Actually, on second thought, I'm pretty sure it's from Peter Stanford and Kate Saunders' 1992 book Catholics and Sex. This particular book was a tie-in with a popular British TV series that examined the gap between the ideals of the Vatican's sexual teaching and the realities of many Catholics' lives.
I share this excerpt as the latest installment of The Wild Reed series, "Beyond the Hierarchy." This series highlights the liberating insights on sexuality that are emerging and “blossoming” beyond the Vatican.
What would happen to the Catholic Church if it declared the sexual act morally neutral? Of course, there would have to be some guidelines for the individual conscience. Sexual activity is wrong when it exploits others – for example, rape and child abuse. It is wrong when it makes another person unhappy, as when a married person has an affair. it is wrong to use sex as an expression of violence or hate. It is wrong to be promiscuous, because – apart from the risk of spreading nasty diseases – you will inflict emotional damage on others.
We cannot see, however, what can possibly be wrong with an exchange of fluids between consenting adults. And, in this over-populated world, we see absolutely nothing wrong with contraception. If the Vatican decided that there was nothing evil about the act itself, inside or outside marriage, the change would be dramatic. . . . God made human love. He programmed most of us with the desire for one special person. Our sexual urges are usually bound up in this desire.
Down the ages, Christianity has made the mistake of separating love from sex. We believe they belong together. And love – all love – comes from God. Love is God, and God is not insulted or degraded by the physical expression of that love. The message of Christ is "be perfect." But he knew that nobody can claim to be perfect, and we do not think that by "perfection" he meant sexual repression.
Once it has jettisoned its sexual strictures, and put sex in its proper context on the league table of other sins, the Catholic Church will be, we believe, revealed in its true glory – as the Church that takes Christ's message to the poor and dispossessed, and blazes out his love to the whole world.
NEXT: Part 5
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Beyond the Hierarchy (Part 1)
Beyond the Hierarchy (Part 2)
Beyond the Hierarchy (Part 3)
Italian Cardinal Calls for "New Vision" for Sexuality
An Australian Bishop's "Radical" Call for Reform
A Cardinal Breaks Ranks
The Non-Negotiables of Human Sex
Relationship: The Crucial Factor in Sexual Morality
A Church That Can and Cannot Change
Human Sex: Weird and Silly, Messy and Sublime
Sex as Mystery, Sex as Light
Getting It Right