C) Transition: From Marriage Affected by Concupiscence to Concupiscence "Remedied" by Marriage

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"[36] 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,[37] and to the unique unbreakable nature of the married bond.[38]
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."[39]
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?[40] 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.[41] 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".[42]
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)[43]. 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.[44] 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,[45] while Peter Lombard (1100-1160) simply says that marriage is "ad remedium" or "in remedium," without specifying the operation of this remedy.[46] 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."[47] 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."[48] This, rather than the precision of Thomas, is the line that will be followed in later centuries.[49] 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 concupiscentiae."[50] 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."[51]
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,[52] 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.[53] The Dictionary of Moral Theology says that "the secondary end is the remedy of concupiscence."[54]
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)."[55] The 1967 New Catholic Encyclo-pedia[56] restates this traditional doctrine, as does the University of Salamanca's Biblia Comentada.[57] The 1963 edition of the well-known Ford-Kelly Contemporary Moral Theology lists the "remedy of concupiscence" among the essential ends of marriage.[58] 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";[59] "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."[60] Nevertheless, the authors state that they prefer to continue using the traditional expression remedium concupiscentiae.[61]
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;[62] 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.