Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Right Ordering of Marital Intimacy

Marital Relations in view of Church Teaching

This article presents various teachings of the Church and Saints, in order to shed their light on a subject which, although it calls for much discretion, is nevertheless important to be understood rightly, from both a moral and from a doctrinal perspective.

Intercourse and Eating, a Theologically Similar Relationship

St. Augustine, On the Good of Marriage: "What food is to a man's well being, such is sexual intercourse to the welfare of the whole human race."

St. Francis de Sales, Introduction into the Devout Life, Third Part, Ch. 39: "There is a certain resemblance between sexual pleasures and those taken in eating. [...] Just as eating not merely for the preservation of life but to maintain the mutual association and consideration we owe one another is an extremely just and virtuous act, so also mutual, lawful satisfaction of both parties in holy matrimony is called a debt by St. Paul."

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 147, Art. 8: "[F]asting was instituted by the Church in order to bridle the concupiscences of the flesh, which regard pleasures of touch in connection with food and sex."

Note that St. Thomas did not say concupiscence IS pleasure, but regards pleasure.  Do not fall into the error, which holds that concupiscence is pleasure, because such an error will render you heretical.  Concupiscence is the inordinate desire for pleasure, that is desiring pleasure more than is lawful and seeking it for its own sake, without regard to the ordained purpose of the actions to which the pleasure is attached.

Just as we know that those whose "end is destruction; whose God is their belly" (Philippians 3:19), are destroyed by their disordered use of lawful created goods (food), so too are there dangerous actions that must be avoided, which by their disorder, render unlawful what would otherwise be good and holy. These sinfully disordered actions will be touched upon later in this article, once we have examined the doctrinal foundation, upon which a right morality must stand.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part I-II, Q. 34, Art. 1: "A sin, in human acts, is that which is against the order of reason. Now the order of reason consists in its ordering everything to its end in a fitting manner. Wherefore it is no sin if one, by the dictate of reason, makes use of certain things in a fitting manner and order for the end to which they are adapted, provided this end be something truly good. Now just as the preservation of the bodily nature of one individual is a true good, so, too, is the preservation of the nature of the human species a very great good. And just as the use of food is directed to the preservation of life in the individual, so is the use of venereal acts directed to the preservation of the whole human race. Hence Augustine says (De Bono Conjug. xvi): 'What food is to a man's well being, such is sexual intercourse to the welfare of the whole human race.' Wherefore just as the use of food can be without sin, if it be taken in due manner and order, as required for the welfare of the body, so also the use of venereal acts can be without sin, provided they be performed in due manner and order, in keeping with the end of human procreation."

In other words, sex, like food, has its purpose. Food provides nutrition to the body, sustaining it in this world, and therefore well ordered eating (eating for proper reasons) is good, and even the enjoyment thereof.  So, too, do marital relations provide offspring for the continuation of the human race, sustaining it in this world; this is the end for which they were created.

Pleasurable Procreative Marital Intercourse is a Created Good

Genesis 1:27-28: "And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created themAnd God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply,"

Genesis 2:8: " And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning: wherein he placed man whom he had formed."

If they were created male and female and told to multiply, then it follows that from the very beginning of their existence, Adam and Eve had the full capacity of their respective genders, which includes the ability to cooperate in procreation.

If Adam and Eve had chosen to immediately fulfill the command, not only would they have done so without sin (since "God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply" - and God does not command  us to sin), but their obedience to God's command would also bring about pleasure, both the spiritual pleasure of obeying God and using His created goods as He ordained and also natural pleasure of the senses.

It is Heresy to call Created Goods Evil

Now that it is established that both marital intercourse and pleasure are created goods, we need to examine the logical conclusions of those who would condemn either one as being intrinsically evil (that is, evil of itself, without consideration of the motive, desire or will behind the act).

The word "creature", means something that was "created".  Bear this in mind while you read the following dogmatic definition of the Holy See:

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Session 11, ex cathedra: "It firmly believes, professes and teaches that every creature of God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because according to the word of the Lord not what goes into the mouth defiles a person, and because the difference in the Mosaic law between clean and unclean foods belongs to ceremonial practices, which have passed away and lost their efficacy with the coming of the gospel."

