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The Family, Christian and Pagan

From Brownson’s Quarterly Review for October, 1875
Though bound as a volume, and very handsomely printed and done up, this is really only a small tract intended for gratuitous circulation among the people by the charitable and well-to-do. But, if of small dimensions, it is not of small importance. It treats in a worthy manner a great subject. The family, not the individual, is the social unit: indeed it is not only the basis of society, but society itself; and as is the family, so is society. If society is constituted by the family, the family is constituted by marriage, and marriage demands sanctity, unity, and indissolubility: three things which it lacked in the pagan world, in proportion as the modern world ceases to be Catholic.

Social corruption, whether ancient or modern, begins in the family, and the corruption of the family carries with it the ruin of society, and of all that deserves the name of civilization. The renowned nations of antiquity went out with the family: it is to the restoration of the family, the assertion and maintenance of the sanctity, unity, and indissolubility of marriage by Christianity, that modern nations chiefly owe the moral greatness which they possess, or but lately possessed. The family received a fatal blow from the reformers in the sixteenth century, who began by denying the indissolubility of marriage, and soon proceeded to deny its sacramental character and, therefore, its sanctity. From a sacrament, therefore a religious institution, marriage, in all Protestant states, was early reduced to a mere civil contract; and consequently withdrawn from the authority of the church and placed under that of the civil power. No Protestant nation or sect holds marriage to be either a sacrament or indissoluble; and there is no one that does not permit polygamy, not simultaneous polygamy it may be, but actual polygamy, in permitting the divorced man or woman to marry while the husband or the wife from whom he or she is divorced, is still living. The reformers therefore destroyed or prepared the way for the destruction alike of the sanctity, the unity, and the indissolubility of marriage, and placed marriage on the lowest plane on which it existed in the pagan nations. Hence we need not be surprised to find modern society, especially in non-Catholic nations, become, or rapidly becoming, as corrupt as it anciently was in the pagan empire.

M. l’Abbe Riche in this little tract shows us very well what this corruption of the family and of society was under paganism, and we commend his sketch of the family under paganism to our strong-minded women and our woman’s rights men and advocates of divorce ad libitum, or so-called free love. We make an extract:--

"In order to form to ourselves a just idea of the family before Christianity, it is always in Roman civilization, and at its best epoch, that we shall study it. Let us see, therefore, what marriage then was, and in what respective conditions father, mother, and child lived.

"There were at that period, in usage as well as in law, two sorts of marriages, the patrician and the plebeian marriage. Originally the former was almost always made by confarreation; that is to say, by a religious ceremony in which was offered far, or flour bread, which was intended to give to the union of the spouses a character of duration and stability. The latter, which was the more common, and became subsequently almost the only mode by which spouses were legally united, was the marriage by coemption, that is to say, a regular purchase. By this marriage the husband bought the wife, who, legally speaking, became his slave. She was sold by her father, or guardian, in presence of five witnesses. It is true that this sale was rather symbolical than real, since the price of the woman sold was only an as, one of the smallest Roman coins; but its effects were none the less positive, for the husband thereby acquired over his wife a complete right of ownership. In fact, he could abandon her as he had acquired her, and he had even the right to lend her, precisely like a piece of household furniture, the use of which one would give up for a time. With that power and those rights, the most moderate use the man could make of them was simply to repudiate his wife. But in that case she would not recover her liberty. She only returned to her father’s tutelage or that of her nearest relation.

"As to slaves, we have elsewhere said that there was no marriage for them. Their union was not recognized, and, the legislator regarding it only as the transitory and fortuitous coupling of animals, the fruit thereof naturally reverted to the master of their person.

"It is easy to understand that marriage established on these bases offered no solid security to society for the propagation and maintenance of families; and, in fact, towards the latter times of the republic the citizens became so disgusted with it, and the population became thereby so seriously imperilled, that a whole system of legislation was found necessary in order to encourage marriage and punish celibacy. Such was the origin of the Pappian laws, which held a considerable place in Roman legislation till the reform of morals introduced by Christianity rendered them useless.

"Another cause of the dissolution of the family in ancient times was divorce. In the thought of the legislators themselves marriage was only considered as an association which was to last so long as the parties agreed together. It was thought that where a good understanding no longer existed, there was no longer any possible companionship; and hence it was concluded that, to prevent this evil, it was requisite that a marriage which had become nothing more than a disunion, might be legally dissolved. These ideas had so prevailed that divorce and polygamy were universally authorized by legislation among the different nations of antiquity. The Indians, the Thracians, the Persians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, had admitted them into their moral code; and in the latter times of the republic and the empire the Romans had carried divorce to the most shameful lengths of immorality and corruption.

"Divorce must not be confounded with repudiation. The former was the dissolution of the patrician marriage, and the latter was that of the plebeian marriage. Divorce was an act between free persons equal in rights, and it might be demanded by one or the other of the parties. Repudiation was an act of master to slave, and it never came but from the master; that is to say, from the husband. Divorce recalled by its very name the independence of those who had a right to have recourse to it. It signified separation of the parties, who went each their own way in consequence of the incompatibility of their temper or of their own habits. This separation had to be established and perfected in a manner as authentic as the marriage itself. Hence the intervention of the ministers of religion was again necessary, because they alone could unbind what they had bound together, and that confarreation had to be destroyed by diffarreation. As to the marriage by coemption, which was that of the great majority, its annulment was extremely simple. Concluded in the form of a sale, it was nullified by a sale, or, rather, by a purchase. The wife had been, as the jurisconsults said, mancipated; that is to say, bought by her father or her guardian. He who had bought her—her husband—mancipated her in turn as a slave whom he no longer wanted. Only it was those who had first sold her who bought her back; or, to speak more exactly, she was given back to them as she had been purchased—by a sham sale.

