We continue our examination of Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities and we look at Matrimony. Paragraph 41 reminds us of the aim of this sacrament: sanctification of the spouses and the formation of their children. Any persons preparing for marriage, with whatever disabilities, are the responsibility of pastors who are the formators for that sacrament. (GSPCD 43)
As with the other sacraments, pastors are discouraged from going it alone with their own judgments. Consult widely: this is the advice.
Including persons with disabilities in sponsor couple programs is an especially effective way of supporting both the needs and the gifts of couples preparing for marriage. (Ibid.)
Sponsor couples are always a good idea. It’s not clear to me if this comment is only about the engaged couples, or dies it also include persons with disabilities in the cadre of sponsors. Both would be good. Paragraph 44 reminds us, citing canon law 1095:
For matrimonial consent to be valid, it is necessary that the contracting parties possess a sufficient use of reason; that they be free of any grave lack of discretion affecting their judgment about the rights and duties to which they are committing themselves; and that they have the mental capacity to assume the essential obligations of the married state.
The bishops remind us that a physical disability is not, by itself, an impediment. Where doubt exists about the ability to conceive a child, the bias is always in favor of the possibility. (Ibid. 44)
For deaf Catholics either sign language or an interpreter is a possibility. (Ibid. 45) Others who have limited or nonverbal abilities may use a “system with which they are most fluent.” (Ibid.)
The last paragraph in this section offers a useful reminder for any pastoral minister, namely that “(p)astoral care for married persons extends throughout their lives.” (Ibid. 46) Such care should include the involvement of other parishioners with disabilities. The aim for the community is the fostering of sanctity.
An aging population of believers also includes women and men with dementia. The commitment of a couple “’in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health’ should be recognized and honored by the whole faith community.” (Ibid. 46) Adult children of such couples can be singled out for special support.
All in all, a positive vector for the Church, its people and ministers.