thomas aquinas on too much outbreeding

in addition to being concerned about too much inbreeding and how that might hinder the building a christian society here on earth, thomas aquinas also worried about the effects of too much outbreeding.

from his Summa Theologica [pg. 2749]:

“The degrees within which consanguinity has been an impediment to marriage have varied according to various times…. [T]he Old Law permitted other degrees of consanguinity, in fact to a certain extent it commanded them, to wit that each man should take a wife from his kindred, in order to avoid confusion of inheritances: because at that time the Divine worship was handed down as the inheritance of the race. But afterwards more degrees were forbidden by the New Law which is the law of the spirit and of love, because the worship of God is no longer handed down and spread abroad by a carnal birth but by a spiritual grace: wherefore it was necessary that men should be yet more withdrawn from carnal things by devoting themselves to things spiritual, and that love should have a yet wider play. Hence in olden time marriage was forbidden even within the more remote degrees of consanguinity, in order that consanguinity and affinity might be the sources of a wider friendship; and this was reasonably extended to the seventh degree, both because beyond this it was difficult to have any recollection of the common stock, and because this was in keeping with the sevenfold grace of the Holy Ghost. Afterwards, however, towards these latter times the prohibition of the Church has been restricted to the fourth degree, because it became useless and dangerous to extend the prohibition to more remote degrees of consanguinity. Useless, because charity waxed cold in many hearts so that they had scarcely a greater bond of friendship with their more remote kindred than with strangers: and it was dangerous because through the prevalence of concupiscence and neglect men took no account of so numerous a kindred, and thus the prohibition of the more remote degrees became for many a snare leading to damnation.”

(^_^)

previously: st. augustine and st. thomas aquinas

(note: comments do not require an email. summa theologica)

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14 Comments

  1. @luke – “Gotta love that page number 2749! Was it all on parchment?”

    not sure that the page numbers in the modern translation that i quoted correspond to aquinas’ original work — maybe. but it is a huge work!:

    “Among non-scholars the Summa is perhaps most famous for its five arguments for the existence of God known as the ‘five ways’ (Latin: quinque viae). The five ways occupy one and a half pages of the Summa’s approximately three thousand five hundred pages.”

    -!!!-

    probably parchment, yes. here’s a near contemporary copy.

    Reply

  2. Whenever think of the issues of Christianity, I always consider its origins. Along with the Roman Empire, Christianity was one of the last fruits of the Axial Age. Almost everything we are still discussing such as in this blog arose during the Axial Age. That was the beginning of mass urbanization and the first clear formulations of multiculturalism, universalism and egalitarianism.

    Christianity was a syncretistic religion, taking pieces from numerous other religions: Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Neo-Platonism, Stoicism, Mystery Religions, Virgin Mother Isis worship, and the godmen ressurrection/salvific figures. Also, later on Augustine brought in Manichaean influences which was itself a syncretistic religion including Buddhism. This messy syncretism was made possible by the urbanized multiculturalism of the Roman Empire where free people were allowed to worship freely, as long as they gave their allegiance to empire and emperor. The early Christians came from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds.

    The Roman Empire arose as a clannish entreprise, but it inherited the non-clannish political system of Hellenism. Empire-building has ever since inevitably led to non-clannishness and all that it entails. Globalization has carried on this tradition of the Axial Age. We are living out the results of that era that began more than two millennia ago, and we have yet come to terms with that first large-scale, international manifestation of civilization.

    All of history since then has been the rising of superpowers that decrease non-clannishness until they finally decline. What continuously revitalizes this civilization project may be, as some conjecture, the somewhat regular injection of new clannish genetics and cultures at key historical eras. With the decline of the Roman Empire came the introduction of Germans and Arabs in former Roman territory which led to many new empires.

    One might see our own time as a decline of superpowers who have held sway for many centuries. The greatest challenges these old superpowers face, like the Roman Empire, is that of more clannish people. But maybe like the Roman Empire it will require the injection of new clannishness to revitalize societies that have grown top-heavy and where inertia is taking hold. Maybe, as HBD view predicts, this correlates to too much outbreeding. This could be why an injection of inbreeders might bring new vitality.

    Reply

  3. “Useless, because charity waxed cold in many hearts so that they had scarcely a greater bond of friendship with their more remote kindred than with strangers: and it was dangerous because through the prevalence of concupiscence and neglect men took no account of so numerous a kindred, and thus the prohibition of the more remote degrees became for many a snare leading to damnation”

    Wow. Smart guy.

    Reply

  4. “Wow. Smart guy.”

    Yes, really. I’ve been reading a link I posted some time ago about the evolution of ‘degrees’, according to the catholic encyclopedia, which I couldn’t decipher at the time and still find confusing, but what I did take in was this extraordinary purposefulness of St Thomas and St Augustine. What it brought to my mind is the idea that, ‘Rome converted to Christianity’ is not really the full story. Rome stopped criminalising christianity but thereafter christianity became the ‘imperial power’ while the Roman polity crashed and the church simply moved on and converted the germans and thereby created the western european sphere of influence.

    The Saxons were restricted to 4 degrs. and the Franks to 7 degrs. but the Franks used the Roman system (1st cousin = 4th degr) because it fitted with their system of inheritance based on 7 parts of the body. And that became known as the germanic computation, which the church later adopted. – v. confusing.

    From 6th-12th century the clergy got more and more restrictive until Innocent III said at the 4th Lateran Council, 1215, that 4th degr was enough because the people themselves didn’t know who were related. Same year as Magna Carter. (oops, Magna Carta, Get Carter!).

    Reply

  5. @kate – “I’ve been reading a link I posted some time ago about the evolution of ‘degrees’, according to the catholic encyclopedia, which I couldn’t decipher at the time and still find confusing…”

    yes. tell me about it! very confusing. for a long time, everytime i thought i’d figured it out, i got confused again. (~_^)

    jack goody explains very well the differences between the roman and germanic consanguinity reckoning systems. the implication, afaiac, is that with the germanic system, the cousin marriage bans extend biologically farther out — someone related to you to, say, the third degree in the germanic system is a more distant relative than in the roman system.

    @kate – “…but what I did take in was this extraordinary purposefulness of St Thomas and St Augustine.”

    absolutely! they were both really out to do some serious social engineering (they just didn’t know, i doubt, that they were doing some biological engineering as well!).

    @kate – “Get Carter!”

    great movie! revenge for wrongs done to family members. i should review it for the blog! (~_^)

    Reply

  6. “but what I did take in was this extraordinary purposefulness of St Thomas and St Augustine”

    Yes, extraordinary is the word.

    (Get Carter, great movie.)

    Reply

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