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Question: 65 [<< | >>]
We must now consider the plurality of wives. Under this head there are
five points of inquiry:
(1) Whether it is against the natural law to have several wives?
(2) Whether this was ever lawful?
(3) Whether it is against the natural law to have a concubine?
(4) Whether it is a mortal sin to have intercourse with a concubine?
(5) Whether it was ever lawful to have a concubine?
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Question: 65 [<< | >>]
Article: 1 [<< | >>]
Objection 1: It would seem that it is not against the natural law to have
several wives. For custom does not prejudice the law of nature. But "it
was not a sin" to have several wives "when this was the custom,"
according to Augustine (De Bono Conjug. xv) as quoted in the text (Sent.
iv, D, 33). Therefore it is not contrary to the natural law to have
Objection 2: Further, whoever acts in opposition to the natural law, disobeys
a commandment, for the law of nature has its commandments even as the
written law has. Now Augustine says (De Bono Conjug. xv; De Civ. Dei xv,
38) that "it was not contrary to a commandment" to have several wives,
"because by no law was it forbidden." Therefore it is not against the
natural law to have several wives.
Objection 3: Further, marriage is chiefly directed to the begetting of
offspring. But one man may get children of several women, by causing them
to be pregnant. Therefore It is not against the natural law to have
Objection 4: Further, "Natural right is that which nature has taught all
animals," as stated at the beginning of the Digests (1, i, ff. De just.
et jure). Now nature has not taught all animals that one male should be
united to but one female, since with many animals the one male is united
to several females. Therefore it is not against the natural law to have
Objection 5: Further, according to the Philosopher (De Gener. Animal. i, 20),
in the begetting of offspring the male is to the female as agent to
patient, and as the craftsman is to his material. But it is not against
the order of nature for one agent to act on several patients, or for one
craftsman to work in several materials. Therefore neither is it contrary
to the law of nature for one husband to have many wives.
Objection 6: On the contrary, That which was instilled into man at the
formation of human nature would seem especially to belong to the natural
law. Now it was instilled into him at the very formation of human nature
that one man should have one wife, according to Gn. 2:24, "They shall be
two in one flesh." Therefore it is of natural law.
Objection 7: Further, it is contrary to the law of nature that man should bind
himself to the impossible, and that what is given to one should be given
to another. Now when a man contracts with a wife, he gives her the power
of his body, so that he is bound to pay her the debt when she asks.
Therefore it is against the law of nature that he should afterwards give
the power of his body to another, because it would be impossible for him
to pay both were both to ask at the same time.
Objection 8: Further, "Do not to another what thou wouldst not were done to
thyself" [*Cf. Tobias 4:16] is a precept of the natural law. But a
husband would by no means be willing for his wife to have another
husband. Therefore he would be acting against the law of nature, were he
to have another wife in addition.
Objection 9: Further, whatever is against the natural desire is contrary to
the natural law. Now a husband's jealousy of his wife and the wife's
jealousy of her husband are natural, for they are found in all.
Therefore, since jealousy is "love impatient of sharing the beloved," it
would seem to be contrary to the natural law that several wives should
share one husband.
I answer that, All natural things are imbued with certain principles
whereby they are enabled not only to exercise their proper actions, but
also to render those actions proportionate to their end, whether such
actions belong to a thing by virtue of its generic nature, or by virtue
of its specific nature: thus it belongs to a magnet to be borne downwards
by virtue of its generic nature, and to attract iron by virtue of its
specific nature. Now just as in those things which act from natural
necessity the principle of action is the form itself, whence their proper
actions proceed proportionately to their end, so in things which are
endowed with knowledge the principles of action are knowledge and
appetite. Hence in the cognitive power there needs to be a natural
concept, and in the appetitive power a natural inclination, whereby the
action befitting the genus or species is rendered proportionate to the
end. Now since man, of all animals, knows the aspect of the end, and the
proportion of the action to the end, it follows that he is imbued with a
natural concept, whereby he is directed to act in a befitting manner, and
this is called "the natural law" or "the natural right," but in other
animals "the natural instinct." For brutes are rather impelled by the
force of nature to do befitting actions, than guided to act on their own
judgment. Therefore the natural law is nothing else than a concept
naturally instilled into man, whereby he is guided to act in a befitting
manner in his proper actions, whether they are competent to him by virtue
of his generic nature, as, for instance, to beget, to eat, and so on, or
belong to him by virtue of his specific nature, as, for instance, to
reason and so forth. Now whatever renders an action improportionate to
the end which nature intends to obtain by a certain work is said to be
contrary to the natural law. But an action may be improportionate either
to the principal or to the secondary end, and in either case this happens
in two ways. First, on account of something which wholly hinders the end;
for instance a very great excess or a very great deficiency in eating
hinders both the health of the body, which is the principal end of food,
and aptitude for conducting business, which is its secondary end.
