Did St. Augusting declare sex as evil???


#1

I was reading a book that claimed to know the history of religion and in it it said,

“St. Augusting taught that all sexual union was evil, having children was evidence of commiting sin and all people should be celibate to be worthy of the Kingdom of God.”

and went on to say that “…The Roman Pagans up through the fifth century CE denounced Christianity as being detrimental to family values (Tacitus).”

Is any of this true?


#2

what book? who is the author? what are his credentials? what writings of Augustine did he quote? what sources did he use for the second statement? Augustine condemned sexual immorality, it is true, and especially condemned to various perverted views of sexuality which were features of paganism and the various heresies against which he preached. All his statements about sexuality must be taken in the context of the document and the heresy about which he is speaking.

Yes, one of reasons some Roman emperors used to justify persecution of Christians in the early centuries was that they disregarded “family values” and the Roman state religion: emperor-worship. Roman family values were in a state of disintegration as adultery, homosexuality, and pedophilia were rampant even in the emperors’ families, and even in the best of times gave the father dictatorial rights over children and wives and denied the dignity of women. However by the mid-4th century when Chrisitianity was tolerated and supported by the emperor the persecutions ceased.

You must learn how to evaluate and criticize historical works and writers by their use of sources and the interpretations they make from those sources. Without the source of your quotes no criticism is possible.


#3

St Augustine probably did think sex was evil in some ways as he was a Manichean before his conversion to Catholcism, The Manicheans also beleived such teachings about sex. However this is not catholic thought today. I don’t recall anything with him as a Catholic saying sex was explcitly evil nor would he discourage sex as a procreative aspect but this was where he would stop the discussion on the purpose of sex the unitive and pleasureable aspects of sex would not serve a purpose to St Augustine. The Author of your book has an element of truth but exagerrates it as he seems to have an agenda, Augustine was definiely pro-family and pro-creation and that would be condusive to having population growth saught by the Roman Empire, he definitly didn’t teach celibacy was the only way to salvation as the author seems to implicate. Christians were persectued for reasons that had nothing to do with St Augustine’s theology on sex. But Augustine has little use for sex for pleasure as this was a result of self-love and selfish desires he calls the his own sexual organs as having a mind of its own in the The City of God. Thus sex became infected by sin. St Augustine was right on
most things but this is one of the things he went overboard on.

Thankfully this was corrected by Aquanis who said there was no sin in partaking in the pleasure of sex- in fact there was sin in not seeking pleasure in what was a purpose provided by God. One can indeed seek pleasure he taught as long as procreation and and unity are also saught. Thus the basics of natural law that Catholcism constantly refers to in human sexuality. Any of these things happen to be missing and it can be sinful, for example few other christians believe artifical insemination is sinful but the natural law theory of Aquinas would rule it to be sinful as you would have only one out of 3 qualifiers, you have the pro-creative aspect which is sought but pleasure between the spouses is not here nor is the unitive aspect of the sexual union.
To this very day Aquanis dominated the sexual viewpoint of catholcism not St Augustine. If you have read any of John Paul 2 he is totally absorbed in the natural law of Aquinas and not the Manichean tendencies of St Augustine so while an anti-catholic might have a point that St Augusintine’s view of sexality was not entirely healthy this is not the viewpoint of catholcsim today nor has it been for quite some time.


#4

check out this month’s issue of This Rock article, Does the Catholic Church hate Women- it also by the way has a great article on the early Fathers of the Church, first in a series. Point is the early Fathers wrote and taught in an era dominated by Greek thought and Roman government and are products of their era. Without an understanding of Greek thought and Roman government, and the political events of the first 3 centuries a coherent discussion of the development of doctrine and theology in their cultural context is impossible.

Bear in mind also when Tacitus writes, (Ad 55-120 during the first waves of anti-Christian persecution, in the first & 2nd century of the Empire) and when Augustine writes (4th-5th centuries, after Constantine has made Christianity the official religion of the Empire) and you will see that there must have been enormous social, philosophical, demographic and political changes in that time period.

If you are discussing a work of history we must first have the author, title and the actual quotes, and his attribution for the sources. If not, we have nothing to discuss. If you would like a reliable book on the world in which the early Church developed, I suggest beginning with the Backgrounds of Early Christianity by Ferguson (W Eerdmans). Henry Chadwick’s book on the History of Christianity is the classic introductory work. Read the confessions of St. Augustine if you wish to understand his thought and the conversion process he underwent in his spirituality and philosophy.


#5

[quote=MichelleTherese]I was reading a book that claimed to know the history of religion and in it it said,

“St. Augusting taught that all sexual union was evil, having children was evidence of commiting sin and all people should be celibate to be worthy of the Kingdom of God.”

and went on to say that “…The Roman Pagans up through the fifth century CE denounced Christianity as being detrimental to family values (Tacitus).”

