Modern Society's Attack on the Sacramental Aspect of Marriage
Kevin M. Tierney
Pope Pius XI's encyclical Casti Conubii is the best response any Catholic can give to the assault on the institution of marriage today by the hedonists and agents of the devil.
"His Holiness Pius XI rightly points out this is a tactic of the devil himself. The only problem with this approach is, as history has proven, the Adversary is never satisfied. First it was allowance of divorce. Then it was acceptance of divorce. Then it was allowance of contraception, then acceptance. Then the slaughter of unborn children under the guise of choice. After giving all these things up, we are then told that we need to give a Constitutional right to a sin that cries to Heaven for vengance in Sodomy, and then we have to bless their 'Marriages.' These passed only because of those willing to 'Concede to modern times'."
After outlining the blessings of marriage, the Pontiff then goes on to outline the attack on marriage itself by modern society. We can think about this today. In America, married people are hit with a huge tax for being married. It's a lot cheaper just to engage in cohabitiation ("shacking up") hence the State actively promotes people not to marry. While this attack was beginning under Leo XIII, Pius XI witnessed a far stronger attack, and many of the things he saw in his time, were the roots of the problems we face today with modern societies warped view of marriage.
"For now, alas, not secretly nor under cover, but openly, with all sense of shame put aside, now by word again by writings, by theatrical productions of every kind, by romantic fiction, by amorous and frivolous novels, by cinematographs portraying in vivid scene, in addresses broadcast by radio telephony, in short by all the inventions of modern science, the sanctity of marriage is trampled upon and derided; divorce, adultery, all the basest vices either are extolled or at least are depicted in such colors as to appear to be free of all reproach and infamy."
We notice that before, the attacks on marriage were rather covert. With the influence of the Church in society, while not as strong as before, but still existent, the enemies of society had a hard time pressing their views. When Rome began to lose her temporal power, and governments began to increase in their size, these views could be far more easily expressed. The way to best portray something evil in a positive light is to have prominent people promote it, or inject it into everyday situations, to where people constantly see it. One way to project those views(And I would argue the most powerful way) is through the media, which in those days consisted mainly of books, newspapers, and radio. The advent of television was not on the horizon yet of course, and this problem still existed. The media began to portray marriage as some archaic institution, slavery for women, and in place of that, called upon women to take a more active role, "liberating" themselves, by which they meant to be free from all moral guidelines. When enough people began doing this, people began to accept it as commonplace. Think of this today when advertising something, one always wants to hire a celebrity to endorse what they are selling. The celebrity is looked up to, admired, what he is promoting must be right afterall!
"Not all the sponsors of these new doctrines are carried to the extremes of unbridled lust; there are those who, striving as it were to ride a middle course, believe nevertheless that something should be conceded in our times as regards certain precepts of the divine and natural law. But these likewise, more or less wittingly, are emissaries of the great enemy who is ever seeking to sow cockle among the wheat."
Here Pius XI outlines what may be the greatest danger of them all. The most dangerous enemy is not one who is an extremist, but one who believes that based on times and circumstances, the divine laws must be changed. The only problem is these laws cannot be changed, as they are the laws pertaining to God alone. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and hence so are His laws. We see this as a common example today, even in Catholic publications. Deal Hudson, editor of Crisis Magazine, has stated that while John Kerry should be denied communion for his stand on abortion, he should not be for condoning sodomite marriages, and only Kerry should be denied communion. He reasons that nobody would be able to receive communion under these circumstances, because of modern times and what people believe. Is this not the attitude we see towards divorce and same-sex 'marriage' today? The "it will happen anyway, so we might as well let it happen" approach.
His Holiness Pius XI rightly points out this is a tactic of the devil himself. The only problem with this approach is, as history has proven, the Adversary is never satisfied. First it was allowance of divorce. Then it was acceptance of divorce. Then it was allowance of contraception, then acceptance. Then the slaughter of unborn children under the guise of choice. After giving all these things up, we are then told that we need to give a Constitutional right to a sin that cries to Heaven for vengance in Soddomy, and then we have to bless their "Marriages." These passed only because of those willing to "Concede to modern times."
