Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

From the June AD 2002
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

    Question:  Several times you have referred to Vatican II "redefining marriage." Can you be more specific? and how can the Church "redefine" a Sacrament?

    Answer: The Church has no power to redefine the Sacraments instituted by Christ. Nonetheless, Vatican  II and several post-conciliar pronouncements treated the Sacraments, and especially Marriage as though it had this power.1  Traditionally, the primary end of marriage is "the procreation and education of children."

    The conciliar document Gaudium et spes (on the Church in the Modern World), in the Council's characteristically ambiguous language speaks of Marriage as "a communion of life," and tells us that:

    Through this union they experience the meaning of their oneness and attain to it with growing perfection day by day. As a mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union as well as the good of the children imposes total fidelity on the spouses and argues for an unbreakable oneness between them.2

    The concilliar re-definition of marriage remained thus ambiguous until Pope Paul VI rendered it more specific in his encyclical Humanæ vitæ. Many expected Pope Paul to promulgate the findings of the committee established by his predecessor, Pope John XXIII, and "permit" artificial birth control. The furror over his refusal to change this tenet of the Moral Law (which, of course, he had no power to do) seems to have drawn everyone's attention away from his assault on the Sacrament:

    That teaching, often set forth by the magisterium, is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning. . . . By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its ordination towards man's most high calling to parenthood." (emphasis added)3

    Accompanied by his usual existentialist jargon on "fundamental structures" and "the acting person" Pope John Paul II gives us:

    In this way, the "fundamental structure" (that is, the nature) of the marriage act constitutes the necessary basis for an adequate reading and discovery of the two significances that must be carried over into the conscience and the decisions of the acting parties, and also the necessary basis for establishing these significances, that is, their inseparable connection. Since "the marriage act..."- at the same time - "unites husband and wife in closest intimacy" and, together, "makes them capable of generating new life," and both the one and the other happen "through the fundamental structure," then it follows that the human person (with the necessity proper to reason, logical necessity) "must" read at the same time the "twofold significance of the marriage act" and also the "inseparable connection between the unitive significance and the procreative significance of the marriage act."14

    Omitting the reference to a "primary end," the new Code of Canon Law reflects the changes of the conciliar era:


1917 Code of Canon Law

Canon 1013 §1. The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children; its secondary end is mutual help and the allaying of concupiscence.

§2. The essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility, which acquire a particular firmness in Christian marriage by reason of its sacramental character.

1983 Code of Canon Law

Canon 1055 §1. The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman establish themselves a partnership of their whole life, and which of its own very nature is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and the procreation and upbringing of children, has, between the baptized, been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament. (English Canon Law Society translation)


    Almost immediately, the re-definition of the Sacrament brought forth a number of new grounds on which the Conciliar Church will declare a marriage invalid from its inception and grant an annulment. Understand that the concept of an annulment is not new and can be legitimate. In the past annulments were rare -- perhaps 300 or so in a year for the entire Catholic Church. In the past they were granted either because it could be established either that (a) informed consent to the marriage had not been freely given, or (b) one or both parties were perpetually incapable of marital intercourse or perpetually unwilling to have children. But with the "unitive significance" always being mentioned on par with and prior to the "procreative significance," quite logically, a new ground for annulment was manufactured: (c) inability to live in union.

    This new "ground" for annulment is, of course, much more difficult to define and identify. Harder still is determining that it existed at the time of the marriage; absolutely necessary if the marriage is to be set aside as "invalid from its inception." (The Conciliar Church still holds that a valid sacramental marriage cannot be dissolved once consummated.) Some might contend that anything from leaving one's socks on the floor to wife-beating is evidence of an "inability to live in union." The "evidence" most generally come in the form of "expert testimony" about the mental state and maturity of the parties -- certainly subjective at best, particularly with regard to dating the onset of the condition relative to the date of the marriage.

    Not surprisingly, the annulment rate is up from a few hundred a year to fifty or sixty thousand or so. Even when the United States are excluded from the calculation, the world figure is in the ten or twenty thousand range.

    Some years ago, Father was asked "what comes next? -- where is the Church going with this in the future. His answer was "homosexual 'marriage.'" Most who heard that answer informed him that he was crazy. Well, to be sure, not even the Consiliar Church has gone that far yet, but an interesting piece in a recent Newsweek, discussing the scandal of homosexual priests, shows how the thinking of Catholics has been effected:

... Catholics narrowly opposed legally sanctioned gay marriages, 47 percent to 44 percent, but they are more liberal than non-Catholics, 61 percent of whom don't think such marriages are a good idea. The arguments against it run from the conservative reading of Scripture to an abiding sense that the purpose of marriage from the Garden of Eden forward is procreation. This is a heartfelt position for many, but you could argue it another way. Isn't the role of the Church to encourage people to enter into stable relationships? The purpose of marriage, or "unions," or whatever we choose to call them, should be the establishment of a committed, loving family. Heterosexuals who do not reproduce are no less "married." Meanwhile Catholics in the United States are more likely than non-Catholics to accept a homosexual priest in a committed relationship with someone of the same sex, 39 percent to 29 percent.5

    Now Catholicism is not defined by polls, and not even by the editors of Newsweek, but it will be left to the reader to determine where the writers might have gotten the idea that the purpose of marriage may be "unitive" as much or even more than it is "procreative."

Q&A Notes:
    1.  The author is indebted to Miss Ursula Oxfort of Lake Worth for pointing out the attempt of the Council to "invert the ends of matrimony."
    2. Gaudium et spes #50 and #48. Note the existentialist notion that man achieves "perfection" through his human activities; sexuality in this case. Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Veritatis splendor #51, says this even more clearly in a section based on a falsified quote from St. Thomas Aquinas. Paradoxically the title of the encyclical means "the splendor of truth"!
    3.  Humanae vitae, #12
    4.  Pope John Paul II, Reflections on Humanae vitae, (1984) #6.
    5.  Newsweek, Religion: "II. Celibacy & Marriage," May 6, 2002, page 29.


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