TOB

Fr. Chad Ripperger: His Grave Error on Marital Sexual Ethics

Fr. Chad Ripperger has a video on marital sexual ethics: Chastity Within Marriage (series on Marriage 2 of 5). In that video, he approves of certain intrinsically evil sexual acts by Catholic spouses.

He begins the talk well enough:

“Among the married, some kinds of foreplay are permissible, and some are not.”

“Pollution also applies to women…. the same actually applies to women as does to men. I know that some moralists say that it’s okay for women to … reach climax outside the context of [marital sex] and that’s fine as long as the male doesn’t do it. But the moralists … the Saints and those who’ve written based on the Saints say that that’s not the case….”

“because God condemned Onanism in the Old Testament, you can’t engage in anything that is basically on the level of Onanism, and so you have to be very careful about observing that.”

I agree with all of the above assertions. Some kinds of foreplay are moral; other kinds are immoral. The sin reaching climax, deliberately, outside of the natural marital act, applies to women just as to men. And, yes, the good moralists, “the Saints and those who’ve written based on the Saints,” teach these truths.

I’ve written on this topic. I cite and quote the Saints and the moralists writing based on the Saints. So I know exactly what they say. But father Chad does not name these “good moralists”, nor quote them, nor explain their theological arguments. And therein lies the problem. The video is a set of unsupported assertions.

My book, The Catholic Marriage Bed, explains to the reader the teaching of the Saints, of Sacred Scripture, and of the Magisterium. The explanation allows the reader to understand why certain acts are gravely immoral. Otherwise, they would be left with a list of what they can and cannot do, but no way to determine the morality of acts not in the list.

So, when Fr. Chad and other authors or speakers simply tell you what is and is not moral, you are left trusting them. And generally, what happens is that people find a teacher who approves of the acts that they wish were moral. Many grave sins are being committed for this reason: you can always find a Catholic teacher who will approve of almost any sin. So it is a problem that Fr. Chad simply states what is and is not moral in the marital bedroom.

He should have begun with the Church’s teaching on intrinsically evil acts. He should have explained what makes a sexual act intrinsically evil (the deprivation of some good required by the eternal moral law, such as the marital, unitive, and/or procreative meanings). He should have stated exactly what the Saints have taught, especially Saint Alphonsus Liguori. He should have covered the requirement of magisterial teaching that each and every sexual act in a marriage be unitive and procreative. He should have explained what Pope Pius XII taught. He does not do any of those things. And it’s a long talk.

The other problem is that Fr. Chad in fact contradicts the teaching of the Saints and the Church on marital sexual ethics. He speaks as if he were one of “the good moralists”, but his teaching approves of intrinsically evil sexual acts in marriage.

Fr. Chad Ripperger claims that the rules for marital sexual ethics are different for the wife than for the husband. That is a grave moral error. The eternal moral law is no different for women than for men. So, in this respect, the teaching of Fr. Chad on sexual ethics is the same as Christopher West and Gregory Popcak. Father Chad makes the very same error that those teachers make, claiming that women can reach climax, before or after the natural marital act, while men cannot. (The truth is that neither spouse may do so.)

Fr. Chad fails to realize that this type of act is intrinsically evil, and being intrinsically evil, it is not justified by a good intention, such as to prepare for the natural act, nor by a difficult circumstance, such as that the husband retracts before the wife has reached climax. So because he does not begin with the basic principles of ethics, and then apply those principles to marital sexual ethics, he ends up teaching Catholic spouses that it is moral to commit intrinsically evil sexual acts in the marital bedroom.

He claims that the wife may stimulate herself to climax before or after natural marital relations. What he describes is simply an act of masturbation by the wife. When an act is intrinsically evil, it does not become moral by being done shortly before or after another act, one that is good. Neither does a type of connection between two acts make one of the acts no longer intrinsically evil. Bank robbery done with an immediate connection to saving life by paying for a surgery is still an intrinsically evil act. So the claim that the act of masturbation by the wife has some type of “immediate connection” to the natural marital act, even if that were true, cannot justify the wife’s act. Intrinsically evil acts are always immoral.

Moreover, the Saints and the Magisterium have taught on this question, and their answer is the opposite to that of Fr. Chad. But he does not tell his audience this fact. He either is ignorant of what the Saints and the Church teach on this point — in which case he ought not to teach until he has first learned — or he knows what they teach, and he deliberately hides this from his audience, so that they will listen to him instead of to the Saints and to the Magisterium.

