It is an elementary Christian truth that “God’s love is free, total, faithful and fruitful; it is a selfless gift.” The Catechism describes the Trinity as “the central mystery of the Christian Faith” (CCC 234). Within this mystery where the love between two Persons is so total, so unreserved, and so perfect it yields yet a third Person. The Father empties Himself into His Son. The Son returns all His love to His Father. And the Holy Spirit is the personal bond of affection that is sustained by the conjugal love of the Father and the Son. The love which exists within the unity of the Trinity is the unending and true Reality. It has always existed and will always exist. Creation, alongside everything else, flows and exists only because of this love which exists from the Father, by the Son, and through the Holy Spirit. Hence, all that is, is because of this perfect love; further, many things in Creation were designed by God to hint at, or symbolize, the love that exists in His inter-most life.
One of the most natural reflections of the divine life exists in the divine institution of marriage. Marriage calls a husband and a wife to love one another freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully. One of the most enduring symbols of the conjugal love that marriage calls us to is witnessed during sex—when a man and a woman give of themselves unreservedly to one another. Marriage is meant to unite the husband and wife, “And they shall become one flesh” Gen. 2:24. St. Paul writes that marriage is a symbol of the love between Christ and His Church (cf. Eph. 5), which is further a symbol of the love between the Father and the Son. Sex happens to be an enduring and natural symbol of the bond of love between married couples (which, again, is a symbol of Christ’s love for His bride, the Church, which is a symbol of the Father’s love for His Son). Thus, marriage and sex are very fixed institutions which are not ours to tinker with—they are important and objective symbols meant to point to something very particular and very deliberate.
Sex is designed by God to produce two goods (or ends) that were meant to foster and nourish the marriage bond—those two goods are known as the unitive good and the procreative good. In this article, I would like to discuss the first of those goods, the unitive good. Unity is not simply a sense of togetherness, but it is, in fact, togetherness. True unity exists where divisions are dissolved and unidentifiable. Strangers lead to division and strangers exists because there is something “strange” about them—something “unknown,” something “unexperienced.” Only when people come together and make themselves truly vulnerable to one another—disclosing the depths of themselves to the other, can we even begin to approach the intense sort of unity which is meant to be achieved through “communion.”
Marriage is a wedding (literally “a knitting”), of two people together—a man and a woman, perhaps two of the most incompatible beings there ever were. This is one of the many reasons that the Church is staunchly opposed to homosexual marriage—because marriage is meant to bring two beings who are worlds apart (the masculine and the feminine), together. The unity of marriage weaves the man and woman together both spiritually and physically. Sex is one of the ways marriage weaves the man and woman together physically (at least). This union is to create a seamless fabric of one flesh where two had once been discernable. One flesh is only achieved in the sexual act where no lines can be drawn, no division found, no withholding of self.
Unity cannot tolerate strangers. Contraception makes strangers of a man and his wife because it intentionally creates division, draws lines, demarcates boundaries. It is not interested in becoming one flesh because the contraceptive mentality seeks only to pleasure ones own flesh. What may appear as merely a thin layer of latex, is really a cosmological wrecking-ball which disintegrates one of the most meaningful symbols of God’s divine plan. Condoms and chemicals do a lot of strange things to our bodies—yet the most severe damage is that they make us strangers to the people we are most in need of being vulnerable to—our spouses.
When we think of the many unhappy and dysfunctional relationships and families in our world, nation, and communities, we might begin to wonder if mandating contraception and freely providing the means of further division is sound public policy. These past weeks we have witnessed the political world engage in a great debate about “marriage.” The current administration has made it a priority, to date, to not only dictate contraception and abortion coverage for Catholic institutions, but also, to not defend the Defense of Marriage Act and now openly promote gay marriage. The pundits who support the HHS Mandate and gay marriage are speaking with forked-tongue—they speak of marriage with high regard, but berate it with shallow barbs. They find it laudable enough an institution to promote, but only on their own terms: how they want (contraceptively), with whom they want (between any and all). Yet, marriage, as God designed it—as a symbol of total, free, faithful, and fruitful love—is simply (and shamefully) not a national priority.