Since in contracting holy matrimony people today act more superficially and unheedingly so that the marriage relationship has become a matter of considerable concern, and if it is not entered into responsibly, they may be in danger, clearly Your Majesty ought also here to come to the aid of the human weakness of his Subjects.
For against the laws of God and the Church, which they have tried to dissolve in every respect, the Roman Antichrists have introduced that supremely godless dogma that the compact of matrimony made verbally by the contracting parties, as they say, binds at once, if only those who contract are of the age of puberty, and that such a pact is not invalidated if it is made without the knowledge or consent of the parents, out of blind love and the desire of the flesh, and for the most part out of the deviousness of seducers and the wantonness of the seduced.
But it is obvious that it is repugnant, not only to the laws of pious emperors, but also to the law of God and of nature and to every law of nations, that children who are in the power of their parents do or attempt anything of great moment outside the knowledge and will of the parents, much less emancipate themselves completely from the power of their parents and withdraw themselves from their control, as occurs in matrimony. ‘Tor on account of this, says the Lord, a man will leave father and mother and cleave to his wife” (Gen. 2:24). After God, certainly the greatest honor and reverence is due from children to their parents. But what greater contempt can be inflicted by children upon their parents, and what greater insult rendered to them than when they spurn their counsel in a matter of such great moment and such great peril, and when they disregard the parents whose dearest tokens of love they are and withdraw themselves from their embrace, use, and power in which God has so sacredly commanded them to be?
Therefore, the laws of the early Church and of pious emperors define it as rape if anyone joins a woman to himself in matrimony without the knowledge and consent of parents, even if the woman consents.” Since the laws provide such a severe punishment if anyone against the will of another takes just a little money, or some beast, or some other thing that in no way can be compared with children, how much more severe a punishment ought to be inflicted on those who take from parents their own children, than whom they hold nothing in the world more dear or more precious. For when parents themselves find husbands for their daughters and accept wives for their sons, if indeed they do this in the Lord, they provide for themselves sons-in-law and daughters-in-law who will be like sons and daughters to them. Thus when they give their children in matrimony, they do not so much alienate them from themselves or lose their services as they receive a filial son-in-law when they give a daughter, and when they receive a wife for their son, they get a daughter in their daughter-in-law along with their son, and they double for themselves the services of sons and daughters. And this is far different from what happens if they get married without the consent of their parents.
God did not want to hold valid the vow of a daughter if it displeased her father (Num. 30:4-6). Should the promise of a girl made to a man against her father’s will then be valid?
From these things Your Majesty easily understands how necessary it is for the well-being of his people to restore and sanction for them the law of God and nature not so much against a rash as a godless compact of matrimony, which is made without the counsel and consent of the parents, or, in their absence, without the counsel of those whom everyone justly ought to have in the place of parents, such as tutors, guardians, relatives, patrons, and special friends, singularly outstanding in piety and prudence.
In the absence of these, a person nevertheless acts impiously if he enters the marriage contract, that lasting and highest union of human nature, without the counsel of important and pious men through whom he may be able to know the mind and will of God with more certainty. In less serious matters involving money and other things, the investment of which is often more profitable than the keeping of it, men who do not trust their own judgment use as counselors those whom they judge to have a bit more knowledge than they themselves in such matters; who does not see, therefore, that it is a mark of impious temerity and pernicious lust for a boy on his own responsibility to enter into an indissoluble covenant with a woman who, according to God’s will, is to be his body and helper for life, or for a girl to be linked in a similar bond to a man who must prove himself as her head and savior as Christ presents himself to his church (Eph. 5:22-30)?
Formerly among the Romans divorce was not valid “except before seven mature Roman citizens, besides the freedman of him who was making the divorce”. Who, then, would doubt that a legitimate contract of matrimony likewise demands as much, if not more, counsel, evidence, and seriousness?
Testaments, which make settlements almost exclusively with regard to external endowments, are not considered binding except if they are witnessed to by seven men who are free, prudent, reputable, and honest.101 Should a contract then be held valid without an adviser, without a counselor, without a witness, a contract not only of body and of goods but also of the soul, such as certainly occurs in the marriage contract, since marriage is a “sharing of all life,” and “a communication of divine and human right”? 102 This godless temerity and immeasurable levity has to this day brought forth perjuries in matrimonial trials, with most individuals falsely abjuring the matrimonial pact which they had made secretly and without witnesses.
According to the norm, therefore, which the very law of God ordains and the law of nations and of nature teaches, and which we see all pious and honest men follow as established custom, written laws to the contrary permitting, it will have to be established that no matrimonial agreement is valid which is not accomplished with the consent of those who have power over those who contract; and if some have neither parents nor relatives nor other special patrons whose meritorious counsel and approval they may use, the counsel, assent, and testimony of at least three or four pious and honest men should be required. Most religious men use for this contract also some priest of the church in order that everything may take place more gravely and religiously, and that by the Word of God and prayer this contract may be sanctified with greater zeal.
Clearly, “whatever things are true, whatever honorable, whatever just, whatever pure, whatever lovely and gracious, whatever of good report, if there is any excellence, if there is any praise, these things are to be thought about,” these things are to be sought and done by us and by every person according to his place and role in the body of Christ (Phil. 4:8). God has prescribed this law for us. Now no one doubts that it is honorable and just and holy for children to do or attempt nothing at all without the approving consent of their parents, much less free themselves entirely from their power through matrimony and to undertake a matter of such moment and peril without their counsel and authority.
Thus no one can be ambiguous about it that it is holy, just, and honorable that whoever embarks on the marriage contract should do so not clandestinely, not according to the rash passion of the flesh, but with very serious and religious men called in for deliberation and agreement in such a great matter. And clearly every Christian should influence and motivate in this direction all he possibly can.
But here it is objected that children are sometimes impeded by embarrassment at exposing to parents either the desire for marriage or the identity of the ones they wish to marry. Some parents also either restrain their children from marriage longer than is equitable or force on them unwanted marriages. But what is alleged concerning embarrassment is nothing. It is hardly fitting for children to be ashamed to ask a chaste and holy marriage of their parents. For that petition is honorable and not to be ashamed of. But it ought to be a shame and reproach to them so to despise their parents and so to violate both human and divine right according to their fancy as to pledge themselves to marriage without the counsel and consent of parents and those who properly take the place of parents. For this audacity, supremely injurious, is also really shameful and disgraceful. And it is surely a fine reason for embarrassment not to dare to ask holy and honorable nuptials of parents and presently in open disregard for parents, against human and divine right, to cohabit with those to whom they have joined themselves not so much unadvisedly as with impious rashness and Cupidity.
Further, if parents should be unwilling to allow the honorable vows of their children and proceed to abuse their power over them, they must be admonished and persuaded by a warning, prayers, and the urging first of relatives and friends, and secondly of the presbyters of the church. But if harsh parents should ignore all these, then the magistrates must interpose their authority, lest anyone by the wickedness of his parents be either kept from marriage longer than is fair or driven to a less acceptable marriage, provided that those who have such inhuman parents are not seeking to be joined with corrupt men of little honor and piety. There was a provision concerning such things even in Roman laws.103 From this Your Majesty can sufficiently recognize how much it is his duty to provide safeguards by laws and judicial processes that no one contracts a marriage without the advice and consent of those in whose authority and power God has willed him to be, and that no marriage whatsoever shall have force when it is contracted without the grave counsel and testimony of religious men, but that those who in a matter so holy and so greatly requiring reverent deliberation boldly have the impious temerity to put their base desires before divine and human rights should be subject to the punishment they deserve.