Though “some general criteria for pastoral action can be extracted, the document is “not intended to offer specific or grounded pastoral tracks...” the commission says.
Overall, the ITC document studies the reciprocity between faith and sacraments, with a special focus on the link between faith and intention in the valid reception of the Church’s sacraments of initiation -- baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist -- and marriage in the Latin Church.
Marriage is the sacrament which most strongly tests the “essential reciprocity between faith and sacraments” the ITC states.
The Catholic Church holds that the validity of marriage between two baptized persons in the Latin Church does not require the intention, desire, or awareness of celebrating a sacrament. The intention to contract a natural marriage is enough, as the study points out.
The ITC argues that this understanding of marriage is what makes it important for theology to address the case of marriages between “baptized non-believers,” which it defines as “persons in whom there is no sign of the presence of the dialogical nature of faith…”
What this looks like in real situations falls into two categories: those who received baptism in infancy but subsequently, for whatever reason, did not come to perform “a personal act of faith, involving their understanding and their will” and the baptized who “consciously deny the faith explicitly and do not consider themselves to be Catholic or Christian believers.”
In their document, the commission argues that “an outright defense of the sacramentality” of unions between baptized non-believers would “undermine the essential reciprocity between faith and sacraments, as proper to the sacramental economy.”
The ITC defends this position citing the great bond, in marriage, between the creatural and supernatural realities. Marriage, it says, is instituted by God and then elevated to the dignity of a sacrament.
“Given this very close link, it is understood that a modification to the natural reality of marriage... directly affects the supernatural reality, the sacrament,” it says, adding that this connection is also present in the reverse, “at least in the extreme case of marriages between ‘baptized non-believers.’”
The commission argues that the denial or abandonment of faith can negatively affect the intention of the spouses toward living the goods of marriage -- especially, given the present cultural context, its indissolubility.
With today’s “dominant cultural axiomatic,” which does not uphold the goods of marriage, it says, the intention in the case of baptized non-believers “to enter into a natural marriage cannot be assumed to be guaranteed, nor can it be excluded in the first place.”
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
In examining this question, the ITC lays out the thoughts of St. Pope John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis. Their teachings show that the question is focused, but not entirely resolved, the commission states.
John Paul II addressed the subject in his post-synodal exhortation Familiaris consortio. He argued “consistently that the marriage act is intrinsically qualified by the supernatural reality to which the baptized belong irrevocably, beyond the express awareness of this reality,” the ITC document summarizes.
The commission quotes a portion of Familiaris consortio which states that to introduce additional criteria to admission to the ecclesial celebration of marriage “would above all involve grave risks,” such as causing doubts about the validity of marriages already celebrated.
In addresses to the Roman Rota in 2001 and 2003, John Paul II warned that there are not two types of marriage, one natural and one supernatural. He also “ratified the natural purpose of marriage and that marriage consists of a natural reality, not exclusively supernatural.”
In its new document, the ITC points out that St. John Paul II says in Familiaris consortio spouses who show an explicit and formal rejection of what the Church intends with the sacrament of marriage should not be admitted to the celebration of marriage by their pastor.
“That is to say, John Paul II demands some minimums, even if it is only the absence of explicit and formal rejection of what the Church does. In his own way, therefore, he also rejects what we can call an absolute sacramental automatism,” the ITC says.