Mary and Joseph's Marriage never Consummated


#1

How can Mary and Joseph’s marriage be valid if it was never consummated?

(NOTE: I asked this in the “Ask the Apologist” forum, but I didn’t get an answer)


#2

Consummation isn’t required for any marriage to be valid.


#3

If I were to go to the chapel with a lady and get hitched, then on the way to the honeymoon suite we are hit by a drunk driver and my spine is broken and I’m paralyzed for life…were we never married? If I died, would life insurance not pay my widow?


#4

[quote=Catholic2003]Consummation isn’t required for any marriage to be valid.
[/quote]

This has always confused me. I’ve always heard that a marriage can easily be annulled if it has not been consummated. Is this true? Also, on a cd I have on Marriage and the Eucharist (I can’t remember if it’s the one by Christopoher West or John Martignoni) I seem to remmber one of them saying the ‘marital embrace’ is what completes the sacrament of marriage - ‘and the 2 shall become one flesh’.


#5

The code of canon law states that if a couple cannot consummate their marriage they cannot be married in the Catholic church. If you were injured after getting married, you are still considered married. You just can’t enter into a marriage knowing that it cannot be consummated. With modern medicine, surgery, and other advances, there is at least a chance for almost anyone to achieve potency. If there exists any doubt that it may be possible, the Church will marry you.

I just don’t understand how this reconciles with Mary and Joseph’s marriage, which was determined from the start to not be consummated.

I also have a question about people with AIDS. How can they be married in the church, if consummation would be an almost automatic death sentence for their spouse? If two HIV positive people got married, they could pass the disease to their children, and even NFP would not be worth the risk, in my opinion, rendering celibacy the best option. Would they be denied marriage?


#6

[quote=RyanL]If I were to go to the chapel with a lady and get hitched, then on the way to the honeymoon suite we are hit by a drunk driver and my spine is broken and I’m paralyzed for life…were we never married? If I died, would life insurance not pay my widow?
[/quote]

Insurance has nothing to do with the Church. You are confusing a secular institution with a spiritual sacrament.


#7

[quote=MamaGeek]I just don’t understand how this reconciles with Mary and Joseph’s marriage, which was determined from the start to not be consummated.
[/quote]

Mary and Joseph were not bound by the Code of Canon Law any more than Malchezadeck was obligated to pray the Divine Office. I would suggest researching Jewish law regarding marriage instead of applying post-resurrection “law” to a pre-Messianic situation.

Therein lies the answer.


#8

[quote=MamaGeek]I also have a question about people with AIDS. How can they be married in the church, if consummation would be an almost automatic death sentence for their spouse? If two HIV positive people got married, they could pass the disease to their children, and even NFP would not be worth the risk, in my opinion, rendering celibacy the best option. Would they be denied marriage?
[/quote]

Well, I would question why, exactly, they feel they are being called to the vocation of marriage. Marriage isn’t a degree of love or a product of high emotions, it is a type of love; it has a function. If it is impossible to perform this function, I fail to see how this type of love can be truly fulfilled.


#9

[quote=mike182d]Mary and Joseph were not bound by the Code of Canon Law any more than Malchezadeck was obligated to pray the Divine Office. I would suggest researching Jewish law regarding marriage instead of applying post-resurrection “law” to a pre-Messianic situation.

Therein lies the answer.
[/quote]

I understand this, but why would the Church define canon law in such a way, if we believe that Mary and Joseph’s marriage was valid?


#10

[quote=mike182d]Well, I would question why, exactly, they feel they are being called to the vocation of marriage. Marriage isn’t a degree of love or a product of high emotions, it is a type of love; it has a function. If it is impossible to perform this function, I fail to see how this type of love can be truly fulfilled.
[/quote]

If you are referring to children, the Church teaches that sterile couples can get married in the Church. It is only impotent couples who cannot.

Who are we to judge the vocation of an individual? Two HIV sufferers may be called to marriage for the express purpose of adopting HIV babies, to love and nurture them for their short lives. Why would we deny them such a calling?

I’m not trying to bash the church here. I’m a Catholic, faithful to church teachings. Accepting and understanding are two different things, however. I thought the purpose of apologetics was to understand the why of Catholic theology.


#11

[quote=Elzee]This has always confused me. I’ve always heard that a marriage can easily be annulled if it has not been consummated. Is this true? Also, on a cd I have on Marriage and the Eucharist (I can’t remember if it’s the one by Christopoher West or John Martignoni) I seem to remmber one of them saying the ‘marital embrace’ is what completes the sacrament of marriage - ‘and the 2 shall become one flesh’.
[/quote]

The Sacrament of Marriage takes place with the exchange of vows/consent. A Marriage that is not consummated cannot “easily” be annulled it can be set aside for specific purposes stated in Canon Law by the Pope. By the way I understand that celibate marriage was not unknown in Jewish culture. Canon Law requires that the person entering Marriage be capable of consummating the Marriage at the time the Marriage takes place.


