Institutions News Revelations

New Vatican manual warns that sex is not just for pleasure

The faithful attend the Angelus prayer led by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Aug. 14, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Max Rossi

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Sex should be focused on love, not egotism or pleasure, according to the Vatican.

The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family is sharing its latest views on sexuality in a manual titled “The Meeting Place,” which is aimed at young people and was presented at World Youth Day in Krakow in July.

According to Italian daily La Repubblica, the manual stresses that sexuality should be “ordered” and sexual relations should not be about individualism, hedonism or materialism.

“Autoeroticism or masturbation do not help people to leave themselves and move towards another,” the document says, according to La Repubblica. “Sexuality is not only for pleasure.”

The newspaper noted that premarital sex and casual sex are also unacceptable in the Vatican’s sex education guide, given to young people after the April release of Pope Francis’ exhortation on the family, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”).

The manual “follows the line indicated by Pope Francis, where sex education is a part of a more comprehensive picture of education to love and mutual self-giving,” said Monsignor Carlos Simon Vazquez, undersecretary of the Vatican department, in a statement released at the time.

Films including “Batman” and “Superman” are referenced in the manual to illustrate the value of moral choices and righteousness, La Repubblica said.

Developed with the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, the guide is being promoted by the Vatican through multimedia, including YouTube, in five languages — English, Spanish, Italian, French and Portuguese.


About the author

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.


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  • Did anyone tell the priests in Ireland?

    Fro Ireland TV NEWS: Church leaders have held crisis talks over fears that trainee Catholic priests in Ireland are using the gay dating app Grindr. Ireland’s Catholic Church hierarchy admitted concerns about an “unhealthy atmosphere” at the country’s main seminary.

    As a result Church leaders have ordered a review of the “appropriate use of the internet and social media” at a centuries-old training centre for priests, as well as an overhaul of its approach to whistleblowers. Talks were held after the most senior Catholic in Ireland said he was boycotting the seminary and sending student priests to Rome rather than St Patrick’s College in Maynooth, Co Kildare, which is just 16 miles from the capital.

    The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin said allegations included “a homosexual, a gay culture, that students have been using an app called Grindr” which he said “would be fostering promiscuous sexuality”. The Archbishop said there were further allegations that whistleblowers trying to bring claimed wrongdoing to the attention of authorities were being dismissed from the seminary.”
    this is me again: at least they are using grindr, and not kiddly-diddly.
    This time.

  • If a well-informed rational person made a list of organizations that are the least qualified to issue a manual on how people must conduct their sex lives, the Catholic Church would surely be at or near the top of the list. They mindlessly regurgitate assertions from thousands of years ago by men who had little more than ignorance to work with. The Church is never willing or able to reevaluate those assertions in light of current knowledge, reason, evidence, logic, and science. And then there is the fact that the Church hierarchy is celibate (supposedly) which makes it hilarious when they claim to be the ultimate authority on the subject of sexuality.

  • Maybe some of these bright light commentators would like to kneel down with the Gospel instead of constructing excuses for their own aberrance.
    The Church is not unfamiliar with the beauty of human love and desire. It constitutes the sacrament of Matrimony. Nor is it unfamiliar with human weakness in the face of desire and concupiscence — even that to be found among those who are attempting to give their whole self to devotion to Jesus Christ and the service of the Gospel.
    Perhaps some of us need pick up the mirror and take a gander at ourselves. Cynicism speaks loudly about its source.

  • True, but since most Catholics don’t know this, don’t care about this, and haven’t been taught about this for decades now since the Vatican II collapse, this program is basically another effort to find an existential compromise position that a few Catholics might latch onto but that most will continue to blissfully ignore.

  • Look at it this way, folks. I’ve seen alarmist articles from conservative sites accusing the Vatican of betraying the Magisterium by not tossing out enough traditionalist talking-points. Francis and his entourage seem to be doing something right in nudging the Church away from ultra-conservatism.

