A POSTSCRIPT TO THE "REMEDIUM CONCUPISCENTIAE" (The Thomist 70 (2006): 481-536)
I. CONCUPISCENCE AND MARRIAGE: THEOLOGICAL POSITIONS
II. CONCUPISCENCE AND MARRIED LOVE: A DEEPER ANALYSIS
III. MARRIED LOVE AND MARRIED CHASTITY
[The term remedium concupiscentiae, proposed up to 1983 as a "secondary" end of marriage, has been seriously misapplied over the centuries. In practice it was taken to imply that marriage gives a lawful outlet to sexual concupiscence (or lust), and hence married couples can legitimately yield to it. The consequences went further. If concupiscence is "remedied" by the fact of being married, then it is either automatically purified of whatever self-centered (and hence anti-love) elements it entails; or, if these elements remain, they pose no problem to the living and growth of married love. As regards the conjugal act itself, the only moral proviso was that its procreative orientation be respected; given this proviso, the suggestion was that spouses can give concupiscence free rein, without this posing any moral or ascetical difficulties for the development of a full Christian life in their marriage.
While some traces of the term "remedium concupiscentiae" can be found in Augustine or Thomas Aquinas, those authors did not use it in the sense that it later acquired. Saint Thomas especially speaks of marriage as a "remedy against concupiscence" inasmuch as it offers graces to overcome the self-seeking concupiscence involves. The subsequent reduction of the term to "remedy of concupiscence" led to the loss of this understanding.
My purpose in this article is to show that sexual desire and sexual love are, or should be, good things - not to be confused with sexual concupiscence or lust in which self-seeking operates to the detriment of love.
If the acceptance in ecclesiastical thinking of marriage as a "remedy" or legitimation of concupiscence has for centuries impeded the development of a positive and dynamic notion of marital chastity, John Paul II's "Theology of the Body," if assimilated in depth, leads into a new way of thinking and presents this chastity as the safeguard to conjugal love and a means to its growth.]
Preliminary Note: Human Nature and Concupiscence
Christianity is the religion of God's greatness and love, and of man's potential, as well as of his frailty, misery, redemption, and elevation. In the Christian view, man is a fallen masterpiece of creation, capable indeed of sinking lower but actually ransomed and strengthened to rise higher. As a result of original sin, says the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called "concupiscence." Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle". (CCC 405)
Called to surpass ourselves and to attain divine heights, we are still drawn down by that tendency to lower things which goes by the name of concupiscence.
Concupiscence, in biblical and theological usage, covers the unregulated tendency to pursue or adhere to created goods. "Etymologically, "concupiscence" can refer to any intense form of human desire. Christian theology has given it a particular meaning: the movement of the sensitive appetite contrary to the operation of the human reason. The apostle St. Paul identifies it with the rebellion of the "flesh" against the "spirit" (Gal 5:16ff.)" (CCC 2515).
Drawing from the First Letter of St. John, Christian tradition has seen three forms of concupiscence arising from self-enclosing attachment to created things. Two of these come from the sensitive appetite, the third from the intellect. "All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever" (1 John 2:16-17). The pride of life consists in taking self-centered satisfaction in one's own talents and excellence, and springs from intellectual appetition. Thus the spirit too has its lusts, for not all its desires are upright, many being vain, mean, vengeful, egotistic: thereby tending to distort the truth. Hence man is threatened not only by the rebellion of the flesh, but also by that of the spirit.
These brief introductory remarks lead us to the more limited scope of our present study: the theological and human evaluation of [carnal] concupiscence in marriage, and the history - and also the utility and indeed the validity - of the notion that marriage is, and is intended to be, a "remedy for concupiscence."
I. CONCUPISCENCE AND MARRIAGE: THEOLOGICAL POSITIONS
A) The "Remedium Concupiscentiae" as an End of Marriage
Prior to Vatican II, the phrase remedium concupiscentiae - "remedy for concupiscence" - was customarily used in ecclesial writing to describe one of the ends of matrimony. The Code of Canon Law of 1917, crystallizing this view, distinguished between a single primary end of marriage and a twofold secondary end: "The primary end of matrimony is the procreation and education of offspring; the secondary end is mutual help and the remedy of concupiscence." It is worth bearing in mind that the 1917 Code was the first magisterial document to use the terms "primary" and
"secondary" in relation to the ends of marriage, so proposing a notion of these ends as hierarchically structured.
The fifty years following the promulgation of the Pio-Benedictine Code were to witness a growing debate regarding the ends of marriage. The debate concerned the relative importance to be attached to procreation on the one hand, and on the other to a rather (as yet) ill-defined "personalist" end seen as largely or wholly unconnected with procreation. Taking for granted the main lines of this debate, which have been considered elsewhere, we pass on here to the presentation of the ends of marriage in the Second Vatican Council and the postconciliar magisterium.
Gaudium et spes is the main document of the council that treats of marriage. The only specific end of matrimony mentioned in the constitution is the procreation-education of children. It indeed says that marriage "has various ends" (GS 48), and adds that the natural ordering of marriage towards procreation should not be taken as "underestimating the other ends of marriage" (GS 50). Surprisingly, however, these other ends are nowhere specified. It may be that the council fathers did not want to foreclose the ongoing debate about the ends of marriage, and they may have also prudently felt that further ecclesial reflection would be necessary before a general consensus might be reached on new ways of expressing the various ends of marriage and their mutual relationship.
Peculiarly, it seems to have been as the result (initially at least) of canonical more than of theological reflection that a new and very precise expression of the ends of marriage finally emerged. This becomes less peculiar when one recalls that Pope John
XXIII's convocation of the council was accompanied by the decision to elaborate a new code of canon law. Revising the 1917 Code so that it would more faithfully reflect conciliar thinking about the life of the Church and of the faithful became a major postconciliar undertaking. This work of revision, done in depth and without haste, lasted more than fifteen years, and resulted in the 1983 Code of Canon Law - described by Pope John Paul II at its promulgation as "the last document of the Council."
The revision carried out by the pontifical commission entrusted with the task was guided not merely by the terms of canon law, but also - and very deliberately - by theological considerations. This was in conformity with the directive of the council that canon law should be presented in the light of theology and of the mystery of the Church. One of the novelties of the 1983 Code is in fact the inclusion of canons that are simply theological statements of doctrine. Hence, whenever these canons use modified or new terms in presenting the Church's law, one can legitimately look to them for a possible development in theological and magisterial thinking.
With this in mind, let us turn to the opening canon in the section of the Code that deals with marriage. Canon 1055 says: "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament" (§1; emphasis added). Our attention centers on the italicized words.
We read, without surprise, that one end of matrimony is the procreation and upbringing of children. Surprise can arise, however, when we turn to the other end specified, the "bonum coniugum," or the "good of the spouses", and is justified by the
fact that an altogether new term is being used in a magisterial document to describe an end of marriage.
This novel way of expressing the ordering or purposes of marriage was accepted and given further authority eleven years later in what may be considered an even more important magisterial document, the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church. Paragraph 1601 of the Catechism repeats the above canon word for word. Paragraph 2363 expresses this specifically in terms of ends: "the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life."
Undoubtedly the most important issue brought up by this new formulation of the ends of marriage is the nature of the bonum coniugum or the "good of the spouses." This is not an easy question, especially when we bear in mind that the term bonum coniugum is of very recent coinage. It is scarcely ever to be found in ecclesial writing prior to the Second Vatican Council. Only in 1977 was it first used by the Pontifical Council for the Revision of the Code to describe an end of marriage.  Neither the 1983 Code nor the 1994 Catechism any longer expresses the ends of marriage in terms of a hierarchy but places them together as, so it seems, of equal standing. My impression is that we have moved into a new stage where the Church wishes to emphasize not any possible ranking of the ends, but the interconnection between them.
With regard to the mutuum adiutorium, a former secondary end, it is not my purpose to study its place in the present scheme of the ends of marriage. There seems to be little if any disagreement among authors that, even if not specifically mentioned
in these recent magisterial texts, "mutual assistance" is to be included within the proper meaning of the "good of the spouses."
A particular point of interest for the present study is the absence, in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and in subsequent magisterial teaching, of any direct or indirect mention of the former remedium concupiscentiae or "remedy of concupiscence." That this omission was deliberate cannot be doubted. Moreover, though the other secondary end, the mutuum adiutorium, fits simply enough within the new concept of the bonum coniugum, this is not so of the remedium concupiscentiae. Rather than suggest (as some have done) an implicit presence of the remedium concupiscentiae within the new scheme of the ends of marriage - and thus try to show a certain continuity of ecclesial thinking - I prefer to submit that, despite the long presence it has enjoyed in much of ecclesial writing and its acceptance over fifty years in the 1917 Code, the concept of the remedium concupiscentiae (a) lacks theological and anthro-pological substance (and, contrary to generalized opinion, has little if any backing in the thought of St. Augustine or St. Thomas) and (b) its currency, over centuries, has accompanied (and possibly explains in large part) the failure of moralists to develop a theological and ascetical consideration of marriage as a way of sanctification.
As I seek to develop my argument, I would ask the reader to bear two things in mind. The first is that sexual concupiscence or lust, as I use the term, is not to be taken in the sense of simple sexual attraction or indeed the desire for marital intercourse and the pleasure that accompanies it. Lust or bodily concupiscence is the disordered element that in our present state tends to
accompany marital intercourse, threatening the love it should express with self-centered possessiveness. On that supposition, my main point is that the use (however longstanding) of the term remedium concupiscentiae to signify an end of marriage has had a profoundly negative effect on married life, inasmuch as it suggests that lust or concupiscence is "remedied" or at least "legitimised" by marriage, in the sense either of automatically disappearing or else of being no longer a self-centered element to be constantly taken into account if married love is to grow. To my mind the faulty reasoning behind this has been a major block to understanding how love in marriage stands in need of constant purification if it is to achieve its human fullness and its super-natural goal of merging into love for God. I will endeavor to justify my position on both points.
B) Concupiscence: An Evil Present in Marriage?
It is impossible to study the development of Christian thought on marriage without reference to St. Augustine. The many-faceted and nuanced character of Augustinian thinking in this field is probably to be attributed not so much to Augustine's personal experience in sexual matters as to his having been involved over some forty years in very particular and very contrasting controversies concerning matrimony. The earlier part of his Catholic life saw him engaged in conflict with the pessimism of the Manicheans; in his later years he combated the naturalistic optimism of the Pelagians. The Manicheans saw marriage and procreation as major expressions of material and bodily creation and hence as evil; Augustine defended the goodness of both. The Pelagians, in their excessive optimism about man's present state, took little or no account of the disordered element now strongly present in sex, also in conjugal sexuality; and Augustine sought to alert people to this disorder.
1. Saint Augustine and the bona of Marriage
The greatest of Augustine's legacies in this field is his doctrine of the matrimonial bona. He sees marriage as essentially characterized by three principal elements or properties each of which shows the goodness and greatness of the marital relationship. So convinced is he that each of these characteristics underpins the goodness of marriage that he refers to each not just as a "property" or "characteristic" but as a bonum, as something good, as a uniquely positive value: "Let these nuptial goods be the objects of our love: offspring, fidelity, the unbreakable bond... Let these nuptial goods be praised in marriage by him who wishes to extol the nuptial institution."
This doctrine of the bona is without a doubt Augustine's main contribution to the analysis of marriage in its divinely instituted beauty. And it has come down to us over 1500 years of unbroken tradition.
Another important legacy of Augustine has colored ecclesial reflection on sexuality and marriage: his teaching about the presence and effect of concupiscence in all sexual activity, including marital intercourse between spouses themselves. It is this aspect of his thought that interests us here.
2. Saint Augustine and "Putting Bad to Good Use"
One of many seminal ideas in Augustine's thought is that "bad can be used to good purpose." God, he points out, makes positive use of those aspects of creation which seem to have gone
wrong; we have to learn to do likewise. The idea is repeatedly expressed: "God uses even bad things well"; "God knows how to put not only good things, but also bad things, to good use"; "Almighty God, the Lord of all creatures, who, as it is written, made everything very good, so ordered them that he could make good use both of good things and of bad"; "Just as it is bad to make bad use of what is good, so it is good to make good use of what is bad. When these therefore - good and bad; and good use and bad use - are put together, they make up four differences. Good is used well by whoever vows continence to God, while good is used badly by whoever vows continence to an idol; evil is used badly by whoever indulges concupiscence through adultery, while evil is used well by whoever restricts concupiscence to marriage."
In his writings on marriage, Augustine refers this principle particularly to the presence of concupiscence in conjugal intercourse. Such intercourse is good, but the carnal concupiscence or lust that accompanies it is not. Nevertheless spouses in their intercourse use this evil well, and he wants them to be aware of this. "So let good spouses use the evil of concupiscence well, just as a wise man uses an imprudent servant for good tasks"; "I hold that to use lust is not always a sin, because to use evil well is not a sin"; "as for the warfare experienced by chaste persons, whether celibate or married, we assert that there could have been no such thing in paradise before [Adam's] sin. Marriage is still the same, but in begetting children nothing evil would then have been used; now the evil of
concupiscence is used well"; "this evil is used well by faithful spouses."