Secondly, on account of something that renders the attainment of the
principal or secondary end difficult, or less satisfactory, for instance
eating inordinately in respect of undue time. Accordingly if an action be
improportionate to the end, through altogether hindering the principal
end directly, it is forbidden by the first precepts of the natural law,
which hold the same place in practical matters, as the general concepts
of the mind in speculative matters. If, however, it be in any way
improportionate to the secondary end, or again to the principal end, as
rendering its attainment difficult or less satisfactory, it is forbidden,
not indeed by the first precepts of the natural law, but by the second
which are derived from the first even as conclusions in speculative
matters receive our assent by virtue of self-known principles: and thus
the act in question is said to be against the law of nature.
Now marriage has for its principal end the begetting and rearing of
children, and this end is competent to man according to his generic
nature, wherefore it is common to other animals (Ethic. viii, 12), and
thus it is that the "offspring" is assigned as a marriage good. But for
its secondary end, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. viii, 12), it has,
among men alone, the community of works that are a necessity of life, as
stated above (Question , Article ). And in reference to this they owe one another
"fidelity" which is one of the goods of marriage. Furthermore it has
another end, as regards marriage between believers, namely the
signification of Christ and the Church: and thus the "sacrament" is said
to be a marriage good. Wherefore the first end corresponds to the
marriage of man inasmuch as he is an animal: the second, inasmuch as he
is a man; the third, inasmuch as he is a believer. Accordingly plurality
of wives neither wholly destroys nor in any way hinders the first end of
marriage, since one man is sufficient to get children of several wives,
and to rear the children born of them. But though it does not wholly
destroy the second end, it hinders it considerably for there cannot
easily be peace in a family where several wives are joined to one
husband, since one husband cannot suffice to satisfy the requisitions of
several wives, and again because the sharing of several in one occupation
is a cause of strife: thus "potters quarrel with one another"
[*Aristotle, Rhet. ii, 4], and in like manner the several wives of one
husband. The third end, it removes altogether, because as Christ is one,
so also is the Church one. It is therefore evident from what has been
said that plurality of wives is in a way against the law of nature, and
in a way not against it.
Reply to Objection 1: Custom does not prejudice the law of nature as regards the
first precepts of the latter, which are like the general concepts of the
mind in speculative matters. But those which are drawn like conclusions
from these custom enforces, as Tully declares (De Inv. Rhet. ii), or
weakens. Such is the precept of nature in the matter of having one wife.
Reply to Objection 2: As Tully says (De Inv. Rhet. ii), "fear of the law and
religion have sanctioned those things that come from nature and are
approved by custom." Wherefore it is evident that those dictates of the
natural law, which are derived from the first principles as it were of
the natural law, have not the binding force of an absolute commandment,
except when they have been sanctioned by Divine or human law. This is
what Augustine means by saying that "they did not disobey the
commandments of the law, since it was not forbidden by any law."
The Reply to the Third Objection follows from what has been said.
Reply to Objection 4: Natural right has several significations. First a right is
said to be natural by its principle, because it is instilled by nature:
and thus Tully defines it (De Inv. Rhet. ii) when he says: "Natural right
is not the result of opinion but the product of an innate force." And
since even in natural things certain movements are called natural, not
that they be from an intrinsic principle, but because they are from a
higher moving principle---thus the movements that are caused in the
elements by the impress of heavenly bodies are said to be natural, as the
Commentator states (De Coelo et Mundo iii, 28), therefore those things
that are of Divine right are said to be of natural right, because they
are caused by the impress and influence of a higher principle, namely
God. Isidore takes it in this sense, when he says (Etym. v) that "the
natural right is that which is contained in the Law and the Gospel."