The above passage, in context, treats of animals used for food.  But note that the word "creature" was used.  Since God the Holy Ghost does not permit any error at all to be taught from His infallible Magisterium, we know with certainty then, that it is a divinely revealed truth that "every creature of God is good," even when extended beyond the mind of the Fathers, who were specifically discussing dietary discipline.

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Session 11, ex cathedra: "[T]he one true God, Father, Son and holy Spirit, is the creator of all things that are, visible and invisible, who, when he willed it, made from his own goodness all creatures, both spiritual and corporeal, good indeed because they are made by the supreme good, but mutable because they are made from nothing, and it asserts that there is no nature of evil because every nature, in so far as it is a nature, is good."

Therefore if anyone asserts that sex or pleasure are evil are professing a heresy, which is in opposition to both Scripture and the infallible words of Pope Eugene IV.  St. Thomas Aquinas, who lived two centuries before the above dogmatic definition, stated the same thing:

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Supplement, Q. 41, Art. 3: "If we suppose the corporeal nature to be created by the good God we cannot hold that those things which pertain to the preservation of the corporeal nature and to which nature inclines, are altogether evil; wherefore, since the inclination to beget an offspring whereby the specific nature is preserved is from nature, it is impossible to maintain that the act of begetting children is altogether unlawful, so that it be impossible to find the mean of virtue therein; unless we suppose, as some are mad enough to assert, that corruptible things were created by an evil god, whence perhaps the opinion mentioned in the text is derived (Sent. iv, D, 26); wherefore this is a most wicked heresy."

Some Pleasures Good, Some Evil

That does not mean that all pleasure that one has in intercourse is good, however.   Pleasure itself, being created by God is good, but remember that one can use created goods in a manner contrary to their natural end, contrary to reason, and that by doing so, one commits sin.  This is a basic tenet of the Natural Law.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part I-II, Q. 34, Art. 1: "We must therefore say that some pleasures are good, and that some are evil. ... Now pleasures which are conjoined to actions are more akin to those actions, than desires, which precede them in point of time. Wherefore, since the desires of good actions are good, and of evil actions, evil; much more are the pleasures of good actions good, and those of evil actions evil."

St. Augustine, Marriage and Concupiscence, 1:15:17: "I am supposing, then, although you are not lying [with your wife] for the sake of procreating offspring, you are not for the sake of lust obstructing their procreation by an evil prayer or an evil deed. Those who do this, although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame."

In line with the above quotations from Sts. Thomas and Augustine, then, we can conclude with certainty that any use of the marital act that seeks to circumvent conception or even desires to do so (such as the Rhythm Method, NFP), is sinful use thereof, in that the evil desire to avoid the natural end of marriage has tainted the exercise of the act.

The evil of lust is when the venereal pleasure, which is rightly associated with procreative, marital intercourse, is wrongly enjoyed outside its association with procreative, marital intercourse. You see this is what the devil does with just about every good that God has created. Instead of using the good in the natural manner that God designed and enjoying any pleasure as a reward for the performance of the good and natural act, the devil gets us to want the pleasure outside the good and natural act of procreative, marital sexual relations, or to desire this pleasure for its own sake. This is lust.

Once an intimate coupling has ended with a final deposit of seed, it is over.  Anything done beyond this time would be for pleasure alone and not in line with the natural end of procreation.  Any pleasure obtained in such a way would be unreasonable, disordered and evil pleasure.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part II-II, Q. 153, Art. 3: "The more necessary a thing is, the more it behooves one to observe the order of reason in its regard; wherefore the more sinful it becomes if the order of reason be forsaken. Now the use of venereal acts, as stated in the foregoing Article, is most necessary for the common good, namely the preservation of the human race. Wherefore there is the greatest necessity for observing the order of reason in this matter: so that if anything be done in this connection against the dictate of reason's ordering, it will be a sin. Now lust consists essentially in exceeding the order and mode of reason in the matter of venereal acts."

