Intimacy When Intercourse Not Possible For Health Reasons


I was happy to see the quality of the responses from the experts on your site, but I did not see any that dealt with my situation. If I missed something, please feel free to merely point me in the right direction.
My wife and I are lifelong Catholics who have been married for over twenty years. Due to some medical issues on her part, we have not had any sexual contact for several years. Things are improving to the point where we are considering some restarting of our physical relationship, but actual penetration will still not be possible.

Since the lack of intercourse in this situation is not under our control as a couple, does the church still rule out all forms of sexual contact (in particular, “mutual manual stimulation”)?

PS: If you feel that this is an issue that is more appropriately addressed to our individual confessors, just let me know, and I won’t look for a public response.


To live for years without sexual contact is certainly a great sacrifice, and also a great expression of your vocation to love each other “in sickness” as well as in health. Hopefully God has enriched and deepened your love in ways that perhaps would not have occurred had there not been this illness.

In the absence of the possibility of intercourse, couples should certainly continue to express affection in physical ways that do not lead to climax or become an occasion for the sin of masturbation, either alone or together. If penetration becomes even somewhat possible, then manual stimulation in the hope of achieving intercourse would certainly be admissible. This would be different from stimulation that had not even a possibility of achieving its God-given purpose.

Certainly I would be happy to discuss this with you more personally by telephone, should you need further clarification.

In Christ, Fr. Larry Toschi, O.S.J

Answered By:

Fr. Larry Toschi, O.S.J
Fr. Larry Toschi, OSJ, an Oblate of St. Joseph, and Pastor Emeritus of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Copatroness of the Unborn, in Bakersfield, CA, serves on the Advisory Board of CANFP. Fr. Larry is the developer of the Life Giving Love Weekends and author of several books, his most recent being the bilingual Family Starts with Marriage, Holy Spouses Devotions and Rites

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