On sodomy

The Church’s reticence on sexual matters

It’s often said that the Catholic Church (by which is meant her clergy) is “obsessed with sex”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, the Church is positively squeamish about sex.  It is the world that is obsessively screaming at her to accept homosexual sodomy, to which the Church must keep replying “no” before quickly changing the subject, and the world thinks we must have some sort of obsession not to have given in already.

As an example of the Church’s reticence, consider her dealing with the more common practice of heterosexual sodomy.  Because there is no faction campaigning for its official acceptance, the higher offices of the Church are not forced to speak on the subject, and they show no inclination to initiate.  “Oral sex is okay as long as you ‘plant the seed’” is a claim often heard on Catholic blogs and marriage preparation classes, because pastorally–“on the ground level”–it is a subject that is impossible to avoid.  Yet I have found no clear Magisterial statement confirming or contradicting this claim. Readers are encouraged to correct me with missed sources, but the fact that I found so little in the obvious places is itself telling.  It seems to be an inference from more general principles of Catholic sexual ethics.

Sodomy as a form of contraception

It is a very plausible one.  Below are the Church’s key authoritative statements on the topic of contraception.

The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.

This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.

Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.

Humanae Vitae

…any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.

Casti Connubii

One could posit that the directive “all licit sex acts are per se procreative and may not be altered to render them otherwise” as an absolute and comprehensive expression of the natural law’s restriction on the manner in which sexual gratification may be pursued.  There are of course other ways a given sex act may be immoral–for instance if it is adulterous–but the claim is that this condition is necessary and sufficient to render the physical type of act licit.  Let us call this assumption “Pauline completeness” (after Paul VI).

It has definite attractions.  It manifestly derives from one of the purest of religious intuitions–that the creative act is an occasion of divine presence and not ours to manipulate for our own ends.  One can furthermore regard the Church’s proscriptions against artificial contraception, homosexuality, and masturbation as direct applications of the more general, but completely clear, principle.  I have had to stretch “marriage/conjugal act” to “sex act”, since otherwise some of these (which are not commonly referred to as “marriage” acts) might not be covered.  The allowance of oral sex in foreplay follows straightforwardly from the completeness assumption.  It is certainly attractive to have such a clear-cut rule that couples can apply themselves to any other situations that may not have occurred to our wise but celibate spiritual leaders.

A rather surprising consequence of Pauline completeness is that the Church could be said to have nothing per se against homosexuality, only with the act of sodomy.  Swap the sex of one partner in a homosexual act, and the morality doesn’t change.  Of course, this would be little comfort to homosexuals, since all their sex acts are necessarily sodomitical.

Consider two alternative assertions.

Laxist alternative:  Oral sex is fine, and the husband can ejaculate wherever.

Rigorist alternative:  Oral sex is wrong even in foreplay.

Is either alternative viable?

Can we find a loophole for sodomy?

The laxist alternative would seem harder to argue.  One would have to claim that sodomitical acts are not marriage/conjugal act at all, but some other type of act.  The marriage act, on this reading, refers exclusively to vaginal sex, and in sodomy no such act has been frustrated.  Other sex acts (as this term is commonly used) would then have to be condemned for separate reasons.  On this reading, it really is the homosexuality, not the sodomy, that offends against natural law.

I suspect that sodomy has been independently and directly condemned by the Church, but I have not found a good reference.  “Why isn’t this spelled out more clearly in the Catechism?” lay men and women might reasonably wonder, especially if they have been taught to think of the Church as being especially eager to police their bedrooms.  Because the Church doesn’t like to talk about sex.  So you can either reason things out yourself or just take the word of the priest at your Pre-Cana workshop.

Could sexual morality be more restrictive than we have been led to believe?

