and: ‘every one of you learn how to possess his vessel in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who have no hope.’ [1 Thess. 4:4,5,12]” (St. Caesarius of Arles, Sermon 42:4, c. 470-543 A.D.)
Nature teaches us that the sexual act is shameful
It is very easy to prove that the marital act is shameful. For no one (if not totally depraved) would have sex in front of their children, friends or parents. Neither would they want people to talk openly about their sex life. They would rather die than allow themselves to be seen or heard in this way. If a person walked in on them during the act or if someone openly talked about their sex life, they would wish to sink through the floor through shame. But how is it that they refuse to feel any shame if no human person other than their spouse is present? Is God not present with them? Does God not see their every thought as well as their deeds? Of course He does! He sees everything!
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Supplement, Q. 41, Art. 3, Reply to Objection 3: “The shamefulness of concupiscence that always accompanies the marital act is a shamefulness not of guilt [if no sin is committed of course], but of punishment inflicted for the first sin, inasmuch as the lower powers and the members do not obey reason.”
Someone might say that it is the sexual member that is shameful or evil to expose to others and not concupiscence or the sexual lust. But this argument is easily refuted and false since no one who is not a complete pervert would have sex in front of other people even though their whole body were covered by sheets of blankets. Even those people who are not complete perverts would never kiss each other for the sake of venereal pleasure if other people were in their vicinity, and this is true even though they have all of their clothes on. This proves to us that it is the sexual pleasure that is shameful, and not only the exhibition of the sexual organs. For, as Augustine remarks: “whenever this process is approached, secrecy is sought, witnesses removed, and even the presence of the very children which happen to be born of the process is avoided as soon as they reach the age of observation.” (Book II, On the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin, Chapter 42)
All couples that sin during sexual relations have clearly suppressed the natural feeling of shame in their hearts and shut God out from themselves and closed their conscience in order to enjoy their sinful and filthy deed to the fullest. If an acknowledgment would be made by the spouses that God is present with them before having marital relations and while having it, this thought that God is present would hinder them in their concupiscence and keep them from sinning. Most couples, however, want to sin or do something immoral and unlawful against God and their conscience before, during or after marital relations; and because of this, they choose to forget about God and the natural shame that normally accompany the sexual act.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Q. 151, Art 4: “I answer that, As stated above (Objection 2), "pudicitia" [purity] takes its name from "pudor," which signifies shame. Hence purity must needs be properly about the things of which man is most ashamed. Now men are most ashamed of venereal acts, as Augustine remarks (De Civ. Dei xiv, 18), so much so that even the conjugal act, which is adorned by the honesty [Cf. Q. 145] of marriage, is not devoid of shame: and this because the movement of the organs of generation is not subject to the command of reason, as are the movements of the other external members. Now man is ashamed not only of this sexual union but also of all the signs thereof, as the Philosopher observes (Rhet. ii, 6).”
According to St. Thomas, normal spouses are thoroughly ashamed from simply committing the act. But not only from committing the act, but also from thinking about committing the act and from “all the signs thereof.” This natural shame could only occur or be retained if people do not live lustful lives or have sex often.
Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul, Chapter 27 (c. 203 A.D.): “Nature should be to us an object of reverence, not of blushes. It is lust, not natural usage, which has brought shame on the intercourse of the sexes. It is the excess, not the normal state, which is immodest and unchaste: the normal condition has received a blessing from God, and is blessed by Him: “Be fruitful, and multiply, (and replenish the earth.)” [Genesis 1:28] Excess, however, has He cursed, in adulteries, and wantonness [that is, sexually lawless or unrestrained, loose, lascivious, lewd and wanton behavior], and chambering [wantonness, impurity].”
A good sign that a couple is living in sexual sin is that the natural shame that is inherent in the marital act have been extinguished partly or completely. The evidence for this is that St. Thomas explains to us that there is a “shamefulness of concupiscence that always accompanies the marriage act”. Because of this, all those who have ceased to experience this shame that is natural and inherent in the marital act, should seriously pray to God that he may heal them and help them regain this shame that is so good and helpful in reproving peoples’ consciences against committing sexual sins.
For most people, this process of smothering their shame and God-given conscience does not happen immediately overnight but slowly over time as they progress and evolve in wickedness by committing acts that are unlawful and unnecessary. Not only those who commit perverted sexual acts will experience a decrease in the natural shame, but also those who have sex too often and who overindulge in it.
Tobias 6:16-17 “Then the angel Raphael said to him [Tobias]: Hear me, and I will shew 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.”
