Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Linkage: Virtuous Sex Edition

I want to write (as much as I ever want to write, anyway), but unlike Darwin I am not gifted with rapid loquacity and I Have No Time. So here, a few quick links on Topic A.

Over at the National Catholic Register blog, Simcha Fisher posts on the sometimes ugly presentation of abstinence-based sex education, and on the right ways to talk to teens and pre-teens about chastity. In the second post, a commenter recommends a program for tweens called Purely You, which we are considering using with our now-ten-year-old.

Brandon posts a selection from Aquinas's commentary on 1 Corinthians. I've been meditating on this for a few days.

Hence it should be noted that the conjugal act is sometimes meritorious and without any mortal or venial sin, as when it is directed to the good of procreation and education of a child for the worship of God; for then it is an act of religion; or when it is performed for the sake of rendering the debt, it is an act of justice. But every virtuous act is meritorious, if it is performed with charity. But sometimes it is accompanied with venial sin, namely, when one is excited to the matrimonial act by concupiscence, which nevertheless stays within the limits of the marriage, namely, that he is content with his wife only. But sometimes it is performed with mortal sin, as when concupiscence is carried beyond the limits of the marriage; for example, when the husband approaches the wife with the idea that he would just as gladly or more gladly approach another woman. In the first way, therefore, the act of marriage requires no concession; in the second way it obtains a concession, inasmuch as someone consenting to concupiscence toward the wife is not guilty of mortal sin; in the third way there is absolutely no concession.

I'm not Aquinas, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that when he says "concupiscence", what he means is not arousal, which is a natural effect of the attraction between man and woman, but the lustful thoughts and fantasies and actions that can become entwined with sex, even in marriage. Note that he doesn't even touch on the quality of the sex the couple is having, because he is concerned with the motive and intent. Wild passionate sex in a marriage can be not just good, but meritorious if it's performed with charity; it can involve venial sin if it strays into concupiscence; it can be a mortal sin if it's mere satisfaction of lust. Bland and unexciting sex can be not just good, but meritorious it it's performed with charity; it can involve venial sin if it strays into concupiscence; it can be a mortal sin if it's mere satisfaction of lust. We don't always get to control our bodies. Couples meet at different temperatures sometimes, due to hormones or stress or illness or weariness or past experience. Bad sex is sex that involves mental or physical sin, not sex that isn't mind-blowingly fantastic. That said, spouses have an obligation to total self-giving, whether that's the gift of honesty about one's physical readiness ("I really am exhausted tonight") or the gift of surrendering oneself to be pleasured by the other.


Brandon said...

I think you're essentially right. Aquinas uses concupiscence in different senses that are more broad and less broad, and he isn't very clear here or elsewhere, but it seems to me that the basic idea, which he is getting from Augustine, is that of not-rationally-ordered attachment to sensible good, i.e., grasping after a lesser good as though it were a greater good. Lust, in this case.

Thus the idea is that conjugal sex done primariliy because it is a good gift of God is an act of the virtue of religion (rendering God His due) and conjugal sex done primarily because it is a good for one's spouse and because one's spouse is one's spouse is an act of the virtue of justice (rendering one's spouse their due). In both these cases, one is acting primarily out of love of God and neighbor (in this case, one's spouse) -- hence the merit of charity, which makes it a very good deed indeed, because there is no higher form of good deed than an act of charity.

But if it is done without primary regard for either God or the good of the spouse but due to attachment to pleasure, it is an act of the vice of lust, because a lesser good is given a greater place than it actually deserves. But such is the character of marriage that as long as one approaches conjugal sex in a way that is still consistent with marriage itself, any lust is always only venial, because love of God and spouse still are able to have a place (it's just that the act is defective as a way of loving them). If, on the other hand, conjugal sex is done in a way inconsistent with marriage as such (e.g., without genuine fidelity), it is lust in the full sense, inconsistent with genuine love of God and spouse, and thus a mortal sin.

