Thursday, September 29, 2005

Papal Wisdom: Leo XIII on Christian Marriage

(Note from Editor: Before we get started, a little information. This was penned about a year and a half ago for a Catholic social teaching weblog that I ran that unfortunately I had to suspend because I was so busy. However, it touches issues that I think are just as relevant for this sort of weblog. When we talk about the Traditionalist movement, all too often we limit it to just the Mass, and forget there is plenty more that we can contribute to the Church. One such service is be recalling the wisdom of past popes on social teaching. Remembering this, no discussion on Catholic social teaching can be completed without reference to Leo XIII, a pope whose works on social teaching laid the groundwork up until the Popes of today. For classification purposes I shall put Leo XIII's words in quotations, and my commentary will have my name before it.)

Today we provide analysis on the basis of any healthy society. We're not talking job wages, quality of life, but indeed, the very foundation block of society, that of marriage, of Christian marriage. This is an institution that is under serious attack in today's culture, with many truly not analyzing the profound benefits of marriage. Today we will look at some of those benefits, and the reasons behind marriage, which are entailed in the encyclical Arcanum, continuing our insight into the Social teaching of Leo XIII.

"The hidden design of the divine wisdom, which Jesus Christ the Savior of men came to carry out on earth, had this end in view, that, by Himself and in Himself, He should divinely renew the world, which was sinking, as it were, with length of years into decline. The Apostle Paul summed this up in words of dignity and majesty when he wrote to the Ephesians, thus: "That He might make known unto us the mystery of His will . . . To re-establish all things in Christ that are in heaven and on earth

2. In truth, Christ our Lord, setting Himself to fulfill the commandment which His Father had given Him, straightway imparted a new form and fresh beauty to all things, taking away the effects of their time-worn age. For He healed the wounds which the sin of our first father had inflicted on the human race; He brought all men, by nature children of wrath, into favor with God; He led to the light of truth men wearied out by longstanding errors; He renewed to every virtue those who were weakened by lawlessness of every kind; and, giving them again an inheritance of never-ending bliss, He added a sure hope that their mortal and perishable bodies should one day be partakers of immortality and of the glory of heaven. 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. "

Kevin Tierney: Leo XIII again starts out his teaching by focusing on the transgression of our First Father Adam, and his fall in the Garden of Eden. This led to a serious hampering of man's inherent dignity, which was restored by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. While Christ indeed restored the splendor of this, he entrusted his Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, to continue the work he started and made possible, to reconcile men to God, and truly turn the people into acceptable children of God, as opposed to children of wrath.

"3. 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.

4. Wondrous, indeed, was the extent of dignity, steadfastness, and goodness which thus accrued to the State as well as to the family. The authority of rulers became more just and revered; the obedience of the people more ready and unforced; the union of citizens closer; the rights of dominion more secure. In very truth, the Christian religion thought of and provided for all things which are held to be advantageous in a State; so much so, indeed, that, according to St. Augustine, one cannot see how it could have offered greater help in the matter of living well and happily, had it been instituted for the single object of procuring or increasing those things which contributed to the conveniences or advantages of this mortal life. "

Kevin Tierney: Because of what Christ did, and through the Churches presentation of the Gospel, and the promotion of State built upon solid principles of Jesus Christ, Leo lists the multitude of benefits that mankind has enjoyed. The dignity of man has been greatly manifested by Christ, indeed, every human being now has something that one simply did not possess before in a certain sense, and this can only be accomplished through fulfillment in Christ Jesus. We see the Pontiff laying out the strength of the Christian social order, in preparation to expound on what is necessary for this order to come about, that of Christian marriage, the building block of any truly Christian foundation.

"5. Still, the purpose We have set before Us is not to recount, in detail, benefits of this kind; Our wish is rather to speak about that family union of which marriage is the beginning and the foundation. The true origin of marriage, venerable brothers, is well known to all. Though revilers of the Christian faith refuse to acknowledge the never-interrupted doctrine of the Church on this subject, and have long striven to destroy the testimony of all nations and of all times, they have nevertheless failed not only to quench the powerful light of truth, but even to lessen it. We record what is to all known, and cannot be doubted by any, that God, on the sixth day of creation, having made man from the slime of the earth, and having breathed into his face the breath of life, gave him a companion, whom He miraculously took from the side of Adam when he was locked in sleep. 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. And this union of man and woman, that it might answer more fittingly to the infinite wise counsels of God, even from the beginning manifested chiefly two most excellent properties -- deeply sealed, as it were, and signed upon it -- namely, unity and perpetuity. From the Gospel we see clearly that this doctrine was declared and openly confirmed by the divine authority of Jesus Christ. He bore witness to the Jews and to His Apostles that marriage, from its institution, should exist between two only, that is, between one man and one woman; that of two they are made, so to say, one flesh; and that 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. "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What, therefore, God hath joined together, let no man put asunder."

