Bishop Paprocki’s Error on the Goods of Marriage

In a recent document, Decree Regarding Same-Sex “Marriage” and Related Pastoral Issues [PDF], Bishop Thomas John Paprocki issued guidelines on same-sex marriage and the reception of the Sacraments. This document is generally in line with Church doctrine and discipline. But I would like to point out one substantial error.

The Bishop says this:

“Whereas, it has been the clear and consistent teaching of the Catholic Church since her founding by Our Lord Jesus Christ that the Creator instituted marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman by which they establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, ordered equally toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children (cf. Mt 19:4-6; Gaudium et Spes, no. 48; and CIC, c. 1055).”

A theological problem is created by adding the word “equally” to the statement that marriage is ordered toward two goods: the spouses and the children. The citations given at the end of the quote do not justify that claim. For example, CIC 1055 says only:

“Can. 1055 §1. The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.”

Notice the lack of the word “equally” in Canon Law, which was added by the Bishop. And Gaudium et Spes does not justify the “equally” claim either, since it says:

“By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown.”

Gaudium et Spes does elsewhere mention the good of the spouses, which is an undeniable good of marriage. But the claim that the good of the spouses is equal to the good of the procreation and education of children is contrary to magisterial teaching, which places that latter good as the primary end of marriage and as its “ultimate crown”.

Then, if we consider the teaching of Pope Pius XII in Address to Midwives, the “equally” claim is clearly refuted:

“Now the truth is that matrimony, as an institution of nature, in virtue of the Creator’s will, does not have, as its primary and intimate end, the personal perfection of the spouses, but rather the procreation and education of a new life. The other ends, inasmuch as they are intended by nature, are not equally primary, but are much less superior to the primary end, and essentially subordinated to it.” [Address to Midwives, n. 51]

The primary end, inherent to marriage (and therefore called “intimate”), is the procreation and education of children (or offspring, or new life). The other ends, such as the good of the spouses, “are not equally primary” and are “much less superior” to the primary end of children, and are “essentially subordinated” to that end.

So the assertion of the Bishop that marriage is “ordered equally” to the good of the spouses and the good of the children is false and contrary to magisterial teaching.

“If nature had aimed exclusively, or at least in the first place, at a reciprocal gift and possession of the married couple in joy and delight, and if it had ordered that act only to make happy in the highest possible degree their personal experience, and not to stimulate them to the service of life, then the Creator would have adopted another plan in forming and constituting the natural act. Now instead, all this is subordinated and ordered to that unique great law of the “generatio et educatio prolis,” [the generation and education of offspring] namely the accomplishment of the primary end of matrimony as the origin and source of life.” [Address to Midwives, n. 66]

The primary end of marriage is generatio et educatio prolis.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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1 Response to Bishop Paprocki’s Error on the Goods of Marriage

  1. Matt Z. says:

    Good to point that out Ron. I do love Bishop Paprocki, I hope he becomes a Cardinal. Do Cardinals or Bishops have people that crosscheck their writings? If so, you would be good at that.

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