Reading through headlines constantly and seeing numerous stories on Episcopalians upset with the appointment of the openly gay Bishop Robinson and of the various reactions to this including starting up new churches, I wondered about this reaction.
As marriage laws became more and more liberal and various churches accepted divorce and remarriage as a norm, why was there not the same type of pubic outcry? How many churches split over the issue of divorce and remarriage for basically any reason. How many resigned or left their denominations when their minister was divorced and remarried. How many were scandalized when remarriages were openly conducted in their churches? While active homosexual acts are always gravely disordered, so is adultery which in addition violates the precepts of justice.
It is only in more recent history that the no-fault divorce has become common. People complained about the disintegration of marriage, but where was the outcry at this. If a state attempts to legalize same sex marriage, the public mobilizes and attempts to keep this from happening. But no-fault divorce has not elicited this type of response even though this will directly affect the lives of millions of more people and their families. The damage done by these laws are much more grave.
The roots of this were in the Protestant reformation where marriage became not a indissolubility sacrament, but instead just as something holy. When speaking of Protestantism you can never speak of any topic as if it was one voice alone – but the so-called reformers accepted the possibility of divorce and remarriage. Even Eastern Orthodoxy allows for divorce and remarriage and over time has become more liberal in when this is permissible. Following the Reformation divorce was still seen as an evil and to be prevented as far as possible.
I see parallels between the acceptance of homosexuality and the acceptance of divorce and remarriage. Both at one time were condemned, but society as a whole came to more and more accept them then various churches adapted and accepted this. Both have appealed to an argument of it being difficult to live out the teaching. For those who suffer from same sex attraction the argument was made that it is too hard for them to remain chaste and so it would be better for them to live out their sexuality in the confines of a loving relationship. Those who have been separated or divorced appeal to the same thought, that they can’t remain chaste and it would be better to live their sexuality in the confines of a loving relationship. Society has also adopted the idea of it being unfair in both cases for people not to have some kind of union/marriage. In both cases Christian tradition has either been ignored or presented falsely. Also in both cases the Bible has been interpreted as to prove their positions. Protestantism by first accepting contraception in marriage can not at the same time complain about the always contraceptive homosexual sex. Once procreation is converted to only recreation how can you then complain about the results?
All of this was inevitable as people cut themselves off from the anchor of the rock of Peter. They could hold the line on scripture and tradition for only so long, but they can not prevent the drifting away. Cutting yourself off from the authoritative teaching authority of the Church will always lead to problems in correctly interpreting Apostolic Tradition and Scripture, you eventually will crash into the iceberg of an increasingly secular society. To wait until the mast is almost below the water line to make a distress call is just a little late. As a society we wanted to have both a form a Christianity and divorce for any reason.
As Catholic’s though we really can’t gloat. The Church will always teach the truth about the indissolubility of marriage no matter what we personally believe or do. But as a group Catholics are just as likely to divorce as anybody else. We might have the teaching authority of the Church to present us with the truth, but we have largely ignored it. We are upset when a priest breaks their vow of chastity, but have no problem breaking our own wedding vows. The Church is becoming like Cassandra; the truth is shouted but nobody follows it.