Development of the Norms for Marriage

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"Almost 10 percent of the Code of Canon Law [111 canons] covers issues pertaining to marriage."[1]


Catholic Encyclopedia, "Sacrament of Marriage."
That the seven sacraments should be grouped in one category was by no means self-evident. For, though it was accepted that each of these rites conferred interior grace, yet, in contrast to their common invisible effect, the difference in external ceremony and even in the immediate purpose of the production of grace was so great that, for a long time, it hindered a uniform classification. Thus, there is a radical difference between the external form under which baptism, confirmation, and orders, on the one hand are administered, and, on the other hand, those that characterize penance and marriage. For while marriage is in the nature of a contract, and penance in the nature of a judicial process, the three first-mentioned take the form of a religious consecration of the recipients.
In the proof of Apostolicity of the doctrine that marriage is a sacrament of the New Law, it will suffice to show that the Church has in fact always taught concerning marriage what belongs to the essence of a sacrament ["an efficacious sign" that gives sanctifying grace]. The name sacrament cannot be cited as satisfactory evidence, since it did not acquire until a late period the exclusively technical meaning it has today; both in pre-Christian times and in the first centuries of the Christian Era it had a much broader and more indefinite signification.
Substantially, the following elements belong to a sacrament of the New Law:
  • it must be a sacred religious rite instituted by Christ;
  • this rite must be a sign of interior sanctification;
  • it must confer this interior sanctification or Divine grace;
  • this effect of Divine grace must be produced, not only in conjunction with the respective religious act, but through it.
Hence, whoever attributes these elements to Christian marriage, thereby declares it a true sacrament in the strict sense of the word.
~33 Jesus "What God has joined, man must not divide" (Mk 10:9).
?? Paul, Eph 5:31-33.

31 “For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”[2]

32 This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.

33 In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.

401 St. Augustine, "De bono conjugii." "Among all people and all men the good that is secured by marriage consists in the offspring and in the chastity of married fidelity; but, in the case of God's people [the Christians], it consists moreover in the holiness of the sacrament, by reason of which it is forbidden, even after a separation has taken place, to marry another as long as the first partner lives . . . just as priests are ordained to draw together a Christian community, and even though no such community be formed, the Sacrament of Orders still abides in those ordained, or just as the Sacrament of the Lord, once it is conferred, abides even in one who is dismissed from his office on account of guilt, although in such a one it abides unto judgment."
1208 Innocent IV The Profession of faith prescribed for the Waldensians (18 December, 1208) includes matrimony among the sacraments.[3]
1274 Council of Lyons The same Holy Roman Church also holds and teaches that there are seven sacraments of the Church: one is baptism, which has been mentioned above; another is the sacrament of confirmation which bishops confer by the laying on of hands while they anoint the reborn; then penance, the Eucharist, the sacrament of order, matrimony and extreme unction which, according to the doctrine of the Blessed James, [James 5:14-15] is administered to the sick. The same Roman Church performs (conficit) the sacrament of the Eucharist with unleavened bread; she holds and teaches that in this sacrament the bread is truly transubstantiated into the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the wine into His blood. As regards matrimony, she holds that neither is a man allowed to have several wives at the same time nor a woman several husbands. But, when a legitimate marriage is dissolved by the death of one of the spouses, she declares that a second and afterwards a third wedding are successively licit, if no other canonical impediment goes against it for any reason.
1439 Council of Florence "The seventh sacrament is matrimony, which is a figure of the union of Christ, and the Church, according to the words of the Apostle: 'This is a great sacrament [mysterion], but I speak in Christ and in the Church' (Eph. 5:32)."[4]
1563 Council of Trent "If any one shall say that matrimony is not truly and properly one of the Seven Sacraments of the Evangelical Law, instituted by Christ our Lord, but was invented in the Church by men, and does not confer grace, let him be anathema."[5]


  1. "101 Quick Questions with Catholic Answers: Marriage, Divorce, and Annulment."
  2. Gn 2:24
  3. Denzinger-Bannwart, "Enchiridion", n. 424.
  4. "Decree for the Armenians."
  5. Canon I, Sess. XXIV: