[ Fr.Sunil De Silva - 24.08.2015 ]
His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke addressed the Presbyterium of the Archdiocese of Colombo on 24th Aug 2015 and spoke ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF THE MARRIED AND OF THE FAMILY.

It is for me a singular pleasure to visit Sri Lanka for the first time and, specifically, the Archdiocese of Colombo, and to address this important gathering on the pastoral care of the family. I express my deepest esteem for His Eminence, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, and my gratitude to him for the invitation to visit the Archdiocese and to address you. I thank also all who have helped to make my visit possible.

The family is the incomparable fruit of the marriage of a man and a woman. In addressing you, I concentrate on the pastoral care of those who are preparing for marriage as a key to understanding how best to serve pastorally the family. It is clear that the husband and wife who understand, as fully as possible, the grace conferred in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, and who faithfully respond to that grace will form a home which is indeed the “domestic Church,” according to the perennial understanding of the Church. They will form a strong and healthy first cell of the life of the Church and thus build up the whole Church, not only in their parish and diocese but universally. I quote the teaching on Holy Matrimony in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council:

… [I]n virtue of the sacrament of Matrimony by which they signify and share (cf. Eph. 5:32) the mystery of the unity and faithful love between Christ and the Church, Christian married couples help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in the rearing of their children. Hence by reason of their state in life and of their position they have their own gifts in the People of God (cf. 1 Cor. 7:7). From the marriage of Christians there comes the family in which new citizens of human society are born and, by the grace of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, those are made children of God so that the People of God may be perpetuated throughout the centuries. In what might be regarded as the domestic Church, the parents, by word and example, are the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They must foster the vocation which is proper to each child, and this with special care if it be to religion.

Regarding Christian marriage and the family, Pope Saint John Paul II, in his Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, declared that “the Christian family, in fact, is the first community called to announce the Gospel to the human person during growth and to bring him or her, through a progressive education and catechesis, to full human and Christian maturity.” Noting the multiple and grievous attacks on marriage and the family in our time, Pope John Paul II stressed the importance of witnessing to the truth about marriage and the family, so that the family may evangelize the whole of society. He further declared:

At a moment of history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it, and aware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family, the Church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family, ensuring their full vitality and human and Christian development, and thus contributing to the renewal of society and of the People of God.”

In the present moment when the attacks on matrimony and on the family seem the most ferocious, it is the Church Who must show to the whole of society the truth in all its richness, and therefore the beauty and the goodness of marriage and of the family. The Church accomplishes its mission of evangelization of the family with its teaching, with the celebration of the Sacraments and with the life of prayer and devotion, and with its discipline.

The sources of my presentation are the Sacred Liturgy and the Code of Canon Law. These two sources are the expression of the doctrinal truth of marriage as God created it from the beginning. Attending to them, we will attend to that unchanging truth which is a participation in the very being of God, in His incomparable beauty and goodness.

The Sacred Liturgy

The Sacred Liturgy, the public worship of the Church, is God’s greatest gift to us. Through the Sacred Liturgy, the glorious Christ seated at the right hand of the Father truly comes into our midst to purify our hearts of all sin and to inflame them with divine love. It makes present, therefore, the Mystery of Faith, the mystery of God’s immeasurable and unceasing love for us, which reached its fullness in the Redemptive Incarnation of God the Son. Regarding the Sacred Liturgy, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council declared:

For it is in the liturgy through which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, “the work of our redemption is accomplished,” and it is through the liturgy, especially, that the faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. The Church is essentially both human and divine, visible but endowed with invisible realities, zealous in action and dedicated to contemplation, present in the world, but as a pilgrim, so constituted that in her the human is directed toward and subordinated to the divine, the visible to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, the object of our quest. The liturgy daily builds up those who are in the Church, making of them a holy temple of the Lord, a dwelling-place of God in the Spirit, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ. At the same time it marvelously increases their power to preach Christ and thus show forth the Church, a sign lifted up among the nations, to those who are outside, a sign under which the scattered children of God may be gathered together until there is one fold and one shepherd.

Through the Sacred Liturgy, Christ bids us to give our hearts to Him, so that, through, with and in Him, we may worship God “in spirit and truth.” From our hearts, united to His Most Sacred Heart, “flow rivers of living water” for all our brothers and sisters.

According to the ancient wisdom of the Church, the Sacred Liturgy is a “privileged witness of the apostolic tradition.”The Church’s wisdom is expressed in an adage of Prosper of Aquitaine: “The law of praying establishes the law of believing.”We can add that the law of praying also establishes the law of acting.Since the Sacred Liturgy is the highest and most perfect expression of our life in Christ, we rightly turn to the sacred rites, in order to understand more deeply the holiness of the Christian life in its every aspect. The Sacred Liturgy remains the essential source of our understanding of the faith and of its practice in a good and holy life.

