~Catechism of the Catholic Church #2363
We need to teach our children this vitally important message. Sex is a good that must be protected
by the virtue of chastity. Let’s look at an analogy to illustrate the relationship between the goodness of sex and the necessity of chastity.
Fire is extremely good. It provides heat that we need for survival as well as for comfort. It cooks our food. It provides energy and light that we have become so dependent on to run our lives. Yet, when it gets out of control there is nothing more destructive than fire. Fire can destroy and kill. We tell children not to play with fire for that very reason.
Yet, the young are very curious about fire, aren’t they? They always want to touch the hot frying pan or to play with matches or to put sticks in the campfire. They need to be taught by loving adults that fire must be surrounded by some form of protection and that is has to be respected. They have to learn how to manage fire carefully and maturely. Then, when they’re old enough to show respect and self-discipline, they can begin to use fire properly and benefit from its goodness.
The genital sexual expression of love is an even greater good than fire. That is why it has to be surrounded by the protection of marriage. Within marriage, the sexual act can achieve its two ends; the bonding of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. Under the security of marriage, the love of the spouses can nurture the family and help it flourish. As the love of the spouses deepens, so does the experience of respect, service and charity within the family. This rich tenderness perfects each member of the family so that they can embrace God more deeply and more perfectly. Now that’s power.
Sexual expression that is sheltered by marriage and that retains the union of love and life is like a well-controlled fire. Its power is harnessed and focused for good. It is capable of becoming noble and honorable. It is a source of joy and pleasure (CCC 2362). Unfortunately, sexual love that is focused only on the intensity of emotions and pleasurable experiences is like a fire that goes out of control. Its power becomes destructive.
We have seen the destructive power of sex outside of marriage and are just becoming aware of the dangers of separating the two natural purposes of the sexual act. Sex outside of marriage has led to a steep increase in single parenting and to an overwhelming number of abortions. It has contributed to an increase in divorce and to a rise in depression. In addition, the separation of the life-giving nature from the love-giving nature has impacted our health and well-being. The broad acceptance of contraception has been tied to an upsurge in cancer, cardiovascular disease and infertility. It has also been linked to an increase in pornography and a growing disregard for women. Finally, the separation of the creation of life from the sexual act itself has made it possible for the establishment of numerous reproductive technologies that have directly resulted in the creation of hundreds of thousands of embryos that are frozen in storage. These babies are treated as manufactured products and have been denied their right to be conceived in an environment of love through an act of love.
Anytime that the sexual act is detached from marriage it loses its goodness and sanctity. Any time that love and life are disconnected in the sexual act, harm becomes a likely outcome. And, every time that the sexual act is separated from love and life it is devalued and degraded. In all of these cases, the sexual act can give rise to selfishness where people use each other for the sake of pleasure. Instead of creating the beauty of family, it can create the hardship of single motherhood, abortion, broken hearts and broken relationships. And, just as with fire that is allowed to burn outside of any protection or respect, the sexual act unleashes its power for ruin.
That’s why loving adults need to teach young people to exercise the virtue of chastity which upholds the integrity of the gift of sex. Chastity maintains the two purposes of the sexual act under the mantel of marriage. It is the virtue that ensures that the genital expression of love always communicates, “I love you so much that I promise to spend the rest of my life with you and raise a family together.” If the act of sex communicates anything less than this, it is like fire burning out of control. All young people need to hear this explanation before they get burned. This message matters.
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