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Intimacy and Sexuality

Scriptural Story

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?" Jesus answered, "The first is, "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.'  The second is this, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Then the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that "he is one, and besides him there is no other'; and "to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,' and "to love one's neighbour as oneself,'—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." After that no one dared to ask him any question.
Mark 12:28-34

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Description and Related Concepts

Since we are created in the image and likeness of God, all aspects of our humanity are sacred, including our sexuality. Human beings are made for relationship, seeking intimacy through friendship, family and romantic relationship.

Anchor Concepts: Common Good, Human Dignity, Community, Interdependence, Family, Lifestyle, Vocation

Related Concepts:

  • LOVE
  • EROS
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Scripture References

Created Male and Female
Ten God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."
Genesis 1: 26-30

You it was created my inmost self, you put me together in my mother’s womb, I praise you that I have been so wonderfully made; your works are wonderful .
Psalm 139: 13-14

Song of Songs
The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine,
    your anointing oils are fragrant,
your name is perfume poured out;
   therefore the maidens love you.
Draw me after you, let us make haste.
   The king has brought me into his chambers.
We will exult and rejoice in you;
   we will extol your love more than wine;
   rightly do they love you.
I am black and beautiful,
   O daughters of Jerusalem,
like the tents of Kedar,
   like the curtains of Solomon.
Do not gaze at me because I am dark,
   because the sun has gazed on me.
My mother’s sons were angry with me;
   they made me keeper of the vineyards,
   but my own vineyard I have not kept!
Tell me, you whom my soul loves,
   where you pasture your flock,
   where you make it lie down at noon;
for why should I be like one who is veiled
   beside the flocks of your companions?
If you do not know,
   O fairest among women,
follow the tracks of the flock,
   and pasture your kids
   beside the shepherds’ tents.
I compare you, my love,
   to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots.
Your cheeks are comely with ornaments,
   your neck with strings of jewels.
We will make you ornaments of gold,
   studded with silver.
While the king was on his couch,
   my nard gave forth its fragrance.
My beloved is to me a bag of myrrh
   that lies between my breasts.
My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms
   in the vineyards of En-gedi.
Ah, you are beautiful, my love;
   ah, you are beautiful;
   your eyes are doves.
Ah, you are beautiful, my beloved,
   truly lovely.
Our couch is green;
    the beams of our house are cedar,
   our rafters are pine.

I am a rose of Sharon,
   a lily of the valleys.
As a lily among brambles,
   so is my love among maidens.
As an apple tree among the trees of the wood,
   so is my beloved among young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
   and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house,
   and his intention towards me was love.
Sustain me with raisins,
   refresh me with apples;
   for I am faint with love.
O that his left hand were under my head,
   and that his right hand embraced me!
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
   by the gazelles or the wild does:
do not stir up or awaken love
   until it is ready!
The voice of my beloved!
   Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
   bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
   or a young stag.
Look, there he stands
   behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
   looking through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me:
‘Arise, my love, my fair one,
   and come away;
for now the winter is past,
   the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
   the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtle-dove
   is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
   and the vines are in blossom;
   they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
   and come away.
O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
   in the covert of the cliff,
let me see your face,
   let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet,
   and your face is lovely.
Catch us the foxes,
   the little foxes,
that ruin the vineyards—
   for our vineyards are in blossom.’
My beloved is mine and I am his;
   he pastures his flock among the lilies.
Until the day breathes
   and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle
   or a young stag on the cleft mountains.
Upon my bed at night
   I sought him whom my soul loves;
I sought him, but found him not;
   I called him, but he gave no answer.
‘I will rise now and go about the city,
   in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek him whom my soul loves.’
   I sought him, but found him not.
The sentinels found me,
   as they went about in the city.
‘Have you seen him whom my soul loves?’
Scarcely had I passed them,
   when I found him whom my soul loves.
I held him, and would not let him go
   until I brought him into my mother’s house,
   and into the chamber of her that conceived me.
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
   by the gazelles or the wild does:
do not stir up or awaken love
   until it is ready!
What is that coming up from the wilderness,
   like a column of smoke,
perfumed with myrrh and frankincense,
   with all the fragrant powders of the merchant?
Look, it is the litter of Solomon!
Around it are sixty mighty men
   of the mighty men of Israel,
all equipped with swords
   and expert in war,
each with his sword at his thigh
   because of alarms by night.
King Solomon made himself a palanquin
   from the wood of Lebanon.
He made its posts of silver,
   its back of gold, its seat of purple;
its interior was inlaid with love.
   Daughters of Jerusalem,
   come out.
Look, O daughters of Zion,
   at King Solomon,
at the crown with which his mother crowned him
   on the day of his wedding,
   on the day of the gladness of his heart
Song of Songs 1-3

Created by God
"The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
Mark 12: 29-31

Husband and wife
"Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning "made them male and female,' and said, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."
Matthew 19: 4-6

Love does no wrong
"He who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."
Romans 13: 8-10

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, * but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13

Be Imitators of God
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Ephesians 5: 1-5

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Church Teachings

Documents of Vatican II

The People Of God
11 Finally, Christian spouses, in virtue of the sacrament of Matrimony, whereby they signify and partake of the mystery of that unity and fruitful love which exists between Christ and His Church,(108) help each other to attain to holiness in their married life and in the rearing and education of their children. By reason of their state and rank in life they have their own special gift among the people of God.(109) (7*) From the wedlock of Christians there comes the family, in which new citizens of human society are born, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit received in baptism are made children of God, thus perpetuating the people of God through the centuries. The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state.
Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constituion on the Church

(For complete citation see Appendix A)

5 Today's spiritual agitation and the changing conditions of life are part of a broader and deeper revolution. As a result of the latter, intellectual formation is ever increasingly based on the mathematical and natural sciences and on those dealing with man himself, while in the practical order the technology which stems from these sciences takes on mounting importance.

This scientific spirit has a new kind of impact on the cultural sphere and on modes of thought. Technology is now transforming the face of the earth, and is already trying to master outer space. To a certain extent, the human intellect is also broadening its dominion over time: over the past by means of historical knowledge; over the future, by the art of projecting and by planning.

Advances in biology, psychology, and the social sciences not only bring men hope of improved self-knowledge; in conjunction with technical methods, they are helping men exert direct influence on the life of social groups.
Gaudium et Spes, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in The Modern World

(For complete citation see Appendix B)

48 The intimate partnership of married life and love has been established by the Creator and qualified by His laws, and is rooted in the jugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent. Hence by that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other a relationship arises which by divine will and in the eyes of society too is a lasting one. For the good of the spouses and their off-springs as well as of society, the existence of the sacred bond no longer depends on human decisions alone. For, God Himself is the author of matrimony, endowed as it is with various benefits and purposes. All of these have a very decisive bearing on the continuation of the human race, on the personal development and eternal destiny of the individual members of a family, and on the dignity, stability, peace and prosperity of the family itself and of human society as a whole. By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown. Thus a man and a woman, who by their compact of conjugal love "are no longer two, but one flesh" (Matt. 19:ff), render mutual help and service to each other through an intimate union of their persons and of their actions. Through this union they experience the meaning of their oneness and attain to it with growing perfection day by day. As a mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an unbreakable oneness between them.

Christ the Lord abundantly blessed this many-faceted love, welling up as it does from the fountain of divine love and structured as it is on the model of His union with His Church. For as God of old made Himself present to His people through a covenant of love and fidelity, so now the Savior of men and the Spouse of the Church comes into the lives of married Christians through the sacrament of matrimony. He abides with them thereafter so that just as He loved the Church and handed Himself over on her behalf, the spouses may love each other with perpetual fidelity through mutual self-bestowal.

Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is governed and enriched by Christ's redeeming power and the saving activity of the Church, so that this love may lead the spouses to God with powerful effect and may aid and strengthen them in sublime office of being a father or a mother. For this reason Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state. By virtue of this sacrament, as spouses fulfil their conjugal and family obligation, they are penetrated with the spirit of Christ, which suffuses their whole lives with faith, hope and charity. Thus they increasingly advance the perfection of their own personalities, as well as their mutual sanctification, and hence contribute jointly to the glory of God.

As a result, with their parents leading the way by example and family Prayer, children and indeed everyone gathered around the family hearth will find a readier path to human maturity, salvation and holiness. Graced with the dignity and office of fatherhood and motherhood, parents will energetically acquit themselves of a duty which devolves primarily on them, namely education and especially religious education.

As living members of the family, children contribute in their own way to making their parents holy. For they will respond to the kindness of their parents with sentiments of gratitude, with love and trust. They will stand by them as children should when hardships overtake their parents and old age brings its loneliness. Widowhood, accepted bravely as a continuation of the marriage vocation, should be esteemed by all. Families too will share their spiritual riches generously with other families. Thus the Christian family, which springs from marriage as a reflection of the loving covenant uniting Christ with the Church, and as a participation in that covenant, will manifest to all men Christ's living presence in the world, and the genuine nature of the Church. This the family will do by the mutual love of the spouses, by their generous fruitfulness, their solidarity and faithfulness, and by the loving way in which all members of the family assist one another.
Gaudium et Spes, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in The Modern World

(For complete citation see Appendix C)

Catechism of the Catholic Church


You shall not commit adultery.

You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery." But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

I. "Male and Female He Created Them . . ."

In God's Own Image
2331 "God is love and in himself he lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in his own image . . ., God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion."

"God created man in his own image . . . male and female he created them"; He blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and multiply"; "When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created."

