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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

What’s wrong with sex? God created me the way I am, with all my desires. Celibacy is just a medieval attempt by the Church to repress homosexuality.

Outline of the Answer
• Goodness
• The Call Away from Sin
• The Distinction Between Celibacy and Chastity
• Cultural Brainwashing
• The Allure of Common “Love”
• Love is of the Spirit
• Eroticism
• Erotic Arousal in Romance
• Pornography
• The Emptiness of Common “Love”
• Holy Matrimony: Real Love in Real Marriage
• The Call to Be Holy
• Freedom, Not Repression

 
Yes, God’s creation is good.

For You love all things that are
   and loathe nothing that You have made;
   for what You hated, You would not have fashioned.
And how could a thing remain, unless You willed it;
   or be preserved, had it not been called forth by You?
But You spare all things, because they are Yours,
   O LORD and lover of souls
   for Your imperishable spirit is in all things!

—Wisdom 11:24-12:1

Yet listen to what follows from this:

Therefore You rebuke offenders little by little, warn them,
   and remind them of the sins they are committing,
   that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in You,
      O LORD!

—Wisdom 12:2

 
The Call Away from Sin

God’s creation is good. God loves His creation. God created us to be good—to be capable of sharing in divine love. Knowing we have fallen into sin and disobedience, He still loves us. But does this mean that “anything goes” and that “everyone will go to heaven”? Well, no. God loves us by calling us out of our sins—the very offenses that separate souls from God in this life (and that separate souls from God eternally in hell) if they are not repented. When the Jews talked about God “wiping away sins,” they referred to God’s willingness to allow us to be reconciled to Him if we repented our sins. God’s willingness for reconciliation with us was later sealed with blood—Christ’s blood—as a contract, the New Covenant of Christianity.

Our part in this contract is to love God with all our mind, all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength.

Yet most Christians today love God only intellectually—with their minds—while their heart, soul, and strength is given over to the hope of feeling wanted and loved by the world. Oh, they love God, so they believe, but deep in their heart they are consumed by the lusts of the flesh.

Now, in regard to your question, nothing is “wrong with sex” in the context of Holy Matrimony, as long as it doesn’t degenerate into lust. Something, though, seems to be wrong with your theology. You’re confusing celibacy and chastity. Moreover, you’re mistaking desire for love. All desire, unless it is pure desire for divine love, is misplaced desire, and must be called back from its sins.

 
The Distinction Between Celibacy and Chastity

Celibacy refers to the state of being unmarried, whether through simple personal choice or by a formal vow; the celibacy of the priesthood goes back to Christ’s ministry: to His own example, and to the tradition carried on by His Apostles.

Chastity refers to abstinence from all sexual activity which is not open to procreation between a man and a woman within the indissoluble bond of Holy Matrimony and family. Chastity derives from the essential message of Christ’s preaching: that the Kingdom of Heaven is not of this world and renders meaningless all cultural and personal satisfactions.

 
Cultural Brainwashing

Our entire culture been duped by the entertainment industry, an industry that for decades has been working subversively through movies and television to destroy traditional Christian family values and to glamorize the sin of lust in our culture. For example, it may seem on the surface that “the woman” has been idealized, because she stands at the center of all erotic imagery, but the underlying motive has been to defile Christian feminine modesty, stripping the female body of its holy dignity and reducing it, often with violent overtones, to a soulless sex object.

The end result is that our secular culture worships sexuality as its goddess, and all Christians, even those with same-sex attractions, are surrounded with temptation to abandon their baptismal promises and to partake of the harlot’s allure.

Today, even Christians have been duped by the anti-Christian “progressive” liberal agenda of the entertainment industry into believing that sin is normal and acceptable and that sexual pleasure is necessary for our happiness. As a result, instead of taking personal responsibility to detach themselves from social illusions, many Christians willingly consume them, over and over.

You have been duped into believing that you can use your own body to heal your emotional despair, and so sin enslaves you even as you are told that sin does not exist. You have been duped by anti-Christian cultural brainwashing, and you don’t even realize it.

