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AUREIJE AUGUSTIN

Marriage and Virginity: The Excellence of Marriage, Holy Virginity, The Excellence of
Widowhood, Adulterous Marriages, Continence. Volume I/9.

The Works of Saint Augustine (4th Release). Electronic Edition.


Marriage and Virginity: The Excellence of Marriage, Holy Virginity, The Excellence of
Widowhood, Adulterous Marriages, Continence. Volume I/9.
ISBN: 978-1-57085-073-8
Charlottesville, Virginia, USA: InteLex Corporation, 2014

AUGUSTINIAN HERITAGE INSTITUTE


Board of Directors:
Daniel E. Doyle, O.S.A.
Joseph T. Kelly
Thomas Martin, O.S.A.
Charles P. McDevitt
Boniface Ramsey, O.P.
John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., Director
Michael T. Dolan, Secretary
Patricia H. Lo, Treasurer
THE WORKS OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

A Translation for the 21st Century


Part I Books
Volume 9
Marriage and Virginity:
The Excellence of Marriage, Holy Virginity, The Excellence of Widowhood, Adulterous
Marriages, Continence
3
THE WORKS OF SAINT AUGUSTINE
A Translation for the 21st Century
Marriage and Virginity
The Excellence of Marriage, Holy Virginity, The Excellence of Widowhood, Adulterous
Marriages, Continence
I/9
translation by
Ray Kearney
edited with introductions and notes by
David G. Hunter
editor

John E. Rotelle, O.S.A.


New City Press
Hyde Park, New York
4
Copyright Page
Published in the United States by New City Press
202 Cardinal Rd., Hyde Park, New York 12538
1999 Augustinian Heritage Institute
Translated by Ray Kearney Introductions and notes by David G. Hunter
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:
Augustine, Saint, Bishop of Hippo.
The works of Saint Augustine.
Augustinian Heritage Institute
Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
Contents: pt. 1, v.9. Marriage and Virginity pt. 3, v. 1. Sermons on the Old Testament, 119. pt. 3, v. 2. Sermons on the Old Testament, 20-50 [et al.] pt. 3, v. 10 Sermons on
various subjects, 341-400. 1. Theology Early church, ca. 30-600. I. Hill, Edmund. II.
Rotelle, John E. III. Augustinian Heritage Institute. IV. Title. BR65.A5E53 1990 270.2 8928878 ISBN 1-56548-055-4 (series) ISBN 1-56548-104-6 (pt. 1, v. 9)
Nihil Obstat: John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., S.T.L., Censor Deputatus
Imprimatur: + Patrick Sheridan, D.D., Vicar General Archdiocese of New York, June 2, 1997
The Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur are official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of
doctrinal or moral error. No implication is contained therein that those who have granted the
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions or statements expressed.
Printed in the United States of America

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Contents
General Introduction 9
The Excellence of Marriage
Introduction 29
The Excellence of Marriage 33
Marriage: The First Bond of Society33; Human Procreation Before the Fall33; Various
Benefits of Marriage34; The Mutual Fidelity of Spouses35; What Constitutes a True
Marriage?36; Marriage as a Remedy for Sensuality37; The Indissolubility of Marriage
38; Marriage Is Not Merely the Lesser of Two Evils39; Marriage Is a Good Necessary for
the Sake of Other Goods40; Marriage Is for Those Who Lack Self-Control41; Unnatural
Sexual Relations and Marital Holiness42; A Married Woman Entirely Devoted to God Is
Rare44; The Old Testament Saints Married Out of Duty44; Desire for Children Does Not
Legitimate Concubinage45; Sterility Does Not Dissolve a Marriage46; Procreation an
Act of Piety in the Old Testament47; Marriage Today Is Not Comparable to Marriage in the
Past48; Monogamous Marriage Is a Sacrament of Unity49; Old Testament Marriage
Possessed a Prophetic Character50; Sex and the Levitical Purity Laws51; Virtues May
Be Present without Being Manifest in Action51; Old Testament Saints Possessed Celibacy
in Disposition53; The Virtues of Celibacy and of Marriage Are Compared54; Summary:
The Three Goods of Marriage56; The Heretical Rejection of Marriage Has Been Refuted
57; Conclusion57
Holy Virginity
Introduction 65
Holy Virginity 68
Introduction68; Virgins Should Emulate the Virginity of the Church68; Spiritual Kinship
Is More Important than Physical Kinship69; The Virgin Mary, A Model for Consecrated

Virgins69; All Christians Share in the Motherhood of Christ70; The Virginity of Mary
and the Virginity of the Church70; The Excellence of Marriage Does Not Surpass That of
Virginity71; Virginity Is Honorable When Consecrated to God72; Virginity Is Superior to
Physical Motherhood72; Producing Virgins Does Not Make Marriage Equal to Virginity
73; Consecration Is What Makes a Virgin73; The Church Gives Birth to Consecrated
Virgins73; Virginity Is an Anticipation of Heavenly Immortality74; Virginal
Consecration Brings Greater Glory in Heaven74; Virginity Is a Counsel, Not a
Commandment75; Marriage Entails Troublesome Burdens76; The Apostle Paul Does
Not Condemn Marriage77; Advocates of Virginity Must Not Condemn Marriage77;
Marriage Is Not Equal to Celibacy78; Susanna Demonstrates the Value of Conjugal
Chastity78; Paul's Teaching Is Distorted by Extremists79; Paul's Preference for Celibacy
Did Not Pertain Only to This Life80; Jesus Spoke of Celibacy for the Kingdom of Heaven
81; Isaiah's Prophecy about Eunuchs in God's Kingdom82; Isaiah Spoke of Eternal
Rewards for Celibacy83; There Is One Eternal Life, but Different Degrees of Glory83;
Virgins Follow the Lamb Wherever He Goes84; Married Christians Can Also Follow Christ
85; Married Christians Should Not Be Envious of Virgins86; Virginity Is Not
Compulsory86; A New Argument: The Need for Humility87; Christ's Teaching on
Humility87; Humility Is Especially Necessary for Celibates89; Pride Afflicts the
Virtuous More Than Sinners89; Christ Is the Prime
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Example of Humility90; An Exhortation to Humility91; The Humility of Christ Is a
Fitting Model for Virgins92; A Holy Fear Is Good for Virgins93; The Holy Spirit Dwells
in a Humble Heart94; The Virgin Should Love More Because of Her Greater Gifts95;
The Virgin Has Been Saved from Many Sins96; God Even Gives the Gift to Know His
Gifts97; False Humility Is a Worse Form of Pride97; The Virgin Must Consider Her
Hidden Defects98; The Hundredfold, Sixtyfold, and Thirtyfold Fruit98; Martyrdom
Should Be Ranked above Virginity99; Married People May Be Prepared for Martyrdom
99; No One Is Ever Entirely Free of Sin100; Virgins Must Also Confess Their Faults101;
Even the Most Virtuous Must Remain Humble101; Love and Humility Protect Virginity
102; Humility Will Produce Love103; Virginity Is the Angelic Life on Earth103; Virgins
Should Contemplate the Incarnate Savior104; Virgins Should Love Christ as a Spouse
104; Conclusion105
The Excellence of Widowhood

Introduction 111
The Excellence of Widowhood 113
Augustine Replies to Juliana's Request113; The Meaning of Unmarried in Paul's Writings
113; The Good of Marriage and of Widowhood114; Second Marriages Are Not
Condemned115; Even Second Marriages Are Honorable116; Married Persons Are Holy
in Body and Spirit117; Marriage Served a Different Purpose in the Old Testament118;
Marriage Is Better than a Broken Vow of Celibacy119; The Vow of Celibacy Should Be
Inviolable120; Consecrated Virgins Who Marry Are Not Guilty of Adultery121; To
Break a Vow of Widowhood Is Worse Than Adultery122; Concerning Multiple Marriages
122; Relative Merits Among Widows123; Widows Should Be Judged by Their Religious
Devotion124; The Conclusion of Augustine's Instruction125; Widowhood Is a Gift from
God126; A Warning Against the Opponents of Grace127; Exhortations Are Effective
Only by God's Grace128; The Unmarried Must Devote Their Extra Attention to the Lord
129; On the Restraint of Desire131; Let Spiritual Pleasures Displace Carnal Ones131;
Strive to Maintain a Good Reputation132; Concluding Exhortation134
Adulterous Marriages
Introduction 139
Book One 142
Introduction of Pollentius' Views142; A Discussion of Pollentius' Opinion143; A Wife
May Leave Her Husband Only in the Case of Adultery143; The Desire for Continence
Does Not Authorize Separation144; Adultery Is the Only Legitimate Grounds for Divorce
145; Remarriage Is Not Allowed, Even When Divorce Is Allowed145; Only Adultery
Allows a Woman to Separate from Her Husband146; The Rules of Marriage Apply to Men
and Women Equally147; Why Jesus Added the Exception for Adultery147; Textual
Variants in Matthew's Gospel149; Matthew's Ambiguity Must Be Interpreted by the Other
Gospels149; A Woman Divorced Because of Adultery Is Still a Wife150; A New
Question: Marriages Between Christians and Pagans151; Some Things Should Be Done
Out of Love, Not Law152; What Is Permissible Is Not Always Good153; Distinguishing
the Permissible from the Good154; What Is Not Permissible Violates Justice154;

The Apostle Discourages What the Lord Allows154; It Is Better Not to Divorce the
Unbelieving Spouse156; Not All of the Apostle's Advice Has the Same Authority157; A
Response to Pollentius' Interpretation158; The Lord's Commands Must Be Followed
Absolutely160; The Christian Must Not Do Evil to Achieve Good161; Unconditional
Vows Must Be Kept161; Paul Advises Us to Choose the Better Path162; A New Question
Regarding Catechumens163; The Meaning of Matthew 7:6163; Conclusion: On the
Baptism of Adulterers164
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Book Two: A Reply to Further Objections from Pollentius 166
The Reason for the Second Book166; Pollentius Argues That Adultery Dissolves a
Marriage166; The Error of Pollentius' Interpretation167; Adultery Does Not Dissolve the
Marriage Bond167; The Marriage Bond Lasts Until Death168; Christ Forgives the Sin of
Adultery169; To Withhold Forgiveness Shows a Lack of Faith170; Christian Men Are
Required to Be as Chaste as Women170; If Reconciliation Is Refused, One Must Adopt
Celibacy171; Pollentius Objects That Celibacy Should Not Be Compulsory172;
Remarriage Is Not Allowed, Even for Procreation174; Procreation Is No Longer a
Necessity for Christians174; If the Couple Does Not Reconcile, Celibacy Is Required
176; A New Objection from Pollentius177; The Christian Should Forgive the Adulterous
Spouse178; Pollentius Claims That Christian Strictness Encourages Violence178; Further
Consequences of Pollentius' View180; Continence Can Take Many Forms181; With
God's Help Celibacy Will Be Possible182; The Example of Celibate Women and Clergy
183
Continence
Introduction 189
Continence 192
Continence Is a Gift from God192; All Deeds Begin with Thoughts193; The Struggle of
Continence with Evil Desires195; Do Not Rely on Human Resources198; You Must Rely
on God's Grace199; God's Omnipotence Brings Good Out of Evil201; Continence Must
Be Joined to Justice202; The Struggle Between the Flesh and the Spirit204; The Flesh Is
Not Evil206; Scripture Contradicts the Manichean View of the Body208; Though

Subject to Christ, the Church Is Still Carnal209; True and False Continence211;
Continence Pertains to the Spirit as well as to the Body212; Faith Requires Works of
Continence214
Index of Scripture 217
Index 225
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General Introduction
The five works of Augustine contained in this volume span approximately twenty years of his
episcopal career. The earliest are his treatises, The Excellence of Marriage and Holy Virginity,
composed around the year 401. The latest are his two books, Adulterous Marriages and
Continence, both written around the years 418-420. Like so much of his thought, Augustine's
reflections on sexuality, marriage, and celibacy underwent considerable development during
his lifetime, and his works must therefore be treated with sensitivity to their different
historical contexts and differing aims and audiences. This introduction will discuss three
distinct phases in the evolution of Augustine's theology of marriage: (1) Early writings, up to
and including Confessions (386-400); (2) Writings surrounding the Jovinianist Controversy,
including the Literal Meaning of Genesis (400-410); (3) Writings concerning the Pelagian
controversy (410-430).1
Early Writings (386-400)
In his earliest writings Augustine did not address issues regarding marriage and celibacy in
any systematic way. As readers of the Confessions will recall, Augustine's conversion and
acceptance of Christian baptism took place in the midst of a struggle to accept the life of
perpetual continence.2 When he arrived in Milan in the fall of 384 to take up a new teaching
post, Augustine had fully expected to marry and to advance in his secular career. To that end
he abandoned his concubine, the mother of his son Adeodatus, with whom he had lived for
more than a decade. But within a few years Augustine had been influenced by the fourth
century monastic movement and by bishop Ambrose of Milan's ardent preaching of
asceticism. Augustine came to believe that a full embrace of the Christian faith required him

to abandon his career as a teacher of rhetoric and to reject the prospect of life as a married
man.3 Once he was baptized, the possibility of living his life as a married Christian layman
seems not to have seriously interested Augustine at all.
Writings composed around the time of his baptism in 387 suggest that Augustine viewed sex
and marriage essentially as a distraction from the more speculative pursuits of the Christian
philosopher. In his Soliloquies, a set of conversations with himself on the topic of knowledge
of God and the soul, composed in his retreat at Cassiciacum in the months prior to his
baptism, Augustine
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preserves the following interior dialogue between himself and his interlocutor, Reason.
Reason asks:
What about a wife? Would you not be delighted by a fair, modest, obedient wife, one who is
educated or whom you could easily teach, one who would bring along just enough dowry so
that she would be no burden to your leisure would you not be delighted by such a one,
especially if you had reason to hope that you would suffer no inconvenience on her account?
To this proposal of Reason, Augustine responds:
No matter how much you choose to portray and endow her with all good qualities, I have
decided that there is nothing I should avoid so much as marriage. I know nothing which
brings the manly mind down from the heights more than a woman's caresses and that joining
of bodies without which one cannot have a wife. Thus, if it is part of a wise man's duty (and
this is something which I have not yet discovered for certain) to devote himself to children,
the man who takes a wife for this sole reason can seem to me worthy of admiration, but not of
imitation. It is, indeed, more hazardous to attempt this than it is fortunate to be able to do it.
On this account, for the sake of the freedom of my soul, I have enjoined myselfwith due
justice and good reason, I thinknot to covet, not to seek, not to marry a wife.4
As Peter Brown has noted, Augustine's decision to embrace full continence was influenced by
his reading of the Neoplatonic philosophers and the Platonic mysticism in the preaching of
Ambrose: Compared with the dawn light of the coming of Christ to embrace the soul, even
the sober joys of a Catholic marriage now seemed to lie under a chill shadow of regret.5

Such a perspective still dominates Augustine's Confessions, where, except for a few
comments on the value of procreation, Augustine seems to regard marriage primarily as a safe
harbor from the shipwrecks caused by youthful sexual desire.6
A somewhat different picture emerges from Augustine's anti-Manichean writings from the
same period. Among his earliest works are two books, The Catholic Way of Life and The
Manichean Way of Life, begun at Rome in 388, shortly after his baptism, and published
probably the following year in Africa. It is not surprising that Augustine should have chosen
the Manichees as the target of his earliest polemics, since he himself had left the sect only a
few years earlier. The Manichees were a branch of Christianity that originated in Persia in the
third century. Manichees regarded matter as part of the kingdom of darkness, an alien power
hostile to the God of light and goodness. Although the universe originally consisted of these
two separate and co-eternal powers, in its present state there is a mixture of the two
substances. Manichees discouraged marriage and condemned procreation because it led to the
continued enslavement of the divine substance in matter.7
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In his early writings Augustine attacked the Manichees for their rejection of procreation and
defended Catholic Christians for making use of the goods of the world, among them
procreation, possessions, and money. Citing sections of Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians,
where the Apostle says that the unbelieving husband is sanctified in his [Christian] wife, and
the unbelieving wife is sanctified in her [Christian] husband (1 Cor 7:14), Augustine noted
that if a chaste marital union can sanctify even unbelievers, then Christian marriage certainly
cannot be something evil.8
Several years later in another anti-Manichean writing, Answer to Adimantus (composed
around 392), Augustine again invoked Paul, as well as Jesus, to demonstrate that the Old
Testament and the New Testament stood in fundamental continuity in their approval of sex
and marriage. Augustine cited Matthew 19:3-9, where Jesus appealed to Genesis 1:27 and
2:24 to endorse the permanence of marriage; he also recalled the final verses of Ephesians 5,
where Paul also quotes Genesis 2:24 and refers the text to the great mystery (sacramentum
magnum) of Christ and the Church. Since both Jesus and Paul quote the Old Testament text
with approval and speak highly of marriage, Augustine argued, there can be no real

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contradiction between the Old and the New Testaments in regard to marriage: All things both
in the Old and in the New Testaments have been written and transmitted by one Spirit.9
Augustine's defense of marriage against the Manichees reached a high point in his thirty-three
books, Answer to Faustus, a Manichean, composed immediately after the Confessions, that is,
sometime between 397 and 400.10 In this extensive work Augustine responded to the
writings of Faustus, a Manichean bishop who had criticized the Old Testament patriarchs and
matriarchs and repudiated the incarnation. It was particularly in response to Faustus' attack on
the sexual mores of the Old Testament saints that Augustine developed his thinking on sex
and marriage. Faustus had presented a long litany of complaints about sexual immorality in
the Old Testament: Abraham was guilty of adultery for his sexual relations with the slave
Hagar; Lot had incestuous relations with his two daughters; Jacob was the husband of four
wives, two of them sisters, and so on. Such scandalous tales, Faustus argued, must rejected by
any right-thinking Christian. Either the stories are false, in which case the Old Testament is to
be rejected as untrue; or the stories are true, in which case the patriarchs and matriarchs are
guilty of sin. In either case, Faustus taunted, the crime is equally detestable, for vicious
conduct and falsehood are equally loathsome.11
Augustine adopted a twofold strategy in order to answer Faustus' critique of Old Testament
sexual morality. On the one hand, he argued that Abraham and the other Hebrew patriarchs
committed no sin when they engaged in polygamy or extramarital intercourse. To sin is to
transgress the eternal law either in deed, word, or desire. And the eternal law is the divine
order or will of God, which requires the preservation of natural order and forbids the breach
of it.12 In the case
12
of sexual intercourse, Augustine argued, the eternal law permits the indulgence of bodily
appetite in sexual intercourse, under the guidance of reason, not for the gratification of
passion, but for the continuance of the race through the propagation of children. Since
Abraham had been promised by God that he would be the father of many descendants and
since he believed that his wife Sarah was barren, he acted out of obedience when he engaged
in sex with the slave Hagar: He preserved the natural order by seeking in marriage only the
production of a child.13

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But Augustine also proposed another way to refute Faustus' criticism of Old Testament
morality, one that involved a spiritual reading of the biblical evidence. He noted that there is a
difference between the time when the promise (that is, the coming of Christ) was under a veil
and the time when the promise is revealed. In the past, that is, in the history of ancient Israel,
both the words and the deeds of the Old Testament saints were prophetic: The whole
kingdom of the Hebrews was like a great prophet, corresponding to the greatness of the
person prophesied.14 In other words, in the actions and words of the Old Testament saints
one can discern a prophetic and symbolic foreshadowing of the coming of Christ and the
Church. For example, when Abraham and Sarah journeyed to Egypt and Abraham pretended
that Sarah was his sister (a story which Faustus found particularly offensive since it involved
Abraham's virtual selling of his wife to the Egyptian pharaoh), this symbolized the beauty of
the Church which is secretly the bride of Christ. It also prefigured the secret union of Christ
and the human soul, which the apostle Paul referred to as the great mystery in marriage.15
It is clear from Answer to Faustus, a Manichean that Augustine had two, rather distinct,
answers to Faustus, both of which pertain to the status of sexuality and marriage in salvation
history. On the one hand, on a strictly literal or historical level, procreation was necessary in
order to fulfill God's promises to Abraham and to create the people of God that would lead to
Christ. As long as Abraham and the other patriarchs and matriarchs engaged in sex only for
procreation, their sexual activity (and even their apparent promiscuity) was conformed to the
divine will; it was even necessary for the incarnation. As Augustine wrote slightly later in his
response to another Manichee, Secundinus, who like Faustus had criticized the morality of the
Old Testament saints: The conjugal duty of the fathers and mothers, such as Abraham and
Sarah, should not be judged according to the standards of human society, but according to the
dispensation of God. For since it was necessary that Christ come in the flesh, both the
marriage of Sarah and the virginity of Mary served to propagate that flesh.16
On the other hand, on the level of symbol or prophecy, the narrative of the Old Testament, in
Augustine's view, provided a foreshadowing of the events of the New Testament, especially as
it pertained to the coming of Christ and the Church. In his The Instruction of Beginners,
composed about the year 400,
13
Augustine succinctly characterized the prophetic character of Abraham and the other Hebrew
saints:

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Not only the words of these holy men who in point of time preceded the Lord's birth, but also
their lives, their wives, their children, and acts were a prophecy of this time, wherein through
faith in the passion of Christ the Church is being gathered together from all nations. [In] all
these things there were signified spiritual mysteries closely associated with Christ and the
Church of which even those saints were members, although they lived before Christ our Lord
was born according to the flesh.17
Augustine's defense of marriage against Faustus and the Manichees was an important step in
the emergence of his theology of marriage. His twofold response to Faustus enabled
Augustine to think about marriage both in respect to its necessity for the propagation of the
human race, as well as in respect to its value as a prophetic sign. As Augustine's thought
continued to develop, the former became the basis of his view that procreation is a
fundamental good of Christian marriage; the latter became the basis of his notion of the
sacramentum or sacred significance of marriage.
In addition to his polemical writings against the Manichees Augustine also addressed
questions relating to marriage in some early sermons and exegetical works. In his two books,
The Lord's Sermon on the Mount, composed early in his presbyterate (about 393), Augustine
discussed the interpretation of Jesus' prohibition of divorce in Matthew 5:31-32. Referring to
the Old Testament laws regarding divorce, Jesus had noted: It was also said, Whoever
divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce. But I say to you that anyone who
divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity (porneia), causes her to commit
adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Augustine discussed
several features of Matthew's version of Jesus' discourse. First he noted that Jesus did not
totally reject the Old Testament provision for divorce. The requirement that a certificate of
divorce be issued, Augustine argued, was meant to discourage divorce by giving the husband
an opportunity to reconsider his decision.18
Augustine also raised the question of the legitimate grounds for divorce. Jesus accepted the
Old Testament provision for divorce, Augustine noted, but only for the gravest of reasons, that
is, on the ground of unchastity, or, as his Latin version of Matthew had it, because of
fornication (excepta causa fornicationis). But Augustine is aware that scripture sometimes
employs the term fornication in a more general sense to denote any kind of behavior

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contrary to the will of God, such as idolatry or avarice. In The Lord's Sermon on the Mount
Augustine suggests that the fornication allowed as a reason for divorce may refer to this
more general type of disobedience.19
14
Finally, among Augustine's early sermons one also finds a concern for marital morality. For
example, in Sermon 354A, which has been published among the sermons recently discovered
by Franois Dolbeau, there is an extensive discussion of the marital duties of Christian men
and women.20 In this sermon, which has been dated to the year 397, Augustine expresses
strong opposition to the ascetic renunciation of sex within marriage, unless both partners
agree to abstain. The unilateral adoption of celibacy by one partner is considered a violation
of Jesus' injunction not to separate what God has joined.21 Much of the sermon is devoted to
an interpretation of Paul's discussion of conjugal duties in 1 Corinthians 7:1-11. Augustine
notes that women are regarded as subordinate to men in all matters except that of sexual
relations, for the apostle Paul indicated that the man does not have authority over his own
body, but the woman (1 Cor 7:3-4). As Augustine interprets the passage: In this matter his
sex is at the disposal of the wife; it belongs to another; it is owed to the woman.22
Augustine's discussion of conjugal duties in Sermon 354A also shows some movement toward
his teaching on the various goods of marriage. What is truly good in marriage, according to
Sermon 354A, is sex for the purpose of procreation.23 Sexual relations between married
persons apart from procreation, however, are allowed by Paul by way of pardon (secundum
veniam), that is, as a concession to human weakness.24 While demanding the conjugal debt
out of unrestrained desire is a fault that is pardonable, Augustine argues, it is an act of charity
and mercy for one spouse to pay the debt to the other. In Sermon 354A we do not yet see any
explicit treatment of the three goods of marriage. However, the notion that paying the
conjugal debt out of consideration for the weakness of one's spouse can be an act of Christian
charity anticipates Augustine's later treatment of conjugal fidelity as one of the true goods
of marriage in his work The Excellence of Marriage.
The Jovinianist Controversy (400-410)
A significant new phase in the development of Augustine's thinking about marriage began
shortly after he completed Answer to Faustus, a Manichean and the Instruction of Beginners.

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Around the year 401 Augustine composed the first two works in this volume, The Excellence
of Marriage and Holy Virginity. In his Revisions Augustine says that he wrote these two
books in response to the heresy of Jovinian.25 Jovinian was a monk who had been
condemned in the early 390s by synods at Rome and Milan. His primary offense had been to
argue that neither celibacy nor ascetic fasting gained for the Christian any special merit.
According to Jerome, one of Jovinian's most vociferous opponents, Jovinian summarized his
position in the following four theses:26
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1. Virgins, widows, and married women, once they have been washed in Christ, are of the
same merit, if they do not differ in other works.
2. Those who have been born again in baptism with full faith cannot be overthrown by the
devil.
3. There is no difference between abstinence from food and receiving it with thanksgiving.
4. There is one reward in the kingdom of heaven for all who have preserved their baptism.
It is clear from the phrasing of these propositions that baptism was a central category in
Jovinian's theology. It is baptism that establishes the holiness of each Christian, Jovinian
argued, not ascetic merit. Moreover, it is baptism that establishes the holiness of the Church.
Since one enters the Church through baptism and not through asceticism, holiness is
possessed by all Christians alike, regardless of ascetic merit.27
Ecclesiastical response to Jovinian was swift and unambiguous. Siricius, bishop of Rome,
called his clergy into synod and condemned Jovinian's views as a diabolical perversion of the
scriptures. Ambrose of Milan responded likewise, praising Siricius' initiative in protecting
Christ's flock from the savage wolves, that is, from Jovinian and his followers. From his
monastery in Bethlehem the prominent scholar and ascetic teacher, Jerome, issued a scathing
treatise which characterized Jovinian as the Epicurus of the Christians, rutting in his
gardens among the young men and young women, slippery as a snake and like another
Proteus. By 398 the emperors Honorius and Theodosius had entered the fray: Jovinian was
sentenced to be flogged and exiled to the distant island of Boa.28

15

Despite these various attempts to curtail Jovinian's activity, it appears that his teachings
continued to spread. As Augustine noted in his Revisions:29
Holy Church there [that is, at Rome] opposed this monster very forcefully. Nevertheless, these
arguments of his, which no one dared to defend openly, had survived in the chatter and
whisperings of certain persons. Therefore, it was still necessary to oppose the secretly
spreading poisons with all the power which the Lord gave me, especially since they were
boasting that Jovinian could not be answered by praising marriage, but only by censuring it.
One of the difficulties to which Augustine refers is the fact that opponents of Jovinian tended
to defend the superiority of the celibate life by denigrating marriage. This is nowhere more
apparent than in Jerome's polemical treatise Against Jovinian, which was interpreted even by
some of his friends as a heretical rejection of marriage.30 A decade after Jovinian's
condemnation, Augustine tells us, there was still a need to counter his arguments with an
account of marriage and celibacy that did not utterly discount the value of marriage.
16
When read against the backdrop of the Jovinianist controversy The Excellence of Marriage
and Holy Virginity appear to be remarkably irenic and well-balanced. In these works
Augustine chose not to attack either Jovinian or Jerome directly; neither is mentioned by
name in the treatises, although there are several points where Augustine refutes both of their
arguments. Instead of taking a directly polemical stance, Augustine attempted to develop a
genuine theology of marriage and celibacy that steered a middle path between the extremes of
Jovinian and Jerome: he maintained the genuine goodness of Christian marriage (against
Jerome), while arguing for the superiority of the celibate life (against Jovinian). In the course
of his discussion, Augustine developed novel conceptions of sexuality and sacramentality The
result, while not always consonant with modern Christian understandings of marriage and
sexuality, was for its time a remarkably humane treatment of a difficult and previously
underdeveloped topic.
The starting point of Augustine's discussion in The Excellence of Marriage is the notion that
human beings are social by nature. With allusions to the creation stories in Genesis Augustine
locates the union of man and woman squarely within this broader social framework:31

16

Every human being is part of the human race, and human nature is a social entity (sociale
quiddam), and has naturally the great benefit and power of friendship. For this reason God
wished to produce all persons out of one, so that they would be held together in their social
relationships not only by similarity of race, but also by the bond of kinship. The first natural
bond of human society, therefore, is that of husband and wife.
Augustine envisions the first human couple as a paradigmatic expression of the original
creative purpose of God to found a society of persons united in friendship. The creation of
Eve from Adam's side, Augustine suggests, was intended precisely to symbolize the power of
this union: For those who walk together, and look ahead together to where they are walking,
do so at each other's side. The result of this union is the bonding of society (connexio
societatis) in its children. But even without sexual intimacy, Augustine argues, there could
have been between the two sexes a certain relationship of friendship and kinship where one is
in charge and the other compliant.32
Augustine's starting point is a significant one, for it grants to the marital relationship, and
particularly to procreation, a pivotal place in God's providential plan. The natural tendency
for human beings to bond together in community is rooted, as Augustine sees it, in the
original bonding of Adam and Eve, a bonding that was originally as intimate as one flesh
(see Gn 2:24). This original, natural bonding of Adam and Eve is replicated in the marital
union of subsequent men and women. Sexual union (which Augustine regards as one aspect of
a marital union, though not the most important one) then produces children, who make
17
possible the further bonding of society. Procreation, therefore, in Augustine's view is the fruit
of marriage that is most closely related to the original social purpose of God's creation. As
such, it is in a certain way the primary good of marriage.33
In The Excellence of Marriage, however, Augustine goes on to distinguish two additional
goods, both of which are related to the character of marriage as a social bond. In addition to
procreation, there is the marital chastity of the couple, which Augustine often refers to as
fidelity (fides). The concept of fides was an important one in the Roman understanding of
marriage. While the term often referred specifically to sexual loyalty, it could also refer to the
more general loyalty which a couple promised to each other in marriage. As Susan Treggiari,

17

a distinguished authority on Roman marriage, has written: This reciprocal loyalty and trust
must be seen against the background of the general concept of fides so important in Roman
life and thought. Reciprocal relationships such as those of patron and client or patron and
freedman depended on good faith and moral obligation. The informal contract of marriage
was similarly based.34
Augustine's discussion of the good of fidelity reflects the Roman model in several ways. On
the one hand, fidelity or chastity refers to the commitment to have sexual relations only with
one's spouse. As Augustine described it:35
A breach of this duty of fidelity is called adultery, when, either because of the urge of one's
own sensuality or by consenting to the other person's, one violates the marriage contract by
sleeping with someone else. In this way there is a betrayal of trust, and even in base material
matters trust is a spiritual good of great value, and so it certainly should be put ahead of
bodily well-being, including even our material life.
Even when sexual relations between a married couple take place apart from the intention to
produce children, Augustine argues, the fact that their union is a faithful one is one of the
good features of marriage.
But Augustine also speaks of fidelity in another sense, as a positive duty to engage in sexual
relations with one's spouse, especially when the partner is experiencing what Augustine would
regard as inordinate sexual desire, that is, apart from the intention to procreate. As Augustine
had taught previously in Sermon 354A, to have sex with one's spouse in order to support the
other's weakness can be an act of charity: Married people, therefore, not only owe each other
fidelity in relation to sexual union for the sake of having children, which in this mortal state is
the human race's first social union, but also in a certain way they owe each other a mutual
service to relieve each other's weakness, and thereby avoid illicit unions.36 Although the
seeking of sexual relations out of lust is an excusable or venial sin (venialis culpa), in
Augustine's view the granting of sexual relations to the weaker spouse is part of the duty of
fidelity.37
18

18

In addition to the good of procreation and the good of fidelity, Augustine speaks of yet a third
good in marriage, that of the sacrament (sacramentum) in marriage. Augustine's discussion
of the sacrament of marriage must be clearly distinguished from later Christian formulations.
By the late fourth century the church had only just begun to formalize its procedures for
marriage, and the notion of the seven sacraments still lay many centuries in the future. But
the Jovinianist controversy had forced Augustine to think seriously about the theological
value of Christian marriage, and his response was to begin to crystalize the concept of the
sacramentality of marriage.
Augustine's understanding of the sacrament in marriage is closely related to his interpretation
of the New Testament texts of Jesus and Paul on divorce; it also is a direct development of his
anti-Manichean arguments on behalf of the sexual morality of the Old Testament patriarchs
and matriarchs. From the New Testament, especially from Matthew 19:3-9 (see Mt 5:31-32)
and 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 (see Rom 7:2-3), Augustine derived the teaching that Christians
were forbidden to divorce, except because of fornication, and that, if a divorce did take
place, the spouses were not to marry anyone else. In Matthew 19:3-9 Jesus had invoked the
text of Genesis 2:24 (Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and
they become one flesh). In Ephesians 5:31-32 Paul had cited the same text of Genesis and
added the comment, This is a great mystery (magnum sacramentum), and I am applying it to
Christ and the Church. It was natural, therefore, for Augustine to apply the language of
sacramentum to the context of Matthew's invocation of Genesis, that is, to the matter of the
indissolubility of marriage. The sacrament in Christian marriages refers to the sacred
mystery or symbolic meaning that is found in the indissolubility of the marital relationship.
But Augustine was also aware, especially after his anti-Manichean writings, that Old
Testament marriages were neither monogamous nor indissoluble. In The Excellence of
Marriage Augustine's understanding of the sacrament in marriage is also developed with a
sensitivity to the problem of the different historical contexts of marriage in the Old and New
Testaments. Developing the idea that he presented in Answer to Faustus, a Manichean,
Augustine argues that the sacrament in marriage refers to the different prophetic meanings
of marriage in different phrases of salvation history. In the Old Testament the sacrament of the
polygamous marriages of the patriarchs signified the plurality of people who would be
subject to God in all nations of the earth. By contrast, the sacramental marriages of
Christians now reflect the character of an eschatological unity. As Augustine notes: The

19

sacrament of monogamous marriage of our time is a symbol that in the future we shall all be
united and subject to God in the one heavenly city.38 For Augustine, therefore, the
sacrament of marriage was not a univocal concept. The sacred significance or sacrament of
marriage for
19
Christians was fundamentally different from the sacrament of marriage in the Old Testament,
although both forms of marriage referred symbolically to events in salvation history.
The Jovinianist controversy provided Augustine with an important opportunity to develop and
synthesize elements of a theology of marriage that had gradually begun to emerge in his
earlier writings. The notion that Christian marriage entails the three goods of procreation,
fidelity, and the sacramental bond became a staple of his teaching for the next thirty years of
his life. The debate with Jovinian also required Augustine to give more sustained attention to
the issue of celibacy and to define more precisely the reasons why celibacy could be regarded
as superior to marriage. Here too the idea of the different phases of salvation history is central
to Augustine's argument.
In the past, that is, before the coming of Christ, Augustine suggests, it was necessary for
human beings to procreate in order to fill the earth. Particularly in the case of the Old
Testament saints, as we have already seen, such procreation was not only physically
necessary, but it was also a prophetic sign. Therefore, the marriages of the patriarchs and
matriarchs of the Old Testament were conducted out of obedience to a divine command.39
But in the present time, now that Christ has come and the world is full, Augustine argues,
there is no longer the same need for human beings to marry and produce children.40
Moreover, since there will always be an abundance of children owing to the problem of sexual
promiscuity, Augustine suggests, Christians have no need to replenish the population, not
even to produce other Christians. Therefore, citing the eschatological advice of Paul's First
Letter to the Corinthians, Augustine concludes that at the present time the only ones who
should marry are those who are unable to be continent, in accordance with that advice of the
same Apostle: If they are unable to be continent, they should marry; for it is better to marry
than to burn.41
We are here at one of the more troubling points in Augustine's understanding of marriage and
celibacy: the problem of sexual desire. Despite his own explicit teaching on the three goods of

20

marriage, under the influence of Paul's discussion of marriage and celibacy in First
Corinthians Augustine could find no truly positive role for sexuality or procreation in the
Christian dispensation. Despite the various goods that he believed were present in marriage,
Augustine still regarded marriage primarily as a safety-net for those Christians who were too
weak to control their sexual desires. Since procreation was no longer strictly necessary for
Christians, Augustine could speak of sexual intercourse, even for the sake of children, as an
opportunity to direct sensual desire towards the goal of procreation, so that out of the evil of
lust (ex malo libidinis) sexual union in marriage achieves something good.42 Even though
Augustine regarded procreation as good, and even though he regarded marital fidelity and the
sacramental bond as good, nevertheless he saw sexual desire as inevitably associated with the
concupiscence or lust of the flesh.
20
Although Augustine did not dwell on the problem of sexual desire or concupiscence in The
Excellence of Marriage, the subject was soon to occupy a significant place in his Literal
Meaning of Genesis. Augustine began this work immediately after the treatises on marriage
and virginity in 401, although he did not complete it until 415.43 It was probably inevitable
that Augustine would turn back to the book of Genesis after his writings on marriage and
sexuality. In the beginning of The Excellence of Marriage he had raised, but left unanswered,
an important question regarding human sexuality and procreation: how would the human race
have increased and multiplied, if the first parents had not sinned? In his earlier writings on
Genesis, Augustine had been inclined to stress the spiritual character of the original creation.
For example, in On Genesis: A Refutation of the Manicheans, Augustine had argued that the
bodies of Adam and Eve (if they had bodies at all) were of a spiritual substance quite unlike
ours today; there certainly was no sex or procreation in paradise.44 In the opening chapters
of The Excellence of Marriage Augustine had suggested tentatively that Adam and Eve might
have reproduced sexually in paradise before the fall. Even here, however, he merely raised
this as a possibility and declined to give a final interpretation.45
By the time he composed the ninth book of his Literal Meaning of Genesis, sometime before
the year 410, Augustine had abandoned his earlier ambivalence and concluded definitively
that God had originally intended Adam and Eve to have a full bodily life and that this life
would have included sex and procreation, even before the fall. The conclusion was to have
great consequences for Augustine's understanding of marriage and for his understanding of

21

sexual desire, especially after the fall. Placing the facts of sex all the way back into Eden
served to ground the good of marital procreation ever more securely in the positive will of the
creator. There was, however, a negative side to this development. For once Augustine began
to think of Adam and Eve as genuinely physical persons, and not merely as disembodied
spirits, he was inevitably led to conceive of their sin as likewise having effects not only on
their spirits, but also on their bodies.
Immediately upon sinning, Augustine suggested, something happened to the bodies of Adam
and Eve. As soon as they disobeyed God's command, their bodies contracted, as it were, the
deadly disease of death, and this changed the gift by which they had ruled the body so
perfectly that they would not say, I see in my members another law at war with the law of my
mind.46 Sin introduced into their bodies a disordered motion, that is, the concupiscence of
the flesh, a tendency for sexual desire to run contrary to the conscious control of the mind
and will. It was the presence of this new disruption in their flesh, Augustine suggests, that
caused Adam and Eve to experience shame at their nakedness: Casting their eyes on their
bodies, they felt a movement of concupiscence which they had not known previously.47
Although the original sin did not involve sexual
21
relations in any way, Augustine argues, the effects of the sin were felt directly in the bestial
motion in their bodily members; that is, Adam and Eve began to feel the same drive by
which there is in animals a desire to copulate and thus to provide for offspring to take the
place of those that die.48
The step Augustine took in his Literal Meaning of Genesis was to be a fateful one for all his
subsequent writings on marriage and sexuality. From this point onward there is an irrevocable
connection in his thought between human sexual desire and original sin. Augustine still sees
sexual relations and procreation as good things. But starting with the Literal Meaning of
Genesis, Augustine began to draw a sharp distinction between the original character of human
sexuality (that is, before the fall) and the current character of sexuality (that is, after the fall).
Before their sin, Augustine writes, Adam and Eve could have enjoyed sex, though without
the tumultuous ardor of lust.49 Their bodies would have operated in full harmony with their
minds and wills, just as legs do for walking.50 Adam and Eve could have commanded their
genitals to function without any trouble and without any itch for pleasure.51 But this
idyllic harmony and unity of human faculties that characterized the state of Adam and Eve

22

before the fall has now been lost. While sexual activity and procreation are not themselves
evil, the manner in which sexual desire now impinges on the mind is a sure sign of the revolt
of their disobedient members which followed upon Adam and Eve's revolt against God.52
By the time Augustine completed Book Nine of the Literal Meaning of Genesis sometime
before 410, the stage was already set for the last great conflict of his theological career: the
Pelagian debate. His notion that the sin of Adam and Eve has infected all people with the
disorder of concupiscence will not change in any substantial way over the next two decades.
Such a view, however, was certain to arouse opposition from those, like the Pelagians, who
maintained the basic goodness and integrity of human nature. While it is beyond the scope of
this introduction to chart fully Augustine's discussion of marriage and celibacy in the Pelagian
controversy, it will perhaps be helpful to indicate the manner in which Augustine's ideas on
human sexuality became increasingly controversial during the final decades of his life.
The Pelagian Controversy (410-430)
The final three writings in this volume date from the years of the Pelagian controversy,
although none of them is concerned exclusively with Pelagianism. The Excellence of
Widowhood (414) is a letter of exhortation and spiritual direction addressed to a distinguished
Roman widow, whom Augustine (rightly) suspected of harboring sympathy for Pelagius. The
letter was written early in the controversy, and Augustine restricted his anti-Pelagian remarks
to a few paragraphs
22
emphasizing the importance of grace in the pursuit of an ascetic vocation. The treatise
Adulterous Marriages (419-420) was written directly in response to a set of questions about
the New Testament texts on divorce and remarriage and it bears no relationship with the
Pelagian debate. Only the sermon Continence, which probably dates from the years 418-420,
deals extensively with anti-Pelagian ideas.53 Even in this work, however, the polemic is
indirect and not addressed explicitly against Pelagius or his followers.
We must look elsewhere, therefore, for evidence of Pelagian opposition to Augustine's
teaching on sexuality and sin and for Augustine's response to Pelagianism. As early as 412 in
his first writing against Pelagianism, The Merits and Forgiveness of Sins and the Baptism of
Infants, Augustine shows an awareness that his teaching on the inherited character of

23

concupiscence is likely to draw fire from Christians who believe in the goodness of human
nature. He notes that they (the Pelagians) should not use the goodness of marriage to deny
original sin. Referring to his previous writings, The Excellence of Marriage and Holy
Virginity, Augustine notes that marriage involves the good use of a bad thing, that is, the
concupiscence of the flesh. No one who is born is born apart from sin, except for Christ, who
was conceived apart from the concupiscence of the flesh.54
Somewhat later Augustine began to speak at length about marriage in his defense of the
doctrine of original sin. In The Grace of Christ and Original Sin, composed in 418 shortly
after the papal condemnation of Pelagius, Augustine indicated that Pelagian critics had begun
to suggest that his doctrine of original sin made marriage into something evil and implied that
human beings were not the creation of God.55 Later that year, or early in 419, Augustine
again took up the topic in the first book of Marriage and Desire. This work was explicitly
written to counter the Pelagian accusation that Augustine condemned marriage and sexual
union. Within a year or two (419-420), Julian of Eclanum, a bishop from southern Italy who
had refused to subscribe to the papal condemnation of Pelagius, took the criticism one step
further. Writing in response to the first book of Augustine's Marriage and Desire, Julian
argued that Augustine's teaching on original sin, and specifically his view of sexual
concupiscence as affected by the fall, was in fact Manichean.56
From this point onward, in the second book of Marriage and Desire (420), Answer to the Two
Letters of the Pelagians (419/420), Answer to Julian (421), and the Unfinished Work in
Answer to Julian (430), Augustine continually returned to Julian's accusation and attempted to
distinguish his own teaching from that of the Manichees. The basis of Julian's position was
the doctrine of the goodness of creation. Sexual desire, Julian argued, was a creation of God;
it was an innocent and necessary drive required for the propagation of the human race.57
Human beings today are born into a state that is essentially the same as
23
that of Adam and Eve before the fall. For Julian, there can be no inherited sin and no inherited
guilt without compromising the goodness of creation. Augustine's teaching on the
transmission of sin and guilt by means of sexual intercourse and his position on the corruption
of sexual desire appeared to Julian as nothing other than a return to the Manichean teaching of
Augustine's youth.

24

For his part, Augustine persistently attempted to distinguish his own teaching from that of the
Manichees, arguing that it was possible to maintain the goodness of creation, while at the
same time asserting that creation was damaged by human sin. As Augustine saw it, the
rebellious and unruly character of sexual desire indicates clearly that human nature no longer
experiences the privileges enjoyed by the first human beings in paradise. Had human beings
originally been subject to the kind of impulses that they now experience, there would have
been neither peace nor freedom in paradise. As he stated in a letter to Bishop Atticus of
Constantinople, written around 421 in defense of his teaching against the Pelagians: If,
therefore, this concupiscence of the flesh did exist in paradise, so that children were born
through it to fulfill the blessing of marriage by increasing the human race, it certainly could
not have been what it is now, that is, a thing whose impulses lust after licit and illicit objects
indiscriminately.58
In the writings from the final decades of his career Augustine displays a vivid sense of the
persistence of sexual concupiscence and a palpable longing for the peace that will characterize
the blessed life of the saints in heaven. As he wrote in the same letter to Bishop Atticus:
Concupiscence insinuates itself where it is not needed, and by its troublesome and even
wicked desires it agitates even the hearts of the faithful and the saints. Even if we resist it and
refuse to yield to its disturbing impulses with any conscious assent, we would still prefer by a
holier desire that these impulses not be present in us at all, if it were possible; indeed,
someday this will happen.59
It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Augustine's own experience with the difficulty of
resisting sexual desire, described so poignantly in the Confessions, continued to exert a
profound influence on his understanding of human nature particularly as vitiated by original
sin. While his teaching on the three goods of marriageprocreation, fidelity, and sacrament
remained constant, Augustine's own struggle with the reality of concupiscence continued to
shape his understanding of human sinfulness and, therefore, his view of human sexuality.
Abbreviations
BA Bibliothque Augustinienne

25

CCL Corpus Christianorum Latinorum


CSEL Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum
24
NPNF Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers
PL Patrologia Latina
PLS Patrologia Latina Supplementum
Notes
1 A similar arrangement of material is employed by Elizabeth A. Clark in her collection, St.
Augustine on Marriage and Sexuality (Selections from the Fathers of the Church, 1;
Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1996).
2 See, for example, the struggle described in Confessions VIII, 7, 1611, 27, and Augustine's
famous prayer that God would grant him chastity and continence but not yet (VII, 7, 17).
3 See Confessions VIII, 12, 30: Many years earlier you had shown her [Monica] a vision of
me standing on the rule of faith; and now indeed I stood there, no longer seeking a wife, or
entertaining any worldly hope, for you had converted me to yourself; tr. M. Boulding, The
Confessions of Saint Augustine (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1996) 208. For a
compelling account of the moral and intellectual influences on Augustine's conversion and the
development of his ideas on sexuality, see Peter Brown, The Body and Society. Men, Women,
and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988)
387-447.
4 Soliloquies I, 10, 17: PL 32, 878; translated by T. F. Gilligan (Fathers of the Church; New
York: CIMA, 1948), 365-366. In Confessions VI, 12, 21-22 Augustine reports that prior to his
conversion he and his friend Alypius discussed the possibility of living the life of a
philosopher while married. At that time it was Alypius who had discouraged him from

26

marrying, while Augustine cited the example of married men who had continued to cultivate
wisdom and to please God.
5 Brown, Body and Society, 394.
6 On procreation, see Confessions IV, 2, 2; VI, 12, 22. See II, 2, 3, where Augustine
indicates that his parents should have arranged a marriage for him: Some bounds might have
been set to my pleasures if only the stormy surge of my adolescence had flung me up onto the
shore of matrimony; tr. Boulding, 63.
7 The Manichean Way of Life II, 18, 65; cf. Augustine, Heresies 47. An excellent
introduction to Manicheism can be found in Samuel N. C. Lieu, Manichaeism in the Later
Roman Empire and Medieval China. 2nd Edition, Revised and Expanded (Tbingen: J. C. B.
Mohr, 1992).
8 The Catholic Way of Life I, 35, 79.
9 Answer to Adimantus III, 1-3; quotation at III, 3 (BA 17, 231).
10 Revisions II, 7 (33) (CCL 57, 95-96).
11 Answer to Faustus, a Manichean XXII, 5.
12 Answer to Faustus, a Manichean XXII, 27.
13 Ibid. XXII, 30. In XXII, 47 Augustine offered a similar explanation for the polygamy of
the patriarch Jacob. Polygamy violates no law of nature, but only custom and legal practice.
Since the custom and legal practice of Jacob's day did not forbid polygamy, and since Jacob
had intercourse with his four wives only for the procreation of children, his conduct in
Augustine's view was conformable both to human and divine law. A similar point about the
relativity of moral codes is made in Confessions III, 7, 138, 15.
14 Answer to Faustus, a Manichean XXII, 24.

27

15 Answer to Faustus, a Manichean XXII, 38.


16 Answer to Secundinus 2 (BA 17, 616).
17 Instruction of Beginners 19, 33, tr. by J. P. Christopher (Ancient Christian Writers, 2;
Westminster: Newman Press, 1962) 63.
18 The Lord's Sermon on the Mount I, 14, 39: CCL 35, 41-42.
19 The Lord's Sermon on the Mount I, 16, 43-47: CCL 35, 47-53. Augustine later expressed
some reservations about this conclusion; see Revisions I, 19(18), 6: CCL 57, 58.
20 Sermon 354A=Dolbeau 12=Mainz 41. English translation by Edmund Hill, Sermons
III/1. Newly Discovered Sermons. The Works of Saint Augustine. A Translation for the 21st
Century (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1997), 322-330.
21 Sermon 354A, 3.
22 Sermon 354A, 4.
25
23 Sermon 354A, 8-9.
24 Sermon 354A, 7.
25 Revisions II, 22(48), 1: CCL 57, 107.
26 Jerome, Against Jovinian I, 3: PL 23, 224.
27 The most recent book-length study of Jovinian is that of Francesco Valli, Gioviniano.
Esame delle fonti e dei frammenti (Urbino: Universit di Urbino, 1953). See also David G.
Hunter, Resistance to the Virginal Ideal in Late-Fourth-Century Rome: The Case of
Jovinian, Theological Studies 48 (1987) 45-64; and Helvidius, Jovinian, and the Virginity of
Mary in Late Fourth-Century Rome, Journal of Early Christian Studies 1 (1993) 47-71.

28

28 Siricius, Letter 7: PL 13, 1168-1172; Ambrose, Letter 42: PL 16, 1123-1129; Jerome,
Against Jovinian I, 1: PL 23, 221; Codex Theodosianus XVI, 5, 53.
29 Revisions II, 22(48), 1: CCSL 57, 108; tr. M. I. Bogan, Saint Augustine. The
Retractations (Fathers of the Church 60; Washington, DC: Catholic University of America
Press, 1968) 164.
30 See Jerome, Letters 48-49 to Pammachius and Letter 50 to Domnio; all three letters were
written by Jerome to defend his treatise Against Jovinian.
31 The Excellence of Marriage 1, 1.
32 Ibid. In 3, 3 Augustine refers to a natural sociability (naturalem societatem) that
exists between the sexes within a good marriage regardless of the couple's sexual relationship.
33 In The Excellence of Marriage 19. 22 Augustine notes that the desire or instinct for
reproduction is a natural good created by God. The evidence of this is that animals also have a
natural inclination to produce and care for their young.
34 Roman Marriage. Iusti Coniuges From the Time of Cicero to the Time of Ulpian (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1991) 237. In The Excellence of Marriage 4, 4 Augustine illustrates the
value of fidelity with an example from social relations.
35 The Excellence of Marriage 4, 4.
36 The Excellence of Marriage 6, 6.
37 The Excellence of Marriage 10, 1111, 12.
38 The Excellence of Marriage 18, 21.
39 The Excellence of Marriage 13, 15, among many other places.

29

40 The Excellence of Marriage 9, 9.


41 The Excellence of Marriage 10, 10, citing 1 Cor 7:9. See Holy Virginity 1, 1.
42 The Excellence of Marriage 3, 3.
43 Revisions II, 24(50). For a discussion of the dating of the various books of the Ibid., see
the introduction by P. Agasse and A. Solignac in BA 48, 25-31.
44 See Augustine's comments on his earlier views in Literal Meaning of Genesis VIII, 2, 5.
45 On the development of Augustine's exegesis of Genesis, see the excellent study by
Elizabeth A. Clark, Heresy, Asceticism, Adam and Eve: Interpretations of Gen 1-3 in the
Later Latin Fathers, in her Ascetic Piety and Women's Faith. Essays on Late Ancient
Christianity (Lewiston/Queenston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1986) 353-385.
46 Literal Meaning of Genesis IX, 10, 17 (BA 49, 112); translated by John Hammond Taylor,
St. Augustine. The Literal Meaning of Genesis (ACW 42; New York: Newman Press, 1982)
81.
47 Ibid. XI, 31, 41 (BA 49, 298).
48 Ibid. XI, 32, 42 (BA 49, 300).
49 Ibid. IX, 3, 6 (BA 49, 96).
50 Ibid. IX, 4, 8.
51 Ibid. IX, 10, 18.
52 Ibid. XI, 1, 3.
53 See the full discussion in Michael R. Rackett, Anti-Pelagian Polemic in Augustine's De
Continentia, Augustinian Studies 26 (1965) 25-50.

30

54 The Merits and Forgiveness of Sins and the Baptism of Infants I, 29, 57; see II, 4, 4. A
good overview of the texts on marriage in the Pelagian controversy can be found in mile
Schmitt, Le mariage chrtien dans l'oeuvre de saint Augustin (Paris: tudes Augustiniennes,
1983), 49-62.
55 The Grace of Christ and Original Sin II, 33, 38.
56 Marriage and Desire II, 3, 7; II, 19, 34.
57 See, for example, Marriage and Desire II, 7, 17.
58 Letter 6*, 8; translated by David G. Hunter, Marriage in the Early Church (Minneapolis:
Fortress Press, 1992) 126-127.
59 Letter 6*, 7; tr. Hunter, 125
26
27

Marriage and Virginity


THE EXCELLENCE OF MARRIAGE
28
29
Introduction
The Excellence of Marriage dates from around the year 401. In his Revisions Augustine says
that he wrote it in response to the controversy surrounding the monk Jovinian:1

31

The heresy of Jovinian, by equating the merit of consecrated virgins and conjugal continence,
was so influential in the city of Rome that even some nuns, about whose incontinence there
had been no suspicion heretofore, were precipitated into marriage, it was said, especially by
the following argument: he kept urging them saying: Are you, then, better than Sarah, better
than Susanna or Anna? and by mentioning other women, highly praised according to the
testimony of Holy Scripture, to whom they could not think themselves superior or even equal.
In this way, too, he shattered the holy celibacy of holy men by reminding them of and
comparing them with fathers and husbands.
Despite condemnations by a Roman synod called by Pope Siricius (about 393) and another at
Milan under Ambrose, the teachings of Jovinian continued to spread. The followers of
Jovinian, according to Augustine, boasted that Jovinian could not be answered by praising
marriage, but only by censuring it. For this reason, Augustine says, he composed The
Excellence of Marriage.2
Jovinian was one of many Christians in the later fourth century who expressed reservations
about the tide of asceticism which was then sweeping through the Roman world. Although
Jovinian himself was a monk committed to the celibate life, he regarded the notion that
celibacy was superior to marriage as implying an unduly negative (even Manichean) view
of sexuality. Jovinian was also concerned about the way in which asceticism was creating
divisions within the Church. Be not proud, Jovinian warned consecrated virgins. You and
your married sisters are members of the same Church.3 All baptized Christians, he argued,
share equally in the holiness of the Church, the bride of Christ. Therefore, distinctions in
merit based on celibacy, fasting or other forms of asceticism are irrelevant in determining a
Christian's ultimate holiness.4
Augustine's reference to previous, unsuccessful attempts to refute Jovinian is a thinly veiled
allusion to the notorious treatise of Jerome, Against Jovinian. Although Jerome had left Rome
for Bethlehem sometime before Jovinian's activity there, he had received copies of Jovinian's
writings from Roman friends.5 Jerome's response to Jovinian, however, was so excessively
negative in its rhetoric that it was widely regarded as an attack on marriage. Even Jerome's
friends at Rome were embarrassed: the aristocrat Pammachius, who, according to
30

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Jerome, had been instrumental in the condemnation of Jovinian, tried to withdraw copies of
Against Jovinian from circulation.6 Another friend, the priest Domnio, sent excerpts of the
most offensive passages of Against Jovinian to Jerome demanding clarification. Domnio also
told Jerome that there were Christians at Rome, who were deeply sympathetic to the ascetic
life and opposed to Jovinian's ideas, but who nonetheless found Jerome's treatise dangerously
close to a Manichean rejection of marriage.7
Augustine's treatise, The Excellence of Marriage, is an attempt to steer a middle course
between Jovinian's view that celibacy and marriage are equally holy states of life and Jerome's
denigration of marriage. Against Jovinian, Augustine argues that in the Christian era celibacy
is now the way to spiritual perfection and superior to the married life.8 Against Jerome,
however, and against those heretics such as the Manichees, who regarded sex and marriage as
something evil, Augustine clearly delineates a variety of goods in Christian marriage. In
The Excellence of Marriage Augustine articulated the idea of the three goods of marriage that
was to become classic in Catholic moral theology: offspring (proles), mutual fidelity (fides),
and the sacramental bond (sacramentum).
The original and primary good of marriage, according to Augustine, is the procreation of
children. Although at the time of writing The Excellence of Marriage Augustine had not yet
made up his mind on the question of how the human race might have reproduced at the very
beginning of creation (that is, before the sin of Adam and Eve), he was convinced that in that
condition of being born and dying with which we are acquainted, and in which we were
created, the union of man and woman is something of value.9 Marriage is the first natural
bond of human society (1, 1), and the producing of children is the first social union of the
human race (6, 6). Precisely because human nature is social, Augustine argues, God arranged
for human beings to be connected to one another not only as members of the same species,
but also by the bonds of physical kinship (1, 1).
The second good of marriage that Augustine discusses is the mutual fidelity of spouses. In
The Excellence of Marriage fidelity has several dimensions. It includes, of course, the basic
duty of each spouse to abstain from adultery. But fidelity also involves the married person's
responsibility to have sex with his or her partner in order to help the other to refrain from
adultery; this, Augustine argues, is the fidelity commanded by the apostle Paul in 1
Corinthians 7:4 (4, 4). Augustine describes fidelity as a mutual service to relieve each other's

33

weakness, and thereby avoid illicit unions (6, 6). Augustine argues that it is no sin to have
sex with one's partner for this reason, even apart from the intention to procreate. The married
person who seeks sexual relations out of excessive desire (the concupiscence of the flesh)
commits a sin that is forgivable; but fidelity itself, like procreation, is one of the true goods of
marriage (11, 12).
31
The third good of marriage that Augustine discusses is what he calls its sacramentum, that is,
its significance as a sacred sign or symbol. Augustine is among the very first to articulate the
notion of the sacramentality of Christian marriage, which to him means its character as a
union that is both monogamous and indissoluble until the death of one of the spouses (15, 17).
For Augustine the sacramentality of marriage is directly linked to its role in the history of
salvation. In the Old Testament marriages were neither monogamous nor indissoluble, and yet
they possessed their own unique kind of sacramentality; their very multiplicity, Augustine
suggests, sacramentally signified the many churches that would one day be subject to Christ.
But now, after the coming of Christ, Christian marriage bears a different sacrament, that is,
a different sacred meaning: Therefore, just as the sacrament of polygamous marriages of that
age was a symbol of the plurality of people who would be subject to God in all nations of the
earth, so too the sacrament of monogamous marriage of our time is a symbol that in the future
we shall all be united and subject to God in the one heavenly city (18, 21).
The question of the sacramentality of marriage in different phases of salvation history is
directly linked to another topic which Augustine discusses extensively in The Excellence of
Marriage, namely the sexual mores of the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Old Testament.
Jovinian had used the example of the holy married men and women of the Old Testament to
argue on behalf of the sanctity of marriage. Augustine shared Jovinian's positive estimation of
the Hebrew matriarchs and patriarchs; indeed, in his earlier writings against the Manichees
Augustine had defended the goodness of their sexual activity (even their polygamy) in the
face of Manichean criticism.10 But against Jovinian Augustine had to show that marriage
and procreation no longer have the same significance or value for Christians as they once did
for the Old Testament saints. He does so by locating the different marriages in different
phases of salvation history.

34

The Old Testament saints lived at a time when procreation was still necessary in order to
produce the human line of descent that would lead to Christ. Although they were quite
capable of celibacy, Augustine argues, the patriarchs and matriarchs married and produced
children out of piety in obedience to God's command (16, 18; see 22, 27). But in the present
era of history, since procreation is no longer necessary, the only reason to have children is out
of a lack of self-control (17, 19). For this reason, according to Augustine, marriages among
Christians can never attain the same moral value as the marriages of the Old Testament saints.
Nevertheless, Augustine insists, Christians who practice celibacy, while they are embracing a
greater good than married persons, are not necessarily superior, as individuals, to married
persons. A virgin who lacks the more important virtue of obedience, for example, will be
inferior to an obedient married woman (23, 30). Celibate Christians must also remember that
it may take greater virtue to make use of the goods of the world without becoming attached to
them, than not
32
to use them at all. In this respect, the Old Testament saints, such as Abraham, who married
and had children, but who were ready to give up their children at God's command, were
superior to many Christians who abstain from marriage altogether (23, 31).
It is clear from such arguments that Augustine, like Jovinian, was concerned about the
problem of ascetic elitism in the Church. To be sure, Augustine rejected Jovinian's view that
no distinction could be made between the holiness of marriage and that of celibacy; he
steadfastly maintained the superiority of the celibate life. Nevertheless, Augustine's arguments
in The Excellence of Marriage do much to undercut the grounds on which celibate Christians
could claim to be superior to married ones. Moreover, against Jerome and any others whose
enthusiasm for celibacy tended to degrade the married life, Augustine's development of the
three-fold good of marriageoffspring, fidelity, and sacramentwas to establish ever more
securely in the Christian tradition the value and sanctity of Christian marriage.
Notes
1 Revisions II, 22 (48), 1: CCL 57, 107-108.
2 Ibid.

35

3 Cited in Jerome, Against Jovinian I, 5: PL 23, 228.


4 For a recent attempt to understand the perspective of Jovinian, see David G. Hunter,
Resistance to the Virginal Ideal in Late-Fourth-Century Rome, Theological Studies 48
(1987) 45-64; and Helvidius, Jovinian, and the Virginity of Mary in Late Fourth-Century
Rome, Journal of Early Christian Studies 1 (1993) 47-71.
5 Against Jovinian II, 1.
6 Jerome, Letter 48, 2.
7 Jerome, Letter 50, 2. One of these anonymous opponents of both Jovinian and Jerome may
have been the young monk Pelagius. See the discussion in B.R. Rees, Pelagius. A Reluctant
Heretic (Rochester: The Boydell Press, 1988), 4-5.
8 The Excellence of Marriage 17, 19; 22, 2723, 31.
9 The Excellence of Marriage 3, 3. The question of the original nature of procreation and the
original meaning of God's command to increase and multiply is raised by Augustine in 2, 2,
but left unanswered. On the significance of this question for Augustine's developing theology
of marriage, see the General Introduction, 20-21.
10 See General Introduction, 11-13.
33
The Excellence of Marriage
Marriage: The First Bond of Society
1, 1. Every human being is part of the human race, and human nature is a social entity, and
has naturally the great benefit and power of friendship. For this reason God wished to produce
all persons out of one, so that they would be held together in their social relationships not only
by similarity of race, but also by the bond of kinship. The first natural bond of human society,
therefore, is that of husband and wife.1 God did not create them as separate individuals and
bring them together as persons of a different race, but he created one from the other, making

36

the side, from which the woman was taken and formed,2 a sign of the strength of their union.
For those who walk together, and look ahead together to where they are walking, do so at
each other's side. The result is the bonding of society in its children, and this is the one
honorable fruit, not of the union of husband and wife, but of their sexual conjunction. For
even without that kind of intimacy, there could have been between the two sexes a certain
relationship of friendship and kinship where one is in charge and the other compliant.
Human Procreation Before the Fall
2, 2. There is no need at present for us to investigate, and offer a definite opinion on the
question, how could there have been descendants of the first human beings, if they had not
sinned? God had blessed them with the words, Increase and multiply and fill the earth (Gn
1:28), but it was by sinning that their bodies incurred mortality, and sexual union is possible
only for mortal bodies. Many different opinions have been held on this topic; and if we had to
consider which of them accords best with the truth of the divine scriptures, it would be a task
requiring long drawn-out discussion.3 Was it then that if they had not sinned, they were
destined to have children in some other way, without physical union, as a favor from the allpowerful Creator? He was able to produce the first human beings without parents, and was
able to form Christ's flesh in the womb of a virgin, and (to address myself even to the
unbelievers) he was able to give offspring to the bees without any sexual union. Or is it that in
that passage many things were said in a mystical and figurative sense, and the text, Fill the
earth and rule over it (Gn 1:28), has to be understood differently, in such a way, namely, that it
would be fulfilled by there being abundance and perfection of life and power, and so the
increase and multiplication of the words, Increase and multiply, is also
34
understood in terms of development of mind and resources of spiritual strength, as in the
words of the psalm, You will make me grow strong in my soul (Ps 138:3)?4 That
continuation by having descendants would be accorded to mankind only after sin brought it
about that there would be the passing away by death. Or is it that the body made for those
persons was at first a material one, so that as the reward for obedience it would later become
spiritual in order to acquire immortality without first dying? Death came into the world
through the devil's hatred (Wis 2:24), and it became the punishment for sin. The body would
become spiritual, however, through that change which the apostle refers to when he says:
Then those of us who are still living will be taken up in the clouds together with them, to meet

37

Christ in the sky (1 Thes 4:17). So our understanding would be that the bodies of the first
parents both were mortal in their original state and yet were not going to die unless they
committed sin, as God had warned. It would be the same as if an injury was threatened, since
the body was susceptible to injury, but this would not happen, unless something was done that
God had forbidden. In this way, therefore, even through the sexual union of bodies like that
there could be offspring. They would grow to a certain stage, but they would not approach or
reach old age, nor death either, until the earth was filled by that multiplying spoken of in the
blessing. For, if God maintained the garments of the Israelites in their original condition
without any deterioration for forty years,5 how much more readily would he maintain the
bodies of those who obeyed his commands in a very happy and stable state, until they were
changed into a better one not by the person's death, whereby the body is separated from the
soul, but by a blessed transformation from mortality to immortality, from animal nature to
spiritual!
Various Benefits of Marriage
3. To investigate and discuss which of these opinions is the true one, or whether even one or
more other opinions can be carved out of those words, would take a long time.
3. We can say now that in that condition of being born and dying with which we are
acquainted, and in which we were created, the union of man and woman is something of
value. The divine Scripture is so much in favor of this union that it is not lawful for a woman
put aside by her husband to marry another as long as the husband lives, nor for a man put
aside by his wife to take another, unless the woman who has separated from him has died. As
even in the Gospel the Lord confirmed that marriage is something of value, not only because
he forbade divorce except for the reason of adultery,6 but also because he attended a
wedding as a guest,7 so with good reason one asks in what lies its value.8 It seems to me to
be not only because of the procreation of children, but also because of the natural sociability
that exists between the different sexes. Otherwise in the elderly it
35
would no longer be called marriage, especially if they had lost their children or had not had
any. As it is, however, in a good marriage, even with older people, although the passion of
youth between man and woman has waned, the relationship of love between husband and wife
continues strong, and the better persons they are, the earlier they begin by mutual consent to

38

abstain from carnal union. So what happens is not that later on, by necessity, they are not able
to do what they would like to do, but that beforehand, to their credit, they choose not to do
what they are able to do. If, therefore, they are faithful to the duty of honor and respect of one
sex for the other, even though their bodies are feeble and deathlike, the chastity of minds
properly joined in marriage is so much more honorable for being more genuine, so much
more secure for being more fully accepted.
Marriages also have the benefit that sensual or youthful incontinence, even though it is wrong,
is redirected to the honorable purpose of having children, and so out of the evil of lust sexual
union in marriage achieves something good. Furthermore, parental feeling brings about a
moderation in sensual desire, since it is held back and in a certain way burns more modestly.
For a certain seriousness attaches to the ardor of the pleasure, when in the act whereby man
and woman come together with each other, they have the thought of being father and mother.
The Mutual Fidelity of Spouses
4, 4. Furthermore, in performing their duty to each other, even if this is claimed somewhat
excessively and without due restraint, husband and wife also have a duty of fidelity to each
other. The apostle considered this duty of fidelity to be so binding that he spoke of it as a
power of authority, when he said: The wife does not have authority over her own body, but
her husband does; and likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but
his wife does (1 Cor 7:4). A breach of this duty of fidelity is called adultery, when, either
because of the urge of one's own sensuality or by consenting to the other person's, one
violates the marriage contract by sleeping with someone else. In this way there is a betrayal of
trust, and even in base material matters trust is a spiritual good of great value, and so it
certainly should be put ahead of bodily well-being, including even our material life. Although
a tiny straw is almost nothing in comparison with a large weight of gold, the trust that is
dutifully respected in a transaction about the straw, just as in one about the gold, is not thereby
a smaller thing because it is respected in relation to a smaller matter.9
When, however, trust is invoked for the purpose of committing sin, it is a wonder it is called
trust. Whatever its nature, however, a sin is worse if it is committed in breach of trust. An
exception is when trust is forsaken in order to return to true and legitimate trust, that is, in
order to rectify bad will and undo the sin.

