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General Information Regarding Matrimony

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The Sacrament of Matrimony 

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"The Sacrament of Matrimony is the Sacrament which unites a Christian man and woman in lawful marriage." (Baltimore Catechism)

"Among men there is no love more ardent, no greater or more intimate tie, than that of those who are united by marriage." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"Marriage has God for its Author, and was from the very beginning a kind of foreshadowing of the incarnation of His Son; and therefore there abides in it a something holy and religious; not extraneous, but innate; not derived from men, but implanted by nature." (Pope Leo XIII)

The Sacrament of Matrimony

Also Called: Marriage, Wedlock, Nuptials

"But considering the benefits of the Sacrament, besides the firmness and indissolubility, there are also much higher emoluments as the word 'sacrament' itself very aptly indicates; for to Christians this is not a meaningless and empty name. Christ the Lord, the Institutor and 'Perfecter' of the holy sacraments, by raising the matrimony of His faithful to the dignity of a true sacrament of the New Law, made it a sign and source of that peculiar internal grace by which 'it perfects natural love, it confirms an indissoluble union, and sanctifies both man and wife.' And since the valid matrimonial consent among the faithful was constituted by Christ as a sign of grace, the sacramental nature is so intimately bound up with Christian wedlock that there can be no true marriage between baptized persons 'without it being by that very fact a sacrament.'" (Pope Pius XI, "Casti Connubii", 1930 A.D.)

Click Link Below or Scroll Down to View All:

Type of Sacrament

Is Sacrament Obligatory?


Can This Sacrament Be Repeated?

When Should Sacrament Be Received?

General Prerequisites

Ordinary Ministers

Form / Matter

Chief Effects

Additional Information

For More Information Regarding Holy Matrimony, Try...

Type of Sacrament: 'Sacrament of the Living'  (click here for more info.)

Is Sacrament Obligatory? No.

Recipients: A man and a woman who are unmarried

Can This Sacrament Be Repeated? It may be repeated only after the death of the first spouse, in compliance with the laws of the Church. Note, however, that Scripture recommends against subsequent marriages (wherever applicable) and that the Church may not give a solemn blessing to second marriages.

"Can. 1143 A woman who has once received a solemn nuptial blessing cannot accept it again in subsequent weddings." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"Although the second marriage [i.e. remarriage of a widowed spouse], considered in itself, is a perfect sacrament, yet if we consider it in relation to the first marriage, it is somewhat a defective sacrament, because it has not its full signification, since there is not a union of only one woman with only one man as in the marriage of Christ with the Church. And on account of this defect the blessing is omitted in a second marriage. This, however, refers to the case when it is a second marriage on the part of both man and woman, or on the part of the woman only. For if a virgin marry a man who has had another wife, the marriage is blessed nevertheless. Because the signification is preserved to a certain extent even in relation to the former marriage, since though Christ has but one Church for His spouse, there are many persons espoused to Him in the one Church. But the soul cannot be espoused to another besides Christ, else it commits fornication with the devil. Nor is there a spiritual marriage. For this reason when a woman marries a second time the marriage is not blessed on account of the defect in the sacrament." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church") [Note: Second marriages refer to legitimate second marriages - i.e. after death of a spouse - and not to subsequent 'marriages' in the case of divorce (such 'marriages' are, of course, are prohibited).]

When Should Sacrament Be Received? In accordance with Church guidelines and after proper preparation. Solemn marriages may be forbidden at certain times (e.g. Lent, Advent).

