Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix is tackling the meaning of true human sexuality from a Catholic perspective in a series of columns, to be published in the diocesan paper, The Catholic Sun.
His reflections will be based on the sixth commandment - You shall not commit adultery.
The human body and sexual activity are not evil. Rather, “the goodness of the body and of the sexual embrace is of such value that it must be handled with great care” and only within the lifelong commitment of marriage, wrote the bishop in his first column.
In order to understand the sixth commandment, Bishop Olmsted said, Christians need to understand the goodness and beauty the commandment protects and how sins against this commandment distort God’s plan for human love.
“It is sad to say that many of these sins are rampant in society today, especially those that threaten the very institution of marriage,” the bishop wrote.
He explained: “God created human persons for the sake of love, an embodied love. Our masculinity or femininity, in other words, enters into every dimension of our efforts to love.
“When we love, we make a free gift of our whole person, body and soul, according to our state in life. For most men and women, this occurs in the vocation of marriage. But it also occurs when God calls persons to virginity or celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. The whole person, body and soul, is called to make a total gift of self to God and to whomever God gives one to love,” he wrote.
“Adultery and all other sexual sins fall short of this total gift; in doing so, they distort God’s plan and harm the persons who commit them or are touched by them,” he said. “On the other hand, chastity, which is a successful integration of one’s sexuality and a grace-filled mastery of self, leads to integrity of life and authentic love.”
The bishop cited Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, to explain the necessary unity of the body and the soul in order for human beings to love. “Only when both dimensions are truly united, does man attain his full stature. Only thus is love - eros - able to mature and attain its authentic grandeur,” the Pope says in his encyclical.
“The teaching of the Church does not divide the soul from the body of the human being, never places them at odds with one another,” said the bishop.
The body-soul dualism, proposed by the Gnostics, is antithetical to the Catholic faith, said the bishop. “This old heresy has emerged again in our time, but it is nothing new, just an old error built on contempt for the human body,” he wrote.