Faith and relationships explored at DeSales forum

March 06, 2013 at 8:55 AM



As part of the Year of Faith campaign, the Salesian Center at DeSales University, Center Valley, hosted a symposium on faith and relationships Feb. 27 featuring keynoter Erika Bachiochi, a nationally syndicated speaker.

Anne Lewis, professor of theatre at DeSales, moderated the town hall discussion that was co-sponsored by the Diocese of Allentown. The event drew approximately 140 people, with a good number from Notre Dame High School, Easton.

Father Thomas Dailey, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, is director of the Salesian Center and theology professor/Father Brisson chair in Salesian Spirituality.

Bachiochi is a member of the Catholic Women's Forum of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science from Middlebury College in 1996, received her master's in theology degree from Boston College in 1999 and graduated magna cum laude from Boston University School of Law in 2002.

In her presentation, Bachiochi drew points from her paper "Women, Sexual Asymmetry and Catholic Teaching," which is forthcoming from the Oxford University Journal, "Christian Bioethics."

Bachiochi said women and men experience sex differently – especially the inevitable separation after casual sex.

"Overwhelming empirical evidence now shows that whereas the vast majority of men remain emotionally unaffected by the low-cost sex that the sexual insurance scheme of contraception and abortion has allowed, women, by virtue of their distinct physiological make-up, are far more vulnerable to its emotional and physical health risks," Bachiochi said.

"Sex without security can negatively affect educational opportunities," she added.

Bachiochi relayed that oxytocin – the same hormone that is released by a woman's body during pregnancy and breastfeeding to help her bond with her baby – is released in large quantities when a woman has sex.

"Thus, by no fault of their own and regardless of their intentions or desires to remain emotionally detached, women become far more emotionally connected than men do after sex," Bachiochi said. "This emotional connectedness, especially if unwarranted by the status of the relationship, can lead to emotional vulnerability and even depression and suicidality."

"There's a linear association between both lifetime and recent partners, and indicators of poorer emotional health, and women who report the greatest number of partners display the clearest symptoms of depression," Bachiochi said quoting sociologists Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker in their 2011 book "Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate and Think about Marrying."

She made the point that "marriage serves to mitigate the vulnerabilities that flow disproportionately to women from unintentional pregnancy. Marriage connects fathers to their children and makes it far more likely that women will have a partner in the demanding task of raising children."

"Sex within marriage also creates a protective space for the powerful emotional connection inherent in the sexual act – a connection that makes women especially vulnerable when a sexual relationship is casually, or not so casually, severed," she said.

yf_relationships_2.jpgErika Bachiochi

Bachiochi noted Catholic psychiatrist Sidney Callahan comments on "how the ethic of commitment and self-discipline, so esteemed in the world of work, is nowadays repudiated in the sphere of sexuality."


"Yet, Callahan writes, such an ethic would benefit women in every stage of their lives," Bachiochi said. She quoted:

"While the ideal has never been universally obtained, a culturally dominant demand for monogamy, self-control, and emotionally bonded and committed sex works well for women in every stage of their sexual life cycles. When love, chastity, fidelity and commitment for better or worse are the ascendant cultural prerequisites for sexual functions, young girls are protected, adult women justifiably demand male support in childrearing, and older women are more protected from abandonment as their biological attractions wane."

"Individual women have the ability in their particular relationships to call men to commitment and self-mastery – for the good of the individuals and the good of the relationship," Bachiochi said.

"But sexual economics tells us that only a movement of like-minded, self-possessed, bold women will truly transform the current cultural ethos away from that 'low cost' sex that damages women, coarsens relationships and expects so little of men," Bachiochi said. "Such a movement is emerging on college campuses, among lay Catholic and evangelical groups, and in the blogosphere."

"Catholic teaching on abortion, sex, marriage and contraception offers a more authentically pro-woman response," Bachiochi said.

"If we want to follow Christ, motherhood is like the short-track to heaven."

Speaking about getting married late and using the energy of testosterone and hormones for other things such as prayer, Bachiochi said, "Use that energy to study, to pray; you can change the world."

A book sale and signing of Bachiochi's book, "Women, Sex and the Church," took place after the discussion.

The Salesian Center, in collaboration with the Diocese of Allentown, has planned a series of events to celebrate the Year of Faith, which began Oct. 11, 2012 and will end on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013.

The opening of this special year also marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

For more information, visit website or call 610-282-1100, ext. 1244.

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