Sources and translations

The texts currently translated on this website are taken from the following sources:

  • De divortio Lotharii regis et Theutberga reginae (ed. Letha Bohringer, MGH Concilia 4, Supplementum 1)
  • Hincmar of Rheims, Epistolae (ed. Ernst Perels, MGH Epistolae 8)
  • Die Konzilien der karolingischen Teilreiche 860-874 (ed. Wilfried Hartmann, MGH Concilia 4)

Page references are given in square brackets in the translation. All these translations are works in progress and have not been checked for errors or readability. Readers are strongly advised to check the Latin text themselves, as found at the MGH website.

Monday, 1 August 2016

English translations of Hincmar’s works

Relatively few of Hincmar’s works have yet been translated into English. This post lists the ones that we are currently aware of: any suggestions for additions will be gratefully received

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

On the wife of Boso

Hincmar of Rheims: De uxore Bosonis

Edition: MGH Epistolae Karolini Aevi VIII, pp. 81-87, no. 135
Transmission: Paris BnF. lat 2866, fols.120-124v.
Dating: Autumn 860
Trans. by Rachel Stone, with assistance of Charles West

Hincmar, by name not merit bishop of Rheims and servant of the people of God, to the sacred convention.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Council of Aachen 862

The Council of Aachen 862
Translated from MGH Concilia IV, pp. 71-78.

Document A. Minutes of the meeting.

Chapter 1. In the year 862, tenth indiction, on the third kalends of May [29 April], on the convocation of the most glorious lord king Lothar [II], the archbishops and their fellow bishops met at Aachen, that is Gunther archbishop of Cologne and archchaplain of the sacred palace, and Theutgaud archbishop of Trier [p. 72], Adventius bishop of Metz, Atto bishop of Verdun, Arnulf bishop of Toul, Franco bishop of Liège, Bishop Hunger, and Rathold bishop of Strasbourg. This was so that with the assistance of divine clemency, they might be able to intervene faithfully and healthily with the already mentioned most serene prince, for the utility and necessity of the holy mother Church. For in our dangerous times, the pastoral trumphet should sound out even belatedly, by prophetic admonition, where it is said “Cry, cease not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet”.

So, faithfully thinking over many times God’s judgements for the unfaithful, and the dangers of the world as it grows old, and not without deep groans, we recalled our most Christian prince to memory that he should not be unmindful of his vocation, and that what he is called by name he should complete in deed, so that Christ the King of kings, who has made him the deputy of His name on earth, will return to him in heaven a worthy remuneration of the dispensation entrusted to him.

To this he [Lothar], as a true worshipper of God, purely and truthfully agreed to our Unanimity, promising unbreakably that he wished to obey our advice in all things and comply to our reasonable admonitions. And as we spoke, he fashioned his most gentle attitude (affectus) with us, so that it would be clear without doubt that his heart grasped the right hand of Him in Whose hands are the hearts of kings.

Chapter 2. Meanwhile, he reassured our Unanimity with healthy responses and spiritual advice about those things which pertain to the state of the holy Church of God and the utility of the realm and the safety of the people committed to him, affirming that he was entirely ready in all matters, so that he would be a true helper and an indefatigable assistant to our order and the whole of holy religion.

Chapter 3. After this, he humbly and devoutly sought pastoral advice, placing into the hands of our brothers a booklet of complaint and of his very serious necessity.  Mournfully he asked for divine and pastoral advice, and with quavering voice he again talked of the causes of his weakness (imbecillitas) – how he had been deceived in a certain woman named Theutberga, by the seditious arguments of treacherous men. And indeed he recalled, not by half measures, that he had endured the sentence of separation by the judgment of the bishops. If she had been suitable for the marital bed, and had not been defiled by the pestiferous pollution of incest, and publicly condemned by a live confession, he would willingly keep her. But he confessed that he was incontinent, and asserted that he was not able to bear the ardour of his youth without conjugal union. He repeated that it was beyond doubt that we had declared to him that Theutberga was incestuous and had ordered him to abstain from every concubine, and that this was extremely difficult for him to stay like this [p. 73] in his youth. To this Archbishop Theutgaud was a witness, that according to divine and his own counsel, if he might have committed with the concubine joined to him, he [Lothar] had very healthily expunged it, assisted with ecclesiastical medicine and secret and constant tears and vigils and macerations of spiritual continence, and especially with donations of alms. And to be brief about many things, if the rejoicing flesh had led him to sin, then we believe the afflicted flesh brought him back to pardon.

