The Purpose of Sex in Marriage

Family image

Marriage requires sex. This seems to be the sine qua non of marriage even in a world where the definition of marriage has been broadened in ways never imagined even a generation ago. And indeed marriage does require sex because sex is unitive in a unique way and marriage is about union. A shake of the hand, a pat on the shoulder, or a kiss on the cheek are not simply different degrees of contact on the same scale as a truly sexual act. They are different in kind and quality. The unitive nature of sex is a quality over and above its procreative nature. In the love that renders our sexual acts truly human, a man and woman unite beyond their biological natures. But is that love rooted in the physical warmth and intimacy of the sexual act or is it rooted in its biologically creative purpose? Understanding the unitive nature of our sexuality dovetails with an understanding of ourselves as the lovers we are meant to be. To live our sexuality fully is to see that its unitive nature completes us as persons, as couples and as a people. Likewise, to live it incompletely renders us incomplete and divided.

Humanae Vitae recognized that sexual relations between married adults could be both unitive and procreative, clearly indicating that sex had value beyond simple procreation. But in recognizing the unitive nature of sex as different from its procreative nature Humanae Vitae did not separate the two. The encyclical declares that the doctrine taught within it “… is based on the inseparable connection … between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act” (article 12). Yet, despite clearly asserting their unity, the popular mind, in its rush to embrace contraception, separated the two, claiming the unitive nature of sex remains unaffected when removed from the procreative. Many of us, including most Catholics, both lay and clerical, grabbed the “unitive” and ran. We ran away from Humanae Vitae as fast as we could, leaving its procreative link behind.

Perhaps we should have asked before we cut and ran, can sex that is not open to procreation, sex that is shut off from its very nature, be unitive? We need only look about in a hyper-sexualized world to see there is no inherent unitive value in sex divorced from its natural end. With a fifty percent chance that a marriage will end in divorce, with non-marital live-in arrangements coming and going, and with myriad sexual relationships never meant to last more than a single evening, to postulate sex as inherently unitive would be absurd. Perhaps Humanae Vitae was right in connecting the unitive nature of sex to its procreative nature. A marriage that accepts in every conjugal act the possibility of a child with its own needs, changes the nature of a relationship into something larger than its two participants. In considering the yet to be conceived child, a man and wife subordinate their lives to another. Their love for each other is no longer solely about themselves but a gift to their child not yet conceived. It is this love, rooted in the creative nature of the sexual act, that makes it unitive.

Separating the procreative nature of our sexuality from its unitive nature destroys the very thing that makes it unitive. The simple act of contraception radically changes the sexual act transforming it into something completely different, much as a trip to the moon with all its joys, thrills and perils is different from a computer simulation of the same. Those sharing a small capsule to the moon share a real experience in a real way with a real achievement. They become different people united in a unique way. They are true travelers. The participants in the computer simulation share no more than the thrill of a video game, a moment rather than a journey. They are faux travelers. Likewise creative sex and purposely sterile sex are not two variations on a continuum. They are completely different acts. Our own language deceives us in using the word “sex” to refer to both. Sexuality open to creation truly embarks upon a journey in life, one with joys and sorrows, one that changes the lives of its participants beyond their will, and one that requires a continual openness to the life of another.

Sexuality divorced from its nature is a faux sexuality. In its best sense (one that ignores abortion, the pain of children unwanted and love lost) it is a simple high between two people. Like our simulated lunar excursion its experience can be intense and, certainly shared, but there is no true journey, only moments, moments closed to a possible other. To assert a unitive nature in faux sexuality is to claim a relationship with truly creative sexuality where none exists. The one is no more the other than a lunar excursion to a real moon is to a digital simulation, one with no moon at all. To describe both as “sex” is a contradiction. A word that mocks itself renders itself meaningless.

The meaning of “sex,” however, is foundational to who we are as men and women. When it becomes meaningless, we break unity with our own selves. If “sex” has no real meaning then neither does “male” or “female.” These terms have no concrete meaning without the words “mother” and “father.” Sex independent of creation divorces “mother” and “father” from “male” and “female.” Because its definition is no longer anchored to a tangible reality, a sexuality divorced from parenthood requires only the illusion of being male and female. In progressive modern terms to be a male or female no longer pertains to an empirically and visually verifiable observation. Rather, it is a decision subjectively made by each person regardless of biological fact. A surgeon can now remove a person’s sex organs, add some cosmetic alterations, and insist all buy into the illusion that a person’s sex has been changed, when it has actually been removed. Only in a world cut loose from sexual reality could this be seen as therapeutic rather than barbaric. In such a world “male” and “female” truly mean nothing at all.

Nor are the terms “mother” and “father” anchored to any reality when no longer tied to our creative sexual natures. When cut adrift from the concept of male, being a father retains no inherent connection to the sexual act. For many women, a full time, resident father is now optional. He is someone unnecessary if inconvenient. Yet a father diminished is only the beginning of sex that is no longer procreative. Both the high divorce rate and the number of fluid family relationships among those never married not only reduced the concept of the father as a basic part of a family, but also the concept of either or any natural parent as being particularly necessary for a child’s well being. It followed naturally that children were disposable, portable, and endlessly adaptable according to the perceived need of their ever-changing parents. When to be a man no longer includes fatherhood, his maleness becomes a simple biological attribute, a part separable from his humanity. Rather than a father he becomes a sperm donor. With men so reduced women can only suffer a similar fate. Already on the horizon the signs read, “Womb for Rent.”

With gender succumbing to the devastation of sex rendered meaningless, nothing remains to define marriage. But true marriage does have meaning and it is inherently unitive. Marriage is a true union of complements. To marry two things is to make them one. Two metals married become a single something else, a real, physical something else. Copper and tin melted together become brass, not two things, but one new unique thing with its own unique properties. But marriage is more than the simple pairing of complements. Marriage requires a unitive or marital act. Copper and tin require fire and cauldron to marry the two into brass. In the creative sex act two physically distinct and complementary people become organically one for the purpose of creating life. But as humans we are more than just animal natures. We exist as body and soul. Marital union requires both.

In addition to being biologically complete the sexual act must also be spiritually complete. The biological must have the full consent of the spiritual. Such an act is not only unitive within the individual, mating body and soul, tying male to father and female to mother, but also unitive between two individuals who unite as one and submit their will to a creative purpose larger then themselves. A true marital act is an integral part of a lifetime journey and not an occasional day trip. Marriage is a real union of two people that truly results in a relationship bonding a man and woman to each other and to their children, uniquely and physically. A marriage license does not validate the sex in a relationship, rather it is the sex, fully assented to in its true creative meaning, that validates the marriage. Wedding vows simply build a covenant to protect the marriage and the family it creates. A marriage without a true marital act is beyond definition, requiring neither complements nor true union. The vows preceding such a marriage simply affirm shared sentiments.

Marriage undefined and based on sentiment undermines the naturally unitive nature of the family. Instead of the loudly proclaimed diversity modern society yearns for, each family becomes less than unique. Marriage undefined requires a family undefined, a family whose natural and unique bonds have no value. In a family without definition the pieces of the family puzzle can no longer be individual, curvilinear pieces that neatly and uniquely fit each other. Instead the pieces must be crushingly reshaped as identical squares, pieces that can be readily interchanged from family to family.

Instead of the complexity of a molecular world of infinite combinations, the new family requires the simplified uniformity of the periodic table of elements. No longer do men love men as men, women love women as women, and men and women love each as the complements they are, but all are required to love interchangeably as faux men and faux women, engaging in faux sex. All relationships must seemingly mock the truly married rather than be special in their own way. Families are no longer uniquely constituted and inviolable but endlessly fungible according to the varying personal needs of their component parts.

Into this dissonant morass of words without meaning the term “same-sex marriage” is no longer an oxymoron. In a world where words have no sense it makes perfect sense. A self-sterilized society cannot credibly deny full participation to relationships sterile by their very nature. Though its more optimistic supporters proclaim it the medicine marriage needs to restore its fortunes, same-sex marriage is the natural culmination of sex torn from its creative roots. It would be wrong to blame its proponents for creating a crisis. Like most of us they simply accepted a sexuality already rendered meaningless as the new normal, a normal into which same-sex marriage naturally fit.

A sexuality without definition, one into which anything fits, can no more be unitive than discord can be melody. Separating the unitive nature of sex from its procreative nature removed the glue that truly bonds a man and woman into the unity of husband and wife. Without that bond the unity of mother, father and child cannot hold. By itself the unitive no longer unites but undertakes the mundane task of engendering good feelings between two people. By itself the procreative stands by ready for duty when it conveniently conforms to our plans. In breaking our sexuality into separate components we subordinated the “other” to our desires. A love restricted for the benefit of its exclusive participants challenges the very meaning of love. In breaking the bond between the unitive and the procreative we broke a part of ourselves that teaches us selfless love.

Like a child who breaks a vase and re-assembles the pieces to create the illusion of a vase still complete, we hid the breakage behind good words, words like “sex,” “marriage,” “male,” “female,” “husband,” “wife,” “father,” “mother,” and, most critically, “love.” We still use these words as they have been used for a seeming eternity before, but now they are façades covering the emptiness behind them. Like the guilty vase-breaking child we cannot bring the breakage into the light of day. Though a vase broken is readily renamed a pile of shards, we cannot name the pieces of our broken sexuality without admitting ourselves broken. In speaking empty words about things that matter we suffer the ultimate disunity. Rather than conversation that unites us as fellow travelers, we talk past each other with words that are empty boxes, boxes that each speaker and each listener fill with a meaning of choice. Instead of a people uniting, it is the chaos of Babel we approach. When we separated the unitive and procreative natures of our sexuality we lost both. Instead of unified and fertile, we find ourselves sterile and divided.

Ultimately, love is the foundation for all Catholic theology. In Church teachings on sexuality many of us have missed the love, preferring to see prohibitions that stand between us and the good life. But we need to see the love, because seeing it and living it will make us better lovers. Our sexuality is foundational to how we love, but a foundation without definition is no foundation at all. Words are important because we use their meanings to define who we are. When those words lose meaning, our lives lose meaning also. The language of love and sexuality is broken. Thinking it whole and knowing no better, good people now form their lives around this broken thing, hurting themselves on its broken, jagged edges.

We need to have a real conversation about real love with real words that have real meaning. Our sexuality lived in its truly creative meaning is a gift to another. That other is one who we know nothing of and who may never be. It is, however, one who depends on us completely to do the right thing. Living our sexuality for the child not yet conceived challenges us to be true lovers. Living it is not easy. In fact, it is incredibly difficult. But to live it rightly, to even fail repeatedly while trying to live it rightly, will only increase our love. The Catholic Church does not teach to condemn to hell but to elevate to heaven. Its teachings on sexuality are not a proclamation of sin but an invitation to people striving to love, an invitation that beckons, “Do you want to love more?”

Pete Jermann

By

Pete Jermann is a self-employed craftsman and homeschooling father.

  • Paul

    Sex in a traditional sense of marriage denotes love, union & commitment for the future. The very act of sex in marriage is not just an ultimate form of love but also an acceptance of responsibility and consequences which follow naturally.
    The use of contraceptives in any sexual act is a denial of responsibility & consequences on the parts of the participants, itt is therefore self-serving and narcissistic. And as far as narcissism goes, same-sex marriage ticks all the boxes or so does promiscuity.
    In today’s society sex is made too readily available without consequences, thus it is rendered meaningless & its true nature is demeaned. Moreover, like animals, we are taught to be enslaved to our feelings – i.e. to see sexual partners as nothing more than commodities to our desires – rather than behaving in accordance with our sense of moral from which comes respect and value for others as human beings.

  • RCChaplain

    Mr. Jermann, Thank you for this wonderful article on the Purpose of Sex in Marriage. Many of our so called Catholic leaders should read this, study this and rethink their positions on the definition of marriage, abortion, etc.

    • ForChristAlone

      Yes, a definite bulletin insert in EVERY parish in the USA.

  • Jhawk77

    A beautifully crafted exegesis on the fundamental purpose of the sacrament, Mr. Jermann. Thank you! I will use your thoughts for those in RCIA. God bless you…

  • Ed McDonald

    Excuse me, this claim is very questionable; “Separating the procreative nature of our sexuality from its unitive nature destroys the very thing that makes it unitive”. For example, my 35 year old sister has had her uterus removed due to cancer. There is no meaningful sense in which one could deny that sex with her husband is now separated from its procreative nature…it clearly is. Nevertheless, there is no reason to claim that their sexual union is somehow no longer “unitive”. Why couldn’t it be? The same is true for faithful Catholic couples who are sexually intimate during a pregnancy that has already been conceived. In such cases, there is zero procreative role in the sex act as conception cannot take place. The unitive role continues in the absence of any procreative role. A cancer patient cannot restore the “procreative nature” by pretending or wishing that the uterus was still existent or somehow contemplating the procreative nature of sex that was a prior possibility. I understand the need to engage in debate with the contraceptive mentality, but the issue is more complicated than the consideration given in this essay.

    • TheAbaum

      Your indignity is misplaced.

      Surgical removal of the uterus to prevent a disease process isn’t the willful frustration of the act of conception.

      • Ed McDonald

        Contraception is not the Theological and philosophical issue here… although it is the main issue that needs to be addressed after those two are worked out. The claim is being made that sex is not unitive if it is not also procreative, which is nonsense and does not follow from the logical argument that I am asking us to work through. Surgical removal of the uterus makes sex no longer procreative. Since we know that sex remains unitive after that procedure, this argument needs more rigorous working. I AGREE that the act of will in the contraceptive act destroys the unitive nature of sex, but this is not simply due to the biological interruption of the procreative possibility. This is obvious because union can continue even when procreation cannot,as is the case with surgical necessity, etc.

        • Interested

          The sin of contraception is frustrating the marital act. Treating disease does not frustrate the act. This is a philosophical/moral point not a physicalist one.

          • Ed McDonald

            yes, i agree… we know that. But we need to work that out in its details. Your comment means that you would agree with the claim that using a condom would not be sinful in the case where procreation has already been made impossible due to surgical removal of the uterus? Or is there still something physicalist about the materiality of the condom in such a case that is still frustrating to the act?
            In any case,…My main point is that the procreative part of sex is not a necessary (nor is it a sufficient) condition for sex to be unitive.

            • Interested

              No, I do not agree at all nor does the Catholic Church.

              The condom frustrates the act. The condom does not treat any pathology.

              The marital act, unfettered, is always unitive and procreative by definition.

              A 90 year old married couple are still having unitive and procreative marital embrace.

              • Ed McDonald

                it is not procreative if her uterus is removed. Calling it procreative doesn’t make it so.

                • Interested

                  Please see my post that quotes HV. This is not about secular definitions but theological ones.

                  • Ed McDonald

                    Yes, I understand…. but we do not agree because I think we need to have a more rigorous outline of doctrine that is able to address human life without simply defining away problems. I think what is necessary here is that you clearly explain how an act is still procreative under two conditions: 1.) when the intention is to avoid procreation (base use of NFP) and 2.) where procreation is not biologically possible.
                    If we can get a clear explanation of how an act is procreative despite these issues, then there would not be a problem. We can combine these two issues with the 90 yr. old woman who 1.) has a will that is entirely opposed to the idea of conceiving, and 2.) she is past menopause or had a hysterectomy. How can her sex act with her husband still be procreative?

                    • Interested

                      How many times must I say this? When the Church talks about unitive and procreative She is not using it in a reductionist way you do here.

                      The marital act is always procreative and unitive by its very nature.

                      It is procreative as long as the act retains its intrinsic, God ordained, nature toward procreation. That means no alteration of the act.

                    • Ed McDonald

                      All I am saying is that the teaching addresses a particular issue. It does not address all human experience. I am simply arguing that the intrinsic unitive and procreative nature of sex, as ordained by God and established through natural law, can be disrupted in the fallen state of creation, and this can occur through no fault of the person. In such a case, the procreative nature of the act can be lost, but the act remains unitive.

                    • Interested

                      The Church states, explicitly, that even when a woman is not ovulating the marital act still retains its nature toward procreation.

                      To put that in your terms She is saying the act does not suddenly become only unitive at that point.

                    • cpsho

                      Is there a better way to start or a better place to start than in the beginning of it all? Precisely in the Garden of Eden (cf Genesis 2 & 3). Here we learn that God created Adam, the first man, and later created Eve, the first woman, as a help mate, partner and companion for Adam.

                      God created Adam and Eve – male and female – and put them both in the
                      Garden of Eden. So Adam and Eve, a man and a woman went everywhere together; had their meals together; went sight-seeing together; ran around together; walked around together; explored rivers and hills together; in close proximity and without any cloths (or any other type of covering) on, but surprisingly neither of them realize that they were each (and both) naked.

                      This point is worth meditating about. How come Adam and Eve, two healthy human beings (male and female) went around naked together alone
                      in a garden and yet they never once realized that they were naked?
                      What does this mean for us Christians? What does it teach us?
                      http://popeleo13.com/pope/2013/10/

                    • cpsho

                      So at what point did Adam and Eve realize that they were naked? At the point of disobedience (cf Genesis 3). When they both ate the Fruit, expressly, forbidden by God. They ate the Forbidden Fruit ; became aware that they were each (and both) naked; they then hid away from the God who loved them; and found coverings for themselves.
                      Now let us ask ourselves: what happens when a male and a female in close friendship with one another, suddenly become aware that they
                      are in fact naked? What invariably happens in this scenario? The sex act? Most people would concur.
                      In other words the sex act at its inception was an act of disobedience to the Living God. Adam and Even with an act of disobedience – instigated by the ancient serpent, the dragon who is called the devil and satan – fell from the place of honor
                      reserved for the by the Creator into the chaos and disorder of Original Sin.
                      The first fall of Man encompassed the sex act. Is it then a wonder that sexual sins constitute the Joker in the Pack for the Enemies of Man? Is then a wonder that Mother Mary in her apparition at Fatima was reported to have told the little shepherd children that most of the souls that go to Hell do so because of sins of
                      sexuality.
                      Is it a wonder that in the Book of Leviticus (chapter 12) a woman after the birth of her son or daughter is required to make an offering of
                      lamb and pigeon or turtle doves as burnt offering and sin offering?
                      Is it a wonder that the Lord Jesus was conceived not by the will of Man or the lust for the sex act but by the Power of the Holy Spirit overshadowing the Blessed Mary.
                      Is it a wonder that the Lord Jesus was celibate? Because to be celibate for the sake of the Kingdom of God is to return (in a way) to the Garden of Eden before the Forbidden
                      Fruit was eaten.
                      Is it a wonder that St. Raphael the Archangel (cf Tobias 6) told the young Tobias to kneel down and pray to the Most High God before any
                      sexual relationship with his wife?
                      And so in a sort of hierarchy, the highest state is Celibacy (exemplified by the Lord Jesus); then monogamous heterosexual relationships; and
                      then polygamous heterosexual relationships (which was practice by some of the
                      ancient Patriarchs and consider not against natural law by St. Thomas Aquinas).
                      .
                      What does this mean for us Christians? What does it teach us?
                      (cf research the early Church fathers.)

                    • joan

                      What type of thinking is this?

                      “The sex act? Most people would concur.
                      In other words the sex act at its inception was an act of disobedience to the Living God. ”

                      Where did you get that? I don’t concur with that.

                    • cpsho

                      Meditate on Genesis 2 and 3.

                    • joan

                      cpsho,
                      Please, that’s not an answer. With all kindness, what is your interpretation of: “Adam and Eve don’t realize they are naked.”