"To begin at the very source of these evils, their basic principle lies in this, that matrimony is repeatedly declared to be not instituted by the Author of nature nor raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a true sacrament, but invented by man. Some confidently assert that they have found no evidence of the existence of matrimony in nature or in her laws, but regard it merely as the means of producing life and of gratifying in one way or another a vehement impulse; on the other hand, others recognize that certain beginnings or, as it were, seeds of true wedlock are found in the nature of man since, unless men were bound together by some form of permanent tie, the dignity of husband and wife or the natural end of propagating and rearing the offspring would not receive satisfactory provision. At the same time they maintain that in all beyond this germinal idea matrimony, through various concurrent causes, is invented solely by the mind of man, established solely by his will."
One of the biggest problems facing those who advance the idea of "God is dead" in the Secular Culture of Death is that they need to explain that without God, where did certain things come from? It was always understood, even by early pagans, that God(or in the pagans case the gods) instituted the union of husband and wife. Since if there is no God, God cannot be the creator of marriage, the only logical choice becomes man, and those institutions man erects. Since they have removed the divine law from the sphere of the equation, they now attempt to prove so from the natural law(or common sense) that marriage is a man-invented institution.
"How grievously all these err and how shamelessly they leave the ways of honesty is already evident from what we have set forth here regarding the origin and nature of wedlock, its purposes and the good inherent in it. The evil of this teaching is plainly seen from the consequences which its advocates deduce from it, namely, that the laws, institutions and customs by which wedlock is governed, since they take their origin solely from the will of man, are subject entirely to him, hence can and must be founded, changed and abrogated according to human caprice and the shifting circumstances of human affairs; that the generative power which is grounded in nature itself is more sacred and has wider range than matrimony -- hence it may be exercised both outside as well as within the confines of wedlock, and though the purpose of matrimony be set aside, as though to suggest that the license of a base fornicating woman should enjoy the same rights as the chaste motherhood of a lawfully wedded wife."
As Pope Leo XIII noted in his encyclical on the nature of Civil Power, if there is no God, then all rights by neccesity come, and most importantly can be taken away, by the State. Likewise, since modern man believes marriage to be purely a human invention, logically the human may do with the institution what he wants, including redefining the aspects and roles of such. Hence, it is no longer a popular idea to believe that the begetting of children is suitable only to the married state, as man believes that since matrimony is of our creation, we can remove the child part from the equation, to where sex becomes a "right" of absolutely everyone. (And with contraception and abortion, so does the freedom from the responsibility of one's actions.) This is why I have stated time and time again, one cannot find an answer to the problems plaguing our culture today in the secular world. God's interaction with human life must be taught. There are those who believe we cannot cover this from a religious perspective. Yet when the other side does not have the answer, certainly we must. We must outline the principles of the Gospel and how they apply to everyday life. The idea that the Gospel is only concerned with the eternal sphere, as if it does not give advice on how to achieve that state, is Protestantism, yet that is the mindset of many Catholics today.
"And now, Venerable Brethren, we shall explain in detail the evils opposed to each of the benefits of matrimony. First consideration is due to the offspring, which many have the boldness to call the disagreeable burden of matrimony and which they say is to be carefully avoided by married people not through virtuous continence (which Christian law permits in matrimony when both parties consent) but by frustrating the marriage act. Some justify* this criminal abuse on the ground that they are weary of children and wish to gratify their desires without their consequent burden. Others say that they cannot on the one hand remain continent nor on the other can they have children because of the difficulties whether on the part of the mother or on the part of family circumstances."