Arguments for the rigorist alternative are gathered here.  It would claim that the Pauline restriction is necessary but not sufficient.  Let us consider a few of the arguments against oral foreplay.  One argument is that an evil act (oral sodomy) cannot be made good by a consequent good act (“planting the seed”).  Recall that Pope Paul himself had to be clear that each marital act must be open to procreation, not just a marriage in its totality.  This is true, but natural law reasoning does require that human acts can be broken up into intelligible quanta.  Most people would regard an uninterrupted session from foreplay to intercourse to be a single sex act, and I think the burden of proof is on those who think otherwise.  One might also claim that various forms of foreplay are unnatural or undignified.  I have a prejudice against this view, but not for a very good reason, just my preference for intellectual tidiness.  It would be a shame to sacrifice Pauline completeness, which gives a clear criterion for naturalness/dignity, without an equally clear replacement.

Sex and imagination

Nevertheless, I understand why pious souls are often uneasy with a minimalist view of sexual morality.

We all know that the pleasure of sex as experienced by humans is only partially in the physical sensations.  After all, the sensations themselves don’t vary that much regardless of sex position, attractiveness of partner, or any of the other things we know affect the experience.  Sex is always experienced in some imaginative context, but there are two very different families of such contexts.

One imaginative context might be called “immersion in sexual archetype”, the playing out of masculine and feminine essences, as when we say that the man “takes” the woman, and the woman “surrenders”.  This theme can be potent indeed and is usually benign in that it gives little incentive to unnatural acts, although it can encourage adulterous ones (new “conquests”).   It is congruent with natural law in that the man and woman are put in touch with and embrace the meaning given in their bodies.

There is an equally potent but contrary imaginative context, which finds excitement in sex in the contradiction of sexual normativity.  This is the thrill of transgression, the fascination with novelty and perversion precisely as such.  There is even a sort of intimacy engendered by the couple’s transgressions, the intimacy of co-conspirators.  Most people experience this other sort of sexual fascination to some degree.  It can even be indulged to a limited extent.  However, the pursuit of transgression will eventually push beyond this.  Nor is this a misfortune unique to Catholics.  Wherever one draws the moral line, eventually the pursuit of novelty will press against it.  Meaning that unless we plan to surrender ourselves to limitless degeneracy, we must reconcile ourselves to some degree of sexual frustration.  We will each die with unfulfilled sexual fantasies.  This would be so even if the Church could relax this or that rule.

Those with a strong sense of reverence for the procreative act will tend to accuse “just be sure to plant the seed” minimalism of inculcating a completely wrong attitude.  Indeed, those who emphasize all that is not directly forbidden by this rule do come off sounding quite vulgar–one reason why the Church does not like to talk about sex.  However, because the pursuit of novelty finds no rest, couples will soon enough run up against even minimalist rules, and the immutable nature of the conjugal act will reassert itself upon them.

Conclusion

I conclude that the consensus position found on Catholic blogs and marriage workshops deserves its status as the presumed Catholic teaching.  It seems the most plausible reading of the current expression of Catholic doctrine.  However, we must be careful not to confuse doctrine with our interpretation of it.

19 Responses

  1. I don’t know if I ever told you the story, but I was so special that the Church required me to go through pre-Cana twice. This was twenty-five years ago, when I was neither Catholic nor much of a Christian, and the marriage was to take place in Austria, where my wife-to-be then lived. Because I would have to take the class alone, the Church said that I could not join the local session, but must drive to San Antonio, three hours away. The session in San Antonio was filled with canoodling Hispanics half my age, not one of whom lacked their spouse to be. As a non-Catholic, I was on my best behavior, and took notes through the whole session. The Catholics on the other hand were squeezing boobs, or having their boobs squeezed.

    The closest we got to sodomy was to be told that natural family planning was not the “rhythm method.”

    Perhaps because it doubted what American Catholics might call a pre-Cana session, the Church in Austria required me to take the class a second time, this time with my wife and in German. As my German was then no better than it is now, it is possible that good Father Weingartman touched on sodomy, but that did not seem to be the drift of his remarks. I know he kept saying that this and that is a “constant challenge,” but I don’t think avoidance of sodomy was one of those constant challenges.

    Although my mind is apt to wander during the homily, I am confident in saying that sexual morality has been broached only once or twice in twenty years. Were it not for my independent reading in the arcana of the Bible, I would not know that the Church disapproved of adultery, much less planting the seed with a careless hand.

    So the question of culpable ignorance arises here. Has a man who took two pre-Cana classes (and took notes), and who has at least half attended to over a thousand homilies, and who does at least some independent reading–has he shown due diligence in informing himself about Catholic sexual morality?

  2. The arguments against the minimalist approach which are given by St. Alphonsus Liguori and St. Thomas Aquinas are more robust than the ones you presented I think.

    St. Alphonsus argues that an incomplete coital act (an interrupted one, day, or an onanistic one) between an unmarried man and woman is still true fornication, and therefore an incomplete act of oral/anal intercourse is also true sodomy.

    Thomas argues that the proper “vas” or receptacle for the male sex organ (not just seminal fluid) is the female sex organ, so it is wrong to use other parts of your wife’s body as the vas.

    Your idea of Pauline completeness also seems odd; it seems to be saying that the object of any sexual act can be split up into a material and non-material object, so that the material act might be licit while the nonmaterial act isn’t (in the case of adultery for instance). For one, it seems odd to say that the person you are having intercourse with is not part of the physical act, since human beings are corporeal. Second, it seems dualistic to separate the physical and non physical components of moral acts in the way you are attempting; doing so means that we can actually start saying there is something good in the object of an intrinsically evil act. For instance, if an act of fornication is non-contracepted, then under your paradigm we have to admit that there is something good and lawful about the object of that intrinsically evil act, which is a contradiction.

    All in all, I think the burden is on the minimalists to show why taking plays in the bedroom from homosexuals is dignified and morally licit, especially given that two of the Church’s foremost theologians disagree.

  3. Hello TimFinnegan,

    To your main points, yes, I suppose I would say that there are often lawful aspects of a forbidden act. To be moral, the act must be lawful in every aspect. That it’s possible to pass some and fail others doesn’t seem strange to me.

    I’m not completely committed to any of the possibilities I brought up. Pauline completeness just seems to have the most going for it. Perhaps this is for the best, as I am prepared to submit with full docility if the Church should announce that oral foreplay is forbidden or even (although I think this even less likely) if she should give the green light to sodomy; I would not be tempted to repeat my temper tantrums during the communion for adulterers affair, which did the Church no good.

  4. Hello JMSmith

    > So the question of culpable ignorance arises here.

    Indeed. I’ve read all relevant parts of the latest Catechism (and found the Council of Trent catechism online and skimmed that for good measure), the entirety of the two encyclicals quoted (which are both over 50 pages but could easily have been less than one, by the way), the Code of Canon Law (for which I learned that nonprocreative acts don’t consummate a marriage, by the way), and did a google search on Catholicism and oral sex, and I now feel less confident that I know what I am suppose to believe and to avoid doing than I did before I started.

  5. Three thoughts:
    1- Could the allowance for oral foreplay be used to permit heterosexual sodomy? As long as you plant the seed where it can grow, does it matter? I would argue that such loopholes defeat the spirit of the rule, the rule being that licit and valid sexual acts must be unitive and procreative. The prohibition on sodomy does go above and beyond, as an inherently disordered act, but you are also right that the Church has no prohibition on so-called “homosexuals” (if i werent on my phone i would link you to wm briggs article on how homosexuals dont exist) as long as they abide by their apparent vocation of chastity and purity. The sins are wrong, but we are all sinners. All this to say, i dont know if oral foreplay is permitted but if the logic used also permits sodomy then i dont think it should be.