So I would read it. I think it's interesting to read it in comparison with Aquinas's brief discussion of sex in the garden of Eden (which, of course, would have had no problem with concupiscence) at ST 1.98.2 (especially the reply to the third objection), in which he firmly says that of course Adam and Eve would have had sex, and not only that, they would have enjoyed it much more intensely.

MrsDarwin said...

How much fun do you think Aquinas had while writing the Summa? This reads not only as a neat piece of reasoning, but as Aquinas playing a big logical game with himself. Also, I'm tickled by the image of the Angelic Doctor contemplating pre-lapsarian pleasures. And he's right.

Are the "On the contrary" sections Aquinas's opinions or simply a counter to the objections? I had an instant knee-jerk reaction to the statementthat the only way woman is fitted to help man is in generation, until I considered it as a statement of reproductive fact rather than a reflection on the "weaker sex", although the next clause about another man being a more effective help did make me raise an eyebrow. Oh yeah? I thought. Who'd do the laundry in that case? And then I remembered that in the garden they were naked anyway.

Believe it or not, I've never really read any of the Summa, though I'm familiar with the objection/"I answer that..." formula. I think I might have to remedy that.

Brandon said...

I sometimes wonder, too; it's dry, but there's arguably a sort of delight or relish that bubbles up here and there. I forget where but somewhere where he discusses the angel choirs, which he actually discusses in a fair amount of detail, he says something like, "Since we cannot be part of the angel choirs, at least we can talk about them."

The purpose of the sed contra is pretty much just to show that there is a real matter of dispute to be resolved (that not all the arguments are on the objection side). Sometimes Aquinas agrees with it; sometimes he explicitly disagrees; sometimes it's hard to say.

I wouldn't recommend reading the Summa straight through; but it's always worthwhile to read a few topics that interest you. What's sometimes called the Treatise on Happiness (First Part of the Second Part, questions 1 through 5) is pretty straightforward, and the Treatise on the Life of Christ (Third Part, questions 27-59), while long, is full of good things. And, of course, there are lots of interesting individual questions all over.

bill bannon said...

Aquinas was simply being incorrect. He got the idea from Augustine that sex was only moral if procreation was willed or if one was not asking for the debt but simply rendering the debt. Asking without willing children was venial sin. Here are some references:

Aquinas. Summa T.  Supplement question 49 art.5  Reply to Objection 2. 
    “If a man intends by the marriage act to prevent fornication in his wife, it is no sin, because this is a kind of payment of the debt that comes under the good of “faith.” But if he intends to avoid fornication in himself, then there is a certain superfluity, and accordingly there is a venial sin, nor was the sacrament instituted for that purpose, except by indulgence, which regards venial sins.”

Supplement...question 49 art 5 “I answer that”: 
  “Consequently there are only two ways in which married persons can come together without any sin at all, namely in order to have offspring, and in order to pay the debt, otherwise it is always at least a venial sin.”

The source of this error is in "Marriage and Concupiscence" by Augustine Bk I, chapter 16, which newadvent gives as XIV in parenthesis meaning? perhaps 14 in some editions? The acceptance of the natural methods explicitly starting in the 19th century by the Vatican nullifies their position. Many clergy and moral theologian, Arthur Vermeesch at that time therefore were loathe to accept the acceptance of the natural methods.

Brandon said...

As usual, Bill, your reading of Aquinas is anachronistic and selective. Aquinas holds that the only way to have sex virtuously is to do so consistently with love of God or love of neighbor; this has nothing to do with sex as such and is simply the structure of moral acts in general. What Aquinas gets from Augustine is that marriage is a procreation-directed friendship consisting of fidelity and sacred sign; and he gets from Scripture the fact that this is approved of by God as the proper context for sexual acts and (with additional arguments, some from Augustine, some from elsewhere) that it is a sacred sign through which God actively works grace. Therefore when we are considering Christian activity, sex can only be done within the context of marriage in a way consistent with these basic features of marriage; this means it must be an act of justice either to God or to spouse. That is all that Aquinas's account tells us; it does not address 'natural methods', nor does it have any necessary implications on the subject. Indeed, it can't; the options are a logical disjunction (acting out of religion before God or acting out of justice to spouse), which means that you have acted morally if you have genuinely done either; and since prudence is on Aquinas's account a necessary presupposition of every moral virtue, including religion and justice, you have a moral responsibility to do whatever you do in the way that most prudently fits one's circumstances.