The first target of those who oppose marriage is that of marriage's primary aim, that of bringing up children in the world and society. As a matter of fact, everything hinges around what the primary aim of marriage is. In today's society, even amongst many who claim a "christian background" marriage is primarily because of love, and a secondary purpose is that of raising children. Yet if raising children interferes with that love, why shouldn't they be able to do whatever they want to ensure children aren't born? Yet if one looks at marriage as the opportunity to raise a family, they will find someone they love, so they can best raise that family. This is an all too important distinction that many fail to recognize today, and it is at the heart of the marriage crisis we see in Western Civilization.
"But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious."
If the purpose of sex is for children, then one cannot use sex for a contradictory purpose. There are certain instances where both spouses consent that they regulate the conjugal act, but this allows itself within natures framework, not disrespecting that which nature has given. Given that these are permissions, not mandatory issues, it follows that this is not to be the norm. It is a grave injustice to use it contrary to that nature. Just like when Judas, who was trusted by Christ, betrayed him, a very horrid act was committed, using their friendship for evil purposes, whereas nowadays, sex is used primarily to satiate one's lust, not for the upbringing of children.
"But another very grave crime is to be noted, Venerable Brethren, which regards the taking of the life of the offspring hidden in the mother's womb. Some wish it to be allowed and left to the will of the father or the mother; others say it is unlawful unless there are weighty reasons which they call by the name of medical, social, or eugenic "indication." Because this matter falls under the penal laws of the state by which the destruction of the offspring begotten but unborn is forbidden, these people demand that the "indication," which in one form or another they defend, be recognized as such by the public law and in no way penalized. There are those, moreover, who ask that the public authorities provide aid for these death-dealing operations, a thing, which, sad to say, everyone knows is of very frequent occurrence in some places."
There are those who feel we are "legislating their bedrooms or private lives" by stating that life must be treated sacred. Yet if life begins at conception, we are protecting that which is a human life, which cannot defend itself. Would one say that we are "legislating in areas we don't belong" when a child is removed from the home, where the father is pointing a gun to that child's head? We would be righteously angry, and demand that child's removal. Yet that child, being created in the image of God, before he's born(though still human) somehow he doesn't have these rights. As Pius XI points out in the next paragraph, no act, no matter how noble it appears to be, can truly be noble if it seeks to destroy an innocent.
The issue over abortion will never be settled as long as people reject abortion, but have no problem with contraception. For both acts violate nature's purpose and frustrate the marriage act, and the purpose of marriage itself.
"Those who hold the reins of government should not forget that it is the duty of public authority by appropriate laws and sanctions to defend the lives of the innocent, and this all the more so since those whose lives are endangered and assailed cannot defend themselves. Among whom we must mention in the first place infants hidden in the mother's womb. And if the public magistrates not only do not defend them, but by their laws and ordinances betray them to death at the hands of doctors or of others, let them remember that God is the Judge and Avenger of innocent blood which cried from earth to Heaven."
This is something I hope reaches my friends who say that while they support the Catholic position, we cannot "impose our views on anyone." The simple fact is we impose our views on everyone. I impose my views on my friend's son when I hold the door open for a lady, hoping he will learn proper respect. When we teach "we impose our views on others." Those who take this cop-out in reality, are plain and simple, moral cowards. Everything we do in life in some way or another imposes ones views on others.
While separating into sections certain attacks on marriage, it is here where the majority of modern societies errors on marriage are found. It comes from a false understanding of sex, of the roles of husband and wife, and the love that binds them. We shall examine these errors in this posting.
