The church denies marriage to those who are permanently impotent prior to marriage. How can this be morally justified?
There are certain couples who validly and honestly love each other and to deny them marriage seems cruel, and in fact a moral evil and not a moral good. Also, despite not being able to have biological children of their own, they can certainly be excellent parents to orphans. How can denying these children a home be a moral good?
Please note I am not asking for a repeat of the teachings. I know what they are,
I am asking how this teaching can be morally justified. I believe it’s a moral evil.
The church happily married my father and stepmother though she was past the age of childbearing.
My father’s priest made no attempt whatever to prevent them from marrying or to make them uncomfortable. No other priest who knew of the marriage saw it as a problem or if they did, said not a word.
Marriage is about children but it is also about the man and his wife.
It is only half the story if marriage is only about having children
Being infertile is not being closed to life.
The couple would have children if they could.
I don’t myself think that * involuntary impotence *is being closed to life.
It’s not the same thing as refusal to have children for perhaps selfish reasons.
If it is, then would the marriage suddenly become invalid is the wife or husband proved to be infertile after marriage?
It would hardly be charitable or honorable to call such a marriage invalid.
If a couple can marry and find themselves infertile, I don’t see their position as being different if the same condition was known to pre-exist the marriage.
I couldn’t debate your question because I cannot disagree!
cannot see how it would come up’ A good catholic should not have sex before marriage, How do you know you are impotent without giving it a good shot with someone you love. Ergo, no proof, no ban. Just something to discuss with your girl before marriage as a gentleman of honout,
I agree with you, involuntary impotence is not being closed to life. That’s why the church’s position, which clearly states that permanent impotence (not infertility, that’s OK) before marriage (involuntary included) is an impediment to marriage seems cruel, and just plain wrong.
I hadn’t separated the two, both have same outcome and the same end result.
If the man has only impotence, yet is still fertile, that surely wouldn’t preclude using medical help to conceive. Infertility is infertility whether male or female.
The purpose of the intention to consummate a marriage is really just an indication of a willingness to be open to life. It may or may not lead to immediate conception in any marriage.
As a poster commented, definitive proof of potency shouldn’t necessarily be evident prior to a Catholic marriage, or if the issue is known, there should be a presumption that whatever therapy may be needed or could be attained, would be attained after marriage when the issue proved to be serious or enduring?
The presumption should be that the couple would conceive if they could, and may even desperately desire to do so. This presumption is important from a viewpoint of Christian charity, I would have thought.
Some faith seems to be indicated as possible. Sarah was long past child-bearing when she conceived; so was Mary’s cousin Elizabeth long-time barren.
A mother of a priest whom I know, at first believed she had cancer, because at 56 she had naturally conceived a son to the astonishment of her husband and herself.
Perhaps this is why not all priests refuse to marry those with fertility issues. Involuntary impotency (that could even be treated with time and effort) and infertility are not willful choices to exclude children. Children might indeed be their deepest shared desire. And to God, nothing is impossible as Jesus said, and Isaiah also said.
It it morally unjust to defraud one another perpetually (St. Paul, 1 Cor 7:4-5.)
4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband. And in like manner the husband also hath not power of his own body, but the wife. **5 **Defraud not one another, except, perhaps, by consent, for a time, that you may give yourselves to prayer; and return together again, lest Satan tempt you for your incontinency.
The fundamental purpose/raison d’être of marriage is to legitimize sexual intercourse. If there is no ability to have sexual intercourse, then marriage is completely pointless, so there is no reason to allow impotent people to marry. :o
Impotence is a divine law impediment to valid marriage. The Church cannot change that which is a fact.
No one has an absolute right to marriage. Those who are impotent lack the ability to complete the marital act. When one marries, one is exchanging the perpetual and exclusive right to the exchange of the marital embrace. One cannot exchange what one does not have, therefore one cannot give valid consent.
While love is something that can and does grow out of a marriage, it is not the purpose of marriage.
The attacks on marriage and morality that include contraception, homosexual unions, etc, has obsured the true meaning of marriage. It is self-evident that someone who cannot give themselves in the marital embrace cannot fulfill the marital covenant.
God established marriage for a specific purpose. We cannot bend that purpose to what we perceive as a “good”. Companionship is a a good, but it is not marriage. Marriage is something very specific.
Thank you for the replies. I know there are issues about whether impotence is permanent or possibly curable, variations in the way priests observe (or ignore) the teaching, but I guess the bottom line for me is that involuntary impotence should not deny a loving man and women the sacrament of marriage.
