Don't confuse marriage with other kinds of unions, pope says

By Carol Glatz

(CNS) — Pope Francis said there can be no confusion between God’s plan for
marriage as an indissoluble bond between one man and woman who are open to
life, and other sorts of unions.

“The church,
in fact, can demonstrate God’s unwavering merciful love toward families,
especially those wounded by sin and life’s trials, and at the same time
proclaim the essential truth of marriage according to God’s plan,” the
pope said Jan. 22, in a meeting with members of the Roman Rota. The pope holds
the annual meeting to inaugurate the Vatican court’s judicial year.

Pope Francis said
the court, which hears requests for marriage annulments, helps support families
and the truth about the sacred bond of marriage.

In evaluating and
judging marriage cases and contributing to formation, the Roman Rota helps
promote and proclaim the truth, he said.

When the church,
through the court’s service, seeks to declare the truth about marriage in each
specific case, it always bears in mind that those “who, through free
choice or unfortunate circumstances in life, live in an objective state of
error continue to be the object of the merciful love of Christ and therefore of
the church, too.”

The two
gatherings of the Synod of Bishops focused on the family were occasions of
“in-depth, knowledgeable discernment” and they gave the church a
chance to tell “the world that there can be no confusion between the
family desired by God and any other kind of union,” the pope said.

“The family,
based on indissoluble, unitive and procreative marriage, is part of God’s
‘dream’ and the church’s for the salvation of humanity,” he said.

The church will
always offer the truth about marriage, he said, “not as an ideal for the
few, despite modern examples based on what is fleeting and transitory, but as a
reality that, with Christ’s grace, can be lived by all the baptized

That means there
is great pastoral urgency for adequate marriage preparation, for example, he
said, with a kind of marriage “catechumenate” that was suggested
during the synods on the family. A catechumenate would entail a longer process
of formation before marriage, as well as during the years right after the

While the family
is considered to be a “domestic church,” he said, the church is the
family of God. Therefore, the church must be filled with a loving, “family
spirit,” where people are “no longer strangers and sojourners,”
but members of God’s family, he said.

The church — as
both mother and teacher — knows that not every one of her children is perfect,
he said.

“The church
knows that some Christians have a faith that’s strong, formed from love,
strengthened by good catechesis and nourished by prayer and a sacramental
life,” the pope said, “while others have a faith that’s weak,
neglected, unformed, poorly taught or forgotten.”

The pope
reiterated church teaching that the level of a person’s faith “is not an
essential condition of matrimonial consent” and in fact, he said, it is
not unusual for engaged couples to go into a marriage with a limited
understanding of the fullness of God’s plan.

“The lack of
formation in the faith and even error concerning the unity, indissolubility and
the sacramental dignity of marriage invalidate matrimonial consent only when
they determine” or condition a person’s will, he said.

Precisely for
this reason, “errors which concern the sacramentality of marriage must be
evaluated very carefully,” he said.

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