Monthly Archives: September 2014

Matrimony – Part 35: Who constitutes a Marriage?

Part 35

We have seen all along what the Material Cause of marriage must be. Recall that the “material cause” is the “stuff out of which” the product is made. If the product is a marriage, the bond of spouses, then the material cause is the spouses. Since that bond is essentially procreative in orientation, the spouses must be sexual opposites. Man and woman are the material cause of marriage.

In sum, marriage is a sexual friendship; thus, its ingredients must be opposites, Male and Female. Any other relation is not genuinely sexual.


On Matrimony – Part 34 (Monogamy and Indissolubility Revisited)

Part 34

From the vantage point of the posts on procreation as the primary or defining end of the marital bond, we can from another angle appreciate the importance of the monogamy and indissolubility of marriage.

Children require an environment of the deepest personal maturity. Persons mature most deeply when they properly give themselves to each other. The natural way of totally giving oneself to another is through the friendship called marriage. This gift would require totality, love unto death. But such love can be very trying. At times, one might be tempted to give up. To bring out what is best in man and woman, God has decreed that this bond be indissoluble. And if a man is to lay his life entirely down in this relationship, he will have nothing left whereby to do it again for another woman. Therefore, the marriage should be monogamous and indissoluble.

John Paul II marvelously saw the signs of that totality in the very marriage act itself. There is an exhaustion that sweetly rests only with one another.

On Matrimony – Part 33 (Nuance on the Ends)

Part 33

A remaining and perplexing issue is the “Josephite Marriage”. This is a marriage mirroring that of Our Lady and St. Joseph. It is a marriage in which the spouses choose not to engage in the marital act. Note that we have said “marital act,” for this act is the act proper to marriage.

I believe that we see in a Josephite Marriage a sign of the Kingdom to Come, wherein there will be no death and no sex. (Bummer for Freud.) Yet, there will be the greatest intimacy, ordered reasonably and supernaturally by charity and the Holy Spirit. There will be affection. It will be as great and focused as if it were monogamous, and yet totally universal. However, it will not involve sexual intercourse and all that is ordered to that. It will be chaste, virginal love.

In the sacrament of matrimony there is or ought to be the foretaste of such self-giving. Yet, this foretaste has the pilgrim configuration of order towards procreation. In heaven, affections will not have that order. The affection and intimacy and depth, but not the carnal relations and the procreation.

If that spiritual love is the great good desirable not only on earth but also in heaven, and if procreation is desirable only on earth, then the Josephite Marriage indicates the Kingdom to come. So, even on earth, one may be joined in the bond that has its proper act and yet not use that proper act. Why? So as to anticipate more that of which marriage is a sign, Christ’s union with his Church and the spiritual fecundity that arises from that union.

On Matrimony – Part 32 (Nuance on the Ends)

Part 32

Our complex but ordered position on the ends of marriage enables us to account for the problem of infertility.

Validly married couples that cannot conceive are truly and wonderfully married. They enjoy the essence of marriage. They enjoy the internal end of marriage, its very essence. For the bond of friends is itself an end. However, we know that something is missing. We cannot deny it. They suffer for this. They can move on and give their lives to various causes because of the burdens not placed on them from child rearing. But a burden they carry still. With joy, if they have faith. But a burden.

Why? Because their married state is ordered to a supreme gift. And that gift is the child, as Vatican II teaches, with the entire Tradition. The very essence of this sexual friendship is for the child. Not that it is reduced to the child. It is not. However, it is for the welcoming of the child. Completely take out that pilgrim goal – the welcoming of the child – and you take away the reason on account of which there is the institution itself.



On Matrimony – Part 31 (Nuance on the Ends)

Part 31

There is perhaps another way we can approach the matter. We can say that the marriage itself – the bond and the conjugal love which is entailed in it – is the very object of choice. At the wedding, the bride and the groom each consent to the other for life in this community of love. That is, the object of their choice is just marriage. Thus, in terms of what they are choosing, the primary thing is simply the marriage, the bond itself and, if they approach it with a proper attitude, the fulness of its flourishing in conjugal love, that total commitment of man to woman and woman to man which is of such a nature as to have its natural culmination in sexual intercourse. This seems to make the relationship itself the primary thing at which one is aiming. Does that make Pius XII and the Tradition wrong?

No, for when we examine the nature of this bond, we once again see fecundity as its natural issue. The bond itself points to its pilgrim end.

In short, the marriage itself is a good and something to aim at – an end. Also, that state has a proper act whose outcome is children, which are also good and something to aim at – an end. Thus, in a sense there are two things we are aiming at, two ends. However, they are not ordered as competing primary ends. That would be impossible. It would be, as Pius XII would say, confusion.

These ends must be ordered. That at which one aims in proposing marriage is the marriage itself, clearly. This is the object of my choice. This object is a society of love worthy of desire, an end. Russell Hittinger has called this end an “internal end”. For the very society of spouses is itself a good. Yet, this society has its proper act, and that act has its end. Thus, this internal end is itself configured in such a way as to be oriented towards the begetting of children. Thus, its ‘shape’ is taken from this end. For this reason, the begetting of children remains the objectively primary end.

Another theologian, Garcia de Haro, explains it similarly: The union of spouses is the essence or form, while procreation is its end.

This complex but not confused way of construing things seems to me to be the common teaching from Aquinas to the Roman Catechism to Pius XI to Vatican II and beyond.


On Matrimony – Part 30 (Nuance on the Ends)

Part 30

Now that we have specified the Primary End of marriage, we must add nuance.

