A Debate about Marital Foreplay

Over at a blog called “Les Femmes The Truth“, way back in June of 2009, a post on marital sexual ethics drew considerable discussion. Here is the post:
Sodomy and Theology of the Body: The Death of Common Sense by Mary Ann Kreitzer
The post was followed by a comment by Randy Engel (of New Engel Publishing), and then a discussion which notably included participation from Dr. Ed Peters, in defense of Dr. Janet E. Smith, and a traditionalist priest, Father George David Byers. [1]

The present article will review these different opinions, and compare them to the teaching of Saints and of the Church.

The Post

Here is the full post, quoted with permission:

Sodomy and Theology of the Body: The Death of Common Sense

“Today is the feast of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, the martyrs of Uganda. These 22 young men lived and died near the end of the 19th century during the reign of King Mwanga. He was a pederast who demanded that the young men of the court engage in lustful relations with him. They refused and were put to death either by being burned at the stake or beheaded. What saints for our immoral age when in-your-face homosexual lust has taken to the streets and hotel ballrooms of our country! And what was the primary sin St. Charles and his companions condemned? Sodomy.

“Please, somebody explain how sodomy can be considered acceptable foreplay in a loving, Catholic marriage or any marriage for that matter. It defies common sense! If anything goes in foreplay, what’s the problem with using pornography or sex toys or with tying your spouse to the bedpost?

“Randy Engel has common sense on her side. I’m sorry to be critical because I respect both Smith and West, but this issue absolutely defies reason!”

My Comments

Mary Ann Kreitzer is right to compare the example of these martyrs to this question on marital sexual ethics. They died rather than commit a grave sexual sin condemned by Scripture and the Church. And the same act is no less sinful when committed between a man and woman, or between spouses, or as non-consummated “foreplay”. Sodomy is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral because it is non-unitive and non-procreative. Taking away climax from the act does not make it unitive or procreative.

Note that the Church has condemned amplexus reservatus, which is natural intercourse without climax for either spouse — making the natural act now non-procreative and therefore intrinsically evil. So even natural marital relations becomes a grave sin when it is non-procreative. Therefore, the absence of climax cannot be used to justify an act which is inherently non-procreative.

Randy Engel

The post by Mary Ann was followed by a long comment from Randy Engel. Here it is, in full (quoted with permission).

In my two year study on John Paul II’s Theology of the Body which ran as a 7-part series in Catholic Family News (May-November 2008) and is now available online at http://www.newengelpublishing.com, I tackle the issue of the morality of anal penetration by married couple as a form of foreplay as explained by Christopher West.

In Chapter Five of his book Good News About Sex & Marriage – Answers to Your Honest Questions About Catholic Teachings (First Edition), in response to a question on the morality of anal sex for married couples, West states “There’s nothing inherently wrong with anal penetration as foreplay to normal intercourse.” This is a false teaching and a serious moral error.

Based on my 17 years of research for The Rite of Sodomy – Homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church, which included a study of all of the Church Fathers, including Saint Peter Damian and Saint Bernardino of Siena, on the vice of sodomy, I can categorically state that the Catholic Church has always defined sodomy to include anal penetration, with or without ejaculation.

The act of sodomy, whether carried by homosexuals or by spouses, is intrinsically evil and a perversion. A married couple who engages in anal penetration and then goes on to normal coitus has engaged in two separate acts – the first, sodomy, is a grave sin, whether or not ejaculation has occurred. Further, the physiology of anal copulation is such that it would be most difficult to prevent ejaculation.

In West’s revised edition of Good News About Sex & Marriage, this grave moral error was not corrected. After pointing out that anal penetration is unsanitary and unaesthetic, West asserts:

“Perhaps in some abstract, objective sense, there is nothing to condemn mere penetration of the anus as absolutely and in every case immoral. But subjectively speaking… it is very difficult to justify anal penetration as a loving act of foreplay to the marital embrace. It is an act that seems to stem much more from the disorder of lust than from a genuine desire to symbolize and renew the marriage commitment.”

