Catechism of Marriage

[from Justice in the Revolution and in the Church, New Edition, Vol. IV]
Question. — What is the conjugal couple?
Answer. — Every power of nature, every faculty of life, every affection of the soul, every category of the intelligence, needs an organ, in order to manifest itself and act. The sentiment of Justice can be no exception to that law. But Justice, which rules all the other faculties and surpasses liberty itself, not being able to have its organ in the individual, would remain for man a notion without efficacy, and society would be impossible, if nature had not provided the juridical organism by making each individual half of a higher being, whose androgynous duality becomes an organ of Justice.
Q. — Why is the individual incapable of serving as an organ of Justice?
A. — Because individuals possess only the sense of their own dignity, which is enough for free will, while Justice is necessarily dual, because it supposes at least two consciences in unison. The dignity of the individual subject would appear only as the first term of Justice, and become respectable even for the individual only insofar as it interests the dignity of others. It is through marriage that man learns, from nature itself, to sense himself as double. His social education and his elevation in Justice will just be the development of this dualism.
Q. — Why, in the juridical organism, are the two persons dissimilar.
A. — Because, if they were similar, they would not complete one another. They would both be independent, without reciprocal action, and they would be incapable, for that reason, of producing Justice.
Q. — How do men and women differ from one another?
A. — In principle, there is no difference between men and women but a simple diminution in the faculties. Man is stronger, and woman weaker. In fact, that decrease of energy creates for the woman, in the moral and physical realms, a qualitative distinction which allows us to give this definition to the two: Man represents the power of that of which woman represents the ideal, and reciprocally, woman represents the ideal of that of which man represents the power. Before the Absolute, man and woman are two equivalent persons, because the strength and the beauty of which they are the incarnations are equivalents.
Q. — What is love?
A. — Love is the attraction that Strength and Beauty inevitably feel for one another. Its nature is consequently not the same in men and women. Moreover, it is through love that both of their consciences work for Justice, and each becomes for the other at once a witness, a judge and a second self.
Q. — How do you define marriage?
A. — Marriage is the sacrament of Justice, the living mystery of universal harmony, and the form given by nature itself to the religion of the human race. In a less elevated sphere, marriage is the act by which men and women, elevating themselves above love and the senses, declare their will to unite according to right, and to pursue, as much as they are capable, the accomplishment of social destiny, by working for the progress of Justice. That definition is related to the definition of Modestin, Juris humani et divini communicatio, which M. Ernest Legouvé translated, with less pomp, as School of mutual perfection.
In this religion of the family we could say that the husband or the father is the priest, the woman is the idol, and the children are the people. There are several initiations: the wedding, the hearth or the table, birth, puberty, the advice, the will and the funeral. All are in the hands of the father. They are nourished by his labor, protected by his sword, subject to his government and his tribunal, inheritors and upholders of his thought. Here is justice, complete, organized and armed. In the father, wife and children, its has found its apparatus, which will only be extended by the increase of families and the development of the city. Authority is there as well, but only temporarily. When the children reach majority, the father preserves only an honorific title with regard to them. Finally, religion is also preserved. While the interpretation of symbols, the habits of science and the exercise of reasoning steadily weaken it everywhere else, it remains in the family, is distilled there, and fears no attack. The revelation of women, entirely ideal, cannot be analyzed, nor denied, nor extinguished.
Q. — How, redeemed by this religion in which it is easy to recognize the embryo of all those that have followed it, does woman remain nonetheless subordinate to man?
A. — It is precisely because women are objects of worship, and because there is no common measure between force and the ideal. In no way does the woman enter into balance with the man. As an industrialist, philosopher or public functionary, she cannot. As a goddess, she must not. She is always too high or too low. The man will die for her, as he died for his faith and his gods, but he will keep the command and responsibility.
A. — Why is marriage, on both sides, monogamous?
A. — Because conscience is shared between the two spouses, and it cannot, without dissolving itself, admit a third participant. Conscience for conscience, like love for love, life for life, soul for soul, liberty for liberty: such is the law of marriage. Introduce another person, and the ideal dies, the religion is lost, the unanimity expires and Justice fades away.
