FREQUENTLY-ASKED QUESTIONS
ABOUT SEXUALITY AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH


  1. Why does the Catholic Church have such a problem with sex?

    Actually, the Church doesn't "have a problem with" sex.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a lot of beautiful, positive things to say about human sexuality.  It's just that the world can't accept the wisdom of Holy Mother Church when it comes to sexual issues (and many other issues as well).  In many ways, it's the world which has the "problem" with sex, not the Church!

  2. How does "the world" have a problem with sex?

    Mother Church takes what we might call a "holistic" approach to human sexuality.  She teaches that God intends for sex to involve the whole person, body and soul, in the context of a loving, committed relationship, for the sake of both bearing children and the mutual benefit of the spouses.  The world, on the other hand, tries to have each of these elements separately; is seeks pleasure for pleasure's sake, union without procreation, physical satisfaction without spiritual benefit, intercourse outside of marriage.  Thus the sexual experience it promotes is broken, fragmented, not whole.

    Sexuality is like a beautiful vase which God created to bear the sacred flowers of human life.  Our modern Western mentality shatters this precious vase into hundreds of pieces and then scrambles for the fragments.  Not surprisingly, many people get badly wounded in the effort!

  3. Why does the world do this?

    This fragmentation of sexuality is only a symptom of a deeper fragmentation in the human psyche caused by original sin.  God created humanity as a harmonious whole, body and spirit, in communion with the Creator and at peace with ourselves and all creation.  But the disobedience of our first parents shattered this original harmony, setting flesh against spirit, man against woman, man and woman against nature and against God.  Is it any wonder we ofter refer to our sinfulness as "brokenness"?

    This brokenness extends to every aspect of our being, including our sexuality.  Mother Church, in her Divine wisdom, sets before us an ideal of wholly integrated, harmonious sexuality in her moral teachings, not to "spoil our fun" but to prevent us from hurting ourselves by misusing God's sacred gift.

  4. How could the Church have a positive attitude towards sex when most of its leaders don't get any?

    The Cathoic Church is more than a mere human organization run by celibate males; she is the Mystical Body of Christ, and the Holy Spirit, her "Soul", speaks through her on matters of faith and morals.  The Church's positive teaching on sexuality comes from the Spirit of God.  If you want a good example of a celibate male who has a positive attitude toward human sexuality, I suggest you read the writings of Pope John Paul II.  You may be pleasantly surprised by what he has to say.

  5. Is sex a sacrament?

    A sacrament is a visible sign, in symbol and ritual, which Jesus Christ established as a channel of his saving grace and a means of sanctifying the members of His Mystical Body.  Mother Church recognizes seven Sacraments: Baptism, Penance, Holy Communion, Confimation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick.  Now, intercourse pertains to only one of the above, namely Matrimony - in which it plays an important role.  Consider the following facts:

    So conjugal relations are clearly an important aspect of the Sacrament of Matrimony.  That being said, however, we must point out that marriage is much more than sex, and not all sex is conjugal.  So the fact that marriage is a sacrament does not automatically make sex a sacrament.  (This is reminiscent of the peculiar anti-Catholic notion that the Church considers celibacy a sacrament because Latin Rite priests are generally required to be celibate.  Those who hold this belief fail to consider that married men can have Holy Orders-permanent deacons and married Eastern Rite priests, for example-while nuns and lay brothers, though celibate, do not have Holy Orders!).

    Now Mother Church teaches that the marital union is a sacred act, a renewal of the marriage covenant, and can be a source of grace and sanctification to the husband and wife if performed in a state of grace.  So while not a sacrament, sex can transcend the mere physical act and become a "sacramental" reality, a created means of grace.  Perhaps this is what people are trying to express when they say that "sex is a sacrament".

  6. Speaking of celibacy, if the Church thinks sex is so wonderful why does she tell priests and nuns not to do it?

    Sex is good, but not the ultimate good.  Since sex is a good thing, celibates are not giving up something bad, they are sacrificing something good for a higher good:  the kingdom of God.  Jesus Christ Himself approved of such a sacrifice:  "There are eunuchs who were born so from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made so by men; and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.  Let him accept it who can" (Matthew 19:12).  In I Corinthians 7:1, 8, 29-35, Saint Paul expresses his approval of voluntary celibacy for the kingdom.  He says celibacy is a good thing (vvs 1 & 8) - not a bad thing-and that remaining unmarried allows one to focus ones attention entirely on God, without the distractions of a spouse and family.