Chapter 5. Therefore the concern of pastoral care and the documents of divine speech began to stir up the souls of our brothers, about what should be done and arranged, and what should be reasonably decided about this proclamation and lament. And we were worried above all lest – may it not happen – such a prince might, after a worthy satisfaction and a very healthy reconciliation, incur the injury of fragility and return to his vomit, and like a sow wallowing in mud, might sometimes seek illicit embraces.

Chapter 6. And so it came to pass that the pious Sollicitude of our brothers decreed to be discussed again, how it had carried out the censure of ecclesiastical authority on the already mentioned woman Theutberga, as her public confession demanded.

Chapter 7. A volume of several councils was brought out, and we had the fourth chapter from the Council of Lerida read out, where it is written
“About those who stain themselves in incestuous pollution. It was agreed that for as long as they persist in that destestable and illict marriage (conubium) of the flesh, they should only be admitted in the church to the mass of the catechumens. And as the Apostle ordered, it is not suitable to any Christians even to break bread with them.”

Chapter 8. In addition to this, the commentary of St Ambrose on the letter of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, Chapter 32, it was said by Lord’s mouth to those who were joined in marriage, that
“’the wife is not to leave her husband, and if she does leave him, she should remain unmarried’. This is the counsel of the Apostle, that if she leaves because of the bad behaviour of the husband, she should remain unmarried, and that if she is not able to contain herself, because she does not wish to fight against the flesh, then let her be reconciled to her huband. For it is not permitted to the woman to marry, if she has sent her husband away for the reason of fornication or apostasy, or if the husband has sought the use of his wife impelled by illicit lust. For the inferior does not use the same law as more powerful. If the man however apostasises, let him not seek to invert the use of his wife: the woman is not allowed to marry another, nor to return to him for the sake of fornication [?]. ‘And let not the husband put away his wife’. By implication, however: except for the reason of fornication. And therefore he does not continue, as he did for the woman in saying, ‘But if she does leave, let her remain thus’. For it is permitted to the man to marry a wife, if he sent his sinning wife away.  For a man is not constrained by the same laws as a woman. For the man is the head of woman. “For to the rest I speak, not the Lord”. He says this to show what the Lord ordered through His own mouth [p. 74] and what he conceded by his authority, for the Lord spoke through him who said “Do you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me?”

Chapter 9. From the Council of Agde, Chapter 62. ‘We reserve henceforth no mercy for incestuous unions, unless they cure the adultery by separation.  Incestuous unions, which it is wicked even to speak of, are not to be denoted by the name of marriage.’ And there after some other things, it is written ‘Those indeed to whom an illicit conjunction is forbidden, will have the freedom of entering into a better marriage.’

Chapter 10. For the rest, having clearly read these and other canonical sanctions of this kind, and the statements of the holy father Ambrose, we believe that she who was proven by a public (so it is said) confession to be marked by the incestuous crime of fornication was (fuisse) not a suitable or legimate spouse, nor a wife prepared by God. Therefore to our glorious prince, to whom not us but indeed canonical authority forbids an incestuous marriage, and for his most devoted affection in the divine cult and for his most victorious defence of the kingdom, we do not deny the legitimate and suitable marriage conceded to him by God, according to the indulgence spoken by the Apostle: ‘It is better to marry than to burn’.

Document B: the Booklet of proclamation of Lothar II
The Complaint of Lothar appealing to the Bishops about conceding marriage to him.
O holy priests and venerable Fathers, you who are placed as mediators between God and men, and to whom is committed the care of our souls, who provide medicine to the wounds of sin, who have the power of binding and loosing, and who are our doctors and leaders – to you I humbly proclaim, and trustingly I demand your kindness and faithful counsel. Royal power should acknowledge the sublime authority of the sacerdotal dignity, by which two orders the church of the believers by God’s will is ruled and guided. But we know that one is as superior to another, as much as we rightly venerate the excellence of heavenly teaching that is closer to God. Therefore we who offend or lightly or wilfully stray by human frailty before God, we solemnly hasten back and flee to your pastoral dignity. I myself, recognising my own errors by the inspiration of divine clemency, and frightened by and shuddering at the stains of such sins, I seek the remedy of salvation from Christ through you, by suppliantly confessing and by demanding pardon. I trust greatly in your Piety,  and do not at all doubt that I will be mercifully and measuredly accepted and treated in spiritual compassion, [p. 75] according to what the Apostle says: ‘Who is weakened, and I am not weakened?’ ‘For if someone is preoccupied in some sin, let you, who are spiritual, instruct in the spirit of leniency, considering you yourself, that you may not be tempted’. And another Scripture warns, ‘Do not break the crushed reed’.

