1880-05-15, English, Article, Journal or magazine article edition: THE VATICAN. ENCYCLICAL LETTER OF OUR HOLY FATHER POPE LEO XIII., (15 May 1880)

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THE VATICAN. ENCYCLICAL LETTER OF OUR HOLY FATHER POPE LEO XIII., (15 May 1880)
 
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  • 4374 words
  • article
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  • xna, National Library of Australia, 1880-05-15
Language
  • English

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Title
  • THE VATICAN. ENCYCLICAL LETTER OF OUR HOLY FATHER POPE LEO XIII., (15 May 1880)
Appears In
  • The Record., v.4, no.10, 1880-05-15, p.3 (ISSN: 2207-1148)
Other Contributors
  • LEO XIII., POPE.
Published
  • xna, National Library of Australia, 1880-05-15
Physical Description
  • 4374 words
  • article
  • Journals
  • Magazines
Part Of
  • The Record.
  • Vol. 4 No. 10 (15 May 1880)
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Summary
  • THE VATICAN. ENCYCLICAL LETTER OF OUR HOLY FATHER POPE LEO XIII., [continued.] In the course of time, when all authority had passed over to the Christian emperors, the Sovereign Pontiff and the Bishops assembled in Council went on as usual with the same freedom, and the same consciousness sciousness of their right, defending on the subject of Marriage what they deemed useful and proper at the time, even if it was in oppostion to civil institutions. No one is ignorant of the many enactments made touching impediments to the bond, vows, difference of religion, consanguinity, crime, and public decency, in the Councils of Illiberis, Arles, Chalcedon, Milan IL, and others, by the Pontiffs of the Church, which were often in entire opposition with the decrees of the imperial power. So far were Princes from claiming ing for themselves any authority over Christian marriages riages that they have rather recognized and proclaimed that it belonged in all its plentitude to the Chuich. Indeed, Honorius, Theodosius the Younger and Justinian did not hesitate to acknowledge that in matters relating to marriage they had no more authority than as guardians and defenders of the Sacred Canons. And as to impediments in marriage, if they published any decrees on this subject they did not conceal the fact that it was with the permission and authority of tlie Church, to whose judgment they were accustomed to resort and to defer with respect in all controversies touching honesty of birth, divorces, and, in a word, on all questions any way essentially connected with the conjugal tie. It was then \uth full jurisdiction that the Council of Trent defined that it is in the power of the Church to establish invalidating impediments, and that matrimonial causes should come under the jurisdiction diction of Ecclesiastical Tribunals. Nor must any one allow himself to be moved by that distinction, or rather sundering, proclaimed by royal civilians, which consists in separating the nuptial contract from the Sacrament, leaving the Sacrament to the Church and giving the contract over to temporal princes. Such a distinction could not be tolerated, because it is well known that in Christian marriage the contract cannot be separated from the Sacrament and tnat, therefore, there can be no true and legitimate mate contract, without tnere being for that very reason a Sacrament. For Christ Our Lord raised Matrimony mony to the dignity of a Sacrament; but marriage is the contract itself if it is performed in the lawful manner. Moreover, Matrimony is a Sacrament because it is a sacred sign, and confers grace and represents the image of the mystic nuptials of Christ with the Church. Now, the form aud figure of these nuptials is represented sented by the bond of that supreme union by which man and woman are bound to one another, and which is none other than Matrimony itself. From this it is evident that every lawful union between Christians is in itself and of itself a Sacrament, and that there is nothing more abhorrent to truth than to turn the Sacrament ment into a sort of added ceremony, or a passing extrinsic property which may be separated and disconnected nected from the contract at the will of men. Therefore, neither does reason prove, nor does history, tory, which is the witness of the times, give testimony that authority over Christian marriage has ever been given over to temporal princes. And if the rights of any one have been violated in this matter, no one can ever say that the Church violated them. O ! that the oracles of the Naturalists were not as fruitful |in injuries and calamities as they are full of falsehood and injustice ! But it is easy to see what evil has been wrought by profane marriages, and what injury they will entail upon mankind, It is a law divinely established from the beginning, that institutions tions emanating from God and nature prove all the more useful and salutary in proportion as they remain more entirely and more immutably in their primitive condition ; because, God the Creator of all things well knew what was necessary to the establishment and to the preservation of each one of them and He so ordained dained them by His will and in His mind that each ore ot them fulfilled its end in a convenient manner. But, if the temerity and improbity of men wish to change and disturb the order of things