Pope Pius XII versus the Theology of the Body “experts”

This point will be discussed at length in my upcoming book. But here is the text from the Address to the Second World Congress on Fertility and Sterility of Pope Pius XII:

“By the force of this law of nature, the human person does not possess the right and power to the full exercise of the sexual faculty, directly intended, except when he performs the conjugal act according to the norms defined and imposed by nature itself. Outside of this natural act, it is not even given within the matrimonial right itself to enjoy this sexual faculty fully. These are the limits to the particular right of which we are speaking, and they circumscribe its use according to nature.”

“What has been said up to this point concerning the intrinsic evil of any full use of the generative power outside the natural conjugal act applies in the same way when the acts are of married persons or of unmarried persons, whether the full exercise of the genital organs is done by the man or the woman, or by both parties acting together; whether it is done by manual touches or by the interruption of the conjugal act; for this is always an act contrary to nature and intrinsically evil.” [1]

This teaching absolutely condemns as intrinsically evil and gravely immoral the idea — promoted loudly and incessantly by many Catholic commentators — that the wife may climax before or after the natural marital act, by the use of unnatural sexual acts to completion. The holy Pontiff teaches that neither the husband nor the wife may deliberately choose (directly intend) the “full exercise of the sexual faculty” outside of the natural act. No matter by what means this is accomplished (“by manual touches” or anything else), it is “always an act contrary to nature”, meaning an unnatural sexual act, and is “intrinsically evil”.

Pope Pius XII does not propose this idea as his own opinion, but as the “law of nature”. And he does not say that this sin is due to a bad intention, or a certain circumstance. Instead, any such sexual act is “intrinsically evil”. But we know from the teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor that intrinsically evil acts are never justified by a good purpose (such as the purpose of preparing for the natural marital act), nor by a difficult circumstance (such as that the wife cannot reach climax in the natural act).

The claim made by West and Popcak and others that the wife may reach climax outside of the natural marital act, supposedly because her climax is not related to procreation, is contrary to the teaching of Pope Pius XII and contrary to the natural law. It doesn’t matter “whether the full exercise of the genital organs is done by the man or the woman, or by both parties acting together,” it is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral to deliberately choose a sexual act to completion, other than the natural marital act.

Pope Pius XII makes no exception for unnatural sexual acts done shortly before or after the natural marital act. And he does not accept the ridiculous idea that all the sexual acts of one session in the marital bedroom are “one act”. Rather, the natural marital act is one sexual act, and anything done before or after is a separate act.

This teaching of Pope Pius XII reveals the claims of many commentators on this topic to be plainly erroneous. A set of sexual acts in the marital bedroom are not one act. The wife may not deliberately climax outside of the natural marital act. The end of natural marital relations does not justify the means used to reach that end, such as completed unnatural sexual acts on the wife. All these things are incompatible with the teaching stated above.

Can we infer from his prohibition of sexual acts to completion, outside the natural marital act, that incomplete unnatural sexual acts are permitted? No, we cannot. And this point will become clear in the further explanations that I give in my next book, which is on this subject. See my previous post: Church Teaching on Unnatural Acts in Marriage and the article on the teaching of St. Alphonsus Liguori.

How do certain married Catholics expect to be welcomed into Heaven, when they abort their own children by using abortifacient contraception, and they commit innumerable unnatural sexual acts within the Sacrament of holy Matrimony. Then they receive Communion, without prior repentance and confession. All these grave sins will be judged by God.

More on marital chastity in The Catholic Marriage Bed

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

[1] Pope Pius XII, Address to the Second World Congress on Fertility and Sterility, 19 May 1956; original languages are French and Latin. Translation here, from the Latin section of the Address, is by the author, Ronald L. Conte Jr.

This entry was posted in theology of the body. Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Pope Pius XII versus the Theology of the Body “experts”

  1. Marco says:

    In other words: if the husband climaxes before his wife, she is condemned to live a life devoid of sexual pleasure.

    That’s great.

  2. Marco says:

    You know what, Ron?

    One might as well being a monk in order to safe himself the trouble, at this point.

    • Ron Conte says:

      {19:10} His disciples said to him, “If such is the case for a man with a wife, then it is not expedient to marry.”
      {19:11} And he said to them: “Not everyone is able to grasp this word, but only those to whom it has been given.

