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Primary Education

2 Jun

The Church has always taught that the primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children. This traditional formulation dates back at least as far as St. Isidore of Seville, a seventh-century Doctor of the Church.

In 1944, the Holy See unequivocally affirmed in response to a formal question (dubium) that the procreation and education of children is the one and only primary end of marriage.

It is true, nonetheless, that over the past 50 years the Church has used slightly different terminology that gives greater attention to the unitive dimension of marriage. Yet the Church still affirms that marriage “is by its nature ordered toward . . . the procreation and education of offspring” (Catechism, no. 1601). This teaching can be traced to the first command given by God to man: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:22).

With regard to the phrase, “the procreation and education of children,” the first part of this formulation gets most of the attention. After all, “procreation” conjures up a host of issues, from contraception and women’s “liberation” to the complementarity of the sexes and the intrinsic value of motherhood. It’s the second part of the formulation–the “education of offspring”–that is sometimes overlooked. What does the Church mean when she says that an objective “end” or purpose of marriage entails the education of offspring? Continue reading