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 Karol Wojtyla's Love and Responsibility: a summary

William E. May



           This book, published in Polish in 1960 and in English in 1981, is a magnificent work, philosophical in nature, on the human person, human sexuality, love, and marriage. It is, however, a somewhat difficult book to read, posing many challenges to the reader. I believe that I have now read it at least 30 times and each time I learn something new.

           It is such a great work that the thought set forth in it needs to be known by as many people as possible. Here I attempt to summarize as clearly as possible its major ideas in the hope that this will be helpful to many.

           The book has five chapters: One: The Person and the Sexual Urge; Two: The Person and Love; Three: The Person and Chastity; Four: Justice to the Creator; and Five: Sexology and Ethics. I will now attempt to summarize them.

Chapter One: The Person and the Sexual Urge

           This chapter has two major parts: (1) Analysis of the Verb “To Use”; and (2) Interpretation of the Sexual Urge.

1. Analysis of the Verb "to Use"

           The first subsection here concerns "The Person as the Subject and Object of Action." As subjects, persons are characterized by a specific inner self and life; as objects, persons are “entities,” “somebodies,” and not some things” (p. 21). Wojtyla affirms that human beings differ radically from animals insofar as they are persons and thus have an "inner self," and "interior life" (pp. 22-23). As persons, human beings are incommunicable and inalienable (irreplaceable) (p. 24). Note that in a later section Wojtyla explicitly affirms that "a child, even an unborn child, cannot be denied personality in its most objective ontological sense, although it is true that it has yet to acquire, step by step, many of the traits which will make it psychologically and ethically a distinct personality" (p. 26). This is most important because it makes it clear that Wojtyla holds that unborn children are indeed persons and do not become persons at some stage of development.

           The second subsection, "The First Meaning of the Verb, 'to Use,'" identifies this first meaning as the employment of "some object of action as a means to an end" (p. 25), to which the means is subordinated. Man's relationship to other creatures is one of use in this sense. Even here there are restraints on what man can rightly do; in treating animals, for instance, "man is required to ensure that the use of these creatures is never attended by suffering or physical torture" (p. 25; cf. note 4 on pp. 289-290). Now while it is true that men "use" other human beings as means to ends other than the persons themselves, Wojtyla insists that "a person must not be merely the means to an end for another person," since this is precluded "by the very nature of personhood" (p. 26). In an aside, as it were, Wojtyla also affirms that "the education of children...is...a matter of seeking true ends, i.e., real goods (my emphasis) as the ends of our actions, and of finding and showing to others the ways to realize them" (p. 27).

           The third subsection, "'Love' as the Opposite of 'Using'," seeks to find a positive solution to the problem of the proper attitude to have toward a person. Wojtyla insists that love is possible only if there is a "bond of a common good" uniting persons. Indeed, "Man's capacity for love depends on his willingness consciously to seek a good together with others, and to subordinate himself to that good for the sake of others, or to others for the sake of that good. Love is exclusively the portion of human persons" (pp. 28-29). He likewise insists that love begins as a principle or idea that people must live up to. He applies all this to marriage, which is one of the most important areas where the principle that love is possible only if there is some common good is applicable. In marriage, he says, "a man and a woman are united in such a way that they become in a sense 'one flesh,'...i.e., one common subject, as it were, of sexual life." To ensure that they do not become mere means in each other's eyes, "they must share the same end. Such an end, where marriage is concerned, is procreation, the future generation, a family, and, at the same time, the continual ripening of the relationship between two people, in all the areas of activity which conjugal life includes" (p. 30).

           In concluding this section Wojtyla considers the man-woman relationship in its widest sense and maintains that the love he is talking about "is identified with a particular readiness to subordinate oneself to that good, which 'humanity', or more precisely, the value of the person represents, regardless of the difference of sex" (p. 31). In other words, the value of the person is the "common good" uniting men and women in love.

           The fourth subsection, "The Second Meaning of the Verb, 'to Use'," identifies that meaning as signifying "enjoyment," i.e., to enjoy or experience pleasure (p. 32). At times human persons are the sources of pleasure and enjoyment. It is here that sexual morality comes into play, "not only because persons are aware of the purpose of sexual life, but also because they are aware that they are persons. The whole moral problem of 'using' as the antithesis of love is connected with this knowledge of theirs" (p. 33).

           Man can make pleasure the aim of his activity (use in its second sense). One can "use" another person as a means of obtaining pleasure. Wojtyla's thesis is that "the belief that a human being is a person leads to the acceptance of the postulate that enjoyment must be subordinated to love" (p. 34). This leads him to offer a critical analysis of utilitarianism.

           The fifth subsection is his "Critique of Utilitarianism." The basic norm for utilitarians is that an action ought to produce the maximum of pleasure for the greatest possible number of people, with a minimum of discomfort or pain (pp. 35-36). Wojtyla then exposes the superficiality of which erects the subjective experience of pleasure into the "common good" uniting persons and argues instead that there must be an objective common good as the foundation for true love between persons (pp. 37-38). Utilitarians at times respond to criticism of this kind by holding that the pleasure they seek to maximize is to be enjoyed subjectively by the greatest number. The trouble with this is that "'love' in this utilitarian conception is a union of egoisms, which can hold together only on condition that they confront each other with nothing unpleasant, nothing to conflict with their mutual pleasure. But this simply means that human beings use each other as means of obtaining their own subjective experience of pleasure. The person becomes a mere instrument to obtaining pleasant experiences (p. 39).

           The sixth subsection, "The Commandment to Love, and the Personalistic Norm," begins with a statement of the love commandment of scriptures. Wojtyla holds that utilitarianism is incompatible with this commandment, but to make this incompatibility explicit it is necessary to show that the love commandment is rooted in what Wojtyla calls the personalistic norm. According to him, “the commandment does not put into so many words the principle on the basis of which love between persons is to be practiced.” This principle is the personalistic norm, which, in its negative aspect, states that the person is the kind of good which does not admit of use and cannot be treated as an object of use and as such the means to an end. In its positive form the personalist norm confirms this: the person is a good towards which the only proper and adequate attitude is love" (p. 41). This norm, so Kantian in tone, is then explained: love is a requirement of justice, yet at the same time it goes beyond justice since justice is concerned chiefly with things in relationship to persons whereas love is concerned directly and immediately with persons (p. 42). The whole matter is then related to the realm of sexuality.

2. Interpretation of the Sexual Urge

           This part of chapter 1 contains 7 subsections. The first, called "Instinct or Urge," or perhaps "Instinct or Impulse," argues that in man the sexual drive is better called an "urge" or "impulse" than an instinct. An instinct is merely a "reflex mode of action," not dependent on conscious thought (p. 45). Since man, however, is a being who is by nature "capable of rising above instinct in his actions," and can do so in the sexual sphere as well as elsewhere, it is far better to speak of the sexual "urge." "When we speak of the sexual urge in man we have in mind not an interior source of specific actions somehow 'imposed in advance,' but a certain orientation, a certain direction in man's life implicit in his very nature. The sexual urge in this conception is a natural drive born in all human beings, a vector of aspiration along which their whole existence develops and perfects itself from within" (p. 46). It "creates as it were a base for definite actions, for considered actions in which man exercises self-dominion....This property permeating the whole existence of man is a force which manifests itself not only in what 'happens' involuntarily in the human body, the senses and the emotions, but also in that which takes shape with the aid of the will" (p. 47).

           In the next subsection, "The Sexual Urge as an Attribute of the Individual," Wojtyla emphasizes that every human being is a sexual being, and that "membership of one of the two sexes means that a person's whole existence has a particular orientation which shows itself in his or her actual internal development" (p. 47). This orientation is felt both internally and turns outward, having as its object "the other sex" as a complex of distinctive properties.

