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First Century to the Present

The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a

woman establish between themselves a partnership of
the whole life, is by its nature ordered toward the good
of the spouses and the procreation and education of
offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has
been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a
sacrament. CCC 1601 & Canon 1055

God himself is the author of marriage. GS 47

The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature
of man and woman as they came from the hand of the
Creator. CCC 1603

Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the

many variations it may have undergone through the
centuries in different cultures, social structures and
spiritual attitudes.
The well-being of the individual person and of both
human and Christian society is closely bound up with
the healthy state of conjugal and family life. GS 47.

Marriage is not just a union between baptized

Christians; it is a union between faithful Christians.
Canon 242
The Sacrament of Matrimony presupposes and
demands faith. (Intro to Rite of Marriage, No. 7)

Originally, Christian marriage followed the Jewish form of contract,

usually arranged between families.
In traditional Judaism, marriage is viewed as a contractual bond
commanded by God in which a man and a woman come together to
create a relationship in which God is directly involved (Deut. 24:1).
Although procreation is not the sole purpose, a Jewish marriage is also
traditionally expected to fulfill the commandment to have children.
(Gen 1:28). Genesis understands marriage to mean that the husband
and wife are merging into a single soul. Each is considered
incomplete if not married, as his/her soul is only one part of a larger
whole that remains to be unified.

In order for the union of a man and woman to be legitimate, there

needed to be consent legally and morally. Both parties had to be willing
and intent to marry, and both needed their fathers' consent. If all other
legal conditions were met, a marriage was made.
The marriage license of the civil clerk recording the mutual consent of
a man and woman was all that was needed for Christians to marry. As
the years went on, a priest might be asked for a blessing at the feast or
to come to the house to offer a prayer for fertility (Nuptial Blessing), but
there was no required ritual of Christian marriage.
This was the status of marriage for centuries.

Matrimony was the sacrament between the laity: All the

sacrament required were vows between the man and the woman.
The Council of Trent reaffirmed its sacramental character and
its indissolubility. Tametsi, which required a priest-witness for
the validity of the sacrament, was the councils great innovation.
This decree was designed to protect both parties from the abuses
of clandestine marriages Too often in marriages, one of the
spouses, usually the man, later denied vows had been exchanged.
The other spouse, bereft of witnesses to validate her claim, had
no resources to protect herself. The decree had the further effect
of putting matrimony under the aegis of the church to a degree
unknown until that time. TSP 200

First Century to 1964:

Procreation and Raising of Children

Vatican II, 1964 to Present

Procreation and Education of Offspring
Union of Man and Woman to get through life.

Lets Break it Down.

Biblical and Theological
Sources that prompted
todays Catholic definition of

Biblical Elements of Marriage

Contract between a Man and Woman. (Man not
Woman -- could initiate a divorce and walk away).
2. First Century Jewish Christians married by contract
arranged by the two families.
3. Backstory: Hosea spoke of marriage as a symbol of
the covenant between God and his people Israel. God
would not abandon the covenant. God is faithful no
matter what humans do. TSP 19

St. Paul on Marriage (1 Cor)

Husband and Wife are strictly equal in a marriage

covenant and owe each other conjugal rights and

intimate partnership.
Said marriage is a symbol of the relationship between
Jesus Christ and his people (church) (Ephesians 5:2133) TSP 23
The Man is to be like Jesus, not lording it over his wife,
but serving, not to be served, but to serve. (5:25)
Picked up by Vatican II after 2,000 year eclipse.

Greek Christian Theology

First Century was Jewish idea of contract
Second Century passed to the Hellenist (Greek)

Christian cultures reaction to Gnosticism (God of

Good and a separate God of Evil) and Stoicism.
Christian Theologians reacted to problems but did not
set forth their own theology of marriage. TSP 27

Early Greek Christian

Understanding of Sexuality
Just as God gave us eyes, not that we might look upon

and desire pleasure, but that we might see those

actions that pertain to the necessity of life, so also we
have received the genital part of the body for no other
purpose that then begetting of offspring. This divine
law is to be obeyed with the greatest of devotion.
Lactantius. TSP 168

Early Greek Christian Reasoning

1) By its very nature sexual intercourse is for the

procreation of children,
2) Any such intercourse for purposes other than
procreation is a violation of nature and therefore
3) Any sexual intercourse when conception is
impossible is similarly immoral.
4) Intercourse is only good within a marriage, BUT.

