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Fornication

This last week has seen a furore over the use of various f-words. One by radio presenter Ray D’Arcy in describing his opinion regarding the Catholic church, and the other, by Mayo TD Michelle Mulherin, describing consensual sex outside of marriage (fornication). In one, it was the use of a word deemed socially unacceptable, and in the other an opinion was deemed socially unacceptable.

Much amazement seems to have gathered around this so-called archaic word ‘fornication’—are we really to uphold such an ‘outmoded’ idea in 21
st century Ireland? Are we to keep sexual intimacy within the confines of marriage? Surely what you do sexually and with whom you do it are your own business?

For many Irish men and women the idea of sexual restraint is a throw back to the negative view of sex often promoted by the Catholic Church. However such a view of sex does not reflect the Bible’s own teaching which sees it as a good gift given by God to people for pleasure and procreation within the context of marriage. There is nothing stuffy or negative about the Bible’s view, in fact it is precisely because it values sexual intimacy that it seeks to preserve a proper environment for it.

Our problem is that, in response to too negative a view, we now have too low a view. We have been conned into thinking that sex is purely a biological function. That’s like saying that a Porsche is just a car. Many would like to believe that sex isn’t that special, more like an old Lada. But in God's eyes, sex is more like a Porsche than a Lada. It is valuable. It demands care. It is something precious. You don’t use a Porsche to race around the fields in!

That means that the right answer to a negative view is not to swing to another extreme—that of sexual liberty, behaving like a bunch of children let loose in a sweet factory—rather the right answer is to find what the Bible teaches and to abide by it.

Fornication might be a ‘religious’ word, but it is still a good word, and one whose concept we would do well to value.

However, the ultimate problem is that we don’t like authority; we don’t like the idea of God poking his nose into our lives and calling the shots. We think we are capable of running our own lives. That’s where the heart of the problem lies—we want to keep God at arms length, for emergencies, but we don’t want him to interfere in other matters. But if he is any sort of a God worthy of the title, he will know better and he will tell us how to live, whether we like it or not.

Our reaction to concepts like ‘fornication’ may tell us more about ourselves than we like to admit.