"Divorce was a serious act, and it necessarily had, in the limits of the law, an irrevocable character. But it was not so with repudiation. In that case it was a master who did what he would with his slave. He took her, he left her, and no one had a right to call him to account for his caprices. For the rest, incompatibility of temper and barrenness were, with adultery, the principal causes of repudiation and of divorce, or, at least, they were those that were formally pleaded in such separations.

"So much being said, it must be remarked that divorce no more than repudiation prevented a wife from marrying again as soon as she wished. When morals had reached the last degree of corruption, this right was so abused that separations appeared as an inevitable and quite natural consequence of marriage. Under the reign of the emperors there were many women of the first families of Rome who might, so to say, have counted their years, not by the number of the consuls, but by that of their husbands. It had come to the point that wives had also acquired the right of divorcing, even in the absence of their husbands; and it happened to more than one husband, on returning home after a long journey, to find in his house only the wife of another. Evidently, as Martial observed, the woman who married so many times and so easily was not married: she was an adulteress by law. That which set the plebeians, moreover, quite at their ease in this regard, was the conduct of the patricians and of the emperors themselves. When Augustus, for example, was seen to put away his first wife, to take from Tiberius Nero his wife, who was on the point of becoming a mother; when men like Maecenas, Cicero, and other grave personages, were subsequently seen to act in this manner with the same facility, people thought themselves sufficiently authorized to walk in their footsteps. Hence the slightest motives really sufficed to bring about a separation between spouses. Advanced age, some slight illness, a passing infirmity, or simple satiety, was enough to cause a divorce or repudiation. Now, with such principles and such monstrous abuses, it is easy to infer to what degree of depravity morals must have fallen. There was no more marriage, and consequently no more family. It was universal debauch."

The abbe is very correct in his statements and just in his reflections, but he is not very profound, and, like not a few French abbes, not remarkable for his breadth of mind. The religious or patrician marriage, and which was forbidden to the plebs or plebeians, was doubtless a reminiscence of the patriarchal marriage, though much disfigured. The authority of the pater familias, among the Romans, over his wife, children, and slaves, differed not essentially from the authority of the Biblical patriarchs; and even Jacob purchased his wives, serving their father Laban seven years for Lia, and another seven years for Rachel. The authority was legitimate and unobjectionable, as long as it was tempered by conjugal and parental affection. The abbe, or his translator, would seem to confound the plebs with the populace, or the poorer and lower class. Niebuhr has corrected this very common notion. They were not seldom as noble as the patricians, and not seldom even richer, as the great Marian family proves. Nor did the plebs complain because they were not permitted to intermarry with patrician families, as is commonly supposed. The struggle between the plebs and patricians, which at one time threatened to be so disastrous to the city, bore no resemblance to a struggle between the democracy and the aristocracy. There was a proletarian class in Rome, clamoring for bread and the circus, or shows, but no democratic class, from Romulus to Augustulus, that we have ever been able to discover. The plebs were denizens of Rome, but owning or owned by no part of the sacred territory surveyed and marked by the god Terminus, to which all political power in the city was attached; they had no voice in public affairs, though forced to bear their share and often more than their share in the public burdens. They complained of this, and also that they were denied the rites of religious marriage, or marriage by confarreation. That marriage by coemption became very general under the emperors is, perhaps, owing to the almost total extinction of the old patrician families. If we recollect our history aright, they were reduced from the three hundred families under the kings to fifty under Augustus.

We do not think the authority of the pater familias was productive of evil in the beginning, for women and children as well as servants, need a master: and, indeed, Christianity makes the man the head of the woman, and imposes only moral restrictions on his power. The abbe could have known little of the United States, especially in the northern, western, and middle states, where parental and marital authority has, except with a few old-fashioned people, hardly any existence. The evil of the patriarchal system began with the apostasy from the patriarchal religion. As long as men worshipped God and observed His law, the moral and religious restraints, together with a tender and loving disposition always nurtured by true religion, afforded ample protection for the wife, the children, and the servants; far more ample than the civil law now affords, if we may believe the reports of criminal and police courts. But when men apostatized, fell into barbarism, became a prey to selfishness, cruelty, and luxury, the parental and marital authority, as every other species of authority, was more or less grossly abused, for with religion went the sanctity, unity, and indissolubility of marriage.

We extract also what the learned abbe says of the "Condition of the Woman in the Pagan Family":

"What we have hitherto said of the state of the woman in marriage may already give us an idea of her abasement and degradation; but all is not yet told. I know not whether it is to be attributed to the primitive traditions, which blamed the woman as the cause of the original fall; but certain it is that pagan antiquity never considered woman as the equal of man, and that it even placed her in a degree of inferiority that is only explained by a deeply-rooted contempt. ‘The souls of men shall be punished in the second generation by passing into the body of a woman,’ said Plato, ‘and in the third by passing into that of a brute.’