           Wojtyla says that if we look at sex exclusively from the outside we can "define it as a specific synthesis of attributes which manifest themselves clearly in the psychological and physiological structure of man" (p. 48); the phenomenon of sexual attraction makes the complementary of the sexes obvious (note that Wojtyla here does not attempt to specify in what this complementarity consists). He then raises the question: "Is it that the attributes of each sex possess a value for the other, and that what we call the sexual urge comes into being because of this, or do these attributes, on the contrary, possess a value for them because of the existence of the sexual urge?" (p. 48). Wojtyla believes that the second alternative is correct inasmuch as the sexual urge is even more basic that the psychological and physiological attributes of man and woman. In addition, the sexual urge is not fully defined as an orientation towards these attributes of the other sex as such: rather it is directed "towards another human being...[and] if it is directed towards the sexual attributes as such this must be recognized as an impoverishment or even a perversion of the urge [homosexuality and bestiality]....The natural direction of the sexual urge is towards a human being of the opposite sex and not merely towards 'the other sex' as such. It is just because it is directed towards a particular human being that the sexual urge can provide the framework within which, and the basis on which, the possibility of love arises....the sexual urge in man has natural tendency to develop into love simply because the two objects affected....are both people" (p. 49).

           Love, however, is "given its definitive shape by acts of will at the level of the person" (p. 49). The sexual urge in man "functions differently from the urge in animals, where it is the source of instinctive actions governed by nature alone. In man it is naturally subordinate to the will, and ipso facto subject to the specific dynamics of that freedom which the will possesses" (p. 50).

           "The Sexual Urge and Existence," the third subsection of this part, emphasizes that the end of the sexual urge, its end per se, is "something supra-personal, the existence of the species Homo, the constant prolongation of its existence" (p. 51). This is an exceptionally important section. Wojtyla stresses that "existence is the first and basic good of every creature," and that the sexual urge in man has an "existential significance, for it is bound up with the whole existence of the species Homo" (p. 52). But homo is a person, and hence the sexual urge as orienting us toward the existence of the species man as its proper end is something deeply personal. This is most significant. Unlike some "personalists," Wojtyla does not regard the procreative meaning of human sexuality as something merely biological that must be assumed into consciousness in order to become personal; rather it is personal, for it is this meaning of human sexuality that is oriented to the preservation of the species, to the prolongation of persons. "If the sexual urge has an existential character, if it is bound up with the very existence of the human person--that first and most basic good--then it must be subject to the principles which are binding in respect of the person. Hence, although the sexual urge is there for man to use, it must never be used in the absence of, or worse still, in a way which contradicts, love for the person" (p. 52). It therefore follows, he urges, that deliberate attempts to impede the existential (procreative) significance of the sexual urge will have a damaging effect upon love between persons (p. 53).

           In Wojtyla's judgment, it is the link between the sexual urge and the existence of human persons that "gives the sexual urge its objective importance and meaning" (p. 53). This is reflected in the character of true conjugal love of persons who "facilitate the existence of another concrete person, their own child, blood of their blood, and flesh of their flesh...[a] person...at once an affirmation and a continuation of their own love" (p. 53).

           In the following section, "The Religious Interpretation," Wojtyla stresses that the love of human persons, who transcend the material universe, while being fertile in the biological sense because of the sexual urge, is likewise fertile in the spiritual, moral, and personal sphere (p. 55). The sexual urge in man, who is a created being, is linked to the divine order "inasmuch as it is realized under the constant influence of God the Creator. A man and a woman, through their conjugal life and a full sexual relationship, link themselves with that order, agree to take a special part in the work of creation" (p. 56). The generation of new human persons is indeed an act of procreation: "The sexual urge owes its objective importance to its connection with the divine work of creation...and this importance vanishes almost completely if our way of thinking is inspired only the biological order of nature" (p. 57).

           The next section, "The Rigorist Interpretation," repudiates the rigorist or puritanical interpretation of the sexual urge, which claims that in using man and woman to assure the existence of the species Homo God himself "uses" persons as means to an end, with the corollary that conjugal life and conjugal union are only instrumental goods. To the contrary, the union of man and woman in sexual intercourse, if freely chosen and justifed by true [marital] love between persons, is something good in itself, so that we cannot maintain that in using men and women united in marriage to continue the species God is using them merely as means to an end: "The Creator's will is not only the preservation of the species by way of sexual intercourse but also its preservation on the basis of a love worthy of human persons" (p. 60).

           In the next section, "The 'Libidinist' Interpretation," Wojtyla attacks the view, common to Freud and many today, that the sexual urge is essentially a drive for enjoyment, for pleasure. To the contrary, man is capable of understanding the part the sexual urge plays in the divine order and realizes the existential, personal meaning of the sexual urge. It has to do with that most precious of goods, the person (p. 65), and it cannot be reduced to a mere libidinist impulse.

           In his "Final Observations" Wojtyla speaks of the traditional "ends" of marriage: the procreation and education of children, mutual help, and the remedy of concupiscence. These ends are to be realized on the basis of the personalistic norm: "sexual morality and therefore conjugal morality consists of a stable and mature synthesis of nature's purpose with the pesonalistic norm" (p. 67). This norm is a "principle on which the proper realization of each of the aims mentioned, and of all of them together, depends--and by proper I mean in a manner befitting man as a person." To realize these ends rightly the virtue of love is necessary because "only as a virtue does love satisfy the commandment of the Gospel and the demands of the personalistic norm embodied in that commandment" (p. 67).


Chapter Two: the person and love

           This chapter is rich in content and also somewhat difficult.  I will try to note some of Wojtyla’s more important observations made by Wojtyla. The long chapter has three major parts, each divided into sections. The parts are entitled "Metaphysical Analysis of Love," "Psychological Analysis of Love," and "The Ethical Analysis of Love."

1. Metaphysical Analysis of Love

           After a brief introduction on the almost inexhaustible richness of meaning found in the word "love," Wojtyla focuses on three basic elements in any form of human, interpersonal love, namely attraction, desire, and goodwill. He then takes up the problem of reciprocity of love between human persons, the movement from sympathy to love, and concludes this part with a discussion of betrothed love.

1. The word "love"

           Wojtyla takes as his starting point the fact that "love is always a mutual relationship between persons," a relationship based on "particular attitudes toward the good, adopted by each of them individually and by both jointly" (p. 73). He then outlines the balance of the chapter and the need to present a metaphysical, psychological and ethical analysis of the elements of love as a relationship between persons, particularly between a man and a woman.

2. Love as attraction

           Here Wojtyla is concerned with one basic element in human love, that of attraction. He is, in short, here concerned with what the medievals called the amor complacentiae (the English text mistakenly reads amor complacentia). As an attraction love includes a cognitive element--a cognitive commitment of the subject--but there is in attraction something more, extra-intellectual and extra-cognitive factors involving a commitment of the will. Wojtyla maintains that attraction is "so to speak, a form of cognition which commits the will but commits it because it is committed by it," and because the human person is a bodily being, attraction likewise involves the emotions.

           The principal point is that an attraction consists of responses to a number of distinct values. Since these values have their source in a person, attraction has "as its object a person, and its source is the whole person." From this it follows that "attraction is of the essence of love and in some sense is indeed love, although love is not merely attraction" (p. 76). Attraction is not just an element of love but "one of the essential components of love as a whole" (pp. 76-77). One is attracted to a value one finds in a person, a value to which one is particularly sensitive.

