In Part Two of this series, I will discuss the doctrine of the Church and of sound reason with regard to the the goods of matrimony, particularly the two natural goods of offspring and fidelity. I have chosen to save the discussion of the sacramental good of matrimony for the end of the series, as it is a crown of supernatural perfection upon the natural perfections. As I noted in Part One, the order of these goods will be of particular importance to resolving the issues plaguing marriage and the family of our day.
II. THE NATURE OF MATRIMONY
A common and subtly important assumption about matrimony is that it is merely a social construct imposed upon man not by nature, but by the purely pragmatic concerns of the State or the Church. It does not take much consideration to discern what is at stake. If matrimony is merely an invention of man, then its definition and use are at the whim of positive human laws. On the other hand, if matrimony is indeed something imposed by nature, then it follows that the human laws regarding matrimony are only just insofar as they correspond to the natural law. Here, we must be careful not to be deceived: when I say “natural law,” I mean a rule of action in accord with right reason. I do not mean “what happens in nature,” which is sometimes supposed. “Natural law” refers to the governance of human actions by a true cognition of reality. So the question whether matrimony is of natural law can be asked in another way: Is there something about the nature of human beings that directs them toward matrimony? When the Christian answers that there is, that God “created them male and female,” and commanded that the “two become one flesh,” he is essentially saying that God, in the very act of creating human nature, endowed it with certain powers which of themselves are inherently directed toward and conditioned by matrimony.
This assertion is of course rationally verifiable. Is there something about human sexuality for which reason demands some kind of lasting bond between the spouses? Here, two fundamental and related questions emerge, the answers to which will reveal not only whether matrimony is of natural law, but also what natural law actually demands in this regard: What is the natural end of the sexual power of mankind specifically? Does this end impose secondary ends upon the human beings which make use of that power, without which the primary end would remain unattained or else be gravely hindered?
A. Marriage as an Office of Nature
At least part of the answer to the question of the end of the sexual power of mankind is plain to everyone except the most delusional ideologue. Clearly, sex exists for the sake of procreation. Nature inclines each thing to maintain itself in being, and in all biological things, this extends even to the species as a whole. But it is also obvious that nature provides each with an inclination not to the bare maintenance of being, but even to the perfection of its being. Thus, there is no species which is not equipped with the ability to actually attain what is naturally fitted to it, and if there is an individual of that species which lacks the ability, we intuitively recognize the lack as an injury or iniquity. Now, since the sexual relationship exists for the propagation of the species, it would seem that relationship between the sexes is directed not simply to the bearing of offspring, but also to its rearing unto maturation. Otherwise, the end of sexuality would either not be attained or else be greatly hindered. Not many species would survive long if nature inclined them only to reproduce and then to leave the vulnerable offspring to itself. And we observe how in many cases throughout the animal kingdom the mates of both sexes work together to rear their offspring if their survival and maturation require it. Thus, the nature of continued relationship between the mates seems itself to be determined according to the needs of the offspring.
All of this, while certainly interesting in its own right, is only of preliminary importance. None of these “inclinations of nature” are of themselves in the moral order until we consider their specific application to human action. No one in their right mind holds a bird morally responsible for abandoning its nest. That is because “natural inclination” is only raised to the status of natural law when the being in question is a rational one, who can freely choose either in accord with the good of reason or against it. So let us make the transition into the moral order by asking: What does the specific maturation of human offspring require from the mates? In order for a human being to attain to true and fully human maturity, what does he need from his parents? The answer to this question turns on our notion of what “perfection” is for human beings specifically. The perfection of man “as man,” that is, a perfection in accord with his rational nature, must mean his position of the goods of wisdom and moral virtue--for its on the basis of these qualities that we call someone a “good man.” Let us hear the words of St. Thomas Aquinas:
Nature intends not only the begetting of offspring, but also its education and development until it reach the perfect state of man as man, and that is the state of virtue. ... Now a child cannot be brought up and instructed unless it have certain and definite parents, and this would not be the case unless there were a tie between the man and a definite woman and it is in this that matrimony consists.
By the intention of nature marriage is directed to the rearing of the offspring, not merely for a time, but throughout its whole life. Hence it is of natural law that parents should lay up for their children, and that children should be their parents' heirs (2 Corinthians 12:14). Therefore, since the offspring is the common good of husband and wife, the dictate of the natural law requires the latter to live together for ever inseparably: and so the indissolubility of marriage is of natural law.
