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Never Take Your Spouse for Granted, Catholic Bishop Warns in Marriage Awareness Campaign

Credit:SACBC

The Catholic Bishop of South Africa’s Oudtshoorn Diocese has called upon married couples and those contemplating marriage to make a commitment to value their spouses and to stick by the commitment.

Bishop Noel Rucastle who co-facilitated the Thursday, September 9 session of the ongoing marriage awareness campaign of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), noted that marriages today are threatened when people lose respect for their spouses and start taking each other for granted.

“I encourage couples who are married and other people who are planning to get married… just as you make a choice to love your spouse as being an ongoing choice, so should be the choice to never take your partner for granted,” Bishop Rucastle said.

The South African Bishop shared that from his many years of ministering among married couples, he had seen many couples part ways when the respect that once bound them together starts to disappear.

“For many years, before being appointed Bishop, I worked in a marriage tribunal. It is here that I got to see the other side of marriage,” the Local Ordinary of Oudtshoorn said.

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He added, “Tonight, we are having the enthusiasm, the excitement but many times, it is the respect that underscores it all. When the respect is not there unfortunately, the couple starts to go their separate ways.”

Bishop Rucastle further explained that sacrifice also holds marriages together, noting that marriage vows are all about sacrificing oneself for the good of one’s spouse.

“In my experience, I have seen people who think that when it isn’t working anymore, they go and look elsewhere. The beautiful commitment that a couple makes to each other, the vows that they exchange, they all entail sacrifice,” the Bishop said.

The theme of the third Thursday of the SACBC marriage awareness week that has been running since August 22 was, “Marriage as between a man and a woman.”

In his keynote address during the September 9 event, Fr. John Paul Mathebula of the Archdiocese of Pretoria elaborated the meaning of marriage in the context of the Church.

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Marriage, he said, is defined in the Canon Law as a matrimonial covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole life. Such partnership, Fr. Mathebula explained, is for the wellbeing of both parties and they must be open to procreation.

According to the South African Priest, the Church’s definition of marriage locks out other emerging societal constructions of same-sex relationships.

“Marriage is heterosexual as opposed to what we see featuring in the world today where people speak about same-sex unions and questioning why can’t the Church speak about same-sex marriages,” Fr. Mathebula said.

He added, “By virtue of the definition and understanding of marriage, these other understanding of other institutions that try to take on the face of marriage are excluded because of the very fact of marriage being between a man and woman, it should be a heterosexual institution.”

Marriage is also a monogamous institution as opposed to polygamous or polyandrous organization, the South African Priest said.

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This way, marriage is an intimate personal union of a husband and a wife, the member of the Clergy of Pretoria Archdiocese said, and explained, “St. Paul tells the Corinthians ‘Let each man have his own wife and let each woman have her own husband.’”

The setting of one husband and one wife, according to Fr. Mathebula, tends to promote gender equality in society and in marriages.

“The parties (in marriage) themselves equally and mutually surrender themselves through an act of will to one another whereas polyandry or polygamous setups seems to imply the superiority or domination of one party to the other,” he said.

“A marriage between a man and a woman also promotes fidelity,” the Priest said, and explained, “One becomes faithful to their commitment to loving and cherishing the other. They develop a partnership of a whole life; a partnership that should help them to grow.”

In a marriage driven by fidelity, each partner works as much as they can to contribute to the other’s growth. The partners, Fr. Mathebula said, also contribute to the salvation of each other’s souls.

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Such a marriage, the Priest said, reflects the covenant that Christ made with the Church.

The September 9 session was also facilitated by Mrs. Lilly Mbatha who deals with marriage preparation programs in the Catholic Archdiocese of Johannesburg.

In her address, Mrs. Mbatha noted the importance of adequate preparation for people contemplating to get married, noting that rushing into marriage commitments ends in infidelity.

“Marriage is one of the most important decisions you'll ever make,” Mrs. Mbatha said, and added, “We have people who enter into marriage and somewhere in the middle, they find themselves having extramarital relationships. This is because they entered into a marriage without full understanding of what they are getting themselves into.”

“It is important for the Church to prepare our youngsters and to make them understand that before they say I do, to understand it is a long haul. That you can’t go back… Make it a point that you learn, you nourish your understanding and you get advice before you decide anything,” the long-time marriage expert said.

She emphasized the importance of communication in marriage, which she described as a lifeblood of any relationship.

“We need to listen more and speak less… We must listen using our hearts, listen with our mind, get all the connotations involved and get in touch with our feelings and be attentive to be able to read between the lines,” Mrs. Mbatha said, and added, “If communication is live in any marriage, if it is animated, then our marriages will work.”