most providentially tially constituted, then, the most wisely and most usefully arranged institutions will begin to deteriorate or cease to be good, either because they have by the change lost their efficacy for good or because God Himself chooses to draw this punishment‘from the pride and audacity of mortals. Those who deny that marriage is sacred, and who having despoiled it of all sanctity associate it with profane things, overturn the foundations of nature, and the more they counteract the designs of Providence, the more they destroy, as far as they are able, these institutions themselves. Nor is it at all surprising that these insensate and impious efforts produce this multitude of evils, tnan which nothing is more pernicious to the salvation of souls or more dangerous to the existence jf public affairs. If we consider the end of the divine institution of marriage, it becomes most evident that God wished to include in it the most abundant sources of public usefulness fulness and prosperity. And, indeed, to marriage, besides contributing to the propagation of the human race, it also belongs to improve the life of married persons and make it happier ; and it accomplishes this in many ways; by mutual assistance in bearing the trials of life, by constant aud faithful love, by a commonness monness of all blessings aud by the heavenly grace that emanates from the Sacrament. Marriage also contributes butes largely to the welfare of the family, for when it is in accord with nature and in conformity with God’s counsels, it is most powerful in preserving concord between parents, in securing good instruction foi children, dren, in tempering paternal authority after the model of divine authority, and in securing the obedience of children towards their parents, and of servants towards their masters. From such marriages the State can expect a race and generations of citizens animated towards good, and who, reared in reverence and love of God, will consider it their duty to obey those in just and lawful authority, to love all men and to offend none. These fruits, so great and so profitable, have been borne by marriage, so long as it has retained the qualities of sanctity, unity, and perpetuity, which constitute stitute all its strength and efficacy : and there is no doubt but that it would have continued producing similar and equal fruits if it had been everywhere and in all times under the authority and protection of the Church, the faithful guardian and vindicator of these blessings. But since it has been preferred, sometimes, to substitute human law in place of the natural and divine law, not only did the character and prominent idea of marriage, which nature had impressed and almost most sealed upon the minds of men, begin to deteriorate, ate, but the productive source of all these great blessings sings became greatly weakened even in Christian marriages, riages, because of the wickedness of men. What good results can come to society from conjugal unions from which it is sought to alienate the Christian religion, the mother of all blessings, exciting and impelling all generous souls to the practice of the most excellent and exalted virtues ? If religion is alienated and rejected, marriage will necessarily fall under the servitude of man’s vicious nature and of the worst passions of his heart, now only feebly by natural honesty. This is the fount which has poured out so many evils not only upon private vate families, but upon States ; for without the salutary fear of God, without this solace of the trials of life which is not to be found outside of the Crhistian religion, there often happens, which is fatal, that the burdens and trials of matrimony become almost unbearable, able, and that many undertake to sever the conjugal tie which they imagine to have been forged by human law, or at will, if a difference of dispositions, dissensions, sions, faith violated by one or the other, or mutual consent, or any other cause convinces them they ought to dissolve it; and if the law happens to interfere with the execution of their designs, they cry out that the laws are unjust, inhuman, contrary to the rights of free citizens, and hence it is that they imagine that after abolishing and abrogating the old laws, they must enact a more human law,, and permit divorce. The legislators of our time, by showing themselves attached and devoted to these same principles of law cannot rid themselves of the evil-minded-ness of those men, even if they were anxious to do so ; hence they are obliged to yield to the times, and concede the faculty of divorce. This history itself declares. To cite but one example. At the close of the last century during that perturbation or rather destruction of France when society, God having been banished, was profaned it was decided to sanction divorce by the laws. It is these same laws that many people in our day are anxious to re-establish, because they desire to banish God and the Church, and wrest them from society, madly believing that they will find in these laws a supreme remedy against growing corruption in morals. How injurious divorce is in itself, it is hardly necessary sary to say. It makes nuptial contracts mutable; destroys mutual affection ; furnishes dangerous stimulants lants to infidelity ; impairs the care and training of children ; is the occasion