Sexual Ethics and the Premodern Church
Sara Ritchey

Wednesday, September 15 2010

Genesis 1:26-30
26 And he said: Let us make man to our image and likeness: and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth. 27 And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth. 29 And God said: Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed upon the earth, and all trees that have in themselves seed of their own kind, to be your meat: 30 And to all beasts of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to all that move upon the earth, and wherein there is life, that they may have to feed upon. And it was so done.

Luke 14:26
whosoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, yes and even life itself cannot be my disciple
1 Corinthians 7
I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin. Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that. I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none… For the present form of this world is passing away. . . .

Peter Lombard, The Sentences, Book 4, Distinction 26
The institution of marriage is twofold.  The first was created in paradise, before sin,… where the bed was unstained and marriages were honorable, from which Adam and Eve conceived without passion… The second was created outside of paradise, after sin, in order to avoid illicit passions…. If the first human beings had not sinned, they and their progeny would have joined without the urging og the flesh ad the heat of lust.  Just as some good deed is worthy of reward, so their coitus would have been good and worthy of reward.  But, because of sin, the deadly law of concupiscence is inherent in our members, without which there is no carnal union.  Their coitus is reprehensible and evil unless it is excused by the goods of marriage.”

Bernard of Clairvaux: On Loving God:
to lose yourself, as you no longer existed, to cease completely to experience yourself, to reduce yourself to nothing is not a human sentiment but a divine experience.  Oh sweet and pleasant affection!  It is deifying to go through such an experience.

Heloise, Letter 2 to Abelard
I never sought anything in you except yourself; I wanted simply you, nothing of yours.  I looked for no marriage-bond, no marriage-portion.  

God is my witness that if Augustus, Emperor of the whole world, thought fit to honor me with marriage and conferred all the earth on me to possess for ever it would be dearer to me to be called not his Empress but your whore.

Letter 4
Wholly guilty though I am, I am also, as you know, wholly innocent.  It is not the deed but the intention of the doer which makes the crime… what my intention towards you has always been, you alone who have known it can judge.

John 1:14
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.  From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace…. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God.  It is God the only Son who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

Thomas Nagel, Mortal Questions (Cambridge, 1979); italics mine:
Sexual desire involves a kind of perception by not merely a single perception of its object, for in the paradigm case of mutual desire there is a complex system of superimposed mutual perceptions—not only perceptions of the sexual object, but perceptions of oneself.  Moreover, sexual awareness of another involves considerable self-awareness to begin with—more than is involved in ordinary sensory perception… initially I may be aroused by someone unaware of being perceived by me, and that arousal is significant in “identifying me with my body” in a new way, but is not yet sufficient for speaking about the full range of sexuality.  I am aroused as a cultural, not just a biological being—i.e. I need to bring my body into the shared world of language and (in the widest sense!) “intercourse.”  My arousal is not only my business: I need its cause to know about it, to recognize it, for it to be anything more than a passing chance.  So my desire, if it is going to be sustained and developed, must itself be perceived; and if it is to develop as it naturally tends to, it must be perceived as desirable by the other—that is my arousal and desire must become the cause of someone else’s desire… [sex] involves a desire that one’s partner be aroused by the recognition of one’s desire that he or she be aroused.

Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, 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, in which the whole person, including the temporal dimension, is present: if the person were to withhold something or reserve the possibility of deciding otherwise in the future, by this very fact he or she would not be giving totally.