How important is sex?
Before beginning our discussion on the morality of sexual behaviour, the real significance of sexuality must be understood and admitted. Man is much more than a biological creature like the animals. He has many dimensions to his being. He can choose the object of his affections, and he can use his sexuality, not blindly but freely, as an expression of adult love.
To achieve happiness, as distinct from passing pleasure, in the expression of this love, a person must know how to consider his own pleasure as secondary, and he must know how to control his natural desires in the interest of the person loved. In other words, for true effectiveness, the sexual urge must be combined with an unselfish love.
Marriage is a sharing of lives – of joys, of sorrows, of problems. One no longer walks alone. One has a partner, a companion, to comfort, encourage and inspire along life’s road. Problems of adjustment are inevitable, but the final result is a fulfilment and a happiness that makes all the efforts worthwhile. Monogamy, the norm of our society, is the only form of marriage which truly satisfies the needs of human beings, and the relationship between man and wife brings out all that is best in each. The constant maturing of their love through sharing life’s experience, particularly in rearing of their children, is not the least of the blessings that come from their love.
This understanding of the place of sex in the marriage of lovers should be understood by all couples who love each other. Their love means much more than: “I want pleasure through you.” It means: “I want to be united to you, not only physically, but in every possible way.” In the right circumstances, the quality of this experience is deep and enriching.
Where the true value of sexuality is recognized, the possibility of good and evil attached to it is also recognized. It is because sex is regarded as something insignificant and unimportant and as being separate from and unaffected by our ordinary lives, that the moral sense of guilt is fast disappearing from society in connection with its misuse. No-one feels guilty about anything that is unimportant. If sex is regarded as something to be indulged in solely for pleasure or entertainment or recreation, then naturally its value is not high enough to associate sin with it.
The sexual act is of tremendous importance. Human life, the most precious thing on earth, cannot be generated in any other natural way. Furthermore, as children can only be reared to perfection by loving parents, sexual intercourse helps to make two people into one. It is an act of total self-giving. It is a part of conjugal love, that love by means of which husband and wife become one only heart and one only soul and together attain their human perfection.
And so it is precisely because of the importance of sex that we dare associate it with guilt and sin. Anyone who sees no guilt in breaking the laws of God and the established rules of society in sex matters is confessing that, for him, sex is without significance. For where value disappears, so do good and evil, right and wrong. The traditional prohibitions against fornication and adultery were based on a proper understanding of the rights and needs of children and of the value of sex in people’s lives. This understanding needs to be recaptured in our own times.