Catholicism - Now I Get It!


Study Guide to CHAPTER 11:   "Got Morals?"




1. What are the two purposes of marriage?

2. Both marriage and life-long virginity for the Kingdom are gifts from God. But which does the Church teach is the greater gift?

3. Can a true Christian marriage ever be dissolved if both spouses are alive?

4. Are there any circumstances in which the marriage of a Christian and non-Chrisitan can be dissolved? (Hint: the Pauline privilege)

5. What did Jesus say about marriage? about divorce? about remarriage?

6. What does the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament say about the complimentarity of the sexes?

7. What does 1 Tim 2:11-15 say about child-bearing?

8. In 1 Cor 7:10-11, what does St. Paul say a wife must do if she separates?

9. Is it permissible for married couples to space childbirths if need be? By what method?

10. To help infertile couples conceive, the Church permits things such as hormonal treatments or surgical repair of Fallopian tubes. What does the Church not permit?

11. Pope John Paul II said that refusing food and water to a healthy (although disabled) person such as Terri Schiavo would be gravely wrong. If Terri had been an elderly woman who was in pain and dying of cancer, would the pope have considered this a different case? (hint: yes). If Terri had been on a heart and lung machine, would the pope have considered this a different case? (hint: yes)   Why?

12. Why do you think it is that the divorce rate of married couples who use natural family planning is just a small fraction of the divorce rate of those who use contraception?

13. A human embryo and a human cell taken from an arm or leg are both human. But in terms of DNA, how does a human embryo differ from other kinds of human cells?  Nine months later, what will the embryo become? What will the arm cell become? How old is an embryo when his heart starts beating?

14. Recall rapper Nick Cannon's music video, which portrays the true story of his mother deciding not to abort him and running out of the hospital. What are ways in which we can testify to the truth of our faith in our social lives or our work lives?  In our artistic expression?

15. Are scientists sometimes so  motivated by the idea of doing something nobody has done before that they violate their own conscience as well as divine truth?


Suggestions for further reading:

Beginning Apologetics 5: How to Answer Tough Moral Questions (abortion, contraception, euthanasia, test tube babies, cloning, and social ethics) by Fr. Frank Chacon

Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist by Guy Consolmagno

The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories by Berkeley professor J.L. Heilbron

If You Really Loved Me: 100 Questions on Dating, Relationships, and Sexual Purity by Jason Evert

Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West

Theology of the Body Explained by Christopher West (commentary on JP2's "Gospel of the Body")

Good News About Sex and Marriage by Christopher West

The Bible and Birth Control by Charles D. Provan

Sex and the Marriage Covenant by John F. Kippley

Annulments: What you need to know.   by Jimmy Akin

Annulments & the Catholic Church by Edward Peters

Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception by Sam Torode Chastity (articles on moral theology) (Sexual Morality Issues) (Sexually Transmitted Diseases)

Why Humanae Vitae was Right: A Reader by Janet E. Smith (DVD on most common abortion procedures) (The Facts of Life and Marriage) (The Sin Quiz)


Helpful entries from the online Catholic Encyclopedia.

Moral Theology



Natural Law

Divine Law



HELPFUL WEB SITES (National Catholic Bioethics Center) (Living Will and Proxy for Health Care Decisions) (Sex changes) (Vatican Reflections on Cloning) (Catechism: Marriage and Divorce) (Natural Family Planning) (Annulments)

Humanae Vitae: Encyclical of Pope Paul VI on the Regulation of Birth (July 25, 1968)

Theology of the Body        Birth Control    Sterilization (Reproductive Technology - U.S. Bishops) (John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage & Family at the Catholic University of America, Wash. D.C.) (PA Catholic Conference) (Ten Myths in Stem Cell Debate)

Life Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State (Address by Pope John Paul Ii)

Evangelium Vitae (Pope John Paul II on the Value & Inviolability of Human Life) (Family Research Council: promoting the Judeo-Christian family values) (Abortion: Science and Faith) (Friends of the Unborn) (Abortion Information Super Site) (How far is too far?),,PTID4211%7CCHID102755%7CCIID232145,00.html  (Pope Paul VI and his predictions about the pill) In 1968, Pope Paul VI predicted that the invention and dissemination of the pill would lead to "conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality." He further said more men would treat women "as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion."



