Which Sexual Acts are Moral within Marriage?

Today is the feast of Saints Louis and Zelie, parents of Saint Therese.

I’ve written many articles on this question, which you can find here:
Catechism.cc

The general answer is that the only moral sexual act is natural marital relations open to life, and every kind of unnatural sexual act, with or without climax, is absolutely forbidden.

The holy priest and stigmatist Fr. Zlatko Sudac spoke briefly on marital chastity in this YouTube video. Fr. Sudac: “The sixth commandment: You shall not commit adultery.… The young ones don’t even confess these things today. Why? because they don’t realize that it’s a sin. What? To practice chastity before marriage. And you who are in marriage, not everything is permitted. You are also called to have purity in sexual intercourse.”

The following Saints (and one Venerable Pope) also teach this doctrine, that certain sexual acts are not permissible, even in marriage:

1. Saint Jerome, Doctor of the Church, early Church Father, priest, theologian, Bible translator.
2. Saint Augustine, Doctor of the Church, early Church Father, bishop, theologian.
3. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, priest, called the greatest theologian of the West.
4. Saint Albert the Great, Doctor of the Church, teacher of Saint Thomas Aquinas, “universal Doctor” and “expert Doctor”, bishop, theologian, philosopher, scientist.
5. Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church, bishop, moral theologian, Patron Saint of all confessors and moral theologians
6. Saint Frances de Sales, Doctor of the Church, bishop, theologian, Patron Saint of confessors.
7. Venerable Pope Pius XII, Roman Pontiff, theologian, (and most likely a future Saint).
8. Pope Saint John Paul II, Roman Pontiff, theologian, (and most likely a future Doctor of the Church).

Saint Alphonsus Liguori was very specific in condemning the use of unnatural sexual acts in the various cases that modern authors use to approve of the same. In fact, every Saint who has treated of the subject has condemned unnatural sexual acts in marriage.

To be moral, a sexual act must be marital, unitive, and procreative. All unnatural sexual acts are intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral, regardless of whether climax occurs or not. Unnatural sexual acts are not justified by being used as “foreplay”, nor by being used within a certain length of time before, during, or after natural marital relations.

Questions and Answers

* Can unnatural sexual acts (oral, anal, manual) be used on the wife, to climax, within the context of an act of natural marital relations?

No. Unnatural sexual acts are intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. The wife is under the same eternal moral law as the husband. Unnatural sexual acts are just as immoral for her as for him. There is no different moral law for the wife.

Moreover, the sinfulness of unnatural sexual acts is not solely or mainly based on the wasting of the husband’s seed. If a man is infertile, unnatural sexual acts are still gravely immoral. Unnatural sexual acts are immoral because they are deprived of the marital, unitive, and procreative meanings. For these are not the type of sexual acts God ordains for marriage; they are not truly unitive; and they are obviously not procreative. In addition, Saint Alphonsus Liguori specifically condemns this idea, that the wife would be under a different rule that the husband as concerns sexual climax (On Matrimony, Book VI, Q. 919).

* Can a husband and wife use sex toys before, during, or after natural marital relations?

No. The use of artificial instruments in marital relations is condemned by the Magisterium (3 June 1916, Sacred Penitentiary; Denz. 3638-40), and is also contrary to natural law and therefore a type of unnatural sexual act. It is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral.

Do you really believe that Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, perfect virgins, would approve of such behavior? Certainly not!

* Can unnatural sexual acts be used on the wife, after natural marital relations, in order to bring her to climax?

No. Since the spouses are separated at that point, the act is neither unitive nor procreative.

Saint Alphonsus Liguori asks the same question: “Then, if the husband withdraws after climax, but before the climax of the wife, whether it is possible for her to immediately excite herself with touches so as to climax?” And the answer is the same no matter how climax for the wife is achieved (other than by the natural act).

Saint Alphonsus cites several authors answering “No”. He agrees with this answer, explaining the reason. First, the climax of the wife is not essential to procreation, as it is for the husband. So her act, in exciting herself with touches after his withdrawal (after natural marital relations has ended) lacks the procreative meaning of sex. Second, the sexual pleasure of the wife, if it is obtained while they are separated, also lacks the unitive meaning of sex.

Saint Alphonsus: “The reason: because the climax of the wife is not necessary to procreation; also, because this sexual pleasure of the wife, in as much as they are separated, does not occur as one flesh with the husband.” He also says that if this were permitted to wives, it would also be permitted to husbands. In other words, the wife is not under a different rule that the husband.

* Can unnatural sexual acts be used on either spouse as foreplay, without climax, to prepare for natural marital relations?

No. The end does not justify the means. A good end, preparing for natural marital relations, does not justify the deliberate knowing choice of an intrinsically evil act as the means. And unnatural sexual acts are immoral regardless of whether climax occurs or not. Saint Alphonsus Liguori also teaches this point.

Saint Alphonsus: “Whether it is a mortal sin for the husband to begin copulating in a disordered [or perverse] orifice, then afterward consummate the act in the proper orifice?” So the question is whether the spouses may begin their sexual activity with an unnatural sexual act, and subsequently consummate the act in the natural manner? The answer is No.

Saint Alphonsus: “The reason is that this manner of his sexual act (even without climax) is truly sodomy, whether or not it is consummated, just as an act of copulation in the natural orifice of another woman is truly fornication, even if there is no climax.”

The phrase in parentheses, “even without climax” are the words of the Saint, not my comment. He is saying that fornication is still gravely immoral, even without climax. And, similarly, adultery is still gravely immoral, even without climax. The immorality of unnatural sexual acts is not based solely on the spilling of the male seed (as some modern authors claim).

[Hebrews]
{13:4} May marriage be honorable in every way, and may the marriage bed be immaculate. For God will judge fornicators and adulterers.

My two books on the subject of marital sexual ethics are: Roman Catholic Marital Sexual Ethics and The Catholic Marriage Bed.

by
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.

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3 Responses to Which Sexual Acts are Moral within Marriage?

  1. Luiz Eduardo says:

    Do you agree with this site?
    http://jesusmarie.free.fr/

    They say that’s the correct catholic doctrine about this issue.

    • Ron Conte says:

      That PDF file is 257 pages. Why can’t you be more specific? (I edited out the link because I can’t take the time to review the whole document)

  2. Ron Conte says:

    I will not permit comments on this topic (marital relations) which may injure souls and good morals. All the objections to this magisterial doctrine have one thing in common: they utterly ignore the three fonts of morality, intrinsically evil acts, magisterial teaching, and the teaching of the Saints.

Comments are closed.