Q. — Why is marriage indissoluble?
A. — Because conscience is immutable. The woman, expression of the ideal, may well, with regard to love, have a double in another woman, and be replaced by that living being; the man, expression of power, may as well. But with regard to the justification of which men and women are agents for one another, they cannot, apart from the case of death, leave one another and mutually give one another an alternative, since that would be to admit their common indignity, to unjustify each other, if we can put it thus; in other words, to become sacrilegious. The man who changes his wife creates a new conscience; he does not improve, but rather corrupts himself.
Q. — Thus you reject divorce?
A. — Absolutely. The civil and religious laws have posited the cases of nullity and of the dissolution of marriage, such individual error, clandestinity, crime, castration and death: these exceptions suffice. As for those tormented by lassitude, the thirst for pleasure, incompatibility of temperament, lack of charity, let them make, as they say, a separation. The worthy spouse only has to heal the wounds to his conscience and heart; the other no longer has the right to aspire to marriage: what he requires is concubinage.
Q. — Is it moral to prohibit the separated from remarrying, casting them into a union of concubinage?
A. — Cohabitation, or concubinage, is a natural combination, freely contracted by two individuals, without the intervention of society, with a view only to amorous enjoyment and subject to separation ad libitum. Apart from some exceptions, produced by the hazards of society and the difficulties of existence, cohabitation is the mark of a weak conscience, and it is with reason that the legislator refuses it the rights and prerogatives of marriage.
But society is not the work of one day; virtue is a difficult practice, without speaking of those to whom marriage is inaccessible. Now, the mission of the legislators, when they cannot obtain the best, is to avoid the worst. At the same time that we rule out divorce, the tendency of which will be to demean marriage by bringing it closer to concubinage, it is advisable, in the interest of women, illegitimate children and public mores, to impose certain obligations on concubinage which lifts it and pushes it towards legitimate union. All of antiquity accepted these principles. The emperor Augustus created a legal state in concubinage; Christianity tolerated it for a long time, and has still never been about to distinguish it from marriage. Consequently, everyone should be declared by law to be concubinaires who, apart from cases of adultery, incest, fornication and prostitution, maintain a commerce in love, whether or not they have a common domicile. Every child born in concubinage will bear by right the name of his father, following the maxim Pater est quem concubinatus demonstrat. The father in concubinage, just like the married father, will also be held to provide for the subsistence and education of his offspring. The neglected concubine would be entitled to compensation, unless she has first engaged in another concubinage.
Q. — What are the forms of marriage?
A. — The
are reduced to two: the announcement or publication, and the celebration. Society
is involved in these, is the first rank, in the person of the magistrate and
witnesses; the families of the couples form the second line, in the person of
the parents.
Q. — What do these formalities signify?
A. — We have said that marriage is instituted for the sanctification of love: it is a pact of chastity, charity and justice, by which the spouses declare themselves publicly to be freed, both of them by one another, from the tribulations of the flesh and the cares of gallantry. Consequently, it is sacred to all and inviolable. That is why, apart from some stipulations of interest also require publicity, the family and the city appear in the ceremony: the engagement of the couple, made in view of Justice, carries farther than their persons; their conjugal conscience becomes part of the social conscience, and, as the marriage insures their dignity, it is for the society that proclaims it a glory and a progress. Our flawed mores and our ignorance make us misunderstand things: while the concubine, who delivers herself without contract, without guarantee, on a word secretly given, for an allowance of food or a present in coins, like some rented jewelry, hides the secret of her loves and is no longer modest, the bride appears, calm and dignified, without blushing: if she blushed, she would lose her innocence.
Q. — This theory of marriage is very specious; but why ask metaphysics for an explanation that nature placed right at hand? Marriage has been instituted in the interest of children and inheritances: we don’t have to look further.
A. — Doubtless, children enter into things; but if the law of generation itself has only been established with an eye to Justice, if the multiplication of humans, their replacement and death is also only explained by juridical purposes, we must admit that the distinction between the sexes, that love and marriage, which enter into that economy, are related to the same ends. The same law which has made the conjugal couple an organ of generation had previously made it an apparatus of Justice: such is the truth.