What does the Bible say about premarital sex (fornication)?

Mark 7:21-23   For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery,  coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man."

Colossians 3:5-6   Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming

Ephesians 5:3-5  But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints.
Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God

Gal 5:16   But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh

What does the Bible say about marriage?

Mk 10:7-12  For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

Mt 19:5-6  [Jesus] said, `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."

Heb 13:4  Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous.

What does the Bible say about divorce and remarriage?

1 Cor 7:10-11 To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) -- and that the husband should not divorce his wife

Malachi 2:16   "For I hate divorce, says the LORD the God of Israel"

Rom 7:2-3  Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies she is discharged from the law concerning the husband. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

How did God punish Onan after he spilled his seed on the ground instead of in the woman?

Genesis 38: 9-10   But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so 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

What does the Bible say about the complementarity of the sexes?

Genesis 1:27   So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

1 Cor 6:9   Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Tim 1:9-10   understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, immoral persons, sodomites, kidnapers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,

Lv 18:22-24   You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. And you shall not lie with any beast and defile yourself with it, neither shall any woman give herself to a beast to lie with it: it is perversion. "Do not defile yourselves by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am casting out before you defiled themselves

Lv 20:13   If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them

Genesis 2:21-24    So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh

Genesis 1:27   Be fruitful and multiply

Genesis 19 (Story of Sodom and Gomor'rah)

What does the Bible say about sterilization?

Deuteronomy 23:1  "He whose testicles are crushed or whose male member is cut off shall not enter the assembly of the LORD.



On the Marriage Bond

1638 "From a valid marriage arises a bond between the spouses which by its very nature is perpetual and exclusive; furthermore, in a Christian marriage the spouses are strengthened and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and the dignity of their state by a special sacrament."142

1639 The consent by which the spouses mutually give and receive one another is sealed by God himself.143 From their covenant arises "an institution, confirmed by the divine law, . . . even in the eyes of society."144 The covenant between the spouses is integrated into God's covenant with man: "Authentic married love is caught up into divine love."145

1640  Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God's fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom.146

On Marriage and the openness to fertility (Catechism)

1652 "By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory."162

Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves. God himself said: "It is not good that man should be alone," and "from the beginning [he] made them male and female"; wishing to associate them in a special way in his own creative work, God blessed man and woman with the words: "Be fruitful and multiply." Hence, true married love and the whole structure of family life which results from it, without diminishment of the other ends of marriage, are directed to disposing the spouses to cooperate valiantly with the love of the Creator and Savior, who through them will increase and enrich his family from day to day.163

1653 The fruitfulness of conjugal love extends to the fruits of the moral, spiritual, and supernatural life that parents hand on to their children by education. Parents are the principal and first educators of their children.164 In this sense the fundamental task of marriage and family is to be at the service of life.165

1654 Spouses to whom God has not granted children can nevertheless have a conjugal life full of meaning, in both human and Christian terms. Their marriage can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality, and of sacrifice.

On Virginity for the sake of the Kingdom  (Catechism)

1618 Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social.113 From the very beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is coming.114 Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model:

"For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it."115

1619 Virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is an unfolding of baptismal grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ and of the ardent expectation of his return, a sign which also recalls that marriage is a reality of this present age which is passing away.116

1620  Both the sacrament of Matrimony and virginity for the Kingdom of God come from the Lord himself. It is he who gives them meaning and grants them the grace which is indispensable for living them out in conformity with his will.117 Esteem of virginity for the sake of the kingdom118 and the Christian understanding of marriage are inseparable, and they reinforce each other:

Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity. Whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would not be truly good. The most excellent good is something even better than what is admitted to be good.119

On Abortion (Catechism)

Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.72

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.73

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.74

2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.75

God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.76

2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,"77 "by the very commission of the offense,"78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.

2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

"The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death."80

"The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights."81

2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.

Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, "if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safe guarding or healing as an individual. . . . It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence."82

2275 "One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival."83

"It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material."84

"Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity"85 which are unique and unrepeatable.

On Euthanasia (Catechism)

2276Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible.