In contrast to the wicked described above, the godly who have not shut God out from themselves and their hearts clearly understand in their conscience that God will approve of them if they do what is lawful and that He will disapprove of them if they do something unlawful. That is why only the ungodly (who have repressed the natural thought of God’s presence) could ever fall into grievous mortal sins such as striptease, dressing sensual or masturbation. The godly couple who fears God and who has the thought of that God is present with them would never do such things, for they would feel guilt and be thoroughly ashamed of committing such acts as the ungodly do; because they understand that God sees them and that He is present with them. Since the godly couple are not selfish pleasure seekers, the natural feeling of shame for any deviation from what is inherent in the marital act will always be there and help them to keep them from sinning. “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.” (The Paedagogus or The Instructor, Book II, Chapter X)
Ask yourself, dear reader, has the thought of God or that He is present with you ever even entered your mind or heart when you are having marital relations? If not, then what sinful act or inordinate love of pleasure kept the thought of God away from you? By asking these questions, one will quickly learn what deeds and inordinate pleasures must be avoided and controlled, and what deeds should be kept during marital relations.
St. Augustine, On the Shame of Nakedness (c. 420 A.D.): “This kind of shame—this necessity of blushing—is certainly born with every man, and in some measure is commanded by the very laws of nature; so that, in this matter, even virtuous married people are ashamed. Nor can any one go to such an extreme of evil and disgrace, as, because he knows God to be the author of nature and the ordainer of marriage, to have intercourse even with his wife in any one’s sight, or not to blush at those impulses and seek secrecy, where he can shun the sight not only of strangers, but even of all his own relatives. Therefore let human nature be permitted to acknowledge the evil that happens to it by its own fault, lest it should be compelled either not to blush at its own impulses, which is most shameless, or else to blush at the work of its Creator, which is most ungrateful. Of this evil, nevertheless, virtuous marriage makes good use for the sake of the benefit of the begetting of children. But to consent to lust for the sake of carnal pleasure alone is sin...” (St. Augustine, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, Book I, Chapter 33)
There are some more facets of this topic of shame that everyone should consider. Spouses do naturally hate to even think that their respective other could commit adultery with another person. They naturally hate it. Likewise, parents naturally feel a revulsion or aversion thinking about the fact that their children will have marital relations, especially fathers for their daughters. Everyone knows by natural instinct that the marital act plucks the innocence from people and that it is shameful. And so, parents do not like to think on this topic. But while they feel a revulsion for this topic, they feel no shame in lusting after their own spouse or after other people that they are not married with, which of course is someone else’s daughter or son too. Every person on the face of this earth is the earthly or fleshly child of God. God created both their souls as well as their bodies. Everyone knows by natural instinct that the sexual act is shameful in its essence, and that is why they cannot stand the thought that their spouse is committing adultery or that their children are having or will have marital relations.
From this we can learn how God – who has planted this revulsion in the parents for the sexual act – wished to teach the parents how they should act in their own life. Do unto others as you would have others do to you was the saying of our Lord! All husbands and wives knows that their spouse has a father and mother who thinks about them in the same protective way that they think about their own children, and yet, these parents feel no shame in themselves when seeking sexual pleasure with their own spouse or with others. But as soon as their own spouse or child is implicated in the thought process, then there immediately arises a sense of incredible shame and disgust. This shame is only natural and good. However, the sad part is that the spouses have repressed the thought that the marital act is shameful with respect to themselves too, while acknowledging this natural fact when it concerns others.
“The undeniable truth is that a man by his very nature is ashamed of sexual lust. And he is rightly ashamed because there is here involved an inward rebellion which is a standing proof of the penalty which man is paying for his original rebellion against God. For, lust is a usurper, defying the power of the will and playing the tyrant with man’s sexual organs. It is here that man’s punishment particularly and most properly appears, because these are the organs by which that nature is reproduced which was so changed for the worse by its first great sin—that sin from whose evil connection no one can escape, unless God’s grace expiate in him individually that which was perpetrated to the destruction of all in common, when all were in one man, and which was avenged by God’s justice.” (St. Augustine, The City of God, Book XIV, Chapter 20, c. 426 A.D.)
Parents certainly would not like that their child were thought upon in a shameful, sexual or lustful way by other individuals, and both fathers and mothers are naturally endowed with the dislike of this, and yet, they refuse to acknowledge that the object of their own sexual desires is also a child to other parents, who thinks in the exact same way that their children do not deserve to be thought of in a sexual or lustful way. By this rejection of what they know is true and natural, the Devil is allowed to lead them into committing more and more perverted sexual sins as they evolve in wickedness. Indeed, spouses who try to suppress their shame will almost always fall into graver sexual sins of various kinds.