 
The Allure of Common “Love”

In today’s world, all human cultures have, in one way or another, been seduced us into believing that Satanic perversion (“Do what thou wilt”) is not Satanic at all, but that it is just an innocent matter of human freedom. Therefore we believe that we have the “right” to reach out and take what we want.

Thus common “love”—or romantic love—has an unholy allure, though it differs for men and women. Men experience an aggressive desire to devour: to take from the other what they want until, like an overinflated balloon, they explode with an orgasm. Women experience a desire to be desired. They enjoy the power and satisfaction of seduction—of making themselves seen and desired—until they experience an implosion of orgasmic relief for finally being possessed by the desire of an other.

But consider this more deeply. What does all of this mean, psychologically? Taking what you want—making yourself seen—having power—feeling desired—being possessed? Isn’t this all a compensation for feelings of inferiority, weakness, and vulnerability? It’s all an immediate way of getting something to overcome the emotional hurt of childhood insecurity. Romance, therefore, is a game, a way to even the score with the emotional pains of childhood.

True love, in contrast, is not a game—it’s reality raised to the level of the divine.

  

True love is far more difficult than common “love” because true love is given, not received—and certainly not made—and it must be given with no expectation or hope of getting anything in return.

  

   
Love is of the Spirit

Now, you could use comparative anthropology to document all the varieties of human sexuality throughout history, the pagan delight in eros (erotic passion), the different cultural origins of polygamy and monogamy, and even the primitive origins of matrimony in the Hieros Gamos between gods and women. But none of it means anything, really, because Christ instituted a new reality for us, a reality based not on the flesh but on the spirit,[1] a reality based not on finding personal satisfaction in a romantic desire for another person but on serving others through holy love.

My love so delights the soul that it destroys every other joy which can be expressed by man here below. The taste of Me extinguishes every other taste; My light blinds all who behold it . . .

—as told to Saint Catherine of Genoa
Spiritual Doctrine, Part III, Chapter VII

The theological proof of this mystical understanding is obvious: look as hard as you can, but you will never find a single reference in the New Testament to “romantic relationships.” Sexuality has a temporal value in regard to the sacrament of Holy Matrimony for the sake of raising a family in holy service to God, but it has no enduring place in the Kingdom of Heaven.

  

At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven.

  

—Matthew 22:30 

Real love is not self-indulgence. Real love does not plead with desperate, hollow eyes for recognition from an other. Real love never turns to hate. Real love never becomes a cult. Real love never ends.

Why? Because real love, as Saint Thomas Aquinas explained, is “to wish the good of someone.” [2] Real love is an act of will. Real love is, as Christ showed us through His personal example, total sacrifice of self for the sake of the salvation of others.

 
Eroticism

Eroticism has its basis in human survival. Our sexual organs have a natural, erotic potential so that primitive men and women would be inclined to copulate and reproduce. But this natural tendency is the result of Original sin, not of God’s original plan for humanity. So, as humanity matured, God gave us His commandments to protect us from the raw desires that make the body into a fetish, desires that cause us to see our reproductive organs as nothing more than the means to enjoy a raw pleasure severed from moral responsibility to the divine. Consequently, without God’s guidance, we are led by our desires far astray from the holy purpose God intends for us.

  

If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin on you today, loving him, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees, you will live and grow numerous, and the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy. If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen, but are led astray and adore and serve other gods, I tell you now that you will certainly perish.

  

—Deuteronomy 30:15-18a

And so, despite its glamorous portrayal in popular entertainment, eroticism is not love. Eroticism is not an expression of a man and a woman bonding into a family by their mutual love for God. Eroticism strips sexuality of its divinely intended function—reproduction—and reduces it to an exchange of using and being used. Eroticism is a form of idolatry—a body adoring a body, an expression of the lowest levels of desire—the allure of which resides in immediate, tangible gratification. Eroticism turns your heart away from God and leads you astray to serve the illusory glamor of lust.

