Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Marriage Preparation

Several weeks ago, Pope Francis asserted that most marriages are invalid because young people today do not understand the Church’s definition of marriage nor the reality of that to which they are expected to consent. 

News story:

It appears that the relevant canons would be 1099 and 1101.  The Diocese of Madison has a helpful website which presents the cannons along with commentary and examples. 

A person cannot validly consent to something they do not believe in.  A deeply held false belief that marriage is disposable, for example, constitutes a defect of consent. 

However, the modern progressive societies where such a belief would be prevalent are the same places where there is a widespread and easily accessible information network, along with sufficient resources to provide marriage preparation, such that a person would be stretching the limits of the plausible to claim ignorance about a basic element of both family life and Christianity, namely, the qualities of indissolubility and unity in marriage.  We have the opportunity, in the developed world at least, to overcome the false beliefs imposed on young people by the media and the bad example of their elders. 

The text of the vows is sufficient to declare to the individuals what constitutes the definition of marriage.  Marriage preparation in the most basic form can explore the text of these vows and unpack their meaning for the couple.  Insofar as they are not impeded by mental illness, drugs or alcohol, or have not been otherwise deceived or manipulated, they have the ability to know and understand that to which they are consenting.  Therefore, their declaration of consent is made with knowledge. 

Other defects enter in when the individuals consent for the wrong reasons or without careful thought, or are otherwise under undue pressure, duress or influence.  Even in such a case of outside influence, the individuals would have knowledge of what constitutes the Church’s definition of marriage because they heard it in marriage preparation and in the ceremony. 

The question arises in an annulment investigation: did one or other of the persons explicitly or implicitly simulate an essential property of marriage?  Did they verbally speak words they could not have the ability to understand because of a deeply held understanding of marriage contrary to Catholic doctrine?  Sure, this is possible.  But so widespread that most marriages are invalid?  Unlikely. 

Either way: the pope’s words are as clear a reminder as any that marriage preparation is a vital part of the new evangelization and the quality of said preparation must be improved.  There is no excuse for a couple not to know want they are committing to in their vows.  The priest needs to share the doctrine and holy couples are essential as "sponsors" to give a living example of a holy family life. 

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