Answer: Yes. So long as it is a necessary medical performance, it is permissible. St. Thomas Aquinas refers to this.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Supplement, Q. 58, Art. 1, Reply to Objection 5: “… if he [a husband] cannot fulfill the carnal act with a virgin, while he can with one who is not a virgin, the hymeneal membrane may be broken by a medical instrument, and thus he may have connection with her. Nor would this be contrary to nature, for it would be done not for pleasure but for a remedy.”
A woman, of course, must do everything in her power not to allow a male doctor examine her body undressed or partly undressed (unless it is an area that is not problematic), and she must not let a male doctor examine her breasts or genital area. It is definitely very bad for a woman to expose herself to a man in this way and so put herself to shame and the doctor to possible temptation.
However, this rule may not be expedient in all cases, especially in grave and urgent medical necessities. Grave danger where medical help is needed promptly can excuse a person from showing problematic body parts to a doctor which is not of the same sex, but generally patients must do all in their power to try to get a doctor that is of the same gender if problematic parts of the body must be examined or shown in the doctor’s examination.
A man should always choose a male doctor for physical examinations, especially if it involves the private parts. Moreover, it is not fitting that the hands of a woman should be touching and be physically close to a man’s body and so expose him to possible temptations — and that is even more true if the woman is young and beautiful.
Question: Is gluttony a sin and does gluttony affect sexual temptation?
Answer: Yes, gluttony is a sin and on top of this, it is also one of the seven deadly sins. Furthermore, the sin of gluttony indeed increases sexual desire or temptations. The sin of gluttony is special in this regard, which makes it really necessary to resist this temptation.
Many people are completely unaware of the fact that gluttony actually provokes the flesh into sexual sin. They think that they can eat however much they want of good tasting food or candy and snacks all the time without this actually effecting their spiritual welfare. The fact of the matter, however, is that gluttony is a mortal sin just like lust is. And not only that, but gluttony or superfluity in food actually provokes the flesh into sexual temptations and sin.
St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Doctor of the Church (1696-1787): “It is also necessary to abstain from superfluity of food. St. Jerome asserts that satiety of the stomach provokes incontinence. And St. Bonaventure says: "Impurity is nourished by eating to excess." But on the other hand, fasting, as the holy Church teaches, represses vice and produces virtue: "O God, who by corporal fasting dost suppress vice, dost elevate the mind, and dost confer virtues and rewards." St. Thomas has written that when the devil is conquered by those whom he tempts to gluttony, he ceases to tempt them to impurity.” (The Dignities and Duties of the Priest, Instruction III)
Pope St. Gregory the Great, Father and Doctor of the Church (540-604): “As long as the vice of gluttony has a hold on a man, all that he has done valiantly is forfeited by him: and as long as the belly is unrestrained, all virtue comes to naught.” (Quoted in Summa Theologica, by St. Thomas Aquinas)
The Holy Saints, Popes and Doctors of the Church are all clear that it’s imperative for one’s salvation to not allow the search of pleasing one’s palate to gain control over one’s soul, and this means that one must fast sometimes in order to chasten one’s body and senses. As long as a person really considers how small and trifling this penance is compared to an eternal torment in Hell, they will not refuse to follow the Church’s words or prescribed days of fasting and abstinence in this respect.
Pope Innocent XI, Various Errors on Moral Matters #8, March 4, 1679: “Eating and drinking even to satiety for pleasure only, are not sinful, provided this does not stand in the way of health, since any natural appetite can licitly enjoy its own actions.” – Condemned statement by Pope Innocent XI.
St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote the following when explaining what gluttony is: “Pope Innocent XI Odescalchi has condemned the proposition which asserts that it is not a sin to eat or to drink from the sole motive of satisfying the palate. However, it is not a fault to feel pleasure in eating: for it is, generally speaking, impossible to eat without experiencing the delight which food naturally produces. But it is a defect to eat, like beasts, through the sole motive of sensual gratification, and without any reasonable object. Hence, the most delicious meats may be eaten without sin, if the motive be good and worthy of a rational creature; and, in taking the coarsest food through attachment to pleasure, there may be a fault.” (The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, The Mortification of the Appetite, "The complete ascetical works of St. Alphonsus" (1887), vol. 1, p. 241)
Pope St. Gregory the Great described five ways by which one can commit the sin of gluttony, and showed biblical examples for each of them:
1. Eating before the time of meals in order to satisfy the palate.
Biblical example: Jonathan eating a little honey, when his father Saul commanded no food to be taken before the evening (1 Samuel 14:29).
2. Seeking delicacies and better quality of food to gratify the “vile sense of taste.”
Biblical example: When Israelites escaping from Egypt complained, “Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers and the melons, and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,” God rained fowls for them to eat but punished them later (Numbers 11:4).
