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The Manual of the Holy Catholic Church 3

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The Sacred Powers of the Priesthood

INTRODUCTION ON THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY ORDERS. Q. What is the meaning of Holy Orders? A. To understand this properly, we must observe, that, as Jesus Christ came into this world to save souls, and to communicate to them all those lights and helps which they stood in need of, for working out their salvation; so he received from his Father all necessary power and authority for this purpose. He as a man, was sent by his Father "to preach the gospel, to enlighten them that sat in darkness, to forgive sins upon earth," and to do every other thing that was necessary for the good of souls, insomuch, that he says himself to his Apostles, "all power is given to me in heaven and in earth," Matth. xxviii. 18. Now as the sacred helps which Christ knew to be necessary for the salvation of souls, were equally necessary for all mankind, and in all ages after him to the end of the world; therefore, it was no less necessary that some means should be appointed for communicating these divine helps to all mankind, in all succeeding ages, in order to procure their salvation. For this reason, as our Blessed Savior was not to remain in his own person, in a visible manner, upon earth to apply these helps to the souls of men himself; he therefore chose twelve disciples whom he called Apostles, and he communicated to them all those sacred powers necessary for bringing others to salvation, which he himself had received from his Father, with powers moreover to them to communicate the same powers to others who might succeed them, and carry on the same by a perpetual succession to the end of time. Thus he gave them power to preach the gospel, to teach all nations, and to baptize, before his Ascension, see Matth. xxviii. 19, also Mark xvi; to consecrate the Holy Eucharist, and offer up the Sacrifice of his body and blood, when at the last supper he commanded them to do what he had just done, Luke xxii. 19; to forgive sins, when after his Resurrection, "he breathed on them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven," Jo. xx. 22. And so of all the other sacred powers of the Priesthood, which he communicated to his Apostles in the most ample manner, and thereby made them Priests and Pastors of his people, and authorized them as his own substitutes, to communicate the same powers to others, after them, and carry on to the end of the world the great work he had begun for the salvation of souls; for, as St. Paul observes, "every high priest taken from among men, is appointed for men in things, that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins," Heb. v. 1.

Return to Table of Contents THE SACRED POWERS OF THE PRIESTHOOD NOT OF HUMAN INSTITUTION. Q. What are we chiefly to observe from these truths? A. We must carefully remark the following particulars: First, That the sacred powers of the Priesthood are not of human institution, but the work of the great God and are communicated to those whom he calls to that high office.

Second, That none can have, or exercise these powers, except he receive them from God, by the means which he has appointed for that end; for, "neither doth any man take the honor to himself but he that is called by God as Aaron was," Heb. v. 4; "and how can they preach unless they be sent?" Rom. x. 15; "for he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up another way, the same is a thief and a robber," saith Jesus Christ, John x. 1.

Third, That consequently all those who intrude themselves into the pastoral office of themselves, and pretend to teach and preach, and administer any Sacrament, without having received the proper power from Jesus Christ to do so, are only imposters, and deceivers of souls, "blind leaders of the blind," who, together with those that follow them, "fall into the pit," Matth. xv. 14.

Fourth, That these priestly powers, being of different kinds, are separable from one another, and some of them may be communicated to any one without the others, as our Savior did communicate them at different times, and on different occasions, to his Apostles.

Fifth, That when he communicated these powers to them, he did it in a visible, sensible manner, expressing in the words he used, the nature of the particular power which he gave them.

Sixth, That by doing so, he set the example in what manner the Apostles and their successors should communicate the same powers to others after them, to wit, in an outward, visible manner, by words and actions, expressing the power given.

Return to Table of Contents THE SUCCESSORS OF THE APOSTLES ARE CALLED BISHOPS. Q. Did the Apostles communicate these sacred powers to others to succeed them in the pastoral office? A. They did, but in different degrees; for whereas, on the multitude of the Christian people increasing, it would have been impossible for one man to administer the effects of all the priestly powers to a great multitude of souls; and on the other hand, it would have been a source of endless dissensions to have had a number of Pastors over the same people, with equal power and authority, and without any subordination among themselves; therefore, as instructed by their Divine Master, they communicated to some the plenitude of their priestly and pastoral powers, such as they had received from Christ; and these are Chief Pastors of the Church, the successors of the Apostles, and are called Bishops, constituted by the Holy Ghost to rule and govern his Church, according to that of St. Paul, "take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost has placed you Bishops, to rule the Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood," Acts xx. 28.

Return to Table of Contents THE PRIESTS SUCCESSORS OF THE SEVENTY-TWO DISCIPLES. To others they communicated only part of these priestly powers, particularly that of consecrating the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and of offering up the Holy Sacrifice of the altar; and that of administering the Sacrament of Penance by the power of binding and loosing, with all the other Sacraments except Confirmation and Orders: and these are the Pastors of the second order, successors of the seventy-two disciples of our Lord, and are properly called priests; because the essential power of the priesthood consists in offering up sacrifice to God for the sins of the people, according to that, "every high priest - is appointed, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins," Heb. v. 1.

Return to Table of Contents DEACONS AND SUB-DEACONS. To other they communicated only the powers of preaching and baptizing, and of assisting the priest at the altar, when offering up the Holy Sacrifice; and these are called deacons, or servants, from this last branch of their office. Others they employed in preparing the matter for the sacrifice, and having the charge of all the things about the altar, keeping them clean and in proper condition, to be assistants to the deacons when serving at the altar, and to sing the Epistle at Mass, when it is celebrated with all its solemnities, and these are the subdeacons. Return to Table of Contents MINOR ORDERS. THE ACOLYTE, EXORCIST, LECTOR, AND DOOR- KEEPER. All these degrees are called holy orders; because, when a person once enters into them, he is dedicated entirely to the service of God and his Church, and can never more return to the world. Besides these, there are also the four minor orders, which are employed about the inferior offices and service of the Church, not so immediately connected with the Sacrifice, and are called minor or lesser orders; because those who enter into them have it still in their option to leave the service of the Church, and return to the world. These four are called the Acolyte, and the Exorcist, the Lector, and the Door-keeper. Q. Why are all these called Orders? A. Because it is plain that they are all so many different steps or degrees, laid down in a regular order, by which the sacred powers of the priesthood are gradually communicated to those who enter into the Ecclesiastical State. For he must first begin with the lowest, or door-keeper, and so gradually ascend to the higher degrees, or to a more ample share in these sacred powers, after having spent a competent time in the exercise of the lower orders, and by his good behavior there given proof of his deserving to be advanced to those that are higher.

Q. How does it appear that Bishops are the Chief Pastors of the Church, and superior to the priests in authority and jurisdiction, as well as in order.

Return to Table of Contents BISHOPS HOLD FIRST RANK IN THE SACRED HIERARCHY OF THE CHURCH. A. That the Bishops are superior to the priests, and hold the first rank in the Sacred Hierarchy of the Church, is an article of divine faith, declared by the Church of Christ in the Council of Trent; and is founded on the following testimonies of the holy scripture: First, It is evident that the Apostles were raised by Jesus Christ to a much higher rank and dignity than the other disciples: for, "he called to him his disciples, and he chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles," Luke vi. 13. He kept them always in his own company; he instructed them in particular "in all the things I have heard from my Father," John xv. 15, as his particular friend. After His Resurrection he said to them only, "as my Father hath sent me, I also send you; whose sins ye shall forgive, they are forgiven, and whose sins ye shall retain, they are retained," John xx. 23. To them in particular, he said, "Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature," Mark xvi. 15. All which shows that they were constituted by him to be the Chief Pastors of His Church. When their number was diminished by the infidelity of Judas, St. Peter calling all the brethren, said, "The scripture must needs be fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost spoke before, by the mouth of David, concerning Judas - who was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry for, it is written, and his Bishopric let another take. Wherefore of those men who have companied with us, all the time that the Lord Jesus came in and went out among us with us, all the time that the Lord Jesus came in and went out among us - one of these must be made a witness of His Resurrection," Acts i. 16. Accordingly, two were appointed, and "praying they said, Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these two thou hast chosen to take the place of his ministry and apostleship, from which Judas has fallen - and they gave them lots, and the lots fell upon Matthias, and was numbered with the eleven Apostles," verse. 24.

All this shows evidently the superior order of the Apostles, and, that St. Matthias, by being numbered among them, was raised to a higher dignity, and to a superior station, than what he had before, while only one of the disciples. Now, the Bishops are the successors of the Apostles, and inherit the plenitude of the priestly powers which Christ communicated to them; whereas the Priests are only the successors of the seventy-two disciples, and receive these powers only in part.

Second, St. Paul, speaking to the Bishops of the Church, says, "Take heed to yourselves and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you Bishops, to rule the Church of God," Acts xx. 28. To the Bishops, then, the supreme power of ruling the Church is committed by the Holy Ghost.

Third, The same Apostles, writing to Timothy, whom he had appointed Bishop of Ephesus, to preserve the purity of the doctrine there, 1 Tim. i. 3, he says, "against a priest receive not an accusation, but under two other witnesses," 1 Tim. v. 19; which proves to a demonstration, that St. Timothy had authority and jurisdiction over the priests in receiving accusations against them, and consequently, in judging them and correcting them.

Fourth, In like manner writing to Titus, he says, "for this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and shouldst ordain priests in every city as I also appointed thee," Tit. i.5 Where we see the supreme authority that Titus had of making regulations in the Church of Crete, and of constituting priests under him in the different cities of that island.

Fifth, The same truth is manifest, from the constant and uninterrupted practice of the Church of Christ, and from the condemnation of Arius as a heretic in the fourth age for denying this doctrine.

Return to Table of Contents BISHOPS EXERCISE FULL PASTORAL AUTHORITY. Q. How does the superiority of Bishops appear from the practice of the Church? A. For several considerations; First, Because, from the earliest ages whenever a Bishop was consecrated, a certain portion of the Faithful was assigned to him for his particular charge as their Pastor; and the place where this charge was given him was called his Diocese; thus, Titus was ordained by St. Paul to be Bishop of Crete, and Timothy to be Bishop of Ephesus. In these dioceses they exercised the full pastoral authority, both in preaching the word, administering the Sacraments, and making such laws and regulations as they judged proper for the good of their people; and this they did by their own proper authority, independent of any other; whereas the priests were always considered only as their vicars or helpers, subject to their laws, and who had no authority, even to administer the sacraments, but only as far as they were empowered by the Bishop to do so, by receiving faculties from them; and these faculties the Bishops could give in what measure and proportion they judged fitting, or refuse them entirely, if they saw cause; and this has been the constant practice of the Church to this day.

Second, The Bishops also, as Chief Pastors, have authority to meet in council, and make such laws and constitutions for the good and regulation, both of the whole Church, when the council is general, for particular portions of the Church when the council is not general, as they judged necessary for the good of Religion.

Third, The Bishops also have the right to meet in general councils, and there, as the true judges of doctrine, to declare and decide concerning the truths of our Holy Faith, and to condemn all false and heretical tenets.

Return to Table of Contents OBEDIENCE AND RESPECT FOR EPISCOPAL AUTHORITY. Fourth, Because the holy fathers, from the earliest ages, speak in the strongest terms on the obedience and respect which all owe to the episcopal authority. Thus, St. Ignatius, the martyr, disciple of the Apostle, and successor of St. Peter in the see of Antioch, says, "Reverence your Bishop as Christ himself, like as the blessed Apostles have command us, for, who is the Bishop, but he who has all power and principality over all?" Epis. ad Trall "It becomes you to obey your Bishop, and in nothing to resist him - for, as our Lord does nothing without his Father, so neither ought you without your Bishop, whether you be priest, deacon, or laic" Epist. ad Magnes. St. Cyprian says, that heresies and schisms rise from no other cause but disobedience to the Chief Pastors, Epist. 55; and Tertullian writes thus: "the Bishop indeed, has a right to give baptism, and next the priests and deacons, but not without the authority of the Bishop, Lib. de Bapt. c. 17. Q. What is meant by the Sacrament of Holy Orders? A. It is the actual conferring these sacred powers of the Priesthood upon the person who receives them.