(For complete citation see Appendix D)

Educational Guidance in Human Love: Outlines for Sex Education
Sexuality is a fundamental component of personality, one of its modes of being, of manifestation, of communicating with others, of feeling, of expressing and of living human love. Therefore it is an integral part of the development of the personality and of its educative process: " It is, in fact, from sex that the human person receives the characteristics which, on the biological, psychological and spiritual levels, make that person a man or a woman, and thereby largely condition his or her progress towards maturity and insertion into society ".

69 It being understood from what has been said on the primary duty of the family, the role of the school should be that of assisting and completing the work of parents, furnishing children and adolescents with an evaluation of " sexuality as value and task of the whole person, created male and female in the image of God ".

70 Interpersonal dialogue required by sex education, tends to kindle in the pupil an interior disposition suited to motivating and guiding personal behaviour. Such a point of view is strictly connected to the values inspired by the concept of life. Sex education is not reducible to simple teaching material, nor to theoretical knowledge alone, nor does it consist of a programme to be carried out progressively, but it has a specific objective in view: that affective maturation of the pupil, of self control, and of correct behaviour in social relationships. 

71 The school can contribute to the realisation of this objective in various ways. All matters can offer an opportunity to treat themes in their relation to sexuality; the teacher will do so always in a positive key and with great delicacy, concretely evaluating the opportunity and the methods. Individual sex education always retains prior value and can not be entrusted indiscriminately to just any member of the school community. In fact, as will be specified in what follows, as well as right judgement, sense of responsibility, professional competence, affective and decent maturity, this education requires from the teacher outstanding sensitivity in initiating the child and adolescent in the problems of love and life without disturbing their psychological development. 

72 Also, though the teacher possess the necessary qualities for sex education in groups, it is necessary always to consider the concrete situation of such groups. This applies above all in mixed groups, since these require special precautions. In each case, the responsible authorities must examine with parents the propriety of proceeding in such a manner. Given the complexity of the problem, it is good to reserve for the pupil a time for personal dialogue in order to accommodate the seeking of advice or clarification - which a natural sense of decency would not allow to arise in front of others. Only a strict collaboration between the school and the family will be able to guarantee an advantageous exchange of experience between parents and teachers for the good of the pupils.(52) It is the responsibility of Bishops, taking account of school legislation and local circumstances, to establish guidelines for sex education in groups, above all if they are mixed. 

73 It can sometimes happen that particular events in the life of the school render a timely intervention necessary. In such cases, the school authorities, in accordance with the principle of collaboration, will contact parents interested in agreeing on an appropriate solution. 

74 Persons particularly suited by competence and balance, and who enjoy the trust of parents, can be invited to hold private conversations with pupils to help them to develop their affective maturity and to give the right balance in their social relationships. Such interventions in personal guidance belong in particular to the more difficult cases, at least when the gravity of the situation makes necessary recourse to a specialist in the matter. 

75 The formation and development of an harmonious personality require a peaceful atmosphere, fruitful understanding, reciprocal trust and collaboration between persons in charge. It is obtained with mutual respect for the specific competence of the various members of the educational staff, their responsibilities and the choice of the differentiated means at their disposal. 

For complete text go to
Educational Guidance in Human Love: Outlines for Sex Education, Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, Rome, 1983

Other Church Documents

Original Unity of Man and Woman, Pope John Paul II, GENERAL AUDIENCE,
Wednesday 7 November 1979

The Unity and Indissolubility of Marriage
For some time now preparations have been going on for the next ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will take place in Rome in autumn of next year. The theme of the Synod, "The role of the Christian family," concentrates our attention on this community of human and Christian life, which has been fundamental from the beginning. The Lord Jesus used precisely this expression "from the beginning" in the talk about marriage, reported in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark. We wish to raise the question what this word "beginning" means. We also wish to clarify why Christ referred to the "beginning" on that occasion and, therefore, we propose a more precise analysis of the relative text of Holy Scripture.

During the talk with the Pharisees, who asked him the question about the indissolubility of marriage, Jesus Christ referred twice to the "beginning." The talk took place in the following way:

"And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, 'Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?' He answered, 'Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.' They said to him, 'Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?' He said to them, 'For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so"' (Mt 19:3ff., cf. also Mk 10:2ff.).

Christ did not accept the discussion at the level at which his interlocutors tried to introduce it. In a certain sense he did not approve of the dimension that they tried to give the problem. He avoided getting caught up in juridico-casuistical controversies. On the contrary, he referred twice to "the beginning." Acting in this way, he made a clear reference to the relative words in Genesis, which his interlocutors too knew by heart. From those words of the ancient revelation, Christ drew the conclusion and the talk ended.

Therefore, "the beginning" means that which Genesis speaks about. Christ quoted Genesis 1:27 in summary form: "In the beginning the Creator made them male and female." The original passage reads textually as follows: "God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Subsequently, the Master referred to Genesis 2:24: "Therefore, a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." Quoting these words almost in full, Christ gave them an even more explicit normative meaning (since it could be supported that in Genesis they express de facto statements: "leaves...cleaves...they become one flesh"). The normative meaning is plausible since Christ did not confine himself only to the quotation itself, but added: "So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." That "let not man put asunder" is decisive. In the light of these words of Christ, Genesis 2:24 sets forth the principle of the unity and indissolubility of marriage as the very content of the Word of God, expressed in the most ancient revelation.

