The great irony of “St” Augustine is that if he were alive today, he would never have made the episcopate, even less have become a saint. A roman priest today caught sleeping around would have been suspended, if not hounded right out of the priesthood, never mind one who fathered a child with a concubine. He would probably have been compelled, if not by canon law, at least by social pressure into leaving the priesthood and marrying the mother of his child, and the Church would have been relieved to have him completely forgotten as a scandal to the Church.
But as Matthew Colvin rightly points out, “St” Augustine sinned when he broke off his engagement with the woman who sired his child
and with whom he lived in implicit marriage for thirteen years. This was a man who was objectively, outwardly, audibly called – by his own hormones, by his situation, by God, and by the desperate cries of the common-law wife he abandoned, whose name he has wrongfully effaced from history — called to be a father and husband. He rejected that calling.
By every objective and public measure, his life and his behaviour would have been a damnable -and I use this word advisedly- scandal to the Church, he would never have become an ecclesiastical official, even less ascend to sainthood. But yet simply because of his, quite frankly, rambly emo confessions and his ability to juggle esoteric metaphysical concepts, he gets to retain not only his episcopate but be proclaimed to be in touch with the divine itself, as if Christian sanctification consists in being emo and theological sophistication rather than conformity to the will of God. (And by the way, the more I read Pelagius, the less I think of “St” Augustine’s attempts to turn metaphysical mumbo jumbo like freewill and determinism into controverted theological and doctrinal points, which I think is quite frankly a waste of everyone’s time. But then again, this might be my Protestant prejudice which finds itself entirely satisfied with Pelagius’s justification by faith alone to be bothered with the rest of the metaphysical nit-picking.)
However, such is the depth of the power of “Catholic tradition”, the exaltation of celibate state over the married state, that his -literal- bastardisation of his child by refusing to marry his concubine is not only forgiven but celebrated, or at least conveniently glossed over, and he was rewarded not only with a priesthood but a sainthood.
That the Roman Church today now exalts the married and family state is a testament to how far and how much the Roman Church has changed, or maybe a testament to the power of the Reformation. To believe that the church which produced the “Theology of the Body” is the same one which held the Council of Trent declaring that,
CANON X.-If any one saith… that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony; let him be anathema.
seriously stretches the imagination. Is it plausible to believe that the Church which now teaches, if not exactly proclaim officially, that the marriage estate is a mirror of Christ’s love for his Church, is the same one which anathemise anyone who denies that marriage is inferior and less blessed, if not an outright bane and curse, in comparison to celibacy?