Sunday, November 06, 2011

Mass Chat: Chastity in marriage.

Well, it was in the bulletin.

For the past few weeks my pastor has been discussing marriage in the Sunday bulletin.  He began speaking on the true meaning of marriage, followed by pastoral pieces in defense of marriage and what the Church teaches regarding the homosexual condition and why they can't get married.  This week, Father discusses chastity in marriage.

Several years ago I remember getting into a discussion with my sister-in-law about chastity in marriage - I think JPII spoke about it in connection with TOB and my SIL thought the idea ludicrous.  I said, no, no, no and tried to explain chastity in marriage.  Like I really know anything about marriage... maybe I do, maybe I don't.

Without going into detail regarding my opinions on the matter - which may be all wrong BTW and I should never give advice to anyone on anything - I'll share with you what Father wrote in the bulletin.  Although I must say before hand that I think the conjugal act permits far more than what more traditional Catholics might think.  At the same time, I think NFP - Natural Family Planning - though denied as being an approved form of contraception poses some problems regarding the chastity in marriage thing, or me at least.  It's still having non-reproductive sex, albeit open to life.  That said, if single people are expected to refrain from sexual intercourse, why can't married people be expected to refrain from intercourse from time to time, instead of doing all the NFP calculations?

Chastity according to our state in life.
Chastity.  Are the married called to chastity?  Absolutely yes - and so too is everyone else.  Chastity is one of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit that the Holy spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory.  Teaching about the sacredness of marriage, Christ underlines the value of chastity within the marital state.  Chastity within marriage consists of the temperate use of conjugal intercourse.  [...]  In the new Testament sexual purity is the model for the relationship between husbands and wives, analogous to the relationship of Christ to the Church. (Eph. 5:25)  St. Francis de Sales wrote of a sort double chastity placed on the married couple: to abstain absolutely from any sexual activity when they are apart and to practice moderation when they are together.  Within the moral order, chastity is concerned with the progressive integration of human sexuality for both celibates and married people.  Chastity is a moral virtue and one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. - Source
I still think that scene in Meet Joe Black with Claire Forlani and Pitt is a beautiful expression of love between a man an a woman.  "So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. 'For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'" - Ephesians 5

Editor's Note:  If Mass Chat had an audible theme song, it would be sung to the tune of South Street - substituting the lyric 'Mass Chat' for 'South Street'.

Warning to parents:  Wives, do not fish for change in your husband's pockets in front of the kids - as my parents did - we know what you are doing.  Do not fondle one another in front of the kids - we know what's going on.  Do not make love in front of the kids when you are drunk - no matter how little we are - the moaning scares little kids.  Oh - and don't - never mind. 


  1. Terry, sex during pregnancy or after childbirth is also "non-reproductive sex, albeit open to life". Should restrictions be placed on that, too?

    NFP does seem to be a pain in the ass, but then again, telling married people not to have sex for months or years on end may actually be damaging to the marriage, don't you think? Single people are not expected to live a life intimately involved with one other, to sleep in the same bed, etc., nor is ANY sexual activity licit anyway.

    As far as moderation within the act - it is this that scares the living crap out of me to no end. I have no idea how to understand this. Many trads seem to think "insert tab A into slot B, then finish and pray the rosary". Basically, it means if you're enjoying to a lot, you're doing something wrong? You'd better not touch there, kiss there, do this, do that, do it too long, etc. I've heard one FSSP priest give a talk on this and it was terrifying what he identified as mortally sinful.

    As far as frequency, St. Francis de Sales said spouses should be like elephants and only do it very rarely, then "immediately afterwards purify their hearts". So, pillow-talk and cuddling is a no-no I guess. He also said there was "nothing immodest" in the marriage bed in Paradise. What is immodest in a situation where one presumes both partners are naked and touching each other all over? What could that possibly mean?

    I have also seen non-trads arguing that spouses should never express affection that is sexually arousing unless they plan on having intercourse right then and there. So no passionate kissing, no playful touches while the kids aren't around, anticipating the chance to be alone, best just stay away from one another and sleep in separate beds. Though any moral theologian would deny this is the case, though my priest informs me that this is not only erroneous, but dangerous.

