Quæstiones Disputatæ de Matrimonio et Baptismo

Fr. Thomas Bolin, O.S.B.
Question 1 – On Matrimony
Article 1 – Whether a marriage can be contracted between parties incapable of having children?
1. It seems that a marriage can be contracted between parties incapable of having children. For, of the three goods of marriage listed by St. Thomas Aquinas (ST III [suppl.], q. 49, a. 2), namely offspring, fidelity, and the sacrament, two are still present in this case, including that which St. Thomas calls the most excellent good of marriage, namely the sacrament. Therefore marriage can validly be contracted by those unable to have children.
2. Furthermore, what is impossible for man is possible for God, and many examples are given to us in Holy Scripture of children being born to those who seemed unable to have children, such as Sarah and Elizabeth. Therefore, so long as the couples are ready to accept a miraculous birth should it be granted them, they can contract marriage validly.
3. Furthermore, it seems that an infertile couple can marry, when the question is considered strictly in terms of procreation and not conjugal union, since in CIC 1084 §3 it says that “Sterility neither prohibits nor nullifies marriage” whereas in §1 the law states that “Antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercourse, whether on the part of the man or the woman, whether absolute or relative, nullifies marriage by its very nature.” Moreover, it is not guaranteed fertility which allows the parties to contract marriage but, the will to conjugal union and fecundity at least in the sense of “charity, hospitality, and of sacrifice” (CCC § 1654). Therefore, etc.
4. However, it seems that a marriage cannot be contracted between parties incapable of having children. For the primary end of marriage is the procreation of offspring, and the marriage contract is an agreement to come together for the sake of offspring. But such a contract cannot be legitimate if the parties are unable to attain the end of the contract. Therefore marriage cannot be contracted between parties incapable of having children.
5. Furthermore, a marriage entered into where the parties exclude offspring is invalid, according to the law of the Church (CIC 1101 § 2). But where both parties are incapable of having children, they cannot but exclude offspring, since one must exclude from one’s intention what one cannot do. Therefore, etc.
6. Furthermore, marriage was instituted by God as a union ordered towards the procreation of offspring, as it is written, “Be fruitful and multiply...” (Gen. 1:28) But those who are incapable of having offspring cannot join together for the sake of children, and therefore such a union would be of a different nature than matrimony as it was instituted by God. Therefore, etc.
“On the contrary” are both the 1917 and 1983 codes of canon law, which state: “Sterility neither prohibits nor invalidates marriage” (1983 CIC 1083, § 3).
I answer that by virtue of the marriage contract, the spouses grant each other the right to marital intercourse. Thus an attempted marriage contract is invalid between those who cannot have marital intercourse with each other. However, the marriage contract does not promise children, since this depends on divine providence. Hence the inability to produce children does not impede the validity of the contract. Furthermore, a marriage between such persons can bring about the secondary end of marriage, namely the marital friendship of the spouses, and possibly the primary end of marriage as well, namely the raising of children, for example by way of adoption or again if one of the spouses already has a child due to a previous marriage, the latter if the inability to have children was a new condition, or a condition only on the part of the other spouse. Thus, since such marriages can attain the proper ends of marriage, not only does sterility not impede the validity of marriage, but there would be no sufficient reason for any positive laws preventing or invalidating such marriages.
To the first it should be said that this explanation is insufficient, since the sacrament cannot be intended without intending the other goods, since the marital contract itself constitutes the sacrament. Likewise the good of fidelity is impeded by the intention to prevent children; one might suppose therefore that it would also be impeded by the inability to have them.
To the second it should be said that the impossibility of having children is understood morally rather than absolutely. But it is in this sense that it should be considered in practical matters; thus impotence invalidates marriage, even though impotent spouses could also have intercourse and children according to a miracle. Likewise, if the absolute impossibility of having children were an impediment to marriage, the moral impossibility would also be an impediment.
The third is conceded.
To the fourth it should be said that the end of marriage is found even more in the raising of children than in the begetting of children, since the end of a thing is found in its perfection. But this end can be achieved even by those who cannot beget children. Furthermore, as was said, in the marital contract children are not promised, but only marital intercourse, which can be given by those who cannot have children.
