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United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


Catechism of the Catholic Church

Second Vatican Council

Pope Francis

Major documents:
Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (Nov 24, 2013)

  • “The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensible contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple. As the French bishops have taught, it is not born ‘of loving sentiment, ephemeral by definition, but from the depth of the obligation assumed by the spouses who accept to enter a total communion of life.’”

Encyclical Lumen Fidei (2013)

  • “The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family. I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage. This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan.”

Various addresses and homilies about marriage:

Address of Pope Francis to the Extraordinary Consistory (February 20, 2014)

  • “During these days, we will reflect in particular on the family, which is the fundamental cell of society. From the beginning the Creator blessed man and woman so that they might be fruitful and multiply, and so the family then is an image of the Triune God in the world.”

Address to the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Poland on their Ad Limina Visit (February 7, 2014)

  • “First of all, in the area of regular pastoral care, I would like to focus your attention on the family, ‘the fundamental cell of society’, ‘where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children’ (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, n. 66). Today however marriage is often considered a form of emotional gratification that can be formed in any way and be modified according to the sensibilities of the individual (cf. ibid.).”

Address to participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family (October 25, 2013)

  • “The second point: the family is founded on marriage. Through their free and faithful act of love, Christian spouses testify to the fact that marriage, insofar as it is a sacrament, is the foundation of the family and strengthens spousal union and the couple’s mutual gift of self. It is as though matrimony were first a human sacrament, where the person discovers himself, understands himself in relation to others and in a relationship of love which is capable of receiving and giving. Spousal and familial love also clearly reveals the vocation of the person to love in a unique way and forever, and that the trials, sacrifices and crises of couples as well as of the family as a whole represent pathways for growth in goodness, truth and beauty. In marriage we give ourselves completely without calculation or reserve, sharing everything, gifts and hardship, trusting in God’s Providence.”

Pastoral Visit to Assisi

  • Meeting with the Young People of Umbria (October 4, 2013)
    • “What is marriage? It is a true and authentic vocation, as are the priesthood and the religious life. Two Christians who marry have recognized the call of the Lord in their own love story, the vocation to form one flesh and one life from two, male and female. And the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony envelops this love in the grace of God, it roots it in God himself. By this gift, and by the certainty of this call, you can continue on assured; you have nothing to fear; you can face everything together!”

Apostolic Journey to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day (July 22-29, 2013)

  • Address to the Bishops of Brazil (July 28, 2013)
    • “It is very important to reaffirm the family, which remains the essential cell of society and the Church.”
  • Address to World Youth Day Volunteers, Brazil (July 28, 2013)
    • “Today, there are those who say that marriage is out of fashion. … They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘for ever’, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries.”
  • Interview on Radio Catedral, Brazil (July 27, 2013)
    • “The family is important, and it is necessary for the survival of humanity. Without the family, the cultural survival of the human race would be at risk.”
  • Angelus, Brazil (July 26, 2013)
    • “How precious is the family as the privileged place for transmitting the faith!”
  • Address to Community of Varginha (Manguinhos), Brazil (July 25, 2013)
    • “There is neither real promotion of the common good nor real human development when there is ignorance of the fundamental pillars that govern a nation, its non-material goods…[such as] the family, the foundation of coexistence and a remedy against social fragmentation.”

Pope Benedict XVI

  • For a compilation of selections form Pope Benedict’s teachings on marriage and family, see Family (USCCB, 2009)

Major documents:

  • Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini(2010)
    • “In the face of widespread confusion in the sphere of affectivity, and the rise of ways of thinking which trivialize the human body and sexual differentiation, the word of God re-affirms the original goodness of the human being, created as man and woman called to a love which is faithful, reciprocal and fruitful.”
  • Encyclical Caritas in veritate (2009): see nos. 15, 44, and 51 (on the need for a “human ecology”)
  • Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (2007) : see nos. 27-29, “The Eucharist and Matrimony.”

Various addresses and homilies about marriage:

  • General Audience (Ash Wednesday: February 13, 2013)
    • “The trials to which society today subjects Christians are indeed numerous and affect their personal and social life. It is far from easy to be faithful to Christian marriage…The temptation to set faith aside is always present and conversion becomes a response to God that must be strengthened several times in life.”
  • Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace (January 1, 2013)
    • “There is also a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman…These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to humanity.”
  • Address on the Occasion of Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia (Dec. 21, 2012)
    • “According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. … The defense of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears.”
  • Homily for the Opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization (Oct. 7, 2012)
    • “Matrimony is a Gospel in itself, a Good News for the world of today, especially the dechristianized world. The union of a man and a woman, their becoming “one flesh” in charity, in fruitful and indissoluble love, is a sign that speaks of God with a force and an eloquence.”
  • Address to Participants in the Meeting of the Christian/Centrist Democrat International(Sept. 22, 2012)
    • “The commitment to respecting life in all its phases from conception to natural death…is, in fact, interwoven with respecting marriage as an indissoluble union between a man and a woman and, in its turn, as the foundation for the community of family life.”
  • Homily at closing mass of 7th World Meeting of Families in Milan(June 3, 2012)
    • “God created us male and female, equal in dignity, but also with respective and complementary characteristics, so that the two might be a gift for each other, might value each other and might bring into being a community of love and life.”
  • Homily in Santiago de Cuba during Apostolic Journey to Mexico and Cuba(March 26, 2012)
    • “In his loving plan, from the beginning of creation, God has entrusted to the family founded on matrimony the most lofty mission of being the fundamental cell of society and an authentic domestic church.”
  • Address to Bishops of the United States of American from Region VIII on their “Ad Limina” Visit (March 9, 2012)
    • “Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage. Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.”
  • Address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See (January 9, 2012)
    • “In addition to a clear goal, that of leading young people to a full knowledge of reality and thus of truth, education needs settings. Among these, pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman. This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself. The family unit is fundamental for the educational process and for the development both of individuals and States; hence there is a need for policies which promote the family and aid social cohesion and dialogue. It is in the family that we become open to the world and to life and, as I pointed out during my visit to Croatia, ‘openness to life is a sign of openness to the future’.”
  • Address to Engaged Couples(September 11, 2011)
    • “Dear friends, all human love is a sign of the eternal Love that created us and whose grace sanctifies the decision made by a man and a woman to give each other reciprocal life in marriage. Live the period of your engagement in the trusting expectation of this gift.”
  • Prayer Vigil at World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain(August 20, 2011)
    • “The Lord calls many people to marriage, in which a man and a woman, in becoming one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24), find fulfillment in a profound life of communion. It is a prospect that is both bright and demanding. It is a project for true love which is daily renewed and deepened by sharing joys and sorrows, one marked by a complete self-giving.”
  • Address to Participants in the Meeting Promoted by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family(May 13, 2011)
    • “The Fall is not the last word about the body in salvation history…The power of sin is not capable of obliterating the original language of the body, the blessing of life that God continues to offer when a man and woman are joined in one flesh. The family: this is the place where the theology of the body and the theology of love are interwoven.”
    • “Chastity…is not a ‘no’ to the pleasures and joys of life, but a great ‘yes’ to love as a profound communication between persons, a communication that requires time and respect as they journey together toward fullness and as a love that becomes capable of generating life and of generously welcoming the new life that is born.”
  • Address to New Ambassador of Spain to the Holy See(April 16, 2011)
    • “In her concern for all human beings, in all their dimensions, the Church keeps watch over their fundamental rights in frank dialogue with all who help to make them effective and not to restrict them. . . . She supervises protection and aid to the family, and supports financial, social and juridical measures, so that the man and woman who contract marriage and form a family may have the necessary support to fulfil [sic] their mission of being a shrine of love and life.”
  • Address to the Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church on their “ad limina” visit(April 7, 2011)
    • “A privileged expression of sharing in the divine life is through sacramental marriage and family life. . . . Have your families look to the Lord and his saving word for a complete and truly positive vision of life and marital relations, so necessary for the good of the whole human family.”
  • Message on the occasion of a gathering of Latin American and Caribbean bishops responsible for the pastoral care of life and families (March 28, 2o11)
    • “No effort is therefore wasted in promoting anything that can help to ensure that each family, founded on the indissoluble union between a man and a woman, accomplishes its mission of being a living cell of society, a nursery of virtues, a school of constructive and peaceful coexistence, an instrument of harmony and a privileged environment in which human life is welcomed and protected, joyfully and responsibly, from its beginning until its natural end.”
  • Message to bishops of Brazil(Feb. 16, 2011)
    • “”The first ecology that is in need of defence [sic] is ‘human ecology.’ …Without clearly defending human life, from conception until natural death; without defending the family, based on marriage between a man and a woman…we could never speak of an authentic defence [sic] of the environment.”
  • Address to new Austrian Ambassador(Feb. 3, 2011)
    • “The family occupies a place in society that concerns the foundations of human life. The social order finds essential support in the spousal union of a man and a woman which is also oriented to procreation. For this reason marriage and the family also require the special protection of the State.”
  • Address to Tribunal of the Roman Rota(Jan. 22, 2011)
    • “The right to contract marriage presupposes that the persons can and intends to celebrate it truly, that is, in the truth of its essence as the Church teaches it. No one can claim the right to a nuptial ceremony. Indeed the ius connubii [right to marry] refers to the right to celebrate an authentic marriage.”
  • Address to Administrators of Rome for the Traditional New Year’s Greeting(Jan. 14, 2011)
    • “The original cell of society is the family, founded on the marriage of a man and a woman. It is in the family that children learn the human and Christian values which enable them to have a constructive and peaceful coexistence. It is in the family that they learn solidarity between the generations, respect for rules, forgiveness and how to welcome others.”
  • Remarks upon receiving the new Hungarian ambassador(Dec. 2, 2010)
    • “Marriage and the family constitute a decisive foundation for the healthy development of civil society, countries and peoples. Marriage as a basic form of ordering the relationship between a man and a woman and, at the same time, as a founding cell of the State community has continued to be modelled [sic] on biblical faith.”
  • Homily at the Church of the Sagrada Familia, Spain(Nov. 7, 2010)
    • “The generous and indissoluble love of a man and a woman is the effective context and foundation of human life in its gestation, birth, grown and natural end. Only where love and faithfulness are present can true freedom come to birth and endure. . . . For this reason the Church…gives its support to everything that would promote the natural order in the sphere of the institution of the family.”