As the rest, Fathers, I thank you very much, since you kept the faith owed to our lord father [Lothar I], and after his death you have been kind and faithful to us in all things. And since you generally and in many ways attended to our adolescence and unstable time of life, and also specially and diligently  watched out for the deceit imposed on us through that above named wife. About that business, what was done by your advice we know that you have deeply in memory.  For by your order we separated from ourselves that woman, who freely confessed about a terrible and incestuous contagion of fornication, according the precept of Saint Paul, who said “Do not mingle with fornicators”. Whatever I have done afterwards in the fragility of incontinence whether by necessity or will, it is your duty to emend opportunely and rationally, and it is my duty willingly to obey.

For you know that I was brought up from infancy and childhood amongst women, and that I desired to reach the threshold of legitimate marriage, for the good of chastity and to avoid the wickedness of indecency. I am not unaware that whatever of this that is beyond licit union, can be ascribed to the wickedness of fornication and noxious pollution. I know that a concubine is not a wife, and I do not wish to have what is illicit, but what is licit. You therefore, mindful of my youth, consider what I should do,  to whom neither is conceded a wife nor is permitted a concubine. It is known to you that the Apostle says “I wish the younger ones to marry, to procreate children”. And “Who cannot contain himself, let him marry. For it is better to marry than to burn”. And again, “Let everyone have his own wife for the sake of [avoiding] fornication. And the Apostle Matthew: “God blessed marrige, and permitted love to rule in the bodies of men”.

Therefore I speak straightforwardly, and I confess that I am not at all able to endure without any conjugal bond. And in truth I wish to be separated from all fornication ‘according to the inward man’. And now, my dear ones, we suppliantly beg your Sanctity and beg for the love of Him who redeemed us, that in the kindness of love and devoted fidelity, you will not defer from aiding the peril of our body and soul, for the utility of the holy Church of God and the kingdom committed to us: so that we may equally rejoice and exult both in prosperity and in our most prompt devotion towards you.

Document C – the bishops’ judgement

When we, archbishops and bishops from various provinces of the whole kingdom of the most serene king Lothar, had convened at the palace of Aachen and were discussing ecclesiastical rights with pastoral care and sollicitude, [p. 76] the case of our prince (princeps) was brought into our midst, whose marriage controversy we had touched upon before [in manibus fuerat evoluta]. Informed by the example and bolstered by the authority of the great Lord pastor, that is Jesus Christ, who ‘came into the world to save sinners’, and knowing that we can and should threaten sinners with the fear of punishment if they do not come to their senses, and permit and concede mercy to them if they do, we bitterly grieved for the aforementioned king, given to us by God’s disposition and deceitfully wounded in his inexperience of his rule (regni tyrocinio), as we discovered. And we carefully and faithfully struggled to rescue him from the net in which he lamented he was caught, according to what the Apostle says: “If any of you err from the truth, and one convert him, he must know that he who causeth a sinner to be converted from the error of his way, shall save his soul from death” [James 5].

What we order to be bestowed upon all, in no way ought we have to denied to our king and prince, who had humbly presented himself to our earlier meeting and had lamented that he had been horribly cheated in the name of marriage; and he added that he knew he was not able to continue without a consort for his youth. And he brought forth a booklet of proclamation which requested a path for his salvation, divinitus aspiratus. Pitying his grief and anxiety, as was fitting, having understood his attitude of pure devotion (intellecto pure devotionis affectu) we demonstrated that he could delete previous sins by the remedy of penance, and could guard against future ones by the display of good works. He embraced this by necessity and willingly according to our exhortation.  Gathering some of our colleagues, he set himself to fasting, almsgiving and other works pleasing to God for the whole of Lent, hoping to placate God with a fitting satisfaction, and he openly showed that he was wishing to deserve this by arriving barefoot.

