The Arcanum: Lesson for the Couples Vol. 1, No. 21

“The mutual duties of husband and wife have been defined, and there several rights accurately established. They are bound, namely, to have such feeling for one another as to cherish always very great mutual love, to be ever faithful to their marriage vow, and to give one another an unfailing and unselfish help.” These are the words of Pope Leo X111 in his encyclical “ARCANUM” the first official document of the Church on Christian marriage and family, published on February 10, 1880.

The encyclical succinctly brings to mind that marriage ab initio manifested two important properties- unity and perpetuity. Properties that were later undermine by men through polygamy, concubinage, polyandry and divorce. However, with the advent of Jesus Christ, marriage has been brought to its primeval nobility. More so, Jesus has entrusted matters bearing on marriage to His Church, who is the best guardian and defender of human race on life issues; including marriage. Meanwhile, the wisdom of the Church has come victoriously from the lapse of years from the assaults of men and from the countless changes of public events. Hence there is an established link between Christ, the Church and humanity at large. This is a link that makes the Church to ever remain faithful to her master and teacher, in ensuring the unity of marriage and its indissolubility, its holiness and inviolable nature. The Church further teaches that neither the man nor the woman should abandon the other except if they have been separated by death. This teaching is existentially relevant in order to control the evils that flow from divorce, in which mutual kindness is weakened; deplorable inducements to unfaithfulness supplied; harm is done to the training and education of children; occasion is afforded for the breaking up of homes; the seed of dissension are sown among families; the dignity of manhood is lessened and brought low; and women run the risk of being deserted after having ministered to the pleasures of men. In fact, we cannot expect any public good from divorce; rather, on the contrary it tends to the certain destruction of the society.

It must consequently be acknowledged that the Church has deserved exceedingly well of all nations by her ever watchful care in guarding the sanctity and the indissolubility of marriage from error, and violence and deceit; as well as preserve the holy chasteness of the marriage beds. Again, the Church has on the course of history, openly denounced the wicked laws which have grievously offended the truth of marriage; as well as her having branded as anathema the shameful heresy obtaining among protestants touching divorce and separation; also, for having in many ways condemned the habitual dissolution of marriage among the Greeks; for having declared invalid all marriages contracted upon the understanding that they may be at some future time dissolved; and lastly, for having, from the earliest times, repudiated the imperial laws which disastrously favoured divorce.

Far more importantly, the Roman Pontiff (Pope Leo X111) was against being deceived by the civil jurists, who severe the matrimonial contract from the matrimonial sacrament, maintaining that the contractual and the sacramental nature of marriage is inseparable. Meanwhile, in the relationship between sacred and civil power, no one doubts that Jesus Christ, the founder of the Church, willed her sacred power to be distinct from the civil power. Nevertheless, the power to which secular matters have been entrusted should happily and becomingly depend on the other power which has in its charge the interest of heaven, thereby helping men in all that pertains to their life here and to their hope of salvation hereafter. Therefore if there be any union of a man and a woman among the faithful of Christ which is not a sacrament, such union has not the force and nature of a proper marriage. Interestingly enough, no power can dissolve the bond of Christian marriage whenever it has been ratified and consummated (is when couples have had their first love); and that it is a great crime for a married man or woman, for whatever reason to be married again when the first one is still alive. When, indeed, matters have come to such a pitch that it seems impossible for them to live together any longer, the Church allows them to live apart, and strive at the same time to soften the evils of the separation, in order to bring about reconciliation. We should also be careful not to enter into marriage with those who are not Catholics; for when minds do not agree as to the observance of religion, it is scarcely possible to hope for agreement in other things. Most of my female friends who have become victims regrettably lament their horrible experiences. (as we discussed in our last two series).

Finally, I wish to advise every couple both in potency (yet to marry) and in actuality (already married), that there would be a calm and quiet constancy in marriage if they would gather strength and life from the virtue of religion alone which impart to us resolution and fortitude. This is predicated on the fact that religion would enable them to bear tranquilly and ever gladly the trials of their state, for instance, the faults that they discover in one another, the difference in temper and character, the weight of a mother’s care, the wearing anxiety about the education of children, the reverses of fortune and the sorrows of life.

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