    2- when i converted, my sponsor gave me a genuine copy of a the 1916 Manual of Prayer from the Council of Baltimore. The examination of conscience says this: (paraphrased) “what the one commandment prohibits in thought, the other prohibits in deed, you know what they are and we wont risk tempting you by listing them here”. It also includes form for the reception of converts, which includes a groveling denunciation of our former heresy, which i kind of wish the Church preserved. The latter was just interesting trivia, the former affirms your claim that the Church is rather eager to not discuss sex.

    3- i know Zippy, God rest his soul, took a hard line on sexual morality. I was shocked, more by the intellectual consistency than by the harshness, when he would admonish those “masturbating into a delinerately poisoned womb” or “using spouses as toilets”. I think he would have had a lot to say in response to this, and i certainly think he would have taken a hard line. Natural Law is not litigious or hard to understand, the hardest part about it is that we dont like what it says.

  6. I think you’re right in the sense that it’s possible to say an act is licit in some aspect in the sense that an act can be looked at with respect to different things. But I think it’s another thing entirely to say that a single act can be divided into those different aspects and those parts declared licit or illicit such that the act is half good half evil.

    It’s one thing to say that an act of fornication doesn’t violate nature (but rather violates right reason) but it’s an entirely different thing to divide fornication and declare that act of fornication to be partly licit. It seems to me that the act can’t be divided in this way, that it is one act and is evil.

    And I’m sympathetic to your reticence to harm the Church in any way. I actually think the church (and probably rightly so) does not think it can declare publicly on this matter in a modest way. For a long time the Church refused to translate St. Alphonsus’s moral theology because of how plainly he spoke about these matters; it wanted to leave them to moralists, which I’m frankly inclined to agree with.

    I guess my position is that instead of taking the modern consensus on the matter, which as Zipoy showed is wrong on at least one other matter and is probably wrong on many others, I’m inclined to take the Thomistic/Alphonsian position as the assumed teaching of the Church (considering Her esteem for these two theologians). The upside is that if I’m wrong, I still haven’t done or encouraged any evil, whereas if I’m right and the other position is presumed, then much evil will have been done/encouraged.

  7. As I see it, a church that allows for NFP has no moral basis for arguing against any sexual act between a husband and wife, even though the Humanae Vitae itself was confused on the matter. The text of it justifies NFP by appealing to the self-control periodic abstinence requires, but why would there be a need for periodic abstinence if we could satisfy our desires without conception or birth control? And then on the other hand, if we allow for some acts that we know will not result in conception (as that is essentially what NFP is), then why do we not allow for all of them?

    It would be a simple affair for the church to rescind that missive and come out and say that sex is only licit when trying to induce conception, and yet it doesn’t. The fact that it doesn’t and that it would even feel the need to speak about contraception at all tells me that there’s a bigger picture here. But trying to piece it together makes me feel like a Protestant, and indeed, where church teaching seems confused or silent, I would put more stock in the Bible. If St. Paul thought it was serious sin, I expect he would have said so since doubtless such practices have been common since Adam got his first erection.

    And indeed, the Bible may provide some insight here regarding the issue of homosexuality. For example, the specific words in Leviticus are “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” (19:22). At first glance, this renders the act itself to be the crime here, but as it is not physically possible to have sex with a man as you do with a woman except by the means that they both share, this implies that acts making use of such means are permissable with your wife.

    Ultimately, I think the heart of the matter here is that the reasons we condemn homosexuality, masturbation or contraception go further than they need to or perhaps should. Homosexual acts and masturbation are an obvious exercise of sexuality outside of valid marriage while one could satisfy any telos for sex by saying that contraception frustrates God’s design for sex by impeding the proper and natural transmission of hormones that happens during the sex act. That we feel the need to tack on more than that should make us question our motives.

  8. Feser addresses this topic in the essay linked to in this blog post as well as in some of the comments to the post:

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2017/02/foundations-of-sexual-morality.html

    He takes the position that oral sex as foreplay is licit. In one of his comments, he states that this was the standard view among pre-Vatican II moral theologians, although he acknowledges that if you go back further in time the common view was more restrictive. (He also cites Ford and Kelly as supporting his view.)

