SIX VOLUMES IN ONE
BY THE DISTINGUISHED EXPONENTS OF CATHOLICISM
REV. HENRY DODRIDGE, D. D.
REV. HENRY EDWARD MANNING, D. D.
REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada
REV. STEPHEN KEENAN
REV. BERNARD VAUGHAN, S. J.
REV. THOMAS N. BURKE, O. P.
Q. How does the obligation of performing a vow cease?
A. There are three ways to make a vow not to be any longer binding, viz.: Irritation, commutation, and dispensation. By the first, the vow is declared never to be binding. By the second, it is changed into another vow, of equal or greater good. In the third, the obligation is destroyed upon a just account. But, in all these cases, superiors are to be consulted and followed. Again, the obligation of a vow ceases, when the matter becomes impossible. Secondly, when it cannot be performed without danger of death, or some great detriment to the body, or temporal loss, in which cases a dispensation is to be obtained. Thirdly, when the fulfilling the vow becomes unlawful; for instance, in subsequent marriage, after a simple vow of chastity, especially if the other party insist upon it. Fourthly, when the matter becomes indifferent. Fifthly, when it hinders a greater good. Sixthly, when superiors have a just reason to grant a dispensation.
Q. What is a vow of religion, and at what age are persons capable of making it ?
A. It is a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience; and is either simple or solemn. A simple vow of religion may be made by men at fourteen, by women at twelve; and if before, it is in the power of parents to render it void, because they are then under tutelage. A solemn vow of religion cannot be made, either by man or woman, before they have completed the sixteenth year of their age. Hence, the Council of Trent has declared all such vows null, which are made before that age.
Q. What is a vow of poverty ?
A. It is a voluntary renunciation of property in all worldly goods, confirmed by vow.
Q. What grounds have you for this practice ?
A. Very sufficient grounds; because worldly goods withdraw us from God's service. Hence, though we happen to possess them, we are not to set our hearts upon them, but enjoy them with indifferency, and make use of them, as St. Paul says, as if we did not make use of them, i Cor. vii. 31. Hence our blessed Saviour advises those that would serve him perfectly, to give all they have to the poor. Matt. xix. 21. Conformably to this advice, vows are made to renounce property, and be content with the use of necessaries only.
Q. What is a vow of chastity ?
A. It is a promise made to God, of entirely renouncing the pleasures and allurements of the flesh, and whereby a person obliges himself never to marry.
Q. What motives can persons have, to lay such an obligation on themselves ?
A. Several, very much conducing to the good of religion, especially for such as are designed for spiritual offices for the goods of this life, the pleasures of the flesh, and the care 01 providing for children, occasion a continual dissipation, and call men off from attending to their functions, as St. Paul observes; and therefore, in the same chapter, he advises such persons to live single. 1 Cor. vii. ver. 32, 33, et ver. 8.
Q. Is it not unlawful to vow what is not in our power ? now, chastity is entirely a gift of God, not in our power.
A. I own chastity is a gift of God; so are all other supernatural gifts : but yet God bestows grace sufficient to obtain them ; so they cannot be said to be things out of our power.
Q. Which are the means provided by God, to obtain his supernatural gifts ?
A. The sacraments, prayer, corporal mortification, etc., by which means we obtain grace, and overcome vicious habits, and the natural inclination we have to sin. The sacraments are continual channels of grace: b3' prayer, we may hope to obtain whatsoever we ask for: by mortifying the flesh, we are disposed for chastity, sobriety, etc.
Q. I own these are the usual means God has left in his Church, to avoid several sins ; but as for chastity, marriage is the proper remedy appointed by God ; and a vow not to marry rejects this remedy. No man ought to place himself in a state, where he is incapable of making use of that remedy.
A. It is true, marriage is one remedy to preserve chastity; and therefore all persons are at liberty to make use of it, unless they oblige themselves by vow to make use of other remedies, which are also assigned for that purpose, and are sufficient, when rightly applied.
Q. It appears that marriage is the only remedy to preserve chastity; and, by consequence, a vow to the contrary is unlawful.
A. If marriage were the only remedy, all would be in a state of damnation, unless they married ; because, it is found by experience, that marriage is not always an effectual remedy, seeing that thousands are found to sin against chastity, notwithstanding a married life. As, on the other hand, multitudes live chastely,
though unmarried; which is a proof that other remedies are sufficient, and by consequence a vow of chastity does not put it out of a person's power of living chastely.
Q. Marriage is what God commands, therefore, the forbidding priests and religious to marry, is a wicked doctrine.
A. Is the obliging men to keep their vows, which they freely made, a wicked doctrine ? If so, how will you excuse either Solomon, David, Moses, or St. Paul; who teach us to pay that which we have vowed ? It is better, says Solomon, that thou shouldst not vow, than that thou shouldst vow and not pay it Eccl. v. 4, 5. Vow and pay it, says holy David, unto the Lord your God. Psalm lxxvi. 11. When thou hast vowed a vow unto the Lord thy God, says Moses, thou shalt not delay to pay it. Deut. xxiii. 21. St. Paul says, that widows, who marry after they have vowed continency, have damnation, because they have made void their first faith. 1 Tim. v. 12. But because the reformation was built upon many thousands of broken vows, it must therefore be a wicked doctrine in the Church to forbid so horrible a sacrilege.