How the “Celibacy Recession” Is Affecting Young Catholics

How the “Celibacy Recession” Is Affecting Young Catholics December 16, 2019

I’m at the Catholic Herald (with bonus Smiths quote!):

About a year ago headlines began to warn that, as an Atlantic cover story put it, “Despite the easing of taboos and the rise of hook-up apps, Americans are in the midst of a sex recession.” Millennials have less sex than their parents did at comparable ages, and the younger generation, sometimes called Gen Z, has even colder sheets than the millennials.

Careful observers, such as Charles Lehman writing for the Institute for Family Studies, parsed the data and concluded that we’re really looking at a marriage recession: “Today, there are fewer Americans married, and more Americans single, than at any point in at least the past 140 years … [M]ost people who are married have sex – married men and women alike get at least a little.” …

Catholics don’t believe everyone should marry. Quite the contrary. If Americans were replacing marriage (let alone hook-up apps) with celibacy, this would be a cause for rejoicing. But the absence of sex, or the absence of marriage, isn’t the presence of celibacy. This is why we say people are “abstinent until marriage”, not “celibate until marriage”. Celibacy implies sexual renunciation: dedication to an ascetic way of life which offers especial freedom to serve others, and can bring unique intimacy with God. Celibacy is a conscious gift of self. The Americans of the “sex recession” are not celibates, but people who feel painfully that they have failed to marry.

That the celibacy recession is both cultural and economic becomes most obvious when we look at religious vocations.


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