For nearly 150 years, we who are the Church have fought liberalism and modernism in its many forms. Until Vatican II we had the full resources of the Church at our disposal as we valiantly fended attacks against not only our religion in particular, but even against religion and ethical and moral life in general. But it was a losing battle, and once the liberals and modernists were able to hijack virtually all of the Church's material and organizational resources, depriving those resources of any value and depriving us of a much-needed infrastructure, the battle has only all the more rapidly turned against us.
A society that would have (and did) reject a leftist liberal communist agenda only ten years ago has now calmly allowed the bad guys to just walk in and take over. Even among the Church, zeal is down, malaise has set in. Weak, scattered, confused, and divided, it's a wonder we can exist at all, let alone show any traces of growth (but we do, nevertheless!) But might there be some way that the Devil has snuck into even our own devout lives?
It is amazing just how much the societal mores have changed, especially over the past one hundred years. Only that long ago, in the lifetime of some few still alive and able to remember such times, swimsuits still covered the whole body, on both men and women. "Birth control" as we know it today with all manner of pills, implants, gadgets, and surgical procedures was altogether unknown, even among Jews and Protestants of every denomination. Self-control was the watchword of the day, and tremendous efforts were expended to protect society, and all the more so children, from the filthy ways of lust. In the classical heyday of Hollywood, both movies and television, even married couples were portrayed as sleeping in separate beds, separated by at least 14 inches and a useful nightstand. The audience was not supposed to get the idea that they ever "did anything" in private, as the story itself plainly focused on other issues and concerns.
In those days, perversions such as homosexuality were not talked about, and the other more obscure perversions all relegated to heavy scientific tomes devoted to pathological psychology, where they belonged. As we know, even then there were many who did these things secretly, who had secret affairs (hetero and homo), private obsessions, and what not, while maintaining the appearance of normalcy. Apart from those who were closely involved with any of these people who did these things, no one even knew what they were doing or what was going on behind the scenes.
But now what has long been discreetly confined to the marital bedchamber, together with all those other things kept out of general public knowledge at all, is shouted from the rooftops, demonstrated in children's television programming, and taught in our grade schools to little kids not even old enough to know how to multiply or divide or conjugate a verb. The strictness long taken for granted is almost never found today, and then only in a very few persons who now find themselves to be quite out of step with society in general in this, and often in many other ways as well.
Even more diabolical, even many Christian and (Novus Ordo) "Catholic" writers and teachers are proclaiming everything short of outright sexual revolution. Of course, there are a number of things the bible expressly prohibits, and of necessity many of these writers and teachers steer around these topics, though in recent years the passages against homosexuality tend to go unmentioned or explained away ("These two guys really love each other; isn't that more important that a bunch of silly old rules?"). But here's what we got clearly and obviously condemned right there in the Bible:
3 Coitus Interruptus (actual sin of Onan)
6 Homosexuality (both male and female)
7 Sodomy (hetero as well as homo)
The approach of many of these writers and teachers is that anything not explicitly listed in the Bible is therefore perfectly fine. So, while the Bible lists the above as wrong and sinful, it doesn't say anything about Foot Fetishism or Sadomasochism or any of a whole host of other even more degenerate behaviors, so therefore that makes them all OK, or so the rationalization goes. Never mind the more obvious fact that an exhaustive list is simply out of the question, and why should the Bible even bring all these things up? Even the things listed above were mentioned most briefly and simply so as to put one on notice that these behaviors are wrong and sinful, but then go no further.
In this same vein, they often also claim that masturbation isn't sinful because it isn't named in the Bible anywhere. Well, it may not be named, but it is hinted at and roundly condemned, for it forms the basis for all the above listed sins as well as all the other sins of lust not listed in the Bible. When Jesus spoke about Adultery (St. Matthew 6: 27-32), He mentioned first actual and literal adultery, which everyone in his audience knew to be evil, and for which a person could be stoned, under the Law. He then moved on to Adultery in the heart, which is to lust after a person, and that too He also condemned. But then He goes on, talking about the eye and the hand, that if they cause one to sin, it is better to do without an eye or a hand. Well the eye refers to looking with pleasure at any lewd object or violated privacy, which could properly be called "Adultery of the eye," and the hand refers to using the hand for self-pleasure (masturbation), which is "Adultery of the hand."