General Prerequisites: Free consent of both persons, both persons free from impediments, both persons not too closely related, appropriate notification of pastor, sufficient preparation, publication of the banns of matrimony, proper intention, state of grace, attainment of specified age, both parties must be "open to fertility", compliance with the laws of the Church [including laws concerning mixed marriages - e.g. marriages between Catholic & non-Catholics (see below)], etc. (Note: Both parties in a Catholic marriage should also have received baptism and confirmation)

"Can. 1095 The following are incapable of contracting marriage: 1° those who lack sufficient use of reason; 2° those who suffer from a grave lack of discretionary judgement concerning the essential matrimonial rights and obligations to be mutually given and accepted; 3° those who, because of causes of a psychological nature, are unable to assume the essential obligations of marriage." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"To contract marriage lawfully it is necessary to be free from every impeding 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" (Catechism of St. Pius X)

Ordinary Ministers: The couple confers the Sacrament on each other (in the presence of the priest). Note: The presence of the priest (or deacon) may be generally required for the Sacrament to be valid. Witnesses are also required.

"The Ministers of this sacrament are the couple themselves, who together confer and receive the sacrament." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

"The blessing which the parish priest gives to the married couple is not necessary to constitute the sacrament [although the priest's presence may be required for a valid 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." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

Form / Matter: External declaration of consent of the man and woman, in accordance with the laws of the Church

"The outward sign in the Sacrament of matrimony is the mutual consent of the persons, expressed by words or signs in accordance with the laws of the Church. The whole essence of the marriage contract consists in the surrender by the persons of their bodies to each other and in declaring by word or sign that they make this surrender and take each other for husband and wife now and for life." (Baltimore Catechism)

"[A] perfect marriage has all the following conditions, - namely, internal consent, external compact expressed by words, the obligation and tie which arise from the contract, and the marriage debt by which it is consummated; yet the obligation and tie expressed by the word union alone have the force and nature of marriage." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

Chief Effects:

* Enables proper procreation of children: "Marriage itself among all races is for the one purpose of procreating children, whatever will be their station and character afterwards; marriage was instituted for this purpose, so that children might be born properly and decently." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, 5th century A.D.)

* Creates a permanent bond between the spouses that is indissolveable until the death of a spouse, and obliges them to live together. As stated in the Catechism of the Council of Trent: "The third advantage is called the Sacrament, that is to say, the indissoluble bond of marriage. As the Apostle has it: The Lord commanded that the wife depart not from the husband, and if she depart that she remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband; and let not the husband put away his wife. And truly, if marriage as a Sacrament represents the union of Christ with His Church, it also necessarily follows that just as Christ never separates Himself from His Church, so in like manner the wife can never be separated from her husband in so far as regards the marriage-tie."

* Imparts grace: 

"Can. 1110 From a valid marriage there arises between the spouses a bond that by its nature is perpetual and exclusive; moreover, Christian marriage confers grace on the spouses who do not oppose it." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"[Matrimony] is a Sacrament by which Christians enter the marriage state, and receive the grace to live together in a holy manner, and to bring up their children in the fear of God." (Catechism of St. John Neumann)

* "The sacrament of matrimony: (1) Gives an increase of sanctifying grace; (2) Gives a special grace for the faithful discharge of all the duties of the married state." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

* "The effects of the Sacrament of Matrimony are: 1) To sanctify the love of husband and wife, 2) To give them grace to bear with each other's weaknesses, and 3) To enable them to bring up their children in the fear and love of God." (Baltimore Catechism)

* "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." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

* "The chief ends of the Sacrament of Matrimony are: (1) To enable the husband and wife to aid each other in securing the salvation of their souls; (2) To propagate or keep up the existence of the human race by bringing children into the world to serve God; (3) To prevent sins against the holy virtue of purity by faithfully obeying the laws of the marriage state." (Baltimore Catechism)

* Three blessings of marriage:

"[T]here are three blessings of marriage: children, fidelity and the Sacrament." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"Marriage has three blessings. The first is children, to be received and raised for God's service. The second is the loyal faith whereby each serves the other. The third is the sacrament, which signifies the inseparable union of Christ with His Church." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

Three blessings are ascribed to matrimony: "The first is the procreation and education of children for the worship of God. The second is fidelity that each of the spouses must observe towards the other. The third is the indissolubility of matrimony - indissoluble because it signifies the indivisible union of Christ with the Church. Although a separation from bed may be permitted by reason of marital infidelity, nevertheless is not permitted to contract another matrimony since the bond of marriage lawfully contracted is perpetual." (Council of Florence)

Additional Information:

* "Marriage has God for its Author" (Pope Leo XIII)

* The Sacrament of Matrimony usually takes place during Mass. "Catholics should be married before the altar in the church. They should be married in the morning, and with a Nuptial Mass if possible." (Baltimore Catechism)

* Marriage is a contract which imposes duties on both parties (including that wives be submissive to their husbands and the "marriage debt").  

