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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 18

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 18.—Of the Violence Which May Be Done to the Body by Another’s Lust, While the Mind Remains Inviolate.

But is there a fear that even another’s lust may pollute the violated?  It will not pollute, if it be another’s:  if it pollute, it is not another’s, but is shared also by the polluted.  But since purity is a virtue of the soul, and has for its companion virtue, the fortitude which will rather endure all ills than consent to evil; and since no one, however magnanimous and pure, has always the disposal of his own body, but can control only the consent and refusal of his will, what sane man can suppose that, if his body be seized and forcibly made use of to satisfy the lust of another, he thereby loses his purity?  For if purity can be thus destroyed, then assuredly purity is no virtue of the soul; nor can it be numbered among those good things by which the life is made good, but among the good things of the body, in the same category as strength, beauty, sound and unbroken health, and, in short, all such good things as may be diminished without at all diminishing the goodness and rectitude of our life.  But if purity be nothing better than these, why should the body be perilled that it may be preserved?  If, on the other hand, it belongs to the soul, then not even when the body is violated is it lost.  Nay more, the virtue of holy continence, when it resists the uncleanness of carnal lust, sanctifies even the body, and therefore when this continence remains unsubdued, even the sanctity of the body is preserved, because the will to use it holily remains, and, so far as lies in the body itself, the power also.

For the sanctity of the body does not consist in the integrity of its members, nor in their exemption from all touch; for they are p. 13 exposed to various accidents which do violence to and wound them, and the surgeons who administer relief often perform operations that sicken the spectator.  A midwife, suppose, has (whether maliciously or accidentally, or through unskillfulness) destroyed the virginity of some girl, while endeavoring to ascertain it:  I suppose no one is so foolish as to believe that, by this destruction of the integrity of one organ, the virgin has lost anything even of her bodily sanctity.  And thus, so long as the soul keeps this firmness of purpose which sanctifies even the body, the violence done by another’s lust makes no impression on this bodily sanctity, which is preserved intact by one’s own persistent continence.  Suppose a virgin violates the oath she has sworn to God, and goes to meet her seducer with the intention of yielding to him, shall we say that as she goes she is possessed even of bodily sanctity, when already she has lost and destroyed that sanctity of soul which sanctifies the body?  Far be it from us to so misapply words.  Let us rather draw this conclusion, that while the sanctity of the soul remains even when the body is violated, the sanctity of the body is not lost; and that, in like manner, the sanctity of the body is lost when the sanctity of the soul is violated, though the body itself remains intact.  And therefore a woman who has been violated by the sin of another, and without any consent of her own, has no cause to put herself to death; much less has she cause to commit suicide in order to avoid such violation, for in that case she commits certain homicide to prevent a crime which is uncertain as yet, and not her own.


Next: Chapter 19

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