Q. — Explain more.
A. — Every being is determined in its existence according to the place where it must live and the mission that it has to accomplish. It is thus, for example, that the figure of a sovereign been measured according to the dimensions of the land he exploits. Humanity, before operating at once on all points of the globe, cannot be reduced to a single, gigantic individual: it is necessary that it be multiple, proportioned consequently, in its body and in its faculties, with the extent of its domain and the labors that it has to make there.
Humanity thus being given as a collectivity, two consequences have followed. First, in order to make this multitude of free and intelligent subjects operate together, a law of Justice, written in souls and organized in persons, was necessary: that is the object of marriage. Second, the individuals of which the great humanitary body is composed are replaced successively, after having furnished a career proportional to their vital energy and to the power of their faculties: that is to what nature has provided by generation, and that of which it is now easy for us to penetrate the reasons.
The living being, whatever its liberty, by that same that it is limited, defined in its constitution and in its form, has and can only have one manner of feeling, of thinking and acting, one idea, one aim, one object, one plan, one end, one function, consequently one function, consequently one formula, one style, one tone, one note, expression of its absolute individuality, to which it strives to reduce all natural and social laws. Suppose that the human race was composed of immortal individuals: at some point, civilization would no longer advance; all these individualities, after having been driven by contradictions for some time, will end up balancing each other in a pact of absolutism, and the movement will cease. Death, by renewing the types, produces the same effect here as the war of ideas, organized by the Revolution as the necessary condition of public reason and faith (Study VII).
But it is not only to social progress that death is necessary: it is necessary to the felicity of the individual.
It is not only the case that, to the degree that he advances, man locks himself away in his individualism and becomes an impediment to others; he will end, in this intractable solitude, by becoming an obstacle to himself, to his vitality, to the exercise of his intelligence, to the conquests of his genius, and to the affections of his heart. Even without growing old, by the influence alone of the routine to which he will have been long condemned, he will fall into idiocy: his happiness and glory, as much as the progress of society, demand that he moves on. At that hour, his death is a gain; let him accept it with joy, and make his final hour his last sacrifice rendered to the homeland. Every last one of us, after devoting ourselves to science, Justice, friendship and labor, should end up like Leonidas, Cynaegirus, Curtius, Fabius, Arnold von Winkelried, and the Chevalier d’Assas. Would we complain that death comes to soon?
What pride! We will not even wait, if the occasion presents itself, for old age to give us the sign; we will go while we are young, like Barra and Viala.
Moreover, in leading man to death, to depersonalization, Justice does not destroy him entirely. Justice balances and renews individualities; it does not abolish them. It collects the ideas and works of man; it will preserve, by modifying them, even his character and physiognomy; and it is the interested [individual] himself that justice will charge with his own transmission. It is to him that it will entrust the care of his immortality, by establishing generation and the testament.
Thus man is reproduced in his body and his soul, in his thought, in his affections, in his action, by a dismemberment of his being; and as woman makes a shared conscience with him, she will also make a common generation. The family, extension of the conjugal couple, only develops the organ of jurisdiction; the city, formed by the growth of families, is reproduced in its turn with a higher power. Marriage, family, city, are a single organ; the social destiny is solidary with the matrimonial destiny, and each of us, through this universal communion, lives as much as the human race.
Q. — At base, the assumption of a conscience formed by two stems from the same metaphysics that has already made you suppose a collective reason and collective being. But that metaphysics has a serious fault; it shakes our faith in the whole order of existences, by rendering more and more problematic the simplicity of the soul, the indivisibility of thought, the identity and immutability of the self, and consequently denying their reality.
A. — Why don’t you say instead that this metaphysics, by it series and its antinomies, by the power of its analysis and the productivity of its synthesis, tends to establish the reality of things which hitherto remained pure fictions? It is the principle of composition which makes it possible for man to known; it is to this principle that we owe our certainty. All that we possess of positive science come from it, and nothing which has once been provided by it can be overturned. Why would the same principle not also make being possible? God himself, conceived as the higher, immanent thought of the worlds, and the expression of their harmony, would again become possible with that metaphysics: let us shudder at what its original sin would be…
Q. — Are all members of a society called to marriage?
A. — No; but all take part in it and receive its influence, by filiation, consanguinity, adoption, love, which, universal in essence, has no need, to act, of union or cohabitation.
