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Sexuality

Marc Chagall, “Lovers in pink” (1916)

The sexual revolution promised everyone happiness through pleasure. This goal seemed within easy reach of one and all and cost them nothing on condition that they broke the rules of morality and in the first place those of the Catholic Church. Indeed the Church suffered a heavy onslaught in that period because, as an enemy of sex, she was seen as an enemy of human happiness. Today almost 50 years have passed since the dissemination of this utopia – indisputably one of the causes of secularization in Western countries – and many shadows are falling on its results. The sexual revolution has left numerous wounded lying on the field, especially young people barely protected by their social class, women who have not managed to make their dream of motherhood come true and, more in general, a society of single people who must come to terms with their loneliness every day. Instead of opening parentheses of freedom, especially to women, the separation between sexuality and procreation has proven an obstacle to motherhood, pursued too late when it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to conceive, even with medically assisted procreation. In many countries it is even becoming a new opportunity for the State to come down with a heavy hand on the lives of human beings and to decide instead of the individuals – as economic or political needs dictate – whether and when they should have children. However this is a defeat on which there is no desire to reflect, despite the multitude of injured people, the dramatic decline in the number of births and family crises that are affecting society as a whole. These effects are largely ascribable to the sexual freedom obtained. This month’s issue is in part a review of critical cases, of dramatic consequences to which eyes are willingly closed, but also intends to be a denial of the common opinion that attributes a bigoted horror of sex to the Christian tradition: it suffices to read the Song of Songs in order to realize this. The Incarnation, in fact, ushered in a new way of giving meaning to the sexual act which is becoming a part and a means of the spiritual journey of every Christian, in both ascetic and married life. In this process the flesh and the spirit, sentiments and eros, are naturally interwoven, as Benedict XVI explained admirably in Deus caritas est, his first Encyclical.Indeed he affirms that Christianity: “in no way rejected eros as such; rather, it declared war on a warped and destructive form of it, because this counterfeit divinization of eros actually strips it of its dignity and dehumanizes it”. For “two things emerge clearly from this rapid overview of the concept of eros past and present. First, there is a certain relationship between love and the Divine: love promises infinity, eternity – a reality far greater and totally other than our everyday existence. Yet we have also seen that the way to attain this goal is not simply by submitting to instinct. Purification and growth in maturity are called for; and these also pass through the path of renunciation. Far from rejecting or ‘poisoning’ eros, they heal it and restore its true grandeur” (l.s.)

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