Concept of Marriage Is Eroding, Warns Pope

Cautions Against "Pastoral Good" Which Negates Truth

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 29, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Relativism is eroding the concept of marriage, even among Catholics, says Benedict XVI.



The Pope also warned about the risk of seeing annulments as a canonical way to regulate the breakup of authentic marriages.

The Holy Father said this on Saturday in an address delivered to the judges, officials, lawyers and collaborators of the Roman Rota, the Church's central appellate court, at the opening of the judicial year.

The tribunal reviews cases already handled by ordinary ecclesiastical courts and appealed to the Holy See.

The "truth of marriage," Benedict XVI said, loses "existential relevance in a cultural context marked by relativism and juridical positivism, which consider marriage as a mere social formalization of emotional bonds."

"Consequently, not only does it become contingent, as human sentiments can be, but is presented as a legal superstructure that human will might manipulate according to its pleasure, even depriving it of its heterosexual character," the Pope added.

"This crisis of the meaning of marriage," which has even led to calling same-sex unions marriage, "also has effects on the way many faithful think," the Holy Father explained.

In this way, the "indissoluble conjugal bond" is denied, or regarded as an ideal that cannot be made obligatory for "normal Christians," he said.

True nullity

Benedict XVI explained: "In fact, the conviction has spread even in some ecclesiastical realms, according to which, the pastoral good of individuals in irregular marital situations would call for a kind of canonical regularization of their situation, regardless of the validity or invalidity of their marriage, that is, regardless of the 'truth' about their personal condition.

"The matrimonial declaration is considered, in fact, as an instrument to attain this objective, according to a logic in which the law becomes the formalization of subjective pretensions."

The Pontiff continued: "Given the subjective and libertarian relativization of the sexual experience, the tradition of the Church affirms with clarity the naturally juridical nature of marriage, that is, its belonging by nature to the realm of justice in interpersonal relations.

"From this point of view, the law is truly connected to life, with love as an intrinsic duty."

The Holy Father quoted his encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," No. 11, saying: "From the standpoint of creation, 'eros' directs man toward marriage, to a bond which is unique and definitive; thus, and only thus, does it fulfill its deepest purpose."

"Love and law," he said, "can thus be united to the point of making husband and wife give each other mutually the love that they feel spontaneously."