Front Page Titles (by Subject) OF CELIBACY. - Complete Works, vol. 4 Familiar Letters; Miscellaneous Pieces; The Temple of Gnidus; A Defence of the Spirit of Laws
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OF CELIBACY. - Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, Complete Works, vol. 4 Familiar Letters; Miscellaneous Pieces; The Temple of Gnidus; A Defence of the Spirit of Laws 
The Complete Works of M. de Montesquieu (London: T. Evans, 1777), 4 vols. Vol. 4.
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We now come to the article of celibacy. All that the Author has said of it relates to this proposition, which is found in book xxv. chap. 4. “I shall not here treat of the consequences of the Law of celibacy: it is evident it may become hurtful, in proportion as the body of the clergy may be too numerous; and, in consequence of this, that of the laity too small.” It is evident, that the Author here speaks only of the greater or less extension that ought to be allowed to celibacy, with respect to the greater or less number of those who embrace it: and, as the Author says in another place, that Law of perfection cannot be made for all mankind. Besides, we know, that the Law of celibacy, as it now subsists, is only a law of discipline. The Spirit of Laws has no where considered the nature of celibacy, or the degree of its goodness; and that is not a subject that ought to enter at all into a book of political and civil Laws. The Critic, however, would never allow the Author to treat his own subject: he is continually for having him treat of his; and because he is always a divine, he will not suffer him, even in a book of Laws, to be a civilian. However we shall soon see that, with respect to celibacy, he is of the same opinion as the divines; that is, that he acknowledges its goodness. It must be observed, that in book xxiii. where he treats of Laws in relation to the number of inhabitants, the Author has given a theory of what the political and civil Laws of different people have done in this respect. He has shewn, by examining the histories of the several nations of the earth, that there have been particular circumstances in which these Laws were more necessary, than others, people who had more need of them, and certain times when these people had still more need of them: and, as it is thought that the Romans were the wisest people upon earth, and that they had more need of these Laws to repair their losses, he has collected with great exactness the Laws they made for that purpose; he has pointed out, with great precision, in what circumstances they were made, and in what other circumstances they were taken away. There is no divinity in all this; and there is no need of any. The Author has however thought proper to add a little. These are his words: “God forbid that I should here speak against celibacy, as adopted by religion: but who can be silent, when this is built on libertinism; when the two sexes corrupting each other even by the natural sensations themselves, fly from an union which ought to render them better, to live in that which always renders them worse.
“It is a rule drawn from nature, that the more the number of marriages is diminished, the more corrupt those are rendered that are entered into that state. The fewer married people there are, the less fidelity is there in marriage; as, when there are more thieves, there are more thefts* .”
The Author has not then disapproved the celibacy practised, on a religous motive; and no complaint can be raised against him for censuring the celibacy introduced by libertinism. He is offended, that a prodigious number of rich and voluptuous men fly the yoke of marriage, that they may the more conveniently pursue the gratification of their licentious appetites. They give themselves up to delight and voluptuous pleasure, and leave trouble and care to the miserable. We cannot, I say, complain that he has censured these. But the Critic, after having cited what the Author has said, pronounces these words: We here perceive the malignity of the Author, who would throw upon the Christian religion the disorders it detests. It might look illnatured, were I to accuse the Critic of not being willing to understand the Author: I shall therefore only say, that he has not understood him; and that he has made him say against religion, what he said against libertinism. He ought to be very sorry for it.
[* ]Book xiii. chap. 21.