To the fifth it should be said that “one must exclude from one’s intention what one cannot do” can be understood in two ways. In one way, that one cannot intend to do what one knows one cannot do, and in this way it is true. But the lack of a positive intention to beget children does not impede marriage, but rather the intention to prevent the begetting of children. In another way, it can be understood to mean that one must intend to prevent what one cannot do, and in this way it is false.
To the sixth it should be said that our first parents were commanded not only to multiply, but to “fill the earth and subdue it,” and the earth can only be subdued by the raising of children, thereby giving them the ability to rule over other things. As was said, therefore, the last end of marriage can be achieved even in the case of spouses who cannot have personal offspring.
Article 2 – Whether a purely natural marriage or an unconsummated sacramental marriage can ever be legitimately dissolved by civil authority?
1. It seems that natural marriages can be legitimately dissolved by civil authority. For the Church is able to delegate its powers to the civil authorities. But the Church has the power to dissolve purely natural marriages. Hence the civil authorities can legitimately dissolve natural marriages if it be delegated to them by the Church.
2. Furthermore, it sometimes happens that in a society that a certain marriage is harmful both to the parties of the marriage, and the society in which they live. However, it belongs to the civil authority to regulate all matters of society according to the common good. Hence in such cases the civil authority can rightly dissolve such marriages.
3. Furthermore, the prohibition against divorce given by Christ makes an exception for the case of infidelity by one of the spouses: “Whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress...” (Matt. 5:32) Therefore it seems that at least in such cases the civil authorities may dissolve a natural marriage.
4. However, it seems that a sacramental marriage, even if unconsummated, cannot ever be legitimately dissolved by civil authority. For the sacraments pertain to the spiritual good, and thus fall under the jurisdiction of the spiritual authority, which is higher than the civil authority. Therefore, etc.
5. Moreover, it also seems that a purely natural marriage cannot ever be legitimately dissolved by civil authority, since when our Lord said, “what God has joined together let no man put asunder” (Mark 10:19), he said it in reference to “the beginning” (Mark 10:6), thus making it clear that he spoke not only of sacramental marriages, but also of natural marriages. Therefore, etc.
6. Furthermore, a civil law cannot presume to be superior to the natural law, as natural marriage was instituted by God. The highest authority which can dissolve an unconsummated marriage is the Vicar of Christ (CIC 1142); an inferior authority, therefore, cannot execute what only a superior authority can. Therefore, etc.
“On the contrary” is the authority of St. Thomas Aquinas (Sentences IV, d. 33, q. 2, a. 2), who states that in principle divorce could be licit by way of dispensation, since this dispensation would be given by the one overseeing the common good, which in the natural condition would be the civil authority.
I answer that only a consummated marriage between baptized persons is absolutely indissoluble by any human power, and that other marriages in principle can be validly dissolved by human authority. The general law prohibiting the dissolution of marriage is for the good of children but in concrete circumstances this good may not always be served, or the higher common good of society may be impeded by a marriage, and thus there can be a dispensation from the general law, given by those who have care for the common good.
In general, civil authority would only have the right to grant such a dispensation in the case of a purely natural condition, that is, without the actual existence of the Church,
since given the actual existence of the Church, the supernatural common good takes precedence, and so the Church alone has the right to grant a dispensation, even with regard to unbaptized persons. Thus the 1917 code of canon asserts the authority of the Church over the marriages even of the unbaptized. Without the existence of revelation, however, civil authority would have the right to dissolve a marriage for grave reasons involving the common good of the community and of the family.
To the first that in this case the civil authority would dissolve a marriage per accidens, and the dissolution would still be properly attributed to the power of the Church.
To the second it should be said that this argument applies to the natural condition without the existence of the Church.
To the third it should be said that as is commonly held, Christ spoke of the separation of the spouses rather than dissolution of the bond.
The fourth is conceded.
To the fifth it should be said that even in the beginning, there was an order to the Church, and Christ refers to this original order, rather than to the purely natural condition, which was never an actual condition.