Canon Law

Canon law exists for one only reason: to safeguard and promote the sacred realities of our life in Christ.Pope Saint John Paul II pursued with vigor the revision of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, in order to fulfill the desire of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council that the perennial discipline of the Church be addressed to the present time. Clearly, the Council’s desire regarding Church discipline did not intend the abandonment of Her discipline but a new appreciation of it in the context of contemporary challenges. In the Apostolic Constitution Sacrae Disciplinae Leges, with which he, the Supreme Legislator in the Church, promulgated the 1983 Code of Canon Law, he wrote:

Turning our minds today to the beginning of this long journey [of the revision of the Code of Canon Law], to that January 25, 1959 [“when my predecessor of happy memory, John XXIII, announced for the first time his decision to reform the existing corpus of canonical legislation which had been promulgated on the feast of Pentecost in the year 1917”] and to John XXIII himself who initiated the revision of the Code, I must recognize that this Code derives from one and the same intention, the renewal of Christian living. From such an intention, in fact, the entire work of the council [the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council] drew its norms and its direction.

These words point to the essential service of canon law to our living in Christ with the engagement and energy of the first disciples. Canonical discipline is directed to the pursuit, at all times, of holiness of life.

The saintly Pontiff described the nature of canon law, indicating its organic development from God’s first covenant with His holy people. He recalled “the distant patrimony of law contained in the books of the Old and New Testament from which is derived the whole juridical-legislative tradition of the Church, as from its first source.” In particular, he reminded the Church how Christ Himself declared that He had not come to abolish the law but to bring it to completion, teaching us that it is, in fact, the discipline of the law which opens the way to freedom in loving God and our neighbor. He observed: “Thus the writings of the New Testament enable us to understand even better the importance of discipline and make us see better how it is more closelyconnected with the saving character of the evangelical message itself.”

Pope John Paul II then articulated the purpose of canon law, that is, the service of the faith and grace, and of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and charity. He noted that, far from hindering the living of our life in Christ, canonical discipline safeguards and fosters our Christian life. He declared:

[I]ts purpose is rather to create such an order in the ecclesial society that, while assigning the primacy to love, grace and charisms, it at the same time renders their organic development easier in the life of both the ecclesial society and the individual persons who belong to it.

As such, canon law can never be in conflict with the Church’s doctrine but is, in the words of Pope John Paul II, “extremely necessary for the Church.”

The teaching of the Church, in fact, is translated into discipline by the canonical tradition. He indicated four ways in which the Church’s discipline is a necessary complement to Her doctrine, declaring:

Since the Church is organized as a social and visible structure, it must also have norms: in order that its hierarchical and organic structure be visible; in order that the exercise of the functions divinely entrusted to it, especially that of sacred power and of the administration of the sacraments, may be adequately organized; in order that the mutual relations of the faithful may be regulated according to justice based upon charity, with the rights of individuals guaranteed and well-defined; in order, finally, that common initiatives undertaken to live a Christian life ever more perfectly may be sustained, strengthened and fostered by canonical norms.
Because of the essential service of canon law to the life of the Church, Pope John Paul II reminded the Church that “by their very nature canonical laws are to be observed,” and, to that end, “the wording of the norms should be accurate” and “based on solid juridical, canonical and theological foundations.”

The Sacred Liturgy and Marriage

In the current discussion regarding Holy Matrimony and, in particular, its intrinsic indissolubility, it is frequently asserted that a great percentage of marriages are surely null. The reason given is the highly secularized culture in which we live. Secularization denies the natural law which teaches us that marriage is a faithful, enduring and procreative union, that is, a faithful and enduring union between one man and one woman. The argument is that many parties who exchange marriage consent today do not understand to what they are consenting and, therefore, exclude from their consent one or more of the essential goods of marriage: unity, indissolubility and procreativity. Given the pervasive practice of no-fault divorce, in particular, it is asserted that many parties, affected by what is called “the divorcist mentality,” exclude by a positive act of the will the indissolubility or permanence of the marriage bond. Whereas, in the Church’s discipline, marriage always enjoys the favor of the law, that is, consent to marry is presumed to be valid, unless the contrary is proven with moral certitude, some today would hold that marriage consent, in as many as fifty percent of cases, can be presumed to be null or invalid.

The first argument, in fact, against the presumption of nullity of marriage consent is human nature itself, is the law which God has written on every human heart, as Saint Paul reminds us in his Letter to the Romans:

When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

No one denies that a profoundly secularized culture has a negative effect on the giving of true matrimonial consent and on the living of the consent in practice, but that does not mean that young people today do not understand what marriage truly is and desire it in itself. To assert that they do not know the natural moral law is, in fact, to deny human nature which teaches the truth about life, marriage as the cradle of human life, and our relationship with God which expresses itself in worship of Him.

A second strong argument, in the case of Catholics and non-Catholics who celebrate their marriages according to The Rite of Marriage in The Roman Ritual, is the reflection of the truth about marriage in sacred worship and, in particular, in the Rite of Marriage. In other words, the truth of the faith finds it highest and most perfect expression in the Sacred Liturgy. It is difficult, then, to comprehend how one can celebrate liturgically the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony without understanding and embracing its truth which finds its highest and most perfect expression in the liturgical rite.
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