"According to these ideas it is not surprising to find woman everywhere and always under the tutelage of man. Before marriage, in the family, she was the property of her father, and consequently under a tutelage which no majority destroyed; and after her marriage that tutelage continued without anywise changing her dependence. In fact, whether she was married, as a patrician, by confarreation, taking the title of matron, then she was freed personally from her husband only by remaining under the tutelage of her father or grandfather; or she became subject to her husband, and then it was the latter who became not only her tutor or guardian, but her absolute master. The wife had, however, the title of mother of family, even when she had no children; but that title merely signified that she was the mother of the slaves of the house. In fact as in law, she was never mistress of herself. In relation to her husband she had only the rank of a daughter, and when she became a mother it was only to remain the sister, consanguinea, of her own children. For the rest, in one case as in the other, she was deprived of the right of property, or at least possessed it only in the way of a child; for her good were always under the guardianship of her husband or her father.

"This inexorable subjection of the woman to the man ceased not even at the death of the husband. Before his death the latter had a right to give his wife a tutor of his own choice; and when he did not do so the widow fell back again, quite naturally, under the guardianship of her father or her nearest male relative, as before her marriage.

"It is needless to add that, with such usages and under such legislation, the mother had no authority over her own children. We have already said that she shared all their dependence, in relation to those under whose guardianship she lived, and consequently all right was denied her.

"In fine, the woman passed her whole life in the slavery of man. The property of her father before her marriage, the property of her husband after her marriage, she became again, in her widowhood, the property of her nearest relative, or of a tutor chosen by her husband; that is to say, she passed from hand to hand, like any other property, and she could belong to all without ever belonging to herself.

"In this state of personal abasement, it is easy to understand that the wife would seek some desperate indemnity; and she found no other compensation within her reach than that of sensual pleasure, it was not surprising that she should rush into it with avidity. This was precisely what happened. Luxury when it was possible, refinement in all voluptuousness,--these became the grand business of life with the woman of civilized antiquity. And, as voluptuousness is selfish, even to cruelty, it came to pass that the woman, the slave of her husband or her tutor, took a cruel pleasure in exercising her tyranny over the slaves who were subject to her.

"Even at this period of effeminacy, of sensuality, and of luxury, in which we live, it is difficult to figure to ourselves how far excesses of this kind were carried in the world of pagan women. We shall not attempt to remove the veil of history that hides so much corruption. The heart heaves with disgust in presence of those revolting monstrosities. But how can we believe the voluptuousness of the pagan woman, her cruelty to her slaves, even on the testimony of the most reliable historians?

"In the time of the Roman republic a law had been passed forbidding women garments of divers colors, chariots, and games; but this law, Oppia, was obliged to yield to the ever-increasing demands of the matrons, and it was abolished twenty years after its promulgation. Then, as if to indemnify themselves, the women gave themselves up to the most frantic excesses of luxury. A free woman devoted her whole time to dress, banquets, and diversions; she had then a whole crowd of slaves to wait upon her. There were, especially, cosmetists, whose business it was to prepare and apply pastes, ointments, and perfumes of every kind, to hid natural defects and give some artificial beauty. Besides these there were ornamenters, whose functions were the arranging of their mistresses in their rich garments. Finally, the patrician lady had at her command a whole troop of slaves, whose duty it was to drive her chariot, to carry her, to follow and to precede her, and to run any and everywhere at the slightest sign of her will or her caprice.

"It was said proverbially that the Roman ladies were a year at their toilet. Hence they coquettishly admitted their friends during the labor of certain details of their toilet. Then woe to the giddy or awkward slaves who did not immediately comply with the wishes of their mistress! A prompt and terrible punishment instantly reminded them of all that was required of them. The patrician had no hesitation in flinging at their head whatever came to her hand. She even went so far as to throw herself upon them and strike them, pulling their hair and tearing their face with her nails. Some were seen to carry their fury still farther, for they armed themselves with long needles, wherewith they cruelly pricked their victims till the blood came. There were women who required that their slaves should wait on them naked to the waist, so as to chastise them the more easily. Many even carried cruelty so far as to have public executioners brought to their house to lash with whips and leathern thongs the body of these poor servants, whom they caused to be bound to a post or hung up by the hair; and that under their own eyes, and whilst they were having themselves scented with the most delicious perfumes. It was only when the executioner’s strength began to fail, that the matron thought of putting an end to the torments of her victims. She then drove them from her presence.

"This is what was done in Rome under the emperors publicly, and without any one raising his voice to denounce such infamous conduct. It is the historians and satirists of the period who have transmitted them to us; but from the manner in which they relate them, it is easy to infer that they considered them only as mere exaggerations. Conscience had nothing to do in the matter, nor justice neither. It was a caprice that had passed into the usages of a people who had many others more monstrous.

"With all these refinements of luxury and of cruelty, woman found herself degraded so low that she strove to raise herself, exteriorly, by jewels of the greatest price. Patrician ladies were covered with gold; strings of emeralds and all sorts of precious stones and jewels hung from their neck, and were wound around their waist; their hands were loaded with rings enriched with precious stones; and on their arms, as well as their wrists, they wore golden bracelets fashioned like serpents, weighing as much as from six to ten Roman pounds.

