Marriage is in crisis. All the countries of the industrialized world are affected by the rejection of commitments, the precariousness of the bond, the increase in nonlegalized unions, and the decrease in birthrates. Jurists, moralists, and sociologists have observed this trend and shown their concern, but explaining it is more difficult. Is the institution in crisis or is society? History can offer some valuable answers. In the Western World, during the last two millenniums, marriage was at the center of conflicts between the law and passion, financial interests and feelings, families and couples, and even sometimes the Church's teachings and secular legislation. The Christian Church retained the Roman notion of consensual marriage but modified it in certain areas, particularly where the notion of indissolubility was concerned. Hence the formation of canon marriage law which, due to the weakness of secular authorities, soon became a monopoly. But even during its golden age (the 11th to 13th centuries), canon law did not guarantee rigorous respect of Christian morals. This strict consensualism in fact encouraged clandestinity. As early as the fourteenth century, kings wanted to regain control over marriage. Regal doctrines, the religious crisis of the Protestant Reformation, and humanist criticisms prior to those of philosophers combined to put an end to the Church's monopoly over morals and laws. Once secularized, however, Western marriage remained profoundly marked by the Roman-canonical tradition. These are the multifaceted conflicts evoked in this study. With a masterly hand, the author traces the history of the complex interplay between principles and reality, basing his observations on legal debates, literary works, and statistics. Neither a textbook nor a collection of anecdotes, this book is a scholar's synthesis, slowly nourished by decades of teaching. It shows that the history of marriage is less a history of laws than that of the fate that was in store for them.
Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press
Number of pages: 496
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
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