[ CathNews Discussion Board ]
    Reclaiming the moral high ground on human sexuality II
    Posted by BrianC on November 14, 2002, 11:12 pm

Dear all,

This is the first of what I expect will be an extended series of posts written as a follow-up to my post "Reclaiming the moral high ground on human sexuality" [November 12, 2002, 8.00am]. I welcome criticism and reflection on what I am seeking to explore here on the way through. At the conclusion of this post I have outlined what I expect the general subject area I hope to cover in at least the next three posts.


The debate on the board in recent days, principally between Maggie and a lot of other people, while highly invigorating, seems not to allow for any easy answers. My personal preference is not so much conditioned by any increased desire to enjoy the benefits of the flesh, but comes from long and deep reflection on trying to understand what God might have been up to when he created human sexuality as we have come to know it. Men and women were created with a complexity of physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual attributes that interact with one another in a non-simplistic way.

If God was only interested in the procreative aspect I am sure he could have come up with some other arrangement which was about as clinical an operation as going to an automatic teller machine to make babies. I simply do not believe that God created all the pleasurable aspects of sex simply to "test" or "tempt" human beings though that is the approach that some in the Church would seem to be putting forward. Furthermore, I suggest that it has tended to be the historical view with which sex has been viewed at the official level in the Church and particularly so before about 1850 when the modern teaching on sexuality began to emerge.

Maggie seems to put forward a view that if the Church relaxes her traditional views that society will fall to pieces. Others on the conservative side seem to argue that the cause of many of the social problems today has occurred because of a weakening of the moral strictures concerning sexual conduct and increasing licentiousness in society. While I think there is some truth in that, I think it is way too simplistic a way of understanding what has been occurring.

It is true that the sexual passions have enormous commercial value as well as a procreative and unitive function. An awful lot of people make an awful lot of money through trying to encourage licentiousness and they have no moral scruples whatsoever as to what they will do in their endeavours to make money through encouraging people to indulge their passions at the very shallowest level. Even in a society without any theological thinking this would be an enormous problem and some sort of civil regulation would be required in much the same way that society regulates real estate agents, travel agents, hotel keepers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, or just ordinary "corner store" commerce. Quite apart from God, society for its own good obviously requires some regulation either by statute or by social custom of the limits to the freedom we have as individuals to freely exhibit and indulge our sexual desires.

It does need to be observed though that it is not so much the sex act itself that causes all the difficulties but it is more the other human passions such as jealousy and envy that are unleashed as the tandem to sexual relationship. It is also the consequences particularly of having a large population of unwanted children. In the time before modern methods of contraception, the problems caused by a large population of children conceived not in love but as an unwelcome by-product of passion was infinitely greater than it is today. Indeed, it may have been the single greatest reason why the social customs and laws (concerning sexual behaviour and institutions such as marriage) we have all become so used to originally evolved.

I write all the foregoing only to illustrate that human sexuality carries with it a whole host of matters that need to be considered quite outside any theological considerations i.e. that need to be considered purely from the point of view of what God might want of us.

Discussing the subject in this way also helps us to perhaps move to a better understanding of what the purely moral and theological considerations in the subject might be. Part of the problem when this subject comes up for discussion is that there is a tendency to drag God in to try and bolster arguments that really ought to be treated purely as secular matters of social utility and regulation. One could argue even that it is the dragging of God into various arenas that makes those subjects controversial.

In my next post I would like to break apart further what I have written here to discuss the purely temporal considerations concerning the consequences of sexual acts. What I am endeavouring to do in approaching the subject in this way is to leave standing in stark relief the considerations which, it seems to me, ARE important in the theological realm. In other words to draw into stark relief the considerations of misuse of our sexuality that do begin to impinge on the relationship of the individual, and the community, with God, the Mystery at the heart of life.

In a fourth post I would like to raise for discussion the practical ways in which the Church might call the world back to a more balanced and intelligent understanding of the sexuality considerations that are important in our lives and in specifically the sixth commandment sense. I have already telegraphed in my first post, that I think a large part of this will be achieved by a renewed discussion not so much actually in the area of sexual morality. Rather, it needs to be in all the other areas of morality that seem to have been neglected while there has been this infatuation with sixth commandment morality almost to the exclusion of all other forms of sin. The discussion of sixth commandment morality will be, I suggest, brought into this wider discussion of ALL morality and, in this process will be brought back into much better balance in society.

I should point out that what I intend to write is not going to be a theological treatise extensively quoting this and that Church document to validate the views I am putting forward. I certainly do welcome that input from others who do have ready access to that knowledge and who can use it in an authoritative way. The perspective I am writing from is of a person with a lengthy experience in what was a very happy marriage until external events brought it crashing to the ground in the space of about four months. I am also writing from my perspective of the father of now young adult children and who has been watching the difficulties they have had in this area in the contemporary world. My own position of enforced celibacy over the last ten years has also provided an interesting place from which to reflect on some of the issues. I appreciate that my viewing platform might not be an ideal one but I do think I should be honest in disclosing at least some of the larger parameters that define it.

[I intend writing these further reflections over a period of days rather than hours following reflection on the issues involved in each case and allowing for any discussion, and tangents, that are thrown up by the board.]