Catholic conflicts on marriage continue, even decades after Vatican II

The past 60 years have been a period of change and reflection for many in the Catholic Church, initiated by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s and continued by the current synod on synodality.

In the autumn of 2021, Pope Francis announced a new synod, an official meeting of Roman Catholic bishops to determine future directions for the church globally. The first working document issued by the synod was published on Oct. 27, 2022.

This document was made public soon after the 60th anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s 1962 convocation of the Second Vatican Council. During the three years that followed, Catholic bishops from across the globe met in several sessions, assisted by expert theologians. Many guests were also invited as observers, which included prominent Catholic laity and representatives from other Christian churches.

The council called for fresh ways to address 20th-century social and cultural issues and initiated official dialogue groups for Catholic theologians with others from different faith traditions.

However, Catholics have become increasingly divided over this openness to contemporary cultural changes. As a specialist in Roman Catholic liturgy and worship, I find that one important flashpoint where these deeper disagreements become more painfully visible is in Catholic worship, particularly in the celebration of its seven major rituals, called the sacraments. This is especially true in the celebration of matrimony.

Vatican II

In the mid-20th century, the church was still shaken by the repercussions of World War II and struggling to contribute to a world connected by the reality of global communication and the threat of nuclear war. Vatican II was called to “update” and “renew” the church – a process Pope John XXIII called “aggiornamento.”