It could be maintained at this point that the problem is exhausted, that Jesus Christ's words confirm the eternal law formulated and set up by God from "the beginning" as the creation of man. It might also seem that the Master, confirming this original law of the Creator, did nothing but establish exclusively his own normative meaning, referring to the authority itself of the first Legislator. However, that significant expression "from the beginning," repeated twice, clearly induced his interlocutors to reflect on the way in which man was formed in the mystery of creation, precisely as "male and female," in order to understand correctly the normative sense of the words of Genesis. This is no less valid for the people of today than for those of that time. Therefore, in the present study, considering all this, we must put ourselves precisely in the position of Christ's interlocutors today.

During the following Wednesday reflections at the general audiences, we will try, as Christ's interlocutors today, to dwell at greater length on St. Matthew's words (19:3ff.). To respond to the indication, inserted in them by Christ, we will try to penetrate toward that "beginning," to which he referred in such a significant way. Thus we will follow from a distance the great work which participants in the forthcoming Synod of Bishops are undertaking on this subject just now. Together with them, numerous groups of pastors and laymen are taking part in it, feeling especially responsible with regard to the role which Christ assigned to marriage and the Christian family, the role that he has always given, and still gives in our age, in the modem world.

The cycle of reflections we are beginning today, with the intention of continuing it during the following Wednesday meetings, also has the purpose, among other things, of accompanying from afar the work of preparation for the Synod. However, it will not touch its subject directly, but will turn our attention to the deep roots from which this subject springs.

For complete text go to

The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.

The fulfillment of this duty has always posed problems to the conscience of married people, but the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes have provoked new questions. The Church cannot ignore these questions, for they concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings.

2 The changes that have taken place are of considerable importance and varied in nature. In the first place there is the rapid increase in population which has made many fear that world population is going to grow faster than available resources, with the consequence that many families and developing countries would be faced with greater hardships. This can easily induce public authorities to be tempted to take even harsher measures to avert this danger. There is also the fact that not only working and housing conditions but the greater demands made both in the economic and educational field pose a living situation in which it is frequently difficult these days to provide properly for a large family.

Also noteworthy is a new understanding of the dignity of woman and her place in society, of the value of conjugal love in marriage and the relationship of conjugal acts to this love.

But the most remarkable development of all is to be seen in man's stupendous progress in the domination and rational organization of the forces of nature to the point that he is endeavoring to extend this control over every aspect of his own life—over his body, over his mind and emotions, over his social life, and even over the laws that regulate the transmission of life.
Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI, 1968 

For complete text go to

Jesus Christ, the true light that enlightens everyone
1 Called to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, "the true light that enlightens everyone" (Jn 1:9), people become "light in the Lord" and "children of light" (Eph 5:8), and are made holy by "obedience to the truth" (1 Pet 1:22).

This obedience is not always easy. As a result of that mysterious original sin, committed at the prompting of Satan, the one who is "a liar and the father of lies" (Jn 8:44), man is constantly tempted to turn his gaze away from the living and true God in order to direct it towards idols (cf. 1 Thes 1:9), exchanging "the truth about God for a lie" (Rom 1:25). Man's capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened. Thus, giving himself over to relativism and scepticism (cf. Jn 18:38), he goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself.

But no darkness of error or of sin can totally take away from man the light of God the Creator. In the depths of his heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it. This is eloquently proved by man's tireless search for knowledge in all fields. It is proved even more by his search for the meaning of life. The development of science and technology, this splendid testimony of the human capacity for understanding and for perseverance, does not free humanity from the obligation to ask the ultimate religious questions. Rather, it spurs us on to face the most painful and decisive of struggles, those of the heart and of the moral conscience.

For complete text go to

The Diversity of Vocations
47 At a time in history like the present, special attention must also be given to the pastoral care of the family, particularly when this fundamental institution is experiencing a radical and widespread crisis. In the Christian view of marriage, the relationship between a man and a woman — a mutual and total bond, unique and indissoluble — is part of God's original plan, obscured throughout history by our "hardness of heart", but which Christ came to restore to its pristine splendour, disclosing what had been God's will "from the beginning" (Mt 19:8). Raised to the dignity of a Sacrament, marriage expresses the "great mystery" of Christ's nuptial love for his Church (cf. Eph 5:32).