    So I am utterly terrified of marriage, utterly terrified of sexual intimacy. And the history of the Church, whatever anyone may say, seems to indicate that purity is found only among the celibates, that marriage is second class, and a good marriage is one with no sex, or at least ONLY for procreation. (see all the married saints in the Western Church). Maybe it's good that my marriage was an utter failure.

  2. Merc - I honestly don't know anymore. I suppose they should refrain from sex during pregnancy - what if the fetus is looking?

    Seriously - I don't know and I'm so glad I'm single and childless.

    (You know I was thinking of you when I posted this, right?)

  3. "...if single people are expected to refrain from sexual intercourse, why can't married people be expected to refrain from intercourse from time to time, instead of doing all the NFP calculations?" Umm, if you're doing NFP calculations, you're going to be refraining a lot of the time; depending on the circumstances, maybe more often than not.
    And these trad authorities probably think that couples who have aged out of the childbearing demographic don't have any business doing it, either. I think it's a good idea to ignore a lot of advice that gets passed around.

  4. Melody - I love your wisdom! God bless you and thanks!

  5. And priests--don't give advice on marriage or sex or NFP or intimacy, cuz you don't know what you're talking about.

    The pastor at my former church counselled a couple preparing for marriage with the following: "Well, the husband may be on a business trip and he may be lonely so..." You get the rest. No lie. I'll take my priests married, thank you very much, before I'll listen to what they say about marriage and sex. Ace

  6. Terry, no joke, I have heard of couples abstaining throughout 9 months of pregnancy for "modesty" in front of the baby in the womb. I also read one woman on CAF who said "I think it's gross, and my husbands not Catholic, so it doesn't really matter to me".

    At this point I do not see myself ever being married and not being overcome by fear and anxiety to the point of misery. There is no way I can ever be comfortable with it, no way I can ever imagine God thinks it's beautiful. An I KNOW what the truth is (and it's what the Church teaches), but I cannot get over the miserable an fearful teachings of the saints and the trads. Might as well let my annulment go
    through an stay single and "play it safe." Besides, many saints only recommend marriage to the hopelessly unchaste.

    I hate this. AND I am not called to celibacy.

    And Melody is right, NFP requires a lot of miserable abstaining that brings couples to the breaking point. It's why most NFP couples end up having lots of kids. Of course, if people just followed the saints and ha sex like elephants (once in a blue moon an for procreation only), they'd be allright. Apparently God hates nothing more than sexual feelings and desires. Didn't St Francis de Sales also say thy widows have to be very very careful to not remember their intimacies with their husbands? Did St Bridget of Sweden pray to forget her deceased husband entirely?

    And what of a man who is away from his wife, is he not even allowed to think about their intimacies together (without masturbating of course), or must he push all thought of it out of his mind?

    And Ace, shut up with your little agenda.

  7. Melody - they do think that, as did many saints. And Terry, were you suggesting that instead of NFP couples abstain for months or years? Might as well get a separate bedroom and stay as far away as possible.

    And yet, if we believe anyone followed "the rules" during the Middle Ages, couples had to abstain most days (all of Lent, all of Advent, all Fridays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays) of the year. Apparently sex was excusable for procreation only, and even then there were rigid rules about where to touch, etc. So throughout most of Christian history, marriage and sex seem to be more of a den sin and fear than anything, and "good" spouses were those who barely ever did it.

  8. Merc - you already know what I really think. Today's piece in the bulletin had me second guessing myself however. I think marital intimacy is beautiful and should be cherished. If I was married I would never want it to end...

    I didn't mean to get you upset. I'm going to go pray my rosary for you now.

  9. Mercury,

    I would like to share the advice a priest friend gave me when I was worried about "second class" vocations and such:

    "Theologians can argue about things like the objective superiority of the contemplative life, but, at the end of the day, becoming a saint boils down to just one thing: doing the will of God."

