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Catholic Essentials
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Christian Marriage

Marriage, also known as the Sacrament of Matrimony, is defined as, "a contract between a man and a woman, both of whom are baptized and free to enter into the contract, to live together for the purpose of begetting and rearing children, and of cherishing one another in a common life. The ends of matrimony are, therefore, primarily the procreation and bringing up of children; secondarily, mutual support and affection and the satisfaction of desire." (Definition from A Catholic Dictionary, 1951)

References in Scripture to Marriage:

  • "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh. This is a great sacrament; but I speak in Christ and in the church." Ephesians 5:31-32
  • "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as it behoveth in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter towards them." Colossians 3:18-19
  • "But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5:28

References in Scripture to Mixed Marriage (marriage to non-believers):

  • "Neither shalt thou make marriages with them (the Chanaanites). Thou shalt not give thy daughter to his son, nor take his daughter for thy son: For she will turn away thy son from following me, that he may rather serve strange gods, and the wrath of the Lord will be kindled, and will quickly destroy thee" Deut 7:3-4
  • "But if you will embrace the errors of these nations that dwell among you, and make marriages with them, and join friendships: Know ye for a certainty that the Lord your God will not destroy them before your face, but they shall be a pit and a snare in your way, and a stumblingblock at your side, and stakes in your eyes, till he take you away and destroy you from off this excellent land, which he hath given you." Josue 23:12-13

References in Scripture to Divorce and Separation:

  • "For the woman that hath an husband, whilst her husband liveth is bound to the law. But if her husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. Therefore, whilst her husband liveth, she shall be called an adulteress, if she be with another man: but if her husband be dead, she is delivered from the law of her husband; so that she is not an adulteress, if she be with another man." Romans 7:2-3
  • "But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother; and shall cleave to his wife. And they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. And in the house again his disciples asked him concerning the same thing. And he saith to them: Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her." Mark 10:6-11
  • "Every one that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her that is put away from her husband, commmitteth adultery" Luke 16:18
  • "But 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. And let not the husband put away his wife." 1 Corinthians 7:10-11

Church Teaching on Marriage:

  • The self­same testimony of Christ our Lord easily proves that the marriage­tie cannot be broken by any sort of divorce" Catechism of Trent - The Sacraments - Matrimony
  • "It is the duty of the husband to treat his wife generously and honourably......The husband should also be constantly occupied in some honest pursuit with a view to provide necessaries for the support of his family and to avoid idleness, the root of almost every vice. Catechism of Trent - The Sacraments - Matrimony
  • "But now this sin is more grievous because the wife, although separated from her husband, cannot be taken in marriage by another until the husband's death. He, therefore, who covets another man's wife will easily fall from this into another desire, for he will wish either the death of the husband or the commission of adultery" Catechism of Trent - Ninth and Tenth Commandment
  • "The words increase and multiply, which were uttered by the Lord, do not impose on every individual an obligation to marry, but only declare the purpose of the institution of marriage. Now that the human race is widely diffused, not only is there no law rendering marriage obligatory, but, on the contrary, virginity is highly exalted and strongly recommended in Scripture as superior to marriage" Catechism of Trent - The Sacraments - Matrimony
  • "To remedy this pernicious evil, We, with certain knowledge and after mature deliberation, declare all pacts between spouses for the dissolution of marriages to be null, invalid, and ineffectual, both now and for the future. We also annul those pacts which interfere with the appeals process, even if the pacts were approved by oath, and even if they were agreed upon before the publication of our most recent letter. So that no such pact may ever be considered valid and obligatory, We inflict the penalty of excommunication on anyone entering into a pact" Encyclical on Validity of Marriages by Pope Benedict XIV, 1743
  • "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" Encyclical on Mixed Marriages by Pope Gregory XVI, 1841
  • "Thus, from your letter We learn that in your dioceses an abuse has become common: namely, that marriages between Catholics and non-Catholics, without any previous dispensation from the Church and without necessary precautions, are dignified with priestly blessing and sacramental rites. It must be clear to you how deeply We are affected by this, especially since We perceive that once this license with regard to mixed marriages was introduced, it became widely disseminated. This in turn resulted in a rapidly spreading deadly indifference toward religion in your great kingdom, once so preeminent in the glory of the Catholic faith. Let us not be mistaken: We would scarcely have overlooked this practice if it had been known to Us earlier" Encyclical on Mixed Marriages by Pope Gregory XVI, 1841
  • "Condemned: 67. By the law of nature, the marriage tie is not indissoluble, and in many cases divorce properly so called may be decreed by the civil authority. -- Ibid.; Allocution "Acerbissimum," Sept. 27, 1852." Encyclical named, The Syllabus of Errors, by Pope Pius IX, 1864, See section VIII, Errors Concerning Christian Marriage
  • "No marriage can be considered firmly ratified unless it is joined according to Church law and discipline" Encyclical on Civil Marriage Law by Pope Leo XIII, 1898
  • "Finally, in its sacramental aspect that the marriage bond should not be broken and that a husband or wife, if separated, should not be joined to another even for the sake of offspring. This we regard as the law of marriage by which the fruitfulness of nature is adorned and the evil of incontinence is restrained" Encyclical on Christian Marriage by Pope Pius XI, 1930
  • "All of which agrees with the stern words of the Bishop of Hippo in denouncing those wicked parents who seek to remain childless, and failing in this, are not ashamed to put their offspring to death: "Sometimes this lustful cruelty or cruel lust goes so far as to seek to procure a baneful sterility, and if this fails the fetus conceived in the womb is in one way or another smothered or evacuated, in the desire to destroy the offspring before it has life, or if it already lives in the womb, to kill it before it is born. If both man and woman are party to such practices they are not spouses at all; and if from the first they have carried on thus they have come together not for honest wedlock, but for impure gratification" Encyclical On Christian Marriage by Pope Pius XI, 1930
  • "Wherefore, since the chief obstacle to this study is the power of unbridled lust, which indeed is the most potent cause of sinning against the sacred laws of matrimony, and since man cannot hold in check his passions, unless he first subject himself to God, this must be his primary endeavor, in accordance with the plan divinely ordained" Encyclical On Christian Marriage by Pope Pius XI, 1930
  • "For matrimonial faith demands that husband and wife be joined in an especially holy and pure love, not as adulterers love each other, but as Christ loved the Church. This precept the Apostle laid down when he said: "Husbands, love your wives as Christ also loved the Church,"[24] that Church which of a truth He embraced with a boundless love not for the sake of His own advantage, but seeking only the good of His Spouse.[25] The love, then, of which We are speaking is not that based on the passing lust of the moment nor does it consist in pleasing words only, but in the deep attachment of the heart which is expressed in action, since love is proved by deeds" Encyclical On Christian Marriage by Pope Pius XI, 1930
  • "In fine, in spite of what others may wish to assert and spread abroad by word of mouth or in writing, let husband and wife resolve: to stand fast to the commandments of God in all things that matrimony demands; always to render to each other the assistance of mutual love; to preserve the honor of chastity; not to lay profane hands on the stable nature of the bond; to use the rights given them by marriage in a way that will be always Christian and sacred, more especially in the first years of wedlock, so that should there be need of continency afterwards, custom will have made it easier for each to preserve it" Encyclical On Christian Marriage by Pope Pius XI, 1930


It is very clear from Scripture and Church teaching that the bond of the Sacrament of Marriage is indissoluble. Whether civil authorities declare a marriage annulled or divorced, this does not affect the Sacramental bond itself. Exceptions to the Sacrament itself are extremely rare, to be almost non-existent.

It is also clear from past Church teaching that the Sacrament of Marriage does not provide a license for lust.




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