Thirdly, right is said to be natural not only from its principle but also
from its matter, because it is about natural things. And since nature is
contradistinguished with reason, whereby man is a man, it follows that if
we take natural right in its strictest sense, those things which are
dictated by natural reason and pertain to man alone are not said to be of
natural right, but only those which are dictated by natural reason and
are common to man and other animals. Thus we have the aforesaid
definition, namely: "Natural right is what nature has taught all
animals." Accordingly plurality of wives, though not contrary to natural
right taken in the third sense, is nevertheless against natural right
taken in the second sense, because it is forbidden by the Divine law. It
is also against natural right taken in the first sense, as appears from
what has been said, for such is nature's dictate to every animal
according to the mode befitting its nature. Wherefore also certain
animals, the rearing of whose offspring demands the care of both, namely
the male and female, by natural instinct cling to the union of one with
one, for instance the turtle-dove, the dove, and so forth.
The Reply to the Fifth Objection is clear from what has been said.
Since, however, the arguments adduced "on the contrary side" would seem
to show that plurality of wives is against the first principles of the
natural law, we must reply to them.
Accordingly we reply to the Sixth Objection that human nature was
founded without any defect, and consequently it is endowed not only with
those things without which the principal end of marriage is impossible of
attainment, but also with those without which the secondary end of
marriage could not be obtained without difficulty: and in this way it
sufficed man when he was first formed to have one wife, as stated above.
Reply to Objection 7: In marriage the husband gives his wife power of his body, not in all respects, but only in those things that are required by marriage. Now marriage does not require the husband to pay the debt every time his wife asks for it, if we consider the principal end for which marriage was instituted, namely the good of the offspring, but only as far as is necessary for impregnation. But in so far as it is instituted as a remedy (which is its secondary end), marriage does require the debt to be paid at all times on being asked for. Hence it is evident that by taking several wives a man does not bind himself to the impossible, considering the principal end of marriage; and therefore plurality of wives is not against the first principles of the natural law.
Reply to Objection 8: This precept of the natural law, "Do not to another what
thou wouldst not were done to thyself," should be understood with the
proviso that there be equal proportion. For if a superior is unwilling to
be withstood by his subject, he is not therefore bound not to withstand
his subject. Hence it does not follow in virtue of this precept that as a
husband is unwilling for his wife to have another husband, he must not
have another wife: because for one man to have several wives is not
contrary to the first principles of the natural law, as stated above:
whereas for one wife to have several husbands is contrary to the first
principles of the natural law, since thereby the good of the offspring
which is the principal end of marriage is, in one respect, entirely
destroyed, and in another respect hindered. For the good of the offspring
means not only begetting, but also rearing. Now the begetting of
offspring, though not wholly voided (since a woman may be impregnated a
second time after impregnation has already taken place, as stated in De
Gener. Animal. vii. 4), is nevertheless considerably hindered, because
this can scarcely happen without injury either to both fetus or to one of
them. But the rearing of the offspring is altogether done away, because
as a result of one woman having several husbands there follows
uncertainty of the offspring in relation to its father, whose care is
necessary for its education. Wherefore the marriage of one wife with
several husbands has not been sanctioned by any law or custom, whereas
the converse has been.
Reply to Objection 9: The natural inclination in the appetitive power follows the
natural concept in the cognitive power. And since it is not so much
opposed to the natural concept for a man to have several wives as for a
wife to have several husbands, it follows that a wife's love is not so
averse to another sharing the same husband with her, as a husband's love
is to another sharing the same wife with him. Consequently both in man
and in other animals the male is more jealous of the female than "vice
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Question: 65 [<< | >>]
Article: 2 [<< | >>]
Objection 1: It would seem that it can never have been lawful to have several
wives. For, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. v, 7), "The natural law
has the same power at all times and places." Now plurality of wives is
forbidden by the natural law, as stated above (Article ). Therefore as it is
unlawful now, it was unlawful at all times.
Objection 2: Further, if it was ever lawful, this could only be because it was
lawful either in itself, or by dispensation. If the former, it would also
be lawful now; if the latter, this is impossible, for according to
Augustine (Contra Faust. xxvi, 3), "as God is the founder of nature, He
does nothing contrary to the principles which He has planted in nature."
Since then God has planted in our nature the principle that one man
should be united to one wife, it would seem that He has never dispensed
man from this.
