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Marriage and "De Facto”
PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILY
One very widespread phenomenon that calls
strongly upon the conscience of the Christian community today is the growing
number of de facto unions in society as a whole, with the disaffection for the
stability of marriage that this entails. The Church cannot fail to shed light
on this reality in its discernment of the “signs of the times”.
Aware of the grave repercussions of this social
and pastoral situation, the Pontifical Council for the Family organized a series
of study meetings in 1999 and during the first months of the year 2000. Some
outstanding persons and well-known experts from different parts of the world
took part in order to analyze this delicate problem that has such great
transcendence for the Church and the world.
The present document is the fruit of this study.
It takes up a current and difficult problem that touches the very heart of human
relations, the most delicate part of the intimate union between the family and
life, the most sensitive areas of the human heart. At the same time, the
undeniable public transcendence of the present international political juncture
makes it fitting and urgent to offer a word of guidance addressed especially to
those who have responsibilities in this area. It is they in their legislative
task who can give juridical consistency to the institution of marriage or, on
the contrary, based on an unreal understanding of personal problems, weaken the
consistency of the common good that protects this natural institution.
These reflections are also addressed to pastors
who must receive and guide so many Christians today and accompany them along the
way toward appreciating the natural value that is protected by the institution
of marriage and ratified by the Christian sacrament. The family based on
marriage corresponds to the Creator’s design “at the beginning” (Mt.
19:4). In the Kingdom of God, where no seed can be sowed other than that of the
truth that is already written in the human heart, the only seed capable of
“bearing fruit through perseverance” (Lk. 8:15), this truth becomes
mercy, understanding and a call to recognize in Jesus the “light of the world” (Jn.
8:12), and the power that frees from the bonds of evil.
This document also proposes to contribute in a
positive way to a dialogue that will clarify the truth about these matters and
the requirements that come from the natural order itself, and to take part in
the socio-political debate and the responsibility for the common good.
May God grant that these serene and responsible
considerations, which are shared by so many persons of good will, redound to the
benefit of that community of life that is necessary for the Church and the
world: the family.
Vatican City, July 26, 2000
Alfonso Cardinal López Trujillo
Most Rev. Francisco
(1) The so-called “de facto unions” have been taking on special importance in society during these past years. Some initiatives insist on their institutional recognition and even their equivalence to families originating in a marriage commitment. Before a question of such importance with so many future repercussions for the entire human community, this Pontifical Council proposes in the following reflections to call attention to the danger that such recognition and equivalence would represent for the identity of the matrimonial union, and the grave damage this would entail for the family and the common good of society.
In this document, after considering the social
aspect of de facto unions, their constitutive elements, and their existential
motivations, the problem is taken up of the juridical recognition and
equivalency of de facto unions, first with regard to the family based on
marriage, and then with regard to the whole of society. The document then deals
with the family as a social value, the objective values to be fostered, and the
duty in justice on the part of society to protect and promote the family rooted
in marriage. Afterwards, some aspects raised in relation to Christian marriage
are studied in depth. Some general criteria are also presented for pastoral
discernment which are necessary to guide the Christian communities.
The considerations presented here are not only addressed
to those who explicitly recognize the Catholic Church as “the church of the
living God, the pillar and bulwark of truth” (1 Tm. 3:15), but also to
all Christians who belong to the different Churches and Christian communities,
and to all those who are sincerely committed to the precious good of the family,
the fundamental cell of society. As the Second Vatican Council teaches, “The
well-being of the individual person and of human and Christian society is
intimately linked with the healthy condition of that community produced by
marriage and family. Hence Christians and all men who hold this community in
high esteem sincerely rejoice in the various ways by which men today find help
in fostering this community of love and perfecting its life, and by which
parents are assisted in their lofty calling”.
I – “De facto Unions”
Social aspect of de facto unions
(2) The term “de facto unions” includes a whole
series of many heterogeneous human realities whose common element is that of
being forms of cohabitation (of a sexual kind) which are not marriage. De facto
unions are characterized precisely by the fact that they ignore, postpone, or
even reject the conjugal commitment. Grave consequences are derived from this.
In marriage, through the covenant of conjugal love, all
the responsibilities that result from the bond that has been made are taken on
publicly. From this public assumption of responsibilities a good results not
only for the spouses themselves and for the children in their affective and
formational growth, but also for the other members of the family. Therefore,
the family based on marriage is a fundamental and precious good for the whole
society whose most solid fabric is built on the values that are developed in
family relations and guaranteed by stable marriage. The good generated by
marriage is basic for the Church which recognizes the family as the “domestic
All this is endangered by abandoning the institution of marriage, which is
implicit in de facto unions.
(3) Some may wish to, and may use sexuality in a way other
than that written by God into human nature and the specifically human end of
their acts. This goes against the interpersonal language of love and seriously
endangers, through an objective disorder, the true dialogue of life willed by
the Creator and Redeemer of humankind. The doctrine of the Catholic Church is
well known by public opinion, and it is not necessary to repeat it here.
It is the social dimension of the problem that requires greater reflection and
makes it possible to point out, especially to those with public
responsibilities, the inappropriateness of elevating these private situations to
the category of public interest. With the pretext of regulating one context of
social and juridical cohabitation, attempts are made to justify the
institutional recognition of de facto unions. In this way, de facto unions
would turn into an institution, and their rights and duties would be sanctioned
by law to the detriment of the family based on marriage. The de facto unions
would be put on a juridical level similar to marriage; moreover, this kind of
cohabitation would be publicly qualified as a “good” by elevating it to a
condition similar to, or equivalent to marriage, to the detriment of truth and
justice. In this way, a very strong contribution would be made toward the
breakdown of the natural institution of marriage which is absolutely vital,
basic and necessary for the whole social body.
Constitutive elements of de
(4) Not all de facto unions have the same social
weight or the same motivations. When describing their positive characteristics,
over and above their common negative trait of postponing, ignoring or rejecting
the matrimonial union, some elements stand out. First, there is the purely
factual character of the relationship. It should be pointed out that these
unions imply cohabitation that includes a sexual relationship (which
distinguishes them from other forms of cohabitation), and a relative tendency
toward stability (which distinguishes them from sporadic or occasional forms of
cohabitation). De facto unions do not imply marital rights and duties, and they
do not presume to have the stability that is based on the marriage bond. They
are characterized by their strong assertion to not take on any ties. The
constant instability that comes from the possibility of terminating the
cohabitation is consequently a characteristic of de facto unions. There is also
a certain more or less explicit “commitment” to “mutual fidelity”, so to speak,
as long as the relationship lasts.
(5) Some de facto unions are clearly the result of a
decisive choice. “Trial” unions are common among those planning to marry in the
future, but on the condition that they have the experience of a union without a
marriage bond. This is a kind of “conditioned stage” for marriage, similar to
but, different from this, a certain social recognition is presumed.
Some other persons who live together justify this
choice because of economic reasons or to avoid legal difficulties. The real
motives are often much deeper. In using this type of pretext, there is often an
underlying mentality that gives little value to sexuality. This is influenced
more or less by pragmatism and hedonism, as well as by a conception of love
detached from any responsibility. The commitment is avoided to the stability,
the responsibilities, and the rights and duties that real conjugal love
In other cases, de facto unions are formed by
persons who were previously divorced and are thus an alternative to marriage.
Through pro-divorce legislation, marriage often tends to lose its identity in
personal conscience. In this sense, a lack of confidence in the institution of
marriage should be pointed out which sometimes comes from the negative
experience of persons who have been traumatized by a previous divorce or by
their parents’ divorce. This distressing phenomenon is beginning to become
important from a social viewpoint in the more economically developed countries.
It is not uncommon for persons living together in
a de facto union to make their rejection of marriage for ideological reasons
known explicitly. This then is the choice of an alternative, a certain way of
living one’s sexuality. These persons consider marriage as something to be
rejected, something that is opposed to their ideology, an “unacceptable form of
abusing personal well-being”, or even as “the tomb of passionate love”,
expressions that denote a lack of knowledge about the real nature of human love
and sacrifice, and of the nobility and beauty of constancy and fidelity in human
(6) De facto unions are not always the result of
a clear and positive choice. Sometimes persons who are living together in these
unions show that they tolerate or bear this situation. In some countries, the
increasing number of de facto unions is due to a disaffection regarding marriage
not for ideological reasons, but because of a lack of adequate formation in
responsibility, which is the product of the poverty and marginalization of their
environment. A lack of confidence in marriage, however, can also be due to
family conditioning, especially in the Third World. One important factor to be
taken into consideration are the situations of injustice and the structures of
sin. The cultural predominance of macho or racist attitudes come together and
aggravate this difficult situation very much.
In these cases, it is not unusual to find de facto unions
where, from the beginning, in principle, the partners want an authentic life
together, consider themselves united as husband and wife, and make efforts to
fulfill obligations similar to those of marriage.
Poverty, that is often the result of imbalances in the world economic order and
structural educational shortcomings, poses serious obstacles that keep them from
forming a real family.
