Sex is difficult to speak about, and that makes sense. Not because sex is something to be ashamed of but because sex has lost its dignity. A loss of dignity occurs when something with inherent value is perceived or treated as having little or no value and is treated as such. This is what has happened to sex in our culture.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2362, quotes Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World. In it, there is a statement within the section on Fostering the Nobility of Marriage:

“the acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude.”

Let us look at some key phrases within this paragraph and see where our culture has strayed so that we may restore, to the extent we can, the dignity inherent in marital sex.

The Intimate and Chaste Union

Sex is no longer intimate but is public and displayed. The line between art, expression, and pornography has become so blurred that it seems to have been eliminated, leaving only a spectrum from sexual innuendo to graphic content. Media and marketing moguls have exploited our concupiscence to sell products, tempting us against our Christian morality. And with this assault against modesty, the ability to be chaste becomes increasingly distant. The model is thusly degraded from the sanctity found in marriage to the perversion found on the cover of a magazine.

Of the Spouses

The dignity of sex has been further damaged by the “sexual revolution,” hook-up culture, and open relationships. The concept of sex reserved for marital monogamy is nearly gone. Further, what constitutes marriage has been dissolved into a meaningless legal formality in our culture. Marriage has been reduced to “common law,” and live-in partners are increasingly the norm. This is not to mention the “marriages” between same-sex couples, confusing the nature of marriage to a far more grave degree.


Sex is meant to be a mutual giving of one’s self. Instead, our culture has made sex about how much one can get or take. When sex becomes about taking instead of giving, it turns the spouse into nothing other than an object of gratification. Objectification is necessarily contrary to love, which is to will the good of the other. Furthermore, the proliferation of pornography and the promotion of masturbation by modern psychology and the porn industry has eliminated the spouse altogether and reduced sex to an isolated and withdrawn act of temporary satisfaction instead of the pure gift of total self to the spouse as intended.

Enriches the Spouses in Joy and Gratitude

Lastly, sex within the context of marital fidelity should build an appreciation for the other. Intimately sharing oneself is meant for none other than one’s spouse uniquely joining them as “one flesh” (Gen 2:24). Unfortunately, our society has worked to build contempt between spouses and separate this union, convincing married couples that their spouse is the obstacle to their joy and not the source. This can be seen in advertisements like the scandalous “life is short, have an affair” campaign run by a prominent online dating app.

So what can be done about this? As Christians, we are called to be the “light of the world” and to “let our light shine before others, that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven” (Matt 5:14-16). This means we must cleave onto our Christian morality and share it with others, particularly our family and, most importantly, our spouses. In this way, we may reclaim the dignity of sex and be the counterpoint to the destructive image of sex that the world has created.

Matthew Weller — SFA Theologians Guild Member