Some say the main purpose of marriage is procreation, and if it impossible (there are cases where impotence is for all intents and purposes known and permanent - severe spinal injury for one) marriage is forbidden.
I still haven’t heard anyone say why that is a moral good. If such a couple cannot marry, they are unable to adopt children and raise them in a loving home. How can that possibly be a good thing?
Are only those capable of having biological children suitable parents for adopted children?
You’re still missing the point. It’s not about whether or not they can have children, it’s about whether or not they can have sex. If you can’t have sex there can be no marriage since you will never be able to fulfill the vow you make to become ‘one flesh’. Even when the Church allows a Josephite Marriage (one where both parties agree to never have sex), once one of the parties decides he/she doesn’t want to be in a josephite marriage anymore the other party has to fulfill the marriage debt.
No, infertile married hertosexual couples can make excellent adoptive parents.
Cycleman: what is marriage? Is it just two people living together? No, I can live with my roommates. Is it just two people living together who love each other? No, I can living with my children and my parents. Is it just two people who are raising children together? No, I can open an orphanage and raise children with a co-director all day long. Or I can move in to my sister’s house and help her raise her children. Those situations are not marriage. What is it that is lacking?
Heterosexual intercourse is an essential component of marriage. Without it, you get situations that immitate or resemble marriage (like homoseuxal unions, cohabitation, etc) but that aren’t marriage. It’s not morally evil to call a spade a spade.
It is not necessary to have sex to know one is impotent. Injuries and illness can cause this: survivors of cancer treatments are often left sterile and impotent, serious infections can cause this or injuries to the genital area. So your measure of one’s ability to determine this is flawed.
I have never heard of such a denial except in the case of two disabled adults wanting to marry, and I am speaking of those with diminished mental capacity. I would agree that a simple case of impotency should not be a reason to deny marriage. I have to think there is more to the denial than meets the eye. If not the mentioned couple needs to find another priest frankly, or to make an appeal.
This isn’t completely true. I am getting married shortly and as part of the process I had to swear under oath that I am not aware of any reason why I would not be able to have intercourse. If a man never once had an erection his entire life- that would be good grounds for investigating whether the man is capable of marriage. A healthy young man WILL have many erections without sinning as a natural occurence…
Marriage is a sacrament, and like all sacraments includes a physical dimension. By assuming our human flesh, Christ sanctified the human body. In Christ, in the Church, matter becomes truly holy - physical acts become truly holy- for the Church is the body of Christ and thus the mystical continuation of the incarnation. No one has a right to marriage. It is a gift from God. We all have our crosses to bear. If love alone is the requirement, why does the Church oppose homosexuality? The sacrament of marriage is to be consumanted by the physical act of two becoming one flesh.
I think you’re confusing impotence and infertility. Impotence refers to the impossibility of completing the sex act. Infertility means one cannot bear children. Impotence prevents marriage from being consummated, but infertility does not.
The Church will not deny marriage if there is a chance that the marriage can be consummated at least once. In this age, with medical advances, there are numerous pharmacological and surgical treatments that can allow an impotent man to have an erection, so practically speaking I don’t think cases where the Church will deny marriage on the basis of permanent irreversible impotence are very common. As the priest who convalidated my marriage said, “these days we give the benefit of the doubt to the couple”. Cases where it will be definitely impossible to consummate the marriage in this day and age are practically limited to rare deformities I suspect.
It’s pretty simple, really. In marriage, a husband and wife promise permanence, fidelity, and openness to life. They voluntarily give to each other the exclusive right to marital intercourse. A person cannot give what one does not have. If a person is permanently and incurably incapable of marital intercourse before the vows are exchanged, there can be no marriage. No exchange of marital rights, no marriage.
(For exactly the same reason, same sex marriage is impossible: there can never be marital intercourse due to lack of sexual complementarity.)
This is the only argument that answers the question, as far as I can tell. Impotence does not mean you cannot have an erection. Not in Canon Law at least. It is the inability to consume the marriage, for any reason. The Canon law speaks of different circumstances when this impediment is upheld. One of the most important aspects of this is to be antecedent to the consent of marriage. If it happens after the consent and the consummation of marriage, then no power on earth or heaven may brake this bond. There are other impediments to marriage, like difference of religion. Ie a Catholic may not marry a Muslim. And there are others. The Church for a sound and good reason, can, and actually does give, dispensation from these impediments, therefore allowing the man and the woman to marry.