by Natalie Yuhas
With Pope Francis’ recent reforms to the annulment process in the Catholic Church, it calls into debate a question Catholics have been wrestling with for quite some time: Should Catholics be able to divorce and remarry within the Church? Currently, the answer to that question is “no,” mainly because of doctrinal reasons that support that answer. However, that argument is outdated and limits what the Church is, or should be. The mission of both the Church and of Christ Himself support that Catholics should be able to divorce and remarry with the Church.
First of all, the Church is called to be the most welcoming place on Earth. It seems completely counterproductive to deny anyone access to the Church because of any sin they may have
committed, if you choose to define divorce as a “sin.” Was it not Jesus himself who associated with the sinners and lepers? The Church was set up as a man-made institution to continue His message
of love and acceptance on earth. At what point are we more focused on the institution rather than the bare bones of Jesus’ teaching? There is no better way to turn people
away from the Church than to make them feel unwelcome.
In terms of the divorce itself, there are many good reasons for people to get divorces. It is unhealthy and potentially psychologically and physically harmful to stay in a relationship that is abusive. Victims of abuse should be able to divorce and take the steps necessary to keep themselves safe. It is ridiculous to deny someone who was abused or otherwise hurt the chance to re-enter into a loving, supportive marriage through the Church. God calls for the healing of those who are hurt and suffering and to find joy through their relationship with Him, spouses, and the community. Also, married couples are called to raise their children with faith and to instill the teachings of the Church. In some instances, a parent can be a better example of faith and love as a single parent or as a step-parent.
Scripture argues that divorce and remarriage are considered adulterous and breaking a covenant made through the Sacrament of Matrimony. Although inspired by God, Scriptures are still man-made and reflect the culture at the time they were written. When looking at a marriage purely through the eyes of a sacrament, there is an issue of seeing married couples as, in a way, a thing rather than what they truly are: humans who make mistakes and find themselves lost. Jesus came to preach forgiveness and mercy, which means allowing people a fresh start through remarriage in the Church and the opportunity to build a better life in a faith filled relationship.
As the Church progresses in the 21st century, it is important to focus on the needs of Her members and the realities of our society. The Church is called to be a place that spreads Jesus’ mission on earth, and it is unable to do so efficiently by getting so caught up in dogma.