Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Natural Law of Marriage: Arcanum divinae sapientia

THERE IS NO STATE IN THE WORLD that recognizes Christian marriage and that enforces its law in all its purity. Indeed, there is not a state in the world that recognizes the natural law of marriage. Every nation in the West has abandoned the teachings of Christ and His Church on marriage, those that pertain to the divine law and even those that pertain to the natural law. There is no nation in the East that, in its laws, pays the Lord's teachings on marriage any heed, although they may, in some respects pay greater respect to the natural law on marriage than the West. In the West, the discrepancy between the natural law of marriage and the positive law is the result of the secular State's intentional rejection of the public role of Christ (the reign of Christ the King) and the jurisdiction of the Church over those areas of her competence and then later an intentional rejection of any notion of natural law. In the East, the public role of Christ has never had to be rejected since it never was institutionalized as it had been in the West.

Marriage, and its basis in natural law, is addressed by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Arcanum divinae sapientia. This encyclical was published in 1880. It is written with the intention of addressing the secular state's arrogation of rights over marriage. As Leo XIII put it:
But, now, there is a spreading wish to supplant natural and divine law by human law; and hence has begun a gradual extinction of that most excellent ideal of marriage which nature herself had impressed on the soul of man, and sealed, as it were, with her own seal.

Sed quia modo passim libuit humanum ius in locum naturalis et divini supponere, deleri non solum coepit matrimonii species ac notio praestantissima, quam in animis hominum impresserat et quasi consignaverat natura.
AD, 27.

The much vaunted principle of "separation of Church and State" in the modern, liberal West in practice means "removal of Church from State," that is, removal of the Church from any public, civil role, including those areas where she has competence and jurisdiction by divine appointment. Marriage is one of those areas. As the State has exercised more power over marriage, it has arrogated to itself the right to define it, and, ignoring its fundamental nature, has allowed such corruptions to enter into the positive laws of marriage such as divorce and remarriage, and serial polygamy. In some instances, the modern secular liberal state has even considered homosexual unions as "marriages"* (which is about the same as legislating that "cats" shall henceforth be considered "dogs"). The State, in fact, has obviously decided that marriage is nothing but convention, to be defined at will, without reference to its fundamental nature or to God who instituted marriage.

As part of this process of usurpation, liberals and secularists have sought to restrict the rights of the Church in the area of marriage, to "bring it [marriage] within the contracted sphere of those rights which, having been instituted by man, are ruled and administered by the civil jurisprudence of the community." AD, 7. Moderns "attribute all power over marriage to civil rulers, and allow none whatever to the Church," except, perhaps by courtesy. "[W]hen the Church exercises any such power, they think that she acts either by favor of the civil authority or to its injury." "Now is the time, they [the modern secularists whom Leo XIII calls naturalists or those who divinize the State] say, for the heads of the State to vindicate their rights unflinchingly, and to do their best to settle all that relates to marriage according as to them seems good." AD, 7.

Since the 1800s, the naturalists and secularists have been remarkably successful at dismantling the natural institution of marriage. And in supplanting the role of God and the Church, modern secularists have put man in control of marriage, which means that they have rejected the role of God and the role of nature of marriage. This is necessarily the case because marriage is not something instituted by man, but rather is something instituted by God in nature: non ab hominibus acceptum, sed natura insitum. AD, 19. It is this fundamental liberal and secular proposition--that man and his political institutions have authority over marriage, i.e., that marriage is nothing but convention--that allows the absurd discussions over whether the State through the judiciary, or through the legislative, or even through the democratic process can define marriage as something that occurs between two people of the same sex. Does no one see the arrogance of the State--its legislators, its judges, or its people--in suggesting that it has such authority? In the public debate, most seem to accede that the State--acting through legislators or judges--or the people--acting through a vote--have authority over this natural institution.