  • It would appear that you are rather naïve, deliberately blind, and even of the same mind. “Aberrance” covers a multitude of “perspectives. “In odium fidei” could not be excluded, among other things. Keep your eye on the big picture.

  • Ah, those medieval people and their dark culture!
    Steeped in the historical “perspective” provided by the zeitgeist you appear unaware that it was the dawn of the Renaissance. Pick up a book and chow down some ramen.
    History counts. Accurate history.

  • Dawn of the Crusades and Inquisitions as well ?
    Dawn of the Renaissance ? As stultifingually ignorant a comment as I have ever encountered….

  • Sex’s primary purpose is the continuation of the human race. The pleasure one receives when having sex is there so we have sex and the human race continues. If sex wasn’t pleasurable nobody would have sex since we are a flawed species prone to sin and selfishness. The human race would become extinct because we wouldn’t want to have the burden of raising children and deal with the trials of marriage.

    What you are doing is taking something that is incidental (pleasure) and making it the action’s purpose. This subverting of the primary purpose of sex has had disastrous consequences on the world, especially the family. Small errors in the beginning lead to big errors in the end (Aquinas).

  • Bad analogy. The Church doesn’t tell people HOW to have sex but it tells people the PURPOSE of sex. I don’t need to know how to make a pork chop to tell you that the purpose of eating a pork chop is to provide nourishment the body needs to survive. This knowledge doesn’t come from experience of grilling pork chops but from the light of natural reason.

  • Yes I agree with you that most Catholics don’t know but I disagree that most Catholics don’t care. I think Catholics want to know their faith but the Church no longer teaches it to us anymore. It really is amazing that I went to a Catholic high school and one of the best Catholic universities in the country, yet, my ignorant simple grandmother who didn’t even go to high school knew more about the faith than me when I graduated.

  • Sorry, I’ve been doing homosexual behavior for 45 of my 66 years, and I’m still in better health and shape then most men 15-20 years younger. Repeating lies and slanders about gay people doesn’t make them true, but it does show where you are coming from.

  • Your are committing the logical fallacy of appeal to authority. The Church’s argument that the primary purpose of sex is procreation can be argued using the natural light of reason. The validity of the argument doesn’t depend on the person making the argument but the argument can stand or fall on its merit alone. This argument was also made by Aristotle who was obviously not a Catholic. This is really a debate between people who have a teleological view of the world and those that don’t. People who have a teleological view of the world believe things are made for a specific purpose that can be revealed in the nature of the thing.

    Another logical fallacy your are committing is the fallacy of appeal to novelty. The newness of argument doesn’t mean the argument is more sound than an old argument. By the way your view that things don’t have a purpose inherent in their nature is not new but rather old. Epicurus (341–270 BC) held this view. Also Epicurus also came up with the theory of evolution many years before Darwin.

  • So heterosexuality isn’t all that spectacular unless it feels good.

    Real humans have sex for a variety of reasons. Your last paragraph puts the cart well before the horse manure. The church and conservative religion in general reject birth control, saying, just like you do, that the primary purpose of sex is procreation. The disastrous consequences are those of over population.

  • If the church were interested in natural reason, birth control would be at the top of its priority list, and gay people would not be on its eternal scheisslist.

  • “If sex wasn’t pleasurable nobody would have sex since we are a flawed
    species prone to sin and selfishness. The human race would become
    extinct because we wouldn’t want to have the burden of raising children and deal with the trials of marriage

    That assertion has certified you as having zero credibility. You are saying that people only produce children due to accidental pregnancy, and that, otherwise, they would not want children! If that were the case, everyone would stay on contraceptives for the duration of their childbearing years.

    As a side note: The earth and humanity would benefit by more homosexuality and less heterosexuality because 1) it would reduce the vast number of unwanted/unintended pregnancies, and 2) it would provide more adoptive parents to care for the unwanted/unintended children still being produced. Note that gay people often want to raise children even though they don’t produce them accidentally.