of the dissolution of domestic society; plants the seed of disorder in families; diminishes inishes and impairs the dignity of woman, who is exposed posed to abandonment after having satisfied the passions sions of man ; and as there is nothing better calculated to disturb the family and bieak up the State than corrupt morals, it will be readily seen that there is nothing more hostile to the prosperity of the family and of the State than divorce, which is the offspring of the perverse morals of the people, and which experience ence shows opens the doors to still more vicious habits both in public and private life. These evils will appear all the more alarming when we consider that there will be no barrier strong enough to restrain the license of divorces within determined and foreseen limits the moment it shall be conceded. The force of example is great, greater than of passions; with such stimulants as these the debauch of divorces must gain daily upon the minds of the majority, like a contagious disease that spreads, or like a stream that overflows its banks after having broken its dikes. All these things are self-evident, but they become still more so by the recollection of events connected with them. So soon as the law began to open the way to divorces there followed in rapid succession dissensions, quarrels and separations, and such was the consequent deformity of life, that the very ones who had been the defenders of divorce repented of it; and if they had not sought in time the remedy in a contrary law, it is to be feared that society itself would have rushed to its own destruction. It is said that the Romans looked upon the first examples of divorce with horror; but it did not take long for the sentiment ment of nonesty to become obliterated from minds, and for moderating chastity to disappear, and nuptial fidelity began to be violated with so much license, that we may regard as very probable what we read in many writers, that women were accustomed to reckon their ages not by the changes of Consuls, but by the number of their husbands. So also among Protestants, some of them, in the beginning enacted laws allowing divorce for certain causes, which were very limited: yet they soon learned that by reason of the affinity of similar things the number had increased so fast among Germans, Americans, and others, that those who were not fools deemed it meet to implore this boundless depravity of morals most deeply, and that the temerity of the laws could be tolerated no longer. Nor was it otherwise wise in so called Catholic countries ; if at any time room was afforded for breaking marriages, the inconveniences veniences resulting therefrom soon carried the multitude tude far from the opinion of the legislators. For a great many went so far in this crime as to turn their minds to malice and fraud, and by means of abuse, outrages and adulteries, to forge cases of this kind so as to be able, with impunity to break the bonds of the conjugal union as being too irksome for them. And this became so injurious to public honesty that all deemed it necessary to go to work as soon as possible to correct the laws. And who can doubt that laws favorable to divorce will be attended by equally miserable and disastrous results if they are to be re-enacted in our time? Surely, there would be no lack, in the interpretations or decisions cisions of men, of a faculty able to change the natural character and conformation of things: hence, it is, that these, so little understanding public happiness as to believe that they may, with impunity pervert the original reason of marriage, and by reason of the sanctity which religion and the Sacrament have added to marriage, seem to desire to destroy and to deform marriage in a more shameful manner than the Gentiles tiles themselves were wont to do in their institutions. Unless, therefore, they change their purpose, the family and human society will always be in danger of being hurried into that contest and general confusion long since projected by unfortunate bands of Socialists and Communists. Whence it is evident that it is strange and absurd to expect public happiness from divorces, which on the contrary are sure to entail most terrible consequences upon society. We must, then, recognize that the Catholic Church has deserved well from all nations for the care she has always taken in protecting the sanctity and perpetuity petuity of unions; and she is entitled to unbounded gratitude, for having one hundred years ago openly protested against civil laws which abounded in errors on this point; for striking with her anathema the frightful heresy of Protestants on divorce and repudiation tion ; for having repeatedly condemned many forms among the Greeks foi the dissolution of marriage ; for pronouncing the nullity of marriage entered into with the understanding that they could be dissolved ; and finally, for having from the very beginning rejected jected all imperial laws favouring divorce and repudiation. tion. The Sovereign Pontiffs, every time they resisted the most powerful princes, when they demanded the Church, under the most terrible threats, to ratify the divorces they had granted, thought they were in this manner defending the cause of religion as well as of humanity itself. So, too, must all posterity regard as an evidence of their courage, the