                      In addition, regarding the following comment,

                      “the sex act was the direct result of the disobedience of Adam and Eve.”

                      this is confusing to me, are you saying that if the disobedience (original sin) did not occur, Adam and Eve would not have had sexual relations?

                      I am trying to understand your thinking on this, would you be willing to share your conceptual thought on a married couple’s sexual relations?

                      By the way, what does cpsho mean? wondering about your name, that’s all. thanks.

                    • cpsho

                      “this is confusing to me, are you saying that if the disobedience
                      (original sin) did not occur, Adam and Eve would not have had sexual
                      relations?”
                      .
                      what i am saying is that before the sin of disobedience Adam and Eve never had any sexual (external genital) contact. They did not have sex. In other words they had sex only after the sin of disobedience.

                    • cpsho

                      If we don’t try and understand what happened in the Garden of Eden, we can not understand what sexual morality is. Especially human sex acts from the point of view of God.

                    • joan

                      what is your definition of sexual morality, human sex acts, from God’s perspective?

                    • cpsho

                      Sexual morality questions:

                      What is right? what is wrong? What is commendable? What is perfect?

                      Degrees. Hierarchies. The Spirit of God moving on the waters. It is so beautiful. Genesis, I mean.

                    • joan

                      Yes, I agree, Genesis is beautiful, it’s the story of Creation. Without further distraction, what is manifestation of God? Thanks ~

                    • joan

                      okay, i think i may understand your reasoning on disobedience and its effect on sexual relations.

                      CPSHO, Jesus changed everything.

                      Jesus told us the 2 most important Commandments: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

                      If only we were obedient to those, even just the first, everything else would follow. Does that make sense? Most respectfully, the fall happened, we are broken. The Good News: The Father sent the Son, and He saved us.

                      I want to propose instead of trying to understand sexual morality by the fall in the Garden, can you look at it from another way? Think about that 1st Commandment. Contemplate it. Let go of your own understanding. Allow HIM to work through you. Put on the mind of Christ. see; 1 Cor 2:10-16

                      i love this prayer:
                      “Lord Jesus Christ, take all my freedom, my memory, my understanding, and my will. For all that I have and cherish you have given me. I surrender it all to be guided by your will. Your grace and your love are wealth enough for me. With these I have everything I need.”

                      your friend in Christ

                    • joan

                      okay, so is your point consecutive order?

                      We’re having a terrible lack of communication. It is all so vague – i’m searching for the truth in what you’re saying, help me to understand what you’re saying.

                    • musicacre

                      Are you a member of the Unification Church? They are the only sect I know of that think original sin was sex. It wasn’t. You are off on a bizarre tangent.

                      And they always talk about Adam and Eve. As if the story ends there.

                    • cpsho

                      the “originator” sin was not sex. But. as clearly written in the Book of Genesis, the sex act was the direct result of the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Before then they were nude; they were in love but sexually continent.

                    • musicacre

                      Were you there??? We had a famous and very holy bishop give a talk about that very topic once, and he was convinced the Creator wanted them to go forth and multiply. FYI Moonies have an artificial rule they impose on themselves that they be apart from each other physically (sometimes in another state) for 5-7 years after they get married, before they can have marital relations. They suppose alot of stuff between Adam and Eve that just doesn’t exist in any form of the Christian Bible.

                    • cpsho

                      Try and read my first two posts carefully.
                      If two adults (one male and the other female) are naked and alone in a beautiful garden and they are also in love with one another. But they don’t realize that they are naked. How do you interpret the fact that Adam and Eve don’t realize they are naked?

                    • El_Tigre_Loco

                      People on the Pacific islands walked around quite happily without clothes until “Christian Missionaries” told them they were naked and should be ashamed of their bodies.

                    • cpsho

                      Good observation.
                      But, was there any situation of a one-on-one, male-female holed-up romantically and not having sex (did not even think about it).

                      Then, of course, Satan came along.
                      Genesis is a deep story. Meditate on it.

                    • TheAbaum

                      PHOs have that tendency, along with the tendency to change their name and thinking that others can’t tell, right Paul?

                    • musicacre

                      What is a PHO?

                    • TheAbaum

                      Pseudo Hyper Orthodox.

                    • musicacre

                      Ahh. I see. Pseudo part makes sense.

                    • El_Tigre_Loco

                      How then could Adam and Eve be “fruitful and multiply” if they didn’t have sex? The tempter told them they would be like God if they ate the fruit. God does not have a material body and I don’t think that there is any sex in Heaven. Jesus said people do not marry in Heaven. What happened is that A&E now had a purely spiritual outlook and realized that physicality is so far below spirituality, not to mention the sanitary aspects of that part of the body, that they were ashamed.

                    • lidiapurple .

                      “In other words the sex act at its inception was an act of disobedience to the Living God”.
                      This is quite heretical and goes against everything Jesus teaches about the one flesh union.
                      Realizing that they were naked doesn’t mean they engaged in the one flesh union for the first time, it means that for the first time, they looked at each other with lust, not love. Wanting to use each other for their own satisfaction, rather than wanting to give themselves to each other in love. They hid from each other because they could now see the lust in each other’s eyes.

                    • cpsho

                      if you are unaware of being naked, how can you have sex? simply impossible to me.
                      if they had sex in the Garden of Eden, where is the pregnancy?

                    • joan

                      Where is the pregnancy? God’s in charge of that. That question is contradictory of the concept you’ve presented.

                      cpsho, i do not claim to know, so i will share my thoughts: i believe it is much more than just having unawareness of being without clothing. The disobedience separated us from our Creator, it said ‘we’ can detemine what is right and wrong. There is one Truth, and only God determines what is right and wrong. God is not controlling. He gave us free will out of His unconditional Love for us.

                      Everything God made was good.

                      He made man and woman complementary, we fit together physically – that alone is ineffably beautiful. Be fruitful and multiply is more than physicality. It is proliferation in all respects, and God is in charge of that. It’s our free will choice to participate in this Divine Life by cooperating with His Plan and by His Grace.

                      God sent His Son for a reason. you seem to be stuck in the Garden distracted from Jesus who is the Way to the Father.

                      Life is sacred.

                    • jonnybeeski

                      Exactly.

                    • Interested

                      Not following your point at all.

                    • cpsho

                      Sex is for procreation. the only reason to have sex is procreation. Other reasons arise from a fallen nature.

                    • Interested

                      Which Church teaches that?

                    • El_Tigre_Loco

                      Yes, but the participants in the act do not destroy it procreative aspects.

                    • Ed McDonald

                      I never claimed that they did. Neverthess, the procreative aspect is no longer. If through no fault of their own, the procreative aspect of sexuality is harmed/ ended, the unitive aspect can continue, given the moral comportment of the couple.

                    • nasicacato

                      Ed, you raise an interesting point, one that can be dismissed by citing the Church’s definitions. But it can’t be comprehended if we don’t understand the reasoning behind those definitions. I am open to the idea that this is own of those mysteries that is simply beyond our capacity to know. But it also has occured to me that “true” sex, as Pete Jermann defines it, is not contained in a single act, but is rather the total of all the acts. Therefore the sex that your sister shares with her husband encompasses those acts that occured before she lost her uterus, and that of the 90 year old couple encompasses those acts that occurred before we lost the USS Arizona. This doesn’t offer a completely satisfying explanation, my grandfather entered into a valid 2nd marriage when he and his bride were in there 70s. But its as far as I can go right now. And like I said, I may be completely off base.

                    • Ed McDonald

                      Thank you for this post. I think I am very open to what you are trying to get at here… there is some shared continuity that crosses temporality. I mean, in general, I think someone’s spiritual or interior comportment to their intimate married relationship can be procreative although the sexual act itself no longer is procreative in any sense that we normally mean it.

                    • ForChristAlone

                      “She is not using it in a reductionist way you do here.” nor is She using the terms in purely utilitarian ways (as does the secular culture defines almost everything).

                    • El_Tigre_Loco

                      The point is that the participants are doing nothing to frustrate the act. They are leaving it entirely up to God, who could grow another uterus if he wanted to.

                    • Ed McDonald

                      nice try. Their sex is no longer procreative, and it remains that way until such an act of God occurs.

                • slainte

                  Recall Elizabeth, the mother of John of the Baptist, who was barren her entire life and gave birth to her son in her elderly years by the Grace of the God.
                  .
                  She and her husband Zachariah were open to the unitive and procreative aspects of sex in marriage and that openness was fruitful.

              • El_Tigre_Loco

                Talk to St Elizabeth and Zechari′ah.

            • Interested

              From HV:

              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. (12)
              ___________________________________________

              • bob

                Ed is spot on, “Interested” does not seem to grasp what is being said.

                • Interested

                  No, you and Ed are spot off. I do not know if you cannot grasp Church teaching or you just refuse to accept it?

                  The marital act is objectively unitive and procreative if not frustrated. This is not exclusively true for fertile couples only. Subjectively one may not be able to conceive due to age or poor health but the act is still objectively procreative and unitive.

                  When a man and women engage in the act when the women is not ovulating are you claiming that is “non-procreative”?

                  It seems you two are using differing definitions than the Church and then constructing a false argument. It makes no sense.

        • bob

          Agreed, but couples can have the unitive aspect with NFP where the couple is having intercourse with the intent of not getting pregnant.

          • Intersted

            NFP is always unitive and procreative. People may have base motives for using it but the act is not illicit.

            • bob

              Sure, technically, it is “open to life,” but Is it truly “procreative”? If you are using it for “unitive” purposes, and do NOT want to get pregnant and are only have intercourse during a period where there is a 99.9% chance of not getting pregnant,
              It seems like the act can be unitive without necessarily being procreative each time…

              • Interested

                You keep using a narrow understanding of the term procreative. If you keep substituting your private definition then you will keep having problems understanding what She teaches.

                • bob

                  How do you define procreative without the potential for bearing children?

