Sexual SinsFR. WILLIAM SAUNDERS
The Washington Times had an article which said that President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky had phone sex and oral sex. It also said he researched the Bible and concluded that oral sex does not constitute adultery. Aren't phone sex, oral sex, and masturbation wrong?
Before addressing these particular actions, we must first have a clear understanding of the Catholic Church's teaching regarding the sexual expression of love. The Catholic Church continues to teach that sexual love between a man and woman is both sacred and good, but is reserved to marriage. This teaching is rooted in the creation account of Genesis — Book 1, Chapter 1 of Sacred are: First, God creates man in His own image and likeness, making them male and female (Gen 1:27). Each person therefore has an inherent dignity. In the next verse, the Bible reads, "God blessed them, saying, 'Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it' " (Gen 1:28). Before the man and woman come together as husband and wife, and before they express their love as husband and wife, they are first blessed by God.
Only in marriage do we find God's blessing upon the act of sexual love, or what is better termed marital love. This physical expression of love in marriage is a sacred sign of a husband and wife's covenant of life and love that they share in union with God. This marital love signifies the vows freely exchanged between each other and thereby reflects the faithful, permanent, exclusive, end self-giving love they have promised to each other and to God.
This understanding is evident in Jesus' response to the Pharisees' question regarding divorce: "Have you not read that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female end declared, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, and the two shall become as one? Thus they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore let no man separate what God has joined" (Mt 19:46). Through the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, God blesses the couple joined in this sacred bond and generously bestows grace so that they may assume the duties of marriage in mutual and lasting fidelity.
Moreover, the marital love of husband and wife which unites them as "one flesh" may overflow and participate in God's creative love: a child may be born from their love. Then, again, God gives abundant graces so that the husband and wife can fulfill their duties as father and mother. Therefore, in accord with God's design, sexual love is reserved to marriage and must always preserve both the unitive and procreative dimensions. Any action which deviates from this design is intrinsically evil. Here is the clear teaching of Sacred Scripture and the consistent teaching of our Church
To violate the covenant love of marriage, whether physically or spiritually, whether by one's self or with another, constitutes adultery. Recall the teaching of our Lord: "You have heard the commandment, 'You shall not commit adultery.' What I say to you m; anyone who looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt 5:2728). Our Lord elevated the living of that faithful, permanent, exclusive, and self-giving love of marriage, to a higher standard of holiness.
With foundation, we can now address the issues at hand: phone sex, oral sex, and masturbation. While I am not sure exactly what "phone sex" is, clearly it is inseparable from the vice of lust. Lust is simply defined as an inordinate desire for sexual pleasure. Such pleasure is considered disordered when sought after itself and removed from the unitive and procreative dimensions of marriage. One could consider "phone sex" a kind of pornography whereby the activity good to marriage is removed and used to stimulate an individual. Hence, the individual withdraws from reality and becomes absorbed in a fantasy world. Such activity is pursued for selfish pleasure alone. In all, this "phone sex" or any pornography perverts the goodness of the act of marriage and thereby entails mortal sin.
The usage and enjoyment of pornographic stimuli is linked with the act of masturbation, "the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure" (Catechism, No. 2352). The Church has consistently taught that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action. Even in the Book of Genesis, we find a condemnation of masturbation in the story of Onan, "who wasted his seed on the ground," an act which greatly offended God (Gen 38:8-11); from this story arises the word onaism, a synonym for masturbation. Here we find a solitary action which arises from withdrawal into a fantasy world, is performed for selfish pleasure, and perverts the self-giving act of love between husband and wife.
Objectively, masturbation entails mortal sin. However, the Catechism cautions, "To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability" (Catechism, No. 2352).
Finally, oral sex involves the ejaculation of a man into the mouth of another male or female. In legal terms, oral sex is called sodomy. An old classic text, Handbook of Moral Theology, reads, "Sodomy is a sin which cries to heaven for vengeance." Here we clearly see the perversion of the marital act and an intrinsically evil action which entails mortal sin.
Each of these actions violates the Christian understanding of the Sixth Commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery. " In all, we must remember that each of us is called to live by the virtue of chastity. As defined in the Catechism, "Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus tile inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being" (No. 2337). Chastity enables us to respect the dignity of our human sexuality and the sacredness of marital love. Chastity moves us to look upon each person as a person, not as a body, and to respect their inherent dignity. In chastity, a person strives for mastery over feelings and passions, respects the sacredness of mental love, and takes responsibility for his actions.
Of course we need God's grace and the assistance of the Holy Spirit to live a chaste life, especially in a culture that abounds with great temptation. We must never forget that one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is chastity (Gal 5;23). With all the media attention recently, we find the urgent need to teach about chastity, even to Bible reading Christians.
Saunders, Rev. William. "Clinton and Lewinsky." Arlington Catholic Herald.
This article is reprinted with permission from Arlington Catholic Herald.
Father William Saunders is dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College and pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Sterling, Virginia. The above article is a "Straight Answers" column he wrote for the Arlington Catholic Herald. Father Saunders is also the author of Straight Answers, a book based on 100 of his columns and published by Cathedral Press in Baltimore.
Copyright © 2003 Arlington Catholic Herald
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.