According to the Vatican Radio on Friday, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta residence and following the readings of the day, the Pope “focused on the beauty of marriage and warned that the Church must accompany – not condemn – those who experience failure in married life.”
The issue of divorce is “stoking a spirited debate between Catholic cardinals and revealing the challenges and expectations for Pope Francis after his promises to put the Church more in touch with modern life,” reports the AFP via Yahoo! News.
The Pope’s views stirs discussion on a longstanding – and widely ignored – view of the Catholic Church.
“The question is whether divorcees who re-marry should be allowed to take part in the most sacred point of Catholic mass, Holy Communion, which is forbidden under current rules that in practice are often not observed,” says the AFP.
Incredibly, the discussion at the Vatican on divorce was based on an unprecedented questionnaire that was sent out to dioceses worldwide so that Francis could determine "the approach taken by parishes" on this issue.
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon in France, said the cardinals devoted “80 to 90 percent” of their recent time at the Vatican in debate over the issue of divorce.
The Bible's View of Divorce
Consider this however: Instead of garnering opinion and attempting to water down the teachings of the Bible, should not these religious leaders simply look to God’s word and make application?
Is the Pope’s relaxed view on divorce based on scriptural precedent? Francis holds title as the “absolute Sovereign of the Vatican City State.” If any one person should have an intimate grasp of God’s Word, should it not be him?
The Bible shows that God expects those who are married to remain faithful and committed to the marriage vow. After creating Eve and uniting the first man and woman in marriage, God said at Genesis 2:24: “That is why a man will leave his father and his mother and he will stick to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
Centuries later, Jesus showed that those words still carried equal importance. After the Pharisees tried to trick Christ with a question on divorce, Jesus quoted the scripture in Genesis to them, then added: “Therefore, what God has yoked together, let no man put apart.” (Matthew 19:3-6)
God and his son both view marriage as a sacred arrangement, a lifelong bond that ends only when one partner dies. (1 Corinthians 7:39) In fact, the Bible makes very clear how God views those who frivolously marry and divorce. At Malachi 2:16, we read that God “hates divorce.”
Around a quarter of Catholic marriages end in divorce in the United States alone, says the AFP report.
There is one scriptural ground for divorce, and that is adultery. God grants the innocent mate the right to decide whether to remain with the guilty partner or to seek a divorce. Jesus said at Matthew 19:9 – “I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the grounds of sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery.”
The Bible also makes allowance for separation from a mate in extreme situations. Grounds for separation include willful nonsupport (1 Timothy 5:8), severe physical abuse (Galatians 5:19-21) and an endangerment of a mate’s spiritual life – meaning one spouse may constantly try to make it impossible for their mate to serve God in true worship or may try to coerce their mate to break God’s commands.
Of course, the Bible is not void of advice on how to make a marriage, even a troubled one, successful. Consider the guidance found at Ephesians chapter 5, verses 21 to 33. Or at 1 Peter chapter 3, verses 1 through 7.
Straightforward advice, beautiful in its simplicity and judicious in its application. For the Pope, the answer to the debate on divorce lies in scripture, not in opinion.