Kevin Tierney: This is something we as Christians must first remember, especially in today's debate about homosexual marriages. By the way nature was designed, marriage was meant to be between one man, and one woman. This is the primary reason we cannot support gay marriage, because it is against Christ and the created order. Marriage is a divine institution, not a human one. As Christians, we cannot promote laws that go contrary to that which has been in the divine sphere of things, that is, that which comes from God. Likewise, this is why Christians cannot promote divorce, since we are promoting to put asunder which God has put together. This all ties in logically.

"But the corruption and change which fell on marriage among the Gentiles seem almost incredible, inasmuch as it was exposed in every land to floods of error and of the most shameful lusts. 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. Solemn rites, invented at will of the law-givers, brought about that women should, as might be, bear either the honorable name of wife or the disgraceful name of concubine; and things came to such a pitch that permission to marry, or the refusal of the permission, depended on the will of the heads of the State, whose laws were greatly against equity or even to the highest degree unjust. Moreover, plurality of wives and husbands, as well as divorce, caused the nuptial bond to be relaxed exceedingly. "

Kevin Tierney: This is a theme that occurs regularly in Leo's teachings about State. Without the sound role of the Church, the State seeks to fill that void, and by nature of the beast, becomes inefficient, and indeed, corrupts what they try to help. This is why I believe George W. Bush's proposal to shell out billions of dollars at marriage counseling, promotion, etc, are him overstepping his bounds, going into the realm of Church, rather than staying in State. Let the Church furnish, and promote marriage. Call upon today's Christians to recall what they have given up. They in turn will bring about a healthy state and truly Christian society.

"Hence, too, sprang up the greatest confusion as to the mutual rights and duties of husbands and wives, inasmuch as a man assumed right of dominion over his wife, ordering her to go about her business, often without any just cause; while he was himself at liberty "to run headlong with impunity into lust, unbridled and unrestrained, in houses of ill-fame and amongst his female slaves, as if the dignity of the persons sinned with, and not the will of the sinner, made the guilt."[4] When the licentiousness of a husband thus showed itself, nothing could be more piteous than the wife, sunk so low as to be all but reckoned as a means for the gratification of passion, or for the production of offspring. Without any feeling of shame, marriageable girls were bought and sold, like so much merchandise,[5] and power was sometimes given to the father and to the husband to inflict capital punishment on the wife. Of necessity, the offspring of such marriages as these were either reckoned among the stock in trade of the common-wealth or held to be the property of the father of the family;[6] and the law permitted him to make and unmake the marriages of his children at his mere will, and even to exercise against them the monstrous power of life and death. "

Kevin Tierney: A common myth we are told of traditional marriage is the wife becomes the slave of the husband, and is nothing but a baby machine. Here we see Leo XIII decry this form of marriage as not of the divine order, and certainly nothing Christians should promote. We are also faced with the opposite of this, with today's feminism frowning on marriage altogether because of the preconceptions, and under the name of "liberty for women" destroy the natural order God had given for women to fulfill in society.

"8. So manifold being the vices and so great the ignominies with which marriage was defiled, an alleviation and a remedy were at length bestowed from on high. Jesus Christ, who restored our human dignity and who perfected the Mosaic law, applied early in His ministry no little solicitude to the question of marriage. He ennobled the marriage in Cana of Galilee by His presence, and made it memorable by the first of the miracles which he wrought;[7] and for this reason, even from that day forth, it seemed as if the beginning of new holiness had been conferred on human marriages. Later on He brought back matrimony to the nobility of its primeval origin 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. Hence, having set aside the difficulties which were adduced from the law of Moses, He, in character of supreme Lawgiver, decreed as follows concerning husbands and wives, "I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and he that shall marry her that is put away committeth adultery."[8] "

Kevin Tierney: When working with problems, first you diagnose it, then you propose it's solution. Since the roots of marriages corruption occurred at the Fall of Adam, it's restoration comes with Jesus Christ. Leo places special significance that the first of Christ's miracles was at a wedding. Christ could've chosen anywhere to perform the first miracle, but since he chose the wedding feast, we see that Christ in restoring things, one of those first things restored by his presence is that of marriage. Indeed, a healthy and robust marriage leads to a healthy and robust devotion in God, who had provided these gifts to husband and wife. With a firm trust in God, all things are possible.

