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 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.

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