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Marriage, Natural Law, and the Truth of Sexual Ethics

HoldingHands

Gary Gutting is a Notre Dame philosophy professor who thinks that what counts about arguments is whether they “work.” And so his complaint against natural-law arguments for Catholic teachings about sex is that they “no longer work (if they ever did)”. His New York Times “Opinionator” post of March 12th (“Unraveling the Church Ban on Gay Sex”) names us as two people who are “still” exponents of such arguments. For us what counts about an argument is whether it is sound, i.e., whether its premises are true and its logic valid. If a line of thought about the morality of sex is reasonable today, it was reasonable in the time of Jesus or Plato or Abraham or as far back as we find men and women and their children. Whether arguments “work” persuasively in one era but not another is philosophically irrelevant, as any philosopher should take for granted.

Gutting seems to think none of the positions of Judeo-Christian civilization on sex ethics are true, though he mentions only a few acts or practices that his own principles would leave immune from moral objection, carefully stopping short of calling attention to others such as polygamy, polyamory, prostitution, adultery, promiscuity, incest, bestiality and the man-boy sex that Plato’s friends and associates admired (but Plato himself condemned, like his teacher Socrates as Plato depicts him). This is not surprising, since his whole article never mentions, even by implication, the idea that grounds and unifies the whole set of sex-morality teachings, not only for Catholicism but also for Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and other great thinkers.

The idea is not “heterosexual union,” nor “shared acts directed towards reproduction,” nor any of the other concepts Gutting refers to and associates with “nature.” Instead, it’s the idea—the intrinsic human value—of marriage.

Even apart from any question of its legal status, marriage is a natural form of human association, with its own basic structure and value. It is the sort of loving union inherently oriented to family life; it is the sort of living bond that by its nature would be fulfilled—extended and enriched—by the bearing and rearing of children. Children by their nature need such familial, parental nurture, support, and guidance; by their coming to be, they make possible the continuance and flourishing of the wider society whose aid and social capital made feasible the wellbeing of their parents and other forebears.

Of course, people sometimes band together in other arrangements with a view to child-rearing, and other forms of association can realize other types of (non-erotic) love. But only a man and woman together can commit to a loving union of the kind inherently oriented to family life and appropriate to being the mother and the father of their children. What this procreative-parental commitment and union require is an especially deep and far-reaching bond: the man and woman’s making the most extensive and permanent of human mutual commitments to sharing of life and earthly destiny, centered upon a permanently exclusive sexual relationship. The shaping end of procreation-and-nurturing thus unifies and explains all the features of marriage as “traditionally” understood: permanent exclusivity, sexual consummation, family life, and a radical union of the persons (in body as well as mind, in the wide-range pursuits of domestic life) that is uniquely extensive across time (“until death us do part”) and at each time (exclusive).

Because marriage is in these ways (i) an especially complete loving union (ii) of the sort oriented to procreation, it is uniquely embodied in sex acts with the same dual nature: acts that are (i) chosen as a seal of their complete (permanently exclusive) marital love-and-commitment (ii) and of the sort apt to make them (where circumstance allows) parents, the mother and father of their children. Only coital acts—chosen with a will to permanently exclusive marital love—can actualize, express, and allow the husband and wife to more fully experience their marriage—the multi-level (physical, emotional, rational-dispositional) sharing of life whose foundation and matrix is the biological unity made uniquely possible by sexual-reproductive complementarity. That explains why historically in our law (and in philosophical accounts of the intelligibility of the pertinent legal norms) only acts of spouses that fulfill the behavioral conditions of procreation have validly consummated marriage—and they do that whether or not the non-behavioral conditions of procreation happen to obtain. In short, only such sex acts are marital.

Moral reasoning is “of a natural law kind,” whether in St. Paul or St. Thomas Aquinas—or in Plato, Aristotle, Musonius Rufus, and others untouched by Jewish or Christian thought—not because it tries to read premises or conclusions off biological or sociological facts. It doesn’t. Instead, it considers what are the basic forms of human flourishing: conditions or activities that are good for us in themselves: friendship, knowledge, life and health, and the like. The identification of these of course takes into account biological and other cause-and-effect facts. But it is focused not on those but on the intrinsic goodness of the various elements of human fulfillment. We can then reason to the moral goodness and badness of types of choice and act by considering which choices are consistent with love and respect for ourselves and all others in regard to each of these basic dimensions of fulfillment. A choice consistent with love and respect for all the goods in all persons is morally upright; one that isn’t, is immoral.

That determination of consistency must take into account the fundamental circumstances of all our choices and acts. The basic goods for which we can act are many and various, so we cannot realize them all at once. But they all remain always goods, and each in its own irreplaceable way. So in pursuing some, we ought not to choose to denigrate or damage any of the others. And as they are goods for all people, we ought not to let our choosing be deflected by prejudice, wayward passion, and the like.

Now one of the basic human goods, as each of the thinkers mentioned above—and not just the Catholics or other Christians—understood, is marriage. So sex ethics unfolds by considering the conditions under which choices to engage in sex acts are consistent with the good of marriage. A few sentences in a short essay such as this one are not enough to show the good sense of this unfolding by defending and deploying its premises in ordered sequence to their conclusions. But one key to understanding it all is to grasp that—aside from obvious forms of injustice and harm-doing involving sex, especially the various forms of rape and some aspects of incest—every conclusion about wrong kinds of sex act is of the form: this kind of choice is wrong because it is unreasonable because it is against the good of marriage that is intrinsic to human fulfillment (of mother, father, their children, and their society). All forms of morally bad sex are against human nature because they are contrary to integral human fulfillment and therefore against reason.

The fact that from a limited perspective they may, as Gutting writes, be experienced or conceptualized as contributing to “meaning, growth and fulfillment” does not show that they truly are—that is, that they can be integrated with human fulfillment considered in a more rationally adequate way. Plato himself exposed the fallacy of thinking otherwise, at the very founding of Professor Gutting’s academic discipline. What satisfies desire or induces pleasure, however good or bad it is in its full reality, will likely be experienced, at least initially, as promising meaning, fulfillment, and even personal growth—the elements of Gutting’s truncated and superficial replacement of natural law theory.

The point of philosophical reflection is to evaluate prospective choices from a critical-rational standpoint in order to assess their compatibility with human fulfilment traced to its ultimate principles in the basic human goods, and considered holistically or integrally. Indeed, the contrary thought, applied to sex—as in Gutting’s post—would make it impossible to justify general moral exclusions of promiscuity, or anonymous sex, each of which can satisfy desire, and in each of which some people report finding meaning or personal satisfaction. (Thus, John Updike extensively expounded in novels and life the “sacrament of [serial] adultery,” and Andrew Sullivan the “spiritual value” of anonymous sex—i.e. intimate relations among strangers who do not even share their names with each other. Can Gutting find grounds consistent with his rejection of our views for denying what Updike, Sullivan, and many others claim? We don’t think so, though he is, of course, welcome to try.)

So Gutting’s arguments to show that homosexual sex acts can be morally right are all beside the point. He has invented a weird straw-man “natural-law” “selfish pleasure” argument against same-sex sex acts, and knocked it down. But it is not an argument either of us has ever endorsed. The natural-law argument against such acts is essentially the same as against any other kind of non-marital sex—from masturbation to fornication to adultery to bestiality. (The last is more degrading than the others, of course, in expressing an equality between persons and beasts; these kinds of act aren’t alike in every morally significant respect and degree—the point is just that there is one morally disqualifying feature they all share.) If popular speech singles out some of these acts—masturbation, same-sex sex acts, or indeed acts with beasts—as “unnatural,” it is because they are especially visibly not of the marital kind, involving behavior visibly not of the procreative sort. But the truly morally significant thing about all non-marital sex acts is that, in diverse forms, they involve disrespect for the basic good of marriage.

There are several ways to see this disrespect. Here, in these next four paragraphs, is one. Adequately respecting any basic good requires, among other things, not setting one’s will directly against any conditions essential and internal to that good. Now if a husband and wife do not reserve sex to their marriage, then even their sex acts with each other can’t really actualize and embody their marital bond: for these acts can’t express a truly exclusive commitment, which marriage inherently is. The husband and wife’s firm will to reserve sex for each other is, then, an essential condition of any sex they have with each other being marital sex. Even just a husband’s conditional willingness to engage in sex with someone else—e.g., “if the circumstances ever ensured that my wife wouldn’t find out…”—disables the marital quality of his sex acts with his wife, whether or not he ever actually cheats; and likewise for a wife.

Similarly, if people are willing to perform a sex act that fails to embody permanent commitment, or a bond that is procreative in type (whether or not it is, or can in the circumstances be, procreative in effect), they disable themselves from willing in such a way that their sexual congress can actualize and express the good of marriage, which is inherently permanent and procreative in type. Even mere approval of anyone’s non-marital sexual conduct implies a conditional willingness to engage in such acts oneself—namely, if one were in relevantly similar circumstances. That is, such approval implies willingness to choose sex under a description (e.g., “simply pleasing to all three of us,” or “simply expressive of affection,” or “simply conducive to my psycho-somatic health”) other than: marital.

Any such willingness vitiates an essential condition internal to any realization of the good of marriage and damages that aspect of ourselves—our human nature—that makes us, to quote Aristotle, conjugal beings. (Aristotle is famous for teaching that the human being is by nature a political animal; what is less often recalled is his teaching that human beings are even more fundamentally conjugal than political.) So it involves a failure to respect that basic human good; so it involves immorality, whether or not one is married or plans to be.

And because this particular basic good is so central to the common good, failures to respect it—forms of willing or willingness at odds with it—are also failures of due respect for the good of one’s whole society. This is not a merely abstract or “merely moral” matter: Such contra-marital attitudes easily spread and cause tremendous and quite visible social harm, as the carnage of the Sexual Revolution makes clear—harm measured in broken hearts and homes, fatherless children, and broader related injustices.

Plato, Aristotle, Paul, and everyone in the tradition understood that everyone unwillingly experiences some disordered tendencies towards some non-marital acts, and that some experience disordered tendencies exclusively to non-marital acts. They also understood that many who choose to engage in same-sex sexual relations do not have such an exclusive tendency. Their moral arguments are valid for both and all kinds of persons, though harder for some to live up to than for others.

Catholic sexual ethics is “still” as fully reasonable today as it was when St Paul expounded it—and identified prostitution and same-sex sex acts as obviously or visibly far out of line with it—as the sort of thing that people would lose their sound judgment about if and only if they or their society were blind to or careless about the omnipresent, invisible reality of divine causation ex nihilo, divine providence, and the possibility of a divinely willed human destiny beyond death. The natural law understanding of human fulfillment is inherently intelligible without adverting to that “theistic” framework. But when reason closes itself off against the real framework as a true whole—in thought decapitating it—other distortions of understanding and judgment will ensue, especially in reason’s practical domain, where desire and satisfaction provide every incentive to rationalization of misjudgment.

The Archbishop of San Francisco wasn’t depending on natural law philosophizing when he said (what Gutting takes his cue from) that homosexual acts are against nature. He was just repeating Paul’s letter to the Romans, where the connections between reason, conscience, natural law, divine existence, and the divine revealed will and promise for human wellbeing are laid out as building blocks of the Catholic faith. But the concordance of this revealed faith with the best philosophy untouched by Hebrew sources, as a higher synthesis of the insights of Plato and Aristotle and many others, is just a sign of its perennial validity. Another equally telling sign is its good fruit—the good fruit of its exclusions and its condemnations of certain kinds of choice. These include the protection of children's rights to have a father and a mother exclusively and devotedly theirs, in fruitful families within a civil society that can fulfill the elementary conditions of sustainability: large numbers of marriages generously welcoming children who are nurtured in dignity and supported in respect for (and willingness to adopt in their turn) this fulfilling, generous, but demanding form of life.
 
 
This article was co-written by Robert P. George and John Finnis. Robert P. George is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, at Princeton University. John Finnis is Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy Emeritus in the University of Oxford and the Biolchini Family Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame. The article was originally posted at Public Discourse and reprinted here with permission.
 
 
(Image credit: Jordan Kranda)

Robert P. George

Written by

Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He is vice chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). He has served on the President’s Council on Bioethics and as a presidential appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He has also served on UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Science and Technology, of which he continues to be a corresponding member. He is the author of In Defense of Natural Law, Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality, The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion and Morality in Crisis, Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism, and co-author of Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, Body-Self Dualism in Contemporary Ethics and Politics, What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, and Conjugal Union: What Marriage Is and Why It Matters.

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  • William Davis

    One thing I've never seen Christians address is polyandry. It's fairly common in rough environments and there is excellent reason for it. In these situations, one man simply isn't enough to provide for a family, so custom allows for two (often brothers). If it is really necessary to have two men for the family to survive, how is this "disordered". It's heck of a lot better than slavery (the traditional Western solution) isn't it?

    http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/02/when-taking-multiple-husbands-makes-sense/272726/

    One other question. If I masturbate while imagining having sex with my wife, is that disordered? I'm not imagining some other woman, so it definitely isn't adulterous thinking.

    • Jonathan Brumley

      Is the woman obligated to have sex with both men? Or does she get to express a preference? If she gets to express a preference, what happens when one man gets slighted? Which man gets first dibs, and who gets the second turn? What happens if the second man doesn't get a turn? What if one man is turned off by the idea of sharing a woman? (Are there men who are not turned off by this?) How often does one man kill the other out of jealousy?

      Does either man have the responsibility to act as a child's father? For the child, how does he know who is his father? Does the child get to express a preference for one man or the other?

      • William Davis

        If you read the article I linked, it explains most of that. One interesting thing is that the countries that practice tend to be Buddhist. Perhaps Buddhism makes it easier for people to get along in tough situation :)
        By your tone I take it you are a very jealous man.

        • Jonathan Brumley

          William, I would appreciate it if you would edit your comment to remove the ad hominem attack, or if the moderators would enforce the posting guidelines.

          I mentioned the problem of jealosy because that is the known problem with polygamy (as evidenced by hundreds of real-world examples, including Biblical stories of polygamy). So jealousy would on the surface seem to be the problem with polyandry as well. And the article itself confirms that this is a somewhat universal problem around the world with human poly-mate situations.

          An additional problem described by the article is that the woman typically has no say in the matter, as the "first husband is the decider about the acceptance of additional mates" based on the perceived economic benefit. So, based on this description, I'm having a hard time seeing how this situation is substantially different from the family where the husband sells his wife as a prostitute.

          • William Davis

            Sorry, I didn't expect you to be that sensitive about it. I have adjusted my comment.
            The article makes it clear that it isn't anything like prostitution, and that children typically consider both men as fathers (often they don't know who's is who's). it is only practiced in places with harsh conditions and/or very male to female ratios. Prostitutes are paid and left to themselves. There is clear bonding and loyalty here.

            The flexibility of human morality is a strength, not a weakness. Evolution favors adaptability.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            William,

            The posting guidelines are very clear that ad hominem attacks are not allowed. Please read the "MUST READ" link in the header. Attacking people's character by calling them "jealous" or "sensitive" distracts from the quality of the dialogue on this site.

            Whether or not there is bonding and loyalty among the parties involved, it is clear that women are being abused in these situations if it is the men deciding who gets to have sex with their wives.

          • William Davis

            Look, I really did not think I was attacking you at all, I was expressing that you appeared to be jealous. If you say you are not a jealous person I am more than willing to accept your word on it. I said sorry, and I apologize again because my intent was not to flame or to upset you. I hardly see how "sensitive" is an ad hominem attack. I was not engaging in an ad hominem logical fallacy because it was just an observation, not part of my argument. It was all of your back to back questions that gave me the impression of jealousy; it seemed like a rant. Observations are not necessarily attacks, and observations are not necessarily the truth.

            You do realize that most marriages were arranged throughout Christian history right (meaning the woman had no say on who she married and had sex with)? It is also only recently that Catholic countries have agreed that it is rape for a husband to force himself on his wife.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arranged_marriage

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marital_rape

            Look, I'm not saying we all should go out and start polyandrous marriages. I'm personally not interested just like you. What I'm saying is that there are situations where it may be warranted as a survival strategy. It is much better than taking slaves to do the work for you (something the west was quite prone to do until recently).

            Here is a short video from Tibet. No one is being abused here...

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5L-rWwQwT4

          • Jonathan Brumley

            Arranged marriages are legit if the parties freely consent. But I agree with your general point - women used to be thought of as property, and women and men were pressured into marriages against their will. It's been a long time coming.

            The delay with recognizing marital rape as wrong was the question of general consent verses specific consent. When two people marry, they give a general consent; that's where we got the notion of a husband and wife having "marital rights" to each other. But we have now rightly recognized that marital rights are limited rights. That means married persons have a right to refuse sexual relations, even for trivial reasons, in any specific instance. It would be wrong for a married person to refuse their spouse over and over again, without a serious reason to do so, after giving general consent. But even if a spouse did this, it would still be wrong for a spouse to rape the unconsenting spouse. The general consent does not trump the specific consent.

          • William Davis

            Sounds like we are largely in agreement then. Sorry for the rough start.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            You do realize that most marriages were arranged throughout Christian
            history

            Not sure what the logical fallacy here is called, but suffice to note that most marriages throughout history have been arranged. The thinking was that hormonally possessed youngsters were incapable of exercising their intellects in choosing a mate, and so their parents did it for them. There was one girl in my senior class who came to the prom with her arranged husband. "Do you love him?" the flabbergasted Euro-Americans asked. "I like him," she answered, "and I will learn to love him." Last I heard, they were still married.

            the woman had no say on who she married

            a) Same error as above. The boy had no say, either.
            b) It's not actually true. In most cases, the girl could refuse and the father and mother would find another suitor.

            only recently that Catholic countries have agreed
            that it is rape for a husband to force himself on his wife.

            Funny. Aquinas said it was a sin a few hundred years ago, and not in the spirit of pronouncing a novelty. In fact, he said it would be sinful for a man to "approach his wife as he would any woman." IOW, as what we call a "sex object."

          • William Davis

            I'm aware of everything you just said. If you read the context you would see that the person I was responding to implied that polyandry was immoral because the woman didn't have a choice on the second husband at times (this is not always the case). There is no evidence that second husband would force himself on the woman, though no doubt that happened. Even if the boy doesn't have a choice, that doesn't change the fact that the woman didn't either, and that was my point (the woman not choosing the husband does not necessarily make it immoral).

            It's not actually true. In most cases, the girl could refuse and the father and mother would find another suitor.

            I think "most cases" is incredibly vague. Often families would consider it a great insult to reject an arranged suitor, so there was a TREMENDOUS amount of social pressure to prevent her from rejecting him, even though it was theoretically possible (and not always even theoretically possible). This was especially the case with political marriages between powerful families.

            Funny. Aquinas said it was a sin a few hundred years ago, and not in the spirit of pronouncing a novelty. In fact, he said it would be sinful for a man to "approach his wife as he would any woman." IOW, as what we call a "sex object."

            It seems many have been slow to follow Aquinas lead in some instances like these. It would have been better if they had :)

          • Lucretius

            You also have to remember that the arranged marriages that we see in historical records also tend to be the political ones, because they occurred more in the upper class, and the rich and powerful people can afford to have people write about them. Most historical recorders, IIRC, don't care about the marriage of peasants John and Mary, but the marriages of Eleanor of Aquitaine.

            Christi pax.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            True dat. And the children of nobility were raised to put the family before all. However, it is the way of the lower classes to ape the behaviors of the uppers, and where we do know of marriage among the peasants, we also find that the parents arranged the marriages. However, unlike the nobility, who were likely to be shopped to mates in distant lands -- Recall the fate of the Princess Joan, who was sent to wed the son of Castile, and for no better reason than that the union would discomfit France, and was caught in the plague when she stopped in Bordeaux -- the children of peasants were likely to be wed to others in the same or in neighboring villages, usually with an eye to who held adjoining manses. The parents would often put the kids together to play at the earliest age, so that they grew up knowing each other, liking each other, and knowing that one day they would marry.

            The Middle Ages saw Muntehe [honor-marriage] decline wrt Friedehe [love-marriage] and the German pagan rule that "the act makes the marriage" replaced by the Roman/Catholic rule that "consent makes the marriage."

  • Pofarmer

    "If a line of thought about the morality of sex is reasonable today, it was reasonable in the time of Jesus or Plato or Abraham or as far back as we find men and women and their children."

    So, it's reasonable to have sex slaves and concubines and have your sister have your kids today? Why should I really read any further than this? Jesus, or Abraham, or Plato didn't know that homosexuality is a genetic predisposition, not a disorder, in fact, homosexuality is ENTIRELY normal outside of the strange machinations of "Natural law" which is anything but.

    • Mike

      What gene predisposes someone to not be erotically attracted to a person of the opposite sex?

      • Pofarmer

        Epigenetics. Look it up. There is also a statistical correlation with the more male children a woman has the greater likelihood one of the later ones will be homosexual.

        • Mike

          in the case of the women who has more males how do you know it's not the environment that predisposes the younger brother to dislike girls and not some gene?

          • Pofarmer

            Uhm. Because the genetic research indicated it's genetic and not environmentalhttp://www.iflscience.com/brain/case-builds-genetic-influence-sexuality

          • Mike

            which genes tells a gay man to not find women erotic?

          • Pofarmer

            I'll assume you didn't bother to glance at the link.

          • Mike

            i am looking for something from a reputable science source.

          • William Davis

            I think the cause is uncertain, but it is certain that this isn't some kind of free decision.

          • Mike

            it's a combination imho of predispositions to certain things temperaments which in turn lead a person down a path but this has at first nothing to do with sexuality per se.

          • Papalinton

            Mike, you might want to read the following:
            NEW SCIENTIST
            BBC NEWS
            TIME magazine

          • Mike

            why do you want homosexual to be physically different? why can't they choose to be the way they are?

            why doesn't not having a choice make it morally ok but having a choice make it bad?

            do you have unchecked homophobic biases you aren't aware of?

          • Pofarmer

            Uhm, you are as much as admitting here that there is at least a genetic factor, else, where do the "predispositions" come from?

          • Mike

            not a genetic factor directly having anything to do with sexuality per se but with 'temperaments' with personality traits that i think can 'lead' a person towards one thing or another.

            btw if there's ANY genetic basis to sexuality at all it's for "straightness".

          • Pofarmer

            You are certainly making an awful lot of scientific sounding pronouncements here. As far as I can see with no evidence. Several links have been provided you. One showing differences in brains between Hetero and Straight men, one showing a Genetic linkage in homosexual brothers. Mammals have a LOT of genetic diversity. This is how evolution works. It certainly appears, that in a fairly small, and seemingly consistent subset, Genetic factors lead certain individuals to be attracted to the same rather than the opposite sex. There are probably also some environmental components, but the Genetic link looks fairly strong, especially since it occurs accross species. In other words, homosexuality is fairly uncommon, and entirely normal, not just in humans, but in other mammals and primates as well.

          • Mike

            say you are 100% correct that it is brain development/genes whatever...that doesn't answer the question of whether is MORAL does it?

          • Pofarmer

            Morality is a Human construcr.

          • Mike

            say it is, so if it is why can't ppl like me create our own morality which says same sex acts are immoral and should not be condoned as moral/normal/good.

            if it's all a construct why can't we construct what we want and you construct what you want?

            what in that case makes me wrong and you right?

          • Pofarmer

            Notice I said Human, not individual.

          • Mike

            yeah so i am a human and you're a human, who's right?

          • Pofarmer

            You might have noticed, we are social animals which gather in groups.

          • Mike

            i don't see your point.

          • Pofarmer

            Morality is basically a social contract between a group or groups of humans. Some of it is evolutionary, and some of it are things that are decided on by the group.

          • Mike

            hey ok what if it were to be proven in 25 years that redefining marriage increased the rate of homosexuals by say 5 times to about 15% of the population which began to have a destabilizing effect on population size and therefore economy etc.

            would you then be in favor or implementing policies to bring back traditional marriage?

            Just a pure hypothetical but i am interested in what you'd say.

          • Pofarmer

            I dunno. Canada and Denmark have had same sex marriage legalized for 13 years, South Africa for nearly 10. Why don't you look into the statistics in countries that have already had it legalized for a decent length of time and see what they say.

          • David Nickol

            What is the point of a "pure hypothetical"? Has anyone actually suggested same-sex marriage will increase the percentage of gay people in the population? What would be the mechanism? Also, if same-sex couples use any number of available methods of bringing their own children into the world, why should more gay people lead to a decrease in population? Also, are you not aware that population decline, which has nothing to do with gay people, is already taking place? According to Wikipedia:

            A number of nations today, stretching from North Asia (Japan) through Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, and into Central and Western Europe, including Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Germany, Hungary, and now Italy and Portugal, along with Puerto Rico in the Caribbean, now face long-term population decline. . . .

            Check out this story—Sex Education in Europe Turns to Urging More Births—from last month in the New York Times.

            It appears to me your only purpose in inventing a "pure hypothetical" about problems with same-sex marriage is that you are failing to make a case against it based on actual facts.

            What if, in 25 years, it is apparent that the benefits of same-sex marriage far outweigh any of the drawbacks. What if it turns out that children raised by legally married same-sex couples actually fare better (on average) than children raised by same-sex couples. Will you (or the Catholic Church) then approve of same-sex marriage? Of course not.

          • Mike

            it was just a hypo i wasn't trying to trick you.

          • Pofarmer
          • Pofarmer

            One question, though. If homosexuality is not genetically influenced, how do you explain it's appearance at approximately the same rate in societies that are extremely hostile to it?

          • Mike

            simple it doesn't: there have been studies that show that growing up in a city increases a person likelihood of becoming homo; also being raised by same sex parents doubles a person chances of becoming homosexual...i think that certain ppl are perhaps genetically predisposed to certain temperaments and those can lead them to choose/volunteer to become homosexuals but there is no gene that tells a man you shall only be attracted to women i don't think...what a person finds erotic is very complex and mostly i believe based on environment.

          • Pofarmer

            "also being raised by same sex parents doubles a person chances of becoming homosexual"

            I believe that single study is highly disputed.

            So "you don't think" that theres a genetic control to sexuality. Why don't you peruse some of the links you were provided.

          • Mike

            it doesn't mean the child is 95% likely to be gay but it i think increased it from say 3% to 6% but remember if there's really nothing at all wrong with it why should we care even if it meant the child would be almost certain to be gay?

            even gay parents worry about pushing too much of their lifestyles on their kids as some are at least somewhat responsible especially some lesbians who worry that they are providing an unbalanced picture of the world to their male sons...some have even admitted to me that they worry they don't have fathers and that this is a hot albeit underground topic in their community.

          • Pofarmer

            "if there's really nothing at all wrong with it why should we care even if it meant the child would be almost certain to be gay?"

            Because guys like you use the "results" of studies such as this to villify gays?

          • Mike

            no we don't vilify we just bring the scientific truth to light - atheists should join us in exposing the full scientific truths.

          • Pofarmer

            Like this?

            http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26572-largest-study-of-gay-brothers-homes-in-on-gay-genes.html#.VUt0UBg8KrU

            "Largest study of gay brothers homes in on 'gay genes'"

            I'm happy to see science sorting things out. That's not what I see from you, however, you have been pronouncing judgement, not looking at findings that might not match your own predispositions.

