Back to the Home Page | God Instituted Marriage | The Indissolubility of Marriage | Marriage as a Sacrament

Catholic Apologetics

Chapter 19 -- Marriage


The Catholic Church preaches that God instituted marriage, that Jesus confirmed the indissolubility of marriage, and that Paul confirmed marriage was a sacrament.

God Instituted Marriage

Gen 1:27-28 - God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: "Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.

Gen 2:18, 21-24 - The LORD God said: "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him." So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man, the man said: "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called 'woman,' for out of 'her man' this one has been taken." That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.

At the beginning of time, within both creation stories, God established man and woman as partners. They were to become one body, be fertile and multiply so as to fill the Earth. This is the essence of the marriage union.

God authored marriage, and endowed it with its own natural laws. Man and woman are attracted together, to the vocation of marriage, by their natures. This is not an occasion for domination and lust, although in some cases it became that due to sin; it is an occasion for mutual aid and self-giving.

The two are to become one body. This speaks to the indissolubility of the union. The intention was for the two to become one, not one becoming two (again).

Note also that God considers woman to be a suitable partner for man, and visa versa. In this authorship of marriage, God commands man and woman to be fruitful and multiply, something same-sex unions can not accomplish. God stated He would make a suitable partner for man, and He made woman. God did not make another man as a suitable partner.

The Bible begins and ends with a wedding. In Genesis we have the marriage of Adam and Eve, and in Revelation we have the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is all part of God's plan for us. Throughout the Bible, there is marriage imagery in God's covenants with Israel. See Hos 1-3; Isa 54; 62; Jer 2-3; 31; Ezek 16; 23; Mal 2:13-17. Marriage plays a visible and pertinent role in God's plan for us.

Jesus performed the first of His many signs at the wedding feast at Cana. Jn 2:1-11 Jesus honored the feast by changing the water into wine. If Jesus was indifferent about the marriage union, He would likely not go to such a feast, and certainly would not help it along by providing more (and better) wine. Presumably, He approved.

The Indissolubility of Marriage

Matt 19:3-9 - Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?" He said in reply, "Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate." They said to him, "Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss (her)?" He said to them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery."

It cannot be much more clear. Jesus discredits Moses' law in favor of God's original intent, such that what God has joined into one flesh must not be separated. We find no exceptions to this rule elsewhere in Scripture. The Church provides for a separation of the parties, but they are not free to contract with others in marriage.

CCC 1640 - Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God's fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom.

Marriage as a Sacrament

1 Cor 7:1-16 - Now in regard to the matters about which you wrote: "It is a good thing for a man not to touch a woman," but because of cases of immorality every man should have his own wife, and every woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his duty toward his wife, and likewise the wife toward her husband.

A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife. Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another, so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control. This I say by way of concession, however, not as a command. Indeed, I wish everyone to be as I am, but each has a particular gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

Now to the unmarried and to widows, I say: it is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do, but if they cannot exercise self-control they should marry, for it is better to marry than to be on fire. To the married, however, I give this instruction (not I, but the Lord): a wife should not separate from her husband, and if she does separate she must either remain single or become reconciled to her husband, and a husband should not divorce his wife.

To the rest I say (not the Lord): if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she is willing to go on living with him, he should not divorce her; and if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he is willing to go on living with her, she should not divorce her husband. For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through the brother. Otherwise your children would be unclean, whereas in fact they are holy. If the unbeliever separates, however, let him separate. The brother or sister is not bound in such cases; God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband; or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Paul goes to great lengths in several places to expound on marriage. He takes it very seriously and expresses how the union is an integral part of God's plan.

Eph 5:21-30 - Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So (also) husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

Here, Paul emphasizes the sacramental nature of marriage. He speaks of the Church in nuptial language and compares the marital relationship to that of Christ and His Church.

Heb 13:4 - Let marriage be honored among all and the marriage bed be kept undefiled, for God will judge the immoral and adulterers.

Paul says marriage is to be honored as a sacrament.

Parting Comment

The Church considers the man and woman to confer the sacrament on themselves. The presidor is there as a witness, and receives the consent of the couple on behalf of the Church. It is usually done during a mass since the marriage is a liturgical act and the Eucharist is the heart and soul of the union. The conferring of the sacrament must be of free and mutual consent, otherwise the marriage is invalid. The two may be of different faiths, but there are natural consequences in failing to share a common belief. If the Church finds the union is invalid, the Church may issue an annulment, which puts the parties into the position they were before the attempted marriage.

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