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Sex, Love, and God: The Catholic Answer to Puritanism and Nietzcheanism

Hands
 

 
Many of the Catholic Church’s teachings are vilified in both the high and popular cultures, but none more than its doctrines concerning marriage and sexuality. Time and again, the Church’s views on sex are characterized as puritanical, life denying and hopelessly outdated — holdovers from the Bronze Age. Above all, critics pillory the Church for setting unreasonable limits to the sexual freedom of contemporary people. Church leaders, who defend traditional sexual morality, are parodied as versions of Dana Carvey’s “church lady” — fussy, accusatory, secretly perverse and sex-obsessed.

Let me respond first to the charge of puritanism. Throughout the history of religion and philosophy, a puritanical strain is indeed apparent. Whether it manifests itself as Manichaeism, Gnosticism, or Platonic dualism, the puritanical philosophy teaches that spirit is good and matter is evil or fallen. In most such schemas, the whole purpose of life is to escape from matter, especially from sexuality, which so ties us to the material realm. But authentic Biblical Christianity is not puritanical. The Creator God described in the book of Genesis made the entire panoply of things physical — planets, stars, the moon and sun, animals, fish and even things that creep and crawl upon the earth — and found all of it good, even very good. Accordingly, there is nothing perverse or morally questionable about bodies, sex, sexual longing or the sexual act. In fact, it’s just the contrary. When, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus himself is asked about marriage and sexuality, he hearkens back to the book of Genesis and the story of creation: “At the beginning of creation God made them male and female; for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and the two shall become as one. They are no longer two but one flesh” (Mk. 10:6-8). That last sentence is, dare I say it, inescapably “sexy.” Plato might have been a puritan, and perhaps John Calvin too, but Jesus most certainly was not.

So given this stress on the goodness of sex and sexual pleasure, what separates the Christian view from, say, the “Playboy” philosophy? The simple answer is that, for Biblical people, sexuality must be placed in the wider context of love, which is to say willing the good of the other. It is fundamental to Catholic spirituality and morality that everything in life must be drawn magnetically toward love, must be conditioned and transfigured by love. Thus, one’s business concerns must be marked by love, lest they devolve into crass materialism; and one’s relationships must be leavened by love, lest they devolve into occasions for self-interested manipulation; even one’s play must be directed toward love, lest it devolve into mere self-indulgence. Sex is no exception to this rule. The goodness of sexual desire is designed, by its very nature, to become ingredient in a program of self-forgetting love and hence to become something rare and life enhancing. If you want to see what happens when this principle is ignored, take a long hard look at the hookup culture prevalent among many young — and not so young — people today. Sex as mere recreation, as contact sport, as a source only of superficial pleasure has produced armies of the desperately sad and anxious, many who have no idea that it is precisely their errant sexuality that has produced such deleterious effects in them. When sexual pleasure is drawn out of itself by the magnetic attraction of love, it is rescued from self-preoccupation.

Now there is a third step as well, for human love must be situated in the context of divine purpose. Once Jesus clarified that male and female are destined to become one flesh, he further specified that “What God has joined together,” no human being should put asunder. When I was working full time as a parish priest, I had the privilege of preparing many young couples for marriage. I would always ask them, “Why do you want to be married in church?” After some hesitation, the young people would invariably respond with some version of “Well, we're in love,” to which I would respond, “I'm delighted that you're in love, but that’s no reason to be married in church!” My point was that entering into a properly sacramental marriage implied that the bride and groom realized that they had been brought together by God and precisely for God’s reasons, that their sexuality and their mutual love were in service of an even higher purpose. To make their vows before a priest and a Catholic community, I would tell them, was tantamount to saying that they knew their relationship was sacramental — a vehicle of God’s grace to the wider world. This final contextualization guaranteed that sexuality — already good in itself and already elevated by love — had now something truly sacred.

Our culture has become increasingly Nietzchean, by which I mean obsessed with the power of self-creation. This is why toleration is the only objective value that many people recognize, and why freedom, especially in the arena of sexuality, is so highly prized. It is furthermore why attempts to contextualize sex within higher frameworks of meaning are so often mocked as puritanism or fussy antiquarianism. Thank God that, amidst the million voices advocating self-indulgent sexuality, there is at least the one voice of the Catholic Church shouting “No,” a no in service of a higher Yes!
 
 
Originally posted at Word on Fire. Text from CNA. Used with author's permission.
(Image Credit: Paper Blog)

Bishop Robert Barron

Written by

Bishop Robert Barron is Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing new media to draw people into or back to the Faith. Bishop Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

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  • staircaseghost

    "At the beginning of creation God made them male and female; for this
    reason a man shall leave his father and mother and the two shall become
    as one. They are no longer two but one flesh”

    "For this reason"?

    I don't think that phrase means what Jesus thinks it means.

    • Jon Hawkins

      What do you think it means?

      • staircaseghost

        It is typically deployed to indicate that what is stated immediately afterward is a logical conclusion from what was stated immediately before.

    • Michael Murray

      Jesus never said "for this reason". He spoke in Aramaic.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    One of the most comforting things I've found in the Catholic faith - and something I think religious Jews share - is the awareness of being a creature. I have an origin, nature, and destiny I did not invent and which is good. I've experienced the radical freedom of atheism but I personally did not find it liberating in any good sense.

    Part of this "creatureliness" for a married couple is yielding to their own created nature and accepting that they should not deliberately separate bonding and babies, which is what contraception is all about.

    • Andre Boillot

      Kevin,

      "Part of this "creatureliness" for a married couple is yielding to their own created nature and accepting that they should not deliberately separate bonding and babies, which is what contraception is all about."

      There are many aspects of nature that we intervene upon, seemingly with no issue where the Church (and presumably you) are concerned. We use medicine to cure diseases that would have naturally taken us, to maintain teeth whose failure would have starved us, and to birth children that nature would have eliminated. We grow crops where nature would previously not have supported, and survive in climates we are not naturally suited for. These are just a few of the *unnatural* things we take for granted daily. So please, lets not bow too much at the alter of what is natural.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        This is a big topic, Andre, but I think we can make a key distinction.

        We use medicine to restore the body to health, which is a good thing. Contraception is just the opposite. It "says" that fertility is an evil, like a decayed tooth, and that, I submit, is a lie.

        • Andre Boillot

          Kevin,

          "We use medicine to restore the body to health, which is a good thing."

          Why is that a good thing when it goes against *nature*?

          "Contraception is just the opposite. It "says" that fertility is an evil."

          I disagree with this characterization. If people who took contraception thought that fertility was evil, they'd all sterilize themselves, and save the monthly expense. Fertility, like many other *natural* occurrences, can be good or bad for individuals (even societies). I don't know if this is actually a concern with chemotherapy, but let's assume it would be very bad for a woman undergoing this treatment (or any medical treatment that poses harm to an unborn child) to get pregnant. Would it then be evil for her to use contraception? I don't think it would be.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Here is the ongoing issue of what does "natural" mean. I'm going to use "natural" in the sense of human nature. It is good for human beings to be healthy.

            People do use contraception to make themselves temporarily sterile.

            >Would it then be evil for [a woman undergoing chemotherapy] to use contraception?

            If you only judge actions based on their consequences, no.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Here is the ongoing issue of what does "natural" mean. I'm going to use "natural" in the sense of human nature. It is good for human beings to be healthy."

            Let's say we find a way to stop our genetic info from deteriorating overtime, that we could overcome aging, basically that we could no longer die of old-age and be perpetually healthy. Would you view that as natural? Do you think the RCC would?

            "People do use contraception to make themselves temporarily sterile."

            Condoms render me temporarily sterile? My point was that people don't view fertility as evil. They usually just think they can't afford a kid at that moment.

            ">Would it then be evil for [a woman undergoing chemotherapy] to use contraception?

            If you only judge actions based on their consequences, no."

            So why would you judge her actions as evil? This could be a woman desperate for many, many children...you know, as soon as she get's healthy.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Too many issues in one comment.

            Okay. A condom does not make a man infertile but it renders the act sterile (if the condom does not fail). The pill *does* render the woman temporarily infertile (or it acts as an abortifacient).

          • scragsma

            first answer: it depends on the techniques used.
            second: yes, condoms render you temporarily sterile - that's their purpose, to prevent the natural goal of sexual activity. people are absolutely right in viewing fertility as good in itself, but like anything else it can be used for evil.
            third: I've already answered this. there's a method of deferring pregnancy that costs nothing and is 100% guaranteed - it's called temporary abstinence.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,

            Say a woman is heterozygous for Huntington's disease. Her mate is also heterozygous for Huntington's. In what sense is obeying their "nature" a moral good? This observance of their nature will not make them healthy. It would compound their already poor health. It will produce offspring who will die, and if they are unlucky enough to have a child who is homozygous for the gene that causes Huntington's disease (they have a 1 in 4 chance of this) they will be ensure more rapid suffering on their child.

            Is it good for women who will always be at risk during pregnancy to be getting pregnant? Why is it a moral good for them to obey their "nature?"

            It is in my human nature, to have the desire to ball up my fist and test a person's chin who has annoyed me. It is good for humans to be healthy and have a healthful emotional release. Right? Think of the deep psychological gratification and peace I would achieve by punching annoying person in the mouth. Its short term sure, but it is wholly natural. Why is this wrong, but the former correct?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            As I understand it, "natural law" does not mean whatever people *do*, otherwise every action would be fine.

            It also does not mean whatever people *are*, otherwise we would say disease fine.

            I think natural law begins with two facts. First, everything we do we do to be happy (or happier). Second, we recognize in ourselves the basic command to do good and avoid evil.

            Natural law reasoning examines human experience with the tool of reason to try to discover how to carry out doing good and avoiding evil so as to achieve happiness.

            Since we are social beings, good and evil are not merely individual. I think this is why most people have no problem with the silver rule (don't do to others what you don't want done to yourself) and the golden rule (do to others what you would like others to do to you).

            The natural law doesn't belong to Catholics who want to impose it on others. It belongs to everyone, including atheists.

          • Max Driffill

            Nothing about what you are saying is then natural. It continues to sound like a fuzzy area that allows Catholics to appeal to some objective nature, except of course when nature doesn't support something catholics believe.
            Isn't this just a species of special pleading? A ploy to allow Catholics to pretend their rules sit outside their institutions?
            That is what it looks like to the rest of us.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Catholics embrace natural law ethics but we didn't invent it and it does not belong to us.

            Here is a discussion of natural law from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/natural-law-ethics/

            If you think genocide or rape are bad, most likely you are using natural law reasoning, whether you think in those terms or not.

          • scragsma

            Yes, it would. While it might be prudent for her to NOT get pregnant, there's a very natural way to attain that end: abstain from the act that causes pregnancy! Sex isn't a 'right'.

          • Sage McCarey

            So, not only does she have to suffer the effects of chemo and fear of death and prolonged suffering, she has to forego the loving embrace of her husband, intimacy with her husband, and the comfort and physical release that might bring?

        • cowalker

          "[Contraception] "says" that fertility is an evil . . . ."
          Sort of like how artificial sweeteners and stomach stapling and surgically bypassing a portion of the small intestine "say" that nutrition is an evil? Yet somehow the Church is silent on the requirement for Catholics not to resort to these means to combat obesity, and to adhere strictly to dieting when weight must be lost..

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think a more apt analogy would be to go to a feast and eat for the pleasure, and then go to the vomitorium to barf it up, and then go back to the feast. There you are separating the pleasure of eating from its purpose, nutrition.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Really? Pleasure and enjoyment are not part of eating? Should we then all subsist entirely on boring, tasteless food that maximizes nutrition? Then why have taste buds?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Who said pleasure was not part of eating? The pain of hunger and pleasure of eating and the habit of eating which we develop assure that we will actually eat!

            Also, I've been informed that there really were not vomitoria in the villas of wealthy Romans.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You implied it. "There you are separating the pleasure of eating from its purpose, nutrition." If we're arguing natural law, then the natural end of eating is nutrition, not pleasure.

          • scragsma

            Huh? He didn't say that. Stop making things up.

          • cowalker

            Why would bulimia be a more apt analogy?

            People want a sweet taste but don't want the nutrition that naturally goes along with a sweet taste, so they use a chemical deliberately contrived to deliver that taste without causing them to take in calories. Diet sodas do nothing good for the body, but no priest tells Catholics that it's unnatural to drink them. People can't force themselves to cut their food intake to a minimal amount, so a surgeon diverts their digestive system around part of the small intestine so they can eat and all the nutrients aren't absorbed. Why aren't they sinning by avoiding the natural consequence of eating?

            For that matter, there are people who could control their blood sugar, high blood pressure and cholesterol naturally--with diet and exercise--but they don't have enough self-discipline, so they take medications so they don't have to control their behavior in those ways.

            Don't get me wrong, I know that not everyone can control these conditions with diet and exercise alone, because I am one of those people. And everyone has their own burdens to bear and I think it's good to have alternatives for people who don't have the will-power in those particular areas.

            But I think the same thing goes for contraceptives. Why get bent out of shape over a device or medication that beneficially controls fertility without requiring self-discipline that is beyond the reach of many people?

            I simply can't take seriously the incessant chorus of "unnatural" in response to contraception when Catholics are A-OK with performing gastric bypasses on the obese and prescribing medication for conditions caused by being 30 pounds overweight.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've withdrawn the vomitorium analogy because I was wrong about that being a feature of decadent Roman life.

            I guess the answer to your questions about eating is that they are probably morally trivial. Removing some of the nutritional value of food is not intrinsically evil and so there is a prudential trade off between the benefits to be gained and the evils to be avoided. If you stomach banding can improve your overall health it's fine.

            However, sex is not a trivial matter. It is profoundly important. Think of how many young women have had their hearts broken offering sex in the hope of getting love. Think of how many men have used women for sex and then abandoned the children they have conceived. Think of the cost to society of young men growing up without fathers. Think of the way pornography enslaves the viewer and degrades those who make it. Those are just a few examples.

          • cowalker

            So it's not the unnaturalness of contraception, or the wrongness of choosing to get around self-denial to prevent the natural consequences of behavior--it's that eating habits are a trivial part of life compared to sex. We are not obliged to follow God's plan for nutrition because we only eat several times a day almost every day of our lives, and what and how much we eat has a profound effect on our health--but sex is more important.

            Even if I accepted that distinction, which does not seem reasonable to me, I'd have to balk when told that couples with serious reasons for wanting to limit their fertility couldn't use medication or devices or surgery to assist them, when there is no objection to such unnatural assistance in other areas of their lives. It just isn't logical.

          • articulett

            I don't think it's moral to encourage large families either.

          • scragsma

            You're twisting everything he says. Shame on you!

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But none of those are the grounds on which they magisterium formulates its dictates on sex. The magisterium has developed 'rules' for sexual behavior as a set of consequential derivations of some basic theological principles.

          • scragsma

            Actually what Kevin says IS pretty much the basis for Catholic teaching about sex. Its deepest foundations are the natural law and respect for the dignity of the human person. The teaching is based as much on the ancient philosophers as on anything else.

          • severalspeciesof

            However, sex is not a trivial matter. It is profoundly important.

            This is true. However contraception isn't sex. Now that may sound flippant, but it is an important distinction, IMO...

            (think about it, let it sink in)...

            apologies for butting in

            Glen

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Contraception is part of the subject of "sex." Contraception has a huge impact on sexual intercourse because it makes possible separating sex from procreation.

          • severalspeciesof

            Contraception has a huge impact on sexual intercourse because it makes possible separating sex from procreation.,/blockquote>

            Exactly like NFP...

          • Kevin Aldrich

            *NOT* exactly like NFP.

            In NFP, the spouses do *nothing* to separate sex from procreation. Their intercourse is open to procreation. Nature has given women periods of natural infertility: during most of her menstrual cycle, right after birth while exclusively breastfeeding for some varying period of time, and permanently after menopause.

          • severalspeciesof

            Reread what I quoted...

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Reread it? I quoted your three words and put a *not* in front of them.

          • severalspeciesof

            OK, let me rephrase this: Re-read what I quoted 'from you' .

            In other words (re-writing your words), NFP makes it possible to separate sex from procreation...

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I guess you think the difference is just semantic?

            When they use contraception, the couple *does something* in order to separate sex from procreation. Their action--using a condom, taking a pill, withdrawal, whatever--attempts to break the connection between sexual intercourse and its procreative purpose.

            When they use NFP, the couple *does nothing* to separate sex from procreation. They don't take any action to break the connection between sexual intercourse and its procreative purpose.

          • BenS

            Their action--using a condom, taking a pill, withdrawal, whatever--attempts to break the connection between sexual intercourse and its procreative purpose.

            And this is a problem how? We regularly do things that break the connection between what action a part of our body is supposed to do and the purpose of doing it. In fact, some parts of our bodies are specifically designed in such a way that they limit the purpose of other parts.

            If you're a fan of 'doing nothing' to impede this purpose then I suggest you stop blinking (as that separates the action of seeing from the purpose of the eye) and shit yourself at will (as holding it in separates the action of defecating from the purpose of your bowels).

            Of course, doing that would separate the action of blinking from the purpose of the eyelid and the action of bowel control from the purpose of the sphincter so you're pretty much goosed either way.

            If you're only referring to artifical means (which I presume you're not as 'pulling out' require no artifical means) then I suggest you stop wearing clothes as that separates the action of sweating from the purpose of heat regulation, stop using transport as that separates the action of walking from the purpose of locomotion and stop using the internet as that separates the action of speech from the purpose of communication.

            Of course, that latter means I can't then hear you but that's the price I will have to pay.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If anyone wants an example of "pro-contraception hysteria" read the comment above.

            Dude, why are you so desperate to convince people the Catholic Church is wrong when you simultaneously argue that nobody listens to the Church's teachings?

          • BenS

            I'm not hysterical, nor am I mandating that people do or do not use contraception. I believe it's their choice; unlike the church which DOES order its followers around with threats of excommunication and insinuations of hell.

            Dude, I'm not 'desperate' to convince anyone, I'm simply pointing out the flaws in your arguments. If you don't like that, hard cheese, dude - come up with better arguments. I didn't argue that 'no-one' listens to the churches teachings, I argued that people in more affluent countries (and thus with better education) don't listen to some of the churches teachings even whilst self-identifying as Catholics. That's what I argued, dude, and it still stands.

            Also, dude, wherever the Catholic faith gains power, it attempts to mandate its teachings into law. To legally prevent contraception as it did in Ireland. That's why I raise my objections, dude.

            Finally, dude, you utterly failed to respond to my points in the post above. Would you like to try again or have my parallels made it abundantly clear how silly the argument from 'breaking the connection between action and purpose' is and you've now abandoned that argument and will never raise it again?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think others below have answered most of your objections. I'll just focus on the part I think you think is the most devastating. Your examples fail to distinguish between "acts of man" and "human acts."

            Blinking is not a moral act but is part of the right functioning of the visual system.

            However, if you sewed your eyes shut so you couldn't see or had your tear ducts removed so your eyes would dry out and you'd go blind, or sewed your eye lids open so they could not protect the eye, you'd be deliberately mutilating yourself and would be committing an immoral act.

            So I think your examples don't apply to the difference between NFP and contraception.

          • scragsma

            The Church doesn't 'order' anyone around. It does, however, present its teachings for examination by those who seek the truth. Those who don't accept those teachings excommunicate themselves (the Church publicly declares excommunication only in cases of public scandal, when there is danger of confusion regarding what the Church actually teaches; that's only a matter of stating formally what the person him/herself has already done). Further, there's no "threat" of hell, just warning of what people choose for themselves by sin.

            And of course the Church tries to influence society! That's what it's there for - to convince humanity to act in its own best interest by avoiding destructive behavior; in the case of contraception, by not using unhealthy means to damage themselves and society.

          • BenS

            The Church doesn't 'order' anyone around.

            Of course it does; wherever it thinks it can get away with it it orders people around and penalises those who disagree / disobey. Every time the Catholic church gets sufficient political power in a country it attempts to change the law to enforce its own views. If putting its views into law and locking up / fining people who disagree isn't ordering people around then I don't know what is.

            Those who don't accept those teachings excommunicate themselves (the Church publicly declares excommunication only in cases of public scandal, when there is danger of confusion regarding what the Church
            actually teaches; that's only a matter of stating formally what the person him/herself has already done). Further, there's no "threat" of hell, just warning of what people choose for themselves by sin.

            This is somewhere between passive aggression and the bully saying "Why are you hitting yourself?".

            That's what it's there for - to convince humanity to act in its own best interest by avoiding destructive behavior; in the case of contraception, by not using unhealthy means to damage themselves and society.

            But it goes beyond 'convincing', doesn't it? If it was just a bunch of old men in a toothless city state telling me not to use condoms, I could quite happily ignore them and get on with my life. But it's not. Because at every turn the Church is sticking its face in to the legal process, objecting to homosexuals getting married, trying to make abortion illegal, trying to limit education on and availability of contraception and generally just getting in the damn way.

            And your whole comment about contraception really makes me think you should go read a science book. Unhealthy? Righto.

          • Max Driffill

            I'm still marveling at the idea that the church doesn't order people around. I mean when the church had real political power ordering people around was what it did.

          • scragsma

            Kevin, I think you're wasting your energy. They just don't WANT to hear logic, or else they haven't ever learned to reason logically.
            Still I commend you for trying to educate them. We have to keep trying.

          • Max Driffill

            It isn't just about logic. Its about evidence that supports premises from which a chain of logic flows.
            Take the following example.

            A unicorn is a horse with a horn. New born unicorns have a very tiny horn. Adult male and female unicorns have horns all year long, and they grow continually. Unicorn horns are indestructible and can only be removed at death. Logically then all living unicorns have horns.

            I think we can agree then that that conclusion about unicorns and their horns is, logically, pretty sound with the given premises. Would any one then suggest that since I have crafted a logically sound argument about unicorn horns people must take unicorns seriously?

