Sunday, October 29, 2006

Theologians to Discuss the Economy

Theologians to Discuss the Economy

ROME, OCT. 29, 2006 ( A theologians videoconference organized by the Congregation for Clergy will be held this Tuesday on the theme "Economy: Love of God, Production and the Free Market."

It will mark the 50th such worldwide videoconference organized by the Vatican dicastery. The monthly videoconferences over Internet link theologians from around the world.

The conference can be followed live, beginning at noon (Rome time), on the dicastery's Web page, Texts of the talks will be posted there later.

Internet users must install "Real Player" in their computer to follow the event with images and audio. The organizing dicastery's Web page gives the link to download it.

Speakers will include Bishop Gerhard Müller of Regensburg, who will address the theme "Model of the 'Social Market Economy' and Its Roots in the Social Doctrine of the Church," and Monsignor Michael Hull of New York, who will talk about "Moral Criteria of the Managerial Function."

Is everything really ok between a married couple?

Warning: this post is somewhat explicit.

Many Catholic theologians and apologists claim that so long as the placement of the sperm within the vagina is not thwarted or replaced by something else, then anything goes--anal sex, oral sex, etc.

For examples, this seems to be a typical response over at the EWTN Q&A section:
The rationale for the Church's stance that deliberate sexual stimulation (of any type, not just oral sex) outside of completed marital intercourse is wrong is, in part, because it is inherently selfish. Rather than giving completely of themselves to the other, the couple is using each other for sexual satisfaction while avoiding the responsibilities involved (e.g., complete unity, openness to new life).
The implication is that deliberate sexual stimulation within completed marital intercourse is ok, when used as a means to an end. Similarly:

To make it absolutely clear:a couple can never have oral sex as a replacement for normal sex.

Oral sex is only allowed as a prelude to normal sex. I suggest you get Christopher West's book, "Good News About Sex and Marriage." It's available through It would be good for both of you to read it.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

I need to read Love and Responsibility, but I doubt that John Paul II directly addressed the question of oral sex and anal sex. Some, however, have used what he has written to justify oral sex. From a blog, Catholic Writings:
Before he was elected Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla wrote in his book “Love and Responsibility” that in an act of sexual intercourse, the couple should strive to attain climax at the same time. This highest point of the sexual union between husband and wife should be shared by both.

This ideal certainly is hard to achieve, given that, as said above, men reach orgasm much quicker than women. It is therefore the husband’s responsibility to slow down and “read” his wife’s body language, which will tell him when she is about to climax.

This is one area when oral sex is allowed between husband and wife - to help the woman to climax at the same time as the husband.

However, in the event that the man does climax first, it is also his responsibility to ensure that his wife also climaxes during this act of sexual intercourse by physical stimulation.

If the husband is engaged in coitus with his wife, how is he going to give oral sex at the same time? Manual stimulation, perhaps, but oral sex seems to be physically impossible, even for a contortionist.

Again, over at EWTN:
Dear Fr.:

In a recent post, you answered that oral sex deviates from the unitive and procreative aspects of the marriage act. However, I think some detail must be made clear to arrive at the fullest picture of truth, otherwise incorrect conclusions might be drawn and sometimes those incorrect conclusions can bring great sorrow to the marriage bed and that's not what the church intends.

Although oral sex may not be licitly performed to completion, as that inhibits the procreative aspect of married sex, it should be noted that 1) oral sex as a prelude to intercourse is licit and 2) the statement is only fully true when discussing oral sex from wife to husband; oral sex to fulfill sexual pleasure for a husband TO his wife actually aids in the unitive aspect of married sex. As long as the completed sex act end with sperm ejaculated into the vagina, other techniques for aiding the wife's sexual pleasure are actually encouraged, be it oral or manual. John Paul II wrote as much when he spoke of the obligation of a husband to give his wife sexual pleasure in Love and Responsibility. It is no secret to know that very many women simply cannot achieve orgasm with direct intercourse alone. For a wife to be left without this unitive aspect of lovemaking is actually against the teachings of the church. If you think about it, it's basic biology as God created us and human body parts are part of His design (a theology of the body, so to speak): God created a man with one sexual organ, a penis, and it allows the man to assist in procreation and it gives the man (and woman, to a lesser extent) sexual pleasure. God created a woman with a vagina for procreation and a clitoris that does nothing else but give the woman pleasure. For all parts of the body to be used as God planned it surely is good.

However, having said that, it is quite clear that oral or manual sex in place of completed intercourse is always sinful. In this day and age, when we are bombarded with deviant sexual behavior in and out of marriage, it is imperitive that clear teaching of Catholic sexualtiy not be shyed away from, as that is what will keep marriages strong. (By they way, I got much of this information from the previous priest who did the Q&A for the EWTN NFP forum; it's legit, I promise!)

Pleasure is the unitive aspect of lovemaking? Unitive in an equivocal sense, or common in praedicando. What is actually unitive is coitus itself, when a man and woman join as one flesh.
Is pleasure the purpose of coitus? Or is it, as Aristotle teaches, the completion of the act? I think the reason we have problems understanding traditional sexual morality is because we are so engrossed with pleasure, and don't understand its place within natural teleology.

