The Sacrament of Marriage (Image: Grazia Mele)

Sacrament of Marriage

The Sacrament of Marriage
The Sacrament of Marriage (Image: Grazia Mele)

“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Mt 19:6)


Vatican II clarified that marriage is a partnership between a man and a woman ordered toward their mutual good and the procreation and education of children (cf. GS, 48.1). As a partnership, it is a union of equals who come together to form a new family. Marriage is something no one can enter into lightly because there are people involved. And where there are people, there should be protection of rights so that no one gets hurt.

There was a time when a couple could go off by themselves, exchange vows, and this was considered a valid marriage. But being human, people, particularly men, began to abuse this situation. So the Church, in an attempt to protect both the dignity of persons and the good of the sacrament, took steps to make sure that the freedom of both individuals was protected and honored. Thus, there are requirements before getting married.

In addition, for baptized persons, Jesus raised the human institution of marriage to the dignity of a sacrament in which the love of a husband and wife truly make present the love of Jesus for the Church (cf. CCC 1601, 1613).

For those who claim marriages and weddings are private affairs, my suggestion is: try it. Any couple who thinks they are unattached quickly learn just how involved and important their lives are if they marry privately. We are social beings. Our lives touch others and are touched by others.

The Church requires that a couple go before their faith community (represented by a priest and at least two witnesses) and exchange their vows publicly because the significance of what they are doing is truly a public matter. This newly formed family is a part of both the civil and the religious community with responsibilities and privileges. The civil society recognizes the new social unit of a family; the Church recognizes both a new social unity within the parish and a new public witness to Jesus’ love for his Church (cf. CCC 1656).


Can I get married outside?

Let’s first debunk a couple of popular notions before directly answering this question. The idea that a wedding is a private affair between the bride and groom is very romantic, but not true. The popular idea that the wedding ceremony is the most important focus of the day is also not true. Granted, a beautiful, well-planned ceremony is certainly desirable, and a beautiful church building adds to the ascetic experience. But the real focus is the sacrament that the bride and groom administer to one another for the first time at their wedding ceremony.

Because no couple is isolated from the larger community—and because marriage is a sacrament of the Church—the marriage of two baptized Christians is to take place where the faith community gathers for worship and celebrates the other public and sacramental acts of the Church. The church building is the community’s home, and, as such, is the privileged place for the faith community to celebrate both its joys and sorrows.


Gay marriage is all over the news. What is the Church’s official position on same-sex marriage?

The Catholic community has long held that marriage—the conjugal union of one man and one woman—is a partnership of the whole of life and is ordered to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children (cf. CIC, can. 1055, 1). It has also defined the three “goods” of marriage as exclusivity or faithfulness, a lifelong union (indissolubility), and the procreation and education of children (cf. CIC, can. 1056).

There is no question that a gay couple can witness to the values of exclusivity and faithfulness, can enter into a lifelong union, and could see to the education of children. But only a conjugal union of a man and a woman can be procreative. And the possibility of creating new human life is a crucial part of the God-given purpose of human sexuality and marriage (cf. CCC, 2335).


What are the steps required for annulment?

An annulment is a juridical statement that a marriage is not sacramental. Therefore, the parties involved are free to enter into a sacramental marriage. Most parish priests are able to help a couple or an individual begin the annulment process, but it will eventually require a legal procedure—argued by canon lawyers—at the local diocesan office.

The process includes the gathering of testimony and documentation supporting the claim that the marriage is not sacramental based on a lack of maturity or desire to enter into a lifelong, faithful union, which is open to the possibility of children.

The best advice for one looking to remarry—and wanting to do so with the blessings of the Church—is to discuss the situation with a priest or another qualified pastoral worker, who can advise on what practical steps are needed.


Do you have a question for Fr. Don? Email him at: [email protected]

For more of his thoughts on Marriage, click here.