chapter  Chapter Seven
24 Pages

The Catholic Church and Sexuality: The Tensions of Love, Freedom and Law

WithJames O’Connell

This essay is principally concerned with the issue of the authority of the Church in the area of sexual morality. In principle, however, the same conclusions apply to other moral areas. I will begin with a discussion of the scriptural roots of morality, and then introduce an historical view of the evolution of moral thinking in the Western Church and examine the claims of authority over morals that popes and others have made. After a short philosophical reflection, 1 I will describe what I believe to be the role of the Church in relation to morality. Finally, I suggest that we will not reach a new understanding of the Church and sexuality unless the Church manages to come to new understandings of its mission. It might well be remarked at the outset that there seems to me no other sphere in life where ecclesiastical rulers have been so tempted to maintain order at the expense of love, to look to past models when circumstances have changed, and to insist on rules and ritual as a condition of salvation.