Marriage & Matrimonial Union | Free Family Law Essay

Marriage is a union between a man and a woman. The legislation of the Catholic Church states from the first Canon in the marriage section the necessity that the matrimonial union must be between a man and woman: “Matrimonial consent is an act of the will exchanged between a man and a woman.” The purpose of this paper is to analyze the important implications and the motivations which the canonical legislator has in order to give this important norm to a marriage and. in a special way, to those marriages celebrated in the Catholic Church.

First, marriage is a heterosexual union. In other words, it is the union between a man and a woman. Catholic theology of marriage is clear and has never changed: marriage is authored by God, rooted in Scripture, revealed in Tradition, and God as author has endowed it with certain essential elements, properties and characteristics. He has given it its own nature which is immutable. The Church does not invent marriage, nor does she have the power to change what marriage is. We see this when we look at Scripture. For example, in the Old Testament, we will not find a systematic doctrine of marriage: only fragments describing the beliefs and practices of the people. Yet they speak of a highly developed understanding and a long-standing observance. Therefore, the heterosexual character of marriage has its roots in the Genesis.

The union in marriage of a man and a woman is a natural exigency that comes from the law of God which is clearly developed through the scriptural accounts where the purpose of marriage is the union of two persons (unity and exclusivity), and openness to a new life which implies a necessity of heterosexual union. This requirement is more than an exigency to guarantee the descendants in a family because through marriage there are other considerations too, such as the complementation between those who are going to be married, the reciprocal respect and the mutual help between both parts. As canon 1055 §1 states, for example, for “the good of the spouses.” For instance, there are some other elements that are difficult to determine with the canonical law because some elements as love between the spouses is something that nobody should be prove in a strict juridical language. Nevertheless, the law does not ignore that the spousal love, affection and the free will of the couple expresses are part of the couple goods.

For instance, we start with the creation narratives. Here we see that God created man and woman as the apex of His creation. In the more developed sacerdotal tradition, man and woman are created by the power and the strength of His Word, in His image. In the more primitive Yahwistic tradition man comes from the dust of the earth and woman from his side. Woman was created as a companion to help because God knew it was not good for man to be alone. St. Augustine wrote, millennia later, about the goods of marriage reasons and elements within the nature of marriage itself warrant the choice for marriage. These goods are the elements within marriage which are divinely authored, which are essential to marriage, which are good and warrant choosing marriage. St. Augustine identified the “Good of the Spouse.” Marriage is meant for the good of the spouse, rooted in Scripture from the beginning.

Fr. Flynn argues that “The matrimonial pact is founded upon pre-existent and permanent structures which constitute the difference between man and a woman, and is ‘instituted' by the spouses themselves, even though in its concrete form it is very subject to the different historical and cultural changes as well in a certain sense, to the particular way in which the marriage is carried out by the spouses. In this marriage shows itself to be an institution of the creator himself, both from the point of view of mutual help in conjugal love and fidelity, as well as through the rearing of children born in marriage within the heart of the family community.” In other words, the figure of man and woman are seen as one flesh who are called to be fruitful and multiply, and subdue the earth. God gives the original couple the task of continuing His creative activity.

The ideal put forth in the Genesis account is that of a monogamous and heterosexual union. Each is given solely to the other. This mirrors God's covenant with His People. God's covenantal relationship required having no other gods beside the Lord. The marriage of man and woman was to mirror this relationship in a monogamous marriage covenant as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Each of the two sexes is an image of the power and tenderness of God, with equal dignity though a different way. The union of a man and a woman in marriage is a way of imitating in the flesh of the creator's generosity and fecundity. ‘Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.' (Gen: 2:24) All human generations proceed from this union.”

Canon Law

Canon Law and the lawyers observe and pay attention to the different regulations regarding the canons making reference to the different aspects like consent, impediments, validity and other similar themes. All of them are necessary, but they do not define the essence of marriage.

What is the essence of marriage? According to the canon 1055 §1 “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.” This canon reflects in a literal way, the doctrine that is expressed in the apostolic constitution Gaudium et Spes, from the Second Vatican Council regarding to the essence of marriage in reference to the education in a “family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and others that a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children.”

As a result, the canonical legislator does not have disposition about the essence of marriage. The legislator just limits his action to the institution of the natural right that exists. Therefore, nobody has the authority to go against the natural law in marriage and its implications to the society even in those marriages that are not sacramental.

Further, the essence of the matrimonial contract is seen clearly from the family perspective, in a mutual agreement where the persons who are making the matrimonial commit to creating a family. In other words, the significance of marriage includes the disposition to the generation and education in the good values of their descendants.

Nevertheless, the people who support marriage between persons of the same sex present arguments relaying on family models in those unions where the possibility of lineage does not exist. The people who are defending those other models of family see a type of family as a prototype of family. That is, the other models are similar to the regular concept of marriage that is known, which is composed of parents and children; however in these models they are united in an unnatural way as genetic manipulation through medical procedures. As a result, it would be an error if the legislator were to call a family something that is not and not will be.

It is not logical for a legislator (civil or ecclesiastical) to approve as a matrimonial union that which does not have any possibility of a natural descendant, as in the case of marriage between persons of the same sex. This is evident in the commentary of the canon law ‘The partners must know at least that marriage is heterosexual in nature (but not that it is exclusive.) The parties cannot be ignorant that marriage is ordered to the procreation of children or that this procreation comes about through the bodily interaction of specific organs of the man and a woman.”

Therefore, the Canon Law and the natural law of God proscribe that canonical marriage is an association between a man and a woman. The concept of marriage is not a disposition of the canonical legislator or a decision of civil authorities: they are not be able to approve a marriage between other than a man and a woman. Consequently, a union between people of the same sex is against the very essence of marriage because it is a different union which is contrary to natural law. This conclusion is evident in reference to canon 1096 §1 “ For matrimonial consent to exist, the contracting parties must be at least not ignorant that marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman ordered to the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation.” In other words, this canon perceives the minimum knowledge of marriage which includes that marriage is a heterosexual union.

However, those elements are not unique requirements that permit a legal and licit marriage. In a couple love will exist, but they must have clear what kind of project they are going to implement in their life as spouses. This is a project of union that includes the formation of a family. As the Catechism says “the spouses' union achieves the twofold end of marriage; the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings of values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple's spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family. The conjugal love of a man and a woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity.”

Finally, mankind did not arrived by accident or from nowhere because the truth is we come from God. In addition, moral and ethical values are not just accidental situations; ethics must find support in God's words because there we can find wise answers according to God's revelation. As a result truth is only revealed through faith to the people of God. People who do not believe in a superior being think that they are free from the law of God and free to follow their own conscience as in this specific case in the matter of marriage between people of same sex. They are wrong; they are friends of death, and darkness because they lack knowledge in reference to the meaning of the genuine life. In this sense, moral freedom results in degeneration of human integrity because it is destructive for man as an essential part in society.


  • Beal, John P, Coriden James A, Green J. and Green. New Commentary of the Canon Law. Mahwah: New Jersey Paulist Press, 2000.
  • Catechism of the Catholic Church. Vatican City : Libreria Editrice Vaticana ; Washington, D.C. : [distributed by] United States Catholic Conference, 2000
  • Code of Canon Law. Vatican City : Libreria Editrice Vaticana ; Washington, D.C. : [distributed by] United States Catholic Conference, 2000
  • Flynn, John “Marriage as a Union between a Man and a Woman,” Canon Law Society of America: Proceedings of the Sixty First Annual convention” (Minneapolis, Minnesota ), vol. 62 (1999): 21-41.