Monthly Archives: August 2014

On Matrimony – Part 11

Part 11

I have treated the efficient cause of marriage and various implications of this teaching. It is time to treat the formal cause of marriage, its essence—the marital bond.

We must look at the essence of marriage in two respects. First, in its institutional aspect. Second, in its personal aspect.

The institutional aspect of marriage involves a bond joining the man and the woman. God is the author of this bond. He establishes this bond when the man and woman rightly promise themselves to one another so as to enter this bond. The bond entails a contractual obligation of each party to the other. Each is bound in sexual friendship to the other until one party dies.

These days, most people tend to neglect this contractual aspect of marriage, and not without reason. They see the term “contract” and they think “pre-nup” agreement. It is not a contract in that sense. It is a contract sealed by God. It is a contract because it is legally binding and entails rights and duties. God in his goodness providentially supplies gifts that correspond to this bond, so that the spouses can live this life to the full. However, these gifts are not simply “poured out” in some kind of constant flow. Rather, God’s providence also requires a certain cooperation. Hence, those who grow in their relationship rightly will grow in these divine gifts also. (Later, we will distinguish nature and grace, the natural marriage and the truly sacramental marriage.)

There are two key properties of this bond: Unity and Indissolubility.

The bond involves unity because it consists in one man and one woman. Thus, the two become one, and only these two. Polygamy is contrary to this unity. Also opposed to this unity is “shacking up”. God establishes a shelter of unity for the man and woman, and in this shelter they can live freely as spouses.

The second property of the institutional aspect of the bond is indissolubility. This bond cannot be broken by the couple that enters the union. This point dovetails with the “agent” of the bond. God is the agent. He builds the shelter that is marriage. The couple does not build it. It is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Likewise, neither can the couple dissolve the bond. The shelter shall last until one of them dies.

On Matrimony – Part 10

Part 10

Whether we have heard it before or not, this objective duty of every society to recognize the Catholic Church as the one true religion established by God is Catholic teaching. As I said in the last post, this duty is objective. Whether such recognition can be given in a concrete situation is another matter. Clearly, few are the societies today in which this duty can be carried out. However, it remains an objective duty; this objectivity serves as our North Star. It tells us that the current configuration of society is not ideal. It is not the goal. We must not accustom ourselves to act as though it is the goal, as though we have arrived.

But we have not arrived. We ought to have deep pathos in breaking bread with friends and family if they are not devoted to be saints of Jesus Christ in his one true Church. We can break bread. We can play. We can converse. We can smile. We can begin to build friendships. But in all these efforts, a measure of sadness out of love for them should be ours. Sadness until Christ’s prayer is realized in full: That they may be one. Sadness until his Kingship is enthroned in society. Sadness until the laborers labor chiefly to build beautiful sanctuaries. Sadness until everything is ordered to God. Sadness until our towns have Christ in their centers. Sadness until the lost sheep return. It must be a blessed sadness, not a negative sadness. A sadness willing the good of the neighbor. A sadness rooted in love of Christ.

So, at the same time, we must have interior joy in God and confidence in his strength, wisdom, and goodness. He knows what is best, wants what is best, and can achieve what is best. Let us offer up our sadness with the Cross and share our joy like bread. All the while, keeping the North Star as our guide in this journey, the search for a righteous society.

There has been catechetical silence about this North Star for 60 years. Interestingly, that silence is correlated to a phenomenon obvious to anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear: Accelerating degeneration of society… on all levels… on all issues (except perhaps the race issue). What about women’s issues? Some progress, yes; mixed with permission to murder infants in the womb; mixed with an assault on femininity and the masculinization of woman.

Today, the degenerating rot spews into perverse notions of marriage.

It is as though the boat of the nation struck a reef some time in the past and has been foundering in the breakers for decades. Since its inception? But meanwhile, regarding this latest symptom of the problem, savvy public thinkers attempt arguments in favor of true marriage. They have some local successes here and there; they are well intentioned heroes in a battle badly waged.

These arguments are also themselves part of the problem. Why? They are premised on a secular society. Such arguments in a fallen world cannot win attention in the long run. They cannot suffice. Further, if we premised victory on them, would we not have to swallow their premise: Affirmation of secular society qua secular? I hope not but fear so.

Because of these adverse circumstances regarding such arguments, I liken the making of them to the panicked labor of sailors madly running about on deck, wondering what line to pull, what sail to trim or reef or hoist. Meanwhile, the boat is on the reef and the breakers beat upon it with the rhythm of rage in revolutionary referenda.

