Melkite Patriarch Urges No Exceptions on Divorce Teaching

Melkite-rite Patriarch Maximos IV Saigh of Antioch has taken issue with the stand taken in the ecumenical council by his vicar for Egypt in favor of divorce under some circumstances.

The cardinal patriarch recalled that Archbishop Elie Zoghbi had told the council that divorce might be granted in such cases as adultery and desertion. Patriarch Maximos said rather that “the whole of social life would be shaken and destroyed” if the Church did not hold firm to the principle that sacramental marriage is indissoluble.

(Actually, Archbishop Zoghbi took the council floor again [Oct. 4] to say he had not used the word “divorce” in his earlier speech. He said he was speaking with a “pastoral purpose” of the possibility of the Church’s dissolution of the marriage bond in cases of mental illness or desertion.)

The patriarch’s statement came in answer to a correspondent’s question about Archbishop Zoghbi’s initial suggestion.

“Archbishop Zoghbi, like all the Fathers of the council, has full freedom to say what he thinks,” Patriarch Maximos said. “And while he is our vicar general in Egypt, he naturally is speaking only for himself.”

The patriarch continued:

“Personally, I had no knowledge of this statement until the moment I heard it at the council meeting.

“To get to the heart of the question, the Church should hold firm to the indissolubility of marriage. For if in some cases the innocent spouse is sorely tried in obeying this law, the whole of social life would be shaken and destroyed without this law. Moreover, if divorce properly so-called were allowed because of adultery, nothing would be easier, in the case of unprincipled spouses, than to produce this cause.

“The opposite practice of the Eastern Orthodox Churches can find backing in some texts of certain Fathers. But these texts are contradicted by others, and do not constitute, in any case, a sufficiently uninterrupted and universal tradition for the Catholic Church to change her discipline on this point.

“This question nevertheless, with its intended shadings, could be brought before the council as a serious problem to be resolved in the dialogue with the Orthodox. But, presented as it was, without the necessary distinctions, it could create confusion among people.”

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