Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 25, 2006
Catholic marriage ideal depends on personal witness – theologian
"Outside of the Catholic Church there is no context or vision for sex."
Pia de Solenni
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
Spreading the ideal of Catholic marriage depends on the personal witness of loving couples more than any arguments against same-sex marriage, says moral theologian Pia de Solenni.
Most decisions and behaviour changes are influenced by people with whom we have personal contact, de Solenni told a Dec. 9 gathering.
The event was sponsored by the Ottawa Cosmos and Damian Society for Medical Ethics and the Ottawa Catholic Physicians' Guild.
If heterosexuals are sending a message that any kind of relationship is defined as intimate and entitled to rights; if couples consider sex as strictly genital pleasure, use contraception, consider children a "maybe" and can divorce at any time, then it becomes "very difficult to make the case against same-sex marriage," she said.
De Solenni urged that teaching on the true meaning of human sexuality and marriage be taught long before marriage preparation courses.
Most marriages falter around money, sex, in-laws and communication, she said.
Communications skills need to be taught before dating starts, and natural family planning should be taught to every young woman graduating from high school, she said, because it teaches a woman about her body.
"Outside of the Catholic Church there is no context or vision for sex," she said.
Though she acknowledges that North Americans live in a sex-saturated society, de Solenni sees young people returning to the ideals of marriage.
She referred to several articles about Ivy League educated women opting for motherhood instead of the job market, or career women leaving the workforce to raise their children.
Young people have lived through the "divorce culture," she said.
Among younger Catholics, she credits Pope John Paul II, who challenged them with the Catholic ideal of marriage and said every child has a right to be conceived as a result of love.
Human sexuality is an essential characteristic of the human being, but it is wrongly equated with sexual actions. From the beginning of human life, an embryo is either male or female.
Gender and identity
Although one's sex is a fundamental part of one's identity, de Solenni pointed to the lives of the saints to show that one can be masculine or feminine while having qualities or pursuing roles that traditionally belong to the other sex. Joan of Arc remained fully a woman while leading the French army.
"It's not just about what you do, but who you are," she said. Being male or female is an essential part of our being as creatures made in the image and likeness of God.
"Our understanding of ourselves is dependent on our being in relationship with others.
"Not until Eve is created is Adam able to name himself," she said. "The whole creation is relational. We don't understand one without the other."
De Solenni, who recently married, said the word "helpmate" used to "grate" on her, but John Paul II's teachings on the theology of the body helped to see helpmate as a "divine assistant."
The marriage relationship is meant to be as intimate as that between Christ and the Church, she said. Through marriage men and women not only come to know themselves and each other, they also come to know God.