St. Augustine, writing on the evil of lust in marriage, says that it ought not to be ascribed to marriage, and that when “marriage blushes for shame [this] is not the fault of marriage, but of the lust of the flesh”: “The evil [of lust], however, at which even marriage blushes for shame is not the fault of marriage, but of the lust of the flesh. Yet because without this evil it is impossible to effect the good purpose of marriage, even the procreation of children, whenever this process is approached, secrecy is sought, witnesses removed, and even the presence of the very children which happen to be born of the process is avoided as soon as they reach the age of observation. Thus it comes to pass that marriage is permitted to effect all that is lawful in its state, only it must not forget to conceal all that is improper. Hence it follows that infants, although incapable of sinning, are yet not born without the contagion of sin, not, indeed, because of what is lawful, but on account of that which is unseemly: for from what is lawful nature is born; from what is unseemly, sin. Of the nature so born, God is the Author, who created man, and who united male and female under the nuptial law; but of the sin the author is the subtlety of the devil who deceives, and the will of the man who consents.” (On the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin, Book II, Chapter 42, A.D. 418)
St. Augustine, On Marriage and Concupiscence, Book II, Chapter 37, A.D. 420: “Show me, he [the Manichean heretic] says, any bodily marriage without sexual connection. I do not show him any bodily marriage without sexual connection; but then, neither does he show me any case of sexual connection which is without shame. In Paradise, however, if sin had not preceded, there would not have been, indeed, generation without union of the sexes, but this union would certainly have been without shame; for in the sexual union there would have been a quiet acquiescence of the members, not a lust of the flesh productive of shame.”
The intention of the spouses performing the sexual act defines the moral goodness or evilness of the act
Someone might ask: “Then how is one going to make children since the act is shameful in its essence?” I answer that, when the act is done not for self-gratification but for a pure love of God and of children — then there is no sin committed by the spouses.
It is the intention behind the external deed of sexual intercourse that determines the sinfulness or goodness of the act. However, as with all things that are extremely pleasurable, the risk of becoming a slave under this sensual delight is very great, actually bigger than most things that exist on this Earth. It is no sin for the spouses to experience sensual pleasure in the flesh during the marital act (since this is a natural effect of the deed). The sin rather lies in the will or intent that resolves to love or cherish this sexual pleasure that is earthly and fleeting. The Holy Bible is clear that covetousness is a sin of idolatry. That is why all couples who cherish or love sexual pleasure, and unlawful and unnecessary sexual acts, in truth are fittingly and rightly described as idolaters.
Colossians 3:5 “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, lust, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is the service of idols.”
Ephesians 5:3-5 “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not so much as be named among you, as becometh saints: Or obscenity, or foolish talking, or scurrility, which is to no purpose; but rather giving of thanks. For know you this and understand, that no fornicator, or unclean, or covetous person (which is a serving of idols), hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
The Haydock Bible Commentary explains Ephesians 5:3-5:
“Ver. 3. Covetousness. The Latin word is generally taken for a coveting or immoderate desire of money and riches. St. Jerome and others observe, that the Greek word in this and divers other places in the New Testament may signify any unsatiable desire, or the lusts of sensual pleasures; and on this account, St. Jerome thinks that it is here joined with fornication and uncleanness [i.e., sexual sins]. --- Ver. 5.Nor covetous person, which is a serving of idols.It is clear enough by the Greek that the covetous man is called an idolater, whose idol is mammon; though it may be also said of other sinners, that the vices they are addicted to are their idols. (Witham)”
The Haydock Bible Commentary explains Colossians 3:5:
“Your members,...fornication, uncleanness, &c. He considers man’s body as made up of sins and sinful inclinations. (Witham) --- It is not to bring back Judaism we practice abstinences and fasts, nor with the same motive as the Jews, but to accomplish the precepts of mortifying the irregular desires of the flesh among which gluttony must find a place. In a mortified body sensuality is more easily subdued. (Haydock)”
Whenever the human will decides to seek the enhancement of sexual pleasure (or of any other unreasonable pleasure, such as “eating and drinking even to satiety for pleasure only”), God sees that His creation loves an idol of sorts. It becomes a kind of idolatry of corruptible flesh the moment spouses perform the marital act for the sake of self-gratification instead of for the love of God and love of children. The sin when having marital relations lies in the thought and action that seeks to do more than what is necessary or permitted for conception to occur. Sin will always be decided in the intent, but too few people seem to understand this truth today. Thus it is the will, thought or intent to enjoy, love, and as it were, worship this sexual pleasure, that makes it sinful.
