Is the Church’s Teaching on Sex “Still in Diapers?”

The pope's recent statement that the Church's teaching on sex is "still in diapers" reveals a tragic ignorance of reality.

For the past decade faithful Catholics have gotten used to being anxious whenever Pope Francis gives off-the-cuff interviews (one would not be blamed for wanting a ban on papal air travel). A recent discussion with 10 young adults for a Hulu documentary only deepens that anxiety.

As expected, much of the controversy following the release of the interview surrounds the pope’s comments on sex. In one instance he was asked about young people meeting partners on Tinder. He responded that “it’s normal,” showing that he likely has no idea what Tinder is (and if you don’t know either, count yourself lucky). 

But even more troubling are the pope’s comments on other matters of sexuality—pornography, homosexuality, masturbation—the pope claimed that the Church’s “catechesis on sex is still in diapers…Christians haven’t always had a mature catechesis on sex.”

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Stop and consider the pope’s statement. The Catholic Church’s teaching on sex is based on 2,000 years of theologians and saints, guided by the Holy Spirit, contemplating the mystery of the human person and human sexuality—and that contemplation is itself also based on an additional 2,000 years of ancient Jewish teaching. That’s 4,000 years of consistent and developed understanding, yet the Church is still “in diapers” when it comes to her teaching on sex? The pope throws aside everything from the Ten Commandments to Theology of the Body as immature catechesis—this is startling in the extreme.

I’d say such a claim sounds like it comes from an anti-Catholic atheistic zealot like Sam Harris but that would be insulting to Mr. Harris.

But the statement doesn’t come from someone whose ignorance could be excused, it comes from the pope. There’s no excuse. Catholic morality regarding sexuality has been tried and tested for millennia, and it’s been proven time and time again to be the best—actually only—way to live one’s sexuality in a healthy way, physically, spiritually, and mentally.

In contrast, the promiscuous and libertine sexuality promoted in today’s culture (exactly what these young people were hoping the pope would endorse) has been shown to be tragically destructive to millions of souls—not to mention bodies—over the past few decades. The irony here is that our modern culture’s views on sex are decidedly immature—our society treats sex like a hormone-driven 15-year-old boy watching a pornographic movie. We have to turn to the Church in order to find mature teaching on sex.

What is the basis for the pope’s outlandish claims? As always, it’s hard to know the mind of Francis when it comes to these ad-libbed statements; one wonders how well-thought out they are and if he really means what he says, or if he’s just trying to show he’s willing to “accompany” his listeners. 

However, I think it’s likely based on thinking similar to what Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg stated about a year ago. When asked about the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, Hollerich stated, “I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching is no longer correct. What used to be condemned was sodomy. At the time, it was thought that the whole child was contained in the man’s sperm. And that was simply transferred to homosexual men. But there is no homosexuality in the New Testament at all. There is only talk of homosexual acts, which were partly pagan cult acts.”

In other words, Hollerich is claiming that ancient Christians (and Jews) didn’t understand homosexuality as a psychological “orientation” but only as a pagan-esque sexual act. This is why it was condemned, not because the orientation, or even the acts, are themselves intrinsically disordered. Now that modern psychologists understand it better, Catholicism needs to update its teachings accordingly.

Of course, such a claim is ludicrous, but it appears to be the new direction of Leftist Catholic attempts to undermine traditional Catholic morality. Instead of simply saying, “that teaching was wrong,” they now say, “that teaching was underdeveloped,” or “that teaching needs to be updated to our modern understanding of the human person.” By doing so, they seek to abuse the legitimate teaching about development of doctrine in an effort to radically change doctrine. The new direction of Leftist Catholic attempts to undermine traditional Catholic say “that teaching was underdeveloped,” or “that teaching needs to be updated to our modern understanding of the human person.”Tweet This

The argument is simple in its deception: the Church only condemned these acts in the past because she didn’t yet understand the underlying psychology behind them. Now that “science” has revealed the truth about homosexuality, we need to “update” (i.e., discard) our condemnation of those acts. 

This line of (un)reasoning is attractive to modern man. It pits science, which is trusted as “factual” and thus true, against religion, which is held in suspicion as being based not in reality but in superstition and bigotry. To oppose homosexuality, the thinking goes, is akin to opposing heliocentrism. Science!

Yet while it is true that the Church is not an authority on the science of celestial bodies, she is the authority when it comes to the human person and to human morality. No one knows better the path we are called to follow to be fulfilled men and women.

Again, as I already noted, it’s hard to say that Pope Francis himself wants to go as far as Cardinal Hollerich in completely abandoning traditional Catholic morality, but his comments that Catholic teaching on sex is “still in diapers” definitely encourages that abandonment.

It’s hard to express the scope of the tragedy in such a statement. One of the most destructive forces in today’s world is the sexual revolution and its consequences. Countless people have had their lives unended and even destroyed by following the false teachings of this demonic movement. Just think of all the children of divorce who had a father “follow his heart” to sleep with a woman not his wife. And speaking of diapers, if a man with same-sex attraction were to embrace the homosexual lifestyle prelates like Hollerich seem to have no problem with, he likely will one day end up wearing diapers again. 

Yet the Catholic Church has the remedy for such a disordered sexual understanding, and has had it for centuries. By following the Church’s moral teachings on sex, we can escape from the heartbreaks, physical diseases, and guilty consciences that surround us. 

Instead of condemning the Church’s teaching on sex as being “in diapers,” the pope should proclaim it in its full maturity—as the one path that can help people escape from the futility of the sexual revolution.

[Image Credit: Hulu]


  • Eric Sammons

    Eric Sammons is the editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine.

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