decrees issued by Nicholas I. against Lothaire; by Urban 11. and Paschal chal 11. against Philip 1., King of France ; by Celestine tine 111. and Innocent 111. against Alfonso of Leon and Philip 11., King of France ; by Clement VII. and Paul 111. agamst Henry VIII. ; finally, by the most saintly and most courageous Pontiff Pius VII. against Napoleon 1., so exalted by his successors and the greatness of his empire. Tims, then, if all sovereigns, if all administrators of public affairs had been willing to follow the dictates of reason, wisdom, the advantage of the people, they would have preferred to preserve the holy laws of marriage intact, and to lend their aid to the Church for the protection of good morals and the welfare of families, than regard her with suspicion and hostility, and falsely and iniquitously accuse her of violating civil rights. Moreover, as the Catholic Church cannot upon any point ignore the sanctity of her duty nor desist from the defence of her rights, it is her custom to act with kindness and indulgence in all matters compatible patible with the integrity of her rights and the sanctity of her duty. For this reason she has never decreed concerning marriage without due regard for the state of civil society and for the condition of the people ; she has more than once mitigated, when it was in her power, the severity of the laws, when they were just and weighty reasons for doing so. She does not deny, but cheerfully recognizes that the Sacrament of marriage, riage, having for its object the preservation and increase crease of human society, has necessary relations and points of contact with human affairs, which are, from a civil standpoint, the result of marriage affairs which are subjected to the judgment and knowledge of those intrusted with the public interest. It cannot be doubted that Jesus Christ the Founder of the Church desired the religious authority to be distinct from the civil authority, and that each be free in the fulfillment of its mission; it must, however, be added, that it is useful to both, as it is to the interest of all men, that union and concord exist between them and that in such questions as from divers reasons, are common to the laws and jurisdictions tions of both, the one to whom human affairs have been intrusted should justly and reasonably depend upon the one having the guardianship of heavenly things. By this arrangement and agreement not only is a perfect organization of each power arrived at, but also the most opportune and most efficacious means of securing the happiness of the human race in regard to our conduct in this life and to the hope of eternal salvation. For, as the intelligence of man, as we have demonstrated ih former Encyclical Letters, when it accepts the Christian faith, is greatly ennobled and receives great stregth wherewith to reject errors, so also the mind receives a notable increase from it. In like manner, if the civil authority harmonize amicably with the sacred authority of the Church the greatest results will naturally accrue to both. The former will gain much in dignity, and, under the influence of religion, gion, will never exercise unjust empire; the latter derives from it elements of protection and defence for the public welfare of the faithful. We, then, moved by these considerations again exhort hort princes to unite in concord and friendship; these exhortations which we have heretofore made with love, we now renew with vigor. With paternal benevolence, nevolence, we, as it were, extend our hand first, to princes, offering them the aid of our supreme power, which is all the more necessary at this time when the right of commanding, as if it had been wounded, has lost most of its hold in the opinion of men. The mind being influenced by unbridled licence and impudently pudently refusing to bear the yoke of any authority whatsoever, not even the most lawful, public safety demands that the strength of the two powers be united to prevent the catastrophes which threaten, not the Church alone, but civil society likewise. But, if on the one hand, we openly counsel this friendly accord of wills, and we pray God, the Prince of Peace, to inspire all men with a love for concord, on the other, we cannot refrain from exhorting you, Venerable Brethren, more and more to use your industry, dustry, your zeal and your vigilance which we have always known to be very great, to this effect. Brin'* all your authority to bear and see to it that among the people committed to your care there be preserved integrally tegrally and unchanged the doctrine which Our Lori Jesus Christ and the Apostles, the interpreters of the heavenly will, have trasmitted to us, and which the Catholic Church has religiously preserved and has commanded all Christians to preserve for all coming time. Devote your zeal and your energies that the people may abundantly receive the precepts of Christian wisdom dom and that they may ever bear in mind that marriage riage was established not by the will of men but by the authority of God, and that its fundamental law is to unite one with one only, that Christ, the Author of the new Alliance transformed into a Sacaament that which was merely an act of nature, and in so much as concerns the bond, He has transmitted to his Church he power of legislating and passing judgment upon it. It is