Indeed, until the "sexual revolution" of the 1960's (following on the heels of Vatican II), and especially until Christian and "Catholic" writers and teachers began preaching their own little "sexual revolution," Christianity was always known to be quite strict on all matters sexual. Indeed, what we would have known of back in 1900 is but the tip of the iceberg of what has been taught by the Church. Not only was everything of that sort prohibited outside of marriage, but even in marriage its use was carefully proscribed.
Hear what the Catechism of Trent says on the Sacrament of Matrimony:
We have now to explain why man and woman should be joined in marriage. First of all, nature itself by an instinct implanted in both sexes impels them to such companionship, and this is further encouraged by the hope of mutual assistance in bearing more easily the discomforts of life and the infirmities of old age.
A second reason for marriage is the desire of family, not so much, however, with a view to leave after us heirs to inherit our property and fortune, as to bring up children in the true faith and in the service of God. That such was the principal object of the holy Patriarchs when they married is clear from Scripture. Hence the Angel, when informing Tobias of the means of repelling the violent assaults of the evil demon, says: "I will show thee who they are over whom the devil can prevail; for they who in such manner receive matrimony as to shut out God from themselves and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule which have not understanding, over them the devil hath power." He then adds: "Thou shalt take the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust, that in the seed of Abraham thou mayest obtain a blessing in children." It was also for this reason that God instituted marriage from the beginning; and therefore married persons who, to prevent conception or procure abortion, have recourse to medicine, are guilty of a most heinous crime - nothing less than wicked conspiracy to commit murder.
That grace is also signified and conferred by this Sacrament, which are two properties that constitute the principal characteristics of each Sacrament, is declared by the Council as follows: "By his passion Christ, the Author and Perfecter of the venerable Sacraments, merited for us the grace that perfects the natural love (of husband and wife), confirms their indissoluble union, and sanctifies them. It should, therefore, be shown that by the grace of this Sacrament husband and wife are joined in the bonds of mutual love, cherish affection one towards the other, avoid illicit attachments and passions, and so keep their marriage honorable in all things, ... and their bed undefiled."
Matrimonial fidelity also demands that they love one another with a special, holy and pure love; not as adulterers love one another but as Christ loves His Church. This is the rule laid down by the Apostle when he says: "Husbands, love your wives as Christ also loved the church." And surely (Christ's) love for His Church was immense; it was a love inspired not by His own advantage, but only by the advantage of His spouse.
Finally, the use of marriage is a subject which pastors should so treat as to avoid any expression that may be unfit to meet the ears of the faithful, that may be calculated to offend the piety of some, or excite the laughter of others. The words of the Lord are chaste words; and the teacher of a Christian people should make use of the same kind of language, one that is characterized by singular gravity and purity of soul. Two lessons of instruction to the faithful are, then, to be specially insisted upon.
The first is that marriage is not to be used for purposes of lust or sensuality, but that its use is to be restrained within those limits which, as we have already shown, have been fixed by the Lord. It should be remembered that the Apostle admonishes: "They that have wives, let them be as though they had them not," and that St. Jerome says: "The love which a wise man cherishes towards his wife is the result of judgment, not the impulse of passion; he governs the impetuosity of desire, and is not hurried into indulgence. There is nothing more shameful than that a husband should love his wife as an adulteress..."
And do not forget the superiority of holy virginity over that of marriage (though marriage is also a good; it's just a lesser good than that of consecrated virginity), the virtue of continence which is a fruit of the Holy Ghost, along with modesty and chastity, and finally the example of the holy house of Nazareth which is repeatedly ever and anon held up in Catholic catechesis as a model for all families.
