The Catholic Church acknowledges four types of love: storge (natural affection), aeros (sexual desire), philia (natural human friendship), and agape (deepest love). All of these loves play a role in the various relationships people undertake. In Catholic relationships, agape is perhaps the most essential part, while charity and good will describe the ideal aspects of relationships.
In the eyes of the Catholic Church, love is not an emotion or feeling. According to the Bible, Jesus Christ loved all men although he had different feelings toward certain people; Catholics believe that this aspect of Christ's life proves that feelings and love are fundamentally different.
Catholics view love as an act of will, devotion, unselfishness and sacrifice. True love comes from God and is accepted by man. The Catholic theologian St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that love is "willing the good of the other." This sort of unselfish good will serves as the backbone toward understanding the Catholic Church's view of relationships.
In Catholicism, sex is the literal act of love or the giving of one's self. The idea of sex as the giving of one's self influences many of the sexual ideologies of the Catholic Church. Priests and nuns, for example, take the oath of chastity and avow to remain virgins to completely commit their lives to God. If they were to indulge in sexual activity, they could not give themselves wholly to God because they would have shared a part of themselves with another person. As a result, the act of chastity enables nuns and priests to remain more unified in spirit.
The Catholic Church believes in a natural bureaucracy of authority, flowing from Christ, through the Church, and even down into the family unit. Men are considered to be the heads of their households, the Pope is the head of the Church, and Christ is the head of the Pope. In a marriage, women should remain submissive and obedient to the husband. By honoring the head of her household, she honors Christ. Men are in subjection to their wives also, however, because of their love for their wife. Any form of sexual relationship outside of marriage is strictly forbidden. Marriage is seen as a sacred bond to which two individuals are eternally bound. Using scripture from Mark 10:9, "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder," the Catholic Church does not typically recognize divorce.
The Catholic Church teaches against sexual acts considered unholy. Sexual desire is generally not considered unclean, but acting upon them is considered sinful. Catholics teach against homosexuality, sodomy, incest, bestiality and oral sex. Catholics do not use contraceptives, because they believe that contraceptives inhibit lovers from giving themselves fully to their partner. Catholics take dating relationships seriously. Although dating is treated as a trail to marriage, sexual activity is strictly forbidden during that time.
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images