How I wish, when I am my best self, I could love the way that Jesus did: to be free from any ill motives when dealing with those I find attractive, and to simply reach out in love. I know I have been guilty of acting differently toward those to whom I feel an attraction, and at those times I sometimes wonder what it would be like to simply love with the kind of abandon that Jesus showed at the wedding in Cana, or with the Samaritan woman at the well, or with the woman caught in adultery, or with the woman with a hemorrhage. I like to think that perhaps Jesus found some of those women beautiful, and yet simply reached out in love to all of them the same.

I have hints of that kind of freedom when I act in loving ways toward my wife, and echoes of that freedom when my daughters or my students summon from me gifts of presence. Marriage and fatherhood, for me, constitute a school of desire, and I find that this training in generosity bears fruit in both ordinary life and in prayer at roughly the same speed. So my own obsession with sex (I guess) is rooted not in any sort of lurid venereal delight, but rather in the sense that there is a depth to sex--that is, to our spiritual/relational DNA—matched only by the depths I find in prayer.

Catholics can be quick to critique the splinters they see in the eyes of those whose views of sex they don't share, even as we blithely ignore the planks in our own eyes. But at the root of Catholic obsession with sex is something truly remarkable. We see ourselves as creatures endowed with an ability to reach out to others with our imaginations and our bodies, and in so doing to come close to imitating God.

Read more from Tim Muldoon's series on Sex and Christianity.

  1. Part 1: Sex and Christianity
  2. Part 2: The Sexual Divide
  3. Part 3: Two Sexual Myths
  4. Part 4: My Kind of Feminism