Catholic social teaching naturally contributes to and extends from God’s plan of love. God’s plan of love is written in natural law. Natural law can be observed scientifically. Many of the sciences like biology and psychology involve the study of living things. Likewise, Catholic social teaching honors a living God who is perpetually life-giving. Whenever humanity attempts to thwart natural law, the consequences are death and the loss of dignity for the human person.
Every human person is made in the image and likeness of a loving God (Genesis 1:27). According to the natural law of biology and psychology, having an abortion is not dignified or life-giving. Giving birth to a baby may not feel very dignified to the proud human ego either, but in God’s eyes it is a dignified act of co-creation. Giving birth to a baby is life-giving to the baby and to the human species.
Homosexual sexual intercourse is not a dignified act, nor is it life-giving. Much of heterosexual intercourse is also not dignified or life-giving. Many acts of both heterosexual intercourse and homosexual intercourse are performed out of a wounded spirit and emotional traumatic bonding instead of from a life-giving spirit of love for God. This is the reality of living in a world where there is sin and suffering. Thankfully, God does not abandon us in our woundedness. St. Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Heterosexual intercourse in the traditional sense of a committed marriage is dignified in the eyes of God because it shows one’s willingness to live a life dedicated to caring for God’s creation. Heterosexual intercourse also holds the potential to be life-giving. “And you, be fruitful and multiply, abound on the earth and multiply in it” (Genesis 9:7). Heterosexual intercourse may also seem undignified to many who suffer with shame or self-consciousness.
In this sinful world there will be death where God desires life; there will be lust where God desires love. It is in the midst of sin and suffering that God continues to show His authority to bring forth life. God does not define love by emotional highs or by physical pleasure. God defines love by the virtues of mercy, forgiveness, charity, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, and steadfast commitment which God continues to display in abundance over the centuries.
Humanity only has the power to bring death. God alone has the power to bring forth life. God creates and sustains the baby growing in the womb. The baby’s mother cooperates with this grace by nourishing herself and the baby. God sustains the life of the ill and elderly. Doctors and nurses cooperate with this gift of God’s grace by physically caring for those in need. God’s grace alone keeps two sinners committed to their marriage vows for a lifetime together. Both the husband and wife must choose to cooperate with this gift of grace if their marriage will last a lifetime. Such a commitment is not an act of love for one’s spouse but rather an act of love for God, one’s creator.
Each human person is called to live a life that respects one’s inherent dignity as a child of God. Therefore, life-giving acts are loving acts where the love exchanged is a dance of grace between oneself and God.