Letter From England: A Time to Stand

A non-Christian friend of mine recently announced that she is thinking of getting married.  I would usually greet such news with joy, but, in this case, I was aware that my friend had married before.  As I had no reason to doubt the validity of her previously contracted “natural” (i.e., nonsacramental) marriage, and, as there was no question of my friend getting her marriage dissolved by the Church, I was left in an uncomfortable situation.  My friend was, as far as I could tell, about to commit herself to a state of adultery.  With some trepidation, I explained my position.

My friend had been happy with the idea that Catholics would take seriously Christ’s words about divorce and remarriage (Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11-12); however, she was less than happy with the thought that these words apply to all people, including her.  The Church teaches that Christian marriage is the perfection of a union natural to man and woman; Church law is designed to protect what is reasonable according to nature as well as God’s positive ordinances.  Unless the natural law of marriage is understood, the significance of the Church’s teaching is lost.

The First Vatican Council, following Saint Paul (Romans 1: 20), defined that God can be known with certitude through “the natural light of reason from created things.”  In doing so, the Council made clear that...

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