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The present study, however, in keeping with the constant teaching of the Church, wishes to demonstrate that the stability and the indissolubility of the union form part of the very logic of the institution that we call marriage, and are sine qua non conditions in order to realize its ends. To this purpose the author examines the Thomistic doctrine of marriage and, among other things, draws attention to its extraordinary present-day relevance: leaving aside arguments or a dogmatic or theological nature, the indissolubility of the conjugal bond can be demonstrated by pure reason. Such a rational process is a fundamental characteristic of the Natural Law, which includes the norm that prohibits the dissolution of marriage.
The author starts from the position that marriage is a society, voluntary in its origin but natural in its ends; firstly he demonstrates that marriage has an institutional nature which gives rise to an immunity from changes made by the contracting parties in the fundamental norms that enable it to achieve its aims; and secondly he examines these ends in detail. The pro-creation of the children, together with their rearing and education, is the principal end of marriage and presupposes a stable permanent union, because it cannot be achieved in the space of a few years. The same can be said of the other end, that which has to do with the other partner: the mutual help and reciprocal love between husband and wife, and which once promised cannot be revoked, in the same way as the full gift of self which the partners made to each other on their wedding day cannot be withdrawn, as it is contrary to the very nature of the gift. And also the good of society demands the stability and permanence of the bond, over and above those examples that, in the many phenomena drawn from social circumstances, represent individual cases and special personal conditions.
The indissolubility derives from the very internal logic of marriage and not from external sources; for this reason, therefore, one speaks of intrinsic indissolubility. And from its rational nature it follows that this norm can be known to all men quite apart from being a revealed truth. It is also worth while pointing out that the natural law that prescribes the indissolubility of marriage should not be considered primary, but rather secondary, natural law. This explains why this law has not always been observed in many cases in the history of mankind (quite apart from considerations of the ontological and psychological insufficiencies of the natural law that weaken its rationality). And it also explains why the natural law needs to be expounded by the Church in the light of revealed truth. One may conclude, with Maritain, that the natural law, nowadays under study again after the excesses of juridical positivism, will not achieve full relevance until the Gospel has penetrated the deepest recesses of the human spirit.
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