Saturday, April 2, 2016

More on sex by a believing deacon

There are few subjects that draw more interest than sex. In light of a comment made on my previous post about sex I offer a few more thoughts.

Over the years here on Καθολικός διάκονος I have written a lot about various aspects of sex as it pertains to Church teaching and Christian living. In particular, I have written a great deal about Humanae Vitae. Again, before anyone uncorks and begins to offer me remediation on Church teaching regarding human sexuality, let me assure both of my readers that I personally try to adhere to the Church’s teaching and encourage others to do so because I believe it is the way for human beings to flourish.

My friend with whom I’ve been corresponding and who I mentioned in my last post on sex heard the homily, in which a robust denunciation of homosexuality and quite possibly people who are homosexual was offered, at a vulnerable point in his journey back to the Church, which journey began last summer.

While sex and procreation, according to nature and revelation, go together – though this link grows ever more tenuous, even among Catholics, including clergy - Humanae Vitae posits a “unitive” purpose for sex. This unitive aspect of sex is a progressive, one might even argue a revolutionary, element of Humanae Vitae, causing even some of a traditionalist bent to reject it. According to the unitive purpose, sex unifies a couple through physical intimacy. In this context, “physical intimacy” is something of a euphemism for sexual pleasure. I like that one of the most popular Christian books on marital sex bears the title Intended for Pleasure.

I am firmly convinced that it is no accident that sex feels so good. For my money sexual pleasure is the best pleasure to be had. Shocking, I know. I’ll take C.S. Lewis’ word for it that the pleasures of heaven are better than those of sex. Keep in mind, however, that Lewis wrote about the pleasures of marital sex in A Grief Observed in a very frank manner. It strikes me as silly to argue against extra-marital sex, no matter the variety, by insisting sex was not intended for pleasure. It's an argument with zero credibility that can easily be refuted by experience.

With the widespread acceptance of contraception as morally legitimate, again, even among Catholics, the matter becomes very confusing for many people because it renders Church teaching incoherent. Since I am a deacon who blogs as a deacon, it's interesting for me consider the witness of married permanent deacons when it comes to living according to Church teaching on matters of sex in marriage.

In his essay, “The Body’s Grace,” written years ago, Rowan Williams observed: “in a church which accepts the legitimacy of contraception, the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous texts, or on a problematic and non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures.”

While I would disagree with Williams about the ambiguity of all the biblical texts to which he alludes, while accepting the ambiguity of some, I certainly agree with his assertion about them being abstractly deployed by Christians who accept the moral legitimacy of contraception. I also agree with what he asserts about complementarity once procreation is severed from sexual intercourse. 

So, the confusion experienced by so many concerning Church teaching on homosexuality not only arises from “the world” but also arises from within the Church. Here's my view- until we’re ready to adequately prepare couples to live the sacrament of matrimony and to insist with the same intensity we bring to bear in railing against homosexuality (though I would hope for a more compassionate and pastoral approach than we often muster when addressing homosexuality) that married couples live the true meaning of marriage as taught by the Church, we ought to stop fearfully reacting to last summer’s SCOTUS ruling in Obergerfell and lay-off an incoherent approach that serves primarily to alienate people.


  1. Very good, thoughtful posts, Deacon Scott!

  2. Thanks, Ben. I think I managed to put-off the person to whom I was responding, but we need to quit dealing with sexuality as some kind rear-guard action and treating it in such a negative way.

  3. Thanks for your clarification, Deacon. :) Kathleen J


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