Saint Thomas Aquinas

Friday, December 18, 2009

Genesis 38 and the Sin of Onan. Ambiguous? Redux

Since this post has been the center of attention for some time, I have resurrected it so we can have free posting.  Maybe some others can contribute to the conversation. Keep the language as clean as possible please.

The Accepted Definition of Onanism from the Oxford Dictionary.

Onanism: Coitus interruptus, unnatural sexual intercourse or masturbation. In the Jewish tradition, onanism is associated with the biblical figure Onan who was condemned by God for spilling his seed ‘on the ground’ (Genesis 38. 7–10).

In opposition to common modern Protestant interpretations, I propose that Genesis 38 condemns contraceptive acts, and that all Protestant denominations who refuse this interpretation are not in accord with the consistent and ancient Christian or Jewish interpretations of this Biblical text. This in fact puts them at odds with Sacred Scripture and this Biblical moral teaching.

The text, (Douay Rheims)
6 And Juda took a wife for Her his firstborn, whose name was Thamar. 7 And Her, the firstborn of Juda, was wicked in the sight of the Lord: and was slain by him. 8 Juda, therefore said to Onan his son: Go in to thy brother's wife and marry her, that thou mayst raise seed to thy brother. 9 He knowing that the children should not be his, when he went in to his brother's wife, spilled his seed upon the ground, lest children should be born in his brother's name. And therefore the Lord slew him, because he did a detestable thing.

I want to address the text of Genesis 38:6-10 in light of the traditional Christian teaching on the sin of Onan. The teaching of classical Judaism as well as that of Christianity until the 1930s, viewed the sinful act of Onan as interrupting the conjugal act. It is this act of interruption which he was slain for. All Christians up until the 1930s interpreted this text as referring to Onan's punishment of death by his act of “coitus interruptus.” (Coitus interruptus is Latin for ‘interrupted intercourse.) In the 1930's the Protestants gave way to the secular culture, while the Catholic Church remained standing tall among the moral ruin of the age.

The question I have presented to Protestants today are; why do you now go against your own forefathers interpretations of Genesis 38 in regards to coitus interruptus? Why do you go against 2000 years of consistent Christian interpretation? One reason I propose that they reject this interpretation is that they would have to conclude that the only Church left teaching the correct interpretation would be the Catholic Church. Of course the Protestants could not live with such a conclusion. There are others who just want to enjoy the conjugal act without the natural consequences of their actions. Many of them view the conjugal in a selfish manner with no regard for the two natural elements of the act; the unitive and the procreative. I also want to say that there are some Protestants who do uphold the correct teaching of this passage and do not engage in contraceptive acts. So I am not addressing all Protestants, just the majority.

There are many hecklers that come to my site to heckle me and the Catholic Church's teachings. Not one of them even attempted to answer my proposed questions on this subject. In fact I have posted on this topic numerous times, and these hecklers always choose to ignore them and they instead attack the Catholic church on some other issue instead of defending their own moral beliefs and Biblical interpretations. Where is the "ready defense" that they are always hailing as their battle cry when it comes to condoning contraception? The one person who did respond, resorted to weak argumentation, as I will soon demonstrate. I must note I am not writing this to heckle B.J. Bracker. I simply wanted to address his arguments in a blog post that he wrote, which I promised to do on my blog. He kindly responded to an earlier post of mine on this subject. I am glad that he took the time to give his thoughts on the text of Genesis 38. That is much more than anyone else has been willing to do in Protestant circles. B.J. concluded in his post that the text of Genesis 38 was “ambiguous”. I want to start with his conclusion and then work backwards addressing his reasons for coming to this conclusion.

B.J.'s conclusion:
“In the end, I’m forced to conclude that the text is not clear enough to specify a particular sin as “The Sin” that caused Onan’s death. It seems likely that it was some combination of greed, selfishness, deception, lust, and disobedience. Since coitus interruptus is not specifically stated as the reason, and it was neither a capital offense nor an offense discussed elsewhere in the Old Testament, it seems unlikely that this was the cause.

Therefore, I conclude that Genesis 38 is ambiguous about Onan’s sin at best and points to sins other than coitus interruptus at worst. It is, thus, unreasonable to use this text as proof against contraception.”

So according to B.J., he seems to think that God has left us without a clear reason as to why He struck Onan dead in this particular text of the Old Testament. My position is that Our Lord intended to teach us a lesson in this text like he always does in the pages of Scripture. I also propose that He did not intend to present us an impossible riddle in this passage. I will affirm that the Church held an unambiguous interpretation of this passage for centuries, up until the Reformers rebelled in the 1930s. Lets first look at B.J.'s arguments.

B.J. starts out by quoting the text of Genesis 38:1-11 using the English Standard version. I don't know what compelled him to use this particular translation. Maybe he can clarify as to why he chose this translation. From this text he concluded the following.

“Now, the rules for Levirite Marriage were not handed down until the time of Moses. Thus, technically, Onan was obligated to fulfill a law here, but the fact that his father encourages this practice puts a large burden on Onan. Interestingly, Judah does not command Onan to take Tamar as a wife. He only commands that they produce offspring.”

By doing some research, I have concluded that the complete text of verse 8 is omitted in the newer Protestant translations like the NIV and the ESV. I am sure we could debate this further, but I don't want to get off of the topic. In the end it doesn't really change the reason Onan was killed. I propose that we know that Onan was married to Tamar by looking at other Biblical translations, “ ...therefore said to Onan his son: Go in to thy brother's wife and marry her...” (Douay-Rheims), “And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.” (King James), “8 And Judas said to Aunan, Go in to thy brother’s wife, and marry her as her brother-in-law,” (English Translation of the Greek Septuagint). So I disagree on this particular conclusion. Onan was married to Tamar, and then he committed an act for which he was killed. Either way Onan's act of contracepting is the reason for his death, as we shall see. It is however worthy to note that Church Fathers like St. Augustine as well as the early Reformers also thought that Onan was married. We can conclude this from their writings. So they must have been using a Biblical translation in accordance with those that I have chosen to use.

B.J. follows with this: “Still, the text does not say that this was Onan’s motivation. All that we are told is that Onan’s action was evil in God’s sight. Therefore, God kills him, just as he had killed Er, Onan’s older brother.”