Q. Is this a true and a real Sacrament? A. It is, because it has all the three things required to make it one.

Return to Table of Contents THE OUTWARD SENSIBLE SIGN USED IN ORDINATION. Q. What is the outward sensible sign used in Ordination? A. It is the laying on of hands, accompanied with the delivery of the instruments of that particular power which is communicated, and prayer. Q. What is the inward grace, or the effects produced in the soul? A. They are these following:

First, An increase of sanctifying grace in the soul.

Second, The power and authority of exercising the functions of the order received.

Third, The necessary helps of actual grace to enable the person ordained to exercise these functions well.

Fourth, It also imprints a character in the soul, denoting the ordre received, which, like those of Baptism and Confirmation, can never be destroyed, and makes it impossible to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders more than once. This however, is to be understood of the higher, or Sacred Orders, which were instituted by Christ himself; because the lesser, or minor orders, are commonly not considered a Sacrament, being, properly speaking, instituted only by the Church.

Q. How does it appear from scripture, that the outward action of Ordination confers these graces on the soul? A. First, From the example of Jesus Christ, who, by an outward action, expressing the sacred powers communicated by the Apostles did actually bestow these powers upon them.

Second, From the example of the Apostles, who constituted pastors of the Church by the same means; thus, when they ordained the seven deacons, the scripture says, that, "praying, they imposed hands upon them, Acts vi. 6. And when Saul and Barnabas were sent to the ministry by a special command of the Holy Ghost, "they, fasting and praying, and laying their hands upon them, sent them away," Acts xiii. 3.

Third, From these express declarations of the Apostle to Timothy, "Neglect not the grace that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, by the imposition of the hands of priesthood," 1 Tim. iv. 14. "I admonish thee that thou stir up the grace of God which is in thee, by the imposition of my hands," 2 Tim. i. 6. And for this reason, exhorting him to be cautious when he admits to this Sacrament, he says, "Impose not hands lightly upon any man," 1 Tim. v. 22.

Return to Table of Contents HOW SHALL ONE KNOW IF HE HAS A VOCATION FROM GOD? Q. What dispositions are required to receive Holy Orders worthily? A. Chiefly these following: First, That the person to be ordained have a VOCATION from God; for, "no man taketh that honour upon himself, but he that is called by God as Aaron was," Heb. v. 4. And when Barsabas and Matthias were presented to the Apostles, that one of them might be chosen to fill the place of Judas, they had recourse to God, by fervent prayer, that he might show which of the two he called to that office, Acts. i. 24.

Second, That he have received the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Third, That he be in the state of grace.

Fourth, That he observe and fulfill all the other regulations and conditions prescribed by the Church.

Q. How shall one know if he has a VOCATION from God? A. Chiefly by these signs:

First, If he has led an innocent and holy life before.

Second, If he has a great love and zeal for ecclesiastical discipline.

Third, If he has a pure intention, not pushed on by ambition or avarice, but by a zeal for promoting the glory of God, and the salvation of souls.

Fourth, If he be a man given to prayer, and sacred studies.

Q. What are the other conditions the church requires? A. First, That he have no canonical impediment.

Second, That he be sufficiently learned and trained in the duties of the order which he is about to receive.

Third, That he has behaved well during the time required, in all the inferior orders before he receive a higher one.

Fourth, That he be of the proper age required for receiving the order he is about to receive.

Fifth, That, if he be about to enter into the Higher Orders, he be resolved to dedicate himself to the service of God, by perpetual chastity and celibacy.

Return to Table of Contents ON WHAT GROUNDS DOES THE CHURCH PROHIBIT THE CLERGY TO ENTER MATRIMONY? Q. Does the Church oblige all those in sacred orders to live single and chaste? A. This she requires of them in the strictest manner, so as to decree the severest penalties against those among them who violate this law; having sometimes ordered them to be deposed, sometimes to be excommunicated, sometimes to be confined in monasteries, to spend their whole life in penance. And the great Council of Trent pronounces excommunication upon any one that shall dare to affirm, that, notwithstanding this prohibition of the Church, it is lawful for any in Sacred Orders to marry, or that such marriage would be valid in the sight of God, Sees. xxiv. can. 9. Q. On what grounds does the Church proceed in so strictly prohibiting marriage to her clergy? A. Upon these following grounds, laid down in the holy scripture:

First, Because a life of purity and chastity is more excellent, more perfect, and more acceptable to God than the married state. This is asserted by St. Paul in the plainest terms: "Concerning virgins," says he, "I have no commandment of the Lord, but I give counsel, as having obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful - art thou loosed from a wife, seek not a wife," 1 Cor. vii. 25, 27; and, after several arguments on the subject, he concludes in these words: "Wherefore, he that giveth his virgin in marriage doeth well, and he that giveth her not doeth better,' verse 38. This is also manifest from the special reward promised by our Savior, and bestowed in Heaven, upon those who lead a chaste life; our Savior says, "Amen, I say to you, there is no man that hath left house or parents - or wife - for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive much more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting," Luke xviii. 29. And the singular privileges which shall be bestowed on them in Heaven, are described by St. John, where he tells us, that "they have the name of the Lamb, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads," to distinguish them in a special manner from all the other saints; that "they sin a new song before the throne of God, which no other can sing but themselves," and that "they follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth," always attending his sacred person as his chaste and beloved spouses. And, describing those to whom such honor belongs, "these are they," says he, "who are not defiled with women, for they are virgins," Rev. xiv. 1, 3, 4. Seeing, then, the office of the priesthood requires the most angelic purity, and the most sublime sanctity in those who are admitted to it, therefore, the Church has judged proper to oblige all who enter into that office to embrace the more perfect state of chastity.

Return to Table of Contents THE OFFICE OF THE PRIEST IS DAILY TO ATTEND UNTO THE LORD. Second, St Paul, recommends, even to married people, to abstain from the use of marriage, "for a time, that they may give themselves to prayer," 1 Cor. vii. 5; which is to be particularly understood when they are preparing themselves for receiving the holy communion; and afterwards he adds the reason, because "this is for their profit, and is decent," and it will enable them "to attend upon the Lord without impediment," verse 35. Now, as the very office of the priest is daily to attend unto the Lord, "to give themselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word," Acts vi. 4; as they "are appointed for men in the things that appertain to God, to offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins," Heb. v. 1; therefore, the Church wisely judging, that it is for their profit, and highly becoming, and a means to make them attend to the Lord, and to their holy functions without impediment, that they should always live continent, obliges them, by a strict and positive command, always to do so. Third, St. Paul, explaining more minutely the advantages of a single life, especially in regard tot he concerns of the soul, says, "I would have you to be without solicitude; he that is without a wife is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God; but he that is with a wife is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided. And the unmarried woman, and the virgin, thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband," 1 Cor. vii. 32.

Here again, the Church wisely considering, that it is the very essential duty of those who enter into the priesthood to be solicitous only for the things of the Lord, and not for the things of the world; that "they are chosen by Jesus Christ out of the world," John xv. 19; and "appointed for the things appertaining to God," Heb. v. 1; that, therefore, they ought "not to be divided," but to "be holy both in body and spirit;" on this account, she obliges all those of the priesthood to live a chaste and single life, as being declared by the Apostles to be most proper, and conducive to the end of their vocation.

Return to Table of Contents PASTORS OF THE FLOCK OF JESUS CHRIST. Fourth, The duties or their state, as pastors of the flock of Jesus Christ, make the married state in a manner incompatible with their vocation; for they are chosen by Jesus Christ, and separated from the rest of mankind for the service "of the gospel of God," Rom. i. 1; that they "may go and bring forth fruit," in the conversion of souls to God, and "that their fruit may remain," John xv. 16; they are dedicated, by their vocation to this holy service of God, and his Gospel, and are obliged to give their whole attention to the good of their people's souls; to instruct them, to administer the Sacraments to them, to comfort them in their distress to assist them in their sickness, and especially when death approaches; and, for this purpose, to answer their calls at all times, by night or by day, even though at the risk of their own life, when the good of their people's souls requires it. Now, it is evidently incompatible with the cares of a wife and family to discharge all these duties properly; and therefore, St. Paul says, "No man being a soldier of God, entangleth himself with worldly business, that he may please him to whom he hath engaged himself," 2 Tim. ii. 4. Now, the Church, well knowing that no kind of worldly business so much entangleth a man and withdraweth him from the duties of the pastoral charge as the cares of a wife and family, therefore, she expressly requires her Pastors to abstain from a state so inconsistent with that charge.

Fifth, In the Apostles' time, when the Church began, there was a necessity for taking married people into the Priesthood, because, for want of laborers in the vineyard, there was no room for choice; and therefore, the Apostles did not make any express law against doing so; yet we find the strongest injunctions in their sacred writings, that all who were admitted into that holy state, should live chaste and continent lives. Thus St. Paul affirms, that "a bishop must be - sober, just, holy, continent," Tit. 1. 8; and writing to Timothy on the virtues proper for his state as a Pastor, he says, "be thou an example of the faithful in word, in conversation, in charity, in faith, in chastity," 1 Tim. iv. 12; and again, "I charge thee before God, and Christ Jesus, and the elect angels - keep thyself chaste," 1 Tim. v. 21, 23; and giving a full list of the virtues belonging to the ministers of Christ, he says, "In all things let us exhibit ourselves as the ministers of God in much patience - in chastity," 2 Cor. vi. 4.

Return to Table of Contents THE CALL TO THE PRIESTHOOD A GIFT OF GOD. Sixth, In consequence of this, we find, from the earliest monuments of antiquity, that, even when married people were admitted into the sacred ministry, they generally abstained from all cohabitation with their wives ever after; till in the process of time, when the number of the faithful increased, so that there was no difficulty in getting plenty of young people trained up to the service of the Church, the law was made, for all the above reasons, obliging all who entered into Sacred Orders to observe a perpetual chastity. Q. Is it not a great hardship on human nature to be obliged by such a law? A. By no means; for none are obliged to enter into that state but with their own free consent, and none ought to enter into it but such as "are called by God, as Aaron was." Now, they know the conditions beforehand, they freely accept of them; and, as the law is founded, as we have seen, on the clearest and most evident principle of holy scripture, when God Almighty calls one to that state, he never refuses the necessary helps of his grace to enable him to accomplish all the obligations annexed to it. Continency is, without doubt, a gift of God; for his holy word assures us, that "a man cannot otherwise be continent, except God give it," Wis. viii. 21; and our Savior after enlarging a good deal on this subject, adds, "all men receive not this word, but they to whom it is given," Matth. xix. 11; and St. Paul, after saying, "I would that all men were even with myself," with regard to their leading a single life; he immediately adds, "but every one hath his proper gift from God," 1 Cor. vii. 7.

This grace, then, is given to some; and to whom will God be more ready to give it, than to those whom he calls to that state, to which his Holy Church, from the principles he himself has laid down in the sacred writings, he so solemnly annexed this obligation. And, indeed, nothing more admirably shows the finger of God, than to see such vast numbers as embrace the ecclesiastical state, living in the strictest purity, even amidst the many dangerous occasions to which their necessary communication with the world, in their charge of souls, so frequently exposes them. It is not by the strength of nature or constitution that they live in such purity; nature is incapable, by its own strength, of practicing a virtue which is so opposite to all the most violent inclinations of flesh and blood. It is a grace of Jesus Christ alone which bestows this gift upon them; and the chaste and continent lives they lead is a manifest proof of the interposition of God, and of his divine approbation of the conduct of the Church, in requiring the faithful observance of this virtue from her ministers.

The Sacred Bonds of Matrimony

"What, Therefore, God Hath Joined Together, Let No Man Put Asunder." INSTRUCTIONS ON THE SACRAMENT OF MARRIAGE. Q. What is Marriage or Matrimony? A. It is an indissoluble union, contracted by mutual consent, between one man and one woman, in a lawful manner, by which they are obliged to live together all the days of their life. It may be considered in three different states:

Return to Table of Contents MARRIAGE AS A NATURAL CONTRACT. First, As a natural contract, conformable to the natural desire of mankind for propagating the human species, and gives the married party a mutual right to each other's bodies, according to that of the scripture, "the wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband; and, in like manner, the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife," 1 Cor. vii. 4. God himself is the author of this contract, and at the beginning of the world he created both the sexes, male and female, on purpose to be united in it for the propagation of mankind; thus Christ himself says, "He who made man in the beginning, made them male and female - wherefore, they are no more two, but one flesh," Matth. xix. 4, 5.

Return to Table of Contents MARRIAGE AS A CIVIL CONTRACT. Second, As a civil contract; for, upon the multiplication on the earth, they formed themselves into larger societies, of many families joined in one body, for their mutual protection and defence, and for securing to individuals the undisturbed possession of their property. For this purpose, it was necessary to make proper laws and regulations by which this security might be obtained. As nothing contributes more to the good of the state, and the public tranquility, than to have the natural contract of marriage properly regulated, with regard to the temporal goods and privileges, both of the married couple themselves, and of their children, proper laws were made by the different states for settling these matters. In this view, marriage is a civil contract, made according to the laws of the country where the parties dwell, with regard to their temporal concerns, as members of the community.

Return to Table of Contents MARRIAGE AS A SACRAMENT OF THE NEW LAW, TO PRESERVE MUTUAL LOVE AND FIDELITY AND TO BRING UP CHILDREN IN A CHRISTIAN MANNER. Third, As a Sacrament of the New Law. The great end of Christian Religion is to lead men to Heaven, which presupposes the existence of men upon earth; and, as Marriage is the natural source from which mankind draw their being upon earth, it was necessary that such measures should be taken with respect to Marriage among Christians, as to make it conducive to that great end of the Christian religion, the salvation of souls. The trials and afflictions which accompany the Marriage state, "and that tribulation of the flesh," which St. Paul declares shall be the portion of married people, 1 Cor. vii. 28, are too often, from the corruption of the heart of man, an occasion for the ruin of their souls. The difficulty of avoiding this ruin is not a little increased from the indissolubility of marriage, which our Blessed Savior restored to its original firmness among his followers; and the necessity of bringing up their children not only as men or as good citizens, but as good Christians, so as one day to become saints in Heaven, which Jesus Christ requires, in the strictest manner, of all his followers, lays an additional duty upon Christian parents, which requires a particular grace and assistance from Heaven to enable them to perform. For these reasons, our Blessed Savior was pleased to elevate the natural contract of Marriage to the dignity of a Sacrament among Christians, so as to annex a particular grace to the lawful celebration of this contract, by which the married people are enabled to bear, in a Christian manner, all the tribulations incident to that state, to preserve a mutual love and fidelity to one another, as the indissolubility of the bond of Marriage requires, and to bring up their children in a Christian manner.

Return to Table of Contents THE MARRIAGE OF CHRISTIANS A TRUE SACRAMENT. Q. Is the marriage of Christians a true Sacrament? A. It is; and has all the three things necessary to make it such. Q. What is the outward sensible sign used in Marriage? A. It is the mutual consent of the parties, expressed by words, or other signs, under those conditions which the laws of God and his Church require.

Q. What is the inward grace received? A. It is first, an increase of sanctifying grace, and, secondly, the sacramental grace proper to Marriage; by which the parties are enabled to perform all its duties as above explained.

Q. Where do we find this laid down in the holy scripture? A. When the Pharisees put the question to our Savior, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for any cause?" he declared in his answer, that Marriage, at the beginning, was instituted by God himself; and though, from the hardness of their heart, it had very much declined from its original sanctity, he then restored it to its primitive state, by saying, wherefore, they "are no more two but one flesh; what, therefore, God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," Matth. xix. 6. And St. Paul repeating the same truth, adds, "this is a great sacrament; but I speak in Christ and in the church," Ephes. v. 32. In which words he shows, that, in the Church of Christ, Marriage is a Great Sacrament; and not only a sign of the union, and love which is required among Christians in that state, but also of the union and love which exists inviolably between Christ and his Church.

Q. Wherein does the essence of marriage properly consist? A. In that sacred bond of union between husband and wife, by which they are no longer considered as two distinct persons, but as two joined together in one flesh; "for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh," Matth. xix. 5.

Return to Table of Contents THE BONDS OF MATRIMONY CANNOT BE DISSOLVED BY ANY HUMAN POWER. Q. Can the bond of marriage be dissolved? A. By the indissolubility of marriage is meant, that from the very nature and end of Marriage, and still more from the institution and ordinance of Almighty God, the bond of union that subsists between married people, can in no case whatsoever, nor upon any account whatsoever, be dissolved by any human power or authority, while both the parties remain in life. So that, though for just causes, and especially for infidelity to the marriage contract, husband and wife may be separated from one another, as to their personal cohabitation;yet still they continue married people, the bond of marriage still exists in its full force between them, and, if either of them should marry another person, they would be guilty of adultery. Now this indissolubility of Marriage arises both from the nature and end of Marriage, and also from the express law of Almighty God.


Q. How does the indissolubility of Marriage appear from the nature and end of Marriage? A. This appears manifest whether Marriage be considered as a natural contract, as a civil contract, or as a Sacrament. The nature and end of Marriage, as a natural contract, is, First, To be the means ordained by nature itself for the propagation of mankind, and the proper education of the children.

Second, That the married people united in this bond, may be a mutual help and comfort to one another during their mortal pilgrimage. Thus God himself declared at the beginning, "It is not good for man to be alone, let us make him a help like unto himself," Gens. ii. 18; and with this intention the woman was created.

It is manifest, that, on both these accounts, the nature of marriage requires that its bond be indissoluble; for man differs from all other creatures when he first comes into the world, in this, that, whereas other animals require very little attention from the sire, the mother alone, for the most part, being sufficient to nurture them until they can do for themselves, and that in a very short time; man, on the contrary, in his infancy, requires the whole attention of both father and mother; of the mother to tend and nurse him, and of the father to provide all necessaries both for mother and child. This necessity continues in different degrees, for a series of years, before the child can do any thing for its own sustenance, and when reason begins to dawn, the child then requires the redoubled attention of both parents for educating him properly, whether, as a man, a citizen, or a Christian.

If the bond of marriage could be dissolved, and it were in any case lawful for married people to become free, the passions of men would never be at a loss to put or suppose themselves in that case; and then a door would be opened, not only to the destruction of children, both as to their subsistence and education, but likewise to debaucheries, and a universal corruption of manners, that must be of infinite prejudice to the multiplication of mankind, which is the end of marriage. Besides, what kind of solid comfort could married people have in each other, if their marriage was not indissoluble? It is this indissolubility of marriage which makes the parties enter with all their heart into the views of their mutual interest.

It is this which invincibly fixes their affections on their common concerns. It is this which gives a permanency to their love for one another. In a word, the indissolubility of marriage is the great incentive to make them bear their crosses, and put up with anything disagreeable in each other's tempers, and carefully to avoid giving any just cause of discontent to one another. They are joined together for better and for worse, they are married, and can no more be separated while life remains; therefore they must make the best of it if they can, and content themselves.

But if, on the contrary, the bond of marriage were dissoluble, it would in no wise differ from living in a state of sin, and be attended with all its bad consequences.

If we next consider Marriage as a civil contract, its indissolubility is no less manifest; for the good and happiness of the state being the end of marriage as a civil contract, this end could not be procured if the bond of marriage were dissoluble; because children abandoned and neglected, endless dissensions in families, and confusion about the division of their property, being the natural consequences of the dissolubility of marriage, must necessarily be a source of great misery to human society.

Return to Table of Contents MARRIAGE ELEVATED TO THE DIGNITY OF A SACRAMENT BY JESUS CHRIST. Lastly, the indissolubility of Marriage considered as a Sacrament, appears from the idea the scripture give us of it in this view. For the Sacrament of Marriage among Christians is, by appointment of Jesus Christ, a sacred sign and symbol of his indissoluble union with his Church; and on this account, St. Paul insists upon this as the most powerful motive to cause married people to love one another; because as the bond of their marriage union is a symbol of the union of Christ with his Church, they ought, therefore, to imitate the conduct of Jesus Christ and his Church in their behavior to each other. "The husband," says he, "is head of the wife, as Christ, so let the wives be to their husbands in all things. Husbands, love our wives, as Christ also loved his Church - so sought also men to love their wives, as their own bodies. he that loveth his wife, loveth himself; for no many ever hated his own flesh but nourisheth and cherisheth it, as also Christ doth the Church; for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones: for this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh. This is a great Sacrament; but I speak in Christ and in his church," Ephes. v. 23. Now, all this reasoning of the Apostle would fall to the ground, and have no effect, if Marriage as a Sacrament, did not necessarily require to be indissoluble; like as the sacred union between Christ and his Church, of which Christian Marriage is the symbol, can never be dissolved. All this is further confirmed, from the idea the scripture gives us of the nature of Marriage; for there we are assured, that married people are "no longer two but one flesh;" and this the Holy Ghost declared at the beginning by the mouth of Adam. It is repeated again by Christ as the grounds of the indissolubility of marriage, and is used by St. Paul for the same purpose, who also declares, that husbands ought "to love their wives as their own bodies;" that is "loving his wife, he loves himself, and cannot hate her without hating his own flesh." All which manifestly shows the indissolubility of Marriage from its nature, and from the identity which it produces among married people, making them one flesh.

Return to Table of Contents THE INDISSOLUBILITY OF MARRIAGE ESTABLISHED BY THE LAW OF GOD. Q. How is the indissolubility of Marriage established by the law of God? A. On the most solid testimony of the Holy Word; for, First, This was the original ordinance at the beginning, when he instituted Marriage in paradise; for, when he presented Eve to our first father Adam, Adam by inspiration of the Holy Ghost, said, "this now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh - wherefore, a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh," Gen. ii. 23; which words our blessed Savior brings to prove the indissolubility of Marriage by the law of God, at its first institution; and then he renews the same indissolubility of it among this followers, saying "what therefore, God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," Matth. xix. 6. Where he plainly declares, both that the bond of marriage is the work of God, and that no man can break what he has so tied. And when it was objected to him on this occasion, that Moses allowed a man to put away his wife, and marry another, he replied, by declaring that this was merely permitted to the Jews, by Almighty God, on account of the hardness of their hearts; but immediately assures us, that "from the beginning it was not so," verse 8; which again proves that Marriage, at its original institution, was, by the law of God, indissoluble.

Second, Jesus Christ by elevating the contact of Marriage to the dignity of a Sacrament among his followers, in order to enable them to perform the more sublime and exalted duties which his Holy Religion required from married people, and to ordain it as a sign of his indissoluble union with his Church, was pleased to abrogate all permission given to the Jews of dissolving marriages, and of marrying others while their former partner was alive, and positively pronounces this law, "what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," Matth. xix. 6. After his public conversation with the pharisees on this subject, "In the house again, his disciples asked him concerning the same thing, and he said to them," ion these general and unlimited terms, "Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if the wife shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery," verse 10. Which evidently shows, that, by the law of the Gospel, the bond of marriage can never be dissolved; but that married people, whosoever they be, though they may live separate from one another's company, yet can never be loosed from the marriage tie; and that if either party so separated from the other, should presume to marry another person whilst their former partner is in life, it would be no marriage at all before God.

The same law is more particularly repeated by our Savior on a distinct occasion, where, after the parable of the unjust stewart, and before he began the history of Lazarus and the rich glutton, he interposes this declaration: "Every one that putteth away his wife and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her that is put away from her husband, committeth adultery," Luke xvi. 18. Here we see none are excepted, every one includes all universally; and both parties are in the same case; not only be who put away his wife and marries another, but also he who marries her who is put away, are equally guilty of adultery; which shows to a demonstration, that, in whatever case the separation is made, the bond of Marriage still continues undissolved, so that neither can marry any other without being guilty of that horrid crime.

Return to Table of Contents DEATH ALONE CAN DISSOLVE THE BOND OF MARRIAGE. Third, St. Paul, who is doubtless the most infallible interpreter of the doctrine of Jesus Christ, declares the indissolubility of marriage in the strongest terms, "The woman that hath a husband," says he, "whilst her husband liveth, is bound to the law; but if her husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. Wherefore whilst her husband liveth she shall be called an adulteress, if she be with another man; but if her husband be dead she is freed from the law of her husband; so that she is not an adulteress, if she be with another man," Rom. vii. 2. See in what express and general terms, without all exception, he declares, that death alone can dissolve the bond of Marriage so as to make it lawful for a married person to marry any other. In the same manner, he declares this to be an express law of God himself, "but to them that are married," says he, "not I, but he Lord commandeth, that the wife depart not from her husband; and if she depart, that she remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband. And let not her husband put away his wife, 1 Cor. vii. 10. And a little after he concludes, "a woman is bound by the law, as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband die, she is at liberty; let her marry to whom she will, only in the Lord," verse 39. What he here lays down, with regard to the wife, is equally binding with regard to the husband, both because the contract is mutual, and the bond of marriage equally the same in both; and because the Apostle affirms, that if "the wife hath not power over her own body, but the husband; so, in like manner, the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife," 1 Cor. vii. 4.

Fourth, Now that the indissolubility of the bond of Marriage is the true and genuine interpretation of all the above testimonies of holy writ, and that this is the true sense and meaning of them intended by the Holy Ghost always has been, and is the doctrine of the Church of Christ, as is designed and declared by her in the great and General Council of Trent, which, laying down the Catholic doctrine concerning Marriage, begins with this very point, in these words: "The first father of mankind, declared the perpetual and indissoluble tie of marriage, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, when he said, this now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; wherefore a man shall eave his father and mother, and shall adhere to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh," Sess. xxiv. in princip., and afterward declares, that this always was and is taught by the Church of Christ, according to the doctrine of the Gospel and the Apostles; and, therefore, pronounces anathema upon all those who shall say she is mistaken in teaching so: "If any one shall say that the Church is mistaken, in having taught and in teaching, according to the evangelical and apostolical doctrine, that the bond of Marriage cannot be dissolved by the adultery or either of the parties, and that both, or even the innocent party, who gives no cause to the adultery, cannot contract another marriage whilst the other party is alive, and that he is guilty of adultery, who putting away the adulteress, marries another, as is also she who, leaving the adulterer, marries another, let him be anathema," Sees. xxiv. can. 7. Here we see the infallible authority of the Church of Christ declaring the indissolubility of Marriage to be the evangelical and apostolical interpretation of all the above texts of scripture, and condemning all those who preach the contrary.

Return to Table of Contents SCRIPTURAL PROOFS REGARDING MARRIAGE. Q. But when Jesus Christ says, "whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery," Matth. xix. 9. Does not this exception seem to insinuate, that by the infidelity to the Marriage contract of either party, the Marriage bond is dissoluble, and that, at least, the innocent party may lawfully marry again? A. In answer to this, we must observe, First, that St. Mark, when relating what passed on this occasion, makes no mention of this exception, but tells us, that our Savior, when in the house with his Apostles, declared to them, in general terms, that, "whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her," Mark x. 11. Which clearly shows, that the exception mentioned by St. Matthew, is not applicable to the husband's marrying again, but to the lawfulness of his putting away his wife for any cause but infidelity to the Marriage contract only.

Second, That this text of St. Matthew is very obscure as it lies, and especially if not compared with the account given by St. Mark, which opens the door to the true sense of it; but all the other texts on this subject are clear, decisive, and without all exception, consequently the true meaning of the Holy Ghost is not to be sought from the ambiguous expression of an obscure text, in opposition to so many plain texts, but its ambiguity is to be explained and its true sense ascertained by those other clear and express texts upon the subject.

Third, If it be supposed lawful for the husband to put away his wife on account of her infidelity to the marriage contract, and to marry again, as being the innocent party, then either the bond of marriage is dissolved, or it is not; if it be not dissolved, it can never be lawful, even for the innocent party to marry; if it be dissolved, then even the guilty party can lawfully marry, because no less free than the other, and yet our Savior expressly says, "he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery," matth. xix. 9; which manifestly shows, that even when she is put away for her guilt, the marriage tie remains in its full force.

Fourth, The Church of Christ has never understood the above exception as implying a dissolution of the bond of marriage, even in te case of infidelity to the Marriage contract, or as in any respect favoring the innocent party; and condemns in the strongest terms those who teach it.

Return to Table of Contents MARRIAGE RESTORED TO ITS PRIMITE STATE. Q. What, then, is the meaning of the above text of St. Matthew? A. All these reasons just mentioned demonstrate that it cannot mean that the bond of marriage is dissolved even by the crime of either of the parties, and consequently proves nothing against the doctrine of the Catholic Church. Its true meaning, then, is to be sought for from the circumstances in which Christ spoke it, and from the question to which it was the answer. The Pharisees asked our Savior, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for any cause?" Matth. xix. 3. Before he gives a direct answer to the question, he puts them in mind, that Marriage, at its original institution, was indissoluble, and consequently could not be broken by any cause; he then declares, that he, by his supreme authority, restores it to this its primitive perfection, and that the infringement made upon it by the Jews was only a permission on account of the hardness of their hearts; after this preamble, he gives a direct answer to their question, in these words, "I say to you, whosoever shall put away hiss wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery."

This sentence contains two parts, first, an answer to their question; secondly, a confirmation of what he said in his preamble for the absolute indissolubility of marriage, which he was pleased to join together, rather, indeed, in obscure terms. Their question was, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" To this he answers, "No; it is not lawful to put away his wife for any cause except for fornication; and he who puts her way, "except for fornication, committed adultery;" by being the occasion of her committing adultery; but that none might think that when he puts her away for fornication the tie of Marriage is broken, and the husband at liberty to marry another, he adds, that even when lawfully put away for fornication, if the husband "shall marry another, he committeth adultery;" and "he that shall marry her that is so put away committeth adultery also."

Q. How does it appear that this is our Savior's true meaning? A. From these reasons,

First, Because, as we have proved above, by this sentence, the marriage bond is by no means broken, even in the case of infidelity;

Second, Because it follows from this, and we have also shown above that the exception cannot fall upon the indissolubility of Marriage; and, therefore, must fall upon the lawfulness of putting away his wife.

Third, Because, in another place, our Savior says, in express terms, "whosoever putteth away his wife, excepting the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery," Matth. xix. 9. Where it is manifest, that, if the husband putteth away his wife for any cause except for fornication, he is deemed the cause of her future crime, because the cause for which he put her away was not just; but, if he put her away for fornication, and she marry another, that other is guilty of adultery by marrying another man's wife but the husband is free of the guilt, because he had a just and lawful cause for putting her away.

Return to Table of Contents THE PROPER CONDITIONS FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE SACRAMENT OF MARRIAGE. Q. What are the conditions which the laws of God and his church require for the lawful celebration of the sacrament of marriage? A. They are chiefly these following: First, The proclamation of the banns, where the decree for such proclamations is in force;

Second, The consent of the parents;

Third, That it be done by the proper pastor, and before witnesses;

Fourth, That there be no lawful impediment;

Fifth, That the marriage contract be entered into with Christian dispositions.

Intentions of Marriage Must Be Announced from the Altar.

INSTRUCTIONS ON THE PROCLAMATION OF THE BANNS. Q. What is meant by the Proclamation of the Banns? A. It is that when two person intend to marry, their intention be published from the altar by their pastors during divine service, for three different Sundays or holydays; and that all who may know of any lawful impediment why the marriage should not take place, be called upon in the name of God to declare it. Q. For what reasons is this publication required? A. The Council of Trent gives this reason in general; because, the Church of God, for the most just reasons, has always detested and prohibited secret marriages; but seeing that these prohibitions, by reason of the disobedience of men, had not the desired effect, and considering the grievous sins which arise from secret marriages, therefore ordains, that for all time coming, before marriage be contracted, it be three times proclaimed. The particular reasons for ordaining these publications, are chiefly these:

First, To prevent all secret marriages, which the Church has always had in abhorrence, on account of the fatal consequences that too often flow from them.

Second, That it may be discovered if any of the parties be otherwise engaged, by promise, or from any other cause.

Third, That, if there be any lawful impediment to the marriage, it may be made known.

Fourth, That the parents, or all other interested in preventing the marriage, may be notified of it, and have time to offer their just objections, if they have any, and so avoid the evil consequence which might otherwise ensue.

Q. Would it be a sin to marry without these publications? A. It certainly would be a very grievous sin of disobedience, both in the pastor who should assist at the marriage, and in the parties themselves, because the Church of Christ, with the whole weight of her authority, strictly commands them, and has published this command in two of her General Councils; first, in the great Council of Lateran, held in the year 1215, where the proclamations of marriages are commanded in general terms, all secret marriages are strictly forbidden, and no priest allowed to be present at them; and again, in the Council of Trent, the particular conditions to be observed in making these proclamations are expressly determined. The reasons for making these proclamations are so strong, and the consequences of neglecting them so bad, that even the civil laws themselves of almost all Christina States expressly enjoin them; which civil laws the subjects of the State are most certainly bound in conscience to obey.

Q. What are the conditions required by the Council of Trent in making the proclamations? A. That they be made on three different Sundays or Holydays; so that it is not sufficient to proclaim more than once on the same day.

Second, That they be made public during divine service, when all the people are present; so that it will not suffice at any other time.

Third, When the parties belong to different parishes, that the proclamations be made in both the parishes, by the proper pastor of each party.

Fourth, That a particular caution be sued with those who travel about from place to place, and have no settled habitation, and no priest be allowed to marry them till the most diligent inquiry be made, lest they should have a wife or husband in other places, which is too often the case with such people.

Q. Can the publishing of the banns be in no case dispensed with? A. Yes it can. The Council considering that there may be cases wherein it may be necessary to dispense with some or all of the proclamations, gives power to Bishops only to grant such dispensation, when they shall see a just and necessary cause for doing so; particularly if there be danger that malicious people would oppose the marriage, and create disturbance, without having any just cause for doing it as the Council itself expressly observes; and also when any great and spiritual, or even temporal good of the parties requires it.

Q. Are those who know of any lawful impediment obliged to disclose it? A. They certainly are; both because the Church expressly commands them, and calls upon them in a public and solemn manner to do so; and also, because if they do not, they become answerable to God for all the evil consequences of their silence.

Return to Table of Contents Authority of Parents Concerning Marriage of Children. INSTRUCTIONS REGARDING THE CONSENT OF PARENTS. Q. Why is the consent of parents required for marriage? A. For several strong and weighty reasons; First, On account of the respect and obedience which children owe to their parents by the law of nature, and the honor which is due to them by the express law of God; all which demands, that, in an affair of so great consequence to the future happiness both of the children and the parents, nothing should be entered into without their concurrence.

Second, Experience shows, that marriages made against the parents's will, for the most part, proved unfortunate; the disturbance of families, dissensions between husband and wife, the neglect of the education of the children are frequently the sad consequences of such marriages. Then the injury done to the paternal authority, and the motives from which such marriages occur, and sometimes criminal intrigues, banish the spirit of God from them, and deprive them of his blessing.

Third, Among the people of God, in the old law, the parents had the principal authority in marrying their children; and hence, when Almighty God speaks to them on this subject, he addresses himself only to the parents. Thus, when he forbids them to marry with infidel nations, he says, "Thou shalt not give thy daughter to his son, nor take his daughter for thy son," Deut. vii. 3. And the wise man speaks thus: "Marry thy daughter well, and thou shalt do a great work, and give her a wise man," Ecclus. vii. 27. On this account we find that the servants of God exactly followed this rule of marrying with advice and consent of their parents as we read of Isaac and Jacob, and Sampson; and Esau was blamed, and displeased his parents, for doing the contrary.

Fourth, The Church of Christ, in the Council of Trent, declares, that she always did detest and prohibit marriages of this kind.

Fifth, The civil laws highly disapprove of such marriages if the children who marry without consent of their parents be minors, and their marriage is declared illegal.

Return to Table of Contents IN WHAT CASES PARENTS CAN REFUSE CONSENT. Q. In what cases can parents in conscience, refuse their consent to the marriage of their children? A. In several cases: First, If the proposed marriage would disturb the peace of their family, or be a disgrace to them.

