I couldn’t think of a good way to write out this question.
But basically, if our sexual desires can lead to the worst sins, addictions, and disordered lifestyles, then why did God give us so strong sexual urges?
Where does shame in sex come from?
(P.S. Just to anticipate this response: I don’t see how Original Sin is a good answer, since all of humanity has been subject to original sin, and God knew we all would. So human nature now is what God always knew human nature would be.)
First, we have the importance of the survival of the species. It makes sense that such an integral part of our existence has such a strong urge (it should just remain subject to reason). We also know that it rightfully should be an amazing, wonderful thing, as we participate in the generation of new life, and it’s a highlight of the marital union. A sort of image of divine love and bliss between husband and wife, when properly ordered.
In another sense, it’s not necessarily that sexual sins are the absolute most grievous of sins. Rather, they are among the most dangerous and addictive because our urges are so strong. I feel like your question is putting the cart before the horse.
The sexual urge is strong, don’t get me wrong, but historically it has always been manageable by people who chose to manage it. As for people who chose not to, and who place the pleasures derived from inordinate use above the call to holiness, the strength of the drive is really inconsequential.
The problem we have now is that sex is everywhere. Everywhere we turn there is something attempting to elicit a sexual response in order to draw people in. As such, our understanding of sex has become horrifically skewed. Add to that the omnipresent nature of sexually-provocative material and it’s easy to understand why it is becoming increasingly difficult for some people to control their sexual drive.
It could also be that it’s apparent strength is meant to offset the hardship of its consequences. I have a son, and I love him, but life was definitely easier before he came around If sex wasn’t appealing, I imagine there would be far fewer people engaging in it even for purposes of procreation.
But since the addictions are due to the strong urge, wouldn’t that lessen personal culpability?
The same for today’s over-sexualized circumstances. Wouldn’t these just contribute to the urge?
It’s just, sexual intimacy and urge are behind some of the major issues the Church focuses on. For example, if sexual intimacy weren’t such a strong human urge, SSA (gay) people would be less inclined to want same-sex relationships, in the first place.
Even the sexual scandals. And pornography. And so on.
It just seems that a lot of human messiness is due to these urges, yet the same messiness is called sinful by God — yet didn’t he give us these urges? Etc.
Very simple answer: if your sexual urge, or any urge for that matter, is strong enough to overcome your moral urge (otherwise known as conscience,) that is a reliable indicator of a fall from the moral order.
And when we look to animals, that’s exactly the point. Animals need the urge or else they wouldn’t reproduce.
Humans are animals, too. But we have moral responsibility. This causes a conflict. Catholics are not dualists (in the platonic sense), or Gnostics, or Manicheans. And yet, there still is this conflict between animal and spirit.
And so, when humans fall to their animal instincts, it is called sin. Why?
Just trying to move the conversation forward… (Because I know there are ways of answering this, but I’m just looking for clarity).
Not true. This would be the fallacy of retrospective determinism. The person did something, therefore it demonstrates s/he couldn’t help but do it.
You may as well excuse every moral failing as an example of the same.
A rapist, a child abuser, a liar, a thief, etc., all couldn’t help do what they did because “that person has influences to the contrary — and so s/he is not totally in control.”
You may as well abandon moral responsibility altogether under the guise that all morality is an undue burden on individuals because every person is “more inclined to do the morally wrong thing because that person has influences to the contrary — and so s/he is not totally in control.”
Makes a fine all-purpose excuse for all bad behaviour. So why limit it to just sexual behaviour unless you personally have a preference for excusing only sexual misbehaviours?
It is possible that overexposure and addiction can lessen culpability, but there is nothing certain which has been revealed to the faithful.
As such, as a person who is himself addicted to pornography, I still always assume that I am 100% responsible for my actions. I would much rather reach judgment and be told I didn’t need to confess as often as I did, than to be judged and told I should have confessed more frequently.