    I would be willing to bet that God is not delighted to see you suffer what you do regarding your thoughts on marriage and proper sexual intimacy.

    Sex, understood rightly, is not an evil thing. Saints can sometimes err in what they say and there can be a certain tenor within the Church at given periods of time which is distorted.

    I think you should aim to stay within the bounds of what the Church teaches currently and reject other thoughts/notions that cause you scruples. Further, spritiual direction can be a very helpful way to work through matters like this. God wants to bring solace and clarity to your heart, I believe, in His time.

  10. Mercury, if they followed all those rules about Advent and Lent there wouldn't have been anybody with August or December birthdays.
    One part of St. Francis de Sales' "Introduction to the Devout Life" that I kind of chuckled about was when someone asked him if it was okay for married couples to make love on Sundays. His reply was that it wasn't appropriate to collect a debt on Sunday, but it was okay to pay one. Meaning that if one spouse started it, the other one could go along. I can see lots of ways of stacking the deck for that.

  11. Mercury--FYI. The couple (and I) both left that Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic parish. They now attend a Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish where (HORRORS!) the priest (who is the son of a priest) is himself married and has 4 children. So much for my agenda. Like I said, I'll take my priests married. Ace

  12. Terry - I know you had no such intentions, don't worry. What do you mean it had you second-guessing?

    Patrick, thanks. My spiritual director sometimes where I come up with some of the crap I find to worry about, haha. As an old school Benedictine, he sticks with exactly what the Magisterium and the most prominent orthodox moral theologians have to say - he has no time for the "holier than the Church" trads (not to tar all trads - not at all!).

    Melody - I have heard studies citing a birth dearth occurring about 9 months after Lent in France in the Middle Ages. I have no problem whatsoever with the idea of abstaining during Lent if it is seen as "we are refraining from a great good in a spirit of penance", and not as "this is a holy time, and THAT's not holy". Of course, mandating such a fast under pain of sin would probably be more trouble than it'd worth, and that's why the Church doesn't do it. If I am ever married again (or my marriage is saved), I'd consider doing this in penance for my past sins against chastity, but only if it did not result in strain on the marriage.

    Ace - I'm sorry if I was rude. You sometimes say things in support of the Church changing all kinds of stuff. Sometimes celibates can have good things to say, and I am not against priestly celibacy, as it has been a fruitful tradition in the West. I am also not against priestly not-celibacy, as it's been a fruitful tradition in the East.

  13. Reminds me of the story of a 21 year old girl - very attractive, mind you - you was shipwrecked on an island for three months with six sailors.

    As she was telling her grandmother about the ordeal, her grandmother touched the girl on the arm, leaned in close to her granddaughter and whispered, "Dear, just tell me this. Were you chaste?"

    Her granddaughter nodded emphatically. "Oh yes, Granny! All around the island!"

    Ba-duh-dum. Thanks, I'm here all week.

  14. Ace, you know that the Ruthenians and the Ukrainians are the same guys, separated by the same liturgy, right? My local married Ruthenian priest has opinions on that, not to mention the local Russian Orthodox.

    Mercury, let the annulment go through with a peaceful heart. When you meet the right woman for you, you'll be happy you did so and your worries about saints frowning upon marital relations will dissipate because you'll be busy hauling kids into church and your worries will be centered on whether they'll be saints.

  15. All of the things Mercury has here expressed and worries about are my primary cause of anxiety, sadness, frustration, and distance from the Church right now. I'm holding on by a mere thread......

  16. You're welcome, Mercury.

    I came across this reflection from Fr. Mark (who Terry has spoken of before) and thought of you:

  17. Thanks, Patrick. I will read it later today when I get home.

    Char, I know what you mean.

    For me, it's easy to simply follow hat the Church teaches today, what the prominent orthodox moral theologians say, and what my spiritual director advises.