These are in fact the same principles on which some (although not all) of the later arguments in favor of accepting natural methods were based. There were arguments drawn from Thomas against, too, of course, since nothing in the principles militates either way; what conclusion you will draw will depend not on the principles in Aquinas but on one's position in casuistics on moral safety. (Which, in fact, was the major issue in moral theology in the nineteenth century.)

Brandon said...

I confess I'm also a bit puzzled about the intended function of your quotations. A husband who has sex with his wife solely because he wants it, and not for (and in a way consistent with) rendering what is owed to her as his wife, is certainly engaging in an act of lust and not an act of virtue. But that's all that's implied by your first quotation. Surely you're not arguing that husbands have the moral right to have sex with their wives whenever they please regardless of whether it's just to their wives?

Further, neither of your quotations adds anything to the quotation in the post; and, what is more, since both your quotations are from the Supplement, they weren't written as parts of the Summa Theologiae by Aquinas -- Aquinas never finished the Summa, so the Supplement consists of summaries made by other people from Aquinas's earliest writing, the Commentary on the Sentences. So I'm not at all sure what's the point here: your quotations don't actually give us anything different from what is said more fully in the passage from the 1 Corinthians commentary, and even if they did, they couldn't be assumed to represent Aquinas's mature position.

bill bannon said...

Neutral readers have my three references.....which you talked past and then denigrated one as youthful Aquinas.
But that supplement passage is simply in perfect accord with his later passage and with Augustine. Your references to my usual approach to Aquinas as anachronistic and selective is something irrefutable for a bad I have no idea what you are referring to and I suspect others don't either. Aquinas followed Augustine on sex and concupiscence and that led both to be incorrect on the Immaculate Conception since where parents had pleasure (Mary's parents) original sin was passed on. Then both held that Mary contracted original sin but was cleansed of it prior to her birth. When Aquinas was not adverting to Augustine quotes,
he actually wrote a concept of Aristotle's that led to the Church affirming the natural methods centuries pleasure in a rational act is itself rational. This opened the way to asking for the debt being void of venial sin for the asker in addition to the responder. Love is not mentioned at that time as a motivator of the act and thus for the asker of the act. Aquinas linked it in one passage to its producing a communal affectionate reality but actually seeing love as intrinsic in the act itself begins more than microscopically with Von Hildebrand according to John Noonan who did a century by century history of the topic in "Contraception" ( Harvard Press) which was not a book, despite it's title, affirming contraception though years later, Noonan did such. Affirming each other and de-stressing is never mentioned by the old authors as motivators for sex.

Brandon said...


You didn't read my criticism very carefully. I didn't 'denigrate' the passages as youthful Aquinas; I pointed out (1) that your passages contribute nothing new to the discussion, which you seem now to have conceded; (2) that even if they did, they are actually very early passages and would have to be qualified as such. (2) is actually quite important and can't be dismissed, because we are talking about a sacrament, and Aquinas's theology of the sacraments is one of the areas of his theology that undergoes the most extensive development and re-working. Thus I still don't see any point to your references: they contribute nothing.

We've tangled on Aquinas on conception before, elsewhere, and on precisely this tendency to try to build an interpretation of Aquinas out of bits and pieces without any regard for the danger of anachronisms, so it's somewhat amusing that after having said you have no idea what I am talking about you go on to precisely the sort of thing I am talking about.

