Saturday, April 29, 2017

Why the missionary position is considered as the only appropriate form of sexual intercourse between a husband and wife according to the teaching of the Church

Note: None of the teachings on our site must be deemed absolutely infallibly or true, and the reader must be advised to follow his own conscience. Even if our teachings proclaim this or that position to be true (according to our own interpretation), the reader must understand that this is our own private interpretation of saint quotes and church teachings: dogmas and encyclicals. Whatever the case may be, always follow what you think the church teaches on any matter; and do not trust blindly on what is taught on our site (even if we claim this or that position is a mortal sin) – even if our position may seem true and infallible (you may, however, follow what we teach blindly if you think this is the true position). If you have worries about any position, ask a knowledgeable friend or priest for guidance; and if you have further concerns, ask another priest or even several priests to see what he thinks about this or that position. No one can be forced to believe in any position that is uncertain, and the reader must be advised to follow his conscience. So if you think any position is uncertain according to your own conscience, make a reasonable judgment, and then ask for advice or continue to study the issue until you have made a right judgment – according to your conscience.

Christian moralists, canonists, and theologians from the patristic period onward commonly maintained that only one posture was appropriate and natural for human sexual intercourse.

St. Albertus Magnus the Great, Doctor of the Church, (c. 1206-1280): “Nature teaches that the proper manner is that the woman be on her back with the man lying on her stomach.” (Commentarii in IV Sententiarum (Dist. XXIII-L))

Deviation from this was sanctioned only when illness or physical obesity necessitated or when there was danger of smothering the foetus in the advanced stages of pregnancy.

Many readers will undoubtedly question why the missionary position would be considered as the only appropriate form of sexual intercourse between a husband and wife. The simple answer to this question is because of the natural order of the hierarchy so established by God, because in marriage the husband is the head of the wife.

Ephesians 5:23 “Because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. He is the savior of his body.”

The missionary position is simply a bodily manifestation of this. If it were otherwise, the woman would be more like a man (more like the head and in control) and the man more like a woman (more submissive and receptive), which is contrary to nature.

Genesis 1:27 “And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.”

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches the same concept in his “Summa Theologica”:

“These species are differentiated on the part of the woman rather than of the man, because in the venereal act the woman is passive and is by way of matter, whereas the man is by way of agent [in way of acting]...” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Q. 154, Art. 1)

Thus, the Catholic Church teaches that any sexual position performed by the spouses where the woman is by way of agent, (that is, when she is more in control of the sexual act with her movements) is contrary to nature and tradition, in addition to the natural hierarchy so established by God.

But there are also other reasons why the Church commonly have recommended only the missionary position. The most obvious reason, of course, is because these other positions or “experimentations” are usually more “exciting” to people who practice them, since it enhances their lust and gives them greater levels of pleasure or enjoyment than they otherwise would have, in addition to making the act more bestial. So that’s why Church tradition holds as contrary to nature those other positions. The Church has as it’s main goal the preservation of morality and the salvation of souls, and not that of appeasing stiff-necked, lust-seeking couples who are searching for new ways to damn themselves. The Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, who was well aware of the sexual depravity of humankind, refers to these most obvious reasons in his writings as well:

St. Thomas Aquinas, In Libros Sententiarum, Chapter IV, Section 31, 2, 3: “Marital relations are contrary to nature when either the right receptacle or the proper position required by nature is avoided. In the first case it is always a mortal sin because no offspring can result, so that the purpose of nature is completely frustrated. But in the second case [of inappropriate sexual positions] it is not always a mortal sin, as some say, though it can be the sign of a passion which is mortal; at times the latter can occur without sin, as when one’s bodily condition does not permit any other method. In general, this practice is more serious the more it departs from the natural way.”

St. Thomas Aquinas’ mentor, St. Albertus Magnus the Great, also a Doctor of the Church, taught that to depart from the “natural position” for human intercourse, the husband on top of his wife, was to become like the “brute animals.” (Albert the Great, On the Sentences, 4.31.24) St. Thomas Aquinas elaborated on that concept, teaching that: “by not observing the natural manner of copulation [that is, by not performing only the normal procreative marital act], either as to undue means, or as to other monstrous and bestial manners of copulation,” the married couple commits sin by going “contrary to the natural order of the venereal act as becoming to the human race.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I:II, q. 154, art. 11) Since St. Thomas even condemns a procreative sexual act other than the normal marital act, even though it is totally procreative in itself, who but a madman or liar would refuse to admit that the Saint also condemns sensual kisses and touches in marriage, because such acts are not even procreative, and must therefore be infinitely more sinful.

Thomas Sánches, S.J. in De sancto matrimonio sacramento, condemned the reversal of the normal sexual position as against nature:

“This way of going about things is absolutely contrary to the laws of nature… it is not only the position of the person that is being reversed but also their condition: and it is in the nature of things that the male should perform and the female submit. The very fact that the male places himself underneath makes him passive while the woman by putting herself on top becomes active. Who could deny seeing that nature is filled with horror at such a turning upside down?” (De sancto matrimonio sacramento, IX, XIV, I)

“In 1215, the cleric Johannes Teutonicus ...[announced] that there was only one “natural” coital position — what we today call “the missionary position,” a term that was coined in the 1960s — which was also optimal for conception. Attempting any other position was a mortal sin, Johannes opined, involving exotic and unnecessary forms of stimulation. ... Alexander of Hales railed against coitus retro, the rear-entry position, as a mortal sin, for it was coupling “in the manner of brutes.” St. Albert the Great discussed in detail four other forbidden positions: lateral (side by side), seated, standing, and anal sex. 

