From a reader…
This may be more of a canon law question (and therefore not necessarily your expertise), but I was rueing the number of Catholics rejoicing with the recent SSM ruling, and it strike me, if they are married, is it possible the marriages are in fact null because of their support for SSM? My understanding that part of the requirement is understanding the nature of marriage, if you support it, do you really understand it? Anyway, a hypothetical really, but thought it could be a thought provoking proposition (and one where I would benefit from more learned individuals).
Hypothetical situations are generally not the most helpful ones for understanding canon law. The law is designed for real situations, and takes into consideration the complexity of the human person. Each of us, and each marriage situation is unique. Though the law speaks in generalities, it does so with the understanding that it is going to be applied in specific, real situations.
The understanding of marriage that’s required for positing a valid act of consent is pretty basic. Can. 1096 establishes that matrimonial consent requires that the parties “be at least not ignorant of the fact that marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman, order to the procreation of children through some form of sexual cooperation.”
A case might be made that a certain hypothetical person lacked sufficient understanding of marriage because he lacked the understanding that it must be between a man and a woman, and that he thought it could be contracted by any two persons, regardless of sex.
Proving that would be difficult.
The whole situation brings to light the need to pray for – and to teach! – a better understanding of marriage among our children.
Unless the next generation gets this right, our society will head down a very dark alley.