Marriage ideas have marriage consequences
March 3, 2013 § 70 Comments
According to the laws, let the consent alone suffice for those whose union is in question; and if, by chance, this consent alone is lacking in the marriage, everything else is in vain, even if solemnized by intercourse itself, as attested to by the great Doctor John Chrysostom, who said: “What makes a marriage is not intercourse, but the will.” — Pope Nicholas I, Ad consulta vestra, November 13, 866 AD, (quoted in Denzinger)
First, it is necessary to distinguish between sacramental Christian marriage and pagan marriage.
Christian marriage is what takes place when a baptized Christian man marries a baptized Christian woman. Pagan marriage is everything else in the wider world that is marriage-like. Pagan marriage does not share the essentials of Christian marriage. It is a merely natural, not sacramental, phenomenon.
The essentials of Christian marriage between a man and a woman are not complicated. An average ten year old can understand them. They include
- Permanence/indissolubility (No matter what. No “out” for adultery, abuse, etc.)
- Unity (One man, one woman. Monogomous marriage is the only possible kind of Christian marriage)
- Sexual exclusivity
- Openness to children
When a Christian man and woman consent to marriage, they consent to (at least) these essential things.
And there is the rub. When a Christian attempts “marriage” while at the same time denying any of the essentials of marriage – when his idea of marriage does not correspond to the essentials of sacramental, Christian marriage – he is not consenting to marriage. This is the case even when he keeps his denial to himself, perhaps in order not to rock the boat.
Someone with the wrong idea of marriage who attempts to marry fails in the attempt. As with the case of an invalid confession, the outward appearance of a sacrament does not guarantee the presence of the sacrament.
And lots of modern Christians have wrong ideas about marriage.
 Following an old convention for convenience, I use “pagan” to refer to non-sacramental non-Christian marriages.