Thursday, September 22, 2016

On God's Gift of Sex

Having written an entire chapter on dissent from Humanae vitae in the U. S., it was heartening to read that nearly 50 years after this “prophetic” papal document, more than 500 Catholic scholars with doctoral degrees in theology, medicine, law and other fields have recently signed a document in support of Catholic teaching, titled Affirmation of the Catholic Church’s Teaching on the Gift of Sexuality.” 

Humanae vitae speaks against the distorted view of human sexuality and intimate relationships that many in the modern world endorse. The document was prophetic in predicting some of the evils that would result from widespread use of contraception.

Dissent from Humanae vitae centers around the claim there are “no grounds” for Catholic teaching against contraception, questioning the idea that openness to procreation is inherent to the significance of sexual intercourse, and that the choice to use contraceptives for either family planning or prophylactic purposes can be a responsible and ethical decision and even, at times, an moral imperative.
Blessed Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical reaffirmed the traditional Christian rejection of contraception and said it applied to the birth control pill, drawing significant opposition from non-Catholics and from some within the Church who had been campaigning against Church teaching. The Church holds that sex is designed by God to be both unitive and procreative, and that attempting to separate these two aspects of human sexuality through artificial contraception is immoral. If a married couple faces a just reason to avoid pregnancy, the Church teaches that they may do so through Natural Family Planning, a process that works with a woman’s natural fertile cycles and abstaining from sexual activity during the times that she is fertile.
The 500 Catholic scholars maintained that Church teaching is “true and defensible” on the basis of Scripture and reason, describing Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross as “the ultimate and complete self-gift” linked to the biblical spousal imagery of Our Lord and His Church. Human sexual relations fulfill God's intent only, the scholars said, when they “respect the procreative meaning of the sexual act” and take place as a “complete gift of self” within marriage.
Since the 1960s the widespread use of contraception has contributed greatly to the increase of sex outside of marriage, to an increase of unwed pregnancies, abortion, single parenthood, cohabitation, divorce, poverty, the exploitation of women and the porn industry, declining marriage rates, and declining population growth in many parts of the world.
To those Catholics who continue to dissent from Humanae vitae:  please deepen your relationship” with God. Be open to the direction of the Holy Spirit, and ask Jesus Christ to give you the graces needed to live in accord with God’s will for their married lives, even the difficult moral truths.