“Hermeneutic of continuity” check…
Before and After Vatican II:
What is the Essential Purpose of Holy Matrimony?
The chief mission of this web site is to demonstrate how the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, whose last known Pope was Pius XII (d. 1958), differ in essence from those of the Novus Ordo religion, whose doctrinal mother lode is the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). This infernal assembly was called and opened by Antipope John XXIII (1958-63) and promulgated and concluded by Antipope Paul VI (1963-78), both of whom, naturally, have officially been declared “saints” by the Novus Ordo Church since.
One point of Sacred Theology on which the discontinuity between the Roman Catholic magisterium and the Novus Ordo pseudo-magisterium is particularly evident is the end (=purpose) of Holy Matrimony.
The Traditional Catholic Position
The traditional Catholic position is quite straightforward: The primary end of Holy Matrimony is procreation, that is, the generation and upbringing of children. There are also other purposes of Holy Matrimony, such as mutual aid and the morally-regulated satisfaction of the sexual instinct, but these are secondary ends that are subordinate to the primary purpose.
This doctrine is how the Catholic Church has perennially understood marriage, and in 1917 it was enshrined in the Code of Canon Law: “The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children; the secondary [end] is mutual support and a remedy for concupiscence” (Canon 1013 §1). It is also taught explicitly in the following magisterial documents:
A threefold good is attributed to matrimony. The first is the procreation and bringing up of children for the worship of God. The second is the mutual faithfulness of the spouses towards each other. The third is the indissolubility of marriage, since it signifies the indivisible union of Christ and the church.
…[T]here has been vouchsafed to the marriage union a higher and nobler purpose than was ever previously given to it. By the command of Christ, it not only looks to the propagation of the human race, but to the bringing forth of children for the Church, “fellow citizens with the saints, and the domestics of God”; so that “a people might be born and brought up for the worship and religion of the true God and our Savior Jesus Christ.”
(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Arcanum Divinae, n. 10)
No human law can abolish the natural and original right of marriage, nor in any way limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage ordained by God’s authority from the beginning: “Increase and multiply.”
(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Rerum Novarum, n. 12)
Thus amongst the blessings of marriage, the child holds the first place. And indeed the Creator of the human race Himself, Who in His goodness wishes to use men as His helpers in the propagation of life, taught this when, instituting marriage in Paradise, He said to our first parents, and through them to all future spouses: “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth.” As St. Augustine admirably deduces from the words of the holy Apostle Saint Paul to Timothy when he says: “The Apostle himself is therefore a witness that marriage is for the sake of generation: ‘I wish,’ he says, ‘young girls to marry.’ And, as if someone said to him, ‘Why?,’ he immediately adds: ‘To bear children, to be mothers of families’.”
(Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Casti Connubii, n. 11; underlining added.)
The truth is that marriage, as a natural institution, is not ordered by the will of the Creator towards personal perfection of the husband and wife as its primary end, but to the procreation and education of a new life. The other ends of marriage, although part of nature’s plan, are not of the same importance as the first. Still less are these ends superior. On the contrary, they are essentially subordinate to it. This principle holds good for all marriages, even if they are unfruitful: just as it can be said that all eyes are intended and constructed to see, even though in abnormal cases, because of particular internal or external conditions, they can never be capable of giving sight.
…Not only the exterior common life, but also all the personal wealth, the qualities of mind and spirit, and finally all that there is more truly spiritual and profound in married love as such, has been placed by the will of nature and the Creator at the service of the offspring.
(Pope Pius XII, Address Vegliare con Sollecitudine to the Italian Association of Catholic Midwives, Oct. 29, 1951)
Several times it has been necessary for Us to recall how the peculiar intentions of the married couple, their life in common, their personal perfection, cannot be conceived unless they are subordinated to the primary end, namely, fatherhood and motherhood…. This is the constant teaching of the Church.
