Monthly Archives: August 2014

On Matrimony – Part 21 (Ends of Marriage)

Part 21

In the previous two posts I stated that the Traditional Teaching on the ends of marriage is that the Primary End of Marriage is Procreation.

Unfortunately, since 1965, many Catholics have come to believe, and even teach, that this Traditional teaching on the ends of marriage has been overturned or corrected. As though the Tradition could be corrected. But here’s the difficulty. They hold that the Traditional teaching was not Traditional Teaching! They hold that it was only a lightly sprinkled teaching. They hold further that Vatican II, Paul VI, and John Paul II corrected the teaching.

In the posts to come, I will correct this misconception and show the following:

(1) that the Church has indeed solidly established the teaching on the primary ends of marriage

(2) that Vatican II did not correct this but reaffirmed it in other words

(3) that John Paul II did not correct this but reaffirmed it.

(4) I will offer some reasons why it must be that Procreation is the Primary end.

(5) I will then treat of the subtleties connected with these ends and introduce that subjective vantage point again. I hope in the end to lay the foundations for a more adequate view of these ends. That view centers around the primary end of procreation and education of offspring but not in such a way as to reduce marriage to a naturalistic function of production. No, marriage is a divinely appointed human institution. Thus, it is complex and oriented towards human communion at the same time as that communion is oriented towards procreation. Lose that primary end, and you lose marriage.



On Matrimony – Part 20 (Ends of Marriage)

Part 20

As I stated in the previous post, The Church has taught through many centuries that the Primary End of Marriage is the Procreation and Education of Offspring.

This end is not just the cooperation of the spouses in bringing forth human lives into the world. It is this. But the fulness of human life is virtue and happiness, flourishing, relationships. By “education,” the Church means all these things. Thus, the primary end of marriage is that the spouses put themselves in the service of bringing new life into the world, human persons that will grow up to be kind, generous, courageous, magnanimous, creative, funny, original, obedient to God, etc. In short, the end is a contribution to the society of man under God. (This has implications for Catholics; Catholic spouses have as their primary end to bring up children in the communion and faith of the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Catholic Church.)

There are other ends of marriage. The mutual help, affection, friendship that the spouses give to one another is the second end of marriage. Finally, the Church in her wisdom teaches that the third end of marriage is a “remedy for concupiscence.” Many people today are rather embarrassed or even naive about this end. Well, time to wake up and behold your humanity in its partly healed state. Concupiscence is still with us, despite baptism. The passions do not always follow what is reasonable. Hence, marriage provides a legitimate way in which these passions can be brought to order, as the spouses struggle to grow in virtue.

This is the Traditional teaching on marriage.

On Matrimony – Part 19: THE ENDS OF MARRIAGE…


I have treated the efficient cause of marriage and the formal cause of marriage. It is now time to treat the final cause of marriage. The purpose for which it was instituted.

This is a complex matter in some senses. Let us say that there are different vantage points to take on the matter, objective and subjective. By “objective” I mean that viewpoint that takes into consideration the order of ends intended by the one who instituted marriage, God. By “subjective” I mean the viewpoint by which an individual human approaches the institution.

Sometimes, the objective order does not exactly coincide with the subjective order. We see this especially with children. If you want them to practice piano, you offer treats for cooperation and you take away privileges for lack of cooperation. The child seeks the reward primarily, not the good of being musical. However, you intend the good of being musical, and this is the superior good.

We see something similar (although by no means identical) when it comes to the ends of marriage.

The Church has taught through many centuries that the Primary End of Marriage is the Procreation and Education of Offspring.

On Matrimony – Part 18 (The Bible and Catholic Teaching)

Part 18

I mounted the Biblical evidence that Jesus’ “exception” clause cannot mean that Jesus is “allowing” divorce in certain cases. That is not a tenable reading. If it were, then if you were divorced you could get remarried. But Jesus proscribes anyone from getting remarried, even if he is divorced.

So what does he mean by this “exception” clause? Here, theological speculation must come into play. A thing to observe is that the Pharisees ask Jesus whether there be any cause on account of which one may divorce one’s wife (See Cornelius a Lapide’s absolutely masterful commentary. If you do not own it, buy it. It is better than anything that has been written on the Gospels since. His is the way to read the Scriptures. Are there new methods and knowledge that can help? Yes. But his is the substance, the bulk of what is important for salvation.) The implicitly ask, also, whether one may remarry. Thus, Jesus has two questions on his hand. I have already given his answer to the second question: No, no validly married person may remarry. Period. Thus, Jesus puts an end to polygamy and “divorce” when by “divorce” one means dissolution of the bond. However, another question remains. Is there no cause on account of which there might be a separation? Although the bond be not dissolved, is there a cause whereby the matrimonial rights of one party can be forfeited vis-a-vis the other party?

