“Is the church wrong about sex?”

Fairfield students and community members gathered to explore this particular question in a forum on Oct. 16, with discussions on gay marriage and society’s perception of promiscuity.

The panel, titled “The Pelvis and the Pulpit,” was led by sex therapist and gynecologist Dr. Mary Beth Harman, chair of the religious studies department Dr. Nancy Dallavalle and chair of the communication department Dr. David Gudelunas.

Dr. David Gudelunas, associate professor of communication. Photo: University website.

Dr. David Gudelunas, associate professor of communication. Photo: University website.

In Gudelunas’ opening remarks he discussed how the church deals with talks about sex. “Talk about sex in the church is not a discussion of abstinence or what some might write off as a non-discussion of sex,” he said. “In fact … [the] talk is not meant in a formative educational or instructive way, but rather in a regulative way.

“We talk about sex in the context of the church not in order to reflect on our own sexuality, […] but rather to police and regulate the behavior of others,” Gudelunas said.

He criticized this method of discussion, saying that this is actually “bad communication” because it does not build the community but solidifies boundaries and “create[s] labels of moral and immoral.”

He also called this reality “unfortunate,” because the Catholic Church has the potential to “facilitate useful discourse.”

Topics included not only the church’s discussions about sex, but also more controversial topics such as contemporary culture’s portrayal of promiscuity and whether or not the church should accept gay marriage.


Dr. Nancy Dallavalle, associate professor of religious studies. Photo: University website.

On the topic of gay marriage, Dallavalle said, “I think that if the Catholic Church is functionally treating marriage as a blessed union of a couple, then they are hard-pressed to explain why they deny it to same-sex couples.”

She said while the church says marriage functions as a “romantic union,” it still neglects the concept of procreation.  “The problem with that is then how do you recognize procreation, which we no longer require for marriage – and that might require a different kind of structure,” said Dallavalle.

Approximately 75 students and community members attended the panel, many of whom were given the chance to pose their own questions.

Junior Samantha Buck asked if women who wait to have sex until they are in committed relationships are better off in the long run.

Harman responded that while some women who begin engaging sexually at an earlier age can run into problems, that this is not always the case. “There is a lot of layers to that – there’s just not one way to do it,” she said.

However, Harman said the most important thing is “women need to respect themselves. And when they respect themselves and their choices, then other people will respect them, too.

In response to the panelists’ answers, Buck said, “I think they had a lot of good points to back up their statements but, I think they are kind of missing the fact that the church teaches that sexual relationships should be based out of love and that’s why there’s those boundaries.”

Freshman Jonathan Jones “thought it was awesome that you had an open forum to talk about these things – especially with professors or with doctors experienced in the field.”

Sophomore Kaitlyn Maglione enjoyed having the opportunity to hear different points of view. She said, “I found it really interesting to hear the different viewpoints. [It] definitely made me think, and I got a lot of insight from it.”

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