If any one shall condemn marriage, or abominate and condemn a woman who is a believer and devout, and sleeps with her own husband, as though she could not enter the Kingdom [of heaven] let him be anathema.
When one considers how deeply the early church was impressed with those passages of Holy Scripture which she understood to set forth the superiority of the virgin over the married estate, it ceases to be any source of astonishment that some should have run into the error of condemning marriage as sinful. The saying of our Blessed Lord with reference to those who had become “eunuchs for the kingdom of heavens sake,” 151 and those words of St. Paul “He that giveth his virgin in marriage doeth well, but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better,” 152 together with the striking passage in the Revelation of those that were “not defiled with women for they are virgins,” 153 were considered as settling the matter for the new dispensation. The earliest writers are filled with the praises of virginity. Its superiority underlies the allegories of the Hermes Pastor; 154 St. Justin Martyr speaks of “many men and women of sixty and seventy years of age who from their childhood have been the disciples of Christ, and have kept themselves uncorrupted,” 155 and from that time on there is an ever-swelling tide of praise; the reader must be referred to SS. Cyprian, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Jerome, Augustine, etc., etc. In fact the Council of Trent (it cannot be denied) only gave expression to the view of all Christian antiquity both East and West, when it condemned those who denied that “it is more blessed to remain virgin or celibate than to be joined in marriage.” 156
This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratians Decretum, Pars I., Distinc. xxx., c. xii. (Isidores version), and again Dist. xxxi., c. viii. (Dionysiuss version). Gratian, however, supposes that the canon is directed against the Manichæans and refers to the marriage of priests, but in both matters he is mistaken, as the Roman Correctors and Van Espen point out.
Conc. Trid.,sessio xxiv. De Matr., can. x. It is curious to note that while Eustathius and his followers held all marriage to be sinful, Luther (at least at one time) taught that it was a sin for anyone to remain unmarried who could “increase and multiply!” The Synod of Gangra in this canon sets forth the unchanging position of the Catholic Church upon this point.
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