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The complementarity between man and woman is the ground for a third consequence: man and woman are called to mutual gift of self, to a reciprocity. By and through our sexuality, we are called to live in a positive complementary relationship with one another. The partnership of man and woman constitutes the first form of communion between persons and constitutes the basic form of our co-humanity. Concretely, then, our sexuality is a relational power through which we can show understanding, warmth, openness and compassion to others. The fourth consequence, then, is simply that sexuality is for love—either married or celibate love. Sexuality orients every man and woman toward interpersonal dialogue, and contributes to their integral maturation by opening them up to the gift of self in love.
Sexuality, oriented, elevated, and integrated by love, acquires truly human quality. Prepared by biological and psychological development, it grows harmoniously and is achieved in the full sense only with the realization of affective maturity which affects itself in unselfish love and in the total gift of self. The Christian view of sexuality and marriage was further refined by Jesus Christ who in the New Testament bypassed all the detailed prescriptions and prohibitions of the Torah regarding sexuality and marriage. He focused on their essential dignity and value as created by God. The Pharisees and scribes tried to trap Jesus into rejecting the Mosaic law which commanded the stoning of an adulteress. But Jesus broke through their hypocritical moralistic legalism. In an exercise of authentic divine merciful love Jesus brought the “elders” to a consciousness of their own sinfulness, while at the same time drawing the woman away from her sin (Jn J:53-8:11). Again, when questioned by the Pharisees about divorce, Jesus reiterated the Creator’s original meaning of sexuality: “A man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body’ (Gn 2:24). Thus they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, let no man separate what God has joined (Mt. 19: 3-6). There could not be a clearer repudiation of the practice of divorce which is so rampant especially in Western societies today.
In paying the price of our redemption, Jesus Christ wished most of all to restore human relationships to what God intended before original sin distorted and corrupted them. This restoration pertains not only to our relationship with God, but especially to the mutual interrelationships between men and women within the community and in family life. By word and example, Jesus revealed the true nature of our human sexuality and of marriage. More importantly, through his own Resurrection, Jesus redeemed our whole persons, with all our instincts, powers and relationships, including our sexuality. Sexuality and marriage, then, are not just biological facts for Christians. Rather, renewed by God’s love through Christ Jesus, in the Holy Spirit, they are a real personal power and a perduring state for love, a love, which develops, heals and creates.
The Sixth Commandment, then, when viewed through the eyes of faith in the Risen Christ, far from restricting us, actually liberates from two “tyrannies.” The first is the tyranny of puritanical attitudes and misguided taboos, regarding sexuality. The second is the tyranny of “indecency” promoted by the so-called “new morality” that exalts casual sex while rejecting commitment and moral obligation. In rejecting fornication, and the forced violation of sexual integrity in rape, the Commandment is clearly protecting the personal dignity of both men and women, and reinforcing their social responsibility of not scandalizing the young. Breaking through both tyrannies, the Christian view of sexuality and marriage presents the dignity and authentic freedom of single and married life that is truly fulfilling, desirable, and fruitful.
For the married, the commandment enjoins a free and responsible fidelity to a conjugal union that is life-long. This means, first, a joining of a man and a woman in the fullness of their personal lives—a real, complete communion at all levels. Secondly, it means a permanent, enduring bond that is “for keeps.” That is why it is right that the total giving of self in sexual intercourse be reserved for this state of marriage as a permanent covenant bond of personal love. For only within such a communion does sexual union take on its full meaning and become truly human and creative. The high human costs of adultery and of divorce are often covered up by phrases like “having an affair.” In reality, adultery gravely injures the life and character of the individual married persons involved, as well as the community. Commitments are broken, suspicion and anger aroused, personal trust betrayed, relationships destroyed, children psychologically wounded and threatened and the whole social fabric of the community weakened.
Despite all sexist propaganda in the mass media, real human freedom and love are not found in “free sex.” In rejecting polygamy, incest, and uncommitted free unions (“living-in”), the Commandment guides us away from such false, ruinous attempts to fulfil our yearning for true love and communion. But Christ is ever mindful of our human frailty, and the many temptations constantly bombarding us. His grace is ever present. God’s fidelity to the Covenant holds firm and with it our human covenants; in them alone will we find our true human freedom and love.
This brief summary of the teachings of the Catholic faith about human sexuality and marriage should make it clear that attempts by some of our legislators to introduce laws which go against the very nature of human sexuality and marriage will be vigorously countered by the conscientious objections of many faithful Catholics who will be exercising their freedom of religion and freedom of conscience to oppose such practices as same-sex unions (and even more same-sex marriage); divorce; multi-gender recognition; human embryo research; artificial contraceptives; and artificial insemination. Already, conscientious objections from Catholics succeeded in pruning the RH Law of provisions which were forcing Catholics to cooperate with the evil of artificial contraception in such professional fields as education, medicine, nursing and pharmacy. Thanks to the conscientious objections of some Catholic lawyers, the use of abortifacients in the guise of artificial contraceptives has been prevented. The spiritual and moral battle will continue along the lines described in this article. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.