                  • Interested

                    I quoted the Church document that spells it out well. The Church is saying the marital act must retain its relationship to procreation. That does not mean each act must result in conception.

                    • bob

                      By that definition, you could play devil’s advocate and say, “We are using a condom and if God wants us to get pregnant the condom could break, therefore it is a procreative act.”

                    • Interested

                      You could say that but it would be absurd. It would be like jabbing a knife in someone and saying God could stop me if He wants.

                    • bob

                      exactly.

                    • Ed McDonald

                      i agree that such an act would be immoral. I am not defending contraception. Rather, I think the HV definition you posted is referring to the general instance of normal sexual relations among spouses. However, I don’t think it is referring to obvious cases where the unitive and procreative aspects of sex cannot be maintained. These are unfortunate, but they are a reality.

                    • bob

                      Sorry, I was trying to respond to your thread, but I think I responded to “interested” instead…if I read you correctly, I think there are times when you and your spouse are having intercourse for the unitive aspect and not so much the procreative aspect for whatever reason…and I think this is good and healthy…

              • Ed McDonald

                thank you… this is exactly my point. The sex act can be unitive without being procreative. These two aspects are not NECESSARILY tied philosophically or theologically…. however, I agree with you that they are , in matter of actual occurence, almost always tied together morally/theologically… especially with the sin of contraception.

                • Interested

                  You best define your terms.

                • El_Tigre_Loco

                  “The sex act can be unitive without being procreative” Only if God has the final say if the act will be procreative or not.

                  • Ed McDonald

                    Nothing I have said contradicts this. I agree with you. Nevertheless, In some circumstances, the procreative aspect is lost due to medical or other reasons. Recognizing that all things are possible does not make the act procreative, although it may make the couple’s will procreative in some sense.

        • TheAbaum

          “Perhaps we should have asked before we cut and ran, can sex that is not OPEN to procreation, sex that is shut off from its very nature, be unitive? ”

          Read carefully before imputing a meaning that is clearly contradicted by any reasonable construction of the author’s words.

          • Ed McDonald

            yes, I think “open to procreation” is a key criterion on most cases. With a 90 yr. old woman who had a hysterectomy and no longer wants children, can her sex act be unitive? I think so… she need not be open to procreation.

            • Jean de Brissac la Motte

              It is not SHE who must be open to procreation. It is the ACT (“in se”) that must be open.

              • Ed McDonald

                The ACT is not open to procreation if she does not have a uterus. that seems pretty clear. it is nonsensical to say that the act remains open without any possibility for a procreative outcome.

                • jonnybeeski

                  The act has to be “ordered to” procreation, objectively. The subjective sterility or fertility of the couple does not change the state of the act as being ordered to procreation.

                  • Ed McDonald

                    in what manner is it “ordered to” procreation, and what is it that does change the state of the act as being no longer ordered to procreation, if a hysterectomy does not change it?

                    • jonnybeeski

                      It is ordered to procreation in that the act is still an act of complete self-donation. Each partner is giving all that they have to the other, assuming that the hysterectomy was not done to achieve sterility, but that the sterility was an anticipated but not desired side effect, that is, the principle of double effect applies (which I think your original comment upthread stipulated). The nature of act of intercourse was not changed. The subjective fertiilty/sterility of a partciular act does not change its nature.
                      Conversely, it is not an act ordered to procreation if one takes an action to render it sterile, that is, to change the nature of the act. Natural sterility, i.e., age, time of cycle, illness, etc., are not actions taken by the couple, but are the way we are created, and so do not disorder the act.

              • sheila

                Oh God. Does all this nonsense exhaust you?

            • TheAbaum

              That’s absurd.

              • Ed McDonald

                not really, she may be a faithful Catholic who already raised 12 children, had a hysterectomy for medical reasons, and no longer wants to procreate. She cannot conceive, does not want to at her age, and is still having a loving, unitive sexual relationship with her husband.

                • TheAbaum

                  Well then she was open.

                  You haven’t known too many 90 year old women, have you?

              • Ed McDonald

                by the way, you are making a moral argument about contraception. I am not talking about contraception, We agree about contraception. My family doesn’t use it… we don’t even use NFP. I am talking about the philosophical relationship between union and procreation, which can be disrupted due to the fallen state of man and creation. In a few instances, but not most, such a disruption is not sinful.

              • Ed McDonald

                You are missing the point. If she is incapable of conceiving, then how would her sex act be procreative? can you answer that? how can sex be procreative in a menopausal or post-hysterectomy situation? It can’t. and that is why I mention a 90 yr. old.

                • slainte

                  Because all things are possible if God wills them to be; we need merely be open to his will.
                  .
                  Our Lord is not subject to the constraints of the natural world that He created.

                • TheAbaum

                  I like a good argument. This is just an exercise in tedium.

                  One can be “open” to something, that barring a miracle (Abraham and Sarah) will not occur.

                  • El_Tigre_Loco

                    I think his name was Abram until God changed it after he showed he was willing to sacrifice his only son.

                    • TheAbaum

                      He is known as Abraham now.

                • Interested

                  Again, the likelihood of conception is the the issue.

                  • jonnybeeski

                    “is NOT the issue” Fixed it for ya.

                • Glenn M. Ricketts

                  Ed, isn’t “incapable” quite different from “unwilling?” Young married couples are actually “incapable” except during the brief time once a month when a wife is fertile; the use of contraceptives makes them “unwilling,” something very different.

                  • Ed McDonald

                    I am not talking about contraception. That is immoral. I am talking about the attempt to make the unitive nature of sex inseparable from procreation. In the normal context, these must always remain together in order to avoid immorality. But there are obvious cases when they are severed through no fault of the couple. That is all I am saying. Being incapable, really and truly incapable, means that the procreative aspect is separated from the unitive aspect. Being “open to life” does not make the act procreative. It makes the will procreative, perhaps. That is just very simple and clear. It does not refer to the general state, and it has nothing to do with contraception. It is also a situation that humanae vitae is not attempting to address.

                    • Glenn M. Ricketts

                      But isn’t that the same thing I’m saying in my example? When a wife is infertile, she and her husband do not violate the moral law. But if they elect to use contraceptives, then they’ve played God by separating the two aspects of the marriage act on their own. I don’t see where we have a disagreement.

                    • Ed McDonald

                      I agree…. when she is infertile they do not violate the moral law. What I am talking about is this article’s attempt to claim that sex must always be both unitive and procreative. I am saying that the procreative aspect can be lost and this does not affect the morality or the unitive aspect of the act. Others want to introduce contraception into the arguement, which should be argued after the main issue is established. Sex is both unitive and procreative, and these aspects must be maintainted in order to avoid sin… except of course in cases when the procreative aspect is lost through no fault of the couple. Other people on this thread find that to be incorrect. They argue that even if a woman has a hysterectomy, her sex is still procreative. To me that is obvious nonsense. A necessary surgical procedure is an obvious exception to the moral norm. The Procreative nature of sex can be lost without harming either the unitive aspect or the morality of the act. Some on this thread argue that sex is still procreative after menopause or hysterectomy. Of course it isn’t.

                    • Ed McDonald

                      my position: the procreative and unitive aspects of sex are sometimes separated without moral issue. Moral issue arises when they are separated through an act of will that is unrelated to medical necessity. Nevertheless, if they can be separated without issue in some cases, then it is not philosophically sound to argue that the meaning of sex must include the procreative. Sex is meaningful, moral, and unitive even in some cases where there is no procreative function or aspect at all. I am not sure if we disagree…. All i am saying is that the two aspects of the marriage act can and are sometimes separated, without moral issue. I am not referring to contraception. I am taking issue with the claim that the meaning of sex must always contain a procreative aspect, as the author of this article argues. That is obviously not true in certain cases. Post-hysterectomy sex is not procreative in any meaningful sense, yet the “purpose of sex in marriage” is not morally harmed by this in any way. The procreative purpose of sex may be harmed by the medically necessary surgery insofar as childbearing is no longer possible, but sex is not morally harmed as its unitive aspect is preserved.

                    • Glenn M. Ricketts

                      Ed, I agree. Reading over the article and the comments again, I wonder if you and other posters haven’t been talking past each other to some extent? Does anyone deny that many intimate encounters within a marriage are necessarily sterile? Similarly, the Church has also bestowed the sacrament of matrimony on couples past the age which they’re able to procreate.

                      I wonder if a better way to put it is that the “context” of marriage embraces both aspects of sexual union, and mandates that they can never be purposefully separated from each other, even if nature routinely does so?

                    • Ed McDonald

                      yes… I think you are on to something. We have not really worked out a rigorous philosophical position on this yet since it hasn’t needed to be argued to any great degree until the last several decades. HV and other writings in the Church are really only scratching the surface of the issue, and they deal really with only the normal, everyday aspects of human experience. They don’t speak to the unique and problematical examples that really require serious effort at articulating a coherent and rich position. Most of the effort has been dealing with contraception and abortion, and that seems fairly clearly worked out. The union/procreation argument is good enough to deal with contraception, but it does not provide a serious theology of sex… especially given the obvious examples you and I raised here. Contrary to what the author of this article claims, the morally sound “purpose” of sex does not require the procreative aspect of sex as a necessary condition. They are too caught up on arguing against contraception (which is very necessary) to think about a broader, complete theology of sexuality.

                    • Glenn M. Ricketts

                      Thanks, it’s been a pleasure. Contrary to Hombre’s remarks, I think this is a discussion worth having. Keep standing fast in the faith.

                    • Peter Ohotnicky

                      I have read Crisis and the comments here for many months, but this is the first time I’ve written a comment.

                      There is a good conversation here. I think the nuance that is missing is a grade of “pro” creation, “non” creation, and “anti” creation or we might say “contra-conception”.