More Early Greek Christian ideas:

1) Once a wife has conceived, intercourse is no longer

good. Those who indulge in sexual intercourse with

their wives after they are already pregnant are worse
than beasts. Origen of Alexandria TSP 25 -26
2)Abstinence from sexual activity is the surest way to
the grace of God. Virgins have full holiness because
continence is more glorious than marriage. Tertullian
3) Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the
glory of virginity. John Chrysostom

Tertullian (after he married):

What a bond is that of two faithful who are of one
hope, one discipline, one service; both are siblings,
both are servantsThey are truly two in one flesh, and
where there is one flesh there is also one spirit. They
pray together, they sleep together, they fast together,
teaching one another, exhorting one another,
sustaining one another. TSP 27

St Augustine



Augustine developed a systemic insight into sexual

morality and marriage that molded and controlled the

doctrine of the Latin Church down to our own day.
So much so that Augustine is called the doctor of
Christian marriage. TSP 29
However he too was defending against the Manichees
who taught that sexuality is dark and evil, along with
wine and meat.
Augustine repeated Iraneus and Clement that
sexuality and marriage created by God, must be good.

Augustines 4-fold Goods of

1) Fidelityneither partner will indulge in sexual

activity outside of marriage

2)Children will be lovingly accepted, kindly nurtured
and religiously educated.
3) Sacrament-The marriage will not be dissolved and
neither partner dismissed to marry another, not even
for the sake of offspring. (Sign of Gods faithfulness
and steadfast love which is never ending).
4) Natural Companionship between the sexes,
mutual help and support. (added later) TSP 29

Augustines Interpretation:
1) Sexual intercourse was not created because of the

concupiscence of the flesh, but because of good.

2) Concupiscence a disordered pursuit by any
appetite of its proper good -- a pursuit that since the
Fall is difficult to keep in check-- can mutate the
good into evil, even in marriage.
Conjugal sexual intercourse for the sake of offspring is
not sinful. But sexual intercourse, even with ones
spouse, to satisfy concupiscence (sexual pleasure) is a
venial sin. TSP 30-31

Pope Gregory the Greats view:

PG2 banned access to the Church to those who had

just had pleasurable intercourse. not to say that sexual

intercourse is sinful. But because every lawful sexual
intercourse between spouses cannot take place
without bodily pleasure, they are to refrain from
entering the holy place. For such pleasure cannot be
without sin. (TSP, 32)

The Penitentials (500-1100 AD):

1) Penitentials were manuals to educate and help confessors

in their pastoral dealings by providing lists of sins and

corresponding penances for the new rite of penance
introduced by the Celtic monks of the 6th century.
These prohibit oral sex, anal sex, masturbation, and any sex
by non-marrieds. Penances range from a year to ten years.
experimentation by the young get a lighter penance,
habitual repeaters get longer ones.
Also included prescriptions for ritual impurity and
abstention from intercourse before Christmas, Easter and
after Pentecost. TSP 33-35

Scholastics: 13th century

Thomas Aquinas 3 Ends of
1) Procreation and education of offspring principal

2) Sharing tasks which are necessary in life
3) For believers: It is a Sacrament, that is, symbolic of
Christs relationship with his church (people).
Ironically it makes the point that the primary end of
human marriage is dictated by humanitys generically
animal nature. TSP 35 This interpretation stood
unchallenged until the 20th Century. TSP 35

Is Marriage a Sacrament of the

Aquinas and Albert the Great thought so.
Peter Lombard hesitated that marriage doesnt cause

grace like Baptism and Penance, it only offers a

remedy TSP36

Scholastics on the 4th End of

The personal relationship and equality between

husband and wife.

Sexual intercourse enhances that friendship. Aquinas
The friendship between spouses is a sacrament (sign)
of the relationship between God and the soul. St.
Bonventure TSP37.
These were writings that influenced Catholic thinking,
but were not codified in Canon Law until 1917.

Canon Law 1917

1) Marriage is a contract.
2) The formal object of the contract is the permanent

and exclusive right of the spouses to each others

bodies for sexual intercourse that leads to procreation.
3) Procreation is primary over every other end of
Previously, marriage was never considered a contract
in either Roman or European law. TSP37

Canon Law -


The 1917 Code of Canon Law is the first official

document of the Catholic Church to embrace the

contract that is indissoluble by nature (Canon 1013)
This was displaced by the 1964 Vatican II document
on marriage and subsequent changes to Canon Law to
reflect those changes. TSP 37

Pope Pius XI, 1930

Encyclical letter Casti Cannubii added a long-ignored

item from the Catechism of the Council of Trent on

matrimony to the 1917 juridical formula: Marriage is a
union of conjugal love and intimacy. TSP 39
This interpersonal relationship gives birth to a
mysterious fusion of their souls. (Von Hildebrand on
Marriage, 1939) TSP39