            Genetics, I'll admit, is a tricky thing. My youngest son has a Genetic condition called Hurlers syndrome.

            http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001204.htm

            It's not very pretty, and they pretty well know the genetic component. However, even among something that would seem pretty clear cut, there is a spectrum of clinical effects from fairly mild to extremely severe. Our son is kind of middle of the road in the Hurlers spectrum. So, genetic effects is complicated, and it's not as simple as saying gene this, or that will definately result in X effect. There seems to he a range of effects based in OTHER genetic differences in other spots in the Genome, and it appears to be the same with pretty much all genetic traits. That is why we now have the brand new field of epi-genetics, among others, studying things like this. There is certainly much to learn.

          • Mike

            i am so sorry about your son; we lost our son 2 hours after he was born..anyway yes i think that the phenomenon of homosexuality and sexuality in general is a proper subject of scientific inquiry: where it comes from, how durable is it, what share is genetic/environment etc etc. BUT it's morality has NOTHING imho to do with those issues.

          • David

            we lost our son 2 hours after he was born

            That sucks. Let me guess, it was shortly after that happened that you turned religious. I'll never understand that move but I know it's quite common.

          • Mike

            thanks but no i became religious in around late 2010; 2 years earlier i cried when obama won (tears of joy i should add) and spent most of 2008 making fun of palin and other conservative idiots etc. i live in a very progressive lefty place.

            our son died in 2013 and our faith helped ALOT it was what i'd term "christian grace" that enabled us to well do alot of things with love faith and composure and beauty i'd say...it made our marriage stronger and yes it also strengthened our faith.

            We carried him to term; he came a week early and was gorgeous and loved his entire life; we kissed his face the second he came out, his older sister held him, kissed him; we baptised him and let him go peacefully in his mom and dads arms. it was beautiful honestly and the entire hospital staff was i think moved by the love they saw.

          • Andrew Y.

            We carried him to term; ... it was beautiful honestly and the entire hospital staff was i think moved by the love they saw.

            Thank you for sharing this, Mike. It is the most inspiring story I have heard in a very long time.

          • Mike

            you're welcome...the poor guy was diagnosed at our 20 week with PUV; we took him to a specialist who tried to unblock it in utero with a laser technique but it didn't work and his kidneys shut down for good.

          • Pofarmer

            "what a person finds erotic is very complex and mostly i believe based on environment."

            Except that Papalintons links above show that it's not. You don't have to remain ignorant.

          • Mike

            are you saying that the reason why i am way more attracted to voluptuous women who have brown medium length hair that is straight than to other kinds of women because that's the way my BRAIN IS WIRED?

          • Pofarmer

            To some extent, probably yes. My record seems to be dirty blonds with small breasts who can dance.

          • Mike

            lol you're not enough of a skeptic imho when it comes to this particular issue.

          • Pofarmer

            Not at all. See I'm a livestock producer. Pretty much any trait you are interested in you can select and breed for.

          • Mike

            livestock producer, cool job! i am not being sarcastic.

            i am an office drone for a major bank.

          • Pofarmer

            Sometimes office drone doesn't look so bad, especially when you are pulling a heifer calf at 4 in the morning or tube feeding a half frozen goat in your bathtub at midnight.

            And I'll add this. It becomes pretty obvious that many of the ones positing opinions on these blogs don't have much experience with anything much other than humans.That gives them a ginormous blindspot for all the things that bring all of us on this planet together.

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        I don't think a particular gene (or set of genes) have been identified, but there have been twin studies that show that if one identical twin is gay, then the other is more likely to be as well, compared with non-twin brothers. So this strongly suggests that there is at least genetic component to it.

        In either case, whether it is genetic or not does not say anything about whether it is moral.

        • Mike

          i agree completely.

      • David Nickol

        What gene predisposes someone to not be erotically attracted to a person of the opposite sex?

        Is heterosexuality genetic? Have heterosexual genes been identified?

        • Mike

          Of course not there's no such thing as "hetero" except as self reported by ppl but that's not the same things as a gene or a physical trait.

          if an uber gay man and an uber straight man whatever those things mean were lying side by side you'd never know which was which via a physical exam.

          • Pofarmer

            If that testing included genetic testing, then yes, you probably could. Just like you could determine of one was colorblind or carrying the recesive Gene for a condition like Hurlers syndrome.

          • Mike

            there's a gene test for "homosexuality"don't tell the PRO CHOICERS!

          • David Nickol

            if an uber gay man and an uber straight man whatever those things mean were lying side by side you'd never know which was which via a physical exam.

            Sexual response is measurable. (In males one technique is called penile plethysmography.) If you have an uber straight man and an uber gay man, all you would need to do is measure their responses to specific stimuli (with gay and straight pornography probably being the most convenient).

          • Mike

            sorry i meant if they were just lying there or were dead you'd have no idea which was which.

      • William Davis

        Try an experiment Mike. Spend a week trying to make yourself gay, and see if you can. If you can't, why do you think someone could make themselves heterosexual if they are gay. I'm not talking about bisexuals, they are the only ones that can actually chose (and of course their is some kind of continuum between heterosexual and homosexual with bisexual somewhere in the middle).

        On a side note Bonobos are a primate that demonstrates that homosexuality is quite natural:

        http://www.livescience.com/44464-bonobo-homosexuality-natural.html

        • Mike

          Gay-ness is a disordered form of human sexuality so i don't think it's on "par" with "straightness" but either way neither exist but in ppls' heads - like the way some guys prefer blondes over red heads etc.

          • William Davis

            So by your analogy, are you saying that preferring blondes is disorder, or is preferring redheads disordered?

          • Mike

            yes if for example blondes couldn't consummate their unions with red heads etc. but as it happens no it's just a preference.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Gay-ness is a disordered form of human sexuality

            Prove it.

          • Mike

            it results in a dead end biologically and it can not consummate a relationship.

          • George

            so what? seriously, the human race isn't going to die out.

          • Mike

            phew i was beginning to worry it might!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So what?

            It can certainly consummate a relationship. The only difference between homosexual sex and straight sex is that there exists times when straight sex can result in pregnancy. Every other positive benefit of sex, homosexuals can enjoy. These positive benefits are good. You are for reasons yet unexplained, highlighting the procreative aspect of sex above all others. Why? Make an argument.

          • Mike

            but ppl of the same sex can't consummate their 'unions' except in disgusting ways if men and in no way if women...you also think it's disgusting but you pretend you don't for political reasons which i get i used to feel the same way afraid to admit what i knew was true...you have to say it is normal and natural bc it's part of a larger ideological program i get it.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It is not disgusting, Mike. It is how couples express their love or mutual attraction. I guess I'm just not as straight as you, or maybe my parents raised me to have empathy.

          • Mike

            It's gross you and you know it but for political reasons you deny it.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I actually do not think it is gross. It is something I desire or want to do, but then again, I don't spend much time thinking about what gay people do in their bedrooms. It seems people who think gay sex is gross spend a lot of time contemplating it.

          • Mike

            lol, ok.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            there exists times when straight sex can result in pregnancy.

            That's pretty much all that matters as far as Darwin is concerned.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Perhaps, but sex is more than just procreation. There are all sorts of goods that homosexual couples can gain from having sex.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            But we are only concerned here with the natural material goods, not those imposed by human appetites. There's a reason the epicureans despised the hedonists.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            There is no reason to make such a distinction and value one over the other.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No reason to separate that which happens by nature and that which happens by human intention? Then is there no distinction between a bacterial flagellum and a mousetrap? Forsooth!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            There is not reason to separate natural good from human goods.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I would be wary if I were you of giving even backhanded support to Intelligent Design theory by blurring the distinction between natural and artificial, let alone between motive and purpose.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You are conflating. I thought we were talking about what is good for human beings. In order to consider that question, we must take human nature and human appetites into consideration. Human appetites are of paramount importance.
            I don't think we are talking about the same thing. I am saying that the psychological well being of homosexual couples, which is increased by sex is a moral good.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Human appetites are of paramount importance.

            I had thought human intellect (and the intellective appetite), to be the most important. All animals have sensory appetites.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            One must consider the whole human person. Just because we share something with the animal kingdom does not devalue it.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            We share all sorts of things with the mineral kingdom, but I would be wary of rendering down human beings and selling off the chemicals.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You still have not given reason to believe that the social aspects of sex are not good intrinsically. One does not need to procreate of be open to procreation for sex to be a good.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            You are probably right that materialism gives us no basis for such things and only a values-laden metaphysics will serve. But "sex" is simply an attribute of certain species of plants and animals. As a verbal participle it is too vague. I think what you really mean is "pursuit of pleasure," since you seem to have confused "good" with "pleasure."

            But this is disordered. The main good of the human being is "to be a rational animal." To the extant a man is ruled by his appetites, his rationality is diminished, and hence he is less able to attain the good. Modern neuroscience confirms this: neural patterns originating in the more primitive parts of the brain, when "vulcanized" by repetition tend to interfere with neural patterns originating in the neocortex, where rational thought seems to be centered. Thus, indulgence in the sensory appetites tends to make you stupid, contrary to the good.
            https://webapps.pni.princeton.edu/ncc/PDFs/Neural%20Economics/Cohen%20%28JEP%2005%29.pdf

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I mean sexual intercourse when I say sex. I am not referring to gender. I do not think pleasure is equal to good, but pleasure can be good and usually is good. By good I mean the overall health and well-being of the human person. This includes the intellectual as well as the emotional and physical human person.

            Exactly what does it mean to be a rational animal. It seems some of us are better at rational pursuits than others. We are not all great mathematicians, and most of us aren't even competent ones. Does painting and composing fall under the purview of rationality?

            I could not open your link, but it seems to me that many of the great geniuses of humanity were also profligates.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            It seems some of us are better at rational pursuits than others. We are not all great mathematicians

            Reason (ratio) is the ability to discern universals among sensory particulars ("man"), to form propositions about them ("Socrates is a man"), and to go from one proposition to another ("All men are mortal" + "Socrates is a man" = "Socrates is mortal"). It doesn't mean that everyone does it well or even that some individuals may be impaired in some way, but it does mean that actions that do impair this faculty are objectively disordered, i.e., not ordered toward the good.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Suppose I work two jobs to feed my family. Because of the time spent at work, I am sleep deprived, which impairs my reasoning. By your logic being sleep deprived is objectively disordered.

            Morality/Ethics are a lot more complicated than you make it out to be.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            By your logic being sleep deprived is objectively disordered.

            To deliberately deprive yourself of sleep -- which results in poor decisions and sub-par work -- is disordered. To be deprived of sleep due to other causes is not. Classical morality is a lot more complicated than you make it out to be. Aquinas, for example, wrote of the need to occasionally choose the lesser evil. For example, liberty and property are both goods, so to deprive a man of his liberty is an evil. Yet a judge who sentences a robber to imprisonment is ordering a lesser evil than to allow the robber to run free and rob others.

          • Papalinton

            So do childless couples.

          • Mike

            childless couples can consummate their unions can't they?

            plus isn't a childless couple childless bc something is wrong like PCOS or endometriosis or low ovarian reserve or one person is too old etc etc but 2 men or 2 women are childless DESPITE 100% health and fitness.

            See if a young gay man did "it" with a young lesbian they'd have a child; instead he prefers to simulate "it" with another man instead...we know why he prefers this but that doesn't change the fact that he's just doing it with the wrong sex.

          • Papalinton

            we know why he prefers this but that doesn't change the fact that he's just doing it with the wrong sex.

            The archetypal response of an authentic homophobe with callous indifference of the biological facts

          • Mike

            Papa you're right out of left wing LGBTQRSTUVWXYZ central casting!

          • Papalinton

            Papalinton: "Mike you're in denial about your homophobia."

            Mike: "No I'm not."

          • Mike

            Left wing crank central casting.

          • Papalinton

            Funny that you should characterise me that way, Mike. I am in truth a centrist, looking for balance, all in moderation, not prone to excess and living an even-temporamented life.

          • Mike

            Ok, glad to hear it papalinton.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No one promises success.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            "it results in a dead end biologically and it can not consummate a relationship."

            So does celibacy. I suppose that makes Catholic priests and nuns disordered?

          • Mike

            do you see no difference btw celibacy and homosex acts?

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Like I said in the other branch of our discussion... sure there are differences, but I'm examining the one aspect that they have in common. Both celibacy and gay sex are biological dead ends. You say that biological dead ends are disordered. What is the difference that is relevant in regards to their biological dead-endness?

          • Mike

            bc celibate ppl aren't having sex whereas gay ppl are and YET can't even consummate let alone reproduce...gay ppl are NOT immoral gay sex acts are for this reason.

            gay sex is disordered not people.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Ahh I understand: so sex acts that are biological dead ends are disordered (such as sex with someone who's had a hysterectomy or is otherwise infertile), but other biological dead ends are not.

          • Mike

            not quite: sex acts by 100% healthy ppl who can't consummate their "unions" and can't procreate DESPITE being 100% healthy and FERTILE are immoral.

            if a women has had cancer and had her womb removed she isn't fertile is she?

            again 2 perfectly healthy young men are performing sex acts; they are both 100% Fertile both 100% physically healthy - across the street you have 2 lesbians who are 100% FERTILE 100% physically healthy and young who are also performing sex acts...if they'd just switch something magical would happen but they don't want to switch even though they KNOW they can not 1 consummate and 2 have any potential of actualizing their 100% perfect fertility.

          • Papalinton

            bc celibate ppl aren't having sex ...

            Go tell that to pedophile and pederast priests. This will be news to them.

          • Mike

            ok dude...breath!

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            There is no obligation to consummate a desire. "Disordered" means literally "ordered to other than its proper object." So for example, eating dirt is objectively disordered to the end of eating, which is nutrition. That one ought not eat dirt does not mean that dieting is disordered. Staying at home is not the same as going in the wrong direction.

          • Pofarmer

            According the the American Psychiatric Association, homosexuality is not "disordered". It's simply a minority sexual proclivity. It is a genetic expression, much like many other genetic expressions.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            To say that homosexual desire is disordered is to say that it is not ordered towards the good of the person or towards the good of the species.

            What needs to be explained to say that homosexuality is "ordered" rather than "disordered" is to show what is the biological or teleological purpose of homosexual desire. You can't just say that homosexual desire is "ordered" (or that it is not "disordered") without showing what good it is ordered towards. For example, the purpose of heterosexual desire is clear; humans have a desire to procreate so that the human race can continue. Is homosexual desire ordered towards a corresponding good for the person or for the species?

          • Pofarmer

            Lets think about this for just a second. There are many genetic variations that don't confer a specific survival benefit, and may even pose arisk, but yet persist in the Gene pool. Color blindness, fingerint variations, eyelash length, body hair, foot size, etc, etc, etc almost ad infinitum. Homosexuality is a genetic variation. It happens at a low enough frequency in the gene pool that it doesn't affect population soundness, and those individuals CAN breed if need be. It also occurs across species. So, it's not correct to call it ordered or disordered, it is just a genetic variation that occurs in a small but fairly steady percentage of the population.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            Just because something is a genetic condition which occurs in the population at large doesn't mean it is a condition which is ordered towards a good. For instance, I have a heart condition called mitral valve prolapse. It's genetic; many in my extended family have it. But it's also a disorder, because my heart works less efficiently than humans without this disorder.

            Another example: mental illnesses such as bipolar, depression, schizophrenia can be related to genetic makeup. When someone is depressed, they lack some of the desire (hope) and will to thrive. This is a disordered tendency, because a tendency towards depression is not ordered towards the good of the human person.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            Regarding your comment that persons with homosexual tendency can reproduce if necessary. Perhaps this is true for some with homosexual tendencies. However, it is still a disorder because the person lacks the natural urge to reproduce. Furthermore, they lack the urge to maintain the sexual bond with the mother/father of their children. The sexual bond is important for maintaining a permanent relationship between the mother and father of a child.

          • Raymond

            So you are denying the existence of divorce?

          • Pofarmer

            Yes, and?

          • David Nickol

            For example, the purpose of heterosexual desire is clear; humans have a desire to procreate so that the human race can continue.

            And yet unlike the religion from which it sprang, Christianity has made it a dogma that it is better never to have sex than to enter into an unquestionably valid (even sacramental) marriage. In Judaism, "be fruitful and multiply" is taken as a commandment. In Christianity, procreating (even in marriage) makes a person second-class.

            From the Council of Trent:

            CANON X.-If any one saith, that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity, or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony; let him be anathema.

          • joey_in_NC

            It may be "better" or "more blessed" to give 90% of your wealth to the poor compared to giving only 89%, but does that mean those who give 89% are "second-class" compared to the ones who give 90%?

          • Jonathan Brumley

            Hi David,

            The Catholic faith is big on sacrifice. Every sacrifice involves giving up a lesser good for a greater good. Marriage, reproduction and raising a family are great goods. But virginity for the sake of God is a greater good than that. The unmarried person retains a freedom to love God in extraordinary ways which are not possible for a married person.

          • Mike

            the apa doesn't think anything is disordered bc it doesn't believe that human beings have any innate order/purpose so ofcourse it doesn't think that being unattracted to the opposite sex is not disordered.

            btw for what it's worth i don't think that being "bisexual" is a disorder in itself but i do think that being unable to find the opposite sex attractive is.

          • Pofarmer

            "the apa doesn't think anything is disordered "

            Really?

          • Mike

            don't forget that the vote to de list homosexuality was like 60/40 as it had to do with ideological shifts happening at the time.

            btw i don't think that being bisexual is per se disordered but i do think that being unattracted to the opposite sex is a disordered form of sexuality.

          • Pofarmer

            Was the shift idealogical or information driven?

          • Mike

            i believe it was ideological mostly but not all...the idea of "self determination" and "if it's "SAFE" it's ok" was gaining much ground.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I'm an old fogey. I remember when it was so classified by the APA. I also remember it was demonstrators breaking into the annual conference and disrupting it that started the ball rolling to remove it. The preferred alternative at the time was "life-style preference," which appealed to the "choice" people. Later, it became "genetic," though without the genes. Now it is "epigenetic," but it's all [weak] correlations, not causation. It would not surprise me in the least to learn that there is no single condition that we call "homosexuality," but that different folks present for different reasons.

          • Papalinton

            I have flagged this comment. To mischaracterise homosexuality as a disordered form of human sexuality is verbal abuse. Such a spurious claim is not supported by the evidence.
            I would ask the moderators to review the evidence and deal appropriately with the flagged comment.
            NEW SCIENTIST
            BBC NEWS
            TIME magazine

          • Mila

            I don't think your flagging a comment because you don't like it will do anything.
            Mike is not stating something contrary to what the Catholic Church says.
            2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

          • Papalinton

            Be very careful what you ascribe to Catholic teaching, Mila. Catholic teaching does not, repeat, does not state that homosexuality is a disordered form of human sexuality. In its very limitedly-applied wisdom Catholic teaching speaks of the 'sct' as disordered, not the person. You must not promulgate lies and scurrilous myths about homosexuality.

          • Mila

            That's actually the Catechism of the Catholic Church Papalinton.
            http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm
            Yes, you are right, the act is disordered and that is also specified right below 2357 on 2358.... That's what the Church teaches.
            I don't think I am promulgating lies when all I did was copy and paste the catechism..,,.

          • Papalinton

            Thank you for your concession.

          • Mila

            Of course, though I never said otherwise. On the other hand, you need to concede that you wrongfully accused me of promulgating lies when all I did was copy and paste the catechism.

          • Papalinton

            The act of simply copying and pasting the catechism does not absolve you of the egregious commitment of a lie. You endorsed Mike's statement:
            "Mike is not stating something contrary to what the Catholic Church says", when indeed Mike said, "Gay-ness is a disordered form of human sexuality ", therefore perpetuating a lie.

            Catholic teaching does not, I repeat, does not claim that a homosexual, a person's homosexuality, is disordered. The catechism is specific, it is the 'act' to which they refer.

          • Mila

            "Be very careful what you ascribe to Catholic teaching, Mila."
            I copied the catechism.

            "You must not promulgate lies and scurrilous myths about homosexuality."

            I copied the catechism.

            "Catholic teaching does not, I repeat, does not claim that a homosexual, a person's homosexuality, is disordered."

            Never said otherwise.

          • joey_in_NC

            Catholic teaching does not, I repeat, does not claim that a homosexual, a person's homosexuality, is disordered. The catechism is specific, it is the 'act' to which they refer.

            Have you even read 2358 of the catechism?...

            2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

          • Papalinton

            Yes I did Joey. There is nothing to be read into it that being born a homosexual or homosexuality per se is disordered. It talks of 'tendencies' or 'inclination' which refer to the 'act' not their 'being'. You must not read snippets out of context. And ever more importantly did you read and understand the next two sentences.

            Please refrain from pursuing this unjust line of reasoning. You very much know society has almost overwhelmingly responded positively to the way it treats homosexuality and has travelled well down the road from this sociopathic speed bump.

          • joey_in_NC

            There is nothing to be read into it that being born a homosexual or homosexuality per se is disordered. It talks of 'tendencies' or 'inclination' which refer to the 'act' not their 'being'.

            What do you think 'inclination' means?

            Now, what does it mean to be homosexual?

            Just because one has a disordered inclination does not necessarily mean the person has committed sin due to that inclination.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Correctamundo. A man may have a disordered desire to have sex with children, and this desire may even be genetic in origin. (The APA has been discussing relabeling such people as "youth attracted" because the old label "pedophile" is so judgmental.) A woman may come home and, finding her husband in bed with another woman, harbor a disordered desire to kill him dead. "Kleptomaniacs" may have a disordered desire to pilfer things. "Objectum sexuals" may have a disordered desire to love inanimate objects sexually (like the Eiffel Tower or a roller coaster). Disordered desires are called "temptations." But that does not compel them to act on those desires. This horrifies the Late Modern, who, after the triumph of the will, cannot imagine that any appetite should go unslaked.

          • Papalinton

            What's interesting Mila, is that many if not most Catholic priests may be Gay men. THIS REPORT from US News. It will be a somewhat of an amusing irony if it is the case you receive your weekly church instructions from a gay priest.

          • Mila

            I don't think it's most priest at all, but there are many particularly in the west. I don't have anything against them if they live a chaste life.
            It is also no coincidence that we have certain problems within the priesthood. Maybe the two are related.

          • Papalinton

            I think we're done, Mila. You have been shown to have lied.

          • Mila

            Papalinton you are the one who said that I ascribed things that were not real to the Catholic Church's teachings eventhough I merely copied and pasted the catechism.

            And most certainly we are done. I have shown nothing but patience with you eventhough you falsely accused me and then tried to hide it.

            I have not lied at all your ego doesn't let you concede that you were wrong.

          • Pofarmer

            At the USCCB site their study shows around 36% of Catholic clergy are homosexual. Other studies are as high as 60%. Might you be in a little bit of denial?

          • Mila

            Denial? When did I deny pofarmer? In fact, I specifically stated that as long as they lived chaste lives I didn't have a problem with it.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Catholic teaching speaks of the 'act' as disordered, not the person.

            Absolutely! You are getting it.

          • David Nickol

            It is a very bad mistake to confuse the psychological or psychiatric concept of a disorder with the Catholic concept of an act or an inclination being disordered. For example, according to Catholic thought, a heterosexual married man who feels sexual desire for any attractive woman other than his wife is experiencing "disordered" sexual desire. This does not mean he has a psychiatric or psychological disorder.

            In Catholicism, any desire or inclination to do something morally wrong is "disordered." However, having disordered desires does not necessarily mean that a person has a psychological or psychiatric disorder.

            To criticize the American Psychiatric Association for striking homosexuality from its list of disorders because the Catholic Church considers homosexual acts or homosexual desires "disordered" is—if I understand the term correctly—a category error. The APA and the Church do not mean the same thing by the word disorder.

          • Mila

            It is a very bad mistake to confuse the psychological or psychiatric concept of a disorder with the Catholic concept of an act or an inclination being disordered. For example, according to Catholic thought, a heterosexual married man who feels sexual desire for any attractive woman other than his wife is experiencing "disordered" sexual desire. This does not mean he has a psychiatric or psychological disorder.

            I don't think I even mentioned anything to do with psychological or psychiatric disorders, but I do believe that many things not just homosexual acts are disordered sexual acts. Fornication, prostitution, bestiality, sex outside of marriage, lustful sex, etc.
            I don't see why this is even brought up. I completely agree with the notion that many sexual practices are disordered. The fact that there are many disordered practices does not make any single one of them not disordered though.

            In Catholicism, any desire or inclination to do something morally wrong is "disordered." However, having disordered desires does not necessarily mean that a person has a psychological or psychiatric disorder.

            Of course, they are temptations and we all have them in different forms. To act on them is a whole different deal. Sometimes we find that we act on our temptations and soon we fall prisoners to them. We can also see how sometimes when we don't overcome temptations and fall and commit the acts, those acts get progressively worse and worse. Maybe that can cause psychiatric and psychological effects, but temptations we all have them. Sin makes us not only stupid, but they hardened our hearts so much so that we see everything cloudy to the point where we even defend and justify our disordered acts. It happens to all of us.

            To criticize the American Psychiatric Association for striking homosexuality....

            I dont' know where I criticized or even mentioned the APA. You must have wanted to respond to someone else maybe.

          • David Nickol

            You seem to be very defensive, but I was not attacking you or any position you took, nor was I imputing any position to you. The point I was making was that the Catholic Church, on the one hand, and the psychiatric/psychological establishments, on the other, each have different meanings for the word "disordered."

            It seems apparent to me that Mike is not clear on this point, and consequently he seems to be saying (whether he intends to or not), that the Catholic Church considers a homosexual orientation to be a mental illness because of their use of the word "disordered," but the psychiatric/psychological professions are not in accord with Church teaching.

            Since Mike (intentionally or not) gives the impression he is saying homosexuality is a psychological disorder or a psychiatric disorder, by your saying, "Mike is not stating something contrary to what the Catholic Church says," and then posting from the Catechism, you give the impression (intentionally or not) that the Church backs up Mike by teaching that homosexuality is a psychological or psychiatric disorder.

            I am not accusing Mike or you of anything here. I am just trying to clarify one point: Something can be called "disordered" by the Church without that meaning psychiatrists and psychologists must consider it a disorder. I am not sure how I can make it any clearer. Since the Church and the American Psychiatric Association use the word "disorder" differently, there need be no conflict when the Catechism calls something disordered but the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the APA deliberately excludes it from their list of disorders.

            This does not mean that someone might not hold both the position that a homosexual orientation is (morally) disordered and that it ought to be considered a psychiatric disorder as well. But those are two different issues.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            Does the APA define what they mean when they call something a "disorder"?

          • David Nickol

            Does the APA define what they mean when they call something a "disorder"?

            Yes, of course. The following is from a draft of the definition for the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM5). I can't swear there were no changes, but I am pretty sure it is the final version.

            1. A behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual

            2. That reflects an underlying psychobiological dysfunction

            3. The consequences of which are clinically significant distress
            (e.g., a painful symptom) or disability (i.e., impairment in one or more
            important areas of functioning)

            4. Must not be merely an expectable response to common stressors
            and losses (for example, the loss of a loved one) or a culturally
            sanctioned response to a particular event (for example, trance states in
            religious rituals)

            5. That is not primarily a result of social deviance or conflicts with society

          • Luke C.

            It did change slightly, David. Here's the full DSM-5 definition of a mental disorder:

            Although no definition can capture all aspects of all disorders in the range contained in DSM-5, the following elements are required:

            A mental disorder is a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual's cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning. Mental disorders are usually associated with significant distress or disability in social, occupational, or other important activities. An expectable or culturally approved response to a common stressor or loss, such as the death of a loved one, is not a mental disorder. Socially deviant behavior (e.g., political, religious, or sexual) and conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are not mental disorders unless the deviance or conflict results from a dysfunction in the individual, as described above.

