Is it a sin to marry and never sleep with your spouse?

Is it a sin for a woman to marry a man and never have any sexual relations with him?

Yes. In the Catholic Church Sex in a marriage is for love and procreation.

Thanks for your reply. I read that the Catholic Church teaches that Mary remained a virgin her entire life while married to Joseph. I thought that was a sin but I wanted to be sure.

I’m sorry, could you please give some source for this answer? And what you said doesn’t really answer the question–the question was whether it is sinful for spouses to never engage in sexual intercourse, not the purpose of sex in a marriage.

In answer to the OP’s question, it’s really kind of broad–it depends upon why the couple was never having sex.


Hang on. Mary and Joseph’s marriage was before the coming of Christ, therefore not bound by all the rules He instituted. For example, Joseph contemplating divorce, which Christ strictly warned against.

Secondly - Mary was what was called a ‘Temple virgin’. That is, as a young girl she went into service in the Temple, and vowed lifelong virginity. There were such women. However, from a social point of view once they left the Temple they needed to marry a male ‘protector’, as it was considered socially unacceptable for a woman to live in the world while never marrying.

So marriages were arranged between these girls and men who would respect their vows of virginity. It was a marriage of convenience. I believe there is a passage in Leviticus which permits a husband to respect a wife’s vow of virginity and choose not have relations with her.

Nothing wrong with a married couple refraining from sexual relations by mutual consent. (See 1 Corinthians 7:5) Such a marriage would still be valid, though I think the marriage has to be consummated to be considered sacramental.

Wait a minute, the marriage must be consummated to be valid. A husband and wife are required to have sex at least once during their marriage.

From the CCC:

1640 Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God’s fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom.

Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

It is true that they must be capable - if one or other party suffers permanent and incurable inability to consummate the marriage then it is invalid. I don’t think this means that they MUST actually do the deed, though, or merely be able to do so.

Can a marriage be annulled if not consummated? It appears not always, from the Code of Canon Law:

Can. 1085 §1. A person bound by the bond of a prior marriage, even if it was not consummated, invalidly attempts marriage.

Can. 1142 Can. 1142 For a just cause, the Roman Pontiff can dissolve a non-consummated marriage between baptized persons or between a baptized party and a non-baptized party at the request of both parties or of one of them, even if the other party is unwilling.

My emphases - the latter implies that that not every non-consummated marriage can be dissolved.

The marriage is invalid until they do, i.e. it does not exist.

Thanks for your reply. That’s a good explanation. I will have to look into Temple virgins. I’m studying Catholicism and thought that if Mary sinned by remaining a virgin then it would prove that the Immaculate Conception doctrine is wrong.

Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.
1 Corinthians 7:5

I dont’ think so. From the Code of Canon Law:
Canon 1061 §1 A valid marriage between baptised persons is said to be merely ratified, if it is not consummated; ratified and consummated, if the spouses have in a human manner engaged together in a conjugal act in itself apt for the generation of offspring. To this act marriage is by its nature ordered and by it the spouses become one flesh.

Canon 1142 A non-consummated marriage between baptised persons or between a baptised party and an unbaptised party can be dissolved by the Roman Pontiff for a just reason, at the request of both parties or of either party, even if the other is unwilling.

Canon 1085 §1 A person bound by the bond of a previous marriage, even if not consummated, invalidly attempts marriage.

According to the same Code of Canon Law an unconsummated marriage may be declared null and dissolved…

Refusing the marriage duty. In 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, we read, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

The duty of a married couple is to participate in intercourse with one another whenever it is reasonably asked for. To refuse one’s spouse a reasonable request to participate in the act of sexual intercourse is to commit a mortal sin. Both spouses of the marriage have a right to intercourse. Such a right was received on the wedding day.

When a spouse is denied intercourse on an ongoing basis, such can give rise to other sins or severe temptations. Examples of such sins are adultery, masturbation, separation, divorce, anger and/or drunkenness. There are occasions when a spouse can refuse the marriage duty. Examples are when the person asking for intercourse is drunk, in the case of illness, when there is danger to an unborn child or similar valid reasons.

Both partners in a marriage should be considerate of the other one’s sexual needs. It is inappropriate for one spouse to always have to insist on his marital rights.

When one partner denies the other the right to intercourse, that person is no longer open to the procreation of children, such action being contrary to a sacramental marriage as instituted by God.

Then how come someone bound by the prior bond even of an unconsummated marriage cannot validly attempt any other marriage?

There would not even be the slightest possibility of a valid marriage existing in such a case, if we follow your logic, and so the parties would in law be every bit as free to marry as if they had never even gone through a ceremony. :shrug:

You need to be careful. Mary was chosen by God to -]bare/-] bear Jesus. It is not the same situation as us.:wink:

Wait a minute … are you the man, married to a chilly philly, and hoping for a little backup? :smiley:

(Tell her yeah. But whisper it reeeeal soft and seductive) ;):thumbsup:

Nice try. Mary wasn’t a “Catholic” until Jesus died, ascended, sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and there WAS a Church to be Catholic IN! :dancing:

By that time Joseph was gone. So your clever ruse was irrelevant. :stuck_out_tongue: LOL.

On the serious side, back in Jesus’ day some people consecrated their sexuality to the Lord and pledged their virginity (Jesus mentions them too). Mary was one of these.

Back in those days, life being harder, there was still a need to divide the labor up and survive. If Joseph was elderly (as some paint him) or a Nazirite (one of those mentioned), they could still have made a family back then … and what they did or didn’t do would have been their own business. And with baby Jesus along … as looks go … folks thought Joseph was the father.

I think to be a valid marriage in the Catholic Church, it must be consummated with sexual intercourse at least once.

From what I understand too, these men were typically older (and therefore, wiser and more respectful), and also typically widowers.

No doubt, if one spouse entered the marriage with the intention of never consummating it and did not inform their spouse prior to their exchange of vows, there would be grounds to question the validity of the marriage. However, I don’t think that would necessarily be the case if there was full disclosure before the exchange of vows and both agreed to exchange wedding vows anyway.

As mentioned above in Canon 1061, the Church recognizes two types of valid Christian marriages: 1. valid marriages that are merely ratified and not consummated and 2. valid marriages that are both ratified and consummated.

For a just reason, the pope can dispense a Christian couple from their marriage vows and dissolve their valid marriage, if it is merely ratified and not consummated, as the pope can similarly dispense priests and religious from their perpetual vows of celibacy. However, not even the pope can dissolve a valid Christian marriage, if it is both ratified and consummated.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit