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The Iona Blog

What do people who say Church teaching on sex is ‘irrelevant’ actually mean?

Author: David Quinn
Date: 14th April 2012

A poll commissioned by the Association of Catholic Priests has found that the vast majority of people – three quarters – believe the Church’s teachings on sex are irrelevant both to them personally and to their families. But what do they actually mean by this?

Do they mean it is totally irrelevant in every respect, or that just bits of it are irrelevant (meaning, one presumes, of no help whatever to them in their day-to-day lives?)

For example, presumably a parent wouldn’t be too happy to find out that their 14 year old daughter is sexually active? Well, the Church would agree with them there.

Presumably most parents wouldn’t be too happy to discover that their 16 year old son was about to become a father? Again, the Church would agree with them there.

And if someone found that their spouse was being unfaithful on them, they would be unhappy about that? Yet again, the Church would agree with them.

Or how about the person who delays and delays having children until they are in their late 30s or older and then discovers they can’t have children because it’s too late, but if the person had listened to the Church and got married a few years before and had a child then, they would be in a much happier situation.

The examples can be multiplied. So it is simply untenable to say that the Church’s teaching on sexuality is irrelevant to every aspect of a person’s life because at the heart of that teaching is the message of fidelity, and at some level of other the vast majority of us still value fidelity. 

So when people say the Church’s teaching on sex is irrelevant to them they are probably chiefly thinking of the prohibition on sex outside marriage and on artificial contraception, or else they simply think it is a fashionable thing to say, or perhaps they regard the Church’s teachings as personally inconvenient.

But there is no way they can have thought the issue through properly because if they had they simply couldn’t say that the Church’s teaching on sex is of no practical value to them in any area of their life whatsoever.



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