To understand sex, we must understand God

Speaking to a meeting of Hasidic Jewish leaders on Sunday, New York GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino said, “I don’t … Continued

Speaking to a meeting of Hasidic Jewish leaders on Sunday, New York GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino said, “I don’t want [children] to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid or successful option” to heterosexuality.

Religious organizations and people frequently lead opposition to gay rights in the United States.

In the August ruling which overturned California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage, a witness asserted, “Religion is the chief obstacle for gay and lesbian political progress.”

Why does religion play such a central role in debates about homosexuality?

Religion plays a central role in debates about homosexuality because in order to understand sex, we have to understand something about God. And that’s true not only because he made it, but because sex, by its very nature, leads us beyond ourselves.

Society is not obsessed with sex. It is afraid of it…afraid of the total reality and power of what it represents, where it comes from, and where it leads. Sex properly understood requires that we acknowledge God who made it. More than that, sex can never be separated from its purpose: to insert us into an immense, powerful movement of life and love that started when God said “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3) and culminates when the Spirit and the Bride say “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:17).

Sex is deeply symbolic. It is a language that speaks of things beyond sight and feeling. Many think of the church’s teaching about sex as “You cannot do it except in a marriage between a man and a woman, and when open to life.” That is true, but the fuller understanding of why this is true comes when we can see that sexual activity means so much that it is wrong to diminish its message or deny its full reality. It belongs in the context of committed love (sealed by marriage) and openness to life precisely because this is the only context great enough to hold its message and reflect the greater reality to which the gift of sexuality directs and commits us. The teaching is not just that it is wrong to have sex in certain circumstances. The teaching is that it is wrong to run away from the full reality of sex. It is wrong to think we have the kind of control that can change that reality to suit ourselves.

Religion is needed both to help us understand the deepest meaning of sex and to sustain us with the strength we need to embrace and live that meaning. Sex is an extremely powerful force, and never a neutral one. Either it serves life, or it serves death. When it results in the conception and birth of new life, its fruit can be the highest joy of earth. On the other hand, sex can lead to sexually transmitted diseases, sometimes fatal, or to the act of destroying new life by abortion.

Because sex ultimately involves issues of life and death, religion will always play a central role in any discussion of it.

  • Secular

    Sex is like any other biological activity, such as eating, excreting, etc, etc. It has no intrinsically special meaning to it. As we, humans are planning animals, unlike the other animals thanks to our huge cranium, we need to take into account the consequences of sex. Just like we take into account how much we eat, what we eat and so on. Other than that sex has like most human activities has no intrinsic sacred anything. The value it has is what we attach to it. In 21st century our species is not in throes of a death battle against any other species or with nature per se. In the past there may have been justification, in a tribal society to replenish the tribe from generation to generation and to carry on the seed so to speak, lest the tribe whither away.Besides these bigots should really lay off of this, as they are perpetuating the homosexuals, if their goal is to rid the world of them. Mother nature will do that for them. If a homosexual is not forced to have heterosexual sex, then there will not be any passing of the homosexual gene consequently there will be fewer and fewer of them in subsequent generations. 2000 years of hatred has not helped your cause one bit. It would be best you keep your ignorant hatred just between your ears.

  • SecularHumanist2

    Here is the question that is unavoidable:How can a (presumably) celibate priest know anything about sex? If you’ve never done it, how can you know anything deep or meaningful about what it is/should be?

  • Secular

    These yahoos comment on these things that they nothing about, only because we show them unearned reverence. We should refraing from using the dumb titles they take up like Father, Rabi, Reverend,etc, etc. Insteda just call these morons Mr. or Ms. nothing more. In fact when I refer to that ex-nazi in Rome, I call him Mr. Ratzinger not by his newly adopted moniker.

  • alarico

    “and culminates when the Spirit and the Bride say “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:17).”–for real???

  • davidbronx

    Paladino is demonstrating typical catholic/christian hypocrisy — he fathered a child out of wedlock. He has as much right to preach as Vitters, Foley, Edwards and Craig.So let’s pray and hope that man does not get elected as governor of New York. I’m sure along with the rest of his tea baggers he’d be setting up poor farms and concentration camps for gays and lesbians.These hate mongers don’t realize or care that we pay taxes, love our country, serve in the military, pay our bills and put our pants on one leg at a time. We don’t practice their religion but according to our constitution we don’t have to, yet more and more they’re interjecting religion into the political debate where it has no place.It’s time to STOP the tax shelters for religious institutions. They should be paying taxes like the rest of us. Churches are nothing more than exclusive clubs and tax shelters. People think they may not be contributing money directly to campaigns but when they stand on their bully pulpits and behind their religious attire to do things like excommunicate a political candidate for being pro-choice then they’ve lost their right to walk away without paying taxes they are in fact contributing to political campaigns even if not monetarily though with the new Supreme Court ruling I’m sure they are doing just that.People will vote for Paladino just because he seems to have had the “blessings” of our cardinal and rabbis.Rescind the religious tax shelter NOW!!!

