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Sex and Sexuality as Catholics
How do YOU view sexuality through the lens of your faith?
Send us your thoughts . If your story is chosen for the Web site, we’ll send you either a CFFC T-shirt or mug.
In my opinion, as a Catholic and a feminist, there are three qualities by which “good sex” should be defined: Is it consensual, just, and mutually pleasurable?
While the Vatican and the Church hierarchy are caught up with procreation, not a word is spoken about stopping rape or child sexual abuse. In my opinion, sexual abuse in any form is an affront to God, far more than a relationship based on mutuality and respect, whether or not in is (or in our current state of affairs, can be) within marriage, could ever be.
I view my sexuality as a gift from God, an expression of love and creativity, a source of healing. I don’t believe this gift should be limited to the straight and married among us. I believe our gifts and talents should be shared and our loves be expressed. Imagine what the world would be like if every sexual encounter was consensual, just, and mutually pleasurable!
However, I do believe the gift of sexuality comes with responsibility. For some people, abstinence is the best, most responsible choice, and that choice must be respected. However, abstinence is not the only responsible choice. For many of us, entering into a committed and loving sexual relationship (whether or not the goal is or can be marriage) can also be done in a responsible manner. In doing so, it is out of respect for ourselves and others that we must know the status of our health and use protection to ensure our own health and our partner’s health.
We must be responsible stewards of our fertility. While the bishops are quite right that children can be a blessing from God, there are many people in this world who are not called to parent or who are not ready to be parents yet. Responsible use of birth control is one way to help ensure that all children are celebrated as a gift from God, cared for by parents who are ready, willing, and able.
- Johanna Hatch
I personally think sexual intimacy is one of the best mediums going to express love for one another. To be sure, it has been horribly abused as a weapon which destroys. It shouldn't be taken into lightly nor should it be construed as something as the only means to self-expression either. It's indeed a God-given gift to us and what and how we use it is our gift to God.
- Gina-Maria Picone
Sexuality is a gift from God to be used to express one's deepest love for one's partner. It can and often does result in bringing forth new human life. It is clearly not only for procreative purposes! I have often wondered how the Vatican came to such a strange conclusion. It does not seem to me to be "natural law" at all. I do believe that sex is sacred. That expression of love and ecstasy, perhaps especially when it is open to new life, is indeed holy, life giving (to the couple), and leaves one in awe of the goodness of God. I often wish that more people shared that understanding because I think that this gift is very often misused. Or perhaps, sometimes we humans are in situations in life where such ideals are just too lofty or unattainable, and we can appreciate the gift simply for its pleasure
To teach that acts shared by loving covenanted homosexual couples are not equally good and holy as those of heterosexuals is just WRONG.
Well, it almost sounds like an oxymoron.
We have gone backward instead of forward. 10 years ago, the Vatican defined marital sexual activity as having both unificative and procreative purposes. (i.e.: If a couple was sterile, they should therefore not have sex since no progeny will come of the act?)
If couples can't have children anyway, what difference does a condom make vis a vis the procreative purpose of sex?
The Church is therefore inconsistent with its own teachings. To follow this edict to its logical end; husbands should not have sex with their wives after the women have reached menopause, since there is no procreative probability.
In addition, the church is purposely obfuscating the boundary between sacramental matrimony and legal marriage. The church can define its sacraments any way it wants, but it is using the same tactic it used with divorce to keep Catholics in check.
The church allows Catholics to obtain a civil divorce; they just can't remarry within the church without an annulment of the marriage from the church. This same logic should apply to the difference between a legal same-gender marriage and sacramental matrimony. It’s very simple: separation of church and state.
- Torie Cassano
The Vatican definition of sexuality is only physical and does not include the total personality and the psychosocial implication for the individual person. They see it from their perspective only. They are also removed from the people and the real world.
- Rose Mary O'Connell
As a Catholic, I have at times struggled with my sexuality. For a long time I felt so ashamed because I was having sex with someone I loved and we weren't married and we were using condoms. One of my friends even gave me a book entitled Sex According to God. I wondered how I wasn't having sex according to the way God intended it, in my mind – in a responsible, loving relationship. Through much prayer and introspection, though, I came to the conclusion that I was not making sex out to be something trivial or unimportant as I had been taught to feel but I was being human and sharing something sacred with someone I loved and cared for.
