In the eyes of the Catholic Church, the Sacrament of Marriage begins when two baptized persons, who are free to marry, enter into a valid marriage. A married couple’s relationship to one another can be described via the image of a covenant. The covenant image comes to us from the authors of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament). Covenant is the term used to describe the relationship between Yahweh (God) and the people of Israel; an agreement that can never come to an end. It may be stretched beyond what one would ever expect, but it never is broken. In the books of the prophets, Yahweh is shown as always faithful to the Israelites and the covenant, no matter what the Israelites did.
The covenant of marriage, also called the sacramental bond, between a woman and a man begins or is entered into when the couple freely and publicly proclaims their marriage vows before a priest and two witnesses. It is lived out all the days of their life, as they live and proclaim God’s love and presence in their lives as a married couple. The couple’s relationship is defined as a partnership of the whole life, ordered to the good of the spouses, and is open to the possibility of children. The image of God’s never-ending faithfulness to the covenant between Yahweh and the Israelites or the covenant Christians have with God via their Baptism is the basis for the faithfulness expected between husband and wife in their bond of marriage. Therefore, a married couple’s relationship is an exclusive one and no one or no thing should come between them.Just as God’s covenant with we who are baptized is unending, so too is the sacramental bond of marriage. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, the sacramental bond of marriage can be ended only with the death of a spouse.