What is meant by uniative when we characterize marital relations as being uniative and open to the possibility of life?

More specifically, what makes each act uniative? Further, if one spouse says, “I will do it for your sake but I, myself, am ambivalent about it,” is there any obligation for the spouses to recognize that they are not/will not spiritually unite and therefore ought to refrain from the act?


Well, um, the very basics of it are unitive! :o

Not sure what you mean.


NM reread your last sentence.

There is always a basic physical union. There is a complete union of persons so long as that is the the intention of the spouses. Maybe someone can explain it better. :blush:


The unitive aspect is essentially about the physical union itself, providing the possibility of procreation by the natural principles within the completed system of reproduction. (This would be opposed by contraception, but also more obviously by IVF.)

Paying the “marital debt” as it is called does not need to be psychologically unitive in order to be morally good, though of course they are related and feed off of each other.


Thanks. I thought of uniative as abstraction, a spiritual union.


That would be a function of a physical union, and would lead to one as well. Love and knowledge are a cycle.

Also - “unitive” is the word, not “uniative”! :thumbsup:


Thanks for posting this question. So many times when discussing catholic sexuality we use these terms. I think some people think that procreative means kids and unitive means thebafterglow with your spouse. But it’s so much more than that!


The meaning of “procreative” is generally understood (by Catholics) as meaning “of a form ordered to procreation”. Thus, intercourse between the infertile remains “procreative”, but intercourse using a condom is not, and neither is intercourse in conjunction with the contraceptive pill.

Unitive is often poorly understood - and I have on occasion gone looking for an explanation, and found very little. I have come across your description (“the physical union itself”) and also descriptions based on the presence of various other elements or effects of sexual intercourse, such as sharing/bonding/attachment, etc.

The difficulty I have with your explanation is that it does not make very much of a distinction between procreative and unitive. For example - is there any procreative act that is not Unitive? IVF - as a set of acts - certainly involves no unitive (as per your description) element. Is IVF the only way to remove the unitive from what remains procreative?

So, I am inclined to broaden the view of the unitive aspects to encompass more dimensions of the relationship of man and wife, as follows: “The unitive aspect of marriage has both spiritual and sexual components. In both, the man and woman are joined together into one flesh through love and total giving of oneself to the other. The total giving is not just physical. Through the Sacrament of Marriage, the couple is spiritually united into one flesh, thus, totally committing themselves to one another. Through the physical, they are also joining together into one flesh; thus, the physical aspect is an expression of that union.”

I suggest that: Acts such as the sexual intercourse of unmarried people & selfish acts are not truly unitive regardless of whether they are procreative.


“Christ elevated marriage to a sacrament of the New Law. Christian spouses signify and partake of the mystery of that unity and fruitful love which exists between Christ and his Church, helping each other attain to holiness in their married life and in the rearing and education of their children.”[/INDENT]

So note that use of unity and fruitful love.

Justified Abstinence

Abstinence can lead to a weakening of affection or a risk of impurity, yet here are some situations where refusal (abstinance) is ordered, even if not mutually agreed upon:

  1. if the spouse has been unfaithful to the extent of adultery (until forgiveness of the injured party).
  2. if there is a danger of the infection of disease.
  3. if the request is unreasonable.
  4. if it be under conditions that are genuinely harmful and distressing.
  5. if it is going to be abused by the sin of onanism.
  6. if a pregnancy would be fatal or highly dangerous.
  7. medical, eugenic, economic and social so-called "indications, may exempt from the positive debt (of fecundity) for the entire period of marital life, however natural sterile periods may be utilized.
  8. not allowing the proper amount of time or privacy.

T.G. Wayne states:

“There is no obligation of asking for the due except when harm would be done by abstinence, a weakening of love, a risk of impurity. In this connection, husband and wife will learn to interpret and anticipate the wishes of each other.

By mutual consent married couples may abstain from intercourse either for a time or forever, not as evading the obligations of their state, but as an offering and sacrifice to God. They must not deny the existence of the right, but may forgo the exercise of it.”

Re: Section V. Obligation, in T.G. Wayne - Morals and Marriage, published in 1936, EWTN has the document in their library:
From: catholicapologetics.info/morality/family/natural.htm

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