Cousins, Marriage of

Cousins, Marriage Of The course of Church practice on this subject appears to have been this: the traditional Roman prejudice against cousins' marriages, although quite uncountenanced by the Jewish law or practice, commended itself instinctively to the ascetic tendencies of the Western fathers, and through them took root among the Western clergy generally, embodying itself, indeed, temporarily, towards the end of the 4th century, in a general civil law, for the Roman empire. But while this law was abrogated in the beginning of the 5th century, and in the East such unions remained perfectly lawful both in the Church and in the State throughout nearly the whole of the period which occupies us, never being condemned by any oecumenical council till that of Constantinople towards the end of the 7th century, in the West the clergy adhered to the harsher view; popes and local synods sought to enforce it; wherever clerical influence could be brought to bear on the barbaric legislators it became apparent. till at last, under the Carlovinglan princes, it established itself as a law alike of the State and of the Church. But the history of this restrain upon marriage is that o(f all others not derived from Scripture itself. Originating probably, all of them, in a sincere though mistaken asceticism, they were soon discovered to furnish an almost inexhaustible mine for the supply of the Church's coffers, through the grant of dispensations, prosecutions in the Church courts, compromises. The baleful alliance between Carlovingian usurpation and Romish priestcraft, in exchange for the subserviency of the clergy to the ambition and the vices of the earlier despots, delivered over the social morality of the people to them, it may be said, as a prey, and the savageness of Carlovingian civil legislation was placed at the service of the newfangled Church discipline of the West. SEE AFFINITY; SEE MARRIAGE.

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