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Dear Father Angelo,
I recently discovered a very interesting section in your site containing questions (and answers) covering several topics of moral theology.
I am 40 years old, married with … children, the youngest one just turned 3.
My wife and I, by the grace of God, love each other very much and thank the Lord every day for the wonderful children He gave us, even though our life is obviously quite exhausting, with both of us enjoying very few free moments for us, with all the “normal” worries and economic difficulties.
We always attend the Sunday masses, (occasionally we also go on weekdays), participate in the sacraments, and to a lesser extent also to the parish life. We pray every day as a family before our meals, and sometimes I manage to win the battle against the TV and we all tune in to the evening rosary on Radio Maria. I come from a very devout family (my mother) marked by the divorce of my parents when I was a child: my father abandoned his family to live with another woman, followed by others over the years.
My father is now old, and a few years back I reconnected with him, and even managed to forgive him for the great evil he did to us. I experienced in person how great a grace the evangelical forgiveness is, not so much for the recipient as for the giver!
This trauma affected me in many ways, but Jesus constantly held my hand, so much so that today I am a caring father, a faithful husband, always there for his family.
At work, by the grace of God, rewards and achievements have not been lacking.
My wife on the contrary grew up in a fairly atheistic family, a typical product of the sixties.
When she was very young, she had sexual relations with different men. She had sado-masochistic experiences when she was in her 20’s with one of her “boyfriends”, which left many psychological scars in her (particularly in the form of erotic/sexual fantasies), and marginally even in her body.
At the time she suffered from depression and profound distrust (she was in the early stages of anorexia).
Then by the grace of God she began a journey of conversion, with the help of some friars and diocesan priests, that quite literally saved her. She converted and came back to the Church!
We met shortly after her conversion and got engaged.
By mutual choice our engagement was chaste, we had no sexual relations before marriage (before knowing my wife I had never had other stories/relations with anybody else), even though it was not easy at all…
Our engagement lasted about 3 years, and during that time our love and God’s grace started healing the deep wounds she suffered from on a sentimental/sexual level, as well as mine. We experienced the greatness of God’s love and the power of his Resurrection.
Our marriage was a Feast and the first years were beautiful, even though sexually my wife suffered from partial frigidity: she lived the sexual act passively, almost “like an ice statue”.
Clearly it was very hard also for me to deal with that situation.
Since we got engaged we put ourselves under the spiritual direction of a friar, who helped and supported us a lot.
Then my wife started getting pregnant and of course we did not have sexual relations for months.
My wife’s frigidity gradually waned over the years until it disappeared completely a few years ago.
Now, 14 years into our marriage, with our youngest child growing up, my wife finally reaches out to me with great and mutual joy; our sexual life is full of love, engagement and passion.
After her last pregnancy my wife suffered some “crises” of depression and weeping, together with some less serious physical problem; we were literally frightened by the prospect of another pregnancy. We therefore consulted our spiritual director (who has followed us since our engagement, and knows our story very well), and he gave us “permission” to use a condom, according to the moral principle of the “lesser evil”. There are in fact official Church documents stating that the use of condoms is admissible in particular cases.
For the sake of completeness I should also mention that because of a significant irregularity of my wife’s menstrual cycle, it is quite difficult to use natural methods.
Even now, with the youngest child who just turned 3, we both believe that having another child would be unsustainable.
I read some of your answers and I believe that you hold a different position in the matter: contraception is always outside of Church doctrine, correct?
Regarding our sexual relations, in the last few years the sexual act is preceded usually by some brief moments of mutual oral sex, to intensify our excitement. We never doubted that this would be fine, but I nevertheless ask for your opinion.
On occasion, though rarely, it happens that our conjugal act is preceded or followed by “complete” oral sex.
I ask if in this case the act can be considered fine, and if not would that constitute a grave sin.
Lately my wife started displaying some agitation (I believe that now that the youngest child is getting older, her hormonal balance is stabilizing), and after a few days she confided to me that she started being haunted by sadomasochistic sexual fantasies.
This happened in the past too and caused great suffering and uneasiness to both of us.
I could never be able to hurt (even in the slightest way) my wife to “cause her pleasure”, this seems to me an obvious contradiction, and I consider this a threat to our beautiful marriage. However, she is not convinced that this would be harmful for us and made it clear to me that she would like to “experiment”.
I would appreciate some advice on this.
Lastly, lately she asked me to have anal intercourse as a form of preliminary before the conjugal act. I am not particularly aroused by it, but she definitely is.
On this also I would appreciate some advice from you.
Thank you in advance for your reply.


