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March 7, 2013

Question:  How are adultery and divorce viewed in your faith?

In terms of gravity, we would have to make a necessary distinction between adultery and divorce, adultery being one of the most serious of sins, once an individual has accepted the authority of divine law. In a religion that has unity in all its forms (unity of God, oneness of humanity, oneness of the world’s religions)  as its fundamental teaching, it follows that divorce would be condemned in the Bahá’í Faith. It is, however, permitted after a Year of Waiting, if the couple is unable to reconcile and to overcome their feeling of aversion for one another, or of one for the other. No grounds exist per se for Bahá’í divorce other than the destruction of mutual love and affection which results in aversion, antipathy or estrangement. Couples who are markedly averse to one another are not condemned by Bahá’í law to live in a loveless marriage. 

Why is adultery such a serious sin? In the Bahá’í view, marriage is an eternal divine institution, one that belongs exclusively to men and women. Although it is being undermined in contemporary society, it will remain the means of mutual assistance and comfort, and as the foundation of the nuclear family, the most fundamental unit of societal life. Marriage is also one of several, concrete, living symbols of fidelity, love and unity: love and fidelity between the couple, their love and fidelity to God, their unity both as a couple and in their love and understanding of and service to God. Adultery breaks this covenant and retards the progress of the soul who commits it.   

During the Year of Waiting, the couple must live apart, have no sexual relationship—sexual intercourse cancels the Year of Waiting—and attempt reconciliation by availing themselves of  professional counselling, if both parties are willing. If no reconciliation takes place, then divorce will follow the end of the Year of Waiting. The happier outcome would be that the year apart witnesses a composing of differences and a reawakening of mutual love.
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen March 7, 2013
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