PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE
OF THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE
OF THE CHURCH
TO HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II
MASTER OF SOCIAL DOCTRINE AND
TO JUSTICE AND PEACE
The portion below is a small part of the compendium but very important as Pope St. John Paul II so eloquently stated and I paraphrase – As the family goes so goes the church and civilization!
There is a link at the bottom of this piece to take you to the entire compendium for your further reading and instruction.
II. MARRIAGE, THE FOUNDATION OF THE FAMILY
215. The family has its foundation in the free choice of the spouses to unite themselves in marriage, in respect for the meaning and values of this institution that does not depend on man but on God himself: “For the good of the spouses and their offspring as well as of society, this sacred bond no longer depends on human decision alone. For God himself is the author of marriage and has endowed it with various benefits and purposes”. Therefore, the institution of marriage — “intimate partnership of life and love … established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws”  — is not the result of human conventions or of legislative prescriptions but acquires its stability from divine disposition. It is an institution born, even in the eyes of society, “from the human act by which the partners mutually surrender themselves to each other”, and is founded on the very nature of that conjugal love which, as a total and exclusive gift of person to person, entails a definitive commitment expressed by mutual, irrevocable and public consent. This commitment means that the relationships among family members are marked also by a sense of justice and, therefore, by respect for mutual rights and duties.
216. No power can abolish the natural right to marriage or modify its traits and purpose. Marriage in fact is endowed with its own proper, innate and permanent characteristics. Notwithstanding the numerous changes that have taken place in the course of the centuries in the various cultures and in different social structures and spiritual attitudes, in every culture there exists a certain sense of the dignity of the marriage union, although this is not evident everywhere with the same clarity. This dignity must be respected in its specific characteristics and must be safeguarded against any attempt to undermine it. Society cannot freely legislate with regard to the marriage bond by which the two spouses promise each other fidelity, assistance and acceptance of children, but it is authorized to regulate its civil effects.
217. The characteristic traits of marriage are: totality, by which the spouses give themselves to each other mutually in every aspect of their person, physical and spiritual; unity which makes them “one flesh” (Gen 2:24); indissolubility and fidelity which the definitive mutual giving of self requires; the fruitfulness to which this naturally opens itself. God’s wise plan for marriage — a plan accessible to human reason notwithstanding the difficulties arising from “hardness of heart” (cf. Mt 19:8; Mk 10:5) — cannot be evaluated exclusively in light of the de facto behaviour and concrete situations that are at divergence with it. A radical denial of God’s original plan is found in polygamy, “because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive”.
218. In its “objective” truth, marriage is ordered to the procreation and education of children. The marriage union, in fact, gives fullness of life to that sincere gift of self, the fruit of which is children, who in turn are a gift for the parents, for the whole family and all of society. Nonetheless, marriage was not instituted for the sole reason of procreation. Its indissoluble character and its value of communion remain even when children, although greatly desired, do not arrive to complete conjugal life. In this case, the spouses “can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others”.
219. By Christ’s institution, the baptized live the inherent human reality of marriage in the supernatural form of a sacrament, a sign and instrument of grace. The theme of the marriage covenant, as the meaningful expression of the communion of love between God and men and as the symbolic key to understanding the different stages of the great covenant between God and his people, is found throughout salvation history. At the centre of the revelation of the divine plan of love is the gift that God makes to humanity in his Son, Jesus Christ, “the Bridegroom who loves and gives himself as the Saviour of humanity, uniting it to himself as his body. He reveals the original truth of marriage, the truth of the ‘beginning’ (cf. Gen 2:24; Mt 19:5), and, freeing man from his hardness of heart, he makes man capable of realizing this truth in its entirety”. It is in the spousal love of Christ for the Church, which shows its fullness in the offering made on the cross that the sacramentality of marriage originates. The grace of this sacrament conforms the love of the spouses to the love of Christ for the Church. Marriage, as a sacrament, is a covenant in love between a man and a woman.
220. The sacrament of marriage takes up the human reality of conjugal love in all its implications and “gives to Christian couples and parents a power and a commitment to live their vocation as lay people and therefore to ‘seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God”'. Intimately united to the Church by virtue of the sacrament that makes it a “domestic Church” or a “little Church”, the Christian family is called therefore “to be a sign of unity for the world and in this way to exercise its prophetic role by bearing witness to the Kingdom and peace of Christ, towards which the whole world is journeying”.
Conjugal charity, which flows from the very charity of Christ, offered through the sacrament, makes Christian spouses witnesses to a new social consciousness inspired by the Gospel and the Paschal Mystery. The natural dimension of their love is constantly purified, strengthened and elevated by sacramental grace. In this manner, besides offering each other mutual help on the path to holiness, Christian spouses become a sign and an instrument of Christ’s love in the world. By their very lives they are called to bear witness to and proclaim the religious meaning of marriage, which modern society has ever greater difficulty recognizing, especially as it accepts relativistic perspectives of the natural foundation itself of the institution of marriage.
III. THE SOCIAL SUBJECTIVITY OF THE FAMILY
221. The family is present as the place where communion — that communion so necessary for a society that is increasingly individualistic — is brought about. It is the place where an authentic community of persons develops and grows, thanks to the endless dynamism of love, which is the fundamental dimension of human experience and which finds in the family the privileged place for making itself known. “Love causes man to find fulfilment through the sincere gift of self. To love means to give and to receive something which can be neither bought nor sold, but only given freely and mutually”.
It is thanks to love, the essential reality for defining marriage and the family that every person — man and woman — is recognized, accepted and respected in his dignity…