A storm calls for a certain measure of alarm and zeal, etc. Yes. Yet it also calls for calm thought. It demands that a few good men enter the realm of navigation. Look upon the starts. Consider the charts. Examine the hull. Plot a course or plan the abandonment of the ship.

It is time for a few brave warriors to take counsel and consider.

Our nation is dying. One can save an ember here, an ember there. But one should also have an eye on the long haul. Whither are we going? Why? Whence have we come? Where do we stand?

In order to have this sapiential perspective, one must drink in the full teaching of the Catholic Church. One cannot limit oneself to simple little statements of a personal catechism and holiness, in order to achieve personal salvation and a that of one’s neighbors. That is not enough. That is a good goal; but it is narrow. Especially is it narrow if one says, upon hearing some of these key established teachings, “That is not going to get me to heaven; that will off put some of the patriots; no one can hear that now; shouldn’t we just sanctify our work?” Yes, sanctify work. But more is needed.

Sanctify the mind with wisdom. Dig down deep. Reach up high. After drinking from the brook by the wayside, lift up one’s head and announce the Good News and its attendant clarion call, “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand.” We must put on the banner of truth, not hide it under a bushel or in a drawer or upon a desk; we must display this truth to the world, with the message of John the Baptist.

Will we lose our heads? Yes.

Better to lose one’s head for the sake of the Gospel than to lose one’s head in a panic for the World’s vote.

On Matrimony – Part 9

Part 9

All things concerning human freedom must be governed in some way. For human freedom is not its own measure. It is measured by the good. Since marriage concerns human freedom, it must be governed. And the proper governance of marriage is absolutely crucial for the health of society.

Why? Marriage is the foundation of society. It is the most primordial society in all society. To get marriage wrong is to expose the very fabric of civilization to stresses that will unravel it.

If we are at the end of the end of marriage, we are at the beginning of the bitter end of contemporary society.

But how to govern marriage rightly if no merely human authority has any power concerning the bond? If no merely human authority can judge marriage cases or legislate concerning marriage? Further, how to govern marriage if, in our fallen state, to discern the elemental structure of natural law is very difficult and even practically (statistically) impossible in many cases? Further, how to govern marriage if no human mind can on its own grasp the determinations of Divine Law? (By Divine Law we are indicating specifically those free providential decisions God makes but which could be different for a good purpose. For example, through Jesus God has absolutely proscribed polygamy. Also, divorce is proscribed. These proscriptions are most wise, yet they are not absolutely necessary.)

If marriage is to be well governed but no merely human authority can undertake this, are we sheep without a shepherd? Are we lost? Doomed to found intrinsically foundering states? No, we are not doomed. God has provided for us. In the Old Covenant, he provided for his people Israel, chosen for the sake of the world (not only for themselves), a Light to the Nations. Fulfilling this Covenant in Jesus, he now provides for the world through him, the King of the World.

It is becoming clear that there is a significant political implication of Catholic dogma.

If marriage is crucial for society, and if it must be well governed, and if the only agency that has any authority about this institution itself (natural or sacramental) is the Catholic Church, then every society will find itself well governed in this arena to the extent that it receives guidance from the very religion established by Jesus Christ, namely, the Catholic Church.

Further, since it is incumbent upon rulers to rule in accordance with God’s law and the law of nature, since it is incumbent upon rulers to rule for the common good and not their own and not for the base desires of the governed, it is incumbent upon them, objectively, to recognize the divine institution of the Catholic Church so as to receive that good counsel concerning the essence of the bond over which the state has no authority.

Thus, not only is the Kingship of Christ a reason that all societies and states must acknowledge his Church to be the one divine religion — for his Kingship objectively calls for recognition by all (individuals, families, associations, cities, and states). Not only this. But the very institution of marriage, its properties, etc., call for the state, if it seeks its own good, to acknowledge this Church as well.

This obligation is objective. There may be conditions in which this obligation cannot be prudently met. Indeed, great obstacles. However, that there is an objective obligation is the teaching. This gives us our “North Star” to navigate practical decisions.