Pius XI, Casti connubii, art. 24, and the Roman Catechism, p. 343f, assist us here. For they each speak of the very loving society, the friendship, the rational (and charitable) affection of male and female, as constituting a primary reason an individual might seek the married life. The Roman Catechism uses the term causa. The RC teaches that there are three causae why a person might piously and religiously suggest to himself to get married: first, the very beauty of lifelong companionship with one of the opposite sex; second, children; third, a remedy for concupiscence. Pius XI cites the RC and uses the terms causa et ratio.

Neither Pius XI nor the RC describe these causae as ends. (Thus, the translation in the TAN edition of the RC is misleading.) It seems safe to conclude that both Pius XI and the RC are suggesting subjective motives, the human reasons that humans have for getting married. If that is so, this is not an alternative list of “ends” in competition with the first list. In fact, as I stated above in Part 22, the holier the person the more his subjective motives mirror the objective ends founded by God.

Vatican II and John Paul II draw out these very insights of the RC and Pius XI.

That the Roman Catechism and Pius XI already anticipate what John Paul does shows that we are not dealing with a “post-conciliar” idea foreign to the Tradition. John Paul did not cause a “rupture”. The Church has always recognized a complexity in this matter. Not confusion. But certainly complexity. One might also take a glance at Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Supplement, q. 49, art. 3. The Supplement is taken from his Sentences Commentary.

But we can easily recognize the obviousness of this complexity ourselves.

Just think, when a man first proposes to himself, “She is wonderful, I want to be with her some more.” When he says that to himself, his thought is not, “I have a duty to procreate. Therefore, I should seek a partner. Perhaps she would do.” Hardly likely.

His whole life, he has been living humanly. And God, in his gentle providence, draws people to marriage in a manner befitting their human character. God draws people together through the natural affection of man for woman, of woman for man. Proposing to be with one another is what the man and woman say to themselves when they are thinking of marriage. You might call this a kind of “subjective end” or motivation.


On Matrimony – Part 29

Part 29

We have shown (1) that the Tradition constantly teaches procreation as the Primary End. We have shown that (2) Vatican II does not overturn but reaffirms this teaching. We have shown that (3) John Paul II and the CCC reaffirm this teaching. To deepen or further one’s thought is not to renounce it; it is to add, not to subtract.

Add two theological considerations. First, Jesus teaches that there will be no marriage in heaven. We know that there will be friendship. We know that there will be perfect friendship. We know that men and woman will love each other. We know that our bodies – may we be saved! – will be raised. We know that they will be sexually differentiated. Yet, we also know that there will be no marriage. That is, no intercourse! There will not be the sexual affection that is precisely that to which the friendship enshrined in marriage is oriented. Why not? Jesus explains: “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Lk 20:34ff). The reason we don’t get married in heaven is that we do not die. But in this age, we die. Marriage is necessary for the continuation of the human race. In heaven, there will be friendship, there will be affection, yet there will be no marriage. Because reproduction is not necessary for the sustenance of the race. What I am suggesting is that this fact brings to light a defining character of marital friendship, i.e., its sexual character. And sexual affection terminates in procreation. Marital friendship is ordered towards sexual action. This is the reason that Pius XII so repeatedly stresses that procreation is the primary end of marriage. It is a definition-orienting end.

Second, in sacramental theology, theologians indicate for what the graces are being given. In five sacraments, graces are given for the sanctification of the individual recipient. Baptism, for example, is for the sanctification of the baptized. But in Holy Orders and in Matrimony, the graces are given for the upbuilding of the Church. (In matrimony, this upbuilding takes place through the upbuilding of society with a tended invitation to children to continue in the faith they freely receive at Baptism.) Of course, the priest does become holier because of Holy Orders, so long as he tends to his priestly ministry. Obviously, the spouses become holier in growing in love under the Cross. However, the priesthood is for others; similarly, marriage is for children (and, ultimately, the Church). In other words, the very kind of maturity and perfection obtainable by the spouses in marriage is itself geared towards the upbringing of children. In our non-pilgrim state in heaven, we will indeed have perfection and will love one another and establish bonds, but we will not need to bring new life into the world; God wills that procreation then comes to an end. Thus, in heaven, there shall be no sexual act. And since marriage is precisely the state whose proper act is the sexual act, there shall be no marriage.



On Matrimony – Part 28 (The Ends of Marriage)

Part 28

Many theologians claim that Pope John Paul II left the Tradition behind and made unity and procreation co-equal final ends. Once again, this is false. John Paul II reaffirms the Tradition while adding new insights. The same is true with the new Catechism.

Let us hear from Pope St. John Paul II himself. In his “Reflections on Humanae Vitae,” #10, Oct. 10, 1984, he teaches, Continue reading On Matrimony – Part 28 (The Ends of Marriage)

On Matrimony – Part 27 (Vatican II on The Ends of Marriage)

Part 27

As the previous posts demonstrate, the evidence from the Tradition is overwhelming. The constant Tradition of the Church has taught that the Primary End of Marriage is procreation. Tragically, many people think that Vatican II “overturned” this constant Tradition. That is false, on two counts.

Continue reading On Matrimony – Part 27 (Vatican II on The Ends of Marriage)

On Matrimony – Part 26 (The Ends of Marriage)

Part 26

Again, Pius XII, Address May 19, 1956, writes,

“Several times we have already thought it necessary to recall how the individual aims of the spouses, their common life, their personal perfection, can only be conceived in subordination to the purpose which surpasses them, fatherhood and motherhood. Continue reading On Matrimony – Part 26 (The Ends of Marriage)