Sex Rears Its Ugly Head

How about sex, its uses and abuses, in the Roman Catholic Church?  Catholics are, of course, basically neither more sexy nor less so than Buddhists, Jews, Mohammedans, Presbyterians or atheists.  In fact, the discussion of this question reminds one of the story of the frustrated wife who saw her husband ogling another woman, and asked, "What's she got that I haven't?" And the answer quickly came: "It's not what she's got-it's the way it's arranged!"

There is a very real relationship between sex and crime in the Roman Catholic Church.  The Church’s attitude and teaching about sex, the constant overemphasis on its sinfulness, the attempted suppression of normal sexual urges and desires through the unnatural enforced celibacy of the clergy and their natural consequent perpetual preoccupation with the subject in the pulpit, in the confessional and in their own lives-these are the forces that bring about distorted views, clandestine indulgences and neuroses that contribute mightily to immorality and crime.

 While penal laws, i.e. the laws of the state, were practically ignored, and while lying, stealing and their ramifications were de-emphasized, the greatest and most constant stress in the classroom and in the confessional was placed on the sins of sex.

Catholic theology teaches that every violation of its sex standard, no matter how insignificant, will send the soul to hell:

 All directly voluntary sexual pleasure is mortally sinful outside of matrimony.  This is true even if the pleasure be ever so brief and insignificant.  Here there is no lightness of matter."

 It is important to remember that in these "voluntary sexual pleasures" which are mortal sins should be included the looks, touches, kisses, jokes, songs and even thoughts.

The Roman Catholic catechism teaches that the deliberate mental intention or desire to commit any sin is as bad as the act itself.  However, only in matters of sex is the mere thought a sin, much less a mortal sin.  It is a sin to plot and desire a murder.  It is not a sin to think about murder.  But in matters of sex it is a mortal sin not only to covet one's neighbor's wife but also merely to think about the slightest thing connected with sex-the pleasure of a kiss or the beauty of a woman's body.

All of this was taught to us in parochial schools as little children years before adolescence and the onset of puberty.  We were hard put to know what the good nuns and priests were talking about.

Another teaching that confused us as parochial school children was the horrifying "nastiness" of all things sexual.  All Catholic catechisms and moral theology textbooks refer to violations of the Church's sex code (presumed ) to be God's code) as "impurity." This word is not used for any other type of sin.  The connotation is developed in the child's mind of something physically dirty, filthy, nasty, foul, decayed.  Fr. Kirsch calls sexual thoughts "rotten."' Fr. Jone in Moral Theology constantly refers to the genital organs as "indecent" parts of the body.' The whole pattern of Catholic morals ties the sex urge to the idea of degradation, of "fallen" man.

Pope Pius XI in his encyclical on the Christian education of youth calls sex "this infernal hydra" destroying with its poison so large a portion of the world."

 In spite of the constant emphasis on the sinfulness of sex, children are never told what sex is.  As youths, we frequently thought that adultery meant relieving ourselves at improper times and places.  We were sure that 94. " thoughts referred to any thinking about our impure own bodies.

Sex instruction in the Roman Catholic parochial school was a negative thing, overemphasizing in a confusing way the sinfulness and nastiness of sexual thoughts, words and actions, while telling nothing of the purpose of the functions upon which all the prohibition had focussed attention.  As pointed out by Noldin.

 Voluntary sensual pleasure does not admit any slightness of guilt and therefore no matter how fleeting or brief it might be, it is a mortal sin.  For in every 11 venereal" pleasure, even brief and slight, is contained the complete distortion mentioned above (perversion of the drive intended for procreation).  However, any such pleasure, directly sought or even tolerated, no matter how fleeting, exposes one to the proximate danger of sinning more seriously.  For such pleasurable feelings, once desired or tolerated, by their natural force necessarily drive one towards complete sexual pleasure.4

 For years these words were printed on the back of the calendar of the University of Notre Darne :

 It is an abominable evil, hateful alike to God and man, to seek this pleasure for itself without regard to the end for which God intended it.  If the procuring or voluntary acceptance of this pleasure aside from its lawful end were not a mortal sin, no one would assume the burdens of married life and God's plan of creation would be frustrated.  It is evident therefore that any thought, word, desire, reading, conversation or act that produces such pleasure is forbidden under pain of mortal sin when it is admitted voluntarily and without necessity; and if such pleasure arises accidentally from some necessary pursuit (for example, in certain studies in medicine), the will must be set steadfastly against the pleasure.