39

36
An example would be the case of someone who is unable to rob a person by himself, but finds
a companion in wickedness and makes an agreement for them to do it together and share the
booty, and then, when the crime has been committed, goes off by himself with all of it. The
other is certainly upset, and complains that his trust has been betrayed. Even while
complaining, however, he ought to be thinking rather that if he feels how unfair it is that his
trust was betrayed in a sinful association, then for life to be good human society should not
have been betrayed in its trust that people would not be robbed. To be sure, the other one, who
was untrustworthy on both counts, is a worse sinner. On the other hand, if he had regretted the
wrong he had done, and consequently had refused to share the plunder with his accomplice in
order to give it back to the person from whom it was stolen, then not even the untrustworthy
one would call him untrustworthy. In the same way, if a woman violates conjugal fidelity but
is faithful to the adulterer, she is certainly blameworthy; but if she is not even faithful to the
adulterer, she is worse. If then she repents of her shameful conduct, and terminates the
adulterous agreement and arrangement and returns to conjugal chastity, I should be surprised
if even the adulterer thinks she is unfaithful.
What Constitutes a True Marriage?
5, 5. It is often asked whether one should call it a marriage when a man and woman, neither of
whom is married to anyone else, form a union solely for the purpose of giving in to their
desires by sleeping together, and not for the purpose of having children, though with the
understanding that neither of them will sleep with anyone else. It is not absurd perhaps to call
this a marriage, provided they maintain the arrangement until the death of one or other of
them, and provided they do not avoid having children either by being unwilling to have
children or even by doing something wrong to prevent the birth of children. On the other
hand, if one, or both, of these conditions is lacking, I do not see how we can call these
marriages. If a man makes use of a woman for a time, until he finds someone else more suited
to his wealth and social standing to take as his partner, that state of mind makes him an
adulterer, not with regard to the woman he is on the lookout for but with regard to the one he
is sleeping with without being married to her.10 As a consequence, if the woman is aware of
this and still consents to it, then she too is unchaste in her relationship with the man with
whom she is not united in marriage. Nevertheless, if she is faithful to him, and when he takes
a wife she does not also think about marrying, but sets herself entirely against such a course

40

of action, then I would not dare to call her an adulteress, easy enough though it might be to do
so. Yet who would say that she does not sin, since she knows she is involved with a man who
is not her husband? Just the same, if for her part all she wants from that union is to have
children, and whatever she puts
37
up with over and above what serves
38
the purpose of having children she puts up with unwillingly, she is certainly to be preferred to
many married women. Although these are not adulteresses, they often constrain their
husbands to perform their marital duty, even when they wish to abstain, not out of desire to
have children but making unreasonable use of their rights because of passion. In their
marriages, just the same, there is at least the good feature that they are married. It was for this
reason that they married, so that by being confined to the lawful bond sensuality might not
wander around ugly and degenerate.11 In itself sensuality has the unbridled weakness of the
flesh, but from marriage it has the permanent union of fidelity; in itself it leads to uncontrolled
intercourse, but from marriage it has the restraint of chaste child-bearing. Although it is a
shameful thing to intend to make use of one's husband for passion, it is proper nevertheless to
want to have union only with one's husband and to have children only by one's husband.
Marriage as a Remedy for Sensuality
6. In the same way there are men who are so lacking in self-control that they do not spare
their wives even when they are pregnant. Whatever married people do between themselves
that is impure or shameful or sordid, therefore, is a sin of the persons, not the fault of
marriage.
6. When the performance of the marriage duty is insisted on unreasonably, so that they have
intercourse even when it is not for the purpose of having children, the apostle allows this as
something that can be excused, though it is not something he lays down as a command.12
So, even if a perverted morality motivates them to have intercourse like that, marriage still
saves them from adultery or fornication. It is not that conduct of that kind is accepted because
of marriage, but it is forgiven because of marriage. Married people, therefore, not only owe
each other fidelity in relation to sexual union for the sake of having children, which in this
mortal state is the human race's first social union, but also in a certain way they owe each

41

other a mutual service to relieve each other's weakness, and thereby avoid illicit unions. As a
result even if one of them favors permanent abstinence, this is not possible unless the other
agrees to it. It is for this reason that the wife does not have authority over her own body, but
the husband does; and likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but
the wife does (1 Cor 7:4), so that they will not refuse each other what the husband looks for
from the marriage or the wife looks for from the husband, even when it is not for the sake of
having children but because of weakness and lack of self-control. In this way, with Satan
tempting them, they will not lapse into depraved conduct deserving of damnation because of
the lack of restraint of one or other or both of them.13 Marital intercourse for the sake of
procreating is not sinful. When it is for the purpose of satisfying sensuality, but still with one's
spouse, because there is marital fidelity it is a venial sin. Adultery or fornication, however, is a
mortal sin.14 For this reason abstinence from all sexual union is better even than marital
intercourse performed for the sake of procreating.
The Indissolubility of Marriage
7. While complete abstinence is more meritorious, performing one's conjugal duty is not
sinful, although demanding it more than is necessary for procreation is a venial sin, whereas
committing fornication or adultery is a punishable offense. Consequently, while seeking to do
something that brings greater honor to itself, conjugal love should be careful not to do
anything that causes the spouse to incur damnation. Anyone who puts his wife aside, except in
the case of adultery, causes her to commit adultery (Mt 5:32). Entering into the marriage
contract is a matter of such sacredness that it is not annulled by that separation. While the man
lives, the woman he has left commits adultery if she marries someone else, and he who left
her is the cause of that wrongdoing.
7. Although it is lawful to put aside a wife who commits adultery, I should be surprised if this
meant it is also lawful to take another wife. On this point sacred scripture raises a difficult
problem, as the apostle says that it is the Lord's command that a woman should not leave her
husband, but if she does leave him, she should either remain unmarried or else be reconciled
to her husband.15 At the same time she should not go away and remain unmarried unless it
is to separate from a husband who has committed adultery, lest by leaving a husband who has
not committed adultery she cause him to commit adultery. Perhaps, however, she can act
justly by being reconciled with her husband, either by putting up with him, if she herself is

42

unable to practice abstinence, or because he has reformed. Nevertheless, I do not see how a
man can be allowed to marry someone else, if he leaves a wife who has committed adultery,
while a woman is not allowed to marry someone else, if she leaves a husband who has
committed adultery. If this is so, then that bond of association between spouses is so strong
that although it is tied for the purpose of having children, it is not untied for the same purpose
of having children.16
It could happen that a man divorced a wife who was sterile to marry one with whom he would
have children, but this is not allowed. In our own times, as well as by Roman custom, it is not
even allowed to take a second wife, so as to have more than one wife living at the same time.
No doubt there could be more children born, if an adulterer or adulteress married someone
else after being divorced. But if that is not allowed, as seems to be what God commands, is
there anyone who does not wonder what is the purpose of having the marriage bond so
inflexible? I do not think it could have been so strong at all, except that
39
something from this weak mortal condition of mankind was being used as a symbol of
something greater.17 If people abandon it or desire to abandon it, it remains intact as a
symbol calling for them to be punished. That marital partnership is not destroyed by the
intrusion of divorce, so that even when they are separated they are still each other's husband
and wife, and they commit adultery with anyone with whom they have union even after they
have been divorced, whether it is the wife with another man or the husband with another
woman. This is the status of marriage, however, only in the city of our God, on his holy
mountain (Ps 48:1).18
Marriage Is Not Merely the Lesser of Two Evils
8. For the rest, who is there who is not aware that the law of the Gentiles is different? There,
when there has been a divorce, both the woman and the man marry anyone they choose
without being liable for any punishment from society. Moses seems to have allowed
something similar to this custom with the bill of divorce, because of the Israelites'
stubbornness.19 In this case, however, disapproval of divorce is more in evidence than
approval of it.

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8. Marriage therefore is honorable and the marriage bed pure (Heb 13:4). We do not call it
good merely because it is good in comparison with fornication. In that case they would be two
evils, one worse than the other. Also fornication would be good because adultery is worse; for
violating another's marriage is worse than being with a mistress. Adultery would be good
because incest is worse, as sleeping with one's mother is worse than sleeping with someone
else's wife. Until we reach what in the apostle's words is abominable even to mention (Eph
5:12), everything would be good in comparison with things that are worse. Who, however, has
any doubt that this is an error? Therefore marriage and fornication are not two evils, one
worse than the other, but marriage and abstinence are two good things, one better than the
other. In the same way health and sickness in this life are not two evils, one worse than the
other; but health and immortality are two good things, one better than the other. Likewise
knowledge and illusion are not two evils, with illusion worse; but knowledge and love are two
good things, with love better. For knowledge will end, the apostle says, although at present
there is need for it; but love will never fail (1 Cor 13:8).
So too that procreation of mortal beings, which is the reason why there are marriages, will be
brought to an end; but the freedom from sexual union is both an angelic practice now and will
last for eternity. Just as the meals of good people are better than the fasts of the sacrilegious,
so too the marriages of the faithful are superior to the virginity of irreligious women. In the
first case, it is not that dining is preferred to fasting, but being good is preferred to being
sacrilegious; and in the second case it is not that marriage is preferred to virginity, but faith is
preferred to being irreligious. Good people eat when it is necessary, in order to
40
act as good masters providing what is right and proper for the bodies which are their slaves;
but sacrilegious persons fast to serve the devils. Similarly, women of faith marry for the
purpose of having chaste sexual union with their husbands, but unbelievers are virgins for the
purpose of being unfaithful to the true God.
Therefore, just as what Martha did was good when she was busy attending to the saints, but
what her sister Mary did, sitting at the Lord's feet and listening to his words (Lk 10:39), was
better, so too we praise the excellence of Susanna in her married chastity,20 but value more
highly the excellence of the widow Anna,21 and even more that of the virgin Mary.22
Those who attended to the needs of Christ and his disciples, and did so out of their own
resources, did something good, but those who gave up all their possessions, in order to follow

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that Lord without that encumbrance, did something better. With each of the two good ways of
acting, both in the latter case and in the case of Martha and Mary, the one that is better is not
possible without forgoing or abandoning the other. Accordingly, one has to understand that
marriage is not to be considered bad because one cannot have the chastity of widowhood or
virginal integrity without forgoing it. In the same way, what Martha did was not bad because
her sister could do what was better only by refraining from doing the same. Otherwise,
welcoming a good person or a prophet into one's home would be bad, because, in order to do
what is better, someone who wants to be perfect in following Christ ought not to have a
home.23
Marriage Is a Good Necessary for the Sake of Other Goods
9, 9. Undoubtedly we should take note that God gives us some benefits that are to be sought
after for their own sake, such as wisdom, health and friendship, and others that are necessary
for the sake of something else, such as learning, food, drink, marriage and sleeping together.
Some of these, such as learning, are necessary for wisdom; others, such as food, drink and
sleep, are necessary for health; others, such as marriage and sleeping together, are necessary
for friendship. The latter also contribute to the continuation of the human race, in which
loving relationships are of great benefit. Anyone, therefore, who makes use of these benefits,
the ones necessary for the sake of something else, for purposes other than those they were
established for, commits a sin, sometimes a venial sin, sometimes a mortal sin. On the other
hand, whoever makes use of them for the purpose for which they were bestowed does well.
But if someone who has no need for them does not make any use of them, he or she does
better. Hence we do well to want good things when we have need of them; but we do better
not wanting them than wanting them, because we are better off when we do not find them
necessary.
41
So too marriage is good, because it is good to bear children and be the mother of a family;24
but not marrying is better because to have no need of this task is better even for human
society. The condition of the human race is already such that with others (that is, those who do
not practice abstinence) not only active in marriage but also indulging their sensuality in illicit
love-making, and the good Creator bringing good out of their evil, there is no shortage of
offspring or lack of heirs in abundance, and so holy friendships may be fostered. What this

45

means is that in the earliest ages of the human race, especially because of the need to
propagate the people of God, through whom the Prince and Savior of all peoples would be
proclaimed and be born, holy persons had a duty to make use of that benefit of marriage that
is not desirable for its own sake but necessary on account of something else. Now, however,
since among all peoples everywhere there is an abundant provision of the spiritual kinship
required for creating a true and holy society, even those who desire to marry solely for the
sake of having children should be advised to avail themselves rather of the greater benefit of
abstinence.
Marriage Is for Those Who Lack Self-Control
10, 10. But I know what they are muttering: What if everyone chose to abstain from all
sexual union, they say, how would the human race survive? Would that everyone did want
this, provided it is based on a love that comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and
sincere faith (1 Tm 1:5)! Then the city of God would reach fulfillment much sooner and the
end of the world would come more quickly. What else, clearly, was the apostle advising, when
speaking about this matter he said, I should like everyone to be like me (1 Cor 7:7)? Or when
in the same place he said: I say this to you, my brothers and sisters: The time is short; it
remains only for those who have wives to be as if they do not have them, and those who are in
sorrow to be as if they were not in sorrow, and those who rejoice to be as if they were not
rejoicing, and those who buy things to be as if they were not buying things, and those who use
this world to be as if they did not use it; for this world in its present form is passing away. I do
not want you be worried about anything.
Then he adds: A man who does not have a wife thinks about what concerns the Lord, how to
please the Lord. One who is married, however, thinks about the affairs of the world, and how
to please his wife. A woman too who is unmarried and a virgin is set apart. One who is not
married is concerned with what has to do with the Lord, to be holy both in body and mind; but
one who is married is concerned about the affairs of the world and how to please her husband
(1 Cor 7:29-34).
42

46

It seems to me, therefore, that at the present time the only ones who should marry are those
who are unable to be continent, in accordance with that advice of the same apostle: If they are
unable to be continent, they should marry; for it is better to marry than to burn (1 Cor 7:9).
11. In their case marriage is not a sin, although if it were chosen as an alternative to
fornication, it would be less of a sin than the fornication, but it would still be a sin. Now,
however, what are we to say in the face of the clear words of the apostle? He says, Let him do
as he chooses; if he marries, he does not commit a sin (1 Cor 7:36), and, If you have married,
you have not committed a sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not commit a sin (1 Cor 7:28).
It clearly follows from this that it is wrong to have any doubt about the sinlessness of
marriage. Therefore, it is not marriage that the apostle allows as excusable; for who fails to
see the absurdity of saying that persons are excused when they have not done anything
wrong? Rather, what he allows as excusable is sexual intercourse that occurs because of a lack
of self-control, not solely for the purpose of having children and sometimes not for the
purpose of having children at all. Marriage does not make this happen, but it wins forgiveness
for it. It must not be so excessive that it encroaches on time that should be set aside for
prayer,25 and it must not degenerate into the unnatural practice, about which the apostle
could not remain silent, when he spoke about the depraved conduct of impure and immoral
persons.26 Sexual union that is necessary for the purpose of having children is blameless,
and it alone is part of marriage. If it goes beyond that necessity, it is no longer ruled by reason
but by sensuality. Nevertheless, it is proper for married persons to accord this to their spouses,
so that the spouses will not commit a mortal sin of adultery, though it is not proper to require
it for themselves. If they are both overcome by this kind of sensuality, clearly they are not
doing something that is part of marriage. Nevertheless, if in their intimacy they value what is
honorable more than what is dishonorable, that is to say, what is part of marriage rather than
what is not part of marriage, then on the authority of the apostle this is allowed to them as
something excusable. Marriage does not encourage this fault, but it pleads for it. They must
not turn away God's mercy, either by failing to abstain on certain days in order to be free for
prayer and to support their prayers with this abstinence in the same way as one does by
fasting, or by transforming the natural practice into that unnatural practice, which is even
more deserving of damnation when it is done with one's spouse.
Unnatural Sexual Relations and Marital Holiness

47

11, 12. Indeed when that natural practice slips beyond the bounds of the marriage contract,
that is, beyond what is needed for procreation, with a wife it is a venial sin, but with a
mistress it is a mortal sin. On the other hand, that unnatural
43
practice is deplorable when it takes place with a mistress, but more deplorable when it takes
place with one's wife. So important is the Creator's plan and the order in creation, that even
when moderation is exceeded with things that are allowed to be done, this is far more
acceptable than even a single or isolated deviation into things that are not allowed.
Consequently, one has to put up with a spouse's lack of moderation in the thing that is
allowed, lest sensuality break out to do something that is not allowed. Hence too, however
frequently a man is with his wife, he sins far less than by committing adultery even though
only on a very rare occasion. When, however, a man wants to use a part of the woman's body
that was not given for this purpose, the wife is more shameful if she allows this to be done to
herself than if she allows it to be done to some other woman. What is honorable in marriage,
therefore, is chastity in having children and fidelity in performing the conjugal duty. This is
what marriage is for, and this is what the apostle defends against every charge, when he says,
If you have married, you have not committed a sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not
commit a sin (1 Cor 7:28), and, Let him do as he chooses; if he marries, he does not commit a
sin (1 Cor 7:36). For the reasons already mentioned, however, some lack of moderation in
demanding the performance of the conjugal duty, by either partner, is allowed to married
persons as something excusable.
13. When, therefore, he says, A woman who is not married is concerned with what has to do
with the Lord, in order to be holy both in body and mind (1 Cor 7:34), we should not
understand from this that a chaste Christian wife does not have a holy body. It has been said
indeed to all the faithful, Do you not know that your bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit
within you, whom you have received from God? (1 Cor 6:19). Accordingly the bodies of
married persons who are faithful to each other and to the Lord are also holy. The holiness of
anyone like that is not hindered by having a husband or wife who does not have the faith. On
the contrary, the holiness of the wife benefits the husband who does not have the faith, or the
holiness of the husband benefits the wife who does not have the faith, as the same apostle
testifies, when he says, An unbelieving husband is made holy in his wife, and an unbelieving
wife is made holy in the husband (1 Cor 7:14). Hence that other text is referring to the greater
holiness of women who are not married in comparison with the holiness of those who are

48

married. It also deserves a greater reward because of its superior excellence in being
concerned only about how to please the Lord. It is not that a woman of faith who maintains
conjugal chastity does not think about how to please the Lord, but she certainly does it less,
because she also thinks about the affairs of the world and how to please her husband. He
wanted to say this about married women, because to a certain extent marriage can require
them to be concerned about worldly affairs and how to please their husbands.
44
A Married Woman Entirely Devoted to God Is Rare
12, 14. It is not unreasonable to wonder whether he said this about all married women, or
about a type so numerous that it can almost be thought to be all of them. What he said about
the unmarried ones, A woman who is not married is concerned with what has to do with the
Lord, in order to be holy both in body and mind (1 Cor 7:34), does not apply to all unmarried
women, since there are certain dead widows who live a life of pleasure.27 In any case, as
far as concerns the distinction and essential characteristics, as it were, of unmarried and
married women, just as there is the extremely despicable woman who holds back from
marriage, which is something permitted, but does not hold back from the pleasures of
sensuality or pride or curiosity or gossiping, so too there is the rare married woman who even
in complying with the demands of marriage thinks only of how to please God, and does not
adorn herself with plaits in her hair or with gold and pearls and expensive clothes, but in the
manner appropriate for women who show their devotion by their good conduct (1 Tm 2:9-10).
The apostle Peter also describes and commends this kind of marriage, saying, In the same way
women should be obedient to their husbands, so that someone who does not believe the word
can be won by the way the woman acts without anything being said, by observing your
respectful and chaste way of acting. So they will not be the ones with the external adornment
of curls in their hair, or who wear gold or fashionable clothes, but the kind of person who
keeps herself hidden within her own heart with the stability of a uniformly tranquil and
humble soul, which is true riches even in God's eyes. This was the way some holy women,
who hoped in the Lord, adorned themselves, and were obedient to their husbands, as Sarah
was obedient to Abraham and called him her Lord. By doing good and not worrying about
trivial things you are her daughters. Likewise you husbands must live with your wives in
peace and chastity, and, while they are physically weaker and subordinate, give them the
respect due to coheirs of grace, and see that your prayers do not suffer any hindrance (1 Pt

49

3:1-7). So then, is it true that marriages like this are not concerned about what has to do with
the Lord, how to please the Lord? Who could deny, though, that they are an extremely rare
occurrence? Moreover, even in these rare cases almost always people like this did not marry
intending to be like this, but they became like this after they were already married.
The Old Testament Saints Married Out of Duty
13, 15. In our time when Christians who are free from the bond of marriage and strong
enough to abstain from all sexual union perceive that, as it was written, it is now not the time
for embracing, but the time for refraining from all embracing (Eccl 3:5), and it is no longer
required as a duty to human society, who
45
among them would not choose to keep the celibate state of virginity or widowhood rather than
endure the tribulation of the flesh that is inseparable from marriage (to say nothing of other
things not mentioned by the apostle)? When, however, under the influence of passion they
marry, if later they overcome this, they do not then have the freedom to dissolve the bond, in
the way they had freedom not to enter into it. They then become the kind of persons that
marriage formally proclaims them to be. Either they climb to a higher level of sanctity by
mutual consent, or if they are not both like that, the one who is will grant what the other has a
right to, but will not ask for it, all the time maintaining a chaste and devout harmony. On the
other hand, in the times when the mystery of our salvation was still hidden under the veil of
prophetic symbols, even those who were like that before marriage entered into marriage
because of the duty to continue the race. They did not do this under the domination of lust, but
in response to their sense of duty. If they had been offered the same alternative as is offered
now with the revelation of the New Testament, when the Lord says, Let anyone who is able to
accept this accept it (Mt 19:12), they would have accepted it even with joy.
No one will doubt this who reads with care and attention how they treated their wives. Even
when one man was allowed to have several wives, they behaved toward them with greater
chastity than is shown now toward one wife by any of those others, when we see what the
apostle allows them as something excusable.28 They had those wives because of their task
of having children, not because of unhealthy passion like the people who do not know God (1
Thes 4:5). This is such a big thing that many people today find it easier to abstain completely
from sexual union for their whole lives than to observe the restriction of not having

50

intercourse except for the sake of having offspring, if they marry. Certainly we have many
brothers and sisters, and partners in the heavenly inheritance, persons indeed of both sexes,
who practice celibacy, either after the experience of marriage or while still untouched by any
such relationship. Indeed there is a very large number of such people. Yet in private
conversations, either with married persons or those who have been married, have we ever
heard any people give any indication that they never have relations with their wives except
with the hope of conceiving? What the apostles command married people to do, therefore, is
essential for marriage; but what they allow as something excusable, or what hinders prayer, is
not something marriage demands, but something it puts up with.
Desire for Children Does Not Legitimate Concubinage
14, 16. As a consequence, if by chanceI do not know whether this can happen, and I am
inclined to think it cannot happenbut if by chance it happens that
46
one takes a concubine for a certain period and seeks only to have children from that
relationship, that union is still not preferable to the marriage of those who behave in that way
that is excusable. It is the nature of marriage that has to be considered, not the nature of the
persons who get married and make wrong use of the marriage. In the same way, if anyone
unfairly and wrongly usurped some land so as to give generously to charity with its produce,
that would not justify the theft; and if another selfish and greedy person occupies land as a
family estate or by legitimate acquisition, this is no reason to blame the legal regulation that
makes him the legitimate owner. Similarly, the illegitimacy of a tyrannical government will
not become praiseworthy, because a tyrant treats the subject people with regal gentleness, nor
the institution of royalty become detestable, because a king rages with tyrannical cruelty.
Choosing to use unjust power justly is one thing; using just power unjustly is another. So too
if temporary concubines have intercourse for the sake of having children, they do not thereby
make their concubinage right; and married women who are lascivious with their husbands do
not make the institution of marriage responsible for their guilt.
17. It is quite evident, however, that between persons in an improper union a marriage can
come about if later on they enter into a proper commitment.
Sterility Does Not Dissolve a Marriage

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15. In the city of our God, however, where marriage is sealed by the first act of intercourse
between the two persons, once marriage has been entered into it cannot be dissolved by any
means except by the death of one of them. The marriage bond remains, even if because of
evident infertility no children result, despite the fact that this was the reason for entering into
the marriage. Although the husband and wife now know that they will not have children, they
are still not allowed to divorce and enter a relationship with someone else, not even for the
purpose of having children. If they do this, they commit adultery with the ones with whom
they have the new relationship, but they themselves remain husband and wife. It is clear that
for the ancient fathers it was not wrong, with their wife's consent, to take another woman in
order to have children from her. The child would belong to both women, to one because of her
physical contribution, and to the other because of her rights and position.29 Whether this is
allowed now, I would not be quick to say. Now there is not the same need for offspring as
there was then. At that time, in order to have a larger number of descendants, even when one's
wife was able to have children, one was allowed to marry others as well, but this is certainly
not allowed now. Making a clear distinction between the different circumstances of the times
has such an effect on whether it is right or wrong to do something that, unless celibacy is
impossible, it is now better not to have even one wife, whereas then even those who would
much more readily have stayed
47
celibate, had not piety demanded otherwise at that time, were blameless in having several
wives. A good and wise person, who already longs to die and be with Christ and takes
pleasure in the prospect of that supreme good,30 no longer takes nourishment because of a
desire to go on living here but out of duty, in order to remain in the body because of the needs
of others. In the same way for holy men at that time the lawful act of intercourse in marriage
was an act of duty, not sensuality.
Procreation an Act of Piety in the Old Testament
16, 18. What food is for the health of a person, sexual union is for the health of the race.
Neither is devoid of pleasure for the senses, and when this is regulated and put to its natural
use under the restraint of moderation there cannot be passion.31 On the other hand, what
forbidden food is in relation to sustaining life, fornication and adultery are in relation to
seeking to have offspring; and what forbidden food is in the case of gluttony, unlawful

52

intercourse is in the case of passion without desire for offspring; and what excessive appetite
for lawful food is for some people, the intercourse that is excusable is for married persons.
Accordingly, just as it is better to die of hunger than to eat food that has been sacrificed to
idols, so too it is better to die without children than to look for descendants by an illicit
union.32 Nevertheless, whatever the circumstances of their birth, if people do not copy the
vices of their parents and give God due worship, they will be honorable and will be saved.
Whatever person it comes from, the human seed is created by God, and while it will go badly
for anyone who uses it badly, it will never itself be bad. Even so, just as the good children of
adulterers do not justify the adulteries, so too the bad children of married persons are not the
fault of marriage. There is no comparison at all between the fathers of New Testament times
who took nourishment because it was their duty, even though they ate it with natural physical
enjoyment, and the pleasure of those who ate the food from sacrifices,33 or those who overindulged even in food that was not forbidden. So too the fathers of the Old Testament had
intercourse because it was their duty, and their natural enjoyment of it was never let go to the
point of becoming irrational or sinful passion, and there is no comparison between this and
the depravity of adultery or married persons' excesses. Children have had to be provided for
our mother Jerusalem, now spiritually and at that time physically, but always from the same
source, love. The deeds of the fathers were different only because the times were different. It
was necessary even for the prophets, who were not carnal persons, to participate in carnal
union, just as it was necessary for the apostles, who were not carnal persons, to eat in a carnal
way.34
48
Marriage Today Is Not Comparable to Marriage in the Past
17, 19. There is no comparison between any of those women to whom it is now said, If they
are unable to be continent, they should marry; for it is better to marry than to burn (1 Cor 7:9),
and the holy women of those times, even the married ones. Among all peoples marriage exists
for the same purpose, namely to have children, and however they turn out, marriage is
instituted for them to be born in a regulated and honorable way. Persons, however, who are
not chaste move up on the ladder of respectability, as it were, by marrying. On the other hand,
those who would undoubtedly have remained celibate, had the demands of those times
allowed it, in a certain sense went down a step in holiness by marrying. For this reason,
although their marriages are equally good as marriages, since for both the purpose is to

53

produce children, there can be no comparison between the two kinds of married person. In
one case, but not in the other, there is that practice that goes beyond what is needed for
procreation, which is accepted as excusable, although it is not what marriage is for. On the
other hand, if there happen to be persons now who do not look for or desire in marriage
anything except what marriage was instituted for, even these are not to be compared with
those people in the past. In their case [that is, in the present] even the desire for children is
carnal in nature, whereas with those others [in the Old Testament] it was spiritual, because it
accorded with the institution as it was at that time. Now no one who is perfect seeks to have
children except in a spiritual way; but then it was also a work of piety to conceive children
physically, because producing children for that people was a sign of what was to come and
was part of the prophetic arrangement.
20. Therefore, although it was right for one man to have several wives at the one time, it was
not also right for a woman to have several husbands, even for the sake of having children, if it
happened that she was able to have children but he was not. By a mysterious law of nature
dominant forces love singularity; but in the case of subordinate ones it is appropriate not only
for each to be subject to one superior, but, if natural or social considerations allow it, even for
several to be subject to the same superior. One slave does not have several masters, though
one master may have several slaves. So we do not read of any holy woman ministering at the
same time to two or more husbands; but we do read of several women ministering to the one
man, when the social condition of the race and the nature of the times made it advisable; and
this was not contrary to the nature of marriage. This is because it is possible for several
women to be pregnant by one man, but it is not possible for the one woman to be pregnant by
several men (this is what gives the principles their strength). In the same way, it is right for
many souls to be subject to the one God, and so souls have only one true God. One soul can
indeed be unfaithful with many false gods, but it cannot be made fruitful with them.
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Monogamous Marriage Is a Sacrament of Unity
18, 21. Out of many souls there will arise a city of people with a single soul and single heart
turned to God.35 This perfection of our unity will come about after this pilgrimage, when no
longer will anyone's thoughts be hidden from another, and no longer will anyone be in conflict
with anyone about anything. For this reason in our age the sacrament of marriage has been

54

restored to being a union between one man and one woman, so much so that no one is allowed
to be ordained a minister of the Church except a man who has had only one wife.36 This was
well understood by those who held the view that even someone who had a second wife while
still a catechumen or a pagan should not be ordained. What is at issue is not sinfulness, but the
sacrament, as all sins are taken away in baptism. He who said, If you have married, you have
not committed a sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not commit a sin (1 Cor 7:28), and Let
him do as he chooses; if he marries, he does not commit a sin (1 Cor 7:36), made it
sufficiently clear that marriage is no sin. Because of the sanctity of the sacrament, however,
just as a woman who has been violated, even while she was a catechumen, cannot be
consecrated as one of God's virgins after she has been baptized, so too the view has been,
without any absurdity, that although he has not committed a sin, someone who has had more
than one wife has lost a certain prerequisite for receiving that sacrament. It is not a
requirement for obtaining the reward of a good life, but a requirement for receiving the seal of
ecclesiastical ordination. For this reason, just as the several wives of the ancient fathers were a
symbol of our future Churches arising from all nations though subject to the one man Christ,
so too the fact that our ecclesiastical leader is a man who has had only one wife symbolizes
the union of all races in submission to the one man Christ. This will be perfected when he
reveals the things hidden in the dark, and makes known the secrets of the heart, and then
everyone will have his praise from God (1 Cor 4:5).
At present, among those who are going to be united in the one person there are open
disagreements, as well as hidden disagreements, even without any failing in charity; but then
there will be none of this at all. Therefore, just as the sacrament of polygamous marriage of
that age was a symbol of the plurality of people who would be subject to God in all nations of
the earth, so too the sacrament of monogamous marriage of our time is a symbol that in the
future we shall all be united and subject to God in the one heavenly city. Accordingly, leaving
a living husband to marry someone else is like serving two or more masters. It was not
allowed then, it is not allowed now, and it never will be allowed. To renounce the one God
and go over to the adulterous superstition of another god is always wrong. Hence our saints
did not do what the Roman Cato is said to have done, handed over his wife during his own
lifetime so that she could fill someone else's house with children.37 In the marriages of our
women the sanctity of the sacrament is worth more than the fecundity of the womb.
50

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22. So then not even those who marry solely for the purpose of having children, which is the
purpose for which marriage was instituted, are to be compared with the fathers. They sought
to have children with a very different attitude, as we see with Abraham. When he was
commanded to sacrifice his son, he would not have spared him, even though he was his only
son whom he had fathered contrary to all hope; and he only lowered his hand when stopped
by the one at whose command he had raised it.38
Old Testament Marriage Possessed a Prophetic Character
19. It remains for us to see whether at least those of our time who are celibate are comparable
to those fathers who were married, if not perhaps even to be considered superior to them
(even though we have not yet found anyone even comparable to them). Undeniably celibacy
is superior to marriage as such, but in the marriages of the fathers there was something else of
greater value. Their motive in wanting children from their marriages out of duty was different
from what drives people today under the influence of a certain feeling that mortal nature
requires them to have successors after they have gone. Anyone who denies that even this is
good shows ignorance of the fact that God is the creator of everything good, from the heavens
to the earth and from the immortal to the mortal. This instinct for procreation is not entirely
absent in animals, especially in the case of birds, which have an obvious concern for building
nests and a similarity to married people in working together to have young and provide food
for them. That natural inclination of a mortal being has its own kind of chastity, and, as some
have come to understand, when it is accompanied by worship of God it is destined to be
fruitful thirty times over.39
Nevertheless, those people of former times rose above this with a much holier attitude of
mind, as they looked to have children from their marriages because of Christ, so that the race
that he belonged to in the flesh would be set apart from other races, in accordance with God's
plan. This was so that it could be the special bearer of prophecy concerning him, in particular
by foretelling what race and what nation he would come from in the flesh.40 It was,
therefore, something of much greater value than the chaste marriages of the faithful of our
times. Our father Abraham acknowledged this in relation to his own thigh when he ordered
the servant to place his hand on it to make an oath concerning the wife his son was to
marry.41 For what else did it mean when someone placed a hand on his thigh and swore by
the God of heaven, except that the God of heaven was to come in flesh that would have its

56

origin in that thigh? Marriage therefore is something good, and the more chastely and more
faithfully they have respect for God in their marriage the better the spouses are, especially if
they also nourish spiritually the children they desire physically.
51
Sex and the Levitical Purity Laws
20, 23. The fact that the law commands a person to be purified even after intercourse in
marriage does not show that it is a sin, if it is not that intercourse that is allowed as excusable
and is an excessive obstacle to prayer.42 The law lays down many things by way of signs
and shadows of the future. So a certain formlessness in the seed, which will take on form to
become a human body, stands as a symbol of an unruly and undeveloped life. Since people
must have this disorderliness corrected by formation and development through education,
purification after the emission of seed was prescribed as a sign of this. There is no sin either
when it happens in sleep; but the purification is still prescribed then.43 On the other hand, if
anyone thinks that this is a sin too, in the belief that it does not happen without some kind of
desire for it (which is certainly not true), surely at least women's normal menstruation is not a
sin? Yet the same ancient law requires them to be cleansed from that.44 This is only because
there is in the menstrual flow the same lack of physical form which is acquired, as it were, for
the construction of a body when conception takes place. In this way the law intended that
formless flow to symbolize a mind that lacks the formation that comes from education and is
unstable and uncontrolled, and it symbolizes the need for it to be put in shape by insisting on
purification for that bodily flow. Finally, surely it is not a sin to die? Surely burying the dead
is even a good and humane deed? Yet purification is prescribed after that too,45 because
although the dead body is not sinful when life abandons it, it is nevertheless a symbol of the
sinfulness of a soul that has been abandoned by justice.
24. Marriage, I say, is good, and it can be defended by sound arguments against all the lies
about it. Yet I do not ask what marriages are comparable to the marriages of the holy fathers,
but what life of celibacy is comparable to them. It is not that I do not find marriages
comparable to their marriages (for the same gift to mortal human nature is present in all of
them equally); but I do not find persons making use of marriage whom I would compare to
the persons of those times who made use of marriage in a very different way. For this reason
we have to go further, and ask what celibate persons might be comparable to those married

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persons. The alternative is to think that Abraham could not refrain from marriage for the sake
of the kingdom of heaven, although for the sake of the kingdom of heaven he could resolutely
sacrifice his only guarantee of descendants, which is the reason why marriage is held dear.
Virtues May Be Present without Being Manifest in Action
21, 25. Celibacy, to be sure, is a virtue of the mind, not of the body. Virtues of the mind,
however, sometimes manifest themselves in deeds, sometimes lie hidden as a habitual
disposition.46 The virtue of martyrdom shone and became
52
visible when suffering was endured. Yet how many there are who possess the same virtue of
mind, but miss out on the trial whereby what lies within them seen by God comes out also
into human view! It is not that it comes into being then, but that is when it becomes known.
Job already possessed patience, and it was known to God and attested to by God, but it
became known to mankind by the test of temptation. What lay hidden within did not come
into being because of the things inflicted on him externally, but was revealed by them.47
Timothy too certainly had the virtue of abstaining from wine, and Paul did not take this away
from him by advising him to take a little wine for his stomach's sake on account of his
frequent illnesses.48 (Otherwise he would have been teaching a pernicious doctrine, to do
something for the health of the body that was detrimental to spiritual virtue.) On the contrary,
because the advice could be followed without loss of that virtue, the body was accorded the
benefit that comes from drinking while the mind retained the disposition of abstinence. Of
itself a disposition has the effect that something is done when it is needed, and when it is not
done, it is still able to be done, but there is no need for it. Those who are told, If they are
unable to be continent, they should marry; for it is better to marry than to burn (1 Cor 7:9), do
not have this disposition to refrain from intercourse. Those, however, who are told, Let
anyone who is able to accept this accept it (Mt 19:12), do have it. By means of this abstinence
in disposition perfect souls have used the earthly goods needed as a means to other things
without becoming attached to them, remaining able to refrain from using them when there is
not that need. No one uses them well except the one who is able not to use them. Many indeed
find it easier to abstain from making use of them than to control their use and use them
properly. No one can use them wisely, unless he or she also is able to refrain from using them.
It was because of this habitual disposition that Paul was able to say, I know how to be well off
and how to suffer want (Phil 4:12). Anyone indeed can suffer want, but knowing how to suffer

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want is a quality of the great. Similarly, who is there who is incapable of being wealthy? But
knowing how to be wealthy is a quality only of those whom wealth does not corrupt.
26. For a clearer understanding of how virtue exists as a disposition, even when it does not
exist in deeds, I can mention an example which no one among Catholic Christians would
question. No one who has received the faith from his gospel has any doubt that our Lord Jesus
Christ experienced bodily hunger and thirst, and ate and drank. Was it then that he did not
have the virtue of restraint in eating and drinking to the same degree as John the Baptist? For
when John came he did not eat and drink, and they said, He has a devil. When the Son of
Man came, he ate and drank, and they said, See the glutton and wine bibber, the friend of
tax-collectors and sinners (Mt 11:18). Were not similar things said about his kinfolk, our
ancestors, with regard to the use of earthly goods of another kind, in the matter of sexual
intercourse: Look at those people, licentious
53
and impure, obsessed with women and obscenity? What they said about him, however, was
not true, however true it was that unlike John he did not fast from food and drink. He himself
said with absolute candor and truth: When John came, he did not eat and drink; when the
Son of Man came, he ate and drank.
Likewise what they say about those fathers is not true. Christ's apostle has come now
unmarried and without children; and the pagans say, He was a magician. In the past Christ's
prophet came, and was married and had children; and the Manichees say, He was a
womanizer. And wisdom is justified by her children (Mt 11:19); this was the Lord's comment
after saying those things about John and himself. Wisdom, he said, is justified by her children.
They see that the virtue of celibacy ought always be present as a habitual disposition of mind,
but it has to manifest itself in behavior according to the demands of different times and
circumstances. In the same way, the virtue of patience in the holy martyrs showed itself in
action, but is equally present in the other saints in their disposition. For this reason, just as the
patience of Peter, who endured suffering, was not superior to that of John, who did not suffer,
so too the chastity of John, who did not have the experience of marriage, was not superior to
that of Abraham, who fathered children. The one's celibacy and the other's marriage were both
practiced in the service of Christ in response to the different demands of the times. John,
however, also practiced celibacy, whereas Abraham had it only as a disposition of mind.

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Old Testament Saints Possessed Celibacy in Disposition


22, 27. At that time, therefore, when subsequent to the period of the patriarchs the law still
declared that anyone who did not emit seed for Israel was accursed,49 even those with the
capacity for celibacy gave no outward evidence of this, but it was there just the same. When,
however, the fullness of time came (Gal 4:1), the time for saying, Let anyone who is able to
accept this accept it (Mt 19:12), from that time on, up to the present and henceforth until the
end of time, whoever has the virtue puts it into practice, and if anyone is not prepared to put it
into practice, let him not lie and say he does have it.50 Because of this, with futile and
shallow sophistry those who corrupt good morals with evil discourse51 say to the Christian
who is celibate and declines to marry, Are you, then, better than Abraham? The Christian
must not be upset by this, and must neither be so rash as to say, Yes; better, nor lapse from
his resolution. To say the former would be to speak an untruth, and to do the latter would be to
act wrongly. Rather, he should say this: I am certainly not better than Abraham, but the
chastity of a celibate person is better than the chastity of a married person, and Abraham had
one of these in deed and both in disposition. Certainly he lived a chaste married life. Even so,
he was capable of being chaste outside of marriage, but it was not the
54
right thing to do at that time. Although Abraham made use of marriage, I myself would find it
easier not to make use of it than to make use of it in the way Abraham did. Therefore I am
better than those who because of lack of self-control are incapable of doing what I am capable
of doing, but not better than those who, because of the different circumstances of the time, did
not do what I do. What I now do they would have done more perfectly, if that was what had to
be done then; but what they did I would not do so well, even if that were what has to be done
now.
On the other hand, it may be that he feels that he is like that, and knows that if, while keeping
intact the virtue of celibacy as a disposition of mind, he had consented to make use of
marriage because of some religious duty, he would have been the kind of husband and father
that Abraham was. In that case he should be bold enough to say this in reply to his crafty
interrogator: I am certainly not better than Abraham, in relation to this kind of celibacy in
particular. He did not lack it, even though it was not apparent. I am the same as he, no
different in what I am, but only acting differently. Let him say this openly, since even if he
chooses to boast, he will not be acting foolishly, as he will be speaking the truth. If, however,

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he declines to do that, not wanting anyone to think he is better than what they see in him, or
what they hear about him,52 he can turn the thrust of the question away from himself as an
individual by giving an answer in terms of the subject matter rather than the person, and say:
Anyone who is capable of acting like that is like Abraham. It is possible, though, that the
virtue of celibacy is less perfect in the mentality of the one who does not make use of
marriage as Abraham did. Even so, it is still more perfect than in the mentality of the one who
maintained conjugal chastity because he was not capable of anything more than that.
Similarly, when a single woman who is concerned about what has to do with the Lord, in
order to be holy both in body and mind (1 Cor 7:34), hears that foolish and meddlesome
person saying, Are you better then than Sarah? she should answer: On the contrary, I am
better than those who lack the virtue of chastity of this kind, but I do not believe this to be true
of Sarah. While she had that virtue, she did what was appropriate for that time. Because I am
spared this, what she preserved spiritually is able to be seen in me in a bodily way as
well.53
The Virtues of Celibacy and of Marriage Are Compared
23, 28. If, therefore, we compare the actual reality in each case, there can be no doubt that the
chastity of celibacy is superior to the chastity of marriage, although both are good. When,
however, we compare persons, the one who has the greater good than the other is better.
Moreover, someone who has a higher degree of a goodness also has the lower degree of it.
Sixty includes thirty, but thirty does not include sixty. If one does not put into practice the
goodness one
55
possesses, this is explained by the way duties are allocated, not by lack of virtue; someone
who does not find any unfortunate people to whom to give compassionate help is not thereby
lacking in the good quality of compassion.
29. A further consideration is that individuals are not compared with respect to just one
perfection. It can happen that someone does not have some perfection that someone else does
have, but has another of greater worth. Obedience is a greater perfection than celibacy.
Nowhere is marriage ever condemned by the authority of our scripture, but nowhere is
disobedience ever condoned. If, therefore, we were asked to consider a woman who is going
to remain a virgin, though she is disobedient, and a married woman who could not remain a

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virgin, but who is obedient, which would we say is better? The one who is less commendable
than if she were a virgin, or the one who is damnable though a virgin? Likewise, if you
compared a drunken virgin with a sober married woman, who would hesitate to make the
same judgment? Marriage and virginity are indeed both good, though one better than the
other; but sobriety and drunkenness, like obedience and insolence, are respectively good and
bad. It is better to have only good things, even though lesser ones, than to have a great good
together with a great evil. Even with bodily goods, it is better to have the stature of Zacchaeus
and good health than that of Goliath and a fever.
30. Clearly the right question to ask is not whether a virgin who is utterly disobedient is
comparable to an obedient wife, but whether a less obedient virgin is comparable to a more
obedient wife; for married chastity is still chastity, and therefore a good thing, although it is
inferior to virginal chastity. The virgin is as inferior in the good of obedience as she is
superior in the good of chastity. To compare the two, and decide which is the better, one must
first compare obedience and chastity themselves and see how obedience is the mother of all
the virtues. The reason why there can be obedience without virginity is that virginity is a
counsel, not a command. I am speaking of that obedience whereby the commandments are
obeyed. Accordingly, there can be obedience to the commandments without virginity, but not
without chastity. For chastity there must be no fornicating, no adultery, no defiling oneself
with unlawful intercourse. Whoever does not abide by this acts contrary to God's
commandments, and on that account is excluded from the virtue of obedience. On the other
hand, virginity is possible without obedience, because a woman who accepts the counsel of
virginity and preserves her virginity can show contempt for the commandments, like the many
consecrated virgins we know who are gossipers, inquisitive, drunkards, quarrelsome,
avaricious and proud; all these things are forbidden by the commandments, and, as happened
with Eve, they will bring destruction for the offense of disobedience. Therefore, not only
should an obedient woman be more highly regarded than a disobedient one, but a more
obedient married woman should be more highly regarded than a less obedient virgin.
56
31. Because of this obedience that father, who was not without a wife, was prepared to lose
his only son by killing him himself.54 It is not wrong for me to call him his only son, as he
heard the Lord say about him, Your line will take its name from Isaac (Gn 21:12). How much
more would he have been swift to take heed if the command had been to remain unmarried?

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Hence we are often astonished, with good cause, that some celibate persons, of both sexes,
who so zealously undertake not to avail themselves of what is permitted, do not trouble to
obey the commandments. Who, therefore, can have any doubt that the men and women of our
time, celibate though they may be, who are less perfect in the virtue of obedience, cannot
rightly be compared in degree of perfection to the holy fathers and mothers, parents of
children, of those times, even if these lacked even in mental attitude the virtue that is clearly
practiced by those others? Let the young ones, therefore, who, in the words of the Book of
Revelation, have not defiled themselves with women (Rv 14:4), follow the Lamb singing a
new hymn, and do so only because they have remained virgins. But let them not think that this
makes them better than the first holy fathers, who, if I may so put it, used matrimony in an
unmatrimonial way. Its proper use is such that, if anything occurs there by way of bodily
union that goes beyond what is required for the purpose of having children, pardonable
though it may be, it is an imperfection. What does the pardon absolve, if that excess is no
imperfection at all? It would be surprising if the youths who follow the Lamb could avoid that
imperfection, if they did not remain virgins.
Summary: The Three Goods of Marriage
24, 32. The value of marriage, therefore, for all races and all people, lies in the objective of
procreation and the faithful observance of chastity. For the people of God, however, it lies
also in the sanctity of the sacrament, and this has the consequence that it is forbidden for a
woman to marry anyone else while her husband is still living, even if she has been divorced
by him, and even if it is only for the purpose of having children. Although this is the only
purpose there can be for a marriage, the bond of matrimony is not broken when its purpose is
not achieved, but only by the death of husband or wife. It is like ordination to the priesthood,
which takes place for the purpose of forming a community of the faithful, but even if the
community of faithful does not eventuate, the sacrament of ordination remains in those who
were ordained. If anyone is dismissed from office for some wrongdoing, he will not be
deprived of the Lord's sacrament once it has been received, although it will remain as
something he must answer for at the judgment. The apostle, therefore, bore witness that the
purpose of marriage is procreation, when he said, I want the younger ones to marry. As though
someone had said, Why? he immediately adds: To have children
57

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and be mothers of families (1 Tm 5:14). Concerning faithful observance of chastity, there is


the text, The wife does not have authority over her own body, but her husband does; and
likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but his wife does (1 Cor
7:4); and concerning the sanctity of the sacrament, the text, a wife should not leave her
husband, but if she does leave him, she should either remain unmarried or be reconciled to her
husband, and a husband should not divorce his wife (1 Cor 7:10-11). These things, namely,
offspring, fidelity and the sacrament, are all good, and because of them marriage is good. In
this age, however, it is certainly better and holier not to set out to have children physically,
and so to keep oneself free from any activity of that kind, and to be subject spiritually to only
one man, Christ. One must use this freedom, however, in the way scripture says, to think
about the Lord's interests, how to please God.55 In other words, celibacy will be concerned
that obedience should not be diminished. Being the fundamental virtue, and, as is commonly
said, the source of all the others, the ancient fathers put this virtue into actual practice.
Celibacy, on the other hand, they maintained as a state of mind, and no doubt, because they
were righteous and holy, if they had been commanded to abstain from all intercourse, out of
obedience they would have done so. When they were capable of sacrificing the offspring
which was the only reason for having intercourse, how much more readily could they have
held back from intercourse if that were God's command or request?
The Heretical Rejection of Marriage Has Been Refuted
25, 33. This being the position, the heretics have been answered more than adequately, both
the Manichees and any others who slander the fathers of the Old Testament for having more
than one wife by putting forward as evidence that they were lacking in self-control. They
must appreciate that there was no sin committed. What they did was not contrary to nature, as
they did not have union with those women for sensual pleasure but for the sake of having
children. Nor was it contrary to custom, as that was the common practice in those times. Nor
was it in breach of any commandment, as there was no law forbidding it. On the other hand,
those who had relations with women unlawfully either have judgment pronounced on them by
God in scripture, or else the account is presented for us to read in order for us to judge them
and avoid doing what they do, not to approve or imitate them.
Conclusion

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26, 34. As strongly as possible, however, we exhort our faithful who have wives not to be so
bold as to judge those holy fathers by their own weakness,
58
comparing themselves with one another (2 Cor 10:12), as the apostle says. They would fail to
understand the strength a soul has in the service of righteousness against lust. It has to prevent
itself from acquiescing in those sensual feelings and allowing them to develop and insinuate
themselves into intercourse to a greater degree than is needed for procreation. This is what is
required by nature's plan, required by social custom, and required by the decrees of the law.
The reason why they have these doubts about those fathers is that through lack of self-control
they themselves have either chosen marriage or are immoderate in their relations with their
wives. Nevertheless, married men and women who are celibate, because they have vowed
their chastity to God, either by mutual agreement or after the death of their spouse, should
realize that they have a greater reward due to them than conjugal chastity can claim. Just the
same, not only should they not lose respect for the marriages of the fathers in the light of their
own commitment, but they should not hesitate to hold them in higher esteem, despite their
own commitment. They married as a prophetic sign, and in intercourse they sought only to
have offspring, and in their offspring sought only to contribute to the coming of Christ in his
humanity.
35. In a very special way we also urge young men and women who dedicate their virginity to
God to be conscious of the need to be careful about how they live while still here on earth,
with humility all the greater because what they have vowed is more heavenly. Was it not
written, The greater you are, the more you must make yourself lowly in all things (Sir 3:18)?
It is for us, therefore, to speak about their greatness, and for them to think about great
humility. Even though they are not married, they are not better than some married persons,
namely those holy fathers and mothers in the past, because if they did marry, they would not
be as good as those were. With that exception, however, they should be in no doubt that they
surpass all other married persons, including all at the present time, even those who are
celibate after having had the experience of marital relations. They do not surpass them as
much as Susanna was surpassed by Anna, but as much as both were by Mary.56 I speak only
with reference to the holy integrity of the body; for who is there who is unaware of Mary's
other merits? Let them, therefore, adopt a way of life befitting such a lofty undertaking. They
will live then in full assurance of receiving a magnificent reward. They will know indeed that,
although the splendor with which they will shine in glory will vary according to their differing

65

merits, they and all the faithful, the chosen and beloved members of Christ, who will come in
great numbers from East and West, will all be granted the same great privilege. They will
recline at table in the kingdom of God with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob,57 those who did
not marry for this world but for Christ, and for Christ became fathers.
59
Notes
1 Augustine's notion that the husband and wife form the primary bond of society is
reminiscent of traditional Roman, especially Stoic, ideals. See, for example, Cicero, On
Duties I, 54.
2 See Gn 2:21-22.
3 Augustine here declines to offer an opinion on the nature of human procreation before the
fall. In his earlier writings, for example, On Genesis: A Refutation of the Manicheans, he was
inclined to interpret Genesis 1:28 in a figurative sense. By the time he completed his Literal
Meaning of Genesis, Augustine had determined that God originally intended Adam and Eve to
populate the earth physically, even before sin and death intervened. For a full discussion see
Elizabeth Clark, Heresy, Asceticism, Adam and Eve. Interpretation of Genesis 1-3 in the
Later Latin Fathers, in Ascetic Piety and Women's Faith. Essays on Late Ancient Christianity
(Lewiston/Queenston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1986) 353-385.
4 [Translator] In the Latin the point is more incisive as the text from Genesis and the psalm
have the same word multiply (multiplicare). A literal rendering of the text from the Psalm
might be: You will multiply me for strength in my soul.
5 See Dt 29:5.
6 See Mt 19:9.
7 See Jn 2:2.

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8 Jesus' teaching on divorce and his presence at the Cana wedding were frequently used in
the early Church to defend the value of marriage. See, for example, Clement of Alexandria,
Stromateis III, 6, 47; Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John 9, 2; Answer to Adimantus 3,
1-3.
9 The idea of trust or fidelity (fides) was important in Roman social relations. It
connoted the loyalty required in reciprocal relationships, such as those between patrons and
clients. See Susan Treggiari, Roman Marriage. Iusti Coniuges from the Time of Cicero to the
Time of Ulpian (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991) 237.
10 The situation Augustine has described is the relationship of concubinage, in which he
himself was engaged for many years. See Confessions IV, 2, 2 and VI, 15, 25.
11 Augustine's term concupiscentia has been translated here as sensuality. It refers to the
tendency for sexual desire, after being damaged by the sin of Adam and Eve, to run contrary
to the control of reason and will. An excellent discussion can be found in Gerald Bonner,
Libido and Concupiscentia in St. Augustine, Studia Patristica 6 (1962) 303-314.
12 See 1 Cor 7:6.
13 See 1 Cor 7:4-6.
14 When Augustine speaks of the venial sin in marital intercourse apart from the intention
to procreate, he means that the fault (culpa) involved is forgiven because of the good of
marital fidelity.
15 See 1 Cor 7:10-11.
16 In Adulterous Marriages Augustine examines in detail these biblical texts dealing with the
indissolubility of marriage. See below, pp. 145-153, 168-179.
17 [Translator] The word sacramentum, translated here as symbol, originally referred to
something that not only symbolized a duty or commitment, but also made it effective, as for
example, money deposited by parties to a lawsuit to insure compliance with the eventual

67

judgment. So the word, and its English equivalent, sacrament, acquired its theological
meaning of a ritual that effects what it symbolizes. The translation as sacrament will be
used where this is the meaning.
18 Here Augustine seems to suggest that only Christian marriage bears the sacrament of
indissolubility. In later writings he will recognize an indissoluble character in all human
marriages, but especially among Christians. See Answer to Julian V, 12, 46 and the
discussion in mile Schmitt, Le mariage chrtien dans l'oeuvre de saint Augustin (Paris:
tudes Augustiniennes, 1983) 244-225.
19 See Dt 24:1; Mt 19:8.
20 See Dn 13:22.
21 See Lk 2:36-37.
22 See Lk 1:27.
23 Augustine's argument in this chapter appears to be directed against the views of Saint
Jerome. In his treatise Against Jovinian I, 7: PL 23, 229, Jerome had argued: If it is good not
to touch a woman, it is bad to touch one; for there is no opposite to goodness but badness.
24 See 1 Tm 5:14.
25 See 1 Cor 7:5.
60
26 See Rom 1:26-27.
27 See 1 Tm 5:6.
28 See 1 Cor 7:6.

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29 Augustine has in mind the situations described in Genesis when Abraham produced a
child by Sarah's slave Hagar (Gn 16:1-4) and Jacob produced a child by Rachel's slave Bilhah
(Gn 30:1-5).
30 See Phil 1:23.
31 In his Revisions II, 22 (48), 2: CCL 57, 108, Augustine later modified his view on this
matter. There he explained: I said this because the right and proper use of passion (libido) is
not passion. For just as it is evil to use good things in the wrong way, so it is good to use evil
things in the right way. At another time I argued more carefully on this subject, especially
against the new Pelagian heretics. Augustine has in mind his writings against Julian of
Eclanum.
32 In Letter 47, 6 to Publicola Augustine briefly discusses the case of eating food sacrificed
to idols.
33 See 1 Cor 8:7.
34 Augustine's argument about the sexual morality of the Old Testament saints was
originally deployed to defend them against the criticism of the Manichees. Here the same
argument is used to demonstrate against Jovinian that marriage in the Christian dispensation is
not as virtuous as in the past.
35 See Acts 4:32.
36 See 1 Tm 3:2; Ti 1:6. The exclusion from the clergy of those who had been married more
than once was a long-standing tradition among the early Christians. See Tertullian, To His
Wife I, 7.
37 The story is found in Plutarch, Cato the Younger 25, who indicates that the incident was a
matter of some controversy. Cato divorced his wife Marcia, so that she could marry his friend,
Quintus Hortensius, and bear him children. See Augustine, Faith and Works 7, 10.
38 See Gn 22:12.

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39 Augustine refers to a traditional interpretation of Matthew 13:23. The thirtyfold fruit is


that of marriage; the sixtyfold is that of widowhood; the hundredfold is that of virginity. See
Holy Virginity 45, 46, where he offers a variety of different interpretations of the manifold
fruits.
40 See Mi 5:2.
41 See Gn 24:2-4.
42 Augustine is commenting on the purity laws in Leviticus 15:16-18.
43 Augustine discusses the morality of nocturnal emissions in Confessions X, 30, 41. He
argues that a person is not responsible for actions to which the conscious mind does not
assent. See also Literal Meaning of Genesis XII, 15, 31.
44 See Lv 15:19-24.
45 See Nm 19:11.
46 Augustine's term habitus has been translated here as a habitual disposition and, later,
simply as a disposition. The word suggests a settled trait of character, one that may be
present internally without necessarily being evident in external action. See A. Blaise, Lexicon
latinitatis medii aevi (Turnhout: Brepols, 1975) 432.
47 See Jb 1.
48 See 1 Tm 5:23.
49 See Dt 25:5-10.
50 [Translator] As the comparison is with Abraham, Augustine is considering men
specifically. Women are compared to Sarah separately further on.

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51 See 1 Cor 15:33.


52 See 2 Cor 12:16.
53 In this paragraph Augustine has responded to the arguments of Jovinian, who maintained
that the dignity of marriage in the Old Testament indicates that it should be equally valued in
the New. Celibate Christians, Jovinian argued, would not dare to maintain that they are
superior to Abraham or Sarah.
54 In his Revisions II, 22 (48), 2: CCL 57, 108, Augustine later corrected his comment on
Abraham: Even if his son were slain, one ought to believe that Abraham believed that he
would soon be returned to him by being raised from the dead, as we read in the Letter to the
Hebrews. Augustine is referring to Hebrews 11:19: He considered the fact that God is able
even to raise someone from the deadand figuratively speakinghe did receive him back.
55 See 1 Cor 7:32.
61
56 In Holy Virginity 20, 20 Augustine appeals to the story of Susanna, falsely accused of
adultery by two elders (Daniel 13), as an example of marital fidelity. Anna, who had lived as a
widow to the age of eighty-four and spent day and night in the temple (Lk 2:36-37), is the
model of the piety of the widow.
57 See Mt 8:11.
62
63
HOLY VIRGINITY
64
65
Introduction

71

Augustine composed Holy Virginity (around 401) as a companion to The Excellence of


Marriage. As he indicated in the Revisions:1
After I wrote The Excellence of Marriage, I was expected to write on holy virginity, and I did
not delay. Insofar as I was able, in one book I have shown that it is a gift of God, how great a
gift it is, and with what great humility it is to be guarded.
Like The Excellence of Marriage, Holy Virginity was written as a response to the controversy
surrounding the views of Jovinian. Augustine sets out to demonstrate that two mutually
opposed positions must be avoided. On the one hand, against the supporters of Jovinian,
Augustine argues that the celibate life is genuinely superior to the married life. On the other
hand, against the Manichees and other extremists who regarded sex and marriage as
something evil, Augustine argues that marriage, while a lesser good than celibacy, is still
something good (21, 21)
Augustine arranged Holy Virginity into two, roughly equal parts. The first part (2, 230, 30)
offers instruction on the nature and purpose of consecrated virginity; the second part (31, 31
52, 53) is an extended warning to virgins to avoid the danger of pride.2 For Augustine,
Christian virginity derives its significance from the virginity of the Church. Since the whole
Church has been described by the apostle Paul as a virgin betrothed to the one man Christ (2
Cor 11:2), consecrated virgins reflect in their bodies what the whole Church preserves in its
faith (2, 2). The model for virgins is the Virgin Mary, who, Augustine says, had dedicated
herself to perpetual virginity even before the annunciation. In both Mary and consecrated
virgins, therefore, the choice for virginity was freely made and not the response to a command
(4, 4). Although virginity is something preserved in the flesh, its origin lies in the spirit where
it is maintained by religious devotion (8, 8).
A large portion of Holy Virginity is dedicated to the explanation of biblical texts that Jovinian
and his followers had used to argue for the equality of marriage and celibacy. For example,
Jovinian had cited 1 Corinthians 7:26 (I think that in view of present needs it is good for you
to remain as you are), arguing that Paul meant that celibacy was useful in this life in order to
avoid some of the burdens of marriage, but that it did not affect the nature of a Christian's
reward in heaven. Augustine strongly opposed this interpretation. Virginity, he insisted, is a

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participation in the life of angels and a foretaste of eternal incorruptibility (13, 12). He
presented other Pauline texts, such as 1 Corinthians 15:41-42 (For
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one star differs from another star in splendor, and it is like that with the resurrection of the
dead), in order to demonstrate the eschatological value of Christian celibacy (14, 14; 26, 26).
Likewise, Augustine argued, Jesus' teaching about those who have made themselves eunuchs
for the kingdom of heaven3 proves that celibacy has value not only in this life, but also in
the next (23, 23). In heaven virgins will experience a degree of joy distinct from that enjoyed
by others: It will be the joy of the virgins of Christ, about Christ, in Christ, with Christ,
following Christ, through Christ, because of Christ (27, 27).
Despite his enthusiasm for virginity, however, Augustine spends nearly half of the treatise
Holy Virginity in admonitions to the celibate Christian to cultivate the virtue of humility. He
repeatedly insists that it is precisely the grandeur of virginity that renders the holy virgin,
rather than the patent sinner, liable to the vice of pride: Give me the woman who professes
perpetual chastity and has none of these moral defects. It is for her that I fear pride; it is for
that great gift in her that I fear the cancer of self-satisfaction. The more she has reason to be
pleased with herself, the more I am apprehensive that, by being pleasing to herself, she will be
displeasing to God, who resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (34, 34, citing James
4:6).
Augustine turns to the teachings of Jesus to support this emphasis on humility. The first
beatitude (Mt 5:3: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven), the story
of the faithful centurion (Mt 8:8-10), the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the
temple (Lk 18:10-14), among other biblical texts, help Augustine to establish that humility is
a virtue especially needed by Christians who have chosen the celibate life (33, 34). Christ
himself is the great paradigm of humility, as he himself has taught: Learn from me, for I am
meek and humble of heart (35, 35, citing Mt 11:29). The incarnation is the prime example of
this humility, in which the Son of God emptied himself, took the form of a slave, and humbled
himself, becoming obedient to the point of death (31, 31, citing Phil 2:7-8). It is great love
that made Christ humble, Augustine argues, and only love will preserve the virgin from the
sin of pride (37, 38).