Then in this council too he revealed the situation of his fragility, and usefully and praiseworthily sought from us advice for his salvation. Therefore, according to his petition and devotion, and most carefully upholding the form of human piety and most vigilantly moderating the censure of our ministry, we decreed that what we provided to him should be committed to memory.

We learned from many documents that the woman was more imposed upon him by wicked intention than legitimately joined to him in the name of a wife, and that she is not able to be a wife, which we recognised more clearly by many attestions, or rather detestations, and finally by her spontaneous confession. How could she be joined in marriage, whom by her own assertion her brother did not fear to defile? For as the Lord said to Moses, “Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy sister”, and as Moses himself terribly intoned by the Lord’s inspiration, “Cursed be he that lieth with his sister, the daughter of his father, or of his mother”. And another Scripture says “he that keepeth an adulteress, is foolish and wicked”. And the Apostle: “he who is joined to a harlot, is made one body”. And on this it is said in the Council of Agde at Chapter 4,
“It is agreed that those who stain themselves with the pollution of incest, should only be permitted to the mass of the catecumens for as long as they persevere in that detestable and illicit fleshly union. And as the Apostle commanded, it is not fitting to any Christians even to break bread with them”.

And St Ambrose in the exposition of the first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 34, writes, after he spoke to the unmarried and to widows, he addressed those who were joined in marriage, with the Lord’s mouth,
“that the wife depart not from her husband. And if she depart, that she remain unmarried”. And if she is not able to contain herself, because she does not wish to fight against the flesh, let her “be reconciled to her husband”. For it is not permitted to a woman to marry, if she has sent her husband away for the reason of fornication or apostacy, or if the husband has sought the use of his wife impelled by illicit lust. For the inferior does not use the same law as the more powerful. If however the man is an apostate, let him not seek to invert the use of his wife, and nor can the woman marry someone else nor return to him for the sake of fornication. “And let not the husband put away his wife”. By implication, however, except for the reason of fornication.  And therefore he does not continue, as he did for the the woman in saying, ‘But if she does leave, let her remain thus’. For it is permitted to the man to marry a wife, if he sent his sinning wife away. For the man is not constrained by the same laws as the woman. For the man is the head of woman. “For to the rest I speak, not the Lord”. He says this to show what the Lord ordered by his own mouth and what he conceded by his authority, for the Lord spoke through him when he said “Do you seek a proof of Christ that speaketh in me?”

Perhaps someone will say to this “What the Lord has joined, let not man separate”. This is indeed excellent and most apt to be observed in those whom the Lord has joined, for the wife will be prepared for the husband by the Lord, as it is written elsewhere. But who will dare to say that this woman was joined or prepared by the Lord, who according to so many and important prohibitions of the Old and New Testaments is not to be joined in union, but is rather to be mourned and handed over to the death of the body (interitum carnis), so that her spirit may be saved, as is shown by the confession of her own lips? According to that sentence, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned”. And David  at once ordered the man who boasted that he had killed Saul to killed, saying “Thy blood be upon thy own head: for thy own mouth hath spoken against thee, saying: I have slain the Lord’s anointed”.

And Pope Innocent wrote to the Tolesani, affirming that the person can in no way be absolved who pronounces against himself a capital sentence, whether in true confession or by false testimony, words that would be punished in another, “For everyone who is the cause of his own death is a greater murderer”. But this is also shown very abundantly from the letter of Valentinian to the Foroiulienses, and in the African Council Chapter 91.

If anyone should say that we have acted and decided irrationally and incautiously in this business, we who are not slothfully imbued or weakly supported by these and other instruments of divine eloquence – then let him know that unless he is cleansed of the stain of detraction and unjust accusation, he will have a harsher reckoning with us before the tribunal of eternal justice about these things.  For let us protest before God, that we have neither acted nor spoken about this woman motivated by any spiteful poison or bitter zeal against her, nor guided by the grace of any favour, but only according to what we found needed to be done after most diligent examination and most studious enquiry, more moderately and gently – saving the rule of canonical authority, which it is permitted to not one to violate - as it is right to recognise from the letters of our discussion written on this matter by us.