There are numerous teachings of the Magisterium which apply to this question, the teachings of Veritatis Splendor on intrinsically evil acts, the teaching of the Magisterium that each and every sexual act in a marriage must be open to life, and much more. See chapters one and five of The Catholic Marriage Bed for the full set of teachings. But in particular, Pope Pius XII taught on this subject rather precisely:

Pope Pius XII, Address to the Second World Congress on Fertility and Sterility: “the human person does not possess the right and power to the full exercise of the sexual faculty, directly intended, except when he performs the conjugal act according to the norms defined and imposed by nature itself. Outside of this natural act, it is not even given within the matrimonial right itself to enjoy this sexual faculty fully.”

“the intrinsic evil of any full use of the generative power outside the natural conjugal act applies in the same way when the acts are of married persons or of unmarried persons, whether the full exercise of the genital organs is done by the man or the woman, or by both parties acting together; whether it is done by manual touches or by the interruption of the conjugal act; for this is always an act contrary to nature and intrinsically evil.”

The “full exercise of the sexual faculty” is any sexual act to climax (to pollution). The prohibition against this type of act, other than in the natural marital act, applies to the wife just as to the husband. Notice that when the spouses are not engaged in the natural marital act, they are even said to be like unmarried persons (with respect to sexual acts done to climax, of course). Pope Pius XII clearly states that the wife cannot reach climax, deliberately, even if this occurs just after “the interruption of the conjugal act”. Neither does the Pontiff permit “manual touches,” to climax before the natural act. And the Pope clearly states that this type of act, by the husband or the wife, is “always an act contrary to nature and intrinsically evil.” Always. Intrinsically evil.

And this contradicts the baseless assertions of Fr. Chad Ripperger on marital sexual ethics. No, father Chad, the wife cannot stimulate herself to climax before or after the natural marital act. That is an intrinsically evil act of masturbation. And intrinsically evil acts do not become moral by being done just before or just after a good act, such as marital intercourse. So the “connection” of the act of masturbation to the act of natural marital relations does not transform the former into a different type of act.

Pope Saint John Paul II: “Consequently, circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act “subjectively” good or defensible as a choice.” [Veritatis Splendor 81]

Fr. Chad’s teaching contradicts the specific teaching of the Magisterium under Pope Pius XII on marital sexual ethics, and the general teaching that intrinsically evil acts are not justifiable. The alleged connection of the wife’s sexual act to climax with the natural marital act is not a legitimate justification. It remains an act of masturbation.

Unfortunately, Fr. Chad also approves of the husband performing oral sex on his wife, but only under a certain condition: that the husband in no way enter the interior of the wife’s “vas” (Latin for “vessel”, referring to the vagina). So he approves of oral sex and manual sex as long as no part of the husband’s body (other than his penis) enters the vagina.

This distinction is absurd. The Church does not approve of unnatural sexual acts as long as what is done is exterior to the body. There are many perverse sexual sins that can be committed in an exterior manner. So, in truth, if the husband stimulates his wife with his mouth on her genitals, whether to climax or not, the act is unnatural, intrinsically evil, and always gravely immoral.

Rape is still rape, if it is exterior. Fornication is still fornication. Adultery is still adultery. A sexual act to climax that remains exterior to the body is still a sexual act, and the act is necessarily non-procreative, which makes it intrinsically evil.

Note, in the quote above from Pope Pius XII, there is no such distinction between interior and exterior. Neither the husband nor the wife may reach climax deliberately outside of the natural marital act. The Church does not approve of oral sex only on the wife, nor only if the oral sex act remains exterior.

As for the Saints, Saint Alphonsus Liguori is most specific on these types of questions. He considers several different cases. In no case does he justify the use of any act to bring the wife to climax before or after natural marital relations. His reasoning is that she is not one flesh with the husband when this occurs, and also that the act is not procreative. In modern terms, we say that each marital act must be unitive and procreative. The wife’s stimulation of herself (or her husband’s stimulation of her, as some authors contend) is neither unitive nor procreative, so it is an intrinsically evil sexual act.

Here is what Saint Alphonsus Liguori says on the subject.

Saint Alphonsus Liguori, On Matrimony, Book VI, Q. 919

“Then, if the husband withdraws after climax, but before the climax of the wife, whether it is possible for her to immediately excite herself with touches so as to climax?”

Saint Alphonsus Liguori cites several authors answering “No”. He agrees with this answer, explaining the reason.

“The reason: because the climax of the wife is not necessary to procreation; also, because this sexual pleasure of the wife, in as much as they are separated, does not occur as one flesh with the husband.”

First, the climax of the wife is not essential to procreation, as it is for the husband. So her act, in exciting herself with touches after his withdrawal (after natural marital relations has ended) lacks the procreative meaning of sex. Second, the sexual pleasure of the wife, if it is obtained while they are separated, also lacks the unitive meaning of sex.

