In my last post, I discussed the Orthodox approach to marriage and remarriage, and once again referred to my proposal for a possible way the two might be reconciled. My "solution" hinges on the possibility that the West's "all or nothing" idea regarding a marriage between two Christians being either the Sacrament or "nothing at all" (a mere "putative" marriage, not even a natural marriage) being non-dogmatic, merely a canonical situation.
I can't say for sure whether such a concession is possible. Maybe that is a dogma. However, I think the problems with a situation like that can be demonstrated by a hypothetical (that in history has probably often not been merely hypothetical.)
Let's say there is a Catholic couple. Let's call then Newt and Mrs. Newt (this isn't based on anyone in particular; any resemblance is coincidental). They married in the Catholic Church, and have been married for 15 years. Then Newt has an affair with another woman. Let's call her Callista. Then, Newt manages to obtain an annulment from Mrs. Newt, and then marries Callista in the Catholic Church also!
Now, from the "all or nothing" perspective, what happened was this: Newt and Mrs. Newt were never really married in any objective sense, so they were basically just fornicating all along (albeit unintentionally). And so, regardless of what he might be subjectively guilty of, Newt never really committed any objective adultery, as there was no real marriage to commit adultery against in the first place. And hence him marrying his (non-)mistress has to be considered, objectively, a better situation than the objective fornication with his first (non-)wife ever was.
Yeah. That's a realistic assessment of the relational and spiritual dynamics of the situation. Suuuuuure. (Rolls eyes.)
The "Orthodox" approach, on the other hand, would say this: the first marriage was a real marriage (whether it was actually the Sacrament or just a natural marriage or sacramental is something the West is likely more concerned about than the East). Newt and Mrs. Newt weren't just fornicating, and Newt really did commit adultery. However, on this account, the marriage is dissolved (more for the sake of Mrs. Newt than for Newt). If Newt remarries, it is penitential in tone, an attempt to bring good out of a bad situation. And some churches would certainly not let Newt marry the very woman he committed adultery with. In fact, some (like the Copts) would only allow remarriage for the "victimized" party, with participation in adultery being an impediment to any future marriages for the party at fault.
Now, which of these claims would you rather make if you were a priest who had to lay it all out to Mrs. Newt?? The "there never was a marriage, so there never was adultery" one where she was actually just fornicating and Newt gets to marry his mistress afterward no-questions-asked? Or the "Newt is guilty of breaking up a real marriage, and either does penance, or is under an impediment to future marriages on account of the adultery" one? To me, it's pretty obvious which of these interpretations is more just to the victimized party, not to mention less delusional about the reality of what happened, and less delusional about the prospects of a marriage to a former mistress...