Despite these pessimistic tendencies in his thought, Augustine remained relatively positive about the basic goodness of human marriage itself. As he noted in the Literal commentary on Genesis, the evil of concupiscence did not negate the essential goodness of marriage: 'For what is good in marriage and that by which marriages are good can never be sin' (De Gen. ad litt. 9.8.12). For Augustine the good in marriage was threefold:

Fidelity means that there must be no relations with any other person outside the marriage bond. Offspring means that children are to be lovingly received, brought up with tender care, and given a religious education. Sacrament means that the marriage bondis not to be broken, and that if one partner in a marriage should be abandoned by the other, neither may enter into a new marriage even for the sake of having children.15

Although he added some novel elements, Augustine's reflections on conjugal life reinforced the basic tendencies of the previous Christian tradition and provided a coherent theological foundation on which Western sexual ethics developed.


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