ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS XI
ON CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE
TO THE VENERABLE BRETHREN, PATRIARCHS,
PRIMATES, ARCHBISHOPS, BISHOPS, AND OTHER LOCAL ORDINARIES
ENJOYING PEACE AND COMMUNION WITH THE APOSTOLIC SEE.
Venerable Brethren and Beloved Children, Health and Apostolic Benediction.
How great is the dignity of chaste wedlock, Venerable Brethren, may be judged
best from this that Christ Our Lord, Son of the Eternal Father, having assumed
the nature of fallen man, not only, with His loving desire of compassing the
redemption of our race, ordained it in an especial manner as the principle and
foundation of domestic society and therefore of all human intercourse, but also
raised it to the rank of a truly and great sacrament of the New Law, restored it
to the original purity of its divine institution, and accordingly entrusted all
its discipline and care to His spouse the Church.
2. In order, however, that amongst men of every nation and every age the
desired fruits may be obtained from this renewal of matrimony, it is necessary,
first of all, that men's minds be illuminated with the true doctrine of Christ
regarding it; and secondly, that Christian spouses, the weakness of their wills
strengthened by the internal grace of God, shape all their ways of thinking and
of acting in conformity with that pure law of Christ so as to obtain true peace
and happiness for themselves and for their families.
3. Yet not only do We, looking with paternal eye on the universal world from
this Apostolic See as from a watch-tower, but you, also, Venerable Brethren,
see, and seeing deeply grieve with Us that a great number of men, forgetful of
that divine work of redemption, either entirely ignore or shamelessly deny the
great sanctity of Christian wedlock, or relying on the false principles of a new
and utterly perverse morality, too often trample it under foot. And since these
most pernicious errors and depraved morals have begun to spread even amongst the
faithful and are gradually gaining ground, in Our office as Christ's Vicar upon
earth and Supreme Shepherd and Teacher We consider it Our duty to raise Our
voice to keep the flock committed to Our care from poisoned pastures and, as far
as in Us lies, to preserve it from harm.
4. We have decided therefore to speak to you, Venerable Brethren, and through
you to the whole Church of Christ and indeed to the whole human race, on the
nature and dignity of Christian marriage, on the advantages and benefits which
accrue from it to the family and to human society itself, on the errors contrary
to this most important point of the Gospel teaching, on the vices opposed to
conjugal union, and lastly on the principal remedies to be applied. In so doing
We follow the footsteps of Our predecessor, Leo XIII, of happy memory, whose
Encyclical Arcanum, published fifty years ago, We hereby confirm and
make Our own, and while We wish to expound more fully certain points called for
by the circumstances of our times, nevertheless We declare that, far from being
obsolete, it retains its full force at the present day.
5. And to begin with that same Encyclical, which is wholly concerned in
vindicating the divine institution of matrimony, its sacramental dignity, and
its perpetual stability, let it be repeated as an immutable and inviolable
fundamental doctrine that matrimony was not instituted or restored by man but by
God; not by man were the laws made to strengthen and confirm and elevate it but
by God, the Author of nature, and by Christ Our Lord by Whom nature was
redeemed, and hence these laws cannot be subject to any human decrees or to any
contrary pact even of the spouses themselves. This is the doctrine of Holy
Scripture; this is the constant tradition of the Universal Church; this the
solemn definition of the sacred Council of Trent, which declares and establishes
from the words of Holy Writ itself that God is the Author of the perpetual
stability of the marriage bond, its unity and its firmness.
6. Yet although matrimony is of its very nature of divine institution, the
human will, too, enters into it and performs a most noble part. For each
individual marriage, inasmuch as it is a conjugal union of a particular man and
woman, arises only from the free consent of each of the spouses; and this free
act of the will, by which each party hands over and accepts those rights proper
to the state of marriage, is so necessary to constitute true marriage that it
cannot be supplied by any human power. This freedom, however, regards only
the question whether the contracting parties really wish to enter upon matrimony
or to marry this particular person; but the nature of matrimony is entirely
independent of the free will of man, so that if one has once contracted
matrimony he is thereby subject to its divinely made laws and its essential
properties. For the Angelic Doctor, writing on conjugal honor and on the
offspring which is the fruit of marriage, says: "These things are so
contained in matrimony by the marriage pact itself that, if anything to the
contrary were expressed in the consent which makes the marriage, it would not be
a true marriage."
7. By matrimony, therefore, the souls of the contracting parties are joined
and knit together more directly and more intimately than are their bodies, and
that not by any passing affection of sense of spirit, but by a deliberate and
firm act of the will; and from this union of souls by God's decree, a sacred and
inviolable bond arises. Hence the nature of this contract, which is proper and
peculiar to it alone, makes it entirely different both from the union of animals
entered into by the blind instinct of nature alone in which neither reason nor
free will plays a part, and also from the haphazard unions of men, which are far
removed from all true and honorable unions of will and enjoy none of the rights
of family life.
8. From this it is clear that legitimately constituted authority has the
right and therefore the duty to restrict, to prevent, and to punish those base
unions which are opposed to reason and to nature; but since it is a matter which
flows from human nature itself, no less certain is the teaching of Our
predecessor, Leo XIII of happy memory: "In choosing a state of life
there is no doubt but that it is in the power and discretion of each one to
prefer one or the other: either to embrace the counsel of virginity given by
Jesus Christ, or to bind himself in the bonds of matrimony. To take away from
man the natural and primeval right of marriage, to circumscribe in any way the
principal ends of marriage laid down in the beginning by God Himself in the
words 'Increase and multiply,' is beyond the power of any human law."
9. Therefore the sacred partnership of true marriage is constituted both by
the will of God and the will of man. From God comes the very institution of
marriage, the ends for which it was instituted, the laws that govern it, the
blessings that flow from it; while man, through generous surrender of his own
person made to another for the whole span of life, becomes, with the help and
cooperation of God, the author of each particular marriage, with the duties and
blessings annexed thereto from divine institution.
10. Now when We come to explain, Venerable Brethren, what are the blessings
that God has attached to true matrimony, and how great they are, there occur to
Us the words of that illustrious Doctor of the Church whom We commemorated
recently in Our Encyclical Ad salutem on the occasion of the fifteenth
centenary of his death: "These," says St. Augustine, "are all
the blessings of matrimony on account of which matrimony itself is a blessing;
offspring, conjugal faith and the sacrament." And how under these three
heads is contained a splendid summary of the whole doctrine of Christian
marriage, the holy Doctor himself expressly declares when he said: "By
conjugal faith it is provided that there should be no carnal intercourse outside
the marriage bond with another man or woman; with regard to offspring, that
children should be begotten of love, tenderly cared for and educated in a
religious atmosphere; finally, in its sacramental aspect that the marriage bond
should not be broken and that a husband or wife, if separated, should not be
joined to another even for the sake of offspring. This we regard as the law of
marriage by which the fruitfulness of nature is adorned and the evil of
incontinence is restrained."
11. Thus amongst the blessings of marriage, the child holds the first place.
And indeed the Creator of the human race Himself, Who in His goodness wishes to
use men as His helpers in the propagation of life, taught this when, instituting
marriage in Paradise, He said to our first parents, and through them to all
future spouses: "Increase and multiply, and fill the earth." As
St. Augustine admirably deduces from the words of the holy Apostle Saint Paul to
Timothy when he says: "The Apostle himself is therefore a witness that
marriage is for the sake of generation: 'I wish,' he says, 'young girls to
marry.' And, as if someone said to him, 'Why?,' he immediately adds: 'To bear
children, to be mothers of families'."
12. How great a boon of God this is, and how great a blessing of matrimony is
clear from a consideration of man's dignity and of his sublime end. For man
surpasses all other visible creatures by the superiority of his rational nature
alone. Besides, God wishes men to be born not only that they should live and
fill the earth, but much more that they may be worshippers of God, that they may
know Him and love Him and finally enjoy Him for ever in heaven; and this end,
since man is raised by God in a marvelous way to the supernatural order,
surpasses all that eye hath seen, and ear heard, and all that hath entered into
the heart of man. From which it is easily seen how great a gift of divine
goodness and how remarkable a fruit of marriage are children born by the
omnipotent power of God through the cooperation of those bound in wedlock.
13. But Christian parents must also understand that they are destined not
only to propagate and preserve the human race on earth, indeed not only to
educate any kind of worshippers of the true God, but children who are to become
members of the Church of Christ, to raise up fellow-citizens of the Saints, and
members of God's household, that the worshippers of God and Our Savior may
14. For although Christian spouses even if sanctified themselves cannot
transmit sanctification to their progeny, nay, although the very natural process
of generating life has become the way of death by which original sin is passed
on to posterity, nevertheless, they share to some extent in the blessings of
that primeval marriage of Paradise, since it is theirs to offer their offspring
to the Church in order that by this most fruitful Mother of the children of God
they may be regenerated through the laver of Baptism unto supernatural justice
and finally be made living members of Christ, partakers of immortal life, and
heirs of that eternal glory to which we all aspire from our inmost heart.
15. If a true Christian mother weigh well these things, she will indeed
understand with a sense of deep consolation that of her the words of Our Savior
were spoken: "A woman . . . when she hath brought forth the child
remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the
world"; and proving herself superior to all the pains and cares and
solicitudes of her maternal office with a more just and holy joy than that of
the Roman matron, the mother of the Gracchi, she will rejoice in the Lord
crowned as it were with the glory of her offspring. Both husband and wife,
however, receiving these children with joy and gratitude from the hand of God,
will regard them as a talent committed to their charge by God, not only to be
employed for their own advantage or for that of an earthly commonwealth, but to
be restored to God with interest on the day of reckoning.
16. The blessing of offspring, however, is not completed by the mere
begetting of them, but something else must be added, namely the proper education
of the offspring. For the most wise God would have failed to make sufficient
provision for children that had been born, and so for the whole human race, if
He had not given to those to whom He had entrusted the power and right to beget
them, the power also and the right to educate them. For no one can fail to see
that children are incapable of providing wholly for themselves, even in matters
pertaining to their natural life, and much less in those pertaining to the
supernatural, but require for many years to be helped, instructed, and educated
by others. Now it is certain that both by the law of nature and of God this
right and duty of educating their offspring belongs in the first place to those
who began the work of nature by giving them birth, and they are indeed forbidden
to leave unfinished this work and so expose it to certain ruin. But in matrimony
provision has been made in the best possible way for this education of children
that is so necessary, for, since the parents are bound together by an
indissoluble bond, the care and mutual help of each is always at hand.
17. Since, however, We have spoken fully elsewhere on the Christian education
of youth, let Us sum it all up by quoting once more the words of St.
