What do Christian teachings on divorce mean in practice?

The Roman Catholic Church

Most Roman Catholics will try to resolve problems in their marriage to avoid divorce as it is forbidden by their Church.

If the marriage has irretrievably broken down, they can get a civil divorce, but they will be unable to remarry in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church. This is because they made an everlasting covenant in church during their original marriage ceremony.

In some instances the Roman Catholic Church will grant an annulment to a couple whose marriage is not working out. This may happen if it can be shown that the marriage is not valid. For a marriage to be valid three conditions must apply:

  1. The couple must marry freely and without reservation.
  2. They must love and honour each other for life.
  3. They must accept children lovingly from God.

If it is shown that any of these conditions is not being met in the marriage, then one or both of the partners may ask for the marriage to be declared null and void. If a decree of nullity is granted, the man and woman are free to remarry and to do so in church.

Protestant Churches

Most Protestant churches teach that divorce is not desirable. However, it can be seen as a last resort when all other attempts to save the marriage have failed and care has been taken concerning the interests and future of any children.

Human beings make mistakes in all areas of life, including their choice of marriage partner. The Presbyterian Church, Methodist Church and Church of Ireland all accept divorce as an end to marriage.

These churches allow divorced people to remarry in church, although sometimes it is at the discretion of the minister. Some ministers may refuse on the grounds of conscience. Some may be willing to remarry the person who has been treated badly by their partner, but not the ‘guilty’ person who may have deserted their original partner for someone else.

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