Marriage is a covenant partnership between one man and one woman, both of whom are equal in dignity before the Lord and His Church. Just as God remains faithful to His covenants in salvation history, the marital covenant admits of no breach on the part of the spouses. The spouses are called to be completely faithful, and this is why marriage is characterized by unity and indissolubility.
In a marriage covenant, the man and woman give their free exchange of consent to enter into this bond with one another (dissolvable only in death). The Church professes that in the marriage ceremony it is the man and woman who offer this sacramental bond to one another and the priest acts as an official church witness and celebrant of the wedding.
“The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion, and for this reason it can and should be called a domestic church.” It is a community of faith, hope, and charity; it assumes singular importance in the Church as is evident in the New Testament (see Eph 5:21b: 4; Col 3:18-21; 1 Pet 3:1-7). (CCC 2204)
Marriage “is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and rearing of children” (CIC 1055). The total gift of self that a man and woman make in the act of marriage is indivisible – so the “good of the spouses” and the “good of children” are two aspects of the same gift. One of the primary reasons the Catholic Church stands so strongly for marriage is that each marriage represents a public good – not simply a private one. Marriage is at the very foundation of human society.
The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father’s work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity. The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task. (CCC 2205)
When the Church stands against divorce, cohabitation of an unmarried couple, same-sex unions, artificial contraception, and birth control this is not meant as an obstacle to personal fulfillment or authentic human freedom. Nor is it meant as an unjust condemnation of those with whom the Church disagrees. Catholics believe that man and woman are only truly free when they act “in the service of what is good and just” (CCC 1733). Only God and the things of God ultimately satisfy; as St. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. the family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society. (CCC 2207)