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
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
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.”