Faith & Life

BITE-SIZE THEOLOGY (160): What are the basic requirements to make a marriage work?

January 17, 2022

Rev José Mario O Mandía 

Marriage is a covenant for the sake of the husband and wife and their children (cf CCCC 338). Hence, it should have certain characteristics that guarantee the good of spouses and their offspring. These are: (1) unity; (2) indissolubility; (3) fidelity; and (4) openness to fertility and life (cf CCCC 495). 


Unity means a spiritual and physical union between one man and one woman. “He who made them from the beginning made them male and female” (Matthew 19:4). 

(1.1) They need to be male and female because that is the only way they can be united both physically and spiritually. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one. So they are no longer two but one” (Matthew 19:5-6). 

(1.2) Moreover, only when there is a man and a woman can they “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).


The Youcat (no 263, 1st Edition) gives three reasons why a valid marriage cannot be dissolved. 

“Marriage is triply indissoluble: (2.1) first, because the essence of love is mutual self-giving without reservation; (2.2) second, because it is an image of God’s unconditional faithfulness to his creation; and (2.3) third, because it represents Christ’s devotion to his Church, even unto death on the Cross (Cf CCC 1605, 1612-1617, 1661).”

Saint John Paul II (15 November 1980) once said about the so-called “trial marriages”: “One cannot live a trial life or die a trial death. One cannot love on a trial basis or accept a person on trial and for a limited time.”


The Catechism (1646) teaches that fidelity goes hand in hand with unity and indissolubility: “By its very nature conjugal love requires the inviolable fidelity of the spouses. This is the consequence of the gift of themselves which they make to each other. Love seeks to be definitive; it cannot be an arrangement ‘until further notice.’ The ‘intimate union of marriage, as a mutual giving of two persons, and the good of the children, demand total fidelity from the spouses and require an unbreakable union between them’ (Gaudium et Spes 48 #1).

What about those people who are divorced and then remarried?

Point 349 of the CCCC explains: “The Church, since she is faithful to her Lord, cannot recognize the union of people who are civilly divorced and remarried. ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery’ (Mark 10:11-12). The Church manifests an attentive solicitude toward such people and encourages them to a life of faith, prayer, works of charity and the Christian education of their children. However, they cannot receive sacramental absolution, take Holy Communion, or exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities as long as their situation, which objectively contravenes God’s law, persists.”


Children are the fruit of human love and are a gift from God. Aside from bringing new life to the world and cooperating with God’s work of creation, parents are also the principal and first educators of their children (cf CCC 1652-1654).

All the four requirements are of absolute importance and hence, “adultery and polygamy are opposed to the sacrament of matrimony because they contradict the equal dignity of man and woman and the unity and exclusivity of married love” (CCCC 347).

The same point of the CCCC also teaches that divorce “goes against the indissolubility of marriage.”

Furthermore, it states that “deliberate refusal of one’s procreative potential” goes against the sacrament of matrimony because it “deprives conjugal love of the gift of children.”