The Catholic Church's understanding of marriage
The Catholic Church teaches that the covenant of marriage is a lifelong and exclusive partnership of a man and a woman. Marriage is a holy vocation or calling that by its very nature promotes the good of both spouses and is open to the procreation and education of children. Christ has raised marriage between two baptized persons to the level of a sacrament.
Marriage comes into being by the free and unimpeded act of giving marital consent by both spouses. Church law presumes all marriages valid and thus indissoluble as long as both parties remain alive and were free to marry at the time consent was expressed in a lawful manner. While the state permits divorce as a means to end a legally contracted marriage, the Catholic Church holds that the marriage vows, by their very nature, cannot be dissolved by any civil power. Thus the marriage bond remains in place until it can be established that valid marital consent was not exchanged.