Sunday, February 04, 2007

Marriage, anulments and liturgy

(The following has been published by CFNews, here. For a report on the Pope's speech, see here.)

This week's Catholic Herald carries a front-page story on a recent speech by the Pope condemning over-easy annulments. In part:

In a speech to the Roman Rota, the Church’s highest court of appeal for annulments, the Pontiff pointed to a “crisis” in the way marriage was understood.
He said that Catholics and even tribunal judges were affected by the secular idea of marriage as merely the “formalisation of emotional bonds”.
In “some ecclesiastical realms” this idea has caused annulments to be granted for the sake of the couple’s well-being rather than because the marriage was invalid.
“The crisis over the meaning of marriage has affected the way many faithful think,” the Pope told judges and officials of the Roman Rota last Saturday. “The indissoluble conjugal bond is denied because it’s treated as an ideal that cannot be made ‘obligatory’ for ‘normal Christians’.

The Pope has correctly identified a specific misunderstanding of marriage as a cause of the decline in the ability of marriage tribunals' capacity to apply the correct principles to determining the validity of marriages. The misunderstanding is the replacement of the notion of the 'indissoluble marriage bond', as the central concept of marriage, with the notion of a 'formalisation of emotional bonds'. It seems clear that the same false understanding of marriage is behind the decline of marriage itself: in fewer people being willing to make the commitment of marriage, and ever more people who have married, getting divorced.

Where might we find such a view expressed? Well, here is the opening prayer of the revised marriage ceremony, promulgated in 1969:

"Dear friends, you have come together in this church so that the Lord may seal and strengthen your love in the presence of the Church's minister and this community. Christ abundantly blesses this love. He has already consecrated you in baptism and now he enriches and strengthens you by a special sacrament so that you may assume the duties of marriage in mutual and lasting fidelity. And so, in the presence of the Church, I ask you to state your intentions."

Now look at the Latin:

Dilectíssimi nobis, in domum ecclésiæ convenístis, ut volúntas vestra Matrimónium contrahéndi coram Ecclésiæ minístro, et communitáte sacro sigíllo a Dómino muniátur. Amórem vestrum coniugálem Christus abúnde benedícit et ad mútuam perpetuámque fidelitátem et ad cétera Matrimónii offícia assuménda eos peculiári ditat et róborat Sacraménto, quos ipse sancto iam Baptísmate consecrávit. Quare vos coram Ecclésia de mente vestra intérrogo. (For the full texts, see here.)

There are many problems with the translation, but let's just look at the key phrases:

you have come together in this church so that the Lord may seal and strengthen your love in the presence of the Church's minister and this community.

in domum ecclésiæ convenístis, ut volúntas vestra Matrimónium contrahéndi coram Ecclésiæ minístro, et communitáte sacro sigíllo a Dómino muniátur.

The highlighted Latin phrase means literally '[you've come together so that] the Lord my establish the sacred bond [of matrimony]'. The official translation has removed the notion of matrimony as a sacred bond, established by the Lord, and replaced with the notion of the couple's love merely being strengthened by the Lord. In other words, the correct view of marriage, as an indissoluble bond, is expressed in the Latin, but in the English this view has been replaced by the false view, that marriage is the formalisation of an emotional bond.

So what is His Holiness saying? That the view of matrimony put forward in the scandalously inacurate official English translation of the new order of matrimony is responsible for a misunderstanding of marriage among even the higher echelons of the Church, which has dangerously undermined the institution of marriage itself.

Posted by Joseph Shaw

1 comment:

Pastor in Valle said...

A very good point, and thanks for alterting me to it. There is, in addition, the misunderstanding of 'love' as purely an emotion, something I experience, rather than a real act of the will. Thus, when the emotion fades, there is often nothing to sustain the relationship, but the individual will roam around seeking another shot of 'lurve' from somebody else, if need be.
Seán