But why such high standards? It is one thing to show from such documentation as this that God calls us to self-restraint, even encouraging this self-restraint within the bond of matrimony where alone these things are permitted at all, but quite another to explain what is going on and why it is so important. The liberals of course merely claim that these high standards all stem from God (or at least that "nasty old medieval God") being some sort of killjoy Who wants to eliminate all human pleasure and enjoyment. If nothing else, at least it must be clear that pleasing God and being liberal are strictly alternative to each other. Any attempt to combine God with liberalism can only result in the invention of some new "god" quite alien to He that created us and Who came in the Flesh as our Lord Jesus Christ.
Well, perhaps the foregoing will help us understand. I do not say that this is the definitive answer, but this foregoing certainly can be viewed as a viable way of looking at these issues. Let me start out by coining a phrase by which I prefer to speak of this capability of humans (and other life forms). I call it the procreative faculty. This announces its clear and Divinely intended purpose and function.
Now let's get this straight. God is the Creator; we are the Creation. We are not the Creator, so the sooner we stop acting as if we were the Creator the sooner we can find true inner peace and acceptance of our actual role and place in the Universe. The creature has no right to say to his Creator, "Why did you make me thus, or indeed why did you make me at all?" Are we our Lord's counselor? Is He to be subjected to our limited and fallen will?
Now with God being the Creator, that means that doing Creation belongs to Him alone. We may take and mold things into other more useful things, or "create" ideas for stories, songs, technology, and so forth, but none of this is Creation in the sense that God Created the Heavens and the Earth and all that is in them. That kind of Creation belongs exclusively to God.
Yet, God has, out of the mysteries of His inscrutable will, permitted some of His intelligent creatures (us humans) a cooperative role in His act of Divine Creation. Not even the angels are extended this privilege. Each of them is directly made by God, and that is all. But we humans carry on our persons the means to help create other humans. By the very nature of it, this ability, this faculty, being creative in the Divine sense of that word, belongs wholly to God alone. Even though we are made to be physical custodians of this awesome power, that faculty does not belong to us and we have no rights to it whatsoever.
What we can have however is the privilege to use it as God directs, for the purpose that God intends, namely for the Creation of new human life (children). This privilege extends quite exclusively to those married to each other. No other use of the procreative faculty is ever to be authorized.
But even with this realization that the procreative faculty belongs exclusively to God, we can wonder why it is that we are the physical custodians of it, and how is it to be viewed. Do we not (every part of us) belong to God Who created us? That we do, but God has given us to ourselves, that we may freely (if we love Him) give ourselves back to God by dedicating ourselves to Him. Even in that dedication or consecration to Him, there is still some element of ownership that we can still have, i. e. this is MY hand; this is MY foot; MY stomach hurts; give me some warm clothes to put on MY body. This is why it is that even as baptized Christians (therefore dedicated to God) we can still give ourselves in marriage, or to a religious order, or hire out our labor for pay, and lawfully enjoy the fruits of our labor. But the procreative faculty does not belong to us; it belongs to Someone Else, and for any unauthorized use of that gift which is loaned to us there will be a most strict accounting.
I see it as like the difference between owning and renting a house. If the house is ours, then not only are we free to live in it, but we may also buy and sell it, or rent out rooms, or make modifications to it, and it also means that it is up to us to keep it in repair. Of course even so there are still limits; home ownership does not give us absolute carte blanche to do quite anything with it that we please. We may not burn it down, or use it for illegal activities (such as using it as a "crack house") or perform modifications to it that are not up to building code, and quite a host of other things.
But when it comes to the procreative faculty, that belongs to God in a most special, direct, and personal way. That is like living in a house which is not owned by us but leased or rented. The landlord has given us specific things we can and cannot do, and it is a big trouble not to abide by the terms of the lease. For example, if we are renting the house we live in, we cannot get the locks changed, or at least not without the owner's express permission. In that case we cannot make modifications to it at all, we cannot sublet out rooms to anyone else, and so forth. Though we live in it, it is not ours, and what things we may or may not do with it are all at the discretion of the owner.
Or think of it like driving on the public roads. There is no such thing as a "right to drive." Rather, that is a privilege extended to those who have demonstrated an ability to drive safely and who have a proven track record of doing so (at least under instruction, as in new student drivers), and it can be revoked from anyone who abuses that privilege by driving drunk or recklessly. In marriage the use of the procreative faculty is also a privilege.
