Cathechism Of The Catholic Church Teaching On The Integrity Of The Powers Of Life And Love

CCC 2338

So far we’ve covered the idea that man has the powers of life and love placed in him, and that (regarding sexuality especially) the powers must be integrated or the unity of the person is at risk.  Today’s reflection is on the next clause of that section.

Back to the Integrity of the Powers of Life and Love

We get to another pretty bold statement here.  It’s worth reciting the whole passage to date:

The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it.

When the catechism says integrity in this context it means the undivided nature of the two powers.  Body and soul are together as a single whole, united.  The person stands as a unique creation of God, in both the material and spiritual worlds.  This is that wonderful integrity we’re speaking of here.  Of course, chastity refers primarily to sexuality (the powers of life and love), but that integrity exists for the other virtues.

So what’s the bold statement?  “… it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it.”  The integrity of the powers of life and love is opposed to any behavior that would impair it.  This is speculative.  A commentary or source for this sentence would be nice, but since I don’t have one, I’m left to speculate on what it actually means.

Prevention of Vice

First, it could mean that the integrity is prophylactic in nature.  As long as the unity of these two powers is maintained, it should be more difficult to violate either of them.  When my bodily and spiritual sexuality are united, focused on the same end, and maintained pure and inviolate, it hardly seems possible that I will take actions that will affect either.  In other words, given that I have taken steps to ensure that these powers are a unified whole, the brief entrance of temptation into my life concerning one of them is unlikely to affect the unity.

Think about this in terms of everyday life.  If I reflect upon the awesome powers given to me by God (the power to create life), how careful will I be in choosing who to exercise that power with?  Will it be just anyone?  Will I really look at fornication as an option?  Will I ever have sex with someone I’m not willing to create life with?

On the other side of this equation is the way that I’ll treat my wife sexually if I love her as I should.  Sex risks becoming a form of shared masturbation instead of a mutual gift of self unless the power of love is maintained.  It’s less “let me give myself to you completely” and more “let me use you to feel good”.   From a positive perspective, true love for my partner will ensure that the gravity of the gift is not overlooked.

Risk of Complete Disintegration

Second, it could also mean that the unity itself is at risk when either power is “attacked”.  Since the unity is opposed to any behavior that that would impair it, consider behaviors that do so- contraception and sterilization are prime examples.  They frustrate the powers of life, intentionally destroying the God-given capacity to bring new souls into the world.  By engaging in activities that diminish one, that unity is broken, the prophylactic integrity penetrated, and assaults on the other come much more easily.  You only have to compare divorce rates among couples using NFP versus couples using artificial contraception (look here, here, and here) to see that this bit of speculation is probably reflected in reality.

And the power of love?  Ignoring the power of love generally leads to intentional frustration of the power of life.  This is built in to sex education.  It’s shown when parents say “I’d prefer it if you didn’t have sex before marriage, but if you do, wear a condom.”  When the act of sex is shared between two people who have no binding love for one another, the logically necessary result is that they will attempt to frustrate the power of life.

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