In my experience most people are not too quick to accept the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. In fact, they believe that promoting a life of chastity rather than letting someone love someone of the same sex is against Christ’s greatest commandment: love. Especially recently, I’ve been forced to really think about why this is: how is it that many ‘Catholics’ and non-Catholics alike can often shrug at and accept certain teachings, but can be so appalled at others?
The conclusion I have come to: When confronted with the Church teaching on issues of sexuality, the response is often hostility because it ‘invades’ the privacy of peoples’ sexual decisions. In particular, I am referring to homosexuality, sex before marriage and contraception.
Through different conversations with people and reading articles, I’ve realized something that should have been obvious to me: our world is becoming progressively more self-centered and focused on attaining sexual pleasure at all costs and regardless of risks. Sexual freedom has become the norm and pervading message throughout society. Any attempt to take that away from someone leaves them feeling trapped and confused. Hence, when the message is they cannot have a sexual relationship with whoever they want, whenever they want, the reaction is negative and angry.
Despite these issues of sexuality being around for a long time, it has only been relatively recent that people have become comfortable with the idea of homosexuality in general. Compare this to centuries ago, when it was much more of a scandal to hear of someone who is a homosexual. This is similar for how society’s response has changed with regards to sex before marriage and contraception. I believe that these things are now more and more considered as a norm because our society is overly saturated with sexuality. Sexual love is the focus of almost every single TV show, movie, book, magazine article, commercial, college/work party, you name it.
I have to make this clear: sexual love is not a bad thing. Sexual love has its place and purpose and is a great thing. The Church recognizes that. The problem is when sex is used outside of the context God created it for. This happens when sex loses its ties with commitment, family, self-control and selfless love.
The acceptance of this idea of sexual freedom has been slow moving and slow growing. Many things must be taken into consideration: immodest fashions, dating rather than courting, easier-access to pornography (via the internet), criteria for what kind of sexual things can be shown on movies/TV, and the list goes on. The ball kept rolling with contraception, which made it easier for people to have sex before marriage without worrying about the chance of getting pregnant. All of these things have led to less respect for the dignity of sex and its place in marriage. Sex is taken for granted when it is promoted in these ways and made into a commodity, merely about pleasure and adventure.
When respect for sex goes down so does respect for the other, as people (women especially) become merely a source of pleasure. This, and many other detrimental effects such as depression, abortion, unstable marriages and divorce, eating disorders, STD’s, rape, and so much more are because of such pressure for pre-marital sexual involvement.
Those saving sex for marriage are unheard of, laughed or gawked at, as it is such an unpracticed thing in our day and age. And thus, those of us who promote values such as not using contraception (within marriage or outside of it), the dignity of life inside the womb and traditional marriage, are shot down as old fashioned and close minded, when we are truly looking at the bigger picture.
This brings me back to my initial point. Our society is so used to the thought that we each have the right to express our sexual inclinations however we wish. As Catholics, we know that this is not true. We know that sex is meant to be a mutual gift given between a man and a woman within marriage, selflessly and wholly, with the openness to the life of a child. Any other sexual activity is a perversion of sex in and of itself, and thus is immoral. It is unfortunate that our society is so attached to sexual pleasure that the thought of offering it up for the higher good is such an atrocity. But despite the shocking opposition, we must continue to strongly hold on to the sanctity of marriage and sexuality, and accept no less. We need to hold the bar high for society, and not fall into the footsteps towards complacency and lack of integrity. Of course, these issues must always be treated with compassion and sensitivity, but without compromise. Human nature will always deeply desire God as complete fulfillment, no matter who we are or how much we are lied to by today’s culture. We must always hold on to these ideals and relentlessly remind our society of its roots in Truth, Love, Beauty and Goodness, so that as many souls as possible are able to realize this potential, and be able to celebrate fully in their Heavenly home.