Second, If they judged it would prove highly detrimental to their children, who, blinded by passion, did not perceive the fatal consequences of it.

Third, If it were such as would endanger the loss of their religion, or expose their children, if they should have any, to the same danger.

Fourth, If it was contrary to the civil laws of their country.

Q. But, if the parents merely through heart hardness, or avarice, or prejudice, should refuse their consent to a reasonable marriage of their children, would they be obliged to abstain from it? A. If parents should place an obstacle in the way of the future happiness of their children they would commit a sin; and when this is evident, and appears so to proper judges, the children are not then obliged to obey them.

Return to Table of Contents Secret Marriages Condemned by the Church. INSTRUCTIONS CONCERNING THE PRESENCE OF THE PASTOR AND WITNESSES. Q. What are the regulations of the Church with regard to secret marriages? A. The Church, in the Council of Trent, considering the great evils that flow from secret marriages, finding, by experience, that the laws made against them had not been sufficient effectually to prevent them, made a solemn decree, by which it is ordained, not only that the proclamations of the banns should be made before marriage, as we have seen above, but also, that the marriage itself should be made in presence of the proper pastor of the parties, or one commissioned by him, and at least two witnesses; and it also declared, that where this is not observed, the marriage is null and void, and, in the sight of God is no marriage at all. In consequence of this, in all Catholic countries where this decree has been solemnly published, no marriage can be contracted except in the presence of the proper pastor, or one commissioned by him. In all other places, where the decree had not been published, it is highly unlawful to be married by any other but the proper pastor, as being so entirely opposite to the spirit of desire of the Church, and to her repeated prohibition of secret marriages. Q. Who is the proper pastor? A. The bishop is the proper pastor of the whole diocese, and the parish priest is the proper pastor of all those who are immediately under his charge; and, when the parties belong to different parishes, the pastor of either place marries them, though the common custom is, that it may be done by the pastor of the place to which the woman belongs.

Return to Table of Contents Marriages that are Contrary to the Laws of the Church. INSTRUCTIONS REGARDING IMPEDIMENTS OF MARRIAGE. CLICK HERE FOR AN UPDATE ON MIXED MARRIAGES

Q. What is meant by Impediments of Marriage? A. As marriage is of such vast importance of the good of the parties involved, for the peace of the state, and for the edification of the Church, it is of the greatest necessity to take every precaution that it be established on such a footing as to render it conformable to what nature and morality prescribe, and to hinder it from being prejudicial either to the parties themselves, or to Church or State; with this view the Church has, from the earliest ages, annexed certain conditions to the celebration of this Sacrament, without which, either the marriage is rendered null and void, or those who contract it commit a grievous sin.

Return to Table of Contents THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF IMPEDIMENTS. Q. How many kinds of impediments are there? A. There are two kinds: First, One that renders the marriage null and void, and no marriage at all in the sight of God, and of His Church;

Second, That renders the marriage unlawful, in those who contract it, though valid in itself.

Q. What are the principal impediments that render marriage null and void? A. The impediments which render marriage null, by making the parties in whom they are found, incapable of contracting marriage, are chiefly these following:

First, A solemn vow of chastity by which either of the parties are solemnly consecrated to God, and therefore become incapable of contracting marriage. The same is the case with those who enter into Holy Orders, and are thereby solemnly dedicated to the service of God.

Second, Consanguinity, when the parties are within the prohibited degrees of kindred.

Third, Incapacity, age, insanity, force, fear, and violence, which invalidate marriage by reason of defect of consent or defect of liberty.

Fourth, Existing marriage, and crime which affects an existing marriage.

Fifth, Defect of Baptism.

Sixth, Secret marriage.

Further, Of these diriment impediments some are temporary, as defect of age, and some are perpetual, such as Holy Orders.

Q. What are the principal impediments which render marriage unlawful? A. Impediments of this kind are such as do not annul the marriage, nor hinder it from being a true and valid marriage, but make it a very great crime in those who contract marriage with these impediments. The chief impediments of this kind are,

First, When a person is under a mutual promise of marriage to one; in this case, it would be unlawful and a great sin, to marry another, because it would be a manifest injury done to the person to whom a promise of marriage had been made.

Second, When a person binds himself to God by a simple, private vow of chastity, it would be a manifest crime to marry, because it is a breach of a promise made to God.

Third, If one should marry publicly in Advent or Lent, when the Church, for most just reasons, forbids the solemnizing of marriage, it would be a grievous sin of disobedience to her commands, a violation of the spirit of these holy seasons set apart for penance and humiliation, and also an occasion of great scandal.


Q. What is a mixed marriage? A. A "Mixed Marriage" is a marriage between a Catholic and one who, though baptised, does not profess the Catholic faith. Q. Has the Church always forbidden mixed marriage? A. The Church has always forbidden mixed marriages, and considered them unlawful.

Q. Does the Church sometimes permit mixed marriages? A. The Church sometimes permits mixed marriages, by granting a dispensation, for very grace reasons and under special conditions.

Q. Why does the Church forbid mixed marriages? A. There is nothing of more importance than this point for the happiness of the married state, though there is, perhaps, nothing else attended to by the generality of those who enter into it. The only consideration which influences some people is to be a good family, to have plenty of riches, to be handsome or popular, but daily experience shows how impossible it is for these qualities alone to render them happy with one another. A marriage contracted from no other motives can scarce be called a Christian marriage, seeing the heathens themselves can have no other motives, than such as these in determining their choice. When these are made use of only as secondary motives, to decide in favor of those in whom more Christian and more essential qualities concur, they are, no doubt, very laudable, but, to be determined by them alone, when other things are lacking, is certainly to expose one's self to the greatest danger of misery. Wherefore a Christian, who wishes to make a proper choice, ought in the first place, and above all other considerations, to select person who are (1) of their own religion (2) a virtuous Christian.

This is of the utmost consequence for several reasons.

First, On account of their own salvation; this is manifest from the testimony of God himself; for when he introduced his people into the Holy Land, he laid the strongest injunction upon them never to marry with the people of that country, who were of a false religion, otherwise they would certainly ruin their own souls. "Neither shalt thou make marriages with them," says Almighty God, "thou shalt not give thy daughter to his son, nor take his daughter for thy son; for she will turn away thy son from following me, that he may serve strange gods; and the wrath of the Lord shall be kindled, and will quickly destroy them," Deut. vii. 2.

Return to Table of Contents WHAT IS TO BECOME OF THE CHILDREN?. On account of the children; for, when one of the parents is not a Catholic, what is to become of the children? how are they to be brought up in the true religion of Jesus Christ? Sometimes, indeed, the zeal and fervor of the believing parent does a great deal in this matter; but how often do we find, from experience, that the contrary happens! And, if the Catholic parent die when the children are young, they are then lost entirely; and, if this should not be the case, yet what is to be expected from children, who hear one thing from one parent, and the contrary from the other? who see what one approves, the other condemns? what the one reverences, the other ridicules? What is to be expected in such circumstances, but that the poor children should become cold and indifferent about all religion? On account of their own peace and happiness; for, when the parties are of different religions, the one of the true religion, and the other of a false one, what a source of dissension and disturbances does this become? How often do they contend about the children! How often are calumnies and slanders against the true religion thrown out by the other party! what difficultly do they find in observing the rules and practices of their religion! And, though none of all this happen, what a heartfelt affliction must it be to them, if they have any sincere sense of eternity, to see the person, whom, by the laws of God and nature, they are bound to love above any other creature, living in a way so dangerous and ruinous to their souls! And how must this affliction be increased, if they see their dear children, whether they will or not, brought up in the same way! Besides numbers of other trials which attend such marriages but which the world never hears.

Q. What are the immediate dispositions with which Christians ought to receive the Sacrament of marriage? A. Besides what is above, they ought,

First, To be instructed in the nature and obligations which the law of God has annexed to that state, and be resolved faithfully to discharge them.

Second, To be sufficiently instructed in the Christian doctrine, according to their capacity, without which they are not in a condition to receive the sacrament worthily.

Third, To be in the state of grace and in friendship with God! otherwise, by profaning the Sacrament, if they receive it in the state of sin, they bring a malediction upon their marriage, instead of a blessing.

Fourth, To endeavor, by works of charity and mercy, and by approaching worthily the Holy Sacraments of Confession and Communion, to procure the favor of God, and the presence of Jesus Christ to their marriage, that he may bless it, as he did the marriage of Cana.

Return to Table of Contents CONDITIONS REQUIRED BY THE CHURCH OF BOTH PARTIES TO A MIXED MARRIAGE. First, That all the children that may be born of the marriage shall be baptized and brought up in the Catholic faith. Second, That the Catholic party shall have full liberty for the practice of the Catholic religion.

Third, That no religious marriage ceremony shall take place elsewhere than in the Catholic Church.

The following are the promises to be signed before marriage:

To be Signed by the Catholic Party.

'I the undersigned do hereby promise and engage that all the children of both sexes who may be born of my marriage shall be baptized in the Catholic Church, and shall be carefully brought up in the knowledge and practice of the Catholic religion, and I also promise that (according to the instructions of the Holy See) my marriage in the Catholic Church shall not be preceded nor followed by any other religious marriage ceremony.'


To be Signed by the non-Catholic Party.

'I the undersigned do hereby promise and engage that I will not interfere with the religious belief of N - -, my future [wife or husband], nor with [her or his] full and perfect liberty to fulfill all [her or his] duties as a Catholic; that I will allow all the children of both sexes, who may be born of our marriage, to be baptized in the Catholic Church, and to be carefully brought up in the knowledge and practice of the Catholic religion.'


Return to Table of Contents Matrimonial Dispensations. INSTRUCTIONS REGARDING DISPENSATIONS FROM IMPEDIMENTS. In regard to Matrimonial Dispensations, it may be useful for the faithful to know (1) who has the power of dispensing from the impediments of matrimony; (2) the causes or reasons for which such dispensations are granted; and (3) the Roman tribunals to which application for dispensations of this kind is to be made. First, Only the Supreme Pontiff has the ordinary and proper right of dispensing from ecclesiastical impediments. Bishops, by the express or tacit delegation of the Pope or of the Church, can grant dispensations from certain ecclesiastical impediments.

Bishops can dispense from some of the impediments prohibiting marriage. Thus, they dispense from the forbidden times; from a simple and temporary vow of chastity; from a vow of not marrying or of receiving Sacred Orders; but not from a perpetual vow of chastity. By reason of a special indult, usually granted to Bishops for five years, they can dispense from some of the invalidating impediments, as, for example, in the third and fourth grades of consanguinity and affinity, in the impediment of public morality, of crime, and of spiritual relationship, except between the sponsor and the godchild. Also, generally speaking, Bishops can grant dispensations from ecclesiastical impediments in occult and urgent cases. As a rule, all these dispensations are to be obtained from or through the Bishops in this country and therefore it is needless to go further into the details of this question, as Bishops know clearly the extent of their own powers, and when they cannot grant the dispensations themselves, they obtain them from the Holy See, when the reasons for granting them are judged to be sufficient.Second, The Reasons for which Dispensations are usually granted. - It may be well to refer briefly to some of the causes or reasons for which dispensation may be granted. These are as follows:

Return to Table of Contents REASONS FOR WHICH DISPENSATIONS ARE GRANTED. (1), Places where the inhabitants are few, and suitable wives and husbands cannot be found unless people marry their relations, or where Catholics are few, so that intermarriage becomes in a way necessary with non-Catholics. (2), The age of the woman, that is, if she is over twenty-four and has not found a suitable husband up to that time. This does not hold good as regards widows.

(3), If the woman has only an insufficient fortune, or no fortune at all, and a suitable match offers itself.

(4), In regard to the succession or inheritance of property.

(5), The poverty of a widow, especially if she have children to bring up and maintain.

(6), The peace of nations or people, as amongst Kings and Princes, and also the reconciliation of enemies, and the cessation of grave enmities, or to put a stop to them. The marriage between the parties at variance in this way is well calculated to make peace and effect a reconciliation. To these may be added the following reasons or causes: Dangerous familiarity; to preserve the good reputation of a woman or save her name from reproach; to prevent grave scandal; the merits and worthiness of the persons who need the dispensation, and when they have shown this either by the defence of the Catholic faith, or by their love and dispositions towards the Church, or by their virtue and good religious lives.

