Abstinence in marriage?


#1

Why is a sexless marriage invalid?
Why is abstinence via the religious life considered the higher calling over marriage, to paraphase St. Paul, yet to remain abstinent within marriage is wrong? If both partners mutually and fully knowledgeably agree to joyfully forego their marital privilege, why is this wrong? If sex is a gift to marriage, and marriage bestows on the couple the right to partake of that gift, Isn't it also their right to Not have sex if they choose to not? What kind of gift is it if you're forced to use it whether you want to or not?

Please tell me I'm misunderstanding something, because I don't understand how it is wrong to be abstinent within marriage if it is right and good to be abstinent without it. It seems to me like requiring sex to validate a marriage is as objectifying of the couple as sex outside of marriage (which is often contraceptive, and rooted in lust rather than genuine Christian love) is, just in opposite directions. Isn't marriage supposed to be about more than sex?

Thanks for any enlightenment someone can shed on this for me!
-- Lotus


#2

I think you have to be more specific. Are you talking about a couple who is in a consummated marriage that is now celibate or a couple contemplating entering marriage with no intentions of having marital relations? Is there a underlying reason for abstinence (such a grave medical condition)?


#3

[quote="lotus1922, post:1, topic:215064"]
Why is a sexless marriage invalid?

[/quote]

On what do you base this statement?

Abstinence does not render a marriage invalid nor does lack of consummation. A marriage that is not consummated is perfectly valid. Its permanent character is achieved through consummations so until consummated it can be *dissolved *by the Pope.

[quote="lotus1922, post:1, topic:215064"]
Why is abstinence via the religious life considered the higher calling over marriage, to paraphase St. Paul, yet to remain abstinent within marriage is wrong?

[/quote]

The exclusive and permanent nature of marriage includes the exchange of persons and the exchange of the right to marital intercourse.

[quote="lotus1922, post:1, topic:215064"]
If both partners mutually and fully knowledgeably agree to joyfully forego their marital privilege, why is this wrong?

[/quote]

It is not wrong, nor does the Church teach that it is. A couple is free to abstain if they do so by mutual consent.

However, if either spouse desires to cease living in this state, and wants to engage in relations, the other spouse is **obligated **to do so.

[quote="lotus1922, post:1, topic:215064"]
If sex is a gift to marriage, and marriage bestows on the couple the right to partake of that gift, Isn't it also their right to Not have sex if they choose to not?

[/quote]

By mutual agreement, certainly.

[quote="lotus1922, post:1, topic:215064"]
What kind of gift is it if you're forced to use it whether you want to or not?

[/quote]

You are quite confused. This is not Church teaching.

[quote="lotus1922, post:1, topic:215064"]
tell me I'm misunderstanding something, because I don't understand how it is wrong to be abstinent within marriage if it is right and good to be abstinent without it.

[/quote]

Being abstinent outside of marriage is required because the proper use of our sexual faculties is **within **marriage.

Marriage is **ordered **to the conjugal act. That's its purpose and the proper place to use one's sexual faculties. It is rare that a couple would not want to engage in relations.

If one does not **want **to engage in the marital act, ever, one might consider that one is not **called **to marriage.

[quote="lotus1922, post:1, topic:215064"]
It seems to me like requiring sex to validate a marriage is as objectifying of the couple as sex outside of marriage (which is often contraceptive, and rooted in lust rather than genuine Christian love) is, just in opposite directions. Isn't marriage supposed to be about more than sex?

[/quote]

I think you are confused about the nature of marriage.

The purpose **of marriage is the unity of spouses through conjugal relations and the procreation of children, also through relations. A couple can abstain by **mutual agreement, however all people entering into marriage must understand that they are exchanging the **right **to marital intercourse and must be willing and able to engage in intercourse if their spouse desires to do so (and I don't know many spouses who want to enter into marriage without sexual expression of their love).

A marriage lived in conjugal chastity is possible, but it is rare *and must be undertaken with *spiritual direction.


#4

[quote="1ke, post:3, topic:215064"]
On what do you base this statement?

[/quote]

I base it on my understanding (for which I seek correction, if that is the case) that sexual relations is what "ratifies" the marriage covenant. If it's not wrong for a married couple to mutually agree to be abstinent, then why does their abstinent marriage not achieve the "permanent character" you speak of?

