Sexuality and Marriage in Catholic Teaching

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Course Level:
600 or above
Course Length:
1 semester

Course Description:

This course will cover the major historical developments of Church teaching on marriage and sexuality. There will also be a prominent focus on the pre-papal and papal writings of Karol Wojtyla/Pope John Paul II (KW/JPII) on human sexuality and marriage. Many specific issues will also be covered, such as: responsible parenthood, natural family planning, the dignity and genius of women, purity and chastity, celibacy, contraception, pre-marital sex, homosexuality and “same-sex unions/marriage”, masturbation, adultery, lust, pornography, etc. (Reproductive technological interventions  - IVF, Cloning, embryo adoption, etc. - will be covered in MTH 702). Students will also gain the certificate from the Creighton Model Fertility Care System; experts of that system will be guest lecturers 5 of our class meetings, as required by Cardinal Rigali.


The theoretical goal of this course is to initiate the student into the rich Catholic Tradition of moral theology as this applies to human sexuality and marriage. The practical goal of this course is to give future priests the tools they need so that they can communicate the truth on these matters to parishioners with confidence, clearly, and in a way that reveals to the listener the deep congeniality between this teaching of the Church and their own happiness, love and family life.

Course Objectives:

  1. To give the seminarians the tools and confidence needed to approach these topics in their future parishes. This in two main ways:
    1. By the ability to express the deep truth, goodness and beauty of Church teaching on these matters. This was a key goal of John Paul II, and this knowledge, when shared with young couples, has the power to make them yearn to live this way because they understand it themselves, and grasp it as the route to a deeply fulfilling life.
    2. By obtaining specific practical knowledge in the realm of NFP, along with personal contacts and resources to direct parishioners to. With this, they can confidently go beyond explaining the teachings, to offering practical and easily accessible ways for couples to follow this path.
  2. To initiate the student in the rich Catholic Tradition of moral theology as this applies to human sexuality, marriage and related topics.

Expected Outcomes:

Students should:

  1. Be able to name and articulate the key expressions of Church teaching on marriage and sexuality in Catholic tradition.
  2. Have a solid grasp of the principles within and structure of Karol Wojtyla/John Paul II’s works: Love and Responsibility and Theology of the Body.
  3. Be able to express Church teaching in this area to lay people with confidence, and in such a way that they will be inspired to embrace and live it because they understand for themselves its truth and goodness. This goal is achieved theoretically in our study of Church teaching and practically in the students earning the Creighton Model certificate.
  4. Express the Church’s position against fornication, cohabitation, adultery, “same-sex marriage,” homosexual activity, contraception, etc.
  5. Express the importance of priestly celibacy in the call to follow Christ in persona Christi in the ministerial priesthood, as well as a mature understanding of the challenges involved and the ways of preparing and responding to those challenges.

Required Reading:

  • John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, transl. Michael Waldstein, (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2006).
  • John Paul II, Mulieris dignitatem, On the Dignity and Vocation of Woman on the Occasion of the Marian Year, (Given August 15, 1998)
  • Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1993)
  • Paul VI, Humanae vitae
  • Thomas W. Hilgers,The Creighton Model FertilityCare System User Manual, (Omaha: Pope Paul VI Institute Press, 2003)
  • Fr. John Harvey, OSFS, Homosexuality and the Catholic Church, (West Chester, PA: Ascension Press, 2007)
  • Brian J. Gail, Fatherless, 6th edition, (Front Royal VA: Human Life International, 2010)
  • Pope Benedict XVI, Christmas Address to the Roman Curia, Dec. 22, 2005.

Optional Reading

(Reference will be made to sections of most of these works in class):

Learning Assessment:

Mid-term exam: 25%

Homily, presentation and written: 25%

Research paper: 25%

Final exam: 25%

Grading Scale:

A= 93-100                               F= Below 70

B= 85-92                                 I= Incomplete

C= 77-84                                 W= Withdraw

D= 70-76                                 A=Audit

Homily assigment:

Homilies will be given in class on the dates listed in the course schedule.

