Family Lessons 87: Divorce & Consent

My 15th great-great uncle, Roger Crosse, rather remarkably sought, and was granted, a divorce on 14th November, 1519, by the Archdeacon of Chester. In the early twenty-first century, divorce is commonplace and the go-to option for a difficult marriage; in the sixteenth century, it was almost unheard of. The exception, of course, is Henry VIII’s lively and varied conjugal affairs, but this was unusual and its consequences included foreign war and, God be thanked, a Protestant Reformation. Uncle Roger was a gentleman of Walton on the Hill (now part of Liverpool), a moderately wealthy landowner. Furthermore, the Cross family were faithful Roman Catholics and later refused to submit to true, reformed Christianity when it was introduced to these shores. Although this was rather unhelpful for their souls, it makes Roger’s divorce the more remarkable. His king changed his religion in order to change his wife; Uncle Roger did not.

The records state that the two were married against their wills and while they were still children. If the court accepted this claim, which it evidently did, then Roger and Letitia Norreys technically sought an annulment rather than a divorce, but the result is the same. They who were joined in holy matrimony till death them parted, were separated legally and finally before either of them received their requiem masses.

Marriage is a picture of union with Christ. He is not infrequently called the Bridegroom in Scripture, and the Church, that great body of the redeemed, His bride. This is why attacks on marriage- the culture of easy divorce, polygamy, same-sex couplings and adultery- are anathema to the Biblical writers. What God created as an earthly symbol of His heavenly plan for humanity has become corrupted and warped, much like all else on this fallen planet. Yet how free were we to choose our husband? Were we married against our will? The Calvinist says we had no will to reject Him, the choice was all His. The Arminian says the choice is ours; we can have Him or reject Him as we see fit. Although both distinctive emphases can be found in the scriptures, I’ll confess to knowing myself too spiritually ignorant and adulterous to have chosen a good lord and husband as Christ Jesus. I was too much like the pig wallowing in the mud, and a dog constantly inclined to return to its vomit. Christ chose me before I chose Him, for He knew what I would have desired had I been in my own right mind, my unfallen state, my uncorrupted will. Roger got his divorce, but thank God, Christ will never divorce me (though I daily deserve it) and He absolutely forbids that I divorce Him. For this, I am eternally grateful.

I am my beloved’s, And my beloved is mine. He feeds his flock among the lilies. Song of Solomon 6:3