I have read some of what you have written about natural moral law. In one of your books, you mention the moral superiority of monogamy to polygamy. You write that although it is not part of the “core” of the natural law – the things we “can’t not know” -- it is true and demonstrable by reason. Could you write a few sentences of explanation?
My family believes it is selfish and prideful of me to want to be married to one man exclusively, and that I should accept the way that God designed the man. They also say God did not condemn polygamy, and that the Bible does not teach monogamy.
But the thought that I would not be enough for my husband, or that my entire individual personhood would not be adequate for the male nature, seems incredibly painful to me. It seems deeply integral to my womanhood that I should be “fit for him.”
My dear, your attitude is entirely right, and you should not be ashamed. According to the classical natural law tradition, marriage serves two great natural goods. One is procreation, the other is the unity of the procreative partners. The problem with polygamy is that it seriously damages both of them –- and that is only the beginning of the difficulties it brings about.
Polygamy is bad for children because it attenuates the bond between father and child and turns the children of different wives into rivals for his affection. It is bad for poor men because by producing a shortage of marriageable females, it causes hardship among males who do not belong to the privileged strata. It is bad for rich men because it encourages the form of sexual selfishness in which they satisfy the fallen desire for mere variety in place of the creational design of mutual, complete, and exclusive union. It is bad for women because it turns them into social inferiors, increases their vulnerability, and kindles jealousy among different wives of the same man.
Finally, polygamy undermines spousal intimacy. The marital union is a mutual and complete gift of self between the husband and wife, and a husband cannot give himself completely to more than one wife. At best he gives some of himself to one, and some of himself to another. That is not the same thing at all.
Of course the thought that you might not be enough for your husband is painful to you. Polygamy cannot satisfy a woman’s heart; it cannot even really satisfy a man’s heart. Aren't love poems all over the world addressed from the Lover to the Beloved? A lyric “to my darlings, Mary, Ellen, Susan, Penelope, Martha, Hortense, and Gwen” would be recognized everywhere as farce. You were made to give yourself completely to a husband who gives himself completely to you. He was made in turn to give himself completely to you.
If a woman refuses to be reduced to a tool of a man’s desire for sexual variety, it is not she who is proud and selfish for refusing it, but he who is proud and selfish for demanding it. The desire for many women is not an expression of how God created the man, but an expression of how the creational design has been disordered by the Fall.
Besides natural law, you mention Scripture. As St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 5, a Christian husband must lay himself down for his wife as Christ laid himself down for the Church. He did not mean that a man should say to a succession of women, “lay down.”
In Old Testament days, polygamy was tolerated for a time. Yet even in those days, Scripture warned against it. We read in Deuteronomy 17:14-17, for example, “When you come to the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and dwell in it, and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are round about me'; you may indeed set as king over you him whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Only he must not multiply horses for himself, or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply for himself silver and gold.
Notice that the passage regards the multiplication of wives as a form of greed, like multiplying silver and gold. Notice too that the multiplication of wives did turn the hearts of the kings from God, as in the case of Solomon, who despite his celebrated wisdom was led by his many wives to give reverence to their many false gods.
Christ said, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’? So they are no longer two but one.” (Matthew 19:4-6, RSV.)
This is the reason why so deep in your womanhood you want to give yourself to one man alone, who gives himself to you alone. I hope I have encouraged you to hold out and not give in.