Is sex sacred or profane?

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49 thoughts on “Is sex sacred or profane?

  1. Profanity is taking the sacred and using it in such a common way that it offends the sacredness of it. Something can’t be profane unless it is already sacred.

  2. By “sex” do you mean the fact that God created man male and female or the act of copulation?

    Either way, it is something that is sacred which the modern world has made to be profane.

  3. It would seem that something can only be sacred insofar as it is a channel for grace. Even if one could establish that sex is sometimes such a channel, whether because it increases the charity between spouses or because it moves them to gratitude toward God for the wonder of His creation, it does not seem to be the case that sex is in itself a channel of grace and thus is no in itself sacred. This appears to be the case because sex belongs firstly to the natural order and not to the supernatural order.

    • A priest I know and respect highly refers to sex as a sacramental, which (if I’m not mistaken) in the Catholic understanding is a means of conferring grace so long as the would-be recipient is properly disposed. This means that it is sacred in the same way that holy water or the Rosary is sacred, and that grace can be present by the nature of the act.

      • To say it’s a sacramental means it is a source of grace instituted by the Church, so that’s obviously not true. Maybe he means it has a sacramental character (i.e., that it *is* sacramental)?

    • St. Paul speaks of the marriage bed as being kept holy, i.e., sacred, and by that I don’t think he meant unused. It would seem then that sexual intercourse is per se sacred independent of what good effects it may have as a channel of grace. It is (to me obviously) a channel of grace, as well, but the holiness of (licit) coitus is not dependent on it being such channel.

      The larger question I have is how can anything created by God be per se profane? And how can the proper use of anything so created be anything but a channel of grace?

      • Not all sex occurs within the context of marriage, though if it did your point would certainly be true. Christian marriage is a sacrament, and so conjugal relations within said sacrament would be sacred. Since the existence of sex as such does not depend on marriage, I cannot see how it is sacred in and of itself, rather than being simply natural.

      • The improper use of a thing does not invalidate it. I cannot in fact see a distinction between something being “sacred in and of itself” and “simply natural”.

      • The lawfulness or proper use of sex is not entirely germane. Certainly, the improper use of sex inside a sacramental marriage (e.g. for only lustful motivations) would then be sinful, but not every marriage is sacramental- for example polygamist marriages. Such marriages not being sacramental, I do not see how they can be considered sacred in a Christian sense.

        On the question of the “purely natural” and “a thing that is sacred in itself” I maintain that these categories are real. Graces, being created gifts made by God for the purpose of drawing human beings into His inner divine life, are sacred things in and of themselves because while they are created by God they participate in His inner life rather than solely in the immensity of His being which is how the natural exists. By extension, whatever material object or action channels such grace becomes sacred- thus the physical pages of the Holy Bible are sacred because they convey grace. Without drawing a distinction between what is natural and what is supernatural we are bound to eventually confuse the being of the Creator with that of His creation.

      • Without denying that sex can used improperly within sacramental marriage, I don’t see how specifically it can be used “for only lustful motivations” for to lust is specifically to desire to possess something you do not have a right to have. Since you have a right, albeit perhaps limited, to the body of your spouse, it is impossible per se to lust after her. It is, of course, perfectly possible to desire to do something illicit with her, or to coerce her against her will, or even to violate her conscience. All of these things would be evil desires, i.e., lust, but not per se for your wife, but for some illicit use of her.

        Yes, not all marriages are sacramental, but some are. In such marriages, conjugal relations are integral to reflecting a Great Mystery between Christ and the Church of which St. Paul alludes. Sexual intercourse, is the ultimate communion between two people, even as the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Holy Liturgy and the Christian life. Since such sexual intercourse is verily God’s design and will and his ideal best for married couples, it is no stretch to believe that the very thing they share, viz., coitus, created and willed by God, and most purely expressed within sacramental marriage, is per se holy. And all of the myriad of ways that sexual intercourse fails to live up to this ideal do not count against its intrinsic holiness, but rather count as instances of sacriledge. [Hence my original terse comment.] I mean no offense and engage in no hyperbole when I say that conjugal relations in my own marriage have a sacramental significance to both of us.