However, no human, singly or in the aggregate, and no human civil institution (including the State) have power over the fundamental nature of marriage. The Church alone has Christ's authority in the area of marriage, and that power does not include any power to change its fundamental nature. Christ exercised jurisdiction over marriage. It was Christ's by right. That power was not given Christ by the State. Nor was it taken by Christ from the State. "It would, for instance, be incredible and altogether absurd," observes Pope Leo XIII, "to assume that Christ our Lord condemned the long-standing practice of polygamy and divorce by authority delegated to Him by the procurator of the province, or the principal ruler of the Jews." AD, 21. Leo XIII observes further: "And it would be equally extravagant to think that, when the Apostle Paul taught that divorces and incestuous marriages were not lawful, it was because Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero agreed with him or secretly commanded him so to teach." No man in his senses could ever be persuaded that the Church made so many laws about the holiness and indissolubility of marriage . . . by power received from Roman emperors, most hostile to the Christian name, whose strongest desire was to destroy by violence and murder the rising Church of Christ" AD, 21. Manifestly, both Christ and then subsequently the Church exercised fundamental jurisdiction and authority over marriage over and against any civil authority because they had it.

In fact, the natural law on marriage is an area where the Church, as custodian and expositor of the natural law, speaks for all mankind.** She speaks with Christ's authority to further Christ's mission. Christ's mission, as St. Paul puts it, was to "divinely renew the world, which was sinking, as it were, with length of years into decline." AD, 1. Christus in terris erat perfecturus, eo spectavit, ut mundum, quasi vetustate senescentem, Ipse per se et in se divinitus instauraret. The Church was founded by the Lord with his mission:
In order that these unparalleled benefits might last as long as men should be found on earth, He entrusted to His Church the continuance of His work; and, looking to future times, He commanded her to set in order whatever might have become deranged in human society, and to restore whatever might have fallen into ruin.

Quo vero tam singularia beneficia, quamdiu essent homines, tamdiu in terris permanerent, Ecclesiam constituit vicariam muneris sui, eamque iussit, in futurum prospiciens, si quid esset in hominum societate perturbatum, ordinare; si quid collapsum, resituere.
AD, 2. The collapsed world, or at least part of it, for a time, grew young, it enjoyed "a new form and fresh beauty" to which Christ restored it, Christ, who took away the effects of the world's "time-worn age." Over centuries, the Roman and Barbarian laws on marriage were modified to conform to the natural law and the Gospel teaching. At one time a famous writer could say with but minimal controversy, Europe is the Faith and the Faith is Europe, and it would have included Europe's law on marriage. But this world made young grew older again and forgot the Lord and His Church who brought joy to its youth, and indeed not only brought joy to its youth, but brought it youth. It rejected its Christian patrimony, first by rejecting the Church, then by rejecting Christ, then by rejecting God, and the finally by rejecting Nature herself. Thus in stages it dismantled Christendom, disassembled Christian rule, and dissipated its moral capital, a moral capital hard-earned by thousands of popes, bishops, pious kings and queens and princes and princesses, monks and nuns and friars, and millions of laymen who had cooperated in the reign of Christ that clambered over the body of a dying paganism.

What this new neo-pagan worldview saw as progress was, in many respects, and in many important respects, really regress. The West was like a foolish man who--losing his hair, his muscle tone, his teeth, and his eyesight and hearing--kept insisting that there was progress, increasing vitality, and growing resiliency in his life. But all this was false. Like some foolish old man dying his hair dark, combing it over his balding head, and wearing youthful clothes, the newly secularly-accoutered West has really just become old again, but it looks young because it has new technology: useful stuff such as nuclear bombs, Viagra, latex condoms, RU-486, and abortion clinics. But in fact, it has lost both youth and youth's resilient joy, and it has re-collapsed, like a senile old man, into the senescence of relativism, skepticism, and self-indulgence. The Christian bang is gone. The world is reduced to a whimper. Compare St. Francis of Assisi to Charlie Sheen and you see how the world's gone.