Here, St. Thomas makes it clear that matrimony, that is, the indissoluble union between a man and a woman, is an institution of nature precisely because the human species naturally requires it for its own propagation and perfection. Matrimony is not merely a social construct, but arises from the very nature of human sexuality and its primary end of the bearing and rearing of offspring.
We must carefully note that in discovering matrimony as a natural condition implied by the primary good of the conjugal act, we have discovered also a secondary good of matrimony itself which flows from it’s directedness to the good of the offspring. This secondary good, called by St. Thomas faith (or fidelity), is an inseparable and exclusive union between the spouses. Notice specifically how St. Thomas says that the very ground in natural law for the inseparability and exclusivity of matrimony is the good of the offspring, particularly their being properly raised. Thus, the union of fidelity, the communion of life and work, is a secondary good, of itself naturally directed toward the primary good of offspring as its term: “Offspring signifies not only the begetting of children, but also their education, to which as its end is directed the entire communion of works that exists between man and wife as united in marriage, … so that the offspring like a principal end includes another, as it were, secondary end.”
B. The Consequences of Disordering the Goods
It appears from the above that we have answered our two questions. Natural law does indeed demand matrimony as the proper context of human sexuality, and further, it demands a particular character of that union: true and life-long fidelity. Further, this only makes sense when we maintain the proper ordering of these natural goods. Unless the unitive aspect expressed in the good of fidelity is itself subordinated and secondary to the primary good of the offspring, it becomes difficult to understand how matrimony could be an institution of nature rather than a mere social construction. It also becomes impossible to provide principled arguments against many kinds of immoral sexual behavior. If the unitive aspect of the conjugal act is not subordinate to the procreative aspect, our arguments against contraception and homosexual sex fall flat. If the good of union and fidelity are thought of as primary rather than secondary, then our arguments against homosexual marriage similarly fall flat. In fact, this error would leave us without principled ground to stand against the “marriage” of any two (or more) people whatsoever who have a desire to be devoted to one another. Without this rational support, any such stand is bound to appear simple and backward bias.
This error also has another grave consequence. It is less obvious, but for that perhaps more dangerous. When the secondary “unitive” good of human sexuality is elevated to the status of the primary good, it is gutted of its true form and finality, as is the case with all secondary things which are so elevated. But what is left upon which to base and towards which to direct this unitive good? What else besides the mutual fond feelings of the couple, their mutual pleasure, both emotional and physical? What results is a situation in which a relationship, which is started with even the best of intention and good will, is left tossed upon the formless sea of sentiment. If the fond feelings cease for any extensive period of time, the union begins to seem like nothing but a lie. And for all intents and purposes, it is. For the union is now reduced to its external manifestation, and the couple begins what they call “going through the motions.” Even in those marriages that have borne children, many parents treat the union with their spouse as if it had little or nothing to do with their role as parents. Divorce necessarily runs rampant.
Such a terrible confusion is prevented if we consider the goods of matrimony aright. If the union and fidelity of the spouses are themselves directed to the offspring, then the service rendered to one another and the personal communion of life and work are considered a duty to the whole family. One’s fine feelings, while welcome as they come, are inconsequential. They are neither the root nor the flower, but more like the fragrance of the flower. This view of matrimony calls the spouses out of themselves and directs them to a good which transcends their individual contentment. St. Thomas even tells us that a violation of the matrimonial bond is a sin of injustice not only to the spouse, but even to the whole common good of society. For the fidelity and communion of the spouses is directed to the development of virtuous new citizens, which is the duty of all those members of society who enter into the bonds of matrimony. It is this alone which gives the State reason to license and incentivize marriage. It is also the reason that State has no reason to license and incentivize sexual relationships which of themselves are inherently incapable of the primary good of matrimony, and by that fact incapable of even a properly ordered secondary good of matrimony.
