Marital Lies and Mortal Sins

Married persons also need a pure heart to avoid sins against the sixth beatitude, by using marital relations in a disordered way by putting limits or conditions on their total, unconditional self-giving. This breaks and distorts the image of God’s total, unconditional self-giving in the Holy Trinity. The most common way is using contraception.

What does contraception say? To answer this question, consider a couple, cuddling up together on a park bench and getting romantic. The young man turns to his girlfriend to give her a kiss. Before he does, the girl stops him, saying: “Wait a minute, I don’t want to get your germs. Then she opens her purse and pulls out a piece of plastic wrap, puts it over her mouth, saying: “OK, now you can kiss me.”

How would her boyfriend react? Disgusted for sure, and probably wouldn’t try to kiss her, because it is no longer a kiss (although it may make her feel good). Yet with something much more intimate than a kiss couples don’t get disgusted with putting a piece of plastic between their bodies, a barrier?

For a married person to say, “I give myself totally to you, not hiding anything, not holding anything back… except for my fertility,” or to say, “I accept you with all your pluses and minuses, your pros and cons, just as you are, unconditionally… with one condition: that we don’t get pregnant.” This destroys the meaning of marital love by introducing a contradiction. Birth control is a form of adultery, as Scripture says: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4).

Some may ask: “But the Church allows for Natural Family Planning (NFP), doesn’t it do the same?” In fact the failure rate for NFP is almost exactly the same as other forms of birth control (sterilization is the only form that has a substantially lower failure rate, but it still fails! Condoms have a substantially higher failure rate than NFP). So is it the same?

Let’s go back to the example we were using and adopt it for NFP. We see a couple, cuddling up together on a park bench and getting romantic. The young man turns to his girlfriend to give her a kiss. Before he does, the girl stops him, saying: “Wait a minute! I have a bad cold and you have finals in a few days. If you catch this cold now it could be difficult for you. Let’s wait and don’t kiss until I get through this cold or until you are finished with finals.” Wow, that is an act of love! To not kiss can be an act of love.

This is what Natural Family Planning does. It avoids sexual intimacies during the time the woman is fertile—it uses scientific methods to determine the woman’s infertile periods. Such periodic continence can be an act of love and foster other ways to communicate their total, self-giving love. Of course, if NFP were done for selfish reasons it would be a sin.

So the Church teaches that all forms of artificial contraception (onanism, sterilization, pills, drugs, or mechanical devices) are sinful because they rupture both the unitive as well as the procreative purpose of married love (see CCC 2368-2370).

The Homosexual Struggle

Like all sexual acts, thoughts, and desires outside of marriage, homosexual acts are considered gravely sinful. Yet we must equally love and respect persons with same-sex attraction as one made in God’s image and likeness.

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection (CCC 2359-59).

What responsibility do human persons have in regard to their own sexual identity? God has created human beings as male and female, equal in personal dignity, and has called them to a vocation of love and of communion. Everyone should accept his or her identity as male or female, recognizing its importance for the whole of the person, its specificity and complementarity (CCCC 487, see Laudato si, 6, 155).

Father John Waiss is the pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church in Chicago, Illinois. He is also a member of Opus Dei, the prelature founded by St. Josemaria Escriva.