Moral Theology


I am a devout Catholic, happily married for 24 years. My husband and I have been active in our parish. We served on the pre-cana team for 12 years presenting the communications talk. During our time on the pre-cana team several couples talked on NFP (Natural Family Planning) and sex and marriage. We have always followed NFP but there is something I am confused about and I don’t feel like I will get an unbiased answer from people I could ask. My husband and I love to be near each other. It has always been that way. We are a very physical couple. The presenters of the “sex” talk said that whatever was OK ( sexually) between the couple was OK with the church. Is that true? I’m not talking about contraceptives in any way but sometimes when we know we will conceive we avoid intercourse but not the act. Most of the time it doesn’t go very far but sometimes it does. I feel like we have to abstain until ovulation has passed but he feels like it is ok to be physical. It is difficult because we are very attracted to each other and I don’t know what is ok and what is not.


To take part in the conjugal act without penetration that can lead to new life is something the church does not support. Kissing and being very close together physically does not mean you must complete the conjugal act every time. That is just being intimate. For all I know, you are just cuddling or were being physically intimate for that short time. That is up to your own prudence on what degree constitutes not being part of the conjugal act. However it is pretty obvious if two people are nude in bed loving each other as this is clearly something reserved for the conjugal act. Another example is stimulating each other as this is clearly something reserved for the conjugal act. What is part of the conjugal act should be up to your prudence.

However, if you are actually taking part in the conjugal act (“going far” according to you) without the penetration for the purpose of being open to life, then this is frowned upon because any conjugal act must complete with the finishing of the man inside the women. This is why mutual masturbation to my knowledge is frowned upon by the church.
However it would be helpful on what you mean by “going far” because there is a big difference between a passionate session of kissing and stimulating each other in bed.

Regardless, hope I helped.


The answer is the moral theology of creative conjugal abstinence. I have my theory, I am trying to modelize it!!!

What is it? The creative abstinence of couple: what is morally permissible of doing between husband and wife, if a couple practices the Natural Family Planning (Physical affection during the N.F.P.) in wanting a carnal affection, or if a couple wants the conjugal physical affection without sex, or if a couple cannot have a complete marital sex in wanting a carnal affection, for a time or all time, in respecting the natural moral order???


The theoretical articulation between the official catholic texts coming from the Holy See, for solving this issue, is not easy.

Which are texts? Their interpretations? The principle of the organic development? The hierarchy of catholic norms? The principle of continuity? The principle of liberty (freedom) in case of objective doubts? The lack of a huge list of bans, per se, like in the old testament? Thehonesty of caresses and co? The intentions? The conjugal charity of physical affection without sex, per se? The definition of conjugal sexual sins?



Well, it’s definitely not true that “whatever is OK between the couple is OK with the church.” For one thing, if ejaculation is going to occur, it should occur intravaginally. That’s what the reproductive system is for, and we need to use it according to its design.

But that’s a minimum. So for instance I have serious doubts that I could sodomize my wife, as long as I finish the act inside her. That seems gravely contrary to basic human dignity and a kind of real moral legalism.

Now I don’t know what you mean “we avoid intercourse but not the act” so I’m not able to give you any real guidance here (and I’m not a moral theologian anyway). My suggestion would be that it is bad to put yourself in a position where you might be tempted to have sex but where having sex is imprudent. So yes, I would see you need to abstain altogether.


Thanks. I guess this is all something we knew already. Sometimes it does end up where we do not stay away from each other and he or I will have an orgasm. We have seven children and I am 47 years old. We will pray about it and pray for strength. I never want to offend our Lord.


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