Following this question, we discover One Possible Reading of the text. Perhaps Jesus uses the term “divorce” loosely, to mean “separation”. We have seen that in certain grave circumstances separation is allowable by Tradition. Today, our eyes usually only see the problem of physical abuse, a man beating a woman so unjustly as to give her the right to separate from him until such time as the cause for separation has been remedied. But there is also the problem of infidelity. The duty of Christian charity must reign supreme, in all cases. Thus, if there has been an infidelity, the noblest act, that which will secure salvation the more and true happiness and healing the more, is forgiveness. However, if the offended spouse has not approved the infidelity, tacitly or expressly, then she or he has the right to separate from bed and board. In all cases of separation, the spouse seeking separation must seek approval from the competent authority (check the Bishop’s office for whom to speak with. See Canon Law, Canon 1151ff.) Note that separation is not divorce; it is simply physical and financial and emotional distance. The separated couple is a married couple. Well, St. Paul takes our Lord’s command in this way. “To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else by reconciled to her husband)—and that the husband should not divorce his wife.” The double commandment (separation permissible, divorce prohibited) applies to each, to male and female. (This is a typical biblical shorthand.) Many of the Church Fathers read the commandment of Jesus as St. Paul reads it.

There remains A Second Possible Reading of the exception clause. By “divorce” in the “exception” case, Jesus indicates something like the annulment declaration. In a declaration of nullity, the proper Church official declares that there never was a bond in the first place. That the couple never was validly married. How does the exception of “unchasitity” fit into this annulment reading? The Greek term is porneia. (Where we get “pornography” from.) Porneia can refer to a variety of kinds of sexual deviance. It can refer also to incest (see, for instance, 1 Cor 5:1-2). In those days, many gentiles would marry close relations (cousins, half siblings, etc.). When the relation is close enough, it is incest. The Church never recognized such marriages (see Acts 15:20, 29). The Mosaic Law also forbad it (Lev 18:6-18). Some theologians speculate that Jesus is indicating a kind of situation in which supposedly married persons are not in fact married. In such cases, a true declaration of nullity would be possible (and necessary).

In fact, both of these readings are possible. Our Lord was not a mere “Marginal Jew,” as some falsely label him. Our Lord was an astoundingly brilliant teacher. A true master. A rabbi. He could say several things with one word. Thus, two distinct literal readings are indeed possible. For the Word of God is living and active; it is a two-edged sword.

On Matrimony – Part 17 (The Bible and Catholic Teaching on Divorce)

Part 17

Where can one find the Catholic teaching against divorce? Is it Biblical or not? Has the Catholic Church strayed? Does she place burdens and not carry them? Is she Pharisaical? She is not. She is the Lord’s truthful servant. The teaching is Biblical. It is also the constant Tradition. It is the Word of our Lord.

Jesus teaches, “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Mt 5:31f).

Here we see Jesus proscribe divorce. His words are the source of Tradition and Scripture, and the Catholic Church takes them at face value.

Some will however raise a question: “Didn’t Jesus make an exception… unchastity?” Good question.

The Catholic response to that question is as follows:

First, we must see that Jesus’ work was to restore marriage to its original state. About that state, Jesus declares that “The two are made one.” He adds in consequence, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” categorically (Mt 19:6). The first state involved a joining by God, and no man can break what God joined. The exceptions allowed under Mosaic Law were granted on account of human sinfulness, human weakness in the face of the great demand entailed in the bond. But Jesus came with “grace and truth” (Jn 1:17); therefore, I can do all things in him who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).

Second, in the context of this passage (Mt 5:31f), Jesus is overturning the Mosaic permission, just as he is Promulgating a Divine Law more exacting than the Mosaic Law. Thus, the “stress” of this passage is on the proscription of divorce.

