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Marital Sexuality in Catholic Marriages

About Catholic Marriage

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Photo © Bob Stritof
Photo © Bob Stritof
Whether or not married couples can enjoy sex in their marriage can be an issue for couples married in the Catholic church.

This statement from our Marriage forum is an example of the type of misinformed thinking that can destroy a marriage: "The Baltimore Catechism is very clear: recreational sex, even within marriage, is WRONG. It's a sin."

The following quotes will hopefully help you to see that the above statement is false.

What The Baltimore Catechism Says About Marital Sex

We searched both The Baltimore Catechism of 1891 and The Baltimore Catechism Revised Edition (1941). We could NOT find any mention that recreational sex or enjoying sex in marriage is wrong or is a sin. We could not find any reference to the word "conjugal" either.

What we did find in The Baltimore Catechism of 1891 were statements such as:

"The whole essence of the marriage contract consists in the surrender by the persons of their bodies to each other and in declaring by word or sign that they make this surrender and take each other for husband and wife now and for life." (page 237)

"The effects of the Sacrament of Matrimony are: To sanctify the love of husband and wife ..." (page 59)

What Bishops Say About Marital Sex

Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator's eyes."

USCCB -- About Catholic Marriage -- Marital Sexuality: "The Catholic Church, in its official teaching, has always taken a positive view of sexuality in marriage. Marital intercourse, says the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is “noble and honorable,” established by God so that “spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit.” (#2362). The Church’s positive understanding of sexuality is rooted in the teachings of Jesus that were, in part, drawn from the wisdom of the Old Testament. Both the Book of Genesis and the Song of Songs describe the basic goodness of sexual love in marriage. In the New Testament, Jesus began his public ministry with his supportive presence at the wedding feast of Cana, a further indication of the goodness of marriage."

USCCB -- Married Love and the Gift of Life: "The Church teaches that the sexual union of husband and wife is meant to express the full meaning of love, its power to bind a couple together and its openness to new life." (page 2, 11/14/2006)

Other Comments About Marital Sex in a Catholic Marriage

Code of Canon Law -- Title VIII -- The Effects of Marriage: "Each spouse has an equal duty and right to those things which belong to the partnership of conjugal life."

Andrew M. Greeley in The Catholic Imagination: "In the words of the nuptial liturgy, "Love is our origin, love is our constant calling, love is our fulfillment in heaven. The love of man and woman is made holy in the sacrament of matrimony and becomes the mirror of your everlasting love." It is hard to think of that kind of love as sinful." (page 78)

"Married love was good, it reflected God's love for us, husbands and wives should respect one another and treat each other as equals (more or less) and be grateful for the pleasures of sexual love ... So marriage beds were blessed to hallow the sexual love between bride and groom and no one thought it strange." (page 80)

"The essence of this tradition's take on married love, to use modern terminology, is that sexual pleasure heals the frictions and conflicts of the common life and reinforces the bond between husband and wife." (page 81)

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