"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." (St. Paul, Eph. 5:22-24)

"Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord." (St. Paul, Col. 3:18)

"Can. 1151 Spouses have the duty and right to preserve conjugal living unless a legitimate cause excuses them." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

* The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children:

"Can. 1013 § 1 The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children; the secondary [end] is mutual support and a remedy for concupiscence. § 2 The essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility, which in Christian marriage obtain special firmness by reason of the sacrament." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"Now, the truth is that matrimony, as an institution of nature, in virtue of the Creator's will, has not as a primary and intimate end the personal perfection of the married couple but the procreation and upbringing of a new life. The other ends, inasmuch as they are intended by nature, are not equally primary, much less superior to the primary end, but are essentially subordinated to it. This is true of every marriage, even if no offspring result, just as of every eye it can be said that it is destined and formed to see, even if, in abnormal cases arising from special internal or external conditions, it will never be possible to achieve visual perception." (Pope Pius XII, Address to Midwives)

Is it licit to have recourse only to infertile periods? As Pope Pius XII stated: "[T]o embrace the matrimonial state, to use continually the faculty proper to such a state and lawful only therein, and, at the same time, to avoid its primary duty without a grave reason, would be a sin against the very nature of married life." (emphasis added) For more information on (so-called) 'Natural Family Planning' ('NFP'), try here

* Sterility is not an impediment to marriage: "Can. 1068 § 3 Sterility neither impedes nor [renders illicit] marriage." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

* The solemn blessing of marriage may be prohibited at certain times of the year.

"Can. 1108 § 1 Marriage can be contracted at any time of the year. § 2 The solemn blessing of marriage, however, is prohibited from the first [Sunday] of Advent to the day of the Birth of the Lord, inclusive, and from Ash [Wednesday] until Easter [Sunday], inclusive. § 3 Local Ordinaries can, however, with due regard for the liturgical law, also permit [solemn blessings] within the aforesaid times for just cause, having warned the spouses to abstain from too much pomp." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"The holy Synod enjoins, that the ancient prohibitions of solemn nuptials be carefully observed by all, from the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ until the day of the Epiphany, and from Ash-Wednesday until the octave of Easter inclusively; but at other times It allows marriage to be solemnly celebrated; and the bishops shall take care that they be conducted with becoming modesty and propriety: for marriage is a holy thing, and is to be treated in a holy manner." (Council of Trent, Twenty-Fourth Session, 1563 A.D.)

* Consummation is not strictly necessary for a marriage to be valid: "Hence pastors should teach the faithful that the nature and force of marriage consists in the tie and obligation; and that, without consummation, the consent of the parties, expressed in the manner already explained, is sufficient to constitute a true marriage. It is certain that our first parents before their fall, when, according to the holy Fathers, no consummation took place, were really united in marriage. Hence the Fathers say that marriage consists not in its use but in the consent. This doctrine is repeated by St. Ambrose in his book On Virgins." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

* Marriage is often compared to the union between Christ and His Church: 

"The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the indissoluble union of Jesus Christ with the Church, His Spouse, and our holy Mother." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

"Thus when Christ our Lord wished to give a sign of the intimate union that exists between Him and His Church and of His immense love for us, He chose especially the sacred union of man and wife. That this sign was a most appropriate one will readily appear from the fact that of all human relations there is none that binds so closely as the marriage-tie, and from the fact that husband and wife are bound to one another by the bonds of the greatest affection and love. Hence it is that Holy Writ so frequently represents to us the divine union of Christ and the Church under the figure of marriage." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

* In accordance with Scripture and tradition, the Church has historically discouraged (and forbidden) mixed marriages (marriages of Catholics with non-Catholics). 