Augustine: "As regards the offspring it is provided that they should be
begotten lovingly and educated religiously," - and this is also
expressed succinctly in the Code of Canon Law - "The primary end of
marriage is the procreation and the education of children."
18. Nor must We omit to remark, in fine, that since the duty entrusted to
parents for the good of their children is of such high dignity and of such great
importance, every use of the faculty given by God for the procreation of new
life is the right and the privilege of the married state alone, by the law of
God and of nature, and must be confined absolutely within the sacred limits of
19. The second blessing of matrimony which We said was mentioned by St.
Augustine, is the blessing of conjugal honor which consists in the mutual
fidelity of the spouses in fulfilling the marriage contract, so that what
belongs to one of the parties by reason of this contract sanctioned by divine
law, may not be denied to him or permitted to any third person; nor may there be
conceded to one of the parties anything which, being contrary to the rights and
laws of God and entirely opposed to matrimonial faith, can never be conceded.
20. Wherefore, conjugal faith, or honor, demands in the first place the
complete unity of matrimony which the Creator Himself laid down in the beginning
when He wished it to be not otherwise than between one man and one woman. And
although afterwards this primeval law was relaxed to some extent by God, the
Supreme Legislator, there is no doubt that the law of the Gospel fully restored
that original and perfect unity, and abrogated all dispensations as the words of
Christ and the constant teaching and action of the Church show plainly. With
reason, therefore, does the Sacred Council of Trent solemnly declare:
"Christ Our Lord very clearly taught that in this bond two persons only are
to be united and joined together when He said: 'Therefore they are no longer
two, but one flesh'."
21. Nor did Christ Our Lord wish only to condemn any form of polygamy or
polyandry, as they are called, whether successive or simultaneous, and every
other external dishonorable act, but, in order that the sacred bonds of marriage
may be guarded absolutely inviolate, He forbade also even willful thoughts and
desires of such like things: "But I say to you, that whosoever shall look
on a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her in his
heart." Which words of Christ Our Lord cannot be annulled even by the
consent of one of the partners of marriage for they express a law of God and of
nature which no will of man can break or bend.
22. Nay, that mutual familiar intercourse between the spouses themselves, if
the blessing of conjugal faith is to shine with becoming splendor, must be
distinguished by chastity so that husband and wife bear themselves in all things
with the law of God and of nature, and endeavor always to follow the will of
their most wise and holy Creator with the greatest reverence toward the work of
23. This conjugal faith, however, which is most aptly called by St. Augustine
the "faith of chastity" blooms more freely, more beautifully and more
nobly, when it is rooted in that more excellent soil, the love of husband and
wife which pervades all the duties of married life and holds pride of place in
Christian marriage. For matrimonial faith demands that husband and wife be
joined in an especially holy and pure love, not as adulterers love each other,
but as Christ loved the Church. This precept the Apostle laid down when he said:
"Husbands, love your wives as Christ also loved the Church," that
Church which of a truth He embraced with a boundless love not for the sake of
His own advantage, but seeking only the good of His Spouse. The love, then,
of which We are speaking is not that based on the passing lust of the moment nor
does it consist in pleasing words only, but in the deep attachment of the heart
which is expressed in action, since love is proved by deeds. This outward
expression of love in the home demands not only mutual help but must go further;
must have as its primary purpose that man and wife help each other day by day in
forming and perfecting themselves in the interior life, so that through their
partnership in life they may advance ever more and more in virtue, and above all
that they may grow in true love toward God and their neighbor, on which indeed
"dependeth the whole Law and the Prophets." For all men of every
condition, in whatever honorable walk of life they may be, can and ought to
imitate that most perfect example of holiness placed before man by God, namely
Christ Our Lord, and by God's grace to arrive at the summit of perfection, as is
proved by the example set us of many saints.
24. This mutual molding of husband and wife, this determined effort to
perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be
said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony be
looked at not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception
and education of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole
and the mutual interchange and sharing thereof.
25. By this same love it is necessary that all the other rights and duties of
the marriage state be regulated as the words of the Apostle: "Let the
husband render the debt to the wife, and the wife also in like manner to the
husband," express not only a law of justice but of charity.
26. Domestic society being confirmed, therefore, by this bond of love, there
should flourish in it that "order of love," as St. Augustine calls it.
This order includes both the primacy of the husband with regard to the wife and
children, the ready subjection of the wife and her willing obedience, which the
Apostle commends in these words: "Let women be subject to their husbands as
to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ is the head
of the Church."
27. This subjection, however, does not deny or take away the liberty which
fully belongs to the woman both in view of her dignity as a human person, and in
view of her most noble office as wife and mother and companion; nor does it bid
her obey her husband's every request if not in harmony with right reason or with
the dignity due to wife; nor, in fine, does it imply that the wife should be put
on a level with those persons who in law are called minors, to whom it is
customary to allow free exercise of their rights on account of their lack of
mature judgment, or of their ignorance of human affairs. But it forbids that
exaggerated liberty which cares not for the good of the family; it forbids that
in this body which is the family, the heart be separated from the head to the
great detriment of the whole body and the proximate danger of ruin. For if the
man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in
ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love.
28. Again, this subjection of wife to husband in its degree and manner may
vary according to the different conditions of persons, place and time. In fact,
if the husband neglect his duty, it falls to the wife to take his place in
directing the family. But the structure of the family and its fundamental law,
established and confirmed by God, must always and everywhere be maintained
29. With great wisdom Our predecessor Leo XIII, of happy memory, in the
Encyclical on Christian marriage which We have already mentioned, speaking of
this order to be maintained between man and wife, teaches: "The man is the
ruler of the family, and the head of the woman; but because she is flesh of his
flesh and bone of his bone, let her be subject and obedient to the man, not as a
servant but as a companion, so that nothing be lacking of honor or of dignity in
the obedience which she pays. Let divine charity be the constant guide of their
mutual relations, both in him who rules and in her who obeys, since each bears
the image, the one of Christ, the other of the Church."
30. These, then, are the elements which compose the blessing of conjugal
faith: unity, chastity, charity, honorable noble obedience, which are at the
same time an enumeration of the benefits which are bestowed on husband and wife
in their married state, benefits by which the peace, the dignity and the
happiness of matrimony are securely preserved and fostered. Wherefore it is not
surprising that this conjugal faith has always been counted amongst the most
priceless and special blessings of matrimony.
31. But this accumulation of benefits is completed and, as it were, crowned
by that blessing of Christian marriage which in the words of St. Augustine we
have called the sacrament, by which is denoted both the indissolubility of the
bond and the raising and hallowing of the contract by Christ Himself, whereby He
made it an efficacious sign of grace.
32. In the first place Christ Himself lays stress on the indissolubility and
firmness of the marriage bond when He says: "What God hath joined together
let no man put asunder," and: "Everyone that putteth away his wife
and marrieth another committeth adultery, and he that marrieth her that is put
away from her husband committeth adultery."
33. And St. Augustine clearly places what he calls the blessing of matrimony
in this indissolubility when he says: "In the sacrament it is provided that
the marriage bond should not be broken, and that a husband or wife, if
separated, should not be joined to another even for the sake of
34. And this inviolable stability, although not in the same perfect measure
in every case, belongs to every true marriage, for the word of the Lord:
"What God hath joined together let no man put asunder," must of
necessity include all true marriages without exception, since it was spoken of
the marriage of our first parents, the prototype of every future marriage.
Therefore although before Christ the sublimeness and the severity of the
primeval law was so tempered that Moses permitted to the chosen people of God on
account of the hardness of their hearts that a bill of divorce might be given in
certain circumstances, nevertheless, Christ, by virtue of His supreme
legislative power, recalled this concession of greater liberty and restored the
primeval law in its integrity by those words which must never be forgotten,
"What God hath joined together let no man put asunder." Wherefore, Our
predecessor Pius VI of happy memory, writing to the Bishop of Agria, most wisely
said: "Hence it is clear that marriage even in the state of nature, and
certainly long before it was raised to the dignity of a sacrament, was divinely
instituted in such a way that it should carry with it a perpetual and
indissoluble bond which cannot therefore be dissolved by any civil law.
Therefore although the sacramental element may be absent from a marriage as is
the case among unbelievers, still in such a marriage, inasmuch as it is a true
marriage there must remain and indeed there does remain that perpetual bond
which by divine right is so bound up with matrimony from its first institution
that it is not subject to any civil power. And so, whatever marriage is said to
be contracted, either it is so contracted that it is really a true marriage, in
which case it carries with it that enduring bond which by divine right is
inherent in every true marriage; or it is thought to be contracted without that
perpetual bond, and in that case there is no marriage, but an illicit union
opposed of its very nature to the divine law, which therefore cannot be entered
into or maintained."
35. And if this stability seems to be open to exception, however rare the
exception may be, as in the case of certain natural marriages between
unbelievers, or amongst Christians in the case of those marriages which though
valid have not been consummated, that exception does not depend on the will of
men nor on that of any merely human power, but on divine law, of which the only
guardian and interpreter is the Church of Christ. However, not even this power
can ever affect for any cause whatsoever a Christian marriage which is valid and
has been consummated, for as it is plain that here the marriage contract has its
full completion, so, by the will of God, there is also the greatest firmness and
indissolubility which may not be destroyed by any human authority.
36. If we wish with all reverence to inquire into the intimate reason of this
divine decree, Venerable Brethren, we shall easily see it in the mystical
signification of Christian marriage which is fully and perfectly verified in
consummated marriage between Christians. For, as the Apostle says in his Epistle
to the Ephesians, the marriage of Christians recalls that most perfect union
which exists between Christ and the Church: "Sacramentum hoc magnum est,
ego autem dico, in Christo et in ecclesia;" which union, as long as Christ
shall live and the Church through Him, can never be dissolved by any separation.
And this St. Augustine clearly declares in these words: "This is
safeguarded in Christ and the Church, which, living with Christ who lives for
ever may never be divorced from Him. The observance of this sacrament is such in
the City of God . . . that is, in the Church of Christ, that when for the sake
of begetting children, women marry or are taken to wife, it is wrong to leave a
wife that is sterile in order to take another by whom children may be hand.
Anyone doing this is guilty of adultery, just as if he married another, guilty
not by the law of the day, according to which when one's partner is put away
another may be taken, which the Lord allowed in the law of Moses because of the
hardness of the hearts of the people of Israel; but by the law of the
37. Indeed, how many and how important are the benefits which flow from the
indissolubility of matrimony cannot escape anyone who gives even a brief
consideration either to the good of the married parties and the offspring or to
the welfare of human society. First of all, both husband and wife possess a
positive guarantee of the endurance of this stability which that generous
yielding of their persons and the intimate fellowship of their hearts by their
nature strongly require, since true love never falls away. Besides, a strong
bulwark is set up in defense of a loyal chastity against incitements to
infidelity, should any be encountered either from within or from without; any
anxious fear lest in adversity or old age the other spouse would prove
unfaithful is precluded and in its place there reigns a calm sense of security.