The proper use is for procreation in marriage. For the man it should be a nonverbal way of saying to his wife, "I love you and want you to have my baby. I want your beauty to live on in our child; I want to be surrounded by it in a flock of our children." And for the woman something similar to her husband, "I love you and want to have your baby. I want to nurture someone that looks like you and who will grow in my arms." This is procreation as God intended it, and the procreative faculty used correctly. A family should be large, and blessed are they that have many children.
But won't that contribute to overpopulation? But we already have the answer to that. The island of Ireland can support about 4 million people. For centuries they have pretty much all been Catholics, complete with large families. But for population stability many do not marry. They become the maiden aunts and bachelor uncles to the families of the two or three children in a family who do marry, and have an active role in the lives of the new families of their siblings. Some enter the religious life, or even the priesthood. And given lower levels of medical technology, fewer children simply made it to adulthood at all than with today's medical technology, so families wanted at least 3 and hopefully more.
The ability to grow potatoes expanded the ability of the Irish island to support about 8 million people, so when the potato was introduced, the population grew until it stabilized at that figure. When the potato blight came along potatoes could no longer be used and the island's ability reverted to being able to support only 4 million again. In that dreadful day, about 2 million starved to death, and another 2 million were forced to emigrate to other lands. That is where we in America (and other places) got such significant Irish communities, and also many Irish clergy, back in the nineteenth century, and continuing well into the twentieth. But the point is that the population does not simply expand to infinity, but only to what the land and resources can endure.
Some will ask, "What about the pleasure it brings, and isn't it unfair to deprive all others of that pleasure?" In a perfect world, only the married would even know of such a pleasure; it would be their secret. The rest, unaware of its existence, would not feel the loss. But as the "cat" is hopelessly out of the bag in this, nearly all (but small children) are now forced to live with the knowledge (hopefully only abstract from having only heard or read about it, but sadly all too commonly known by experience through mortal sins of unchastity) that there exists a certain pleasure which is specifically denied to them. We have no right to that pleasure, no matter how much liberals have sought to make having that pleasure into some sort of "constitutional right." Even the married have only the privilege, specifically of conceiving children, and associated with which, this pleasure is only a side-effect. The difference between being married and not is therefore not as great as some claim. It is the difference between continence with no exceptions versus continence with some exceptions. It is not "You (single person) are not allowed any fun, but they (married) are allowed every fun and pleasure imaginable."
How many of us ever have the pleasure of floating weightless in outer space? How many of us ever have the pleasure of owning our own island, or of owning our own airplane and flying off wherever and whenever we want, or of owning and driving a high powered exotic and rare Italian sports car? The world is full of "nice things" that many of us will never be able to have, or else have only most rarely and briefly, and that even those who would have them will most likely have to earn them with much personal sacrifice, if they really want these things badly enough. None of these pleasures are rights, and no one would even think of trying to make them into rights, and yet when it comes to that one particular pleasure there are those who actually try to turn it into a "right." This is why lies have been spread against "abstinence programs" to conceal just how genuinely successful they have always been in reducing teenage pregnancy and spread of diseases, why it is instead that our youth are given condoms and taught how to use them, even in grade school.
No, the one real purpose of that pleasure is to serve as God's Own "Thank you" to the couple for having labored to try to bring newly created life into the world. That is why it exists and why it is meant to be something kept rare and special between the married partners. The ability people have to steal that pleasure anywhere that it is not merited and justly earned is like some giant hole in the ground that anyone of us could easily fall into if we are not vigilant and careful. In bygone days, public morals and society set up all manners of safeguards to surround that pit and prevent anyone from falling in accidently. But now with virtually all of those safeguards removed, it is only those who serve God most diligently who can avoid falling into that pit. As with all human endeavors, this is meant to take some effort. But to those who have not given themselves over to the power of Satan in such slavery to filthy pleasures, the effort needed is only nominal, reasonable, and not a burden but can be felt as a joy.
