Catholicism and sexuality
It’s hard enough being a human in this world. Being a religious human can make life – and more specifically, questions about sex, a bit harder.
If you are a Catholic like myself, you probably grew up knowing that sex before marriage is highly frowned upon as well as all forms of artificial contraception, abortion and homosexuality.
In addition, if you are a Catholic then you have also suffered from Catholic Guilt, i.e. the feeling one gets when contemplating to go against Catholic teachings – or when you actually go against the teachings!
Growing up in an African and Catholic household, sex was always a taboo topic. It was never spoken of; if a sex scene came up in a TV show the channel was changed or the show was banned completely. Books with any slight sexual references were never allowed in our home. I found this quite ironic growing up because my mother would always read romance books, and watch steamy romance shows like The Bold and the Beautiful and The Young and the Restless…
The situation at church and at the Catholic school I went to was not too different. The doctrine fed to us was similar but with an additional constant reminder that committing any of these ‘mortal sins’ would give us a one-way ticket to hell.
The mortal sins included committing adultery. This is having sex before marriage and/or having sex with another person’s husband or wife. Another mortal sin is using artificial contraception. This is considered a sin because you would be coming in between God’s will for procreation, and essentially mocking the sacred institution of marriage. According to Catholicism, marriage is primarily for procreation, so being married and getting pregnant every time one has sexual intercourse, is known to make a marriage whole.
Related: Does God Care When It Comes To Love?
I’ll mention one more mortal sin that has been debated upon for decades in society – abortion. Christians (Catholics in this case) are said to have a duty to protect human life from its conception. Abortion is completely abhorred in the Catholic church and can never be accepted no matter the situation – be it due to rape, incest, or a danger to maternal mental and physical health etc.
For a long time, I agreed with all these alleged guidelines because I wanted to be a good Christian and a good Catholic. I wanted to be assured entry into heaven. But as I got older and learned more from the world around me, I realized these rules are actually not feasible.
I should be able to choose when and with whom I want to have sexual intercourse with, and marriage should not be the determining factor. I should be able to plan my family how I see fit because I am the only who knows when I can have children and when I cannot and how many children I can actually have because factors outside my control will affect said children. Lastly, I should be able to terminate a pregnancy if the conception was forced upon me, if it will end up harming my physical or mental health and if I am truly not ready to be a parent. And I should not be made to feel guilty about it.
Catholic guilt can really eat you up if you are not careful. When I lost my virginity in my early twenties, I felt horrible. I chose to do it yes, and I was in a very serious relationship at the time, so I did not see a problem. However, all my life growing up, I had always heeded the message that one should keep themselves for marriage and not a second before. So when it happened, to my unmarried self, I felt like I had committed a crime.
I could not talk to my mother about it because being the staunch Catholic that she is; she would have immediately judged me and reduced me to nothing with her words. I regretted my actions for about a year, going to confession, seeking repentance and making promises to myself to never let that happen again. The next year though, I was still in the same relationship, I was happy and in love and I did not feel like the scarlet woman I was allegedly supposed to feel like. I felt grown, and in charge of my body and my sexuality.
The Catholic Church has a very archaic look on sexuality in general that I pray will change with changing world. I get hope from the current Pope Francis, who recently just endorsed same-sex marriages, a major change for the Catholic institution. It is genuine, understanding spiritual leaders like these that my future children will learn afresh from, leaders who know that we should live as good Christians yes, but we should also live without feeling guilty for living.
Are you religious? Do you feel guilty about having sex before you get married?