However, if either spouse desires to cease living in this state, and wants to engage in relations, the other spouse is **obligated **to do so.

That seems wrong on a purely human level, let alone a level of spiritual love and concern for one another . . . how can one be obligated to perform such a sacred and infinitely meaningful, not to mention spiritually involving act, against one's wish to do so?

What of the case of a spouse who has no inclination to opposite-sex attraction? Such a person that desires to live a chaste life and have a happy, wholesome, holy family life with spousal companionship and, if they feel called to parenthood, children via adoption, but owing to their lack of sexual interest in the opposite gender, cannot bring themselves to enter into the marital embrace with their spouse? Do you really mean to tell me that that person is obligated to render the marriage debt to their spouse when it would cause them utter psychological/ physical duress to do such a thing?

What of the case of a spouse for whom the "mechanics", if you will, of the marital act are not merely not pleasureable, but even uncomfortable?

What kind of gift is it if you're forced to use it whether you want to or not?

You are quite confused. This is not Church teaching.

You just told me above that a spouse is obligated to perform the marriage duty if the other spouse ceases to agree living in the abstinent agreement. So if sex is a gift to marriage, yet the one spouse has no biological desire to engage in the act, then that spouse is effectively being forced to partake of the marital gift because the other spouse requested it.
I'm not talking about being "in the mood" or not, as simple feelings and emotions are extremely variable and transient; I'm talking about just flat-out not seeing sex as necessary for living a valid, committed, marriage vocation with another human being in the service of God for the world. If not having a desire to perform the marriage act with one's spouse is reason to consider that one is not called to marriage (which I don't, on the face of it, disagree with; I believe it is a factor to consider in such), that seems to me to implicitly say that marriage requires sex; and for marriage to require sex seems to cheapen it and make it more like some kind of business agreement than a sacramental vocation based on LOVE (which in its highest and most spiritual form, supercedes sex--- one can't copulate with angels).


#5

[quote="whm, post:2, topic:215064"]
I think you have to be more specific. Are you talking about a couple who is in a consummated marriage that is now celibate or a couple contemplating entering marriage with no intentions of having marital relations? Is there a underlying reason for abstinence (such a grave medical condition)?

[/quote]

I am talking about a couple that has never consummated their marriage, and does not intend to do so at least for the foreseeable future. As for underlying reasons, I detailed a couple scenarios in my other reply to 1k3 in this thread. I just wanted to clarify your first question so as not to preclude you from any insight you may be able to share:)


#6

[quote="lotus1922, post:5, topic:215064"]
I am talking about a couple that has never consummated their marriage, and does not intend to do so at least for the foreseeable future. As for underlying reasons, I detailed a couple scenarios in my other reply to 1k3 in this thread. I just wanted to clarify your first question so as not to preclude you from any insight you may be able to share:)

[/quote]

A marriage like that cannot be sacramental. The scenario that you outlined in your previous post seems odd. Perhaps a person in that kind of situation doesn't have the vocation to marriage. Canonically a marriage that you speak of can't be sacramental. The consummation of the marriage makes it indissoluble. As for as believing that it would be wrong to yield to the spouse who wants sex, you have to remember that in marriage, the two are one flesh. The wife is the husband's and the husband is the wife's. It would be very, very cruel to deny the spouse relations if they want it. It seems to me that a person in this type of scenario who doesn't like sex, etc might need to see a priest or a counselor. There might be some psychological reasons why they wouldn't want sex.


#7

[quote="rapunzel77, post:6, topic:215064"]
A marriage like that cannot be sacramental. The scenario that you outlined in your previous post seems odd. Perhaps a person in that kind of situation doesn't have the vocation to marriage. Canonically a marriage that you speak of can't be sacramental. The consummation of the marriage makes it indissoluble. As for as believing that it would be wrong to yield to the spouse who wants sex, you have to remember that in marriage, the two are one flesh. The wife is the husband's and the husband is the wife's. It would be very, very cruel to deny the spouse relations if they want it. It seems to me that a person in this type of scenario who doesn't like sex, etc might need to see a priest or a counselor. There might be some psychological reasons why they wouldn't want sex.