But who has heard this of late? Hardly a one. The reader will be dumbfounded someone could say this. But this is what the Catholic Church herself teaches. Let us read the salutary words of the great pope Leo XIII, in his encyclical  Immortale Dei (A.D. 1885):

6. … The State, constituted as it is, is clearly bound to act up to the manifold and weighty duties linking it to God, by the public profession of religion…. For, men living together in society are under the power of God no less than individuals are, and society, no less than individuals, owes gratitude to God who gave it being and maintains it and whose ever-bounteous goodness enriches it with countless blessings. Since, then, no one is allowed to be remiss in the service due to God, and since the chief duty of all men is to cling to religion in both its reaching and practice—not such religion as they may have a preference for, but the religion which God enjoins, and which certain and most clear marks show to be the only one true religion—it is a public crime to act as though there were no God. So, too, is it a sin for the State not to have care for religion as a something beyond its scope, or as of no practical benefit; or out of many forms of religion to adopt that one which chimes in with the fancy; for we are bound absolutely to worship God in that way which He has shown to be His will….

But this seems unreasonable! After all, did not the same pope teach that there are two swords–the secular state and the Church–and that these should remain separate?

That there are two swords, yes. That they should be separate, no! The swords are Distinct but Not Separate.

But how can the secular authority have any competence in religion? It cannot judge the contents of the religion. Is the emperor the pope? No, the emperor is not the pope. The state cannot judge the contents of the religion (Trinity, Eucharist, etc.).

However, God has indicated with clear signs what is the true religion. Thus, it is possible to recognize it and thus adhere to its counsel. Thus from the discernible Glimmer of Divine Truth shining in the midst of the world’s history, an obligation arises on the part of individuals and of states.

Thus, Leo XIII continues:

7. Now, it cannot be difficult to find out which is the true religion, if only it be sought with an earnest and unbiased mind; for proofs are abundant and striking. We have, for example, the fulfillment of prophecies, miracles in great numbers, the rapid spread of the faith in the midst of enemies and in face of overwhelming obstacles, the witness of the martyrs, and the like. From all these it is evident that the only true religion is the one established by Jesus Christ Himself, and which He committed to His Church to protect and to propagate.

But surely the Catholic Church no longer teaches the above? Surely, she has abandoned this ancient idea? Not so, unless we subscribe to a “hermeneutic of rupture”. But what Leo puts forth here is established Catholic teaching, having been expressed by numerous popes over centuries.

But what about Vatican II? Vatican II is in continuity with the Great Tradition. Thus, it must be read in accordance with this continuity, not in accordance with a hermeneutic of rupture. Here are some key opening lines of the Council’s counsel:

Art. 1: On their part, all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it.

One cannot be forced to this embrace. that would be contrary to God’s providential care for the human race. Thus, one cannot force another to become Christian or die. The Council defends this principle thoroughly. But

…it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.


Many have taken Vatican II as an excuse to baptize the secular state qua secular. But right here in this line we see that there is no excuse being given for the separation of Church and state. Religion has since the Peace of Westphalia been more and more privatized.

A certain public state of tranquility prevailed in many ways since that peace. Yet, that tranquility was premised upon morality. And morality was premised upon religion. As the strangling of religion has continued, morality has declined. As morality declines, public order deteriorates. Wester states become more and more “police states”.

Thus, the peace of Westphalia is being proven false before our eyes. Religion cannot be a private affair. It is anti-religion to think it or make it so. Religion is public. If it is not the true religion, it is a false religion. Although some false religions are truer than others, none is that true religion itself. At most, it can have elements of truth about it or preserve the elements of sanctification and truth found in that one true religion. The West has declined from false religions closely associated with the true, to a general humanism and hedonism. We now worship the cult of pleasure and of Marxist egalitarianism. Thus, we have exchanged one religion for another and that for another. Absolute commitments are public and these form the pith of religion. We thus do not have a public zone of neutrality and a private arena of freedom of religion. We have warring religions.

After the peace of Westphalia fails, and modern civilization collapses before the barbarians within and outside the borders, … when a new society must be constructed, let us pray the wise words, about Church and state, of Popes Gregory XVI – Pius XII, as well as those of Pope Leo the Great, et al.,  esp. those of Leo XIII, will be heeded.

1983 Code of Canon Law on Marriage

Canon 105:

“Even if only one party is baptized, the marriage of Catholics is regulated not only by divine law but also by canon law, with due regard for the competence of civil authority concerning the merely civil effects of such a marriage.”

One of the key reasons human reason is incompetent to judge marriage authoritatively is that Divine Law is active. And divine law cannot be “distilled” by human reason. One must be a “hearer” of the only revelation that is true in order to know what the divine law is.