As for the prince and our lord Lothar, after the recognition of his excesses and a suitable punishmnt in remarkable affliction for his errors: knowing that according to his profession that there is a law in his limbs repugnant to the law of his mind [p. 78], we are not able to forbid him from marrying a wife and procreating children, lest he slip into worse things. For as the Apostle says, “ Who cannot contain himself, let him marry”, only in the Lord; “it is better to marry than to burn”. And again, “Let everyone have his own wife for the sake of fornication”, which of course is a concession of necessity, not of apostolic will, as he says again “I wish all men to be like me”. And so we therefore do not at all dare to prohibit these things, so that worse things can more easily be guarded against, and every pretext of unowed opportunity may be avoided with more sollicitous custody.

It was commanded to two of our brothers separately (sequestratim) to entrust to writing this chain of reasoning (series rationis), which with the Lord’s inspiration we all together discovered. When each  of them presented his text to the holy council in the early morning after the night, our whole company praised it as filled with a wonderful appropriateness of meaning (mira sensuum convenientia), and we thanked the Lord for the concordant sentence. And so we decided to add this, that if the tenor of one of the texts, discrepant in words, reaches anyone’s hands, let him not be disturbed by the dissonance of speech, but rather be compelled to trust (fidem accomodare) by the consonance of meaning (consonantia sensuum).

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

New material (updated)

We're making good progress on our translation of De divortio for Manchester University Press. We'll soon be taking the draft translation down, but intend to replace it with more untranslated material relating to the divorce case soon, so watch this space!

Update (September 2015)
We have removed most of the text of the draft translation of De divortio, leaving the questions, so you can see what topics are covered in Hincmar's answers. Our published translation will be appearing in Spring 2016 and will also be available electronically via Manchester Medieval Sources online. To whet your appetite, here is the book cover:

Look out for this at a bookshop near you next year!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Letter on Stephen 9: final suggestions and comments

[p 106] For also St Syricus took care to place something about the blessing of betrothed women in his decretals. About whom, the holy canons decree what is noted, and we thence have said some things, and we should now say other things more, if we had heard that a priestly blessing in the ecclesiastical way had been given to this wedding, about which we speak, But the priestly blessing did not have a place in that in which owed faith was absent, especially since scripture says: "In whatever home you should enter, first say: Peace on this house. And if they should be a son of peace in it, your peace will rest upon it, if not, your peace will return to you." [Luke 10: 5-6] And Peter said about the Lord from the faithful: "Faith purifying their hearts". [Acts 15: 9] And again it is written: "All their works in faith" and again: "For what is not from faith is sin". [Romans 14: 23] And where sin remains before suitable satisfaction blessing has no place. For prayer benefits nothing, as blessed Gregory says, where there is iniquitous action.

[p 106] After all these things, if Raymond should not want to receive his daughter, or she should decide to remain in her liberty, it is to be indicated to them that if she herself should commit whatever debauchery [stuprum], whatever should be wrongly done, will pertain to him or her, but not to Stephen.

[p 106] But you ought, holy bishops, to suggest, make known and order both Raymond, Stephen and their relatives and friends from divine mandate that they have peace among themselves, which the Lord orders, and without which they will not be able to see God, except for judgement. And the prince of the land with the primores ought to be busy to do this, lest for the sake of this case scandals and plots may happen in the church and kingdom. Those who should scorn to obey should be made, according to the gospel precept, like a heathen and publican, and according to the Apostle, let it be noted who does not obey the word, so that no one may be associated with him; and he who should not receive this doctrine of peace, let no one greet him, so that he may not communicate his sin and just as the canons decree neither let his offering be received in the shrine. And he who should not want to return to peace, let him remain excommunicated as long as he should despise returning to peace, and let him hasten to return as quickly as possible to charity, which covers a multitude of sins. And again it is written in the canons that from the council two or three judges should be chosen and sent to determine (?) all the things which ought to be examined and determined by clerical judgement, and that will be able to be determined more reasonably and conveniently elsewhere than in the same council. And whoever should be proved from contumacy not to want to obey the judges, when this should be proved by the bishop of the first see, let him send a letter, so that no one may communicate with him, until he should obey. About which matter the holy synod have taken care to choose you who are of the first sees of the Aquitaine kingdom for determining this case with your fellow bishops and the prince and primores of this land. Without this determination whoever should delay to obey you will not be able to avoid his peril and the invective of excommunication.

