A Covenant marriage mirrors the Covenant relationship of the Judaeo-Christian God of the Bible to His people. It is pregnant with the ideal that His people will accept His Covenant and ongoing guidance in a spirit of Filial Trust and clean hearted orientation to do His will on earth as it is in Heaven. It presumes that both persons entering this obligation have the will, knowledge and capacity to enter into marriage and at a minimum both believe that God permissively accepts the marriage and is willing to bless it. More ideally the couple will understand the marriage to be God’s unique and purposeful will for their lives, a bountiful refuge for offspring and a gift to the larger community.
This therapist understands Covenant marriage as an interdenominational Christian construct defining a mutual consent that presumes both persons intend to enter into a union far beyond a mere contract – extending towards unconditional love and service to each other. This is a marriage with the clear intention of permanence and fidelity that disposes each person to receive the other and nurture children in their purview to live a Holy life and death. The linked article What is the Purpose of Covenant Marriage in the Bible1 provides additional context.
A Sacramental marriage is a Catholic construct applied to the reality of two Baptized persons of the opposite sex who wish to marry in the context of Church authority, teaching and God’s grace, at least one of whom is a Catholic. Both are required to pronounce vows as self directed Baptized ministers of their union that validly meet the criteria of a Covenant Marriage in accordance with form that is recognized by the Catholic Church.1 Many Theologian’s emphasize that those in a Sacramental Marriage must consciously aspire to be Christ to one another.
In essence, all Sacramental Marriages are Covenant Marriages, but not all marriages addressed as a “Covenant Marriage” meet the full criteria of a “Sacramental Union” as defined by Church Doctrine and Cannon Law. In other words, the marriage must be blessed or authorized by the Catholic Church (The Mystical Body of Christ on Earth) or other Rites in Apostolic succession as a precondition for Sacramental validity which remains an inviolable assumption unless one or both persons formally contest the marriage’s validity in a very detailed format to be judged by a tribunal at least a year after a legal divorce. Because a true sacramental marriage is held to be very Sacred and binding, many Pastors and Theologians strongly warn against divorce and express great alarm at the volume of annulment petitions invoked in modern western societies.
While annulments existed early in Church history, they were very rarely invoked until the second half of the 20th century. Consequently in earlier times, many if not most people were either unaware or only scarcely aware of this venue and those that were were in trepidation about involvement with them. For example many know that Thomas More was beheaded by King Henry VIII because he refused to help facilitate an annulment Henry wanted for his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon so he could marry Anne Bolelyn, the sister of Mary Boleyn with whom he was conducting an affair. Ultimately this led to much more persecution of Catholics and the creation of the Church of England in opposition to the Catholic Church he once attended with visible dedication.
EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE AND DISCERNMENT OF GOD’S WILL PERTAINING TO MARRIAGE IN YOUR SITUATION
In an effort to speak to Protestant and Catholic Christians in a very general sense, the following guidelines are proposed in a region where the percentage of Catholics is small. In some instances a couple presumably “married” with inadequate foundation may need to examine their seemingly defective or less than lawful union in light of a Covenant marriage and upon discerning that God permits or encourages the relationship, embark on a path of being able to worthily pronounce vows invoking a Covenant marriage (Sacramental Marriage for Catholics).
In an age filled with so many irregular, allegedly putative and otherwise complex marriage and family situations, often with tragic histories, estrangements and much dysfunction, conscientious therapists with a pastoral orientation are faced with formidable challenges in many categories. Most cases involve children, multiple generations, complex histories and many issues beyond the scope of this brief article. Some unions are merely common law, others invoked within a brief courthouse proceeding and others in a Church of some kind. Intergenerational history of commitment(s), quality of fidelity and intentions, levels of capacity, knowledge, experience, religious history, nature of adversity, current pressures and other relevant material affect how a conscience is formed as well as how it is exercised when determining one’s orientation towards marriage and family. Ultimately each person must render an account of his or her life to God in an individualized judgement which will assess the conditions of one’s conscience and capacity at various stages of life.
Concepts of sin as well as recognition of conventional religious prohibitions / allowances in the Bible and Church teachings must be weighed in responsible, prayerful ways because decisions involving marriage and family are very consequential for both time and eternity. A prayerful disposition and holy fear of God is essential in determining how to move forward when a person or family is in turmoil or challenging situations. Prayerful discernment about how to move forward generally involve an effort to integrate relevant Christian teachings as one understands them together with prayerful attention to the guidance of conscience2 in submission to God.
1 What is the Purpose of Covenant Marriage in the Bible
2 Contemporary Attention to Conscience also known as Primacy of Conscience is often associated with Thomistic writings and careful academic analysis (i.e. St. Thomas Aquinas on Conscience: Cambridge University Press) and modern pastoral interpretations (i.e. Two Wings To God: Rob Agnelli Blog and Understanding Conscience from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops).
Marriage Concepts is written by Richard Waguespack Jr., a Catholic mental health practitioner serving a broader population of mostly Protestant Christians for whom the construct of Covenant marriage is supplied as a working reference for understanding the spirit, goals, functions and processes of marriage, family and the responsibilities associated with these special relationships. At least three states have created a secular legal framework for Covenant Marriage that is a different category from standard legal marriage. It is anticipated that the notorious “Respect for Marriage Act” (2022-23 ) rejecting traditional religious freedoms will rekindle interest in defining legal constructs for Covenant Marriage that respect religious freedoms of pastors and Christian denominations to uphold an exclusive option for heterosexual couples.
If you would like to consider an appointment with Richard feel free to supply log in user name and password in order examine Intake Forms. If you feel motivated to continue, complete the intake(s) and/or call 580-500-8050.
– Private Correspondence –
Last Revision 3/3/23