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partakers of the same spiritual gifts, so should they share alike the blessings and prerogatives of domestic life.
In the mind of the Church, however, equal rights do not imply that both sexes should engage promiscuously in the same pursuits, but rather that each sex should discharge those duties which are adapted to its physical constitution and sanctioned by the canons of society.
To some among the gentler sex the words equal rights have been, it is to be feared, synonymous with similar rights. It was no doubt owing to this misapprehension of terms that the attempt was made, not so very long ago, by some of the strong-minded fair, to introduce the glories of the Bloomer costume. But though the attempt proved a failure, the spirit that impelled it still survives, as may be seen by the various masculine modifications that have crept into female dress during the past few years. Where is the flowing and graceful drapery of former days that jealously shielded the modest wearer from gaze on the public street? Is it because the woman of to-day has laid aside what she looks upon as the cumbersome style of her grandmother's time that she aims at dauntlessly presenting herself at the ballot-box to cast in her suffrage for A or for B? Only a few years ago it provoked laughter to hear that Miss Jemima Snarl was to lecture on "Woman's Rights," or that Dr. Mary Walker had appeared on Broadway in male habiliments capà-pie. But now it is quite ordinary to hear of
ladies, gentlewomen, daughters of some of our country's best men, not, indeed, imitating Dr. Mary Walker's exceptionable attire, but mounting the rostrum to harangue their audiences on the power of the "Faith Healers" or the merits of the "Salvation Army." Is it any wonder that a feeling of sadness creeps over one that such things should be?
To debar woman from such pursuits is not to degrade her. To restrict her field of action to the gentler avocations of life is not to fetter her aspirations after the higher and the better. It is, on the contrary, to secure to her not equal rights so-called, but those supereminent rights that cannot fail to endow her with a sacred influence in her own proper sphere; for as soon as woman trenches on the domain of man, she must not be surprised to find that the reverence once accorded her has been in part, or wholly, withdrawn.
But it was by vindicating the unity, the sanctity, and the indissolubility of marriage that the Church has conferred the greatest boon on the female sex. The holiness of the marriage-bond is the palladium of woman's dignity, while polygamy and divorce involve her in bondage and degradation.
The Church has ever maintained, in accordance with the teachings of our Saviour, that no man can lawfully have more than one wife; and no woman more than one husband. The rights and obligations of both consorts are correlative. To give to the husband the license of two more wives
would be an injustice to
his spouse and destructive of domestic peace. The Church has also invariably taught that the marriage compact, once validly formed, can be dissolved only by death; for what God hath joined together man cannot put asunder. While admitting that there may be a legitimate cause for separation, she never allows any pretext for the absolute dissolution of the marriagebond. For so strong and violent are the passion of love and its opposite passion of hate, so insidious is the human heart, that once a solitary pretext is admitted for absolute divorce, others are quickly invented, as experience has shown; thus a fearful crevice is made in the moral embankment, and the rush of waters is sure to override every barrier that separates a man from the object of his desires.
It has, again and again, been alleged that this law is too severe, that it is harsh and cruel, and that it condemns to a life of misery two souls who might find happiness if permitted to have their marriage annulled and to be united with more congenial partners. Every law has its occasional inconveniences, and I admit that the law absolutely prohibiting divorce à vinculo may sometimes appear rigorous and cruel. But its harshness is mercy itself when compared with the frightful miseries resulting from the toleration of divorce. Its inconvenience is infinitesimal when contrasted with the colossal evils from which it saves society and the solid blessings it secures to countless homes. Those
exceptional ill-assorted marriages would become more rare if the public were convinced, once for all, that death alone can dissolve the marriage bond. They would then use more circumspection in the selection of a conjugal partner. Hence it happens that in Catholic countries where faith is strong, as in Ireland and the Tyrol, divorces are almost unheard of.
The enforcement of this law has been maintained by the Church against fearful odds, and has caused her many a mortal struggle. For if the strong government of the United States, with military forces at its command, with the sympathy of public opinion and Christian traditions on its side, is successfully resisted by a colony of Mormons, how violent must have been the opposition to the Church and how hopeless her task, humanly speaking, when physical force and inveterate custom were arrayed against her, and when she had on her side only moral power and spiritual penalties.
In vindicating the sanctity of marriage, the Church had to contend with a triple enemy-the fierce passions of barbarous tribes, the arbitrary power of princes, and the compromising spirit of rebellious churchmen.
From the fifth to the eighth century Europe was periodically visited by warlike tribes from the shores of the Baltic, from Asia, and from Africa. They threatened the overthrow of the Christian religion, and, in the general upheaval of society, the landmarks of Christian civilization were well
nigh swept away. The invading hosts were utter. strangers to monogamy and the restraining maxims of the Gospel. But when the storm subsided, the voice of religion was heard in defence of female honor and the sanctity of marriage, and the triumphant barbarians voluntarily submitted to the yoke of the Gospel.
Virginal and conjugal chastity found still more formidable opponents among many of the petty princes and barons of the Middle Ages. Fortified in their castles and surrounded by submissive vassals, they recognized no power that thwarted their lust; they set the laws of the land at defiance; they intimidated the local clergy; they disregarded even the authority of the bishops. The only voice before which they trembled and which compelled them to surrender their prey, was the anathema of Rome.
What a sorry figure the so-called Reformers presented when the honor of woman was at stake, and what little protection she had to expect from them in the hour of trial! Luther, in his commentary on Genesis, says that he does not decide whether a man is or is not permitted to have several wives at once; yet we all know that he did decide the question by permitting the Landgrave of Hesse to have two wives at the same time, his brother reformer Melanchthon concurring in the decision. We know, also, how obsequious Cranmer was to Henry VIII. in sanctioning his divorce from Catherine. How different was the conduct of Pope Innocent III.,