Return to Table of Contents INSTRUCTIONS ON THE LAWS OF THE CHURCH CONCERNING DOUBLE MARRIAGE CEREMONIES IN MIXED MARRIAGES. The law of the Church in regard to a double marriage before a Catholic Priest and a Protestant minister, where one of the parties to the marriage is a Protestant, is given as follows from The American Ecclesiastical Review, March 2nd, 1902: "The legislation of the Catholic Church does not countenance the celebration of the marriage ceremonial by any other official but the priest. IF a Catholic party, proposing to enter the marriage contract with a Protestant, consents, for the sake of compromise on religious grounds, to have the rite performed in a Protestant church, or with Protestant ceremonial, such party becomes guilty of a public denial of his or her faith, separates himself or herself from the Church, and is, therefore, excommunicated or deprived of the privileges which the Catholic Church grants only to members who profess obedience to her laws. Nor is this verdict altered by the precedence which may be given to the Catholic worship in a case where the parties repair to the Protestant church after the marriage has been solemnly witnessed by the Catholic priest. No priest, bishop, cardinal or Pope can legitimately bless a marriage if he knows that the parties are of their own inclination prepared to have the Protestant rite performed as a subsequent sanction to that marriage; for it would be a formal admission that such sanction and such worship are approved by them.

"Moreover, reasons of consistency forbid such a course. Either the Protestant party regards the consent given before the priest as valid and rendering the marriage contract solemnly binding, or does not. If not, then it is unfair to seek it at the hands of the priest, who, if aware of the condition, would hardly be willing to act as a dumb witness in a pretended contract. If, on the other hand, the Catholic ceremony is considered valid, then the repetition anywhere else is without meaning and useless.

"It may be urged that the main object for wishing to have a double ceremonial is the desire of reconciling the religious susceptibilities of both parties. This would be perfectly just if it were a question of anything else but religion. Compromises are good in law, in social life, and in business, but they are bad in religion. Christ, the Found of the Catholic Church, has said so: 'he who is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me, scattereth.' - Matt. 12: 30; Luke 11: 23. In matters of doctrine Catholics hold a very definite position, which is not subject to the variation of individual opinion however strong.

Return to Table of Contents THE ATTITUDE OF THE CHURCH. Anyone wishing to marry a Catholic must accept that position as unalterably bound up with the Catholic party's personal convictions as to the highest purpose of life. In religion we obey God rather than man. Anyone is free to apostatize from his or her faith; but no one can be a consistent Catholic and at the same time consciously take part in a worship which the authorized exponent of his faith declares untrue and hence unworthy of him, owing to his better knowledge. There is a hazy view which poorly informed and lukewarm Catholics share, and by which the charity which is due to the person in error is transferred to the toleration of the error itself. We may excuse persons in error, but we cannot worship with them in their error to please them. And if nominal Catholics hold that they can worship in any church, they have no right to claim that the Church should endorse such a view by her admission of a practice which would be a denial of her doctrine. Catholics who give thought to the most important business in life, namely, their faith, know that Christ has made plain His revelation; otherwise there would have been no need of His coming to us to teach us. They know also that He has supplied us with motives for accepting the Church as a guide in faith, which are both clear and reasonable, whatever popular and unreflecting prejudice says to the contrary. "This is the attitude of the Church and of well-informed and faithful Catholics everywhere and at all times. Hence the assertion recently made in the papers, with regard to France, by a person who signed himself ",i>Catholic priest, namely, that the Church had for some time past sanctioned the practice of the French clergy allowing double ceremonies is indignantly refuted by a French theologian, who says that there is not a vestige of foundation for such a statement.

"It is very true that in countries where the civil law refuses to recognize the legality of the Catholic marriage under heavy penalty and forfeiture of civic privileges, the parties are permitted to signify their consent by the act of a so-called civil marriage before the magistrate; but that is merely a formality which has no religious significance, and the omission of which would prevent the Catholic marriage from being recognized. Fro similar reasons (set forth in the Concordats) the Church has allowed the priest officiating at mixed marriages to bless the parties and the ring, and even to perform the ceremony in the church. But in none of these cases can the act be construed as a participation of the Catholic party in Protestant worship.

"To be married before a civil magistrate alone, without any religious ceremony, is, on the part of those (Catholics) who profess to recognize marriage as a Sacrament, a tacit denial of their belief, unless there is no Catholic priest to witness the contract, or the act is required by the law of the State as a civil registry." in the marriage ceremony where one or both of the parties is a Catholic the witnesses should be Catholics.


It is frequently asked if it is allowable for Catholics to act as bridesmaids or groomsmen at any marriage, whether in a church or in a private house at which the ceremony is conducted by a Protestant minister, or at a purely civil marriage? The same authority is quoted: "As to the question, viz., whether Catholics may lawfully act as bridesmaids or grooms at Protestant or civil marriages, we should answer: 'A Catholic is at liberty to act as official witness to a lawful marriage contract, if the assistance does not imply assent to conditions otherwise forbidden in conscience. Hence if two persons, who are not baptized, choose to marry before a magistrate, exercising their natural right, which a Catholic reasonably respects, he is at liberty to attest such a marriage by his presence as an official witness, just as he might attend any other lawful and solemn contract. Here there is no denial of faith.

"No Catholic is, however, at liberty to act as official witness to a marriage unlawful before God, such as the marriage ceremony of a divorced party already rightly married according to Christian or the natural law; or a party that is Catholic and publicly denies his or her faith by neglecting the sacramental rite in favor of a purely civil ceremony before the magistrate, unless there be no priest to perform the rites of the Church; or a party that is leading a scandalous life which would justify the prospect of shame, divorce, or neglect; for though such persons may not pretend to any religious convictions, and protest their mere intention to make a natural mutual contract, yet prudence and respect for the moral order should forbid a Catholic to assist at such marriage contracts.

"A third principle, already explained in the answer to the question whether a double religious ceremonial is permissible, forbids Catholics to take part in any marriage ceremony which bears the character of religious worship other than that of the Catholic Church. Hence a Catholic may not lawfully assist at a marriage in a Protestant church which is intended to have a religious aspect.

"If such marriage is intended to have a religious aspect; for there are some cases when a marriage performed in a Protestant church or by a Protestant minister may be regarded as a purely social or civil function intended to ratify the marriage, which outside the Church is a purely natural contract. Thus in a town where there is a public hall, used on Sundays for Protestant worship, but also for other meetings; or where the Protestant minister (holding Sunday service) is at the same time the legal justice of the peace; or where the assistance of a Catholic is plainly intended as a mark of respect for lawful authority due to an intimate connection with the party to be married, without any evidence of active participation in or approval of religious worship contrary to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, there the principle of an explicit or implicit denial of one's faith is not justly applicable."

A Complete Explanation of the Doctrines of the Church on Marriage and Divorce

By His Eminence James, Cardinal Gibbons. (Published by Special Permission) Cardinal's Residence, 408 N. Charles St., Baltimore.

Sept. 15th, 1906.

Dear Dr. McGovern; In answer to your favour of the h14th inst. the Cardinal is pleased to give you permission to use "The Catholic Church and the Marriage Tie."

Wishing you all success, I am

Yours very truly,

Wm. T. Russell, Sect'y

Return to Table of Contents The Catholic Church and the Marriage Tie. MARRIAGE - THE MOST SACRED OF ALL CONTRACTS.. Marriage, in the view of the Church, is the most inviolable and irrevocable of all contracts that were ever formed. Every human compact may be lawfully dissolved but this. Nations may be justified in abrogating treaties with each other; merchants may dissolve partnerships; brothers will eventually leave the parental roof, and, like Jacob and Esau, separate from one another; friends, like Abraham and Lot, may be obliged to part company; but by the law of God the bond uniting husband and wife can be dissolved only by death. No earthly sword can sever the nuptial knot which the Lord has tied, for "what God hath joined together let no man put asunder. Three of the evangelists as well as the apostles of the gentiles, proclaim the indissolubility of marriage and forbid a wedded person to engage in second wedlock during the life of his spouse. There is, indeed, scarcely a moral precept more strongly enforced in the gospel than the indissoluble character of marriage validly contracted.

The pharisees came to Jesus, tempting him and saying, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" who, answering, said to them: "Have ye not read that he who made man from the beginning made them male and female. And for this cause shall a man leave father and mother and shall cleave to wife and they two shall be one flesh. Therefore now they are not two but one flesh. What, therefore, God hath joined together let no man put asunder." They said to him: "Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorce and to put away?" He said to them: "Because Moses, by reason of the hardness of your heart, permitted you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery, and he that shall marry her that is put away committeth adultery."

Return to Table of Contents NO LEGISLATION DEVISED BY MAN CAN VALIDLY DISSOLVE IT. Our Savior here emphatically declares that the nuptial bond is ratified by God himself and hence that no man, nor any legislation framed by man, can validly dissolve the contract. To the pharisees interposing this objection, if marriage is not to be dissolved, why then did Moses command to give a divorce, our Lord replies that Moses did not command, but simply permitted the separation, and that in tolerating this indulgences the great lawgiver had regard to the violent passion of the Jewish people, who would fall into a greater excess if their desire to be divorced and to form a new alliance were refused. But our Savior reminded them that in the primitive times no such license was granted. He then plainly affirms that such privilege would not be conceded in the new dispensation for he adds:

"I say to you: Whosoever shall put away his wife and shall marry another committeth adultery."

Protestant commentators erroneously assert that the text justifies an injured husband in separating from his adulterous wife and marrying again. But the Catholic Church explains the gospel in the sense that while the offended consort may obtain divorce from bed and board from his unfaithful wife he is not allowed a divorce a vinculo matrimonii, so as to have the privilege of marrying another.

Return to Table of Contents TESTIMONY OF SCRIPTURE. This interpretation is confirmed by the concurrent testimony of the Evangelists Mark and Luke and by St. Paul, all of whom prohibit a divorce a vinculo without any qualification whatever. In St. Mark we read: "Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another committeth adultery against her, and if the wife shall put away her husband and be married to another she committeth adultery."

The same unqualified declaration is made by St. Luke:

"Every one that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery."

Both of these Evangelists forbid either husband or wife to enter into second wedlock, how aggravating soever may be the cause of their separation. And surely if the case of adultery authorized the aggrieved husband to marry another wife, those inspired penmen would have failed to mention that qualifying circumstance.

Passing from the gospels to the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians we find there also an unqualified prohibition of divorce. The apostle is writing to a city newly converted to the Christian religion. Among other topics he indicates the doctrine of the Church respecting matrimony. We must suppose that, as an inspired writer and a faithful minister of the word, he discharges his duty conscientiously, without suppressing or extenuating one iota of the law. He addresses the Corinthians (chapter vii, verses 10 and 11) as follows:

"To them that are married, not I, but the Lord commandeth that the wife depart not from her husband. And if she depart that she remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband. And let not the husband put away his wife."

Here we find the apostle, in his Master's name, commanding the separated couple to remain unmarried, without any reference to adultery. If so important an exception existed, St. Paul would not have omitted to mention it; otherwise he would have rendered the gospel yoke more grievous than its founder intended.

We therefore must admit that, according to the religion of Jesus Christ, conjugal infidelity does not warrant either party to marry again, or we are forced to the conclusion that the vast number of the teachings of Saints Mark, Luke and Paul were imperfectly instructed in their faith.

The Catholic Church, following the light of the gospel, forbids a divorced man to enter into second espousals during the life of his former partner. This is the inflexible law she first proclaimed in the face of pagan emperors and people and which she has ever upheld, in spite of the passions and voluptuousness of her own rebellious children.