"Can. 1060 Most severely does the Church prohibit everywhere that marriage be entered into by two baptized persons, one of whom is Catholic, and the other belonging to a heretical or schismatic sect; indeed, if there is a danger of perversion to the Catholic spouse and children, that marriage is forbidden even by divine law." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"The Church can forbid the marriage of Catholics with persons who have a different religion or no religion at all, because such marriages generally lead to indifference, loss of faith, and to the neglect of the religious education of the children." (Baltimore Catechism)

"Catholic truth and Church doctrine which forbids mixed marriages as disgraceful because of the communion in holy things and because of the serious danger of the perversion of the Catholic spouse and the perverted education of the future children." (Pope Gregory XVI, "Commissum Divinitus", 1835 A.D.)

"Other reasons also proving that persons should turn with dread from such marriages are chiefly these: that they give occasion to forbidden association and communion in religious matters; endanger the faith of the Catholic partner; are a hindrance to the proper education of the children; and often lead to a mixing up of truth and falsehood, and to the belief that all religions are equally good." (Pope Leo XIII, "Arcanum", 1880 A.D.)

 "Can. 1070 § 1 That marriage is null that is contracted between a non-baptized person and a person baptized in the Catholic Church or converted to her from heresy or schism. § 2 If a party at the time of contracting marriage was commonly considered baptized, or there is a doubt about the baptism, the validity of the marriage is to be upheld according to the norm of Canon 1014 until it is certainly proved that the one party was baptized and the other was not baptized." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"Can. 1086 §1 A marriage between two persons, one of whom has been baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it and has not defected from it by a formal act* and the other of whom is not baptized, is invalid. §2 A person is not to be dispensed from this impediment unless the conditions mentioned in can. 1125 and can. 1126 have been fulfilled. §3 If at the time the marriage was contracted one party was commonly held to have been baptized or the baptism was doubtful, the validity of the marriage must be presumed according to the norm of can. 1060 until it is proven with certainty that one party was baptized but the other was not." (1983 Code of Canon Law) [* This Canon was modified in 2009 - "the elimination of the clause 'actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia Catholica' contained in canons 1086 para. 1, 1117 and 1124" (VIS, 12/15/09)]

"Catholics should avoid mixed marriages (1) Because they are displeasing to the Church and cannot bring with them the full measure of God's grace and blessing; (2) Because the children should have the good example of both parents in the practice of their religion; (3) Because such marriages give rise to frequent disputes on religious questions between husband and wife and between their relatives; (4) Because the one not a Catholic, disregarding the sacred character of the Sacrament, may claim a divorce a marry again, leaving the Catholic married and abandoned." (Baltimore Catechism)

"Since We must diligently safeguard the integrity of sound doctrine and practice, We cannot help but be displeased with whatever might imperil them. And yet what the Church has always thought about marriages between Catholics and non-Catholics is more than abundantly clear. Indeed she has always considered such marriages to be illicit and destructive both because of the disgraceful sharing in sacramental matters involved and because of the ever present danger of the Catholic spouse and improper upbringing of offspring. And this is the tenor of most ancient canons severely prohibiting such marriages and more recent sanctions of supreme pontiffs." (Pope Gregory XVI, "Quas Vestro", 1841 A.D.)

In fact, the prohibition against mixed marriages is one of the six "precepts of the Church" (Precept of the Church #6"Not to marry persons who are not Catholics, or who are related to us within certain degrees of kindred, nor privately without witnesses, nor to solemnize marriage at forbidden times.").