Objection 3: Further, if a thing be lawful by dispensation, it is only lawful
for those who receive the dispensation. Now we do not read in the Law of
a general dispensation having been granted to all. Since then in the Old
Testament all who wished to do so, without any distinction, took to
themselves several wives, nor were reproached on that account, either by
the law or by the prophets, it would seem that it was not made lawful by
Objection 4: Further, where there is the same reason for dispensation, the
same dispensation should be given. Now we cannot assign any other reason
for dispensation than the multiplying of the offspring for the worship of
God, and this is necessary also now. Therefore this dispensation would be
still in force, especially as we read nowhere of its having been recalled.
Objection 5: Further, in granting a dispensation the greater good should not
be overlooked for the sake of a lesser good. Now fidelity and the
sacrament, which it would seem impossible to safeguard in a marriage
where one man is joined to several wives, are greater goods than the
multiplication of the offspring. Therefore this dispensation ought not to
have been granted with a view to this multiplication.
On the contrary, It is stated (Gal. 3:19) that the Law "was set because
of transgressors [Vulg.: 'transgressions']," namely in order to prohibit
them. Now the Old Law mentions plurality of wives without any prohibition
thereof, as appears from Dt. 21:15, "If a man have two wives," etc.
Therefore they were not transgressors through having two wives; and so it
Further, this is confirmed by the example of the holy patriarchs, who
are stated to have had several wives, and yet were most pleasing to God,
for instance Jacob, David, and several others. Therefore at one time it
I answer that, As stated above (Article , ad 7,8), plurality of wives is
said to be against the natural law, not as regards its first precepts,
but as regards the secondary precepts, which like conclusions are drawn
from its first precepts. Since, however, human acts must needs vary
according to the various conditions of persons, times, and other
circumstances, the aforesaid conclusions do not proceed from the first
precepts of the natural law, so as to be binding in all cases, but only
in the majority. for such is the entire matter of Ethics according to the
Philosopher (Ethic. i, 3,7). Hence, when they cease to be binding, it is
lawful to disregard them. But because it is not easy to determine the
above variations, it belongs exclusively to him from whose authority he
derives its binding force to permit the non-observance of the law in
those cases to which the force of the law ought not to extend, and this
permission is called a dispensation. Now the law prescribing the one wife
was framed not by man but by God, nor was it ever given by word or in
writing, but was imprinted on the heart, like other things belonging in
any way to the natural law. Consequently a dispensation in this matter
could be granted by God alone through an inward inspiration, vouchsafed
originally to the holy patriarchs, and by their example continued to
others, at a time when it behooved the aforesaid precept not to be
observed, in order to ensure the multiplication of the offspring to be
brought up in the worship of God. For the principal end is ever to be
borne in mind before the secondary end. Wherefore, since the good of the
offspring is the principal end of marriage, it behooved to disregard for
a time the impediment that might arise to the secondary ends, when it was
necessary for the offspring to be multiplied; because it was for the
removal of this impediment that the precept forbidding a plurality of
wives was framed, as stated above (Article ).
Reply to Objection 1: The natural law, considered in itself, has the same force
at all times and places; but accidentally on account of some impediment
it may vary at certain times and places, as the Philosopher (Ethic. i,
3,7) instances in the case of other natural things. For at all times and
places the right hand is better than the left according to nature, but it
may happen accidentally that a person is ambidextrous, because our nature
is variable; and the same applies to the natural, just as the Philosopher
states (Ethic. i, 3,7).
Reply to Objection 2: In a Decretal (De divortiis, cap. Gaudemus) it is asserted
that is was never lawful to have several wives without having a
dispensation received through Divine inspiration. Nor is the dispensation
thus granted a contradiction to the principles which God has implanted in
nature, but an exception to them, because those principles are not
intended to apply to all cases but to the majority, as stated. Even so it
is not contrary to nature when certain occurrences take place in natural
things miraculously, by way of exception to more frequent occurrences.
Reply to Objection 3: Dispensation from a law should follow the quality of the
law. Wherefore, since the law of nature is imprinted on the heart, it was
not necessary for a dispensation from things pertaining to the natural
law to be given under the form of a written law but by internal
Reply to Objection 4: When Christ came it was the time of the fulness of the
grace of Christ, whereby the worship of God was spread abroad among all
nations by a spiritual propagation. Hence there is not the same reason
for a dispensation as before Christ's coming, when the worship of God was
spread and safeguarded by a carnal propagation.