            From page 20.

            Edit: Formatting and inclusion of page number.

          • David Nickol

            Thanks! My googling skills failed me on this one. People may disagree with the definition from the DSM-5, but the point I am stressing is that the APA and the Catholic Church mean quite different things when they call something "disordered." For example, the Catechism says

            Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant
            tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and
            have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and
            gravely disordered action.

            If Catholic parents suspect that their teenage son is masturbating, should they take him to a psychiatrist because of his "gravely disordered action"?

          • Luke C.

            No worries :) I have PDFs of every DSM edition, haha (I got rid of my hard copies--too heavy!). My research centered around it.

            And, yes, I definitely agree with you that the RCC and APA use "disordered" differently. Though the two likely agree on some points, though perhaps for different reasons (e.g., no such thing as demon possession as an explanation or an exorcism for an intervention), what is disordered to Catholics definitely diverges from what is disordered to the APA.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            Does the APA explain how homosexuality does not lead to clinically significant disability in the psychological motivation to reproduce? Or does the APA not consider reproduction an "important area of functioning"?

          • David Nickol

            Does the APA explain how homosexuality does not lead to clinically
            significant disability in the psychological motivation to reproduce?

            Are you suggesting that anyone who does not want to reproduce sexually has a psychiatric disorder?

            I assume you are thinking something along the lines of the following: A "normal" person would want to reproduce sexually. Homosexuality interferes with the the desire to reproduce sexually. Gay people are not "normal," and consequently they have a mental disorder. But many people do not want to reproduce sexually, including priests, nuns, married heterosexuals that don't want children, and so on.

            And of course there are gay people who do want to reproduce sexually. Some of them do so. (I used to know someone who was gay, wanted children, married a woman who was happy to marry him knowing the circumstances, and they had five children.) There are also gay people who have at least some desire to have their own children but do not find it practical given their lifestyle, and so choose not to do so (like priests and nuns who might otherwise have wanted children).

          • Jonathan Brumley

            Are you suggesting that anyone who does not want to reproduce sexually has a psychiatric disorder?

            I don't know what would qualify a disorder as "psychiatric". The disorder in SSA is with the sexual urge. In all animal species which reproduce sexually, the biological purpose of the sexual urge is to facilitate an attraction to a potential mate for the purpose of reproduction. When the sexual urge doesn't function in such a way that it is ordered towards its purpose, then there's some kind of disorder.

            And of course there are gay people who do want to reproduce sexually. Some of them do so. (I used to know someone who was gay, wanted children, married a woman who was happy to marry him knowing the circumstances, and they had five children.)

            This makes sense. Humans can want to reproduce even when their sexual urge is not ordered towards that purpose. The man in your example was able to marry and reproduce despite his homosexual attraction. But many men with SSA have zero attraction to the opposite sex, and every such man I've talked to has agreed with me that it would make no sense for men with zero attraction to a woman to marry a woman, precisely because a normal sexual relationship requires sexual attraction. Wouldn't you agree?

            Whereas men normally have the ability to become a biological father through marriage and sexual intercourse, men with SSA have a disability. That's not to say they can't do it. It's just going to be more difficult.

            That being said, we can both acknowledge that it is not necessary that every person reproduce. Whereas reproduction is necessary for the flourishing of a species, it is not necessary for the flourishing of an individual. So SSA is not as serious a disorder as many other conditions which cripple functions which are more necessary.

          • David Nickol

            I don't know what would qualify a disorder as "psychiatric".

            Then you are missing my whole point, which is that the mental health establishment (lead largely by the American Psychiatric Association, which produces the widely used Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) and the Catholic Church both use the word disorder differently. I think what you are looking for is some kind of "objective" definition of disorder, but there isn't one.

            When the sexual urge doesn't function in such a way that it is ordered towards its purpose, then there's some kind of disorder.

            This, of course, depends on your definition of disorder. And of course you assume (a) that you know the "purpose" of sexual orientation and (2) that it has one and only only one purpose. Who decides that?

            Whereas reproduction is necessary for the flourishing of a species, it is not necessary for the flourishing of an individual.

            I would say that wanting to reproduce is not necessary for the flourishing of an individual, and that being able to reproduce the "normal" way (by experiencing sexual desire for the opposite sex and having sexual intercourse) is also not necessary for the flourishing of an individual. In the case of psychiatric disorders, a great deal of weight is put on whether the person's experiences are subjectively painful or unwanted. Someone who experiences same-sex attraction exclusively and has no desire to reproduce does not have a psychiatric disorder.

            To revisit the issue again of what a psychiatric disorder is, to a very large extent (if not entirely), it's whatever the APA says it is. They are not attempting to come up with one all-inclusive, objective definition for disorder. They are defining what psychiatrists and other health care professionals will consider a mental or psychiatric disorder. It will have nothing to do with what gastroenterologist will consider a digestive disorder. And the Catholic Church is defining moral (not medical, or mental) disorders.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            Someone who experiences same-sex attraction exclusively and has no desire to reproduce does not have a psychiatric disorder.

            I see your point that there are different categories and definitions of "disorder", but even given the APA definition of a psychiatric disorder, it would seem at least on a first read that SSA is a disorder.

            3. The consequences of which are clinically significant distress (e.g., a painful symptom) or disability (i.e., impairment in one or more important areas of functioning)

            Reproduction is an important human function whether or not a specific individual wants to reproduce and whether or not the lack of that ability is distressing in a specific instance. And a person with SSA (especially a person with exclusive SSA) is disabled with respect to the ability to reproduce (and the ability to maintain a sexual bond with a second biological parent).

            This, of course, depends on your definition of disorder. And of course you assume (a) that you know the "purpose" of sexual orientation and (2) that it has one and only only one purpose. Who decides that?

            Agreed, we can't agree on what "disorder" means with respect to the sexual urge unless we can agree on the purpose of the sexual urge, i.e. the reason(s) that humans have a sexual urge. So would be easier to find common ground in these discussions if we don't use the word "disorder" and instead could agree that SSA (especially reproductive SSA) is a challenging "disability" with respect to the ability to reproduce and the ability to form a sexually bonded biological family?

          • Michael Murray

            So basically we could replace an inability to agree on "disorder" with an inability to agree on "disability" ?

          • Mike

            LOL!

            Safe space safe space!

            Micro aggression micro aggression!

            You're adorable papalinton.

          • Indeed. I think it's sufficiently clear to all gay persons (such as myself) that conservative religious circles are the unsafest of spaces. Vulnerable and hurting individuals will know from the site masthead to stay far away. There's no need to muzzle the uncouth here.

          • Mike

            Conservatives are just intellectually honest that's all and we actually love ppl not their "orientations" we don't politicize ppl.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            That will shut up the contrary voices. If that doesn't work, you can always open re-education camps.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Mike, when did you choose to be straight?

        • Mike

          i never did i was raised to be straight by my parents i was encouraged and supported with role models like everyone else.

          btw many studies show that boys around 8-12 i think are very likely to say they are attracted to other boys also but then by their teens that number drops to like 3%...ppl are not robots and ppl of the same sex are still ppl.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Mike, I'm not sure how to say this, but I get the impression that you do not read much on this subject matter.

            How exactly do parents raise straight or gay children? Do you think orientation can be changed?

          • Mike

            ever noticed that all older cultures had dances rituals that separated the men from the women in their teens and they danced for each other? why did this ritual develop? precisely to strengthen the likelihood of achieving marriages and off spring bc otherwise the men and wouldn't possibly be as interested in each other.

            these things are cultural to much larger extent than we realize.

            yes i think in some ppl orientation is much more fluid than in others.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I went to an all-male high school. Believe me, even though we were surrounded by other guys all day long, we were very interested in women.
            I think some cultures persecute minority sexual expressions, but I do not think culture is responsible for the majority of us being straight.

          • Mike

            you think there's a "straight" gene out there?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            This is outside of my expertise. I know of at least one psychologist, whose opinion I respect, that thinks that proponents of a gay gene have yet to adequately demonstrate their case. He didn't think too highly of the "gayness is a choice" crowd though.

          • Mike

            i don't think that whatever 'gayness'is is a direct choice either but i am personally convinced that no one has ever been born gay and that there is no such thing as a 'gay gene' but i am inclined to believe that there are genes which do predispose a person to certain personality traits/temperaments that in turn predispose a person to 'homosexuality'or some other 'sexuality'.

          • Doug Shaver

            i was raised to be straight by my parents i was encouraged and supported with role models like everyone else.

            And you think that's the only reason you are attracted to women? Because all your role models said you were supposed to be?

          • Mike

            that's too narrow a definition i'd add to that the fact that i am a male with parts designed to fit a female plus if there's anything genetic at all about "types of sexualities" it is certainly "straightness" as it is biologically required for the species.

          • Doug Shaver

            that's too narrow a definition

            It's not a definition at all. It's a question about cause and effect.

  • Mike

    Another thing to consider although not necessarily relevant to the philosophical arguments is the fact that most sex outside male female exclusive marriage seems to be quite medically risky in terms of high rates of STIs, abortions, etc.

    Generally speaking if you sleep around you're going to end up putting yourself in a very very high risk group for all sorts of bad things. And i think we'd all agree that that's just common sense.

    Anyway always a pleasure hearing from Prof. George.

    • OverlappingMagisteria

      ...most sex outside male female exclusive marriage seems to be quite
      medically risky in terms of high rates of STIs, abortions, etc.

      I would say this applies more to careless promiscuity than sex "outside male-female exclusive marriage." After all, sex in a male-male or female-female exclusive marriage would also have low rates of STIs and non-existent rates of abortions.

      True, promiscuity does increase risks of bad thing. Is taking part in risky behavior immoral though? Is skydiving or skiing immoral?

      • Mike

        high risk sex is immoral bc fornication and adultery are immoral and homosex acts are immoral but not high risk activity per se...sex is for male female union only in a permanent exclusive marriage but you already knew that i'd say that ;)

        • OverlappingMagisteria

          Ok... so I suppose you agree that the riskiness of an act does not bear on its moral status. Gay sex, in your view, is immoral not because it may be high-risk, but for other reasons

          • Mike

            yes that's why i said the riskiness is not necessarily an argument for/against something BUT the intrinsic high risk nature of male homosex is not to be discounted, as well biology has designed certain parts for certain functions etc.

            btw the CDC stats on MSM however are SHOCKING if you've never seen them.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            But the argument really applies to promiscuity. Like I said before, a exclusive male-male marriage would have very low STIs and zero abortions. Gay women have the lowest STI rates. We should not discount these facts either. I suppose, then, we should encourage gay men to get married in order to lower their risk?

            I'm not sure what you're getting at with biology designing parts for functions. Biology has "designed" the nose for breathing and smelling. I suppose then that using it to support my glasses is against this biological "design"... but so what?

          • Mike

            the anus is for fecal matter not for sex acts imho.

            sorry i had to go there but you didn't seem to know what i was referring to.

          • William Davis

            Explain why the male prostate is sexually sensitive, even capable of producing orgasm by itself. Surely this is God's providence and/or design

            http://www.askmen.com/dating/dzimmer_600/688_male-g-spot.html

          • Mike

            that's disgusting and totally irrelevant.

          • William Davis

            You brought up anuses, so it doesn't make sense for you to talk about disgusting. It's incredibly relevant, however ;)

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            I know what were are referring to. I just don't know why its relevant. It is just as silly to say: "The nose is for for breathing not for glasses imho"

            Fine. Nice opinion. We can each use our noses and anuses in the way our opinions see fit.

          • Mike

            if think there's no big diff between using an anus for that and a nose for glasses then so be it but i think that's insane.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Both are examples of using something in a way that it was not "designed" for. You made the argument that gay sex is wrong because it is using something for a function it is not designed for. I agree that the two are different, but they are both the same in the way it is relevant - If you think there is nothing wrong with using the nose against its design, then there shouldn't be a problem with using other parts of the body against its design.

          • Mike

            they are different in the extreme but i understand i think why you choose to see things differently to put it mildly - let's agree to disagree here.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Technically, it is the lungs that are "for" breathing. One may breathe through the mouth as easily as through the nose, though it is considered gauche by most folks. In any case, it is the nasal passages that conduct the air, not the nose as a whole. The primary purpose is generally thought to be "smelling." Snorting cocaine would be contraindicated.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Sure. In either case, you agree that the nose's purpose is not for glasses

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I'm not sure why you think that's important. It's not like glasses cut off your breathing or prevent you from smelling properly. I think Late Moderns simply don't get what Aristotle meant by natural telos.

          • David Nickol

            the anus is for fecal matter not for sex acts imho.

            I am disgusted by the idea of a man inserting into a woman's body the organ with which he urinates.

          • Mike

            just generally into a women's body or into a specific organ designed to receive that male body part which also in addition to pee is for semen?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            It would be only if he then urinates into her. (It is not the penis as such, but urinary system or the system for ejecting semen. In engineering, the same component may carry two or more functions, usually in different parts. An example is the "church key" which contains a bottle opener and a can opener on the same platform at different ends. You can use the instrument for either purpose, but using the punch end to pop a cap is inefficient and using the pry end to open a can won't work at all.

            Design engineering actually makes some of this stuff more clear!

          • Amen for Design engineering!
            If we observe the design of the human body in terms of sexuality and then we note the facts about homosexual sex
            (without going into too much detail), we can say that it is abnormal to the design or a “deviation”. It would not matter if one believes we were designed by almighty God or by almighty evolution. Homosexual sex is deviant to the design,
            just like any number of heterosexual sexual acts (CCC 2357).

          • VicqRuiz

            Mike, I too have a pretty strong "ick" factor with reference to male/male sex acts.

            But one thing I learned relatively early in life was to differentiate between "things I dislike" and "things which should be prohibited".

          • Mike

            do you think that maybe your ick factor is genetic? i think if anything is then homophobia is genetic i say this seriously.

            there was a an article in the telegraph a couple years ago to this effect that maybe ppl who think it's "gross" are just wired that way by evolution and their brain structures or whatever.

            i used to live in the gay ghetto in my city and what struck me as odd was how few women i'd see in the streets as most ppl were men...gave me a weird feeling that something was off.

        • Pofarmer

          You just made a giant unwarranted theological leap there.

          • Mike

            i did? ok.

    • William Davis

      Just an FYI, it's also medically risky to drink out of water fountains. I got mononucleosis from a water fountain when i was a kid. It's called the kissing disease because it only spreads through saliva. Think about the that the next time you go to drink out of one...

      • Mike

        We don't have them where i live.

        • William Davis

          Good for public health :) They are required by law here, but it does get really hot in the summer.

          • Mike

            the bottled water lobby got them all condemned here.

  • David Nickol

    It seems to me that many "natural law" arguments prescribe behavior that may be good or even ideal (male-female marriage, mom and dad raising kids, lifelong commitment, etc.) and then demand a kind of radical, obsessive-compulsive adherence to the behavior. Take, for example, some of the writings of Germain Grisez, in particular his Difficult Moral Question 29, What sexual activity is permissible for elderly married couples?

    Suppose, for example, the husband of an elderly married couple is completely impotent. Grisez finds physical intimacy between them permissible, even if it leads to sexual arousal. He says:

    Even for elderly couples who no longer have any prospect of intercourse,
    such incomplete sexual acts can be appropriate expressions of marital
    affection inasmuch as they continue to realize, to the extent possible,
    the one-flesh unity realized in previous acts of marital intercourse and
    to provide the couple with an experience, though imperfect, of their
    unity.

    So far so good. However, a bit later he goes on:

    Even if there is no prospect that a married couple will again have
    intercourse, they may express their affection by means of mutually
    agreeable sexual activities that cause some sexual arousal and pleasure,
    provided neither intends or wrongly risks having an orgasm or seeks
    satisfaction by subsequent self-stimulation.
    [Italics added]

    The elderly husband must not "risk" giving his wife an orgasm, and the elderly wife, no matter how sexually capable she is herself, may not "risk" having one. On the other hand, if the elderly husband is capable of intercourse but the wife has no sexual desire or sexual response, sex between them is licit, because the "marital act" can still be performed according to its most strict specifications.

    It is difficult (for me) to understand why God would demand of a 90-year-old couple, who (let us say) performed sexual intercourse according to Catholic specifications throughout their childbearing years, and had numerous children, should be bound by rules that make absolutely no practical difference to anyone, but would deny a sexually responsive woman even the "risk" of an orgasm, but would permit a non-impotent husband to expect his wife to sexually gratify him when she has no sexual feelings herself.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Why don't you share your objection with Grisez and see what he says? How long did it take you to find such a far out example? What did you think of most of them?

  • David Nickol

    It is interesting to see this absolute insistence on lifelong marriage to one opposite-sex partner at a time when there seems to be a serious move to permitting divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion, with all that signifies.

    • Andrew Y.

      Really? Could you post a source for this "serious move"?

      • David Nickol

        Pope calls for more 'integration' of divorced Catholics, gays

        (CNS/Paul Haring)

        By Francis X. Rocca
        Catholic News Service

        VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said that the Catholic Church must consider various ways to integrate the divorced and civilly remarried in the life of the church -- not merely allowing them to receive Communion, but letting them serve as eucharistic ministers and godparents -- and to make it easier for Catholic families to accept their homosexual members.

        • Mila

          That's not really saying that the Church is making a "serious move" to permitting divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion.

          I heard the pope on Spanish TV and he talked just about this issue. He specifically mentions that he wants them more integrated as part of the community but that they themselves need to make the effort to be integrated into the sacraments.

          It is obvious what the Pope is doing. He is telling sinners to come into the Church so they can get healed and receive the Eucharist.

          BTW CNS is not so reliable. They'll soon be like the Catholic reporter. Only using the name Catholic but not really Catholic.
          They tend to lean towards their own political agenda.

        • Andrew Y.

          Thanks. Remember that the church already has a provision for remarried couples to receive the sacraments as long as they vow to abstain from sexual relations, and nothing in that article indicated a change in that position—only that abstaining remarried couples may someday be allowed to teach Sunday school and to act as Ministers of the Eucharist. The topic of homosexuality only came up at the Synod of Bishops with respect to how to keep parents of openly gay children from driving them out of the family.

          Maybe I'm missing something but this article does not give me the impression that the church is in any way moving away from its position of "one opposite sex partner".

          • William Davis

            I grew up fundamentalist Christian, and I thought their views on sex were weird. Reading some of these articles on sexuality in Catholicism, I'm beginning to think homosexuality seems normal compared to Catholic views on sex. To me, there seems to be a real darkness here in the Church. No sex or no crackers? Really?

          • Andrew Y.

            Fundamentalist views on sexuality vary, but from what I've read, most are very weird indeed. The idea that sexual pleasure is somehow evil, even in the context of marriage, harkens back to gnostic traditions more than it does anything else.

            That said, I'm still surprised by the negative spin our generation puts on abstinence and chastity. These forms of self-denial should be seen as virtues.

            If you haven't read it yet, I would recommend taking a look at John Paul II's Theology of the Body (and to a lesser extent, Paul VI's Humanae Vitae), which together form a basis for most of the modern church teaching on everything from contraception to fornication to homosexual relationships. The essence of the message is that separating the act of sex from the act of procreation reduces the human body to little more than a pleasure machine which, in turn, degrades the human person to mere objects of sexual desire. I was surprised when I later learned that much of the Theology of the Body was based on the work of Immanuel Kant (!)

          • William Davis

            The essence of the message is that separating the act of sex from the act of procreation reduces the human body to little more than a pleasure machine which, in turn, degrades the human person to mere objects of sexual desire.

            To me this is a non-sequitur. I view my wife as a wonderful person, my best friend, an excellent mother, AND the object of my sexual desire. After two children I had a Vasectomy. Absolutely nothing changed accept condoms were no longer necessary (thus sex was more enjoyable). Our relationship has grown since then.

            Personally I have practiced monogamy, even though I've never been a Christian, because I agree that having sex with a woman involves a commitment. This is part of my personal psychology (so it isn't an argument against someone who is promiscuous) that happens to match church teaching. I've never had sex with anyone except my wife (there is probably biological evidence that this would generally produce a stronger pair bond). The rest of the stuff doesn't seem to match reality to me at all, and is in direct contradiction to my personal experience. I don't know how you argue against that, but feel free to try :)

          • Andrew Y.

            The only point I would make is to reiterate that in light of the pope's message I don't see darkness in the Church with respect to its teaching on sexual matters. All I see is a framework for respecting the dignity of the human person.

            In regards to your own experience, keep in mind that the Church promotes natural family planning as a means of birth control, so in general, aiming to not conceive is not in itself contrary to its teaching. The means by which birth control is achieved is the point of contention, and the teaching rejects all forms of artificial contraception.

            But despite this difference, I think you've made a good point. Considering your own beliefs I can respect the choices you've made and the integrity with which you lead your life.

        • Mila

          "Francis called it a simplification to give people in such unions Communion because with that “we are not fixing anything.” He added, “What the church wants is for you to integrate your life into the life of the Church.”

          “There are some who say: ‘No, I wish to take communion and that's that.’" But the pope characterized this as making Communion a symbol or an honorific. To which he retorts, “No. Reintegrate.”

          https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pope-francis-appears-to-oppose-communion-for-divorced-and-remarried-catholi

          Audio interview http://www.news.va/es/news/los-primeros-dos-anos-de-la-era-francisco-en-entre

          That's what he means by integration.

          Btw there will always be bishops and even Cardinals who want to change things according to their likings, and many seem to be from Germany. There is nothing new about that. But the beauty is that they've never won.
          Really when you think about it, protestantism was born out of dissent just like these bishops. Nothing new about that. It's not easy to be Catholic and obey. That has always been a challenge even for clergy.
          The fact though is that for 2000 years they have never succeeded other than to create a new sect eventually.
          I would just sit back and watch with total confidence on the Holy Spirit.

          • David Nickol

            I stand by what I said:

            . . . . there seems to be a serious move to permitting divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion, with all that signifies

            We will have to see how it all plays out. I am making no predictions. But the issue is being discussed with a seriousness that was never there before.

          • Mila

            The issue is being discussed among some dissenters and the media is blowing it out of proportion as usual. Nothing more. It's also prevalent as the divorce rate is so high especially in the west.

            What will happen here is that some Catholics by name only will join the sects because the Church will not change this or some dissenter clergy, especially from Germany, would start doing it without permission from Rome.
            It is amazing how the media will blow out of proportion one clergy member who is a dissenter and ignore the stands of the majority.

            The Eucharist is primary in the life of a Christian and the primary reason for the priesthood. And if this gets destroyed, then the Church will be destroyed. This won't happen as we have a divine promise it won't happen. It might get smaller and I can't wait till that happens. As Pope Benedict said, there are many who shouldn't be in the Church.

            Though this synod would have something to say about issue, I doubt a synod has any authority over doctrine. It's just talking points.

          • David Nickol

            And if this gets destroyed, then the Church will be destroyed. This
            won't happen as we have a divine promise it won't happen. It might get
            smaller and I can't wait till that happens. As Pope Benedict said, there
            are many who shouldn't be in the Church.

            Let me say quite frankly that in my opinion, you have a view of the Catholic Church that I find appalling. I hope you are not correct.

            Not only do you seem to view the world as a place where Catholics are in opposition to all who are not Catholic, you the Church in which there is a struggle against "good" Catholics (those who believe what you believe) and "bad" Catholics, which you want to see eliminated.

            Luke 5:30-31:

            The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”

            The Church, as I understand it, is supposed to be for everybody. It is not an exclusive club. I am sure you or someone is going to say, "Oh yes, we are all sinners." But apparently there are the "good" sinners (like yourself) and the "bad" sinners (the people you feel should be eliminated from the Church).

            Speaking as a Catholic, and one presumably trying to reason with skeptics and atheists in an attempt to draw them to the Church, you have a serious obligation, or so it seems to me, not to make the Church out to be an organization that no thinking person would want to join.

          • Mila

            Not only do you seem to view the world as a place where Catholics are in opposition to all who are not Catholic, you the Church in which there is a struggle against "good" Catholics (those who believe what you believe) and "bad" Catholics, which you want to see eliminated.

            Whoa! You tend to attribute things to people that they never said. I don't want them eliminated nor did I say that. I appreciate if you would refrain from attributing things to me that I never actually said. I want them to love the Church of Christ and not to try and change the Truth.
            And what I believe is what the Church believes so I want those who claim to be Catholics to know what they have and to love it instead of trying to sabotage it from within. At least the protestants had the honor of leaving the Church where as many today will use the name Catholic but are in direct opposition to the Church.

            The Church, as I understand it, is supposed to be for everybody. It is not an exclusive club.,

            The Church is everybody who is in Her. She is the body of
            Christ but it is not those who oppose Her or try and destroy Her from without or within. It is not the Judases.

            I am sure you or someone is going to say, "Oh yes, we are all sinners." But apparently there are the "good" sinners (like yourself) and the "bad" sinners (the people you feel should be eliminated from the Church).

            This is an ad hominen attack and I am a little surprised by it.
            Never did I say that I was a "good sinner" nor by implying that there are Catholics who directly oppose the Church and are trying to sabotage Her from within and are trying to change Her even implies that I believe that.

            I love the Church and will die for Her as She is the body of Christ, but there are most certainly people who call themselves Catholics but hate the Church and are trying to do everything in their power to change Her.

            And using scripture to try and somehow make one's point valid is a bit fundamentalist. I am sure I could find passages that can validate my point.

            Speaking as a Catholic, and one presumably trying to reason with skeptics and atheists in an attempt to draw them to the Church, you have a serious obligation, or so it seems to me, not to make the Church out to be an organization that no thinking person would want to join.

            Oh I want everyone to be Catholic and enter Holy Mother Church but I don't want them to enter the Church to simultaneously try and destroy Her or to hate Her.
            I want the entire world to have what I have; to enter the Church as inside Her is where one can reach the most intimate relationship with God. The most intimate we can while we are on this earth.

            I agree with Pope Benedict, the Church will get smaller and I can't wait for it to happen because only then it will grow even more and more and she will shine as she did many times in the past. You can't hide a city on a mountain but let's clean the city so it shines.

          • I was just reading through your conversation.

            I don't want them eliminated nor did I say that.

            but only two hours earlier:

            It might get smaller and I can't wait till that happens.

            A wee bit forgetful. :)

          • Mila

            That's not saying I want them eliminated. That's very grave to accuse someone of saying. To want people who are not Catholic out of the Church does not mean I want them eliminated. To eliminate a person is a mortal sin. I would rather die before I do that.

          • David Nickol

            To want people who are not Catholic out of the Church does not mean I want them eliminated.

            By eliminated I did not mean "killed." I meant eliminated (ejected, purged, kicked out, excommunicated, etc.) from the Church. At best, you want a significant number of people who now self-identify as Catholic to leave the Church. You can't wait, you say, to have a smaller Church.

          • Mila

            Well that explains a bit my misunderstanding. I thought you were accusing me of something much worse.
            And yes why would anyone want those who are trying to destroy the Church inside?
            The fact that we see so many Christian heresies is proof that they never succeed, but why would anyone want them inside?
            Yes I can't wait till they leave unless of course they stop trying to change her or destroy her.
            To be Catholic means to believe the Church is divine. Divine as she was founded by Jesus Christ and not man. So why would anyone want those who are trying to destroy Her inside? I dont' get that.
            When Jesus Christ said "Not even the gates of hell will prevail against Her" that implies that she will always be attacked. The gates of hell don't take a break. The forms of the attacks are not just from without but also from within.

