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Dear catholic.com visitors: This website from Catholic Answers, with all its many resources, is the world's largest source of explanations for Catholic beliefs and practices. A fully independent, lay-run, 501(c)(3) ministry that receives no funding from the institutional Church, we rely entirely on the generosity of everyday people like you to keep this website going with trustworthy , fresh, and relevant content. If everyone visiting this month gave just $1, catholic.com would be fully funded for an entire year. Do you find catholic.com helpful? Please make a gift today. Thank you. Wishing you a blessed Lenten season.

If Jesus made an exception for divorce in cases of adultery, why doesn’t the Church?

Question:

In Matthew 19:3-9 when the Pharisees are questioning Jesus about divorce, Jesus seems to make an exception in the case of adultery. Why, then, doesn’t the Catholic Church follow what Jesus says in the Bible and allow divorce in such circumstances?

Answer:

Let us recall first of all that Matthew’s audience was mainly Jews, and only Matthew’s Gospel has this exception clause.

The word “adultery” is not what Jesus said, although many Bible translations use this word. If Jesus intended to say adultery, he would have used the word moicheia, meaning “adultery,” but instead he used the word porneia, meaning illicit or invalid.

His audience, the Jews, knew exactly what Jesus meant. Leviticus 18:6-16 list marriages that are illegal for Jews because they are between certain degrees of consanguinity or were with a Gentile, which was forbidden. The Jews knew this, and this is why Matthew’s Gospel includes this exception. The Catholic Church does follow what Jesus says, when his words are properly translated.

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