Reply to Objection 5: The offspring, considered as one of the marriage goods,
includes the keeping of faith with God, because the reason why it is
reckoned a marriage good is because it is awaited with a view to its
being brought up in the worship of God. Now the faith to be kept with God
is of greater import than the faith to be kept with a wife, which is
reckoned a marriage good, and than the signification which pertains to
the sacrament, since the signification is subordinate to the knowledge of
faith. Hence it is not unfitting if something is taken from the two other
goods for the sake of the good of the offspring. Nor are they entirely
done away, since there remains faith towards several wives; and the
sacrament remains after a fashion, for though it did not signify the
union of Christ with the Church as one, nevertheless the plurality of
wives signified the distinction of degrees in the Church, which
distinction is not only in the Church militant but also in the Church
triumphant. Consequently their marriages signified somewhat the union of
Christ not only with the Church militant, as some say, but also with the
Church triumphant where there are "many mansions" [*Jn. 19:2].
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Question: 65 [<< | >>]
Article: 3 [<< | >>]
Objection 1: It would seem that to have a concubine is not against the natural
law. For the ceremonies of the Law are not of the natural law. But
fornication is forbidden (Acts 15:29) in conjunction with ceremonies of
the law which for the time were being imposed on those who were brought
to the faith from among the heathens. Therefore simple fornication which
is intercourse with a concubine is not against the natural law.
Objection 2: Further, positive law is an outcome of the natural law, as Tully
says (De Invent. ii). Now fornication was not forbidden by positive law;
indeed according to the ancient laws women used to be sentenced to be
taken to brothels. Therefore it is not against the natural law to have a
Objection 3: Further, the natural law does not forbid that which is given
simply, to be given for a time or under certain restrictions. Now one
unmarried woman may give the power of her body for ever to an unmarried
man, so that he may use her when he will. Therefore it is not against the
law of nature, if she give him power of her body for a time.
Objection 4: Further, whoever uses his own property as he will, injures no
one. But a bondswoman is her master's property. Therefore if her master
use her as he will, he injures no one: and consequently it is not against
the natural law to have a concubine.
Objection 5: Further, everyone may give his own property to another. Now the
wife has power of her husband's body (1 Cor. 7:4). Therefore if his wife
be willing, the husband can have intercourse with another woman without
On the contrary, According to all laws the children born of a concubine
are children of shame. But this would not be so unless the union of which
they are born were naturally shameful.
Further, as stated above (Question , Article ), marriage is natural. But this
would not be so if without prejudice to the natural law a man could be
united to a woman otherwise than by marriage. Therefore it is against the
natural law to have a concubine.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), an action is said to be against
the natural law, if it is not in keeping with the due end intended by
nature, whether through not being directed thereto by the action of the
agent, or through being directed thereto by the action of the agent, or
through being in itself improportionate to that end. Now the end which
nature intends in sexual union is the begetting and rearing of the
offspring. and that this good might be sought after, it attached pleasure
to the union; as Augustine says (De Nup. et Concup. i, 8). Accordingly to
make use of sexual intercourse on account of its inherent pleasure,
without reference to the end for which nature intended it, is to act
against nature, as also is it if the intercourse be not such as may
fittingly be directed to that end. And since, for the most part, things
are denominated from their end, as being that which is of most
consequence to them, just as the marriage union took its name from the
good of the offspring [*Cf. Question , Article ], which is the end chiefly sought
after in marriage, so the name of concubine is expressive of that union
where sexual intercourse is sought after for its own sake. Moreover even
though sometimes a man may seek to have offspring of such an intercourse,
this is not befitting to the good of the offspring, which signifies not
only the begetting of children from which they take their being, but also
their rearing and instruction, by which means they receive nourishment
and learning from their parents, in respect of which three things the
parents are bound to their children, according to the Philosopher (Ethic.
viii, 11,12). Now since the rearing and teaching of the children remain a
duty of the parents during a long period of time, the law of nature
requires the father and mother to dwell together for a long time, in
order that together they may be of assistance to their children. Hence
birds that unite together in rearing their young do not sever their
mutual fellowship from the time when they first come together until the
young are fully fledged. Now this obligation which binds the female and
her mate to remain together constitutes matrimony. Consequently it is
evident that it is contrary to the natural law for a man to have
intercourse with a woman who is not married to him, which is the
signification of a concubine.
