June 17, 2024

Q. There seems to be so much controversy about the Church’s teaching about gender, sexual morality and so on. How can I explain these teachings when so many people seem to take issue with it?

As we have seen in the first two parts of our response to this question, the Church’s teachings on these topics are both highly controversial and incredibly significant, as they all relate to a single issue: what does it mean to be human? What is the human being, and what is the human being for?

We have also seen that the Church’s teaching isn’t a matter of opinion, but of truth, and as such, it is transformative, and that it addresses a crucial issue: the relationship between our souls and our bodies.

In this final part of our response, we will consider the purpose of human sexuality.

The Church teaches that the fact that human beings are sexual beings and the fact that there are different sexes among human beings are both part of God’s plan for humanity; as we just saw, he wills that our sex be a part of our identity. He also wills that the human family consist not of just one, but of two sexes—male and female he created them, as we read in the opening chapter of Genesis.

Why? Why did God will to create us male and female? He didn’t have to, but he did. Why? Because he desired to make us for each other—the man for the woman and the woman for the man. The Church speaks here of the complementarity of the sexes: we need one another. And we see this need most clearly in marital love. According to God’s design, we literally need one another; we complement one another, to form “one flesh” by which a new human person is created.

In this we see the two purposes for our sexuality: for the union and wellbeing of the spouses themselves and for the procreation and education of children. It’s important to note that these are the purposes of sexuality even for those who do not have children, whether because of the cross of sterility or because they are unmarried. Human sexuality remains ordered toward the wellbeing of the other and the formation of future generations.

Both the unitive and procreative purposes of human sexuality as masculine and feminine are essential; one cannot be sought apart from the other. This is the basis for a whole host of Church teachings, which are increasingly countercultural—the Church’s teaching on contraception, in vitro fertilization, and especially today, marriage as between one man and one woman. For it is precisely because of the Church’s teaching on sexuality as ordered towards both the unity of the spouses and the procreation and education of children that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

The Church—and until just a few decades ago, Western civilization—has always understood marital love as being about more than intense care, devotion and attraction for another, as important and beautiful as they are. It has always been understood as being about the procreation and education of children. This is simply what human sexuality and marriage are for, and as such, marriage between two men or two women is impossible.

Dr. Chris Burgwald holds a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.

The truth of human sexuality, then, is that it is ordered towards the wellbeing of spouses and the procreation of children. When we understand and embrace this, not only does it unlock a host of Church teaching, but it can transform marriages and with them, families, pastorates, schools and communities.

Again, this is just a sketch of a few key insights about the Church’s teaching on the human person. As I conclude, I’d like to encourage you to reflect on some ways that you might both deepen your own understanding of the Church’s teaching on the human person and how you might help those around you to grow in their own understanding of that teaching.

Just as importantly, I invite you to pray for open minds and open hearts and for the wisdom and courage to hand on the Church’s teachings when doing so is increasingly countercultural. The more we understand this teaching, the more we are transformed by it, living the abundant life, and the more effectively we can hand on that teaching to those we are responsible for.

Whatever their appearances, Jesus’ teachings have always proven themselves as the way to authentic happiness, something people today yearn and long for. May we all do our part in bringing those teachings to those around us.