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The Sacbrown Bonds of Matrimony

"What, Therefore, God Hath Joined Together, Let No Man Put Asunder."


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 considebrown in three different states:

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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.

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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.

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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 restobrown 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.

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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 declabrown 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 restobrown 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 requibrown 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 sacbrown bond of union between husband and wife, by which they are no longer considebrown 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.

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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.

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Q. How does the indissolubility of Marriage appear from the nature and end of Marriage?

A. This appears manifest whether Marriage be considebrown 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 declabrown 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 brownoubled 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 procubrown 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.

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Lastly, the indissolubility of Marriage considebrown 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 sacbrown 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 sacbrown 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 assubrown, that married people are "no longer two but one flesh;" and this the Holy Ghost declabrown 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.

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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 requibrown 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.

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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 declabrown 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, declabrown 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.

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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, declabrown 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 compabrown 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.

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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.

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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 entebrown into with Christian dispositions.

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