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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

Prior to the teaching of Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, and certainly prior to the teaching of Pius XI in Casti Connubii, it seems clear that the Church generally believed that sexual intercourse was only proper and pleasing to God when the spouses intended or desired the conception of a (new) child. Many writings of the Fathers can be mentioned in this regard.
 
Do you think that the Church has changed its teaching and now a couple pleases God by making love within marriage when they don’t desire or intend any more children? Or do you agree that a couple which wishes truly to please God should (mutually, of course) put sex aside out of their lives after the birth of the last child, and concentrate their energies on their and their children’s salvation?
 
A question was asked about marriage between people old enough to be physically past childbearing, and you recommended your opinion as, it would not serve for them to marry. In a similar vein, when a family is big enough in the judgment of the father and mother, then surely the a similar conclusion is most pious and God-loving, namely, to cease to engage in sexual intercourse for the rest of their lives.

 
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion” (§2360), yes, but physical intimacy, contrary to popular opinion, involves far more than, and does not even have to include, genital arousal and satisfaction. Consequently, if there is to be sexual activity within Holy Matrimony it must be open to procreation. Because unexpected pregnancies can happen (and because children conceived in lust can be psychologically crippled), if the parents want no more children then they should stop having sex. 

Keep in mind, however, that the Catechism sets out the very necessary minimum to get to Purgatory. I would hope that some persons would want to do more than the minimum and would want to seek out the way of perfection.

In this regard, Christ made it clear that Holy Matrimony has no place in Heaven—“At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in Heaven” (Matthew 22:30)—so that means that sexuality and childbearing have no place there either. That is, although Holy Matrimony, sexuality, and childbearing have a temporal value in this life, they are not essential to living a holy life.

Therefore, there are no reasons why sexual abstinence, even in matrimony (once the desired number of children are born), can be faulted, and there are good reasons why it should be encouraged. Physical intimacy encompasses far more than genital arousal and satisfaction; kissing, embracing, and affectionate non-genital caressing promote marital unity and avoid the profound danger of lust.

Read more about Jesus’ teachings on marriage

 
As for “pleasing God,” the mystics have made it clear that the primary purpose of a Christian life is to seek more and more purification from the stains of sin so as to love more perfectly. This is an individual process, but it cannot happen without deliberate acts of mercy to others. Consider what Christ said to Saint Faustina.

 

“You are not living for yourself but for souls, and other souls will profit from your sufferings. Your prolonged suffering will give them the light and strength to accept My will.”

Diary, 67

 

Now, this isn’t a call to masochism—but it is a call into the hard discipline of the soul’s purification from attachment to sin. Therefore attachment to anything self-indulgent, whether sex or food or cigarettes or entertainment or sports—in short, anything other than total trust in God— just isn’t practical spiritually. And this spiritual lesson should begin in the family.

Related Pages:       
 

The issue of lust

Saint Paul’s teaching

 

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