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part II-II, Q. 154, Art. 1: "(T)he sin of lust consists in seeking venereal pleasure not in accordance with right reason"

Husbands and wives commit the sin of lust if their sexual activities do not aid in, lead to, and end with procreative sexual intercourse.  The Church Fathers unanimously condemn any intercourse that is not within these confines.

The Early Christians on the Procreative End of Marriage

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, 6:23:18: “The genital [‘generating’] part of the body, as the name itself teaches, has been received by us for no other purpose than the generation of offspring.”

St. Jerome, Against Jovinian, 1:19, A.D. 393: “But I wonder why he [the heretic Jovinianus] set Judah and Tamar before us for an example, unless perchance even harlots give him pleasure; or Onan, who was slain because he grudged his brother’s seed. Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children?”

St. Augustine, The Morals of the Manichees, 18:65, A.D. 388: “This proves that you [Manicheans] approve of having a wife, not for the procreation of children, but for the gratification of passion. In marriage, as the marriage law declares, the man and woman come together for the procreation of children. Therefore, whoever makes the procreation of children a greater sin than copulation, forbids marriage and makes the woman not a wife but a prostitute, who for some gifts presented to her is joined to the man to gratify his passion.”

St. Augustine, Against Faustus, 22:30: “For as the eternal law— that is, the will of God the Creator of all— for the preservation of the natural order, permits the indulgence of the bodily appetite under the guidance of reason in sexual intercourse, not for the gratification of passion, but for the continuance of the race through the procreation of children;” 

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Supplement Q. 41, Art. 4: "For if the motive for the marriage act be a virtue, whether of justice that they may render the debt, or of religion, that they may beget children for the worship of God, it is meritorious. But if the motive [for the marriage act] be lust, yet not excluding the marriage blessings, namely that he would by no means be willing to go to another woman, it is a venial sin; while if he exclude the marital blessings, so as to be disposed to act in like manner with any woman, it is a mortal sin.

Mortally Sinful Sexual Disorders That Will Send You to Hell

St. Barnabas, Letter of Barnabas 10:8, AD 74: "Thou shalt not be like to those whom we hear of as committing wickedness with the mouth with the body through uncleanness; nor shalt thou be joined to those impure women who commit iniquity with the mouth with the body through uncleanness."

St. Augustine, On The Good of Marriage: "For necessary sexual intercourse for begetting [children] is alone worthy of marriage. But that which goes beyond this necessity no longer follows reason but lust. [...] [T]hey [must] not turn away from them the mercy of God [...] by changing the natural use into that which is against nature, which is more damnable when it is done in the case of husband or wife. Of so great power is the ordinance of the Creator, and the order of creation, that [...] when the man shall wish to use a body part of the wife not allowed for this purpose, the wife is more shameful, if she suffer it to take place in her own case, than if in the case of another woman."

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 154, A. 11: “(W)herever there occurs a special kind of deformity whereby the venereal act is rendered unbecoming, there is a determinate species of lust. This may occur in two ways: First, through being contrary to right reason, and this is common to all lustful vices; secondly, because, in addition, it is contrary to the natural order of the venereal act as becoming to the human race: and this is called "the unnatural vice."  This may happen in several ways. First, by procuring pollution, without any copulation (i.e. self-stimulation, see next quotation from St. Thomas), for the sake of venereal pleasure: this pertains to the sin of "uncleanness" which some call "effeminacy." Secondly, by copulation with a thing of undue species, and this is called "bestiality." Thirdly, by copulation with an undue sex, male with male, or female with female, as the Apostle states (Romans 1:27): and this is called the "vice of sodomy." Fourthly, by not observing the natural manner of copulation (see the above quotes by St. Augustine and St. Barnabas), either as to undue means (i.e. procuring unnecessary and superfluous agents or devices), or as to other monstrous and bestial manners of copulation.”

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 148, Art. 6: "On the part of the body, mention is made of "uncleanness," which may refer either to the inordinate emission of any kind of superfluities, or especially to the emission of the semen. Hence a gloss on Ephesians 5:3, "But fornication and all uncleanness," says: "That is, any kind of incontinence that has reference to lust."

