Digamy

One of the early manifestations of asceticism in the church was the objection to second marriage as a lower state for the laity (although it was widely conceded, even by Tertullian, to be lawful) and as a forbidden state for the clergy. 1 Timothy 3:2 was often deemed to disqualify a digamist from ordination. Athenagoras opposed digamy on the grounds that the relationship between husband and wife was an eternal one which not even death could annul. Second marriage after the death of a husband or wife was therefore “a specious adultery.” Second marriage in Tertullian's view was a concession to “fleshly concupiscence,” but his arguments against it tell equally as well against first marriage. Marriage is permitted, but “what is permitted is not absolutely good.” It is better not to marry and not to have the care of children. Tertullian's attitude hardened even more against digamy once he became a Montanist. This attitude was most characteristic of groups such as the Montanists* and Novatianists.* But the imposition of a small penance on digamists is presupposed in the seventh canon of the orthodox council of Neocaesarea in 314, although the Council of Nicea in 325, in providing for the reconciliation of Novatianists, insisted in its eighth canon that those who had married twice should not be excluded from Christian fellowship. The Eastern Church has always been more severe on digamists than the Western Church. But even in the West second marriage was held to be a disqualification for ordination, and this remains so in Roman Catholic canon law to this day.