith) define porneia broadly as “illicit sexual intercourse” and then go on to define porneia to include fornication, homosexual activity, lesbian activity, sexual intercourse with animals, sexual intercourse with close relatives (as spelled out in Leviticus 18), or sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman. Protestants tend to include adultery in the definition of porneia more so than do Catholics. The reason that Catholics in general do not is that there is another Greek word specifically for adultery: μοιχᾶται (moichatai). Therefore we do not consider adultery to be grounds for divorce based on either Matt 19 or Matt 5.’
    ‘Porneia’ certainly includes adultery, just as does the translation you offer, ‘illicit sexual intercourse’. The fact that there is a specific word for ‘adultery’ does not exclude there also being a broader term including adultery and other things.

    In a comment you say that it is `strange logic to say that Jesus is saying that you can’t get divorced and remarried because to do so is committing adultery, and then say unless adultery is been committed that it’s okay to get divorced’. But the standard interpretation of the Fathers etc. is that Jesus says unless adultery has been committed it is NOT OK to get divorced — the opposite of the view you here attack.

    An advantage of your general interpretation is that it allows us to take `except for porneia’ as qualifying `remarries’ as well as `divorces’ (whereas the standard interpretation of the Fathers etc, has it qualifying only `divorces’), which many say is a more natural reading of the Greek, but, against this, `porneia’ covers much more than just invalid unions: the classic position is that porneia (i.e. here illicit sexual intercourse (not necessarily adultery) by a party within a valid marriage) allows the husband and wife to separate (a divorce a mensa et a thoro), but not to remarry (it is not a divorce a vinculo). An argument in favour of this is that if a married man engages in illicit sexual intercourse with a third party then ‘divorces his wife’ must refer to the person to whom he is validly married, not the person with whom he is having an illicit intercourse. It seems to me, on account of this, that the traditional interpretation of the Fathers etc. is the most natural interpretation of the Greek. Of course, we all agree with your conclusion, that unchaste unions do not bind since they are not marriages.

  18. Monsignor: You said at the beginning of this informative article, “The polygamists and any number of other groups demanding recognition for their aberrant notions of marriage are sure to follow with all due haste. And what is to stop them, legally, at this point? ” May I suggest the simple tactic below? If one candidate has the moral backbone to publicly take this stand, how could their opponent publicly dispute these conclusions? The fact that there has been no public discussion of this argument could show how powerful the enemy sees it and does all they can to keep it from public discussion? Does anyone see a good reason why candidates for public office should not be asked to publicly proclaim their competence in knowing that any supreme court decision that implicitly or explicitly contradicts the clear intent of the founders would be seen by the founders as null and void?

    The intent of this project is for all patriotic groups to work together to “help” all candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate to give an explicit public answer to the following question so that all voters can weigh their answer as part of the voters decision making process to decide who to support with their work and vote and hopefully lead to the impeachment of all judges who demonstrate their lack of competence in ruling in same-sex cases. In my opinion, once a few candidates directly and publicly answer the following question, others will follow and judges will see the writing on the wall and change their stripes and it will not be necessary to impeach anyone. Which patriotic organisations would not want people to know each candidates explicit, direct, public answer to this question (at the bottom) so that the voters can make a more informed vote? Would chairmen of either political party want it known that they were trying to keep this project from snowballing because they did not want the voters to know where that party’s candidates now stand on this issue?

    1. Concerning the issue of same sex “marriage” and the “constitutional right”.
    Fact one: The Founders wrote and established the Constitution as the Supreme law of the land with the understanding that their clear intentions in writing the Constitution would be the basis for understanding and applying the Constitution until and unless it was properly amended by due constitutional process. It would sound ludicrous to them for someone to say they were empowering future courts to say implicitly or explicitly, : “We find that the original intent of the founders to be out of date with present thinking and we hereby rule that the new understanding, or intent, of the Constitution is “___________” and this is now the supreme law of the land, even though we acknowledge that what we are presently ruling is contrary to the Founders original intent. The Constitution was intended as a living document that was to grow and adapt to new situations and the advancement of men and we were empowered, by the founders, with the authority to decide the Constitutionality of cases brought before us, and this is what we have done in this ruling.”
    Fact two: There is no evidence that the Founders of this nation intended the relationship of marriage to apply to any grouping other than one man and one woman.

    The Question a: If you do not publicly and articulately dispute the two facts above; Do you believe judges who find a “constitutional right” for same-sex “marriages” can and should be impeached for lack of competence in understanding the original intent of the Founders as the Supreme Law of the land until and unless the Constitution is amended by proper constitutional due process and because there is no evidence that the founders intended the relationship of marriage to apply to any grouping other than one man and one woman?
    The Question b: If you do not publicly and articulately dispute the two facts above; Are you competent enough to know the Founders of this nation would know without doubt that judges who find a “constitutional right” for same-sex “marriages” can and should be impeached for lack of competence in understanding the original intent of the Founders as the Supreme Law of the land until and unless the Constitution is amended by proper constitutional due process and because there is no evidence that the founders intended the relationship of marriage to apply to any grouping other than one man and one woman?

