Three Questions

  1. Is a desire for marriage, or specifically the ordered sublimation of the sexual desire into a desire for a godly marriage, a species of lust, or can it be?

  2. Is there an ideal length of courtship? If so, what? Why?

  3. If lust refers rightly to all sexual desire outside of marriage, would it not then follow that it a species of lust to court for any reason other than spiritual affinity or intellectual unanimity?- But this seems false, as the proper outlet for sexuality is marriage, and so ‘chemistry’ would seem important, indeed, integral, to a relationship.

At what point, then, can attraction outside of marriage in a relationship directed towards the discernment of proximate (a few years) marriage be called lustful? Does it depend on acts or thoughts? It is apparently a lustful thought to desire to consummate a courtship by fornication. Is it disordered to desire the opportunity of marriage, in which to consummate a relationship?

I mean, it seems that there is no imperative jump in reasoning from ‘I enjoy my Platonic friendship with this girl’ to ‘I wish to marry this girl’, without some eye towards the sexual end of marriage; this is not to say that sex is the only reason for marriage, but without any sexual desire or attraction, why marry? Why not retain the Platonic relationship as it is?

But, if sexual desire is somehow necessary for marriage reasonably to be contracted, it cannot be considered in all cases lustful, can it? Is a sin a necessary prelude to a Sacrament?

Well the way my priests puts the question of what can truly be considered lust is something a long the lines of “You can let the bird fly over your head, but don’t let it nest in your hair.” Sexual thoughts are natural and part of the normal order of things, the issue of sin comes in when we let those thoughts turn into fantasies so that instead of using the gift that God gave us in the way he intended we instead pervert it for our own entertainment.

Well, you squeezed ten question marks into three a question post!

  1. If marriage is your vocation, and this requires discernment, just as with any vocation, then it is completely normal and natural to want to marry and produce a family. If one marries for the sake of relieving sexual urges, it is done for a disordered reason and becomes lustful. One does not marry a reproductive system and accept the rest of the person; one marries a soul which occupies a body.

  2. Courtship is entered into by consent of both parties and is terminated at the will of either one. As to its length, only the two souls involved will know. It might take weeks, months or years.

  3. In pondering marriage, both parties should consider all aspects of a relationship. There can exist lust even inside of marriage, if sexual desire is directed toward the satisfaction of the self, and to the exclusion of the other.

Lust is thoughts leading to physical desire, and is not an action. Thoughts of marriage should concern one with all aspects of the relationship, and not just the sexual union. We live in a sex-soaked society, and a preoccupation with sexual union clouds the thoughts of many.

I would suggest that you peruse some of Jason and Christina Evert’s books on chastity and relationships. Speak with your priest about these moral questions. it almost sounds like you are feeling a sexual attraction toward someone else and have doubts about your motives.

All vice is a perversion or disorder of a natural and good desire. Sexual desire as such is not evil

  1. Is there an ideal length of courtship? If so, what? Why?

I heard a priest once give the advise that you should be friends for a year, and that if you’ve courted for 6 months and are still at the “Oh I just don’t know” stage, that its better to just move on than to prolong the courtship and that engagement should last about a year. However I know several people, including myself, who didn’t stick with the ideal and I think we can get caught up so much with ideals that we eventually lose the point.

  1. If lust refers rightly to all sexual desire outside of marriage, would it not then follow that it a species of lust to court for any reason other than spiritual affinity or intellectual unanimity?- But this seems false, as the proper outlet for sexuality is marriage, and so ‘chemistry’ would seem important, indeed, integral, to a relationship.

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 purposes.

Lust is not sexual desire itself nor it is all sexual desire outside of marriage. Being sexually attracted to one another is a positive thing and not an evil thing. The problem is that we are lustful creatures and we struggle to practice self control.

At what point, then, can attraction outside of marriage in a relationship directed towards the discernment of proximate (a few years) marriage be called lustful? Does it depend on acts or thoughts? It is apparently a lustful thought to desire to consummate a courtship by fornication. Is it disordered to desire the opportunity of marriage, in which to consummate a relationship?