[p 107] I have taken care to collect these things from gospel truth and apostolic and canonical authority or doctrine and tradition of the Catholic fathers, just as the holy synod ordered, for the sake of the mediocrity of my little capacity. No one ought to be angry at me about this, just as I have heard, that certain ones are. Since I have not composed my words with my senses nor have I presumed to claim for myself what is not mine, nor have I taken care to write something that is not mine in this case by stating or demanding, prejudging the rational statement of no one, nor dishonouring authority or wanting to force necessity of obeying on any one. But I remind your very loved and revered fraternity, as blessed Leo writes to Rusticus Bishop of Narbonne: that, just as there are certain things which can be overthrown by no reason, thus there are many things it may be proper to be moderate about, either for the sake of the consideration of the age or for necessity of events, as long as that condition is always preserved, that in things which should either be obscure or doubtful, we should recognise that to be followed, which is found neither contrary to gospel precepts nor against the decrees of the saints.

Letter on Stephen 8: impotence and Stephen's penance

[p 105] We have also reckoned a necessary addition, so that by the statements of the saints we may recognise that a marriage can be dissolved, in which lying together does not follow for certain reasons. And because of incontinence they are able to run together to other women. But subtle investigation and a reasonable discretion is first to be used in these things, whether there may be impossibility of intercourse in men, as if naturally - since also there are some eunuchs, as is written, who are born thus from the mother's womb - or whether this impediment happens to them by the operation of the devil, as is accustomed to happen. If this happens through sorceresses or female magicians, but never or nowhere unjustly, with God's judgment allowing and the devil working, those to whom those things happen are to be exhorted, that with contrite heart and humbled spirit they may make pure confession to God and the priest about all their sins and with profuse tears and more generous alms and prayers and fasts satisfy the Lord. By whose judgment for his merit, against their will, they should have merited to be deprived from that blessing, which the Lord gave the first parents before sin in paradise, and also did not want the human race deprived of in total even after sin. And through exorcisms and the other gifts of ecclesiastical medicine let the ministers of the Church attend to healing such, as much as the Lord should assent to, who healed Abimalech and his house by the prayers of Abraham. Who perhaps if they will not be able to be healed, will be able to be separated. But after, if they should seek another marriage, with those alive to whom they were joined, there will be unable to be reconciled to the first one, whom they left, even if the possibility of lying together should be returned to them. But just as we have said, and say again, an incestuous marriage ought not to remain, because of the incestuous crime, which cannot have a sacrament of Christ and the Church, but let us acknowledge that the crime ought to be healed by separation and penitence.

[p 105] Indeed we judge that Stephen's marriage, the case here, ought to be dissolved in all ways, lest he may be admitted as incestuous. And we hold that marriage, which has the natural mystery, cannot be dissolved by any other means whatever, except only in the case of fornication, as the authority of truth teaches. Since even if by common consent, the spouses should vow continence, the more resolutely, the more spiritually they will remain joined in the Lord. No simulation will be able to intervene in his eyes in this joining and indivisible separation, since he is discerned to be the scrutiniser of the heart and loins.

[p 105] Therefore let Stephen, for the fornication, about which he would have been able to do penitence by secret confession, had it not been that forced by necessity he published it, and since he has added the fault of simulation to the sacred mystery of marriage, although compelled by necessity, just like the one who did not fear to sow tares over the wheat, and since after such a marriage, before it should legally be dissolved, which seemed started as if legally, he is said to have used a concubine, destroying others by evil example, according to the form of the fault with moderation of piety, since he showed reverence to God, lest he should add incest to fornication, receive regular penitence from his own bishop according to his judgement, since the canons thus decree, and let him accomplish with the worthy fruits of penance. So that he who, by his neglect has presumed to scandalise the Church and many sons of the Church, may make satisfaction to the Church and its rectors and sons and after satisfaction, if he will not be able to be continent, according to the statement of Pope Leo the Great to Bishop Rusticus of Narbonne and according to the decree of the holy council of Toledo, let him seek marriage with a legitimate wife, lest again he may incur the crime of fornication. In which yet, speaking with the same very holy father, we do not constitute a rule, but estimate what may be more tolerable. For according to true judgement, nothing better befits him, who will have done penance, then chastity persevering in both body and mind. To whom lest we initiate the snare, we extend the hand of remedy, not the command of action.