          • That's not saying I want them eliminated. That's very grave to accuse someone of saying. To want people who are not Catholic out of the Church does not mean I want them eliminated.

            I double-checked a few dictionaries and "eliminate" ordinarily just denotes "remove" and connotes that the thing removed is undesirable; it doesn't mean anything sinister. I think it's safe to say David Nickol meant the word in the ordinary way. Be cautious about assuming, especially about assuming someone is saying an uncharacteristic thing!

          • Mila

            yea maybe it's a language problem though eliminate is Latin-based and so I understand it very well. To eliminate people can very much mean to kill the person.
            Anyway thanks for your help, but I think David and I talked about it already.

          • To eliminate people can very much mean to kill the person.

            Heheh, yeah, I've seen mafia movies too. Now I'm going to imagine David Nickol as saying all of his comments in Marlon Brando's Godfather voice! :-D

          • David Nickol

            Whoa! You tend to attribute things to people that they never said.

            If I have ever done this, then I apologize, but I am very careful when I write to say things such as "Not only do you seem to view . . . ." (as I did in the message you object to). I can, from now on, be even more tentative and say, "If I understand what you are saying, and of course I could be wrong, it seems to me you are are saying such-and-such, but I don't know if I am interpreting you correctly, so please set me straight if necessary." But that would be very tedious, so in the future, please note that when I attribute things to you, I will put them in quotes, but when I am trying to write about what I think you have meant, I will use, "It seems to me," or "As I understand you," or some other such qualifier.

          • Mila

            It's no problem at all. I actually misunderstood a bit of what you meant. I thought you were saying that I wanted people eliminated.

            This might be my fault because I really didn't read the thread I just read one comment and replied to that one single comment and so I was not aware of the conversation. To be honest with subjects like this one I think people's views from both sides are predictable. And I wasn't planning on commenting here on this article at all, but somehow I ended up on the conversation. I don't know how it happened.

    • Mila

      That's really a myth of the media who pays attention to what one or two cardinals say versus the other 114 or 113.
      The progressive media who are desperately trying to paint this pope as what they want him to be like and who omit 90% of what this pope says and does, will soon be disillusioned with the myth they, themselves created.

  • David Nickol

    I think George and Finis go beyond the Catholic Church (or at least the old Catholic Encyclopedia) in their idea of natural law requiring marriage to be a lifelong union of one man and one woman:

    Neither polygamy nor divorce can be said to be contrary to the primary precepts of nature. The primary end of marriage is compatible with both. But at least they are against the secondary precepts of the natural law: contrary, that is, to what is required for the well-ordering of human life. In these secondary precepts, however, God can dispense for good reason if He sees fit to do so. In so doing He uses His sovereign authority to diminish the right of absolute equality which naturally exists between man and woman with reference to marriage. In this way, without suffering any stain on His holiness, God could permit and sanction polygamy and divorce in the Old Law.

    It is possible to think of possible scenarios in in which polygamy might be consistent with the "well-ordering of human life." For example, if there should be some biological catastrophe that struck and killed only men, and the survival of the human race depended on a high birth rate, it would only make sense for men to marry (or at least impregnate) many women.

  • David Nickol

    As I always like to point out, the commandment "You shall not commit adultery" did not prohibit a married man from having sex with an unmarried woman (including a prostitute). The prohibition against adultery was to protect the husband's right to an exclusive relationship with his wife, but it did not protect the wife's (nonexistent) right to an exclusive relationship with her husband.

    (Also, in its earliest form "You shall not murder" meant "You shall not murder a member of your own tribe.")

    • OverlappingMagisteria

      And "You shall have no other gods before me" takes on a new meaning considering the early Israelites were henotheistic. Sure, there are other gods, just make sure to put this one first.

      • William Davis

        I've got a ton to say on that topic given the right setting ;)

      • Kevin Aldrich

        That was a stage of their understanding.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      The Catholic understanding is that Christ enlarged, corrected, and perfected the Mosaic law.

      The Catholic understanding of the sixth commandment forbids a married man from having sex with any woman other than his wife.

      Ditto the earliest form of the fifth commandment.

  • Lucretius

    Ladies and Gentlemen:

    I'm a feeling absolutely overwhelm from responding to the problem of evil in these forums. Can some of you please give me a hand?

    Here is the link: http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/2015/03/estranged-notions-why-something-rather.html

    Christi pax.

    • This is off topic.

      • Lucretius

        Hello,

        Sorry. I'm not entirely up on the rules.

        Christi pax.

  • Even if ONLY looking on a secular level, we should ask, what is the rational basis for secular marriage? Why are governments in the marriage business? It's not love, or sexual attraction, or property rights, or civil rights. It is procreation. Defining marriage as one man and one woman, and the way humans reproduce, isn’t just some weird coincidence. If humans reproduced asexually, would marriage exist? Think about it.

    We will ask, "What about infertile couples or couples who do not want children?" This question brings a new question. Should marriage be defined as any man and any woman or only those willing & able to have children? This new debate would bring much discussion, but the question itself does not logically justify same sex marriage.

    • OverlappingMagisteria

      Actually, it is about legal rights. Your marriage certificate doesn't grant you the right to reproduce, but it does give inheritance rights, medical decision rights, etc.

      Questions about limiting marriage to only procreative couples is relevant to this discussion because it demonstrates that the government's definition of marriage is NOT procreation based. The fact that we allow infertile couples to marry demonstrates that government is in the marriage business for reasons other than procreation.

      • Keep asking why. Why grant "special" rights? Why bother with it? Deconstruct the argument to its base. It all flows back to procreation.
        Why would a Father be denied the right to marry his adult son or daughter? It all flows back to procreation.

        • Pofarmer

          It originally all flowed back to property rights of the male.

        • David Nickol

          The fact that humans reproduce sexually is no doubt the reason that the "institution" of marriage evolved. But once extant, marriage became an institution in its own right that went far, far beyond a solution to matters involving procreation and paternity. As OM says above, "The fact that we allow infertile couples to marry demonstrates that
          government is in the marriage business for reasons other than
          procreation."

          • No analogy is perfect, but let's try this:
            Some choose not to vote or are physically incapable of voting, but the fact that we allow them to vote demonstrates that the government holds elections for reasons other than voting??

          • William Davis

            It's a contract, that's it. Sure the contract is typically between a man and a woman, but we modify contracts all the time. What I don't understand is why other people care? If gay people get married, my life doesn't change one bit, nor does yours.

          • Andrew Y.

            Whether or not your life or my life changes as a result of a gay marriage says nothing about whether it is moral. People care because they feel misrepresented when their country sponsors something they believe to be immoral.

          • William Davis

            Allowing something is allowing it. A free country allows plenty of things that are immoral. I think it is immoral for you to teach children about hell and sinister doctrines like original sin, but I think it should be allowed. Something should only be illegal when it harms someone against their will. This idea applies a lot more to teaching hell than it does to gay marriage.

          • Andrew Y.

            Something should only be illegal when it harms someone against their will.

            I agree that things which harm an individual against their will should, generally speaking, be illegal. But I disagree that unwilled individual harm should be a requirement for illegality.

            If your logic is correct, then on what basis can we restrict the importation and sale of recreational drugs? On what basis can we say that failure to pay taxes is illegal? Certainly failure to pay taxes does not harm someone against their will. Yet it is in the interest of a society that runs on tax dollars to sufficiently deter citizens from withholding tax they owe.

            This idea applies a lot more to teaching hell than it does to gay marriage.

            I see a clear difference between a government restricting what people are allowed to teach, and a government sponsoring a particular teaching. I am not aware of any truly democratic government that prevents people from teaching a particular view on gay marriage.

            The article you linked was a disappointment, William. It is nothing but another ignorant individual arguing against five things that Christianity is not. I would have expected better from someone as familiar with church teaching as you are!

          • William Davis

            If your logic is correct, then on what basis can we restrict the importation and sale of recreational drugs?

            I think the "war on drugs" is a failure and recreational drugs should be regulated, not illegal. Drugs are readily available to anyone who wants them anyway, all we are doing is feeding money to organized crime. This does not mean I condone the use of said drugs, it's up to the individual. I don't think they should be illegal for those under 18 (not old enough to understand the potential harm).

            n what basis can we say that failure to pay taxes is illegal? Certainly failure to pay taxes does not harm someone against their will.

            Certainly failure to pay taxes harms EVERYONE. If we can't pay the military, for example we will have none. We will have no police, ect...

            The article you linked was a disappointment, William. It is nothing but another ignorant individual arguing against five things that Christianity is not.

            You do realize Christianity is much bigger than Catholicism right? I never said you were the only game in town teaching hell :) It was just an example anyway.

          • Andrew Y.

            Certainly failure to pay taxes harms EVERYONE. If we can’t pay the military, for example we will have none.

            Right. But opponents of gay marriage can make the same claim: that it harms everyone because it is not clearly beneficial—some say detrimental—to society.

            And they can back up their claim with reasonable secular arguments against gay marriage, though these arguments often find themselves swept under the rug. It seems herding all the opponents into a bible-thumper group and refuting “because the bible says so” arguments is far easier than engaging the core issues, while still projecting an easily digestible message to indiscriminate folks who don’t know any better.

            You do realize Christianity is much bigger than Catholicism right?

            Yes, of course. But unfortunately the article in question was so ill-informed that on top of not advancing your argument, it gave me the impression that you do not even understand the doctrine of original sin to which you are so vehemently opposed (and I think you probably do understand it).

          • William Davis

            But opponents of gay marriage can make the same claim: that it harms everyone because it is not clearly beneficial—some say detrimental—to society.

            I wouldn't even to know where to begin to list all the things that are legal that aren't beneficial to society. Because something isn't clearly beneficial isn't an argument for it to be illegal. It has to be clearly harmful to someone else, and I'm not talking about being offending (make believe harm). All the secular arguments I've seen against gay marriage seem to revolve around some idea that "gay" is contagious, something that seems contrary to evidence, and also my personal experience. There was nothing anyone could ever do to make me gay. I'm highly heterosexual and always will be. It's quite a turn off for me to see two men kissing, but that is hardly an argument against gay marriage. It is just a product of my personal sexual preferences.

          • Andrew Y.

            All the secular arguments I've seen against gay marriage seem to revolve around some idea that "gay" is contagious

            Even though it is somewhat outdated, I still find several of the arguments in this essay compelling:

            "When a state recognizes a marriage, it bestows upon the couple certain benefits which are costly to both the state and other individuals. Collecting a deceased spouse's social security, claiming an extra tax exemption for a spouse, and having the right to be covered under a spouse's health insurance policy are just a few examples of the costly benefits associated with marriage. In a sense, a married couple receives a subsidy. Why? Because a marriage between two unrelated heterosexuals is likely to result in a family with children, and propagation of society is a compelling state interest."

            http://tech.mit.edu/V124/N5/kolasinski.5c.html

            Homosexuality is of course not contagious in the sense of a disease. As I understand, the degree to which an individual is naturally attracted to the opposite sex is largely determined by genetics. But it is difficult to deny that environmental factors play a significant role in our attraction to others—regardless of gender—and impact our understanding of what constitutes an ideal family environment.

            We ought to promote the most natural, fundamental means of procuring the species. Yes, this even includes heterosexual couples incapable of procreation because they can model a procreation-capable family. Homosexual couples, regardless of the morality of their relationship, can neither procreate nor be a model of procreation. This does not mean that their relationship is any less loving, nurturing, committed, or fulfilling. Nor does it mean that the individuals themselves are any less less beautiful than the rest of creation. It is simply that their sexual inclination makes them ill-suited to procreation, and it is therefore not in the state's interest to incentivize their relationships.

            I believe we must eliminate the stigma of alternate sexual preferences without denying their genetic reality, while at the same time positioning the traditional family as the ideal social institution. The entire problem is the stigma, a filthy lie that we ourselves created and loudmouth fundamentalists continue to propagate. Legalization of gay marriage is not the only way to eliminate the stigma, nor is it a good way at all in my opinion.

            We must teach our children to strive for a traditional family themselves regardless of sexual challenges, love and support them regardless of whether they are able, and instill in them a deep respect for all people regardless of gender. Teach them that all people are equal in value and dignity yet unique in character and ability, and it is precisely this uniqueness in which we discover who we are and find beauty in ourselves and others.

          • Doug Shaver

            Whether or not your life or my life changes as a result of a gay marriage says nothing about whether it is moral.

            Neither does your say-so. I'm not calling it immoral until I see somebody getting hurt by it.

            People care because they feel misrepresented when their country sponsors something they believe to be immoral.

            The personal offense that you and those other people feel doesn't count as the kind of hurt I'm talking about.

            I feel misrepresented every time I see "In God we trust" on my money, and every time I see any government agency open its meeting with a prayer.

          • Andrew Y.

            > I'm not calling it immoral until I see somebody getting hurt by it.

            Yes, empirical evidence can certainly advance argument in one direction or the other. But since it's also possible to reason about whether something is moral without hurting anybody (and without waiting for someone or society as a whole to be hurt by it), should we not be allowed to use moral reasoning as a basis for our position?

            > The personal offense that you and those other people feel doesn't count as the kind of hurt I'm talking about.

            I didn't say that I felt any personal offense. In fact, I didn't state any opinion at all. I was simply responding to William saying that he doesn't understand why people care.

            What is a lawmaker's interest in morality if not that laws promoting good morality (assuming that such a thing exists) stand to benefit society as a whole? Thus when a citizen sees his government sponsoring something he believes to be immoral—whether this belief is founded in faith, reason, or empirical evidence—he rejects it for its perceived negative impact on society.

            It is naive to reduce the morality of gay marriage to a question of personal injury.

            > I feel misrepresented every time I see "In God we trust" on my money, and every time I see any government agency open its meeting with a prayer.

            This is precisely my point, Doug. If "In God we trust" was not written on your money, and legislation was introduced to add it, I suspect that as an atheist you would not be in favor of it.

          • Doug Shaver

            should we not be allowed to use moral reasoning as a basis for our position?

            We should use reason when making our moral decisions, no less than we should when making other decisions. I see no reason to think moral reasoning is a different kind from other reasoning.

            Thus when a citizen sees his government sponsoring something he believes to be immoral—whether this belief is founded in faith, reason, or empirical evidence—he rejects it for its perceived negative impact on society.

            OK, but when we ask them what that negative impact would be, and they can't give a coherent answer, we're entitled to suspect that the real basis for their objection is more personal than they're admitting.

            It is naive to reduce the morality of gay marriage to a question of personal injury.

            I'd accept societal injury as a valid objection, but injuries to society are bad because they result in injuries to individuals. Most of us depend on a healthy society for the means to maximize our personal welfare.

            If "In God we trust" was not written on your money, and legislation was introduced to add it, I suspect that as an atheist you would not be in favor of it.

            But I'm not asking anybody to care whether I like it. I'm asking them to have more respect for the Constitution, which that slogan, in my judgment, seems to violate. I don't see a constitutional problem with letting gay people get married.

          • Michael Murray

            If gay people get married, my life doesn't change one bit, nor does yours.

            Don't you believe it buddy! If that there Hillary gets in she'll take away your guns and force you to marry a man.

          • On (just one) strictly secular level....
            I prefer my government make laws that are intelligible as opposed to unintelligible.

          • William Davis

            Are you saying gay marriage is unintelligible? If so I'm not following. Unintelligible typically means impossible to understand. I think you and I understand gay marriage just fine, but correct me if I'm wrong ;)

          • The premise as to why the government would care about who citizens "love" or who they are sexually attracted to, and issue a license for it, is unintelligible without the element of procreation (making new citizens).

          • William Davis

            Not really. Two people can make a contract to financially support each other and deal with end of life issues (a big problem for gay couples) and inheritance without procreation. Just because you don't like it, doesn't make it unintelligible. I'm pretty sure you are misusing the word.

          • William Davis

            If you know much about law, there are sometimes good reasons to make a contract illegal (like a contract that involves illicit drugs or slavery). I don't see how that applies here.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illegal_agreement

          • David Nickol

            I am sorry, but your analogy makes no sense to me. There is nothing odd about the state granting a right, such as voting, that some citizens choose not to exercise.

          • The analogy is about an intrinsic connection between elections and voting rights just as their is an intrinsic connection between procreation and marriage rights.

            If there is no connection, people should be consistent within their position. The number "2" would have no meaning. 3 could marry or 30. Who are we to limit love? Relatives should not be restricted. Parents should be allowed to marry their adult children. Who are we to judge?

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Sorry.. your analogy does not make sense. Saying " the government allows people who are incapable of voting to vote" would be like saying "We allow people who can't get married to get married." This is different than "We allow people who can't procreate to get married."

            Perhaps a better analogy is "the government allows people who can't drive to vote."

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Polygamy is on a very different playing field than gay marriage, so I wouldn't be so quick to say that one directly leads to another. With plural marriages there would be a whole lot of new issues to work out n regards to inheritance rights, medical decision rights, etc. With 2 people, regardless of gender, these questions are easy. With more, they become complicated.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Marriage is a state of nature; hence, "the marital act."* Governments got into the act (so to speak) at first peripherally. In the Code of Khamurapi the only laws relating to marriage are those that regulate the inheritance of offspring and the joint/separate responsibility of the copulating couple for debts or crimes. Plato (in The Laws) states that laws regarding marriage should be the first laws of the state, inasmuch as they are for the growth of the state. (He suggests that men should be required to marry at thirty. But then he was a very Modern sort of busybody.)

      (*) marry (v.) c. 1300, "to give (offspring) in marriage," from Latin maritus (n.) "married man, husband," of uncertain origin, originally a past participle, perhaps ultimately from "provided with a *mari," a young woman, from PIE root *mari- "young wife, young woman."

      The relation of male-female copulation to the production of offspring was clear to the ancients. Obviously, the intention of the couple not to have children is irrelevant, inasmuch as "the universe doesn't care" what you want. The same goes for whether the act is successful at achieving its end. Not everyone who hit the beaches on Iwo Jima succeeded in the objective of the act, which was to secure a beachhead in Nazi-occupied France. Even supposedly infertile couples have been known to have had children (often, ironically, shortly after adopting).

      Marriage was then a contract between the conjugal couple and society that they (the couple) would raise any children that might result from their acts. Notice that this does not require any children to actually result. It is a precautionary measure that the offspring do not become a burden on the King's Purse or the public. This is the only basic reason for any government intrusion into the bedroom and used to (as a logical consequence) require faithfulness -- you always know the mother, but fatherhood depends on the wife's truth -- and to require lifelong commitment.

      It was not until the mid-1800s that governments in the West set themselves up to license and regulate marriage (in some states to ensure that black men did not marry white women) and like most things the government takes over, they've managed to break it after only a hundred years.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Perfect except for geography. ;)

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    One of the (many) problems with natural law is the leap form "marriage/sex results in procreation" to "therefore marriage/sex without the chance of procreation is immoral." There doesn't seem to be any connection between the two other than assertions about what marriage is ordered to do.... the logic just seems arbitrary.

  • David Nickol

    One of the questions, it seems to me, is whether or not there is such a "thing" as marriage. Does "marriage" have some kind of independent existence, with people conforming to its "laws"? Or Is marriage an institution which human beings create and adapt as circumstances change? Anthropologists generally have a very difficult time defining marriage, since their approach is to take a look at "marriage-like" arrangements and try to come up with a definition that fits them all. That is the descriptive approach, as opposed to what Robert George offers, which is the prescriptive approach.

    Although what Robert George attempts to do with marriage (and with abortion) is present arguments that make no appeal to religion, I think underlying his arguments is always the presumption that God intended very specific things, and we can know his intentions by looking at "nature." So ultimately I take his arguments to be religious in nature. And further, I think they go beyond examining nature to try to read God's mind. And when Robert George reads God's mind, it is perhaps not astounding that God, like Robert George, is a very conservative Catholic.

    • GCBill

      "Although what Robert George attempts to do with marriage (and with abortion) is present arguments that make no appeal to religion, I think underlying his arguments is always the presumption that God intended very specific things, and we can know his intentions by looking at "nature." So ultimately I take his arguments to be religious in nature."

      Indeed, and you are not the only person to notice this.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      What would happen if you substituted friendship for marriage? Would you be able to figure out whether it exists, if it has certain characteristics, and how friends should behave to preserve their friendship and integrate it into their entire lives?

      • David Nickol

        What would happen if you substituted friendship for marriage?

        That would make it very easy. Friendship admits of no precise, "clinical" definition. There are no hard and fast rules for friendship. We might disagree on whether two people are really friends or not, even if they call themselves friends. However, Robert George's definition of marriage is very precise—so precise that a specific sex act must be performed in a very specific way for a marriage to exist.

        Robert George does not approach marriage as an anthropologist would. He sees it as an arrangement with specific rules foreordained by God. According to Robert George, large numbers of people who think they are married, and whom government and society consider to be married, are in fact not married, because they have not followed what George considers to be God's rules for marriage.

        George thinks he knows "God's mind" on whether or not two persons of the same sex can be married. There is a significant chance that George is mistaken. It is possible that George is mistaken about the mind of God. It is also possible that there is no God.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          You may not have noticed but this OP has two authors: Robert George and John Finnis. They do NOT claim to know the mind of God in this OP. Their OP is not based on faith. They do show that what St. Paul taught in Romans is in general agreement with the natural law tradition (which the Catholic Church did not invent).

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I disagree that friendship cannot be defined.

          Philosophers from the time of the ancient Greeks have distinguished three kinds of love: philia or friendship; agape, charity or disinterested love; and eros or sexual love (Helm).

          Within the love which is friendship, it is common to notice three different kinds of friendship: friendships of pleasure, of utility, and of virtue. To explain, “I may love my friend because of the pleasure I get out of her, or because of the ways in which she is useful to me, or because I find her to have a virtuous character” (Helm). These three kinds of friendship can be mixed in different connotations.

          There are all kinds of good acts which foster friendship and all kinds of bad acts which would damage and even destroy it.

          Source: Bennett W. Helm, “Friendship,” from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (9 July 2009 revision). Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/friendship/.

          • David Nickol

            I disagree that friendship cannot be defined.

            I did not say friendship cannot be defined. I said, "Friendship admits of no precise, 'clinical' definition." Is there a clinically defined act (such as sexual intercourse, performed to "Catholics" specifications) that makes the difference between a valid friendship and an invalid friendship? I certainly can't think of any.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Friendship has many acts proper to it. Many of them are shared by marriage, since marriage is actually a form of friendship. But there is one act that is proper to marriage and to no other kind of friendship, that is the marital act.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Who are these people that think they are married but you think George and Finnis think are not?

          • David Nickol

            Who are these people that think they are married but you think George and Finnis think are not?

            The largest group (and it is immense) would be those who entered into a valid marriage, "divorced," and remarried. Since according to Robert George (and the Catholic Church), marriage is the exclusive, lifelong union of a man and a woman, there can be no "divorce," and no second "marriage" while the first (discarded) spouse still lives.

            Do you disagree with this?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I pretty much agree.

  • The natural law approach, like natural theology, can help make reality more intelligible. In natural theology, metaphysics can be a great way to probe but not prove reality. So, too, the natural law approach raises important questions and offers suggestive but not conclusive answers regarding moral realities.

    But the human person is so fearfully and wondrously made and human experience is so richly textured and deeply contoured that we need to probe more deeply! So, we must complement the natural law with a personalist approach and a relationality-responsibility model.

    Consider the human faculty of speech, its nature or purpose or finality. We don't absolutize this faculty but place it in the service of persons in relationship to one another. Not everyone will always have the right to the truth from us? We thus distinguish the physical act of false speech from the moral act of lying?

    So it is with human sexual acts. We don't absolutize them either but place them in the service of the good of persons and relationships, sometimes interfering with the procreative faculty, its nature or purpose or finality.

    As it is, the procreative, even when narrowly conceived in physicalistic, biologistic terms, needn't be realized in isolated acts but, instead, over the life of a relationship. But it really should be more broadly conceived to also include spiritual realities.

    I appreciate that people long for easy, formulaic answers and fear slippery slopes (the philosophic location where natural law appeals inevitably devolve) regarding both faith and morals. However, God is not a syllogism. Neither is love.

    • Doug Shaver

      The natural law approach, like natural theology, can help make reality more intelligible.

      Without either natural law (as applied to ethics) or natural theology, I have found nothing unintelligible about reality.

  • Papalinton

    This is an extraordinarily antiquated, perverse mash of moralising from this author. The egregious and harmful incursion of the Catholic Church into matters of sexuality and sexual health can not be overstated. This incursion has contributed nothing less than a grave dislocation about what people regard as fundamental private rights in relation to decision-making about their own sexual health and fecundity. The abysmal and miserable efforts by the Church to meddle in and impose its unwarranted and unwholesome dictats onto people's personal affairs is unconscionable. Be it contraception, its attitude towards women's health care and sovereignty over her own body, its attitude to abortion, homosexuality and same-sex marriage, the Church has been the sanctimonious outlier and self-righteous hypocrite, so out of step with today's social mores and community standards as to render it irrelevant. And for the Church to condemn condom use in Africa to prevent the spread of AIDS, as a sin or an evil, simply defies logic and reason. Catholic reasoning is both antithetical to justice and antisocial.

    No, Catholic sexual ethics is not “still” as fully reasonable today as it was when St Paul expounded. It is a mixed and convoluted bag of nonsense and stupidity. More people are leaving the church today primarily because of its absurdly incomprehensible and idiotic stance on the issue of sexual health and sexuality. Its bigoted attitude toward homosexuality and same-sex marriage, its utterly bizarre objection of refusing a child that has been brutally raped the option of an abortion, are but some of the salient lessons of the Church's wickedness that people are increasingly taking into account and voting with their feet, turning away from the church. While ever the Church's perverse stance obdurately remains it will continue to be its undoing in the eyes of the broader community.

    • Michael Murray

      Well said.

    • I completely agree. Maybe Catholics here and elsewhere should first persuade the non-Catholics to believe their stories, and then proceed with the bigotry. Starting with the bigotry is bad marketing.

      • Mike

        Starting with Bigotry?

        Really? So most of europe is bigoted, italy still is? switzerland is? austria is? germany is? ireland still is? finland was up until 2 months ago?

        Most of the world is still bigoted? Barack obama was a bigot 3 years ago?

        • Should we be surprised that, even after all this time, the world is still so backwards? I was an absolute hot-headed bigot on this issue just three years ago. I'm still dealing with my own homophobia.

          But even two years ago, I think I would have had the sense not to lead with my bigotry.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think George and Finnis are eminently reasonable and not bigoted in the least. How can you accuse these authors of being bigots when they offer detailed reasons for everything they claim? "Bigot" today seems to be a word meant to substitute for listening to another point of view. If you just call it bigoted you can dismiss it.

          • You are correct in your assessment. I am being dismissive. I don't think that this position is reasonable or respectable enough to be worth much consideration. Treating positions like this seriously gives them too much credit. There was a time that this debate was worthwhile. There was a time the debate about interracial marriage was worthwhile. These times have passed.

            This is one of the reasons I didn't comment on the article itself. I wasn't sure I should even have replied to any of the comments (although it seemed safe, since I was merely agreeing with the commenter). I prefer to keep conversation here positive, and commenting on a position that to me seems a time-wasting practice in hate didn't seem very productive.

            Maybe I shouldn't have said anything at all.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I respect that.

