Sex and marriage question


#1

Hello! I am new to posting on these forums, but greatly enjoy reading them and learning about Catholic theology, though there is still so, so very much I don’t know about it.

There is something I have been wondering about lately; it may sound quite silly, but it is an honest question that I would sincerely like an answer to. I apologize if this is not the right forum to post this question under; I just was not sure where to post this.

I am under the impression that if a Catholic couple has no intention of having children, they are discouraged from getting married. Secondly, I think I remember reading that though it is fine to enjoy the pleasure of sex within marriage, it is a sin to take any measures that would prevent the possibility of a child being conceived in that act.

I am wondering . . . if a Catholic couple knows before getting married that they will be infertile (say, for instance, a woman previously had to get a hysterectomy due to something like endometrioses or ovarian cancer), is it wrong for them to get married and have sex?

Also, so many people these days need to take prescription medication daily for their health. A lot of these medications cause birth defects to unborn babies. If the man, woman, or both members in a Catholic marriage are taking long-term prescription medications that will be very harmful to an unborn baby if conceived, is it still wrong for this couple to use birth control? Are they then required to abstain completely from sex as long as they are taking the medication?

These may sound like silly questions, but I am sincerely wondering. Although I have greatly enjoyed the extremely limited study of Catholicism I have, I am still obviously very naive about many aspects of Catholic theology! I sincerely would be very appreciative of any answers/insight anyone can provide. Thank you so very much in advance for any responses!


#2

In order to be validly married in the Catholic church you must be open to children. As long as you can consummate the act it doesn't matter whether you are fertile or not -just that you are open to life and willing accept children not matter how minute the chances of that being biologically possible. And artificial birth control methods are not allowed regardless of circumstance. Natural Family Planning (this does not mean the unreliable calender method) is allowed.

I have used NFP for 13 years now to avoid pregnancy because of a severe heart condition I have (we have one child who is 14), during part of that time I was on medication that is detrimental to a developing baby. Obviously I learned NFP well and we followed the rules of NFP carefully. Couples with less reasons to avoid may stretch the rules sometimes, we obviously can not be one of those couples.


#3

There is a difference between a permanent intention against children (which is an impediment to a valid marriage) and infertility (which is not). The permanent intention against children means they cannot honestly give the consent and form the intent needed for valid wedding vows. They would be lieing when they promised to accept children lovingly from God. One of the three elements (intent) needed for a valid marriage is fidelity, permanance, and fecundy (children). Someone who is infertile can still have valid intent. It is their physical defect or condition which prevents conception, not an act of their will that does so.

Regarding contraception-- yes, this is gravely immoral and always wrong. If a couple has a serious reason to avoid/space children for a time or indefinitely, they can use abstinence.

If there is a very serious reason (i.e. life threatening), then yes total abstinence is the most prudent choice in the situation. However, for most people who have a serious reason to postpone/avoid pregnancy periodically abstaining through the use of natural family planning is sufficient and even those with very serious reasons can use conservative NFP rules (post ovulatory intercourse) to avoid pregnancy.

If one or both spouses is using a medication known to cause birth defects, of course the prudent thing to do is abstain completely until they are off the medication. Depending upon the situation, perhaps post ovulatory intercourse using conservative NFP. Contraception is always gravely wrong.


#4

Hope this helped! :slight_smile:

EDIT: 1ke explained it much more thoroughly then me. I’d listen to her :slight_smile:


#5

[quote="1ke, post:3, topic:178198"]

If one or both spouses is using a medication known to cause birth defects, of course the prudent thing to do is abstain completely until they are off the medication. .

[/quote]

And if the medication is for life? Does that mean a Josephite marriage?