Return to Table of Contents HISTORIC DIVORCES AND THE CHURCH. Henry VIII, of England, once an obedient son and defender of the Church, conceived in an evil hour a criminal attachment for Anne Boleyn, a lady of the Queen's household, whom he desired to marry after being divorced from his lawful consort, Catherine of Aragon. But Pope Clement VII, whose sanction he solicited, sternly refused to ratify the separation, though the Pontiff could have easily foreseen that his determined action would involve the Church in persecution and a whole nation in the unhappy schism of its ruler. Had the Pope acquiesced in the repudiation of Catherine, and the marriage of Anne Boleyn, England would, indeed, have been spared to the Church, but the Church itself would have surrendered her peerless title of Mistress of Truth.

When Napoleon I repudiated his devoted wife, Josephine, and married Marie Louise of Austria, so well assured was he of the fruitlessness of his attempt to obtain from the Holy See the sanction of his divorce and subsequent marriage that he did not even consult the Holy Father on the subject. A few years previously Napoleon applied to Pius VII to annul the marriage which his brother Jerome had contracted with Miss Patterson of Baltimore. The Pope sent the following reply to the Emperor:

"Your Majesty will understand that upon the information thus far received by us it is not in our power to pronounce a sentence of nullity. We cannot utter a judgment in opposition to the rules of the Church, and we could not, without laying aside those rules, decree the invalidity of a union which, according to the word of God, no human power can sunder."

Return to Table of Contents SOCIAL LIFE REFLEX OF FAMILY LIFE. The family is the source of society; the wife is the source of the family. If the fountain is not pure, the stream is sure to be foul and muddy. Social life is the reflex of family life. And if we would clearly understand whither, as a nation, we are drifting when we forsake the Christian standard of morals and the Christian precepts concerning the indissoluble nature of the marriage tie, the history of woman in pagan countries should enlighten us. Woman in pagan countries, with rare exceptions, suffered bondage, oppression and moral degradation. She had no rights that the husband felt bound to respect.

Return to Table of Contents WOMAN AND MARRIAGE IN PAGAN LIFE. The domestic life of Greece, it is true, was founded on monogamy. But whilst the law restricted the husband to one wife as his helpmate and domestic guardian, it tolerated, and even sanctioned the hetairai who bore to him the relation of inferior wives and who enjoyed his society more frequently and received more homage from him that his lawful spouse. And whilst the education of the wife was a most elementary character, the greatest care was lavished in cultivating the minds of the hetairai, that they might entertain their paramour by their wit while they fascinated him by their charms. The wife was the beast of burden; the mistress was the petted and pampered animal. These hetairai derived additional importance from being legally chosen to offer sacrifice on certain public occasions.

This demoralizing system, so far from being deplored was actually defended and patronized by statesmen, philosophers, and leaders of public opinion, such as Demosthenes, Pericles, Lysias, Aristotle and Epicurus.

Return to Table of Contents A MERE CHATTEL, MARKETABLE AT WILL. Solon erects in Athens a temple of Venus, the goddess of impure love. Greece is full of such temples, whilst there is not one erected to chaste, conjugal love. No virtuous woman has ever left a durable record in the history of Greece. The husband could put away his wife according to his capricious humor, and take a fairer, younger, and richer bride. he could dissolve the marriage bond without other formality than an attestation in writing before an Archon; and the wife had practically no power to refuse, as she was completely under the dominion of her husband. She was a mere chattel, marketable at will; nor had she any power to dissolve the marriage without her husband's consent. In a word, the most distinguished Greek writers treat woman with undisguised contempt; they describe her as the source of every evil to man. One of their poets says that marriage brings but two happy days to the husband - the day of his espousal and the day on which he lays his wife in the tomb.

Hesiod calls woman "an accursed brood and the chief scourge of the human race." The daily prayer of Socrates was a thanksgiving to the gods that he was born neither a slave nor a woman. And we have only to glance at the domestic life of Turkey today to be convinced that woman fares better under the modern Mohammedanism than she did in ancient Greece.

Return to Table of Contents THE MOHAMMEDAN BOND. The Mohammedan husband has merely to say to his wife; "Thou art divorced" and the bond is dissolved. To his followers Mohammed allowed four wives; to himself an unlimited number was permitted by a special favor of heaven. The moral standard of the Lacedaemonian wives was far lower than that of the Athenians. They were taught when maidens, to engage in exercise but strengthened their bodies and imparted grace to their movements, but at the sacrifice of female modesty. The ideal of conjugal fidelity was not seriously entertained. Adultery was so common that it was scarcely regarded as a crime. Aristotle says that the Spartan wives lived in unbridled licentiousness.

Passing from Greece to Italy, we find that monogamy was, at least nominally, upheld in Rome, especially during the earlier days of the republic. But while the wife was summarily punished for the violation of the marriage vows, the husband's marital transgressions were committed with impunity.

Toward the end of the republic, and during the empire, the disorders of nuptial life increased to an alarming extent. There was a fearful rebound on the p art of Roman wives, particularly among the upper classes, from the restraints of former days to the most unlimited license. They rivalled the wantonness of the sterner sex.

Return to Table of Contents DISSOLVED AT WILL. So notorious were their morals in the time of Augustus that men preferred the unfettered life of celibacy to an alliance with partners bereft of every trace of female virtue. The strict form of marriage became almost obsolete, and a laxer one, destitute of religious or civic ceremony, and resting solely on mutual agreement, became general. Each party could dissolve the marriage bond at will and under the most trifling pretext, and both were free to enter at once into second wedlock. Marriage was accordingly treated with extreme levity. Cicero repudiated his wife, Terentia, that he might obtain a coveted dowry with another; and he discarded the latter because she did not lament the death of his daughter by the former.

Cato was divorced from his wife Attilia after she had born him two children, and he transferred his second wife to his friend Hortensius, after whose death he married her again.

Augustus compelled the husband of Livia to abandon her, that she might become his own wife. Sempronius Sophus was divorced from his wife because she went once to the public games without his knowledge. Paulus Aemilius dismissed his wife, the mother of Scipio, without any reason whatever. Pompey was divorced and remarried a number of times. Sylla repudiated his wife during her illness, when he had her conveyed to another house.

If morals censors, philosophers and statesmen such as Cato, Cicero and Augustus discarded their wives with so much levity, how lax must have been the marriage bond among the humble members of society, with examples so pernicious constantly before their eyes.

Wives emulated husband sin the career of divorcees. Martial speaks of a woman who had married her tenth husband. Juvenal refers to one who had eight husbands in five years. St. Jerome declares that there dwells in Rome a wife who had married her twenty-third husband, she being his twenty-first wife.

"There is not a woman left," says Seneca, "who is ashamed of being divorced, now that the most distinguished ladies count their years not by consuls, but by their husbands."

Return to Table of Contents THE MISSION OF CHRISTIANITY. It was a part of the mission of Christianity to change all this. By vindicating the unity, the sanctity, and the indissolubility of marriage the Church has conferred the greatest boon on the female sex. The holiness of the marriage bond is the palladium of woman's dignity, while polygamy and divorce involve her in bondage and degradation. The Church has ever maintained, in accordance with the teachings of our Savior, that no man can lawfully have more than one wife and no woman ore than one husband. The rights and obligations of both consorts are correlative. To give to the husband the license of two or more wives would be an injustice to his spouse and destructive of domestic peace. The Church has also invariably taught that the marriage compact, once validly formed, can be dissolved only by death, for what God hath joined together man cannot put asunder.

Return to Table of Contents LEGITIMATE CAUSE FOR SEPARATION; NONE FOR ABSOLUTE DIVORCE. While admitting that there may be legitimate cause for separation, she never allows any pretext for the absolute dissolution of the marriage bond. For so strong and violent are the passion of love and its opposite passion of hate, so insidious is the human heart, that once a solitary pretext is admitted for absolute divorce, others are quickly invented as experience has shown. Thus a fearful crevice is made in the moral embankment and the rush of waters is sure to override every barrier that separates a man from the object of his desires.

Return to Table of Contents A FEARFUL CREVICE. It has again and again been alleged that this law is too severe; that it is harsh and cruel; and that it condemns to a life of misery two souls who might find happiness if permitted to have their marriage annulled and to be united with more congenial partners. Eery law has its occasional inconveniences, and I admit that the law absolutely prohibiting divorce a vinculo may sometimes appear rigorous and cruel. But its harshness is mercy itself when compared with the frightful miseries resulting from the toleration of divorce. Its inconvenience is infinitesimal when contrasted with the colossal evils from which it saves society and the solid blessings it secure to countless homes. Those exceptional ill-assorted marriages would become more rare if the public were convinced once for all that death alone can dissolve the marriage bond. They would then use more circumspection in the selection of a conjugal partner. Hence it happens that in Catholic countries where faith is strong, as in Ireland and Tyrol, divorces are almost unheard of.

Return to Table of Contents SUCCESSIVE POLYGAMY. The reckless facility with which divorce is procured in this country is an evil scarcely less deplorable than Mormonism - indeed, it is in some respects more dangerous than the latter, for divorce has the sanction of the civil law, which Mormonism has not. Is not the law of divorce a virtual toleration of Mormonism in a modified form? Mormonism consist in simultaneous polygamy, while the law of divorce practically leads to successive polygamy. Each state has on its statute books a list of causes - or, rather, pretexts - which are recognized as sufficient grounds for divorce a vinculo. There are in all twenty-two or more causes, most of them of a trifling character, and in some states, as in Illinois and Maine, the power of granting a divorce is left to the discretion of the judge.

Return to Table of Contents STARTLING STATISTICS. In his special report on the statistics of marriage and divorce made to Congress by Carroll D. Wright in February, 1889, the following startling facts appeared:

Year Divorces Year Divorces 1867.......... 9,937 1878.......... 16,089 1868.......... 10,150 1879.......... 17,083 1869.......... 10,939 1880.......... 19,663 1870.......... 10,962 1881.......... 20,762 1871.......... 11,586 1882.......... 22,112 1872.......... 12,390 1883.......... 23,198 1873.......... 13,156 1884.......... 22,994 1874.......... 13,989 1885.......... 23,472 1875.......... 14,212 1886.......... 25,535 1876.......... 14,800 ______ 1877.......... 15,687 Total...... 328,716

From this table it will be seen that there was a total of 328,716 divorces in the United States in the twenty years, 1867-1886. Of these there were 122,121 in the first half of the period and 206,595 in the last half. That is to say, the divorces in the later half were 69 per cent, more than those in the first half. The population between 1870 and 1880 increased only 30 per cent. The divorces in 1870 were 10,962 and in 1880 they were 19,663, and, as the table shows, they were in 1886 more than two and one-half times what they were in 1867. I have not at hand the figures for the last decade, but there is no reason to believe that they show any decrease in the awful industry of the divorce courts.

Return to Table of Contents THE CANCER SPREADING - HEROIC AND SPEEDY REMEDY NEEDED. From the figures I have quoted it is painfully manifest that the cancer of divorce is rapidly spreading over the community and poisoning the fountains of the nation. Unless the evil is checked by some speedy and heroic remedy, the existence of family life is imperiled. How can we call ourselves Christian people if we violate a fundamental law of Christianity? And if the sanctity and dissolubility of marriage does not constitute a cardinal principle of the Christian religion, I am at a loss to know what does.

Return to Table of Contents AN HONEST APPLICATION OF THE TEACHINGS OF THE GOSPEL CURE. Let the imagination picture to yourself the fearful wrecks daily caused by this rock of scandal, and the number of families that are cast adrift on the ocean of life. Great stress is justly laid by moralists on the observance of the Sunday. But what a mockery is the external repose of the Christian Sabbath to homes from which domestic peace is banished, where the mother's heart is broken the father's spirit crushed, and where the children cannot cling to one of their parents without exciting the jealousy or hatred of the other. And these melancholy scenes are followed by the final act of the dram when the family ties are dissolved and hearts that had vowed eternal love and union are separated to meet no more.

This social plague calls for a radical cure, and the remedy can be found only in the abolition of our mischievous legislation regarding divorce and in an honest application of the teachings of the gospel. If persons contemplating marriage were persuaded that once united they were legally debarred from entering into second wedlock they would be more circumspect before marriage in the choice of a life partner and would be more patient afterward in bearing the yoke and in tolerating each other's infirmities.


