The unity of matrimony or monogamy is the matrimonial bond between one man and one woman. On that account, in the definition of matrimony above we spoke in the singular, and not the plural, viz "the marital conjunction of a man and a woman." Simultaneous polygamy and polyandry is opposed to the unity of matrimony; however a second nuptial is not prevented after the death of one or the other spouse.
Simultaneous polyandry, which is the marital conjunction of one woman with two or more men, very rarely exists among nations and is not only against the precept of Sacred Writ, "They shall be two in one flesh," but also directly contrary to the natural law. For the primary end of matrimony is the bringing forth and bringing up of offspring. Furthermore, experience bears out that a woman, who is habitually having sex with many men, is infertile, as is clear in prostitutes. But even if, perhaps, offspring are begotten, their bringing up would hardly be possible, since no one would be certain of being the father and from hence the corporal and spiritual care of the offspring would be very difficult.
Simultaneous polygamy (polygyny) which is the marital conjunction of one man with two or more women acquired force before Christ not only among the gentiles, but also among the Israelites. And still in our time among the pagans, in truth, especially among Mohhamedans.
Simultaneous polygamy is certainly contrary to the primeval institution of matromony in paradise, but it was permitted to the patriarches in the Old Testament. That the primeval form of matrimony was not polygamy is sententia certa (certain teaching). For Adam exclaimed, after Eve was given him as a wife, "They will be two in one flesh." Innocent III, explaining this text, says, "He does not say three or many, but two not does he say he shall adhere to wives, but to a wife." Also from the words of Christ, "But from the beginning it was not so," it is clearly learned that polygamy was not the primeval form of matrimony. Lamech seems to have been the first, who had two wives.
There are some who teach that polygamy was never licit and hence the wives of the patriarches to have been called concubines; nevertheless the patriarches did not sin formally in having many wives, since they were in good faith. Which explanation is certainly not satisfying nor sufficiently proved. And indeed it seems absurd that very holy men as Abraham, Jacob, etc, who had miraculous divine revelations, erred in a matter of so great importance. In addition, David, while vehemently scolded and punished because of his adultery committed with Bethsaba, is never reprehended because of his other own wives, which he had. The book of Deuteronomy is seen to suppose the liceity of polygamy, establishing (21:15,16) "If a man shall have two wives, one beloved and the other hateful, and they bear children from him, and the son of the hateful one is the first born, he shall will his substance to be divided among his sons; he shall not make the son of the beloved first-born and prefer him to the son of the hateful one." The same is confimed by the levirate law, by which the wife of one deceased brother (without children) must be taken in matrimony by a surviving brother, although he was already married. But if women joined maritally to one man are called concubines in Holy Writ, it is still not yet permitted to conclude that they were not legitimate wives, who are not led into marriage with great solemnity. Thus Agar, Cethura, Bala, and Zelpha are called here wives and there concubines of Abraham in the book of Genesis. But the intrinsic reason, from whence simultaneous polygamy was able to be permitted in the old Testament, consists in this, that polygamy is not opposed to the primary end of matrimony, namely, to the generation and education of offspring. And indeed one man suffices for impregnating many women and educating the offspring begotten by them. Still, it must be confessed that some men in the Old Testament joined with an excessive number of wives, for it is understood with difficulty, while, for example Solomon, was able to have many hundreds of wives without a mention of intemperance.
Authors commonly teach that the dispensation for having many wives was not granted by God except after the Flood. Nothing of certain can be said about this matter. Whether the same dispensation was granted not only to the Jews, but even to other peoples, authors do not agree; but it does not seem to be a sufficient reason why a more severe displine should be established for pagans than form Jews; or even less, that the pagans inasmuch as they lacked the Mosaic law should be able to observe the more difficult unity of matrimony than the Jews. And hence Esther, a Jewess, is joined to Assuerus who already had many wives, which union Mardochaeus, her adopted father and a man fearing God, would not have advised nor approved, if it had been gravely illicit.
Simultaneous polygamy from the time of the New Law is illicit and in vain for all, just so that neither the faithful nor unbelievers have sufficient faculty for having many wives. For Christ led marriage back to its primeval unity and called him an adulter who would dismissing his first wife, took another. Therefore he is an adulterer a fortiori who retaining his first legitimate wife, takes another. Innocent III argues thus, also, in the celebrated chapter, [u]Gaudemus[/i], "If therefore dismissing a wife, one cannot take another de jure, even more so when the first is retained: through which is appears evident that plurality in either sex, since they are not judged unequally, is reprobated in marriage." But even if in the Council of Trent it is only defined "If anyone should say that it is permitted for Christians to have many wives at once, and that no divine law prohibits this, let him be anathema," still it is not allow to conclude that it is syill licit for unbelieves to have many wives. And indeed, a plurality of wives is against the primeval institution of matrimony, and the dispensation granted in ancient times is expressly revoked by Christ. Whence St. Thomas teaches "to have many wives is against the law of nature, to which even unbelieves are bound: and therefore it is not a true marriage of an unbelieve unless eith her, with whom he first joined."
Nay, the Holy Office in an Instruction to the apostolic vicar of France (March 20, 1860), says: "It is most certain that simultaneous polygamy is wholy illicit under the law of the Gospel, whence after Jesus Christ led marriage back to its pristine sanctity, unity and indissolubility, with the dignity of a sacrament added for the baptised, neither the faithful nor Jews nor any other mortal is able to join with many wives. Consequently monogamy was thus reinstituted by the divine power that it must be held unshakenly as a dogma of the faith that except one is joined to one only the cannot be a legitimate and valid marriage." But if some Emperors are considered to have had many wives, as e.g. Constantius, Valentinian, Lothar, Billuart responds correctly, "from iniqious deeds no right is established. Constantius was an Arian, Lothar with his mistress was excommunicated by Pope Nicholas I, Valentinian I, that he might avoid the shameful appearance of two spouses, iniquiously abolished this law.
(from Dominicus Prümmer, para. 659, 660. Vol. 3 Manuale Theologiae Moralis)
Quoniam sapientia aperuit os mutorum, et linguas infantium fecit disertas.
Last edited by Pro Ecclesia Dei on Fri Apr 13, 2012 7:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.