Energies of Attraction And Connection

Two experts discuss Catholic teaching about sexuality, celibacy, and sin, saying "the issue will make or break" the Church.

Fran Ferder is a Franciscan sister and John Heagle a diocesan priest, both originally from the La Crosses Wis., diocese. For over 20 years they have been giving workshops, retreats and talks on the subjects of sexuality, spirituality, communication, and community. They are co-directors of Therapy and Renewal Associates, a ministerial counseling and renewal center near Seattle. They also teach courses on sexuality at Seattle University. National Catholic Reporter talked to them about their new book, "Tender Fires: The Spiritual Promise of Sexuality."


In our society sexuality is either sensationalized or joked about or even ridiculed. Sex is seldom acknowledged for what it is: the energy of attraction, the continuation in us of the creativity of the universe, endowed by evolution.

Heagle: As teachers and therapists, we see every day that people hunger for the chance to see the connections between sexuality and spirituality; they want to find ways to live responsible sexual lives.


Ferder: Responsible sexuality has to do with how we respond authentically and truthfully to the energies of attraction and connection. Responsible sexual activity in practice is faithful, truthful, honest, celebratory and joyful. It thinks about consequences both for oneself and for the other person. It's connected to other aspects of one's life. It's not something cut off from one's spirituality, thinking, one's deepest desires, goals in life.

Heagle: We Christians say that the role and purpose of love is ultimately to lay down one's life for others. But you can't lay down your life if you haven't taken it up. We have to learn what it means to engage our sexual energy, our relational commitments and to be mutually supportive of each other. Taking up our life is both a spiritual discipline as well as a joyful experience.

NCR: Spirituality and sexuality really need each other?

Ferder: Spirituality without responsible connection with our sexuality is action without spirit. It's a phantom, a ghost. It lacks that energy of attraction. On the other hand, sexuality without the connection to spirit is equally empty. It is literally sex without spirit. It goes nowhere.

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