In other places, cohabitation (for more or less
extended periods of time) is frequent until the conception or birth of the first
child. These customs correspond to ancestral and traditional practices which
are very strong in some regions of Africa and Asia and are related to the
so-called “marriage by stages”. These practices are in contrast with human
dignity, difficult to uproot, and create a negative moral situation with a
characteristic and well-defined social problem. This kind of union should not be
identified with the de facto unions we are concerned with here (which are formed
on the margin of a traditional kind of cultural anthropology), and pose a
challenge for the inculturation of the faith in the Third Millennium of the
The complexity and diversity of the problem of de
facto unions can be clearly seen if we consider, for instance, that in some
cases, their most immediate cause can be related to social security and welfare
systems. This is the case, for example, in the most developed systems where
elderly persons form de facto relationships because they fear that marriage
would involve tax burdens or the loss of their pensions.
Personal reasons and the cultural factor
(7) It is important to ask the deep reasons why
contemporary culture is witnessing a crisis in marriage, both in its religious
and civil dimensions, and the attempt to gain recognition and equivalency for de
facto unions. In this way, unstable situations, which are defined more by their
negative aspect (the omission of marriage) than by their positive
characteristics, seem to be on a level similar to marriage. In fact, all these
situations are consolidated in different kinds of relations, but all are in
contrast with a real and full reciprocal self-giving that is stable and
recognized socially. In a context of privatization of love and the elimination
of the institutional character of marriage, the complexity of the economic,
sociological and psychological reasons suggests the need to delve into the
ideological and cultural background on which the phenomenon of de facto unions,
as we know it today, has been progressively growing and becoming affirmed.
The progressive decrease in the number of
marriages and families recognized as such by the laws of different States, and
the increase in some countries in the number of unmarried couples who are living
together cannot be explained adequately as an isolated and spontaneous cultural
movement. It seems to be a response to the historical changes in societies in
the contemporary cultural moment that some authors describe as
“post-modernism”. It is certain that the decreased influence of the
agricultural world, the development of the tertiary sector of the economy, the
increase in the average life span, the instability of work and personal
relationships, the reduction in the number of family members living under the
same roof, and the globalization of social and economic phenomena have produced
great instability in families and favored the ideal of a smaller family. But is
this enough to explain the contemporary situation of marriage? The institution
of marriage is experiencing a lesser crisis where family traditions are
(8) In the process that could be described as the
gradual cultural and human de-structuring of the institution of marriage, the
spread of a certain ideology of “gender” should not be underestimated.
According to this ideology, being a man or a woman is not determined
fundamentally by sex but by culture. Therefore, the very bases of the family
and inter-personal relationships are attacked. Some considerations should be
made in this regard because of the importance of this ideology in contemporary
culture and its influence on the phenomenon of de facto unions.
In the integrative dynamics of the human
personality, one very important factor is identity. During childhood and
adolescence, a person progressively gains awareness of being “him/herself”, an
awareness of his/her own identity. This is integrated into a process of
recognition of one’s being and, consequently, of the sexual dimension of one’s
being. This is therefore awareness of identity and difference. Experts usually
make a distinction between sexual identity (i.e., awareness of the
psycho-biological identity of one’s sex, and the difference with regard to the
other sex), and generic identity (i.e., awareness of the psycho-social and
cultural identity of the role which persons of a determined sex play in
society). In a correct and harmonious process of integration, sexual and
generic identity are complementary because persons live in society according to
the cultural aspects corresponding to their sex. The category of generic sexual
identity (“gender”) is therefore of a psycho-social and cultural nature. It
corresponds to and is harmonious with sexual identity of a psycho-biological
nature when the integration of the personality is achieved as recognition of the
fullness of the person’s inner truth, the unity of body and soul.
Starting from the decade between 1960-1970, some theories
(which today are usually described by experts as “constructionist”) hold not
only that generic sexual identity (“gender”) is the product of an interaction
between the community and the individual, but that this generic identity is
independent from personal sexual identity: i.e., that masculine and feminine
genders in society are the exclusive product of social factors, with no relation
to any truth about the sexual dimension of the person. In this way, any sexual
attitude can be justified, including homosexuality, and it is society that ought
to change in order to include other genders, together with male and female, in
its way of shaping social life.
The ideology of “gender” found a favorable environment in
the individualist anthropology of radical neo-liberalism.
Claiming a similar status for marriage and de facto unions (including homosexual
unions) is usually justified today on the basis of categories and terms that
come from the ideology of “gender”.
In this way, there is a certain tendency to give the name “family” to all kinds
of consensual unions, thus ignoring the natural inclination of human freedom to
reciprocal self-giving and its essential characteristics which are the basis of
that common good of humanity, the institution of marriage.
II – The Family based on marriage and de facto
Family, life and de facto unions
(9) It is useful to understand the substantial
differences between marriage and de facto unions. This is the root of the
difference between the family originating in marriage, and the community that
originates in a de facto union. The family community comes from the covenant of
the spouses’ union. The marriage that comes from this covenant of conjugal love
is not created by any public authority: it is a natural and original institution
that is prior to it. In de facto unions, on the other hand, reciprocal
affection is put in common but, at the same time, the marriage bond, with its
original public dimension that gives the foundation to the family, is absent.
The family and life form a real unit which must be protected by society because
this is the living nucleus of the succession (procreation and education) of
In today’s open and democratic societies, the
State and the public authorities must not institutionalize de facto unions,
thereby giving them a status similar to marriage and the family, nor much less
make them equivalent to the family based on marriage. This would be an
arbitrary use of power which does not contribute to the common good because the
original nature of marriage and the family proceeds and exceeds, in an absolute
and radical way, the sovereign power of the State. A serenely impartial
perspective free from any arbitrary or demagogical positions invites us to
reflect very seriously in the different political communities on the essential
differences between the vital and necessary contribution to the common good of
the family based on marriage, and the other reality that exists in merely
emotional forms of cohabitation. It does not seem reasonable to hold that the
vital functions of family communities, whose nucleus is the stable and
monogamous institution of marriage, can be carried out in a large-scale, stable
and permanent way by merely emotional forms of cohabitation. The family based
on marriage must be carefully protected and promoted as an essential factor in
social existence, stability and peace, in a broad future vision of the society’s
(10) Equality before the law must respect the
principle of justice which means treating equals equally, and what is different
differently: i.e., to give each one his due in justice. This principle of
justice would be violated if de facto unions were given a juridical treatment
similar or equivalent to the family based on marriage. If the family based on
marriage and de facto unions are neither similar nor equivalent in their duties,
functions and services in society, then they cannot be similar or equivalent in
their juridical status.
The pretext used for exerting pressure to
recognize de facto unions (i.e., their “non-discrimination”) implies a real
discrimination against the family based on marriage because it would be
considered on a level similar to any other form of cohabitation, regardless of
whether there is a commitment to reciprocal fidelity and the begetting and
up-bringing of children or not. The orientation of some political communities
today of discriminating against marriage by attributing an institutional status
to de facto unions that is similar, or even equivalent to marriage and the
family, is a serious sign of the contemporary breakdown in the social moral
conscience, of “weak thought” with regard to the common good, when it is not a
real and proper ideological imposition exerted by influential pressure groups.
(11) Along the same line of principles, it is
good to keep in mind the distinction between public interest and private
interest. Regarding the former, society and the public authorities must protect
and encourage it; as to the latter, the State must only guarantee freedom.
Whenever a matter is of public interest, public law intervenes, and what , on
the contrary, corresponds to private interests must be referred to the private
sphere. Marriage and the family are of public interest; they are the
fundamental nucleus of society and the State and should be recognized and
protected as such. Two or more persons may decide to live together, with or
without a sexual dimension but this cohabitation is not for that reason of
public interest. The public authorities can not get involved in this private
choice. De facto unions are the result of private behavior and should remain on
the private level. Their public recognition or equivalency to marriage, and the
resulting elevation of a private interest to a public interest, damages the
family based on marriage. In marriage a man and a woman constitute a community
of the whole of life which is ordered by its very nature to the good of the
spouses and the generation and up-bringing of offspring. In marriage, different
from de facto unions, commitments and responsibilities are taken on publicly and
formally that are relevant for society and exigibile in the juridical context.
De facto unions and the conjugal covenant
(12) The evaluation of de facto unions also includes a
subjective dimension: they are formed by concrete persons with their own vision
of life, their own intentions, in brief, their “history”. We should consider
the existential reality of individual freedom of choice and the dignity of
persons which may be in error. However, in a de facto union, the presumption to
have public recognition does not only affect the individual area of freedom, and
so it is necessary to take up this problem from the viewpoint of social ethics:
the human individual is a person and therefore social; a human being is no less
social than rational.
Persons can meet and refer to shared values and needs
regarding the common good in dialogue. The universal reference point, the
criterion in this area, can be none other than the truth about the human good
which is objective, transcendent and equal for all. To attain this truth and
remain in it is a condition for freedom and personal maturity, and the real
objective of an orderly and fruitful social coexistence. Exclusive attention to
the subject, to the individual, his intentions and choices, without referring to
the social and objective dimension, oriented to the common good, is the result
of an arbitrary and unacceptable individualism that is blind to objective
values, against the dignity of the person, and harmful to the social order.
“Therefore, it is necessary to promote a reflection that will help not only
believers but all men of good will to rediscover the value of marriage and the
family. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we can read: ‘The
family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which
husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life.
Authority, stability and a life of relationships within the family constitute
the foundations for freedom, security and fraternity within society.
If reason listens to the moral law written in
the human heart, it can arrive at the rediscovery of the family. As a community
based on and enlivened by love,
 the family
derives its strength from the definitive covenant of love whereby a man and a
woman give themselves to one another mutually and together become God’s
cooperators in the gift of life”.