"9. But what was decreed and constituted in respect to marriage by the authority of God has been more fully and more clearly handed down to us, by tradition and the written Word, through the Apostles, those heralds of the laws of God. To the Apostles, indeed, as our masters, are to be referred the doctrines which "our holy Fathers, the Councils, and the Tradition of the Universal Church have always taught," namely, that Christ our Lord raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament; that to husband and wife, guarded and strengthened by the heavenly grace which His merits Rained for them, He gave power to attain holiness in the married state; and that, in a wondrous way, making marriage an example of the mystical union between Himself and His Church, He not only perfected that love which is according to nature, but also made the naturally indivisible union of one man with one woman far more perfect through the bond of heavenly love. Paul says to the Ephesians: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it, that He might sanctify it. . . So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. . . For no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, as also Christ doth the Church; because we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh. This is a great sacrament; but I speak in Christ and in the Church."

Kevin Tierney: Here Leo explores, and expounds upon the mystery of the union of man and woman in marriage, and the great and noble institution it truly is. Those who marry must full and well understand that marriage is a means of grace to you, God will provide the grace to strengthen that marriage in love and holiness. It is not just husband and wife. Rather, it is the husband and wife, with God holding them together in love.

To show the great respect for marriage, Christ provided a primary example; the marriage between the Church and himself. In Scripture, Christ portrays the Church as his bride, yet also his body. This details the splendid union husband and wife have, that in essence, they are one. Like Christ, the man treats his wife as his own body? Logic and reason compel one to take care of their own body, to nourish it, to nurture it, care for and love it. Likewise, this is how the wife is to be treated from the aspect of husband.

"In like manner from the teaching of the Apostles we learn that the unity of marriage and its perpetual indissolubility, the indispensable conditions of its very origin, must, according to the command of Christ, be holy and inviolable without exception. Paul says again: "To them that are married, not I, but the Lord commandeth that the wife depart not from her husband; and if she depart, that she remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.""

Kevin Tierney: Since marriage portrays here one earth the splendid mystical union of Christ and his Church, it logically follows that it is not to be dissolved. Christ is with his Church always, and vice versa. Neither wish to leave each other. Likewise, husband and wife are to cling together.

"11. Secondly, the mutual duties of husband and wife have been defined, and their several rights accurately established. They are bound, namely, to have such feelings for one another as to cherish always very great mutual love, to be ever faithful to their marriage vow, and to give one another an unfailing and unselfish help. The husband is the chief of the family and the head of the wife. The woman, because she is flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone, must be subject to her husband and obey him; not, indeed, as a servant, but as a companion, so that her obedience shall be wanting in neither honor nor dignity. Since the husband represents Christ, and since the wife represents the Church, let there always be, both in him who commands and in her who obeys, a heaven-born love guiding both in their respective duties. For "the husband is the head of the wife; as Christ is the head of the Church. . . Therefore, as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let wives be to their husbands in all things."

Kevin Tierney: We continue to return to this fascinating point, that one's marriage should be based upon that ideal marriage, that of Christ and his Church. Though I just saw a lot of women's heads turn back, and while they are probably looking to go elsewhere, please hear Leo XIII out, as there is surely good reason he entails that man is to be head of the family, and the woman is to be submissive to him.

Even amongst today's Christian circles, the idea of submission is not en vogue with today's "liberated woman." Safe to say, this is not a Christian principle. I have yet to meet a devout Christian woman who would refuse submission to Christ. Indeed, our Blessed Mother Mary teaches this submission to Christ when at the wedding feast, she informs people to "do whatever he tells you." Submission to Christ does not strip one of dignity. If anything, it magnifies that dignity.

Nor would the Christian woman think the Church need not be subject to Christ as wife, since a wife is "liberated" nowadays. Such is a foolish idea, as we would have no Church without Christ. The Church would not grow without the wisdom of Christ, the love of Christ, and the peace of Christ. Souls would not be saved. Every time Christ expresses his love for the Church, and vice versa, the Church is empowered to bring about the salvation of souls.