  19. Hello Msgr Pope,
    I liked your article and will be reposting it on Hope that is ok.
    I have been saying that the homosexual push for “gay marriage” is a (natural?) follow on to “contraceptive marriage”. The gay activists have made that point.
    I say that Christian marriage was redefined by the 1930 Lambeth Conference proclaiming that contraception for serious reason, in marriage, is licit. Has the Catholic Church said the same by largely refusing to proclaim its teachings on contraception and sterilization? Perhaps you have seen Cardinal Dolan’s WSJ interview of a couple years ago where he admitted that the bishops (himself included) have had “laryngitis” regarding sexual morality.
    I looked for “contraception” in the definition of porneia–some form of illicit sexual union, but you did not include it nor do other references. However, it seems to me that contraceptive (or sterilized) intercourse is disordered (ie, intrinsically evil) and invalidates the sacred marriage act–which I prefer to call the “procreative act”, based on its essence.
    If the act that is fundamental to the sacrament is counterfeited, is the sacrament counterfeit?
    Priests that prepare many couples for marriage and counsel couples when their marriage is failing, tell us that contraception is common to every failing marriage, and NFP-using couples rarely need counseling.
    Therefore, the contracepting couple should/must be counseled/taught to stop as a necessity for preserving their marriage. If they refuse and then divorce, should there be some consequence?

    Please feel welcome reword for clarity.


    PS I host “The Quest for a Culture of Life in America” on Radio Maria, every Tuesday at Noon ET. Would you be willing/interested to be my Guest some Tuesday? You would call our Mother Station–866-333-6279– at 11:55 and we would be patched together for 55 minutes. My cell number is 937-626-0027 .

  20. Not yet determined: Whether the tendency toward homosexual behavior is a “choice”, therefore subject to moral judgment about “right” and “wrong”; or whether it is genetic.
    Historically, some males punished for h-s behavior were fully capable of siring children, e.g. King Edward II of England and Oscar Wilde. Current classifications might call these guys “bisexual”. If the behavior is a choice, that action is subject to moral criteria, as above.
    Now if Darwin’s theory of evolution of physical bodies holds, a characteristic that eliminates the person from the genetic pool for future generations, the characteristic would, over thousands of years, disappear.
    Therefore, either Darwin’s theory is in error; or homosexual behavior, at least by males, is a moral choice rather than being hard-wired.
    Females s/b excluded from this test because in many cultures a young woman has no choice about getting married.
    Some food for thought.

    1. Thank you TeaPot562. The first person who has actually articulated (that I’v read) something that makes sense from the biological point of view in the s-s debate. I have wondered what homosexuality means from a evolution/biological position for a while. Is it some type of mechanism employed by nature to discourage breeding of certain people? A similar mechanism is present in most if not all familial relationships where we have no desire (more often a yuk) to mate with our siblings.

  21. Look Paul rebuked Peter. Peter didn’t work to remove that from being cited in Gallatians. Today’s bishops can’t stand one of their priests or lay people begging them to teach the Gospel. It’s the same old political bishops undermining the faith to serve modern kings. These bishops may get their political rewards (or save their heads) but at one expense to us little ones? Stand for truth. Stand for Christ.

  22. There’s a slight flaw in your discussion of the term “porneia”.

    Having read around this in Jewish sources, “porneia” means valid marriages between a man and a woman who are forbidden to each other by the Law of Moses. Such marriages must be terminated by divorce. This provision applies only to marriages between Jews. An example is a marriage between a Jew who is a “mamzer” (the offspring of an adulterous or incestuous union) and a Jew who is not. Or between a kohen (priest) and a woman forbidden to him under the special rules governing the marriages of kohanim. Or between a Jew and his adulterous wife – as soon as she commits adultery she becomes forbidden to him for all time.

  23. I think the text itself, we can clearly see Jesus speaking in a round about way against gay marriage.

    When He was asked about divorced, instead of just saying “no it is not allowed”, He bases his ruling on Genesis – on the fact that God created them male and female and that this is what makes marriage.

    It could also be pointed out that the reason why He never spoke against homosexuality was because it was a non-issue. It was a clear prohibition. No one ever asked Him if it is okay to murder or to steal because the teaching was clear. But when it came to divorce it was not clear because Moses had allowed it. Hence the reason why He had to make a clarification.

    Jesus was a Jew and was a faithful Jew. In fact, He mentioned the destruction of Sodom.

  24. Monsignor,
    I whole heartedly accept your explanation of porneia in the scripture. Of the people who I have recommended seek annulments from first marriages. Most haven’t been because of unchastity, instead one of the partners believed at the time of their first marriage that if things didn’t work out they would try again with someone else. Does their situation fall under the topic this scripture addresses, or does it apply to another scripture, or the church’s binding and loosing capabilities?

  25. What Jesus himself said in Matthew 19: 4-5, is “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 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 flesh”. This is a clear reference to (where they would “have read”) the Old Testament GEN 1, 27-28 where it is said: “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply…” Then in GEN 2:23-24 we hear: “When he brought her to the man, the man said: ‘This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken. That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” This is a clear reference to male/female complementarity by Jesus himself.

  26. What do you say to people who do not acknowledge the authority of Jesus, the Bible or the Catholic Church in any matters having to do with them or with the laws governing their lives? It is all well and good to advise Catholics on what they should and should not do. But that is basically as far as the long arm of religion should be extended. Beyond that, there is nothing that Jesus, the Bible or the Church can contribute to the affairs of society.

  27. Msgr – You nailed this argument down with nails to spare. I am assisting our Formation Master with our postulant inquirers and they being young and college graduates, challenge me on the aforementioned dialogue. One has to be patient with poorly-formed Catholics but that is why that the Holy Spirit descended on Pentecost in order to inspired well ordered teaching as promised.

    We are blessed with patience and the ability to listen. As our Sepharic Father Francis more than once: “Preach the Gospels; use words only when necessary.

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