The Second Vatican Council points out that so-called free
love (“amore sic dicto libero”)
constitutes a factor that breaks down and destroys marriage because it lacks the
constitutive element of conjugal love which is based on the personal and
irrevocable consent whereby the spouses give and receive one another mutually,
giving rise to a juridical bond and a unit sealed by a public dimension of
justice. What the Council calls “free” love, which opposes true conjugal love,
was then—and is now—the seed that produces de facto unions. Later, with the
speed of today’s socio-cultural changes, it has also given rise to the current
projects to confer public status on de facto unions.
(13) Like every other human problem, the problem of de
facto unions must also be taken up from a rational perspective, more precisely,
from “right reason”.
With this term from classical ethics, it is stressed that the interpretation of
reality and the judgment of reason must be objective, and free from
conditioning, such as disorderly affectivity or weakness in considering
sorrowful situations that inclines toward a superficial kind of compassion,
eventual ideological prejudices, social or cultural pressures, conditioning by
lobbies or political parties. Of course, Christians have a vision of marriage
and the family whose anthropological and theological foundation is rooted
harmoniously in the truth that comes from the Word of God, Tradition, and the
Magisterium of the Church.
But the light of the faith itself teaches that the reality of the sacrament of
marriage is not something subsequent or extrinsic, or just an external
“sacramental” addition to the spouses’ love; it is the natural reality of
conjugal love that has been assumed by Christ as a sign and means of salvation
in the order of the New Law. Consequently, the problem of de facto unions can
and must be faced from the viewpoint of right reason. It is not a question
primarily of Christian faith but of rationality. The tendency to oppose
denominational “Catholic thought” on this matter to “lay thought” is erroneous.
III – De facto unions in the whole
Social and political dimension of the problem
(14) Some radical cultural influences (such as the
ideology of “gender”, which we mentioned earlier) result in damage to the family
institution. “Still more distressing is the direct attack on the family
institution that is developing both on the cultural as well as on the political,
legislative and administrative levels...The tendency is clear to make the family
equivalent to other very different forms of cohabitation, apart from fundamental
considerations of an ethical and anthropological order”.
For this reason, the definition of the family’s identity is a priority. The
value of and the need for stability in the marriage relationship between a man
and a woman are pertinent to this identity, and this stability is expressed and
confirmed in a perspective of procreation and up-bringing of children which
benefits the entire social fabric. Such marital and family stability does not
only depend on the good will of concrete persons; it takes on an institutional
character of public recognition by the State of the choice of conjugal life.
The recognition, protection and promotion of this stability contributes to the
general interest, especially of the weakest, i.e., the children.
(15) Another risk in the social consideration of
the problem that concerns us is its trivialization. Some affirm that
recognition and equivalency of de facto unions should not cause excessive
concern because the number of these cases is relatively small. If this were the
case, however, the opposite should be concluded because a quantitative
consideration of the problem ought to lead to doubting the advisability of
raising the problem of de facto unions to one of primary importance, especially
where adequate attention is barely given to the grave problem (both present and
future) of protecting marriage and the family through adequate family policies
that really affect social life. The undifferentiated exaltation of individuals’
freedom of choice, with no reference to a socially relevant value order, obeys a
completely individualistic and private approach to marriage and the family that
is blind to its objective social dimension. It must be kept in mind that
procreation is the “genetic” principle of society, and that the children’s
upbringing is the first place for the transmission and cultivation of the social
fabric as well as the essential nucleus of its structural configuration.
Recognition and equivalence of de facto unions
discriminates against marriage
(16) Through public recognition of de facto unions, an
asymmetrical juridical framework is established. Whereas society would take on
obligations towards the partners in a de facto union, they in turn would not
take on the essential obligations to society that are proper to marriage.
Making them equivalent aggravates this situation because it privileges de facto
unions with respect to marriages by exempting the former from fulfilling
essential duties for society. In this way, a paradoxical disassociation is
accepted that is ultimately detrimental to the institution of the family. With
regard to the recent legislative attempts to make the family and de facto unions
equivalent, including homosexual unions (it is good to keep in mind that their
juridical recognition is the first step toward their equivalency), members of
parliament should be reminded about their grave responsibility to oppose them,
for “lawmakers, and in particular Catholic members of parliaments, should not
favor this type of legislation with their vote because it is contrary to the
common good and the truth about man and thus truly unjust”.
These legal initiatives present all the characteristics of non-conformity to the
natural law which makes them incompatible with the dignity of the law. As Saint
Augustine says, “Non videtur esse lex, quae iusta non fuerit”.
An ultimate foundation of the juridical system must be recognized.
This does not mean presuming to impose a given behavior “model” on the whole of
society, but rather the social need for recognition, by the legal system, of the
indispensable contribution of the family based on marriage to the common good.
Wherever the family is in crisis, the society falters.
(17) The family has a right to be protected and promoted
by society, as many Constitutions in force in States around the whole world
This is a recognition in justice of the essential function which the family
based on marriage represents for society. A duty of society, which is not only
moral but civil too, corresponds to this original right of the family. The
right of the family based on marriage to be protected and promoted by society
and the State must be recognized by laws. This is a question that affects the
common good. With clear argumentation, Saint Thomas Aquinas rejects the idea
that moral law and civil law can be in opposition: they are different but not in
opposition; both are distinguished from one another, but they are not
disassociated from one another; between them there is neither unanimity nor
As John Paul II stated: “It is important that all who are called to guide the
destiny of nations recognize and strengthen the institution of marriage; in
fact, marriage has a particular juridical status that recognizes the rights and
duties of the spouses to one another and to their children, and families play an
essential role in society, whose permanence they guarantee. The family fosters
the socialization of the young and helps curb the phenomena of violence by
transmitting values and the experience of brotherhood and solidarity which it
allows to become a reality each day. In the search for justified solutions in
modern society, the family cannot be put on the same level as mere associations
or unions, and the latter cannot enjoy the particular rights exclusively
connected with the protection of the conjugal commitment and the family based on
marriage, a stable community of life and love, the result of the total and
faithful gift of the spouses, open to life”.
(18) Those who are involved in politics ought to be aware
of the seriousness of this problem. In the West, current political activity
often tends to privilege pragmatic aspects in general and the so-called “policy
of balances” on very concrete matters, without entering into a discussion of
principles that may endanger difficult and precarious compromises between
parties, alliances and coalitions. But shouldn’t these balances be based on
clear principles, fidelity to essential values, and clarity in the fundamental
postulates? “ If there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political
activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of
power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values turns easily into
open or thinly disguised totalitarianism”.
The legislative function corresponds to political responsibility; in this sense,
it is up to politicians to be vigilant (not only on the level of principles but
also of applications) to avoid a breakdown, with serious present and future
consequences, of the relationship between moral and civil law, and the defense
of the educational and cultural value of the juridical system.
The most effective way to watch over the public interest does not consist in
demagogic concessions to pressure groups that promote de facto unions, but
rather the energetic and systematic promotion of organic family policies, which
consider the family based on marriage as the center and motor of social policy,
and which cover the extensive area of the rights of the family.
The Holy See has dedicated its attention to this aspect in the Charter of the
Rights of the Family,
going beyond a merely welfare conception of the State.
Anthropological foundations of the difference
between marriage and “de facto” unions
(19) Marriage is based on some well-defined
anthropological foundations which distinguish it from other kinds of union and
which—beyond the realm of concrete action and what is “factual”—root it in the
very essence of the person of the woman or the man.
These presuppositions include: equality between men and
women, for both are persons equally
 (although in
different ways); the complementary character of the sexes
from which comes their natural inclination toward the generation of children;
the possibility to love one another precisely because they are sexually
different and complementary in such a way that “this love is expressed and
perfected uniquely through the acts proper to marriage”;
the possibility—of freedom—to set up a stable and definitive relationship, i.e.,
one that is due in justice;
and, lastly, the social dimension of the conjugal and family condition which
constitutes the first context of education and openness to society through
family relations (which contribute to shaping the identity of the human person).
(20) If the possibility is accepted of a specific love
between a man and a woman, it is obvious that this love is inclined (in itself)
toward intimacy, a certain exclusivity, the generation of offspring, and a joint
life project. When this is what is wanted and in such a way that the other is
given the ability to be entitled to this, then real self-giving and acceptance
between the man and woman comes about which constitutes the conjugal communion.
“Amor coniugalis, therefore, is not only or primarily a feeling, but
essentially a commitment to the other person, a commitment made through a
precise act of the will. It is this commitment which gives amor the
quality of coniugalis. Once a commitment has been made and accepted
through consent, love becomes conjugal and never loses this character”.
This, in the Western Christian historical tradition, is called marriage.
(21) Marriage is therefore a stable, joint project that
comes from the free and total self-giving of fruitful conjugal love as something
due in justice. Since an original social institution is founded (and which
gives origin to society), the dimension of justice is inherent in conjugality
itself. “They are free to celebrate marriage, after having chosen each other
with equal freedom, but as soon as they perform this act, they establish a
personal state in which love becomes something that is owed, entailing effects
of a juridical nature as well”.
Other ways of living sexuality can exist—even against natural tendencies-, other
forms of living together, other friendly relationships –whether based or not on
the sexual difference-, and other ways of bringing children into the world. But
what is specific about the family based on marriage is that it is the only
institution that incorporates and unites all the elements mentioned at the same
time and in an original way.
