Catholic sexual ethic is ‘anachronistic’

sexual ethic

The Catholic Church’s sexual ethic is anachronistic, says Salesian Father Ronaldo Zacharias.

Its “established, dogmatic models of the theological approach to sexuality have become anachronistic.”

Zacharias made the statement when speaking at a conference in Rome on sexuality and culture at the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences.

New sexual ethic needed

What the Church needs to do now is to develop new theological ethics of sexuality, Zacharias said.

That is “a task for the entire church community” Zacharias (a professor of moral theology at the Salesian University of São Paulo) told the conference on 21 February.

“We cannot ignore that in recent decades there has been a remarkable evolution regarding terminologies, concepts and descriptions related to sexuality” he said.

This has had a profound influence on developments individuals have experienced on their conceptions of their own sexuality, he explained.

He told those at the conference that the Church therefore “should not talk about sexuality without considering the understanding we have of it today”.

It should also keep in mind potential problems with modern understandings of sexuality he added.

He quoted the Augustinian theologian Sister Ivone Gebara to make his point.

The Church’s “theology of binary sexuality is no longer able to understand the complexity that we discover in ourselves”.

Sexuality can’t be ignored

Zacharias told his audience he thinks Catholic theology has not helped people integrate their sexuality into the individual “personhood”.

The clerical sex abuse crisis involving some of the Church’s ordained ministers shows this to be the case, he said.

“Sexuality is a constitutive dimension of each person, a central aspect in the life of human beings that characterises who a person is to the point that it cannot be left out in the process of personal fulfilment.”

It doesn’t matter what a person’s vocation in life is, he said.

Every person’s sexuality “has a legitimate role in all phases of their development” he explained.

Therefore it “cannot be confined to the context of marriage” or reduced to a means for procreation.

The Church needs to n overcome “an essentially negative view of sexual desire, as if it were something to be repressed at every moment” and which suppresses a person’s desire for love.

“Self-control is self-control, it is not a virtue” he said.

Human love

Zacharias told those at the conference that he thinks sexuality “acquires its true human quality if it is oriented (toward), elevated and integrated into love.

“Authentic love moves one toward self-transcendence, and makes sexuality a ‘place of reciprocity,’ a place of affirming the good of the other” he said.

“The integration of sexuality does not depend solely on the will of the person.”

A challenge for Church theology will involve affirming “the meaning of sexuality in light of an eminently relational anthropology” he suggested.

Sex cannot be treated as a “separate entity, an object for ethical reflection”.

It must be considered as part of “the whole of the relationships which it serves”.


Additional reading

News category: Top Story, World.

Tags: , , ,