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The Catholic View of Sex
My College Views on Sex
Do you think it's ok to have sex before someone gets married?" our Religious Education teacher asked us in College. This is a question that most Catholic and other Christians, in fact anyone who breathes, asks themselves growing up.
"Sure it's ok, as long as you are in love" was my reply. I was merely echoing what the world at large was saying.
The World's Views on Sex
A generation later, sexual messages are thrust upon us almost everywhere we turn and sadly it is even much more common for Catholics to have sex before they are married than when I was a teenager. But learning what the Church actually teaches and why, relating to marriage and human sexuality, I have changed in my views. Through my life-long pursuit of our number one vocation, holiness, I have come to see how wrong I was. By holiness I do not mean never doing wrong, but loving others more and more, learning from one's mistakes and seeking to not listen to that "me, me, ME!" voice that cries out selfishly to be fulfilled even to the detriment or hurting of others.
My views radically changed
I now view that my belief that pre-marital sex, or sex outside the covenant of marriage, is permissible if one feels they are in love is like a salesman selling you a bicycle for the same price as a Porche. How can one really distinguish between feeling in love as compared with being in love with the experience? Society and especially our young members of society have been sold the lie that loving the experience and not the person together with sex outside of marriage will make them happy and free. TV programs now portray the no-holds-barred sexual freedom as exciting and liberating with such programs as Californication and Desperate Housewives. But not everything that seems exciting is good for oneself. Doing drugs such as cocaine is one such example.
As that titillating hassle-free view is being thrust upon society, through the modern media and entertainment industries, such as the internet, radio, bill-boards and peer pressure the more teens are falling for it. Meanwhile, some adults who seem strong in their faith also succumb to their desires and passions.
What does the Catholic Church really teach about sex?
But what does the Catholic Church really teach about sex? Is it merely a set of rules? The Catholic Church through Theology of the Body (TOB) shows that it’s not just a hard-nosed law that one should not have sex outside of marriage. It points to a far deeper reality. Single people are called to live celibate lives until they are married. TOB illustrates that it is because of our human dignity that we should do so. This dignity comes from being created in the image and likeness of God. Because we reflect God, we are more than mere animals that live by sexual instinct. For humans, sexuality is spiritual. Genesis says that the two become “one flesh.” Furthermore, this sexual union is the uniting of body and soul through which one is called to be open to God’s gift of life.
The language the Church uses to portray the wonderful uniting of the whole person with one’s spouse while remaining open to God’s gift of life within a covenant of love, is conjugal love, or conjugal union. That's why the Church esteems marriage so much. A covenant of love is not composed of mere intent. Such a deeply spiritual reality must be done within a covenant of love; a covenant which is permanent, fruitful and includes the Author of life, God.
The Church views the inclusion of God as enabling God's graces to work more in the spouses' lives if they so allow. That's where human freedom comes in. This is the way that God designed it; “a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:23) Through the covenant of love, the wife gives herself totally as a self-gift to her husband; thus a woman is united to her spouse through the sacrament of marriage. The ministers of the sacrament are the couple, and the priest or minister confers God’s graces upon them through the sacrament, the covenant of love. It is noteworthy that the Catholic marriage contains within the vows the promise to accept children as a gift of God; one is thus invited to be open to the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life. As a result of this fruitful openness within covenantal love, a living image of God and the spouses is created. This life is to be treasured at all costs. For in doing so, we respect the dignity of the unborn child.
Brendan is an author and podcaster. His next book "Crusades Rediscovered: In the Light of Human Sexuality and Our Creator" discusses the four Crusades as well as explaining in more depth the Theology of the Body. This is a condensed version of the article "The Dignity of Human Sexuality" by Brendan Roberts that was published on www.catholicexchange.com when they used to have a Theology of the Body section. Brendan's website is www.godfact.com