Virgin Saints Who Get Married

I was reading about St. Cunegunda today. I read that she took a vow of virginity, but that her husband consented to this before they got married, leading me to believe that she remained a virgin after marriage. Isn’t there supposed to be an openness to having children in marriage? Can someone make sense of this for me?

I don’t know about this Saint, but it MAY have been a marriage to protect her.

Sometimes, throughout history, consecrated virgins were allowed to legally marry in order to protect them from someone/something.

There have also been examples of a woman being granted dispensation from the bishop to marry her brother-in-law (after her sister’s death) simply to help raise her nieces and nephews (esp in times/communities where a nanny would have been unheard of and/or considered scandalous).

But it may have been just a Josephite Marriage. Wikipedia seems to imply that St. Cunegunda’s marriage to St. Henry II was a Josephite Marriage.

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It’s called a “Josephite marriage”, and there are other saints and blesseds who have married for some reason with the understanding that they would both stay celibate, and it’s permissible to do if both the husband and wife agree. Although a couple’s spiritual director might think it’s not a good idea and counsel them against it.

St. Therese of Lisieux’s parents were planning to have a Josephite marriage but their priest advised them against it, so they had a large family instead, including one saint and one on the path to sainthood.

The Church requirement is that you be capable of having sex when you marry, and be open to life. The Church does not require that you actually have sex.

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Married couples have a general duty to procreate. But this duty is not absolute and can be limited or set aside completely for a sufficiently good cause.

There’s a book called “Married Saints and Blesseds Through the Centuries” by Fr. Ferdinand Holbock and it seems like 90% voluntary embraced continence for the purpose of sanctification.

There’s also a number of married saints and blesseds who decided to abstain for spiritual purposes only after they had had several children.


There is a more secular version of this story. According to Rodulfus Glaber, a chronicler of that time, Saint Cunegonda was suffering infertility. She married an emperor so it was expected from him to repudiate her in order to get a new spouse and a progeny. Instead he loved her so much (and shared also her religious values) that he decided to protect her and accepted a childless and most likely josephite marriage.

Put briefly, there are two aspects of marriage at work here: the fact that it is ordered to procreation (whether or not there is any procreation) and that the spouses give and receive what can be called “the right to the body”: this could be termed the “procreativity” of marriage. In order for marital consent to be, in truth, “marital”, the couple has to exchange this right to the body. Whether or not they exercise the right is a separate question and one to which they can come to varying agreements. For the rare couple who decide to have a “Josephite” marriage, they can do so…provided that they do exchange the marital rights with each other.



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