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Augustine's famous teaching on the absolute priority of God's grace in the Christian life is
strongly in evidence when he discusses the humility of virgins. Celibacy must be regarded as
a gift from God (40, 41). Only God's grace has preserved the faithful virgin from sinning;
therefore, she must regard herself as having been forgiven even of those sins that she has not
committed (41, 42). As a further inducement to humility, Augustine reminds the celibate
Christian that even though celibacy is greater than marriage, other virtues, such as readiness
for martyrdom, surpass the virtue of virginity. For example, since no one knows how he or she
will respond under torture, a person's true spiritual state always remains hidden in this life. It
may be that a married woman is prepared to die for the faith, while a virgin is not (46, 4647,
47). No Christian, therefore, should
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ever regard herself or himself as superior to another. Since no one is ever entirely free from
sin, all must pray daily, Forgive us our trespasses (48, 48, citing Matthew 6:12).
Augustine's insistence on the necessity of humility in the second part of Holy Virginity
suggests that he shared some of the concerns expressed by Jovinian regarding the ascetic
movement. Although he strongly supported the practice of celibacy and clearly viewed the
celibate life as superior to the married life, Augustine's sense of the pervasiveness of human
sin and the absolute priority of God's grace gave him reason to be skeptical of any person's
claim to special holiness based on ascetic virtue. While he wholeheartedly endorsed the notion
that celibacy is a higher state of Christian perfection, he insisted that only the mystery of
God's grace is responsible for it.
Notes
1 Revisions II, 23 (49), 1: CCL 57, 109.
2 See, for example, Holy Virginity 1, 1, where Augustine describes the division of the
treatise: So not only must we preach virginity so that it may be loved; we must also instruct
it so that it will not become puffed up with pride.
3 See Mt 19:10-12.
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Holy Virginity

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Introduction
1, 1. We have recently published a book on The Excellence of Marriage. In it we gave advice
to virgins, as we urge them now, not to let the splendor of their greater gift from God lead
them to disdain the early fathers and mothers of God's people in comparison with themselves.
The apostle extols them as the olive tree, lest the wild olive grafted on become haughty.1
They who served the future Christ even by having children should not on that account be
thought to have less merit because in God's law the celibate state ranks higher than
matrimony, and holy virginity higher than marriage. In them future events, which we now see
being accomplished with marvelous efficacy, were still being prepared and brought to birth,
and even their married life had the character of prophecy.2 For this reason it is fitting that
some of them are honored for their many children, not because of the usual human joy and
expectation but because of the unfathomable designs of God, and others of them are honored
because even their sterility was made fertile. In the present times, however, those to whom it
is said, If they are unable to be continent, they should marry; for it is better to marry than to
burn (1 Cor 7:9), do not need our encouragement, but our sympathy. On the other hand, those
who have been told, Let anyone who is able to accept this accept it (Mt 19:12), need to be
encouraged so that they will not be frightened; but also they need to be frightened, so that
they will not become proud. So not only must we preach virginity, for it to be loved; but we
must also instruct it, so that it will not become puffed up with pride.3
Virgins Should Emulate the Virginity of the Church
2, 2. This is what we have set out to do in the present treatise. May Christ help us, the son of
the Virgin and the spouse of virgins, born in the flesh from a virgin womb and married
spiritually in a virginal matrimony. Since, therefore, as the apostle says, the whole Church is a
virgin betrothed to the one man Christ (2 Cor 11:2), what great honor is due to those of its
members who preserve even in their bodies what the whole Church preserves by faith, in
imitation of the mother of its spouse and Lord! For the Church too is both virgin and mother.
If she is not a virgin, why are we concerned for her integrity? If she is not a mother, why do
we address ourselves to her children? Mary gave birth physically to the head of this body; the
Church gives birth spiritually to that head's members. In both virginity
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is no obstacle to fertility; in both fertility does not extinguish virginity. The Church as a whole
is holy both physically and spiritually, but she is not physically a virgin as a whole, though
she is spiritually. How much greater is her holiness, therefore, in those of her members in
whom she is a virgin both physically and spiritually?
Spiritual Kinship Is More Important than Physical Kinship
3, 3. It is written in the gospel that when a message was brought to Christ that his mother and
brothers, that is his relatives by birth, were waiting outside unable to come nearer because of
the crowd, he answered, Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? And stretching his
hands out over his disciples, he said, These are my brothers; and then, Whoever does my
Father's will, that person is my brother and mother and sister (Mt 12:48-50). What was he
teaching us other than to value our spiritual family more highly than relationship by birth, and
that what makes people blessed is not being close to upright and holy persons by blood
relationship, but being united with them by obeying and imitating their doctrine and way of
life. It was a greater blessing for Mary, therefore, to receive Christ's faith than to conceive his
flesh. In fact, when someone said, Blessed is the womb that bore you, he himself answered,
Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it (Lk 11:27-28). Finally, what
advantage was that relationship for his brothers and sisters, that is those related to him by
birth, who did not believe in him? So even the close relationship of being his mother would
have been no benefit to Mary, if she had not carried Christ in her heart, a greater privilege
than doing so in her body.
The Virgin Mary, A Model for Consecrated Virgins
4, 4. Her virginity is also all the more pleasing and acceptable, because it was not that Christ
withdrew her from any further male defilement after he was conceived, but he chose to be
born from her when she was already dedicated to God, before he was conceived. This is
implied by the words of Mary's answer to the angel who brought her the message that she
would bear a child. How is that to be, she said, since I know not man? (Lk 1:34). She surely
would not have said this, if she had not already made a vow consecrating herself to God as a
virgin.4 Since, however, the customs of the Jews still did not allow for this, she was
betrothed to an upright man, one who would not take away by force what she had already
vowed to God, but would protect it against any assailant. Even if she had only said, How is

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that to be? without adding, since I know not man, she would not have been asking how a
woman would give birth to a son she had been promised, had she married with the expectation
of having marital intercourse. She could
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have been commanded to remain a virgin, for the Son of God to take the form of a slave in her
by a fitting miracle; but, in case it might be thought that only the woman who was worthy to
conceive a child without the marital act should be a virgin, she who would be the model for
consecrated virgins dedicated her virginity to God at a time when she still did not know she
was going to conceive. The imitation of heavenly life in a mortal earthly body arose from a
vow rather than a command, chosen from love rather than imposed by obedience. In this way,
by being born from a virgin who had decided to remain a virgin before she knew who would
be born from her, Christ chose to approve of holy virginity rather than command it. Even in
the woman in whom he took the form of a slave, he wanted virginity to be voluntary.
All Christians Share in the Motherhood of Christ
5, 5. There is no reason, therefore, why God's virgins should regret that they too cannot be
mothers physically while still preserving their virginity. Virginity could give birth with honor
only to the one who could have no equal in the manner of his birth. Truly, though, that
motherhood of one holy virgin is an honor for all holy virgins. They too are Christ's mothers,
along with Mary, if they do the will of his Father. For the same reason Mary too is Christ's
mother in a more praiseworthy and blessed way, according to the statement previously cited:
Whoever does my Father's will, that is my brother and sister and mother (Mt 12:50). He
declares that the people whom he redeemed have all these family relationships with himself,
though spiritually; he has holy men and holy women as his brothers and sisters, because they
are coheirs with him of the heavenly inheritance.5 His mother is the whole Church, because
through God's grace she certainly gives birth to his members, his faithful. In addition every
devout soul that does the will of his Father by the fertile power of charity is Christ's mother in
those to whom it gives birth, until Christ himself is formed in them.6 In doing God's will,
therefore, physically Mary is only Christ's mother, but spiritually she is both mother and
sister.
The Virginity of Mary and the Virginity of the Church

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6, 6. So that woman, and she alone, was both a mother and a virgin, not only spiritually but
also physically. She is not spiritually the mother of our head, as that is the Savior himself. On
the contrary, she was born spiritually from him, as everyone who believes in him, including
her, is rightly called a child of the bridegroom.7 On the other hand, clearly she is the mother
of his members, which is ourselves, since she has cooperated with charity for the birth of the
faithful in the Church. They are the members of that head, but she is physically the mother
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of the head himself. So it was fitting that by a unique miracle our head was born physically
from a virgin, to signify that his members would be born spiritually from the virgin Church.
Only Mary, then, is mother and virgin both spiritually and physically, both Christ's mother and
Christ's virgin. On the other hand, the Church as a whole, in the saints destined to possess
God's kingdom, is Christ's mother spiritually and also Christ's virgin spiritually, but as a
whole she is not these things physically. Rather, in some persons she is a virgin of Christ and
in others she is a mother, though not Christ's mother. Both married women of faith and virgins
consecrated to God are Christ's mothers spiritually, because with holy practices and with love
they do the will of the Father, with a pure heart and good conscience and sincere faith (1 Tm
1:5). Those, however, who give birth physically in the married state do not give birth to Christ
but to Adam, and therefore, because they know what they have given birth to, they hasten to
have their children made members of Christ by being bathed in the sacraments.8
The Excellence of Marriage Does Not Surpass That of Virginity
7, 7. I have said this so that married motherhood will not dare to put itself in competition with
intact virginity, and invoke the example of Mary and say to God's virgins: She is to be
honored in her body for two things, virginity and motherhood, since she both remained a
virgin and became a mother. As it is not possible for us both to have this privilege completely,
we have shared it, by you being virgins and us mothers. The preservation of your virginity
consoles you for what you miss in not having children, and we are compensated for the loss of
our virginity by the benefit of having children.9 These words of married women of faith to
consecrated virgins could only be supported if they gave birth physically to Christians. In that
case, apart from her physical virginity, the motherhood of Mary would be more splendid only
in this one single respect, that she conceived the actual head of these members whereas they
conceived only the members of that head. This, however, is not the case now. Even though
this argument is put forward by women who are married and have relations with their

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husbands only to have children, and think of nothing for their children other than to win them
for Christ, and bring this about as soon as possible, nevertheless they are not born from their
flesh as Christians, but they become so afterward. Their mother then is the Church, inasmuch
as she is spiritually the mother of Christ's members, as she is also spiritually his virgin.
Mothers, who give birth physically to children who are not Christians, cooperate in this holy
child-bearing in order for them to become what they know they could not have been by
physical birth. They cooperate by themselves being also virgins and mothers of Christ,
namely, in faith, which works through love (Gal 5:6).
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Virginity Is Honorable When Consecrated to God
8, 8. No kind of physical motherhood, therefore, is comparable with holy virginity, even
considering only physical virginity. This too is honored not because it is virginity, but because
it is consecrated to God, and although it is preserved in the flesh, its spirit is preserved by
religious devotion. For this reason physical virginity, which is vowed and maintained by
chastity and piety, is also spiritual. Just as no one uses one's body impurely unless wickedness
first has its beginning in the soul, so too no one keeps one's body pure unless chastity first
takes root in the soul. Furthermore, although conjugal chastity is observed in the flesh, it is
not attributed to the flesh but to the mind, as it is under its control and guidance that the flesh
itself has union only with its own spouse. If this is so, with how much greater justification,
and with how much more honor, must celibacy be counted among the spiritual goods, when
bodily integrity is vowed and consecrated to the very Creator of soul and body, and preserved
for him!10
Virginity Is Superior to Physical Motherhood
9, 9. No one should think, therefore, that actual motherhood can make up for the loss of
virginity even for women who look for nothing in marriage other than to have children to
dedicate to the service of Christ. At earlier times, before Christ became man, there was need
to have descendants physically for a large nation, for it to be the bearer of prophecy. Now,
however, since members of Christ to be God's people and citizens of the kingdom of heaven
can be brought in from the whole human race and from every nation, Let anyone who is able
to accept it, accept sacred virginity (Mt 19:12), and only those who are unable to be continent

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should marry; for it is better to marry than to burn (1 Cor 7:9). What then if some rich woman
spends a great deal of money on the good work of buying slaves of various nations in order to
make them Christian? Will she not procure the birth of members for Christ more abundantly
and fruitfully than would be possible from her womb, however fertile? She still will not dare
to compare her money to the gift of holy virginity. Yet if physical motherhood truly makes up
for lost virginity, because the children born become Christians, there will be even more to be
gained from this enterprise if the loss of virginity is in return for payment of a large sum of
money. With that money a much greater number of children can be purchased, to become
Christians, than could be born from one woman's womb, however prolific.
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Producing Virgins Does Not Make Marriage Equal to Virginity
10. If this is a stupid thing to say, then let the women of faith who are married hold on to the
good thing that is theirs. We wrote about that, to the extent it seemed necessary, in another
volume. But also, as they have very properly been accustomed to do, let them hold in greater
honor the superior perfection of consecrated virgins. This is the subject of the present treatise.
10. They should not compare their own worth to that of those who practice celibacy, even on
the grounds that they give birth to virgins. This is not something good about marriage, but
about nature. God so established it that from any sexual union between human beings of the
two sexes, whether proper and lawful or perverse and illicit, no woman is born except as a
virgin. None, however, is born a consecrated virgin. So it happens that a virgin is born even
from rape, but a consecrated virgin not even from marriage.
Consecration Is What Makes a Virgin
11, 11. What we extol in virgins is not that they are virgins, but that they are virgins
consecrated in holy chastity to God. I do not say it without thought: in my view a married
woman is better off than a virgin who hopes to marry. She already has what the other still
wants, especially if she is not yet even engaged to someone. The one who is married is keen
to please the one man whom she has married; the other is keen to please many, not being sure
who will be the one she will marry. The only thing that separates the purity of her thoughts
from those of the crowd is that she is not looking in the crowd for an adulterer, but for a

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husband. So the virgin, who is rightly held to be more perfect than married women, is not the
one who presents herself to a number of men as worthy of love, looking to be loved by one of
them, nor the one who gives herself over to one man after finding him, thinking about worldly
things, how to please her husband (1 Cor 7:34). Rather she is the one who has so loved the
most handsome of men (Ps 45:2), that, since she could not conceive him in the flesh as Mary
did, she has conceived him in her heart and keeps her body intact for him.
The Church Gives Birth to Consecrated Virgins
12. No natural fertility has brought forth this kind of virgin; she is not the child of flesh and
blood. If you are looking for her mother, it is the Church. No one gives birth to consecrated
virgins except a consecrated virgin, that sacred virgin who is betrothed to one man, Christ, to
keep herself chaste for him.11 Not wholly a virgin physically, but wholly a virgin spiritually,
it is from her that holy virgins are born, those who are virgins both in body and in spirit.
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12. Certainly marriages have their value. It is not because they produce children, but because
they produce children honorably, because they do so lawfully, because they do so chastely,
because they do so in a social role, and because they educate those children without
favoritism, soundly and perseveringly, and because they maintain marital fidelity, and because
they do not abuse the sacrament of matrimony.12
Virginity Is an Anticipation of Heavenly Immortality
13. All these, however, are duties and privileges that come from being a human being.
Virginal integrity, on the other hand, and the freedom from all sexual intimacy that comes
with the devout practice of celibacy, belongs with the angels, and in corruptible flesh it is a
foretaste of eternal incorruptibility. All physical parenthood, all married chastity, must give
way to this. The former is not in one's own power, the latter does not last for eternity; free will
does not possess physical fertility, conjugal chastity does not exist in heaven. Assuredly in
that state of immortality, shared by all, those whose bodies are already in a certain way
unbodily will have something special over and above what the others have.

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13. It is great foolishness, therefore, to think that the benefits of this virginity are not
necessary for the kingdom of heaven, but only for this world, in that marriages endure the
strain of many worldly cares and worries, while virgins and celibate persons are spared those
troubles. As if being single is better only to have freedom from the worries of this life, and not
because it is of any benefit for the next life! So as not to seem to have brought forth this
shallow opinion from their own empty minds, they invoke the testimony of the apostle, where
he says: Concerning virgins, however, I have no commandment from the Lord, but, as one
who through God's mercy has remained faithful, I give you advice. Accordingly, I think this is
good because of present needs, namely, it is good to stay as you are (1 Cor 7:25-26). See,
they say, here the apostle makes it clear that this is good because of the needs of the present
time, and not because of future eternity.13 As if the apostle would give any thought to
present needs, unless he was looking ahead and providing for the future, given that his whole
undertaking had no object other than to call people to eternal life.
Virginal Consecration Brings Greater Glory in Heaven
14, 14. Pressure from present needs, therefore, is to be avoided, but only when it is a
hindrance for future benefits. It is this kind of pressure that compels married life to be
concerned about worldly things, how the husband can please his wife, and the wife her
husband.14 Not that this cuts them off from God's kingdom, as sins do. Sins are forbidden by
a commandment rather than advised
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against, and disobeying God when he commands something incurs damnation. On the other
hand, that thing that could be possessed to a greater degree even in the kingdom of God, if
one gave more thought to pleasing God, will certainly be diminished, when one gives less
thought to it because of the demands of the marriage. Therefore, Concerning virgins, he says,
I have no commandment from the Lord (1 Cor 7:25). Anyone who does not obey a
commandment commits a sin and is liable for punishment. Therefore, because it is not a sin
for a man or woman to marry (if it were a sin it would be forbidden by a commandment), it
follows that there is no commandment from the Lord about virgins. To avoid sin or obtain
forgiveness for sins is the way to enter eternal life. There is a special splendor there, however,
that is not bestowed on everyone who lives forever, but only on certain ones. To achieve this
being redeemed from sin is of little consequence unless one has also made a certain vow to
the redeemer. No one will be blamed for not making that vow, but there will be

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commendation for those who made it and kept it. As one who through God's mercy has
remained faithful, I give you advice (1 Cor 7:26), he says. I, who am not faithful by my own
merits but by God's mercy, should not be loath to give sound advice. Accordingly, I think this
is good because of present needs. What he is saying is this: This is not something about
which I have a commandment from the Lord, but advice I give you, namely, that concerning
virgins, I think this is good because of present needs (1 Cor 7:25-26). I know what the needs
of the present time, to which marriages are subject, demand. It is that less thought be given to
God's concerns than is adequate for obtaining that glory that will not be shared by everyone,
not even by everyone living on in the eternal life of salvation. For one star differs from
another star in splendor; and it is like that with the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor 15:41-42).
Therefore it is good to stay as one is (1 Cor 7:26).
Virginity Is a Counsel, Not a Commandment
15, 15. Further on the same apostle goes on to say: You are bound to a wife? Do not look for a
divorce. You are free of a wife? Do not look for a wife (1 Cor 7:27). The first of these two
propositions is the object of a commandment, which it is a sin to disobey. To divorce a wife,
apart from the case of adultery, is forbidden, as the Lord himself says in the gospel.15 The
other, You are free of a wife? Do not look for a wife, is a statement of advice, not a
commandment; hence to marry is not something wrong to do, but it is better not to do it. He
immediately adds: If you have married, you have not committed a sin, and if a virgin marries,
she does not commit a sin (1 Cor 7:28). When, however, he said that first thing, You are
bound to a wife? Do not look for a divorce, did he add, And if you divorce, you do not
commit a sin? He had already said previously: To those, however, who are married it is
commanded, not by me, but by the Lord, that a wife
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should not leave her husband, but if she does leave him, she should either remain unmarried
or be reconciled to her husband (1 Cor 7:10-11). It is possible that her leaving is not through
her own fault, but her husband's. He then says, And a husband must not divorce his wife (1
Cor 7:11), and still presents this as the Lord's commandment. On this occasion too he does not
add, And if he does divorce her, he does not commit a sin. This is a command, and not to
obey it is a sin; it is not advice, whereby you accomplish less good if you decide not to act on
it, but do not do anything bad. Accordingly, when he said, You are free of a wife? Do not look
for a wife (1 Cor 7:27-28), since here he was not forbidding doing evil, but was

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recommending doing the more perfect thing, he immediately added, and if you have married,
you have not committed a sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not commit a sin.
Marriage Entails Troublesome Burdens
16, 16. But then he added: Such people will be troubled by the flesh, but I will spare you that
(1 Cor 7:28). In this way he was encouraging virginity and perpetual chastity, and so to some
extent also discouraging marriage, but in a restrained way, to be sure, and not as something
bad and forbidden, but as something burdensome and worrying. Giving in to sins of the flesh
is one thing, but being troubled by the flesh is another. In one case sin is committed, in the
other a burden is endured. It is a burden that people generally do not refuse, especially in the
course of duties that carry great honor. In the present age, however, when bearing children
physically does not contribute toward the future physical birth of Christ, to undertake for the
sake of having a marriage the burden of those afflictions of the flesh that the apostle
pronounces to be the lot of those who marry would be utter foolishness. The only exception is
for those who lack self-control, if there is danger they will give in to the temptation of Satan
and fall into mortal sin. When, however, he says he is sparing those he feels will suffer the
afflictions of the flesh, nothing more helpful occurs to me to say for the moment than that he
did not want to spell out the details of that affliction of the flesh that he predicted for those
who decided to marry. They relate to the jealous suspicions of husbands and wives, to having
and looking after children, to the sorrows and worries of widowhood. Is there anyone, among
those who have tied themselves with the bonds of marriage, who is not tossed and torn by
those cares? We should not exaggerate it, however, for fear of not sparing the very persons the
apostle thought to spare.
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The Apostle Paul Does Not Condemn Marriage
17, 17. These brief comments were needed to put the reader on guard against those who use
the text, Such people will be troubled by the flesh, but I will spare you that (1 Cor 7:28), to
slander marriage, by saying that Paul implicitly condemns it. They would have you
understand that when he said, but I will spare you that, he did not want to utter the actual
condemnation. In other words, when he said, And if you have married, you have not
committed a sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not commit a sin (1 Cor 7:28), he was lying.

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In that case, while he spared them, he did not spare his own soul. Those who think like this
about the scripture, or who want others to do so, are constructing for themselves, as it were, a
way to have a license to lie and a method of defending depraved opinions, whenever they hold
views that conflict with sound doctrine. If anything that would refute their errors is presented
as being revealed in the holy bible, they have it at hand like a shield, to use it to defend
themselves against the truth, although in so doing they leave themselves defenseless against
injury from the devil. They have only to say that the writer was not speaking the truth,
sometimes to spare the weak, sometimes to frighten the arrogant, whatever suits the purpose
of defending their perverted opinions. So, while preferring to defend their opinions rather than
correct them, they strive to break the authority of the holy scripture; but on it, and on it by
itself, all proud and hard heads are broken.16
Advocates of Virginity Must Not Condemn Marriage
18, 18. For these reasons I urge men and women who practice perpetual chastity and holy
virginity to value their perfection above that of the married state, but without holding
marriage to be bad, and with the knowledge that the apostle said, not lying but absolutely
truthfully, Anyone who has his daughter married does well; and anyone who does not have his
daughter married does better (1 Cor 7:38). And if you have married, you have not committed
a sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not commit a sin (1 Cor 7:28); and a little further on, In
my opinion, however, she will be better off if she stays as she is. And, so it will not be thought
to be a merely human opinion, he adds, I think, however, that I have the Spirit of God (1 Cor
7:40). This is what the Lord teaches; this is what the apostle teaches; this is the true and sound
teaching: choose the better gifts, without condemning the lesser ones. God's truth in God's
scripture is worth more than anyone's virginity, physical or spiritual. Let chastity be loved,
without truth being denied. What evil can people not think up even about their own bodies,
when they believe that in the text where he was commending virginity of the body, the
apostle's tongue did not have virginal integrity, untouched by the defilement of lying? First of
all, therefore, and above all, let those who choose virginity hold it
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as absolutely beyond question that holy scripture contains no lies, and hence that statement
also was true: And if you have married, you have not committed a sin, and if a virgin marries,
she does not commit a sin (1 Cor 7:28). Let them not think either that the great excellence of
virginity is diminished if marriage is not an evil. On the contrary, someone who was not

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frightened of being damned if she married, but desired to be crowned with greater honor for
not marrying, can be confident there is a palm of greater glory being kept for her. Those then
who have chosen to stay unmarried must not flee from marriage as if it were a pit of sin, but
must pass over it as a hill of less grandeur, to settle on the higher mountain of celibacy. The
law that holds for living on that hill is that one may not depart whenever one wants to, as A
woman is not free, as long as her husband lives (1 Cor 7:39). On the other hand, one can use it
as a step to climb from it to the celibacy of widowhood. For virginal chastity, however, it is
necessary either to go around it by rejecting suitors, or leap over it by warding off suitors in
advance.
Marriage Is Not Equal to Celibacy
19, 19. So that no one would think that the two accomplishments, the good one and the better
one, would have the same rewards, it has been necessary to argue against those who interpret
the apostle's words, Accordingly, my opinion is that because of present needs this is good (1
Cor 7:39), as meaning that virginity is not of any use for the kingdom of heaven but only for
the present life, and so in that eternal life those who had chosen this better thing would not be
any better off than the rest. In the course of that discussion, when we came to that text where
that apostle says, Such people will be troubled by the flesh, but I will spare you that (1 Cor
7:28), we came upon other disputants, who did not make marriage the equal of perpetual
chastity, but absolutely condemned it. While both are certainly errors, either making marriage
equal to virginity or condemning it, by going to extremes to avoid each other the two errors
end up in direct conflict with each other. This is because they refuse to take the middle
position of truth. Relying both on sound reasoning and on the authority of the holy scripture,
we neither conclude that marriage is a sin nor give it equality with celibacy, whether the
celibacy of virgins or even that of widows.17
Susanna Demonstrates the Value of Conjugal Chastity
20. Some indeed, attracted to virginity, have thought marriage should be shunned like
adultery; others, defending marriage, have wanted the perfection of perpetual virginity to be
no more meritorious than conjugal chastity, as if to say either that it was demeaning to Mary
that Susanna was good, or that Susanna had to be condemned because Mary was better.18
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20. So it is unthinkable that when the apostle said to married people, and those who were
going to marry, but I will spare you that (1 Cor 1:28), he wanted to avoid mentioning a
punishment incurred by married persons in the next life. It is unthinkable that Paul consigns to
hell the woman Daniel saved from judgment in this life. It is unthinkable that in Christ's court
the marriage bed will incur punishment for her, who chose to risk being put to death on a false
charge of adultery rather than to be unfaithful to it. What was the point of those words, It is
better for me to fall into your hands than to sin in the sight of God (Dn 13:23), if God was not
going to save her because she preserved married chastity, but was going to condemn her
because she had married. Whenever now the true words of holy scripture come to the support
of married chastity against those who slander and make false accusations against marriage,
Susanna is once again defended by the Holy Spirit against false witnesses, and she is saved
again from a false accusation, one of much greater consequence. Then it was one woman
being accused on the evidence of what the wicked elders said; now it is all husbands and
wives being accused on the evidence of what the apostle would not say. They say that when
he said, but I will spare you that (1 Cor 7:28), he was keeping silent about your damnation.
Who was doing this? The same one who said previously, And if you have married, you have
not committed a sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not commit a sin (1 Cor 7:28). Why then
do you detect a denunciation of marriage in his discreet silence, and do not recognize the
defense of marriage in what he said openly? Does he condemn by his silence those he
exonerates when he speaks? Would it not be more generous now to accuse Susanna, not just
of marriage but even of adultery, rather than to accuse the apostle of teaching lies? In a matter
of such importance, what would we do if it were not clear and certain that chaste marriages
should not be condemned, no less than it is clear and certain that holy scripture cannot lie.
Paul's Teaching Is Distorted by Extremists
21, 21. At this point someone might say, What has this to do with holy virginity or perpetual
chastity, which this discussion set out to extol? My first answer to this is what I remarked
previously, namely, that the glory of the superior perfection is even greater because of the fact
that to achieve it the perfection of marriage is surpassed, rather than the sin of marriage
avoided. Otherwise, if perpetual chastity were practiced only because marriage was a sin, it
would be enough merely to refrain from belittling it, without commending it particularly.
Furthermore, since people are being urged to aspire to such a splendid gift, not because of a

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merely human opinion, but on the authority of divine scripture, this should not be done
cursorily and without due thoroughness, so that no one will think the divine scripture contains
lies. Those who would persuade sacred virgins
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to maintain that way of life by condemning marriage are really taking away incentive rather
than encouraging them. How can they be sure that the text, And anyone who does not have his
daughter married does better (1 Cor 7:38), is the truth, if they think that what was written just
before, And whoever has a virgin married does well, is untrue? If, however, they believe the
scripture without question when it talks about the excellence of marriage, then they will find
security in that absolutely trustworthy authority of the heavenly words, and will hurry on with
enthusiasm and confidence to what it says about their own superior perfection.
So, we have already said enough in support of the task at hand. To the best of our ability we
have shown that the words of the apostle, My opinion, however, is that because of present
needs this is good (1 Cor 7:26), must not be taken to mean that in this life consecrated virgins
are better off than the faithful who marry, but in the kingdom of heaven and in the next life
they are equal. We have also shown to the best of our ability that when he says about married
people, Such people will be troubled by the flesh, but I will spare you that (1 Cor 7:28), this
must not be taken to mean that he preferred to say nothing rather than say that marriage is a
sin and brings damnation. Through failure to understand them properly, mutually
contradictory errors have subscribed to each of these interpretations. The first, the one about
present needs, is the interpretation adopted in support of their own position by those who
argue that those who marry and those who do not marry are of equal merit. The other, about
the text, But I will spare you that, is the interpretation adopted by those who presume to
condemn those who marry. We, on the other hand, relying on the reliable and salutary doctrine
of the holy scriptures, not only say that marriage is not a sin, but also rank it as inferior both
to virginity and to celibate widowhood. We say also that the demands made on married
persons in this life prevent them having merit, not indeed for obtaining eternal life, but for
achieving the superior glory and honor reserved for perpetual chastity; and we say that in the
present era marriage is of benefit only for those who lack self-control. As for the material
troubles arising out of physical feelings, necessarily present in the marriages of the persons
who lack self-control, in the course of giving honest advice the apostle did not wish to be
silent about them, but in consideration of human weakness he did not want to be more
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Paul's Preference for Celibacy Did Not Pertain Only to This Life
22, 22. With the very clear evidence of the divine scriptures, which we have been able to
recall even with the limitations of our memory, it is now more obvious than ever that
perpetual chastity should not be cherished on account of life in this present world, but on
account of the promised life to come in the kingdom of
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heaven. Is there anyone, however, who does not notice what the same apostle says a little
further on: A man who does not have a wife thinks about what concerns the Lord, how to
please the Lord. One who is married, however, thinks about the affairs of the world, and how
to please his wife. An unmarried woman too, and a virgin, is set apart. The woman who is not
married is concerned about what has to do with the Lord, in order to be holy both in body and
mind; but the one who is married is concerned about the affairs of the world and how to
please her husband (1 Cor 7:32-34). He certainly does not say, She thinks about how to be
protected in this world, to pass through life with the least trouble. Nor does he say that the
woman who is unmarried and a virgin is set apart, that is to say different and distinct, in that
the unmarried woman has security in this life, being spared the worldly worries that the
married woman finds unavoidable. She thinks about what concerns the Lord, he says, how to
please the Lord, and, She is concerned about what has to do with the Lord, in order to be holy
both in body and mind (ibid.). Presumably no one is so stupidly argumentative as to try to
claim that we do not want to please God on account of the kingdom of heaven, but on account
of this world, or that we want to be holy in body and mind on account of this life and not on
account of eternal life. Surely, to believe this is to be nothing but the most wretched of all
people. That is what the apostle said: If we hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most
wretched of all people (1 Cor 15:19). Or is it the case that someone who shares food with the
hungry, and does so only on account of this life, is foolish, whereas someone who disciplines
his or her body to the point of practicing complete celibacy, if it brings no benefit in the
kingdom of heaven, has good sense?
Jesus Spoke of Celibacy for the Kingdom of Heaven
23, 23. Finally, let us listen to the Lord as he makes abundantly clear his views on the matter.
When he was speaking with the awesome authority of God about husbands and wives not

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divorcing except in the case of adultery, the disciples said to him: If that is how it is for
someone with a wife, it is better not to marry. In reply he said this: What you say is not
accepted by everyone. There are some who are born eunuchs; and there are others who are
made eunuchs by man; and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the
kingdom of heaven. Let anyone who is able to accept this accept it (Mt 19:10-12). What could
be said more honestly or more clearly? It is Christ saying this, it is the Truth saying it, it is the
Power and Wisdom of God saying it: those who with devout intentions refrain from taking a
wife make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. Does human vanity with
sacrilegious recklessness contradict it, and argue that those who act in this way only escape
the pressures here and now
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of the unavoidable troubles of marriage, and in the kingdom of heaven are no better off than
the rest?
Isaiah's Prophecy about Eunuchs in God's Kingdom
24, 24. Who are the eunuchs God speaks of through the prophet Isaiah, when he says he will
give them a special inner place in his home, far better than the one his sons and daughters
have, if he is not speaking about those who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of
heaven?19 As for those who have been made impotent by having their male organs
mutilated, as is the case with the eunuchs kings and rich people have, when they become
Christians and keep God's commandments, but with the attitude that they would have married
had they been capable of it, this entitles them to equality in God's house with the rest of the
faithful who married and had children chastely and legitimately and brought them up in the
fear of God, teaching their children to put their trust in God; but it is not enough for them to
be given the special place better than that of the sons and daughters. This is because the
reason they do not marry is not spiritual virtue, but physical impossibility. Anyone so inclined
can argue, no doubt, that the prophet made this pronouncement in reference to those
physically mutilated eunuchs; but even that error supports our case. For God did not prefer
those eunuchs to persons who have no place in his home, but to those who occupy the place
earned by those who marry and have children. When he says, I will give them a much better
place (Is 56:5), he implies that married persons will be given a place too, though a much
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Let us grant, then, that it was being foretold that there would be physical eunuchs in God's
house, though there were none among the people of Israel, since we see them too becoming
Christians, although they do not become Jews. Let us grant also that the prophet was not
speaking about the other kind, those who put all thought of marriage aside because they have
made a decision to be celibate and so make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven.
Even so, are there any so demented in their opposition to the truth as to believe that in God's
house those who have been made eunuchs physically have a more honorable place than
married people, while arguing that those who choose to be celibate for religious reasons, and
discipline their bodies to the point of rejecting marriage, and become eunuchs not by making
their body impotent but by making the basic sensuality within them impotent, following a
heavenly and angelic way of life while still in their earthly mortal condition, are only equal in
merit to married persons? Would a Christian contradict Christ, when he praises those who
make themselves eunuchs, not for this world but for the kingdom of heaven, and say that this
is advantageous for this life but not for the next? What is left for them, except to assert that
the kingdom of heaven refers to this earthly life where we are now?
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Is there anything to stop blind supposition from going even to this ridiculous extreme? What
greater madness can there be than to assert this? Even though the Church, which exists in this
world, is sometimes called the kingdom of heaven, there is no doubt it is spoken of in this
way because it exists for the future life of eternity. Although it has the promise of life now and
in the future (1 Tm 4:8), in all its good works it is not looking to what is seen, but to what is
unseen. For the things that are seen are passing, while the things that are not seen are eternal
(2 Cor 4:18).
Isaiah Spoke of Eternal Rewards for Celibacy
25, 25. The Holy Spirit was certainly not silent about another clear and unanswerable
argument against their utterly shameless and insane obstinacy, repelling their ferocious
onslaught on his flock with an unassailable defense. When he said about the eunuchs, I shall
give them a special place in my home, within its walls, far better than the one for the sons and
daughters (Is 56:6), to prevent any unduly carnal person from thinking these words give
reason to hope for some temporal benefit, he immediately added, I shall give them an
everlasting name, one that will never fail. It was the same as if he said: O sacrilegious
blindness, why, Oh why, do you quibble? Why do you obscure the clarity of truth with the fog

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of your perversions? Why do you look for shadows to hide and plot from in the shining light
of scripture? Why do you promise advantages only in this life for holy persons who stay
celibate? I shall give them an everlasting name. Why do you try to relate it to earthly
advantage, when men and women abstain from all sexual union, and, precisely because they
so abstain, have their mind on the things that concern God, how to please the Lord? I shall
give them an everlasting name. Why do you argue that the kingdom of heaven, for which the
holy eunuchs have made themselves impotent, must be understood as being only in this life? I
shall give them an everlasting name. And just in case you try to interpret 'eternal' here as
meaning the same as 'long-lasting,' I add more, I pile it on and press it down: it will never
fail.
What more do you want? What more can you say? Whatever it is, that everlasting name,
which certainly means some special higher honor, will not be something God's eunuchs will
have in common with the multitude, even though they dwell in the same kingdom and the
same home. Perhaps it is called a name precisely because it distinguishes those who obtain it
from the rest.
There Is One Eternal Life, but Different Degrees of Glory
26, 26. What, they ask, is the meaning of that denarius that is given at the end of the work
in the vineyard to everyone without distinction, whether they
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worked right from the first hour or only worked for one hour?20 What does it mean,
indeed? What else does it stand for except something that everyone will have in common,
such as eternal life, the kingdom of heaven itself, which will be the home of everyone whom
God has predestined, called, justified and brought to glory? This corruptible nature has to put
on incorruptibility, and this mortal nature immortality (1 Cor 15:53). This is that denarius, the
wages everyone receives. At the same time, star differs from star in splendor, and it is like that
with the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor 15:41-42); these are the different rewards earned by
the saints. If that denarius stood for the sky, is it not common to all the stars that they are in
the sky? Yet the splendor of the sun is one thing, the splendor of the moon another, and the
splendor of the stars another (1 Cor 15:41). If that denarius stood for bodily health, is it not
the case that when we have our capacities in all parts of the body, there is health in all of
them, and if it stays that way until death, it is present the same and equally in all of them? Yet

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God established the organs of the body in the way he wanted them to be (1 Cor 12:18), and so
they are not all eyes, nor all for hearing, nor all for smell. Each of these, as well as any other,
has its own special characteristics, although they all have health equally. In this way, because
actual eternal life will be the same for all the saints, all receive the equal payment of a
denarius; but because in that eternal life the brilliance of their merits will shine out differently,
in the Father's house there are many rooms (Jn 14:2). So it will be that with the equal denarius
no one will live more lavishly than anyone else; but with the many rooms some will be
honored with greater distinction than others.
Virgins Follow the Lamb Wherever He Goes
27, 27. Press on, therefore, you saints of God, boys and girls, men and women, celibates and
virgins; press on steadfastly to the end. Praise God more pleasingly because you think of him
more frequently. Hope in him more gladly, because you serve him more earnestly. Love him
more ardently, because you serve his pleasure more attentively. Dressed for action, with lamps
alight, wait for the Lord to come from the wedding.21 You will introduce a new song at the
wedding of the Lamb, and you will sing it to the accompaniment of your lutes. It is certainly
not a song like the one the whole universe sings, when it is told, Sing a new song to the Lord;
all the world, sing to the Lord (Ps 96:1); but it is one no one can sing except you. This is how
you were seen in the Apocalypse by a certain person whom the Lamb loved more than the
others, who used to rest on his lap and drink in, and bring them up later, the supernatural
wonders of the Word of God. He saw you as a hundred and forty-four thousand holy lutists,
virginity unsullied in your bodies, truth inviolate in your hearts; and he wrote that you follow
the Lamb wherever he goes.22 Where do you think this Lamb goes, where no one but
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you dares, or is able, to follow him? Where do you think he goes? To what fields and
pastures? To the place, I believe, where the pasture is joy. Not the shallow joy and foolish
deceits of this world, not the kind of joy that even in the kingdom of heaven the rest who are
not virgins will have, but a joy distinct from that enjoyed by everyone else. It will be the joy
of the virgins of Christ, about Christ, in Christ, with Christ, following Christ, through Christ,
because of Christ. The special joy of Christ's virgins is not the same as that of non-virgins,
even if they too are Christ's. Others have other joys, but none of them have this kind. Go for
these, follow the Lamb, because without doubt the body of the Lamb is virginal too. In his
glorified state he himself retains what he did not take from his mother when he was conceived

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and born. Rightly you follow him by virginity in body and heart, wherever he goes. What
does follow mean except imitate? Because Christ suffered for us, and left us an example,
for us to follow in his footsteps.23 Everyone follows him insofar as imitating him, not as the
only Son of God, through whom all things were made, but as son of a human parent who, as
was fitting, presented in his own person the model to be imitated. There are many things in
him for everyone to imitate. Bodily virginity, however, is not for everyone. In fact, those who
have already lost their virginity do not have the option of being virgins.
Married Christians Can Also Follow Christ
28, 28. The rest of the faithful, therefore, who have lost bodily virginity, must follow him, not
wherever he goes, but wherever they can. They can, however, go everywhere, except when he
walks with the honor of virginity. Blessed are the poor in spirit (Mt 5:3); imitate him who,
although he was rich, became poor for you (2 Cor 8:9). Blessed are the meek (Mt 5:4); imitate
him who said, Learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart (Mt 11:9). Blessed are those
who mourn (Mt 5:5); imitate him who wept over Jerusalem.24 Blessed are those who hunger
and thirst after justice (Mt 5:6); imitate him who said, My food is to do the will of him who
sent me (Jn 4:34). Blessed are the merciful (Mt 5:7); imitate him who came to the aid of the
person wounded by the robbers and left lying on the road half dead and helpless.25 Blessed
are the clean of heart (Mt 5:8); imitate him who committed no sin and on whose tongue there
was found no deception (1 Pt 2:22). Blessed are the peacemakers (Mt 5:9); imitate him who
said this on behalf of his persecutors: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are
doing (Lk 23:34). Blessed are those who suffer persecution for justice's sake (Mt 5:10);
imitate him who suffered for you, leaving you an example, for you to follow in his footsteps
(1 Pt 2:21). Those who imitate him in these respects, in that way are following the Lamb. No
doubt even married people can follow those footsteps;
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even if they do not put their feet exactly in the same footprints, at least they walk the same
path.
Married Christians Should Not Be Envious of Virgins
29, 29. See how that Lamb walks on the path of virginity! How will those who have lost this
follow him, when it cannot be regained? You, therefore, you his virgins, follow him; you

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follow him in this too, since only in this way do you follow him wherever he goes. We can
urge married people to strive for every other gift of holiness needed for following him, except
this one that they have lost irrevocably. You, therefore, follow him by holding steadfastly to
your ardent vow. See to it, while you can, that you do not lose the gift of virginity; you can do
nothing to recover it afterward. The great numbers of the rest of the faithful, who are unable
to follow the Lamb this far, will see you. They will see you, but they will not be jealous. They
will rejoice with you because they will have in you what they do not have in themselves. They
will not be able to sing that new hymn that is exclusively yours, but they will be able to hear it
and to share your enjoyment of that special privilege. You, however, who both sing it and hear
it, since you will also hear what you yourselves sing, will enjoy greater happiness and reign
more joyously. Those, however, who do not have it, will have no sorrow because of your
greater joy. The Lamb, whom you follow wherever he goes, will certainly not abandon those
who are not able to follow him where you do. We are speaking of the Lamb who is almighty.
He will both go before you and also not go away from them, since he will be God, all things
in all persons (1 Cor 15:8). Those who have less will not be resentful toward you. Where there
is no envy, there is harmony in diversity. Have confidence, therefore, have trust, be strong and
persevere, you who make the vow of perpetual chastity, and keep your vow to the Lord your
God (Ps 76:11), not because of this world but for the kingdom of heaven.
Virginity Is Not Compulsory
30, 30. You too who have not yet made this vow, if you are able to accept it, accept it;26
keep on running to win.27 Each of you, Take your offerings and go into the halls of the Lord
(Ps 96:8), not out of necessity but with freedom of choice. One cannot say You shall not
marry, in the same way as You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill (Ex 20:13,15).
The latter are commandments, the former refers to offerings. If offerings are given, they are
praised; if commandments are not obeyed, there is condemnation. In the one case the Lord
orders you to fulfill an obligation; in the other case when he returns he will repay you for
undertaking something extra.28 Think of that special place in his house,
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whatever it is, far better than the one for the sons and daughters; think of that everlasting
name (Is 56:5). Who can explain what that name is? Whatever it is, it will be everlasting.
Believing in this and hoping for it and cherishing it, you will have the power, not to avoid
marriage because it is prohibited, but to fly beyond it although it is allowed.29

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A New Argument: The Need for Humility


31, 31. To the extent that this undertaking, which we have urged on you with all our energy, is
so excellent and so Godlike, so also the magnitude of it leads us to be concerned to say
something, not only about the great glory of chastity, but also about the great security of
humility. Accordingly, when those who profess perpetual chastity compare themselves with
married persons, and perceive in accordance with the scripture that they are inferior to
themselves in deed and merit and commitment and reward, immediately there comes to mind
the text: The greater you are, the more humble you must always be, and then you will find
favor with God (Sir 3:18). A person must have humility in proportion to his or her greatness.
The danger is pride, and the more exalted the person, the stronger will be its assault. After it,
following behind like a maid-in-waiting, there comes envy; pride always gives birth to this,
and never exists without this child and companion. In these two evils, pride and envy, the
devil is at work, and so all of Christian teaching wages war most vigorously against pride, the
mother of envy. It teaches humility, as the means of acquiring and preserving love. After
saying on this point that love does not envy, as though we asked how it comes about that it
does not envy, he continued straight on with, It is not puffed up (1 Cor 13:4), as if to say, The
reason why it does not have envy is that it is does not have pride. Therefore the teacher of
humility, Christ, first emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave, becoming like men and
women, and being perceived as human; he humbled himself, becoming obedient even to the
point of death, even the death of the cross (Phil 2:7-8).30 Who would find it easy to expound
how persistently his teaching inculcates humility, and how strongly it insists on it as a
commandment? Who would find it easy to gather together all the evidence to show this?
Someone who wishes to write specifically about humility should do this or attempt it; the
present work has a different aim, derived from that matter of such importance, namely, to see
that all precautions are taken to ward off pride.
Christ's Teaching on Humility
32, 32. Accordingly I shall recount from Christ's teaching about humility a few supporting
statements that the Lord sees fit to bring to my mind, and this may be enough for my purpose.
His first long discourse to his disciples began
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like this: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:3); and
without fear of controversy we take this to mean the humble. He gave special praise to the
faith of that centurion, and said he had not found such great faith in Israel, precisely because
he was so humble in his faith that he said, I am not worthy for you to enter under my roof (Mt
8:8-10). Also there is no reason for Matthew to say that the centurion himself came to Jesus,
although Luke gives us to understand very clearly that he did not come himself but sent his
friends,31 except that through his great faith and humility he himself came to Christ in a
more real way than those he sent. So that text is prophetic: The Lord is on high and he looks
on things that are lowly; but things that are lofty he observes from a distance (Ps 138:6),
surely because they are not coming closer to him. Hence he says to the Canaanite woman,
Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done as you wish (Mt 15:28), although he had first called
her a dog and replied that the children's bread should not be thrown to her.32 She had
accepted this with humility and said, Yes, Lord; but even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from
their master's table (Mt 15:26). So then, by her humble admission she earned what she failed
to obtain by loud insistence.33
For the same reason, because of those who saw themselves as just and despised others, we are
presented with those two praying in the temple, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector (Lk
18:10), and the confession of sins is preferred to the listing of virtues. Certainly the Pharisee
gave thanks for these things, in which he took great pleasure. I give you thanks, he said,
that I am not like the rest of people, unjust, robbers, adulterers, like this tax collector here. I
fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all I possess. The tax collector, however, stood at the
back, and did not venture to raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast and said: Lord be
merciful to me a sinner. There follows then the divine judgment: Truly, I tell you, the tax
collector went down from the temple justified, rather than the Pharisee. Then the reason why
this is right is disclosed: Because whoever exalts oneself will be humbled, and whoever
humbles oneself will be exalted (Lk 18:11-14). It is possible, therefore, for someone both to
avoid real evils and be aware of genuine goodness in himself or herself, and give thanks for
this to the Father, from whom comes every excellent thing we receive and every perfect gift
(Jas 1:17), and at the same time to be guilty of the sin of pride by being insulting to others
who are sinners, especially those who confess their sins in prayer, even if this is only done in
one's thoughts, before God. Those sinners should be pitied and not given up as lost, rather
than blamed from an attitude of superiority. What about that occasion when the disciples were
asking among themselves which of them was the most important, and he put a small child in

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front of them and said, Unless you become like this child, you will not enter the kingdom of
heaven (Mt 18:3)? Was he not giving the highest praise to humility and recognizing it as the
way to earn greatness?
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When too the sons of Zebedee wanted to be at his side on the throne on high, he answered that
instead of proudly and ambitiously asking to be given preference over others, they should
think rather of drinking from the cup of his suffering,34 in which he humbled himself to the
point of death, even the death of the cross (Phil 2:8). What else was he showing us except that
he would be the distributor of high positions for those who first followed him as the teacher of
humility? Then, when he was about to go to his passion, he washed his disciples' feet, and
expressly instructed them that what their Lord and Master had done for them they should do
for others who like them were disciples and slaves.35 What great commendation he thus
gave to humility! He even chose that particular time to commend it, when he was about to go
to his death and they were attending to him most earnestly, certain to remember especially this
last example the Master gave of the way to imitate him. He did this at that time, although he
could certainly have done it when he discussed things with them on other days previously. But
if he had done it then, the same message indeed would have been conveyed, but it surely
would not have been accepted in the same way.
Humility Is Especially Necessary for Celibates
33, 33. On the one hand, therefore, all Christians have to practice humility. Indeed they even
get the name of Christian from Christ; and no one can examine his Gospel attentively without
discovering that he is the teacher of humility. On the other hand, it is proper that those who
stand out from the rest because of some great gift should be especially concerned to develop
and preserve this virtue, and so they will pay great attention to what I said at first: The greater
you are, the more humble you must always be, and then you will find favor with God (Sir
3:18). So, since perpetual chastity, and especially virginity, is a great gift for God's saints,
great vigilance is needed to save it from being corrupted by pride.
34. The apostle Paul remarks on malicious spinsters who are inquisitive and gossipers, saying
that this vice comes from being idle. At the same time, he says, being idle they learn how to
go about from house to house; and not only are they idle, but inquisitive and gossipers as well,

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saying things they should not (1 Tm 5:13). He had already said about them, But avoid the
young widows; for after living a life of pleasure they now want to marry in Christ, although
they incur damnation, because they have violated their original pledge (1 Tm 5:11-12); that is
to say, they were not faithful to the vow they first made.
Pride Afflicts the Virtuous More Than Sinners
34. He does not say, however, that they marry, but that they want to marry. Many of them in
fact are held back from marrying, not by attachment to a
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splendid resolution, but by fear of open disgrace. This itself comes from pride, which makes
them more afraid of displeasing other people than displeasing God. These women want to
marry, but they do not marry because they cannot do so without criticism. They would do
better to marry rather than burn, that is, rather than their hearts be laid waste by the hidden
flames of desire. They regret the commitment they made and are loath to acknowledge it.
Unless they reform and once again turn to God in their hearts, and once again conquer lust
with the fear of God, they must be counted among the dead. They may be living a life of
pleasure, which is why the apostle says, She who lives a life of pleasure is dead while still
alive (1 Tm 5:6); or, without any change for the better in their hearts, they may be living a life
of needless labor and fasting, directed more to show than to reform. It is not my task to
inculcate great concern for humility in women like that. In them pride itself is in disarray,
splattered with the blood of the wounds of conscience. Nor is it my task to demand this great
concern for holy humility from those who are drunkards or avaricious or afflicted by any
other kind of deadly infection, since these profess chastity but then indulge in perverted
practices completely out of tune with that calling; I address myself to them, only if they
boldly parade these evils, not satisfied that their punishment has only been postponed. I am
not dealing either with those who have a particular desire to please others, either by wearing
clothes too elegant for their lofty calling or by dressing their hair in outlandish styles, whether
with towering ornamentation or with veils so delicate that the hair bands36 beneath are
visible. These women do not need to be instructed about humility, but about chastity and
modesty. Consider the woman who professes perpetual chastity and has none of these or any
similar sins or moral defects. It is for her that I fear pride; it is for that great gift in her that I
fear the cancer of self-satisfaction. The more she has reason to be pleased with herself, the

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more I am apprehensive that by being pleased with herself she will be displeasing to him who
resists the proud and gives his grace to the humble (Jas 4:6).
Christ Is the Prime Example of Humility
35, 35. For the main source of instruction and example of humility we must certainly look to
Christ himself. What more can I demand from virgins in the way of humility over and above
what he commanded, he who said to everyone, Learn of me for I am meek and humble of
heart (Mt 11:29)? After first reminding them of his greatness, as he wanted to show how much
he had lowered himself for our sake, he said: I acclaim you, Lord of heaven and earth,
because you have hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them to
the lowly. Yes, Father, because that is how you wanted it to be. Everything has been handed
over to me by my Father,
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and no one knows the Son except the Father; and no one knows the Father except the Son, and
those to whom the Son reveals him. Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I
will refresh you. Put on my yoke and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble of heart
(Mt 11:25-29). Although the Father had handed everything over to him, and no one knows
him except the Father, and no one knows the Father except him and those to whom he chooses
to reveal him, he does not say, Learn from me how to create the world and raise the dead to
life, but because I am gentle and
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humble of heart. O doctrine of salvation! O Lord and Master of the mortal creatures who taste
and drink death from the cup of pride! He would not teach us to be anything that he himself
was not; he would not command us to do anything that he himself did not do. Good Jesus,
with the eyes of faith that you have opened for me I see you as crying out in an assembly of
the whole human race and saying, Come to me and learn from me. O Son of God, through
whom all things were made, O Son of Man,37 who yourself became one of those created
objects, what, I implore you, what is it that we come to you to learn from you? Because I am
gentle and humble of heart (Mt 11:28), he says. Do all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge
hidden in you (Col 2:3) reduce to this, that the great thing we should learn from you is that
you are gentle and humble of heart? Is it that the greatness of being lowly is such that it would
be entirely impossible for us to learn it unless you, who are so great, did it yourself? Yes,

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indeed. There is no way for the soul to find peace except by ridding itself of the troublesome
swelling, which has made it think it was big, when in your eyes it was diseased.
An Exhortation to Humility
36, 36. Let those who seek your mercy and truth by living for you (for you, not for
themselves) hear you and come to you and learn to be gentle and humble. Let that sinner hear
it, the one who labors and is burdened, weighed down by his cares, not daring to raise his eyes
to heaven but beating his breast and approaching from a distance.38 Let the centurion hear it,
the one who is not worthy for you to enter under his roof.39 Let Zacchaeus hear it, the
notorious tax collector who restored fourfold the profits from detestable sins.40 Let that
woman hear it, the sinner of the city, weeping at his feet all the more for having been such a
stranger to your ways.41 Let the prostitutes and tax collectors hear it, those who enter the
kingdom of heaven before the scribes and Pharisees.42 Let the sick people of every kind
hear it, those you ate and drank with and were blamed for doing so (Mt 9:11-13). You were
blamed by the supposedly healthy people, who did not want a doctor, although you did not
come to call the just but to call sinners to repentance. When they turn back to you, conscious
of their wicked lives and your great forgiveness and mercy, all these have no difficulty in
being gentle and humble before you, because where sin has been abundant, grace has been
even more abundant (Rom 5:20).
37. Look on the company of virgins, holy young men and young women. Those of that group
have been educated in your Church, and there they have grown for you from their mothers'
breasts. She has loosened their tongues to speak for your honor; they have drunk in your name
as their babies' milk. None of this group can say: Before I blasphemed and persecuted and did
harm to others, but I have obtained your mercy, because in my unbelief I acted in ignorance (1
Tm 1:13). Rather they have even seized on the thing you did not command but only presented
for the acceptance of those who were willing, when you said, Let those who are able to accept
it, accept it. They have vowed themselves to it, and, not because you threatened but because
you commended it, they have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven (Mt 9:12).
The Humility of Christ Is a Fitting Model for Virgins

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37. Cry out to these, let them hear you say it, that you are gentle and humble of heart. The
more exalted they are, the more they should make themselves humble in everything, in order
to find favor with you. They are just, but are they like you, who make the unholy just? They
are chaste, but their mothers nourished them in the womb in sin.43 They are holy, but you
are the Saint of saints. They are virgins, but they were not also born from virgins. They are
inviolate in body and mind, but they are not the Word made flesh (Jn 1:14). Nevertheless let
them learn, not from those whose sins you forgive, but from you yourself, the Lamb of God,
who take away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29), because you are gentle and humble of heart.
38. O devout, pure soul, you who have not given in to your sensual inclinations even for
legitimate marriage, you who have not allowed your mortal body the prospect of having an
heir, you who have raised your agitated earthly body to the calm of a heavenly level of
existence, far be it from me to send you to sinners and tax collectors to learn humility, even
though they enter the kingdom of heaven before the proud; I do not send you to them. They,
who have been rescued from the abyss of impurity, are not worthy to have spotless virgins
sent to imitate them. I send you to the king of heaven, to him through whom all men and
women have been created, and who for their sake has been created as one of them. I send you
to the one who is the most handsome of men (Ps 45:2), but who for the sake of the human
race was despised by the human race. I send you to him who, even though he is Lord over the
immortal angels, did not think it demeaning to serve mortal creatures. It was certainly not
sinfulness that caused him to be humble, but love, the love that does not envy, is not puffed
up, does not look after its own interests,44 because Christ did not please himself, but, as
scripture says of
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him: the abuse of those who abused you fell on me (Rom 15:3). Go on then, go to him and
learn, for he is gentle and humble of heart. You will not be going to the one who did not dare
to raise his eyes to heaven because of the burden of his sinfulness, but to the one who came
down from heaven under the weight of his love.45 You will not be going to the one who
washed her Master's feet, because she wanted forgiveness for her great sins, but to the one
who washed the feet of his servants, although he was giving the forgiveness of all sins.46 I
know how honorable your virginity is; I do not ask you to imitate the tax collector humbly
accusing himself of his sins, but I worry that you may imitate the Pharisee proudly boasting of
his merits. I do not say, Be like her of whom it was said, Many sins are forgiven her, because

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she has loved much, but I am concerned that you may love little, because you think you have
been forgiven little.47
A Holy Fear Is Good for Virgins
38, 39. I am frightened, I say, that you will become proud about following the Lord wherever
he goes, and then you will not be able to follow him through the narrow places because you
are swollen with pride. O virgin soul, virgin as you are, the same in your heart as you were
when you were born again, and the same in your flesh as you were when you were first born,
you must still conceive, by the fear of the Lord, and give birth to the spirit of salvation.48 It
is true, as the scripture says, that in love there is no fear, but perfect love drives out fear (1 Jn
4:18), but that is fear of human beings and fear of material evils, not the fear of God's last
judgment. Do not be proud, but be afraid (Rom 11:20). Love God for his goodness, and fear
him for his severity; both will keep you from being proud. In loving you have fear of giving
serious offense to the one you love, who also loves you. What offense could be worse than
causing displeasure to the one who for your sake caused displeasure to the proud. Where else
ought there be that chaste fear that lasts for all ages (Ps 19:9) if not in you, who do not think
about the affairs of the world and how to please your husband, but about the Lord's interests,
how to please the Lord (1 Cor 7:32)? In love there is never that other fear, but in love this
chaste fear is never absent. If you do not love, then be afraid of being destroyed; if you do
love, then be afraid of offending. Charity drives out that other fear; with this one within it
races on. The apostle Paul also says: We have not received again the spirit of slavery and fear;
but we have received the spirit of adoption as children, whereby we cry out, Abba, Father
(Rom 8:15). He is speaking, I believe, about a fear we find in the Old Testament, the fear of
losing the material benefits that God promised to those who were not yet children living by
grace, but were still slaves subject to the law. There is also the fear of eternal fire; serving God
to avoid that is certainly not yet the way of perfect love. Desire for reward is one thing; dread
of punishment is something else. It is one thing to
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say, Where will I go to be away from your spirit, and where will I escape from your presence
(Ps 139:7)? It is another to say, I seek only one favor from the Lord, I ask only for this: to
dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to savor the pleasures of the Lord and
find shelter in his temple (Ps 27:4); and, Do not hide your face from me (Ps 27:9); and, My
soul yearns and pines for the palace of the Lord (Ps 84:2). The first would be said by the one

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who did not dare to raise his eyes to heaven, and the woman who washed the Lord's feet with
her tears to implore forgiveness for her great sins. The other is for you to say, you who are
concerned about the Lord's interests, so as to be holy in body and mind. The first are words
accompanied by the fear that brings torment with it, which perfect love drives out. The other
are words accompanied by that chaste fear of the Lord that lasts for all ages. In both cases
there is need to say, Do not be proud, but be afraid (Rom 11:20), so that one will not become
proud, either by making excuses for one's sins or by taking justification for granted. Even
Paul, who says, You have not received the spirit of slavery in fear again (Rom 8:15), still has
fear as the companion of love when he says, I came to you with much fear and trembling (1
Cor 2:3). And for fear the wild olive that has been grafted on might lord it over the broken
branches of the olive tree, he made that statement I quoted, Do not be proud, but be afraid.
Giving a general warning to all Christ's members, he also says, Work out your own salvation
in fear and trembling; for it is God who brings it about in you both that you will anything and
that you act in accordance with your good will (Phil 2:12-13). He says this so that the text,
Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice in him with trembling (Ps 2:11), will not seem to be
relevant only to the Old Testament.
The Holy Spirit Dwells in a Humble Heart
39, 40. What members of the holy body, which is the Church, ought to take care to have the
Holy Spirit resting over them, more than those who declare themselves committed to the
holiness of virginity? How will the Spirit rest, though, where it finds no place for itself? And
what place is there, other than in a heart made humble, a heart he fills, not one he recoils
from, a heart he excites, not one he weighs down? It is said very clearly, On whom will my
Spirit rest? On the one who is lowly and at peace and in awe of my words (Is 66:2). Now you
are living justly, now you are living devoutly, and are living a pure and holy life in virginal
chastity. Just the same, you still live here. So does it not make you humble to hear the words,
Is not the human life on earth a trial (Jb 7:1)? Does it not deter you from over-confidence and
self-satisfaction to hear the words, Woe to the world because of scandals (Mt 18:7)? Do you
not tremble to think that you might be counted among the great number whose love grows
cold, because sin abounds (Mt 24:12)? Do you not beat your breast to hear it said, Therefore,
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whoever thinks he or she stands upright, let that person take care not to fall (1 Cor 10:12)?
With all these divine warnings and human perils, must we still work to convince holy virgins
of the need for humility?
The Virgin Should Love More Because of Her Greater Gifts
40, 41. Are we to believe there is any other reason why God allows many men and women to
be associated with you in your calling who are going to lapse from it, except to have your fear
become greater because of their lapse, and so to keep pride suppressed? God detests it so
much that the Most High made himself lowly just to oppose this one vice. Otherwise you
might be less fearful and more easily grow proud, and even though he loved you so much and
gave himself up for you,49 you might love him little because he has forgiven you little,
seeing that from childhood you have lived devoutly and purely in the holy chastity of spotless
virginity. Should you not rather love him more ardently, since he has saved you from falling
into all those sins for which he has forgiven sinners after they have turned back to him? Is it
not true that that Pharisee, who loved little because he thought he was forgiven little,50 was
blinded by that error for no other reason than that he did not know God's justice and wanted to
have his own, and so was not subject to God's justice (Rom 10:3)? You, however, are a chosen
people, especially chosen even among the chosen ones; you are the choir of virgins who
follow the Lamb; yet you too have been saved by grace through your faith, and this is not
your own doing but a gift from God, not brought about by your deeds, so that no one may
become proud. We are his creation, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has
prepared, for them to be our way of acting (Eph 2:8-10).
So then, is it that the more he adorns you with his gifts, the less you love him? May he
himself ward off such horrendous insanity! Since then the Truth speaks the truth, and says that
someone who is forgiven little loves little, in order to love most ardently the one you have
become free to love by forgoing the bonds of matrimony, you must consider yourself as
having been forgiven in an absolute way all the evil you have not committed because of his
intervention. Let your eyes always be turned to the Lord, because he will pluck your feet from
the snare (Ps 25:15); and, Unless the Lord guards the city, those who guard it watch in vain
(Ps 127:1). Also when the apostle talks about celibacy, he says, I should like everyone to be
like me, but each has one's own gift from God, one in one way, another in another way (1 Cor
7:7). Who then gives those gifts? Who is it who distributes the appropriate gift to each person

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in whatever way he chooses (1 Cor 12:11)? It is God, with whom there is no unfairness.51
What is fair in the way he treats different persons differently, it is extremely difficult, if not
impossible, for the human mind to discern; but it would be wrong to have any doubt that he
does
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act fairly. So, what do you have that you have not received (1 Cor 4:7)? What kind of
perversion would it be to love him less, when he gave you more?
The Virgin Has Been Saved from Many Sins
41, 42. The first thing to think about, therefore, is acquiring humility, so that God's virgin will
not think that she is a virgin by her own doing, rather than that this splendid gift has come
down from above from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change and no shadow of
change (Jas 1:17). Then she will not think she has been forgiven little, and therefore love
little, and, unaware of God's justice and wanting to have her own, not be submissive to God's
justice.52 This was the sin of Simon, the one who was inferior to the woman who was
forgiven many sins because she loved much. On the contrary, with more caution and greater
truth she will ponder how all the sins God has saved her from committing must be looked on
as having been forgiven. Witness to this are all those devout prayers in holy scripture which
show that even God's commandments are not carried out unless he who gives the command
makes it possible and assists. It would be dishonest to pray for these things, if we could do
them without the help of God's grace. Is there anything commanded so universally, and with
such urgency, as the obedience by which God's commandments are kept? Yet we find this
being prayed for. You, he said, have commanded your commandments to be kept to the utmost
(Ps 119:4). This is followed by: May my steps be directed toward keeping your laws; then I
will not be ashamed when I look at all your commandments (Ps 119:5-6). What he first said
God commanded, he then prayed to be able to do. He certainly does this in relation to
avoiding sin. But what if sin is committed? There is a commandment to repent, so that the one
who did the deed will not be destroyed by being proud and defending and excusing the sin,
instead of repenting and wanting the deed to be destroyed. There is prayer to God for this too,
which implies that it will not happen unless it is granted by the one from whom it is sought in
prayer. Place a guard on my mouth, O Lord, it says, and the gate of continence on my lips; do
not let my heart descend to evil words, making excuses for my sins as the wicked do (Ps
141:3-4).53 If, therefore, we desire and pray for both the obedience whereby we keep his

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commandments, and the repentance whereby we do not excuse, but accuse, ourselves of our
sins, it is obvious that when this happens, we receive these things as a gift from him and they
have their effect with his help. In relation to obedience there is an even clearer statement: The
Lord directs the steps of men and women and takes pleasure in their progress (Ps 37:23),
while about repentance the apostle says: To see if God will give them repentance (2 Tm 2:25).
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43. About celibacy itself has it not been said in the clearest way: And although I knew that no
one can be continent unless God grants it, even this too, to know whose gift it is, was also part
of wisdom (Wis 8:21)?
God Even Gives the Gift to Know His Gifts
42. Perhaps, however, celibacy is a gift from God, but wisdom, whereby one knows that the
gift is not one's own but comes from God, is the human being's own accomplishment. On the
contrary, The Lord makes the blind wise (Ps 146:8); and The Lord's words are trustworthy and
they give wisdom to the little ones (Ps 19:7); and If anyone is in need of wisdom, let that
person ask for it from God, who gives generously to everyone and does not hold back, and it
will be granted (Jas 1:5). Virgins, however, should be wise, so as not to let their lamps go
out;54 but how are they to be wise, except by not aspiring to the high places, but being
content with the lowly (Rom 12:16)? Wisdom itself said to mankind: Behold, piety is wisdom
(Jb 28:28). If, therefore, you have nothing that you have not received, do not be proud but be
afraid (Rom 11:12). Then do not love little, as though you have been forgiven little, but love
much because you have been given much. If someone loves because of being excused from
giving something back, how much more ought someone to love who has been given
something to keep? When anyone stays chaste from the beginning, it is God who directs
them; and when anyone becomes chaste after being unchaste, it is God who corrects them,
and when anyone is unchaste to the end, it is God who rejects them. The way God decides
these things may well be mysterious, but it cannot be that it is unjust. Perhaps the reason why
it is hidden is to make us more afraid and less proud.
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43, 44. Now that men and women know that they are what they are by the grace of God, let
them not fall into another trap of pride, by becoming proud even about God's grace and
looking down on others because of that. This was the sin of that Pharisee who gave thanks to
God for the good things he had, but still put himself above the tax collector who confessed his
sins.55 What then is the virgin to do? What are to be her thoughts if she is to avoid seeing
herself as superior to men and women who do not have the same great gift? She ought not to
pretend to be humble, but should show that she is; for a pretense of humility makes pride
worse. For this reason, when scripture wanted to show that humility should be genuine, it first
said, The greater you are, the more humble you should be in everything, but also added, you
will find favor with God (Sir 3:18-19), and there can certainly be no pretense of humility with
him.
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The Virgin Must Consider Her Hidden Defects
44, 45. What shall we say then? Is there something that God's virgin can think truthfully, so as
not to see herself as better than other women of faith, whether widows or married women? I
am not speaking of a sinful one, as everyone knows that a woman who is obedient is better
than a virgin who is not.56 When, however, both keep God's commandments, will she be
afraid to prefer holy virginity even to chaste marriage, celibacy to matrimony, and to put the
hundredfold fruitfulness ahead of the thirtyfold fruitfulness? Not at all; she must not hesitate
to rank the one above the other. Nevertheless, this virgin, this obedient and God-fearing
virgin, will not dare to consider herself superior to any particular obedient and God-fearing
woman; otherwise she will not be humble, and God resists the proud (Jas 4:6). What then
should be her thoughts? She should consider God's hidden gifts, which are revealed even to
the person who has them only when put to the test. Saying nothing about other things, even
though she is concerned about the Lord's interests, how to please the Lord (1 Cor 7:32), how
does the virgin know whether perhaps, because of some hidden spiritual defect, she is not yet
ready for martyrdom, whereas the other woman, whom she delights to think is her inferior, is
already able to drink the cup of the Lord's humility, the cup he offered to be drunk first to the
disciples who were eager to have the places of honor?57 What I am saying is this: How can
she know whether perhaps she is not yet a Thecla, but the other woman already is a Crispina?
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The Hundredfold, Sixtyfold, and Thirtyfold Fruit


