When Sex Isn’t About Sex: 3 Things You Need to Know

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The Church’s teachings on sex and love are among most provocative and the least understood things in Catholicism.  What difference does it make what we do in the bedroom?  Does God really care about our sex lives that much?

St John Paul’s Theology of the Body reminds us that the Church’s teachings on love and sex aren’t just about sex, they are ultimately the way that lay people can give their whole selves–soul, mind, and body–to Christ.  Because of the incarnation, Christianity is an embodied spirituality that has to be expressed not just spiritually or mentally, but concretely and physically.  Just like clergy and religious practice celibacy as a way of giving themselves totally and completely to God, living the Catholic vision of love and sex is the way lay Christians can make a total loving response to Jesus giving himself to us body, blood, soul, and divinity. God holds nothing back from us, even taking on a body so that we could feel his love more concretely. How can we hold anything back from Him. God doesn’t just deserve our minds and hearts. He deserves for us to dedicate our bodies to his service. Living the Catholic vision of love isn’t always easy, but it is a privilege that lets us make an embodied response to Christ’s gift of his body to us.

Whether you’re a life-long Catholic or just learning about the faith, there are three things that you may not have known about the Church’s teaching on sex and sexuality!

1. Your Body is A Prayer–Most people tend to think that as long as they pray and go to church, what they do with their bodies doesn’t really matter.  But this belief is a heresy called gnosticism.  Gnosticism is the disembodied spirituality that grew up alongside of Christianity but has always been rejected by the Church since the beginning. God created our bodies. He pronounced them good. He loves our bodies so much that he plans to save not just our souls but our bodies too, that’s what believing in the resurrection of the body means! For the Christian, the body isn’t just something we can choose to do with as we please. It is a prayer, that allows us to be God’s physical presence in the world.  When we use our bodies in ways that God didn’t intend, its like defacing the image of God. Treat your body like the prayer it is. Dedicate yourself to learning how to use your body to love others only in the ways that respect God design of your body and the godly purpose of your body–that is, to bring his free, total, faithful, and fruitful love to the world.

2. Your Body Requires Healing–Most people recognize the value of diet and exercise.  These things are hard, and often, not a lot of fun, but we do them because we recognize that our bodies don’t always tell us what is best for them. Because of sin, our body’s desires are out of whack with reality. If we give our body whatever it says it wants when it says it wants it, we’ll become sluggish and unhealthy.  But if that’s true in the way our body’s express its appetites for food and for rest, isn’t it the same with the way our body expresses its appetite for love?  The desires for food, rest, and love aren’t bad, but sin makes the body want to express those desires in ways that are bad for us and others, and can even make us sick. Like a healthy diet and exercise, practicing Catholic teachings about love and sex bears tremendous benefits.  Maintaining a healthy diet teaches us to eat well.  Maintaining a healthy exercise schedule trains our bodies to move well.  And practicing the Catholic vision of love heals our body so that it can love well.  Our bodies require healing to be as whole and healthy as God created them to be.  Let God give you the healing you need to live and love more abundantly.

3. Your Body is a Gift–We tend to think that what we do with our body is entirely personal. That’s why so many people believe the pro-abortion statement, “My body, my choice.” But the Christian knows that our body is meant to be a gift. We were given our bodies not to do whatever WE want with them, but so that we can work for the good of other people. Each one of us is, literally, God’s gift to the world, and our bodies are the means of communicating that gift. If you wanted to give someone a gift, would you just throw it at them? Or try to shame them into accepting it at some inappropriate time? Or just leave it laying around? Of course not! You’d look for just the right way, just the right time, to give the person you loved your gift in a way that would be really meaningful. Not just once, but EVERY time you gave them a gift. Practicing the Catholic vision of love allows you to pick the right way, the right time, and the right means by which to give the gift of yourself in the most meaningful and beautiful way to the person you love. Your body is a gift. Practice the Catholic vision of love and learn to appreciate it for the gift it is.

For more information on the Church’s teaching on sex and sexuality, check out my book, Holy Sex! and discover many more resources—including information about Catholic counseling services—at www.CatholicCounselors.com

Does My Husband Have a Right to Sex?

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On her Facebook page, Rose Sweet, who has a wonderful ministry to divorced Catholics, posted the troubling story of a woman whose husband was cheating on her.  The couple’s pastor counseled the wife that her decision to place a moratorium on her sexual relationship with her husband as long as he was cheating on him actually placed an undue burden on her cheating husband and was driving him away further in part, because sex is a “right” of marriage.

A little clarification might be in order. Yes, according to the Church, sex is a “right” of marriage. But the Church defines “right” a little differently than the world does.

To say that sex is a “right” of marriage means that marriage is the right place for people to have sex. It does not mean you have a license to demand sex no matter what.