"It was, nevertheless, in vain that woman sought to raise herself from her degradation. She was so despised by public opinion that debauchery itself had become disgusted with the refinement of her voluptuousness. Yes, she who was created to be the companion of man, was no longer thought worthy of being even the sport of his passions. And so it came to pass that man himself came to prostitute himself in her place to unnatural abominations, which were at length considered as nowise disgraceful, so common had they become."

The author sometimes mistakes effects for causes, but, in general, his account of the condition of the woman in the pagan family is correct, only we are inclined to think that he exaggerates this notion of property attached to the woman. Undoubtedly the law held her to be the property as a daughter, of her father, and as a wife, the property of her husband; but if not of the slave class, she was not properly the slave of either. Doubtless the civil law permitted the father to sell his daughter, and the husband to sell or lend his wife; but the sale of the daughter to a husband, the abbe himself says, was a sham sale, a legal fiction, and we do not find that the husband sold his wife as a chattel. We remember only one instance of a husband lending his wife to his friend, that of the elder Cato; and we do not find his act spoken of with commendations, or as one of frequent occurrence. We suppose the pagans had, till they reached the last stages of corruption, under the Caesars, the ordinary affection for the wife and children. We believe the tyranny of man over woman in the pagan world has been very much exaggerated, as it is now under modern gentilism. Woman’s tyranny over man is as great as his over her; and if he is the more brutal of the two, she understands better than he how to gamble on his love for her. We do not sympathize with the abbe in his talk about the independence of woman and her equality to man. She has all the moral and religious rights that he has, and is, morally and spiritually, his equal; but in the family she is subordinated to him as her head, as Christ is the head of the church. The abbe knows and concedes it, but he uses expressions which are too favorable to the woman’s rights movement, as we have sometimes found the illustrious bishop of Orleans himself doing.

The real cause of the dissolution of the family under paganism was, first, the apostasy of the gentiles, their nationalism, their desertion of the worship of God, their impure and abominable superstitions, and gross idolatries; and second, the toleration of divorce and repudiation. The corruption of religion carries with it the corruption of every thing else, the family, the state, education, and natural society itself. Where purity of faith and worship is wanting, every species of moral purity is wanting. Man cannot live as a natural man alone, or, as the ancients said, "according to nature," for he is under a gracious providence, and must always either rise by grace above nature, or, by satanic influence, fall below it. If he worships not God, he worships the devil. The pagans gave up the worship of God, and worshipped the devil in his place:--"All the gods of the heathen are devils," the Scriptures tell us, and the great effort of the modern world, especially of the sects, is to rehabilitate them. The abbe, from the corruption of the pagan family and society, would prove the devilish character of the pagan religion, and, therefore, the moral necessity of Christianity. This is all well, and is, no doubt, a legitimate method of treating the question; but, for ourselves, we prefer a briefer and more comprehensive line of argument. The method we prefer is, to begin by showing that Christianity expresses the normal order of all the Creator’s works, both natural and supernatural, and then to conclude at once that any deviation from the Christian law, either in faith or worship, is itself moral corruption. Even Catholics are too apt to forget that Christianity expresses the normal order of the universe; that man is created and exists for the supernatural; that nature never suffices for nature, and that man has, in the present providence, no natural end, no natural beatitude; and that consequently all so-called natural virtues are imperfect, and require to be supplemented, completed, or transfigured by the supernatural.

No doubt the natural order is distinguishable from the Christian order, but only as the initial is distinguishable from the teleological,--the beginning from the end. Yet, the Christian order in its full sense comprehends both the natural and the supernatural, for all things have been created and are sustained ad Christum no less than ad Verbum. The Christian is the normal order of the universe, and no life is a true and well-ordered life that is not conformed to the Christian order, or the law of Christ. Hence the destructive nature of heresy, infidelity, and apostasy. Heresy mutilates the law, and transfers the authority, whose will the law expresses, from Christ, who is God, to man, and places it in the human will; for the word heresy means choice. The heretic is therefore one who chooses his own religion, and, of course, in obeying it obeys only himself, that is to say, performs no act of obedience at all. Hence the reason why we always find heretics, that is, sectarians, proud, arrogant, conceited, and overbearing, never truly gentle, meek and humble. Humility is the root of every Christian virtue, and heresy and humility never go together. Infidel, with Catholic theologians, means an unbaptized person, one who has never received the faith in Christian baptism; but, with Protestant theologians, and generally in our English-speaking world, means one who denies the divinity of Christ, and all divine revelation. He may be a deist, a pantheist, or an atheist. Infidelity, therefore, in Christian communities, of coincident with apostasy. It is a total rejection of the Christian order, and therefore, the normal order of the universe, and is to be marked as the enemy of God, and of all truth and goodness.

