Fr. David Nix “Leaving Innocent Spouse is Adultery”
- Posted by Mary's Advocates
- On September 1, 2022
by Bai Macfarlane
Fr. David Nix, who is a hermit in the Archdiocese of Denver, gave the most sensible explanation of Mathew 19’s divorce exception that I have ever heard. In his Patristic Bible study series, he produced an episode “VLX 117: Is It Lawful to Divorce?” He reads directly from the renowned 17th century Bible scholar, Fr. Cornelius a Lapide (Commentary found HERE).
According to Fr. Nix and Fr. Lapide, the exception clause in Mathew 19 is only referring to when it would be licit to divorce from bed and board (a.k.a. quoad thorum). Jesus is not talking annulment making a subsequent marriage acceptable. In the context of Matt. 19:9, a spouse who wrongly puts away an innocent spouse is committing adultery. In other words, if Jill is dissatisfied because she does not feel the emotional bonding she expects from Jack, and she puts him away by forcing him out of the house, or getting the government to force him out with no-fault divorce, then Jill is committing adultery.
Listen to 1 minute excerpt from 4:02
In Math. 19, after being questioned by the Pharisees about why Moses allowed for divorce, Jesus said “ whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (English Standard Version Mat. 19:19). Fr. Nix read his audience a second translations also: “whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery” (Douay-Rheims)
Some protestants will say that if one separates because the other spouse is an unrepentant adulterer, then the innocent one is free to remarry (i.e. HERE). I’ve seen many Catholics say that Math. 19:9 is talking about grounds for annulment that will make any subsequent marriage morally fine. Moreover, Fr. Nix said that during his seminary days, he also thought the Math. 19 exception clause referred to declarations of nullity. However, now he sees this is not what Jesus was talking about. The Church Fathers never taught that Math. 19 had anything to do with annulment, says Fr. Nix.
In Mathew’s Greek text, the licit reason to divorce from bed and board was πορνείᾳ (porneia) which www.biblehub.com translates as fornication, and whoredom. Fr. Nix say porneia includes all sexual immorality.
Four minutes into his program, Fr. Nix gives a summary of this teaching which he says “should probably not be taken out of context:”
Below are highlights:
Annulments are a relatively new thing; 338 annulment were given in the USA in 1968. 50,948 were given in the year 1998.
Lapide 14:40 (audio min.:sec.)
There is a twofold reason by which Christ proves that a man ought not to put away his wife. 1. A man’s putting away his wife is contrary to nature, just as it is contrary to nature that one flesh and one man should be divided into two. 2. This divorce is contrary to the ordinance of God. If therefore it be done, it is done impiously, because what God hath joined together is torn asunder. Who dares to annul what God has sanctioned? Who dares to divide what God has united? Who dares to mutilate the work of God the Creator, to tear asunder one man?
… Lapide 19:50
Moses suffered you to put away your wives, when you hated them, lest if you could not divorce them, you should kill them. For so great was the hardness and carnality of your hearts that ye would rather put them to death than be without the pleasure of a new and desired marriage. When man’s nature had become corrupted by sin, man changed and corrupted this institution of God, and gave occasion for divorce and polygamy.
Nix “there is redemptive suffering in marriage”
.. Lapide 22:25
Whence they [heretics] are of opinion that marriage is dissolved by adultery, not only quoad thorum , but quoad vinculum , that under such circumstances a man may contract another marriage.
… Lapide 23:02 [transcribing Fr. Nix w/ slightly different translation]
However Augustin and the fathers say that even if a man should only divorce a chaste and innocent wife without marrying another, he commits adultery, both because 1) he breaks the law of marriage and violates the rights of his wife which is a sort of adultery, for adultery means a vice directly opposed to matrimony such as putting away guiltless wife and also) because that line “he committeth adultery” , that is, he makes her commit adultery as Christ explained in Matthew 5:32 … Therefore he who puts away his wife on account of fornication, and marries another, does not indeed commit adultery by divorcing the adulteress, but by marrying another.
… Lapide 24:11
I say, 2. Christ here concedes divorce to a man on account of the fornication of his wife, quoad thorum , but not the dissolution of marriage, so that he may marry another.
… Lapide 24:23
Christ then replies to both questions; and as it seems by means of two propositions. 1. Whoso shall put away his wife except for fornication, commits adultery. 2. Whoso shall marry another, commits adultery.