Do not forget that even willful venial sin is also odious and offensive to God, and if indulged persistently, can bring on spiritual blindness and lead to mortal sin.

Decree of the Holy Office under Pope Innocent XI, March 4, 1679: "The act of marriage exercised for pleasure only is entirely free of all fault and venial defect." - CONDEMNED (Denzinger 1159) 

If a couple wishes to be perfect, they should pray to God to keep them from sinning during the act, and that they may beget holy children to love and serve God.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent, Sacrament of Matrimony

The Motives and Ends of Marriage: "We have now to explain why man and woman should be joined in marriage. First of all, nature itself by an instinct implanted in both sexes impels them to such companionship, and this is further encouraged by the hope of mutual assistance in bearing more easily the discomforts of life and the infirmities of old age.

"A second reason for marriage is the desire of family, not so much, however, with a view to leave after us heirs to inherit our property and fortune, as to bring up children in the true faith and in the service of God. That such was the principal object of the holy Patriarchs when they married is clear from Scripture. Hence the Angel, when informing Tobias of the means of repelling the violent assaults of the evil demon, says: I will show thee who they are over whom the devil can prevail; for they who in such manner receive matrimony as to shut out God from themselves and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule which have not understanding, over them the devil hath power. He then adds: Thou shalt take the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust, that in the seed of Abraham thou mayest obtain a blessing in children. It was also for this reason that God instituted marriage from the beginning; and therefore married persons who, to prevent conception or procure abortion, have recourse to medicine, are guilty of a most heinous crime ­­ nothing less than wicked conspiracy to commit murder.

"A third reason has been added, as a consequence of the fall of our first parents. On account of the loss of original innocence the passions began to rise in rebellion against right reason; and man, conscious of his own frailty and unwilling to fight the battles of the flesh, is supplied by marriage with an antidote by which to avoid sins of lust. For fear of fornication, says the Apostle, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband; and a little after, having recommended to married persons a temporary abstinence from the marriage debt, to give themselves to prayer, he adds: Return together again, lest Satan tempt you for your incontinency.

"These are ends, some one of which, those who desire to contract marriage piously and religiously, as becomes the children of the Saints, should propose to themselves. If to these we add other causes which induce to contract marriage, and, in choosing a wife, to prefer one person to another, such as the desire of leaving an heir, wealth, beauty, illustrious descent, congeniality of disposition ­­ such motives, because not inconsistent with the holiness of marriage, are not to be condemned. We do not find that the Sacred Scriptures condemn the Patriarch Jacob for having chosen Rachel for her beauty, in preference to Lia."

The Use of Marriage: "Finally, the use of marriage is a subject which pastors should so treat as to avoid any expression that may be unfit to meet the ears of the faithful, that may be calculated to offend the piety of some, or excite the laughter of others. The words of the Lord are chaste words; and the teacher of a Christian people should make use of the same kind of language, one that is characterized by singular gravity and purity of soul. Two lessons of instruction to the faithful are, then, to be specially insisted upon.

"The first is that marriage is not to be used for purposes of lust or sensuality, but that its use is to be restrained within those limits which, as we have already shown, have been fixed by the Lord. It should be remembered that the Apostle admonishes: They that have wives, let them be as though they had them not, and that St. Jerome says: The love which a wise man cherishes towards his wife is the result of judgment, not the impulse of passion; he governs the impetuosity of desire, and is not hurried into indulgence. There is nothing more shameful than that a husband should love his wife as an adulteress.

"But as every blessing is to be obtained from God by holy prayer, the faithful are also to be taught sometimes to abstain from the marriage debt, in order to devote themselves to prayer. Let the faithful understand that (this religious continence), according to the proper and holy injunction of our predecessors, is particularly to be observed for at least three days before Communion, and oftener during the solemn fast of Lent.

"Thus will they find the blessings of marriage to be daily increased by an abundance of divine grace; and living in the pursuit of piety, they will not only spend this life in peace and tranquility, but will also repose in the true and firm hope, which confoundeth not, of arriving, through the divine goodness, at the possession of that life which is eternal."

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