COC #60: Attack: “Pope Doesn’t Understand Purpose of Marriage”

Like Restorationism, Fundamentalism is a relatively modern Protestant movement, and it was developed within a larger Americanized construct of what Marriage ought to be. That is, Marriage and its more-Americanized (thus, more-secularized) purposes were woven into American Fundamentalism’s newly-formed fabric. 

The movement, remember, began as a reaction to liberal theology within Protestantism. However, the end synthesis of its understanding of Marriage—whether it pre-dates liberal Protestantism or not—is in fact a liberalized/secularized hybrid product of Christian Marriage and the pursuit of carnal satisfaction disjoined from the original procreative and unitive purposes of the Sacrament. Steve Rudd’s outline perfectly illustrates Fundamentalism’s understanding of not only its position, but also how it contrasts with Catholicism’s understanding of Marriage. Rudd begins: 



A. The Pope [sic] only defines two purposes of marriage [sic], leaving out the third in [sic] the   list below:

     1.         Offspring: “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28) [sic]

     2.         Companionship: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2: 18) [sic]

B. The Bible has three purposes of Marriage:

     1.         Offspring: “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28) [sic]

     2.         Companionship: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2 18) [sic]

     3.         Sexual satisfaction independent of the desire for children: “because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife”, “it is better to marry than to burn with passion” 1 Corinthians 7:1-5,9 [sic]

Rudd offers no references for what the Catholic Church actually believes, and he begins with a false dichotomy: “Pope” vs. “Bible”. What Rudd meant to communicate, I believe, is the Catholic Church believes something he does not think the Bible supports. Rudd’s thesis is that the Catholic Church’s “incomplete” (as per his title) understanding of Marriage is the cause of her “flawed” and “destructive” (as per his title) beliefs. The purpose of Marriage—the purpose Rudd and other Fundamentalists believe the Catholic Church misses from her own understanding—is that God created sex for “sexual satisfaction independent of the desire for children.” 

Rudd’s first argument for the Catholic Church’s “flawed, incomplete, and destructive” understanding of Marriage is titled, “Sex on demand” [sic]. Rudd continues:

I.  “Sex on demand”: [sic

The Bible teaches sex on demand by either spouse: “Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch (have sex with) [sic: content insertion into Scripture] a woman. But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. … “ [sic] But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. ” 1 Corinthians 7:1-5,9 [sic] (italics Rudd’s)

What could be more clear? [sic] But the Roman Catholic view of marriage cannot allow for this great advice. In short, it is a sin for one either [sic] partner to withhold sex when requested. This underscores the fact that the Roman Catholic church [sic] is wrong when they [sic] refuse to include “satisfaction of sexual appetite” as the third purpose of marriage.

Rudd’s first “proof” titled “Sex on demand” [sic] utilizes part of a single passage of Scripture, and he expects his readers to understand that his passage somehow exposes a flawed Catholic understanding. I expect most Catholics would read Rudd’s “proof” several times and never come to understand what he is trying to explain, but having been a part of the Protestant Church of Christ camp (Rudd’s own Fundamentalist sect) and knowing how it engages the world, I will explain what just happened.

1)  Rudd tells his audience, “XYZ.” 

2)  He then quotes the Bible—relevant or not. 

3)  He then re-tells his audience, “XYZ.”

4)  Since he quoted the Bible, he expects his audience to believe “XYZ” is biblical. 

Apparently, Rudd does not want to know if the Catholic Church believes sexual satisfaction is a purpose for Marriage (more accurately, a result of Marriage); he simply repeats his thesis. In other words, Rudd expects his readers to ride the inertia of his false dichotomy (“Pope” vs. “Bible”), not pay attention to the actual passage he quoted, not expect him to explain in any way what the Catholic Church teaches, and then gloss over his argument with a simple thematic imprint: “Pope” vs. “Bible”, Catholic Church vs. Bible. Intellectual endeavor does not create Fundamentalists; emotion and “Amen!”-worthy rhetoric useful for in-house sermons is what retains Fundamentalists.

But since Rudd utilizes an abridged Bible passage for his argument, and since the Catholic Church wrote it, called it “Scripture” for the world to enjoy, and loves it as God-breathed, I will utilize it as well to illustrate how the Catholic Church’s understanding of Marriage is not “incomplete”, but thoroughly Christian. The full text of the passage—including the verses Rudd purposefully omits (verses 6-8) is:

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote. It is well for a man not to touch a woman. But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does. Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control (1 Corinthians 7:1-5).

Rudd purposefully omits:

I say this by way of concession, not of command. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do (vs. 6-8).

Rudd continues:

But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion (v. 9).

The passage Rudd renders incomplete (while arguing that the Catholic Church has an “incomplete” understanding of the subject) clearly teaches against Fundamentalism’s position regarding clerical celibacy, which is a later subject within this same chapter. I will address it when Rudd argues against the Catholic Church’s preference for celibate priests, but there is another reason Rudd and Fundamentalism omits verses 6-8 from its conscience. St. Paul is speaking of two groups of people—married and unmarried—and how they should conduct themselves within the Church. The omitted verses provide the transition. The deletion of verses 6-8 creates the impression that married people who are aflame with passion (lust) should use their spouses as self-gratifying sexual objects. 

Rudd’s purposeful deletion of the verses—the deletion of Scripture—from Fundamentalism’s “complete” understanding of Marriage is, as Rudd illustrates, what creates support for “sex on demand” within Marriage as an outlet for lust. When the full text is considered, we realize St. Paul was first addressing married people, and then unmarried people. The Bible and the Catholic Church teach that within the ordinary marital construct, each partner is not to deny the other. “Sex on demand”—the connotation Rudd’s words communicate—is not what St. Paul was advocating as a way to manage  lust; St. Paul’s words describe the one-flesh union among husband and wife where lust no longer exists; self-less love does not objectify one’s spouse for self-gratification. 

In ideal Christian Marriage—in the sort of Marriage that is Catholic—there is no lust to manage; the sexual union is one of self-giving love and not self-love. The Catholic Church has so much respect for the marital act that she, in her Latin Bible, creates an image not of managed lust by “sex on demand” but with Jesus’ language and meaning of marital love. The last words of Jesus, It is finished (John 19:30), is written as, Consummatum est, “It is consummated.” The Catholic Church recognizes that Christ has lifted Marriage to “the dignity of a Sacrament” (CCC #1601)—a visible sign of grace. It is not a means of managing lust between a male and female any more than Jesus’ sacrifice was a means of demanding anything from anybody. Within Catholic Marriage, husbands love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25). 

Fundamentalism is right about one thing: the Catholic Church does not believe sex should be a recreational endeavor only—an “independent purpose of Marriage”. She does not believe lust is a vice that is released onto a spouse. She believes sex is both procreative and unitive; sexual satisfaction is not separated from its purpose. One group is historical, is Christian, is Catholic. The other group, in this case, is no different from the world.