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Sex: Only for Procreation?

8/25/2010 - 12:27 PM PST

Catholic PRWire

GLENVIEW, IL (August 25, 2010) - The following article is from the July-August 2010 issue of "Family Foundations," the publication of the Couple to Couple League International (CCL).

Does the Church believe that sex is immoral unless aimed at procreation?

THEY SAY: In Time magazine's May 3, 2010 cover story, "The Pill at 50: Sex, Freedom, and Paradox," Nancy Gibbs writes that religions opposed contraception because "sex, even within marriage, was immoral unless aimed at having a baby." Does the Church teach that the marital act should only be valued for reproduction?

THE FACTS: The Catholic Church does believe that the procreation is an essential element of the marital act. By studying the language of the body, we can clearly see what Humanae Vitae calls "biological laws that apply to the human person" and conclude that the marital act is intrinsically connected with procreation.

Yet the Church accords equal value to the unitive aspect of sexual activity. In fact, in their recent document "Marriage: Life and Love in the Divine Plan," the U.S. bishops explain that these two purposes are inseparably connected. In other words, altering or eliminating one distorts the other. The unitive meaning is distorted if the procreative meaning is rejected because love, by its nature, is life-giving. Thus, contraception actually diminishes conjugal love. Likewise, the procreative meaning is tainted if the unitive is not fully present (i.e., if someone were to view his or her spouse as simply a way to produce offspring, such as with artificial reproduction techniques).

Catholics believe that sexual union is the most intimate and profound way of showing love for another person. It involves a mutual giving and receiving of all of one's self, helping a husband and wife become "one heart and one soul." As fertility is an inherent part of the human person, the church opposes contraception because by thus devaluing fertility, contraception devalues the human person and the marital union. One cannot give oneself totally and completely while withholding one's fertility.

To be fair to Ms. Gibbs, the early Church Fathers of the Patristic Age did indeed teach that the marital act was solely for procreation and that spouses should intend children when they engaged in intercourse. Even St. Augustine taught that marriage and sexual intercourse were for procreation. However, through the centuries Church teaching and theology have developed. It was St. Alphonsus Liguori in the 18th century who united the two purposes of the marital act and taught that both should exist in the intentional order at least implicitly. This teaching has been upheld ever since, and reaffirmed in documents such as Casti Connubii, Humane Vitae, and Theology of the Body.


Sign up for a membership at Couple to Couple League International at, and receive "Family Foundations."

Natural Family Planning Classes Taught

Classes in Natural Family Planning are taught in 17 locations in the Chicago metro area, including southeast Wisconsin and northeast Indiana. The next series of classes will begin Sunday, Aug. 29, 2010 at 6 pm at St. Irene Church in Warrenville, IL, taught by Mike and Denise Kenealy. The method taught is the Sympto-Thermal Method, and it is also taught via CylePRO software.

To register, and for a list of classes throughout the U.S., go to CCL International at, (800) 745-8252. Chicago area NFP information is at


Couple to Couple League of Chicago  IL, 60025 US
Monica Cassidy - ,  (800) 745-8252




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1 - 2 of 2 Comments

  1. Noojaras
    2 years ago

    "The unitive meaning is distorted if the procreative meaning is rejected because love, by its nature, is life-giving. Thus, contraception actually diminishes conjugal love."
    I see the word "thus", but I don't see how the conclusion follows from the assumptions. Also, I would like to know by what criteria one determines that "the procreative meaning is rejected." For example, I anticipate that the author would deny that using the rhythm method constitutes rejection of the procreative meaning, but I cannot guess how such a claim would be justified. Finally, I'm wondering what connection any of this has to the teachings of our Lord, Christ Jesus. There are many direct quotes, in the gospels, of the words of Christ. Are there any on this topic of prevention of conception? Of course, there could be new circumstances that we now face and that Christ didn't have occasion to speak about while he conducted his first ministry on Earth. In particular, in this era many babies are aborted, and the victims aren't randomly chosen, but are more often girls than boys. Under these circumstances, I cannot help but wonder: isn't prevention better than the "cure" that is murder? When a sperm and egg that never united go to their separate deaths, no human being dies. Can we realistically hope for more than that?

  2. Tim Wallace
    5 years ago

    The point made by Ms. Gibbs is extremely interesting. It claims that Church's ban of artificial contraception is stance made on wrong premises. Is she right? I dare to say, more then Catholic conservatives would agree. Or like, for that matter.

    Not many things changed my Catholicism, as realization that Church Fathers (and Church officials in past generally) claimed sexuality doesn't have an unitive role, and can be only practiced with intention of conception. The idea which, at least to my modest knowledge, was never put under consideration when "Casti Conubii" and "Humana Vitae" were issued. One has to ask, if every Catholic (especially layman) knew these facts when documents above were written, would Church today have different explanation of theological history? Of nature?

    I am very grateful that C2C league confessed what Church Fathers taught. However, claiming that theology "developed" since then is problematic. That would mean that Holy Spirit inspired moral error for more then 3/4 of Church History in order to conclude sex is beautiful outside procreational context. This certainly didn't happen.

    People don't take their religion in mature way. The dissent on this matter is clear example. But one has to ask: what would happen if they would? What if they would examine the teachings of the past? Maybe then, we would move away from this status quo.

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