Why is impotency not sterility an impediment to marriage even though procreation is the goal?



Sterility renders marriage neither invalid nor illicit. This is the impediment of impotency, set up by natural law.

So one can have a "strictly unitive" and non-procreational marriage if one of the spouses is naturally sterile? I guess because God made them sterile it is different than people making other people sterile, because of the dangers of the injustice of enuch slavery in society.


I am in my early 50’s. I’ve never been able to have children. I’m quickly approaching the age where men can start having problems in this area. I hate to think that I could meet a wonderful man who would make a perfect life companion and not be able to marry b/c of this. There would still be hugging, kissing and cuddling. Which can be just as important.


One exchanges the right to conjugal relations when one exchanges consent in marriage. An impotent person cannot fulfill the obligation.

There is no analogous right to children. However you are incorrect regarding your description of intercourse between members of a sterile couple as “non-procreational” and “strictly unitive”. Each act of intercourse between sterile couple is objectively **both **unitive and procreative (because it is a completed, unaltered act of intercourse). It is only *subjectively *infertile due to age, defect, disease, etc.


The injustice of enuch slavery in society is irrelevant.

Every act of sexual intercourse has to be naturally open to procreation. “Naturally open” means the couple is not doing anything to prevent the natural behavior of the reproductive systems of the man and the woman. (Note that the natural behavior of the reproductive systems is not always reproduction.)

In the case of those who have been made infertile due to age, chemicals, or surgical means, they may still be open to procreation (even if it would seem only a miracle would make procreation possible.)

Those who are permanently impotent cannot engage in the unitive aspect of the sexual act so they cannot marry.


Also, in a perfect Catholic world, most cases of sterility would not have been tested prior to marriage anyway. It is also my understanding that in order for it to be an impediment to marriage, it has to be total, permenant, and untreatable impotency. If the condition can be medically treated, then the person can still be married.


Thanks for your reply I now understand the “catholic” meaning of marriage much better. I did question where barren couple stood in the church.


I am totally confused. I cannot have children, so I cannot be married. Now if I am unmarried and engage in sex with a unmarried man… what is that? Is it acceptable to have sex in an unmarried state being I cannot bear children? Is a marriage with a vertile man wrong? So confused as to what constitutes a real marriage.


You can be married if you can’t have children. You can’t be married if you can’t have vaginal intercourse.


This is not correct. I am not sure where you have gotten this idea from this thread.

Fornication. A grave sin against the sixth commandment.


Sterility is not an impediment to marriage.

What has confused you?

  1. such a marriage would NOT be strictly unitive. The requirements for unitive and procreative are for the marital act, not the marriage itself. The marital act of a sterile person is just as ordered to procreation as for a virile one.

  2. God did not make them sterile. God makes men perfect. It is the imperfections of the world that bring inperfection to God’s creations.

  3. I have no clue what are talking about re: “enuch slavery in society” :confused:


Upon reflection my initial sentence could have been better worded, but I thank you all for your answers which have helped me to understand this. basically though sterile the spouses still hope for a miracle of procreation therefore fulfilling the procreational aspect of the conjugal act. That is the point I didn’t see. God Bless!


It’s not even that one must hope for a miracle of procreation. Sexual intercourse doesn’t always result in procreation in any case. But marriage requires at least the ability to engage in sexual relations–i.e. between husband and wife. Sterility has no effect on ability to consummate the marriage. But prior and incurable and permanent impotence does.

It ought also to be noted that such cases are relatively rare. Impotence is seldom incurable. And only if it is incurable and permanent and arises before the marriage, would it be an impediment.


I’m going to take issue with the title of the thread.

Procreation is not the goal of a marriage. Sharing in the life of the Trinity is the goal of marriage. Children are part of that, but not a goal in and of itself.

Marriage is a sacrament, and when lived with the Trinity as the model, is a means by which God transmits grace. It is a means by which we share in the love between the three person’s of the Trinity and get to participate in the innermost life of the Trinity.

That’s the goal of marriage - grace through the practice of self sacrificing agape love just like the love between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Children can add to that greatly, but they are not the goal.



What has confused you?

I was confused with the idea that if a woman is barren (I had problems with my tubes being blocked) but I am now in a relationship (living in sin by the book but not in my heart as I would never betray my man, it is more financial in our holding back) but he can no longer have sex (prostrate operation). We want to get married but if it is not seen as a real marriage because we are not haviing sex, why bother?

My confusion is … is sex neccessary to be married in the Church. I was just reading when a marriage can be annulled and it did sound like (no sex) meant no marriage.

Thanks for your response … things do get twisted, don’t they.


Complete impotence is an impediment to marriage. Yes, marriage requires the ability to have intercourse.

If he is impotent as you describe, I am unsure how it is you are “living in sin”. Living in sin is a euphemism for a sexual relationship without benefit of marriage. If you are living chastely you are not living in sin.

He needs to have a complete medical workup to determine if there are any assistive technologies that can help him complete the marital act and there would need to be a decision by the Church on whether or not canonical impotence exists.

If he is impotent then you are called to be chaste— no genital sexual activity. In such a case, you can render mutual support and aid in a platonic manner.

Why bother? because the truth matters.


Again, thank you for your kindness and knowledge. I am at peace we are happy being chaste, and I want you to know I am now more determined to be ‘legally’ married knowing both the state and the church recognizes our relationship as real. I do not need sex but do need his acts of love, in kindness given, gentle scoldings, and repeated words of affection. He values me as a person and gives me everything he is capable of giving. I am glad that Church encourages marriage beyond sexual performance.

He has not check with doctor regarding … ED stuff… and I am okay with that, thank you for caring.

I agree the truth matters… I some times question things as I want it to be real for me.


[quote="thyrodandstaff, post:1, topic:294114"]

Sterility renders marriage neither invalid nor illicit. This is the impediment of impotency, set up by natural law.

So one can have a "strictly unitive" and non-procreational marriage if one of the spouses is naturally sterile? I guess because God made them sterile it is different than people making other people sterile, because of the dangers of the injustice of enuch slavery in society.


The couple gives the gift of proper conjugal act as part of matrimony, which is part of proper consent. If that cannot be done, then it is an impediment of divine law. The conjugal act makes them one in flesh.

Can. 1061 §1. A valid marriage between the baptized is called ratum tantum if it has not been consummated; it is called ratum et consummatum if the spouses have performed between themselves in a human fashion a conjugal act which is suitable in itself for the procreation of offspring, to which marriage is ordered by its nature and by which the spouses become one flesh.


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