I have difficulty grasping any line of reasoning in the last part of your comment, so I still don't know what response you are giving to my major points. To put them in question form:

(1) Surely you don't think that husbands have the right to demand sex from their wives regardless of whether it would involve being just to their wives? That is all that is ruled out by one of your quotes.
(2) Surely you are not denying that for a Christian the only things that are moral are those things that are done out of and in a way consistent with love of God and neighbor? It's no good saying "Love is not mentioned at that time as a motivator of the act," if this is what you intended (I'm not sure) because it's built in to Aquinas's conception of Christian marriage as charitable friendship and is moreover required by Aquinas's account of what makes an act morally right and meritorious in the first place.
(3) How exactly do you manage to draw any conclusions about 'natural method' from what Aquinas actually says, given that Aquinas doesn't address the matter and given the general principles of Aquinas's moral philosophy that I mentioned above?
(4) What, precisely, did Aquinas get incorrect in this passage given later Church pronouncements?

Banshee said...

Um... "paying the marital debt" is unitive sex.

"Negotium", exchange, is a very non-commercial word in Catholic theological lingo, especially since it gets used for things like transubstantiation and salvation. So a lot of financial words have some very hotcha contexts.

I blame Jesus for saying, "Be good bankers."

MrsDarwin said...

Bill, I'm not sure that I follow you when you claim that Aquinas "got the idea from Augustine that sex was only moral if procreation was willed or if one was not asking for the debt but simply rendering the debt." I'm not familiar with Aquinas's idea of debt, but it seems to me that the marital "debt" is owed by both spouses to each other, so every marital act is "rendering the debt" whether a spouse initiates or responds. If one owes a debt, the justice of the payment does not change whether the creditor asks for payment or the debtor renders payment of his own initiative. And since in marriage both spouses are debtors, each owing the other a complete gift of self, every act is a payment of the "debt" no matter who initiates.

Also, I'm confused by the your statement that Aquinas held that sex was only moral "if one was not asking for the debt but simply rendering the debt". Don't both spouses render the debt to one another? Otherwise this seems to indicate the rather odd position of having one spouse's virtue caused by the other spouse's sin.

TA sez: “If a man intends by the marriage act to prevent fornication in his wife, it is no sin, because this is a kind of payment of the debt that comes under the good of “faith.” But if he intends to avoid fornication in himself, then there is a certain superfluity, and accordingly there is a venial sin, nor was the sacrament instituted for that purpose, except by indulgence, which regards venial sins.” You quoted this to reference your above claim that the morality of sex in marriage depended either on spouses willing children or in payment of debt. But fornication indicates sex outside of marriage. (I'm pretty sure that Aquinas would use it in that context -- correct me if I'm wrong.) Yes, if a man has sex with his wife to prevent his fornication with someone else, he is not rendering the marital debt to her because he is using her as a receptacle for lust. But perhaps not entirely -- human motivations are rarely pure, and certainly a man can lust after another woman while loving his wife (if imperfectly). Would the sinful superfluity in that situation be the lustful motive for sex tacked on to the rightness of having sex with one's wife? He's right that the sacrament is not instituted for that purpose -- no spouse has the right to use the other to satisfy their lust for an outside party. Every spouse has the right to be loved for himself, or herself.

What are "the natural methods"?

bill bannon said...

Mrs. Darwin,
Your lead essay gives Aquinas too much credit and is more interesting than Aquinas. He saw sex as concupiscence not as sometimes not-concupiscence, and therefore as something affirming the other person in love. You and I would have had his attitude had we lived then. Your own comments are superior to his. In fact your ending nuances are more interesting than anything I've read on the blogs though we would have our differences. Read Augustine on marriage and after read Aquinas and you'll note that on sex...Aquinas
followed Augustine almost sheepishly. Now here is Augustine:
Marriage and Concupiscence Bk II chapter 55
"Nor would even the lawful and honourable cohabiting of husband and wife raise a blush, with avoidance of any eye and desire of secrecy, if there were not a diseased condition about it." 

