Catholic Medical Quarterly

The Journal of the Catholic Medical Association (UK)

Building knowledge. Building faith. Protecting the vulnerable.

Book Review

Sex and the Marriage Covenant:
A Basis For Morality

John F Kippley
Ignatius Press
ISBN 978-0-89870-973-5

Book coverThe thesis of this wonderful book is that God intends the sexual act to be an implicit renewal of the marriage covenant.  Marriage takes place when a couple enter God's covenant of marriage.  And so, the marriage covenant will always determine the morality of every sexual act.

Why is this book so important?  Because even orthodox Catholics are uncertain why the Church teaches what She does with regard to human sexuality in general and contraception in particular. As with John Paul II, Kippley gives us biblical and personalist reasons why the Church teaches what She does.

Kippley shows us that the teaching of "Humanae Vitae" is both biblical and personalist and he demonstrates that, with "Humanae Vitae", there is something deeper going on than dissent from Church teaching: the truth and meaning of human sexuality is itself now questioned.

Kippley proposes a coherent argument in favour of a covenant theology of marriage and human sexuality. For the act of sexual intercourse to be good, the man and woman must enter the marriage covenant together, their sexual act ought to express the covenant and there must be an implicit renewal of the covenant by means of the marriage act.  This is different from saying that the couple must intend procreation every time.  Rather, both the unitive and procreative goods of the marriage act ought always to be respected.

As with John Paul II, Kippley argues that any form of sexual exploitation in marriage is always wrong. Fornication and adultery are to be condemned because there is no valid marriage covenant to renew. Contraception means sex with reservation and it therefore contradicts the covenant to love without reservation.

The chapter on conscience, a much misunderstood concept, is invaluable as is the superb chapter on hard cases.

In many ways, this work complements the teaching of John Paul.  It is an excellent resource on marriage and human sexuality and it is entirely loyal to the teaching of the Church.