Moreover, the dignity of both man and wife is maintained and mutual aid is most
satisfactorily assured, while through the indissoluble bond, always enduring,
the spouses are warned continuously that not for the sake of perishable things
nor that they may serve their passions, but that they may procure one for the
other high and lasting good have they entered into the nuptial partnership, to
be dissolved only by death. In the training and education of children, which
must extend over a period of many years, it plays a great part, since the grave
and long enduring burdens of this office are best borne by the united efforts of
the parents. Nor do lesser benefits accrue to human society as a whole. For
experience has taught that unassailable stability in matrimony is a fruitful
source of virtuous life and of habits of integrity. Where this order of things
obtains, the happiness and well being of the nation is safely guarded; what the
families and individuals are, so also is the State, for a body is determined by
its parts. Wherefore, both for the private good of husband, wife and children,
as likewise for the public good of human society, they indeed deserve well who
strenuously defend the inviolable stability of matrimony.
38. But considering the benefits of the Sacrament, besides the firmness and
indissolubility, there are also much higher emoluments as the word
"sacrament" itself very aptly indicates; for to Christians this is not
a meaningless and empty name. Christ the Lord, the Institutor and
"Perfecter" of the holy sacraments, by raising the matrimony of
His faithful to the dignity of a true sacrament of the New Law, made it a sign
and source of that peculiar internal grace by which "it perfects natural
love, it confirms an indissoluble union, and sanctifies both man and
39. And since the valid matrimonial consent among the faithful was
constituted by Christ as a sign of grace, the sacramental nature is so
intimately bound up with Christian wedlock that there can be no true marriage
between baptized persons "without it being by that very fact a
40. By the very fact, therefore, that the faithful with sincere mind give
such consent, they open up for themselves a treasure of sacramental grace from
which they draw supernatural power for the fulfilling of their rights and duties
faithfully, holily, perseveringly even unto death. Hence this sacrament not only
increases sanctifying grace, the permanent principle of the supernatural life,
in those who, as the expression is, place no obstacle (obex) in its way,
but also adds particular gifts, dispositions, seeds of grace, by elevating and
perfecting the natural powers. By these gifts the parties are assisted not only
in understanding, but in knowing intimately, in adhering to firmly, in willing
effectively, and in successfully putting into practice, those things which
pertain to the marriage state, its aims and duties, giving them in fine right to
the actual assistance of grace, whensoever they need it for fulfilling the
duties of their state.
41. Nevertheless, since it is a law of divine Providence in the supernatural
order that men do not reap the full fruit of the Sacraments which they receive
after acquiring the use of reason unless they cooperate with grace, the grace of
matrimony will remain for the most part an unused talent hidden in the field
unless the parties exercise these supernatural powers and cultivate and develop
the seeds of grace they have received. If, however, doing all that lies with
their power, they cooperate diligently, they will be able with ease to bear the
burdens of their state and to fulfill their duties. By such a sacrament they
will be strengthened, sanctified and in a manner consecrated. For, as St.
Augustine teaches, just as by Baptism and Holy Orders a man is set aside and
assisted either for the duties of Christian life or for the priestly office and
is never deprived of their sacramental aid, almost in the same way (although not
by a sacramental character), the faithful once joined by marriage ties can never
be deprived of the help and the binding force of the sacrament. Indeed, as the
Holy Doctor adds, even those who commit adultery carry with them that sacred
yoke, although in this case not as a title to the glory of grace but for the
ignominy of their guilty action, "as the soul by apostasy, withdrawing as
it were from marriage with Christ, even though it may have lost its faith, does
not lose the sacrament of Faith which it received at the laver of
42. These parties, let it be noted, not fettered but adorned by the golden
bond of the sacrament, not hampered but assisted, should strive with all their
might to the end that their wedlock, not only through the power and symbolism of
the sacrament, but also through their spirit and manner of life, may be and
remain always the living image of that most fruitful union of Christ with the
Church, which is to venerated as the sacred token of most perfect love.
43. All of these things, Venerable Brethren, you must consider carefully and
ponder over with a lively faith if you would see in their true light the
extraordinary benefits on matrimony - offspring, conjugal faith, and the
sacrament. No one can fail to admire the divine Wisdom, Holiness and Goodness
which, while respecting the dignity and happiness of husband and wife, has
provided so bountifully for the conservation and propagation of the human race
by a single chaste and sacred fellowship of nuptial union.
44. When we consider the great excellence of chaste wedlock, Venerable
Brethren, it appears all the more regrettable that particularly in our day we
should witness this divine institution often scorned and on every side degraded.
45. For now, alas, not secretly nor under cover, but openly, with all sense
of shame put aside, now by word again by writings, by theatrical productions of
every kind, by romantic fiction, by amorous and frivolous novels, by
cinematographs portraying in vivid scene, in addresses broadcast by radio
telephony, in short by all the inventions of modern science, the sanctity of
marriage is trampled upon and derided; divorce, adultery, all the basest vices
either are extolled or at least are depicted in such colors as to appear to be
free of all reproach and infamy. Books are not lacking which dare to pronounce
themselves as scientific but which in truth are merely coated with a veneer of
science in order that they may the more easily insinuate their ideas. The
doctrines defended in these are offered for sale as the productions of modern
genius, of that genius namely, which, anxious only for truth, is considered to
have emancipated itself from all those old-fashioned and immature
opinions of the ancients; and to the number of these antiquated opinions they
relegate the traditional doctrine of Christian marriage.
46. These thoughts are instilled into men of every class, rich and poor,
masters and workers, lettered and unlettered, married and single, the godly and
godless, old and young, but for these last, as easiest prey, the worst snares
47. Not all the sponsors of these new doctrines are carried to the extremes
of unbridled lust; there are those who, striving as it were to ride a middle
course, believe nevertheless that something should be conceded in our times as
regards certain precepts of the divine and natural law. But these likewise, more
or less wittingly, are emissaries of the great enemy who is ever seeking to sow
cockle among the wheat. We, therefore, whom the Father has appointed over
His field, We who are bound by Our most holy office to take care lest the good
seed be choked by the weeds, believe it fitting to apply to Ourselves the most
grave words of the Holy Ghost with which the Apostle Paul exhorted his beloved
Timothy: "Be thou vigilant . . . Fulfill thy ministry . . . Preach the
word, be instant in season, out of season, reprove, entreat, rebuke in all
patience and doctrine."
48. And since, in order that the deceits of the enemy may be avoided, it is
necessary first of all that they be laid bare; since much is to be gained by
denouncing these fallacies for the sake of the unwary, even though We prefer not
to name these iniquities "as becometh saints," yet for the welfare
of souls We cannot remain altogether silent.
49. To begin at the very source of these evils, their basic principle lies in
this, that matrimony is repeatedly declared to be not instituted by the Author
of nature nor raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a true sacrament, but
invented by man. Some confidently assert that they have found no evidence of the
existence of matrimony in nature or in her laws, but regard it merely as the
means of producing life and of gratifying in one way or another a vehement
impulse; on the other hand, others recognize that certain beginnings or, as it
were, seeds of true wedlock are found in the nature of man since, unless men
were bound together by some form of permanent tie, the dignity of husband and
wife or the natural end of propagating and rearing the offspring would not
receive satisfactory provision. At the same time they maintain that in all
beyond this germinal idea matrimony, through various concurrent causes, is
invented solely by the mind of man, established solely by his will.
50. How grievously all these err and how shamelessly they leave the ways of
honesty is already evident from what we have set forth here regarding the origin
and nature of wedlock, its purposes and the good inherent in it. The evil of
this teaching is plainly seen from the consequences which its advocates deduce
from it, namely, that the laws, institutions and customs by which wedlock is
governed, since they take their origin solely from the will of man, are subject
entirely to him, hence can and must be founded, changed and abrogated according
to human caprice and the shifting circumstances of human affairs; that the
generative power which is grounded in nature itself is more sacred and has wider
range than matrimony - hence it may be exercised both outside as well as within
the confines of wedlock, and though the purpose of matrimony be set aside, as
though to suggest that the license of a base fornicating woman should enjoy the
same rights as the chaste motherhood of a lawfully wedded wife.
51. Armed with these principles, some men go so far as to concoct new species
of unions, suited, as they say, to the present temper of men and the times,
which various new forms of matrimony they presume to label
"temporary," "experimental," and "companionate."
These offer all the indulgence of matrimony and its rights without, however, the
indissoluble bond, and without offspring, unless later the parties alter their
cohabitation into a matrimony in the full sense of the law.
52. Indeed there are some who desire and insist that these practices be
legitimatized by the law or, at least, excused by their general acceptance among
the people. They do not seem even to suspect that these proposals partake of
nothing of the modern "culture" in which they glory so much, but are
simply hateful abominations which beyond all question reduce our truly cultured
nations to the barbarous standards of savage peoples.
53. And now, Venerable Brethren, we shall explain in detail the evils opposed
to each of the benefits of matrimony. First consideration is due to the
offspring, which many have the boldness to call the disagreeable burden of
matrimony and which they say is to be carefully avoided by married people not
through virtuous continence (which Christian law permits in matrimony when both
parties consent) but by frustrating the marriage act. Some justify this criminal
abuse on the ground that they are weary of children and wish to gratify their
desires without their consequent burden. Others say that they cannot on the one
hand remain continent nor on the other can they have children because of the
difficulties whether on the part of the mother or on the part of family
54. But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything
intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good.
Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the
begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its
natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful
and intrinsically vicious.
55. Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine
Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has
punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, "Intercourse even with
one's legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the
offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him
56. Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian
tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another
doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted
the defense of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst
of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the
chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her
voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims
anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is
deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense
against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded
with the guilt of a grave sin.
57. We admonish, therefore, priests who hear confessions and others who have
the care of souls, in virtue of Our supreme authority and in Our solicitude for
the salvation of souls, not to allow the faithful entrusted to them to err
regarding this most grave law of God; much more, that they keep themselves
immune from such false opinions, in no way conniving in them. If any confessor
or pastor of souls, which may God forbid, lead the faithful entrusted to him
into these errors or should at least confirm them by approval or by guilty
silence, let him be mindful of the fact that he must render a strict account to
God, the Supreme Judge, for the betrayal of his sacred trust, and let him take
to himself the words of Christ: "They are blind and leaders of the blind:
and if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit.
