Natural law and marriage

As in a previous episode of Naturang Batas, Fr. Ces Magsino made some draft notes for the episode Natural Law and Marriage. However, the 'drafts', like that for Natural Law and Contraception, are so instructive that I again asked the permission of Fr. Ces to share it to my readers. And here it is:

Segment 1

- What is meant by marriage?

By marriage we understand the consortium of lives of a man a woman who naturally unite in one flesh for the purposes of having children, establishing a family and extending to each other love and mutual help.

- Please give brief historical account of marriage? Who created marriage: The State? The Church? Society or culture?

Marriage is a natural institution. By this we mean that it is part of natural law and that the institution and its attendant qualities are rooted in human nature.
Different cultures and different historical circumstances have presented different customs and practices as regards marriage. Wives have been “obtained” by men through different means: by capturing them, by winning a war or battle, by arrangement, by payment, by convenience. But naturally, marriage has been between a man and a woman. Naturally also marriage has been associated in many cultures with religion and religious ceremony.
Even if marriage is as old as mankind itself, its status has been elevated by Jesus Christ and Christianity. This faith has taught men that marriage has these essential qualities: unity, indissolubility, mutual help and openness to life. Reason itself can attest to the goodness and the need for these qualities.
Marriage has its roots in the mutual attraction of the man and the woman which leads them to conjugal love. This love is at the root of the marriage partnership. Although Christianity has raised marriage to the level of the personal love of spouses, this phenomenon is a universal one. It is enough to see how love songs are found in all cultures.
So if marriage is based on human nature and human nature has its origins in God the Creator, then we can say that God created marriage. And he has endowed it with its specific characteristics. Neither the State, nor the Church, nor society nor culture is the creator of marriage.

Is is true that monogamy is a modern invention? What about arranged marriages? Is it true that romantic relationships are merely a modern invention?

Although marriage has existed in all societies, even the ancient ones, its characteristics have changed throughout history.
Though certain primitive peoples have practiced monogamy, it was not the usual custom. Monogamy as an essential characteristic of marriage is a specifically Christian contribution to the institution.
But even if it is a Christian tenet, any person can understand the reasonableness of this teaching because in the end monogamy is based on something reasonable and in keeping with the dignity of persons. If we take a look at human love we can find the universal phenomenon of jealousy. This is simply the sadness any married person experiences when he or she learns that his or her spouse has given to another person the attention or care that he thinks he alone deserves. Jealousy is simply the human indicator that married love ought to be exclusive.
Exclusivity or that fact that married love is between one man and one woman is the quality that will assure the adequate respect that is owed to a person because of his or her dignity. Any other arrangement like polygamy or polyandry degrades the status of the man or woman to an object that is owned or possessed.
The quality of exclusivity when it is extended through time becomes the quality of fidelity.
The other qualities of marriage: children and mutual help can also be seen as natural consequences of married love. Love as a human sentiment has a myriad of expressions: it is a many splendored thing as the song goes. Many of its expressions indicate goodness that one spouse can give to the other. The highest expression of married love is the conjugal act which reason tells us is naturally ordered to the transmission of life.

Segment 2

- Again, what is natural law and why should it be considered in relation to marriage?

Natural law is the light of our practical reason that indicates to us what acts are good and what are evil and it gives us the command that the good must be done and evil must be avoided. It is based on practical reasonableness in relation to our human nature and the demands of our human nature.
It is necessary to consider what natural law tells us in relation to marriage because marriage is a very important institution for human life and society. It is in marriage that human life ought to begin and it is within marriage that human lives grow and develop. Experience of history and of societies has shown that when the institution of marriage is compromised, the children suffer, families suffer and society suffers great evils.
For example, marriage even by natural law standards ought to be stable thus enjoying the qualities of unity and indissolubility. We don’t need to be geniuses to see how divorce has harmed families and lives.

- Is sex a necessary component of marriage?

By definition marriage is union of man and woman so that they become “one flesh”.  So we can say that the sexual union is a necessary component of marriage. At least at one point in the lives of the spouses each must be able to render to his or her spouse the marital debt. By the law of the Catholic Church, the inability to render this debt will invalidate a marriage.

- Is children a necessary component of marriage?

Nature itself has determined that most marriages have children and some do not have children. The fact of not bearing children does not invalidate a marriage provided that childlessness is the result of circumstances beyond the will of the spouses. However, if a man and a woman enter into a marriage with the express will of not having children at all, then they are choosing to exclude an essential quality of marriage. In fact they union they are choosing is not marriage and so they lack “matrimonial consent”. This fact will invalidate their marriage.

- What about marriages where one spouse is sterile or impotent, are they proper marriages?

Sterility means that incapacity to conceive life. It may affect the man or the woman. Sterility does not go against the establishment of a marriage because the marriage between sterile couples keeps intact the essential features of marriage: union in one flesh, mutual love and openness to life. Although they can not conceive new life, the couple’s will remain open to life as long as they do not deliberately deprive their conjugal acts of their intrinsic relationship to conception.

- Would divorce be against natural law?

If we consider natural law to be the principles of reason that work for obtaining true personal goods and development, then yes divorce would go against the natural law.
Divorce is a very complex issue. It is claimed that in a certain case, the marriage of a man and wife has failed. Now, they claim they have the right to be happy. And the way they see they can achieve happiness is to be released from this present bond and enter into a new one. And so divorce is seen as a right and a need.
Though it is true that everyone has a right to be happy, no one has a right to do something evil. Using reason, we can see that divorce goes against great human goods: the unity of the spouses, their fidelity to each other and the good of the children.
When the divorce mentality has set in a society it has become the quick solution adopted to resolve marital problems. At the first difficulty, divorce. No man is perfect and so no marriage is perfect: everyone knows that. At first the man marries the woman he loves; but as time goes on he gets to love the woman he married. But with divorce easily obtainable, the man quickly dismisses the woman when the love is gone.

Segment 3

- What does natural law say about same-sex marriages?

Natural law reasoning has always looked upon same-sex unions as unnatural. I would not like to call them “marriages” so as not to cloud our thinking. Marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman. And so a union between persons of the same sex is not marriage.
Because from the outset, this union is unnatural then natural law reasoning will tell us it is a disorder. Its unnaturalness resides in this: that the sexual pleasure that is concomitant with the conjugal act is obtained for its own sake in a sexual act that is not a conjugal act. It is an act against chastity.

- But how different is same-sex marriage between heterosexual spouses who are unable to have children?

The difference is galactic. Although both acts might be similar in that they are both unable to conceive new life, the rest of the equation is completely different. Spouses who are truly married live out their marriage when they render to each the marital debt and when they show their love for each other in many other ways. At the source and root of their love is something legitimate and noble: their one flesh union. This union is based on the natural differences and complementarity of the sexes.
In the case of the persons of the same sex, the difference and complementarity is lacking. In a real sense what a man loves in this case is a “man like me” and so the sexual relationship cannot transcend into an act of total self-giving but is essentially narcissistic. Statistics prove that these “unions” do not last long.

- What are the considered natural law sanctions for violating the good of marriage?

The natural consequences of violating the good of marriage are patent for all to see: we have infidelities, adulteries, mariticide or uxoricide, broken families. The social toll of these evils are very heavy for society to bear.