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Attitudes diverged, and mainstream Christianity became infected with a pronounced streak of distrust towards bodily existence and sexuality.

This permanent 'encratite' tendency was given powerful impetus in the debates about Christian perfection at the end of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth centuries." While the Church Fathers of the Latin or Catholic Church did not condemn marriage, they nevertheless taught a preference for celibacy and virginity.

What people instinctively choose manifests God's gift.

Thus, he takes for granted that the married are not called to celibacy.

The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life." It also says: "The Church attaches great importance to Jesus' presence at the wedding at Cana.

She sees in it the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christ's presence.

The stories associated with the many virgin martyrs in the first few centuries of the Catholic Church often make it clear that they were martyred for their refusal to marry, not necessarily simply their belief in Christ.

However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy – heavier than the Law of Moses.

A couple could exchange consent anywhere, anytime." Markus notes this impact on the early Christian attitude, particularly as Christian anxiety about sex intensified after 400: "The superiority of virginity and sexual abstinence was generally taken for granted.

But a dark undercurrent of hostility to sexuality and marriage became interwoven with the more benign attitudes towards the body.

In his preaching Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning: permission given by Moses to divorce one's wife was a concession to the hardness of hearts.

The matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble; God himself has determined it, 'what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder'.

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By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God." Marriage was considered a necessary passage into adulthood, and strongly supported within the Jewish faith.