Sex within Marriage and Contraception

"Vomitorium." I like that word.

You misunderstood my comment. First of all, of course NFP is not "doing everything possible" to avoid pregnancy. I meant that NFP is doing everything possible to avoid pregnancy while still obeying the letter of the law in Catholic teaching. In my opinion, it is legalistic. You are technically obeying the

I think it was Malcolm Muggeridge who used the term vomitorium in the context of contraception. He was a brilliant writer from England who converted to the Church back in the 1960's I think and he said that Humane Vitae was not a reason to avoid the Church, but rather evidence that the Church was correct. The ancient Romans had exhausted coming up with anything new regarding sex and had moved on to indulging with food, and to avoid weight gain they would literally visit the vomitorium after dinner to thwart the natural outcome of eating. That was what the Romans called it. His book, A Third Testament, is worth reading.

Agreed that legalism is a pitfall, but it seems that that is why we have a magisterium to clarify such points. And on this topic the magisterium has spoken, and took a lot of heat for it. Counseling couples to carefully and honestly evaluate if they should or should not become pregnant is a good thing, and sure, NFP should not be used to prevent pregnancies for convenience. But the magesterium has clarified that there are appropriate uses for it. If a person wants to go beyond that to be doubly sure, then good for them, but again, I would be very careful about making it out to be the standard for everyone.

I think that some people take their theology from Monty Python's "every sperm is sacred" sketch, which is not what the Church teaches. And saying the the only purpose of martial relations is procreation goes against what St. Paul wrote. A hallmark of the Church is not the protestant either-or binary mentality, but and-also. There is a primary aim, and a secondary one as well. Many theologians believe that marriages are only consummated when non-contraceptive intercourse is engaged in, and no one argues that consummation only occurs when conception actually occurs.

The Church's stance on "ordered towards procreation" has a lot to it. In the 1930's the Anglicans were the first to say that couples could use artificial contraception. Intercourse for them no longer needed to be ordered towards procreation, instead they reduced sexual sin to a list of illicit body part combinations (i.e., forms of sodomy--a concept they developed.) Later on, as more and more married couples engaged in those acts, especially as they were normalized in the 1990's, there seemed to be no rationale against homosexuality since almost everyone was technically engaged in sodomy in one form or another. And an argument was that if it is OK for infertile hertosexuals to have sex, why can not two homosexuals if acts of sodomy were not longer an issue? Because one is ordered towards procreation and the other is not. If protestants had stuck to "ordered towards procreation," the 1930 Anglican Lamberth conference would not have morphed into not only normalizing, but celebrating all things homosexual, gay "marriage", and the whole tranny thing that we had less than a hundred years later.
 

DeFide

Robin
The traditional Catholic position is quite straightforward: The primary end of Holy Matrimony is procreation, that is, the generation and upbringing of children. There are also other purposes of Holy Matrimony, such as mutual aid and the morally-regulated satisfaction of the sexual instinct, but these are secondary ends that are subordinate to the primary purpose.

Fr. Orville Griese, The Rhythm Method and Christian Morality:

“Christian couples ought to realize that it is a singular, providential blessing to be able to bring forth new life, thus assuring man and wife of a deeper, most lasting union, offering them means of personal sanctification and of contributing to the strength and growth of both Church and State. The mere fact that the future looks a little uncertain or that the child might be frail or sickly is no reason for substituting faith in the biological computations of the safe period method for trust in God."

St. John Vianney, the Curé d'Ars, said:

“If you only knew the women who will go to Hell because they did not bring into the world the children they should have given to it.”
 

DeFide

Robin
Humanae Vitae is what you want to read to get up to speed:

Ehhh, no...I’m sorry, I’m sure you mean well but this is horrible advice. For starters, the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church is that the primary end of marriage is procreation and bringing up of children; there are also other ends of marriage such as mutual aid and the morally-regulated satisfaction of the sexual instinct, but these are secondary ends that are subordinate to the primary purpose. This was enshrined in the 1917 Code of Canon Law: “The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children; the secondary [end] is mutual support and a remedy for concupiscence” (Canon 1013 §1) This clear teaching was enshrined throughout numerous other magisterial documents. Then came Vatican II. Although the Council did not overturn the traditional teaching outright, it provided the groundwork for its subversion. In its infamous “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World”, what may at first glance appear to be a restatement the traditional teaching, actually opens the door to its denial: The council merely speaks of “various benefits and purposes” to marriage, and it enumerates them without distinguishing between primary and secondary ends; nor does it subordinate one to the other. In speaking of the spouses “experiencing” the “meaning” of their union, the language of the document is strikingly reflective of the subjectivist-phenomenological current in vogue at the time. The council’s wording was no accident. In fact, if we look at the debates that preceded the final version of Gaudium et Spes, we can see the struggle that took place between the orthodox traditional Catholic theologians and the Modernist innovators. For example, in preparing the schema, Cardinal Leger of Montreal said: to describe marriage as an institution in the service of procreation “is certainly both false and destructive of the dignity of love.” The need was to think within another perspective, that of “an intimate community of love.”—This is outrageous blasphemy, for it implies that for 1,900 years the Church taught pernicious error about a most fundamental matter of human existence. The view of marriage that has prevailed in the Novus Ordo Sect is called “personalism”, and its biggest champion ended up being “Saint” John Paul II. Not surprisingly, such a view generates lots of ambiguity, and this did not go unnoticed by the Catholics at the council. The Modernists, of course, were not interested in clarity, precision, or continuing the traditional teaching. They wanted to have doctrinal change, and ambiguity was the best way to get there.

Historian Prof. Roberto de Mattei summarizing the outcome of the conciliar deliberations about the ends of marriage in The Second Vatican Council: An Unwritten Story: “Unfortunately the family morality formulated … in Gaudium et spes would incorporate the suggestions of the innovators, rather than those of the defenders of traditional morality. It resulted in an unfortunate synthesis of contrary tendencies” With Gaudium et Spes getting its foot in the door to “renewing” the Catholic teaching on matrimony, it didn’t take long for the traditional teaching to be openly overturned. Here’s where Humanae Vitae comes in:​

“That teaching, often set forth by the magisterium, is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning. Indeed, by its intimate structure, the conjugal act, while most closely uniting husband and wife, capacitates them for the generation of new lives, according to laws inscribed in the very being of man and of woman. By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its ordination towards man’s most high calling to parenthood. We believe that the men of our day are particularly capable of seeing the deeply reasonable and human character of this fundamental principle.” (Antipope Paul VI, Encyclical Humanae Vitae, n. 12)


Notice “St.” Paul VI here no longer speaks of the ends or purposes of marriage but of its twofold “meaning.” What is more, he does not subordinate the one to the other and even lists them in reverse order. He clearly places the secondary end of matrimony before the primary end, speaking first of “the unitive meaning” and only then of “the procreative meaning.” Paul VI’s inglorious successor, “St.” John Paul II, echoed this doctrinal revolution, both with regard to replacing purpose with meaning and mentioning the unitive before the procreative. In his 1981 exhortation Familiaris Consortio, the Polish apostate spoke of “the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative meanings of human sexuality” (n. 32). The inversion of the ends of matrimony and the failure to subordinate the secondary to the primary was officially enshrined in the Novus Ordo Church’s universal disciplinary law in 1983, when the original Code of Canon Law of 1917 was replaced by an “updated” version that reflected the changes introduced by Vatican II and its subsequent pseudo-magisterium:
“The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.” (Code of Canon Law [1983], Canon 1055 §1​
The novel Novus Ordo teaching concerning the purpose of marriage is also a significant factor in the flood of annulments granted since the council. It is a lot easier to pretend that a marriage never existed when one can claim that at least one of the spouses was not psychologically mature enough for a proper sealing of that “covenant”, or did not know about the spiritual dynamics of that “mutual self-giving by which spouses enrich each other.” Besides the annulment pandemic since Vatican II, another horrendous affront to Holy Matrimony brought to us courtesy of the “Great Renewal” is the widespread use of contraception and its toleration or even outright approval by today’s “Catholic” clergy. While it is true that in Humanae Vitae Antipope Paul VI retained the condemnation ofcontraception, this matters little in the long run, for the premises that logically lead to an acceptance of contraception were affirmed by the pseudo-pontiff. Here is a 2002 article from The Latin Mass magazine that explains it: Humanae Vitae: Heroic, Deficient—or Both?
The proof is in the pudding
 
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NFP did not lead to "a flood of annulments". A small fraction (3%?) of Catholic couples practice NFP in the first place, and amongst those couples the annulment rate is <1%. One suspects the annulment rate would be lower today than they were pre-Vatican II if only NFP couples were counted.

The science to predict (but hardly to ensure) patterns of fertility was not well developed until about the 1950's. If earlier Popes and councils did not approve of NFP before then, it was because it did not exist and was thus not a question being asked. The only way to avoid pregnancies back then was through artificial contraception.