Ok, lets look at the text to see what action brought the wrath of God upon Onan. It really does not matter what his motivation is for doing sinful act. The text says, “when he went in to his brother's wife, spilled his seed upon the ground, lest children should be born in his brother's name. And therefore the Lord slew him, because he did a detestable thing.” The action of Onan spilling his seed upon the ground to avoid procreation was followed up with “therefore the Lord slew him because he did a “detestable thing.” Now just using simple rules of grammar we can see that the object, the “detestable thing”, is connected with the sentence that comes before it, which is the spilling of the seed. We can also look at the Hebrew word "shichet", which more accurately means "to act perversely", and not “spilled" as it is commonly interpreted. This meaning is supported by Hebrew Biblical scholars. (Miguens) This also points to Onan's sin as being the contraceptive act of Onan, and not any of the other proposed acts that Onan committed. Onan acted perversely and was killed for it.

B. J. gets sidetracked looking for a reason as to why Onan did what he did. In the end it doesn't really matter. It was the act of contracepting itself for which he was condemned.

B.J. wrote, “There are also multiple possibilities for Onan’s Sin. Greed is a prime suspect. In not fulfilling his duties, he guarantees the firstborn’s share for himself. This is potentially coupled with selfishness. In failing in his duties, he leaves Tamar without a lineage and without someone to care for her.” All of this elaboration misses the point of the actual act that Onan committed for which he was killed. B.J. did go on to give some personal reasons as to why he thought Onan may have been killed.

“Onan also directly disobeys a command from his father. This showed rebellion, pride, selfishness, and disrespect. Although the Law would come later, in some circumstances, disobedience was worthy of death (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). The details of Onan’s situation do not directly correlate to Deuteronomy 21, but the point is that Onan’s dishonoring and disobeying his father was serious and potentially deadly.”

The fact that Onan rebelled against his father was obviously not the reason that God condemned him. There is no precedence for this. Onan had no obligation to follow the order of his father as far as the conjugal act went. In looking at the text, if he did disobey his father, the act of his disobedience would not be connected with the “detestable thing” that he is condemned for. Secondly if he was married as the more reliable texts tell us he was, he would have had no obligation to follow his father's request anyways. If he was married, he obviously obeyed at least a portion of his father's request, to marry. After that Onan would have been able to act as he pleased with his wife. This conclusion of B.J.'s is not a tenable one. Once Onan married, the act of not fulfilling the proper sexual act as requested by his father would not have been the sin. It is the lack of not fulfilling the proper end of the conjugal act itself, not any disobedience to his father. It was a disobedience to God's divine law.

B.J. then elaborates a bit on the Levirite Marriage laws, none of which carry the penalty of death. So I do not see any relevance to these points that he makes as being of any consequence to the reason Onan is killed. The only rational conclusion B.J. is left with is the sin of coitus interruptus. He reluctantly states the following,

“Or it could have been coitus interruptus. This is the only place in the Old Testament that describes such an act, and Onan’s death occurs shortly thereafter. Thus, it is not unreasonable to see this as a possibility, and I do not want to disregard it outright.”

But he then follows this with the following disclaimer,

“Yet, as I have shown above, there are plenty of sins that Onan has committed, some of which may merit death, and the combination of them all might demand it. The problem is that the text does not specify the particular sin or sins that cause God to kill Onan. It is ambiguous. To hone in on the contraceptive act alone is to say more than the text says.”

I believe that the text is very clear on what act Onan was condemned and killed for. None of the other reasons that B.J. listed were crimes or sins punishable by death. We also cannot conclude that a combination platter of sins was the reason in which God killed him. In the text it specifically says it was one particular, “detestable thing”, not a combination of sins as B.J. suggests.

Finally B.J. is left with one more escape clause in his bag. He proposes the following:

“Now all the examples in Leviticus 15 are involuntary, but Onan’s action was voluntary. The peculiar thing, however, is that if self-inflicted semen loss (coitus interruptus, masturbation, etc.) was a capital offense, it seems odd that the Old Testament omits any such law, while including proscriptions for nocturnal emissions. Hence, if one argues that refusing Levirite duties is not punishable by death, then one must also argue that neither is coitus interruptus or masturbation.”

B.J. makes a false conclusion here by proposing that the Old Testament omits such a law and therefore he makes a connection with the Levirite duties as absolving Onan for being killed for the spilling of his seed. First of all we know in the text of the Old Testament that not fulfilling the Levirite Marriage laws were not punishable by death. We also know that Onan was killed for the act of spilling his seed. The two are not de facto, equivalently related in their levels of offense to God. In fact we see a very different reaction by God to each act. Was this law omitted from Jewish law? No it was not. In fact the classical Jews have always taught that contraceptive acts were sinful based on this Biblical text. The Biblical interpretation of Genesis was clear to them as to what act condemned Onan. It was the act for which Onanism is named, which I listed at the beginning.

Here are some examples of the consistent interpretations of this text within the Christian tradition. The early Church Fathers saw no ambiguity in the text as B.J. has proposed. The traditional interpretation of this passage is a divine condemnation of the contraceptive act. For example the great Saint Jerome directly connected Onan's spilling of his seed as the act for which he was killed. It was not ambiguous to him.

"But I wonder why he [the heretic Jovinianus] set Judah and Tamar before us for an example, unless perchance even harlots give him pleasure; or Onan, who was slain because he grudged his brother seed. Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children?" (Saint Jerome Against Jovinian 1:19 [A.D. 393])

Saint Augustine also directly referenced Onan in connection with this particular sinful act.
“Intercourse even with one's own legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of judah, did this and the Lord killed him for it.”

It appears that even St. Augustine believed Onan was married according to this text as well, to which I made reference earlier. There are several others I could quote to prove my point throughout the ages of Christian history. But I would also like to look at the early Protestant Reformers as well. It is a fact that even the founding “Reformers” interpreted Genesis 38 in this tradition as well. They saw no ambiguity in the text.