58. As regards the evil use of matrimony, to pass over the arguments which
are shameful, not infrequently others that are false and exaggerated are put
forward. Holy Mother Church very well understands and clearly appreciates all
that is said regarding the health of the mother and the danger to her life. And
who would not grieve to think of these things? Who is not filled with the
greatest admiration when he sees a mother risking her life with heroic
fortitude, that she may preserve the life of the offspring which she has
conceived? God alone, all bountiful and all merciful as He is, can reward her
for the fulfillment of the office allotted to her by nature, and will assuredly
repay her in a measure full to overflowing.
59. Holy Church knows well that not infrequently one of the parties is sinned
against rather than sinning, when for a grave cause he or she reluctantly allows
the perversion of the right order. In such a case, there is no sin, provided
that, mindful of the law of charity, he or she does not neglect to seek to
dissuade and to deter the partner from sin. Nor are those considered as acting
against nature who in the married state use their right in the proper manner
although on account of natural reasons either of time or of certain defects, new
life cannot be brought forth. For in matrimony as well as in the use of the
matrimonial rights there are also secondary ends, such as mutual aid, the
cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of concupiscence which husband and
wife are not forbidden to consider so long as they are subordinated to the
primary end and so long as the intrinsic nature of the act is preserved.
60. We are deeply touched by the sufferings of those parents who, in extreme
want, experience great difficulty in rearing their children.
61. However, they should take care lest the calamitous state of their
external affairs should be the occasion for a much more calamitous error. No
difficulty can arise that justifies the putting aside of the law of God which
forbids all acts intrinsically evil. There is no possible circumstance in which
husband and wife cannot, strengthened by the grace of God, fulfill faithfully
their duties and preserve in wedlock their chastity unspotted. This truth of
Christian Faith is expressed by the teaching of the Council of Trent. "Let
no one be so rash as to assert that which the Fathers of the Council have placed
under anathema, namely, that there are precepts of God impossible for the just
to observe. God does not ask the impossible, but by His commands, instructs you
to do what you are able, to pray for what you are not able that He may help
62. This same doctrine was again solemnly repeated and confirmed by the
Church in the condemnation of the Jansenist heresy which dared to utter this
blasphemy against the goodness of God: "Some precepts of God are, when one
considers the powers which man possesses, impossible of fulfillment even to the
just who wish to keep the law and strive to do so; grace is lacking whereby
these laws could be fulfilled."
63. But another very grave crime is to be noted, Venerable Brethren, which
regards the taking of the life of the offspring hidden in the mother's womb.
Some wish it to be allowed and left to the will of the father or the mother;
others say it is unlawful unless there are weighty reasons which they call by
the name of medical, social, or eugenic "indication." Because this
matter falls under the penal laws of the state by which the destruction of the
offspring begotten but unborn is forbidden, these people demand that the
"indication," which in one form or another they defend, be recognized
as such by the public law and in no way penalized. There are those, moreover,
who ask that the public authorities provide aid for these death-dealing
operations, a thing, which, sad to say, everyone knows is of very frequent
occurrence in some places.
64. As to the "medical and therapeutic indication" to which, using
their own words, we have made reference, Venerable Brethren, however much we may
pity the mother whose health and even life is gravely imperiled in the
performance of the duty allotted to her by nature, nevertheless what could ever
be a sufficient reason for excusing in any way the direct murder of the
innocent? This is precisely what we are dealing with here. Whether inflicted
upon the mother or upon the child, it is against the precept of God and the law
of nature: "Thou shalt not kill:" The life of each is equally
sacred, and no one has the power, not even the public authority, to destroy it.
It is of no use to appeal to the right of taking away life for here it is a
question of the innocent, whereas that right has regard only to the guilty; nor
is there here question of defense by bloodshed against an unjust aggressor (for
who would call an innocent child an unjust aggressor?); again there is not
question here of what is called the "law of extreme necessity" which
could even extend to the direct killing of the innocent. Upright and skillful
doctors strive most praiseworthily to guard and preserve the lives of both
mother and child; on the contrary, those show themselves most unworthy of the
noble medical profession who encompass the death of one or the other, through a
pretense at practicing medicine or through motives of misguided pity.
65. All of which agrees with the stern words of the Bishop of Hippo in
denouncing those wicked parents who seek to remain childless, and failing in
this, are not ashamed to put their offspring to death: "Sometimes this
lustful cruelty or cruel lust goes so far as to seek to procure a baneful
sterility, and if this fails the fetus conceived in the womb is in one way or
another smothered or evacuated, in the desire to destroy the offspring before it
has life, or if it already lives in the womb, to kill it before it is born. If
both man and woman are party to such practices they are not spouses at all; and
if from the first they have carried on thus they have come together not for
honest wedlock, but for impure gratification; if both are not party to these
deeds, I make bold to say that either the one makes herself a mistress of the
husband, or the other simply the paramour of his wife."
66. What is asserted in favor of the social and eugenic
"indication" may and must be accepted, provided lawful and upright
methods are employed within the proper limits; but to wish to put forward
reasons based upon them for the killing of the innocent is unthinkable and
contrary to the divine precept promulgated in the words of the Apostle: Evil is
not to be done that good may come of it.
67. Those who hold the reins of government should not forget that it is the
duty of public authority by appropriate laws and sanctions to defend the lives
of the innocent, and this all the more so since those whose lives are endangered
and assailed cannot defend themselves. Among whom we must mention in the first
place infants hidden in the mother's womb. And if the public magistrates not
only do not defend them, but by their laws and ordinances betray them to death
at the hands of doctors or of others, let them remember that God is the Judge
and Avenger of innocent blood which cried from earth to Heaven.
68. Finally, that pernicious practice must be condemned which closely touches
upon the natural right of man to enter matrimony but affects also in a real way
the welfare of the offspring. For there are some who over solicitous for the
cause of eugenics, not only give salutary counsel for more certainly procuring
the strength and health of the future child - which, indeed, is not contrary to
right reason - but put eugenics before aims of a higher order, and by public
authority wish to prevent from marrying all those whom, even though naturally
fit for marriage, they consider, according to the norms and conjectures of their
investigations, would, through hereditary transmission, bring forth defective
offspring. And more, they wish to legislate to deprive these of that natural
faculty by medical action despite their unwillingness; and this they do not
propose as an infliction of grave punishment under the authority of the state
for a crime committed, not to prevent future crimes by guilty persons, but
against every right and good they wish the civil authority to arrogate to itself
a power over a faculty which it never had and can never legitimately possess.
69. Those who act in this way are at fault in losing sight of the fact that
the family is more sacred than the State and that men are begotten not for the
earth and for time, but for Heaven and eternity. Although often these
individuals are to be dissuaded from entering into matrimony, certainly it is
wrong to brand men with the stigma of crime because they contract marriage, on
the ground that, despite the fact that they are in every respect capable of
matrimony, they will give birth only to defective children, even though they use
all care and diligence.
70. Public magistrates have no direct power over the bodies of their
subjects; therefore, where no crime has taken place and there is no cause
present for grave punishment, they can never directly harm, or tamper with the
integrity of the body, either for the reasons of eugenics or for any other
reason. St. Thomas teaches this when inquiring whether human judges for the sake
of preventing future evils can inflict punishment, he admits that the power
indeed exists as regards certain other forms of evil, but justly and properly
denies it as regards the maiming of the body. "No one who is guiltless may
be punished by a human tribunal either by flogging to death, or mutilation, or
71. Furthermore, Christian doctrine establishes, and the light of human
reason makes it most clear, that private individuals have no other power over
the members of their bodies than that which pertains to their natural ends; and
they are not free to destroy or mutilate their members, or in any other way
render themselves unfit for their natural functions, except when no other
provision can be made for the good of the whole body.
72. We may now consider another class of errors concerning conjugal faith.
Every sin committed as regards the offspring becomes in some way a sin against
conjugal faith, since both these blessings are essentially connected. However,
we must mention briefly the sources of error and vice corresponding to those
virtues which are demanded by conjugal faith, namely the chaste honor existing
between man and wife, the due subjection of wife to husband, and the true love
which binds both parties together.
73. It follows therefore that they are destroying mutual fidelity, who think
that the ideas and morality of our present time concerning a certain harmful and
false friendship with a third party can be countenanced, and who teach that a
greater freedom of feeling and action in such external relations should be
allowed to man and wife, particularly as many (so they consider) are possessed
of an inborn sexual tendency which cannot be satisfied within the narrow limits
of monogamous marriage. That rigid attitude which condemns all sensual
affections and actions with a third party they imagine to be a narrowing of mind
and heart, something obsolete, or an abject form of jealousy, and as a result
they look upon whatever penal laws are passed by the State for the preserving of
conjugal faith as void or to be abolished. Such unworthy and idle opinions are
condemned by that noble instinct which is found in every chaste husband and
wife, and even by the light of the testimony of nature alone, - a testimony that
is sanctioned and confirmed by the command of God:"Thou shalt not commit
adultry," and the words of Christ: "Whosoever shall look on a
woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her in his
heart." The force of this divine precept can never be weakened by any
merely human custom, bad example or pretext of human progress, for just as it is
the one and the same "Jesus Christ, yesterday and today and the same for
ever," so it is the one and the same doctrine of Christ that abides and
of which no one jot or tittle shall pass away till all is fulfilled.
74. The same false teachers who try to dim the luster of conjugal faith and
purity do not scruple to do away with the honorable and trusting obedience which
the woman owes to the man. Many of them even go further and assert that such a
subjection of one party to the other is unworthy of human dignity, that the
rights of husband and wife are equal; wherefore, they boldly proclaim the
emancipation of women has been or ought to be effected. This emancipation in
their ideas must be threefold, in the ruling of the domestic society, in the
administration of family affairs and in the rearing of the children. It must be
social, economic, physiological: - physiological, that is to say, the woman is
to be freed at her own good pleasure from the burdensome duties properly
belonging to a wife as companion and mother (We have already said that this is
not an emancipation but a crime); social, inasmuch as the wife being freed from
the cares of children and family, should, to the neglect of these, be able to
follow her own bent and devote herself to business and even public affairs;
finally economic, whereby the woman even without the knowledge and against the
wish of her husband may be at liberty to conduct and administer her own affairs,
giving her attention chiefly to these rather than to children, husband and
75. This, however, is not the true emancipation of woman, nor that rational
and exalted liberty which belongs to the noble office of a Christian woman and
wife; it is rather the debasing of the womanly character and the dignity of
motherhood, and indeed of the whole family, as a result of which the husband
suffers the loss of his wife, the children of their mother, and the home and the
whole family of an ever watchful guardian. More than this, this false liberty
and unnatural equality with the husband is to the detriment of the woman
herself, for if the woman descends from her truly regal throne to which she has
been raised within the walls of the home by means of the Gospel, she will soon
be reduced to the old state of slavery (if not in appearance, certainly in
reality) and become as amongst the pagans the mere instrument of man.