            I would very much hope no one would. Because the logic, however interesting it may be, is irrelevant when discussing real entities in the world if we don't first establish that these entities actually exist and exhibit the qualities described in our premises.

          • epeeist

            A unicorn is a horse with a horn.

            I am glad you have posted this. I have written a short book, well a vade mecum really called The Treatment of Hoof Rot in Unicorns but for some reason I can't get a publisher.

            I am hoping that I can sell it directly, I am sure there is a market.

          • Max Driffill

            I wonder if Templeton might publish your book?

          • Sage McCarey

            This seems awfully antagonistic to all the non-believers on this blog. Brandon, where are you when we need you?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And yes. That remark was nasty and not-conducive to discussion. It's why I ignore Rick: he's rude and his points add nothing to the discussion.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            We do want to hear logic.

            But here's where we part company (my 2 cents):

            Catholics have used various schemes of logic (some good, some bad) for millenia to construct ethical systems, epistemological schemes, histories of the world, etc.

            Some of these are internally consistent; some have failed when they are brought up against real-world evidence; and some have simply been discarded.

            But they all rest on a set of unverifiable assumptions. Catholics (at least the ones who post here) seem to take those assumptions for granted. Atheists don't.

            If you will, Ockham settled the problem long ago: don't multiply entities unnecessarily.

            Atheists make fewer assumptions, and if you want to persuade an atheist, you have to address the problem of those unnecessary entities Ockham mentioned.

          • severalspeciesof

            I guess you think the difference is just semantic?

            Not quite. The difference is how one gets to the end, how to keep sex from resulting in making babies...

          • I think what it is difficult for many people (including me) to understand is why each and every act of sexual intercourse must be performed in the same way, whether a couple is fertile or not. As I have noted before, infertile couples may not "break the connection between sexual intercourse and its procreative purpose" even though they cannot procreate! I am racking my brains, but I can't think of any other moral requirement that is similar.

            A wife can take the birth control pill for reasons other than contraception, and sexual intercourse is still permitted. So it is not how the wife and husband perform sexual intercourse under these circumstances that makes the difference. Taking the pill in and of itself is therefore not forbidden. It is taking it with the intent of preventing pregnancy. On the other hand, it is permitted to practice NFP with the intent of avoiding pregnancy. So the intent is not wrong.

            I think it makes a certain amount of sense (although I do not agree) to say that marriage is about having children and it is selfish of a Catholic married couple to thwart the purpose of their sexual relationship and have no children. But Catholics are permitted to use NFP (or to abstain entirely) to space the children they do have and to limit the number. The question, then, is why each and every act of sexual intercourse must be "open to the transmission of life." Why each and every act? And why each and every act after the wife has passed childbearing age?

            It would seem to me that after a woman goes through menopause, sex for her and her husband has served its procreative purpose. Setting aside the whole question of how many children a couple ought to have, why must a married couple who is past the point of being able to have children still be concerned about the procreative potential of sexual intercourse? Why must they engage in sexual intercourse as if sex for them is procreative. It is not and cannot be procreative.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            As I have noted before, infertile couples may not "break the connection between sexual intercourse and its procreative purpose" even though they cannot procreate! I am racking my brains, but I can't think of any other moral requirement that is similar.

            I think your (implied) question is an excellent one. I don't know of other examples; maybe someone else can think of some or why this case is unique (if it is).

            As to why the natural moral law says "don't deliberately make your sex infertile even if you know you are infertile" I think ultimately has to do with being a creature and not a god.

          • Naters

            I love you, David! You really put it well by undressing all those fancy terms ("open to life", "procreative significance", ect.) to show what they really mean: "it's all in the bed action".

          • Max Driffill

            Sex in humans isn't just about procreation. Sex is also about fun, creating bonds etc.

            But I would argue that NFP is also a massive intrusion into the act of sex.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If we look carefully into what human sexuality is we can say it is about bonding and babies. We do it because we have the urge and it is fun. But babies take a great deal of time to grow and be educated and they need a father and mother to protect them and show them how to relate to men and women.

            Marriage as permanent and faithful protects men from their natural selfishness, women from the vulnerability of having their hearts broken and being abandoned, children from poverty and rejection, and society from the consequences of those trouble youth.

            NFP intrudes in no way into anything. It just says, "If we are not ready for this act of intercourse to be fertile, don't do the act, just wait a few days." It is something I'd think modern people would be very open to, since we are supposed to be so naturally-minded. NFP is "organic" sex with no chemical additives.

          • BenS

            If we look carefully into what human sexuality is we can say it is about bonding and babies.

            Sure, and if we look carefully into Catholicism it's about silly hats and bulletproof cars.

            Marriage as permanent and faithful protects men from their natural selfishness, women from the vulnerability of having their hearts broken and being abandoned, children from poverty and rejection, and society from the consequences of those trouble youth.

            You've got a really skewed view of humanity.

            Men are all naturally selfish? Women need protecting from their own choice of partner? Children without one male and one female parent are rejected and doomed to poverty and troubled youths never come from married heterosexual partners?

            I don't know where you live but any relationship between it and the real world is coincidental at best.

          • While I agree with the substance of some of what you say, it seems to me that Kevin is generally civil and, just in general, a "nice guy," but you respond to him with sarcasm and hostility.

          • BenS

            I respond to most silly comments with sarcasm, I generally find it fitting.

            Seriously, boiling down the immensely complex and wide ranging notion of human sexuality to 'bonding and babies'? That deserves a sarcastic response. Like boiling Catholicism down to silly hats and the popemobile.

            And his view on society is so out of whack it's also worthy of sarcasm. He basically said that only marriage is viable for society and any man who's not in a marriage will behave selfishly, leaving broken women and penniless orphans behind them.

            Being civil is not a magic shield to protect inane and ill considered comments from ridicule. As for being a nice guy? Only if you don't think through what he's saying. I'm a man who is not and likely never will get married. Look at how he's painted my relationships (selfish, damaging to women, penniless feral orphans etc). Nice? Hardly. If I said those things about the religious, I'd be considered a mean old nasty man. Why doesn't the reverse apply?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            See my comment to David (if Disqus will permit it).

            If you have a more reality-based understanding of human sexuality please share it.

          • Marriage as permanent and faithful protects men from their natural selfishness, women from the vulnerability of having their hearts broken and being abandoned . . . .

            Stereotyping in this way is a little old fashioned, isn't it? Men are selfish and only want one thing. Women are dependent.

            Did you know that women initiate divorce at twice the rate of men?

          • BenS

            Did you know that women initiate divorce at twice the rate of men?

            That's interesting. Has this been an upward trend as women gain more rights / equality in society?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It's a summary statement that is a simplification to capture as much of the reality as possible.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,

            And in what way have you looked carefully at human sexuality? I am going to assume this careful examination has neglected all of anthropology and human biology. Because your notions seem almost wholly informed by an organization that really doesn't know much about healthy sexuality, or family. Built on the values of Christ, and endlessly manipulated absent checks with the reality of human nature, how could it?

            If we look carefully into what human sexuality is we can say it is about bonding and babies. We do it because we have the urge and it is fun. But babies take a great deal of time to grow and be educated and they need a father and mother to protect them and show them how to relate to men and women.

            Human sexuality is also just plainly about the urge to have sex with a person you are attracted to. If there is consent and the ability to legally offer consent this should not be a problem. The reasons for why human sexuality evolved (those with a robust drive to knock the boots with healthy mates left more descendants than contemporaries who lacked this drive) is largely unimportant to us now. There is not reason why we should be tied to nature in this way.

            Your point about babies doesn't matter here. They are time consuming, etc (though in a state of nature the time to raise them was less as there was just less to know; in traditional tribal cultures kids of 14 make their own decisions, etc). But so what? There is simply no need to have them if you are not in a position to raise one thanks to contraception. Yay science! This is a truly important milestone for humans as we have sought to control the when of babies for ever. Not everyone is in a place where they can safely have a child, or economically raise and care for them. This is a simple reality of our world. However that is no reason why a couple should have sex. Why should they have to deprive themselves of the pleasure and company of each other. What is sad here is that Catholic teaching leads to a rather bland suite of sexual adventure. Sex that could in no way lead to procreation seems more or less off limits.

            Your last point about children needing to see how men and women relate is fairly laughable. I relate just fine to my wife, and she to me. And even if I did treat my wife like a sex object in the bedroom, or she treated me in this way it would not matter to my kids. There is a very simple reason for this. I don't have sex in front of my kids with my wife. Quaint, I know.

            Marriage as permanent and faithful protects men from their natural selfishness, women from the vulnerability of having their hearts broken and being abandoned, children from poverty and rejection, and society from the consequences of those trouble youth.

            This is just painfully antiquated nonsense. Women and men enjoy sex equally. Men are just as capable of having their hearts broken by women and being abandoned.

            Most couples if they last long enough will have to deal with infidelity, I'm not sure what the breakdown is on which sex has the most affairs, but this is a hard fact of life and we would be off accepting this possibility and dealing with it honestly than cringing from this fact.

            Contraception also protects children from economic hardship. More so in fact than the Catholic church pushing NFP on poor people resulting in kids they cannot afford. Growing up Catholic, I saw too much of this. Massive broods of poor people, they were the lowest rung on the social ladder at my catholic school.

            NFP intrudes in no way into anything. It just says, "If we are not ready for this act of intercourse to be fertile, don't do the act, just wait a few days." It is something I'd think modern people would be very open to, since we are supposed to be so naturally-minded. NFP is "organic" sex with no chemical additives.

            NFP is an attempt to thwart the process of reproduction. Play semantic games all you like. It is a couple actively trying to subvert their natural desires (for each other), and stymy their baby maker. I'm not sure what is so hard to understand about this.

            Why should I or my sexual partner have to "wait a few days?" Seriously? There is no reason why we should, not when we have methods that can prevent pregnancy. I don't want any more kids, she doesn't want any more kids. There is no reason why this is a bad thing.

            I will say that if Catholic teaching on matters of sex appeal to you. I think that is fine that you have found something that appeals to you. I support your right to NFP, and babies. However please encourage your church to quit opposing contraception at the political level in attempt to force its stance on those of us that don't hold that wholly religious stance. Leave the rest of us out of it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Max, Since our view of the nature of the universe and of human nature are so different, I don't expect us to agree on something this elemental.

            I'll try to explain the way I see things and I hope you'll listen, and you explain the way you see them and I'll promise to listen.

            But I won't accuse you of being ignorant, thoughtless, irrational, antiquated, or imposing your views on others.

          • Gabriel

            natural selfishness
            ----------------------------------------------------------
            And selfishness is bad because...

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It makes you a perpetual adolescent boy.

          • stanz2reason

            We taste foods so that our brain might help determine if the potential food in question is something to eat. Yet we don't moralize when one wants to eat something tasty like ice cream or a nice steak because the sensations are pleasurable.

            Our eyes are helpful (if not necessary) to identify foods, threats and mates. Yet if we decide to go to a museum and look at notable artwork or go to the theater and see a film we don't moralize because the visuals are stimulating.

            To categorize sex as something done simply for procreation sake is no different than limiting sight & taste to their basic function and makes moralizing the act itself just as silly.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've never said married couples should have sex only to procreate. That would be like saying people should only eat for nutritional reasons. We are designed or (from the atheist perspective) have ended up with sexual urges so we will have sex, just like we have hunger so we will eat. Sex is pleasurable so we will keep doing it, just like we find pleasure in eating so we'll keep doing it. If a little baby did not experience hunger and find pleasure in nursing, the baby would starve to death.

            In my opinion, eating is much less morally serious than sex but even eating can be disordered. If you eat whatever you want whenever you want you can end up obese, you can ruin you health, shorten your life, remove many life choices, deprive others of what you might otherwise offer them.

            I don't think you really mean to say sex has no moral dimension, do you?

          • stanz2reason

            I'm saying the act itself by consenting persons of proper age has no more moral dimension then eating a bologna sandwich, whether or not it's done for procreative purposes.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It has no moral dimension if you have promised to be faithful to another person. Isn't that an injustice?

            How about if a new human being results by conception? There is no moral dimension if the mother decides to kill it or the father takes no responsibility for it?

            How about if one says I love you and the other consents based on that "promise" but it's a lie to get sex?

          • stanz2reason

            It has no moral dimension if you have promised to be faithful to another person. Isn't that an injustice?

            The moral issue here in the breaking of the agreement of fidelity with another person. The sex itself is incidental.

            How about if a new human being results by conception?

            The moral issue here is the responsibility of the consequences of the sex, not the sex itself. Sex here, again, is incidental.

            There is no moral dimension if the mother decides to kill it or the father takes no responsibility for it?

            The moral issue here is ultimately a balance between respecting the autonomy to make medical decisions and respecting the fathers role as partner with what should be equal say. The law sides entirely (or nearly so to my knowledge) with the woman. In any event, the sex is incidental and the consequence is the moral issue.

            How about if one says I love you and the other consents based on that "promise" but it's a lie to get sex?

            For the last (and I hope final) time the moral issue is the deception. The act of sex in this case is a continuance of the deception, which is the moral issue, not the sex itself.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So in your view, putting your sexual powers into action is not a moral act.

            It's just like walking your dog or scratching an itch watching a rerun of M*A*S*H*, but more fun.

          • stanz2reason

            So long as it's age appropriate, consensual and between people of sound mind I think that's fair to say.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This is why it is good for Catholics to dialogue with atheists, because it makes us "drill down" to the core issues many of us don't think about because they are so "obvious."

            I could tell you the principle of why I think you are wrong, but I can't (yet) tell you the warrant for that claim.

          • stanz2reason

            There are far reaching consequences as a result of sex, from pregnancies (wanted or unwanted), STD's, and a seemingly endless list of social and emotional issues. I feel the attribution of 'rights' & 'wrongs' to the sex itself is a result of the complexity of the surrounding issues, not the sex itself.

          • Sage McCarey

            Kevin, in some native tribes, pre European contact, fathers had no responsibility for their own children. The man's responsibility was for his sister's children. Therefore, there was no reason to forbid premarital sex. The children were taken care of whatever happened between biological father and mother. And all it took for a divorce was for the woman to throw the man's belongings out of her residence. Early missionaries were appalled by this and wrote about it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sage, there is no end to the number of things human beings do. Is does not equal ought.

          • Sage McCarey

            Sex has moral dimensions that we ascribe to it. As a student of Anthropology, I know every society has its own particular morality around sexual behavior. It has been very different for different cultures. For example, in some native tribes, before contact with Europeans, teenage experimentation with sex was totally accepted. The girls who became pregnant were highly prized as they had proven their fertility. As a student of feminism, I know that men have made up rules to ensure that women have only their offspring. The church decided at some point in history that spirit and body were split and things of the body were evil.
            It's just not as simple as you seem to believe.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            >"The church decided at some point in history that spirit and body were split and things of the body were evil."

            You may be a student of anthropology and feminism, but you need to become a student of religion if your are going to comment upon it.

            The Catholic Church does not split body and spirit. Following Greek philosophy the Church sees the human person as a composite of body and soul (an ensouled body or an embodied soul) in which both are ontologically good.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Absolutely they do. They time it. They deliberately CHOOSE to engage in a sexual act that they HOPE will not be procreative because of choices that they made.

            They have chosen a method of dissociating sex from procreation. That's contraception.

            It's like marriage and divorce. Despite the best efforts of the church, people don't stay married forever when they have incompatibilities. But the church has made a fetish about marriage being forever. So the church found a logical loophole: annulment. Just pretend it never happened.

            NFP is the same kind of thing; an attempt to permit contraception without calling it contraception.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The first step is to understand the other. You are not making any attempt to understand what the Church means in either (1) not separating the unitive and procreative dimensions of the marriage act or (2) the making of a valid marriage.

          • scragsma

            No, it isn't like NFP. NFP respects the natural biology of the reproductive system and expects both men and women to treat one another as partners, not objects.

          • I agree that "contraception isn't sex" is a remark that doesn't get us anywhere, if it has any meaning at all. On the other hand, menopause makes possible the separation of sex from procreation.

            As I argued above, it is not exactly procreation the Catholic Church deems important. What is a forbidden sex act for a fertile married couple is also a forbidden sex act for in infertile married couple (say a husband with a vasectomy and a woman past the age of menopause). It is the "form" of sexual intercourse that is important. Couples who know themselves to be infertile must act as if they were.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This passage from Humanae Vitae might be helpful:

            11. The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and
            chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is,
            as the recent Council recalled, "noble and worthy.'' (11) It does not,
            moreover, cease to be legitimate even when, for reasons independent of their
            will, it is foreseen to be infertile. For its natural adaptation to the
            expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby
            suppressed. The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of
            each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature
            and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already
            naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws. The Church,
            nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural
            law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every
            marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the
            procreation of human life. (12)

            So what is forbidden is the husband or wife *doing something* to render their sex infertile. What the Church advocates, as one Catholic apologist terms it, sex au naturel. Menopause is a natural infertility, just as are most of the days of a woman's cycle and lactational amenorrhea.

          • severalspeciesof

            Hi David, actually that comment I made did get us somewhere... to your very cogent reply... ;-)

            I sometimes make the mistake of thinking 'sideways' in my mind in a manner that I know won't make sense to others, though I try to refine it when I do make it public... hopefully I succeed, but sometimes not ;-)

            Glen

          • Sara

            The Catholic Church does teach that it is wrong to sever the pleasurable aspect of eating from its nutritional aspect, or to be so devoted to the pleasure of eating that one's health suffers.

            So, if I have chocolate because I'm hungry and I also enjoy it, that's good, but if I eat it when I'm already full just because I want the pleasure of its taste (I do like chocolate...), then that is not good.

            There's quite a good explanation of the teaching here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06590a.htm

          • articulett

            Or lens replacement in the eyes, or false teeth, or artificial hip joints. In fact, I think they are very much for artificial means of keeping people alive rather than letting them begin their happy eternity in the sky.

            Catholic clergy don't like birth control because they want more Catholics to fund the clergy... now if only the Vatican would give it's riches to care for all these extra children who are born to poor families that god doesn't seem to care about. Educate them-- give them medical care-- give them jobs when they grow up!

            I can't stand the people who are supposedly pro-llife but they seem to care nothing for the life once it's born. They want to force women to give birth to babies without brains (anencephay), but they don't want their taxes to go up to care for that baby and the huge amount of medical expenses required to keep it alive until it dies of "natural" consequences.

            I just think that many many Catholic men are out of touch with reality. And I suspect many women stay in the church out of fear.

          • Joseph R.

            Catholic clergy don't like birth control because they want more Catholics to fund the clergy

            It would be very helpful if you would point me to the scientific study that supports this claim.

            now if only the Vatican would give it's riches to care for all these extra children who are born to poor families that god doesn't seem to care about.

            I constantly read comments like this claiming the Vatican has a bunch of "riches" to give. It's like people imagine this tiny sovereign nation to be hoarding the deepest plot of crude oil mankind has ever seen yet they refuse to share it with anybody who isn't a part of the clergy club, just to pay for the all the toys like the fancy Ferraris and Lamborghinis they drive. Never once has anyone linked to some sort of financial document from the the so-called Vatican which demonstrates it just has tons of money to be giving to all the poor people of whom they presumably keep a list. I did read one fair article on the subject at this site: http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/challenges-vision-poor-church-poor

            I just think that many many Catholic men are out of touch with reality.

            How much is many many? Can you give an idea of how many Catholic men you are referring to in this claim? Scientifically speaking, how do you propose one would verify such a claim? Would there be distinctions for those who are self-professed Catholics who are known to dissent from Catholic teaching, and those who don't? Hell even VP Joe Biden calls himself Catholic! So I think you're intuition is mostly correct, we just don't agree on which Catholic men are in touch with reality.

          • Andre Boillot

            Joseph,

            Even if the Vatican doesn't have stores of gold bullion in underground vaults, the RCC as a whole has a great deal of wealth tied up in assets. I know of one local parish near me that took up a collection of diamonds and precious stones from its parishioners. For what? To encrust a portrait of the Virgin and Child. Liberace would be jealous of the result. Not, say, to use in order to fund local charities. How much of the RCC's assets could be put to more immediate use helping the surrounding communities and the poor? How many of the RCC's lavish homes and retreats could be sold or used to house the poor? How embarrassed do you think the humble carpenter would be, to look on the finery of some of the priests claiming to be his earthly representatives?

          • Joseph R.

            the RCC as a whole has a great deal of wealth tied up in assets. I know of one local parish...

            Just so we're clear, a local parish is not the RCC as a whole. Also in your example, you're talking about the "wealth" that local parishioners presumably donated for a common purpose. So what? Your real beef is that these local Catholics took up a common purpose to make their shared worship space presumably more beautiful at the expense of the poor people who probably live right down the street. Why didn't you try to stop it? Did you ever bother to ask those parishioners why they wanted the portrait instead of temporarily helping the local poor? I think your criticism is somewhat fair, but that's still not a beef with so-called Vatican wealth - you're upset at the behavior of your local Catholics, and I encourage you to speak with them about it.

            How much of the RCC's assets could be put to more immediate use helping the surrounding communities and the poor? How many of the RCC's lavish homes and retreats could be sold or used to house the poor?

            Andre, I don't disagree with your broad point here, but what we need to know is who precisely owns those assets, and in what way are they being misused. Would you allow for priests who work their tail off all year serving the parishioners to be able to visit a vacation home for a week or something? Would it be ok for a diocese to own such a "resort"? Unlike you or me priests don't get "days off," not even holidays. In the case of all the "invaluable" art on display at "The Vatican" it is claimed they are only the custodians of it, and it neglects to mention all the responsibility to the poor of the wealthy people who could even afford such artwork at the market price. Not to mention, if I was a famous artist and wanted to donate an awesome religious painting or something to the Vatican, my intent would be they preserve it, so let's be happy that you've never seen my work. :)

            How embarrassed do you think the humble carpenter would be, to look on the finery of some of the priests claiming to be his earthly representatives?