[/quote]

I don't buy that there don't exist any marriages involving one of the spouses being, for example, a reformed homosexual that no longer lives a sinful lifestyle, and is permanently committed to living out a christian/ Catholic marriage vocation with the spouse they have taken, despite not being sexually attracted to them. I'm sure that over time such a disposition could be changed with mutual cooperation between the spouses, but I'm also sure that this must take time, and that in the early phase it must be very difficult for both parties--- the one to acquiesce to performing an act they're not inclined to, and the other to be denied, or feel that their spouse is agreeing to their request just to please them even though their "heart" is not in it.

I agree it's cruel to deny one's spouse their legitimate need/ desire, but isn't it just as cruel to expect your spouse to endure pain and discomfort (note, this is a separate scenario from the first; I'm talking here now strictly about absolute physical pain) so that your desire can be met?


#8

Of course it can be. It would be valid and any valid marriage of two baptized individuals is sacramental. It would not be indissoluble.


#9

[quote="lotus1922, post:7, topic:215064"]
I don't buy that there don't exist any marriages involving one of the spouses being, for example, a reformed homosexual that no longer lives a sinful lifestyle, and is permanently committed to living out a christian/ Catholic marriage vocation with the spouse they have taken, despite not being sexually attracted to them. I'm sure that over time such a disposition could be changed with mutual cooperation between the spouses, but I'm also sure that this must take time, and that in the early phase it must be very difficult for both parties--- the one to acquiesce to performing an act they're not inclined to, and the other to be denied, or feel that their spouse is agreeing to their request just to please them even though their "heart" is not in it.

I agree it's cruel to deny one's spouse their legitimate need/ desire, but isn't it just as cruel to expect your spouse to endure pain and discomfort (note, this is a separate scenario from the first; I'm talking here now strictly about absolute physical pain) so that your desire can be met?

[/quote]

Why would the person above ever consider getting married and imposing this on his/her spouse? That seems like the utmost in selfishness and love is not supposed to be selfish.


#10

[quote="Phemie, post:9, topic:215064"]
Why would the person above ever consider getting married and imposing this on his/her spouse? That seems like the utmost in selfishness and love is not supposed to be selfish.

[/quote]

Because maybe marriage and love are about more than sex? And if both parties agree from the get-go that they don't need sex to live out and express their love and commitment to one another, how is that selfish?
I'm not saying there's anything wrong with sex within the confines of marriage, quite the contrary, but I fail to understand:

1) why sex must be necessary between a husband and wife that have committed themselves for life to one another and to God in order to witness to His presence in the world, and mutually agree that sexual relations are not so essential to them as to render their Godly commitment and witness without value or usefulness;

2) If sex is a "gift", why do spouses not have the right to choose to not exercise their use of that gift? A gift is not a gift if the receiver is obligated to take it. If I'm offered a drink at a cocktail party and I don't wish to have a drink, I am not obligated to say yes and accept it, correct? But if my spouse, knowing my feelings and/or need for marital abstinence, offers me his marital gift, I'm obligated to perform in accordance whether I wish to or not? That hardly seems holy. How can a loving God command someone to perform the marriage act with their spouse, in the name of selfless Christian love, if the act is inherently painful, unappealing, or uncomfortable to them?


#11

[quote="lotus1922, post:4, topic:215064"]
I base it on my understanding (for which I seek correction, if that is the case) that sexual relations is what "ratifies" the marriage covenant. If it's not wrong for a married couple to mutually agree to be abstinent, then why does their abstinent marriage not achieve the "permanent character" you speak of?

[/quote]

God ordained marriage to procreation and the marital embrace. The permanent character is the one flesh union of husband and wife:

Can. 1061 §1. A valid marriage between the baptized is called ratum tantum if it has not been consummated; it is called ratum et consummatum if the spouses have performed between themselves in a human fashion a conjugal act which is suitable in itself for the procreation of offspring, to which marriage is ordered by its nature and by which the spouses become one flesh.

[quote="lotus1922, post:4, topic:215064"]
That seems wrong on a purely human level, let alone a level of spiritual love and concern for one another . . . how can one be obligated to perform such a sacred and infinitely meaningful, not to mention spiritually involving act, against one's wish to do so?

[/quote]

Marriage is voluntary. A person who enters into marriage gives their whole self to the other. That is the exchange of consent they make in their vows. A person who is not willing or able to do so would have impediments to valid marriage.