"It follows therefore that they are destroying mutual fidelity, who think that the ideas and morality of our present time concerning a certain harmful and false friendship with a third party can be countenanced, and who teach that a greater freedom of feeling and action in such external relations should be allowed to man and wife, particularly as many (so they consider) are possessed of an inborn sexual tendency which cannot be satisfied within the narrow limits of monogamous marriage. That rigid attitude which condemns all sensual affections and actions with a third party they imagine to be a narrowing of mind and heart, something obsolete, or an abject form of jealousy, and as a result they look upon whatever penal laws are passed by the State for the preserving of conjugal faith as void or to be abolished. Such unworthy and idle opinions are condemned by that noble instinct which is found in every chaste husband and wife, and even by the light of the testimony of nature alone, -- a testimony that is sanctioned and confirmed by the command of God:"Thou shalt not commit adultry," and the words of Christ: "Whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her in his heart." The force of this divine precept can never be weakened by any merely human custom, bad example or pretext of human progress, for just as it is the one and the same "Jesus Christ, yesterday and to-day and the same for ever," so it is the one and the same doctrine of Christ that abides and of which no one jot or tittle shall pass away till all is fulfilled."
There are many implications to such a perverse view of marriage here that I think are worth noting. First is the idea that third parties can be within marriage, presumably for mainly sexual reasons. If such a view is really taken, why should we even have marriage? Why not just skip marriage and go straight to the sex? Which indeed is what we are seeing, indicative of the animalistic tendencies of man's lower instincts. Yet such a view is very counterproductive to man's best interests. It replaces the law of give with the law of get. Society never functions best when in the end, man does something for entirely selfish needs. If one shouldn't save sex for marriage, certainly relationships will be nothing, but just merely "hooking up" as we see so commonly in today's society. Marriage no longer comes for the raising of children, as that is viewed as an accident of satisfying their urges. Hence, one will certainly not dedicate as much of their time to children, if they choose to have them at all. As a result, the child learns no order and stability, and hence that decays society all the more. Our actions most certainly have dire consequences.
"The same false teachers who try to dim the luster of conjugal faith and purity do not scruple to do away with the honorable and trusting obedience which the woman owes to the man. Many of them even go further and assert that such a subjection of one party to the other is unworthy of human dignity, that the rights of husband and wife are equal; wherefore, they boldly proclaim the emancipation of women has been or ought to be effected. This emancipation in their ideas must be threefold, in the ruling of the domestic society, in the administration of family affairs and in the rearing of the children. It must be social, economic, physiological: -- physiological, that is to say, the woman is to be freed at her own good pleasure from the burdensome duties properly belonging to a wife as companion and mother (We have already said that this is not an emancipation but a crime); social, inasmuch as the wife being freed from the cares of children and family, should, to the neglect of these, be able to follow her own bent and devote herself to business and even public affairs; finally economic, whereby the woman even without the knowledge and against the wish of her husband may be at liberty to conduct and administer her own affairs, giving her attention chiefly to these rather than to children, husband and family."
A common error which Leo XIII picked upon, and Pius XI expounds on, is the false notion that just because two people have equal rights in one area, that this means they are equal in responsibilities, and actions. When I was captain of my hockey team, I certainly didn't feel as if those players around me were inferior. Indeed, I was blessed to have such a cohesive unit. Yet if one of the other players started asserting that since we were equal, all of a sudden he should make all decisions on an equal level with everyone else, and play the same roles as everyone else, certainly this would be a problem.
Or another analogy to consider is St. Paul's discourse in Sacred Scripture in 1st Corinthians on the different charisms and roles in the Church. Each person had an equality in dignity, and this dignity could not be taken from them. Yet Paul displayed the true versatility of the Church, in that each person had a very distinct role. To one an apostle, to another a teach, another a shepherd, another the gift of tongues, to another the interpretation of those tongues. Each person had a very distinct role, in order to make the Church work. The same goes with marriage. While husband and wife are equal in dignity and rights, each one has very specific responsibilities. To assert otherwise is to hold an individualistic style, and such marriage, which is truly a joint effort, cannot function. Furthermore, marriage is an act of service on both sides. The husband serves by being the leader of that family. There is not one leader who is not a servant. St. Peter, our first Pope, spoke to fellow bishops as a "fellow elder", while the Pontiff, he came down to their level to serve them in his leadership. One cannot lead unless one effectively serves those who he leads. This could be the entire teaching of Christ in a nutshell, He wanted to make effective leadership through service. Likewise, just as the Church serves Christ by her submission to Christ, the wife serves the husband by her willing and joyful submission to him. She helps him to be an effective leader, strengthens him, strengthens his message. When the leader of that unit is in peril, he can always count on her to help him. That is true submission on both sides. For one side to neglect these responsibilities leads to a weakening of the bond that is marriage.
