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dignity of the sexual relationship. If a man made sexual advances to a
woman outside marriage, and thus brought her within the despised circle of
"lust," he was injuring her because he was impairing her religious and
moral value. The only way he could repair the damage done was by
paying her money or by entering into a forced and therefore probably
unfortunate marriage with her. That is to say that sexual relationships
were, by the ecclesiastical traditions, placed on a pecuniary basis, on
the same level as prostitution. By its well-meant intentions to support
the theological morality which had developed on an ascetic basis, the
Church was thus really undermining even that form of sexual relationship
which it sanctified.
Gregory the Great ordered that the seducer of a virgin shall
marry her, or, in case of refusal, be severely punished
corporally and shut up in a monastery to perform penance.
According to other ecclesiastical rules, the seducer of a virgin,
though held to no responsibility by the civil forum, was required
to marry her, or to find a husband and furnish a dowry for her.
Such rules had their good side, and were especially equitable
when seduction had been accomplished by deceit. But they largely
tended in practice to subordinate all questions of sexual
morality to a money question. The reparation to the woman, also,
largely became necessary because the ecclesiastical conception of
lust caused her value to be depreciated by contact with lust, and
the reparation might be said to constitute a part of penance.
Aquinas held that lust, in however slight a degree, is a mortal
sin, and most of the more influential theologians took a view
nearly or quite as rigid. Some, however, held that a certain
degree of delectation is possible in these matters without mortal
sin, or asserted, for instance, that to feel the touch of a soft
and warm hand is not mortal sin so long as no sexual feeling is
thereby aroused. Others, however, held that such distinctions are
impossible, and that all pleasures of this kind are sinful. Tomas
Sanchez endeavored at much length to establish rules for the
complicated problems of delectation that thus arose, but he was
constrained to admit that no rules are really possible, and that
such matters must be left to the judgment of a prudent man. At
that point casuistry dissolves and the modern point of view
emerges (see, e.g., Lea, _History of Auricular Confession_, vol.
ii, pp. 57, 115, 246, etc.).
Even to-day the influence of the old traditions of the Church still
unconsciously survives among us. That is inevitable as regards religious
teachers, but it is found also in men of science, even in Protestant
countries. The result is that quite contradictory dogmas are found side by
side, even in the same writer. On the one hand, the manifestations of the
sexual impulse are emphatically condemned as both unnecessary and evil; on
the other hand, marriage, which is fundamentally (whatever else it may
also be) a manifestation of the sexual impulse, receives equally emphatic
approval as the only proper and moral form of living. There can be no
reasonable doubt whatever that it is to the surviving and pervading
influence of the ancient traditional theological conception of _libido_
that we must largely attribute the sharp difference of opinions among
physicians on the question of sexual abstinence and the otherwise
unnecessary acrimony with which these opinions have sometimes been stated.
On the one side, we find the emphatic statement that sexual intercourse is
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