Open main menu

States of Christian Life and Vocation, According to the Doctors and Theologians of the Church/Part 1/Section 1/Article 1/Chapter 5

IN the first place, as St. Liguori teaches, although it is certain that marriages contracted by young persons without the consent of their parents are valid,[1] " still young persons should be taught so far to honor their parents, or those holding their place, as not to get married with out warning them, much less against their will." These words are taken from the catechism of the Council of Trent, and it adds : "It is to be remarked that in the Old Law children were given and settled in marriage by their parents."[2]

It would be a grievous sin to marry after having taken a vow of chastity, a vow to enter religion, not to marry, or a vow to receive holy orders. For good reasons, these vows can be changed. Dispensation from the vow of perpetual chastity, or to enter a religious order, is reserved to the pope. The order of subdeaconship, and the profession of religious whose vows are considered solemn by the Holy See, render subsequent marriage not only unlawful, but null and void, according to the express teaching of the Council of Trent.[3] Valid betrothment that has not been duly annulled, carries with it an obligation to marry the affianced. It would be a sin against justice to marry another person, unless some suitable cause warrants the breaking-off of the previous engagement. It is certain, says St. Liguori, that an affianced person, who vows to enter religion, does a lawful act. He should keep his vow, and, if he really desires to become a religious, he is not bound by his engagement to marry, unless he were not to persevere in religion. A vow of chastity, whether preceding, or following upon, an engagement to marry, annuls the engagement.[4]

A marriage contracted by a baptized Christian and an unbeliever, who is not baptized, is invalid, unless a dispensation be obtained from the Church previous to the marriage. But, if a Catholic, without dispensation, marries a heretic, the contract is valid, though grievously illicit. Dispensation for a marriage of this kind is granted only on the condition that all the children shall be brought up in the Catholic religion. The illustrious Pope Benedict XIV says that the Church has always detested such marriages; and he earnestly exhorts pastors to use all their efforts efficaciously to hinder them, and make them be looked upon with fear by Catholics, for whom they may prove a source of spiritual ruin.[5]

A Protestant gentleman, as distinguished for the nobility of his blood as for the graces of his person, asked for the hand of Jane Frances Fremiot, who afterward became the famous Baroness de Chantal, and foundress of the Visitation Nuns. In vain did the parents of the young girl insist that the believing wife would convert the unbelieving-husband : they were unable to obtain her consent to such an alliance. One day, when lifted more than usual, " I would rather choose," said she, " a perpetual prison for my lodging than the house of a Huguenot; and I would prefer a thousand deaths, one after the other, to seeing myself bound by marriage to an enemy of the Church." At first, these words caused astonishment, for the young man concealed his true sentiments, and appeared to be a Catholic ; but he threw off the mask as soon as he saw that there was no hope for him to win the hand of Jane Frances Fremiot.[6]

But we have said enough on this subject. Our purpose is not to furnish a complete treatise on the impediments to matrimony of divine or ecclesiastical origin. The faithful ought to be acquainted with them, and to respect them every where.

Let us, then, bring this subject to a close in the words of St. John Chrysostom : " Do not dishonor marriage by diabolical feasts. If you banish from them unbecoming, effeminate singing, dances, improper conversation, the pomps of Satan, noise, boisterous laughter, intemperance, with all that is unbecoming in Christians, Christ will be present at the wedding. But it is Satan who presides at those weddings at which voluptuous and disgraceful dancing is indulged in ; and, from all the expenses incurred on such occasions, great harm results, and no profit is derived."[7]

  1. Theol. Mor., lib. 6, tr. 6, n. 849.
  2. De matrim., n. 37.
  3. Sess. 24, can. 9.
  4. St. Lig., Theol. Mor. t lib. 6, tr. 6, n. 873.
  5. St. Lig., ibid, n. 1044.
  6. Her Life, by the Abbe Bougand
  7. Homil. in propter fornicationem unusquisque, etc. Ed. Migne, vol. 3, col. 120, 211.