This past week we had our eighth and final session of Young Adult Theology of the Body. The talk was entitled, “The Language of Sexual Love”. Here are questions and answers that summarize the main content of the talk:
–What is the one question that helps determine sexual honesty?… Does this behavior image God’s free, total, faithful, fruitful love or does it not?
–Does the Church expect us to have as many children as possible in marriage?… No. The Church calls us to responsible parenthood, prayerfully discerning when to use Natural Family Planning to “space” children for legitimate reasons.
–What do you understand the Church to teach in the area of marital love and openness to children?
–What could a couple do if they had a serious reason to avoid child that wouldn’t violate the meaning intercourse as a sign of God’s Love?… Abstain from sexual intercourse in their fertile time.
–How does abstaining from fertile intercourse differ from sterilizing intercourse through contraception?… What’s the big difference between rendering the union sterile yourself and just waiting until it’s naturally infertile? The end result is the same: both couples avoid children. Well, what’s the big difference between killing a person or just waiting until he dies naturally? End result is the same thing: a dead person. Yes, but one is a serious sin and the other is not. It is exactly the same with contraception and NFP. First, it’s important to realize that the Church has never said it is inherently wrong to avoid children. But the end (avoiding children) does not justify the means. There may well be a good reason for you to wish a person would pass on to the next life. Perhaps he is suffering terribly with age and disease. But this does not justify killing him. Similarly, you may have a good reason for avoiding a child. Perhaps you are in serious financial difficulties. Perhaps you have four kids under age 4 and have reached your emotional limits. But no scenario justifies rendering the sexual act sterile, just as no scenario justifies killing an elderly sick person. The person’s natural death and a woman’s natural period of infertility are both acts of God. But in killing the elderly person or rendering sex sterile, just like the deceiver originally tempted us to do, we take the powers of life into our own hands and make ourselves like God (see Genesis 3:5).
–Most people look at contraception as simply a means of avoiding pregnancy. What are some of the unintended consequences of contraception on marriage and society?… Wise men and women have always recognized the power of the sexual urge to orient, or disorient, not only individuals, but entire societies. Contraception, by disorienting the life instinct, has played a tremendous – yet widely unrecognized – role in the breakdown of marriage in society. What’s the connection? I offer the following as possible, but admittedly simplified, explanation.
People are often tempted to do things they shouldn’t do. Many deterrents within nature itself and within a society help to curb these temptations and maintain order. For example, what would happen to the crime rate in a given society if jail terms suddenly ceased? Let’s apply the same logic to errant sexual behavior and see what happens.
People throughout history have been tempted to commit adultery. It’s nothing new. However, one of the main deterrents from succumbing to the temptation has been the fear of unwanted pregnancy. Hmm…. What would happen if this natural deterrent were taken away through the widespread availability and cultural acceptance of contraception? Not in every marriage of course, but in a given population incidents of infidelity would be sure to rise. What happens when incidents of infidelity increase? Marital breakdown increases.
But let’s keep going with this. Certainly throughout history young people have been tempted to have sex before marriage. However, one of the main deterrents from succumbing to the temptation has been the fear of unwanted pregnancy. Once again, what would happen if this natural deterrent were taken away through the widespread availability and cultural acceptance of contraception? Not in the case of every hormone-laden young person, but in a given population, incidents of premarital sex would be sure to rise. Premarital sex is also a key predictor of marital breakdown and divorce.
It gets worse. Since no method of contraception is ever 100% effective, an increase in adultery and pre-marital sex in a given population will inevitably lead to an increase in unwanted pregnancies. Abortion logically follows as a way of “solving” this problem. Not everyone will resort to abortion of course. Some will offer their children up for adoption. Other mothers will keep them. Hence the number of children who grow up without a father (which has already been increased by the rise divorce) will be compounded.
As numerous studies (and common sense) indicate, the chances dramatically increase that these “fatherless” children will: grow up in poverty; be abused; have emotional, psychological, and behavior disorders; suffer poor health; drop out of school; engage in pre-marital sex; obtain abortions; do drugs; commit violent crimes; and end up in jail. All of the social ills compound exponentially from generation to generation since “fatherless” children are also much more likely to have out-of-wedlock births and, if they marry at all, divorce.
Homosexuality also increases. Why? Fatherless children is one contributing factor. But, even moreso, contraception paves the way for homosexuality because it reduces the sexual act to “shared pleasure”. Why does this need to be with a member of the opposite sex? As soon as sexual pleasure is severed from the possibility of procreation, any means to sexual pleasure can be justified.
–Why do many people tend to think the church is “out of touch” when it comes to sexual morality?… Mostly because they haven’t heard the “why” behind the “what” of Catholic teaching. They haven’t heard the beauty of God’s plan for sex, only a list of seemingly oppressive rules that seem to squelch precisely the kinds of behavior people seem to want and desire.
–Christ came not to condemn, but to save (see John 3:17). The authentic teaching of the Church always reflects this. How, then, is the Church’s teaching on sexual morality a message of salvation?… The Church’s teaching does not condemn sexual sinners, but calls them to a liberating sexual redemption. It calls them and empowers them to live God’s plan for sex as it was “in the beginning” before sin corrupted it. It calls them to live the love they long for in the depths of their hearts. Immoral behavior can never give what it purports to give. It can never satisfy the longings of our heart for love. Authentic love is our salvation and this is what the Church’s teaching on sexuality morality calls us to.
So there is a summary of the last session of Theology of the Body. As of the writing of this letter, I am not sure how we will continue with our Young Adult program, but I am hoping that throughout the academic year we can offer something once a month.
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,