    For married people, that simply means: do not contracept, do not commit adultery, do not use each other as sex objects, and do not seek sexual climax outside of intercourse - and or women they actually will go on to say that this means "not entirely apart from it", meaning right before, right after, or x number of times within the act have nothing *objectively* wrong, as long as "nature gets done". Likewise, there is nothing *objectively* wrong with touching or kissing or whatever any particular place on one's own or one's spouse's body when the two are together. Other than that, spouses are supposed to be and feel free to follow the impulses of their hearts, as long as they are prudent enough to be considerate of each others' feelings, and are not just using each other to get kicks.

    Easy enough, and corroborated by such authorities as Pius XII, Fr. John Hardon, heavyweights like Fr. John Ford and Msgr George Kelly, moralists like Grisez, Smith, Jone, Vermeesch, etc. - big names in moral theology.

    Yet any perusal of the saints or of the theologians' historical teachings will show that the current positive view towards sexuality is a complete 180, and that in the past, holiness was almost synonymous with hating sexuality, even for married folk - the saintly ones, if they did anything at all, usually only did so to produce new souls, hopefully to be priests and nuns. I cannot imagine St. Therese's parents ever just made love because they loved one another - they seem too holy for that, too pure.

    The message seems to be that spouse's natural desires for one another, which more often than not have nothing to do with procreation, at least as fas as the immediate workings of their hearts and brains are concerned (and God seems to have designed it this way - for them to be primarily moved by love - a "pleasant conspiracy of nature"), that these desires are something to be ashamed of and to be beaten into submission.

    Again, the Magisterium does not teach this now, but the trads are right when they say the Church has made a 180 degree turn - read the saints and it's right in front of you. Sexual feelings, sexual desires, are something to be treated with great suspicion, and at the most, tolerated for the sake of continuing the race.

    And if you fall in love before marriage, even if you manage to do nothing more than hold hands or have an occasional hug or brief kiss - forget it, you're probably already sinning. St. Alphonsus, for example, taught that spouses should meet only ONCE or TWICE before marriage, otherwise chastity has no hope of being preserved. So it seems even sexual desire in the sense of "I am attracted to her and want to marry her and I look forward to consummating it one day even though I can't think of that explicitly at this time" is a sin and dangerous.

    Like I said, might as well swear off the opposite sex entirely. Maybe then I MIGHT not go to hell.

  18. “…And priests--don't give advice on marriage or sex or NFP or intimacy, cuz you don't know what you're talking about…”

    Only a complete moron would make a statement like that.

    Priests are formed by the Holy Mother in the image of her Son.

    Stop being disrespectful of them. They know more than you will ever be aware of.

    I suggest you ask about Saint Albert the Great, who went from stupid to genius at the snap of the Holy Mother’s fingers.

    Back to the topic at hand:

    There are no restrictions on the marriage bed.

    Common sense and decency should be our guides.

    Many Novus Ordos used to constantly attack my wife with “Why do you let him get you pregnant so much? or “Haven’t you heard of birth control? You know, you can use it now” and so on, ad infinitum.

    One moron satan devil lover Modernist even gave her a copy of Satan’s handbook Our Bodies Ourselves.

    Roman Protestants are harmful to marriages.

    Being married is a gift from God.

    You wife has been your wife since the beginning of time.

    No one is allowed to say "Maybe" we are required to say "I do".

    After saying "I do" don't say "I won't".

    Annulments go against God’s will.

    Before getting an annulment, get un-baptized first. See how far you get with that.

    Making babies and caring for your wife during pregnancy is not all that difficult.

    After giving birth, give your girl a chance to heal up.

    My wife and I used to have fun after a kid was born enjoying the Opera, dining and dancing, going out in public together to show off the fruits of our labor.

    We married, and upon her breast I placed a Sacred Heart of Christ medal, that we both remember as we embraced that Christ was also a part of our marriage.

    If you are married avoid the advice of friends like the plague.

    Leave you family behind and start your own family.

    And never, ever believe gossip. It is always wrong, no matter how good it sounds.

    Gossip is the rotten apple of our souls.

    When gossip affects a marriage, it is doomed.