(Pope Pius XII, Address to Participants of the Second World Congress on Fertility and Sterility, May 19, 1956; excerpted in Papal Teachings: Matrimony, n. 736, pp. 484-485.)
Many more quotes could be provided, but these suffice to make the point: The primary purpose for marriage is procreation. Other purposes are not excluded, and indeed sometimes the primary end cannot be attained at all for reasons beyond the spouses’ control, but any other ends are necessarily subordinate to the primary end. Thus the traditional Catholic teaching is clear, and was clear for many centuries.
But then came Vatican II.
Vatican II muddies the Waters
Although the council did not overturn the traditional teaching outright, it provided the groundwork for its subversion. In its infamous “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World”, Vatican II declared:
The intimate partnership [intima communitas] of married life and love has been established by the Creator and qualified by His laws, and is rooted in the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent. Hence by that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other a relationship arises which by divine will and in the eyes of society too is a lasting one. For the good of the spouses and their off-springs as well as of society, the existence of the sacred bond no longer depends on human decisions alone. For, God Himself is the author of matrimony, endowed as it is with various benefits and purposes. All of these have a very decisive bearing on the continuation of the human race, on the personal development and eternal destiny of the individual members of a family, and on the dignity, stability, peace and prosperity of the family itself and of human society as a whole. By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown. Thus a man and a woman, who by their compact of conjugal love “are no longer two, but one flesh” (Matt. 19:ff), render mutual help and service to each other through an intimate union of their persons and of their actions. Through this union they experience the meaning of their oneness and attain to it with growing perfection day by day. As a mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an unbreakable oneness between them.
(Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, n. 48; underlining added.)
What may at first glance appear to be a restatement the traditional teaching, actually opens the door to its denial: The council merely speaks of “various benefits and purposes” to marriage, and it enumerates them without distinguishing between primary and secondary ends; nor does it subordinate one to the other. In speaking of the spouses “experiencing” the “meaning” of their union, the language of the document is strikingly reflective of the subjectivist-phenomenological current in vogue at the time.
The council’s wording was no accident, of course. In fact, if we look at the debates that preceded the final version of Gaudium et Spes, we can see the struggle that took place between the orthodox traditional Catholic theologians and the Modernist innovators. That it was the latter who ended up victorious is owed to the fact that the council was not presided over by a true Pope and consequently not protected from contradicting prior Catholic teaching.
Under the appropriatetly-worded subheading of “Rethinking the Church’s Teaching on Marriage and Family”, Prof. Gilles Routhier relates the vociferous disagreements between the council fathers regarding the ends of Holy Matrimony:
Although a number of fathers took their stand firmly on the positions found in [Pope Pius XI’s] Casti connubii, others wanted a renewal in what the Church had to say about marriage and the family. The first two interventions illustrated the difference between the two approaches.
As soon as the debate began Cardinal [Michael] Browne brought up for discussion the distinction between “the primary end, that is, the end which essentially determines the nature of the object of the conjugal covenant, namely, the procreation and rearing of children,” and “secondary ends, or essential concomitants,” namely, “mutual help and a remedy for concupiscence.” This statement would be repeated, as in a litany, by [Cardinal Ernesto] Ruffini and [Archbishop Luis] Alonso Muñoyerro. Immediately after Browne it was [Cardinal Paul-Émile] Léger’s turn to speak. While acknowledging that the new draft of the schema was better than the preceding one, he feared that in its present form its teaching would deeply disappoint the legitimate expectations of the faithful. The main defect of the schema was that it continued to describe marriage as “an institution ordered to the procreation and rearing of children,” instead of basing the description on the persons that marriage brings together into a community of life and love. According to the Archbishop of Montreal [Léger], to describe marriage as an institution in the service of procreation “is certainly both false and destructive of the dignity of love.” The need was to think within another perspective, that of “an intimate community of love.”
