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Posts Tagged ‘morality of sexual relations’

The excerpt below was taken from a truly wonderful book I found online on EWTN's website.
I recommend it to all who want to learn what the Catholic Church teaches on marital sexual
relationship, birth-control,etc and why.
  

Contraception is commonly called birth-control; an unfortunate term, since birth-control as such obviously is a reasonable and necessary thing. Catholics would be the last to deny that the human reason should control as far as possible such an important matter as the coming of new life into the world, with its added responsibilities to the parents. In point of fact, the very institution of marriage is a method of birth-control, since it limits procreation to those conditions in which a child will be cared for. Married people are called upon to be unselfish and generous, sometimes even heroic. A child must be regarded as more important than the refinements and luxuries of a social class. But they are not bound to have a child, or children, if reasonable chances of proper education and upbringing are lacking. The health and reasonable comfort of the mother require the spacing of births at intervals to be sanely and sensibly decided, though for the sake of the children themselves there should not be too great a difference between their ages. Clearly procreation cannot be undertaken without thought and control; trust in Providence does not mean banking on a very doubtful future. Let this be made quite clear. The Catholic Church is not opposed to rational birth-control as an end. Catholics, of course, do not agree with the propaganda for birth-control based on the difficulties of present social and economic conditions. Blessings should not be surrendered when the causes making them difficult can be changed. It should be intolerable that in a world of plenty many parents are unable to have as many children as they would like and could have, were the social structure not so unjust. Nor can Catholics admit the disinclination to have children because they are tiresome and worrying. Marriage is not a perpetual honeymoon, but a serious responsibility, and none the less happy for that. The Catholic Church’s condemnation is directed at the means employed for birth-control. What is opposed is not birth-control or the regulation of births, but certain methods of ensuring this. They are generally without qualification called birth control, but more accurately they should be classed under the term of contraception. They consist in altering or interfering with the natural character of sex-intercourse, or its antecedent or consequent processes. They are species of injustice or of impurity: of injustice when the family and social quality of sex is affected; of impurity when the sex impulse itself is disorganized. All wrongful methods of birth-control fall under these heads. Unjust methods may be reduced to sterilization and abortion, impure methods to onanism. (See Fig. 2.) UNJUST MEANS Our bodies are not our own to do with just as we will, they belong completely to God alone who made them; we must take reasonable care of them and administer them according to their nature. As we may not destroy our bodies by suicide, so we may not mutilate them or deprive them of an essential function, unless it be for the health of the body itself, when the part must be removed for the sake of the whole. Leaving aside the question of punitive and curative operations, the Catholic Church teaches that it is unlawful directly to deprive oneself of a bodily power. Thus all methods of eugenic sterilization are ruled out. They include surgical operations on the male or female designed primarily to prevent their having fruitful intercourse; also all mechanical or chemical methods of sterilizing the female for a period. Birth may be prevented after conception by chemical or mechanical or surgical methods, all of which come under the head of injustice when the taking of life is directly intended. Either they go so far as to murder the child in the womb (and without baptism) or they destroy a living thing that is becoming a human being. The unlawfulness of the operation is intensified by the fact that, for all we know, an immortal soul may be present from the moment of conception or soon after. The direct destruction of a fetus is the sin of abortion. IMPURE MEANS Impure methods of birth-control, or those that alter the nature of the sex act itself, are classed under the sin of onanism. Before considering this attempt to secure sex satisfaction without proper intercourse, let us return to the distinction of deed and motive. Two aspects must be separately considered, sex intercourse itself, which is the means, and the generation of a child, which is an end. Two aspects in the action of the married couple correspond to this distinction, namely their deed and their motives respectively. First as regards motives. If a couple decide against the birth of a child at a given time, the rightness or wrongness of their decision must be tested by the question: ought they to try to have a child then? If their decision springs from timidity, selfishness, love of ease and so on, then it is wrong, whatever the means they adopt in carrying it into effect. If the reasons against the birth of a child outweigh those in favour, if they are prudent in a Christian sense, then their decision is just. Up to the