Last week, I was giving a talk to children in our religious education program. I was trying to explain genuflection, and why a bodily act of adoration in the presence of God was not only appropriate but also a requirement of justice. The reasoning is very simple. God is God. We are not. In justice, we adore Him. Why? “Justice”, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is “The cardinal moral virtue which consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and to neighbor.”
Fair enough. Justice requires that we will to give God His due. But why are bodily gestures important? Because human beings are integrated creatures – composed of body and soul. The separation of these two is only effectively accomplished by the pains of death. If we attempt to effect a bodily succession from the union, we will undergo an internal battle with personal carnage to match the ravages of the Civil War.
The things that we do with our bodies should correspond with the disposition of our hearts. Think about it: if I am meeting up with a friend and they reach toward me with an outstretched hand, smiling, I know I am being invited to shake their hand. If I turn and walk away without saying a word, my body language has been sufficiently insulting to damage the relationship. As someone professing friendship, my body language has been a lie. It has not been in correspondence with the disposition of my heart.
The same is true of the most intimate of friendships – those tending towards spousal union.
Let’s think about this in context. What is the disposition in the heart of a person whose body is “making out”? Well, interaction which causes or intensifies sexual arousal has a defined goal. That goal is a completed act of sexual intercourse. Anything short of that is simply incomplete and frustrating. Now – before anyone starts suggesting that this article says a dating couple should never touch each other, please note that the key word is “arousal”. It is possible to kiss someone or touch someone in a loving, chaste manner that does not lead to arousal. (If you have to ask how far you can go, you are going too far.)
So, if you cannot lawfully complete an act of intercourse, “making out” is unjust. (Here, I use the term “lawfully” to refer to the laws of God. A lawful act of sexual intercourse is within the bonds of marriage, between a man and a woman, with nothing done willfully which would thwart the procreative potential of the act, namely no contraception or sterilization.) Why is it unjust? Well, what did the Beatles say in “Day Tripper”? “She’s a big teaser – she took me half the way there.” If you buy a ticket, you expect to be taken to your destination. If the conductor throws you off of the train half way through the journey – or perhaps even a few hundred yards before reaching the platform – you have been treated unjustly.
No one has a right to use another human being for the sake of pleasure. To do so is unjust. Women can be especially guilty of this when they desire to “make out” but, technically, remain a “virgin”. Such a course of action is not chaste. To exact the maximum pleasure out of a physical encounter with a man only to cut it off cold turkey before completion is really like waving a glass of ice water in front of a person dying of thirst. It’s just mean. And obviously, we can only be that mean through a lack of charity. In other words, we are not treating the one we claim to love in a loving manner. What we are doing with our body does not correspond to what we claim the disposition of our heart truly is. Using a person we are with because he does things that cause pleasure… well, that is treating a human being like a piece of chocolate cake. This defies the virtue of justice which calls me to have a constant and firm will to give my neighbor (in this case, my beloved) what he is due.