                      Consider this situation: a man is drowning in dangerous waters. A “pro” life response would be to actively save the drowning person, perhaps because I have the skill as a lifeguard. A “non” life (neutral) response would be that of a non-swimmer who does not risk his life to save this individual, perhaps because there is a serious risk of there being two victims. An “antI” life response would be to interfere with the lifeguard, perhaps by tripping the him as he attempts to save the victim.

                      So it is with the marriage act. Often couples actively seek the procreative aspect of the act. Other times, the act is “non” procreative, as during pregnancy itself, the infertile periods, menopause, breastfeeding, or something such as a hysterectomy. Here, although there is little or no chance of pregnancy, there has not been an active effort to frustrate the procreative aspect of the marriage act. The act is “neutral” in regards to the procreative aspect. The moral evil enters in the “contra” creation act–actions which as an end seek to frustrate the procreative aspect.

                      Maybe this model will help some people understand…

                    • Glenn M. Ricketts

                      Thanks for the input, it’s certainly been stimulating. Hopefully, the editors will pursue this avenue with additional articles in future.

              • El_Tigre_Loco

                Tell that to St Elizabeth and Zachariah. Virgins are not capable of conceiving, either, but our Faith is built upon the fact that one did.

                I think that persons in this blog are missing because of a misunderstanding of the word, “ordered.” My American College Dictionary out of 51 definitions for ordered lists as number 5 what I think is the appropriate one: “5. A condition in which everything is in its proper place with reference to other things and to its purpose; methodical or harmonious arrangement.”

                • TheAbaum

                  What makes you think Elizabeth was 90?

              • slainte

                Lest you forget….
                .
                “Abraham and Sarah were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children.” Genesis 18:11

                • TheAbaum

                  Was Sarah 90 or just “very old”?

                  Very old is relative.

                  If you are 35 or older, and you are pregnant for the first time, your medical record will reflect a condition called “elderly primigravida”.

                  In any case, I’ve known several 90 year olds. They were all widows and I’m sure that some will say that was the secret to their longevity.

          • sheila

            The answer is Yes, unless you are a sex-obsessed keeper of rules imposed by medieval (and evil) old men (or some of the young ones with their mistresses) who can’t make a moral or ethical decision on their own.

            • TheAbaum

              Hackneyed clichés are not thinking.

            • Art Deco

              The sorosphere agencies must have let out for a special spring hol. They send us their third string who grace us with their mastery of mass entertainment cliches, ca. 1970.

              (For starters, sister, prohibitions of adultery and sodomy are not of medieval origin, old men are not notable for ill wisdom, people who fancy they ‘make moral and ethical decisions on their own are almost invariably imbibers of contemporary fashion, and it’s rather rum to defend social subcultures defined by sexual deviance by accusing others of being ‘sex-obsessed’).

        • hombre111

          Ed, all you say sounds so much like my moral theology class in the seminary. That kind of theology was for priests advising people in the confessional. I doubt if all that hair-splitting adds a lot of joy.

    • Interested

      The procreative aspect is not identical to chance of conception.

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    The video in this blog post is hard to watch- but it makes the same point as this article, oddly enough from the homosexual’s point of view:
    http://kofc15485.blogspot.com/2014/04/hard-to-watch.html

    And yes, it is an ANTI-gay marriage, pro-Catholic video.

  • Thomas

    If a married Catholic man had a vasectomy a few decades ago and has confessed the sin, would he today need to have it surgically reversed? Why or why not?

    • Ed McDonald

      If a married Catholic woman had a hysterectomy, before converting to Catholicism, because she didn’t like menstruating and was a militant feminist lesbian, can her sexual life with her Catholic husband after conversion still be procreative and unitive?
      Their sex can be unitive, but her past sin has disrupted the natural order and their sex can no longer be procreative in some sense. She can affirm its intrinsic procreative nature and ordination for this purpose, however. Is this sufficient to restore the procreative nature to the sex act? I don’t know. It seems a weak position, though.

      • Thomas

        Can you answer the question I posed? Certainly, one could reverse a vasectomy. I do not believe the Catechism requires a reversal (not sure until I look it up). If a reversal is not required by the CCC, then would you make the argument that the act is in no way unitive, even if the couple believes it is indeed unitive.

        I’m not looking for an argument, just others’ thoughts.

        • Ed McDonald

          my OPINION, which i will not argue here, is that he needs to reverse the procedure if possible in order truly to be open to procreation. Of course, if his wife had a hysterectomy (for medical reasons), reversing his procedure would be meaningless. I think in such a case, their sex would be unitive without being procreative… and is a unique case that the document HV was not attempting to elucidate.

          • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

            I know of a case in which a man who had had a vasectomy and later repented of it was told both by his confessor and by a canon lawyer that he is obligated, if at all possible (medically and financially) to reverse the procedure. This took place in an American diocese whose bishop is highly respected for his orthodox and pro-life teaching. This is just anecdotal, of course, but I heard the story first hand from the man in question.

            • TheAbaum

              So canon lawyers now dispense penance?

            • musicacre

              I have an anecdotal also, from a friend who went through it. She and her husband became attracted to the faith when they had 4 children already. They were coming from no-faith background and he had already had a vasectomy. I don’t remember clearly if he was advised in confession but they decided to reverse the procedure, and after a little more than a year, they conceived a baby. (Which was their hope). He’s about 10 years old now.

        • mek

          I believe the Church holds that it is the man’s duty to attempt a reversal if it is practical (financially, etc.). If it is not, John Kippley has proposed that, as a means of avoiding enjoying the fruits of the sin (necessary for true repentance), the couple should practice NFP and abstain during the fertile times. If the couple has truly repented and does this, perhaps it can be unitive, but I don’t think anyone could say definitively that it would be. I don’t think the act being unitive has anything to do with the couple’s belief that it is. I am sure their are many fornicating, contracepting couples who believe wholeheartedly that their actions are unitive.

          • Ed McDonald

            fornicating does not prevent the act from being unitive. Paul says that this is even true with a harlot, “What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.” I Cor. 6:16. Being unitive does not make the sex act morally licit. Whether or not the unitive nature of sex is completely or partially damage by contracepting is another question.

    • Interested

      Absolution is not dependent on reversing the procedure. One is not bound to have surgery again.

      • Ed McDonald

        absolution would cover the past sin. It would not cover the current sin of not being open to conception and their sexual union not being procreative. He doesn’t get a free pass for life after confessing the single sin of having the vasectomy. by refusing to reverse it, when it is a possibility, he is continuing his contraception.

        • hombre111

          If he had a vasectomy a few decades ago, reversing it is probably not possible. Need to get a doctor’s opinion on this: how long after a vasectomy can it be reversed?

          • Ed McDonald

            agreed…. that is my point. I am the only person on this thread who is arguing that sex can be unitive without being procreative.

            • hombre111

              Think you are right. A lot of this tension was created by Pope John Paul, who went far beyond the moral judgment of Paul VI, and turned the whole thing into mortal sin.

              • Interested

                Utter nonsense.

                • TheAbaum

                  Agreed, but I prefer the term poppycock when dealing with said faux cleric.

            • Thomas

              I am merely asking a question and am trying to sort things out, within the context of the Church’s teaching. Thank you, however, for lending your answers: I appreciate it!

    • El_Tigre_Loco

      I know someone who had a vasectomy and a few years later, was a father again. To quote an old ad,”It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” LOL

  • BillinJax

    Entirely too many marriages are based not on commitment but on the
    convenience of one or both partners. In order to share property, expenses,
    space, status, possessions, or bodies is no basis on which to build a lasting
    relationship. The church did not sanctify marriage simply to benefit
    individuals. It joins a man and a woman together in holy matrimony for the sake
    of society and the sanctity of family life in order to assure the continuance
    of humanity in the name of our creator.

    • hombre111

      The Church needs to learn how to better catechize young people about the meaning of marriage. We have barely begun.

      • joan

        We are the church, the Body of Christ, and we need to live our faith. The Christ centered family gives glory to God.

        • hombre111

          Preach it, sister.

  • joan

    my opinion:

    Sex is definitely unitive. However, “marriage does not require sex.” There are couples who have chosen to remain celibate. Perhaps at some time in their marriage they had children, but now they grow together in intimate union of 3 for whatever their reason. Marriage is made up of 3. Man, Woman, God. If God is missing, there is no union. I think God wants us to live the rightly ordered life. Him first. That would involve self-control in so many respects. Sex and intimacy are definitely not synonyms. We are sexual and intimate creatures, we were all put here together for God’s reason. Genesis says, it’s not good for man to be alone, so he made woman. Intimacy is a very special thing between 2 complementary, man and woman, and i think if it reaches a certain level between man and woman, making love is inevitable in most circumstances. However, definitely not required. That’s almost like saying, “the priesthood requires celibacy.”

    • hombre111

      Excellent. Thank you.

  • hombre111

    No offense intended, but this reads like a student paper. It is progress, because we have a personalist discussion about real love here, and not just the usual natural law rationalism, although that is present, too, and the author is preaching to the choir. The author is clearly steeped in Theology of the Body. What I would like to see is some kind of personal witness, and not just, as usual, from the husband.

    • musicacre

      We can’t all bare the secret parts of our lives just for your satisfaction, so you’re convinced personally, that it’s not all just some male conspiracy…but I am the wife and can assure you that my husband and I have avoided ANY use of contraceptive means for our entire marriage. Since we first married we have tried to share that truth in a variety of ways, how counterfeit and choked relationships become when this law of nature is tampered with.

      It certainly isn’t ” freedom” when a man demands a woman be available to hims 24/7. The relationship becomes mechanical and we have seen almost everyone we knew that were contracepting, break up. Including my sister. To use NFP at a couple’s discretion, with the intention of being generous for a family takes patience, sensitivity and truly, a deep level of respect form the husband. I am privileged to have such a husband, going into our 30th year of marriage, and our hearts are overflowing with accomplishments and love of our six beautiful children!

      • TheAbaum

        When I met my wife, she wasn’t Catholic.

