Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

And the two shall become as one flesh...

Today is my seventeenth wedding anniversary, and a few days ago we were discussing marriage at my office. It would appear that some people do not understand the Catholic concept of annulment, and some people actually resent that it is even necessary at all. I will be the first to admit that there are way too many annulments granted, however, I have an interesting take on the whole marriage thing. It has largely been formed by Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body, and since today is my anniversary, I will talk about it some.

First, a definition of marriage: Marriage is the intimate, exclusive, indissoluble communion of life and love entered by man and woman at the design of the Creator for the purpose of their own good and the procreation and education of children; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament. It is a covenant first and foremost, however, it is a legal contract as well. For a valid sacramental covenant of marriage to be entered into, several factors must be considered. First, both spouses must have entered into the covenant of their own free will. There must be no coercion of any kind. Second, the spouses must be faithful to the covenant forsaking all others for the beloved. And third, it must be fruitful, i.e. open to giving birth to children. For the sacrament to be valid, all of these criteria must be met.

So, why the need for annulment? Well, if a couple enters into a covenant of marriage and for some reason, the marriage falls apart, the church must make a decision as to whether the marriage was sacramental. Keep in mind, lots of people have issue with the church making a decision about much of anything, but the truth is that Christ left that authority to the church (who else are we going to rely on to decide if the marriage is lawful?). So, the Church has a tribunal which investigates what went wrong, and decides whether the couple involved actually entered into a valid sacramental covenant based on what I mentioned above. It is not that the church is saying that the marriage never occurred. Of course it occurred. An annulment says that grace necessary to sanctify the marriage was in some way incomplete and therefore a valid sacramental covenant was never entered into because something was ultimately lacking. Does this mean that any children born were illegitimate? No. Just because a marriage is not sacramental does not mean that it is not legal. It was a perfectly legal contract. It just was not a sacramental covenant. So an annulment does not erase the marriage. It simply declares that the marriage was lacking grace that would have sustained it. Until the Church makes this judgment, the marriage is considered valid, and therefore, the spouses are expected to uphold the covenant. For this reason, a person who is married in the Catholic Church may not simply remarry after a civil divorce because without an annulment, the Church still views the original covenant is intact.

So, what is my take? I agree, there are way too many annulments, but I have a corollary to this. I think that there are too many people entering marriage unprepared for the road ahead of them. In other words, the Church is kind of dropping the ball when it comes to the formation of married people. The Church must be certain that a couple is fully aware of their responsibilities to one another before blessing the union. If this is the case, you will see the number of annulments drop, and the number of happy marriages increase exponentially.

I am thankful for the great amount of grace that the Lord has bestowed on my family, especially for the bond that my wife and I share. Through thick and thin we have been faithful to our vows thus cooperating with God's grace. May God in his infinite mercy and wisdom continue to bless our family.


Post a Comment

<< Home