This is not how it is supposed to be. Christ's restorative mission was (and is) aimed at the restoration of the entire man, both natural and supernatural. So Christ's mission benefited (and benefits) all men even if they were not members of His Church.
Although the divine renewal we have spoken of chiefly and directly affected men as constituted in the supernatural order of grace, nevertheless some of its precious and salutary fruits were also bestowed abundantly in the order of nature. Hence, not only individual men, but also the whole mass of the human race, have in every respect received no small degree of worthiness. For, so soon as Christian order was once established in the world, it became possible for all men, one by one, to learn what God's fatherly providence is, and to dwell in it habitually, thereby fostering that hope of heavenly help which never confoundeth. From all this outflowed fortitude, self-control, constancy, and the evenness of a peaceful mind, together with many high virtues and noble deeds.

Quamquam vero divina haec instauratio, quam diximus prae cipue et directo homines attigit in ordine gratiae supernaturali constitutos, tamen pretiosi ac salutares eiusdem fructus in ordinem quoque naturalem largiter permanarunt; quamobrem non mediocrem perfectionem in omnes partes acceperunt cum singuli homines, tum humani generis societas universa. Etenim, christiano rerum ordine semel condito, hominibus singulis feliciter contigit, ut ediscerent atque adsuescerent in paterna Dei providentia conquiescere, et spem alere, quae non confundit, caelestium auxiliorum; quibus ex rebus fortitudo, moderatio, constantia, aequabilitas pacati animi, plures denique praeclarae virtutes et egregia facta consequuntur.
It is, of course, impossible to engage in "what ifs" without entering into the world of speculation. What if Christ had not come into the world and His Church not been founded? The way the world would look under that scenario is impossible to know. But this much is certain: there is much that the world has to be thankful to the Christ and His Church, even though it be not Christian and even it they be not Catholic.** AD, 3. Christians and the Church have been the salt of the earth. The contribution to mankind's development by Christ and His Church, especially in the area of marriage and family life, have been immense.

On the other hand, the verdict appears to be against modernity. While modern notions seem to have given us some "liberties" that seem to advantage the vicious the most, these have been purchased at tremendous price: millions dead in wars, millions more dead in concentration camps, hundreds of millions affected by social deracination, endemic poverty, and the destruction of indigenous cultures, and hundreds of millions perhaps even billions of deaths of human zygotes, fetuses, and children as a result of artificial contraception (frequently a disguised abortifacient) and medical and drug-induced abortion. And these, of course, are just the material costs. At what sort of spiritual costs have these "liberties" been purchased? This is shuddering to contemplate.

What the fruits of modernity and its political structures suggest, of course, is that even an unbeliever, at least an unbeliever of good will, would be better off under a Christian order than he is under a liberal, practically (and theoretically) atheist, order. Viewed from the perspective of the common good, no one, it would seem, except the wicked, are better off in a liberal order than a Christian order. It is impossible to believe that the good and the virtuous would be worse off in an order that conformed itself to the natural moral law rather than an order that ignored it. It is the ignorant, the greedy, the lecherous, the impious, the self-indulgent, the vicious who flourish in liberalism's order and society formed about its premises. The virtuous and those of good will may, with greater effort given the lack of support in public institutions, also flourish. It is the majority in the middle, or those who are excluded altogether from the program by being called "non-persons," who, as a whole, are worse off in a liberal society and its mores. Has the common good really been advanced by a civil society whose governing and legislative institutions are built without reference to God and nature if we include all the hundreds of millions of silent victims too small to be buried in a casket? Are most of us really better off because Charlie Sheen can have sex with a bunch of hookers, get high on cocaine, and not be thrown in jail or put in stocks? We might be better off if he were punished. Imus was without even the process of law, and he did much less that Charlie Sheen ever did.

One area where Christ's influence was deeply felt, and therefore where his modern absence is deeply felt, was the institution of the family. In particular, Christ's influence on marriage, which is the beginning and the foundation of family life, has been significant. Christ's influence upon human marriage must start with an understanding of whence marriage comes.

