Negetive View of Sex of the Fathers

“Woman is the root of all evil.” - St Jerome (c. 320-420)

“Do you imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children? He who is too ardent a lover of his own wife is an adulterer.” - St Jerome (c. 320-420)

“And as regards Adam and Eve we must maintain that before the fall they were virgins in Paradise: but after they sinned, and were cast out of Paradise, they were immediately married.” - St Jerome (c. 320-420)

“We Christians marry only to produce children.” - Justin Martyr (c. 100–165)

“Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the Devil’s gateway: You are the unsealer of the forbidden tree: You are the first deserter of the divine law: You are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert even the Son of God had to die.” - St. Tertullian (150-230)

“What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman. I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.” - St Augustine (c. 430)

I’m sure amateur Catholic apologetics have seen some of these quotes on the internet. My curiosity has overcome me: does anyone know what writings these quotes come from?

Christi pax,


What, you can’t use Google? You know the title and author and era. You REALLY can’t figure it out?

Women are the source of human evil. This does not make them evil in and of themselves.

All I find is more anti-Catholic sites that reference it without a source.

Christi pax,


The texts of the 37 volumes of the English translations of the Church Fathers are available on multiple internet sites. Find the volume that contains the writings of the particular Father in whom you are interested and do a search on a text string from the quote in question (e.g., “root of all evil” from the first example). You can do this; it’s easy.

Edit: Tertullian is not recognized as a saint; he became a Montanist late in his life.

“But whether we marry, it is only that we may bring up children”

St. Justin the Martyr, The First Apology; Chapter 29: Continence of Christians

And again [we fear to expose children], lest some of them be not picked up, but die, and we become murderers.** But whether we marry, it is only that we may bring up children; or whether we decline marriage, we live continently.** And that you may understand that promiscuous intercourse is not one of our mysteries, one of our number a short time ago presented to Felix the governor in Alexandria a petition, craving that permission might be given to a surgeon to make him an eunuch. For the surgeons there said that they were forbidden to do this without the permission of the governor. And when Felix absolutely refused to sign such a permission, the youth remained single, and was satisfied with his own approving conscience, and the approval of those who thought as he did. And it is not out of place, we think, to mention here Antinous, who was alive but lately, and whom all were prompt, through fear, to worship as a god, though they knew both who he was and what was his origin.

The context indicates that St. Justin was defending, to the Emperor Titus, against the claim that when Christians met secretly on the first day of the week in grave yards and catacombs and houses, they were not having secret orgies, like apparently some other religions with secret mysteries.

What is interesting is that the passage seems to indicates that volunteering eunuchhood was acceptable to early Christians, but since the only reason Origen is not a saint is due to his “choice,” I believe that St. Justin is bringing up an extreme example in order to make the point “look, we Christians are so celibate when we are not married that some of the most extremes of our number tried to do this.”

The nice thing about St. Justin is that there isn’t a lot of writing to go through. Sts. Augustine and Jerome are a different story :smiley:

Of another note, there is nothing unorthodox about what St. Justin writes here. It might be unorthodox to the slaves of the Sexual Revolution, which is why they bring it up to “refute” Christianity :rolleyes:

Christi pax,


True dis! :smiley:

FWIW, I am currently in the 8th of the 37 volumes; I haven’t gotten to Jerome and Augustine yet. I don’t remember any specific quotations, but in general it seems that the Church Fathers did have a negative view of sexual activity between spouses that was not specifically aimed at procreation. That is part of a larger opposition to pleasure in general; another example is that they promoted the idea of eating only to maintain the body, and opposed preparing foods in such a way as to make them taste good (the use of sauces, for example). I posted a summary of the blue-nosery of Clement of Alexandria in the attacked link, but no discussion ensued.

I think we can find a more positive evaluation of sex among the Fathers if we rephrase our search a little. For example, with Tertullian, although he seems to have a negative view about sex when it is only done for the sake of pleasure, that does not indicate a negative view of sex altogether. He praises it when it is done for the sake of children:

“[T]he union of man and woman [is] blest by God as the seminary of the human race, and devised for the replenishment of the earth and the furnishing of the world.” (To His Wife Book 1 Chapter 2)

“In short, there is no place at all where we read that nuptials are prohibited; of course on the ground that they are a good thing.” (ibid. Chapter 3)

I’ll do some more searching for positive evaluations of sex later. In the meantime, this page has some good stuff that helps show that the Church Fathers valued women as equals of men:

Catholic History & Women’s Equality: A Timeline

For example, here are some quotes from St. Jerome:

397 A.D. - St. Jerome writes a letter to some nuns explaining the interpretation of a psalm, and defends the education and dignity of women: “I know that I am often much criticized because I sometimes write to women and seem to prefer the more fragile sex to the stronger.” “[But] Aquila and Priscilla educate[d] Apollo, an apostolic man learned in the law, in the way of the lord. If to be taught by a woman was not shameful to an apostle, why should it be [shameful] to me afterwards to teach men and women?” “This and its like I have touched on briefly, to ensure that you [women] should not be penalized because of your sex.” (Jerome, Letter to Principia, 397 A.D., quoted in Abelard, Letter 9, 1137 A.D.)

399 A.D. - St. Jerome says, “[A] commandment which is given to men logically applies to women also. … The laws of Caesar are different, it is true, from the laws of Christ…[but] with us Christians what is unlawful for women is equally unlawful for men, and as both serve the same God both are bound by the same obligations.” (Letter 77:3)

412 A.D. - St. Jerome said, “The unbelieving reader may perhaps laugh at me for dwelling so long on the praises of mere women; yet if he will but remember how holy women followed our Lord and Saviour and ministered to Him of their substance, and how the three Marys stood before the cross and especially how Mary Magdalen—called the tower from the earnestness and glow of her faith—was privileged to see the rising Christ first of all before the very apostles, he will convict himself of pride sooner than me of folly. For we judge of people’s virtue not by their sex but by their character.” (Letter 127:5)

Who is St Tertullian? Tertullian left the Catholic Church and is not canonized.

Ok, so I traced St. Jerome’s “Root of all Evil” quote back to what might be the original source.

Many people today seem to cite Paul Tobin, an non-scholar who runs the website “Rejection of Pascal’s Wager.” Here is his quote:

His source is clearly bias, and doesn’t reference St. Jerome directly.

He himself found it in Philip Vivien’s The Churches and Modern Thought. I don’t know Mr. Vivien’s credentials, but it was published in 1906, and Mr. Vivien is clearly English from the writing style:

His source is clearly bias, and doesn’t reference St. Jerome directly.

Mr. Vivien gets the quotation from Joseph McCabe’s The Religion of Women, which doesn’t provide a source(!), at least one I can find :rolleyes: The book was positively reviewed by Mr. H. G. Wells though, which really means nothing for my question:

His source is clearly bias, and doesn’t reference St. Jerome directly, or give any source for the quotation at all! I forgive him due to his mustache though :stuck_out_tongue: Mr. McCabe was originally a Catholic priest, but then descended to “freethought.”

G. K. Chesterton decribes Mr. McCabe like so:

Mr. McCabe thinks that I am not serious but only funny, because Mr. McCabe thinks that funny is the opposite of serious. Funny is the opposite of not funny, and of nothing else. The question of whether a man expresses himself in a grotesque or laughable phraseology, or in a stately and restrained phraseology, is not a question of motive or of moral state, it is a question of instinctive language and self-expression. Whether a man chooses to tell the truth in long sentences or short jokes is a problem analogous to whether he chooses to tell the truth in French or German. Whether a man preaches his gospel grotesquely or gravely is merely like the question of whether he preaches it in prose or verse. The question of whether Swift was funny in his irony is quite another sort of question to the question of whether Swift was serious in his pessimism. Surely even Mr. McCabe would not maintain that the more funny “Gulliver” is in its method the less it can be sincere in its object. The truth is, as I have said, that in this sense the two qualities of fun and seriousness have nothing whatever to do with each other, they are no more comparable than black and triangular. Mr. Bernard Shaw is funny and sincere. Mr. George Robey is funny and not sincere. Mr. McCabe is sincere and not funny. The average Cabinet Minister is not sincere and not funny.


I’m starting to get the feeling that the search for this quote is a dead end, a made up quote (or at least one taken out of context) in order to bash Christians, since all the quotations come from anti-Christian sources and never reference St. Jerome directly.

Christi pax,


Oh, I copied and pasted from an anti Catholic website. I didn’t look too deeply into what the commentary was, since it commits fallacies in the first paragraph :rolleyes:

This “St. Tertullian” is yet another reason why it was a good idea not to waste my time reading it :shrug:

Christi pax,


Yes, when I read the each of the Fathers in context, they almost always praise marriage as Holy and praise Holy women. They have quotes that praise these things as really good, yet then we find these other quotes (out of context of course) that “seem” to bash these women and sex. The logic, based on the evidence at first glance, is not that the Fathers hated women and sex, but rather they either hated evil women and perverted sex, or they were very contradictory. When the quotes get viewed in context, the first option always become the only option :thumbsup: Remember, corruptio optimi pessima, “the corruption of the best is the worse.” The Fathers viewed women and sex so highly that when they saw it corrupted they said the ruthless words we see them attacked for (and again, those words are always out of context).

So, I know that the Fathers aren’t the women haters they are called, but I was just intellectually curious to see these quotes in context, if they actually quotes.

Also, many of those who see the Fathers’ writings on sex see them as negative, not because they were wrong (their writings are actually completely orthodox, like St. Justin’s), but because they are so perverted by the Sexual Revolution that they see anything that forbids their perversion as negative and evil. St. Thomas did teach that lust perverts the intellect; just read the Majority Opinion of the recent SCOTUS decision: its just a bunch of fallacies, contradictions, and emotional appeal :stuck_out_tongue:

Anyway, thanks for the quotes! :thumbsup: And thank you for actually providing primary sources too :thumbsup:

Christi pax,


If you take a look at the Passion narrative you won’t find one instance of a woman failing our Lord which I think says a lot. Conversely on Holy Thursday and into Good Friday 100% of the priesthood abandoned Him.