But then there are those who ask, "What about the physical tensions and unfulfilled desires one must live with when denied that pleasure?" That desire exists with two basic functions. To those who are in a position to seek marriage, or being married, to seek having children, the desire exists to spur them on with this vital activity of propagating the species. The desire has to be something felt every day, and it has to be felt with sufficient intensity that it cannot be ignored or denied without conscious effort. For it takes work to make oneself a worthy partner to a marriage - seeking job training, a career, domestic skills, parenting skills, and so forth. And then it takes work to pursue a marriage partner - learning manners and etiquette, making oneself presentable, arranging for opportunities to meet and be met, and so forth in the courting process. And how easy it would be to procrastinate, once married, as to making children (who we know will turn our lives upside down), if we didn't have such a strong desire that serves as a daily reminder of our Divine mandate to be fruitful and multiply.
The desire is therefore meant to serve as that spur to move us onward in our life, to pursue the worthiness to be a father or mother, to pursue a mate through a proper courtship and go through all the hoops it takes to get married, and then having done all this, to urge us yet onward towards parenthood. That "ticking clock" that unmarried women in their thirties and early forties go on about is that final reminder that, if they intend to do this, they had best get on with it before it really is too late. How easily we would defer these things indefinitely if there were no compelling motivation or no daily reminder to urge us on forward.
And what a disastrous short-circuit of this holy purpose for the desire it would be, if that desire were to be spent prematurely on some unchaste release of lustful passions. Such unchastity really does become an alternative to bettering oneself in those who yield themselves to it. It also becomes a breeding ground for all manner of perversions, both those few actually listed in the Bible, as well as all the others. And then, when the bare fact of an unchaste release becomes boring and prosaic, then come in all the progressively more and more deviant forms of unchastity. And sometimes, these more deviant forms can take on a truly criminal bent. Predatory serial killers are made this way, as taking life or torturing persons taken at random become one's fantasies.
But what about the married? How often in these dark days do newlyweds receive such "wedding gifts" as naughty underwear, porno movies (to be watched together late at night after the children have gone to sleep?), sex manuals (even sometimes supposedly "Christian" ones!) chock full of all the latest techniques, and "sex toys" ranging from vibrators to whips? Even only a single generation ago it was considered shocking, or at least gravely in very bad taste, to give such things to newlyweds, or for pious newlyweds to purchase such items. But now it is simply taken for granted. Would any of our traditional Catholic couples have fallen for this snare of Satan? I hope and pray not, but I have no way of knowing (but God does).
But since they are married, can't they now do whatever they want (so long as its "consensual")? I really don't see how such depraved activities could fail to be actual and serious defilements of the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4). Where is the thought of children in doing such things as this? Or of being fruitful and multiplying the human race? Or of respecting that faculty which truly does not belong to them at all but to God? I really don't see how those who use such things can avoid a plainly "contraceptive" mentality. And even if in doing these things they keep themselves "open to the transmission of life," could anyone fail to be at least somewhat uncomfortable at the thought of having been conceived in the course of some bizarre kinky sex game?
And of course, even in marriage, any release obtained, by either partner, in any manner that offspring cannot be the result, or at any time that offspring would not be wanted or accepted (would be killed off if conceived), is as sinful as anything done outside marriage. It is true that the Church, beginning with the reigns of Popes Pius XI and Pius XII has permitted the use of the "less likely" times for conception, but this is tolerated only where conditions of clear economic (or other, e. g. medical) hardship will result from having more children and where there is any danger of more serious unchastity on the part of either marital partner. In times past, simple total abstinence was also noted as one other alternative if the couple wished for no more children or were both willing to abide by it, as it had long been the accepted practice.
One thing to bear in mind however is that when this permission was initially given, the "rhythm method" as understood then used a calendar and was rather crude and not entirely effective. At that time it did not truly preclude the appearance of children, only provide a statistically lower possibility of having them. So, instead of having 25 children, a family using the "calendar method" all the time from the very beginning might instead have had only 5 children. It was permitted because no actual preventive measure (artificial device, pill, etc.) was being used, because it did not take the life of any child conceived, and because it only "reduced the odds" of conceiving children, not eliminated them.