        Not long after our courtship commenced- she summarily announced to me that she would NOT mess with her endocrine system and risk those consequences we hear every time a commercial for a law firm specializing in pharma-litigation comes on. (Have you taken Yaz? ) and somehow don’t hear about when a commercial shows a bunch of young carefree women discussing the chemical warfare on their womanhood while sipping mojitos and holding overflowing shopping bags.

        Her unsolicited (but unnecessary) announcement indicated the presence of something I found exceedingly rare and valuable, even among properly Catechized Catholic women-vertebrae.

        • musicacre

          Not sure what “Yaz” is. I may be a nurse, but we don’t have a TV. Retired, that is, when I began to have children; which was quite a long time ago!

          • TheAbaum

            http://www.drugs.com/yaz.html

            Note the abortifacient element.

            • musicacre

              Thanks, yeah I figured it was some relative of the contraceptive pill. We know a brilliant retired vet (he still teaches) who said they considered giving the drug to cows in the 20 or 30′s (yes, it’s been around, biding it’s time for a sexual revolution), and discontinued it due to how dangerous it was for the cows. Too bad the Pharma industry doesn’t have as much respect for human females. Human females are disposable customers for them.

              • hombre111

                I heard this story some time ago. After several (I don’t remember) generations went by, cow fertility rates suffered a crash.

        • El_Tigre_Loco

          I had a car with the license plate XXX YAZ. Does that count?

          • TheAbaum

            Please refrain from inane responses.

      • hombre111

        This is the kind of witness I am talking about. Of course, we also need the witness of men and women who found the whole thing a tremendous struggle and final failure. I think of a NFP group that organized itself in one of my parishes. There were at least eight couples. By the end of two years, all of them were dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. And most of them divorced, sometimes with great bitterness toward the Church.
        But at the same time, there were non-Catholic, even non-Christian couples who wanted to live a married life free of chemicals. They follow NFP.

      • slainte

        Congratulations to your and your husband….you are a powerful witness for a faith filled Catholic marriage.

    • TheAbaum

      And you are steeped in the culture of copulation, which explains your wild sexual libertinism.

    • Objectivetruth

      It’s a fact of our faith that we should look for guidance and teaching on marriage and sex from a celibate, single male.

      And that’s not you, hombre…

      • Ed McDonald

        what fact is that? there are numerous married priests in the byzantine and other eastern rites. Can I get guidance from them?

        • TheAbaum

          Not to mention men who took vows after being widowed, or those who were Anglican, and a rather extensive corps of married deacons.

          Another perilously stale red herring peddled by fishmonger111.

          • El_Tigre_Loco

            Please refrain from ad hominem attacks.

            • TheAbaum

              Please refrain from using terms you don’t understand.

      • hombre111

        We should look for guidance and teaching on marriage and sex from a celibate, single male. And he should have the wisdom and humility to acknowledge that he does not have the deepest insight into the subject.

        • TheAbaum

          This from the guy who once revealed that he thought another celibate -Andrew Greeley wrote great sex scenes.

        • Interested

          Who is the “expert” to you?

          The dissenter that rejects binding teaching? The one in obstinate doubt who demands the Church “change” Her teachings to fulfill some desire?

          Perhaps some dissenting left wing theologian who fancies himself more valid than the magisterium?

          Who is the authority? How many authorities are there?

          • hombre111

            An expert is someone who has wide knowledge of a subject. I listen to experts when they challenge unexamined proclamations accepted as facts that cannot be questioned. But new facts, better logic, and a more adequate perspective have to be acknowledged, or we live in a dogmatic world which only pretends to be reasonable.

            • Art Deco

              No, an expert is someone with deep knowledge of a subject.

              But new facts, better logic, and a more adequate perspective have to be acknowledged,

              There’s still time in your case.

              • hombre111

                If your knowledge about some complicated subject is an inch wide and a foot deep,then you know a whole lot about very little. On the other hand, if your knowledge is a foot wide an inch deep, then you know a little about a lot. From that perspective, you still might know enough for imagination and mind play, which will enable you to see a lot of interconnections that can be explored at greater depth. For example, one of the problems with scientism, is it imagines that the only valid knowledge comes from the observations of science, when life is so much broader. A religious person with a bent for science is much wiser than a scientist with no bent for the religious or emotional perspective.

              • El_Tigre_Loco

                Where I worked, “an expert” was someone who had the same knowledge as the employees but came from another town.

      • El_Tigre_Loco

        Eastern rite priests marry. But sometimes the best view of a situation is from someone who is outside of it. How many times have you witnessed lost persons who just couldn’t do what is obvious to another from the outside?

    • ForChristAlone

      This is one of those discussions where you ought to gracefully opt out because, as an priest, you do not represent the teaching of the Church on this matter and instead give scandal. Better you should leave it to lay persons who know first hand about the unitive love in marriage.

      • hombre111

        Precisely. It took from Augustine to Humanae Vitae for the celibate hierarchy to acknowledge the unitive love in marriage. Before Humanae Vitae, over and over again, the men in the hats said the purpose of marriage was the procreation of children, beginning with Augustine, who said it was a sin if a couple made love for any other reason.

        • slainte

          No Hombre…all voices should be heard and issues debated vigorously to reach the truth. There is no benefit to silencing some because others have pre-determined that they add nothing to a conversation. This is hubris.
          .
          Your voice and your opinions should be heard.

          • ForChristAlone

            Not if hombre, who identifies himself as a Catholic priest, inveighs against Church teaching on contraception. No one should impose conscience on him but he should not mislead others so that their consciences are not similarly deformed. This is a website that identifies itself as one of orthodox Catholicism. It is perverse for someone to identify himself as a Catholic priest and propose things that are antithetical to Church teachings. We are not talking about matters of prudential judgment like whether socialism or a market economy better serves the interest of the community if one wants to promote heterodoxy, the Reporter is always a willing accomplice.

            • slainte

              Then debate the error, don’t silence the speaker.
              .
              There should be no gatekeepers of orthodoxy here so willing to condemn a man by silencing his voice rather than explaining why his position on an issue is inconsistent with Church teaching.
              .
              We all err and sometimes require correction, even priests. Such discussions are instructive for all.

              • ForChristAlone

                The corrections have been offered ad nauseam.

                As a priest, he holds a sacred responsibility by sharing in the teaching munera of his bishop. His openly declaring his priestly status means that he is here publicly representing the Church. The gatekeeper of orthodoxy is his bishop in whose teaching ministry he shares.

                • slainte

                  Who else should we muzzle and who gets to decide?

                  • TheAbaum

                    Who’s muzzling him?

                    If he can’t represent the Church faithfully, he should take his situation to his Bishop, and seek other employment. At the age of 76, it’s high time he man up.

                    The only thing he actually faithfully represents is the Democratic National Committee. He should get on their payroll and off the Church’s.

                    • Slainte

                      The free exchange of ideas is worth preserving.

                    • ForChristAlone

                      Slainte, when hombre was ordained he signed a sworn statement that he would uphold all that the Catholic Church believes and teaches. When one swears in this way, the free exchange of ideas antithetical to Church teaching need to be silenced on his own accord.

                    • slainte

                      FCA, you and others here have performed a service to the Church by reminding Hombre of those times when he may have erred and by disclosing the nature of the error and refuting it using faith and reason.
                      .
                      While Hombre may or may not have altered his opinions based on the exchanges, other readers of this magazine holding similar or the same views as Hombre were likely educated by the exchanges and may have altered their views as a result. This is beneficial and part of the evangelization process.
                      .
                      Hombre is no doubt aware of his duties as a priest. Having reminded him, I would suggest that our duty is done. He is responsible to Our Lord and his Bishop…in that order.
                      .
                      We will continue to respond (mostly refute :) his positions.

                    • ForChristAlone

                      Would you be as open to a free exchange of ideas from hombre, knowing he is a Catholic priest, if he were to openly deny belief in the Real Presence?

                    • slainte

                      I would want to know why he denies the Real Presence and what circumstances caused him to err. I would dialogue with him in the hope of restoring him to God by causing him to re-engage the Faith and its most profound and beautiful mystery.
                      .
                      Sorry for the delay in responding. I don’t use Disqus and I did not realize you had responded.

                    • TheAbaum

                      Open rebellion, and what Art Deco referred to as fifty years of “institutional parasitism” isn’t free exchange.

                      It is gross dereliction of duty, and one he freely chose.

                    • slainte

                      You write, “…It is gross dereliction of duty, and one he freely chose.”
                      .
                      And you have righly held him to account. For laypersons to silence another is not a proportional remedy to address an objectionable comment. It’s also not a policy that we as American Catholics would want to promote in a free society.
                      .
                      The Catholic Faith makes possible the defense of the Faith through reason and revelation. We need not resort to shunning or silencing members as the old time Protestants did.

                    • TheAbaum

                      You keep talking about “silencing” and muzzling and the like. There’s none of that here.

                      There is a misrepresntation.

                      If he finds the Church so objectionable then he should present himself to his Bishop and seek relief from his vows, assuming they aren’t merely fictional appendages of a contrived internet personality.

                      Do you get to give anything but “zealous” advocacy for your clients-can you contradict them publicly, repeatedly, and defiantly? (I’m pretty sure I know the answer).

          • TheAbaum

            “Your voice and your opinions should be heard.”

            And given the .03 nanoseconds consideration they merit.

            • slainte

              How does one measure .03 of a nanosecond? : )

              • jonnybeeski

                Very carefully!

              • TheAbaum

                Atomic processes.

          • hombre111

            Slainte! Thanks for your comment. I few weeks ago, I wrote to the sitemaster and thanked him for putting up with me. He replied that I added a lot of interest to the discussion. And that is what I have tried to do. No insults. I just try to state how I stand, much to the outrage of some on the thread.