           But Wojtyla holds that love as attraction must be rooted in the truth, and that emotional-affective reactions (whose object is not the truth) can distort or falsify attractions--if so, emotional love easily turns to hate (pp. 77-78). Thus in any attraction "the question of the truth about the person towards whom it is felt is so important....the truth about the person who is its object must play a part at least as important as the truth of the sentiments. These two truths, properly integrated, give to an attraction that perfection which is one of the elements of a genuinely good and genuinely 'cultivated' love" (p. 78)--and obviously sexual values can elicit attraction. It is therefore important, Wojtyla continues, "to stress that the attraction must never be limited to partial values, to something which is inherent in the person but is not the person as a whole. There must be a direct attraction to the person: in other words, response to particular qualities inherent in a person must go with a simultaneous response to the qualities of the person as such, an awareness that a person as such is a value, and not merely attractive because of certain qualities which he or she possesses" (p. 79). In the development of this theme Wojtyla makes the following most significant comment: "A human being is beautiful and may be revealed as beautiful to another human being" (p. 79). And beauty is more than skin deep: the love between persons, and between a man and a woman has as one of its components an attraction originating "not just in a reaction to visible and physical beauty, but also in a full and deep appreciation of the beauty of the person" (p. 80).

3. Love as desire

           Wojtyla next considers love as desire, or what the medievals called the amor concupiscentiae (not amor concupiscentia, as the text reads). Desire belongs to the very essence of love, and does so because the human person, as a limited and not self-sufficient being, is in need of other beings (p. 80). In particular, a man as a being of the male sex is in need of a woman as a being of the female sex and vice versa: the two are "complementary," i.e., they help fulfill each other, and the sexual urge is oriented in part to this completion of the one sex by the other. "This is 'love of desire,' for it originates in a need and aims at finding a good which it lacks. For a man, that good is a woman, for a woman it is a man" (p. 81).

           But, and this is most important, "there is...a profound difference between love as desire (amor concupiscentiae) and desire itself (concupiscentia), especially sensual desire." Desire as such implies a utilitarian attitude. Hence "love as desire cannot be reduced to desire itself. It is simply the crystallization of the objective need of one being directed towards another being which is for it a good and an object of longing. In the mind of the subject love-as-desire is not felt as mere desire. It is felt as a longing for some good for its own sake....love is therefore apprehended as a longing for the person, and not as mere sensual desire, concupiscentia. Desire goes together with this longing, but is...overshadowed by it" (p. 81). Wojtyla notes that "to be useful is not the same as being an object of use....thus, true 'love as desire' never becomes utilitarian in its attitude for [even when desire is aroused] it has its roots in the personalistic principle" (p. 82).

4. Love as Goodwill

           Here Wojtyla is concerned with what the medievals termed amor benevolentiae. "Love is the fullest realization of the possibilities inherent in man....The person finds in love the greatest possible fullness of being, of objective existence....A genuine love is one in which the true essence of love is realized--a love which is directed to a genuine...good in the true way" (pp. 82-83).

           Love of benevolence or benevolence is essential to love between persons. It is unselfish love, for goodwill is free of self-interest and is indeed "selflessness in love....Love as goodwill, amor benevolentiae, is therefore love in a more unconditional sense than love-desire" (p. 83).

5. The problem of reciprocity

           Wojtyla here notes that since human interpersonal love, and particularly the love of man for woman and vice versa, is a love which exists between them, this suggests that "love is not just something in the man and something in the woman--but is something common to them and unique" (p. 84). We come now to the communication of incommunicable persons. How is this possible? How can the "I" and the "Thou" become a "We"?

           The path lies through the will. "The fact is that a person who desires another person as a good desires above all that person's love in return for his or her own love, desires that is to say another person above all as the co-creator of love, and not merely as the object of appetite....The desire for reciprocity does not cancel out the disinterested character of love....Reciprocity brings with it a synthesis, as it were, of love as desire and love as goodwill" (pp. 85-86). Wojtyla then recalls Aristotle's thought on friendship and reciprocity. Aristotle distinguished different kinds of reciprocity, depending on the "good on which reciprocity and hence the friendship as a whole is based....If it is a genuine good...reciprocity is something deep, mature and virtually indestructible....So then...if that which each of the two persons contributes to their reciprocal love is his or her personal love, but a love of the highest ethical value, virtuous love, then reciprocity assumes the characteristics of durability and reliability [leading to trust"] (pp. 86-87). A utilitarian attitude, rooted in a merely useful good and not an honest good, destroys the possibility of true reciprocity (p. 87).

6. From sympathy to friendship

           Here Wojtyla first analyzes sympathy as an emotional kind of love whereby one feels with another and refers to experiences that persons share subjectively. The danger here is that what will count is the value of the subjectively experienced emotion (the sympathy) and not the value of the person (p. 90). But sympathy has the power to make people feel close to each other; it is hence quite important as a palpable manifestation of love. But the most important element in love is will, and sympathy must be integrated into the person through the will if friendship, based on the objective value of the person, is to take root: "sympathy must be transformed into friendship, and friendship supplemented by sympathy" (p. 91). But "friendship...consists in a full commitment of the will to another person with a view to that person's good" (p. 92). While love is "always a subjective thing, in that it must reside in subjects," at the same time "it must be free of subjectivity. It must be something objective within the subject, have an objective as well as a subjective profile." It must, in other words, be rooted in friendship. Comradeship, while distinct from both sympathy and friendship, can ripen into friendship inasmuch as it "gives a man and a woman an objective common interest" (p. 94).

7. Betrothed love

           In the final section of this part of the chapter Wojtyla is concerned with betrothed love, whose "decisive character is the giving of one's own person [to another]." Its essence is "self-giving, the surrender of one's 'I'" (p. 96). This is an interpersonal love that is deeper than friendship. “Betrothed Love” in Love and Responsibility is what John Paul II calls “spousal love” in the Theology of the Body, and its means is deepened immensely in his reflections on that topic.

           A paradox is involved here, for persons are incommunicable, yet in betrothed love there is a full communication of persons, what Wojtyla later will term a communio personarum--a full surrendering of the self to another without losing possession of the self. What is paradoxical is that "in giving ourselves we find clear proof that we possess ourselves" (p. 98). "The concept of betrothed love implies the giving of the individual person to another chosen person" (p. 98). Marriage is rooted in betrothed love, which satisfies the demands of the personalistic norm. "This giving of oneself....cannot, in marriage or indeed in any relationship between persons of the opposite sex, have a merely sexual significance. Giving oneself only sexually, without the full gift of person to validate it, must lead to...utilitarianism....A personalistic interpretation is absolutely necessary." Marriage is the "result of this form of love" (p. 99).

2. Psychological Analysis of Love

           After an initial section distinguishing between and analyzing "sense impressions" and "emotion," Wojtyla then offers fascinating analyses of "sensuality" and "sentiment [=affectivity?]," which he regards as "raw material" for human love and then the problem of integrating love. Here I will focus on "sensuality," "sentiment," and the "problem of integrating love." This section of Chapter Two prepares the way for the discussion in Chapter Three dealing with the integration of sensuality and sentiment as “raw material” for love.

1. Sensuality

           Since men and women are bodily, sexual beings, they naturally impress one another as persons of this kind and elicit a response. Among the responses is sensuality, a response to the sexual values of the body-person and a response to the person as a "potential object of enjoyment." Thus sensuality has a "consumer orientation," being directed "primarily and immediately towards a 'body,'" and touching the person only "indirectly." Because sensuality is directed to using the body as an object it even interferes with the apprehension of the body as beautiful--as a object of contemplative cognition and of enjoyment in that, Augustinian, meaning of the term (p. 105).

           But it is important to recognize that "this [consumer] orientation of sensuality is a matter of spontaneous reflexes," and is not "primarily an evil thing but a natural thing" (p. 106). "Sensuality expresses itself mainly in an appetitive form: a person of the other sex is seen as an 'object of desire' specifically because of the sexual value inherent in the body itself, for it is in the body that the senses discover that which determines sexual difference, sexual 'otherness'”  (p. 107).

