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410 • Part III. Christian Morality: The Faith Lived

Couples should also be mindful of the fact that their love is expressed

in more ways than just the conjugal act. Abstaining from intercourse

at certain times can be an act of sacrifice which gives rise to a deeper


In relation to physical, economic, psychological and social

conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised either by the

thoughtfully made and generous decision to raise a large family,

or by the decision, made for grave motives and with respect for

the moral law, to avoid a new birth for the time being or even

for an indeterminate period. (HV, no. 10)




lists the following behaviors as acts that undermine the

purpose and dignity of marriage.

Adultery is gravely sinful because it violates God’s call to a loving

covenant of fidelity between a married man and woman. The act of adul-

tery is an injustice to the wounded spouse. It weakens the institution of

marriage and the stability of the family.

Divorce is contrary to the natural law for it breaks the promise “to

which the spouses freely consented to live with each other till death”

(CCC, no. 2384). Jesus clearly taught that God’s original plan for mar-

riage excluded divorce (cf. Mt 5:31-32, 9:3-9; Mk 10:9; Lk 16:18; 1 Cor

7:10-11). Marriage is an indissoluble union. Jesus removed the accom-

modations for divorce that had been tolerated under the Old Law.

The couple may be allowed a separation in certain cases, such as

when adultery is occurring or some type of abuse is present. A separa-

tion can be, at times, a prudent action to take. “If civil divorce remains

the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the chil-

dren, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not

constitute a moral offense” (CCC, no. 2383). In such cases, a Catholic

can still receive the Sacraments.

Cohabitation (an unmarried couple living together) involves the

serious sin of fornication. It does not conform to God’s plan for mar-

riage and is always wrong and objectively sinful. Cohabitation does not