Christian view of marriage - In the Christian faith, marriage is viewed as a lifelong union of a man and a woman in the eyes of God. One commonly used text is from the Gospel of Matthew.

"...For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." Matthew 19: 5-6

Virtually all Christian denominations frown on divorce, although some more harshly than others.

Table of contents
1 View of Roman Catholic Christians
2 View of Orthodox Christians
3 View of Protestant Christians
4 View of non-Protestant, non-Catholic Christians

View of Roman Catholic Christians

In Roman Catholicism, marriage is one of the seven sacraments, usually considered as celebrated by the spouses. It is the basis of the family, the fundamental unit of the referring community (ordinarily the parish). See related articles of Canon law: [1] (latin).

The ideal references are found in the Holy Family (Joseph the Betrothed and the Virgin Mary).

Virginity however, is the preferred state in Catholic belief.

The primary purpose of marriage is to fulfill a vocation in the nature of man and woman, for the procreation and education of children, and to stand as a symbol of the mystical union between Christ and his Church. [1] The secondary aim is the mutual reciprocal help and it is also a "remedy to concupiscence". Fecundity is a good, a gift and an end of marriage. By giving life, spouses participate in God's fatherhood. Carnal union is morally legitimate only when a definitive community of life between a man and woman has been established. Human love does not tolerate "trial marriages". It demands a total and definitive gift of persons to one another.

Husband and wife have to share the same house; with cohabitation the marriage is presumed consummatum, unless a proof of the contrary is produced.

Sexual intercourse is termed the Marriage debt. This refers to the idea that Marriage is a contract where each party assumes total control of the other's body. At almost any time, within reason, a partner's asking for the fulfilment of that debt must be satisfied. Like any repayment of a debt, when done with the right intention and circumstances sexual intercourse is a meritorious act, gaining graces for the participants.


Marriage's principal qualities are unitas atque indissolubilitas (Latin for "unique and indissoluble" (is this translationright?)), therefore Catholicism absolutely refuses divorce (voluntary termination of the marriage), but canon law recognises a few cases in which it is permitted, i.e.: violence (even psychological), error and (most frequently) non-consummation (ratum et non consummatum) - absence of sexual intercourse). Apart from these exceptions (which must be proved beyond all doubt), divorce is practically non-existent in the Catholic mentality; once a couple weds, there is no way to dissolve the marriage. The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law.

A loophole was developed in order to work around this prohibition, so that a couple could effect what amounted to a divorce if they could prove that their marriage was invalid in the first place; this technique was known as an annullment. Annullments are processed by a special tribunal, the Sacra Rota (an organ of Roman curia) and the percentage granted is statistically very low.

Today Catholics in the U.S. can so easily attain annullments, for a modest to substantial donation, that it is considered de facto divorce. This is not however what is still stressed by Vatican, that officially always declares a total, absolute denial of consent; moreover, it would evidently be quite difficult to find a theological justification for the dimunition of a sacrament's value. (I think that sentence wants rewriting, but I can't quite work out what it's supposed to mean) As for civil effects of the religious marriage, in January 2002 a declaration by Pope John Paul II made it clear that Catholic civil lawyers and judges must refuse to take divorce cases [1] and must avoid getting involved at any level in any cooperation with divorce, however indirect.

It has been admitted that civil divorce could be allowed in special cases, eg if it represents the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance. This position indeed might not be completely reflecting the effective position of the Holy See, and seems more related to special individual cases, rather than a possible escamotage: even if the Church has always denied any valuable content for the civil marriage, a divorce remains a divorce, a grave offense against the natural law, and the practice is not at all welcomed by the Church, even when regarding civil aspects only. Divorce is considered immoral "also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society". Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery.

A divorcee (unless his/her marriage was annulled by Sacra Rota) cannot be allowed to receive the Holy Communion; a few priests that volountarily had allowed divorcees to receive it, were also suspended a divinis (forbidden to celebrate mass and suspended from clerical duties). This does not imply that divorcees are put out of the community, on the contrary in recent times an increasing attention is given them, but certain limits will remain unaltered.

It has to be noted that effectively the canon law strictly requires that spouses and celebrating priest deeply verify the opportunity of each marriage before it is celebrated. This is meant as a means to avoid enforcing those causes that might later lead to an unsatisfactory marital life (and a separation). Pre-marriage courses have to be followed by the spouses, in order to verify the potential affinities for a future common life, and a certain time is ordinarily required between the request and the celebration, so to allow a time delay clearly intended for the purpose of suggesting a reflection on the real reciprocal intentions.

Other issues

Another increasing attention is instead severely tributed to marriages with one of spouses belonging to another religion (so-called "mixed-marriages"): these are evidently not welcome, since the letter of the Canon law expressely defines the marriage as a "contract" between baptised spouses. Still, a marriage between non baptised spouses is called legitimum when validly celebrated, but it is really not encouraged.

