The Catholic Church and Sexual Repression

I was brought up by a Catholic mother and a Church of England father and the main religion of the house was the Roman Catholic faith: we went to church every Sunday and I went to a Catholic Convent Boarding school in the UK, which was run by nuns. I was a boarder there from age six to thirteen and continued as a day girl until I was seventeen.

There’s one aspect of my upbringing that is really only now sinking in, and that is the sexual repression.

There was always a joke about Catholic girls being rather naughty when it came to sex and that’s probably a form of rebellion from the complete repression that takes place within the Catholic Church. The opposite is also true, with some girls growing up very nun-like in their prudishness.

Where does the rebellion come from? A celibate life is celebrated and priests and nuns are not allowed to marry, but is a celibate life normal or healthy for everyone? We are taught that Jesus was single, but that would have been very unusual in his day: he is more likely to have had a wife and at least three children. Is it possible that the Catholic Church rewrote history to suit their agenda?

I don’t remember anything in the bible specifically that talked about relationships between men and women, but I am aware of the messages that have constantly played out in my head to this day and I’m sure they are as a result of my Catholic upbringing, because my parents never talked about sex and at school conversations were very limited, and the nuns didn’t offer any support when it came to relationship issues. In the 60s, I recall one religious education class where we were discussing how far you could/should go with a man before marriage and the answer was holding hands at the garden gate. We all laughed in disbelief. Sex before marriage was definitely not supposed to happen and the pill or other forms of contraception were banned. Just the natural rhythm method, guaranteed to fail. And, of course, many Catholic girls did get pregnant and their babies were adopted away, leaving young mothers distressed for the rest of their lives.

The main message I received growing up in a Catholic boarding school for girls was that “Boys are only after one thing,” i.e. all boys want to get their hand up your skirt. I am sure that, like me, many women have experienced boys at parties trying to touch their breasts or their genitals, or seen men exposing their penis in the street (flashers); and on London’s busy underground trains there are numerous opportunities for men to push themselves up against women. These kinds of activities support the generalised belief that all men are only interested in sex.

Judgements about men and sex were embedded in my education, and I grew up with an unbalanced view of men. I cringed whenever any man I was with would ogle a girl, focussing on her breasts. I felt offended but the men would see it as a ‘healthy appreciation,’ whereas for me it has always felt sleazy.

I have always wanted men to see me for who I am, not just a sexy body, and I’m sure many women feel the same.

Some women hide their bodies by wearing totally frumpy clothes or the opposite, using sexy, revealing clothes to have power over men. Neither offers equal respect between men and women.

At our Catholic school sexual relationships were never openly discussed so we were not encouraged to speak openly with each other about intimacy in relationships. I have since learned that intimacy is not just about being close in bed with a man or a woman, but about being deeply honest and sharing what we feel in all our relationships. That requires us to be deeply honest with ourselves first. We create ideals and pictures about how we think our relationships could or should be instead of feeling in each moment what is going on and being able to express and honour those feelings and our awareness.

In our history, and continuing today, there are many stories of women being raped by strangers, by family members or by their husbands. Nowadays, through the teachings of Universal Medicine and Serge Benhayon, I am slowly learning that there is a way of making love that is truly love, where the woman’s body is treated as sacred and nothing takes place that does not honour that.

Whilst in the past I may have used sex with men to make me feel better about myself, these days I know that in order to make love, rather than have sex, I need to start off feeling good about myself. I need to love myself first and feel the sacredness that my body was born with before I can truly offer my love to another. This is not something that I was taught by the Catholic Church. 

My experience of the Catholic Church was that the teachings made all women feel unworthy, like second-class citizens, fit only for being a dutiful wife and mother and exclusively defined by their relationship to a man and their babies.

Why is it not part of the Catholic doctrine to teach about the sacredness we women are born with in our bodies?

Why are we women not taught to honour and express how we feel? We have been encouraged to be martyrs, do ‘good deeds’ and to put everyone else’s needs before our own. The natural sacredness and natural sexiness (not sexual) of a woman is deliberately suppressed. The Catholic Church is not alone in this but it is the only church I have personal experience of.

The sexual repression evident in many institutionalised religions, including the Catholic Church, is carefully crafted and can pass on through several generations if not caught and turned around. We women need to reclaim our bodies for ourselves and then what we can offer our partner is a woman in her fullness: tender, precious and full of love, a woman who doesn’t want sex but who can be very sexy in her sacredness when she is truly making love.

By Carmel Reid, NSW, Australia, Student of The Way of The Livingness rediscovering God and true love.

Further Reading:
Making love vs having sex 101
Episode 12 – Sex, Nakedness and Making Love
Catholic Religion Today – is it a Healthy Option?

702 thoughts on “The Catholic Church and Sexual Repression

  1. “Is it possible that the Catholic Church rewrote history to suit their agenda?” This is a very pertinent question, and one that, if true, would potentially expose much controversy about the Catholic Church.

  2. The word shame comes to me when I read about repression. There’s no understanding and no love in repression, only judgement and condemnation of not just the behaviour but who we are in essence. This is a great tool for controlling people- it’s dealing in the commodity of redemption in exchange for conformity and subservience. This is pretty disgusting.