#6

Thank you all so, so much for the responses!! All of your responses are extremely helpful and informative, exactly what I needed to know, and I greatly appreciate them. Thank you! :)


#7

[quote="nocode87, post:6, topic:178198"]
Thank you all so, so much for the responses!! All of your responses are extremely helpful and informative, exactly what I needed to know, and I greatly appreciate them. Thank you! :)

[/quote]

Thanks posting this question on the forum. God bless you


#8

[quote="nocode87, post:1, topic:178198"]

I am wondering . . . if a Catholic couple knows before getting married that they will be infertile (say, for instance, a woman previously had to get a hysterectomy due to something like endometrioses or ovarian cancer), is it wrong for them to get married and have sex?

[/quote]

Absolutely nothing wrong with this. (Similarly a post menopausal woman can marry even though she knows she'll never have children.)

Also, so many people these days need to take prescription medication daily for their health. A lot of these medications cause birth defects to unborn babies. If the man, woman, or both members in a Catholic marriage are taking long-term prescription medications that will be very harmful to an unborn baby if conceived, is it still wrong for this couple to use birth control? Are they then required to abstain completely from sex as long as they are taking the medication?

Catholics are permitted to use various methods of NFP to prevent pregnancy, artificial birth control is only allowed if there is a medical reason for taking it beyond preventing pregnancy (various women have issues with painful periods and such, and in such cases it is allowed to take the pill as medicine).

As for a couple who intends to never have children, it depends on the reason. If the couple is strong, healthy, financially able to raise children then intending to never have children would probably be an impediment to marriage.

But if there is a legitimate reason for a couple to intend to never have children (like poverty, mental or physical illness, needing to take medications that cause birth defects) then they could marry and use NFP to avoid pregnancy.


#9

Possibly. They might need to abstain until menopause if the situation is that serious.


#10

[quote="1ke, post:9, topic:178198"]
Possibly. They might need to abstain until menopause if the situation is that serious.

[/quote]

1ke, I can't go for that........ send me to hell. These matters are more complex than black and white and I do believe there is such a thing as pastoral considerations.

Josephite marriage is a calling, not a requirement and should be discerned very carefully in spiritual direction not acted on just because one doesn't want to break the rules. Rules are made for man not man for the rules, something like that anyway. At least I thought Jesus said that........ Sex is unitive on more than a genital level; it sets the marital bond apart from "friends" or "brother-sister," the latter term often used in Josephite (continent) marriages. Having a brother-sister relationship has great consequences for the couple and can harm a marriage as well as elevate it, depending on the individuals involved. And I don't think we can measure people by the ruler of rules and judge them unfaithful if they don't adhere to the letter. I think each couple in this kind of situation needs serious spiritual direction and discernment and make their own decision accordingly.

But, it is getting late........ so I may not know what I am talking about.
For what its worth..... and probably not much from what I can see of these posts.


#11

[quote="Bailey2, post:10, topic:178198"]
1ke, I can't go for that........ send me to hell.

[/quote]

That's your choice. Always has been, always will be.

[quote="Bailey2, post:10, topic:178198"]
These matters are more complex than black and white

[/quote]

No, they really aren't.

[quote="Bailey2, post:10, topic:178198"]
and I do believe there is such a thing as pastoral considerations.

[/quote]

No. There isn't.

Contraception is intrinsically evil which means it is evil in and of itself. There's not such thing as "pastoral consideration" that can make it anything other than a mortal sin and gravely evil. There is no "permission" there is no "pastoral counsel" there is no "dispensation" that can make it otherwise.

[quote="Bailey2, post:10, topic:178198"]
Josephite marriage is a calling, not a requirement and should be discerned very carefully in spiritual direction

[/quote]

This is true for an unmarried coule discerning whether or not to pursue a Josephite marriage. And, each must be willing to render the marriage debt if the other decides to end the Josephite aspect of their marriage.

An unmarried person with such a serious medical situation that they would not be able to render the marriage debt if asked is not a candidate for marriage.

An already entered into marriage that has a situation occur when one is unable to engage in sexual intimacy for a prolonged period of time is a call for sacrifice by the other.

[quote="Bailey2, post:10, topic:178198"]

not acted on just because one doesn't want to break the rules. Rules are made for man not man for the rules, something like that anyway.