Yet many Christian women today(otherwise fine Christian women no doubt) while agreeing that submission to Christ on the individual level, and on the communal level the Church submitting to Christ is not wrong, but indeed good and healthy, think a submission of the same level to the husband is somehow "Degrading." As Leo XIII tells us, and St. Paul reminds us in Scripture, this submission of wife to husband is based on submission of The Church to Christ. As woman comes from man, so the Church comes from Christ. The similarities are undeniable. Amongst wives a general trust must be placed in their husbands, that God has led you to him, and the submission you give him, is out of love, of service, to further the unit that is marriage. Many nowadays become married, yet still treat husband and wife as not truly united. In any organization or group unit, roles are distinct. The "liberated woman" who is a CEO surely would object to someone feeling "liberated" and attempting to make company decisions independent of her. Those who reject the sound principles of Sacred Scripture on this issue wish to have their cake and eat it too. We must remind them they cannot have it both ways.

The situation is just as admirable and respectable for husband. The husband, carrying in the marriage the image of Christ so to speak(The husband figure represents Christ, the wife figure represents Church) has many defined roles as well. He is to lead the marriage and the family that flows from it, but it to do so justly. He is to accept the wife's submission in love, but also provide for her in love. If he truly wishes to make his wife happy, he will listen to his wife, listen to her concerns, her cares, her advice, and vice versa. Christ listens to his bride constantly, giving what the Church needs to perform it's tasks. Christ provides for his bride, just as we are to provide for our wives, or future wives in my case.

"12. As regards children, they ought to submit to the parents and obey them, and give them honor for conscience' sake; while, on the other hand, parents are bound to give all care and watchful thought to the education of their offspring and their virtuous bringing up: "Fathers, . . . Bring them up" (that is, your children) "in the discipline and correction of the Lord." From this we see clearly that the duties of husbands and wives are neither few nor light; although to married people who are good these burdens become not only bearable but agreeable, owing to the strength which they gain through the sacrament. "

Kevin Tierney: We come to another truth of the false feminism that affects today's society; the issue of children, and each parents distinct role to these children. The children are to gladly submit to their parents, to learn from them, learn the ways of God. The Father is to bring that child up in the discipline and correction of the Lord, teaching him the Christian worldview. The mother instills in the child the love only a mother can give, since indeed, she carried that child in her womb for 9 months, and has a special bond with it that no one else will ever have. These roles and responsibilities are indeed true and great, but the Pontiff again reminds us, marriage is a sacrament, grace is provided so that this marriage will indeed work. All husband and wife need do is trust God, and receive this grace, and co-operate with it.

"13. Christ, therefore, having renewed marriage to such and so great excellence, commended and entrusted all the discipline bearing upon these matters to His Church. The Church, always and everywhere, has so used her power with reference to the marriages of Christians that men have seen clearly how it belongs to her as of native right; not being made hers by any human grant, but given divinely to her by the will of her Founder. Her constant and watchful care in guarding marriage, by the preservation of its sanctity, is so well understood as to not need proof. That the judgment of the Council of Jerusalem reprobated licentious and free love, we all know; as also that the incestuous Corinthian was condemned by the authority of blessed Paul. Again, in the very beginning of the Christian Church were repulsed and defeated, with the like unremitting determination, the efforts of many who aimed at the destruction of Christian marriage, such as the Gnostics, Manicheans, and Montanists; and in our own time Mormons, St. Simonians, phalansterians, and communists.

14. In like manner, moreover, a law of marriage just to all, and the same for all, was enacted by the abolition of the old distinction between slaves and free-born men and women; and thus the rights of husbands and wives were made equal: for, as St. Jerome says, "with us that which is unlawful for women is unlawful for men also, and the same restraint is imposed on equal conditions." The self-same rights also were firmly established for reciprocal affection and for the interchange of duties; the dignity of the woman was asserted and assured; and it was forbidden to the man to inflict capital punishment for adultery, or lustfully and shamelessly to violate his plighted faith.