            Does knowing the mind of "the humble carpenter" (Jesus, Joseph?) help us here? I mean if we're going to go that far, shouldn't we also try to guess at his opinion on whether one has really ever worked hard enough to enjoy some of the material things in the world? Would a humble carpenter prefer melamine over oak when making furniture for a distinguished guest or customer? I think Fr. Barron's article makes clear that God's creation is good in itself and it's the abuse and misuse of it that becomes a problem. So far, we haven't really seen any financial or scientific studies showing how all this can be solved by "the Vatican" wealth.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Just so we're clear, a local parish is not the RCC as a whole."

            You're right, and I imagine that there are parishes which operate in a much more austere fashion, just as there are some that operate more lavishly. Fair point.

            "you're talking about the "wealth" that local parishioners presumably donated for a common purpose. So what? Your real beef is that these local Catholics took up a common purpose to make their shared worship space presumably more beautiful at the expense of the poor people who probably live right down the street. Why didn't you try to stop it?"

            I would have thought that the leaders of the parish might have arrived at the idea of using these assets to help the poor without the need for an atheist (who has no ground to make moral judgments) to advise them. :)

            "I think your criticism is somewhat fair, but that's still not a beef with so-called Vatican wealth"

            I think I made it clear that my "beef" was with the RCC at large.

            "Would you allow for priests who work their tail off all year serving the parishioners to be able to visit a vacation home for a week or something?"

            I wouldn't begrudge them that at all.

            "Would it be ok for a diocese to own such a "resort"?"

            I suppose it would depend largely on how they were using either it or the proceeds.

            "In the case of all the "invaluable" art on display at "The Vatican" it is claimed they are only the custodians of it, and it neglects to mention all the responsibility to the poor of the wealthy people who could even afford such artwork at the market price."

            I didn't mention the artwork, and I don't mind the Vatican museum. What does the responsibility of the wealthy secular world have to do with this?

            "Does knowing the mind of "the humble carpenter" (Jesus, Joseph?) help us here? I mean if we're going to go that far, shouldn't we also try to guess at his opinion on whether one has really ever worked hard enough to enjoy some of the material things in the world?"

            A) Jesus. B) Are we really holding the common man to the same standards as the earthly vessels of Christ? C) Does this, or does this not strike you as something that would embarrass a man who told his disciples to forgo all their earthly possessions: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-9c52fG4EHuc/URkZlSqxTvI/AAAAAAAAFpA/3Fk5ejSaBqE/s1600/Pope-Benedict.jpg

            BTW, I don't think that any of this makes the Vatican "evil" (not that you were suggesting I was), it just means those that should be setting the example aren't really practicing what they preach.

          • Joseph R.

            Hi Andre,

            I would have thought that the leaders of the parish might have arrived at the idea of using these assets to help the poor without the need for an atheist (who has no ground to make moral judgments) to advise them. :)

            I like your style and I also agree with you! Which is why I think if you and I respectfully assume the good will of the parishioners in question, then we can believe they did it as some sort of investment into the parish worship space and assume they decided upon it very prudently - especially since you admit you didn't ask them. Also it is worth remembering that there is a precedent for making the worship space more beautiful, energy efficient, etc. So I think it is a safe assumption that the portrait probably added some aesthetic element to the worship space that the parishioners thought was missing, and of course for the long term, the portrait will likely be there for decades to come. Even Christ said the poor will always be with you, and He did not refuse the expensive ointment being used to wash his feet much to the objection of Judas. Are we agreed?

            I think I made it clear that my "beef" was with the RCC at large.

            You did, and you only provided one example of a local parish that did something to which you object, and you hadn't shown us anything to support the notion (financial document of assets would be great) that the "RCC" has wealth tied up into assets, or why these assets should be sold (and don't forget that poor people go to Mass, and enjoy some of those assets, too.) Which leads me to your next comment...

            I suppose it would depend largely on how they were using either it or the proceeds.

            Agreed. I see this as pertaining to all the assets of the RCC everywhere. Were it found assets were not meeting the above criteria or were even draining diocesan, etc. finances, they should be closed and sold off. I think we saw similar events happening in Philadelphia with Archbishop Chaput.

            What does the responsibility of the wealthy secular world have to do with this?

            If we assume that God's majesty can in any way be reflected in art (i.e. works of Michaelangelo), then it makes sense that the Vatican keep it for the world to see for ages to come (especially if it were given to them as a gift!). If said art were just hanging in some random garage just to help some poor people for a limited amount of time, well, then we'd probably be arguing about why modern "artistic" Christians were wasting any time with their crappy paintings while there are still poor people in need.

            B) Are we really holding the common man to the same standards as the earthly vessels of Christ? C) Does this, or does this not strike you as something that would embarrass a man who told his disciples to forgo all their earthly possessions...

            ->B) As far as the RCC is concerned, everyone is called to be a saint (btw it's not instantaneous). So yes, why not?

            ->C) This strikes me as a "vessel of Christ" adorned with liturgical clothes to serve liturgical functions. Embarrassing? Not particularly. Do we know if those are real jewels? Does the added embroidery make them lavish, expensive, and unbecoming of the papal office? Let's go back to the original question I posed: who owns these outfits and to what degree? Were they gifts from donors? Was any of the handiwork done out of charity? Do you think that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI still has these outfits in a closet of his? Are these the type of garments that are passed down and maintained for ages? These are valid questions that one should have the answer to before assuming to know the possessions a man really has and how much they cost him. As for your theological suggestion that Jesus was speaking literally about disciples forgoing all of their possessions, do you then believe that said disciples were also preaching about in the nude? I don't. All I can say is it that it should be evident to a man of your intelligence that the Catholic Church simply does not espouse theology which imposes literal interpretations of every verse. That same theology can differentiate between the modes of speech across different cultures at different times.

            Overall, I think I understand why one could object that such images at least demonstrate the hypocritical problems with the RCC as a whole, but I think there is so much missing information that these conclusions are simply unfounded if one is assuming the good will of the other person. Don't you agree?

          • Sara

            Sorry, I got muddled with the buttons here - I didn't mean to vote down!

        • Rationalist1

          Actually, it's worse than that. "Artificial" contraception is evil, natural contraception is fine. A couple can have sex, without worrying about the "inconvenience" of pregnancy as long as they use "natural" means. The means are sinful, the intent isn't. I can't think of any other moral action where that is the case.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm not following you.

          • Rationalist1

            Cutting someone with a knife is not wrong. It depends on the intent. Are you a surgeon or a murderer?

            A heterosexual HIV discordant married using a condom to prevent aids is immoral. Their intent is to prevent infection, but a condom is an artificial contraceptive.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Actually, it's worse than that. "Artificial" contraception is evil,
            natural contraception is fine. A couple can have sex, without worrying
            about the "inconvenience" of pregnancy as long as they use "natural"
            means. The means are sinful, the intent isn't. I can't think of any
            other moral action where that is the case.

            Seriously, I don't follow you. Could you explain what you mean in a different way?

          • Rationalist1

            Artificial contraception is illicit
            Natural contraception is licit.

            therefore contraception is okay, it's only the artificiality.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Contraception renders sexual intercourse infertile.
            NFP does not.

          • Rationalist1

            NFP is actually more effective at reducing pregnancy than condoms.

            (http://www.aafp.org/afp/2012/1115/od1.html)

            Neither renders anyone infertile, they just reduce the likelihood of pregnancy.

          • Max Driffill

            Your article is behind a paywall. I will say right now that I doubt your assertion here. (You will need to post at least the abstract here). For one I doubt there is a way to reliably test it.

          • Rationalist1

            That's odd. I was able to read the article without problems. I doubt the assertion as well but find it interesting that the proponents of NFP like to promote it as being more efficacious than "artificial" methods. If they are want to keep the link between sex and procreation then it would seem less efficasious would be more appropriate,

          • Rationalist1

            Not sure why it's behind a paywall. It didn't happen for me. Don't doubt my assertions, doubt theirs. That's what they report. I view them with suspicion as well but find it ironic when the in the goal to keep procreative and unitive together they advocate, according to their numbers, a method of contraception that is more effective.

          • What seldom gets brought up about NFP is that while it works very well for some people, it is very difficult for others. If the wife's cycle is very regular, and the signals for fertile and infertile times are clear, that's one thing. But if not, couples can go literally for months without being sure the wife is in an infertile period, and if it is critical to avoid pregnancy, then that means no sex for months.

          • articulett

            Which is probably a convenient excuse for wives who don't want to have sex with their husbands.

          • Sage McCarey

            And there must be a lot of them since a great percentage of women cannot orgasm with sexual intercourse alone! I had an aunt who had eight children and never had an orgasm until after her divorce and remarriage to a man who really liked oral sex. She was so mad.

          • Rationalist1

            David - That's true and like you said it's often glossed over.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Yes, it does. It does it by timing the event - deliberately arranging that act of coitus to be infertile. That's pretty much what contraception means. And even if you go by intent, which the bible tends to harp on as I recall, the intent is to render coitus infertile. I understand the church frowns on that sort of thing.

          • articulett

            Because god needs "oops" babies as part of his divine plan!

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Completely wrong. That's the entire point of NFP: to render certain acts of coitus infertile.

          • Andre Boillot

            I think he's referring to natural family planning (NFP). On the one hand, it's perfectly ok to go to great lengths using NFP (the means) to avoid getting pregnant (the end). On the other hand, it's immoral to use a condom (the means) to avoid getting pregnant (the end).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There is a profound difference between NFP and contraception, even assuming the motive is exactly the same, avoiding pregnancy.

            In NFP, you don't *do* anything. If you don't want to get pregnant, you don't have sex when that can happen. There is not *act.* In contraception, you separate the act of sexual intercourse from its natural end, procreation - like eating for the pleasure and then barfing it up so no digestion takes place.

          • Andre Boillot

            I think you're quite mistaken that nothing need be done if you wish for NFP to work effectively.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_family_planning

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm well acquainted with NFP.

          • Andre Boillot

            "I'm well acquainted with NFP."

            Then why are you suggesting that: "In NFP, you don't *do* anything."

            "If you don't want to get pregnant, you don't have sex when that can happen."

            And how, pray tell, does one discover "when that can happen"? Does one not *do* anything?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You take readings and chart changes taking place in the woman's body but you don't have sex. That is the "do" I was referring to.

          • Andre Boillot

            Kevin,

            "You take readings and chart changes taking place in the woman's body"

            Right, which I would say isn't: "don't *do* anything". There are are many actions which need to take place in order to make sure that you are or aren't having sex at the right times.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree but the one that matters is whether or not you have sex. The other actions simply provide information.

          • Andre Boillot

            I'm not sure what your point is. My point is that NFP involves lots of sex done is such a way so as to not get pregnant. It seems to violate the spirit, if not the letter of the law.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            When you practice NFP, every time you have sex, the act itself is open to procreation, thereby keeping together the inherent connection in human nature between the two inherent purposes of sexual intercourse, bonding and babies.

            Thus, one accepts his human nature as a gift from God, my original point. I care about human nature and want to live in accord with it.

            I can see why atheists reject this. Even if it is human nature, why should an atheist feel any obligation to live according to it?

          • Andre Boillot

            "When you practice NFP, every time you have sex, the act itself is open to procreation"

            It's really not. Almost by definition of when you're engaging in it, and why you're engaging with it at that time. It's open to procreation the same way somebody who acknowledges failure rates in contraception is.

          • Christian Stillings

            I think there's some confusion between "open" and "likely". When a couple practices NFP, each sexual act is statistically less "likely" to result in conception. However, the sexual acts themselves are still perfectly "open" to the possibility of conception. If one were to object that an "open" act which is "unlikely" to result in conception is basically the same as a contracepted act, he or she would have to assign an arbitrary "likeliness of conception" line, and a couple could only licitly have "open" sex when the "likeliness of conception" was higher than an arbitrary percentage in order to avoid "basically contracepting".

          • Andre Boillot

            Christian,

            You should look at some of the metrics of how effective proper NFP is at preventing pregnancy I cited in my conversation with Kevin. It's usually cited at +95%. In some cases even higher. It's as effective, if not more so than most contraception. That's why I say that couples practicing NFP are as open to conception as those using contraception. If the goal of NFP was not to avoid conception, why use it?

          • Christian Stillings

            You're talking about "likelihood", and I agree with you on that much. However, I understand "likelihood" and "openness" as different features of the matter, and that's where we presently seem to disagree.

          • Andre Boillot

            If you only go to a store when it's closed - moreover, when you know for sure that it's closed having checked ahead of time - how open to actually going into that store are you?

          • Christian Stillings

            Going to the store leaves you open to the possibility of actually entering the store if it's open. The relative probability of the store being open is a different factor than whether or not you go to the store at all.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But that's not really analogous. NFP is a practice of deliberately timing your going to store to ensure that you won't buy anything. You are taking the relative probability of the store being open into consideration.

          • Christian Stillings

            Sure; I entirely agree that probability is taken into consideration. Again, it's a matter of parsing between possibility and probability.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Again, it's a matter of parsing between possibility and probability"

            It's really not. Conception is possible in both cases, arguable more so in the case of the use of contraception.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That's not at all clear. If the issue is the INTENT to render a specific sex act minimally fertile, while still being willing to deal with the consequences when it's not, then NFP and contraception are identical. But one is prohibited, and the other is not.

            What am I missing?

          • Andre Boillot

            "However, the sexual acts themselves are still perfectly "open" to the possibility of conception."

            I really can't stress enough how nonsensical this statement seems to me. It's like if you wanted to avoided running into somebody that worked at a bar by only going on days you knew for a fact they wouldn't be there, had called ahead to confirm they weren't going to be there, checked their schedule, etc. Then you turn around and say you're totally "open" to the idea of running into them. Except in my example there's actually a better chance that you'll stumble across them anyways, whereas with NFP your 95-99% sure.

          • Christian Stillings

            Well, your likelihood of running across him or her is a matter of factors relating to his or her being-at-the-bar. Whether or not there's "a better chance of stumbling across [him or her]" really depends on how well you've done your work and how reliable he or she is at staying away from the workplace on his or her off days.

            I agree that all the added factors make it unlikely that you'll run into him or her. However, you'll agree that one makes oneself susceptible to run into him or her by entering the bar, however low the likelihood is. To practice NFP is to only go to the bar on their off-days, to use contraception is to avoid going to the bar altogether.

            Hopefully this is at least a little closer to clarifying things.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But this appears IDENTICAL to the various chemical methods of contraception. They lower the probability, they don't eliminate it entirely.

          • Christian Stillings

            Isn't the intention of contraception to eliminate the possibility of conception entirely, though? The less-than-perfect efficacy of contraception doesn't exist because contraception was designed to still leave open the possibility of conception; rather, it's because contraceptive technology still isn't perfect at achieving what it's intended for.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Isn't the intention of contraception to eliminate the possibility of conception entirely, though?"

            How is this any different that what NFP seeks to achieve? The failure rate with NFP is due to not being able to determine with 100% accuracy when the woman is fertile or not. The goal of NFP is to only have sex when it's biologically impossible for the woman to conceive. Telling yourself you're somehow "open" to conception while doing this is self-deception, it seems to me.

          • Andre Boillot

            "To practice NFP is to only go to the bar on their off-days, to use contraception is to avoid going to the bar altogether."

            Not at all different to my mind, as contraception has a failure rate as well.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But you are neglecting the intention of the act: the INTENT of NFP is to render the act infertile. The intent of the condom is to render the act infertile. A couple using a condom could be equally open to dealing with any child that occurs as a consequence of condom failure. But the church prohibits one case and permits the other.

          • Christian Stillings

            But the "intent of NFP" is not "to render the act infertile". It's to avoid committing the act when the statistical likelihood of conception is above a certain arbitrary point. NFP intends to allow for the possibility while trying to reduce the probability. Contraception attempts to eliminate possibility.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It's to render that specific act of coitus infertile. Indeed, any act of coitus done at the wrong time infertile. You are deliberately choosing the sex act at a time when it is least viable and open to new life.

          • Christian Stillings

            Not infertile so much as not-particularly-fertile. Otherwise, I agree.

          • In a very real sense, "open to conception" has nothing to do with the possibility of pregnancy. If a husband and wife are both sterile—say the husband has had a vasectomy and the wife a hysterectomy—they are bound by the same rules about "contraception" as fertile couples. Married couples in which the woman is past childbearing age may still not perform sex acts that are not "open to conception."

            Oral sex to completion is no more permissible for infertile couples than fertile couples. The reason is not because of avoiding the possibility of pregnancy. It is because the Catholic Church teaches there is one and only one sexual act that is permitted—sexual intercourse—and of course it is permitted only in marriage. It's not a matter of whether the couple can get pregnant or not. It's a matter of whether they perform sexual intercourse to the specifications of the Catholic Church. It is a matter, basically, of where sperm goes. Or if for some reason the husband does not produce sperm or suffers from retrograde ejaculation, it is a matter of where the sperm would go if the sperm went somewhere.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It is difficult to understand why catholics would think this line of logic persuasive to those who do not share their presuppositions. What is clear is that the logical consequences of their presuppositions should not be imposed on others.

          • cowalker

            "Married couples in which the woman is past childbearing age may still not perform sex acts that are not 'open to conception.'"

            I'm sorry but this is silly to the point of parody. It's like an Onion article about Catholic sexual morality.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            According to the church, they shouldn't even be having missionary sex. It's not open to conception.

          • articulett

            I wonder if a lot of Catholic women are relieved to have excuses like wrong time of month (NFP) or I'm not fertile in order to avoid sex with their husband at times.

          • Sage McCarey

            They would have to be since a great percentage of women cannot orgasm with sexual intercourse alone.

          • I'm sorry but this is silly to the point of parody. It's like an Onion article about Catholic sexual morality.

            Are you saying my summary was not what the Catholic Church teaches, but like some kind parody of it? Or are you saying my summary was accurate, and an accurate summary of Catholic sexual morality is like something from the Onion? Because I assure you, what I said was accurate. If you don't think so, I'd like to know what you disagreed with.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I think he was referring to what the church teaches, not your summary.

          • cowalker

            The second option-- the accurate summary of Catholic sexual morality you cited is like something from the Onion. You're just the messenger, of course, and are not to blame.

            I'm sorry, but the prohibition you described is ludicrous. It's like saying it's as wrong to run around without clothes when alone at home as when in public. Come to think of it, I believe Padre Pio chided a female penitent for doing exactly that--sinning against modesty by walking around her own home, alone, wearing insufficient clothing. He knew with his Saintly Sense, I guess.

          • articulett

            When I was a Catholic I remember feeling guilty about feeling good... because it seemed wrong to feel good--

          • cowalker

            I can't say I felt that guilt about feeling good in general, but then there were the sexual prohibitions that applied to adolescents. They don't seem to get as much attention these days. Sometimes I think the sin of masturbation is fading away as silently and with as little acknowledgment as usury!

            An ex-Catholic friend told me that when his father gave him The Talk revealing that masturbation was a mortal sin--that was when he decided that Catholicism was nonsense. (His father was seriously late in the timing of The Talk.) I went through years of reading, thinking, asking questions, feeling guilty and entertaining the possibility of converting to Unitarianism or Buddhism. My friend cut right to the heart of it based on experience. It didn't make sense.

          • articulett

            I never knew masturbation was supposed to be a sin-- I had read Dr. Spock or something and found out it was normal. But I had a Mormon friend and they are really obsessed with masturbation... the query adolescents about it... it sounded creepy to me to care and be querying on behalf of god. It seems most teens in the past grew up with this idea that they were depraved because they thought they were the only ones who couldn't stop touching themselves... which is a great way for religion to hook people it seems-- to a teen it must feel like they can read your mind and god sent the church to help... it keeps you chronically in a state of guilt seeking repetance.

            I'm glad no one from church mentioned masturbation being bad to me... maybe they figured girls didn't do such things?

          • Susan

            >I'm glad no one from church mentioned masturbation being bad to me... maybe they figured girls didn't do such things?

            That approach left a lot of catholic girls thinking they were the only ones who did it.

          • articulett
          • Sage McCarey

            articulett, hilarious.

          • Max Driffill

            That catholic teaching on sex generally and masturbation specifically seems to maximize dishonesty and hypocrisy. The load of misery that these ideas heap on people is a real moral wrong. It teaches people to associate extremely negative feelings with the act of masturbation, and the desire to have sex generally. This stance then cannot help to create liars and hypocrites, because, no one can not have thoughts about sex, and almost everyone is going to masturbate.

            The strangest thing about this is that the Catholic teachings on family planning, and how to have good healthy sex, are crafted and the bizarre thinking reinforced by virgins. This seems like a prescription for disaster and indeed the evidence supports that idea.

          • Sage McCarey

            The RCC teaches masturbation is a sin. You cannot make yourself feel good.
            "... the Catholic Church teaches there is one and only one sexual act that is permitted—sexual intercourse...and only in marriage."

          • "The RCC teaches masturbation is a sin."

            >> Correctly so.

            "You cannot make yourself feel good."

            >> Why not? That is certainly not a Church teaching.

            "So a catholic teenager who is going to college and won't be getting married for years has no way to cope with the prohibition against sex outside of marriage?"

            >> Of course he does. It is called continence. Failing that, there is always confession.

            "... the Catholic Church teaches there is one and only one sexual act that is permitted—sexual intercourse...and only in marriage."

            >> Correctly so.

            And that teaching of course comes from a past when people got married when they were 14 or 15.

            >> David married Michal somewhere between 22 and 27 years of age.

            "And pre Masters & Johnson where scientific evidence showed that many women cannot orgasm with intercourse alone."

            >> Renarkable how the human race somehow managed to muddle through without the benefit of this "wisdom".

