Marriage & Catholic Teaching


My husband has been a paraplegic for many years. We love each other very much, however, being Catholic, have some uneasy feelings about our intimate relationship.

We are not able to physically have intercourse due to his spinal cord injury. We “make love” in other ways to give love to each other, and bring us closer to each other. We both lament the fact that we cannot function as a normal married couple. We are both very saddened by the fact that our physical relationships cannot bring about new life. It is very difficult for us. We both would like to be blessed with a child of our own. If we could perform the act of sexual intercourse as nature intended it, we would most certainly be open to as many children as God would send us. This brings up my questions–#1) Would oral sex be permitted by the Church as a valid way for us to become a closer couple? Do we have any other choices? and #2) Would it be morally permissible for us to do Homologous Artificial Insemination?




Last Updated: June 14, 2013
You are carrying a heavy burden — though you sound blessed to share a deep love and vibrant faith! I would say that makes you blessed indeed! I suspect by the wording of your question you know the answer only too well. We all have our crosses, and while yours is difficult, the key to happiness I think is to figure out what we are being called to. For you, making love and being close will not be experienced through Intercourse, for as you said that is not possible. To substitute that with other genital expressions is not only a poor substitute morally, but relationally as well. If you are unable to have marital relations in the way God designed, your calling is to make love and be close in other non-genital ways. It sounds like you have a very loving relationship, and so I suspect you have spiritual and emotional intimacy — again a real blessing! There are many couples who may be able to have frequent Intercourse, but unable to attain intimacy on any other level — perhaps it is they who are truly burdened. The choices I would propose would be to not seek orgasmic or genital satisfaction, but relational unity. To make each other happy in the infinite variety of ways that ARE open to you, on so many levels, and find comfort in such intimacy. Certainly Intercourse is a unique experience of oneness for a couple, but not one that is available to you, due to your circumstances. Substituting other genital expressions may certainly provide physical pleasure, but I do not think you will find it a satisfactory substitute for that oneness you seek. In your situation, I believe our church is wise in sparing you that frustration, and encouraging you instead to seek intimacy on other levels — intellectual, spiritual, creative and emotional — and through generous physical expression of touch and affection.

Our church is also wise, I believe, in sparing you from seeking a substitute for Gods design for bringing children into this world. And for every door that is closed another one is opened. If you are called to be parents, adoption or foster care are generous ways to fulfill that calling. Or perhaps you are being called to give of yourselves in other ways. Children consume a parent’s time and energy, rightly so, but demands of family leave parents little time to give of themselves in other ways. Perhaps you are being called to be special adults in the lives of other people’s children, nieces and nephews, or neighbors. Or perhaps you are not called to be parents, but to seek other ways to share the love that springs from your union, by placing yourselves in the service of others. The generous and mature love the church is calling you to with each other, will also be a fount of love to share with others, and enable you to see that there are other ways to share that love besides pregnancy, possibly adoption or foster care, or maybe professionally and in service to church and community.

I do not mean in any way to belittle your challenges — but they need not prevent you from achieving happiness. The wisdom of our church tells us that you will not find happiness in seeking poor substitutes, but in generously sharing love in the ways God has designed just for you!

Answered By:

Sheila St. John
Sheila St. John is the Executive Director of the California Association of Natural Family Planning, coordinating the non-profit’s education and advocacy efforts throughout the state. Initially attracted to NFP as a healthy, effective method for planning families, drug, device and surgery free, her passion for NFP has grown over the last 42 years as she has journeyed with the over 900 couples she has personally instructed in its use, and been privileged to witness its role in overcoming infertility, women’s health, and the transformation that occurs in lives of men, women, and families, when we embrace God’s design for love and life.

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