To the sixth it should be said that given the existence of the Church, as was said, the civil authority has no power to dissolve a marriage, even a purely natural one. However, according to the natural condition, the indissolubility of marriage does not pertain to the primary precepts of the natural law, like the prohibition of murder, from which the civil authority cannot dispense, but rather to the secondary precepts, as affirmed by St. Thomas, and thus in principle it could be subject to dispensation.
Question 2 – On Baptism
Article 1 – Whether an infant can receive the baptism of blood?
1. It seems that an infant can receive the baptism of blood, since the Church venerates the Holy Innocents as saints and martyrs even though they did not receive the sacrament of baptism. Therefore, etc.
2. Furthermore, insofar as the parents are Christians and it is their faith by which the malice ending in the death of their unbaptised infant takes place, it can be said that infants can receive a baptism of blood, just as it is in the virtue of the faith of the parents or of the sponsors that infants can receive the baptism of water, as St Augustine says: “[I]n the Church of our Saviour little children believe through others, just as they contracted from others those sins which are remitted in baptism” (Cont. duas Ep. Pelag. 1; cf. ST III, q. 68, a. 9, ad 2). Therefore, etc.
3. Furthermore, it seems that on the part of the necessary intention of the one who kills the infant, all that is required in order to meet the definition of martyrdom is that
he kills from hatred of the faith simply, not from hatred of the faith of the one whom he kills. Therefore, etc.
4. However, someone who is in mortal sin cannot receive the baptism of blood merely because one is killed out of hatred for Christ. Otherwise someone in mortal sin who is killed in their sleep out of hatred for Christ could receive the baptism of blood, which is absurd. Likewise infants, who are in original sin, and who are killed before they can make any rational acts cannot be saved through baptism of blood.
5. Furthermore, the shedding of blood does not have the account of baptism unless it is practiced with charity. Thus, St. Paul says “If I deliver my body to be burned, but have not charity, I am nothing” (I Cor. 13:3). An unbaptized infant, however, is unable to practice charity, and is rather in the state of sin. Therefore even if its blood is shed it is not a true baptism of blood.
6. Furthermore, the nature of baptism of blood is to be conformed to Christ; this conformity, however, takes place primarily through the interior charity of the one dying for Christ. In the case of infants who are killed for Christ, however, this conformity is merely external, and thus cannot be a true baptism of blood. Therefore, etc.
“On the contrary” is the Church’s celebration of the Feast of the Holy Innocents, who were only saved by the baptism of blood.
I answer that even if an adult receives the baptism of blood, his willingness to receive martyrdom may not be sufficient, considered in itself, for the forgiveness of all sin and all punishment for sin, yet he is granted this forgiveness by reason of the likeness of his suffering with the passion of Christ. For the same reason, therefore, and not by his own merit, a child who is killed for Christ receives the baptism of blood, namely according to the will and power of Christ, since it would be most unfitting for those killed for Christ to be lost to him.
The first argument is conceded.
To the second it should be said that this argument is not unreasonable, although it is more probable that an infant may receive the baptism of blood even if his parents and others about him do not believe.
To the third it should be said that in agreement with the fourth, more is required for martyrdom than a killing out of hatred for the faith in general, since otherwise those in mortal sin could receive martyrdom without repenting of their sins even implicitly.
To the fourth it should be said that just as baptism of water can be received by an infant in original sin, because original sin is received from another and not a positive obstacle to grace on the part of the infant, who has not turned away from grace by a particular act, so in the same way, the infant can receive the baptism of blood, even though this cannot happen in the case of someone asleep in the state of mortal sin, just as the involuntary baptism of a sleeping adult in the state of mortal sin is not valid.
To the fifth it should be said that the infant receives grace according to the will and power of Christ, and not by his own merit, as was said.
To the sixth it should be said that there is an interior conformity with the passion of Christ on the part of the persecutor, who hates the faith of Christ, just as Christ’s persecutors hated him. This interior conformity on the part of the persecutor is a just motive for Christ to accept the suffering of the infant and grant it by his power the grace of interior conformity with his passion.
Article 2 – Whether an infant who dies without baptism can be saved in virtue of the faith of another?