(Gilles Routhiers, “Finishing the Work begun: The Trying Experience of the Fourth Period”; in Giuseppe Alberigo and Joseph A. Komonchak, eds., History of Vatican II, vol. 5 [Maryknoll, NY: ORBIS Books, 2006], pp. 154-155.)
What we see here is pretty clear: In the name of “renewal”, the Modernists wanted the council to overturn the traditional teaching, claiming that this was the “expectation of the faithful.” If only they had cared about what God’s expectation was!
In Cardinal Léger‘s assertion that marriage existing for procreation “is certainly both false and destructive of the dignity of love”, we are faced with an outrageous blasphemy, for it implies that for 1,900 years the Church taught pernicious error about a most fundamental matter of human existence!
But there is more to share from Vatican II’s deliberations. The view of marriage that has prevailed in the Novus Ordo Sect is called “personalism”, and its biggest champion ended up being “Saint” John Paul II. Not surprisingly, such a view generates lots of ambiguity, and this did not go unnoticed by the Catholics at the council:
While the more personalist approach, based on interpersonal relations, thus succeeded in making itself heard, the approach in terms of primary and secondary ends was still firmly entrenched. It was matched by an entirely juridical conception of marriage in which everything seemed to hinge on the idea of contract.
…[There was] an obsession with exactness [on the orthodox bishops’ part]. There should be no ambiguity; the teaching in the schema, which is “sometimes vague, less specific, less clear, less prudent,” should be replaced by teaching that is well defined, “clearer,” and “without possible ambiguity.” The chapter erred “also by silence or ambiguity” and by its “excessive timidity.” This “lack of clarity” could be eliminated only by a return to the teaching of Casti connubii, which “without hesitation clearly propounds” a doctrine that is certain and precise.
(Routhiers, “Finishing the Work begun”, pp. 156-157. The words in quotation marks are quotes from various conservative council fathers.)
The Modernists, of course, were not interested in clarity, precision, or continuing the traditional teaching. They wanted to have doctrinal change, and ambiguity was the best way to get there.
Historian Prof. Roberto de Mattei summarizes the outcome of the conciliar deliberations about the ends of marriage thus: “Unfortunately the family morality formulated … in Gaudium et spes would incorporate the suggestions of the innovators, rather than those of the defenders of traditional morality. It resulted in an unfortunate synthesis of contrary tendencies” (The Second Vatican Council: An Unwritten Story [Fitzwilliam, NH: Loreto Publications, 2012], pp. 396-397). The result is what we read in Gaudium et Spes.
Of course Vatican II was not the end of the road; if anything, it was only the beginning — the source from which heaps of novelties could be drawn for decades to come.
Thus it is not surprising that with Gaudium et Spes getting its foot in the door to “renewing” the Catholic teaching on matrimony, it didn’t take long for the traditional teaching to be openly overturned — not, mind you, by a select few dissidents on the far left, but quite officially by the “Popes” themselves, specifically Paul VI and John Paul II, both of whom have naturally been declared “saints” by Francis.
That teaching, often set forth by the magisterium, is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning. Indeed, by its intimate structure, the conjugal act, while most closely uniting husband and wife, capacitates them for the generation of new lives, according to laws inscribed in the very being of man and of woman. By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its ordination towards man’s most high calling to parenthood. We believe that the men of our day are particularly capable of seeing the deeply reasonable and human character of this fundamental principle.
(Antipope Paul VI, Encyclical Humanae Vitae, n. 12; underlining added.)
Notice how “St.” Paul VI here no longer speaks of the ends or purposes of marriage but of its twofold “meaning.” What is more, he does not subordinate the one to the other and even lists them in reverse order! He clearly places the secondary end of matrimony before the primary end, speaking first of “the unitive meaning” and only then of “the procreative meaning.”
Paul VI’s inglorious successor, “St.” John Paul II, echoed this doctrinal revolution, both with regard to replacing purpose with meaning and mentioning the unitive before the procreative. In his 1981 exhortation Familiaris Consortio, the Polish apostate spoke of “the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative meanings of human sexuality” (n. 32).