The true origin, the vera origo, of marriage is God. God is the creator of marriage.
God thus, in His most far-reaching foresight, decreed that this husband and wife should be the natural beginning of the human race, from whom it might be propagated and preserved by an unfailing fruitfulness throughout all futurity of time.

Qua in re hoc voluit providentissimus Deus, ut illud par coniugum esset cunctorum hominum naturale principium, ex quo scilicet propagari humanum genus, et, numquam intermissis procreationibus, conservari in omne tempus oporteret.
AD, 5. Marriage is thus part of God's creative activity. It is part of the natural endowment given man, and therefore a natural institution. While it is a natural institution, it has an implicit or intrinsic leaning towards the sacred, one might say even a natural sacramentality associated with it. As Leo XIII explains:
Marriage has God for its Author, and was from the very beginning a kind of foreshadowing of the Incarnation of His Son; and therefore there abides in it a something holy and religious; not extraneous, but innate; not derived from men, but implanted by nature.

Etenim cum matrimonium habeat Deum auctorem, fueritque vel a principio quaedam Incarnationis Verbi Dei adumbratio, idcirco inest in eo sacrum et religiosum quiddam, non adventitium, sed ingenitum, non ab hominibus acceptum, sed natura insitum.
AD, 19.

The intrinsic sanctity and solemnity of the marital bond and its religious meaning was recognized even by pagans, who usually accompanied marriage with religious rites and before their priests and pontiffs. "So mighty, even in the souls ignorant of heavenly doctrine, was the force of nature, of the remembrance of their origin, and of the conscience of the human race." AD, 19. Even in natural marriage, a marriage between two non-Christians, the Gospel of Christ is implicitly revealed. Anima naturaliter Christiana, said Tertullian. The soul is naturally Christian. In Tertullian's spirit, we may state a corollary: Matrimonium naturaliter Christianum, marriage is naturally Christian.

According to Christ's teaching, "even from the beginning,"*** vel ex eo tempore, marriage was sealed with two "most excellent properties," duas potissimum, easque in primis nobiles, that being "unity and perpetuity," unitatem et perpetuitatem. Therefore, as Christ's teaching make clear, from the beginning, that is as part of the natural institution of marriage, marriage was to be "between two only, that is, between one man and one woman," inter duos esse debere, scilicet virum inter et mulierem. AD, 5. Christ's proclamation with respect to marriage was "in character of supreme Lawgiver," supremi legislatoris suscepta persona, and as supreme lawgiver, Christ "brought back matrimony to the nobility of its primeval origin, primaevae originis nobilitatem, by condemning the customs of the Jews in their abuse of the plurality of wives and of the power of giving bills of divorce; and still more by commanding most strictly that no one should dare to dissolve that union which God Himself had sanctioned by a bond perpetual." AD, 8. This is the natural law on marriage.

Polygamy, both simultaneous and serial,**** therefore, is excluded under the natural law by the design of God. AD, 5. It is a departure from the natural law as it relates to marriage. Clearly, any sort of homosexual union is, as a matter of natural law, morally abhorrent since it is in direct contravention to the natural law. Moreover, from the beginning, God's intent was to exclude divorce and remarriage. Christ made clear that "from the beginning" the "marriage bond is by the will of God so closely and strongly made fast that no man may dissolve it or render it asunder," nuptiale vinculum sic esse Dei voluntate intime vehementerque nexum, ut a quopiam inter homines dissolvi, aut distrahi nequeat. AD, 5.