On this point the Church cannot yield to cultural pressures, no matter how widespread and even militant they may be. Instead, it is necessary to ensure that through an ever more complete Gospel formation Christian families show convincingly that it is possible to live marriage fully in keeping with God's plan and with the true good of the human person — of the spouses, and of the children who are more fragile. Families themselves must become increasingly conscious of the care due to children, and play an active role in the Church and in society in safeguarding their rights.
Apostolic Letter , Novo Millennio Ineunte, Pope John Paul II, 2000

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Canadian/Ontario Documents

In a time when there is little reverence for the image of God in the human person, we are summoned to care for human life with an ultimate respect.
This Moment of Promise . Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops

Intimacy and Sexuality -
A Letter to Catholic Secondary Students in Ontario
from the Roman Catholic Bishops of Ontario

Dear Friends:

A teacher from one of our Catholic secondary schools told us this story. A visitor was coming to talk to a Grade 10 class about chastity. Before the arrival of the visitor, the teacher discussed the topic and any questions the students might have. One student had a suggestion: "Why don't you just write DON'T on the chalkboard, and then we can skip the lecture."

We are not here to lecture you. Together with your parents and teachers, we want you to know that we believe in you. We appreciate your idealism, openness, energy, capacity for friendship, loyalty, humour, and spirit of adventure. These are great strengths. We believe in your fundamental goodness and your desire to grow toward full Christian maturity. In our eyes, as in the eyes of God, each one of you is sacred.

We have chosen to write to you about intimacy and sexuality for several reasons. Firs, and most important is the respect and care we have for you. Also, we know how important relationships are in your daily lives. Finally, we believe that some of the messages you are receiving about intimacy and human sexuality are both false and harmful. You deserve the truth and we want to speak honestly to you. We hope you will accept our letter in this spirit.

For complete text go to

Keynote Address: Sylvia Pegis Santin, October 4, 2003

Creating Fully Alive
The task of presenting an overview of Fully Alive involves a journey back in time. In 1984 I attended my first meeting of the OCCB Editorial Board, the group that was working toward creating a Family Life program for the Catholic schools of Ontario. At the time, I was working part-time for the Archdiocese of Toronto, and still functioning as a consultant to several private schools, assessing children with learning and behavioural difficulties. I did not realize it then, but that 1984 meeting, now almost 20 years ago, marked a change in my life, and the beginning of a long involvement in the world of Catholic education, and more specifically, Catholic Family Life Education.

The final texts of the Fully Alive series were published in 1992, more than ten years ago. I consider the years spent working on the program a significant part of my life, not only as a professional, but also as a person. The entire process of creating the series was an extraordinary experience and opportunity, difficult at times, as all major projects are, but one I would not change.

(For complete text see Appendix E)

Theological Foundations of Fully Alive
Archbishop Marcel Gervais
The first pages of the Bible make clear that the Lord God intended “the man and the woman” to be his representatives in creation (Genesis I). This high calling is expressed by the fact that they are made in his image and likeness. Just as human rulers place images of themselves in countries over which they have dominion, so the Lord God places his image – the man and the woman – over his dominion, which is all creation. As the image of God, men and women play the double role of representing the lordship of God to all creation, and of summing up in themselves all creation, from rocks to angels, before God. In order to redeem all creation, the Son of God therefore chose to unite himself to our nature, rather than to the purely spiritual creatures, the angels (Hebrews 2:5ff).

Our Catholic tradition finds even more meaning in the “image of God” in which we are made. For the purposes of our program we will highlight three aspects of this rich heritage.

1 It is of the nature of God to love. To love is to see what is good and to want to be one with it. God is love and he sees the goodness of creation and wants to unite it to himself eternally. Created in his image, we too are called to love, to see what is good, and to want to be one with it. To love him, we must first see that he is good, and that his commands are good and to be obeyed.

The Lord God also asks to be loved; it is his first commandment to us. We are like him in this too, for we are also made to be loved. ‘We are healed by knowing his love for us in Jesus Christ, and by every Godlike act of love we receive from others.

2 It is of the nature of God to know,to recognize, and to understand. All things are known by him and each of us is known through and through by him, and loved. We are like him in this as well; we are created with the faculty to know, to recognize, and to understand. Limited as it is by our finite nature, our ability to know is nonetheless truly god-like.

But the Lord also wants to be known; all creation and all of saving history are filled with his self-revelation. We are known by God, but we are also meant to be known by other human beings. We cannot be truly ourselves, made in his likeness, unless we engage in the normal process of self-revelation.

3 It is of the nature of God to create and support life. Here, too, we are created like him. We are called by him to multiply, “to fill the earth,” and to manage it in such a way that it supports life.

Our duty, our destiny, and our greatest dignity is to know and love God. We are also called to know others and to be known by them, to love others and to be loved by them. And we are like God for we share in his power to create and support life. These three dimensions of creation in the “image and likeness” of God animate our program.

As the ancient prayer expresses it, “we have been wonderfully created, and even more wonderfully redeemed.” In Christ Jesus, our Redeemer, we find the perfect “image of God” (Colossians 1:15). In him we find our pattern of loving, knowing, and supporting human life. It is with him as our model that we strive to work out our salvation. And there is much work to do, for as wonderfully created as we are, we are subject to the effects of sin and it is only with the help of God’s grace in Christ that we can begin in this world to enter into the “fullness of life” that the Lord Jesus promised us (John 10:10).

