However Blessed John Paul II addressing this Tribunal 10 years ago, pointed out that “an attitude on the part of those getting married that does not take into account the supernatural dimension of marriage can render it null and void only if it undermines its validity on the natural level on which the sacramental sign itself takes place” (John Paul II, Address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, 30 January 2003). With regard to this problem it will be necessary, especially in today’s context, to promote further reflection.What I really want to do here is not engage in reflection on that particular issue (it's not really a topic for a blog) but to show how the Church has consistently and definitively stated that the marriage of Christians is necessarily a Sacrament. Consider:
Blessed Pius IX, The Syllabus of Errors, #66: "The sacrament of matrimony is nothing but an appendage to the contract and separable from it"; #73 "A true marriage can exist between Christians by virtue of a purely civil contract; and it is false to assert that the contract of marriage between Christians is always a sacrament." (To be clear, the Pope is saying that these statements are erroneous.)
Leo XIII, Arcanum, n. 23: "For such a distinction or, more truly, a severance (of the contract of marriage between Christians and the Sacrament), cannot be approved, since it has been proved that in Christian marriage the contract is inseparable from the sacrament; and so it cannot be a true and legitimate contract without being a sacrament, for this very reason."
Catechism of Pius X: "Q: Can the contract be separated from the sacrament in Christian marriage?
A: No, in marriage among Christians the contract cannot be separated from the sacrament, because, for Christians, marriage is nothing else than the natural contract itself, raised by Jesus Christ to the dignity of a sacrament."
Pius XI, Casti connubii, n. 39: "And since the valid matrimonial consent among the faithful was constituted by Christ as a sign of grace, the sacramental nature is so intimately bound up with Christian wedlock that there can be no true marriage between baptized persons 'without it being by that very fact a sacrament.'" (quoting from the 1917 Code of Canon Law)
Gaudium et spes, n. 48: "Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state."
Code of Canon Law, c. 1055, §2: "...a valid matrimonial contract cannot exist between the baptized without it being by that fact a sacrament."
Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1601: "this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."
It may well be true that theologians and canonists will continue to considered whether "in Christian marriage the contract is inseparable from the sacrament." For now, though, it is wrong for any of us out here in the virtual pews to say that we can.