    First and foremost, stay faithful to the cross.

    May God our Lord in His infinite and supreme goodness be pleased to give us His abundant grace, that we may know His most holy will, and entirely fulfill it.

    Que Dios nos agarre confesados.


  19. Anonymous9:35 AM

    I'm a middle aged woman (ew, that sounds bad) and this is what I know. NFP is annoying and I'm not even sure if it's healthy and unless your husband is a saint it will lead to him wandering around the house like a crazed bull. No thank you. I'd rather risk having a bunch of kids.

  20. "...I'm a middle aged woman (ew, that sounds bad) and this is what I know. NFP is annoying and I'm not even sure if it's healthy and unless your husband is a saint it will lead to him wandering around the house like a crazed bull. No thank you. I'd rather risk having a bunch of kids..."

    That's one of the best comments I've ever read.

    When we looked at NFP, I was amazed the woman married to the creep that gave the classes had not driven a knife deep into his back as he slept...

    NFP in many aspects is creepy.

    "...I'm a middle aged woman (ew, that sounds bad)..."


    aged wine is the best.

    Having some well aged wine with a well aged woman is Heaven on Earth.

    Ciao bonita.


  21. Well, one difference between NFP and contraception is that NFP is difficult and not fun, and you have to deny yourself at the very time you want most to be together (as God designed it).

    That's why it's a morally licit, but by no means optimal way of doing things. As much as people talk about NFP with a "contraceptive mentality", I think that is hard to do, since most couples will arrive at that "okay, I can't take this anymore, let's just have another kid, dammit" stage pretty quickly.

  22. "Annulments go against God’s will.

    Before getting an annulment, get un-baptized first. See how far you get with that."

    Then you are obviously ignorant of what an annulment is.

    As far as I am concerned, I do not want one, but if my wife divorces me after a year and a half of marriage, obtains a civil divorce, and all of this was brought on partly because I wanted us to follow what the Church actually teaches about marriage - that may be a good reason to question whether the marriage was even valid in the first place.

    And the Vatican, my spiritual director, the Roman Rota, and the moral theologians agree. So your advice should mean nothing.

    That said, thank you for contributing to a terrible sense of fear that the tribunal will "get it wrong" and I will be an adulterer.

    "Making babies and caring for your wife during pregnancy is not all that difficult.

    After giving birth, give your girl a chance to heal up."

    That's sort of stating the obvious isn't it? What husband would seek sex with his wife knowing that she can't possibly enjoy it? This is true whether she has a headache, is nine months pregnant, just had a baby, or is just in a terrible mood.

  23. Allowing our passions to remain open to abandonment of virtue is dangerous, in or out of marriage.

    Christ responded to the Jews a man may divorce his wife, but in doing so commits adultery as well any man that thereafter marries her.

    The Jews are a stiff necked people, as well many Catholics.

    It is like the Merchant of Venice when he was told he may have his pound of flesh as long as he did not shed one drop of blood.

    Punishment came upon him even though he was legally in the right.

    Thankfully, I fell in love with my wife when I saw her praying the Holy Rosary at Church, and saw the Blessed Sacrament reflected in her eyes. I moved quickly and got her to marry me before she knew what hit her.

    We try to live according to God's will, but sometimes those we are with are not on the same page.

    If we are betrayed by our spouse that walks away from the Sacrament, it is a cross we must bear. We must pray for them up to the moment of their Death, that they repent and ask God's forgiveness.

    100 years of prayer for our spouse followed by an Eternity in Heaven is a good deal.

    It is important to pray for marriages.

    Support them and do penance for them.


  24. "Allowing our passions to remain open to abandonment of virtue is dangerous, in or out of marriage."

    Who the hell suggested such a thing?

    "Christ responded to the Jews a man may divorce his wife, but in doing so commits adultery as well any man that thereafter marries her."

    Divorce is evil, no doubt. The issue here is an inquest into whether the vows WERE EVER CONTRACTED IN THE FIRST PLACE. An annulment is not even properly an annulment, but a declaration of nullity, as in "this tribunal finds from the evidence that no sacrament of matrimony ever existed between these two people."