  • That you know that the Crusades and the Inquisition happened is commendable. That you rest in historically inaccurate perception of them is regrettable, despite the fact that it provides confirmation
    for my previous comment. Withdraw head from zeitgeist. Engage in some adult research beyond the “safe space.” You have a lot of work to do, including word usage. It will serve you well.

  • You are right on target, Peter. That the hierarchy chose to allow this to transpire, that they have done nothing to correct it says a lot. We need be vigilant, we need be faithful.
    God reward you.

  • You make a good point. I did overstate my case. Let me restate it that birth and marriage rates would severely decline if sex wasn’t pleasurable.

  • Proven you say? I’d like to you to furnish the peer-reviewed scientific studies published in reputable medical or psychological journals to back up your claim. Please note that in order to support your claim, your reference materials need to prove that the behavior itself is demonstrably dangerous independent of perceived social norms and the psychological stresses associated with those norms. The supporting literature also needs to address why these supposed dangers apply only to the homosexual community and not to the wider community (i.e. STIs which can affect all sexually active persons, not just homosexual persons). Until then, your claim carries all the weight of a random person on a corner shouting “The end is nigh! Repent!”

  • This manual’s opinion on the acceptable employment of procreative actions would carry so much more weight if 1). It didn’t come from a bunch of kiddie-diddlers and kiddie-diddling enablers and 2). If I actually believed in their imaginary friend.

  • It doesn’t make it bettr. People marry because they love each other and want to share their lives. They don’t look at other people and say, “Hmmmm. Good breeding stock.”
    It also doesn’t say much either for heterosexuality or that fabled building block of society if you can honestly say, “Gosh. Sex is no fun. forget children.”

  • Alternative sexual lifestyles abound within the animal world. Nothing dangerous at all or all species would have gone by the wayside as one of evolution’s aberrations.
    You must take pride being first in line when Bill Donohue ladles-out his KoolAid….

  • Sorry I missed that. My colander’s in the shop for repairs as a result of our last local Pirate soiree. Those emergency Dollar Store versions just don’t hold-up….

  • Is it EWTN or Bill Donohue who prepares your KoolAid ? You should ask them to stop using Flint River water. You’re showing its effects….

  • Look in the mirror. Whom you see, and his ilk, is who is emptying the Church.

    Humanitatis gratiam facis .

  • Bitterness is a poor lens through which to observe the world, our history, or our own existence. It serves you very poorly.

  • “Your are committing the logical fallacy of appeal to authority.”

    That charge is almost amusing coming from a person who kowtows to the authority of the Catholic Church.

    “Another logical fallacy you are committing is the fallacy of appeal to novelty.”

    So, in your view, “current knowledge, reason, evidence, logic, and science” are “novelties?” While I agree that “the newness of argument doesn’t [necessarily] mean the argument is more sound than an old argument,” I think you are attempting to discredit the genuine advancements in human knowledge that have occurred during the last several thousands of years.

    When someone finds it necessary to mention that, “the primary purpose of sex is procreation,” it always seems to come from a person who wants every aspect of people’s sex lives to be controlled by their preferred authoritarian organization. And, one of my favorite examples of that control is the Church seeking to ban masturbation . . . which demonstrates as little credibility as the Church seeking to ban contraception in addition to abortion.

  • Ok tell me the purpose of sex using reason alone without any rhetorical tricks like personal attacks , appeals to authority (scientist say this), or ad populum arguments (most people now think this).

    Or just admit that you hold to a non-teleological view of sex. The question is whether you think that sex has a purpose that is inherent in the action itself or we can use sex for whatever purpose we like.

    No need for hysterics or name calling. It is simple debate between those that have a teleological or a non-teleological view. Does sex have an objective purpose or doesn’t? That’s debate.

