Monday, February 24, 2020

The Byzantine Sexual Revolution

Many years back my wife and I attended a couples retreat. During one of the talks a woman shared that she feels closest to God after she has sex with her husband. After she said this, I thought that she was a real pervert. However, I was the pervert. Like so many other Christians, I was taught that sex was just for making children and as bonus it causes intimacy with your spouse. It had nothing to do with God other than the fact that occasionally God might infuse a soul into the results. Later I would learn that this way of thinking is a complete contradiction to scripture. Unfortunately, it seems like this contradiction is all the Church has to offer.

When God is separated from sex it causes moral problems. The fruit of this is all around us. Concerning the problems Christians often come up short in how to respond. Most often they try to make uncompelling arguments based on the bible or church teaching. They know how to tell people what’s wrong but fail to give a good answer why.  Saying that “God says so” doesn’t work anymore. In fact, those that practice sexual immorality often have a better argument. As long as Christians understand sex as just some regulated human activity, like going to the bathroom or driving an automobile, we will lose the moral argument.

For the most part, the Church has failed in its call to redeem human sexuality. Its no secret that many of the fathers were horrified of sex. For example, it was St. Jerome who said it was a sin to have sex if you don’t do it for children. Woe to those poor people in his church who were married and could not have kids!!! Some fathers even went further in their disdain for sex and debated if even women had souls. If it were not for Fathers like St. John Chrysostom, I doubt that the Church would even been celebrating marriage as a sacrament. He was in a sense one of the pioneers of a Byzantine sexual revolution. He championed the cause of marriages within the Church. He also understood that Christian marriage was the only way to fulfill God’s plan for sexuality.

The modern Catechism of the Catholic Church has adopted some of Chrysostom’s teachings. Its now taught that sex is ok for unitive purposes and not just to have kids, but the Catechism fails to adopt the vision of the Saint. You won’t find in the Catechism that sex in a Christian marriage is a revelation of God. Nor will you find teachings about the practice of chastity in marriage with the goal of making the sexual act a holy encounter within God. When we hear the word “chastity” it often comes with the understanding of, “no sex”. Chastity is actually the purification of our sexuality. For a celibate that means one thing but for those that are married another. With both kinds of people, the goal is a revelation of God.

When God made us, God created us in the divine image, male and female as the scriptures teach. It’s no accident that the Woman in scripture was created from Man just before the advent of the 7thday.  The language used to describe Adams sleep in the creation of Eve is the same language of ecstasy. The language of sex. It’s also the same language of the glory that is revealed of the 7thday. The day of the covenant. The day of human and divine union. The union of man and woman reveals God in creation.  Sexuality was never something that was to be separated from God. Sexuality achieves its purpose as a revelation of what God is.

We are created in God’s image and likeness. Likeness implies our role in accomplishing God’s purpose. Unfortunately, we don’t even know what we are anymore. Sex being reduced to just reproduction or pleasure has created a society of people who don’t know what they are. In our world you can now change your sexuality and there are many ways to find your sexual pleasure. There is no divine meaning to sex. It seems like the devil has been successful in destroying the image of God in this world. Without our sexuality there is no image of God. Don’t be deceived! Our sexuality is the most sacred part about us. Its no accident that a whole book in the bible ‘Song of Songs’ is about sex. Its time for us to redeem our sexuality! Its time to continue the work of our holy father St. John Chrysostom. To continue the Byzantine sexual revolution.


  1. The author is right. It doesn't take much reading into historical documents to see the absolute horror with which the Church regarded sexuality. This strange view of sex led to the Council of Elvira outlawing sex between clergy and their wives, which no doubt was widely disobeyed. The Council of Trullo later reversed this.

    You can, however, still see the same attitude in the writings of Latin Traditionalist Catholics regarding the married priesthood. They are absolutely scandalized that a priest who indulges in sexual union with his wife (even if not the night before) would dare to confect the most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord.

    Pope St. John Paul the Great gave a tremendous clarity to the understanding of sexual union in his THEOLOGY OF THE BODY talks. It is time the Church, East and West, get with the program and understand there is nothing impure or "dirty" about marital love and union.

  2. Fr. John, what do you think of John Paul II's Theology of the Body?

    1. I cant speak for Fr. John but my biggest problem with the Theology of the Body is that it’s in captivity. It has become the manual of the natural family planning committees and the anticontraceptive evangelists. It rarely leaves that sphere in terms of what it has to offer. Consequently, when a good catechist gets their hands on its used merely as a tool, often in marriage prep, to teach couples the evils of contraceptives. The message of the body as the means to reveal God often becomes obscured by the agenda. Most often by the time of marriage the damage has been done. These teachings come too late. We need to start at the birds and the bees. To teach our young people not just the biology but help them to see power of God in their bodies. To help give people the vision of sexual attraction rooted in God and give them the tools to purify that vision. When they have that vision any immorality will become obvious.

    2. Reductionist theology is always like that, very problematic. JPII's thought is very good, as far as I encountered. In one audience, he talked about the marital act as a form of worship, and two audiences later, he said e.g. a husband could commit adultery with his wife. People don't take the time to fully work it out (Christoper West does, and he gets criticized for essentially promoting what we would call "apatheia"-dispassion. It is a shame people focus on the rather negative (no contraception) instead of the positive-apatheia, communion of selfs, Trinitarian applications, Eucharistic (and other sacramental) applications and so on.