  • rcvinson64

    A Catholic priest would be the best teacher on sexuality. Just ask the abused boys. Sex is so complicated that children can do. Stop glorifying a basic part of life. The church makes sex out to be dirty. That’s why they dreamed up the virgin birth.

  • phjesuswarrior7

    Homosexuality is not equal to fornication nor even adultry. If you please wait to hear me out, homosexuality is equal to rape, and other sexual deviancies. They are all acts of sex committed by people that are not meant to procreate. There have many babies born by those committing adultry and fornicators alike. Wow, there have been babies conceived by rape victims also yet I put it in the class of deviancy. You want to say it hypocrisy, but wait it even though there is a child created and some have gone on to do great things in the name of God, I associate it with homosexuality as an evil trick of satan. The person committing rape is condemned just as the person engaging in homosexuality. But not just homosexuals but those committing debachery and other sexual immoralities. It is written that whatever is done in the dark will come to the light. Then it shall be exposed to believer and non believers alike. DNA testing is not limited to Christians even though it is the light promised by Jesus, it is written.

  • allforher58

    I think the people who are bigoted are the ones crying bigotry. Since you don’t know anything about Religion or God, then you shouldn’t be commenting on a fact of nature. Jesus said: “It should not so much as be named amongst you.” The sin of Sodomy. Sodom and Gomorrah are a fact. Homosexuality is Sodomy. End of quote. End of comment. The primary purpose of Sex is to procreate. Sperm and Egg meet and form a human Baby. It is as simple as that. Love between man and wife begets children, thus molding the family unit. Anything outside of that is adultery.

  • revbookburn

    Pavone is long supported religious extremists who have been a threat to any semblence of freedom and democracy. He is allies with anti-abortion terrorists. He defended the Church of Pedophilia after thousands of perpetrators became publicly known. The only good thing about Pavone is that he uses donations to travel around with a woman. At least the altar boys will be safe for some of the time.

  • jcrrt

    Father Pavone, what you and the male hierarchy of the RC Church need is a good man in your life. I would suggest Jesus Christ. Being gay or lesbian isn’t about sex any more than being heterosexual is about sex. If, as you say, God gave us sex, then He gave it to all of us. I am heterosexual. People use religion to promote their own agenda. They twist God to fit their view. Leave God out of it. Stay out of other peoples’ bedrooms. Everyone will benefit.

  • gladerunner

    With all due respect sir, you are completely incorrect. One need know nothing about ‘god’ to understand sex. Many, many cultures, some of them rather chaste and monogomous do just fine with sex and do not even recognize your god.There, what else is there? Am I missing anything?

  • lifeonmars

    “Society is not obsessed with sex. It is afraid of it…afraid of the total reality and power of what it represents, where it comes from, and where it leads.”The only people I have ever known who were afraid of sex were clergy and the conservative religious faithful. Replace the word “society” with “Christians” and you have an accurate statement. Sex is something you (the clergy and the church you represent) can never control, and that is what you fear. You can’t control how people love, lust, procreate (or not), pleasure each other and themselves, and you can’t stand it. You are about control – without it you have nothing. Sex is sex. It serves to continue the species. It is the most powerful pleasurable thing in human existance so that we will be encouraged to do it and thus propogate, just like any other animal species on this earth.

  • watchmaker

    Astounding that one can speak so eloquently on a subject of which one has absolutely no first-hand knowledge. May I now comment authoritatively on the miracle of transubstantiation even though I am a Hindu?

  • Louise10

    I have many quarrels with Catholicism, the religion of my youth, but nothing irritates me more than the self-appointed, self-righteous authority of men (and only men) who have avoided sex for centuries, but make rules about sex for anyone else dumb enough to let them do it.