        I’ll admit it is a stretch to simply equate the “purely natural” and “a thing sacred in itself”. Poop is purely natural, but it is very unlikely to be sacred. However, a human good as divinely significant (i.e., literally, as signifying divine truth) as coitus, when performed licitly within sacramental marriage with the full gift of self from each spouse, is not merely purely natural. Purely natural is what cows and horses and pigs do. Image bearing rational creatures do much more than that, or are at least quite capable of doing much more, when they act to propagate the species.

      • Yes, not all marriages are sacramental, but some are.

        In fact, most are — the Catholic sacramentology has it that the grace of marriage is conferred by the partners on one another, so even the marriages of non-Catholics to one another are perfectly valid and binding.

      • The sacramental grace of matrimony is conferred by baptized partners upon one another, yes. I don’t think this applies to “most” marriages… at least globally. Perhaps “most” in the US.

  4. In a diabolical inversion, our overlords tell us the rubbing of genitals in every way except the God-intended way is a sacred thing.

  5. I lean towards profane. It is through sex and reproduction that the sin of Adam is transferred through the human race. For this reason alone I have trouble calling sex sacred. At best it could be said to be a lesser good although celibacy is of course the greater good.

    • And therefore the command to be fruitful and multiply and to subdue the earth has been abrogated? If not, would not the means of fulfilling a sacred command itself be sacred?

      Celibacy is only the greater good for those who are called to that estate. For those who are called to marriage, celibacy would be disobedience and therefore an unmitigated evil.

      • Even when done in the context of a valid marriage the stain of adam is still conveyed I just cannot see how logically one could call an act which passes on sin “sacred”.

        Re celibacy you said: Celibacy is only the greater good for those who are called to that estate. For those who are called to marriage, celibacy would be disobedience and therefore an unmitigated evil.
        Was the Holy family commiting an “unmitigated” evil by living an obviously sexless marriage. The Holy Family is the truest most perfect example of a family one in which all should emmulate. Clearly
        celibacy is the higher good in all contexts.

      • I just cannot see how logically one could call an act which passes on sin “sacred”.

        And I just cannot see how God could command an act that “passes on sin”. So are you actually saying that the command to be fruitful and multiply is, by the Fall, hereby abrogated? That it would be God’s Optimal Best Universe if no one, ever, even once, did an act that caused more humans to be conceived?

  6. The Holy Family is the truest most perfect example of a family one in which all should emmulate. Clearly celibacy is the higher good in all contexts.

    Since celibacy is the state, permanently or otherwise, of being unmarried, it is definitively not the case that the Holy Family lived in a state of celibacy. Joseph and Mary lived in a state of chastity congruent with their calling, which, for them, included sexual continence. Like them, so too must all married people live chastely in keeping with their calling–which for the 99.999999% of all marrieds specifically requires conjugal relations, the absence of which would actually invalidate the marriage.

    • To your first statement an important distinction needs to be made. As St. Thomas says “The second thing to be observed is a certain deformity of excessive concupiscence, which in the state of innocence would not have existed, when the lower powers were entirely subject to reason. Wherefore Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xiv, 26): “We must be far from supposing that offspring could not be begotten without concupiscence. All the bodily members would have been equally moved by the will, without ardent or wanton incentive, with calmness of soul and body.” Given the Scholastic definition of the virtuous man as a man who’s passions are subject to reason it would seem then that to engage in the act even within a licit situation would be contrary to the virtuous life. Post-fall sex is not sacred it is not conducive to a virtuous or spiritual life, it marks the triumph of the lower powers over the higher. At the very least it is a base good which is very prone to corruption and abuse. An analogy could be drawn to the Scholastic notion of economics. The pursuit of money for money’s sake is morally neutral but highly prone to corruption given man’s disordered passions.