Sex is sacred to me and I feel that by saying that sex is solely procreative, as the Vatican wants us to believe, is making us seem like animals. One thing that distinguishes us from animals is that we can have sex not only in an instinctual way, only to reproduce but also as a way to be truly intimate with the person you love and care about. It's one thing that you get to share only with him or her and it's beautiful. And being able to be so intimate and be responsible about it by using contraceptives and condoms to prevent pregnancy and STDs does not take the sacredness out of the act. In fact, I believe it could strengthen it because you and your partner are making a decision together to be safe and to choose when you're ready to actually start a family.
I believe that by redefining sexuality in the Church, not as an act solely of procreation but as way to share yourself in the most intimate of ways with someone you love and care for, we can come to make it safer for everyone. By including into this definition the idea of sex not just for procreation but also as an expression of love we take a step in the right direction by not condemning condom use but seeing it as a responsible decision that two people make to prevent the spread of STDs and to decide to wait for pregnancy until the time is right.
- Melissa Cowart, Rome, GA
I am a life-long Catholic who comes from generations of Irish and Polish Catholics. I want to raise my two young sons in the Catholic community - without hypocrisy and frequent excuses for archaic bans, doctrine and policies that I cannot, in good conscience, defend. I want them to feel proud to be "good Catholic boys".
However, I also feel it is my responsibility to raise my children in an environment and in a way that demonstrates and reflects my beliefs. What's a deeply spiritual, tradition-loving, "good Catholic girl" to do? Join the Unity Church? The Self-Realization Fellowship?
Fortunately, I don't believe in "throwing the baby out with the bath-water", as they say. I don't want to give up on the Catholic Church. I want to help it evolve. To this end, I whole-heartedly support the work of Catholics for a Free Choice. I feel their work reflects the greatest integrity, logic, honesty & respect - all things I would feel proud to instill in my boys.
Is it somehow less effective for my boys to witness these qualities coming from a group of folks trying to better the Church, rather than from the Church itself? As I sit here and type, I suddenly feel that it just might be OK to stick around a while. As with people, no institution is perfect. But, with integrity, logic, honesty & respect - it can change for the better. Hopefully, I will be able to show them that our church is as open to reflection, conscience & change as I hope they will grow to be.
To respond to your questions more directly, NO, the Vatican definitely does not define my sexuality.
I feel I had to spend a great deal of time "unlearning" much of what I was taught about sex as girl. I had to process the guilt and reconcile all of the many aspects that just didn't seem to add up in my conscience. I felt very alone in this process - as both my parents and the church seemed to have such absolute stances on the subject.
I'm glad that I didn't marry young and had time to formulate a more mature appreciation for all of the complex factors that make up and complicate sex and sexuality.
I learned some lessons the hard way. And I appreciate that the church, much like parents, want to simplify the world for us - making it easier to navigate somehow, if we would just comply and follow a set path. That may work for some. Some are happy to have others lay out a path for them, so they can avoid thinking about and taking responsibility for their actions.
Conscience. Some want to exercise it; others don't.
Q. Do you agree with the views from the Vatican that the sexual act should be for procreative purposes only?
A. No. It's a nice and very freeing, sort of ultimate submission to nature/God's will. And, how nice to be so open to whatever life has in store for you. I wish that at least once for everyone on this planet. But let's face it, the list of things that can prevent that openness is much too ridiculously long to ignore. I had such complications from two births that I almost died numerous times. I would not risk leaving my sons without a mother to have sex with anyone. And, I don't see the value in abstaining for the rest of my life, when there are perfectly reasonable options available for preventing that risk. In other words, just because procreating is too risky, doesn't mean that I would abstain from sex - before or after marriage. There is much more to the decision to have sex with another person or not.
Good sex is an amazing gift. However, I don't think it has to do with religion, or the church - or any other person or group of people outside the ones involved.
I think that the decision to have sex or not is more about understanding and responsibility. Understanding of all of the many complex emotions and issues that may or may not result. And, responsibility for the outcome. I think many people are capable of that level of understanding and responsibility. The necessary levels of understanding and responsibility come at different ages/times for different people, so it's hard to generalize. The trick is getting people to wait until it’s right for them. At one time it was convenient to say "wait until marriage". People got married much younger - and died much younger. The world is different today. I like to think it has progressed. The Church needs to progress along with it.
For me the landscape of my body is where both Catholicism and sexuality commingle into one identity. I have always desired God in and through my body. Consequently, no part of who I am falls outside of Catholicism and likewise, my sexuality is woven into the entire span of my existence. Fortunately for me, the good graces of the divine have contoured and called me as a lesbian, a sexual self who adores the female form of godding.