So, for Augustine lust is an evil. Nevertheless, spouses can nevertheless use it well in their truly conjugal intercourse, whereas unmarried people who yield to lust sin by using this evil badly. It follows, within this logic, that the married person who engages in illicit intercourse uses lust badly and therefore sins. Illicit intercourse obviously comprises adultery, and there is no doubt that in Augustine's thought, it also covers contraception.
Augustine goes further still and proposes an opinion well set to clash directly with modern views on married sexuality. He holds that married intercourse is "excusable" (and wholly conjugal) only when it is carried out for the conscious purpose of having children. If it is engaged in just for the satisfaction of con-cupiscence, it always carries with it some element of fault, at least of a venial type.
In his view, the intention of spouses in intercourse should not be pleasure for its own sake but rather procreation, adding that if in their intercourse the spouses intend more than what is needed for procreation, this evil (malum), which he refuses to consider as proper to marriage itself, remains excusable (veniale) because of the goodness of marriage itself. Elsewhere he puts his view even more clearly: if pleasure-seeking is the main purpose of spouses
in their intercourse, they sin - but only venially on account of their Christian marriage.
In support of this view Augustine time and again cites the passage in the seventh chapter of the First Letter to the Corinthians, where St. Paul "allows" Christian spouses to refrain from conjugal intercourse by mutual consent and for a time, but recommends that it not be for too long, "lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control," adding that this advice of his is given not as a command, but secundum indulgentiam, or, as Augustine translates it, secundum veniam.
3. Saint Paul and 1 Corinthians 7:1-9
The first verses of this chapter have had extraordinary (and possibly disproportionate) importance in the development of Christian moral thought concerning conjugal relations. Bringing the full text before our mind can help us consider to what extent Augustine's and parallel subsequent interpretations are justified. Augustine of course wrote in Latin, so for key passages we reproduce parenthetically the Latin version which has been in common use over the ages - the Vulgate translation of his contemporary, St. Jerome. "It is well for a man not to touch a woman. But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does. Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control. I say this by way of concession, not of command [Hoc autem dico secundum indulgentiam, non secundum imperium]. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-
control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion" [Melius est enim nubere quam uri]. (1 Cor 7:1-9 [RSV])
Our attention for the moment centers on the words "Hoc autem dico secundum indulgentiam, non secundum imperium." Augustine translates as "secundum veniam" what Jerome renders as "secundum indulgentiam," and understands "venia" in the sense of pardon or forgiveness for what carries guilt. Augustine's argument in fact rests wholly on this rendering, for he holds that if something requires a "venia" it necessarily involves a fault that qualifies as a sin.
It is not clear, however, that Augustine is justified in his ren-dering; if he is not, his whole argument can of course be questioned. To suggest that in this passage St. Paul proposes to condone sin seems by all lights to force the original text. The Greek word used by St. Paul, suggnome, means "allowance" or "concession." Saint Paul's mind is surely not that concession can be made to people so as to sin, but rather that allowance can be made to follow a less perfect way. This is precisely what he goes on to say in the following verse: "I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another." It is clear that Paul regards the celibacy he has chosen as a more desirable way; at the same time, however, he presents marriage too as a "gift of God."
The thrust of St. Paul's thought seems rather to pass from a simple ascetical counsel for married people (it could be good to abstain for a time from conjugal relations), to a clarification that he regards his own choice of celibacy for God as higher than the
married state, to the concession (with an "indulgent" outlook) that those who choose marriage also choose a gift of God.
If we turn to Saint Thomas, we find that he reads 1 Corinthians 7:6 according to the Vulgate "secundum indulgentiam" and not "secundum veniam," but seems to interpret the passage in much the same way as Augustine. Elsewhere, however, he modulates his position more. Quietly observing that the Apostle appears to be expressing himself "a bit carelessly" (inconvenienter), inasmuch as he seems to imply that marriage is sinful, Thomas comes up with two possible readings. In one "secundum indulgentiam" would refer to a permission not for sin but for what is less good; that is, Paul says it is good to marry, but less good than to remain celibate. This seems to me the better interpretation. However, Thomas does allow another reading according to which sin may be present in marital intercourse: namely, when it is engaged in out of lust, albeit lust restricted to one's spouse. In this case there is venial sin, which would become mortal if one were indifferent whether the object of one's lust were one's spouse or not.
C) Transition: From Marriage Affected by Concupiscence to Concupiscence "Remedied" by Marriage
How and when did the notion of marriage being directed to the remedy of concupiscence emerge? While roots of the idea can be found in Augustine and Thomas, I do not consider that either
of them held or proposed it in the sense that was current for centuries prior to the Second Vatican Council - a sense advanced and established by writers of those intervening centuries.
Both Augustine and Thomas are conscious of a sullying and negative effect of concupiscence, even in married intercourse. Both try to show that the conjugal act is nevertheless "justified" through its natural connection with the bona of marriage. For Augustine it is fundamentally the bonum prolis that justifies conjugal intercourse. Thomas is broader in his outlook and relates this justification also to the good of fidelity, and to the unique unbreakable nature of the married bond.
Whatever the merit of this viewpoint, it is clearly one thing to hold that the concupiscence of marital intercourse is "justified" or "excused" by marriage, and another to hold that it is "remedied" thereby. My reading of these two doctors is that the idea of marriage being a remedium of concupiscence is not directly proposed by either. Hence it should rather be considered a subsequent development.
The idea of marriage as a "remedy" appears only once or twice in Augustine's writings, while he never uses the actual phrase remedium concupiscentiae. In one of his most appealing passages in defense of the goodness of marriage, he writes: "The goodness of marriage is always a good thing indeed. In the people of God it was at one time an act of obedience to the law; now it is a remedy for weakness, and for some a solace of human nature."
It is true that in another of his works, where he combats Pelagian viewpoints, one may claim to find a more direct reference to marriage considered as a remedy to libido or disordered sexual desire. The Pelagian bishop Julian of Eclanum had written that holy virginity, in its readiness to fight greater
battles, had ignored the "remedy" of marriage. Augustine seizes on this point, and asks Julian: Against what disorder do you regard marriage as a remedy? Obviously (he answers) against the disorder of lust. Then, concludes Augustine, we are both agreed that marriage is a remedy; so why do you defend the very disorder of lust against which this "conjugal remedy" is directed? The weight of this passage is debatable, but the context certainly countenances the view that the idea of marriage as a remedy, carelessly put forward by Julian, is used by Augustine rather to score a point against Pelagian logic than to propose his own considered mind on the subject.
Regarding Thomas, we find him twice briefly expressing the notion that matrimony exists also for the remedium concu-piscentiae. But particular attention should be directed to another passage where his mind appears more precisely. To the suggestion that marriage does not confer grace but is simply a "remedy," he replies, "this does not seem acceptable; for it implies that marriage is a remedy of concupiscence, either inasmuch as it curbs concupiscence - which cannot be without grace; or inasmuch as it satisfies concupiscence in part, which it does from the very nature of the act independently of any sacrament. Besides, concupiscence is not curbed by being satisfied but is rather increased, as Aristotle says in his Ethics".
Here there is not the slightest hint of marriage being simply in itself a remedy of concupiscence. Thomas insists rather that either the remedy in question lies in the curbing of concupiscence - which is not possible without grace - or else it is to be taken in the sense of the simple satisfaction of concupiscence, and then it is not a remedy at all, but tends rather to its increase.
Later, again on the issue of whether marriage confers grace, he clinches his argument. Taking up again the objection that marriage, precisely because it tends to increase concupiscence, cannot be a vehicle of grace, he turns the objection around and says that grace is in fact conferred in marriage precisely to be a remedy against concupiscence, so as to curb it at its root (i.e., its self-absorbed tendency). Clearly, to curb or repress concupi-scence is not the same as to "remedy" it.
The attribution to Augustine and Thomas Aquinas of the teaching that marriage is directed to the "remedy of concupiscence" therefore lacks solid grounds. The simple term remedium concupiscentiae appears nowhere in Augustine's writings. He regards concupiscence as an evil factor affecting human life which married persons can nevertheless use well in intercourse ordained to procreation. Having given a broad description of marriage as a "remedy for weakness," he accepts that it is also a remedy against concupiscence. On a couple of occasions and speaking in general terms, Thomas does apply the phrase remedium concupiscentiae to marriage; but the more precise expression of his mind shows that for him too marriage is meant to be a remedy against concupiscence. He clearly shares Augustine's conviction that concupiscence is a negative element, even in married life, and one to be resisted. Expounding how each sacrament is given as a remedy against the deficiency of sin, he says that marriage is given as a "remedium contra concupiscentiam personalem," a remedy against concupiscence in the individual. Concupiscence remains an enemy of personal holiness; each Christian has to fight against it. Marriage, especially in its sacramental nature, helps to fight this enemy.
Nowhere in Thomas's teaching do we find any suggestion that concupiscence or lust is "neutralized," and less still "eman-cipated," by the fact of getting married. It remains a threat to the married as to the single. Those who marry do have a special grace to fight against this threat so as to purify their marital intercourse
of self-seeking and turn it more and more into an act of loving self-donation. But concupiscence remains a negative reality, a malum or evil to be used well, that is, to be purified.
In the century before Thomas Aquinas, Hugo of St. Victor (1096-1141) follows Augustine in presenting the "good" of marriage as countering the "bad" of concupiscence, while Peter Lombard (1100-1160) simply says that marriage is "ad remedium" or "in remedium," without specifying the operation of this remedy. Saint Bonaventure (1217-74) is as precise as his contemporary Thomas in his teaching: "The use of marriage ... acts as a remedy against concupiscence, when it checks it as a medicine." Yet this precision is to be less and less respected and the importance attaching to it seems to be less and less understood. Already just before Bonaventure, Alexander of Hales (1170-1245), had written, "Matrimony is a remedy of lustful concupiscence." This, rather than the precision of Thomas, is the line that will be followed in later centuries. Theologians, without qualification or comment, state matter-of-factly that marriage exists (also) for the "remedy of concupiscence."
In the seventeenth century, the Jesuit Hermann Busenbaum writes that the spouses are united "ad remedium concupi-scentiae." Saint Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), the patron of moral theologians, teaches, "The accidental intrinsic ends of marriage are two: the procreation of offspring, and the remedy of concupiscence."
By the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this form of expression is firmly established. The manuals of moral theology
in most common use before the Second Vatican Council unanimously propose the remedium concupiscentiae as one of the secondary ends of marriage, without subjecting the idea to any true critical analysis. One finds this not only in all of the Latin manuals, but also in the best-known vernacular texts. Thomas Slater's manual speaks of "a lawful outlet for concupiscence" as does the even better-known manual of Henry Davis. The Dictionary of Moral Theology says that "the secondary end is the remedy of concupiscence."
Bernard Häring's The Law of Christ, although professedly updated in the light of Vatican II, repeats the same: "the sacrament of matrimony has a secondary or subordinate end or function (finis secundarius): the healing of concupiscence (remedium concupiscientiae)." The 1967 New Catholic Encyclo-pedia restates this traditional doctrine, as does the University of Salamanca's Biblia Comentada. The 1963 edition of the well-known Ford-Kelly Contemporary Moral Theology lists the "remedy of concupiscence" among the essential ends of marriage. The authors observe: "The remedy for concupiscence is
now beginning to be called, or at least partially explained as the sexual fulfillment of the partners, thus giving it a more positive content"; "sexual activity and sexual pleasure are now considered by theologians to have positive values. Formerly the attitude toward sex was negative and disparaging. Sexual expression even in marriage was somewhat reluctantly given its place. It needed to be 'excused' by the tria bona of marriage. Today Catholic theologians attribute positive values to sex, which would have surprised St. Augustine, if not St. Thomas." Nevertheless, the authors state that they prefer to continue using the traditional expression remedium concupiscentiae.
It is right to remark that, rather than in specific teachings of Augustine or Thomas, this century-old traditional view has sought its justification in the difficult phrase - "melius est nubere quam uri" - used by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:7-9. Paul first remarks, "I wish that all were as I myself am [i.e., celibate]. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another." He then addresses those who are not married: "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn [with passion]."
The last sentence of this passage seems clearly addressed to particular persons: not to the unmarried generally, but to those among them who lack sexual self-control. Nevertheless, a whole tradition of moral thinking zeroed in on these words and, taking them out of their limited scriptural context, used them to sustain a broad and generalized doctrine with a twofold implication: marriage is for those who lack self-control; hence, self-control
in marriage, at least in the spouses' sexual relations, is not of special importance.