Third, note that in every passage in which this “exception” clause occurs, Jesus immediately follows with an absolute proscription of marrying a divorced woman. “Whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” This is a blanket proscription. It is in contrast to Deut 24:1-4, in which a man may marry a divorced woman. Jesus prohibits anyone marrying a “divorced” woman. Why? Because it would be adultery! That means that “divorce” is a pure fiction if by divorce you mean the “breaking of what God has joined.” Luke discloses even more of Jesus words: “Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery” (Lk 16:18). Once again, if I commit adultery by getting married after being “divorced,” then I must still be married. Divorce is pure fiction. See also Mk 10:11-12; Mt 19:9; and 1 Cor 7:10-11. Observe that Mk unpacks the implication: “And if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mk 10:12). Mark’s unpacking of this implication is crucial because of the Roman Law which allowed a woman to file for divorce. Mark had a Roman audience in mind.

Fourth, observe that in some of these texts just referenced there is no mention of an exception clause. See, e.g., Mk 10:11-12 and 1 Cor 7:10-11. See also Rom 7:1-3. Paul is categorical that the bond of marriage, and the legal obligations it entails, last for either spouse until the death of the other spouse (Rom 7:1-3).

This raises the question, “What did Jesus mean by this ‘exception’”? I will treat that tomorrow.


On Matrimony – Part 16

Part 16

If divorce is a pure fiction, what should a person (esp. a married woman) do in the case of serious and chronic abuse? Or some analogous and equally grave situation?

Separation of bed and board is morally permissible in these situations. Separation does not involve a breaking of the bond. Separation is simply a physical, financial, emotional distance necessary for the welfare of one or both spouses.

Because separation is not the breaking of the bond, the separated parties remain married. They are married until the death of one party. Thus, each is called to remain faithful to the marital vows. That entails keeping oneself free from emotional friendships with the opposite sex. In so remaining faithful to their vows, the separated spouses witness to Christ’s fidelity to his Church despite the unfaithfulness of individual shepherds.

Where does Christ allow separation but forbid divorce? Next post or two.

On Matrimony – Part 15

If man is meant for love and if the ultimate natural expression of love in ordinary human life is marital love, and if entry into the human community ought to be in the context of this total marital love, if society itself is premised upon marital love, then the health of marriage is the health of society.

Let us hear then the grave words of Pope Leo XIII about how sickness in the health of marriage can ruin society.

Leo XIII reflects on the grave danger to society that results from any threat to the bond of marriage. A lengthy quote, worth considerable attention. Here, he is only lamenting divorce. He is not considering all the diseased ideas being legalized today. From Arcanum:

29. Truly, it is hardly possible to describe how great are the evils that flow from divorce. Matrimonial contracts are by it made variable; mutual kindness is weakened; deplorable inducements to unfaithfulness are supplied; harm is done to the education and training of children; occasion is afforded for the breaking up of homes; the seeds of dissension are sown among families; the dignity of womanhood is lessened and brought low, and women run the risk of being deserted after having ministered to the pleasures of men. Since, then, nothing has such power to lay waste families and destroy the mainstay of kingdoms as the corruption of morals, it is easily seen that divorces are in the highest degree hostile to the prosperity of families and States, springing as they do from the depraved morals of the people, and, as experience shows us, opening out a way to every kind of evil-doing in public and in private life.

Allowance of divorce leads to other evils. The slippery slope. He gives the history of Protestant states as testimony. He points out the United States and Germany in particular. This is chillingly similar to the situation brewing concerning the October Revolution that some are planning to achieve at the October Synod.

30. Further still, if the matter be duly pondered, we shall clearly see these evils to be the more especially dangerous, because, divorce once being tolerated, there will be no restraint powerful enough to keep it within the bounds marked out or presurmised. Great indeed is the force of example, and even greater still the might of passion. With such incitements it must needs follow that the eagerness for divorce, daily spreading by devious ways, will seize upon the minds of many like a virulent contagious disease, or like a flood of water bursting through every barrier. These are truths that doubtlessly are all clear in themselves, but they will become clearer yet if we call to mind the teachings of experience. So soon as the road to divorce began to be made smooth by law, at once quarrels, jealousies, and judicial separations largely increased; and such shamelessness of life followed that men who had been in favor of these divorces repented of what they had done, and feared that, if they did not carefully seek a remedy by repealing the law, the State itself might come to ruin. The Romans of old are said to have shrunk with horror from the first example of divorce, but ere long all sense of decency was blunted in their soul; the meager restraint of passion died out, and the marriage vow was so often broken that what some writers have affirmed would seem to be true-namely, women used to reckon years not by the change of consuls, but of their husbands. In like manner, at the beginning, Protestants allowed legalized divorces in certain although but few cases, and yet from the affinity of circumstances of like kind, the number of divorces increased to such extent in Germany, America, and elsewhere that all wise thinkers deplored the boundless corruption of morals, and judged the recklessness of the laws to be simply intolerable.

