Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Spouses who are too ardent lovers of their spouse are adulterers

According to the teachings of the Fathers, Doctors, Theologians and Saints of the Catholic Church, any man who is a too ardent lover of his spouse, (that is, he or she who loves his wife’s or husband’s body too much or the lust or pleasure that he or she receives from them too much or more than he loves God or his spouse’s soul,) is an adulterer of his God and of his wife.

St. Jerome, Against Jovinianus, Book 1, Section 20, 40, A.D. 393: “Do you imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children? . . . He who is too ardent a lover of his own wife is an adulterer [of his God and wife].”

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Q. 154, Art. 8: “And since the man who is too ardent a lover of his wife acts counter to the good of marriage if he use her indecently, although he be not unfaithful, he may in a sense be called an adulterer; and even more so than he that is too ardent a lover of another woman.”

Gratian, Medieval Marriage Law, Case Thirty-Two, Question IV: “Also, Jerome, [in Against Jovinian, I]: C. 5. Nothing is more sordid than to make love to your wife as you would to an adulteress. The origins of love are respectable, but its perversion is an enormity. §1. It gives no respectable motive for losing one’s self control. Hence, the Sentences of Sixtus says, "He is an adulterer who is too passionate a lover of his wife." Just as all passion for another’s wife is sordid, so also is excessive passion for one’s own. The wise man should love his wife reasonably, not emotionally. The mere stimulus of lust should not dominate him, nor should he force her to have sex. Nothing is more sordid than to make love to your wife as you would to an adulteress.”

St. Augustine, quoting St. Ambrose, also speaks about the fact that all who are “intemperate in marriage” are “adulterer of his own wife” in his work Against Julian, the Pelagian heretic:

“…But the mother of all vices is incontinence, which turns even the lawful into vice. Therefore, the Apostle not only warns us against fornication, but also teaches a certain moderation in marriage itself, and prescribes times of prayer. For he who is intemperate in marriage, what is he but the adulterer of his own wife?' You see how he [St. Ambrose] says marriage should have true soundness even within itself. You see how he says that incontinence turns even the lawful into vice, where he shows that marriage is lawful, and he does not wish incontinence to defile what is lawful in it. You notice how you should understand with us in what disease of desire the Apostle was unwilling that one possess his vessel, not like the Gentiles who do not know God. (Cf. 1 Thess. 4:4) But to you lust seems culpable only toward one other than one’s wife. What will you say of Ambrose, who calls intemperance in marriage a kind of adultery of one’s wife? Do you honor marriage more in which you would allow a very licentious range to lust, lest, perchance, the one offended might find another defender for herself?” (St. Augustine, Against Julian, Book 2, Chapter 6)

People who are in a marriage should ask themselves these questions: “Whom do I love during the act of marriage: God and my spouse in all honesty and virtue, or my spouse’s body and the lust I derive from it?” “Have the thought of God or that He is present ever even entered my mind during marital relations?” “Have this absence of God’s presence in my mind also driven me into committing shameful sins by inflaming my concupiscence in unlawful ways?” In truth, those couples who doesn’t shut God out from themselves or their hearts during marital relations will undoubtedly be less likely to fall into other sins during the act of marriage. St. Alphonsus, in his great book called the True Spouse of Jesus Christ, explains this crucial truth to us.

St. Alphonsus, Doctor of the Church, On the Presence of God: “The Saints by the thought that God was looking at them have bravely repelled all the assaults of their enemies… This thought also converted a wicked woman who dared to tempt St. Ephrem; the saint told her that if she wished to sin she must meet him in the middle of the city. But, said she, how is it possible to commit sin before so many persons? And how, replied the Saint, is it possible to sin in the presence of God, who sees us in every place? At these words she burst into tears, and falling prostrate on the ground asked pardon of the saint, and besought him to point out to her the way of salvation.” (True Spouse of Jesus Christ, p. 497)