And this analysis of the morality of this act applies just as much if the stimulation to climax occurs prior to natural marital relations as if it occurs before. It is not procreative, and it is not unitive. Neither can it be argued that the act is unitive and procreative because it is “connected” to a prior or subsequent act. Pope Pius XII does not accept this idea, and neither does Saint Alphonsus.

This sexual act, done in isolation, is an intrinsically evil act of masturbation. And intrinsically evil acts are not transformed into moral acts by being connected with another act, one that is good. Masturbation does not become some other type of act, if it is done a certain length of time before or after the natural marital act.

Each sexual act must be marital, unitive, and procreative. A set of acts cannot be evaluated so that, if some of the acts are procreative, the others are justified by inclusion in the set. This idea concerning sets of acts was condemned by Humanae Vitae (3, 14).

“Could it not be admitted, in other words, that procreative finality applies to the totality of married life rather than to each single act?”

“Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these.” [Humanae Vitae 3, 14]

As Pope Saint Paul VI phrased it, “each single act” must be procreative, not merely some acts in a set. And this type of analysis applies not only when we are talking about acts that are non-procreative because they are contracepted, but also if they are non-procreative because they are acts of masturbation (or any type of unnatural sexual act).

Fr. Chad’s Error

Some Catholics assume that, if a priest is traditionalist or conservative, that his teaching is necessarily orthodox and trustworthy. Well, that is not necessarily true. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were the conservatives; the Sadducees were the liberals. Jesus rebuked them both. The correct answer to any theological question is not necessarily the conservative answer, or the liberal answer, or whatever.

Another issue, perhaps made worse by the internet, is the cult of personality that attaches to some Catholic speakers, authors, or bloggers. Instead of evaluating a teaching or a theological position based on one’s understanding of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium, the followers of a particular personality accept, wholesale, all that the individual teaches. This is an error condemned by St. Paul:

[1 Cor]
{1:11} For it has been indicated to me, about you, my brothers, by those who are with Chloes, that there are contentions among you.
{1:12} Now I say this because each of you is saying: “Certainly, I am of Paul;” “But I am of Apollo;” “Truly, I am of Cephas;” as well as: “I am of Christ.”
{1:13} Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

So I hope that the readers of this post will not automatically assume that Fr. Chad Ripperger is correct because he is traditionalist, or because he is a popular speaker. Instead, as faithful Catholics, we must all accept what the Magisterium teaches. (And the type of act in question is condemned by the Magisterium in the words of Pope Pius XII.) Then, too, the teachings of the Saints must be given greater weight than any theological today.

Fr. Chad Ripperger’s error on this topic is very grave. He is telling Catholic spouses that the wife may morally commit an intrinsically evil sexual act. This false teaching (in whatever form it may take, whether the limited form presented by Fr. Chad or the extreme form offered by Gregory Popcak) does grave harm to the Sacrament of holy Matrimony and to individual souls.

And we all know what fallen sinners are like, especially when the subject is sexual ethics. They will exaggerate and extend any permission given to them. So when Fr. Chad permits only this type of act, only for certain reasons, the result is that spouses will extend this permission to commit all manner of sexual acts to climax for the wife. In fact, that is the claim made by Christopher West and Gregory Popcak. And now Fr. Chad has joined them in their error.

by
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.

Categories: TOB

10 replies »

    • No, I’m single. However, the eternal moral law is accessible to reason, the reason of anyone. You don’t need to be a priest to comment on the clergy abuse crisis. You don’t need to be married to know that adultery is wrong, etc.

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  1. In Romans 1:26, St. Paul condemns so-called female masturbation when he says that “their females have exchanged the natural use of the body [natural sexual intercourse with a man] for a use which is against nature [female masturbation]”. The teaching of the Magisterium also condemns female masturbation in addition to male masturbation, even though female masturbation cannot result in the ejaculation of semen like male masturbation can, because both female masturbation and male masturbation lack the marital, procreative, and unitive meanings.

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  2. I’ll ask this as modestly as I can.

    What is the sin of condoms: wearing one without sex, is it a sin from the onset of using the condom during sex, or right upon completion?
    Must a wife abstain if she is in a sterilized or contracepted state, but she didn’t choose to be in that state (say after forced sterilization). What about if she did choose to get a cancerous uterus removed… must she abstain? Basically, is it only when she chose an act of direct sterilization that she must abstain?
    Must all intentions of an actor be moral? If so how do you explain these two passages:

    Pope Pius XII: “Therefore, the spouses do nothing evil in seeking this pleasure and enjoyment.”
    Denzinger 1159: “The act of marriage exercised for pleasure only is entirely free of all 1. fault and venial defect.” -CONDEMNED.