            "I am learning so much about the RCC here and I better understand the recovering catholics I know and the intense guilt they say they felt growing up catholic."

            >> Remarkable how the Catholic Church manages to muddle through somehow despite the intense guilt we all fell growing up Catholic.

          • Michael Murray

            David I think you said in an earlier post you disagreed with the Church on sexual morality. I'd be interested to hear what you thought. It seems to me that abortion aside this area is where the Church's position is weakest. To a non-believer the argument looks like it is blatantly constructed to get the desired outcome: if you do this its natural if you do that it isn't ... The congregation has abandoned these teachings. I'm continually amazed the Church doesn't change its position as a matter of survival.

          • articulett

            Somehow, I doubt most Catholics take these teachings as seriously as you do.

            And I also think it's funny to imagine the creator of the universe caring about such a thing.

          • Somehow, I doubt most Catholics take these teachings as seriously as you do.

            I may not have made it clear, but I do not agree with these teachings. I am only attempting to state clearly what they are rather than reduce them to a few crude and simplistic phrases and then giggle at them.

          • Sage McCarey

            Which assures that many women will never experience orgasm! Of course to the men of the church who made up the rules that was not important in the least. I will feel sorry for every faithful RCC woman I meet now. I did not realize the church taught that only sexual intercourse is permitted. I know women who never enjoyed sex until they had a partner who liked to give them oral sex. I guess I now understand why catholic women go along with this. If you never enjoy something it's not so hard to go without it.

          • Actually, the only restriction placed on orgasm for Catholic women is that (1) their husbands cause it and (2) it occurs within a reasonable time around the husband's orgasm. So if a woman fails to achieve orgasm when her husband does (which can only be through penile-vaginal intercourse), he may bring her to orgasm in just about any way he chooses—certainly orally or manually. So there is no need to feel sorry for the wife.

            There is some (now rather old) research that indicates married Catholics have more sex, and report more satisfying sex, than Protestants or Jews.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And where is this restriction documented? I'd love to read it.

          • Max Driffill

            I think this obsession with procreation is invasive and silly to boot. Families don't need oversight by the church or instruction in how to have sex, or when they should have kids. I have seen no small number of catholics reduced to poverty by having large broods. They have kids they cannot afford and whom they cannot help to gain a foot hold in the larger world (no money to save to send a kid to college,etc)

            If it is okay to thwart reproduction via NFP, then it is okay to thwart it via contraception. Neither approach is "natural." This is distinction between methods that lacks a decent justification. It disproportionately affects poor people. Catholic intellectuals no doubt are nonplussed by this, because for some reason suffering is highly valued. This is fairly easy for a Catholic priest, or bishop to endorse. Their policies on family planning, and on proper sex etiquette won't affect them.

          • "If it is okay to thwart reproduction via NFP, then it is okay to thwart it via contraception."

            >> False. NFP leaves every conjugal act open to the transmission of life, contraception removes from every conjugal act openness to the transmission of life. For this excellent reason, NFP is permitted, and contraception is not.

            "Neither approach is "natural."
            >> NFP is perfectly natural.

            "This is distinction between methods that lacks a decent justification."

            >> To the contrary, the distinction is fundamental, and is perfectly justified.

            "It disproportionately affects poor people."

            >> It equally affects all people.

            "Catholic intellectuals no doubt are nonplussed by this,"

            >> Are you sure they are Catholic?

          • I don't disagree with much of what you say. I will say that a relatively small number of people use NFP because it is natural in the sense that it does not require taking synthetic hormones. I am surprised the Church has not made more of an effort to "sell" it on that basis. All forms of contraception have their drawbacks, and NFP might be quite a reasonable choice for some folks. Also, unlike the pill, NFP doesn't put the entire burden on the woman and leave the man free to do what he wants.

            As I am sure you are aware, few Catholics pay any attention to the Church's teachings regarding "artificial" birth control. Maybe about 5% of Catholics use NFP. And some Catholic families have large families because they want them.

            There is very little pressure from the Church on Catholics to use NFP instead of some other method of birth control, and there is also no pressure to have more kids than they can afford. One of the things that bugs conservative Catholics is that the Church (say, the American bishops and parish priests) don't crack down on Catholic who use birth control. I think at the priest-parishioner level, the attitude is basically that married couples should use their own consciences. That is not the official teaching (as I am sure Rick DeLano will point out), but I think for most Catholics in their day to day lives (or Sunday to Sunday lives), there is little pressure regarding birth control, if it even gets mentioned at all. That is one of the reasons that makes the Church's fierce objections to the Obama administration's "contraceptive mandate" so peculiar. The bitter battle is to keep from providing contraceptives to people who are already using them.

          • It is quite true that only the official teachings of the Church are heaven-protected.

            The prudence and courage of the bishops and pastors in preaching those truths are not.

            But the truths are, nevertheless, always preached, always taught, and every Catholic has the objective possibility of learning, assenting to, and holding the True Faith.

          • Max Driffill

            David N.

            And atheists have better sex lives than believers apparently.

            http://www.alternet.org/story/150978/atheists_do_it_better%3A_why_leaving_religion_leads_to_better_sex

          • "And atheists have better sex lives than believers apparently."

            I should certainly hope so, considering the long-term destination which lies at the end of the road for atheists.....

            I am all for atheists getting all the sex they can, along with Chateaubriand, trips to exotic islands, and success in the stock market.

            It is small consolation in the long run, but it is all they can hope for.............

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I hate the way these settings bury comments. I am just seeing this three days after you posted it, Christian!

            I think you have hit upon a very interesting idea that I'm trying to get my mind around.

            I think you are saying that the objectors to NFP are arguing that the following two acts of coitus are morally equivalent:

            >"open" to conception but "unlikely" to result in conception
            >"closed" to conception but "unlikely" to result in conception

            The supporters of NFP are saying "likely" is not the issue. (Actually it is in the sense that the Church insists the spouses have a serious reason to want to avoid a pregnancy right now, but we are setting that aside for clarity sake.)

            So, is an act of coitus "open" to conception morally the same as an act of coitus "closed" to conception?

            I guess the Church would say the natural law says we don't have the moral right to "close" the act of coitus to conception. The next question would be, why?

          • Andre Boillot

            Kevin,

            I think I've forgotten to ask you: what you think makes NFP "open" to conception? What methodology are you using that would also consider contraception "closed" to conception?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Good question.

            Goal. Motive. Means.

            Goal: To not have a child right now. This could be a good or bad goal depending on the motive.

            Motive: Do you have a serious reason not to have a child right now? I think if you do, then you have a good motive, so the goal is morally good. Both the NFP and contracepting couple can have a morally good goal.

            Method: Does how you choose to go about your good goal separate the act of coitus from its procreative purpose? "Open" is shorthand for no. "Closed" is shorthand for yes.

            With NFP, the act the couple chooses is inherently "open" to having a baby, even though it is unlikely to happen. They do nothing to break the bond between coitus and procreation.

            With contraception, the act is inherently "closed" to having a baby, even though it could possibly happen. They break the bond between coitus and procreation.

          • Andre Boillot

            Kevin,

            With NFP, the act the couple chooses is inherently "open" to having a baby, even though it is unlikely to happen. They do nothing to break the bond between coitus and procreation.

            With contraception, the act is inherently "closed" to having a baby, even though it could possibly happen. They break the bond between coitus and procreation.

            In both cases, you're limiting when you have sex to when the woman cannot conceive. The difference is one method relies on a calendar + various measurement taking, while the other relies on hormones. I don't think you've done a good job explaining how the "bond of coitus and procreation" is maintained in the one case, and broken in the other.

          • If a woman is taking the pill for some reason other than contraception (for endometriosis, for example), she is not prohibited from having sex. But if a woman takes the pill for the purposes of contraception, she is not permitted to have sex. In the first case, is intercourse "open" to conception, and in the second case, is it "closed"?

            And, of course, why is an infertile couple (wife has had hysterectomy for medical reasons, not sterilization) required to have sex that is "open" to conception when nothing they do can possibly result in conception?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Good questions.

            Let's look at the moral act. In your first paragraph, we have two different moral acts, right? One is taking a pill as a medicine to treat a physical malady, endometriosis. The other is taking a pill to give yourself a physical malady, infertility. This example is about two different goals: treating an illness and causing infertility. In the first, we have a good motive and a good means. In the second, we could have a good motive but I think we have a bad means.

            In the second example, the infertile married couple has sex. Their goal is to enjoy the unitive dimension of sex. That is legitimate. They don't *do* anything to make it infertile. Their wills are entirely in the right.

          • The other is taking a pill to give yourself a physical malady, infertility.

            Infertility is not, per se, a malady.

            The Catholic Church considers it perfectly licit for a rape victim to take drugs to prevent ovulation (which is what the pill does) to prevent pregnancy. Jimmy Akin tells us, "One of the most well-known cases occurred several decades ago, when nuns in the Congo (which was undergoing civil strife) were permitted to use contraception to prevent pregnancy in case they were raped." John Allen also tells us, "Redemptorist Fr. Brian Johnstone, an expert in moral theology at Rome’s prestigious Alphonsiana Academy, told NCR that in the early 1960s, the Vatican gave permission for religious women in the Belgian Congo to use contraceptives as a defense against rape."

            Women are periodically infertile during a part of their menstrual cycle, and women are also infertile, on average, from about age 50 on.

            Infertility is simply not, per se, a malady, including artificially induced infertility (for rape victims).

            As I have said previously, I don't think the idea that contraception is wrong because rendering a woman infertile is making her unhealthy is used in any official teaching of the Church, no matter how popular it may be in forums like this.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So, you are pointing out when it is licit to make yourself infertile, if you are raped or likely to be raped.

            I don't know how this fits into the question.

            What do *you* think the Church's official teaching is of why contraception is wrong?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            In other words, NFP is contraception... statistically?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            If the requirement is that the sex act must be open to procreation, then sex after menopause, sex between infertile couples, etc. is prohibited by the church.

            Why would any woman be catholic?

          • Sage McCarey

            Simple. If sexual intercourse is all you are permitted to experience and many women cannot orgasm with sexual intercourse, what would they miss?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If Catholic women thought the Church taught what you think it teaches they probably would not want to be a Catholic. But since it doesn't they do.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But human nature is not a single, inflexible thing. Theists aren't comfortable with that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            They are not comfortable with it because it isn't true. If you have a different nature than me, we are two different species.

          • Sage McCarey

            Kevin, I rejected that even before I was an atheist! One may accept 'his' human nature as a gift from god. Sexual intercourse is what men like most. It is not the human nature of women. Masters and Johnson showed that a great many women cannot orgasm with sexual intercourse alone. Just another way RCC shows how much it values women.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You have not the least idea of what the Church says about marital intimacy.

          • gwen saul

            No, I can assure you that when I have sex with my partner (committed, unmarried and using contraception), it is NOT at all like having an eating disorder, but thanks for the gross analogy all the same

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Romans didn't think it was gross.

          • gwen saul

            you are sadly mistaken:

            a "vomitorium" is a passageway to assist the exiting of mass crowds of people, such as from an amphitheater.

            leaving dinner for the excuse of relieving bodily functions was considered rude (it was polite to show restraint)

            although the historical record mentions wealthy Roman noblemen occasionally vomiting during a meal, it was by no means common practice.

            lastly, eating disorders are nothing to take lightly nor do they make good analogies to sex with contraception.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But as I understand Christian doctrine, intent is important. Adultery in the heart and all that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Intent *is* important. You need a sufficiently serious reason to practice NFP but that reason doesn't justify any means of carrying it out.

          • articulett

            I wonder how many woman turn down sex with the excuse of natural family planning-- ha!

            I wonder if alternate kinds of sex fit with natural family planning? If it happens in nature-- does that make it natural?

          • ZenDruid

            Frottage, for example.

          • articulett

            Yes-- Bonobos (our closest kin along with chimpanzees) are big on that!

          • Andre Boillot

            I've long thought that NFP was a ridiculous loop-hole with regards to intent.

          • articulett

            And I think most Catholics wave away the silliness against contraception.

            My brother and his wife are Catholic and she can't get pregnant because it could cost her life (she has a kidney transplant)-- Their kids are adopted.

            I think it's bizarre that a celibate man who will never be pregnant or understand anything about child rearing thinks he's qualified to give advice about family planning.

          • Genetic fallacy...

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks.

          • articulett

            A genetic fallacy would apply if the origin wasn't relevent-- Advice on sexuality-- particular female sexuality should be given by those who are female and those who have expertise on the subject-- not virgin men. In this case, the origin is relevent... the genetic fallacy (or should I say phallusy) does not apply.

            The genetic fallacy does apply to anyone asserting god as the origin of something since no gods can be substantiated to exist and humans are known to confuse their own thoughts for god's: http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2009/11/30/creating-god-in-ones-own-image/ (It's also an appeal to an imaginary authority)

          • Illustration:

            I think it's bizarre that atheists who will never be believers or "understand anything about" theology think they are qualified to give advice about priests....
            Conclusion: both my statement immediately above and articulett's similarly phrased statement are absurd.

          • articulett

            I was a former Catholic... I do know about theology-- but you don't have to know anything about, say, Hindu theology to reject their sex-marital advice... and I presume that those handing out the advice would not be unmarried virgins.

            You misunderstand the genetic fallacy. The first criterion of a good argument is that the premises must have bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim in question-- the claim that god gives clergy men info. to pass along to the flocks cannot be esablished as true since no god can be established to exist-- much less one that is passing love/sex/marital advice onto virgins.

            Religon makes people imagine they have expertise on a subject, but if the subject is not real then all you have is an expert on the imaginary. Priests imagine they are dictateing god's marital advice. In the Mormon church, 12 year old boys become deacons-- is it the the genetic fallacy to scoff at the idea of them handing out marital-sex advice??

          • In the Mormon church, 12 year old boys become deacons-- is it the the genetic fallacy to scoff at the idea of them handing out marital-sex advice??

            Do 12-year-old Mormon deacons in fact hand out marital-sex advice? I find it difficult to believe. Unless they do, you have no point here.

          • articulett

            They are considered the head of household if the father is absent and considered capable of givng blessings, handing out advice and whatever it is deacons do. I don't know or care if they hand out marital-advice any more than I care to know the goofy advice handed out by virgin men. But I don't subscribe to their religion nor the authority of their religious leaders-- just as I don't subscribe to yours.

            I wish Catholic women were here so they could tell me what they thought of such of such advice. I think it's childish, urnrelatable, convoluted, and sexist. Which is pretty much what I'd expect from a celibate religious man. YMMV

          • I don't know or care if they hand out marital-advice . . . .

            So when you said, "Is it the the genetic fallacy to scoff at the idea of them handing out marital-sex advice?" you had no information about whether they did hand out marital-sex advice. You might just as well have asked if it was the genetic fallacy to scoff at the idea of 12-year-old Mormon deacons dictating US foreign policy or teaching brain surgery in Mormon hospitals.

          • While I am no big defender of Catholic sexual teaching, I think it is a weak argument that it is the invention of "unmarried virgins." Contemporary Catholics, including the pope, the bishops, and priests, are not making up Catholic sexual morality off the top of their heads. They are continuing in an intellectual tradition that is centuries old and is not merely the product of celibate old men.

            Also, there is no guarantee that celibate old men are necessarily wrong in their moral judgments. If it were the case that celibate old men were giving "practical tips" on marriage, there very well might be some reason to say, "What do they know about being married?" But I don't see that being married or not being married necessarily adds to or detracts from a person's engage in moral reasoning.

            In short, there are plenty of things to criticize about Catholic sexual morality, but the fact that the pope, the bishops, and the priests are celibate men does not in any way invalidate what they say about sex and marriage. You have to evaluate what is being said, not who is saying it.

          • ZenDruid

            In short, there are plenty of things to criticize about Catholic sexual morality, but the fact that the pope, the bishops, and the priests are celibate men does not in any way invalidate what they say about sex and marriage. You have to evaluate what is being said, not who is saying it.

            The self-made apostle Paul was celibate in the sense he couldn't handle sex and thought it was dangerous for everyone. The 'only for procreation' trope began with him, correct?

          • Nope

          • ZenDruid

            Please elucidate.

          • Sure--Paul never wrote anything to suggest he thought sex "was dangerous for everyone." Nor is there any indication that Paul could not "handle sex."
            And he *never* asserts that sex is only for procreation.
            You may wish to re-examine the evidence upon which you based these assertions....

          • ZenDruid

            Good advice, I suppose. I will have to abstain from the epistles though, because they tend to raise my blood pressure. (For context, 'self-made' is the kindest way I could think of to say Paul was a complete fraud and a Pharisee to boot.)

          • For context, 'self-made' is the kindest way I could think of to say Paul was a complete fraud and a Pharisee to boot.

            I don't see how there is any evidence at all that Paul was a "fraud." If he was, he certainly single mindedly poured his whole life into it, suffered imprisonment, and eventually (as best we know) was martyred by the Romans.

            Pharisee should not be a bad word, and certainly not be a synonym for hypocrite. It is the thought and approach of the Pharisees that survived the destruction of the Temple and became the basis of mainstream Judaism that we know today.

          • The self-made apostle Paul was celibate in the sense he couldn't handle sex and thought it was dangerous for everyone.

            I wouldn't say that was accurate. St. Paul felt it was better not to marry, but he famously said, "It is better to marry than to burn." In context, and in a different translation, he said.

            Indeed, I wish everyone to be as I am, but each has a particular gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. Now to the unmarried and to widows, I say: it is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do, but if they cannot exercise self-control they should marry, for it is better to marry than to be on fire.

            Contraception, as far as I know, was not an issue. I don't think the standard Catholic teaching that marriage (or sex in marriage) has two purposes—to be unitive an procreative—and that any any sex not "open to conception" is forbidden because it is not procreative, can really be blamed on St. Paul. I think Catholic thought turns dark with St. Augustine (fourth to fifth centuries), who more or less considered sex to be a sin, even in marriage. He had not been celibate before his conversion, so one of the worst influences on Catholic sexual though was not a "virgin."

          • articulett

            It isn't the genetic fallacy as you allege. The genesis of the advice matters in this case. Catholics may find it useful to evaluate what is said-- I don't. I think it's as easy to dismis such information as it would be to dismiss similar advice coming from teen boys.

          • severalspeciesof

            Contemporary Catholics, including the pope, the bishops, and priests,
            are not making up Catholic sexual morality off the top of their heads.
            They are continuing in an intellectual tradition that is "centuries old"
            and is not merely the product of celibate old men.

            ("Quotes" Mine) And there in lies the problem... It's old information based on sometimes erroneous information, refusing to look at new information...

          • You are somehow conflating "moral teaching" with "advice". Not the same. Repeating the moral teaching proclaimed by the Catholic Church is not merely giving "advice." If one repeats what one believes to be the will of God, it doesn't matter in the least whether one is 12 years old or whether one is 95, married or celibate. The only thing that matters is whether you accept the authority behind what is being repeated. If you don't, so be it, but let's not try to reduce the arguments to questioning the credibility of someone who merely is repeating what is believed....

          • I was a former Catholic...

            Then what are you now?

          • articulett

            An atheist.

          • Max Driffill

            I'm a former Catholic.
            Also, I've offered no advice to priests. I am saying that they have no real world experience of family life, of healthy sexual life, and have not for, what, a millennia and a half? They view every thing about human lives through a very limiting vision of the human nature. And one that can not seem to decide if natural things are good or bad.

          • As I have said a number of times, there is much I disagree with when it comes to Catholic sexual morality. But it is not as if priests were giving "advice" to married couples. Nor is it clear to me that being married gives a person some kind of special insight into marriage in general (as opposed to their own marriage). Half of married people wind up getting divorced, so it is not as if being married were some guarantee of expertise on how to have a successful marriage.

            Also, one estimate that I have seen is that at any given time, about half of all priests in the United States are sexually active. Priests in many countries may very well have mistresses. So they may have no practical experience with marriage, but they may very well have experience with ongoing sexual relationships. I say this, of course, in order to defend the Catholic Church and its priests. :P

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And annulment is arguably a legalistic loophole to permit divorce. It's interesting that the church has developed methods of incorporating within doctrine various normal human practices that are technically prohibited.

          • Corylus

            The means are sinful, the intent isn't.

            I can't help thinking of a H.L.Mencken quip here.

            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.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I am SO stealing that.

        • articulett

          Air conditioning isn't natural... neither is heating... or electricity... or lights... or reading... or sitting at a computer rather than being out eking out a subsistance. Clothing isn't natural either-- certainly not synthetic blends. How do you decide which advances god is for and which ones he's against?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've explained this below.

          • articulett, I think you may be confusing the popular definition of "natural" with what philosophers mean by "nature" or "natural". In philosophical parlance, "natural" doesn't refer only to commonly-occurring traits or actions. For example, a philosopher would not say "It's natural for elephants to dress up in hoola skirts because that's what all circuses do."

            Instead, by "natural" they mean an act or trait conformed to something's end or order.

            In this particular case, the sexual act is "naturally" ordered to procreation (among other things) since an aim toward procreation is essential to its nature. We can discern this merely from anatomy and biology.

            Any act, therefore, that intentionally removes procreation as a fundamental aim of the sexual act renders that act "disordered" and thus "unnatural."

          • articulett

            So masturbation is unnatural?

            You'd think god would have damped down the sex drive instead of letting natural selection ramp it up to extremes if he only wanted procreative sex.

          • Yes, masturbation is unnatural. It goes against the nature of the sexual act.

          • Andre Boillot

            Besides, it's much more fun to let your naughty sub-conscious take care of things in your dreams. Spilling seed is only bad if you're awake.

          • articulett

            Yeah... but then you can blame the devil.

          • Christian Stillings

            Oh, for heaven's sake. One can't be morally culpable for an act which one had no intention to commit.

