No Confusion in the Catholic Church
As I begin this article I have just come from Northern Ireland where I hosted two talks promoting The Lumen Fidei Institute. One in Omagh and the other in Derry. The talks were well attended, and we had a particularly lively question and answer session in Omagh. As I am fond of repeating, there is no confusion in the Catholic Church because her teachings are crystal clear, but there are many confused Catholics on account of the false prophets and false teachers who seek to lead many astray. Christ Himself warned us about these false prophets and teachers in St Matthew’s Gospel chapter 24.
If you would like us to come and present a talk in your area, then please get in touch with me. We require that the local people organise as much as they can and it is also crucial that local people publicise the talk in the local area, particularly to prayer groups and within Churches where possible. I would like to thank the organisers of the two Northern talks and to thank all those who attended and who contributed to the lively discussions.
Last week we began studying Pope Pius XI’s encyclical on marriage, ‘Casti Connubii’. We saw that in the opening paragraph Pope Pius notes that God, “ordained marriage in an especial manner as the principle and foundation of domestic society”. Right society comes from marriages that are lived according to God’s laws and therefore, if you want to form a good society or to correct a society that is descending into chaos with legalised divorce, abortion and the promotion of the homosexual lifestyle, the solution is to promote Catholic teaching on marriage and family life and to support and encourage people in living according to that teaching.
In paragraph 5 of Casti Connubii, Pope Pius XI references Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical on marriage ‘Arcanum’, and says,
Matrimony was not Instituted or Restored by Man
“let it be repeated as an immutable and inviolable fundamental doctrine that matrimony was not instituted or restored by man but by God; not by man were the laws made to strengthen and confirm and elevate it but by God, the Author of nature, and by Christ Our Lord by Whom nature was redeemed, and hence these laws cannot be subject to any human decrees or to any contrary pact even of the spouses themselves. This is the doctrine of Holy Scripture; this is the constant tradition of the Universal Church; this the solemn definition of the sacred Council of Trent, which declares and establishes from the words of Holy Writ itself that God is the Author of the perpetual stability of the marriage bond, its unity and its firmness.” (Casti Connubii 5)
There is a Move within the Church to re-define Marriage
In our day, and especially with certain senior clerics of the Catholic Church, very notable in circles of the German hierarchy, there is a move to redefine marriage. These false teachers go to great lengths to pretend that they are not in fact redefining marriage but that they are only putting ‘pastoral’ practices into place. Of course, this is nonsense because adultery is adultery regardless of whether you call it an ‘irregular relationship’ or a ‘second marriage’, and to accompany anyone in such a relationship in a way that condones the relationship, is to encourage adultery and to contradict Christ Himself. Not to mention those who claim that homosexual relationships are somehow analogous to marriage!
The Human Element of Marriage
After reminding us that marriage is a divine institution Pope Pius XI then goes on to look at the human element of marriage.
“Yet although matrimony is of its very nature of divine institution, the human will, too, enters into it and performs a most noble part. For each individual marriage, inasmuch as it is a conjugal union of a particular man and woman, arises only from the free consent of each of the spouses; and this free act of the will, by which each party hands over and accepts those rights proper to the state of marriage, is so necessary to constitute true marriage that it cannot be supplied by any human power.” (Casti Connubii 6)
Nothing Complicated about Marriage
There is nothing complicated about the above quotation, it reaffirms that marriage is between a particular man and a particular woman and that for a marriage to be valid both parties to the marriage must give their consent to the marriage freely, that is, without being forced into the marriage. Today however, it is necessary to keep repeating these simple truths, because there are many who seek to promote the idea that a marriage can consist of two persons of the same sex, or that second conjugal unions can be entered into and continued even though a marriage already exists.
Nullity is not Catholic Divorce
There are also those who falsely claim that a declaration of nullity is just a Catholic form of divorce whereas the Catholic Church, recognising that there are factors such as lack of free consent or some impediment, for example if one of the parties to the ‘marriage’ was already in a valid marriage, that indicate that a marriage never took place at the time the vows were exchanged. Pope Pius XI deals with this in the conclusion of paragraph 6.
