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Sometimes, as the punishment of this crime, Divorce has been rendered compulsory on the partner of the offender. The Council of Eliberis in Spain threatened with excommunication the husband who tolerated an adulterous wife. The Council of Neocasarea, in 314, decreed, that, if the wife of a laic were convicted of Adultery, the man could not be admitted into the ministry; and, if it happened after ordination, he was to divorce her; and if he did not, he could not retain his ministerial function. The Council of Nantz also condemned to a seven years' penance the husband who became reconciled to his wife; and Pope Sixtus Quintus, not content with the death of the offenders, ordained that such husbands as did not make public complaint of the infidelity of their wives should be liable to capital punishment also. But these severities ill accord with the lax morals of the priesthood at that time, and the conduct of the ecclesiastics was at utter variance with the Canons of the Church.
With regard to Divorce; the laws of the western nations have been far from uniform. Some have been extremely strict, and others altogether as relaxed. They have varied greatly also according to times
and circumstances, till at last, the Council of Trent, already noticed, fixed all those that belonged to the Church of Rome, while others that have separated from it have framed laws and edicts as fancy led them. We have before noticed the Decretal Letters of the Popes, condemning as Adultery a second marriage. To this sentiment the Church of Rome, with certain exceptions in the opinions of some of her functionaries to be noticed presently, has since always adhered, and never allowed of marriages, contracted after Divorce, while both parties remained alive. And ever since the eighth century, the Gallican Church has concurred with them upon this point. Pope Gregory II. when writing to the Bishop of Utrecht had said, that if a woman was afflicted with any natural weakness or indisposition, her husband might marry another, but so as to be ready to assist his former wife. But Gratian observes, that this Decree runs counter to the Canons, and even to the doctrine of Christ and his Apostles; and says, it was the opinion of the Latin Church, that the bond of matrimony remains firm, notwithstanding the most lawful Divorce.
The Council of Arles, (Concil Arelatensi,)
held at the command of Constantine, under Pope Silvester in the first year of his papacy, had long before forbidden the men who found their wives guilty of Adultery, to marry again while they were alive. The words were;
Is cujus uxor adulteravit, aliam illâ vivente non accipiat." But Sir H. Spelman has given them otherwise; "De his qui conjuges suas in Adulterio deprehendunt et iidem sunt adolescentes fideles et prohibentur nubere: placuit ut in quantum possit, concilium iis detur, ne, viventibus uxoribus suis licet Adulterio, alias accipiant." This seems to exchange counsel for absolute prohibition.
At the Council of Florence, the Latin Bishops inquired of the Greek Bishops, why they allowed of re-marriage? And, although no answer was given satisfactory to them, the two churches agreed to retain their own peculiar notions, the latter having been fruitlessly counselled to correct their abuse.
By the Council of Nantz, marriage was declared to be dissolved by Adultery, and yet with a strange inconsistency, that has not unfrequently characterized the decrees of councils, a second marriage was not allowed.
But the Council of Trent, held in 1563, in a Canon which they drew up on this point,
and in which their sacramental notions of the marriage tie are wrought to the highest point, anathamatized all those who held that matrimony was to be dissolved by Divorce, and that it was lawful to marry again. Matrimonii perpetuum indissolubilemque nexum, primus humani generis parens, divini spiritûs instinctu, pronuntiavit cum dixit, hoc nunc os ex ossibus meis, et caro de carne meâ quamobrem relinquit homo patrem suum et matrem, et adhærebit uxori suæ, et erunt duo in carne unâ."" And then the inference drawn by the Council is expressed thus; "Si quis dixerit ecclesiam errare cum docuit et docet juxta evangelicam et apostolicam doctrinam, propter Adulterium alterius conjugum matrimonii vinculum non posse dissolvi, et utrumque, vel etiam innocentem qui causam Adulterio non dedit, non posse, altero conjuge vivente aliud matrimonium contrahere: mæcharique eum qui dimissâ adulterâ, aliam duxerit, et eam quæ dimisso adultero alium nupserit: anathema sit.*
But a curious circumstance occurred respecting this, of which, Cotelerius takes no notice. We have it from Soave. The Venetian ambassadors, who were present on this oc
* Cotelerius, Edit. Apostol. Fathers.
casion, represented, that as their Commonwealth was in possession of the Isles of Cyprus, Crete, Corcyra, Zante, and Cephalonia, which were all inhabited by Greeks, who had been used, for several ages, (according to the custom of the Greek Church before noticed,) to put away their wives in case of Adultery; it was hard and unjust to condemn those people in their absence, especially as they had not been called to the Council, and, therefore, they desired that the Canon should be so worded, as not to affect those persons. For their satisfaction, therefore, and partly too upon the credit of Saint Ambrose, (whose sentiments have been previously noticed,) the case was thrown into a new shape. It no longer condemned those who affirmed this doctrine, but it only devoted to destruction all who held that the Church was wrong in teaching the contrary. Thus a a sentence, which would have openly involved the whole Eastern Church in its malediction, fell in appearance only upon the Protestants, which it was the design of the Council to condemn,
* The language of the terrified remonstrants against this impending decision, is," Li quali da antichissimo tempo costumano di ripudiar la moglie fornicaria, e pigliarne un' altra." They add too, that no Council ever told them they were wrong. Concil de Trento, lib. viii.