Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sex - Marriage - Divorce - Family - Gender - Why are we in the mess we're in?

My purpose in these posts is to bring a variety of Christian and other writers in a desire to share significant writings that in my estimation contribute to the common good and directly or indirectly give glory to God and extend the Lord's work of salvation to all of humanity. G.S.



A century ago the societies of most nations on Earth had ritual behaviors of various sorts around the experience and use of human sexuality and for the most part a certain primacy was given to marriage and family and the exercise of sex was shrouded in conventions of respect and modesty that kept it out of public display. In the time that elapsed since then various interests have attacked these social norms, qualifying them as taboos harmful to the full human freedom of expression.

As a result we have seen not only the dismantling of sexual taboos but radical loss of respect for the human person and women have suffered the most. The disintegration of marriage and family has caused ever increasing numbers of women to be reduced to the ranks of the poor as they struggle to raise their children as single parents after their divorce or failure to marry. More men than ever are failing to take their full share of responsibilities as spouses and fathers after they have enjoyed sexual union with their partner.

The so called "sexual revolution" of the mid-twentieth century was initiated to free women so that they might be as free as men to fully experience and enjoy their sexuality, but the actual result has been to reduce women to abandonment and poverty in the end. How could we fall so far so quickly?


It is no coincidence that during this same period of time Hollywood played a strong role in changing social moral values not only in Western societies but worldwide. Such institutions as the arrangement by parents of the marriages of their offspring worked fairly well for centuries if not for millennia; yet very quickly under the scrutiny of the camera such proven traditional practices were put to shame by ridicule in favor of romance. Tragically, romance did not live up to its enthusiastic claims and has proven to be far less effective in establishing successful and stable marriages and families. Once romance is claimed as a perennial value, it is hard to "turn it off" after one has married the spouse with whom one fell in love. The high hormonal experience of falling in love is often preferred to the long term development of a deeper loving relationship which is the basis and heart of marriage.


When one perennially sighs for the next partner with whom one can "fall in love" one tends to get stuck in adolescence or at least in young adulthood. By electing not to face the challenges of the real and ever deepening human intimacy which is essential to marriage, one gets locked into what Pope Francis calls the "throw away culture" that is quite willing to "drop" or "throw away" the spouse or partner with whom one is no longer satisfied in favor of another who would be more likely to stir up the high hormonal reaction of "falling in love". When a human being does not live fully or deeply there results a need to experience more intense hormonal reactions in order to verify that one is still alive because the ordinary experiences of everyday life are merely being sampled but not fully tasted.

This is not to say that everyone who divorces is immature and selfish. Sadly, it happens far too often that a mature, selfless, and loving person marries with the best of intentions someone who is not as fully mature or committed as they were. There are few more painful experiences in life than being abandoned by a less committed spouse after one has given everything and held nothing back. The sense of betrayal one experiences under such circumstances is profoundly painful and may for a time be quite debilitating.


Thankfully, the person with even a minimum of faith can find in God release from such pain and suffering. The human soul was designed by the Creator to seek and receive the presence and love of the Holy Trinity, and the experience of marital abandonment in separation or divorce can become an opportunity for a person to discover God more deeply and personally. It brings great peace and joy to realize that in actual fact only God can truly and perfectly satisfy the longing of the human heart to be loved perfectly, completely, and unceasingly.

The intimate friendship showered by God on chosen individuals such as Abraham, Moses, and the prophets during the time of the Jewish Covenant was also offered and is still offered today to those willing to learn the "fear of the Lord", the way of wisdom which God offers to those who wish and who commit themselves to "walk in the Lord's ways". Such a walk and way of life implies study of the Torah and a life of prayer by both women and men in ways consistent with their calling in life.

Jesus of Nazareth, whom his followers call the Christ - the Messiah - sharpened the focus of God's call and the desirable human response around his commandment to his disciples that they love one another as He loved them and that they teach others to do likewise. Jesus revealed that God is not just a divine being but one in whom there are three persons. In his teaching, life, and example Jesus revealed that God is, in effect, a community of divine persons in one divine being. Jesus taught that we human beings are designed to love and be loved through the same self-giving by which the Holy Trinity pours the divine life of love into us.


Our Creator God designed human beings for a fullness of life through love such that we have truly been created "in the image and likeness" of God as told in the first chapters of Genesis. Bishop Lionel Gendron, P.S.S., Bishop of the Diocese of Saint-Jean-Longueuil south of Montreal in the Province of Québec teaches that the human family is patterned after the Holy Trinity.

Jesus revealed that He the divine Son receives his life from the Father and that He ever seeks to give his life back to the Father as an offering freely given and with the value added of his life, ministry, and sacrifice. The fruit of the love between the Father and the Son is another divine person, the Holy Spirit. When a man cherishes his wife he reflects the love of the Father for his Son; as a cherished wife returns this love to her husband with the value added of her devotion to him, and later to their children, the fruit of their love is the new entity or life which is their "couple" relationship.

Joined in a lifelong commitment in marriage, they are no longer two but one flesh, not only in the physical and emotional union of intercourse but in the mutual self-giving of their shared life and love together. It is the faithful, exclusive, devoted, and unending love and life of husband and wife as a couple that gives birth to a family, whether or not they are able to conceive their own children. The couple made up of a husband and wife who draw their life and love from God is the richest formula for family that can be conceived of, because each relies on God for love and bestows that love on the other. The human heart has such a need for love that no human being can perfectly satisfy it, but only God. When a married couple rely on God's love, they are free to love one another without holding the other responsible for their happiness.

