Marriage has such a place of importance that Christ elevated it to the level of a sacrament. God himself is the author of marriage (C.C.C. 1603). Man is created out of the love of God, and being made in the image and likeness of God, who is love Himself, and since God made both man and woman, their mutual love becomes a reflection of the absolute and unfailing love of God for humanity (C.C.C. 1604). The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony thus becomes in itself, a tangible sign of God’s unfailing and in-dissolvable covenant with His beloved people. Sacred Scripture in fact begins with the creation of Man and Woman, whom God made in his likeness, and saw was very good (Genesis 1), and ends with a vision of the divine wedding feast of Christ the Lamb of God (Revelation 21). It is also no coincidence that Jesus’s first public miracle, is to be found at a wedding feast in Cana, where He turns water into wine (John 2).

Marriage as instituted by God, is thus free – both parties have come together freely without coercion to give of themselves as gift to the other; total – As Scripture says, A man “leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body” (Genesis 2:24). The man recognizes the woman as “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). God blesses the man and woman and commands them to “be fertile and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Jesus reiterates these teachings from Genesis, saying, “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife], and the two shall become one flesh'” (Mark 10:6-8). The man and the woman become completely one with each other, without losing their individuality, but attain the point of unity to that their souls becoming one; Marriage is also exclusive and faithful – this intimate union excludes such union with anyone else. It demands the total fidelity of the spouses. Once their mutual consent has been consummated by genital intercourse, an unbreakable bond is established between the spouses. For the baptized, this bond is sealed by the Holy Spirit and becomes absolutely indissoluble. Polygamy is incompatible with the unity of marriage (C.C.C. 1664).

Thus, the Church does not so much teach that divorce is wrong, but that divorce is impossible, regardless of its civil implications. A marriage may be annulled by the Church only when the tribune has determined that a marriage was not legitimate to begin with.

Marriage is entered into by man and woman: The complementarity of the sexes is essential to marriage. There is such widespread confusion today about the nature of marriage that some would wish to extend a legal “right” to marry to two persons of the same sex. The very nature of marriage makes such a proposition impossible.

Last but not least, Marriage is fruitful – the couple must be open to fertility and procreation as willed by God, and not willfully suppress or block this life-giving act.

In marriage, sexual union that is free, total, faithful, and open to new life (i.e., sexual union that truly expresses wedding vows) symbolises and participates in the communion of Christ and the Church. Masturbation, fornication, adultery, intentionally sterilized sex, homosexual acts, etc.– none of these symbolise, and thus never bring about the love of Christ for the Church. None of these behaviors are marital. For example in the case of In-vitro fertilisation, the making of the child, happens away from the spouses, removed from the marital act of communion, as the spermatozoa and ovum are extracted from the bodies, and placed to fertilise in a laboratory. There are also ethical concerns, for in the trying to create a embryo, many embryos are fertilised to increase the chances for fertility, while only one is embedded in the womb of the mother. The other embryos are frozen or destroyed, destroying life; while with the use of contraception, the marital act occurs with the intentional blocking of the gift of fertility, contravening the “total” self-giving of spouse and the openness to receiving children from God.


Brian Bartholomew Tan

Sources: Code of Canon Law, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Loyola Press, Christopher West, Crossroads Initiative, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Dr Edward Sri, Symbolon