Yet Catholic states were not immune from this problem either.

31. Even in Catholic States the evil existed. For whenever at any time divorce was introduced, the abundance of misery that followed far exceeded all that the framers of the law could have foreseen. In fact, many lent their minds to contrive all kinds of fraud and device, and by accusations of cruelty, violence, and adultery to feign grounds for the dissolution of the matrimonial bond of which they had grown weary; and all this with so great havoc to morals that an amendment of the laws was deemed to be urgently needed.

Leo urges that whoever learns from history would will that divorce not be permitted by the nation. (In truth, such laws have no legal foundation. They are pure fictions. However, the public law of a land has a great influence on the private morals of individuals.)

32. Can anyone, therefore, doubt that laws in favor of divorce would have a result equally baneful and calamitous were they to be passed in these our days? There exists not, indeed, in the projects and enactments of men any power to change the character and tendency with things have received from nature. Those men, therefore, show but little wisdom in the idea they have formed of the well-being of the commonwealth who think that the inherent character of marriage can be perverted with impunity; and who, disregarding the sanctity of religion and of the sacrament, seem to wish to degrade and dishonor marriage more basely than was done even by heathen laws. Indeed, if they do not change their views, not only private families, but all public society, will have unceasing cause to fear lest they should be miserably driven into that general confusion and overthrow of order which is even now the wicked aim of socialists and communists. Thus we see most clearly how foolish and senseless it is to expect any public good from divorce, when, on the contrary, it tends to the certain destruction of society.

Once again, the Gospel of Christ must assist and guide society in the framing of laws for the good of the state itself. Of all the Christian gatherings, the Catholic Church alone bears the torch of this element of the Gospel: The Indissolubility of Marriage.

33. It must consequently be acknowledged that the Church has deserved exceedingly well of all nations by her ever watchful care in guarding the sanctity and the indissolubility of marriage. Again, no small amount of gratitude is owing to her for having, during the last hundred years, openly denounced the wicked laws which have grievously offended on this particular subject; (51) as well as for her having branded with anathema the baneful heresy obtaining among Protestants touching divorce and separation;(52) also, for having in many ways condemned the habitual dissolution of marriage among the Greeks;(53) for having declared invalid all marriages contracted upon the understanding that they may be at some future time dissolved;(54) and, lastly, for having, from the earliest times, repudiated the imperial laws which disastrously favored divorce.(55)

On Matrimony – Part 14


Part 14

The institutional character of marriage is for the sake of its personal character, Conjugal Love. Conjugal Love involves total gift of oneself to another of the opposite sex. Total in terms of the breadth of human existence: bodily, emotional, and rational. The bodily character of this giving is beautifully brought out by John Paul II. Total bodily giving is sexual, for the body is sexual. Sexual is distinct from asexual. Asexual involves no distinction between male and female. Sexual on the other hand involves just this distinction. That is, sexual means opposites. Man and woman. As I have brought out before “homo-sexual” or “same-sex” action is absurd. It is a contradiction in terms. It is not sexual. It is perhaps a sexual aping of the asexual.

So Conjugal Love is personal and sexual. It is a sexual communion of persons. The properties of unity and indissolubility point the way for a successful living of this communion. Fidelity and tenderness, commitment unto death. In sickness and in health. This is the personal living out of the shelter that God has created.

The disciples knew the cost at once. A great cost at times. A frightening prospect in today’s world. No Exit. Yet again, any great life since the Fall of Adam is at the cost of the Cross. The No Exit is terrifying especially if we fail to see that it is through relationships that we come to life. Without love, as Vatican II states, man is meaningless. This is nothing but the constant Tradition that Jesus Deposited to his Church. We are meant for love. And the married state is the state in which one can die to oneself so as to life for one’s spouse. It is an awesome task.

At the end of the day, in the evening of our lives, we shall be judged by love. Not only by He who is love. But by the instinct for love we have in our hearts. This instinct for love shall exhibit to us whether we have followed through on the graces God gives. Whether we have given our all. Or withheld ourselves in some fundamental manner.