  • cornbread_r2

    Religion plays a central role in debates about homosexuality because in order to understand sex, we have to understand something about God. FP Just because you

  • lepidopteryx

    Sex means different things to different people. To some, it is a sacred act, a way of honoring a particular deity. For some, it is a vile act that must be engaged in periodically in order to produce offspring. For some, it is an expression of the depth of their love for another human being, a way of the two becoming as close to merging into a single entity as physically possible.For others, it is merely a form of recreation, something that feels good, and is to be responsibly enjoyed any time one can find a consenting partner.No one should have the right to decide for another what role sex should play in the other’s life.

  • gladerunner

    “sex can never be separated from its purpose: to insert us into an immense, powerful movement of life and love that started when God said “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3) and culminates when the Spirit and the Bride say “Come, Lord Jesus!” Is it just me or does this section read a bit….uncomfortable?

  • edbyronadams

    “Evolution favors the successful trait, it does not necessarily eliminate, especially immediately, a more trivial trait.” Behavior that distracts from the evolutionary dictum of leaving more copies of genes in succeeding generations can hardly be termed trivial.

  • S_in_Durham

    OK, I’ll just go spend the next 40 years of my life not having sex with my wife, because it wouldn’t be taking place in the proper “context” of procreation. I mean, what’s the point of having sex with your spouse if it doesn’t result in the birth of another child that will inevitably put enormous strain on your household finances? For fun? Expression of love? Not with a beautiful woman, thank you very much!We’ll just watch baseball, collect stamps, and build model airplanes instead. Thanks for the advice that, if followed, would in no way make me wish that I’d never been born in the first place.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    The anti-gay agenda promoted by the Catholic Church, is the direct cause of suicide in many young people.I don’t call that a culture of life; I call that a culture of death.

  • watchmaker

    Mr. Pavone holds the exact same views as Mr. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church.The difference? Mr. Phelps says “God Hates Fags”.Mr. Pavone says “Many think of the church’s teaching about sex as ‘You cannot do it except in a marriage between a man and a woman, and when open to life.’ ” Translation: “God Hates Fags”.It is so nice to see ecumenical differences set aside in the fight against the scourge of homosexuality.

  • darkglobe5

    A fine rationalization for your continued domination of people’s minds.The clergy of all faiths are the biggest impediment to a just society in which all seek their own paths to God.

  • Mornea1

    The Church’s teaching on sex, and the “Theology of the Body” is very beautiful. I realize how strange it might sound to those unfamiliar with it, when bits are presented in a few paragraphs. But before you condemn, look into it.

  • Apoorsinner

    Thank you, Father Pavone, for a charitable and faithful voice on this topic. It’s good to see “On Faith” hosting faithful Catholics panalists on their site. For most commenters, I find you do not accurately portray the Catholic view of sex and marriage. The Church has never taught that infertile couples do not have a valid marriage. It’s enough for a marriage to be “open to life” since a marriage can surprisingly produce children or accept children by adoption, even at a late age. A marriage between a man and a woman is the best place to raise children; sex outside marriage produces single parents, divorce and abortion:that is what the church teaches. Thank you.

  • lepidopteryx

    he Church has never taught that infertile couples do not have a valid marriage. It’s enough for a marriage to be “open to life” since a marriage can surprisingly produce children or accept children by adoption, even at a late age. A marriage between a man and a woman is the best place to raise children; sex outside marriage produces single parents, divorce and abortion:that is what the church teaches. Thank you.Posted by: ApoorsinnerSince I’m not Catholic, the Catholic church’s definition of and parameters for marriage aren’t of any importance to me. I am married to an ex-Catholic.Our marriage is not in any way, shape, or form “open to life.” He is sterile, was before we met. I am menopausal, a stage of my life that was already underway when we met. And if we WERE fertile, we would be taking measures to PREVENT conception, since I already have a grown child, and he has never had any desire to be a parent. If by some fluke, I were to get pregnant, I would abort. I never married my daughter’s father. My relationship with him happened when I was on the rebound from divorcing an abusive husband. My daughter’s dad never lived with us; in fact, I found out that I was pregnant with her several weeks after he and I broke up. Raised by a single mother, with frequent visitation from her dad, my daughter was an honor student in an advanced curriculum, learned to play three musical instruments, was active in our church’s youth activities, was a Girl Scout from elementary through high school, and volunteered in the community. She and her boyfriend got their own place a few days before her 18th birthday; she works full-time, maintains a 4.0 at college, rescues stray animals, and is an ethical, compassionate human being. I wouldn’t exactly call her dysfunctional.

  • dwickert51

    Thank you, Father. I’m sure you and Mrs. Pavonne must love each other very much.

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