necessary to be very watchful on this point, and to see that minds be not misled into error by the deceitful theories of enemies who seek to rob the Church of this power. It is also well known among Christians that the union of husband and wife, contracted outside of the Sacrament, is deficient in the force of quality of a lawful marriage, and although it may be contracted in conformity with the civil laws, it has no value beyond that of a formality or usage introduced by the civil laws. The civil law can only order and regulate that which is in itself a consequence of marriage in civil matters; but these consequences cannot manifestly result save from their true and legitimate cause, namely, the nuptial tie. It is of the greatest import, then, to spouses, to understand everything, and they should also know and remember that they are allowed, in this matter, to conform with the laws ; the Church makes no opposition, position, wishing and desiring the effects of marriage be fully guarded on all sides, and that children suffer no wrong in what belongs to them. In the midst of such a confusion of opinions which is daily insinuating itself more and more, it is also necessary to understand that no one has the power to sever a nuptial bond concluded and consummated between tween Christians ; those spouses, then, are manifestly guilty of crime, whatever may be the cause they trump up, who undertake to enter into a new contract before death has dissolved the first. That if things have come to such a pass that life together can no longer be endured, then the Church permits a separation between tween the couple, taking all the means, and employ ing all the remedies in conformity with the condition of the couple, and calculated to alleviate the inconveniences veniences of that separation ; she never desists from working for their reconciliation or from hoping for it. But these are extreme cases; they could be easily avoided if spouses were not urged on by cupidity, if they approached marriage with the requisite dispositions, tions, joyfully accepting all the obligations of married people, seeking marriage through none but the noblest motives,, and if they would not incur the wrath of God bv anticipating marriage by a sort of continual series of crimes. And, to sum up all in a few words, married people will enjoy continual peace and happiness ness if they instil the virtue of religion into the spirit of life ; because religion makes the soul strong and invincible; through it, faults in people, if there be any, difference of habits and disposition, the burden of maternal cares, the constant solicitude for the education of children, the labors inseparable from life, and even misfortunes, are not only alleviated, but even borne with cheerfulness. We must also see to it that marriages between Catholics and non-Catholics be seldom consummated ; when souls disagree upon religion they cannot be expected pected to agree upon other things for any length of time. These kinds of marriages, as may be easily seen, are all the more ahborrent inasmuch as they furnish the occasion for participating in forbidden religious practices and associations ; are dangerous to the relig'on of the Catholic party ; become an impediment ment to the good education of children, and not unfrequently frequently accustom minds to look upon all religions as alike, and obliterate within them all discrimination between true and false. In conclusion, fully realising that none should be beyond the reach of our charity, we recommend, Venerable Brethren, to the strength of your faith and piety, all who, consumed by the fire of passions and utterly unmindful of their salvation, live in disorder, and who have extracted unholy unions. Devote all your zeal to recalling these men to a sense of their duty. Endeavour in every way, either through your own exertions oi by means of enterprises undertaken by honest men, to make them realize that they are doing wrong, to lead them to penance for their sin, and voluntarily to contract holy unions in accordance with the Catholic rite. You will readily see, Venerable Brethren, that the instructions and precepts we have deemed proper to communicate to you in this letter are no less useful to the preservation of civil society than they are to the eternal salvation of mankind. God grant that minds may everywhere receive them with all the more eagerness and docility because of their gravity and importance. To this end, let us all implore by an humble and suppliant prayer the aid of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, that she may incite minds to yield obedience to faith, and show herself the Mother and Helper of all men. Let us pray with the same ardor to St. Peter and St. Paul, the Princes of the Apostles, the destroyers of superstitions and the propagators of truth, so that, through their powerful protection they may save the human race from the ever-renewing flood of errors. In the meantime, as an earnest of heavenly favors and as a token of our special good will, we bestow with all our heart upon you, Venerable Brethren, and upon all the people intrusted to your care, our Apostolic tolic Benediction. Given at Rome, near St. Peter’s, on the roth day of February, 1880, and the second of our Pontificate. LEO XIII., POPE.
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