It is hard to say which of these two propositions should be considered the more harmful. The former underpinned the millennial mindset which regarded marriage as a sort of second-class Christian option. The latter was arguably the strongest obstacle to the development of a properly conjugal asceticism or spirituality: that is, a spiritual approach for married persons powerful and deep enough to help them seek perfection within - and not despite - the peculiar conditions of their proper way of life.
Over the centuries and up to our times the Church has unquestionably suffered from a disregard of and neglect towards the spiritual possibilities of marriage. The scant number of married persons among declared saints (extraordinarily few in proportion to celibates) reflected or perhaps provoked the widespread idea that "getting married" was the normal alternative to "having a vocation." Marriage was not for those who were called; it was rather for the disadvantaged.
Not only that. The main handicap that those who chose to marry apparently suffered from - their lack of self-control - was considered either to be automatically remedied by the act of marrying, or in any case to be no longer of great account. It was not that to marry stopped the "burning" of lust or concupiscence, but that once married one could yield unconcernedly to this "burning," whose satisfaction is legitimized by marrying. In this view, conjugal relations, justified by being oriented to procreation, were exempt from any further moral or ascetical issue of control or purification. Lust, having been "remedied," is no longer a troublesome force for married people, nor need one consider it as a source of imperfection, or an enemy to the growth of their married love and their sanctification before God.
In practice, the idea that marriage was the remedium concupiscentiae seemed to suggest to many - ordinary people and pastors - that concupiscence in marriage could be given way to quite freely. The only requirement laid down for the satisfaction of sexual desire in marriage was that the procreative orientation
of the conjugal act be respected. If that condition was fulfilled, neither morality nor spirituality had further guidelines to offer.
It seems to me that the moral evaluation of concupiscence remained stuck in this standpoint: the indulgence of sexual concupiscence, being always seriously sinful outside marriage, is legitimate for spouses, simply provided that the procreative orientation of the marriage act is respected. This appears as the almost universal moral analysis of sexual concupiscence: there is only one proper and licit place for its indulgence, and that is marriage. In other words, marriage legitimizes sexual concupiscence or lust. This is the understanding of the remedium concupiscentiae that has established itself among Catholic theologians and moralists, to the point of being considered well-nigh axiomatic.
Concupiscence in marriage is appraised therefore not as a force to be resisted, but as something simply "remedied" by marriage itself. This, I maintain, was the common attitude as late as the middle of the twentieth century, when the idea of "married spirituality" was being seriously proposed. Further, despite the clear teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the universal call to holiness, including married people in particular, the attitude remains prevalent today.
D) The Twentieth Century: Unrealistic Optimism (?) And Pessimistic (?) Realism
With the twentieth century, signs appeared of a desire to renew theological and ascetical reflection on marriage. Early "personalist" writers such as Herbert Doms and Bernard Krempel sought to underline the human value of intercourse as an expression of conjugal love, though on the basis of a very inadequate level of anthropological analysis. Doms saw the essence of marriage in the physical union of the spouses, and its end as their fulfillment and realization as persons. He denied that, in order to be unitive, married intercourse must retain its intrinsic orientation to offspring, maintaining that "the conjugal act is full of meaning
and carries its own justification in itself, independently of its orientation towards offspring." Krempel ignored offspring as an end of marriage; its end is the "life-union" of man and woman, the child being simply the expression of this union.
This is an example of personalism working at a very superficial level. Perhaps it was in reaction that Pius XI's encyclical Casti connubii (1930), while giving new prominence to the importance of love in marriage, insisted that "love" is secondary to the main end of procreation. In line with the accepted tradition, the encyclical teaches that the satisfying of concupiscence is also an end which the spouses may seek, but does not broach the issue of the relationship between concupiscence itself and marital love. In matrimony, it says, "there are also secondary ends, such as mutual aid, the cultivating of mutual love, and the satisfying [sedatio] of concupiscence which husband and wife are not forbidden to consider so long as the due ordination of intercourse to the primary end is respected."
As the twentieth century progressed, it ushered in a new (and perhaps not sufficiently qualified) emphasis on the dignity of the physical sexual relationship in marriage. This no doubt left many moralists not too happy with the earlier opinion that there is venial sin in having conjugal intercourse just for pleasure. Rather than seeking a possible solution of the matter through a deeper analysis of the relationship between love and the sexual urge, the tendency was to side-step the issue. So we read in the last pre-Vatican II edition of a widely used manual: "[I]n practice there is no need to worry spouses if they exercise the conjugal act in an ordinary and upright way without actually thinking of a particular end. The reason is that the conjugal act performed in a natural way fosters marital love and this love favors the good of offspring - in view of which, as all the authors teach, conjugal intercourse is licit".
This begs the question of whether intercourse, in order to be a truly natural expression of marital love, needs to be purified as far as possible from the concupiscence that accompanies it.
By contrast, the late-twentieth-century magisterium offers startlingly new perspectives on this whole issue. Pope John Paul II opened his pontificate with a detailed and surprising weekly catechesis, now commonly known as the "Theology of the Body." This extended from September 1979 to November 1984. It offered an extraordinarily profound view of the purpose and dignity of human sexuality and the conjugal union. It also dwelt on the presence and dangers of lust within marriage.
In July 1982, treating of both virginal celibacy and marriage as "gifts of God," John Paul II took up those difficult passages in St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians: "it is well for a man not to touch a woman. But because of the danger of incontinence, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband"; and "to unmarried persons and to widows I say, It is good for them to remain as I am. But if they cannot live in continence, let them marry. It is better to marry than to burn." The pope posed the question: "Does the Apostle in First Corinthians perhaps look upon marriage exclusively from the viewpoint of a remedy for concupiscence, as used to be said in traditional theological language? The statements mentioned ... would seem to verify this. However, right next to the statements quoted, we read a passage in the seventh chapter of First Corinthians that leads us to see differently Paul's teaching as a whole: "I wish that all were as I myself am, [he repeats his favorite argument for abstaining from marriage] - but each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind, and one of another" (1 Cor 7:7). Therefore even those who choose marriage and live in it receive a gift from God, his own gift, that is, the grace proper to this choice, to this way of living, to this state. The gift received by persons who live in marriage is different from the one received by
persons who live in virginity and choose continence for the sake of the kingdom of God. All the same, it is a true gift from God, one's own gift, intended for concrete persons. It is specific, that is, suited to their vocation in life. We can therefore say that while the Apostle, in his characterization of marriage on the human side ... strongly emphasizes the reason concerning concupiscence of the flesh, at the same time, with no less strength of conviction, he stresses also its sacramental and charismatic character. With the same clarity with which he sees man's situation in relation to concupiscence of the flesh, he sees also the action of grace in every person - in one who lives in marriage no less than in one who willingly chooses continence" (Theology of the Body, 295).
The least that can be said from a reading of this passage is that John Paul II, while not explicitly rejecting the concept of remedium concupiscentiae, suggests that the traditional teaching on the matter has remained one-sided precisely because of a failure to weigh the sacramental implications of marriage.
Some months later in 1982, the pope's catechesis turned more directly to the sacramentality of marriage. Once again he showed a clear reserve regarding the concept of marriage as a remedy for concupiscence, and insisted rather that the sacramental grace of marriage enables the spouses to dominate concupiscence and purify it of its dominant self-seeking.
"These statements of St. Paul [quoted above] have given rise to the opinion that marriage constitutes a specific remedy for concupiscence. However, as we have already observed, St. Paul teaches explicitly that marriage has a corresponding special "gift," and that in the mystery of redemption marriage is given to a man and a woman as a grace".
Within this mystery of redemption, as the pope sees it, the sacramental graces of marriage, sustaining conjugal chastity, have a special effect in achieving the redemption of the body through the overcoming of concupiscence.
"As a sacrament of the Church, marriage ... [is] a word of the Spirit which exhorts man and woman to model their whole life together by drawing power from the mystery of the "redemption of the body." In this way they are called to chastity as to a state of life "according to the Spirit" which is proper to them (cf. Rom 8:4-5; Gal 5:25). The redemption of the body also signifies in this case that hope which, in the dimension of marriage, can be defined as the hope of daily
life, the hope of temporal life. On the basis of such a hope the concupiscence of the flesh as the source of the tendency toward an egoistic gratification is dominated... Those who, as spouses, according to the eternal divine plan, join together so as to become in a certain sense one flesh, are also in their turn called, through the sacrament, to a life according to the Spirit. This corresponds to the gift received in the sacrament. In virtue of that gift, by leading a life according to the Spirit, the spouses are capable of rediscovering the particular gratification which they have become sharers of. As much as concupiscence darkens the horizon of the inward vision and deprives the heart of the clarity of desires and aspirations, so much does "life according to the Spirit" (that is, the grace of the sacrament of marriage) permit man and woman to find again the true liberty of the gift, united to the awareness of the spousal meaning of the body in its masculinity and femininity" (Theology of the Body, 348-49)
This dense passage teaches in summary that through the specific grace of matrimony, spouses can purify the conjugal act of the grasping and self-centered spirit inherent in concupiscence, and so recapture the truly donative experience and pleasure of marital intercourse. This marks a step forward in magisterial teaching of extraordinary significance. (We will return to this below.)
New stances and insights continue to be presented by the magisterium of these last decades. They show that while the Church is expressing a deepened appreciation of the dignity of sexual intercourse in marriage - as an act of love-union and mutual self-giving - it has not weakened its teaching that our whole nature, and sexual desire in particular, was seriously impacted by the Fall.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches clearly and emphatically that, as a result of original sin, an operative evil is to be found in human nature - not least in the sexual attraction between man and woman, also inside marriage. In a section entitled "Marriage under the regime of sin," the Catechism insists, "Every man experiences evil around him and within himself. This experience makes itself felt in the relationships between man and woman. Their union has always been threatened by discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts that can escalate into hatred and separation" (1606). "According to faith the disorder we notice so painfully does not stem from the nature of man and woman, nor from the nature of their relations, but from sin".
"As a break with God, the first sin had for its first consequence the rupture of the original communion between man and woman. Their relations were distorted by mutual recriminations; their mutual attraction, the Creator's own gift, changed into a relationship of domination and lust" (1607).
A relationship of lust! Strong words indeed, to describe a distortion that tends to affect relations between the sexes from adolescence to old age - even, as the context makes clear, in inter-spousal relations. As is evident, the Catechism gives no support to the idea that concupiscence is in some way "remedied" - in the sense of being eliminated or reduced to nonimportance - by the simple fact of getting married: just the contrary.
With deliberate directness, the Catechism puts forward ideas not likely to gain easy acceptance among our contemporaries. Some may take them as showing that the Church is still imbued with Augustinian (or Thomistic) pessimism about sexuality. That must be firmly contested: what is being taught here is not pessimism but realism. In pointing to real difficulties that accompany and can threaten sexual love, these texts rather call Christians to deeper reflection on ways of solving these dangers, so that love itself can grow.
II. CONCUPISCENCE AND MARRIED LOVE: A DEEPER ANALYSIS
A) Lust, Normal [Simple] Sexual Desire, and Conjugal Desire
Fine distinctions need to be drawn here; to begin with, between lust and 'normal' sexual desire. This may provoke the reaction: but surely 'normal sexual desire' is inseparable from some element of lust? The objection itself points to the need for deeper analyses of sexuality, sexual reaction, and sexual attraction.
The concept of 'normal' bears reference not first to frequency but to order. Civil disorder may be frequent in certain situations, but only an improper use of language would classify it as normal. In most intersex relations concupiscent lust is just below the
surface, present and ready to assert itself. Its constant presence suggests a disorder and indicates in fact a state of abnormality.
The modern difficulty in understanding the Church's teaching on married sexuality stems in large part from a failure to distinguish between lust and what is (or should be) normal sexual desire: that is, between assertive and unregulated sexual desire, bent foremost on physical self-satisfaction, and simple sexual attraction, which can include a desire for union and is characterized by respect and regulated by love. The two are not to be equated. Pope John Paul II insists on the distinction: "the perennial call ... and, in a certain sense, the perennial mutual attraction on man's part to femininity and on woman's part to masculinity, is an indirect invitation of the body. But it is not lust in the sense of the word in Matthew 5:27-28" (Theology of the Body, 148).
Lust or sexual concupiscence is a disorder and hence always an evil. Sexual desire (just as sexual pleasure) is not an evil but a good, provided it is directed and subordinated to conjugal love and made a proper part of it. Sexual desire is part of conjugal love; concupiscence, though present also in marriage, is not. Hence their moral evaluation is totally different. The distinction should be evident, but only if one carefully ponders and respects the propriety of terms.
1. Sexual Concupiscence
Lust or carnal concupiscence can be described as the engrossing urge for pleasure and exploitative possession which, in our present condition, almost always accompanies sexual desire and tends to take it over. From the moral point of view, it is a negative force and a powerful enemy of true human and spiritual growth.
