“Love is Love” is an oft heard phrase among those who wish to justify inappropriate expressions of love. To the world around us, it may sound marvelously reasonable, even genteel, like the old phrase “Live and Let Live;” but of the phrase’s subtlety beware, for love is not love when the action is wrong. Take for example the 1972 song, “(If loving you is wrong), I don’t want to be right.” The theme is about an adulterous relationship where the feeling of the person first questions, and then rejects correct moral reasoning. It supports the common idea that love is somehow subjective; that because it is valid in the mind of the person, it can’t be wrong. “Love is Love” is a slick form of propaganda to candy-coat a poisonous pill; sin. And what is sin but disobedience to a known law.
As Catholics, we are taught right from wrong. We acknowledge this in The Penitential Act that precedes the Mass where we confess to almighty God and our brothers and sisters, that we have greatly sinned, in thoughts, words, and deeds (done or failed to do). Yet even non-believers understand what it means to obey or disobey a law, and because of that very knowledge, this particular pill is flavor-coated to pass over discerning tastebuds. How better to skirt a law than to declare it subjective to feelings? Or rename it to sound more acceptable?
Love is God, who in his essence is the sole and perfect definition, and who made manifest his love to humanity in the Cross of Christ. As such, love, when properly disposed, seeks good. And good, like love, is God, for only God is good (Luke 18:19). St. Thomas Aquinas wrote on love in a section of the Summa Theologica entitled “The Passions.” When we think of the word “passion” today we tend to think of hyper-something, like an uncontrollable emotion, but when the Angelic Doctor wrote on the passions, he was writing about a movement or action like effects linked to a cause. An involuntary movement is a woman who blushes at the name of her fiancé. Her physical effect is caused by the object of her love; her fiancé. Likewise, a man’s hands may perspire when he enters an elevator. His physical effect is caused by the object of his fear; heights. Now the blushing and perspiring are not in themselves good or bad, however, a voluntary inclination to act on a passion (like love or fear), may be deemed good or evil.
For rational beings, love is subject to the intellect and the will as a movement toward an object of love’s desire, and the appropriate object is good. For the fiancé above to voluntarily act on their love by engaging in sex prior to marriage is evil, because the movement of the love is against reason and an inappropriate act of the will. If the intellect knows, it is the will that gives feet, so to speak, to the passion. And when voluntarily acting, rightly or wrongly, the passion is worthy of judgment.
The movement, the willful action of love must be completely good, or it is evil. One defect, one inordinate component ruins goodness. Aquinas says, “[passions] considered as subject to the command of the reason and will, then moral good and evil are in them. Much more, therefore, may the passions, in so far as they are voluntary, be called morally good or evil.”
Aquinas encourages us to keep our passions in check by active oversight. This oversight is accomplished in two faculties (or powers) of the soul: the intellect and the will. The intellect is reason or cognition, and the will is the desire to possess a good. If these two correctly engage, (the intellect knows what is right and the will acts accordingly) the tendency to indulge a passion is checked. Does it always work? No. Sometimes the will ignores the intellect – as when we make an impulsive purchase. Before the mind can say, “we can’t afford it” the will has already whipped out the credit card. It takes practice to excel in these powers of the soul. Intellect, will and passion in harmony for the good, produces goodness, and therein lies both the rub and responsibility of being a sentient and rational being, because we often know what is good but we don’t do it because what is wrong “feels” so right.
God never meant for us to run amuck with our passions, but to use them correctly with relation to our ability to reason and the use of our free will. Aquinas tells us, “…good absolutely considered consists in act, and not in potentiality, and the ultimate act is operation for the use of something possessed, it follows that the absolute good of man consists in good operation, or the good use of something possessed. Now we use all things by the act of the will.”
Love is not just Love. Love is God, and for the human child of God, love is only good when properly acted on in light of correct reason and good will.
 St. Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Theologica (Benziger Bros. edition, 1947) Translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Book I, Part II. Question 24.
 St Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Theologica (Benziger Bros. edition, 1947) Translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Book I, Part II. Question 24:1.
 St Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Theologica (Benziger Bros. edition, 1947) Translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Book I, Part I. Question 48;6.