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CHAPTER CXXVThat Marriage ought not to take place between Kindred

SINCE in marriage there is a union of different persons, those persons who ought to reckon themselves as one because of their being of one stock, are properly excluded from intermarrying, that they may love one another more ardently on the mere ground of their common origin.767767The idea is that two sources of affection ought not to be intermixed: the intermixture may be the spoiling of them both.

2. Since the intercourse of man and wife carries with it a certain natural shame, those persons should be prevented from such intercourse who owe one another a mutual reverence on account of the tie of blood. And this is the reason touched on in Leviticus xviii.

3. Excessive indulgence in sexual pleasures makes for the corruption of good manners: for such pleasures of all others most absorb the mind and hinder the right exercise of reason. But such excessive indulgence would ensue, if the intercourse of the sexes were allowed among persons who must necessarily dwell under the same roof, where the occasion of such intercourse could not be withdrawn.

5. In human society the widening of friendships is of the first importance. That is done by the marriage tie being formed with strangers.768768St Thomas fails to draw the argument from the dreadful physiological effects of endogamy, or ‘breeding in.’

It is to be observed that as that inclination is ‘natural,’ which works upon objects as they usually occur, so law too is framed for what usually happens. Thus it is no derogation from the reasons above alleged, that in some particular case the venture may turn out otherwise: for the good of the individual ought to be overlooked in view of the good of the many, since the good of the multitude is ever more divine than the good of the individual.769769Cf. note, p. 284. The words next following must have been much in evidence, when Henry VIII was vexing the Universities with the question, whether the prohibition in Leviticus xviii, 16, from which Julius II had dispensed him, was merely human, at least under the New Law, or divine, and therefore beyond the competence of papal dispensing power. Lest however any particular complaint might remain wholly without remedy, there rests with legislators and others on like footing authority to dispense in a general enactment so far as is necessary in a particular case. If the law is human, a dispensation may be given by men possessed of power like to that which made the law. If the law is a divine enactment, a dispensation may be given by divine authority, as in the Old Law a dispensatory indulgence seems to have been granted for plurality of wives, and for concubines, and divorce.770770This ‘dispensation,’ frequently mentioned by St Thomas, seems to have been nothing more than πάρεσιν ἁμαρτημάτων, that overlooking of (what in a more perfect stage of society would have been) sins, mentioned by St Paul (Rom. iii, 25, where, because the text is much misunderstood, I am compelled to refer to my Notes on St Paul h.l.). This overlooking appears again in Acts xvii, 30 (ὑπεριδών); and is referred to in Romans v, 13: Sin is not imputed when there is no law. At the time spoken of there was no perfect law, either revealed or natural, because a very rude society could not bear such perfection. I may refer to Aquinas Ethicus, I, 284, 301: Political and Moral Essays, pp. 184-188: and the conference on Progressive Morality in Oxford and Cambridge Conferences, Second Series, pp. 203-214. I make these somewhat egotistic references, because among Catholics the science of morals is handled sometimes as law, with canons and authorities; sometimes as an exact science, like mathematics, lying out of the category of time; seldom with much regard to history and anthropology, aspects which have opened out so widely since St Thomas’ day.

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