Is any of this true?
[/quote]

It could very well be true because prior to becoming a Christian Augustine spent 10 years as a Manichee. Manichees did believe that sex was evil, and that having children was evil, and that it was much preferrable to have sex with a concubine than a wife.

They were a gnostic sect and saw flesh in general as being evil, so obviously having children perpetuates the evil.

Or something along those lines.

In addition to that Augustine himself has problems with sexual sins. He had a concubine, then after he got rid of her he found another one. He said that his love of sex was the last thing that kept him from committing in will to Christianity.

Such a history probably influenced his attitude about sexuality. But I am pretty sure it changed after he left Manichaeism and became a Christian.Although he may still have seen celibacy as the superior path.

Anyway, this is me going on memory from things I’ve read/heard…

Make what you will of it.


#6

I’m with PuzzleA-- let’s see some direct quotes from Augustine put in context before we presume to summarize what he did or did not say and believe.


#7

Celibacy sounds like it was the only path for Augustine as it is possible he was what we today call a “sex addict.” Much like an alcoholic who in recovery can not have even a single drink for likelihood of relapse, I suspect Augustine’s stance on sex was at least to some degree motivated by this.


#8

I would also like to know the book, author, and quote (especially the quote). Also, ditto to what Wisdom said. I suggest Augustines “City of God”. While it can appear at first glance that Augustine finds sex evil, a closer look will show that he is declaring sexual lust as evil. Indeed, he goes on to say the following (I recommend reading the full sections of Book XIV, Chapters 16-28): Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman was instituted by God and would have occurred even in paradise (before the fall) where there was no sin. (reading “Confessions” will show that Augustine held all things created by God were by definition “good”).

Again, Augustine did **not ** argue that sex was evil (after his conversion to Catholocism, not (as Wisdom mentioned) necessarily true while he associated with the Manechians). Rather, he argued that sex was good and ordained by God, but lust associated with sex (aka lustful sex) was evil.

Augustine did not teach that having children was evidence of committing sin (in the aspect that sex itself is a sin) but rather that after the fall, lust became in a way attached to sex, and that human lust was sinful (sorry for repeating myself). (He does, however, argue in Chapter 21 against “men at the present time” that do feel that children would not have been created without sin even in paradise).

Hope this helps,
k


#9

[quote=Fidelis]I’m with PuzzleA-- let’s see some direct quotes from Augustine put in context before we presume to summarize what he did or did not say and believe.
[/quote]

On the Goods of Marriage: “Marital intercourse for the sake of procreation has no fault attached to it, but for the satisfying of lust, even with one’s husband or wife, for the faith of the bed, is venially sinful; but adultery or fornication is mortally sinful. Moreover, continence from all intercourse is even better than marital intercourse itself, even if it takes place for the sake of procreation. But even though continence is better, to pay the dues of marriage is no crime, but to demand it beyond the necessity of procreation is a venial sin, although fornication and adultery are mortally sinful.”
bibletexts.com/qa/qa099.htm


#10

MichelleTherese,

No, what you read is incorrect. It’s a secularist polemic, nothing more.

While I’d say St.Augustine (though he wasn’t alone amongst the Fathers in this) was a little on the “severe” side on this topic, his views on sexuality are a little more complicated than most will give credit.

Like the Scriptures, St.Augustine understood consecrated virginity/continence to be superior to marriage. However, one being superior does not make the other bad. Just as if I were to say “platinum is more costly than gold”, this doesn’t mean gold is cheap!

In his view, the need to procreate is not as pressing now that the Lord has come, and we are living in the “last aeon”; really everything from the Ascension onward is one big “waiting game”, letting the Lord gather His sheep…and when He determines He’s done, that’s it - end game, judgement of all, etc.

With that said, St.Augustine still thought marriage was holy, and valuable as a means of conquering lust, which fallen man is prone to. And while he recognized that even within marriage one often feels the same kind of “lusty feelings” that one would feel if they were simply fornicating, he taught that this was “pardoned” by the fact that marriage allows those baser feelings to be enobled and used for a higher end - namely, the conceiving of Godly children, and for securing the friendship of the spouses (what some would call the “unitive” aspect of marriage.)

Probably the only area where St.Augustine would be seen as “excessive” by some, is that he found fault with married couples who used their conjugal rights for reasons other than the conception of a child. He, like St.Clement of Alexandria and a few other Fathers, thought this “unnatural” (ex. the case of spouses having sexual relations when they knew conception wasn’t possible - like old age, etc.) He also seemed to have thought certain sexual practices were in and of themselves unnatural and degrading, so he probably wouldn’t have thought too well of either NFP or Catholicism’s tolerance of pretty much anything in marriage so long as it doesn’t harm the health of the spouses and on the “male end” of things is completed “naturally”.