(22) Consequently, it seems necessary to stress the
gravity and the irreplaceable character of some anthropological principles
regarding the man-woman relationship, which are fundamental for human
cohabitation, and all the more so for safeguarding the dignity of all persons.
The central nucleus and the essential element of these principles is the
conjugal love between two persons who have equal dignity but are different
and complementary in their sexuality. It is the essence of marriage, as a
natural and human reality, which is at stake, and it is the good of all society
that is up for discussion. “As everyone knows, not only are the properties and
ends of marriage called into question today, but even the value and the very
usefulness of the institution. While avoiding undue generalizations, we cannot
ignore, in this regard, the growing phenomenon of mere de facto unions (cf.
Familiaris Consortio, 81), and the unrelenting public opinion campaigns to
gain the dignity of marriage even for unions between persons of the same sex”.
This is a basic principle: in order to be real and free
conjugal love, love must be transformed into one that is due in justice through
the free act of marital consent. The Pope concluded in this way: “In the light
of these principles, we can identify and understand the essential difference
between a mere de facto union –even though it claims to be based on love—and
marriage, in which love is expressed in a commitment that is not only moral but
rigorously juridical. The bond reciprocally assumed has a reinforcing effect in
turn on the love from which it is derived, fostering its permanence to the
advantage of the partners, the children and society itself”.
Marriage, in fact, the foundation of the family, is not a
“way of living sexuality as a couple”. If it were only this, it would be just
one of many possible ways.
Nor is it simply the expression of a sentimental love between two persons: this
characteristic is usually present in every loving friendship. Marriage is more
than that: it is a union between a man and a woman, precisely as such, and in
the totality of their male and female essence. This union can only be
established through an act of the partners’ free will, but its specific
content is determined by the structure of the human being, the woman and the
man: mutual self-giving and the transmission of life. Such self-giving, in the
whole complementary dimension of a woman and a man, together with the
willingness to owe oneself in justice to the other, is called conjugality, and
the partners in this way become spouses: “This conjugal communion sinks its
roots in the natural complementarity that exists between man and woman, and is
nurtured through the personal willingness of the spouses to share their entire
life-project, what they have and what they are: for this reason such communion
is the fruit and the sign of a profoundly human need”.
Making homosexual relations equivalent to
marriage is much more grave
(23) The truth about conjugal love also makes it possible
to understand the serious social consequences of the institutionalization of
homosexual relations: “We can also see how incongruous is the demand to grant
‘marital’ status to unions between persons of the same sex. It is opposed,
first of all, by the objective impossibility of making the partnership fruitful
through the transmission of life according to the plan inscribed by God in the
very structure of the human being. Another obstacle is the absence of the
conditions for that interpersonal complementarity between male and female willed
by the Creator at both the physical-biological and the eminently psychological
Marriage cannot be reduced to a condition similar to that of a homosexual
relationship: this is contrary to common sense.
In the case of homosexual relations, which demand to be considered de facto
unions, the moral and juridical consequences take on special relevance.
“Lastly, ‘de facto unions’ between homosexuals are a deplorable distortion of
what should be a communion of love and life between a man and a woman in a
reciprocal gift open to life”.
However, the presumption to make these unions equivalent to “legal marriage”, as
some recent initiatives attempt to do, is even more serious.
Furthermore, the attempts to legalize the adoption of children by homosexual
couples adds an element of great danger to all the previous ones.
“The bond between two men or two women cannot constitute a real family and much
less can the right be attributed to that union to adopt children without a
To recall the social transcendence of the truth about conjugal love and
consequently the grave error of recognizing or even making homosexual relations
equivalent to marriage does not presume to discriminate against these persons in
any way. It is the common good of society which requires the laws to recognize,
favor and protect the marital union as the basis of the family which would be
damaged in this way.
IV – Justice and the Family as a Social Good
The family, a social good to be protected in
(24) Marriage and the family are a social good of the
first order: “The family always expresses a new dimension of good for mankind,
and it thus creates a new responsibility. We are speaking of the responsibility
for that particular common good which includes the good of the person, of every
member of the family community. While certainly a ‘difficult’ good (‘bonum
arduum’), it is also an attractive one”.
It is certain that not all spouses nor all families really develop all the
personal and social good possible.
 As a result,
society must do its part by making the means as accessible as possible that will
facilitate the development of its values: “Every effort should be made so that
the family will be recognized as the primordial and, in a certain sense
‘sovereign’ society! The ‘sovereignty’ of the family is essential for the
good of society”.
Objective social values to be fostered
(25) In this sense, marriage and the family constitute a
good for society because they protect a precious good for the spouses
themselves, for “the family, a natural society, exists prior to the State or
any other community, and possesses inherent rights which are inalienable”.
On the one hand, the social dimension of being married persons postulates a
principle of juridical security. Since becoming a wife or a husband pertains to
the area of being—and not just of acting, the dignity of this new sign of
personal identity has a right to public recognition which society should give,
as the good it constitutes deserves.
Obviously the right order of society is aided when marriage and the family are
formed as they truly are: a stable reality.
Moreover, the complete self-giving as a man and a woman in their potential
fatherhood and motherhood, with the resulting union—that is also exclusive and
permanent—between the parents and the children, expresses unconditional trust
that is expressed in strength and enrichment for all.
(26) On the one hand, the dignity of human persons requires their origin to be from parents joined in marriage, from the necessary intimate, integral, mutual and permanent union that comes from being spouses. This then is a good for the children. This is the only origin that adequately safeguards the principle of the children’s identity not only from the genetic or biological viewpoint, but also from the biographical and historical perspective. On the other hand, marriage itself constitutes the most human and humanizing context for welcoming children, the context which most readily provides emotional security and guarantees greater unity and continuity in the process of social integration and education. “The union between a mother and a conceived child and the irreplaceable function of the father require the child to be welcomed into a family which will guarantee it if possible the presence of both parents. The specific contribution offered by them to the family, and through it, to the society, is worthy of great consideration”. Furthermore, the continued sequence between conjugality, motherhood/fatherhood and kinship (filiation, fraternity, etc.) avoids many serious problems for society which come up precisely when the chain of the different elements is broken in such a way that each of them acts independently from the others.
(27) Also for the other members of the family, the
marriage union as a social reality, is a good. In fact, in the family that grows
from the conjugal bond, not only are the new generations welcomed and taught to
cooperate in what is proper to them, but also the previous generations (the
grandparents) have the opportunity to contribute to the common enrichment: to
contribute their own experiences, to feel valid once more in their service, to
confirm their full dignity as persons who are valued and loved for themselves
and accepted in an inter-generational dialogue that is often fruitful. In fact,
“the family is the place where different generations come together and help one
another to grow in human wisdom and to harmonize the rights of individuals with
other demands of social life”.
At the same time, elderly persons can look to the future with confidence and
certainty knowing they are surrounded and taken care of by those whom they have
taken care of for many years. Moreover, it is known that when the family really
lives as such, the quality of the attention to the elderly cannot be
substituted—at least for certain aspects—by the care provided by outside
institutions, even though they are conscientious and have advanced technological
(28) Other goods for the whole of society, which
are derived from the conjugal communion as the essence of marriage and the
origin of the family, can also be considered, such as: the principle of a
citizen’s identification; the principle of the unitary character of
kinship—which constitutes the origin of relations in society as well as their
stability; the principle of the transmission of cultural goods and values; the
principle of subsidiarity, because the disappearance of the family would oblige
the State to substitute it in tasks which are its own by nature; the principle
of economy also in legal matters, because when the family breaks down, the State
must increase its interventions in order to solve problems directly which ought
to remain and be solved in the private sphere, with great traumatic effects and
high economic costs as well. To summarize, in addition to what has been
mentioned, it must be remembered that “the family constitutes, much more than a
mere juridical, social and economic unit, a community of love and solidarity,
which is uniquely suited to teach and transmit cultural, ethical, social,
spiritual and religious values, essential for the development and well-being of
its own members and of society”.
Moreover, far from contributing to a greater sphere of freedom, the breakdown of
the family would leave the individual more and more vulnerable and defenseless
before the power of the State and impoverish him by requiring a progressive
Society and the State must protect and promote
the family based on marriage
(29) To summarize, the human, social and material
promotion of the family based on marriage, and the juridical protection of the
elements that comprise it in its unitary character are not only a good for the
members of the family considered individually, but also for the structure and
appropriate functioning of the interpersonal relations, the balance of powers,
the guarantees of freedom, the educational interests, the personalization of the
citizens, and the distribution of functions between the different social
institutions: “Consequently the role of the family in building a culture of life
is decisive and irreplaceable”.
We cannot forget that if the crisis of the family has been, on certain occasions
and for certain aspects, the cause of greater intervention by the State in its
sphere, it is also certain that in many other cases and for many other aspects
it has been the initiative of lawmakers that has facilitated or promoted the
difficulties and breakdowns of many marriages and families. “The experience of
different cultures throughout history has shown the need for society to
recognize and defend the institution of the family; society, and in a particular
manner the State and International Organizations, must protect the family
through measures of a political, economic, social and juridical character, which
aim at consolidating the unity and stability of the family so that it can
exercise its specific function”.