John Calvin (1509 - 1564); Commentary on Gen. 38:8-10 --
Besides, he [Onan; C.P.] not only defrauded his brother of the right due him, but also preferred his semen to putrify on the ground, rather than to beget a son in his brother’s name. The Jews quite immodestly gabble concerning this thing. ...The voluntary spilling of semen outside of intercourse between man and woman is a monstrous thing. Deliberately to withdraw from coitus in order that semen may fall on the ground is doubly monstrous. ...This impiety is especially condemned, now by the Spirit through Moses’ mouth... If any woman ejects a foetus from her womb by drugs, it is reckoned a crime incapable of expiation and deservedly Onan incurred upon himself the same kind of punishment, infecting the earth by his semen, in order that Tamar might not conceive a future human being as an inhabitant of the earth.

Martin Luther (1483 - 1546); Commentary on Gen 38: 8 - 10 --
… the exceedingly foul deed of Onan, the basest of wretches, follows. when he went in to his brother’s wife, he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. and what he did was displeasing in the sight of the lord, and he slew him also.

Onan must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a Sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed. ... He was inflamed with the basest spite and hatred. ... Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed and evil deed. Therefore God punished him. … That worthless fellow refused to exercise. He preferred polluting himself with a most disgraceful sin to raising up offspring for his brother. Therefore Onan, unwilling to perform this obligation, spilled his seed. That was a sin far greater than adultery or incest, and it provoked God to such fierce wrath that He destroyed him immediately.

John Wesley (1703 - 1791); Commentary on Gen. 38:7 --
The next brother Onan was, according to the ancient usage, married to the widow, to preserve the name of his deceased brother Er that died childless. This custom of marrying the brother’s widow was afterward made one of the laws of Moses, Deut. 25:5. Onan, though he consented to marry the widow, yet to the great abuse of his own body, of the wife he had married and the memory of his brother that was gone, he refused to raise up seed unto his brother. Those sins that dishonour the body are very displeasing to God, and the evidence of vile affections. Observe, the thing which he did displeased the Lord -- And it is to be feared, thousands, especially of single persons, by this very thing, still displease the Lord, and destroy their own souls.

I am afraid this leaves B.J. in total opposition to the constant interpretation of the Church over the past 2000 years. He is also in opposition to his Protestant forefathers who read no ambiguity into the Biblical text either. The text itself, as well as the consistent Christian and Jewish interpretations of it, proves that it is not ambiguous. It also proves that those who oppose this interpretation are clearly going against Sacred Scripture as interpreted in the Christian tradition. This would include almost all major Protestant denominations today. Where does the evidence point? Does it point to B.J.'s position that this text is just too ambiguous to understand? Or is it more likely that the many theologians, including his own Protestant forefathers, over the course of 2000 years got it right? They read the text as it is plainly written. Amazingly none of them ever made a reference as to the ambiguity of the text of Genesis 38.


Turretinfan said...

Two Questions for you:

1) Do you feel that you've provided a positive case for why Genesis 38 should be interpreted in what you think is the traditional way? (Or alternatively have you simply adopted what you think is the traditional interpretation?)

2) Is it your position that if Genesis 38 was interpreted in a particular way for centuries, it would be impossible for that view to develop in a way contrary to the previous interpretation?

Matthew Bellisario said...

Did you read my post? I made my position very clear on the matter. You should be able to answer your own questions from the text.

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Bellisario,

You flatter me that I can so easily perceive your intent from your writing. I have read your article and I have a guess as to what yours answers to those questions would be. Perhaps you would condescend simply to give me a direct answer rather than referring me back to the article that I already read?

Matthew Bellisario said...

I was primarily responding to B.J. in reference to his ambiguity argument made on his blog.

Constantine said...


You continue to post inaccuracies on Genesis 38.


All Christians up until the 1930s interpreted this text as referring to Onan's punishment of death by his act of “coitus interruptus.” (Coitus interruptus is Latin for ‘interrupted intercourse.)


Not at all true. Many important Fathers of the Church have held a very different opinion than yours. To wit:

Augustine makes it very clear in Against Faustus that Onan was not killed for any direct act, but by his failure to do the good he could have done. Speaking of Er and Onan, “The loss of life implied in the name of the elder is a greater evil than the want of help implied in the name of the younger.” (Against Faustus 22.84) Onan, according to Augustine, was killed for the good he might have done – not the evil he did.

Secondly, from the 6th to the 11th centuries, “coitus interruptus” was seldomly cited. “In over a hundred quotations from the Bible in the various Irish penitentials, there is no citation of Genesis 38.” (See note on citation below. p. 161.) (The penitentials were teaching documents which comprised a listing of sins by subject and corresponding penance. Writers of these would have included St. Finnian, St. Columban, Cummean and included “The Irish Collections of Canons”.) If “coitus interruptus” was a sin punishable by God, why did so many saints miss it? And why did they miss it for 500 years?

Approximately 1150, the “Glossa ordinaria”, the preferred Bible commentary of the age, used the allegorical comment on Genesis preferred by St. Bede and Augustine. Not the specific application of Onan you seem to prefer. ( p. 175)

The leading “authority on preaching in fourteenth-century England” was John Bromyard. In his “Summa for Preachers”, while railing against fornication and the “sin of lechery” does not mention Onan. (p.269)

St. Laurence of Brindisi (16th century) maintained that it was not Onan’s act, but rather his “state of mind” which caused him to be struck by God.

Perhaps, most importantly, St. Alphonsus Liguori writing in the “ most important moral treatise of the 18th century “ (Moral Theology) did not cite the story” of Onan. In 1800, Alphonsus’ works were examined by Rome and found to be “free from error”. “In the manuals, St. Augustine was replaced without much struggle by St. Alphonsus.” (Noonan, p. 397. (Aside from the current conversation on Onan, this points to the constantly changing nature of this Catholic doctrine.)

Fr. Pierre De Smet wrote: “From the text and context it seems that the criticism of the sacred author is less directly and fromally attached to the spilling of the seed than to the frustration of the levirate law…” (As quoted by Noonan, p. 528.)

“In 1953, Andre Snoeck, professor of theology at the Jesuit scholasticate at Louvain (note: the leading European Cathlolic University), rejected the controlling force of Genesis. The sin of Onan “obviously consisted in the fact that he did not observe the levirate law.” (Noonan, p. 528.

