09 July, 2007

Marriage Question

Well...I've been married for two months now and working for one. It has been an interesting and exhausting ride!

I wanted to go back and address a question asked of me in regards to Catholic marriage. I had stated that the purpose of Catholic marriage is two-fold and if one purpose wasn't agreeable, one might need to reconsider the desire to marry.

#1 To willing accept any children God gives.
#2 To bring one another closer to God and the Kingdom of Heaven.

A question was posed to me as to what I thought about a woman who never wanted children. Was I saying that she shouldn't get married?

There are two parts to that question. One, I am not saying it. I am simply representing what I believe based on what the Church has said regarding the Sacrament of Marriage.

Two, the answer truly lies in the woman's heart. If those two requirements are the case and she truly believes she is marrying a man because their marriage will bring them both closer to God and increase the Catholic community in its own way, then it is up to her conscience.

That said, it is rare to find someone who honestly believes her reason for marrying is pure that isn't also willing to bear children in her marriage. It is not an impossible occurance, but it is rare. The reason being is because it is in the "one flesh union" or intimacy of marriage that we give fully of ourselves to the other in the example of Christ and his Church. If we are not willing to offer our spouse our full selves in our fertility, be it through contraception or even misuse of NFP, we are not fully exemplifying the relationship between Christ and his Church and therefore not moving one another towards God.

Here are a few additional comments on the subject from other Catholic sources.

"As a sacrament matrimony is entirely oriented on man's supernatural goal. Matrimony and order are the two sacraments which not only serve the individual in reaching this goal but are there for the benefit of the community. Matrimony is there for the mutual help of the spouses and the increase of the people of God. Devotion to his twofold end is the way of salvation for married couples, a way sanctified by the sacrament. 'Yet she shall be saved through childbearing; if she continues in faith, and love, and sanctification, with sobriety' (1 Tim:2:15)."

"Second, neither does the council continue to employ the old distinction between primary and secondary ends in which the begetting of children is always more important than the mutual love of (two people). "Hence, while not making the other ends of marriage of less value, the true practice of conjugal love, and the whole nature of family life resulting from it, tend to dispose the spouses to cooperate courageously with the love of the creator and Savior who through them day by day expands and enriches His own family" (n. 50, italics McBrien's)."

As you can see, the Church regularly considers the role of marriage in the Church as well as in society. They have removed the priority placed on childbearing, but they do not believe that removing the priority negates any of its importance. Also, the two-folds in marriage are clearly not mutually exclusive and in fact are based in one another, adding another sticky element to being opposed to God's gift of children.

The answer lies in one's heart, which is educated and formed in faith.
One last thought. These following lines precede the vows in the Rite of Marriage in the Catholic Church.

Celebrant: Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?

Celebrant: Will you love and honour each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?

Celebrant: Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?

Maybe the Church needs to reconsider the wording of this declaration to better represent their focus on the dual purpose of marriage, but for now I guess I just don't feel like lying to or with my spouse in the course of my marriage ceremony.

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