Physical intimacy a sin if


If a married couple cannot engage in intercourse because one spouse has a chronic/permanent medical condition that prevents them from specifically doing so, is it still a sin for the married couple to engage in foreplay (or is such a couple to have zero physical intimacy)?


I know this is probably not what most people want to hear, but I do not believe that intentionally engaging in foreplay without progressing to intercourse is morally licit. The actions that substitute for the marital act would not fulfill the unitive and procreative requirements of completed intercourse. I think this may be a case of mutual masturbation, right? Sexual pleasure without intercourse?

I may be wrong, as I’m sure many solid Catholics will weigh in on this issue, but this is my understanding of Church teaching. Sorry. :hug1:

That being said, there are lots of other ways of achieving intimacy in marriage, sex is just one of those ways.


I was told by a trustworthy priest that foreplay that brings you to climax is wrong because the only place you can do that is the normal way. So if you get yourself to that point and can’t… well…

But if you can show affection that doesn’t lead that far… that’s between the couple.


Thanks :hug1:. I just wanted to ask because I find the issue of this special circumstance interesting. It’s something that I had been wondering about… about the married couples who for health reasons simply cannot have intercourse, but yet are still married and still have a desire share physical intimacy (foreplay at best/most). I admit I feel sorry for such a couple, who are required to have actual intercourse (if they begin to engage in sexual acts), or absolutely nothing at all. It must be very hard and abnormal for a married couple not to be physically intimate at all, but of course, what can they do? Or there’s also the issue of having to induce org-sm (for the female) for medical reasons (but without intercourse). Such special circumstances which would need care and compassion remind me of what Jesus said: “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 14:1-5). I suppose I’m just curious if, when foreplay is the best/most a couple can do and a medical reason prohibits actual intercourse, if in their unfortunate circumstance, their acts of physical intimacy would still be a sin for them…


Sins are sins for everyone, none of us are “exempt” from the moral standards of the Church because we have a tough situation. We all have our crosses, and yes, this would be a particularly difficult cross to bear. But suffering unites us with Christ, so it’s not all bad! :wink:


Part of the key to understanding this issue is to understand that the marital act is a mutual self donation. The dilemma is that a sexual act that is not mutual eventually leads to marital discord. It might sound like a good idea at the time to sexually please one spouse but it doesn’t work in the long run. If one is in charge, so to speak, the situation quickly becomes one of dominance.

I am not sure which medical issue you are referring to here of the medical need for inducing orgasm. I have never heard of one. There are a lot of “medicos” out there who claim that sex or “cleaning the pipes” is necessary. It isn’t. Celibate people live long and healthy lives without ever having sex.

What you are encountering here is situational ethics, commonly known as relativism. It says that different rules apply to different people. They don’t. In a marriage, if one spouse is incapable of engaging in sexual intercourse then the couple is incapable of engaging in sexual relations. Physical intimacy is fine. Sexual intimacy is not the only form available. For some sad reason our relativistic society has decided that sex is the be-all-end-all in life. What a disservice this attitude does to the actual marriage vows. “In sickness or in health” used to mean something.

Edit to add: You are right in praying for them and feeling bad for them. Though we are to pray for them for a healing of the disease that causes the lack of sexual intimacy. Your sympathy is very good. Encourage them to make up for the missing sexual intimacy in other physical and emotional ways.


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