And St. Jerome commenting On Galatians 5:19 says that, “Unbridled desire and shameful employment of marriage are licentiousness and impurity… Second [in Gal. 5:19], the works of the flesh are called "impurity," and "licentiousness," its companion, is included with it. In the Old Law, the Scriptures generally include these among those horrible crimes committed in secret, which are said to be so filthy as to pollute the mouth that speaks of them, or the ears that hear of them. It says [Lev. 15:31], "You shall teach the children of Israel to take heed of uncleanness," including in this passage all unbridled desires, even those acts within marriage that are not performed as though God were present, with shame and modesty, for the sake of children. Such are called licentiousness and impurity.” (Gratian, Medieval Marriage Law, Case Thirty-Two, Question IV, Part 4, C. 12)

If it’s God we love the most, then it must naturally be Him that we are seeking to please, and not ourselves, our flesh, or our spouse. Our Lord God Jesus Christ Himself taught us this specific truth in the holy gospels, saying: “He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37)

In answering the question “Whether it is a mortal sin for a man to have knowledge of his wife, [that is, to perform the sexual act with his wife] with the intention not of a marriage good but merely of pleasure?” St. Thomas Aquinas explains that “the right answer to this question is that if pleasure be sought in such a way as to exclude the honesty [and chastity] of marriage, so that, to wit, it is not as a wife but as a woman that a man treats his wife, and that he is ready to use her in the same way if she were not his wife [and merely for fulfilling his own lust], it is a mortal sin; wherefore such a man is said to be too ardent a lover of his wife, because his ardor carries him away from the goods of marriage.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Supplement, Q. 49, Art. 6)

St. Clement of Alexandria, in his book “The Instructor” shows us very clearly how “he violates his marriage adulterously who uses” the marital sexual act in a forbidden, obscene or lewd way: “For many think such things to be pleasures only which are against nature, such as these sins of theirs. And those who are better than they, know them to be sins, but are overcome by pleasures, and darkness is the veil of their vicious practices. For he violates his marriage adulterously who uses it in a meretricious way [that is, as a vulgar attraction], and hears not the voice of the Instructor [the Lord], crying, "The man who ascends his bed, who says in his soul, Who seeth me? darkness is around me, and the walls are my covering, and no one sees my sins. Why do I fear lest the Highest will remember?" [Sirach 23:18] Most wretched is such a man, dreading men’s eyes alone, and thinking that he will escape the observation of God. "For he knoweth not," says the Scripture, "that brighter ten thousand times than the sun are the eyes of the Most High, which look on all the ways of men, and cast their glance into hidden parts." [Sirach 23:27-28] Thus again the Instructor threatens them, speaking by Isaiah: "Woe be to those who take counsel in secret, and say, Who seeth us?" [Isaiah 29:15] For one may escape the light of sense, but that of the mind it is impossible to escape. For how, says Heraclitus, can one escape the notice of that which never sets? Let us by no means, then, veil our selves with the darkness; for the light dwells in us. "For the darkness," it is said, "comprehendeth it not." And the very night itself is illuminated by temperate reason. The thoughts of good men Scripture has named "sleepless lamps;" although for one to attempt even to practice concealment, with reference to what he does, is confessedly to sin. And every one who sins, directly wrongs not so much his neighbor if he commits adultery, as himself, because he has committed adultery, besides making himself worse and less thought of. For he who sins, in the degree in which he sins, becomes worse and is of less estimation than before; and he who has been overcome by base pleasures, has now licentiousness wholly attached to him. Wherefore he who commits fornication is wholly dead to God, and is abandoned by the Word as a dead body by the spirit. For what is holy, as is right, abhors to be polluted. But it is always lawful for the pure to touch the pure. Do not, I pray, put off modesty at the same time that you put off your clothes; because it is never right for the just man to divest himself of continence. For, lo, this mortal shall put on immortality; when the insatiableness of desire, which rushes into licentiousness, being trained to self-restraint, and made free from the love of corruption, shall consign the man to everlasting chastity. "For in this world they marry and are given in marriage." But having done with the works of the flesh, and having been clothed with immortality, the flesh itself being pure, we pursue after that which is according to the measure of the angels.” (The Paedagogus or The Instructor, Book II, Chapter X.--On the Procreation and Education of Children, c. 198 A.D.)