Final typed version due on the last day of class.

The homilies should be crafted for an actual Mass setting, preferably a Sunday Mass. In addition to the Scripture readings you select, the homily should incorporate material from John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and/or Love and Responsibility and also incorporate explicit mention of natural family planning, the Creighton Model and possibly also Napro Technology. You may also use other sources.

Remember that the main idea is for you to try out attempts at presenting this most sensitive topic, namely the Church’s teaching on artificial birth control and natural family planning, as a homily, and for all of us to reflect together on everyone’s homily so that we can gain knowledge on how to effectively introduce this topic to congregations. The challenge will be to search for a way to present the truth uncompromisingly, and yet to not “tie up heavy burdens” that seem impossible for the people to fulfill. Further, the challenge will be to present the truth as a sacrifice, but to make clear that the sacrifice involved is not for its own sake, but rather contains the promise of a happy and fulfilling marriage and family life, and also leads to the positive development of the common good in society, and, ultimately, to eternal life.

After each homily there will be a few minutes for constructive feedback from classmates and the professor. This feedback should be taken into account, and incorporated into the final written version of the homily, which will be turned in for a grade.

Other ideas to consider:

  • You may bring up the rich tradition of the Church through the ages on this topic.
  • You may bring up the predictions of Pope Paul VI concerning the results of birth control. Keep in mind that this can easily lead in the direction of a “doomsday” homily, yet it is nonetheless helpful to make people aware of the connections between all the problems of today and birth control as their cause. Perhaps follow up with a positive idea, such as that it is not too late for Christians too get back on track, and help others to understand, etc.
  • You may tell stories of people you know or have read about who have switched from using birth control to NFP and how this affected their marriages.
  • You may give information such as websites, maybe even the contact info of some parishioners who are willing to talk with people considering making the change (or that this info is available by calling the rectory), or have info on a table after Mass.
  • You may want to bring in the beauty of confession in this context, encouraging the people that God wants to give forgiveness and for marriages and families to be fulfilling and happy.
  • Also, keep in mind that you will perhaps have already done a number of homilies that lead up to this one. For example, a homily on the meaning of self-donation in which you did not mention contraception. So, you can refer to those homilies (even though you haven’t actually done them in this class) in this homily in which you will mention contraception/NFP explicitly.
  • This homily is meant for you to practice one in which you mention one of the “hard sayings.

Research Paper:

The research paper is due at the beginning of class #20.

The paper is to be 12 pages in length (excluding title page and bibliography – that is, the textual-body of the paper is to be 12 pages in length), double spaced, 12 font, with footnotes and bibliography, done in accord with Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 6th edition. Electronic copies are not acceptable.

Discuss your topic with the professor for approval no later than class #8.  

Course Schedule:



Lecture Topic

Required Reading





Historical Overview

Humanae vitae; Handout; Fastiggi, W-drive; The Order and Purposes of Matrimony, Extract from the Sentence of the Holy Roman Rota, Jan. 22, 1944.


No Class/Labor Day



Historical Overview


No Class/Retreat



Historical overview

Theology of Body, Audiences 118 – 125.


Liz Parrish, RN, CFCP, “Creighton Model Introductory Session, Male and Female Anatomy, FertilityCare Services”

The Creighton Model User Manual, pgs. 1-33.

Look over this website:



Brian J. Gail

Brian J. Gail, Fatherless


Couples witness: realities/difficulties of NFP; SPICE; Abortion healing resources, q&a

No Reading assignment




Dr. Jean Golden, DO,CFCMC; “Contraception and their Medical and Social Side Effects”

Contraception CD


Dr. Jean Golden, DO,CFCMC; Scientific Foundations of NaProTechnology



The Creighton Model User Manual; pgs., 39-56.

Sr. Renee Mirkes, “NaProTechnology: HealthCare Women Really Need” (In the binder from Mrs. Parrish).