Letter on Stephen 7: the status of the betrothed

[p 102] These things blessed Augustine has discussed very sufficiently in the book about the good of marriage and about marriage and concupiscence and in other of his books. But also in the same place among other things he says: What therefore the apostles teach to the married, that is of marriage; namely that a husband renders the debt to the wife and the wife to the husband 'and procreate sons, and to be the mothers of families' [1 Timothy 5: 14]. But marriage does not force, but offers, what they concede venially, or what hinders praying. And just as good works do not benefit to eternal salvation without the sacrament of baptism, and it is not true baptism, since it is not one according to Scripture, that is unique in the unity of the Catholic faith, if it should not be celebrated catholically. Thus also a marriage cannot be a legitimate and true one in which it is shown there is not the nuptial mystery or in which marital coupling is not shown. Whence the Lord, who came not to dissolve the law, but to fulfil it, drew back by calling John, who was wanting to marry, from the marriage, as the histories relate, not after the celebrated marriage but from the marriage and before the joining of the flesh. It is not read about his future wife, namely John's, whether or not, if the Lord had not called him not only before the union of the flesh, but also before the practising very thoroughly (?) of the marriage, just like about the wife of the blessed Peter who persisted very continently, she remained in continence or according to the old law, so that the seed might be left in Israel, perhaps chose to wed another. It would not have remained in her free will, if after legal marriage they had been joined maritally, nor would it have been allowed to John, according to the example of the gospel, if he had taken a wife, betrothed, endowed and honoured with public marriage, also to leave her before the union of the flesh if he had not decided from consent to remain in continence, but to take another wife. For just so it would not be licit for Stephen to leave that one, whom he had betrothed, endowed and honoured with public marriage, although he had not had intercourse with her, and take another with penitence or without penitence, unless in sleeping with that one the incestuous evil had been able to intervene. But either from consent Stephen would have remained with her in continence, or, if he could not have kept himself continent, he would have remained with her joined maritally. But if without incest, they had been united with this due order they could not have been separated, except from mutual consent for the sake of continence or, separated because of fornication, they should either have remained unmarried or have been reconciled to each other. And if they should have been joined with incest, it ought to have been healed with their separation and the penance of adulterers according to canonical authority.

[p 103] And thus holy authority demonstrates these things to harmonize with themselves, saying about Mary and Joseph: 'Before they should come together' [Matthew 1: 18], that is before they should have celebrated with the solemn rite of marriage. For by the word of coming together it insinuates not the lying together, itself but the marriage, which is accustomed to precede the time of lying together, when the one who had first been betrothed, begins to be a wife. And a little after: 'He wanted to send her away secretly'. Joseph seeing his betrothed had conceived, whom he knew well have been touched by no man/husband, since he was just and wanted to do all things justly, took the best thing, so that neither this might benefit others, nor he himself might receive her as wife. But with a secretly proposed change of marriage, he allowed her to remain in the condition of betrothed, just as she was. But if he were to send her away secretly, nor accept her as wife and she were to bring forth while betrothed, without doubt there would be very few, who would affirm she was a virgin, and not rather a whore, and she would be stoned by the Jews as if an adulteress.

[p 103] Whence also the sacred canons in the chapter, in which they say about relatives who break the faith of the betrothal, discerning very prudently they took care to add: if yet, the betrothed man or woman should have been caught in a grave crime, the relatives were excused. Since the judgement that the relatives ought to have sustained as punishment of broken faith will pertain to those now who had merited it. And so that we might return to the order of the example above, therefore the counsel of Joseph was quickly changed to better counsel, so that, namely he himself for the preserving of Mary’s reputation received her as wife with celebration of marriage, but chaste, kept her chaste in perpetuity, just as follows: "But with him considering these things, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him saying: Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to receive Mary as your wife."

