The Second Vatican Council considerably transformed this Catholic conception of marriage and love

22 Nov, 2022

The Second Vatican Council considerably transformed this Catholic conception of marriage and love

Instead, there was a new appreciation of love, along with procreation, as a primary purpose of the conjugal bond

As a result of this renewal, the Church no longer regarded love as a secondary end of marriage. Footnote 26 Catholic literature on marriage thus began to highlight the importance of communication, dialogue and companionship between spouses. Footnote 27 As one author claimed, the family was no longer a social institution but an association of individuals. Therefore, he continued, marriage ceased to be ‘downgraded to the category of the useful’ and was now praised for its values of intimacy and love. Footnote 28

In addition, sexuality became understood as a positive human value, as a way of fostering love in the heterosexual couple and not only as a means for procreation. A debate on the possibility of accepting the contraceptive pill arose as a consequence, prompting many to hope for a change in the Vatican’s teachings on birth control. While Paul VI ultimately dismissed this possibility in his encyclical Humanae Vitae (1968), part of the Catholic community was disappointed with this decision and encouraged a freer interpretation of the Vatican’s norms about teenage ssbbw chat contraception. Footnote 29 This also occurred in Spain, as some Catholics regretted the Pope’s authoritarian decision. Ultimately, they defended a more democratic approach to religion and the autonomy of the laity to make their own responsible decisions, as opposed to passive obedience. Footnote 30 These progressive Catholic intellectuals who defended birth control soon also started to consider divorce.

They prioritised the importance of love over procreation and thought that the Church needed to adapt to the modern experience of sexuality

However, while there are a number of interesting recent studies on the consequences of Humanae Vitae and the popularisation of the contraceptive pill, Footnote 31 the question of love and divorce remains mostly unexplored. In fact, Vatican II confirmed the dogma of indissolubility. Nevertheless, the recognition of religious freedom, as well as the revaluation of conjugal love, opened up the possibility of introducing the issue of divorce into the debate. Footnote 32 As I will address in detail in the following section, this is what happened in Spain, where some Catholics, influenced by the post-conciliar spirit and convinced that it was love above any other consideration that gave meaning to marriage, began to contemplate divorce.

All these religious changes concurred with fundamental transformations in Spanish society, which came hand-in-hand with the development of consumer culture, as well as the onset of the so-called ‘sexual revolution’. At the end of Franco’s rule, the patriarchal family model, based on hierarchical authority and sacrifice, was eroding in favour of an ideal that valued happiness, shared intimacy and cooperation between spouses. At the same time, a new discourse criticised the figure of the despotic husband and encouraged men to be more caring, collaborative, and present in the family. Footnote 33 Claims for women’s equality became more visible, and even part of the Catholic community recognised women’s rights to have aspirations beyond the home. Footnote 34 The popularisation of the pill and the success of marriage manuals that emphasised the importance of mutual sexual pleasure also contributed to changing expectations about female erotic satisfaction. Footnote 35 Similarly, ideas of sexual liberation spread among the younger generations. Footnote 36 These stressed the importance of love, self-realisation and authenticity in the face of external coercion. All this ultimately led to the defence of birth control, sexual intercourse, or cohabitation outside of marriage and divorce, simply because love and authenticity were what mattered above all else. Footnote 37