Today more than ever, adequate attention becomes
necessary—for the sake of the family and for society itself—to the current
problems of marriage and the family, a special respect for its freedom,
legislation that will protect its essential elements and not weigh on its free
decisions regarding: women’s work that is not compatible with their situation as
wives and mothers,
a “culture of success” which does not allow those who work to reconcile their
professional competence with dedication to their family,
 the decision
to have the number of children which the spouses decide in conscience,
 protection of
the permanent character to which married couples legitimately aspire,
freedom and the dignity and equality of rights,
the principles and carrying out of the kind of education desired for their
fiscal treatment and other norms of a patrimonial nature (inheritance, housing,
etc.), treatment of their legitimate autonomy, and respect and encouragement of
their initiative in the social and political sphere, especially with regard to
their own families.
From this comes the social need to distinguish phenomena that are different in
their legal aspect and in their contribution to the common good, and to treat
them accordingly as being different. “The institutional value of marriage should
be upheld by the public authorities; the situation of non-married couples must
not be placed on the same level as marriage duly contracted”.
V – Christian Marriage and de facto unions
Christian marriage and social pluralism
(30) More intensely in recent times, the Church has
repeatedly stressed the trust that is due to the human person, his freedom,
dignity and values, and the hope that comes from God’s saving action in the
world which helps overcome all weakness. At the same time, it has made its
grave concern known regarding different attempts against the human person and
his dignity and pointed out some ideological presuppositions typical of the
so-called “post-modern” culture which make it difficult to understand and live
the values required by the truth about the human person. “It is no longer a
matter of limited and occasional dissent, but of an overall and systematic
calling into question of traditional moral doctrine, on the basis of certain
anthropological and ethical presuppositions. At the root of these
presuppositions is the more or less obvious influence of currents of thought
which end by detaching human freedom from its essential and constitutive
relationship to truth”.
When freedom is disconnected form truth, “any reference to
common values and to a truth absolutely binding on everyone is lost, and social
life ventures on to the shifting sands of complete relativism. At that point,
everything is negotiable, everything is open to bargaining, even the first of
the fundamental rights, the right to life”.
This is also a warning that is surely applicable to the reality of marriage and
the family, the sole source and fully human channel for the realization of that
first right. There is “a corruption of the idea and the experience of freedom,
conceived not as a capacity for realizing the truth of God’s plan for marriage
and the family, but as an autonomous power of self-affirmation, often against
others, for one’s own selfish well-being”.
(31) In the same way, from the beginning the Christian
community has held that the constitution of Christian marriage is a real sign of
Christ’s union with the Church. Marriage was elevated by Christ to a saving
event in the new order set up in the economy of the Redemption: i.e., marriage
is a sacrament of the New Covenant,
 an essential
aspect for understanding the content and importance of the marital community
between baptized persons. The Magisterium of the Church has also pointed out
clearly that “the sacrament of Matrimony has this specific element that
distinguishes it from all the other sacraments: it is the sacrament of something
that was part of the very economy of creation; it is the very conjugal covenant
instituted by the Creator ‘in the beginning’”.
In the context of a society that is often de-Christianized
and removed from the values of the truth about the human person, it is now of
interest to emphasize the content of “the matrimonial covenant, by which a man
and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life,
[which] is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the
procreation and education of offspring”,
as instituted by God “from the beginning”,
 in the
natural order of Creation. A serene reflection is useful not only for faithful
believers, but also for those who are now far from religious practice, who lack
faith, or hold beliefs of a different kind: for every human person, men and
women, members of a civil community and responsible for the common good. It is
also useful to recall the nature of the family that originates in marriage, its
ontological and not only historical and conjunctural character, over and above
the changes in time, place and culture, and the dimension of justice that flows
from its very essence.
The process of the family’s secularization in
(32) At the beginning of the process of secularization of
the matrimonial institution, the first and almost only thing that was
secularized was the wedding or the way of celebrating marriage, at least in the
Western countries with Catholic roots. For a certain period of time, both in
the people’s conscience and in the secular systems, the basic principles of
marriage persisted, such as the precious value of the indissolubility of
marriage and, in particular, the absolute indissolubility of sacramental
marriage between baptized persons, ratified and consummated.
The widespread introduction of legislative systems which the Second Vatican
Council described as “the divorce epidemic”, gave rise to a progressive
darkening in the social conscience regarding the value of what constituted a
great conquest of humanity over the ages. The early Church did not succeed
while in making sacred or Christianizing the Roman concept of marriage, it did
restore this institution to its origins from creation, as explicitly willed by
Jesus Christ. It is certain that in the conscience of the early Church it was
already understood clearly that the natural essence of marriage had been
conceived originally by God the Creator as a sign of God’s love for his people,
and when the fullness of time came, of Christ’s love for his Church. But the
first thing the Church did, guided by the Gospel and the explicit teachings of
Christ, was to bring marriage back to its beginning, aware that “God himself is
the author of marriage which he endowed with various goods and ends”.
Moreover, the Church was well aware that the importance of this natural
institution has “a very decisive bearing on the continuation of the human race,
on the personal development and eternal destiny of the individual members of a
family, and on the dignity, stability, peace and prosperity of the family itself
and of human society as a whole”.
Those who get married according to the stablished formalities (by the Church and
the State, according to the cases), can and normally want to contract a real
marriage. The inclination toward the conjugal union is innate in human persons,
and the juridical aspect of the conjugal covenant and the origin of a real
conjugal bond is based on this decision.
Marriage, the institution of conjugal love and
other kinds of unions
(33) The natural reality is taken into consideration in
the canonical laws of the Church.
Canonical law describes substantially the essence of marriage between baptized
persons, both in its moment in fieri – the conjugal covenant – and as a
permanent state in which the conjugal and family relations are situated. In
this sense, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction over marriage is decisive and
represents an authentic protection for family values. The basic principles of
the essence of marriage with regard to conjugal love and its sacramental nature
are not always sufficiently understood and respected.
(34) As to the first, love is often spoken about as the
basis of marriage, a community of life and love, but its real condition as a
conjugal institution is not always affirmed clearly by not including the
dimension of justice proper to consent. Marriage is an institution. Failure to
note this deficiency usually produces a grave misunderstanding between Christian
marriage and de facto unions. Partners in de facto unions can also say that
they are based on “love” (but a “love” described by the Second Vatican Council
as “sic dicto libero”), and that they constitute a community of life and love,
but they are substantially different from the “communitas vitae et amoris
coniugalis” of marriage.
(35) With regard to the basic principles related to the
sacramentality of marriage, the question is more complex because the pastors of
the Church have to consider the immense wealth of grace that gives dynamism to
the sacramental essence of Christian marriage and its influence on the family
relations derived from marriage. God wanted the conjugal covenant from the
beginning, the marriage of Creation, to be a permanent sign of Christ’s union
with the Church and thus a real sacrament of the New Covenant. The problem lies
in understanding properly that this sacramentality is not something that is
added or extrinsic to the natural essence of marriage, but that it is the same
indissoluble marriage willed by the Creator that was elevated to a sacrament
through the redeeming action of Christ, without this implying any
“de-naturalization” of the reality. By not understanding the particular feature
of this sacrament compared to the others, some misunderstandings can arise that
obscure the notion of sacramental marriage. This is especially important in
marriage preparation: the praiseworthy efforts to prepare the engaged to
celebrate the sacrament can vanish if there is no clear understanding of what
the absolutely indissoluble marriage is which they are about to contract.
Baptized persons do not present themselves to the Church just to celebrate a
feast with some special rites, but to contract a lifetime marriage which is a
sacrament of the New Alliance. Through this sacrament they share in the mystery
of the union of Christ and the Church, and they express their intimate and
VI – Christian Guidelines
Basic approach to the problem: “At the
beginning it was not that way”
(36) The Christian community is challenged by the
phenomenon of de facto unions. The unions without any legal institutional bond
–civil or religious—constitute an increasingly frequent phenomenon to which the
pastoral action of the Church must pay attention.
Not only through reason, but also and above all through the “splendor of truth”,
which has been given to them through faith, believers are capable of calling
things by their own name: good, good and evil, evil. In the current context,
which is highly relativist and tends to dissolve all differences, including
essential ones between marriage and de facto unions, greater wisdom and more
courageous freedom are needed to avoid errors or compromises, with the
conviction that “the most dangerous crisis which can afflict man…[is] the
confusion between good and evil, which makes it impossible to build up and to
preserve the moral order of individuals and communities”.
When carrying out a specifically Christian reflection on the signs of the times
before the apparent obscuring in the hearts of some of our contemporaries of the
profound truth about human love, it is good to draw closer to the pure waters of
(37) “Some Pharisees came up to him and said, to test him,
‘May a man divorce his wife for any reason whatever?’ He replied, ‘Have you not
read that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and declared,
‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife,
and the two shall become as one’? Thus they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore, let no man separate what God has joined.’. They said to him, ‘Then
why did Moses command divorce and the promulgation of a divorce decree?’
‘Became of your stubbornness Moses let you divorce your wives,’ he replied; ‘but
at the beginning it was not that way’” (Mt 19:3-8). These words of the
Lord are well known, like the reaction of the disciples: “If that is the case
between man and wife, it is better not to marry” (Mt 19:10). This
reaction was certainly framed in the prevailing mentality of the time, a
mentality that broke with the Creator’s original plan.
The concession by Moses expressed the presence of sin which took on the form of
a “duritia cordis”. Today, perhaps more than in other eras, this obstacle of
the intelligence must be taken into consideration, the hardening of the will,
the fixation of the passion, which is the hidden root of many of the factors of
fragility that influence the present spread of de facto unions.