So Matthew……”all Christians?”…..until the 1930”s? Not hardly…..

To keep it simple, all quotations herein are taken from: Noonan, John. Contraception: A History of Its Treatments by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists.” Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986. Dr. Noonan is the leading Catholic historian on this topic.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Constantine, try reading sources for yourself for a change instead of copying from scholars and their personal interpretations. Did you even read the quote from Augustine that I cited? You did not quote anything directly from Augustine in your quote. You gave me only what the scholar's opinion of what he thought he meant. The good that Onan could have done was follow the natural law. He did not, he was killed for not following it. You have no clue as to what you are talking about. You are arguing in circles.

St. Augustine wrote: "For it is illicit and shameful for a man to lie with even his lawful wife in such a way as to prevent the conception of offspring. This is what Onan, son of Judah, used to do; and for that God slew him" (cf. Gen. 38: 8-10).

Also just because a Saint does not quote the Biblical text in reference to a teaching does not mean that they did not agree with the interpretation. You are now arguing from silence.

I just love quotes like these.

"Dr. Noonan is the leading Catholic historian on this topic."

Really, who says? You? I could care less about your opinions on what scholars are "leading". I think the Pope and others would have something to say about that. Do some of you own research for change. Look at the Father's writings for yourself instead of taking someone's opinion on what they think they meant. It is a fact that all Christian denominations interpreted Gen 38 in the way I have presented it.

You made some earlier mistakes in claiming that the Catholic Church changed its teaching in the 50s. I have proven that to be a fallacy as well. Where did you get that info from? The same author? When you let others do your research for you, you end up with the same opinion of the scholar that you agree with. If you notice I get my facts primarily from Church documents, and reliable historical sources that directly quote the Church Fathers, and not just an opinion of what they meant in their writings.

If you find an exact quote in proper context from several Church Fathers who openly interpreted Gen 38 like you Prots are doing today, then you will have an argument. The fact is, there aren't any. Until then the case is closed.

Constantine said...

You wrote:
The question I have presented to Protestants today are; why do you now go against your own forefathers interpretations of Genesis 38 in regards to coitus interruptus? Why do you go against 2000 years of consistent Christian interpretation?


I respond:

First of all, in my last post, Matthew, I showed decisively that you do not understand the interpretations of the “forefathers” in the area of contraception. It is further obvious that there is no such thing as a monolithic “2000 years of consistent Christian interpretation” on contraception. If we just compare Augustine and Alphonsus that becomes apparent. To cite another example, compare St. Jerome’s doctrine of the fetus (not at any stage human) to Augustine’s (boys are human after 40 days; girls after 83) to modern Rome (life begins at conception). So “change” is the very stuff of which the Church’s doctrine on contraception is made.

But let’s talk about Protestants.

It is against this constantly changing backdrop of Catholic doctrine that Protestants emerge to save Catholics from further error.

“On contraception Calvin stayed explicity with the old Catholic doctrine, and Luther held an Augustinian view of sexuality that did not encourage change. Paradoxical as it may be, Protestant rigidity helped to keep the Catholic position stiff. The Catholic moralists were not eager to appear to abandon a moral doctrine of the Fathers if the Protestants still held it.” (Noonan, p. 353)

Paradoxical, indeed…

Until next time, Peace.

Constantine said...

Hey Matthew,

How can a Catholic who claims to be an expert on the history of contraception not know John Noonan? That is like a historian for the New York Yankees not knowing Babe Ruth!

Dr. John T. Noonan, Jr. has an earned Doctorate in Philosophy from the Catholic University of America. In addition he has a law degree from Harvard University and has been a professor at both the prestigious Boalt Hall School of Law at the Universtiy of California at Berkeley and at the University of Notre Dame. He is currently a sitting federal judge on the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. For his distinguished service to the Catholic Church, Judge Noonan is the recipient of the Laetare Medal, which is awarded annually to an individual “in recognition of outstanding service to the Roman Catholic church and society.” In 2009 he was a commencement speaker at the University of Notre Dame and he is also the 1995 recipient of the Aquinas Medal from the American Catholic Philosophical Association. He is an expert in the areas of contraception, abortion, church history and marriage and the law. In short, he is a “Catholic’s Catholic” and a scholar of the first order.

So your snotty little remark about “caring less” just shows how distant your world is from true Catholic scholarship on this topic.

I have relied primarily (but not exclusively) on his work, Matthew, for two reasons: 1. he is the leading Catholic scholar in the area of contraception and its history and, 2. his work shows, by itself, how misguided your understanding is – from a Catholic perspective. I also hope that readers of your blog who are interested in this topic will find his book and read it. And then they will see the truth of this matter.


Constantine said...


Apparently - even though I’ve pointed this out to you twice before - that you are not aware of Pius XII’s address of October 29, 1951 wherein he completely reversed Catholic doctrine on contraception.

Since you are so fond of original sources, here’s a link:

Look for this sentence, Matthew: “If the application of that theory implies that husband and wife may use their matrimonial right even during the days of natural sterility no objection can be made.”

Pius threw Augustine under the bus. If you don’t realize that, then you really don’t understand the Augustinian tradition on contraception. And if you don’t understand that, well, perhaps this isn’t your field.


Matthew Bellisario said...

You pointed out a figment of your imagination. Are you even reading anything I've posted? Augustine is in total agreement with the Catholic teaching. Pius XII didn't change anything as far contraception and the Catholic Church goes. Go back and read before you post things that have already been refuted over and over again. Just because you think that that John T. Noonan is the leading scholar doesn't make it so. As far as I know no one has proclaimed you the judge an jury over Catholic scholarship.

Darrell said...

John Noonan?
His CV tells me that I wouldn't be wrong to think of him as a "traveler," someone small "c" and big "c" Communists would feel comfortable with. I certainly would want to hear what he thinks about matters of Faith. As much as I would Marx, for example. Some try to destroy institutions from without. Some from within.

cueball197335 said...

