The person is a unity of body, mind and spirit. The body is one with the soul in the human person (embodied spirit, inspirited body). 'The body with its feelings, thoughts, urges and longings is a place of divine revelation rather than something to be feared or an object of shame or something less than the mind or spirit' (McClone, 2011, p.4). From a Catholic perspective, human beings hold a unique place in Creation. On the one hand they are material, like animals, because they are physical, bodily beings, bound by time and space on the planet we call Earth. Humans need food, air and water. Human beings need to engage in sexual intercourse in order to keep their species going. Just as an individual would die without food and water, the human species will become extinct without human sexual activity. On the other hand, human beings are eternal because each is created with a rational, spiritual soul that continues to live beyond physical death in this life. What is important for the Catholic perspective on sex and relationship education is to realise that this bodily dimension, and this mental and spiritual dimension cannot be separated from each other. In other words, the human being is a unity of body, mind and spirit.
The body is good. We affirmed above that the human being is good, not in a moral sense, but in the sense that it is good that any particular human exists. The same is true for the body as part of that human being created in the image of God. In other words, because we are created in the image of God as bodily beings, the human body constitutes part of what gives humans their fundamental and equal dignity or worth. The goodness, worth and dignity of the body, of our human flesh, is further affirmed by Catholic belief in the Incarnation. The idea that God chose to become a human being, to enter into the limitations of a specific human body in a specific time and place, gives a profound meaning to our fleshiness. God has chosen to become like us in every way but sin, and in so doing saved us from the limitations of this fleshiness of ours. Through the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus, we are freed from death as the ultimate limitation of our bodily existence. Jesus is raised not as a spirit. Jesus is raised with a glorified body. In other words, our very bodiliness is part of our future as much as it is part of our present.
We love with our bodies. 'We are called to love as God loves, in and through our bodies' (West, 2009 p. 26). As we endeavour to love, God, who is goodness, love, and life, is made incarnate and visible in the world (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1991). Most of our encounters with other people are usually in a face to face bodily way. Compare, for example, the experience of walking into a room in which someone is sitting and the experience of walking into an empty room. Now think about walking into a room where there is a computer online with someone at the other end in a chat room. The first impression in the first instance will be far more intense because the physical presence of a body makes us immediately aware that there is a person in the room and draws our attention to him or her. In a world in which so much of our communication is done through technology, often as voiceless words on a screen. It is easy to forget how significant the body is in our communication, until we are indeed confronted by the presence of another, and he or she is confronted with our presence. To be present in the world is to be present in a bodily way. It is in and through our bodies that we relate to the world, sense the world and respond to the world. It is in and through our bodies that we, as images of God, of love, of relationality, of rationality and of justice, make God present in the world. This is all the more potent when it involves touch. Think about the difference between being hit and striking another, and being kissed and caressing another. Physical contact communicates immense meaning. As the saying goes: 'Actions speak louder than words'. So how we act, how we pay attention to our bodies and the bodies of others and how we respond to our bodies and the bodies of others, is vital in influencing how we make present our deepest convictions about the meaning and value of life, love and justice. In no way, then, can we consider the erotic dimension of love simply as a permissible evil or a burden to be tolerated for the good of the family. Rather, it must be seen as gift from God that enriches the relationship of the spouses. As a passion sublimated by a love respectful of the dignity of the other, it becomes a 'pure, unadulterated affirmation' revealing the marvels of which the human heart is capable. In this way, even momentarily, we can feel that 'life has turned out good and happy' (Pope Francis, 2016 Amoris Laetitia).