Published Fri May 31, 2019 01:06 PM PDT
Let us talk about this important topic. This issue is really at the crux of all political and religious disagreements today. Therefore, if the world is to move forward, we should try to reach some sort of consensus on it. For this reason I have studied the various views thoroughly and contemplated them over a long period of time. I will now share my conclusions on the subject.
First of all, the baseline for thinking about this is contemplating the purpose of the act. Now before you assume I am a hardcore traditionalist, just bear with me a bit. The original, biological purpose of the act is to procreate. I don't think this is very disputable. It seems to be true, scientifically. But now the question becomes how one should handle the drive in human beings that compels them to act, even in a way that is not procreative. And this requires some nuanced thinking. For one thing, it's a universal problem; aside for perhaps some people who are by nature completely asexual, everyone struggles with this problem, including the hardcore traditionalists. Some try to cut out a place for themselves where it is not sin; others try to justify it always as without sin, and regard anyone who says otherwise as committing error; and some undergo a terrible cycle of believing they are surely damned, and going to great lengths to avoid sin, but failing every time. Let me tell you what I think.
The Church teaching makes a distinction between mortal and venial sins. A mortal sin involves "grave matter" (which includes improper sexual activity) but also requires that there be full knowledge and full will. A mortal sin is very serious and cuts one off from God, and can only be overcome through sacramental confession, or a "perfect contrition" in which one repents due to love of God and not merely fear of punishment. A venial sin on the other hand, means a forgivable sin. It is still a sin and an offense against God, but it is not sufficient to cut one off from salvation. Instead, in the traditional Church teaching, it incurs "time" in Purgatory after death. This "temporal punishment" can also be alleviated through various good works, such as prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and what the Church calls "indulgences", which are essentially the authority of the Pope to absolve one of time in Purgatory, either fully or partially.
But the point is, it does not incur damnation. And I think the Church has gone out of its way, especially in recent years, to always imply or hint that these inappropriate acts can surely be venial. The Catechism, since Vatican II, has really illustrated these points in very clear language. And even throughout the history of the Church, even when its language was most strict, there was always this teaching about "full will". And always, people believed that people could be forgiven by a just and merciful God. The Church has never claimed that any person has surely been damned. All of this is for a clear reason.
Someone who commits a sin, but does so without full knowledge or full will, is not damned. Someone who commits a sin, with full knowledge and full will, is. Therefore, it is essential that our attitude towards this sin involve trying to resist it. If however, due to our flesh, we are incapable of resisting it, then I believe that God will not condemn us. Therefore, such a venial sin, in which one tries to resist but ultimately succumbs to temptation, does not require sacramental confession (although there is certainly no harm in receiving it, if it is beneficial to one's spirit). However, if one sins without trying to resist, while fully understanding that what they do is legitimate sin, then one sins mortally.
What sins does this apply to? Well, even monogamous married heterosexuals are not off the hook. Church teaching is that one cannot use contraceptives, that one must always complete the act in a way that is potentially procreative. I have no doubt that the vast majority of married couples, including those in the Church, are not capable of the level of abstinence necessary to fulfill this teaching. I also know that most of them are not tending to produce children all the way until the point of menopause. Therefore, it is very clear that people are violating this rule on a regular basis. They may feel guilty about it, they may confess it and try to stop at times, but the fact of the matter is that everyone is doing it. Therefore, if everyone is doing it, let us do so in a way that ensures its veniality.
When it comes to other types, such as same-sex sins, or solitary sins, the same basic rule applies. If one tries to resist, but cannot, then it is venial.
That is essentially my thinking on this subject. I hope it does not bother you, and I hope it even provides you some comfort. Thank you for reading.
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