The City of God: Book 1: Chapter Sixteen

Chapter 16

The pagans fancy that they are throwing a colossal crime in the face of the Christians when they put their captivity in the worst light by charging further that rapes were wrought not only on married women and marriageable maidens but also on consecrated virgins. Here, we are not to speak of faith, or piety, or strictly of the virtue we call chastity, but are to confine our discussion to the narrow limits of sense of shame and reason. I am not so much concerned to give an answer to strangers as to offer comfort to my fellow Christians. Therefore, let this stand as a firmly established truth: The virtue which governs a good life controls from the seat of the soul every member of the body, and the body is rendered holy by the act of a holy will.

Thus, as long as the will remains unyielding, no crime, beyond the victim’s power to prevent it without sin, and which is perpetrated on the body or in the body, lays any guilt on the soul. An attack on one’s body may inflict not merely physical pain, but may also excite carnal pleasure. If such an act is perpetrated, it does not compromise the virtue of chastity, to which the sufferer clings with an iron will; it merely outrages the sense of shame. We must not consider as committed with the will what could not, by the very constitution of nature, occur without some fleshly satisfaction.

Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, Books I–VII

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