B) A More Comprehensive Moral Evaluation of Conjugal Intercourse

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,[73] especially in the chapter it devotes to marriage.[74] 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."[75] 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.[76] 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.