Now, alas, we have Janet Smith, claiming that:

“Certainly there isn’t any ‘Church teaching’ about this action at a magisterial level, but few seem to know that there is a tradition of approval of such behavior as foreplay to intercourse (not to be confused with the biblical condemnation of sodomy which replaces intercourse) by orthodox Catholic ethicists. The principle generally invoked is that consensual actions that culminate in intercourse are morally permissible…. Perhaps it is time for ethicists to work on the question….”

What madness is this?

Where, pray tell, is the Catholic tradition that approves of anal penetration as a forerunner to coitus to be found?

What question is there for ethicists to work on?

Isn’t 2000 years of Church teachings on the immorality of sodomy good enough for West or Smith?

Do West and Smith have to be reminded that not all married couples have normal sexual desires? Indeed some are drawn into sinful acts as a prelude to intercourse including sadomasochist acts, the viewing of pornography to stimulate sexual excitement, and sodomy.

Isn’t it time that TOB advocates like Christopher West and Janet Smith be held accountable for their erroneous and dangerous pronouncements on Catholic sexual morality and conjugal love?

The above quote from Randy Engel is orthodox and insightful.

In my own research on marital sexual ethics, I likewise have found no distinction in Church teaching or the Saints which condemns consummated sodomy and approves of sodomitic foreplay. The Church Fathers would be appalled at such a distinction. Also, the claim by Smith that there is no Church teaching on this subject is FALSE. See my article: Church Teaching on Marital Sexual Ethics.

Unnatural sexual acts are condemned when done by same-sex couples. The claim that these same types of acts, which are just as non-procreative and non-unitive, become moral when done in marriage, is contradictory.

Thus, it is blatant sinful hypocrisy to say to same-sex couples, “You do not have a valid marriage because your sexual acts are non-procreative,” and then tell Catholic married couples that there is nothing wrong with using the same type of sexual acts within their marriage. The Church is not a hypocrite, and so She does in fact condemn unnatural sexual acts, regardless of the marital state, whether done by men, or by women, or by a man and a woman together. Marital sodomy is not a moral type of sodomy. It remains intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. Jesus did not raise natural marriage to the dignity of a Sacrament, so that Christian spouses could commit “acts of grave depravity”, which are condemned by both the Old and New Testaments.

An Alleged Tradition

In the discussion after the post, Dr. Ed Peters defends the view of Dr. Janet E. Smith and Christopher West that there exists in the Church a tradition among moral theologians approving of anal penetration (AP), as long as the husband does not climax deliberately during the act, and intends to follow that act with an act of completed natural intercourse. Note that Peters is not recommending this act to married Catholics; his position is merely that Smith is correct in saying that there exists such a tradition.

In the article The Need To Read Carefully and then in another article Christopher West’s Work Is Completely Sound, Janet E. Smith defends an alleged tradition of approval for anal penetration prior to the natural marital act. Smith states that AP is probably painful, is unhygienic, seems degrading to her, and is likely wrong — but she feels compelled to defend the act, publicly, twice.

In any case, the fact that some theologians approve of this act is not, in and of itself, proof of a tradition. There are always some priests and theologians who disagree with any Church teaching you might name. When Saint Alphonsus Liguori gave his answer to this question — that AP is a mortal sin — he notes that some theologians had approved of the act. So Peters and Smith need to do more than cite some persons with this opinion in order to prove such a tradition. At the very least, they need to establish that the teaching of the Church permits said opinion. Otherwise, the tradition would be nothing other than evidence that theologians are fallen sinners. Nothing contrary to Church teaching can be a tradition of orthodox theologians.

