Good Shepherd Church Pastoral Letter

Sunday 5th July 2009

 Sex is for family in a state of loving.

The occasion for this letter is a homily to be given to the confirmation candidates a week before the confirmation. The topic is entitled above.

The teaching of the Catholic Church

Many people, non-Catholics included, know the Church’s teaching in this area. It bears repeating. Sex is for the marriage state. It is contrary to the Church’s teaching to have sex outside of marriage or to be unfaithful in marriage. Sex is also called to be open to life at all times, and so all artificial contraception is sinful, the condom, the pill, sterilization, and the coil. For the Church God is the author of the meaning of sex, and it is called to be the way for conception, and so IVF is seen as wrong. That God is the author of the meaning of sex is also why the Church disagrees with the homosexual act. Abortion is wrong, as it is the taking of human life.  The taking of the morning after pill is clearly very sinful as the aim is to kill any conceived fetus. . Many so called contraceptives like the coil and the pill allow abortion. The Church encourages Natural Family Planning, which allows the spacing of children for good reason in a natural way, taking advantage of the fertile cycles of the woman.

It is clear that many young Catholics who have been through the Catholic system, attended Catholic Schools, been confirmed, do not believe the above to be important. If they have boyfriends or girlfriends, they feel that if they love each other sex naturally follows. Seeing as they have no wish to have children at a young age, they will use contraception. These actions are often associated with their being independently minded, not wishing to be dictated to by the Catholic Church. A few Catholic parents believe in “safe sex” for their children and encourage such practice if their teenage children are in a relationship.

Promoting  a civilization of love

This letter has limited aims. It is to promote sex in marriage, and discourage the ‘contraceptive’ mentality so prevelant in our society and indeed even in our Church. It is to indicate that young people have been sold a lie. For future happiness, for a world with stable friendships and relationships, for a place where children are brought up in the most secure environments, the Catholic Church’s teaching is tried and tested.

Nobody starts married life with the intention of getting divorced. There was horror from confirmation candidates a few years ago when I asked if they wanted to get divorced. Yet it is the case that previous actions make divorce more of a possibility. In 2003 the Sunday Times, (not the most Catholic paper!), revealed the result of the biggest survey of what makes wedlock work. It was commented “I think there is a fantasy that living together is a way of testing what marriage would be like”. Cohabiting was seen as increasing the chances of divorce.  Previous actions before you meet your partner affect the marriage. The idea that one could have previous partners and this not seriously affects a future marriage was seen, for the most part, to be unfounded. Details of this survey can be found on the notice board. 

Contraception, abortion, and STI’s

A “Contraceptive society” will become a society where abortion is prevalent. None of the contraceptives will stop pregnancy for the sexually active. The lie that they are efficient in this area means that it is no surprise that teenage abortions are so high in this country. A mother attended a clinic last year indicating that the unborn baby had survived the condom the pill and the morning after pill! It also has lead to a dramatic increase in sexually transmitted diseases (STI’s) in young people. This is not surprising as pregnancy can only happen a few days in the month, while both sexes can catch a sexual disease any day of the month. Yet still the government promotes condoms as the answer.

Love involves chastity

In all the State-sponsored programs, sex is reduced to an activity which can be engaged in whenever it feels right. As the ‘for young people’ website puts it, ‘Sex should be fun, don’t make it a problem.’ This is disastrous and damaging advice. Sex is the “Marriage Act”, and is called to be chaste. There was a television programme on Channel 4 a year ago which had teenagers who had been sexually active being shown the chaste way. For all of them it was a clear realisation that in their previous relationships they had never truly loved. They had been sold the lie that sex ‘makes love”, but found that true love involved chastity. Chastity means one loves freely and warmly with innocent intention and without erotic disturbance or demand. When appropriate, so in marriage, it integrates sexual feelings into authentic love so that one can give sexually.

Due to the effects of original sin, so many wrong decisions are innocently made in this area, to disastrous effects. As the Church puts it: “In our present fallen condition people mistakenly equate love and sex” (CCC2351).   Such a mistaken view leads to so many broken hearts. Surely it is authentic love that we all wish to experience.

Sex is for family

Research shows that, on average, children thrive best in a family where they are raised by their mother and father. The relationship between sex and children must come back into view. There are two purposes for sex, the first being procreation and the second the union of the husband and wife. Anyone who is in a sexual relationship should believe that their spouse would make a good Father or mother, and know that both partners will be there to bring up any child that might be born. To be responsible and honourable is an admirable trait, but surely it comes more naturally in a married relationship.