"This, however, is not the true emancipation of woman, nor that rational and exalted liberty which belongs to the noble office of a Christian woman and wife; it is rather the debasing of the womanly character and the dignity of motherhood, and indeed of the whole family, as a result of which the husband suffers the loss of his wife, the children of their mother, and the home and the whole family of an ever watchful guardian. More than this, this false liberty and unnatural equality with the husband is to the detriment of the woman herself, for if the woman descends from her truly regal throne to which she has been raised within the walls of the home by means of the Gospel, she will soon be reduced to the old state of slavery (if not in appearance, certainly in reality) and become as amongst the pagans the mere instrument of man."
A truly prophetic statement indeed. Under the guise of woman's liberation, they have become worse off than before in the slavery they attempted to rebel against. By being independent and throwing off traditional norms of modesty, women are nowadays little better than objects, their bodies being the only thing a man really looks at. In that spirit of liberation, nobody truly notices the spirit of that liberated woman. Under the guise of sexual freedom, the woman becomes the sexual servant of the man, who simply seeks to gratify his lusts and urges, certainly not love. As Dr. Laura Schlesinger once noted, an immodest man before had to at least wine and dine the girl, nowadays he just shows up to her house and gets sex. There's certainly no need to build any relationship, why should he, he is just getting what he wants. What man would want to serve such a woman who cares little for the welfare of others, only the "liberation" of herself? Hence he stops looking to serve the woman, and instead serves his darker desires. The liberation of women destroys the dignity of the men that would in other instances pursue her as well. Children no longer receive a mothers unconditional love, forming them into better people as well, since the mother has no need for children, as they get in the way of her career. (As the disgusting article in the New York Times Magazine demonstrated of a woman who "selectively reduced", i.e. killed two of her three triplets as three children would get in the way of her own selfish desires.)
"These enemies of marriage go further, however, when they substitute for that true and solid love, which is the basis of conjugal happiness, a certain vague compatibility of temperament. This they call sympathy and assert that, since it is the only bond by which husband and wife are linked together, when it ceases the marriage is completely dissolved. What else is this than to build a house upon sand?"
There are those in their perversities who attempt to still cling onto marriage while applying the selfish notions listed above. Since true love cannot form based on selfishness, the love is replaced by either sympathy, or a mutual need for each other. When those things pass, they reason their marriage is no longer convenient for advancing themselves, hence they should dissolve marriage. This is why one should be very careful to enter into the married state, as it is not something that one backs out of. The love must be true, and be the solid foundation of any marriage. That love comes only from God. Therefore, the spouses should be in deep prayer together, both trusting in the roles God has given them. That love will grow as it is the result of God's sacrament.
Concluding his section on the attacks on marriage, Pius XI then goes on to the sacramental aspect. After expounding it prievously, he then shows how it is attacked.
"We have so far, Venerable Brethren, shown the excellency of the first two blessings of Christian wedlock which the modern subverters of society are attacking. And now considering that the third blessing, which is that of the sacrament, far surpasses the other two, we should not be surprised to find that this, because of its outstanding excellence, is much more sharply attacked by the same people."
The Holier something is, the more the Father of lies attempts to attack it. We Catholics, on all sides of the fence, believe there are problems with the liturgy. It is because of the Mass being the central act of giving due worship to God, that Satan attacks it so fiercely. The act of sex within marriage, a holy thing that can result in a child born in the image of God. The holiness hence becomes attacked, through the perversions of the likes of Alfred Kinsey.