Did you see it? That's Augustine saying that sex at it's most Catholic healthy is nevertheless tinged with spiritual disease so that ideal Catholic couples would not do it in public. William F. Buckley Jr. years ago had a much more healthy answer....that we keep the valuable private. We don't make married love in public because it is private and valuable.
Catholicism's achilles heal is self flattery...which we apply to saints, Popes, this one, that one...but it is 24/7 and unforetunately has career and money motivations at times. But in line with that, we give too much credit to everything a saint writes unless the Church overturns it as in the Immaculate Conception case. Had that encyclical not occurred, we'd be hearing defenders of Aquinas/ Augustine's error in that area.
Their communal error that only in willed procreation and in saying yes to a request for the marriage debt is sex sinless...that error is rooted in seeing sex as always concupiscence. Ergo the asker...the asker... for the debt is always committing venial sin which makes sense IF you see all sex as concupiscence. The Church rejected their position when it explicitly affirmed the use of the infertile periods in the 19th century...1853 when the Bishop of Amiens asked the Vatican if Catholics could use the infertile times discovered scientifically in 1845 by Pouchet. The Vatican said yes.
Prior it had been non scientific folk wisdom with Augustine disparaging it in his day after he stopped using a version of it post conversion. Try finding a pre
19th century Church document affirming the use of the
infertile periods. You won't. Til 1853 the Augustine/ Aquinas error that sex was concupisence ruled with gradual vitiation by other theologians noted in Noonan's book. After 1853 the Vatican's approval of using the infertile times met with resistance even by a local Bishops Council in Malines who warned that the new counsel would lead to abortions when the use of the infertile times did not work. The modern Popes had to struggle for what many Catholics think was immemorial...the calculated use of clearly infertile times.
Bottom line Augustine was not only an ex fornicator but an over sexed one at that by his own testimony. That's not the perfect person to be teaching on the subject. He had no experience of Catholic married sex. He had tons of experience in sinful sex and that twisted his outlook somewhat so that he saw all sex as concupiscence. Aquinas spoke of the remnants of sin...strong dispositions to one sin even after forgiveness. Christ said the same thing via the devil that leaves but returns with reinforcements. John of the Cross pointed to the OT's proverb..."do not be without fear for sins forgiven". I think Augustine was forever fighting for chastity and he won...but the fight influenced what he wrote of sex's essence. Aquinas, a real virgin, felt deference to Augustine's sexual experience....without noticing that Augustine had none within marriage and thus healthily.

Brandon said...

Did you see it? That's Augustine saying that sex at it's most Catholic healthy is nevertheless tinged with spiritual disease so that ideal Catholic couples would not do it in public.

No one saw it, because Augustine in the previous chapter explicitly denies this. Nor is he talking about "doing it in public"; the 'disease' here is simply the fact that we don't have complete sexual control of ourselves, and therefore even virtuous people take steps to keep such matters private.

The irony of it is that in these several chapters, Augustine is explicitly arguing against a Pelagian opponent who is attributing precisely the kind of position to him that you are. This chapter is part of Augustine's complete argument about why this attribution is a misreading of things Augustine has previously said.

Brandon said...

Re-reading your comments, Bill, which are very difficult to read, it seems to me that you are making a very clear number of mistakes.

(1) Confusing sex and desire. When Augustine talks about concupiscence, he is talking about a disordered desire, and it is involuntary -- this in fact is the only reason shame comes in, since Augustine argues that the kind of shame people experience over various sexual stirrings is a sign that they occur in defiance of (and not simply outside of) our self-mastery. Because it is involuntary, it doesn't of itself involve any committing of sin, which comes about depending on how one responds to it: chaste people counter and master this desire, while unchaste people act on it.

It should be pointed out that this morbidity of desire, by which we cling to goods regardless of whether there are superior goods, is found everywhere in human action, not just in sexual matters; it just so happens (1) that there are particular signs of it in sexual matters, according to Augustine; and (2) that the role of marriage as a remedy for concupiscence is a big point of contention between him and the Pelagians.