            • slainte

              You do stir the pot Padre… : )

    • jonnybeeski

      So go read Simcha Fisher, Jennifer Fulwiler, etc., if you want a female perspective. There are lots of female witnesses to TOB and NFP, no?

      • hombre111

        Thanks.

        • jonnybeeski

          Uh, you do realize that post was an April Fool’s joke, right?

          • hombre111

            Mmm, if it was, you got me. But she stars on Google, and I will order her “A Sinners Guide to Natural Family Planning,” which is recommended for its earthy, funny, poignant approach to carrying the cross.

            • jonnybeeski

              Not my post, Simcha Fisher’s!

            • Tony

              Simcha is the sister of a very close friend of ours. She is very much alive! The whole big family, with all the cousins, is a great testimony to the wisdom and the sheer delightful goodness of the Church’s vision.

              • Bucky Inky

                If the opportunity ever arises, perhaps you could gently persuade Mrs. Fisher in mending her thinking on the subject of feminism. No one I can call to mind better than you to do it!

        • Neihan

          Who authored that article, and when was it published?

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  • Ian

    This is a good article on the necessary unity between the unitive and procreative ends of marriage. However, there is a problem with the opening thought, that “marriage requires sex.” In one sense yes it does; those entering marriage do need the ability engage in the marital act. Those who are impotent cannot validly enter into marriage. (Different from sterility, which does not invalidate marriage.) In another sense, no. As mentioned in a comment below, many couples choose to remain celibate in their marriages. The best example is the Holy Family. Mary and Joseph had no sexual relations at all, yet they still had a marriage and family worth celebrating. The author argues that a marriage without sex is based on sentimentality. On the contrary, it would be wrong to say the marriage between Mary and Joseph, which was a true marriage, was based on anything but love.

  • Monica’s Daughter

    These are the type of articles that send me back to the brink of despair after trying to live my life wanting to believe that I have been forgiven of my past. I was not raised Catholic. I married over two decades ago to what I’d describe as an affable Vatican II baby (i.e., poorly catechized). Specifically, I chose to have a sterilization surgery following the birth of our second child. A few years later, ironies of ironies, I began the long process of finding out what it meant to be a Christian and ultimately a Catholic. I was received officially into the Church 6 years after having had the surgery. There are a lot of details and circumstances I’m leaving out here. Suffice it to say, I didn’t know I’d done wrong .. then I found out I’d done wrong … then I looked into rectifying the situation and found out that circumstances were not conducive to fixing the problem (trying to be made whole again).

    There have been and will likely always be relationship problems between my H and myself and this situation going on 20 years now has done nothing to allay the fears I’ve had since the very beginning. There seems to be no real way to solve this problem or come to terms with how to pay penance for this on my own. This crime involves two people and the other person does not believe that anything else needs to be done about this but trust in God’s mercy and move forward … and moving forward looks like living as we always have.

    I think part of my penance is to accept the fact that I will never enjoy a spiritual connection to my H and that the act will be an act devoid of any feeling other than fulfilling a duty so that H will not be tempted to look outside the marriage for satisfaction. I’m not saying I think he would ever do that. But that is the perennial teaching of the Church is it not: sex is for procreation and prevention of adultery (and from HV: the “unitive” aspect as well .. .but only when open to procreation).

    I’m a couple of years away from menopause now. I’d looked into reversal surgery when I was younger, but the surgery was so viciously efficient that success was not only impossible, but would have opened up the likelihood of ectopic pregnancy which would have led to another crime, the removal of the embryo from the fallopian tube and therefore, death.

    And so it goes. God Bless.

    • Ed McDonald

      But I think you are being to hard on yourself. Once a woman reaches menopause, she would be in the same biological situation as someone who had undergone the surgery you mention. Although the procreative aspect of sex was severed in your case, it is also to some extent no longer active after menopause. So why should you view the two as being any different in your own case? There is no reason that your intimacy with your husband should be any different than anyone who has reached menopause. The unitive nature of sexuality is always possible as long as the procreative aspects of it are seen and celebrated. This is true even when procreation is no longer possible. So… why not start today with re-orienting yourself with how you view your body and your relationship with your husband. There is no reason that anyone, regardless of past error, cannot begin to live chaste, edifying lives (including their sex life). Talk to your priest again, and if you are ready, to your husband ( I am sure you have many times).You just have to start afresh… what can be rectified? what can’t? I think you can experience renewed joy… just keep going.

  • HenryBowers

    I think it’s a grave mistake to denigrate successful coitus between married persons, as the author has done. Whether they have a barrier in place or not, they are achieving what the SSM-ers cannot. If contraception is not strictly understood as an act separate from coitus, it can be nestled under the wing of ‘unintended side-effects,’ and Jermann’s project self-destructs. Although coitus practiced in conjunction with contraception happens to be an instance of unreasonable, and thus sinful, dualism, the successful coitus in itself can in no way be impugned as closed to life, selfish, lusty, contraceptive, or dualistic. Only people bear those adjectives and ends. Therefore, I think all successful coitus is 100% unitive, just like all handshakes are 100% tactile.

    • Interested

      Huh?

      • HenryBowers

        Where did I lose you?

  • Martin

    Hogwash. The only thing that distinguishes us from animals is that we can control whether we breed or not. To make unprotected sex into some lofty spiritual ideal is ridiculous.

    • Interested

      That may be a that distinguishes you but for the rest of humanity it is much more profound including the ability to reason.

    • Tony

      Unprotected? From what threat? Animals mate and do not know what they are about. We marry, and we do know what we are about. That includes when we do the child-making thing. A man and woman who do the child-making thing, who are open to the making of a child, are doing something wholly different in kind — and there is nothing “spiritual” about this; it is easily deduced from intention and consciousness — from what those are doing who thwart the child-making in the very act. That is what the author is arguing.

  • Lukas

    The marital sexual relationship can only be intertwined with the intent
    to have children (procreation), or the divine purpose for marriage is
    thwarted. When there is purpose beyond self for engaging in the marital
    embrace, then agape love is truly fulfilled in that marital
    relationship. Those who try to prevent having children, whether through
    abortion, artificial birth control, or natural family planning, will
    bring moral and physical disorder on themselves, their families, and
    their society. If you do not believe me, I will now try to demonstrate
    that to you.

    First, those who use any form of artificial birth
    control are directly involved in promoting the culture of death. For
    example, according to statistics, approximately 55% of all surgical
    abortions in the United States are evilly performed as the result of
    failed contraceptive practices. Therefore, abortion is inextricably
    intertwined with all artificial birth control practices and, in the case of
    abortifacients, may cause spontaneous embryonic abortions and harm to
    the developing fetus if it survives the contraceptive drug that tries to
    prevent fertilization. This evil combination of sex and murder leads to
    judgment and hell if not repented of in the confessional.

    • Lukas

      Second, I read on one Catholic blog that Catholics, generally, use to engage in the marital act only when they sensed the desire to procreate. This is called virtuous continence (as approved by the the 1930 Casti Connubii), not natural family planning. This would naturally occur when a woman reaches ovulation where new healthy eggs are produced as the hormone
      system, at this point, is in sync with the natural fertility cycle of
      the woman.

      What does this mean? — It means that if couples engage in the marital act any time they please (e.g., natural family planning to prevent fertility), they are playing Russian roulette with the human embryo that may be spontaneously aborted (as the women’s hormone system was not prepared to receive the human embryo in the womb) or the human embryo is fertilized and implanted in a weakened state from an aged egg that results in possible miscarriages, birth defects, developmental disorders and/or future health problems for the child who
      survives the NFP barrier. There are NFP studies on the internet
      verifying some of the foregoing possible problems with NFP.

      • Lukas

        I also found a study from the national institute of health that found that if women plan their births then there are almost no side effects to the birth of children at delivery. Why are there virtually no side effects at delivery in these cases? — because those who plan their births do so at the height of fertility (NEW not old/aged EGGS) through the natural marital drive or through reverse NFP when the woman’s hormone system is timed perfectly to produce a healthy robust human embryo, the womb is
        hormonally and timely prepared to receive and maintain that embryo and, finally, the womb is hormonally and timely prepared to birth a healthy child at delivery!

        If your are addicted to any of the foregoing immoral practices/addictions, I urge you to pray to Jesus, daily, to
        give you sufficient grace to overcome them and that you would also pray to the Holy Spirit to open your hearts, souls and minds to the reality of what I have written here. Momentary sexual self-gratification that is not repented of can only lead to hell, especially if human embryos and
        babies are killed or harmed through the foregoing immoral marital practices.

        Similar to abortion and artificial birth control, NFP is an immoral practice that can lead to judgment and hell if not
        repented of in the confessional after being told by knowledgeable Christians or the Holy Spirit to stop engaging in this immoral practice that has the potential
        to kill human embryos and cause miscarriages or other harm to babies/children.

        • Fr. W. M. Gardner

          Lukas,
          I think you raise some important points in your comments. These points reinforce the requirement that NFP should only be used for serious reasons. And it should be introduced only discreetly, rather than promoted on a widespread basis.
          However, I believe that the principle of double effect applies in some aspects of your discussion and I am not ready to affirm that periodic continence rises to the level of intrinsic evil, since there is no corruption of the child-making act and no physical suppression/destruction of either spouse’s fertility.

      • Interested

        You are confusing several things including not differentiating between a moral evil and a physical evil.

  • El_Tigre_Loco

    I think many persons today engage in sex with a view to self pleasure. Then the unity factor kicks in and takes them by surprise.

  • Ed

    Sometimes due to cultural differences marriages become sexless. In my case due to a problem with alcohol in the early to mid 80′s I was declared an alcoholic by a therapist. My wife then explained in her Sicilian culture if the husband is called an alcohol he has brought shame and dishonor on himself and his family. All forms of physical affection end permenantly
    , No kissing fondling or sex and as little touching as possible. Dishonor is never forgiven or forgotten. This was in 1987 and even though I have not had a drink since then this ban has never been lifted.
    It’s nice to say that sex in marriage is necessary, but not all marriages can adhere to that ideal.

