Who Invented Marriage?

Interview With Canonist Juan Ignacio Bañares

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PAMPLONA, Spain, JUNE 27, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Who invented marriage? Can the law “meddle” with something as personal as marriage?

These are some of the questions answered in this interview with ZENIT by Father Juan Ignacio Bañares Parera, a canon lawyer from the University of Navarre.

Father Bañares has just written a book on “The Conjugal Dimension of the Person: From Anthropology to Law,” published by Rialp and the Library of the Institute of Sciences for the Family of the University of Navarre, of which he is a director.

Q: What is the conjugal dimension of a person?

Father Bañares: The human person exists fashioned as a feminine or masculine person. Both are persons, but they are so in a different way.

Despite the popular expression “to find my other half,” woman and man are not “halves of anything”: because a half is only half of something; because half is identical to the other half; and because half of anything does not interact with the other half: it contributes more of the same.

Instead, this differentiation between a feminine and masculine person, which is established in the very structure of the personal being, comprises the whole person — in the physical, psychic and spiritual dimension — and implies a potential of enrichment for each one, which constitutes complementarity.

From whence arises the possibility to communicate, to love, and to give oneself to the other specifically “insofar as man or woman,” that is, in what is conjugable.

We might call the character or generic dimension of being woman or man “spousalness,” as a dimension that soaks the whole personal structure of the human being, and conjugal dimension the possibility that this complementarity offers to constitute oneself woman or man in a union in nature: the conjugal partnership. United here are the truth of nature, the sovereign strength of freedom and the grandeur of the ends.

Q: According to the book, a person is led naturally to marriage. But there are other options in life, such as yours, the priesthood. Can you explain this?

Father Bañares: I would prefer to say, not that a “person is led naturally to marriage,” but that the person is naturally structured to be able to enter marriage: the anthropological assumptions exist in all human persons.

However, although marriage is “possible” for all, it is up to each one to decide freely to exercise this fundamental right of the citizen and faithful.

In turn, the decision to remain single can have many reasons, some very worthy and of great nobility. But I understand that, not only the priesthood, but all apostolic celibacy is neither a form of bachelorhood — no matter how worthy the latter may be — nor an initiative of the individual: It is always a gift of God and a response of man.

In this connection, and in keeping with John Paul II’s thought, it can be said that in celibacy as a vocation, man or woman gives him/herself totally to God, also according to the structure of his masculinity or her femininity. So, the spousal dimension of the human being can be the basis for making oneself a gift to God through the gift to the other — and that is to constitute the conjugality, marriage — or giving oneself directly to God, without the mediation of a creature.

Let’s be clear: This does not mean to minimize marriage. On the contrary, it means to underline that marriage is not only an option of two people but the will of God through the other in the personal journey of sanctification and evangelization, and in the contribution to the Church and to civil society.

Q: Who invented marriage?

Father Bañares: Marriage was designed by God’s love. It is offered by the reality of nature, it is constituted by the freedom of the man and woman and it is “received and witnessed” by society, as an inherent relationship of justice.

Q: Can the law “meddle” — these are your words — in something as personal as marriage, you ask in your book, and you argue that it can. Why?

Father Bañares: In fact, it’s not that the law “meddles,” but that marriage has within itself relations of justice.

Conjugality is established in the order of being — one “is” husband, as one “is” father, mother or daughter — but in making a gift of oneself in all the masculine or feminine dimension, the future is being committed. That is, one gives oneself not only for an instant, but for all time.

That, obviously, is the consequence of love, which wills to give itself totally and without drawing back. But at the same time it is a relationship of justice.

After “being” spouses, the conjugal and family behaviors are “due.” Given that the “being” has been given — in that dimension — in view of some ends, the “doing” is equally given, which is the opening proper of the free human being in his historical dimension, in his temporality.

The role of society through the law consists in regulating the exercise of the fundamental right of the person, in recognizing — in an appropriate way — the sovereignty of the spouses, and in protecting the truth of the institution itself.

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