Hence, Canon 1075 §1

“The supreme authority of the Church alone has the competency to declare authentically when divine law prohibits or voids a marriage.”

Leo XIII on Laws concerning Marriage – Part 2

I am citing so many authorities in order to impress upon the reader the authoritative character of the teachings that I have attempted to expound.

Leo XIII, Arcanum, art. 40:

“The civil law can deal with and decide those matters alone which in the civil order spring from marriage, and which cannot possibly exist, as is evident, unless there be a true and lawful cause of them, that is to say, the nuptial bond. It is of the greatest consequence to husband and wife that all these things should be known and well understood by them, in order that they may conform to the laws of the State, if there be no objection on the part of the Church; for the Church wishes the effects of marriage to be guarded in all possible ways, and that no harm may come to the children.”

Leo XIII on Who has Authority over Marriage

Next, words from the great pope Leo XIII, in his encyclical Arcanum.

First, he mentions the threat of usurpation:

17. Now, since the family and human society at large spring from marriage, these men will on no account allow matrimony to be the subject of the jurisdiction of the Church. Nay, they endeavor to deprive it of all holiness, and so bring it within the contracted sphere of those rights which, having been instituted by man, are ruled and administered by the civil jurisprudence of the community. Wherefore it necessarily follows that they attribute all power over marriage to civil rulers, and allow none whatever to the Church; and, when the Church exercises any such power, they think that she acts either by favor of the civil authority or to its injury. Now is the time, they say, for the heads of the State to vindicate their rights unflinchingly, and to do their best to settle all that relates to marriage according as to them seems good.

The consequence is the notion of civil unions or marriages. These are pure fiction! And that they are pure fiction is Catholic Teaching.

18. Hence are owing civil marriages, commonly so called; ‘hence laws are framed which impose impediments to marriage; hence arise judicial sentences affecting the marriage contract, as to whether or not it have been rightly made. Lastly, all power of prescribing and passing judgment in this class of cases is, as we see, of set purpose denied to the Catholic Church, so that no regard is paid either to her divine power or to her prudent laws. Yet, under these, for so many centuries, have the nations lived on whom the light of civilization shone bright with the wisdom of Christ Jesus.

Leo then teaches the truth:

19. Nevertheless, the naturalists,(32) as well as all who profess that they worship above all things the divinity of the State, and strive to disturb whole communities with such wicked doctrines, cannot escape the charge of delusion. Marriage has God for its Author, and was from the very beginning a kind of foreshadowing of the Incarnation of His Son; and therefore there abides in it a something holy and religious; not extraneous, but innate; not derived from men, but implanted by nature. Innocent III, therefore, and Honorius III, our predecessors, affirmed not falsely nor rashly that a sacrament of marriage existed ever amongst the faithful and unbelievers.(33) We call to witness the monuments of antiquity, as also the manners and customs of those people who, being the most civilized, had the greatest knowledge of law and equity. In the minds of all of them it was a fixed and foregone conclusion that, when marriage was thought of, it was thought of as conjoined with religion and holiness. Hence, among those, marriages were commonly celebrated with religious ceremonies, under the authority of pontiffs, and with the ministry of priests. So mighty, even in the souls ignorant of heavenly doctrine, was the force of nature, of the remembrance of their origin, and of the conscience of the human race. As, then, marriage is holy by its own power, in its own nature, and of itself, it ought not to be regulated and administered by the will of civil rulers, but by the divine authority of the Church, which alone in sacred matters professes the office of teaching.

Note that art. 19 regards natural marriage. In art. 19, “sacrament” is used analogically. The Christian Sacrament of marriage he treats next:

20. Next, the dignity of the sacrament must be considered, for through addition of the sacrament the marriages of Christians have become far the noblest of all matrimonial unions. But to decree and ordain concerning the sacrament is, by the will of Christ Himself, so much a part of the power and duty of the Church that it is plainly absurd to maintain that even the very smallest fraction of such power has been transferred to the civil ruler.

One should continue reading Arcanum. It is lucid and clear on this matter.