          • Mike

            well maybe you were bigoted by unless you think the European Court of Human Rights is bigoted, thinking that redefining marriage is a bad idea is NOT bigoted and neither is thinking that same sex acts are immoral.

            you're maybe being brainwashed by radical leftists into thinking you must support 100% of their radical agenda or be some kind of bigot. they're lying and they know it as even some gay ppl are not onboard with their extremist tendencies...look up Dolce and Gabbana and how they were treated to speaking their minds AS GAY MEN!

          • Some blacks supported segregation.

          • Mike

            LOL!

          • Mike

            BTW for what it's worth Paul you're too smart to be repeating that kind of non-sense.

          • But it's true! Some blacks did support segregation! At least, as far as I've been able to tell, this is a true claim.

          • Mike

            Paul are you assuming that there is some kind of real essential difference btw the races? bc it seems like you think that skin pigment = some kind of category difference, not a difference in degree but in kind, when the amount of pigment in a person's skin has ZERO to do with the essential nature of a human being.

            so what we're saying is that skin color is a purely accidental feature of a person like hair texture or left handed ness but the human sexual faculty/function is NOT accidental but by its very nature directed to something very very crucial whereas skin color, hair texture, height, left handed ness are NOT by their nature directed to anything in particular.

            comparing moral disapproval of ACTS and not just any acts but those acts whose very nature is directed towards union and reproduction to having black/brown skin is i am sorry to inform you very insulting especially to african americans many of whom resent the comparison for good reason.

          • Someone's skin color is admittedly less essential to their person than their sexual preferences. It would then seem even more barbaric, out of pure and vile prejudice disguised with colorful old philosophical terms like natural law, to deny what is close to someone's heart, what is an essential part of them, their expression of romantic love.

            You can disparage their expression of love, you can call it unnatural and the like, you can treat it as a second-class relationship, because it just so happens that they love someone with a different skin color. You can also disparage and mistreat their expression of love because they happen to love someone of the same sex.

            That sex is closer to the core of our being than race would, if anything, make the hate crime worse. Not simply to hate something accidental about the person, but to hate something closer to the person's core identity. That attitude, and not the relationship, is what's disgusting.

          • Michael Murray

            That attitude, and not the relationship, is what's disgusting.

            I agree. The good news though is the dramatic change we have seen in the last 50 years. The Catholic Church can say what it likes but marriage equality in most developed countries has either happened or will shortly. It's a remarkable change from homosexual acts being illegal to just about completely socially acceptable. The latest US ambassador to Australia is gay and has brought his partner with him. Hardly anyone in Australia even noticed. That isn't to say there isn't still homophobia but beyond the narrow confines of conservative Catholic websites the world has changed for the better!

          • Papalinton

            And much for the better sans Catholic bigotry.

          • I completely agree! I think the Catholic world (apart from some dark corners, like the one Robert George lives in) has also made some positive strides. The laity in some places are becoming more vocal, for example in San Francisco, http://www.sfgate.com/news/item/Catholics-Ad-38983.php . The western world is changing for the better, on this issue at least.

          • Mike

            i don't disparage "gay love" at all and neither does the catholic church! but gay SEX is something different morally.

          • Kissing is ok? Holding hands is ok?

            Sex is an expression of romantic love. If you are against the sex, then at some point, you have to be against the romantic love (I cannot see a way out of it). You don't think its full expression can be moral, which casts any expression of sexual love in a bad light.

            Someone could think that adultery is morally wrong (I certainly do!). This would mean that a married man having sex with a man not his husband is wrong. This act, between these two people, would be morally unacceptable. It would therefore seem prudent to characterise the romantic love itself, in all its expressions, as to some degree objectionable. A married man shouldn't hold hands with a man not his husband, or kiss him, or say that he loves him, or write sonnets to him, etc. He should reserve those expressions, all of them, to his husband, to whom he has made a lifelong commitment, to whom he has promised his heart, his soul and his body.

            I think that romantic love between two men is ethical, and its fullest expression between two loving adults should be legally upheld as marriage. Such an expression in its purest form could only be virtuous and a positive influence to society. I also think anyone who uses varied natural law arguments against such a position has tried to dress their bigotry in scholarship. Something I'm not surprised a Princeton academic would do.

          • Mike

            yes homosex is immoral but agape love between ppl of the same sex is very moral and noble imho.

            a man by definition can not have a husband he can only have a wife but i understand that those terms have/are being redefined by the rich elite in our western society.

            BTW there's no point in a man not being with another man since they can't even consummate their relationships let alone reproduce...incidentally this is what EVERY secular study of gay relationships has found that especially the men are NOT monogamous and don't see any reason to be - their "marriages"are astonishingly open but again i don't blame them as there is no reason i can see why they shouldnt be...again this is why ppl like me say if you redefine marriage to include 2 additional new forms ie all male and all female that youll undermine the monogamous nature of marriage which in the end will not hurt gays but will very VERY much hurt the poor.

            If you don't mind me saying i think you're over compensating for your "bigoted"earlier years...and this kind of boiler plate repetition of talking points doesn't suit you Paul...but that's just my personal opinion.

      • Papalinton

        I think the likelihood of that scenario is distantly remote as the community and the people of today are significantly wiser and a deal more educated than when religion basked in its halcyon day of domination. As with the crumbling of the Roman Empire so too the inexorable path of the Church.

        The practice of religious bigotry was de rigeur for the pious of old and deemed an honourable belief. Today? Not so much.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I read your comment twice. You just make claim after claim in the most insulting manner. You offer no rationale for any of your claims. I think you are just emoting.

    • "Your ideas and actions are antiquated, perverse, egregious, harmful, abysmal, miserable, unwholesome, unconscionable, sanctimonious, self-righteous, hypocritical, irrelevant, illogical, irrational, unjust, antisocial, convoluted, nonsensical, stupid, absurd, incomprehensible, idiotic, prurient, bigoted, bizarre, and wicked."

      Man, I've heard some non-starters for dialogue, but that takes the cake!

      • Papalinton

        Thanks for that Matthew. And the contexts into which they were placed reflect a deep and abiding malaise in Catholic thought on the nature of sexuality and sexual health which have simply been eschewed by the broader community as repugnant. I would be happy should you wish to contest the points that I have made. Please focus on the issues canvassed. That is the fundamental concern. If you have difficulty in discerning the six main points I offer, please advise and I will dot-point them.

  • Doug Shaver

    For us what counts about an argument is whether it is sound, i.e., whether its premises are true and its logic valid.

    Good. That what counts for me, too.

    If a line of thought about the morality of sex is reasonable today, it was reasonable in the time of Jesus or Plato or Abraham or as far back as we find men and women and their children.

    I wish the authors had been explicit about how they see the relationship between reasonableness and soundness. Of course the validity of an argument cannot change over time, but if they're suggesting that no reasonable person can doubt the eternal truth of their premises, I must disagree with all due respect.

    Whether arguments “work” persuasively in one era but not another is philosophically irrelevant, as any philosopher should take for granted.

    I take it for granted that the soundness of an argument cannot be judged by the number of people who find it persuasive.

    The idea is not “heterosexual union,” nor “shared acts directed towards reproduction,” nor any of the other concepts Gutting refers to and associates with “nature.” Instead, it’s the idea—the intrinsic human value—of marriage.

    I don't accept the premise that a morally relevant distinction can be made between intrinsic and utilitarian value. I embrace a consequentialist ethical code. I must regard any moral argument that incorporates a deontological premise as unsound.

    The shaping end of procreation-and-nurturing thus unifies and explains all the features of marriage as “traditionally” understood:

    Agreed: Children are the reason we humans invented marriage, and it is a sufficient reason. That does not make it the only reason for its continued existence.

  • I think what is happening in this piece is that theological reasons are being proposed as natural reasons.

    I think marriage is an especially complete loving union, but I see no reason for the requirement to say it is oriented towards procreation. It is at least not necessarily so. Many straight and gay people orient their marriages towards procreation, many do not.

    The other aspect of this that is missing is that fundamentally marriage is actually a legal and economic situation, enforced by the state. The union, the love, the procreation and parenthood are all equally possible and do occur absent a contract of marriage.

    It is the denial of these rights on the basis of sexual orientation, that is discriminatory, and this is why we are accepting that our laws must no longer impose a detriment on same same sex couples in this way.

    The catholic position is discriminatory.

    • Phil

      Hey Brian,

      We have to remember that we can look to the nature of the human person and proclaim that a single man and woman can form a relationship that is completely unique when compared to any other human relationship. No other combination of persons can naturally conceive a child and form a natural family. Both the state and the major religions have called, and must continue to call, this unique relationship a "marriage".

      If a person wishes to call a homosexual union a "marriage" then rationally one would have to change what they call the heterosexual union, because you can't rationally call a homosexual and heterosexual union the same thing, because they are not the same thing.

      In other words, the Catholic position is just discrimination, not unjust discrimination.

      Here is a short essay I wrote up on this topic:
      https://www.facebook.com/notes/10155647098630508/?pnref=story

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        You're pointing out that opposite-sex relationships are unique and different than same-sex relationships in a variety of ways. That's true, but it doesn't have any bearing on whether or not same-sex relationships or acts are moral.

        • Phil

          Hi OverlappingMagisteria,

          Very true, and that was because I was responding Brian's comment which was about marriage.

          --------

          Now, in regards to sexual morality--when it is based upon reason, it's actually pretty straight forward.

          The sexual and reproductive organs of the human person are obviously ordered towards procreation and the continuation of the species. For human persons this includes the unity of parents since children will die if the parents simply abandon them.

          So two things are needed for a properly ordered sexual act: (1) The physical act that could potentiality lead to procreation (i.e., sexual intercourse)
          (2) Commitment of the man and woman for the raising of the children that may be conceived.

          If one uses their sexuality in a way that directly undermines this natural end--e.g., masturbation, homosexuality (which is really just mutual masturbation), direct contraception, sex outside of a committed union--then one is acting in a way that is not in accord with the natural end of human sexuality. This means that the act is immoral.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            How do you determine what sex is ordered towards? I agree that sex certainly can result in procreation, but it also results in pleasure, unity, exercise, stress relief. It can also be used and has historically been used for (and I do not endorse all of these) dominance, control, bargaining, pain. Why pick out procreation (and unity, if I correctly understand Natural Law) as the aspects that are in accord with the natural end and not the others? Couldn't we also say that sex is obviously ordered toward pleasure and stress relief, so a sex act that is dull or stressful is therefore disordered?

            I also don't see you get from something being "not in accord with its natural end" to it being, therefore, immoral. Why would using something in a novel way become immoral. An admittedly silly example I used in a comment above is that the nose is ordered toward breathing and smelling, therefore using it to prop up my glasses is immoral? There does not seem to be connection from one to another.

          • Phil

            I agree that sex certainly can result in procreation, but it also results in pleasure, unity, exercise, stress relief

            Think about the sexual organs--if a person claims that pleasure is the natural end of them then you can't make sense of the sperm, the egg, fallopian tubes, the uterus, etc. This is because none of those things are necessary for the pleasure from sexual intercourse. But because they are naturally present, the proper end must explain their existence as most completely as possible.

            And reason can tell us that the end that most comprehensively explains the entirely of the sexual organs is procreation through unity with a person of the opposite sex.

            Pleasure, exercise, stress relief cannot explain these facts. Pleasure can be present, just like it is in eating, to encourage us to take part in a natural good (i.e., procreation and physical sustenance). But just because there is pleasure in both eating and sex doesn't mean that the reason for the digestive system is pleasure, just as much as the sexual organs proper end isn't pleasure. If we begin using eating or sex for the proper end of pleasure, we will find ourselves in trouble (and not just moral trouble).

            That's beauty of the Catholic moral teaching--it is all about directing us towards what brings about a truly flourishing human person. what brings about a truly flourishing human person is acting in accordance to the nature of the human person, and this we call the "moral" thing to do.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            That's an interesting way of determining the proper end of sex, but it seems that using that method would cause some problems for your case. In the same way that pleasure does not make sense of sperm, egg, etc... procreation does not make sense of foreskin, pubic hair, the clitoris, hymen, and more. None of these are needed for procreation, and in some cases are even detrimental to it. So I suppose, using this method, we should conclude that the natural end of sex is not procreation, but something else?

            But in either case, I don't think that proper ends really matter. I notice that you did not respond to my point that there isn't a connection between the end or purpose of something and the morality of it. If I were to accept that the natural end of sex is procreation that doesn't mean using it in a different way is immoral. This is the is/ought problem. The way something is, does not tell us what we ought to do.

            That's beauty of the Catholic moral teaching--it is all about directing us towards what brings about a truly flourishing human person, a truly joyful and peace-filled person.

            Oh please!!! Please tell the gay man that not expressing his love physically, that suppressing normal human passions is making him a "flourishing" and "truly joyful" person! Tell that to the woman in poverty who can't afford another child! I understand that you believe that Catholic teaching is grand, but also understand that it causes suffering as well.

          • Phil

            On the natural end of sex:

            You are exactly correct--the foreskin, pubic hair, the clitoris, and hymen and not necessary for procreation. Remember, we are trying to explain the sexual system as a whole. And when we do so, it is quite obvious that the natural end of it is procreation. That really can't be argued against rationally.

            People can say that one can use their sex organs for something else besides procreation and this does not mean that it suddenly has a different natural end. A person can take a fully functioning car and throw a match in the gas tank and say its "a bomb". Sure the car may explode, but that does not mean that the car's end was to be "an explosive" and not "a car". Just because you can use a car as an explosive doesn't mean that it actually is an explosive.

            (Check out the link to the article I sent you above.)

            ------------

            Please tell the gay man that not expressing his love physically, that suppressing normal human passions is making him a "flourishing" and "truly joyful" person! Tell that to the woman in poverty who can't afford another child! I understand that you believe that Catholic teaching is grand, but also understand that it causes suffering as well.

            These are emotional and not rational arguments. I'm not saying the teachings are easy and that there aren't a lot of emotions flying around (which is what makes discussing them rationally so hard sometimes). I have actually not had a person tell me that they have tried to truly embrace Catholic sexual teachings for an extended period of time and say that they weren't more at peace and joyful--not one. Sure, it may be hard but everything that is truly worth doing is not easy.

            What I will tell you is that Catholic moral teaching does bring true joy and peace. A person must be lying through their teeth and ignoring the facts if they look at America and say that since we began to throw of Christian morality in the 1950s-1906s that we are headed in the right direction and people are in general happier.

          • If you are black, a woman or homosexual, you would very much say that America has made enormous moral progress since the 1950s. That is the majority of the population. But I think things are better for white men too.

            crime rates are down, health has improved

          • Phil

            I agree with you 100% that there have been many things that woman, African-Americans, and those that are attracted to persons of the same-sex have gained.

            But in the end, the good things that we have gained over the past 60 years is far outweighed by the evil that came along with all that.

            We are starting to see the evil and unrest coming to the surface in all these "race riots" the past few months. As I've mentioned before, we will continue to see the evil bubbling up around the world with more violence and economic collapse. This is happening because of the general loss in faith in God. When we stray from God, we start to bring about bad things because we make bad choices. But once the "light" of the secular world vanishes, that will be the opportunity of the light of God, through the Church, to break through!

          • This is an opinion that is not borne out by the facts. There were race riots in the 60's too. Let's of them. Cops shot protesters dead. black people were lynched and killed all the time. We can play anecdote games and subjective weighing of the value of the civil rights movement, women's movement and so on.

            Better to come up with actual facts. Crime rates are down, people are healthier, have a better quality of life. Fewer die in wars. Women have enormously more choices, they can easier get into colleges, jobs. Gay people can be who they are publicly with much less fear of being beaten or killed.

          • Michael Murray

            Better to come up with actual facts. Crime rates are down, people are healthier, have a better quality of life. Fewer die in wars. Women have enormously more choices, they can easier get into colleges, jobs. Gay people can be who they are publicly with much less fear of being beaten or killed.

            Don't forget the numbers attending mass are way down as well. For example

            Catholicism is now the largest church tradition in Australia and the Catholic population continues to grow, although weekly Mass attendance has declined from an estimated 74% in the mid-50's to around 14% in 2006.

            Progress everywhere you look!

          • Phil

            Crime rates are down, people are healthier, have a better quality of life.

            Just wait about a year or two. The dysfunction and general unhappiness of people will sadly be coming to the surface. It is sorrowful situation, but it will come. When life changes dramatically because of the coming violence and economic collapse, many people will despair. We need to embrace faith and trust in God and his natural law.

            his is an opinion that is not borne out by the facts. There were race riots in the 60's too. Let's of them. Cops shot protesters dead. black people were lynched and killed all the time. We can play anecdote games
            and subjective weighing of the value of the civil rights movement, women's movement and so on.

            Exactly; I was pointing out that there are still tensions beneath the surface that are coming up once again. The biggest supporter of the rights of African-Americans in the 60s were Christians and religious people in general! They were singing hymns as they marched; that is what united them.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            ...it is quite obvious that the natural end of it is procreation. That really can't be argued against rationally.

            Nor can can it be argued for rationally either, it seems. You are applying your arguments selectively to suit your conclusion. When I proposed pleasure as an end of sex, you objected on the grounds that sperm, ova, etc are unnecessary for pleasure. You propose procreation as an end of sex and agree that the foreskin, clitoris, etc are unnecessary for procreation, but do not similarly reject procreation as you did with pleasure. In both cases there are unnecessary "appendices." To reject one conclusion and not the other is entirely inconsistent.

            You have again avoided describing why (even if I were to accept that the natural end of sex is procreation) using something in a way other than its natural end is therefore immoral. I am suspecting that you know of no reason. Your exploding car analogy is a good illustration. If I were to use my car as an explosive (perhaps I'm filming an action movie) this would not be immoral. Sure, I'm using the car in a way other than its natural end (even undermining its natural end - the car will never drive again), but so what? It's not immoral.

            These are emotional and not rational arguments.

            I disagree. You claimed that Catholic teaching leads to joy and flourishing. I gave counter-examples of where Catholic teaching leads away from joy and flourishing. Just because the argument deals with emotions does not mean it is not rational. I understand why you would want to close your eyes to these experiences.

            Regarding the general happiness since the 50s/60s... I think Brian Green Adams has addressed that point sufficiently, so I'll just say "ditto." I'll also add that teen pregnancy rates have been dropping as well: http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2014/05/05/ You're focusing on anecdotes, but the data says otherwise.

          • Phil

            You have again avoided describing why (even if I were to accept that thenatural end of sex is procreation) using something in a way other than its natural end is therefore immoral. I am suspecting that you know of no reason.

            To put it simply, what most completely explains the entirety of the sexual systems of the human person as a whole--of course it is procreation and unity between persons! To say that this is not the case is to say that the digestive does not have as a natural end digestion and the taking in of physical sustenance.

            From what you wrote, I don't think it is quite clear what I am explaining (much of this probably has to do with the fact that I am not explaining it well). So again, if you haven't read this yet, this explains natural law well:

            http://philosophy.cua.edu/res/docs/faculty/rss/What%20is%20Natural%20Law.pdf

            ---------

            Regarding the general happiness since the 50s/60s... I think Brian Green Adams has addressed that point sufficiently, so I'll just say "ditto."

            Again, just keep an eye on where world events head over the next several years. The dysfunction will become very apparent.

          • David Nickol

            What I will tell you is that Catholic moral teaching does bring true joy and
            peace. A person must be lying through their teeth and ignoring the facts if they look at America and say that since we began to throw out Christian morality on a large scale after 1950s/1960s that we are headed in the right direction and people are in general happier.

            You said in your response to OverlappingMagisteria, "These are emotional and not rational arguments. . . . " And then you say

            What I will tell you is that Catholic moral teaching does bring true joy and peace. A person must be lying through their teeth and ignoring the facts if they look at America and say that since we began to throw out Christian morality on a large scale after 1950s/1960s that we are headed in the right direction and people are in general happier.

            Do you really put that forward as a rational argument? And how do we quantify the happiness of the 1950s and 1960s and compare it to the happiness of the current decade, and furthermore demonstrate that any alleged decline in happiness is the result of "throw[ing] out Christian morality on a large scale"? How in the world would you measure such things and make correlations? (Actually, some people do try.)

            Also, can you tell us which countries are happier than the United States and headed in the right direction?

          • Michael Murray

            I think it's important to separate out Christian morality from Catholic sexual morality. Most people I suspect would regard Christian morality as caring for the poor and sick, turning the other cheek, loving thy enemy, all the Sermon on the Mount, Golden Rule stuff. I don't think most Western societies I know have moved away from a commitment to those ideals although I'm sure I don't need to point out our failures to live up to them.

            Catholic sexual morality with it's opposition to any form of sexual activity that cannot in principle lead to conception, opposition to homosexuality, opposition to all contraception and its extreme position on abortion is a different question all together. It's a minority position in Western societies and a minority position amongst those who regard themselves as Catholics.

          • Phil

            I think you assumed that I put forward that observation as a hardcore philosophical (i.e., rational) argument. That was actually not the case. I apologize if it wasn't clear. It was just an observation. Now I do think it is very true that if a person wants to be truly joyful and peace-filled, Catholic moral teaching is what you ought to look at--no doubt about that.

            Also, can you tell us which countries are happier than the United States and headed in the right direction?

            Actually, at this point much of the world is very secularized and find themselves in a similar place to the U.S. (Which is why the darkness of the coming years may be so great.)

            Now I don't personally think that the U.S. is the least happy at all. I have not studied this point so I do not have the expertise to talk about it. But I do know from my personal experience, the majority of people I have encountered here are not peace or joy filled. Sadly, secularism has robbed so many people of this.

          • David Nickol

            It was just an observation.

            It seems to me that an "observation" would be in the form of a personal opinion (e.g., "In my view, the United States was a happier place in the 1950s and early 1960s before . . . .") rather than a thundering pronouncement that condemns anyone who disagrees with you: "A person must be lying through their teeth and ignoring the facts if they look at America and say . . . . "

          • Pofarmer

            "but also understand that it causes suffering as well."

            That's actually considered a bonus.

          • Pofarmer

            What if there are multiple natural ends, as biology, psychology, and sociology, among others, suggests? What if the most important natural end ISN'T the one that you're fixated on? In fact, what if excessive fixation on you're posited "natural end" actually causes more problems than it solves regarding things like Poverty, starvation, over population, resource depletion?

          • Phil

            Absolutely, things can have multiple natural ends. The 2 natural ends of the sexual systems of the human person is procreation and unity between the two persons.

            If either of these two are directly undermined, you have an issue.

          • Pofarmer

            Why just these two?

          • Phil

            What other natural ends would you recommend that the entire sexual system of the human person is oriented towards?

            Any other thing you put forward would seem to fall underneath these two. The pleasure of sexual acts orients a person to take part in the act so as to bring about unity and to possibly bring about procreation. The main purpose of the sexual systems is obviously not pleasure--you don't need sperm, eggs, uterus, etc. to cause pleasure from the sexual system.

          • Pofarmer

            And you don't need the pleasure to perform the procreative aspects. Obviously, the sexual system is about more than procreation.

          • William Davis

            If one uses their sexuality in a way that directly undermines this natural end--e.g., masturbation, homosexuality (which is really just mutual masturbation), direct contraception, sex outside of a committed union--then one is acting in a way that is not in accord with the natural end of human sexuality. This means that the act is immoral.

            With your logic, chewing gum should be immoral. When one chews gum, he uses his digestive system in a way that is not in accord with the natural end of the digestive system (intake of nutrients). Thus if the gum is spit out, the act should be immoral.

          • Phil

            Read this first, as it should make my comment below even more sense:
            http://philosophy.cua.edu/res/docs/faculty/rss/What%20is%20Natural%20Law.pdf

            Remember, what makes an act immoral is if it directly undermines the natural end of the digestive system. This is obviously not the case with gum.

            There are 3 main ways something can be used:
            1) In perfect alignment with the natural end (e.g., eating steak). This is moral.

            2) Not in perfect alignment with the natural end, but not undermining the natural end (e.g., chewing gum) This is moral.

            3) Undermining the natural end. (e.g., actions of bulimia, like purging)

          • William Davis

            This is obviously not the case with gum. It allows the digestive system to keep taking in nutrients.

            Masturbation and contraception do nothing to stop the sexual organs from working (like gum allows the digestive system to keep taking nutrients).

            It is important to realize that sperm, if not ejaculated, is broken down and reabsorbed into the body. Therefore un-ejaculated sperm meets the same fate as ejaculated sperm. In fact, after ejaculation, the body can replace nearly all the sperm in 15-30 minutes. Thus, any form of ejaculation does nothing to hinder the normal operation of the sexual systems.

            It is also important to realize that there is only a period in which a women can get pregnant every month. If one continues to follow your argument, it might be immoral to even ejaculate in a woman when she isn't at peak fertility.

            Personally I think we have a constant and strong sex drive for a reason. Women want sex even when they aren't fertile, and this is likely due to the role that sex plays in pair bonding. After intercourse many hormones are release that strengthen the bond between the couple, regardless of whether act resulted in reproduction. I think this "natural end" of sexuality is something the Church missed altogether. Thus non-procreative sex still meets one of the "natural ends" of the system.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pair_bond

            I really can't see why the Church hasn't revised it's position in light of this seemingly obvious problem, but perhaps you can explain why I'm wrong :)

          • Phil

            Masturbation and contraception do nothing to stop the sexual organs from working.

            That was a bad way that I phrased it. Masturbation and contraception directly undermine the natural end of procreation.

            It would not be proper to say that chewing gum undermines the end of gaining sustenance. If the gum passes through the digestive system without any problems, one can't say it undermines the end.

            After intercourse many hormones are release that strengthen the bond between the couple, regardless of whether act resulted in reproduction. I think this "natural end" of sexuality is something the Church missed
            altogether. Thus non-procreative sex still meets one of the "natural ends" of the system.

            You are correct, the Church already recognizes this natural end! If you go back and read my earlier comments above, there are two natural ends to sexuality in the human person: (1) potential for procreation and (2) Union between spouses.

            That is why if potential for procreation or the unitive end (e.g., sex outside of marriage) is directly undermined, it is considered immoral.

            Check out Catechism #2332 and the surrounding paragraphs!

          • William Davis

            So contraception is fine because sex is still fulfilling one natural end. I would think masturbation if I'm imagining my wife should be find too, because it increases my bond with her, even if it isn't increases her bond with me at the same time. I can see the argument about masturbation while watching porn (lustful thoughts for another), though personally I wouldn't call it immoral.

          • Phil

            So contraception is fine because sex is still fulfilling one natural end.

            If the aim of the contraception is to directly avoid the potential for procreation, it is immoral.

            The Catholic Church promotes fertility awareness methods as a valid way to space births. As you mentioned, a woman is naturally not fertile during parts of her cycle. And with modern biology, a man and woman can relatively easily and cheaply track fertility to successfully avoid a pregnancy with 98%+ accuracy (my parents actually had a 100% success rate at avoiding pregnancy when they weren't ready, with fertility awareness methods; no artificial contraception was ever needed).

            Not having sex when a woman is fertile and having sex with a woman is infertile does not undermine the end of sex. Remember, the natural end of sex is potential for procreation, not actual procreation. We can't directly control if conception successfully happens or not.

            I would think masturbation if I'm imagining my wife should be find too, because it increases my bond with her, even if it isn't increases her bond with me at the same time.

            Even if one could successfully argue this (which is very debatable), you would still be undermining the natural end of potential for procreation, even though the end of unity might be preserved (I personally don't think it would). So it would still be immoral. Remember both unity and potential for procreation must not be directly undermined.

