Social Justice and Sexual Sins, Part I

On the basis of the first chapters of Genesis, following the lead given by our Lord in his words on divorce, I have written about marriage from the perspective of the objective order of the transmission of human life, created in the image of God, and the subjective order of the intimacy of love in marriage.

As a reminder, I am writing from the perspective of social justice, the right order of human society, because marriage and family constitute the first and most fundamental human society. There can be no social justice without the right order of the family. Consequently, the sins that cause disorder in marriage and family should be recognized as sins against social justice. That also means that the separation of the idea of social justice from the right order of family life is itself a grave evil and a violation of true social justice.

So in the light of the order of the transmission of human life and the order of the intimacy of love, it will be good to comment on the sins against marriage and family, in particular the misuse and abuse of human sexual powers and the new life to which they are ordered. All the sins that will be mentioned here are mortal sins that need to be confessed by kind and number to the best of a person’s ability.

As a preliminary, though, we need to understand that sexual intercourse properly refers only to the natural sexual union between a man and a woman, because only these two ‘fit together’, and only they can truly unite in a natural sexual act. This is properly called the ‘marital act’ because the only place it can rightly be completed is within the context of the marital commitment.

So any use of sex that is not ordered to completion in a natural sexual union is disordered, incapable of uniting persons, and is not truly an expression of love. The only sort of ‘love’ that can be involved is that of giving each other pleasure, or better helping each other experience pleasure, but there is no communion of persons achieved.

The solitary enjoyment of sexual pleasure has been quite appropriately called ‘self-abuse’. It contains the particular perversity of turning in on oneself a pleasure that is supposed to be the fruit of the love expressed in the marital act. In this light, when two or more people, of the opposite sex or the same sex, consent to enjoy sexual pleasure together apart from true sexual union, it could rightly be called ‘mutual abuse’.

All this procuring of sexual pleasure apart from natural sexual union, besides being essentially sterile and opposed to the order of the transmission of human life, is also unnatural. They are sins against nature created by God.

Next, any natural sexual union that is enjoyed outside of a legitimate marriage lacks the mutual commitment required to establish a true communion of persons in love, fails to express the totality of the gift of self in love, and is performed in complete disregard for the good of any offspring that might result. The couple is not truly ‘making love’, but pretending to ‘make love’, because in one way or another they are holding back and not properly providing for each other and the potential offspring.

All these sins have become common and accepted in today’s society. Our youth are left completely without guidance, abandoned to the morality that anything goes, so long as there is consent, just avoid pregnancy and disease.

These sins have become common and accepted, but they still wreak havoc with people’s life. Men and women fail to experience or discover the love they are seeking. They are even deprived of anything close to a right understanding of life. They experience disillusion and frustration and do not know why. Men fail to discover the meaning of their manhood and women fail to discover the meaning of their womanhood. On top of everything, they discover after the fact that they are filled with shame, a confusion of desires, and a polluted imagination. Women are left as single mothers and men are left paying child support for children in whose lives they have little influence. There is often an inheritance of disease or mental illness. In the end people frequently end up hardened, cynical, and embittered, having despaired of ever finding true love. They have at least lost their chance to experience true and pure virginal love.

We need to discover that the ‘no’s’ to sexual sins are meant to protect the great ‘yes’ to true and authentic, self-giving love. We need to discover that the prohibitions in regard to sex are not some caprice of God who does not want human beings to experience pleasure (secret: God created pleasure, not the devil). Rather, they are like the levees that channel the force of a mighty river. With the levees in place that mighty force is in the service of life; if the levees are destroyed, that mighty force becomes mightily destructive. In our pride and ignorance we have gone about destroying the levees. We are now witnessing the destruction far and wide, while we scratch our heads and wonder why.

This is social destruction. Destruction of the right order of human society. This is a matter of social justice.



Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.

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