Catholic Morality



As everyone knows, marriage is a contract, realised between a man and a woman, through which each gives him/herself to the other for always.  And the ring which they receive on this occasion manifests to the eyes of all, a profound reality: the couple are linked together for life, they are indissolubly united.  Their union is permanent, it can be broken only by the death of one of the two spouses.

It is necessary today to have clear and exact ideas on this indissolubility, to better live and to better defend the sanctity of marriage.

It is important first to understand why this contract is permanent, whereas so many others can be rescinded, then we will look at the fruits of this lifelong commitment.

Three purposes can be held for the indissolubility of marriage:

First of all it is the explicit Will of the Creator, the Author of human life, and of the contract which links two human lives in view of procreation.  Our Lord replied to the Pharisees: "Have ye not read, that he who made man from the beginning, made them male and female?  And he said: For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh.  Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh.  What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." Mt. 19; 4-6

This last phrase signifies that the conjugal link is formed by the aid of the human will and of the Divine Will.  Which is to say that, at the same time as the spouses contract marriage, God ratifies this marriage, in such a way that to His eyes these two people make only one flesh, one family.  Consequently, no human authority is able to break this contract which has been confirmed and "signed" by the highest authority possible: God.  Pius XI recalls this law of indissolubility in his encyclical "Casti Connubii".  "The word of the Lord: What God has joined together, no man may put asunder, has been said of the marriage of our first parents, that is to say of the prototype of every marriage to come.

In this way therefore, from the beginning in the mind of God, marriage was to reproduce the indissoluble union of His Son with human nature, a union which is permanent since Our Lord ascended into Heaven with His human nature.

This first purpose concerns all men, since it is the Divine natural law.  That is why the marriage contracted between two infidels is valid and indissoluble.  Why has God wanted indissolubility in marriage?  To protect the children and their education, for the perfection of the husband and wife, and equally for the prosperity of the State through the stability of families.

The second purpose for the indissolubility of marriage concerns only Catholics.  It is because of the Sacrament, which raises this union of the husband and wife, by modeling it on the union of Christ and the Church.  Pius XI taught: "In a Christian and consummated marriage, the matrimonial pact has received its perfection (because of the Sacrament).  At the same time by the Will of God, the greatest stability and the greatest indissolubility shines there and no human authority can undermine it.

Just as the union of Christ and the Church is indissoluble: Christ will never found another Church, He will never abandon it; so the union of a married couple must conform with the model, must be indissoluble.

The third purpose has something of the same nature as the human heart which aspires after an absolute: the total and permanent gift of oneself through love.  It is a reflection of the eternal relationship which exists between the Divine Persons to form one single family.  Moreover, the end of marriage being procreation, the child requires for its harmonious and well-balanced development, the stable and united presence of those who have given him life.  These last arguments are often better appreciated, because they are at once evident.

Let us see now the fruits of this lifelong commitment, in order to better love these apparent chains, which, very far from strangling the couple, protect them.

First of all, this permanent commitment requires each spouse to grow in stature morally.  In effect, there are necessarily in the conjugal life some difficult periods, or times of misunderstanding, of disappointment, indeed of opposition.  The easy answer is to seek elsewhere, in another spouse, for the joys and support which are missing; it is to separate to settle in a life which seems more peaceful and more independent.  It is ultimately giving in to one's caprices and self-will.  Fleeing from difficulty, is that virtue, is that growing in stature?  No, it is demeaning!  Indissolubility requires, on the contrary, the practise of the virtues of patience, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, hope and fortitude, and so each trial which one must overcome - because one has no choice, because one really must live a peaceful and agreeable common life - requires each spouse to surpass him/herself, to give a greater measure of virtue.  And that, is growing in stature!  Even the thought of separation must not be considered as a solution, otherwise you will have great difficulty in overcoming trials and you may not even truly recover.  Life becomes unbearable if you permit yourself a way out, because then you exaggerate, you magnify instead of looking for solutions.  Separation is an very great evil: it puts spouses into the dangers of incontinence, it's a great calamity for the education of children, it abolishes the means of sanctification of the common life, it is a form of scandal for the family circle.  In practice the Church has always made every effort to prevent this extremity from occurring, and apart from adultery, from grave dangers for the body or the soul of the innocent spouse, it is necessary to have recourse to the normal ordinance.

This permanent link is still the necessary condition for a good education.  Whether you like it or not, there is a profound and irreplaceable bond between the father and his child, between the mother and her child.  The child needs both of them, living together in harmony.  And it's not because harmony between the couple is not easy, that they must part.  No.  You must set yourself this harmonious objective for the well-being of the children and that's what constitutes indissolubility.  Everyone knows what "education" a child gets who is alternately in his father's house then in his mother's, all the more so since the parents are not able to exercise a complementary authority.  And then if someone is imposed on the child who has not given birth to him, all the aspects of his personality will not be able to blossom out, in particular the filial love which causes him to accept that parents have the right to affection and to chastise.  That is why the child will say: "anyway, you are not my mother".  And besides the person who hasn't begotten this child will never have a truly maternal or paternal attitude, he will never be their child, they will not feel the same responsibility, they will not have the same understanding of the child.  These last remarks apply very often to remarriages or to a marriage in which there is the child of another.

The indissolubility of marriage is also a great good for society, because this stability gives it well-balanced personalities.  The emotional imbalance which divorce causes expresses itself most of the time by immorality and instability, two nuisance factors to occupational activity.  Without counting the loss of the sense of authority, of duty.

Let us add that divorce is lunacy, because it destroys that which has taken so much time, and so much effort, to build: family life.  It was invested with all its attributes and all for nothing: the passions are going to reduce it all to nothingness.  It's unreasonable!

Some people will raise an objection, however: but it is not unusual to note that a second marriage is a better success than the first, because one has more experience of life, one commits oneself with more maturity.  That is sometimes so, from the point of view of harmony and complementary characters.  But it is nevertheless true that children are the innocent victims and, moreover, if marriage was on a trial basis, the seriousness which one must bring to the marriage and the prudence in the choice of spouse would be ruined, and there would be less and less good marriages, to the advantage of affairs.

And what must be particularly understood is that in life there are some essential and fundamental values which come from God - and marriage is one of them - for which one must be capable of sacrificing one's own particular situation, to conserve the principle and to transmit it in its purity and its integrity to future generations.

I finish by calling:

____ on the one hand, to the willing determination, to the heartfelt conviction, of never agreeing to this thought of divorce appearing at the moment of adversity;

____ on the other hand, to invest well in the family, to devote oneself to it, not to be vulnerable to the opportunities which the world suggests, to the passions which the world knows how to arouse.  If one does not live one's marriage in depth, one is weakened, and the strength of the passions or the weight of adversities can, one day, shatter this so holy institution.

May Saint John the Baptist, martyr of the indissolubility and sanctity of marriage, help you.

Father Alain DELAGNEAU,


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