The Teaching of the Church

Now, there is a serious problem with the claim that AP is not equivalent to sodomy because climax is lacking. The Church has condemned marital sodomy, without stating that it is only immoral with climax. Moreover, the Church has taught that the wife must resist actively, if the husband attempts “the crime of the Sodomites” with her:

“If, however, the husband wishes to commit the crime of the Sodomites with her, since sodomitic intercourse is against nature on the part of both spouses who are united in this way and, in the judgment of all the learned teachers, is gravely evil, there is clearly no motive, not even to avoid death, that would permit the wife legitimately to carry out such a shameless act with her husband.” [Denz. 3634]

The earlier text of this section in Denzinger permits the wife to cooperate with the husband in natural intercourse, which then becomes unnatural and the sin of Onan when the husband commits the sin of coitus interruptus (withdrawal). This decision of the Holy See makes is in accord with reason. For how can the wife know that the husband is going to withdraw? She begins the act in the natural manner, so she does nothing wrong. In some cases, the husband might state he will withdraw; other times he might lie. She cannot be held accountable for his decisions that she cannot control.

So then, how can the wife know if the husband is going to choose to climax during anal intercourse, or whether he intends to stop, switch to natural intercourse, and then climax? She is obligated by the decision quoted above to resist her husband, or be guilty of a grave sin. Yet she cannot know in advance, not in every case. And would she then be guilty of this mortal sin, if he lied and said that he would withdraw from AP and subsequently perform natural intercourse? Or what if he decides during the act to change his mind and choose climax? The only interpretation that makes any sense in this regard is that the act of sodomy is gravely immoral regardless of whether climax occurs or not. Otherwise, the wife would be unable to resist, not knowing how the act would unfold, and she would supposedly be guilty of mortal sin, through no fault of her own (if AP were moral).

The Magisterium has taught that grave sexual sins remain gravely immoral when climax is lacking. The USCCB document against pornography condemns masturbation, even when climax is lacking [USCCB, “Create In Me A Clean Heart”, III. Pornography’s link to other sins.]. And the Holy See has condemned amplexus reservatus, which is natural intercourse which deliberately lacks climax for both spouses. So the absence of climax in AP does not make the act not a sexual act, or not gravely immoral.

And this teaching of the Church stands to reason. It has been reported in the medical literature that a certain percentage of rapists fail to reach climax [2]. Does any reasonable person think that the acts of a rapist are not sexual acts, if climax is lacking? Certainly, not. What if an underage teenage girl returns from her first date with a young man, and admits to her parents that the couple engaged in foreplay, but they did not have sex. The parents would not be too upset, until they learn that the girl learned online that sexual acts without climax don’t count as sexual acts at all. Then they would be very upset. The acts in question are not only sexual acts, but also statutory rape. Do you really think that the young man can claim to be innocent, if climax did not occur?

Saint Alphonsus Liguori considers this very question concerning AP in marriage as foreplay.

“Whether it is a mortal sin for the husband to begin copulating in a disordered [or perverse] orifice, then afterward consummate the act in the proper orifice?”

The disordered orifice (vase praepostero) here could be understood as the posterior, or more generally as any orifice not designed for sexual intercourse. St. Alphonsus condemns this act. Then he explains why:

“The reason is that this manner of his sexual act (even without climax) is truly sodomy, whether or not it is consummated, just as an act of copulation in the natural orifice of another woman is truly fornication, even if there is no climax.”

Sodomy is still sodomy when climax is lacking. That is the teaching of Saint Alphonsus Liguori. And notice that in the prior quote from Denzinger, the Magisterium teaches that “sodomitic intercourse is against nature on the part of both spouses who are united in this way and, in the judgment of all the learned teachers, is gravely evil….” The Church states that the tradition among “all the learned teachers” is condemnation, not approval. Therefore, when we include with that statement the fact that a Saint and Doctor of the Church, the Church’s greatest moral theologian, also teaches that sodomy is gravely immoral — and is still sodomy without climax — the claim that orthodox moral theologians hold a tradition to the contrary is not believable.

Yes, you can find a few theologians here and there, now and then, who approve of these acts. But that is true of any teaching of the Church and any common opinion of Saints and Doctors. There are always dissenters. Peters makes a show of claiming that the theologians in this tradition are beyond reproach. Well, none of them are Saints or Doctors. All the Saints who have considered the question of unnatural sexual acts in marriage (Jerome, Augustine, Albert, Thomas, Alphonsus) have condemned these acts. Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium have condemned sodomy, without any provision that it is permissible to the married, if climax is lacking.

In my book, The Catholic Marriage Bed, I show that Church teaching condemns all unnatural sexual acts (anal, oral, manual), even when climax is lacking, even when an act of natural intercourse occurs before or after [3]. A sexual act is still a sexual act, when climax is absent. And unnatural sexual acts of every type are inherently non-unitive and non-procreative; therefore, they are intrinsically evil. No intention or circumstance justifies an intrinsically evil sexual sin. The intention to commit the natural marital act later, or the circumstance that the natural act has just occurred, cannot justify the deliberate knowing choice of a sexual act which is inherently disordered.

The Discussion with Dr. Ed Peters

Canon lawyer, Dr. Ed Peters joined the discussion (at the blog post quoted above).

Peters: “But to the extent the question, ‘Where, pray tell, is the Catholic tradition that approves of anal penetration as a forerunner to coitus to be found?’ was sincerely posed, I think we will find support for Smith’s assertion (PROPERLY understood) in Ford & Kelly, Vermeersch, Noldin-Schmidt, and Davis, all of which I looked at today, and none of which are susceptible to claims of herterdoxy.”

I have the Ford and Kelly book, and they do not approve of anal intercourse as foreplay. Though Peters and Smith both cite that book, Contemporary Moral Theology, in support of their position, it offers no such support. And that makes me doubt the other citations by Peters. For his part, Peters could not be bothered to give us a quote or specific citation from Vermeersch or Davis, or the book by the authors H. Noldin and Albert Schmitt.

Updated to add: I’ve now taken a look at the Noldin book, edited by Schmitt (both are Jesuit priests). They define sodomy as sex between two persons of the same sex OR sex between persons of opposite sex but “in vase indebito” (with the undue vessel) [p. 40]. They further say that sodomy is just as disordered whether it is a consummated act, or a non-consummated act in an unnatural vessel [p. 41]. Then they say it is a type of sodomy when the husband penetrates the posterior vessel of his wife, whether with his insemination (his climax), or without it. They go on to say that sodomy between spouses is the commission of a grave sin, which is contrary to the natural end of the conjugal act [p. 74].

Updated to add: Vermeersch says the opposite of what Peters claims. His book clearly condemns as intrinsically evil any sexual acts in marriage which are contrary to the natural order. He in no way approves of unnatural sexual acts, even as foreplay. The book is “What Is Marriage?” and is a commentary on Casti Connubii.

So of the six authors that Peters cites as part of a tradition, FIVE do not say anything like what Peters claims, and THREE clearly contradict Peters’ position.

I must also point out that the few approvals for this type of act found in some older texts are very limited in what they permit. By comparison, present-day theology of the body teachers are extremely permissive, going far beyond what any of those sources say. Moreover, those texts were mostly written prior to certain fairly recent magisterial decisions (such as Pius XII) which would weigh against these acts. [end of edit]

Peters does mention Heribert Jone three times, as if he were an orthodox moral theologian whose views support the claim of an orthodox moral tradition approving of AP. Do you know what Jone actually says on this topic? That the wife must resist her husband’s act of anal penetration, and must not take any enjoyment in it, or she sins. Here is a lengthy discussion of what Jone wrote, and this is the quotation:

Jone: “Positive co-operation on the part of the wife in sodomitical commerce is never lawful, hence, she must at least offer internal resistance. However, she may remain externally passive, provided she has endeavored to prevent the sin. She thus applies the principle of double effect and permits the sin to avert the danger of a very grave evil which cannot otherwise be averted; it remain unlawful for her to give her consent to any concomitant pleasure.” [Jone, Moral Theology, n. 757.]

If AP is called “the sin” by Jone, and the wife must resist and refuse “to give her consent” to any pleasure that occurs, how is this a moral marital sexual act? Does Peters agree with what Jone says in full? If he agrees only in part, how can Jone be considered an example of this tradition?

And, No, Heribert Jone is not speaking of consummated sodomy in that paragraph. The quoted paragraph is immediately preceded by a description of the act in question, intercourse “begun in a rectal manner with the intention of consummating it naturally”. So when he condemns the wife’s cooperation, he is referring specifically to AP as foreplay, not completed sodomy. But it is absurd to claim that a sexual act, to which both parties consent, is moral for one person and not for the other. Such a claim is excluded by the teaching of Saint Paul on sexual ethics in the Letter to the Romans: “and not only those who do these things, but also those who consent to what is done.” (Rom 1:32).

As if the above opinion were not enough to disqualify Jone as an orthodox expert on sexual ethics, he also makes a strange claim in another section of the book, on sex outside of marriage. Jone claims that, if any woman is raped, “to avoid sinning” she “must offer internal and external resistance” [n. 226]. Alright, let me just say something very clearly. There are no orthodox moral theologians today who would make such a claim, and the Church certainly has no such teaching. The Church does not require a rape victim to “offer internal and external resistance” in order “to avoid sinning”, as Jone claims.

Why does Peters speak as if Jone were an orthodox moral theologian? Why is Jone discussed so much in online forums today? The reason is that he approves of this unnatural act as foreplay. That approval causes many persons to puff up his credentials and his alleged orthodoxy, so that they can use his name to approve of the crime of the Sodomites within the Sacrament of holy Matrimony.

Peters has more to say on this subject. It is astounding how vehemently he defends the position of Smith that this act is approved by some kind of tradition. He quotes Merkelbach, a source cited by Christopher West on this topic, in Latin. Peters does not give a translation. What the quote says, by way of explanation not translation, is that copulation begun in a disordered vessel (anus or mouth) with the intention of consummating in the vagina, is not a mortal sin, as long as the husband does not climax and he excludes the sodomitic emotion (the desire for sodomy or the enjoyment of it, per se). As is the case in Jone, so also here — there is no real theological argument in favor of this act. It is justified as a preparation for the natural act and because climax is lacking. But there is no substantial examination of the theological and moral issues, nor is there any reply to the opposing view: that such acts are unnatural, non-unitive, non-procreative, and therefore intrinsically evil. The same is true for most sources that approve of AP and other unnatural sexual acts: they do not offer a lengthy theological argument. Instead, they offer a cursory superficial explanation.

One last quote from Dr. Ed Peters. In response to a comment by a traditionalist priest, Peters is indignant:

“I know you’re a priest and I’m just a layman, but a little less condescension toward my qualifications to discuss this matter would be appreciated. I don’t need to be told what Moral Theo 101 teaches. You, however, need to understand accurately what the moral tradition understood by “sodomy” (which it universally condemned!) and what it means by possible ‘acts preparatory to conjugal intercourse’ which acts are per se licit, though consent for them might be withheld for a number sound reasons. Would you please point out to me a single instance where I have ever endorsed “sodomy”? If you cannot, please do the right thing and apologize, or at least retract.”

Okay, what qualifications? Dr. Peters has eminent qualifications in canon law, but he is not a moral theologian. He has written no books of theology. And like Dr. Janet E. Smith, he has no degrees in theology. So I don’t see that he has more qualifications than a Catholic priest, who of course studies moral theology during his formation, and who has heard countless confessions.

I’ve read many blog posts by Dr. Peters. I see no application of the three fonts of morality in any of his writings on sin, not even intrinsically evil acts. And he in fact claims that the intrinsically evil act of contraception is not condemned, and might not be in itself a sin, outside of marriage. So, I think he does need to be told what Moral Theology 101 teaches on intrinsically evil acts.

Dr. Peters claims that sodomy is universally condemned only when it includes climax or is not preparatory to natural marital relations. But the article written by Janet Smith, which Peters is defending, quotes and explains the position of Saint Alphonsus Liguori that unconsummated sodomy is still sodomy and that it is a grave sin even when used as foreplay in marriage. How then can this view be universal, when Smith herself points out that it is not? Did Ed Peters not read the article by Smith, which he is defending? Here is the relevant quote from Smith, proving that Peters is wrong to say that this view on marital sodomy is universal, i.e. that it is only sodomy if it is the completed act.

Smith: “For instance, in the 1912 edition of Theologia Moralis, Editio Nova by St. Alphonsus Liguori (written in 1748), we read this question: ‘Whether a man sins mortally by beginning intercourse in the posterior receptacle (the anus), so as to consummate it afterwards in the appropriate receptacle (the vagina)?’ The answer given to that question is: ‘[Various theologians] deny it is a mortal sin as long as there is no danger of pollution [ejaculation outside of the vagina] because all other touches (as they say), even if sexual, are not gravely illicit among spouses. But it is more generally and truly affirmed [to be a mortal sin] by [various theologians], because coitus itself of this kind (even if without insemination) is true sodomy, although not consummated, just as copulation in the natural vessel of another woman is true fornication, even if insemination does not take place.’ Liguori supports the view of those who argue that anal penetration as foreplay is a mortal sin.” [The Need to Read Carefully]

Smith then cites Ford and Kelly, as proof of a contrary tradition. But, as I said, Ford and Kelly do not approve of, nor directly discuss AP. So that’s not much of a tradition, is it? And Jone is disqualified due to his unorthodox views.

Now orthodox theologians who condemn the use of sodomy in marriage, with or without climax, are more than a few:

1. Fr. Gregory Gresko
2. Alice von Hildebrand
3. Dietrich von Hildebrand
4. Fr. Thomas G. Morrow
5. Fr. Brian W. Harrison
6. Fr. Roger Landry
7. David Schindler
8. Jacques Leclerc (cited and quoted by Alice)

All of the above priests and theologians are discussed in my book, The Catholic Marriage Bed, along with several Saints, and “the master of the sentences” Peter Lombard.

Furthermore, as I mentioned, the Holy See has stated that “all the learned teachers” condemn marital sodomy, and that passage from Denzinger offers no any distinction based on whether or not climax occurs. The USCCB has condemned masturbation, even when climax is lacking. The Holy See has condemned natural marital relations when deliberately deprived of climax for both spouses. And Saint Alphonsus Liguori has explicitly stated that sodomy is still sodomy and fornication is still fornication if climax is lacking.

All of this points to three conclusions: (1) AP is not justified by the lack of climax or by its purpose to prepare for natural marital relations. (2) There is no tradition of orthodox teachers approving of the same. For no one can said to have an orthodox position on a question of grave moral weight, when Scripture, the Magisterium, and the Saints say the contrary. (3) And, the orthodox tradition and magisterial teaching is just the opposite, the condemnation of every kind of unnatural sexual acts, with or without climax, for any purpose, even in marriage.

Father George

Ed Peters was rebuked during this discussion by Father George David Byers, who at the time was “Chaplain of the Sanctuaries of Our Lady of Lourdes, France”.

Fr. Byers: “The only ‘tradition’ to which the pro-sodomites belong is their own little, relatively extremely recent group. Claiming an argument by such lowly authority, and then calling this the moral tradition, of all things, is misleading. Salvation of souls is at grave risk.”

“That doesn’t mean that sodomy is permitted if one doesn’t ultimately spill the seed except where it should be spilt! But that’s legalistic commentary on Scripture and morality for you!”

“Sodomy is never reflective of the truth about human sexuality.”

“What is this about? It’s about treating one’s spouse as a piece of meat for one’s own perverted, selfish, actually inverted, essentially homosexual lust (certainly not eros)…. it objectively contradicts the truth of human sexuality. It doesn’t matter whether or not this precedes what is truly intercourse. The argument about “preparation” is ludicrous on physiological and psychological levels, a reductionist argument of casuistry, sophistry really. What we are witnessing is the homosexualization of heterosexual marriage. This is not good, not holy. It is a grave danger to souls.”

Where to start? The salvation of souls is at risk because approval for unnatural sexual acts in marriage leads to lust. When sexual acts are separated from their unitive and procreative purposes, they become vehicles for mere pleasure, and that is the foundation of the sin of lust: seeking sexual pleasure for its own sake, apart from morality and the true purposes of sex.

The comparison with homosexual acts is apt. The reason that homosexual sexual acts are gravely immoral is not only because the two persons are of the same sex, but also because the acts themselves are inherently non-unitive and non-procreative. In fact, an unnatural sexual act, used by a Catholic man and woman married in the Sacrament, is nevertheless an non-marital act. This is not the type of sexual behavior intended by God for marriage. So AP is deprived of all three goods, the marital, unitive, and procreative. What is left? The empty exchange of pleasure, very similar to homosexual acts. So Father Byers is correct, this is the homosexualization of marriage, or, as Alice von Hildebrand phrased it: “the pornification of marriage”.

Fr. Byers: “Since sodomy does not in reality express the truth about human sexuality, it is intrinsically dishonest.”

The Latin term “intrinsece inhonestum” is found in Casti Connubii. This Latin phrase is probably better translated as intrinsically dishonorable (or shameful, or immoral). In the official Vatican translation of Casti Connubii, it is translated as intrinsically vicious. Father is saying that sodomy is intrinsically a shameful and immoral act.

Sodomy does not express the truth about sexuality, because it is deprived of the marital, unitive, and procreative meanings. The absence of climax, and the intention to commit a moral sexual act later on, does not change the moral nature of the act.

Fr. Byers: “Moral theology 101: The question is about what one is doing, not just the intention. The intention doesn’t change what one is doing. Sodomy is sodomy. It is always intrinsically dishonest, whatever one’s following actions happen to be, whatever one’s intentions happen to be.”

Intrinsically evil acts are never justified by intentions or circumstances (John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor). And an intrinsically evil act never becomes moral by being done about the same time as a good act.

Fr. Byers: “These are all essentially homosexual acts: sodomy, oral sex, etc. We are dealing with that which is intrinsically dishonest. We are dealing with that which is grave matter. We are dealing with what is objectively gravely sinful. When homosexuals do these kind of things, it is objectively gravely evil for them. These are not light matters, nor “merely” on the level of venial sin. When heterosexuals, married or unmarried, do these kind of things, it is objectively gravely evil for them. These are not light matters, nor “merely” on the level of venial sin. And this is regardless of any intention to finish anything in any normal way. It is what is being done, however momentary.”

The Church cannot, and in fact does not, only condemn unnatural sexual acts when done by same-sex couples. That would be hypocrisy. Intrinsically evil acts are immoral for everyone and anyone. And the Sacrament of holy Matrimony does not exist to transform gravely immoral sexual acts into something justifiable.

Fr. Byers: “Even if Ed Peters and Janet Smith claim that a handful of non-magisterial manualists speak for orthodox Catholic doctrine, that doesn’t mean that they or the commentators represent orthodox Catholic doctrine on this point.”

“The Church expects us to use our reason. Sodomy (and a.p., which is the same thing) is intrinsically dishonest because of what one does, regardless of the intention one has, regardless of how it finishes. Just because those moral theologians leading up to the situation ethics era of Fuchs, et al., didn’t see this, doesn’t mean that their ignorance is to be canonized as traditional and orthodox Catholic doctrine. Far from it. It is just rubbish. Sodomy (and a.p., which is the same) is unequivocally condemned, if one is reasonable.”

“The ends of marriage have to be demonstrated to be, and in this order: (1) procreation; (2) unity.”