    If Pope Pius XII is right, pleasure can be sought so is not an evil intention. Then how can it be evil if it’s the “sole intention.” Wouldn’t this imply it is only evil contingent on other intentions.

    What does Father Rippberger mean about “just moderation.” Does it mean “too much pleasure” is wrong? Or is it more “strange and unusual” things being condemned?

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    • Condoms are a sin if they are used to deprive sex of its procreative meaning. They are a sin to buy, with the intention of using as contraception, a sin to put on as that is the beginning of its use as contraception, and a sin to continue to use through the completion of the act.

      A wife need not abstain if she is sterile due to no fault of her own, or if she is sterile by her own fault, but she repented and confessed.

      All intentions must be good; any evil intention is a sin. Do you really think that intending to do evil is acceptable in the eyes of the Lord?

      Spouses do not have an evil intention when they choose marital relations, not only for pleasure, but also for the higher purposes: love, procreation, expressions of marital fidelity and affection. Pleasure is not an evil intention. All the intentions are good in this example. But if marital relations is chosen for pleasure alone, the sin is in the deprivation of the other goods. If you intend to deprive marital relations of its role in expressing love and faith, and in being open to life, then the sin is there (not in choosing pleasure). In other words, the sin of pleasure alone is found in the deprivation of the other goods, not in the mere fact that marital relations was chosen for pleasure only.

      Stop trying to use your own reasonings to contradict centuries of Catholic moral teaching.

      When an act is good, you are still required to use just moderation, such as not being overly indulgent in food, or in how much time you devote to marital relations, or in giving excessive importance, in the marriage, to sex as opposed to the other goods of marriage.

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  3. Your interpretation starts from a contradicton. I’ve already considered and discarded the interpretation you gave. Denzinger says it is exercised for “pleasure only.” If there was really another intention “of depriving sex of the untitive component,” then clearly, the sole intention would not be “pleasure only.” There would be multiple intentions… not just pleasure alone. Unless you say the absence of an intention in the first place is immoral (quite like Thomas Aquinas wrongly thought the absence of the intention of procreation was a sin).

    I mean, one could conceivable have the intention of pleasure alone, but not even be thinking, or motivated by, anything else. In other words, the mind of the actor is not considering the marital or unitive components at all.

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    • Why do you ask me questions, if you are not going to believe my answers? You are trapped in error because you have decided that your own reasoning is preeminent over everything else. So, stop bothering me with these questions until you decide to do what I said previously: scrap your entire understanding of ethics and learn from scratch.

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  4. If we come to an understanding, then this will be my last post for a VERY long time (months), so please read it all the way through in full as though it is my last post (for real) this time.

    Pope Innocent, the same Pope who condemned “pleasure only” in the marital act says: “Eating and drinking even to satiety for PLEASURE ONLY, are not sinful, provided this does not stand in the way of health, since any natural appetite can licitly enjoy its own actions.” – CONDEMNED.

    You say I have a misunderstanding that “pleasure only,” is not referring to the sole intention of pleasure when done as the sole motive, but is instead referring to some other evil intention. Please tell that to St. Liguori, the greatest theologian of all time, in fact the patron Saint of Theologians and Confessors, who thinks otherwise.

    St. Alphonsus Ligouri: The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, p. 282… “Pope Innocent XI Odescalchi has condemned the proposition which asserts that it is not a sin to eat or to drink from the SOLE MOTIVE of satisfying the palate. However, it is not a fault to feel pleasure in eating… But it is a defect to eat, like beasts, through the SOLE MOTIVE of sensual gratification… in taking the coarsest food through ATTACHMENT TO PLEASURE, there may be a fault.”

    He clearly thinks it is “ATTACHMENT TO PLEASURE” not a deficiency in another good like you are saying!!!

    Last thing: I am just confused why you don’t state these differences are “theological opinion,” but instead consult your mind, like Jimmy Akin does, when there is clear theological disagreement (St. Alphonsus disagrees).

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    • I already replied, and you did not accept the answer. I see nothing wrong with that St. Alphonsus says, except your interpretation of it. Sole motive implies a deprivation of goods required by the moral law; moral evil is always such a deprivation. This does not mean that pleasure as an intended end is evil, and that somehow an evil intended end is good, as long as you have other good intended ends. To be moral, all that is intended must be good (making the first font good), and then all that is in the object of the act must be good, and then the reasonably anticipated bad consequences must not outweigh the reasonably anticipated good consequences.

      I see that you have refused my recommendation, which is to learn ethics from scratch, and discard these foolish ideas which you have invented, which no moral theologian or Saint or Pope proposes. You have departed from the path of truth. You are not following the teachings of the Church, but your own reasoning, which is faulty.

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