Pastoral approach to body/union and NFP

Intro to JP II’s Theology of the Body

Handout; BXVI, Christmas Address to the Roman Curia, Dec. 22, 2005.

Theology of the Body, Audience sections: 2.4; 3.1; 7.2; 7.4; 14.4; 133.3.



No Class/ Columbus Day/Rector’s Weekend






Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility



Love and Responsibility, pgs.: 21 – 44, 57 – 61, 101 – 18, 174 – 93, 233 – 34, 265 – 88.

Colosi, “Personhood, the Soul, and Non-Conscious Human Beings” in Life and Learning XVII, pgs. 287 – 91.

(Optional: If possible, read through Love and Responsibility from cover to cover and come with questions. However, I will cover the pages listed above).


Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility






JP II, Theology of the Body

Theology of the Body, pgs. v – xxx and pgs. 1 – 18. Introduction to the history and structure of the text. Also, Audiences 1 - 4 (pgs. 131 – 146); Gen. 1 – 3 and Mt. 19: 3-8.


JP II, Theology of the Body

Theology of the Body, Audiences 5 – 23 (pgs. 146 – 223).


No Class/40 Hrs.



No Class/40 Hrs.



JP II, Theology of the Body

Theology of the Body, Audiences 87 – 102 (pgs. 465 - 529); Ephesians 5: 21 – 33.


Homosexuality: Causes and pastoral care.

Homosexuality and the Catholic Church, chapters 1 and 2.

CDF, On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2357 – 2359.


Same sex unions; priestly vocations

Homosexuality and the Catholic Church, Chapters 4 and 8.

BXVI, Instruction on vocations and homosexual tendencies.



Sexual sins

Homosexuality and the Catholic Church, Chapters  3 and 5.

Love and Responsibility, 192-93.

CCC, 2331 – 2359.

St. Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, q.151



Research papers due

John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio #11

--. Pastores dabo vobis, esp. #’s 12-15; 21-23; 27-30; 43-50.

Congregation for the Clergy, Directory for the Life and Ministry of Priests, (Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana), #’s 57 – 60.

Second Vatican Council Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum ordinis.

JP II, Theology of the Body, sections 73 - 81


No Class/T-Day



Dignity of Women

JP II, Mulieris Dignitatem; Letter to Families


Homilies and discussion



Homilies and discussion



No Class/Immaculate Conception



Matthew’s exception clause

Matthew 5: 31 – 32 and 19: 3 – 9.

Scott Hahn’s outline of the three interpretations (Handout)

Message of the XI Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, section 15

CCC 2382 – 2386


Elements of a valid marriage; annulments; divorce.

Typed homilies due

USCCB, FAQs about marriage; CCC, 1625 – 1658; 1983 Code of Canon law Title VII, Marriage (Cann. 1055 – 1165). Read especially those canons footnoted in CCC 1625 – 1637.


The relation between this course and the comprehensive exam study guide

Classes 2, 3 and 4: Historical Overview

Question from Comprehensive Exam Study Guide:

Summarize what the Catholic tradition has said about the “goods of marriage,” including a discussion of the teaching of Augustine, Aquinas, Pope Pius XI, the Second Vatican Council, Humanae Vitae the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the current code on Canon law. Mention also the “two meanings” terminology, and other developments of language in Church documents on this topic and how properly to show the continuation of the tradition within that development.

Classes 4 – 10: Creighton Model Classes/Intro to Theology of the Body

Questions from Comprehensive Exam Study Guide:

State the fundamental teaching of Humanae Vitae (n. 12) and explain precisely why contraception is morally evil. Explain also how periodic continence/natural family planning is morally good, and in what way it can be misused. In what ways is contraception related to abortion and in what ways are they different? (See Evangelium Vitae, n. 13).  Discuss some positive elements of a pastoral strategy to “win people over” to embrace the full truth about human sexuality. (See the Vademecum for Confessors Concerning Some Aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life, by The Pontifical Council for the Family)


Describe the anthropological and moral differences between recourse to Natural Family Planning and those which underlie the contraceptive mentality.   What is its relevance for Responsible Parenthood?

