instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lesson from the catechist

Today's topic in RCIA class was the Sixth and Ninth Commandments, and though I say it who shouldn't, I think I had a few good puts.

The presentation (which I had nothing to do with preparing) was framed in terms of Bl. John Paul II's theology of the body, and included this statement:
We cannot live without love. If we do not encounter love, if we do not experience it and make it our own, and if we do not participate intimately in it, our life is meaningless.
These words would fit right in on a sappy greeting card. There's nothing in these words foreign or unknown to our culture.

What's unknown to our culture is what the word "love" means.

It might be said that the culture understands the above quotation as a sentiment, not as a religious doctrine. And it is a religious doctrine, since God is love, and that means love means this:

Also quoted was n. 2337 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man's belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.
The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift.
 Thus the absence of chastity involves a lack of integrity of the person. If I am unchaste, my person is dis-integrated, the inner unity of my bodily and spiritual being is broken. And that's worse than it sounds. It means that, even if I want to, I can't love my wife with my whole person, because I no longer have my whole person to give to her. (And that's true, of course, of any lack of integrity, not just sexual disintegration, with respect to love of anyone, not just one's spouse.)

The Catechism goes on to say this about conjugal fidelity:
The married couple forms "the intimate partnership of life and love established by the Creator and governed by his laws; it is rooted in the conjugal covenant, that is, in their irrevocable personal consent." Both give themselves definitively and totally to one another. They are no longer two; from now on they form one flesh. The covenant they freely contracted imposes on the spouses the obligation to preserve it as unique and indissoluble. "What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."
The crazy thing is that Church teaching of this sort is commonly regarded as negative. "That means you can't get divorced. That means you can't have sex outside of marriage."

It's like being told you'll be honeymooning in the Greek islands and responding, "But that means I can't catch the afternoon races at the dog track!" What sort of a person wants to go to the dog track when they could go to the Greek islands?

The thousands of years of reflection, meditation, experience, and contemplation of the meaning of marriage in the Divine plan of salvation is a great and beautiful treasure of the Church, for the individual married Catholics who take advantage of it and for the communities in which they live. The Church doesn't forbid adultery and fornication out of caprice; much less are they fundamental rules that define Catholicism. Rather, their proscriptions really amount to minor corollaries of the full, beautiful truth of marriage taught by the Church as revealed by God, and most fully revealed by Jesus' Paschal sacrifice.

It is a perverse heart that is told, "You are capable of being loved by God like His child, and of loving another the way His Son loves you," but hears, "You can't get divorced." Perverse, but common. Our job is to figure out how to get them to hear what the Church says, in full.