Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Church in the United States grants more annulments each year than are granted in the rest of the world combined.
It is legitimate to question these numbers and many are doing so. Human error, misjudgment and insincerity are constant factors in such a sensitive area. But aside from this, Christ's teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, that it is exclusive and for life, stands upon the truth that there is no such thing as marriage without the entire and sincere gift of self, man for woman and woman for man.
The married couple forms "the intimate partnership of life and love established by the Creator and governed by his laws; it is rooted in the conjugal covenant, that is, in their irrevocable personal consent." (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes 48, 1) Both give themselves definitively and totally to one another. They are no longer two; from now on they form one flesh. The covenant they freely contracted imposes on the spouses the obligation to preserve it as unique and indissoluble. (Cf. Code of Canon Law, 1056) "What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." (Mk 10:9; cf. Mt 19:1-12; 1 Cor 7:10-11) (CCC 2364)
It is because of this truth, that God has made marriage the total gift of self at each moment and unto death, that Pope Paul VI spoke for Christ when he taught in the document Humanae Vitae, (HV), that every use of artificial contraception is a moral evil.
By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its orientation toward man's exalted vocation to parenthood." (Cf. Humanae Vitae 12) (CCC 2369) Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. (HV 16) These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil." (HV 14) (CCC 2370)
There can be no total gift of self without the mutual giving of fertility.
Called to give life, spouses share in the creative power and fatherhood of God, (Cf. Eph 3:14; Mt 23:9) (CCC 2367) A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of births. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality: When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts, criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart. (GS 50, 2) (CCC 2368)
I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy" -Fr. Cusick
(See also CCC 699, 1244, 1261, 1627, 1639, 1650, 2380, 2382)
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