Business law gives us a good paradigm to understand marriage. More specifically what marriage is and what it isn’t.

To start with we must understand about the differences between a corporation and a partnership. Both a corporation and a partnership are very specific, and very different, legal relationships. They are not interchangeable terms. A corporation is considered almost as a fictional person. Its lifetime is perpetual, unless legally ended. Profits and losses are accounted to the corporation, not its members. That means, among other things, that members of a corporation have what is called “limited liability.” That is, the individual members of a corporation can not be forced to pay the debts of that corporation, should it go bankrupt. A partnership, on the other hand, is a business arrangement in which partners share with each other the profits or losses.1

If you enter into a business relationship that creates a legal entity which incurs any profit or loss, has a perpetual lifetime, and gives you limited liability, then you have entered into a corporation. You may call it a partnership, you may refer to other members of this relationship as partners, but it is not a partnership, it is in fact a corporation.

This lengthy discussion of business law, of course, brings us back to marriage. Some people are creating arrangements for themselves and calling such relationships “marriage”, even though they are not. What is marriage? The Church, of course, gives us the answer.

Marriage is permanent. A valid and consummated marriage bond can not be broken. If God Himself has joined a man and woman in the sacrament of matrimony, nothing any man can do will break it. Civil divorce does not end a marriage. A marriage is dissolved only with the death of one of the spouses. If a couple goes into a marriage with the idea that they will just try it out for a while, with the option of breaking up later, then that couple has entered into some other arrangement, not a marriage. As our Lord said “Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” Luke 16:18.

Marriage is faithful. “The infinite union of marriage, as a mutual giving of two persons, and the good of the children, demand total fidelity from the spouses” (CCC 1646). To be unfaithful, even with the knowledge or even consent of a spouse, is gravely sinful. “Do not deceive yourselves: no fornicators, idolaters, or adulterers …will inherit God’s kingdom.” (1Cor 6 9:10) If someone enters into a relationship with the idea that the parties are free to seek sexual relationships outside of marriage, then that person has not entered into a marriage. One hesitates to give such a relationship a name, but whatever name one gives it, it is not marriage.

Marriage is open to life. It has been the constant teaching of the Church that “…it is necessary that each and every marriage act remain ordered per se to the procreation of human life….(CCC 2366). Children are a gift and one of the purposes of marriage. To break the procreative from the unitive aspects of the marital act is a distortion of God’s plan, and gravely sinful. If a couple enters into an arrangement thinking that they plan to not have children, then they have not entered into a marriage. It is some other arrangement or relationship, but not a marriage.

Marriage is between one man and one woman. This is really a subset of marriage is faithful. As our Lord said, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one'?” (Mt 19 3-5). Notice He said “a man” and “his wife”. That is singular of each gender. A man can enter into a sexual relationship with another man. That is called sodomy, not marriage. The same is true for a man and several women. That’s called polygamy, not marriage. A woman can enter into a relationship with several men. That’s called polyandry, not marriage. Consult a good dictionary for the definitions of other various relationships.

If you want to enter into a limited liability arrangement, form a corporation. If you want to share the profits or loss of a business enterprise, form a partnership. But if you want to form a permanent, lifelong relationship between one man and one woman, that is faithful and open to life, then you want a marriage.




Published by The Minnesota St. Thomas More Chapter of Catholics United for the Faith, January 2007.