Sin entered the world and its profoundest effects are recorded in the first pages of Sacred Scripture (Genesis 3-11). Some of the effects of original sin directly threaten our calling to be the “images of God.”

The first effect of original sin recorded by the Scriptures is the shame that our first parents experienced before God and each other (Genesis 3). They hid. They hid because they could no longer see good in themselves: they hid because they could no longer fully see that God was good. They were ashamed of being human, ashamed of their genitals, which would create other human beings. Just as the ability to see goodness is the basis of love, the inability to see goodness is the basis of hate.

We are constantly dealing with this effect of original sin in our lives. The overcoming of it is an unending, life-long work. The inclination to see ugliness rather than beauty in ourselves is always present. The grace of Baptism removes all objective basis for thinking we are worth little, but to the extent that we have yet to believe we are loved, to that extent the sense of ugliness inside rules our lives. We desperately need to know the love of God revealed in Jesus! How profoundly we need to know that the Lord sees us and sees great goodness and beauty in us, even we sinners (Romans 5:8). Knowledge of the commandments of God and the guidance of the Church are certainly needed; but no knowledge of these can make up for a lack of knowledge of being loved by God and by other people.

Imagine two teenagers: both have clearly been taught that the Lord expects chastity of them; one has the self-confidence born of the mature love of parents; the other is starved for affection and attention. Which of the two is more likely to be guided by God’s law concerning chastity?

We know that each of these young people needs to have the knowledge of God’s law; we know that the stronger as well as the weaker will derive strength and guidance from the law, and will be able to resist many temptations because of the grace of knowing the Lord’s will. However, human experience teaches us that the person who has the confidence born of being loved will more readily resist temptations.

Fully Alive will do what it can to help our children know the love of God for them. It will lead our children to reflect on and appreciate the love they receive from their parents, their family, their friends, and others.

We are called to know and to be known; but we are, like Adam and Eve, inclined to hide from God and each other. We fear the discovery of the ugliness we harbour within. Our fear of intimacy springs from original sin, and blocks dialogue, communication, and self-revelation. It can create a prison of the heart and soul, and leave one full of compressed, compacted negative thoughts and feelings that fester as they are repressed. In the extreme, some seek release in violence, alcohol, drugs, sexual addictions, and even suicide. If the ability to reveal oneself is not developed no amount of instruction condemning these things will put an end to them.

This effect of original sin ruins more marriages than any other cause. The refusal of intimacy isolates spouses from each other and turns the act of marriage into sex with a stranger. The two remain two and do not become one, and the “communion of life” essential to marriage becomes impossible.

Self revelation is first learned at home. But Fully Alive can help students by encouraging them to express themselves to their parents, family, friends, and responsible adults.

We are also called to be creative and supportive of life. The effect of sin on the way we accept the original blessing, “be fruitful and multiply,” is quite terrifying. For an alarmingly large and growing number of people, fertility is a curse and sterility a blessing. Society has been plagued with this attitude many times in history, but usually only among the upper classes. Now it is reaching into the masses with an almost genocidal force. Abortion is the most criminal expression of this anti-fertility mentality.

In response, Fully Alive will present fertility as a blessing from God; it will speak of things sexual primarily in connection with the wonder of procreation; and it will promote a sense of awe and respect for new life from the moment of conception.

The anti-life disease has an equally deadly companion: the twisted conviction that sexual pleasure is an absolute right for anyone, no matter what their status in life. Sexually transmitted diseases may make people more cautious; but this caution is not changing the attitude that sexual pleasure is an unconditional right.

Fully Alive will teach our children that the Lord of Creation has restricted genital sexual activity to marriage; all other sexual activity is against his will.

Along with these expressions of sin, there is, of course, the perennial tendency to selfishness. The catechetical program will deal more thoroughly and consistently with this inclination, but Fully Alive will

take every opportunity to promote the virtue of self-giving essential to any Christian view of love, especially in its relation to sexuality.

There is, however, another excess taking form, one that has appeared many times in history and has been condemned each time by the Church (for example, Manichaeism, Albigensianism, Catharism, Jansenism). In reaction to the sexual permissiveness of our times, some people are beginning to revert to a form of sex-hatred that, if left unchecked, would bring back the heresy of seeing the body and sexuality as evil, something to be hidden and buried entirely.

To counteract this negative tendency, our children must be given, as early as possible in the home, a positive sense of the dignity of their bodies, their sexuality, and their sexual and reproductive parts. Fully Alive will help parents in accomplishing this task, and will also support them in preparing their children to accept puberty and the changes this brings about as God-given gifts involving new responsibilities.

Catechetics and Fully Alive
Fully Alive is intended to supplement but not to replace the catechetical program. It is a religious program, but not the religion program. Fully Alive presumes a complete catechetical program and is designed on the basis that there will be at least four religion classes for every one in family life. Fully Alive is directed throughout by Catholic teaching, and many truths of faith and morals will be called upon as needed in the program; but none of these will receive the complete treatment that belongs to the catechetical program.

