The Catholic Church boasts one of the largest and most diverse religious congregations in the world, so it’s probably not surprising that Catholics think about sex in a lot of different ways. Catholics are often stereotyped as being uptight about sex, and it's true that the Church maintains very conservative official positions on a lot of sex topics, from masturbation to birth control.But Catholic rules about sex and marriage have changed slowly over the course of a thousand years. Pope Francis, in particular, has modernized many of the Church's stances on issues related to sex, and it's believed he may do so even more in the future. However, many some Catholics resist these changes, and some want to go back to more traditional and conservative eras. Read on to learn about the way the Church is - and is not - keeping up with times when it comes to Catholics in the bedroom.
Homosexuals Must Ignore Their Feelings
The Church makes a distinction between homosexual desires, which are not a sin in and of themselves, and homosexual acts, which are. Therefore, the Catholic Church asks homosexual members of the faith to embrace chastity and to bottle up their homosexual feelings in order to avoid disordered acts.
According to journalist David Morrison, a Catholic convert who claims to have curbed his same-sex attraction, "The degrees of temptations we face often fade when we stop indulging them; seeking chastity and reigning in one's passions weakens them and, in the case of same-sex attractions, I believe living chastely helped diminish the degree of same-sex attractions that I experienced."
(It should be noted that studies suggest that attempting to suppress or retrain homosexual desire is not effective and can even be dangerous.)
Catholic Resent Their Anti-Sex Reputation
If you comb through enough articles about sex from a Catholic viewpoint, you'll see the phrase "sexual revolution" printed again and again. According to many Catholics, the sexual revolution of the 1960s, including increased access to birth control and more liberal views on extramarital sex, was what led to declining Church membership.
A 2014 article in L’Osservatore Romano (the Vatican's daily newspaper) about the 50 years following the sexual revolution seems to take the concept of casual sex as a personal affront, as well as a slight against the Catholic Church: "The Church suffered a heavy onslaught [during the 60s] because, as an enemy of sex, she was seen as an enemy of human happiness."
The article goes on to say it "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," an allusion to the racy poem from the Bible.
In fact, the article argues, sex is part of "the spiritual journey of every Christian, in both ascetic and married life."
Some Catholics Long for a Return to the Good Old Days
Not surprisingly, since many Catholics blame feminism and the sexual revolution for their decline in numbers, some long for the good old days before all that. In an article for Catholic.org, Cheryl Dickow wonders if women were too quick to give up on traditional gender roles.
In her very regressive piece, Dickow argues that men and women have different responsibilities in a relationship: men mow the lawn, while women have sex with their husbands in order to keep from emasculating them: "Is it unreasonable for a wife to give herself to her husband," she asks, "even is she is not 'in the mood?' I think not."
The Vatican Thinks the Internet Is Ruining Sex
In an article for the Vatican's news site, qualitative social researcher Kaye Wellings posits that the proliferation of smart phones, tablets, and social media has "contributed to the decrease of consummated relationships," while the spread of pornography has had deleterious effects on human sexual behavior.
The Church argues, "Those who engage in pornography immerse themselves in a fantasy world, withdrawing from reality. While genuine love always involves a self-giving of oneself for the good of others, pornography entices a person to withdraw into a selfish world of perverted fantasy which may later be acted out to the detriment of oneself and others."