C. The Teaching of the Church
It should be clear from the above that the proper ordering of the two natural goods of matrimony are at the heart of the traditional, morally sound view of the nature of matrimony. If this ordering is skewed, there will be no end to the new ways in which matrimony will be defiled. Who can deny that we see the evidence of this all around us? For this reason, the Church in her authority has only ever affirmed the primacy of the good of the offspring among the blessings of matrimony. As Pope Pius XII declared:
Now, the truth is that matrimony, as an institution of nature, in virtue of the Creator's will, has not as a primary and intimate end the personal perfection of the married couple but the procreation and upbringing of a new life. The other ends, inasmuch as they are intended by nature, are not equally primary, much less superior to the primary end, but are essentially subordinated to it. This is true of every marriage, even if no offspring result, just as of every eye it can be said that it is destined and formed to see, even if, in abnormal cases arising from special internal or external conditions, it will never be possible to achieve visual perception. 
His predecessor, Pius XI also taught clearly that “amongst the blessings of marriage, the child holds the first place,” and further, that:
In matrimony as well as in the use of the matrimonial rights there are also secondary ends, such as mutual aid, the cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of concupiscence which husband and wife are not forbidden to consider so long as they are subordinated to the primary end and so long as the intrinsic nature of the act is preserved. 
The 1917 Code of Canon law held the same (cn. 1013). Unfortunately, the current hierarchy of the Church has only taught this through a great cloud of ambiguity. However, even in Gaudium et Spes, we read, “By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown.” Though some modernizing influences, which prompted the clarifications of Pius XII cited above , have hindered the clarity with which the Church teaches on this issue, the fact remains that we must understand the ambiguities in the light of immemorial Tradition. It would be unthinkable to interpret these ambiguities with a modernist perspective rather than the clear teachings of the Fathers, the Doctors, and so many Supreme Pontiffs of the Church.
Just as St. Thomas taught, Pius XI reiterated that it is the education of children that provides the natural ground for the secondary goods of matrimony. Thus, the rearing of the child unto virtue is the proper term of the intimate union of the spouses. It is not surprising, therefore, that as our view of matrimony has been skewed, it is not only the relationship between the spouses that has suffered, but also the education of children. The education of children unto virtuous maturity, as it ceased to hold primacy of place in the goods of the family, has been practically removed from the family and placed in the hands of the State. Now, however, considering that education is a natural good belonging primarily to the family, it is possible to discern just how unjust this situation is. For the same reason that we would object to the State taking control over the bearing of children, we should object to State-controlled education of children. Just as the parents are and ought to be the generators of their children, so should they be the primary educators of their children--for this is the very reason of their continued union growth in community of life and work.
Part Three, on the nature of education, is to follow.
Written by Peter Youngblood, DRE and Choir Director at Saint Leo IV Roman Catholic Church in Roberts Cove, La, and Co-founder & Tutor of Saint John of the Cross Academy.
 ibid., Q. 67, art. 1
 ibid., Q. 49, art. 2 ad 1
 ibid., IIa-IIae, Q. 154, art. 2; art. 8; see also Q. 153, art. 3
 ibid., 59
 Pius XII, immediately following the text cited above: “It was precisely to end the uncertainties and deviations which threatened to diffuse errors regarding the scale of values of the purposes of matrimony and of their reciprocal relations, that a few years ago (March 10, 1944), We Ourselves drew up a declaration on the order of those ends, pointing out what the very internal structure of the natural disposition reveals. We showed what has been handed down by Christian tradition, what the Supreme Pontiffs have repeatedly taught, and what was then in due measure promulgated by the Code of Canon Law. Not long afterwards, to correct opposing opinions, the Holy See, by a public decree, proclaimed that it could not admit the opinion of some recent authors who denied that the primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of the offspring, or teach that the secondary ends are not essentially subordinated to the primary end, but are on an equal footing and independent of it.”
 To understand in particular how ambiguity has insidiously crept into the modern Church, compare the 1917 Code of Canon Law, Can 1013 §1: “The primary end of matrimony is the procreation and education of children; the secondary end is mutual help and the remediation of concupiscence,” to the current Code, Can. 1055 §1 “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.” Though both Canons contain the two natural goods of matrimony, the current Code contains no clear ordering of those goods. Its verbosity clouds the fact that it actually communicates much less than the more austere Code of 1917, which is more typical of pre-conciliar teaching. See also Michael Davies, Pope John’s Council, p. 104-116 on the conciliar debates regarding Gaudium et Spes in particular, and how it was precisely the modernists and liberals among the Council members themselves that not only planted ambiguities in the document with regard to the order of matrimonial goods, but even blocked all attempts to explicitly condemn contraception.