A courtship is a time of discerning. It is not a marriage. There may be intense feelings and even desires to commit and feelings of “I just couldn’t hurt you like that to leave you.” but the problem with sexual activity before marriage is that sex is just so bonding. Its designed to make you very attached to the person and to in effect not want to leave them. However, when you’re discerning marriage, you’re supposed to be free to leave them. You don’t want to make an imprudent marriage decision based on a hormonal attachment. You want to marry someone because you’ve gotten to know them, are confident they’d make a good spouse, are confident you’d make a good couple and overall are ready in your lives to give yourself to the other person completely and entirely in marriage. If a person is at that point in their life where they are ready to marry each other, there should be no extra delays in getting married. If they have valid reasons to not get married, they have valid reasons to not have sex.

God designed sex to bond couples, to create babies and to overall foster the human family. God designed marriage as a deliberate means for the couple to enter into a covenant with each other where they vow they first give their consent and give themselves totally to this ministry of being a family. Dating is a time to discern whether or not to do this. If you’re still not sure, than what you end up tempted to do in a courtship is to find ways to enjoy aspects of the sexual union without the fertile consequences. You thus disorder the purpose of sex and try to put it to your benefit. I want this aspect, but not that aspect. Couples within marriage are tempted to do this all the time. However, it is not at all to mean to say that a couple does not sin in committing fornication so long as they are open to having children. The point is their relationship isn’t a married relationship.

I apologise in advance if I sound blunt or rude; I’m not trying to be. I’m just deeply concerned about these questions; call it scruples.


To the first,

Right; such works for occasions of sexual temptation as a general rule, but can we really say that the only thought we should commit to sexuality is that which arises once married? This part of chastity I understand.


Well, you squeezed ten question marks into three a question post!

:o

  1. If marriage … body.

I concur with the first sentence.

To the second, I’d say that to marry for this reason to the exclusion of the procreative, or with no intention of procreation, is disordered. Nevertheless, the precendent for marriage in part as a “remedy for concupiscence”, as Trent would say, is Scriptural.

Self-examination, determining that one has not been gifted, as St Paul, with the capacity for celibacy, could arguably be key to the discernment processes for marriage, and a reason to marry.

Mutual assistance and the begetting and education of children being bound up in that, of course.

  1. Courtship … years.

Indeed; I had thought this a very individual thing; I know many people who pronounce doctrinally on both sides a universal rule for length of courtship, but I’ve always hesitated to take up any such position.

  1. In pondering marriage, … other.

True.

Lust is thoughts leading to physical desire, and is not an action. Thoughts of marriage should concern one with all aspects of the relationship, and not just the sexual union. We live in a sex-soaked society, and a preoccupation with sexual union clouds the thoughts of many.

If lust is sinful it is certainly an act of the will to direct one’s mind. No sin is passive.

I never considered the sexual union to exclusion; it is just patent that the other considerations of marriage are not occasions of sin, but it is not apparent that any consideration at depth of the sexual aspect is not an occasion of sin; hence I wished to narrow the question to what was in dispute.

I would suggest that you peruse some of Jason and Christina Evert’s books on chastity and relationships. Speak with your priest about these moral questions. it almost sounds like you are feeling a sexual attraction toward someone else and have doubts about your motives.

I have a spiritual director as to my own life, but I find myself surrounded by strongly opinionated people who disagree with what my spiritual director has advised as to these questions. Hence I find myself descending into the curious territory of scrupulosity, which for me has the added bonus of leading me to actual sin (by way of despair) in occasions where I feel I have already sinned (but in fact am only suffering of scrupulosity).


All vice is a perversion or disorder of a natural and good desire. Sexual desire as such is not evil

I agree.

I heard a priest once give the advise that you should be friends for a year, and that if you’ve courted for 6 months and are still at the “Oh I just don’t know” stage, that its better to just move on than to prolong the courtship and that engagement should last about a year. However I know several people, including myself, who didn’t stick with the ideal and I think we can get caught up so much with ideals that we eventually lose the point.

I agree. Also, needless ideals, it seems to me, beyond the moral code, serve as false yardsticks for the spiritually reflective and can lead to scrupulosity.

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 purposes.

Lust is not sexual desire itself nor it is all sexual desire outside of marriage. Being sexually attracted to one another is a positive thing and not an evil thing. The problem is that we are lustful creatures and we struggle to practice self control.

