Must married couples abstain from sex during Lent?

I believe this is not at all a requirement from the Church, but a private practice some might choose from time to time during Lent or, potentially for all of Lent. My friend believes it is required and wants to hear from a theologian that this is not required. Are there any documents on this?

Abstinence The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. Moral theologians have traditionally considered this also to forbid soups or gravies made from them. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal derived products such as margarine and gelatin which do not have any meat taste.

We are required to abstain from meat, not sex. The whole article is well worth reading.


Catholics only abstain from meat on Fridays during lent. I have never, ever heard of abstaining from sex during this time. I don’t even think theologians would even mention it because it doesn’t make sense. Sex is essential to marriage and I don’t think the church would ever ask married couples to abstain. That’s up to the discretion of the couple.

During my first Lent, three years ago, right before my Confirmation, I was trying to figure out a way to explain to my husband my need to abstain during Lent because I thought it meant sex! :smiley: :o She, very nicely, explained what it meant and that it didn’t mean no sex for forty days.

It’s funny looking back on it now, and I think the apologist was a bit amused by it. I can’t tell you how releaved I felt, though. My husband didn’t come into the church with me and wasn’t very comfortable with my converting (he’s okay with it now, though). He was really nice about it at the time, though. I’m just glad I didn’t have to ask him not to have sex for forty days. He was nice about everything else, but this probably would have been pushing it a little bit. :wink:

Scout :tiphat:

Heather, The burden of proof is on your friend. You cannot produce a church document on this because there is no requirement to abstain from sexual relations during Lent. The Church doesn’t publish documents stating what is “not” required. The publish document stating what “is” required. And, all documents on abstaining are referring specifically to meat.

If she believes that there is a Church teaching, or Canon Law, on this then it is up to here to produce it.

No Sex?
Talk about your sack cloth and ashes!

Priests and Nuns, they “abstain”, we married folk just “wait”.

Of course it is not “required”, but many an NFP couple with children have “waited” longer than 40 days to engage in the marital embrace.

There is a certain satisfaction within marriage to the longer periods of “courtship” before the “honeymoons”. It really does help build other types of intimacy, and there would be great merit to the exercise, properly understood, offered, and taken in pious sobriety.

Just don’t tell my wife, ok?


Church teachings regarding Lenten abstinence has nothing to do with sex… only meat!

If you choose, as a personal matter, to abstain from marital relatitons, then that’s your choice… certainly not something the church has even recommended, though…

I’d add that this isn’t something an individual can decide to do during lent–it would have to be a decision made by the couple. Otherwise it would fall under refusing relations with your spouse for an unjust reason…which is not a good thing for your marriage or spiritual life. In other words, once you get married, refusing marital relations with your spouse as a “penance” is not allowed.

Seeing this topic made me chuckle since every year I kid DH that I am giving up sex for lent and he always says you are not me. :smiley:


Thank you for your help. I was certain that this was never a required practice, but my friend wouldn’t take my word on the matter.

In researching further, I also realized that we see receiving the Eucharist in a similar way as receiving our spouse (intercourse in marriage) and there is no encouragement of a fast from receiving Jesus during Lent (except Good Friday). Unifying with the beloved is a beautiful and sacred practice throughout Lent and all year.

Thank you again - I look forward to relieving my friend!

I can’t imagine wanting to have sex on Good Friday or any other penitential day, but… There’s no requirement of abstinence from sexual intercourse on any specific day.

Sorta changes the whole meaning of looking forward to Easter, don’t you think?

So there can be no Catholic babies born in December, if all of the mommies and daddies are abstaining?

My goodness, we must have SOME fun during lent.

I have never once heard that it is a requirement to abstain from sex during lent.

Yes, but what an Easter morning it would be. Send the kids out to search for Easter eggs for an hour or so…go to the late mass…:wink:

And faint from the fasting done on Good Friday and Sunday.:stuck_out_tongue:

If so, it’s a good thing I already plan on going to Confession.

wow, I had never thought of this. Can you imagine? I think I’m going to tease my dh about this.

a poster said …‘only meat,’ but really…that’s a minimum requirement. I love the Catholic faith, because really we should ‘abstain’ from anything that gets in the way of devoting our time, hunger and energy towards God. Hunger pangs are helpful to uniting ourselves with Jesus’ hunger in the desert certainly, but also uniting ourselves with others who have less than we do. I think if you’re a smoker, for example…that, too, IN ADDITION TO MEAT ABSTINENCE, would be an ideal thing to abstain from. Sex, I agree, isn’t something that makes sense to abstain from…unless you’re doing it outside of marriage…and then, you shouldn’t be doing that anyways.:smiley: But…I think that we can all look at the meat requirement as a starting point…and can build our own abstinence ‘rules’ from that point. Just my thoughts.:slight_smile:

The main difference being that abstaining from meat is REQUIRED, while abstaining from other things would be voluntary (good, but voluntary).

And the focus of lent doesn’t have to be all about “giving something up”…it can be a time to grow closer to our Lord and our fellow man by doing MORE (being more kind, smiling more, giving more to charity, helping more, etc).