There was a firestorm of hate and dissent directed at Pope Paul VI for not approving artificial contraception. And the predictions in Humanae Vitae, regarding the (at the time) counter intuitive social results of artificial contraception, have all come true. Odd for an encyclical to be brave and prophetic but utterly wrong the same time. And if NFP and artificial birth control is the same thing, why was anyone upset? Were people upset that NFP does not cost anything or involve carcinogens, and they really preferred such things?

If something, anything, has a primary and a secondary end, then it follows that the secondary end actually means something. Otherwise why would any theologian mention a secondary end at all?

At any rate, for anyone judging those practicing NFP to be in mortal sin because all intercourse must have conception as the one and only aim, then the logical conclusion is that those holding that opinion are morally obligated to get the best aim possible by learning NFP, as it predicts the couple of days each month when a female is most likely to become pregnant. Buy a Clear Blue monitor as well just to be sure, as it chemically predicts when ovulation will occur. Perhaps the probability of conception could be calculated as well, in addition to the time of that optimal probability. Then besides limiting intercourse to the one or two days each month most likely to result in conception, the amateur theologians could also debate at what probability of success would they allow intercourse be licit. Does it have to be greater than 51%? 75%? Or, since it is never 100%, perhaps all intercourse should be forbidden--if it is not going to achieve the one and only end, for sure, then better just not do it at all. And, it goes without saying, naturally infertile couples had best never have intercourse after the medical diagnosis.

Given that 90%+ of Catholic couples are going with artificial contraception, that NFP does require mutual self-denial, and that the magisterium has approved NFP, it seems that there would be bigger fish to fry. This reminds me of growing up in a legalistic and fundamentalist protestant sect where people spent their spare time discovering just what was wrong with everyone else. The worse everyone else was, the higher they were on the pecking order. Smoking, dancing, drinking (any quantity), women not wearing long dresses, modern music, etc., every old sourpuss had a PhD in Holier than Though Studies. Whatever they had no inclination themselves to do, that was where the sin was.
 

Eusebius Erasmus

Kingfisher
Orthodox
Since OP asked about the Orthodox position, I'll try to provide it, though I may require correction from forum members more knowledgeable than me.

The Orthodox position is that certain contraceptives are acceptable within marriage to 'space children, enhance the expression of marital love, and to protect health.'

However, the decision to use contraceptives should never be undertaken out of selfish motives.

From what I understand, the Orthodox Church also does not permit contraceptives that could be abortifacients, such as The Pill or IUDs.

The Orthodox Church is also against sterilization techniques such as vasectomy.

EDIT. See here for an informed historical perspective (scroll to 6:50 for the Orthodox position):

 
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Handsome Creepy Eel

Owl
Gold Member
Yes sex outside procreation is sinful and I would say harmful as well. The reason why this is is because sex leaves you feeling drained and apathetic. It's like the soul leaves the body afterwards. People thousands of years ago were able to get away with this feeling because they were having sex only if their basic needs such as food, water, shelter were already met. They did not have much else to do and so they could afford to feel apathetic for hours/days after the fact. Modern civilization is set up so that apathy is costly. There is always so much you could be doing such as working on your hobbies thanks to the ample leisure time given to us. When you have sex several times a week it creates a never-ending feeling of carelessness. Save it for when you want to have kids!
If sex with your own wife leaves you feeling drained and apathetic, you're doing it wrong. Perhaps you're trying to perform sexual acts that make your experience more akin to mutual masturbation than the unity of husband and wife it is supposed to be, or you approach the sexual act with an attitude that devalues it from the beginning.

What you describe is what the aftermath of masturbation is supposed to feel like.
 

FactusIRX

Kingfisher
Since OP asked about the Orthodox position, I'll try to provide it, though I may require correction from forum members more knowledgeable than me.

The Orthodox position is that certain contraceptives are acceptable within marriage to 'space children, enhance the expression of marital love, and to protect health.'

However, the decision to use contraceptives should never be undertaken out of selfish motives.

From what I understand, the Orthodox Church also does not permit contraceptives that could be abortifacients, such as The Pill or IUDs.

The Orthodox Church is also against sterilization techniques such as vasectomy.

EDIT. See here for an informed historical perspective (scroll to 6:50 for the Orthodox position):

Does any Orthodox individuals have a more complete explanation of this? What is the doctrinal reasoning behind this different approach?
 

get2choppaaa

Pelican
Does any Orthodox individuals have a more complete explanation of this? What is the doctrinal reasoning behind this different approach?
This came up in our small group with catechumens/inquirers class the other day. I am still not sure I fully understand it all.

