The Evil of Divorce, Dr. Donald Asci, Franciscan University
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“The Evil of Divorce and the Dignity of the Human Person – Understanding the Immorality of Divorce through St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.”
6 Nov. 2017.
Dr. Donald Asci is a Professor of Theology at Franciscan University and earned his Doctorate of Sacred Theology Summa Cum Laude, Specialization in Moral Theology, from the Pontificia Università della Santa Croce in Rome.
Video, 2015 Panel Discussion with Cardinal Raymond Burke
Dr. Donald Asci, The Evil of Divorce
On Sept. 8, 2015, at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Cardinal Raymond Burke gave a keynote address followed by a panel discussion, including the presentation by Dr. Donald Asci, STD. The program was titled “The Synod on the Family: Addressing the Instrumentum Laboris.” As the bishops were preparing for their second synod, their working document, Instrumentum Laboris, had received much scrutiny.
Watch video of full program here. Dr. Donald Asci gave Mary’s Advocates permission to publish his full paper (find PDF above).
Dr. Asci says, “We need to make recognizing the indissolubility of marriage and the evil of divorce a prominent feature of our Catholic faith and identity, something along the line of the ways in which we are pro-life and in the ways in which we speak out against the recognition of same sex unions precisely because the gospel requires us to defend the dignity of the human person and to foster hope among ourselves and the world around us.”
Dr. Donald Asci, STD, is Professor of Moral Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
In The Joy of Love Pope Francis recalled a key component of Catholic doctrine and reiterated a major concern of the synod fathers by stating, “Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling.” This essay reexamines the evil of divorce in light of the work of Pope Francis and the synod fathers by taking up their call to utilize St. Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body” to address the crisis regarding marriage in the modern world, a crisis in which divorce has emerged as a major and “very troubling” threat to the wellbeing of men and women and their families. The essay considers the evil of divorce in terms of traditional Catholic doctrine and from the perspective of the theology of the body, which provides a clearer sense of how the evil of divorce entails an affront to the intrinsic value of the person and a type of consumerism in the marital sphere. The essay also examines how divorce can in some ways be a form of despair, especially despair in the face of suffering or despair over the possibility of reconciliation, which sets divorce against the sacramental character of marriage. Additionally, this essay proposes that since divorce not only violates the dignity of the human person but also entails an element of despair over the power of God’s grace, confronting the evil of divorce should be a fundamental and explicit component of the Church’s evangelization and pastoral work. Consequently, the essay also proposes that by failing to address the evils of divorce clearly and adamantly the Church will be hindered in its attempts to defend the dignity of the human person in other situations (e.g. euthanasia, abortion, and the sex industry) and in its attempts to foster Christian hope in general and in the sexual sphere specifically.
… the basic Catholic doctrine on the immorality of divorce seems to have faded from the consciousness of Catholics and from the pastoral work of the Church in recent years. In my work over the past two decades I have certainly encountered a prevalent ignorance among Catholics regarding the immorality of divorce, with many sincere people even expressing the belief that divorce is not immoral but only becomes immoral when coupled with a civil marriage to a second person (p. 5).
… With this notion of divorce in place, key distinctions can be drawn between divorce and civil divorce, separation, and annulment in Catholic doctrine (p. 7).
… The considerable difference at the level of divorce could also lead to a considerable difference on the moral, spiritual, and sacramental situations of those involved in the divorce, for the victim innocently suffers the immorality of the divorce while the other commits a gravely immoral act by the choice to divorce (p. 9).
… the spousal meaning of the body leads away from the notion of an extrinsic, instrumental, or limited value of the human person. In other words, the spousal meaning of the body precludes treating the person as something that proves useful for fulfilling one’s desires so long as those desires last (p. 12).
… By claiming to “break the contract, to which the spouses have freely consented,” divorce contradicts the truth expressed by the spousal meaning of the body since this truth is the basis of that consent and contract whereby the spousal identity is given and received. Just as “I take you as my wife/husband” affirms the spousal meaning of the body, to claim “You are no longer my wife/husband” negates the recognition of the spousal meaning of the body of the wife or husband. In this way divorce contradicts the intrinsic value of the person against whom the claim of divorce has been made. If the spousal identity can be revoked, the value upon which that identity is based can be lost. Since it claims to revoke the spousal identity, divorce claims, at some level, that a person has lost his or her value or worth. Claiming that someone has lost his or her worth is a clear affront to the inherent dignity of the person (p. 14).
… Attempts to justify divorce invariably center on so-called insurmountable difficulties that lead to irreconcilable difference among the spouses, and divorce is presented as the logical solution to this supposedly irreparable situation. However, the rationale of this approach to divorce depends upon the notion that marital difficulties can be insurmountable, and this runs directly contrary to Catholic doctrine on the grace of the sacrament of marriage (p. 16).
… divorce aligns itself closely with the culture of death by its method of discarding those spouses who have lost their value, and likewise divorce must be opposed by Catholics as a matter of opposing the culture of death (p. 19).
… The Church would appear hypocritical if it turned a blind eye to the consumption and discarding of a spouse through divorce but then tried to speak out against the consumerism of sex trafficking and pornography (p. 19).