Wednesday, 10 August 2016


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When a man and woman seal their marital vow before the people of God and priest, it is sealed till death. It is no news that marriage is a union which is made valid by the seal of the marriage vow. This is like a contract, and in every contract, terms and conditions always apply. When this contract is broken the result is what I termed sins. Sins against marriage are evils that have direct effect on marriage. Below is the list of those sins:

  •   Divorce

  •  Unlawful separation

  • Abortion

  •  Artificial Birth control

  • Sterilization

  •  Adultery

o   Refusing marriage debt

Though the list is not exhaustive but these are the major sins against marriage which every marriage couple should endeavour to avoid. Why are they specifically called sins against marriage? Let me explain further…

In the gospel of Mark 10:2-12, Christ answers the Pharisees the question they ask him concerning divorce. He gives a very fascinating riposte and I will like you to try and read the answer yourself. Meanwhile let us continue. Divorce is considered in New Testament as a grave sin. Anyone who divorces his partner and engages in another marriage is guilty of adultery and even the one who marries a divorcee is also guilty of such (cf. I Corinthians 7:29). So divorce is against the law of the Lord.

Whether divorced or separated, a married person is not allowed to keep company with another (that is, having sexual relationship). Married people are bonded to each other and they owe their body to themselves; so going outside the bonds of marriage to share one’s body with another (who is not in the bond) is a grave sin against the partner and against God. In marriage one belongs to the other and this is why jealousy is always manifest in marriage - one ought to guard one’s possession with jealousy. So, divorce is a sin that offends both God and man.

There is also another danger in marriage, and that is the danger of unlawful separation. It is a mortal sin for couples, whose marriage is valid, to be separated. Why is it so? Because when a couple separates, there is a danger of adultery, or some other sex-related sins. By the way, they are both owing each other the marriage debt. Also, while both parents are separated, the training of the children will surely suffer the dearth of one parent.  But this does not mean there are no considerations for married couples to separate. The church in her wisdom and love allows married couples to separate when there is a very grave matter (especially one which threatens the life of one of the partner). And this permission will only be given by the local ordinary (Bishop).

There is a temptation in marital life for couples to always indulge in this grave sin, either as a means to regulating or spacing childbirth or for some unnatural reasons. But the church sternly frowns at this and even God. Abortion is a wilful killing of an unborn baby. The church has often emphasised that marriage and conjugal love are, by their very nature, designed toward the begetting and educating of children. Hence, in marriage, children should not be seen as an interruption in their conjugal love but as the supreme gift of marriage and contribute substantially to the welfare of their parents. In the words of Pope Paul VI, “each and every marriage act (quillibet matrimonii usus) must remain open to the transmission of life.

One may ask what if there is a danger to the mother’s life. In the mind of the Church, no life should be considered greater or more important than the other. Both the life of the mother and that of the child are of equal importance, and thus to take away the life of any innocent human being is always considered as murder. Medically speaking, abortion is not the safest and easy way out, as people suppose it to be. There are many side effects associated with abortion. Abortion can cause serious injury to the womb of the woman causing her to often miscarry, high possibility of tubal pregnancy, sterility and even death.

It has always been in the practice of the Church that anyone who commits this sin of abortion is considered automatically excommunicated from the church, especially when it is wilfully and intentionally done. By excommunication, I mean that the person will no longer share in the sacrament of the Church and cannot have the privilege of a Catholic interment. Nonetheless, the church still gives excommunicated members the privilege to make amends and return to the faith. That is why, for a priest to absolve a person who commit the sin of abortion, he has to obtain special faculty from his Bishop. But there are situations when the church, in her pastoral understanding and love, gives a general faculty to every priest to forgive this kind of sin.  A very good example is the faculty the Pope Francis gave to every in this year of mercy to forgive sins of this sort. It is contained in his bull of induction Miseriordea Vultus.

This is the direct interruption of the generative process. That is to say, any artificial attempt made either during intercourse or after, in order to inhibit pregnancy. Although couples may do this for therapeutic purposes, but the church regards as illicit means of regulating birth, any direct interruption to the natural means of procreation. Another danger to the use of artificial birth control is based on the idea that the man may grow used to the use of the use of anti-conceptive practices, and this may eventually lead to the man having little or no regard for the woman. And so there will be a minimalized care of the physical and psychological equilibrium of the woman on the side of the man. The woman will simply become an instrument to supply the selfish enjoyment of the man and no longer a respected and beloved companion. 

By sterilization, we mean every means used to make the reproductive organ infertile. Let me explain further. Because of the fact that married couples want to continue in their conjugal love, but having no intention or having made up their minds not to bring forth any life from it, they resort to means of preventing pregnancy. This is often seen in couples who already have “enough” children of their choice, and also couples who want to space birth. There are various means to try to achieve this; usually by vasectomy (cutting or tying the seminal vesicles), tying or cutting the Fallopian tubes, or hysterectomy (removing the ovaries or uterus). The church sees this sin to be mortal because it inhibits the natural order and thereby infringing in the natural cause of procreation. The only exemption whereby sterilization can be pardoned is in the case of diseased organ which must be removed in the face of danger to the health of the entire body.

Nevertheless, a woman is never allowed to tie her tubes nor the man his seminal vesicles. Now if there is a grave reason to do this, the church rather encourages what she calls “periodic continence” – which means that the couple should only have intercourse during the infertile period (safe period) of the woman each month. Not even at the instigation of a medical practitioner should one make oneself sterile.

This is one very popular sin I think everyone is conversant with. No one will want to have an unfaithful partner. Adultery is simply, sexual intercourse between a married person ad someone who is not married to him or her. This is very serious sin in marital life and it has broken most of the marriages in our contemporary time. There is a covenantal union in marriage which bonds the two persons together and they become one body. Any alteration to this covenant is a grave offense to the marriage partner and to God.

When the church talks about marriage debt, it means only one thing, which has nothing to do with money or bride prize. Saint Paul teaches in his letter to the Corinthians that the wife has no power of her body, but the husband. And also, the husband also has not power of his own body, but the wife (I Corinthians 7:2). Thus, in marriage, a partner owes his or her body to the partner. This means that under the penalty of mortal sin, one is obliged to offer sexual intercourse to his/her partner anytime it is reasonably asked for. However, there are lawful reasons why a partner may refuse this marriage debt, they are

  •    Sickness

  •   Adultery

  • Drunkenness

  •   Insanity

  •    Non-support

  • Danger to an unborn baby

This does not suppose the idea that one should always insist on the right to sexual intercourse. Marriage is and should always be cemented with genuine love and not on selfish reasons.

As you must know, this is just an added knowledge to what you already know about marriage. For further clarifications and comments please make use of the comment box, I will love to hear what you have to say about this and your own convictions about marriage. Remember, there is love in sharing, knowledge shared is knowledge expanded, don’t hoard this knowledge to yourself, share this information to your loved ones and friends, therefore please use the share buttons.          

1 comment :

  1. this is a great and educative write-up. Thanks Paul for this exposure and do keep on feeding us with this pilgrim's food.