Right. And I think we would be aided in practicing self-control who are headed marriagewards if there were some way to direct our thoughts in patient confidence towards the proper end of our desire, without constantly suspecting ourselves of lust. I don’t mean fantasising about marriage; rather understanding the ordered variety of the desire which we are experiencing, and, rather than trying to stifle the desire together with its excess, direct it towards its proper end.

A courtship is a time of discerning. … sex.

I don’t think the question of sex outside of marriage was addressed in my questions. I don’t mean to sound blunt, but responses like this (which frequently attend such inquiries as I make on this topic) leave me feeling quite depressed, wondering whether anyone sees what I’m getting at.

Of course one does not commit unchaste acts outside of marriage.

But how does one deal with one’s sexual desire in mente while discerning marriage?

God designed … relationship.

Patet.


Thanks for the responses; I’m sorry if I came off as blunt; these questions just drive me to distraction. Perhaps I did not word them adequately, in which case I hope my further replies have helped to clarify what is my line of inquiry.

That is a given. However, there is Saint Elzear and his wife, Blessed Delphina, who remained celibate their entire marriage - she having advised him post-marriage that she had taken a vow of virginity. He reacted to this by taking his own vow!

americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1149

Except for when we sin because of “what we have failed to do” (from the penitential rite). Passivity, when action is required, can also be sin. But don’t feel sinful because you are attracted to someone! - Only if your attraction was or is primarily sexual is it a problem.

IMO, you are overanalyzing this entire situation. If your spiritual adviser is sound (i.e. a Priest) please strongly resist what anyone else tells you. What is their moral authority to speak to this situation?

Also remember that scrupulosity becomes the sin, in that you begin to doubt God’s mercy. You are in danger of judging yourself when God is fully aware of your heart and your limitations. Scrupulosity will sooner or later paralyze you.

You may derive comfort from reading the lives of the Saints. Each displayed their faults - some were substantial faults - yet they are Saints. You can receive a daily email of the Saint of the Day from the link above.

Last and perhaps most important: Don’t beat yourself up. The world will do it for you.

That is a given. However, there is Saint Elzear and his wife, Blessed Delphina, who remained celibate their entire marriage - she having advised him post-marriage that she had taken a vow of virginity. He reacted to this by taking his own vow!

Had he not reacted in that way, what would have been the morality of this situation? Clearly God used it for good, but I see on the one hand Bl. Delphina having entered the marriage contract with deceit, not intending to pay the marriage debt should it be demanded of her, and on the other St. Elzear having every reasonable right to expect his new wife to be his wife.

This is not to say that what happened is not a greater good, thanks be to God, but a situation like this, it seems to me, is not only highly irregular (for it does really border on the immoral at times), but certainly against reasonable expectation. Indeed, St Elzear would have been, I think, justified to be angry with his wife for having deceived him into taking vows she never intended to keep, and indeed which contradicted her own previous vows.

Pardon my cynicism about the Saints, it is not typical, but this story strikes me as very, very irregular. At very least, it has confused me even more deeply.

Except for when we sin because of “what we have failed to do” (from the penitential rite). Passivity, when action is required, can also be sin. But don’t feel sinful because you are attracted to someone! - Only if your attraction was or is primarily sexual is it a problem.

But isn’t sexuality itself deeper than the carnal?

I mean, is it not possible to lust after someone’s other attributes? To lust after the idea of marrying them, to lust after their mind, to lust after even their spiritual gifts?

But I mean as well, can’t an ordered attraction on any level which leads to the desire to enter into wedlock with a person of the opposite gender be described as sexual?

I don’t think lust resides primarily in the topic of thought (although some topics clearly are always lustful), but where does it reside?

IMO, you are overanalyzing this entire situation. If your spiritual adviser is sound (i.e. a Priest) please strongly resist what anyone else tells you. What is their moral authority to speak to this situation?

They are my teachers, these others.

Also remember that scrupulosity becomes the sin, in that you begin to doubt God’s mercy. You are in danger of judging yourself when God is fully aware of your heart and your limitations. Scrupulosity will sooner or later paralyze you.

Indeed.

You may derive comfort from reading the lives of the Saints. Each displayed their faults - some were substantial faults - yet they are Saints. You can receive a daily email of the Saint of the Day from the link above.

Last and perhaps most important: Don’t beat yourself up. The world will do it for you.

Thank you. :blush:

Is Fr Larry Richards your priest? How lucky.

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