It was recently reported that Hollywood actress Liz Hurley had been granted a divorce from her husband, Arun Nayar. The report stated that the divorce was number 17 on a list of 28 couples being granted “quickie divorces” that day. We have become so used to our near 50% divorce rate, and celebrities who have made divorce and remarriage an art form, that sometimes it needs to be stated quite clearly: divorce makes a mockery of marriage and it actually makes no sense.
Divorce is an unnatural reality that has been sold as a normal and necessary part of life. I must emphasise here that this is not a criticism of any person who has sought a divorce but rather a brief consideration of the concept of divorce. Marriage, the commitment of one man and one woman united as husband and wife, is as old as humanity. Marriage is not the invention or the property of Church or State. The Church, following Christ, raised marriage to the level of a Sacrament. The State, desiring good social cohesion, regulates marriage. Neither can control what marriage is. Marriage can no more be adjusted to unite two men than it could be adjusted to exclude fidelity from the vows. What makes marriage something is that it is not everything, it has parameters.
Divorce, on the other hand, is certainly a man-made invention. And it must rank as one of the most foolish ideas we have come up with. Foolish, because divorce attempts to change reality, attempting to say that what did exist, no longer exists. The concept of divorce is synonymous to the way that we might decide that instead of two and two totalling four, it should now total five. To do such a thing would be illogical, it would go against truth. I am looking out the window right now and it is raining. Would it make a difference to the reality if I was to declare that the rain was instead a fine sunny day? No. Because the rain is the reality; it’s not my reality, it is the reality.
When a couple marries, they publicly make free vows to enter into a life-long and exclusive relationship. Would the State ratify a marriage if the bride turned up with two grooms or if the groom only wanted to sign up to marriage for five years? It would be impossible to sanction such a ‘marriage’. Yet, in a bizarre and nonsensical twist, a man and woman who have vowed to enter into marriage and have had that marriage ratified, can turn around in five months, five years or 25 years and request that the State no longer see them as married. How is this possible? When a couple is married, they are married. One cannot un-marry. Just as I cannot eat my lunch and then un-eat it. What is consumed has been consumed. And then as if that is not illogical enough, once ‘un-married’, the parties involved can find another person they wish to marry and the State will allow them to declare vows of permanency once again.
Now there may be reasons that a couple can no longer live together in marriage, they may need to physically separate and seek out some sort of civil declaration of separation for the good of children etc. This, however, is very different to the State declaring that their marriage no longer exists. There are some realities that are beyond human manipulation. Mathematics and marriage are two of those realities. Two and two always equal four and a validly contracted marriage remains a validly contracted marriage.
There are instances when people appear to make vows to marry and yet it becomes obvious later on that they were not able to properly make those vows. Perhaps they were coerced or perhaps they had no genuine intention to honestly keep the vows. In that case, there has been no objective marriage even though they may have cut a very nice cake and danced the bridal waltz. Those examples form the work of the Catholic Church’s marriage tribunals which examine the actual validity of a marriage if it is called into question. The work of the tribunals, however, is completely different to the State declaring that a marriage was existent but now is not.
This is the reason that the Catholic Church cannot not recognise divorce; it makes no sense, and it makes even less sense to un-marry someone and then have them re-marry. The Church is the servant of reality; she is the servant of the truth. Pontius Pilate said to Christ before he had Him condemned Quid Est Veritas, what is truth? Pilate was not asking a genuine question as much stating that truth was what he would declare it to be. It seems in regards to divorce, society joins Pilate in also declaring what truth will be.