Given by His Holiness Pope Pius XI
31 December 1930
Venerable Brethren, Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and
other Local Ordinaries enjoying Peace and Communion with the Apostolic
Venerable Brethren and Beloved Children, Health and Apostolic
1. 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
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
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
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 daily increase.
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
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 that state.
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 God.
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
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 intact .
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
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
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 offspring."
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
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 Gospel."
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
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 wife."
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
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 regeneration."
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
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 are laid.
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
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
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 circumstances .
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 for it."
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 you."
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
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 by beating."
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 to-day
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 family.
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 adversity.
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 points.
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
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 Church.
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 Church.
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 lying 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 whatsoever.
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 anathemae."
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 of men."
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 land."
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
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 to-day,
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 of men."
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
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 of God.
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
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
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 truly called.
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
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 age."
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
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 passions.
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 men."
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 XIII, 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 administrative duties.
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 effectively frustrated.
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
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 pact.
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
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 Apostolic
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., 1, 27-28; II, 22-23; Matth., XIX, 3 sqq.; Eph., V, 23 sqq .
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
7. Encycl. Rerum novarum, 15 May 1891.
8. Gen., 1, 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., 1, 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. 1, 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. 1, 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, XXXVIll, 8-10.
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 Xlll, 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. 1,
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., VI. 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.