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
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.
ruth in the Catholic Church never
changes, but the administrators of the Church often adapt Church teaching to avoid
displeasing popular opinion. Currently, 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 occur (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 good reasons why sexual
abstinence in matrimony (once the desired number of children are born) 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
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:
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.