A quiet reformation that may have profound effects on Roman Catholic discipline concerning divorce and remarriage is gaining ground among U.S. Catholics. It is being led by theologians, canon lawyers and even concerned bishops. The latest arguments for change include a sharp criticism of Roman Catholic annulment procedures by the Canon Law Society of America, and a thoughtful book entitled Divorce and Remarriage for Catholics? (Doubleday) by Monsignor Stephen J. Kelleher, onetime presiding judge of the marriage tribunal of the Archdiocese of New York.
The reformers do not attack Jesus’ injunction: “What God has joined together, let not man put asunder,” which the Catholic Church has long cited in forbidding divorce and remarriage. They argue that Jesus was stating a moral objective that not everyone, even with the best efforts, can always achieve. The reformers note that even St. Paul recognized that some marriages fail when he accepted the divorces of new Christians who could not get along with their pagan spouses. Now, say Kelleher and fellow critics, Rome should acknowledge other exceptions for modern-day Catholics.