The value of good friends

I know many people have appreciated the “Six basic steps to Chastity” which we have on the notice board. Some of the advice is outstanding. Step 4 deals with finding people with similar values. It is important to have good friends who hold the same values. It makes it easier to keep your value system. The hope of a priest is that friendships in a confirmation class are important in this way.

The Catholic Church is the good guy

It is important to note when the Church has shown evidence for its wisdom in this area.

The Prophetic words of Pope Paul VI

It was in 1968 that the Church affirmed its teaching on artificial contraception. The question then was whether such means could be used in marriage when a couple had already a number of children. The world of teenage sex and abortion that we have today was not under consideration. Pope Paul VI knew well however that the situation we have now was on the horizon if this contraceptive mentality was to win the day.  In his 1968 encyclical on Human Life (Humanae Vitae, n.17) Pope Paul VI wrote prophetically:

‘Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law.’

As Pope Paul foresaw, we have indeed experienced a great decline in moral standards.

Church’s viewpoint confirmed by healthcare professionals 

In the field of sexually transmitted diseases, saved sex is now being widely suggested by many sexual-healthcare workers. The idea is that sex is saved for a time when the relationship between the partners is at such a level of intimacy that it is  exclusive for the rest of their lives. They have come to this view by looking at the disastrous effect that the “contraceptive mentality” has had in the area of STI’s.

Catholic Church and Aids

In the Lancet, the main medical magazine in England, an article call “Cautions about Condoms in the Spread of Aids” said: “the likelihood of failure is sufficiently high that condom use by risk groups should not be described as safe-sex”. It is noticeable that countries with large Catholic populations shows significantly lower rate of HIV/Aids infections than countries with mostly non-Catholic populations. Thus Burundi (62%) has a 6% Aids rate, Ghana (63% Christian) has a 3.1% infection rate while Botswana (5% Catholic) has a 37.3% infection rate.

The Church is being faithful to Jesus/The value of confession

Jesus himself said that if we even look at someone lustfully we have committed adultery of the heart (Mt5:28). This is the same Jesus who forgave the woman caught committing adultery. His standards of sexual morality are as demanding as His compassion for weak human beings is great. The Church practices the mercy of God in confession. If one has fallen in these matters, the road to forgiveness remains open. Should anyone have failed in any of these areas, I urge them to avail themselves of this gift of mercy. No priest will condemn you. Rather, he will administer lovingly and joyfully the forgiveness of Christ, and provide help to avoid falls in the future. All that is needed on our part is sincere sorrow and a purpose of amendment.

The call for a civilization of love 

Dear friends. We would all wish to build a civilisation of love. The vision of love that the State is presenting to our youngsters is not the vision of love that Jesus Christ came to share with us. Let us help promote this Catholic vision of true love. I ask that parents take a personal interest the sex education of their child. I ask that teenagers make a stand for a truly beautiful vision of love and sex.

One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is chastity. We ask for his power in our lives and pray for the confirmation candidates of 2009.

I would be pleased to receive your comments on the matters I have raised. Please feel free to phone, email or write, or come along and see me. If any of you would like to form a discussion group to talk about these issues, just let me know.

I would happily try to organise some speakers on the subject of family life and education for loving if people were interested.

This pastoral letter ends with a moving witness to forgiveness and the hurt of abortion

Wishing you the grace and peace of God our Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ, I am

Yours devotedly,  Fr. Stephen

Here is a testimony from some one who was moved to write following the SPUC White Flower Appeal in a Catholic Church this year. 

Listening to the talk a few weeks ago about SPUC I came out of Church feeling as if a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders when I heard the words “all those unborn babies go to heaven.” I felt they were safe.

Even through my selfishness some good has come for these babies I chose not to have.  I live with the very wrong decision that I made not once but twice and wish every day that I could turn back the clock and un-do the wrong I chose to make things right for myself.

The first time I was young and had a 6mth old child and had just recovered from cervical problems and it seemed at the time to be almost justifiable. I know now that it was not.  The second time was just pure selfishness from both parties. 100% inexcusable. We already had a number of children and “this new addition” just didn’t fit into our busy materialistic lives. There was no room for one more!

I laid in the bath the morning of the termination placed my hand over my flat stomach and thought “it’s not too late to change my mind.” But things were arranged and I tried to convince myself it was the “right” thing to do. I had no one to ask… “Help me do what deep down I know is right, tell me it’s wrong.” I had no one to put their hand out to me and say … “I’m here for you, it’s going to be fine.” I was alone.

I have been to confession many times since but am still tormented by the grief and the unjust choices that I made for those two tiny lives that depended totally on me.

Forgiveness has to begin with forgiving myself.

I am happy for this to be read out at Mass or passed on to SPUC in the hope that it prevents other women making the same mistakes as I have