           The human person, however, "cannot be an object for use. Now, the body is an integral part of the person, and so must not be treated as though it were detached from the whole person: both the value of the body and the sexual value which finds expression in the body depend upon the value of the person....a sensual reaction in which the body and sex are a possible object for use threatens to devalue the person" (p. 107). Thus sensuality, although not evil in itself, poses a threat and a temptation. It is, however, "a sort of raw material for true, conjugal love." But since it is "blind to the person and oriented only towards the sexual value connected with 'the body,'" it is "fickle, turning wherever it finds that value, wherever a 'possible object of enjoyment' appear" (p. 108). How true! But this natural response of the person to the sexual values of the body of a person of the opposite sex is not in itself morally wrong. Rather "an exuberant and readily roused sensuality is the stuff from which a rich--if difficult-- personal life may be made" (p. 109). Wojtyla is no puritan, no Stoic!

2. Sentiment and love

           Sentimentality, another deeply felt response to the body-person, differs from sensuality because it is oriented "to the sexual value residing in 'a whole person of the other sex,' to 'femininity' or 'masculinity'" (p. 110). It is the source of affection. While based, as is sensuality, on a sensory intuition, its content is "the whole 'person of the other sex,' the whole 'woman' or 'man.' For sensuality, one part of this integral sense impression 'the body' immediately stands out from and is as it were dissociated from the rest [namely, the 'sexual value'], whereas sentiment remains attached to a whole individual of the other sex" (p. 110).

           Thus affection seems free of the concupiscence of which sensuality is full. But a different kind of desire is present, a "desire for nearness, for proximity,...for exclusivity or intimacy" (p. 110). This leads to tenderness, and unfortunately can easily shift into the territory of sensuality, this time a sensuality disguised as sentiment (p. 111). It gives rise to "sentimental love" or what we would call "romantic" love. The problem here is that this can give rise to an idealization of the object of love---one idealizes the object of sentimental love because one wants that object to be the one who gives the subjective feeling of intimacy, etc. Although "raw material" for love, sentiment is not love because it is blind to the person and fixed on the subjective feelings that the idealized person can give. Thus "if 'love' remains just sensuality..a matter of 'sex appeal,' it will not be love at all, but only the utilization of one person by another, or of two persons by each other. While if love remains mere sentiment it will equally be unlike love in the complete sense of the word. For both persons will remain in spite of everything divided from each other, though it may appear that they are very close just because they eagerly seek proximity," but the proximity sought is not sought because the person is loved but rather because the subjective feeling of affection the idealized person communicates is loved (pp. 113-114).

3. The problem of integrating love

           The point of this section is that sensuality and sentiment can be integrated into true interpersonal love, especially between man and woman, only in the light of truth and only by free, self-determining choice: "the process of integrating love relies on the primary elements of the human spirit--freedom and truth" (p. 116).

3. The Ethical Analysis of Love

           In this part Wojtyla insists that it is impossible to integrate the various elements of love, to have psychological completeness in love unless ethical completeness is attained (p. 120). This is possible only by considering love as a virtue acquired when one shapes one's choices in the light of the truth, in particular the truth of the personalistic norm.

           This first of all requires affirmation of the value of the person, and attraction to the sexual values of the person must be subordinated to a reverence for the incalculable dignity of the person. Love "is directed not towards 'the body' alone, nor yet towards 'a human being of the other sex,' but precisely towards a person. What is more, it is only when it directs itself [through free choice] to the person that love is love" (p 123). This leads to the "self-giving" characteristic of "betrothed love," a love based on reciprocity, friendship, and rooted in commitment to a common, shared good (pp. 126-127). Sexual relations are in accord with the personalistic norm only when they take place between persons who are already completely united in this kind of love (i.e., in marriage). Before the love of a man and woman can "take on its definitive form, become 'betrothed love,' the man and the woman each face the choice of the person on whom to bestow the gift of self....The object of choice is another person, but it is as though one were choosing another 'I,' choosing oneself in another, and the other in oneself. Only if it is objectively good for two persons to be together can they belong to each other" (p. 131). In what follows Wojtyla spells out what this entails.

Chapter Three: The Person and Chastity

           Chapter 3 contains three major parts, of which the first is devoted to the rehabilitation of chastity, the second to the "metaphysics of shame," and the third to the subject of continence and the difference between continence and chastity. Wojtyla sees shame and continence as "components" of chastity.

1. The Rehabilitation of Chastity

           Wojtyla begins by noting that today there is hostile resentment even to talk about chastity. This results from a distorted sense of values as well as from human laziness (resentment is linked to the cardinal sin of sloth or laziness). Faced with this hostile environment it is necessary to "rehabilitate" chastity, and to do so it is first necessary to "eliminate the enormous accretion of subjectivity in our conception of love and of the happiness which it can bring to man and woman" (p. 144).

           He recapitulates some of the material from the previous chapter regarding the truth that love must be firmly based on the affirmation of the value of the person; our emotional responses, along with our sensuality and erotic sensations, must be integrated into love: "Love develops on the basis of the totally committed and fully responsible attitude of a person to a person, erotic experiences are born spontaneously from sensual and emotional reactions" (p. 145).

           If we look at matters in this light we can see that chastity, far from being hostile to love, in fact enables us to love rightly for it frees us from "everything that makes 'dirty'" and is rooted in an "attitude toward a person of the opposite sex which derives from sincere affirmation of the worth of that person" (p. 146).

           Wojtyla again affirms the absolute need for self-giving love for an authentic man-woman relationship, one uniting them in such wise that "their wills are united in that they desire a single good as their aim, their emotions in that they react together and in the same way to the same values." They are as it were a "single subject of action" (both internal and external) even while remaining two distinct persons and subjects of action (p. 147).

           He then devotes two sections to the subjects of "carnal concupiscence" (pp. 147-153) and of "subjectivism and egoism" (pp. 153-158). In my opinion he summarizes quite masterfully the essence of these sections (and of his previous discussion of "sensuality" and "sentiment" or "emotionalism") in the following section which is devoted to the "structure of sin" and to "sinful love" (pp. 159-166). Hence I will center attention on what he has to say there. I will simply provide a series of texts on which readers can reflect.

            ...sensuality and emotionalism furnish the "raw material for love," i.e., they create states of feeling "within" persons, and situations "between" persons favorable to love. None the less, these "situations" are not quite love. They become love only as a result of integration, or in other words by being raised to the personal level, by reciprocal affirmation of the value of the person (p. 159).

            Concupiscence is a consistent tendency to see persons of the other sex through the prism of sexuality alone, as "objects of potential enjoyment." Concupiscence, then, refers to a latent inclination of human beings to invert the objective order of values. For the correct way to see and "desire" a person is through the medium of his or her value as a person. We should not think of this manner of seeing and desiring as "a-sexual," as blind to the value of the "body and sex"; it is simply that this value must be correctly integrated with love of the person....hence the distinction between "love of the body" [which is good] and "carnal love" [which is not] (pp. 159-160).

            Concupiscence is then in every man the terrain on which two attitudes to a person of the other sex contend for mastery....Concupiscence...means a constant tendency merely to "enjoy," whereas man's duty is to "love." This is why the view formulated in our analysis of love--that sensuality and emotion furnish the "raw material" of love--needs some qualification. This happens only to the extent that sensuality and emotional reactions are not swallowed up by concupiscence but absorbed in true love....Sensuality is the capacity to react to the sexual value connected with the body as a "potential object of enjoyment," while concupiscence is a permanent tendency to experience desire caused by sensual reactions (p. 160).

