In this contemporary age, many of us are unsure of how to navigate issues about romantic love and relationships. In the case that spiritual mentor figures in our lives attempt to guide us in navigating such issues, perhaps some of us may feel that our lives are being intruded upon. As a result, we are left to explore love on our own and it may dangerously lead us away from God if we end up being hurt or lost in sin. Hence, it is important for us to be aware of the Church’s stand on sexual morality so that we are more adept in maneuvering the otherwise murky waters of love and relationships. Through St John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (TOB), we come to realise the important truth that humans are social beings, not isolated individuals, and that the body is a gift — from God and for others — not “my body, my own.”
Pop culture portrays Catholic sexual morality as a set of inflexible and out of touch rules to be obeyed without question, but it is much more than that. Sexual morality in the Catholic faith is rooted in the love of Christ and this has been portrayed in John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (TOB). TOB is a set of 129 catechetical addresses the late John Paul II gave between 1979 and 1984 that talks about the biblical view of human love in a way that is widely regarded to have revolutionised the way theologians teach about love, sexuality and marriage. The fundamental basis of TOB is not legalism, but love as an invitation to mutual self-giving. God desires to invite us to love one another as persons rather than as objects of gratification. In other words, the call to Christian love entails rejecting the temptation toward selfishness and saying “yes” to God first and foremost. For JPII and the Church, acts of love like sex is considered to be fundamentally good, but must be rooted in self-sacrifice and that can only be possible through the sacrament of marriage. All in all, the Church’s stand is not a suffocating one, but it is meant to allow us to live in true freedom to love!
Want to find out more about Catholic sexual morality? Check out this video!
We often hear the rhetoric, “it is your life, do whatever you want with it”. In general, we do not like being told what to do because we possess the notion that we should have complete power over our lives. In terms of our relationships, perhaps this notion is held even more strongly and God is further away from the picture. However, is making decisions without seeking council from God good for us? In the CCC, it is stated that we are created by God and for God (CCC27). Since God created us for Himself, it makes sense that God desires us to seek His will in all that we do. Our relationships are no exception!
Just as discernment for any decision takes time, it is important for us to not jump into dating. Being patient and taking the time to build healthy friendships is key to relationship discernment. In Christian dating, the question of “is this relationship leading me closer to Christ?” is especially helpful in our discernment process. In sum, dating is a crucial part of our quest towards holiness and the vocation of marriage.
Life as a Precious Gift from God
Another subject that people have differing views about is abortion. In layman’s terms, abortion is defined as the expulsion of a fetus from the uterus before it has reached the stage of viability. Even before the practice became common in the 19th century, the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion since the first century. Despite various reasons for abortion, the Church’s teaching remains unchangeable. While this may seem harsh on the surface, the Church’s stand is based on the profound belief that a human being must be recognised as having the right to life from the first moment of his existence. Hence, abortion is not simply a case of unwanted pregnancy, but it is a disregard for the sanctity of human life — a precious gift from God.
With regards to the issue of abortion, Christians have always distinguished themselves from other pagan cultures by rejecting any form of abortion procedure from the earliest times. In spite of early limitations in human embryology, the Church stood firm on their stand that abortion is gravely wrong at any stage of pregnancy as it is considered to be a sin against nature to reject God’s gift of a human life. Throughout history, the Church has been clear on her stand on abortion as an intrisically evil act that cannot be morally justified. In the 19th century, it was established that the union of the sperm and egg at conception brings a living being into existence. Since the formation of the embryo is the beginning of a life itself, it must be treated with the same respect given to a human person because every human life has inherent dignity. This sets the foundation for other social teachings by the Church, and more importantly, it explains why abortion can never be justified. Even if science tells us that the life that is to be born may be handicapped, it still deserves the same respect accorded to any other human lives.
Similar to abortion, the Church has always been against contraception that prevents the formation of life. Defined as any action which acts as a means or ends to render procreation impossible, contraception includes the use of condoms, sterilization and the Pill amongst other methods. While other Christian denominations allow contraception today, the Catholic Church has held its stance on the matter. Contraception is a deliberate violation of natural law and the purpose of sex, which is procreation. God intended for sexual intercourse to be an act of love between husband and wife that creates a new life out of that shared love. As a result, any form of contraception abuses God’s gifts of love and sex by preventing the natural outcome of conception and destroys the sanctity of the relationship.