Lust might often be considered the most deadly of the seven capital sins, but to Dante and Catholic theology, it is the least deadly perhaps because it involves the least amount of malice – that is to say, when employed in its “purest“ form without the urge for power.
Recall, Bishop Barron says, sexual pleasure is something that God wants human beings to enjoy; it is necessary for married couples to carry out their divine mission; for that reason perhaps it is so easy to twist. How we bandy about the term “love,” over-identifying it with elated feelings or physical states. What potential hides within sexuality and sexual expression – potential for good or evil!
Lust is the excessive craving of the pleasures of the body. It treats a human being (another, or self) not as a person worthy of her or his own regard, but as a tool for satisfying sexual urges. Lust uses people for what can be extracted from them, and sexual gratification is probably the easiest quality to separate from personhood.
The multi-billion dollar industry of pornography centers around the objectification of individuals by one another. The cult of celebrity, tabloid magazines (“scandal rags”), and certain kinds of “reality” television indirectly emerged from porn, I would say, because of their intense focus on glamour, drama, manipulation, and humiliation. Relationships with these characteristics might somehow, somewhere trace them to porn use.
It’s all a distancing from reality as it is. Life and our uncomfortable feelings around actual human relationships demand addressing, but like similarly charged magnets, we resist and repel. Fantasy is easier, and its avenues plentiful.
We are created in and for real communion. Marriage is the privileged path to sustained sharing in the prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of another. For the human race as a whole, sexual activity within a covenant bond is necessary. But marriage is no mere outlet for sexual interest, nor celibacy a refuge from it. Whether it flowers in marriage or intentional celibacy, the integration of sexuality is crucial for peace.
“For peace”? At the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast, Mother Teresa declared abortion the greatest threat to world peace. Abortion, that fruit of lust and power, reveals and fosters unrest in the lives of everyone involved. Though it may seem like a pardon from a sentence, abortion levies a sentence of its own. But for every lust-power offense there is always healing, the gradual work toward a new awareness of one’s dignity and the earnest pursuit of chastity.
Authentic, inspiring community helps provide that healing. Whether it is transparency in the marital relationship, in counseling, a twelve-step program or friendship, active participation purifies human hearts. God-at-work-in-community gives people power to sever from their lives whatever enslaves them and warps their regard for self and others.