[quote="sacredcello, post:1, topic:244355"]
Has there ever been an infallible teaching that has defined sex between husband and wife as sinful? I know that many prominent bishops and even popes have spoken of the necessity of keeping the procreative meaning of the marital embrace as its primary objective. Some gave their personal opinion about abstaining during the fertile time as sinful. And, many within the NFP community today would say that avoiding the fertile time of the woman's cycle for a large amount of time, is selfish. Yet, does any of this amount to a "change in Church teaching" on the meaning of the marital act? I don't believe it does, but if, in fact, there was an infallible teaching that early forms of NFP were, in fact, sinful, I would like to know about it. I have seen many quotes from St. Augustine, St. Jerome, etc., but I don't believe these are considered infallible, but are, rather, personal opinion. Also, it may be that these quotes are taken out of context and these saints were addressing couples who were using sex selfishly to avoid children altogether, which would, of course, be a sin against marriage.
I ask this question because some are claiming that because some of the writings of the early Church fathers focused on their belief that sex should be predominantly procreative, and now modern NFP instructors seem to be avoiding the issue by leaving these decisions to the couples, that somehow the Church is inconsistent and perhaps the Church is incapable of even teaching us anything on this matter. Or, at least not infallibly, so then perhaps we should all be able to use our own "conscience" in this matter and just go ahead and use ABC and practice any other manner of unnatural acts, since Church teaching on human sexuality is "fluid" or "in flux". :shrug:
I know this is of concern to you as it was to me when the challenge was first brought up. Therefore I should, with the help of God's grace, ease your concerns. I hope He will help me.
I did quite a bit of surfing on the web about this issue. I have found various articles. Some state that the Church has changed its teaching (usually these people are disenchanted with the Church's teaching on contraception). Others were not so explicit. There are very few articles that address the issue entirely in favor of the Church's infallibility. But looking for a couple days, I think I was able to it the pieces together.
The opinions of many members of the Church seem to change over time, though her official teaching does not. Many instances of this abound. Before the time of Constantine, the Roman Emperor, most Christians were probably pacifist. However, as Christianity became more accepted by the state, questions began to arise whether war was always wrong. Thus begins the just war theory with the Church. Some are for just war, while others are pacifist. The issue of women is also another one. Obviously being influenced by the Greek philosophers, many of the Scholastics and the Fathers thought that women were inferior to men. Of course this attitude has changed over time. It does not amount to any change in teaching. Likewise with Limbo. Then we come to the question of whether a procreative intent is necessary for every sexual act. Influenced greatly by sophism some Church Fathers, most particularly St. Augustine, see the use of the sexual act with a procreative intent is at least a venial sin ( Chapter 16*On Marriage and Concupiscence*). Others like St. Gregory the Great, while encouraging detachment from sexual pleasure in marriage, says that to have sex without a procreative intent ( "incontinently") is not a sin (See Pastoral Rule Book III Chapter 28 Second Paragraph). One thing is certain. The Fathers surely condemned the use of potions or antidotes or others methods to prevent the conception of children. This should be taken with the mind that the Fathers' idea of how a child is made was not very limited. Another thing to mention is that many of the Fathers theological ideas are more pastoral than dogmatic. That is to say that they are more private opinions about what should be done in a particular case than universally binding.
Some say that the Fathers knew of the rhythm method because St. Augustine mentions a kind of periodic abstinence in one of his works. I note that many historians dispute about what it was St. Augustine was talking about, but whatever it was he is the one of the only Fathers (maybe the only one) who mentions it. For this reason, I think it is logical to assume that most of the Fathers did not know about or at least did not consider it an important topic to merit writing. Whatever the Manicheans knew probably died out with them. No one (or almost no one, I'm afraid of absolutes) mentions it again.
There is more I need to add so I will continue with another post later.