Pius XI on the Institution of Marriage

The points made in the foregoing posts are understandably difficult to receive, given that seldom are they spoken of in catechetical formation. I thought it would be helpful then to cite the words of Pius XI from Casti Connubii, art. 5:

 And to begin with that same Encyclical, which is wholly concerned in vindicating the divine institution of matrimony, its sacramental dignity, and its perpetual stability, let it be repeated as an immutable and inviolable fundamental doctrine that matrimony was not instituted or restored by man but by God; not by man were the laws made to strengthen and confirm and elevate it but by God, the Author of nature, and by Christ Our Lord by Whom nature was redeemed, and hence these laws cannot be subject to any human decrees or to any contrary pact even of the spouses themselves. This is the doctrine of Holy Scripture; this is the constant tradition of the Universal Church; this the solemn definition of the sacred Council of Trent, which declares and establishes from the words of Holy Writ itself that God is the Author of the perpetual stability of the marriage bond, its unity and its firmness.

On Matrimony – Part 8

Part 8

The foregoing considerations lead us to an important excursus.

What is the implication of this definitive Catholic teaching? The implication is that if we were to legislate concerning marriage without explicit reference to the authoritative guidance of the Catholic Church, we would be creating laws which have no genuine foundation. This is a problem.

But what should we do then? Save the pragmatic questions. We must first know what the Truth is in all its breadth. Then we can go about making decisions. Not as blind men running over a cliff with a board in front of their eyes but as informed men.

Clearly, legislation that contradicts the Church’s teachings on natural and or sacramental marriage is not only without legal foundation but also false.

But even legislation in harmony with Church teaching is without genuine foundation unless it makes reference to the one body that has any authority on the matter. For no merely human authority has competence in this area. It can have competence only through its licit reference to the Catholic Church.

Merely human laws about marriage itself are thus in themselves invalid, superfluous. They threaten because they have no formal (legal) foundation. Their material correctness (one man, one woman, e.g.)  masks this formal invalidity. The good law on marriage is thus a Trojan horse in terms of precedent,  implying the existence of a “right” of the state to legislate on these matters, when in fact no such right exists.

Since the Protestant Revolt, the European world, and then the rest of the world, has increasingly distanced itself from the authority of the Catholic Church. Thus, the secular government has increasingly defined itself as a power that has no limit of jurisdiction in the lower or upper directions. The French Revolution inspired government to define what is and is not marriage. Even if the definition were correct, the very attempt to define is already a usurpation of God’s rights and of the rights of the Catholic Church.

But are we aware of this? Can we hear this? Hardly. Behold the depths to which we have sunk. No fault divorce was but one more step along the path.

Today, societies across the globe are militating to recognize unnatural and perverse relationships as real marital unions. What we are seeing is not the beginning of the end. It is the end, the culmination, of the end.

On Matrimony – Part 7

Part 7

Let us recapitulate. We have treated who “makes” marriage, that is, its “efficient cause”. As broached in the last post, this teaching leads us to an important consideration regarding Church and state.

The efficient cause of the institution of natural marriage has been, from the beginning Almighty God; since our Lord walked the earth and promulgated his Gospel, the efficient cause of natural marriage and of the Sacrament of marriage is Almighty God through Jesus Christ.

As we have seen, no merely human authority can lawfully legislate concerning the essence of marriage. All such laws are in truth no laws at all.

On the other hand, this human reality must be governed, and wisely. It is governed through natural law, reason’s grasp of certain features of divine providence. Thus, the human conscience reaches out to discover, “What is the good I must do?” It looks for universal laws. Note that it does not legislate these laws to itself. Conscience is not a legislator of universal precepts; it commandingly applies such precepts.

Yet, our grasp of the natural law in our current state is feeble. Therefore, it is not surprising that false religions and corrupt cultures approve of things such as polygamy, divorce, and so-called “gay marriage”. How can we find the truth, if we are so beset by corruption and bias in favor of these false notions of marriage?

Though we rebelled against God, God has been seeking to restore all things. He prepared the way with the Old Covenant. He did so definitively through Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ established his Church, the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church. In this Church the Old Covenant lives on as fulfilled, thus ceasing to have a legitimate separate standing.

Jesus founded but one Church, and through her he instructs and commands the world concerning salvation and those things the human mind falters to know but to know which are crucial for flourishing. Jesus and the Church are thus inseparable. For he gave his life for this Church, his dear body. His bond with her is unbreakable.

Jesus accomplishes the restoration of all things to God from amidst the ruin of original sin through the ministry of his Holy Church.

Our subject is matrimony. As in many other things, Jesus gave his Holy Bride the authority to legislate about and judge cases concerning matrimony. And to her alone. Not only concerning Sacramental Marriage. But also concerning natural marriage.

So far, definitive Catholic teaching! Let no one burry this one under a bushel.