 In preparing this book, I contacted many psychiatrists.  One point that many of them tried to make is that sexual indoctrination in Protestant churches and by its ministers is the same as that of Catholicism-and just as harmful.

I have found in an intense study over a period of several years that those psychiatrists are completely mistaken.  Protestantism (and Judaism and Mormonism) have no sexual moral concept that can remotely compare with that of Catholicism either in doctrine or in the age of the child at which indoctrination begins.

I could find no evidence whatever of any Protestant indoctrination of pre-adolescent children on the details of sexual morality.  Most Protestant denominations have no comprehensive school system that could impart such teaching.  The sex education of tiny children is left to parents.  Where any allusion to such matters is contained in the catechisms of those denominations that preserve such forms of instruction, it is presented with exquisite delicacy.

For example, the Presbyterian catechism teaches:

Q.70. Which is the seventh commandment?

 A.      The seventh commandment is, "Thou shalt not commit adultery."

Q.71. What is required in the seventh commandment?

A.  The seventh commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbor's chastity, in heart, speech and behavior.

Q-72.  What is forbidden in the seventh commandment?

A.  The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thought, words and actions.5

 The Lutherans still call it the sixth commandment:

 Q.  Which is the sixth commandment?  

A.  Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Q.  What does God protect by this commandment?

A.  The holy state of matrimony, in which man and woman live together as husband and wife.

Q.  Why is matrimony a holy state?

A.  God himself ordained, regulated and blessed matrimony.

Q.  What does God testify to us by this commandment?

A.  Man and woman should live together only according to this holy ordinance of God; and husband and wife should not separate nor be unfaithful to one another.

Q.  How is this holy ordinance of God transgressed?

A.  By all unchaste and indecent words and deeds.  That is, by such words and deeds of which it is a shame even to speak, and which debase, defile and destroy body and soul.

 Q.  What must we, therefore, daily ask of God in prayer?

A.  That He give us a pure and God-fearing heart.

Q.  And how shall we be cleansed and kept from unchastity?

A.  Only through faith in our holy and spotless Savior, who cleanses us from all sin.

Q.  What should husband and wife ask to be taught by the Lord?

A.    That each honor and love his or her spouse.

Q.  Hence, what does God enjoin in the sixth commandment?

A.  We should fear and love God, and that we lead a chaste and decent life in word and deed, and each honor and love his spouse.,

 Lutheran Sunday School teachers do not teach this until the age of twelve and do not elaborate on these questions and answers.  The Presbyterians rarely use their catechisms at all in this generation.

The only indications I could find of Protestant sex education consisted in the premarital treatises and conferences.  These are given well beyond the years of puberty and adolescence.  They are also broad in scope, covering more than the morality or immorality of sexual actions.

The Catholic hierarchy, on the other hand, will even manufacture new sins in its battle of sex.  Roman Catholic theologians devote more time and space to sex than almost any other subject of their moral code.  Thomas Sugrue, himself a Catholic, said that even the Vatican admitted that American priests "seemed overly concerned with money and sex, asking continuously for one and condemning continually the other." 7

In contrast to the brief delicacy of the Presbyterian and Lutheran Catechism, here is the Catholic presentation for little children:  

What does God forbid by this Sixth Commandment?  By this Sixth Commandment God forbids adultery and all sins of impurity such as unchaste looks, words, jests and whatever else violates modesty or leads to impurity.

Why must we most carefully guard against impurity?  Because no sin is more shameful, and no other is followed by such dreadful consequences.

What are the consequences of impurity?  Impurity-

1.   Destroys body and soul

   2.  Leads to many other sins and vices

3.   Plunges man into misery, dishonor and shame and at last

into eternal damnation."

What does the sixth commandment forbid?  The sixth commandment forbids all impurity and immodesty in words, looks and actions, whether alone or with others.