    It does seem that any time prior to the ’70s, men would have regarded getting oral sex from their wives as degrading, something fit only for sodomites and harlots.

  9. > But I think it’s another thing entirely to say that a single act can be divided into those different aspects and those parts declared licit or illicit such that the act is half good half evil.

    I agree with this, so I’ll just concede that I phrased my point poorly. I hope you’ll see what I was getting at, that for a sex act to be licit it must correct in how it is done (the part I wanted to focus on), who it is done with, and other criteria. I wanted to forestall anyone saying that I regard all vaginal sex as licit, even if it is adultery, rape, or whatever.

  10. Hello BaboonTycoon,

    I’m intrigued by this alternate justification, but not convinced. What is this hormone transfer, and why is it morally important? Does the pill block this transfer? Does oral sex allow it?

  11. Hello Ian,

    I’m glad Prof. Feser has dug into the writings of the moral theologians. While I don’t grant them any distinct authority, their consensus is important in that it 1) provides evidence of common understandings at the time binding documents were issued, helping us interpret those documents, and 2) provides reasons for taking this or that view, which must be evaluated on the merits.

    > It does seem that any time prior to the ’70s…

    This is an important point, which I thought about bringing up, and shows why the fact that encyclicals like CC and HV don’t explicitly treat this subject is not as odd or telling as one might suppose. It also shows why this continued reticence is probably not viable. Oral sex has become very common. If I were crass, I’d say it’s the new missionary position, and since I’m crass I just said it. It’s also widely believed nowadays that many women cannot reach orgasm through vaginal sex alone, meaning that if oral foreplay were to be forbidden, the sacrifice involved would be non-negligible. This is assuming that the man receiving and the woman receiving are to be treated the same, but that is not obviously the case, especially if semen is the main moral concern. Anyway, if the moral law requires sacrifices, so be it, but people at least deserve to be told so straight.

  12. >What is this hormone transfer, and why is it morally important?

    Well, perhaps “transfer” is the wrong word, but most female contraceptives do work by modifying the amount of estrogen in a woman (which has the effect of altering her personality with enough long term use), and even your average condom is enough to frustrate dopamine and endorphin release during sex. The former could be argued to be sufficient enough to make that sort of contraceptive a moral hazard even without any sexual activity happening at all. The latter interferes with pair-bonding in addition to being contraceptive, so even if you’re a person that believes in “dual telos,” “totality” or broadens the definition of procreation to suit your ends, you can still arrive at the conclusion that contraceptives are wrong for that alone.

    This, however, does bring up another point that I forgot to mention in my first post, another area in which the church is mostly (but not completely) silent: artificial conception. And I bring it up because thinking of sex as only for conception makes it a necessary evil that is a perilous act to engage in even for the right reasons if you make the assumptions of the restrictive mindset you presented. However, with artificial conception, sex is no longer necessary for children if it is to be understood as an evil. Therefore, should Catholics have sex at all, anymore? The logic of a restrictive person could only say no, for even if done with the right intent, it is far too easy for a person to lose oneself in passion and commit mortal sin during sex. But does that line up with Scripture or Catholic teaching? Well, not many have connected these dots so, I’m left out cold.

    The church has said a few things regarding artificial conception. Now, I have not read the Donum Vitae, but it is my understanding that it is mostly in opposition to IVF. However, there are other means of achieving artificial conception which do not involve surrogacy or test tubes or anything of the sort, apparently some even being able to be done at home using low tech methods (apparently all you need is a bit of discharge and a funnel). Now, I have heard the argument that artificial contraception separates the sex act from its intended purpose, but that obviously does not account for the arguments presented in my previous paragraph. Based on all of this, it would seem that the church wants us caught in a Kafka trap. If you are married, you must have sex to have a child, but only in a specific way at a specific time or you are going to hell, and if you are worried about going to hell and want to bypass the having sex part, you are also going to hell.