The Christian idea of sexual concupiscence can only be understood in the light of the Fall. Christians hold that the original state of man and woman vis-à-vis each other was one of joyous harmony, particularly in relation to their reciprocal sexuality with its potential for mutual appreciation and enrichment, and for unitive and fruitful love. The mutual attraction between man and woman naturally has its physical aspect and this too, as the Catechism says, is part of "the Creator's own gift" (1607).
Sin wrecked this easy and harmonious peace of the man-woman relationship. After the Fall, says the Catechism, "the harmony in which they [Adam and Eve] had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul's spiritual faculties over the body is shattered" (400); and this disorder can extend to the marital relationship itself: "the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination" (ibid.; cf. 409).
2. Normal Sexual Attraction
Sexual concupiscence cannot be equated simply with physical sexual attraction or even with a desire for genital union. The
romantic or idealistic love between a teenage boy and girl (frequently still to be found even in our modern sensualized world) may be accompanied by a desire to show bodily affection - a desire filled with a tenderness and respect that operate as a powerful curb, not only on lust if it seeks to assert itself, but also on bodily expressions of love which would not be true to the real existential relationship between the couple. This is part of the chastity natural to incipient adolescent sexuality. Its power should not be underestimated, not least because natures fresh to sexuality can have a purer sense of the mystery of the body and a spontaneous understanding of the true relationship of bodily actions to human love.
3. Sexual Attraction (Desire), and Conjugal Attraction
In virtue of their complementarity, the sexes naturally experience an attraction to each other that does not always take the form of a physical desire (though, as we have mentioned, unbalanced desire may in our present state be just below the surface). Ability to appreciate and admire well-developed masculine or feminine characteristics is a sign of growing human maturity. As young people meet in the context of normal social friendships between men and women, more particularized one-to-one relationships develop in response to what could be called the "conjugal instinct" or attraction. In its essence this "instinct" is more spiritual than physical; in the Christian understanding it corresponds to the natural desire for forming a committed and exclusive life-long partnership with a spouse. As the conjugal instinct inspires two persons in preparation for marriage, it leads them to avoid any physical relations that would express a permanent union which they have not yet freely and mutually
ratified. This is the human and anthropological sense of premarital chastity. Once they are married, their physical conjugal union becomes the conjugal act which, when realized in a human way, gives true and unique expression to their spousal relationship. In participating in it in its full significance, they express their marital chastity.
4. When Love and Lust Collide
We mentioned above the pure air of first adolescent love. Unfortunately sexual attraction finds it more and more difficult to keep breathing that air. Love needs to be very strong indeed if it is to remain pure and delicate, generous in gift and not grasping in possession - even when, ultimately, it has the right to possess. This applies to the whole of premarital friendship between the sexes, to courtship, and to marriage itself.
Normal friendship between a teenage boy and girl can only be sincere and grow if they are on guard against lust. When the attraction between a boy and girl or a young man and woman takes the form of a more particularized love, then it is even more important to keep love free from lust. Clarity of mind and firmness of purpose are needed to achieve this. If love is sincere, there is little difficulty in noting the issues or differences that may arise. On the one hand, the indiscriminate instinct of lust with its promptings to seek satisfaction with the first appealing person available; on the other hand, there is the particularized human instinct (the conjugal instinct already present) urging to keep the gift of sexuality for one, and to respect that one when found before there is a mutual conjugal commitment. No one will say that this instinct of respect is easy to follow; but if true love is there, the instinct too will be there.
Let us consider now the union of man and woman in marriage, which is the fullest setting for human love. It is in
marriage that the collision of love and lust can be most dramatic, with so much depending on its outcome. We recall the title - "Marriage under the regime of sin" - under which the Catechism insists that the harmony and ease of the original communion between man and woman have been ruptured by a "disorder [that] we notice so painfully": the disorder of concupiscence which takes over when mutual sexual attraction, instead of being filled with respect and love, is "changed into a relationship of domination and lust" (1607).
Here our thoughts go naturally back to Augustine and to the terms in which he described this disorder: the evil of lust that spouses need to "use well" (i.e., to turn to good use), but which can frustrate and separate them if they use it badly. Augustine's view is nuanced and complex, but our reflections may help us see that it is neither pessimistic nor characterized by an anti-sex spirit. One might perhaps give a modern 'personalist' expression to his view by saying that spouses use the sexual attraction between them well when, through constant vigilance, they raise it to the level of conjugal vitality and keep it there; and they use it badly when they let it decline toward the level of mere animal mating.
The contemporary magisterium insists time and again that each human being must be treated as a person and never as a thing. This is a rule for all human relationships, but for none as much as marriage. The conjugal instinct - as we have called it - wants to relate to one's spouse as to a person, never just as to a mere object to be used for one's own physical satisfaction. Carnal con-cupiscence, on the other hand, also present in marriage, tends in its self-centered forcefulness to disturb the loving relationship that should exist between husband and wife, and so can easily prevent marital sexuality from being completely at the service of love. Concupiscence wants to have and use the other person. Possession and satisfaction, not gift and union, are its concern. "In itself, concupiscence is not capable of promoting union as the communion of persons. By itself, it does not unite, but appropriates. The relationship of the gift is changed into the relationship of appropriation" (Theology of the Body, 127).
B) A More Comprehensive Moral Evaluation of Conjugal Intercourse
At this point in our study the need for a deeper moral appraisal of conjugal sexuality is apparent. The hitherto prevalent evaluation of conjugal intercourse - centered almost exclusively on its procreative function and finality - is both dated and deficient. Recent magisterial teaching has made it clear that the evaluation must be made also in view of the unitive function of the conjugal act, precisely bearing in mind that the two aspects, procreative and unitive, are inseparable (cf. Humanae vitae 12).
A strong warrant for this broadened moral basis can be drawn from the personalist emphasis - on the dignity of the person, on the unity between body and soul and on the union between the spouses - that is to be found in magisterial teaching over the past forty years. This is noticeably present in Gaudium et spes, especially in the chapter it devotes to marriage. The constitution
proposes a new and important principle governing the evaluation of the conjugal act: "the acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the performance of these acts in a truly human way [modo vere humano] fosters the self-giving they signify." The insistence that the conjugal act must be carried out "in a truly human way" raises the whole subject of conjugal intercourse above any merely corporal-physiological analysis. Intercourse is a physical corporal reality indeed; but depending on "the humanity" with which it is (or is not) performed, it will truly express, or may deny, the loving donation of the marital relationship.
This phrase from Gaudium et spes has taken on new significance with the 1983 Code of Canon Law. These three words, "modo vere humano," now qualify the juridical understanding of the consummation of marriage. A marriage is considered "consummated, if the spouses have in a human manner engaged together in a conjugal act in itself apt for the generation of offspring, to which act marriage is by its nature ordered, and by it the spouses become one flesh" (c. 1061, §1). The qualifying phrase was not present in the corresponding canon of the 1917 Code (c. 1015, §1) and jurisprudence, in line with the general teaching of moral theology, tended to limit consideration of what constitutes "a conjugal act in itself apt for the generation of offspring" to the simple physical completion of intercourse through natural insemination. This is no longer adequate. The addition of the phrase "in a human manner" seems to preclude any consideration of the act limited exclusively to its physical aspect. The determination of the value of the phrase, for the purposes of canonical jurisprudence, poses no small problems but,
independently of how canonists deal with these questions, it is very suggestive from the anthropological and ascetical points of view, clearly calling for an enriched understanding of the marital copula. The major implication would be that intercourse is not done "humano modo" just because it is open to procreation. The human nature of the act also lies in its being an act of intimate self-donation to, and of union with, one's spouse: a reconfirmation in the body of one's singular choice of him or her, a reconfirmation that is humanly expressed not only in the giving and receiving of pleasure but even more essentially in the care, respect, tenderness, and reverence accompanying the physical act.
We could already ask whether, in the present state of human nature, the sexual act tends spontaneously and easily to express all of this. Most people would agree that it does not - at least not easily. It can and should express it, but will only do so with an effort because, so to speak, much of the humanity of the conjugal act has been lost. It will be recovered only by those who consciously exercise a control over the self-absorbed mood that now tends to dominate it. But lest we anticipate conclusions that should come later, let us continue with the implications of "modo vere humano exerciti."
The phrase itself suggests the disjunction: while conjugal intercourse can take place in a "truly human way" that gives it its dignity as a means of expressing and fostering conjugal love, it can also be performed in a way that, being less than truly human, neither properly expresses nor fosters spousal love.
The conjugal act is a physical-corporeal action charged with human significance which - it must be emphasized - derives from its unitive as well as its procreative aspects, both in inseparable connection. Anti-procreative measures destroy the unitive function of the act, but it is also true that anti-unitive practices, even if the procreative orientation is respected, undermine the human significance of the act. A union effected in a mood of grasping appropriation gives poor expression to the mutual loving gift that should mark true conjugality; and the same is true of a union motivated mainly by self-seeking. Here we are touching the
particularly human dimensions of conjugal intercourse. And the morality ("morality" here is as much as to say "the truly human quality") of the act must consider the special moral dimension that arises from the self-centeredness or the other-centeredness lived by each of the spouses in conjugal intercourse.
Biology alone is not capable of furnishing the true moral and human dimension of conjugal intercourse, since it cannot be exclusively considered as a corporal act directed to biological procreation. It is a human act of spousal union, not just of the spouses' bodies but also of their very persons. The bodily act should in every respect express the loving union of persons. As we read in Familiaris Consortio: "Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is by no means something purely biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and a woman commit themselves totally to one another until death. The total physical self-giving would be a lie if it were not the sign and fruit of a total personal self-giving" (FC 11).
The last sentence in this passage suggests the moral goal and challenge before the spouses: that every aspect of their married life should be marked by loving participation, by generous giving and not by selfish taking.
1. What Makes the Conjugal Act Unitive
It is an extraordinary fact that right down to our days there has been so little attempt to analyze and put in clear light what it is that turns sexual intercourse into a unique expression of conjugal love and self-giving. The formidable and widespread contraceptive movement of the last century, with its pretense that the conjugal act is fully and singularly expressive of marital love and union even if its procreative orientation is artificially excluded, forced a deeper anthropological analysis of why this is simply not so.
The procreative design of the conjugal act is evident and undeniable. The contraceptive movement proposes various
physical or chemical ways to cancel or negate this procreative design, claiming at the same time that this can be done without in any way rendering the act less expressive of the unique relationship of the partners as husband and wife (i.e., less an act of spousal union).
Elsewhere I have examined the inherent fallacy of this contraceptive argument. What makes intercourse between spouses a unique expression of distinctive conjugal union is precisely the sharing in their mutual complementary procreative power. If the procreative orientation of the act is deliberately frustrated through contraception, then it no longer unites the spouses in any distinctively conjugal way. It is no longer the conjugal act - the most distinctive physical expression of full mutual surrender and permanent loving union. It is in fact no longer a sexual act in any true human sense, for there is no actual sexual intercourse or communication. The spouses refuse true carnal converse with one another, each rather using the other's body for pleasure. But a mere exchange together of pleasure neither expresses nor achieves spousal union, for there is nothing in that pleasure that draws a person out of his or her solitude and draws each into a greater oneness with the other. This refusal of union, this voluntary remaining in solitariness, tends inexorably to the separation of the spouses. Contraception may be mutually gratifying but is no way unifying, tending rather to shut each spouse off in individual satisfaction. Hence it is not wholly exaggerated to speak of it as a mutual experience of solitary sex.
2. Self-centeredness, the Enemy of Conjugal Love
Love moves outward toward the loved one; it seeks the good of the beloved. It is donative and, although it naturally tends toward union, the simple desire to possess or to take is not of the nature of true love. Hence the difficulty for the self-centered
person (all of us, since the Fall) to learn to love, for she or he must strive to make other-centeredness take priority over self-centeredness.
To love another with all one's heart is difficult; it is not in fact possible without a constant battle to purge one's actions and motives, since some element of self-seeking tends to remain in the best of our actions. This applies constantly in married life; it is in the small details that love is shown, that it grows or dwindles. If all aspects of conjugal relations need purification, this is also true for the most intimate conjugal relationship of all.
If self-seeking predominates in sexual relations, then intercourse, even marital intercourse, is not mainly an expression of love. The natural satisfaction of the sexual urge is legitimate within marriage, but even there it may carry with it a degree of self-seeking that is contrary to love, hindering it rather than expressing or increasing it. "Disinterested giving is excluded from selfish enjoyment" (Theology of the Body, 130).
It is necessary to repeat that intercourse can and should be a maximum human expression of total conjugal love and donation. It ought to express full self-donation - more centered, ideally, on what the other receives than on what one gets. But it can be an act of mere selfish satisfaction. This has always been a main problem to be faced by conjugal spirituality and the pursuit of perfection in marriage.
