Reply To: Divorce and Annulment

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On the surface it appears to read that It would not be adultery if someone divorced their spouse due to infidelity and married another, however, this seems inconsistent with Catholic teaching on divorce. As with all things in Scripture there is usually more to the story. I looked up the footnotes on this and related verses in the New American Bible.

The same passage occurs also in Matthew 5:32 and the following are the footnotes on that passage:

[31-32] See Deut 24:1-5. The Old Testament commandment that a bill of divorce be given to the woman assumes the legitimacy of divorce itself. It is this that Jesus denies. (Unless the marriage is unlawful): this “exceptive clause,” as it is often called, occurs also in Matthew 19:9, where the Greek is slightly different. There are other sayings of Jesus about divorce that prohibit it absolutely (see Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18; cf 1 Cor 7:10, 11b), and most scholars agree that they represent the stand of Jesus. Matthew’s “exceptive clauses” are understood by some as a modification of the absolute prohibition. It seems, however, that the unlawfulness that Matthew gives as a reason why a marriage must be broken refers to a situation peculiar to his community: the violation of Mosaic law forbidding marriage between persons of certain blood and/or legal relationship (Lev 18:6-18). Marriages of that sort were regarded as incest (porneia), but some rabbis allowed Gentile converts to Judaism who had contracted such marriages to remain in them. Matthew’s “exceptive clause” is against such permissiveness for Gentile converts to Christianity; cf the similar prohibition of porneia in Acts 15:20, 29. In this interpretation, the clause constitutes no exception to the absolute prohibition of divorce when the marriage is lawful.[/quote:1su4xcm5]
It would appear that in the original context of the writing there were circumstances in the community which made exceptions to divorce allowed. However, in normal circumstances divorce is not permitted in a completely valid marriage.