I just got this good question by email from a friend who studied personalist philosophy as an undergrad. It’s one that comes up often in Catholic circles.
Have just happened upon the excitement on your website as I was searching for a good definition of Personalist philosophy to send to someone here in—.
Just out of interest (and because I am working two jobs for the foreseeable future and don’t have time to explore all the good links on your website), can you tell me if the issue of “It is better to marry than to burn with passion” 1 Corinthians 7:9 has come up yet in your discussions. This has always rankled, as it seems to condone the using of one’s spouse as an object. However, in certain Church circles, I am told that this is morally acceptable. This is closely allied with the concept of “conjugal rights”, which also mystifies me. If a woman (and it is almost always this way around) has had her trust in her husband eroded by anger and/or violence, subjectively, for her, conjugal relations can become something akin to physical violation. As a sponsor [in a 12-step program], I come up against this problem a lot.
Here is the response I sent:
Our discussions are just getting off the ground, so only a few topics have been raised. Maria Fedoryka has some great thoughts on “conjugal rights”, which I’ll see if I can entice her to share. Basically the idea behind “better to marry than burn” and “remedy for concupiscence” is that true spousal love can overcome the tendency to treat sex as a mere appetite and another person as an object for my pleasure.
As for conjugal rights I see it this way: when a woman pledges herself to her husband she is his alone. She had no right to give herself sexually or romantically to anyone else. It does not mean that her husband has a right to enjoy her sexually whenever he pleases. He still has a duty in love to try win by his love a response of love in her. She has a duty to be open to his love, not necessarily his sexual advances—especially if she senses that they are impure.