by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
There are various facts and problems which can prevent the Sacrament of Matrimony from taking effect and thus rendering it null and void, illicit, or fruitless in the order of grace.
But the Sacrament of Matrimony is the most important for maintaining the Christian social order, since the Family is the fundamental unit of human and christian society.
For this reason, when considering marriage a Catholic man or woman, or any near relation to the couple, should take care to assess the real viability of a future marriage.
In the English speaking world, among Catholics, the proper term for Christian marriage is “Matrimony”. This term should be used instead of “marriage” so as to distinguish the sacramental bond from the civil or natural bond, which is known as “marriage” or in Latin, “connubium”.
Before, I discuss the problems which can be caused by Femisim, in Matrimony, let’s first review what the Sacrament of Matrimony is, and how it can come about that it be invalid or illicit because of some defect in the spouses.
Matrimony according to Church teaching is the union in a stable promise of indissolubility of one man and one women, both of whom are baptized before receiving the Sacrament.
The Sacrament can be conferred upon a Catholic and his or her spouse who has promised solemnly to be baptized in the future. In this case, the ritual of Matrimony effects the connubium or marriage, but the Sacramental reality only comes into being at the Baptism of the other spouse. The Church has the authority to confer the Sacrament in such rare cases, when She judges that the one promising to be baptized needs to know the Catechism better before receiving that Sacrament, and yet, so as to avoid sin, judges also that the couple should be joined in marriage as soon as possible.
But without such a promise on the part of the unbaptised spouse, such a marriage is not Matrimony and no Sacramental bond is effected by the marriage in the Church.
The Sacrament of Matrimony has Christ as its author, and the matrimonial bond cannot be dissolved by any authority on Earth. Marriage, as a natural bond, also has God our Creator as author, but God has in past times give His earthly representatives power to dissolve is, such as Moses decreed in cases of divorce.
For this reason, Catholics should never speak of “divorce” in cases of the Matrimonial Bond, because such is a contradiction in terms. Christian Matrimony is something entirely different in its nature of permanence than any form of marriage in the Old Testament.
Matrimony is monogamous, by the Divine Will. But Marriage as is clear in the Old Testament was compatible with polygamy. This must be kept in mind to avoid arguments and excuses drawn from the Old Testament against the indissolubility of Matrimony.
The Sacrament of Marriage comes into being, or is confected, when one Catholic man promises publicly to one Catholic women to live with her in Christian matrimony for life, according to the teaching of the Church. The traditional formulae for the vows of matrimony signified this. Altering them in any manner can make the Sacrament invalid, and thus should never be done.
All unmarried Catholics, who are not prohibited by the law or by vows, can validly and licitly receive the Sacrament of Matrimony.
In the Code of Canon Law of 1983, there was a fundamental change of allowing the Sacrament to be conferred in cases wherein one spouse was a Christian but not a Catholic. Before this, such marriages were considered in valid. This new disposition of the law however presumes that the Christian non-Catholic accept the Catholic notion of matrimony. Otherwise the matrimony would be invalid.
This is true also of a matrimony among two Catholics. Both must honestly and sincerely accept the Catholic notion of marriage and promise such to the other person. If any one of them fail in this, the Sacrament is not confected and the ceremony effects no sacramental bond. Marriage is not a one way street. And when objective evidence as discerned by the Church shows that one party never had the right intention, the other party should not allow scruples, such as, “I promised” to lead them to think the Matrimony was valid.
The Sacrament is presumed valid, before the consideration of any doubt, according to the juridical principles that the cessation of right is never presumed. For the same reason that Pope Benedict XVI is presumed to have remained the pope after his resignation, by reason of the fact that he never renounced the petrine munus, that is, because the cessation of right is never presumed.
There are two kinds of problems which can make a Matrimony invalid, even if the civil marriage is valid.
These are called diriment impediments, which is derived from the Latin for “destructive impeding things”.
Such impediments are as follows:
- If the man be younger than 16 years of age, or the woman younger than 14 years of age (local Bishops can require higher ages, according to local customs).
- Incapacity on the part of any one or both of the spouses to engage in the physical act of reproduction. (Not to be confused with biological sterility).
- If any one of the spouses was previously joined in the Sacrament of Matrimony to another, even if that marriage was not consummated.
- If one or the other spouses has not been baptized in any Christian Church.
- The man has received the Sacred Order of the Episcopacy, Priesthood or Diaconate.
- Any one of the spouses has made a public vow of chastity in a religious institute.
- If they woman was kidnapped with the scope of forcing a marriage.
- If one spouse has murdered the previous spouse of the other.
- If one spouse is the brother/sister, niece/nephew, uncle/aunt, parent of the other; or if one spouse is related within the 4th degree to the other.
- If one spouse is or was ever the guardian or adopter or godparent of the other.
Matrimony can be invalid also due to lack of proper consent, or intentions:
- If one or both of the spouses lack the capacity or maturity to make a promise or receive a promise.
- If one or both of the spouses is psychologically incapable of the responsibility of marriage.
- If one or both of the spouses do not accept that the Sacrament of Matrimony is indissoluble, that is, is for life and can never be dissolved by a divorce effected for any reason by any human authority.
- If one spouse presents himself or herself under fraudulent claims as to name, social status, wealth, or physical capacity, such as claiming one is not sterile, when one knows oneself to be sterile.
It is for these last reasons, that we can see that if one or both of the spouses accept the erroneous ideology of Feminism, that the Sacrament would be invalid, because by such an ideology, they would reject the proper role and responsibility of a woman, wife and mother in the marriage, and thus be psychologically incapable by bad will of the responsibility of marriage.
Such a rejection of the Sacrament can seem very innocuous. It can present itself under the false pretext of the “right” of the woman to pursue a career, and thus postpone or forego motherhood — a thing which cannot be obtained without tacit consent to contraception or grossly perverse forms of copulation. Or the “right” of the woman that the man in the house share the roles of motherhood or housekeeping etc., which results in the perverse social psychological formation of the children, resulting in lesbianism or homosexuality among the children. Or the “right” of the woman to refuse her husbands advances, in private, when they are in accord with nature, which would deprive both of them of the abundance of Children which God has willed from all eternity to give them in Matrimony and to promote the bond of marriage.
For these reasons, a Catholic man should not ignore any manifestation of feminism in a future spouse and the parents of both spouses should be sincere about this matter with both parties, and do what they can to correct the problem or counsel against the marriage beforehand.
The teaching of Scripture is clear and definitive: God created women to be helpers of men. A Catholic woman considering Matrimony should accept that just as the man exists to serve God and neighbor, so she exists to serve her man and her family. If she rejects this notion of womanhood, it is better for everyone that she not enter into a marriage.