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St. Paul wrote, 1 Cor 7:12 “To the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace.”
The Catholic Church can dissolve a marriage bond, allowing the Catholic party to re-marry, if:
Both persons were not baptized at the time of their wedding. Marriage originally not sacramental.
One party has been baptized, but the other remains unbaptized. Marriage remains not sacramental.
The unbaptized person departs physically by divorce or desertion, or morally by making married life unbearable for the baptized person. Just cause for the dissolution.
The unbaptized person refuses to be baptized or to live peacefully with the baptized person. Unbaptized person is asked.
Civil divorce has been granted by the state. Church cannot be responsible for the separation.
The Pauline Privilege applies only when both parties were unbaptized at the time of the marriage. It is not the same as an annulment. The Pauline Privilege dissolves a real but natural marriage. An annulment is a declaration that no valid marriage ever existed.
If one party was baptized and the other unbaptized at the time of the marriage, the marriage is still natural but can be dissolved only by the Pope personally, exercising his authority as the Vicar of Christ and executive agent of divine law. This is called the Petrine Privilege because it is reserved to the Chair of Peter, and very rare.
If both parties were baptized at the time of the marriage it is a sacramental and supernatural marriage, and is indissoluble, even if one party abandons his Christian faith. 1 Cor 7:10 “To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband.”
There is Biblical precedent for dissolving a marriage between a faithful person and an unbeliever, when the Jews put away their pagan wives. Ezra 10:1 “While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel; for the people wept bitterly. And Shecani’ah the son of Jehi’el, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: ’We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.’ Then Ezra arose and made the leading priests and Levites and all Israel take oath that they would do as had been said. So they took the oath.”
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