Lust is one of the most radically self-centered appetites. As such it impels toward a joining of bodies that in fact causes a separation of persons, because those who are carried away by it in their mutual relations are afterwards left more separated from one another than before.
As a result of the Fall, says John Paul II, bodily sexuality was suddenly felt and understood as an element of mutual confrontation of persons ... as if the personal profile of masculinity and femininity, which before had highlighted the meaning of the body for a full communion of persons, had made way only for the sensation of sexuality with regard to the other human being. It is as if sexuality became an obstacle in the personal relationship of man and woman. (Theology of the Body, 118-19)
We are brought back to those strong statements of the Catechism that the original communion between man and woman was distorted as a result of the Fall, and their mutual attraction changed into "a relationship of domination and lust" (see pp. 507-8). Pope John Paul II did not hesitate to express the matter in an even more startling manner. Commenting the words of Jesus about how adultery "in the heart" (see Matt 5:27-28) is committed by the one who looks lustfully (without any further exterior action), he points out that this can apply to a man even in relation to his own wife: "Adultery in the heart is committed not only because man looks in this way [lustfully] at a woman who is not his wife, but precisely because he looks at a woman in this way... A man who looks in this way, uses the woman, her femininity, to satisfy his own instinct. Although he does not do so with an exterior act, he has already assumed this attitude deep down, inwardly deciding in this way with regard to a given woman. This is what adultery committed in the heart consists of. Man can commit this adultery in the heart also with regard to his own wife, if he treats her only as an object to satisfy instinct" (Theology of the Body, 157).
Is this an exaggerated statement? Does it show a pessimistic or Manichean view of the married sexual relationship? Or is it a real possibility to be taken into account? Can a man lust after his wife; or vice-versa? If he or she can, is this a good or a bad thing for married life? Or is it something to be looked on with indifference?
Is a spouse not meant to be the object of a different and nobler sort of desire than simple self-satisfaction? Should we be surprised then at St. Thomas's opinion that "consentiens concupiscentiae in uxorem" is guilty not of a mortal sin, but indeed of one that is venial? One can see this as Manichean if one wishes; yet one can also see it as a challenge to love and virtue. To the extent that intercourse is dominated by lust, it is far from virtue. It becomes
truly virtuous in the measure in which it is a genuine expression of self-giving.
Concupiscence, with its self-absorbed desire for physical satisfaction, threatens the full authenticity of conjugal intercourse intended to be an expression of love-union. Concupiscence has brought about "a violation, a fundamental loss, of the original community-communion of persons. The latter should have made man and woman mutually happy by the pursuit of a simple and pure union in humanity, by a reciprocal offering of themselves... After breaking the original covenant with God, the man and the woman found themselves more divided. Instead of being united, they were even opposed because of their masculinity and femininity... [They] are no longer called only to union and unity, but are also threatened by the insatiability of that union and unity" (Theology of the Body, 120).
The presence of lust or concupiscence within marriage itself is undeniable. At this stage in our study, far from being able to confirm that marriage offers a remedy for concupiscence, we realize that lust, inasmuch as it introduces an anti-love element into the sexual relationship, poses a threat to marriage and particularly to married love itself. How then, within a truly Christian understanding of marriage as a call of love and as a vocation to sanctity, should married persons treat the presence of concupiscence?
Till the present day, spouses who really sought to live their conjugal relationship as God wished, to sanctify themselves in and through their marriage, received little orientation from the teaching of the Church, aside from the idea that a certain abstinence is a recommendable means not just of family planning but of positive growth in married sanctity. Abstinence in this
view often seemed to be presented as the ideal, or at least as the main means to union with God and the sanctification of one's life. One senses here (and this is the heart of the problem) a continuing underlying presumption that marital intercourse is something so "anti-spiritual" that spouses would do better and grow more in love for God by abstaining from it than by engaging in it. This presumption should be firmly resisted.
If marriage is in itself a divine way of holiness, then all of its natural elements, including of course intimate conjugal relations, are a matter of sanctification. Certainly (as we will see below) these relations must be marked by temperance; yet total abstinence from such relations cannot be proposed as an ideal or ascetical goal for married people. Total abstinence as a means to counter the problem of lust is not a practical proposal for married people, and yet lust has to be countered.
III. MARRIED LOVE AND MARRIED CHASTITY
A) Rediscovering Conjugal Love as It Was 'In the Beginning'
The constant reference point for married life and vocation that Pope John Paul II presented throughout his 1979-84 weekly catechesis was "marriage constituted in the beginning, in the state of original innocence, in the context of the sacrament of creation" (Theology of the Body, 338), called to be a "visible sign of God's creative love" (ibid., 379). That original human state was marked by a perfect harmony, within each one, of body and spirit.
The Creator endowed the body with an objective harmony ... [which] corresponded to a similar harmony within man, the harmony of the heart. This harmony, that is precisely purity of heart, enabled man and woman in the state of original innocence to experience simply (and in a way that originally made them both happy) the uniting power of their bodies, which was, so to speak, the unsuspected substratum of their personal union or communio personarum. (Ibid., 204).
That original harmony was short-lived, however; man sinned and it was broken. With the sin of Adam and Eve concupiscence or lust made its appearance. It became present in their marriage (and is present in every subsequent marriage), posing a threat to married love and happiness.
In his "Theology of the Body" catechesis, John Paul II made a lengthy examination of the discordant presence of lust in spousal relations (ibid., 111-68). Its fundamental effect is a loss or a limitation of the full freedom of love.
"Concupiscence entails the loss of the interior freedom of the gift. The nuptial meaning of the human body is connected precisely with this freedom. Man can become a gift - that is, the man and the woman can exist in the relationship of mutual self-giving - if each of them controls himself. Manifested as a "coercion sui generis of the body," concupiscence reduces self-control and places an interior limit on it. For that reason, it makes the interior freedom of giving in a certain sense impossible. Together with that, the beauty that the human body possesses in its male and female aspect, as an expression of the spirit, is obscured. The body remains as an object of lust and, therefore, as a "field of appropriation" of the other human being. In itself, concupiscence is not capable of promoting union as the communion of persons. By itself, it does not unite, but appropriates. The relationship of the gift is changed into the relationship of appropriation" (Ibid., 127).
Insatiable desire, appropriation instead of communion, taking instead of giving, possessive self-love overshadowing donative love of the other, etc.: all of these are major disruptions that concupiscence now inflicts on the lost harmony of the sexual relationship.
Is it possible for men and women to return to that original harmony and respect, or are they lost forever? They are not irreparably lost, for they can be recovered in hope and struggle. In the human person there always remains, however unconsciously, a longing for the respect inherent in a pure love, in part because of what John Paul II terms "the continuity and unity between the hereditary state of man's sin and his original innocence" which remains a key to "the redemption of the body" (ibid., 34-35). However, the recovery and maintenance of what can be repossessed of that original harmony is possible only through constant effort and with the help of prayer and grace.
A particularly striking part of John Paul II's analysis is the place he gives to sexual shame in the work of recovering that harmony. He places shame among the "fundamental anthropological experiences," but over and beyond mere anthropology, it is for him a mysterious fact, a sort of clue or pointer to the re-establishment (however tentative) of that enviable and joyous sexual harmony and peace.
In the present human condition, a certain instinct of shame acts as a guarantor of the mutual respect that is a sine qua non condition of true love between the sexes. The deeper and truer the love between a man and a woman, and especially between husband and wife, the more they will be prompted to pay heed to shame, and to seek to understand it and to respond adequately to it. The consequence is a naturally modest behavior between them - a modesty that has its place even in the relationship of husband and wife.
In this sense each married couple should turn to the Bible seeking the lessons of the divine narrative: not just imagining how the relationship of Adam and Eve must have been before the Fall, but learning from their reactions afterwards - reactions that show a desire to preserve, in new and troublesome circumstances, the purity of that original attraction which they alone had experienced and which they could still recall.
Before the Fall, Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed. As John Paul II puts it, "the man of original innocence, male and female, did not even feel that discord in the body." After the Fall is when shame appeared as a response to lust, as a sort of protection against the threat that lust now offered to the simple joy and appreciation they had experienced in each other's sexuality "in the beginning." The importance of this sense of shame is powerfully brought out in the papal catechesis.
On the one hand, if the man and the woman cease to be a disinterested gift for each other, as they were in the mystery of creation, then they recognize that "they are naked" (cf. Gn 3). Then the shame of that nakedness, which they had not felt in the state of original innocence, will spring up in their hearts... Only the nakedness that makes woman an object for man, or vice versa, is a source of shame. The fact that they were not ashamed means that the woman was not an "object" for the man nor he for her. (Ibid., 74-75)
In the light of the biblical narrative, sexual shame has its deep meaning. It is connected with the failure to satisfy the aspiration to realize in the conjugal union of the body the mutual communion of persons. (Ibid., 121)
The reaction of shame before the other, even of wife before husband or vice-versa, betrays an awareness that the urge to bodily intercourse is not of the same human quality as the desire for the communion of persons, and cannot give this desire full effect.
On the other, while shame reveals the moment of lust, at the same time it can protect from [its] consequences... It can even be said that man and woman, through shame, almost remain in the state of original innocence. They continually become aware of the nuptial meaning of the body and aim at preserving it from lust. (Ibid., 122)
The desire to preserve respect for the loved one is inherent in every genuine love. So, in John Paul II's analysis, the sense of
shame becomes not only a guardian of mutual respect between husband and wife, but also a starting point for the recreation of a new spousal harmony between body and soul, between desire and respect, achieved on the basis of united purpose aided by prayer and grace. The pope does not suggest that this "recreation" is in any way easy; it obviously is not. But his message for married people is that it should be attempted. Their mutual love should reveal the need, and the sacramental graces of their marriage along with their personal prayer are powerful means they have to achieve it.
B) The Purification of Conjugal Love from Excessive Sensuality
In contrast to the effects of concupiscence, chastity and a right sense of shame protect and preserve the "freedom of the gift" proper to conjugal intercourse. John Paul II insists that this interior freedom of the gift "of its nature is explicitly spiritual and depends on a person's interior maturity. This freedom presupposes such a capacity of directing one's sensual and emotive reactions as to make self-donation to the other possible, on the basis of mature self-possession."
This is the proper sense of chastity in marriage: the redirecting and the refinement of sensual appetite so that it is at the service of love and expresses it, and the refusal to take advantage of the married relationship just for egoistic satisfaction. In a real sense, the task facing married couples is purification of sensual appetite, so that its satisfaction is sought not mainly for concupiscent self-centeredness but as an accompaniment to the donation of self that must underlie every true conjugal union. One can say that this task engages them in a constant humanizing of their marital love, facilitating the growth of mutual appreciation of each other as persons.
True conjugal love is evidently characterized more by caring for and giving to the other than by wanting and taking for oneself. This is the classical distinction between amor amicitiae and amor concupiscentiae. Where the love of concupiscence dominates, the lover has not really come out of himself or overcome self-centeredness, and so gives himself at most only in part: "in the love of concupiscence, the lover, in wanting the good he desires, properly speaking loves himself." The dominance of pleasure-seeking in marital intercourse means that there is too much taking of the body and not enough giving to the person; and to the extent of that imbalance the true conjugal communion of persons is not realized.
In an age like ours, the difference between lust, sexual desire, and conjugal love has become progressively obscured. If, in consequence, many married couples do not understood or recognize the dangers of concupiscence, and so do not endeavor to contain or purify it, it can dominate their relationship, undermining mutual respect and their very capacity to see marriage essentially as giving and not just as possessing and enjoying, much less as appropriating and exploiting.
So we return to St. Augustine's invitation to married couples to purge their good marital intercourse of the evil that tends to accompany it: that evil which is not the pleasure of conjugal union but excessive and self-centered absorption with that pleasure. This is an unescapable task facing all married couples who in some way wish to restore the loving harmony of a spousal relationship filled with growing appreciation and respect. We spoke above of how abstinence or renunciation, as a governing principle of religious life, was often presented to married couples wishing to grow spiritually, with the implicit or explicit invitation to apply it to their conjugal intercourse. We must add here that while renunciation is certainly a main gospel theme, it is not the only or even the dominant one. Purification, above all of one's inner intention and heart, is even more fundamental to the achievement of the ultimate Christian goal: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for
they shall see God" (Matt 5:8); "we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure" (1 John 3:2-3). These verses are of universal application.
This work of purification faces married people in all the aspects of their lives. It is a particular challenge to them with regard to their intimate conjugal relations. To purify conjugal intercourse of the self-absorption that so easily invades it must be a major concern and point of struggle for spouses who wish their marriage to be marked by growing love and so also to become a way of sanctity.
