Church's treasure of sexual teaching is a gift to the world


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January 16, 2012

Basilian Father Jack Gallagher has written an important book that challenges both Church and society (Pages 10 and 11). The challenge to society is to overcome its individualistic approach to sexual morality that has separated procreation from marriage. The challenge to the Church is to be more forthright in presenting its teaching on sexuality and marriage that is the only real hope for society to avoid collapse and ruin.

Gallagher doesn't mince words in his book, Human Sexuality and Christian Marriage: An Ethical Study. Evidence abounds, he says, indicating that the direction in which society is moving regarding sex and marriage is disastrous for both individuals and society itself.

In its increasing acceptance of cohabitation prior to marriage and of widespread divorce, society is undermining its own ability to raise children who have the sense of personal security and self-worth to develop into mature adults.

Along with society's acceptance of contraception comes a social norm that says marriage is not about openness to new life, but about the parents' right to decide the number of children they will accept. From there, it has not been a large step to a notion of "family diversity" in which any relationship among sexually active adults is seen as "equivalent to marriage."

Forgotten are the children. Children are the main victims when marriage and cohabiting relationships break up. The future of society is the victim when the number of offspring does not even maintain the current population. Schools are closed; streets are silent; the dwindling number of the young bear the burden of caring for the increasing number of elderly.

Such a society is inordinately self-focused. The individual comes before the relationship and, for the individual, pleasure and self-fulfillment are the primary values.

The way out of this morass, Gallagher says, is through Catholic teaching on marriage and sexuality. God created man and woman, not for themselves, but for each other. The family is the foundation of society because marriage is oriented outwards to the common good.

However, just at the time when Catholic teaching in this area is most needed, Catholics have abandoned that teaching in droves. Gallagher cites a 1992 survey that showed that in the U.S. moral acceptance of premarital sex and contraception is actually higher among Catholics than in the general population.

The Catholic Church is sometimes accused of talking too much about sex. The reverse is true. The Church does not talk about its teachings in this area anywhere near enough. We have a treasure to offer society, a way out of its current crisis. It is past time that we proclaimed that teaching with much greater fervour. Society's future depends on it.