present it all hinges on the motives of the man and woman. In the first case, the motives are unworthy; in the second case, they are worthy. The question now narrows down to the nature of the means adopted. The couple may decide to abstain from intercourse. This means is not bad in itself; the moral colouring comes from the motives; bad in the first case, good in the second case. But complete abstinence from intercourse is not easy, nor is it honestly desirable in some cases from a Christian point of view. It is natural that a man and woman living together should strongly desire one another’s bodies, and though grace is always sufficient for proper self-control it does not blanket lawful desire, and the marriage act may be necessary for the real happiness of their lives together. Here is the real problem of contraception. How is it possible to combine the reasonable avoidance of pregnancy with the reasonable exercise of sex relations? The case of really selfish married people may be dismissed. We are concerned with those who decided against a child, not for unworthy motives, but because they feel they are not in a position to have one, for such reasons as ill- health or poverty. Quite decently they feel the need of intercourse. The rightness or wrongness of what they do turns on the means they adopt. If they commit onanism, then the Church judges that they do something wrong in itself, a bad kind of action, leaving aside the question of motives. It may be an act of self-indulgence, it may be an attempt to express human love. In either case, the means is wrong. The noblest end does not justify a bad means. Onanism is that action between the bodies of a man and woman which goes as closely as it can to proper sex union while at the same time attempting to prevent the joining of the male seed and the female ovum from which new human life begins. In old- fashioned onanism the act starts properly, but the man withdraws before his seed can enter the woman’s body. Modern research has invented methods by which the man can remain united to the woman, but his seed is either sterilized or prevented from joining the ovum. By this fact, the natural union of man and woman is not secured, and the climax of sex pleasure is reached without the appropriate act. They do not delight in one another as they really are, they do not commit themselves in confidence and happiness to sex as God has made it. The intercourse is bogus. They are not joined together immediately as man and woman, for an instrument or chemical interposes and destroys the life-giving character of the action. They have contrived to alter the situation and so use their sex powers in an act which is not the generative act of sex intercourse, but the reverse. The attempt to secure sex satisfaction without the complete sex act disorganizes the rational and natural arrangement of powers to their proper ends, the proper purpose of sex powers being the life-offering action of intercourse. With respect to the deed, there is little essential difference between contraceptive intercourse and mutual masturbation, though admittedly the surrounding psychological circumstances make for a different situation. Married people who use contraceptives may love one another decently and humanly apart from this, but whether they use them with an easy or uneasy conscience, the nature of the action in itself is not altered. According to Catholic teaching, moral standards do not entirely depend on individual judgement, and motives need not be considered for a kind of action to be condemned. Contraception is wrong in itself, and no motive can justify it; and it is gravely wrong, because of the importance of the action which is spoilt. It is worth noting that this attitude is not based principally on Revelation or on the supernatural authority of the Church. It is a matter of natural law. An instinctive repugnance to contraception which still exists is an echo of the case against it which can be worked out on purely rational grounds without appealing to doctrinal authority. There are also secondary, though considerable, arguments against contraception. It offers the occasion of sexual indiscipline; it can be responsible for serious bodily and mental disorders; it makes acquiescence easier in unjust social conditions; it is prejudicial to national life. Yet the problem remains unsolved of what is to be done when at the same time there are true and good reasons both against pregnancy and for sex-intercourse. We must go back and stress the necessity of making marriage a relationship of human friendship depending chiefly on the characters of the two persons, who enter the state to share their human lives together, to strengthen one another, to build up their characters together. Their lore is supported by the sacrament, which gives grace to all who try to live up to the ideal it sets. The couple, whether they are in a position to have a numerous family or whether they are not, must love one another with a love stronger and deeper than passion. But it is easier to preach than to practise. There are not a few cases when children cannot be welcomed and at the same time mutual love must be expressed through intercourse. It is possible that recent research has discovered a partial remedy, a providential arrangement existing for the benefit of such cases.

For the full work, please visit EWTN’s page here

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