Marriage is the normative–that is, “right”–place for sexual love to be expressed between a man and a woman. Assuming a healthy, loving respectful relationship, this is true. It is also true, as St. John Paul observed that a couple who does not love, respect and cherish each other could very well commit the sin of adultery even in marriage by using each other as objects rather than loving each other as persons.

Assuming you have a healthy, loving, cherishing relationship, marriage is the right place for sexual love to be shared. If you don’t have that kind of marriage, then you have a right to stop having sex and start learning how to actually love each other.

Older texts on moral theology and canon law tend to use words like “right” and “marital debt” when discussing sex.  These words are technical terms and taking them at face value can lead to a lot of problems.

Properly understood, referring to sex as a debt that husbands and wives owe to each other means that, in a loving marriage, loving spouses do not have a right to withhold sex from each other.  As St Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 7:5

The husband should fulfill his duty toward his wife, and likewise the wife toward her husband. A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife. Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another….

All of this means that marriage is the right place for sexual love to be expressed–assuming the couple is living their marriage as the Church defines it. Namely, as an “intimate partnership.” (c.f., Gaudium et Spes).

But there is a deeper debt the married couple owes to each other that precedes sexual union. They owe each other the love, respect, cherishing that characterized their dating relationship—the relationship that continues to serve as the foundation for their marriage. Sex, if you will, is the house that sits on this foundation of love, respect, and cherishing. If the “foundation” (love, respect, and cherishing)  is bad, the “house” (sex)  is unsafe to live in. Why? Because if love, respect, and cherishing are absent, sex stops being sex and becomes mere lust and using. Marriage is no place for lust and use.

No one has a right to abuse someone else. No one owes someone else the “debt” of using them.

To discover more about how you can live the Catholic vision of love and sex in ways that are healthy and fulfilling, check out Holy Sex: The Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving.

The Common Pill That Negatively Effects Women’s Wellbeing

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In the secular world, birth control is essentially represented as a worry-free form of contraception. However, new research suggests that this may not be the case.

Dr Niklas Zethraeus, a scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, stated, “Despite the fact that an estimated 100 million women around the world use contraceptive pills we know surprisingly little today about the pill’s effect on women’s health.” This fact prompted the study of 340 healthy women between the ages of 18 and 25, divided equally into two groups: a group who took a combination of ethinylestradiol and levonorgestre and a control group who received a placebo.

The results of this study indicated that the women who took a combination of ethinylestradiol and levonorgestre (a common combination for contraception pills) reported lower mood, self-control, and energy. While there was not a significant difference in risk of depression when compared to the control group, the remaining negative side effects were undeniable. Moreover, after three months, women taking the pill reported a general lower quality of life.

For more information on how you can celebrate a healthier, more intimate and graceful approach to sex, marriage. and family planning, check out Holy Sex! and tune in to More2Life, Monday-Friday 10am E/9am C, on EWTN Global Catholic Radio – SiriusXM 139

Emily Litella Says, “There’s NO WAY Gay Marriage Will Lead to Polyamory/Polygamy!”

So, just last May 2012, gay advocate, Jonathan Rauch argued on NPR that the thought that same-sex marriage could possibly lead to mainstream acceptance of polyamory/polygamy was ridiculous.

Rauch:  Same sex marriage leads away from polygamy, not for it. It’s odd to argue that because children need parents, you should be against polygamy. That’s one of the arguments polygamists make – that, you know, you have more moms and a dad. Isn’t that great? In fact, the problem with polygamy is exactly what’s good about same-sex marriage, which is that everyone should have the opportunity to marry.

We are not asking, gay marriage advocates, for the right to marry everybody or anybody, just to marry somebody. We’re asking to have that opportunity. The problem with polygamy, historically, and there’s tons of literature about this, Michel – polygamy is the oldest form of marriage and the most predominant form of marriage in human society – the problem with it is that it almost invariably means one man, multiple wives, and when one man takes two wives, some other man gets no wife.

So a lot of people lose the opportunity to marry and you get societies where you’ve got a lot of unmarried young males who are very unhappy, a lot of social disruption, a lot of violence. And there’s a whole academic literature on this. Gay marriage changes none of that. In fact, gay marriage leads us away from that to a society where everyone can marry.

This weekend, CNN pulled an Emily Litella and said, “Never mind.”

It’s not just a fling or a phase for them. It’s an identity. They want to show that polyamory can be a viable alternative to monogamy, even for middle-class, suburban families with children, jobs and house notes.

“We’re not trying to say that monogamy is bad,” said Billy Holder, a 36-year-old carpenter who works at a university in Atlanta. “We’re trying to promote the fact that everyone has a right to develop a relationship structure that works for them.”

For the Holder-Mullins triad, polyamory is three adults living in the same home about 20 miles south of Atlanta. They share bills, housework and childcare for their 9-year-old daughter. They work at the same place, sharing carpooling duties so someone can see their daughter off to school each day.  MORE