           Wojtyla then stresses that neither sensuality nor carnal desire is itself a sin and that Catholic theology sees in concupiscence (which result from original sin) not sin as such, but the "germ" of sin. Sin enters in only when the will "consents" (note that on p. 162 there is talk of the will "assenting"; the proper word, however, is "consent," since "assent" is an act of the intellect; I assume that this is a mistranslation). Wojtyla on pp. 160-163 is in essence reaffirming the traditional Catholic teaching so well expressed by Augustine centuries ago.

           Wojtyla can then accurately describe "sinful love." He says: "'Sinful love' is often very emotional, saturated in emotion, which leaves no room for anything else. Its sinfulness is not of course due to the fact that it is saturated with emotion, nor to the emotion itself, but to the fact that the will puts emotion before the person, allowing it to annul all the objective laws and principles which must govern the unification of two persons, a man and a woman. 'Authenticity' of feeling is quite often inimical to truth in behavior" (p. 163). The final sentence of this passage is absolutely superb! The result is that one is led to the false judgment that "what is pleasant is good." Moreover, "the particular danger of 'sinful love' consists in a fiction: immediately and before reflection, it is not felt to be 'sinful,' but it is, above all, felt to be love. The direct effect of this circumstance, it is true, is to reduce the gravity of the sin, but indirectly it makes the sin more dangerous. The fact that very many 'acts' in the association and cohabitation of man and woman occur spontaneously, under the influence of emotion, does not in the least alter the fact that the personalistic norm exists and is also binding in relations between persons. Only on the basis of the principle embodied in it can we speak of the unification of two persons in love, and this is equally true of married love (emphasis added), in which the union of man and woman is complemented by sexual partnership" (p. 165). "We can see then that sin in 'sinful love' is essentially rooted in free will. Carnal desire is only its germ. For the will can and must prevent the 'dis-integration' of love--prevent pleasure, or indeed emotion, from growing to the dimensions of goods in their own right, while all else in the relationship of two persons of different sexes is subordinate to them. The will can and must be guided by objective truth" (p. 166).

           All this was necessary to prepare the way for a positive presentation of "The True Meaning of Chastity" (pp. 166-173). Wojtyla begins with a brief summary of the Aristotelian-Thomistic understanding of the virtues perfecting human persons, with the four "cardinal" virtues of prudence (perfecting the practical intellect), justice (perfecting the will), fortitude (perfecting the 'irascible' appetite), and temperance (perfecting the 'concupiscible' appetite). In this schema chastity is linked to the cardinal virtue of temperance or moderation. Temperance "has its immediate subject [that is, is seated in, is a perfection of] in man's concupiscene (appetitus concupiscibilis), to which it attaches itself in order to restrain the instinctive appetites for various material and bodily goods which force themselves upon the senses. Sensual reactions (erga bonum sensibile) must be subordinated to reason: this is the function of the virtue of moderation....for a reasonable being such as man is to desire and strive for that which reason recognizes as good" (p. 168).

           Wojtyla, in describing the function of the virtue of chastity in this Thomistic framework, first stresses that it (chastity) is "simply a matter of efficiency in controlling the concupiscent impulses." This is more than the ability but means constant effectiveness: "Fully formed virtue is an efficiently functioning control which permanently keeps the appetites in equilibrium by means of its habitual attitude to the true good (bonum honestum) determined by reason" (p. 169). He gets to the heart of the matter when he says that "Chastity can only be thought of in association with the virtue of love," and that "its function is to free love from the utilitarian attitude" (p. 169). "The virtue of chastity, whose function it is to free love from utilitarian attitudes, must control not only sensuality and carnal concupiscence, as such, but--perhaps more important--those centres deep within the human being in which the utilitarian attitude is hatched and grows...the more successfully the utilitarian attitude is camouflaged in the will the more dangerous it is...To be chaste means to have a 'transparent' attitude to a person of the other sex--chastity means just that--the interior 'transparency' without which love is not itself" (p. 170). This does not mean that chastity is negative; it is rather positive, a yes to the value of the human person, a yes to raising all reactions to the value of 'the body and sex' to the level of the person (pp. 170-171). I think we could sum Wojtyla up by saying that chastity is the virtue enabling a person to come into possession of his sexual desires and feelings, not to be possessed by them, so that he can give himself away in love to others, particularly to persons of the other sex.

           Wojtyla then turns attention to what he calls the two components of chastity, namely shame and continence.

 2. The Metaphysics of Shame

           This is a fascinating section of Wojtyla's book (ideas are later developed in his Wednesday audiences as Pope in his reflections on the "spousal" meaning of the body, nakedness and shame).

           He first examines and analyzes the phenomenon of shame, then discusses the absorption of shame by love, and finally treats of the problem of shamelessness. According to him shame arises "when something which of its very nature or in view of its purpose ought to be private passes the bounds of a person's privacy and somehow becomes public" (p. 174). Because the existence of a person is an interior one, revealed only to those to whom one freely chooses to reveal it, a person is naturally shamed or experiences shame when his or her interior is exposed to the view or leer of others. Since sex is so deeply rooted in the being of men and women--pertaining to their inmost being (do we not call our sex organs our "private parts"?), a person feels shamed when his or her sexuality is regarded as an object of enjoyment, of consumption. It is for this reason that there is need for sexual modesty, which follows a somewhat different course in males than in females. Modesty indeed is "a constant eagerness to avoid what is shameless" (p. 177).

           The experience of shame, Wojtyla writes, "is a natural reflection of the essential nature of the human person" as incommunicable, inalienable. "The feeling of shame goes with the realization that one's person must not be an object of use on account of the sexual values connected with it, whether in fact or only in intention" and "with the realization that a person of the other sex must not be regarded [even in one's private thoughts] as an object of use" (p. 178). The function of shame is "to exclude...an attitude to the person incompatible with its essential supra-utilitarian nature" (p. 179). For this reason, sexual modesty, which conceals what is meant to be private, "is not a flight from love, but on the contrary an opening of a way towards it"; it is a "defensive reflex, which protects that status [that of an incommunicable person] and so protects the value of the person"; indeed, modesty "reveals the value of the person...in the context of the sexual values which are simultaneously present in a particular person" (p. 179).

           It is important to recognize that Wojtyla clearly understands that modesty can take different forms in different cultures and that nakedness is compatible with modesty in some primitive tribes.

           Shame, a natural form of self-defense of the person, can be "absorbed" by love. Its absorption does not mean that it is eliminated or destroyed; it is rather reinforced for only where it is preserved can love be realized. But it is "absorbed" inasmuch as love affirms the person and is unwilling to view the person's sexual values as commodities to be enjoyed or used (pp. 182-183). Spouses, for instance, are not afraid that their spouses will lust after their sexual values, for they are united in a person-affirming love. Thus Wojtyla says that "sexual intercourse between spouses is not a form of shamelessness legalized by outside authority, but is felt to be in conformity with the demands of shame," unless, as he wisely notes, "the spouses themselves make it shameless by their way of performing it" (p. 183).

           The point is that true love eliminates the "reason for shame, or for concealment of the values of sex, since there is no danger that they might obscure the value of the person or destroy its inalienability and inviolability, reducing it to the status of an object for use" (p. 184). Wojtyla subsequently emphasizes that only true love, one rooted in the will to affirm the value of the person, can absorb shame: he is not speaking of the sentimental, romantic pseudo-version of love, which leads to shamelessness.