          • William Davis

            Not having sex when a woman is fertile and having sex with a woman is infertile does not undermine the end of sex.

            I can't for the life of me see how this is any different from contraception. You are using your intelligence to have sex and prevent pregnancy. That's the bottom line. Sex timing and contraception achieve the exact same end, just using a different methods. It's like using an adjustable wrench instead of a boxed end wrench.

          • Phil

            In one you are actively trying to reject fertility (artificial contraception). With the other, you are trying to validly avoid pregnancy, but you are naturally leaving yourself open to it.

            Sure, I'll admit its a small distinction. But that does not make it so the distinction isn't there.

          • William Davis

            Pope Paul VI predicted exactly what would happen is artificial contraception was accepted as a culture. That wasn't just a coincidence.

            Not sure I understand what you mean here.

            Sure, I'll admit its a small distinction. But that does not make it so the distinction isn't there. In the end, it makes all the difference in the world!

            I guess it makes a difference if you are Catholic, to me it seems making a mountain out of a mole hill, but different strokes for different folks :) As long as Catholics don't try to make contraception illegal or something crazy, we're good. Personally, I respect the legal right for Catholic organizations to refuse to pay for contraception unless it is medically necessary. I'm a bit of a libertarian :) That doesn't mean I agree with the position of course, but it is what it is.

          • Phil

            That's fair. And no, the Church has never said that contraceptives should be completely outlawed, even though they are immoral under certain circumstances.

            -----

            On Pope Paul VI:

            Not sure I understand what you mean here.

            When he wrote "Humanae Vitae", which is the encyclical that proclaimed that artificial birth control used for the purposes of avoiding potential conception was immoral, he listed 4 things that would happen if sex and procreation became separated, which is what widespread use of contraception does (this was written mid-1960s):

            1) Increase in martial infidelity and divorce.

            2) Respect for woman would decrease, because men could now more easily use them for their own selfish pleasure without having to worry about pregnancy.

            3) Government may begin to force contraceptives in some way. How relevant is this in regards to your last comment!

            Here are his exact words, "Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone."

            4) Overall breakdown of morals. This really can't be debated that people have began to act less in accordance with traditional values and morals.

            ---

            Look at 1970 to 2015. Who cannot say that Pope Paul VI was prophetic with these 4 things!

          • William Davis

            Respect for woman would decrease, because men could now more easily use them for their own selfish pleasure without having to worry about pregnancy.

            I don't know if this is the case. Sure with contraception people are enabled to have more recreational sex, but I wouldn't think there is a direct link between this an loss of respect for women. In general I'd say there is a lack of respect for people (men and women) because of irrational obsession with money and material things that never succeed in making someone happy. Unhappy people tend to be disrespectful. We could argue all day about the cause, but I think we both agree that embracing a better philosophy leads to a better on-look on life, and that leads to a better life and more respect.

            If you think about it though, this is a positive argument for gay men. At least they aren't taking advantage of women, and there is no need for contraception ;)

            3) Government may begin to force contraceptives in some way.

            I'm not for this at all, but I do wonder if something like this may be in store for our future. From a scientific and economic standpoint, the exponential growth of the human population is a real problem. Not only is this a massive strain on natural resources, but it is almost impossible for economies to grow fact enough to keep up with the need for more jobs. I don't know what the solution is for population growth, and thankfully it does seem to be slowing naturally, no thanks to Catholicism (no offense intended). The miracle of modern medicine has enabled us to live longer and mostly avoid the terrible tragedy that is the loss of a child. Gifts often come with a price, and I think the price is that we simply can't have as many babies as we used to, the planet and human civilization can't afford it. I think contraception is part of the solution for a problem we have accidentally created by using technology to fulfill one of Christ's missions (to heal the sick, especially children). Personally I can't see how God wouldn't be fine with this moral adaption in light of our current problems. Even though I'm a libertarian, I personally think it is unethical for a couple to have 7 children with the world in the condition it is in, but that's just my personal opinion. Enough people will cause the world to starve, it's just math. So far technology has been able to keep up, but I can't imagine that going on forever. It's better for individuals to manage this themselves (personal responsibility) than for governments to intervene, and that will happen when the first food shortages hit, mark my words.

          • Phil

            Sure with contraception people are enabled to have more recreational sex, but I wouldn't think there is a direct link between this an loss of respect for women. In general I'd say there is a lack of respect for people (men and women) because of irrational obsession with money and material things that never succeed in making someone happy. Unhappy people tend to be disrespectful.

            I definitely agree that there is a connection between seeking happiness in material things and disrespect for others. It all goes back to selfishness. This ties into seeking selfish pleasures to bring about happiness; and one of the greatest ways this happens is through sexuality since it is able to bring about one of the greatest physical pleasures known to the human person.

            If you make it even easier to gain this pleasure without consequences, it makes it even easier to use others for your own selfish pleasures instead of making your body and soul a gift to the other person, which is the proper use of sexuality.

            The human person needs no extra encouragement to use sexuality in the wrong way, and artificial contraception has done this--as Paul VI rightly predicted.

          • Pofarmer

            1) Increase in divorce was largely caused by women realizing they didn't have to stay with abusive losers.

            2) Any evidence whatsoever?

            3) No idea where you think this is happening.

            4) Morals are ALWAYS and in all ages a moving target. If you know anything about history at all, this appears to have always been the case. This is just religious Anxiety and fear of change.

            "Who cannot say that Pope Paul VI was prophetic with these 4 things!'

            Looks about as good as any other biblical "Prophecy."

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            I'll add that #4 is almost a tautology: I predict that if we go away from this traditional standard of sexual morality, then people will go away from traditional moral standards!

          • Pofarmer

            Agreed.

          • Michael Murray

            As long as Catholics don't try to make contraception illegal or something crazy, we're good.

            In my city and more widely in the country they increasingly dominate the private health sector and refuse to provide reproductive services in those hospitals.

          • William Davis

            I'm thankful for where I live. Yes, technically it's the "South", but I live in the Research Triangle area:

            The unique “Research Triangle” area of North Carolina has captured national and international attention. The “triangle” is formed by the three geographic points of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill that are home to the area’s top-tier research universities: NC State, Duke University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Because of this wealth of educational and research opportunities, the triangle contains one of the highest concentrations of Ph.D. scientists and engineers per capita, in the nation. The highly educated workforce in the Triangle is extremely attractive to companies, many of which engage in collaborative programs within the area universities.

            http://catalog.ncsu.edu/undergraduate/teachandresearch/

            More Ph.Ds seems to make this a much better place to live, and we have excellent hospitals here with no problems when it comes to IVF, contraception and other medical miracles.
            I didn't realize Catholics could actually affect policy decision in hospitals, but we all tend to think where we live is indicative of everywhere.

          • Michael Murray

            In Australia we have an excellent public health system funded by the taxpayer. But we also have private hospitals and a system of private health cover. People in the higher end of the income spectrum are penalised under the taxation system if they aren't signed up to private health cover. The private hospitals are an essential part of the system politically and medically as they help to keep down waiting lists for operations. But some are run by groups such as the Sisters of the Little Company of Jesus

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisters_of_the_Little_Company_of_Mary

            they tend to have give away names like Calvary :-). Of course they won't do abortions, sterilisations (eg vasectomies) or provide contraception. Here is an example of the kind of fiasco that can arise when doctors trialling a thalidomide derived drug for treating cancer wanted to provide contraceptive advice to patients because, of course, you don't want people taking thalidomide getting pregnant.

            http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/catholic-hospital-bars-contraception-advice-20110605-1fnj3.html

          • William Davis

            How many of these situations have to occur before people realize that there are limits to applying 1000 year old moral principles in an era of rapid technological progress?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The principles are 2000 years old. ;)

            Anyway, how does technological progress make a principle invalid? An olive pit and an IUD do the same thing. So do exposure and infanticide. If contraception and killing infants are wrong, the means for doing either is not the issue.

          • William Davis

            Not really 2000 years old. A lot of this comes from Aquanis and medieval philosophy, not Jesus or Rome. We have one relevant Bible verse at least, Exodus:

            22 When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine.23 If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

            So even the Jews looked at miscarriage as something much less than murder. With regards to contraception, I have yet to see any argument here that even comes close to demonstrating how contraception is immoral. With that in mind, contraception was never wrong, and it is just more obvious now than ever.

            Personally I think the Church is so far off base on sex that it isn't even funny. I'm not the only one:

            Majorities of former Catholics who are now unaffiliated also cite having stopped believing in Catholicism’s teachings overall (65%) or dissatisfaction with Catholic teachings about abortion and homosexuality (56%), and almost half (48%) cite dissatisfaction with church teachings about birth control, as reasons for leaving Catholicism.

            http://www.pewforum.org/2009/04/27/faith-in-flux3/

            Take it for what it's worth. Catholicism has it's high points and low points; I personally think this is one of the lowest points.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Church banned contraception and abortion from the very beginning. A lot of people thought these things didn't go on 2000 years ago, but they did.

            One clue that contraception is be wrong is that it treats fertility as something bad and uses drugs and devices to make a healthy woman unhealthy. Do people wear glasses so they won't see as well? Or hearing aids so they won't hear as well? Pacemakers so their heart won't pump properly?

            Lot's of people could reject contraception and use some kind of NFP from a desire to have a healthy body, not because they can see, by reason, that it is immoral.

            I suspect that for people to see the immorality of contraception through reason alone, they would need to accept certain premises like: God created me; God gave me a certain human nature; I should try to live according to my human nature; part of my human nature is my sexuality; part of the nature of the conjugal act is that its unitive and procreative purposes should not be separated.

          • William Davis

            One clue that contraception is be wrong is that it treats fertility as something bad and uses drugs and devices to make a healthy woman unhealthy.

            We avoided the pills, they have too many side effects and do tend to cause problems. Condoms are something else entirely.

            One example of using medicine to make as system not work well is allergies. I love my immune system, but it's response to pollen is completely unwanted. I therefore take medicine during pollen season to hinder my immune system, that is what an anti-histamine does. I don't take anti-histamines in the winter because I want my immune system at full strength to fight the cold and flu. Same goes for inhibiting reproduction until I want it, at least for me.

            I thought this was interesting, pretty significant dissent even inside Catholicism:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winnipeg_Statement

            part of the nature of the conjugal act is that its unitive and procreative purposes should not be separated.

            This is where your argument falls apart to me. I cannot see any reason why the unitive and procreative purposes should not be separated.
            Think about it for a second. Cake not only has no real nutritional value, but can be damaging to your health since it often contains chemicals and a ton of sugar. Cake fulfills the pleasure of eating, without the natural end of being nutrition. No one says eating cake is immoral, unless you eat to much. I suppose a sex addict could have a similar problem.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Cake has proteins, fats, and carbs--all of which are absolutely necessary for human life.

          • David Nickol

            Here are some interesting facts from the NIH (and I think it was Shakespeare who said, "Facts are facts!").

            • More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
            • More than 1 in 3 adults are considered to be obese.
            • More than 1 in 20 adults are considered to have extreme obesity.
            • About one-third of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be overweight or obese.
            • More than 1 in 6 children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be obese.

            It seems that in our society, where 2 in 3 are overweight or obese, cake is a temptation that too many people cannot resist. It would be acceptable if only a few weak souls overindulged. The rest of us could say that the pleasure the vast majority derived from eating cake responsibly was enough to outweigh the evil consequences of making cake freely available, and it would be going too far to ban cake altogether. We do not ban alcoholic beverages just because a minority abuses them. But with cake being an irresistible poison to 2 out of 3 Americans, I don't see how its manufacture and sale can be justified.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It's not the cake. It is sedentariness.

          • David Nickol

            Yeah, sure. And it is not my weight that is a problem. I just need to be taller.

          • William Davis

            Ok. Replace cake with 0 calorie diet candy that is nothing but chemicals :)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Your example of allergy medicine is a good one though. I'm not prepared right now to examine how taking antihistamines to suppress your immune system is equivalent to taking the pill to suppress your reproductive system. But I'll think on it.

          • William Davis

            Thanks. Until recently I never realize Catholics (or anyone in the whole world) was against contraception. I hope the fact that I find this baffling doesn't come across as insulting, but I do have trouble processing it. On our previous discussion, I would like to replace cake with some of those 0 calorie diet snacks that are no nutritional value at all (nothing but chemicals). Here is enough diet medicine to consider:

            http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/alli/art-20047908

            It blocks fat an (accidentally) nutrient absorption, intentionally thwarting the digestive system to cause weight loss. I would never take such garbage, or eat garbage food, but I'm not sure I would call such things immoral. I don't eat this kind of thing because I'm big on health, but I also don't eat pork because of health, so if I would call eating 0 calorie candy immoral, I would also call eating pork immoral (like the Jews coincidentally). I think the key for me is harm to the body (but maybe not the Church), and oral contraception is clearly harmful, thus I was against my wife taking it. I can't see how condoms are immoral because I can't see how they are harmful (unless used for promiscuity). I also think there is a solid biological case to be made for monogamy, and a lot of studies show that people who aren't monogamous are less happy than monogamous people. I think science isn't the end all be all for morality, but I think it can help a lot if we use harm as a philosophical basis for morality. It so happens that this approach to morality lines up with Christianity on many important levels, but not condoms :)

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks. Until recently I never realize Catholics (or anyone in the whole world) was against contraception.

            Being raised Catholic I knew this but I also mistakenly assumed that Islam would be the same. But it appears not. The Catholic Church seems pretty unique on this:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_and_birth_control

          • William Davis

            Muslims more progressive than Catholics? There is something I never thought I would say ;) The original teaching was no sex for anyone, we have Paul for evidence, 1 Corinthian 7

            Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman.” 2 But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 This I say by way of concession, not of command. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind.

            8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. 9 But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.

            But notice that even Paul says married people shouldn't deprive one another (either though people are better off not having sex because the Apocalypse was about to go down, and it will be tough for pregnant women).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Here is something written for a Catholic audience on differences between NFP and contraception:

            http://www.catholicstand.com/humanae-vitae-nfp-contraception/

          • David Nickol

            Which is the worse sin, to use NFP to limit one's family size to one or two kids so the husband and wife can still afford lots of luxuries, or to use "artificial" contraception just to reasonably space out the birth of as many children as the husband and wife can possibly afford?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            They are both sins. I'm dubious that either scenario is actually very common.

          • William Davis

            I agree completely with Phil Dzialo in the combox. You are probably not surprised, of course. His last comment sums it up well:

            Thanks, your right if every illiterate, impoverished, nomadic refugee in a county whose political strife prevents aide to women and children carries around a basal thermometer, and a pen and paper to chart her cycle, and be trained to NFP or Billings....thanks for the last word.

            I'm sorry friend, but more babies is not "good" if they have a good chance to starve to death. The world's population is over 7 billion now, things are quite different from where they in the first century A.D. Using your (and I guess the Church's) logic about "God's will", epidurals and tractors are against God's will because of the curse in genesis (God wanted women in pain in child birth, and men to work the fields manually). I think the more I understand your position, the more it looks like a contrivance to outbreed other religions. I once thought that was slander against Catholics, now I think it is the truth.

            http://www.catholicstand.com/humanae-vitae-nfp-contraception/#comment-1373730613

          • Kevin Aldrich

            How does the existence of poor people change the moral law? If contraception is evil in itself, then it does no good to do that evil that some good may come of it.

            You notion that epidurals and tractors are against God's will is irrational. Your surmise that the Church's prohibition of contraception is a scheme to outbreed other religions is fantasy.

            It is one thing to disagree. It is another to pour scorn on and impute evil to those you disagree with. It seems to me that that is bigotry.

          • William Davis

            Just telling you what I think. I'm done with the subject, sorry you are offended. You are the ones saying most of the western is committing evil acts with the use of contraception. Personally I find the world's population to be one of the biggest threats to the planet and even the human race. Too many people = too big a draw on resources, and when civilizations start running out of resources they will naturally go to war if they have to to procure them. In an age of thermonuclear weapons, this could spell disaster. I therefore consider the Church's teaching an existential risk to the very survival of the human race, and with good reason. Condemn me for bigotry if you want, I'm fine with it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm not offended. Bigotry is attributing evil to a person or group without good reason.

            That the world is over-populated and that over-population causes wars are two myths, but that's another subject.

          • William Davis

            That the world is over-populated and that over-population causes wars are two myths, but that's another subject.

            That's a good idea for a topic here. I don't know if I've seen Christians/non-Christians discuss that particular topic. On another day :)

          • Pofarmer

            I'll bring this comment here, as it may not be wanted on your own space. Delete it there if you prefer.

            But, what if the primary function if sex in Humans isn't procreation?

            https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/insight-therapy/201204/why-do-we-have-sex

            The main problem I have with Catholic theology is that it fundamentally missunderstands us as humans.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yep. Whenever I really want to find a complete and sound anthropology, I always turn to Psychology Today. ;)

          • Pofarmer

            What does that even mean?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It means that the claim that the Catholic Church fundamentally misunderstands what a human being is cannot be supported by an OP in Psychology Today.

          • Pofarmer

            That was my own addition. But I'll stand by it anyway.

            The question remains, and the article males good points, what if, in humans, procreation isn't the main function of sex?

          • Alexandra

            "Your example of allergy medicine is a good one though. I'm not prepared right now to examine how taking antihistamines to suppress your immune system is equivalent to taking the pill to suppress your reproductive system. But I'll think on it."

            I don't think the analogy does hold.The antihistamine does not suppress the immune system per se. That is an inaccurate description.

            As part of a normal immune response against a disease causing pathogen, immune cells containing granules (primarily mast cells) release a number of toxins including histamine. (This is termed an inflammatory response and helps to eradicate disease).

            However, in some people, their immune system goes awry. Instead of reacting against a pathogen, it reacts against something inert like pollen (an allergen). This causes a continual (disordered) immune response. Thus histamine is released at much higher levels than in a normal immune reaction. Taking antihistamine counteracts the excess histamine.

            Thus the use of antihistamine doesn't suppress the immune system. Instead it counteracts a byproduct of a faulty immune overreaction. Note antihistamine is not needed when the immune system is functioning normally. The antihistamine is medicinal for people who have allergic reactions. If the antihistamine is taken by someone without allergies, the immune system is not directly affected.

          • David Nickol

            What about immunosuppressant drugs for those who have had organ transplants. There is nothing at all wrong with the immune system of an organ recipient. It's just that if the immune system is allowed to work exactly the way it was designed to, the transplanted organ will be rejected.

            Then there's general anesthesia. There is absolutely wrong with consciousness, but if you are having open-heart surgery, you might want your consciousness totally blanked out. To feel great pain when being sliced open with a scalpel could not be more natural. On the operating table, no problem with the brain and central nervous system is being addressed by directly suppressing consciousness.

            There are some rather trivial examples of perfectly natural bodily functions that are artificially (and needlessly) suppressed. For example, we have antiperspirants. If God had not wanted underarm perspiration, he would not have put sweat glands there.

          • Alexandra

            Hi David, So there is a distinction to be made here- the use of "drugs" (medicines, chemicals, substances, etc.) when you are healthy vs. when you are sick.

            When you are healthy, it is wrong to needlessly take a chemical/substance; especially if it harmful to you, or alters how you were designed.

            When you are sick, It is perfectly acceptable to take a chemical/substance for medicinal purposes. This is true even if the substance alters your nature (like an immunosuppressant) or is toxic (like chemotherapy). The good (healing) must reasonably be expected to outweigh the bad (toxicity, side effects). This is true even when the mechanism of healing is indirect as in your organ transplants or surgery examples.

            With respect to your examples:

            Immunosuppressants- The analogy to birth control would be taking the immunosuppressant while healthy, not when you need an organ transplants.

            Fat blockers- The analogy to birth control would be taken a fat blocker/reducer when you are a healthy weight (thin).
            Theoretically, it is acceptable to take a fat blocker if it really does healthfully reduce weight, if you are overweight. This is a "medicinal" purpose. However, I agree with you that it is wrong if you take a fat blocker to be able to keep overeating. Then the blocker is no longer medicinal, but a mechanism for overeating.

            The artificial sweetener- The analogy to birth control is would be taking a substance that blocks your digestion(!).
            It is okay to consume it as long as it is not harmful, and presumably the good is being able to enjoy a soda.

            The antiperspirant-
            Hygiene is a good reason and can be used as long as it is not harmful to you.

            Hypothetically, if you needed to take the pill to save your life, the Church would allow you to do so.

          • David Nickol

            I think, by your reasoning, it would be acceptable for a married couple to use contraceptives if they had a really good reason—for example, if another pregnancy would seriously endanger the woman's life. Or am I wrong?

          • Alexandra

            No - it is never acceptable to contracept, for reasons beyond what I have been describing here. For Catholics, the end doesn't justify the means, no matter how good or noble the end. One may not do something wrong so that a good may result from it.

            Since no contraceptive method is 100 percent effective, only abstinence would actually not put the wife at risk. So in your example, the wife would still be endangered.

            (As an aside, do you know of a condition where a pregnancy itself would automatically endanger the mothers life? Not trying to be contrarian, just trying to come up with concrete examples.)

          • David Nickol

            No - it is never acceptable to contracept, for reasons beyond what I have been describing here.

            Not true. There have been cases where women (including nuns) in danger of being raped have been permitted (with Vatican approval) to take the pill to prevent pregnancy.

            This is wandering off topic. The argument as it began was that birth control is wrong because it shuts down fertility, which is good and natural. My examples were of other medical interventions that shut down natural processes. You said shutting the immune system (to take one example) can be a good thing (to prevent rejection of a transplanted organ). But the point is there is nothing wrong with the immune system. In rejecting a foreign organ, it is acting exactly as it is supposed to.

            My point is that we make "artificial" interventions with various bodily functions all the time, and they aren't considered against natural law.

            As an aside, do you know of a condition where a pregnancy itself would automatically endanger the mothers life?

            High blood pressure and diabetes (especially if either is difficult to control), bleeding disorders (such as hemophilia, which is mostly a male problem but which some women are diagnosed with), either sever underweight or obesity, general poor health.

            Since no contraceptive method is 100 percent effective, only abstinence would actually not put the wife at risk.

            It is often impossible in life to cut risks to zero, but that doesn't mean that it is pointless to cut them to almost zero.

          • Alexandra

            "Not true."

            You've taken my response out of context. Your question did not include examples outside of marriage. My response to your question is true.

            "My point is that we make "artificial" interventions with various bodily functions all the time, and they aren't considered against natural law."

            Agreed.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It is often impossible in life to cut risks to zero, but that doesn't mean that it is pointless to cut them to almost zero

            If you are cutting life's risks to zero, it would seem like you couldn't do basic things like drive a car or walk across a street.

          • Alexandra

            I agree that we can't cut all risk to zero but in the example David and I were discussing if the couple is abstinent, the risk is zero. It's a case where we can. David was proposing contraception as the solution, the wife is still in danger.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            We allow some risks in order to optimize happiness.

          • Alexandra

            Agreed. Whether to take a risk is a separate issue. I simply meant David's example doesn't remove the risk (it lessens it).

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Conceivably, the couple would prefer a life with a small amount of risk and intercourse to a life with zero risk and abstinence.

          • Alexandra

            I should of said : Hypothetically, if you needed to take the pill to save your life, the Church would allow you to do so, but never as a contraceptive.

          • David Nickol

            There are many reasons other than contraception for a woman to take "the pill," and the Church has no problem with women taking it for any legitimate medical reason. That is, there does not have to be a life-threatening situation.

            This, in some ways, just makes it all the more baffling to those who cannot make sense of the Catholic position. It is perfectly licit for a woman to take the pill for, say, endometriosis. It is also perfectly licit for a married woman to have sex knowing she is not fertile due to taking the pill for non-contraceptive purposes. However, it is allegedly a mortal sin (as I understand the conservative Catholic position) for a married woman to take the pill as a contraceptive and have sex with her husband even once. So two different married women can do exactly the same thing (take the pill and have sex with their husbands), with one being a serious sinner and the other being pure as snow.

          • Alexandra

            I agree with your first paragraph as long as the woman is taking the medicine while completely abstinent.

            "It is also perfectly licit for a married woman to have sex knowing she is not fertile due to taking the pill for non-contraceptive purposes."

            This is incorrect. If she's on the pill she must practice complete abstinence.

            "So two different married women can do exactly the same thing (take the pill and have sex with their husbands) ..."

            This is incorrect. Both woman must practice complete abstinence.

            Source: Encyclical Human Vitae 14

            (Fortunately, there are better medicine/treatments than birth control, so in practical terms this is nonissue for faithful Catholic women.)

          • David Nickol

            But what about Humanae Vitae15?

            On the other hand, the Church does not consider at all illicit the use
            of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a
            foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever

            There is a lot of very bad reasoning out there on the Web when one Googles this topic. "The pill" is not intrinsically evil. It's uses for purposes other than contraception are not evil. If a married woman temporarily taking the pill for noncontraceptive reasons must practice complete abstinence, is a married woman who is surgically rendered sterile by a hysterectomy (performed for reasons other than sterilization) bound to a life of total abstinence after the surgery?

            It seems to me there are a lot of Catholics who become almost superstitious about "the pill." It is just made up of hormones, which are good things. Even for the most devout Catholics opposed to artificial contraception, hormones in pill form are not evil. They may be used for evil ends, just as the prescription drugs used to execute prisoners are used for evil ends. But that does not mean they do not have perfectly legitimate uses.

          • Alexandra

            "... is a married woman who is surgically rendered sterile by a hysterectomy (performed for reasons other than sterilization) bound to a life of total abstinence after the surgery?"

            No. (This example is exactly what HV 15 addresses.)

            "But what about Humanae Vitae15?"
            It means you can take a medicine/therapy even if it renders you sterile.

            You may never directly participate in a morally illicit action even if it is for good intent.
            Say a woman needs to take the pill for medical reasons (good intent).
            If the woman is abstinent while on the pill the direct action is medicinal, the indirect action is temporary sterility (this sterility is morally licit under HV15).
            If she is not abstinent while on the pill, the direct action is contraceptive (morally illicit), the indirect action is medicinal. In other words, whether she is healthy or not, if she is not abstinent while on the pill, she is contracepting.

            I agree with all the points you made.

          • William Davis

            When you are healthy, it is wrong to needlessly take a chemical/substance; especially if it harmful to you, or alters how you were designed.

            I'd be careful with line of reasoning, because you can accidentally condemn wonder things like caffeine and L-theanine. Both are technically chemicals that alter the way you were "design" (caffeine alters the mind by blocking adenosine receptors, and L-theanine calms the mind through complex actions, both pass the blood brain barrier). Both are contained in tea. In moderation, caffeine actually has health benefits for most (not all) people, and L-theanine seems to be purely beneficial. Both are mind altering drugs technically.
            I agree with you on oral contraceptive, the harm and side affects are too great for me to recommend personally. I just don't see how any of this applies to something like a condom. Having sex with a condom is not only harmless, it has all the health benefits of sex, including the benefit of enhancing pair bonding, one of the biological purposes of sex. I have a car two purposes. One is that I enjoy driving it, and two is to get me places. Is it a sin to just go for a joy ride (fulfilling one of it's purposes)? If you are unaware of how pair-bonding works in mammals, or unaware of the health benefits of sex, I can post appropriate links. By preventing married people from getting all the benefits they can from their marriage, I'd say the Church's policy is HARMING married people by hindering the greatest good possible in their marriage. I'm dead serious.