The inversion of the ends of matrimony and the failure to subordinate the secondary to the primary was officially enshrined in the Novus Ordo Church’s universal disciplinary law in 1983, when the original Code of Canon Law of 1917 was replaced by an “updated” version that reflected the changes introduced by Vatican II and its subsequent pseudo-magisterium:
The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.
(Code of Canon Law , Canon 1055 §1; underlining added.)
Antipope John Paul II promulgated this revised Code on the 25th anniversary of “Saint” John XXIII announcing his plan to convoke an ecumenical council (Vatican II); and he did so using the full authority he claimed to possess:
Trusting therefore in the help of divine grace, sustained by the authority of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, with certain knowledge, and in response to the wishes of the bishops of the whole world who have collaborated with me in a collegial spirit; with the supreme authority with which I am vested, by means of this Constitution, to be valid forever in the future, I promulgate the present Code as it has been set in order and revised. I command that for the future it is to have the force of law for the whole Latin Church, and I entrust it to the watchful care of all those concerned, in order that it may be observed.
So that all may more easily be informed and have a thorough knowledge of these norms before they have juridical binding force, I declare and order that they will have the force of law beginning from the first day of Advent of this year, 1983.
And this notwithstanding any contrary ordinances, constitutions, privileges (even worthy of special or individual mention) or customs.
(Antipope John Paul II, “Apostolic” Constitution Sacrae Disciplinae Legis, Jan. 25, 1983; underlining added.)
This is highly significant because in the Catholic Church, universal discipline is protected by infallibility. Thus, the errors on Holy Matrimony in the Code suffice to prove the Novus Ordo Sect to be a false church:
The Church’s infallibility extends to the general discipline of the Church… By the term “general discipline of the Church” are meant those ecclesiastical laws passed for the universal Church for the direction of Christian worship and Christian living… The imposing of commands belongs not directly to the teaching office but to the ruling office; disciplinary laws are only indirectly an object of infallibility, i.e., only by reason of the doctrinal decision implicit in them. When the Church’s rulers sanction a law, they implicitly make a twofold judgment: 1. “This law squares with the Church’s doctrine of faith and morals”; that is, it imposes nothing that is at odds with sound belief and good morals. This amounts to a doctrinal decree. 2. “This law, considering all the circumstances, is most opportune.” This is a decree of practical judgment.
(Mgr. Gerard van Noort, Dogmatic Theology, vol. 2: Christ’s Church [Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1957], pp. 114-115; underlining added.)
Lest anyone should object that the Novus Ordo Code of Canon Law of 1983 only pertains to the Latin (Western) rite church and not to the Eastern churches, that much is true but not relevant, since the exact same law about marriage was promulgated by the same John Paul II in 1990 in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (see Canon 776 §1).
The Novus Ordo Position condemned as “revolutionary” in 1944
That the supposed “development” of the traditional Catholic teaching from the pre-conciliar magisterium to the 1983 Code of Canon Law via Vatican II is not genuine but instead contradicts the former doctrine, is underscored by the fact that in 1944, the Holy Office rebuffed initial attempts by theologians to
replace “renew” the traditional understanding with a personalist view of Holy Matrimony:
Certain publications concerning the purposes of matrimony, and their interrelationship and order, have come forth within these last years which either assert that the primary purpose of matrimony is not the generation of offspring, or that the secondary purposes are not subordinate to the primary purpose, but are independent of it.
In these works different primary purposes of marriage are designated by other writers, as for example: the complement and personal perfection of the spouses through a complete mutual participation in life and action; mutual love and union of spouses to be nurtured and perfected by the psychic and bodily surrender of one’s own person; and many other such things.
In the same writings a sense is sometimes attributed to words in the current documents of the Church (as for example, primary, secondary purpose), which does not agree with these words according to the common usage by theologians.
