Reforming our thinking about courtship and sexuality
by William Craig
Kathleen van Schaijik’s insightful article on dating and courtship addressed a topic of tremendous practical importance. Having worked full-time in the Pro-Life movement for the past eight years, I am convinced that fostering an authentically Christian view of human sexuality is critical in our battle against the Culture of Death.
The prevalent view on sexuality in our culture is essentially pagan. One could argue that the day has arrived, as hoped for by Alex Comfort—a leader of the sexual revolution and author of The Joy of Sex—“when we regard chastity as no more a virtue than malnutrition.” Christians have an obligation not only to instill in their children a proper vision of human sexuality, but to act as salt and light to a world that is sinking ever deeper into a cesspool of carnal license. While some progress is discernible, especially with the recent proliferation of abstinence programs, much work remains to be done. Even these abstinence programs generally focus on avoiding sexual activity, and not on developing a true Christian ethic of human sexuality.
It is tragic that the “biblical approach” to courtship, which Mrs. Van Schaijik criticized, has emerged as the predominant Christian alternative to our culture’s hedonistic dating and courtship rituals. While laudable in its intent, this approach does a disservice to its adherents by depriving them of the experience of discerning romantic feelings, developing self-control, and learning to interact emotionally in ways that will make them better spouses when the “Right One” comes along.
The Catholic Church’s teaching on human sexuality and love is incomprehensibly beautiful. If that beauty is conveyed, dating and courtship rituals can be revolutionized to reflect the Gospel. Such a revolution would require several interrelated steps:
We must preach in the area of human sexuality faithfully and with passion. If we do not proclaim the Gospel as it relates to human sexuality, pop culture will fill the void. We have an obligation to preach the Truth, especially as it relates to these critical issues. God’s message has a power that does not come from us, and He has placed these Truths deep within every human heart. Young people will respond to the truth and the beauty of our message if shared clearly and with passion. The Gospel is just as fresh and vibrant as ever.
We must preach and teach specifically on these topics. Unfortunately, our message on human sexuality is astonishingly counter-cultural. Even within the Catholic Church, we have experienced more than thirty years of a widespread belief that one can ignore Church teaching on sexual matters and still remain a “good Catholic.” It is unlikely that a young Catholic has ever heard a single homily or discussion of the Church’s teaching on any of these topics. It is incredibly important not only to expressly state the Church’s teaching, but also to provide compelling arguments that further reflect “ever more clearly the biblical foundations, the ethical grounds and the personalistic reasons” behind these commandments of God given for our benefit. A brilliant example of this approach is Pope John Paul II’s teaching on the Theology of the Body. We must address these subjects, especially in Catholic schools, Religious Education Programs, and in marriage preparation classes.
We must demonstrate a profound trust and respect for those facing these issues. Allowing young people to face these critical issues prior to marriage, as these situations naturally arise, can be a great opportunity for growth for them, despite the risks involved. Young people do not need to be told to avoid all intimacy, but rather, that with God’s grace, they are capable of self-control, and that we feel that they can be trusted to develop emotionally in this area. Permitting “full” courtship and dating requires a great deal of parental interaction, supervision and communication.
We must develop a proper religious foundation in our children so as to prepare them for the challenges they will face in the future, including issues involving human sexuality. Parents must provide their children “an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgement, and self-mastery—the preconditions of all true freedom,” in addition to educating them in the Faith. Children trained in these critical skills are well positioned to not only survive adolescence and the dating process unscathed, but to continue to grow in sanctity.
I pray that God raises up many from FUS who will accept the challenge to be leaders in bringing about this Catholic revolution in dating and courtship.
Mr. Craig resides in Michigan.