[/quote]

This is where you are confused. Contraception's moral status isn't a rule. It is a fact, a Law of God. Gravity isn't a "rule" in the physical world and contraceptions evil nature isn't a rule in the spiritual world. It's a spiritual reality. It actually kills your soul when you engage in it, just as jumping off a cliff actually kills your body. You are not defying gravity, you are demonstrating it. Same with contraception on a spirutual plane.

[quote="Bailey2, post:10, topic:178198"]
Sex is unitive on more than a genital level; it sets the marital bond apart from "friends" or "brother-sister," the latter term often used in Josephite (continent) marriages. Having a brother-sister relationship has great consequences for the couple and can harm a marriage as well as elevate it, depending on the individuals involved. And I don't think we can measure people by the ruler of rules and judge them unfaithful if they don't adhere to the letter. I think each couple in this kind of situation needs serious spiritual direction and discernment and make their own decision accordingly.

[/quote]

If a person is so ill that sexual intimacy would kill them or create a child with life threatening illness/deformity then the only moral thing to do is forego intercourse. Yes, it is a sacrifice but one a spouse who loves the other would gladly give.

It is the only moral thing that a couple can do. God will give them the grace and strength to do it.


#12

While it is ALWAYS wrong to use contraception, a married couple can continue to have marital relations while taking medication which could possibly be harmful to a possible new life.

Here’s a link to a pro-life doctor’s comment who posts on EWTN

ewtn.com/vexperts/showresult.asp?RecNum=569397&Forums=10&Experts=10&Days=2009&Author=&Keyword=medication&pgnu=1&groupnum=0&record_bookmark=19&ORDER_BY_TXT=ORDER+BY+ReplyDate+DESC&start_at=


#13

Yes, double effect **could **apply **if **all criteria are met. But, be careful giving this example as a universal.

First, the woman does not state the severity of the medication’s impact on a growing baby. Notice the doctor says “most medications” carry such a warning. That leads me to believe he is assuming that in this particular situation the medication could just be “stopped” after pregnancy is discovered without ill effect. Perhaps that is the case with certain drugs while others will have done their damage already. For double effect all four criteria must be met. And, I can see where severe deformity or death might not be considered a proportionate outcome. I personally wouldn’t consider it proportionate.

You are technically correct that complete abstinence is not the only choice. The couple can, of course, choose to ignore the medical advice and can use NFP or can have intercourse whenever they choose. However, in the case where the couple **absolutely **does NOT want to risk the life of the woman or the life of a potential child, then complete abstinence is the only moral choice. That was more the angle I was talking about.

I think it imprudent to say double effect would definitely apply in a hypothetical situation.


#14

Gee 1ke thanks for explaining all that.
I don’t know what to say…
Makes me wonder if you have a degree in canon law or something.

In any case, I am glad I am an old woman and don’t have to worry about things like this anymore. I am glad we have raised our sons to be gentle and merciful men who leave the judging to God. And I am also glad I can ascent to teaching without forcing that teaching, with every dot and period, onto every situation, and every individual.

If you are convinced now that I am on the path to hell for lack of the letter of the law, pray for me.


#15

Look, I wish to sum it up:

  1. I am infertile - before I was Catholic I had a ligation due to medications. I have confessed this sin and believe I am forgiven.

  2. I was married after conversion.

  3. We both have Faith that God will do His will not ours. In other words even though my meds are harmful to a child if pregnant and he has a genetic condition which is terminal we believe that God will not give us what he does not want us to have.

  4. Therefore we can either practice or not practice NFP but we do not use contraception and we do not have a Josephite marriage. I believe if God did decide to bless us He would because He can do anything.


#16

I agree with you. I am glad you are doing what you are doing and I wish all Catholics could do it

But I have seen women for whom couldn’t use NFP even with all the latest techniques. I have seen women whose children have been harmed and taken from them for not using a more permanent means of birth control because it was against their religion (not necessarily Catholic). I have seen women not practice NFP because their husbands won’t and then they feel badly because of the absolute nature of how it is presented by those who can practice it and have supportive husbands. I think that when one takes such a hard and cold stance, the end result is judgment for the women of whom I speak, even those who are “forgiven” because they married “sinful” men. How can one be in union with such a husband when in the back of their minds, they think he is “sinful” on such an intimate level. The black and white nature of the discussions here leave the silent ones here and the ones who don’t sign up likely to think that they are judged weaker in faith or have no faith at all because God would have found a way… they apparently weren’t listening right or trusting enough.

Or they get angry over the same. I think that is indirect judgment by those who can practice NFP, even sometimes thinking they are better because of it (not you personally mind you). I think that is one reason why people leave our church. I get the feeling sometimes that this is what many want on this forum… and I think that is wrong. To take such an absolute stance and assume if it is not adhered to, one is not up there faithful with the minority rest.
I am old. But according to many of you, I am the problem. Ignorant Vatican II liberals. Perhaps we older people, who of course know nothing of real Catholicism, have seen much suffering. And feel that mercy and not the letter of the law is the way to go. Granted, blatant rejection of NFP, which actually is only a means to space children not choose not to have them-- for selfish reasons is wrong. But I have seen more exceptions than people like you who can do this. My profession (social worker) probably. Anyway, I don’t know what to say… I can’t change what you guys think. I won’t change how I think for the sake of the Catholics who are not welcome really… because they can’t live up to the expectations of the holy few.
Pray for them but more, live that prayer and try to understand with an open heart instead of clinging to the rules as a means to heaven. That’s how I feel and I make no judgment of the rest… but I do cry over it sometimes.


#17

I think in the end we all do the best we can. I do think contraception is wrong but it is not for me to judge anyone else including me own husband. And that is where the rub is. Jesus is love and that was his message.

Lets take the situation you mention of a woman unable to practice NFP due to her dh. Well, if her dh takes actions that are not of her own, that is not her sin it is his. As far as how can she deal with him knowing he is sinful on such an intimate level - well, simple. Jesus is love. Allow one without sin to cast the first stone. We cannnot judge we can only be there to support and love one another.

I am one of those new-Age Vatican II converts but I do believe in both love for each other including the sinners and teaching of the laws of God. We must remember that Christ ate with both tax collectors and Pharisees alike.


#18

[quote="joandarc2008, post:17, topic:178198"]

Lets take the situation you mention of a woman unable to practice NFP due to her dh. Well, if her dh takes actions that are not of her own, that is not her sin it is his. As far as how can she deal with him knowing he is sinful on such an intimate level - well, simple. Jesus is love.

But the two are one; and when one consents for the greater good of unity, one is consenting nevertheless...... there will always be a line that must be drawn when the choice for unity, emotionally or otherwise, is disregarded. I am just not sure it needs to be over the form of how one chooses to limit or forgo getting pregnant..... abortive measures not included. Natural, carried too far in practice would forgo pace-makers so that natural death occurs rather than technologically assisted life.

I am one of those new-Age Vatican II converts but I do believe in both love for each other including the sinners and teaching of the laws of God. We must remember that Christ ate with both tax collectors and Pharisees alike.

[/quote]

And I truly thank you for this above. I wish it was reflected more often on issues like this on these forums. I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea so I do want to say that in my career at the risk of losing my license, I have saved several babies from the abortion mills (thank God this is an anonymous place!). Further, I have been blessed to hold two of those babies and hear from a priest friend of mine about a couple of others. Probably one of the most gratifying memories of my career-- during the Clinton debauchery years too! So I hope when I meet God, He won't ding me too badly for my stance on artificial, non-abortive birth control in special cases to save lives. I love our church and our God more than my posts would let on...... so don't mind my feisty opinionated stances on some things.

Blessings on you and your husband and family and thank you for your loving response.


#19

So what would happen if one party was sterilized for reasons that were NOT medical (i.e. they had it done during a previous marriage). What would be the options for such a couple who wish to marry in the Catholic church?


#20

I’m sure there are many… :smiley:
But I’ll let someone more knowledgable answer that question.


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