When facing the difficulties of secular culture, we have two major options: to accommodate the culture or to hold fast to the truth. I think we now have enough evidence to certify that the first option leads to death. Literally, Christian churches are dying out because they have lost their faith and their commitment to the truth. When we as individuals abandon the truth, the same thing happens to us as well – we surrender the source of life that comes from our faith.
Of all the sticking points in the battle between secularism and Christian faith, sexuality stands out as possibly the dominant issue. It has become only too common to explain away Christian teaching as ancient cultural norms that no longer apply or even to link them to close minded bigotry. Jesus didn’t really say that we couldn’t divorce, right? Paul didn’t really condemn homosexual acts, did he? Most would say, it’s simply unrealistic to hold to these outdated and bigoted norms.
The most contentious issue for Catholics remains contraception. The debate centers on playing conscience and authority off of one another. What’s really at stake is the nature of marriage and sexuality as intrinsically fruitful and ordered toward life. Contraception changes the very nature of sex, closing it off from its true order and turning inward toward self-satisfaction.
Fifty years ago, Pope Bl. Paul VI reaffirmed the Church’s timeless teaching against contraception. He rightly affirmed that cutting the marital act off from its intrinsic order toward fruitfulness likewise undermines the unity of the spouses. The two are intrinsically tied together. Paul faced a level of dissent unparalleled in the history of the Church, and his teaching still faces serious attacks today.
Archbishop Samuel Aquila, Archbishop of Denver, just released a pastoral letter commemorating the anniversary of Humanae Vitae, titled The Splendor of Love. It’s short and accessible and I can’t recommend it highly enough to all TCM readers. It has a lot to say about the challenges we face in our culture and how we need to respond to them as faithful, Catholic men. It encourages us to stand up for the truth and to live it faithfully in our lives.
Here’s one excerpt that focuses on married couples and family life:
Parents and married couples, you are the primary educators of your children and an example to the children of other families. You have the responsibility of helping them to come to a mature understanding of sexuality and family life. A great place to start is to read some of the popular resources on the St John Paul II’s Theology of the Body that are listed in the resource section of this letter. These will help you explain God’s plan for sexuality and marriage to your children
I encourage you to give careful attention to helping your children understand and avoid the danger of pornography addiction and casual sex. Unfortunately, and sadly, our children are exposed at a young age to many confusing distortions of human sexuality. Parents have shared with me how their 4-year-old children have come from public schools where teachers have told them that they can be whatever gender they want and that people of the same sex can marry each other. Innocence is harmed and confusion instilled by such tendencies.
Having conversations early, without destroying their innocence, will be important so that children know how to respond when dangerous situations present themselves. You will also have to address the need for healing and forgiveness with compassion when mistakes are made and sins are committed. Parents, your relationship teaches your children about God’s love and forms them in their understanding of the Christian family. From you, your children will learn the reality of marriage as a complete gift of love to the other. It is you they will look to for an understanding of what it means for love to be fully human, total, faithful, and fruitful.
You can also see Archbishop Aquila explain the letter on Raymond Arroyo’s The World Over: