The Catholic Church cares deeply about marriage because it is a fundamental good in itself, a foundation of human existence and flourishing, and a blessing from God. The decision to commit permanently and exclusively to sharing the whole of one’s life with someone of the opposite sex and to raise any children that are the fruit, embodiment and extension of that union, is good in itself, even if no children are conceived. But because children are the natural result of marital life and are best reared within the commitment of marriage, this makes marriage also an essential part of the propagation and nurturing of the human family. Marriage also joins distinct families to each other, fostering greater communion between people.
Each marriage, from its beginning, is the ‘foundation- in-waiting’ of a new family and each marriage-based family is a basic ‘cell’ of society.
Families also provide the social stability necessary for the future by modelling love and communion, welcoming and raising new life, taking care of the weak, sick and aged. The principal ‘public’ significance of the marriage-based family is precisely in being the nursery for raising healthy, well-rounded, virtuous citizens. Governments normally stay out of relationships: it is none of their business to say who may be friends with whom and on what basis.
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But because of the crucial role marriage plays as the nursery for the future of the community, and its responsibility always to act in the best interests of children governments everywhere recognise and regulate marriage.
Marriage also has a religious significance. The Catholic Church believes that God is the author of marriage and has “endowed marriage with various benefits and purposes” including “the good of the spouses and the procreation and upbringing of children”. 3 Christ raised the matrimonial covenant between baptised persons to the status of a sacrament “in which God helps the spouses live out the dignity and duties of their state” and so work out their salvation with Him.
3. Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes §48. 4. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio. 5. E.g. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons , 3 June 2003.
4 For these reasons the Church can say that marriage is not only a natural institution but also ‘holy’.
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5 Thus the Church, as well as the state, has an interest in the right understanding and support of authentic marriage.