           He then takes up the problem of shamelessness, distinguishing between "physical" and "emotional" shamelessness. The former describes "any mode of being or behavior on the part of a particular person in which the values of sex as such are given such prominence that they obscure the essential value of the person," whereas the latter "consists in the rejection of that healthy tendency to be ashamed of reactions and feelings which make another person merely an object of use because of the sexual values belonging to him or her" (pp. 187-188). In connection with all this he has some very worthwhile remarks to make about dress and, in a passage well worth pondering says: "Man, alas, is not such a perfect being that the sight of the body of another person, especially a person of the other sex, can arouse in him merely a disinterested liking which develops into an innocent affection. In practice, it also arouses concupiscence, or a wish to enjoy concentrated on sexual values with no regard for the value of the person" (p. 190). He concludes this section with important comments on pornography.

3. The Problems of Continence

           In this final section of the chapter Wojtyla treats of another component of chastity--a component, not the true virtue--namely continence or self-control. A continent person is the one who can control his sexual desires, and this is necessary if love is to flourish (pp. 194-195). Continence, efficiency in curbing the lust of the body by the exercise of the will, is indispensable for self-mastery (p. 197), but it is not enough for the full virtue of chastity. It requires that one recognize the superiority of the person over sex and it opens the person up to the transcendent value of the person. But for the full virtue of chastity to exist "the value of the person must be not merely understood by the cold light of reason [as the continent may well understand it] but felt," a fuller appreciation of the value of the person which we may achieve with the help of elements inherent in sentiment once they are integrated into love (p. 199).

           Tenderness, which originates in sentiment, is the "tendency to make one's own the feelings and mental states of another person," and "whoever feels it actively seeks to communicate his feeling of close involvement with the other person and his situation" (pp. 201-202). It is thus quite distinct from sensuality, which is oriented to the body as a possible object of enjoyment, because it is oriented to a human being of the other sex (p. 202-203). But it needs to be educated lest it remain purely emotional, and it must be educated by continence, which is rooted in the will: only this can give tenderness a certain firmness. It thus must be united with continence (p. 207).

           In the conclusion of this chapter Wojtyla, after once again noting the consequences of original sin, points out that only the self-sacrificial love revealed in Christ can enable men and women to be fully chaste (p. 208).

Chapter Four: Jusice Toward the Creator

           Chapter 4 is divided into two major parts: (1) Marriage, and (2) Vocation, each subdivided into sections.

1. Marriage

           Here Wojtyla considers (A) monogamy and the indissolubility of marriage; (B) the value of the institution [of marriage]; (C) procreation and parenthood; and (D) periodic continence: method and interpretation.

           I will be somewhat brief in summarizing A and B and devote more consideration to C and D.

A. Monogamy and the indissolubility of marriage

           Here Wojtyla argues that monogamy and the indissolubility of marriage are required by the personalistic norm, declaring: "Attempts to solve the problem of marriage other than by monogamy [which implies indissolubility] are incompatible with the personalistic norm and fall short of its strict demands in that they put one person in the position of an object to be enjoyed by another" (p. 211).

           After noting that Jesus dealt with this question decisively (pp. 212f) and indicating that attempts to justify the polygamy of the patriarchs of the OT because of the desire for a numerous progeny do not really succeed (p. 213), Wojtyla then argues (pp. 214-215) that the personalistic norm requires that marriage be monogamous and indissoluble once it has come into being despite subsequent desires on part of husband and wife. The basic reason, so it seems to me, is that human choices, made in the light of the truth (cf. p. 214) determine the self, and that in choosing to marry a man and woman freely give themselves the identity of husband and wife, committing themselves henceforth to be utterly faithful to one another: the personalistic norm leads them to the sincere gift of self, to the full affirmation of the personhood of the other. In short, I would interpret these pages by saying that monogamy and indissolubility of marriage are rooted in the being of the spouses, the identity they have given themselves by getting married.

B. The value of the institution [of marriage]

           Wojtyla next argues that the "institution of marriage" justifies the intimate sexual relationship between husband and wife in the eyes of society. Why? It does so because the institution, Wojtyla seems to argue, serves to protect the inter-personal structure of marriage as a community of two persons united or made one by reason of their love. In short, so the argument seems to me, the value of marriage as an institution is that it serves to protect conjugal love or the community of persons made one because of their love and thereby "provides a justification for the sexual relationship between a particular couple within the whole complex of society" (p. 219), or, to put it somewhat differently, "in a society which accepts sound ethical principles and lives in accordance with them...this institution is necessary to signify the maturity of the union between a man and a woman, to testify that theirs is a love on which a lasting union and community can be based" (p. 220).

           I believe his point here could be summarized by saying: marriage as an institution is demanded in order to protect conjugal love.

           It is worth noting that in these pages Wojtyla distinguishes--while intimately interrelating--marriage and family. He stresses that "the birth of a child turns the union of a man and a woman based on the sexual relationship into a family," which is itself "the primary institution at the base of our existence as human beings." The distinct existence, character, and ends of the family must therefore be protected by legislation, and for a society to legislate justly regarding the family it must recognize the rights and duties of marriage, recognizing that "the family is an institution based on marriage." Nonetheless, Wojtyla is at pains to show that marriage must not be regarded merely a means instrumental to the founding of a family but must be recognized as something good in itself. He emphasizes that "the inner and essential raison d'etre of marriage is not simply eventual transformation into a family but above all the creation of a lasting personal union between a man and a woman based on love. Marriage serves above all to preserve the existence of the species...but it is based on love," and as such is something good in itself. It is not a mere instrumental good (pp. 227-218). This is most important. Recall that Augustine (and much of the tradition after him) regarded marriage merely as an instrumental good, a good means to the intrinsic good of friendship, achieved through procreation and education of children, conceived as an end extrinsic to the marriage itself. Wojtyla, to the contrary, sees the marital union itself as intrinsically good and the having and raising of children an end intrinsic to marriage itself, a fulfillment of the marital union.

           Wojtyla then goes on to argue that sexual relations between a man and a woman must be justified not only in the eyes of society (as they are by marriage) but also and above all "in the eyes of God the Creator" (p. 222).

           Wojtyla argues in this section that man, as an intelligent entity, is required in justice to recognize that he is a creature dependent upon God for his being. This helps us understand the "sacramental" character of marriage--first as a "sacrament" of nature and then as a "sacrament of grace" (pp. 223-224).

C. Procreation and parenthood

           Marriage is a "state," a durable institution providing the framework necessary to justify the existence of sexual relations between a man and a woman; moreover, within marriage sexual relations are ongoing, a regular succession of acts. But every such act within marriage must have its own internal justification. The problem here, Wojtyla says, is to adapt sexual relations to the objective demands of the personalistic norm: "it is in this context more than in any other that people must show responsibility for their love. Let us add at once that this responsibility for love is complemented by responsibility for life and health: a combination of fundamental goods which together determine the moral value of every marital act" (p.225).

           Wojtyla then seems to distinguish sharply (while nonetheless integrating) two orders that "meet" in the sexual union of man and woman: the "order of nature [which must not be identified with the "biological order"], which has as its object reproduction [or better, procreation], and the personal order, which finds its expression in the love of persons and aims at the fullest realization of that love" (p. 226).

           He asserts that these two orders are inseparable and insists that "the correct attitude toward procreation is a condition for the realization of love" (ibid.). Emphasizing that both procreation and love are based on free choice, he then says: "When a man and a woman consciously and of their own free will choose to marry and have sexual relations they choose at the same time the possibility of procreation, choose to participate in creation [for that is the proper meaning of the word procreation]. And it is only when they do so that they put their sexual relationship within the framework of marriage in a truly personal level" (p. 227). He then argues that in marrying and in engaging in the marital act the man and the woman freely choose to accept consciously the possibility of parenthood, of becoming a mother and father. He contends that "when a man and a woman capable of procreation have intercourse their union must be accompanied by awareness and willing acceptance [emphasis added] of the possibility that 'I may become a father' or 'I may become a mother.' Without this the marital relationship will not be 'internally' justified....the union of persons is not the same as sexual union. This latter is raised to the level of the person only when it is accompanied in the mind and the will by the acceptance of the possibility of parenthood" (p. 228).

