A Voice Proclaiming the Truth of Human Sexuality

Nicole and Leonard Wathen and their sons pose with a cardboard cut-out of Pope Francis at the Catholic evangelization booth at the recent St. Mary’s County Fair. (CS photo by Jaclyn Lippelmann)

Nicole and Leonard Wathen and their sons pose with a cardboard cut-out of Pope Francis at the Catholic evangelization booth at the recent St. Mary’s County Fair.    (CS photo by Jaclyn Lippelmann)

Today more and more young people are reported to be engaged in sexual activity at an ever younger age. Increasing numbers also report that they have been sexually abused.

The data presents a very alarming picture.  But is there not something much more radical at the core of these statistics than what the media reports as the reason for them?

From our Judeo-Christian and specifically Catholic tradition, we recognize the human condition. This is the label we put on our fallen human nature and its tendencies toward self-satisfaction, egoism, lust and the rest of the seven deadly sins.

This reality, combined with our eons-long awareness that men and women are sexually attracted to each other, is precisely why, over the centuries, cultures around the world built in ways to help people cope with human sexual appetites and reinforce the need to respect and treat others with dignity. The Catholic Church today continues to teach that sexual activity should be confined to marriage and that young people should be taught principles of self-respect, self-discipline and moral values which recognize our fallen human nature, sexual appetites and the call to rise above simple passion and casual sex.

The fact that we have had separate bathrooms for men and women, boys and girls says something about the realization that physically, and therefore sexually, we are not identical. That goes for changing rooms at swimming pools, locker rooms and a host of other decencies that have reinforced the understanding that boundaries are necessary to sustain proper relationships.

Now fast forward to today. The information-entertainment industry focuses on what it promotes as the “excitement” of casual sex, the imperative that people engage in sexual activity as often and with whomever and in whatever situation they please. Contraceptives become a government mandate, sexual activity merely an exercise of pleasure, and voices of sexual morality are viewed as archaic impositions on the new freedom.

Is it any wonder that with the indiscriminate and encouraged mingling of boys and girls, young men and women, in washrooms, dressing rooms, same-sex dorms and even shared apartments – not to mention the mixed messages of books and films such as the forthcoming “Fifty Shades of Grey” – we see hormones and sexual aggression winning out over the nebulous secular call to “be nice?”

The Synod on the Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of the New Evangelization will of course talk about family, marriage, morality and all of the activities connected with those basic elements in human life, personal and societal. One lesson I think we can anticipate that will come out of the Synod and sound very familiar to all of us is the recognition that there is a difference between male and female, that there is a right order for the relationship of men and women, and that sexual activity, as beautiful as it can be, is intended for an enduring committed stable relationship between one man and one woman, which has historically been named marriage.

Another thing we can anticipate will be the ridicule of this position in much of the secular information-entertainment industry. We will still hear from that sector that the real value of human life is best expressed in passing out contraceptives, encouraging sexual activity and then expressing shock and horror when it takes place in a way that is offensive to personal integrity, dignity and freedom.

We should not be surprised by either outcome. The Church’s message is rooted in truth revealed by both human reason and God’s Word. The rejection of that vision and the substitution of a different understanding of what life is all about is also a very real and loud part of our lives, our communities and our world.

It still falls to each one of us to make a choice. I am pleased to say that a growing number of young people have discovered that there is little real joy or freedom in the view of morality that the secular culture offers. They are turning to the vision of human life, sexuality, marriage and family that the Catholic Church has espoused for two thousand years. The Synod will be one more voice supporting the great revealed tradition and encouraging the next generation of believers.

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