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§ 61. 3. The Domestic Estate.

The family constitutes the third estate in the Church. In this we distinguish the marriage relation, that of children to parents and that of servants to their masters. [1]

1. The marriage relation [2] was appointed and authorized by God; [3] through this the propagation of the human race was to be secured in the manner that was right and well-pleasing in the sight of God. [4] While, accordingly, the Church regards this estate as sanctified, she declares this also by the solemn rite of marriage, by which she publicly sanctions the matrimonial life of those who wish to enter into this estate. [5] As, however, marriage constitutes the closest bond of spiritual and bodily communion, it is also in itself indissoluble, and a divorce of those who have entered this estate can take place only when one of the parties has already practically rendered the continuance of the marriage life impossible by adultery or malicious desertion. [6]


2. “The paternal relation is the natural connection of parents with children, divinely instituted for the education of offspring and the well-being of the entire family.” HOLL. (1383.)

3. “The servile estate is the legitimate relation between masters and servants, divinely instituted for mutual advantage.” HOLL. (1384)

The last two relations are not further discussed by the Dogmaticians in this connection, as they have treated of them at large in the exposition of the Decalogue.

[1] BR. (816): “The third estate occurring within the Church, and which is as it were the seminary of the ecclesiastical and political orders, is the domestic, which embraces conjugal, paternal, and servile association;” “for from domestic association some come forth who are to be brought into the ministry of the Church, and others who are to be brought into the office of the civil magistrate.”

[2] HOLL. (1367): “Marriage is the indissoluble union of one man and one woman, according to divine institution, made by the mutual consent of both, for the begetting of offspring and mutual assistance in life.”

HOLL. (ib.): “The primary and supreme efficient cause of marriage is the Triune God, inasmuch as marriage, abstractly considered, and in a general way, as to its nature, was immediately instituted by Him. The second and subordinate causes of contracting marriage, are the husband and wife themselves and their parents, in whose power they are, agreeing to the marriage.” (GRH. XV, 67: “The consent is not the form [see Appendix] of marriage. As I correctly infer that the builder is not the form of a house, but its efficient cause, since, if the builder were to depart or to die, the house would not at once fall into ruins; so the consent is not the form of marriage, but its efficient cause, because, if the consent cease, a marriage that has been ratified and consummated is not dissolved.”) Id. (386): “We affirm that consent is not the form of marriage, but that, from the consent, the legitimate and indissoluble union of one man and one woman into one flesh originated, or, what is the same, that the conjugal union and relation has itself originated from the mutual consent of both parties to become one flesh.”

HOLL. (1371): “The material element, or the subjects, of marriage are the persons who are united in marriage, two in number, one man and one woman (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4, 5; 1 Cor. 7:2, 4), 621suitable for attaining the ends of marriage, and placed beyond the prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity (Lev. 18:7).”

[3] HUTT. (Loc. Th., 287): “God Himself is the author of marriage. Gen. 2:18.”

[4] QUEN. (IV, 453): “The ultimate and supreme end is the glory of God. The subordinate end is (1) the preservation of the human race, by the begetting and education of offspring, Gen. 1:27, 28; 1 Tim. 2:15; (2) mutual assistance, Gen. 2:18; (3) a remedy against wandering desires, 1 Cor. 7:2.”

[5] GRH. (XV, 396): “The blessing of the ministry is necessary for rightly entering upon marriage, not from any special divine command, nor because of the nature of marriage, as though it were not complete without the consecration of the ministry, but on account of the ecclesiastical and civil arrangement introduced with reference to the public advantage and honor. The blessing, by the ministry, of those newly married, is not required for the essence of the thing itself, viz., of marriage, but for a public witness of it, so that it may be evident to all that the marriage is contracted lawfully and honorably . . . . In the forum of conscience and before God, a marriage is true and valid which has been entered upon with the legitimate and matrimonial consent of both parties, even though the blessing of the ministry be not added; but in the outer forum, a marriage is not considered true and valid, which has not been confirmed in the sight of the Church.”

HOLL. (1371): “The solemn blessing or union, made according to a usual rite, by the minister, pertains not to the contraction, but to the consummation of Christian marriage: (1) That the lawful marriage of those making the contract may be openly manifest. (2) That those making the contract may be admonished concerning the holy and indissoluble bond of marriage, the divine blessing, conjugal duties, and the endurance of troubles. (3) That newly married persons may be commended to God, the author of marriage, by means of earnest prayers.”

[6] HOLL. (1380): “The conjugal bond between husband and wife, as long as they remain alive, is in itself indissoluble, both on account of mutual consent, and especially on account of the divine institution, Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:6.” BR. (835): “Meanwhile, in two cases, divorce, or the dissolution of legitimate and valid marriage as to the conjugal bond itself, may occur. Without doubt, in the case of adultery, where, by the law itself, marriage both can be and is dissolved, and the innocent party is permitted to enter into another marriage (Matt. 19:9; 5:32); and in a case of malicious desertion (1 Cor. 7:15), where the deserter himself 622actually and rashly sunders the conjugal bond, and where to the deserted party, when a competent judge makes the declaration, the power belongs to enter into a new marriage.” The reason why a divorce may be granted under these two conditions, lies in the very nature of the case. HOLL. (1381): “From the nature of marriage, adultery of itself and directly conflicts with unity of the flesh, and, therefore, also with the substance of marriage, through which two become one flesh, Gen. 2:24. ‘For he which is joined to a harlot is one body with the harlot,’ 1 Cor. 6:16, and, therefore, is no longer one flesh with his wife.” (1382): “Whatever immediately interferes with conjugal fidelity itself and the usus thori, dissolves the marriage bond, and, therefore, by its own right, opens the door of a second marriage to the innocent party. But malicious and incorrigible desertion, etc. Therefore,  . . . ”

GRH. (XVI, 176): “Our churches, having followed the most clear declaration of our Saviour Christ, recognize no other cause of a divorce that is truly and properly so called but one, viz., adultery . . . . In case of malicious desertion, the apostle grants the innocent and deserted party the power to enter into a new marriage, because the injuring and deserting person has, in fact and indiscreetly, made the divorce on his or her own authority without sufficient and just cause.” Ib., p. 214. “Since it has been proved, from the words of Christ and the Apostle Paul, that there are only two causes of divorce, viz., adultery and malicious desertion,  . . . it will be manifest, at first sight, to every one, that the remaining causes of divorce, which are mentioned in addition to adultery and malicious desertion, are not just, legitimate, and sufficient causes.” As such other causes, GRH. enumerates: “unbelief, heresy, a solemn vow of continence, crime, danger of life, sterility, supervening impotency, incurable diseases, madness, relationship to a harlot, flight or banishment because of an offence.” He denies the right of divorce in all these cases, excepting only the “danger of life,” which he places in the category of malicious desertion; p. 260, “that, if the husband persevere in obstinacy, and distinctly testify that he is unwilling at any time to take her back, or to admit a reconciliation, or to desist from his former habits, it cannot be doubtful that he is to be regarded a malicious deserter, and, therefore, the deserted one can be dealt with otherwise.” The Dogmaticians are not, however, altogether agreed in regard to this point. SARCERIUS allows divorce in the case of leprosy and incurable disease, and HEMMING: “In case of flight and banishment on account of an offence;” but this he does upon 623the ground “that every offence that is to be compared with adultery, is determined by Christ as a cause of divorce.” (GRH. 266.) In a different way CHMN. justifies divorce “on account of cruelty, poison, and plots laid for the life.” He says (Loc. Th., III, 210): “Since the text, Matt. 19:19, makes mention only of adultery, some earnestly contend that divorces cannot occur on account of cruelty and plots laid for the life. But, in the code, the law of Theodosius . . . grants divorce even in such cases. But, although some reject this law and contend that it disagrees with the Gospel, yet they do not understand aright the distinction between Law and Gospel. And since the Lord says expressly, that in the Mosaic polity divorces were granted because of hardness of heart, he signifies that the mode of governing men who can be cured, who are members of the Church and desire to obey the Gospel, is entirely a different matter from the government of the impious and contumacious, who are unwilling to endure the restraints of the Law . . . . In a cruel person, not belonging to the Church, the civil magistrate seems to be able to use the law of Theodosius. God wishes civil government to be an honor to the good, and a terror to the evil . . . . Neither are there wanting in governments obstinate and unjust persons and those without natural affection, exercising their unjust cruelty over their own families, such as the Lord, in this discourse, calls hard-hearted.”

There are still two points to be considered, in the matter of actual divorce. BR. (836): “1. When persons unlawfully united (in degrees of consanguinity prohibited by the law of nature, or where a mistake of person, or impotency of one or the other party has intervened) are separated, this is not properly divorce, but rather a declaration that in the union there was not a conjugal bond (namely, because the one person could not contract it with the other, as for example, with a blood relative; or, that one of the two was utterly incapable of intercourse, and, therefore, also of the contraction of the marriage union).”

“2. In like manner, when husband and wife are separated, only as to bed and board (for example, because of severe enmity, which appears incorrigible, and even joined with danger to the life of one or the other), it is not divorce properly speaking; but a suspension of the acts of cohabitation and conjugal duty (the conjugal bond remaining unimpaired, so that neither husband nor wife can enter into another marriage; yea, sometimes the husband is bound to afford the wife support).”

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