45. There is certainly no way of showing the existence of this gift, if it is not tested.
46. This is such an important gift, however, that some people understand it to be that
hundredfold fruit.59 The most imposing evidence in favor of this view comes from the
authority of the Church. The faithful know well the order in which the names of the martyrs
and those of the deceased holy virgins are recited in the celebration of the sacraments.60
Those who have a better understanding of these things than we do can give thought to the
interpretation of that difference in fruitfulness. Is it the life of a virgin that bears fruit a
hundred times over, the life of a widow that bears fruit sixty times over, and the life of a
married person that bears fruit thirty times over?61 Or is it rather that being fruitful a
hundred times over refers to martyrdom, being fruitful sixty times over refers to celibacy, and
being fruitful thirty times over refers to married life? Or does virginity produce fruit a
hundred times over when combined with martyrdom, but only sixty times over by itself,
whereas married people, who bear fruit thirty times over, increase this to sixty if they are
martyrs? Or, as seems more probable to me, because God in his kindness grants many gifts,
and some are greater and better than others, so
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that the apostle can say, Aspire to the better gifts (1 Cor 12:31), should we conclude that there
are too many for them to be divided into three kinds? First of all, let us not decide that the
celibacy of widows bears no fruit at all, or lower it to the same level as married chastity, or
raise it to the same honored rank as virginity; and let us not reckon that the crown of
martyrdom, either as a disposition of soul not yet put to the test or as an actuality proven by
the experience of suffering, does not bring any increase in fruitfulness to any of those three
kinds of chastity. Then we can consider that many men and women maintain virginal chastity
but still do not do what the Lord says: If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and
give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me (Mt 19:21), and
they do not dare to share the life of those with whom no one has anything to call one's own,
but with them everything is owned in common (Acts 2:44; 4:32). Do we think there is no
increase in fruitfulness for God's virgins when they do this? Or that being God's virgins
without doing this is not fruitful at all?
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46. There are, therefore, many gifts, and some are more splendid and more perfect than
others; each person has his own gifts. Sometimes one person receives fewer gifts but greater
ones, and another receives lesser gifts but more of them. Given that there is a great number of
those different gifts, and the advantages of the better ones are not for this life but for eternity,
who among us would dare to decide among them as to their equality or the extent of their
inequality? In my opinion, however, the Lord chose to mention three different degrees of
fruitfulness,62 and leave the rest for us to work out. In fact one of the other evangelists
mentions only the hundredfold fruitfulness.63 Are we to take this to mean that he did not
accept the other two or did not know about them, rather than that he left them for us to take as
implied?
47. Whether the hundredfold fruitfulness refers to virginity dedicated to God, or whether
those different degrees of fruitfulness are to be understood in some other way, which we may
or may not have mentioned, it remains true, as I had begun to say, that no one, it seems to me,
would dare to consider virginity superior to martyrdom, and no one would doubt that
martyrdom is a gift that remains hidden if it is not put to the test.
Married People May Be Prepared for Martyrdom
47. The virgin, therefore, has enough to think about to help her to stay humble and not offend
against love, that love that is the greatest of all gifts, and without which, whatever other gifts
she may have, few or many, great or small, she is
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nothing. She has, I say, enough to think about to keep her from becoming proud64 or
envious. She should hold virginity to be a much greater and better thing than marriage, while
still being conscious that she does not know whether any particular married woman is already
capable of suffering for Christ, whereas she is not yet capable of that and it is a mercy to her
that her weakness is not put to the test. God is faithful, says the apostle, and he does not allow
you to be tempted more than you can bear, but along with the temptation provides a way out
of it, so that you are able to withstand it (1 Cor 10:13). Perhaps those men and women,
therefore, who live a married life admirable in its own way, are already capable of resisting
the enemy's efforts to force them to commit acts of wickedness, even with their bodies torn
apart and their blood poured out. And perhaps those men and women who have kept

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themselves chaste since childhood and have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of
God (Mt 19:12) still do not have the strength to endure anything like that for justice, or for
purity itself. It is one thing to maintain the truth and one's holy resolution by not giving in to
persuasion and blandishments; it is another to do so by holding out even in the face of torture
and savagery. This strength lies hidden in the powers and abilities of the spirit; it is brought
out by being tested and becomes evident when it is experienced. Consequently, to avoid
becoming proud because of what one sees one can do, everyone should humbly meditate on
the fact that he or she does not know of something more significant that he or she cannot do,
whereas others, who do not do or claim to do the thing he or she glories in the knowledge of,
are able to do the thing he or she cannot do. In this way, with true, not false, humility, the
words will be fulfilled: Being quick to give honor to each other (Rom 12:10), and, each
person thinking the other is better (Phil 2:3).
No One Is Ever Entirely Free of Sin
48, 48. What shall I say now about care and vigilance to avoid sin? Who will boast that he or
she has a pure heart? Who will boast that he or she is without stain of sin (Prv 20:9)? To be
sure, your holy virginity has remained intact from your mother's womb; but, he says, no one is
clean in your sight, not even the baby that has lived only one day on this earth (Jb 25:4).
There is a kind of virginal chastity preserved in faith too, the chastity that makes the Church a
chaste virgin fit for her one spouse; but that one spouse taught a prayer, and he did so from the
highest region of the heavens right to its boundaries (Mt 24:31), not only to virgins faithful in
mind and body, but to all Christians without exception, from the most spiritual to the most
carnal, from the apostles to the lowliest of repentant sinners, and in that prayer he instructed
us to say: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us (Mt 6:12). By
having us ask for this he made it clear what we ourselves are, and that we should be mindful
of
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it. He did not command us to say Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass
against us as a prayer for the sins of our past life, which we are confident were all forgiven us
in baptism through the peace it brings. Otherwise, it would be the catechumens who ought to
say this prayer, until they are baptized. When baptized persons say it, however, persons in
authority as well as the ordinary people, the shepherds as well as the flock, it is demonstrated

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clearly enough that in this life, all of which is a trial,65 no one should pride oneself on being
entirely free from sin.
Virgins Must Also Confess Their Faults
49, 49. So God's virgins, blameless as they are, do follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They
have made full atonement for their sins and have kept their virginity, which once lost does not
return. The very same Apocalypse, however, also praises them for having no lie found on their
lips.66 They should be mindful, therefore, to be truthful about this too, and not dare to say
that they have no sins. Even John himself, the one who had that vision, said this: If we say
that we are without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not with us. If, instead, we
confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and so he will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from
all iniquity. If, however, we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word will not
be with us (1 Jn 1:8-10). This is certainly not said only to one or another particular group, but
to all Christians, among whom the virgins too must see themselves to be included. In this way
they will have no lies, just as they are presented in the Apocalypse. For this reason, as long as
there is not yet the state of perfection in the glory of heaven, humble confession will preserve
them from blame.
50. Furthermore, in case these words should lead anyone to commit sin with a fatal sense of
security, and give in to sins on the understanding that they will quickly and easily be wiped
out by confession, he immediately added: My little children, I have written these things for
you, so that you will not sin. If anyone does sin, he or she has a just advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ. He himself has atoned for our sins (1 Jn 2:1-2). Therefore, let no one give up sin
with the intention of going back to it; and let no one make that pact with wickedness, as it
were, to take pleasure in confessing it rather than in avoiding it.
Even the Most Virtuous Must Remain Humble
50. Even those who are vigilant and energetic in striving to avoid sin are sometimes overtaken
by sins of human frailty. Though they may be minor ones and few in number, they are still
sins, and even they grow and become serious if
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pride adds its weight to them. If, however, they are suppressed by devout humility, they will
be fully absolved by the priest we have in heaven.
51. I do not wish to argue with those who assert that it is possible for a human being to live in
this life without committing any sin; I do not argue with that, and do not contradict it.67
Perhaps we measure great persons from the viewpoint of our own wretchedness, and because
we compare ourselves with ourselves we fail to understand them.68 One thing I know, those
great persons, who are different from us and outside our experience, are great precisely to the
extent that they find favor with God by being humble in everything. However great they are,
the servant is not greater than the master or the disciple greater than the teacher (Jn 13:16).
That master is the one who says, Everything has been handed over to me by my Father (Mt
11:27), and that teacher is the one who says, Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and learn from me (Mt 11:28). And what do we learn? For, he says, I am gentle and humble of
heart (Mt 11:29).
Love and Humility Protect Virginity
51, 52. At this point someone might say, He is no longer writing about virginity, but about
humility. As if our object is to preach just any virginity, and not the one that follows God's
way. The greater I perceive its excellence to be, the more I dread it being stolen and destroyed
by pride. The only one who can protect the gift of virginity is God himself, he who gave it,
and God is love (1 Jn 4:8). Love, therefore, is the guardian of virginity; and the place for this
guardian is humility. This is the dwelling place of the one who said that his Spirit rests on the
humble and peaceful and those who reverence his word.69 How is it irrelevant, then, if I
have wanted the good thing that I am commending to be protected more securely, and
therefore have taken steps to see that there is a place ready for its guardian? I speak with
confidence, and I have no fear that those I am anxiously advising to share my fears will be
angry with me for having those fears. Married persons who are humble will follow the Lamb
if not wherever he goes, certainly as far as they are ablemore easily than virgins who are
proud. How can someone follow him, who does not want to go near him? And how can
someone go near him, who does not come to him to learn, because he is gentle and humble of
heart?70 Those whom the Lamb leads after him wherever he goes are those with whom
previously he has found a place to lay his head. A proud, cunning person once said to him,
Lord, I shall follow you wherever you go, and he answered, Wolves have their holes and the

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birds of the air their nests; but the Son of Man does not have a place to lay his head (Mt 8:1920). With the word wolves he was accusing him of cunning trickery, and with the word
birds accusing him of fickle vanity. He did not find in him the devout humility where he
could rest. So it happened that, although he had promised to follow the Lord,
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not just for some of the way but absolutely wherever he went, he did not follow him anywhere
at all.
Humility Will Produce Love
52, 53. This, therefore, is what you must do, virgins of God, this is what you must do: follow
the Lamb wherever he goes. But first come to the one you are going to follow and learn, for
he is gentle and humble of heart (Mt 11:29). If you love him, come humbly to the one who is
humble; and do not leave him, lest you fall. Anyone who is frightened of leaving him says the
prayer, Let not the foot of pride come upon me (Ps 36:11). Continue along the road to
greatness with humble steps. He who did not decline to stoop to those lying prostrate will
raise up those who follow him with humility. Commit to him for safekeeping the gifts he has
given you, trust him to maintain your strength.71 Whatever evil you avoid committing with
his protection, count as having been forgiven by him. Then you will not think you have been
forgiven little and so love him little, and will not, with disastrous self-glorification, disdain the
tax collectors as they beat their breasts.72 As for strength you know you have from
experience, take care not to become proud about what you are capable of enduring; as for
strength you do not know you have from experience, however, pray that you will not be
tempted beyond what you can bear. When you are superior to other persons in obvious things,
think of them as being superior in something hidden. When you generously assume others to
have good qualities that perhaps you are not aware of, your own gifts that you are aware of
are not diminished by the comparison, but are made secure by love. Moreover, the more
humble you are in your desire for them, the more readily the gifts that perhaps you still lack
will be granted to you. Let those of your number who hold fast be an example to you; let
those who lapse increase your fear. Love what the former do, so that you will imitate it; grieve
for what the latter do, so that you will not become puffed up. Do not decide your own
justification, but submit yourselves to God's judgment. Pardon the sins of others, pray for
your own. Avoid sin in the future by being vigilant, destroy sins of the past by confessing
them.

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Virginity Is the Angelic Life on Earth


53, 54. Yes, your way of life is now in harmony with the virginity you profess and preserve.
Not only do you have nothing to do with murder, satanic sacrifices and other abominations of
the devil, theft, robbery, fraud, perjury, drunkenness and every kind of greed and excess,
pretense, envy, irreverence and cruelty,73 but even things that are less serious, or at least
thought to be so, are not observed in you, and do not happen. There are no impudent looks, no
wandering eyes, no
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unbridled tongue, no suggestive laugh, no smutty jokes, no immodest ways, no extravagant or
affected walk. You do not repay evil with evil, curses with curses (1 Pt 3:9). In the end you
have that supreme degree of love, such that you would lay down your life for your brothers
and sisters.74 Yes, that is how you are now, and that is how you ought to be. When you have
added these qualities to your virginity, you will display the life of angels to all, and a heavenly
way of life on earth. Nevertheless, the greater you are, all you who are great in this way, the
more you must be humble in everything, in order to find favor with God (Sir 3:20), so that he
will not resist the proud,75 nor humble those who exalt themselves,76 nor fail to drag
through the narrow door those who are swollen with pride. When there is ardent love,
however, there is no need for any concern about lack of humility.
Virgins Should Contemplate the Incarnate Savior
54, 55. If, therefore, you reject human marriage, where you would have children, love with all
your heart the one who is the most handsome of men (Ps 45:2). You are free to do this; your
heart is free of the ties of marriage. Gaze on the beauty of your lover, ponder how he is equal
to the Father,77 but subject to his mother; ruler in heaven, but servant on earth; creator of all
things, but also creature as one of them. See how beautiful is the very thing the proud disdain
in him. Gaze with the mind's eyes on the wounds of the crucified one, the marks in the flesh
of the risen one, the blood of the dying one, the price paid for the faithful, the transaction
completed by the redeemer.
Virgins Should Love Christ as a Spouse

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55. Consider the value of all these things, and put them on the scales of love, and give to him
in return whatever love you would have had to spend in marriage.
56. It is good that he wants interior beauty from you, when he has given you the power to
become children of God.78 He does not look for beauty of body, but the moral beauty of
your control over the body. He is not a person anyone can tell lies to about you, to make him
jealous and angry. See how confidently you can love him when you have no fear of incurring
his displeasure because of false suspicions. A husband and wife love each other because they
see each other, but they worry about what they do not see. While they suspect something
secret, usually something not happening, they cannot rejoice with any assurance about what is
in the open. In your case, however, in your beloved, whom you do not see with your eyes but
behold by faith, there is nothing true that you can reproach him with, and you have no fear of
offending him because of something that is not true. So, if you would have owed great love to
your husband, how greatly should
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you love him on whose account you chose not to have a husband? He was fastened to the
cross for you; hold him tight to every part of your heart. Let him occupy in your mind all the
room you did not allow to be taken by marriage. It is not right that you should love him only a
little, when for his sake you have held back even from love that was licit. In you who have
love like this for the one who is gentle and humble of heart,79 I have no great fear of there
being pride.
Conclusion
56, 57. As best our limitations have allowed, we have now said enough both about the
sacredness, from which you get the special name, sacred virgins,80 and about the humility,
by which any greatness ascribed to you is protected. In addition to what I have written in this
essay, take the advice given to you, with greater right to do so, by those three young men who
were kept cool in the midst of the fire by the one for whom they had such burning love.81
The hymn in which they gave glory to God has much fewer words, but it carries greater
weight of authority. Combining humility with holiness in their praise of God, they taught with
utmost clarity that the holier one's calling, the more one should be on one's guard not to be
deceived by pride. So, you too, give praise to him who grants to you that in midst of the
burning heat of this world, even though you do not marry, you do not burn.82 Praying on our

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behalf too, recite the prayer: You who are holy and humble of heart, bless the Lord. Sing a
hymn to him, and glorify him for all ages (Dn 3:87).
Notes
1 See Rom 11:17-18.
2 See The Excellence of Marriage 13, 15, 16, 18-19, 22. In his earlier anti-Manichean
writings Augustine had used this argument to defend the married saints of the Old Testament
against the Manichees' criticism of their sexual morality: for example, Answer to Faustus
22.33
3 Augustine here indicates the two parts of this treatise: the first part (2, 230, 30) argues on
behalf of the excellence of virginity; the second part (31, 3152, 53) warns virgins of the
dangers of pride.
4 The notion that Mary was a consecrated virgin originated in the second century
Protevangelium of James. Mary as a model for virgins was popularized in the fourth century
West by Ambrose of Milan. See On Virgins II, 6-18, and the discussion in Charles William
Neumann, The Virgin Mary in the Works of Saint Ambrose (Paradosis 17; Fribourg: The
University Press, 1962).
5 See Rom 8:17.
6 See Gal 4:19.
7 See Mt 9:15.
8 By Adam Augustine refers to humanity born under the power of sin and subject to
mortality. See Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:22. Augustine's understanding of original
sin, which he developed more fully in the course of the Pelagian controversy, gave further
support to the practice of infant baptism.

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9 Early in the 380s at Rome, the layman Helvidius developed a similar argument to support
the equality of marriage and celibacy. See Jerome, Against Helvidius, and the discussion in
David G.
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Hunter, Helvidius, Jovinian, and the Virginity of Mary in Late Fourth-Century Rome,
Journal of Early Christian Studies 1 (1993) 48-50.
10 See The Excellence of Marriage 21, 25, where Augustine argues that a virtue can be
present in the spirit, even when it is not manifested in external action.
11 See 2 Cor 11:2.
12 Augustine here summarizes his teaching on the various goods of marriage. See The
Excellence of Marriage 3, 37, 7 and 24, 32.
13 The opinion Augustine cites is attributed to Jovinian by Jerome, Against Jovinian I, 12.
Jovinian, who was himself celibate, argued that celibacy was preferable in this life, but that it
did not confer any special benefit in the next life.
14 See 1 Cor 7:33-34.
15 See Mt 19:9.
16 Paul's somewhat ambivalent affirmations about marriage in 1 Corinthians 7 were often
interpreted by early Christian ascetics as implying an essentially negative evaluation of
marriage. Such readings of Paul were espoused by Marcion, Tatian, and the Encratites; but
similar perspectives can be found in Tertullian and Jerome.
17 Augustine tries here to steer a middle course between the heretical rejection of marriage,
espoused in his day especially by the Manichees, and the view of Jovinian, who equated
marriage and celibacy.
18 See The Excellence of Marriage 26, 35.

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19 See Is 56:5.
20 See Mt 20:9.
21 See Lk 12:35-36.
22 See Rv 14:1ff.
23 See 1 Pt 2:21.
24 See Lk 19:4.
25 See Lk 19:14.
26 See Mt 19:12.
27 See 1 Cor 9:24.
28 See Lk 10:35.
29 This chapter concludes the first part of the treatise, Augustine's exhortation to virginity.
The second part focuses on the need for virgins to remain humble and to acknowledge that
God is the source of their gift.
30 Augustine frequently refers to the incarnation as the supreme example of God's humility.
See, for example, Confessions VII, 18, 24.
31 See Lk 7:6-7.
32 See Mt 15:26.
33 See Mt 15:22-28.
34 See Mt 20:21-22.

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35 See Jn 13:1-17.
36 [Translator] More literally, hair nets (Latin: retiola). The point is that these are rich and
ornamental, and they are displayed through the transparent material of the veil.
37 [Translator] Since it is well accepted that Jesus was indeed born, not of man
specifically, but of woman, there should be no quibble with retaining the hallowed reference
to Jesus as Son of Man, where man clearly has only its generic meaning.
38 See Lk 18:13.
39 See Mt 8:8.
40 See Lk 19:2, 8.
41 See Lk 7:37-38.
42 See Mt 21:31.
43 See Ps 51:5.
44 See 1 Cor 13:4-5.
45 See Jn 6:38.
46 See Jn 13:5.
47 See Lk 7:38, 47.
48 See Is 26:18.
49 See Gal 2:20.

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50 See Lk 7:36-47.
51 See Rom 9:14.
107
52 See Rom 10:3.
53 This text from Psalm 141 is the subject of extensive discussion in Augustine's treatise on
Continence.
54 See Mt 25:4.
55 See Lk 18:10-14.
56 See The Excellence of Marriage 23, 28-31, where Augustine develops at length the
argument that obedience is a higher virtue than continence.
57 See Mt 20:22.
58 Thecla was a popular virgin and martyr in the early Church, whose legend was
immortalized in the second century Acts of Paul and Thecla. Crispina was a married woman
who suffered martyrdom in North Africa during the persecution of Diocletian. See Sermon
354, 5: PL 39, 1565, where Augustine compares the virgin martyr Agnes with the married
martyr Crispina.
59 The interpretation of the hundredfold fruit as that of martyrdom is found in Cyprian, The
Dress of Virgins 21; see Augustine, Questions on the Gospels I, 9: CCL 44B, 13.
60 Augustine refers to a distinction made in the litany of the African Mass between martyrs
and deceased virgins. In Sermon 273, 7: PL 38, 1251, Augustine notes that in the recitation
of names at the altar of Christ, the names of the martyrs are recited in the most honored
place. See Sermon 159, 1: PL 38, 868, where Augustine notes that Christians do not pray for
the martyrs when their names are recited at the altar.

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61 This is the interpretation favored by Jerome, Against Jovinian I, 3; see Augustine, The
Excellence of Marriage 19, 22.
62 See Mt 13:8.
63 See Lk 8:8.
64 See 1 Cor 13:4.
65 See Jb 7:1.
66 See Rv 14:4-5.
67 The possibility of living a sinless life later became an issue in the Pelagian controversy.
Augustine ultimately rejected the idea. See Answer to Two Letters of the Pelagians I, 15, 28;
III, 8, 24; IV, 12, 33; The Gift of Perseverance 2, 4.
68 See 1 Cor 10:12.
69 See Is 66:2.
70 See Mt 11:29.
71 See Ps 59:10.
72 See Lk 7:47.
73 See Gal 5:19ff.; 1 Cor 5:9ff.
74 See Jn 3:16.
75 See Jas 4:6; 1 Pt 5:5.
76 See Lk 18:4.

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77 See Phil 2:6.


78 See Jn 1:12.
79 See Mt 11:29.
80 By the late fourth century the word sanctimoniales, translated here as sacred virgins,
had become a technical term for women formally consecrated to the virginal life.
81 See Dn 3:1ff.
82 See 1 Cor 7:9.
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109
THE EXCELLENCE OF WIDOWHOOD
110
111
Introduction
Composed in 414, The Excellence of Widowhood was addressed as a letter to Anicia Juliana,
the widow of Anicius Hermogenianus Olybrius. Juliana was a member of the gens Anicia, one
of the oldest and most distinguished Christian families at Rome. She was the mother of
Demetrias, a young woman whose consecration to the virginal life in 413 provoked letters of
advice and adulation from notable Christian teachers throughout the world, among them
Jerome and Pelagius.1 Juliana's mother-in-law was Anicia Faltonia Proba, the widow of the
famous statesman, Sextus Petronius Probus. Proba, Juliana, and Demetrias had fled Rome
before the invasion of Alaric in 410. They settled in Carthage, where Juliana was enrolled as a
widow in 412. Augustine composed several letters to Juliana and her family, among them
Letter 188 and the famous Letter 130 to Proba on prayer. The Excellence of Widowhood was
written early in the Pelagian controversy. Augustine knew that Juliana's family was on cordial

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terms with Pelagius and in the letter he warns Juliana of the dangers in Pelagius' theology,
though without mentioning him by name (17, 2118, 22).2
Augustine himself divides the letter into two parts: the first part presents instruction
(doctrina) on widowhood (2, 315, 19); the second part offers encouragement (exhortatio;
16, 20end). The bulk of Augustine's instruction is an interpretation of Paul's teaching on
marriage and celibacy in the seventh chapter of his First Letter to the Corinthians. Augustine
notes that Paul's affirmation of the superiority of celibacy is in no way a denigration of
marriage. Conjugal chastity and fidelity to the marriage bond are both gifts of God, though
lesser ones than virginity or widowhood; even multiple marriages are blessed by God,
Augustine argues (4, 5; 12, 15). Augustine regards as heretical any attempt to condemn
second marriages; he explicitly cites the Montanists, the Novatianists, and Tertullian as guilty
of this error (4, 6).
The Excellence of Widowhood repeats many of the views that can be found in Augustine's
earlier writings on marriage and celibacy, such as The Excellence of Marriage and Holy
Virginity. For example, he argues that celibate Christians should not regard themselves as
superior to the married saints of the Old Testament. Unlike married people today who marry
because they lack the self-control for celibacy, the saints of the prior dispensation married out
of obedience to God in order to propagate the people of God (7, 10). Procreation, therefore,
no longer has the same value in the present as it did in the past. While the natural desire to
have children is in itself not blameworthy, the Christian receives greater merit by choosing to
rise above human goods and to pursue heavenly ones (8, 11).
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But The Excellence of Widowhood displays an ecclesiological concern that is more
pronounced than in Augustine's earlier writings on marriage. Augustine stresses the unity of
all Christians, married and celibate, within the one body of Christ. Citing 1 Corinthians 6:15
(Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?), Augustine writes: So great is
the excellence of Christian marriage, therefore, that even their bodies are members of the
body of Christ. Nevertheless, while the excellence of chastity in widowhood is greater, it does
not follow that in this state of life a Catholic widow is something greater than a member of
Christ, but among the members of Christ she occupies a place superior to that of the married
woman (3, 4). Similarly, married persons can be holy in body and in spirit (1 Cor 7:34), even

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though celibate Christians possess a greater degree of holiness (6, 8). The whole Church,
Augustine writes, is itself his spouse, because by the integrity of her faith, hope and love she
is a virgin, not only in holy virgins, but in widows and the married faithful too (10, 13).
In the second part of The Excellence of Widowhood Augustine turns to the task of
encouraging Juliana to maintain her commitment to consecrated widowhood. He first urges
her to attribute any desire for chastity she possesses to the grace of God: The more you are
aware that these are gifts from God, the more blessed you are in having them; in fact, unless
you are aware of who it is who has given you what you have, you are not blessed at all (16,
20). Without mentioning Pelagius by name, Augustine clearly refers to his teaching and warns
Juliana not to be influenced by his writings. In several chapters Augustine argues that the
necessity of divine grace in no way abolishes the freedom of the human will.
In the final chapters of The Excellence of Widowhood, Augustine exhorts Juliana not to
develop a love of money in place of desire for marriage (21, 27). He urges her to let spiritual
pleasures fill the void left by carnal pleasures: With holy chastity, therefore, let spiritual
pleasures take the place of carnal ones: reading, prayer, the psalms, good thoughts, being
occupied with good works, looking forward to the next life, having one's heart on high, and
giving thanks for all these things to the Father of lights, from whom undoubtedly, as the
scripture attests, every excellent thing we receive and every perfect gift comes to us (21, 26,
citing Jas 1:17).
Notes
1 See Jerome, Letter 130 and Pelagius, Letter to Demetrias. For details on Juliana and her
family, see A.H.M. Jones, et al., The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1971) 1: 468.
2 For the connections between Juliana's family and Pelagius, see Peter Brown, The Patrons
of Pelagius: The Roman Aristocracy Between East and West, Journal of Theological Studies,
n.s. 21 (1970) 56-72; also in his Religion and Society in the Age of St. Augustine (New York:
Harper and Row, 1972) 208-226.
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The Excellence of Widowhood

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Augustine Replies to Juliana's Request


The Bishop Augustine, Servant of Christ and Servant of the Servants of Christ, to the
Consecrated Servant of God, Juliana. The Lord of Lords Grant You Salvation!
1, 1. Not wanting to delay any longer in carrying out the promise I made in response to your
request and your love in Christ, as best I can among other pressing occupations I have set
myself to write something to you on the subject of holy widowhood as a way of life. When I
was with you, you burdened me with this request, and as I could not refuse you, in your letters
you have frequently reminded me of my promise. In this writing, you will certainly read
things that by no means apply to you personally or to those who live in Christ with you, and
are not strictly necessary for the guidance of your life. Just the same you must not think that
these things are therefore superfluous. Although I have addressed this letter to you, I have not
written it only for you, and I have by no means overlooked the possibility that through you it
might also be of benefit to others. So if you find anything here that was never necessary for
you, or is not necessary for you now, but you see that it is so for others, do not be reluctant to
take it, and to give it to them to read. In this way you will do a service to others with your
charity.
2. On every question relating to moral life there is need not only for instruction but also for
encouragement. With the instruction we will know what we ought to do, and with the
encouragement we will be motivated to do what we know we ought to do.1 What more can I
teach you than what we read in the apostle? Holy scripture has established the rule that we
should not be ambitious to know more than one ought to know, but, as he said, we should
have knowledge in good measure, according to the degree of faith God has allotted to each
person (Rom 12:3). All I must do to teach you, therefore, is to explain to you the words of that
Doctor and offer any comment the Lord inspires concerning them.2
The Meaning of Unmarried in Paul's Writings
2, 3. The apostle, the Doctor of the Gentiles, the chosen vessel,3 says this: I say, however, to
those who are unmarried and those who are widows that it is good for them to stay as they
are, as I do too (1 Cor 7:8). These words must not be understood as implying the view that
widows may not be described as

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unmarried, since obviously they have had the experience of marriage. He means by the word
unmarried those who are not now subject to the marriage bond, whether or not they have
been in the past. He makes this clear elsewhere, when he says, An unmarried woman, and a
virgin, is set apart (1 Cor 7:33). When he adds the word virgin, what does he mean by
unmarried woman if not a widow? In the same way a little further on he includes both states
of life under the same description of unmarried, when he says: A woman who is not married
is concerned about what has to do with the Lord, how to please the Lord; but one who is
married is concerned about the affairs of the world and how to please her husband (1 Cor
7:34). He certainly did not mean by not married only the one who has never been married,
but meant also the one who is no longer married because she has been freed from the ties of
marriage by widowhood. For the same reason he also calls married only the one who has a
husband, and not the one who had a husband but now does not. Hence every widow is
unmarried; but because not every unmarried woman is a widow (for there are also virgins),
that is why he mentions both when he says here, I say, however, to those who are unmarried
and those who are widows (1 Cor 7:8). It is as if he said, What I am saying to the unmarried
ones, I am not saying only to those who are virgins, but also to those who are widows: it is
good for them to stay as they are, as I do too (1 Cor 7:8).
The Good of Marriage and of Widowhood
3, 4. See how, if there is faith, or rather because there is faith, your excellence is compared to
the excellence the apostle says is his. The doctrine there is brief, but not to be disdained
because of its brevity, but more readily retained and better appreciated, because in its brevity
it is not trivial. It cannot be just any perfection that the apostle is commending here, ranking it
unequivocally as superior to the fidelity of married women. How great is the excellence in the
fidelity of married women, that is to say Christian and religious married women, can be
concluded from the fact that, when he was commanding them to flee from fornication (and
certainly he was then addressing married persons), he said: Do you not know that your bodies
are members of Christ? (1 Cor 6:19; 7:34). So great is the excellence of Christian marriage,
therefore, that they are even members of the body of Christ. Nevertheless, while the
excellence of chastity in widowhood is greater, it does not follow that in this state of life a
Catholic widow is something greater than a member of Christ, but among the members of
Christ she occupies a place superior to that of the married woman. The same apostle says this:

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As we have many parts to our body, and each part does not have the same function, so too we,
though we are many, are one body in Christ, each a member of the other, and we have
different gifts according to the grace that has been given us (Rom 12:4).
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5. Even when he was advising married people not to deprive each other of the marital act,
with the result that when refused the marital act the partner might be tempted by Satan and
through lack of restraint fall into fornication, he said this: I say this to you, however, by way
of a concession, not as a command. I should like everyone to be like me; but everyone has his
or her own gift from God, one in one way, another in another way (1 Cor 7:6-7).
Second Marriages Are Not Condemned
4. You see how even married chastity and fidelity to the obligations of a Christian marriage
are also a great gift from God. Because of this, when the desires of the flesh lead to the degree
of marital union needed for the purpose of having children being exceeded to some extent,
this evil is not part of marriage, but it is pardonable because of the good there is in
marriage.4 When the apostle said, I say this to you, however, by way of a concession, not as
a command (1 Cor 7:39), he was not speaking about a marriage that is entered into for the
purpose of having children, with the fidelity of married chastity and the sacrament of
matrimony that cannot be broken while both live; these are all good things. He was speaking
about that excessive carnal indulgence, which is recognized as likely to happen because of the
spouses' weakness and is excused in consideration of the good things in marriage. Likewise,
when he says, A woman is bound to her husband, as long as he lives; but if her husband dies,
she is free again, and she may marry as she chooses, although only in the Lord. In my
opinion, however, it is better for her if she stays as she is (1 Cor 7:40), he makes it quite clear
that even the woman of faith who marries again after the death of her husband is blessed in
the Lord, but a widow is even more blessed in the same Lord. In other words, to use the
examples of scripture as well as its words, Ruth is blessed, but Anna is more blessed.5
6. The first thing for you to note, then, is that the excellence of what you have chosen does not
mean that marrying again is condemned, but that it is honored less. Just as the excellence of
holy virginity, which your daughter chose, does not constitute a condemnation of your one
and only marriage, so too your widowhood is no condemnation of anyone's second

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marriage.6 This is what led in particular to the growth of the Cataphrygian and Novatianist
heresies, swollen by the noisy, mindless puffing of Tertullian.7 With his foul mouth he
attacks second marriages as being forbidden, although with sober judgment the apostle
accepts them as entirely lawful.8 Do not let anyone's arguments, learned or unlearned, cause
you to waver from this sound teaching. Do not think so highly of your own perfection that
you accuse something that is not bad, an excellence other persons have, of being bad. Rather
take greater pleasure in your own
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excellence, to the extent that you see that not only is evil excluded by it, but also certain good
things are excelled by it. The evils are adultery and fornication.
Even Second Marriages Are Honorable
5. Far removed from these sins is the woman who has freely bound herself by a vow. She
brings it about, not because the law requires it but because charity commends it, that even
things that are lawful are not lawful for her. A married person's chastity is good, but a widow's
celibacy is better. It is better for this good thing to be honored by that other good thing being
ranked inferior to it, than for that other good thing to be condemned because this better thing
is praised.
7. When the apostle was extolling the fruits of being celibate and unmarried, namely that such
persons think about what concerns God, and how to please God,9 he went on to say: I say
this, however, for your good, not to put a noose around your neck (that is, not to compel you),
but looking to what is honorable (1 Cor 7:35). Because he called the excellence of the
unmarried state honorable, it does not follow that we should think the marriage bond to be
dishonorable. Otherwise, we shall condemn even first marriages, which not even the
Cataphrygians or the Novatianists, or their most eloquent instructor Tertullian dared to say
were dishonorable.10 When he said, I say, however, to those who are unmarried and those
who are widows that it is good for them to remain that way (1 Cor 7:8), he clearly used the
word good in the sense of better. Anything that is said to be better in comparison with
something good is undeniably also itself good. (What else does it mean to say it is better than
that it is more good?) So from the fact that he said, it is good for them to remain that way,
we do not conclude that he considered it to be bad if they married. Likewise, when he said,
but looking to what is honorable (1 Cor 7:35), he did not imply that marriage is dishonorable,

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but he used the general word honorable to praise something that is more honorable than
something merely honorable; for what can be more honorable without being more
honorable? What is more honorable is certainly honorable. He openly declared that this was
better than that other good thing, when he said, Anyone who has his daughter married does
well; and anyone who does not have his daughter married does better (1 Cor 7:38); and that
this was more blessed than that other thing that is blessed, when he said, She will be more
blessed if she remains as she is (1 Cor 7:40). It is not possible to think something is
dishonorable, when the apostle Peter says this about it: Husbands, honor your wives as more
fragile vessels, subject to your guidance but along with your heirs of grace (1 Pt 3:7). And
addressing those women he exhorts them to be subject to their husbands after the example of
Sarah. That is how certain holy women who were hoping in the Lord adorned themselves, he
said, by showing respect for their husbands, in the way Sarah was attentive to Abraham and
called him her
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lord, and now you are her daughters, doing good and not afraid of any upset (1 Pt 3:5-6).
Married Persons Are Holy in Body and Spirit
6, 8. It follows that when the apostle Paul said of unmarried women that they should be holy
in both body and spirit (1 Cor 7:34), this should not be taken to mean that a married woman of
faith, who is pure and, as the scripture says, submissive to her husband, is not holy in body,
but only in her mind. It is not possible for the body that is the instrument of a holy mind not to
be itself made holy by that holy mind. Lest it seem to anyone, however, that we are putting
forward our own arguments rather than resting our proof of this on the word of God (because
when Peter mentioned Sarah he only said holy women, and did not say in body), let us
look again at the text from Paul where he forbids fornication. He says: Do you not know your
bodies are members of Christ? Shall I take the members of Christ and make them the
members of a prostitute? Let there be no thought of it! (1 Cor 6:15). Does anyone then dare to
say that Christ's members are not holy, or dare to exclude the bodies of women of faith from
being members of the body of Christ if they are married? A little further on he also said this:
Your bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have received from God,
and you do not belong to yourselves. For you have been purchased at a great price (1 Cor
6:19-20). He said that the bodies of the faithful are both members of Christ and also the
temple of the Holy Spirit, and unquestionably this refers to the faithful of both sexes. It

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therefore includes married women and it includes unmarried women, although they differ in
merit, like parts of the body, one of which is more important than another without either one
ceasing to be part of the body. Therefore, in speaking of the unmarried woman and saying that
she should be holy in both body and spirit (1 Cor 7:34), he meant the greater holiness in body
and spirit of unmarried women, and did not deny all holiness to the bodies of married women.
9. Learn then the value of what you have; or, rather, call to mind what you have learned.
Because there is another excellence that it excels, the excellence you possess is more to be
esteemed than it would be if it could not be good at all without that other thing being bad or
not in fact existing. In our body the eyes are of great importance, but their importance would
be less if they existed alone and there were not the other less important parts of the body. In
the heavens the sun outshines the moon, but does not spoil it, and star differs from star in
splendor (1 Cor 15:41), but they are not in proud competition with each other. Therefore God
made everything and, see, it was very good (Gn 1:31); not just good, but very good, and
this precisely because it was everything. When each of his works was mentioned separately, it
was said, God saw that it was good
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(Gn 1:10-25); but when everything was spoken about together, the word very was added,
and it was said, God saw everything he had made, and saw that it was very good (Gn 1:31).
Taken separately, some things are better than others, but all of them together are better than
any of them separately. So through his grace may Christ's sound teaching make you a sound
part of his body. In that way, your very spirit that rules your body will neither arrogantly
exaggerate the superior perfection in body and spirit that you have, nor ignorantly
misunderstand it.11
10. Just because I said that Ruth was blessed, but Anna more blessed, since Ruth married
twice and Anna lived for many years after the early death of her one husband, do not think at
once that you are better than Ruth.
Marriage Served a Different Purpose in the Old Testament
7. In the times of the prophets what was required of holy women was different. They had to
marry, not because of the desires of the flesh, but out of obedience. The people of God had to
be propagated, so that from among them Christ's prophets could precede him. Because of the

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things that happened to them as a sign (1 Cor 10:11), whether recognized by them or not, that
nation was also itself a prophet of Christ, and Christ's body was to be born from it. In order
for that people to be propagated the law decreed that anyone who did not sow seed for the
growth of Israel was accursed.12 So it was that even holy women burned, not with desire for
sexual union, but with zeal for their duty to have children, and there is no reason to doubt that
they would not have wanted the sexual act, if children could have been born some other way.
Men were also allowed to have several wives at the one time. That the reason for this was not
the desires of the flesh but the need to provide descendants is clear from the fact that,
although holy men were allowed to have several wives at the one time, holy women were not
allowed also to have union with more than one husband. That would not have made them
more fertile, and the more they hungered for it, the more debased they would have been.
Hence when the holy woman, Ruth, did not have children for Israel, as was required at that
time, after her husband died she looked for another husband in order to have children with
him. The reason, therefore, why Anna, the widow who only married once, was more blessed
than Ruth was because she was worthy to be Christ's prophetess.13 Even if she had no
children (something which the scripture does not mention and leaves uncertain) we have to
believe that, by the same Spirit that enabled her to recognize the baby, she foresaw that Christ
was about to come into the world from a virgin. Rightly, therefore, even though she had no
children, if in fact she had none, she decided against marrying again. She knew that it was
now the time when Christ would be better served, not by the duty of bearing children but by
dedicated continence, not by making her body fertile in marriage but by making her conduct
chaste in
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widowhood. If, however, Ruth also knew that from her body there was to come the seed from
which Christ would take flesh, and she did service to this knowledge by marrying, I would not
be so bold as to say that Anna's widowhood was more blessed than that woman's motherhood.
Marriage Is Better than a Broken Vow of Celibacy
8, 11. You, however, have children, and you are living in the final period of history. It is no
longer a time for scattering stones but a time for gathering them, no longer a time to embrace
but a time to refrain from embracing (Eccl 3:5). The apostle is crying out, I tell you this, my
brothers and sisters: time is short; it remains for those who have wives to act as though they
do not (1 Cor 7:29). If then you had wanted to marry again, it would not have been in

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obedience to any prophecy or law, nor even due to the natural desire to have children, but it
would only have meant that you were unable to contain yourself. You would have been doing
what the apostle said to do. When he said, It is good for them to stay as they are, as I do too (1
Cor 7:8), he immediately added, If they are unable to be continent, they should marry; I would
rather they married than burned (1 Cor 7:9). He said this so that by being taken into the
respectability of marriage the evil of unbridled sensuality would not become a headlong
plunge into sinful depravity. Thanks be to God, however, you have given birth to the kind of
person you yourself chose not to be, and your daughter's virginity makes up for you giving up
your virginity. A careful investigation of Christian teaching discloses that in these present
times, unless the weakness of the flesh is an obstacle, even a first marriage should be rejected.
Now that Christ has preached and risen from the dead, there are already so many children of
all races waiting to be born spiritually. If there remained the same obligation to bear children
in the flesh as there had been in earlier times, he who said, But if they are unable to be
continent, they should marry (1 Cor 7:9), could also have said, If they do not have children,
they should marry.
When he says in another place, My desire for the younger ones is for them to marry, have
children and be mothers of families (1 Tm 5:14), he is using his apostolic authority
deliberately and carefully to praise marriage as something good, but he is not making the duty
of having children an obligation of the law even for those who are able to accept celibacy. He
reveals his reason for saying this when he goes on to say, Give the enemy no opportunity for
scandal; already there are some who have turned back to follow Satan (1 Tm 5:14). From
these words we understand him to mean that it would have been better if those he wanted to
see married had been able to stay celibate rather than marry, but it is better for them to marry
than to go back to Satan. That is to say, it is better to marry than to make that sublime
commitment to virginity or chaste widowhood
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and afterward turn back and lapse from it and be destroyed. Hence those who are unable to
stay continent should marry, before committing themselves to celibacy, before making that a
vow to God. Once made, that vow must be kept, or they will justly incur damnation. In
another place he says of such persons that Although they have lived in joy in Christ, they want
to marry, incurring damnation, because they have made their first pledge void (1 Tm 5:11-12),
that is, they have changed from wanting to keep their commitment to celibacy to wanting to
marry. They have indeed broken their word, because previously they made a vow and now

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they choose not to persist in carrying it out. The essential good of marriage is indeed always
good; but for the people of God it was once an obligation of the law, while now it is a cure for
weakness, and in some cases a source of comfort for human nature. The natural human desire
to contribute to the procreation of children, not acting like dogs and using women
promiscuously, but in the proper relationship of marriage, is not to be condemned; but it is
more praiseworthy when a Christian soul, with thoughts for heavenly things, transcends and
overcomes even that.14
The Vow of Celibacy Should Be Inviolable
9, 12. Since, as the Lord says, Not everyone accepts these words (Mt 19:11), let the one who
is able to accept it accept it,15 and let the one who cannot stay continent marry.16 Let the
one who has not yet made a beginning think about it; let the one who has committed herself
persevere. Let the enemy be given no opportunity; let no offering made to Christ be
withdrawn. If chastity is preserved within the bonds of marriage, there is no fear of
damnation; but in virginity and chaste widowhood one aspires to the splendor of a greater gift.
Once this is aspired to, and chosen, and offered with a vow, not only is damnation incurred by
actually marrying, but also by wanting to marry even if no marriage takes place. To make this
clear, the apostle did not say, Although they have lived with joy in Christ, they marry, but
that they want to marry. He said they incur damnation, because they have made their first
pledge void (1 Tm 5:11-12), even though this is not by marrying, but only by wanting to
marry. It is not that marriage itself, even in cases like that, is considered to deserve
condemnation, but the deceit in making the commitment is condemned, the breaking of the
vow is condemned; it is not the acceptance of the lesser perfection that is condemned, but the
lapse from the greater perfection. Finally, such persons are not condemned because they later
pledge themselves in marriage, but because they make void their initial pledge of celibacy. To
indicate this briefly, the apostle chose not to say that those who marry after committing
themselves to more perfect sanctity incur damnation (not because they are not damned, but to
avoid any thought that in them marriage itself was being condemned). Instead, he goes on to
say, they incur
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damnation, immediately after saying, they want to marry; and he states the reason, because
they have made their first pledge void, to make it clear that it is the will lapsing from its
resolution that is condemned, whether or not there is a subsequent marriage.

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Consecrated Virgins Who Marry Are Not Guilty of Adultery


10, 13. Those who say such people's marriages are not marriages, but rather adultery, do not
seem to me to consider what they are saying closely or carefully enough. They are deceived
by a semblance of truth. Because those who in Christian holiness do not marry are said to
choose marriage with Christ, some argue like this: If a woman marries someone else while
her husband is still living, she is an adulteress, as the Lord himself declared in the gospel.17
Therefore, as Christ is alive, since death no longer has power over him (Rom 6:9), if a woman
who has chosen marriage with him marries some mere man, she is an adulteress. Those who
say this, indeed, are very sharp, but they fail to notice the absurd consequences of this
argument. If a woman makes a vow of absolute chastity to Christ, even though her husband is
still living, but with his consent, this is regarded as praiseworthy.18 According to their
reasoning, however, no woman should do this, for fear of making Christ himself an adulterer,
wicked as it would be to think that, because she becomes his spouse while her husband is still
alive. Also, since a first marriage is more perfect than a second one, it is unthinkable that the
holy widows see Christ as their second husband. He was already their spouse, not physically
but spiritually, before that, when they were faithful and submissive to their husbands.19 The
whole Church, of which they are members, is itself his spouse, because by the integrity of her
faith, hope and love she is a virgin, not only in holy virgins but in widows and the married
faithful too. The apostle says to the whole Church, of which they are all members, I have
prepared you to present you to the one husband, Christ, as a chaste virgin (2 Cor 11:2). He,
whom even in the flesh his mother could conceive without defilement, knows how to make it
possible for that virgin spouse to bear children without being defiled. As a consequence of this
poorly considered view, which holds that the women who lapse from their holy vow and
marry are not really married, great harm is done when wives are separated from their
husbands, as though they were not wives but mistresses. Then too, because they want the
women to separate and return to the life of celibacy, they actually make their husbands
adulterers, since they then marry other women while their wives are still living.20
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To Break a Vow of Widowhood Is Worse Than Adultery

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11, 14. For these reasons I would not say that women who lapse from the more perfect
commitment and marry are not wives but adulteresses. Even so, I would not hesitate to say
that the disaster of their fall from the more sacred form of chastity they vowed to the Lord is
worse than adultery. Without any doubt it is an offense to Christ when one of his members is
unfaithful to her husband; how much more serious then is the offense when the infidelity is to
himself, when he claims the offering made to him, even though he did not demand that the
offering be made? When some fail to carry out a vow they did not have to make because of
some commandment, but that they made in response to advice, the wickedness of betraying
the vow is greater to the extent that the need to make the vow was less. I am presenting these
arguments, so that you will not think either that second marriages are a crime, or that any
marriages, just by being marriages, are bad. You should not want them to be something you
have condemned, but something you have put aside. The perfection of chaste widowhood
shines forth with greater dignity, when in adopting it as a vow and a way of life women are
able to look down on something else that would otherwise be pleasing and lawful. After
making the vow, however, the pleasure that might have been must now be restrained and
subdued, because it is no longer lawful.
Concerning Multiple Marriages
12, 15. Questions are sometimes asked about third, fourth and even more marriages. To give a
quick answer to this: I would not venture to condemn any marriage, but neither would I dare
to say that a plurality of them is no cause for embarrassment. If, however, anyone is upset by
my answering in this brisk manner, I am prepared to listen to a fuller argument from my critic.
Perhaps some reason will be given for condemning third marriages but not condemning
second marriages. In accordance with the advice I gave at the beginning of this instruction, I
have no ambition to know more than one ought to know.21 Who am I to think I must set a
limit when I see the apostle did not set a limit? He said, A woman is bound to her husband, as
long as he lives (1 Cor 7:39). He did not say, first, or second, or third, or fourth
husband, but said, A woman is bound to her husband, as long as he lives; but if her husband
dies, she is free again, and she may marry as she chooses, although only in the Lord. In my
opinion, however, it is better for her, if she stays as she is (1 Cor 7:39-40). I do not know what
could be added to this statement, or taken away from it, in relation to the present matter. Then
I hear our Lord and Master, and the apostles' Lord and Master, answering the Sadducees,

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when they brought up the case of a woman who married, not once or twice, butis it
possible?seven times, and asked whose wife she
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would be after the resurrection. Rebuking them, he said, You are making a mistake, because
you do not understand the scriptures or the power of God. In the resurrection there will be no
marrying or giving in marriage; for they will not die, but will be like God's angels (Mt 22:2930). Obviously he was speaking of the resurrection of those who rise to have life,22 not
those who rise to be punished. Therefore he could have said, You are making a mistake,
because you do not understand the scriptures or the power of God; in that resurrection it is not
possible for there to be women who have had more than one marriage, and could then have
added, because no one marries there. As we see, however, there is no way his statement can
be taken as condemning even the woman who had as many husbands as that. Hence, I would
not dare to say anything against the natural sense of embarrassment, and state that, if her
husbands die, a woman may marry as often as she likes; but neither would I venture on the
strength of my own thinking to go beyond the authority of holy scripture, and condemn any
number of marriages. What I say to the widow who has had only one husband, however, I say
to all widows: It is better for you, if you stay as you are.23
Relative Merits Among Widows
13, 16. Sometimes too the question is raised, not unreasonably, as to which widow has greater
merit: one who has only one husband, and after living with her husband for a long time, and
having children who are now provided for, embraces celibacy when she becomes a widow; or
one who, while still a young woman, loses two husbands within the space of two years, and
then, without the consolation of having had children, vows her chastity to God and perseveres
unwaveringly in that holy state into old age. Here is an opportunity for those who assess the
merits of widows by the number of husbands they have had, and not by the strength of their
adherence to chastity, to present their arguments and show us something. If they say that the
widow who had two husbands is better than the other who had only one husband, unless they
produce some special reason or authority, they are obviously ranking natural happiness above
spiritual virtue rather than giving preference to the greater spiritual virtue. Living with one's
husband for a long time and having children both relate to natural happiness. If the reason
they put her first is not because she had children, then it has to be because she lived with her
husband for a long time, and what is this if not natural happiness? Yet Anna is particularly

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praised as deserving, because after her husband's early death for the rest of her long life she
fought against the flesh and overcame it. Scripture says: Anna was a prophetess, the daughter
of Phanuel of the tribe of Aser. She had reached a great age, but had lived with her husband
for seven years from when she was a virgin. She had been a widow up to her present age of
eighty-four, and did not leave the temple, giving service in prayer and
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fasting day and night (Lk 2:36-37). You see how the holy widow is extolled not only because
she had only one husband, but also because she lived with her husband for only a few years
after the time of her virginity, and then gave herself so fully to religious practices and carried
out the obligations of chaste widowhood up to such a great age.
Widows Should Be Judged by Their Religious Devotion
14, 17. Let us look at three widows, who possess separately the things that were all combined
in Anna. The first has had only one husband, but she has not been a widow for as long,
because she lived with her husband for a long time, and she does not have the same religious
zeal, not giving herself in the same way to prayer and fasting. The second, after the very short
life of her first husband, also lost a second husband in a short time, and she has been a widow
for many years, but she too does not dedicate herself so completely to the devout practices of
prayer and fasting. The third not only has had two husbands, but she lived with them, either
with each of them or with one or the other, for a long time; she became a widow at a more
advanced age, but at an age when she could still marry and have children if she wanted to, and
she then embraced chastity as a widow. She, however, is more attentive to God, and more
concerned for activities that please him, serving him in prayer and fasting day and night like
Anna (Lk 2:37). If it is debated which of these has most merit, who cannot see that the victor's
prize in this contest must go to the one with greater religious fervor? Similarly, if three others
are considered, each of whom lacks one of those three things but has the other two, who can
doubt that the better ones are those whose two special qualities include devout humility, and
who therefore are profoundly devout?
18. None of those six widows is equal to you. If you persevere in this vow until old age, you
can have all of the three things that made Anna's merit outstanding. You have had only one
husband, and he did not live long with you in this world. Because of this, if you demonstrate
compliance with the words of the apostle, She who is truly a widow and left alone in the

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world has put her hope in the Lord, and perseveres in prayer day and night (1 Tm 5:5), and if
you take good care to avoid what he said after that, She who lives a life of pleasure is dead
while still alive (1 Tm 5:6), then all three of those perfections that Anna had will be yours too.
You also have children, which perhaps she did not, but you are not to be commended more
because you have them, but because you give yourself to their care and education. They were
born because of your fertility, they live because of your good fortune, but their development
like that is due to your good will and ability. People should congratulate you on those other
things, but imitate you in this. With prophetic insight Anna recognized Christ in his virgin
mother;24 the grace of the gospel has made you the mother of Christ's virgin.
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That sacred virgin, therefore, whom you offered to Christ in response to her free choice and
request, adds to the merits of widowhood of her grandmother and her mother something of the
merit of virginity.25 It is not without some consequence that you have this daughter, and in
her participate in something you do not have in yourselves. In marrying you gave up the holy
state of virginity, but as a result it has been born again in your child.
The Conclusion of Augustine's Instruction
15, 19. I would not be discussing the relative merits of different wives and widows in what I
am writing now, if I were writing it only for you. Since, however, with a subject like this there
are some very difficult questions, I have chosen to say something more than is strictly
relevant to you, for the sake of certain persons who do not consider themselves learned unless
they try, not to discuss the efforts of others objectively, but to tear them apart destructively.
My purpose also is for you not only to maintain the vow that you have made and live it out
more perfectly, but also to know in more detail and with greater assurance that the good thing
you have is not distinguished from the evil of marriage, but exceeds the excellence of
marriage. Do not let yourself be led astray by those who condemn the marriages of women
who have been widowed, even though they themselves practice continence with extraordinary
fervor, abstaining from many of the things of which you avail yourself. Even though you are
unable to do as they do, do not be lured into thinking as they do. No one wants to become
insane, even if they see that an insane person has superior strength to that of a sane person. It
is especially necessary, therefore, that the good intention be enhanced and fortified by sound
doctrine. So it is indeed that even when they have been married several times Catholic women
are rightly considered superior, not only to the heretics' widows of one marriage, but even to

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their virgins. On these three topics, marriage, widowhood and virginity, there is a great
complexity of questions and a multiplicity of problems. To discuss them in depth and unravel
them, there is need for greater care and further discussion, so that either we will hold right
views about them all, or if there is anything astray in our thinking, God will make that known
to us too.26 Nevertheless, as the apostle says a little further on in the same text, Let us
continue on from the point we have reached so far (Phil 3:16). As far as concerns the matter
under discussion, we have reached the point that we put celibacy ahead of marriage, but holy
virginity also ahead of celibacy in widowhood; yet in praising any commitment made by
ourselves or our children we do not condemn any marriages, which are truly marriages and
not adultery. We have written much on these topics in the book, The Excellence of Marriage,
and another book, Holy Virginity, and in a work we wrote, Answer to Faustus, a Manichean.
We did this as thoroughly as possible, because by
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relentlessly attacking the chaste marriages of the patriarchs and prophets in his writings he
wrenched the minds of some unlearned persons away from the sound doctrine of the faith.27
Widowhood Is a Gift from God
16, 20. In the introduction to this essay I suggested that two things needed to be done, and I
promised to do them, one relating to instruction and the other to encouragement.28 As I have
not been remiss, to the best of my ability, in carrying out the first part of that undertaking, let
us turn now to encouragement, so that the good that is properly understood will also be
ardently loved. With this in mind the first advice I would give is that to whatever extent you
are conscious of being attracted to holy celibacy, you should consider that attraction to be a
gift from God and give thanks to him for it. He has been so generous to you with the gifts of
his Spirit that with his love filling your heart29 the love of a greater perfection has brought it
about that something otherwise lawful is no longer lawful for you. It is his gift to you that you
chose not to marry when it was lawful for you to do so, and now it would not be lawful for
you even if it were what you wanted. This is why you are more resolute in your desire that
what did not occur when it was lawful should not occur now when it is unlawful, and it is why
as Christ's widow you have become worthy to see your daughter also Christ's virgin; while
you pray like Anna, she has become what Mary was. The more you are aware that these are
gifts from God, the more blessed you are in having them; in fact, unless you are aware of who
it is who has given you what you have, you are not blessed at all. Hear what the apostle has to

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say about this: We, however, have not received the spirit of this world, but the spirit which is
from God, so that we may know what gifts we have received from God (1 Cor 2:12). Many
people indeed have many gifts from God, and with unholy vanity boast about them, because
they do not know from whom they have received them. No one is blessed by having God's
gifts, if he or she is ungrateful to the giver. In the course of the sacred mysteries we hear the
command, Lift up your hearts, and we are able to do this with the help of him from whose
command this exhortation comes. For this reason, what then follows is not a tribute of praise
to ourselves for this great benefit of our hearts being lifted up, as though we did it by our own
strength, but Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. We are immediately further
encouraged to do this, because it is proper, and because it is just.30 Bear in mind where
these words come from, and appreciate the authority and holiness of the instruction they give.
Keep what you have received, therefore, and hold on to it, and give thanks to the one who has
given it to you. Even though it is you who receive it and hold on to it, you still have it because
you have received it, as is clear from what Truth says, through the apostle, to the proud
persons who glory in what
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they have as though it were their own doing: What do you have that you have not received? If,
however, you have received it, why do you exult as though you had not received it? (1 Cor
4:7).
A Warning Against the Opponents of Grace
17, 21. I have been compelled to give these warnings because of the need to guard against and
shun the thoughtless chatter of certain persons. I say it tearfully, they are enemies of Christ's
grace.31 They have begun to worm their way into many people's souls by way of their ears,
persuading them that there is no apparent need even to pray to the Lord to keep us from
entering into temptation. They try to defend free will in mankind by arguing that by it alone,
even without the help of God's grace, we are able to carry out whatever God commands. From
this it would follow that it was needless for God to say, Watch and pray, that you do not enter
into temptation (Mt 26:41), and needless for us to say every day in the Lord's prayer, Lead us
not into temptation (Mt 6:13). If it is entirely in our own power not to be overcome by
temptation, why do we pray not to enter into it or be led into it? Let us rather do what is a
matter for our own free will and absolutely under our own control, and scorn the apostle for
saying, God is faithful, and he does not allow you to be tempted beyond your capacity (1 Cor

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10:13), and disagree with him and say, Why would I ask God for what he has put in my own
power? But far be it from any person of sound mind to think this! So let us ask him to give
us what he commands us to have. The reason why he commands us to have what we do not
yet have is to teach us what to ask for, and when we find we are able to do what he
commands, for us to appreciate that even this is something we have been given.32 Then we
will not be swollen and puffed up with the spirit of the world and ignorant of the gifts God has
given us.33 So, when we refuse to be proud and ungrateful and deny God's grace, by which
even free will itself is aided, but rather with devout gratitude proclaim it, in no way do we
destroy human free will. The willing is ours; but the will itself is instructed so that it will raise
itself up, and is healed so that it will have strength, and is enlarged so that it will be receptive,
and is filled so that it will possess. If we did not will it, we would neither receive nor possess
what we are given. Who would have chastityto mention among God's other gifts the
particular one I am speaking to you aboutwho, I say, would have chastity unless they willed
it? No one would receive that gift if they did not want it. But if you ask whose gift it is that
with our will we can accept it and keep it, look in the scripture; or rather, since you already
know it, recall what you have read. Since, it says, no one can be chaste unless God grants it,
this is itself a sign of wisdom, to know whose gift this is (Wis 8:21).
Those two, wisdom and chastity, are two great gifts. With wisdom we become like God in
knowledge, and with chastity we become unlike the world.
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God, however, commands us to be both wise and chaste, and without those two qualities we
cannot be just and perfect. Let us pray, then, that he, who with his command and invitation
has told us what we ought to choose, may with his help and inspiration grant us what he
commands. Let us pray, then, that he will protect what he has already given us, and will
provide what he has not yet given us. At the same time, let us pray and give thanks for what
we have been given, and by the very fact that we are not ungrateful for what we have been
given we can have confidence we will be given what we have not yet been given. He, who has
granted it to the married faithful that they refrain from adultery and fornication, has granted to
virgins and widows that they refrain from all sexual union. Strictly speaking the words
integrity and continence refer to this virtue.34 Is it perhaps that we receive continence
from him, but wisdom comes from ourselves? What then does the apostle James mean when
he says, If anyone among you lacks wisdom, let that person ask for it from God, who gives to
everyone freely and ungrudgingly, and it will be granted (Jas 1:5)? On this topic, however,

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with God's help we have already said many things in other brief works of ours, and, as best
we can with his help, will say more elsewhere as the occasion arises.35
Exhortations Are Effective Only by God's Grace
18, 22. I wanted to say something to you on that matter because of certain of our brothers and
sisters who are very loving toward us and much loved, and who are not caught in this error
with any malice, but who are nonetheless caught in it.36 They think that when they urge
anyone to be just and devout, their urging has no efficacy unless they establish that what one
is trying to get people to do is entirely possible for a human being to do by the power of free
will alone, without the help of any gift from God (as if the will could be free to perform any
good work, if it were not made free as a gift from God). They also overlook that it is even a
gift from God that they have that ability to motivate others, to arouse wills that are lethargic to
embrace the task of living well, to set fire to those that are cold, to correct those that are
perverted, to bring back those that have turned away, to reconcile those that are rebellious.
They have that power of persuading others to take the advice they give. If they do not achieve
this effect on the human will, what do they achieve? Why do they talk? They should leave
them to decide for themselves. On the other hand, if they do achieve this with them, is it true
now that a human being can have such a great effect on the will of another human being by
talking, but God achieves nothing by his assistance? On the contrary, a human being may
have the greatest power of speech, able by careful argument and pleasant style to plant in the
human will the seeds of truth and nourish love, to drive out error by teaching and dispel
lethargy by motivating; nevertheless,
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neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the
increase (1 Cor 3:7). The laborer's external toil is all in vain, unless the creator works secretly
within. I hope, therefore, that by your good efforts this letter of mine will quickly reach the
hands of those people too. That is why I thought some of these things had to be said. At the
same time I wanted you and any other widows who read it, or have it read to them, to know
that to love and preserve the benefit of being celibate you gain more from your prayers than
from any words of encouragement from us. If it is any help to you to have our words at your
disposal as well, that is entirely due to the grace of the one in whose hands, as it is written, we
and our utterances rest (Wis 7:16).

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The Unmarried Must Devote Their Extra Attention to the Lord


19, 23. If, therefore, you had not yet made your vow to God to remain celibate in widowhood,
we would be urging you to do so at once; but as you have already made the vow, we urge you
to remain true to it. I can see, however, that I must say something to those who might still be
thinking about marrying, to persuade them to love and embrace that celibacy. So let us turn
our ear to the apostle. A woman who is not married, he says, is concerned about what has to
do with the Lord, in order to be holy both in body and in spirit; but one who is married is
concerned about the affairs of the world and how to please her husband (1 Cor 7:34). He does
not say, She is concerned about the affairs of the world, and so is not holy; but certainly,
insofar as one of its concerns is about worldly pleasure, married sanctity is inferior.
Accordingly, whatever attention she would otherwise give to things concerned with pleasing
her husband, a Christian who is not married should reclaim and redirect to the purpose of
pleasing the Lord. Consider too who it is she pleases, when she pleases the Lord. Certainly,
the more she pleases him, the more blessed she is; but the more she thinks about worldly
things, the less she pleases him. Devote your whole mind, therefore, entirely to pleasing him
who is the most handsome of men. You please him by means of his own grace, which is
spread on his lips (Ps 45:2). Please him also with that part of your thoughts that would be
absorbed with the world in order to please your husband. Please him who did not do what
pleased the world, in order to set free from the world those who do what pleases him. The
human race looked on him, most handsome of men, on his cross of suffering, and he had no
beauty or dignity, but was abject and deformed to look at (Is 53:2). From this ugliness in your
Redeemer, however, there flowed the price of your beauty, although it is an interior beauty.
The beauty of the king's daughter is all within (Ps 45:13). Be pleasing to him with this beauty.
Be preoccupied and concerned about the care and maintenance of this beauty. He does not
like cosmetic artifice, but the Truth is delighted by what is true; and, if you remember what
you have read, he is called the Truth. I
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am, he said, the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6). By means of him run to him; with his gift
be pleasing to him; live in him, with him, and by him. With sincere feelings and in sacred
chastity, love to be loved by a spouse like that.
24. Let the virgin who is your daughter also hear these things with an inner ear. Shall I
consider how far she surpasses you in that King's kingdom? No, that is another question.