#11

[quote=Palamite]so he probably wouldn’t have thought too well of either NFP or Catholicism’s tolerance of pretty much anything in marriage so long as it doesn’t harm the health of the spouses and on the “male end” of things is completed “naturally”.
[/quote]

Such I nice post until the anti-Catholic jab at the end. :frowning:


#12

[quote=MichelleTherese]I was reading a book that claimed to know the history of religion and in it it said,

“St. Augusting taught that all sexual union was evil, having children was evidence of commiting sin and all people should be celibate to be worthy of the Kingdom of God.”
[/quote]

What book is this?

Augustine did not teach that the physical act was evil. He taught that in our fallen condition the physical act is always accompanied by a moment of self-centered passion which involves a lack of control and is evidence of the degree to which our will is turned in on itself. The physical union, however, was not evil. Furthermore, if a married couple only had sex in order to have children, I’m not sure it would be correct from his point of view to say that they were sinning. He explicitly in several places identifies sexual intercourse beyond what is necessary to have children as being (venially) sinful. That would seem to imply that sexual intercourse only to have children was not sinful.

Augustine did encourage celibacy (as almost all early Christians did), and he thought it was admirable for married people to abstain from sexual intercourse. He did not teach that everyone should be celibate, however. In his later years he thought no one could avoid venial sin (of some sort), whether they were celibate or not. He taught explicitly (in contrast to some other Christians of his day, including many of the early Pelagians) that a married couple (who had sex in order to have children) could be just as holy as any celibate. For Augustine, the ultimate virtue was humility, not chastity.

and went on to say that “…The Roman Pagans up through the fifth century CE denounced Christianity as being detrimental to family values (Tacitus).”

That’s true enough. But “family values” for the Romans meant that the father had absolute control over his family (even being able to kill his children in certain circumstances) and everyone obeyed him without question. Christianity challenged this absolute authority of the father.

Edwin


#13

Mickey,

Such I nice post until the anti-Catholic jab at the end.

Listen, I was simply saying how St.Augustine did in fact differ in his views from what the contemporary RCC teaches on certain delicate topics. I was being honest and balanced, first explaining that he was not some “anti-sex nut” either, as he’s often portrayed.

Frankly, I think you need to grow some tougher skin. You have a history with me of taking either simple disagreement or things which are not even remotely derogatory (you know what I’m talking about) as being “insulting”.


#14

[quote=Palamite]Mickey,
Frankly, I think you need to grow some tougher skin. You have a history with me of taking either simple disagreement or things which are not even remotely derogatory
[/quote]

There you go again. :rolleyes:
My skin is thick enough thanks to posters such as yourself. :smiley:

As I stated, your post was balanced and informative until you infused this statement: “so he probably wouldn’t have thought too well of either NFP…”

You have projected your own bias into St Augustine’s thinking. But then by reading many of your posts, I do understand that you are somewhat preoccupied with the contraception issue.

So Although you enjoy posting comments about how people are so fast to scream “lack of charity” because they cannot refute your brilliant posts, I suggest that you thoroughly read over your posts before you hit the submit button. :wink:


#15

[quote=Palamite] He also seemed to have thought certain sexual practices were in and of themselves unnatural and degrading, so he probably wouldn’t have thought too well of either NFP or Catholicism’s tolerance of pretty much anything in marriage so long as it doesn’t harm the health of the spouses and on the “male end” of things is completed “naturally”.
[/quote]

I’m going to have to take issue with this section of your statement. The Church takes issue with many sexual practices,in no way tolerating “pretty much anything in marriage…”, this is a misstatement. Also, NFP, if used as intended is not unnatural or degrading in anyway (though you may not have intended to imply so)

God bless,
k


#16

"On the Goods of Marriage: “Marital intercourse for the sake of procreation has no fault attached to it, but for the satisfying of lust, even with one’s husband or wife, for the faith of the bed, is venially sinful;"

So, is Augustine saying that if a husband and wife have sex because they are both sexually aroused, it is a sin?


#17

CCC 2351 "Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purpose."

In saying that marital intercourse to satisfy lust is sinful, he stating something that the Church holds as well. Sexual arousal is not the same thing as lust. Lust is wanting something for the sake of that thing (in this case, wanting sex purely for pleasure of self).

God bless,
kate


#18

Actually, Augustine would be all for a reverse form of NFP as a way to insure sex would only take place in the most fertile of time for a woman and to keep down the occasion of committing the ‘necessary evil’ down as much as possible.


#19

by all accounts he was monogamous with the mother of his son, and was not allowed to marry her because of class differences and civil law. He put her aside when he and his son entered the Church. He may have had one other relationship before this. That hardly makes him a sex addict. As I said, no point discussing his views of sex to him without attribution.


#20

Yes, I would have to agree that his excessive sexual proclivities in life had a dramatic affect on his epiphany from such acts of lust. The more severe of actions usually results in the total reversal and degree of severity of opposite reforms.


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