Moreover, as the blatantly dark Satanic side of eroticism shows us, lust has at its core a rejection of the Holy and a desire for the domination and defilement of others. Consider the most common curse in contemporary society: “F*** you!” Does that give you a clue? Consider also that Satanic rituals are conducted in the nude. Does that give you another clue? Social nudity is not an experience of a “natural” truth of the body; it is not “honest,” and it does not mean that “nothing is hidden.” Instead, it uses the lure of bodily gratification to draw attention away from the truth of the soul and to defile the soul’s opportunity to grow pure in chaste love.

 
Erotic Arousal in Romance

Even the desire to erotically arouse another person in the context of romance is not an act of giving. The deep psychological truth is that such a desire masks a more hidden desire: to manipulate someone because you have been manipulated by others. That is, because you as a child felt the helplessness and resentment of being emotionally and physically manipulated by your parents, as an adult you will unconsciously compensate for this helplessness by seeking out ways to manipulate others. You can do this with wealth, you can do this with politics, you can do this with education, you can do this with social status, you can do this with physical strength, and you can do this with lust. Sad to say, therefore, the thrill of arousing lust in another person is really an act of self-serving power over that person.

Therefore, the unpleasant truth is that all sexuality not ordered to its natural function—reproduction— is predatory. It may seem that someone is “making love” but all he or she is doing is “feeding on” the erotic pleasure of another person. With reproduction taken out of the experience, all sexual acts becomes defiled as lust and reduced to an act of devouring.

 
Pornography

Pornography, in its own subtle way, derives from the urge to “use” someone for your pleasure because, as a child, you were “used” by others. On the surface, it may seem that pornography is simply about erotic pleasure. But when the human body is made into a biological toy, it is stripped of all human dignity, and this defilement is an act of aggression. The hostility may be unconscious or it may be openly violent, but, either way, it has its basis in resentment.

So, to whom is the resentment directed? Well, as in all things psychological, the resentment goes back to the parents. Deep down, under all the apparent excitement, and despite the attraction to what is seen, lurks the dark urge to hurt and insult—to get revenge for—what is behind the scenes: a mother who devoured, rejected, or abandoned, rather than nurtured, or a father who failed to teach, guide, and protect. Thus, when you feel resentment for feeling deprived—deprived of recognition, guidance, acceptance, resources, or time—you are drawn to pornography, and even though it may feel exciting, you are really defiling someone.

  

Have you ever wondered why you are drawn to pornography even though you know it is evil and can tell yourself that it is wrong? Well, it’s the revenge you crave—the subtle revenge of using others as you have been used. So long as your emotional pain and resentment stay hidden from your conscious awareness, you will be drawn to pornography through an unconscious and irresistible attraction.

  

Learn how to stop the urge to look at pornography 

 
The Emptiness of Common “Love”

  

O Lord, my boyfriend asked me to have sex, but I told him that sex is for marriage and family.

The Christian sacrament of Holy Matrimony protects the holiness of a living sexual activity (i.e., sexual activity that is open to procreation) within a marriage blessed by the Catholic Church, but all other sexual activity is just a dead, bartered transaction, an empty game, a form of narcissism which rejects the true love in which God created us. This narcissism consequently defiles the soul’s mystical union with God.

In this adulterous betrayal of God, common “love” does nothing except make your “partner” into an object of your own pleasure so as to seduce the despair of your own emptiness. Yet the price for using common “love” as a temporary escape from emptiness is everlasting emptiness itself: eternal separation from God.

The psychological proof of the emptiness of common “love” can be found in all botched “relationships”: what starts out sweet turns sour—that is, once your needs are not met, this common “love” suddenly switches into hatred and spite. But true love, as I said above, never turns to hate and never ends.

  

It’s simply impossible to fill our own bodily emptiness with an external presence. We can’t alleviate our emptiness with food, or cigarettes, or erotic fantasies, or sports, or entertainment, or anything else generated by our culture. Our lack can be filled only with the Body and Blood of Christ.

The Body of Christ is faith, by which we see the invisible Father in the visible appearance of bread. And the Blood of Christ is love, for there is no greater love than to shed your blood to save someone from destruction.

