There is nothing in the world more contentious among Catholics themselves than what is permissible in their bedrooms by their religion. While the Catechism is fairly clear on this issue (and the Catechism represents that which must be followed and believed), many follow a variety of philosophies. These range from what I call the “Augustinian” view that sex is only for procreation and nothing more, only in one set position, and God forbid the woman actually enjoy it because an orgasm for her is a sin – all the way to the “Progressive/Rationalist” view, that what happens between consenting adults in their own bedroom is none of the Church’s or God’s business and basically anything goes.
The truth is a fair distance from each philosophy and it is clearly laid out in the Catechism (read it here for yourself http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm). No matter who you ask you will get different answers on what is acceptable and what is not (trust me, I’ve asked priests and never gotten the same answer twice). The answers are in the Catechism for those who will take a moment to read it, and greatly expounded upon in the series of sermons that make up the Theology of The Body.
The “Augustinian” view is derived primarily from the writings of St. Augustine who though a Doctor of the Church and very wise did not write with infallibility, nor do his writings and recommendations constitute Dogma, nor Canon Law. Due to Augustine’s rather debauched early life and his need to reject his own sensuality, as he wrote in “Confessions” which is still widely read today, his harsh recommendations were his prescription for combating the lust and sin so prevalent in his earlier life which of which he was extremely averse. In paragraphs 2360-2363 of the Catechism it is made clear that sex is for bonding a couple, bring joy a pleasure as a gift from each to the other, and that it must always remain chaste and open to life. There are no prohibitions on positions, or frequency – but there are prohibitions on using your partner solely for your physical gratification. In remaining open to life and chaste, marital sex must be performed with no barriers to contraception and only with the person to whom we are sacramentally bonded in marriage.
The “Progressive/Rationalist” view throws the Catechism out the window. People tell themselves that anything they want to do with their partner is OK regardless of whether it fits in the context of sacramental marriage. Masterbation, trying to avoid pregnancy by pulling out early, bringing other partners into your bed, and using your spouse for relief instead of in a mutual giving where both of you give the other a gift of themselves and the other graciously receives it – are right out.
Sex in a Catholic Marriage is a chaste expression of love, the giving of a gift of oneself to another and receiving that gift in return. We men especially, often fail here to recognize that 30 seconds of foreplay and 10 seconds of thrusting, followed by 8 hours of snoring does not constitute a gift to our wives. Such crude behaviour masquerading as marital intimacy only breeds resentment, distrust, and unhappiness in the recipient of your “gift” who you just treated like a common whore, or inflatable female facsimile. The marital embrace should always be open to life and a spiritually bonding experience for the loving couple. This does not mean that a quickie in the morning as a gift from your wife is wrong, so long as it is a gift freely given and not demanded. Such gifts are much more likely to occur if there is a whole-hearted attempt to return that gift at an appropriate time and place when you can focus yourself on returning that gift rather than your own gratification.
Exercised in the proper context and within the principles of the Catechism, the marital embrace can bring Husband and Wife both to new levels of both pleasure and intimacy – bonding them inseparably in the process. Outside the confines of the Catechism, sex becomes the greatest weapon in damaging relationships that there is. Infidelity, using your wife as a receptacle for your lust, and making demands instead of accepting gifts do more to damage marriages than anything else I know of. Such actions destroy the trust and intimacy that is the basis for both Love and the sacramental marriage and hurt both parties physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If you have concerns about a particular issue, then open the link to the Catechism above and see if it qualifies there as well as being loving gift to your spouse which is open to life. Ask yourself if you are having to apply pressure to your spouse. Even fearing your anger, disappointment, or disapproval will constitute an inability on her part to give herself freely to you. Take the time to learn each other both physically and emotionally and let your wife surprise you with her gifts. I assure you, a woman in love can be more creative than you can imagine in your wildest fantasy when she wants to please you. You should be setting an example for her to follow.
I know this post will likely produce a plethora of comments and additional questions, I welcome all of them – but ask that you keep them civil and polite.