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The Holy Father admonished visiting American bishops that the Church needed to better explain its teachings on sexuality because the true Christian sexual moral teachings are "a source of genuine freedom, happiness and fulfillment of our fundamental and innate human vocation to love... The richness of this vision is more sound and appealing than the permissive ideologies exalted in some quarters."
We all need to take this admonition seriously by applying ourselves to teaching the truth about sexuality, both in religious education and from the pulpit; this includes the teachings on masturbation, sex outside marriage, adultery, divorce, same-sex attraction, gender identity disorder, contraception, reproductive technologies, and abortion. We are not doing the faithful any favor by withholding this information. The negative consequences of failing in these areas remain even if the person involved did not understand that what they were doing was wrong.
The media is pushing sexual sin non-stop; we have to ramp up our counter arguments. There are several ways of doing this. We need to employ them all.
First, the faithful need to know what is a sin and what is a merely a temptation to sin. Pastors and teachers are often afraid to do this because they are afraid that those who are listening are going to feel condemned. For this reason, the teaching on sexual sin must be accompanied by a proclamation of God's mercy, frank recognition of the many temptations involved, encouragement to struggle against persistent faults in this area and to begin again, the creation of support groups for those who have struggled and failed, and easy access to frequent confession -- 3:30 to 4:30 on Saturday afternoon before Mass is not enough.
Second, the teachings on sexuality are not a thing apart, but integral to the entire Gospel. Sexual relations are appropriate only within marriage, because marriage is a sign of Christ's love for Church, which is faithful, exclusive, permanent, and fruitful. The faithful need to constantly be reminded of the deep mysteries of sexual love as designed by God as a sign of his love, for the good of persons, and for the binding together of husband, wife, and children.
Third, as soon as they are ready children need to understand the theology of the body. John Paul II's "Love and Responsibility" needs to be taught -- simplified of course. It is the pattern for all love stories. Children and teenagers need to know what true love is, to know that they are not to allow themselves to be treated as objects of use or to use others.
Fourth, teaching on the positive good of marriage and family and chaste celibacy needs to be balanced with clear teachings on the negative consequences of sexual sin. In this area we can use the massive evidence that science provides.
I have spent 30 years studying the effects of sexual sin on the human person, and I can say with great confidence that if God says something is wrong, I can show you the evidence to prove that he is right. Not that sexual sin is wrong because of the consequences, but because it is contrary to the true law of love, the consequences will always be bad.
The problem, of course, is that in the beginning it seems so good. For example, the Church has clearly taught that donation for artificial insemination is wrong. While it may seem like a perfectly harmless way of solving the problem of infertility for a couple who desperately desires a baby, using another man's sperm to achieve that end is committing reproductive adultery. However, when the cuddly baby is born, people often ask: Where is the harm? Unfortunately, it takes a generation for the harm to become apparent. The children conceived by artificial insemination donor are now grown up and registering protests against how they were conceived. Even if they weren't told, many knew that something was wrong. They felt they were not true members of their family, and they want to know who their fathers are and where is the other half of their heritage?
Elizabeth Marquardt, Norval Glenn, and Karen Clark have published a study of adults conceived by artificial insemination donor entitled "My Daddy's Name is Donor" and found they suffered from many problems. According to the report, "Nearly half are disturbed that money was involved in their conception. More than half say that when they see someone who resembles them they wonder if they are related. Almost as many say they have feared being attracted to or having sexual relations with someone to whom they are unknowingly related. Approximately two-thirds affirm the right of donor offspring to know the truth about their origins. And about half of donor offspring have concerns about or serious objections to donor conception itself, even when parents tell their children the truth."
We just can't outsmart God.
Dale O'Leary is an internationally recognized lecturer and author of "The Gender Agenda: Redefining Equality."