The Indissolubility of Marriage and the Council of Trent

by E Christian Brugger, The Catholic University of America Press, £74

In the last few years, the Church has been rent with controversy over whether those who are divorced and civilly remarried can licitly receive Holy Communion. Some may have the impression that this is a recent debate in the Church, as it has become so heated so quickly, but it is anything but new.

If we look at Sacred Scripture, we see that marriage and divorce have been debated for thousands of years. In the Sermon on the Mount as recounted in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus revises the teaching of Moses: “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:31-32).

Furthermore, Jesus told the Pharisees that “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). The debate continues to rage, and there is no shortage of controversy or passion attendant to it.

E Christian Brugger is professor and dean of the School of Philosophy and Theology at the University of Notre Dame in Australia. His new book is a masterwork of scholarship, examining the way in which one of the most important and influential ecumenical councils in Church history tackled a question of perennial significance. One of the book’s strengths is the sheer amount of attention to detail he is able to give to his subject. The matter of the book is incredibly particular, and Brugger treats it with a laser focus.

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