Sunday, February 10, 2008

Clement of Alexandria on Sexuality in the OT Law

It's amazing how effortlessly the fathers open up the Law for us.

Further, it [the Law] forbids intercourse with a female captive so as to dishonour her. "But allow her," it says, "thirty days to mourn according to her wish, and changing her clothes, associate with her as your lawful wife." Deuteronomy 21:10-13 For it regards it not right that this should take place either in wantonness or for hire like harlots, but only for the birth of children. Do you see humanity combined with continence?
Do you see how the Catholic teaching on sexuality hasn't changed substantively since the early Church? And not only since then, but since the Law! God does not change, neither do His natural laws on sexuality.

Another insightful passage from the same work (The Stromata Book 2):
What reason is there in the law's prohibiting a man from "wearing woman's clothing "? Deuteronomy 22:5 Is it not that it would have us to be manly, and not to be effeminate neither in person and actions, nor in thought and word? For it would have the man, that devotes himself to the truth, to be masculine both in acts of endurance and patience, in life, conduct, word, and discipline by night and by day; even if the necessity were to occur, of witnessing by the shedding of his blood.
This ties in seamlessly with his condemnation of effeminate men which I discussed here. As the Catholic Church continues to affirm - the inherent differences of the sexes are divinely ordained and our sexuality is to be embraced not abhorred. This is why feminism is disordered and why 'metrosexualism' (if we can use such a term) is equally so.

And just as all Catholics are asked before marriage about their plans for children, Clement says:
For the man who did not desire to beget children had no right to marry at first
The early fathers understood this as well: marriage was not instituted to satisfy our lusts but so that man may exercise love, of which procreation is the fullest expression. That is why Catholics may not marry unless they want children - a demand hardly tailored to our self-serving generation.


Gretchen said...

Well stated. In this age of confusion over sexuality, those who are not confused need to speak up loudly.

Anonymous said...

Be able also to criticize in light of current Church practices those you admire from long ago. The Church allows both the elderly and the known sterile (not a widower who knows he is sterile) to marry and neither need have plans for children though the sterile often adopt as did one I know. Stoicism in the first three centuries made children willing the only thing that excused intercourse morally and some of our early saints unfortunately competed with Stoicism to say similar things.
Again the current Church does not ask this question of the elderly (plans for children) and yet allows them to marry. St. Ambrose for example was against the marriage of the elderly and his view too has been overcome by the mind and practice of the Church.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Anon -

You bring up some valid points. Still, I think you're using the exception to talk about the rule and I prefer it the other way around.

I say marriage is for love and procreation is the fullest expression and those who don't want children have no business marrying. The Church says the same thing. This isn't an exhaustive statement though. Like many other things, there are valid exceptions like the ones you brought up.

It's also valid that some of the early fathers tended to be a bit eccentric on some of these issues and did err from time to time. So you're right in saying that we ought to view the Fathers through the eyes of the Church. But we don't view the fathers in light of modern scholarship - that would be a mistake. They aren't subject to our 21st century cultural prejudices.