Why is the Church so strict about sex?
PETER KREEFT: Sexual sins bring misery and destroy our relationship with God . . .
by Peter Kreeft
We should not expect the Church’s teachings to coincide with “the wisdom of the world” (1 Cor 1:20) in any age or culture, for her teachings do not come from man but from God.
Man has gone off the track set for him by God — “sin” means separation from God — so God’s track has always appeared to fallen man as “a stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall” (1 Pet 2:8).
Living according to God’s laws makes us holy, happy and healthy. Violating them makes us unholy, unhappy and unhealthy. This is as true of sex as of anything else. First, sexual sin is sin, and it separates us from God.
Second, since God loves us and wants our happiness, disobedience to his plan for us will necessarily bring us unhappiness. Worldly statistics confirm this heavenly logic: Every one of the sins that adulterate sexual love brings with it a catalog of miseries.
Divorce, for instance, means the destruction of society’s most indispensable foundation, the family. It will stamp the same destructive marks on society at large as it already has on its immediate victims, millions of children: a hard, cynical spirit; the death of security, of trust, of faith in persons and promises; and in the adventure of self-giving love.
Third, sexual sin has obvious and radical health effects: the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, now affecting over half of all sexually active people, the fear of AIDS, and the rising infertility rate. But the most notable physical effect of the Sexual Revolution is death. The human victims in just one generation of the abortion holocaust in most Western nations already vastly outnumber the victims of all the wars in their history. It’s high time to turn our attention to God’s alternative.
Controversies have a way of narrowing our vision. They are usually resolved only by backing up and enlarging our perspective, especially by looking at foundations. The foundations of Catholic sexual morality include:
• God as the creator and designer of sexuality;
• the centrality of love (the very nature of God);
• procreation and sexual love as an image of divine love;
• the primacy of the family;
• the divinely designed intrinsic purpose of sex as procreating new eternal souls for God’s family;
• and above all, sex as a sign of the goodness of life. Every baby conceived is a sign that God has not given up on man. It’s not a mere product of automatic nature, but a deliberate act of God. God makes a soul when we make a body. He is not forced to do this; he chooses to.
PETER KREEFT is a professor of philosophy at Boston College. This column is reprinted with permission from his book “Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church” (Ignatius Press, 2001).
Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the person enter — appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility.
In a word, it is a question of the normal characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but with a new significance which not only purifies and strengthens them, but raises them to the extent of making them the expression of specifically Christian values.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1643