While I could try and answer, I would suggest a Priest is the source you need here. The Orthodox Church is seldom black and white about things. Abortion is obviously verboten... But there is some more nuance in the contraception issue.
 

FactusIRX

Kingfisher
This came up in our small group with catechumens/inquirers class the other day. I am still not sure I fully understand it all.

While I could try and answer, I would suggest a Priest is the source you need here. The Orthodox Church is seldom black and white about things. Abortion is obviously verboten... But there is some more nuance in the contraception issue.
I totally understand and agree with banning abortion and abortifacients (IUDs or the Pill), but I have a more difficult time accepting a complete prohibition on using natural family planning methods and non-abortifacient contraceptives for spacing out children.

The traditional Catholic position is quite clear that any type of contraceptive is a mortal sin and that even NFP and abstinence outside of extreme or special circumstances is a mortal sin.
 

DeFide

Robin
The traditional Catholic position is quite clear that any type of contraceptive is a mortal sin and that even NFP and abstinence outside of extreme or special circumstances is a mortal sin.
Eh, evidently this is NOT the case (I was surprised too). In other words, Catholics do not commit mortal sin by using NFP. the following article: Natural Family Planning: On Recent Condemnations of NFP. I’ll summarize the main points below.


The moral aspect of NFP and periodic continence may be summed up as follows:

1. General Principles.
-Spouses are free to choose whatever time they want to exercise their marriage right or abstain from exercising their marriage right by mutual consent.
-Conversely, they are not obliged to exercise their right during fertile periods, or abstain during sterile periods.
-Deliberately to limit marital relations to sterile periods to avoid conception is morally lawful in actual practice, provided the requisite conditions are met.
-Family limitation without good and sufficient reason involves a degree of moral fault.
-Periodic continence is morally permissible because it fulfills the other ends of marriage (mutual love and fidelity, alleviation of concupiscence) and because it does not physically hinder the natural processes of conception.

2. Requisite Conditions.
-Mutual consent or willingness of the spouses.
-Ability properly to observe periodic continence without danger of sin.
-Sufficient justification or cause, just and grave, either medical, eugenic, economic, or social, which justifications are outlined by various theologians.

3. Gravity of the Various Obligations.
-The issues involved with NFP were not fully discussed by pre-Vatican II theologians.
-The gravity of an obligation (if any) to exercise the marriage right during fertile periods was not clearly established.
-Neither was the gravity of the unjustifiable use of periodic abstinence.
 

FactusIRX

Kingfisher
Eh, evidently this is NOT the case (I was surprised too). In other words, Catholics do not commit mortal sin by using NFP. the following article: Natural Family Planning: On Recent Condemnations of NFP. I’ll summarize the main points below.


The moral aspect of NFP and periodic continence may be summed up as follows:

1. General Principles.
-Spouses are free to choose whatever time they want to exercise their marriage right or abstain from exercising their marriage right by mutual consent.
-Conversely, they are not obliged to exercise their right during fertile periods, or abstain during sterile periods.
-Deliberately to limit marital relations to sterile periods to avoid conception is morally lawful in actual practice, provided the requisite conditions are met.
-Family limitation without good and sufficient reason involves a degree of moral fault.
-Periodic continence is morally permissible because it fulfills the other ends of marriage (mutual love and fidelity, alleviation of concupiscence) and because it does not physically hinder the natural processes of conception.

2. Requisite Conditions.
-Mutual consent or willingness of the spouses.
-Ability properly to observe periodic continence without danger of sin.
-Sufficient justification or cause, just and grave, either medical, eugenic, economic, or social, which justifications are outlined by various theologians.

3. Gravity of the Various Obligations.
-The issues involved with NFP were not fully discussed by pre-Vatican II theologians.
-The gravity of an obligation (if any) to exercise the marriage right during fertile periods was not clearly established.
-Neither was the gravity of the unjustifiable use of periodic abstinence.
Yeah, I own This is the Faith, and the chapter on marriage states that period continence (i.e. not having sex during a fertile period) is allowed under legitimate circumstances, which are Medical, Eugenic, Economic, and Social Order. Every other type of birth control is off the table. Of course, this position has softened and changed since Vatican II
 

FactusIRX

Kingfisher
No priest where I am. No trad church. It s very difficult.
Before Vatican II, that was the standard Catholic position, so if you were a Catholic, it would have applied to you. If you were married in a modern Catholic Church, they would have different doctrines and rules on contraception. That's part of the difficulty and inconsistency of having your main, operating Church differ with these traditional "sects" that supposedly still follow the doctrine of the Catholic Church, but not really.
 
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