“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” -Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
The Venerable Archbishop is well known for his observations that are as true today as they were when he said them over 50 years ago. The quote above is no different. The Catholic Church is most often hated not for what she is (or teaches), bur for what people mistakenly think she teaches. This has never been more true today then in the area of homosexuality, or same sex attraction.
In my next two posts (today and Friday October 23) I’m going to examine some of the common beliefs people have about what teachings of the Catholic Church.
Why does the Church tell people who they can and can’t love?
When considering the Churches teaching on “Gay Marriage”, the above question is a curious one. The Church forbids the very thing this statement contends she teaches. In fact, it is that commandment that actually demands we stand against the abuse of marriage called “Gay Marriage”. To sum it up – we MUST love EVERYONE. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” -Matthew 22:37-40
So, Jesus commanded that everyone must love everyone. However, God also tells us how to love – don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t lie and so forth. In some ways we understand how to love well. However, we are sinners in need of God’s guidance. We arrogantly think we know how to love, but often we don’t even know what love really is.
Love is a free choice to give of ourselves for the good of another. This does not always mean we give ourselves to another, but we give away something of ourselves for another. For example, we give up our weekend recreation to help clean up a neighborhood hit by a hurricane. This is love of neighbor, because we are giving of our time to for their good.
This definition is very important. Love is a free choice to give of ourselves for the good of another.
Love is not emotion, rather emotion is sometimes, but not always, a result of love. As well, we may feel emotions for someone that are not about an act of love, but are simply an attraction. It is important that we never confuse emotions with real love. In fact, acts of love are more pure when not motivated by an emotion. If I give of myself for the good of another – choose an act of love – even though I have no emotions or feelings that move me to do so, then I am making a pure choice to love my fellow man.
We express love differently to the different people in our lives – depending on the kind of relationship we have. We don’t love our parents the same way we love our best friends. We don’t love our children the same way we love our coworkers. And we don’t love our spouse the same we love anyone else.
The idea put forth in the above question (Why does the Church tell people who they can and can’t love?) is not really about love, but about sex. How can the Church tell us who we can have sex with? That’s the real question being asked. To understand the answer, we must understand that sexual relations do not equate love… and sex definitely is not a universal expression of love. Sex is a very specific and unique expression of love meant for specific people in a specific relationship. It is NOT how we express love to just anyone.
Sex is the unitive and life giving expression of love between a man and a woman in marriage. THIS is how God made sexuality – what God commands and thus this is what the Church teaches. Not who we can love, but how to love. Because when we really think of it, we don’t know how to love each other well.
What does this mean? Why is sex just for a man and woman in marriage?
When God created man and woman, he did so in a very special and amazing way. “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness‘” (Genesis 1:26). God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity. The Father and Son love One Another completely and infinity. This love between the Father and Son is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is also completely and infinity loved by the Father and Son and loves Them right back. So when God says, “Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness” God is saying that He is going to make man as a family of love, just like God.
This is what follows next… “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). So, God created man and woman together as a family, a married couple united in love for one another. And what is the first thing God commands? “And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). God married (blessed) them. And in that sacred union of marriage God commanded sex. But NOT the meaningless sex that our world has embraced. When God commands sex He is commanding the full, total and faithful commitment of love He created marriage to be, so it would image Him. And this love is fruitful. Not just with children, but in the way marriage lifts up all of creation and reveals the Holy Trinity to the whole world. That is what the word “subdue” means here. Not to conquer and destroy or enslave, but to conquer and lift up.
This is the sacred and holy purpose of marriage that God created. The gift of sexuality is sacred. And our problem is not that we think about sex too much, but that we think too little of sex. It is sacred, majestic, holy and life giving. IT IS POWERFUL. It is not to be messed with or misused, or as we have seen, it’s power will cause great harm.
So, to review, the gift of sexuality is a holy and powerful gift from God that is only for the unitive and fruitful relationship of a married man and woman. Any other use is a misuse, is a use of this gift outside of God’s intentions – and thus cannot be an authentic expression of love.