3. Seeking after sauces and seasonings for the enjoyment of the palate.
Biblical example: Two sons of Eli the high priest made the sacrificial meat to be cooked in one manner rather than another. They were met with death (1 Samuel 4:11).
4. Exceeding the necessary amount of food.
Biblical example: One of the sins of Sodom was “fullness of bread” (Ezekiel 16:49).
5. Taking food with too much eagerness, even when eating the proper amount, and even if the food is not luxurious.
Biblical example: Esau selling his birthright for ordinary food of bread and pottage of lentils. His punishment was that the “profane person. . . who, for a morsel of meat sold his birthright,” we learn that “he found no place for repentance, though he sought it carefully, with tears” (Genesis 25:30).
The fifth way is worse than all others, said St. Gregory, because it shows attachment to pleasure most clearly.
To recapitulate, St. Gregory the Great said that one may succumb to the sin of gluttony by: 1. Time; 2. Quality; 3. Stimulants; 4. Quantity; 5. Eagerness.
In his Summa Theologica (Part 2-2, Question 148, Article 4), St. Thomas Aquinas reiterated the list of five ways to commit gluttony:
Laute - eating food that is too luxurious, exotic, or costly
Nimis - eating food that is excessive in quantity
Studiose - eating food that is too daintily or elaborately prepared
Praepropere - eating too soon, or at an inappropriate time
Ardenter - eating too eagerly.
Aquinas notes that the first three ways are related to the nature of the food itself, while the last two have to do with the time or manner in which it is consumed. Thus, one can commit the sin of gluttony by eating too much food, by eating too early and eagerly, or by eating food that tastes very good.
Children must be kept away from gluttony
When we consider the fact that gluttony is a sin and that this sin is especially powerful in inflaming sins of sensuality, it is no wonder that most teenagers fall into sins of impurity almost immediately when they reach the age of puberty. While they cannot be excused for their mortal sins, the parents who allow them to eat all kinds of dainties whenever they desire should of course also be castigated, since they are in a great part responsible for their child’s fall into moral ruin.
Young as well as old do not need to eat especially good or luxurious food, and pampering one’s child can only lead to moral ruin in the end. For just a few hundred years ago, most children would have been more than satisfied if they received a fruit as a dessert, since almost all were poor, and there is in truth no need for any cookies, coffee, candy, chips, sodas etc., which only harms the child in every possible way, both spiritually and physically. Indeed, so harmful are all of these dainties just mentioned, that the obesity problem in the western countries have reached alarming proportions because almost everyone consumes so much unnecessary desserts or candy etc.
St. Alphonsus: “As regards the food, it must be observed that nothing edifies the people so much as the mortification and the frugality of the missionaries, while on the contrary nothing scandalizes them more than when they see men treating themselves well in regard to eating and drinking. … Hence in our missions it is an established rule, that at dinner on days on which flesh-meat is allowed there is to be given only soup with boiled meat, and on fasting-days soup with another frugal portion; at supper, salad and other similar food, with a little cheese and fruit. Only on the last day, the day of the blessing, there may be more food, but never fowl, game, choice fish, pastry, or other sweetmeats.” (The complete ascetical works of St. Alphonsus, vol 15, p. 293)
If a parent wants his child to be saved, he needs to be firm and teach his child about the necessity of detachment from earthly things and mortification of his senses, keeping unnecessary pleasure and dainties away from him. In addition, he should tell his child the reason for this, that is, that eating all these things very often ends in evil attachments and “gives rise to blindness of mind, which excludes almost entirely the knowledge of spiritual things”, and that for many such a life ends in eternal damnation and torment in hell, as we can read of the rich glutton and Lazarus in the gospel (Luke 16:19-31). If he explains in detail the horrors of hell and how he must avoid it, the child will have an easier time accepting the change.
The Gospel of Barnabas explains Luke 16:19-31 thus:
The Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 24: “Notable example how one ought to flee from banqueting and feasting. Having said this, Jesus wept, saying: “Woe to those who are servants to their flesh, for they are sure not to have any good in the other life, but only torments for their sins. I tell you that there was a rich glutton who paid no heed to aught but gluttony, and so every day held a splendid feast. There stood at his gate a poor man by name Lazarus, who was full of wounds, and was fain to have those crumbs that fell from the glutton’s table. But no one gave them to him; nay, all mocked him. Only the dogs had pity on him, for they licked his wounds. It came to pass that the poor man died, and the angels carried him to the arms of Abraham our father. The rich man also died, and the devils carried him to the arms of Satan; whereupon, undergoing the greatest torment, he lifted up his eyes and from afar saw Lazarus in the arms of Abraham. Then cried the rich man: “O father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, who upon his fingers may bring me a drop of water to cool my tongue, which is tormented in this flame.” Abraham answered: “Son, remember that thou receivedst thy good in the other life and Lazarus his evil: wherefore now thou shalt be in torment, and Lazarus in consolation.” … “See then whether the poor are blessed,” said Jesus, “who have patience, and only desire that which is necessary, hating the flesh. O wretched they, who bear others to the burial, to give their flesh for food of worms, and do not learn the truth. So far from it that they live here like immortals, for they build great houses and purchase great revenues and live in pride.”
The Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 25 “How one ought to despise the flesh, and how one ought to live in the world. Then said he who writeth: “O master, true are thy words and therefore have we forsaken all to follow thee. Tell us then, how we ought to hate our flesh: for to kill oneself is not lawful, and living we needs must give it its livelihood.” Jesus answered: “Keep thy flesh like a horse, and thou shalt live securely. For unto a horse food is given by measure and labour without measure, and the bridle is put on him that he may walk at thy will, he is tied up that he may not annoy anyone, he is kept in a poor place, and beaten when he is not obedient: so do thou, then, O Barnabas, and thou shalt live always with God. And be not offended at my words, for David the prophet did the same thing, as he confesseth, saying: “I am as an horse before thee: and am always by thee.” Now tell me, whether is poorer he who is content with little, or he who desireth much? Verily I say unto you, that if the world had but a sound mind no one would amass anything for himself, but all would be in common. But in this is known its madness, that the more it amasseth the more it desireth. And as much as it amasseth, for the fleshly repose of others doth it amass the same. Therefore let one single robe suffice for you, cast away your purse, carry no wallet, no sandals on your feet; and do not think, saying: “What shall happen to us?” but have thought to do the will of God, and he will provide for your need, insomuch that nothing shall be lacking unto you. “Verily I say unto you, that the amassing much in this life giveth sure witness of not having anything to receive in the other. For he that hath Jerusalem for his native country buildeth not houses in Samaria, for that there is enmity between these cities. Understand ye?” “Yea,” answered the disciples.”
Since we know that Our Lady revealed the horrors of Hell in a Revelation to the children of Fatima that were 7, 8, and 9 years old at the time, we can also know that Our Lord and Our Lady wants us to tell our young ones about hell and its horrors. Nothing could be imagined that will help a parent’s education and upbringing of a child more than over and over explaining to one’s child the horrible end in Hell of all disobedient and sinful children. “Tremble, yes, tremble, ye sinners; perhaps this very night, if you do not resolve to amend your life, God may permit death to surprise you, and you may die and be condemned to hell! . . . Continue, O obstinate sinner! continue to offend God. But remember: In the valley of Josaphat I await you; there you will hear the sentence which Jesus Christ will pass upon you: Depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire! . . . Who can tell? perhaps, my brother, Death this night will come to thee.” (St. Alphonsus, Exhortations, The complete ascetical works of St. Alphonsus, vol 15, p. 100)
St. Alphonsus, On the Manner of Preaching: “I recommend you for the most part, in your sermons to speak of the last things death, judgment, hell, eternity, and the like; because the eternal truths make the deepest impression, and incline the heart to the love of virtue. I beg of you, repeatedly in your discourses to explain to the people the peace enjoyed by the soul that is in favor with God. … I entreat you also to speak often of the love that Jesus Christ has shown us in his Passion, in the institution of the most Holy Sacrament, and of the love we should bear in turn towards our most blessed Redeemer, by often calling to mind those two great mysteries of love. I say this because few preachers, or at least too few, speak of the love of Jesus Christ; and it is certain that what is done solely through fear of punishment and not through love will be of short duration.” (The complete ascetical works of St. Alphonsus, vol 15, p. 59)
Mortification of the senses is obviously crucial for one’s spiritual advancement according to the unanimous teaching of the Fathers and the Saints, and subjugating and becoming a master over one’s own palate is certainly one of the most important things to strive for in this regard, in addition to chastity and humility. Hence, “The first thing you are to observe at table, is not to make known what you would like, accepting for the love of God the meats which you do not relish, and depriving yourself of those which would be agreeable to your palate; you will observe besides a great modesty, recalling to your mind incessantly the presence of God, Whose service ought alone to occupy you. If you want anything, you will try to do without it, rejoicing interiorly at this privation; you will never be the first to commence eating; you will add nothing to season the meats which will be presented to you, and eating without eagerness, you will occupy yourself with God.” (St. Alphonsus Rodriguez (1532-1617), The Life of Blessed Alphonsus Rodriguez, Lay-Brother of the Society of Jesus, p. 26)
“Gluttony is an inordinate love of eating and drinking. We are not forbidden to feel pleasure in either the one or the other; for it is by a wise foresight that God has seasoned with a feeling of gratification the use of the food necessary for preserving our health and life. But we abuse this blessing when we seek only the pleasure alone; we must eat and drink in order to live, and not to flatter sensuality. Our sole end should be to satisfy the wants of nature, that we may be enabled to fulfill our duties and serve God, according to the words of the Apostle: "Whether you eat, or drink, do all for the glory of God." If we wish to observe this precept of St. Paul, we must, in our repasts, think not of gratifying the body, but of following the order of God, who wills that we should preserve life. To seek only the gratification of the senses is gluttony, a vice unworthy of man: it weighs down the soul, brutalizes the mind, ruins the health and shortens life.” (St. Jean-Baptiste de La Salle (1651-1719), A new treatise on the duty of a Christian towards God, Article 5)
The evil of lust makes man blind to spiritual things “while dulness of sense arises from gluttony”
Most men and women of the world do not recognize or know about the fact that sensual lusts (both for the married and the unmarried people alike) actually “gives rise to blindness of mind, which excludes almost entirely the knowledge of spiritual things, while dulness of sense arises from gluttony, which makes a man weak in regard to the same [spiritual] intelligible things.” (St. Thomas Aquinas) This fact also requires married people from not indulging too often in the marital act. For all who overindulge in the marital act will always experience a “blindness of mind” of spiritual things. So young as well as old must be kept away from impurity and gluttony, since both of these sins are very powerful in getting a person to abandon the faith and the moral life since the “blindness of mind” and “dulness of sense” undoubtedly will effect the minds of both young and old in a very detrimental way.
