What does marriage mean? Some of the Catholic Church's key teachings on marriage

What does marriage mean to you?

Consider these words: procreative, covenant, sacramental, definitive, joyful.

Those are some of the ways in which the Catholic Church explains its teaching on marriage, between a man and a woman.

"Marriage is a lifelong partnership of the whole of life, of mutual and exclusive fidelity, established by mutual consent between a man and a woman, and ordered towards the good of the spouses and the procreation of offspring," as written in the U.S. Catholic bishops' pastoral letter on marriage, "Love and Life in the Divine Plan."

As the country awaits a U.S. Supreme Court decision whether to make same-sex marriage legal nationwide, the Church says it remains steadfast in its efforts to promote its teaching on marriage.

Support for same-sex marriage permeates the culture, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson said. According to Gallup, there are approximately 400,000 married same-sex couples in the United States.

"In the public square, we must respectfully, prayerfully and calmly present the teachings of the Church," he said. "We must treat every person with dignity, but at the same time, we must joyfully talk about what marriage is."

"It is not until we can embrace the love that Jesus has for us personally that what we do for others makes sense," he continued. "It's becoming harder to raise a family: to buy a house and food and gas. But when we ask people to give in charity, those who respond are those who find their love for Jesus is greater than whatever it is they are giving. I think this makes sense for marriage, too."

Here are some of the Church's key teachings on marriage:

- "Marriage, the clinging together of husband and wife as one flesh, is based on the fact that man and woman are both different and the same. They are different as male and female, but the same as human persons who are uniquely suited to be partners or helpmates for each other. The difference between man and woman, however, cannot be restricted to their bodies, as if the body could be separated from the rest of the human person. The human person is a union of body and soul as a single being. Man and woman are two different ways of being a human person." ("Love and Life in the Divine Plan")

- "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1601)

- Sacred Scripture begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and concludes with a vision of "the wedding-feast of the Lamb." Scripture speaks throughout of marriage and its "mystery," its institution and the meaning God has given it, its origin and its end, its various realizations throughout the history of salvation, the difficulties arising from sin and its renewal "in the Lord" in the New Covenant of Christ and the Church. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1602)

-"The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by Him with its own proper laws ... God Himself is the author of marriage." The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes. These differences should not cause us to forget its common and permanent characteristics. Although the dignity of this institution is not transparent everywhere with the same clarity, some sense of the greatness of the matrimonial union exists in all cultures. "The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1603)

To read more on the Church's teaching on marriage, see the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' website: www.stlouisreview.com/2yt

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