...
The handbooks listed recommended penance of bread, water, and abstinence for exotic congress. A consensus on the punishments included the following:
Dorsal sex (woman on top): three years 

Lateral, seated, standing: 40 days 

Coitus retro — rear entry: 40 days 

Mutual masturbation: 30 days 

Inter-femural sex — ejaculation between the legs: 40 days 

Coitus in terga — anal sex: three years (with an adult); two years (with a boy); seven years (habitual); 10 years (with a cleric)
Theologians were divided on the punishment for coitus interruptus, the withdrawal method that frustrated procreation, arguing for a penance of between two and 10 years, while semenem in ore (semen in the mouth) could attract anywhere from three to 15 years. Pierre de La Padule added that sex during menstruation, sex in churches and sex preceded by kissing and fondling were almost as bad as the previously mentioned positions. Masturbation was so common that it only incurred a 10-day penalty for men and 30 days for monks, but women who used “erotic devices” did penance for one year.”

[Sources/Further Reading: Brundage, James A., “Let Me Count the Ways: Canonists and Theologians Contemplate Coital Positions,” Journal of Medieval History, vol. 10, 1984, 81-94; Richards, Jeffrey, Sex , Dissidence and Damnation: Minority Groups in the Middle Ages, New York, 1993] (Tony Perrottet, The Holy Guide To Coital Positions, 2008)
In truth, “Some, then, as we have shown, have tried to go beyond what is right and the concord that marks salvation which is holy and established. … They have abandoned themselves to lust without restraint and persuade their neighbors to live licentiously; as wretches they follow the Scripture: "Cast your lot in with us; let us all have a common purse and let our moneybag be one." [Prov. 1:14] On account of them the same prophet gives us advice saying: "Go not in the way with them, withdraw thy foot from their steps. For not unjustly are nets spread out to catch birds; for they are guilty of bloodshed and treasure up evil for themselves" [Prov. 1:15-18] that is, they seek for immorality and teach their neighbors to do the same. According to the prophet they are "fighters struck with their own tails" (ourai), to which the Greeks give the name kerkoi. Those to whom the prophecy refers might well be lustful, incontinent, men who fight with their tails, children of darkness and wrath… And again in anger at such people he directs that we should "have no fellowship with any one called a brother if he is a fornicator or covetous man or idolater or reviler or drunkard or robber; with such a man one ought not even to eat." [1 Cor. 5:11] "For I through the law am dead to the law," he says, "that I may live unto God. I am crucified with Christ; it is no longer I that live," meaning that I used to live according to my lusts, "but Christ lives in me," and I am pure and blessed by obeying the commandments; so that whereas at one time I lived in the flesh carnally, "the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God" [Gal. 2:19-20].” (St. Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata or Miscellanies, Book III, Chapter XVIII, Section 105-106)

For those who want to read and learn a lot more on sexual ethics, I can recommend the following interesting and informative article that is absolutely packed with quotes from the popes, saints and fathers of the Church:

Sexual Pleasure, the Various Sexual Acts, and Procreation

4 comments:

  1. Thank you. We have been looking for true answers from Church Father's concerning this issue. These are things all married need to know on the path to sainthood that is not talked about.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello, I enjoy reading all of your article. I wanted to write a little
    comment to support you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So basically "missionary is the only acceptable position because the woman is unable to do anything, and men are greater than woman so it should be so."
    Stupid.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. According to these theologians, the missionary position was the only acceptable position due to various reasons mentioned in the article, but today, theologians think differently. If people have sex in different positions with a good conscience, they commit no sin. However, the marriage act will become more holy and noble if it is made wholly and completely out of love for the other spouse and God. And I can see why the missionary position will help towards this goal, since it makes husband and wife more close to each other in the most intimate position possible, with the ability to kiss, hug and look each other in the eyes. Expressions of love should also be expressed during this time. If one really loves someone, one will show this from the heart, not only during sex, but also during daily life. So if you don't act towards your spouse as you did in the beginning of your relationship, or at least, in some similar way in the sense that you really try to show your wife or husband that you love him or her, it would be a good time to reconsider how to make a change of your life in order to make your beloved spouse feel more loved and appreciated again.

      In other sexual positions, more lust will probably be involved (as seems obvious), and hence, they will be more governed by lust then love, or by both lust and love. And also, I suppose there is a reason for why most people like the missionary position best of all. That is, again, because it gives couples most love, and least lust.

      Also, never did the theologians cited say a woman is unable to do anything. She can do a lot in life (and many things much better than men), but in the sense of giving the seed and governing the marriage act, she does not have to do anything, that was their point, and the reason for the missionary position being the natural and only position in their view. I also think this position is the natural and normal one, as I think most people would think, but there is no actual mortal sin by having sex in other ways.

      Delete