Class 11: Midterm exam

Classes 12 and 13: Karol Wojtyla’s Love and Responsibility

Questions from Comprehensive Exam Study Guide:

Discuss the personalistic norm developed by Karol Wojtyla in Love and Responsibility and some of the ways this should inform relations between men and women. How does Wojtyla develop the notion of “shame”, which is the boarder experience between original innocence and original sin, in this context?


Describe the anthropological and moral differences between recourse to Natural Family Planning and those which underlie the contraceptive mentality.   What is its relevance for Responsible Parenthood?

Classes 14, 15, 16: John Paul II, Theology of the Body

Questions from Comprehensive Exam Study Guide:

Discuss the primary biblical foundations for the Catholic understanding of marriage as outlined in Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.  Include in your analysis his anthropology as drawn from Matthew 19 and the two Creation Accounts of Genesis. Include attention to the teaching on the imago Dei, the significance of Original Solitude, Original Unity, Original Nakedness, Original Shame and the communio personarum. Be alert to his treatment of St. Paul through appeal to Ephesians 5:20-32, and 1 Cor 7:1-5, 17. Discuss the effects of Original Sin on the human person and how the effects are manifest in concupiscence and in lust in particular. Distinguish the concupiscent look of Mt 5 from the “perennial call” of attraction between man and woman.

Classes 17 and 18: Pastoral care/Social question of/BXVI seminary admission guidelines related to homosexuality

Question from Comprehensive Exam Study Guide:

Summarize the Catholic teaching regarding the morality of homosexual acts, including: a discussion of the biblical foundations for this teaching, the importance of sexual difference, the contemporary distinction between orientation and acts, and the reason for the Church’s teaching regarding the impossibility of same-sex marriage. Discuss the current debate on the causes of same sex attraction and the proper pastoral approach to someone struggling it?

Class 19: Chastity and Sexual Sins

Question from Comprehensive Exam Study Guide:

Discuss factors that limit one's culpability for sin in general and how this applies to sins against the virtue of chastity.  Does this mean sexual sins are light matter? What does St. Thomas Aquinas think about the gravity of sins of lust? (See ST II-II, q.151)

Classes 20: Celibacy

Question from Comprehensive Exam Study Guide:

Discuss the primary biblical foundations for the Catholic understanding of celibacy including 1 Cor 7:7-10, 25-38, 12:7; Mt 19:10-12; Mt 22:30; Lk 20:34-36; Lk 18:28-30.  Include in your presentation appeal to the major themes on priestly celibacy as found in Prebyterorum Ordinis, Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, The Directory on the Life and Ministry of Priests, and Pastores Dabo Vobis. Discuss the qualities of celibacy for the Kingdom according to John Paul II.

Classes 21: Family and the Dignity of Women

Question from Comprehensive Exam Study Guide:

Discuss both the Catholic understanding of family and the dignity of women as they are present in Familiaris consortio, Letter to Families, and Mulieris dignitatem. What does Catholic Social teaching say about remuneration with respect with women who care for families either full time or much of the time?

Classes 22 and 23: Homilies and Discussion

Class 24: Understanding Matthew’s Exception Clause

Questions from Comprehensive Exam Study Guide:

Given the fact that the Greek word porneia often refers to various forms of sexual immorality, especially adultery, explain how Matthew’s exception clause (5:31-32; 19:9) regarding divorce should be understood in light of contemporary Catholic teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. i.e., did Jesus actually intend to allow victims of adultery to divorce their spouse or does scholarship provide a way defend the NT foundations of the Catholic doctrine of indissolubility in spite of the “exception clause”?  How did the first Synod of Bishops under Pope Benedict XVI address the difficult question of the numerous divorced and remarried Catholics today?


Discuss the elements required to establish a valid sacramental marriage.

Class 24: Elements of a Valid Marriage, Annulment, Divorce

Question from Comprehensive Exam Study Guide:

Discuss the elements required to establish a valid sacramental marriage.