(This is the post where it becomes evident that I once considered a career in Canon Law- the legal governance of the Catholic Church. Enjoy.)
It has come to my attention that there are many people, even members of the clergy, who do not know what the Catholic Church teaches about the validity of marriage with regards to infertility. This is a huge deal! How are we supposed to grow awareness and compassion among Catholics when even some of our priests don’t know if our marriages count? Yikes.
So, is a marriage suffering infertility still valid? YES. Of course.
Here is what you need to know:
Infertility has no bearing whatsoever on the validity of the Sacrament of Marriage. It is neither here nor there. Marriage is not only about children. It is also about the good of the spouses. (See Exhibit A.)
If perfect fertility were a requirement for marriage, then women past menopause wouldn’t be permitted to marry. Hysterectomies would come with annulment proceedings. Couples found infertile would be sent to the tribunals. Pre-marital fertility testing would be required. All kinds of ridiculous pandemonium would ensue.
This sounds crazy because it IS. We know from our good common sense that marriage is about more than fertility, or lack thereof.
So what DOES the Catholic Church officially teach about marriage with regards to physical infertility? The Code of Canon Law (the official “rule book”) states this clearly:
“Sterility neither prohibits nor nullifies marriage, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 1098″ –Canon 1084.3.
And that Canon 1098 is all about being open and honest with your intended spouse:
“A person contracts invalidly who enters into a marriage deceived by malice, perpetrated to obtain consent, concerning some quality of the other partner which by its very nature can gravely disturb the partnership of conjugal life.”
In other words, the ONLY way that infertility would POSSIBLY become grounds for annulment is if you intentionally LIED about it and hid it from your spouse prior to marriage. Lying and deceit are never cool.
Bottom line: If you discovered infertility after marriage, or if knew you were infertile ahead of marriage (like me) and you were perfectly open and honest with your dearly beloved, your marriage is 100% valid, licit, and recognized before God and the Church.
And, much more beautifully, Pope Benedict XVI put it this way:
“I would like to remind the couples who are experiencing the condition of infertility, that their vocation to marriage is no less because of this. Spouses, for their own baptismal and marriage vocation, are called to cooperate with God in the creation of a new humanity. The vocation to love, in fact, is a vocation to the gift of self and this is a possibility that no organic condition can prevent. There, where science has not yet found an answer, the answer that gives light comes from Christ”.