B) The Purification of Conjugal Love from Excessive Sensuality

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."[87]
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.[88]
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."[89] 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.[90]
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.[91]
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.[92]