Thursday, November 3, 2016

Protecting What We Love

I live in Missouri, and like some of the other states that I have lived in, Missouri is a "castle" state. This means that citizens have the right to protect themselves if they genuinely believe that they or a member of their family are in danger in their own home. I am not going to get into the discussion about guns, but someone will likely ask so I will just say that it is not a safe society if law-abiding citizens are unable to defend and protect themselves. I have heard of cases where people have been punished for trying to protect themselves; when laws protect the guilty more than the innocent, something is wrong.

The principle that I am speaking about is clear to all: when we feel threatened, our (God-given) instinct is to protect ourselves. Few people really believe that it is wrong to protect yourself. We all know and understand the desire to guard those things that we love. This is why we have locked safes, door locks, security systems, and insurance policies; we know that it is good to create protections for those things that we value. Now, it is certainly possible that someone may have an obsession about something. There are those who put too much value on some objects, and too little on others. Yet, we all know that you place value on (and therefore wish to protect) those things that you love the most.

With that in mind, I would like to propose the idea that the Roman Catholic Church places so many rules on sexual activity precisely because she values it. Some have asked me why the Church "hates sex", and that always hurts when I hear that. If you hate something you do not seek to protect it. In fact, you would either let it go and ignore it or actually seek to destroy it. The Church has never behaved like this in regard to sexuality. Never do you find someone hiring armed guards to protect something that they detest. Hence, the Church--out of genuine and heartfelt love for God's gift to mankind of sex--has said "this and that behavior are destructive to sexuality and to the very dignity of humanity".

Take, for example, the Church's prohibition on sodomy. It has nothing to do with a hatred for those who have fallen into this grave sin, but rather just the opposite. Because the Church loves those who commit this sin, and also because the Church loves the action of pure and godly sexual activity, she has said "do not engage in this, for it is harmful". No one in their right mind would imagine that trying to keep something in its original purity is a sign of hatred or rejection of that thing (any more than someone would think that my refusal to allow someone to pour gasoline in my coffee is a sign that I hate coffee!).

This is also why the Church has strict rules on the Sacrament of Matrimony. Not because she hates or even just tolerates marriage, but rather because she loves it and does not want to see it abused. I cannot tell you how many times I have had someone tell me "if I had only followed the Church's rules on marriage I would not be in this mess". If all people were to love matrimony (as God has defined it) as much as the Church does, we would be less willing to try to choose our own way of doing things, and the end result would be far fewer divorces, far fewer abortions, far fewer broken families, and far fewer children who fall away from the faith.

The Church has been thinking about the boundaries of godly sexual activity for 2000 years (and she has learned much from our Jewish forefathers who had to deal with just as many perversions in their day that we do in ours), and in that time, she has never rejected sexuality. She has, rather, rejected abuses of godly sexuality. In fact, there are wonderful documents like Familiaris Consortio that outline the beauties and joys of God's orderly guidelines for family, marriage and sexuality. Never once does this document say that sex is a "bad" thing, or even that it is a "tolerable evil". No, the Church says that the "conjugal union" between husband and wife (only) is a beautiful gift of God, and it should protected and guarded to show that we appreciate the delicate and sacred nature of this gift.

It is true to say that the Church gives us rules because God has revealed to her what is best for us, but it is not the whole truth. It is also necessary for us to explain that the Church gives us rules because she loves us, and because she loves the things that God has given to us. There are no armed guards to protect marriages. There is no insurance policy to prevent sexual mistakes. There is only our willingness to listen to what Christ says to us through the Church. Parents, here this, you are responsible to teach your children what the Church says about sexuality in clear and definite terms. May we all commit ourselves to being faithful to what God has said.