My Catholic sexuality (or is it my sexual Catholicism?) invites me to come more perfectly into grace. The place where we least experience or perhaps encounter many obstacles to knowing ourselves affirmed as the image and likeness of god is in our sexual acts and practices. We have been robbed of knowing that much of our life’s work is to bring spirit and flesh together in life-affirming ways that are true to the godding potential within each of us as heirs of creation, as stewards of our capacities for life and love to use the catchy phrase from the catholic catechism. For most of us, whether Catholic or not, sexually conforming or not, our sexuality is heavily burdened. Theological constructions of the Imago Dei are incomplete and maybe even heretical, however, without an explicit and provocative exploration of how we embody that likeness in/through our sexual desires, longings and instances of making-love well with one another.
Stewardship of our bodies invokes a capacity to be god-bearers to and with one another; this calling, a divine mandate really, embraces all aspects of our sexuality. If sex is not part of this, if it cannot be recognized, in all its multiply-variant expressions, as god-bearing to others, then I fear we have failed the Christic reality of the Incarnate body, Resurrected over and over again with God’s visceral vindication. Our deeply driven need for value must be all about our bodies, sexed and sexual, lesbian or transgender, child or grandparent, wheelchair bound or athlete, all of us, are capable of wellness of being with and for one another. Since flesh is God’s chosen home, how can we not desire to delight in it? Lest we become “dull mirrors of God,” it is time to let truth live on our skin and reclaim the ancient prayer of lovers everywhere, “with this body I thee worship” enacting in countless ways how skin is the closest thing to god.
- Jane M. Grovijahn, Ph.D.
As a young developing adult, I find my own definition of sexuality to be undefined. As a Catholic, it is difficult to seriously listen to what the Catholic Church has to say about sex. While my parents have been sexually responsible and were abstinent until marriage, they use condoms. The views of the Church seem to be a burden. The Church's opinions of sexuality appear to lack the ability to think critically of human sexuality.
Within my own personal life I have chosen to remain abstinent. This choice is not an easy route, but something that I find to be important. However, I do very much disagree with the Church's view of sexuality as the sole act of reproduction. If sex is God's sacred gift, then it has to be more than this simplified definition. If the act of intercourse is only procreative, then human beings are instinctive animals. It would mean that as a species, we lack the emotional and mental connection that sex provides. Personally, it is the emotional and mental connection that makes abstinence valuable to me.
If sexuality was simply reproductive then wouldn't marriage be based on physical characteristics only? Would it mean that two people should be married so they may produce the healthiest children?
I find the official view of the Catholic Church to not only be outdated, but uninformed. I want to live my life as a good Catholic, but at times it is confusing as to what that truly means.
I have always felt that loving your partner and showing that love is first and foremost, even over marriage. If someone wants to wait until marriage then that is his/her decision but if that person feels that he/she wants to express that love to his/her partner before marriage than that person should not be judged or looked down upon.
With that in mind, I also believe that sexuality is getting younger and younger and that makes me nervous. How can a child in 2nd or 3rd grade make such a serious decision especially when they are not aware what goes along with these acts. I have heard many people (even youngsters) say that will wait for intercourse but that have performed oral sex on others because it's not really sex. Any act with another should not be taken lightly and that person should really love and feel committed to the person before such a big decision is made.
I would also like to say that love between partners should not just be for straight couples but for all. There are a lot of people that quote bible when it comes to gays and lesbians but they seem to forget that the bible also says no one should judge another. These people are human beings that happen to love someone of the same gender, and they deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as a straight couple. I also believe that they too should be allowed to marry and have the same rights and privileges. I was under the impression that in the U.S. there was a separation of church and state which means to me that what one person believes does not mean that somebody else does and no one should have another's beliefs forced upon them.
I have many other thoughts; however, I would like to conclude that I don't feel that the Catholic Church should be defining sexuality. With what has gone on in the church in recent years they have no right to make these judgments. Also, who are they to define marriage when they do not permit marriage for clergy, nuns and brothers etcetera? I believe that until the church makes some much needed changes they should be careful how and what they define when it comes to sexuality.
- Rayna Castaldini
Human sexuality is a special gift from God separate from all other creatures of this Earth. The human brain is also a special gift from God separate from all other creatures of this Earth. As with all gifts, they should be appreciated and used in a responsible manner. These two gifts are a set. Love can be shown in many forms and is unique to the individual. Isn't that how God shows that each and every one of us is special to him? True love and intimacy requires respect for one's partner and knowledge to ensure that one's partner feels and is safe and protected.