1 Corinthians 7:3-5: 3
The husband should fulfill his duty toward his wife, and likewise the wife toward her husband. A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife.

Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another, so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control.

[quote="lotus1922, post:4, topic:215064"]
What of the case of a spouse who has no inclination to opposite-sex attraction?

[/quote]

Such a person would not be a candidate for marriage.

[quote="lotus1922, post:4, topic:215064"]
Such a person that desires to live a chaste life and have a happy, wholesome, holy family life with spousal companionship and, if they feel called to parenthood, children via adoption, but owing to their lack of sexual interest in the opposite gender, cannot bring themselves to enter into the marital embrace with their spouse?

[/quote]

Such a person is not a candidate for marriage, nor is what you describe a marriage.

[quote="lotus1922, post:4, topic:215064"]
Do you really mean to tell me that that person is obligated to render the marriage debt to their spouse when it would cause them utter psychological/ physical duress to do such a thing?

[/quote]

Such a person is not a candidate for marriage and already has more than enough psychological problems to deal with. This person would be called to chaste single life.

[quote="lotus1922, post:4, topic:215064"]
What of the case of a spouse for whom the "mechanics", if you will, of the marital act are not merely not pleasureable, but even uncomfortable?

[/quote]

A person must be capable of having intercourse to enter into marriage. If a person becomes incapacitated, then that is a burden the couple shares for as long as it may be necessary.

[quote="lotus1922, post:4, topic:215064"]
You just told me above that a spouse is obligated to perform the marriage duty if the other spouse ceases to agree living in the abstinent agreement. So if sex is a gift to marriage, yet the one spouse has no biological desire to engage in the act, then that spouse is effectively being forced to partake of the marital gift because the other spouse requested it.

[/quote]

Such a person would not be a candidate for marriage.

[quote="lotus1922, post:4, topic:215064"]
... If not having a desire to perform the marriage act with one's spouse is reason to consider that one is not called to marriage (...that seems to me to implicitly say that marriage requires sex ...

[/quote]

Yes, marriage requires the free exchange of consent and that consent includes the right to intercourse.

A person who cannot form such consent or intent is not a candidate for marriage.

From Casti Connubii:

  1. The second blessing of matrimony which We said was mentioned by St. Augustine, is the blessing of conjugal honor which consists in the mutual fidelity of the spouses in fulfilling the marriage contract, so that what belongs to one of the parties by reason of this contract sanctioned by divine law, may not be denied to him or permitted to any third person; nor may there be conceded to one of the parties anything which, being contrary to the rights and laws of God and entirely opposed to matrimonial faith, can never be conceded.

  2. Nay, that mutual familiar intercourse between the spouses themselves, if the blessing of conjugal faith is to shine with becoming splendor, must be distinguished by chastity so that husband and wife bear themselves in all things with the law of God and of nature, and endeavor always to follow the will of their most wise and holy Creator with the greatest reverence toward the work of God.

  3. This mutual molding of husband and wife, this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony be looked at not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception and education of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole and the mutual interchange and sharing thereof.

  4. By this same love it is necessary that all the other rights and duties of the marriage state be regulated as the words of the Apostle: "Let the husband render the debt to the wife, and the wife also in like manner to the husband," express not only a law of justice but of charity.


#12

The people at the following website have had great success working with people with SSA. Many of their clients end up with healthy attractions to members of the opposite sex. I think your friend should give this a try. If they are not in your area, they can refer to someone closer.

I myself have a friend who was actively and militantly gay and now is married to a woman (he is a man) and has a wonderful family. It can happen, the people at NARTH have the experience to help people who want to exchange SSA with OSA, it is worth a phone call.

narth.com/

The head of NARTH has also been of Catholic Answers radio show.

catholic.com/radio/event.php?event=5400&full=true&date=2008-11-03


#13

I’m not sure about this though. Canonically, the scenario that the OP mentions would probably be an impediment to marriage. Perhaps that is what I was getting it mixed up with. There was an issue with my marriage canonically because my husband has a medical condition that makes relations very, very difficult. He was declared impotent based on that even though medically he is not. We had to go through a rigmarole just to get married. The Church takes things like this very seriously. Granted, marriage is more than just sex but it is an important part of marriage. A marital relationship isn’t the same as a brother/sister relationship or a friendship. It is very intimate. I find it odd that someone would go into marriage with no physical attraction to their perspective spouse nor the desire to want to be one with their spouse as well as the desire to conceive children.


