With the Synod finally over, it's clear the liberals failed and the outcome is not as bad as it might have been. As Cardinal Pell observed, the final text is almost a miracle compared to the first draft - the Synod text doesn't justify remarriage after divorce, or propose a path for it, or approve the sin of homosexual behavior, while reiterating Gospel truth and Church teaching on life and holy matrimony generally. As discussed earlier, it is the ancient Tradition of the Catholic Church - especially though not exclusively in the West, going back to Elvira in the 300s - to insist upon repentance and separating from an adulterous remarriage before receiving Holy Communion, even Viaticum on one's deathbed. "if a woman of the faithful is taken in marriage by a man who left an innocent wife, and if she knew that he had a wife whom he had left without cause, it is determined that Communion is not to be given to her even at death." As His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI observed, “In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ, the Church affirms that a new union cannot be recognised as valid if the preceding marriage was valid. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Holy Communion as long as this situation persists ... They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and his Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist."
Ialmisry, so St. Augustine (whom some in the East now frown upon, I know, though Constantinople II enumerated among the holy Fathers "we follow in every way") doesn't count? The great Bishop of Hippo wrote in commenting on the text in Gen 38, "Intercourse even with one's legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him for it."(De coniug. adult., lib. II, n. 12). St. Epiphanius complains that those belonging to a certain early sect "exercise genital acts, yet prevent the conceiving of children. Not in order to produce offspring, but to satisfy lust, are they eager for corruption." This teaching is the unanimous patristic view on the purpose of matrimony, as Scripture itself says, God made them one flesh desiring offspring from their union, as we read from Genesis to Malachi itself, Christ the Lord confirming in the New Testament. There's another recent thread on birth control, so we'll take it up further there if that's fine with you. I want to return to addressing MalpanaGiwargis' questions now; Cavaradossi, I will answer yours shortly.
What I don't exactly understand is why Christ's prohibition of divorce is understood in such an absolute way
Because that is the way Catholic Tradition has handed it down. Christ the Lord says marriage was always meant to be indissoluble, that Moses only temporarily permitted divorce in the old covenant because of their hardness of heart. It is clear it can have no place in the New covenant, in the Church, and so we hold the marriage of two baptized Christians is indissoluble. St. Ambrose reminds us, "If you are bound to a wife do not seek a divorce’; for you are not permitted, while your wife lives, to marry another." In the Old Testament itself, God says, "I hate divorce" (Mal 2:16) Do you wish to defend that which God hates? Not only many of our Fathers or canons of early Councils cited earlier, but the Church Herself under whose auspices we vow to take each other until death do us part reminds us that a sacramental marriage must by necessity be lifelong. It is impossible to legitimately repeat the sacrament while one partner lives. As Elvira shows, the Church in the west has long forbidden the baptized who have remarried to receive Communion even at death, unless they have repented and separated before that. Your own Church prays when conferring the sacrament, "by Thee is the husband joined unto the wife. Unite them in one mind; wed them into one flesh" and if they are thus made one flesh by God, how can man ever put them asunder?
Christ Himself gave an exception in the Gospel of St. Matthew
And yet St. Mark and St. Luke reiterate the prohibition in an absolute way. Why is that, do you think? Christ the Lord is not permitting divorce in the case of adultery, the word πορνεία (porneia) in St. Matthew is sometimes translated "fornication". Fornication refers to illicit pre-marital relations, is Christ saying that a married woman's illicit pre-marital relations are grounds for dissolving the union? No, the context suggests a more accurate translation would be "except for unlawful unions". It should be evident, in the case of an unlawful union, the marriage is null and she was never his wife. That is why St. Mark and St. Luke repeat the words of Christ without qualification, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery". (St. Luke 16:18) In the case of an unlawful union, she was not his wife, so the sacred Evangelists do not need to repeat that "exception" in St. Matthew - which rightly understood, not only confirms but actually states the Catholic Church's teaching - explicitly.
What you folk in the Christian East are fond of calling oikonomia finds a corresponding analagous concept callled epikeia in the West. This can apply only to non-sacramental natural marriages, which can be dissolved in certain cases. This understanding flows from the "exceptions" you speak of in the Scripture. It is the marriage between a non-Christian and a Christian of which the Apostle says, the woman is not bound if the man has left and vice versa. It is this natural marriage, as you put it, to which epikeia (epikeia means a particular case in which a general law is dispensed from, epikeia does not apply to precepts of divine law, or anything intrinsically illicit) or oikonomia can be said to apply to, which is why it can be dissolved in favor of the Faith. Reiterating that a woman will be called an adulteress if she is joined to another man while her husband lives, St. Paul the Apostle says the baptized woman is not bound to the non-baptized man who has left. The marital bond can be dissolved in this case, while it is impossible to do so in the case of two baptized Christians who are made one flesh by God. So, Malpana, how do you understand some of the sources cited? A final point is you can hardly formulate a consistent doctrine on indissolubility of marriage if you believe as you do - Marriage is indissoluble until the couple decides otherwise? What God has joined together, man can put asunder not always, but in some particular cases only? The Catholic Church teaches the marriage of two baptized Christians is indissoluble.