You don’t need me to tell you that the family is under attack. As you look around, you also see our society crumbling. These go hand in hand. “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live,” famously said soon-to-be Saint John Paul the Great.
I contend and will attempt to show such consequences are the natural result of not honoring the purpose of marriage and of sex.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE?
Holy Matrimony is a covenant, whereby a man and a woman commit themselves to a lifelong partnership that is ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring. When entered into by two baptized Christians, their union is elevated to the level of a Sacrament (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1601).
Let’s break that down.
Holy Matrimony is the best description of this Sacrament, and it means literally “the making of a mother.” And properly so. Matrimony requires a man and a woman, and no one else, for it to achieve its purpose.
Marriage is for the good of the spouses.
In the end, we will all die, and we will all enter either Heaven or hell. Thus, the purpose of this life is to determine which destination each of us will go. We know this, as Catholics. Well, Matrimony prepares us for Heaven. It requires us to die to ourselves in order to help our spouse. See my prior article, to better understand just what true love is.
Marriage is for the transmission of life.
God gives us the privilege to participate in the miracle of new life. He entrusts us (to mothers especially) the raising of His children. Parents must make sacrifices, so that their children can live. This is how parents grow all the more in the virtue of charity.
Children learn about the world through the prism of their family. They learn how to interact with the world, how to treat others, and what values are important. Parents hold great responsibility for outcome of their children.
So let us not forget where children come from…
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE CONJUGAL ACT?
The purpose of the conjugal act is for the procreation of children, and for the unity of the spouses.
“The spouses’ union (the conjugal act) achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family,” reads Catechism 2263.
Why? What is it about the act that requires it be done solely (or should we say ‘soul-ly’) between a man and a woman?
The Catechism provides the answer in section 2361. It explains that the conjugal act is not just biological. Let me repeat that, this time in simpler terms, because it seems lost on the majority of our culture: sex does not serve merely as a physical act.
Catechism 2361 adds that when people engage in the conjugal act, they are giving themselves to the other on a deeper, “integral” level—a spiritual level.
This is a crucial point to understand. The conjugal act serves as the exchange of persons, in their essence. That is what the Church teaches. This is no light matter.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CHILDREN EMERGES NOW IN THIS DISCUSSION
We all know where babies come from. But have you thought about it very deeply?
When a man and a woman truly love each other, God recognizes and honors their lifelong commitment to each other. God gives them a special (Sacramental) grace to fulfill their vow to each other. This is a sign of His fidelity to us, His people, and our fidelity to Him in return.
The married couple then is encouraged to give themselves completely to one another in the conjugal act as a perpetuating sign of their fidelity to one another. In other words, their conjugal acts are the ongoing, free exchange of their very persons… You know, like the Holy Trinity.
The conjugal act is sacred, precisely because that is where new life literally forms. Love can be so strong that it exactly is life-giving.
If God ever blesses a couple with a child of their own, it is within this context of great love for one another that He prefers to do it. This model is what children are supposed to learn and to emulate when they grow up.
Therefore, we can now better understand why the Church takes issue with attacks on the family, and why we must as well.
WHEN MARRIAGE, SEX, AND BABIES ARE NOT KEPT TOGETHER
Based on this understanding of conjugal love, let us examine briefly the common attacks on marriage and sex in our society these days.
Promiscuity, that is sex before marriage, tells a lie. It remains a grave sin. This because the actions of the body (engaging in the marital act when not actually married) do not match up with the attitude toward the act (See Catechism 2390). In other words, in that act, the body is giving itself away. Yet, because there is no commitment made prior, the action is a lie.
Promiscuity also seeks to gain the pleasure of the conjugal act from someone to whom the conjugal act is not due. To put it still another way, only one’s spouse has the right to sexually arouse someone.
Cohabitation is the living together, and sleeping together, of a couple who are not actually married. This too is a lie. Their actions in bed say they have made a commitment to each other, when in fact they have not. They have kept open the backdoor, in the event they decide they want to leave the relationship. This is not a “trial marriage,” since you cannot simulate commitment until you actually exchange “I do’s” (See Catechism 2391).
