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Summary of Catholic Sexual Ethics

A. The only moral sexual act is natural marital relations open to life.

B. A sexual act is natural if it is the type of intercourse between a man and a woman that is inherently capable of procreation. If the man or woman is infertile, the act is still natural if that act would be capable of procreation in fertile individuals. If the man or woman use artificial contraception (which is immoral), the sexual act itself is still of the natural type (though substantially impaired) if that act, absent the contraception, would be capable of procreation in fertile individuals. Natural sexual intercourse is the type of sexual act which has served to propagate the human race since after its inception, and which has served as an essential part of the Sacrament of Marriage since its inception.

C. Any sexual act is unnatural if it is a type of sexual act not inherently capable of procreation.

D. All unnatural sexual acts are intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. Therefore, such acts cannot be considered moral under any circumstances, even if completed by, combined with, preceded by, or followed by an act of natural marital relations.

E. Each sexual act must be considered separately as to whether or not it is an act of natural marital relations open to life. A sexual act that is unnatural cannot be justified by the claim that it is partial (i.e. not brought to completion) or that it is combined in some way with natural marital relations. A sexual act that is not open to life cannot be justified by the claim that it is partial or that it is combined in some way with natural marital relations open to life.

F. All unnatural sexual acts, including oral, anal, and manual stimulation, whether partial or completed, even if used as so-called foreplay with the sexual act being completed in natural marital relations, even if used after natural marital relations to bring the woman to completion, even if preceded by, combined with, or followed by an act of natural marital relations, are nevertheless intrinsically disordered and always objectively gravely immoral.

G. Certain kinds of acts are intrinsically evil. Such acts are immoral regardless of circumstance or intention. Such acts cannot become moral by any means whatsoever because the acts are in and of themselves immoral. Intrinsically evil acts do not depend for their morality on intention or circumstance; they do not depend upon the internal state of the individual, nor upon the result of the act, nor upon events which precede, coincide with, or follow the act. Nothing whatsoever can make an act that is intrinsically evil into a good or a morally-acceptable act. That which is in itself evil is never good. Intrinsically evil acts are not defined by intention or circumstance, but only by the act itself and the meaning inherent in the act itself under the eternal law of God.

H. An actual sin occurs when a person knowingly chooses what is immoral. In all areas of morality, each act must be evaluated on its own as to whether it is good or evil. If a person knowingly chooses to do what is evil, such an act cannot become good, even if the act occurs before, during, or after another act that is good.

I. The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, other than in natural marital relations open to life, is intrinsically evil because each and every sexual act must retain both the unitive and procreative meanings in order to be moral.

[Ephesians 5]
{5:3} But let not any kind of fornication, or impurity, or rapacity so much as be named among you, just as is worthy of the saints,
{5:4} nor any indecent, or foolish, or abusive talk, for this is without purpose; but instead, give thanks.
{5:5} For know and understand this: no one who is a fornicator, or lustful, or rapacious (for these are a kind of service to idols) holds an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
{5:6} Let no one seduce you with empty words. For because of these things, the wrath of God was sent upon the sons of unbelief.
{5:7} Therefore, do not choose to become participants with them.
{5:8} For you were darkness, in times past, but now you are light, in the Lord. So then, walk as sons of the light.
{5:9} For the fruit of the light is in all goodness and justice and truth,
{5:10} affirming what is well-pleasing to God.
{5:11} And so, have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead, refute them.
{5:12} For the things that are done by them in secret are shameful, even to mention.

by Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian
March 28, 2009

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