76. This equality of rights which is so much exaggerated and distorted, must
indeed be recognized in those rights which belong to the dignity of the human
soul and which are proper to the marriage contract and inseparably bound up with
wedlock. In such things undoubtedly both parties enjoy the same rights and are
bound by the same obligations; in other things there must be a certain
inequality and due accommodation, which is demanded by the good of the family
and the right ordering and unity and stability of home life.
77. As, however, the social and economic conditions of the married woman must
in some way be altered on account of the changes in social intercourse, it is
part of the office of the public authority to adapt the civil rights of the wife
to modern needs and requirements, keeping in view what the natural disposition
and temperament of the female sex, good morality, and the welfare of the family
demands, and provided always that the essential order of the domestic society
remain intact, founded as it is on something higher than human authority and
wisdom, namely on the authority and wisdom of God, and so not changeable by
public laws or at the pleasure of private individuals.
78. These enemies of marriage go further, however, when they substitute for
that true and solid love, which is the basis of conjugal happiness, a certain
vague compatibility of temperament. This they call sympathy and assert that,
since it is the only bond by which husband and wife are linked together, when it
ceases the marriage is completely dissolved. What else is this than to build a
house upon sand? - a house that in the words of Christ would forthwith be shaken
and collapse, as soon as it was exposed to the waves of adversity "and the
winds blew and they beat upon that house. And it fell: and great was the fall
thereof." On the other hand, the house built upon a rock, that is to
say on mutual conjugal chastity and strengthened by a deliberate and constant
union of spirit, will not only never fall away but will never be shaken by
79. We have so far, Venerable Brethren, shown the excellency of the first two
blessings of Christian wedlock which the modern subverters of society are
attacking. And now considering that the third blessing, which is that of the
sacrament, far surpasses the other two, we should not be surprised to find that
this, because of its outstanding excellence, is much more sharply attacked by
the same people. They put forward in the first place that matrimony belongs
entirely to the profane and purely civil sphere, that it is not to be committed
to the religious society, the Church of Christ, but to civil society alone. They
then add that the marriage contract is to be freed from any indissoluble bond,
and that separation and divorce are not only to be tolerated but sanctioned by
the law; from which it follows finally that, robbed of all its holiness,
matrimony should be enumerated amongst the secular and civil institutions. The
first point is contained in their contention that the civil act itself should
stand for the marriage contract (civil matrimony, as it is called), while the
religious act is to be considered a mere addition, or at most a concession to a
too superstitious people. Moreover they want it to be no cause for reproach that
marriages be contracted by Catholics with non-Catholics without any reference to
religion or recourse to the ecclesiastical authorities. The second point which
is but a consequence of the first is to be found in their excuse for complete
divorce and in their praise and encouragement of those civil laws which favor
the loosening of the bond itself. As the salient features of the religious
character of all marriage and particularly of the sacramental marriage of
Christians have been treated at length and supported by weighty arguments in the
encyclical letters of Leo XIII, letters which We have frequently recalled to
mind and expressly made our own, We refer you to them, repeating here only a few
80. Even by the light of reason alone and particularly if the ancient records
of history are investigated, if the unwavering popular conscience is
interrogated and the manners and institutions of all races examined, it is
sufficiently obvious that there is a certain sacredness and religious character
attaching even to the purely natural union of man and woman, "not something
added by chance but innate, not imposed by men but involved in the nature of
things," since it has "God for its author and has been even from the
beginning a foreshadowing of the Incarnation of the Word of God." This
sacredness of marriage which is intimately connected with religion and all that
is holy, arises from the divine origin we have just mentioned, from its purpose
which is the begetting and education of children for God, and the binding of man
and wife to God through Christian love and mutual support; and finally it arises
from the very nature of wedlock, whose institution is to be sought for in the
farseeing Providence of God, whereby it is the means of transmitting life, thus
making the parents the ministers, as it were, of the Divine Omnipotence. To this
must be added that new element of dignity which comes from the sacrament, by
which the Christian marriage is so ennobled and raised to such a level, that it
appeared to the Apostle as a great sacrament, honorable in every way.
81. This religious character of marriage, its sublime signification of grace
and the union between Christ and the Church, evidently requires that those about
to marry should show a holy reverence towards it, and zealously endeavor to make
their marriage approach as nearly as possible to the archetype of Christ and the
82. They, therefore, who rashly and heedlessly contract mixed marriages, from
which the maternal love and providence of the Church dissuades her children for
very sound reasons, fail conspicuously in this respect, sometimes with danger to
their eternal salvation. This attitude of the Church to mixed marriages appears
in many of her documents, all of which are summed up in the Code of Canon Law:
"Everywhere and with the greatest strictness the Church forbids marriages
between baptized persons, one of whom is a Catholic and the other a member of a
schismatical or heretical sect; and if there is, add to this, the danger of the
falling away of the Catholic party and the perversion of the children, such a
marriage is forbidden also by the divine law." If the Church
occasionally on account of circumstances does not refuse to grant a dispensation
from these strict laws (provided that the divine law remains intact and the
dangers above mentioned are provided against by suitable safeguards), it is
unlikely that the Catholic party will not suffer some detriment from such a
83. Whence it comes about not unfrequently, as experience shows, that
deplorable defections from religion occur among the offspring, or at least a
headlong descent into that religious indifference which is closely allied to
impiety. There is this also to be considered that in these mixed marriages it
becomes much more difficult to imitate by a lively conformity of spirit the
mystery of which We have spoken, namely that close union between Christ and His
84. Assuredly, also, will there be wanting that close union of spirit which
as it is the sign and mark of the Church of Christ, so also should be the sign
of Christian wedlock, its glory and adornment. For, where there exists diversity
of mind, truth and feeling, the bond of union of mind and heart is wont to be
broken, or at least weakened. From this comes the danger lest the love of man
and wife grow cold and the peace and happiness of family life, resting as it
does on the union of hearts, be destroyed. Many centuries ago indeed, the old
Roman law had proclaimed: "Marriages are the union of male and female, a
sharing of life and the communication of divine and human rights." But
especially, as We have pointed out, Venerable Brethren, the daily increasing
facility of divorce is an obstacle to the restoration of marriage to that state
of perfection which the divine Redeemer willed it should possess.
85. The advocates of the neo-paganism of today have learned nothing from the
sad state of affairs, but instead, day by day, more and more vehemently, they
continue by legislation to attack the indissolubility of the marriage bond,
proclaiming that the lawfulness of divorce must be recognized, and that the
antiquated laws should give place to a new and more humane legislation. Many and
varied are the grounds put forward for divorce, some arising from the wickedness
and the guilt of the persons concerned, others arising from the circumstances of
the case; the former they describe as subjective, the latter as objective; in a
word, whatever might make married life hard or unpleasant. They strive to prove
their contentions regarding these grounds for the divorce legislation they would
bring about, by various arguments. Thus, in the first place, they maintain that
it is for the good of either party that the one who is innocent should have the
right to separate from the guilty, or that the guilty should be withdrawn from a
union which is unpleasing to him and against his will. In the second place, they
argue, the good of the child demands this, for either it will be deprived of a
proper education or the natural fruits of it, and will too easily be affected by
the discords and shortcomings of the parents, and drawn from the path of virtue.
And thirdly the common good of society requires that these marriages should be
completely dissolved, which are now incapable of producing their natural
results, and that legal reparations should be allowed when crimes are to be
feared as the result of the common habitation and intercourse of the parties.
This last, they say must be admitted to avoid the crimes being committed
purposely with a view to obtaining the desired sentence of divorce for which the
judge can legally loose the marriage bond, as also to prevent people from coming
before the courts when it is obvious from the state of the case that they are
Iying and perjuring themselves, - all of which brings the court and the lawful
authority into contempt. Hence the civil laws, in their opinion, have to be
reformed to meet these new requirements, to suit the changes of the times and
the changes in men's opinions, civil institutions and customs. Each of these
reasons is considered by them as conclusive, so that all taken together offer a
clear proof of the necessity of granting divorce in certain cases.
86. Others, taking a step further, simply state that marriage, being a
private contract, is, like other private contracts, to be left to the consent
and good pleasure of both parties, and so can be dissolved for any reason
87. Opposed to all these reckless opinions, Venerable Brethren, stands the
unalterable law of God, fully confirmed by Christ, a law that can never be
deprived of its force by the decrees of men, the ideas of a people or the will
of any legislator: "What God hath joined together, let no man put
asunder." And if any man, acting contrary to this law, shall have put
asunder, his action is null and void, and the consequence remains, as Christ
Himself has explicitly confirmed: "Everyone that putteth away his wife and
marrieth another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her that is put away
from her husband committeth adultery." Moreover, these words refer to
every kind of marriage, even that which is natural and legitimate only; for, as
has already been observed, that indissolubility by which the loosening of the
bond is once and for all removed from the whim of the parties and from every
secular power, is a property of every true marriage.
88. Let that solemn pronouncement of the Council of Trent be recalled to mind
in which, under the stigma of anathema, it condemned these errors: "If
anyone should say that on account of heresy or the hardships of cohabitation or
a deliberate abuse of one party by the other the marriage tie may be loosened,
let him be anathema;" and again: "If anyone should say that the
Church errs in having taught or in teaching that, according to the teaching of
the Gospel and the Apostles, the bond of marriage cannot be loosed because of
the sin of adultery of either party; or that neither party, even though he be
innocent, having given no cause for the sin of adultery, can contract another
marriage during the lifetime of the other; and that he commits adultery who
marries another after putting away his adulterous wife, and likewise that she
commits adultery who puts away her husband and marries another: let him be
89. If therefore the Church has not erred and does not err in teaching this,
and consequently it is certain that the bond of marriage cannot be loosed even
on account of the sin of adultery, it is evident that all the other weaker
excuses that can be, and are usually brought forward, are of no value
whatsoever. And the objections brought against the firmness of the marriage bond
are easily answered. For, in certain circumstances, imperfect separation of the
parties is allowed, the bond not being severed. This separation, which the
Church herself permits, and expressly mentions in her Canon Law in those canons
which deal with the separation of the parties as to marital relationship and
co-habitation, removes all the alleged inconveniences and dangers. It will
be for the sacred law and, to some extent, also the civil law, in so far as
civil matters are affected, to lay down the grounds, the conditions, the method
and precautions to be taken in a case of this kind in order to safeguard the
education of the children and the well-being of the family, and to remove all
those evils which threaten the married persons, the children and the State. Now
all those arguments that are brought forward to prove the indissolubility of the
marriage tie, arguments which have already been touched upon, can equally be
applied to excluding not only the necessity of divorce, but even the power to
grant it; while for all the advantages that can be put forward for the former,
there can be adduced as many disadvantages and evils which are a formidable
menace to the whole of human society.