Heresy, which is a species of infidelity in our English sense, and does not in principle differ from it, has come, in nearly all modern societies, to be looked upon as blameless, if not as praiseworthy, since Christianity itself has come to be looked upon as a mere theory or a mere opinion, with no moral character of its own, obligatory, if at all, only on those who accept it. But this is a sad error, and is seen to be so, the moment the Christian order is understood to be, identically, the normal order of the universe, the moral law of creation, without which nothing in creation has any reason of existence, any sense or meaning, or real life. Christ is the light, and the light is the life of the world. You cannot reject Catholicity and fall back on a general Christianity, as the reformers dreamed they could; for, as separate or distinguished from the Catholic Church, there is no Christianity. You cannot reject Christianity and fall back on nature, for Christianity includes both the natural and the supernatural and their dialectic union, and nature demands it for its own significance and fulfillment.

The errors of Calvinists and Jansenists, who suppress nature in order to make way for grace, have doubtless led our theologians to place the greatest possible emphasis on the distinction between the natural and the supernatural, and to give the greatest prominence possible, without absolute error, to the natural. They have dwelt less on the fact that the natural and the supernatural form, in the divine decree, but one dialectic whole, are only parts of one universal order,--so as not to seem to favor the Calvinistic and Jansenistic heresy,-- than might otherwise have been desirable. But we think that the synthesis of nature and grace, or the dialectic relation of the natural and the supernatural as parts of one uniform whole, may now be brought out without any danger of favoring that monstrous heresy; and it seems to us necessary to do it in order to meet the pernicious error of those who imagine that they can find a standing-place for reason and science outside of the Christian order,--the enemies we have now chiefly to war against; and against whom we have hitherto waged a less successful war than we might and should have done. We must prove to them that the Christian order is catholic, and intrinsic in the universe, and that outside of it, there is and can be no ground to stand on.

But to return from this digression, or from these necessary explanations rather. Once established that the Christian order is the normal order of the universe, we have no difficulty in proving that apostasy, or a departure from it, necessarily throws the apostate nations out of order, and plunges them into a moral chaos. The corruption of the pagan family and of pagan society resulted from the rejection of the Catholic religion represented by the patriarchs, and the adoption in its place of gentilism, or as we say in modern times, nationalism and sectarism. The more immediate cause of the corruption of the family was not the tyranny of the husband and father, nor the slavery of the wife and children, but the denial of the indissolubility and sanctity of marriage. These things followed as the effects of that denial. The corruption followed as a necessary consequence of the rejection of marriage as founded in the Christian order, that is, as founded in the order of nature and grace; and we see the same consequences follow in the modern nations that make marriage a civil contract, and dissoluble, with permission to the parties divorced to marry again. These nations destroy the sanctity, the unity, and the indissolubility of marriage, therefore the Christian family itself as established in the Christian order. The corruption of general society follows as a necessary consequence of the dissolution of the family.

We extract here what the author says of the position of the child under paganism:

"By the condition of the woman in the pagan family it is easy to imagine what must have been the fate of the child. It was another slave, over whom the head of the family exercised the right of full ownership.

"In Rome, in the best days of her civilization, every child immediately after its birth was laid on the ground at its father’s feet. If the latter took it up, it was understood that he recognized it and consented to preserve its life. But if, on the contrary, he left it at his feet, it was understood that he abandoned it. They then took it and left it exposed in some public place, without troubling themselves any more about it. Thus deserted, the unfortunate creature had little chance of any other fate than to die of cold or hunger, or be devoured by dogs. Its lot was sometimes worse still, for enterprising beggars had a right to take possession of it and mutilate it, in order to obtain alms from public commiseration.

"In the best conditions of family life the child so remained the property of his father, that the latter was nowise accountable to the law for the use he made of him. IN fact, the paternal right which Romulus had rendered common to the patricians and plebeians, permitted fathers to put their children into prison, to have them beaten with rods, to load them with irons, to send them to the country to till the soil, to sell them as slaves, and also to have them put to death, even though they had occupied the very highest positions, and had rendered the most signal services to the republic.

"We may add that this absolute power of the father over his child was not exclusively proper to the Romans. It was admitted in the legislation of all nations; and it was barely a few philosophers who gave utterance to some equivocal protests, which no one heeded in the affairs of life. ‘As to the Roman legislators in particular,’ says Sextus Empiricus, ‘they had rendered the condition of children absolutely like to that of the slaves; and fathers were masters of their goods, until they had emancipated them, in the same way that they emancipated their slaves.’

"In the time of the emperors, it is true, the rigor of the ancient legislation was softened by some laws restrictive of parental authority; but these new laws were rather an appeal to paternal pity than a real repression, since they were ratified by no fixed penalty. To magistrates only did it belong to pronounce grave crimes; but as there was here question of an abuse of power tolerated by past ages, and which was still found in accordance with the ideas of the time, people easily shut their eyes: and so it was that paternal authority might become with impunity the most cruel of tyrannies.

"Even under the sway of the most beneficent laws in favor of children, the father had still the right to sell his new-born child in case of necessity, of which he was the principal judge; and, if he found no purchaser, there was nothing to prevent him from getting rid of it by exposing it in some lonely place.

"What adds still more to the despotism of this abuse of paternal authority is the extension the law gave as to the persons who were subject to it. In fact, this authority extended not only to all the children born of an actual marriage, together with adopted children and wards, but it applied also to the children or grandchildren who were born of the marriage of sons or grandsons. It reached even to daughters-in-law, married or emancipated, who thus became, as it were, the daughters of their husbands, and thereby remained, so to say, the granddaughters of their father-in-law. The law could not recognize the authority of a son in a family over his wife and children, because, it is said, he should be master over himself to exercise power over another; and that he was not.