This is almost as bad as the position which says anything is ok between two consenting adults.
Where does this confusion arise? Perhaps it is an attempt to reconcile proportionalism (or a system that focuses exclusively on the intention) with the Church's teachings about contraception and sex (in so far as they remain 'physicalist'? or so the critics would say), leaving as much freedom as possible for the moral agent. (The "new" casuistry.) Or perhaps it arises from some form of "personalism" (though it is not clear to me that personalism has different historical sources and causes as proportionalism).

The Church's teachings against artificial contraception are on solid ground; but it seems to me that many of the explanations offered to defend her teachings do not pay sufficient attention to the morality of the external act, and its object. Is it commensurate for the penis to be put anywhere other than the vagina? It seems to me that the answer is no.

Certainly, there are health risks associated with anal sex? Frequent anal sex can lead to incontinence after the loss of muscle tone and the diminished ability of the sphincter muscle to contract, etc. But it seems that arguing anal sex is wrong based on future consequences is a consequentialist argument. It is not the same as pointing out that there is an affinity between the penis and the vagina, in so far as there is natural lubrication provided by secretions, and protection against friction given type of cells constituting the vaginal wall, and so on? There are all sort of physiological details that reveal it is proper for the penis to be in the vagina, in contrast to the anus, where there is no lubrication and the muscle wall is rather thin and susceptible to tearing, and so on.

What about the use of the hands for manual stimulation? It seems that between a married couple, the use of the hands to caress, excite and please is ok, so long as the marital embrace is not frustrated or replaced. What of the mouth? There seems to me to be a difference between kissing as a sign of reverence, and using it as a tool for stimulation. And then of course there is the women using her mouth as a substitute vagina. As for men "giving oral sex," one notes that the [chauvinistic] Greeks thought that this practice was unmanly.

While the use of the hands to stimulate the genitalia seems ok, it does not seem to me that the same can be said of using the mouth and tongue. It may be difficult to formulate an argument why, beyond 'modest repugnance,' but as evidence I would point to the fact that the sense of taste has for its organ the tongue, and the sense of smell often works in conjunction with the tongue (and its organ, too, is located in the head, on the face). Given the proximity of the components of the reproductive system to those of the urinary system, without an adequate cleaning of the genital area, one suspects that through the two senses just mentioned there would be sufficient reason to be repulsed from following through on the act.

Of course some may point to homosexual behavior among animals--but it is neither that common nor that dominant within a species; the strength of the desire for pleasure (or in the case of males to ejaculate?) -- can lead to certain acts, but this does not mean that they are "in accordance with nature" except in so far as they proceed from the sense appetite.

Small wonder that the missionary position is the favorite among women -- it fosters intimacy, parity between man and woman. Many of the other positions seem to play to a focused on the self, especially when the male is at advantage -- pleasing him or his ego, or lording his supposed sexual prowess over the female. One comment heard in the past is that certain positions are rather animalistic, since they are those used by brute beasts (and missionary is physically impossible for them); while between human beings, the missionary position does seem optiumum, especially since it fosters communication between two spouses in a way that respects both the complementarity of male and female and the equality based on their nature. Other positions that foster face-to-face orientation seem to be better for that reason--communion, relating to the other at all levels, and promoting what is proper between rational animals, rather than to brute beasts.

This too might be an argument against oral sex; when one is performing oral sex, there is no longer face-to-face parity between the two spouses. How would I otherwise respond to the argument that the man giving oral sex is being "generous" in trying to please his wife? Perhaps
the key is, again, this possibly narrow focus on pleasure. Of course, we tread a minefield when dealing with the statistics behind vaginal versus clitoral orgasms; there is plenty of polemics one both sides, though many argue that only a clitoral orgasms is possible for most women. One wonders if men were more considerate and attentive to the rhythms of their wives that the occurence of vaginal orgasms would be more frequent. Would it not be better to recommend that the husband spends more time preparing himself and his wife for the conjugal act, and spends a little time afterwards embracing her and communicating with her to show his love and affection? If women do not derive much satisfaction from sex and instead look forward to the cuddling, would it not be a sign that sex should be more like cuddling?

(Can a Catholic couple read the Kama Sutra?)

I wonder about the credibility of women who claim they like other positions -- have they been degraded either through abuse or voluntary acts? Or is their response due to a lack of self-respect; they see themselves as nothing more than sex machines and give the response they think males want to hear?

(Dr. Laura unfortunately also believes that anything goes between a married couple, and I believe she is in error on this point.)

Some websites where the answer no is given:
Christdot forum
Presentation Ministries:
Does the Church say that oral sex as foreplay in marital relations is OK?

No, the Church has never said anything officially on this. So the Church has not said oral sex followed by vaginal sex is OK, nor has the Church said it is not OK. In this case we must apply basic moral principles without the help of the Church's specific guidance. In all marital relations, each spouse should have a profound respect for the other. All marital relations should ex-press the total self-giving of the spouses to each other. Therefore, lust, which by definition focuses on self-gratification, is contradictory to love. Also, the natural functions of our bodies should be respected; so unnatural acts are wrong. Applying these principles, I believe that oral sex in marriage is wrong and sows seeds of destruction which will eventually undermine a marriage. Because of this, pastors and caring people should bring up this subject rather than let spouses sow the seeds of destruction in their marriages.

On the Impossibility of Same-Sex Marriage