VATICAN CITY, October 22, 2013 ( – In a lengthy essay strongly reaffirming the Catholic Church’s teaching on the impermissibility of divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also linked the validity of Catholic marriages to the couple’s openness to children – a requirement that, he said, is often sadly lacking in marriages today. 

“Today’s mentality is largely opposed to the Christian understanding of marriage, with regard to its indissolubility and its openness to children,” said Archbishop Gerhard Müller, writing in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. “Because many Christians are influenced by this, marriages nowadays are probably invalid more often than they were previously, because there is a lack of desire for marriage in accordance with Catholic teaching, and there is too little socialization within an environment of faith.”

This statement was welcomed by pro-life activist Anthony Ozimic, communications manager of UK-based pro-life and pro-family lobbyists, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). 

“We are particularly grateful to read the archbishop's clear statement linking openness to children to the validity of marriage,” Ozimic told “As Pope Francis made clear in his first encyclical Lumen Fidei, the life-bearing potential of heterosexuality is a prerequisite of marriage. Abortion, contraception, sterilization and same-sex relationships are all therefore incompatible with marriage.”

“This message must be made clear to legislators and policy-makers who claim to support marriage but at the same time support practices which are closed to the gift of life,” said Ozimic. 

The statement from Archbishop Müller also reflects the thoughts of Pope Francis as explained in his interview returning from World Youth Day in Rio, where he said:  

Cardinal Quarracino, my predecessor, used to say that as far as he was concerned, half of all marriages are null.  But why did he say this?  Because people get married lacking maturity, they get married without realizing that it is a life-long commitment, they get married because society tells them they have to get married. 

And this is where the pastoral care of marriage also comes in.  And then there is the legal problem of matrimonial nullity, this has to be reviewed, because ecclesiastical tribunals are not sufficient for this.  It is complex, the problem of the pastoral care of marriage. 

During the same in-flight interview Pope Francis had revealed that the upcoming synod of bishops on the family set for next October will address the issue. 

The Code of Canon law of the Catholic Church clearly recognizes openness to children as a pre-requisite for a valid sacramental marriage.

The Code states in Canon 1069: “For matrimonial consent to exist, the contracting parties must be at least not ignorant that marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman ordered to the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation. “

Certain dioceses in the United States have spelled out that not being open to children from the beginning of a marriage, invalidates the marriage.  The process for considering a marriage “annulled” – meaning it never validly existed and thus the partners are free to marry others – asks, “whether or not the two people entering into that union were both knowledgeable and capable, and whether they intended to live out the essential obligations of the vocation.”

Sr. Kathleen Bierne, PBVM, the Director of the Tribunal for the Diocese of New Ulm in Minnesota explains in a paper on the diocesan website: “If this study finds that something was missing in their consent, or the union did not, from the beginning, possess the essential qualities of permanence, fidelity, openness to children and openness to the spouse, then the Church, through the office of the diocesan tribunal, may grant a declaration that from the beginning this was not a valid/sacramental bond.” 

See the full article from the Vatican newspaper here