QUESTION 42: OF MATRIMONY AS A SACRAMENT
We must next consider matrimony as a sacrament. Under this head there
are four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether matrimony is a sacrament?
(2) Whether it ought to have been instituted before sin was committed?
(3) Whether it confers grace?
(4) Whether carnal intercourse belongs to the integrity of matrimony?
Article 1: Whether matrimony is a sacrament?
Objection 1: It would seem that matrimony is not a sacrament. For every
sacrament of the New Law has a form that is essential to the sacrament.
But the blessing given by the priest at a wedding is not essential to
matrimony. Therefore it is not a sacrament.
Objection 2: Further, a sacrament according to Hugh (De Sacram. i) is "a
material element." But matrimony has not a material element for its
matter. Therefore it is not a sacrament.
Objection 3: Further, the sacraments derive their efficacy from Christ's
Passion. But matrimony, since it has pleasure annexed to it, does not
conform man to Christ's Passion, which was painful. Therefore it is not a
Objection 4: Further, every sacrament of the New Law causes that which it signifies. Yet matrimony does not cause the union of Christ with the Church, which union it signifies. Therefore matrimony is not a sacrament.
Objection 5: Further, in the other sacraments there is something which is
reality and sacrament. But this is not to be found in matrimony, since it
does not imprint a character, else it would not be repeated. Therefore it
is not a sacrament.
On the contrary, It is written (Eph. 5:32): "This is a great sacrament."
Further, a sacrament is the sign of a sacred thing. But such is
Matrimony. Therefore, etc.
I answer that, A sacrament denotes a sanctifying remedy against sin
offered to man under sensible signs [*Cf. TP, Question , Article ; TP, Question ,
Article ]. Wherefore since this is the case in matrimony, it is reckoned
among the sacraments.
Reply to Objection 1: The words whereby the marriage consent is expressed are the
form of this sacrament, and not the priest's blessing, which is a
Reply to Objection 2: The sacrament of Matrimony, like that of Penance, is
perfected by the act of the recipient. Wherefore just as Penance has no
other matter than the sensible acts themselves, which take the place of
the material element, so it is in Matrimony.
Reply to Objection 3: Although Matrimony is not conformed to Christ's Passion as
regards pain, it is as regards charity, whereby He suffered for the
Church who was to be united to Him as His spouse.
Reply to Objection 4: The union of Christ with the Church is not the reality
contained in this sacrament, but is the reality signified and not
contained---and no sacrament causes a reality of that kind---but it has
another both contained and signified which it causes, as we shall state
further on (ad 5). The Master, however (Sent. iv, D, 26), asserts that it
is a non-contained reality, because he was of opinion that Matrimony has
no reality contained therein.
Reply to Objection 5: In this sacrament also those three things [*Cf. TP, Question ,
Article ] are to be found, for the acts externally apparent are the sacrament
only; the bond between husband and wife resulting from those acts is
reality and sacrament; and the ultimate reality contained is the effect
of this sacrament, while the non-contained reality is that which the
Master assigns (Sent. iv, D, 26).
Article 2: Whether this sacrament ought to have been instituted before sin was committed?
Objection 1: It would seem that Matrimony ought not to have been instituted before sin. Because that which is of natural law needs not to be instituted. Now such is Matrimony, as stated above (Question , Article ). Therefore it ought not to have been instituted.
Objection 2: Further, sacraments are medicines against the disease of sin. But
a medicine is not made ready except for an actual disease. Therefore it
should not have been instituted before sin.
Objection 3: Further, one institution suffices for one thing. Now Matrimony
was instituted also after sin, as stated in the text (Sent. iv, D, 26).
Therefore it was not instituted before sin.
Objection 4: Further, the institution of a sacrament must come from God. Now
before sin, the words relating to Matrimony were not definitely said by
God but by Adam; the words which God uttered (Gn. 1:22), "Increase and
multiply," were addressed also to the brute creation where there is no
marriage. Therefore Matrimony was not instituted before sin.
Objection 5: Further, Matrimony is a sacrament of the New Law. But the
sacraments of the New Law took their origin from Christ. Therefore it
ought not to have been instituted before sin.
On the contrary, It is said (Mt. 19:4): "Have ye not read that He Who
made man from the beginning 'made them male and female'"?
Further, Matrimony was instituted for the begetting of children. But the
begetting of children was necessary to man before sin. Therefore it
behooved Matrimony to be instituted before sin.
