QUESTION 61: OF THE IMPEDIMENT TO MARRIAGE, ARISING FROM A SOLEMN VOW
We must next consider the impediments which supervene to marriage. We
shall consider (1) the impediment which affects an unconsummated
marriage, namely a solemn vow: (2) the impediment which affects a
consummated marriage, namely fornication. Under the first head there are
three points of inquiry:
(1) Whether either party after the marriage has been consummated can
enter religion without the other's consent?
(2) Whether they can enter religion before the consummation of the
(3) Whether the wife can take another husband if her former husband has
entered religion before the consummation of the marriage?
Article 1: Whether one party after the marriage has been consummated can enter religion without the other's consent?
Objection 1: It would seem that even after the marriage has been consummated
one consort can enter religion without the other's consent. For the
Divine law ought to be more favorable to spiritual things than human law.
Now human law has allowed this. Therefore much more should the Divine law
Objection 2: Further, the lesser good does not hinder the greater. But the married state is a lesser good than the religious state, according to 1 Cor. 7:38. Therefore marriage ought not to hinder a man from being able to enter religion.
Objection 3: Further, in every form of religious life there is a kind of
spiritual marriage. Now it is lawful to pass from a less strict religious
order to one that is stricter. Therefore it is also allowable to pass
from a less strict---namely a carnal---marriage to a stricter marriage,
namely that of the religious life, even without the wife's consent.
On the contrary, Married persons are forbidden (1 Cor. 7:5) to abstain
from the use of marriage even for a time without one another's consent,
in order to have time for prayer.
Further, no one can lawfully do that which is prejudicial to another
without the latter's consent. Now the religious vow taken by one consort
is prejudicial to the other, since the one has power over the other's
body. Therefore one of them cannot take a religious vow without the
I answer that, No one can make an offering to God of what belongs to
another. Wherefore since by a consummated marriage the husband's body
already belongs to his wife, he cannot by a vow of continence offer it to
God without her consent.
Reply to Objection 1: Human law considers marriage merely as fulfilling an office
of nature: whereas the Divine law considers it as a sacrament, by reason
of which it is altogether indissoluble. Hence the comparison fails.
Reply to Objection 2: It is not unreasonable that a greater good be hindered by a
lesser which is contrary to it, just as good is hindered by evil.
Reply to Objection 3: In every form of religious life marriage is contracted with
one person, namely Christ; to Whom, however, a person contracts more
obligations in one religious order than in another. But in carnal
marriage and religious marriage the contract is not with the same person:
wherefore that comparison fails.
Article 2: Whether before the marriage has been consummated one consort can enter religion without the other's consent?
Objection 1: It would seem that even before the marriage has been consummated
one consort cannot enter religion without the other's consent. For the
indissolubility of marriage belongs to the sacrament of matrimony,
inasmuch, namely, as it signifies the union of Christ with the Church.
Now marriage is a true sacrament before its consummation, and after
consent has been expressed in words of the present. Therefore it cannot
be dissolved by one of them entering religion.
Objection 2: Further, by virtue of the consent expressed in words of the
present, the one consort has given power over his body to the other.
Therefore the one can forthwith ask for the marriage debt, and the other
is bound to pay: and so the one cannot enter religion without the other's
Objection 3: Further, it is said (Mt. 19:6): "What God hath joined together
let no man put asunder." But the union which precedes marital intercourse
was made by God. Therefore it cannot be dissolved by the will of man.
On the contrary, According to Jerome [*Prolog. in Joan.] our Lord called
John from his wedding.
I answer that, Before marital intercourse there is only a spiritual bond
between husband and wife, but afterwards there is a carnal bond between
them. Wherefore, just as after marital intercourse marriage is dissolved
by carnal death, so by entering religion the bond which exists before the
consummation of the marriage is dissolved, because religious life is a
kind of spiritual death, whereby a man dies to the world and lives to God.
Reply to Objection 1: Before consummation marriage signifies the union of Christ
with the soul by grace, which is dissolved by a contrary spiritual
disposition, namely mortal sin. But after consummation it signifies the
union of Christ with the Church, as regards the assumption of human
nature into the unity of person, which union is altogether indissoluble.
Reply to Objection 2: Before consummation the body of one consort is not
absolutely delivered into the power of the other, but conditionally,
provided neither consort meanwhile seek the fruit of a better life. But
by marital intercourse the aforesaid delivery is completed, because then
each of them enters into bodily possession of the power transferred to
him. Wherefore also before consummation they are not bound to pay the
marriage debt forthwith after contracting marriage by words of the
present, but a space of two months is allowed them for three reasons.
First that they may deliberate meanwhile about entering religion;
secondly, to prepare what is necessary for the solemnization of the
wedding. thirdly, lest the husband think little of a gift he has not
longed to possess (cap. Institutum, caus. xxvi, qu. ii).
Reply to Objection 3: The marriage union, before consummation, is indeed perfect
as to its primary being, but is not finally perfect as to its second act
which is operation. It is like bodily possession and consequently is not
Article 3: Whether the wife may take another husband if her husband has entered religion before the consummation of the marriage?
Objection 1: It would seem that the wife may not take another husband, if her
husband has entered religion before the consummation of the marriage. For
that which is consistent with marriage does not dissolve the marriage
tie. Now the marriage tie still remains between those who equally take
religious vows. Therefore by the fact that one enters religion, the
other is not freed from the marriage tie. But as long as she remains tied
to one by marriage, she cannot marry another. Therefore, etc.
Objection 2: Further, after entering religion and before making his profession
the husband can return to the world. If then the wife can marry again
when her husband enters religion, he also can marry again when he returns
to the world: which is absurd.
Objection 3: Further, by a new decree (cap. Non solum, de regular. et
transeunt.) a profession, if made before the expiry of a year, is
accounted void. Therefore if he return to his wife after making such a
profession, she is bound to receive him. Therefore neither by her
husband's entry into religion, nor by his taking a vow, does the wife
receive the power to marry again.
On the contrary, No one can bind another to those things which belong to
perfection. Now continence is of those things that belong to perfection.
Therefore a wife is not bound to continence on account of her husband
entering religion, and consequently she can marry.
I answer that, Just as bodily death of the husband dissolves the
marriage tie in such a way that the wife may marry whom she will,
according to the statement of the Apostle (1 Cor. 7:39); so too after the
husband's spiritual death by entering religion, she can marry whom she
Reply to Objection 1: When both consorts take a like vow of continence, neither
renounces the marriage tie, wherefore it still remains: but when only one
takes the vow, then for his own part he renounces the marriage tie,
wherefore the other is freed therefrom.
Reply to Objection 2: A person is not accounted dead to the world by entering
religion until he makes his profession, and consequently his wife is
bound to wait for him until that time.
Reply to Objection 3: We must judge of a profession thus made before the time
fixed by law, as of a simple vow. Wherefore just as when the husband has
taken a simple vow his wife is not bound to pay him the marriage debt,
and yet has not the power to marry again, so is it in this case.