  • Address during a visit to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain(Nov. 6, 2010)
    • “Truth and freedom are closely and necessarily related. Honestly seeking and aspiring to truth is the condition of authentic freedom. One cannot live without the other.”
  • Address to families and young people during a Pastoral Visit to Palermo(Oct. 3, 2010)
    • “The family is fundamental because that is where the first awareness of the meaning of life germinates in the human soul. It germinates in the relationship with the mother and with the father, who are not the masters of their children’s lives but are God’s primary collaborators in the transmission of life and faith.”
  • Address to New Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Holy See(Sept. 13, 2010)
    • “The Church cannot approve legislative initiatives that entail a re-evaluation of alternative models to marriage and family life.”
  • Homily during Celebration of the Word with Social Pastoral Care Organizations, Fátima, Portugal(May 13, 2010)
    • “Initiatives aimed at protecting the essential and primary values of life, beginning at conception, and of the family based on the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, help to respond to some of today’s most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good. Such initiatives represent, alongside numerous other forms of commitment, essential elements in the building of the civilization of love.”
  • Address to Roman Curia(December 22, 2008)
    • “If the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and demands that this order of creation be respected, this is not some antiquated metaphysics. What is involved here is faith in the Creator and a readiness to listen to the ‘language’ of creation. To disregard this would be the self-destruction of man himself, and hence the destruction of God’s own work.”
  • Address to Participants in the Forum of Family Associations(May 16, 2008)
    • “The truth about marriage and the family is deeply rooted in the truth about the human being and comes to fulfilment [sic] in salvation history, at whose heart lie the words: ‘God loves his people’. Indeed, biblical revelation is above all an expression of a love story, the story of God’s Covenant with humankind. This is why the story of the union of life and love between a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage was used by God as a symbol of salvation history.”
  • Address to the Participants in the International Convention on the Theme “Woman and Man, the Humanum in its Entirety(February 9, 2008)
    • Released on the 20th anniversary of John Paul II’s encyclical Mulieris Dignitatem
    • “God entrusts to women and men, according to their respective capacities, a specific vocation and mission in the Church and in the world. Here I am thinking of the family, a community of love open to life, the fundamental cell of society. In it the woman and the man, thanks to the gift of maternity and paternity, together carry out an irreplaceable role in regard to life. Children from their conception have the right to be able to count on their father and mother to take care of them and to accompany their growth.”
  • Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace (January 1, 2008) : see nos. 2-5
    • Theme: “The human family, a community of peace”
    • “The family is the first and indispensable teacher of peace.”
    • “Everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of a new life, everything that obstructs its right to be primarily responsible for the education of its children, constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace.”
  • Angelus(February 4, 2007)
    • “The family founded on marriage is the natural environment in which to bear and raise children and thereby guarantee the future of all of humanity.”
  • Address to the Members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota(January 27, 2007)
    • “Marriage has a truth of its own – that is, the human knowledge, illumined by the Word of God, of the sexually different reality of the man and of the woman with their profound needs for complementarity, definitive self-giving and exclusivity – to whose discovery and deepening reason and faith harmoniously contribute.”
  • Address to the Member of the Roman Curia at the Traditional Exchange of Christmas Greetings(December 22, 2006)
    • “The union of a man and a woman is being put on par with the pairing of two people of the same sex, and tacitly confirms those fallacious theories that remove from the human person all the importance of masculinity and femininity, as though it were a question of the purely biological factor. Such theories hold that man – that is, his intellect and his desire – would decide autonomously what he is or what he is not. In this, corporeity is scorned, with the consequence that the human being, in seeking to be emancipated from his body – the ‘biological sphere’ – ends by destroying himself.”
  • Address at the Conclusion of a meeting with the Bishops of Switzerland(November 9, 2006)
    • “The awareness that sexuality, eros and marriage as a union between a man and a woman go together – ‘and they become one flesh’ (Gn 2:24) – this knowledge is growing weaker and weaker; every type of bond seems entirely normal – they represent a sort of overall morality of non-discrimination and a form of freedom due to man.”
  • Address to Participants in the Fourth National Ecclesial Convention in Verona(October 19, 2006)
    • “It is also necessary to face, with equal determination and clear policies the risks of political and legislative choices that contradict fundamental values and anthropological principles and ethics rooted in the nature of the human being, in particular, regarding…the promotion of the family founded on marriage, avoiding the introduction in the public order of other forms of union that would contribute to destabilizing it, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable role in society.”
  • Address during the Vigil of Prayer on the Occasion of the Fifth World Meeting of Families in Valencia, Spain(July 8, 2006)
    • “To promote the values of marriage does not stand in the way of fully experiencing the happiness that man and women encounter in their mutual love. Christian faith and ethics are not meant to stifle love, but to make it healthier, stronger and more truly free.”
  • Address to Participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family(May 13, 2006)
    • “The family, founded on marriage, is the ‘patrimony of humanity’, a fundamental social institution; it is the vital cell and pillar of society and this concerns believers and non-believers alike. It is a reality that all States should hold in the highest regard because, as John Paul II like to repeat, ‘the future of humanity passes by way of the family’ [Familiaris Consortio, 86].”
  • Address to Members of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family on the 25th Anniversary of its Foundation(May 11, 2006)
    • “The sexual difference that distinguishes the male from the female body is not a mere biological factor but has a far deeper significance. It expresses that form of love with which man and woman, by becoming one flesh, as Sacred Scripture says, can achieve an authentic communion of people open to the transmission of life who thus cooperate with God in the procreation of new human beings.”
    • “Marriage and the family as rooted in the inmost nucleus of the truth about man and his destiny.”
  • Encounter with the Youth of Rome in Preparation for the 21st World Youth Day(April 6, 2006)
    • “Marriage is this following the other in love, thus becoming one existence, one flesh, therefore inseparable; a new life that is born from this communion of love that unites and thus also creates the future.”
  • Address to the Members of the European People’s Party on the Occasion of the Study Days on Europe(March 30, 2006)
    • “As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her intervention in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge closely today…Recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family – as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage – and its defence [sic] from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization.”
  • Address to Participants in the Ecclesial Diocesan Convention of Rome(June 6, 2005)
    • Highly Recommended
    • Topics: freedom as saying ‘yes’, the body as theology, sacramental marriage raises natural marriage to its fullest human expression