Von Hildebrands Criticism

The Catholic juridical position with its insistence on

rights over bodies and their physiological structure

was wide open to the charge of biological materialism.
On the contrary, this fusion of innermost personal
beings, not merely the fusion of their physical bodies
is what the one body of Genesis intends. One flesh,
conjugal two-in-oneness. TSP 39

Condemnation in 1944 & 1951

The Holy Office in 1944 condemned the interpretation

that the friendship/two in oneness was equal to the

primary end of marriage which was procreation. TSP
Pope Pius XII in 1951 said marriage does not have as
its primary end the personal perfection of the spouses.
Yet Vatican II in 1964 changed that, but not until after
a heated discussion and clear decision of the Church
in council. TSP40

Vatican II Decision
Marriage and sexual love are by their very nature

ordained to the generation and education of children

and marriage is not instituted solely for procreation.

Canon Law 1983

The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and

woman establish between themselves a partnership of

the whole of life, is by its nature ordered towards the
good of the spouses and the procreation and education
of offspring. (Canon. 1055)
1) Its the covenant, not each and every act of
intercourse that is to be open to new life.
2) No specification that one is primary.

By 1983 the Catholic Church had come a long way

from the negative approach to sexuality and marriage

bequeathed to it in a long tradition going back to the
struggles of the Fathers (2nd 3rd & 4th centuries)
against dualistic Encratites, Gnostics and Manicheans.
However it would be nave to believe that the debate
ended in 1983 with the change in Canon Law.
How do these interpreters many of whom are single,
get the right to define and codify marriage in this way?

More Information to Consider

From Sociology/Culture
From Psychology

From History
From Philosophy
From Science/Biology

From Law Civil or Canon

Time Out for Natural Law

Philosopher David Hume said we cannot deduce moral

obligation from what exists in nature. TSP48

All we can understand from nature is the fact of a
reality, sexuality and sexual intercourse for instance;
nothing else.
Everything beyond natures facticity is the result of
interpretation by attentive, understanding, rational
and responsible human beings.

More on Natural Law

It is the meaning of our experiences not the objects

themselves or structure.
Meaning is what is meant by the actor who is a social
being, acting in the context of his/her culture. TSP49
Example: The potter, and not the pot, is responsible
for the shape of the pot. Alfred North Whitehead
Therefore, different social actors in different social
groups may define the meaning of an action in
radically different ways, then which is true?

Cultural Perspective
In Western Culture: That a man and woman become

one body in marriage has been much too exclusively

linked to the physical dimension of the sex act.
In Hebrew Culture: body implies the whole person.
One Personality would translate better. Flesh means
real human life.
Rabbis teach that it is only in marriage and the union
of man and woman in one coupled person that the
image of God may be discerned in them.
An unmarried person is not a whole man or woman.

Putting Intercourse into context

Studies show relationship between age and frequency

per year of sexual intercourse of married couples

TSP 194:
Age 18-29: 110 times
Age 30-39: 86 times
Age 40-49: 70 times
Ages 50-59: 54 times
Ages 60-69: 33 times
Ages 70-on: 17 times
So what else do you do have time for in a marriage?

6 Psychological Dimensions of the

sexual act in a loving couple
1) Affirms one anothers identity
2) Creates gender identitycommunicative

3) Creates healthy self esteem by giving of self

4) Is therapeutic and relieves stress
5) Reconciles conflicts, frictions, disagreements.

6) Embody thanksgiving: Create, contribute to and

sustain the psychosomatic and spiritual well-being of

sexual persons. Jack Dominian TSP 130

The characteristic of marriage that distinguishes it

from other forms of friendship is that it is expected to

be an exclusive sexual relationship --and for
believersis is a sign of the divine communion.
It is our capacity to love and be loved that makes us
most God-like. More profoundly this communion also
creates new life.
Sexual intercourse is like throwing a rock into a small
pond. The initial splash is the sex act. The ripple
extends to all their other human relationships.

Theological Significance
Contract have people as witnesses TSP 182
Covenants have God as witness
Covenant is a biblical word saturated with overtones of

divine, personal, mutual, steadfast love, characteristics

which are now applied to a man and a woman.
The spouses Vatican II teaches create not a procreative
institution but a loving interpersonal union which,
because covenanted love is steadfast, is to last as long as life
lasts. And in that witness to Gods steadfast love is why it is
a sacrament.

Naive Biology of Aquinas

The female ovum was not discovered until 1850.
Prior, it was believed that the male seed was solely

responsible for generation, the female merely

provided the fertile ground or field for the male seed.
To spill the seed anywhere it could not develop, on the
earth, in a mouth, or in an anal orifice was regarded as
murder, and murder was always judged a serious
evil.TSP 154

What Actually Makes a Marriage?

