The Purposes of Marriage

The Catechism teaches that Christ’s grace in the Sacrament of Marriage protects the essential purposes of marriage: the good of the couple and the generation and education of children. These purposes are protected and fostered by the permanence of the marriage bond and the mutual fidelity of the spouses.
“What God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mk 10:9). We have already noted that God’s plan for marriage involves a permanent covenant embraced by the couple. The Church declares every valid sacramental consummated marriage to be indissoluble, that is, no one can dissolve the marriage bond.
The marriage covenant, by which a man and woman form with each other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the Creator. By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of children. Christ the Lord raised marriage between the baptized to the dignity of a sacrament.
CCC, no. 1660

The Sacrament obliges marital fidelity between the spouses. Love has a definitive quality about it. It is more than a practical arrangement or a temporary contract. Marital intimacy and the good of the children require total fidelity to conjugal love. This flows from Christ’s own fidelity to the Church, which he loved so much that he died for her. By their mutual fidelity, the spouses continue to make present to each other the love of Christ and lead each other to greater holiness through the grace they receive from the Sacrament.

Married love is ordered to the good of the spouses and to the pro- creation and education of children. These are the unitive and procreative purposes of marriage. “By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory” (CCC, no. 1652; GS, no. 48). The fruitfulness of married love includes the moral, spiritual, and faith life the parents hand on to their children. Parents, as principal educators of their children, are at the service of life.

Together with their children, parents form what the Second Vatican Council called the domestic church. The Church lives in the daily life of families, in their faith and love, in their prayers and mutual care. The Catechism notes that “All the members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way” (CCC, no. 1657). Not all married couples are able to have children. “Spouses to whom God has not granted children can nevertheless have a conjugal life full of meaning… [and] can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality and of sacrifice” (CCC, no. 1654).

From the Catechism

  • Why is the family called “the domestic Church”?

    The Christian home is the place where the children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family is rightly called “the domestic church,” a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity. (CCC, no. 1666)
  • What is essential in the consent of those to be married?

    The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and woman, free to contract marriage, who freely express their consent; “to be free” means: not being under constraint; and not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law. (CCC, no. 1625)
  • Why should the couples be prepared for marriage?

    So that the “I do” of the spouses may be a free and responsible act, and so that the marriage covenant may have solid and lasting human and Christian foundations, preparation is of prime importance…It is imperative to give suitable and timely instruction to young people, above all in the heart of their own families, about the dignity of married love, its role and exercise, so that, having learned the value of chastity, they will be able at a suitable age to engage in honorable courtship and enter upon a marriage of their own. (CCC, no. 1632