[p 103] About which form of marriage, Syricius wrote to Hymerius, bishop of Tarragona saying: You asked about the violation of marriage, if one may be able to take the betrothed girl of another in marriage. Let this not happen, we prohibit this in all ways, since that blessing, which a priest imposes on the girl about to be married before the faithful, is like some sacrilege, if she should be violated by any transgression. And in the Council of Ancyra: It pleases that betrothed girls, also after raptus by others, are to be plucked up and returned to those, to whom they had been betrothed before, even if force should have been inflicted on them by the raptors. Who, above the estimated order, not only made betrothed women, but indeed also as if made wives, are thus to be returned to their betrothed husbands, even violently corrupted, just as also disunited spouses, separated without the case of fornication, and without mutual consent are to be rejoined. But those separated in the case of fornication will either remain unmarried or from mutual consent be reconciled to one another. But about those marrying (?), but unmarried, that is about the celebration of marriage, in which by the earnest money of the betrothal, and the priestly blessing and the confirmation of the dowry, the mystery of both Christ and the church is directed to the perfection of completion, but it is not completed with the union of flesh, but, just as we said about Joseph, good counsel is changed by better counsel, so that it may remain in perpetual continence, there again it is written: "But Joseph rising from sleep did just as the Angel of the Lord had ordered him and he received his wife. And he did not know her." [Matthew 1: 24-25]. But he accepted into the name of spouse, for the sake of necessary causes, which then threatened, and he did not know her for the marital work, but both remained in continence.

[p 103] Which also Paul boldly demonstrated can happen in the first epistle to the Corinthians, and Augustine in the first book about marriage and concupiscence saying: To whom indeed it pleases from consent to remain permanently continent from the use of conjugal concupiscence, may it not happen that the conjugal bond between them is broken; nay rather, it will be firmer, by the fact that these pacts which they should have entered with themselves, which are to be preserved more dearly, and in more concord, are not by the voluntary binding together of bodies, but by the voluntary passions of minds. For nor was it falsely said by the Angel to Joseph: "Do not fear to take Mary as a wife", and the other things that further followed on in the same place.

[p 104] Taught about this matter by these testimonies of sacred authority, whoever should take wives betrothed, endowed and honoured with public marriage, free or made free for the sake of this, let them either remain in perpetual continence, or, unless this incestuous crime or something else whatever should prohibit, which does not receive the sacrament of Christ in or with itself, let them nuptially wed, if they will not be able to be continent from consent. And let them not be separated except in the case of fornication; in which separation let them either remain unmarried or if they cannot be continent, they will be reconciled to each other after penitence. But where, just as in Stephen's marriage, he may escape peril that should be avoided, with peril, let the lesser peril be chosen for avoiding the greater peril, just as St Gregory teaches in the book of Morals. But also the peril itself which is chosen, let it not be neglected, but let it be paid to be had (?) at all times before the clemency of Almighty God by the worthy fruits of penance, that is by pious works and profuse tears, so that peril may not remain eternally, but by saving remedy may be tempered, or inwardly avoided,

[p 104] But we have therefore reckoned to insert this necessary thing to these, since we have heard that certain ones, even those who used to call themselves teachers, apply with firm contention, as if from the words of blessed Ambrose and St Augustine, which they apply not very diligently, that a man not fornicating and separating from a fornicating woman can take another wife with her living and, she who in the case of fornication should have departed from a man cannot be reconciled; but, her who should have departed not in the case of fornication, but for whatever other reason ought either to be reconciled or ought to remain unmarried. Not heeding that thus the apostolic words were interpreted in a false sense, just as also those, against whom the blessed Augustine formerly had copied those books, and the African Synod, which we set beforehand, defined, when it also eviscerated the Caelestians and burned up the marrows themselves of the Pelagians. No wonder. For thus they have been infected with wicked dogma, just like all the modern Predestinarians, who labour to renew the heresy of the old Predestinarians, compiled as if from the words of St Augustine. Blessed Pope Celestine broke their heads and shook violently the top of the hair of those walking in their sins and ground them down in the letter of decretals to Venerius and the other Gallic bishops, and the same blessed Augustine in the book about corruption and grace and about the predestination of the saints and the good of perseverance. But also St Prosper from the delegation of the apostolic seat, absolving the objections of Gauls, Vincentians and Marseillians, in the books also about the calling of the nations, dissolved their arguments by Catholic sense and perfect and very clear reason and eloquent doctrine. But we would place here the words of the same authors, whence the inexperienced teachers capture such very absurd things, if we should not avoid putting together a difficulty for a solution.