    1. Karin, this is so clearly expressed. When we are owned by a consciousness it is really difficult to see the wood for the trees. The clarity you offer is testament to the fact that you have broken free of it and in your expression you present with authority that there is another way.

  3. There is hardly a living soul it seems to me, that has not felt a sense of the human minefield around all these subjects and been impacted on by trying to ‘get it right’ between sometimes opposing ‘rules’ that so not embrace the truth of what should be a very beautiful natural expression.

  4. When I consider the changes in my relationship with my body since working with Universal Medicine it is nothing short of a miracle. From loathing and disdain I now spend more time knowing the sassiness and sexiness that my body is and expresses, and that these qualities are part of the sacredness of every woman.

    1. This is amazing Matilda. I had such self-hatred for myself and my body prior to working with Universal Medicine and have now connected to a sacredness I never knew was possible. I also know the choices I’ve made that result in me not feeling this. This is very empowering whereas before I choose to remain blind to what I was choosing.

  5. The Catholic Church has a lot to answer to in the way it has behaved towards others, especially around abuse. I get the feeling that it still thinks itself untouchable and unanswerable to the law. This is in every way shape and form completely unacceptable.

    1. The corruption within the Catholic church is ever so slowly getting exposed. Yes – it still has the pall of the medieval around it, of the dark ages, of the denial of responsibility it has to the people it professes to serve. It keeps them low so that it can manipulate and control and this corruption runs so deeply that it is not seen from within but is covered up with a piousness that professes to be love that is far from the truth.

  6. I am married and when I am not feeling great about my body – then I do not enjoy making love. But when I honour myself then it is a totally different experience. This of course was never shared in my catholic education but something that is totally part of our everyday.

    1. What a simple concept and in it, we are given the keys to self-love and the sharing of that with others. The Catholic church has been set up to do precisely the opposite – to hinder that natural and innate expression – to debase the power we have, that as you say HM is not just our normal every day but our birthright.

  7. Within many religions, there is a huge implication of guilt around sex, love making and any form of physical intimacy but with the rebellion of this, it has pushed people into choosing behaviours of extreme sex and orgies etc. Neither is a true expression of how we are and can be with each other, and so remains for each of us to explore this true way and claim it for ourselves first before we can truly share that with another. Learning to love oneself without guilt and with full honouring is a work in progress.

  8. It appears to me that sex is such a taboo topic in and with the Catholic religion, and yet when something natural is repressed it seeks to express itself in warped ways – perhaps this explains some of the behaviours that have been exposed within the Catholic church with all the pedophilia and more.

  9. What does it say about the so-called religions of today if they do not teach us to know the sacredness that already lies within us? This being a graceful quality and true delicateness that can be felt and be present in all our expressions including our sexual expression without singling anything out or repressing it.

  10. This blog is one that I have to keep coming back to. The enormity of what it is exposing is something that I truly appreciate. Having been caught up in the Catholic consciousness myself I am clear on how much gets suppressed, how much guilt, how much lack of self-worth, how much self-denial. How much ‘good’ that feels sickly and untrue is promoted and how damaging this is to the relationship with self and how life gets filtered through rules that are not only not true but warped.

  11. I have never ever heard the teachings of the Ageless Wisdom dictate to do this or don’t do that. What has been offered consistently is greater understanding and awareness which naturally inspires me to deepen my love, care and responsibility. I know however much my mind might want to translate things into should and shouldn’t, God does not play that game and any such dictation assigned to him is simply not true.

    1. I appreciate your saying this, Golnaz, because, having been brought up with one set of rules, it was easy to exchange them for another set of rules but, as you say, the ageless Wisdom sets no rules, it simply states the Way It Is and that we need to discern, and we can do that by refining the way we live. It is our minds that create the rules and the self recriminations.

  12. Prior to Universal Medicine I had never heard about what making love is. Before it meant having sex slowly to some cheesy music. Since I admitted how horrible sex felt in my body, yet was something that was so sought after, I have given myself permission to never use or be used for gratification in that way, I have felt how honouring and beautiful, how respectful and divine making love could be. I still feel like I have more to let go of all the Catholic church stuff of feeling guilty that gets in the way.

    1. The guilt so many women and men feel around having sex/making love because of the teachings of the Catholic church is still very hidden. This guilt can lead to not expressing ourselves in full, which can then lead on to physical illness and disease in the body.

    1. Agreed Paula, the problem comes when some people try so hard to make us think something is truth when it isn’t. Take the media as a prime example.

  13. There is a lot more to intimacy than many of us truly appreciate. It is so much more than just a physical experience but a sharing of openness, transparency…being ‘naked’ in our expression. In fact what we call physical intimacy without this ‘naked expression’ is not intimate at all in my experience.

    1. It is really pertinent to make the distinction between ‘naked expression’ and what we call physical intimacy. With physical intimacy, whilst we may be taking our clothes off, this doesn’t necessarily mean that our hearts are open and without an open heart we are simply servicing a need to fill the hole we generate by not having done so.

  14. I feel that rebellion in instances such as those described in this blog are very understandable. However, it seems to me that to rebel is to do the opposite of what is being ‘imposed’ on us rather than to make a true choice. What would our true choices be, without the imposition of the repression and the like? That’s something worth exploring.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s