When does a person commit a sin of immodesty?  A person commits a sin of immodesty when he is guilty of some thought, word or deed that tends towards a sin of impurity.9  

To portray the true Catholic teaching on sex morality and clerical advice on the subject above the level of the grammar and high schools, I shall refer to Sex Education and Training for Charity by Father Felix M. Kirsch, O.F.M. Cap.  This volume is still a standard Catholic textbook.  Fr.  Kirsch cites a bibliography of 338 authors on sex.110 He recommends seventeen other Catholic treatises to parochial school teachers.  He devotes almost 200 pages to the need for sex instruction (not sex education), seventeen pages to the control of thought and word, thirty pages to the "solitary sin," and forty pages to adolescence.  Sexual sins of thought and their avoidance occupy much of Fr.  Kirsch’s time."

Flanking maneuvers must be used.  He says:

 The more he struggles against it (the bad thought), the more his imagination gets excited.... Hence it will be well not at all to think about one's "bad" thought, but to think about something else.  Say quickly "Mary, help me; Jesus, save me."

 Kirsch advises concentration on hobbies, recollection of accidents, thinking of novels, sports, or mentally "composing a baseball team of the nine fattest men he knows," or blessing the bed.  He proposes physical conditioning as a deterrent to thoughts of sex.

The general condition of the body has much to do with the quality of our thoughts, Kirsch maintains.  If we train our young people to take plenty of exercise, not to overeat, to retire at an hour that will allow them eight hours of sleep, to sleep with the window open, to get up when they first awake and take a bath, preferably a cold one, they will find it less difficult to keep their bodies strong

and their minds clean.   13

And for those who believe that cleanliness is next to godliness, Kirsch warns that a hot bath, when alone, can bring on temptation!

Many American priests quoted by Kirsch advocate some sex instruction-without explaining the 11 mysteries of reproduction." One priest says, "Let catechists never teach the material side of sex.... The catechists shall deal only

with the moral and religious aspects." Another says, 11... a lecture comprising all the necessary knowledge of sex life can never be given to a group of girls without evil results." 14

However, Pope Pius XI in his encyclical on the Christian Education of Youth vigorously condemned sex education and in the same breath strongly forbid any Catholic school to institute co-education.  "Equally false and offensive to the Christian concept of instruction is that thing vulgarly called co-education.`-'

This prohibition was reinforced by the decree of the Holy Office (the austere Vatican bureau that deals with moral matters) on March 21, 1931 .  It condemned sex education and added: "Therefore, those writings (on sex education), even the ones by some Catholic authors, published in recent times cannot be approved."

 But above all, if there is to be sex education, states Kirsch, it must be Spartan: that sex can be Pleasurable must never appear:  

One word of warning: in giving sex instruction to the young we should never bring out the fact of the pleasure associated with sexual acts.  The internal secretions of the sex glands are carried by the blood to the muscle, bone, brain and nerve and must be conserved if the boy wishes to attain to vigorous manhood in body, mind and will.  It is imperative that this secretion should not be wasted for the sake of pleasure.",

 The same author warns that in adolescence particular care should be taken to watch over the morals of our girls  

While we may question seriously whether girls are worse than boys in tempting to sin, there is universal agreement that the period of adolescence is always more trying for the girl than for the boy.  Medical authorities maintain that the physical changes affect the girls whole being far greater than they affect a boy; her physique feels the strain and she is apt to become rundown.  Hence, the frequency of anemia and tuberculosis among girls."

 Priests are taught to warn adolescents that not only are au sexual things sinful but that "premature sexual relations mean stunted growth, dwarfed intellects, and shortened lives.""

Fr. Kirsch devotes thirty-two pages to the sinfulness of sexual "self -abuse." He treats of its causes, sinfulness, contributing factors, horrendous physical effects and advice for curing the vice.

He warns of the loss of essential secretions vital for building bone, nerve and muscle:  

The boy has heard or read of the direful consequences of the practice, that insanity, paralysis or lingering illness will result from the habit.  In the catechism class or in the confessional be has been told that every one of his offenses is a mortal sin and hence he is depressed with the consciousness of being a great criminal.... The habit of masturbation may bring on also a loss of memory and a decrease in the power to concentrate.  Attacks of melancholia and hypochondria have likewise been traced to the sinful habit.19

Parents are warned to prevent this vice: (Children) should not be sent to bed unsupervised when they are excited and not tired enough for immediate sleep.

