by Saint Thomas Aquinas

from Summa Contra Gentiles 3:II:126

1. Even as it is against reason to have intercourse contrary to what befits the generation and upbringing of children, so it is in keeping with reason to do so in a manner which is suited to the generation and upbringing of offspring. Since divine law prohibits only those things that are opposed to reason, it is therefore wrong to say that every act of intercourse is a sin.

2. Bodily organs are instruments of the soul, and the end of each organ is its use*...Certain physical organs are used for sexual intercourse; that is their natural end. Since Divine Providence orders the end of all natural things, those ends cannot be evil in themselves. Therefore it is impossible for intercourse to be inherently evil.

3. All natural inclinations come from God Who moves all things; so a species cannot be naturally inclined toward something which is evil in itself. Since all perfect animals possess a natural inclination toward carnal union, it cannot possibly be inherently evil.

4. Something cannot be evil in itself if without it another thing cannot be what is good and best. But animals can only perpetuate their species by generation, which comes about by carnal union. So it is impossible for that union to be inherently evil.

Hence I Corinthians (7:28) says "if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned."

This refutes the error of those who say that every act of intercourse is illicit.... In fact, some of these people say this because they believe that bodily things arise, not from a good, but from an evil source**.


* "The end of each organ is its use". We can build on Aquinas' argument here to show that pleasure is not evil, since some organs exist solely to produce pleasure. Pleasure must therefore have been made by God who "orders the end of all natural things"! Of course, Scripture also reveals that all pleasure comes from God: "At your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11).

** Refers specifically to the Manichean/Albigensian belief that the human body and all its functions, particularly coitus, is evil. Catholicism always rejected this notion.

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