Reply to Objection 1: Among the Gentiles the natural law was obscured in many
points: and consequently they did not think it wrong to have intercourse
with a concubine, and in many cases practiced fornication as though it
were lawful, as also other things contrary to the ceremonial laws of the
Jews, though not contrary to the law of nature. Wherefore the apostles
inserted the prohibition of fornication among that of other ceremonial
observances, because in both cases there was a difference of opinion
between Jews and Gentiles.
Reply to Objection 2: This law was the result of the darkness just mentioned,
into which the Gentiles had fallen, by not giving due honor to God as
stated in Rm. 1:21, and did not proceed from the instinct of the natural
law. Hence, when the Christian religion prevailed, this law was abolished.
Reply to Objection 3: In certain cases no evil results ensue if a person
surrenders his right to a thing whether absolutely or for a time, so that
in neither case is the surrender against the natural law. But that does
not apply to the case in point, wherefore the argument does not prove.
Reply to Objection 4: Injury is opposed to justice. Now the natural law forbids
not only injustice, but also whatever is opposed to any of the virtues:
for instance it is contrary to the natural law to eat immoderately,
although by doing so a man uses his own property without injury to
anyone. Moreover although a bondswoman is her master's property that she
may serve him, she is not his that she may be his concubine. And again it
depends how a person makes use of his property. For such a man does an
injury to the offspring he begets, since such a union is not directed to
its good, as stated above.
Reply to Objection 5: The wife has power of her husband's body, not simply and in
all respects, but only in relation to marriage, and consequently she
cannot transfer her husband's body to another to the detriment of the
good of marriage.
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Question: 65 [<< | >>]
Article: 4 [<< | >>]
Objection 1: It would seem that it is not a mortal sin to have intercourse
with a concubine. For a lie is a greater sin than simple fornication: and
a proof of this is that Juda, who did not abhor to commit fornication
with Thamar, recoiled from telling a lie, saying (Gn. 38:23): "Surely she
cannot charge us with a lie." But a lie is not always a mortal sin.
Neither therefore is simple fornication.
Objection 2: Further, a deadly sin should be punished with death. But the Old
Law did not punish with death intercourse with a concubine, save in a
certain case (Dt. 22:25). Therefore it is not a deadly sin.
Objection 3: Further, according to Gregory (Moral. xxxiii, 12), the sins of
the flesh are less blameworthy than spiritual sins. Now pride and
covetousness, which are spiritual sins, are not always mortal sins.
Therefore fornication, which is a sin of the flesh, is not always a
Objection 4: Further, where the incentive is greater the sin is less grievous,
because he sins more who is overcome by a lighter temptation. But
concupiscence is the greatest incentive to lust. Therefore since lustful
actions are not always mortal sins, neither is simple fornication a
On the contrary, Nothing but mortal sin excludes from the kingdom of God. But fornicators are excluded from the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9,10). Therefore simple fornication is a mortal sin.
Further, mortal sins alone are called crimes. Now all fornication is a
crime according to Tobias 4:13, "Take heed to keep thyself . . . from all
fornication, and beside thy wife never endure to know crime." Therefore,
I answer that, As we have already stated (Sent. ii, D, 42, Question , Article ),
those sins are mortal in their genus which violate the bond of friendship
between man and God, and between man and man; for such sins are against
the two precepts of charity which is the life of the soul. Wherefore
since the intercourse of fornication destroys the due relations of the
parent with the offspring that is nature's aim in sexual intercourse,
there can be no doubt that simple fornication by its very nature is a
mortal sin even though there were no written law.
Reply to Objection 1: It often happens that a man who does not avoid a mortal
sin, avoids a venial sin to which he has not so great an incentive. Thus,
too, Juda avoided a lie while he avoided not fornication. Nevertheless
that would have been a pernicious lie, for it would have involved an
injury if he had not kept his promise.
Reply to Objection 2: A sin is called deadly, not because it is punished with
temporal, but because it is punished with eternal death. Hence also
theft, which is a mortal sin, and many other sins are sometimes not
punished with temporal death by the law. The same applies to fornication.
Reply to Objection 3: Just as not every movement of pride is a mortal sin, so
neither is every movement of lust, because the first movements of lust
and the like are venial sins, even sometimes marriage intercourse.
