July 25, 2014

Be Our Guest / Paul Kachinski

We must understand and live the vocation and sacrament of marriage

The article “Pope blames ‘culture of comfort’ for intentionally childless marriages” published in the June 6 issue of The Criterion is right on target.

And our Holy Father certainly is not judging people, he is teaching. And that is what popes do—teach. Many of us need to take his teaching to heart to become totally faithful Catholics who know the faith.

Marriage and the priesthood are sacraments of vocation. Discerning a vocation with a well-formed conscience is critical.

Discerning a vocation of marriage, having in mind that the marriage will be fruitless—that is childless—is contrary to what the marriage covenant entails.

In a recent letter to the editor, a good examination of conscience in discerning whether one’s vocation is to the married life, religious life or the single life was provided. This discernment provided such considerations as: Will the marriage be fruitful? Is one interested in good works rather than raising a family? What maturity level are the couple intending to be married at? Maturity level is critical in discerning a religious vocation.

The one item in the list that disturbed me was the consideration given to overpopulation. Overpopulation has been an item of concern for a long time, even in the 1800’s, with predictions of impending disaster within the immediate future. Disaster has not happened, and things have improved as we adhered “to be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 2:22). Overpopulation, like climate change, is junk science.

A fertile married couple choosing a childless marriage can be compared to a man choosing the vocation of priesthood and opting not to celebrate Mass. Why would someone choose a vocation knowing they will not live the vocation fully?

Marriage is a sacrament of grace and a covenant relationship that is to be fruitful. When I got married, my wife and I promised to be open to new life. That is the covenant of marriage. A covenant is a sacred oath taken before God and man.

To enter into the covenant knowing full well that one will not fulfill it, because they are purposely opting for absolutely no children, is a lie.

Indeed, an ecclesiastical tribunal can declare the nullity of such a marriage “because one or the other never intended to accept children lovingly from God and planned from the outset to use every means to thwart such fruitfulness. Such an arrangement is not marriage, in the biblical and Catholic meaning of the term, despite what society thinks” (Father David Ruppert, pastor of St. Anthony de Padua Church, South Bend, Ind., homily, 27th week of Ordinary Time, Sunday Cycle B).

In marriage, my first responsibility is to God, my second responsibility is to my wife and family, and my third responsibly is to myself. I am called as a husband to imitate Christ who gives his flesh and blood in total self-donation to his bride, the Church. Jesus’ love holds nothing back from us. For fertile couples to opt absolutely to exclude children is to hold something back, and not give all—that is the lie.

“Fecundity is a good, a gift and an end of marriage. By giving life, spouses participate in God’s fatherhood” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2398).

Marriage is not merely a human institution. At the very moment of creation, God created “male and female” and marriage became a divine institution. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1601 to 1666, for more teaching on marriage.

(Paul Kachinski is a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis.)

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