Jesus and Pope Francis on Marriage

User's Guide to Sunday, Oct. 4


Sunday, Oct. 4 (Year B), is the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time.


Mass Readings

Genesis 2:18-24, Psalm 128:1-6, Hebrews 2:9-11, Mark 10:2-16 or 10:2-12

Today’s Gospel is a hard one for many modern ears.

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her,” says Jesus. “And if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

It must be admitted that this Gospel passage has caused much heartache over the years — from King Henry VIII’s decision to create a new Church to the friends or family we all have who had a painful experience of marriage or are divorced and remarried without an annulment and cannot receive Communion.

The issue of the Church’s view of marriage has been much in the news lately, with the expectation on the part of many that Pope Francis wants to change Church teaching on marriage.

He will do no such thing. On his flight from America back to Rome, the Pope told reporters that the Church’s streamlined annulment procedures are not meant to be more lax on marriage — but to be more merciful.

“Those who think this is equivalent with ‘Catholic divorce’ are mistaken,” he said. “Marriage is indissoluble when it is a sacrament. And this the Church cannot change. It is doctrine. It is an indissoluble sacrament.”

Rather, he said, new annulment procedures are meant to determine whether “what seemed to be a sacrament wasn’t a sacrament, for lack of freedom, for example, or for lack of maturity, or for mental illness, or there are so many reasons … that there was no sacrament.”

He gave examples when an annulment might be in order, recalling how, in Buenos Aires, he often saw women getting married because they were pregnant. “We called them ‘speedy weddings.’ They were to keep up appearances. Then babies are born; and some work out, but there’s no freedom. Others go wrong little by little; they separate and say: ‘I was forced to get married because we had to cover up this situation.’”

He summed up: “‘Catholic divorce’ does not exist. Nullity is granted if the union never existed, but if it did, it is indissoluble.”

Besides, while it is absolutely true that the indissolubility of marriage is hard for many couples — it should also be admitted that for far, far more people, it has been an enormous blessing.

Pope Francis stressed this in his visit to America. Putting aside his prepared text at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, he gave impromptu remarks on the family.

“Families have difficulties. Families — we quarrel; sometimes plates can fly; and children bring headaches. I won’t speak about mother-in-laws,” he smiled. “However, in families, there is always light” because of the love of God’s Son.

“Just as there are problems in families, there is the light of the Resurrection,” he said. “The family is a factory of hope.”

And it is true: Studies show this “resurrection effect.” Married relationships typically have cycles of joy and difficulty. Couples are deeply satisfied with their marriages at times, and then they may grow unsatisfied. Often, dissatisfied couples divorce. But those who stay together are soon reporting satisfaction again — often at a higher, more consistent level. Those who start a new marriage are soon reporting dissatisfactions again in the same cycle.

Many married couples feel blessed by the Church’s teaching on marriage. It kept them together through the hard times and brought them to a happier point.

Exactly what God intends.


Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas,

where he lives with April, his wife and in-house theologian and consultant, and their children.

CNA photo of Mary and Joseph's wedding