Priest’s answer

Dear G.
1. I am sorry I am so late in answering, but only today I got to my emails of March 14th.
First of all I’d like to congratulate you on your beautiful family, especially your children.
It’s a great blessing from the Lord.
It’s true that you have no more time for yourselves, but you should also know well (lest you run the risk of forgetting) that you do not belong to yourselves, but to God and his proxies, that is your children.

2. I come now to the moral questions you submitted to me.
First of all, your fear of a new pregnancy.
Such fear – especially with regard to the good management of your family life – is justified.
However nobody can “permit” what God has prohibited.
The divine prohibition of contraception is aimed at keeping love pure and promoting the spouses’ mutual respect.
After reading your email, it seems evident to me that with your spiritual director’s “permission” your relationship has worsened, and has caused the resurgence of problems that had hitherto been sufficiently settled in your wife’s life.

3. First of all, as you correctly inferred from reading various answers on our site, nobody can grant exceptions to the law of God.
You say that there are “some official documents of the Church stating that the use of condoms is admissible in particular cases”.
No, there is none, not even one.
Saint John Paul II said that with contraception “married couples claim a power which belongs solely to God; the power to decide in a final analysis the coming into existence of a human person. They assume the qualification not of being cooperators in God’s creative power, but the ultimate depositories of the source of human life. In this perspective, contraception is to be judged objectively so profoundly inadmissible as never to be justified for any reason. To think or to say the contrary is equal to maintaining that, in human life, situations may arise in which it is lawful not to recognize God as God.” (9.17.1983).
As you can see, I put never and for any reason in bold.

4. As you know, all forms of contraception are a distortion of the sanctifying plan of God on human sexuality and constitute grave sin.
This means, among other things, that you cannot receive Holy Communion without confessing such sin.

5. Sometimes it may be necessary to resort to some kind of expedient to stimulate sexual desire. Referring to it as oral sex is inappropriate because it gives the impression that you intend to use sexuality outside of God’s plan. In your case you soon moved on to “complete” “oral sex”.
This is an impure sin against nature.
It’s a very grave sin, because God’s plan on sexuality and its intrinsic finality is wholly disregarded.

6. The purpose of sexual acts is not primarily the satisfaction one’s sexual pleasure. They must be acts of love, of mutual self-giving where nothing is held back, or it would not be an act of total donation.
As you can see contraception goes directly against the purity of love.
Blessed Pope Paul VI was right in affirming that such acts cease to be acts of authentic love.

7. In this regard I can’t forget the words of John Paul II: “the person can never be considered a means to an end; above all never a means of “pleasure”. The person is and must be nothing other than the end of every act. Only then does the action correspond to the true dignity of the person.” (letter to families Gratissimam Sane, n.12). And I can’t forget what God said through St. Paul: “This is the will of God, your holiness: that you refrain from immorality, that each of you know how to acquire a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion as do the Gentiles who do not know God; not to take advantage of or exploit a brother in this matter, for the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you before and solemnly affirmed. For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness. Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not a human being but God, who (also) gives his holy Spirit to you” (1 Thessalonians 4,3-8).
The Jerusalem Bible reminds us that by “one’s own body” is also intended the spouse’s body, because the two are now one flesh.

8. The resurfacing of certain fantasies, experiences and desires in your wife goes back to a corrupt idea of sexuality, which is seen as the satisfaction of pleasure, as libido. What happened to her before her conversion must not come back now. It would benefit neither of you.
Do not allow yourself be dragged into it.
On the contrary, help your wife live a chaste life.
By introducing the use of condoms you inadvertently reopened a door that should have been kept closed.

9. For this very reason I wish to stress the value of chastity within a marriage. To avoid any misunderstanding, by chastity in the context of marriage I do not mean abstinence from conjugal intimacy, but the willingness to perform the conjugal act in harmony with the law of God, that is, without contraception.
Those experiencing irregular biological cycles may still find out their days of natural sterility. They may be fewer, but still enough to keep love pure, respectful of the person and capable of rekindling itself in the constant commitment of one’s life.

10. One last thing. On some questions you asked for my opinion.
I would like to clarify that this is not my opinion (as such, it would be worthless). It is rather the doctrine of the Church. It is God’s law.
And this alone should be enough for us to surrender ourselves to its determinations.
God does not need to protect himself.
In his commandments, especially those forbidding certain actions, he strongly wants that we do not harm ourselves, willingly or unwillingly. He only wants what’s good for us.

11. Surrender then to his ways.
Choose them bravely and make them yours.
No law contains more wisdom than a single word in any of the laws that our God gave to us.

I gladly remember you in my prayers, keeping in mind all your children one by one.
I bless all of you.

Father Angelo