Friday, February 01, 2008

Thomas Aquinas on Free Love

Aelianus excerpts a passage of St. Thomas Aquinas on the liberality of monogamous marriage while writing in Ex Laodicea's comments:
Friendship consists in a certain equality. Although therefore it is not lawful for a women to have many husbands, because this is contrary to the certainty of offspring; were it lawful for a man to have many wives: the friendship of a wife for her husband would not be freely bestowed, but servile as it were. And this argument is confirmed by experience for where the men have many wives the women are treated like slaves.

(English translation being abridged, my translation follows)

Moreover, intense friendship is not directed towards many, as is laid out in the Philosopher's Ethics VII. If therefore a wife has only one husband, but the man has many wives, there will not be a friendship of equality between both parties. Therefore it would not be a friendship of freedom, but in a certain way one of slavery.

Still more, just as it is said that marriage is to be ordered according to what coincides with good habits. It is however against good habits that one man should have many wives because discord in the domestic family follows from this situation, as experience shows. Therefore it is not fitting that one man should have many wives.

Summa Contra Gentiles III:124

For the Latinists, the original:
Amicitia in quadam aequalitate consistit. Si igitur mulieri non licet habere plures viros, quia hoc est contra certitudinem prolis; liceret autem viro habere plures uxores: non esset liberalis amicitia uxoris ad virum, sed quasi servilis. Et haec etiam ratio experimento comprobatur: quia apud viros habentes plures uxores, uxores quasi ancillariter habentur.

Praeterea. Amicitia intensa non habetur ad multos: ut patet per philosophum in VIII Ethicorum. Si igitur uxor habet unum virum tantum, vir autem habet plures uxores, non erit aequalis amicitia ex utraque parte. Non igitur erit amicitia liberalis, sed quodammodo servilis.

Amplius. Sicut dictum est, matrimonium in hominibus oportet ordinari secundum quod competit ad bonos mores. Est autem contra bonos mores quod unus habeat plures uxores: quia ex hoc sequitur discordia in domestica familia, ut experimento patet. Non est igitur conveniens quod unus homo habeat plures uxores.
Summa Contra Gentiles, III.124

Thomas' contrast between freedom and servility in marriage is an attack on extreme patriarchy, and doubtless is one among many reasons feminism could have emerged in Christian societies.

The perpetually obtuse Richard Dawkins has argued that sexual fidelity is bad because it produces jealousy. He's obviously never witnessed the machinations of a polygamous society where a few powerful men collect women. There, many men are left wifeless and despondent while the women are set at odds with one another, competing for their husband's attention for themselves and their children.

Dawkins' casual assumption that egalitarianism shall triumph in a promiscuous climate can only be attributed to naivety or blindness. A celibate 13th-century monk who once chased off a prostitute with a glowing iron poker was wiser than he.

The Ex Laodicea post in which Thomas Aquinas was cited also links to a sad essay from a struggling man who was duped by gay ideology into believing male homosexuals were actually interested in monogamy. The essay's title could describe plenty of scribbling class deviancy: The Books were a Front for the Porn


WLindsayWheeler said...

Then how do you explain polygamy in the Bible, done by most of the patriarchs and done by the Jewish Kings. Jesus Christ descended from a Polygamous marriage.

So does the condemnation of polygamy condemn the lineage of Jesus Christ?

WLindsayWheeler said...

Now, I point to the Natural Order. In the Natural Order, from apes, wolves, lions, horses, bovine, sheep, all practice polygamy. Or the dominant male has the only access to all the females. Generally, most of the pairings in the higher animal species is polygamous.

Polygamy is a Semitic tribal meme. It is practiced by Hebrews and Arabs, common to all the monarchies of Asia. Monogamy is strictly a Indo-European meme. Whereas Semitic and Asian kings had a plethora of wives and harems, there is no such practice amongst the European kings.

Monogamy is a cultural discipline amongst Europeans and hence of Christianity. Both Judiasm and Islam are the opposite.

Kevin Jones said...

"So does the condemnation of polygamy condemn the lineage of Jesus Christ?"

Well, considering Christ is descended from David through his union with Bathsheba, and the condemnation of adultery does not void the lineage, the inferior status of polygamy would likewise not condemn the lineage.