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Rejecting marriagein her case all marriages, in your case a second marriageyou, mother
and daughter, both have found the one you must please with the beauty of chastity.
Undoubtedly if there were husbands to please, it would embarrass you to be adorned in the
same way as your daughter. Now, however, it does not embarrass you to do what beautifies
both of you together, because, when it is that man, it is no sin but an honor for both to be
loved by the same man. You would not use powder and rouge, even if you had husbands; you
would not think it fitting for them to be deceived or for you to have to engage in the
deception. Now, therefore, be truly pleasing, both of you, and stay united, both of you, to that
King who is captivated by the beauty of his one bride, of which you are members.37 Do this
together, she with virginal integrity, you with widow's celibacy, both with spiritual beauty.
With that beauty even her grandmother, your mother-in-law, who no doubt is now very old, is
also beautiful like you. While love continues to keep this beauty fresh, the passing of the
years brings no wrinkles to it. You have this elderly and holy woman with you, with you in
your home and with you in Christ. You can ask her advice about persevering, how to combat
one or another temptation, what to do to overcome it more easily, what precautions to take to
prevent it from renewing its assault. From what she has already accomplished over a long
time she will teach you, kindly in her love, caring because of her faith, and with the assurance
that comes with age. You yourself in particular should consult her about such matters, because
she has experienced the same things as you have. Your daughter sings the hymn that the
Apocalypse tells us only virgins can sing.38 She prays, however, for both of you, more
anxiously than she does for herself. She is more concerned, nevertheless, for her
granddaughter, as there is still a long time remaining for her to resist and overcome
temptation. She views you, on the other hand, as being closer to her own age, and as the
mother of that daughter. If you had seen her marry (something no longer right for her, and not
to be contemplated), I think that you and she would both have been ashamed of being
mothers. How many more years of danger do you have? You do not have the title of
grandmother, but it is not because like your daughter you wanted to be free to be the parent of
holy thoughts and deeds. Not without reason, therefore, her grandmother is more worried
about her, as you her mother are too, because it is a greater thing that she has vowed, and what
she has just begun all lies ahead of her. May the Lord hear her prayers, so that your holiness
will be a tribute to the merits of her, who in her youth gave birth to your husband's body and
in her late age has been the mother of your daughter's heart.39 All of you, therefore, together
and in harmony, give
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pleasure by your conduct to the one husband of the one bride, in whose body you live by the
one spirit; and be constant in your prayers to him.40
On the Restraint of Desire
20, 25. A day that has passed does not return in the future. After yesterday comes today, and
after today it becomes tomorrow. So all time and everything temporal passes, until the
enduring promise is fulfilled, The one who perseveres until the end will be saved (Mt 10:22).
If the world is now passing away, for what reason does a married woman have children? Or if
she is going to have children in her heart, but she is not going to have them in the flesh, why
does she marry? If, on the other hand, the world is going to last longer, why is the one through
whom the world was made not loved more? If worldly attractions are going to end, there is no
reason for the Christian soul to pursue them avidly; if, however, they are going to continue,
there is reason to have a holy disdain of them. With the first of these two alternatives lust has
nothing to hope for; with the other love has greater glory. For how many years does the body
retain its powers, and how fully? Some women, while they have been thinking about marriage
and longing for it, but have been spurned or kept waiting, have suddenly begun to grow old,
and now it would be more of an embarrassment than a pleasure for them to marry. Many
married women, on the other hand, whose husbands have gone off to distant places soon after
their marriage, have grown old waiting for them to return, and sometimes, like those who
become widows soon after marrying, not even in their old age have they had the reward of
welcoming back their husbands when as old men they come home. So, when prospective
husbands turn aside or are slow to present themselves, or husbands go on journeys, the desires
of the flesh can be controlled, to avoid committing fornication or adultery; why can they not
be controlled to avoid committing sacrilege? If they are held in check when they burn with
anticipation, why are they not repressed when deprivation has reduced their ardor? Passion
burns more strongly in those who still hope to enjoy its satisfaction. Those who make a vow
of chastity to God take away that hope that enkindles desire. Hence desire is more easily
controlled, when it is not kept alight by expectation. At the same time, unless one prays to
overcome it, that desire will burn more strongly for being illicit.
Let Spiritual Pleasures Displace Carnal Ones

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21, 26. With holy chastity, therefore, let spiritual pleasures take the place of carnal ones:
reading, prayer, the psalms, good thoughts, being occupied with good works, looking forward
to the next life, having one's heart on high, and giving thanks for all these things to the Father
of lights, from whom undoubtedly,
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as the scripture attests, every excellent thing we receive and every perfect gift (Jas 1:17)
comes to us. What can I add about the evils that result when, in place of the joys of marriage
which they enjoy with their husbands, they look for comfort in other carnal pleasures? The
apostle has said that the widow who lives a life of pleasure (1 Tm 5:6) is already dead while
still alive. Far be it from you to let yourself be held captive by the desire for riches instead of
the desire for marriage, and to let love of money take the place of love of husband in your
hearts. Watching how people behave we have often noticed that avarice has grown strong
where sensuality has been subdued. In the case of the bodily senses, those who lack sight have
sharper hearing and pick out many things by touch, with a sensitivity in their touch not shared
by those who rely on their eyes. From this we see that when the desire to perceive things is
blocked in one direction, namely that of the eyes, it emerges more strongly as a keener
perceptiveness in the other senses, thus trying to achieve what it is prevented from doing in
one way by doing it in another way. In the same way, when sensuality is denied the pleasure
of sexual union, it turns with greater energy to the pursuit of money, and so changing the
direction of its attack from one to the other it becomes even more passionate toward the new
objective. With you, however, the love of riches must be extinguished along with the love of
marriage, and the devout use of the things you possess must be made to contribute to spiritual
satisfaction, so that the warmth of your generosity will be directed to helping the needy rather
than enriching the greedy.41 It is not gifts to the greedy, but alms given to the poor, that add
to the heavenly treasure; and this gains immensely from the prayers of widows. Fasting too,
and, provided they do not affect your health, vigils, become a source of spiritual joy, even
when they seem burdensome, if the time is used for prayer and the psalms, and reading and
meditating on God's law. The labors of people doing what they like doing, such as hunters,
bird-collectors, fishermen, wine-growers, businessmen and sportsmen, are never burdensome,
but are a pleasure in themselves. What matters, therefore, is what one likes; for either what
one likes involves no work, or else one likes the work too. Think, how sad and shameful it is
when there is pleasure in toiling to capture animals, to fill bins and purses, to throw the
javelin, but no pleasure in working to attain God.

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Strive to Maintain a Good Reputation


22, 27. With all the undoubtedly spiritual pleasures that unmarried women enjoy, their holy
conduct must also be cautious, so that there will be no chance of it happening that, although
their life is not evil with obscenity, their reputation is bad through carelessness. You must pay
no attention to those holy men or women who, when they are criticized for some carelessness
that results in their being suspected of wrongdoing they know they would have no part of, say
that
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they are satisfied to have a clear conscience before God. In their disdain for what people think
of them not only are they unwise, but they are also cruel, because they destroy the souls of
others. Some blaspheme against God's ways because their suspicions lead them to condemn
the way of life of holy people, chaste though it is, as though it were depraved. Others make it
an excuse to imitate, not what they see, but what they think is the case. Hence any woman
who does not lay herself open to charges of sin and crime does well for herself; but one who
also preserves her good name is kind to others as well. Our life is necessary for ourselves, but
our good name is necessary for others. There is no doubt, moreover, that by showing
compassion and contributing to the salvation of others we also do ourselves a service. It was
not without point that the apostle said, We look to do good not only in God's eyes, but also in
the eyes of mankind (2 Cor 8:21). Likewise he said: Be pleasing to everyone in all things, just
as I please everyone in all things, not looking for any benefit for myself but for the benefit of
many others, so that they will be saved (1 Cor 10:33). In one appeal he says: For the rest,
brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is holy, whatever is just, whatever is chaste,
whatever is most precious, whatever is for your good reputation, either for virtue or praise,
attend to that, as this is what you learn and accept and hear and observe in me (Phil 4:8-9).
You see how, among the many things he urged on us, he did not omit to say, whatever is for
your good reputation, and he concluded with the two phrases, for virtue or praise. The good
things we spoke of earlier relate to virtue, but good name relates to praise. I do not think the
apostle attached great value to human praise, as he said in another place, It is of slight
consequence to me to be judged by you or by any human judgment (1 Cor 4:3); and elsewhere
again, If I were pleasing men and women, I would not be the servant of Christ (Gal 1:10); and
again, For our glory consists in this, the witness of a good conscience (2 Cor 1:12). Of those
two, however, good life and good name, or, to put it more succinctly, virtue and praise, the
first he very wisely cultivated for its own sake, and the second for the sake of others. Since,

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however, it is not humanly possible to protect ourselves from every malicious rumor, once we
have done whatever we can reasonably do to protect our good name, if people then still try to
blacken our name by imagining or believing evil, our conscience can take comfort and even
actually rejoice. Even when men and women say evil things about us, despite our lives being
holy and devout, our reward will be great in heaven.42 That reward is the payment for those
who fight with the arms of justice, in their left hand as well as their right, that is, with honor
and with dishonor, with ill repute and with good repute (2 Cor 6:7-8).
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Concluding Exhortation
23, 28. So then, hurry along on the path you have chosen, and run with determination, to
ensure you reach your goal.43 By the example of your life and the encouragement of your
words lead others too to travel along the same path. Do not be deterred from urging others to
imitate you by the shallow complaints of those who say, How would the human race
continue if everyone was celibate? As if this world would be prolonged for any reason except
to make up the pre-ordained number of saints! Once this is accomplished, the end of the world
will be postponed no longer. And do not be deterred from persuading others of the excellence
of what you do, if someone says to you, Since marriage is also good, how will there be every
perfection in the body of Christ, the less as well as the greater, if everyone imitates you in
commending and preferring celibacy? In the first place, even if you strive for everyone to be
celibate, there will still only be a small number who are. Not everyone can accept these words
(Mt 19:11). Since, however, scripture says: Let those who can accept it, accept it (Mt 19:12),
those who can accept it will accept it, provided one does not keep silent about it even among
those who do not accept it. Also we should not be afraid that perhaps everyone will accept it,
and then one of the lesser perfections, namely married life, will be missing from the body of
Christ. If everyone did listen and accept it, we would have to conclude that this too was preordained, namely, that the good things in marriage were already sufficiently represented in the
large number of members of that body who have already passed from this life. Furthermore, if
everyone is celibate, they will not now accord the honor due to celibacy to those who have
already carried into the Lord's barn the thirtyfold harvest,44 taking that to refer to the
benefits of marriage. All perfections will have their place there, even if from now on no
woman chooses to marry and no man chooses to take a wife. With confidence then be zealous
in encouraging anyone you can to become like you; and be watchful and pray fervently, that

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aided by the power of the Most High and the abundance of the Lord's merciful grace you will
persevere in your present state and progress toward the perfection of your future state.
29. I beg you now, through him from whom you have received this gift and from whom you
hope to receive the reward for it, to remember me too in your prayers, along with all your own
Church community.45 It was very fitting that I already happened to be writing about prayer
to your elderly mother.46 It is especially important for her to support you with her prayers,
as she is more concerned for you than for herself. It was very appropriate too that I composed
this treatise about celibacy in widowhood for you rather than her, since you have still to
overcome what her age has already overcome for her. If your daughter, the consecrated virgin,
would like something of mine about her way of life, she has the substantial book, Holy
Virginity, for her to read. I had urged you to read that too,
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as it contains many things that are essential for the practice of both kinds of chastity, that of
virgins and that of widows. Because I have discussed them at length there, here I have either
touched on those matters only superficially, or else entirely passed over them. May you
persevere in Christ's grace. Amen.
Notes
1 Augustine describes the two parts of this treatise. Part one offers instruction (doctrina: 2,
315, 19); part two presents encouragement (exhortatio: 16, 2023, 29).
2 Augustine's instruction on widowhood will consist primarily of an extended commentary
on Paul's discussion of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7.
3 See 1 Tm 2:7; Acts 9:15.
4 For Augustine's idea that marital intercourse, apart from the intention to procreate, entails a
pardonable fault, see The Excellence of Marriage 6, 6.
5 See Ru 4:13-15; Lk 2:36-38. Augustine sees in Ruth an example of an honorable woman
who remarried after the death of her husband. Anna, called in the gospel a prophet, lived as
a widow to the age of eighty-four.

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6 Demetrias, the daughter of Juliana, had taken a vow of virginity shortly before Augustine
composed this work. See below 23, 29.
7 The Cataphrygians or Montanists were the followers of Montanus, the second century
prophet from Phrygia. In Heresies 26, Augustine notes that they considered second marriage
to be fornication and claimed that the apostle Paul allowed it only because he lacked the full
revelation of the Paraclete or Holy Spirit. According to Heresies 38, the Novatianists (also
known as Cathari or Pure Ones) also forbade second marriages and refused penance to
apostates. They originated from Novatian, the third century Roman presbyter and schismatic.
Tertullian, who began his career as an orthodox Christian in North Africa, eventually
embraced the tenets of the Montanists. See Tertullian, An Exhortation to Chastity and On
Monogamy. In Heresies 86 Augustine notes that the Tertullianist sect in Carthage had
disappeared only very recently.
8 See 1 Cor 7:39.
9 See 1 Cor 7:33.
10 See Tertullian, To His Wife I, 2.
11 Augustine's concern that celibate Christians not exaggerate the importance of their virtue,
expressed clearly in Holy Virginity, remained a preoccupation in his later years, especially
during the Pelagian controversy.
12 See Dt 25:5-10.
13 See Ru 4:13-15.
14 See 1 Cor 7:33-34. In Augustine's day the Church had begun to formalize its penalties for
lapsed virgins. See, for example, Letter 10 of Pope Siricius, To the Bishops of Gaul 1.3 (PL
13, 1182): if a woman who has been formally veiled as a virgin should subsequently marry,
she is to be excommunicated until the death of her new husband. The case of those, for

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example, married couples, who took a private vow of continence, was less clear. See
Augustine, Letter 127, which discusses such a case.
15 See Mt 19:12.
16 See 1 Cor 7:9.
17 See Mt 19:9.
18 See 1 Cor 7:5.
19 See 1 Pt 3:5-6.
20 Canon 104 of the Fourth Council of Carthage (398) had declared lapsed widows guilty of
adultery and excommunicate (CCL 149, 353). Augustine's point is that their subsequent
(human) marriage should not therefore be judged invalid.
21 See Rom 12:3.
22 See Jn 5:29.
23 See 1 Cor 7:40.
24 See Lk 2:36-38.
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25 The virgin to whom Augustine refers is Demetrias, the daughter of Juliana. The
grandmother is Proba, the mother-in-law of Juliana.
26 See Phil 3:15.
27 According to the Revisions, Augustine's thirty-three books Answer to Faustus the
Manichean were written shortly after the Confessions, that is, around 398.

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28 See above, 1, 2.
29 See Rom 5:5.
30 Augustine refers to the prayers in the Preface to the Canon of the Mass. The dialogue
form cited by Augustine is first found in Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition IV, 3. See Gregory
Dix and Henry Chadwick, ed., The Treatise on the Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus of
Rome. Revised Edition (Ridgefield, CT: Morehouse, 1972) 7.
31 See Phil 3:18. Augustine refers here to Pelagius, who maintained a correspondence with
Juliana and her family. Pelagius had written a letter to Demetrias on the occasion of her
consecration to virginity, which contained his characteristic emphasis on the goodness of
human nature and the strength of free will.
32 This passage is reminiscent of Confessions X, 29, 40, a passage which is said to have
provoked the polemic of Pelagius. See Augustine, The Gift of Perseverance 20, 53.
33 See 1 Cor 2:12.
34 Augustine points out that the word continence (continentia) is derived from the verb
(continere), used to express the fact that married people refrain from adultery and
fornication (contineant ab adulteriis et fornicationibus), just as virgins and widows refrain
from all sexual union (contineant ab omni concubitu).
35 Prior to this time (414) Augustine had already written several treatises against Pelagian
ideas, among them The Merits and Remission of Sins and the Baptism of Infants, The Spirit
and the Letter, and Faith and Works. See volume I/23 in the present series.
36 It is not certain to whom Augustine is referring. He and the family of Juliana had a
number of mutual friends who were receptive to the views of Pelagius (for example, Paulinus
of Nola).
37 See Ps 45:11; 1 Cor 12:7.

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38 See Rv 14:3-4.
39 Proba was the mother of three sons, one of whom, Anicius Hermogenianus Olybrius, was
the husband of Juliana. Jerome, Letter 130, 7, also speaks of Proba's influence in the decision
of Demetrias to consecrate herself to virginity.
40 See Rom 12:12; Col 4:2.
41 See Wis 1:11; 1 Cor 8:11-12.
42 See Mt 5:11-12.
43 See 1 Cor 9:25.
44 See Mt 13:8.
45 Augustine refers to Juliana's household as a domestica ecclesia. The expression was
used of monastic communities centered in the homes of aristocratic Christians; see Jerome,
Letter 30, 14, who speaks of the household of Paula as a domestica ecclesia.
46 Augustine's Letter 130 to Proba is an extended discussion of prayer.
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ADULTEROUS MARRIAGES
138
139
Introduction
The two books Adulterous Marriages comprise the only treatise from the first five centuries
devoted solely to the topic of divorce and remarriage.1 In his Revisions Augustine treated
the work between The Soul and Its Origin (419/420) and Answer to an Enemy of the Law and
the Prophets (420); thus it is dated either to late 419 or early 420.2 In Adulterous Marriages

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Augustine responds to questions proposed to him in letters written by a certain Pollentius,


whose identity is otherwise unknown. Pollentius had read Augustine's two books, The Lord's
Sermon on the Mount, and was troubled by his strict interpretation of Jesus' teaching on
divorce in Matthew 5:31-32 and Matthew 19:9.3 Augustine's initial replies to Pollentius' first
letter were made public by some friends in Book One before he was able to respond to the
questions in Pollentius' second letter. Therefore, Augustine was forced to publish his replies to
the second letter in Book Two.
Book One is concerned primarily with the interpretation of biblical texts, particularly 1
Corinthians 7:10-18 and Matthew 19:9. In 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 Paul had written: To the
married I give this commandnot I but the Lordthat the wife should not separate from her
husband; but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her
husband. Matthew 19:9 reads: And I say to you, who divorces his wife, except for unchastity,
and marries another commits adultery. Reading Paul in the light of Matthew, Pollentius had
argued that a distinction should be made between divorce that takes place because of
unchastity and divorce that occurs on other grounds. In both cases, Pollentius argued, divorce
is allowed. When adultery has occurred, Pollentius suggested, remarriage is allowed as well,
because of Matthew's exception. Paul's prohibition of remarriage, he argued, applies only in
cases where spouses separated for reasons other than adultery.
Augustine strongly rejects Pollentius' interpretation. He argues that Matthew 19:9 implies that
the only legitimate reason for the separation of spouses is adultery. Augustine notes that
neither the gospel nor Paul admits any other grounds for divorce; unilateral separation, even
for the sake of pursuing a life of continence, is to be rejected. And in cases of divorce because
of adultery, Augustine maintains, the marriage remains intact, and remarriage is forbidden. In
response to Pollentius' objection that in Matthew 19:9 Jesus makes a clear exception for
divorce in the case of adultery, Augustine suggests that this exception means that remarriage
after a spouse has been divorced because of adultery is less culpable than remarriage in other
cases; nonetheless, remarriage is prohibited in all cases (I.9.9). Augustine appeals to the fact
that the gospels of Mark (10:11-12)
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and Luke (16:18) contain the prohibition of divorce in an unqualified form and, therefore, the
qualified prohibition of Matthew 19:9 must be read in the light of these other gospels (I, 11,
12).

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In Book One Augustine also discusses the text of 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, the passage of the socalled Pauline privilege, where Paul suggests that Christians are not bound to remain in
marriages with non-Christians, if the non-Christian spouse wishes to separate. In this case,
Augustine acknowledges, the apostle has made an allowance for separation between a
Christian and a non-Christian when the faith of the Christian is endangered. He emphasizes,
however, that a separation which is lawful (licere) may not always be beneficial
(expedire). When the non-Christian partner presents no obstacle to the Christian's faith,
charity dictates that the spouses should remain together, so that the non-Christian partner
might be converted (I, 14, 15; see I, 17, 18).
In Book Two Augustine turns to some additional questions that Pollentius had raised in his
second letter. He begins with 1 Corinthians 7:39, where Paul had written: A wife is bound as
long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but
only in the Lord. Pollentius suggested that the death to which Paul refers is the spiritual
death caused by adultery. In this way Pollentius had taken Paul to agree with Matthew 19:9,
the passage in which (as he interpreted it) Jesus had allowed an exception to the rule against
divorce and remarriage in cases where one spouse was guilty of adultery.
Augustine rejects Pollentius' interpretation, arguing that even when a spouse has been
legitimately divorced because of adultery, the bond of chastity (vinculum pudoris) remains
until the death of one of the spouses (II, 4, 4). Like the sacrament of baptism, which remains
valid even after serious sin and excommunication, Augustine argues, the bond of marriage
remains intact even when a divorce has occurred because of adultery (II, 5, 4).
The remainder of the work treats a variety of pastoral objections that Pollentius had raised to
this strict teaching. Regarding the difficulty that a man might experience with forgiving an
adulterous wife, Augustine argued that a Christian must be prepared to forgive any sin that has
been forgiven by Jesus (II, 6, 5). When Pollentius objected that few people are able to live in
celibacy and that for this reason remarriage after divorce (on the grounds of adultery) ought to
be allowed, Augustine responded that a person who divorced a spouse because of adultery
was in no different situation than one whose spouse was seriously ill or in captivity (II, 10, 9).
Arguing characteristically for the priority of grace in the Christian life, Augustine suggested
that even if the commitment to celibacy was not freely chosen, it need not be terrifying: If

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the burden is Christ's, it will be light; and it will be Christ's, if there is faith, as this procures
from the one who commands it the accomplishment of what he commands (II, 19, 20).
Adulterous Marriages is among the latest of Augustine's treatises on marriage. Nonetheless, in
his Revisions Augustine indicated that he had not
141
adequately solved all of the questions involved in the interpretation of the New Testament
evidence:4 I wrote two books on adulterous marriages with the desire of solving, according
to the scriptures, to the best of my ability, a very difficult question. I do not know whether I
have done this very clearly. On the contrary, I think that I did not reach a perfect solution of
this question, although I have clarified many of its obscurities, as anyone who reads
intelligently will be able to judge.
Augustine's hesitation about the cogency of his arguments is revealing. It suggests that he was
aware of certain weaknesses in his biblical exegesis, especially his interpretation of the
exception for adultery clause in Matthew 19:9 (And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife,
except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery). The interpretation of Pollentius,
that Matthew 19:9 implies that someone who divorces his wife because of unchastity and
marries another is not guilty of adultery, is unacceptable to Augustine because it appears to
contradict Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18. Because he was unable to admit that the New
Testament writers might contradict each other, Augustine was unable to interpret Matthew
19:9 other than by maintaining that it could not mean what it appeared to mean.5
Notes
1 See Henri Crouzel, L'glise primitive face au divorce. Du premier au cinqime sicle
(Thologie Historique 13; Paris: Beauchesne, 1970) 337.
2 Revisions II, 57 (83): CCL 57,136.
3 See Augustine, The Lord's Sermon on the Mount I, 14, 3916, 50.
4 Revisions II, 57 (83). Augustine says virtually the same thing in Adulterous Marriages I,
25, 32.

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5 See the excellent analysis of Augustine's argument in Philip Lyndon Reynolds, Marriage in
the Western Church. The Christianization of Marriage during the Patristic and Early Medieval
Periods (Leiden: Brill, 1994) 207-212.
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Book One
Introduction of Pollentius' Views
1, 1. Dearest brother, Pollentius, the first question you presented for me to comment on, when
you wrote to me, was about the words of the apostle: To those, however, who are married, I
give this commandnot I, but the Lordthat a wife should not leave her husband; but if she
does leave him, she should either remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband; and a
husband should not divorce his wife (1 Cor 7:10-11). Are these words to be understood as
forbidding the marriage of a woman who leaves her husband for some reason other than his
adultery, which is the view you take; or do they command women to remain unmarried if they
leave their husbands for the only reason allowed, namely the husband's adultery, which is the
view I took in those books I wrote many years ago on the sermon the Savior preached on the
mountain, as Matthew relates it in the gospel?1 In your opinion, the woman who leaves her
husband should not remarry, if she was not forced to leave because of her husband's adultery.
You do not notice that, if her husband was not guilty of adultery, she was obliged not to leave
him at all, rather than simply to remain unmarried if she left him. The woman who is being
commanded to stay unmarried if she leaves her husband is not being denied the right to leave,
but is being denied the right to remarry. If this is so, it follows that women who wish to be
celibate are being given permission to do so without waiting for their husbands to consent, so
that the words a wife should not leave her husband (1 Cor 7:10) would appear to be a
command addressed to those who might want a divorce with the right to remarry, not to those
who might want to be celibate. Consequently those who wish to do without any sexual union,
and not be burdened by marriage at all, will be allowed to leave their husbands, even when
there is no adultery to justify it, and remain unmarried as the apostle says. Similarly, because
the rules are the same for both, if husbands want to lead a life of celibacy, even without their
wives' consent they will abandon them and stay unmarried. In your view, if the reason for the
divorce was their partner's adultery, they would then be allowed to proceed to another
marriage; but when there is not that justification, there is still the choice for the husband or
wife either not to leave, or, if he or she does leave, either to remain unmarried or to go back to

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the original marriage. So when there is not the justification of the other's adultery, either
spouse may choose one of three alternatives: either not to leave the other partner; or to leave
and stay as they are; or, if
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they do not stay as they are, not to look for a second marriage but to go back to the first one.
A Discussion of Pollentius' Opinion
2, 2. What has become of the fact that the same apostle does not want husbands and wives to
avoid their marital duty to each other even for a short time, to be free for prayer, unless it is by
mutual consent? How will his words be upheld: To avoid adultery, however, each man should
have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should do his duty to his
wife, and the wife also her duty to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her
own body, but her husband does; and likewise the husband does not have authority over his
own body, but his wife does (1 Cor 7:2-5)? How can this be true, if it is not wrong for
husband or wife to stay celibate without the other's consent? If a woman is allowed to divorce
her husband provided she stays unmarried, she does not have a husband, but she herself has
command over her own body; and the same applies for the husband too. Moreover in the text,
Anyone who divorces his wife, except in the case of adultery, causes her to commit adultery
(Mt 5:32), how are we to interpret what is said here except as saying that a man is forbidden
to divorce his wife, if there is no adultery to justify it? We are even told why this is so,
namely, that it is to avoid causing her to commit adultery; and this surely is because, even if
she does not divorce him but is herself the one divorced, she will be guilty of adultery if she
remarries.
A Wife May Leave Her Husband Only in the Case of Adultery
3. It is to avoid this great evil that a man is not allowed to divorce his wife unless it is for
adultery. In that case he does not cause her to become an adulteress by divorcing her, but he
divorces her because she is already an adulteress. What then? If he says, I am divorcing my
wife, although it is not because of adultery, but I am going to stay celibate, will we then say
that he is blameless in what he does? Will anyone dare say this who understands what the
Lord intended when he made these statements? When he made an exception only for the case

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of adultery, he could not have intended a husband or wife to be divorced even for the purpose
of practicing celibacy.
3. Let us return to the actual words the apostle uses: To those, however, who are married I
give this commandnot I, but the Lordthat a wife should not leave her husband; but if she
does leave him, she should remain unmarried (1 Cor 7:10-11). Imagining him to be present,
let us question him and ask his opinion. Why, apostle, did you say: but if she does leave him,
she should remain unmarried? Is it right, or is it wrong, for her to leave him? If it is wrong,
why do you
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command the one who leaves to stay unmarried? If, on the other hand, it is not wrong, there
must surely be some justifying reason. When we look for this reason we find none, other than
the only exception the Savior allowed, namely the case of adultery. Consequently, the only
woman the apostle has commanded to remain unmarried, if she leaves her husband, is the one
who leaves for the only reason for which it is not wrong to leave her husband. In the text, I
give this command that a wife should not leave her husband; but if she does leave, she
should remain unmarried, it is unthinkable that a woman who leaves in this way, with the
intention of remaining unmarried, does anything against this commandment. It follows that
unless it is understood to be someone who is allowed to leave (and it is not allowed unless the
husband commits adultery), how can she be commanded to stay unmarried if she leaves?
Would anyone say, If a woman leaves a husband who has not committed adultery, she should
stay unmarried, when it is wrong for her to leave at all when the husband has not committed
adultery? When the Lord did not even desire celibacy to be adopted except by mutual
agreement and consent, I think you will now see how much your interpretation is contrary to
the marriage bond.
The Desire for Continence Does Not Authorize Separation
4, 4. Let us explain the matter a little more fully, unfolding it before your eyes as it were.
Consider the case of a woman who wants to practice celibacy, but her husband does not. The
wife leaves him, and starts to lead a life of celibacy. She herself will stay chaste, but contrary
to what the Lord wants, she will cause her husband to commit adultery; unable to stay
celibate, he will look for someone else. What shall we say to the woman, other than what the
saving teaching of the Church says? Do your duty to your husband, for fear that while you are

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looking for something to bring you greater honor, he will find something that will bring about
his damnation. We would say the same to him too, if he wanted to practice celibacy without
your consent. You do not have authority over your own body, but he does, just as he does not
have authority over his own body, but you do.2 Do not withhold what you owe each other
except by agreement.3 After we have said this, and other similar things relating to this
matter, does it please you to have the woman use your reasoning to give us this answer: I
hear the apostle saying, I give this command that a wife should not leave her husband; but
if she does leave him, she should either remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband (1
Cor 7:10-11). See, I have left my husband, and I do not want to be reconciled to him, and I am
staying celibate. He did not say, 'If you leave your husband, you must stay unmarried until
you are reconciled to him,' but said, Remain unmarried, or be reconciled to your husband. 'Do
one or the other,' he said. He allowed a choice between the two, and did not insist on the
second of these things. I
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choose to remain unmarried and carry out what he commands in that way. You can criticize
me, accuse me, blame me, and be as stern as you like, if I remarry.
Adultery Is the Only Legitimate Grounds for Divorce
5, 5. How can I answer this other than by saying: You misunderstand the apostle? He would
not have given the commandment to stay unmarried, if she leaves her husband, except to a
woman who has the right to leave her husband, which is only in the case of adultery. This is
not mentioned at that point, because it is so well known. When speaking about a man
divorcing his wife, God our master made this reason the only exception. He left it to be
understood that the same rule binds the husband too, since not only does the wife not have
authority over her own body, but her husband does, but likewise the husband does not have
authority over his own body, but his wife does (1 Cor 7:4). Therefore, since you cannot claim
that your husband has committed adultery, how can you think that by not remarrying you are
excused for leaving him, when it is wrong for you to leave him at all? When the woman hears
us say this, I do not think you would like her to reply by saying that the reason she is staying
unmarried is that she left without any adultery on the part of her husband, and that if he had
committed adultery, not only would it have been right for her to leave him, but it would also
have been right for her to remarry.

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Remarriage Is Not Allowed, Even When Divorce Is Allowed


6, 6. She would not say this at all, since even you would be ashamed to afford her that
freedom. You said: If a man divorces a wife who commits adultery and remarries, only the
woman will be blamed. If, however, the woman divorces her husband for the reason
mentioned and remarries, not only will the woman be blamed, but so will the husband.
Arguing in support of this view you say this: They will say that her reason for leaving was to
enter into a union with another man, even though he might be just the same as the one she left,
as it is very easy for men to lapse into this debilitating vice. If then she divorces him too, and
marries yet again, more and more will they say that she wanted to have a variety of
husbands. After expounding this argument you state this conclusion: Taking these
considerations into account, the woman should either put up with her husband or remain
unmarried. Clearly you have given women good advice, in telling them that, although they
know they are allowed to remarry if they divorce husbands who commit adultery, they ought
not do this because of the criticism, but they should even put up with husbands who commit
adultery. They will then avoid appearing to want to take the opportunity of having relations
with numerous husbands, given the difficulty of finding someone to marry who is not the
146
same as the one she divorces, when men are so vulnerable to this infirmity. Since, therefore,
we say that even the woman who divorces a husband who commits adultery is not allowed to
remarry, whereas you say it is allowed, but not advisable, without argument we both say that
the one who divorces a husband who commits adultery ought not remarry. What is at issue is
that we say that, when both the partners are Christians, a woman is not allowed to remarry if
she leaves a husband who commits adultery, but if the husband does not commit adultery she
is not allowed to leave him at all, whereas you say that if a woman leaves a husband who is
not guilty of adultery, it is not right for her to remarry because of a commandment, but if she
leaves a husband who is guilty of adultery, it is not advisable for her to remarry because of the
scandal. You say, therefore, that, if she intends to remain unmarried, a woman is allowed to
leave her husband, whether or not he commits adultery.
Only Adultery Allows a Woman to Separate from Her Husband
7, 7. Since the holy apostle, or rather the Lord speaking through the apostle, does not allow a
woman to leave a husband who has not committed adultery, we have to conclude that when he

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says a woman is not to remarry if she leaves her husband, he is speaking of one who is
permitted to leave because the husband has committed adultery. It is about this woman that he
says: If she leaves her husband, she must not remarry; she is allowed to leave him on
condition that she does not remarry. So if she chooses not to remarry, there is nothing to
prevent her leaving. She is like the woman about whom it is said, If she cannot stay
continent, she should marry;4 in her case the condition, for her being allowed not to be
continent, is that she marries. So, if she chooses to marry, she cannot be compelled to be
continent. Just as the one who cannot stay continent has to marry, to avoid incurring
damnation by not staying continent, so too the one who leaves her husband has to remain
unmarried, to avoid incurring guilt by leaving her husband. If he does not commit adultery,
however, she incurs guilt by leaving her husband, even if she does not remarry. So the one
who is being commanded not to remarry if she leaves her husband is the one who leaves a
husband who commits adultery. Since this is so, if we interpret the apostle as saying to
women: Do not leave your husbands, including those who are chaste, unless you want to
leave them and stay unmarried, all those who prefer celibacy will think that it is acceptable
for them to leave their husbands even without their consent. Since we certainly should not
allow this, the only alternative is for us to teach that the statement, if she does leave him, she
should remain unmarried (1 Cor 7:11), refers to the woman who has the right to leave, and
this, as we have learned, is undoubtedly the one whose husband has committed adultery. If we
teach anything else, then in support of celibacy we shall cause disruption in Christian
marriages,
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and contrary to God's compassionate commandment we shall drive into adultery husbands
who are not able to be celibate after their wives have divorced them to practice celibacy, and
[we shall do the same to] wives who are not able to be celibate after their husbands have
divorced them to practice celibacy.
The Rules of Marriage Apply to Men and Women Equally
8, 8. In another place, though not in the sermon we were commenting on, the Lord said, If
anyone divorces his wife, apart from the case of adultery, and marries someone else, he
commits adultery (Mt 19:9). If this is taken to mean that anyone who divorces his wife
because she commits adultery and takes another wife is not guilty of adultery, there would
seem to be a different rule for husband and wife in this matter. If the wife leaves her husband,

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even because of his committing adultery, and marries someone else, she commits adultery; but
if the husband leaves his wife for the same reason and takes another wife, he does not commit
adultery. On the other hand, if there is the same rule for both, then they are both guilty of
adultery if they enter a union with someone else, even when they separate from a partner who
commits adultery. That the rule in this matter is the same for men and women is made clear by
the apostle (and it must often be called to mind) in that text where he says, The wife does not
have authority over her own body, but her husband does, and goes on to add, And likewise the
husband does not have authority over his own body, but his wife does (1 Cor 7:4).
Why Jesus Added the Exception for Adultery
9, 9. Why then, you say, did the Lord make special reference to the case of adultery, and
not say instead quite generally, 'Anyone who divorces his wife and takes another wife
commits adultery,' if the one who takes another wife after divorcing a wife who commits
adultery is also guilty of adultery? I think it is because the Lord wanted to talk about the
more serious case. No one would deny that if someone takes another wife after divorcing a
wife who has not committed adultery, this adultery is worse than remarrying after divorcing a
wife who commits adultery. It is not that there is not adultery in the other case, when the
remarriage is after divorce from a wife who commits adultery, but it is less serious. The
apostle James says something similar, when he says: If someone knows the right thing to do
but does not do it, that person commits a sin (Jas 4:17). Does it follow from this that someone
who does not know the right thing to do, and therefore does not do it, does not also commit a
sin? This person does, of course, commit a sin, but the sin is worse if the person knows and
still does not do it. Being a less serious sin does not make it no sin at all.
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We can say similar things in both cases. Anyone who divorces his wife, except for adultery,
and marries someone else, commits adultery, just as anyone who knows the right thing to do,
and does not do it, commits a sin. In the latter case, however, it is not correct to say,
Therefore, anyone who does not know does not commit a sin. There are also sins committed
in ignorance, although they are less serious than sins committed knowingly. Similarly in the
other case, it is not correct to say, Someone who divorces his wife for committing adultery,
and then remarries, does not commit adultery; as there is also the adultery of those who
remarry after leaving their first wives because of adultery, although this is certainly not as bad

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as the adultery of those who divorce their wives for reasons other than adultery and then
remarry. In the same way as it was said, If someone knows the right thing to do but does not
do it, that person commits a sin (Jas 4:17), it can also be said, If someone divorces his wife,
but not for adultery, and marries someone else, that person commits adultery.
So then, if we say, Anyone who marries a woman who has been divorced by her husband,
though not for committing adultery, commits adultery, undoubtedly what we say is true; but
we do not thereby absolve from similar guilt the one who marries a woman who has been
divorced for committing adultery. We have no doubt at all that both are guilty of adultery. In a
similar way, we declare that the man who divorces his wife, though not for committing
adultery, and marries someone else, is an adulterer; and we do not thereby defend as untainted
by this sin the one who divorces his wife and then marries someone else, when it is because
she has committed adultery. Although one is worse than the other, we know that both are
adulterers. No one would be so absurd as to say that someone who marries the woman cast
aside by her husband because of adultery is not an adulterer, while someone who marries the
one cast aside when it is not for adultery is an adulterer. So both are adulterers. Hence, when
we say that anyone who marries a woman divorced by her husband for reasons other than
adultery commits adultery, we are speaking of one of them, but we are not thereby denying
that the other (the one who marries a woman rejected by her husband for committing adultery)
also commits adultery. Accordingly, both commit adultery, both the one who divorces his wife
when she has not committed adultery and then marries someone else, and the one who marries
someone else after divorcing his wife because of her adultery. Therefore, when we read
something about one of these, we certainly must not infer that if one is explicitly said to be
guilty of adultery, the other is thereby said not to be.
10. If, by being explicit about one case and saying nothing about the other, Matthew made this
difficult to understand, did not the other evangelists summarize the same material in a more
general way, so that it can be understood to refer to both cases? In Mark it is stated like this:
Anyone who divorces his wife and marries someone else, commits adultery by her, and if a
wife divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery (Mk 10:11-12). In
Luke it
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is like this: Everyone who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery, and
everyone who marries a woman divorced by her husband commits adultery (Lk 16:18). Who

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are we to say that one person who marries again after divorcing his wife commits adultery, but
someone else who does this does not commit adultery, when the gospel says that everyone
who does it commits adultery? Hence, if anyone, that is everyone, who does thisdivorces
his wife and marries someone elsecommits adultery, then without doubt this includes the
two, both the one who divorces his wife when it is not for adultery and the one who does so
on account of adultery. This is what Whoever divorces means; this is what Everyone who
divorces means.
Textual Variants in Matthew's Gospel
10, 11. In quoting from the gospel as written by Matthew, I did not leave out the phrase and
marries someone else, and just say he commits adultery (and I do not know why it seemed to
you that I did). I quoted the words as we read them in that longer sermon that the Lord
preached on the mount. It was this that I set out to discuss, and the words we read there are, as
I quoted them: Anyone who divorces his wife except in the case of adultery causes her to
commit adultery; and anyone who marries a woman divorced by her husband commits
adultery (Mt 5:32). At this point some manuscripts say the same thing in different words, but
there is no difference in the meaning of what is said. Some have Anyone who divorces; others
everyone who divorces. Some have except in the case of adultery; others apart from the case
of adultery; others unless it is for adultery. Some have the one who marries a woman
separated from her husband commits adultery; others the one who marries a woman divorced
by her husband commits adultery. I think you can see that nothing there makes any difference
to the single, identical doctrine. It may well be that some of the manuscripts, both Greek and
Latin, do not have those last words, namely, the one who marries a woman divorced by her
husband commits adultery, as part of the Lord's sermon on the mount. I think this is because
what this says is implied by the earlier statement, he causes her to commit adultery. How can
the divorced woman become an adulteress without the man who marries her becoming an
adulterer?
Matthew's Ambiguity Must Be Interpreted by the Other Gospels
11, 12. The words you yourself quoted, in support of your view that the man who divorces his
wife for adultery and marries someone else does not commit adultery, are in fact rather
obscure. Hence I am not surprised that a reader has difficulty in understanding them. Those

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words, however, are not there in the sermon of the Lord that I was commenting on when I
wrote the things that aroused
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your interest when you read them. Matthew himself tells of the Lord saying those words in
another place, not when he was preaching the sermon on the mount, but when the Pharisees
asked him whether it was right to divorce one's wife for any reason. What is not so easy to
understand in Matthew is made clear by the other evangelists. Consequently, when we read in
Matthew's account of the gospel, If anyone divorces his wife except in the case of adultery
(or, in the better reading of the Greek, apart from the case of adultery), and marries someone
else, he commits adultery (Mt 19:9), we should not think straight off that someone who
divorces his wife for committing adultery and marries someone else does not commit
adultery. We should still leave it an open question until we consult what the other evangelists
say in their account of the same incident. Why is this? What if in his account Matthew did not
relate the whole of what was said on the matter, but related a part of it in such a way that the
whole is implicit in that part, whereas Mark and Luke, to make this evident, preferred to state
it fully, so that the whole doctrine would be clear? We had no doubt to begin with that what
we read in Matthew is true, If anyone divorces his wife apart from the case of adultery, and
marries someone else, he commits adultery; but we wanted to find out whether it is only the
one who divorces his wife when it is not for adultery who commits adultery by marrying
someone else, or whether everyone who marries someone else after divorcing his wife
commits adultery, including the one who divorces his wife for committing adultery. Do we
not have our answer in Mark: Why do you want to know whether or not that man commits
adultery? Anyone who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery (Mk
10:11). Are we not also told in Luke: Why are you uncertain whether someone who divorces
his wife on the grounds of adultery and remarries is guilty of adultery? Everyone who
divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery (Lk 16:18). So, because we
may not say that when the evangelists use different words to speak about the same matter,
they disagree in their understanding of the same doctrine, the only alternative is to understand
that Matthew intended the part to stand for the whole. The view he held, however, was the
same. Hence there cannot be the slightest doubt that it is not true that one man who divorces
his wife and remarries is an adulterer, namely the one who does not divorce her because of
adultery, while another, the one who divorces because of adultery, is not an adulterer; but
everyone who divorces his wife and marries again is guilty of adultery.

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A Woman Divorced Because of Adultery Is Still a Wife


12, 13. How can those next words in Luke be true: Anyone who marries a woman who has
been divorced by her husband commits adultery (Lk 16:18)? How is he guilty of adultery, if it
is not because the woman he has married is still
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someone else's wife, as long as the man who divorced her is still living? It clearly would not
be adultery if the woman he is sleeping with now were his own wife. But it is adultery;
therefore the woman he is sleeping with is someone else's wife. So if she is someone else's
wife, namely the wife of the man who divorced her, then she has not yet ceased to be the wife
of the man who divorced her, even if she was divorced on the grounds of adultery. On the
other hand, if she has ceased to be his wife, then she is now the wife of this man she then
married; and if she is his wife, then he cannot be considered an adulterer, but her husband. But
since scripture does not call him her husband, but an adulterer, she is still the wife of the man
who divorced her, even though it was because of adultery. It follows also that anyone he
himself takes as a wife after divorcing her is also an adulteress, because she is sleeping with
someone else's husband. If it is agreed, then, that he makes that woman he marries an
adulteress, how can it be that he too is not an adulterer?
A New Question: Marriages Between Christians and Pagans
13, 14. Now let us look at what the apostle said when speaking on the question of mixed
marriages, those namely where the partners are not both Christians.5 He said, To the rest,
however, I say, not the Lord (1 Cor 7:12). It seems to me that when he said this, he was giving
advice. Because it was not wrong for the partner with the faith to leave the partner without the
faith, it follows that it is not the Lord but the apostle who says not to do this. Anything the
Lord forbids, it is entirely wrong to do. The apostle, therefore, advises the believing partners
not to make use of their right to leave the unbelievers, because this can be an opportunity to
win over many of them. You take the view that, because the apostle says not to do it, it is also
wrong for the believers to divorce the unbelievers, whereas I would say that it is not wrong,
because the Lord does not forbid it, but it is not good, because the apostle advises against it.
The apostle also explains why it is not good to do this, even though it is not wrong. He says,
How do you know, wife, if you will bring salvation to your husband? Or how do you know,
husband, if you will bring salvation to your wife? (1 Cor 7:16). Before this he had also said,

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The unbelieving husband is made holy in his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy in
the brother, that is, in the Christian. Otherwise, he says, your children would be unclean; but
they are holy now (1 Cor 7:14). From this, and from the examples he had already given, it is
apparent that he was urging them to win over their partners and their children for Christ. So
the reason why it is not good for the faithful to divorce even unbelieving partners is clearly
stated. When the apostle says not to separate from unbelieving partners, it is not for the sake
of maintaining a marriage bond with partners like that, but it is to win them for Christ.
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Some Things Should Be Done Out of Love, Not Law
14, 15. There are many things that we should do freely from love and not because they are
commanded by the law; and among our duties those we undertake by choice, when it would
not be wrong not to commit ourselves to them, are the more pleasing ones. That is why earlier
the Lord himself paid the tax, although he had shown that he was not obliged to pay it, so as
not to scandalize those whose eternal salvation was his concern in becoming man.6 Now the
apostle extols this way of acting, as his words bear witness, when he says: Although I am not
a slave to anyone, I have made myself the slave of everyone, in order to win as many as I can
(1 Cor 9:19). Just before this he had said, Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Are we
not allowed to take a Christian woman around with us, like the other apostles and the Lord's
brothers and Cephas? Am I and Barnabas the only ones who do not have the right to do this?
Does anyone ever pay for his own military service? Does anyone plant a vineyard and not eat
the fruit from it? Does anyone give pasture to a flock and not drink milk from the flock? (1
Cor 9:4-7). And a little further on he says, If others have this right with you, are we not more
entitled to it? But we do not act on this right, but we put up with everything in order not to put
any obstacle in the way of Christ's gospel (1 Cor 9:12). Then after a few other things he says,
What then will be my reward? It will be to present the gospel without payment for preaching
the gospel, and not misuse the right the gospel gives me (1 Cor 9:18). Immediately he adds
the words I quoted a little earlier: Although I am not a slave to anyone, I have made myself
the slave of everyone, in order to win as many as I can (1 Cor 9:19). Likewise, in another
passage about certain questions relating to food and drink, he says: Everything is lawful for
me, but not everything is beneficial; everything is lawful for me, but I am a slave to none of
them. Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both
one and the other (1 Cor 6:12-13). Elsewhere again, on the same topic, he says: Everything is

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lawful for me, but not everything is beneficial; everything is allowed, but not everything is
constructive. No one should be looking for his or her own advantage, but for that of others (1
Cor 10:23-24). Also, to make clear what he was talking about, he said, Eat whatever the
butcher has, and do not ask questions because of your conscience (1 Cor 10:25), although he
also said in another place, I shall not eat meat ever again, to avoid giving scandal to my
brother or sister (1 Cor 8:13). In another place too: Everything indeed is clean, but it is bad for
a person who does harm to others by eating it (Rom 14:20). In this way he shows that those
things that are allowed (that is to say, not forbidden by any commandment of the Lord) should
be dealt with in the way that does most good, following the guidance of charity rather than the
commands of the law. This is what the Samaritan did when he spent extra for the stricken man
whom in his compassion he had carried to the inn
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to be looked after.7 Although the Lord advises us to make offerings like this, they are not
said to be commanded by the Lord, so that the more clearly it is shown they are not something
we have to do, the better we will understand that they are something more pleasing.
What Is Permissible Is Not Always Good
15, 16. About things like this, that are licit but not good, one cannot say, This is good, but
that is better, in the way it was said, Someone who marries does well; and someone who
does not marry does better (1 Cor 7:38). In that case both things are permissible, but
sometimes one is good, and sometimes the other is. For women who cannot live celibately it
is certainly good to marry, and what is permissible is also good; but for those who have made
a vow of chastity marriage is neither permissible nor good. On the other hand, separating from
a husband or wife who is not a believer is permissible, but it is not good, while staying with
that partner, if he or she agrees to continue living together, is both permissible and good. If it
were not permissible, it could not be good. Therefore it is possible for something to be
permissible but not good, but it is not possible for something not permissible to be good.
Hence things that are lawful are not all good, but everything unlawful is not good. Just as
everyone redeemed by Christ's blood is a human being, but human beings are not all
redeemed by Christ's blood, so too everything that is unlawful is not good, but things that are
not good are not all unlawful. As we learn from the testimony of the apostle, there are some
things that are lawful but are not good.

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Distinguishing the Permissible from the Good


16, 17. It is not easy to give a general rule to define what the difference is between something
that is forbidden and therefore not good, and something that is permissible but not good. It
would be easy enough for someone to say: Anything it is not good to do is a sin; and all sins
are forbidden. Therefore, anything it is not good to do is forbidden. If, then, everything that
is not good is forbidden, what becomes of the things the apostle said are not forbidden but not
good? Accordingly, since we cannot doubt that what the apostle says is true, and we dare not
say that some sins are not forbidden, the only alternative is to say that there can be something
that it is not good to do, and yet, if it is not forbidden, it is not a sin, even though, because it is
not good, it certainly ought not to be done. If it seems absurd to say that something is done
that it is not good to do, but whoever does it does not commit a sin, it should be appreciated
that this absurdity is due to a customary manner of speaking. This is so common that often we
even say that donkeys ought to be beaten when they sin, even though they lack the power of
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reason. Yet, strictly speaking, sinning is confined to creatures with the use of reason and free
will, and of all mortal creatures only humans have been endowed by God with this. It is one
thing, however, to use language in its literal sense, but another to borrow words from other
contexts and either use them in a figurative sense or even misuse them.
What Is Not Permissible Violates Justice
17, 18. Let us try then to draw a precise line to distinguish between what is permitted but not
good, and what is not permitted and therefore not good. It seems to me that things that are
permitted but not good are those that are permitted by justice, upheld by God, but should be
avoided because of possible harm to other persons (to prevent it being a hindrance to their
salvation). On the other hand, things that are not permitted and therefore not good are those
that even justice forbids, so that they may not be done, even if they would be applauded by
people who came to hear about them. If this is right, then only the things that are illicit are
forbidden by God, and those that are permitted but not good are not ruled out by the power of
the law but by the unforced goodness of love.
19. It follows that if it were wrong to divorce a husband or wife who did not believe, the Lord
would forbid it, and the apostle would not say, It is I, not the Lord, who says it (1 Cor 7:12). If

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it is permitted to separate from a husband or wife because of an act of adultery, how much
more detestable in a husband or wife is adultery of the spirit, in other words lack of faith!8
Scripture says of this, See how those who distance themselves from you will perish; you have
destroyed everyone who is unfaithful to you (Ps 73:27).
The Apostle Discourages What the Lord Allows
18. It is permitted [to divorce an unbelieving spouse], but it is not good to do, because people
might take offense at the breakup of marriages and abhor the very doctrine of salvation that
forbids the things that are not permitted. They would then continue on in the same state of
unbelief, worse than before and destined to perish. For this reason the apostle intervenes with
the advice forbidding us to do what is permitted though not good. While the Lord does not
forbid the faithful, men and women, to leave husbands or wives who are not believers, at the
same time he does not command them to do so. If he did command it, the apostle's advice not
to act in that way would be out of place. The Lord's faithful slave would never forbid doing
what the Lord commands us to do.
20. On one occasion, through the prophet Ezra, the Lord did command this and it was done.
Those of the Israelites who were still able to keep foreign wives divorced them.9 What was
happening was that, instead of the wives being won
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over to God through the influence of their husbands, the husbands were being seduced to the
worship of alien gods through their wives' influence. The great grace of the savior had not yet
begun to spread its light, and for the most part those people were still yearning for the
material benefits promised in the Old Testament. Therefore, when they saw that even people
who worshiped a multitude of false gods were rich with the earthly goods they were looking
to receive as a special favor from God, they were won over by the sweet wiles of their wives,
first of all to being in awe of those false gods, and then to taking part in the worship of them.
Because of this God had given the commandment through Moses that no one was to marry a
foreigner.10 Quite properly, then, in obedience to the Lord's command they divorced the
wives they had married in disobedience to the Lord's command. When, however, the gospel
began to be preached to the Gentiles, it came upon a situation where Gentiles were already
married to each other. In these cases, if both did not accept the faith, but one or the other did,
provided the one who did not believe agreed to live with the one who did, it was not proper

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for the one with the faith either to be forbidden by God to divorce the unbeliever or to be
commanded to do so. It was not proper for it to be forbidden, as justice allows separation from
someone who commits adultery, and the adultery in the heart of an unbeliever is the worst.
Also, the unbeliever's chastity in relation to the marriage partner cannot be called true
chastity, since everything that does not come from faith is sinful (Rom 14:23). On the other
hand, the partner who believes has true chastity, even in relation to the unbelieving partner
who does not have true chastity. The reason why it was also not proper for the faithful to be
commanded to separate from unbelievers is that when they married they were both Gentiles
and they were not doing anything that God forbade.
21. Because the Lord neither commands the believer to leave the unbeliever, nor forbids it,
this is why it is not the Lord but the apostle who says not to leave. Certainly he possesses the
Holy Spirit, which enables him to give advice that is useful and reliable. This is why, when he
said to the woman whose husband had died, In my opinion she will be happier if she stays as
she is (1 Cor 7:40), he added, I believe, though, that I too have the Spirit of God, so that no
one would think that his advice should be dismissed as merely human and not from God.
Hence we must appreciate that when something the Lord does not command is recommended
as beneficial by his holy servant, this recommendation is also inspired by God. When the
Holy Spirit gives advice, far be it from the thoughts of any Catholic to say that it is not the
Lord who gives the advice. The Spirit is Lord too, and the works of the Trinity are indivisible.
Nevertheless he says, About virgins I have no commandment from the Lord, but I give advice
(1 Cor 7:24). This is not to have us think that this advice is different from what the Lord
would give, since he immediately goes on to say, as someone who by God's mercy is faithful
to him. The advice he gives, therefore, is true to what God wants and comes from
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that Spirit of whom he says, I believe, though, that I too have God's Spirit (1 Cor 7:40).
22. Just the same, a command given by God in the exercise of his authority is one thing, but
the faithful advice of a fellow slave based on the compassionate love that he has by the
inspiration and gift of the Lord is something else. In the first case it is wrong to act otherwise;
in the other case it is not wrong, but in such a way that sometimes indeed it is good to do the
thing that is not wrong but sometimes it is not good. It is good to do it on those occasions
when not only is it permitted in justice, which God upholds, but also it does nothing to hinder
the salvation of others. It is like this when the apostle gives virgins the advice not to marry,

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and for that reason he states that he does not have any command from God about it, and says
it is not wrong to act differently, namely to marry and have the benefits of marriage, inferior
though they are to those of virginity. Here what is not wrong is also good, because while
honorable marriage rescues the weakness of the flesh from the danger of lapsing into deeds
that are wrong and forbidden, at the same time this causes no hindrance to anyone's salvation,
even though it would still be better and more honorable if the virgin chose to follow the
advice she was not obliged to follow by any commandment. The occasions when it is not
good to do what it is not wrong to do are those when one has the right to do something, but to
exercise that right would cause hindrance to the salvation of others. This is how it is in the
case of a Christian separating from a husband or wife who is not a Christian, which we have
been discussing for so long. God does not forbid it with any commandment of his law,
because he recognizes there is no injustice in it. The apostle, however, forbids it for reasons of
charity, because it places an obstacle in the way of salvation for the unbelievers. Not only will
they be harmed by very damaging scandal, but also they will enter into other marriages, while
those who divorced them are still living, and afterward it will be very difficult to free
themselves from those adulterous bonds.
It Is Better Not to Divorce the Unbelieving Spouse
19, 23. In this case, where it is not good to do what it is not wrong to do, you cannot say,
Anyone who divorces a husband or wife who is not a Christian does well, but anyone who
does not divorce does better, in the same way it was said, Anyone who gives her in marriage
does well, but anyone who does not give her in marriage does better (1 Cor 7:38). In the latter
case neither course of action is wrong (so no one is obliged by any commandment from God
to do one or the other), and both are good, one less so, the other more so; consequently in
giving his advice the apostle calls on anyone capable of it to do the thing that is better. In the
present case, however, where the question is about divorcing or not divorcing a husband or
wife who does not have the faith, neither course of action is contrary
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to justice, which the Lord upholds, and therefore neither is forbidden by the Lord. Because of
human weakness, however, they are not both good, and so the apostle forbids doing the thing
that is not good. The Lord leaves room for the apostle to forbid it, because the Lord neither
forbids what the apostle advises, nor commands what the apostle forbids. If this were not so,
the apostle would neither advise something the Lord forbade, nor forbid something the Lord

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commanded. Hence in these two cases, one about marrying or not marrying, the other about
divorcing or not divorcing a husband or wife who does not have the faith, there is some
similarity in what the apostle says, but also some dissimilarity. The similarity is in saying, on
the one hand, I have no commandment from the Lord, but I give you advice (1 Cor 7:25), and
on the other, I say it, not the Lord (1 Cor 7:12). I have no commandment from the Lord
corresponds to The Lord does not say it; and I advise corresponds to I say it. The dissimilarity
is that in the case of marrying and not marrying one can say that to do the first is good, but to
do the other is better, as they are both good, only one less so and the other more so; whereas,
in the case of divorcing or not divorcing a husband or wife who does not have the faith, one
may not say, Anyone who divorces does well, but anyone who does not divorce does better,
as one of these is good and the other is not good, and one has to say instead, The person
should not divorce, because, although it is not wrong, it is not good. Therefore we can say
that it is better not to divorce a husband or wife who does not have the faith, even though
divorce is not forbidden, just as it is right for us to say that something that is not forbidden
and also good is better than something that is not forbidden but not good.
Not All of the Apostle's Advice Has the Same Authority
20, 24. This is why, in commenting on the Lord's sermon on the mount, when I came to the
question of divorcing or not divorcing, I cited the evidence of the apostle and said that when
he said, For the rest, I say, not the Lord (1 Cor 7:12), this was an instruction from the apostle,
not a commandment from the Lord.11 He was advising those who had husbands and wives
who were not Christians not to divorce them, if they agreed to continue living with them.
Undoubtedly the reason why this had to be advised rather than commanded is that an
instruction to people not to do something that it is not good for them to do, though it is not
wrong, cannot have the same weight as an instruction not to do something that is wrong. If on
occasion the apostle saw fit to advise something that should have been commanded, he did
this out of consideration for human weakness, and not to prejudice its status as a command.
So, if he said, I do not write this to confuse you, but to advise you as my dearest sons and
daughters (1 Cor 4:14), what has this to do with him saying, I say, not the Lord? Likewise,
when he said, See, I Paul say to you that if you are circumcised, Christ is of no benefit to you
(Gal
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5:2), did he also say then, I say, not the Lord? Those cases are different, because it is not
inappropriate or contradictory for the apostle also to advise doing those things that the Lord
commands. We advise those dear to us to do what God commands or orders. On the other
hand, when he says I say, not the Lord, he is making it clear that what he forbids is not
forbidden by the Lord. If it were wrong, however, the Lord would have forbidden it.
Therefore, in accordance with what we have said at length above, looking at it from many
angles, it was not forbidden by justice, but unforced goodness required that even what justice
did not forbid should not be done.
A Response to Pollentius' Interpretation
21, 25. You want it to be wrong to do what the apostle, and not the Lord, forbids, in the same
way as it is wrong to do what the Lord forbids. So when you wanted to explain what he meant
by saying, I say, not the Lord (1 Cor 7:12), in his words to the faithful who were married to
unbelievers, you said: Because the Lord commanded husbands and wives not to have the
marriage act with husbands or wives of a different religion. And you invoked the evidence of
the Lord's own words: You shall not marry your son to any of the daughters of foreigners, lest
she induce him to follow her gods and his soul perish (Dt 7:3-4). You quoted also the apostle's
own words, where he says: A woman is bound to her husband, as long as he lives. But if her
husband dies, she is free again, and she may marry as she chooses, although only in the Lord
(1 Cor 7:39), adding your explanatory comment That is, to a Christian. You then followed
this up by saying, This, therefore, is the Lord's commandment, both in the Old Testament and
the New, that only husbands and wives of the same religion and faith should stay married to
each other. If this is the Lord's commandment, in both the Old Testament and the New, and
this is what the Lord commands, and this is what the apostle teaches, namely, that only
husbands and wives of the same religion are to stay together, why then, in opposition to the
Lord's commands, and in opposition to his own teaching, and in opposition to the
commandment of the Old and the New Testaments, does the apostle order husbands and wives
of different faiths to stay together? Because, you say, Paul, preacher to the Gentiles and
apostle, not only advises, but commands, that if one or the other of two persons already
married comes to believe, that partner should not divorce the one who does not believe,
provided he or she agrees to continue living together. By saying this you show clearly
enough that the two cases are different. The first has to do with people when they first marry;
a woman may not marry a man of different religion, and a man may not marry such a woman.

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As you say, That is what the Lord orders, the apostle teaches, and both Testaments
command. Who would deny, however, that it is different when it does not concern
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two persons getting married, but persons already married? When they married, both shared
the same lack of faith; but after the gospel was preached, one of them came to believe and the
other did not. So, if this case is different, which is clear beyond any shadow of doubt, why did
not the Lord, as well as the apostle, also command the believer to stay married to the
unbeliever? Was it perhaps to give the opportunity for what the apostle claimed so
confidently: Do you want proof that it is Christ who speaks in me (2 Cor 13:3)? And certainly
Christ is the Lord. Do you follow what I am saying? Or do I have to dwell longer on it and
explain it in more detail?
26. Pay attention, and let me present it for your consideration in more explicit language.
Consider two married people, both in the same state of unbelief, just as they were when they
married. That command of the Lord, teaching of the apostle, and commandment of the Old
and New Testaments, whereby a believer is forbidden to enter a union with an unbeliever, has
nothing to do with them. They are already married, and both are still unbelievers; they are still
the same as they were before they were married, and the same as they were when they
married. Then someone comes preaching the gospel, and one of them comes to believe; but
the one without the faith agrees to stay with the one who believes. Does the Lord command
the one who believes to divorce the one who does not believe, or does he not command this?
If you say, He commands it, the apostle cries out, I say it, not the Lord (1 Cor 7:12); and if
you say, He does not command it, I want to know the reason. Do not give me the answer
you gave in your letter: Because the Lord forbids the faithful to be united with unbelievers.
That is no reason at all here, when we are not talking about persons entering into a union with
each other, but persons already in that union. If, therefore, you yourself do not find any reason
why the Lord does not forbid what the apostle forbids (for I think you see now that there is
not the reason you thought there was), then see whether perhaps the reason is the one that
appeared to me as the one to put forward then, and the one that must now be defended. It is
that we have to understand that the Lord states what he recognizes justice to require as
absolutely obligatory, and that is what he commands or forbids, so that it is absolutely wrong
to act differently. On the other hand, when he leaves something to free choice, so that it is not
wrong either to do it or not do it, he himself leaves it open for his servants to give advice, in
favor of what they see as the good thing to do.