           Since the deliberate attempt to prevent conception by artificial means entails a refusal to accept this possibility, artificial contraception is immoral and violates the personalistic norm--so the argument advanced on successive pages contends. This does not, Wojtyla argues, subordinate the person to "nature," but rather shows that man dominates nature not by "violating its laws" but "through knowledge of the purposes and regularities which govern it" (p. 229). His principal claim seems to be: "Acceptance of the possibility of procreation in the marital relationship safeguards love and is an indispensable condition of a truly personal union. The union of persons in love does not necessarily have to be realized by way of sexual relations. But when it does take this form the personalistic value of the sexual relationship cannot be assured without willingness for parenthood" (p. 230). Indeed, he claims, "if there is a positive decision to preclude this eventuality sexual intercourse becomes shameless." (p. 231).

           Consequently, the only solution to the problem regarding the legitimate regulation of birth within marriage is continence, which demands control over erotic experiences (ibid).

           Wojtyla rejects the rigoristic, utililtarian view that requires a procreative intent for every marital act (p. 233) because "marriage is an institution which exists for the sake of love, not merely for the purpose of biological reproduction. Marital intercourse is itself an interpersonal act, an act of betrothed love, so that the intentions and the attention of each partner must be fixed on the other, on his or her true good."

           Nonetheless, "the express exclusion of procreation [or to be more exact, the possibility of procreation] is even more so [i.e., incompatible with the true character of conjugal relations]" because "it deprives marital intercourse of its true character as potentially an act of procreation, which is what fully justifies the act....When a man and a woman who have marital intercourse decisively preclude the possibility of paternity and maternity their intentions are thereby diverted from the person and directed to mere enjoyment....By definitively precluding the possibility of procreation in the marital act a man and a woman inevitably shift the whole focus of the experience in the direction of sexual pleasure as such"(p. 234-35).

D. Periodic Continence: Method and Interpretation

           Here Wojtyla’s major claim is that periodic continence is the only way to face the problem of birth regulation because continence is a "condition of love, the only attitude towards a partner in marriage and particularly towards a wife, compatible with affirmation of the value of a person"(p. 237).If husband and wife have good reasons to avoid a pregnancy they must remain continent and abstain from the act that cause the pregnancy. "Those who do not desire the consequence [conception of a child after freely chosen sex] must avoid the cause" (p. 239)..

           But if spouses limit intercourse to infertile times how can they say, when they do engage in intercourse, that they do so with a willingness to become parents? (this is essentially the question Wojtyla raises on p. 240).

           His answer: right interpretation of periodic continence. This entails understanding that it is licit (1) because it does not conflict with personalistic norm---it does not do so because, W argues on p. 241, it "preserves the 'naturalness' of intercourse" (p. 241) (is this "physicalism?") and above all means that "in the wills of the persons concerned it must be grounded in a sufficiently mature virtue" (p. 241)--and (2) is permissible only with certain qualifications, i.e., that it goes along with and not conflict with "a sincere disposition to procreate" (p. 243).

2. Vocation

           The final section of Chapter 4, on vocation, contains four subdivisions: (A) the concept of 'justice toward the Creator'; (B) mystical and physical virginity; (C) the problem of vocation; and (D) paternity and maternity.

A. The Concept of "Justice toward the Creator"

           Here Wojtyla notes that his discussion on the plane of the personalistic norm has focused on "horizontal" justice, i.e., justice among human persons. He now wishes to consider "vertical" justice, i.e, justice of man the creature toward the Creator. He notes that our obligations toward the Creator come under the virtue of "religion," which Thomas identified as a "potential part" of justice--it is potential because justice in the strict sense cannot be given to God--we can never render to him perfectly all that is due to him. But elementary justice toward God, demanded by the virtue of religion, requires "the understanding and rational acceptance of the order of nature," which is at one and the same time "recognition of the rights of the Creator" (p. 246).

           This is more than merely respecting the objective order of nature. It is so because man can understand the order of nature and conform to it in his actions; by doing so, i.e., by understanding it and conforming to it, he "has a share in the law which God bestowed on the world when he created it at the beginning of time," and his intelligent participation in this law is "an end in itself." Hence justice toward the Creator consists precisely in man's "striving in all his activities to achieve this specifically human value, by behaving as particeps Creatoris" (246-247).

           Justice toward the Creator comprises therefore two elements: "obedience to the order of nature and emphasis on the value of the person...This makes possible a correct attitude to the whole of the real world...and is a specific form of love," including love of the Creator, to whom man can be just only "if he loves his fellows" (247). From this it follows that man and woman can be just toward the Creator only if they shape their lives in accord with the personalist norm.

           Wojtyla then argues that sex, which is connected with reproduction, is elevated in man to a personal level. Because husband and wife are persons "they take part consciously in the work of creation and from this point of view are participes Creatoris," and precisely for this reason "the question of justice toward the Creator arises both in married life and in any form of relationship...between people of different sexes." Precisely because the person transcends the world of nature and because the personal order is not fully encompassed by the natural, "a man and a woman who have marital relations fulfil their obligations to God the Creator only when they raise their relationship to the level of love, to the level of a truly personal union" (248-249).

B. Mystical and Physical Virginity

           Justice to the Creator means that I must "offer him all that is in me, my whole being, for he has first claim on all of it." Since it is impossible to give God all that is due him, we cannot render him complete justice. But Christ has offered us a solution--love, for "self giving has its roots in love"; moreover, love does something that justice cannot do: it unites persons (250).

           In light of the love union between God and man, the idea of virginity acquires full significance. Literally, it means "untouched," and its physical sign is that one is untouched from the sexual point of view. Physical virginity is an "external expression of the fact that the person belongs only to itself and to the Creator." In marriage the woman "surrenders" her virginity to her husband and ceases to be a virgin in the physical sense, while the husband ceases to be a virgin by coming into "possession" of his wife, all this, however, understood as a relationship rooted in reciprocal, betrothed love (p. 251).

            Wojtyla then continues: "within man's relationship with God, understood as a relationship of love, man's posture can and must be one of surrender to God" (p. 251; emphasis added). What this means, so it seems to me, is that the relationship of man, male and female, as creature to God the Creator, is analogous to the relationship of female to male: the creature "surrenders" his/her virginity to God the Creator--the uncreated spouse. W continues by emphasizing that this opens up the "possibility of betrothed and requited love between God and man: the human soul, which is the betrothed of God, gives itself to him alone...under the influence of Grace" (p. 251).

           I take it that this is what "mystical" or "spiritual" virginity is and that mystical virginity is possible--and indeed, essential, for married men and women. Wojtyla notes that we do not speak of virginity in the case of married persons who give themselves wholly to God, "although," he continues, "giving oneself to God as an act of betrothed love may be analogous to that which constitutes the essence of virginity" (p. 252).

            Wojtyla then distinguishes between celibacy and spiritual virginity insofar as the former is "merely abstention from marriage, which may be dictated by a variety of considerations and motives," and he continues by noting that the celibacy required of priests in the Catholic Church is on the "border line" between work-required celibacy and spiritual or mystical virginity (p. 252).