A loving couple consisting of a husband and wife possess in themselves the fullness of human life as  complementary male and female, providing their children with all that they could need as mentors for their upbringing and formation for life. In addition, the family in which the parents are rooted in God provides for the children an environment in which they can come to know and love God as they come to know and experience his love for them by being first introduced to God by the example, formation, and direction of their parents.


While the sexual revolution of the 1960's was in part an attempt by some women to experience the same freedom men seemed to have to enjoy sex without responsibility or consequences, women can never free themselves from their biological and psychological design for the conception and gestation of human life. A few try by seeking conversion into males, but then they are no longer females.

Attempts to block conception, control fertility, or induce temporary infertility remain just that, efforts to circumvent or frustrate our natural human design and purpose. While we can do this in a "green" way by respecting our natural processes and avoid conceiving new life for a time, navigating against the current remains a strain for our whole being. The deepest satisfaction human beings can know is that which comes through cooperation with the fundamental design of our nature: we are designed not only to live but also to give life.

In most cultures and human societies there are some who are called not to marry or have children but to live as celibates for another purpose. Celibates reorient their vital energies to live and to love by giving life in other ways and through other forms of contribution to the common good.

Advances in the social sciences - especially in biology and psychology - help us to understand how it is that in most societies and times there are some individuals who for various reasons are not at ease identifying with their own gender. For some it may be that they find it difficult to embrace their own gender mode - the male mode is scientifically established as the "intrusive" mode, and the female mode is scientifically established as the "inclusive" mode - and so they may actually prefer the mode of the other gender or of their opposite gender parent. For some individuals this may lead them to prefer or to identify with the other gender rather than their own.

Failing to embrace or being loath to embrace one's own gender causes confusion for the individual but also for others. There is already enough confusion in human relationships, but gender confusion makes everything much more complicated by tending to confuse much non-verbal communication.

At this time at the beginning of the 21st century there seems to be more gender confusion than ever. There is a social movement or trend lobbying for the elimination of gender distinctions altogether, which would extend gender confusion throughout the whole society. Such a view seems based on the assumption that human nature is a blank on which we can design whatever we wish and on the denial of specific ends for which we have been deferentially designed male or female.


Still, compassion and understanding require of us respect for others and a willingness to give them the benefit of the doubt in the absence of clear explanations for the way things are as they are. Since 1961 when "the pill" was first manufactured and marketed, we have seen the advent of three or more new generations of offspring who have - to a greater or lesser extent - accumulated the effects of this chemical invasion of our women. The pill interferes with a woman hormonal balance with the stated aim of forcing her fertility cycle to become more regular and the admitted side effect that it prevents conception either from taking place or from progressing after it has taken place.

As far as we know at present no longitudinal studies have been conducted to ascertain whether or not additional effects of the pill might be to so upset women's hormonal balance as to cause subsequent gender confusion in some of their offspring. This could be a plausible explanation for same sex attraction in some individuals.

Another factor concerns what social and psychological scientists call the latent sexual period in children aged six to twelve or until the onset of puberty. In a society where sexual matters are kept out of public display children enjoy greater protection from the invasiveness of sexual imagery to disturb their imaginations before this happens naturally in the course of puberty. During the latency period children have sufficient concerns to occupy their complete attention and have been shown to be better prepared for the changes precipitated by puberty when they have been allowed to rest from these added pressures until they are sufficiently developed to face and endure them.

The overwhelmingly public tidal wave of explicit sexuality, sex in advertising, and pornography of varying degrees of intrusiveness has become so all pervasive that children are allowed little or no rest or protection from the invasiveness of sexual imagery and the complex emotions associated with it, such that many children are deprived of the "latency rest" and forced to endure sexual confusion earlier than they would want and before they are sufficiently developed to make sense of it.

In such a hostile environment it is not surprising that more children experience gender confusion from an early age. In addition the proactive if not aggressive lobbying of homosexual movements is undoubtedly adding to the pressure already experienced by confused children to "lock themselves in" and identify themselves with a particular sexual orientation. Given that human beings remain in a process of development that is not completed until the early to mid twenties, though it may not be fully realized until much later in life; it would seem a violation of their human dignity and freedom to require of children that they prematurely label or define themselves so narrowly as by sexual feelings that for the most part are often only incidental, passing, or temporary.


In philosophical and anthropological discourses one can find just about any view conceivable of what a human being is, or what might be the meaning and purpose of human life. The spectrum goes from claiming total freedom to define human life in whatever way we wish, at one end, to declaring, at the other end, that we are already locked into the design of our nature as it is whether we like it or not.

Social scientists tend to limit themselves to factors that are visible, tangible, and measurable, which is why they tend to put aside and exclude from consideration invisible, less tangible, immeasurable factors such as spirituality and divine revelation. Such biases considerably weaken and limit our ability to comprehend the full value and potential of human life, given that we are amphibians of a sort, living both in the physical world and in the spiritual world.


... to be continued shortly....


My purpose in these posts is to help spread the contributions of a variety of Christian and other writers in a desire to share significant writings that in my estimation contribute to the common good and directly or indirectly give glory to God and extend the Lord's work of salvation to all of humanity. G.S.


© 2004-2021 All rights reserved Fr. Gilles Surprenant, Associate Priest of Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montreal  QC
© 2004-2021 Tous droits réservés Abbé Gilles Surprenant, Prêtre Associé de Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montréal QC

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