If we are not to masturbate and if we do we are considered to subject ourselves to sexual solipsism, among other things, then why does our body naturally eject semen if we are "full"?
Please help, I am trying to understand.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Hi Cueball. I think the difference here is that one is an actual sexual act. The other usually happens at night as is not a willing sexual act, as occurs in the example of Onan. In Onan's example he willfully obstructs the sexual act, and intentionally separated the procreative from the unitive. If we look at your example, I believe it further supports my argument. It appears that God has designed a way for the human body to release some semen from the body without committing a willing sexual act.

Internet_is_Serious_Business! said...

Hi Matthew,

Your article reminds me of something from Charles D. Provan. First, I would like to address your comment about the word shichet meaning corruption/perversion. I think that is the less literal meaning of the word. The more literal meaning is to decay, ruin, destroy, etc. I think that is an important piece of information to have. The reason is because the destruction or spoiling of seed to the ground could mean that what Onan did was just a means to an end. If you want to go with the less literal meaning, the sentence becomes "...acted corruptly/perversely in relation to the ground." If the latter interpretation is used, I think this would mean that the act is a sin in of itself. I don't know if we know for certain which interpretation is correct, however.

The word shichet or shachath (not sure which, has it as tash'chiyt. I don't know what to make of that) is used in Leviticus 19:27. We are not supposed to mar/destroy the corners of our beard. Leviticus 21:5 serves as a cross reference to this, except the word for shave, galach (figuratively to lay waste), is used instead of the word for destroy. To be more exact, it means to "shave off," and we can see this used in Judges 16:19 and 2 Samuel 10:4. Interestingly, the Piel form is used for each of these instances, and this form is also used in Onan's case.

The thing is, I'm inclined to think that the language used doesn't necessarily refer to sinful acts per se. Afterall, is it a sin in of itself to shave one's beard? Many Jews might believe that it is, and I think that this issue is even mentioned in the Talmud as such. However, the case can be made that it just isn't to be done as a mourning ritual for the dead. Leviticus 19:28, the following line from what I noted above, talks about not making incisions in the flesh for the dead. And if you look at Leviticus 21:1, the same case can be made for my other example. How long have the Jews held onto the belief that it is a sin in of itself though? I don't think it's unreasonable to believe that people can hold an incorrect belief for many years, even hundreds, as I believe they have here. Catholics and Protestants from the past aren't exceptions here either.

Now onto why Onan may have been killed. I don't know if disobeying his father had anything to do with this. Does Genesis 2:24 say that once a man is married, he isn't obligated to follow his parents anymore? However, the case can be made that one is still obligated to honor their parents. Second is the matter of the Levirite marriage. Why is Onan killed but not the man from Deuteronomy 25:1-10? One explanation is that Onan acted perversely or wasted his seed or whatnot. Another is that Onan was married to Tamar while the other man wasn't. This has its implications.

Onan could have refused to marry Tamar, but didn't. Since he did not, Onan defrauded both Judah and Tamar by going through with part of what his father said while refusing to raise seed for his brother. Therefore, he avoided having to split the inheritance. The scripture in question says that Onan knew that the child would not be counted as his own. I couldn't verify for certain, but another thing this may have meant was that through this marriage, Onan prevented anyone else from marrying Tamar to raise seed for his brother. The reason why I cannot verify this is because I have never heard of women having multiple husbands, just men having multiple wives. Tamar marrying Onan's younger brother as well may have been possible. Nevertheless, the sins committed here are greed and fraud. It is perhaps for these reasons that Onan was killed by God. Afterall, this passage could be read that he spoiled his seed to the ground in order not/so as not to give seed to his brother, with no commas. Is this not the full scope of what Onan did? I want to be wary of just focusing on the means and not the ends.

cueball197335 said...

Another question,
Ok, a man shouldn't masturbate as to not "waste" the seed, so is it ok for a woman to masturbate?(she isn't wasting anything) Also, it has been proven by science that if a man doesn't ejaculate enough, it can cause prostate cancer. Is our nocturnal emission enough to prevent this. I am not married yet and trying to do the right thing by not touching myself but sometimes there is pain when I am full. One more thing, both boys and girls bodies become able to create life at ages younger than 18 which is what is considered an adult. In earlier times, were we meant to procreate at these young ages? Thanks in advance. John Mc.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Hi Cueball. I am not a medical doctor so I can't answer your question from that position. However I can say that if God created us to enjoy the conjugal act within the marriage covenant only, then He would not make the human body with a high probability for cancer for those who are not in that covenant. There have been countless Saints who have spent many years living celibate, and I don't know of any that died from cancer of the genital organs for doing so.

As far as men and women go, this teaching applies to both sexes. It isn't just the waste of the seed that is sinful, but it is the act itself, which conflicts with God's natural law. The natural law also ties together with many other issues other than masturbation. If you get a chance, and you have access to itunes, go to the iTunes store and search for Catholic Champion. I have free Podcasts you can download, and one of them is on contraception. If you listen to that, you may get a clearer picture of how human sexuality in general falls into God's natural law.

Internet_is_Serious_Business! said...

Hi Matthew,

I'll keep it relatively concise this time. Why is the Rhythm Method approved in Catholicism? Where is the procreative aspect that you think is part of God's natural law? This along with NFP sounds like a contradiction.

The Rhythm Method was explicitly accepted in Pope Pius XII's 1951 addresses, and Pope Paul VI encouraged scientists to work towards natural contraception through the study of natural rhythms in Humanae Vitae. You yourself cited this source in your podcast, but neglected to mention this part. From my interpretation of Humanae Vitae, it is acceptable to use the Rhythm Method only when a couple is committed to abstain from sex during the fertile period. But lacking the procreative is lacking the procreative.

I am very interested in your response.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Internet, the Rhythm method does not interrupt the procreative aspect of the conjugal act. Can you see the difference between the act of Onan, and an act that does not actually interrupt the sexual act by coitus interruptus?

If a sexual act is committed with no method of interrupting the act itself,(condoms, coitus interruptus, the pill, diaphragms, IUDs, etc) then the natural law is not being violated. God created man and women to be sexually desirable both in fertile times and non fertile. So as long as the sexual act happens as God designed it, then the act itself is considered to be licit. The Rhythm method or NFP does not interrupt the sexual act itself, and therefore it is licit and not against the natural law as the sin of Onan was.

Internet_is_Serious_Business! said...