Such is the same with marriage. The holiest aspect of marriage is when they are joined together by God, hence it would only seem logical that Satan, in all that he does in attacking marriage, attacks this foundation with the bigger guns, so to speak.
"They put forward in the first place that matrimony belongs entirely to the profane and purely civil sphere, that it is not to be committed to the religious society, the Church of Christ, but to civil society alone."
Why, some would wonder, is Pius XI lamenting this fact? Some may think the reasons are obvious, but I submit that there is more going on here than meets the eye. Like his predecessor Leo XIII, he views the institution of marriage, rightly ordered, as keeping the power of the State in check. A marriage ordained by God seriously hampers the powers of the State.
This all comes down to what the State's role is in society. If it is God who binds the marriage together, through His sacrament of matrimony, than this is something the State has no control over. This can be proven that marriage existed before the State. As has been noted before by Leo XIII, that which came before the State, the State has no power over. For instance, the State cannot alter divine law, since it is not divine law's author. God is the author, and hence these things are ultimately in God's sphere. The state can only respect these spheres, and follow these spheres, but not change them.
Following the false liberty that Leo XIII outlined in Libertas, modern man slowly but surely attempted to snatch control from the things that belong to God. Recognizing that we are imperfect, something in their mind had to have control of these things, so that there was some sort of standard to adhere to. That standard became the State. We can never lose sight of the fact that the attack on marriage is just one front of the secularists.
"They then add that the marriage contract is to be freed from any indissoluble bond, and that separation and divorce are not only to be tolerated but sanctioned by the law; from which it follows finally that, robbed of all its holiness, matrimony should be enumerated amongst the secular and civil institutions."
If it is the state that bonds marriage, should it not be the State that ends marriage as well? That would entail the minute the marriage stopped serving the benefit of the state (as an unhealthy marriage does not serve it) they can easily dissolve it, and look for such a partnership that suits the interests of the state. There is nothing higher than the State.
Since the ultimate goal of Christian marriage is the sanctification of the souls of husband and wife, and in turn the family they raise, with the final aspect being heaven, obviously the two have very different outlooks. Since the goal of Christian marriage is towards serving God, it is God who binds that marriage together with His Grace. For man, the ends of marriage are the pleasure of self, or the service of society, hence society may determine when that marriage no longer serves it's good and right purpose. So to the Christian considering the vocation of marriage, we must make sure that it is being done for the right reasons.
"They, therefore, who rashly and heedlessly contract mixed marriages, from which the maternal love and providence of the Church dissuades her children for very sound reasons, fail conspicuously in this respect, sometimes with danger to their eternal salvation."
When he speaks of mixed marriage, he speaks of that between say a Catholic and a Protestant. Many view this mode of thinking archaic, that a Catholic should only marry a Catholic within the Church. Yet there is a reason for this. If the point of marriage is to build each other towards Heaven, how can there exist two different systems of belief? In the end, these differences manner. If marriage is for the begetting and raising of children, how can the child rightly learn the ways of the Lord, when the ways of the Lord are different for each parent? Is this not a danger to the Catholic's soul?
"Whence it comes about not unfrequently, as experience shows, that deplorable defections from religion occur among the offspring, or at least a headlong descent into that religious indifference which is closely allied to impiety. There is this also to be considered that in these mixed marriages it becomes much more difficult to imitate by a lively conformity of spirit the mystery of which We have spoken, namely that close union between Christ and His Church."
The one difficulty of disunity in marriage discussed, the other being the risk of thinking differences don't matter, and a relativism creeping in the marriage, which is just as disasterous. As the marriage should embody Christ and His Church, Christ and the Church are of one mind, the world knows Christ through the Church, His mystical bride. This becomes tough to model after for those who have fundamental differences on matters of their own salvation, which is everyone's primary goal.