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27. The primary and most important obligation is not to do what is wrong. When, however,
something is not wrong, and at the same time doing something else is also not wrong, one
should do the thing that does good, or the one that does more good. When, therefore, the Lord
says something as Lord, that is to say, not by way of advice and guidance but with his
authority as Lord, it is wrong not to do it, and consequently no good comes from it either. The
Lord therefore gave the command: A woman is not to leave her husband; but if she does leave
(for a reason, of course, that entitles her to leave) she must either stay unmarried
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or be reconciled to her husband (1 Cor 7:10-11). While her husband is alive, a married woman
is united by the law to her husband; and While her husband is alive, she will be called an
adulteress if she goes with another man (Rom 7:2-3); because, a woman is bound as long as
her husband lives (1 Cor 7:39). Hence, If a wife divorces her husband
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and marries someone else, she commits adultery (Mk 10:12), and, Anyone who marries a
woman divorced by her husband commits adultery (Mt 19:9; Lk 16:18). Hence, too, from the
same command of the Lord, a husband too may not divorce his wife (1 Cor 7:11), because
anyone who divorces his wife, apart from the case of adultery, causes her to commit adultery
(1 Cor 7:11). If, however, he does divorce her for that reason, he too must stay in that state,
for everyone who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery (Lk 16:18).
The Lord's Commands Must Be Followed Absolutely
22. These laws established by the Lord must be observed without any diminution. Whether
men and women approve or do not approve, this is required by justice, which he upholds.
Therefore we must not say they do not have to be observed because people take scandal, or
for fear of placing an obstacle to their salvation, which is in Christ. What Christian would
dare say, In order not to offend people, and to win them for Christ, I will cause my wife to
commit adultery, and I too will become an adulterer?
28. It could happen that after divorcing a wife who committed adultery a Christian was
tempted by a woman, not yet herself a believer, who wanted to marry him and promised to
become a Christian, not insincerely but actually with the intention of doing this if he married
her. If he was rejecting this marriage the tempter could suggest to him: The Lord said,

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Anyone who divorces his wife, apart from the case of adultery, and marries someone else,
commits adultery (Mt 5:32), but you, who have divorced your wife because of adultery, will
not commit adultery if you marry someone else. With a mind well instructed, he should say
in reply to the one making this suggestion: The man who marries someone else after
divorcing his wife, when it is not because of adultery, indeed commits adultery in a more
serious way; but even the one who enters a union with someone else after divorcing a wife
who commits adultery is not innocent of adultery just because he has left an adulteress. In the
same way, anyone who marries a woman who has been divorced, but not because of adultery,
commits adultery; but it does not follow that someone who marries a woman he comes to
know after she has been divorced because of12 adultery does not commit adultery. This is
why the doctrine that is put rather obscurely in Matthew, because the whole is represented by
the part, is made clear in the others, where the whole is stated in general fashion. Thus we
read in Mark, Anyone who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery (Mk
10:12); and in Luke, Everyone who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits
adultery (Lk 16:18). They did not say that some of those who remarry after divorcing their
wives commit adultery, and some do not commit adultery; but they said, Anyone who
divorces, hence absolutely everyone, without any exception, who divorces his wife and then
marries someone else commits adultery.
The Christian Must Not Do Evil to Achieve Good
23, 29. If the Christian gives this answer to the tempter, because he understands that it is
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not wrong for him to divorce a wife who commits adultery, but it is wrong for him to marry
someone else, suppose the tempter says, Commit this sin to win for Christ the soul of that
woman in her fatal state of unbelief, as she is prepared to become a Christian if she marries
you. What then? What should the Christian say in reply to this, other than that if he does this,
he cannot escape the judgment the apostle reminded us of, when he said, And as some people
say of us that we say, Let us do evil, so that good will come of it, are they not justly
condemned (Rom 3:8)? In any case, how can the woman be saved by being a Christian if she
is living in adultery with that man when he marries her?
Unconditional Vows Must Be Kept

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24, 30. It is not only that one must not commit adultery, which is what everyone (not just
certain ones) does who divorces his wife and marries someone else, even if the reason for
marrying again is to make the woman a Christian. Moreover, anyone who is not married, but
has made a vow of celibacy to God, should on no account commit sin with that excuse in
mind, believing he should marry because the woman who wants to marry him has promised to
become a Christian. Something it was not wrong for someone to do before making a vow
becomes wrong once the person has made a vow never to do it. It is assumed that the vow was
one it was right to make, such as a vow of perpetual virginity, or a vow of celibacy made by
someone who has become free from the marriage bond after the experience of marriage, or a
vow made with mutual consent by a faithful and chaste husband and wife who release each
other from their sexual obligations, a vow it is wrong for either of them to make without the
other. Once people make these and other similar vows which are properly made, on no
condition must they be broken, since they have been made unconditionally. This too is
commanded by the Lord, as we should understand from the text, Make vows to the Lord your
God, and keep them (Ps 76:11). This is why, referring to women who make a vow of virginity
and afterward want to marry, which was certainly not wrong for them to do before they took
the vow, the apostle says: They incur damnation, because they have broken their original
promise (1 Tm 5:12).
31. So there is nothing good that is wrong, and there is nothing forbidden by the Lord that is
not wrong.
Paul Advises Us to Choose the Better Path
25. When, however, things are left to our own decision because there is no binding
commandment from the Lord, we should listen to the apostle. He guides us in the Holy Spirit
and advises us to choose the better things or to avoid things that are not good. We should
listen to him when he says, I have no commandment from the Lord, but I give you advice (1
Cor 7:25); and I say, not the Lord (1 Cor 7:12). If anyone wants to do the better thing, he
should listen to these words: If he is not bound to a wife, he should not look for a wife,
although if he takes a wife, he does not sin (1 Cor 7:27-28). Here he advises the virgin not to
marry: Anyone who gives her in marriage does well; and anyone who does not give her in
marriage does better (1 Cor 7:38). And here he suggests that a woman will be happier if she
stays as she is: If her husband dies, she is free to marry as she chooses, although only in the

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Lord (1 Cor 7:39). This can be taken in two ways: either she remains a Christian, or she
marries a Christian. I do not recall any unambiguous statement, either in the gospel or in any
of the apostles' letters, as to whether the Lord forbade the faithful to marry unbelievers.
Blessed Cyprian has no doubt it is a sin, and not a slight one, to enter the bond of matrimony
with unbelievers, and he says that to do that is to make the members of Christ's body
prostitutes for the Gentiles.13 Persons already married are another question, and on this one
should listen to the apostle, who says: If one of the brethren has a wife who does not believe
and she consents to stay living with him, let him not divorce her; and if a woman has a
husband who does not believe and he consents to stay living with her, let her not divorce the
husband (1 Cor 7:12-13). This should be understood as saying that, although it is not wrong,
because this is not something the Lord said, nevertheless it should not be done, because it is
not good to do it. As we have already shown above, the apostle teaches very clearly that
something it is not wrong to do is not always something it is good to do.14 Whatever kind of
adultery is the reason, whether adultery of the flesh or adultery of the spirit (taking that to
include unbelief), it is not right either for a woman to marry someone else after divorcing her
husband or for a man to marry someone else after divorcing his wife. The Lord said, without
making any exception, If a wife divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits
adultery (Mk 10:12), and, Everyone who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits
adultery (Lk 16:18).
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32. After dealing with these points and discussing them in this way to the best of my ability, I
am not unaware that the whole question of marriage is still very unclear and complex. I would
not be so bold as to claim that I have yet unraveled it fully, either in this work or any other, or
even that I could do so now if pressed. Nevertheless, if my views on it differed from yours, I
would give attention to resolving that problem that you saw fit to seek my advice about in a
separate note. Since, however, we do hold the same opinion about it, there is no need to
prolong the discussion any further.
A New Question Regarding Catechumens
26, 33. When catechumens are at the last moments of this life, if they are so weakened by
illness or from an accident that, although still alive, they are incapable of making their own
request for baptism or making the responses to the interrogations, because their intentions are

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already evident in their Christian faith, they should be given the benefit of being baptized, in
the same way that babies are baptized, who have yet to reveal any intention at all.15 At the
same time we should not condemn those who act more cautiously than seems right to us, for
fear of being judged for wanting to be too extravagant rather than too careful in our judgment
about money entrusted to a fellow slave. In such matters it is enough to recall that place where
the apostle says, We will all answer to God for ourselves (Rom 14:12). So let us not judge
each other anymore. There are those who think that in these and other matters we should
respect what we read that the Lord said: Do not give holy things to the dogs, and do not cast
your pearls before swine (Mt 7:6). In awe of those words of the savior, they do not dare to
baptize those who are unable to answer for themselves, for fear that perhaps in their own
minds they choose to reject it. This cannot be said about little children, as they do not have the
use of reason yet. On the other hand, it is impossible to believe that even at the end of this life
a catechumen does not want to be baptized. Moreover, if there is uncertainty about what is
wanted, in a case like this it is much better to give it to those who do not want it than to
withhold it from those who want it. Although it is not apparent whether they want it or do not
want it, it is more likely that, if they could speak, they would say that they wanted to receive
those sacraments, as they already believe they ought not to depart from the body without
them.
The Meaning of Matthew 7:6
27, 34. If, when the Lord said, Do not give holy things to the dogs (Mt 7:6), he was referring
to what those people think we should be careful not to do, then he himself would not have
given to his betrayer, without any guilt for being the
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giver, the gift he received along with the other worthy ones, although he received it
unworthily and for his ruination. Hence we have to believe that when the Lord said this he
meant that unclean hearts do not carry the light of spiritual understanding. If a teacher
presents them with truths that they do not accept in the right manner, because they fail to
understand them, then they either tear them apart with the jaws of criticism or trample on
them with contempt. The blessed apostle says that he gave milk, not solid food, to those who
were still little children even though they were already born again in Christ, and he said, You
were not capable of it, and you are still not capable of it (1 Cor 3:2); and the Lord himself said
to his chosen apostles, I still have many things to say to you, but you are not yet able to bear

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them (Jn 16:12). How much more are the unclean minds of irreligious persons incapable of
receiving anything said about the spiritual light?
Conclusion: On the Baptism of Adulterers
28, 35. To conclude our discourse on this point with which it began, not only do I think that
other catechumens should be baptized, if their condition is desperate and they are unable to
answer for themselves, but so too should those who maintain an adulterous relationship with
persons whose husbands or wives are still living, even though we do not admit them to
baptism while they are in good health. In this way even this sin may be washed away with the
rest in the cleansing waters of rebirth. Who knows whether perhaps they had decided to stay
with the adulterous allurement of the flesh until they were baptized? If, however, they manage
to recover from that desperate situation and go on living, either they will do what they had
already decided to do, or they will take instruction and do what has to be done, or they will
show contempt for it, and in this case they will be treated in the way baptized persons like that
should be treated. If danger of death becomes imminent for a penitent, there is the same
justification for reconciliation as there is for baptism. Our holy mother Church ought not to
want them to depart from this life without the token of her peace.
Notes
1 Augustine refers to his two books, The Lord's Sermon on the Mount, composed early in his
presbyterate, around 393.
2 See 1 Cor 7:4.
3 Augustine discusses such a case in his Letter 262 to Ecdicia. He strongly opposed the
practice of a married person adopting celibacy without the agreement of his or her spouse.
4 See 1 Cor 7:9.
5 Augustine here begins his discussion of 1 Cor 7:12-16, that is, the Pauline Privilege.
Paul argues that if the non-Christian spouse desires to separate, in such a case the Christian is

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not bound (1 Cor 7:15). Nonetheless, as Augustine notes, Paul prefers that the couple remain
married.
6 See Mt 17:24-27.
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7 See Lk 10:33-35.
8 On lack of faith as a kind of spiritual adultery, see Augustine, The Lord's Sermon on the
Mount I, 16, 43. Later, in Revisions I, 18, 6, Augustine expressed reservations about this
interpretation.
9 See Ezr 10:11-12.
10 See Deut 7:3.
11 The Lord's Sermon on the Mount I, 16, 45.
12 [Translator] The Latin text has praeter (apart from), but the propter (because of) of
other manuscripts makes better sense.
13 Cyprian, Concerning the Lapsed 6: CSEL 3, 249.
14 See 1 Cor 10:23.
15 In Confessions IV, 4, 8 Augustine describes a situation very much like this one, the deathbed baptism of a friend.
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Book Two: A Reply to Further Objections from Pollentius
The Reason for the Second Book
1, 1. My dear brother in religion, Pollentius, in reply to what you wrote to me I had already
written a sizable volume concerning those who marry again while their husbands or wives are

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still alive. After becoming acquainted with this, my dear friend, you have added some
additional material to your book, and want my reply to this too. While, however, I was
preparing to do this, by also adding to what I had written, so that my reply would also be a
single book, unexpectedly what I had already written was published by impatient colleagues,
unaware that there was more to be added. So it came about that I was forced to write a
separate book to reply to your additional material. Your additions, however, were not added
on at the end of your work, but were included where they best seemed to fit in the body of it.
Pollentius Argues That Adultery Dissolves a Marriage
2, 2. The first of those additional points, which indeed I believe I should answer, concerns that
text of the apostle where he says, For the rest, I say, not the Lord, that a wife should not leave
her husband, but if she does leave him she should either remain unmarried or be reconciled to
her husband (1 Cor 7:10-11).1 You do not think that the words if she does leave him should
be understood as meaning that she leaves a husband who commits adultery, which is the only
reason it is right to leave him. You think it refers rather to the one who leaves a husband who
is chaste, and the reason she is commanded to stay unmarried is to enable her to be reconciled
to him, if he refuses to be celibate; otherwise by not being reconciled to him she herself would
drive him to commit adultery by marrying someone else while she is still alive. Moreover,
you think that if she leaves a husband who commits adultery, she is not commanded to remain
unmarried; she will do so if she wishes to be celibate, but if she does marry she will not be
looked on as breaking any commandment. You see this as the rule to be followed by the
husband as well. He may not divorce his wife unless it is for adultery; but if he does divorce a
wife who is chaste, he must stay unmarried, so that he can be reunited with her if she happens
not to prefer being celibate. Otherwise, by refusing to be reunited with a wife who is chaste,
he will drive her to commit adultery by marrying someone else while he is still alive because
she is
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unable to stay celibate. If, on the other hand, he is divorced from a wife who committed
adultery, he is no longer bound by any commandment to stay celibate, and he does not
commit adultery at all if he marries someone else while that wife is still alive. You say this
because you think those words of the same apostle, A woman is bound to her husband, as long
as he lives; but if her husband dies, she becomes free, and she may marry as she chooses (1
Cor 7:39), should be taken to mean that a husband or wife who has committed adultery should

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be regarded as having died, and therefore after adultery the other partner, husband or wife, is
allowed to marry again, in the same way as after the partner's death.
The Error of Pollentius' Interpretation
3, 3. After considering these views of yours, I should like to ask you whether anyone who
marries a woman after she ceases to be bound to her husband should be considered an
adulterer. I do not think this is how you see it. In fact, the reason why a woman will be called
an adulteress if she is with another man while her husband is still living (Rom 7:3) is that A
woman is bound to her husband, as long as he lives (1 Cor 7:39); but if she did not have this
bond with her husband while he was alive, she could marry someone else without being
accused of adultery. Hence if she is bound as long as her husband is alive, she cannot be said
to be freed from this bond in any way except by the death of her husband. Then, if this bond
between husband and wife is broken by the death of either of them, and adultery, as you say,
is also to be considered the same as death, without a doubt a woman will also be freed from
this bond by committing adultery. You cannot say she is bound to her husband, when the
husband is no longer tied to her. It follows from this that after she ceases to be bound to her
husband by committing adultery, no one commits adultery by marrying her.
Adultery Does Not Dissolve the Marriage Bond
4. See how absurd this is, to say that he avoids being an adulterer by marrying an adulteress.
Moreover, even more outrageous, the woman herself is not an adulteress, because with the
second husband she is not someone else's wife but his own. If the first marriage bond is
broken by her adultery, she may marry anyone else who is not already married, and they will
not be adulterer and adulteress, but husband and wife. How then can it be true that A woman
is bound to her husband, as long as he lives (1 Cor 7:39)? Note that her husband is still living,
because he has neither departed this life nor committed adultery, which you want to be
counted as death. Yet the woman is no longer tied to him. Do you not notice how this
contradicts what the apostle says, A woman is bound to her husband, as long as he lives.
Perhaps you will say, Yes, he is alive, but he is no
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longer her husband, since he ceased to be that when she broke the marriage bond with her
adultery? How then can it be that, If she goes with another man while her husband is alive,

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she will be called an adulteress (Rom 7:3), if indeed the first man is no longer the woman's
husband because the marriage bond has been broken by her adultery? If it is not her own
husband, who is the husband still alive, how is she called an adulteress if she goes with
someone else? If he has already ceased to be her husband, there is no way she can be called an
adulteress for going with another man while she has a husband still living; but, as she has no
husband, when she marries she will be with her husband. Do you not perceive how anyone
who sees it this way sees it differently from the apostle? This is not how you actually see it, of
course, but it follows from the way you see it. If, therefore, you want to avoid the conclusion,
change the premise; do not say that in this text a husband who is dead or a wife who is dead
means also one who commits adultery.
4. It follows that the rational doctrine is this: A woman is bound to her husband, as long as he
lives (1 Cor 7:39), that is, as long as he has not departed from the body. A woman subject to a
husband is bound by the law while he is alive, that is, while he is still in the body. If, however,
he dies, that is, departs from the body, she is freed from the law of her husband. Therefore, If
she goes with another man while her husband is alive, she will be called an adulteress. But if
her husband dies, she becomes free from the law, and she is not an adulteress if she goes with
another man (Rom 7:2-3). These words of the apostle, so often repeated, so often insisted on,
are true. They are alive. They are sound. They are clear. A woman does not begin to be the
wife of any second husband, unless she has ceased to be the wife of the first. She ceases to be
the wife of the first, however, if her husband dies, not if he commits adultery. It is not wrong,
therefore, for a wife to be divorced for adultery; but her obligation of chastity remains, and
this makes anyone who marries a divorced woman guilty of adultery, even in this case of
divorce because of adultery.
The Marriage Bond Lasts Until Death
5. When someone guilty of some crime is excommunicated, the sacrament of rebirth remains
present in that person, and that person does not lose that sacrament even if he or she is never
reconciled with God. In the same way, when a wife is divorced for committing adultery, the
bond of the marriage union remains in her, and she does not lose that bond even if she is never
reconciled with her husband. She will lose it, however, if her husband dies. The person who
suffers the penalty of excommunication, on the other hand, will never lose the sacrament of

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rebirth, even if he or she is never reconciled, because God never dies. It has to be said,
therefore, that if we want to be guided by the apostle in our
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thinking, we must not say that a husband who commits adultery is to be considered as dead
and therefore it is not wrong for his wife to marry someone else. Although adultery is a death
(not death of the body but death of the soul, which is worse), nevertheless when the apostle
said, But if her husband dies, she may marry as she chooses (1 Cor 7:39), he was not speaking
of this death, but only of the one whereby we leave the body. If the marriage bond is dissolved
by the adultery of husband or wife, the consequence is that perversion that I showed we must
avoid, that by her own unchaste conduct the woman too is released from that bond. If she is
released, she will be free from the law of her husband; and soa ridiculous thing to sayshe
will not commit adultery if she goes with another man, because she has been liberated from
her first husband by her adultery. If that is such an aberration from the truth that no human
mind, let alone a Christian one, can accept it, then assuredly A woman is bound to her
husband, as long as he lives (1 Cor 7:39), or, to make it more explicit, as long as her husband
has a bodily existence. The rule is the same for the husband too; he is bound to his wife, as
long as she lives in the body. Hence, if he chooses to divorce an adulteress, he may not marry
anyone else; otherwise he himself will commit the sin he condemns in her. Similarly, if a wife
divorces an adulterer, she too may not enter a union with anyone else; for she is bound as long
as her husband is alive, and only if he dies is she freed from the law of her husband and so
able to be with another man without being an adulteress.
Christ Forgives the Sin of Adultery
6, 5. You think it is difficult for a husband or wife to be reconciled with the other partner after
adultery, but it will not be difficult, if there is faith. In fact why do we still call them
adulterers, when we believe they have been either cleansed by baptism or healed by penance?
In God's old law these crimes, which without question have been washed away by the blood
of the New Testament, were not washed away by any sacrifices. In those times, therefore, it
was absolutely forbidden to take a wife contaminated by another man. Although David
unhesitatingly accepted back the daughter of Saul, whose own father had taken her from him
and given her to another man, he did this as a sign of what was to come in the New
Testament.2 Now, however, Christ has said to the woman who committed adultery, Neither
do I condemn you; go now and sin no more (Jn 8:11). After that, is there anyone who does not

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understand that a husband should forgive what the Lord, the Lord of both of them, has
forgiven, and a woman one believes has repented and had her crime wiped away by the divine
mercy should no longer be called an adulteress?
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To Withhold Forgiveness Shows a Lack of Faith
7, 6. Clearly this is abhorrent to the minds of unbelievers, so much so that some people of
limited faith, or rather, I believe, enemies of the true faith, fearful of giving their wives the
license to commit sin, expunge from their manuscripts that incident of the Lord showing
forgiveness to the woman who committed adultery.3 This is like saying that he who said, Go
now and sin no more, gave permission to commit sin, or that the divine doctor should not
have healed the woman by granting forgiveness of that sin, for fear that persons with diseased
minds might be offended. It is not that those who are displeased by what the Lord did on that
occasion are themselves pure, and it is their chastity that makes them strict. Rather they
belong to that class of person to whom the Lord said, Let whoever is without sin among you
cast the first stone (Jn 8:7). The difference is that those people were frightened by their
consciences and withdrew and desisted from testing Christ and persecuting the woman who
had committed adultery,4 whereas the people we are talking about are not only sick persons
finding fault with their doctor, but also adulterers raging against adulteresses. If one said to
these people, not the words those others heard, Whoever is without sin (for who indeed is
without sin?), but rather Whoever is without the same sin, cast the first stone, then perhaps
they would stop and think how great was God's mercy toward those people who were upset
because they had not killed the adulteress, since he allowed them to go on living even though
they were adulterers.
Christian Men Are Required to Be as Chaste as Women
8, 7. When we say this to them, not only do they refuse to retract any of their severity, but
they become angry at the truth, and they say in reply: We are men. Must the honor of our sex
endure this insult of being put on the same level as women with regard to the punishment
deserved for taking liberties with women other than our wives? As if they ought not restrain
unlawful passion with more manly vigor because they are men! As if their obligation to be a
model of this virtue for their wives is not greater because they are men! As if they would not

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be expected to capitulate less easily to lust because they are men! As if being men does not
require them to be less enslaved to the excesses of the flesh! Despite this they become
indignant if they hear of men who commit adultery receiving the same penalties as women
who commit adultery. In fact they ought to have been punished more severely, since it is their
role to surpass women in virtue and guide them by example. I am speaking, of course, to
Christian men, who listen with faith to the words, The man is the head of the woman (Eph
5:23), and so acknowledge that they are the leaders, and women their companions. It follows
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that in the way he lives a man must be careful not to go down any path where he is frightened
his wife might follow by imitating him.
The people we are speaking about, however, are not happy to have the same rule of chastity
apply to husband and wife, but prefer to be subject to the laws of the world rather than those
of Christ, because in the matter of chastity the laws of the courts do not seem to place the
same restrictions on men as they do on women. Let them read, however, what the emperor
Antoninus, certainly no Christian, decreed about this.5 A husband is not allowed to bring a
charge of adultery against his wife, unless he himself in his conduct has given her the example
of chastity, and if the hearing establishes that both alike have been unchaste, both will be
convicted. These are the words of that emperor, as we read them in the Gregorian Codex:6
My rescript will not prejudice the case in any way. If it was your fault the marriage was
dissolved and in accordance with the Julian law7 your wife Euphasia married, she will not
be condemned for adultery because of this through my decree, unless there is proof that she
committed it. They will have it before their minds to investigate this, to see whether, while
you yourself lived chastely, you also led her to cultivate good habits. It seems iniquitous to me
that a man should demand from his wife chastity that he himself does not practice. This can
be a reason for condemning the man too, and not deciding the case between them, on the
ground that the two offenses cancel each other, or extinguishing the grounds for the action.
If these are the rules that have to be observed for the honor of the earthly city, how much
more must the heavenly nation and the community of angels require its citizens to be chaste?
This being so, is the unchastity of men therefore less serious, rather than worse and more
serious, in the light of the superior qualities they flaunt with such licentious arrogance? So let
men not be horrified because Christ pardoned the woman who committed adultery; instead let

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them recognize their own peril too, and struggling with the same infection let them have
recourse with humble devotion to the same savior. When they read what was done for her, let
them acknowledge that they need that too; let them take the medicine to cure their adulteries;
let them commit adultery no more; let them praise God for his patience with them; let them do
penance; let them adopt a forgiving attitude; and let them change their opinion about the
punishment due to women and their own immunity from it.
If Reconciliation Is Refused, One Must Adopt Celibacy
9, 8. After discussing and considering these points, if in faith and humility thought is given to
the condition they
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share, the peril they share, the injury they share, the salvation they share, reconciliation
between husbands and wives, even after adultery has been committed and expiated, will not
be degrading or difficult. There is no doubt that sins are forgiven through the power of the
keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the effect of this is not that an adulteress is taken back
after being divorced by her husband, but that after being in the company of Christ she is no
longer called an adulteress. It is true, we see, that sometimes this cannot be done; no one
forces anyone to do it. There may be some secular law that forbids it, as is the way in the
earthly city where there is no thought of crimes being washed away by the sacred blood. In
this case one must adopt a life of celibacy, which is not prohibited by any law, and not enter
into another adultery. Why are we concerned if a woman who commits adultery is not
reunited with her husband, even after she has been cleansed by the divine mercy, when at least
adulteresses who are not reunited with their husbands do not have any other marital
relationships. As we have demonstrated, those relationships constitute adultery. A woman is
bound to her husband, as long as he lives (1 Cor 7:39). It follows from this that a man too is
bound to his wife, as long as she lives. The effect of this bond is that there can be no union
with anyone else other than an adulterous relationship. If both the wife marries another man,
and the husband marries another woman, the unavoidable consequence is that from two
married persons there result four adulterers. Although the adultery committed by the man who
marries someone else after divorcing his wife for some reason other than her adultery is
worse, and this is the kind of adultery Matthew referred to, nevertheless he is not the only one
who commits adultery. As we find in Mark, Anyone who divorces his wife and marries
someone else commits adultery in relation to her, and if a wife divorces her husband and

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marries someone else, she commits adultery (Mk 10:11-12); and in Luke, Everyone who
divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery, and everyone who marries a
woman divorced by her husband commits adultery (Lk 16:18). I have already discussed the
testimony of these witnesses sufficiently in the previous book.
Pollentius Objects That Celibacy Should Not Be Compulsory
10, 9. In reply to this you say to me: The celibate life is only for the few. Therefore, those
who divorce partners who commit adultery, because there is no possibility of reconciliation,
see themselves put so much at risk that they proclaim that Christ's law is not human but a law
of death. My brother, as far as concerns those who are not continent, they may well have
their numerous complaints about Christ's law being a law of death and not human. Just the
same, we must not change or pervert Christ's gospel because of them. You yourself would be
inclined to respond only to the complaints of those who divorce their wives on the grounds of
adultery, if they are not allowed to remarry. Celibacy, you would
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say, is only for the few, and they ought to be encouraged to undertake it by praising it, not
forced to it by law. You think, therefore, that if there is no remarrying after a wife has been
divorced, the complaint about human celibacy is legitimate. Pay attention, though, to how
often we shall have to allow adultery to be committed, once we choose to accede to the
complaints of the unchaste. What if a spouse is afflicted by a lasting and incurable disease,
and this prevents the partners from having intercourse? What if imprisonment or some other
external force keeps them apart, so that the husband knows that his wife is still alive, but he is
denied access to her? Do you think the mumbling of the unchaste should be acknowledged
and adultery permitted in that case? What about the very case the Lord was asked about, when
he answered that it ought not be done, and said that because of the hardness of their hearts
Moses had allowed them to give a bill of divorce and put aside their partner for any reason at
all?8 Is not Christ's law distasteful to men who are unable to be celibate, but whose wives
are quarrelsome, hurtful, bossy, fussy, and reluctant to comply with their marital obligation,
and they would like to get rid of them by divorcing them and marry someone else? Since
Christ's law is abhorrent to them because of their inability to be celibate, does this become a
reason for changing Christ's law to suit their wishes?

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10. A question I should now like to ask is about the case where a husband leaves his wife or a
wife leaves her husband, not because of adultery but for celibacy, and he or she stays celibate.
Will anyone who marries the other partner be an adulterer or adulteress? If you say, No!
then you contradict the Lord, as these are his words: It was said, however: Whoever divorces
his wife must give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife
except in the case of adultery causes her to commit adultery, and anyone who marries her after
she has been divorced commits adultery (Mt 5:31-32). Note that she is the one divorced, not
the one divorcing; and, because celibacy is only for the few, she gives in to her inability to be
celibate and marries; and still it is an adulterer marrying an adulteress. Both are guilty, both
deserve to be condemned, both the woman who married while her husband was still alive and
the man who married the woman while her husband was still alive. Shall we say that Christ's
law is inhuman in this case? It makes her guilty and punishable for that great crime, although
her husband has divorced her without any previous adultery on her part and, because celibacy
is only for the few, by divorcing her has driven her to remarry. Why do we not say here that
the husband should be considered as dead, since by divorcing her wrongfully he broke the
marriage bond first? By what reasoning can we say that someone who has not divorced his
wife, even though he is an adulterer, has broken the marriage bond, while the one who has
divorced his wife, even though she is chaste, has not broken the marriage bond? I say that this
bond remains in both cases, because A woman is bound to her husband, as long as he lives (1
Cor 7:39), whether he is celibate or an adulterer, and
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consequently, because A woman is bound to her husband, as long as he lives, a woman who
marries after being divorced commits adultery, and a man who marries her after she has been
divorced commits adultery.
At present, however, we are arguing about the complaints of those who are unable to stay
celibate. What seems fairer than this woman's complaint, who says, I was the one divorced, I
did not divorce him; and because celibacy is for the few, I have not stayed celibate, but to
avoid committing adultery I have married; and because I have married, I am called an
adulteress? Should the law of God be changed because of this seemingly just complaint, so
that we will not class her as an adulteress? Never! You will answer, however, that she should
not have been divorced, since there was no prior adultery to justify it. What you say is true;
the Lord pronounced on the husband's sin, when he said, Anyone who divorces his wife
except in the case of adultery causes her to commit adultery (Mt 5:32). Does it follow then

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that she did not sin afterward by marrying, because he sinned first by divorcing her? What
will the unchaste woman achieve by complaining about Christ's law, except to be punished for
complaining?
Remarriage Is Not Allowed, Even for Procreation
11, 11. Let us look now at the additional material you inserted in another place, to which you
wanted me to give a reply.9 There you are concerned and feel pity for the man who is forced
to live with an adulteress, if not by his inability to be celibate, certainly by the need to have
children, as happens if he is not allowed to divorce her and marry someone else while she is
still alive. It would be right for you to be concerned about this if it were not adultery to marry
someone else while one's wife, adulteress though she may be, is still alive. If, however, this is
adultery, as we have learned from the discussion so far, why is the motive of having children
brought up? This is no reason for condoning wickedness. Is it that taking steps not to die
without posterity is as necessary as choosing to live in the next life? This will not be granted
to adulterers, but after their first death they will inevitably be condemned to a second death
for eternity. That motive of having children would drive husbands not only to divorce
adulteresses, but even to divorce women of great chastity, if they happen to be sterile, and
afterward marry someone else; and I do not think you would approve of that.
12. So, if adultery cannot be excused because of inability to be celibate, still less is it excused
for the purpose of having children!
Procreation Is No Longer a Necessity for Christians
12. The apostle wanted this weakness, the inability to stay celibate, to find relief in the
respectability of marriage. He did not say, If they have no children,
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they should marry, but If they are unable to be continent, they should marry; for it is better to
marry than to burn (1 Cor 7:9). The bearing of children makes up for giving in to the inability
to be chaste and marrying. Unchastity is a sin, but marriage is not a sin; hence by means of
this good thing, that bad thing becomes pardonable. Because marriage was instituted for the
purpose of having children, it was entered into by the fathers for that purpose. They had
intercourse only because of that duty to have children, and never unlawfully. At that time

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there was the need to propagate the race, but this need no longer exists, because, as scripture
says, There is a time for embracing, which was certainly the case then, and a time for
refraining from all embrace (Eccl 3:5), which is the case now. Speaking about the present age
the apostle says, For the rest, my brothers and sisters, time is short; it is left for those who
have wives to be as though they do not (1 Cor 7:29). Accordingly it is said with great
assurance, Let anyone who is able to accept this accept it (Mt 19:12); but whoever is unable to
be continent should marry (1 Cor 7:9). At that time even celibacy lowered itself by marrying,
because of the duty of having children and propagating the race, whereas now the marriage
bond rescues the weakness of incontinence by enabling the propagation of children to take
place, not in the degradation of adultery, but with the respectability of marriage. Why did the
apostle not say, If they have no children, they should marry? Because in this time of
refraining from all embrace there is no need to have children and propagate. And why did he
say, If they are unable to be continent, they should marry? Undoubtedly so that they would
not be driven to commit adultery because of the inability to be celibate.
If, therefore, they are capable of celibacy, they should neither procreate nor marry. If, on the
other hand, they are not capable of celibacy, they should marry lawfully, so as not to
propagate shamefully, or even more shamefully sleep with someone without propagating. No
doubt, even some lawfully married couples do this last mentioned thing; but just the same,
when the conception of offspring is precluded, it is wrong and shameful even to sleep with
one's lawful wife. Onan, the son of Judah did this, and God killed him for it.10 Propagation
of children, therefore, is in fact the primary, natural and legitimate purpose of marriage. For
this reason those who marry because of their inability to be celibate ought not to remedy their
own defect in this way while at the same time eliminating the thing that makes marriage good,
namely, the propagation of children.11 The apostle was speaking about those who are
incapable of celibacy, when he said: Therefore, I should like the younger ones to marry, and
have children, and be mothers of families, and not give our adversary any opportunity to
speak evil about them. Already some have turned back to follow Satan (1 Tm 5:14-15).
Therefore, when he said: I should like the younger ones to marry, he was undoubtedly giving
this advice to ward off the collapse of celibacy. Lest, however, they should think only of the
weakness of carnal feelings, and that this was all
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that needed to be attended to in marriage, while the thing that gave marriage its value was
either despised or neglected, he immediately added: have children, and be mothers of

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families. Those who choose to stay celibate certainly choose something better than the thing
that gives marriage its value, namely, the procreation of children. Hence, if celibacy is chosen,
in order to secure something better than the thing that gives marriage its value, how much
greater is the need to protect it to ward off adultery! Although the apostle said, If they are
unable to be continent, they should marry; for it is better to marry than to burn (1 Cor 7:9), he
did not say, It is better to commit adultery than to burn.
If the Couple Does Not Reconcile, Celibacy Is Required
13, 13. All we can recommend, therefore, to those who are afraid to take back partners who
have committed adultery, even though they have been healed by repentance, is to stay
celibate. For, whether he is an adulterer or chaste, a woman is bound to her husband, as long
as he lives (1 Cor 7:29), and she commits adultery if she marries anyone else; and the man,
since he is tied to his wife as long as she lives, whether she is an adulteress or chaste, commits
adultery if he marries another woman. As this bond is not broken, even when the wife is
separated after being divorced by an innocent husband, even less is it broken if she commits
adultery when they are still together. Accordingly, it is not broken except by the death of the
husband, not when he commits adultery but when he leaves the body. Hence, if a woman
leaves a husband who commits adultery, and she does not choose to be reunited with him, she
must remain unmarried; and if a man divorces a wife who commits adultery, and he does not
choose to take her back, even after she has repented, then he must stay celibate. If they do not
do this out of desire to choose the greater good, then certainly they must do it to avoid deadly
evil. I would urge this, even if the wife had an incurable and long-lasting disease, even if she
was living somewhere else physically separated from her husband and he could not go to her;
and finally, I would urge it even if a woman of chastity, wanting to live a life of celibacy,
divorced a husband who was innocent of any unchastity, even though what she does is out of
order because not done by mutual consent. I do not think any Christian would dispute that
anyone who goes with another woman, because his wife is ill or is away for a long time or
wants to live celibately, is an adulterer. So then, even after divorcing a wife who is an
adulteress, with any other woman he is an adulterer, since not just this particular one or that
particular one, but everyone who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits
adultery (Lk 16:18). Consequently if there is little desire for the life of the saints free from the
bond of marriage, let there be dread of the punishment of adulterers, and if celibacy is not

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chosen out of love, at least let the desires of the flesh be curbed by fear. If the effort is made
because
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there is fear, because the effort is made there will also be love. We must not trust in our own
strength, but must combine effort with prayer, so that the one who deters us from evil will fill
us with goodness.
A New Objection from Pollentius
14, 14. Let us reply also to that other point, where you think that, if it is wrong to marry again
while they are still alive, husbands whose wives commit adultery will want them to be dead
and will be driven to punish them relentlessly.12 To exaggerate that cruelty you said:
Dearest father, this does not seem to me to be what God intends, when it leaves no room for
kindness and religious duty. You say this here, as though the reason why husbands should
pardon wives who commit adultery is that it is right for them to marry again; and if this is not
right they will not spare them, in order to make it right. On the contrary, the reason why they
ought to show mercy to the sinful women is to obtain mercy themselves for their own sins.
Those whose desire is to live a life of celibacy after divorcing their wives have even more
reason to act in this way. The greater their desire to become holier, the more they ought to be
more merciful, so that, by not taking human revenge themselves for their wives' violation of
chastity, they will have divine assistance in preserving their own chastity. They should call to
mind especially those words of the Lord: Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone (Jn
8:7). It does not say, the one who is without that sin, as we are talking about men who are
not unchaste, but the one who is without sin; and if they say they are like that, they delude
themselves, and the truth is not in them (1 Jn 1:8). So, if they do not delude themselves, and
the truth is in them, they will not be harsh and thirsting for blood. Knowing they themselves
are not without sin they will pardon in order to obtain pardon for themselves, and they will
leave room for kindness and religious duty. On the contrary, there is no room for these
considerations if it is sexual license, and not concern for religious duty, that wins their pardon
for their wives' sins, that is to say, if they spare them because they are allowed to marry
someone else, rather than because they themselves want to be spared by God.
15. How much better it is, and more honorable, and in short more worthy of the name of
Christian, to get them not to insist on the blood of their adulterous wives by telling them what

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scripture says: Forgive the injustice of others, and when you pray your sins will be forgiven.
Can someone maintain resentment toward a fellow human being, and then look for leniency
from God? Can one have no compassion for a human being like oneself, and yet plead for
one's own sins? Though flesh and blood oneself, one maintains the resentment; who will
forgive that person's own sins (Sir 28:2-5)? And tell them what the gospel says: Forgive and
you will be forgiven (Lk 6:37); and this is to enable us to say, Forgive us our
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trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us (Mt 6:12). And quote the apostle: Not
returning evil for evil to anyone (Rom 12:17); and any similar texts of holy scripture, by
whose influence a human spirit stirred by the desire for vengeance will relent because it is
Christian.
The Christian Should Forgive the Adulterous Spouse
15. How much better it is, I tell you, for us to say these things than to say: Simply divorce
those adulteresses, and do not seek their blood. Your new wives will comfort you in any grief
you suffer from their wrongdoing. If their living was a barrier to you marrying someone else,
you would be justified in wanting to remove them from the band of the living. But now that
you are allowed to enter into other marriages, even while they are still living, why are you so
intent on taking their lives? Do you not notice how unchristian in character is our advice, if
we speak in this way? Moreover we speak a falsehood, when we tell them they are allowed to
do what they are not allowed to do, namely, marry other women while their first wives are
still alive. If they pardon them for this reason, they do not pardon them out of respect for God,
but for the freedom to marry again. Finally, I ask you whether, either by the old law of God or
by Roman law, a Christian husband is allowed to take the life of an adulteress? If it is
allowed, then it is better for him to refrain from both actions, namely, the punishment that is
lawful because the woman has sinned, and the marriage that is unlawful because she is still
living. If he insists on choosing one or the other, it is more acceptable for him to do what is
lawful for him to do, have the adulteress punished, than to do what is not lawful, commit
adultery while she is still living. If, however, to speak with more truth, it is not lawful for a
Christian to take the life of a wife who commits adultery, but only to divorce her, who would
be so insane as to say to him: Do what you are not allowed to do, in order to be allowed to do
what you are not allowed to do? As both actionseither taking the life of an adulteress or
marrying someone else while she is still aliveare forbidden by Christ's law, both have to be

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avoided, rather than doing one unlawful action in preference to another unlawful action. If he
is going to do what is forbidden, let him commit adultery, not murder; let him marry again
while his wife is still alive, and not shed human blood. On the other hand, since both are
criminal actions, he ought not to perpetrate one rather than the other, but refrain from both.
Pollentius Claims That Christian Strictness Encourages Violence
16, 16. I see now what can be said by those who are unable to be celibate, namely: If
someone who divorces an adulteress and allows her to live marries someone else, he remains
in a permanent state of adultery as long as that first
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wife lives, and nothing is gained from doing repentance unless he withdraws from the state of
sin. If he is a catechumen, he is not received into the Church, because there is no change in
the condition he is in that constitutes the impediment. A penitent cannot be given
reconciliation while he perseveres in the same sin. On the other hand, if he takes the life of the
adulteress by prosecuting her, the sin is completed and does not continue on in him. If it was
committed by a catechumen, it is washed away by baptism; if it was committed by a baptized
person, it is healed by repentance and reconciliation. Are we going to say because of this that
adultery, which is undoubtedly committed if another wife is taken while an adulterous wife is
still living, is not adultery? Leaving aside this kind of adultery, you do not doubt that it is
adultery to marry another man's wife while he is still living, when she has been legally
divorced by her husband without any adultery on her part. What then? Suppose he is a
catechumen and he sees that he will not be received into the Church, or, if he did it after being
baptized, he sees he will gain nothing from doing penance, unless he rectifies and abandons
what he has done. Suppose also that he decides, and is able to do it, to kill the man whose
wife he took, so that this crime may be either washed away by baptism or removed by
repentance. He sees that in this way there will no longer be any adultery, because after the
death of her husband the woman is free from the law in relation to her husband, and for the
act that is over and done with it will be enough to do penance, or for it to be wiped out by
rebirth. Must we then accuse Christ's law of causing murder to be committed, because it says
that it is adultery to marry someone who has been divorced when not guilty of adultery?
17. On this point, if you take scant notice of what we are saying, much more important issues
can be raised than those you yourself mentioned. As you do not want it to be adultery when

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someone marries again after divorcing a wife who committed adultery, you have come up
with this: Because if we call this adultery, husbands are forced to take the lives of
adulteresses, because their living prevents them marrying someone else. Taking it to an
extreme, you said, To me, dearest father, this does not seem to be what God intends, when it
leaves no room for kindness and religious duty. It follows from this that anyone who did not
believe it was adultery to marry a woman divorced by her husband without being guilty of
adultery could use this as an argument against you. By the same reasoning they could say that
people would be led to commit murder, and either by whatever trickery is possible, or by
telling lies, or in some cases by bringing well-founded charges, to set out to prosecute and
procure the death of the husbands of the women they had married after being divorced like
that; in this way what had been adultery while they were alive would now be marriage
because they were dead. Taking it to its extreme will they not say to you: To me, dearest
father, this does not seem to be what God intends, when it not only leaves no room for
kindness and religious duty, but also incites to enormous malice and impiety?
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The fact is, it is much less serious and less objectionable for the husbands to kill the
adulterous wives than for the adulterers to kill the husbands. Is it your view that because of
this baseless aversion to it we should abandon our defense of the Lord's teaching, or that we
should make further accusations against that teaching and say that even if a woman divorced
for reasons other than adultery marries another man, this should not be condemned as
adultery, for fear that in her desire to change the adultery into marriage by the death of the
first husband she will be driven to kill the husband who divorced her? I know this is not your
view, that because of this baseless aversion to it Christ's law should be called harsh and
inhuman, when in fact it is true and sound. Similarly, therefore, it ought not to be your opinion
that, when a man marries again while his wife who committed adultery is still living, this
should not be called adultery. You should not argue that this could force the husband to take
the life of the one who committed adultery, because he wants to be free to marry someone else
after her demise, given that he is not free to do so while she is still alive. What then? Even the
opponents of the Christian faith will say the same. They will say that when men cannot endure
wives who are burdensome, whether because they suffer from a long illness and are not strong
enough to have marital relations, or because they are poor, or sterile, or ugly, they are
therefore forced to kill their wives by criminal stealth, in the hope of marrying other women,
who are healthy, rich, fertile and very beautiful. They will say that because, apart from the

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case of adultery, they are not allowed to divorce them and marry someone else, they are
forced to this in order to avoid being locked into adultery, and so unable either to be baptized
or be healed by repentance. To prevent those crimes of murder being committed, therefore,
shall we say that it is not adultery to enter a union with another woman after divorcing a wife
for reasons other than adultery?
Further Consequences of Pollentius' View
17, 18. As a consequence of your view that it is not adultery if a man discards his wife on the
grounds of adultery and then marries someone else, do you not think we should be worried
that husbands will find ways to provoke their wives to commit adultery, when for countless
other reasons they find them unbearable? As a result, in your view, they will be freed from the
bond of that marriage and able to marry someone else; and from the sin they committed in
provoking their wives to commit adultery they will either be cleansed by baptism or healed by
penance. On the other hand, if they marry again after divorcing their first wives for reasons
other than adultery, they will be denied both grace and healing, as long as they continue to
live in adultery. Someone might say, perhaps, that no one can make his wife commit adultery,
if she is chaste. Yet the Lord said, Anyone who puts his wife aside except in the case of
adultery causes her to commit
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adultery (Mt 5:32). Clearly the reason for this is that, although she was chaste while living
with her husband, when she is divorced her inability to be celibate drives her to marry
someone else even though the first husband is still alive, and to do this is to commit adultery.
If she does not in fact do this, it is still true that he forced her to do it as far as he was able;
and, even though she remains chaste, God will hold this against him as a sin. Is there anyone,
however, who is not aware how extremely rare are the women who live with their husbands
with such chastity that, even if they are divorced by them, they do not look for anyone else?
Far more numerous, beyond comparison, are the women who are chaste and loyal to their
husbands, and yet are quick to remarry if their husbands divorce them. People believe the
Lord when he says, Anyone who puts his wife aside except for the reason of adultery causes
her to commit adultery (Mt 5:32). If they believe you too when you say a man is allowed to
take another wife if his wife commits adultery, then if someone wants to be rid of his present
wife because of anything else that irks him, he should first make her commit adultery by
divorcing her without her committing adultery. After she commits adultery by marrying again,

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he can then marry someone else. In this way, after being delivered either by baptism or
penance from the earlier sin of making her commit adultery, it would seem that he has the
second woman without any adultery on his part. He marries her after the first one's adultery,
and the view is that this broke the marriage bond. In fact, if he does contrive to bring this
about, and causes his wife to commit adultery, even though he marries again only after his
wife's adultery, he too will also be an adulterer. He will gain nothing from having trusted you
rather than the one who said, without making any exception, Everyone who leaves his wife
and marries someone else commits adultery (Lk 16:18).
Continence Can Take Many Forms
18, 19. When all this has been discussed and considered, it has to be concluded that those who
listen to these things with faith should say to us what the Lord said: If that is how it is for
someone who has a wife, it is better not to marry. And what answer shall we give them, except
the answer he himself gave? What you say is not accepted by everyone, but only by those to
whom it is granted. There are some who are born eunuchs; and there are others who are made
eunuchs by man; and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom
of heaven. Let anyone who is able to accept this accept it (Mt 19:10-12). So let anyone who is
able to do so accept what is not accepted by everyone. It is able to be accepted by those to
whom God in his mercy, mysterious but not unjust, grants the gift. Among all these who make
themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, however, there are some, of both sexes, who
have not known sexual union, and others who have experienced it and then turned away
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from it, in some cases indeed because it was an illicit experience, but also in others when it
was licit. Moreover, among those whose experience was licit, there are some who only had
experience that was licit, and others who had experience both licit and illicit. There are some
whose experience has only been with their wives, but others who have had experience of
other women and all kinds of perversions. Those, however, who make themselves eunuchs for
the kingdom of heaven after the intimacy of marriage, do so either because they lose their
partners through death, or because they practice celibacy together by agreement, or because it
is made necessary by divorce. In this last case they make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom
of heaven to avoid committing adultery by entering into a union with someone else while their
husbands or wives are still alive. It is not to have greater glory in that kingdom, but because
they cannot be there any other way. Those who are celibate not because of that necessity, but

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because they aspire to greater perfection, could be there also by maintaining marital chastity;
even though it would be with less glory, they would still be there. Those, however, who stay
celibate because they are afraid to marry again while their first husband or wife is still alive,
ought to be more careful about their salvation than those who have chosen celibacy to obtain a
greater reward. They will attain it if they are not guilty of adultery; but they will be guilty of
adultery if they do not remain celibate, since any union with other persons while their first
husband or wife is alive is not marriage but adultery. And if they are not in the kingdom of
heaven, where will they be except in the place where they are not saved?
With God's Help Celibacy Will Be Possible
19, 20. I exhort these men to do what they would have to do if they had wives who were
languishing in a long illness, or who were absent in some place they were unable to go to, or
who were zealously, but unlawfully, practicing celibacy. They must do the same, if they have
wives defiled by the stain of adultery and on that account breaking up the marriage; they must
not think of marrying again, because that will not be marriage but adultery. Since there is the
same rule for both in this bond between husband and wife, and the wife will be called an
adulteress, if she goes with another man while her husband is still alive (Rom 7:3), it follows
that the husband too will be called an adulterer if he goes with another woman while his wife
is still alive. Even though it is worse if it is not because of adultery, nevertheless everyone
who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery (Lk 16:18). They must not
be frightened by the burden of celibacy. If the burden is Christ's, it will be light; and it will be
Christ's, if there is faith, as this procures from the one who commands it the accomplishment
of what he commands. They must not be discouraged because their celibacy is seen to be a
matter of necessity, not choice, because even those who chose it
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voluntarily have turned it into a matter of necessity, since they can no longer turn aside from it
without incurring damnation. Moreover, those who are constrained by that necessity make it a
matter of choice, if they put their trust, not in themselves, but in him from whom every good
thing is derived. In one case they ascend to it for the sake of greater glory, to obtain something
better; in the other they flee to its protection out of concern for their final salvation, so as not
to perish. In both cases they must stay there; in both cases they must walk to the end on the
path they have reached, burning with zeal, devoted in prayer. In one case they must think of
their salvation, fearing to fall from the path they have taken by choice; in the other they must

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not give up hope of obtaining glory, provided they choose to persevere on the path where they
have been placed by necessity. It can happen that with God warning them and encouraging
them, transforming them and giving them new strength, the human attitude is changed for the
better, and they make a vow to live permanently in the unmarried state, and avoid all sexual
union and impure acts. As a result even if the dissolution of their marriage by their wife's
death opens the way for marrying someone else, what is open to them by law becomes closed
to them by their vow. Thus what began out of necessity is made perfect by love. These ones
will certainly be given the same reward as those who made this vow by mutual agreement
with their partners, or those who had no marriage ties but chose celibacy as the greater good.
On the other hand, their commitment to celibacy may be such that they contemplate marrying
again in the event of the death of those whose living prevents them from remarrying. In this
case, even if they depart from this world in that state of celibacy before this happens, they will
be given credit only for marital chastity, which is the reason why they do not do what they
would do if it were allowed. A life of celibacy with this attitude is not enough to obtain the
rewards of celibacy freely chosen, but it is sufficient for avoiding adultery.
The Example of Celibate Women and Clergy
20, 21. Bear in mind that I am saying these things as applying to both sexes, but especially for
the sake of men, who consider themselves to be superior to women in not having to maintain
the same standards of chastity. They should in fact have higher standards, so that women may
follow their lead. When, however, the law forbids adultery, if the weakness of the flesh is
accepted as an excuse for unchastity, under the name of a false impunity the way is opened for
many to perish. It is not that women too do not have bodies, although the men want these
things to be wrong for them, as if they are all right for men because they are men. But banish
the thought that the stronger sex is honored by detracting from chastity, as true honor is due to
virtue, not vice. In contrast, they demand such great chastity from the women, who certainly
have bodies no less,
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that when they are away from their wives traveling for long periods, they want them to avoid
the contamination of adulterous relationships and subdue their youthful passion. Most do
subdue it with great modesty, especially the women of Syria, whose husbands, busy making
profit, abandon them while they are still young and the women still teenagers, and scarcely
ever return even as old men coming back to little old ladies. From this very fact they have

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clear proof that what they allege they cannot do is not impossible. If human weakness made
this impossible, still less would it be possible for the weaker female sex.
22. When we try to make those persons, who think that male superiority is only a license to
sin, frightened of perishing eternally because of continuing in adulterous marriages, we
usually ask them to consider also the celibacy of the clergy. For the most part they are seized
by the people against their will and forced to undertake that burden, but once they accept it,
with God's help they carry it through to the end. So we say to them: What then? If you too
were physically constrained by the people to make you undertake that responsibility, once you
had taken it on would you not carry it out chastely, immediately changing to implore from
God powers you had never previously contemplated? But, they say, for them the honor is
a great consolation. We then reply: And for you fear should provide an even greater
incentive. If many of God's ministers have accepted this burden suddenly and unexpectedly
imposed on them, in the hope of shining with greater splendor in the inheritance of Christ,
how much more ought you to avoid adultery and live a life of celibacy, in fear not of shining
less brightly in the kingdom of God, but of burning in the fire of Gehenna? This, and the
like, is what we say, as best we can, to those who at all costs want to marry again when their
wives leave them or when they themselves divorce them for adultery, and, when this is not
allowed, make the objection to us about the weakness of the flesh. Now this book too has to
be brought to a close, and we must ask God, either not to allow them to be tempted by
husbands and wives separating, or only to allow it when the fear of jeopardizing salvation will
become for them the occasion for a more perfect and more honorable chastity.
Notes
1 Augustine's quotation of 1 Cor 7:10 is not accurate. The words, For the rest, I say, not the
Lord, belong to 1 Cor 7:12. 1 Cor 7:10 should read, To the married I saynot I, but the
Lord
2 See 2 Kgs 3:14.
3 The pericope of Jn 7:538:11 is actually missing from the earliest Greek manuscripts of
the gospel of John. It was unknown to Greek commentators on John in the patristic period,
and its inclusion in the New Testament is attested in the earliest centuries only in the Western

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Church. See R.E. Brown, The Gospel According to John (Anchor Bible 29; Garden City:
Doubleday, 1966) 1: 335-336.
4 See Jn 8:7-11.
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5 The reference is to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caracalla, son of Septimius Severus, who
was emperor in 211-217 AD.
6 The Codex Gregorianus, the earliest private collection of imperial constitutions, was
gathered during the reign of the emperor Diocletian. It contained laws from the time of
Hadrian to Diocletian. The Codex Gregorianus is not preserved and is known only in
excerpts. See A. Berger, Encyclopedic Dictionary of Roman Law (Philadelphia: The
American Philosophical Society, 1953) 391-392.
7 The Julian law (lex Iulia de adulteriis), promulgated by emperor Augustus in 18 AD,
established various penalties for women convicted of adultery and other illicit sexual relations
(stuprum, incestum), for example, confiscation of property and exile. By Constantine's day
adultery may have merited the death penalty. See Judith Evans Grubbs, Law and Family in
Late Antiquity. The Emperor Constantine's Marriage Legislation (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1995) 94-95.
8 See Mt 19:8.
9 [Translator] The translation here has taken the word neque to be a misprint or miscopy of
meque. Although this completely reverses the meaning (you wanted me to reply instead of
you did not want me to reply), the text does not make good sense otherwise.
10 See Gen 38:8-10.
11 Augustine consistently condemns abortion, infanticide, contraception, and sexual
practices that avoid procreation. See The Excellence of Marriage 11, 12; Marriage and Desire
I, 15, 17.

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12 In the fourth century under Roman law adultery could be punished by the death penalty.
See the discussion in Grubbs, Law and Family in Late Antiquity, 216-225. Augustine seems to
have in mind a situation in which a husband might divorce his wife and then introduce a
formal accusation of adultery against her.
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187
CONTINENCE
188
189
Introduction
Augustine's Continence is an extended sermon on the problem of concupiscence and the
virtue of continence. Although Erasmus expressed doubts about its authenticity, scholars
today regard Continence as a genuine work of Augustine. In a letter written about 429 to
Darius, an imperial official sent to Africa to negotiate with Count Boniface, Augustine
mentions Continence, along with several other writings he is sending to Darius.1 The work
is also mentioned by Possidius in the Indiculum, where it is listed last among Augustine's
tractatus, immediately after To Dulcitius.2
The date of Continence has been a matter of considerable discussion. Traditionally the work
has been placed among Augustine's early anti-Manichean writings, that is, around the year
395, because of its explicit polemic against the Manichees. In 1959, however, Anne-Marie La
Bonnardire published an article demonstrating that Continence contains several biblical
citations, and combinations of biblical citations, that occur only in works of Augustine written
after the year 412.3 In several cases, Bonnardire's evidence showed that the biblical texts
Augustine used are ones that appear exclusively or primarily in anti-Pelagian works
composed after the year 416. She concluded, therefore, that the years 416-418 were the most
likely date of composition.
Recently several scholars have confirmed and refined Bonnardire's argument that Continence
shows evidence of anti-Pelagian argument and, therefore, should be dated to the years of that

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controversy.4 Several parallels between Continence and Augustine's writings from the years
418-420 have been noted. Furthermore, it has been shown that Augustine's interpretation of
Romans 7:14-25, a text discussed at several points in Continence, has parallels in Augustine's
treatises Marriage and Desire (418-419) and Answer to Letters of the Pelagians (419-420).5
The years 418-420, therefore, appear to be the more probable time of composition.
Continence is concerned with the ongoing struggle of the Christian against the range of
desires that lead to sin, what Augustine (following Paul) refers to as the lust or concupiscence
of the flesh. Taking his cue from Psalm 141:3-4 (Place a guard on my mouth, O Lord, and the
gate of continence on my lips, so that you will not let my heart lapse into malicious talk),
Augustine suggests that continence must restrain not only the impulses of the body, but, more
importantly, the consent to evil in the desires of the heart (2, 3; see 13, 28). On the one hand,
the mouth of the heart must give consent prior to any bodily action; therefore, the heart is
responsible for consenting to evil desire, even if the desire is not carried
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out in external action (2, 4). On the other hand, if there is no interior consent to evil, that is, if
there is a gate of continence put on the mouth of the heart, then the mere presence of evil
desire will not defile a person (2, 5).
One of the more striking features of Continence is the way in which Augustine argues that the
struggle of continence against the concupiscence of the flesh is a perpetual one that afflicts
even the saints in this life. Augustine pays special attention to the seventh chapter of Paul's
Letter to the Romans. When Paul writes in Romans 7:18 that I know that goodness does not
dwell in me, that is, in my body. I have the desire to do good, but I do not have the ability to
bring the good to completion, Augustine argues, he means that a person does good by
resisting evil desires. Good will be brought to completion, however, only when evil desire no
longer exists at all (3, 6; see 8, 19-20). In this mortal life even those who struggle most
valiantly against sin, such as the apostle Paul himself, must acknowledge that their efforts fall
short of perfection. Even the saints must pray each day, Forgive us our trespasses (5, 13,
citing Mt 6:12). Only in the next life will there be perfect peace when our being holds fast to
its creator and there is nothing in us that fights against us (7, 17).
Opposition to the Manichean notion of the human person as comprised of two antagonistic
substances is also a prominent feature of Continence. Augustine argues that both the flesh and

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the spirit were created by a good God and are, therefore, good in themselves (7, 18). All of
this is ourselves, Augustine writes, and even the flesh, which dies when the soul leaves it, is
to be restored again at the end of time (8, 19). The flesh itself is no enemy, even though the
spirit must resist the vices of the flesh which are a wound or defect in its nature. Augustine
finds proof of the goodness of the flesh in Eph 5:25-33, where Paul compares the love of
Christ for the Church, and the love of a man for his wife, with the care of a person for his own
body (9, 22-23). Against the Manichees, Augustine presents continence as a healthy
chastisement of the body, not a hostile assault on it (12, 26).
Augustine's view of the persistence of the struggle between concupiscence and continence in
this life also has implications for his understanding of the Church. Like the individual person,
the Church itself has not yet reached a state of perfect peace. The Church contains within it
persons who are spiritual and persons who are carnal; the Church itself, therefore, although it
is subject to Christ because of the promise of salvation, still lusts against Christ in its carnal
members. Therefore, the Church is not yet without spot or wrinkle and must continue to
pray daily forgive us our trespasses (11, 25).
Finally, Augustine maintains that in the struggle against concupiscence it is essential for the
Christian to realize that continence is primarily a gift from God (4, 10). Citing Rom 8:14, For
all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God, Augustine notes that in order to put
to death the works of the flesh with our
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spirit, we are led by the Spirit of God, who provides the continence whereby we control and
rule and conquer carnal desire (5, 12). God sometimes will even withdraw his assistance in
order to remind people how helpless they are when left to their own resources. In the closing
words of Continence, Augustine underscores the importance of this grace when he reminds
his readers in the words of the apostle that anyone who boasts, should boast in the Lord (14,
32, citing 1 Cor 1:31).
Notes
1 Letter 231, 7: CSEL 57, 510.

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2 Possidius refers to Continence as a sermo. See the edition of the Indiculum by A. Wilmart,
Operum s. Augustini elenchus a Possidio eiusdem discipulo Calamensi episcopo digestus,
Miscellanea Agostiniana (Rome: Vatican, 1931) 2: 207.
3 La date du De continentia de saint Augustin, Revue des tudes augustiniennes 5 (1959)
121-127.
4 David G. Hunter, The Date and Purpose of Augustine's De continentia, Augustinian
Studies 26 (1995) 7-24; Michael R. Rackett, Anti-Pelagian Polemic in Augustine's De
continentia, Augustinian Studies 26 (1995) 25-50. On the basis of Augustine's view of the
Church as a mixed body, and especially his use of Eph 5:27, D. O'Brien Faul argued that
Continence must be dated after 417. Faul also suggested that Continence belongs to the years
426-427 because of parallels between Augustine's view of the Church in Continence and in
Teaching Christianity (revised in 426). See his article, The Date of the De continentia of St.
Augustine, Studia Patristica 6 (1962) 374-382.
5 Hunter, Date and Purpose of De continentia, 9-14.
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Continence1
Continence Is a Gift from God
1, 1. To discuss the spiritual virtue that is called continence properly and adequately is not
easy; but the one who bestows this virtue as a great gift will give assistance to our feebleness
under the weight of such a heavy burden. He who gives the virtue to those of his faithful who
practice continence will also give to his ministers the words to speak about it. As we set out to
speak about such an important matter, and say what he grants us to say, the first thing to say,
and demonstrate, is that continence is a gift from God. In the book of Wisdom we find it
written that unless God grants it, no one is able to be continent (Wis 8:21). Speaking about the
superior and more splendid continence, whereby one abstains from marriage, the Lord said,
Everyone does not accept this, but only those to whom it is granted (Mt 19:11). Since even
conjugal chastity is unable to be preserved without abstaining from illicit sexual union, when
the apostle was speaking about both ways of life, namely married life and life as a single

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person, he proclaimed that both are God's gift. He said, I should like everyone to be like me,
but each has one's own gift from God, one in one way, another in another way (1 Cor 7:7).
2. Lest it seem that it is only in relation to the inferior parts of the body that the necessary
continence has to be looked for from God, the psalm also sings: Place a guard on my mouth,
O Lord, and the gate of continence on my lips (Ps 141:3). In this testimony from the divine
writing, if we understand mouth as we ought to understand it, we recognize what a great
gift from God it is to maintain continence there. It is not enough to keep the exterior mouth of
the body under control, to ensure that nothing harmful escapes from it in its speech. There is
also the internal mouth of the heart, and it is there that the person who uttered those words,
and composed them for us to recite, wanted the Lord to place a guard and the gate of
continence. There are many things that we do not say outwardly with our lips, but which we
shout out in our heart; but not a word comes from the mouth about anything if the heart is
silent about it. No sound is heard outside that does not have its origin there; and if anything
bad has its origin there, even if the tongue stays still, it soils the soul. Continence, therefore,
must be put in the place where the conscience speaks, even when nothing is said. For the gate
of continence will prevent anything from emerging that might contaminate a person's life,
even if that person merely thought it and did not actually say it.
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All Deeds Begin with Thoughts
2, 3. To make it more apparent that he meant those words to refer to the interior mouth, after
saying, Place a guard on my mouth, O Lord, and the gate of continence on my lips, he
immediately added, so that you will not let my heart lapse into malicious talk (Ps 141:3-4).
What is it for the heart to lapse other than to give consent? Anyone who does not lapse in his
or her heart and consent to suggestions that arise in the heart from things that are seen has not
yet said anything. If, however, there is consent, something has already been said in the heart,
even if no sound has come from the lips, and even if the deed already decided on in thought is
not carried out by hand or any other part of the body. Once the word has been uttered in the
heart, even without anything being done by the body, there is already guilt under God's law,
however much it is hidden from the senses of human beings. There would not have been any
external movement to action at all unless that action had been initiated by what was said
within. Scripture did not lie when it said, Words are the origin of every deed (Sir 37:16).

