A series on marriage

Recognizing that most students at Notre Dame are preparing—consciously or not—for life in marriage, and that the Church’s teachings on matters of sexuality are often hard to find in either the classroom or the predominant culture, alumni contributor Rich Maggi has undertaken to present these important teachings for students in the form of short installments. This is the first of this series of installments, drawn primarily from various magisterial documents.

“As an incarnate spirit, that is, a soul which expresses itself in a body and a body informed by an immortal spirit, man is called to love in his unified totality. Love includes the human body, and the body is made a sharer in spiritual love.” FC at 11. There is an obvious biological complementarity between the male and female bodies which, when joined, can create human life. This is accompanied by a complementarity in the emotional and psychological structure of man and woman. This complementarity enables a man and woman to be attracted to each other, to give totally of themselves to each other in a lifetime communion, and to express this love in a bodily manner whose fruit can be the creation of human life. CCC, at 1602-03; Between Man & Woman, USCCB Publication No. 5-611 at 1; Cf., FC at 11, 20; On the Dignity of Women (Mulieris Dignitatem)[MD] at 7. This anthropological truth underpins a true understanding of marriage. 

Marriage is a natural institution written into the very fabric of male and female humanity. Pope Francis confirms that “[t]he lasting union expressed by the marriage vows is more than a formality or a traditional formula; it is rooted in the natural inclinations of the human person.” Marriage consists of the mutual total self-giving love of a man and woman for life which can be manifested through their physical union which is capable of creating life.  Amoris Laetitia 123; Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], at 1603-04; The Church in the Modern World [GS] at 47-48; Humanae Vitae [HV], at 8 (1968); The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World [FC] at 3.

 “Naturally, love is much more than an outward consent or a contract, yet it is nonetheless true that choosing to give marriage a visible form in society by undertaking certain commitments shows how important it is. It manifests the seriousness of each person’s identification with the other and their firm decision to leave adolescent individualism behind and to belong to one another. … This is much more meaningful than a mere spontaneous association for mutual gratification, which would turn marriage into a purely private affair. As a social institution, marriage protects and shapes a shared commitment to deeper growth in love and commitment to one another, for the good of society as a whole. That is why marriage is more than a fleeting fashion; it is of enduring importance. Its essence derives from our human nature and social character.” AL 131.

Since marriage is inherent to humanity, we cannot alter the nature of marriage without damage to the nature of the person and society. GS at 47; FC at 3.

Richard P. Maggi, Esq. is an alumni contributor for the Rover.