1) Roman answer: Free consent of the marrying

couple. TSP 198

2) Ancient Northern Europe: Sexual intercourse
between the couple makes the marriage
3) 12th Century Compromise by Gratian: Marriage
initiated by Betrothal (fee consent) and perfected
(consumated) by sexual intercourse which then makes
it indissolvable.
4) Has been law of Catholic Church down to present.

Challenges of Cohabitation
All cohabiting relationships are not equal (Scot Stanley

and Linda Waite).

1) Committed Cohabitation those engaged or
planning to marry.
2) Uncommitted Cohabitation Couple not sure
whom they want to marry and are partnered for
various reasons. It is only uncommitted partners who
have increased likelihood of divorce after marriage.

Process of Marriage Pre Trent

Betrothal: Mutual Promise of future marriage
First Intercourse: followed Betrothal until the Council

of Trent in 16th century

Nuptials: Mutual Consent to Marriage
Ceremonial Wedding (optional) for relatives to feast.
Very often the Church marriage took place when the
woman was pregnant, sometimes towards the end of
her pregnancy.
In some cultures, Betrothal was sometimes a test of
fertility TSP 198

Pre- Trent
Before 1564 when the papal bull prescribing

compliance with The Council of Trent became

Catholic law, Catholics needed no wedding ceremony
to be married. TSP 200
Before 1754, the citizens of England and its empire
(Colonial America) needed no wedding to be married.

Post Trent
Trent wanted to eliminate clandestine weddings

where the male could later walk away.

Therefore it required a priest and two witnesses to a
Post Trent the Church began to oppose pre-marital
sex. It fostered the interpretation that sexual
intercourse must wait until marriage, not at the
betrothal. TSP 199

African Culture
The birth of a child stamps a union as marital,

marking the union in African eyes as a truly

consummated marriage. TSP 192
In African eyes, marriage is not just a wedding
ceremonynot a moment in time when a couple gives
publicly witnessed consent, but a process from
betrothal through human interaction, including
sexual intercourse to the consumating birth of a child.

Considerations for Today

Could the African customary ritual process be

Yes it could be, just as the imperial Roman and
northern European tribal rituals were Christianized
to yield our present tradition on the assumption that
a compromise 12th century European form is the
unique Christian model for marriage. TSP 210

One Proposal to Change the

Marriage Process?
TSP 210

Co-opt the phenonomen of so many couples

cohabiting by a Catechumenate for Marriage, that

restores the 4-step process in place prior to Trent.
1) Betrothal: a consent to wed in the future.
2) Nuptial Cohabitation: Living together, publicly
supported by the community (not judged).
3) Fertility: Making children, even continuing to raise
and educate them.
4) Wedding Ceremony and feast.

Could the 4-Step Process Work?

There will come a time when the committed nuptial

cohabiters have overcome the socioeconomic

restrictions imposed on them by society. When their
relationship has reached such a plateau of
interpersonal communion that they will wish to
ceremonialize their loving, just and respecting
relationship with their families, friends and Christian
community. That is when the union has become a
symbol or sacrament of the loving union between God
and Gods people, between Christ and Christs Church.
Their wedding can then be considered the
consummation of their marriage. TSP 211-212

Unmaking of Marriage: Annulment

Annulment is often referred to as Catholic Divorce.
Yet thats not true.
Annulment is a declaration after lengthy

investigation that the marriage was not in fact a

valid or real sacramental marriage because one or
several of its canonical requirements for validity were
not present.
Usually predicated on psychological or religious
immaturity to make the commitment needed for a lifelong partnership of love that constitutes a covenant
marriage in Christ. (V II Renewal 109)

Evidence of Sacrament
To Catholic believers and all persons open to a

transcendental God, the entire universe becomes a

sacrament of the invisible God.
People too are sacraments of the invisible God in our
Do people see in the lives and actions of this Catholic
married couple, the love of God and Christ?
Does the witness of this married couple effect change
in our attitudes and values and way of living to become
more loving and generous and possibly be like them in
our lives? (V II Renewal 78-79)

The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology, Todd A.
Salzman and Michael G. Lawler, Georgetown University Press, Washington,
D.C., 2008,Georgetown University Press, ISBN-978-1-58901-208-0 (Part of
Georgetowns Moral Traditions Series)
Vatican II Renewal: Path to the Future of the Church Joseph F. Eagan, S.J.,
2013 Joseph F. Eagan, S.J.
Trent: What Happened at the Council, John W. OMalley, S.J., Belknap Press
of Harvard University 2012 President and Fellows of Harvard College, ISBN
Catholicism, Richard P. OBrien,, 1980, Richard P. OBrien, Winston Press,
Minneapolis, MN, Part 4. ISBN (vol 2), )-03-056906-0