15. It is also a great blessing that the Church has limited, so far as is needful, the power of fathers of families, so that sons and daughters, wishing to marry, are not in any way deprived of their rightful freedom; that, for the purpose of spreading more widely the supernatural love of husbands and wives, she has decreed marriages within certain degrees of consanguinity or affinity to be null and void; that she has taken the greatest pains to safeguard marriage, as much as is possible, from error and violence and deceit;that she has always wished to preserve the holy chasteness of the marriage bed, the security of persons, the honor of husband and wife, and the sanctity of religion. Lastly, 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; and how, withal, her wisdom has come forth victorious from the lapse of years, from the assaults of men, and from the countless changes of public events. "

Kevin Tierney: I do not intend to comment really on these past few paragraphs, but only to let the reader see how the Church has always championed marriage, and logically following, how this truly promotes a true and just society.

There is a huge gap that I do not wish to comment on, but I urge the reader to review. The reason I choose not to comment on this is because when one reads Leo XIII, his thought flows very logically, and in commenting on it, I end up outlining the same points he will later cover in greater detail throughout the writing. So while I will not comment on it, I think a cursory reading of it will be invaluable.

"26. If, then, we consider the end of the divine institution of marriage, we shall see very clearly that God intended it to be a most fruitful source of individual benefit and of public welfare. Not only, in strict truth, was marriage instituted for the propagation of the human race, but also that the lives of husbands and wives might be made better and happier. This comes about in many ways: by their lightening each other's burdens through mutual help; by constant and faithful love; by having all their possessions in common; and by the heavenly grace which flows from the sacrament. Marriage also can do much for the good of families, for, so long as it is conformable to nature and in accordance with the counsels of God, it has power to strengthen union of heart in the parents; to secure the holy education of children; to temper the authority of the father by the example of the divine authority; to render children obedient to their parents and servants obedient to their masters. From such marriages as these the State may rightly expect a race of citizens animated by a good spirit and filled with reverence and love for God, recognizing it their duty to obey those who rule justly and lawfully, to love all, and to injure no one. "

Kevin Tierney: Here we come to a secondary benefit of Christian marriage, but a benefit that we must look at, the benefit marriage has in society. First and foremost, it is meant to make people happier. It is without a doubt that a society that is strong in their spirit and happy will be a more productive society. Marriage nurtures this happiness. A happy populace is also more likely to help enhance the efficiency of the state. This is why rather than promote marriage under the auspices of government, marriage should be the role of the Church, and government should promote a greater role of the Church in securing a healthy society, starting with marriage.

"When the Christian religion is rejected and repudiated, marriage sinks of necessity into the slavery of man's vicious nature and vile passions, and finds but little protection in the help of natural goodness. A very torrent of evil has flowed from this source, not only into private families, but also into States. For, the salutary fear of God being removed, and there being no longer that refreshment in toil which is nowhere more abounding than in the Christian religion, it very often happens, as indeed is natural, that the mutual services and duties of marriage seem almost unbearable; and thus very many yearn for the loosening of the tie which they believe to be woven by human law and of their own will, whenever incompatibility of temper, or quarrels, or the violation of the marriage vow, or mutual consent, or other reasons induce them to think that it would be well to be set free. Then, if they are hindered by law from carrying out this shameless desire, they contend that the laws are iniquitous, inhuman, and at variance with the rights of free citizens; adding that every effort should be made to repeal such enactments, and to introduce a more humane code sanctioning divorce. "

Kevin Tierney: The Supreme Pontiff's words sound stunningly prophetic to today's day and age. Marriage is no longer treated as a divine institution set up by God, but a human institution of mutual agreement between spouses. There is no fear of God in many marriages today. Without this fear of God, without acknowledging that he indeed created marriage for mankind's betterment, man begins to think marriage is simply a human institution, and in the end, ultimately dependent on the will of the human to do with the institution as he wishes. Man, in his arrogance he inherited from the fall, loses sight of his true purpose, and loses the true happiness that comes from Christian marriage. This translates into an unhealthy society. If man need not fear God in his marriage, why should God be feared in matters of State? This leads to citizens not happy with the State, not trusting of the state, and on the other side of the coin, a state which must increase it's powers to coerce it's citizens into compliance. Those who are coerced, are less productive in society, so then government must step in and provide originally what the populace was providing. A government needs money to do this, so it must raise money from the populace, one way or another. This leads to a hampered economic life, which then further compounds the loss of sense of being amongst mankind. From a diminished view of marriage, springs forth a diminished society in all aspects.

That is all I wish to comment on for this time, but again, I would advise readers to finish the rest of this monumental encyclical.