          • articulett

            But making people feel morally responsible for sexual feelings IS how religions control people-- it's a way of making them feel constantly guilty... even for their thoughts-- and then they "need" the god's forgiveness for being so wicked.

          • Christian Stillings

            If you consider any system which "makes people feel guilty" as "controlling", you need to level your same condemnation against every legal code ever established. If you want to be logically consistent, you either need to play libertarian or apply your same accusation to entirely secular systems as well. You can say you disagree with the Church's standards of conduct, but to disagree with it's having standards at all is going to put you in a tough spot.

            As to "guilt": if one is being logically consistent, one must either say that there is no action for which a person should "feel guilty" or say that there are certain actions for which people should "feel guilty". Retributive features vary according to the system, but they exist in all systems: the law makes people serve a sentence for their crimes; Christianity simply asks for sincere repentance of sins. By contrast, God is a much nicer guy than the jailer. :-)

          • articulett

            The legal code is designed to prevent harm to others-- feeling guilty about sexual thoughts and masturbation (which harms no one) is very different-- it makes people feel bad for doing that which people can't control and thus making them feel unworthy and in need of absolution. They are doing pretty much what comes naturally and they feel depraved.

            But all religions do it-- they just have different codes Punishing the rapeee by having her marry her rapist was part of biblical morality and Muslims still have this sort of crazed system.

            All religionists imagine that people of their religion are the most moral of all-- but when you actually measure things like pacifism and economic equality or crime rates, the most religious areas do worse than their secular counterparts.

            Religion makes people feel moral for what they believe-- They never have to do anything that benefits anyone to get this feeling; believers can cause great suffering on others and imagine they are moral while doing so.

            By contrast, God is a much nicer guy than the jailer. :-)

            Yeah-- by inflicting infinite torture for a finite "misdeed" of not believing the right magic story. I consider all humans more moral than that god. Fortunately I don't believe he exists.

          • Christian Stillings

            In your comment preceding this one, you seemed to take issue with the fact that religions "control people" through standards which "make them feel guilty". My own point was that virtually any kind of rule system, whether religious or secular, does essentially the same thing. Your issue in this most recent comment seems to be with the specific content of the teachings of the Church. Do you specifically object to the fact that the Church has a body of moral teachings, or do you specifically disagree with the teachings themselves?

            The legal code is designed to prevent harm to others-- feeling guilty about sexual thoughts and masturbation (which harms no one) is very different-- it makes people feel bad for doing that which people can't control...

            The Church holds its teachings because of its own beliefs about what actions do and don't harm people. If you disagree with Church teaching regarding what is and isn't harmful, you're free to do so. However, if the Church believes that a certain act is harmful, it makes sense for the Church to teach against it. Doesn't this basically come down to a difference in standards?

            I think we disagree about what people can and cannot control. Can you cite any particular Church teachings which require people to refrain from intentionally doing things which are actually impossible not to do?

            But all religions do it-- they just have different codes...

            I agree that pretty much all "religions" include a moral/ethical code of some kind. However, couldn't the same thing be said of secular institutions like nations/states/etcetera? I don't see you taking issue with your country of residence having laws and punishing those who break them. Is that because you more closely agree with your country's laws than with the teachings of the Church? If so, doesn't this basically come down to a difference in standards?

            All religionists imagine that people of their religion are the most moral of all-- but when you actually measure things like pacifism and economic equality or crime rates, the most religious areas do worse than their secular counterparts.

            I propose that if everyone lived according to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, the world would be a much better place. The trouble, of course, is getting to that point. You certainly don't seem very keen on helping. :-P

            Religion makes people feel moral for what they believe-- They never have to do anything that benefits anyone to get this feeling; believers can cause great suffering on others and imagine they are moral while doing so.

            What about religions which teach people to do things which benefit others? Would sincere adherents of those religions still be able to feel moral if they did nothing for their neighbors? Isn't this just another matter of the particular content of religious teaching? It's certainly possible that a religion could proclaim great value in "causing others to suffer", but with that kind of assertion, one must assess individual religions on a case-by-case basis instead of making sweeping generalizations as you often do.

            Yeah-- by inflicting infinite torture for a finite "misdeed" of not believing the right magic story.

            Goodness, aren't you supposed to have been Catholic? The Catholic Church has always allowed for the possibility that those not part of the visible Church in this life may still be saved through God's grace. To fail to accept God's grace and to spend eternity separated from Him is a much more complicated matter than "not believing the [right story]". If you're going to converse with Catholics, stop imagining that they're fundamentalist Protestants.

          • ZenDruid

            It might help somewhat if you didn't refer to the 'Church' as a thinking, feeling female entity. That creeps me out.

          • Christian Stillings

            I re-read my post; my references to "the Church" were gender-neutral. I'd agree that "the Church" as an entity doesn't think per se but many fine theologians at various levels of authority in the Church often think and speak on its behalf. I think you know what I'm thinking of when I say "the Church"- if you think you have a better term to match my idea, I'm all ears.

          • Sage McCarey

            "I propose that if everyone lived according to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, the world would be a much better place." It would not be better for the many, many women who cannot experience orgasm with intercourse alone. It would not be better for the millions of teenagers who masturbate when the" sap rises". It would not be better for women in general to have all the moral teachings that they never had any say in. I think I would have to differ on that!

          • So it appears your objection boils down to:

            Catholicism is OK except for the fact it requires us to develop self-control of our sexual urges.

            Which is, apparently, a bad thing.

            Except it is instead a very good thing.

          • Gabriel

            Except it is instead a very good thing
            -----------------------------------------------
            No ,it is not.This kind of self-control is useless .

          • Gabriel

            Which is, apparently, a bad thing.------
            --------------------------------------------------
            It is,because it goes against pleasure and pleasure is a good in itself.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I propose that if everyone lived according to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, the world would be a much better place.

            In what way? Conforming to Catholic moral teaching would make the world better only for those who wanted to follow Catholic moral teaching.

            For many people, it would be a terrible, immoral place.

          • Gabriel

            eternity separated from Him i
            ---------------------------------------------
            But hell is not only separation from God ,at least conform to many christians.Hell is also infinte torture.If hell were only separation from God ,then no one would be a christian.

          • Tyler

            Most secular institutions don't make people feel guilty for merely being themselves. Homosexuality is not a choice, people flee their homes and leave their families behind to escape persecution for their sexual orientation in some parts of the world. As an atheist I would condemn any secular institution just as quickly as I would a religious one if it tried to restrict peoples' rights to seek happiness in their own way (Russia is a good example, although their laws against insulting religions make me think it may not be a separate issue). You simply ask for repentance of sins, but what does one do when they grow up completely willing to embrace this ideal and then hit puberty and find that they are the embodiment of the sin they are supposed to repent against? Someone said they thought that if everyone was to follow Catholic values the world would be a better place. Seems to me that anyone unlucky enough to be homosexual in this hypothetical world would either have to suffer persecution and alienation or live in denial or not live the life that would truly make them fulfilled and happy. Why would God want to put someone through that? Also why do we need people to make babies so badly? Seems to me improving the lives of the babies and people we do have is a more worthwhile cause, one which gay people could be just as suited to serve as straight.

            One other thing, put two kids, (or twenty)on an island with no one to tell them how to act or what to do. If they survive until puberty what do you think they are 'naturally' going to be inclined to do? I gaurantee it won't be RCC approved behavior. We are very much a product of our environments and as much as I don't condone the act I think murder or rape could be very natural feeling an act to almost any person born into the right circumstances. We are invariably a product of nature but isn't our rising above nature a positive thing?

          • Tyler

            'As an atheist' correction - as a compassionate human being (faith is irrelevant)

          • Christian Stillings

            ... for merely being themselves. Homosexuality is not a choice, people flee their homes and leave their families behind to escape persecution for their sexual orientation in some parts of the world.

            I'm sorry, but the first phrase bugs me to no end. What does it actually mean for people to "be themselves"? Do they not have any choice in the matter? I submit that each person has some things which they can affect by choice and some things which they can't choose to change. The Church doesn't condemn people for things over which they have no control, which may include attraction to the same sex. It instructs people to refrain from specific actions and calls them to repentance of those actions. It's not as though the Church maintains a special category for "them dirty homosexuals".

            As an atheist I would condemn any secular institution just as quickly as I would a religious one if it tried to restrict peoples' rights to seek happiness in their own way[.]

            I appreciate your intention of even-handedness, but I don't think you really mean it. Some people would honestly be really happy if they could arbitrarily murder people. Do you protest the government for restricting such people's "rights to seek happiness"? Probably not, because you (probably) think that there are actions which the government should prohibit for "the common good", even thought it restricts some people's "rights to seek happiness". If you think so, your disagreement with Church teaching is a matter of specific standards and not a matter of having standards at all. If you in principle protest systems which "restrict people's rights to seek happiness", you should live in an anarchy. Say, I hear Somalia has some open land. (Well, maybe not really open, but who's to prosecute you if you just go in and take it?).

            You simply ask for repentance of sins, but what does one do when they grow up completely willing to embrace this ideal and then hit puberty and find that they are the embodiment of the sin they are supposed to repent against?

            "The embodiment of sin"? Really? I think you're taking this much too far. No person is an "embodiment of sin", and it's not as though homosexuality is a Really Pressing Issue for the Church- it spends about 1% of the Catechism addressing it. If the culture wasn't so incredibly obsessed with everything sexual, you might occasionally hear about Church teaching on other matters. Pray tell, have you ever personally taken a spin through the Catechism? If not, I highly recommend it.

            Seems to me that anyone unlucky enough to be homosexual in this hypothetical world would either have to suffer persecution and alienation or live in denial or not live the life that would truly make them fulfilled and happy.

            Consult the Catechism statements on homosexuality. There's no place in Catholic community for same-sex-attracted people to be "persecuted" or "alienated". If they are obstinate and unrepentant in sin, they may be excommunicated and denied the sacraments, but that's just how the system works. This also assumes that one must be sexually active in order to "live a truly fulfilled and happy life". That's false, by the way. There are some obscenely cheerful nuns I'd like to introduce you to. :-)

            Also why do we need people to make babies so badly? Seems to me improving the lives of the babies and people we do have is a more worthwhile cause, one which gay people could be just as suited to serve as straight.

            Have you ever heard of Social Security? Sweet goodness do we need babies right now, at least in America. Besides, why can't bringing forth new life and improving existing like both be complementary worthwhile goals? The Church happens to be pretty hot on both. I agree that same-sex attracted individuals can do work which improves the lives of others, but I'm not sure that same-sex parenting relationships (which I'm guessing you're thinking of) are optimal for the development of children. Here's a chance to evaluate Church teaching in hypothetical action: what if all babies were born to a mother and father who were completely committed to a lifelong relationship with one another? If everyone lived by Catholic sexual ethics, it would be so, save for the rare case of widowing.

            As to your last paragraph: they're probably going to "naturally" have sex and reproduce. I don't think the RCC would blame them for not pursuing Catholic marriage if a) they've never heard of marriage, b) there's no way of providing them any catechesis at all, and c) there aren't any freaking priests to officiate sacraments. However, anthropological history shows that if they reproduced and formed a civilization, they'd probably come up with marriage. They're really not very culpable for their relative ignorance of Church teaching.

            We are invariably a product of nature but isn't our rising above nature a positive thing?

            I mostly agree with this. However, when you say "rise above", what exactly do you mean? What specific kinds of actions should we "rise above", and what kinds of actions should we pursue instead? What's your standard, and where do you get it from?

            Edit: there seem to be some funky unintended italicizations showing up. Please disregard them.

          • Tyler

            If homosexuality is a sin and you are a homosexual, acting on it or not, to conclude that you are the embodiment of this sin or that you are broken (especially for young people trying to develop an identity) is pretty reasonable. Maybe the wording isn't 100% perfect but the idea that you have something wrong with you is one I can guarantee you many unfortunate homosexuals have to live with. I recently tried to engage someone in a rational discussion about their bigotry towards homosexuals. All I got was a plain "Sorry but it's f***in sick and disgusting and that's just my opinion". So what if that was your father? Not an ideal Christian role model (I went to Catholic school with him) perhaps but representative of at least some. Just think about what that would do to someone.

            Nuns choose to live a life of celibacy, this is something someone could do for a lot of reasons and is very different than celibacy motivated by shame (of self) and fear (of God).

            If you will humor me to read a short article about a woman who I would consider to have been persecuted and alienated by a religious organization. You may fairly disagree, although I would argue this scholarship may have been her only option. Regardless, if you superimpose this situation in your mind, onto a world where every school is a Christian school there is less room for debate. This woman would be forced to forgo an education or conform to the Christian standard. This would clearly be case of prejudice and alienation based on someone's difference. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/12/danielle-powell-grace-university_n_3428514.html

            " This also assumes that one must be sexually active in order to "live a truly fulfilled and happy life". That's false, by the way. " I agree with your point, it's not necessary. It is necessary that someone develops a healthy understanding of themselves and their own sexuality, and makes decisions on what is actually positive for them, not based on fear of hypothetical hell fire.. Thinking you have to overcome your broken-ness is not a path to a healthy self image and a happy life, abstinent or not.

            I guess I need to clarify my point about restrictions on seeking happiness. I took it as a given that the whole point of justifiable restrictions is to deal with those situations in which someone's seeking of their own interests conflicts with another persons right to dominion over their body or their personal pursuit of happiness (how does homosexuality do this?) . So maybe you can clarify for me how you can draw a correlation between two consenting adults engaging in a loving relationship and someone forcibly taking another persons life?

            If everyone had babies who would develop new prosthetics and find novel ways to cure diseases? Genomes are mapped, vaccines are created, these are the monumental contributions to the improvement of everyone's children which I was referring to. We need eccentric people who dedicate their lives to other things besides just raising babies! It takes a lot of dedication and time to get a Phd in neuroscience.Beyond that there is a huge problem in that many people don't want to live that way, and wouldn't be happy living that way. I have met people with very interesting versions of loving respectful marriage that many good catholics would not approve of, but nevertheless seems to work well for them and does not harm anyone I can see. What makes you so sure your way is the only good way? I have more to say but I have to run to Father's day brunch. Cheers for now.

          • Christian Stillings

            Hoo man. You ask a lot of questions, but I think you're sincere, so I'll take my best shot at all of them. :-)

            I'm honestly sorry that there are professing Catholics who think that way about people who are attracted to the same sex. However, the Catechism makes clear the obligation of all Catholics to treat same-sex-attracted individuals with respect and dignity (I can dig out the specific paragraphs if you like). If a Catholic I knew was acting that way, I could remind him that he's not acting as he should according to Church teaching, and if he persisted I could talk to his priest or spiritual director and things would follow from there.

            Like I said in my last comment, there's no special category for same-sex-attracted folks in Catholic teaching. You could only call such a person "an embodiment of sin" if you'd say the same for people who are inclined to be lazy, who are inclined toward pathological lying, who are inclined toward coveting their neighbor's things, etcetera. We're all "broken" by sin and have things wrong with us, and it's unfair to single out Catholic teaching on same-sex-attraction as though it were the Church which obsessed over all things sexual and not the culture. As to identity, it's true that the Church doesn't allow for people to develop identities which rejoice in sinful behavior. However, that would apply just as well to Hugh Hefner (Playboy founder and CEO) as it would to, say, Dan Savage. If modern Catholicism sounds one-dimensionally "anti-gay", that's in part because of how culture and media frame it and in part because many Catholics themselves aren't clear enough in word and in deed on the need for repentance of all sin.

            If you haven't checked it out already, I'd read Steve Gershom's article in the Morality>Sexuality section of this site and read some things from his blog as well, I think there's a link to it in his profile at the end of the article. I also highly recommend Eve Tushnet's blog on this same topic: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/evetushnet/

            Nuns choose to live a life of celibacy, this is something someone could do for a lot of reasons and is very different than celibacy motivated by shame (of self) and fear (of God)..

            I think that living celibately or non-celibately is a choice either way. It's true that opposite-sex-attracted nuns could have tried to find a husband or could leave religious life with the intention to marry. However, I don't think it's as simple as "its unfair that opposite-sex-attracted people get to have sex if they want to but same-sex-attracted people don't." Remember that not all opposite-sex-attracted individuals will be able to find someone to marry- attraction to the opposite sex is no guarantee of licit sexual expression. I think we'd be much better-off to appreciate the virtues of celibacy and view sex as an absolute privilege than to view sex as a right.

            I agree that celibacy could be wrongly-motivated, but I don't think it would be problematic to live celibately in order to avoid sin. I agree that a same-sex-attracted Catholic could wind up being inordinately concerned about his or her sexual desires, but I think it's healthiest to understand desire for sexual sin the same way as desire for any other kind of sin and to strive for righteousness.

            I read the article. It would have been unfair for the school to kick her out solely for her attraction, but that doesn't seem to have been the case. I'll point out that every university, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof, has standards of conduct by which its students must abide or be disciplined. The university seems to have simply been consistent in following through on its established protocols; whether they're "good" or "fair" or "just" is a separate matter. You may disagree with the school's chosen standards, but I don't think you'll disagree with a school's right to follow through on its own standards as Grace University did.

            It is necessary that someone develops a healthy understanding of themselves and their own sexuality, and makes decisions on what is actually positive for them, not based on fear of hypothetical hell fire.. Thinking you have to overcome your broken-ness is not a path to a healthy self image and a happy life, abstinent or not.

            I agree that it's important for someone do develop a "healthy understanding" of his or her sexuality, but what exactly that is is yet undefined. However, to put the ball in your court: since you seem to disagree with the Church's perspective on sexual ethics, what do you think constitutes a "healthy understanding of one's sexuality"? What if someone understands Christian morality as a right track of living ("what is actually positive") which avoids the derailments of sin rather than "based on fear" (which would be negative)? I actually do think that "overcoming brokenness" is extraordinarily important in life. How else should an alcoholic think of the journey to sobriety? How else should an abusive/absentee/etcetera parent think of restoring his or her relationship to his or her children? It's tempting to not want to think of actions/behavior patterns/relationships as "broken", but to avoid doing so is to deny that any way of living is better than any other. When we look at things like alcoholism (and other addictions) and abusive relationships and so on, the fact of brokenness is overwhelmingly clear. We can labor over what exactly is and is not "broken", but I think we'll agree on the fact that "brokenness" is real and should be overcome.

            I'm going to continue my response to your comment in a separate comment- this comment's already quite lengthy, and I'd hate for my window to unexpectedly close and for me to lose all the writing I've done so far.

          • Christian Stillings

            I took it as a given that the whole point of justifiable restrictions is to deal with those situations in which someone's seeking of their own interests conflicts with another persons right to dominion over their body or their personal pursuit of happiness (how does homosexuality do this?) .

            If the only "right" on the table is "dominion over one's body", the system makes sense. Indeed, it only makes sense that any system be formulated around what are and are not considered "rights". For example, since the Catholic perspective says that each child has the right to be raised by his or her biological parents, that has certain import in Catholic teaching about things like interpersonal sexual expression and divorce. If we want to talk about what restrictions are and aren't "justifiable", I think we should discuss what should and shouldn't be considered "rights" first.

            Regarding your last paragraph: the Church which established the hospital system has no problem with good scientific and medical advances. If someone feels called to pursue science and that having a family would significantly inhibit their ability to do so, they're perfectly at license to forgo having a family. A last fun fact for this comment: many big movers and shakers, including scientists, have been later children of large families. http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jennifer-fulwiler/a-day-without-overpopulation

          • since the Catholic perspective says that each child has the right to be raised by his or her biological parents

            Where in Church teaching is a statement about a child's right to be raised by its biological parents found?

          • Christian Stillings

            I'm thinking primarily here of Donum Vitae. May I recommend a blog post? http://www.patheos.com/blogs/badcatholic/2013/04/why-the-church-would-be-so-ridiculous-as-to-oppose-ivf.html

          • Tyler

            " There's no place in Catholic community for same-sex-attracted people to
            be "persecuted" or "alienated".

            Indeed, those who treat their sexuality like some kind of disease (alcoholism) and try to be more like you will not be persecuted. What about those who do not wish to embrace a 'Christian' lifestyle?

            "If they are obstinate and unrepentant
            in sin, they may be excommunicated and denied the sacraments, but that's
            just how the system works."

            Yeah, exactly. How the system works is to alienate and persecute. As I said, lucky for the homosexuals not EVERBODY thinks this way.

            "Have you ever heard of Social Security?"

            Somehow I hesitate to decry more babies as a solution to this problem. As for other countries like the Philippines where the Catholic church has been fighting a recently passed family planning bill for over a decade the destructive effect of Catholic dogma is far more evident. Poor families who have free access to contraceptives and education about safe sex/family planning can wait until having kids is financially wise, or acknowledge when they do not have the means to support more children and avoid this eventuality. I would argue the church does not always put the interests of those already alive over potential souls for Jesus. In my mind a poor man (and the successive generations of his family) will be better off with one or two well fed kids that maybe can afford to go to school or have a little bit better lot in life than a brood of never ending mouths to feed on a meager budget.

            "I don't think the RCC would blame them for not pursuing Catholic marriage"

            I didn't mean to imply that they would. Any custom forming would probably take some time and only occur after a lot of very non-Christian activities. The point is you can find evidence to say a lot of different things are natural or not, and a lot of contradictions. Violence and death, killing, and rape, but also compassion, charity, and empathy have been a natural part of life in many places for likely most of our existence. It's not hard to find evidence of this in the world still. If you will look at yourself honestly you will see there is no logic or system to this arbitrary labeling of things as "natural" beyond perhaps working backwards from a preconcieved conclusion. One thing is for certain, it is natural to pursue that which gives us pleasure, and living a life based on unverifiable dogma is most certainly unnatural except to those who have an overwhelming desire to see it as otherwise.

          • Christian Stillings

            Indeed, those who treat their sexuality like some kind of disease (alcoholism) and try to be more like you will not be persecuted. What about those who do not wish to embrace a 'Christian' lifestyle?

