Remember when fornication, sex outside of marriage, was a sin? That seems like it was a long time ago, in a far off galaxy. To suggest that sex in any form outside of marriage is a sin is met with a belief that those old-fashioned ideas are obsolete. To mention that the Bible condemns it has little impact on the discussion.
The commandment “You shall not commit adultery” does not deter people from entering into sexual relationships with people who are married to another. In the past to label someone an adulterer was a serious charge. A person’s reputation was damaged. In high school “The Scarlet Letter” was required reading.
What changed? I think when we started referring to fornication as “making love” we made it sound like something good. I think of those other sins we have covered up with more pleasant sounding names, such as masturbation, which is now “pleasuring myself.” When evil is marketed as something good or normal it is easier to accept it without a sense of guilt.
Doing away with guilt is a contributing factor. If you commit the sin, then you are guilty. When you are guilty you go to God and become reconciled. The memory of the guilt helps us not to commit that sin again. But now we suppress our conscience or we re-program it so we don’t feel guilty.
Now, the Gay Liberation Movement calls us hate-mongers if we make them feel guilty for having sex with persons of the same gender. Society proclaims those who come out and admit to having sex with a same sex partner as brave, holding them as examples.
We have also lost a sense of chastity. Chastity is the virtue that defines the proper use of our sexuality. It requires discipline. Everyone is called to live chastely. That does not mean without sexual love. Chastity places that within the context of marriage. We can see by contemporary fashions that chastity is no longer valued. I have no idea of how many brides, wearing white gowns proclaiming their virginity, are actually virgins. It is common for couples to live together before deciding to marry.
Sex has been separated from the context of marriage and has become recreational. When young people think about sex, it is something “everyone is doing” and there is nothing wrong with it. They rarely think of marriage when making the decision to enter into a sexual relationship.
The truth is sex outside of marriage is a sin. The challenge is recovering what we’ve lost when the message in the media is “Sex is good, no matter who you have it with.”
Father Patrick Toner is pastor at Saint Joseph Catholic Church, 140 West Ave., Plain City. He can be reached at email@example.com or (614) 873-8850.