According to recent news reports, Duluth and the surrounding area are seeing outbreaks of HIV, syphilis, and other sexually-transmitted diseases in recent years. Public health officials say rates for some of these diseases have risen statewide. St. Louis County is planning an ad campaign, with the help of a state grant, so you may soon be hearing about it on billboards and social media and the sides of city buses.
While it is undoubtedly very important to inform people of this situation and let them know where they can get screening and treatment for these diseases, that alone only addresses the symptoms. It’s not a cure for the underlying problem.
And it becomes ever clearer what the real problem is, for those who have eyes to see. Pope Francis, in an April 28 message to an academic conference on fertility, described ours as “a world dominated by a relativistic and trivialized view of human sexuality.”
In response, he advocated a new “sexual revolution”: “We need to discover the beauty of human sexuality by once again turning to the great book of nature, learning to respect the value of the body and the generation of life, with a view to authentic experiences of conjugal love.”
Echoing the teaching of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Francis said we need to affirm both the unitive and procreative elements of sex. In a news report from OSV, he is quoted as saying that without this, “the experience of sexuality is impoverished, reduced to sensations that soon become self-referential, and its dimensions of humanity and responsibility are lost.”
The church’s teaching on these things has been consistent, but it has also been controversial. Yet the daily headlines continue to illustrate its wisdom.