Thank God for Fr. Byers and other priests like him.

Note about Completed Acts

One of the main arguments of Smith, West, Peters, Popcak, et al. is that AP is not sodomy because it is not completed in sexual climax. What about the wife? How is it that an act of sodomy is considered foreplay and is supposedly not sodomy, due to the lack of climax, when there is climax for the wife? This idea, that the wife may engage in every type of unnatural sexual act (anal, oral, manual, sex toys) to completion, and it is somehow not oral sex, anal sex, manual sex, etc., is patently absurd. Again and again we hear that these acts are not the unnatural sexual act itself, because climax is lacking. But once that claim is established, they go on to say that it’s fine for the wife to engage in these acts to completion — as long as the natural act occurs soon before or after.

Ethics never works that way. If a completed sexual act done in isolation is intrinsically evil and gravely immoral, then it remains intrinsically evil and gravely immoral when done about the same time as a good act of natural marital relations. Bank robbery does not become moral if it is done within a certain number of minutes before or after a donation to charity. These claims about marital sexual ethics would be recognized for what they are — absurd rationalizations — if the subject were anything other than sex. People are just looking for excuses for their favorite sexual sins.

Pius XII in his Address to the Second World Congress on Fertility and Sterility condemned any and all acts by which the wife reaches climax outside of natural marital relations, as “contrary to nature and intrinsically evil”. Yet this condemned type of sexual act continues to be promoted as if it were moral.

Never Before

Added 3 Sept 2018: You can find some authors, in past decades or past centuries, one here, who thought this act was permissible, and another there, who wrote that another act was permissible. But these were occasional mentions, discussed as speculative theology. And the acts that were speculated to be moral were a far cry from today.

Never before has there been, in any single author, such an exceedingly broad set of permissions on what can be done in the marital bed. There is no tradition of approving of this same broad set of acts: everything and anything, as long as male climax occurs only in the natural act. There is no tradition of approval for sex toys of every kind, approval for all manner of unnatural acts, bondage, etc. This extensive set of approvals is absolutely new.

And it is also new that this extensive approval would be trumpeted to the laity worldwide, without teaching them the basic principles of ethics, without teaching them anything of sexual ethics. Never before has this erroneous justification for unnatural sexual acts been so broad in what is being approved, nor so broad in its presentation to the world.

Pointing to an occasional author who erred in one point or another of marital sexual ethics is not evidence of a tradition. It is proof that theologians and priests err, and that sexual sins are often the subject of rationalizations, even in theological texts. But even in those errors, they did not approve of so large a set of grave sexual sins as is the case today.

Danger of Lust

If Catholic spouses mistakenly think that AP is moral, under the aforementioned conditions (no climax, subsequent natural relations), they commit an objective mortal sin, perhaps without the full culpability of actual mortal sin due to ignorance. However, their souls are in grave danger. They may enjoy this type of unnatural sexual act. They may decide that there is no real difference between anal sex with and without climax. They may fall into other unnatural sexual acts. For if a sexual act need not be unitive and procreative, but need only occur about the same time as an act which is marital, unitive, and procreative, then anything goes. Almost any grave sin and unnatural sexual act becomes thinkable and supposedly moral. The result is that the marriage bed becomes filled with lust, and every almost every act found in pornography becomes part of the Sacrament of holy Matrimony. This leads the spouses to the internal actual mortal sin of lust, even if they mistakenly think that the physical acts are morally defensible.

More Reading: The Catholic Marriage Bed

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

[1] Note that obvious spelling errors and ad hoc non-standard abbreviations have been corrected without further notation.
[2] The New Zealand Medical Journal [01 Mar 1992, 105(929):87-89] “forensic aspects of rape”; Medicine, Science and the Law [Vol 31, Issue 4, 1991] “Assailants’ Sexual Dysfunction during Rape Reported by Their Victims”.
[3] The Catholic Marriage Bed, chapter 5;