10 Things About God, Sex, and the Church
While this is by no means an exhaustive treatment of the Church’s teachings on Sexuality, these 10 things are helpful to understanding just how beautiful and sacred sex really is… for a more in-depth look at this, you might want to pick up a copy of Good News about Sex and Marriage by Christopher West, pay a visit to www.lifeteen.com, or look it up in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
1. Human beings -both male and female- are made in the image and likeness of God. This means that we can think, communicate, act self-consciously, and we have the ability to respond to God’s will. In all of God’s creation, humans are uniquely created with both a body and a soul making us different from other creatures which are simply bodies and from angels which are pure spirit.
2. Through sexual union, we get a glimpse of what God is like. Christians understand the one God as a Trinity- where the love the Father and the Son share is itself a third person (the Holy Spirit.) By the act of sexual union, a husband and a wife are joined together so closely that they are no longer two, but one in flesh. The exchange of love in this unity has the capability of creating a third person in the relationship – a new life.
3. Sexual relationships speak a language. When two people engage in sexual union – and this includes more than just sexual intercourse – they are saying to each other “I give myself to you freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully.” The free gift reflects that you are GIVING of yourself (and not taking) by engaging in sexual union. It is a total gift, because there is a bond that is created with a sexual partner that is both physical, spiritual, and psychological. It is faithful, because it is meant only for one person, our spouse whom we promise to be faithful to. And it is fruitful, because this total gift of self can result in the creation of a new life. This reality is reflected in the consent asked of a couple immediately before pronouncing their wedding vows for the first time. If we do not or cannot mean these things, and have intercourse anyway we are lying with our bodies.
4. Sexual intercourse is a renewal of wedding vows: “I take you to be my husband/wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love and honor you all the days of my life.” In the Roman Catholic tradition, marriage is the one Sacrament that is not bestowed by a priest, but the man and the woman bestow marriage upon one another by their consent and the act of intercourse. Sex is regarded as a beautiful and sacred thing, every time a couple engage in sexual intercourse, they are speaking these words to one another. It also has both a unitive (the two become one) and procreative (new life can result) purpose. This context is CRITICAL to understanding the Church’s teachings on Sexuality.
5. The gift of your virginity is not something that can be taken away from you by any form of sexual abuse or rape. It is your gift that you choose to give. Those who have been hurt in this way suffer a great deal and require healing, but this gift HAS NOT BEEN STOLEN. If you or someone you know has been hurt in this way, it is important to remember this: your virginity cannot be stolen.
6. Modesty is essential to living a pure life. If we are the image and likeness of God, it is important to consider the way in which we present ourselves. At the beginning of the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve were ‘naked and unashamed,’ yet after sin entered the world, they covered themselves up because they realized that they weren’t as easily able to clearly and purely see the other person as the image of God, and not lust for the other person. The human body is a beautiful thing, but because of our imperfect nature we keep it covered to preserve the purity of those around us. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2521.)
7. Pornography demeans the sanctity of sexual union. It removes real or simulated sexual acts from the proper intimacy of married partners, so that a third party can view these acts. It does harm to those who participate in the creation of pornography, making the actors or models merely objects for the pleasure of another, and it reduces the ability of the viewer to recognize the sanctity of sexual intercourse. Pornography can also be a gateway to other sins, including sexual fantasy, masturbation, and even rape.
8. Masturbation separates sexual pleasure from the sexual relationship. Masturbation is generally associated with some form of lust – be it concrete (pornography) or imagined/fantasized. Lust turns a person who is the image of God into an object for personal pleasure- and this distorts the language of sexuality, which we have seen to be a language of self-gift into one of taking. It separates the sexual experience from the unity of a couple. Masturbation diminishes your ability to love well.
9. Contraception – being closed to the transmission of life – cheapens what sexual intercourse is. If sexual intercourse is closed to the possibility of transmitting life, it misses a part of the language and the purpose of sexual union. It also removes responsibility from the act, which in turn ‘allows’ people to enter into a variety of sexual relationships, with supposedly less consequences. It also often means less commitment, multiple partners, and (let’s be honest) broken hearts. Contraception changes the message you speak in sexuality from “I love you freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully” to “I don’t want to receive your fertility.”
10. Homosexual acts close the sexual act to the gift of life. While the Church recognizes the inherent dignity present in those men or women who experience a predominant or exclusive attraction to persons of the same sex, it does not condone homosexual acts (love the sinner, but hate the sin) because they do not have the capability of transmitting life. A man and a woman are complementary to one another, in other words they physically ‘fit together’, while the same cannot be said of a same sex relationship. Those who are so oriented need to be met with compassion and love as they are still children of God, and the attraction itself is not a sin, but the Church has always maintained that these acts are intrinsically disordered.
If you’ve fallen… as fully initiated Christians, we are called to fight the good fight, achieving our ultimate end: union with God in Heaven forever. It is a difficult battle for many, and the struggle to remain pure is a difficult one. It is a challenge to be what God intended for us to be, and yet He realizes that we will struggle, and some will fall. It is for this reason that Jesus left us the Sacrament of Reconciliation, that we might come to Him, wipe the slate clean, and begin anew. If you have fallen in this year DON’T BE AFRAID TO START OVER- seek Christ in this Sacrament and know the forgiveness that is yours for the taking. Jesus loves you as you are, but He also loves you too much to leave you there…