"In short, the pagan marriage was, therefore, only a union by which the woman passed into the tutelage of a husband when she did not remain under that of her father. With the full liberty of divorce, this union had no other security for stability than the caprice of the married couple. Thence came a fearful corruption of morals, and trouble and confusion in families. In these conditions, established or tolerated by the laws, the woman and the child were veritable slaves, subject, body and goods, to the despotism of the husband or father. In a word, women and children were, as slaves, the free property of a master; and the latter, husband or father as he might be, could use and abuse them as he would the furniture of his house. Such was the family in antiquity, when Jesus Christ appeared on earth."

Under the patriarchal system, and even under the Jewish, the authority of the father over the child was in most respects as great as it was under paganism; but its exercise, as we have said in the case of the wife, was tempered, not only by natural affection, but by the teaching, the precepts, and the discipline of the Catholic religion, which, we must remember, was held alike by the patriarchs and the synagogue. The faith of the patriarchs and of the Jews was the same with ours, only they believed in Christ who was to come, and we in Christ who has come. Catholic means universal in time as well as in space, and the Catholic religion was always and everywhere, and ever will be, the one only religion of the people of God: and God has always had a people on earth, and always will have to the end of time. The gentiles, when they broke away from unity, and became dispersed over the earth, carried with them many reminiscences of the patriarchal religion, and retained many of the provisions of primitive legislation, which, however, they retained only in a fragmentary state, and often and sadly abused. The authority of the father over the child under paganism was retained from the primitive legislation, and never annulled either by the synagogue or the church, though provisions restricting its exercise and guarding against its abuse were adopted in both.

Paganism had its point of departure in the true religion, in the primitive constitution of society and the primitive legislation, that is to say, in the patriarchal tradition, which it gradually perverted, corrupted, mutilated, and not unfrequently travestied, as Protestantism does the tradition of the church; only in several respects Protestantism retains less of Catholic principle than did paganism. Paganism retained nearly all the principles of the primitive tradition, but rejected, lost, or perverted its doctrines; Protestantism, in some of its forms, retains many of its doctrines, but rejects, loses, or perverts its principles. The principle of parental authority belonged to the patriarchal tradition, which was of divine origin; but paganism misapplied, perverted, or exaggerated it, the later developments of Protestantism tend to deny it, and one of the greatest evils of modern non-Catholic society is the lack of family government, the practical emancipation of the child from parental authority. It is necessary, therefore, as in the case of marital authority, in pointing out the perversions and abuses of parental authority under paganism, to take care not to attack or impair the principle itself, and thus destroy the very basis of filial respect and obedience.

The father among the Romans,--the most cruel people of which history gives us any account, and from whom were derived the barbarous and cruel practices of the barbarous ages of modern society, commonly supposed to have been introduced by the Germanic conquerors of the empire,--had the power of life and death over the child, and if he refused to say to the new-born infant, "Live," it was exposed. This was bad enough; but while in modern society infants are no longer exposed, they are, to a fearful extent, murdered even before they are born, which is far worse. Foeticide is to us more shocking than infant exposure; nor less revolting is another practice that obtains to an alarming extent, which we name not. We think also that the undue license enjoyed by children in non-Catholic society in modern times is a greater social evil than the alleged tyranny of the father under ancient paganism. The Abbe Riche does not seem to be fully aware of the fearful corruption and degradation of the family in our modern non-Catholic communities. The corruption and degradation of the family have gone further than he supposes, and, if they are not as universal as under Greek and Roman paganism, they are as deep and damning in their more limited sphere.

It was with great difficulty the church succeeded in bringing society practically up to the observance of Christian marriage, on which the family depends; and it is sad to think that for over three hundred years it has been warred against in one form or another by all the enemies of Catholicity,--let us say in plain words, by all the enemies of the papacy. The Protestant reformation denied its sacramental character, made it a civil contract, and dissoluble as any other civil contract by the civil authority on conditions prescribed by itself. It thus denied its sanctity, that it is semper res sacra,--always a sacred thing, as Pere Martin maintains, denied its indissolubility, and by authorizing not only divorce, but the husband or wife divorced to marry again during the lifetime of the other party, it practically denied its unity, and authorized what the Abbe Riche calls "successive polygamy," not different in principle from the simultaneous polygamy as practised by the Mormons, and which, indeed, Luther and the leading Protestant ministers sanctioned, at least, in the case of Philip, landgrave of Hesse.

