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47. Compulsory and Conditional Consent

1. Consent is a voluntary or free-will act. Now, as we have seenelsewhere in these studies (la Ilae, q. 6), an act may bevoluntary and yet have in it an element of involuntariness.Thus, the captain of a ship who throws overboard a valuable cargoin time of storm, wills to perform the act, but does notwish to perform it; he would not perform it werehe not afraid of losing both ship and cargo if he retained thegoods on board. Therefore, it appears that a kind of compulsion canbe back of a free consent. There is such a thing as a compulsoryconsent, or a contract made under duress, but the stress ofcircumstance which compels the consent is, in contracts, from otherpeople and not from storms or irrational creatures. Now, a contractmade under duress is a contract, but, in both civil andecclesiastical law, it is a voidable contract.

2. It is possible for a normal person, and even a personof steady and reliable character, to be so moved by fearas to consent to a contract under its stress.

3. Consent given under stress of fear invalidates themarriage contract. Marriage is a permanent bond; it involves"a lifelong bargain." Now, a person who is moved by fearto consent to a situation, does so to escape a danger, but hardlyintends to bear the unpleasant situation permanently after thedanger is past. Hence, it is unlikely that consent under compellingfear is really a consent sufficient for marriage. In any event, theChurch, which has the right of legislating upon the essentialconditions for receiving a sacrament, has declared compulsoryconsent insufficient for the sacrament of matrimony.

4. Some have thought that the party who uses compulsion tomake the other party marry him is truly married; for there can beno question of his free will and full consent in thecontract. But this is quite impossible; marriage means the joiningof two wills in a common consent. A man cannot be the true husbandof one who is not his wife; nor can a woman be the wife of a manwho is not her husband. What prevents true consent for one of theparties prevents the marriage.

5. A condition attached to the consent does notnecessarily prevent a true marriage, unless it be a futurecondition, or a condition that conflicts with the very nature ofmarriage. Thus, there is no marriage if one party says, "Itake you for my true husband (wife) on condition that you will notdrink any more." Nor is there a marriage if the consent isgiven on condition that there will be no children.

6. Parents cannot compel their children to marry.

"The name of Jesus, pronounced with reverence and affection, has a kind of power to soften the heart. "
St Philip Neri

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"God gives us some things, as the beginning of faith, even when we do not pray. Other things, such as perseverance, he has only provided for those who pray."
St Augustine

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"As the flesh is nourished by food, so is man supported by prayers"
St Augustine

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