Q. — According to this, you do not judge marriage indispensable to happiness?
A. — We must distinguish: from the psychic or spiritual point of view, marriage is a condition of felicity for all of us; the mystical wedding rites celebrated by the religious are an example. Every adult, of sound body and mind, that solitude or abstraction does not sequester from the rest of the living, loves, and, by virtue of that love, makes a marriage in their heart. Physically, that necessity is no longer true: Justice, which is the aim of marriage, and which can be obtained either by domestic initiation, civic communion, or, finally, by mystical love, is sufficient for happiness in all conditions of age and fortune.
Q. — What is the role of women in domestic and social economy?
A. — The care of the household, the education of childhood, the instruction of young girls under the supervision of the magistrates, the service of public charity; we would not dare to add, today, the national holidays and spectacles, that we could describe as the seed-time of love. Aristocratic immorality and the decadence of religious ideas have made the presence of women in these public solemnities an occasion for libertinage: that could change, and it is necessary that it does change.
Q. — No industry, no art, seems to you specially reserved for women?
A. — This is always, in veiled terms, to repeat the question of the political and social equality of the sexes, and to protest against the title of housewife, which, better than that of matron, expresses the vocation of women.
The wife can make herself useful in a wide variety of things, and she must; but, just as her literary production is always reduced to an intimate novel, whose full value is to serve, by love and sentiment, in the popularization of Justice; just so, in the last analysis, her industrial production amounts to secondary labors or housework: she never leaves that circle.
Man is a worker, and woman a housewife: what does she complain about? The more that developing Justice levels conditions and fortunes, the more they will be raised up, one by work, and the other by housework. When the man casts off all exploitation and all bosses, will the woman demand a servant? Where will she find one? Both sexes are born in equal numbers: is that clear?
The household is the full manifestation of the woman. The man, out of wedlock, can do without a home: at college, in the barracks, at the hotels, he finds himself and shows himself complete; lack of privacy does not affect him. For the woman, housework is a necessity of honor, let us say even of toilette. It is at home that the woman is judged; when she goes elsewhere, we do not see her. Daughter, mother, the household is her triumph or her condemnation. Who will tidy her nest, if not her? Does this odalisque require quartermasters, livery, chambermaids, bellhops, some midgets and apes?… We are no longer in a democracy, and we are no longeri n marriage;we fall back into feudalism and concubinage.
Q.What is freedom for women?
A.The truly free woman is the chaste woman. The chaste women feel no amorous emotion for anyone, not even for her husband. Why does the young virgin appear so lovely, so desirable, so worthy? She does not feel love; and not feeling love, she is the living image of liberty.
Q. — What part does love play in the marriage contract?
A. — The smallest possible part. When two people come together in marriage, love is supposed to have accomplished its work; the crisis is past, the tempest has dispersed, passion has flown, hyems transiit, imber abiit, as the Song of Songs says. That is why the marriage of pure inclination is so close to shame, and why the father who consents to it is blameworthy. The duty of the father is to establish his children in integrity and Justice; it is the reward of his labors and the joy of his old age to give his daughter, to choose a wife for his son with his own hand. Let young people marry without reluctance, at the right time; but let the fathers not let familial dignity be violated by anyone, and let them remember that physical reproduction is only half of paternity. When a son or a daughter, to satisfy their own inclination, tramples the wishes of their father under foot, disinheritance is for them the first of rights and the holiest of duties.
Q. — What is the earliest age at which it is appropriate to marry?
A. — When the man is made, the laborer formed; when ideas begin to come and Justice to subordinate the ideal: what we can express, following the example of the code, by an arithmetic minimum:
“Men before twenty-six years have passed, and women before twenty-one years, can contract marriage.”