90. To revert again to the expression of Our predecessor, it is hardly
necessary to point out what an amount of good is involved in the absolute
indissolubility of wedlock and what a train of evils follows upon divorce.
Whenever the marriage bond remains intact, then we find marriages contracted
with a sense of safety and security, while, when separations are considered and
the dangers of divorce are present, the marriage contract itself becomes
insecure, or at least gives ground for anxiety and surprises. On the one hand we
see a wonderful strengthening of goodwill and cooperation in the daily life of
husband and wife, while, on the other, both of these are miserably weakened by
the presence of a facility for divorce. Here we have at a very opportune moment
a source of help by which both parties are enabled to preserve their purity and
loyalty; there we find harmful inducements to unfaithfulness. On this side we
find the birth of children and their tuition and upbringing effectively
promoted, many avenues of discord closed amongst families and relations, and the
beginnings of rivalry and jealousy easily suppressed; on that, very great
obstacles to the birth and rearing of children and their education, and many
occasions of quarrels, and seeds of jealousy sown everywhere. Finally, but
especially, the dignity and position of women in civil and domestic society is
reinstated by the former; while by the latter it is shamefully lowered and the
danger is incurred "of their being considered outcasts, slaves of the lust
91. To conclude with the important words of Leo XIII, since the destruction
of family life "and the loss of national wealth is brought about more by
the corruption of morals than by anything else, it is easily seen that divorce,
which is born of the perverted morals of a people, and leads, as experiment
shows, to vicious habits in public and private life, is particularly opposed to
the well-being of the family and of the State. The serious nature of these evils
will be the more clearly recognized, when we remember that, once divorce has
been allowed, there will be no sufficient means of keeping it in check within
any definite bounds. Great is the force of example, greater still that of lust;
and with such incitements it cannot but happen that divorce and its consequent
setting loose of the passions should spread daily and attack the souls of many
like a contagious disease or a river bursting its banks and flooding the
92. Thus, as we read in the same letter, "unless things change, the
human family and State have every reason to fear lest they should suffer
absolute ruin." All this was written fifty years ago, yet it is
confirmed by the daily increasing corruption of morals and the unheard of
degradation of the family in those lands where Communism reigns unchecked.
93. Thus far, Venerable Brethren, We have admired with due reverence what the
all wise Creator and Redeemer of the human race has ordained with regard to
human marriage; at the same time we have expressed Our grief that such a pious
ordinance of the divine Goodness should today, and on every side, be frustrated
and trampled upon by the passions, errors and vices of men.
94. It is then fitting that, with all fatherly solicitude, We should turn Our
mind to seek out suitable remedies whereby those most detestable abuses which We
have mentioned, may be removed, and everywhere marriage may again be revealed.
To this end, it behooves Us, above all else, to call to mind that firmly
established principle, esteemed alike in sound philosophy and sacred theology:
namely, that whatever things have deviated from their right order, cannot he
brought back to that original state which is in harmony with their nature except
by a return to the divine plan which, as the Angelic Doctor teaches, is the
exemplar of all right order.
95. Wherefore, Our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, attacked the
doctrine of the naturalists in these words: "It is a divinely appointed law
that whatsoever things are constituted by God, the Author of nature, these we
find the more useful and salutary, the more they remain in their natural state,
unimpaired and unchanged; inasmuch as God, the Creator of all things, intimately
knows what is suited to the constitution and the preservation of each, and by
his will and mind has so ordained all this that each may duly achieve its
purpose. But if the boldness and wickedness of men change and disturb this order
of things, so providentially disposed, then, indeed, things so wonderfully
ordained, will begin to be injurious, or will cease to be beneficial, either
because, in the change, they have lost their power to benefit, or because God
Himself is thus pleased to draw down chastisement on the pride and presumption
96. In order, therefore, to restore due order in this matter of marriage, it
is necessary that all should bear in mind what is the divine plan and strive to
conform to it.
97. Wherefore, since the chief obstacle to this study is the power of
unbridled lust, which indeed is the most potent cause of sinning against the
sacred laws of matrimony, and since man cannot hold in check his passions,
unless he first subject himself to God, this must be his primary endeavor, in
accordance with the plan divinely ordained. For it is a sacred ordinance that
whoever shall have first subjected himself to God will, by the aid of divine
grace, be glad to subject to himself his own passions and concupiscence; while
he who is a rebel against God will, to his sorrow, experience within himself the
violent rebellion of his worst passions.
98. And how wisely this has been decreed St. Augustine thus shows: "This
indeed is fitting, that the lower be subject to the higher, so that he who would
have subject to himself whatever is below him, should himself submit to whatever
is above him. Acknowledge order, seek peace. Be thou subject to God, and thy
flesh subject to thee. What more fitting! What more fair! Thou art subject to
the higher and the lower is subject to thee. Do thou serve Him who made thee, so
that that which was made for thee may serve thee. For we do not commend this
order, namely, 'The flesh to thee and thou to God,' but 'Thou to God, and the
flesh to thee.' If, however, thou despisest the subjection of thyself to God,
thou shalt never bring about the subjection of the flesh to thyself. If thou
dost not obey the Lord, thou shalt be tormented by thy servant." This
right ordering on the part of God's wisdom is mentioned by the holy Doctor of
the Gentiles, inspired by the Holy Ghost, for in speaking of those ancient
philosophers who refused to adore and reverence Him whom they knew to be the
Creator of the universe, he says: "Wherefore God gave them up to the
desires of their heart, unto uncleanness, to dishonor their own bodies among
themselves;" and again: "For this same God delivered them up to
shameful affections." And St. James says: "God resisteth the proud
and giveth grace to the humble," without which grace, as the same
Doctor of the Gentiles reminds us, man cannot subdue the rebellion of his
99. Consequently, as the onslaughts of these uncontrolled passions cannot in
any way be lessened, unless the spirit first shows a humble compliance of duty
and reverence towards its Maker, it is above all and before all needful that
those who are joined in the bond of sacred wedlock should be wholly imbued with
a profound and genuine sense of duty towards God, which will shape their whole
lives, and fill their minds and wills with a very deep reverence for the majesty
100. Quite fittingly, therefore, and quite in accordance with the defined
norm of Christian sentiment, do those pastors of souls act who, to prevent
married people from failing in the observance of God's law, urge them to perform
their duty and exercise their religion so that they should give themselves to
God, continually ask for His divine assistance, frequent the sacraments, and
always nourish and preserve a loyal and thoroughly sincere devotion to God.
101. They are greatly deceived who having underestimated or neglected these
means which rise above nature, think that they can induce men by the use and
discovery of the natural sciences, such as those of biology, the science of
heredity, and the like, to curb their carnal desires. We do not say this in
order to belittle those natural means which are not dishonest; for God is the
Author of nature as well as of grace, and He has disposed the good things of
both orders for the beneficial use of men. The faithful, therefore, can and
ought to be assisted also by natural means. But they are mistaken who think that
these means are able to establish chastity in the nuptial union, or that they
are more effective than supernatural grace.
102. This conformity of wedlock and moral conduct with the divine laws
respective of marriage, without which its effective restoration cannot be
brought about, supposes, however, that all can discern readily, with real
certainty, and without any accompanying error, what those laws are. But everyone
can see to how many fallacies an avenue would be opened up and how many errors
would become mixed with the truth, if it were left solely to the light of reason
of each to find it out, or if it were to be discovered by the private
interpretation of the truth which is revealed. And if this is applicable to many
other truths of the moral order, we must all the more pay attention to those
things, which appertain to marriage where the inordinate desire for pleasure can
attack frail human nature and easily deceive it and lead it astray; this is all
the more true of the observance of the divine law, which demands sometimes hard
and repeated sacrifices, for which, as experience points out, a weak man can
find so many excuses for avoiding the fulfillment of the divine law.
103. On this account, in order that no falsification or corruption of the
divine law but a true genuine knowledge of it may enlighten the minds of men and
guide their conduct, it is necessary that a filial and humble obedience towards
the Church should be combined with devotedness to God and the desire of
submitting to Him. For Christ Himself made the Church the teacher of truth in
those things also which concern the right regulation of moral conduct, even
though some knowledge of the same is not beyond human reason. For just as God,
in the case of the natural truths of religion and morals, added revelation to
the light of reason so that what is right and true, "in the present state
also of the human race may be known readily with real certainty without any
admixture of error," so for the same purpose he has constituted the
Church the guardian and the teacher of the whole of the truth concerning
religion and moral conduct; to her therefore should the faithful show obedience
and subject their minds and hearts so as to be kept unharmed and free from error
and moral corruption, and so that they shall not deprive themselves of that
assistance given by God with such liberal bounty, they ought to show this due
obedience not only when the Church defines something with solemn judgment, but
also, in proper proportion, when by the constitutions and decrees of the Holy
See, opinions are prescribed and condemned as dangerous or distorted.
104. Wherefore, let the faithful also be on their guard against the overrated
independence of private judgment and that false autonomy of human reason. For it
is quite foreign to everyone bearing the name of a Christian to trust his own
mental powers with such pride as to agree only with those things which he can
examine from their inner nature, and to imagine that the Church, sent by God to
teach and guide all nations, is not conversant with present affairs and
circumstances; or even that they must obey only in those matters which she has
decreed by solemn definition as though her other decisions might be presumed to
be false or putting forward insufficient motive for truth and honesty. Quite to
the contrary, a characteristic of all true followers of Christ, lettered or
unlettered, is to suffer themselves to be guided and led in all things that
touch upon faith or morals by the Holy Church of God through its Supreme Pastor
the Roman Pontiff, who is himself guided by Jesus Christ Our Lord.
105. Consequently, since everything must be referred to the law and mind of
God, in order to bring about the universal and permanent restoration of
marriage, it is indeed of the utmost importance that the faithful should be well
instructed concerning matrimony; both by word of mouth and by the written word,
not cursorily but often and fully, by means of plain and weighty arguments, so
that these truths will strike the intellect and will be deeply engraved on their
hearts. Let them realize and diligently reflect upon the great wisdom, kindness
and bounty God has shown towards the human race, not only by the institution of
marriage, but also, and quite as much, by upholding it with sacred laws; still
more, in wonderfully raising it to the dignity of a Sacrament by which such an
abundant fountain of graces has been opened to those joined in Christian
wedlock, that these may be able to serve the noble purposes of wedlock for their
own welfare and for that of their children, of the community and also for that
of human relationship.