#14

All very good thoughts/ info, everyone! Thanks for all of your input! If anyone else would like to jump in with their .02, please do.


#15

[quote="lotus1922, post:1, topic:215064"]
Why is a sexless marriage invalid?
Why is abstinence via the religious life considered the higher calling over marriage, to paraphase St. Paul, yet to remain abstinent within marriage is wrong? If both partners mutually and fully knowledgeably agree to joyfully forego their marital privilege, why is this wrong? If sex is a gift to marriage, and marriage bestows on the couple the right to partake of that gift, Isn't it also their right to Not have sex if they choose to not? What kind of gift is it if you're forced to use it whether you want to or not?

Please tell me I'm misunderstanding something, because I don't understand how it is wrong to be abstinent within marriage if it is right and good to be abstinent without it. It seems to me like requiring sex to validate a marriage is as objectifying of the couple as sex outside of marriage (which is often contraceptive, and rooted in lust rather than genuine Christian love) is, just in opposite directions. Isn't marriage supposed to be about more than sex?

Thanks for any enlightenment someone can shed on this for me!
-- Lotus

[/quote]

I would think SOME abstinence is fine as a natural form of birth control as it teaches you discipline. However, there are some of us who have husbands who are impotent due to illness so as a married wife you have to maintain abstinence, and I hope that if a wife is seriously ill a husband also does this.

Marriage though as Jesus said was to cleave to each other so you are one, so if the sexual act isn't performed at all and there are no medical reasons for this I think there may be a problem.


#16

[quote="rapunzel77, post:13, topic:215064"]
I'm not sure about this though. Canonically, the scenario that the OP mentions would probably be an impediment to marriage. Perhaps that is what I was getting it mixed up with. There was an issue with my marriage canonically because my husband has a medical condition that makes relations very, very difficult. He was declared impotent based on that even though medically he is not. We had to go through a rigmarole just to get married. The Church takes things like this very seriously. Granted, marriage is more than just sex but it is an important part of marriage. A marital relationship isn't the same as a brother/sister relationship or a friendship. It is very intimate. I find it odd that someone would go into marriage with no physical attraction to their perspective spouse nor the desire to want to be one with their spouse as well as the desire to conceive children.

[/quote]

True, permanent impotence is an impediment to marriage. During the pre-nup investigation you are asked point blank if you can have sex -- in our diocese it's worded "Do you have the physical capacity for conjugal relations?" If you responded 'No" they would inquire further about whether this was a temporary or permanent condition and if permanent then they would probably not allow the marriage.

But a couple can opt for a Josephite marriage, one where the marriage is never consummated, not due to any physical or psychological condition but out of sacrifice and love of God.

I couldn't envisage either the Josephite marriage or a marriage to someone I never wanted to have sex with or one who felt that way about me.


#17

[quote="Phemie, post:16, topic:215064"]
True, permanent impotence is an impediment to marriage. During the pre-nup investigation you are asked point blank if you can have sex -- in our diocese it's worded "Do you have the physical capacity for conjugal relations?" If you responded 'No" they would inquire further about whether this was a temporary or permanent condition and if permanent then they would probably not allow the marriage.

But a couple can opt for a Josephite marriage, one where the marriage is never consummated, not due to any physical or psychological condition but out of sacrifice and love of God.

I couldn't envisage either the Josephite marriage or a marriage to someone I never wanted to have sex with or one who felt that way about me.

[/quote]

this is true. Fortunately, it is a temporary condition and God has blessed us in spite of the problem. We have tried to get pregnant but nothing has happened with that yet. Both of us would not want to be in a Josephite marriage. The only thing that is preventing my husband's condition from being fixed is our health insurance company :(.


#18

[quote="rapunzel77, post:17, topic:215064"]
this is true. Fortunately, it is a temporary condition and God has blessed us in spite of the problem. We have tried to get pregnant but nothing has happened with that yet. Both of us would not want to be in a Josephite marriage. The only thing that is preventing my husband's condition from being fixed is our health insurance company :(.

[/quote]

I feel for you and I hope that you find the help required to change your situation. You're in my prayers.


#19

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