When studying sacramental theology, one of the first principles that you learn is everyone has the natural right to marry. This does not mean that everyone is entitled to a Christian marriage and can marry anyone, whenever or wherever they want.
This attitude becomes crystal clear when talking to young people. They unfortunately do not understand that marriage is not a private choice or event. The couple, and thus the family, is the most basic building block of society. The community desires to have assurances that this marriage will be stable and beneficial to not only the couple/family but to those whom they will come in contact with. Frankly, society also has a financial stake in the marriage. If something goes wrong, it is society that flips the bill for the court costs, counseling, and the array of other provisions that are necessary to assist the individuals and/or families reintegrate with the emotional wounds.
The Holy Father this week also shed some light on this as he addressed the Apostolic Tribunal of the Sacred Roman Rota – the highest court in the Church. Vatican Radio captures his comments as such:
The“right” to Christian marriage requires serious preparation says Pope
On Saturday Pope Benedict XVI delivered his annual address to the Roman Rota, marking the beginning of the juridical year.
The Apostolic Tribunal of the Sacred Roman Rota is the highest of the Church, as such its main function is that of a third-instance appellate tribunal. Dominating its case load are petitions seeking the issuance of adecree of nullity , and with this is mind Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his address to the Rota’s auditors, officers and judges, to the issue of marriage.
Faced with the current crisis of the family, he called for “the greatest pastoral care” in the preparation for and admission to the marriage, noting that the pre-marriage courses, the examination of the spouses, publication of bans and other appropriate investigations are often seen as purely formal obligations.
“In fact – he observed – there is a widespread mentality that “in admitting couples for marriage, pastors should proceed with leniency, as the natural right of people to marry is in question”. Pope Benedict instead pointed out that the “right” to marriage in Church, “presupposes that the individuals can and intend to truly celebrate it, in the truth of its essence as taught by the Church”.
He continued “No one can claim the right to a wedding ceremony”, because “ius connubii, the right to marry”, “refers to the right to celebrate an authentic marriage”.
Admission to marriage – continued the Pope – an issue that requires “the greatest pastoral care” in the formation of the couple and in “testing their convictions regarding the obligations required for the validity of the Sacrament of Marriage. Serious discernment in this matter will avoid impulsive decisions or superficial reasons that lead two young people to take on responsibilities that they will not know how to honour”. In this context the pre-marital examination, should never be considered a mere “bureaucratic procedure”.
Pope Benedict concluded that marriage preparation is also a key tool in stopping the “vicious circle”, of the granting admission to marriage, “without adequate preparation or requirements”, on the opposing end, the granting of “a judicial declaration that sometimes just as easily, but of an opposite nature, considers marriage invalid”.