Sex Matters: The Riches of the Catholic Sexual Tradition

The goodness of sex and marriage has always been defended by the catholic tradition. This has always been qualified with the concept of procreation, fidelity and unity. These are considered to be three goods and they have existed within the catholic tradition. However, as human history advances, so has the evolution of individual emphasis and understanding of good. The basic understanding of these goods can be summarized as procreation being the act of sex with the aim of having children, fidelity as the unity of the couples and unity as bringing the man and woman together as a couple.

As with all other Christians, the beliefs and understanding of God is based on the Bible and so are the conceptions about sexual ethics and the three goods in marriage. In the book of Genesis, the command that God gave Adam and Eve was that they go and multiply. With this regard, it is clear that God intended sex for procreation. The Unitive function of human sexuality is also seen in the book of Genesis. After creating all the animals on earth, God saw that there was no suitable companion for Adam.

This means that Adam could not only rely on himself as an individual but he could also not engage into any sexual intercourse with the other animals. There would not have been any need for god to create Eve if he would have permitted Adam to do whatever he desired, including having sex with other creatures. Having realized the complication that this would have led to, He subjected Adam to a deep sleep and created Eve. Adam thus had a companion and someone he could procreate with. The unitive nature of sex is also supported in the New Testament.

Ephesians 5 teaches that marriage between a man and woman is a worldly symbol of unity between Christ and the Church. This means that being married symbolizes that the couple are unified as one. Jesus also taught that divorce was not part of God’s plan but instead, it is an accommodation of man’s sinful ways (Mathew 19, Mark 10). If human beings were to follow the plans of God, then there would not be any divorce and the good of unity will thus be preserved. Faithfulness in marriage on the other hand supports and strengthens the good of unity besides keeping the couple focused on each other.

St. Augustine offered more depth and understanding on the meaning of procreation, fidelity and unity. He realized that the commandment of going forth and multiplying did not in any way mean to populate the earth. It also means raising and educating children so that they may also grow up to become meaningful people within the society. Sex for procreation is not a bad thing since it was commanded by God and such procreation is a product of sex. Looking at sex in this perspective makes it a good thing.

The unitive nature of sex also involves emotions as sex results in the unity between man and woman. Even in the absence of the intent to procreate, sex can still be good for the purpose of unity. Marriage offers the possibility of unity and the physical representation of this is sex. Adultery is avoided through fidelity which helps in keeping the unity between man and woman pure. A good partner will therefore use sex to relieve his or her partner’s uncontrolled sexual desires. Sex therefore becomes the source for fidelity as the desires are being met within marriage hence preventing adultery.

The good of fidelity is being strengthened by every act of sex and therefore, sex cannot be termed as improper or bad. With this regard, sex that does not entirely lead to procreation is still good. The couple must thus be open to procreation and it should not be used as a reason to obtain sex. Sex thus should not be basically for procreation even though procreation is the most fundamental and basic good of sex. Fidelity, unity and procreation can be seen within the notion of love. The love that is shared between a man and a woman provides the strength that is necessary for the good of unity.

The couple should not be looked at as individuals but as a couple. For the unitive good of sex to be achieved within marriage, love must exist between the couple. The bond of unity is strengthened by fidelity with fidelity and sex being an expression of love. Since love is the basic component of the good of unity, the unitive bond is strengthened by fidelity. Sex is good as well since it is the physical representation of both fidelity and love. Sex however should not be had only when the couple has procreation in mind.

With the advancement of technology and the changing conception about human sexuality, the church has continued to view sex and marriage within the context of fidelity, unity and procreation. The overall principles of these three goods have been maintained even though the Catholic Church has created some split on this view. Birth control is inherently forbidden even though natural family planning techniques are accepted since the couple is not preventing the possibility of the primary good of sex which is procreation.