The Catholic University of America

Final Examination
Casmir C. Onyegwara
for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
2:30p.m., Caldwell Hall, Room 125
“be fruitful and multiply”: catholic teaching on the ends of marriage with reference to questions posed by igbo culture
Director: John Grabowski, Ph.D.
The institution of marriage is as old as the human race itself.  While almost every society engages in marrying, opinions are divided among scholars, cultures, and religions with regard to the purposes of marriage. One of the reasons for this divergence is because each scholar, culture or religion defines marriage by paying particular attention to the values and purposes it attaches to it. The Igbo Ethnic group of Nigeria and the Catholic Church are examples of a culture and a religion that define the purposes of marriage by paying special attention to their cultural values and religious heritage. Thus, while the Igbo culture sees children (particularly male children) as the primary purpose of marriage,  scholars debate whether the Catholic Church which held this primacy of children for more than twenty centuries(even if not specifically male children as the Igbo do) currently sees procreation as the primary purpose of marriage. The reason for the lack of consensus among current scholars (such as William E. May and Theodore Mackin) can be attributed to the silence of Gaudium et Spes over the hierarchical terminology of the primary and secondary ends of marriage that was used in the 1917 Code of Canon Law.
           Given the silence of Gaudium et Spes over the language of primary and secondary ends of marriage, the ongoing debate among theologians, and the Igbo understanding of the purposes of marriage as exclusively ordered to the procreation of male children, this study offers a condensed but critical analyses of the history of the Catholic teaching concerning the ends of marriage from the biblical tradition to the twenty first century.  In analyzing this history, this study demonstrates that although Catholic teaching concerning the purposes of marriage has undergone significant development in the course of history from seeing the good of proles as the primary purpose of marriage to an ‘inseparable connection’ between the procreative and unitive meanings of the conjugal act,' the current Igbo cultural practice which understands the male child(ren) as the primary purpose of marriage is in conflict with much of this tradition as well as the current magisterial position on the ends of marriage. It also shows that there has been significant development in the magisterial understanding of the purposes of marriage from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present.