Judaism was rather monogamous in the time of Christ, I can't recall any polygamous marriages among the figures of the New Testament.

I don't think "meme" is a useful term even for descriptive purposes, but it's especially useless when discussing prescriptive arguments like St. Thomas'.

WLindsayWheeler said...

Actually the first child of King David and Bersheba, that of adultery, died in infancy. Once Uriah died, no doubt some sort of official ceremony took place to make Bersheba legal. So, Solomon was the legitimate progeny of Polygamy. Jesus Christ descended from a Polygamist line of Royalty. The Mosaic law does have laws that pertain to Polygamy. So, Polygamy is not an outright immoral behavior; it is sanctioned by Mosaic Law and hence Divine.

WLindsayWheeler said...

Polygamy is more prevalent than Monogamy and it has repercussions for war. Many Polygyny societies have won over monagamous societies. Here is a paper from Kevin MacDonald on Mechanisms of sexual egalitarianism in Western Europe. Ethology and Sociobiology, 11, 195–238, 1990. I am reading it now and it is fabulous history lesson.

Kevin Jones said...

"So, Polygamy is not an outright immoral behavior; it is sanctioned by Mosaic Law and hence Divine."

I think you're right that no Christian thinker condemns polygamy outright, precisely because of their respect for Old Testament figures. Note here that Thomas condemns it because of the habits of slavery and dissension it engenders, not as an evil in itself. Lurking behind Thomas' thought is the Christian idea that marriage is iconic of Christ's love for the Church, which is mutually monogamous. Also there is possibly an idea that freedom and unity are particular virtues in the New Covenant, for which Old Testament practices were merely preparation.

Just because polygamy is sanctioned by the Mosaic law does not make it a form equal to monogamy. Moses is said to have permitted divorce "because of the hardness of your hearts..."

Your suggestion that condemnation of polygamy would negate the legitimacy of the Davidic line seems to me to confuse morality with legitimacy. I think the two can be distinguished even under the Mosaic law and its interpretations. All of Christ's antecedents and their marriages need not have been paragons of morality.

WLindsayWheeler said...

I totally agree. Monogamy is the Norm. Monogamy is the standard. But I would also like to point out that we don't live in a perfect world. If we lived in a perfect world, then Monogamy would also be perfect for every situation. We live in a messy world. I think that there are situations where polygamy could be allowed. On the monarchist forum I belong to, this is one of the suggestions for solving the case of King Henry VIII; here @ Henry VIII, the Catholic Church and Polygamy.

I would be careful of that word "freedom", it is a Masonic code word that I find ubiquitous. It is a non-descript word that has dangerous repercusions. The code words of the Catholic Church used to be "Order and Authority"; somehow these disappeared and "freedom" has replaced them both.

Seraphic Single said...

The Church Fathers (I think it was St. Augustine) said the polygamy was licet until the birth of Christ, as it was necessary to have a lot of babies to lead up to the birth of Mary. After Jesus was born, there was no longer a need for all this baby-having. Hence, not only monogamy but the bold new lifestyle of permanent celibacy "for the sake of the kingdom"

Kevin Jones said...


"that word "freedom", it is a Masonic code... The code words of the Catholic Church used to be "Order and Authority..."

The "Masonry" enters the picture when freedom is seen to be the enemy of order and authority, rather than a necessary part of both. To pit the two against each other is that dialectic thinking supposedly characteristic of Protestantism. Freedom as I (and perhaps Thomas) was using it was opposed to servility to wickedness, which while sometimes having aspects of order and authority is to be shunned.

I see no reason why supposed Masonic co-optation should mean the word "Freedom" is to be shunned. From what little I know of them, they've tried to co-opt King David, Job, and the Knights Templar, but I won't let them have those fellows either.

Seraphic, here's a neat bit from Augustine along the lines of celibacy and having babies:

"But I am aware of some that murmur: What, say they, if all men should abstain from all sexual intercourse, whence will the human race exist? Would that all would this, only in "charity out of a pure heart, and good conscience, and faith unfeigned;" much more speedily would the City of God be filled, and the end of the world hastened."

From "Of the Good of Marriage"

William Luse said...

In the Natural Order, from apes, wolves, lions... all practice polygamy.

Actually, wolves mate for life, though they occasionally commit adultery, which makes them no worse than a lot of humans.