Marital intercourse is purified when the urge for self-satisfaction plays a lesser part in it, intercourse being rather sought, lived, and felt as participation and particularly as other-centered donative love. Possession and pleasure will then be the consequence of generous self-giving. As John Paul II says, "a noble gratification, for example, is one thing, while sexual desire is another. When sexual desire is linked with a noble gratification, it differs from desire pure and simple... It is precisely at the price of self-control that man reaches that deeper and more mature spontaneity with which his heart, mastering his instincts, rediscovers the spiritual beauty of the sign constituted by the human body in its masculinity and femininity" (Theology of the Body, 173).
One could note in passing that if pleasure is received with gratitude - to God, to one's spouse - this is already a positive and significant step towards purifying it of self-centeredness, for gratitude is always a coming out of self and an affirmation of the other. On the other hand, if the seeking of pleasure is mainly self-centered, it may give momentary satisfaction but not real peace, the peace that arises from the experience of true donative union. We may recall here how St. Thomas, invoking Galatians 5:17, explains that a lack of interior peace is often due to an unresolved conflict between what one's sense appetite wants and what one's mind wants (STh II-II, q. 29, a. 1).
The goal then, as indicated above, is that spouses humanize their intimate relations, rather than abstain from them. This is the work of purification proposed to them; this has to be the tone of married chastity.
Sound Christian thinking has always been aware of the self-absorbing force of the urge to physical sexual satisfaction. The constant moral principle that to seek this satisfaction outside marriage is grievously wrong derives in part from the fact that his urge is so deeply egoistic. But there has been no parallel consideration of the possible effect on married life itself of this self-engrossed power. Moral theology has tended to ignore this question which is today resurfacing as a major issue facing theological and pastoral reflection. Simply to find reasons that "justify" marital sexual intercourse is an approach of the past. Also dated is the approach that would overstress the idea of abstention from intercourse as a key to spiritual growth in marriage. What has to be put to spouses is the need to purify their intercourse, so that they may more and more find in it the unmixed character of loving personal gift-acceptance which it would have had in Eden.
Sensitive married couples who sincerely love each other are readily aware of this self-absorbed drive which takes from the perfection of their physical conjugal union. They sense the need to temper or purify the force drawing them together, so that they can be united in true mutual giving - not mere simultaneous
taking. Their heart calls for this; insofar as they are mainly yielding to lust, a sense of cheating and of being cheated will always remain. John Paul II reads this situation well: "I would say that lust is a deception of the human heart in the perennial call of man and woman to communion by means of mutual giving" (Theology of the Body, 148).
It is their very sensitivity to love that makes them troubled by this disorder they would like to remedy; but they have seldom been guided as to how to achieve this, or as to why the endeavor and effort to do so is an integral part of their married calling to keep growing in love and so, ultimately, to attain sanctity.
C) Chastity Gives Freedom to Conjugal Love
In our present condition, concupiscence (or the over-absorbing desires of the flesh) ranges itself easily against the "spirit," which also means against love and the desires of love. This is the case before marriage, and remains so in marriage. Scripture insists on this, and so it is a truth that every Christian needs to ponder. At the start of our study we noted how the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2525) identifies concupiscence with the caro adversus spiritum of the Letter to the Galatians: "the desires of the flesh are against the spirit, and the desires of the spirit are against the flesh" (Gal 5:17). Pope John Paul II opens part 2 of his Theology of the Body with detailed consideration of this Pauline passage.
According to the pope, Paul refers here to "the tension existing within man, precisely in his heart ... [which] presupposes that disposition of forces formed in man with original sin, in which every historical man participates. In this disposition, formed within man, the body opposes the spirit and easily prevails over it" (Theology of the Body, 191). If we let the body prevail in this battle, we lose our freedom and hence our very ability to love, for freedom is not true freedom
unless it is at the service of love (cf. ibid., 197). Only so, by using freedom truly and well (and guarding against its false use), can the battle against concupiscence be gradually won. Only so can we fulfill our vocation to love in all freedom - in that freedom for which Christ has set us free.
To understand the vocation to freedom in this way ("You were called to freedom, brethren" - Gal 5:13), means giving a form to the ethos in which life "according to the Spirit" is realized. The danger of wrongly understanding freedom also exists. Paul clearly points this out, writing in the same context: "Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another" (Gal 5:13). In other words, Paul warns us of the possibility of making a bad use of freedom. Such a use is in opposition to the liberation of the human spirit carried out by Christ and contradicts that freedom with which "Christ set us free." ... The antithesis and, in a way, the negation of this use of freedom takes place when it becomes a pretext to live according to the flesh. Freedom then ... becomes "an opportunity for the flesh," a source (or instrument) of a specific yoke on the part of pride of life, the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh. Anyone who lives in this way according to the flesh, that is, submits ... to the three forms of lust, especially to the lust of the flesh, ceases to be capable of that freedom for which "Christ set us free." He also ceases to be suitable for the real gift of himself, which is the fruit and expression of this freedom. Moreover, he ceases to be capable of that gift which is organically connected with the nuptial meaning of the human body (Theology of the Body, 197-98)
John Paul II's warning here about "good" and "bad" uses of freedom brings back to mind St. Augustine's distinction regarding the use of the body. In one of his sermons, Augustine too invokes Galatians 5:17 in particular relation to chastity: "Listen well to these words, all you faithful who are fighting. I speak to those who struggle. Only those who struggle will understand the truth of what I say. I will not be understood by whoever does not struggle... What does the chaste person wish? That no force should arise in his body resisting chastity. He would like to experience peace, but does not have it yet".
Augustine's words are directed to the married as much as to the unmarried. Both, he is convinced, will understand the truth he expresses if they are prepared to fight the constant warfare of
Christian life. The Church has not changed her doctrine about this fight. "[A] monumental struggle against the powers of darkness pervades the whole history of man. The battle was joined from the very origins of the world and will continue until the last day, as the Lord has attested. Caught in this conflict, man is obliged to wrestle constantly if he is to cling to what is good, nor can he achieve his own integrity without great efforts and the help of God's grace" (Gaudium et spes 37).
D) The "Remedy" of Concupiscence: Chastity
"The problem for [sexual] ethics is how to use sex without treating the person as an object for use." A perceptive observation which brings a properly human focus to bear on the question of the pleasure of marital intercourse. Pleasure should not be sought just for its own sake, since self-seeking (and "other-using") will then tend to dominate. But pleasure can and should come, as an important concomitant of the union achieved. This in the truest sense is what is implied in the remedying of concupiscence. It is a challenge to love and a work of chastity. Earlier we quoted St. Thomas (IV Sent., d. 26, q. 2, a. 3, ad 4) on how grace is given in marriage as a remedy against concupiscence, so as to curb it in its root (i.e., in its self-absorbed tendency), and I have suggested elsewhere that one of the main graces bestowed by the sacrament of matrimony, as a "permanent" sacrament, is that of marital chastity in this precise sense.
The goal cannot be not to feel pleasure or not to be drawn by it (both pertain to the instinct of conjugality), but not to be dominated by its quest (which is the very instinct of lust). Saint Augustine points out the alternatives: "whoever does not want to serve lust must necessarily fight against it; whoever neglects to
fight it must necessarily serve it. One of these alternatives is burdensome but praiseworthy, the other is debasing and miserable."
Marital intercourse is indeed a unique way of giving physical expression to married love, but it is not the only way. There are moments in married life (sickness, for instance, or periods just before and after childbirth) when love will not seek intercourse but still express itself in many other ways, even on the physical level. It is commonplace among marriage counselors and psychologists to assign as much or even more importance to these "lesser" physical expressions of affection and love as to the frequency of marital intercourse itself. John Paul II does not pass over this point. With finely drawn distinctions, he differentiates "sexual excitement" from "sexual emotion" in man-woman relationships, and comments: "Excitement seeks above all to be expressed in the form of sensual and corporeal pleasure. That is, it tends toward the conjugal act... On the other hand, emotion ... even if in its emotive content it is conditioned by the femininity or masculinity of the "other," does not per se tend toward the conjugal act. But it limits itself to other manifestations of affection, which express the spousal meaning of the body, and which nevertheless do not include its (potentially) procreative meaning" (Theology of the Body, 413).
Men and women, married or single, who wish to grow in mutual love cannot adapt themselves passively to the prevalent modern lifestyle which, especially as reflected in the media, is permeated with "sexual excitement" and forms a constant stimulus to it. Purity of heart, sight, and thought is essential if they are to keep sexual excitement within limits where it is at the service of sexual emotion and of genuine intersexual love. Their own intimate consciousness of the real nature of love will be the best incentive to help them keep firmly clear of all those external stimuli which necessarily subject a person more and more to the absorbing power of lust, and so lessen his or her capacity for a true, freely given, and faithful love.
E) Chastity Is for the Strong; As Is Growth in Love
Among the deceptions of marriage is the experience that what should so uniquely unite can separate; it can be filled with tensions and disappointment rather than harmony and peace. The tensions come from the divisive force of concupiscence which can only be overcome and purified through a love that is truly donative rather than possessive. "It is often thought that continence causes inner tensions which man must free himself from. [But rather] continence, understood integrally, is the only way to free man from such tensions" (Theology of the Body, 411). In fact, the chastity proper to marriage unites, reduces tensions, increases respect, and deepens spousal love, so leading this love to its human perfection and preparing the spouses themselves for a love that is infinite and eternal. "The way to attain this goal," Pope Benedict XVI insists, "is not simply by submitting to instinct. Purification and growth in maturity are called for; and these also pass through the path of renunciation. Far from rejecting or 'poisoning' eros, they heal it and restore its true grandeur" (Deus caritas est 5).
"True conjugal love ... is also a difficult love" (Theology of the Body, 290). Of course: love of another is always a battle against self-love. That division of the heart between self and spouse must be overcome: conjugal love gives unity to each heart and unites the two hearts in one love. Carnal concupiscence is not the only expression of self-love, but, since it so pervasively affects the most significant bodily expression of conjugal love, its tendency to dominate must be specially resisted. If it is not, love may not survive this battle.
The heart has become a battlefield between love and lust. The more lust dominates the heart, the less the heart experiences the nuptial meaning of the body. It becomes less sensitive to the gift of the person, which expresses that meaning in the mutual relations of man and woman. (Ibid., 126)
The need for this battle, John Paul II insists, will be evident to those who reflect on the nature of conjugal-corporal love itself,
who sincerely face up to the dangers it is subject to, and who wish to do whatever is necessary to ensure its protection and growth. "Purity ... tends to reveal and strengthen the nuptial meaning of the body in its integral truth. This truth must be known interiorly. In a way, it must be felt with the heart, in order that the mutual relations of man and of woman - even mere looks - may reacquire that authentically nuptial content of their meanings" (Ibid., 213).
John Paul II is sure of the fundamental optimism and attraction of the understanding of married sexuality he outlines. His anthropological analysis becomes moral teaching that is imbued with human appeal. "Does not man feel, at the same time as lust, a deep need to preserve the dignity of the mutual relations, which find their expression in the body, thanks to his masculinity and femininity? Does he not feel the need to impregnate them with everything that is noble and beautiful? Does he not feel the need to confer on them the supreme value which is love?" (Ibid., 167-68).
And yet, however humanly true and appealing the pope's analysis is, it is completely inserted into the Christian framework of Redemption. Love inspires generosity and sacrifice, but if these remain at the purely human level they are not enough. The help of God, obtained especially through the sacraments and fervent prayer, is necessary to attain that conjugal chastity and mutual loving respect without which the best aspirations of love may fail. To illustrate this, John Paul II has recourse to two of the more "romantic" writings of the Old Testament, the Song of Songs and the Book of Tobit. He sees the well-known verse of the former, "fortis est ut mors dilectio" ("love is as strong as death," or "as stern as death" [Cant 8:6]), as perhaps over-idealized in the Canticle but expressed at the true level of spousal love and of humble human experience in Tobit.
It is the concupiscent approach that destroyed the previous marriages of Sarah. Tobiah is well aware of this and leads Sarah to understand how prayer brings strength to pure love so as to enable it overcome the deadening power of concupiscence.
"From the very first moment Tobiah's love had to face the test of life and death. The words about love "stern as death," spoken by the spouses in the Song of Songs in the transport of the heart, assume here the nature of a real test. If love is demonstrated as stern as death, this happens above all in the sense that Tobiah and, together with him, Sarah, unhesitatingly face this test. But in this test of life and death, life wins because, during the test on the wedding night, love, supported by prayer, is revealed as more stern than death"; their love "is victorious because it prays" (Ibid., 376).
Those who love readily understand the human value and attraction of pure, chaste, and disinterested love. But to feel the human attraction is not enough. In the Christian view, chastity remains a gift of God, one that is only achieved through prayer. "Since I knew I could not otherwise be continent unless God granted it to me (and this too was a point of wisdom, to know whose the gift is), I went to the Lord and besought him" (Wis 8:21). Opening his work on continence or chastity, Augustine insists that this virtue is a gift of God for both the single and the married: "Dei donum est". He stresses the same idea elsewhere with special reference to marriage: "The very fact that conjugal chastity has such power, shows that it is a great gift of God."
