"Marriage in God's Plan" - 1602 - 1620 - Catechism of the Catholic Church

Theology of Sexuality 

In this section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it lays out a few fundamental starting points for thinking about sexuality from a Catholic worldview. It is in Genesis that we see God's original intention for us, in Salvation History that we see the drama of sin and how it affects us, and in Christ that we are able to find redemption and the fullness of meaning as sexed persons. 

PDF included below.

Marriage as Man's Original Calling

God is the author of marriage in two ways, one by nature and one by grace. By nature, God has written sexuality and the desire for marriage into our gendered bodies as male and female. This is why marriage is a human universal, something that exists in all cultures, though imperfectly. This is why it’s called the “primordial” sacrament, in that it is the first and natural means of receiving God’s grace through marriage and family life. In another way, God is the author of marriage by grace in that Jesus elevated natural marriage into a supernatural state. Husband and wife are given special graces in order to help one another, and their children, attain to a relationship with God and to be eternally with him in Heaven. This is why it’s also a sacrament of service, the service is being done by each spouse to help the other get to Heaven. The Catechism recognizes that while there have been variations in different cultures that there is a core respect for marriage that has always existed. 

The nature of God is actually not just one, but three. God is a community of persons within himself, a community of infinite love between the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father offers love to the Son, and the Son in return loves the Father, and the fruit of their love is the life of the Holy Spirit. This model of community is built into his human creation. We are not born as individuals, appearing in the woods one day. We are born from the love of our mother and father. The love of the father and the mother is a model of God; it is so potent that it gives birth to a new life. We grow up and live in a community of love, the family. Then we go one to have families of our own ideally. This is all foreshadowing the family of God, which is the Trinity, the Church, and ultimately Heaven. "God who created man out of love also calls him to love the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love.90 Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man." 

In Genesis, man and woman are clearly created in a state of harmony and unity with each other. The text mentions that Eve is taken from Adam's side, meaning that she is equal in dignity to him. He exclaims “Bone of my bone, and flesh of me flesh…”. This is marital language in Judaism. The two were created in a state of marriage with each other. They were also “naked without shame,” meaning they were in harmony with each other sexually. There was no abuse. Their sexuality was an expression of their authentic love for each other. Their love was also fruitful in that they bore many children together. They saw one another in their totality, the way God sees each one of us. And in the totality of that vision their relationship was able to achieve a unity on every level of their being, expressed as becoming “one flesh” in marriage. 

Disunity of Man and Woman Through Sin

With the Original Sin though, the unity of man and woman is disintegrated. This is shown in the fact that they realize that they are naked and have to find clothes for themselves. “Shame” enters into their relationship. What is shame? Why do we wear clothes? Shame is a feeling we have when we realize that another person doesn’t see us in our entirety but rather sees only one part of us, in a way lusts after us, so that we have to cover ourselves. So lust enters the relationship between men and women. 

Also, it doesn’t take long before sexual immorality becomes pervasive. After a few generations, polygamy begins to become a practice. Also, when we reach the stage of Sodom and Gomorrah the Bible says that all of their thoughts became evil and sexual perversion became pervasive. So it doesn’t take long for the original unity of man and woman to become corrupted with their sexuality.  

This corruption takes another toll later in the book of Deuteronomy. Moses is guiding the Israelites to the Promised Land and they have been complaining about how hard all of God’s laws are to keep and follow. They also have been tempted to intermingle sexually with other nations because they were beautiful people. Moses allows the men to give their wives a “bill of divorce” and send her away and leave her for certain reasons. This is not God’s original plan. "Moral conscience concerning the unity and indissolubility of marriage developed under the pedagogy of the old law. In the Old Testament the polygamy of patriarchs and kings is not yet explicitly rejected. Nevertheless, the law given to Moses aims at protecting the wife from arbitrary domination by the husband, even though according to the Lord's words it still carries traces of man's "hardness of heart" which was the reason Moses permitted men to divorce their wives."

God’s Restoration Plan

God was planning to restore marriage by trying to teach them what fidelity and love really were like. God often talks about himself in the Old Testament as a bridegroom with Israel being his bride. Even though the Israelites are unfaithful to God, he was still always faithful to them. He talked about how he would give us his own son in a marriage relationship to us which would culminate in Heaven, the wedding feast of this relationship. This is obviously talking about Jesus. In living out the perfect example of marriage by giving himself for us as a bridegroom, he also taught us where we had gone astray in our thinking about marriage. 

Jesus claims in the Gospels that divorce was a “law of Moses” and was not God’s original intention. Rather, in the beginning God meant for something different, marriage as permanence. He says that “unless the marriage is unlawful” that there is no divorce in God’s eyes, and that what God has joined that no man should separate. "This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize. However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy - heavier than the Law of Moses.108 By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to "receive" the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ.109 This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ's cross, the source of all Christian life."

Jesus also talks about who can marry. He says that some people cannot marry because they were born that way, others because they were made that way by other people, and other who willingly give it up for God’s Kingdom. Jesus is referring to physical deformities either by birth, or by accident, that prevent someone from being married, as well as the decision of some people to give up marriage for God. 

St. Paul points out that since Christ is the perfect example of marriage that husbands and wives should imitate Christ in their marriage with one another. They should lay their lives down for their spouse, just as Christ did for us. The image of Christ giving his life on the cross for the Church is now the image of what Christian marriage should be like. It’s not a selfish thing, about taking goods and pleasure for oneself, but it is a selfless thing where we are called to give of ourselves for the good of the other person. It is unconditional, it is faithful, it is generous, it is life giving. "Sacred Scripture begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and concludes with a vision of "the wedding-feast of the Lamb."85 Scripture speaks throughout of marriage and its "mystery," its institution and the meaning God has given it, its origin and its end, its various realizations throughout the history of salvation, the difficulties arising from sin and its renewal "in the Lord" in the New Covenant of Christ and the Church."

Lastly, the Catechism addresses why someone would give up marriage for God's Kingdom. This goes to a fundamental distinction between the Church's conception of sexuality and the secular world's conception. For the Christian, sexuality is a means by which we are taught to seek something greater, God's love. It is a foreshadowing of something greater. It is an icon which points to a reality. Therefore, sexuality is never an end in itself, rather it is a means to learn how to love in order to prepare us for Heaven and the marriage of God and his people. Therefore, for someone to give up this preparation is not to give up their highest good, but to choose to begin to participate in the highest good of unity with God here and now. They are a reminder to us all that Heaven is focus on God and our relation with him. It is hard for the secular world to comprehend this as they do not believe in the afterlife, and therefore only understand sexuality within the purposes of this life.