To punish children by sending them to bed is dangerous.  In the morning they should arise as soon as they are awake.  The mattress of the bed should be hard; the covers light weight, and the room cool, with plenty of fresh air.  Children should be trained to sleep on either side, rarely in the unnatural position on the back.20

 Dr. James J. Walsh, the guiding star of Catholic medicine for many years and pious author of Thirteenth, Greatest of Centuries, recommends a cure for masturbation: "Bromides taken to the extent of a dram or more a day are almost a specific for super irritability of the nervous system, and if taken two or three weeks the patient will usually have little difficulty in overcoming the habit.  " 21.

 All of these quotations from Rev.  Kirsch are from a standard Roman Catholic textbook recommended for the education of priests, to advise them how to teach Catholic boys and girls in the classrooms, and how to counsel adolescent youngsters in the confessional.

Lest a gentle Catholic reader be tempted to accuse me of ferreting out the statements from Father Kirsch as the ridiculous scruples of a sexually fossilized, moss-bound ate of a secluded Franciscan monastery, out of touch with the stream of modern life, I can fortify these teachings by the current decisions of the Vatican itself.

The Jesuit Bouscaren in the Canon Law Digest refers to the official organ of the Holy See, the "Acta Apostolicae Sedis" (The Decrees of the Apostolic See) of 1931 (A.A.S. 23-118) condemning modern methods of "sex education" as false.  He clarifies the Decree of the Holy office with the approval of Pope Pius XI in these words:  

In this extremely delicate matter, if, all things considered, some private instruction is found necessary and opportune, from those who bold from God the commission to teach and who have the grace of state, every precaution is to be taken.  Such precautions are well known in traditional Christian education, and are adequately de-scribed by Antoniano, cited above, when he says- to sin that often in the very things considered to be remedies against sin, we End occasions for and inducements to sin itself, Hence it is of the highest importance that a good father, while discussing with his son a matter so delicate, should be well on his guard and not descend to details, nor refer to the various ways in which this infernal hydra destroys with its poison so large a portion of the world; otherwise it may happen that instead of extinguishing the fire, he unwittingly stirs or kindles it in the simple and tender heart of the child.  Speaking generally, during the period of childhood it suffices to employ those remedies which produce the double effect of opening the 22 door to the virtue of purity and closing the door upon vice."  

The ridiculous extremes that the clerical preoccupations with sex can reach is demonstrated in the magazine for priests, The American Ecclesiastical Review:

 Moral Problems of Plastic Surgery

 Question.  What is the answer of Catholic theology to some of the problems encountered by the plastic surgeon?  For example, what is the basic theological principle permitting such surgery?  What should a surgeon do if a woman requests an operation for the enlargement of her breasts?

 Answer:       Finally, when there is question of marnoplasty for the purpose of augmentation, some distinctions must be made.

If a woman's breasts are underdeveloped, it would be lawful to make use of surgery to augment them, for everyone has a right to be normal.  On the other hand, if the woman wants so exaggerated a degree of augmentation as to attract everyone's attention and is evidently seeking to excite sexual thoughts in the minds of those who see her, a doctor would be sinning by cooperation who would fulfill her wishes.  But within the scope of what is normal in this matter I believe there can be diversity of degrees, and I would not accuse a surgeon of sinning if he developed the woman7s breasts to a degree above what is usual but still can be called normal.  Of course, she might be seeking such an operation for sinful purposes, but on the other hand, she might have good motives, such as to got a good husband by making herself more attractive or to hold the husband she already has.  The doctor would not be obliged to ask the woman's motives in this case, but could presume they are honorable unless the opposite is proved .23

The magazine was delivered to me at the hospital.  I showed it to our pharmacists.  It was their studied opinion that Jayne Mansfield is normal and all other women, including our nurses, are subnormal.  The nurses dissented from this point of view.

That evening, at a meeting of the hospital's Board of Trustees, one of its attorneys opined that a matter this grave should be submitted to the National Bureau of Standards and that a "mar milometer," properly graduated, be secured or invented for the proper moral guidance of the doctors on our surgical staff.