Recent Engagement and Marriage Laws with their Latest Authentic Interpretation

A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE LEGISLATION OF THE ENCYCLICAL No Temere. INCLUDING ALL RECENT DECISIONS THAT HAVE BEEN GIVEN BY THE SACRED CONGREGATIONS (BY SPECIAL PERMISSION, FROM THE ECCLESIASTICAL REVIEW YEAR BOOK 1911.) ENGAGEMENTS. 1. Every Matrimonial Engagement must be in writing and duly attested, although there is neither necessity nor obligation to enter into formal engagement before marriage. 2. In the eyes of the Church and before God, a private, unwritten betrothal between Catholic parties or between the fallen-away Catholics, in any manner whatever entered into, begets no matrimonial obligation, because the Church decrees that every prenuptial contract is void unless it is written and duly attested. As the Church lays down conditions without which marriage cannot be validly contracted, so she lays down conditions for valid engagements. A verbal engagement that entails loss or an injustice of any sort obliges the party to due reparation, but not to marriage.

3. Parties who wish to become engaged must sign the prenuptial contract, and have the Ordinary or pastor witness it. In the absence of the Ordinary or parish priest, two witnesses must sign the agreement. If one of both of those to be engaged cannot write, this should be noted and the lay witnesses must sign the engagement in the absence of the Ordinary or the parish priest.

4. Signatures of both parties to be engaged must be affixed in the presence of each other to the same written contract before the Ordinary, or the parish priest, or the lay witnesses. All the signatories should simultaneously witness the act of signing the contract, so that all can give testimony subsequently if necessary.

5. Parties who wish to become formally engaged can authorize representatives to sign the engagement for them. Such an authorization ought to be in writing, as it may be needed subsequently to prove the engagement.

6. En engagement contract is invalid unless the date - that is, day, month, and year, be affixed to it.

7. By Ordinary is meant not only the bishop but also the vicar general, the vicar apostolic, the administrator of a diocese, and an abbot "nullius." Parish priest means not only irremovable rectors but those permanently and even temporarily in charge of a parish or mission. Assistant priests can be given jurisdiction by the Ordinary either for the whole diocese or for the parishes to which they are assigned. Thus they may become parish priests in so far as engagements and marriages are concerned.

8. It is advisable for uniformity's sake and further to prevent not only invalid engagements but also invalid marriages that assistant priests in the United States be appointed "parochi" in the sense of the decree "Ne Temere." Very many of our Bishops have so appointed the assistant priests under their jurisdiction. In dioceses where they have not been so appointed, neither the Ordinary not the pastor can delegate (as they can for matrimony) an assistant priest to witness officially the engagement. If such an attempt to delegate be made and the assistant priest acts on such a delegation (that is, he alone witnessing), the engagement would be null and void. In dioceses where the bishops have not appointed assistant priests as "parochi quantum ad matrimonium," such assistant priests must have another witness to sign the engagement contract with them.

9. Every Ordinary and parish priest rightfully exercising jurisdiction can validly witness, within the limits of their territory, engagements of their own and of other subjects. As a matter of parochial propriety and even of justice parish priests should witness no engagements except those of their subjects, unless a good reason for doing so exists. When they have witnessed the engagement of other subjects the parish priest of the parties should be notified.

10. In case a Catholic wishes to become formally engaged to a non- Catholic (baptized or non-baptized), a dispensation "mixtae religionis" or "disparitatis cultus" must be obtained before the engagement contract can be validly signed.

11. Protestant and all who have never been baptized in the Catholic faith, who wish to be engaged are not subjects of this law, hence their private verbal contracts bind.

12. All fallen-away Catholics, whether they have become Protestants or infidels, are bound by the law. The Church, like the State, can bind her refractory subjects.

13. These written engagements should be encouraged, especially in cases where hasty alliances are feared. If made some months before marriage they will tend to stop marriages entered into without serious deliberation which are the cause of so much subsequent unhappiness even among Catholics.

14. This written contract, would furnish valid evidence in our civil courts in case of breach of promise suit.


1. Every Ordinary can validly witness within the limits of his diocese the marriages of all parties who may validly enter matrimony, irrespective of the fact whether they are of his diocese or of any other diocese in the world. The Ordinary can delegate any priest to do the same. The one delegated must be determined and certain and he can exercise his delegated power only within the limits of the Ordinary's jurisdiction. The authority the Ordinary has in the diocese the parish priest also has within the limits of the parish. 2. Ordinaries or parish priests may not assist at marriages until they have assumed office.

3. There is no marriage at all, if the priest be compelled by force or grave fear to witness it. There is no marriage if the parties do not at least implicitly ask a priest to witness their marriage.

4. There is no marriage at all if witnessed by priests publicly suspended or excommunicated by name.

5. There is no marriage at all if the priest does not ask and receive the consent of the parties, without being compelled or intimidated by grave fear to do so. This applies also to mixed marriages.

6. Parish priests outside the limits of their parish can validly witness marriages in the following cases: First, where pastors have jurisdiction both personal and territorial, they can witness all marriages of parties within the territory to which they are assigned, even of those parties over whom other parish priests have personal jurisdiction. The practical case is a city where they are, say three churches, one for English-speaking people, another for Germans, a third for Italians. The pastor of any of these churches can validly witness the marriages of any parties in this city irrespective of their nationality. Secondly, even where they are fixed parish lines, a parish priest can go into the territory of another parish to witness the marriage of parties over whom he has personal jurisdiction. In some dioceses the regulation is made that one is a member of the parish in which he rents a pew. Where this regulation holds, a parish priest may witness such marriages not only in his own church but also within the limits of the parish where his subjects live.

7. Army and navy chaplains and parish priests who have absolutely no parish territory but only direct jurisdiction over certain persons or families, can witness the marriages of these parties wherever the latter are located. They will continue to be governed by any special laws that were in force for them previously to the execution of the decree "Ne temere."

8. Chaplains of hospitals and convents of sisters, rectors of seminaries and superiors of religious institutions cannot validly (except in cases of delegation) witness marriages, unless they be entrusted with full parish jurisdiction.

9. Marriage of all Catholic (both parties Catholics) before a minister or civil magistrate is no marriage at all.

10. Marriage of all fallen-away Catholic (who have become Protestants or infidels) before a minister or civil magistrate is no marriage.

11. Marriage of a Catholic to a non-baptized person is never a real marriage unless the Church grants a dispensation. Such a marriage before a minister or a justice of the peace is no marriage.

12. Marriage of a Catholic to a Protestant (one never baptized in the Catholic Church) before a minister or civil magistrate is not marriage.

13. Marriage of a Protestant to a Protestant (provided they were never baptized in the Catholic Church) is valid.

14. Marriage of a Protestant (baptized) to a non-baptized party is no marriage.

15. Marriage of a non-baptized man to a non-baptized woman is valid as a life-long contract. These parties do not receive, however, the Sacrament of Matrimony.

16. There will be no marriage at all unless there be two witnesses - one witness with the priest will not suffice.

17. If for an entire month the couple cannot secure Ordinary, parish priest, or any priest appointed by either of these, they may in the presence of two witnesses (there is no marriage if there be not two witnesses) declare their consent to marry. They are then in the eyes of the Church and before God married. This condition of being unable to secure a priest for a month is not interrupted if any authorized priest unknown and unsuspected by the parties should happen to pass through their locality. As soon after marriage as possible they should send their names to the parish priest for registration, and do whatever is required to have their marriage legally recognized by the State.

18. In missionary districts where missionaries do not visit even once a month, a marriage would nevertheless be invalid, if the parties thereto without serious inconvenience could go to the missionary of their district, or could have any priest who is a parish priest in the sense of the decree, come to them.

19. Marriage entered into when there is danger of death, can be witnessed by any priest with two witnesses, provided there is no time to reach the Ordinary, parish priest, or priest appointed by either of these. Priests witnessing such marriages can dispense from all ecclesiastical impediments except priestly ordination and affinity arising from "coupla licita in linea recta." Thus if witnesses cannot be had and the priest fears the party may die before two persons can be secured he may dispense with the witnesses.

20. In general, persons of the Oriental Rites are not subject to the "Ne temere." Very probably the Orientals living in the United States are subjects of the law. Until a decision be given, a doubtful course in practice should not be followed.

21. Orientals becoming engaged to or marrying Latins thereby become subjects of the "Ne temere."

22. Ruthenians marrying Latin are governed by the special rulings of the Apostolic Constitution "Ea semper."

23. Heretics and schismatics of the Oriental Rites are not governed by the "Ne temere."


1. Although marriage can be contracted before any Ordinary or parish priest within the limits of their jurisdiction, for the lawful celebration of a marriage one or other of the contracting parties should have a domicile or live for a month in the parish where the marriage is to take place. There need be no inquiry about a quasi-domicile. By a month is meant thirty or thirty-one days, or from, say, 25 February to 25 March.

2. Ordinaries and parish priests should not witness marriages until they are satisfied with the proofs furnished for domicile or month's residence and are morally certain that the parties to be married are free to enter the matrimonial state; hence as far as possible dispensation from the publication of banns should not be sought.

3. Marriages of persons without fixed abode should be referred to the Ordinary before the ceremony takes place.

4. The marriage ceremony, as a general rule, should be performed by the parish priest of the bride - that is, where the bride has a domicile or a month's residence. If there be a good reason for it, the marriage ceremony can be performed by the groom's pastor. If there be no diocesan statute about the place of marriage ceremony when the bride is a Protestant the pastor of the groom should officiate.

5. The Ordinary, or parish priest, cannot delegate, outside the limits of his jurisdiction, another priest to perform a marriage ceremony, but he can grant permission that his subjects be married by the ordinary or parish priest of the place where his subjects have neither a domicile nor a month's residence. This permission is required for a licit marriage.

Only grave necessity excuses the Ordinary or parish priest from securing this permission. If the parish priest of the bridge refuses permission, either the parish priest of the groom or the Ordinary may be applied to. If grave necessity did not exist or if a priest performed the ceremony without securing permission from the Ordinary or parish priest of either party, he must in justice send the stole-fee to the parish priest of the domicile or month's residence. In case of necessity or when the parish priest of the bride or groom gives permission, he loses all right to the stole- fee, unless the bishop should decide otherwise. The permission like the delegation need not be in writing.

6. The regulations for registration require that a record of the marriage be entered not only in the matrimonial register of the place where the ceremony was performed, but also in the baptismal register, or registers as the case may be, of the place or places where the party or parties were baptized. Thus it is advisable to have parties obtain their baptismal certificates - thereby ensuring accurate address for notification.


Note. - The following explanation of the laws regarding the necessary witnesses to a marriage, is added by the author in order to clearly define those capable of acting as witnesses. The Council of Trent and the Decree "Ne temere" of Pius X. make it a condition necessary for the validity of marriage that it take place in the presence of two witnesses in addition to the parish- priest who is the authorized witness. Men, women, children who have the use of reason, relatives, the clergy secular and regular, nuns, infidels, heretics, the excommunicated, may all act as witnesses to marriage, though with many it would be unbecoming. In many places local statutes exist regulating the selection of matrimonial witnesses. these laws, however, affect only the lawfulness, not the validity, of the marriage. Similarly, the Holy Office, August 19, 1891, when asked if it was permitted to make use of heretics as witnesses to Catholic marriages, replied: "They are not to be commended but can be tolerated from a grave cause, and where no scandal is given."

Persons who are intoxicated (so far as not to know what they are doing), persons asleep, unconscious or otherwise without the use of their senses, cannot be valid witnesses to matrimony. A person who is both blind and deaf cannot be a valid witness of a marriage.

Another condition requisite for the validity of marriage is that the witnesses shall all be present together, for all have to testify to the same act. It would not be a valid marriage if the contract were repeated first before one and then before another. There must be the one mutual consent witnessed by the parish priest or his delegate and two or more persons simultaneously.

A marriage is valid which is celebrated in the presence of a number of persons assembled for the occasion, though none specially designated as witnesses. If only one of the appointed witnesses were present at the ceremony, and a person who had entered the church through private devotion and was kneeling quite apart saw and heard all that took place, that person would be a formal witness of the marriage. - "Gasparri" (Tractatus de Matrimonio,) "Gennari" (Breve Commento).

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