      St. Paul’s teaching grants marriage as a form of mercy. How then could it be sacred? It almost seems like the allowance of divorce under the Old Law. As far as the distinction between chastity and celibacy I was taught that chastity included continence but did not preclude sexual activity under the appropriate context. The Holy Family were most certainly celibate in that there never was any sexual activity. Jaques Maritain lived such a “Josephite Marriage” (and while I do not agree with him on much on this he is to be admired)

      I do not think that all “marrieds” require sex to say so acknowledges the triumph of the lower over the higher. Just because we live in such a society that purposely exalts such behaviors does not mean it is an indelible part of human nature. This is why the whole “theology of the body” farce is doomed to failure.

      • St. Paul’s teaching grants marriage as a form of mercy.

        Let’s be clear here — St. Paul’s teaching relates to marriage *as a remedy for concupiscence*. It is this which he claims is a “concession, not a command.” In other words, it is not sex qua sex which is a concession but the circumstances under which sex is had most of the time.

      • Well, that’s hardly an improvement. If I’d pooped on the rug, I’d blame it on the cat and then flee to Mexico. Actually, I’d probably just burn the house down, hence the Molotov cocktail.

        Hey, I just like provoking discussions. I’m not always interested in participating in them.

  7. Most people think of celibacy as being the same as sexual continence.

    People like Prinz Eugen apparently. Celibacy is not sexual continence. It is the state of being unmarried, especially (but not necessarily) as religious calling (see here and here. The call to chastity, right ordering of sexual function, is universal moral law, for the celibate and married. For the celibate, sexual continence is normative. For the married, it is not. But both ought to be chaste, each in their proper way. Therefore Joseph and Mary were not celibate, since they were married. If we can’t agree on the meaning of words, then there is no hope of meaningful discussion.

    • Where on earth did I ever claim that it was? My point was that the virtue of sexual continence seems to indicate that one can engage in sex in the appropriate circumstance (as you seemingly say above) but with the Holy Family there would NEVER be an instance of sex occurring and therefore the Holy Family was indeed celibate.Their example is an example for all, it is the ideal. The fact that you keep insisting otherwise is not only wrong but disgusting and possibly heretical.

      • For the third (fifth?) time… True or false: Celibacy is the state of not being married. (hint: correct answer is True)

        How then can you keep saying the Holy Family was celibate? Joseph and Mary were married, right? As I said, if we cannot agree upon the definition of words, then no meaningful discussion can possibly occur.

    • I will try to make this simple to help you understand.

      The great weight of Tradition opposes the notion of sex as “sacred” : ” the very natural process of generating life has become the way of death by which original sin is passed on to posterity…” (Casti Connubii) Nothing inherently “sacred” conveys sin. You have failed to account for this. You also fail to distinguish sex before and after the Fall. This is why all of the greatest saints and indeed Christ himself were celibates. To suggest otherwise is disgusting.

      Secondly to your previous question as to whether it would be better for the whole world to become celibate St. Augustine answers: ” But I am aware of some that murmur: What, say they, if all men should abstain from all sexual intercourse, whence will the human race exist? Would that all would this, only in “charity out of a pure heart, and good conscience, and faith unfeigned;” much more speedily would the City of God be filled, and the end of the world hastened.”

      • End of the world, indeed… at least for mankind. Last I checked, every word from the pen of St. Augustine is not de fide teaching.

        And BTW, answer the question: Do you or do you not know what “celibate” actually means? If so, what does it mean? Document your answer (as I have mine.)

      • Ah yes we all knew you had modernist tendencies. Maybe just maybe if you read and digested a little more Augustine and Aquinas you wouldnt be so confused.

      • Pointing… sputtering…

        Vague handwaves in the direction of a vast body of literature is not an argument–it is a pose. [My, you are so well-read!] If you can quote the Catechism or an Apostolic constitution somewhere, I’d be glad to read.

        Dear Prinz, you haven’t deigned to answer my simplest questions, repeated now multiple times. I assume that it is either because you are a) deliberately mendacious; or b) utterly ignorant. My wittle brain cannot think of any alternative.