  • I know an old guy who has been doing cocaine for over 50 years. Does that make doing cocaine a healthy habit?
    People carry on with a lot of degenerative habits for decades. That doesn’t make those behaviors healthy. Those people should stop with the sinful behaviors so they can be even more healthy! 🙂

    God bless you.

  • Are you making the claim that peer-reviewed scientific studies never possess erroneous information? Do you need me to point you to evidence that they are in fact often full of erroneous information? (You’re going to have to pay me if you want me to keep acting as your tutor.)

    Medical researchers have known for many years that the “homosexual lifestyle” is a very disease-ridden lifestyle. (The fact that the dominant liberal media are downplaying and/or ignoring and/or censoring the following crucial information should give you a clue as to just how biased, untrustworthy, corrupt, and potentially detrimental they can be.)
    For example, one 1982 study mentioned in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the anal cancer rate for homosexuals is way above normal, maybe as high as 50 times normal.1 And a 1997 New England Journal of Medicine study again drew attention to the “strong association between anal cancer and male homosexual contact.”2 (The reason for the connection is that the lining of the anus, as opposed to the much thicker lining of the vagina, is only a single cell in thickness, tears easily, and thus is an easy point of entry for viruses and bacteria. Just as repeatedly assaulting lung tissue with cigarette smoke increases one’s lung cancer risk, repeatedly damaging the anus and rectum increases one’s anal cancer risk. Anal sex frequently results in damage to the anus and rectum. Too, this helps explain why AIDS is spread so easily in the homosexual community. However, even when there are not any tears in the anal lining, there is still a high risk for HIV infection because certain cells in its mucous lining [M-cells and Langerhans cells] can be infected and will then carry HIV deeper into one’s body.)

    Homosexual males are 16000% more likely to get AIDs.

    Lesbians and bisexuals in the US are also less healthy:

    The same in Australia:

  • There are also a lot of animals who eat their young. Should mothers now not only be able to murder the children in the womb, but also bake them in the oven and eat them because “animals do it too!”? They eat their own vomit as well. Should humans do that also?

    Who is Bill Donohue?

  • Most middle school students can tell you the purpose of sex. That doesn’t mean they know anything about relationships. The bishops are absolutely telling people how to have a healthy sexual relationship. By doing so they have betrayed their ignorance on how human sexuality actually functions.

  • It’s hard to know just how to respond to such a silly document. There is one positive point: Sex as part of a loving relationship is optimal, great, in fact. But the rest? Masturbation is an excellent way for any adolescents to learn how their body works.

    Most of all, enjoying sex, with or without marriage, is not shameful. It’s Fun!

    Big caveat: Any version of sex that is coerced, forced, unwanted in any way by any of the parties involved? That is Completely Shameful on the part of the Perpetrator Only.

  • Yeah, and the RCC has no business lecturing anyone on the subject of sexuality or sexual behavior. That’s ludicrous.

  • Do you mean sorta like a grown man forcing his attentions on an under
    Aged person of either sex?

  • 1) Which animal uses an oven ?
    2) Is the human population shrinking ?
    3) Do you consider yourself judgemental ?
    4) Is being judgemental healthy ?
    5) What effect is your judgementalism having on humanity ?
    7) Do you have clinical results supporting your world view ?
    8) Is the reason for the worldwide priest shortage due to the very high percentage of priests who engage in anal sex ?
    9) Have you made your views known to the priest community ?
    10) If so, please post the reaction here for all to read.
    11) Have you ever heard the expression ” dust bin of history “

  • Sorta exactly like that. Also spousal rape or any other kind of rape, domestic violence and sorta similar things.

  • Are you willing to answer for why your fellow Secularists, despite claiming to be so enlightened, are the worst murderers in history? If you guys are so enlightened, why have you reversed the Flynn Effect? (You’re so cancerous with your perverted “sex education” and hatred of the educational material that built the West that you’ve literally made children dumber since you’ve taken over the educational system from Christians.) Why on God’s green earth would we listen to people who have brought nothing new to the world but new forms of evil and murder?

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