106. Certainly, if the latter day subverters of marriage are entirely devoted
to misleading the minds of men and corrupting their hearts, to making a mockery
of matrimonial purity and extolling the filthiest of vices by means of books and
pamphlets and other innumerable methods, much more ought you, Venerable
Brethren, whom "the Holy Ghost has placed as bishops, to rule the Church of
God, which He hath purchased with His own blood," to give yourselves
wholly to this, that through yourselves and through the priests subject to you,
and, moreover, through the laity welded together by Catholic Action, so much
desired and recommended by Us, into a power of hierarchical apostolate, you may,
by every fitting means, oppose error by truth, vice by the excellent dignity of
chastity, the slavery of covetousness by the liberty of the sons of God,
that disastrous ease in obtaining divorce by an enduring love in the bond of
marriage and by the inviolate pledge of fidelity given even to death.
107. Thus will it come to pass that the faithful will wholeheartedly thank
God that they are bound together by His command and led by gentle compulsion to
fly as far as possible from every kind of idolatry of the flesh and from the
base slavery of the passions. They will, in a great measure, turn and be turned
away from these abominable opinions which to the dishonor of man's dignity are
now spread about in speech and in writing and collected under the title of
"perfect marriage" and which indeed would make that perfect marriage
nothing better than "depraved marriage," as it has been rightly and
108. Such wholesome instruction and religious training in regard to Christian
marriage will be quite different from that exaggerated physiological education
by means of which, in these times of ours, some reformers of married life make
pretense of helping those joined in wedlock, laying much stress on these
physiological matters, in which is learned rather the art of sinning in a subtle
way than the virtue of living chastely.
109. So, Venerable Brethren, we make entirely Our own the words which Our
predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, in his encyclical letter on Christian
marriage addressed to the bishops of the whole world: "Take care not to
spare your efforts and authority in bringing about that among the people
committed to your guidance that doctrine may be preserved whole and
unadulterated which Christ the Lord and the apostles, the interpreters of the
divine will, have handed down, and which the Catholic Church herself has
religiously preserved, and commanded to be observed by the faithful of every
110. Even the very best instruction given by the Church, however, will not
alone suffice to bring about once more conformity of marriage to the law of God;
something more is needed in addition to the education of the mind, namely a
steadfast determination of the will, on the part of husband and wife, to observe
the sacred laws of God and of nature in regard to marriage. In fine, in spite of
what others may wish to assert and spread abroad by word of mouth or in writing,
let husband and wife resolve: to stand fast to the commandments of God in all
things that matrimony demands; always to render to each other the assistance of
mutual love; to preserve the honor of chastity; not to lay profane hands on the
stable nature of the bond; to use the rights given them by marriage in a way
that will be always Christian and sacred, more especially in the first years of
wedlock, so that should there be need of continency afterwards, custom will have
made it easier for each to preserve it. In order that they may make this firm
resolution, keep it and put it into practice, an oft-repeated consideration of
their state of life, and a diligent reflection on the sacrament they have
received, will be of great assistance to them. Let them constantly keep in mind,
that they have been sanctified and strengthened for the duties and for the
dignity of their state by a special sacrament, the efficacious power of which,
although it does not impress a character, is undying. To this purpose we may
ponder over the words full of real comfort of holy Cardinal Robert Bellarmine,
who with other well-known theologians with devout conviction thus expresses
himself: "The sacrament of matrimony can be regarded in two ways: first, in
the making, and then in its permanent state. For it is a sacrament like to that
of the Eucharist, which not only when it is being conferred, but also whilst it
remains, is a sacrament; for as long as the married parties are alive, so long
is their union a sacrament of Christ and the Church."
111. Yet in order that the grace of this sacrament may produce its full
fruit, there is need, as we have already pointed out, of the cooperation of the
married parties; which consists in their striving to fulfill their duties to the
best of their ability and with unwearied effort. For just as in the natural
order men must apply the powers given them by God with their own toil and
diligence that these may exercise their full vigor, failing which, no profit is
gained, so also men must diligently and unceasingly use the powers given them by
the grace which is laid up in the soul by this sacrament. Let not, then, those
who are joined in matrimony neglect the grace of the sacrament which is in
them; for, in applying themselves to the careful observance, however
laborious, of their duties they will find the power of that grace becoming more
effectual as time goes on. And if ever they should feel themselves to be
overburdened by the hardships of their condition of life, let them not lose
courage, but rather let them regard in some measure as addressed to them that
which St. Paul the Apostle wrote to his beloved disciple Timothy regarding the
sacrament of holy Orders when the disciple was dejected through hardship and
insults: "I admonish thee that thou stir up the grace which is in thee by
the imposition of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of
power, and of love, and of sobriety."
112. All these things, however, Venerable Brethren, depend in large measure
on the due preparation remote and proximate, of the parties for marriage. For it
cannot be denied that the basis of a happy wedlock, and the ruin of an unhappy
one, is prepared and set in the souls of boys and girls during the period of
childhood and adolescence. There is danger that those who before marriage sought
in all things what is theirs, who indulged even their impure desires, will be in
the married state what they were before, that they will reap that which they
have sown; indeed, within the home there will be sadness, lamentation,
mutual contempt, strifes, estrangements, weariness of common life, and, worst of
all, such parties will find themselves left alone with their own unconquered
113. Let then, those who are about to enter on married life, approach that
state well disposed and well prepared, so that they will be able, as far as they
can, to help each other in sustaining the vicissitudes of life, and yet more in
attending to their eternal salvation and in forming the inner man unto the
fullness of the age of Christ. It will also help them, if they behave
towards their cherished offspring as God wills: that is, that the father be
truly a father, and the mother truly a mother; through their devout love and
unwearying care, the home, though it suffer the want and hardship of this valley
of tears, may become for the children in its own way a foretaste of that
paradise of delight in which the Creator placed the first men of the human race.
Thus will they be able to bring up their children as perfect men and perfect
Christians; they will instill into them a sound understanding of the Catholic
Church, and will give them such a disposition and love for their fatherland as
duty and gratitude demand.
114. Consequently, both those who are now thinking of entering upon this
sacred married state, as well as those who have the charge of educating
Christian youth, should, with due regard to the future, prepare that which is
good, obviate that which is bad, and recall those points about which We have
already spoken in Our encyclical letter concerning education: "The
inclinations of the will, if they are bad, must be repressed from childhood, but
such as are good must be fostered, and the mind, particularly of children,
should be imbued with doctrines which begin with God, while the heart should be
strengthened with the aids of divine grace, in the absence of which, no one can
curb evil desires, nor can his discipline and formation be brought to complete
perfection by the Church. For Christ has provided her with heavenly doctrines
and divine sacraments, that He might make her an effectual teacher of
115. To the proximate preparation of a good married life belongs very
specially the care in choosing a partner; on that depends a great deal whether
the forthcoming marriage will be happy or not, since one may be to the other
either a great help in leading a Christian life, or, a great danger and
hindrance. And so that they may not deplore for the rest of their lives the
sorrows arising from an indiscreet marriage, those about to enter into wedlock
should carefully deliberate in choosing the person with whom henceforward they
must live continually: they should, in so deliberating, keep before their minds
the thought first of God and of the true religion of Christ, then of themselves,
of their partner, of the children to come, as also of human and civil society,
for which wedlock is a fountain head. Let them diligently pray for divine help,
so that they make their choice in accordance with Christian prudence, not indeed
led by the blind and unrestrained impulse of lust, nor by any desire of riches
or other base influence, but by a true and noble love and by a sincere affection
for the future partner; and then let them strive in their married life for those
ends for which the State was constituted by God. Lastly, let them not omit to
ask the prudent advice of their parents with regard to the partner, and let them
regard this advice in no light manner, in order that by their mature knowledge
and experience of human affairs, they may guard against a disastrous choice,
and, on the threshold of matrimony, may receive more abundantly the divine
blessing of the fourth commandment: "Honor thy father and thy mother (which
is the first commandment with a promise) that it may be well with thee and thou
mayest be long-lived upon the earth."
116. Now since it is no rare thing to find that the perfect observance of
God's commands and conjugal integrity encounter difficulties by reason of the
fact that the man and wife are in straitened circumstances, their necessities
must be relieved as far as possible.
117. And so, in the first place, every effort must be made to bring about
that which Our predecessor Leo Xlll, of happy memory, has already insisted
upon, namely, that in the State such economic and social methods should be
adopted as will enable every head of a family to earn as much as, according to
his station in life, is necessary for himself, his wife, and for the rearing of
his children, for "the laborer is worthy of his hire." To deny
this, or to make light of what is equitable, is a grave injustice and is placed
among the greatest sins by Holy Writ; nor is it lawful to fix such a scanty
wage as will be insufficient for the upkeep of the family in the circumstances
in which it is placed.
118. Care, however, must be taken that the parties themselves, for a
considerable time before entering upon married life, should strive to dispose
of, or at least to diminish, the material obstacles in their way. The manner in
which this may be done effectively and honestly must be pointed out by those who
are experienced. Provision must be made also, in the case of those who are not
self-supporting, for joint aid by private or public guilds.
119. When these means which We have pointed out do not fulfill the needs,
particularly of a larger or poorer family, Christian charity towards our
neighbor absolutely demands that those things which are lacking to the needy
should be provided; hence it is incumbent on the rich to help the poor, so that,
having an abundance of this world's goods, they may not expend them fruitlessly
or completely squander them, but employ them for the support and well-being of
those who lack the necessities of life. They who give of their substance to
Christ in the person of His poor will receive from the Lord a most bountiful
reward when He shall come to judge the world; they who act to the contrary will
pay the penalty. Not in vain does the Apostle warn us: "He that hath
the substance of this world and shall see his brother in need, and shall shut up
his bowels from him: how doth the charity of God abide in him?"
120. If, however, for this purpose, private resources do not suffice, it is
the duty of the public authority to supply for the insufficient forces of
individual effort, particularly in a matter which is of such importance to the
common weal, touching as it does the maintenance of the family and married
people. If families, particularly those in which there are many children, have
not suitable dwellings; if the husband cannot find employment and means of
livelihood; if the necessities of life cannot be purchased except at exorbitant
prices; if even the mother of the family to the great harm of the home, is
compelled to go forth and seek a living by her own labor; if she, too, in the
ordinary or even extraordinary labors of childbirth, is deprived of proper food,
medicine, and the assistance of a skilled physician, it is patent to all to what
an extent married people may lose heart, and how home life and the observance of
God's commands are rendered difficult for them; indeed it is obvious how great a
peril can arise to the public security and to the welfare and very life of civil
society itself when such men are reduced to that condition of desperation that,
having nothing which they fear to lose, they are emboldened to hope for chance
advantage from the upheaval of the state and of established order.
121. Wherefore, those who have the care of the State and of the public good
cannot neglect the needs of married people and their families, without bringing
great harm upon the State and on the common welfare. Hence, in making the laws
and in disposing of public funds they must do their utmost to relieve the needs
of the poor, considering such a task as one of the most important of their
122. We are sorry to note that not infrequently nowadays it happens that
through a certain inversion of the true order of things, ready and bountiful
assistance is provided for the unmarried mother and her illegitimate offspring
(who, of course must be helped in order to avoid a greater evil) which is denied
to legitimate mothers or given sparingly or almost grudgingly.