(2) Confusing morbid desire and sin. Even when we have defective desires, our acts are not necessarily motivated by them; Augustine is not denying that no one is chaste (he explicitly insists that people can be, and that married people in particular can be). That human beings have to deal with tendencies to lust and other kinds of unhealthy craving doesn't mean that virtuous action is impossible. There is simply a barrier here that cannot be crossed, and Augustine makes clear over and over that he is talking about defective desire.

(3) Conflating Augustine and Aquinas. Contrary to your odd manner of argument, by which you answer MrsD's questions about Aquinas by talking only about Augustine, they are not the same person, they do not have the same view, and they do not always use words the same way. There is no denying that Aquinas is heavily influence by Augustine; everyone is. But if you think Aquinas is following Augustine "sheepishly" you need to prove it for the particular point that you are arguing, and not simply wave your hands vaguely by talking about how heavily Aquinas is influenced by Augustine.

This is one of the funny things about your argument: we don't get any account of how Aquinas is saying what you claim he's saying. We get some quotes that don't contribute anything new, a rapid fire of random dates whose relevance you haven't actually shown, a really bizarre amount of armchair psychoanalyzing of Augustine's sex life, but practically no Aquinas, despite the fact that this is supposed to be the whole point of the argument.

(4) Noonan, seriously? Noonan's work was decent for its time -- although it was recognized even at the time to be at least controversial in its interpretation of a number of things -- but it's long since out of date by now. The relations between Augustine and Aquinas, and between these two and the casuistic moral theology that arose in the early modern period, are far too complex to read filtered entirely through Noonan's limited account.

bill bannon said...

Actually the previous chapter in Augustine agrees with the disease quote though you allege it doesn't:
24 For this, no doubt, was said before sin; and if no one had sinned, it might have been done without shameful lust. And now, although it is not done without that, in the body of this death, there is that nevertheless which does not cease to be done so that a man may cleave to his wife, and they two be one flesh. When, therefore, it is alleged that marriage is now one thing, but might have been another had no one sinned

Did you see it Brandon? He just said marriage now because of original sin is not done without shameful the chapter that you said was saying the opposite. Reread the chapter you're advertising. Nor do I think you ever read Noonan so that your review of his place in the history of the topic is over reaching.

Brandon said...

I wasn't denying that he uses the word 'disease'; I was denying that he said what you had claimed he said. As Augustine himself explicitly points out in this chapter, he had previously used this word on a prior occasion simply because it was used in a Latin translation of St. Paul. What he denies is precisely what you claimed:

"That's Augustine saying that sex at it's most Catholic healthy is nevertheless tinged with spiritual disease so that ideal Catholic couples would not do it in public."

He says nothing of the sort, and what he says is inconsistent with this. This is a point at which you are making one of the obvious mistakes noted in my previous comment -- your original comment talks about sex and now, faced with the actual text, you switch to talking about the morbid desire even chaste people have to overcome, which is all Augustine was addressing. Concupiscence is not sex, and sex is not concupiscence. For one thing, concupiscence is completely involuntary, while sex is not, and for another, Augustine makes clear throughout that chaste people are not always motivated by concupiscence and that at its best sex in a Catholic marriage is covered by the same blessing it had in the garden of Eden. Your interpretation is an artifact of how you are reading Augustine, and your failure to draw distinctions that Augustine clearly does, not something you are getting from the text of Augustine himself. All Augustine is doing here is showing that the Pelagian argument that legitimate infants would be born without original sin doesn't make any sense even on the theory of transmission of original sin that is assumed: married people, however chaste and saintly, still have to deal with the morbus or illness of concupiscence belonging to original sin. (This is a reason why you should get out of the habit of quote-mining and then claiming, "Look, you can just see it!"; context matters. And as I said, the irony is that the Pelagian opponent Augustine is addressing is doing exactly the same thing you are, and making the same kind of charges, forcing Augustine repeatedly to point out that the Pelagian is overlooking the original context in which it is said, and thus changing the meaning of Augustine's words.)