O Lord, help us to let go the things of yesterday; help us to follow your ways.

On Matrimony – Part 13



Part 13

I have noted the two properties of the institutional aspect of the bond. But the bond can be either merely natural or also sacramental. The two properties apply in either case. However, the unity in the natural order is simply the spousal unity of two human beings of opposite sex. It is a unity of those who can form a proper sexual friendship. It is tender and lifelong. It is “total” as one of the good public defenders of true marriage has indicated. Yet, it is not nearly as glorious as the sacramental bond.

Of incomparably greater strength, goodness, and beauty is the sacramental unity established by Christ between a baptized man and a baptized woman. The bond of Christians who are married is a sign of the bond between Christ and the Church (Eph 5:25, 32). Just as Christ shall never leave his bride, so this sacramental bond is absolutely indissoluble.

That is, when Christians licitly marry and consummate their marriage, there is absolutely no authority on earth, neither the power of an unreligious state, nor the power of a state that, rightly following its duty, recognizes the authority of the one Church of Jesus, nor even the supreme power of the Church of Jesus herself – the Pope. No one may break what God has joined in this manner. By contrast, a merely natural marriage, even if consummated, can under certain circumstances be broken by the power of Jesus’ Church. (Note that that would not be divorce.)

In all of this, the secular authority is absolutely out of its depths. The secular authority has not anything licitly to say about any of this except insofar as it recognizes the divine appointment of the Catholic Church.


On Matrimony – Part 12

Part 12

Jesus himself reaffirmed the natural institution of marriage and brought it to completion in the sacrament. He both added the sacramental graces and also re-founded natural marriage in harmony with the Divine Law with which God began the human race (Mt 19:6; Mk 10:9).

If we read the Old Testament, we see that certain polygamous marriages were at least not explicitly condemned by God. (Implicitly, perhaps; or frowned upon; or judged unwise.) And divorce was permitted under certain circumstances.

Thus, God permitted the attenuation of the unity and indissolubility of natural marriage in his providential wisdom, as he labored to rescue the race that was going to ruin because of the Fall of Adam. However, Jesus brought the full truth and the grace whereby to live the truth. Thus, Jesus the Good Shepherd abrogated all such exceptions. Divorce and polygamy have no foundation in law any more, neither in the natural institution nor in the sacramental institution which began with Jesus.

Jesus’ decisions are decisions of Supreme Wisdom. For although polygamy is not per se evil abstractly considered, indissoluble monogamy remains the wisest order of things.

Monogamy. For how can one man figure out two women? And how could one man give himself totally to two women? The friendships would have to be halved. And how could a woman totally and enthusiastically give herself to a man who had another woman also? And if it is enough of a challenge to raise five children prudently with the collective prudence of one man and one woman, how could one raise ten children with two wives? And if it takes time to develop bonds and learn who one’s child is, then how much more difficult if children were being born every four or five months? And how would children see a total and undivided commitment without monogamous parents? Monogamy is thus the wisest order of things.

Indissolubility. The spouses need to know that they are sheltered unto death in this bond. They need to know that they are loved for their own sake, to the end. And children need to be raised in an environment that is stable, that can stand the storms of time. With an indissoluble bond established as the bedrock for individuals and also for society as a whole, spouses can live more and more freely, as they grow in the commitment that arises because of the bond. (Note: The commitment arises because of the bond. The bond is not the creation of the commitment.)

Jesus bequeathed to his Church the fullness of the Gospel whereby alone all these permanent decisions of Divine Law can be known by men and redound to the health of society.

His decisions have carried inertial momentum in society. However, societies have thrown off his Church and they tumble to ruin. For what Church remains that teaches the full truth on marriage? The Orthodox allow divorce and remarriage. Mainline Protestants allow divorce and remarriage.

What about other religions? Well, Islam would be a study for a different day. Mormonism allows polygamy. Secular societies in the wake of the French Revolution allow all manner of errors in connection with marriage.

Thus, increasingly, as societies have thrown off his Church, this inertial momentum, a momentum of life-giving and healing balm for society, has gradually slowed down. Divorce and civil unions were major battles waged against the truth of marriage. And now on the doorsteps is a most deformed notion of marriage, the proposal of homo-sexual marriage.

As it appears, insofar as societies fall away from Christ’s one true Church, they fall into these sundry errors.

The only group holding to the full truth in this matter is the Catholic Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.