Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/608

This page needs to be proofread.


BETROTHAL


538


BETTIAH


of the second effect. It is sometimes stated that a betrothal does not bind in English-speaking countries. This is inexact, to say the least. There is no excep- tion at any time, or in any country, to the binding force arising from a valid betrothal, even though it be not pubhe (S. C. S. Off., 11 Aug., 1852), or to the impediment begotten thereby. Engagements verj' frequently, though not always, are rather proposals of matrimony than promises as explained above, and in them an es.sential element of the betrotlial is want- ing (Sabetti, Theol. Mor., n. 838, qu. 30; Kenrick, Theol. Mor., nos. 23, 37).

Dissolution. — A betrothal may be dissolved: (1) By the mutual and free consent of the contract- ing parties. (2) By a diriment impediment, which subsequently arises between said parties. In this case the innocent party is released from his or her obligation, but not the one through who.se fault the impediment arose. The latter maj' be held to the contract, if the impediment be such that the Church can dispense from it. (3) By a valid marriage entered into with a third person. (4) By protracted delay on the part of either of the contracting parties in fulfilling the agreement to marry, in which case the innocent party is released from obligation. (5) By one of the contracting parties choosing a higher state of perfection, as for example by solemn profession in a religious order, by the reception of major orders, etc. (6) By any notable change in body or soul or worldly state of one of the parties — any grave cir- cumstance which if it had happened or been known before the betrothal would ha\-e prevented it. To these may be added the impossibility of contracting matrimony, and a dispensation granted by the pope for just causes.

Procedure for Breach of Promise. — In case of refusal to complete the contract by marriage an action before the diocesan court is permissible. Bisliops, howe\'er, are counseled not ordinarily to enforce marriage in such cases, as generally it would prove unhappy. In English-speaking countries these mat- ters are, as a rule, taken into the ci\'il courts, where the only remedy is a breach-of-promise suit, the penalty being a fine. In the United States, before the civU law, betrothal has only the moral force of a mutual promise. Betrothal in England was once a legal bar to matrimony with another; at present the only legal remedy for the violation of the betrothal is an action for breacli of promise.

History. — Jewish and Roman laws and customs must have influenced the early practice of the Church anent betrothal. The Jewish laws of marriage, and consequently of betrothal, were based in a great measure on the supposition that it was a purchase. In the law of Moses there are certain pro\'isions respecting the state of the virgin who is betrothed, but nothing particularly referring to the act of betrothal. Selden's "Uxor Hebraica" gives the schedule of later Hebrew contracts of betrothal. Where the contract was in writing, it was wTitten out by the man before witnesses and delivered to the woman, who must know its import. Rome, on the other hand, at the beginning of the Christian Era, had ceased to consider marriage as a wife-purchase. Marriage, and still more betrothal, was a purely civil compact, verbally concluded. Under later Roman law, which constituted a basis for our eccle- siastical legislation, betrothal was looked upon simply as a contract of future marriage, stronger indeed than the engagement, since to enter into a second betrothal compact was held to be as infamous as bigamy itself. No legal forms were prescribed for the early Roman betrothal, but the compact was generally accompanied by the man's sending to the woman the iron betrothal ring (annidu.'< pronubuf^). As the Empire grew in importance, so did the be- trothal contract, while at the same time its obliga-


tions were more frequently disregarded. Hence the practice of giving earnest-money, or pledges of fidelity (arrhit), came into prominence; another step led to gifts being bestowed by the parties, one upon the other. The kiss, the joining of hands, and the attestation of witnesses were other elements introduced. Even in England formal engagements of this kind were common down to the time of the Reformation. As barbarian influence, however, began to affect the Empire, the betrothal took on more the semblance of wife-purchase.

The Church, at the beginning of the third century at the latest, recognized betrothal as a perfectly valid and lawful contract. In the fourth century, in Africa at least, according to the testimony of St. Augustine (Serino viii, IS; Sermo xxxvii, 7; Sermo cccxxxii, 4, etc.), espousals were contracted in writ- ing, the instrument (tabulw), signed by the bishop, being publicly read. At the same time the dowTV% if any, was given, or nuptial gifts were exchanged. Pope Benedict I (573-577), WTiting to the Patriarch of Gran, declares that it is connubial intercourse that makes two one, that mere betrothal would not pre- vent a man from entering into wedlock with the sister of his betrothed. The question of relationship, then, arising from the betrothal contract was mooted even at that early period, (iregory the Great (590-603) allowed a woman who was betrothed to dissolve her engagement in order to enter a convent (Bk. VI, Ep. XX).

At the end of the ninth century betrothal had become a very frequent subject of Church legisla- tion. From a reply of Pope Nicholas to the Bulgarians in 860 (Responsa ad Consulta Bulgarorum, c. iii) it is apparent that the preliminaries leading up to a marriage in the Church were: (1) The betrothal or espousal; the expression of consent by the con- tracting parties, and the consent also of their parents, or guardians, to the projected marriage, (2) The suharrhatio, or delivery of the ring by the man to the woman by way of an earnest, or pledge, (3) The documentary transfer, by the man to the woman, of the dowry, in the presence of witnesses. The marriage was to follow immediately, or after an interval more or less protracted. These rites are still recognized in modern uses. The ceremony of betrothal is found in a measure in the present nuptial service. There is a declaration of consent, which, since the marriage follows immediately after, is rfe prcesenti. The placing of the ring on the finger of the bride by the bridegroom constitutes the siili- arrhalio, wlule in many places transferring of the dowTy is represented by a medal or coin — a relic of Salic law and of wife-purchase. (See Martene, De Antiq. Ecc. Ritibus, I, ix, a. 3, n. 4, speaking of a ritual of the Church of Reims.)

Consult recognized authorities in canon law or moral theol- ogy for present discipline. Mag.\ni, L'Antica Liturgia Rom. (Milan, 1897). 360 sqq.; Dcchesne, Chrijitian Worship ar. 1904), XIV; Ludlow in Diet. Christ Antiq.. s. v.

Andrew B. AIeehax.

Betrothal Ring. See Ring.

Bettiah, Prefecture Apo.stolic of, in north- ern India, includes as part of its jurisdiction the entire native state of Nepal, which has an area of more than 59,000 square miles and a population of nearly 3,000,000. The prefecture is bounded on the north by Tibet; on the east, by the Ghagra; on the south, by the Ganges; and on the west, approxi- mately, by the Kusi.

In 1738 Father Joseph of Carignano, a Capuchin, on his way to the missions of Nepal and Tibet, arrived at Bettiah, not far from the southern boundary of the former kingdom. The Queen of Bettiah, being grievously sick, was cured by him; in return, slie allowed him to preach the Gospel. The Nepal war of 1769 obliged the Christians to retire southwards,