I find it amusing that you know so much about my reading habits. If you knew anything about the subject at all, for instance, you would know that Noonan's interpretations of key points in the history are controversial at best. Hugo, for instance, in St. Augustine on Nature, Sex and Marriage demolished the interpretations of Augustine and how he was read that were put forward by Noonan in both books and articles, as well as of several other Noonan-style interpretations like yours; and that was what, more than thirty years ago now? And while some qualifications on Hugo's arguments themselves have later turned out to be necessary, his basic arguments still stand. Noonan is out of date; as I said it was a good argument ages ago when Noonan actually put it together, but closer scholarship on the history of the moral theology of sexuality has repeatedly uncovered nuances and turned up evidence of which Noonan had no cognizance. Scholarship has moved on and learned more; so should you.

bill bannon said...

But you actually never give any quotes from either Aquinas or Augustine and that habit allows you to create their position by explaining them without evidence in terms more healthy than they espoused.
That's why you particularly bristled at the Supplement quote from Aquinas and tried to defuse it as youthful Aquinas. It refutes any sanitation of where he stood. And you could not accept that. Here it is for late arriving readers:

Supplement...question 49 art 5 “I answer that”: 
  “Consequently there are only two ways in which married persons can come together without any sin at all, namely in order to have offspring, and in order to pay the debt, otherwise it is always at least a venial sin."

All your posts actually avoid quoting Augustine in his own words so that you can tell us his thought in your words... very much like way above where I addressed Mrs. Darwin and asked her "do you see it" and you
actually spoke for your post of 5/27/2012 2:38...right after my question to her and you stated: " No one saw it". So you speak for Mrs. Darwin in your own words and you speak for Augustine in your own words because his words not Noonan's are out of date on this topic. You won't find any Catholic marriage literature now telling couples that their sexual life cannot be done without "fleshly lust". You will not find any Catholic marriage literature saying there is a "diseased" condition about sex. That's because once you're not obsessed with sex, you can compare lust to gluttony. We eat three times a day and enjoy it. Gluttony is the same action but carried to extremes. No one says "eating cannot be done without fleshy gluttony" which is what Augustine said about married sex after the fall.
St. Robert Bellarmine thought Augustine out of date as to what transmits original sin. The former said it was not fleshy concupiscence as Augustine held that transmitted it but simply descent from Adam ( Controversy on the Loss of Grace. Augustine was examined by Bellarmine because the Reformers liked him. And then later the Jansenists liked him while no one odd seems to have followed Aquinas.
The last word will be yours. I have to return to something central to my life. Christ quoted the Old Testament repeatedly often without a whiff of context because context is not critical to some passages. Church documents often do the same thing. You are never giving actual words outside of Brandon's words of the very authors you are protecting. Find out why. And resist speaking for Mrs. Darwin or anyone else than yourself. That is a control syndrome.

MrsDarwin said...

Gentlemen, gentlemen... Are you always so charming with each other, or is it just for my benefit?

Since I'm being called upon to speak for myself, I must say, Bill, that I really can't disagree with anything you've quoted from Aquinas or Augustine. Speaking experientially, I have to say that they've accurately assessed marriage, and I'm not seeing why the statements you've quoted are controversial, nor why "paying the debt" should be read as only a receptive or submissive action. You seem to be implying that Augustine and Aquinas want to make the marital act a big Catch-22 of sin, but I don't see that in the quotes you've provided.

And I can't agree that Augustine was unsuited to comment on sex simply because of his history, nor that Aquinas went along with him because he was an unexperienced patsy. Both these men are far too wise to be confined in their thinking by their experience, or lack thereof. Anyway, every Catholic knows that it's the cheapest of arguments to complain that a bunch of celibate men don't know anything about sex and shouldn't be telling the rest of us what to do.

Banshee said...