Polygamy is described as "not in accord with the moral law". Conjugal communion is radically contradicted by polygamy; this, in fact, directly negates the plan of God which was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive." Catholic teaching holds that even the Patriarchs were breaking the natural law with their polygamy, although God created an exception for them.

Information on Catholic annullments - Diocese of San Jose Annulment Tribunal - Catholic divorce - Catholic Familyland - In Vatican website, catechism contents about marriage and divorce

View of Orthodox Christians

In Eastern Orthodoxy, marriage is also treated as a sacrament, and as an ordination, and (like all ordinations) like a martyrdom, as each spouse learns to die to himself or herself for the sake of the other. Like all ordinations, it is viewed as revealing and sealing the relationship that has formed between the couple. In addition, marriage is an icon or image of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church. This somewhat akin to the Old Testament prophets' use of marriage as an analogy to describe the relationship between God and Israel. Divorce is discouraged, but allowed, in this case to acknowledge that the relationship no longer exists. A priest or deacon is not permitted to remarry and also remain a priest or deacon, whether they have been divorced or widowed. (Bishops are always celibate.) A lay member may obtain permission to remarry under the counsel of a priest, but the ceremony and prayers would be different, less joyful and more sobre and sombre.

Overall, there is a far less legislative approach regarding married life than in Roman Catholilcism.

View of Protestant Christians

Protestant denominations tend to have their own individually applicable doctrines, which represent only the churches in communion with one another. However, some beliefs are typical of almost all Protestants. And, there are intra-denominational and cross-denominational movements, within which the beliefs and practices of adherents are more narrowly defined.

Protestants typically acknowledge a difference between a sacrament (Baptism and Communion), and all other ordinances of God by which the favor of God is shown to men. Marriage, for example, is held to be ordained by God for the union between a man and a woman, according to all but an exceptional few Protestant denominations. This is made clear as found in the teaching of the Bible in the book of Genesis 1:24 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one in flesh." This passage is also seen in the book of Mathew chapter nineteen. Nearly all official definitions of faith and practice, in Protestant denominations where such definitions exist, hold that the companionship of Christian marriage is intended by God's design for producing children, and thus through multiplication subduing the earth. Evangelical Protestants are likely to adhere to these biblical views.

Most Protestants are less likely to hold a negative view of birth control and many see sexual pleasure within marriage as a gift of God.

The liberal viewpoint, which may permit homosexual marriage and even extra-marital sex, is gaining some strength in a few of the mainline Protestant denominations.

See Also:

More on the Evangelical Protestant View

In addition to the limitations on who may marry (discussed above), Evangelicals take a strict view of the nature of
marriage. For Evangelicals, marriage is the only appropriate channel for sexual expression and divorce is permissible, if at all, only in very specific circumstances. Marriage is seen as a solemn covenant between the couple and God. The man is considered to be the servant-leader of the household and his wife is expected to submit to him. This is, however, in the context that a husband is expected to protect and care for his wife and put her needs before his own. These principles reflect the concept that Christ is the head of the Church, or those who call themselves His followers, and loves her even to the point of dying for her.

More on the Liberal Protestant View

Theological liberals, almost by definition, give a great deal of consideration to cultural norms. In the so-called "western world", the primary place where liberal Protestantism is found, pre-marital sex, homosexuality and divorce are increasingly becoming the norm and so liberal Protestants have become increasingly accepting of these practices. While liberals view divorce as regrettable, they generally do not believe it to be sinful. Likewise, pre-marital sex may be considered to be unwise, but since it is not unusual it is often considered to be acceptable. Since the rise of feminism liberals also generally reject any claim of male headship and see the husband and wife as an equal team.

View of non-Protestant, non-Catholic Christians

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church; see also Mormon), "Eternal Marriage" is a sacred covenant between a man, a woman and God performed by a priesthood authority in the temples of the Church. Eternal Marriage is legally recognized, but unlike other civil marriages, Eternal Marriage is intended to continue into the afterlife after the resurrection if the man and woman do not break their covenants. Eternally married couples are often referred to as being "sealed" to each other. Sealed couples who keep their covenants are also promised to have their posterity sealed to them in the after life. Thus, the slogan of the LDS Church: "families are forever". The LDS Church encourages its members to be in good standing with it so that they may marry in the temple. "Cancellation of a sealing", sometimes incorrectly called a "temple divorce", is uncommon and is granted only by the highest authority in the Church. Civil divorce and marriage outside the temple is somewhat of a stigma in the Latter-day Saint culture although currently the Church itself directs its local leaders not to advise members about divorce one way or another.

(please insert other denominational views here)
A helpful essay on the Christian view of meaning and permaence of Marriage.
Also see the entry on Religious aspects of marriage for all religions.