You often hear criticism of the Church’s position on the sanctity of marriage and the indissolubility of the marriage bond as being cruel. Compassion is also often invoked as a response for those who want to remarry. The repeated suggestion is that for someone whose marriage has ended in civil divorce that it totally unfair to the person that they not be allowed to get remarried. Once again the Catholic Church is the cast as the sour old bad guy keeping people from living and enjoying their lives as they please. I have even heard a homily in a Catholic Church by a priest who was upset with the cruelty of the Church in not allowing remarriage.
With the Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist occurring just a couple of days ago I wonder what kind of media attention John would have gotten in modern times. I can easily imagine headlines such as "Marriage activist looses his head" or "Intolerant nutcase wilderness preacher slams Herod’s marriage." It is quite obvious that the Church’s teaching on marriage has never been popular and St. Thomas More also was beheaded for defending marriage.
Today at Mass a reading from 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 was used to mention something that Jesus had said regarding divorce. This reminding me of society’s current attitude which is exactly opposite of what Jesus said. Jesus said that it was the hardness of heart of the people that caused Moses to allow divorce, while critics say it is hardness of heart that doesn’t allow divorce. Jesus used "You have heard it said" to lead off to how the truth was quite the opposite of what he had heard said and this is just another example.The cruelty is suppose to be all on the Church’s part while the cruelty to children as the result of divorce is roundly ignored. As a child of divorced parents when I was a teenager I know of this cruelty that had put me in a downward spiral without realizing it. But there is also cruelty when spouses don’t reconcile and with divorce now seen as a quick fix and where the idea of not getting your way at all times has lead to massive selfishness.
Instead of reconciling problems and performing necessary compromises the horrible idea of irreconcilable differences has emerged. Love as emotional gooeyness has triumphed and as soon as you don’t feel love this is suppose to be evidence that love is gone. The idea that love is a willed act is little known and instead people say silly things like "I have fallen out of love with you" when the reality is that they have willed not to love that person anymore. Jesus’ commandment to love our enemies is now even more scandalous in our times than it was in his since we now attach love as purely an emotional feeling. The heresies of the seventies included such nonsense as "Love means never having to say you’re sorry." A statement like that makes you understand why they once burned heretics. Many now think that sacrificial love is an oxymoron and it is any wonder considering that sacrifice itself has come on such hard times? Not only do we want cheap grace, we want it on a revolving credit plan.
A culture of selfishness certainly does not prepare one for marriage especially since in every case they are a couple who both suffer from the effects of original sin. As Father Pacwa would say they don’t make the other model anymore. All the focus is on Cupid not concupiscence. Though as depressing the modern culture’s view on marriage is it does make me reflect on how strong the role of grace is. Looking at the cultural indicators I think it is much more amazing that the divorce rate isn’t much higher, but Jesus did promise that where sin abounds that grace abounds even more. The grace bandwidth is measured by Laud rate since we should certainly give praise and glorify God for it. Grace is what keeps me from being a pessimistic cynic since I know from experience He can touch even the most hardheaded individual. After 27 years of marriage my wife can also testify to that fact.
So while I doubt that society will anytime soon learn that it is their hardness of heart and not the Church’s in regard to marriage, we also know that grace is more powerful than propaganda.