De facto unions, factors of fragility and
(38) The presence of the Church and of Christian marriage
over the ages has made civil society capable of recognizing marriage in its
original condition to which Christ alludes in his response.
 The original
condition of marriage and the difficulty of recognizing it and living it as an
intimate truth in the depths of one’s being, “propter duritiam cordis”, always
seems to be a current question. Marriage is a natural institution whose
essential characteristics can be recognized by intelligence, over and above
This recognition of the truth about marriage is also of a moral nature.
However, the fact cannot be ignored that human nature, wounded by sin and
redeemed by Christ, does not always succeed in recognizing clearly the truths
written by God in the human heart. Hence Christian witness in the world, the
Church and its Magisterium have to be a living teaching and a testimony in the
In this context it is also important to stress in this context the real and
proper need for grace so that married life can reach its true fullness.
Therefore, when making a pastoral discernment of the problem of de facto unions,
it is important to consider human fragility and the importance of a truly
ecclesial experience and catechesis which will guide toward a life of grace,
prayer, the sacraments and in particular Reconciliation.
(39) Different elements must be distinguished among these
factors of fragility that give rise to de facto unions characterized by what is
called “free” love which neglects or excludes the bond characteristic of
conjugal love. Moreover, as we said earlier, a distinction must be made between
the de facto unions into which some consider themselves compelled by difficult
situations, and the others which are sought by people who “scorn, rebel against
or reject society, the institution of the family and the social and political
order, or who are solely seeking pleasure”.
It is also necessary to consider those who are driven into de facto unions “by
extreme ignorance or poverty, sometimes by a conditioning due to situations of
real injustice, or by a certain psychological immaturity that makes them
uncertain or afraid to enter into a stable and definitive union”.
Ethical discernment, pastoral action and Christian
engagement in political realities will thus have to take into consideration the
many real situations included under the common term “de facto unions” as we said
Whatever the causes that give rise to these unions, they entail “serious
pastoral problems, because of the grave religious and moral consequences that
are derived from them (loss of the religious meaning of marriage seen in the
light of God’s Covenant with his People, deprivation of the sacramental grace,
serious scandal), as well as social consequences (destruction of the concept of
family, lessening of the significance of fidelity, also toward society, possible
psychological traumas in the children, and the reaffirmation of selfishness)”.
For this reason, the Church is sensitive to the spread of non-matrimonial unions
due to the moral and pastoral dimensions of the problem.
Witness of Christian marriage
(40) The efforts to obtain legislation favorable
to de facto unions in many countries with an ancient Christian tradition are of
great concern to pastors and the faithful. Often it might seem that one does
not know what answer to give to this phenomenon, and that the reaction is merely
defensive, thus giving the impression that the Church only wants to maintain the
status quo, as if the family based on marriage were simply the cultural
model (a “traditional” model) of the Church that it wants to keep, despite the
great transformations in our era.
In this regard, the positive aspects of conjugal love must
be deepened so that it will be possible to return to inculturating the Gospel
truth in a way similar to that of the Christians during the first centuries of
our era. The privileged subject of this new evangelization of the family are
Christian families because they, being the subjects of evangelization, are the
first evangelizers of the “Good News” of “fair love”,
 not only
through their words, but above all through their personal witness. It is
urgent to rediscover the social value of the wonder of conjugal love because the
phenomenon of de facto unions is not on the margin of the ideological factors
that obscure it and which correspond to an erroneous conception of human
sexuality and of the man-woman relationship. From this comes the transcendental
importance of the life of grace in Christ of Christian marriages: “The Christian
family too is part of this priestly people which is the Church. By means of the
sacrament of marriage, in which it is rooted and from which it draws its
nourishment, the Christian family is continuously vivified by the Lord Jesus and
called and engaged by him in a dialogue with God through the sacraments, through
the offering of one’s life, and through prayer. This is the priestly role which
the Christian family can and ought to exercise in intimate communion with the
whole Church, through the daily realities of married and family life. In this
way the Christian family is called to be sanctified and to sanctify the
ecclesial community and the world”.
(41) The very presence of Christian married couples in
many milieus in society is a privileged way of showing contemporary people
(whose subjectivity is destroyed to a good extent, who are exhausted in a vain
search for “free” love, opposed to real conjugal love, through a multitude of
fragmented experiences) that it is really possible for human beings to find
themselves again and to help them to understand the reality of a fully realized
subjectivity in marriage in Christ the Lord. Only in this kind of “clash” with
reality can the nostalgia emerge for a homeland of which every person has an
indelible memory. To the disillusioned men and women who ask themselves
cynically, “Can anything good come from the human heart?”, it is necessary to be
able to answer them: “Come and see our marriage, our family”. This can be a
decisive departure point, a real witness whereby the Christian community, with
God’s grace, will manifest God’s mercy toward men. It can be seen that the
substantial influence exercised by faithful Christians in many milieus is very
positive. By reason of a conscious choice of faith and life, in the midst of
their contemporaries, they appear to be the ferment in the mass, the light in
the midst of the darkness. Pastoral attention to their preparation for marriage
and the family and follow-up in their married and family life is of fundamental
importance for the life of the Church and the world.
Adequate marriage preparation
(42) The Magisterium of the Church, especially
since the Second Vatican Council, has referred repeatedly to the importance and
the irreplaceability of marriage preparation in ordinary pastoral care.
This preparation cannot be reduced to simple information about what marriage is
for the Church; it has to be a real path of personal formation based on
education in the faith and education in the virtues. The Pontifical Council for
the Family has dealt with this important aspect of the Church’s pastoral care in
the documents: Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality (December 8, 1995),
and Preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage (May 13, 1996).
(43) “Preparation for marriage, for married and family
life, is of great importance for the good of the Church. In fact, the sacrament
of Marriage has great value for the whole Christian community and, in the first
place, for the spouses whose decision is such that it cannot be improvised or
made hastily. In the past, this preparation could count on the support of
society which recognized the values and benefits of marriage. Without any
difficulties or doubts, the Church protected the sanctity of marriage with the
awareness that this sacrament represented an ecclesial guarantee as the living
cell of the People of God. At least in the communities that were truly
evangelized, the Church’s support was solid, unitary and compact. In general,
separations and marriage failures were rare, and divorce was considered a social
‘plague’ (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 47). Today, on the contrary, in many
cases, we are witnessing an accentuated deterioration of the family and a
certain corrosion of the values of marriage. In many nations, especially
economically developed ones, the number of marriages has decreased. Marriage is
usually contracted at a later age and the number of divorces and separations is
increasing, even during the first years of married life. All this inevitably
leads to a pastoral concern that comes up repeatedly: Are the persons
contracting marriage really prepared for it? The problem of preparation for the
sacrament of Marriage and the life that follows emerges as a great pastoral
need, first for the sake of the spouses, for the whole Christian community and
for society. Therefore, interest in, and initiatives for providing adequate and
timely answers to preparation for the sacrament of Marriage are growing
(44) At present, the problem is not limited, as
in other eras, to young people being unprepared for marriage. Due in part to a
pessimistic anthropological vision that de-structures and breaks down
subjectivity, many young people even doubt that it is possible to achieve real
self-giving in marriage that will give rise to a faithful, fruitful and
indissoluble bond. In some cases, this view results in the rejection of the
institution of marriage as an illusory reality to which only persons with very
special preparation can aspire. Hence the importance of Christian formation in
a correct and realistic idea of freedom in relation to marriage as the ability
to choose and direct oneself toward the good of self-giving in marriage.
(45) In this sense, preventive action through family
catechesis is very important. The witness of Christian families is
irreplaceable both with regard to their own children and the society in which
they live. Not only pastors must defend the family; the families themselves
must demand respect for their rights and for their identity. The important
place of family catecheses today in pastoral care of the family must be
emphasized. In such catecheses, the family realities are tackled in an organic,
complete and systematic way, subjected to the criterion of faith, and clarified
by the Word of God interpreted in an ecclesial way, in fidelity to the
Magisterium of the Church, by legitimate and competent pastors who will truly
contribute, in a catechetical process, to deepening the saving truth about man.
Efforts must be made to show the rationality and the credibility of the Gospel
on marriage and the family by re-structuring the Church’s educational system.
In this way, the explanation of marriage and the family based on a correct
anthropological vision will not fail to surprise Christians themselves. They
will discover that it is not only a question of faith and will find reasons for
confirming this to themselves, acting through personal life witness, and
developing a specifically lay apostolic mission.
Means of communication
(46) In our times, the crisis of family values
and the concept of the family in State systems and in the means of transmitting
culture—press, television, Internet, film, etc.—require a special effort to
make family values present in the communications media. Consider, for
example, the great influence of these media in the loss of social sensitivity
with regard to situations such as adultery, divorce or even de facto unions, as
well as the pernicious deformation in many cases of the “values” (or rather the
“non-values”) that the media sometimes present as normal possibilities in life.
Moreover, it should be kept in mind that on some occasions, and despite the
praiseworthy contribution of committed Christians who collaborate in these
media, some programs and television series contribute to misinformation and the
growth of religious ignorance rather than to religious formation. Even if these
factors are not found among the fundamental elements that shape a culture, their
influence is not negligible among the sociological factors to be kept in mind in
pastoral care inspired by realistic criteria.
(47) For many of our contemporaries whose subjectivity has
been ideologically “demolished”, so to speak, marriage appears to be more or
less unthinkable. For these persons, the reality of marriage has no meaning.