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People do many things with closed mouth, silent lips and speech restrained; but they do
nothing with bodily actions without first pronouncing it in the heart. For this reason, because
there are many sins in interior speech that are not also sins in external deeds, but there are
none in external deeds that are not first sins in interior speech, it follows that there will be
purity and innocence in both respects if the gate of continence is placed on the interior lips.
4. For these reasons the Lord himself said with his own lips, First clean the things that are on
the inside, and the things that are on the outside will be clean too (Mt 23:26). Also, in another
place, when he was refuting the silly remarks of the Jews, who criticized his disciples for
eating without washing their hands, he said, It is not what goes into the mouth that makes a
person unclean; but what comes out of the mouth, that is what makes a person unclean (Mt
15:11). If this statement is taken to refer exclusively to the mouth of the body, it is absurd. It is
not true that vomiting defiles someone who is not defiled by the food. Yet the food goes into
the mouth, and the vomiting comes out of it. Without a doubt the first statement, where he
says, It is not what goes into the mouth that makes a person unclean, refers to the mouth of the
body; but the second, where he says, but what comes out from the mouth, that is what makes a
person unclean, refers to the mouth of the heart. Then, when the apostle Peter asked him to
explain this parable, as it seemed to be, he gave this answer: Are you too still devoid of
understanding? Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the
stomach and is excreted (Mt 15:16-19)? We certainly appreciate that here it is the mouth of
the body that food goes into. In the words that follow, however, our slow minds would not
proceed to understand that it is the mouth of the heart, except that the Truth deigns to
accompany even the slow ones. He said, What comes from the mouth comes from the heart
(Mt 15:18). It is as if he said,
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When you hear from the mouth, take it as meaning from the heart. I say both things, but I
explain one with the other. The inner person has an inner mouth, and the inner ear hears this.
What comes from this mouth comes from the heart, and that defiles a person. After that,
abandoning the word mouth, which could be understood as the mouth of the body, he
reveals what he is saying more explicitly. From the heart, he says, come evil thoughts, murder,
adultery, fornication, theft, perjury, blasphemy. It is these things that defile a person (Mt
15:19-20). While they can also be committed with external deeds, none of those other evils is
possible unless evil thoughts come first; and these defile a person, even if something prevents
the subsequent wicked and criminal external deeds. If the opportunity does not arise, and the

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hand remains unstained by the deed of homicide, is the heart of the murderer therefore
untainted by the crime? If someone is unable to commit a robbery he wants to commit, is he
therefore not a thief in intention? If a woman with whom an unchaste man wants to commit
adultery is chaste, has he therefore not committed adultery with her in his heart? If a prostitute
is not found in the street, does the one looking for her therefore not commit the impurity in his
mind? If someone tries to harm another person by telling lies, but there is no suitable time or
place, has he therefore not already given lying evidence with his inner mouth? If someone
says in his heart, There is no God (Ps 14:1), but for fear of other people does not dare utter the
blasphemy with his body's tongue, is he therefore not guilty of this wickedness?
So it is too with the other evil deeds of people, when no bodily movement puts them into
effect and no bodily sense is aware of them. They still have their guilt in secret. The consent
in thought alone, that is, the malicious speech of the interior mouth, makes them unclean.
Fearing that his heart would lapse like this the psalmist asks the Lord for the gate of
continence to be put on the lips of his mouth. This will restrict his heart to prevent it from
lapsing into malicious speech; but it will restrict it by not allowing thought to develop into
consent. In this way, as the apostle commands, We should not let sin rule in our mortal body,
and we should not offer our bodies to sin as weapons for deeds of wickedness (Rom 6:12-13).
Those who do not do the physical deed of sinning, only because they are denied the
opportunity to do so, are certainly far from carrying out this command. If the opportunity does
occur, they immediately show who is the master within them by the actions of their bodies as
his weapons. They do offer their bodies to sin as weapons for deeds of wickedness as much as
they are able, because that is what they want to do and they do not actually do it only because
they are unable to.
5. It follows that the purity that is exercised in controlling the reproductive organs, which is
what is usually meant by the word continence used in its literal sense, suffers no violation
or infringement, if the more perfect continence we have been speaking about at length is
maintained in the heart. For this reason,
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when the Lord said, From the heart come evil thoughts, he then went on to say what evil
thoughts are about, murder, adultery, and the rest (Mt 15:19). He did not mention them all, but
named some by way of example and left the rest to be understood. None of these deeds can be
done if there has been no prior evil thought, by which the deed performed externally is

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initiated internally. As it comes from the mouth of the heart it already defiles the person, even
if, for lack of opportunity, the external action is not done with the body. If nothing of this kind
is allowed to emerge, because there is a gate of continence put on the mouth of the heart,
which is where everything that defiles a person comes from, the result is a purity in which
conscience can already rejoice, even though there is not yet that perfect state where
continence no longer has to struggle against vice. Now, however, as long as the flesh has
desires opposed to the spirit, and the spirit has desires opposed to the flesh (Gal 5:17), it is
enough for us that we do not consent to the evil feelings that we experience within us. When
that consent is given, then what defiles a person comes out from the mouth of the heart.
When, on the other hand, through continence that consent is not given, the evil of carnal
desire, against which spiritual desire is in combat, is prevented from doing harm.
The Struggle of Continence with Evil Desires
3, 6. It is one thing, however, to fight well, as happens now when the deadly assault is
resisted, but another to have no enemy, as will be the case then, when the last enemy, death,
will be destroyed (1 Cor 15:26). When that continence is in control of sensuality and keeps it
in check, it is at the same time both zealous for the perfection we aspire to in immortality, and
hostile to the evil we strive against in our present mortality. It looks on the former with love,
and attests with enmity to the latter; aspiring to what is honorable, fleeing from what is
dishonorable. Continence certainly would not toil to restrain our desires, if we had no
inclination toward anything improper, if there were no resistance to our good intentions from
evil desires. The apostle cries out and says, I know that goodness does not dwell in me, that is,
in my body. I have the desire to do good, but I do not have the ability to bring the good to
completion (Rom 7:18). At present good can be accomplished by not consenting to evil; but
good will be brought to completion only when the evil desires themselves come to an end.
The same Doctor of the Gentiles also cries out: I find pleasure in God's law in my inner self,
but I am aware of another law in my body that rebels against the law of my mind (Rom 7:2223).2
7. People do not experience this struggle within themselves unless they are fighting for virtue
and battling against vice, and the evil of carnal desire is not conquered except by the good of
continence. There are those, however, who are entirely unaware of God's law, and do not even
count evil desires as an enemy,

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but in abject blindness are slaves to them, and even think they become happy by giving in to
them rather than controlling them. On the other hand, there are those who know them through
the law (Knowledge of sin is through the law [Rom 3:20], and I would not have been aware of
desire, he says, if the law did not say, Do not desire [Rom 7:7]), but who are still overcome
by their assault, and so the law has come into them and has caused sin to become more
abundant in them (Rom 5:20). This is because they live under the law, whereby good is
commanded but not also granted, and they do not live under grace, which bestows through the
Holy Spirit what is commanded by the law. The law forbidding it has made desire stronger
and indomitable, and so a wrong occurs that would not have existed without the law, even
though sin existed. When there is no law, there is also no wrong (Rom 4:15). A law like that,
that forbids sin when there is not the assistance of grace, gives extra power to the sinful deed;
hence the apostle says, Sin's power is the law (1 Cor 15:56). It is no surprise that human
weakness adds to the power of evil even in the case of a good law, as long as it trusts in its
own powers to carry out that law. A wicked, proud person is not subject to God's justice, as
that person does not know indeed God's justice, which he gives to the weak, and wants to set
up his or her own justice,3 whereas the weak person does not have this. The law, however,
may be like a teacher and lead on to grace those it has made wrongdoers,4 making their
injuries worse so that they will want the doctor. Then, to counteract the harmful sweetness
with which desire prevailed, the Lord gives a sweetness that is beneficial, making continence
more pleasurable; and so our land produces its harvest,5 providing food for the soldier who
fights with God's help in the battle against sin.
8. The apostle's trumpet arouses those soldiers for battle with these sounds. So, he says, do not
let sin rule in your mortal body for you to obey its desires, and do not offer your bodies to sin
as weapons for deeds of wickedness, but offer yourselves to God, alive now after being dead,
and offer your bodies to God as weapons of justice; for sin will no longer have power over
you, as you are not subject to the law but to grace (Rom 6:12-14); and in another place,
Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not in debt to the flesh, having to live according to the
flesh, for if you live according to the flesh, you will die, whereas if with the spirit you put to
death the deeds of the flesh, you will live; everyone who acts by the spirit of God is a son or
daughter of God (Rom 8:12-14). This, therefore, is what happens now, as long as our mortal
life here is subject to grace, so that sin, that is, sinful desire (for this is what he means by the
word sin here), does not rule in our mortal body. It is shown to rule, however, if its desires6

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are obeyed. So there exists in us the desire to sin, and this must not be allowed to rule; its
wishes7 must not be obeyed, so that it will not rule over those who obey them. It follows that
sinful desire must not take over our bodies, but continence must claim them for itself, so that
they will be God's weapons for justice, and not the weapons of
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sin for deeds of wickedness; in this way sin will not be our master. We are not subject to the
law, which indeed commands what is good but does not bestow it, but we are subject to grace,
which makes us love what the law commands and so can require it of us as free persons.8
9. In the same way when he urges us not to live according to the flesh, lest we die, but to put
to death the deeds of the flesh, in order to live, the trumpet that he sounds certainly makes
evident the war in which we are engaged and inflames us to struggle keenly and put to death
our enemy, so that it will not put us to death. He makes it clear enough who this enemy is. It is
the deeds of the flesh that he wanted us to put to death. This is what he said: If, however, you
put to death the deeds of the flesh with the spirit, you will live (Rom 8:13). And so that we
will know what these are, let us hear what he says when writing to the Galatians: It is clear
what are deeds of the flesh; they are adultery, impurity, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery,
enmities, disputes, jealousy, hatred, disagreements, heresies, envy, drunkenness, gluttony and
things like that, about which I preach to you as I have preached before, that those who do such
things will not possess the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19-21). In naming these things he showed
that the war was there too, and with the same heavenly, spiritual trumpet he summoned the
soldiers of Christ to put these enemies to death. Previously he had said, I say to you, however,
walk with the spirit and do not carry out the desires of the flesh. The flesh has desires opposed
to those of the spirit, and the spirit has desires opposed to those of the flesh. These two work
against each other with the result that you do not do what you want to do. But if you are led
by the spirit, you are not under the law (Gal 5:16-18). He therefore wants those living under
grace to enter that struggle against the deeds of the flesh. To show what these works of the
flesh are, he added the words we quoted above: It is clear what are deeds of the flesh; they are
adultery (Gal 5:19) and the rest, the things he either mentioned or included by implication,
especially by adding, and things like that.
Finally, as if leading out another spiritual army for this battle against a kind of carnal army, he
said: The fruits of the spirit are charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trust,
gentleness, restraint; against things like this there is no law (Gal 5:22-23). He did not say

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against these things, lest it be thought they are the only thingsalthough even if he did say
this we ought to take it to include every other similarly good thing that we can think ofbut
he said, against things like this, namely, these and anything similar. Nevertheless, last among
the good things that he listed he put continence, which is the object of the discussion we have
now undertaken and the reason for much that we have already said, because he particularly
wanted that to be fixed in our minds. Without doubt in this war where the spirit has desires
opposed to the flesh, it is of special importance, since in a way it crucifies the actual desires of
the flesh. That is why, after saying this, the apostle immediately went on: Those who belong
to Jesus
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Christ have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 5:24). This is what
continence does, this is how the deeds of the flesh are put to death. On the other hand, those
deeds in their turn bring death to those who are lured by carnal desire to abandon continence
and consent to committing them.
Do Not Rely on Human Resources
4, 10. In order not to abandon continence, we have to be particularly on our guard against
those insidious suggestions of the devil, so as not to presume on our own strength; for cursed
is everyone who puts his hope in a human being (Jer 17:5). And who is it who does that, if not
a human being? One cannot truthfully say, therefore, that one is not putting one's hope in a
human being, if one is putting one's hope in oneself. Moreover what does it mean to live in a
human way, other than to live
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according to the flesh? So let those who are tempted by such a suggestion listen, and, if they
have any sense of Christianity, shudder; let them, I say, listen to these words: If you live
according to the flesh, you will die (Rom 8:13).
11. Someone will tell me that living in a human way is not the same as living according to the
flesh. This, they will say, is because a human being is a creature with reason, having a rational
mind, and in that respect different from the animals, whereas the flesh is inferior and earthly
and that is why it is sinful to live according to it. Consequently someone who lives in a human
way does not live according to the flesh at all, but rather lives according to that part of the
human being that is distinctively human, that is, according to the spiritual mind, whereby the

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human being is superior to the animals. This argument has some force perhaps in the
philosophers' schools; but to understand Christ's apostle we ought to take note of the manner
of speaking customary in Christian books. All of us, for whom to live is Christ, hold the belief
that the Word of God took on a human nature, and this was certainly not without the rational
soul, as some heretics would have it.9 Yet we read: The Word was made flesh and dwelt
among us (Jn 1:14). What does flesh mean here, if not a human being? And all flesh will
see the salvation of God (Lk 3:6); how is this to be understood except as meaning all human
beings? All flesh will come to you (Ps 65:2); what is this, if it is not all human beings? You
have given him power over all flesh (Jn 17:2); what is this, if it is not power over all human
beings? No flesh will be made just by the works of the law (Rom 3:20); what is this, if it is
not that no human being will be made just? Elsewhere the same apostle states it more
explicitly: A human being will not be made just by the works of the law (Gal 2:16). He also
rebukes the Corinthians, saying: Are you not carnal persons, who are walking in a human way
(1 Cor 3:3)? When he called them carnal, he did not say, behaving according to the flesh,
but, walking in a human way, because this means the same as to walk according to the
flesh. If it were blameworthy to walk, that is, to live, according to the flesh, but
praiseworthy to walk in a human way, he would not have said in rebuke: You are walking in
a human way. Men and women should accept the rebuke, change their attitude, and avoid
destruction. Listen, you who are human beings; do not walk in a human way, but according to
him who made human beings; do not desert him who made you, even to turn to yourself.
Although he was not living in a human way, it was a human being who said: Not that we are
entitled to say anything of ourselves, as though it came from ourselves, but our competence
comes from God (2 Cor 3:5). Consider whether the person who said that, and spoke truthfully,
was living in a human way. Therefore, in warning human beings not to live in a human way,
the apostle is bringing human beings back to God. Anyone not living in a human way, but
according to God, is certainly not living according to his or her own self, as that person is a
human being. On the other hand, anyone who is living like that is also said to be living
according to the flesh, because, as we have already shown, although only the flesh is
mentioned, it means the human being. It is the same as when only the soul is mentioned, but it
means the whole person. We see this in the text, Every soul is made subject to more exalted
powers (Rom 13:1), meaning every human being; and the text, Seventy-five souls went down
to Egypt with Jacob (Gn 46:27), meaning seventy-five persons. Therefore, O human creature,
do not live according to yourself; by doing that you became lost, but a search was made for

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you. Do not, I say, live according to yourself; that is how you became lost, though you have
been found. When you hear the
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words, If you live according to the flesh, you will die (Rom 8:13), do not blame the natural
flesh. He could have said, and said with utmost truth, If you live according to yourselves,
you will die. The devil has no flesh, and yet, because he wanted to live according to himself,
He did not stand in the truth. Why wonder, then, that living according to himself, when he
speaks lies, he speaks according to his own nature (Jn 8:44)? This is the truth about him, and
it is the Truth who said it.
You Must Rely on God's Grace
5, 12. When you hear it said: Sin will not have dominion over you (Rom 6:14), do not trust
yourself to prevent sin having dominion over you, but trust him to whom a certain saint said
this prayer: Guide my journeys according to your word, and let no wickedness rule me (Ps
119:133). On hearing, Sin will not have dominion over you, we could perhaps become proud
and attribute it to our own strength, but the apostle saw this and to forestall it he immediately
added: For you are not under the law, but under grace (Rom 6:14). It is grace, therefore, that
brings it about that sin has no dominion over you. So do not trust in yourself, lest it have even
greater dominion over you because of that. And when we hear the words, If with the spirit you
put to death the deeds of the flesh, you will live (Rom 8:13), let us not attribute this great
benefit to our own spirit, as if it could achieve these things by itself. So that we would not
take it with that carnal meaning as referring to the spirit that was put to death rather than the
one that put it to death, he adds there, All who are led by the Spirit of God are God's children
(Rom 8:14). Therefore, in order to put to death the works of the flesh with our spirit, we are
led by the Spirit of God, who provides the continence, whereby we control and rule and
conquer carnal desire.
13. In this great battle people live under grace, and when with the Lord helping them they
fight well, they rejoice in him in the midst of their fear. At the same time even though they are
unvanquished in bringing death to the works of the flesh, the untiring warriors are not without
some wounds of sin. Every day they should say, Forgive us our debts (Mt 6:12), for these to
be healed, and they should be increasingly vigilant and energetic in the struggle against those
sins, and against the prince of devils and king of sin. His fatal suggestions, with which he

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leads sinners on to excusing their sins rather than accusing themselves of them, will then be to
no avail. If they were to do that, not only would those wounds not be healed, but, even though
they are not fatal, they would be present in a serious and deadly way. In this respect, therefore,
there is need for an even more wary continence. It has to restrain the proud human inclination
that leads to self-approval and the desire not to be found fault with, and the reluctance, when
sin is committed, to accept that it is one's own sin, searching with disastrous pride for excuses
rather than acknowledging one's guilt with healing humility. It was to restrain this pride that
the one whose words I have already quoted above, commending them to you to the utmost,
prayed to the Lord for continence. After saying, Place a guard on my mouth, O Lord, and the
gate of continence on my lips; do not let my heart lapse into malicious talk (Ps 141:3-4), in
order to explain more clearly why he said this, he added, to make excuses for sinning. What is
more malicious than those words of evil persons who deny they are evil even when proven
guilty of an evil deed they cannot deny? Unable to conceal what was done, and unable to say
it did good, and seeing it is obvious they did it, they try to transfer the responsibility for what
they did to someone else, thinking to avoid the consequences in this way. By refusing to
acknowledge their guilt they add to their guilt, and they do not realize that by excusing instead
of accusing themselves of their sins they do not keep away the punishment, but the pardon.
14. There are some who are accustomed to excuse their sins with the plea that fate made them
sin, as though the constellations decreed it and heaven sinned first by making those decrees
that result in humans then sinning by committing the deeds. Others prefer to attribute their
sins to chance. They think that everything comes about as the result of chance happenings,
although they also maintain that it is not just by chance and unthinkingly, but by perceiving
the arguments, that they hold and assert this opinion. What kind of madness is it that
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attributes one's argumentation to reason, but makes one's actions subject to chance? Others
attribute all the evil they do to the devil and do not accept that they even have any share of it
with him. Although they could suspect that he persuaded them with hidden suggestions, they
cannot doubt that, whatever their source, they gave consent to those suggestions. There are
even some who go so far as to excuse themselves by accusing God. They are wretched
because of God's judgment, but are blasphemers by their own madness. The charge they bring
against him is that there is a rebellious evil substance coming from a power opposed to him,
which he would have been unable to resist if he had not mingled something of his own
substance and nature with that rebellious one, thereby causing it to be contaminated and

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corrupted.10 They say then that they sin when the evil nature prevails over God's nature.
This is the foul insanity of the Manichees, whose diabolical artifices are so easily undermined
by the indubitable truth that proclaims God's nature to be immune from contamination and
corruption.11 What abominable contamination and corruption, however, is rightly ascribed
to them, when they hold God, who is supremely and incomparably good, to be subject to
contamination and corruption?
God's Omnipotence Brings Good Out of Evil
6, 15. There are also those who make excuses for their sins by blaming God, saying that he
approves of the sins. If he did not approve, they say, with his omnipotence he would not allow
them to occur at allas if he allowed sins to go unpunished, even in the case of those whom
he rescues from eternal punishment by forgiving their sins. Indeed no one is pardoned and
spared the greater punishment due to them without undergoing some penalty, even though
much less than the one due to them before. In this way the generosity of mercy is imparted
without the rule of justice being abandoned. Even a sin that appears to go unpunished has its
own attendant punishment, so that there is no one who does not either grieve at its bitterness
or fail to grieve through blindness. Therefore, just as you say, Why does he permit it, if he
does not approve? I say, Why does he punish it, if he approves? And by the same
reasoning, just as I acknowledge that the deeds punished by the just God would not happen at
all unless they were permitted by the omnipotent God, so you should acknowledge that they
should not be committed. Then by not committing the deeds he punishes, we may be worthy
to learn from him why he allows the deeds he punishes to occur. As the scripture says, Solid
food is for the perfect (Heb 5:14), and so those who have made good progress already
understand that it is more characteristic of the divine omnipotence to allow evils that come
from the exercise of free will. So great is his omnipotent goodness that he can cause good to
come from bad things, either by pardoning or by healing or by adapting them and converting
them to good
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purposes for the benefit of the devout and obedient, or even by avenging them with absolute
justice. All these things are good and entirely worthy of the good and omnipotent God, and
yet they do not happen except as the result of evil. What, therefore, could be better, what
could be more omnipotent than he who does no evil but does good even as a result of evil?
Those who have done wrong cry out to him, Forgive us our debts (Mt 6:12); he hears and

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forgives. Sinners have been harmed by their wrongdoing; he comes to their aid and heals their
infirmity. His people's enemies rage; from their cruelty he produces martyrs. In the end he
even condemns those he judges to be deserving of damnation; although they suffer their evil,
what he does is good. It cannot but be good, because it is just; beyond question, just as sin is
unjust, so the punishment of sin is just.
16. God did not lack the power to make human beings who could not sin; but he preferred to
make them with the power to sin if they chose to, and not to sin if they chose not to. He
forbade the one and commanded the other, and so at first they would have the benefit of the
merit in not sinning and afterward the just reward of not being able to sin. In the end he is
going to make his saints absolutely incapable of sinning.12 He already has his angels like
that, and in loving them in him we have no fear that any of them will become a devil by
sinning. We do not take this to be true of any good person in this mortal life. We are confident,
however, that everyone will be like that in that eternal life. If the omnipotent God causes good
to result even from our evils, what benefits will he bestow when he has set us free from
everything bad? There is much that could be discussed more fully and more precisely about
using evil for good; but that is not the subject of this discussion and we must avoid making it
too lengthy.
Continence Must Be Joined to Justice
7, 17. Let us return now to the reason why we said these things. We need continence, and we
know it is a gift from God, to keep our heart from lapsing into malicious talk to make excuses
for sins. Is there any sin we shall not have the necessary continence to restrain ourselves from
committing, when it even restrains us from the sin of defending sin with wicked pride if it is
committed? We therefore have a general need for continence, to turn away from evil. Doing
good, however, seems to belong to another virtue, namely justice. The holy psalm tells us this,
where we read: Turn away from wrong and do good. It goes on, however, to state what our
purpose is in doing this: Look for peace and follow it (Ps 34:14). We will have perfect peace
when our being holds fast to its creator and there is nothing in us that fights against us. This,
as I see it, is what the savior himself meant when he said, Let your loins be girt, and your
lamps burning (Lk 12:35). What does it mean to have one's loins girt? To restrain lust, and
that has to do with continence. To have lamps burning, however, is to shine and glow
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with good works, and that has to do with justice. He too did not omit to mention our purpose
in doing these things, adding the words, Be like persons waiting for their master to return
from a wedding (Lk 12:36). When he comes, he will reward us for holding back from what
sensuality demanded and for doing what charity directed, and so we shall reign in his perfect,
everlasting peace, without any struggle against evil and with perfect enjoyment of good.
18. We believe in the true, living God, whose supremely good and immutable nature neither
does any evil nor suffers any evil. Every good thing has its origin in him, even those that can
suffer diminution, although he is absolutely incapable of suffering any diminution of his
goodness. When all of us who believe these things hear the apostle say, Walk with the spirit
and do not carry out the desires of the flesh. The flesh has desires opposed to those of the
spirit, and the spirit has desires opposed to those of the flesh. These two work against each
other with the result that you do not do what you want to do (Gal 5:16-17), far be it from us to
accept the insane belief of the Manichees that this shows that there are two kinds of being
warring against each other, one good and the other evil, coming from two opposing sources.
Those two things are certainly both good; the spirit is good and the flesh also is good; and
human nature, which is made up of both, one in control and the other subordinate, is certainly
good, but a good that is subject to change. It cannot be made, however, except by the
immutable good. All created good, large or small, has its origin in him. However small it is, it
is created by the one who is great; and however great it is, it is in no way comparable to the
greatness of its maker. Nevertheless, in this human nature that is good, and made and set up in
a good way by the one who is good, there is at present a war being waged, because salvation
has not yet been achieved. Let the weakness be cured, and there will be peace. That weakness
was incurred because of guilt; it was not natural. Certainly God's grace has already wiped
away that guilt for the faithful through the cleansing of rebirth; but in the hands of that doctor
nature continues to battle with its infirmity. Good health will come with total victory in that
battle, not a temporary good health, but everlasting. Not only will this infirmity end then, but
afterward no further iniquity will arise. Therefore the just man addresses these words to his
own soul: Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all that he has done for you; he is
merciful toward all your iniquities and heals all your infirmities (Ps 103:2-3). He is merciful
toward iniquities when he forgives sins, and heals infirmities when he restrains evil desires;
he is merciful toward iniquities by giving forgiveness, and heals infirmities by giving
continence. The former is bestowed when we acknowledge him in baptism, the latter as we
strive in the combat, where with his help we must conquer our affliction. The former also

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happens now when our prayer, Forgive us our debts, is heard; and the latter when our prayer,
Lead us not into temptation (Mt 6:12-13), is heard. As the apostle James says, Everyone is
tempted, pulled and attracted by
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his own desires (Jas 1:14). We pray for help and a cure for this defect from the one who is
able to heal all such infirmities, not by removing from us a foreign substance, but by repairing
our own nature within us. For the same reason that apostle did not say: Everyone is tempted,
pulled and attracted by desires, but he said also, his own, so that everyone who hears this will
understand how he ought to cry out: I said, Lord, be merciful to me, heal my soul, because I
have sinned against you (Ps 41:4). The soul would not have needed healing, if it had not
weakened itself by sinning, with the result that its flesh has desires opposed to it; that is to
say, to the extent that it has acquired a carnal weakness it is in conflict with itself.
The Struggle Between the Flesh and the Spirit
8, 19. The flesh can desire nothing except by means of the soul; but the flesh is said to have
desires opposed to the spirit, when the soul struggles against the spirit because of carnal
desires. All of this is ourselves, and even the flesh, which dies when the soul leaves it, is the
lowly part of ourselves. It is not cast off to be abandoned, but it is put aside to be received
back, and once received back it will never again be relinquished. A material body is sowed,
however, and a spiritual body rises up (1 Cor 15:44). Then the flesh will no longer have any
desires opposed to the spirit. It will itself be called spiritual, as it will be subject to the spirit
without any resistance, and without any need of bodily food to sustain its eternal life.
Accordingly, because we are made up of both these two things, that at present oppose each
other within us, we pray and work to bring them into harmony. We must not think that one of
them is the enemy. The enemy is the defect whereby the flesh has desires opposed to the
spirit. When this is cured it will no longer exist, and the two substances will both be sound,
and there will be no fighting between the two. Let us listen to the apostle. I know, he says, that
goodness does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh (Rom 7:18). He undoubtedly says this
because the defect of the flesh, although it occurs in something good, is not itself good; when
it ceases to exist, there will still be the flesh, but it will no longer be defective or sinful. The
same Doctor shows that the flesh is part of our nature by saying first, I know that goodness
does not dwell in me, and adding by way of explanation, that is, in my flesh. He says,
therefore, that he is his flesh. Therefore it is not our enemy; and when its faults are resisted it

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is being loved, because it is being cared for. For no one ever hates one's own flesh (Eph 5:29),
as the apostle himself says. Elsewhere he also says, Therefore I myself serve the law of God
with my mind, but the law of sin with my flesh (Rom 7:25). Those who have ears to hear, let
them hear it: Therefore I myselfI with my mind, I with my flesh, but Iserve the law of
God with my mind, but the law of sin with my flesh. How did he serve the law of sin with his
flesh? Was it by giving consent to the
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desires of the flesh? Not at all! But it was by having feelings of desire there that he did not
want to have, but which he had nevertheless. By not consenting to them with his mind,
however, he served God's law and kept his body from becoming a weapon for sin.
20. So we have bad desires within us, but if we do not consent to them our lives are not bad.
We have within us inclinations to commit sin, but if we do not give in to them we do no evil
action, although we do not accomplish any good by having them. The apostle made both
things clear: there is no good achieved by having this desire for evil, nor is anything wrong
done as long as one does not give in to this bad desire. The first he makes clear when he says,
I have the desire to do good, but I do not have the ability to bring the good to completion
(Rom 7:18), and the second when he says, Walk with the spirit and do not carry out the
desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16). In the first text he does not say that he does not have the desire
to do good, but that he does not have the ability to bring the good to completion; and in the
second text he does not say that we should not have the desires of the flesh, but that we should
not carry them out. Evil desires come to exist in us, when we have a liking for things that are
not allowed; but they are not carried out when sensual desires are kept in check by a mind
obedient to God's law. Good is done, when the thing that wrongly attracts us is subdued by
good desires and is not done; but the good is not fully accomplished, as long as the flesh is
subject to the law of sin and sensuality is aroused and entices, however much it is held in
check. There would be no need for it to be controlled if it were not aroused. One day good
will be perfected, and evil eliminated; the one will be present to its utmost, and the other not
at all. We deceive ourselves, however, if we think this is to be hoped for in this mortal life. It
will happen then, when there is no death; it will happen there, where life is eternal. In that
world and that kingdom there will be consummate good and no evil; and love of wisdom will
be perfect, and continence will have nothing to do. So the flesh is not evil, if it is devoid of the
evil, that is, the defect, with which human nature is impaired, not because it was made badly
but because it has acted badly. In both respects, namely soul and body, it was created good by

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a good God, but it has itself done wrong and thereby become bad. Even after being freed from
the guilt of this evil by forgiveness, it still has to battle against its defect by means of
continence, so that it will not take lightly what it has done. It is unthinkable, however, that
there should be any defect in those who reign in that peace that is to come, especially when
for those making progress in this battle not only do their sins daily grow fewer, but so too do
those bodily desires. The fight consists in not consenting to them, and sin is the result of
consenting to them.
21. The fact that the flesh has desires opposed to the spirit, and good does not dwell in our
flesh, and the law in our bodies rebels against the law of our mind, does not mean that there is
an amalgamation of two natures, created from opposing
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elements, but that one nature is divided against itself as a consequence of sin. We were not
like that in Adam, before nature disdained and offended its maker by listening to and
following its seducer. That is not what life was like for humanity when it was first created, but
it was a punishment for sin incurred later. Those who through Jesus Christ have been freed of
the guilt by grace now struggle with its punishment. Although they are free their salvation is
not yet complete, but they have now received a guarantee of salvation. Those, however, who
have not been freed are both guilty of sins and subject to punishment. After this life the guilty
will still have eternal punishment for their sins, while those who have been freed will have
neither guilt nor eternal punishment. Spirit and body will continue to exist forever, essentially
good things that the good and unchanging God created good, but subject to change. They will
continue to exist changed for the better, never again to be changed for the worse, with all evil
totally eliminated, whether the evil people commit unjustly or the evil they suffer justly. When
these two evils pass away forever, one of them the evil of the wickedness committed in the
first place, the other the evil of the unhappiness that results afterward, human beings will
possess a will that is upright and free of all wickedness. There it will be clear and obvious to
everyonewhat is now believed by many of the faithful but understood by fewthat evil is
not itself a substance but, like an injury to the body, it comes into existence when the
substance injures itself and is infected by disease, and it ceases to exist when health is restored
to it.13 When, therefore, all the evil, which came from us, has been destroyed in us, and the
goodness in us has been increased and perfected to the peak of the supreme happiness of
incorruptibility and immortality, what will our two substances be like then? Even now in this
state of corruption and mortality, when the corruptible body still weighs down the soul (Wis

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9:15) and, as the apostle says, The body is dead because of sin (Rom 8:10), he gives that
testimony in support of our flesh, that is, the inferior and material part of us, with the words I
quoted just above: No one ever hates his own flesh; and he immediately adds, but nourishes
and nurtures it, just as Christ does the Church (Eph 5:29).
The Flesh Is Not Evil
9, 22. What error, thenor, better, what utter madnesshas possessed the Manichees, for
them to class our flesh as belonging to some kind of mythical nation of darkness? They would
have it to have been inherently evil always, without any beginning, despite the fact that the
teacher of the truth exhorts husbands to love their wives on the model of their love for their
own flesh, and exhorts them also to do it on the model of Christ's love for the Church? That
whole passage in the apostle's letter is very much to the point here and needs to be quoted.
Husbands, he says, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself
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up for it, in order to make it holy, cleansing it by washing with water in the word, so that he
would obtain for himself a glorious Church, with no spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but
holy and unstained. So, he says, husbands too should love their wives like their own bodies.
Whoever loves his wife loves himself (Eph 5:25-28). He then adds what we have already
quoted: No one ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and nurtures it, just as Christ does the
Church (Eph 5:29). What does that foul and unholy madness say to this? What do you say to
this, you Manichees, who try to derive from the apostle's writings a doctrine of two uncreated
natures, one good and the other bad, and who refuse to listen to the writings of the apostle that
would correct this sacrilegious perversion for you. As you read, the flesh has desires opposed
to those of the spirit (Gal 5:17), and goodness does not dwell in my body (Rom 7:18), read
also, No one ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and nurtures it, just as Christ does the
Church (Eph 5:29). As you read, but I see another law in my body that rebels against the law
of my mind (Rom 7:23), read also, As Christ loved the Church, so too husbands should love
their wives like their own bodies (Eph 5:25, 28). Do not be cunning about the evidence of
holy scripture in the first of those texts, and deaf to it in the second, and you will be correct
about both. If you accept the second as you should, you will also try to achieve true
understanding of the first.

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23. The apostle has given us to understand that there are three pairs: Christ and the Church,
husband and wife, the spirit and the flesh. The first member of the pair cares for the second,
the second is subordinate to the first. When they maintain among themselves the beauty and
orderliness of one being superior and in charge and the other honorably subordinate, they are
all good. Husband and wife have a commandment and a model of how they should treat each
other. The commandment is this: Wives should be subject to their husbands, as they are to the
Lord, because the husband is head of the wife (Eph 5:22-23), and Husbands, love your wives
(Eph 5:25). The model then given for wives is that of the Church, and for husbands that of
Christ. As the Church is subject to Christ, he says, so too wives are to their husbands in all
things (Eph 5:24). Similarly, after giving husbands the commandment to love their wives he
adds the model: As Christ loved the Church. Also, however, he appeals to husbands by
referring to the inferior thing, namely their body, and not just the superior one, namely their
Lord. Not only did he say, Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church (Eph 5:25),
referring to the superior thing, but he also said, Husbands should love their wives like their
own bodies (Eph 5:28), referring to the inferior thing because, superior and inferior, they are
all good. At the same time, however, the wife is not given the body or the flesh as her model,
for her to be subject to her husband as the flesh is to the spirit. Instead, either the apostle
meant what he omitted to say to be taken as implied, or perhaps because in its weak mortal
state in this life the flesh has desires opposed to the spirit, he did not want to present
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that as the model of obedience for a woman. He chose to do so for husbands, because even
though the spirit has desires opposed to the flesh, even in this respect it looks after the
interests of the flesh, whereas the flesh with desires opposed to the spirit and rebellious does
not look after either the interests of the spirit or its own interests. The good spirit would not be
concerned for its interests, whether by providing prudently for its care and nourishment or by
resisting its vices through continence, if it were not the case that by this apt coordination
between them both entities point to God being the maker of both of them. How is it then that
with true madness you boast that you are Christians, but at the same time with your eyes
closed, or rather with your eyes blinded, you argue so perversely against the Christian
scriptures? How can you claim that Christ appeared to mortal creatures in a body that was not
real, that the Church belongs to Christ in its soul and to the devil in its body, that male and
female sexuality are the work of the devil, not of God, and that the flesh is attached to the
spirit as an evil substance to a good one?

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Scripture Contradicts the Manichean View of the Body


10, 24. If the texts we have cited from the writings of the apostle seem inadequate to you,
then, if you have ears, listen to yet more. What does the mad Manichee say about Christ's
flesh? That it was not real, but an imitation. What does the blessed apostle say about it?
Remember that Jesus Christ, of the line of David, rose from the dead, as my Gospel says (2
Tm 2:8). And Jesus Christ himself said, Touch and see, because a spirit does not have flesh
and bones, as you see that I have (Lk 24:39). How can there be any truth in their teaching,
which preaches that Christ's flesh was deceptive? How is it that there was no evil in Christ,
when there was that great lie? In other words, for these overly pure persons real flesh is too
great an evil, but imaginary flesh passing for real is not an evil; the real flesh of the one born a
descendant of David is evil, but the tongue that says, Touch and see, because a spirit does not
have flesh and bones, as you see that I have, is not evil! What, in his deadly error, does the
deceiver of mankind say about the Church? That in its souls it belongs to Christ, and in its
bodies to the devil? What, in truth and faith, does the doctor of the Gentiles say about this?
Do you not know, he says, that your bodies are the members of Christ (1 Cor 6:15)? What
does the son of perdition say about the male and female sex? That neither is from God, but
both are from the devil. What does the chosen vessel say about this? As woman came from
man, so too a man comes through the agency of a woman; but everything comes from God (1
Cor 11:12). What, through the Manichee, does the unclean spirit say about the body? That it is
an evil substance, not God's creation but the enemy's. What, through Paul, does the Holy
Spirit say about this? As there is one body, and it has many members, but,
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although there are many members of the body, there is only one body, so too it is with Christ
(1 Cor 12:12); and a little further on, God put each of the members in the body as he chose (1
Cor 12:18). A little further on again he said, God put order in the body, giving greater honor
where it was lacking, so that there would be no division in the body, but only the one, and the
members would be concerned for each other. If one member suffers, all the members suffer
with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it (1 Cor 12:24-26). How can
the body be evil, when even the souls are advised to imitate the harmony of its members?
How can creation be evil, when even the souls, which rule the bodies, take the members of the
body as their model for not having divisions and enmities among themselves, and desire to
have for themselves by grace what God endowed the body with naturally? With good reason
he said in his letter to the Romans: I beg you, brothers and sisters, by God's mercy, to offer

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your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God (Rom 12:1). If we offer a living
sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, with bodies that belong to a nation of darkness, we could
just as well argue that light is darkness and darkness light.
Though Subject to Christ, the Church Is Still Carnal
11, 25. But, they say, how can there be any analogy between the body and the Church?
Does the Church have desires opposed to Christ? That same apostle said, The Church is
subject to Christ (Eph 5:24). Obviously the Church is subject to Christ, since the reason why
the spirit has desires opposed to the flesh is to make the Church subject to Christ in all its
parts, and the reason why the flesh has desires opposed to the spirit is that the Church has not
yet achieved the perfect peace it has been promised. So the Church is subject to Christ
because of the salvation it has been pledged, and the flesh has desires opposed to the spirit
because of the illness that infects it. It is not that he was not speaking to members of the
Church when he said those words: Walk with the spirit and do not carry out the desires of the
flesh. The flesh has desires opposed to those of the spirit, and the spirit desires opposed to
those of the flesh. These two work against each other with the result that you do not do what
you want to do (Gal 5:16-17). This was certainly said to the Church, and if it were not subject
to Christ, there would not be in it any desires of the spirit opposed to those of the flesh
through continence. This is why it was possible for them not to carry out the desires of the
flesh; but because the flesh has desires opposed to those of the spirit, it was not possible for
them to do what they wanted to do, namely, not even have those desires of the flesh. So then,
why do we not proclaim that the Church is subject to Christ in spiritual persons, but in carnal
persons it still has desires opposed to Christ? When it was said, Is Christ divided? (1 Cor
1:13), and I was not able to speak to you as spiritual persons but as carnal ones, like babies in
Christ. I gave you milk
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to drink, not solid food; you were not yet able to take it, and even now you are not able to take
it, as you are still carnal persons. Because there is envy and rivalry among you, are you not
carnal persons? (1 Cor 3:1-3), did not those to whom this was said have desires opposed to
Christ? Who, other than Christ, is opposed by the desires of envy and rivalry? Christ heals
these desires of the flesh in those who belong to him, but he does not like them in anyone.
Hence, as long as the Church has members who are like that, it is not yet without spot or
wrinkle. Moreover, there are also the sins for which the whole Church daily prays: Forgive us

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our trespasses (Mt 6:12). Lest we think that spiritual persons are not included in this, this is
what was said, not by one of the carnal persons, nor just by one of the spiritual persons, but by
the one who rested his head on the Lord's breast, and whom the Lord loved more than the
others:14 If we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us (1 Jn
1:8). In all sins, however, there are desires opposed to what is right, more so in the case of
more serious sins, less so in the case of less serious ones. About Christ it has been written, He
became for us the wisdom from God, and justification and sanctification and redemption (1
Cor 1:30). In all sin, therefore, there are undoubtedly desires opposed to Christ; but when the
one who heals all our infirmities (Ps 103:3) has brought the Church to the promised healing of
its infirmities, there will then be no spot or wrinkle, however slight, in any of its members.
Then the flesh will have no desires in any way opposed to the spirit, and so there will also be
no reason for the spirit to have desires opposed to the flesh. This whole struggle will then
come to an end; there will then be absolute harmony; then no one will be carnal, so much so
that even the flesh itself will be spiritual. All those who live according to Christ now act
toward their body in this way: on the one hand, they have desires opposed to its evil
inclinations, because they do not yet possess it in its healed condition, and while it still needs
healing they restrain it; on the other hand, they nourish and nurture its natural goodness,
because no one ever hates his own flesh (Eph 5:29). To the extent that one may compare
greater and lesser things, this is also how Christ acts with his Church. He restrains it with
corrections, lest it become puffed up and destroyed by being spared punishment, and he
comforts it and supports it, lest it succumb under the weight of its infirmities. On this point we
have that text of the apostle, If we judged ourselves, we would not be judged; when we are
judged, however, we are corrected by the Lord, so that we will not be condemned with this
world (1 Cor 11:13), and the one in the psalm, Your consolations have given my soul pleasure
in proportion to the multitude of sorrows in my heart (Ps 94:19). So then, when Christ's
Church has unshakable security without any fear, we can hope for our flesh to be perfectly
sound without any rebelliousness.
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True and False Continence
12, 26. These arguments on behalf of true continence against the Manichees with their false
continence will suffice. No one will believe now that when continence toils so splendidly and
effectively to cool the fire in the lower part of our nature, that is our body, and holds it back

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from immoderate and unlawful pleasures, it is persecuting it as an enemy rather than


disciplining it for its own good. The body is indeed different in nature from the soul, but it is
not extraneous to human nature. The body is not part of the soul, but the human being is
composed of soul and body; and when God redeems someone, he certainly redeems the whole
person. Accordingly, when the savior himself saw fit to redeem in us the whole of what he
made, he took on a whole human nature. As for those who hold an opinion contrary to this
truth, what good does it do them to keep their passions under control, if indeed they do keep
any under control? If that continence of theirs is so unclean, what can become clean in them
through continence? It ought not even be called continence. The view they hold is the devil's
poison, but continence is a gift from God. Not everyone who suffers something or even
suffers all kinds of anguish with great patience has that virtue called patience, which too is a
gift from God. Many people put up with great torments rather than confess their crimes or
betray their accomplices; many do so to satisfy their burning passions and to obtain, or to
avoid losing, the things they are attached to by a bond of perverse love; many do it in the
cause of various pernicious errors that hold them fast; and we would not think of saying that
any of these had true patience. Similarly, those who practice some self-control, or even have
marvelous control over the passions of mind and body, cannot all be said to have that
continence whose value and honor we are discussing. Incredible though it seems, there are
some who practice continence because of their incontinence, as, for example, when a woman
avoids incontinence with her husband, because she promised this to a partner in adultery.
Some do it because of their injustice, as, for example, when a spouse refuses to have sexual
union with the other spouse, because he or she can now control that bodily urge. Some
practice self-control too because they are deceived by false beliefs and with futile hope are
striving for vanities. Included among these are all heretics and anyone who is deceived by any
error in the name of religion. If their continence was true continence, then their faith would be
true faith. But since this cannot even be called faith, because it is false, so too, beyond
question, that other is not worthy of the name of continence. Are we going to say that
continence, which we say with absolute truth is a gift from God, is a sin? Far from our hearts
be any such deplorable insanity! The blessed apostle, however, has said, Everything that does
not come from faith is a sin (Rom 14:23). If it does not have faith, therefore, neither can it be
called continence.
27. There are also those who clearly refrain from pleasures of the flesh in the service of
malicious demons, in order to obtain through their agency wicked

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pleasures whose appeal and ardor they do not restrain. To say something about this, and be
silent about the rest because of the length of the discourse, there are some who do not even
touch their wives, while at the same time, as though purified, they contrive by magical arts to
go to other men's wives. O wonderful continence, or, rather, unparalleled wickedness and
impurity! If it were true continence, it should keep them from adultery, instead of carnal
desire keeping them from their wives in order to commit adultery. Continence in marriage
usually allows some freedom to these carnal desires, but it reins them in and keeps them under
control. Not even in marriage are they let go with unlimited freedom. They are limited either
by what is required because of the weakness of one's spouse (which the apostle does not insist
on as a commandment, but allows as pardonable),15 or to what is appropriate for the purpose
of having children (which in earlier times was the sole reason why the holy fathers and
mothers had bodily union with each other). In so doing, that is, controlling carnal desire in
married couples, and placing certain limits on it, and bringing a certain order to its lively and
unruly stirrings by imposing definite limits, it uses the evil in people for good. It makes them
good and wants to make them perfect, just as God makes use even of evil persons for the sake
of the good persons he makes perfect.
Continence Pertains to the Spirit as well as to the Body
13, 28. In no way, therefore, should we say that those who practice self-control in the service
of errors, or who overcome some minor urges in order to satisfy stronger ones they cannot
resist, have the continence about which scripture says, And this itself was a gift of wisdom, to
know whose gift this was (Wis 8:21). The true continence that comes from above does not
aim to suppress some evils in order to have other evils, but to cure all evils with good. To sum
up briefly the way it acts, the function of continence is to be on the watch to restrain and heal
any enjoyment of pleasures that are in conflict with the pleasures of wisdom. Consequently
those who restrict it to restraining only the pleasures of the flesh undoubtedly define it too
narrowly. Those who do not add the word bodily, but who say quite generally that it belongs
to continence to rule over passion and desire, certainly do better. The desire involved in
sinning is not only bodily desire, but also that of the soul. If there is bodily desire in
fornication and drunkenness, can we also say that enmities, disputes, jealousy, and finally
animosity, are activities of bodily pleasure, and not rather stirrings and disturbances in the
soul?16 The apostle, to be sure, called all these deeds of the flesh, whether they relate

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specifically to the soul or to the body, but with the word flesh he was referring to the whole
human person. The deeds that are said not to be God's are indeed deeds of the human person,
because the person who does them in so doing is living in his or her own way and not in God's
way. There are
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other deeds of human beings, however, that are better called God's deeds. For it is God, the
apostle says, who brings about in you both the intentions and the actions of a good will (Phil
2:13). Then there is that other text: All those who are activated by God's spirit are God's
children (Rom 8:14).
29. So when the human spirit clings to God's Spirit it has desires opposed to the flesh, that is,
opposed to itself, though for its own good. Those inclinations, whether in the body or in the
soul, toward acting in a human way and not in God's way, which are still present because of
the infirmity previously contracted, are restrained by continence in order to achieve salvation.
As a result the human person who does not live in a human way can now say, It is not I who
live now, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20). When it is not I who live, then I live more happily.
Then when any recalcitrant human instinct stirs, to which those who serve the law of God
with their mind do not consent, they may also say, It is not I who am doing that now (Rom
7:17). To them, too, those other words are addressed, that we should listen to as their
companions and colleagues, If you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God; let your taste be for higher things, not for
earthly things. For you have died, and your life is hidden in God with Christ; when Christ,
your life, is revealed, then you too will be revealed with him in glory (Col 3:1-4). We must
understand who is being spoken to here; rather we must listen more attentively. What could be
clearer? What could be more open? Unmistakably he is speaking to those who have risen with
Christ, not yet in the flesh, to be sure, but in the spirit, and he says they are dead but are
thereby more alive; for your life, he says, is hidden in God with Christ. These are the words of
those who are dead like that: It is not I who live now, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20). He
advises and exhorts those whose life was hidden in God to put to death their bodies, which are
still on earth. That is what follows: Therefore put to death your bodies, which are still on earth
(Col 3:4). And in case anyone is too dull, and thinks that it is their visible bodies that they
have to put to death, he immediately makes explicit what he is talking about: Fornication,
impurity, passion, evil desires and avarice, which is slavery to idols (Col 3:5). Are we to
believe, then, that those persons, who had already died and whose lives were hidden in God

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with Christ, were still committing fornication, were still living and acting impurely, were still
the slaves of passion, evil desires and avarice? Who would be so demented as to think this
about persons like that? What, therefore, does he want them to put to death, as the work of
continence, other than those impulses that are still alive and in their own way intruding,
without any consent from our mind and without being put into effect by our bodies? And how
are they put to death by the work of continence? It is only when the mind does not consent to
them and the body does not offer itself to be their weapon. And more importantly, and with
greater need for the care and vigilance of continence, it is when the mind, though affected to
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some extent by the whispers and suggestions of those desires, turns its thoughts away from
their inducements, to meditate instead on the greater pleasures of heavenly things; and when
attention is paid to those desires it is not to dwell on them but to shun them. This will happen
if, aided by the one who gave us this commandment through his apostle, we listen and take
notice: Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God; let your
taste be for higher things, not earthly things (Col 3:1-2).
Faith Requires Works of Continence
14, 30. After listing those evils, he went on to say: This is why God's anger came upon the
children of disbelief (Col 3:6). He certainly gave the faithful a healthy fear of thinking that
they could be saved by faith alone, even if they lived in these evils. The apostle James
preached against that view in the clearest possible words, saying: If anyone claims to have the
faith, but does not do its deeds, is it possible for faith to save that person (Jas 2:14)? Hence the
Doctor of the Gentiles also said that God's anger came down on the children of unbelief
because of those evils. When, however, he says, That was once your way of life too, when you
lived in them (Col 3:7), he showed clearly enough that they are not living in them now. They
had died to that life, in order to have a life hidden in God with Christ. Since, therefore, they
were no longer living in them, they were now commanded to put such things to death. Indeed
those evils lived on even in those persons who did not live in them. As I have shown just
above, they, namely the vices that dwelt in their bodies, were also referred to as their bodies
by the figure of speech that uses the container for the thing contained. It is like saying, The
whole market place is talking, when it is the people in the market place who are talking. The
psalm uses the same figure of speech when it sings, Let all the earth adore you (Ps 66:4),
meaning all the people on earth.

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31. Now, however, he says, you too put them all aside (Col 3:8), and he lists more such sins.
Why, though, is he not content to say, Put them all aside, but adds the phrase, you too? Only
to prevent them thinking they can commit these evils and live in that way with impunity,
because their faith would save them from the anger that came down on the children of
disbelief, who did those things and lived like that without having faith. You too, he said, put
aside those evils, on account of which God's anger came down on the children of disbelief,
and do not promise yourselves immunity from punishment as a right of faith. He would not
say, Put them aside, to those who had already put them aside to the extent of not consenting to
those sins, and not giving them their bodies as the weapons of sin, except that, as long as we
are still mortal, the life of holy persons is still lived out in this condition and with this task. As
long as the spirit has desires opposed to the flesh, this work goes on with great intensity;
perverted pleasures, lust, and
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base carnal impulses are resisted with the gentle joy of sanctity, the love of chastity, spiritual
energy and the prized virtue of continence. So, I say, they are being put aside as long as they
are being continually suppressed by continence, to prevent them rising up again. If anyone
ceases to put them aside in this way, as though they were safe from them, they will launch
themselves at the stronghold of that person's soul, and overthrow it and make it their slave
again, a foully mutilated captive. Then sin will reign in the mortal human body, exacting
obedience to its desires; then one's body will be offered to sin as a weapon for deeds of
wickedness (Rom 6:13), and the last condition will be worse than the first (Mt 12:45). It is
much more bearable not to have begun a struggle like this than to have abandoned the conflict
once begun, and after being a valiant warrior, or even the victor, to become captive. That is
why the Lord does not say, Whoever begins, but, Whoever perseveres to the end is the one
who will be saved (Mt 10:22).
32. Whether we are fighting fiercely to avoid being conquered, or on occasions are even
victorious with unexpected and unhoped for ease, let us give glory to him who gives us
continence. Let us remember that a just man said while living in prosperity, I shall not ever be
dislodged (Ps 29:7), and he was shown how rash it was for him to say this, attributing what
was given him from above to his own strength. We learn this by his own admission, for
shortly afterward he added: Lord, in your benevolence you honored me with the gift of virtue,
but you have turned your gaze away from me and I am now in turmoil (Ps 30:7). By a healing

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providence he has been abandoned by his guide for a moment, lest through fatal pride he
himself abandon his guide. So, whether it is now, when we struggle to dominate and diminish
our defects, or then, as it will be at the end, when we have no enemy because we are free from
disease, it is healthy for us that anyone who boasts should boast in the Lord (1 Cor 1:31).
Notes
1 [Translator] In the other works in this volume the Latin continentia has not usually been
translated simply as continence, but, according to the context, by more commonly used
terms such as restraint and self-control. For this present work, however, it seems better to
retain the accepted title, Continence, and then for the most part to use that English word as the
translation throughout. Although the English word has other connotations in other contexts, it
may be seen as an acceptable, perhaps semi-technical, word for an ethical or theological
treatise on the topic of sexual restraint.
2 Augustine's point is clearer in the Latin than in translation. In this life evil desire
(concupiscentia) vitiates all human actions. It is possible to accomplish good (fieri bonum)
by resisting evil desire; but it is impossible to bring good to completion (perficere bonum)
unless evil desire itself is eliminated. By the time he wrote this work, Augustine's reading of
Romans 7 had convinced him that such perfect virtue could not be achieved in this life.
3 See Rom 10:3.
4 See Gal 3:24.
5 See Ps 85:12.
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6 [Translator] The implication of the English here is that desire has desires. This passage
provides a good example of the different nuances of different Latin words (concupiscentia,
desiderium) that might both be translated by the one English word desire. It also shows the
need to attend to whether the desire referred to is dispositional or a latent tendency, or whether
it is an actual feeling of attraction (or repulsion), which might result from that disposition or
tendency being aroused or stimulated.

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7 [Translator] Literally desires; desire, concupiscentia, has desires, desideria.


8 [Translator] The Latin liberis, translated here as free persons, could also be translated as
children.
9 According to the heresy of Apollinaris, bishop of Laodicea in the mid-fourth century, the
incarnate Word assumed human flesh without a rational soul. Augustine discusses the
Apollinarian heresy in Heresies 55.
10 At this point Augustine has begun to attack the teaching of the Manichees, who attribute
human sins to an evil substance that has invaded and contaminated the pure divine nature. See
Heresies 47.
11 In Confessions VII, 2, 3 Augustine attributes to his friend Nebridius a similar refutation of
the Manichees.
12 The contrast between the original state of humanity, being able not to sin (posse non
peccare) and the final end of humanity, not being able to sin (non posse peccare) is
developed further by Augustine in Correction and Grace 12, 33.
13 According to Confessions VII, 12, 18, a significant turning point in Augustine's
intellectual and religious development occurred when he recognized that evil was not a
substance. This understanding came as a result of reading the books of the Platonists.
14 See Jn 13:23.
15 See 1 Cor 7:6.
16 See Gal 5:19-21.
217

238

Endmatter
INDEX OF SCRIPTURE
(prepared by Matthew Dolan)
(The numbers after the scriptural reference refer to the section of the work)
The Excellence of Marriage, pages 27-61
Old Testament
Genesis
1:28 2
21:12 23,31
Psalms
48:1 7,7
138:3 2
Ecclesiastes
3:5 13,15
Wisdom
2:24 2
Sirach
3:18 26,35
New Testament
Matthew
5:32 7

239

11:18 21,26
11:19 21,26
19:12 13,15; 21,25; 22,27
Luke
10:39 8,8
1 Corinthians
4:5 18,21
6:19 11,13
7:4 4,4; 6,6; 24,32
7:7 10,10
7:9 10,10; 17,19; 21,25
7:10-11 24,32
7:14 11,13
7:28 10,11; 11,12; 18,21
7:29-34 10,10
7:34 11,13; 12,14; 22,27
7:36 10,11; 11,12; 18,21
13:8 8,8
2 Corinthians
10:12 26,34
Galatians
4:1 22,27
Ephesians
5:12 8,8

240

Philippians
4:12 21,25
1 Thessalonians
4:5 13,15
4:17 2
1 Timothy
1:5 10,10
2:9-10 12,14
218
5:14 24,32
Hebrews
13:4 8,8
1 Peter
3:1-7 12,14
Revelation
14:4 23,31
Holy Virginity, pages 62-108
Old Testament
Exodus
20:13,15 30,30

241

Job
7:1 39,40
25:4 48,48
28:28 42
Psalms
2:11 38,39
19:7 42
19:9 38,39
25:15 40,41
27:4 38,39
27:9 38,39
36:11 52,53
37:23 41,42
45:2 11,11; 37,38; 54,55
76:11 29,29
84:2 38,39
96:1 27,27
96:8 30,30
119:4 41,42
119:5-6 41,42
127:1 40,41
138:6 32,32
139:7 38,39
141:3-4 41,42
146:8 42
Proverbs
20:9 48,48

242

Wisdom
8:21 41,43
Sirach
3:18 31,31; 33,33
3:18-19 43,44
3:20 53,54
Isaiah
56:5 24,24; 30,30
56:6 25,25
66:2 39,40
Daniel
3:87 56,57
13:23 20,20
New Testament
Matthew
5:3 28,28; 32,32
5:4 28,28
5:5 28,28
5:6 28,28
5:7 28,28
5:8 28,28
5:9 28,28
5:10 28,28
6:12 48,48
8:8-10 32,32

243

8:19-20 51,52
9:11-13 36,36
9:12 36,37
11:9 28,28
11:25-29 35,35
11:27 50,51
11:28 35,35; 50,51
11:29 35,35; 50,51; 52,53
12:48-50 3,3
12:50 5,5
15:26 32,32
15:28 32,32
18:3 32,32
18:7 39,40
19:10-12 23,23
19:12 1,1; 47; 9,9
19:21 45,46
24:12 39,40
24:31 48,48
219
Luke
1:34 4,4
11:27-28 3,3
18:10 32,32
18:11-14 32,32
23:34 28,28
John
1:14 37
1:29 37
4:34 28,28

244

13:16 50,51
14:2 26,26
Acts of the Apostles
2:44 45,46
4:32 45,46
Romans
5:20 36,36
8:15 38,39
10:3 40,41
11:12 42
11:20 38,39
12:10 47
12:16 42
15:3 37,38
1 Corinthians
1:28 20,20
2:3 38,39
4:7 40,41
7:7 40,41
7:9 1,1; 9,9
7:10-11 15,15
7:11 15,15
7:25 14,14
7:25-26 13,13; 14,14
7:26 14,14; 21,21
7:27 15,15
7:27-28 15,15
7:28 15,15; 16,16; 17,17; 18,18; 19,19; 20,20; 21,21

245

7:32 38,39; 44,45


7:32-34 22,22
7:34 11,11
7:38 18,18; 21,21
7:39 18,18; 19,19
7:40 18,18
10:12 39,40
10:13 47
12:11 40,41
12:18 26,26
12:31 45,46
13:4 31,31
15:8 29,29
15:19 22,22
15:41 26,26
15:41-42 14,14; 26,26
15:53 26,26
2 Corinthians
4:18 24,24
8:9 28,28
11:2 2,2
Galatians
5:6 7,7
Ephesians
2:8-10 40,41
Philippians

246

2:3 47
2:7-8 31,31
2:8 32,32
2:12-13 38,39
Colossians
2:3 35,35
1 Timothy
1:5 6,6
1:13 36,37
4:8 24,24
5:6 34
5:11-12 33,34
5:13 33,34
2 Timothy
2:25 41,42
James
1:5 42
1:17 32,32; 41,42
4:6 34; 44,45
1 Peter
2:21 28,28
2:22 28,28
3:9 53,54

247

1 John
1:8-10 49,49
2:1-2 49,50
4:8 51,52
4:18 38,39
220
The Excellence of Widowhood, pages 109-137
Old Testament
Genesis
1:10-25 6,9
1:31 6,9
Psalms
45:2 19,23
45:13 19,23
Ecclesiastes
3:5 8,11
Wisdom
7:16 18,22
8:21 17,21
Isaiah
53:2 19,23
New Testament

248

Matthew
6:13 17,21
10:22 20,25
19:11 9,12; 23,28
19:12 23,28
22:29-30 12,15
26:41 17,21
Luke
2:36-37 13,16
2:37 14,17
John
14:6 19,23
Romans
6:9 10,13
12:3 1,2
12:4 3,4
1 Corinthians
2:12 16,20
3:7 18,22
4:3 22,27
4:7 16,20
6:15 6,8
6:19 3,4
6:19-20 6,8
7:6-7 3,5

249

7:8 2,3; 5,7; 8,11


7:9 8,11
7:29 8,11
7:33 2,3
7:34 2,3; 3,4; 6,8; 19,23
7:35 5,7
7:38 5,7
7:39 4; 12,15
7:39-40 12,15
7:40 4; 5,7
10:11 7
10:13 17,21
10:33 22,27
15:41 6,9
2 Corinthians
1:12 22,27
6:7-8 22,27
8:21 22,27
11:2 10,13
Galatians
1:10 22,27
Philippians
3:16 15,19
4:8-9 22,27
1 Timothy
5:5 14,17

250

5:6 14,17; 21,26


5:11-12 8,11; 9,12
5:14 8,11
James
1:5 17,21
1:17 21,26
1 Peter
3:5-6 5,7
3:7 5,7
221
Adulterous Marriages, pages 138-187
Old Testament
Deuteronomy
7:3-4 I,21,25
Psalms
73:27 I,17,19
76:11 I,24,30
Ecclesiastes
3:5 II,12
Sirach
28:2-5 II,14,15

251

New Testament
Matthew
5:31-32 II,10,10
5:32 I,2,2; I,10,11; I,22,28; II,10,10; II,17,8
6:12 II,14,15
7:6 I,26,33; I,27,34
19:9 I,8,8; I,11,12; I,21,27
19:10-12 II,18,19
19:12 II,12
Mark
10:11 I,11,12
10:11-12 I,9,10; II,9,8
10:12 I,21,27; I,22,28; I,25
Luke
6:37 II,14,15
16:18 I,9,10; I,11,12; I,12,13; I,21,27; I,22,28; I,25; II,9,8; II,13,13; II,17,8; II,19,20
John
8:7 II,7,6; II,14,14
8:11 II,6,5
16:12 I,27,34
Romans
3:8 I,23,29
7:2-3 I,21,27; II,4,4
7:3 II,3,3; II,4; II,19,20
12:17 II,14,15

252

14:12 I,26,33
14:20 I,14,15
14:23 I,18,20
1 Corinthians
3:2 I,27,34
4:14 I,20,24
6:12-13 I,14,15
7:2-5 I,2,2
7:4 I,5,5; I,8,8
7:9 II,12
7:10 I,1,1
7:10-11 I,1,1; I,3,3; I,4,4; I,21,27; II,2,2
7:11 I,7,7; I,21,27
7:12 I,13,14; I,17,19; I,19,23; I,20,24; I,21,25; I,21,26; I,25
7:12-13 I,25
7:14 I,13,14
7:16 I,13,14
7:24 I,18,21
7:25 I,19,23; I,25
7:27-28 I,25
7:29 II,12; II,13,13
7:38 I,15,16; I,19,23; I,25
7:39 I,21,25; I,21,27; I,25; II,2,2; II,3,3; II,4; II,4,4; II,5; II,9,8; II,10,10
7:40 I,18,21
8:13 I,14,15
9:4-7 I,14,15
9:12 I,14,15
9:18 I,14,15
9:19 I,14,15
10:23-24 I,14,15
10:25 I,14,15

253

2 Corinthians
13:3 I,21,25
Galatians
5:2 I,20,24
Ephesians
5:23 II,8,7
1 Timothy
5:12 I,24,30
5:14-15 II,12
222
James
4:17 I,9,9
1 John
1:8 II,14,14
Continence, pages 188-218
Old Testament
Genesis
46:27 4,11
Psalms

254

14:1 2,4
29:7 14,32
30:7 14,32
34:14 7,17
41:4 7,18
65:2 4,11
66:4 14,30
94:19 11,25
103:2-3 7,18
103:3 11,25
119:133 5,12
141:3 1,2
141:3-4 2,3; 5,13
Wisdom
8:21 1,1; 13,28
9:15 8,21
Sirach
37:16 2,3
Jeremiah
17:5 4,10
New Testament
Matthew
6:12 5,13; 6,15; 11,25
6:12-13 7,18
10:22 14,31

255

12:45 14,31
15:11 2,4
15:16-19 2,4
15:18 2,4
15:19 2,5
15:19-20 2,4
19:11 1,1
23:26 2,4
Luke
3:6 4,11
12:35 7,17
12:36 7,17
24:39 10,24
John
1:14 4,11
8:44 4,11
17:2 4,11
Romans
3:20 3,7; 4,11
4:15 3,7
5:20 3,7
6:12-13 2,4
6:12-14 3,8
6:13 14,31
6:14 5,12
7:7 3,7
7:17 13,29
7:18 3,6; 8,19; 8,20; 9,22

256

7:22-23 3,6
7:23 9,22
7:25 8,19
8:10 8,21
8:12-14 3,8
8:13 3,9; 4,10; 4,11; 5,12
8:14 5,12; 13,28
12:1 10,24
13:1 4,11
14:23 12,26
1 Corinthians
1:13 11,25
1:30 11,25
1:31 14,32
3:1-3 11,25
3:3 4,11
6:15 10,24
7:7 1,1
11:12 10,24
11:13 11,25
12:12 10,24
12:18 10,24
12:24-26 10,24
15:26 3,6
15:44 8,19
223
15:56 3,7
2 Corinthians
3:5 4,11

257

Galatians
2:16 4,11
2:20 13,29
5:16 8,20
5:16-17 7,18; 11,25
5:16-18 3,9
5:17 2,5; 9,22
5:19 3,9
5:19-21 3,9
5:22-23 3,9
5:24 3,9
Ephesians
5:22-23 9,23
5:24 9,23; 11,25
5:25 9,23
5:25,28 9,22
5:25-28 9,22
5:28 9,23
5:29 8,19; 8,21; 9,22; 11,25
Philippians
2:13 13,28
Colossians
3:1-2 13,29
3:1-4 13,29
3:4 13,29
3:5 13,29
3:6 14,30

258

3:7 14,30
3:8 14,31
2 Timothy
2:8 10,24
Hebrews
5:14 6,15
James
1:14 7,18
2:14 14,30
1 John
1:8 11,25
224
225
INDEX
(prepared by Joseph Sprug)
Each work in this volume is indexed separately. The number in brackets [] indicates the page;
the other numbers indicate chapter and/of section.
The Excellence of Marriage, pages 2761
Abraham, [50] 22; [52] 24; [59] 35
chastity, [53] 26; [54] 22,27

259

hand on his thigh, [51] 19


abstinence:
adultery and, [38] 7
See also celibacy
complete, [45] 13,15
disposition of, [52] 21,25
goodness of, [41] 9,9
marriage and, [39] 8
merit, [38] 7
mutual consent, [35] 3
permanent, [37] 6
prayer and, [42] 11
survival of the race and, [41] 10,10
adultery, [37] 6; [38] 7; [39] 8; [42] 11; [43] 11,12; [47] 16,18
divorce and, [34] 3
fidelity and, [36] 4,4
infidelity, [35] 4,4

260

intention, [36] 5,5


putting adulteress wife aside, [38] 7
separating from husband adulterer, [38] 7
animals, [50] 19
Anna (widow), [40] 8; [59] 35
apostles, [48] 16,18
attachment: earthly goods, [52] 21,25
baptism, [49] 18,21
bees, [33] 2
birth control, [36] 5,5
body and soul:
See also human body
burying the dead, [51] 20,23
carnal union, See sexual union.
Cato, [50] 18,21
celibacy (celibates), [47] 15; [48] 17,19
See also abstinence; chastity; virginity

261

chastity, [54] 22,27


disposition; O.T. saints, [53-55] 22,27
marriages (O.T.) and, [51] 24
married persons, [58] 26,34
obedience and, [55] 29; [57] 24,32
obeying the commandments, [56] 31
service of Christ, [53] 26
See also sexual union
state of mind (O.T.), [57] 24,32
superior to marriage, [50] 19
virtue of mind, [52] 21,25; [53] 26; [54] 22,27
virtue of, compared with marriage, [55] 23,28
charity, [46] 14,16
chastity (in marriage), [35] 3; [50] 19; [57] 24,32
celibate/married persons, [54] 22,27
Christian wife; holy body, [43] 13
conjugal, [43] 13; [54] 22,27; [58] 26,34

262

fornication and, [39] 8


faithful observance of, [57] 24,32
honorable marriage, [43] 11,12
226
keeping the commandments, [56] 30
men with several wives (O.T.), [45] 13,15
virginal, [55] 30
children:
bonding of society, [33] 1,1
carnal desire for, [48] 17,19
chaste childbearing, [37] 5,5
good and bad, [47] 16,18
marriage bond, [38] 7
See procreation.
spiritual, [51] 19
universal purpose of marriage, [48] 17,19
Church:
churches arising from all nations, [49] 18,21

263

commandments:
loving obedience, [56] 30
compassion, [55] 23,28
concubinage:
desire for children and, [46] 14,16
conduct: devotion shown in, [44] 12,14
conjugal love, See chastity; husband and wife; sexual union.
See also self-control
creation:
fill the earth and rule, [33] 2
goodness of all things created, [50] 19
dead body:
purification after burying, [51] 20,23
symbol of sinfulness, [51] 20,23
death, [34] 2; [46] 15
marriage bond, [57] 24,32
desire:

264

for good things, when needed, [41] 9,9


sensual, [35] 3
devotion:
married women, [44] 12,14
dining, [40] 8
disposition: characteristics, [52] 21,25
divorce, [57] 24,32
childlessness and, [46] 15
Gentiles, [39] 8
husband and wife after, [39] 7
remarriage after, See remarriage.
sterile wife, [38] 7
divorce and adultery:
See also remarriage
adultery, [34] 3
drunkenness, [55] 29
eating, [40] 8; [47] 16,18; [53] 26

265

education, [51] 20,23


end of the world, [41] 10,10
Eve, [56] 30
evil, See good and evil.
faith, [40] 8
unbelieving spouse made holy, [43] 13
fall of man:
procreation before, [33] 2
fasting, [40] 8; [42] 11
fidelity:
conjugal love, [43] 11,12
mutual, [35] 4,4
power of authority, [35] 4,4
sexual, [37] 6
first parents:
mortal in original state, [34] 2
flesh:

266

tribulation of, [45] 13,15


food:
sacrificed to idols, [47] 16,18
fornication, [37] 6; [38] 7; [42] 11; [47] 16,18
free will:
conjugal love, [39] 8
friendship, [33] 1,1; [40] 9,9
Gentiles:
divorce, [39] 8
gift (-s; -from God)
See also grace
glory, [59] 35
gluttony, [47] 16,18
God:
kingdom of God, [59] 35
many souls subject to one God, [49] 20
renouncing, [50] 18,21

267

gods:
false, [49] 20
gold and straw, [35] 4,4
Goliath, [55] 29
good and evil:
comparative, [39] 8
goodness:
227
degree of, [55] 23,28
goods:
marriage necessary for, [40] 9,9
habitual disposition, [52] 21,25
health, [39] 8; [40] 9,9; [47] 16,18; [52] 21,25
heart, [44] 12,14
single, turned to God, [49] 18,21
heaven:
perfection of our unity, [49] 18,21

268

holiness:
concerns of married people, [42] 10,10
unnatural sexual relations and, [43] 11,12
Holy Spirit, [43] 13
homelessness, [40] 8
human body:
authority; husband and wife, [35] 4,4; [37] 6; [57] 24,32
benefit from drinking, [52] 21,25
care of slaves, [40] 8
chaste Christian wife, [43] 13
injury, [34] 2
spiritual, [34] 2
temple of the Holy Spirit, [43] 13
human condition, [34] 3; [41] 9,9
human nature, [33] 1,1
human race, [33] 1,1; [41] 9,9
humility, [44] 12,14; [58] 35

269

husband and wife:


adultery, [38] 7
authority over one's body, [35] 4,4; [37] 6; [57] 24,32
bond of human society, [33] 1,1
care for the spouse, [38] 7
chaste sexual union, [40] 8
fidelity; conjugal love, [43] 11,12
holiness and an unbelieving spouse, [43] 13
lascivious behavior, [46] 14,16
marital restriction, [49] 18,21
mutual fidelity, [35] 4,4
older people; love relationship, [35] 3
putting one's spouse aside, not lawful, [34] 3
strength of union, [33] 1,1
temporal concerns, [41-42] 10,10
unreasonable insistence on marriage duty, [37] 6
illusion, [39] 8

270

immortality, [34] 2; [39] 8


Incarnation:
prophecy, [51] 19
womb of a virgin, [33] 2
incontinence, [42] 10,10
infertility, [46] 15
Isaac, [56] 31; [59] 35
Israelites: garments, [34] 2
Jacob, [59] 35
Jerusalem, [47] 16,18
Jesus Christ, [47] 15; [50] 19; [59] 35
See also Christian life
See Church.
Churches subject to, [49] 18,21
giving up possessions for, [40] 8
spiritually subject to, [57] 24,32
universal submission to, [49] 18,21

