Pope: Marriage is not a “Right”

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

In an address to members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, the Vatican office that decides annulments, Pope Benedict asked priests to do a better job of screening candidates for marriage and to feel free to decline a nuptial ceremony because “no one can make a claim to the right to a nuptial ceremony.”

AsiaNews is reporting that in the Jan. 22 address, the Pope stressed that getting married in the Church is only a right if a couple believes in “true marriage” that is, an act for the realization of the “integral good, human and Christian, of the spouses and of their future children, ultimately projected towards the holiness of their lives.”

The importance of preparation for Christian marriage and the need to avoid annulments were two of the strongest messages in the Holy Father’s address.

On the subject of marriage preparation, he criticized the sometimes insignificant place these programs hold in parishes where the examination of spouses, publication of bans and other premarital investigations are considered formalities rather than aspectds of an important canonical dimension to this Sacrament.

“In fact, it is often assumed that, in admitting the couples for marriage, pastors should proceed with speed, as it regards the natural right of people to marry,” he said. But “there is no marriage of lives and another of law: there is only one marriage, which is constitutionally a real legal bond between a man and a woman, a bond based on the true dynamics of conjugal life and love. . . . The legal aspect is intrinsically linked to the essence of marriage.”

For this reason, the “right” to marriage in church, “presupposes that the individuals can and intend to really celebrate it, in the truth of its essence as taught by the Church. No one has the right to a wedding ceremony”, because the right to marry “refers to the right to celebrate an authentic marriage.”

The “right to marry, then, would be denied “where it was obvious that the basis for its exercise are absent, where the required capacity to marry is obviously lacking, or where the will poses an objective that is in contrast to the natural reality of marriage. ”

Marriage preparation, therefore, is 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 honor.”

Effective marriage preparation should be aimed at preventing annulments. “All efforts must be made to stop, as much as possible, the vicious circle that often occurs in the granting of admission to marriage, without adequate preparation or a serious examination of the requirements for its celebration,” he said.

The Pope’s comments were made on the same day that he told an audience of police officers that public officials should “rediscover their singular and moral roots,” a comment many believe was aimed at Italian Catholic Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who has been accused of paying for sex with a 17 year-old girl.

Although Berlusconi has denied the accusations, the Pope, along with most of Italy, doesn’t seem to be buying it.

“The singular vocation that the city of Rome requires today of you, who are public officials, is to offer a good example of the positive and useful interaction between a healthy lay status and the Christian faith,” the Pope said.

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