“This freedom, however, regards only the question whether the contracting parties really wish to enter upon matrimony or to marry this particular person; but the nature of matrimony is entirely independent of the free will of man, so that if one has once contracted matrimony he is thereby subject to its divinely made laws and its essential properties. For the Angelic Doctor, writing on conjugal honor and on the offspring which is the fruit of marriage, says: “These things are so contained in matrimony by the marriage pact itself that, if anything to the contrary were expressed in the consent which makes the marriage, it would not be a true marriage.”” (Casti Connubii 6)
Marriage is Ordained by God and Cannot be Changed
So to clarify, the nature of marriage is ordained by God and cannot be changed by any man. The parties to the marriage must freely consent to the marriage and they must also be free to give that consent i.e. not impeded or forbidden from marrying. Once a valid marriage has been contracted it is subject to the divine laws, one of which is that the marriage is indissoluble. However, if there is anything contrary to God’s laws which has been included in the consent, such as a refusal to accept children for example, then no marriage has taken place and the couple are not in fact married.
The Spiritual Nature of Marriage
Pope Pius XI then tells us that the marriage bond is of a spiritual nature and that the union goes far deeper than the mere union of bodies.
“By matrimony, therefore, the souls of the contracting parties are joined and knit together more directly and more intimately than are their bodies, and that not by any passing affection of sense of spirit, but by a deliberate and firm act of the will; and from this union of souls by God’s decree, a sacred and inviolable bond arises. Hence the nature of this contract, which is proper and peculiar to it alone, makes it entirely different both from the union of animals entered into by the blind instinct of nature alone in which neither reason nor free will plays a part, and also from the haphazard unions of men, which are far removed from all true and honourable unions of will and enjoy none of the rights of family life.” (Casti Connubii 7)
The State has the Right to put Restrictions on Unwholesome Unions
The importance of this latter point can be seen from the next paragraph where Pope Pius XI indicates that the lawmakers of a particular state, have both the right and the duty to put restrictions in place on unwholesome unions which contradict God’s laws. In Ireland there has been much fanfare over the European Court’s decision in October of 1988 to find against Ireland’s laws which prohibited homosexual acts, but there was nothing in these laws that contradicted human rights, or that went against God, in fact the opposite is the case.
“From this it is clear that legitimately constituted authority has the right and therefore the duty to restrict, to prevent, and to punish those base unions which are opposed to reason and to nature; but since it is a matter which flows from human nature itself, no less certain is the teaching of Our predecessor, Leo XIII of happy memory: “In choosing a state of life there is no doubt but that it is in the power and discretion of each one to prefer one or the other: either to embrace the counsel of virginity given by Jesus Christ, or to bind himself in the bonds of matrimony. To take away from man the natural and primeval right of marriage, to circumscribe in any way the principal ends of marriage laid down in the beginning by God Himself in the words ‘Increase and multiply,’ is beyond the power of any human law.” (Casti Connubii 8)
The Law Must Uphold the Common Good not Subvert it
Laws which seek to curtail sinful activity and sinful sexual unions, are in fact upholding the common good of man. Homosexual relations contradict and undermine marriage, and where a state either endorses these sinful unions or actively promotes them, as is the case in Ireland at present, that same state is undermining the common good of its citizens. Not only that, because there are now laws endorsing homosexual unions in Ireland, the time will surely come when the laws prohibiting bigamy and polyandry will also come under attack and because Irish law no longer has the law of God as a foundation, there is nothing to stop these and other immoral laws from coming to pass.
Pope Pius XI concludes these initial thoughts as follows.
“Therefore the sacred partnership of true marriage is constituted both by the will of God and the will of man. From God comes the very institution of marriage, the ends for which it was instituted, the laws that govern it, the blessings that flow from it; while man, through generous surrender of his own person made to another for the whole span of life, becomes, with the help and cooperation of God, the author of each particular marriage, with the duties and blessings annexed thereto from divine institution.” (Casti Connubii 9)
© John Lacken 2018
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Author: John Lacken
Founder: Legio Sanctae Familiae – The Holy Family Legion
Secretary: The Lumen Fidei Institute