"The advocates of the neo-paganism of today have learned nothing from the sad state of affairs, but instead, day by day, more and more vehemently, they continue by legislation to attack the indissolubility of the marriage bond, proclaiming that the lawfulness of divorce must be recognized, and that the antiquated laws should give place to a new and more humane legislation. Many and varied are the grounds put forward for divorce, some arising from the wickedness and the guilt of the persons concerned, others arising from the circumstances of the case; the former they describe as subjective, the latter as objective; in a word, whatever might make married life hard or unpleasant."
If these men were not so diabolical we really could admire their persistence. They do not realize that strengthening marriage is that which ultimately helps society, nor do many care. They are those push change for the sake of changing things. A consistent liberalism (always seeking change) can never find happiness or content. They have a very flawed understanding of human nature, and the grounds they put forth for ending marriage, if taken to their logical conclusion, unleash disasterous results, and indeed, in many cases, already have unleashed disasterous results.
If we should just dissolve anything that makes life hard or unpleasant, where would society be? The modern world they so idolize in many instances was not built overnight, and had severe hardships. The technology they worship came about through many centuries of people not willing to give up due to hardship or inconvenience. I once heard a lyric from a song that "to live is to suffer. To survive is to find meaning in the suffering." I would invert that to, if we survive suffering comes about. To truly live is to find meaning and understanding in that suffering. The Christian looks at Our Lord's painful suffering at Calvary, and understands that through that suffering we are given new life. When we receive suffering in the Christian life, it makes us better, given that we strive to overcome that suffering. Imperfect as we are, man and woman together will always have problems to make marriage unpleasant. Yet if we are to grow as people, in holiness, and in love, that trouble not only tests that love, but upon successfully overcoming that trial, strengthens that love. If their mothers applied their line of thought to themselves that they do to marriage, they would not be alive. (Ironically enough, the "unpleasantness" of the woman is now used today as a justifiable reason for abortion.) Such reasoning, as we see, is truly fallacious, and of course antithetical to the Christian worldview.
"If therefore the Church has not erred and does not err in teaching this, and consequently it is certain that the bond of marriage cannot be loosed even on account of the sin of adultery, it is evident that all the other weaker excuses that can be, and are usually brought forward, are of no value whatsoever. And the objections brought against the firmness of the marriage bond are easily answered. For, in certain circumstances, imperfect separation of the parties is allowed, the bond not being severed. This separation, which the Church herself permits, and expressly mentions in her Canon Law in those canons which deal with the separation of the parties as to marital relationship and co-habitation, removes all the alleged inconveniences and dangers."
One of the arguments put forth by the enemies of Christian marriage for divorce is that when these inconveniences become serious, it is right to dissolve that bond, for on account of the safety of all parties involved. Yet if we admit marriage is primarily God's institution, there are remedies to these. First, if such a situation presented itself, there are forms of temporary separation, which ensure the marriage bond stays. During this time both sides are able to step away from the situation and think, and come to an amicable solution.
Let us also think of how a marriage operates when divorce is and isn't a question. When it isn't a question, those who are joined will go out of their way to make sure not to wrong the spouse, knowing that they are with them forever, and have the express purpose of helping them on their path to heaven. When divorce is a question, one need not take as much care for these situations, since if it doesn't work, there will be divorce. When divorce is out of the question, the person is more concerned with the spouse than themselves, proving true love, and unselfishness. With divorce, it always becomes about the persons needs, not the need of the marriage itself. Without divorce, the children are introduced to a stable family and environment, learning about the unity that God wills, that one day they could perhaps have in their life. With divorce, there is no such unity.
After outlining the teaching on Christian marriage, and the attacks modern society has launched upon it, Pius XI then takes the issue one step further, and proposes concrete solutions for these areas in our times. The institution of marriage would not be in the tenuous position it is today had society heeded his wisdom.
Kevin M. Tierney