“There Is No Individual Apart From A Family”: Louis de Bonald's Defense of Marriage | Jerry Salyer | CWR blog
The French Catholic philosopher warned that any people which permits the public repudiation of the matrimonial covenant is doomed to become trite, shallow, and silly
“I think that on this question,” writes Louis de Bonald regarding divorce, “the government should concern itself not with religious beliefs, but with reasonable actions.”
Another liberal disguising with smooth talk a ploy to subvert Western civilization’s Christian foundations? Hardly. In fact, the aforementioned French Catholic philosopher was emphasizing a point essential to natural law theory: far from contradicting reason, the Church’s divinely-inspired teachings on controversial topics often lead to conclusions similar to those of clear-headed human reflection. Per Bonald, we should not really need spelled out for us in ten-foot tall letters of revelatory fire the fact that divorce harms children, that it undermines the social fabric, that it is a plague to be combatted rather than a legitimate choice to be endorsed. Trapped in a culture that has forgotten not only the Gospel but common sense to boot, Catholics would do well to acquaint themselves with Bonald's On Divorce.
Born in 1754 to a family of provincial nobility, Viscomte Louis Gabriel Ambroise de Bonald remained always proud to be a native of Rouergue. a hard, rocky region inhabited by self-reliant, pious peasants and characterized by one of Bonald’s biographers as “the Appalachia of France.” A King's Musketeer in his youth and then mayor of his hometown, Bonald was a devoted husband as well as the affectionate father of four.
He was also for some time a wanted man. Once it became clear that the new Jacobin government intended to subordinate and disempower the Church, Bonald’s initial naïve support for the French Revolution turned into fervent opposition, and he was forced to flee his homeland. He joined a counter-revolutionary army; after attempts to dislodge the Jacobins by military means proved futile he slipped back into the country, to Paris, where he lived, studied, and wrote while in hiding. Following the fall of the Jacobins he was pardoned by Napoleon and re-entered public life, and then under the Bourbon monarchy he obtained a seat in the Chamber of Deputies. With that seat came a chance to translate some of his reactionary ideas into policy. Foremost on his agenda was the abolition of divorce.
Upon seizing power the Jacobins had taken great pains to liberalize French marriage laws, declaring the marriage bond soluble; Bonald saw this action as nothing less than a direct assault upon civilization as such. To the extent that divorce is a real possibility, he argued, the state permits a sword of Damocles to hover over the head of every child. Through divorce Christian monogamy gets replaced by a practice much inferior to Old Testament polygamy (which Bonald regarded as a rough approximation of the marriage ideal, which at least provided for stable natural families).
Furthermore, he warned, any people which permits the public repudiation of the matrimonial covenant is doomed to become trite, shallow, and silly, for as the ability to conceive of the immutable marriage pledge fades, so too goes the ability to conceive of life as anything other than a pursuit of immediate gratification.