  13. I find Alphonsus’s and Thomas’s arguments unconvincing.

    I do not have Alphonsus’s intuition about an interrupted coital act clearly being true fornication without qualification. If anything my intuition would lean the other direction. Even if I accepted that premise, it would be on the grounds that the action was guided by a plan of action that included a particular conclusion. The putative plan of action lacks a corresponding sodimitical conclusion and so it is not sodomy.

    As for Thomas’s argument
    There are lots of other things that it is acceptable to put male genitals in underwear, trousers, etc. Even things that seem very much like a receptacle seem obviously unobjectionable when done to assist with urination in space or other odd situations. More controversially but the broken condoms that are used by those attempting to get a sperm sample while respecting the Church’s teaching seem rather like a vas. There are ways one could nuance the argument to avoid these reductios but at that point the argument seems forced at best.

  14. Most women who can be called healthy (not a prostitute/pornstar, no disorders, not masochistic) don’t actually enjoy delivering during oral sex or receiving during anal sex. Reliable polling shows this and also that enough women who engage in it do it to please their boyfriends.

    STDs by large are spread from “non-reproductive sex.” Anal penetration rips apart the receiver’s rear-end which leads to infected body fluids (blood from the receiver, semen from the delivering male) spreading around. Oral’s sex danger is obvious. It’s Mama Nature’s way of telling you that her way works and that you shouldn’t defy unless you’re prepared to face the consequences.

  15. WRT to Alphonsus’s argument, I’m don’t think it depends on the intended conclusion. As an example, an onanistic act between the unmarried doesn’t have an intended ending of fornication; it has more of a masturbatory intended ending. I don’t think that makes the act not fornication.

    And Alphonsus, being a thomist, I think is aided by Thomas’s argument. The idea is that the act of sexual stimulation by a vas other than the proper one is disordered, and that seems to be the essence of sodomy (along with its reciprocal of using something other than the male genitals to sexually stimulate by penetration) and it’s disordered because it involves using a sexual organ in such a way that it’s end (of penetration/being penetrated, an end which also happens to be a means to further ends) is frustrated.

  16. Interesting we have completely opposite intuitions.
    So would you maintain that a women who never engaged in intercourse but gave one man manual stimulation once was not a virgin or does fornication not ipse facto result in loss of virginity?
    I think you are correct that Alphonsus is not intending his argument to do heavy argumentative work.
    I am not sure if I understand your second argument especially the second part of it. I do not see how the end is being frustrated in the cases under discussion.
    I am very dubious of attempts to make the natures of things exclusive ie that there is only one proper type of vas. I do not see how that is evident in the nature of these organs. There are some organ pairs where this claim is a lot more plausible such as the kidney and veins and arteries going to the kidney. Yet in cases of transplants it is very common to use other veins and arteries and this strikes me, and seemingly everyone, as obviously acceptable. There are many similar cases where we use organs for what it not there end that are universally regarded as acceptable.

  17. A little pre-Vatican II magisterial weigh in:

    “Therefore, in our late allocution on conjugal morality, We affirmed the legitimacy, and at the same time, the limits — in truth very wide — of a regulation of offspring, which, unlike so-called ‘birth control,’ is compatible with the law of God.” – Pius XII, Morality in Marriage (emphasis mine), from Papal Pronouncements on Marriage and the Family, Werth and Mihanovich, 1955

  18. Edmundgennings,

    I was trying to be a bit discreet, but by onanistic I meant it quite literally. If he pulls out, then his intended ending is to spill seed on the ground. This doesn’t change the fact that hes just spent the last however long stimulating himself in the normal manner of copulation; to say that just because a man intends to pull out at the end and therefore doesn’t intend his act to end in the normal manner of copulation that such an act isn’t fornication seems strained to me, but it would seem to be the logical conclusion of the “I don’t intend to finish sodomitically therefore what I’m doing isn’t sodomy” argument. Manual stimulation doesn’t follow the normal manner of copulation at all, it’s masturbatory through and through, so I don’t think it entails a loss of virginity for the stimulator, though it is obviously a grave wound to her purity.