I answer that, Nature inclines to marriage with a certain good in view,
which good varies according to the different states of man, wherefore it
was necessary for matrimony to be variously instituted in the various
states of man in reference to that good. Consequently matrimony as
directed to the begetting of children, which was necessary even when
there was no sin, was instituted before sin; according as it affords a
remedy for the wound of sin, it was instituted after sin at the time of
the natural law; its institution belongs to the Mosaic Law as regards
personal disqualifications; and it was instituted in the New Law in so
far as it represents the mystery of Christ's union with the Church, and
in this respect it is a sacrament of the New Law. As regards other
advantages resulting from matrimony, such as the friendship and mutual
services which husband and wife render one another, its institution
belongs to the civil law. Since, however, a sacrament is essentially a
sign and a remedy, it follows that the nature of sacrament applies to
matrimony as regards the intermediate institution; that it is fittingly
intended to fulfill an office of nature as regards the first institution;
and. as regards the last-mentioned institution, that it is directed to
fulfill an office of society.
Reply to Objection 1: Things which are of natural law in a general way, need to
be instituted as regards their determination which is subject to
variation according to various states; just as it is of natural law that
evil-doers be punished, but that such and such a punishment be appointed
for such and such a crime is determined by positive law.
Reply to Objection 2: Matrimony is not only for a remedy against sin, but is
chiefly for an office of nature; and thus it was instituted before sin,
not as intended for a remedy.
Reply to Objection 3: There is no reason why matrimony should not have had
several institutions corresponding to the various things that had to be
determined in connection with marriage. Hence these various institutions
are not of the same thing in the same respect.
Reply to Objection 4: Before sin matrimony was instituted by God, when He
fashioned a helpmate for man out of his rib, and said to them: "Increase
and multiply." And although this was said also to the other animals, it
was not to be fulfilled by them in the same way as by men. As to Adam's
words, he uttered them inspired by God to understand that the institution
of marriage was from God.
Reply to Objection 5: As was clearly stated, matrimony was not instituted before
Christ as a sacrament of the New Law.
Article 3: Whether matrimony confers grace?
Objection 1: It would seem that matrimony does not confer grace. For,
according to Hugh (De Sacram. i) "the sacraments, by virtue of their
sanctification, confer an invisible grace." But matrimony has no
sanctification essential to it. Therefore grace is not conferred therein.
Objection 2: Further, every sacrament that confers grace confers it by virtue
of its matter and form. Now the acts which are the matter in this
sacrament are not the cause of grace (for it would be the heresy of
Pelagius to assert that our acts cause grace); and the words expressive
of consent are not the cause of grace, since no sanctification results
from them. Therefore grace is by no means given in matrimony.
Objection 3: Further, the grace that is directed against the wound of sin is
necessary to all who have that wound. Now the wound of concupiscence is
to be found in all. Therefore if grace were given in matrimony against
the wound of concupiscence, all men ought to contract marriage, and it
would be very stupid to refrain from matrimony.
Objection 4: Further, sickness does not seek a remedy where it finds
aggravation. Now concupiscence is aggravated by concupiscence, because,
according to the Philosopher (Ethic. iii, 12), "the desire of
concupiscence is insatiable, and is increased by congenial actions."
Therefore it would seem that grace is not conferred in matrimony, as a
remedy for concupiscence.
On the contrary, Definition and thing defined should be convertible. Now
causality of grace is included in the definition of a sacrament. Since,
then, matrimony is a sacrament, it is a cause of grace.
Further, Augustine says (De Bono Viduit. viii; Gen. ad lit. ix, 7) that
"matrimony affords a remedy to the sick." But it is not a remedy except
in so far as it has some efficacy. Therefore it has some efficacy for the
repression of concupiscence. Now concupiscence is not repressed except by
grace. Therefore grace is conferred therein.
I answer that, There have been three opinions on this point. For some
[*Peter Lombard, Sent. iv, D, 2] said that matrimony is nowise the cause
of grace, but only a sign thereof. But this cannot be maintained, for in
that case it would in no respect surpass the sacraments of the Old Law.
Wherefore there would be no reason for reckoning it among the sacraments
of the New Law; since even in the Old Law by the very nature of the act
it was able to afford a remedy to concupiscence lest the latter run riot
when held in too strict restraint.
Hence others [*St. Albert Magnus, Sent. iv, D, 26] said that grace is
conferred therein as regards the withdrawal from evil, because the act is
excused from sin, for it would be a sin apart from matrimony. But this
would be too little, since it had this also in the Old Law. And so they
say that it makes man withdraw from evil, by restraining the
concupiscence lest it tend to something outside the marriage blessings,
but that this grace does not enable a man to do good works. But this
cannot be maintained, since the same grace hinders sin and inclines to
good, just as the same heat expels cold and gives heat.