Nevertheless some acts of lust are mortal sins, while some movements of
pride are venial: since the words quoted from Gregory are to be
understood as comparing vices in their genus and not in their particular
Reply to Objection 4: A circumstance is the more effective in aggravating a sin
according as it comes nearer to the nature of sin. Hence although
fornication is less grave on account of the greatness of its incentive,
yet on account of the matter about which it is, it has a greater gravity
than immoderate eating, because it is about those things which tighten
the bond of human fellowship, as stated above. Hence the argument does
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Question: 65 [<< | >>]
Article: 5 [<< | >>]
Objection 1: It would seem that it has been sometimes lawful to have a
concubine. For just as the natural law requires a man to have but one
wife, so does it forbid him to have a concubine. Yet at times it has been
lawful to have several wives. Therefore it has also been lawful to have
Objection 2: Further, a woman cannot be at the same time a slave and a wife;
wherefore according to the Law (Dt. 21:11, seqq.) a bondswoman gained her
freedom by the very fact of being taken in marriage. Now we read that
certain men who were most beloved of God, for instance Abraham and Jacob,
had intercourse with their bondswomen. Therefore these were not wives,
and consequently it was sometime lawful to have a concubine.
Objection 3: Further, a woman who is taken in marriage cannot be cast out, and
her son should have a share in the inheritance. Yet Abraham sent Agar
away, and her son was not his heir (Gn. 21:14). Therefore she was not
On the contrary, Things opposed to the precepts of the decalogue were
never lawful. Now to have a concubine is against a precept of the
decalogue, namely, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Therefore it was
Further, Ambrose says in his book on the patriarchs (De Abraham i, 4):
"What is unlawful to a wife is unlawful to a husband." But it is never
lawful for a wife to put aside her own husband and have intercourse with
another man. Therefore it was never lawful for a husband to have a
I answer that, Rabbi Moses says (Doc. Perp. iii, 49) that before the
time of the Law fornication was not a sin; and he proved his assertion
from the fact that Juda had intercourse with Thamar. But this argument is
not conclusive. For there is no need to excuse Jacob's sons from mortal
sin, since they were accused to their father of a most wicked crime (Gn. 37:2), and consented kill Joseph and to sell him. Wherefore we must say
that since it is against the natural law to have a concubine outside
wedlock, as stated above (Article ), it was never lawful either in itself or
by dispensation. For as we have shown (Doc. Perp. iii, 49) intercourse
with a woman outside wedlock is an action improportionate to the good of
the offspring which is the principal end of marriage: and consequently it
is against the first precepts of the natural law which admit of no
dispensation. Hence wherever in the Old Testament we read of concubines
being taken by such men as we ought to excuse from mortal sin, we must
needs understand them to have been taken in marriage, and yet to have
been called concubines, because they had something of the character of a
wife and something of the character of a concubine. In so far as marriage
is directed to its principal end, which is the good of the offspring, the
union of wife and husband is indissoluble or at least of a lasting
nature, as shown above (Article ), and in regard to this there is no
dispensation. But in regard to the secondary end, which is the management
of the household and community of works, the wife is united to the
husband as his mate: and this was lacking in those who were known as
concubines. For in this respect a dispensation was possible, since it is
the secondary end of marriage. And from this point of view they bore some
resemblance to concubines, and for this reason they were known as such.
Reply to Objection 1: As stated above (Article , ad 7,8) to have several wives is not
against the first precepts of the natural law, as it is to have a
concubine; wherefore the argument does not prove.
Reply to Objection 2: The patriarchs of old by virtue of the dispensation which
allowed them several wives, approached their bondswomen with the
disposition of a husband towards his wife. For these women were wives as
to the principal and first end of marriage, but not as to the other union
which regards the secondary end, to which bondage is opposed since a
woman cannot be at once mate and slave.
Reply to Objection 3: As in the Mosaic law it was allowable by dispensation to grant a bill of divorce in order to avoid wife-murder (as we shall state further on, Question , Article ), so by the same dispensation Abraham was allowed to send Agar away, in order to signify the mystery which the Apostle explains (Gal. 4:22, seqq.). Again, that this son did not inherit belongs to the mystery, as explained in the same place. Even so Esau, the son of a free woman, did not inherit (Rm. 9:13, seqq.). In like manner on account of the mystery it came about that the sons of Jacob born of bond and free women inherited, as Augustine says (Tract. xi in Joan.) because "sons and heirs are born to Christ both of good ministers denoted by the free woman and of evil ministers denoted by the bondswoman."