There is good precedent for development of the church’s sexual ethics, particularly in the last 50 years. For centuries, Catholic doctrine insisted that procreation was the sole justification for sexual acts and that sexuality was fundamentally disordered. These teachings were questioned and modified in the mid-20th century in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae (“On Human Life”). Today, the church recognizes that sex between a man and a woman within the bond of sacramental marriage can be a source of joy and pleasure in both body and spirit.
The institutional church’s vocal objections to same-sex marriage often mask the fact that church teaching is fundamentally opposed to sexual acts that a majority of human beings participate in. The church condemns any sex acts — including those engaged in by married couples — that do not respect the procreative norm. Therefore, in reality, few Catholics ever live up to the church’s moral norms governing sexual activity.
Read more: Editorial: National Catholic Reporter