The simplest response to the regular claim that Catholic teaching is “constant and unchanging”, is this useful flowchart, based on the medieval penitentials, and originally published in Brundage’s book, Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe .
We are all familiar with the standard Catholic formulation that sexual intercourse is only permitted with a person of the opposite sex, in marriage, and open to procreation. If that seems harsh to those who are gay, or loving and committed couples who are not yet married, or to married couples wanting to delay child – rearing, it’s far less repressive than the restrictions that were once imposed.
As the chart shows, these also excluded a prohibition on sexual intercourse during the solemn seasons of Lent and Advent, and also during Easter week and Whitsun (Pentecost) week, on feast days, fast days, Sundays, Fridays, Or Saturdays. Those restrictions alone leave fewer than one third of the days in the year when intercourse is permissible, for anyone. Family circumstances could impose further restrictions. Sex was also prohibited with wives who were menstruating, pregnant, or nursing.
Even during the appropriate times when marital intercourse was permitted, there where further restrictions on how it was to be conducted:
Only in darkness, fully clothed, in the missionary position, without “lewd kissing” and ideally without taking pleasure from the act.
Oddest of all the restrictions (but one easily managed) was the prohibition on doing it in church.
- Thinking more about sexuality (problematicreading.wordpress.com)
- Gender and Sexuality in Europe 1200- 1500: How far did medieval society recognise lesbianism in this period? (medievalists.net)
- Sex in the Middle Ages (medievalists.net)
- Transvestite Knights: Men and Women Cross-dressing in Medieval Literature (medievalists.net)
- The “Distorted Christian Tradition” of the Sodomy Myth (1) (queeringthechurch.com)