          • William Davis

            My seasonal allergies didn't start until I got the swine flu during a summer. Because I was so sick, my immune system flagged the pollen it was exposed to, and caused me to react to it later. This is actually a normal part of the operation of the immune system. Some causes of allergies are disordered, some are not. I suppose the 0 calorie diet food was a better example. Not to mention drugs like Alli that block fat absorption. The more I go into it, the worse the Church's position here gets, lol.

          • Alexandra

            Hi William - I'm sorry to hear of your illnesses and hope and expect you are faring better.
            I just responded to David Nickol and it addresses some of your points.

          • Pofarmer

            This is true. In my own hometown a Catholic Chain bought out the local hospital. They will no longer perform Tubal Ligations or Vasectomies, even though the local Dr's have performed them for years, and still would. It's just one of the very frustrating things going on there.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Well, until atheists band together and many of them dedicate their lives to charitable work, you will have to put up with groups that have.

          • Pofarmer

            These are businesses turning a profit.

          • Michael Murray

            Well, until atheists band together and many of them dedicate their lives to charitable work, you will have to put up with groups that have.

            This isn't a conflict between theists and atheists. It is a conflict between the 15-30% of Catholics who support their Church's position on sexual morality and the rest of society many of whom are not atheist.

            Maybe I should include this quote again

            At my request, Gallup did a special breakdown of its “Values and Beliefs” survey from last May and looked at how the principles of people who identified themselves as Catholics diverged (or didn’t) from those of Americans on the whole. Catholics were only slightly less open to birth control, with 86 percent of them saying that it was “morally acceptable” in comparison with 90 percent of all respondents. But Catholics were morepermissive than all respondents when it came to sex outside marriage (acceptable to 72 percent of Catholics versus 66 percent of Americans overall) and gay and lesbian relationships (70 percent versus 58).

          • David Nickol

            It would seem that the "smaller, purer" Church some conservative Catholics long for would be a lot smaller.

          • Michael Murray

            Cooler heads might worry then if the Holy Spirit would be sufficient to protect the Church into the future with such a diminished financial and political support base.

            I wonder also how many of the conservative Catholics are ex-Protestants? It seems common amongst many of the people who contribute articles here but I don't have any idea if it is more generally true.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Although I don't believe on face value anything that Bruni says, you are right that there is a great divide between the Church's positions on sexual morality and that of the dominant culture (which many who self-identify as Catholics share).

            This is the legacy of the sexual revolution of the 1960s which many Catholics, including priests and religious, joined in.

            However, I am certain the Magisterium is not going to change based on opinion polls. The sexual revolution (and other current isms) may destroy American society, or American society may destroy the Church here or maybe American society will start seeing merit in the Church's point of view.

          • Pofarmer

            "but different strokes for different folks"

            This is a Catholic website, there will be no stroking.

          • William Davis

            Lol

          • George

            I don't see how that makes sense, Phil. It's okay to prefer not to have kids, and to try not to have kids while having sex, by exploiting knowledge of the reproductive system. But suddenly putting up synthetic barriers changes everything? That's just exploiting knowledge of the human body too, really. Semen is statistically unlikely to pass through latex. That's just it's nature. It's not impossible, just improbable, so that means...

            a god-believing contraceptive user is also OPEN to having children. think about it. what rational catholic would say that these man-made methods could thwart the will of the creator of the universe? a condom-diaphram-spermicide-pill combo should be no harder to circumvent than NFP for one who is omnipotent. can you prove it's not Her will for the contraceptives to work if they work?

          • Phil

            Hey George,

            The best way to understand it may be in this way: One way is working with the reproductive system (NFP) and undermining the reproductive system (artificial contraceptives).

            What makes something immoral is that the natural end is being directly undermined. This is why, above, the latter is immoral while the former is not.

            As I mentioned to William, yes it is a distinction that some may see as small. But it is a distinction nonetheless and it makes all the difference.

          • Pofarmer

            Artificial contraception doesn't "reject" fertility. It certainly recognizes it, that's the whole freaking point.

          • Michael Murray

            It's like using an adjustable wrench instead of a boxed end wrench.

            No they are different. Adjustable wrenches can slip and burr your nuts.

          • William Davis

            That's part of the analogy. Adjustable wrench = timing sex; burred nut (I'm sure there is joke in there somewhere) = accidental pregnancy. I'll stick with a boxed end wrench (contraception) any day :)

          • Michael Murray

            I'm sure there is joke in there somewhere

            I think there is another one about adjustable wenches. But I'll leave it alone.

          • Pofarmer

            And timing methods result in plenty of unplanned pregnancies.

          • BrianKillian

            Yes, but those different methods are not seen as neutral or interchangeable, they are morally evaluated very differently.

            Because the unitive aspect of sex is believed to be inseparable from its procreative nature, the option to avoid fertile times instead of negate them is an option to preserve that unitive aspect of sexuality while yes -- avoiding children.

            So one big difference is that one option gives a lot more respect and importance to the truth of sexuality as the other, or to put it a little differently one option favours the form of sex over its matter while the other favours more the matter over form.

          • William Davis

            I'm a lot more interested in giving importance and respect to my wife and our relationship than to the "truth" of sexuality.

          • BrianKillian

            Well whether or not those are mutually exclusive is a major point of contention between your world view and that of the Catholic church.

          • William Davis

            Sounds right :) I just don't see the Church's argument here convincing in the least.

          • Papalinton

            The Catholic Church promotes fertility awareness methods as a valid way to space births. .... avoid a pregnancy with 98%+ accuracy (my parents actually had a 100% success rate at avoiding pregnancy when they weren't ready, with fertility awareness methods...

            American reporter Louis Mencken, of the famed Scopes Monkey Trial, best sums up ol' time Catholic folklore:

            'It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry."

          • Phil

            Hey Papalinton, I'll copy what I responded to George with on this point:

            The easiest way to understand it may be in this way: One way is working with the reproductive system (NFP) and undermining the natural functions of the reproductive system (artificial contraceptives).

            What makes something immoral is that the natural end is being directly undermined. This is why, above, the latter is immoral while the former is not.

            As I mentioned to William, yes it is a distinction that some may see as small. But it is a distinction nonetheless and it makes all the difference.

          • Papalinton

            Unconvincing and arcane and most certainly reflected by the wider community as arrant nonsense.

          • Michael Murray

            Not just the wider community but also a vast number of people who call themselves Catholics and are counted by the Church when they count Catholics.

            For example

            At my request, Gallup did a special breakdown of its “Values and Beliefs” survey from last May and looked at how the principles of people who identified themselves as Catholics diverged (or didn’t) from those of Americans on the whole. Catholics were only slightly less open to birth control, with 86 percent of them saying that it was “morally acceptable” in comparison with 90 percent of all respondents. But Catholics were morepermissive than all respondents when it came to sex outside marriage (acceptable to 72 percent of Catholics versus 66 percent of Americans overall) and gay and lesbian relationships (70 percent versus 58).

            http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/25/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-pope-francis-birth-control-and-american-catholics.html

            Personally I would say taking your temperature so you can work out what days you can have sex without conceiving is dodging the reproductive system. But I don't find my theological advice is in great demand by the Church that baptised and confirmed me.

          • Michael Murray

            I always find it ironic that the Catholic Church itself nearly reversed its position on contraception

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontifical_Commission_on_Birth_Control

          • Papalinton

            The RCC will follow the inexorable path into the 21stC, either kicking or screaming, and eventually endorse contraception. The irony I suspect will be that they will use this unsuccessful foray as the excuse for rethinking and changing its mind, as if it were something it was always thinking through.

          • Michael Murray

            Yes there is that old joke that when they finally send out the encyclical allowing contraception it will start

            "As the Catholic Church has always held ... "

          • BrianKillian

            You mean back to the 1st century?

          • Phil

            Here is actually an article that was up on CNN's main page for over a week. It made me laugh because it was like the Church was promoting fertility awareness before it was cool...oh you hipster Church!

            http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/08/health/fertility-awareness-methods/index.html

          • Ignatius Reilly

            And with modern biology, a man and woman can relatively easily and cheaply track fertility to successfully avoid a pregnancy with 98%+ accuracy

            I do not think this is true. I believe most studies put this number much lower. Furthermore, most people do not use the birth control perfectly.

            (my parents actually had a 100% success rate at avoiding pregnancy when they weren't ready, with fertility awareness methods; no artificial contraception was ever needed).

            That is not how they calculate the probability. It is the percentage of couples, who using a method, do not conceive over the course of a year.

          • Pofarmer

            "I do not think this is true. I believe most studies put this number much
            lower. Furthermore, most people do not use the birth control perfectly."

            Exactly right. When there are pregnancies, they count it as the method not being followed, not that the method failed. one problem with the method, among many, is that it is so intricate to use.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There are two rates: the method if followed correctly and the method if not followed correctly. Every form of family planning has reported rates on both.

          • Pofarmer

            this is true, and the main problem with NFP is that it is very involved to follow correctly, and the biological variances can easily confound it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is objectively not true. It is easy to chart fertility and is extremely reliable. Periodic continence, though, is the hard part.

          • Pofarmer

            Ordering your personal sex life around the rules of the Church. Yes, that is hard.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. What is hard is abstaining from sex when you feel sexual desire.

          • Pofarmer

            Sex fulfills different needs for different people. Ever read "the Five Love Languages."?

          • William Davis

            You guys say stuff like that, but you are in direct contradiction of the evidence, and mainstream science/medicine. Facts are fact. According to the CDC, the failure rate of NFP is one of the highest 24%.

            http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/unintendedpregnancy/contraception.htm

            The American Association of Family Physicians makes a stronger case:

            http://www.aafp.org/afp/2012/1115/od2.html

            If all this is true, isn't it bad to mislead people about the effectiveness of NFP? I find the CDC and AAFP to be highly reliable and professional.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The first source only presented user failure rates. The second is an opinion piece. The US government also still thinks NFP is calendar rhythm which nobody in the NFP community has practiced in 50 years.

            Why didn't you provide a link to this:

            http://www.aafp.org/afp/2012/1115/od1.html

            "The symptothermal method, which monitors basal body temperature, cervical secretions, cervical position, and cycle patterns to predict periods of fertility, has been proven effective: its failure rate is 0.4 percent per year with perfect use, and 7.5 percent per year with typical use."

            Facts are facts.

          • William Davis

            Didn't see that article. I guess like everything you have to do NFP right. Touche :)

          • Why do you equate accordance with biological function to morality?

            And sex out of wedlock is just as orders towards procreation as married sex why is that immoral?

          • Phil

            Check out this article as that is the whole point of natural law. You look at what the natural end of a being is. People don't realize anymore that we were created in a certain way in which we can use reason to figure out what leads to a flourishing human person. The moral thing leads to flourishing human people:

            http://philosophy.cua.edu/res/docs/faculty/rss/What%20is%20Natural%20Law.pdf

          • I don't care about natural law I care about the laws humans make and whether the unjustly discriminate.

            I don't accept there is any such thing as natural law. What this is is humans calling a theological position "natural law".

          • Phil

            I don't care about natural law I care about the laws humans make and whether the unjustly discriminate.

            How do you objectively know if a law itself unjustly discriminates? For example, I'm assuming you discriminate again rapists. Why do you discriminate against them?

            What is the law against rape based upon? Is it based upon the rights of a person not to be harmed? If so, what is the law against harming people based upon? Can it be changed? If it can't be changed, why not?

            Is it simply, "might makes right", whomever has the power (be it a majority group or a single dictator) defines the law?

          • You cannot discriminate against rapists in the context of human rights, because this group is not a group protected by human rights. We ground human rights protections in historic prejudice and marginalization.

            Laws against sexual assault criminalize sex that is non consensual. All laws can be changed.

            In our country it is not simply might makes right, we have a judiciary to protect minority rights. But all of this is subject to a constitution which is pretty much based on majority consent. In other societies it is power that rules.

          • Phil

            I'm assuming you would support laws that discriminate against people that like to sexually assault other people (i.e., you support laws that may put people in jail for sexual assault)?

            If so, how do you know that that law is not unjust discrimination against people who like to sexually assualt others?

          • David Nickol

            I'm assuming you would support laws that discriminate against people
            that like to sexually assault other people (i.e., you support laws that
            may punish people for sexual assault)?

            You forget here (although not in your second paragraph) to make the distinction so important in Catholic argumentation between discrimination and unjust discrimination. It is not unjust to punish perpetrators of crimes against other individuals, so while it may be a kind of "discrimination" to punish people for sexual assault, it is not unjust discrimination.

            The problem between the Catholic Church and those who think many of its stands on sexual matters are discriminatory is not that, say, gay-rights advocates don't understand the difference between discrimination and unjust discrimination. It is that they disagree with the Catholic Church on what is just.

          • Phil

            The reason why I didn't specify it is we first have to decide if sexual assault is something that is just or unjust discrimination.

            And that is the reason I was asking Brian. If he does believe that discriminating against those that that perform sexual assault is just discrimination, then I want to know why this is the case.

          • David Nickol

            If he does believe that discriminating against those that that perform
            sexual assault is just discrimination, then I want to know why this is
            the case.

            The problem I see here is that sexual assault is a legal term and, by definition, a crime. The definition, however, varies from state to state. So it is never "unjust discrimination" to punish someone for committing a crime. If I understand what you are trying to do, you are going to have to define a certain act, point out where it is considered the crime of sexual assault, and then raise the question of whether it is justly and reasonably treated as a crime for which to be punished.

            Scarcely anyone would argue that punishment is not the just consequence of committing a crime. However, it would be unjust to punish someone who was accused of a crime he did not commit, and it would be an injustice to criminalize behavior that did not warrant a legal prohibition. In other words (and the Catholic Church fully realizes this), there can be laws that are unjust, and no one has an obligation to obey them.

            The "official" Catholic Church discriminates (or urges discrimination) against gay people, but in Catholic thought, this is not unjust discrimination. In the thought of most people in the United States (including most who self-identify as Catholic), it is unjust discrimination.

          • As I said, these laws distinguish people who perform sexual assault and impose criminal sanctions on them. You are equivocating on the term discrimination here which I have said has at least two different meanings. In the sense it is applied in the analysis under section 15 of the Charter, the Equality protection it means making a distinction on the basis of a protected ground, race, religion, sexual orientation and so on, and imposing a detriment or denying a benefit in such a way as to perpetuate historic marginalization or negative stereotypes of the group. It is used essentially the same way in the human rights analysis.

            The reason why it is not "discrimination" in this sense, meaning it does not violate the Charter is because "people who like to sexual assault" is not the kind of group that deserves equality or human rights protection.

            Why and how groups can be included into human rights protection is another question, and yes, I think this group should not be added. This is because it is a group defined by a characteristic that leads directly to one of the worst harms in society and causes extreme suffering. It is not a characteristic to be protected in society but one that should be removed. It is defined by sexual behaviour that is non consensual, which is the source of the harm it perpetrates and why we should try to eliminate it.

          • Phil

            The reason why it is not "discrimination" in this sense, meaning it does not violate the Charter is because "people who like to sexual assault" is not the kind of group that deserves equality or human rights protection.

            Here is what I'm getting at. I am talking about discrimination in the broad sense. Any law discriminates against certain types of activities that a person might do. For someone to not allow someone to do something can rightly be called "discrimination". Because of what they have done, you could say that someone who sexually assaults another person can be discriminated and punished for it.

            So my question is what makes sexual assault something that can by justly discriminated against?

      • I thnk you can and I do call relationship between two people who have joined themselves legally and economically and is licensed by the state a "marriage". There is no need to distinguish between marriages that intend or can result n children.

        The procreation issue may be fundamental for your theological view but it is irrelevant to what the state licences.

        Depriving same sex couples of a marriage license is a distinction based on sexual orientation that resul

        • Phil

          The real issue is really the definition of marriage, not
          discrimination. This is because no one thinks that marriage should be a free-for-all, and this means some people will always be discriminated against in regards to marriage. (e.g., Most people don't believe you should be allowed to marry your dog.)

          You ultimately hold your position because you have redefined marriage. This is the issue that is at hand. If we don't redefine marriage from what it has traditionally been, then saying that persons of the same sex can't get married is not unjust discrimination.

          Now, if you redefine marriage, then you could begin to argue that it is unjust discrimination.

          • Yes it is an updated definition of which is why we passed legislation to confirm it. Failure to include same sex couples in it is a violation of the equality guarantee of the Charter and is is unjust discrimination as I noted above.

            Yes, we have and do update legal definitions to prevent unjust discrimination, as you call it. (In the legal context, it is just discrimination. What you are talking about would be called a distinction.)

          • Phil

            Yes, but the updated definition you propose is wrong. It reduces marriage to "really good friendships". Once you separate procreation and marriage, marriage no longer has anything to do directly with sexuality.

            Why should the government have any interest in regulating "really good friendships"?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            As Ryan Anderson would say, on what basis should marriage not include a brother and sister who don't have a sexual relationship or a thruple that does?

          • Phil

            Exactly, you've got it! And if you take the potential for procreation out of marriage, there is no rational reason why any person can't marry any other person or number of people.

            I have had many people admit that I should be able to marry my 22 year old sister, my father, or grandmother. When you start doing this, what exactly is the purpose of the government regulating "special friendships" (because none of those marriages would have anything to do with sexuality/procreation)?

          • William Davis

            You wouldn't need to marry your relatives legally, because you already have legal rights when it comes to your relatives. Things like inheritance are already worked out, and you can always visit a relative in the hospital.

            With regards to sex, there is excellent biological reason to avoid incest. Incest tends to create all kinds of genetic problems. Interestingly enough, nature seems to have some given us some natural protection against incest. For instance I have never found my sisters attractive, though other do. I just don't look at them like that, and I think it is as much instinctive as anything else. Even primates wonder off to find non-relatives to mate with.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inbreeding

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incest_taboo

          • Phil

            You wouldn't need to marry your relatives legally, because you already have legal rights when it comes to your relatives. Things like inheritance are already worked out, and you can always visit a relative in the hospital.

            There are some tax benefits and such that one could seek to gain by marrying a sister, brother, father, etc. I just can't believe that marriage is being reduced to inheritance and hospital visitation. Is that really all marriage is about?? (If that's the case, I can see why people say there is a "war on marriage".)

            But that's really beyond the point. If a person wants to marry their sister or father, why not? Are you going to discriminate against them?

            With regards to sex, there is excellent biological reason to avoid incest. Incest tends to create all kinds of genetic problems.

            It doesn't matter because I think you would hold that marriage has nothing to do with sex and procreation. So if a brother and sister want marry, it doesn't matter if they have physical relations or not. It seems that you should not discriminate against them.

          • William Davis

            It doesn't matter because I think you would hold that marriage has nothing to do with sex and procreation. So if a brother and sister want to marry, it doesn't matter if they have physical relations or not. It seems that you should not discriminate against them.

            I was specifically talking about sex (notice I said "With regards to sex"), not marriage per se. It's quite obvious that the institution of marriage evolved around reproduction and starting a family, but that doesn't mean that institution can't be adapted for other situations. I'm fine with calling it a civil union instead of marriage, if that helps people feel better. Personally I'm against special privilege tax breaks altogether, including tax breaks for being married. Tax breaks for children is something more complicated, and it requires also dealing with the fact that we pay extremely poor people to have children.

          • Phil

            Calling anything besides a single man and woman a "union" would maintain rational consistency.

            Obviously those that are promoting same-sex "marriage" don't want this because they feel it is unjust discrimination to call one a "marriage" and the other a "union". Obviously, the Church, and those who hold a similar position, holds that you can't call them both the same thing, because they aren't the same thing. So calling one a "marriage" and the other a "union" would be rationally consistent.

          • William Davis

            I'm with you on that, no offense intended to gay people. Sometimes they do tend to go overboard with something like they are trying to be offended.

          • Phil

            And I actually have two close friends who identify as "gay", and both of them don't support same-sex "marriage". As they have told my time and time again--marriage is about the bond between a mother and father so as to raise strong natural families. We can choose to not have natural families and therefore we choose not to get married.

          • Luke C.

            Offense taken.

          • William Davis

            Sorry I've been offending you so much late, but I'm not saying this out of a vacuum. I have a couple of gay friends that think the same thing. They get angry with gay rights groups because they think they often go too far and inflame anti-gay sentiments that would not be as much as a problem. I think gay rights groups have done a ton of good, but sometimes compromise is the right path politically, at least for now. Give it another generation, and I don't think anyone will think twice about it.
            P.S. I apologize again (you are one of the nicest people I've met on the net), and perhaps I could be still slightly bigoted, so I'm open to an explanation as to way civil union (as long as it has similar legal right to marriage) isn't good enough. I explained to Michael why I think there is legal reason to differentiate between marriage and civil union.

          • Luke C.

            Hey, William. Apology accepted. This is just an important issue to me, and I will not be happy with any resolution that does not grant same-sex couples the exact same rights and wording as heterosexual couples. If the compromise is calling all marriages "civil unions" to appease the religious folks, I'm okay with that. But calling them different names leaves open the loophole for more discrimination by making laws that would only apply to one instead of both.

          • William Davis

            I understand, and I guess for what me is "just a word", for you is a symbol of discrimination. In the long term having a civil union legal is much better than nothing because it changes that status quo to something much closer to gay marriage, and get gay people rights in the mean time. In many places civil union seems that natural path to marriage (after 10-20 years it just starts to seem silly to have two different contracts :). The supreme court may solve all this for us, that would be great (Justices don't have to save face like right wing politicians).

          • Michael Murray

            In Australia governments have stalled on marriage equality for awhile now. Instead we have for some time had legal recognition of de facto or common-law relationships, the legal rights and responsibilities of a de facto relationship are the same as a married one except for the added complication of demonstrating your de facto relationship to the government. Many of the states actually have de facto relationship registers to fix that last problem. Recently de facto relationships have been redefined to allow them to be same sex. Nobody seems to have fussed about that. So the legal situation for same sex de facto couples is exactly the same as for opposite sex de facto couples which is pretty much the same as that for opposite sex married couples.

          • Michael Murray
          • Michael Murray

            But people who are homosexual are asking why the current marriage laws discriminate against their relationships. Recognising their relationships with some other kind of legal entity and name doesn't solve that discrimination.

            I have read many of the arguments on this over the years. I've yet to hear a good reason why we should maintain this discrimination.

          • William Davis

            The fact is that it's just a word. The discrimination comes from not allowing the same type of contract for gay people as for heterosexuals. Calling it a civil union simply denotes the fact that the contract is at least slightly different from a normal marriage. It isn't a big deal to me, but I think getting upset over a word is silly for everyone. There is a rational reason to use a different word, so calling it discrimination doesn't make sense to me at all. This is something entirely different from being a bigot.

          • Michael Murray

            The fact is that it's just a word.

            But it's not just a word. It's a word that carries enormous legal and political content in our societies. It means that society recognises your relationship as legitimate and important.

            The discrimination comes from not allowing the same type of contract for gay people as for heterosexuals.

            I don't know about the US but in Australia the discrimination is in the Act or in the amendments made to it in 2004 when our then conservative government got nervous.

            Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. Certain unions are not marriages. A union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia.

            I can't see a rational reason for not calling a marriage of two homosexual people a marriage beyond placating people who are offended by the whole idea of homosexuals and homosexuality.

            Otherwise why would anyone suggest setting up a whole parallel system of laws and procedures for something which is "slightly different" from a normal marriage. The British did this with civil unions, then they brought in marriage equality and allowed a civil union conversion process. Sounds like a complete bureacratic mess to me.

            If you think it's important to distinguish indicate the genders of the marriage partners on the marriage certificate. Problem solved.

          • William Davis

            I'm live in the Southern U.S. where serious anti-gay bigotry is alive and well. It has been a political nightmare to get civil unions acceptable, and trying to push marriage equality is just a bridge to far in the current political climate. I think civil unions gets people used to the idea, which can eventually lead up to marriage. I have gay friends here that agree with this, because they notice how pushing too far to fast inflames anti-gay sentiments in the region. Where I live, we might be ahead on contraception, but we are far behind on homosexuality. I've just recently managed to convinced relatives here that being gay isn't unnatural and/or a choice. Baby steps are need here...

          • Michael Murray

            Fair enough. I understand the necessity of taking baby steps in some places. I thought originally you were arguing that some sort of other union was sufficient for gay people on the grounds that it was just as good. Probably my misunderstanding.

          • William Davis

            I meant certain gay rights groups here in the U.S as to gay people in general (which what the comment said, I changed it to what I meant) so I don't blame you for misunderstanding. I actually talk about this when it comes up to people around here, and the civil union compromise seems incredibly useful to me. Gay people get the rights they need, and religious people (especially politicians) don't feel like they have compromised on marriage.
            When I imagine civil union, I was imagining something being processed exactly the same as marriage, but your comment indicates the the truth that some politicians might what to handicap a civil union in specific ways, something I definite do NOT agree with.
            For the record, it someone changed the relationship between my wife and I to "civil union" from marriage, I wouldn't mind a bit as long as my legal rights didn't change. Not everyone is like me though.

          • Michael Murray

            like they are trying to be offended

            If I couldn't hold my wife's hand in public, or give her a hug or a kiss on the cheek when I meet her or leave her for fear of how others might react I would be offended.

          • William Davis

            Try not to take my words out of context.

          • I don't reduce it to that, I define it as life partnerships. I don't know why the state has an interest in regulating them, but when it does, it must do so substantively equally.

          • Phil

            It sounds like you are hinting at the fact that you don't really think that the government should not be involved in marriage defined like you do--as "life partnerships".

            Would you say that the government should have an interest in strong families raising healthy children so as to build a strong society? (Unless you want a "big-government" type society, I'm thinking you would want strong natural families that are as self-sufficient as possible.)

          • I don't know what you mean by the government raising families or strong families or strong natural families.

            The laws the government passes must treat all substantively equally.

          • Phil

            Should the the government prefer weak natural families that will build up a weak society or prefer strong families that will build up a strong society?

            (This is assuming that you believe that the government should be interested in the preservation of the society it is governing.)

          • I don't know what you mean by weak or strong in this context or by prefer.

  • There is a very interesting comment here with respect to moral reasoning. This identifies moral reasoning as not being that which considers biological or social facts, but concerns human flourishing, but then it elaborates that this means things that are inherently good, e.g. Friendship.

    There is a flaw in this logic, friendship can be good in and of itself, or it can be good because it supports human flourishing. And how can human flourishing be imagined other than by way of biological and social facts? These are precisely what we consider in contemplation of flourishing.

  • The logic here with respect to sexual morality is twisted. Sex is unethical and immoral when it is non-consensual. That is exactly why rape and sex with children is immoral. To suggest that sex becomes immoral when not oriented towards procreation is absurd. There is nothing immoral in homosexuality or masturbation.

    Incest is an interesting case, we obviously have moral concerns where it is not consensual, and I think this is where our disgust in sibling sex generally comes from. Most of us, for social reasons, or perhaps due to evolved instincts, would find sex with a blood family member abhorrent and would never consent to it, we accordingly find it impossible to accept that others would. But when given hypotheticals of siblings who have no such concerns and cannot procreate, it is difficult to express our reasons for disgust or that it is immoral. What is really interesting is that it is the possibility of procreation that grounds our moral objections to incest.

    (But it is not really, it is our concern that the offspring would suffer biologically and/or socially for being the product of incestuous unions.)

  • Promiscuity is wrong not because it violates moral law, but because it is dishonest. A person who has promised to monogamous who breaks that promise hurst his or her partner. Polyamourous couples who consent to this seem to have no harm done and I fail to see the immorality. Casual or even anonymous sex as long as it is consensual does not offend my moral sensibilities and I do not see why it should.

