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April 2005

Marriage
~ A Short Catechism ~

Q. What is the sacrament of Matrimony?
A. Matrimony is a sacrament, instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ, which creates a holy and in­dissoluble union between a man and woman, and gives them grace to love one another holily and to bring up their children as Christians in the fear of God.

Q. By whom was Matrimony instituted?
A. Matrimony was instituted by God Himself in the Garden of Paradise, and was raised to the dignity of a sacrament by Jesus Christ in the New Law.

Q. Has the sacrament of Matrimony any special signification?
A. The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the indissoluble union of Jesus Christ with the Church, His Spouse, and our holy Mother.

Q. Why do we say that the bond of marriage is indissoluble?
A. We say that the bond of marriage is in­dissoluble or that it cannot be dissolved except by the death of either husband or wife, because God so ordained from the beginning and so Jesus Christ our Lord solemnly proclaimed [Matt. 19:6].

Q. Can the contract be separated from the sacrament in Christian marriage?
A. No, in marriage among Christians the con­tract cannot be separated from the sacrament, because, for Christians, marriage is nothing else than the natural contract itself, raised by Jesus Christ to the dignity of a sacrament.

Q. Among Christians, then, there can be no true marriage that is not a sacrament?
A. Among Christians there can be no true marriage that is not a sacrament.

Q. What effects does the sacrament of Matrimony produce?
A. The sacrament of Matrimony: (1) Gives an increase of sanctifying grace; and (2) gives a special grace for the faithful discharge of all the duties of the married state.

Q. Who are the Ministers of this sacrament?
A. The Ministers of this sacrament are the couple themselves, who together confer and receive the sacrament.

Q. How is this sacrament administered?
A. This sacrament, preserving, as it does, the nature of a contract, is administered by the con­tracting parties themselves, who declare, in the presence of the parish priest, or another priest delegated by him, and of two witnesses, that they take each other in marriage.

Q. What use, then, is the blessing which the parish priest gives to the married couple?
A. The blessing which the parish priest gives to the married couple is not necessary to constitute the sacrament, but it is given to sanction their union in the name of the Church and to invoke on them more abundantly the blessing of God.

Q. What intention should those have who contract marriage?
A. Those who contract marriage should have the intention: (1) Of doing the will of God, who calls them to that state; (2) Of working out in that state the salvation of their souls; (3) Of bringing up their children as Christians, if God should bless them with any.

Q. Which are the principal obligations of married persons?
A. Married persons should: (1) Guard inviolably their conjugal fidelity and behave always and in all things as Christians; (2) Love one another, bear patiently with one another, and live in peace and concord; (3) Think seriously of providing for their children, if they have any, according to their needs; bring them up as Christians, and leave them free to choose the state of life to which they are called by God.

Q. What is necessary to contract Christian marriage validly?
A. To contract Christian marriage validly it is necessary to be free from any impediment to marriage (canons 1083-1094); and to give free and proper consent to the marriage contract (canons 1095-1103) before a priest or deacon and two witnesses, in accordance with the Catholic rite of marriage (canons 1108-1127).

Q. What is necessary to contract marriage lawfully?
A. To contract marriage lawfully it is necessary to be free from any impediment to marriage; to be instructed in the principal truths of religion; and, finally, to be in a state of grace; otherwise a sacrilege would be committed

Q. What are impediments to marriage?
A. Impediments to marriage are certain circumstances which render marriage either invalid or unlawful.

Q. Why has the Church alone power to place impediments and to judge of the validity of marriage?
A. The Church alone has power to place impediments, to judge of the validity of marriage, and to dispense from the impediments which she has placed, because the contract, being inseparable from the sacrament in a Christian marriage, also comes under the power of the Church, to which alone Jesus Christ gave the right to make laws and give decisions in sacred things.

Q. Can the civil authority dissolve the bonds of Christian marriage by divorce?
A. No, the bond of Christian marriage cannot be dissolved by the civil authority, because the civil authority cannot interfere with the matter of the sacrament nor can it put asunder what God has joined together.

Q. What is a civil marriage?
A. It is nothing but a mere formality prescribed by the [civil] law to give and insure the civil effects of the marriage to the spouses and their children.

Q. Is it sufficient for a Christian to get only the civil marriage or contract?
A. For a Christian, it is not sufficient to get only the civil contract, because it is not a sacrament, and therefore not a true marriage.

Q. In what condition would the spouses be who would live together united only by a civil marriage?
A. Spouses who would live together united by only a civil marriage would be in an habitual state of mortal sin, and their union would always be illegitimate in the sight of God and of the Church.

Q. Should we also get the civil marriage?
A. We should perform the civil marriage, because, though it is not a sacrament, it provides the spouses and their children with the civil effects of conjugal society; for this reason, the ecclesiastical authority as a general rule allows the religious marriage only after the formalities prescribed by the civil authorities have been accomplished.
[In many countries, especially English speaking countries, the civil authority acknowledges the religious marriage and gives it the civil effects, thus there is no need of a separate ceremony. However the states often add certain requirements and formalities which should be observed.]

Q. What, then, is essential to marriage?
A. Unity, indissolubility and openness to fertility are essential to marriage. Polygamy is incompatible with the unity of marriage; divorce separates what God has joined together; the refusal of fertility turns married life away from its 'supreme gift', the child.

Q. Is it a sacrilege to contract a marriage in serious sin, or in disobedience to the laws of the Church?
A. It is a sacrilege to contract marriage in serious sin, or in disobedience to the laws of the Church, and, instead of a blessing, the guilty parties draw upon themselves the anger of God.