Pope examines society's acceptance of unstable relationships

Pope Benedict XVI at the General Audience April 18 2012 3 CNA Vatican Catholic News 4 19 12 Pope Benedict XVI at an April 2012 audience. | CNA.

As he spoke to the Church's highest court, which often deals with issues related to marriage, Pope Benedict highlighted the growing acceptance of instability in relationships.

Contemporary culture "poses serious challenges to the person and the family," he began, underscoring that it calls into question "the very capacity of human beings to bond themselves to another and whether a union that lasts an entire life is truly possible."

Modern culture, Pope Benedict XVI told the members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, promotes the idea that people can "become themselves while remaining 'autonomous,'" leading to the "widespread mentality" that relationships "can be interrupted at any time."

His speech to the Tribunal for the opening of the judicial year took place Jan. 26 in the Clementine Hall and focused on the relationship between faith and marriage.

Pope Benedict observed that the world's current crisis of faith brings with it a crisis in the understanding and experience of marriage.

Rejecting the divine proposal, he explained, leads to a profound imbalance in all human relationships, including in marriage.

It also "facilitates an erroneous understanding of freedom and self-realization" that operates under the belief one can flourish while remaining autonomous in a relationship, he said.

"Contemporary culture, marked by a strong subjectivism and an ethical and religious relativism, poses serious challenges to the person and the family," the Pope told the judges.

On the other hand, he said, accepting faith makes humans capable of giving themselves, allowing them to discover the extent of being a human person.

The Code of Canon Law – the set of laws by which the Church is governed and which the Tribunal is charged with upholding– defines the natural reality of marriage as the "irrevocable covenant between a man and a woman," he noted.

Pope Benedict then reflected on how "a human being's choice to bind themselves with a bond lasting an entire life influences each person's basic perspective according to which they are either anchored to a merely human plane or open themselves to the light of faith in the Lord."

Divorced or abandoned spouses were also not far from the Pope's mind as he spoke to the Tribunal.

"Being well aware that the valid marriage bond is indissoluble and refraining from becoming involved in a new union, in such cases their example of fidelity and Christian consistency takes on particular value as a witness before the world and the Church," he remarked.

The Pope asserted that "faith is important in carrying out the authentic conjugal good, which consists simply in wanting always and in every case the welfare of the other."

"With these considerations I certainly don't wish to suggest any facile relationship between a lack of faith and the invalidity of a marital union," he said.

"I wish to highlight how such a deficiency may, but not necessarily, damage the goods of marriage, since the reference to the natural order desired by God is inherent to the conjugal covenant."

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