1 Like

Human’s are the source of human evil.

Or don’t you think Adam’s weakness and willingness to be complicit in eating the forbidden fruit counts? Especially considering that in the first creation story in Genesis he was created first, and had such a close relationship with God he was allowed to name the creatures and judge their suitability as helpmeets.

It’s not that they were against pleasure per se, but rather they thought that pleasure shouldn’t be sought for its own sake, but rather for social/rational reasons. This stems from the fact that before the Fall, the first humans didn’t experience the passions trying to seduce their wills into doing something. The Fathers, understanding this, saw all pleasure seeking, although not always a sin, a weakness, as the passions were trying to influence the will, rather than the will have total command over the passions.

To use a specific example, sex :wink: Today, married people (and sadly, non-married people as well :frowning: ) get “the feeling” and then go at it. The Church today teaches that as long as you don’t attempt to frustrate procreation (like with contraception), than there is no sin in this action, although St. Augustine would have thought this a venial sin, because of the lack of self control the couple displays over their passions. The Church still agrees (and this is right in St. John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body) that such actions shows weakness in the face of concupiscence, so She agrees with St. Augustine in spirit, even if it is not a sin (for the married). In fact, St. John Paul, following St. Paul, teaches that one of the aspects of marriage is to learn how to orient those passions to the will, overcoming concupiscence so that the will can act freely and not be influenced by the passions, but rather the passions be influenced by the will. This is all so that the married may prepare for the eternal virginity in the World to Come, as we will be “like the Angels, neither giving or being given in marriage.”

In other words, according to the Fathers, sex in the pre-fall world would have been a free choice to procreate, which then the feelings of sexual excitement would follow from that. The will will choose to have sex for a rational reason, like procreation, and then the passions will follow from that choice. In our current situation, as I explained above, married people often feel the passions first, and then have to either consent or resist them. Their vocation, in this life, is, in part, to learn to have sex for rational reasons, and resist the passions when they attempt to convince them otherwise? We can and must enjoy sex, but we are to feel its pleasure as a result of a rational choice, not as a temptation against the will.

Same with food. We are suppose to rationally choose to eat food (to maintain the body, say) and then enjoy the pleasure of it. We are not suppose to be tempted by the lower appetite to change our will in order to satisfy the impulse, even if doing such a thing is not necessarily a sin. My will should choose to eat cake only when there is good reason to do so, not because my stomach is trying to tempt me to eat it :cool:

Of course, this is how I understand it :smiley:

Christi pax,


:hmmm: A wise point. Adam is the patriarch of humanity, while Eve is its Matriarch.

The Patriarch is naturally ranked higher than the Matriarch. Even if the Matriarch herself performs evil deeds, the Patriarch will be the first to step up to the plate and declare his case, for the leaders must answer for the actions of their subordinates.

In countries, the king represents the people and handles their welfare.

As a species, we were represented by Adam and Eve, and Eve was represented by Adam, who is by nature the family head. Adam must suffer for both his actions and Eve’s actions.

Even when aliens visit our planet, they say “Take me to your leader.” :shrug: It appears that all Species recognize that there is a leader in every group, a leader designed to speak for all in his stead.

A wise point indeed, triumphyguy. :thumbsup: I’m not sure why I didn’t think of that sooner.

I read part of a book on John Paul II’s pontificacy called the Dark Heart of something (the Vatican? probably). It quoted St. Ambrose in saying that women were the cause of most evil. You have to understand to whom he is addressing his words and why. Its like that old standard song Blues in the Night. Women are trouble, for men. They are down right evil! :smiley: That doesn’t mean they are bad.

“For as on account of the danger of fornication he (Paul) allows virgins to marry, and makes that excusable which in itself is not desirable, so to avoid this same fornication, he allows second marriages to widows. For it is better to know a single husband, though he be a second or third, than to have many paramours: that is, more tolerable for a woman to prostitute herself to one man than to many…he was a Jew to Jews, a Gentile to Gentiles, and was made all things to all men, that he might gain all: so too he allowed second marriages to incontinent persons, and did not limit the number of marriages, in order that women, although they saw themselves permitted to take a second husband, in the same way as a third or a fourth was allowed, might blush to take a second, lest they should be compared to those who were three or four times married. If more than one husband be allowed, it makes no difference whether he be a second or a third, because there is no longer a question of single marriage. “All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient”. I do not condemn second, nor third, nor, pardon the expression, eighth marriages: I will go still further and say that I welcome even a penitent whoremonger.” Jerome: “Against Jovinianus” — Book I, Ch. 14-15 (c. 393 AD)

St. John stood by at the foot of the cross.


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