    • Alessandro Arsuffi says:

      Although I know it’s a sin, I believe that Marco’s conclusions are right. Better say that sex is evil and “tolerated” by the Church only for procreation, at this point of the discussion. I don’t know how many men are able to make the woman climax, but I know very few who ever managed to do that within the context of marital intercourse. My point is: if God intended the woman to reach climax during marital intercourse, with no aid whatsoever, than why didn’t He make it easier for them, or give all men much more resistance? It seems as though nature itself proves that women are designed either not to climax or to climax later than men, which is absurd.
      Also, I consider the use of artificial means to delay orgasm in men must be considered unnatural. It is like producing false chemically-induced sex. It’s as if wife and husband don’t really love each other and need to look into chemistry to find… well, chemistry!
      Next year I’m supposed to marry, and I’m seriously considering the option not to marry anymore, because I know that I will never satisfy her. This is absurd: finding the right woman and knowing that you will most probably condemn your wife to unhappiness just because God (and nature) didn’t give you the necessary sexual power is very sad.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I find it hard to believe that such a dire assessment of marital intercourse is true. Some couples have difficulties, which might be remedied in a number of moral ways: Kegel exercises for men and for women, KY Intense for use in the marriage act, erectile disfunction pills for the husband, use of different natural positions to find one that works better for the wife, etc.

    • Marco says:


      “ Better say that sex is evil and “tolerated” by the Church only for procreation, at this point of the discussion”

      Yeah, i came to this conclusion a long time ago. It seems fairly evident that sex, in and of itself, is tolerated because it is a necessary evil.

      At least, in the traditional Weltanschauung of the Church it’s hard not to come to this conclusion.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The Church does not call marital sex “evil” but good. CCC 2369 “By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its orientation toward man’s exalted vocation to parenthood.”

    • Marco says:

      Of course, even in the past marital sex was labeled as such, i meant that is has been treated as a factual necessary evil for a long time, even though it is called “good”.

      Yeah, it’s “good” because of procreation, but the truckload of restrictions attached to it makes it clear that, in all actuality, it was always considered a necessary evil.

      On top of that

      St. Caesarius of Arles (c. 468-542): “AS OFTEN AS HE KNOWS HIS WIFE WITHOUT A DESIRE FOR CHILDREN…WITHOUT A DOUBT HE COMMITS SIN.” (W. A. Jurgens, The Faith of The Early Fathers, Vol. 3: 2233)

      Athenagoras the Athenian (c. 175 A.D.): “Therefore, having the hope of eternal life, we despise the things of this life, even to the pleasures of the soul, each of us reckoning her his wife whom he has married according to the laws laid down by us, and that only for the purpose of having children. For as the husbandman throwing the seed into the ground awaits the harvest, not sowing more upon it, so to us the procreation of children is the measure of our indulgence in appetite.” (A Plea For the Christians, Chapter XXXIII.–Chastity of the Christians with Respect to Marriage)

      St. Augustine, On Marriage and Concupiscence, A.D. 419: “It is one thing not to lie [with one’s wife] except with the sole will of generating [children]: this has no fault. It is another to seek the pleasure of the flesh in lying, although within the limits of marriage: this has venial fault [that is, venial sin as long as one is not against procreation].” (Book I, Chapter 17.–What is Sinless in the Use of Matrimony? What is Attended With Venial Sin, and What with Mortal?)

      I don’t think that a case can be made against the conclusion that the traditional conservative sexual ethic views sex, even marital sex, as a necessary evil.

      Since the second Vatican Council the Church tried to amplify their views on this matter, and we can see that even in Al, where Pope Francis praises even the erotic dimension of sex.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The Magisterium has decided that the procreative aspect must be present, i.e. the type of act must be ordered toward the procreative end, but not that the spouses must personally intend procreation with each sexual act.

    • Since I can’t reply directly to Ron’s direct answer to my last post, I’ll copy and paste his answer and tell what I think about it.
      “I find it hard to believe that such a dire assessment of marital intercourse is true. Some couples have difficulties, which might be remedied in a number of moral ways: Kegel exercises for men and for women, KY Intense for use in the marriage act, erectile disfunction pills for the husband, use of different natural positions to find one that works better for the wife, etc.”
      Kegel exercises don’t always work. Different positions? When discussing this, my future wife said that she admits only the classic missionary position for intercourse, everything else is weird to her (I do not agree, but I have to accept that). KYIntense and erectile disfunction pills imply that you must DECIDE to have intercourse. I don’t like that. It’s like PLANNING to have intercourse, while I think it should be a spontaneous act of pure love. If marital intercourse is turned into a scheduled activity, it becomes something cold and automatic – the exact opposite of love. It seems that pure loving intercourse only comes to macho men – or, of course, the woman does not enjoy the intercourse at all. It’s even worse than becoming beasts at this point.

  3. Matt Z. says:

    Marco, who says a wife is condemned to live a life devoid of sexual pleasure? A husband should think of his wife, and of pleasing her first, and as St.John Paul II says in Love and Responsibility they husband and wife, if possible, should climax together.