#12

[quote=MamaGeek]I understand this, but why would the Church define canon law in such a way, if we believe that Mary and Joseph’s marriage was valid?
[/quote]

Hmm…a bit tougher. I’m not sure exactly why it would have changed, but it may have to do with a revelation of Jesus Christ and the Eucharist and the understanding of the bridegroom physically becoming one with His bride, the Church.


#13

[quote=Elzee]This has always confused me. I’ve always heard that a marriage can easily be annulled if it has not been consummated. Is this true? Also, on a cd I have on Marriage and the Eucharist (I can’t remember if it’s the one by Christopoher West or John Martignoni) I seem to remmber one of them saying the ‘marital embrace’ is what completes the sacrament of marriage - ‘and the 2 shall become one flesh’.
[/quote]

A valid, sacramental, but unconsumated marriage can be dissolved by the Holy Father. I won’t say the process is “easy”. This is different than a decree of nullity (i.e., annulment), where a marriage that is already invalid is officially declared to be so.

Consumation makes a valid and sacramental marriage indissoluble. So in that sense it “completes” or “seals” the sacrament. But the unconsumated marriage was already valid and sacramental.


#14

[quote=MamaGeek]The code of canon law states that if a couple cannot consummate their marriage they cannot be married in the Catholic church.

I just don’t understand how this reconciles with Mary and Joseph’s marriage, which was determined from the start to not be consummated.
[/quote]

In order for Mary and Joseph’s marriage to be valid, the following must have been true:[list]
*]Mary was (physically and mentally) able to consumate the marriage.
*]Joseph was (physically and mentally) able to consumate the marriage.
*]Had Joseph asked to consumate the marriage, Mary would have obliged because of her marriage vows.
*]Had Mary asked to consumate the marriage, Joseph would have obliged because of his marriage vows.[/list]
Thus, since Mary and Joseph’s marriage was valid, I believe that all the above statements are true.


#15

[quote=MamaGeek]If you are referring to children, the Church teaches that sterile couples can get married in the Church. It is only impotent couples who cannot.

Who are we to judge the vocation of an individual? Two HIV sufferers may be called to marriage for the express purpose of adopting HIV babies, to love and nurture them for their short lives. Why would we deny them such a calling?

I’m not trying to bash the church here. I’m a Catholic, faithful to church teachings. Accepting and understanding are two different things, however. I thought the purpose of apologetics was to understand the why of Catholic theology.
[/quote]

I know you’re not trying to bash the Church; these are tough issues. But I think the root of it all has to do with our lack of understanding of marriage as a Sacrament and vocation. It really wasn’t until Theology of the Body that the Sacrament began to be truly understood in terms of the Eucharist and its proper role in our salvation history.

Personally, I think marriage should be treated exactly like the priesthood. People apply to seminary, go through rigorous study for six years (minimum) to understand the role of the priest, theology, and how their role fits into God’s plan. However, when two people decide to get married, often the priest just makes them sign a paper and their off on their own. If marriage is as crucial to the life of the Church as the Catholic Church says it is, it needs to be treated as such. I think there should be marriage “seminaries” where two people who wish to get married study the role of the married person in the Church, the theology of marriage, NFP, and even practical matters like how to raise kids. Seriously, I’m often struck by how unprepared engaged couples are for marriage and it makes the disillusionment phase of their marriage even more difficult because of it, increasing the odds of divorce.

The fact of the matter is that marriage is not just something people who can’t become religious do. It is not a “vocation for the rest of us,” so to speak. It is just as crucial to the life of the Church as the priesthood itself, as John Paul II so wonderfully explained, and it needs to be treated with the same regard.

In those regards, if the Church has a right to judge a seminarian’s vocation to the priesthood, they have every right to judge a person’s vocation to marriage.


#16

[quote=Catholic2003]In order for Mary and Joseph’s marriage to be valid, the following must have been true:
[list]
*]Mary was (physically and mentally) able to consumate the marriage.
*]Joseph was (physically and mentally) able to consumate the marriage.
*]Had Joseph asked to consumate the marriage, Mary would have obliged because of her marriage vows.
*]Had Mary asked to consumate the marriage, Joseph would have obliged because of his marriage vows.
[/list]Thus, since Mary and Joseph’s marriage was valid, I believe that all the above statements are true.
[/quote]

So two people can be married in the church if they are capable of consumation, even if they have determined to be celibate, but two people who are incapable of consumation cannot, even if they would consumate if they could. I just don’t understand that policy.


#17

[quote=MamaGeek]So two people can be married in the church if they are capable of consumation, even if they have determined to be celibate
[/quote]

It depends on how “determined” they are. As I said, I believe both Mary and Joseph were willing and able to consumate the marriage had the other spouse requested it.

For another example, the following marriage is valid:
As part of their "I do"s, the bride and groom fully and completely exchange the right to marital congress with each other. Each would be willing to pay the “marital debt” should the other party request it. However, they both have an intention, or even an articulated plan, never to make such requests.

