In the recent Marquette Tribune article on sexual health and education, Jennifer Beste of Xavier University suggests, “we don’t live in a social context where people are respected for waiting (to have sex).” It is quite discouraging that society seems to respect, and even encourages, sleeping with someone else’s future spouse. (No wonder divorce rates are skyrocketing.) Beste seems to welcome the hook-up culture on many Catholic campuses as morally acceptable because it is a cultural “norm” for many students. Is something morally justified simply because it is popular and “everyone is doing it?” If everyone took up smoking, would it be healthy for our lungs?
I agree with Beste that discussions should go beyond abstinence, but her suggestion of sex outside of marriage as a form of empowerment is far from the truth. If I can’t say no to sex, then how much does my “yes” really mean? Having sex outside of marriage and using contraception does not give us the “sexual freedom” society promises; rather, it does the exact opposite. We become enslaved to our own feelings and desires, which is not a good foundation for a lasting relationship or marriage. Many argue the Catholic Church needs to change its stance on contraception, abortion and premarital sex. Perhaps the problem is not with the Church, but rather with us. Our human sinfulness, perpetuated by messages from the media, can blind us from the truth of Christ, whose light shines through the Church.
There is nothing wrong with questioning the Church’s teachings in order to deepen our understanding of the faith and grow in holiness. However, questioning the Church’s teachings because they differ from our own desires reflects our lack of trust in God’s design of human sexuality. The Roman Catholic Church does not seek to impose rules on us to limit our freedom, but rather to free us from the devastating effects of premarital sex, including broken relationships, abortion and divorce.
Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and not made purely for finite things. When God created us he put His signature on our hearts, proclaiming that we are made for Him in His own image. We were made to seek more than the pleasures of this world, we were made to desire eternal life with God in heaven. When we act on our sexual desires outside the covenant of marriage, our desires turn to emptiness and our “freedom” enslaves us. Saving yourself for the one person with whom you will spend the rest of your life is far more empowering than settling for uncommitted hook-ups and self-serving sexual relationships that deceive us from the meaning of true love. This premise is the foundation for “Theology of the Body,” a series of talks on God’s purpose for our human sexuality given by the late Pope John Paul II. The talks are an exploration into human sexuality and the purpose for the human body. I would encourage everyone at Marquette (and beyond) to read “Theology of the Body” and further explore these topics.
If we can work to understand this theology, we will begin to see that “cura personalis” is directed towards glorifying God rather than our own sexual desires.
Andrew J. Axt
Senior, College of Engineering