But now, with other methods and technologies far more effective in reducing the chances of pregnancy to zero (when followed diligently) even though it still works through sheer timing and nothing else, its use can no longer be considered innocent. Marriage is about having and raising children in the Faith, not about having pleasure without children. The procreative faculty is for procreation, the pleasure associated with its use is only a side-effect. The goal of procreation for the purpose of populating Heaven alone must drive and determine its use.
It's like cake and icing. The cake is the thing actually asked for and expected ("Can I have a piece of cake, please?"). The icing is just something extra to make the cake more delicious. The cake is the joy of bringing new children into the world; the icing is the physical pleasure that occurs as a side-effect of one stage of that process. Obviously, the icing adds something in the way of motivation to have more cake, but it is the cake that is to be sought. As we know, there are those who skim the icing off the top and eat that all by itself. Aside from the obvious fact of wasting the cake, when it comes to the use of the procreative faculty, eating the "icing" while throwing away the "cake" cannot escape being gravely sinful under any circumstances.
But in that daily grind of mortal existence, reasons and motives can often be mixed and varying. In the rules mandated by the Church, one can only say, "If you want to have some icing, just be sure that you always have some cake with that icing." It can be permitted to "reduce" the amount of cake to go with the icing (given certain circumstances), but never to eliminate it. But with today's advanced reproductive timing technology, this "reduction" becomes absolute. It is like those who use a tweezers to drop a single crumb of cake into a vast bowl of icing and then carefully stir it in a manner that the crumb will remain stuck to the side of the bowl rather than drawn up in any of the spoonfuls for consumption. Whatever that may do towards meeting the "letter" of the law, it rankly violates the "spirit" of the law. Or as St. Jerome put it (quoted in the Catechisms of the Council of Trent), "There is nothing more shameful than that a husband should love his wife as an adulteress."
What I'm referring to is basically covered by St. Paul in Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 5, 7 and 13 and 1 Thessalonians 4, and a few other scriptural passages as well. I leave it to the holy Apostle Paul to confer the best advice as he states in 1 Corinthians 7: 4-9.
"The wife hath not power over her own body; but the husband. And in like manner the husband also hath not power over his own body; but the wife. Defraud not one anothere, unless, perhaps, by consent, for a time, that you may give yourselves to prayer; and return together again, lest Satan tempt you for your incontinency. But I speak this by indulgence, not by commandment. For I would that all men were even as myself: but every one hath his proper gift from God; one after this manner, and another after that. But I say to the unmarried, and to the widows: it is good for them if they so continue, even as I. But if they do not contain themselves, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn."
And this leads to the other function of those physical tensions associated with unfulfilled desire. To those who seek the religious or priestly life, and also to those who simply do not get married for whatever other reason, the function here is to provide a training ground in choosing God over self. (And of course, even for the married, there also remains this necessity for self-control at most times even though they are permitted an occasional release of those physical tensions.) In no other arena is the choice between God and self so direct, simple, stark, and obvious. With each passing moment that this instinct expresses its urgent desires in our consciousness, and we for our part refuse all consent to it, interior and exterior, that very choice itself is a moment by moment choice for God and against self. If it didn't require heroic effort to sustain it at all times, then what praise would be due unto the consecrated virgins? Indeed, if there were no effort required for such holy purity, chastity, and continence, would not the priest who does not marry be no better than the lazy bachelor who spurns marriage merely to avoid the inconvenience of wife and children, whom he sees merely as burdens?
Of course, the self-will is most perfectly and fully contained by the Evangelical Counsels, not only of Chastity, but also Poverty and Obedience. It has been said that each of these vows hits with most impact at different stages of one's life. To the young, it is the Vow of Chastity that requires the most effort, as the hormones most richly course in their veins, but to the middle aged, it is the Vow of Poverty, as one fears to enter one's old age unprepared and without savings, and to the older still it is obedience which proves most difficult, for it is difficult for those more learned and wise and experienced to endure the commands and direction of those less learned and less wise than themselves. But as can be seen from that serial progression, it is chronologically Chastity that first trains up the young to put God over self, and then the same lesson of putting God over self is merely repeated and built upon in the other Evangelical Counsels as one grows older.