            If someone isn't interested in embracing the Christian life, that's their choice. However, this isn't somehow exclusive or even especially applicable to people with same-sex-attraction. Christians should view sexual sin the same way as any other sin. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said of Christian discipleship, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die". To single out desire for sexual sin is sort of silly in the face of the repentance and life that the Christian is called to.

            Yeah, exactly. How the system works is to alienate and persecute. As I said, lucky for the homosexuals not EVERBODY thinks this way.

            Tyler, the aim of the system is not to "alienate" or "persecute". I'm sorry if I'm not expressing that well. However, if a person does not believe in and strive to abide by the teachings of the Church, what's the point of "being Catholic" at all? The Church calls people to a certain way of living, and if they do not wish to accept the standard, they shouldn't try to be in communion with the Church. If a person refuses to repent of his or her sin and accept the redeeming grace of God, what would be the point of receiving the sacraments anyways?

            Besides, the Church is far from the only organization which works this way. Don't universities expect their students, faculty, and staff to abide by expectations for conduct? Don't businesses expect their employees to fulfill certain obligations and abide by expectations for conduct while at work? Don't nations and states set laws by which their residents are expected to abide? It's the nature of an organization to have expectations for those who are part of it- if there weren't any, what would be the point of the organization at all? You may disagree with the particular standards of the Church, but it's silly to act as though it alone among organizations "persecutes" or "alienates" those who will not practice what it actually means to be part of the organization.

            I've read a little bit about the situation in the Philippines. Interesting stuff. The Church doesn't compel any couple to conceive a child at any particular time- if the couple finds it prudent to avoid conception, they're free to act upon that. If Filipinos are unaware of the population issues, the Church should educate them and perhaps try to encourage them to have fewer children. If they're aware of population issues but don't know how to prudently avoid conception in accordance with Church teaching, there's some education work that could be done there. I'm not sure that distributing contraception is the only, or even necessarily the best, way to address the issues present.

            Regarding your last paragraph, the island residents would not be morally culpable for wrong actions which they didn't know were wrong; this is perfectly in accord with Church teaching. I wouldn't consider, for example, their sexual relations with one another to be "wrong" if they had no means of being instructed about "right" and "wrong". If human anthropology is a good indicator, they and their descendants would probably eventually do very Catholic-approved things, like sort into family arrangements and such. If we look at basic civilization throughout history, they may well get a lot of things right, even without Christians present to catechize them.

            As to "natural"- you're correct if you mean that the Catholic system doesn't look at prevalent behaviors and say "oh, well a bunch of people do it so I guess it's cool." The Catholic idea of "natural" is not "what happens in the jungle" but "what ought to happen in the jungle". The idea is that there's a right nature of relationship to one another and to God, and that what is in this "nature" is "what's natural".

          • Tyler

            I'm reading and considering honestly what you are saying, but I don't think you are returning this courtesy. Debate is pointless if you wish only to teach and not to learn.

            "I think we'd be much better-off to appreciate the virtues of celibacy
            and view sex as an absolute privilege than to view sex as a right."

            I agree there can be virtue in celibacy, I'm pretty much celibate myself at the moment, but I think sex has proven physiological and mental benefits and in the right circumstances can be a very positive thing. It can also be a very negative thing, but this is not restricted in anyway I can see to unmarried couples or lovers, or straights or gays. I have seen the haste with which people marry in order to by-pass the necessary religious proprieties. A young libido is a serious detriment to brain function and long term planning. You argue that people are free to forgo procreation to pursue other goals in life. The fact is if the necessity to achieve such an end is abstinence I see very few young men in this day and age choosing such a life, nor would I recommend it.

            "...agree that a same-sex-attracted Catholic could wind up being inordinately concerned about his or her sexual desires, but I think it's healthiest to understand desire for sexual sin..."

            I don't think we're going to find common ground on this point. You have this idea of sin but where does it come from? What makes one sect of Christianity that accepts homosexuals or women preaching wrong and you or someone else right (in your interpretation of the bible)? Why is the part about a man and a woman more important than the part about not wearing multi-fabric clothing, or a rape victim marrying her attacker? Ultimately your faith system is inherently prejudice towards homosexuals, a religious banner does not change this fact which is probably where the well justified cries of 'anti-gay' originate. How can you deny something which is so plainly fact? Do you know how much money was spent by religious groups fighting against gay marriage rights? This was a religious fight against equality.

            "I read the article."

            Yes but you failed to acknowledge the main point of why I shared it. In the hypothetical situation where everyone followed Christian morals every school would act on Christian values. This would create a situation where discrimination towards non-Christian homosexuals was a standard element of society and ALL learning institutions. Standardized, government approved, church approved bigotry and discrimination (This is not a baseless cry of 'anti-gay' this is merely matching a
            definition to a real world scenario
            (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/bigotry?s=t)). In reality we are already there, many of these schools receive government funding! Beings as a fair percentage of schools are faith based you can hardly claim that this does not create a disadvantageous situation for anyone unfortunate enough to have a sexual orientation your church doesn't approve of. The fact that we have discrimination supported by tax dollars is pretty sad in my mind. I can assure you my opinions aren't influenced by the media, by the way, I don't watch TV. My opinions are influenced by having known good people who tried very hard to be normal and engage in heterosexual relationships which were ultimately doomed, and seeing them slowly come to terms with who they were, and what do you know years later they are still good (gay) people without a shred of the uncertainty they once felt. Lastly, but not least, my opinions are derived from debating with Christians who are often very belittling and condescending towards gays albeit under the guise of Christian love and good will. As you said, many institutions indeed have similar protocols. A business owner in the southern states recently attempted to defend her right not to serve homosexuals in her restaurant. Is this the world we want to live in? Where people suffer and live as outcasts for being different? Can you not see how this hypothetical world would be a terrible place to be gay? ...assuming you weren't really enthusiastic about dedicating your life to Jesus that is, most homosexuals aren't. Not sure why that is :P

            "what do you think constitutes a "healthy understanding of one's sexuality"?"

            Well for starters it doesn't make them feel like they are broken just for being who they are. I think a healthy understanding is one based on evidence and which leads a person into having relationships which are positive experiences. That is relationships with people who prove to be honest and respectful, who genuinely care and support each other. Once again I see no reason why a hetero relationship couldn't be very destructive and a same-sex relationship very positive, or vice versa. The problem is your faith inevitably leads you to see any destruction to a person's healthy development of a positive self image as insignificant compared to the ultimate goal of saving someone's soul. I really wish you could see this one from an outsiders perspective.

            "Tyler, the aim of the system is not to "alienate" or "persecute". I'm
            sorry if I'm not expressing that well. However, if a person does not
            believe in and strive to abide by the teachings of the Church, what's
            the point of "being Catholic" at all?"

            This is not the aim of the system, but nevertheless this system does alienate and persecute people who have no interest whatsoever in Catholicism or in abiding by it's teachings. You keep failing to recognize this. Furthermore, the greater the percentage of believers the worse the alienation and persecution will inevitably become. We can extend the argument beyond homosexuality if you like. I'm sure the plight of unwed single mothers and pregnant rape victims would be almost or equally as bad as homosexuals in this hypothetical world/universe. Catholic churches value dogma over actually helping people and I will happily find sources to support that idea if you like. I can think of articles I would just have to re-find them for you.

            "I actually do think that "overcoming brokenness" is extraordinarily important in life. How else should an alcoholic think of the journey to sobriety? How else should an abusive/absentee/etcetera parent think of
            restoring his or her relationship to his or her children? It's tempting to not want to think of actions/behavior
            patterns/relationships as "broken", but to avoid doing so is to deny that any way of living is better than any other."

            I am sorry but the Catholic/Christian ideology of inherent brokenness has always seemed absurd and ultimately deleterious of a healthy self image to me, at least since I was old enough to really think about it. When a child is born, he has everything to learn. He or she is not broken, he is merely beginning. Religious or not, as we live and increase our understanding most people generally progress towards a more refined morality. We suck at things and then we get better with time and effort. To tell a child he is inherently broken, born in sin, to make a child believe that to be man is to sin is to create a self-fulfilling prophecy in that child's mind.To say that someone died so that my sins are pre-forgiven actually sounds like a nice get out of jail free card, and doesn't do much to teach accountability either. I am not broken and obviously there are better and worse ways which one can live. I believe that's called a false dichotomy. I am simply a human being on the path to being the best I can be (in the time I get), at a certain point on the slow progression which began when I started listening to my parents speech patterns and learning from inside the womb. I certainly wasn't broken then, unless I broke somewhere along the way, I'm pretty sure I'm not broken now. Why would I want to think that? Repetitious thought actually has a physiological effect on the brain, that is to say our thoughts can change who we are physically. Ideas like this could have a much more profound effect on people's actions and lives than we imagine. I could recommend an unrelated book which demonstrates this idea well, and frankly neuroplasticity is a fascinating subject if you have any interest in science or the mind.

            As for reading the Catechism, honestly it sounds pretty boring, Will it make me a better person? . I read much of the bible in school. All I need to do is look at the ten commandments to see that this is a God which is far more petty than any logical being I can Imagine which is also all knowing and loving. Couldn't we have put something about rape in there? Or not purchasing other human beings? Wouldn't even have to get rid of the petty stuff just add a couple on the end.

            "Don't businesses expect their employees to fulfill certain obligations and abide by expectations for conduct while at work? Don't nations and states set laws by which their residents are expected to abide?"

            Do you honestly believe there are reasonable scenarios for these bodies/organizations to intrude or dictate upon the intimate details of people's personal sex lives? The best places to live have laws AGAINST that sort of thing for a very good reason.

            Me:"If you will look at yourself honestly you will see there is no logic or system to this arbitrary labeling of things as "natural" beyond perhaps working backwards from a preconcieved conclusion."

            You:" The Catholic idea of "natural" is not "what happens in the jungle" but "what ought to happen in the jungle". The idea is that there's a right nature of relationship to one another and to God, and that what is in this "nature" is "what's natural"."

            "What ought to happen in the jungle" = pre-concieved conclusion (see above) as well as a matter of OPINION

            Honestly I see this as you agreeing with me but somehow I don't think that was your intention.What's natural is whatever you say is natural, basically, it's a pointless term. The definition is essentially whatever the priest says things should be like, that's what's natural.It's an opinion, it must be as it varies from church to church. Then people turn around and accuse homosexuals of being "un-natural" based on the definition that you made up! If you have knowledge of why your interpretation of the bible is right or why the bible should be trusted over other religious texts such as the Quran I would love to hear it.

          • Tyler

            hahaha reply when you have time my friend, this has gotten a little out of hand and I would not want to steal too much of your time! Whenever you get around to responding is good. Hopefully we both have many good years left in us, so there should be no rush. Cheers

          • Christian Stillings

            I'm reading and considering honestly what you are saying, but I don't think you are returning this courtesy. Debate is pointless if you wish only to teach and not to learn.

            I apologize if I'm coming across as preachy. I don't think of this site as "a place to learn" so much as "a place to civilly and constructively proffer and critique perspectives". If I may try to civilly and constructively critique your proffered perspectives and proffer my own, I leave you at perfect liberty to likewise critique my perspectives and proffer your own in response. If it gets to be more like a debate than a "dialogue", I think that's alright- that's the sort of site this is. So long as you're interested in continuing the conversation, I'll try to maintain interest and participation as well :-)

            ... I think sex has proven physiological and mental benefits and in the right circumstances can be a very positive thing.

            I also believe that sex can be a positive and beneficial thing. I also agree that circumstances are relevant to when it's beneficial and when it's not. The criteria which determine whether or not it would it would be a beneficial thing are something we disagree on presently and are worth further consideration or discussion; whether or not we pursue such discussion presently can be your decision.

            I have seen the haste with which people marry in order to by-pass the necessary religious proprieties.

            I have too- in fact, I have a classmate from high school (I'm 20 and going to be a junior in undergrad) who just got engaged, and I can't help but think it's a bit soon, though I don't know them well as a couple. I think that it would be wise for every person to ask himself or herself "what do I really think 'marriage' is, and why?". If a young Christian wants to marry early because they think of marriage as "a chance to have sex!" instead of as a (preferably sacramental) means of mutually growing in holiness, of bringing forth and rightly educating children, and of seeking to pursue God's will for the world as a couple (and perhaps family), I think they're approaching the situation very wrongly, and I should know- I was once briefly in that boat myself, haha. If a Christian approaches the prospect of marriage in a way which is not prudent, prayerful, and [something else starting with "p"], he or she is acting unwisely and setting himself or herself up for a lot of potential trials.

            The fact is if the necessity to achieve such an end is abstinence[.] I see very few young men in this day and age choosing such a life, nor would I recommend it.

            I do think this says interesting things about the way our culture thinks about sex. Interestingly, many leaps and bounds of science, even recent science, have come courtesy of celibate Catholics: genetics, Big Bang cosmology, etcetera. Maybe the "celibate scientist" route has something going for it. :-)

            You have this idea of sin but where does it come from?

            "Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved." - G.K. Chesterton

            The word "sin" comes from an archery term meaning "to miss the mark". My belief in sin comes from my conviction that there is "a way things should be" in our relationships with one another (and perhaps in our relationship with God as well), and that we're notoriously terrible at seeking that "way" in our own lives and actions. There's a right way to live and to act, and our failure to live up to it is our sin. In fact, every "secular humanist" who believes that people should give more to the poor believes in sin too- there is a standard for how we should be living and relating, and we're failing to live up to it. I can elaborate more on this if you'd like.

            What makes one sect of Christianity that accepts homosexuals or women preaching wrong and you or someone else right (in your interpretation of the bible)?

            I get the scant impression that you have a Protestant background (and you can correct me on that), so here's a very brief rundown of Catholic theology: God exists. Jesus was God. Jesus left us with a Church (including the hierarchal offices) AND the Holy Spirit helped us get the Bible. The Church's role is to preserve the faith of the Apostles, and the Holy Spirit keeps it from messing up or changing its mind in official teaching functions. Divine Revelation, contained in the Apostolic Faith, is both found in Scripture and in Tradition (teachings passed orally and written down later than the New Testament). The Church cannot change a teaching which it has already declared. When in doubt on a point of doctrine, the perspective that Christians have always held is probably more reliable than the perspective that cropped up a week ago. Presently leaving aside the Orthodox tradition(s), Protestants got it wrong from the start because they rejected teaching with the Church has always held.

            Protestants sort out doctrine by saying "what does the Bible say (in my opinion)?" Catholics instead say "what is the constant teaching of the Church?" You can probably see which system works better. Protestant theologies which teach new things about sexual ethics and women's ordination can't be trusted because there's no reason to think that the apostles believed any such things. Plus, the fact that some Protestants "adapt" their theologies according to popular opinion doesn't say much about the reliability of their doctrines. (Actually, all Protestants have done this, but some are much more aware of and plain about it than others.)

            Does this mostly answer your question?

            Why is the part about a man and a woman more important than the part about not wearing multi-fabric clothing, or a rape victim marrying her attacker?

            There's more to be discussed, but this comment will already be lengthy, so I'll presently leave you with a link to Tim Keller (a very like-able Protestant theologian) discussing different kinds of Hebraic law: http://www.redeemer.com/news_and_events/newsletter/?aid=363

            Ultimately your faith system is inherently prejudice towards homosexuals...

            *prejudiced. My Church is against, among many other things (see: Catechism), certain sexual acts which people with same-sex-attraction are particularly inclined to want to commit. Being a Christian is not a "do-whatever-you-please" venture for anyone, regardless of sexual attraction. Refer back to the Bonhoeffer quotation.

            In the hypothetical situation where everyone followed Christian morals every school would act on Christian values. This would create a situation where discrimination towards non-Christian homosexuals was a standard element of society and ALL learning institutions.

            In our society (if you're also from the States), we have situations where we formally discriminate against people who commit certain actions- it's called the law. We do, socially and almost always individually (save for actual anarchists), think that we should have some ability to prohibit people from committing certain actions and discipline them if they commit those actions. In a democratic-type system such as that in the States, the "majority morality" decides what actions are and are not permitted, and dissenting minorities can advocate for change in majority thinking and thus subsequent change of the laws.

            I sincerely don't mean to draw an equivocal comparison between attraction to the same sex and a desire to compulsively commit another morally-charged act (henceforth "arson"), but please consider this statement:

            In the hypothetical situation where everyone followed anti-arson morals, every school would act on anti-arson values. This would create a situation where discrimination towards pro-arson individuals was a standard element of society and ALL learning institutions.

            This statement actually reflects the state of things, and I'm guessing you're fine with it. You most likely agree with the anti-arson majority perspective and are fine with "discrimination" against people who commit arson. If there was a majority view that homosexual acts shouldn't be legally permitted, it would probably make its way into the law via the same democratic-type system. I understand that you would certainly dissent from that view, but I think you'll agree that it would only make sense for the legislation to represent the majority view.

            So, if everyone (or at least a sufficient majority) was a Christian, the legislation would reflect that. Whether or not the majority should have a Christian perspective is a fascinating question, and one that we're wise to discuss thoroughly. However, I think you'll agree that what people should think is a separate matter from whether or not it makes sense for legislation to represent the majority perspective on ethical issues, even if some parties are "discriminated against" in the process.

            In the case with Grace University, I think that the University's policies for student conduct are clear, that a student actively violated those policies, and that the student was accordingly disciplined by the University. Whether or not you agree with the University's policies, I think it only makes sense for it to follow through on the disciplinary regulations already in place. However, I agree that if a religious institution holds different moral/ethical standards than the state and does "discriminate" according to those standards, it may pose ethical problems for the religious institution to receive state funding. This is something that should be assessed and addressed on a case-by-case basis, and I don't recall seeing that in what I read about Grace University (though I invite you to correct me if the University does receive state funding).

            It's late and this comment is already long, so I'm going to pause my response to you now and turn in. I'll try to finish responding to the rest of your last comment when I can get around to it tomorrow. Thanks for the stimulating conversation! :-)

            Edit: there seem to be some funky italicizations cropping up in this comment. Please feel free to disregard them.

          • BenS

            You most likely agree with the anti-arson majority perspective and are fine with "discrimination" against people who commit arson.

            Why do Christians always, ALWAYS compare homosexuality to a crime in which someone else suffers harm or loss? It's fundamentally dishonest. Two people having a consensual homosexual relationship does not harm anyone else. Setting their property on fire does.

            At times, this deliberate framing of the issue in such a way REALLY pisses me off.

            I understand that you would certainly dissent from that view, but I think you'll agree that it would only make sense for the legislation to represent the majority view.

            Anyone who agrees that majority view (or 'mob rule') makes sense needs to give their head a wobble. I'm absolutely certain that when, as is inevitable, the number of voters identifying as atheist tips over the 50% mark, if laws were then enacted to tear down the churches, ban Christians from gathering in groups, holding political office or getting married the general consensus from the Christians would not be 'Oh, that makes sense.'.

          • Christian Stillings

            BenS, I'm sorry that you're frustrated with the way I'm trying to discuss the relationship between "majority morality" and state-administered consequences for actions which are deemed "criminal". You may have missed the part where I said

            I sincerely don't mean to draw an equivocal comparison between attraction to the same sex and a desire to compulsively commit another morally-charged act (henceforth "arson")...

            I intentionally didn't say "the two kinds of action in question are on morally equal ground, and I expect you to agree" or anything of that sort. This seems to be what you've drawn away from my contrasting example of "acts of arson". However, I needed an act which I can reasonably expect Tyler to be morally opposed to in order that he could empathize with the example and understand the idea I was trying to convey.

            Two people having a consensual homosexual relationship does not harm anyone else.

            I should correct you on a minor point here. The Church doesn't oppose companional relationship for same-sex-attracted persons, even if such a relationship is between two such persons of the same sex. It specifically teaches against certain sexual actions which are, given such a circumstance, likely to happen. The Church's intention is not to force anyone into a miserable, lonely life, lest you harbor that suspicion. May I recommend a blog post which addresses this particular topic well? http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2012/05/a-gay-man-i-consider-a-saint.html

            One other brief point, about perspectives on moral responsibility: some people believe that a person or people should be at perfect liberty to do whatever they please as long as "nobody else is harmed" (presently leaving aside issues of qualifying and quantifying "harm"). Other people believe that if a person or people are doing things which are "harmful" to them, those who have some ability to influence their life have a corresponding degree of responsibility to try to address the situation, even if "nobody else is harmed" by the aforementioned person or people's actions. The Church falls into the latter category. If the Church believes that certain actions which a person may commit are "harmful" to that person (leaving aside presently the quality of the supporting rationale), it obliges Catholics to attempt to compassionately address cases where they see people performing such actions.

            Let me be clear: I'm not presently arguing that the Church's rationale for deeming any particular act(s) "harmful" is good or valid. I'm simply arguing that, if the Church falls into the latter aforementioned category of "moral responsibility", it makes sense for it to compel Catholics to try to attempt to appropriately and compassionately address situations where they know that such "harmful" acts are present in a person's life or in people's lives.

            Anyone who agrees that majority view (or 'mob rule') makes sense needs to give their head a wobble.

            BenS, wouldn't you agree that the law in a democratic-type system (such as that in the States) does, in fact, derive from the moral perspectives of the "majority view" or (if you will) the "mob rule"? To use the prior example, don't laws in place against acts of arson reflect the "majority view" that acts of arson should not be legally permitted? I do think it's good to have controls in place to limit the potential consequences of hasty "mob mentality" in tense situations, which is why I appreciate that States' system of "democratic republicanism" rather than "pure democracy". However, I don't think you'll effectively dispute that in a democratic-type system, the laws in place do, in fact, reflect the "majority view" in many issues.

            ... [if] the number of voters identifying as atheist tips over the 50% mark, if laws were then enacted to tear down the churches, ban Christians from gathering in groups, holding political office or getting married the general consensus from the Christians would not be 'Oh, that makes sense.'.