We have studied the establishment and prevalence over many centuries of the notion that marriage is ordered to the "remedy of concupiscence." The practical effect of this, in our view, has been to create a certain idea that marriage "legitimizes" concupiscence, an idea which, if further analyzed, amounts to saying that "marriage legitimizes disordered sexuality."
I believe that Christian life has suffered from those longstanding and widely held views which have regarded concupiscence not as a force to be resisted (and purified) in marriage, but as simply legitimized by marriage itself where, in
consequence, it can be given free rein. The understanding of marriage as an outlet for concupiscence is, I claim, what seems to be implied in the simple phrase remedium concupiscentiae, and what has in fact been the well-nigh universal interpretation given to the term.
From the standpoint of pastoral theology, I have endeavored to show that the longstanding use of this term has propagated a narrow and impoverished view of marriage which has consistently ignored the consideration of matrimony as a sacrament of sanctification. If so, then the disappearance of the term should further facilitate the renewed theological, ascetical, and vocational understanding of marriage which has been emerging in the last three quarters of a century, and which the current magisterium has so insistently fostered.
In this renewed understanding, rather than being a "remedy" or even as an outlet for concupiscence, marriage should be seen and presented as a call to a particular growth in love - in an effort, with the help of grace, to recapture the purity and chaste self-donation of the original human sexual-conjugal condition.
A balanced Christian vision will avoid both naive optimism and radical pessimism about human nature. It will always see man as a sick creature made for a divine destiny. This balanced view is needed also because the pathologies of human nature can only be properly evaluated by those who both face up to the reality of sin and, being convinced of the goodness of creation and the nature of original health, know the means and effectiveness of the Redemption worked by Christ - which enables us, despite our ailments, to achieve something much greater still than the fullness of that original health.
1. "Matrimonii finis primarius est procreatio atque educatio prolis; secundarius mutuum adiutorium et remedium concupiscentiae" (c. 1013).
2. "However surprising it may seem, the fact is that canon 1013, 1 [CIC 1917] is the first document of the Church to list the ends [of marriage] and to set them out in an hierarchical order... This canon is also the first document of the Church to use the terminology of 'primary' and 'secondary'" (U. Navarrete, S.J., Periodica 56 : 368). cf. A. Sarmiento, El matrimonio cristiano (Pamplona: EUNSA, 2001), 360.
3. See C. Burke, "Marriage: A Personalist or an Institutional Understanding?" Communio 19 (1992): 278-304.
4. "By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordered to the procreation and education of children" (GS 48, repeated in GS 50).
5. "non posthabitis ceteris matrimonii finibus."
6. Pope John Paul II, Address to the Roman Rota, 26 January 1984, AAS 76 (1984): 644.
7. See Optatam totius 16.
8. See, e.g., cc. 747ff. in book 3; and cc. 849, 879, 897, 959, 998, 1008 in book 4.
9. Book 4, "The Sanctifying Office of the Church," part 1, title 7.
10. See also CCC 2201 and 2249.
11. "[D]uplex matrimonii finis." This point of the Catechism, we can note in passing, confirms that the expression "is ordered to" (in the Code or in CCC 1601) is simply equivalent to "has as an end."
12. I have written elsewhere at some length on this, and would refer the interested reader to these studies: "The "bonum coniugum" and the bonum prolis: Ends or Properties of Marriage?" The Jurist 49 (1989): 704-13; "Progressive Jurisprudential Thinking," The Jurist 58 (1998): 437-478.
13. See C. Burke, "Personalism and the 'bona' of Marriage," Studia Canonica 27 (1993): 401-412; Burke, "Marriage: A Personalist or an Institutional Understanding?", Communio 19 (1992), 278-304
14. See Burke, "Progressive Jurisprudential Thinking," 459ff.
15. As late as 1977 the Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law did consider a draft in which the remedium concupiscentiae appeared among the ends of marriage (Communicationes : 123). This passing nod to traditional terminology did not, however, prevent the consultors from dropping the notion completely when it came to the final draft of the new code, approved and promulgated only six years later.
16. Cf. the biblical juxtaposition of bonum and adiutorium in the Jahwist account of the divine institution of marriage in Genesis 2:18.
17. See C. Burke: "St. Augustine and Conjugal Sexuality," Communio 17 (1990): 545-65.
18. In Augustine's view offspring was certainly the purpose or end of marriage ("Cum sint ergo nuptiae causa generandi institutae" [De coniugiis adulterinis 12]). Nevertheless this was not his major point of focus and interest. He took the end of marriage for granted; his interest and arguments were directed to defending its goodness.
19. "In nuptiis tamen bona nuptialia diligantur, proles, fides, sacramentum... Haec bona nuptialia laudet in nuptiis, qui laudare vult nuptias" (De nuptiis et concupiscentia 1.17.19; cf. 1.21.23).
20. See B. Alves Pereira, La doctrine du mariage selon saint Augustin (Paris, 1930); A. Reuter, Sancti Aurelii Augustini doctrina de bonis matrimonii (Rome, 1942).
21. Of course, this is not the same as saying that one can do bad so as to achieve good.
22. "Deus utitur et malis bene" (De civitate dei 18.51); "non solum bonis, verum etiam malis bene uti novit [Deus]" (ibid. 14.27); "Deus omnipotens, Dominus universae creaturae, qui fecit omnia, sicut scriptum est, bona valde, sic ea ordinavit, ut et de bonis et de malis bene faciat" (De agone christiano 7); "Sicut autem bono male uti malum est, sic malo bene uti bonum est. Duo igitur haec, bonum et malum, et alia duo, usus bonus et usus malus, sibimet adiuncta quattuor differentias faciunt. Bene utitur bono continentiam dedicans Deo, male utitur bono continentiam dedicans idolo; male utitur malo concupiscentiam relaxans adulterio, bene utitur malo concupiscentiam restringens connubio" (De peccatorum meritis 1.57).
23. De nupt. et conc. 1.9; 1.27; 2.34; 2.36; De continentia 27; Contra Julianum 3.53; 4.35; 4.65; 5.46, 66; Imperfectum opus contra Iulianum praefatio; 1.65; 2.31; 4.29; 4.107; 5.13; 5.20; 5.23; Contra duas epistolas Pelagianorum 1.33; De gratia Christi et de peccato originali 2.42; De Trinitate 13.23; etc.
24. "[S]ic utantur coniuges boni malo concupiscentiae, sicut sapiens ad opera utique bona ministro utitur imprudente" (Contra Iulianum 5.60); "Ego enim dico, uti libidine non semper esse peccatum; quia malo bene uti non est peccatum" (ibid.); "bellum quod in se casti sentiunt, sive continentes, sive etiam coniugati, hoc dicimus in paradiso, ante peccatum nullo modo esse potuisse. Ipsae ergo etiam nunc sunt nuptiae, sed in generandis filiis tunc nullo malo uterentur, nunc concupiscentiae malo bene utuntur" (ibid. 3.57); "hoc enim malo bene utuntur fideles coniugati" (ibid. 3.54) (cf. ibid. 4.1; 4.35; 5.63; etc.).
25. "[W]ith shameful lust to have licit intercourse, is to use an evil well; to have it illicitly, is to use an evil badly" ("pudenda libidine qui licite concumbit, malo bene utitur; qui autem illicite, malo male utitur" [De nupt. et conc. 2.36]).
26. "sexual intercourse necessary for begetting is free from blame, and it alone is [truly] nuptial" ("Concubitus enim necessarius causa generandi, inculpabilis et solus ipse nuptialis est" [De bono coniugali 11]); cf. "Only for the cause of procreating is the union of the sexes free from blame" ("Sola enim generandi causa est inculpabilis sexus utriusque commixtio" [Sermo 351].
27. "non nuptiarum sit hoc malum, sed veniale sit propter nuptiarum bonum" (De bono viduitatis 4.5.
28. "illis excessibus concumbendi, qui non fiunt causa prolis voluntate dominante, sed causa voluptatis vincente libidine, quae sunt in coniugibus peccata venialia" (De nupt. et conc. 1.27); "veniale peccatum sit propter nuptias Christianas" (Contra Julianum 4.33; cf. 3.43; contra ep. Pel. 1.33; 3.30.
29. Nowhere in the New Testament does the Vulgate employ "venia" in this sense; in the Old Testament four occurrences are to be found (Num 15:28; Wis 12:11; Sir 3:14-15; 25:34). "Indulgentia" appears three times in the Old Testament (Jdt 8:14, Isa 61:1; 63:7); and once, in the passage we are considering, in the New Testament.
30. Contra ep. Pel. 1.33; De nupt. et conc. 16; De gr. et pecc. or. 2.43; cf. Contra Julianum 2.20; 5.63; Imperf. opus contra Julianum 1.68; etc.
31. The Revised Standard Version has "I say this by way of concession, not of command"; the New American Bible (1986) also uses "concession"; the Jerusalem Bible renders the whole passage more loosely: "This is a suggestion, not a rule."
32. The spouse who seeks married intercourse simply because he or she will otherwise not be continent, sins venially (IV Sent., d. 31, q. 2, a. 2, ad 2).
33. "videtur apostolus inconvenienter loqui; indulgentia enim non est nisi de peccato. Per hoc ergo quod apostolus, secundum indulgentiam se dicit matrimonium concessisse, videtur exprimere quod matrimonium sit peccatum" (Super I Cor., c. 7, lect. 1).
34. "apostolus hic indulget, id est, permittit matrimonium, quod est minus bonum quam virginitas, quae non praecipitur, quae est maius bonum" (ibid.).
35. "Alio modo potest accipi indulgentia prout respicit culpam... Et secundum hoc indulgentia refertur ad actum coniugalem secundum quod habet annexam culpam venialem ... scilicet cum quis ad actum matrimonialem ex concupiscentia excitatur, quae tamen infra limites matrimonii sistit, ut scilicet cum sola uxore sit contentus. Quandoque vero est culpa mortalis, puta cum concupiscentia fertur extra limites matrimonii, scilicet cum aliquis accedit ad uxorem, aeque libenter vel libentius ad aliam accessurus" (ibid.; cf. STh suppl., q. 40, a. 6).
36. "Justified," as used by these two authors, would seem to have a much more positive meaning than modern parlance attributes to it. It is not merely that the act is "excused," but that it is rendered just in the biblical sense, that is, holy and pleasing to God.
37. IV Sent., d. 31, q. 2, a. 2.
38. See IV Sent., d. 31, q. 2, a. 1.
39. "Nuptiarum igitur bonum semper est quidem bonum; sed in populo Dei fuit aliquando legis obsequium; nunc est infirmitatis remedium, in quibusdam vero humanitatis solatium" (De bono vid. 8.11; cf. Gen. ad litt. 9.7).
40. "Dixisti enim: 'Sanctam virginitatem confidentia suae salutis et roboris contempsisse remedia, ut gloriosa posset exercere certamina'. Quaero quae remedia contempserit? Respondebis: Nuptias. Quaero: Ista remedia contra quem morbum sunt necessaria? Remedium quippe a medendo, id est a medicando, nomen accepit. Simul itaque videmus ambo remedium nuptiarum: cur tu laudas libidinis morbum ... si non ei resistat aut continentiae retinaculum, aut coniugale remedium?" (Contra Jul. 3.21.42).
41. IV Sent., d. 33, q. 2, a. 1, ad 4; Super I Cor. c. 7, lect. 1.
42. IV Sent., d. 2, q. 1, a. 1.
43. IV Sent., d. 26, q. 2, a. 3, ad 4.
44. STh III, q. 65, a. 1; cf. IV Sent., d. 2, q. 2; d. 26, q. 2.
45. Hugh of St. Victor, De sacramentis 2.11 (PL 176:494).
46. Peter Lombard, IV Sent., d. 26 (PL 192:908-9).
47. "Est usus matrimonii ... in remedium contra concupiscentiam, dum illa refrenat ut medicamentum" (Bonaventure, IV Sent., d. 26, a. 1, q. 1).
48. "Coniugium ... quod est in remedium libidinosae concupiscentiae" (Alexander of Hales, In lib. IV, d. 26 [Glossa in IV Libros Sententiarum (Quaracchi, 1957), 457]).
49. One of the few exceptions is Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621): "Tertius finis est ut sit coniugium in remedium contra concupiscentiam" (De sacramento matrimonii 1.10).
50. Hermann Busenbaum, Medulla theologiae moralis, tract. 6, De matrimonio, c. 2.
51. "Fines [matrimonii] intrinseci accidentales sunt duo, procreatio prolis, et remedium concupiscentiae" (Alphonsus Liguori, Theologiae moralis [Turin, 1888], lib. 6, p. 881).
