A) The "Remedium Concupiscentiae" as an End of Marriage

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."[1] 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.[2]
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,[3] 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.[4] 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"[5] (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."[6]
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.[7] One of the novelties of the 1983 Code is in fact the inclusion of canons that are simply theological statements of doctrine.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] 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."[11]
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. [12] 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.[13]
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."[14]
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."[15] 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,[16] 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.