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Merv Reinert wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am thinking about becoming Catholic but I have been married and divorced twice. My friend said I need to see a tribunal. I also read the Bible but can't find anything that says a man may only marry once.

  • Can you tell me the Scripture?
  • How does the Catholic Church decide what to take literally from the Old Testament, and what not to take literally?

Lots of questions; I appreciate your help.



  { Where does it say a man may only marry once and how does the Church decide what's literal? }

Mike replied:

Dear Merv,

Thanks for your question.

Your friend is correct. The Church, as well as Christ Himself, teaches against divorce and remarriage. Here are the Scripture verses:

31 "It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.' 32 But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Matthew 5:31-32

1 When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan. 2 Great crowds followed him, and he cured them there. 3 Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?" 4 He said in reply, "Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female' 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate." 7 They said to him, "Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss (her)?" 8 He said to them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery." 10 (His) disciples said to him, "If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry." 11 He answered, "Not all can accept (this) word, but only those to whom that is granted. 12 Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it."

Matthew 19:1-12

2 The Pharisees approached and asked, "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?" They were testing him. 3 He said to them in reply, "What did Moses command you?" 4 They replied, "Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her." 5 But Jesus told them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), 8 and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate." 10 In the house the disciples again questioned him about this. 11 He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

Mark 2:2-12

10 To the married, however, I give this instruction (not I, but the Lord): a wife should not separate from her husband 11 —and if she does separate she must either remain single or become reconciled to her husband— and a husband should not divorce his wife. 12 To the rest I say (not the Lord): if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she is willing to go on living with him, he should not divorce her; 13 and if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he is willing to go on living with her, she should not divorce her husband. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through the brother. Otherwise your children would be unclean, whereas in fact they are holy. 15 If the unbeliever separates, however, let him separate. The brother or sister is not bound in such cases; God has called you to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband; or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

1 Corinthians 7:10-16

Notice Our Divine Lords says himself: (unless the marriage is unlawful; see Matthew 19:1-12 above).

The question at hand Merv is, were your previous marriages valid in the Eyes of Christ and His Church? If either one of the marriage was valid, in the Eyes of the Church and Christ, you are still married.

  • How does the Church determine weather a marriage actually happened or was lawful?

This is the purpose of a Church tribunal. The Archdiocese of Boston has written an excellent piece on this issue:

I feel for your situation Merv. I recommend you seek out a Catholic priest who follows the Holy Father and Church's Magisterium for appropriate counsel. I hate to admit it but we do have "some" bad examples of priests; choose a good one.

If you wish to go deeper, consider buying a cheap copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn everything we believe as Catholics.

I also recommend you pray the Rosary daily, asking for Our Lady's help.   Find a Catholic parish nearby and find a time where you can spend a few minutes in the Church to pray. As Catholics,
we believe that being obedient to the Church IS being obedient to Christ Himself.

You said:
How does the Catholic Church decide what to take literally from the Old Testament, and what not to?

Our Divine Savior chose St. Peter and his successors to guide the Church in all areas of Faith and Morals. How we interpret the Scriptures is one of those areas. For that reason, Catholics look to St. Peter on questions of Scripture interpretation and understanding. Not every verse in the Bible has a Vatican interpretation; there are only a few passages which must be understood a certain way, based on the Magisterium of the Church and Oral Tradition which has been handed down by the Apostles. In Matthew 16:13-20, Our Blessed Lord says the gates of Hell will not prevail against HIS CHURCH; it's not the Pope's Church. The Pope is just there to safeguard and protect Our Blessed Lord's Teachings. This is why ALL Jesus' Teachings back in 33AD can only be found TODAY in ONE Church, the Catholic Church.

Hope this helps,


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