Catholic View On Marriage
Catholics follow the teaching of Jesus (Mark 10:6-9) that Man and Woman are made by God to be joined together in marriage. It is natural and it is a permanent bond. Marriage is a Sacrament, a public ceremony blessed by God; Permanent, lasting ‘till death us do part’; Exclusive, between one man and one woman and no one else; Life-giving, giving new life to the man and the woman and also bringing new life (children) into the world.
Sex before marriage
A sexual relationship is the closest two persons can be. It is also the way in which new human beings come into the world. The proper place for sex is in a permanent and committed relationship, which is marriage. Sex outside marriage (which is called fornication) cannot be committed as in marriage. Besides the possibility of sexually transmitted disease, there is also danger of great emotional upset. St Paul condemned fornication, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells engaged couples to wait for marriage before having sex.
The Marriage service
A Catholic marriage service expresses Catholic teaching about marriage. There are prayers and appropriate readings from the Bible, as well as music and hymns. Though for many people the customs associated with a Church marriage are important, for the Church the most important parts are the exhange of consent, the vows and the blessing by the priest (the nuptial blessing). The vows make clear the commitment and permanence of marriage: ‘to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part’. The couple are helped to keep these vows not just by their love, but by the help of God which comes through the sacrament. Some Catholics will get married during the Mass.
Trends in family life
The patterns of family life have changed enormously in the last 40 years. While it was almost unheard of and quite shocking for a woman to have a child ‘out of wedlock’, it is now quite common and socially acceptable. There are more and more one parent families. Fewer people get married, but those who do get married are more and more likely to marry, divorce and marry again. In particular, it is quite common for couples to ‘live together’ (cohabitation), sometimes as a preparation for marriage, but sometimes never to marry at all.
The Catholic Church disapproves of these patterns of family life because they lack permanence and commitment. Some people (not just catholics) also claim that many problems in modern society can be traced to the lack of stable family backgrounds for children.
The family has an important place for the Catholic Church. It is sometimes called ‘the Domestic Church’. It is the place where children are first educated in the faith, and learn the most important values of life. The Church supports the Catholic family through the education provided in schools, the welcome for families at Mass, parish groups for young people and family members, and agencies which support families in difficulty.
Contraception is taking action to prevent conception taking place after sexual intercourse. Many methods are available: barrier methods (e.g. condoms, the cap), drugs (the pill, injection), chemicals (spermicides), other physical methods (the coil), natural methods (NFP). No method is 100% effective in practice, especially for those not in stable relationships. No method gives complete protection against STDs, though barrier methods can reduce the risk.
The Catholic Church approves and recommends Natural Family Planning for married couples as it follows the natural fertility cycle of a woman’s body and has no side effects.
The Church disapproves of the use of unnatural methods of contraception, as it teaches every sexual act must be open to the creation of new life. The Church also teaches that the wide availability of contraceptives has many unwanted effects, such as promiscuity, disease and unwanted pregnancies.
The Church particularly disapproves of methods which kill a fertilised egg after conception, including the coil and the Morning After Pill, as they effectively provide a very early abortion.
Marital breakdown and divorce
Although the Church teaches that Marriage is till death, many marriages do break down. There are many possible reasons: financial difficulties, partners drift apart because of changing careers or interests, or they fall out of love with one another and in love with someone else. Divorce hurts the couple and their children. It may also affect both their families and can leave lasting pain. It can be very expensive. Divorce is on the increase, however.
The Catholic Church has an agency Marriage Care which helps couples whose marriages are in trouble. Priests and other catholics will counsel those who seek help. Those who are divorced are still welcome in Church and are treated with compassion and sympathy. So long as they do not marry again, they are welcomed to communion and other sacraments.
Annulment and dissolution
Marriage is till death, so no Catholic, even if divorced, may remarry. If a Catholic decides to remarry in a non-Catholic Church, or a registry office, then they may not continue to receive communion. The Church does not recognise their divorce.
However, the Church does have a marriage tribunal, which can, in certain circumstances declare a marriage annuled or dissolved.
Anulment is quite complex, but basically it can be granted if it can be proved that when a couple married one or both of them did not intend to have a catholic marriage. So, for example, if one of them never intended to have children, or always intended to have affairs, then an anulment will be possible.
A marriage can be dissolved if it is not consummated (the couple have never had sex) or if one of the partners of a non-Christian marriage becomes a Christian.
Homosexuality is sexual attraction to the same gender. The Church teaches that homosexuality is a condition that many people believe they have. They are not to blame for it and should not be discriminated against or persecuted in any way. However, homosexual sex, like any sex outside marriage, is against the teaching of the Church.
Some Christians believe that homosexual relationships should be allowed. If the couple are loving and caring and faithful to one another, they believe that this should be accepted.