The Ordinariate Bishop of North America (Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter) has published an excellent pastoral letter on the beauty of marriage and the papal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. Mgr Newton, our Ordinary, has also circulated this amongst the Ordinariate clergy. As well as excellent general pastoral teaching, he also has specific things to say to members of the Ordinariate.
“I take thee, to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse: for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy law; and thereto I plight thee my troth.”(1)
With these beautiful and profound words of the Divine Worship Order of Solemnisation of Holy Matrimony the groom gives his consent, with the bride responding in kind, “I give thee my troth.” The Priest or Deacon then pronounces “that they be man and wife together,” having “given and pledged their troth either to other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving of a ring, and by joining of hands.”(2)
The pledging of troth expresses a deep, exclusive loyalty and lifelong faithfulness. It is the act whereby the marriage covenant is made actual, for the giving of consent, the free “act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other” is “the indispensable element ‘that makes the marriage.’”(3) While the Priest or Deacon “witnesses” and “receives that consent in the name of the Church,” it is the spouses themselves who are “the ministers of Christ’s grace” and “mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony” through “expressing their consent.”(4)
“Forsaking all other … so long as you both shall live,” the spouses are by this “vow and covenant betwixt them made” indissolubly bound, for whom “God hath joined together let no man put asunder.”(5) So permanent is this unity “which by its very nature is perpetual and exclusive” that, once validly entered, it “is a reality, henceforth irrevocable.”(6) No one, not even the Church herself, has “the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom.”(7)
Yet the truth of the indissolubility of marriage, rooted in nature, reason, Revelation, and God’s own unchanging nature, “is not at odds with a bitter truth found throughout sacred Scripture, that is, the presence of pain, evil, and violence that break up families and their communion of life and love.”(8) As our Holy Father, Pope Francis, reminds us in the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the family is often confronted by grave and threatening realities. No one can doubt the severe troubles facing families and marriages in our own time, just as “[n]o one can think that the weakening of the family as that natural society founded on marriage will prove beneficial to society as a whole … only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life.”(9)
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1 Divine Worship: The Order of Solemnisation of Holy Matrimony, for use by the Ordinariates erected under the auspices of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus.
3 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1627, 1626; citing Gaudium et Spes, 48, and Code of Canon Law, 1057.
4 The Order of Solemnisation of Holy Matrimony, Introduction, 8; citing Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1623.
5 The Order of Solemnisation of Holy Matrimony.
6 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1638, 1640.
7 Ibid., 1640.
8 Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, 19.
9 Ibid., 52