I dare not provide you a link to such a site, but there do exist websites where people can find married folks who desire to commit adultery on their spouses. Is there anything more twisted than that?
Matrimony is to be a sign of the fidelity of God to us. The Bible compares the love of husband and wife to that of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:23). Just as Christ laid down His life for us, husbands are to do the same for their wives (Ephesians 5:25). And just as the Church accepts Christ and submits to His will, so too a wife is to accept and to submit to her husband (Ephesians 5:22).
Adultery introduces a third party into the union and so disrupts the order of Matrimony. A husband and wife are to be sexually exclusive, and adultery violates the purpose of Matrimony, most obviously.
When a couple exchanges vows, they make a promise to love their spouse until death do them part. Therefore, divorce, which civilly ends the marriage prior to death, violates the purpose of marriage. Since marriage is a sign of the Covenant between God and man, it is akin to breaking our Covenant with the Creator.
Now, there may be permissible reasons to obtain a civil divorce, such as one or both spouses suffering abuse, but that does not remove the union in God’s eyes. Although a married couple may live apart, if they validly exchanged vows on their wedding day, then they remain wed until one spouse passes away.
We have touched on this in a prior post, but let us review.
Contraception attempts to disconnect the procreative purpose from the unitive purpose of the conjugal act. The resulting sexual act ceases to be an exchange of persons. This is because they are purposefully holding something back from the other.
Pope John Paul II goes on so far as to say that contraceptive sex is not love in actuality:
“In the conjugal act it is not licit to separate the unitive aspect from the procreative aspect, because both the one and the other pertain to the intimate truth of the conjugal act. The one is activated together with the other and in a certain sense the one by means of the other. This is what the encyclical teaches (cf. Humanae Vitae, 12). Therefore, in such a case the conjugal act, deprived of its interior truth because it is artificially deprived of its procreative capacity, ceases also to be an act of love” (General Audience of August 22, 1984, emphasis added).
If it is not an act of love, then what is contraceptive sex? It is the objectification of the other person. While they hold back their fertility, the couple still allows the other person to bring them sexual pleasure.
If the procreative power of the marital act can be removed from the unitive aspect, then what is the answer for those who conceive a child, against their efforts and wishes?
For anyone to even conceive causing a preborn child to die is a most egregious sin. To cause the death of one’s own preborn child means that the meaning of marriage, of sex, and of children is completely lost.
In Vitro Fertilization
As discussed in the post earlier this week, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) violates many morals on several fronts. For our purposes here, let us point out that IVF disconnects the procreative and unitive aspect of sex. Any resulting children are the product of laboratory technicians and the exchange of money. Not even close to a model of conjugal love.
Moreover, IVF practitioners play god by deciding which embryos live and which ones die. Rather than see children as a gift from Almighty God, in IVF children are seen as entitlements, or as commodities.
If this is true that children are mere fashion accessories, then why does the couple procuring a children in this manner need to be married? Why does it have to be a man and a woman? Why not same sex couples or single folks, or even a group of people?
I hope you can see that this unravels very quickly, once any one of the three elements of marriage, sex, and babies don’t go together.
Homosexual acts violate the purpose of sex, since, by definition, they are not ordered toward the generation of offspring. The complementarity of the sexes in God’s design points to the purpose of the sexual organs. This is all ignored in homosexuality. Instead, homosexual sex also remains a means to use each other for sexual satisfaction. This is not an act of love.
Direct sterilization, like contraception, violates the purpose of the conjugal act, as it is makes all acts unopened to life. In fact, by mutilating one’s body in this way, it tells God ‘no thank you’ to the beautiful design, and subsequent purpose, of one’s sexuality.
Did you realize this was the purpose of Matrimony?
Did you know the meaning of the conjugal act, or is this a new concept for you?
Do you agree that the attacks on marriage come from not understanding that marriage, sex, and babies are meant to go together?
Please leave a comment below!