In what way can the Church’s pastoral care be an event of salvation for them
too? In this sense, the political and legislative commitment of
Catholics who have responsibilities in this area is decisive. Laws constitute
to a great extent the “ethos” of a people. With regard to this point, it seems
very useful to make an appeal to overcome the temptation to be indifferent in
the political-legislative area, and to stress the need for public witness to the
dignity of the person. As we said earlier, making de facto unions equivalent to
the family implies an alteration in the system for the common good of society,
and this is detrimental to the institution of the family based on marriage.
Therefore, it is an evil for persons, families and societies. What is
“politically possible” and its evolution over time cannot be detached from the
ultimate principles of truth about the human person which must inspire
attitudes, concrete initiatives and future programs.
It also seems useful to criticize the “dogma” of the inseparable connection
between democracy and ethical relativism that is at the basis of many
legislative attempts to make de facto unions equivalent to the family.
(48) The problem of de facto unions constitutes
a real challenge for Christians in their ability to demonstrate the rational
aspect of the faith, the profound rationality of the Gospel of marriage and
the family. A proclamation of the Gospel without this challenge to rationality
(in the sense of an intimate correspondence between man’s desiderium naturale
and the Gospel proclaimed by the Church) would be ineffective. For this reason,
today more than in other eras, it is necessary to make known in believable terms
the inner credibility of the truth about man which is at the basis of the
institution of conjugal love. Different from what occurs with the other
sacraments, marriage also pertains to the economy of Creation and is inscribed
in the natural dynamics of humankind. Secondly, a renewed reflection is also
necessary on the fundamental bases, the essential principles that inspire
educational activities in the different milieus and institutions. What is the
philosophy today of the educational institutions in the Church, and what is the
way in which these principles flow into an appropriate education to marriage and
the family as both fundamental and necessary nuclear structures for society
Pastoral care and closeness
(49) Understanding the existential problems and the
choices of persons living in de facto unions is legitimate and, in some cases, a
duty. Some of these situations should even arouse real and proper compassion.
Respect for the dignity of persons is not subject to discussion. However,
understanding circumstances and respect for persons are not equivalent to a
justification. On the contrary, in these circumstances, it is a matter of
emphasizing that truth is an essential good of persons and a factor of authentic
freedom, and that from the affirmation of truth an offense will not result, for
“it is an outstanding manifestation of charity towards souls to omit nothing
from the saving doctrine of Christ”.
On the other hand, “this must always be joined with tolerance and charity. Of
this, the Lord himself in his conversation and dealings with men has left an
Therefore, Christians must try to understand the personal, social, cultural and
ideological reasons for the spread of de facto unions. It must be remembered
that intelligent and discreet pastoral care can, on certain occasions, favor the
“institutional” recovery of some of these unions. The persons who find
themselves in these situations must be kept in mind in a detailed and prudent
way in the ordinary pastoral care of the ecclesial community. This care implies
nearness, attention to the related problems and difficulties, patient dialogue,
and concrete assistance, especially with regard to the children. Prevention,
also in this aspect of pastoral care, is a priority concern.
(50) Over the ages, the wisdom of peoples, albeit
with limitations, has substantially been capable of recognizing the essence and
the fundamental and irreplaceable mission of the family based on marriage. The
family is a necessary and indispensable good for the whole of society, and it
has a real and proper right in justice to be recognized, protected and promoted
by the whole of society. It is this whole of society that is damaged when this
precious and necessary good of humanity is wounded in any way. Before the
social phenomenon of de facto unions, and the postponing of conjugal love which
this implies, society itself cannot remain indifferent. Merely erasing the
problem through the false solution of granting them recognition and placing them
on a public level similar to, or even equivalent to families based on marriage,
is a detrimental comparison to marriage (which further damages this natural
institution, that is so necessary today, rather than providing real family
policies). Moreover, this implies a profound lack of recognition of the
anthropological truth about the human love between a man and a woman, and its
inseparable aspects of stable unity and openness to life. This lack of
recognition is still more grave when the essential and very profound difference
is ignored between conjugal love, that comes from the institution of marriage,
and homosexual relationships. The “indifference” of public administrations
toward this aspect is very similar to a kind of apathy with regard to the life
or death of society, an indifference about its future projection or its
degradation. If suitable remedies are not applied, this “neutrality” would lead
to a serious breakdown of the social fabric and of the pedagogy of the future
The under-evaluation of conjugal love and its intrinsic openness to life, with the instability of family life that this entails, is a social phenomenon that requires proper discernment by all those who feel committed to the good of the family, and in a very special way by Christians. This means first of all recognizing the real causes (ideological and economic) of the situation, and not giving in to demagogic pressures by lobbies that do not take the common good of society into consideration. The Catholic Church, in following Jesus Christ, recognizes in the family and in conjugal love a gift of communion of the merciful God with humanity, a precious treasure of holiness and grace that shines in the midst of the world. Therefore, it invites those who are fighting for the cause of man to unite their efforts in promoting the family and its intimate source of life which is the conjugal union.
VATICAN COUNCIL, Constitution Gaudium et spes, No. 47.
VATICAN COUNCIL, Constitution Lumen Gentium, No. 11; Decree
Apostolicam Actuositatem, No. 11.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 2331-2400, 2514-2533; Cf.
PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILY, Truth and Meaning of Human
Sexuality, December 8, 1995.
II, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio, No. 80.
humanizing and pastoral activity of the Church, in her preferential
choice for the poor, has generally been directed in these countries at
“regularizing” these unions through the celebration of marriage (or
through validation or healing, according to the cases) in the ecclesial
position of a commitment to the sanctification of Christian homes.
constructionist theories today hold different conceptions about the way
in which society—in their opinion—ought to change by adapting itself to
the different “genders” (think, for example, of education, health,
etc.). Some support three genders, others five, others seven, others a
different number, according to different considerations.
Marxism and structuralism have contributed to a different extent to the
consolidation of this ideology of “gender” which has undergone various
influences, such as the “sexual revolution”, with postulates such as
those put forth by W. Reich (1897-1957) regarding the call to a
“liberation” from all sexual discipline, or Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979)
and his invitation to experience all kinds of sexual situations (in the
sense of a sexual polymorphism or indifferently “heterosexual”
orientation – i.e., the natural sexual orientation—or homosexual),
detached from the family and from any natural end of differentiation
between the sexes, as well as from any obstacle derived from
procreational responsibility. A certain radical and extreme feminism,
represented by the contributions of Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) and
Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986), cannot be put on the margin of this
historical process of consolidation of an ideology. In this way,
“heterosexuality” and monogamy no longer seem to be considered anything
but one of the possible cases of sexual practice.
position has unhappily had a favorable reception in a good number of
important international institutions, with the resulting damage to the
very concept of family whose foundation is and must be marriage. Among
these institutions, some organisms of the United Nations recently seem
to support some of these theories, thereby avoiding the authentic
meaning of article 16 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human
Rights which indicates the family as “a natural and fundamental
element of society”. Cf. PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILY, The
Family and Human Rights, 1999, No. 16.
Cf. ARISTOTLE, Politica I, 9-10 (Bk 1253a).
Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2207.
PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio, No. 18.
II, Allocution during the General Audience of December 1, 1999.
VATICAN COUNCIL, Constitution Gaudium et spes, No. 47.
different schools of thought, there exists a body of knowledge which may
be judged a kind of spiritual heritage of humanity. It is as if we had
come upon an implicit philosophy, as a result of which all feel that
they possess these principles, albeit in a general and unreflective
way. Precisely because it is shared in some measure by all, this
knowledge should serve as a kind of reference-point for the different
philosophical schools. Once reason successfully intuits and formulates
the first universal principles of being and correctly draws from them
conclusions which are coherent both logically and ethically, then it may
be called right reason or, as the ancients called it, orth(o-)s logos,
recta ratio”. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Fides et ratio, No. 4.
VATICAN COUNCIL, Constitution Dei Verbum, No. 10.
preaching of Christ crucified and risen is the reef upon which the link
between faith and philosophy can break up, but it is also the reef
beyond which the two can set forth upon the boundless ocean of truth.
Here we see not only the border between reason and faith, but also the
space where the two may meet”. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Fides et
ratio, No. 23. “The Gospel of life is not for believers alone: it is
for everyone. The issue of life and its defense and promotion is not a
concern of Christians alone”. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Evangelium
vitae, No. 101.
II, Allocution to the Forum of Catholic Associations of Italy, June 27,
COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILY, Statement on the Resolution by the European
Parliament making de facto unions, including same sex unions, equal to
the family, March 17, 2000.
