by Theresa Notare
May 4, 2007
In 1901 H.G. Wells made a prediction. He said that by 2000, moral standards would be "shifting and uncertain," that "monogamy, would dissolve and sexual standards would alter greatly." Traditional moral codes would "remain nominally operative in sentiment and practice, while being practically disregarded."
His predictions reveal the power of an effective lie. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Wells and his friends were part of a very small group of intellectuals who thought it would be good for society if sex were freed from marriage and procreation. In many ways, they laid the foundation for the modern sexual revolution, advocating birth control, easy divorce laws, trial marriage, and sexual freedom. Although a minority in their time, they wrote incessantly about the tyranny of marriage and family life and the oppressive teachings of Christianity which they saw as a culturally created institution whose authority should be opposed. Their lie—that people would be happier and fulfilled if sexual intercourse were set free of all constraints—touched a deep chord in the human heart. The idea spread.
In 2007, reams of data expose the lie of the modern sexual revolution. When sex is taken out of marriage, and human fertility is manipulated by contraception, unforeseen and dangerous consequences ensue. The substantial increase in non-marital sexual intercourse may seem innocuous and today the estimated number of sexual partners before marriage for women is 5-8. For men, it's 10. But research shows that multiple non-marital sexual partners are associated with the following problems:
- The 40%-50% divorce rate
- More children (1 in 3) are born to single mothers and therefore are at greater risk of living in poverty, having a poor education, and engaging in risky behavior as teens
- The tenfold increase in cohabitation over the last four decades and its continuing rise; less than half of these partnerships end in marriage, and among those who marry, the divorce rate is 46% higher then in the general population
- An epidemic in sexually transmitted diseases
- Among sexually active adolescents, higher rates of depression and attempted suicide
Sex separated from marriage and procreation is not fulfilling. It is harmful. Only through embracing God's gift of love and life can we be happy. As the U.S. bishops say in their statement Married Love and the Gift of Life: "The desire and ability of a man and woman to form a lasting bond of love and life in marriage are written into their nature." It reflects God's desire for our happiness. By following this way of love, we can "receive the gift of God's love and care, and to let this gift inform and transform us, so we may share that love with each other and with the world."
Theresa Notare, MA is the Assistant Director of the Diocesan Development Program for Natural Family Planning, Pro-Life Secretariat, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.