The church and marital rape

Sir, – It is the case that under common law (based on canon law) the crime of rape in many jurisdictions including Ireland was defined as non-consensual sex with a person who was not one’s spouse. The notion of marital rape did not enter our criminal law until 1990.

Surely Fr Finegan (Letters, November 9th) must accept the fact that at the time of writing Love and Responsibility in 1960 and republishing it in 1981, church teaching was that within marriage consent to sex was presumed and so the concept of marital rape was non-existent.

Fr Sean Fagan was a champion of the change that led to the redefinition of rape to include marital rape. His view did not sit well with religious authorities for even those who saw non-consensual sex in marriage as problematic to the point of sinful were opposed to extending the definition of rape to such sex within marriage.

I know of no document at that time where the Holy See suggests that non-consensual sex in marriage should be regarded as and criminalised as marital rape. That includes Love and Responsibility.


Perhaps Fr Finegan can point us to such references. Or perhaps he can agree he has this argument badly wrong. – Yours, etc,



Co Roscommon.