Thursday, 14 April 2011

A traditional Catholic theologian on marriage, part 2 - Love and living together

This is the second post in a three-part series looking at the teaching on marriage put forward by a traditional Catholic theologian, Pietro Pacati, whose Tractatus dogmaticus, moralis et canonicus de matrimonio christiano was published in 1906.

As usual, here is a summary of the writer's position:

1. Spouses are required to live together.

2. Spouses have different roles according to their gender, with primacy and headship going to the husband.  I will have more to say about this in the next post in the series.

3. Spouses should maintain love and friendship between them.  This is set in the context of Catholic moral teaching.  The couple form an image of Christ and the Church.  Their love must be chaste and self-sacrificing.

4.  Spouses should treat each other well and ensure domestic harmony.


Here is the (abridged) translation:

S. 2 - On the cohabitation and mutual love of spouses

I. - On the nature and necessity of marital cohabitation

Marital cohabitation entails three things, namely: 1. that the spouses live in the same house; 2. that they eat at the same table; and 3. that they sleep in the same bed.  On this basis, I say that spouses are inherently bound under pain of mortal sin to cohabit with each other.  This is certain.

It is clear (1) from scripture. — In Gen. 11 we read: "Therefore a man will leave behind his father and mother and adhere to his wife, and the two of them will be one flesh".  It clearly follows from these words not only that the union between husband and wife should be intimate and constant, as signified by the word "adhere", but, moreover, that it is so close that one's father and mother are left behind for it.

(2) From reason. — This is clear.  It can happen that the debt is to be paid on any day and at any time; the offspring must be brought up by both spouses, since they are in need of various things and some of these are proper to the husband and others to the wife; and all these things necessarily imply that there is a duty of cohabitation.  Moreover, marriage is ordained for the sharing of a common life, for spouses should help and comfort each other; for the man is stronger and more prudent than the woman, who accordingly is in need of the counsel and direction of the man; conversely, the woman is more suited to domestic matters, and the man therefore is in need of her work; but they cannot furnish these things to each other unless they live together....

However, the husband and the wife are not bound by this obligation in the same way.  (1) The wife, being subject to the husband, is generally bound to follow him wherever he goes, even if he is sent into exile or he moves away to a remote region, and even if he moves his place of residence without just cause, as long as the cause is not shameful.  The contrary practice is to be condemned as being opposed to divine law....

(2) The husband is not bound to follow his wife as if he were subject to her, but he should do so merely so as not to deprive her unfairly of the exercise of her rights to a common life and marital intercourse.  The husband is therefore not obliged to follow his wife if she moves elsewhere unless she does so by reason of necessity.  For his part, the husband is not permitted to absent himself for a long period of time without a serious reason, nor to undertake lengthy travels if his wife is unwilling for him to do so.

Corollary — Cohabitation is at the same time a benefit for spouses and a duty for them.  They will not be able to fulfil either of these aspects unless they cultivate certain virtues, in particular mutual love, marital faithfulness and mutual assistance.

Love is shown to be necessary both by the reason for marriage, which is especial friendship, and by the seriousness of the obligations which flow from marriage.  It must be a Christian love, so that the spouses fully satisfy their duties, and it must closely conform to the love which every person must nurture towards himself.  The very nature of Christian marriage dictates this, for the marital union is a symbol of the union of Christ with the Church, which spouses must therefore imitate as far as they are able: "Husbands", says the apostle Paul, "love your wives like Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her".

Marital love must, therefore, be above all

a) chaste: for if it is lustful, it will quickly become adulterous; pleasure is naturally unstable, and those who are slaves to desire will after a while begin to nurture a love of others;

b) patient, assiduously tolerating each other's weaknesses and bearing with each other;

c) finally, full of devotion, so that each spouse does not look after only their own interests, but the husband seeks what pleases his wife and the wife what pleases her husband; each should be prepared to sacrifice themself for the other.

Spouses therefore commit a serious offence if they provoke each other with hatred, contempt, curses, quarrels and insults.  In this respect, husbands become guilty of a serious sin if they punish their wives as if they were servants, beating them without cause or throwing them out of the house, or inflicting grief upon them because of their savagery, their neglect, their undue liking for their servant-girls, etc.  Similarly, woman too sin if through their moodiness, stubbornness, ill-timed criticisms, etc they provoke their men to anger and blasphemies or incur their hatred, or mock them, scorn them or dishonour them.  In such cases, a bad attitude proves to be the root of endless evils - how many arguments, quarrels, hatreds, insults and family conflicts it causes!


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