  • Heidi Holmes

    what about older (60′s and 70′s and after) beyond child bearing age couples, how does sex in marriage apply than?

  • Prude

    You should try tantric sex where there is no touching.

    To say that it is mind blowingly unifying doesn’t even touch upon it.

    That’s true chaste love.

    What you are recommending here is nothing less than fornication. If you were properly married you’d be less likely to being given over to burning with lust for each other and truly chaste.

    Were St Paul around today, he’d be utterly disgusted and most likely in need of strong sedation, preferably given IM by a veterinary surgeon.

    Is there nowhere on the internet we are not exposed to utter filth and debauchery.

    Paul below. You may be enslaved to your feelings of lust but leave the horses and other of God’s creatures out of this.

    As Grandmaw Walton would have said, “You people have the morals of alley cats.”

  • Angela

    *sigh* It really frustrates me when I read articles from orthodox Catholics that continually propell the urban legand of the 50% divorce rate. That statistic came from the 70′s, when some reporter who failed to know how to apply math correctly divided the number of marriages by the number of divorces IN THE SAME YEAR!. So all that meant is that there were twice as many people getting married as people getting divorced.

    The real figure is far more difficult to ascertain, but our best estimate is that 40% of first marriages end in divorce, 60% of second marriages end in divorce and 70% of third marriages end in divorce. If we look at demographic groups, those who marry before the age of 25 have about a 60% divorce rate. The demographic group that has the lowest divorce rate is ARRANGED MARRIAGES. Only 3% of arranged marriages end in divorce. Certainly, there is at least one study that indicates that couples who use NFP divorce less frequently, but as people point out with arranged marriages, we must be careful with knowing the difference between causation and correlation.

    This article here has a lot to say about how there is not enough evidence to prove that NFP actually makes for stable marriages: http://blogs.nd.edu/thecc/2012/08/29/nfp-and-divorce-rates-more-research-needed/

    And this article (one of the best ones I’ve come across) point out the major problem in promoting NFP and marital chastity under this idea that it’ll be the magic marriage fixer: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=6150

    I would argue that widespread contraceptive use has effected the entire culture. The effects aren’t as individualistic. Not using a contraceptive doesn’t guarentee me marital bliss or even granted me better more unitive sex. Rather, widespread contraceptive use has changed our attitudes and expectations about marriage. Marriage is no longer seen as being so much centered on the mother and father mutually accepting and supporting each other in the responsibilities of parenthood. Our view has become very couple-centric. Afterall, contraceptives prevent pregnancy and as such the culture sees them as primarily about responsible parenthod whereas we are now redefining marriage as being about about acheiving this idealistic romantic ideal.

    We don’t need to invent some convulated argument that blames contraception on being unsatisfied with our marriages. This only demonstrates that we’ve adopted the culture’s attitude that marriage is primarily about our own gratification. It’s not that couple s are doomed to a life of misery. It is rather that it is through the cultivation and practices of all the virtues that we learn to authentically love. And it is in choosing to love — in practicing love as a virtue — that we find happiness. And that’s not always easy because we are sinners.

    • Tony

      If your numbers above are correct, then we might as well say that half of marriages end in divorce, because that is about what it amounts to.

      Let’s suppose that we have 100 people marrying for the first time. Then 40 divorce. Of those 40, let’s say that 20 marry again. Then 12 divorce. Let’s suppose that of those 12, 6 marry again. Then 4 divorce.
      All told, we will have had 132 marriages, and 58 divorces, or a rate of about 44 percent.

      If more than half of first divorcees marry again (as seems to be the case), then the total percentage rises. Suppose we have 100 people marrying for the first time. Then 40 divorce. Of those 40, say that 30 marry again. Then 18 divorce. Of those 18, suppose only 10 marry again. Then 7 divorce. That would give us 140 marriages, and 65 divorces, or a rate of about 48 percent.
      Whether it’s 40, 44, or 48, it is horrible, and we might as well say “half,” because even that underestimates what I’ll call the Index of Social Dissolution. To get at that Index, we’d need to know the rate at which all long-term sexual relationships dissolve, including all such that have lasted more than two years, or that have involved cohabitation for at least a year, or that have lasted for more than a year and brought a child into the world.

    • http://resipsalocquitor.blogspot.com/ Res Ipsa

      Of course, if we want to look at statistics, we need to consider that the percentage of people who spend some time in a relationship in which they’re keeping house, so to speak, but not married, is much, much higher than it was in the 1970s. Indeed, in the 70s, there was still shame attached to that. For most people now, there is not.

      In England similar behavior in an earlier time gave rise to “common law marriages” in order to handle the byproducts of those relationships, particularly the human byproducts. Indeed, I work in an office were nearly every woman under 30 who lacks a 4 year college degree has a child by way of such a relationship. A very high percentage of those relationship break up. If they were regarded as common law marriages, the divorce rate would, I suspect, be boosted back up there.

  • Joelle

    Hmmm. No.

    • jonnybeeski

      Well, that settles it.

  • sheila

    Fruitcake.

    • Art Deco

      Oh, put a little effort into it, sister.

  • BrianKillian

    The Church had this discussion already – the debate about whether marriage was formally determined by vows or by consummation. It was settled in favor of vows, and the importance of consummation was expressed by making it the cause of the marriage’s inseparability. Not even the pope could dissolve a marriage that was consummated. They are both, however, related to each other in important ways.

    This article seems to take the position that it’s consummation – or sex in general – that makes marriage.

    Also, while I agree with the inseparability of the unitive and the procreative, there is a great ambiguity in these kinds of discussions.

    The procreative nature of sex can refer to the consequences of any particular sexual act – whether or not it in fact results in procreation.

    But it can also refer to the teleology of sex – that sex has an orientation in a distinct direction, and that it doesn’t always arrive at that destination, but nonetheless it is ordered to it.

    I think the Church is using ‘procreative’ in the second sense, not the first sense. The unitive depends on the procreative ordering of sex, not on its actually achieving it in any given act.

    This implies that the crucial moral distinction cannot exclude the intention of the agents, and not just focus on the physical fertility of the act.

    But to speak of essences like this is clearly metaphysical and is flatly denied by many people today.

    • Ed McDonald

      It doesn’t make much sense to talk about the “procreative ordering of sex” after menopause. Presumably, menopause is part of the natural, ordained design… and sex is no longer ordered to procreation at that point, and no-one need orient themselves to procreation after that point.

      • BrianKillian

        Well, I think it can still be called ordered to procreation in the same sense that in a world with no light our eyes would still be ordered to sight even though it would be impossible to see, or a gun that is out of service is still ordered to shooting bullets.

        • Ed McDonald

          yes, but in neither of your examples is it part of the ordered design that they stop performing the function in question. With sex, it ceases to be procreative in a manner that is very different from your analogy. Nobody is questioning that one of the ordained roles of sexuality is procreation. However, there is no good reason to argue against the idea that sex can cease to be procreative while remaining unitive. In fact, it seems ordered to take place in just such a way.

          • BrianKillian

            I’m not arguing against the idea that sex can be unitive even after it loses all its potential to procreate.

            I’m arguing that because a menopausal woman cannot procreate, and a self-sterilized woman cannot procreate, this does not make them the same in their non-ability to procreate.

            The lack of procreativity in the self-sterilized woman is chosen by design. The lack of procreativity in the menopausal woman is not by her design, regardless of whether or not she desired it.

            Hence, although the two women are identically unable to procreate, they have very different moral attitudes to sex as a procreative kind of act.

            The menopausal woman can still respect the procreative kind of thing that sex is even though it will never again be procreative in fact, while the self-sterilized woman has intentionally imposed a nature that is the opposite of procreative.

            The two women have very different relationships to the value of sex as a procreative kind of thing, and that makes all the difference in the world as to the ability of sex to be unitive.

            One might say that the sterilized woman, even though she is having sex, has sacrificed unity for childlessness. While someone using NFP for a legit reason has sacrificed some sex for childlessness but remains whole whether they have sex or not.

            • Ed McDonald

              I see. Well, I agree entirely with everything you have written in this last post… thank you for continuing the discussion. I think the main thing that I have been arguing on this thread is this. Although I entirely agree with your comment, “The menopausal woman can still respect the procreative kind of thing
              that sex is even though it will never again be procreative in fact”, some will argue that her respect, will, or moral comportment towards sex makes the sex procreative even though it is not “really” procreative. I think this is just unnecessary. The procreative aspect of sex is some times separated from the unitive aspect, “in fact”, as you say, but when this is through no fault of the couple, the unitive aspect is retained. To me it just seems logically non-rigorous to attempt to tie the two by philosophical necessity. Being “orderd to” and all that does not resolve the problem that sex becomes, “in fact” no longer procreative. The moral issue is an issue of the person’s will and obedience to God, it is not about retaining a “procreative aspect”, as can obviously be seen by counter-examples we have discussed. So, I think what we want to say is this: the unitive aspect of sex, and sex’s moral value, is damaged by the willful suspension of the procreative aspect. However, it is not true, as the author of this article maintains, that the unitive and procreative aspects are inseparable. The are obviously separated by natural processes or surgical necessity.

  • theroadmaster

    This is a beautiful exposition on the beauty of sex within marriage and it’s intrinsically unitive and procreative aspects which bind a couple together as “one flesh” while leaving room for the Providence of God in blessing that sacred union with children. Artificial contraception contravenes this God-given moral order on a number of levels which this erudite article explains so comprehensively

  • goldy bedi

    very nice
    I like your blog
    I want more information about this
    Matrimonial

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  • JediWonk

    According to:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/2003/01/flanagan.htm

    celibacy is the new norm in upper-middle-class marriages. My wife/the mother of my children and I have not done “that” for over 11 years, for all the reasons the divine Mrs. Flanagan outlines. Does that make us any less married?

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