Sorry, but this sounds like it's following the Corban rule. Ignoring the internal meaning of a law while fulfilling the external meaning. When you are using the Rhythm Method or NFP, you are intentionally trying not to have children. You are trying to avoid the procreative. You are having sex purely for pleasure. I'm sorry once again, but your explanation just doesn't make sense to me.

If God created women to be desirable during infertile times, do you think that He didn't create women to be desirable during her menstruation? Leviticus forbade (maybe it's still a sin) men from having sex with a woman during her monthly period. This means that God didn't want for sexual intercourse to occur at certain times. There was no explicit mention of a woman's rhythm in the Bible that I'm aware of. How can you be so sure that God would approve of the Rhythm Method then?

The only mention of a contraceptive act in the Bible to my knowledge is the case dealing with Onan. And in this case, he withdrew for a reason. The Bible says that he performed coitus interruptus in order not to give seed to his brother. Had this passage been in a stand alone form, such as, "Thou shalt not interrupt the conjucal act" the case against contraception would be stronger.

Another thing is that the Rhythm Method isn't totally reliable. You should use it when trying to get pregnant rather than trying to avoid it. You should ask yourself whether or not God would approve of accidental births. I also read an article that stated that more embryos might end up being killed as a result of using the Rhythm Method than with other methods of contraception. Here it is:

Lastly, had Onan used the Rhythm Method to prevent giving his brother an heir, would God have killed him? If not, then I guess there wouldn't be any reason to include "...lest he should give seed to his brother." I guess that it would have been fine since he wouldn't have interrupted the conjucal act. Would this be accurate in your estimation?

P.S. - I appreciate you not approving my second to last post. It was too much of a rant.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Internet, the problem is with the act itself, and not really the reason per se. Onan's sin and punishment was not based on the reason he spilled his seed, but on the fact that he interrupted the sexual act itself perversely. As my post suggests, this was how this passage has been traditionally interpreted. NFP or the Rhythm Method does not do this, it is impossible. Once again, we are looking at the act itself. If one chooses not to have sex, then there is no sexual act to pervert is there? Therefore there is no actual sin being committed in regards to the conjugal act itself.

Internet_is_Serious_Business! said...

Sure, but how do I know that the Roman Catholic interpretation is correct? How do I know that the traditional interpretation isn't based off of some cultural bias at the time?

And masturbation wouldn't interrupt the sexual act either. There can be no interruption where nothing was started. You mentioned the procreative and the unitive aspects of sex, but I can't find where this is expressly mentioned in the Bible. And masturbation isn't even sex. Onan didn't masturbate either.

Also, I might be wrong for thinking that the Church condemns the destruction of seed. The Rhythm Method destroys the seed too, so I guess that it isn't, at least per se. Onan used the ground (v'shichet aretzah), and the Rhythm Method uses the uterus. Same end result if it becomes destroyed. The more literal meaning of shichet is to spoil or ruin, not to act perversely. In what Bible did you find that interpretation? I've looked at several and they all say spilled, spoiled, wasted, emitted, etc. Look at Young's Literal Translation, for instance. It uses the word destroyed.

Shichet is interpreted as referring to corruption elsewhere.

Furthermore, the passage dealt with what Onan did concerning the seed and why he did so. It doesn't mention anything about interrupting any act.

Turretinfan said...

MB wrote: "Internet, the problem is with the act itself, and not really the reason per se."

Do you really think that Onan would have been ok if he had used the rhythm method to avoid giving heirs to his dead brother?


Matthew Bellisario said...

The fact is, Onan committed the sin of coitus interruptus. In order for this to happen, you have to actually have a sexual act to interrupt, no? Is the Rhythm method a sexual act? I think you can deduce the answer to your own question at this point.

Internet_is_Serious_Business! said...

No, the Catholic Church says that Onan committed the sin of coitus interruptus. There's no evidence that I'm aware of that suggests that the Church is always right. Therefore, I find it arrogant that you think that whatever the Church says is the axiomatic, irrefutable truth. And in your Podcast on contraception I don't remember you citing one Biblical source.

In addition, it seems that you want to play this game of semantics where it's okay to avoid the procreative aspect of sex but not interrupt it. Why would one be sinful but not the other? The Rhythm Method involves sex but avoids the procreative. And masturbation doesn't interrupt the conjugal act because there's no sex. Rather, it avoids sex altogether along with the unitive and procreative aspects that you think should go along with it.

I think that you can make a logical deduction at this point.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Dude, seriously. The Rhythm method is not a sexual act. Masturbation is the use of the genitals in a sexual act. It seems that you are not willing to listen to reason. Maybe someone else can explain it better than I. It is clear to me that one involves the use of sexual organs, the other does not. No semantics involved here. This whole post is examining a Biblical passage. The Podcast was more oriented towards Catholics, but I also covered the natural law in it.

Matthew Bellisario said...

First of all, watch your mouth on my website. We don't need explicit details to be written. Resubmit your entry without the graphic details.

Not having sex isn't a sexual act. If you can't get that then no one can help you.

Matthew Bellisario said...

For those interested in NFP and how it differs in morality compared to contraception, I recommend reading this article.

Alex said...


If masturbation is not considered a sexual act, then what type of act is it? Would mutual masturbation be considered a sexual act? What about homosexual acts, are they not...well...sexual? What is meant by the term "sexual immorality"? If lust is not to fall within the category of sexual immorality, then what type of act is it?

Internet_is_Serious_Business! said...

When I said that masturbation didn't involve sex, I didn't wish to imply that it wasn't a sexual act. Rather, I was trying to say that there was no sexual intercourse involved. Therefore, it couldn't interrupt the unitive or procreative aspect of sexual intercourse, since none was started.

Internet_is_Serious_Business! said...

And Matthew, the explicit details were for a reason, I was trying to point out the details of the sexual act one by one so you understood what I (and I think most) people think sex is. I think it unusual that you would delete my post when I was merely describing the act, in a blog dealing with sexuality, without any use of profanity. I assumed that we were all adults here. Maybe not.

Anyway, you are having sexual intercourse when using the Rhythm Method. Ever heard of the failure rate the Rhythm Method has? How can there be a failure rate, resulting in pregnancy, if there is no sex?