           A major point emphasized in this section is that "man has an inborn need of betrothed love, a need to give himself to another" (p. 253). Christ and the Church recognize virginity (physical + spiritual) as a choice for God--for being betrothed to him: "The man who chooses virginity chooses God" (p. 253). But, Wojtyla continues in a very important passage: "This does not mean...that in choosing marriage he renounces God for a human being. Marriage and the betrothed love for a human being that goes with it, the dedication of oneself to another person, solves the problem of the union of persons only on the terrestrial and temporal scale. The union of person with person here takes place in the physical and sexual sense, in accordance with man's physical nature and the natural effects of the sexual urge. Nevertheless, the need to give oneself to another person has profounder origins than the sexual instinct, and is connected above all with the spiritual nature of the human person. It is not sexuality which creates in a man and a woman the need to give themselves to each other but, on the contrary, it is the need to give oneself, latent in every human person, which finds its outlet, in the conditions of existence in the body, and on the basis of the sexual urge, in physical and sexual union, in matrimony. But the need for betrothed love; the need to give oneself to and unite with another person, is deeper and connected with the spiritual existence of the person" (p. 253, emphasis added).

           In the balance of this section Wojtyla then discusses spiritual/physical virginity as a "better" road to God than marriage. In his discussion he is at pains to show that the value of such virginity is not something negative--the rejection of marriage as though marriage were bad--rather it "is to be found in the exceptionally important part which virginity plays in realizing the kingdom of God on earth. The kingdom of God on earth is realized in that particular people gradually prepare and perfect themselves for eternal union with God. In this union, the objective development of the human person reaches its highest point. Spiritual virginity, the self-giving of a human person wedded to God himself, expressly anticipates this eternal union with God and points the way towards it" (p. 255).

Wojtyla in effect then comments on this matter in the next section.

C. The Problem of Vocation

           First of all, only persons have vocations. The term indicates, Wojtyla says, "that there is a proper course for every person's development to follow, a specific way he commits his whole life to the service of certain values" (p. 256). Moreover, each one's vocation requires that he or she fix his or her love on some goal, must love someone and be prepared to give himself or herself for love. Vocation, in short, demands self-giving--and self-giving is central to both marriage and viriginity understood as the full gift of oneself to God, understood, in short, in a personalistic way. In the vision of the NT each of us is summoned to give himself fully in love to God and others; moreover, as this vision makes clear, we cannot do this relying only on our own interior resources. "In calling us to seek perfection, the Gospel also requires us to believe in divine grace"--to rely on God's help (p. 257-258).

           All of us have the vocation to holiness, to perfection. But the Church, in continuity with the NT, speaks of the state of life shaped by virginity based on a vow of chastity and in combination with vows of poverty and obedience. This way of life is referred to as a "state of perfection," because it is conducive toward perfection. Nonetheless, men and women who have not freely chosen this state as their "vocation" but have rather chosen marriage, can, by their love, be closer to the perfection to which we are all called than persons who have chosen virginity.

D. Paternity and Maternity

           The essence of Wojtyla’s thought on this can be summed up as follows. 1. Parenthood, whether fatherhood or motherhood, is rooted in the inner life; it is new way of crystallizing a husband's love for his wife and a wife's love for her husband. 2. Motherhood or maternity seems more "natural," i.e., tied to the nature of the female organism, than fatherhood or paternitiy. 3. Paternity or fatherhood is thus more a result of culture than of nature. 4. Paternity and maternity are deeper than biology and are spiritual in nature: we beget our children in the spirit, and the model parent here is God the Father.


Chapter  Five: Sexology and Ethics

           This chapter, also called a "supplementary survey," includes six sections: (1) introductory remarks, (2) the sexual urge, (3) marriage and marital intercourse, (4) the problem of birth control, (5) sexual psychopathology and ethics, and (6) therapy. I will focus on (3) and (4), briefly considering the other sections.

           In his introductory remarks Wojtyla emphasizes the superiority of ethics (a normative science) over empirical studies, and he repudiates what he calls "pure sexology," i.e., an attempt to deal with problems of sexual life from a purely medical or physiological point of view (e.g., as with Kinsey, Masters & Johnson, et al.). Since man is a person, ethics and love take precedence over physiology. However, if the sexologist acknowledges that the sexual beings he studies are persons to whom the only adequate reponse is love, then his knowledge can contribute to sexual ethics. Such an ethics-based sexology is a legitimate branch of the science and art of medicine, whose proper concern is care of health and preservation of life.  Nonetheless, good medicine (and thus good clinical sexology), realizes that the subject of life and health is a person and that, with respect to sexual life and the relationship between the sexes, "what matters is the man's duty to the woman and the woman's duty to the man by virtue of the fact that they are both persons, and not merely what is beneficial to their health" (p. 266).

           Wojtyla then sets forth in a few brief pages, under the heading "the sexual urge," certain findings of sexology that enable us to understand more fully how sexual stimuli affect men and women (boys and girls) differently, how boys and girls differ in their sexual awakening. Such information can be of value in understanding better the complex of somatic and physiological factors conditioning the sensual reactions in which the sexual urge manifests itself (pp. 268-269).

Marriage and Marital Intercourse (pp. 270-278)

           Here Wojtyla is principally concerned with making males aware of the very different way in which sexual excitement reaches its climax in females than in males. He argues that "from the point of view of another person, from the altruistic standpoint, it is necessary to insist that intercourse must not serve merely as a means of allowing sexual excitement to reach its climax in one of the partners, i.e., the man alone, but that climax must be reached in harmony. not at the expense of one partner, but with both partners fully involved" (p. 272). In short, husbands ought to learn how to please their wives by becoming familiar with the findings of sexology in this matter. W writes: "Non-observance of these teachings of sexology in the marital relationship is contrary to the good of the other partner to the marriage and the durability and cohesion of the marriage itself" (p. 273).

           He argues that if insufficient heed is paid to such truths, the wife, who will not be fully involved, may begin to have a hostile attitude toward sex, become frigid in some way, and even result in psychological and physiological damage to the woman (p. 273).

           He holds that it is inappropriate for the wife to "sham orgasm," because this conceals the problem and can at best be a palliative. He pushes for true personal education in the matter and neatly distinguishes between a "culture of marital relations" and concern for mere technique--the "how to" manual approach (pp. 274-275). What is most needed is true love. Finally, the valid findings of sexology, while not directly supporting monogamy and indissolubiilty, nonetheless indirectly does so because it attaches such importance to the psychological and physical health of spouses, and this health flourishes best in the soil of true marital love (pp. 276-277).

The Problem of Birth Control (pp. 278-285)

           In these pages Wojtyla develops ideas set forth in chapter 4 on this topic. Before getting to the moral problem he briefly (pp. 279-281) discusses the nature of the woman's fertile cycle. In these pages he indicates that fear of conception (at a time when it would not be appropriate for the wife to become pregnant) is perhaps the most common psychological factor upsetting the woman's natural cycle (and making periodic continence more difficult).

           Wojtyla summarizes the proper moral stance re birth control as follows: It can be reduced to two elements: "readiness during intercourse to accept parenthood and that readiness to practice continence which derives from virtue, from love for the closest of persons" (p. 281).

           In his discussion of birth control in this section Wojtyla notes, quite properly, how chemical and mechanical means can cause harm to the woman's health, how coitus interruptus is both ineffective and robs the woman of orgasm etc. These are very important points to note. He then stresses that the only morally correct method is the natural means of control (which is not contraceptive), used not as a mere technique but as an exercise of the virtue of continence. He indicates that the woman has a stronger natural urge for sex when she is ovulating. He then writes, and I believe quite perceptively, that "a more important task for the man than adapting himself to the biological cycle of the woman is the creation of a favorable psychological climate for their relationship without which the successful application of natural methods is out of the question. This demands the regular practice of continence on the part of the man, so that birth control by natural means depends in the last analysis on the moral attitude of the male. The marital relationship demands on his part tenderness, an understanding for the feelings of the woman..." (283-284).

Copyright ©; William E. May 2007

Version: 21st September 2007

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