Melissa decided to go back to college. After 25 years.
Things had changed and she had the misfortune, or dumb luck, of taking a course titled, “The Sociology of Marriage and Family,” which is a difficult topic for an orthodox Catholic in the hookup culture. Our views are countercultural on a lot of topics, but especially marriage and the family.
She found herself in a crowded classroom of young people and she wasn’t prepared for the tempest.
The first assignment the professor gave them was to write their definition of sex … and things went downhill from there. He called on an outspoken 20-something fellow who fancied himself the next Jimmy Kimmel. The young man stood up and gave a personal definition that included himself and his girlfriend and went something like this: “Sex is when …(content not suitable for a family publication, Catholic or otherwise.)
The class erupted in laughter, while Melissa sat seething in her front-row seat. Then, throwing caution and political correctness to the wind, she raised her hand and even before the professor could call on her, she blurted out, “That’s disgraceful!” The class was stunned.
“So what’s your definition?” asked the enlightened professor.
She was quick to respond:
“Sex is an act created by God that is love giving and life giving inside of the sacrament of marriage.”
“Where did you get that?”
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church.”
Before anyone could snicker, she jumped out of her chair and pointed to the jokester in the back of the class and began upbraiding him with the vengeance of a district attorney assailing Harvey Weinstein:
“Do you have a sister???”
“Yes,” he responded sheepishly.
“Well, what would you think if …”
And so it went. During her soliloquy about respect for women, she noticed the girls in the class nodding in agreement. From that point on, students began calling her “Church Lady,” after the Saturday Night Live character. But Melissa didn’t object because she was proud of her Catholic faith.
They laughed but they listened and little by little, week after week, she noticed a change especially in the girls, who came to appreciate her views, which set her apart in a permissive and abusive society. So many young people are wandering in darkness, but when they’re shown the Truth, they’ll respond positively.
Marriage and the family are under constant assault after decades of social indoctrination that came out of the sexual revolution, which ultimately degraded the meaning of love and promoted exploitation, recreational sex and loveless relationships. Our challenge is to make sure young people understand the difference between the cheap substitute that society and celebrities promote … and the real deal.
We have to tell young people that despite what secular society says, true love and marriage are not what is portrayed in popular culture, celebrity lifestyles … and Saturday Night Live. The Catholic Church Lady wasn’t afraid to do that.
In an address John Paul II once gave to young people, he said things that are outlandish by today’s standards: “Do not let yourselves be carried away by sexual excitement, for this puts genuine human love at risk and leads to the breakup of the family.” Which is why, he said, “so-called ‘free love’ is morally unacceptable.”
George Weigel, biographer of St. John Paul II, said the pope recognized one of the most urgent questions of our age involved love and the family. As Archbishop of Krakow, he played a central role in drafting the encyclical Humanae Vitae and eventually developed the Theology of the Body, which restores a sense of sacramentality to the body, making visible the spiritual dimension of the human person.
Fundamental to John Paul II’s theology, Weigel says, is the belief that “Our love is a truly human love when it is a gift of myself to another … and not the use of another, which is the type of exploitation that characterizes the modern world’s view of sexual relations. We need to ask, ‘How do I live a life of sexual love that conforms to my dignity as a human person?’”
Sexual intimacy is sacred. That’s a truth that society, and many Catholics, have forgotten.