This series of ti morceaux are exploring the “Why?” of marital invalidity, that is, we’re exploring various grounds for marital invalidity which the Diocesan Tribunal looks for in its evaluations. We’ve especially been noting those consensual defects that can result in an invalid – sometimes called “null” – marriage.
Already mentioned are the three traditional “exclusions” from consent that invalidate: of children, of fidelity, and of indissolubility. They really are ancient in origin: St. Augustine (A.D. 354-430) formulated the classic understanding of how “these nuptial goods are the objects of our love: offspring, fidelity, the unbreakable bond... Let these be praised in marriage.”
Yet in the last two centuries especially the Church has come to the awareness that other deliberate rejections of certain elements within matrimony also can and do invalidate. One that is rather commonsense (but not infrequent, sadly) is what’s known as the bonum coniugum – the “good of the spouses.” When marrying, a spouse must not exclude this as an object of consent, or the apparent marriage will not be a valid one, no matter how proper it might be in every other way.
The unfortunate thing is that, nowadays especially, people often seek to marry in an attempt to attain personal fulfillment or happiness. This isn’t a bad motive or hope, but it’s not enough. Rarely, every now and then, someone marries solely to make the other person happy, even if it makes oneself miserable! This too is not enough (and usually indicates some kind of infatuation bordering on mental illness!). One has to intend the mutual good of both self and spouse, together. “We” is not the same and “you and me”: the spouses’ common benefit, and especially advancement in holiness, and not just in material contentment or emotional serenity is supposed to be an object of matrimony.
To do this does mean an irrevocable commitment to what’s called oblative (that is, sacrificial) love. Since a couple’s mutual benefit is superior to each party’s personal desires or preferences – and indeed demands a willingness to prioritize the marriage ahead of one’s personal wants and needs – extreme selfishness or even abuse is usually a good indicator that mutual good was really absent from consent.
Like I said in the last morceau, nobody has an absolute “right” to be fulfilled or personally happy in this world. But people mistakenly think so. Today’s awful “divorce-mentality” often prompts too many people to be more self-indulgent than generous.