What Christ's teaching suggests is that the liberal West's vision of marriage as well as traditional Islam's vision of marriage are contrary to the natural law: the natural institution of marriage is defiled by both Western secular and Islamic religious marital laws. The current state of the law on marriage is no different than when Christ first encountered its corruption even among the Jews: "All nations seem, more or less, to have forgotten the true notion and origin of marriage; and thus everywhere laws were enacted with reference to marriage, prompted to all appearance by State reasons, but not such as nature required." AC, 7. In large part, as Leo XIII observes, the woman bore the brunt of the conventional marriages that violated the natural law, since they favored the male, his dominion and his lust, and reduced the status of the woman "to be all but reckoned as a means for the gratification of passion, or for the production of offspring." AC, 7. In some cases, women were bought and sold as chattel, and men had the right to put them to death for the most specious of reasons, or, to beat them (idhrib, إضرب), but not with severity. Modernly, the burden on women is not one of chattle slavery, but it shows up in other forms, in their unreasonable subordinate role in Muslim countries or, in the West, in the pressures put on single mothers and single-parent families. Modernly, the real brunt has been felt by the unborn, that is to say, the never-to-be-born. Moreover, the common good has suffered all of the evils that Leo XIII anticipated it would suffer be relaxing marital laws to allow divorce and remarriage in contravention to the natural law.
Truly, it is hardly possible to describe how great are the evils that flow from divorce. Matrimonial contracts are by it made variable; mutual kindness is weakened; deplorable inducements to unfaithfulness are supplied; harm is done to the education and training of children; occasion is afforded for the breaking up of homes; the seeds of dissension are sown among families; the dignity of womanhood is lessened and brought low, and women run the risk of being deserted after having ministered to the pleasures of men. Since, then, nothing has such power to lay waste families and destroy the mainstay of kingdoms as the corruption of morals, it is easily seen that divorces are in the highest degree hostile to the prosperity of families and States, springing as they do from the depraved morals of the people, and, as experience shows us, opening out a way to every kind of evil-doing in public and in private life.
AD, 29. Is there any doubt every society in the West suffers from these social problems? We claim to want to solve them, but they are insoluble if we ignore their root cause.

So it appears that, with respect to marriage, we have come full circle:
[T]here are persons who, thanklessly casting away so many other blessings of redemption, despise also or utterly ignore the restoration of marriage to its original perfection. It is a reproach to some of the ancients that they showed themselves the enemies of marriage in many ways; but in our own age, much more pernicious is the sin of those who would fain pervert utterly the nature of marriage, perfect though it is, and complete in all its details and parts.
AD, 6. The Western dog has returned to his own Western vomit. Sicut canis qui revertitur ad vomitum suum sic inprudens qui iterat stultitiam suam. "As a dog returns to his own vomit, so is a fool who repeats his folly." (Proverbs 26:11)