            If that was the consensus Christian reaction, I'd say that more Christians need to parse their terms carefully. If such were to happen, I would personally advocate very strongly against such legislation being put into place. However, I would certainly say that such legislation would "make sense" if such things as Christian gatherings (of worship or otherwise), Christians holding office, and Christian marriage were deemed intolerable by a sufficient majority of voting constituents in a democratic-type system. I wouldn't like it, but I would acknowledge the logical sense behind the law shifting to reflect the majority perspective on what should and shouldn't be legally permitted.

          • BenS

            However, I needed an act which I can reasonably expect Tyler to be morally opposed to in order to be sure that he could empathize with the example and understand the idea I was trying to convey.

            I cannot speak for Tyler but people like myself are not morally opposed to things that do not harm others. A more appropriate observation would be a law against people riding bikes (doesn't harm others) or having long hair (doesn't harm others). Of course, the problem you have there is that we would also object to those laws because... they don't harm others.

            So you pick a crime that does harm others and then try to draw a comparison, all the while claiming that you're not drawing a comparison. It's dishonest.

            Let's be straight about this. We're not morons. We understand the point you're trying to make, we just flat out disagree. Trying to skim off the idea that homosexuality is in the same boat as harmful crimes is a cheap rhetorical device and I shall call you on that.

            I should correct you on a minor point here. The Church doesn't oppose companional relationship for same-sex-attracted persons, even if such a relationship is between two such persons of the same sex.

            I really don't care WHY the church opposes same-sex marriage, merely that it does. Whether the church intends to force people into miserable lives or whether it accepts companionship and not sexual acts it an irrelevance. The church opposes same-sex marriage. It opposes giving homosexuals the rights that heterosexuals have. How they justify their stance, I don't care; I have fought and will continue to fight for homosexuals to have the same rights I enjoy.

            If the Church believes that certain actions which a person may commit are "harmful" to that person (leaving aside presently the quality of the supporting rationale), it obliges Catholics to attempt to compassionately address cases where they see people performing such actions.

            So we leave aside the definition of harm, we leave aside the rationale and this then means the church is obligated to stick its face in OTHER PEOPLE'S business according to its own mad definitions of harm and justification.

            Consider:

            The Catholic church has an obligation to interfere in people's lives to ensure that non-Catholics cannot harm the soul they don't believe in because a 2000 year old book they don't venerate says their actions are wrong.

            And you wonder why I object?

            BenS, wouldn't you agree that the law in a democratic-type system (such as that in the States) does, in fact, derive from the moral perspectives of the "majority view" or (if you will) the "mob rule"?

            I'm not familiar with the intricacies of US law as there are only so many third world countries I can show an interest in at any one time so you'll have to make do with what I've learnt from Boston Legal.

            My answer: No.

            The law is NOT derived from majority rule and where it is, it's quite often wrong. Also, the law might reflect majority opinion because, quite often, it shapes it. When it's perfectly legal to discriminate against blacks the majority seem to go along with that. When it's made illegal, the majority opinion gradually comes into line.

            Majority rule is a stupid method for determining what rights minorities have. Obviously.

            I wouldn't like it,

            Why would this be? Because you've done nothing wrong? Because discriminating against minorities is unfair? Because letting the majority deny you rights others enjoy is inequitable?

            And yet this is exactly what you want to do to homosexuals. Double standards, much?

          • Christian Stillings

            Ben, let me again try to be absolutely clear: All I'm trying to
            convey here is a statement "if [x], then logically [y]". By plugging in variables for "[x]" and "[y]", I then arrive at different statements based on the given variables.

            Proceeding to the contents of your most recent comment:

            I cannot speak for Tyler but people like myself are not morally opposed to things that do not harm others. A more appropriate observation would be a law against people riding bikes (doesn't harm others) or having long hair (doesn't harm others). Of course, the problem you have there is that we would also object to those laws because... they don't harm others.

            As I already made clear, I was not making a statement about the actual morality or harm of any action. Nor was I proffering my own perspective on either. I used the example of arson was because I needed to select something which I could expect Tyler to find harmful. If I hadn't used an example to which Tyler is probably morally opposed, I could not have drawn my intended parallel. Your own perspectives on what things are and are not harmful is not relevant to the point I was making.

            So you pick a crime that does harm others and then try to draw a comparison, all the while claiming that you're not drawing a comparison. It's dishonest.

            Ben, you're focusing on truth propositions about "moral badness" and "harm". I regarded neither and simply focused on what different parties believe about "moral badness" and "harm" without examining the veracity of those beliefs. If you want to consider the veracity of morality propositions, that's fine, but such considerations are not relevant to the validity of my point.

            Let's be straight about this. We're not morons. We understand the point you're trying to make, we just flat out disagree. Trying to skim off the idea that homosexuality is in the same boat as harmful crimes is a cheap rhetorical device and I shall call you on that.

            Ben, my point is strictly "if a person is morally opposed to an action, this will reflect in his or her actions". The question of "is [x] action 'harmful' or not?" is not relevant to this point, but you continue to address it as though it is. I'm not presently interested in discussing what actions are and are not "morally bad" or "harmful", and I think I've made that clear. I don't know why you continue returning to that matter; perhaps you feel the need to continually emphasize your disagreement with my own perspective on the matter, but our particular agreement or disagreement on the matter is not relevant to the validity of my point.

            I really don't care WHY the church opposes same-sex marriage, merely that it does.

            I understand that you're very impassioned about your perspective on this matter. I'm just not sure why you're bringing it up presently.

            Whether the church intends to force people into miserable lives or whether it accepts companionship and not sexual acts is an irrelevance.

            *is irrelevant. I agree that it's not relevant to what I'm trying to discuss with you. However, it is relevant to the ways in which Catholics live.

            The church opposes same-sex marriage. It opposes giving homosexuals the rights that heterosexuals have.

            Your first sentence is correct. From the Church's perspective, it is erroneous to think of marriage as a "right". Marriage is a privilege, a responsibility, and a binding sacramental relationship. I actually think that the idea of "marriage as a right" is tremendously damaging, regardless of the particular arrangement which is called a "marriage" in this circumstance.

            How they justify their stance, I don't care; I have fought and will continue to fight for homosexuals to have the same rights I enjoy.

            The paragraph is ended; go in peace.

            So we leave aside the definition of harm, we leave aside the rationale and this then means the church is obligated to stick its face in OTHER PEOPLE'S business according to its own mad definitions of harm and justification.

            For the sake of discussing this particular topic: "if '[x]', then logically '[y]'", I think it befits us to leave aside discussion of "what is and is not 'harmful'". As I've already pointed out, only total libertarians in principle remove themselves from "sticking their faces in other people's business". I agree that consideration of, discussion about, and justification for one's opinion about "what is and is not 'harmful'" are very important. However, the justification behind Catholic teaching is not relevant to the validity of the claim that "if [Catholics hold moral beliefs], then logically [their actions will reflect these beliefs]".

            ...US law as there are only so many third world countries...

            ?

            The law is NOT derived from majority rule and where it is, it's quite often wrong.

            What do you mean by "wrong" in this sentence?

            Also, the law might reflect majority opinion because, quite often, it shapes it. When it's perfectly legal to discriminate against blacks the majority seem to go along with that. When it's made illegal, the majority opinion gradually comes into line.

            I agree that, because of the particular ways in which democratic republican systems may differ from purely democratic systems, it's possible for legislation to pass which does not reflect the majority opinion among the constituents of the state. I should clarify that the law generally reflects the "majority morality", certainly not always in every specific instance. I also agree that legislation can have an effect on the sentiment of members of the public.

            Majority rule is a stupid method for determining what rights minorities have. Obviously.

            What specific method do you prefer for determining what rights minorities should have?

            Why would this be? Because you've done nothing wrong? Because discriminating against minorities is unfair? Because letting the majority deny you rights others enjoy is inequitable?

            Because it would be fundamentally unenjoyable to be unable to do that which I value very highly. However, we also recognize that some people may place high value on things which we as society prohibit. "Discriminating against minorities"- this would very much depend on how we define "discrimination", the grounds for said "discrimination", and how we define "minority". There are certain kinds of "discrimination" which I think should be prohibited outright, but we do as a society "discriminate" against certain individuals based on their actions if those actions are unacceptable in the sight of the law. If people who are particularly prone to commit such actions may be grouped as a "minority", then I think it would technically be alright to "discriminate" against such a "minority". I agree that the denial of "rights" is "inequitable", but the matter of what should and should not be considered "rights" is a matter which must be settled first.

          • BenS

            As I already made clear, I was not making a statement about the actual morality or harm of any action. Nor was I proffering my own perspective on either. I used the example of arson was because I needed to select something which I could expect Tyler to find harmful.

            So, you weren't making a statement about the morality or harm but you chose to associate a harmless activity with a harmful one and thus muddy the water, poison the well and piss in the lake.

            You sound like the kind of person who thinks it's perfectly acceptable to phrase things like "I'm not saying Obama is a terrorist, but...."

            Ben, my point is strictly "if a person is morally opposed to an action, this will reflect in his or her actions". The question of "is [x] action 'harmful' or not?" is not relevant to this point, but you continue to address it as though it is.

            If it's not relevant then do not draw such comparisons. Use another one. If you can't think of another one then, clearly, your position needs reviewing.

            I understand that you're very impassioned about your perspective on this matter. I'm just not sure why you're bringing it up presently.

            YOU brought it up, I was responding to a paragraph in YOUR post.

            From the Church's perspective, it is erroneous to think of marriage as a "right". Marriage is a privilege, a responsibility, and a binding sacramental relationship. I actually think that the idea of "marriage as a right" is tremendously damaging, regardless of the particular arrangement which is called a "marriage" in this circumstance.

            I'm not really all that bothered about whether someone views it as a right or not as a right - my only concern is that if it is available to some, it should be available to all with very few exceptions and absolutely no exceptions for discriminatory reasons.

            If marriage is available to whites, it should be available to blacks. If it's available to heterosexuals, it should be available to homosexuals. I am, of course, talking about legal marriage. Whatever bizarre definition religious people choose to also apply, I'm uninterested in.

            What do you mean by "wrong" in this sentence?

            Incorrect.

            What specific method do you prefer for determining what rights minorities should have?

            Minorities should have the same rights as the majority. They should not be discriminated against simply because they lack voting power.

            If people who are particularly prone to commit such actions may be grouped as a "minority", then I think it would technically be alright to "discriminate" against such a "minority".

            Give examples of actions that do no harm that it's acceptable to discriminate against.

          • Tyler

            "If it gets to be more like a debate than a "dialogue", I think that's alright- that's the sort of site this is."

            I am definitely here to debate ideas. My frustration stems from entering in debates with people who are of the opinion that they have nothing to learn, save for maybe improving their ability to argue their pre-determined point. If this is your only aim please say so and I will kindly withdraw from the discussion. One of the reasons I like to debate is to test the validity of my opinions, but also to challenge those of others.

            "If a young Christian wants to marry early because they think of marriage as "a chance to have sex!"..."

            I understand your point here, and I think the idea of approaching marriage (like sex) with a certain level of respect and understanding for it's seriousness is important for believers and non-believers alike. The thing is I don't think the large majority of people are honest with themselves about their motivation in these situations. Perhaps all their feelings are genuine, but would not be enough to motivate them into marriage without the dogmatic restrictions. Our brains are quite adept at tricking ourselves and at avoiding unpleasant truths. The best we can hope for is to overcome some of these mental biases through careful observation and evaluation of self. I find it helps to note other people's biases and self delusions and try and find parallels to yourself.

            "Maybe the "celibate scientist" route has something going for it. :-)"

            Yes there will always be those who overcome their libidos or don't possess them in the first place, but do you really see them as ever being more than a very small sub-set of society? We are social beings, and our sexuality is part of that, part of our nature that goes beyond mere procreation. I made the same point in another conversation but I will repeat. Our nature is to pursue pleasure, this has been the true 'ultimate end' of human sex through history. Procreation has and often still is an inconvenient side effect.

            "

            "Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved." - G.K. Chesterton

            So original sin, the idea that (correct me if I am wrong) the sin of Adam (who most Christians believe was only a fictional character, unless you deny evolution?!) is somehow passed down through every generation, leading to our condition of being "born in sin" or broken, or whatever you want to call it? And you can prove it?! I'm all ears buddy.

            The word "sin" comes from an archery term meaning "to miss the mark". My belief in sin comes from my conviction that there is "a way things should be" in our relationships with one another (and perhaps in our relationship with God as well), and that we're notoriously terrible at seeking that "way" in our own lives and actions. There's a right way to live and to act, and our failure to live up to it is our sin. In fact, every "secular humanist" who believes that people should give more to the poor believes in sin too- there is a standard for how we should be living and relating, and we're failing to live up to it. I can elaborate more on this if you'd like.

            The problem I have with this is that it is impossible to know the will of God if he exists, it is impossible to know 'the way things should be' and you are essentially putting your faith in people who thought the world was flat to have figured it out for you.

            "I get the scant impression that you have a Protestant background"

            I am a 26 year old Canadian, my father was Catholic and my mother United. I went to United Church and Catholic school but neither seemed to have much to offer.

            "The Church cannot change a teaching which it has already declared. When in doubt on a point of doctrine, the perspective that Christians have always held is
            probably more reliable than the perspective that cropped up a week ago."

            So Jews are bad, owning human beings is okay (beating them with a rod and what-not, they are your property), and women are not equal to men and should keep their mouths shut, especially in church. Also taking women from conquered territory as your wife/property is okay, just follow proper procedure... yep sounds like the will of God to me. I'm sure you will take issue with some of this but it is probably pretty close to what early Christians believed, most of it is in the bible and persecution of Jews was undoubtedly par for the Christian course. So you support all of these things, or they are somehow exempt?

            "Protestants sort out doctrine by saying "what does the Bible say (in my
            opinion)?" Catholics instead say "what is the constant teaching of the
            Church?" You can probably see which system works better. "

            Honestly they both sound like terrible options based on antiquated views developed by ignorant goat-herders and passed on through the mechanism by which children inherently trust any and all information coming from their parents (indoctrination). Thinking for myself 'works better'.

            "I'll presently leave you with a link to Tim Keller"

            I will be sure to look that over when I have a moment, thanks.

            "Being a Christian is not a "do-whatever-you-please" venture for anyone,"..."You may fairly accuse Christianity of calling same-sex-attracted people
            "broken", but it would be unfair to act as though it singles those
            people out."

            While I sympathize with any Catholic homosexuals I was more referring to people who have no interest in the Catholic church or it's doctrine but are nevertheless discriminated against because of the RC churches' influence on government and education. I have shared my opinions on the 'we are all broken perspective' and I will just add/clarify that I think it is often especially destructive for gay people, which is why I chose to focus on that element of it.

            "In our society (if you're also from the States), we have situations where we formally discriminate against people who commit certain actions-..."

            This is not discrimination my friend, unless you are assuming that the actions were committed because the individual is Mexican, or from some other specific denomination (.http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/discriminate?s=t) I get the impression you think discrimination is okay as long as the majority of people agree with it? In the past, we had situations where the majority of people believed that African Americans were inferior, that does not make the persecution they suffered because of it any more just, it was pretty despicable actually. It is easy to not see clearly from your position of privilege but this is something every member of our society should be firmly against. Imagine if half the schools in the country were based around the Muslim faith, and you had the option of adhering to Sharia law or only having half as many options for places to seek an education, and half as many scholarships to vie for, and imagine your tax dollars went to funding these schools which create this unfair disadvantage for you. Now imagine someone tried to defend your persecution with your argument about the arsonist being persecuted. Can you see how ridiculous that is? You don't see this as a situation that any fair and just society should strive to avoid?! I wish Jesus spent more time preaching about how it's not cool to f*** people over and not care just because they are different or not from your church because 'love thy neighbor' or whatever it was didn't seem to effectively get the message across.

            "I don't recall seeing that in what I read about Grace University (though I invite you to correct me if the University does receive state funding)."

            Honestly I made the assumption as most of them do, but I looked it up and they do indeed receive state funding.

            "Grace University receives federal Title IV funding under the Higher Education Act of 1965.[5] This prohibits them from discriminating against individuals protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964,including racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities, and women.However this does not prohibit them from discriminating against students on the basis of sex or gender identity"

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

            "What kind of "evidence" do you think we should use for our assessment of the "healthiness" of any given kind of relationship?"

            Good question, I think this more applies to relationships deemed as 'unhealthy'. In this case the 'evidence' would be a lack of any science supporting the idea that a committed same sex relationship is actually unhealthy, bad, or inherently deleterious to a persons' well being.

            "I'd point out that "honesty", "respect", "genuine care", and "support" may all be part of any relationship, whether or not it involves sexual activity between the people involved; I'm not sure how these traits are specifically constructive to your idea of a healthy sexual expression or relationship"

            They are not specific they are universal to any positive relationship.

            May I oblige you to read a blog post which I think addresses the matter well? http://www.patheos.com/blogs/m...

            While I appreciate this writers perspective, I find the story of his gay Christian friend ultimately saddening. He clearly had a man whom he loved and spent his life with. Either he pointlessly deprived himself of the very real, scientifically documented mental and physical benefits that come from being in a healthy sexual relationship (here's a few, http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/guide/10-surprising-health-benefits-of-sex) as well as the bonding power of oxytocin which is produced during orgasm, either he spent his life wrestling against his natural God given urges (I'm sure you disagree but I can't see how) or perhaps he had a few fleeting experiences which would have been punctuated with massive amounts of personal guilt. Either way this does not represent someone with a healthy understanding of their own sexuality. Just like a personal relationship it is obvious this should make us feel good about ourselves. A healthy understanding of our own sexuality should not leave us constantly battling with ourselves or racked with guilt, unless there is a destructive element which justifies that guilt, such as an attraction to children or married women. In such a case an effort could be made to change our perspectives. Science has already shown that this is an ultimately destructive endeavor.

            http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A%3A1025647527010#page-1

            "An increasing number of clinicians believe that such change, rarely, if ever, occurs and that psychotherapy with this goal is often harmful by increasing self-loathing, lowered self esteem, hopelessness and depression"

            I did find an interesting line in that blog "I will say what I say about all such choices to sin: God forgives sin so who am I to judge?"

            This fits very well with my previous argument that the idea of original sin and Jesus having died for our sins is like a self fulfilling prophecy for young Christian children. If you are too young to have truly sinned then your inevitable sin as man must be yet to come, and when you do something terrible you can rest assured that it was not really your fault since your sin was inevitable. No need to feel bad/guilty/responsible, God will forgive you. This does not teach people to feel accountable or to be the best they can be. It sounds ridiculous but look at the quote again. "I will say what I say about all such choices to sin: God forgives sin so who am I to judge?" It's expected of you! When I do something I am not proud of, I do not say 'but of course, it is in my nature, I am only human' I generally think to myself something along the lines of "you are better than that Tyler!" and I make a conscious point of acting differently in the future. I honestly probably believe I am better than I am sometimes but this just facilitates further improvement. This is kind of like the Benjamin Franklin effect, or at least plays on the same elements of brain functioning. ( http://youarenotsosmart.com/2011/10/05/the-benjamin-franklin-effect/ ) I realize it is a subtle difference but it is far more powerful of a difference than you can imagine, especially when multiplied across the different scenarios you can apply this type of thinking to.

            "I don't think that Church teaching encourages or promotes "destruction to the healthy development of a positive self-image"

            Just want to re-iterate my previous point in response to this. A positive self image does not lead one to personal torment or feelings of intense guilt for engaging in healthy (as in beneficial to physical and mental health- see previous link) relationships or for having natural human urges.

            However, I think that a self-image which compels one to strive for improvement through repentance of wrongs and to strive toward right living and relationship is more beneficial to anyone and everyone than a self-image which categorically denies the existence of things such as "wrong actions" or "improvement". (I think you actually do believe in
            these, and I'll address that in a bit).

            We're almost on the same page here. I tend to think that part of the journey towards improving is increasing our understanding through experience, relationships, literature, and in many other ways.By embracing a doctrine that claims to have all the answers you shut yourself off from really growing in your awareness and your understanding. Ancient Catholics didn't have all the answers, and perhaps neither do we, but there is nothing wrong with admitting that. In fact acknowledging it is essential to overcoming it and making the greatest possible contribution to the next generation of human beings that will inhabit the earth. It is essential to our personal growth. I am here debating you because the only way to test the validity of your beliefs is to let them be questioned, and to honestly question them.

            "Are you aware of the number of Catholic charities which exist for the purpose of helping single mothers and women who are pregnant by no intention of their own?

            There are butt-loads of incredibly compassionate, wonderful human beings dedicating their lives to making the world a better place in the name of the church. I am sure there is a lot of good done by these people. Nevertheless people still need jobs to survive and feed their children. You could just glance these over.

            http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/religious-school-fires-teacher-pregnant-wedlock-bad-christian-role-model-article-1.1060205

            http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/news/teacher-sues-church-over-pregnancy-firing/nThJR/

            http://www.today.com/money/christian-school-fires-pregnant-woman-over-premarital-sex-1C8617072

            These might warrant a little bit of a closer look. The point is when people have absolute ideals and they believe God himself is in favor of those ideals they will do some crazy shit even though they are probably nice. well meaning people. And by crazy shit I mean no less than letting people die pointlessly and stealing babies, among other things.

            http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2049647/BBC-documentary-exposes-50-year-scandal-baby-trafficking-Catholic-church-Spain.html

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/2013/03/the-increasing-problem-of-religious-hospitals/

            "it sounds like you're saying that there's some moral ideal that we at least initially (if not always) fail to live up to."

