Christ our Lord taught that marriage is an indissoluble bond. In the Gospel of Mark 10:11–12, Jesus says, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
It was common for the pagans and Jews alike to divorce and remarry. Christ taught that this was not the original intention of God our Father. From the book of Genesis it was understood that God created man and woman to be one in an unbreakable bond of love. Due to original sin, marriage lost its permanent character. It was through Jesus Christ who elevated the natural state of marriage to a sacrament that permanence was reinstated. The analogy of Christ as the bridegroom and the Church as the bride takes on this special resilient relationship.
Jesus reiterates the original meaning of marriage in Matthew’s Gospel 19:6: “so they are no longer two but one flesh.” Unity is the essence of the Blessed Trinity, three divine persons in one God. God creates unity among us. Marriage is a unity of two people who become a new family. This unity mirrors the love of the Holy Trinity—the Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, and out of the love of Father and Son comes the Holy Spirit. Similarly, husbands love their wives, wives love their husbands, and out of love of husbands and wives, children are born.
Marriage establishes a permanent and exclusive bond through which God blesses the couple with grace. Once the marriage is witnessed in the Church and consummated it can only be dissolved by death. Marriage, unlike Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, does not continue beyond the grave. Upon death of a spouse, the other is free to marry again.
When a Catholic divorces civilly, she is still married in the eyes of the Church. In other words, divorce does not dissolve the sacrament. For a marriage to be valid, there has to be a valid consent from two baptized Catholics who freely enter the bond of marriage. Outside of death, there are rare instances when the Church can dissolve a marriage.
First, if the marriage was never consummated (ratum et non consummatum). Consummation occurs when husband and wife become one in the act of sexual intercourse. The second is what is known in Canon Law as Pauline privilege, or privilege of the faith, whereby two unbaptized persons’ natural (non-sacramental) marriage is dissolved by the local bishop if one of them gets baptized and the couple divorces, and the baptized spouse now seeks to enter a sacramental marriage (between two baptized persons) with a baptized Catholic.
The third is known as Petrine privilege, whereby the pope dissolves a non-sacramental marriage between a baptized person and an unbaptized person which ended in divorce, and either party converts to Catholicism and wants to enter a sacramental marriage with a baptized Catholic.