Traditionally, any dispensations given for mixed marriages are issued only reluctantly, and under certain conditions:

"The marriages of Catholics with persons of a different religion are called mixed marriages. They Church permits them by dispensation only under certain conditions and for urgent reasons; chiefly to prevent a greater evil." (Baltimore Catechism)

"The Church [traditionally] shows its displeasure at mixed marriages by the coldness with which it sanctions them, prohibiting all religious ceremony at them, by forbidding the priest to use any sacred vestments, holy water or blessing of the rings at such marriages; by prohibiting them also from taking place in the church or even in the sacristy. On the other hand, the Church shows its joy and approval at a true Catholic marriage by the Nuptial Mass and solemn ceremonies." (Baltimore Catechism)

"The conditions upon which the Church will permit a Catholic to marry one who is not a Catholic are: (1) That the Catholic be allowed the free exercise of his or her religion; (2) That the Catholic shall try by teaching and good example to lead the one who is not a Catholic to embrace the true faith; (3) that all the children born of the marriage shall be brought up in the Catholic religion. The marriage ceremony must not be repeated before a heretical 'minister'. Without these promises, the Church will not consent to a mixed marriage, and if the Church does not consent, the marriage is unlawful." (Baltimore Catechism)

"Can. 1061 § 1 The Church does not dispense from the impediment of mixed religion, unless: 1° Just and grave cause so urge; ° 2 The non-Catholic spouse gives a precaution to remove the danger of perversion from the Catholic spouse, and from both spouses [there is a promise] that all children will be baptized only Catholic and so educated; °3 There is moral certitude the cautions will be implemented. § 2 These cautions are regularly required in writing." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"Can. 1064 Ordinaries and other pastors of souls: 1° Shall discourage, whenever possible, the faithful from mixed weddings; 2° If they are unable to impede them, they shall studiously take care that they not be contracted against the laws of God or the Church; 3° In cases of mixed weddings already celebrated, whether in their own or in another's territory, they shall be sedulously vigilant that the spouses fulfill faithfully all the promises made; 4° In assisting at marriage, they shall observe the prescription of Canon 1102." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

Click here for more information on mixed marriages

* Catholics must not marry before a Protestant 'minister'. "[Traditionally,] Catholics who marry before a Protestant 'minister' incur excommunication; that is, a censure of the Church or spiritual penalty which prevents them from receiving the Sacrament of Penance till the priest who hears their confession gets special facilities or permission from the bishop; because by such a marriage they make profession of a false religion in acknowledging as a priest one who has neither sacred power or authority." (Baltimore Catechism)

* Impediments may prevent a marriage or render a marriage invalid. For a "good and urgent reason", the Church may issue dispensations regarding some impediments, but others cannot be dispensed with.

"The Church can dispense from or remove the impediments to marriage that arise from its own laws; but it cannot dispense from impediments that arise from the laws of God and nature. Every lawmaker can change or excuse from the laws made by himself or his equals, but he cannot, of his own authority, change or excuse from laws made by a higher authority." (Baltimore Catechism)

"That the Church may grant dispensations from the impediments to marriage or from other laws, there must be a good and urgent reason for granting such dispensations. The Church does not grant dispensations without cause and merely to satisfy the wishes of those who ask for them." (Baltimore Catechism)

* Those who marry unlawfully commit a serious sin. "Persons are lawfully married when they comply with all the laws of God and of the Church relating to marriage. To marry unlawfully is a mortal sin, and it deprives the souls of the grace of the Sacrament." (Baltimore Catechism)

* So called "civil marriages" are not true marriages for Christians, and are considered sinful unions. Only Sacramental marriages are valid for Christians.

