Matrimony and its Features
An analysis of the true meaning of matrimony.
If we look around us there are many different variations on the theme of marriage. Couples are drawn together and marry in Church or by a Registry Office marriage, for all sorts of reasons and from a great variety of backgrounds. What matters is the commitment of man to woman and vice versa. Even an unmarried couple may have a strong commitment. Thus those embarking on matrimony rightly have the expectation of happiness for years to come despite the inauspicious history of a particular spouse in terms of matrimony. Thus the nature of matrimony begins with what each spouse brings to that union or informal cohabitation. It is what comes next that counts.
2. The Marriage Itself.
The history of a marriage or practical union defines that particular matrimony and partnership. No one can predict the history and outcome at the outset. That is the precious essence of the union. The relationship of marriage is complex, unusual and powerful. A marriage should empower not restrain and weaken within reason. Matrimony and unmarried bonds never stop working their purpose out. That is their mystery and phenomenal strength. Children are a blessing and further buttress the marital or unmarried relationship. The best start for a couple starting on married life is marriage in a Christian Church or according to the Hindu tradition or Islamic practice or Sikh religion. This is the centre of matrimonial relations. In Christian practice the sacrament of marriage is administered by the priest as with all sacraments. The couple quite properly present themselves for marriage instruction and marriage itself. The reciprocal and accepted engagement is at the heart of Christian marriage thinking. The proposal should be given freely and willingly by the man and accepted on the same terms by the woman. The engagement is pivotal and the marriage sequential. The proposal of marriage is a very big statement by the man followed by the making of the marriage vows which reinforce the marriage but the marriage is completed and achieved when the priest declares the couple “man and wife”. Admittedly the taking of the vows by the priest from the bridegroom and bride is the sine qua non for the priest’s aforesaid declaration. In a Christian marriage everything depends upon the vows elicited by the priest and the priest’s acclamation the couple are man and wife. A valid Christian marriage cannot occur outside the walls of the Church nor can it be validly celebrated without the participation of a validly ordained priest within those walls according to the proper rites of marriage.
3. Breakdown of Marriage
This is not always a negative thing as each spouse may attain greater clarity and strength through separation. Yes you should keep your pledge come what may, but what is your pledge as a married man? The vows require you to honour and cherish your wife for better and worse. Hard though it may be to believe “better” may mean to achieve a “better” situation for the two spouses outside normal cohabitation. We certainly do not want “worse” Many marital breakdowns do not begin on account of the failure to grasp that nettle of putting up with “worse”. Marital breakdown gives one party if not both a bad press whatever the reason for the parting. That may be a good thing as discouraging flattery and self-adulation. The process of adjusting to the separation and divorce gives the whole circle around the couple and the couple themselves the chance to reflect on the history of the marriage and the currents at work within that matrimony. That can be an interesting exercise in self- examination if properly followed through. Each matrimony whether with the couple together or separated is a fascinating example of how human nature works. No one should ever be condemned. That is very unchristian and contrary to the true spirit of Christian matrimony. It is also defeatist and improperly judgemental. A couple should always be supported where feasible. In some cases not even tact will save the day. At bottom we should be saving souls.
Christian marriage is eternal as taught by the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church. Man cannot put this union asunder whether by decree of divorce or nullity. The Catholic Church believes in the canon law thinking on the invalidly entered marriage due to the consent of one party being insufficient. Where the marriage has endured for decades and several children have been born a Catholic Church decree of nullity is contra-indicated. In my view that decree would not be based on reality and would serve no useful purpose. You cannot airbrush out or obliterate the story of a marriage properly achieved. To do so is to send out the wrong signal to the couple in question that they were never married and leave the children and grandchildren forlorn and orphans. Couples do not ever forget each other and their children. To pretend to eradicate their memories and downgrade them is no act of charity but an action of churlishness and pettiness unbecoming of the Roman Catholic Church. Interestingly there is no Church law plea for nullity in the Courts of the Anglican Church. A Family Law Suit for nullity is always available (e.g. marriage not consummated) in the English Family Division High Court if contested or even uncontested. The English Judges will not permit nullity based on lack of consent alone. The Catholic Church has sanctioned far too many nullity decrees on the grounds of lack of consent to allow remarriage in our Catholic Church and thereby the Church has devalued marriage as a sacrament and bond in the Catholic Church herself. Holy Mother Church has been treated harshly in this regard.
Permit couples to marry and yes if it comes to it they may separate. Our Society and Church must allow the sacrosanct freedom to marry in Church and the freedom to separate if the marriage becomes enervating and trying beyond reason. I.e. repressive or suppressive. Of course couples should be encouraged to stay together and be conciliatory (different meaning to conciliate). At the end of the day the couple will decide on the future of their relationship as is right and proper.