However, the following marriage is invalid, because true marital consent was not exchanged:

The bride and groom have an agreement never to have marital congress, and one or both of them places that agreement on the same level as the marriage itself. In fact, should the other party request payment of the marital debt, the first party would consider that request invalid under their agreement and would not feel bound to honor it.

In this case, the first party was “holding something back” from the marriage, making it invalid.

[quote=MamaGeek]but two people who are incapable of consumation cannot, even if they would consumate if they could. I just don’t understand that policy.
[/quote]

How can a pledge to pay the “marital debt” be considered valid if the person making it is not able to pay this debt?


#18

[quote=mike182d]I know you’re not trying to bash the Church; these are tough issues. But I think the root of it all has to do with our lack of understanding of marriage as a Sacrament and vocation. It really wasn’t until Theology of the Body that the Sacrament began to be truly understood in terms of the Eucharist and its proper role in our salvation history.

Personally, I think marriage should be treated exactly like the priesthood. People apply to seminary, go through rigorous study for six years (minimum) to understand the role of the priest, theology, and how their role fits into God’s plan. However, when two people decide to get married, often the priest just makes them sign a paper and their off on their own. If marriage is as crucial to the life of the Church as the Catholic Church says it is, it needs to be treated as such. I think there should be marriage “seminaries” where two people who wish to get married study the role of the married person in the Church, the theology of marriage, NFP, and even practical matters like how to raise kids. Seriously, I’m often struck by how unprepared engaged couples are for marriage and it makes the disillusionment phase of their marriage even more difficult because of it, increasing the odds of divorce.

The fact of the matter is that marriage is not just something people who can’t become religious do. It is not a “vocation for the rest of us,” so to speak. It is just as crucial to the life of the Church as the priesthood itself, as John Paul II so wonderfully explained, and it needs to be treated with the same regard.

In those regards, if the Church has a right to judge a seminarian’s vocation to the priesthood, they have every right to judge a person’s vocation to marriage.
[/quote]

I understand your point, and to avoid a problem of circular reference, you might be right on the money.

But in all reality, it is the job of the PARENTS over the child’s lifetime to instruct them on the “how to’s” of married life. All of the topics you described (NFP, how to raise kids, theology of marriage) are topics that should be taught and shown by example to children over 18 years or more as they are being raised.

We cannot put all tasks on our Church.

But as I indicated previously we may have a problem of circular reference. We all know there are many Catholics out there who haven’t a clue about any of those issues and there has been such a lax attitude by many parents regarding teaching these very important topics. How do today’s children learn these topics in time before they are married with children themselves?

Part of the answer lies with those of us who ARE practicing Catholics to be good and kind examples of what that means.


#19

[quote=mike182d]Personally, I think marriage should be treated exactly like the priesthood. People apply to seminary, go through rigorous study for six years (minimum) to understand the role of the priest, theology, and how their role fits into God’s plan. However, when two people decide to get married, often the priest just makes them sign a paper and their off on their own. If marriage is as crucial to the life of the Church as the Catholic Church says it is, it needs to be treated as such. I think there should be marriage “seminaries” where two people who wish to get married study the role of the married person in the Church, the theology of marriage, NFP, and even practical matters like how to raise kids. Seriously, I’m often struck by how unprepared engaged couples are for marriage and it makes the disillusionment phase of their marriage even more difficult because of it, increasing the odds of divorce.
[/quote]

At the risk of hijacking this thread, I would have to say that from birth a child depends on his parents and family for this training. The sad fact is that today our families are as bad off as some of our seminaries and the training can be quite defective. IMO this is one very important reason why Christian Marriages between a man and a woman are so critical. The family is the pedigogical base for the future mature adult and for the future of our human society…


#20

[quote=MamaGeek]I understand this, but why would the Church define canon law in such a way, if we believe that Mary and Joseph’s marriage was valid?
[/quote]

From what I gathered from Theology of the Body, the Church’s position on marriage stems from Genesis and the first marriage ever, completing the teaching from Christ’s marriage to His Church.

From my own limited personal consideration of your question, I would have to say God created the covenant of marriage. God is Jesus’ father, the Holy Spirit created Jesus’ human form, so Joseph was really a step-father. One hand-selected by God, I might add. I figure God can pretty much determine Joseph and Mary’s marriage valid on His own.

It is the Catholic church who helps interpret God’s revelation to man. She doesn’t come up with the rules herself. Somewhere down the line it was revealed that Mary & Joseph’s marriage was valid. If the Church says so, I’m fine with it.

Personally, I would feel intimidated about having relations with the Mother of God if I were a man, and as a woman, I can’t imagine wanting to have relations with a mortal man after having conceived through the Holy Spirit. Besides, she was young, and she was a busy mother…

Bottom line, Joseph and Mary considered themselves validly married, as did the community around them - they loved each other deeply, respected each other completely - and did such a great job raising Jesus.


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