This revolutionary way of thinking and speaking aims to foster errors and uncertainties, to avoid which the Most Eminent and Very Reverend Fathers of this supreme Sacred Congregation, charged with the guarding of matters of faith and morals, in a plenary session, on Wednesday, the 28th of March, 1944, when the question was proposed to them “Whether the opinion of certain recent persons can be admitted, who either deny that the primary purpose of matrimony is the generation and raising of offspring, or teach that the secondary purposes are not essentially subordinate to the primary purpose, but are equally first and independent”, have decreed that the answer must be: In the negative.
(Decree of the Holy Office, April 1, 1944; Denzinger 2295; underlining added.)
Bam! It is precisely the teaching of Vatican II and the post-conciliar pseudo-magisterium that is being condemned in this decree. Not only is the personalist view rejected by the Holy Office, it is branded “revolutionary” in its thought and manner of speaking, conducive to “foster[ing] errors and uncertainties”. What great astuteness the Church’s doctrinal office displayed there, for that is exactly what we have seen since Vatican II ushered in its “Great Renewal” and legitimized this false position!
In an allocution given to midwives in 1951, Pope Pius XII directly addressed this issue himself:
It was precisely for the purpose of putting an end to all uncertainty and wanderings away from the truth, which were threatening to spread mistaken ideas about the order of precedence in the purpose of marriage and the relationship between them, that We ourselves, some years ago (10th March, 1944), drew up a statement placing them in their right order. We called attention to what the very internal structure of their natural disposition discloses, to what is the heritage of Christian tradition, to what the Sovereign Pontiffs have repeatedly taught, and to what was afterwards definitely stated in the Code of Canon Law [Canon 1013 §1]. Furthermore, a little while afterwards, to put an end to conflicting opinions, the Holy See, by a public Decree, proclaimed that the appeal of certain modern writers who deny that the procreation and education of the child is the primary end of marriage, or teach that the secondary ends are not essentially subordinate to the primary end, but rather are of equal value and are independent of it, cannot be admitted.
(Pope Pius XII, Address Vegliare con Sollecitudine to the Italian Association of Catholic Midwives, Oct. 29, 1951; underlining added.)
It is absolutely clear, therefore, that no one can invoke “doctrinal development” in defense of the Novus Ordo personalist distortion of the ends of marriage. If the personalist view “cannot be admitted” because it is “wandering away from the truth” in 1944 and ’51, then the opposite cannot suddenly be the case in 1965 or ’68 — or in 2020, for that matter. This would not be a legitimate development, it would be a corruption.
Interestingly enough, some Novus Ordo theologians are not afraid to admit to this reversal of doctrine more or less openly. An official commentary on the Novus Ordo Code of Canon Law observes candidly:
The Second Vatican Council devoted paragraphs 48 to 52 of its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World to marriage. Although the council sought only to highlight “some major features of the church’s teaching,” its teaching marked a watershed in the Church’s understanding of marriage. Avoiding the familiar term “contract,” the council consistently spoke of marriage as a “covenant.” Although the explicit reason given for this preference for “covenant” was that it was a term more congenial to the tradition of the Eastern churches, the term was also more in harmony with the personalist approach to marriage that suffuses Gaudium et spes. This personalist approach was evident in the council’s description of marriage as “an intimate sharing (communitas) of married life and love” [Gaudium et spes, n. 48] and in its repeated emphasis on the importance of conjugal love. The council did not present this conjugal love as a purely spiritual reality. Instead, it taught:
“This love is uniquely expressed and perfected through the marital act. The actions within marriage by which the couple are united intimately and chastely are noble and worthy ones. Expressed in a manner which is truly human, these actions signify and promote that mutual self-giving by which spouses enrich each other with a joyful and thankful will.” [n. 49]
Ignoring the 1917 code’s articulation of the object of consent as the perpetual and exclusive right to the body, the council defined consent as “that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other” [n. 48]. Despite its teaching on the importance of conjugal love, the council reiterated traditional teaching that the “sacred bond” of marriage is indissoluble and that its continued existence is not dependent on the continued love of the spouses and deplored the “plague of divorce” [n. 47]. The council also reiterated the traditional teaching that “by their nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown” [n. 48]. It recognized, however, that marriage is endowed by God “with various benefits and purposes” [n. 48] and that its focus on the procreative end of marriage should not be understood as “making the other purposes of matrimony of less account” [n. 50]. In this, the council passed over in silence the strict hierarchical ordering of ends enunciated in the 1917 code and insisted on by the preconciliar magisterium.
