Catholic Sexuality and the Marital Embrace

12 Aug

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

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 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.


8 Responses to “Catholic Sexuality and the Marital Embrace”

  1. prayingforoneday August 12, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

    Good read. I am no expert in what is right or wrong in a Catholic marriage, but if married under God, then a man and a woman can do as they please. Do people actually still do the Missionary position with the lights out? Come in, it’s 2013, free your sexual minds people, great blog here by Colin. What happens in the bedroom between 2 people married under God is “Whatever it will be” It would PAIN me to think people did the old missionary every other night. That would be so boring..Who would live like that…ZZZzzzzz lol..Good blog Colin!


  2. prayingforoneday August 12, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    Reblogged this on Looking for reasoning to a complicated world and commented:
    Brilliant blog here by Colin on Sex in a Catholic marriage..Food for though here, please give it a read, and also, give Colin a follow, he has a story to tell and is an AMAZING Man who served the USA as a Soldier..Get him followed!! Cheers, Shaun


  3. Lori August 15, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    In answer to Shaun: the theologian who prepared my husband and I for marriage and officiated at our ceremony almost 25 years ago told us regarding the marital embrace: the most important thing is that every single act is OPEN to life–no “mutual masturbation”, no “withdrawal”, b/c, etc. And he said not to turn my husband down, though in a marriage with good communication, that shouldn’t be an issue.

    HOWEVER, every relationship is like a rollercoaster–especially marriage, in my experience, with it’s ups and downs. So I think the point he was trying to make was that even when we’re not as close or even having hard times, it is very important not to deny my husband, lest he be tempted to go somewhere else. Afterall, we have to take into account that ALL of us are sinners and tempted to sin. What Colin has written is very, very true and what we should all strive for. However, I have found that maybe 10% of the time is our “marital embrace” what it is meant to be (truly self-giving, etc. Rather, it ranges and is often closer to a “quickie” :-/ ).

    Thank you so much for this wonderful perspective from a devout Catholic husband. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. cc70458 August 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    Lori –
    I Agree!
    I can tell you from personal experience that when I start to feel distanced from my wife emotionally, it is the marital embrace freely given from her to me as a gift that snaps us back together and reminds me instantly of the deep and abiding bond between us. It says I love you, I forgive you, and will always do so even in those times when the feeling of being connected has changed to distance – it is in joining ourselves that so much can be said without using words. It is in accepting that gift from her that my own failings are made clear to me without recriminations, or shouting, or animus – and replaced by a deep abiding love and renewed commitment. In accepting that gift from her – I am sending the same message back.
    Making love without barriers is a communion of body and spirit between husband and wife with great power for both harm and healing. Denying each other only serves to increase the distance between you as the other spouse will interpret it as a rejection of his/her gift to you and a desire not to commune with him/her in this way. At a certain point you are so far apart that the cord of love that binds you can be broken – then your commitment to God is tested and so many fall – seeking solace outside their marriage and destroying it’s foundation.


  5. The Overlord Bear January 18, 2014 at 1:55 am #

    Sex and marriage are serious business in the Catholic faith, alright! Thank you very much for this article, sir!

    And I should really act more mature when it comes to topics like this. This isn’t something to be played around with, you know.


  6. Tyler February 26, 2021 at 2:31 am #

    You have helped me to dump RCIA and the man-made rules in Catholicism. The Church teaches I can easily toss my older wife via an annulment and get a younger wife (due to easy man-made annulment rules), but I will go to hell for pleasing my wife sexually in an unapproved manner (no, the prohibitions are neither in the Bible nor present in the Ante-Nicene Fathers). The Church, demanding priests be celibate (even though St. Peter was married), insists on making sure to minimize pleasure in anyone else’s life. I am tired of seeing obese priests and reading of priest sexual abuse. “[I]n vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” (Matt 15:9).



  1. Fellow Blogger – Colin from The Catholic Husband | It Goes On - January 24, 2014

    […] #1 My own marriage, I made so many mistakes along the way and learned some very painful lessons. I see no reason that everyone should learn those lessons the hard way, and if they choose that path I like to have a walkthrough for them to get out of the hole they dug themselves doing so. #2 Misunderstood Catholic Teachings – when I hear people make obtuse and incorrect statements about sex in marriage for instance, especially when their understanding is one that I know will damage a marriage I take time to correct it. (e.g. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Socon or Bust » Catholic Sexuality and the Marital Embrace - July 13, 2014

    […] Works for me. […]

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