Free love has nothing to do with authentic love

by: Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Last week, I made the case for how God hard-wired into the very act of sexual intercourse a meaning that is both life-giving and the physical expression of committed, faithful and enduring love. These two meanings are inseparable and complementary.

Sexual intercourse can only be truly authentic when a couple has committed their entire lives to each other. Many today have attempted to redefine the meaning of sexual intimacy as something less.
Some things are true regardless if we pretend they mean something else. We can pretend that candy, cookies and pizza are not fattening, but our waistline will prove otherwise. Trust me. I have tried it. We can say we do not believe in the law of gravity, but this is not going to protect us if we jump from an airplane without a parachute.

In a culture that is saturated by slickly packaged misinformation proposing that sexual intimacy is merely recreational or signifies only the most minimal of attachments to another, many individuals may be well-intentioned when they enter into nonmarital physically intimate relationships. While our misunderstanding may lessen our moral culpability, it will not protect us from the inevitable consequences of using the precious gift of our bodies in a manner for which they were not designed.

We have a plethora of physical evidence (epidemics of venereal disease and AIDS) as well as emotional and psychological evidence (anger, depression, impaired abilities to trust and many other symptoms of what is unscientifically referred to as “broken hearts”) that demonstrate the negative consequences of sexual activity outside of the marital covenant. Unless we do something to intervene with the healthy functioning of our bodies (e.g., oral contraceptives, condoms, vasectomy, tubal ligation, etc.), there is the potential built into our human physiology by its Designer (God) that each act of sexual intercourse can result in the conception of a new human life. There are also mounds of social science data confirming what most of us know intuitively: that the best environment for the healthy development of a child is in a family where a baby receives the love, support and guidance of a mother and a father.

Sexual intimacy outside of marriage is seriously sinful — not because God wants to deny us happiness, but because it is harmful to us and others. God ’s commandments are given to us for our good. The Commandments do not limit us from what is good but protect us from what is harmful and destructive.
Still the question remains: Even if sexual intimacy outside of marriage is morally wrong and harmful to our humanity, why is the use of artificial contraceptives not permitted for married couples? Or phrased another way: If a married couple is open to conceiving children during their marriage, why is it wrong to use contraception sometimes?

To answer that question in part, I quote from “Married Love and the Gift of Life,” a document issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last November:

“Some argue that if a husband and wife remain open to children throughout their marriage, they need not worry about using contraception occasionally. But practicing what is good most of the time does not justify doing what is wrong some of the time.

“Even if I see myself as a truthful person ‘on the whole,’ any occasional lie I tell is still a lie, and so is immoral. By such acts, I begin to make myself into the kind of person who lies. This is no less true when we falsify the ‘language of the body,’ speaking total love and acceptance of the other person while denying an essential part of that message.

“A couple need not desire or seek to have a child in each and every act of intercourse. And it is not wrong for couples to have intercourse even when they know the wife is naturally infertile . . . but they should never act to suppress or curtail the life-giving power given by God that is an integral part of what they pledged to each other in their marriage vows. This is what the Church means by saying that every act of intercourse must remain open to life and that contraception is objectively immoral. ”

Even within marriage a couple is not free to alter an essential element of the meaning of sexual intercourse. Sexual intimacy is designed to communicate openness both to life and love. Sexual intercourse can be trivialized even within marriage. Attempting to remove the possibility of conceiving new life alters the importance and the power of each and every expression of sexual intimacy.

The experience of the last 40 years has also shown us that once you change the meaning of sexual intimacy, it is impossible to restrict that redefinition to marriage. Remember that oral contraceptives were not promoted as a means to allow for sexual promiscuity outside of marriage, but to help married couples with legitimate concerns about the wisdom and advisability of having a child or another child at this moment in their marriage.

Yet, the unintended consequences that have, at least in part, emanated from the acceptance of artificial contraception include:
1) a dramatic increase in teen sexual activity;
2) many young adults choosing cohabitation instead of marriage;
3) an increase of marital infidelity;
4) efforts to redefine marriage so as to include same sex-relationships;
5) the legalization of prostitution in some countries;
6) the manufacturing of human life in laboratories; and
7) the acceptance of pornography as entertainment.

The Sexual Revolution promised “free love.” What was actually being promoted had nothing to do with authentic love, but everything to do with seeking physical pleasure while avoiding commitment and responsibility. What the experience of the past 40 years has demonstrated is that there are enormous personal and societal costs to what is neither free nor love.


Used by permission -
The Leaven, the newspaper for the Kansas City, KS archdiocese