    You have no idea what you are talking about. What you are referring to is divorce, not annulment. And until the point the tribunal declares the marriage did not exist, I must assume the marriage is valid, which means I am by no means free to let my emotions wander, or even consider marriage with someone else. And if the marriage is found to be valid, I will gladly live with that cross.

    But what you suggest is not remotely accurate, and you are not my spiritual director, nor are you my confessor. You are not a canonist, either.

    So you think that if a Church tribunal finds my marriage to be non-existent, i.e. there is no valid sacramental marriage, I am still an adulterer, and God will judge me as such?

    "Thankfully, I fell in love with my wife when I saw her praying the Holy Rosary at Church, and saw the Blessed Sacrament reflected in her eyes."

    It must be nice to be as perfect as you, Pablo, and to have such a perfect history, where everything happened so perfectly. It would be nice if all marriages were that perfect. I guess all those who met in other circumstances are disfavored in God's eyes, aren't they?

    Everyone else who met through friends, in college, or whatever should feel like crap. Oh, right, that illicit bishop says educating women is a waste of time anyway, so they're probably sinful feminist bitches just because they're in college in the first place, right?

    You sound like the Pharisee in the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, you know that?

  25. I know someone who fell in love with a girl at Adoration. He married her a year later and they are very happy. It does happen.

  26. Merc - I feel your pain. Very much so. You're in my prayers.

  27. Dymphna - I'm not objecting to that. Believe me, I think church is the best place to find a spouse, especially today. I'm objecting to the arrogance expressed by some, whose perfect backgrounds does not make them qualified to preach to others about how they should have been so perfect.

  28. Running a little low on bran this morning?

    My comment about my wife was accurate.

    Meeting and marrying someone under those terms and conditions does not mean living in sterile conditions all your married life.

    Our love story is one fraught with trials and tribulations, far more than someone who is a convert, or lukewarm Catholic.

    To those that much is given, much is demanded.

    To those who are missing out on the fight by divorcing at the drop of a hat, or retreat into a shell during their marriage, all I can say is "How sad"

    God wants us to fight.

    He wants us to prove we love Him.

    David said "Who dares to blaspheme the Lord" just before he went out and whacked Goliath.

    I encourage you to retreat into your prayer closet and get with it.

    But don't hide in there.

    I know you are having problemos.

    I remember you at Mass, and have my grandchildren remember you in their Holy Rosary prayers.

    You think you have it bad, drop by my camp sometime.

    I am glad God has given us His graces.


  29. Thank you Pablo, forgive me for being rash.

    But if you think I am giving up at the drop of a hat, or not fighting, you have it wrong. I pray for my wife every day, an I want more than anything to see her convert, to have her back and to raise a family.

    But she has divorced me, will not even think of reconciliation, and lives 5000 miles away. This is after less than two years and brought about because she decided she cannot live according to the church's teachings.

    I seek to know if the marriage was valid at all, and that I what an annulment process is. Two people who have been together for ten years with 5 kids - I do not see how there was no marriage there. But in my case there is a genuine question as to whether or not a marriage was ever contracted sacramentally. It is not "giving up" to investigate that possibility. In fact, it would be imprudent not to do so.

    I will follow the advice of my confessor and spiritual director.

  30. Mercury, you are in my prayers. I have seen divorces in my family and I know second-hand a little of the awful pain that such circumstances can cause.

    If your wife's heart is changed, or if your marriage is declared null and you someday marry again, I hope that your fears and scruples will fall away and that you will experience marriage as God intended it to be, or as close to what God intended as is possible in our fallen human state.

    Terry: "Do not make love in front of the kids when you are drunk...." I would shorten that to "don't be drunk in front of the kids" or simply "don't get drunk." My dad was always jolly and never particularly inappropriate during the three or four times a year when he drank too much, but it was still terribly embarrassing and lessened my respect for him when my mother had to ask me to help her get him to bed.


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.