2277 Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.

Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded.

2278 Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of "over-zealous" treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.

2279 Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.

On Suicide   (Catechism)

2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.

2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

On Artificial Insemination   (Catechism)

2376 Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child's right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses' "right to become a father and a mother only through each other."167

2377 Techniques involving only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization) are perhaps less reprehensible, yet remain morally unacceptable. They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that "entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children."168 "Under the moral aspect procreation is deprived of its proper perfection when it is not willed as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say, of the specific act of the spouses' union . . . . Only respect for the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of the human being make possible procreation in conformity with the dignity of the person."169

On Chastity and Homosexuality   (Catechism)

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359  Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

On Offenses to Chastity   (Catechism)

2352 By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. "Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action."138 "The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose." For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of "the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved."139

To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.

2353 Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young.



St. Cyril of Jerusalem. Catecheses 4. 25 (probably 350 AD): "Let those also be of good cheer who are married and use their marriage properly; who enter marriage lawfully, and not out of wantonness and unbounded license; who recognize periods of continence so that they may give themselves to prayer [alludes to 1 Cor 7. 5]... who have embarked upon the matrimonial estate for the procreation of children and not for the sake of indulgence." (Source:

St. Clement of Alexandria. Paedagogos 2. 10:(before 202. AD)"Marriage in itself merits esteem and the highest approval, for the Lord wished men to 'be fruitful and multiply. ' He did not tell them, however, to act like libertines, nor did He intend them to surrender themselves to pleasure as though born only to indulge in sexual relations... . . Why, even unreasoning beasts know enough not to mate at certain times. To indulge in intercourse without intending children is to outrage nature, whom we should take as our instructor."  (Source:

St. Augustine: "This proves that you [Manicheans] approve of having a wife, not for the procreation of children, but for the gratification of passion. In marriage, as the marriage law declares, the man and woman come together for the procreation of children. Therefore, whoever makes the procreation of children a greater sin than copulation, forbids marriage and makes the woman not a wife but a mistress, who for some gifts presented to her is joined to the man to gratify his passion" (The Morals of the Manichees 18:65 [388 A.D.]).

St. Augustine: "You [Manicheans] make your auditors adulterers of their wives when they take care lest the women with whom they copulate conceive. They take wives according to the laws of matrimony by tablets announcing that the marriage is contracted to procreate children; and then, fearing because of your law [against childbearing] . . . they copulate in a shameful union only to satisfy lust for their wives. They are unwilling to have children, on whose account alone marriages are made. How is it, then, that you are not those prohibiting marriage, as the apostle predicted of you so long ago [1 Tim. 4:1-4], when you try to take from marriage what marriage is? When this is taken away, husbands are shameful lovers, wives are harlots, bridal chambers are brothels, fathers-in-law are pimps" (Against Faustus 15:7 [400 A.D.]).

How did Martin Luther describe contraception? He said it was a "sin greater than adultery and incest." (Early Church Teaching on Contraception) (The Fathers Know Best)


Further Helps

Pray for the sanctity of life from start to its natural end. Pray that doctors will respect life and God's laws. Pray that mothers considering an abortion will have a change of heart, and that these mothers will be supported by the Church. Pray that individuals with a homosexual orientation will have the grace to remain chaste, and that they will receive support and prayers in their walks from all Christians.

Educate yourself so that you will be able to properly expound on the issues related to life should the topic of conversation come up.

Do you invest in the stock market? If you invest in pharmaceutical companies, have you checked out those companies to make sure they do not conduct research on destroyed embryos?

What tragic consequences did Pope Paul VI predict regarding the new widespread availability of the pill? (See Humane Vitae) Did his predictions come true?

Does your parish offer a class on natural family planning to help prepare couples considering marriage? Does your parish offer brochures that outline the reproductive technologies that are permissible for married couples? How can you help educate parish members on topics such as abortion, contraception, etc.

On one occasion, Jesus asked St. Faustina Kowalska to suffer hours worth of agony to make reparation to God "for the souls murdered in the wombs of wicked mothers." What little sacrifices can we make to make reparation for the agony that we and others have caused Jesus?





Back to Catholicism -Now I Get It! (The Guide)