In a sense, one can truly say that the person who sets his heart on loving a physical pleasure with his will – whatever it may be – worships and loves a kind of idol. That is why we as humans must always do our utmost to try to escape or minimize the pleasures that are addictive to us. For the stronger a pleasure is and the more delightful it is to our senses, the more potential there is for it to become a sin and for a person to grow attached to it. St. Thomas Aquinas writes concerning this, “If the sexual pleasure is sought beyond the limits of integrity proper to marriage, in the sense that in conjugal relations the spouse sees in the partner not any more the characteristics proper to the spouse, but only a female/woman and is disposed to do with her the same things even if she were not his wife, he has sinned mortally.” (In Sententiarum, d.31, q.2, art, 3) Also, “It is needed to be said that a man seeks in the wife pleasure as from a prostitute when he looks at her with the same look with which he would look at a prostitute.” (Ibid., d.31, q.2, art, 3)

Another good example how loving one’s spouse (like an adulterer) – in an inordinate, unreasonable and sensual manner is sinful and evil – is found in The Revelations of St. Bridget in a chapter about a damned person who “was married and had no more than one wife and did not have intercourse with any other woman. However, he maintained his fidelity in marriage not because of divine charity and fear but because he loved the body of his wife so tenderly that he was not attracted by sexual union with any other body.” This example shows us that even in the time of St. Bridget in the 14th century, men and women of bad will loved the carnal pleasure they could derive from their spouse in an unreasonable and evil manner. Indeed, even though this man only loved his wife in a sensual manner rather than other women, he was still damned, thus showing us God’s hatred of and severity in judging marital sexual sins.

“The bride [St. Bridget] had a vision of what seemed to be two demons, alike in every limb, standing before the judgment seat of God. They had mouths wide open like wolves, glass-like eyes with burning flames inside, hanging ears like rabbits, swollen and protruding bellies, hands like those of a griffin, legs without joints, feet that looked mutilated and half cut-off. One of them said then to the judge: “Judge, sentence the soul of this knight who matches me to be united to me as my mate!”
The judge [Our Lord Jesus Christ] replied: “Tell me what rightful claim you have to his soul!”
The demon answered: “I ask you first, since you judge fairly: Is it not said, where an animal is found similar in type to another, that it belongs to the lion species or wolf species or some other such species? So now I ask to which species this soul belongs—is she like angels or demons?”
The judge said: “She does not match the angels but you and your mates, that is clear enough.”
Then, almost in mockery, the demon said: “When this soul was created from the fire of your unction, heat of union, that is, of your love, she was like you. Now, however, since she despised your sweet love, she is mine by a triple right: first, because she is like me in disposition; second, because we have the same tastes; third, because we both have a single will.” … [And] Her belly is swollen, because the extent of her greed had no measure. She was filled but never satisfied. … I have a similar greed. If I alone could gain possession of all the souls in heaven and earth and purgatory, I would gladly seize them. And if only a single soul was left, I would out of my greed never let her go free from torment. Her breast is icy cold just like my own, since she never had any love for you and your commandments were never to her liking. So too, I feel no love for you. Rather, out of the envy I have toward you, I would willingly let myself be continuously killed in the bitterest of deaths and resuscitated again for the same punishment if only you were killed, if it were possible for you to be killed. …
This person was married and had no more than one wife and did not have intercourse with any other woman. However, he maintained his fidelity in marriage not because of divine charity and fear but because he loved the body of his wife so tenderly that he was not attracted by sexual union with any other body.
Then the judge [Jesus Christ] turned to me [St. Bridget] who had seen all this and said: “Woe to this man who was worse than a robber! He had his own soul on sale; he thirsted for the impurity of the flesh; he cheated his neighbor. This is why voices of men cry out for vengeance on him, the angels turn away their faces from him, the saints flee his company.”
Then the demon drew close to the soul that matched him and said: “O judge, look: here am I and I again! Here am I, wicked through my own wicked will, unredeemed and unredeemable. But this one here is another me: though he was redeemed, he made himself like me by obeying me more than you. … [And] So she is mine! Therefore, as they say, her flesh will be my flesh, though, of course, I have no flesh, and her blood will be my blood.” The demon seemed to be very happy about this and began to clap his hands.
The judge said to him: “Why are you so happy and what kind of happiness is that you feel in the loss of a soul? Tell me while this bride of mine stands here listening. Although I know all things, answer me, for the sake of this bride, who can only grasp spiritual matters figuratively.”
The demon said: “As this soul burns, I burn even more fiercely. When I burn her with fire, I am burned even more. Yet, because you redeemed her with your blood and loved her to such an extent that you, God, gave yourself for her, and I still was able to deceive her, I am made glad.” (The Revelations of St. Bridget, Book 6, Chapter 31)