  8. The thing I struggle with is this. We are absolutely prohibited from believing there will be sex (at least the way we understand it now) in Heaven. Sex is clearly a thing of this world, just as surely as sleeping and eating, all of which are necessary to sustain man (at the micro or macro level) through death. There will be no sex or eating or sleeping in Heaven. How, then, can they be sacred? The sacred is that which is set aside for God; if it is unworthy of being in His presence it is clearly not sacred.

    On the other hand, as Steve has noted, sex predates the Fall (though not the same understanding of sex we have today). And, for that matter, none of the sacraments will perdure unto Heaven. The institutional Church itself will vanish; this is hardly evidence that they are not sacred.

    • How does surviving into heaven equate to sacredness, Proph? Ah, you answer your own question: The Sacraments, if I may… the Holy Sacraments, will not themselves survive into heaven. So the answer is: nothing… or at least nothing particularly. Is marriage sacred? (Correct answer: “yes”) Then is the conjugal act, which is (despite hemming and hawing from some) normatively necessary to make a marriage complete and indissolubile sacred? It ain’t that much of a stretch.

      Another tack… something can be holy (i.e., sacred) by its relation to the holy thing that it signifies: Does sex signify something eternal and good? I say indubitably: the communion of loving and self-giving persons, an earthly shadow of the love within the Holy Trinity.

      It is not, I think, the satisfaction of desires that make sexual intercourse, or eating a special feast, or bowling on your anniversary, or smoking a fine cigar sacred or ordinary (either way). They are sacred, if they are sacred at all, if two conditions (that I can think of) are met: 1) They involve proper use, as revealed by God, of matter, as created by God; and 2) Such use, by its very nature, is a sign of a supernatural truth. Sacramental sex definitely meets this requirement; the fine cigar probably not.

      As for setting a thing aside for God, I think this touches on a key point: sex indeed is set apart for God, viz., to fulfill the Zeroth Commandment (fill earth and subdue; procreation) and also for the unity of spouses (to reflect the image of the Holy Trinity). The fact that we get pleasure from it is accidental (in the Thomistic sense of that word)… although obviously that helps us want to do it (and DO it and DO IT!).

      And besides, sex is in the Bible.

  9. Is it any wonder that after the post Vatican II disaster we have perverted nonsense like theology of the body and the running wild? The comment above illustrates yet another example of a liberal modernist mindset passing itself off as “traditional.”

    • Pointing and sputtering does not an argument make.

      And BTW, answer the other question: Is or is not coitus, i.e., sexual intercourse absolutely required to make a sacramental marriage indissoluble? Riddle me that one… [Hint: it is either "yes" or "no".]

      • Coincidentally, as I was looking ahead in my 1962 Missal I found the following for July 15:

        St. Henry, Emperor, Confessor. St. Henry, Duke of Bavaria and Emperor of Germany, used his power to extend the kingdom of God. By agreement with his spouse, he preserved virginity in marriage. He died in 1024.

      • S. Nicoloso: “Is or is not coitus, i.e., sexual intercourse absolutely required to make a sacramental marriage indissoluble?”

        Redbud: “No.”

        How was that not answering your question? A valid marriage is by its nature indissoluble.

  10. Can. 1061 §1. A valid marriage between the baptized is called ratum tantum [established only] if it has not been consummated; it is called ratum et consummatum [established and consummated] if the spouses have performed between themselves in a human fashion a conjugal act which is suitable in itself for the procreation of offspring, to which marriage is ordered by its nature and by which the spouses become one flesh.

    And…

    Can. 1141 A marriage that is ratum et consummatum can be dissolved by no human power and by no cause, except death.

    Can. 1142 For a just cause, the Roman Pontiff can dissolve a non-consummated marriage between baptized persons or between a baptized party and a non-baptized party at the request of both parties or of one of them, even if the other party is unwilling.

    See here.

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