This annotated bibliography includes major church documents on marriage beginning with the Second Vatican Council. Many of these statements are concerned primarily with marriage, while others address it indirectly.
All Vatican/Papal documents available at the Vatican’s website, unless noted.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 369-373, nos. 1601-1666, and nos. 2331-2400. Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2000.
The referenced paragraphs provide a concise summary of church teaching on the unity of man and woman and the purpose of marriage and family.
Pope John Paul II. Code of Canon Law. Canons 1055-1165. January 25, 1983.
An essential starting point for understanding the canonical basis for the church’s teaching on marriage.
Pope John Paul II. The Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches, October 8, 1990. Chapter VII.
The organization of the Oriental code differs from that of the Latin.
Second Vatican Council. Selected passages from the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), nos. 47-52. December 1965.
Key passages include the dignity of marriage, the role of the family, and the duty of society and the Church to support families.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Charter of the Rights of the Family. October 22, 1983.
Addressed to governments, the document presents foundational principles for use in formulating marriage and family policy and legislation.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognitions to Unions Between Homosexual Persons. July 2003.
Topic headings include: the nature of marriage and its inalienable characteristics, statements on the problem of homosexual unions, arguments from reason against legal recognition of homosexual unions, and positions of Catholic politicians with regard to legislation in favor of homosexual unions.
Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Instruction on Mixed Marriages/Matrimonii Sacramentum, March 18, 1966. Apostolic Letter on Mixed Marriages/Matrimonia Mixta, 1970.
Both documents respond to the growing number of ecumenical marriages and offer pastoral ways to support engaged and married couples.
Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation/Donum Vitae. February 22, 1987.
The statement provides strong moral guidance for married couples and those in biomedical research. It reaffirms that procreation must occur in the conjugal act and offers a pastoral response to infertile couples.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by the Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful/Annus Internationalis. Sept. 14, 1994.
Reconfirms the church’s ordinary teaching on marriage, divorce and remarriage and rules out the “internal forum” in lieu of conformity to church teaching.
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism. March 25, 1993. Revision of the Ecumenical Directory, Ad Totam Ecclesiam.
Section four focuses on mixed marriages and pastoral preparation of engaged couples.
Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches. Marriage Between Roman Catholics and Orthodox/Crescens Matrimonium. Feb. 22, 1967.
All Papal documents available at the Vatican website, unless noted.
Pope Benedict XVI. God is Love/Deus caritas est. Dec. 25, 2005.
First encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI. Key sections include the unity of love in creation and in salvation history and the practice of love by the church as a “community of love.”
Pope John Paul II. The Gospel of Life/Evangelium Vitae. March 25, 1995.
Encyclical contrasts the conflict between a culture of life and a culture of death. Authoritative declarations on murder of the innocent, abortion, and euthanasia.
Pope John Paul II. On the Family/Familiaris Consortio. December 15, 1981.
A foundational document on the nature and tasks of the Christian family and the scope of pastoral care needed by families. Describes marriage as a covenant relationship and family as domestic church.Pope John Paul II.
Mulieris Dignitatem/On the Dignity and Vocation of Women. Par. 15. August 15, 1988.
Apostolic letter highlighting the nature and dignity of women, the complementarity of men and women in marriage, and Mary’s essential role in the church.
Pope John Paul II. Letter to Families/Gratissimam Sane. February 2, 1994.
Writing during International Year of the Family, Pope John Paul II reflects upon the communion of persons as the foundation of the civilization of love.
Pope John Paul II. Theology of the Body. Most recent translation: Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body. Translated and introduced by Michael M. Waldstein. Pauline Books and Media, 2006. Earlier translation available at EWTN.
Pope John Paul II offers a compelling theology of sexuality and marriage based on in-depth Scriptural exegesis, especially the book of Genesis. Discusses the original unity of man and woman, St. Paul’s teaching on the human body, the resurrection of the body, virginity for the sake of the kingdom, the sacramentality of marriage and reflections on Humanae Vitae.
Pope Paul VI. On the Regulation of Birth/Humanae Vitae. July 25, 1968.
The authoritative encyclical of Pope Paul VI reconfirming the church’s teaching on the purposes of married love, the gift of fertility, and responsible parenthood.
PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILY
All Pontifical Council for the Family documents available at the Vatican website unless noted.
Enchiridion on the Family: A Compendium on Church Teaching on Family and Life Issues from Vatican II to the Present. Introduction by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo. Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2004.
The most comprehensive English source for documents on marriage, family and life issues. Includes documents from the principal magisterial and pastoral documents on family and life from 1965 to 2003.
“Embryonic Reduction” July 12, 2000.
Statement notes: “The embryonic selection which consists in the voluntary elimination of a human life cannot be justified either on the basis of the so-called principle of the lesser evil, nor in basis of that of double effect.”
Family, Marriage and “De facto Unions” November 21, 2000.
Offers useful guidelines to pastors in urging politicians and lawmakers to protect the dignity and rights of the family based on marriage. Responds to attempts to grant legal status to “de facto” unions.
Preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage, May 13, 1996.
Provides extended commentary and guidelines on the importance of preparation for Christian marriage, the stages of preparation, and the celebration of marriage.
Vademecum for confessors concerning some aspects of the morality of conjugal life, February 12, 1997.
Offers specific recommendations to confessors for married penitents on contraception and related issues.
US BISHOPS’ STATEMENTS
All citations are from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) or the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB). Unless indicated, all are available on the U.S. Bishops’ website.
Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan. November, 2009. In this pastoral letter the U.S. Bishops explain key points about the Church’s teaching on marriage. Available in English and Spanish. Abridged version also available.
Follow the Way of Love: A Pastoral Message to Families On the Occasion of the United Nations 1994 International Year of the Family. November 17, 1993.
This statement affirms the fundamental dignity of the family and offers a compelling description of the domestic church.
Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers about Marriage and Same-Sex Unions, November, 2003.
A cogent summary of church teaching on marriage between a man and woman based on Scripture and tradition. Available in English and Spanish.
Married Love and the Gift of Life, November 14, 2006.
Responds to questions about married love and contraception. Provides a solid review of Natural Family Planning for engaged and married couples.
Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers, 1997.
A compassionate response to families struggling with the homosexuality of a loved one. Available in English and Spanish.
Blessings of Age: A Pastoral Message on Growing Older within the Faith Community, 1999.
Addresses the growing reality of aging in our society and church. Highlights the obligation of all to support seniors.
U. S. Norms for Marriage Preparation (Canon 1067), approved in 2000.
Norms from U.S. Bishops stressing the importance of preparing engaged couples for marriage, based on the Code of Canon Law.
When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women (10th Anniversary Edition), November 12, 2002.
A compassionate presentation on the challenges of domestic abuse, addressed to those who are abused, abusers, and the faith community. Available in English and Spanish. A companion PowerPoint presentation is also available.
Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference. Marriage in the Catholic Church: Frequently Asked Questions. This 20-page booklet provides a well developed introduction to the sacrament of marriage for engaged couples.
Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Documents of this Bishop’s Conference on marriage and family life are available here.
CEM-Conferencia Del Episopado Mexicana. Marriage and family documents in the Latin American region are available here.