Our times demand that a special effort be made to support parents in forming their children for a life of chastity and fidelity. If we had to reduce the goals of Fully Alive to one phrase, it would be “education for chastity” (Familiaris Consortio, 37). Chastity is the virtue that governs our sexuality according to the will of God. But our sexuality is an integral part of every person. To prepare youngsters for chastity is to tend to their whole person, their view of themselves, their maleness and femaleness, and their relationships and responsibilities to others.

Pope John Paul II describes in a few words what our family life program wants to assist parents in doing:

Remote preparation [for marriage or celibate life] begins in early childhood, in that wise family training which leads children to discover themselves as being endowed with a rich and complex psychology and with a particular personality with its own strengths and weaknesses. It is the period when esteem for authentic human values is instilled, both in interpersonal and social relationships, with all that this signifies for the formation of character, for the control and right use of one’s inclinations, for the manner of regarding and meeting people of the opposite sex, and so on. Also necessary, especially for Christians, is solid spiritual and catechetical formation…(Familiaris Consortio, 66)

This paragraph admirably expresses what Fully Alive sets out to do: to support “that wise family training”; to help children “discover themselves as being endowed … with a particular personality with its own strengths and weaknesses”; to promote “authentic human values in interpersonal and social relationships”; to encourage “control and right use of one’s inclinations”; to foster “the right manner of regarding and meeting people of the opposite sex.”

Fully Alive, along with the catechetical program, should help our children to understand the dignity of their calling in Christ. Together our parents and teachers become partners in giving our children the vision of God, which is revealed in Christ Jesus, the Word made flesh, to the greater glory of God.

"The glory of God is man and woman fully alive, but life for them consists in seeing God revealed in his Word."
(St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, IV.20.7.)

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The first duty of love is to listen.
Paul Tillich

Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.

Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality--not as we expect it to be but as it is--is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.
(Carl) Frederick Buechner

An act of love, a voluntary taking on oneself of some of the pain of the world, increases the courage and love and hope of all.
Dorothy Day

It is with our passions, as it is with fire and water, they are good servants but bad masters.

In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.
Erich Fromm

Perhaps the feelings that we experience when we are in love represent a normal state. Being in love shows a person who he should be.
Anton Chekhov

If you see good in people, you radiate a harmonious loving energy which uplifts those who are around you. If you can maintain this habit, this energy will turn into a steady flow of love.
Annamalai Swami

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.
Carl Jung

There is no remedy for love but to love more.
Henry David Thoreau

Immature love says: 'I love you because I need you.' Mature love says 'I need you because I love you.
Erich Fromm

Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, shall harness for God the energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire .
Teilhard de Chardin

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Web Resources

The Vatican
The official web site of the Vatican contains an impressive collection of materials with a useful internal search engine.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
The official web site of the CCCB contains extensive documentation, including recent media releases and publications, with a wide variety of useful links to other Church and Catholic organizations' web sites.

Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops
The official web site of the OCCB contains extensive resources from the Catholic Bishops of Ontario as well as useful links to other Church and Catholic organizations' web sites. The Conference's jurisdiction over Ontario Catholic schools makes this site particularly relevant.

Educational Guidance in Human Love
A foundational document outlining a rationale for a collaborative approach between parents and teachers in sex education. The clearest mandate for bishops to develop family life education programmes can be found here.

Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops on Marriage
Extensive resources from the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops on marriage and the family.

Canadian Bishops: Family Matters
Family Matters, a publication of Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Organization for Life and Family, uses a question and answer format to clearly outline the Catholic church’s teaching on marriage and family.

Catholic Organization for Life and Family
Catholic Organization for Life and Family contains statements on current issues related to sexuality, marriage and family.

Ontario Bishops: Intimacy and Sexuality
An excellent publication written for high school students that outlines the church's teaching on sexuality and intimacy, described in relational terms. Written in 1994, it still stands up as a very useful introduction to sexuality, relationship and chastity.  

Family Life Education: Fully Alive
An outline of the Fully Alive programme to provide to parents.

Single Parent Families
Another publication of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family that is addressed to single parent families.

Human Sexuality:'Wonderful Gift' and 'Awesome Responsibility'
An overview of Church teaching based on the U.S. bishops' 1990 document, Human Sexuality: A Catholic Perspective for Education and Lifelong Learning by Richard Sparks, C.S.P.

The bishops' document was written primarily to assist parents and religious educators, providing them with sound Christian guidelines for sexuality education. This Catholic Update, written by a Catholic moral theologian quite familiar with the document and its contents, is a summary of the bishops' major points. "This document," they say, "is offered as our contribution to the ongoing discussion about what it means to be mature sexual persons—physically, psychologically, socially and spiritually whole.... We have presented a positive and hopeful Christian vision of what it means to be sexual and to be chaste" ( Human Sexuality, 6, 83).

