Was St Augustine right or wrong that prostitution is a necessary evil?


I don’t like things like prostitution and I think they are terrible for society.
That is why I was surprised when I read that some Catholic saints back in the old era thought that prostitution was a necessary evil.

I can understand/sympathise for the women who feel forced into this way of life due to poverty,but in all other circumstances I think it’s wrong.

Was Aquinas reasoning wrong,or how do you see it?


In my view, it’s better than rape, which is probably the alternative he was comparing it to. Rape was more common in his time period, and it is arguably better to engage the services of a prostitute than to rape a random woman.

This is just my take on it though. I’ve not read what Aquinas actually wrote.


I haven’t read the original context, so some copy-pasta would be helpful to figure out what the full argument was.

But the first off-the-cuff reaction in my head-- The alternative for a woman who had no husband was most likely to starve to death. And her children would starve as well. So, you could make a heroic sacrifice and preserve your honor or your chastity— and die, and condemn those dependent on you to death as well. Or, you could be compelled by circumstances to sacrifice your honor and your chastity, and do that, which made it an involuntary sin, because you were doing it not because you liked the work, but because you didn’t want your kids to die.

Nowadays, that’s not the case.

It’s a bit similar to the thing in Matthew, where Jesus said–

But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

So the woman in the situation is forced to commit adultery by the men in her life-- because the alternative is death to herself and her dependents. So the burden isn’t on her; the burden is on those who set up those voluntary circumstances. In the case of a widow, whose husband isn’t taking care of the family because he’s dead, it’s a set of involuntary circumstances.


Another “necessary evil” is landlord-ism / the real-estate hustle, which seems 2B


I would have to see quotes from reliable sources. I doubt this is true.


Agreed. We need to see the context in which he wrote about it.


How is that an evil?


Who said this: Augustine or Aquinas? It seems odd that either one would have stated this…in writing. Offhand, I’m not sure any evil is a necessary evil.


No. Roman secular society thought prostitution was a necessary evil. The Saints never said any such thing. Though Aquinas did say that seducing a virgin was more sinful than sex with a prostitute, both are grievous sins.


In a tribe of semi-nomadic hunter-harvesters no place would be found for
landlords or real-estate agents.


I don’t remember reading that when I was going thru Augustin, but the fact that I don’t remember it doesn’t mean much, at my age. Still, I do feel that the OP owes us an exact citation.



And that means that apartments are evil how…?


I remember reading an account of some Christian man…in Roman days…
They tied his hands and legs to the bed posts …
And a woman came in all seductive and tickled him with a feather…
The Christian man bit off his tongue and spit it at her.

I know three or four other stories - concerning holiness meeting up with prostitutes .

Wasn’t Delilah - a hired high priced prostitute ?


If you remember, there wasn’t a whole lot of private property amongst the Israelites. It was held by the clan, and they were forbidden from selling clan lands permanently. It could be sold temporarily-- but it would revert back to the original clan every (70 years?). So it was more like a long-term lease more than permanent selling.

I live in a culture that has a concept of private property. And I’m okay with that.

I just sunk about $40k into a decrepit shack. It’s now Clean, Safe, and Functional and will make someone an excellent home. I’ll get about $525/month for my efforts, which means I’ll slowly get back my original investment over the next 6+ years. (Not counting insurance and taxes and vacancies.) It’ll be about 7 years before I actually turn a profit on the darn thing.

If I wanted to, I guess I could have dug a hole and put my money in it, and it would have all been the same for 7 years, except I would have sweated a lot less, put way fewer miles on my truck getting supplies, and had fun with my kids over summer rather than trying to scramble to pull the renovation together on-time. :slight_smile: But fixing up decrepit shacks helps reclaim neighborhoods and make my poor, rural town a little less trashy… one house at a time.


The Jubilee year was every 50 years. My Bible had commentary on it with a title that says 7x7+1 so its a bit easier for me to remember.

That reminds me about Good Bones.


Thanks! I remember there was a 7 in there somewhere, but 70 didn’t feel right at all. :grinning: Because it was part of the equation, not the final number. Thanks!


It is a case of taking St Augustine out of context. In the book De Ordine the quote is ‘Take away the prostitutes from society, and you will throw everything into disorder by lust’ however this is part of a rhetorical passage denouncing the behavior of people of his time. Nothing to do with endorsing prostitution.


Thank you, that would make more sense!

Deriding the fact that the society would get so out-of-control with rampant lust if they didn’t have an easy way to satisfy their desires is not an endorsement for prostitution.

Context and actual quotations are key. :+1:


It’s just from something I read online ne.This quote::

“He quotes Augustine of Hippo: “Take away the prostitutes from society, and you will throw everything into disorder by lust.”
That sounds a strange statement. I looked it up in Augustine’s book De Ordine (II, 4). It turns out not to be a universal judgment, but part of a rhetorical passage denouncing the way people were behaving in his time. Even so, it is clear that the society in which Augustine lived did demand access to prostitutes. Hippo, a city of North Africa, had in the fourth century a strongly Roman way of life. We forget how much the presuppositions of ancient Rome differed from Christian commands: the Romans countenanced prostitution, even cultic prostitution, infanticide, abortion, fornication, concubinage and divorce, and much else that would frighten the horses…”

Who knows if everything that’s written online is true or not though.
It may be that he was just suggesting he thought it should not be illegal?


The quote was meant to be satirical.

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