The Church Said What?! Let’s Talk About Dating and Sex
The Church Said What?! sessions breed a no judgment zone for interactive discussions on controversial issues which aim to display the reasoning behind morality despite a multitude of secular dominated views.
The session which held on Sunday, 11th June 2017 focused on the intricacies of dating and sex in a Catholic context as it relates to teenagers and young adults in today’s society. The panellists at this session were:
- Ifeanyi Olagbaju, an Educational Advisor, Guidance and Marriage counsellor
- Immanuel Agbulu, resident priest and Director at the Lagos Resource Centre
Here’s a detailed recap of our discussion:
Q & A
Q: Where should the line be drawn between intimacy and dating?
A: A line should not have to be drawn between intimacy and dating because dating should be considered so casual that the people involved do not accord rites of intimacy to each other as they would in a more advanced relationship like marriage.
Q: What is the difference between dating and courtship?
A: Dating represents the preliminary stage of getting know the opposite sex in a friendly manner while courtship is a more advanced relationship where a couple intentionally decides to deepen their understanding of each other for the purpose of marriage.
Q: Is it ok to date more than one person?
A: Yes, it is ok to date more than one person if the dynamics of such relationship are pure and non -committal. People should get to know themselves as though to develop a ‘brother-sister’ relationship first before their emotions and intentions escalate.
Q: Can sex be redefined?
A: No, sex can not be redefined; the Church recognises sex as intercourse that takes place physically between a man and a woman who should be in a healthy and loving relationship, i.e. marriage. However, today’s society has expanded the ambit of sex to include ‘oral sex’ in which male and female genitals are stimulated by the mouth of another.
Q: Does marriage depend on sexual compatibility?
A: No, marriage should not depend on sexual compatibility as it will defeat the purpose of love and reduce the ultimate presence of the marital trinity (Husband and Wife, centred by God) to the representation of people as sexual objects and points of pleasure.
Also, sex clouds judgment and does not allow us to make informed decisions on our emotions, needs and relationship standards.
Q: Can sexual compatibility be determined before marriage?
A: Sexual compatibility can be determined before marriage by having open, honest and intimate conversations as opposed to a full physical exploration of each other’s bodies and pre-marital sex.
Q: What is the next step for me to take in a relationship where my boyfriend/girlfriend is always tempted by me? How does one address a change in the physical nature of a dating relationship?
A: Your focus should be shifted away from the physical nature of the relationship to developing a true friendship. People that choose to stay celibate will be better suited for each other because they will not feel required to compromise on their intentional chastity.
It is important to know your personal triggers that may lead you to sin and avoid them where necessary. Humans have the highest form of intelligence which means we are capable of exercising self-control.
Q: Am I chasing potential partners away by a quick rejection?
A: No, it is important to uphold our standards of faith while dating. If this deters potential partners, it is a sign of disharmony and a tendency for the relationship to be short-lived.
Q: What’s a reasonable duration of time for dating with a purpose?
A: Six months is a reasonable time to date before courtship begins.
Q: As a young woman, what should I do if a man is yet to redefine an ever-growing friendship?
A: In today’s society, it is said that some men fear commitment while some women may fear to ask direct questions regarding the status of their friendship. As a result, both parties may end up becoming slaves to each other’s weaknesses. A woman should not be afraid of asking questions regarding her relations with a man in order to apportion her time, expectations and emotions accordingly.
Q: What’s the biblical origin of physical attraction in marriage?
A: Women were made to be attractive to men as Adam expressed his pleasure at the first sight of Eve by saying:
“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…” – Genesis 2:23
The fact that Woman was made from Man prompts us to believe that Man has a natural attraction to her as a result of being a “missing rib”:
“Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” – Genesis 2: 24
Q: What is God’s plan for sex in a marriage?
A: Sex is not solely for procreation, rather procreation is a consequence of sex; the joining of flesh through sex is the climax of gifts to be shared with your spouse. It is believed that the male and female sexual organs were designed to fit each other in the process of becoming one flesh.
Q: What is the Church’s stance on oral sex?
A: The Church does not recognise oral sex in its teaching because it is a secular development and was not originally intended for the twin purpose of unitive procreation between a man and a woman in a marriage as God intended.
Q: What is the significance of St. Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7: 3,5,9 and 36?
A: Verses 3 and 5 make reference to how married couples should not abstain from sex for too long but should do so only by reason of prayer and fasting. Verse 9 and 36 refers to unmarried people and widows/widowers and expresses that the couple should not stay too long in a courtship lest they fall into temptation to sin; therefore they should marry and be recognized as a couple in the eyes of the Church.
The significance of these verses can be attributed to the time of writing and the surrounding circumstances of St. Paul. Corinth was a metropolitan city compared to others in biblical times and he wished to address their waywardness as he thought Christ was coming very soon. As a development of this book in the bible, he goes further to write about relationships between men and women in Ephesians.
Q: What advice should be given to a courting couple?
A: A courting couple should get to know each other better by having open, honest and intimate discussions as the relationship is beyond friendship. A courtship must be public, both families must be aware of the couple’s journey to marriage and should not be less than six months (for practicality). Courtship is a good time to undergo marriage counselling at a local parish.
Practical Christianity: Single, Sacramental and Secure
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well – Mathew 6: 33
Meditating on this verse will give a clearer vision of living a purpose-driven life while trying to ascertain (if you have not already) who you are and whether you are to be called to marriage or a life of celibacy. As we make a conscious effort to become the best versions of ourselves we may receive a confirmation to this question and must be secure (by finding peace) in our corresponding emotions and reactions.
If we are called to marriage, it is very important that we begin to imbibe the values of a personality we find attractive. Apart from Holy Orders, Holy Matrimony represents the fifth sacrament a practicing Catholic can receive in good health and it makes perfect sense to bring the goodness and blessings received from other sacraments, into a new phase of life with this one.
Rather than making ‘the list’ of qualities you would like your future spouse to have, take time out to meditate on such qualities you would like to acquire and direct this emotional expression into a heartfelt letter to your future spouse. This practice will subconsciously keep you accountable and prepare you for a life balanced with spiritual, physical, mental and emotional intimacy with your future family.
Today might just be a good day to join a youth group like Young and Catholic so you can participate in relevant discussions, watch inspirational content and develop faith-centred friendships with people who are on a similar journey in life.
Will you join us at our next session?