We Desperately Need to Hear the Truth
By Dawn Eden
I was born into a Reform Jewish family and suffered sexual abuse as a child that left me with feelings of worthlessness. During my late teens and twenties, as a rock music journalist in New York City, I wanted desperately to be loved, but feared no one would love me for who I was. So I sought love in things that were not love, and fell into a cycle of depression.
I became a Protestant Christian in 1999 and tried to get my life on track. But it wasn’t until I entered the Catholic Church in 2006 that I began to experience real healing. Receiving Jesus’ Body changed the way I lived in my own body. It showed me how I could embody Christ’s love to others, chastely, in a manner according to my state of life as a single woman.
That is why I hope that, when you visit the United States, you will speak to American Catholics about the intimate connection between the Church’s sexual teachings and her teachings on the Eucharist.
Amid the sexual brokenness and confusion that permeates American culture, Catholics need to understand why Jesus calls himself the Bridegroom.
They need to understand why Jesus’ free, faithful, total, and fruitful love of his Church — epitomized in the gift of his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity that he gives us at every Mass — is the model for the free, faithful, total, and fruitful love between husband and wife (cf. Humanae vitae §9).
Most of all, they need to understand why the only union that Sacred Scripture describes as “one flesh” is that of husband and wife (Ephesians 5:32), “a great mystery” signifying Christ and the Church.
American Catholics also need to know what chastity has to do with social justice. You spoke very beautifully about this on June 22, 2015, in Turin, in an off-the-cuff address to young people that read as though it were an extended commentary on St. Ignatius Loyola’s “Contemplation to Attain the Love of God.”
“Love is in the works, in communicating,” you said, “but love is very respectful of persons, it does not use persons — that is, love is chaste… All of us in life have gone through moments in which this virtue was very difficult, but it is in fact the way of genuine love, of a love that is able to give life, which does not seek to use the other for one’s own pleasure. It is a love that considers the life of the other person sacred…
“And from this,” you added, “we draw a consequence: if love is respectful, if love is in works, if love is in communicating, love sacrifices itself for others. Look at the love of parents, of so many mothers, of so many fathers who in the morning arrive at work tired because they haven’t slept well to look after their sick child — this is love! This is respect. This is not having a good time. This is — we go to another key word — this is ‘service.’ Love is service. It is to serve others.”
Finally, telling the young people that the Cross is the “sign of love,” you said, “That history of love of God involved in works and dialogue, with respect, with forgiveness, with patience during so many centuries of history with his people, ends there — his Son on the Cross, the greatest service, which is to give one’s life, to sacrifice oneself, to help others.”
Holy Father, American Catholics desperately need to hear truths such as these, so that not only youth but also (I would say especially) adults may understand God’s design for their sexuality.
It would be particularly helpful if you could explicate these truths in connection with the teachings you articulate in Laudato Si’ regarding the “human ecology.” There, you write that “the acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation” (no. 155).
The efforts of American Catholics like myself who are working to spread the good news of Catholic sexual teaching will be greatly empowered if you help the faithful to understand the connections between God’s plan for creation, his plan for redemption, and his plan for human love.
Thank you, Holy Father, for your leadership, your teachings, and your witness.