In Hemingway & Gellhorn, when Ernest Hemingway meets Collier’s magazine correspondent Martha Gellhorn, he happens to be married to someone else, Pauline Pfiffer, his second wife, who is Catholic. Perhaps because she convinced Hemingway to convert to Catholicism, at the party in support of American involvement in the Spanish Civil War, she proudly and publicly proclaims their domicile to be “a Catholic home”. Catholicism emerges in another capacity as a socio-political issue during the course of that gathering, where Pauline parrots the church’s party line, expressing reservations about unqualified American support of the Spanish anti-Facists, on the grounds that here is evidence that they are anti-clerical, and this anti-Catholic as well. One of the proponents of the cause points out to her that Catholicism, having had political power in Spain in ways in which it never held power in the US, was “different” in Spain from Catholicism in the USA.
Alas for Pauline, neither their marital status nor Ernest’s Catholic conversion proved very secure after Hemingway spent more time with Gellhorn and they became sexually involved.
In the course of the showdown in which Ernest tells Pauline that he is effectively leaving her for Gellhorn, she refuses to grant him a divorce in a time and a place before no-fault divorce laws became widespread in the US. Adultery was one of the usual grounds for divorce, and up-front, in-your-face, self-confessed adultery would have only made the trip through the legal system speedier. Though Pauline loudly expresses the opinion that Gellhorn is “using” him to further her own writing career by association with Ernest’s greater existing fame and success in that department, she stands on the rationale of Catholicism’s forbiddeness of divorce, vindictively dragging the Church into her own personal agenda to effectively prevent Ernest from legally re-marrying, desperately trying to hold onto something which has already effectively departed from her, or that most women would consider no longer worth having. The prevention of such machinations and the tidying of loose ends with the legal authorities would be the most cogent argument against no-fault divorce I’ve seen. (Someone who pointed this out in the online comments section of a local newspaper after New York State’s recent adoption of no-fault divorce laws said that no-fault divorce law, by not allowing one partner to unilaterally divorce the other, would lead to more situations like this. For a law to be both just and effective, it must take into account the needs and conditions of the people it affects. New York has a high Catholic population, and to make it impossible for one party to divorce another on specific grounds accepted by the legal system, which would be acting as the neutral third party in the matter, could lead to more situations where people are compelled to remain married against their will to persons from which they wish to depart. While Catholicism is generally against remarriage (without a church-sanctioned annulment) it tolerates civil divorce on the grounds that consenting parties cannot be compelled to remain in a bad marriage. It was because of this requirement of grounds for divorce, and the existence of a State neutral towards religion, that Hemingway was able to get a divorce in order to legally marry Gellhorn, though “it was bad”, viz., difficult and acrimonious, to compel the divorce from Pauline, nevertheless, under the grounds system, it could be done. He wanted to do it, in spite of Gellhorn’s proclaimed preference for “living in sin”.
It is to Gellhorn that he explains that he became nominally Catholic because after he married Pauline, (his second marriage), he became impotent, and only recovered from his erectile dysfunction after having attended Mass with his wife. Through his shacking up and later marriage with Gellhorn, he refrains from writing on Sundays, and attends Mass. Alas, it is made plain that he soon became one of those Catholics who attends Mass on Sunday but then lives as he pleases the rest of the week.
Gellhorn did eventually leave him, but not because her association with him furthered her fame. It was because it had nearly the opposite effect: he was seen in the movie to have done things to undercut her career, (in one notable instance effectively stealing a plum Colliers mag assignment out from under her), hurled abuse both physical and verbal upon her, and was taking up with another woman…
While his quest for a more docile woman who would “take care of him” and effectively assume the duties of domestic life without trying to have a career of her own, or spend significant time away from home led him to marry the woman he took up with, Mary Welsh, he took the ultimate step away from Catholicism by committing suicide, a strange move for someone who purportedly got what he wished for, Mary waited on him and seemed to be every inch the traditional wife. However, she tried to curb his excessive alcohol consumption.

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