Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When Can Catholics Have Sex?

I know that there are many misunderstandings out there about the Catholic faith. I recently came across this article (I think it's actually a small book reproduced on the internet) addressing the Catholic teaching on sex, and while glancing through it as it printed out (I print out longer things like this because I find my eyes swim if I try to read them online, and it's impossible to highlight and write notes on the screen!), I found this paragraph which address a misunderstanding. So I decided to share. :)

The below is quoted from a much longer article 'Morals and Marriage: The Catholic Background to Sex' by T.G. Wayne. It has both the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur, so it is free of doctrinal error. This is just the passage most relevant to the question:


The morality of a human act is not only determined by a consideration of its general nature. The abstract must be made concrete. Consequently the personal motives for a particular action must also be taken into account. In this connection it may be asked: should husband and wife seriously intend to have a child whenever they have intercourse and should they try to restrict intercourse to those times when the conception of a child is possible?

The answer is negative. There are other valid reasons for intercourse besides procreation. These are the healthy expression of passion, the fostering of mutual love, the strengthening of the sacramental bond of marriage. These are worthy motives, implying the human love and devotion of marriage, including more than the mere appetite for pleasure, which is not a sufficient motive for any action. The intention of trying to have a child is not necessary as a regular motive.

All healthy married people who are capable of bearing and rearing children are under some obligation in the matter, but the command applies more directly to their married state than to each and every act of intercourse. There may be good reasons for intercourse, the bodily and spiritual welfare of them both, at times when conception is impossible or unlikely or undesirable. Of course they must reserve their impulses, for marriage does not legitimize sex indulgence in any form, but rather requires the exercise of purity as much as does a single life. On this supposition, however, the satisfaction of sex without the intention of procreating is according to the divinely-appointed nature of marriage, so long as the act is life-offering, serving to strengthen the sacramental bond and to assure the stability of family life on which the welfare of children in general depends.


  1. LK,

    Honestly, this wasn't directed at you, sweetie. :) That's why I didn't mention or link to your post. You thought what you'd been taught was Catholic teaching. It's not, and you're hardly the only person to think it. Yes, your post brought it to my mind, but it's a misconception that other people have.

    It was an interesting article I came across on EWTN's site, which I go through once in a while.

  2. It is an interesting article. Its weird though right? Because my friend is from Italy and she thought the same. But the funny part is, no one actually believes it LOL. Even my parents would be all "yes that is what the church says but we don't agree with it." Turns out, majority of the church doesn't agree. Good thing, because its ridiculous.

    I think I will send this to my friend :)

  3. LK,

    Sure, pass it on. It's long, and he goes into specifics.

    'Even my parents would be all "yes that is what the church says but we don't agree with it." Turns out, majority of the church doesn't agree.'

    Heh. Turns out, the Church doesn't say it. :)

    This is (an example) of why I believe you can't just take the word of members of any faith for what it actually teaches. You have to go to the sources. There's too much 'drift'. Too much cultural stuff, whether we're talking about Islam or Catholicism or anything else.

  4. You are correct. Its just so weird because they brought this up in my religion class in college too, not just CDD.

    All faiths have this problem. if someone of authority teaches something, people start to take it as fact. Most of my friends were not Catholic when I was a teen so I just took it to be the truth. I didn't have anyone to compare with you know?

    It perplexes me. I wonder where it came from and how I was taught it by two different people O_O

    I am glad it is wrong lol

  5. In my opinion, it comes from people getting too attached to one scholar/teacher's teachings, to the point where they think they can do no wrong. They're just men, they can be misled, mistaken, or mistaught themselves.

    I'd bet that there were/ae a bunch of people who were taught, believe, and have taught this same thing. And if we traced it all the way back, we'd find the common book or teacher that started the whole mess.

  6. That was an interesting paragraph. I'm supposed to be Catholic (based on my birth) but I know nothing about it. I was under the impression though that there was a ruling of some sort in Catholicism about only having sex for procreation.

    It still seems like sex is not much encouraged... Getting married for Catholics doesn't mean they will have sex whenever they both want to, it means they will have sex whenever they need. But it's at least good for them that "need" can be more than just procreation. I definitely know that there's a need beyond that. A marriage can fall apart without regular sex; it's part of our nature to need it with our life partner to keep the relationship loving and healthy. Nice that Catholicism allows it.

  7. Candice,

    Yeah, lots of people are under that impression. Clearly, at some point, that got disseminated, but afaik, it's never been the actual position of the Church.

    'Need' is a very loosely defined term. Feel amorous? You 'need' to have sex with your spouse. There doesn't need to be some sort of rational reason for it, merely the desire (not just because it feels good, but because you love your spouse). Procreation, while great, is not the be all, end all of our existance. :)

  8. I'm married, I'm Catholic, and obviously I've enjoyed sex!! (But not now while heavily preggo. Not possible for me.)

    Once you're married and having sex it's amazing how much you really need sex, not just physically but also mentally. (Spiritually?)

    The Catholic Church's teaching about sex is right in line with nature, which is right in line with God's design for His creation: Go forth and multiply. Populate. Keep humanity going...

    What it all really boils down to is this: If you're going to have sex, then do so while being open to the possibility of pregnancy. (Life.) This doesn't mean you only have sex when fertile ~ it means that every time you come together and have sex you are willing to accept pregnancy if it should happen, even when you're not necessarily planning on it.

    If you use artificial contraception or abortion in order to avoid pregnancy then you warp sex into a sterile, pleasure-only recreational past time. This goes completely contrary to God's design for sex which is to keep the human race in existence. Without sex, there are no babies. Without babies, there are no human beings on the Earth.

    It's all really, really simple but now things are so complicated because our society has become obsessed with sterile, recreational sex. The idea of exercising self restraint until marriage is considered lunacy and so many of our fellow human beings give in to their lusts at the possible expense of their very souls. Which is terribly sad. Not only that but this sterile sex-for-pleasure-only has resulted in the murder of over 50 million unborn children...

    The Catholic Church didn't invent sex, nor did it invent the "rules" regarding Sex. God did all of that and it's God's decision on what is right and what is wrong with regards to sex. The Church simply attempts to explain the limitations so that we remain healthy in mind, body, and soul. But when it all comes down to brass tacks, it's up to each individual person to either obey God or disobey God. It really is that black or white!

  9. *grin* I hope to one day be married and having good sex with my husband!

    Concessions must be made, twins, remember? :)

    *nods* Absolutely. That's all what I was taught too, and all that I've been able to find. But apparently, there have been some, raised 'Catholic', who were taught that the only time to have sex was when you were specifically *trying* to have children.

  10. Interesting posts and comments! :)

  11. I live to both inform and entertain! :)


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