Q. — What can the average period of intimacy be between the two partners?
A. — While the children are very young, the man owes the woman a tribute of caresses: nature wishes it this way, in the interest of the offspring. The child profits from all the love that the father shows to the mother: let us ask no more. When the eldest reach puberty, then, prudent partners, domestic modesty and the defense of your heart command you to abstain. Do not wait for the return of age, the apoplexy and the infirmities of old age to restrain you. You would reach that forced continence only to be pursued to the grave by obscene dreams and tribulations against nature.
Q. — Who, in general, is the man that a young woman should prefer for her husband?
A. — The most righteous.
Q. — Who, in general, is the woman that a man should prefer for his spouse?
A. — The most diligent. — In the man, the most important qualities for the woman are labor and affection: these qualities are guaranteed by la Justice. In the woman, the most important qualities for the man are chastity and devotion: they are guaranteed by diligence.
Q. — What consolation do you offer to those who love unhappily?
A. — To practice Justice with zeal, to that end to marry, after having paid to the lost love a just tribute of mourning. Justice is the heaven where their aching hearts will find one another, and, of all the ways of practicing Justice, the fullest and most perfect is marriage. Such is even, setting aside some other domestic considerations, the only legitimate motive for a second marriage. It is good that of two spouses, two fiancés, separated forever by a premature death, the survivor keeps faith with the deceased, and that faith is especially suited to the wife; but an excessive sadness in a young person betrays more illusion and selfishness than Justice; it would degenerate into a sin against love itself, if the afflicted lover refused the remedy.
Q. — What are, in order of gravity, the principal acts that you consider crimes and offenses against marriage?
A. — Adultery, incest, debauchery, seduction, rape, onanism, fornication and prostitution.
Q. — What is it, apart from general considerations of personal dignity, of respect for other, and of sworn faith, constitutes the culpability of these acts?
A. The common character that distinguishes them is to strike the family in its most sacred aspect, namely the domestic religion, consequently to annihilate, among the guilty and their accomplices, Justice in its source.
Thus adultery is, according the expression of the ancients, the violation of every divine and human law, a crime which contains in itself all the others, slander, treason, plunder, parricide, sacrilege. Ancient tragedy, like the epic, unfolds almost entirely on this ground, as demonstrated by the legends of Helen, Clytemnestra, Penelope, etc.
Incest, though less monstrous, is more base; mockery of familial decency and the maternal initiation; its counterpart is sodomy.
Debauchery, more common every day and treated with so much indifference, is the abuse of a minor, a destruction of Justice, if we may put it this way, in the bud, for which jurors should never allow extenuating circumstances.
By what unimaginable materialism has the legislator treated rape so severely, while he did not say a word against seduction?It seems that the first could often be placed in the category of blows and wounds which only affect the body, while the second kills the soul.
To these two kinds of crimes, we will assimilate the incitement to immorality by books, songs, carvings, statues, etc.
Onanism has bestiality for a corollary. A curious thing! Conjugal onanism has been proposed by the defenders of human exploitation to serve as an emunctory for the population; the same doctrine which makes the worker a beast of burden, should also make the lover a stallion.
Fornication is the temporary pleasure of two free people, not engaged in concubinage. It is incomparably more reprehensible than prostitution. Prostitution, remnant of the ancient state of war and feudalism, also has poverty as an excuse, and the prostitute, cut off like a rotten branch from the family, has betrayed no one. The fornicators cheat everyone and have no excuse; they should be blamed, if not punished. The hypocrisy of our customs have decided otherwise; secret fornication is applauded; the man caught in a brothel is deemed infamous.
If we consider adultery, seduction, rape, fornication, prostitution, divorce, polygamy concubinage as forming the pathology of love and marriage, incest, debauchery, pederasty, onanism and bestiality would be its teratology.
The flood of all the crimes and offences against marriage is the most active cause of the decadence of modern societies; it is to that cause that it is necessary to relate, in the last analysis, bourgeois cowardice, popular imbecility, republican ineptitude, depravity in literature, and despotism in government.
Every attack on marriage and the family is a profanation of Justice, a treason against the people and liberty, an insult to the Revolution.
Q. — How has the philosophy of right been so long without an understanding of marriage?
A. — Because the philosophers have always sought the right in religion, and every religion being essentially idealist and erotic, love in the religious soul is placed above Justice, and marriage reduced to concubinage.
About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.