“In fact, often it is assumed that the priest must act with largesse, since the natural right of persons to marry is at stake,” the pope said, but for the Catholic Church, there exists only one kind of marriage – sacramental – and the right of Catholic couples to celebrate the sacrament can be exercised only if they fully understand what they are doing.

Pope Benedict said anyone involved in marriage preparation programs, but especially the priest or other pastoral worker conducting the obligatory pre-marriage interviews with the potential bride and potential groom, has an obligation to ensure there is nothing standing in the way of a valid and licit celebration of the sacrament. For the marriage to be valid, the couple must understand the commitment being undertaken, he said.

Pastoral workers and marriage tribunal officials together “must work to interrupt to the extent possible the vicious cycle frequently noted of too easily allowing couples to marry without adequate preparation” and “the sometimes equally easy judicial declaration” that a marriage is invalid, the pope said. Both approaches give people a sense that the Catholic Church no longer sees marriage as truly being binding forever, he said.