At first Protestants allowed divorce only in the case of adultery, and permitted only the innocent party to marry again during the lifetime of the other party; but other causes, as time went on, such as desertion, cruelty, incompatibility of temper, &c., were added , and deemed sufficient for dissolving the marriage bond; and in most Protestant states both parties, the guilty as well as the innocent, are now allowed to form new marriage relations. In some of the states of our American Union divorce is almost ad libitum, and really for no other reason than that the parties, one or both of them, wish to form a new partnership. The church allows a divorce a mensa et thoro, for adultery, desertion, and extreme cruelty, but divorce a vinculo matrimonii never; and in no case is either party free to marry while the other is living. Our Lord allows the separation from bed and board, but does not free the parties from the marriage bond, and neither party can marry another without committing adultery. So we read in the New Testament; but Protestants, though professing, in season and out of season, to take the Bible as their rule of faith and practice, hold it of no more authority than last year’s almanac, unless it supports their opinions or favors their inclinations. The more advanced party among them admit no matrimonial bond in any proper sense at all, but contend that the parties should be free to come together and to separate according to their mutual pleasure or convenience. The women’s rights movement inaugurated by Mary Wollstonecraft, after some sad experiments in free-love, married to William Godwin, was and is with its leaders a movement against the laws of Christian marriage, and therefore against the family. The demand for woman suffrage has for its object the abolition of all marriage laws, and there is no logical standing between divorce a vinculo, as asserted by all Protestants, and what goes by the name of free-love. We know no class of professed reformers who do not make war directly or indirectly on Christian marriage, and consequently on the family, and therefore on society itself.

The demand for divorce a vinculo, which logically involves divorce ad libitum, is based on the assumption that the sole object of marriage, or cohabitation of the man and woman, is the mutual happiness or pleasure of the cohabiting couple, and that, when it ceases to effect that object, it should be dissolved, and each party be free to choose a new partner. There is in it no thought of the child. But the family consists of the husband, the wife, and the child; and the chief object of Christian marriage is the procreation and proper rearing of children, which is paramount to the mutual happiness or pleasure of the parents. This end is overlooked; and the duties of the parent to the child are impracticable, and cannot be properly discharged without the permanence of the family. We all know the sad calamity it is to the children when the Christian father or Christian mother is taken from them by death while they are yet young; and the still more distressing calamity when both are removed, and the children are made complete orphans and thrown on the care of strangers. Yet the separation by divorce a vinculo of the parents is a greater calamity still, and leaves the children worse off than simple orphans. Divorce breaks up the family as effectually as death; and parents separated by divorce are as incapable of bringing up their children as if they were actually dead.

The advocates of free-love are aware of this, and consequently contemplate measures, which will either prevent children from being born, or, if by some mischance they happen to be born, that will relieve the parents of all care of them:--the state must provide nurses for them, and provide for their bringing up and maintenance till they are able to do for themselves, somewhat on the plan recommended by Plato in his "Republic." Our women’s rights women complain bitterly of the burden of childbearing, and of the woman’s being obliged to spend the best years of her life in the drudgery of household cares, and of bringing up a whole brood of children. It is masculine tyranny that dooms her to it, from which woman suffrage and eligibility would soon emancipate her. They forget that it was to this she was doomed by a higher Power than that of man. It is the original penalty pronounced upon her for suffering herself to be seduced by the serpent, and for seducing her husband. In vain does she struggle against the irreversible laws of God:--"To the woman he said, I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions; in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thou shalt be under thy husband’s power, and he shall have dominion over thee."

The evil of the doctrine that the marriage tie is dissoluble, does not end here. The admitted fact that it is dissoluble, has a very deleterious effect on both parents and children even when no actual dissolution takes place. Knowing that the marriage may be dissolved, that it is not necessary for life, the husband and wife are indisposed to make the best of an ill-assorted marriage, and refuse to make those mutual concessions to each other’s infirmities of temper, so necessary to a harmonious union between them. They are rather disposed to exaggerate them into causes of real alienation. Each becomes more irritated at the other, and petty faults, which should be overlooked or forgotten as soon as committed, are magnified by being brooded over, into unpardonable offences, and the marriage becomes a source of constant irritation, discord, and wretchedness; whereas, if from the first it had been understood and felt that the union is absolutely indissoluble save by death, the parties would have studied to adjust themselves to each other, to cultivate habits of mutual forbearance, and taken care not to magnify, nor to dwell on such little disagreements as may, and are almost certain from time to time to arise between parties not perfect or free from human passion and frailty. The wife yields to the husband without murmur, even when he is unreasonably exacting; and the husband shows himself indulgent, even to the whims and caprices of his wife. So the union is made the best of, the mutual forbearance ripens into mutual love, and makes the parties, both for their own sake and the sake of their children, dread nothing so much as a separation.