123. But not only in regard to temporal goods, Venerable Brethren, is it the
concern of the public authority to make proper provision for matrimony and the
family, but also in other things which concern the good of souls. just laws must
be made for the protection of chastity, for reciprocal conjugal aid, and for
similar purposes, and these must be faithfully enforced, because, as history
testifies, the prosperity of the State and the temporal happiness of its
citizens cannot remain safe and sound where the foundation on which they are
established, which is the moral order, is weakened and where the very
fountainhead from which the State draws its life, namely, wedlock and the
family, is obstructed by the vices of its citizens.
124. For the preservation of the moral order neither the laws and sanctions
of the temporal power are sufficient, nor is the beauty of virtue and the
expounding of its necessity. Religious authority must enter in to enlighten the
mind, to direct the will, and to strengthen human frailty by the assistance of
divine grace. Such an authority is found nowhere save in the Church instituted
by Christ the Lord. Hence We earnestly exhort in the Lord all those who hold the
reins of power that they establish and maintain firmly harmony and friendship
with this Church of Christ so that through the united activity and energy of
both powers the tremendous evils, fruits of those wanton liberties which assail
both marriage and the family and are a menace to both Church and State, may be
125. Governments can assist the Church greatly in the execution of its
important office, if, in laying down their ordinances, they take account of what
is prescribed by divine and ecclesiastical law, and if penalties are fixed for
offenders. For as it is, there are those who think that whatever is permitted by
the laws of the State, or at least is not punished by them, is allowed also in
the moral order, and, because they neither fear God nor see any reason to fear
the laws of man, they act even against their conscience, thus often bringing
ruin upon themselves and upon many others. There will be no peril to or
lessening of the rights and integrity of the State from its association with the
Church. Such suspicion and fear is empty and groundless, as Leo XIII has already
so clearly set forth: "It is generally agreed," he says, "that
the Founder of the Church, Jesus Christ, wished the spiritual power to be
distinct from the civil, and each to be free and unhampered in doing its own
work, not forgetting, however, that it is expedient to both, and in the interest
of everybody, that there be a harmonious relationship. . . If the civil power
combines in a friendly manner with the spiritual power of the Church, it
necessarily follows that both parties will greatly benefit. The dignity of the
State will be enhanced, and with religion as its guide, there will never be a
rule that is not just; while for the Church there will be at hand a safeguard
and defense which will operate to the public good of the faithful."
126. To bring forward a recent and clear example of what is meant, it has
happened quite in consonance with right order and entirely according to the law
of Christ, that in the solemn Convention happily entered into between the Holy
See and the Kingdom of Italy, also in matrimonial affairs a peaceful settlement
and friendly cooperation has been obtained, such as befitted the glorious
history of the Italian people and its ancient and sacred traditions. These
decrees, are to be found in the Lateran Pact: "The Italian State, desirous
of restoring to the institution of matrimony, which is the basis of the family,
that dignity conformable to the traditions of its people, assigns as civil
effects of the sacrament of matrimony all that is attributed to it in Canon
Law." To this fundamental norm are added further clauses in the common
127. This might well be a striking example to all of how, even in this our
own day (in which, sad to say, the absolute separation of the civil power from
the Church, and indeed from every religion, is so often taught), the one supreme
authority can be united and associated with the other without detriment to the
rights and supreme power of either thus protecting Christian parents from
pernicious evils and menacing ruin.
128. All these things which, Venerable Brethren, prompted by Our past
solicitude We put before you, We wish according to the norm of Christian
prudence to be promulgated widely among all Our beloved children committed to
your care as members of the great family of Christ, that all may be thoroughly
acquainted with sound teaching concerning marriage, so that they may be ever on
their guard against the dangers advocated by the teachers of error, and most of
all, that "denying ungodliness and worldly desires, they may live soberly
and justly, and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of
the glory of the great God and Our Savior Jesus Christ."
129. May the Father, "of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is
named," Who strengthens the weak and gives courage to the pusillanimous
and fainthearted; and Christ Our Lord and Redeemer, "the Institutor and
Perfecter of the holy sacraments," Who desired marriage to be and made
it the mystical image of His own ineffable union with the Church; and the Holy
Ghost, Love of God, the Light of hearts and the Strength of the mind, grant that
all will perceive, will admit with a ready will, and by the grace of God will
put into practice, what We by this letter have expounded concerning the holy
Sacrament of Matrimony, the wonderful law and will of God respecting it, the
errors and impending dangers, and the remedies with which they can be
counteracted, so that that fruitfulness dedicated to God will flourish again
vigorously in Christian wedlock.
130. We most humbly pour forth Our earnest prayer at the Throne of His Grace,
that God, the Author of all graces, the inspirer of all good desires and
deeds, may bring this about, and deign to give it bountifully according to
the greatness of His liberality and omnipotence, and as a token of the abundant
blessing of the same Omnipotent God, We most lovingly grant to you, Venerable
Brethren, and to the clergy and people committed to your watchful care, the
Given at Rome, in Saint Peter's, this 31st day of December, of the year 1930,
the ninth of Our Pontificate.
1. Encycl. Arcanum divinae sapientiae, 10 Febr. 1880.
2. Gen., I, 27-28; II, 22-23; Matth., XIX, 3 sqq.; Eph., V, 23
3. Conc. Trid., Sess. XXIV.
4. Cod. iur. can., c. 1081 & 2.
5. Cod. iur. can., c. 1081 & 1.
6. S. Thom Aquin., Summa theol., p. III Supplem 9, XLIX, art.3.
7. Encycl. Rerum novarum, 15 May 1891.
8. Gen., I, 28.
9. Encycl. Ad salutem, 20 April 1930
10. St. August., De bono coniug., cap. 24, n. 32.
11. St. August., De Gen. ad litt., lib. IX, cap. 7, n. 12.
12. Gen., I, 28.
13. I Tim., V, 14.
14. St. August., De bono coniug., cap. 24 n. 32.
15. I Cor., II, 9
16. Eph., II, 19.
17. John, XVI, 21.
18. Encycl. Divini illius Magistri, 31 Dec. 1929.
19. St. August., De Gen. ad litt., lib. IX, cap. 7, n. 12.
20. Cod. iur. can., c. 1013 & 7.
21. Conc. Trid., Sess. XXIV.
22. Matth., V, 28.
23. Decr. S. Officii, 2 March 1679, propos. 50.
24. Eph., V, 25; Col., III, 19.
25. Catech. Rom., II, cap. VIII q. 24.
26. St Greg the Great, Homii. XXX in Evang (John XIV,23-31), n.1.
27. Matth., XXII, 40.
28. I Cor., VII, 3.
29. Eph., V, 22-23.
30. Encycl. Arcanum divinae sapientiae, 10 Febr. 1880.
31. Matth., XIX, 6.
32. Luke, XVI, 18.
33. St. August., De Gen. ad litt. Iib. IX, cap. 7, n. 12.
34. Pius VI, Rescript. ad Episc. Agriens., 11 July 1789.
35. Eph., V, 32.
36. St. August., De nupt. et concup., lib. I, cap. 10.
37. I Cor., XIII, 8.
38. Conc. Trid., Sess. XXIV.
39. Conc. Trid. Sess., XXIV.
40. Cod. iur. can., c. 1012.
41. St. August., De nupt. et concup., lib. I, cap. 10.
42. Matth., XIII, 25.
43. II Tim., IV, 2-5.
44. Eph., V, 3.
45. St. August., De coniug. adult., lib. II, n. 12, Gen,
46. Matth., XV, 14.
47. Luke, VI, 38.
48. Conc. Trid., Sess. VI, cap. 11.
49. Const. Apost. Cum occasione, 31 May 1653, prop. 1.
50. Exod., XX, 13; cfr. Decr. S. Offic. 4 May 1897, 24 July 1895; 31
51. St. August., De nupt. et concupisc., cap. XV.
52. Rom., III, 8.
53. Gen., IV, 10.
54. Summ. theol., 2a 2ae, q. 108 a 4 ad 2um.
55. Exod., XX, 14.
56. Matth., V, 28.
57. Hebr., XIII, 8.
58. Matth., V, 18.
59. Matth., VII. 27.
60. Leo XIII, Encycl. Arcanum, 10 Febr. 1880.
61. Eph., V, 32: Hebr. XIII, 4.
62. Cod. iur. can., c. 1060.
63. Modestinus, in Dig. (Lib. XXIII, II: De ritu nuptiarum), lib. I,
64. Matth., XIX, 6.
65. Luke, XVI, 18.
66. Conc. Trid., Sess. XXIV, cap. 5
67. Conc. Trid., Sess. XXIV, cap. 7
68. Cod. iur. can., c. 1128 sqq.
69. Leo XIII, Encycl. Arcanum divinae sapientiae 10 Febr. 1880.
70. Encycl. Arcanum, 10 Febr. 1880.
71. Encycl. Arcanum, 10 Febr. 1880.
72. St. Thom. of Aquin, Summ theolog., la 2ae, q. 91, a. I-2 .
73. Encycl. Arcanum divinae sapientiae, 10 Febr. 1880.
74. St. August., Enarrat. in Ps. 143.
75. Rom. I, 24, 26.
76. James IV, 6.
77. Rom., VII, VIII.
78. Conc. Vat., Sess. III, cap. 2.
79. Conc. Vat., Sess. III, cap. 4; Cod. iur. can., c. 1324.
80. Acta, XX, 28.
81. John, VIII, 32 sqq.; Gal., V, 13.
82. Encycl. Arcanum. 10 Febr. 1880.
83. St. Rob. Bellarmin., De controversiis, tom. III, De Matr.,
controvers. II, cap. 6.
84. I Tim., IV,14.
85. II Tim., 1, 6-7.
86. Gal., Vl. 9.
87. Eph., IV, 13.
88. Encycl. Divini illius Magistri, 31 Dec. 1929.
89. Eph., VI, 2-3; Exod., XX, 12.
90. Encycl. Rerum novarum, 15 May 1891.
91. Luke, X, 7.
92. Deut. XXIV, 14, 15.
93. Leo XIII, Encycl. Rerum novarum, 15 May 1891.
94. Matth., XXV, 34 sqq.
95. I John, III, 17.
96. Encycl. Arcanum divinae sapientiae, 10 Febr. 1880.
97. Concord., art. 34; Act. Apost. Sed., XXI (1929), pag. 290.
98. Tit., II, 12-13.
99. Eph., I III, 15.
100. Conc. Trid., Sess. XXIV.
101. Phil., II, 13.