ST. AUGUSTINE, De libero arbitrio, I,5,11.
life and its juridical apparatus require an ultimate foundation. If
there is no other law than civil law, then we must admit that some
value, including those for which men have fought and considered crucial
steps in the slow march toward freedom, can be cancelled by a simple
majority vote. Those who criticize moral law must close their eyes
before this possibility, and when they promote laws—that go against the
common good in its fundamental requirements—they must take all the
consequences of their actions into consideration because they can drive
the society in a dangerous direction”. Card. A. Sodano, Discourse during
the Second Meeting of European Politicians and Lawmakers, organized by
the Pontifical Council for the Family, Vatican City, October 22-24,
for instance, in the Constitution of Germany: “Marriage and the family
have special protection in the State system” (Art. 6); Spain: “The
public authorities assure the social, economic and juridical protection
of the family” (Art. 39); Ireland: “The State recognizes the family as
the primary and fundamental natural group of society and as a moral
institution endowed with inalienable and permanent rights that are prior
and superior to all positive law. For this reason, the State is
committed to protect the constitution and the authority of the family as
the necessary foundation of the society and as indispensable for the
well-being of the Nation and the State” (Art. 41); Italy: “The Republic
recognizes the rights of the family as a natural society based on
marriage” (Art. 29); Poland: “Marriage, i.e., the union of a man and a
woman, as well as the family, fatherhood and motherhood, must find
protection and care in the Republic of Poland” (Art. 18); Portugal: “The
family, as the fundamental element of society, is entitled to the
protection of society and the State and the attainment of all the
conditions that will permit the personal realization of its members”
Also in Constitutions around the world:
Argentina: “…the law will decree…the integral protection of the family”
(Art. 14); Brazil: “The family, the basis of society, is the object of
special protection by the State” (Art. 226); Chile: “The family is the
fundamental nucleus of society…It is the State’s duty…to give protection
to the people and to the family…” (Art. 1); People’s Republic of China:
“The State protects marriage, the family, motherhood and children” (Art.
49); Colombia: “The State recognizes, with no discrimination, the
primacy of the inalienable rights of the person and protects the family
as the basic institution of society” (Art. 5); South Korea: “Marriage
and family life are founded on the basis of individual dignity and
equality between the sexes; the State will use all the means at its
disposal to attain this end” (Art. 36); The Philippines: “The State
recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the Nation. In
accord with this, it must promote intensely solidarity, its active
promotion, and its complete development. Marriage is an inviolable
social institution; it is the foundation of the family and must be
protected by the State” (Art. 15); Mexico: “…The Law…will protect the
organization and the development of the family” (Art. 4); Peru: “The
community and the State…also protect the family and promote marriage.
They recognize them as the natural and fundamental institutions of
society” (Art. 4); Rwanda: “The family, as the natural basis of the
Rwandan people, will be protected by the State” (Art. 24).
made by men has reason to be law in that it is derived from natural
law. If, on the other hand, something is opposed to natural law, then
it is not law but corruption of the law”. SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS, Summa
Teologica, I-II, q. 95, a.2.
II, Discourse to the Second Meeting of European Politicians and
Lawmakers, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family,
Vatican City, October 23, 1998.
II, Encyclical Centesimus Annus, No. 46.
politicians and legislators faithful to the 1948 Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, we commit ourselves to promote and
defend the rights of the family founded on marriage between a man and a
woman. This must be done at all levels: local, regional, national and
international. Only in this way can we be true servants of the common
good, both in the national and international fields”. Conclusions of
the Second Meeting of European Politicians and Lawmakers, organized
by the Pontifical Council for the Family, Vatican City, October 22-24,
is the central nucleus of civil society. It certainly has an important
economic role, which cannot be overlooked, because it constitutes the
greatest human capital, but its mission encompasses many other tasks.
It is above all a natural community of life, a community that is based
on marriage and for this reason it has a cohesiveness that surpasses
that of any other social community”. Final Declaration of the Third
Meeting of Politicians and Lawmakers of America, Buenos Aires,
August 3-5, 1999.
Charter of the Rights of the Family, Preamble.
II, Letter to Families Gratissimam sane, No. 6.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2333; JOHN PAUL II, Letter to
Families Gratissimam sane, No. 8.
VATICAN COUNCIL, Constitution Gaudium et spes, No. 49.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2332; JOHN PAUL II, Discourse
to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, January 21, 1999.
PAUL II, Letter to Families Gratissimam sane, No. 7-8.
II, Discourse to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, January 21, 1999.
creates the juridical framework that fosters the stability of the
family. It makes the renewal of the generations possible. It is not a
simple contract or a private matter but rather it constitutes one of the
fundamental structures of society which it keeps united in coherence”.
Statement of the Permanent Council of the French Bishops’ Conference,
regarding the legislative bill “Civil Pact of Solidarity”, September 17,
II, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio, No. 19.
II, Discourse to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, January 2, 1999
no equivalence between the relationship of two persons of the same sex
and the relationship formed by a man and a woman. Only the latter can
be described as a couple because it implies sexual difference, the
conjugal dimension, the ability to exercise fatherhood and motherhood.
Obviously, homosexuality cannot represent this symbolic whole”.
Statement by the Permanent Council of the French Bishops’ Conference
regarding the legislative bill “Civil Pact of Solidarity”, September 17,
to the grave, intrinsic moral disorder, contrary to natural law, of
homosexual acts, see: Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos.
2357-2359; CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Instruction
Persona Humana, December 29, 1975; PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE
FAMILY, Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, December 8, 1995,
II, Discourse to the Participants in the XIV General Assembly of the
Pontifical Council for the Family, June 4, 1999; Cf. JOHN PAUL II,
Angelus, June 19, 1994.
PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILY, Statement on the Resolution by the
European Parliament making de facto unions, including same sex unions,
equal to the family, March 17, 2000
be overlooked that, as some of its promoters acknowledge, this
legislation constitutes a first step toward, for example, the adoption
of children by persons living in a homosexual relation. We fear for the
future as we deplore what has happened”. Statement by the Chairman of
the French Bishops’ Conference after the promulgation of the “Civil Pact
of Solidarity”, October 13, 1999.
II, Angelus, February 20, 1994.
Cf. Note of
the Permanent Commission of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference (June 24,
1994) on the occasion of the Resolution of the European Parliament of
February 8, 1994 on equal rights of homosexuals and lesbians.
II, Letter to Families Gratissimam sane, No. 11.
of the Rights of the Family, Preamble, D.
Preamble passim and Art. 6.
Preamble B and I.
Preamble C and G.
PAUL II, Letter to Families Gratissimam sane, No. 9-11.
II, Allocution, December 26, 1999.
PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio, No. 21 and
Letter to Families Gratissimam sane, No. 13-15.
of the Rights of the Family, Preamble, F; Cf. JOHN PAUL II,
Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio, No. 21.
PAUL II, Encyclical Evangelium vitae, Nos. 91, 94.
of the Rights of the Family, Preamble, E.
II, Encyclical Evangelium vitae, No. 92.
of the Rights of the Family, Preamble, H-I.
PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio, No. 23-24.
Ibid., No. 25.
Ibid., Nos. 28-35; Charter of the Rights of the Family, Art.
PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio, No. 20;
Charter of the Rights of the Family, Art. 6.
Charter of the Rights of the Family, Art 2, b and c; Art. 7.
PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio, No. 36-41;
Charter of the Rights of the Family, Art. 5; JOHN PAUL II, Letter
to Families Gratissimam sane, No. 16.
PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio, 42-48;
Charter of the Rights of the Family, Art. 8-12.
of the Rights of the Family, Art. 1, c.
II, Encyclical Veritatis Splendor, No. 4.
II, Encyclical Evangelium vitae, No. 20; Cf. Ibid., No.
II, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio, No. 6; Cf.
Letter to Families Gratissimam sane, No. 13.
OF TRENT, Sessions VII and XXIV.
II, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio, No. 68.
Canon Law, Canon 1055, §1; Catechism of the Catholic Church,
VATICAN COUNCIL, Constitution Gaudium et spes, No. 48-49.
PAUL II, Discourse to the Roman Rota, January 21, 2000.
VATICAN COUNCIL, Constitution Gaudium et spes, No. 48.
of Canon Law and Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, 1983 and
VATICAN COUNCIL, Constitution Gaudium et spes, No. 49.
PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio, No. 68.
Ibid., No. 81.
II, Encyclical Veritatis Splendor, No. 93.
PAUL II, Allocution during the General Audience of September 5, 1979.
With this Allocution, the Cycle of catechesis began known as the
“Catechesis on Human Love”.
does not accept the discussion on the level which his speakers try to
introduce it; in a certain sense, he does not approve the dimension
they try to give to the problem. He avoids becoming involved in
juridical-legal controversies and instead makes reference twice to the
certainly be admitted that man always exists in a particular culture,
but it must also be admitted that man is not exhaustively defined by
that same culture. Moreover, the very progress of cultures demonstrates
that there is something in man which transcends those cultures. This
‘something’ is precisely human nature: this nature is itself the measure
of culture and the condition ensuring that man does not become the
prisoner of any of his cultures, but asserts his personal dignity by
living in accordance with the profound truth of his being”. JOHN PAUL
II, Encyclical Veritatis Splendor, No. 53.
“is none other than the light of the intelligence instilled in us by
God. Thanks to this, we know what must be done and what must be
avoided. God has given this light and this law in Creation”. SAINT
THOMAS AQUINAS, Summa Theologica, I-II, q. 93, a. 3, ad 2um. Cf.
JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Veritatis Splendor, No. 35-53.
PAUL II, Encyclical Veritatis Splendor, No. 62-64.
grace of marriage, the spouses “help one another to attain holiness in
their married life and in welcoming and educating their children”.
SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Lumen Gentium, No. 11. Cf. Catechism
of the Catholic Church, Nos. 1641-1642.
II, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio, No. 81.
II, Letter to Families Gratissimam sane, No. 20.
II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, No. 55.
Ibid., No. 66.
COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILY, Preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage,
1996, No. 1.
II, Encyclical Fides et ratio, No. 97.
PAUL II, Encyclical Evangelium vitae, No. 73.
Encyclical Humanae vitae, No. 29.