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home : bishop : columns

5/26/2016 9:00:00 AM
BISHOP'S COLUMN
Love without limits
Contraception's effects on dating
FOR THE YEAR OF MERCY, confirmation candidates from St. Mary’s parish in Glens Falls, their parents, sponsors, catechists and Rev. Joseph Manerowski, pastor, made a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany on Pentecost Sunday. The group walked through the jubilee year holy doors, listened to a tour led by Andy Lopez and participated in Mass with Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger. For many from St. Mary's, it was a first-ever visit to the cathedral.
FOR THE YEAR OF MERCY, confirmation candidates from St. Mary’s parish in Glens Falls, their parents, sponsors, catechists and Rev. Joseph Manerowski, pastor, made a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany on Pentecost Sunday. The group walked through the jubilee year holy doors, listened to a tour led by Andy Lopez and participated in Mass with Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger. For many from St. Mary's, it was a first-ever visit to the cathedral.
'Love without commitment, responsibility and permanence is not very satisfying, because the human heart craves so much more.'
BY BISHOP EDWARD B. SCHARFENBERGER


Back in the 1960s -- a time when the so-called "sexual revolution" was boldly proclaimed -- a culture of newfound liberation was beginning to emerge, celebrating itself as a movement toward "free love."

Taking great liberties with the writings of some of the saints, such as St. Augustine (who wrote, "Love and do as you please") and even, at times, with Scripture, it was soon considered "in" to experiment with non-traditional, less "restrictive" relationships.

"Open marriage" -- a euphemism for spouse-swapping -- hippie communes and even a form of socializing among clergy and religious sometimes termed "the third way" (not very distinguishable from dating) seemed to announce a new era of love without boundaries.

Most of these experiments did not turn out very well. Sooner or later, it would become clear that "love" without commitment, responsibility and permanence was not very satisfying, because the human heart craves so much more.

The sexuality of human beings holds so much more potential and meaning, as Pope St. John Paul II spoke of in great depth as the "Theology of the Body." Today, there are many reasons to question whether the "sexual revolution" really brought the freedom and happiness that many well-meaning, though ultimately naïve persons, had hoped for at the time.

The widespread availability of contraceptives -- a key component of this revolution -- while effective in preventing many pregnancies, has contributed significantly (though often surreptitiously under the guise of "safe sex") to the proliferation of sexually-transmitted diseases. Nor could they do much to build the confidence of those use them that their partner really loves them for who they are and not what they can put out.

Something is being withheld in a relationship that becomes, on the one hand, very romantically and physically intimate, but treats the natural consequences of that union -- the possibility of a new person -- as an obstacle, even a disease, to be avoided, rather than a gift to welcomed.

It is not really a love without limits, willing to spend itself no matter what the cost. In a way, it is even a contradiction of the greatest model of love that exists: the blessed Trinity.

Who is God, as our faith reveals God to us? Three equal persons totally revolving around each other, crazy in love for all eternity. The love of the Father for the Son is so total, so gracious, that it generates yet another person -- the Holy Spirit -- by and through each other person.

Is it mere accident that the one human relationship through which other human beings come to be is also a kind of trinity?

Love without limits -- the love that is God and flows from God -- is not stingy, but generous in how much it will give, sacrifice and forgive. It is a great irony that what has been called "free love" will not accept the cost of love. It does not want to be held accountable for anyone or anything but the fulfillment of its own desires. Rather than a covenant that unites and endures, it is more like a contract at will that can be made or broken at the whim of either party.

The contraceptive mentality has, in a ways, changed the way men and women look at each other. With a false sense of safety, persons dating each other without a concern for the whole person -- a man or woman with whom one may not only be sexually intimate, but spend a life together, conceiving and raising children -- only focus on the recreational potential of their intimacy.

Lamenting why one always manages to chose "losers" is an odd way of denying that one did not enter the intimate relationship with a care for a partner who would make a commitment to be faithful and open to a future beyond the duration of his or her sexual satisfaction.

So, who is to blame? Caveat emptor. You only get what you ask for.

There is, of course, a better way. Christian faith believes that the Holy Spirit, the master of relationships, can help us make decisions in discerning a candidate for dating and, eventually, marriage. Much better, for sure, than any matchmaking site on the web or in social clubs.

At baptism, we Christians received the seed of the God-life. Watered by a life of prayer, open to God's grace, it can grow into a beautiful tree that produces much fruit.

What better way to show our love for one another than to tend to each other's bodies and souls like a gardener would tend to the plants and trees entrusted to her or his care? The real delight of a grower is not to ravish the garden's fruits, but to behold and delight in them in their full glory.

Men and women are made for more than fleeting days, weeks, months or even years of mutual entertainment. They are made as male and female in the image and likeness of God, as Genesis teaches. While this may not be clear in today's current socio-political climate, which is undergoing an anthropological crisis, the reality remains that most human beings will be born of two parents of complementary sexuality.

Not everyone, of course, is called to the married state. There are other ways of parenting: A priest spiritually fathers his parish; a dedicated teacher parents students, whether married or not.

As we seek to foster a deeper vocational awareness throughout our Diocese, we pray for an openness and appreciation of the role of families in nurturing men and women who can live up to their full promise as image of God's own generous and forgiving nature -- best attested to in the sacrifice of His Son on the cross.



Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, June 3, 2016
Article comment by: Glenn Smith

How refreshing to hear this from our bishop! It's so needed today, not only in our church, but in our culture! Many thanks to you Bishop Ed, for exercising your teaching office in this way. I recommend to readers, the Theology of the Body institute, which offers many resources on this and other related topics

Posted: Thursday, June 2, 2016
Article comment by: Joanne Clough

Thank you Bishop Scharfenberger for bringing the truths of our faith to the forefront.How right and Prohetic are the teachings of the Catholic Church expressed.in Pope Pius Xl,Casti Cunnubi and Pope Paul's Humane Vitae.Many young Catholic will become knowledgable because of your article..Thanks again for bringing these truths to our Diocese.Countries where Contraception is favored leads to Abortion,Divorce and many other evils we see today.It is wonderful that you are promoting a culture of Life.

Posted: Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Article comment by: Maeve Smith

Thank you, Bishop Ed for your excellent column! Contraception does change the mindset of a couple. Rather than committing fully to each other and welcoming children, it becomes a question of avoiding or "planning" a family. We're meant to discern this with God. After all, He's the author and perfecter of life. I love your gardener image of tending to each other's souls! The truth presented in love is beautiful and attractive. God bless you!

Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2016
Article comment by: CYNTHIA KUZIA

An excellent article written by our Bishop, teaching the beautiful truths of our Catholic Faith.

Posted: Saturday, May 28, 2016
Article comment by: Beth Lynch

Sincere thanks to Bishop Scharfenberger for his May 26 column on damage caused by contraception. In spite of criticism from within and without, the Church has faithfully held to this teaching. But it is rarely preached or explained, depriving generations of Catholics of this liberating, but culturally inconvenient, truth.


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