"Among Christians there can be no true marriage that is not a sacrament." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

"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." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

"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." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

"But considering the benefits of the Sacrament, besides the firmness and indissolubility, there are also much higher emoluments as the word 'sacrament' itself very aptly indicates; for to Christians this is not a meaningless and empty name. Christ the Lord, the Institutor and 'Perfecter' of the holy sacraments, by raising the matrimony of His faithful to the dignity of a true sacrament of the New Law, made it a sign and source of that peculiar internal grace by which 'it perfects natural love, it confirms an indissoluble union, and sanctifies both man and wife.' And since the valid matrimonial consent among the faithful was constituted by Christ as a sign of grace, the sacramental nature is so intimately bound up with Christian wedlock that there can be no true marriage between baptized persons 'without it being by that very fact a sacrament.'" (Pope Pius XI, "Casti Connubii", 1930 A.D.)

"We say nothing about that other decree in which, after completely despising the mystery, dignity, and sanctity of the sacrament of matrimony; after utterly ignoring and distorting its institution and nature; and after completely spurning the power of the Church over the same sacrament, it was proposed, according to the already condemned errors of heretics, and against the teaching of the Catholic Church, that marriage should be considered as a civil contract only, and that divorce, strictly speaking, should be sanctioned in various cases; and that all matrimonial cases should be deferred to lay tribunals and be judged by them; because no Catholic is ignorant or cannot know that matrimony is truly and properly one of the seven sacraments of the evangelical law, instituted by Christ the Lord, and that for that reason, there can be no marriage between the faithful without there being at one and the same time a sacrament, and that, therefore, any other union of man and woman among Christians, except the sacramental union, even if contracted under the power of any civil law, is nothing else than a disgraceful and death-bringing concubinage very frequently condemned by the Church, and, hence, that the sacrament can never be separated from the conjugal agreement, and that it pertains absolutely to the power of the Church to discern those things which can pertain in any way to the same matrimony." (Pope Pius IX, 1857 A.D.)

* Authority regarding marriage rests with the Church. "The Church alone has power to regulate impediments to marriage, to judge of the validity of marriage among Christians and to dispense from the impediments which she has placed." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

* Denying God's order in regard to marriage brings many evils: "Now, those who deny that marriage is holy, and who relegate it, striped of all holiness, among the class of common secular things, uproot thereby the foundations of nature, not only resisting the designs of Providence, but, so far as they can, destroying the order that God has ordained. No one, therefore, should wonder if from such insane and impious attempts there spring up a crop of evils pernicious in the highest degree both to the salvation of souls and to the safety of the commonwealth." (Pope Leo XIII, "Arcanum", 1880 A.D.)

* The state has no authority regarding marriage outside of civil matters: "[T]he leaders of the state have authority in human affairs which led to marriage and generally concern civil matters. However, in the truly Christian marriage, they have no authority, for this matter should be left to the jurisdiction of the Church, which is not established by men. If the marriage contract is properly performed - that is, as Christ established it - then they will be able to see if anything which pertains to civil law might follow. It is Catholic teaching that the dignity of the sacrament adds to the marriage of Christians; nobody can depart from this without losing faith. For that reason, these matters should be governed by the divine authority of the Church alone. No marriage can be considered firmly ratified unless it is joined according to Church law and discipline." (Pope Leo XIII, "Quam Religiosa", 1898 A.D.)

* One must be careful in choosing a spouse since marriage is for life. As stated in the Baltimore Catechism: "Many marriages prove unhappy because they are entered into hastily and without worthy motives."

"But he who has once entered into the matrimonial alliance, regret it as he afterwards may, cannot possibly change, or invalidate, or undo what has been done." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

* Valid sacramental marriages cannot be dissolved, even by the Church.

"[T]he bond of marriage...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." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

"It should be known that no power can dissolve the bond of Christian marriage whenever this has been ratified and consummated; and that, of a consequence, those husbands and wives are guilty of a manifest crime who plan, for whatever reason, to be united in a second marriage before the first one has been ended by death." (Pope Leo XIII)