    It’s not as if the veins going to my stomach are different in nature from the ones going to my kidney’s; their both veins with the same end, then just have the different accidental property of being connected to different organs, which can change simply by moving them. The male genitalia has a very obvious “vas” though; it isn’t in it’s nature to go inside other parts of a woman, and doing so poses significant health hazards. It’s natural end is frustrated because if it is in one place, it is kept from being in another unless it can bilocate.

    Fellatio also has the downside of reversing the roles, turning the woman into the active agent while the male remains passive.

    My explanation of Thomas and Alphonsus’s argument might not be bulletproof, but it isn’t something I find good to dwell upon. In any case, it seems to me that it would almost always be imprudent even if it weren’t intrinsically wrong because of the health hazards as well as the ever present risk of spilling one’s seed in the wrong place. It just strikes me as copycatting perverts with a minor adjustment to avoid going fully perverse.

  19. Fr. John Hardon has this to say:

    By way of prelude, it will be useful first to mention the various privileges that married people have with respect to each other, and then, in contrast, the single limiting factor of contraception.
    1 Husband and wife are allowed everything that is necessary or useful or pleasing regarding intercourse, even for experiencing fully the pleasure attached to it, and then neither party can sin in looking at, touching or acting in any other way towards his own or his spouse’s body. Therefore no restriction is placed on them in showing to each other mutual love, so that they cannot sin either by look or touch or any other manifestation of love, no matter how long they continue, so long as they do not neglect other duties of greater moment. They may also speak and think about and desire those things between themselves, with only the common sense proviso of not involving a third party in this communication.
    2
    3 In all their marital relations they should be led more by the desire of pleasing the other than by the fear of sinning. They will act in a way more pleasing to God if they anticipate the desires of their spouse, rather than await a request. At the same time, true love also avoids demanding what the other would find inconvenient.
    4
    5 These rights and duties remain unchanged during their whole life, even when they cannot have children. No mention of normal conjugal relations should be made in confession, otherwise the confessor may suspect that something sinful has been committed, whereas coition and all its accompaniments are not only not sinful but virtuous and sanctifying to husband and wife.
    6
    7 Husband and wife must learn that their chastity is very different from what it was before they married. The whole state of their life is changed. They are neither brother nor sister, neither master nor servant. Before God, they will be held responsible for many things that do not concern the unmarried; their duties are different. For this reason, He has attached numerous privileges to the married state that no one else may legitimately enjoy.
    8
    9 All sins of either with a third person are doubly more grave than those between unmarried persons, because they are adulterous. Thoughts about such sins, if deliberately fostered and indulged, are also gravely sinful. In order to protect oneself and spouse from occasions of sin with another, nothing (after the grace of God) is more important than sustained manifestation of affection, even when the feelings are contrary or the body is tired or worries and personal trials may occupy the mind. A constant and external reminder of their mutual love is the best human guarantee of a life-long fidelity.
    Accordingly, husband and wife can commit only one sin that is grave (besides adultery) in what pertains to actions between themselves. That sin is knowingly and willingly to impede generation or to intend to have a pollution. If this happens without their wishing or foreseeing it, there is no sin. Variously called contraception, birth control or onanism, it is mortally serious and must be mentioned in confession in order to obtain absolution. It does not matter what method is used – whether withdrawal or using a diaphragm, by means of a condom or chemical barriers to fertilization, by using jellies or spermicides, with foam tablets or pills – they are all equally illicit as deliberately chosen to prevent conception in spite of marital intercourse. http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Moral_Theology/Moral_Theology_007.htm

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