(John P. Beal et al., eds., New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law [Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2000], pp. 1239-1240; underlining added.)
And there we have it. The novel position adopted by the council and its subsequent “Popes” is so clearly out of continuity with what had gone before that it is called a “watershed”; it used new terminology and “ignored” the prior teaching regarding the object of consent; and it simply “passed over in silence” the distinction between primary and secondary ends that the Church had “insisted on” before, and hinted that all ends are equally important, when a mere 14 years prior the Pope had said that the “other ends of marriage … are not of the same importance as the first.” Any questions?
False Doctrine has Consequences
The novel Novus Ordo teaching concerning the purpose of marriage is also a significant factor in the flood of annulments granted since the council. It is a lot easier to pretend that a marriage never existed when one can claim that at least one of the spouses was not psychologically mature enough for a proper sealing of that “covenant”, or did not know about the spiritual dynamics of that “mutual self-giving by which spouses enrich each other.” Bummer, but what can you do?!
Besides the annulment pandemic since Vatican II, another horrendous affront to Holy Matrimony brought to us courtesy of the “Great Renewal” is the widespread use of contraception and its toleration or even outright approval by today’s “Catholic” clergy. The Swiss Fr. Romano Amerio (1905-97), who had participated in the council as a theological peritus (expert) for Bp. Angelo Jelmini of Lugano, warned in his monumental work Iota Unum about a slippery slope:
The tendency after the council to give equal emphasis to procreation and love, even in the specifically sexual sphere as distinct from marriage as a whole, leads on to a separation of these two ends, and then further to placing the expression of love above procreation, and then ultimately to the legitimacy of contraception; this tendency is obviously out of harmony with the teaching the Church has hitherto maintained.
(Rev. Romano Amerio, Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century, trans. by John P. Parsons [Kansas City, MO: Sarto House, 1996], p. 660)
While it is true that in Humanae Vitae Antipope Paul VI retained the condemnation of contraception, this matters little in the long run, for the premises that logically lead to an acceptance of contraception were affirmed by the pseudo-pontiff, as explained once by John Galvin in a non-sedevacantist publication. And the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
A Final Point
As we come to the end of this article, a final point must be made, in order to prevent misunderstanding.
Divine Providence governs all things. In His inscrutable designs, God has seen fit that not everyone who sincerely strives for the primary end of marriage is able to attain that end. For one reason or another, many morally upright couples are simply not able to have children, despite their strong desire to have them. This is not their fault; it is simply a circumstance beyond their control, typically due to a natural defect God has chosen to permit. Pope Pius XI reassured such couples with these words:
Nor are those considered as acting against nature who in the married state use their right in the proper manner although on account of natural reasons either of time or of certain defects, new life cannot be brought forth. For in matrimony as well as in the use of the matrimonial rights there are also secondary ends, such as mutual aid, the cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of concupiscence which husband and wife are not forbidden to consider so long as they are subordinated to the primary end and so long as the intrinsic nature of the act is preserved.
(Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Casti Connubii, n. 59)
Whether a married couple actually has children, then, is not the point of this discussion. It is a question of wanting to have children, of subordinating all other purposes of Holy Matrimony to this one primary goal: the generation and education of children for the glory of God and the salvation of their souls.
That was the truth for 1,900 years before Vatican II, and it is still the truth today.
Image source: own composite with elements from flickr.com (manhhai; cropped) and istockphoto.com
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