"In the second place, if marriage could be dissolved by divorce, married persons would hardly ever be without causes of disunion, which would be daily supplied by the old enemy of peace and purity; while, on the contrary, now that the faithful must remember that even though separated as to bed and board, they remain none the less bound by the bond of marriage with no hope of marrying another, they are by this very fact rendered less prone to strife and discord. And even if it sometimes happens that husband and wife become separated, and are unable to bear the want of their partnership any longer, they are easily reconciled by friends and return to their common life." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"The self-same testimony of Christ our Lord easily proves that the marriage-tie cannot be broken by any sort of divorce. For if by a bill of divorce a woman were freed from the law that binds her to her husband, she might marry another husband without being in the least guilty of adultery. Yet our Lord says clearly: Whosoever shall put away his wife and shall marry another committeth adultery. Hence it is plain that the bond of marriage can be dissolved by death alone, as is confirmed by the Apostle when he says: A woman is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband die she is at liberty; let her marry whom she will, only in the Lord; and again: To them that are married, not I but the Lord commandeth, that the wife depart not from her husband; and if she depart that she remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. To the wife, then, who for a just cause has left her husband, the Apostle offers this alternative: Let her either remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. Nor does holy Church permit husband and wife to separate without weighty reasons." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"The true origin of marriage, venerable brothers, is well known to all. Though revilers of the Christian faith refuse to acknowledge the never-interrupted doctrine of the Church on this subject, and have long striven to destroy the testimony of all nations and of all times, they have nevertheless failed not only to quench the powerful light of truth, but even to lessen it. We record what is to all known, and cannot be doubted by any, that God, on the sixth day of creation, having made man from the slime of the earth, and having breathed into his face the breath of life, gave him a companion, whom He miraculously took from the side of Adam when he was locked in sleep. God thus, in His most far-reaching foresight, decreed that this husband and wife should be the natural beginning of the human race, from whom it might be propagated and preserved by an unfailing fruitfulness throughout all futurity of time. And this union of man and woman, that it might answer more fittingly to the infinite wise counsels of God, even from the beginning manifested chiefly two most excellent properties - deeply sealed, as it were, and signed upon it - namely, unity and perpetuity. From the Gospel we see clearly that this doctrine was declared and openly confirmed by the divine authority of Jesus Christ. He bore witness to the Jews and to His Apostles that marriage, from its institution, should exist between two only, that is, between one man and one woman; that of two they are made, so to say, one flesh; and that the marriage bond is by the will of God so closely and strongly made fast that no man may dissolve it or render it asunder.'" (Pope Leo XIII, "Arcanum", 1880 A.D.)

* Those are mistaken who think the state can dissolve a marriage. 

"[T]he 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." (Catechism of St. Pius X)

"Divorce granted by courts of justice or by any human power does not break the bond of marriage, and one who makes use of such a divorce to marry again while the 'former' husband or wife lives commits a sacrilege and lives in the sin of adultery. A civil divorce has no effect whatever upon the bond and spiritual nature of the Sacrament." (Baltimore Catechism)

* For good reasons, the Church may allow a physical separation of spouses, but this does not end the marriage or allow the spouses to marry others.

"The Church sometimes, for very good reasons, does allow husband and wife to separate and live apart; but that is not dissolving the bond of marriage, or divorce as it is called, for though separated they are still husband and wife and neither can marry as long as both are alive." (Baltimore Catechism)

* The Church may declare a marriage invalid (or "null"), but this is not the same as a divorce. This declaration of nullity means the marriage never existed in the first place, even despite appearances to the contrary. Note that a marriage which is valid at its beginning can never be declared invalid, even if conditions later change. 

"The Church does not allow Catholics once really married to separate and marry again, but it sometimes declares persons apparently married free to marry again because their first marriage was null; that is, no marriage on account of some impediment not discovered until after the ceremony [that is, an impediment which already existed at the time of the marriage ceremony, but was not discovered until later]." (Baltimore Catechism)

* Virginity is superior to marriage: 

"[T]here no law rendering marriage obligatory, but, on the contrary, virginity is highly exalted and strongly recommended in Scripture as superior to marriage, and as a state of greater perfection and holiness." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"If any one saith, that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity, or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

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