I think I have a problem. Pope John Paul II has just offered a new sweeping definition of adultery. He said, "Adultery in your heart is not only when you look with concupiscence [strong sexual desire] at a woman who is not your wife, but also if you look in the same manner at your wife . . . The husband must not use his wife, or her femininity, to fulfill his instinctive desire," the pope said. "Concupiscence diminishes the richness of the perennial attraction of persons for interpersonal communion. Through such a reduction, the other person becomes the mere object for satisfying a sexual need and touches the dignity of the person [wife]."
In other words, if you really want to have a good mariage, lust has to go.
I don't have any problem with adultery per se, but I do with concupiscence.
I guess some people are born with concupiscence and some people are not. I can be at a party, look at a woman sitting on a sofa in a slit skirt and a low-cut bodice, and my thoughts will immediately go to the problems of the automobile industry in Detroit. Or I can sit in a disco, watching a woman swinging her hips from one end of the dance floor to the other, and wonder whether Iraq will win the war in the Middle East.
I am the type of person who can sit on a beach staring at bikini-clad women for hours, and ponder the effect of aerosol spray on the ozone.
A cardiologist once told me, "You don't have to jog, because you have no lust in your heart."
"Is that good or bad?" I asked him.
"Well, it saves the heart from pumping too fast," he said. But it could produce hypertension."
Being without lust for another man's wife does present problems in my society. The word gets out fast that you have no concupiscence, and women avoid you like the plague. I find myself standing alone at cocktail parties, ignoring the whiff of perfume in the air, while all around me people are flirting with each other, and occasionally glancing at me in disdain.
But it doesn't bother me, because when you don't have adultery in your heart, you can eat all the taco chips and cheese dip you want, without anybody taking notice.
So what's my problem?
I've never confessed this before to anyone, but I have concupiscence for my wife. Not just a little, but a lot. I can't look at her without having this instinctive urge to do something about it. I know it diminishes the richness of our marriage, and can cause great problems in our interpersonal relations, but I can't help myself. I've tried taking cold showers, and reading the Congressional Record, but nothing seems to help. What makes it worse is that she has concupiscence, too.
Our family doctor knows about it, and he says it's rare these days for a husband and wife to have concupiscence for each other, but it isn't harmful as long as we take plenty of vitamins and eat a lot of fresh vegetables.
And we were just getting to accept our lust when Pope John Paul II came out with this strong statement.
Then the roof fell in. I was reading the newspaper when my wife walked into the bedroom in her silk negligee. "Any news?" she asked.
"Nothing much," I said, trying not to look at her.
She put on a Henry Mancini record.
"Okay," I said, "knock it off."
"What did I do wrong?"
"Nothing, but we can't practice concupiscence anymore. It lowers the dignity of our marriage and brings out the worst in us."
She started to cry. "Is there somebody else?"
"If you must know there is," I said.
"Who is it?"
"Pope John Paul II. And don't ask me to go into the sordid details."