It may also be that the problems of translation are causing some of this. There are a startling number of Latin terms for "desire" as a noun and a verb, with different shades of meaning and different Biblical connotations. Even "concupiscere" is not always tinged with sin, because when Psalm 44/45 talks about how "the king (ie, God) will desire your beauty," the king "concupiscit."

And of course, if you're using a really old translation, "lust" isn't always a negative word, either.

So... yeah... there's a lot of this Cliffs Notes philosophy and theology stuff where I kinda worry about how people are reading it.

(And I've just been reading a passage about how the Church can justly be called a "fornicaria" and a "meretrix", because she doesn't deny access to anybody. Heh.)

MrsDarwin said...

Also, "paying the debt" seems opposed to lust because lust is an internally focused state whereas rendering the marital debt is externally focused. One can have desire in both states, lust is the disordered desire.

And now, I can't believe I've actually written the appalling phrases "the marital debt" and "the marital act" not just once, but multiple times. I fully expect my fingers to fall off or my keyboard to explode in righteous disgust.

Banshee said...

Heh... I sympathize.

Well, "maritus" means joined, united, wedded, married. All connective words. So it's the "connective act" and the "unitive debt", if you're steeped in this Latin stuff.

Sounds like woodworking, really. "Let's marry these pieces-parts together...."

Banshee said...

If it makes you feel better, in Letter 65, St. Jerome compares "voluptas" to having mucus and streaming gunk, which makes her robes smelling of cinnamon sticks (aka cassia) in Psalm 44/45, a good symbol of the Bride running around totally dried up of gunk.

Perhaps this is an insight to his curmudging -- lots of bad colds over the winters. Especially since he admitted/advocated falling asleep at his desk with books for pillows, most nights.

Banshee said...

(Voluptas probably not referring to sex at that point, but just to having your own wants, which wasn't a good thing for folks serving God like himself and the letter's addressee. Um. Anyway, going away now.)

Brandon said...

Well, "maritus" means joined, united, wedded, married. All connective words. So it's the "connective act" and the "unitive debt", if you're steeped in this Latin stuff.

This is very true, and one of the difficulties of dealing with such matters is that particular English translations sometimes come with long baggage that tells us more about modern history than the original usage. The notion of 'debt' is a very good example, too; really, it should often be translated as 'what is due' or 'what is owed', and the reason it enters in at all is the very old maxim that justice is rendering to everyone what's due to them -- which, of course, is why Aquinas connects the virtue of justice to "rendering the debt": it would have been utterly obvious to him to put the two phrases together, and without much of the baggage the latter has in English, because that's what it is to be just in the broad sense: you recognize when you have a good you need to give back in some way, and you give it back in the way you can. (If you can give it back fully, it's justice in the strict sense, if you can't, as with God, it's a justice-related virtue like religion.) With justice you give your friends what you owe as friend, you give your acquaintances what you owe as an acquaintance, and so of course it would make sense that you give your spouse what you owe as spouse. And, of course, in Latin it wouldn't imply only sex; it's just that that's one kind of thing you can do in a marriage that can be just.

Clare said...

This conversation has been incredibly helpful to me. The sense I've always gotten about lust in marriage and the marital debt is: good sex, and sex generally, is bad, unless you're doing it because you owe your spouse (but that always seems to mean husband) your body as an outlet for their lusts.

The reverse seems to be true: the marriage debt is simply partaking in the coital unity that makes marriage a marriage, and sin lies in using your spouse's body as a sort of bin for your urges (rather than pleasure per se. This makes so much more sense. Yay for Aquinas not being the cloud of doom people sometimes unintentionally make of him.

MrsDarwin said...

Clare, as to your point about lust involving using your spouse's body as "bin for your urges", I have another post brewing about lust and the detrimental effect of fantasy in marriage, but I can't face writing another sex post so soon. I am glad that readers find these conversations to be beneficial. Sometimes I wonder if DarwinCatholic has this reputation as that blog where people talk about sex all the time... In person we actually can make intelligent observations on a wide range of topics, not just (and not usually) Topic A.