United States Catholic Conference: Issues in Sexuality and Family
Great site for ordering publications on human sexuality and various related issues including these related topics: AIDS, Children, Domestic Abuse, Homosexuality, Marriage, Sexual Abuse, Violence, Women, Youth, Young Adults. Some publications are available for downloading.

The Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute
The Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute is dedicated to helping enhance Catholic research and communications in the area of bioethics in a way that would be of service to Canadians generally. The CCBI stresses the need for a proactive approach to bioethics by Catholics, academically credible research, and stronger links across the country among academics, clinical ethicists, and workers in health and pastoral care. The CCBI officially opened on November 16, 2002, with the support of many Canadian bishops, national Catholic lay organizations and academics from across the country.

Do No Harm
Do No Harm is a web site sponsored by The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics and is dedicated to providing current information, news and resources around stem cell research. The group’s stated objectives are: to advance the development of medical treatments and therapies that do not require the destruction of human life, including the human embryo; to educate and inform public policy makers and the general public regarding these ethically acceptable and medically promising areas of research and treatment; and to support continuation of federal laws prohibiting the federal funding of research that requires the destruction of human life, including the human embryo.

Human Life And Genetic Testing
A thoughtful publication on issues related to human life and genetic testing.

Institute For Catholic Education: Course Profiles
Institute for Catholic education provides links to course profiles in high school Religious Education. All courses from grades 9 to 12 include learning expectations related to family life education which incorporate learning related to the family life themes of personhood, relationships and sexuality.

Gateway Site for Church and Theological Documents
This site offers links to a wide variety of documents and articles by both Catholic Church officials and theologians.

Resources for Catholic Teachers
Here you will discover links to a wide variety of Catholic resources from a variety of perspectives for teachers is available at this site.

The Vanier Institute of the Family
The Vanier Institute of the Family , established in 1965 under the patronage of Their Excellencies Governor-General Georges P. Vanier and Madame Pauline Vanier, is a national, charitable organization dedicated to promoting the well-being of Canadian families. It is governed by a volunteer board with regional representation from across Canada. This site offers a variety of resources on a wide range of issues impacting on the Canadian family, many based on the most recent research available.

Christopher West - Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body
Christopher West's
recent work has focused on making more accessible Pope John Paul II Theology of the Body. Christopher West teaches the theology of the body at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver and at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Melbourne, Australia. This site offers a series of articles that will begin to unpack for you this important body of Pope John Paul II's teaching.

Health Canada
Health Canada's web site puts you in touch with useful information and resources provided by the federal government. Catholic teachers should be aware that not all of the perspectives and advice presented on the web site are consistent with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Ontario Ministry of Health
The Ontario Ministry of Health
provides a wide range of information on topics related to sexual health, including this page regarding Sexually Transmitted Diseases. For other links visit Catholic teachers should be aware that not all of the perspectives and advice presented on these web sites are consistent with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Some material may have to be modified for classroom use.

Sexuality and U
Sexuality and U i s a web site maintained by The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. While its claim to be the ultimate Canadian web site devoted to sexuality education and information may be somewhat overstated, it nonetheless provides up to date research and statistical information relevant to sexual education in Canada. Catholic teachers should be aware that not all of the perspectives and advice presented on the web site are consistent with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and should therefore be modified for classroom use.

UNAIDS The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS, is the main advocate for global action on the epidemic. It leads, strengthens and supports an expanded response aimed at preventing transmission of HIV, providing care and support, reducing the vulnerability of individuals and communities to HIV/AIDS, and alleviating the impact of the epidemic. Catholic teachers should be aware that not all of the perspectives and advice presented on the web site are consistent with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Some material may have to be modified for classroom use.

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Links to Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations

A Discerning Believer Formed in the Catholic Faith Community who:
CGE1e Speaks the language of life... "recognizing that life is an unearned gift and that a person entrusted with life does not own it but that one is called to protect and cherish it." (Witnesses to Faith)
CGE1g Understands that one's purpose or call in life comes from God and strives to discern and live out this call throughout life's journey
A Caring Family Member who:
CGE6a Relates to family members in a loving, compassionate and respectful manner
CGE6b Recognizes human intimacy and sexuality as God given gifts, to be used as the creator intended
CGE6c Values and honours the important role of the family in society
CGE6d Values and nurtures opportunities for family prayer
CGE6e Ministers to the family, school, parish, and wider community through service
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Reflection Questions

Personal and Group Reflections

Personal Reflection:

1. In my teaching experience, what are the issues in relationship and sexuality that I found most difficult to deal with?

 2. How confident am I in presenting the Church's teachings on these subjects?

 3. What do I need to do in order to increase my own understanding of the Church's teachings around human sexuality?

Group Refection:

1. We share experiences and challenges related to teaching aspects of relationship and sexuality.

2. What resources do I find helpful when teaching these subjects?

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