But the discord between the parents, the lack of mutual respect of husband and wife, which we encounter in most non-Catholic families when we are permitted to see behind the curtain, and which is greater in proportion to the facility with which divorces can be obtained, has a terrible effect in destroying filial respect, filial love, and filial obedience. Children are keen-sighted; and the father cannot fail to honor the wife and the mother, or the wife and the mother to respect and obey the husband and the father, without their seeing it. "Young America" is, in great measure, the offspring of American democracy, which asserts the largest liberty, and renders strict family government, as well as efficient civil government, impracticable. "Is not this a free country?" said a boy some dozen years old to his father who had just flogged him. "Yes, young saucebox." "Then by what right do you flog me?" This spirit of license and insubordination penetrates the family, infests the whole community, infects the very atmosphere we breathe, and shows itself in the children of foreign parents brought up here not less, and, perhaps, in some instances, even more than in the children of those who are "to the manner born." It is to this same spirit, the democratic spirit of the country, and even of the age, that we must ascribe the degradation of the family, and the tendency to deprive marriage of its sacramental character, to facilitate divorces, and to favor free-love. Divorce reacts on the children, and destroys to a fearful extent, their love and reverence for their parents. The insubordination of the wife shows itself in the insubordination of the child, and the insubordination of children to their parents produces insubordination to law,--disrespect and disobedience alike to the spiritual and civil chiefs of society. There is no country in the world where the natural results and logical tendencies of all the false notions and theories of the age, which the world owes to the modern apostasy from the Catholic Church, can be so advantageously studied as in our own. This is because these tendencies are less restrained here than elsewhere, and are freer to run their natural course and reach their natural results. But it is not in the more aristocratic sects, like the Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, and perhaps the Methodist, who pertain in part to the past, but in the plebeian, subterranean, and out-of-the-way sects. Familiarity with these sects enables one to see,--what at first sight is not apparent,--that the more aristocratic and conservative sects adopt the same principle, and follow, though more slowly and timidly, the same tendency that we mark in these plebeian and radical sects, condemned for their wildness, extravagance, follies, and absurdities, not to say blasphemies, by their own brethren. All are moving in the same direction, and animated by the same spirit, and are sure in time, if not arrested in their course, to reach the same result. The reformer who asserted the dissolubility of marriage, and made sentimental love its basis, asserted the seminal principle of free-love. He who contends for political equality, asserts in principle social equality, and has no logical stopping-place this side of communism: a community of goods and a community of wives. This is seen here better than elsewhere.

The fact is that in non-Catholic communities we find a reproduction, more or less complete, of ancient Greek and Roman paganism. Perhaps the corruption and degradation of the family is not yet as universal as under ancient civilized paganism, and may even differ somewhat in form; but we have found no abomination in heathenism that we cannot match in non-Catholic societies, and even in our own free and enlightened country, down to open and undeniable demon or devil-worship. Satan reigns in all apostate societies, and only varies his practices according to the temper of individuals and the times. In rejecting the patriarchal religion, the gentiles fell back on nature; in rejecting the Catholic Church, and treating the pope as an usurper, as Antichrist, and making war against him and whatever is catholic, universal, and immutable, modern societies have done the same; but, as we have already said, neither individuals nor society can stand on nature alone, for nature has not its reason in itself, and does not and cannot, without the supernatural, suffice for nature. If men and nations do not rise above the natural virtues, they are sure to fall below them. He who casts off the authority of God inevitably becomes captive to Satan. The classics say many beautiful things of nature, but paganism is the practical commentary on their fine sayings; and its vices, its immoralities, its dissoluteness, superstitions, crimes, impurities, cruelties, and abominations are the practical and unanswerable refutation of the theory of the sufficiency of nature. It is the practical result in all ages and nations of the folly or madness of what is called rationalism, or of the effort to base religion and morality on nature alone.

The only possible way to restore and preserve the family in its purity and integrity, is to return to the Catholic idea of marriage, without which there is no family. In this most Protestant nation, which has departed further from the Catholic ideal than any other modern nation, the family has disappeared, or is rapidly disappearing, and American society is rapidly becoming, has wellnigh become, an aggregation, not of families, but of individuals. Marriage of a sort may be retained in name, but, save with our Catholic population, it is deprived of sanctity, unity, and indissolubility; and even our Catholic population find by experience that "evil communications corrupt good morals." But let us not deceive ourselves: Catholic marriage is impracticable, impossible even, in a non-Catholic society, as is evident from the fact that no non-Catholic community retains it. A return to it as an isolated reform would not rehabilitate the family; it would be like sewing a piece of new cloth on an old garment. Catholic marriage is interwoven with the whole Catholic system, and cannot be isolated from it, or observed in its purity and integrity without the Catholic faith, Catholic training and discipline, or without the gracious aids the Catholic Church supplies to her faithful children, and to non others.

To restore the Catholic family based on Catholic marriage, it is necessary for our non-Catholic societies to return to the bosom of the Catholic Church; in plain words, to be reconverted to Christianity, from which they have virtually, if not formally apostatized. Catholic marriage cannot be reestablished by secular legislation, nor grafted on Protestantism or infidelity. It can be restored only by a sincere and hearty return to the church, to the whole Catholic system, from the pope down to the holy-water pot; for Catholicity is a whole and all its parts hang together and depend on one another. Break it into fragments, as does paganism, as does Protestantism, and you lose its life which is in its unity and integrity, and not one of its fragments has any life or life-giving power. Hence the condemnation of all heresy and schism.

Society depends on the family, the family on Christian, that is to say, Catholic marriage, as the excellent Abbe Riche amply proves; and Catholic marriage depends on Catholic faith and discipline, together with the grace of the sacraments. This brings us back to what the Review has always insisted on: that it is only by a return and filial submission to the church that the wounds of modern society can be healed. The modern world has deserted the Rock of salvation, abandoned the Fountain of living and life-giving waters, and the darkness and abominations of paganism resume their ancient sway. It is paganism that spreads over the land,--the paganism, polished and refined, of the classics, it may be, but non the less paganism for that. It is paganism even in nominally Christian lands, that the Christian missionary encounters and must once more vanquish. There are, doubtless, millions of good Catholics yet in the world, but the ruling classes of the several nations are as pagan as they were in the time of the apostles, and more difficult to convert. Not heresy alone, but paganism, the Christian must now war against.