Sad to say, the truth of the matter is that most people in this world fits the description of this damned soul, since they love their spouse in an inordinate way. The Son of God, in a Revelation spoken to Saint Bridget, speaks of this, saying: But now, the redeemed soul of man has become like the most ugly and shameless frog, jumping in its arrogance and living in filth through its sensuality. She has taken my gold away from me, that is, all my justice. That is why the devil rightly can say to me: ‘The gold you bought is not gold but a frog, fostered in the chest of my lust. Separate therefore the body from the soul and you shall see that she will jump directly to the chest of my lust where it was fostered.’ … Such is the soul of the man I am talking about to you. She is namely like the most vile frog, full of filthiness and lust, fostered in the chest of the devil.” (The Revelations of St. Bridget, Book 1, Chapter 21)

It is therefore a fact of the unanimous teaching of the Fathers that those spouses who love their spouse in an inordinate way, are adulterers and sinning against God’s Law: “… a man who loves his wife very much [like an adulterer] is an adulterer. Any [sensual] love for someone else’s wife or too much love for one’s own is shameful. The upright man should love his wife with his judgment, not his affections.” (Vincent of Beauvais, A Dominican Friar (c. 1190 – 1264), Seculum Doctrinale 10.45)

Jesus, Who has purchased our bodies at the price of His precious blood, calls us to be sexually pure. He owns our bodies. We are not our own, and we are Our Lord’s property (1 Cor 6:19). He has the right to expect purity because our bodies belong to Him. So let us glorify God in our bodies (1 Cor 6:20). “You must know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, Who is within — the Spirit you have received from God.” (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Even though Jesus has the right of ownership to our bodies, He asks us to offer our bodies freely as a living sacrifice to Him (Rom. 12:1). If we make that choice and respect Jesus’ right to our bodies, then the question is no longer, “What do I want to do with my body?” but “What does Jesus want to do with my body?” What right have we to use a body that belongs to Jesus for things Jesus doesn’t want? We have no right to use our bodies for sexual fantasies, non-procreative sexual acts, masturbation, fornication, and adultery. These things are against the wishes of Jesus, the Owner. We must ask the Owner what food and drink He wants in our bodies. Jesus means it when He says He owns our bodies. We must acknowledge this and refuse to accept the lie that our bodies belong to us. Oh, Jesus, I repent of ignoring Your rights to my body!

For those who want to read and learn a lot more on sexual ethics, I can recommend the following interesting and informative article that is absolutely packed with quotes from the popes, saints and fathers of the Church:

Sexual Pleasure, the Various Sexual Acts, and Procreation

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