There are many examples of his experience of and concern for those forced to the edges of society.
Discrimination by gender (sexism)
Augustine also accuses the Roman law of injustice and discrimination against women.
The woman is often punished, whereas the man goes free, especially in the case of a forbidden sexual relationship.
Men do not admit that the same laws apply to them as to women, and they preferred the civil law to the law of Christ.
But Augustine replied: the civil law is not the same as the law of the Creator of the earth (S. 153, 5, 6. PL 38, 828; S. 392, 4, 4; PL 39, 1711. S. 9,4,4; PL 38,78-79; De nupt. et conc. I, 10, 11. CSEL 42,223).
Exploitation of children
In Letters 10 and 24, he is not only pleading for a new law against those who sold slaves, but he is also very worried about the sale of children.
The Christian emperors had allowed the sale of children in order to prevent child murder when their parents were not able to feed their new infant. (This was a practice in the Empire that ceased with the growth of the Christian religion.)
The tenant farmers, especially, had to resort to the desperate measure of hiring out or selling their children.
This led often their being slaves continuously, even though this was not permitted by the law.
Augustine protested loudly against this abuse of children. He insisted strongly on the fact that selling of child labour was permitted only for the maximum period of 25 years.
After that period, the law established that they must become free again.
Protection of children without parents or abandoned
Augustine had the protection of children very much at heart. He saw it as his task to protect the children without parents so that they would not be harmed by strangers (Sermon 176, 2, 2. PL 38, 951). He saw it also as his duty to care for abandoned children (Letter 98, 6. PL 33, 362).
After the destruction of Rome in the year 410, Augustine pleaded with the people of Hippo to help and give hospitality to the crowd of refugees. (Sermon 81, 9. PL 38, 506).
Against capital punishment and torture
His letter to Macedonius, Imperial Vicar for Africa, is a demonstration of this. So too is his letter to Donatus, the Proconsul of Africa, whom Augustine asked to avoid capital punishment, and his letter to Marcelinus, a military commander, whom he asked to avoid the use of torture.
(Continued on the next page.)