The presentation of Catholic teachings on marriage and morality set forth in the brief statement from Kazakhstan Bps. Peta, Lenga, and Schneider is quite sound. Indeed, in contrast to, for example, the ambiguous statement from the Argentines the Kazakhstan profession is a model of clarity; set against the disastrous statements by, among others, the Bishops of Malta and German episcopal conference the Kazakhstans are withering. I offer three notes for those reading on the Kazakhstan profession.
First, while the Kazakhstans address only sacramental marriage (that is, marriage between two baptized persons) much of their message applies to any marriage, for all marriage is, as canonists say, intrinsically indissoluble.
Second, when the Church talks about “marriage”, she always means marriage valid in her eyes and not necessarily marriage in the state’s eyes or marriage as many people use the term in common speech. It is, of course, far too cumbersome to include every qualifier that the Church assumes in regard to marriage every time the word “marriage” is used, but these qualifiers must be recalled when one composes and analyzes technical texts closely.
Thus, third, with regard to the Kazakhstans’ assertion that “Unequivocally and without admitting any exception Our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ solemnly reaffirmed God’s will regarding the absolute prohibition of divorce”, two important qualifiers (briefly indicated later, but easy to miss in this first assertion) are necessary for this statement to stand, namely, we must be talking about sacramental marriage (else, the Pauline and Petrine Privileges fall), and second, we must be talking about consummated Christian marriage (else, papal dissolution of ratam-non-consummatum marriages falls). These three exceptions to the permanence of marriage comprise, to be sure, a minuscule percentage of the divorce-and-remarried cases actually faced by pastors, but sweeping language must account for legitimate exceptions to its terms, however rare such exceptions are in real life.
(This post originally appeared on the “In the Light of the Law” site and appears here by kind permission of Dr. Peters.)
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