Alex said...

Stimulation of the genitalia is absolutely part of conjugal love, and must be directed appropriately in the marital state. This distinguishes a moral sexual act from an immoral one, and even the agent’s thoughts, i.e. lust, must be in accordance to the proper ends of God’s design for human sexuality which finds itself in the unitive and procreative goods which lead to human flourishing. What is the design and purpose of human sexuality? Conjugal love. What violates conjugal love? Any act which artificially separates the procreative from the unitive goods. If we seek one good over the violation of the other we commit an immoral/disordered act. We know what the proper ordering of human sexuality is as apprehended in appealing to the natural law which is nothing less than God’s eternal law intelligible in the rational agent.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Internet, you wrote,"And Matthew, the explicit details were for a reason, I was trying to point out the details of the sexual act one by one so you understood what I (and I think most) people think sex is."

My response,
There is no need to go into graphic detail in a public blog concerning the conjugal act. Secondly, you still have not put together the basic fact of what an "act" is. The Rhythm method itself is not a "sexual" act. There is no interrupting of any sexual act, because one is not taking place. Read the link I posted by Dr. Pruss, maybe that will help you understand.

As far as deleting posts, I rarely erase anyone's post. But I don't think it is necessary to describe in graphic detail the conjugal act on an internet blog. I think most adults know what it is. Anyone who doesn't know what it is, should not find out what it is in a graphic depiction through my blog. I appreciate you participating in the debate, just keep it clean, thanks.

QHg2sfLrmiG3fAwJQ5b said...

After reading this entire exchange, I have to conclude that the opponents' position is determined, through any possible pretense, that sexual (and by extension, all other) acts are without moral dimension, and that their own protestations, no matter how derived, trump any other consideration; because objectivity is beside this point.

I'll quote Josef Cardinal Ratzinger's homily on 18 April 2005, but I wouldn't hold my breath for any unaware foot soldier in the dictatorship of relativism to heed, let alone read, this silence-inducing wisdom.

Matthew, God bless you, you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.

Kindly note original, authentic, verifiable, unquestionable, unvarnished source, as opposed to an opinion of some "leading" interpretation-presumed-infallible-by-some-guy-just-because-so-there:

Cardinal Ratzinger's Homily

"We should not remain infants in faith, in a state of minority. And what does it mean to be an infant in faith? Saint Paul answers: it means “tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery” (Eph 4, 14). This description is very relevant today!

"How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking… The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves – thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14).

"Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and “swept along by every wind of teaching”, looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today’s standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires."

Internet_is_Serious_Business! said...

Matthew, and I appreciate all of your responses thus far. I won't press the issue. It's your blog so you make the rules. I'll respond to everything once I get around to it. There has certainly been a lot thrown at me here! It will take time to make a thorough response.

Alex said...

Internet, by all means take your time. If you just want to respond to one particular point in the meantime, that will do just fine. I think that Matt would agree with me here, we do not expect that you have endless time to spend on the blog. If you do not address everything in one setting I'm not going to take that as your opinion being defeated.


Internet_is_Serious_Business! said...

Alright, so the Rhythm Method isn't a sexual act per se, but rather an idea that pertains to a sexual act. Still, I thought that Catholics considered sex without the intent to procreate sinful, whether because it perverts God's purpose for sex or because it was murder. I still don't understand why the Rhythm Method is acceptable when you are trying to remove the procreative aspect from sex. Is it based upon it being labeled as natural? Since when was natural an effective criterion for determining whether or not an act is sinful? Circumcision, shaving your hair, and clipping your nails would be sins then. You do know that there are Jews that think that shaving your beard is disfiguring what God gave us, right? And if you want to go by early interpretations, Judaism is older than Christianity.

Second, your article says this:

"There apparently was some speculation, in part accurate[1] , by women that the time of menstruation was an infertile time. Augustine condemned periodic abstinence based on that speculation, but we do not have enough data to see whether this condemnation of periodic abstinence was generally accepted by the Christian tradition. For instance, while Aquinas apparently[2] condemned sexual relations during menstruation, his condemnation was based on the grounds of a false empirical belief that conception during that time would result in a deformed child: evidently, Aquinas does not think that that time is infertile, and so we do not know what he would say if he thought that it was. "

Isn't this basically saying that early figures of the Church didn't know what they were talking about? So why should I care about what they believed? By comparison, if we were to quote from the Bible, would we encounter the same kinds of errors? My personal belief (which really means nothing) is that the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is much more reliable than Catholic writings. That's why if the Bible doesn't say in specific enough language that we can't masturbate, for instance, then I won't use any sort of logical reasoning (natural law) to extract things that aren't there. We cannot know God completely, for He is greater than all of us, and trying to say what God intended for us regarding sex can be construed as arrogant. Just like in Job where Job's friends said that God punishes wicked deeds but rewards people who obey Him. It's not black and white.

Note that not being black and white does not imply moral relativity. What it implies, at least in my eyes, is that each individual situation in our lives is either moral or immoral according to God's judgment and God's judgment alone. I don't think that there's a universal truth that every act leads back to for determing morality. God is the sole judge of that, which is why I shy away from theology. The Bible would never end if it covered every individual situation that we could encounter in our lives.

Internet_is_Serious_Business! said...

The Pope is right when he says that right and wrong aren't relative. The problem is, I don't know what is axiomatic unless it is clearly stated as such in the Bible. To follow any one interpretation from man to me is its own form of dictatorship. For example, I could say that Confession and Penance is arrogant. Jesus's death removed the need for an intermediary, and telling people their punishments is a matter of Divine authority only.

But really, what do I know? My interpretation differs from another. I was raised as a Protestant, but now I no longer follow any organized religion. We are in the Age of the Holy Spirit. I don't want to believe that the Holy Spirit would only consistently lead one organization to the truth of God's will infallibly.

One last thing, and this is the kind of thing that I'm talking about. Where does the Bible make a distinction between positive and negative contraception? If natural law states that I should use rational logic to determine our participation, if you will, in God's eternal law, then I could reason that Onan preventing Tamar from conceiving is a positive action. Preventing is a positive action, right? And by what criteria should we determine if my rationale is wrong or not?