  7. But doesn't the Church consider virginity preferable to marriage?

    Only because it is a greater sacrifice.  Those who make a greater sacrifice for God will receive a higher reward.  Yet marriage is a sacrament-a powerful means of grace-and celibacy is not.  So married people receive a sacrament, while celibates do not (unless they have Holy Orders, but some married men can receive that too!  Marriage is the one sacrament which a celibate person cannot receive).

  8. I still don't see how a religion which holds celibacy in such high regard can have a positive view of sex.

    Sex and virginity are not at war with each other; both coexist in the Catholic Church.  Marriage and celibacy are two positive vocations; just because the latter is good does not make the former bad.

  9. Haven't clerics thoughout the ages said negative things about sex?

    Yes, but they were expressing personal opinions, not the official teaching of Holy Mother Church.  The extent of their influence on the laity in these matters is also open to debate.  Just because a scholar holds a certain opinion does not mean that the average man or woman in the pews agrees.

  10. Don't Catholics belief that sex was the "original sin" of Adam and Eve?

    Though some Catholics have believed that in the past and may still believe it now, it's just not the official teaching of the Church.  The original sin was one of prideful disobedience to God's command, not lust.  Pride is the worst sin of all, and the root of all sin.

  11. What about the Catholic belief that children are stained with sin because their parents conceived them by having sex?

    Again, that is not the teaching of Mother Church.  Original sin consists of the consquences of the sin of Adam, namely, the lack of sanctifying grace in the soul and an inclination toward sin (See Grace and the Catholic View of Salvation, for a thorough explanation of the Catholic view of original sin).  It has nothing to do with the act which gave life to the child.

  12. But the Church says that Catholics should not do it for fun, only for procreation.

    This is another common misunderstanding.  Procreation is the primary purpose of sexual intercourse, but not the sole purpose.  The Church has always recognized the importance of marital love and mutual help (secondary purpose) and the legitimacy of spouses having relations to satisfy physical urges (tertiary purpose). As the Bible says, "It is better to marry than to burn" -I Corinthians 7:9.

  13. How can you say procreation is the primary purpose of sex?

    An objective look at the biological function of the sex act clearly shows that it produces offspring.  Do we not refer to the sex organs as "The Reproductive System"?  This is clearly the primarly purpose of intercourse.  The Church, in stating this fact, does not deny the importance of love in the marital act.

    Deitrich von Hildebrand, a twentieth century Catholic theologian, explained that procreation is the purpose of conjugal relations and mutual love is the meaning of conjugal relations.  This is why the Church teaches that the procreative and unitive (mutual love) aspects of the marital act are both important, and not to be separated!

  14. What about pleasure?

    The pleasure of the marital act is a means to an end, not an end in itself.  After the world fragments the sex act, it seizes the shards of pleasure first, as if that were the sole purpose of sex!  In God's plan, the pleasure of the act is supposed to facilitate the unitive and procreative ends, not be an end itself.  The Church teaches that it is perfectly lawful for a husband and wife to enjoy the pleasure of the marital act as they draw closer to one another and remain open to the procreation of human life.

  15. Why does the Church allow Catholic couples to have relations only on Tuesday and Wednesday, but not the rest of the week?

    That is not an official Church teaching, only a penitential practice often recommended to married couples by priests many years ago (I doubt anyone recommends it nowadays, but I could be wrong).  Some priests used to tell couples to abstain from marital relations on Thursday in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, on Friday in honor of Christ's Passion, on Saturday in honor of the Mother of God, on Sunday in honor of the Blessed Trinity, and on Monday in honor of the Holy Souls in Purgatory.  But Mother Church never officially required this of anyone.

    Now it's not a bad practice; if a married couple wants to do that they certainly can.  It falls within the provision of I Corinthians 7:5. But it's not required at all.


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