1. It seems that an infant who dies without baptism can be saved in virtue of the faith of another. For as Augustine says, “In the Church of Our Saviour, little children believe through others, just as they contracted those sins which are remitted through baptism” (Cont. duas Ep. Pelag. 1; cf. ST III, q. 68, a. 9, ad 2). But this refers not only to the parents, but even to the faith of the Church herself. But the Church desires the salvation and baptism of every infant. Therefore every infant receives baptism of desire in the first moment of its existence.
2. Further, intercessory prayer is of no avail for those in hell; however, the church permits mass to be said for an infant who dies without baptism provided that the parents intended to baptize the child. But this would not be the case, unless the child could be saved in virtue of the parent’s intention. Therefore, etc.
3. Furthermore, an infant can receive the baptism of blood on account of being killed for Christ, as the Holy Innocents. If an infant cannot receive the baptism of desire through their parents, it will follow that a child who for lack of water cannot be baptized cannot be saved through the prayers and faith of the parents, but if the parents were to apostatize from the faith and sacrifice their child to demons on account of hatred of Christ, the infant would be saved. But this is unfitting, since faith is stronger than unbelief. Therefore, etc.
4. However, it seems that an infant who dies without baptism cannot be saved in virtue of the faith of another, since St. Thomas says that for infants there is no other remedy than the sacrament of baptism (ST III, q. 68, a. 3). Therefore, etc.
5. Furthermore, as Dionysius says, “Our heavenly guides approved of infants being admitted to baptism” (Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, 3). Were it possible for infants to be saved in virtue of the faith of another, the Apostles would not have found it necessary to approve of baptism for infants. Therefore, etc.
6. Furthermore, the Catechism (CCC § 1259) says of infants who die without baptism that we may hope for their salvation in virtue of the mercy of God. Therefore, even if they are saved, they are saved not in virtue of the faith of another, but in virtue of the mercy of God.
“On the contrary”, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC § 1259) states that “with respect to little children who have died without baptism, the liturgy of the Church invites us to trust in God’s mercy and to pray for their salvation.” But if the
child cannot be saved through the faith of another, he cannot be saved at all, and so we should not pray for his salvation, just as we do not pray for the damned.
I answer that according to the more probable opinion, just as a man can be saved either by baptism intentionally received, or by his desire for it, so a child can be saved by baptism conferred on him through another’s faith and intention, or through the other’s faith and desire to confer baptism, even if baptism is not actually given. According to the common opinion, circumcision conferred grace on those who received it, and if so, it would have been most unfitting if boys could receive grace but not girls. Therefore girls in the Old Covenant received grace through the faith of the parents, and if it was possible then, much more is it possible now. However, if the other has faith but no desire to confer baptism, for example, if the parents have faith but wish to delay baptism until adulthood, the child would not receive grace through the faith of the parents, just as a person will not receive grace through his own faith, if he has no desire to receive baptism.
To the first it should be said that to be saved through the faith of another requires some concrete application of the other’s faith to the one being saved, just as in the Old Covenant male infants were justified by the faith of the parents which was applied through circumcision. Since no such concrete application is universal, the universal conclusion drawn does not follow, and by its weakness it seems rather to draw ridicule upon itself.
To the second it should be said that this implies that the Church does not condemn the position that children can be saved through the faith of another, but does not imply that the Church teaches this.
The third may be conceded, although it might also be said that salvation through the baptism of blood does not proceed from the power of unbelief, but from the power of Christ.
To the fourth it should be said that St. Thomas also says, “Children in their mothers’ wombs have not yet come forth into the light, that they might lead life with other men. Whence they cannot be subject to human action, that by their ministry they might receive the sacraments for salvation. Yet they can be subject to the work of God, with whom they live, that by a certain privilege they might attain the grace of sanctification, as is evident with those sanctified in the womb” (ST III, q. 68, a. 11, ad 1). But children who die without baptism are also subject to the work of God and might also receive a similar privilege.
To the fifth it should be said that an infant who dies without baptism may be saved through the faith of another insofar as the other wished for the baptism of the infant. But if the baptism of infants were not approved, none would wish for it on behalf of infants, and thus salvation in this manner would not be possible.
To the sixth it should be said that this is said because this question has not been defined by the Church. Nonetheless, an infant who is saved through the faith of another is indeed saved through the mercy of God, and thus these are not opposed to one another.

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