Hence others [*St. Bonaventure, Sent. iv, D, 26] say that matrimony,
inasmuch as it is contracted in the faith of Christ, is able to confer
the grace which enables us to do those works which are required in
matrimony. and this is more probable, since wherever God gives the
faculty to do a thing, He gives also the helps whereby man is enabled to
make becoming use of that faculty; thus it is clear that to all the
soul's powers there correspond bodily members by which they can proceed
to act. Therefore, since in matrimony man receives by Divine institution
the faculty to use his wife for the begetting of children, he also
receives the grace without which he cannot becomingly do so; just as we
have said of the sacrament of orders (Question , Article ). And thus this grace
which is given is the last thing contained in this sacrament.
Reply to Objection 1: Just as the baptismal water by virtue of its contact with
Christ's body [*Cf. TP, Question , Article , ad 4] is able to "touch the body and
cleanse the heart" [*St. Augustine, Tract. lxxx in Joan.], so is
matrimony able to do so through Christ having represented it by His
Passion, and not principally through any blessing of the priest.
Reply to Objection 2: Just as the water of Baptism together with the form of
words results immediately not in the infusion of grace, but in the
imprinting of the character, so the outward acts and the words expressive
of consent directly effect a certain tie which is the sacrament of
matrimony; and this tie by virtue of its Divine institution works
dispositively [*Cf. Question , Article , where St. Thomas uses the same
expression; and Editor's notes at the beginning of the Supplement and on
that Article] to the infusion of grace.
Reply to Objection 3: This argument would hold if no more efficacious remedy
could be employed against the disease of concupiscence; but a yet more
powerful remedy is found in spiritual works and mortification of the
flesh by those who make no use of matrimony.
Reply to Objection 4: A remedy can be employed against concupiscence in two ways.
First, on the part of concupiscence by repressing it in its root, and
thus matrimony affords a remedy by the grace given therein. Secondly, on
the part of its act, and this in two ways: first, by depriving the act to
which concupiscence inclines of its outward shamefulness, and this is
done by the marriage blessings which justify carnal concupiscence;
secondly, by hindering the shameful act, which is done by the very nature
of the act. because concupiscence, being satisfied by the conjugal act,
does not incline so much to other wickedness. For this reason the Apostle
says (1 Cor. 7:9): "It is better to marry than to burn." For though the
works congenial to concupiscence are in themselves of a nature to
increase concupiscence, yet in so far as they are directed according to
reason they repress concupiscence, because like acts result in like
dispositions and habits.
Article 4: Whether carnal intercourse is an integral part of this sacrament?
Objection 1: It would seem that carnal intercourse is an integral part of
marriage. For at the very institution of marriage it was declared (Gn. 2:24): "They shall be two in one flesh." Now this is not brought about
save by carnal intercourse. Therefore it is an integral part of marriage.
Objection 2: Further, that which belongs to the signification of a sacrament
is necessary for the sacrament, as we have stated above (Article ; Question , Article ). Now carnal intercourse belongs to the signification of matrimony, as
stated in the text (Sent. iv, D, 26). Therefore it is an integral part of
Objection 3: Further, this sacrament is directed to the preservation of the
species. But the species cannot be preserved without carnal intercourse.
Therefore it is an integral part of the sacrament.
Objection 4: Further, Matrimony is a sacrament inasmuch as it affords a remedy
against concupiscence; according to the Apostle's saying (1 Cor. 7:9):
"It is better to marry than to burn." But it does not afford this remedy
to those who have no carnal intercourse. Therefore the same conclusion
follows as before.
On the contrary, There was matrimony in Paradise, and yet there was no
carnal intercourse. Therefore carnal intercourse is not an integral part
Further, a sacrament by its very name denotes a sanctification. But
matrimony is holier without carnal intercourse, according to the text
(Sent. D, 26). Therefore carnal intercourse is not necessary for the
I answer that, Integrity is twofold. One regards the primal perfection
consisting in the very essence of a thing; the other regards the
secondary perfection consisting in operation. Since then carnal
intercourse is an operation or use of marriage which gives the faculty
for that intercourse, it follows, that carnal intercourse belongs to the
latter, and not to the former integrity of marriage [*Cf. TP, Question , Article 
Reply to Objection 1: Adam expressed the integrity of marriage in regard to both
perfections, because a thing is known by its operation.
Reply to Objection 2: Signification of the thing contained is necessary for the sacrament. Carnal intercourse belongs not to this signification, but to the thing not contained, as appears from what was said above (Article , ad 4,5).
Reply to Objection 3: A thing does not reach its end except by its own act.
Wherefore, from the fact that the end of matrimony is not attained
without carnal intercourse, it follows that it belongs to the second and
not to the first integrity.
Reply to Objection 4: Before carnal intercourse marriage is a remedy by virtue of
the grace given therein, although not by virtue of the act, which belongs
to the second integrity.