Consummation of sacramental marriage

For a sacramental marriage to become indissoluble, it must be physically consummated. What if, as I am sure is, today, often the case, the couple is using some form of artificial birth control on their wedding night? Have they truly completed the act?

I’m not a canon lawyer by any stretch of the imagination, but I’d bet that the fact that the couple entered the marriage with the intention of not having children by using artificial birth control would be a valid reason for an annulment.

I think the question revolves more around the issue of contraception at the time the marriage is consummated, and not a question of a permanent intention to not have children.

I thought sacramental marriage was without bc? Really, Catholics are using bc?
Are all or most Catholics using bc, …if so then what about confessing it all the time,…
will the priest refuse to absolve this after a time, or right away?

It’s confusing…as a P I actually can see clearly the behind the scenes reasoning and info about not using bc. I actually think it is right,…and more than likely coming from God.
A Catholic man explained it to me, the reasoning behind it, just once using this illustration

  • and I really got it, and with conviction too.

He explained it like a tree from the garden of Eden,…the couple are the tree, as in family
tree. The children are the fruit on the branches. Fruit of the womb.

On one side you could see it as very very strict, however,…I don’t think it is this.

It seems more like genius, from our God who is Genius.

On the other side of the question is the couple who may not have a lot of wisdom yet or skill in managing calculating, etc. and may have more children than they can handle.
(However I know Prot. families that are very large, the mother manages and the older children help her with the household duties) 13 children last count, they are committed Christians and do not use bc on purpose.

I think abstaining from sex gives you power and mastery over your physical self, and as believers we are to walk in the ‘Spirit’ and not live just in the natural way of life of people around us, because we are not just natural beings, we have God’s Spirit inside us.

Abstaining I think builds the attitude of controlling the sex drive,…and makes a person stronger,. and also enhances ‘giving’ to the other person, which is loving. You have to learn control and it stretches you, just like physical exercise does,…it hurts while you are doing it, and later you reap the good results.

What if the couple has sex once, then begins living “as brother and sister” for the rest of the time they are married?

No birth control, just no sex and no intention to have children.


Using birth control on the wedding night, while sinful, does not necessarily mean that the couple intends to not have children. In fact, I would imagine that 99.9% of married couples who use birth control DO intend to have children…just not right away.

This was not an assumption that the couple in the original question had no intention to have children, ever.

I’m asking, WHAT IF “a couple” behaved as I described, being married but only having sex one time before deciding to live as brother and sister and they have NO INTENTION of having children?

None of these posts address my question directly. Does the intention to use birth control on the wedding night, while still, in a general sense, being open to life in marriage “down the road”, invalidate the “consummation”. I would think not, even if it is sinful… but would like a clear answer. I imagine a very significant percentage of Catholic couples are in this boat.

Quite right; but, you’re looking at it a bit too fatalistically. Does the use of contraception ‘invalidate’ consummation? Certainly not, at least not in any permanent sense. However, does consummation occur if there is not genital penetration (I don’t need to be more explicit, do I? ;)) and ejaculation of true semen? No.

So, if a couple were to use birth control on their wedding night, they would not have consummated their marriage. (At the first time, however, that they did not use birth control, and therefore, have actually completed the marital act naturally and with ejaculation of semen into the woman, they would have consummated the marriage.)

Does that answer your question?


No it does not.

What about it? I don’t understand your question.

Perhaps we think we’re answering different questions, but it would seem that the correct answer is ‘no’, per canon 1061 §1. If the spouses have utilized contraception on their wedding night, they have not “in a human manner engaged together in a conjugal act in itself apt for the generation of offspring.” :wink:

If the bride, for example, has taken a contraceptive pill, but the groom finishes within her, I would think the conjugal act has still occurred in the “human manner” even if not under ideal circumstances.

Yes, they have. Vaginal intercourse meets this definition.

Is it a valid sacramental marriage?

Yes. It would be presumed valid. Joesphite marriage can be undertaken under spiritual direction.

The couple is capable of intercourse, and abstaining by mutual consent. They both have to be willing to engage in the conjugal act should the other request it.

[quote=twf]If the bride, for example, has taken a contraceptive pill, but the groom finishes within her, I would think the conjugal act has still occurred in the “human manner” even if not under ideal circumstances.

If the bride is on the ‘pill’, the act itself might be “in the human manner,” but, considering that she has chemically altered her reproductive system, that act is not “apt for the generation of offspring.” Therefore, no, an attempt at consummation in the presence of such contraception is not successful, by the very nature of contraception. See Beal, Coriden, and Green (2000), p. 1258, in which it is asserted that, “the choice of these words in this context and in accord with canonical tradition seems to require the interpretation that a conjugal act (or even numerous conjugal acts) performed while practicing some form of artficial birth control does not result in the consummation of marriage” (even though they assert that “1061 §1 should be emended so that the mind of the legislator is expressed clearly in language consonant with the canonical tradition”). To the best of my knowledge, such an emendation has not occurred. Can you point to anything that suggests otherwise?



I think in your example that their marriage is Catholically-valid, so it is consummated,
and they have agreed to live as stated.

A couple who never consummate their marriage, in agreement, are validly married, only they can, either one of them, annul,…later on, …correct?

If your interpretation is correct, wouldn’t we have to assume that the vast majority of Catholic marriages, at least in the West, are in fact invalid, or at least not consummated? While the vast majority of couples are open to life (as in, they do intend and want to have children), it is without a doubt very likely that the majority of even Catholic couples contracept during the early stages of marriage…including on the wedding night.

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