*According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, the following countries allow homosexual marriage: The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden. In the United States, homosexual marriage is legal in six states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. This does not include countries or states of the United States that recognize some other form of civil union between homosexual couples.
**The Church, however, though it can declare the natural law, and therefore is the teacher of all mankind. With respect to marriage, "with such foresight of legislation has the Church guarded its divine institution that no one who thinks rightfully of these matters can fail to see how, with regard to marriage, she is the best guardian and defender of the human race." AD, 15. The Church, however, would not have jurisdiction over marriages where there is no baptized party involved.
***We may refer the reader to such books as H. W. Crocker, III's Triumph: The Power and Glory of the Catholic Church (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001); Thomas E. Woods, Jr.'s How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2005). In the area of marriage and family life, Leo XIII states that as a result of Christ and His Church, mankind received the following benefits related to marriage and family: (1) it raised it to the status of a Sacrament; (2) it emphasized its essential sanctity; (3) it condemned extra-marital relationships thus fortifying the exclusivity of marriage; (4) it prohibited incest, polygamy, adultery, fornication, homosexuality and other crimes against conjugal chastity; (5) it insisted on the equal rights of husband and wife, since it imposed the same law of chastity and mutual affection on both; (6) it prohibited the man from killing his wife on the grounds of adultery; (7) it tempered the powers of fathers over their families (the Roman law of paterfamilias); (8) it assured liberty in marriage by preventing undue parental infringement of their child's right.
****The fact that Christ in Matthew 19:4 spoke about what God intended "in the beginning" (ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς or ab initio) is highly significant, since it states that the teaching of Christ on marriage with respect to its exclusivity and permanency is not a matter of Christian discipline only, but is a matter of the natural law which binds all men and woman by virtue of their being human. That marriage is between one man and one woman and that no human authority has the authority to allow for divorce is not a confessional truth, but a universal, natural truth. Christ's teaching in this regard was to bring back matrimony "to the nobility of its primeval origin." AD, 8. To this teaching regarding the natural institution of marriage as ordained by God one must then add the specifically Christian teaching of its sacramental nature and function. On the sacramentality and sanctity of marriage, there was, as Leo XIII points out, a primitive religious understanding of sacrament and sanctity in the marital covenant among the better pagan thinkers. "We call to witness the monuments of antiquity, as also the manners and customs of those people who, being the most civilized, had the greatest knowledge of law and equity. In the minds of all of them it was a fixed and foregone conclusion that, when marriage was thought of, it was thought of as conjoined with religion and holiness." AD, 19.
*****Simultaneous polygamy is having multiple spouses at the same time, a practice accepted, for example, by traditional Islamic doctrine for men (which allows simultaneous polygyny, up to four simultaneous wives, but not simultaneous polyandry, although it allows serial polyandry as a result of its acceptance of divorce and remarriage). Serial polygamy is what is commonly allowed in the West, and it constitutes of polygamy in series (marriage-divorce-remarriage-divorce--remarriage, etc.). A Western man who has been married thrice, and divorced twice, is a serial polygamist having "enjoyed" three women as wives. A Muslim man who has three wives simultaneously is a simultaneous polygamist "enjoying" three women as wives. The difference in these two practices of polygamy is one of degree, not of kind. Both violate the divine and natural law. (This is one reason why both liberalism and Islam are false and unreasonable political philosophies or religions: on this and many other particulars (e.g., acceptance of onanism/contraception or al'azl or العزل), they contradict the natural law on the matter of marriage and conjugal relations). A true political philosophy or a truly revealed religion would not contradict the natural law on marriage and conjugal relations.)


  1. You can thank Spinoza and the Anabaptists for this "Separation of Church and State". That the State has the power over all things is Spinozist, see Schawartz, Joel (1985) "Liberalism and the Jewish Connection: A Study of Spinoza and the Young Marx", Political Theory, Vol. 13, No. 1. pp. 58-84. (Online and free download).

    Next, is the statement that "The West is returning to its vomit". We don't live in the "West". The Renaissance and the Enlightenment changed all that. The full title of Eric Nelson's book The Hebrew Republic continues this way Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought. If Jewish sources transformed our politics, did it not transform our culture as well? He uses the term "Modern West". "Modern West" is Marxist West. We don't live in the West. Read Jonathan Israel's Radical Enlightenment and Enlightenment Contested. This was all born out of the Kabbalah mixed with Hermes Trimesgestes and Jewish Instigation of the Protestant movements across Europe! Don't blame the West! Read, Jewish Influence On Christian Reform Movements BY LOUIS ISRAEL NEWMAN, PH.D. It starts with St. Jerome. Jewish influence is everywhere in the West. They changed Western Culture and Civilization. We no longer live in the "West". It was Karl Marx that called for the destruction of the family unit---not a European. Spinoza, Marx and the Kabbalah!

    We live in the Modern West, in the modified West, in the transformed West. Blame that culture, not traditional Western Culture.

  2. The word "West" is highly vague. I agree. I agree we do not live in a "traditional Western" culture. In institutional and social form, that culture has long disappeared.

    I'm reading Nelson's work right now. Started reading it this morning. I had always noticed how the commonwealthmen and Puritans relied on the Old Testament as if in seeming disregard of Christ's supervening revelation, as if we were still under an aera sub lege. Even those who believed in monarchy (e.g., Filmer) seemed to rely heavily on the Old Testament as if they were proof texts. Nelson helps explain why this was.

    I have not gotten to some of the other issues (egalitarianism and tolerance), but in the area of anti-monarchism, I think Nelson is spot on. It makes sense that, in trying to implement the Old Testatment that Protestant Christians should have turned to Jewish commentators.

    Thanks for the recommendation.