271

virtue of restraint, [53] 26


wedding guest, [34] 3
Job: patience, [52] 21,25
John the Baptist, Saint, [53] 26
John, Saint, Apostle, [53] 26
kinship:
bond, [33] 1,1
spiritual, [41] 9,9
knowledge, [39] 8
Lamb of God, [56] 31
law:
signs of the future, [51] 20,23
learning, [40] 9,9
love, [47] 16,18
unfailing, [39] 8
lust, [35] 3; [45] 13,15; [58] 26,34
Manichees, [53] 26; [57-58] 25,33

272

marital act, See sexual union.


marriage (married people):
See also celibacy; divorce; husband and wife; separation
abstinence and, [39] 8
See adultery.
benefits of, [34-35] 3
better, than to burn, [48] 17,19; [52] 21,25
celibacy superior to, [50] 19
chastity; celibates and, [54] 22,27
228
comparison: O.T./N.T., [48] 17,19; [50] 22
concern with pleasing the Lord, [44] 12,14
excellence; does not surpass virginity, [33] 1,1
See fidelity.
first act of intercourse, [46] 15
fornication and, [42] 11
goodness of, [41] 9,9
three elements, [57] 24,32

273

held dear, [52] 24


holiness in, [45] 13,15
honorable, [43] 11,12
improper union, [46] 17
indissolubility, [38] 7
leaving husband to marry another, [50] 18,21
lesser of two evils, [39] 8
Manichee heresy refuted, [57-58] 25,33
monogamous, [49] 18,21
necessary for sake of other goods, [40] 9,9
not a sin to marry (Paul), [42] 11; [43] 11,12; [49] 18,21
remedy for sensuality, [37-38] 6
sacred contract, [38] 7
sanctity of the sacrament, [50] 18,21; [57] 24,32
self-control and, [41] 10,10; [42] 11
sexual union as purpose of, [36] 5,5; [48] 17,19
sterility and, [46] 15

274

true, [36] 5,5


virginity and, [55] 29
virtue of celibacy compared with, [55] 23,28
youthful incontinence and, [35] 3
marriage bond:
inflexible bond, [39] 7
not broken by divorce, [57] 24,32
marriage (Old Testament)
celibacy and, [51] 24
duty of having children, [45] 13,15; [47] 15;16,18
Levitical purity laws, [51] 20,23
married for Christ, [59] 35
matrimony used in unmatrimonial way, [56] 31
prophetic character, [50] 19; [58] 26,34
several wives, [45] 13,15
taking another woman to have children, [46] 15
wives as symbols of future Churches, [49] 18,21

275

married women:
devotion to God is rare, [44] 12,14
obedience (Peter), [44] 12,14
temporal concerns, [44] 13
Martha and Mary, [40] 8
martyr (-s; -dom):
virtue of, [52] 21,25
virtue of patience, [53] 26
Mary, Blessed Virgin, [40] 8; [59] 35
merit, [59] 35
Messiah:
prophecy concerning, [50] 19
mind:
development, [34] 2
mistress, [43] 11,12
mortality:
original sin, [33] 2

276

transformation to immortality, [34] 2


Moses:
divorce, [39] 8
nature:
superiors and subordinates, [48] 20
need:
wanting good things in time of, [41] 9,9
nonbelievers, See unbelievers.
obedience:
See also commandments
celibacy and the commandments, [55] 29; [56] 31
comparison: wife and virgin, [55] 30
mother of all virtues, [55] 30
virginity and, [56] 30
old age, [35] 3
ordination:
marital restriction, [49] 18,21

277

prerequisites for, [49] 18,21


purpose, [57] 24,32
original sin:
procreation and, [33] 2
original state: mortality, [34] 2
ownership, [46] 14,16
parents: sensual moderation, [35] 3
passion, [37] 5,5; [45] 13,15; [47] 16,18
229
patience:
virtue of martyrs, [53] 26
perfection:
giving up possessions, [40] 8
having children in a spiritual way, [48] 17,19
people compared, [55] 29
Peter, Saint, Apostle, [44] 12,14; [53] 26
piety, [47] 16,18

278

pleasure, [47] 16,18


polyandry, [48] 20
polygamy:
Manichees on, [58] 25,33
rightness of, [48] 20
sterile wife, [38] 7
symbolism, [49] 18,21
possessions: voluntary poverty, [40] 8
power: unjust use of, [46] 14,16
prayer:
excessive intercourse and, [42] 11
marriage and sexual union, [45] 13,15; [51] 20,23
pregnancy, [49] 20
priesthood, See ordination.
procreation:
See also children; marriage
before the fall of man, [33] 2

279

descendants, [34] 2
increase and multiply, [33,34] 2
instinct for (animals, birds, etc.), [50] 19
morality of intercourse, [38] 6
natural sociability, [35] 3
objective, [57] 24,32
Old Testament piety, [47] 16,18
physical union, [33] 2
propagation: marriage duty (O.T.), [41] 9,9; [50] 19
purpose of marriage, [35] 3
sexual moderation, [43] 11,12
temporal, [39] 8
prophets, [48] 16,18
purification:
after burying the dead, [51] 20,23
after emission of seed, [51] 20,23
purity:

280

laws, Levitical, [51] 20,23


rape, [49] 18,21
respectability, [48] 17,19
reward, [49] 18,21; [59] 35
sacrifices:
eating food from, [47] 16,18
sacrilege, [40] 8
Sarah, [44] 12,14; [55] 22,27
Satan, [38] 6
seed: formlessness, [51] 20,23
self-control:
chastity, [54] 22,27
marriage for those lacking, [41] 10,10; [42] 11; [58] 25,33
sensuality, [37] 5,5; [41] 9,9; [42] 11; [44] 12,14
infidelity, [35] 4,4
marriage as remedy for, [37] 6
moderation (parents), [35] 3

281

moderation in thing allowed, [43] 11,12


satisfaction in marital sex, [38] 6
sexual ethics:
circumstances of the times, [47] 15
sexual restraint, See abstinence; continence.
sexual union:
angelic freedom from, [39] 8
beyond need to procreate, [48] 17,19
chaste; uncontrolled, [37] 5,5
children as honorable fruit of, [33] 1,1
Levitical purity laws, [51] 20,23
moderation in, [47] 16,18; [58] 26,34
mortal bodies, [33] 2; [34] 2
nature's plan, [58] 26,34
perverted, [37] 6
prayer time and, [42] 11; [45] 13,15; [51] 20,23
propagation not the motive, [42] 11

282

restriction vs complete abstinence, [45] 13,15


seriousness in the pleasure, [35] 3
time for refraining, [45] 13,15
true purpose of marriage, [36] 5,5
unlawful relations (O.T.), [58] 25,33
unnatural practice, [42] 11; [43] 11,12
unreasonable use of rights, [37] 5,5
women of faith, [40] 8
sin:
See also consent; desire
breach of trust, [36] 4,4
death as punishment for, [34] 2
improper use of goods, [40] 9,9
mortal; venial, [38] 6; [41] 9,9
230
trust and, [35-36] 4,4
singularity: natural love of, [48] 20
slaves, [40] 8; [48] 20

283

society:
bonding, in its children, [33] 1,1
spiritual kinship and, [41] 9,9
soul:
See also body and soul.
many souls, subject to one God, [49] 20
spirit:
See also Holy Spirit
spirituality, [48] 17,19
spouses, See husband and wife.
starvation, [47] 16,18
sterility:
divorce and, [38] 7
straw and gold, [35] 4,4
suffering:
quality of the great, [52] 21,25
Susanna, [40] 8; [59] 35

284

temporal goods:
use of (paradox), [52] 21,25
temptation:
patience of Job, [52] 21,25
theft, [46] 14,16
Timothy (and Paul), [52] 21,25
trust:
sin as purpose of, [35-36] 4,4
spiritual good, [35] 4,4
tyranny, [46] 14,16
unbelievers:
virgins, [40] 8
unity:
marriage as sacrament of, [49] 18,21
unmarried women, [42] 10,10
concern for the Lord, [44] 12,14
despicable; sensuality, [44] 12,14

285

virgin birth, [33] 2


virginity, [40] 8
celibate by choice, [45] 13,15
counsel, not a command, [56] 30
dedicated to God, [58] 35
marriage and, [55] 29
obedience and, [56] 30
virgins:
consecrated:
women who have been violated, [49] 18,21
following the Lamb, [56] 31
virtue:
disposition, [53] 26
obedience as mother of all, [55] 30
practice, [54] 22,27
present without being manifest, [52] 21,25
times and circumstances, [53] 26

286

virtues of the mind, [52] 21,25


wealth:
knowing how to be wealthy, [52] 21,25
welcoming, [40] 8
wickedness:
See also good and evil
widow (-s; -hood), [45] 13,15
dead widows, [44] 12,14
wisdom, [40] 9,9
justified by her children, [53] 26
wives, See husband and wife.
woman (women):
See also husband and wife; unmarried women; virgins
made from side of man; sign, [33] 1,1
menstruation, [51] 20,23
violated, cannot be consecrated to God, [49] 18,21
world:

287

passing away, [41] 10,10


worship, [47] 16,18; [50] 19
Zacchaeus, [55] 29
Holy Virginity, pages 62-108
abstinence:
See also celibacy
earthly advantage, [83] 25,25
Adam, [71] 6,6
adultery, [75] 15,15; [79] 20
divorce and,[81] 23,23
231
angels, [74] 13; [92] 38; [104] 53,54
apostles, [100] 48,48
atonement: Christ and our sins, [101] 50
authority, [105] 56,57
baptism:
forgiveness of sins, [101] 48,48

288

beatitudes:
following Christ, [85] 28,28; [87] 32,32
beauty:
interior, [104] 55,56
bible, [77] 17,17; [78] 19,19; [80,81] 22,22; [83] 25,25
no lies in, [77] 18,18; [79] 20
birds, [102] 51,52
body and soul:
See also human body
Canaanite woman, [88] 32,32
carnal union, See sexual union.
celibacy (celibates), [72] 8,8; [73] 10; [74] 13; [78] 18,18; [95] 40,41
See also abstinence; chastity; virginity
eternal reward, [83] 25,25
eunuchs, [82] 24,24
gift from God, [97] 43
heaven and, [81] 22,22

289

humility needed by, [89] 33,33


marriage not equal to, [78] 19,19
Paul's preference for, [80] 22,22
See also sexual union
superior to marriage, [68] 1,1
virginity and, [98] 46
centurion, [88] 32,32; [91] 36,36
charity, [70] 5,5; [93] 38,39
chastity (in marriage), [72] 8,8; [77] 18,18; [87] 31,31; [90] 34
becoming chaste after being unchaste, [97] 42
conjugal, [72] 8,8; [74] 13
Susanna, [78] 20
life in present world, [80] 22,22
marriage as sin and, [79] 21,21
perpetual, [76] 16,16; [78] 19,19; [80] 21,21
married life and, [87] 31,31
vow, [86] 29,29

290

suitors and, [78] 18,18


childlikeness, [88] 32,32
children:
Christian education of, [74] 12; [82] 24,24
Church as mother of, [71] 7,7
not born as Christians, [71] 7,7
See procreation.
produced honorably, [73] 12
Christian life:
Christ formed in Christians, [70] 5,5
following Christ, [86] 29,29
living for God, [91] 36,36
married Christians follow Christ, [85] 28,28
Christians:
share in motherhood of Christ, [70] 5,5
Church:
authority, [98] 46

291

birth of consecrated virgins, [73] 12


chastity of, [100] 48,48
Christ's mother; Christ's virgin, [71] 6,6
company of virgins, [92] 37
eternal life, [83] 24,24
holiness, [69] 2,2
Holy Spirit resting over members of, [94] 39,40
kingdom of heaven, [82] 24,24
virgin and mother, [68] 2,2
clergy (clerical state):
clothes, [90] 34
commandments:
disobeying is a sin, [74-75] 14,14
grace and carrying out, [96] 41,42
offerings and, [86] 30,30
confession:
sins forgiven in, [101] 50; [103] 52,53

292

virgins must confess faults, [101] 49,49


conjugal love, See chastity; husband and wife; sexual union.
conscience, [90] 34
continence,
See also self-control
Crispina, [98] 44,45
damnation, [74] 14,14; [80] 21,21
Daniel, [79] 20
denarius:
wages that everyone receives, [83-84] 26,26
232
desire, [90] 34
for gifts, [103] 52,53
devil, [77] 17,17; [87] 31,31; [103] 53,54
devotion, [72] 8,8
disciples, [89] 32,32
divorce, [75, 76] 15,15
authority of God, [81] 23,23

293

remarriage after, See remarriage.


divorce and adultery:
See also remarriage
envy:
child of pride, [87] 31,31
married Christians, and virgins, [86] 29,29
eternal life, [74] 13; [78] 19,19; [83-84] 26,26
better gifts from God, [99] 46
Church and, [83] 24,24
everlasting name, [83] 25,25
forgiveness of sin, [75] 14,14
eunuchs, [81] 23,23
Christian, [82] 24,24
Isaiah's prophecy, [82] 24,24
kingdom of God, [92] 37; [100] 47
special place in heaven, [83] 25,25
evil, See good and evil.

294

experience: strength, [103] 52,53


faith,[71] 7,7; [100] 48,48
family: spiritual, [69] 3,3
fasting, [90] 34
fear, [95] 40,41; [103] 52,53
holy fear(s), [93] 38,39
Old Testament, [94] 38,39
fertility: virginity and, [69] 2,2
flesh, [72] 8,8; [76] 16,16
See also body and soul
food,
forgiveness of sin, [75] 14,14
gift of Christ, [93] 38
freedom of choice:
re virginity, [86] 30,30
fruit(-fulness):
degrees of, [99] 46-47

295

hundredfold return, [98] 46


gift (-s; -from God):
See also grace
desire for, [103] 52,53
eternal life and, [99] 46
fruits: hundredfold, sixtyfold, thirtyfold, [98] 45-46
hidden, [98] 44,45
many; varied, [99] 46
safe-keeping, [103] 52,53
some greater/better than others, [99] 46
glory:
degrees of, [83] 26,26
superior perfection, [79] 21,21
virginal consecration, [74] 14,14
God:
no unfairness in, [95] 40,41
good and evil:

296

chastity, [72] 8,8


pride afflicts the virtuous, [89] 34
good works, [83] 24,24
goodness:
give thanks for, [88] 32,32
gossipers, [89] 34
grace:
commandments and, [96] 41,42
gift to know God's gifts, [97] 42
greatness, [103] 52,53
humility and, [102] 51; [104] 53,54
humility proportionate with, [87] 31,31; [89] 33,33; [97] 43,44; [104] 53,54
hair, [90] 34
health, [84] 26,26
heaven, [74] 13; [80,81] 22,22; [84] 27,27
celibacy and, [81] 23,23
denarius; parable of the vineyard, [83-84] 26,26

297

earthly life and, [82] 24,24


eunuchs in, [83] 25,25
greater glory in, [74] 14,14
holiness, [86] 29,29
Holy Spirit, [79] 20; [83] 25,25; [102] 51, 52
dwells in a humble heart, [94] 39,40; [102] 51,52
honor, [76] 16,16; [84] 26,26; [100] 47
hope, [84] 27,27
most wretched of people, [81] 22,22
human body:
control over, [104] 55,56
organs, [84] 26,26
humility:
233
Canaanite woman, [88] 32,32
celibates' need of, [89] 33,33
Christ as model for virgins, [92] 37

298

Christ's teaching on, [87] 32,32; [89] 33,33; [102] 51


commandment, [87] 31,31
divine warnings, [95] 39,40
exhortation to, [91] 36,36
false; a form of pride, [97] 43,44
gift from God, [96] 41,42
great persons, [102] 51
greatness and, [105] 56,57
Jesus as exemplar of, [90] 35,35
love produced by, [103] 52,53
most virtuous people, [101] 50
need for, [87] 31,31
poor in spirit, [87] 32,32
proportionate with greatness, [87] 31,31; [89] 33,33; [97] 43,44; [104] 53,54
sin absolved by, [102] 50
Spirit dwells in a humble heart, [94] 39,40; [102] 51,52
virginity protected by, [102] 51,52

299

virgins are to follow Christ, [90] 35,35


whoever exalts, [88] 32,32
husband and wife:
mutual love, [104] 55,56
idleness, [89] 34
imitation of Christ, [85] 27,27
impurity, [92] 38
incorruptibility, [74] 13
Isaiah: prophecy re eunuchs, [82] 24,24
Jesus Christ, [68] 1,1; [72] 9,9; [76] 16,16; [79] 20
See also Christian life
See Church.
contemplate the Savior, [104] 54,55
creator and creature, [104] 54,55
despised by children of human race, [92] 38
family relationships, [70] 5,5
humility, [92] 38

300

humble of heart, [91] 35,35; [92] 37; [102] 51,52; [103] 52,53
learn of me for I am, [90] 35,35; [92] 37; [102] 51
model of humility, [92] 37
prime example, [90] 35,35
suffering, [98] 44,45
teacher of humility, [87] 31,31; 32,32; [89] 33,33; [102] 51
sinlessness, [93] 38
Son of God; son of man, [85] 27,27; [91] 35,35
spouse of virgins, [104-105] 55,56
virgins betrothed to, [73] 12
whoever does my Father's will, [69] 3,3
John, Saint, Apostle, [84] 27,27
joy, [84] 27,27; [86] 29,29
judgment day: fear of, [93] 38,39
justice, [92] 37; [96] 41,42; [100] 47
justification, [94] 38,39; [103] 52,53
kinship:

301

physical and spiritual, [69] 3,3


Lamb of God, [84] 27,27; [95] 40,41; [101] 49,49
following Christ, [85] 28,28; [86] 29,29; [95] 40,41
married people following, [102] 51,52
law, [93] 38,39
life: a trial, [101] 48,48
Lord's Prayer:
Forgive us our trespasses, [100-101] 48,48
love, [68] 1,1; [84] 27,27; [87] 31,31; [92] 38; [96] 41,42; [104] 55,56
fear: loving/not loving, [93] 38,39
forgiven much; given much, [97] 42; [103] 52,53
for greater gifts; love more, [95-96] 40,41
greatest gift, [99] 47
licit; sacrificed, [105] 55,56
martyrdom, [104] 53,54
security, [103] 52,53
three young men (Daniel), [105] 56,57

302

virginity protected by, [102] 51,52


lust, [90] 34
lying, [77] 17,17; 18,18; [101] 49,49
marital act, See sexual union.
marriage (married people), [78] 20; [87] 30,30
234
See also celibacy; divorce; husband and wife; separation
See adultery.
better, than to burn, [68] 1,1; [72] 9,9
burdens in, [76] 16,16
celibacy superior to, [68] 1,1; [78] 19,19
chastity in, [79] 20
condemning, [77] 18,18
envy of virgins, [86] 29,29
eunuchs and, [82] 24,24
excellence; does not surpass virginity, [71] 7,7
See fidelity.
following Christ, [85] 28,28

303

following the Lamb, [102] 51,52


not a sin to marry (Paul), [75] 14,14; 15,15; [77] 17,17; 18,18; [79] 20
Paul does not condemn, [76] 17,17
perfection of, [79,80] 21,21
prepared for martyrdom, [99] 47
producing virgins, [72] 10
punishment in the next life, [78] 20
rejected by virgins, [105] 55,56
troubles in, [81] 23,23
virgin's heart free from, [104] 54,55
virginity and, [68] 1,1; [87] 31,31; [98] 46; [100] 47
worldly cares in, [74] 13; 14,14
marriage bond:
forgoing bonds of, [95] 40,41
marriage (Old Testament):
prophetic character, [68] 1,1
married women:

304

Christ's mothers, [71] 6,6


virgins hoping to marry and, [73] 11,11
martyr (-s; -dom), [98] 44,45
gift hidden until tested, [99] 47
married people prepared for, [99] 47
ranked above virginity, [99] 46
supreme degree of love, [104] 53,54
virgins and, [98,99] 46
Mary, Blessed Virgin, [68] 2,2; [78] 20
chosen by God, [69] 4,4
Christians share in motherhood of Christ, [70] 5,5
consecrated to God, [69] 4,4
example for virgins, [71] 7,7
faith of, [69] 3,3
honored for virginity and motherhood, [71] 7,7
model for consecrated virgins, [69] 4,4
mother and virgin, [70-71] 6,6

305

mother of members of the Church, [70] 6,6


mother of whole Church, [70] 5,5
virginity, and the Church, [70] 6,6
Mary Magdalen, [93] 38; [94] 38,39; [96] 41,42
mercy, [91] 36,36; [92] 37
merit, [80] 21,21; [84] 26,26
Messiah:
mind, [72] 8,8
modesty, [90] 34
money, [72] 9,9
mother (-hood):
cooperate in holy child-bearing, [71] 7,7
holy virginity and, [72] 8,8
mutilation: male organs, [82] 24,24
Mystical Body:
role of Mary and the Church, [68] 2,2; [70] 6,6
name:

306

everlasting, [83] 25,25; [86] 30,30


nonbelievers, See unbelievers.
obedience:
See also commandments
celibacy and the commandments, [96] 41,42
comparison: wife and virgin, [98] 44,45
offerings: commandments and, [86] 30,30
olive tree, [68] 1,1; [94] 38,39
opinions, [77] 17,17
ownership:
everything held in common, [99] 46
peace, [91] 35,35
perfection:
people compared, [98] 44,45
Pharisee:
tax collector and, [88] 32,32; [93] 38; [95] 40,41; [97] 43,44
piety, [72] 8,8; [97] 42

307

pleasure, [90] 34
poverty: voluntary, [99] 46
prayer, [96] 41,42l
235
pride, [87] 31,31; [91] 35,35; [93] 38,39; [95] 40,41; [98] 44,45; [100] 47; [102] 50; 51,52;
[103] 52,53; [104] 53,54
afflicts the virtuous, [89] 34
deception re vocation, [105] 56,57
false humility, [97] 43,44
insulting sinners, [88] 32,32
virginity and, [68] 1,1
virgins refraining from marriage, [90] 34
priesthood, See ordination.
procreation:
See also children; marriage
eunuchs and, [82] 24,24
prophets:
descendants, [72] 9,9

308

marriage (O.T.), [68] 1,1


prostitutes, [91] 36,36
punishment, [94] 38,39
rape, [73] 10
redemption, [75] 14,14; [93] 38; [104] 54,55
repentance, [96] 41,42
reward, [78] 19,19; [84] 26,26; [87] 31,31; [93] 38,39
saints, [84] 26,26
salvation, [75] 14,14; [93, 94] 38,39
Satan, [76] 16,16
scandal, [94] 39,40
self-control, [76] 16,16; [80] 21,21
self-glorification, [103] 52,53
self-satisfaction, [90] 34
sensuality, [92] 38
servant: great persons and, [102] 51
sexual restraint, See abstinence; continence.

309

sick people, [91] 36,36


sin:
See also consent; desire
avoiding, [96] 41,42; [100] 48,48
commandments, [74-75] 14,14
human frailty, [101] 50
if we say we are without, [101] 49,49
mortal; venial, [76] 16,16
never entirely free from, [100] 48,48
pardon sins of others, [103] 52,53
pleasure in confessing, [101] 50
possibility of a sinless life, [102] 51
sinners, [100] 48,48
forgiven, [95] 40,41
humility, [91] 36,36
pride afflicting, [89] 34
proud treatment of, [88] 32,32

310

slaves, [89] 32,32


buying, to make Christians, [72] 9,9
Son of God:
become a created object, [91] 35,35
form of a slave, [70] 4,4
Son of Man:
no place to lay his head, [102] 51,52
song, [84] 27,27
soul, See also body and soul.
spinsters, [89] 34
spirit:
See also Holy Spirit
hidden strength in, [100] 47
spirituality,
kinship, [69] 3,3
spouses, See husband and wife.
sterility, [68] 1,1

311

strength: experience, [103] 52,53


suffering:
following Christ, [89] 32,32
fruitfulness of, [99] 46
test; martyrdom, [100] 47
superiority, [103] 52,53
Susanna, [78] 20
falsely accused, [79] 20
tax collector:
Pharisee and, [88] 32,32; [93] 38; [97] 43,44
temporal goods:
fear of losing, [93] 38,39
temptation, [100] 47
Thecla, [98] 44,45
torture, [100] 47
truth, [77] 17,17; 18,18; [78] 19,19; [82] 24,24; [83] 25,25; [95] 40,41; [100] 47
unmarried persons:

312

pleasing the Lord, [80] 22,22


unmarried women:
concern for the Lord, [98] 44,45
free to love God, [95] 40,41
virgins and, [81] 22,22
236
vanity, [102] 51,52
virgin birth, [71] 6,6
virginity, [76] 16,16
angelic life on earth, [103] 53,54
approved rather than commanded, [70] 4,4
condemning marriage, [77] 18,18
consecrated; honorable, [72] 8,8
counsel, not a command, [75] 15,15
excellence of marriage does not surpass, [71] 7,7
fertility and, [69] 2,2
following Christ, [85] 28,28; [101] 49,49
gift corrupted by pride, [89] 33,33

313

heavenly immortality, [74] 13


holiness of, [94] 39,40
hundredfold fruit, [98] 46
lost, it does not return, [85] 27,27; [101] 49,49
love; pride, [68] 1,1
marriage and, [68] 1,1; [100] 47
martyrdom ranked higher than, [99] 46
needs of the present time, [74] 13; [75] 14,14; [78] 19,19; [80] 21,21
not compulsory, [86] 30,30
preservation, [71] 7,7
protected by love and humility, [102] 51,52
superior to physical motherhood, [72] 9,9; 10
willing; company of virgins, [92] 37
virgins:
all women born as, [73] 10
betrothed to Christ, [73] 12
Church's virginity and, [68] 2,2

314

commandment and, [75] 14,14


comparison with O.T. fathers and mothers, [68] 1,1
concerned with Lord's interests, [98] 44,45
consecrated:
Christ's mothers, [71] 6,6
Church gives birth to, [73] 12
conceiving Christ in the heart, [73] 11,11
consecration makes a virgin, [73] 11,11
greater glory in heaven, [74] 14,14
Mary as model, [69] 4,4
superior perfection, [73] 10
contemplate Incarnate Savior, [104] 54,55
envy of married Christians, [86] 29,29
faults to be confessed, [101] 49,49
follow Christ in humility, [90] 35,35
following the Lamb, [84] 27,27; [84] 27,27; [101] 49,49; [103] 52,53
free to love God, [95] 40,41

315

fruit of life of, [98] 46


hidden defects, [98] 44,45
holy fear, [93] 38,39
hoping to marry, [73] 11,11
Jesus as model for, [92] 37
love Christ as spouse, [104-105] 55,56
love more because of greater gifts, [95] 40,41
pretense of humility, [97] 43,44
sacredness, [105] 56,57
saved from many sins, [96] 41,42
special joy of, [85] 27,27
suitors and, [78] 18,18
superiority over others, [98] 44,45
unmarried women and, [81] 22,22
wanting to marry, [89-90] 34
wise, [97] 42
vocation:

316

holier calling; pride, [105] 56,57


wickedness, See also good and evil
widow (-s; -hood), [78] 19,19; [80] 21,21; [89] 34
celibacy [78] 18,18
virgins and, [98,99] 46
will of God:
Christians as mothers of Christ, [70] 5,5
wisdom,
gift from God, [97] 42
wives, See husband and wife.
wolves (have holes), [102] 51,52
woman (women),See also husband and wife; unmarried women; virgins
world, [105] 56,57
woe, because of scandals, [94] 39,40
Zacchaeus, [91] 36,36
Zebedee, sons of, [88] 32,32
237

317

The Excellence of Widowhood, pages 109-137


Abraham, [118] 7
abstinence:
See also celibacy
adultery, [117] 6
broken vow of widowhood, [123] 11,14; [129] 17,21
consecrated virgins who marry, [122] 10,13
alms, [133] 21,26
angels, [124] 12,15
Anna (widow), [116] 4; [124] 13,16; [125] 14,17; [127] 16,20
extolled for chaste widowhood, [125] 13,16
recognized Christ in the virgin mother, [126] 18
Ruth and, [120] 7
three factors in merits of, [125] 18
worthy to be Christ's prophetess, [119] 7
beauty:
interior, [131] 19,23

318

love keeps fresh, [131] 24


body and soul:
See also human body
carnal union, See sexual union.
Cataphrygians, [116] 6; [117] 7
celibacy (celibates), [120] 8,11; [124] 13,16
See also abstinence; chastity; virginity
attraction as gift, [127] 16,20
fruits of, [117] 7
if everyone were celibate, [135] 23,28
lapse from the greater perfection, [121-122] 9,12
loving and preserving, [130] 18,22; 19,23
marriage and, [126] 15,19
See also sexual union
vow must be kept, [121] 8,11; [121-122] 9,12
charity, [114] 1,1; [117] 5
chastity (in marriage), [121] 9,12

319

beauty of, [131] 24


gift of God, [116] 4; [128,129] 17,21
spiritual pleasures, [133] 21,26
virgins and widows, [136] 29
vow:
to Christ, [122] 10,13
perseverance, [124] 13,16
pleasure that might have been, [123] 11,14
widow's celibacy is better than, [117] 5
children:
care and education, [125] 18
child-bearing not a duty (Paul), [120] 8,11
heart or flesh, [132] 20,25
See procreation.
Church:
one husband, Christ, [122] 10,13
commandments:

320

grace and carrying out, [128] 17,21


grace and free will, [128] 17,21
wisdom and chastity, [129] 17,21
compassion, [134] 22,27
conjugal love, See chastity; husband and wife; sexual union.
conscience:
good name, [134] 22,27
continence, [120] 7; [121] 8,11; [121] 9,12; [126] 15,19; [129] 17,21
creation:
everything very good, [118-119] 9
damnation:
vowed to celibacy, desires to marry, [121] 9,12
desire:
restraint of, [132] 20,25
devotion:
widows judged by, [125] 14,17
divorce:

321

remarriage after, See remarriage.


divorce and adultery:
See also remarriage
encouragement, [114] 2; [135] 23,28
end of the world, [120] 8,11; [135] 23,28
evil, See good and evil.
example, [135] 23,28
excellence, [117] 6
238
eyes, [118] 9; [133] 21,26
faith, [115] 3,4
fasting, [133] 21,26
Faustus, [127] 15,19
fidelity, [115] 3,4; [116] 4
flesh, [120] 8,11
See also body and soul
fornication, [115] 3,4; [117] 6; [118] 6,8; [129] 17,21
free will:

322

grace and God's commands, [128] 17, 21; [129] 18,22


future, [132] 20,25
gift (-s; -from God), [133] 21,26
See also grace
chastity, [128,129] 17,21
choosing not to marry, [127] 16,20
each has his own, [116] 5
good works, [129] 18,22
keeping the commandments, [128] 17,21
what have you not received, [128] 16,20
widowhood, [127] 16,20
good name:
reputation: praise, [134] 22,27
good works, [133] 21,26
gift from God, [129] 18,22
looking good to others, [134] 22,27
goodness:

323

good (term) meaning better, [117] 7


totality of created things, [119] 9
grace:
exhortations as effective, [129] 18,22
helpful words, [130] 18,22
warning against opponents of, [128] 17,21
grandmother, [131-132] 24
greed, [133] 21,26
happiness:
natural, [124] 13,16
heart:
lift up your hearts, [127] 16,20
spiritual pleasures, [133] 21,26
holiness, [132] 24
bodies of married women, [118] 6,8
holy mind, holy body, [118] 6,8
Holy Spirit:

324

body as temple of, [118] 6,8


gifts of, [127] 16,20
honor, [135] 22,27
hope:
desire, [132] 20,25
human body:
made holy by holy mind, [118] 6,8
parts; functions, [115] 3,4
spirit rules body, [119] 9
temple of the Holy Spirit [118] 6,8
husband and wife:
husbands afar a long time, [132] 20,25
Old Testament, [119] 7
wife is bound as long as husband is alive, [123] 12,15
hymns, [131] 24
insanity, [126] 15,19
integrity (the word), [129] 17,21

325

Israel: nation as prophet of Christ, [119] 7


Jesus Christ:
See also Christian life
See Church.
King captivated by beauty of bride, [131] 24
passion; ugliness in the Redeemer, [130] 19,23
way, truth, and life, [131] 19,23
Juliana (addressee), [114]
justice, [135] 22,27
knowledge:
good measure, [114] 2
wisdom and, [129] 17,21
Lord's Prayer:
Lead us not into temptation, [128] 17,21
love, [127] 16,20; [132] 20,25
beauty and, [131] 24
lust, [132] 20,25

326

marital act, See sexual union.


marriage (married people):
See also celibacy; divorce; husband and wife; separation
See adultery.
benefits of, [135] 23,28
better than lapsing from virginity, [121] 8,11
239
better, than to burn, [120] 8,11
cure for weakness; discomfort, [121] 8,11
desire for, by one vowed to celibacy, [121-122] 9,12
See fidelity.
first and second, [122] 10,13
first marriage should be rejected, [120] 8,11
goodness of, [115] 3,4; [116] 4; [120,121] 8,11
holy in body and spirit, [118] 6,8
honorable, [117] 7
longing for, [132] 20,25

327

multiple, [123] 12,15


Paul does not condemn, [126] 15,19
rejection of, [131] 24
renouncing, as gift, [127] 16,20
resurrection of the dead, [124] 12,15
temporal concerns, [130] 19,23
virginity and [126] 15,19
marriage (Old Testament)
chaste, [127] 15,19
purpose of sexual union, [119] 7
several wives, [45] 13,15; [119] 7
married women:
adulteress, [122] 10,13
free to remarry after husband dies, [124] 12,15
Mary, Blessed Virgin, [127] 16,20
meditation, [133] 21,26
merit:

328

widows, [124] 13,16


Messiah:
foreseen by Anna (prophetess), [119] 7
mind:
holy, [118] 6,8
mistress, [122] 10,13
money, [133] 21,26
moon, [118] 9
morality: encouragement, [114] 2
nonbelievers, See unbelievers.
Novationists, [116] 6; [117] 7
obedience:
See also commandments
passion, [132] 20,25
perception: senses, [133] 21,26
perfection:
love for the greater, [127] 16,20

329

perseverance, [132] 20,25


persuasion, [129] 18,22
Peter, Saint, Apostle, [117] 7
pleasure, [125] 18; [130] 19,23
comfort in carnal pleasure, [133] 21,26
polygamy:
Old Testament, [119] 7
praise: good name, [134] 22,27
prayer, [133] 21,26; [135] 29
thanks for gifts received, [129] 17,21
priesthood, See ordination.
procreation:
See also children; marriage
natural human desire, [121] 8,11
transcending desire for, [121] 8,11
prophets:
Christ and, [119] 7

330

prostitutes, [118] 6,8


remarriage:
unable to contain oneself, [120] 8,11
reputation:
maintaining a good name, [134] 22,27
resurrection of the dead:
marriages after, [124] 12,15
reward, [135] 22,27
riches: desire for, [133] 21,26
Ruth, [116] 4; [119] 10;7; [120] 7
Sadducees, [123] 12,15
Sarah, [117] 7; [118] 6,8; [119] 10
Satan, [116] 5; [120] 8,11
second marriage(s):
honorable, [117] 5,7
honored less, [116] 6
multiple marriages, [123] 12,15

331

not condemned, [116] 4


not evil, [123] 11,14
widow is more blessed, [116] 4
senses, [133] 21,26
sensuality, [120] 8,11; [133] 21,26
sexual restraint, See abstinence; continence.
sexual union:
denial of pleasure of, [133] 21,26
exceeding purpose of having children, [116] 4
refusing the marital act, [116] 5
240
virgins and widows refrain from, [129] 17,21
women of the O.T., [119] 7
sin, See also consent; desire
soul:
See also body and soul.
spirit:
See also Holy Spirit

332

rules the body, [119] 9


spirituality:
let spiritual pleasure displace carnal, [133] 21,26
spouses, See husband and wife.
star, [118] 9
sun, [118] 9
temptation, [131] 24
Lead us not, [128] 17,21
Tertullian, [116] 6; [117] 7
thanksgiving, [129] 17,21
time, [132] 20,25
truth, [130] 18,22; [131] 19,23
unmarried (the word, in Paul), [114] 2
unmarried persons:
extra attention to the Lord, [130] 19,23
honorable state, [117] 7
unmarried women:

333

concern for the Lord, [115] 2


holy in body and spirit, [118] 6,8
reputation; good name, [134] 22,27
vigils, [133] 21,26
virgin birth:
foreseen by Anna (prophetess), [119] 7
virginity:
born again in the mother, [126] 18
celibacy in widowhood and, [126] 15,19
daughter as virgin, [120] 8,11; [126] 18; [131-132] 24; [136] 29
excellence of marriage does not surpass, [126] 15,19
virgins, [115] 2
consecrated:
marriage as adultery, [122] 10,13
hymns that only virgins can sing (Apoc.), [131] 24
virtue, [134] 22,27
vow:

334

failure to carry out, [123] 11,14


wickedness:
See also good and evil
widow (-s; -hood):
better to stay as you are, [124] 12,15
cases, [125] 14,17
celibacy [131] 24
celibacy better than married chastity, [117] 5
chastity, [115] 3,4; [120] 7; 8,11; [121] 9,12
Christ as second husband, [122] 10,13
excellence of, [114-136] 1,1-20
gift from God, [127] 16,20
good of, [115] 3,4
judged by religious devotion, [125] 14,17
living life of pleasure, [133] 21,26
Paul's teaching, [114] 2
relative merits among, [124] 13,16

335

second marriage and, [116] 4,6


vow broken; adultery, [123] 11,14
vow to remain celibate, [130] 19,23
way of life, [114] 1,1
will:
enlarged; strength, [128] 17,21
wisdom:
recognition of gifts, [129] 17,21
wives, See husband and wife.
wolves (have holes),
woman (women):
See also husband and wife; unmarried women; virgins
Catholics as superior, [126] 15,19
superiority of Catholic women, [126] 15,19
work, [133] 21,26
world,[127] 16,20; [128] 17,21; [130] 19,23
passing away, [132] 20,25

336

wrongdoing, [134] 22,27


241
Adulterous Marriages, pages 138-187
abstinence:
See also celibacy
adultery:
baptism of adulterers, [166] 28,35
changing Christ's law (Pollentius), [175] 10,9
Christ forgives sin of, [171] 6,5
dissolving a marriage (Pollentius), [168] 2,2
divorce and, [144] 1,1
divorce as cause of, [145] 2,2
flesh or spirit, [165] 25
forcing wife to commit, [183] 17,18
forgive adulterous spouse, [180] 15
husbands punish adulterous wives, [179] 14,14
marriage bond (Pollentius), [169] 4; [170] 5; [170-171] 5

337

marriage bond not broken by, [178] 13,13


pity for man forced to live in, [176] 11,11
procreation as purpose of, [176] 12
proof of, [173] 8,7
second death, for eternity, [176] 11,11
sinful spouse regarded as having died, [169] 3,3; [169] 4
spouse is ill or far away, [178] 13,13
wife may leave husband because of, [145] 3
wife's celibacy as cause, [146] 4,4
winning people for Christ, [162] 22
woman forgiven by Christ, [174] 9,8
advice, [158] 22; [159] 19,23; [160] 20,24; [162] 26
Antoninus, Emperor, [173] 8,7
baptism,[171] 6,5
adulterers (dying), [166] 28,35
dying catechumens, [165] 26,33; [166] 28,35
excommunication and, [170] 5

338

fear for those unable to answer for themselves, [165] 26,33


forgiveness of sins,[181] 16,16; [182,183] 17,18
uncertainty about intention, [166] 26,33
body and soul:
See also human body
carnal union, See sexual union.
catechumens:
adultery as impediment, [181] 16,16
last moments of life, [165-166] 26,33; [166] 28,35
celibacy (celibates),[178] 12
See also abstinence; chastity; virginity
aspiring to perfection, [184] 18,19
burden is Christ's, [185] 19,20
case: wife wants to be celibate, [146] 4,4
circumstances preventing intercourse, [175] 10,9
divorce for sake of, [145] 3
free choice of, [185] 19,20

339

gift from God, [184] 18,19


inability for, [177] 12
motivation, [184] 18,19
not compulsory (Pollentius), [174] 10,9
possible with God's help, [184] 19,20
reconciliation refused, [173] 9,8
separation for sake of, [175] 10
See also sexual union
vow; break to marry one who promises to convert, [164] 24,30
charity:
law and, [155] 14,15
staying with unbelieving spouse, [158] 22
chastity (in marriage), [172] 7,6
difficult for separated women, [183] 17,18
help in preserving, [179] 14,14
honor of earthly city, [173] 8,7
male standards, [185-186] 20,21; 22

340

marital, [185] 19,20; [186] 22


same rule for men and women, [172,173] 8,7
unbelieving spouse, [157] 20
vow:
free choice, [185] 19,20
marriage would not be good, [155] 15,16
mutual consent, [164] 24,30
242
woman divorced for adultery, [170] 4
children:
baptism; use of reason, [166] 26,33
See procreation.
Christians:
marriage to pagans, [153] 13,14
clergy (clerical state):
celibacy, [186] 22
constrained by people to take burden of, [186] 22
honor; consolation, [186] 22

341

commandments:
absolute following of Lord's commands, [162] 22
God's authority, [158] 22
loving obedience, [155] 14,15
compassion,[155] 14,15; [158] 22; [179] 15
conjugal love, See chastity; husband and wife; sexual union.
conscience, [172] 7,6
consent:
avoiding marital duty, [145] 2,2
continence,[148] 7,7
See also self-control
many forms, [183] 18,19
separation and desire for, [146] 4,4
conversion:
marrying one who promises to convert, [164] 24,30
Cyprian, Blessed, [164] 25
David, King, [171] 6,5

342

death:
adulterer regarded as having died, [169] 3,3; [169] 4; [170- 171] 5
baptism; uncertainty, [166] 28,35
justification for Reconciliation; for baptism, [167] 28,35
marriage bond, [170-171] 5
disease, [175] 10,9; [178] 13,13
divorce:
celibacy as purpose of, [145] 3; [149] 7,7
chaste wife; husband must remain unmarried, [168] 2,2
Christ's law as inhuman, [175] 10
condition: woman may not remarry, [148] 7,7
divorced woman is still a wife, [153] 12,13
nonbelieving spouse, [156] 19,18
Paul advises; the Lord does not forbid, [159] 19,23; 20,24
Pharisees question Jesus, [152] 11,12
reasons other than adultery, [182] 17
reconciliation impossible, [174] 10,9

343

remarriage after, See remarriage.


right to remarry, [144] 1,1
unbelievers, [153, 154] 13,14; [159] 19,23
unbelieving spouse, [159] 19,23
divorce and adultery, See also remarriage
adulterer and adulteress, [153] 12,13
anyone who divorces and, [174] 9,8; [175] 10
cause of adultery, [145] 2,2
commit sin to win a soul for Christ, [163] 23,29
divorce apart from adultery (Mt 19:9), [149] 8,8
driven to kill first husband, [182] 17
everyone who leaves his wife, [183] 17,18
husband or wife divorce and remarry, [151] 10; 10,11; [152] 11,12
husband's adultery as grounds for, [144] 1,1
Jesus added exception, [149] 9,9
man divorces, then marries another, [163] 22
marrying a divorced woman, [150] 9,9; [153] 12,13; [162] 27

344

Matthew interpreted by other gospels, [151] 11,12; [162] 22


obligation of chastity remains, [170] 4
only grounds for divorce, [147] 5,5; [168] 2,2
Pollentius on, [168] 2,2ff; [182] 17,18
spouse marrying another, after divorce, [165] 25
textual variants in Matthew's gospel, [151] 10,11
vows must be kept, [163] 24,30
wife unable to be celibate, [183] 17,18
woman blamed if man remarries, [147] 6,6
woman may not remarry, [148] 6,6
woman's right to leave husband, [147] 5,5; [148] 7,7
dogs:
do not give holy things to, [166] 27,34
243
donkeys, [156] 16,17
duty: free choice, [154] 14,15
eunuchs, [183-184] 18,19

345

made so for kingdom of heaven, [184] 18,19


evil, See good and evil.
excommunication:
sacrament of rebirth and, [170] 5
faith, [171] 6,5; [183] 18,19; [185] 19,20
lacking; adultery of the spirit, [156] 19
unbelieving spouse made holy, [153] 13,14
withholding forgiveness and, [172] 7,6
fear, [186] 22;
flesh, [179] 13,13; [186] 20,21
See also body and soul
baptism of adulterers, [166] 28,35
food, [154] 14,15
everything is clean, [155] 14,15
forgiveness:
injustice of others, [179] 15
reconciliation of spouses, [171] 6,5

346

withholding; lack of faith, [172] 7,6


forgiveness of sin:
power of the keys, [174] 9,8
free will:
sin and, [156] 16,17
freedom of choice, [162] 26
Gehenna, [186] 22
Gentiles, [157] 20; [164] 25
gift (-s; -from God):
See also grace
glory, [185] 19,20
gods:
worship, [157] 20
good and evil:
doing evil to achieve the good, [163] 23,29
forbidden things, [155] 16,17
impossible for nonpermissible to be good, [155] 15,16

347

nothing good that is wrong, [164] 31


permissible distinguished from good, [155] 16,17
something not wrong is not always good, [165] 25
things permitted but not good, [156] 17,18
what is lawful may not be good, [155] 15,16
good works:
free offering as more pleasing, [155] 14,15
goodness:
permissible is not always good, [155] 15,16
grace, [157] 20; [183] 17,18
Gregorian Codex, [173] 8,7
heart:
unclean; spiritual understanding, [166] 27,34
heaven:
eunuchs in, [184] 18,19
Holy Spirit, [157,158] 21; [164] 25
honor, [186] 22

348

human body:
authority; husband and wife, [147] 5,5; [149] 8,8
husband and wife:
adultery allows woman to separate, [148] 7,7
adultery, celibacy, divorce, [145] 3
authority over one's body, [145] 2,2; [146] 4,4; [147] 5,5; [149] 8,8
bound as long as spouse lives, [178] 13,13
case: wife wants to practice celibacy, [146] 4,4
consent to life of celibacy, [144] 1,1; [145] 2,2; [146] 3
husband not adulterer, wife cannot leave, [146] 3
marriage rules apply equally, [149] 8,8; [172] 8,7
one spouse a nonbeliever, [165] 25
one with faith; the other without, [153] 13,14
pardon for adultery, [179] 14,14
reconciliation after adultery, [171] 6,5
same religion; stay married to each other, [160-161] 21,25
same rule of chastity, [173] 8,7

349

separation from nonbeliever, [155] 15,16


staying with unbelieving spouse, [157] 21
244
taking life of adulterous wife, [180] 15
wife is bound as long as husband is alive, [162] 27; [170] 4; [170-171] 5; [174] 9,8
wife leaves intending to remain unmarried, [146] 3
wife leaves non-adulterer husband, [148] 6,6; 7,7
wife leaves, should remain unmarried, [168] 2,2
wife should not leave; husband should not divorce, [144] 1,1; [146] 4,4
wife who leaves must stay unmarried, [144] 1,1; [145-146] 3; [162] 27
wives put up with adulterer, [147] 6,6
ignorance: sin, [150] 9,9
Jesus Christ, [181] 16,16; [186] 22
See also Christian life
See Church.
woman who committed adultery and, [171] 6,5; [172] 7,6
judging others, [165] 26,33
justice, [159] 19,23; [162] 22

350

salvation and, [158] 22


things permitted but not good, [156] 17,18
kindness, [182] 17
law:
everything unlawful is not good, [155] 15,16
love; obeying freely, [154] 14,15
Lord's Prayer:
Forgive us our trespasses, [180] 15
love, [179] 13,13
things done freely in, [154] 14,15
unforced goodness of, [156] 17,18
lust, [172] 8,7
marital act, See sexual union.
marriage (married people):
See also celibacy; divorce; husband and wife; separation
See adultery.
better, than to burn, [177] 12; [178] 12

351

Christians and pagans, [153] 13,14


See fidelity.
institution for sake of children, [177] 12
not a sin to marry (Paul), [164] 25; [177] 12
respectability of, [177] 12
rules apply equally, [149] 8,8; [172] 8,7
spouses of different faiths, [161] 21,25; 26
staying married is permissible and good, [155] 15,16
value = procreation, [178] 12
virginity and, [158] 22
women who cannot be celibate, [155] 15,16
marriage bond:
adultery does not dissolve, [169] 4; [170-171] 5
breaking (cases), [175] 10
broken only by death, [178] 13,13
lasts until death, [170-171] 5
not broken by adultery, [178] 13,13

352

Pollentius on, [182,183] 17,18


union with others; adultery, [174] 9,8
woman bound as long as husband lives, [176] 10
marriage (Old Testament):
command to divorce foreign wives, [157] 20
duty of having children, [177] 12
forbidden to marry foreigner, [157] 20
men:
chastity equally required of, [172,173] 8,7
laws of court re chastity, [173] 8,7
standards of chastity, [185-186] 20,21; 22
mercy, [172] 7,6; [179] 14,14
mixed marriages, [153] 13,14
Moses, [157] 20
murder:
accusing Christ, [181] 16,16
led to, by adultery, [181] 17

353

preventing by allowing divorce and remarriage, [182] 17


taking life of adulteress, [180] 15
nonbelievers, See unbelievers.
245
obedience:
See also commandments
Onan, [177] 12
pardon, [179] 14,14
passion, [172] 8,7; [186] 20,21
Paul, Saint, Apostle:
listen to, for advice, [164] 25
slave of everyone, [154] 14,15; [157] 19
penance (sacrament), [171] 6,5; [183] 17,18
penitent: living in adultery, [181] 16,16
permissible things:
goodness, [155-156] 15,16-19
perversions, [184] 18,19

354

Pollentius, [144] 1,1ff; [160] 21,25ff; [168] 1,1ff; [179] 14,14; [181] 16,16
prayer, [179] 13,13
marital duty and, [145] 2,2
priesthood, See ordination.
procreation:
See also children; marriage
purpose of marriage, [177] 12
remarriage for purpose of, [176] 11,11
unnecessary for Christians, [177] 12
reason: sin and, [156] 16,17
reconciliation:
penitent living in adultery, [181] 16,16
refused, must adopt celibacy, [173] 9,8
redemption:
not all are redeemed, [155] 15,16
remarriage:
adultery, [145] 2,2

355

adultery and the marriage bond, [169] 3,3


desire to marry again, [186] 22
after divorce, [162] 27
divorced women, [183] 17,18
killing, to change adultery to marriage, [182] 17
motive for, [164] 24,30
permanent state of adultery, [181] 16,16; 17; [184] 19,20
procreation as purpose, [176] 11,11
right denied wife who leaves husband, [144] 1,1
scandal, [148] 6,6
when divorce is allowed, [147] 6,6; [148] 7,7
wife leaves husband adulterer, [168] 2,2
wife of deceased husband, [160] 21,25
wife, not adulteress, divorced, [149] 9,9; [163] 22
wife, who commits adultery, [149] 9,9
repentance, [178] 13,13; [181] 16,16
reward, [154] 14,15

356

sacraments:
dying catechumens, [166] 26,33
saints, [179] 13,13
salvation, [162] 22; [185] 19,20
hindering that of unbelievers, [158] 22
jeopardizing, [186] 22
Saul, King, [171] 6,5
scandal:
remarriage, [148] 6,6; [158] 22
second marriage(s), [144] 1,1
separation:
celibacy as motive for, [175] 10
celibacy required if no reconciliation, [178] 13,13
chastity difficult for women, [183] 17,18
husband refuses to be celibate, [168] 2,2
temptation, [186] 22
woman must remain unmarried, [178] 13,13

357

sermon on the mount, [151] 10,11


sexual restraint, See abstinence; continence.
sexual union:
disease preventing intercourse, [175] 10,9
experience; licit and illicit, [184] 18,19
shameful if conception is precluded, [177] 12
spouses of a different religion, [160] 21,25
when wife is intolerable, [182] 17
sin:
See also consent; desire
doing something that is not good to do, [156] 16,17
246
ignorance, [150] 9,9
knowing right thing to do, [150] 9,9
less serious, still as sin [150] 9,9
let whoever is without sin, [172] 7,6; [179] 14,14
reason and free will, [156] 16,17
slaves, [165] 26,33

358

soul, See also body and soul.


spirit:
See also Holy Spirit
adultery of, [156] 19
spouses, See husband and wife.
sterility, [176] 11,11
strictness: encourages violence, [181] 16,16
Syria, [186] 20,21
tax: Christ's example, [154] 14,15
temporal goods:
promised (O.T.), [157] 20
Trinity: works are indivisible, [158] 21
truth, [179] 14,14
unbelievers:
adultery in the heart, [157] 20
divorce (good) or not (better), [159] 19,23
leaving spouse is not forbidden, [157] 19

359

marriage to a believer, [153] 13,14


one spouse comes to belief, [161] 21,25; 26
separation and salvation of, [158] 22
understanding:
unclean hearts, [166] 27,34
unmarried women:
wife who leaves husband, [145] 3
violence:
strictness encourages (Pollentius), [181] 16,16
virginity:
marriage and, [158] 22
virgins:
advised not to marry, [158] 22; [164] 25
virtue:
honor due to, [186] 20,21
men surpassing women in, [172] 8,7
vow:

360

damnation; breaking a vow, [164] 24,30


promise to convert, [164] 24,30
unconditional, must be kept, [163] 24,30
wickedness:
See also good and evil
widow (-s; -hood):
free to marry, [164] 25
wives, See husband and wife.
woman (women):
See also husband and wife; unmarried women; virgins
chaste and loyal wives, [183] 17,18
male standards of chastity, [186] 20,21; 22
weaker sex, [186] 20,21
wrongdoing:
acts contrary to authority of the Lord, [162] 27
advice re something not forbidden, [160] 20,24
choice between several wrong acts, [162] 27

361

knowing right thing to do, [150] 9,9


not good to do what is not wrong, [158] 22
zeal, [185] 19,20
Continence, pages 188-218
abstinence:
See also celibacy
Adam:
human nature as created, [208] 21
adultery, [213] 12,26
false continence and, [214] 27
Angels, [204] 16
avarice, [216] 29
baptism, [205,206] 18
beauty:
three orderly pairs, [209] 23
blasphemy, [196] 4
247

362

body and soul:


created good, [207] 20
future life; qualities, [208] 21
See also human body
weighed down by corruptible body, [208] 21
work to bring harmony in, [206] 8,19; [212] 11,25
chance: sin blamed on, [203] 14
change:
created goodness subject to, [208] 21
human nature subject to, [205] 18
charity, [205] 7,17
preservation, [194] 1,1
chastity (in marriage), [217] 31
children:
See procreation.
children of God, [215] 13,28
Christian life:

363

hidden with God in Christ, [215] 29


risen with Christ, [215] 29
Church:
carnal, [211] 11,25
Christ cares for, [209] 23
Christ's love for, as model, [209] 9,22
healing of its infirmities, [212] 11,25
Manichee view of, [210] 23; [211] 10,24
no spot or wrinkle, [209] 9,22; [212] 11,25
nourishes and nurtures the flesh, [208] 21; [209] 9,22
persons: spiritual and carnal, [212] 11,25
restrained with corrections, [213] 11,25
subject to Christ, [211,212] 11,25
subordinate to Christ, [209] 23
conscience:
continence of the heart, [194] 2
consent:

364

desires of the flesh, [207] 8,19; 20


devil's suggestions, [203] 14
guilt in secret, [196] 4
lapse of the heart, [195] 2,3
mind withholds, [216] 29
consolation, [213] 11,25
continence, [202] 13; [217] 31
See also self-control
battle against human defect, [207] 20
conquering carnal desire, [202] 5,12
devil's suggestions, [200] 4,10
evil impulses put to death by, [216] 29
faith requires works of, [216] 14,30
gift from God, [194] 1,1; [204] 7,17; [213,214] 12,26; [217] 32
healing infirmities, [206] 18
justice joined to, [204] 7,17
maintained in the heart, [196] 5

365

mouth, lips, heart, [194] 2


nothing to do (in eternity), [207] 20
perverse motives, [213] 12,26
referring to reproductive organs, [196] 5
resisting vices, [210] 23
restrain pleasures in conflict with wisdom, [215] 13,28
restraint (fruit of the spirit), [199] 9
restraint and salvation, [215] 29
ruling over passion and desire, [215] 13,28
spirit and, [214] 13,28
struggle with evil desires, [197] 3,6
suppress some evils to have others, [214] 13,28
sweetness; pleasurable, [198] 7
true and false, [213] 12,26
true faith and, [214] 12,26
unclean, [213] 12,26
weapons for justice, [199] 8

366

creation:
origin of all created good, [205] 18
crime, [213] 12,26
external deeds, [196] 4
darkness:
Manichees, [209] 9,22; [211] 10,24
death:
enemy, [197] 3,6
it is not I who live, [215] 29
living according to the flesh, [201] 11
deeds:
initiated internally, [197] 5
thoughts and, [195] 2,3
demons, [214] 27
desire:
attention paid in shunning evil, [216] 29
carnal, [197] 5; 7; [200] 9; [206] 8,19

367

in marriage, [214] 27
consent, [207] 20
evil, [197] 3,6; 7
248
inclination to the improper, [197] 3,6; [212] 11,25
law and, [198] 7
limits imposed on carnal, [214] 27
restraint of, [206] 18; [212] 11,25
sinful, [198] 8
tempted by, [206] 18
unwanted feelings, [207] 8,19
devil, [200] 4,10; [201] 11
body of the Church (Manichee), [210] 23; [211] 10,24
sin blamed on, [203] 14; [204] 16
disease, [218] 32
evil as, [208] 21
remarriage after, See remarriage.
divorce and adultery:

368

See also remarriage


dualism:
evil nature prevails over God's nature, [203] 14
sin blamed on evil nature, [203] 14
eating:
wash hands before, [195] 4
enemy: flesh as, [199] 9
envy, [212] 11,25
error, [214] 12,26
eternal life:
sinlessness in, [204] 16
eternal punishment, [208] 21
evil, See good and evil.
faith:
deeds, [216] 14,30
immunity from punishment and, [217] 31
true continence and, [214] 12,26

369

work of continence required, [216] 14,30


fate: blamed for sinning, [202] 14
fear, [202] 13; [213] 11,25
flesh:
Christ heals desires of, [212] 11,25
Church nurtures the body, [208] 21; [209] 9,22
crucified with Christ, [200] 9
death to deeds of, [199] 9
deeds (list), [199] 9; [215] 13,28
desires of, [206] 18
desires opposed to spirit, [197] 5; [199] 9; [205] 18; [208] 21; [209] 9,22; [211,212] 11,25;
[217] 31
evil (Manichee), [210] 10,24
goodness does not dwell in, [206] 8,19; [209] 9,22
inferior and earthly, [200] 11
law of sin in, [207] 8,19; [208] 21; [209] 9,22
living according to, [198] 8; [200] 4,10; 11; [201] 11

370

loving care for, [207] 8,19


no one hates his own body, [209] 9,22; [212] 11,25
not evil, [209] 9,22
rebellious, cares not for interests, [210] 23; [213] 11,25
spirit's struggle with, [206] 8,19
subordinate to spirit, [209] 23
will be spiritual, [212] 11,25
works of, to be put to death, [202] 5,12; 13
forgiveness of sin:
God's justice and mercy, [203] 6,15; [205] 18
fornication, [216] 29
free will:
God's omnipotence and, [204] 6,15
future life:
body and soul in eternal happiness, [208] 21
no change for the worse in, [208] 21
God:

371

deeds of humans and, [215] 13,28


goodness undiminished, [205] 18
immune from corruption, [203] 14
neither does nor suffers evil, [205] 18
omnipotence brings good out of evil, [203-204] 6,15; 16
sin blamed on, [203] 14; 6,15
good and evil:
evil is not a substance, [208] 21
evil persons deny they are evil, [202] 13
evil thoughts in the heart, [196] 4
God makes use of evil persons, [214] 27
God neither does nor suffers evil, [205] 18
God's omnipotence, [203-204] 6,15; 16
249
good not fully accomplished, [207] 20
Manichee teaching, [205] 18; [209] 9,22
not consenting to evil, [197] 3,6
two uncreated natures (Manichee), [209] 9,22

372

good works:
justice, [204] 7,17
lamps burning, [205] 7,17
goodness:
desire to do the good, [197] 3,6
does not dwell in flesh, [206] 8,19
failure to bring to completion, [207] 20
origin in God, [205] 18
perfected to supreme happiness, [208] 21
subject to change, [208] 21
superior and inferior: both good, [210] 23
grace, [198] 8; [199] 9; [201] 5,12; [208] 21; [211] 10,24
bestows what is commanded, [198] 7
living by, [202] 13
loving what the law commands, [199] 8
guilt, [205] 18
refusing to acknowledge, [202] 13

373

secret; consent, [196] 4


word uttered in the heart, [195] 2,3
happiness:
perfect, [208] 21
harmony: body and soul, [212] 11,25
health, [205] 18; [208] 21; [218] 32
heart:
continence, [194] 2; [196] 5
evil thoughts from, [196] 4; [197] 5
lapsing into malicious talk, [204] 7,17
malicious talk, [202] 13
mouth (the word), [196] 4
what comes from the mouth, [195] 4
heaven:
body and soul in eternal happiness, [208] 21
mind turns to heavenly things, [216] 29
heretics, [214] 12,26

374

Holy Spirit, [211] 10,24; [198] 7; [215] 29


led by, [202] 5,12
hope:
placing, in human beings, [200] 4,10
human beings:
bodies are members of Christ, [211] 10,24
created with power to sin, [204] 16
deeds of, [215] 13,28
it is not I who live, [215] 29
rational mind; living, [200] 11
soul and body redeemed, [213] 12,26
human body:
God put order in, [211] 10,24
living sacrifice holy and pleasing, [211] 10,24
Manichee view vs Scripture, [210] 10,24
natural goodness, [212] 11,25
soul is to imitate body's harmony, [211] 10,24; [212] 11,25

375

spiritual death, [216] 29


weapon of sin, [217] 31
human condition:
trusting in our own powers, [198] 7
human nature:
goodness of, [205] 18
impaired, although created good, [207] 20
one nature divided because of sin, [208] 21
humility, [202] 13
husband and wife:
Christ and Church as models for, [209] 23
flesh not given as model for wives, [210] 23
husband cares; wife is honorably subordinate, [209] 23
love wives like their own bodies, [209-210] 9,22
model: love of one's own flesh, [209] 9,22
immortality, [197] 3,6
future life, [208] 21

376

innocence, [195] 2,3


Jesus Christ, [200] 9; [208] 21
See also Christian life
body not real (Manichee), [210] 23
See Church.
Manichee view: flesh not real, [210] 10,24
250
model for husbands, [209] 23
real body: touch and see, [210] 10,24
whole human nature, [213] 12,26
Word made flesh, [200] 11
justice, [198] 7; [199] 8
continence joined to, [204] 7,17
doing good, [204] 7,17
punishment for sin, [203,204] 6,15
lamps burning, [205] 7,17
law:

377

good commanded but not granted, [198] 7; [199] 8


wrongdoing; power, [198] 7
lips: continence, [194] 2; [196] 4
loins girt, [205] 7,17
Lord's Prayer:
Forgive us our trespasses, [202] 13; [204] 6,15; [206] 18; [212] 11,25
Lead us not into temptation, [206] 18
love, [199] 8
model: love of the body, [209] 9,22
lust, [205] 7,17; [217] 31
lying, [196] 4
Manichees, [210] 23
blame sin on evil nature, [203] 14
on body of Christ, [210] 10,24
dualism, [205] 18; [209] 9,22
false continence, [213] 12,26
marital act, See sexual union.

378

See also celibacy; divorce; husband and wife; separation


marriage (married people):
abstaining from, [194] 1,1
marriage (Old Testament):
purpose of sexual union, [214] 27
martyr (-s; -dom), [204] 6,15
mercy, [205-206] 18
mind, [200] 11
body rebels against law of, [197] 3,6
consent to sin and, [216] 29
sensual desires kept in check by, [207] 20
serving law of God in, [207] 8,19; [208] 21; [209] 9,22
mortality, [197] 3,6
mouth:
continence, [194] 2
guard on, [195] 2,3; [202] 13
heart, [196] 4

379

obedience:
See also commandments
model for a woman, [210] 23
orderliness, [209] 23
pardon, [202] 13
passion, [213] 12,26; [216] 29
patience, [213] 12,26
peace, [205] 7,17; [208] 20; [211] 11,25
perfection:
not in this mortal life, [207] 20
perseverance, [217] 31
pleasure, [213] 12,26; [214] 27; [215] 13,28
inner self, [197] 3,6
pride, [202] 13; [217] 32
defending sin, [204] 7,17
priesthood, See ordination.
procreation:

380

See also children; marriage


prostitutes, [196] 4
providence, [217] 32
punishment:
God's justice, [203,204] 6,15
immunity from, because of faith, [217] 31
purity, [197] 5
clean first the interior, [195] 4
heart and mouth, [195] 2,3
rebuke: walking in a human way, [201] 11
redemption:
body and soul, [213] 12,26
reward, [205] 7,17
saints, [204] 16
salvation, [205] 18; [208] 21; [211] 11,25; [215] 29
self-approval, [202] 13
self-control:

381

motives, [214] 12,26


service of errors, [214] 13,28
sensuality, [197] 3,6; [205] 7,17
desires kept in check by mind, [207] 20
sexual union:
unjust when a spouse refuses, [213] 12,26
251
sexuality:
devil's work (Manichee), [210] 23;, [211] 10,24
sin:
See also consent; desire
body dead because of, [208] 21
consenting to bodily desires, [208] 20
defending with pride, [204] 7,17
desire and consent; mind and flesh, [207] 8,19
desire involved in, [215] 13,28
desires opposed to what is right, [212] 11,25
dominion by, [201-202] 5,12

382

excuses: fate; chance; devil; God; evil nature, [202-203] 14


humans created with power to, [204] 16
if we say we are without, [212] 11,25
inclinations to, [207] 20; [212] 11,25; [215] 29
interior speech, [195] 2,3
opportunity denied, [196] 4
power is the law, [198] 7
punishment; God's justice, [203,204] 6,15
reigning in the body, [217] 31
ruling the mortal body, [198] 8
unjust, [204] 6,15
slaves:
of sin, [216] 29
soul:
See also body and soul.
death of the body, [206] 8,19
term means the whole person, [201] 11

383

speech:
internal mouth of the heart, [194] 2
no word if heart is silent, [194] 2
spirit:
See also Holy Spirit
cares for the flesh, [209] 23
clinging to God's Spirit, [215] 29
desires of the flesh and, [197] 5; [199] 9; [205] 18; [208] 21; [209] 9,22; [211,212] 11,25;
[217] 31
fruits of the, [199] 9
struggle with flesh, [206] 8,19
spiritual life:
hidden in God with Christ, [216] 14,30
seek the things that are above, [216] 29
spouses, See husband and wife.
sweetness, [198] 7
talk: malicious, [204] 7,17

384

thoughts: deeds and, [195] 2,3


vice, [197] 7; [210] 23; [216] 14,30
virtue, [217] 32
fighting for, [197] 7
vomiting, [195] 4
war:
flesh against spirit, [199] 9
wickedness:
two evils pass away forever, [208] 21
will:
future life, [208] 21
wisdom, [215] 13,28
gift of knowing, [214] 13,28
love of, [207] 20
wives, See husband and wife.
Word of God:
incarnate, [200] 11

385

words: origin of every deed, [195] 2,3


world, [213] 11,25
wrongdoing:
law and, [198] 7

386