In April of 2016, Pope Francis released his much-anticipated post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”): On Love in the Family. Whether or not you are married, if you have not already, you should take the opportunity to read through this important and fascinating text. At the very least, you can read through the Vatican’s chapter-by-chapter summary of the document. In light of Amoris Laetitia, the faithful have a special occasion to review a few myths and a few truths regarding what the Catholic Church actually teaches about the sacrament of marriage.
1. Random, and human invented
The Catholic Church’s teachings on the sacrament of marriage are random, and marriage is a human institution.
The Catholic Church’s teachings on the sacrament of marriage reflect Jesus’ teachings on the sacrament of marriage. Marriage, just like the other six sacraments (baptism, the Eucharist, confirmation, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, and holy orders), are reinforced by scripture. Specifically, Jesus’ teachings on marriage can be found in Matthew 19:1-12 and Mark 10:1-12. Consider reading both of these two comparable passages in order to fathom what Jesus had to say about our timeless understanding of holy matrimony.
The Catholic Church teaches that a married couple must have children.
The Catholic Church teaches that the couple must simply be open to new life. If, God-forbid, the husband and the wife discover after they are married that they are unable to have children naturally, whether due to infertility, old age, or some other set of physiological circumstances, their marriage is not somehow invalid. The Church cannot condone certain reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization, and all couples should avoid certain similarly unnatural practices, such as artificial contraception, condoms or other devices, and other acts that specifically inhibit openness to new life. However, the Church strongly emphasizes the effective use of Natural Family Planning, which organizations such as the Couple to Couple League are ready and willing to promote. The Church also celebrates and encourages couples to consider the beauty of adoption.
The Catholic Church’s vows are unrealistic, and impossible to follow.
The Catholic Church’s wedding vows are actually rather short and simple, but they are packed with the expectations of commitment that Jesus himself reinforced. You can read more about what to expect regarding the vows by watching this video. It is important to note that a couple must know what they are getting into while they are courting, and especially once they are engaged. They should examine their vows prayerfully and meaningfully, understanding what is expected of them, and reflecting on the beauty of marriage. The engaged couple should also pay close attention during their parish’s marriage preparation classes in the months leading up to their wedding.
4. Divorce and the Eucharist
The Catholic Church teaches that, if someone is divorced, he or she may not receive the Eucharist.
Actually, what the Church teaches is that someone who is divorced and has entered into a new intimate relationship without an annulment to the marriage (which is, therefore, still valid in the Church’s eyes) or the death of the spouse, may not receive the Eucharist. Being separated is not, in and of itself, somehow considered sinful. In fact, occasionally, a separation is necessary for the safety of the spouse and/or the children, whether due to severe abuse or other factors. If someone is separated and wants to seek the possibility of being granted an annulment, it is important for him or her to speak with a parish priest, so that he can further clarify what the Church teaches regarding that process, and whether or not he or she is able to receive the Eucharist. Priests are there to help bring you closer to the Lord, so seek out their counsel! Their mission and ministry is to draw you ever closer to the sacramental Christian life.
5. Children, again
Marriage is a social construct for the good of the husband and wife. Children’s needs are secondary.
Marriage is actually intended for the good of the children that come from that marital union. Of course, marriage is meant for the spouses, and the love between the two reflects God’s love for them. A husband must work to help his wife get to heaven, and a wife must likewise work to help her husband get to heaven. Their lifelong, loving union is intended to glorify the kingdom of God. At the same time, the married couple must be open to the gift of life. Children are not commodities; nor are they by-products or a reality to which anyone has a “right.” Rather, children are gifts from God above, and the love of their father and mother, working together as husband and wife, helps bring them closer to the Lord.
In order to learn more about the Church’s teachings on marriage, make sure to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s paragraphs 1601-1666. Spread the word about the beauty of Catholicism’s teachings on marriage, in order to promote the wonderful nature of this Christian sacrament. Holy Family of Nazareth, pray for us!