If you take the time to think about it, I bet you would agree. Contraceptive sex just doesn’t satisfy. It lacks the one flesh union that is necessary for sexual activity to become conjugal—that is, befitting of Holy Matrimony.
In a prior post we saw Fr. Cormac Burke lay out the meaning of giving oneself away. We saw that it can only be achieved in Holy Matrimony. I encourage you to read his words there, as what follows is a Part Two.
Below I will relay to you what Fr. Burke correctly identifies as a perversion of conjugal relations: contraceptive sex. As we will see, a one flesh union if not possible to achieve when birth control enters the marital bed.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ONE FLESH UNION
“Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh,” we read in Genesis 2:24.
“But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother; and shall cleave to his wife. And they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder,” says Jesus (Mark 10:6-9). Another Gospel writer records Jesus saying this too (cf. Matthew 19:4-6).
Saint Paul echoes this in one of his epistles, too: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh. This is a great sacrament” (Ephesians 5:31-32). He makes mention of it in 1 Corinthians 6:16, as well.
This ability to enter into a one flesh union remains the key to the marital relationship. It is a power the husband and wife share when unified, to be able to literally give life to the love they possess for each other. Marriage is a natural institution that Christ Himself elevated to the level of a Sacrament, because it is that important to the Christian life.
CONTRACEPTIVE SEX PREVENTS THE ONE FLESH UNION FROM BEING FULFILLED
The following is an excerpt, in full, from an article by Fr. Burke from his website, explaining how couples who partakes in contraceptive sex can never achieve the end or goal of their sexual activity, leaving them dissatisfied. Here is Fr. Burke’s explanation of how a one flesh union can never be achieved by practicing contraception:
(All bold emphasis is added. All italics emphasis is original.)
Now if one deliberately nullifies the life-orientation of the conjugal act, one destroys its essential power to signify union. One in fact turns the act into self-deception or into a lie: “I love you so much that with you, and with you alone, I am ready to share this most unique power…” But – what unique power?
In contraceptive sex, no unique power is being shared, except a power to produce pleasure. But then the uniqueness of the marital act is reduced to pleasure. Its significance is gone…
This means that in contraceptive intercourse, no marital union is achieved.
“Contraception is in fact not just an action without meaning; it is an action that contradicts the essential meaning which true conjugal intercourse should have as signifying total and unconditional self-donation. Instead of accepting each other totally, contraceptive spouses reject part of each other, because fertility is part of each one of them. They reject part of their mutual love: its power to be fruitful… A couple may say: we do not want our love to be fruitful. But if that is so, there is an inherent contradiction in their trying to express their love by means of an act which, of its nature, implies fruitful love; and there is even more of a contradiction if, when they engage in the act, they deliberately destroy the fertility-orientation from which precisely derives its capacity to express the uniqueness of their love” (L’Osservatore Romano, October 10, 1988, loc. cit.).
In contraceptive intercourse there is no full gift of self
A person therefore only gives himself or herself maritally, in a true sexual donation, when he or she respects the intrinsic procreative orientation of sexual union. The person who excludes openness to life from marital intercourse has not fully or truly given himself; and if his partner too rejects openness to life, he has not been truly or fully accepted.
This means that in contraceptive intercourse, no marital union is achieved. In effect, as canon 1061, #1 says, it is only by an act apt in itself for the generation of offspring that the spouses become “one flesh”. The canon adds that marriage is “by its nature ordered” to such an open-to-life act.
The same truth is affirmed, but in more personalist terms, in saying that those marrying are drawn, by the very nature of married love, to seek true sexual intercourse, open to life, by which they achieve union and become one flesh.
Contraceptive intercourse is simply not conjugal intercourse; and the reason is that contraception necessarily involves the exclusion of part of the sexual gift of self. As Gaudium et Spes says, “the truly human performance of these (conjugal) acts foster the self-giving they signify” (no. 49.).
Spouses having recourse to contraception, therefore, refuse to make to one another that full and unique marital gift to which human sexual love intimately urges them. Contraception contradicts the inner dynamism and truth of conjugal love.
“In that act which expresses their conjugal love, the spouses are called to make a gift of themselves to one another: nothing of what makes up their “being a person” can be excluded from that gift.
There is a passage in Vatican II, of exceptional depth, which is to the point. “Married love is an eminently human love because it is an affection between two persons (“a persona in personam”) rooted in the will and it embraces the good of the whole person… Such a love, which brings together the human and the divine, leads the partners to a free and mutual gift of self” (Gaudium et Spes, n. 49).
“A persona in personam”: these simple words express the entire truth of conjugal love, of inter-personal love. A love that is wholly centered on the person, on the good of the person, a good which the spouses donate reciprocally to one another.
Contraception introduces a substantial limitation into the heart of this reciprocal donation, and expresses an objective refusal to donate to the other, respectively, all of the good of femininity or of masculinity. In a word: contraception contradicts the truth of conjugal love” (John Paul II, Address, September 17, 1983 (Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, VI, 2 (1983), p. 563. Cf. Familiaris Consortio (A.A.S. LXXIV (1982) 119).).
While contraceptive spouses may not be conscious that they are denying the very nature of married love, this is in fact the reason why they remain with a deep interior dissatisfaction. Between them there has been no true marital interchange, nothing that can adequately signify a unique gift of self: neither has fully accepted the other; neither can rejoice in the sense of truly possessing the other or being truly possessed by him or her.
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