Eros or Agape, passion or chastity, unrestrained pursuit of pleasure or intimate human relationship. For centuries humankind has been wondering about the profound meaning of its sexuality, beginning from one question: is procreation its sole purpose? Certainly, if we reduced such a broad subject to sensations of well-being that accompany the act itself, it would be tantamount to trivialization. Among the most cynical theses there is one that assimilates human sex to animals’ act of mating dictated by physiological times, especially by the female’s fertility that occurs only in certain times of the year. In this case, after having ‘done its duty’, the male usually leaves and ignores its progeny. Men, on the other hand, should not be guided merely by instincts, but by a higher ability to reason and discern than that of other creatures. Therefore, they can approach this experience for a wide variety of reasons: to build an interpersonal relationship or a family, to have and give pleasure. But what does science say about it?
Sex is good for our health. This is a point on which agree several recent University researches. It is a natural painkiller, it increases self-esteem and reduces stress, protects skin, slows down the process of aging, stimulates the immune system, keeps blood pressure under control, reduces the risk of prostate cancer and in men increases the production of oxytocin, the so-called ‘fidelity hormone”. A research of the Munster University (Germany) conducted on 400 patients has shown that lovemaking helps to fight headaches, one of the most widespread evils of our time. Another research made by the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil) has verified its beneficial effects on the syndrome of Ekbom , that is, “leg without rest”. This is a disorder that affects mostly women between 35 and 50 years of age, when they are in bed. It causes the desire to continuously move the lower limbs and renders it difficult to fall asleep. To those we must add the decongestant effect on the mucous membranes in case of cold, as well as a general improvement of physical shape. Obviously there is also the other side of the coin, that consists in the risk of venereal diseases due to occasional partners or in the possibility of entering in contact with viruses that have carcinogenic potential (such as papilloma) especially during foreplay. But in the doctors’ analysis, those hazards are avoidable if carefully prevented. The overall balance of the effects, therefore, is more than positive. And however it would be limiting to see sex only through the specialist’s eye, forgetting how a full manifestation of one’s nature is important from the point of view of our interior and spiritual life. In eastern religions and in the monotheist ones, the intimate union between man and woman gives origin to a complete being. Male and female, not haphazardly, are also philosophical and theological concepts of primary importance that, in some faiths, regulate even the working of the cosmos. This outlook belongs partially also to the catholic creed. Let us depart from the following assumption: for the Church, sex is not a taboo. A slap in the face of all those who, not knowing the history of its teachings, see priests as ruthless censors and moralists. On the contrary, sex is considered a perfecting element in Christian marriage. A concept that is sacred and legal at the same time. Article 1142 of the Code of Canon Law says that marital status can be cancelled in case it is ascertained that it has not been consumed. It follows that sexuality itself is not something wrong or sinful, quite the opposite, it is considered to be a full realization of God’s plan.
The Book of Genesis, in this regard, speaks of the humankind created as “male and female”. God explicitly refers to conjugal union when he says that they should be “one flesh”. In this respect, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The acts with which husband and wife unite in chaste intimacy are honourable and worthy, and if made in a truly human way, promote mutual self-giving which they signify, and enrich in joyous gratitude the spouses themselves”. Then adds: “Through the union of the spouses comes into being the double end of marriage: the spouses’ well-being and transmission of life. You cannot separate those two meanings or values of marriage, without altering the spiritual life of the couple and without compromising the benefits of marriage and the future of the family”.
So why is the figure of a puritan ecclesiastical hierarchy, always ready to condemn those who indulge in impure acts, so widely spread in the Vulgate? Because of the human tendency to consider only what they want to hear and see. For the Church, in fact, lovemaking is right as long as it takes place within marriage, as a manifestation of love that is already enshrined by the sacrament in order to ensure the continuation of the species in Creation. All in all, two people must understand intimately the act that they are doing, so as not to pursue only their private pleasure, but give themselves to each other. Catholicism, put otherwise, is a faithful guardian of love. Therefore it banishes whatever devalues people by transforming them into mere sex objects. And it does so for a sacred meaning (Saint Paul defined human body as a “temple” of God) but also in order to protect human dignity, as well as to render men and women aware of the value sex has, and not merely slaves to ephemeral desires. Revolutionary doctrines in a world that is increasingly reducing this experience to an outer element, almost a mechanical one. And where, in a foolish attempt to transform sex into a kind of field changeable devoid of identity, its true beauty and vocation have been forgotten.