Sunday, August 7, 2016

How can "love" be sinful?

Dear Rev. Know-it-all,

I was shocked when I heard some talking-head on a Catholic radio show declare that it was a sin to have sex with someone you’re not married to. This certainly can’t be true if you are in love and plan to be together forever. My boyfriend is married but I love him and he has promised to leave his wife when the kids are grown. It just can’t be a sin if you are in love.

Yours truly,
Ann O’Nymous

Dear Ann,
You’ve hit the heart of the matter. The motto of the age is, “What’s wrong with it if they are in love?”  We Americans, raised on romantic movies and sitcoms, have completely forgotten that we have actual brains that can think and weigh actual consequences. If the modern world wants to live in a Hollywood fantasy, I wish them luck, but you can’t live in a hedonist fantasy and be a Catholic at the same time.

We Catholics define love very precisely. “To love is to will the good of another.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1766, quoting St. Thomas Aquinas). This definition of love cuts through all the romantic treacle of a shallow age. Love is not a feeling, but a willing. “How can I help it; I was born this way!” Have you no free will? “I can’t help myself. We are in love!” Are you a slave incapable of making your own decisions? 

We Americans claim to be free, but actually live as slaves to our own passions and to the prevailing winds of fashion. Let’s look at your situation.  Let us for one moment assume that there are more than two people involved in your relationship. There’s you and the cheating husband. There’s a wife, and let’s say, three kids. The husband has reasonably sworn the most solemn unbreakable oath to a wife and three kids. Now he is swearing the same unbreakable oath to you. Don’t you see just a little problem there?

We Catholics believe that oath breakers may just go to hell, if the oath is serious enough. Our entire system is built around oaths. Our life as Catholics involves seven sacraments. The word sacrament is actually a Latin word that means sacred oath an oath unto death as in the wedding oath, “…’til death do us part.”  Serious stuff? Eh?  If there is the slightest chance that marital faithlessness will send a person to hell, love is not to be together, but to be apart. If you LOVE him, that is, if you will his good, you will write him a letter, something like this:

Dear (His name here),

I love you. Therefore, I never want to see you again. This is my last communication with you. I want to you to  go back to your wife and children and be faithful to them because I don’t want you to go to hell.

(Your name here)

I can hear you squealing, “But I love him!!!”  You don’t love him. You want him. You aren’t willing his good. You are willing your own good, at least as your comic book-addled brain perceives it. Therein lies the rub! The world has mistaken desire for love. Desire is a swell thing, but it is not love. When desire is the servant of love, all is well and good. When it is the enemy of love, then see it for what it is and choose love over desire. We justify the wondrous permutation of intimacy currently blessed by the sages of Hollywood by saying that it’s alright if they love each other. I suppose in this age we are free to do as we want. But if one is a Catholic, one defines love by the Catechism. 

You are quite free to ruin the lives of some woman you probably have never met, the lives of a number of children and the life of a lying, cheating Lothario whom you claim to “luv,” but you are not free to do so and to call yourself a Catholic. You are quite free. Free. You are willing to hurt a lot of people to take what is not yours and to have what belongs to another. Just don’t say you are compelled to do so by “luv.” To love is the ultimate act of freedom. What you are experiencing is slavery to you own hormones. 

St John of the Cross said that, “…in the end we will be questioned about love.” Unless you start studying a little harder I think you will flunk the final exam. You certainly haven’t aced the pop quiz.

the Rev. Know-it-all

PS. If you really think he is going to leave his wife for you when the kids are grown, I have some real estate I want to sell you. 

Also, I recommend watching “Cohabitor’s Vows” on YouTube.,

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