This can be proven by an example. Consider how a man that is sick and suffers much pain is allowed by divine permission and justice to take morphine or other painkillers since he is in need of them. His reason when taking these drugs is not self-gratification but the alleviation of the pain that he experiences. This example could be likened with lawful marital relations, which is permitted and non-sinful as long as the spouses have intercourse for a just and reasonable cause.
However, whenever the sick person mentioned above would have become well and yet continued to use morphine or other painkillers without any need to do so – and for the mere sake of getting high and for pleasure – he would have committed the sin of drug abuse. His just reason for using the painkiller became unjust the very moment he became well and did not need to use it anymore. The same can be said about a couple who is having sex often and without a just cause. For just as drug addicts fool themselves into believing that they cannot live without the intake of the drugs they are addicted to — so too do many couples deceive themselves into believing that they need to have sex often and that they cannot live in any other way, claiming that they need their sexual fix just as the drug addict would.
Spouses should hate, despise and fight against the sexual pleasure according to the teaching of the Holy Bible and the Saints
From the beginning, the Holy Bible, the Church, and all Her Saints taught all people, whether married or unmarried, that the best thing to do is to hate and despise the sexual pleasure, since by this virtuous act, all people, and especially the married, would be better able to control and resist the sexual pleasure and concupiscence so as to become victorious over the flesh rather than being defeated by its desires and vices.
This is also exactly how Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Bible wants us to view the sexual pleasure, since it is a higher call to live for the Spirit than for our own selfish desires: “And now, Lord, thou knowest, that not for fleshly lust do I take my sister to wife, but only for the love of posterity, [children] in which thy name may be blessed for ever and ever.” (The Holy Bible, Tobias 8:9)
This teaching of God in the Holy Bible is of course also taught in the New Testament Bible of Our Lord Jesus Christ, teaching us that “it remaineth, that they also who have wives, be as if they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as if they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as if they used it not: for the fashion of this world passeth away. But I would have you to be without solicitude.” (1 Corinthians 7:29-32)
In truth, there are “many [virtuous and chaste people who] in humility and steadfastness persevere in their course [of virtue] to the end, and are saved. There are apparent diversities in these societies [of good Christians]; but one charity unites all who, from some necessity, in obedience to the apostle’s injunction, have their wives as if they had them not, and buy as if they bought not, and use this world as if they used it not.” (St. Augustine, Against Faustus, Book V, Section 9, A.D. 400)
Agreeing with the Holy Bible, St. Francis de Sales also stressed that making use of something, in this case the use of wives by their husbands, did not mean enjoying what one uses: “The marriage bed should be undefiled, as the Apostle tells us, i.e. pure, as it was when it was first instituted in the earthly Paradise, wherein no unruly desires or impure thought might enter. All that is merely earthly must be treated as means to fulfill the end God sets before His creatures. Thus we eat in order to preserve life, moderately, voluntarily, and without seeking an undue, unworthy satisfaction therefrom. “The time is short,” says St. Paul; “it remaineth that both they that have wives be as though they had not, and they that use this world, as not abusing it.” Let every one, then, use this world according to his vocation, but so as not to entangle himself with its love, that he may be as free and ready to serve God as though he used it not. “It is the great evil of man,” says St. Augustine, “to desire to enjoy the things which he should only use.” We should enjoy spiritual things, and only use corporal, of which when the use is turned into enjoyment, our rational soul is also changed into a brutish and beastly soul.” (St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to a Devout Life, Chapter XXXIX. Of The Sanctity Of The Marriage Bed.)
The Holy Bible makes it clear over and over again that sensuality and selfishness in all its forms will be punished with eternal damnation but that mortification, penance and the rejection of the perishable and carnal will be rewarded with eternal life and glory: “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live.”
Romans 8:1, 4-9, 12-13 “There is now therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh. … That the justification of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. For they that are according to the flesh, mind the things that are of the flesh; but they that are according to the spirit, mind the things that are of the spirit. For the wisdom of the flesh is death; but the wisdom of the spirit is life and peace. Because the wisdom of the flesh is an enemy to God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither can it be. And they who are in the flesh, cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. … Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live.”