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To see this, we need to examine the evidence both from Scripture and from the Tradition. New Testament Scripture on Marriage Here I will very briefly set out the relevant passages from the New Testament concerning marriage.
I will not discuss the two exception clauses (“except for fornication”) here in this section; I will discuss them in Section IV below.
That the Reformers and their successors gave way to social and political pressure must be balanced by their loss of the sacramental understanding of man and woman.
In their view of fallen human nature, male and female did not have the capacity or dignity to be able to signify and recapitulate the indissoluble bond of Christ the Bridegroom.
The inevitable consequence of this rejection is that in societies sufficiently influenced by Protestantism, marriage comes to be conceived and treated as merely a civil matter, and hence, by default, merely as a legal contract.
As the Catholic Encyclopedia article on “Divorce” states regarding the practice and belief of the first Protestants, “Jurisdiction in matrimonial affairs was relegated, on principle, to the civil law, and only the blessing of marriage was assigned to the Church.” Of course many Protestant couples are wedded in a religious ceremony before a pastor in a church building, not before a judge.
For this reason, even if a judge grants a person a legal divorce from his spouse, and he then enters a civil marriage with a third party, every sexual act with that third party is an act of adultery and therefore a grave sin imperiling the souls of those engaged in that act.
So why does the Catholic Church teach that a consummated marriage of two baptized persons is dissolved only by death?
The answer is that this is what Christ and the Apostles handed down to us.
But because of the Protestant denial of the sacramental character of Christian marriage, what takes place during that ceremony, from the Protestant point of view, is still only the formation of a legal bond, one that the State has the authority to dissolve.
This sacramental understanding of the papal policy is borne out by the Reformation when the rejection of the sacramentality of Marriage was at the same time a rejection of indissolubility [of marriage].