52. Here is an extensive though not exhaustive list: A. Ballerini, S.J., Opus theologicum morale (Prati, 1892), 6:167; G. Bucceroni, S.J., Institutiones theologiae moralis secundum doctrinam S. Thomae et S. Alphonsi (Rome, 1898), 2:334; C. Marc, C.Ss.R., Institutiones morales Alphonsianae (Lugduni, 1900), 2:447; C. Pesch, S.J., Praelectiones dogmaticae (Freiburg, 1900), "De sacramentis," pars 2, n. 691; A. Lehmkuhl, S.J., Theologia moralis (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1914), 2:616; F. M. Cappello, S.J., Tractactus canonico-moralis (Rome, 1927), 3:39; L. Wouters, C.Ss.R., Manuale theologiae moralis (Bruges, 1933), 2:542; E. Genicot, S.J., Institutiones theologiae moralis (Brussels, 1936), 2:410; J. Aertnys, C.Ss.R. and C. A. Damen, C.Ss.R., Theologia moralis (Turin, 1950), 2:473; H. Noldin, S.J., Summa theologiae moralis (Innsbruck, 1962), 429; B. H. Merkelbach, O.P., Summa theologiae moralis (Bruges, 1956), 3:759; E. F. Regatillo, S.J., et M. Zalba, S.J., Theologiae moralis summa (Madrid, 1954), 3:582; G. Mausbach, Teologia morale (Alba, 1956), 3:144; Ad. Tanquerey, Synopsis theologiae moralis et pastoralis (Paris, 1955), 381.
53. T. Slater, S.J., A Manual of Moral Theology (New York, 1925), 200; H. Davis, S.J., Moral and Pastoral Theology (New York, 1958), 4:69.
54. Dictionary of Moral Theology (Westminster, Md.: Newman Press, 1962), 732.
55. Bernard Häring, The Law of Christ (Cork: Mercier Press, 1967): translated from the 7th German edition of Das Gesetz Christi of 1963.
56. New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967), s.v. "MARRIAGE (THEOLOGY OF)."
57. Biblia Comentada 6:403 (Madrid: BAC, 1965).
58. John C. Ford, S.J., and Gerald Kelly, S.J., Contemporary Moral Theology (Westminster, Md.: Newman Press, 1963), 2:48, 75.
59. Ibid., 2:48.
60. Ibid., 2:97. Augustine might have been surprised at this comment which fails to grasp the distinction he makes between sexual pleasure (which is a good accompaniment of marital intercourse) and lust which is its bad accompaniment: see Burke, "St. Augustine and Conjugal Sexuality," 551-53.
61. Ford and Kelly, Contemporary Moral Theology, 2:99.
62. The 1950 edition of a much-used manual thus explains the purpose of the remedium concupiscentiae, as an end of marriage: "so that those who are conscious of their weakness, and do not want to sustain the attack of the flesh, can use the remedy of matrimony in order to avoid sins of lust" [Aertnys-Damen, Theologia Moralis, 2:473]).
63. H. Doms, "Conception personnaliste du mariage d'après S. Thomas," Revue Thomiste 45 (1939): 763.
64. See A. Perego, "Fine ed essenza della società coniugale," Divus Thomas 56 (1953): 357ff.
65. H. Denzinger, ed., Enchiridion symbolorum, 21-23 ed. (Herder, 1937), n. 2241.
66. D. M. Prümmer, Manuale theologiae moralis (Barcelona: Herder, 1961), 3:504.
67. Pope John Paul II, The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan (Boston: Pauline Books, 1997).
68. 1 Cor 7:1-2, 8-9. Saint Thomas, it should be noticed, is quite critical of St. Paul's phrase, "It is better to marry than to burn," which he considers an "abusive" way of putting things: "Est autem hic attendendum quod apostolus utitur abusiva comparatione; nam nubere bonum est, licet minus, uri autem est malum. Melius est ergo, id est magis tolerandum, quod homo minus bonum habeat, quam quod incurrat incontinentiae malum" (Super I Cor., c. 7, lect. 1) (emphasis added).
69. It is good news to hear of the new translation by Michael Waldstein of Theology of the Body. However, in one point of his rendering of John Paul II's text, there seems to be room for disagreement (I follow his comments given in an interview with Zenit, 1 June 2006). He considers that the English translations hitherto in use are misleading in speaking of "lust," when simple sexual desire is closer to John Paul II's thought ("Desire can be good or bad; lust is a vice", he rightly says). As a particular example he adduces precisely the passage in Matt 5:28. Translations up to now have followed the Revised Standard Version according to which Jesus says, "Whoever looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Waldstein considers that "John Paul II's translation is much closer to the Greek original; it has 'Whoever looks at a woman to desire her'...".
It is seldom that translations are not debatable. In this case I would not agree with Michael Waldstein. The Friburg Greek Lexicon gives three shades of meaning (and three biblical examples) for the Greek word used here, epithumeo: "(1) gener. of a strong impulse toward someth. desire, long for (Lk 16.21); (2) in a good sense, of natural or commendable desire long for, earnestly desire (Lk 22.15); (3) in a bad sense, of unrestricted desire for a forbidden pers. or thing lust for or after, crave, covet (Mt 5.28; Acts 20.33)" (cf. BibleWorks commentary). Surely it is indisputable that in this passage Jesus is speaking of desire that is gravely disordered; otherwise how explain his judgment that the look is equivalent to having "already committed adultery with her in his heart"? It is clear that John Paul II himself, in his audience of 17 September 1980, proposes this understanding (Theology of the Body, 148; cf. ibid., 157).
Randall Colton, in a recent article, shows the philosophical confusion that results from identifying lust with simple sexual desire (see Randall Colton, "Two Rival Versions of Sexual Virtue: Simon Blackburn and John Paul II on Lust and Chastity," The Thomist 70 : 71-101).
70. A rotal sentence quotes St. Thomas, "Man is naturally made for marriage. Hence the conjugal bond, or marriage, is natural" (STh suppl., q. 41, a. 1), and adds: "Marriage as proposed by the Church corresponds to the natural understanding which man and woman have of that exclusive, permanent and fruitful union with a member of the other sex to which one is naturally led by the human conjugal instinct" (coram C. Burke, 12 December 1994, Rotae Romanae Decisiones [Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997], vol. 86, p. 719).
71. Conjugal union is a matter of both body and spirit. To be attracted by the body of one's spouse and to want to be united in body with the spouse is indeed part of normal conjugal desire. But another, and more important, part of that desire is to be attracted by the person of the other and to want to have a union of persons. The importance of this double aspect becomes clearer if we think in terms of love and not just of attraction or desire. Human spousal love is directed not mainly to the body but above all to the person of the other. The two loves - for the body and for the person - should ideally be in perfect harmony. In practice they often are not. In fact they can be in opposition (i.e., when desire for the body detaches itself from love for the person). That this can happen is nothing new, but it is certainly disturbing and a matter to be taken firmly into account.
72. I am seeking to develop an argument in personalist terms, and Augustine can scarcely be classified as a personalist in the modern sense. He nowhere distinguishes concupiscence from good sexual attraction, and some of his statements can indeed appear to equate concupiscence with simple sexual desire or with the pleasure accompanying marital intercourse. Nevertheless, as I have sought to show elsewhere, this is not his true mind: concupiscence for him does not mean the physical pleasure accompanying conjugal intercourse (which he defends), but the tendency to let the urge for that pleasure eclipse its true purpose and meaning (see Burke, "St. Augustine and Conjugal Sexuality," 551-53). Those modern commentators who accuse Augustine of pessimism fail at least as much he does to distinguish between "good" and "bad" sexual desire. My wish is not to present Augustine as a personalist but rather to draw attention to the depth and realism of his analysis, so underappreciated today.
73. See GS 12, 23, 26, 28-29, 40-46.
74. GS 47-52.
75. GS 49.
76. It is clear that there is no consummation through a copula not carried out "humano modo," as verified for instance in the case of contraceptive intercourse - where there is no true unio carnuum. It is not so clear to what degree or at what point insistence (short of physical brute force) of one party overcoming the reluctance of the other to have intercourse so "dehumanizes" the act that it can scarcely be considered any longer a physical expression of marital union.
77. C. Burke, "The Inviolability of the Conjugal Act," in John F. Boyle, ed., Creative Love: The Ethics of Human Reproduction (Front Royal, Va.: Christendom Press, 1989), 151-67.
78. George Bernard Shaw was being perhaps crude, but not flippant nor cynical, when he commented that contraception amounts to "mutual masturbation."
79. Countless examples could be cited of the strong reaction the pope's words provoked in many quarters, revealing just how far our world is from appreciating the true challenges of married love.
80. Aquinas, Super I Cor., c. 7, lect. 1.
81. Abstaining from or renouncing secular activities and the satisfactions or pleasures that may derive from them has been central to religious life since its inception. While the roots of this religious spirituality go back to Jesus' invitation to the rich young man (Matt 19:21), it is debatable whether it has offered the necessary inspiration and dynamism to guide lay people in general and married people in particular to the full goal of Christian life. It is true that Jesus said "whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33), yet it is also clear that celibacy, whether in religious life or otherwise, is not the only Christian way and indeed that, despite St. Paul's wish ("I wish that all were as I myself am"), God is not calling everyone to be celibate. Pope John Paul II recalls how Paul himself acknowledges that each one "has his own special gift from God."
82. There are various reasons why abstinence may enter periodically into conjugal life, but it would seem fundamentally flawed to propose abstinence as an ideal, or as a condition for holiness, in those called to Christian marriage. Saint Paul's suggestion to spouses to abstain "for a time" (1 Cor 7:5) cannot be broadened into a general norm.
83. Interpersonal harmony, between spirit and spirit, was not a necessary part of that state. Man and woman had freely to create that harmony between themselves, and each one with God. How in their first test they failed to do so, and then had to seek to restore it, forms the background to the whole human drama and to our present study.
84. See John Paul II, Theology of the Body, 122-23.
85. "... contemporary anthropology, which likes to refer to so-called fundamental experiences, such as the 'experience of shame'" (John Paul II, Theology of the Body, 52).
86. Ibid., 204. John Paul II is at one with Augustine's analysis of the situation. Original nakedness provoked no untoward desire and hence no shame in Adam and Eve, "not because they could not see, but because they felt nothing in their members to make them ashamed of what they saw" (De nupt. et conc. 1.5.6).
87. John Paul II, Theology of the Body, 414; cf. 75, 120-22, 127, 349, etc. Augustine emphasizes that the desires of concupiscence must be resisted; otherwise they dominate us: "Est ergo in nobis peccati concupiscentia, quae non est permittenda regnare; sunt eius desideria, quibus non est oboediendum, ne oboedientibus regnet" (De Continentia, 8).
88. See Theology of the Body, 151-152 for the "depersonalizing" effect of concupiscence.
89. "in amore concupiscentiae amans proprie amat seipsum, cum vult illud bonum quod concupiscit" (Aquinas, I-II, q. 27, a. 3).
90. This certainly implies a restraint, but it is a restraint that should be an expression of love and consideration, just as when husband or wife restrains his or her temper out of consideration for the other.
91. "In earthly life, the dominion of the spirit over the body - and the simultaneous subordination of the body to the spirit - can, as the result of persevering work on themselves, express a personality that is spiritually mature" (Theology of the Body, 241). This implies not a one-sided victory of the spirit over the body, but a perfect harmony between the two; so it "does not signify any disincarnation of the body nor, consequently, a dehumanization of man. On the contrary, it signifies his perfect realization. In fact, in the composite, psychosomatic being which man is, perfection cannot consist in a mutual opposition of spirit and body. But it consists in a deep harmony between them, in safe-guarding the primacy of the spirit" (ibid.). John Paul II, applying the pauline phrase about "discord in the body" (1 Cor 12:25) to the phenomenon of bodily shame resulting from original sin, insists on how a "transformation of this state" can be achieved "to the point of gradual victory over that discord in the body. This victory can and must take place in man's heart. This is the way to purity, that is, 'to control one's own body in holiness and honor'." (ibid. 204-205).
92. Pope John Paul has provided this clear and positive guidance - albeit in a dense catechesis whose very length may make it appear inaccessible to the ordinary reader. The "popularising" of his teaching, in a form accessible to married couples and those preparing for marriage, is a pastoral task of immense importance.
93. Augustine, Sermo 128.
94. Karol Wojtyla: Love and Responsibility, (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1993), 60.
95. Concupiscence is an effect of original sin. What stems from sin, can only be remedied by virtue. So it is not marriage itself but marital chastity that remedies concupiscence.
96. C. Burke, "Marriage as a Sacrament of Sanctification": Annales Theologici 9 (1995): 85-86.
97. Augustine, Contra Julianum, 5:62.
98. "ut scivi quoniam aliter non possum esse continens nisi Deus det, et hoc ipsum erat sapientiae scire cuius esset hoc donum, adii Dominum et deprecatus sum illum" (Vulgate).
99. Augustine, De Continentia, 1.
100. Augustine, Contra Julianum, 3:43.