  

 
Holy Matrimony: Real Love in Real Marriage

Now, if you want a good image of Holy Matrimony, take a piece of string about a foot long and tie two small weights to the string, one weight on each end of the string. Then stretch the string out on a table. What happens? Nothing. All right. So now grasp the string in the middle and lift it straight up off the table—and, as the weights are lifted by the string, they will swing together. 

In a similar way, a marriage blessed by the Catholic Church is not made by a man and a woman drawing themselves together by their own efforts. Holy Matrimony is made when a man and a woman, through their mutual love for God, welcome Christ into their lives to lift them up into divine love and service. Holy Matrimony, therefore, never ends because it does not begin in the individuals—it begins in the eternally enduring covenant of love between God and humanity.[3]

Read more about Jesus’ teachings on matrimony 

 
The Call to Be Holy

And, believe it or not, that eternally enduring covenant of love is what the call to Christianity is all about, whether in Holy Matrimony or in celibacy. As Christ emptied Himself in order to become human—to bring forgiveness and to show us love—so we must empty ourselves of all that is not love in order to be drawn up into divine love, to become holy, and to lead others to holiness. Be holy, for I am holy (Leviticus 11:45, 19:2, 20:7; 1 Peter 1:16; cf. Matthew 5:48).

  

Do you think that God’s commands are some arbitrary set of rules created by dictatorial whim? The commands flow from love, to protect us from defiling love.

When Saint Paul warned us that by works of the law no one will be justified he meant simply that justification—that is, redemption—is not a magical process. A mere legal or ritual act, performed simply as an act, has no meaning. Justification is about love on God’s part for our sake, and our response to that love has to come from the heart. Even the celebration of the Eucharist is not a mere act—it’s a liturgical act, the work of the people. And it is hard work.

The proof is in Christ Himself. “Love one another as I have loved you,” He said. Did He cheat us, lie to us, kill unborn children, or desire the death of His enemies? Did He use us for His sexual pleasure or to find “self-fulfillment”? No. Instead He suffered for us, as an act of mercy. In His Passion He showed us what love is—and what it has always been: a call away from sin into holiness. And then He called us to live a life of love, within Him, free from our own identities. Thus Paul says, I have been crucified with Christ, and the life I live now is not my own.

  

 
Freedom, not Repression

The mystics learned this lesson of the call to be holy, and they learned something else, too. They learned from personal experience that, just as the Apostles preached, you only come to understand the truth of these things by submitting to them. It’s freedom, not repression.

  

My brothers, remember that you have been called to live in freedom—but not a freedom that gives free rein to the flesh.

  

—Galatians 5:13

So if you aren’t willing to give up everything—including any sexual “identity”—you are holding back something from your service to God. You’re trying to serve two masters, as it were, and thus you cut yourself off from receiving all the graces God has to offer for the sake of your salvation. Sadly, if you withhold anything—whether it be eroticism, or wealth, or power, or intellectual presumption, or even the pride of wanting revenge on those who hurt you—from the work of your spiritual purification, there will always be in your heart some dark selfishness which resists true love and holds you in slavery to disobedience.

  

Esau sold his birthright for a serving of stew (Genesis 25: 29–34), and many Christians today are just as willing to sell their birthright—their baptismal birthright—for an orgasm.

  

That’s why a culture of sex—in which reproductive sexuality has been stripped of its life—dooms itself to being a culture of death.

Read an opinion of dissent . . .

 

Who wrote this web page?
 

Notes.

1. That is, the body does not have meaning in itself; the body has meaning in its being the temple of the Holy Spirit.

2. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica. I-II, 26, 4.

3. See, for example, Isaiah (54:4-8; 62:1-12), Jeremiah (32:36-41), Ezekiel (16:1-63), Hosea (2:4-25), and the Song of Songs. The writers of these works all use motifs of the pagan eros, easily understood by the secular cultures to whom they wrote, to explain God’s love for Israel.

 


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Where Catholic therapy (Catholic psychotherapy) is explained according to Catholic psychology in the tradition of the Catholic mystics.