A new, meticulously-researched book, The Indissolubility of Marriage: Amoris Laetitia in Context by Dr. Matthew Levering, explains why the Catholic Church continues to teach marital indissolubility and addresses the numerous contemporary challenges to that teaching.
The author begins with marital indissolubility according to patristic, Orthodox, and Protestant views, as well as those derived from historical-critical biblical exegesis on the contested biblical passages. He then surveys the Catholic tradition from the Council of Trent through Benedict XVI, while examining the Catholic argument that the Catholic Church’s teaching can and should change. Next, he explores Amoris Laetitia, the papal exhortation from Pope Francis on marriage, and the various major responses to it, with the issue of marital indissolubility at the forefront. Finally, it retrieves Thomas Aquinas’ theology of marital indissolubility as a contribution to deepening current theological discussions.
The author argues that Amoris Laetitia upholds the traditional Catholic teaching that a valid and consummated Christian marriage is absolutely indissoluble, in accord with the teachings of Jesus and the Apostle Paul, as solemnly and authoritatively taught by the Council of Trent and affirmed by later popes and the Second Vatican Council. He says that Amoris Laetitia should be interpreted and implemented in light of the doctrine of marital indissolubility: implementations that undermine this doctrine should be avoided.
Levering says that numerous contemporary Catholic theologians and biblical scholars are mistakenly turning the indissolubility of marriage into contingent dissolubility based upon whether the spouses continue to act in loving ways toward each other. The sacrament’s gift of objective indissolubility is thereby undermined. Fortunately, the main interpreters of Amoris Laetitia, whose views have been approved by Pope Francis, insist that the Apostolic Exhortation does not change the doctrine of marital indissolubility in any way.
Dr. Janet E. Smith, the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, claims, “In a relatively short work, Matthew Levering provides the necessary theological and historical review of the reasons why marriage is indissoluble, gives a fair reading to those who would allow for divorce, and ably answers those scholars – all in the service of arguing that Amoris Laetitia is true to the tradition.”
“Levering argues effectively for the basic continuity of Amoris Laetitia with Catholic teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, distancing the document form those who would try to claim it for a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture. This is a model of high-level theological scholarship,” says John Grabowski, Associate Professor and Director of Moral Theology and Ethics at the Catholic University of America.
About the Author:
Matthew Levering, Ph.D. holds the James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology at Mundelein Seminary. He is the author or editor of over forty books on topics in dogmatic, sacramental, moral, historical, and biblical theology. He co-edits two quarterly journals, Nova et Vetera and International Journal of Systematic Theology.
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