The obvious answer to the question "what is the object of matrimonial consent?", is, "marriage itself". Just as obviously, however, this is not very enlightening from the juridic viewpoint which is interested in pinning down the specific, and above all the essential, rights and obligations that consent gives rise to.
Let us first recall a few elementary ideas about both conscience and law, and then consider some aspects of their inter-relationship.
I. FORMATION OF CONSCIENCE
The fear of being influenced
While Synods of Bishops have been frequent throughout the centuries, the Second Vatican Council wished to make them something regular in the life of the Church. Periodically (every two or three years), bishops from each country or region, chosen by their fellow-bishops of the area, meet together in a Synod, along with the Pope, so as to study some important topic of church life and concern (Family, Formation of Priests, Evangelization, Penance...). Each makes his contribution with the fullest freedom. After the Synod, the Pope usually publishes an Apostolic Exhortation, putting together the richness of ecclesial wisdom thus brought to light: cf. Familiaris Consortio (1981) on marriage and family life, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia (1984) on the sacrament of Penance, Christifideles Laici (1988) on lay people, etc.