Internet_is_Serious_Business! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Internet_is_Serious_Business! said...

I almost forgot, please let Dr. Alexander Pruss know that his efforts were very much appreciated.

As for this:

"Matthew, God bless you, you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink."

Oh, by all means. Dumb it down for me. And if I'm the one who's wrong in this discussion, maybe you should ask God to bless me too.

Internet_is_Serious_Business! said...

Thanks for keeping this topic alive Matthew.

"Keep the language as clean as possible please."

Honestly, I'm sorry that this needed to be said. :P

But anyway, I want to state that I'm not just trying to argue for the sake of arguing. I've read many things about this passage, and tackled it from many perspectives. I don't know for sure what this passage means yet, but I will continue to provide insight.

Here are a couple of articles that speak against masturbation and contraception:

They are definitely worth reading.

hoo said...

I think what Matt was trying to say is that we should be reading the bible and looking to find the truest meaning possible within it. This meaning should be sought with full knowledge of everything we know of the time and everything in the bible that came before the passage being read, and that no passage in the bible should be read as if it were in a vacuum.

In Onan's case, what did he really do that was so horrible as to invoke the wrath of God? Spill seed? Unlikely. Disobey a parent? Probably not. Be a horribly greedy person who attempted to subjugate his dead brother's wife, any female children she may have and steal his dead brother's property from its rightful owner/s? This one sounds a little more up God's alley.

There are but 7 sins worthy of death, and greed is one of them. Onanism, while misused for hundreds of years because it is human nature to remember the 1st and last thing read or told to us, should be synonymous with greed, and not birth control or masterbation.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Unfortunately Hoo, your interpretation is not that of the Church nor that of any of the Church Fathers, not even that of any of the original Reformers. That makes your interpretation nothing but your own opinion, and therefore it is worthing nothing.

Larry said...

One of this blogs contributors asks how the Catholic Church can countenance use of these methods while prohibiting birth control?
Here is my best attempt at an answer.

The integrity of the sexual act must be maintained. Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, we have been redeemed by God's son Jesus Christ and we are the temples of the Holy Spirit. New souls come into being because of sexual relations. It is a sacred action and no direct action should be taken to impair either the unitive or the procreative capacity of the sexual act.

Constantine has suggested that Pius XII reversed Catholic doctrine in 1951. We have to be cautious reading one theologians opinion on this topic. (Noonan) What Pius XII did was acknowledge that Catholic couples could refrain from sexual relations on their fertile days. Augustine and the early Fathers taught that the primary ends of sexual relations was having children. Pius XII did not change that - he simply responded to scientific advances that were allowing couple to become more aware of their fertility. This science continues to advance - particularly with the advent of various assays that allow the woman to know with greater precision when she is ovulating.

God does not pose a constant duty to have sex on a couple. Even St. Paul advises couples to separate from time to time for prayer.

And if one or the other partner was sterile there was never a prohibition on having sexual relations within marriage.

All Pius XII was saying was that
couple could abtain from sex on their fertile days.

Now some of your contributors will ask - What is the difference between artificial contraception and natural family planning? Here we need to analyse the action from a moral perspective.

Using contraception is an action taken to frustrate the natural ends of the sexual act. It is unequivocal - it is an act taken against conception while participating in the sexual act.
Regardless of the intention it is an evil act, because we cannot do evil so that good can come from it.

The act of abtaining from sex during fertile times is an equivocal action. St. Paul permits couples to abstain from sex for periods of prayer. The morality of this act then depends on the intention of the couple as the action of abstaining can be a good action.
Only the couple knows whether they are abstaining for the good of their spouse and of the marriage and in obedience to the
will of God or for selfish reasons. A person could abstain during the fertile period for selfish reasons and as such would be guilty of a sin. Perhaps the couple determined that despite their capacity to receive children they would delay having a child until they had purchased a new yacht and summer home. They would be missing out on a great blessing for material gain.

Those are some of my thoughts and I would be interested in reactions. Generally speaking, I am sceptical of citing theologians (experts) as it has been my experience that you can find a theologian to say almost anything these days.

Also, let's try to keep the tone civil - we profess to be Christian after all!!

Thanks for the opportunity to comment

Theologian Anonymous

Clare said...

Just posting to agree with Larry's excellent explanation of the fact that the context in which Natural Family Planning is practised is crucial.
John Paul II describes this issue well in his book 'Love and Responsibility.'
The starting point is that in marriage, the spouses should have a generous and open attitude to welcoming children. In a situation where such a couple have important, genuine reasons for postponing pregnancy, then abstinence during the fertile periods is morally acceptable since they have not 'closed the door to new life' because they have taken no steps to render their sexual act infertile. In other words, God created alternating fertile and infertile periods to enable married couples to space their children, when they genuinely believe postponing pregnancy is right for their family. Thus, it is possible for NFP to be practised with the wrong intentions eg postpoing pregnancy for trivial or selfish reasons.

Many thanks for reading. God bless.

I AM said...

To have coitus other than to Procreate Children is against Nature and God. The Talmud forbade sexual intercourse that was not solely for Procreation. Clement of Alexandria also: “Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted. “To have coitus other than to procreate children is to do injury to nature,” The Instructor of Children, 191AD.

"But I wonder why he [the heretic Jovinianus] set Judah and Tamar before us for an example, unless perchance even harlots give him pleasure; or Onan, who was slain because he grudged his brother seed. Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children?" Saint Jerome, Against Jovinian, A.D. 393.

“Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime [contraception] and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, ‘Intercourse even with one’s legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Judah, did this and the Lord killed him for it,' ” Pope Pius XI, encyclical Casti Connubii, references St. Augustine, De Adulterinis Coniugiis, Book II.

“Sexual intercourse for begetting [children] is alone worthy of marriage. But that which goes beyond this necessity no longer follows reason but lust,” St. Augustine, The Good of Marriage, 401AD.

The divorce rate and unsatisfactory marriages should lead one to understand there is a fundamental deficiency in the marriage sacrament -- unless true love in the form of Harmony is present, there is no foundation. And lust or sensuality, unless for procreation, is a symptom and tragic! "To those that have ears, let them hear....."