Pope John Paul II

Major documents:

Various addresses and homilies about marriage:

  • Homily during the Jubilee of Families(October 15, 2000) : see nos. 2, 3
    • Topics: persons as relational, marital communion requires body and soul
  • See also John Paul II’s Wednesday audiences (Sept. 5, 1979 – Nov. 28, 1984) collectively known as “the theology of the body.” Available online at EWTN’s website and at the Vatican website(includes all of John Paul II’s audiences).
    • The most recent critical English translation is Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, trans. Michael Waldstein (Boston: Pauline Books & Media), 2006.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith


Pontifical Council for the Family

Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (2004)

  • See nos. 144-148, The Equal Dignity of All People and the “Equality in Difference” between Man and Woman
  • See nos. 209-254, Marriage and Family
  • Importance of the family for the person (no. 212)
  • Importance of the family for society (nos. 213-214)
  • Marriage as the foundation of the family (nos. 215-218)
  • Sexual identity, difference, and complementarity (no. 224)
  • Homosexual unions (nos. 228-229)

Español: Compendio de la Doctrina Social de la Iglesia (2005)

  • Ve nos. 144-148, La igual dignidad de todas las personas
  • Ve nos. 209-254, La familia, Célula vital de la sociedad
  • La importancia de la familia para la persona (no. 212)
  • La importancia de la familia para la sociedad (nos. 213-214)
  • El matrimonio, fundamento de la familia (nos. 215-218)
  • La identidad sexual, la diferencia, y la complementariedad (no. 224)
  • Las uniones homosexuales (nos. 228-229)

Select State Catholic Conference Statements on Marriage