Sources and translations

This blog provides our draft translation of Carolingian texts, mostly linked to Hincmar of Rheims or the divorce of Lothar II and Theutberga.


The texts translated are as follows:

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.


Friday, 3 September 2010

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.

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