St. Thomas Aquinasexplains: “Different causes produce different effects. Now Gregory says (Moral. xxxi, 45) that dulness of sense arises from gluttony, and that blindness of mind arises from lust… Now carnal vices, namely gluttony and lust, are concerned with pleasures of touch in matters of food and sex; and these are the most impetuous of all pleasures of the body. For this reason these vices cause man’s attention to be very firmly fixed on corporeal things, so that in consequence man’s operation in regard to intelligible things is weakened, more, however, by lust than by gluttony, forasmuch as sexual pleasures are more vehement than those of the table. Wherefore lust gives rise to blindness of mind, which excludes almost entirely the knowledge of spiritual things, while dulness of sense arises from gluttony, which makes a man weak in regard to the same [spiritual] intelligible things.” (Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Q. 15, Art. 3, Second and Third Articles)
The Catholic Encyclopedia wrote the following when explaining what gluttony and spiritual gluttony is:
“The moral deformity discernible in this vice lies in its defiance of the order postulated by reason, which prescribes necessity as the measure of indulgence in eating and drinking. This deordination, according to the teaching of the Angelic Doctor, may happen in five ways which are set forth in the scholastic verse: "Prae-propere, laute, nimis, ardenter, studiose" or, according to the apt rendering of Father Joseph Rickably: too soon, too expensively, too much, too eagerly, too daintily. Clearly one who uses food or drink in such a way as to injure his health or impair the mental equipment needed for the discharge of his duties, is guilty of the sin of gluttony... Such a temper of soul is equivalently the direct and positive shutting out of that reference to our last end [God and Salvation] which must be found, at least implicitly, in all our actions… St. John of the Cross, in his work "The Dark Night of the Soul" (I, vi), dissects what he calls spiritual gluttony. He explains that it is the disposition of those who, in prayer and other acts of religion, are always in search of sensible sweetness; they are those who "will feel and taste God, as if he were palpable and accessible to them not only in Communion but in all their other acts of devotion." This he declares is a very great imperfection and productive of great evils.” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, "Gluttony," vol. 6, 1919)
In the Life of Saint Francis of Assisi, by Julian of Speyer, "His Keeping of Poverty, His Abstinence, and the Admirable Rigor of His Life; And How He Fled People’s Praise and Wished To Be Thought Of No Account," it says:
“What shall we say about delicate foods or the drinking of wine, or even the abundance of other cheap foods, since, on the very rare occasions he ate cooked foods, he mixed them with ashes or cold water and did not even drink enough water? For he claimed it was most difficult to satisfy need and not become a slave to pleasure. Quite often, when he was going around preaching penance, he took refreshment at the homes of secular people who invited him. On account of the words of the gospel about eating and drinking what was set before them, he would put his hand to his mouth, appearing to be eating the meat, but rarely tasting even a little bit of it, he would unobtrusively put the rest in his lap.
“It once happened that, because of an illness, he ate some chicken, but after his strength returned, he strictly ordered one of the brothers to lead him through the center of the city of Assisi with a rope tied around his neck like a robber, and to cry out like the town cries: "Behold, Look at the glutton who has fattened himself with the flesh of poultry which he has, unknown to you, eaten in secret." It so happened that many, struck by this spectacle of remorse, lamented with tearful voice and proclaimed themselves most worthless for having given themselves to daily pleasures.” (Saint, 392-3 – The Life of Saint Francis, reprinted in Francis of Assisi, Early Documents: The Saint (New York, New City Press: 1999).