Marriage and Family:
All You Need is Love
by: Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio
Is annulment just a Catholic Divorce? This article explains the unpopular Roman Catholic position on marital intimacy, divorce, remarriage, and the meaning of a decree of nullity.
The Beatles wrote a song that was the sensation of 1967, “All you need is love.” This the same point made a few years earlier by an ecumenical council of the Catholic Church.
Gadium et Spes 24, Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, says this: God is Trinity, a communion of persons who pour themselves out in love to one another from all eternity. If we human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, then we are clearly designed for love. In fact, we really can’t find ourselves without giving ourselves in love sincerely and completely.
That’s also the central point of this Sunday’s readings. Genesis 2 shows Adam in paradise, surrounded by splendor and comfort, but nevertheless unfulfilled. God creates the animals as companions. He can enjoy their company and be their loving master. But he cannot have communion, true fellowship, with them.
So God fashions woman from his own flesh. When he wakes up and sees her, he is thrilled. In every way, she is a perfect fit–in body, soul, and spirit. She complements and completes him. But she is not created as a commodity for his use, much less a disposable one to be used and discarded. The love that makes us like God is a communion that is the fruit not of taking, but of giving. And it is not about partial giving, but giving of one’s entire self.
Now one of the characteristics of human beings is that we have a future. Total self-giving means giving ourselves not only in the present moment, but giving our entire future as well. For this reason, the relationship of authentic marriage founded on true love, has to be “till death do us part.” This is why Jesus, in this Sunday’s gospel, is so uncompromising on this point, and why the Catholic Church to this day maintains the Lord’s unpopular position against divorce and remarriage.
Ah, but what about that “Catholic Divorce” known as annulment? A decree of nullity is not “Catholic divorce.” Divorce means the splitting apart of those who have become one body and one spirit. But what makes a man and woman one flesh and one spirit is not a ceremony presided over by judge or priest. It is the sincere gift of self on the part of both parties that is free, total, exclusive, permanent, and open to a further act of self-giving love called parenthood. A decree of nullity means that, after an extensive investigation by Church authorities, it has been discovered that despite the ceremony, something essential was lacking in the gift of self of one or both of the spouses and therefore the bond was not forged.
It could be that one or the other of the spouses did not intend this union to be “till death do us part,” but rather “till it becomes inconvenient.” Or it could also be because one or the other never intended to accept children lovingly from God and planned from the outset to use every means to thwart such fruitfulness. Such an arrangement is not marriage, in the biblical and Catholic meaning of the term, despite what society thinks.
But here’s another question–if we are made for love, and Adam was incomplete until he found fulfillment in marriage, then what does that say about those who never marry? Are they doomed to unhappiness and a life that is not fully human?
Far from it. The Lord Jesus was the perfect man and, Da Vinci Code fantasy aside, was never married. He poured himself out in suffering love “till death do us part.”
Many follow in his footsteps in consecrated celibacy. Others follow in his footsteps in a more hidden way, without canonical vows, but quietly and tirelessly giving of themselves to family, friends, patients, clients, and those in need who come to them.
The Beatles were right. Love is all you need. But, though God created marital intimacy and called it good, the essence of love is not romance but rather self-giving.
This was originally published in Our Sunday Visitor as a reflection upon the readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, liturgical cycle B (Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16). It is reproduced here with the permission of the author.
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|The Catholic Church on Sex, Marriage and Divorce - 2 CD Set
by Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio
In these two talks, Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Catholic theologian and father of five, explains why the Catholic Church is a champion, not enemy, of love and intimacy. In the first talk, Dr. D'Ambrosio shows how sexual love is most fulfilling when a relationship goes forward in accord with God's plan and why pre-marital sex, homosexual relationships, and even contraception within a marriage are at odds with this plan. The second talk clarifies what authentic Christian marriage really is. Exposing the widespread misunderstandings of Catholic teaching on divorce and remarriage, this talk also explains what annulment means and why it is not just a hypocritical attempt to get around Jesus's words on the indissolubility of marriage.
Talk 1: Love, Sex and the Catholic Church
Talk 2: Marriage and Divorce: the Catholic Perspective
2 CD Set - $18.00
Annulments and the Catholic Church - Edward J. Peters
Annulment. A perplexing word. To some, both Catholics and non-Catholics alike, it is synonymous with “Catholic divorce.” Others think that an annulment makes children illegitimate. Many questions abound regarding this issue, one which unfortunately touches the lives of many in the Church today. In this helpful book, canon and civil lawyer Edward N. Peters clears up some of the confusion by answering the most commonly-asked annulment questions in a thorough yet easy-to-understand style.
A wonderful companion to Dr. D'Ambrosio's 2 Talk Set on The Catholic Church on Sex, Marriage, Divorce and Annulments
Walking Toward Eternity - Starter Pack
Walking Toward Eternity is an inspiring series designed to help participants live their faith more fully. Through daily prayerful meditation with Scripture (lectio divina), they will be drawn into an intimate and life-changing encounter with Christ.
Daring to Walk the Walk, the first series of Walking Toward Eternity, introduces seven key virtues and outlines practical steps for living them out in daily life.