amplexus reservatus Pius XIIOn June 30, 1952 the Holy Office (presided over by Pope Pius XII) issued the following statement concerning the practice of amplexus reservatus (Synergy):


The Holy See has noted with grave concern that in recent times not a few writers when treating of conjugal life have not been ashamed to go into the details concerning it frequently, openly and minutely: furthermore, that some of them describe, praise and recommend a certain act called amplexus reservatus.

Lest it fail its duty in a matter of such great moment, which concerns the sanctity of marriage and the salvation of souls, the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, at the express command of [His Holiness by Divine Providence*] Pope Pius XII, seriously admonishes all the aforesaid writers to desist from such a way of acting. And it earnestly exhorts the Bishops to exercise careful vigilance in these matters and to make diligent use of appropriate remedies.*

Priests, or others, in their care of souls and in the direction of consciences, must never, either of their own accord or when questioned, presume to speak as though no objection were to be made against the amplexus reservatus from the viewpoint of the Christian law.

Unofficially speaking…

This remains the official position of the Catholic Church to this day. However, modern Catholic theologians have backpedaled quite a bit. Some now suggest that the reserved embrace (Synergy) is neither good nor bad in and of itself. It would be good if the partners were doing it in addition to “regular” sex acts which might lead to a child, or if they were doing it because they had as many children as they could handle but wanted to experience the closeness of intercourse without using contraception.

In contrast, the act would be bad if the partners were doing it because they never wanted to have children, or if they were focused on bodily pleasure to the exclusion of the possibility of having children.

* The title “His Holiness by Divine Providence” and the sentence urging Bishops to take action have been omitted from later compendiums, such as the 40th edition of Denzinger’s Compendium of Creeds, Definitions and Declarations of Matters of Faith and Morals (English translation by Peter Hünermann, ed.), p. 810.

Also see:

The Chanson Affair
Art D’Aimer et Continence Conjugale by Paul Chanson (1949)

Catholic hierarchy meets Synergy