  4. John Platts says:

    While most Catholics do know that contracepted sexual intercourse, extramarital sex, homosexual acts, and rape are intrinsically evil, it seems to me that many of the married Catholic couples who engage in unnatural sexual acts between husband and wife are not fully aware of the Catholic Church’s teachings against unnatural sexual acts within marriage.

    There are many Catholics who are not aware of Pope Pius XII’s condemnation of unnatural sexual acts, including both within marriage and outside of marriage.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Many lay Catholics and many teachers are spreading false claims about this subject. By their efforts, they are harming many souls.

    • Marco says:

      This is a double edged sword, in the sense that if we laid all these burdens on catholic couples there is no telling how many actual mortal sins would be committed as a result.

      That’s why Saint Paul said that “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Cor 15,56).

      He said that because “ sin was in the world before the Law was given; but sin is not taken into account when there is no law” (Roman 5:13).

      Also, as Ron said in the other article, this is not an infallible teaching, so it seems to me that catholic conscience is not absolutely binded by it.

  5. Matt says:

    If a couple uses natural family planning method to deliberately avoid having any more children, for many years until menopause, is that a mortal sin?

    • Ron Conte says:

      If they already have some children, it might not be. I suppose it depends on how many children, how many years, and what the other circumstances are.

  6. Matt Z. says:

    There are men who even with the best interests of their wife may still struggle with pre-mature ejacualtion. I wonder what the Church would say about the morality of kegel exercises for men?

  7. Matt Z. says:

    What burden or vexing does the Church impose on sexual ethics? The answer is that there is no burden that the Church imposes except to those that are engulfed in the sexual culture or our day. If a husband loves his wife and his mind truly loves her whole person, he will try his best to give himself entirely to her, to please her as well in natural marital relations, which takes alot of communication. A husband will do this and not sin by commiting unnatural sex acts or using contraception. Yes, it does take work, but what relationship doesn’t, especially in this time of ours where everything is a quick fix.

    • Marco says:

      It’s vexing because poeple sometimes have issues that don’t allow a “catholic textbook” sexuality, and imposing such burdens on them under the pain of mortal sin reminds me of this passage

      “ Woe to you as well, experts in the law! He replied. “- You weigh men down with heavy burdens, but you yourselves will not lift a finger to lighten their load” (Luke 11:46).

      I mean, the ortodox Church even allows contraception, and we are talking about a Church with apostolic succession. I’m not saying that the Catholic Church should do that as well, but neither imposing a moral code so strict that it becomes suffocating is wise, in my view.

  8. Matt Z. says:

    So “catholic texbook” sexuality is not good enough being natural marital relations open to life? Like I said in a prior post, some people think that one should have an orgasm at any cost even the cost of commiting many sins. As Catholics we have to bear all sorts of crosses. Someone that does not have reproductive parts cannot marry, is that teaching Pharisitical too? The Catholic teaching on sexual ethics is not suffocating, its liberating! Its liberating from lust and from the world and its a turning to what God intended for married life and marital relations. It is natural and good.

    • Marco says:

      “So “catholic texbook” sexuality is not good enough being natural marital relations open to life? “

      Even and when it doesn’t work, no, and imposing it on couples under the pain of Hell fire onkh ruins their life and marriage and can be the cause of actual mortal sin, in some instances.

      “As Catholics we have to bear all sorts of crosses”

      Life is already full of them, we don’t have to impose further crosses on people’s back.

      “The Catholic teaching on sexual ethics is not suffocating, its liberating!”

      I’m catholic but i think that the Ortodox approach to these matters is better, is neither too much strict nor too much lax.

      As for the liberating part, tell that to a couple that wouldn’t be able to obtain any kind of sexual gratification if you impose that burden on them under the pain of mortal sin and see if they fell liberated or not.

      As Ron pointed out, this is not an infallible teaching so we are not required to agree with it, thank God.

      “. It is natural and good.”

      The problem is that people are not made in a factory. They are not robots, so that what works for one works for everyone. And in matter of sexuality there is a high variety of difference between one person and the other. I just think that we should be too much intrusive on these matters. I’m not saying that we should allow everything, but extreme Prohibitionism is not the solution.

    • Marco says:

      Anyway, let’s be clear: i’m not an heretic, so if this teaching of Pope Pius XII was infallible, i would accept it, even if it would be extremely hard for me to do so, but for the time being, i’m entitled to disagree on this matter without committing sin.

  9. Matt Z. says:

    Where in Sacred Scripture, Tradition, or the Magesertium does it say unnatural sex acts are allowed?

  10. Ron Conte says:

    It’s not heresy to disagree with a non-infallible teaching, even if you don’t have a stated theological argument based on Tradition, Scripture, or the Magisterium.

Comments are closed.