Almost all sin is a disordered desire for some good. Sexual sins just happen to be be more prominent because they are seen as “less damaging,” and easier to indulge in. There are (in people’s minds) few worldly consequences for sleeping with some random man or woman. Contrast that with theft or murder, which carry severe worldly penalties. Sex is also more readily available than other sinful categories, especially nowadays with the internet.
God did give us urges, but He also gave us the will to overcome those urges. When Adam and Eve chose to reject God, that will was broken, and we became subject to concupiscence. You cannot blame God for the misdeeds of our first parents, from which our own woes are derived.
I wouldn’t say a mentally healthy person is not in control simply because they have sexual urges. Certainly culpability can be reduced in cases of addiction, force of habit, and so on, but that does not mean these things should be dismissed. The Church knows no one can love perfectly, unless through some special privilege from God. It is still there to instruct on right living and the way to holiness.
If our control was not somehow limited, there would be no teaching on lessened culpability.
But @Wesrock and @ProdglArchitect let me put a more practical/pastoral approach to it. Prodgl, you admitted to struggling with pornography. Thanks for this. This is kind of what I see with me, that I end up focusing on sexual sins and vices to the extent of not even worrying about how I sin in other ways.
For example, if I fall to a sexual sin, I am more likely to worry about committing mortal sin — and the need to get to Confession – almost to the exclusion of considering any other type of sin. It’s almost like I feel “dirty” and ashamed. I don’t know if this is my fault, or partially the church’s fault, OR, if it is perfectly how it should be.
But it just seems off. Anyway this is a pastoral/practical slant on the discussion.
The inclination is called concupiscence, and that doesn’t, by itself, lessen culpability.
The other factor you haven’t considered in your calculus is grace. That would be the supernatural ‘help’ available to those inclined away from the moral order that serves to right their course. I would suppose that the person’s culpability might be affected by their resistance to the influence of grace upon their choice.
I’d be very careful about using inclination to justify or excuse bad choices, under the presumption that inclination lessens culpability.
The sexual urge is a very basic and strong drive to reproduce, therefore it stems from our old brain area which is involved in basic animal urges. Our intellect is a more advanced part of the brain and since we are capable of meta cognition the tendency is to look down on our basic urges from a great intellectual height. When we respond to our basic urge we may hen feel dirty and ashamed because we have acted in an animalistic way which our intellect finds distasteful. We even see it as a weakness often too.
Incorrect. Our first parents were created with complete control over their appetites. Only a wholly deliberate act of the will could have caused them to send.
The shame you feel is misplaced. Do not feel shame, feel guilt, because you are guilty. I am guilty when I sin as well. However, far from what modern pop-psychologists would tell you, guilt is a good thing. It is through guilt that we come to recognize that we have done wrong. The guilt of a properly formed conscious is one of the holiest and most amazing gifts God can give us, because it is this guilt which serves to call us to reconciliation, which calls us to repair the damage we have wrought on our relationship with God.
Mortal sins are what you should focus on when you have committed one. God willing, someday you and I will be able to go to confession merely out of devotion and to seek forgiveness venial sins. As it stands, we both suffer from inclinations towards this particular mortal sin. It is good that, in committing this sin, it is all we can really think about in the sin arena, because that impresses upon us the need to seek forgiveness.
It’s not fun, nor is it easy, but it is good. Do not feel shame for your failing, shame is when we wallow in our sins, and is a trick of the devil. A person who feels shame feels that they are not worthy of receiving the forgiveness which God offers for all who repent and turn back to Him. If you feel this way, know that it is Satan trying to keep you from God. Instead, bow your head low before the Lord and turn to Him as the fallen child you are. He will lift you up again, and with time and perseverance, I know that you and I will both be freed from these disordered inclinations.
I will weigh in here and say it quite often comes from religious upbrining. I don’t know any non-religious people who feel guilt or shame in acting sexually as long as it is consensual or with oneself, and within the bounds of socially acceptable behavior.