Let’s Talk About Sex: The Four Criteria for a Green Light by Nicole Moore

When talking about sex, our culture has a million and one ways of defining it. As Catholics it’s important that we know how to sift through the lies and recognize the truth of sex. To help you do this, we’ve dedicated this week’s blog to talking about what constitutes a true and holy act of sex in the eyes of God. We hope you enjoy it.

1. Must be between one man and one woman.

Sex was made to be complementary, that is why it is naturally ordered toward the male/female relationship in marriage – whose end is “the good of the spouses and the transmission of life (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2363).”

Any other pairing be it male/male or female/female, is a misuse of the gift of sex, as it is impossible to create life through homosexual sex. Because homosexual sex is disconnected from life, it is by its very nature unfruitful.

2. Freely Chosen – Both the man and the woman must give a clear “yes”.

This guideline is super important, because without it, sexual activity becomes an occasion of use. Meaning, there is someone in the equation being used solely for their body. We see this most clearly in the case of rape.

When sexual activity is forced on someone as it is in rape, “it does injury to justice and charity (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2356).” It does injury to justice and charity, because the victim is robbed of the right to use their free will. As JPII says in his Love and Responsibility “he [God] by the very fact of giving a rational and free nature to the person, decided that the person himself will define the ends of action and will not serve as a tool for the ends of others (Love and Responsibility 11).”

3. Fully Unitive – All sexual activity must take place within the bounds of sacramental marriage made up of one man and one woman.

A man and woman who are married have a foundation of trust and love that allows them to courageously give themselves to one another in sex. As it states in the Catechism, “by its very nature conjugal love requires the inviolable fidelity of the spouses (1646).” When there is fidelity, the couple is free to love one another without fear of being used.

This is why premarital sex is so dangerous. You give yourself intimately to someone who has not promised to love only you for the rest of their lives. Even though the unmarried couple is engaging in a good (sex), this good in their circumstance becomes destructive. Without the sacrament of marriage, they are not properly equipped for sex.

4. Fully Procreative – The sexual act must be open to the creation of life, meaning no use of contraception.

When it comes to fully unitive, this is actually something that even married couples can get wrong. Fully unitive means that sex (within marriage) is completely open to life.

As stated in the Catechism “’every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible’ is intrinsically evil (2370).” Such actions that would render procreation impossible are: the use of barrier methods of contraception and the use of hormonal contraception. The Church also includes under the umbrella of illicit ways of regulating birth; direct sterilization of either the man or the woman – whether it be permanent or temporary (Humanae Vitae 7).

What happens when one of the forms of contraception above is inserted into sex? The result is that the man and woman begin to play God with their fertility. Instead of letting God decide when they should and should not have children, the couple jumps the gun and essentially tells God “we know best”.

The most serious reason why separating babies from sex is dangerous, is the effect it has on the meaning of sex itself. When a man and a woman no longer see their sexual union as a gateway to life, pleasure becomes the reason for sex. In conclusion, the no that the Church gives to contraception, is given to protect the beauty of sexual intimacy.

St. Pope John Paull II pray for us! May we understand the beauties of love and intimacy that you revealed in your writings, Amen.