    • joey_in_NC

      A person who has promised to monogamous who breaks that promise hurst his or her partner.

      Is it the breaking of the promise or the hurting of the partner that makes an extra-marital act immoral? Or do both have to apply for the act to be immoral?

      Polyamourous couples who consent to this seem to have no harm done and I fail to see the immorality.

      What happens if a woman in a polyamorous relationship changes her mind and demands/expects the relationship with her partner to be monogamous? Would it be immoral for the man to continue having open relationships with other women, provided his other relationships are not hidden from his partner and that she is hurt by his other relationships?

      • "Is it the breaking of the promise or the hurting of the partner that makes an extra-marital act immoral?"

        Both.

        "What happens if a woman in a polyamorous relationship changes her mind
        and demands/expects the relationship with her partner to be monogamous"

        The relationship would likely end I expect.

        It would be immoral for someone to cheat on their partner even if it was not caught. This is because there is a significant possibility of being caught and hurting them. And because it is dishonest.

        • joey_in_NC

          Both.

          Please clarify. Are you saying that either (breaking of the promise OR hurting of the partner) would make an extra-marital act immoral, or that both would have to apply simultaneously for an extra-marital act to be immoral?

          The relationship would likely end I expect.

          It would be immoral for someone to cheat on their partner even if it was not caught. This is because there is a significant possibility of being caught and hurting them. And because it is dishonest.

          But this doesn't answer my second question, which was.."Would it be immoral for the man to continue having open relationships with other women, provided his other relationships are not hidden from his partner and that she is hurt by his other relationships?"

          • I don't see why it needs to be one or the other, breaking a promise offends value ethics, hurting the partner offends utilitarianism, both of which I subscribe to. I think value ethics are a heuristic for utilitarianism, so I would pick that if forced.

            I think it would be immoral to hurt the wife by way of cheating on her openly. He should get a divorce if he wants to sleep around and she objects and is hurt by this. I don't know why she would not divorce him if he did this.

            What is your point with these questions?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Dishonesty is wrong because it breaks the moral law of being just.

  • I would very much like to know how he has compared harm in sexual terms before and after the so-called sexual revolution. I have no idea how one would quantify or qualify such a statement.

    Before this time I believe we had a seriously sexually repressed society in which women were more or less subjugated to their husbands. It was thought it impossible to rape your wife. People coerced by prohibitons on pre-marital sex rushed into matrimony to fulfil sexual urges, and became trapped in unloving and sexually unfulfilling marriages, hampered also by barriers and stigma of divorce.

    I could go on for pages.

  • jakael02

    I enjoyed reading this article. "But only a man and woman together can commit to a loving union of the kind inherently oriented to family life and appropriate to being the mother and the father of their children." Makes sense to me.

  • melanie statom

    Here are some of the questions swirling up for me around this issue: Is there an intrinsic "right ordering" of the body, inscribed in the body that tends towards an evident end and is not " socially "constructed " at all ? What happens if we view any illness or disability ( mental, physical, spiritual) or addiction, eating disorder, genetic handicap etc, as" intrinsically disordered" to the state of optimum health and functioning of the body, mind and spirit ? Does a physician condemn his patient for the diseased, disordered, disabled state he is suffering from or does he seek to properly diagnose, treat, prescribe healing medicine or assist with prosthetic helps? Does he say to the deaf and blind, " Celebrate this difference" and do nothing? Does the spectrum of our human condition reflect an "intrinsic disordering" of life that is made known to us on the cross of Christ? Is there a "theology of the body", especially broken and suffering bodies worth gazing upon here? Are we all " walking wounded?" If Jesus is the enfleshment of a definitive " theology of the body", which is given us in his own broken body, what would are the implications for us? How do we live with the broken body of our humanity? If " in Christ there is no male and female" , does gender become unimportant? Is gender unimportant in the development of children?.......these are questions being put to me. I am wrestling like Jacob.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I'd say a woman's reproductive system is not socially constructed. Neither is a newborn baby's need to suckle and be cared for socially constructed. Neither is a child's need to have a good father and mother socially constructed.

      • Pofarmer

        "Neither is a child's need to have a good father and mother socially constructed." That one just might be. If we look back in history, how many children had Fathers that were gone for months or years at a time in the military or navy? How many children had fathers that worked 6 or 7 days a week sunup to sundown? How many children had fathers who left to homestead new areas and wouldn't see them again for weeks are years. I wonder how many of these notions are based on a 1950's Ozzy and Harriet ideal of the perfect family that really hasn't particularly existed.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Actually, for most of history families worked together, even with various divisions of labor, so kids saw their parents working and living virtues, unlike most of us.

          But can't you imagine misformed children in the past?

          • Pofarmer

            So, all the children of Roman Legionaire's say, saw their families working together? All the children who had their fathers impressed by the Royal Navy? All the millions of children who had fathers lost to war? All the children who lost family to the periodic plagues and famines?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Exceptions don't prove a point.

            What percentage of men in the Roman Empire were in the legions? What percent of US fathers died in WW2? What happens to children who don't have a father?

          • Pofarmer

            50 million people died in WWII. How many of those left children without at least one parent? 3/4 of the population of Europe was killed of in some places during the 30 years war. How many of those left children without one parent? Europe was ravaged by WWI. 16 million dead. These are very large "exceptions."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So you are arguing that a child does not need a father and mother to be raised well?

          • Pofarmer

            What I'm arguing, is that it is very certainly the case that very many children over the course of history have not had that luxury.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Well, I agree with that! I just would not call it a luxury but an inherent human need.

          • Pofarmer

            "I just would not call it a luxury but an inherent human need."

            You can call it whatever you want. The question is, what does history show?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            History shows "is" is not "ought".

          • David Nickol

            I think what social science studies may show is that children raised in an intact family (married mother and father, together from the time the child is born until he or she reaches 18 or 21) fare better, on average, than children not raised under those circumstances. This does not mean that a great many children raised in something other than an "intact family" will not fare better than a great many children raised in intact families, and a great many children raised in intact families will fare poorly.

            It is the very essence of discrimination, it seems to me, to judge individual instances by statistical averages. Some opposite-sex married couples may be perfectly terrible parents, some single-parents may raise their children better than opposite-sex married couples, and some same-sex married couples may be better parents than opposite-sex married couples.

            I sometimes think that the attempts at studying same-sex-couple parenting are, in and of themselves, based on bigotry. They are looking for negative findings. Suppose a series of studies show clearly that children of legally married lesbian couples fare better, on average, than children of married opposite-sex couples. Does anyone imagine that would make once bit of difference to the same-sex marriage opponents? Or suppose studies showed that children of marriages where the father is from ethnic group A and the mother is from ethnic group B fare less well than both the father and mother are from ethnic group B. Would there be any move to try to prevent marriages between men from ethnic group A and women from ethnic group B? No, because such a thing could clearly be ethnic discrimination.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Do you ever "think that the attempts at studying same-sex-couple parenting [by people who support it] are . . . looking for POSITIVE findings"?

          • David Nickol

            Do you ever "think that the attempts at studying same-sex-couple
            parenting [by people who support it] are . . . looking for POSITIVE
            findings"?

            Quite possibly. It is difficult for any scientist to be completely objective, and certainly total objectivity must be even more difficult in the social sciences.

            But my point (or one of them) is that to people like you, and to the Catholic Church, positive findings will make no difference at all. If it turns out that legally married lesbian couples are, by all measures of the social sciences, the ideal parents, you will still oppose same-sex marriage and the raising of children by married lesbians. You will be willing to use negative research findings, but you won't be willing to accept positive research findings as factors as of any significance. It reminds me a little of the Catholic opposition to condom use in AIDS prevention. Catholics often argue that condoms "don't work" or are even counter productive. But if the full weight of unbiased scientific opinion were to be that condom use was the solution to the AIDS epidemic, Catholics would still oppose their use.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sorry, but that is your side reading your way of operating onto my side.

            If an argument is proven false we won't use it any longer. But usually if something is intrinsically wrong it has all kinds of negative effects. If one putative negative effect proves to be unfounded, it would not disprove the basic objection.

          • David Nickol

            But my point is that no finding of social science could persuade you or the Catholic Church to approve same-sex marriage or child-rearing by same-sex parents. Are you denying that?

            There are people who say the United States shouldn't rush in to same-sex marriage and same-sex-couple child rearing, because there is so much research to be done on what the effects will be. But it seems to me that is not an argument Catholics can't legitimately make. Because even unanimous approval from the social sciences would not change Catholic opposition to homosexuality.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are correct that no finding of social science could result in the Church approving SSM or SS child-rearing.

            On the level of reason, the social sciences can only inform an adequate anthropology, which would be the basis of a rational critique of these practices.

            On the level of faith, no social science (all of which are extremely fallible (to whit, disorders vanish overnight)) has what the Church has: the ability to interpret the moral law correctly--not that that matters to non-Catholics.

            It is odd that you want to straightjacket my side with an absurd what if, because the social sciences could never unanimously agree on anything, short of it being directed by totalitarianism.

          • David Nickol

            It is odd that you want to straightjacket my side with an absurd what if . . . .

            But you have already conceded that the consequences of my admittedly extraordinarily unlikely hypothetical are true! You said:

            You are correct that no finding of social science could result in the Church approving SSM or SS child-rearing.

            Had you wished, you could have refused to answer an "absurd hypothetical," but you acknowledged my point. All the findings of the social sciences, no matter what they are, would not change the Church's stance.

            social science (all of which are extremely fallible (to whit, disorders vanish overnight)

            If you want to give an example of how unreliable the social sciences are in a discussion about homosexuality, it's begging the question to cite the APA's decision on homosexuality itself as the example. You're in effect saying that the APA can't be trusted when it comes to homosexuality, because look what it did about homosexuality.

            Also, the elimination of homosexuality as a diagnosis from the DSM began in 1973 but was not complete until 1987. That's hardly overnight.

          • Luke C.

            Also, the elimination of homosexuality as a diagnosis from the DSM began in 1973 but was not complete until 1987.

            Correct! For those who might be curious about how this process unfolded:

            The DSM-II was published in 1968 and considered all manifestations of homosexuality to be disordered (as did the DSM-I, published in 1952). In 1973, a proposal was accepted to remove homosexuality as a mental disorder and to replace the diagnosis with Sexual Orientation Disturbance disorder. In effect, this meant that homosexuals who were not bothered by / happy with their sexual orientation were no longer considered to have a mental disorder; only homosexuals who were distressed enough by their sexual orientation to seek mental health services were diagnosed. The 7th and following printings of the DSM-II were updated to reflect this change in 1974.

            The DSM-III (1980) changed the name of the diagnosis from Sexual Orientation Disturbance to Ego-dystonic Homosexuality, but retained the spirit of the accepted 1973 DSM-II proposal that homosexuality per se is not a mental disorder and is only considered a disorder when one's sexual orientation is causing distress. It was not until the revised DSM-III (DSM-III-R, published in 1987) that homosexuality was removed as an official diagnosis (though clinicians were still allowed to diagnose ego-dystonic homosexuality as Sexual Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified)). So, while there was some vestige of homosexuality as a mental disorder for almost 15 years after the proposal to revise it (as David noted above), ego-syntonic homosexuality has been "de-disordered" since 1973.

          • Pofarmer

            History shows people can thrive in a wide variety of conditions.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thrive or survive?

          • Pofarmer

            Both. We are an adaptable species.

  • Kraker Jak

    Really....can't imagine how you guys all take this stuff so seriously as per morality and religion. This is the year 2015 after all?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      "Oh, seriously?" is an argument my high school freshman son employs and even he know it is bogus.

  • mgcruss

    At over 260 comments right now, I think we are reaching the limit of new points and counterpoints on this topic. But with recent polls indicating that about 60% of self-described Catholics think same-sex marriage should be legal, I wonder if selling Catholic sexual ethics should start with Catholics before any attempt is made to persuade atheists. I understand we are supposed to be discussing truth and reasonableness and not concerned with polling but when even those who call themselves Catholic (especially younger people) seem so at odds with Church teaching, I feel like suggesting that first the Church philosophers and theologians convince the flock, then come after the heathens.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      This OP was not written for SN.

  • Gary Gutting is a Notre Dame philosophy professor who thinks that what counts about arguments is whether they “work.”
    ...
    For us what counts about an argument is whether it is sound, i.e., whether its premises are true and its logic valid.
    ...
    Whether arguments “work” persuasively in one era but not another is philosophically irrelevant, as any philosopher should take for granted.

    What a strange notion. :) Why should philosophers care only for truthy technicality and not also for the triumph of the truth?

    But only a man and woman together can commit to a loving union of the kind inherently oriented to family life and appropriate to being the mother and the father of their children.

    At first glance, that just looks like a tautology. It takes "a man and woman" to be "the mother and the father". But you haven't said anything about why one mother plus one father is a relevant criterion. It's what you were aiming to demonstrate, in fact, which means the literal tautology is rhetorically a begging-the-question fallacy.

    At second glance, I can't help but focus on the "appropriate to being the mother and father" phrase. Appropriate? How is that being judged? More importantly, why is it being judged? It unnecessarily weakens the argument and appears as though it is a mark of unconscious bigotry.

    On a more charitable reading, I'd interpret the last phrase of the sentence as a non-restrictive clause. Then it's only empirically false. The problem is that it snuck in quantifiers: "a man and woman". More than one of each also works. Also, it seems perfectly plausible that future technology will render the male(s)+female(s) requirement a matter of historical interest, so if we want a logically sound statement we need to take account of what unknowns the future might hold.

    The corrected version would be: "Excluding the use of biotechology, only some nonzero number of males plus some nonzero number of females can commit to a loving union of the kind inherently oriented to mothering and fathering their own children."

    I suppose to be even more charitable, I should assume that no real argument is being made here, but only a sketch of the philosophy surrounding the modern conservative Catholic religious vision of the ideal marriage. Then focusing on its unsoundness is beside the point; what matters, ironically, is whether they "work", i.e. whether they conceptually unify the various injunctions surrounding marriage that modern conservative Catholics adhere to. Generally, a more-unified theory is indeed more worth of belief than a less-unified theory, so this tactic is perfectly reasonable insofar as it goes.

    The tactic in the article goes on in this poetic rigorless way through the next few paragraphs plus four more near the end, reaching its peak early on in its definition of the modern conservative Catholic view of marriage as "the multi-level (physical, emotional, rational-dispositional) sharing of life whose foundation and matrix is the biological unity made uniquely possible by sexual-reproductive complementarity". To insist that that really is the one true definition of marriage would, of course, be an obvious error in the use of language. Words mean what we mean by them. George and Finnis mean that definition by "marriage", at least in this article. The wider society means something almost completely unrelated, pertaining to a legal institution, its rights and duties, and its social function. As long as we know what we each mean by a word, we can communicate.

    ... not because it tries to read premises or conclusions off biological or sociological facts. It doesn’t. Instead, it considers what are the basic forms of human flourishing: conditions or activities that are good for us in themselves: friendship, knowledge, life and health, and the like.

    This is very puzzling in the light of George and Finnis in their immediately preceding sentence define "marital" in terms of sex acts. They've simply contradicted themselves. However, a charitable interpretation would bury this mistaken section as muddled thinking which is later clarified...

    The identification of these of course takes into account biological and other cause-and-effect facts. But it is focused not on those but on the intrinsic goodness of the various elements of human fulfillment.

    ...as meaning that George and Finnis meant to say that they *do* of course read their premises off of biology, but that then they continue onward to talk about the forms of human flourishing which are consistent with their premises, and that they prefer to focus more on the latter part.

    That's perfectly sensible. I also prefer to focus on the part where we talk about individual people's lives and how they can flourish, rather than optional uses for their genitals. Someday I'd like to marry my partner (in the secular sense, of course, not the George and Finnis sense) so that we can have the legal rights which define secular marriage, especially so he doesn't get deported and so that we can have hospital visitation rights when we grow frail together.

    Now one of the basic human goods, as each of the thinkers mentioned above—and not just the Catholics or other Christians—understood, is marriage.

    Oops, George and Finnis seem to have forgotten that they spent a few paragraphs constructing a very specific definition of "marriage" which is obviously not widely shared by people outside the small set of modern conservative Catholics. I agree that "marriage" in the secular sense is a basic good for many humans, but I don't think that their vision of "marriage" adds anything of importance for people outside their religious tradition.

    Indeed, the contrary thought, applied to sex—as in Gutting’s post—would make it impossible to justify general moral exclusions of promiscuity, or anonymous sex, each of which can satisfy desire, and in each of which some people report finding meaning or personal satisfaction.

    Why exactly would you want to exclude them? I agree they can clearly be part of a well-lived life.

    So Gutting’s arguments to show that homosexual sex acts can be morally right are all beside the point.

    Er. This is very bad form, to dismiss arguments in the abstract. George and Finnis built up their own vision of how they idealize marriage, but they neither presented nor engaged with Gutting's arguments. Charitably, I suppose they intended Gutting only as a dock from which to launch their own boat, returning to the practice of focusing on what works rhetorically rather than what is logically sound.

    Plato, Aristotle, Paul, and everyone in the tradition ... Their moral arguments are valid for both and all kinds of persons

    Well that came out of nowhere. It's impossibly broad and vague. All the moral arguments of Plato, Aristotle, Paul, and everyone in the tradition? Seriously? If someone would help out and suggest a charitable interpretation, that would be appreciated. I'm stumped.

    Catholic sexual ethics is “still” as fully reasonable today as it was when St Paul expounded it—and identified prostitution and same-sex sex acts as obviously or visibly far out of line with it—as the sort of thing that people would lose their sound judgment about if and only if they or their society were blind to or careless about the omnipresent, invisible reality of divine causation ex nihilo, divine providence, and the possibility of a divinely willed human destiny beyond death.

    Ohh! This should have been stated up front, rather than at the end. If I'd beforehand known George and Finnis intended their arguments to be acceptable only to people who already are believing Catholics, then I would have read it differently.

    Another equally telling sign is its good fruit—the good fruit of its exclusions and its condemnations of certain kinds of choice.

    So to be clear, George and Finnis are saying that the telling "good fruit" of their beliefs is condemning my partner and I and excluding us from civil rights legislation.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    A question for atheists and agnostics.

    To what extent is your belief system a consequence of your view of chastity?

    • Pofarmer

      None.

    • Michael Murray

      It's not relevant at all. My views on the non-existence of god are based on the lack of any evidence that I find convincing.

      If I was a theist and didn't like the Catholic views on human sexuality I could just be one of many flavours of Protestant. Or I could just be like so many other Catholics and ignore the Church's teachings on human sexuality.

    • To some significant extent, although it may have been an accident in my personal history. Questioning contraception and gay marriage is what started my exodus from the Catholic Church. More fundamental problems arose later.

      I suspect, though, that I'm in the minority.

    • Galorgan

      Perhaps you could make the case that it started me on the road of being able to doubt the church, but other than that it has no bearing. As Michael Murray stated, I would just be like all the Catholics whose views are in opposition to the church's.

  • William Davis

    I thought this was a great post by Geena Safire. I think she gets at problems I'm seeing but failing to articulate as well. She seems to be a very intelligent, kind, and thoughtful person. I can't understand why should would have been banned...

    The RCC is opposed to anything that adapts this exclusive equation:

    marriage = sexual pleasure = coitus = parenthood.

    No premarital or extramarital sex or open relationships or serial monogamy (I.e., divorce) because then m ≠ sp

    No contraception because then c ≠ p

    Require commitment to have children from marriage candidates because else m ≠ p

    No homosexuality or self-love or 'alternate semen deposition' because then sp ≠ c and c &ne p

    No alternate fertility options because then p ≠ c

    No matter that only a small percent of mammals or birds have pair bonding.
    No matter that most animal pair bonding still involves sex outside the bond.
    No matter that masturbation and homosexuality are common in the animal kingdom.

    No matter that human societies have always had varied rules regarding these different concepts.
    No matter that we now consider women as full members of the human race, and able to earn a living and inherit and to have choices, removing the unequal parallel analogy of patriarchal marriage to God and church.
    No matter that we know that semen contains a haploid gamete and not a 'seed' (i.e., preformation is false)
    No matter that we have, in developed countries, a social system to care for children if birth parents cannot or do not, so p ≠ m
    No matter that divorce laws and parental responsibility laws and child protective laws and services protect the rights of children and former spouses, so widowhood/divorcéehood/single-parenthood and orphanhood are not essentially a death sentence.
    No matter that effective contraception today allow c ≠ p.
    No matter that alternative fertility options allow p ≠ c.
    No matter that society is vastly more complex and interconnected.

    No matter that, in nature, that equation is manifestly untrue.
    No matter that, increasingly due to science, history, and the increased roles of government, that equation is increasingly more untrue and it never was true.
    No matter that logic proves that "A often has some relationship to B" does not mean that "A = B" nor "~A = ~B".

    If the church operates on premises which beg the question -- presume elements of the conclusion -- then it is not surprising that, for the church, that equation -- the conclusion -- appears valid.

    https://disqus.com/home/discussion/outshinethesun/outshine_the_sun_estranged_notions_marriage_natural_law_and_the_truth_of_sexual_ethics/#comment-2013702191

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Those "no matters" really do not matter. What other animals may do is not relevant. What other societies or governments permit or prohibit is also not relevant. The marriage of Christ to his Church is a red herring. So is the seed analogy.

      But I agree that she has the Church's basic view correct ("marriage = sexual pleasure = coitus = parenthood") if by that she means that sexual pleasure should only be celebrated in the context of the marriage act open to life between two persons married to each other.

      The premises do not beg the question. It appears to me that Gina has critiqued conclusions which logically follow from the premises, as if her objections would invalidate the premises. The premises are not premised on any of her "no matters."

      • David Nickol

        I think what baffles many about the Catholic approach to sexual morality is that it requires that the "marital act" be performed to certain specifications in every single instance, no matter what the circumstances. As I said, it is kind of a fanatical, obsessive-compulsive, physicalist approach to doing sex "right" even when there is no conceivable practical difference. Married couples who have 15 children must still perform the "marital act" in such a way that it is "open to the transmission of life" every time, as must couples who have no children and couples who are incapable of having children. I can't think of anything similar either within or outside of sexual morality.

        And as I was pointing out earlier, the wife of a husband incapable of sexual response (except one time) must just do without sex for the duration of a marriage, but a husband with a wife incapable of sexual response may continue to perform the "marital act" with her to his heart's content, because it is only the male's orgasm (and the male's pleasure) that counts.

        Let me just throw this in here regarding NFP. It can work very well, perhaps even for most people. But for some people it is a nightmare. If the woman's fertility is clearly "readable," all is good and well. But I have read accounts by a very committed Catholic over on Vox Nova of cases where clear signals of "safe" periods are hard to come by and times between them can be up to three months.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I don't see what is "fanatical, obsessive-compulsive, [or] physicalist" about natural sexual relations.

          • David Nickol

            Every "marital act" must be performed in such a way that, even if the man and woman are both sterile, and even if the man's orgasm lacks ejaculatory fluid (dry orgasm) or the ejaculatory fluid goes the wrong way (retrograde ejaculation), the morality of the act depends on the form of the act, meaning that it must be performed in such a way that, if the partners were fertile, and if the man could ejaculate, he would ejaculate in his wife's vagina.

            As I said, I cannot think of any other moral requirement that is similar. When fertility is absent, married couples must act as if it were. When semen is absent, married couples must act as if it were. And as I mentioned before, when a husband is impotent but still finds pleasure in physical contact of a sexual nature with his wife, they must be careful not to "risk" her having an orgasm. Heaven forfend! A female orgasm unaccompanied by a male one. Why not prohibit a male orgasm unless accompanied by a female one?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So what is fanatical, obsessive-compulsive, or physicalist about these strictures?

            I think you could find similar kinds of reasoning when it comes to medical ethics in regard to end of life issues or the principle of double effect. Didn't you encounter all kinds of complicated situations when you read the difficult questions section of Grisez's website?

          • David Nickol

            I think you could find similar kinds of reasoning when it comes to
            medical ethics in regard to end of life issues or the principle of
            double effect.

            No, I generally find Catholic medical thought regarding end-of-life issues to be remarkably reasonable, and when I disagree, I think I at least understand the reasoning. But I find much of Catholic sexual morality baffling. It seems more a matter of mechanics than human interaction.

            Didn't you encounter all kinds of complicated situations when you read the difficult questions section of Grisez's website?

            Complicated? Yes. Baffling? No, except when it came to sexual morality.

            I recall defending Grisez here on Strange Notions on the matter of the inappropriateness ("sinfulness") of Catholics contributing money to other religions (say, to a local Episcopal school), with some Catholics arguing that I was wrong.

          • Papalinton

            The Catholic perspective on sexual relations is not in any form, natural.

            "Christianity was from the beginning, essentially and fundamentally, life's nausea and disgust with life, merely concealed behind, masked by, dressed up as, faith in 'another' or 'better' life ... The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad." Friedrich Nietzsche.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Pure fantasy on your and the N-man's part.

            I find the Catholic faith to be positive and joyful. I love this world, even though it a sh!tstorm in many ways.

        • BrianKillian

          If an alien came to earth and didn't understand the human concept of playing games, he might start to wonder why players in games were discouraged from cheating, since that can be an effective way of winning a game (the goal of all games after all).

          Why must they 'win' the game one way but are forbidden to another way?

          He might wonder why 'throwing the game' was looked down on even when the players knew they were going to lose anyway. He would correctly note that it makes no practical difference whatsoever as to the outcome.

          He might find it puzzling that the players are expected to play the game as if to win every single time - even under circumstances when it was impossible.

          Isn't that a kind of make believe?

          What would be missing in the alien's observations of human game playing would be the comprehension of the value of sportsmanship and how distinctions like cheating vs. winning fair and square makes sense only in relation to that value. Without that understanding of how the value of sportsmanship relates to the playing of games, all those distinctions will seem like nothing more than silly and arbitrary rules.

          I think a similar this is happening when distinctions like using NFP vs. ABC look arbitrary or it seems senseless that one should expect sex to be done 'right' even when it seems to make no practical difference.

          There is a missing value that would make sense of those rules and distinctions - in Church lingo it's called the unitive end of sex. But the connection between that value and those rules are not perceived by many, for various reasons.

          So relating those things to that other side of the dual 'ends' of sex is one way to make more sense of it, but there are other pieces of the puzzle too.

      • Papalinton

        Geena and William have presented what can only be described as the proper, comprehensive and definitive understanding of Natural Law. Whatever the author[s] of this opinion piece characterise as Natural Law is a confected rendition, a theologically-soaked perspective best suited to the contrivances of Christian apologetics. The Natural Law construct of Dr George in this opinion piece has the epistemic rigour of an excuse looking for a reason, and with about as much practical value as a hand made to fit a glove.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          There you go again. Bare and dismissive claims without any warrant.

          • Papalinton

            But it is the truth. And truth by its very nature is bare and dismissive. The RCC will no find no succour in the welcoming folds of truth for its primitive manifesto. And the Church's view is by no means universal. It is increasingly becoming a bit player in the marketplace of ideas.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay, so it is old and not universally accepted and scorned by people like you. So if something is old, not universally believed, and scorned than it is false.

            I missed reading that in my intro to philosophy books.

  • Michael Murray

    Well done SCOTUS. Sad to say my country is now the last outpost of bigotry in the English speaking world.