            I am just going to clarify that this moral ideal is nothing more than a hypothesis which can never be tested. We can seek to increase our understanding and move closer towards this ideal or we can assume that we already know and remain stagnant and rooted in the past. You're quote regarding the only certain thing being original sin seems to support this idea, although I don't feel I can take that as your position. You seem certain that your church truly does know exactly the will and mind of God, I would not presume to tell you that they are wrong but I would remind you that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, of which I have seen very little.

            "we strive to live according to it, and when we fail, we acknowledge our wrongs, make amends for them, and continue to turn our hearts toward the way we ought to live. I think you agree with a lot more Christian theology on this matter than you realize you do. :-)"

            Without a doubt my friend. I think almost all religions have something (if not a lot of) good to offer. The problem occurs when they lead us to be certain of things we could never know. Historically religion united and strengthened groups of people which is probably why similar religions can be found all over. On a larger scale however they create much division between people and groups. Look at Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, Israelis and Palestinians, there has been massive death in the name of religion throughout history and to this day. It's much easier to feel justified killing someone when God is on your side. Are Christian soldiers who go to Iraq told they will go to hell for murder? I don't know but I doubt it. Who gets to make that call? This is what scares me about religious belief.

            "Every time I enter or leave my room, I (somewhat subconsciously) think "I turn the handle, I push or pull the door, I walk through the doorway,and I close the door". It's a repetitious thought that affects the way in which I think about the door, and with sufficient experience I can enter and leave the room without thinking about the process."

            This is exactly right

          • Tyler

            ...you just need to apply it in the right way. The idea is, if you constantly affirm the idea that you are broken, you will act accordingly without thinking. Get it?

            "I'm collecting book recommendations for the summer- fire away! :-)"

            The Brain that Changes by Norman Doidge MD is the one I was referring to, I'm only halfway through but it's really fascinating stuff. If you want more I can definitely fire off some random good suggestions, probably most will be fiction. I am always open to suggestions for good reading as well if you have any. Nothing makes me happier than having a stack of good books waiting to be read.

            "one should be prepared to do whatever reading may be requisite to further constructive conversation."

            Indeed. I seem to recall my religion teacher at some point pulling out some giant tome full of never ending rules to be obeyed described in what I can only imagine to be the driest manner possible (I'm biased perhaps). Anyways I agree, within reason :)

            "A big part of the Catholic approach, often called "natural law", is thatcertain things have specific purposes which can be clearly identified by anybody (Aristotelian philosophy uses the term "final causes" to refer to this idea). A knife is for cutting, a chair is for sitting, a bat is for batting, and so on. It's not a very popular idea in modern
            philosophy, but it's at least pretty straightforward."

            I've dealt with this a bit already. I don't think it is nearly as straightforward when you are not working backwards from a pre-determined solution.I am also curious where the idea that there is a correlation between the typical function of something and morality. comes from. It seems very random to be honest, and as I already argued you can use the same logic to lead you down many different paths. I only came up with one, which may not be perfect but I did not dedicate a lot of time or effort to the matter. At any rate I can see why it's not very popular.

            "I believe in the inspiration of the Bible and in other Catholic
            teachings because I believe, as did G.K. Chesterton, that the Church is "a truth-telling thing".

            I would love to hear this one day. I am genuinely curious as to how you have come to this position which is so completely opposite to mine. At any rate, having people with different perspectives to think about and debate at least keeps life interesting! Take care dude, thanks for the intelligent conversation. I'm looking forward to your response.

          • Christian Stillings

            Tyler, I'd like to finish responding to your most recent comment, starting at "well for starters..." If between my last comment and this one you think I've failed to address any significant part of your most recent comment, please let me know and I'll try to address it when I can.

            Well for starters it doesn't make them feel like they are broken just for being who they are.

            Yet the central point of Christian theology is that we're all "broken" in many ways, including in regard to sexual desires. You may fairly accuse Christianity of calling same-sex-attracted people "broken", but it would be unfair to act as though it singles those people out.

            I think a healthy understanding is one based on evidence and which leads a person into having relationships which are positive experiences. That is relationships with people who prove to be honest and respectful, who genuinely care and support each other.

            What kind of "evidence" do you think we should use for our assessment of the "healthiness" of any given kind of relationship? I'd point out that "honesty", "respect", "genuine care", and "support" may all be part of any relationship, whether or not it involves sexual activity between the people involved; I'm not sure how these traits are specifically constructive to your idea of a healthy sexual expression or relationship. I'd also point out that Catholic teaching is perfectly fine with companion relationships between two same-sex-attracted people who are of the same sex (which would hopefully involve at least the four aforementioned traits), as long as they prudently seek to avoid sexual sin and repent of what sin may happen. May I oblige you to read a blog post which I think addresses the matter well? http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2012/05/a-gay-man-i-consider-a-saint.html

            Once again I see no reason why a hetero relationship couldn't be very destructive and a same-sex relationship very positive, or vice versa.

            A relationship between two people of opposite sexes, whether or not it's romantic/potentially sexual, could certainly be very destructive. I don't think I've ever implied otherwise. And, as I noted a moment ago, the Church considers certain kinds of relationships between two people of the same sex to be potentially good and constructive, even if those two people are sexually attracted to one another. Morality is a matter of specific actions and intentions, not desires per se, so there's no reason that two same-sex-attracted persons couldn't have a healthy and constructive companion relationship in accordance with Catholic teaching.

            The problem is your faith inevitably leads you to see any destruction to a person's healthy development of a positive self image as insignificant compared to the ultimate goal of saving someone's soul.

            I don't think that Church teaching encourages or promotes "destruction to the healthy development of a positive self-image", although there may be other perspectives which disagree with Church teaching on what, exactly, constitutes a "positive self-image". Certainly, doctrines of sin and "brokenness" (which I'll address more in a bit) don't allow for the attitude of "I'm great! You're great! We're all really fantastic!". However, I think that a self-image which compels one to strive for improvement through repentance of wrongs and to strive toward right living and relationship is more beneficial to anyone and everyone than a self-image which categorically denies the existence of things such as "wrong actions" or "improvement". (I think you actually do believe in these, and I'll address that in a bit).

            This is not the aim of the system, but nevertheless this system does alienate and persecute people who have no interest whatsoever in Catholicism or in abiding by it's teachings. You keep failing to recognize this.

            What this sounds like to me is "the Church tells people who aren't interested in being Catholic that, as long as they aren't interested in being Catholic, they shouldn't be Catholic". I honestly don't understand the issue here.

            Furthermore, the greater the percentage of believers the worse the alienation and persecution will inevitably become.

            As I detailed in my first comment, I agree that majority perspectives on moral issues tend to impact public policy and effects in the public square. However, the ultimate idea of the Catholic faith (which you'll understand if you read the Catechism) is not about rejection, alienation, or persecution. Rather, it's about invitation to repentance of and redemption from sin and to a right way of living in relationship with God and one another. This "right way of living" asks that people, regardless of age/race/sexuality/etcetera, abandon certain kinds of actions and behaviors to which they may strongly desire to commit. I think that to focus on the abandonment of certain behavior (sin) over the invitation to redemption and new life is to misunderstand the Catholic faith altogether.

            I'm sure the plight of unwed single mothers and pregnant rape victims would be almost or equally as bad as homosexuals in this hypothetical world/universe.

            Are you aware of the number of Catholic charities which exist for the purpose of helping single mothers and women who are pregnant by no intention of their own? Are you aware of Catholic teaching on concern for social justice, including issues of mother-and-child welfare? Are you aware of Catholic teaching on the dignity of the human person and the need to treat all people with love and compassion? Again, I have to recommend the Catechism. I'll also provide you a link pertinent to this kind of issue, and I can acquire some others if you'd like: http://www.sistersoflife.org/donations

            I can think of articles I would just have to re-find them for you.

            I'd be happy to try to read whatever you give me links to.

            I am sorry but the Catholic/Christian ideology of inherent brokenness has always seemed absurd... [when] a child is born, he has everything to learn. He or she is not broken, he is merely beginning.

            Tyler, you say that you think the idea of "brokenness" or "less-than-ideal-ness" or however you care to frame is is "absurd". Yet allow me to quote and respond to a few other things you said:

            Religious or not, as we live and increase our understanding most people generally progress towards a more refined morality.

            I agree. However, when you speak of this "refined morality", it sounds like you're saying that there's some moral ideal that we at least initially (if not always) fail to live up to. This is pretty much exactly the Christian conception of what it means to be "sinful".

            We suck at things and then we get better with time and effort.

            I agree. However, doesn't "getting better" imply that, at least at some time, mean that we're not "doing it right" or "doing it as well as we could"? Doesn't your statement imply that there's ultimately a "right way of doing things", or at least "better" and "worse" ways of doing things (which you do say), and that, at least at some point, we fail to meet this standard?

            I am simply a human being on the path to being the best I can be (in the time I get), at a certain point on the slow progression which began when I started listening to my parents speech patterns and learning from inside the womb.

            When you say "to being the best I can be", you're again implying that there's an optimum state of being, of behavior, of relating, or something very much along those lines. You also acknowledge that you're not there, but you think you should try to be. Again, this sounds an awful lot like Christian theology of sin.

            Tyler, here's how I see things. Whether or not you have a well-defined idea of it, you clearly believe in an optimum state of living/being/relating/etcetera. To "progress toward a more refined morality", to "get better with time and effort", to, to acknowledge there's a "best way to be"- every one of these statements requires a definite optimum way of life and relationship. Either you do believe in such a thing or these statements mean nothing at all.

            What does this optimum state look like? What does it mean for you to live according to it? What would it mean for others to live according to it too? What are the specific tenets of conduct for people living according to the optimum state? These are weighty questions, and I don't expect you to have an immediate answer to them. However, if you did work out and define the exact tenets of conduct for the optimum state, I predict that neither you nor any other human being could consistently live according to them. We might get it right sometimes, maybe most of the time, maybe even nearly all the time, but I don't think anyone could ever get it perfectly right.

            That's just what it means, as a Christian, to believe in the inherently sinful state of all humans. God, in His love, has given us the ability to know (or to intuit pretty darn well) that there is a right way of living- an optimum state, if you will- and that we can't possibly measure up to it. The Christian responsibility, which many non-Christians are able to know through sense and experience, is this: we come to understand the existence and shape of this optimum state, we strive to live according to it, and when we fail, we acknowledge our wrongs, make amends for them, and continue to turn our hearts toward the way we ought to live. I think you agree with a lot more Christian theology on this matter than you realize you do. :-)

            Repetitious thought actually has a physiological effect on the brain, that is to say our thoughts can change who we are physically.

            Sure. Every time I enter or leave my room, I (somewhat subconsciously) think "I turn the handle, I push or pull the door, I walk through the doorway, and I close the door". It's a repetitious thought that affects the way in which I think about the door, and with sufficient experience I can enter and leave the room without thinking about the process. We'd agree that this is a beneficial process in everyday life. Whether or not some brain-shaping actions- thinking of oneself as "sinful", regularly attending Church, kneeling to pray, etcetera"- are "beneficial" repetitions or not is a matter for further discussion.

            I could recommend an unrelated book which demonstrates this idea well, and frankly neuroplasticity is a fascinating subject if you have any interest in science or the mind.

            I'm collecting book recommendations for the summer- fire away! :-) I do think neuroplasticity is fascinating, and I think it may pose an interesting challenge to materialistic accounts of human brain/mind function.

            As for reading the Catechism, honestly it sounds pretty boring, Will it make me a better person?

            If one is going to go to a site to have conversation/debate, one should be prepared to do whatever reading may be requisite to further constructive conversation. You brought up the example of Grace University and gave me a link in the expectation that I would read it and thus be better-equipped to converse about it. In turn, you should be prepared to and willing to do reading which is recommended unto you. Admittedly, the Catechism is a bit longer than a HuffPost article- for now, I'll only recommend that you read the section(s) relevant to marriage, family, and sex. I promise it'll only make you a better person if you do what it says. :-P

            Couldn't we have put something about rape in there? Or not purchasing other human beings?

            I think you're approaching (Judeo-)Christian revelation in a Protestant mental framework. A liberal Protestant might say "Jesus didn't say anything about homosexuality, so he must be cool with it!", ie, unless something is explicitly addressed in the text of Scripture, it doesn't count. A Catholic, on the other hand, recognizes the presence and pertinence of Tradition, the ability to legitimately derive non-explicit teachings from prior-standing principles, and the role of the Church in Christian life. The Bible wasn't meant to be a completely comprehensive guide to Christian belief and life- that's why God gave us the Church. :-)

            Do you honestly believe there are reasonable scenarios for these bodies/organizations to intrude or dictate upon the intimate details of people's personal sex lives? The best places to live have laws AGAINST that sort of thing for a very good reason.

            What areas of people's lives the organizations they're affiliated with is worth discussion. Certainly, the popular sensibility in modern American capitalism is to say "if it doesn't impact their work on the job, it's none of our business". Yet many businesses do still inquire into employees' otherwise life in some areas- think of all the employers which require drug testing for their employees. I think that "what level of scrutiny should larger organizations like nations/states and businesses exercise in regard to their citizens'/employees' lives?" is an open question, and I'm curious to hear your own thoughts about it. What concern do you think governmental, business, and other types of organizations should have for individuals' lives?

            "What ought to happen in the jungle" = pre-concieved conclusion (see above) as well as a matter of OPINION

            I agree that any code of conduct supported by either of us is in some sense an opinion which we proffer. I think you proffer opinions on at least some moral issues, and I'm curious to know how you go about sorting through moral issues. A big part of the Catholic approach, often called "natural law", is that certain things have specific purposes which can be clearly identified by anybody (Aristotelian philosophy uses the term "final causes" to refer to this idea). A knife is for cutting, a chair is for sitting, a bat is for batting, and so on. It's not a very popular idea in modern philosophy, but it's at least pretty straightforward. Catholic theology also looks at parts of the human body and understands them to have certain "natural" functions- teeth are for chewing, eyes are for seeing, and so on. These things in the physical world are understood of have "natural" functions- functions which are "in their nature"- and we're able to assign values according to these functions. Hypothetically, "natural law" morality assigns moral values according to factors- "natural functions" and such- which are accessible to everyone. If people are able to agree as to what functions are "natural", assigning moral values isn't a completely arbitrary matter of opinion. It's not supposed to be a comprehensive primer, but does this all sort of make sense?

            If you have knowledge of why your interpretation of the bible is right or why the bible should be trusted over other religious texts such as the Quran I would love to hear it.

            I talked in my last comment about Catholic vs. Protestant ways of interpreting the Bible and why I think the Catholic method makes much more sense than any other. As to "why the Bible?", I agree that there's no way to prove that any text is divinely inspired- we have no Holy Book scanner that we can run over a Bible, a Quran, and the Book of Mormon to see which, if any, is actually from God. I believe in the inspiration of the Bible and in other Catholic teachings because I believe, as did G.K. Chesterton, that the Church is "a truth-telling thing". If I didn't believe that, I'm not sure that I could believe in Christianity at all. How I arrived at the conclusion that the Church is "a truth-telling thing" is a longer story, and not something I intend to go into presently.

            In any event, I hope this comment and the one preceding it have responded to all the major points in your own most recent comment. Let me know your thoughts! :-)

          • Tyler

            haha It occurs to me my goat-herders comment may seem slightly condescending? Not my intention. More importantly I wanted to clarify that I don't intend to declare that there is nothing of value or wisdom in the Bible. I just think we need to build on what we have as opposed to rooting ourselves to it.

          • Andre Boillot

            Christian,

            I agree wholeheartedly. I'm trying to (cheekily) point out why it seems absurd that masturbation is immoral, yet we experience natural, non-voluntary "nocturnal emissions". Seed be spillin either way.

          • severalspeciesof

            FWIU, there were devices made just so that one wouldn't have nocturnal emissions for the very reason it was considered sinful...

          • BenS

            You CAN be penalised for it, though.

            "I was nowhere near that apple, M'lud!"

          • Christian Stillings

            What do you mean? Are you thinking of masturbation/wet dreaming/etc or or a different kind of act? I don't think that the law has ever condemned wet dreams or that the Church has ever labeled them sins of which one must repent.

          • Max Driffill

            Christian,
            Its nice to hear you say this, but this hasn't always been the stance of the Christians and Jews who fashioned the psychologically damaging fiction of uncleanliness for wet dreams.

          • Corylus

            Yes, masturbation is unnatural. It goes against the nature of the sexual act.

            Not always. For example, say a female masturbates prior to coitus (to increase lubrication) then that would actually go completely with the nature of the sexual act - as this would facilitate matters.

            Conversely, if a male were to do it then things could stop there (at least for a time).

            Goodness me - it appears that catholic dogma entails that women can masturbate but men cannot!

            Sorry chaps.

          • Corylus

            P.S. Cunnilingus good: fellatio bad.

            Sorry again.

          • Phil Rimmer

            Better than that. Afterwards is legit too. So your husband has immediately and selfishly dozed off, as ever, leaving the job half done. Recent research has shown that a post coital female orgasm dramatically improves the speed of transport of sperm towards the egg and therefore the success rate of conception. The post coitus female orgasm is purposeful.

          • Corylus

            Recent research has shown that a post coital female orgasm dramatically
            improves the speed of transport of sperm towards the egg and therefore
            the success rate of conception.

            Well - they do say you learn something new every day! Thank you, Phil.

          • articulett

            Can they do each other? As natural birth control-- I mean?

          • Corylus

            You know, I honestly can't say! Perhaps the author of this piece would be so kind as to clarify this point?

          • Phil Rimmer

            We are wired for pleasure in a curiously specific way. Mate bonding, is secured by oxytocin, the birth facilitator and nurturing cuddle hormone. It has become an as-if-kin detector triggered by a variety of circumstances.

            Grooming amongst apes was mediated by oxytocin. The pleasure-only nerve fibres, C-tactile nerves, only recently discovered, stimulate its release, like breast feeding does and stimulates a calm and trusting passivity. These nerves exist in humans and run exclusively from skin covered in hair and appear to be a relic of this incitement to grooming and bonding.

            The curiously specific nerve wiring runs to our patches of remnant hair and suggests that grooming these areas, the inevitable mutual masturbation and the subsequent release of oxytocin etc. are fully tied in with the bonding process.

          • Christian Stillings

            Either party is allowed to stimulate the self or the other orally/manually/etc so long as the act leads to rightly-ordered intercourse. In a sense, it may be constructive for one or both spouse(s) to "masturbate" prior to coming together.

          • Andre Boillot

            I'm surprised to learn there's a sodomy loop-hole. There may be hope for my returning to the faith after all.

          • articulett

            Google Garfunkel and Oates to hear the "poophole loophole"song.

          • Andre Boillot

            Err....would you be mad if I declined? :)

          • articulett

            Nope.

          • Christian Stillings

            To quote St. Paul, it's not a matter of what *may be* permissible, it's a matter of what's good. I doubt that most Catholic couples would need to resort to sodomy to achieve the proper arousal which would precede the sexual act.

          • Andre Boillot

            Surveyed the sex-lives of many Catholic couples, have we?

          • Christian Stillings

            Unfortunately not; I'll get around to it eventually. For the present time, I don't qualify my statement as anything more than an intuition based on some very limited not-nearly-sexual experience. And I shan't elaborate further on that. :-P

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Why? Please clarify. I'm not being snarky, but I simply don't follow the catholic logic in this case. According to natural law, the penis is ordered to eject sperm. Masturbation is perfectly ordered to that end.

          • ZenDruid

            Ah, but every sperm is sacred!

          • severalspeciesof

            Yes, masturbation is unnatural. It goes against the nature of the sexual act.

            I don't have sex when I masturbate. I masturbate. How does that go against the nature of the sexual act? What does 'the nature of the sexual act mean' in your sense?

          • Max Driffill

            But it isn't unnatural. We see it in our two closest extant relatives (the two species of chimps). Sex acts in humans are not wholly procreative, and have never been. They are about bonding through deeply intimate, pleasure giving experiences. Humans enjoy sexing it up. Between consenting adults this is a good thing.

            And the horrors that masturbation seems to give Christians generally and Catholics specifically is, quite frankly, nonsense. It harms no one, except in very rare cases, and can actually help teach some one a great deal about their own bodies.

            But why this concern with natural?

          • The great advantage Catholics have in arguing about what is natural or not is that, in essence, they claim that what happens in nature isn't natural. Consequently, natural and unnatural get to mean whatever the Church says they mean. Consequently, masturbation is more "unnatural" than rape. (I must be clear, though, that that doesn't mean it is worse or more reprehensible. It would be unfair to say that.)

            I saw something on a conservative religious web site railing against homosexual acts, and the author said, "Even animals know better than that." But of course homosexuality is common in the animal world. Google "giraffes" and "homosexuality" sometime.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Certainly one of the two great problems of Natural Law arguments is the question of what's natural. It's kinda amusing that the magisterium finds that what's natural exactly cooincides with their own basic tenets. I suppose that's NATURAL, after all, but since natural law, like theology, is not subject to empirical adjudication, I fail to see how it helps in any way.

          • Gabriel

            And this is wrong because...

          • Rationalist1

            In humans it is natural for males to not be aware of the female estrus cycle, unlike in many other primates. NFP is putting elephants in hoola skirts.

          • Rationalist, the "natural" in NFP does not refer to the charting but to the fact that it orients couples to the natural end of the conjugal act, namely children. Contraception doesn't.

          • Rationalist1

            But charting isn't natural. If we take how we are made then the fact that men don't know when women are fertile means historically they had to be attentive to them at all times, not just during breeding season.

          • Rationalist1

            Do you have ant reference for that. Every document I've read stress its difference from using atrificial chemicals.

          • Rationalist1

            Pope John Paul II disagreed with you. He talked about natural methods, not natural goal or natural ends.

            "The moment has come for every parish and every structure of consultation and assistance to the family and to the defence of life to have personnel available who can teach married couples how to use the natural methods"

            http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/1996/december/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_19961207_nfp_en.html

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And the problems remains: determining what something's end or order actually is. And making it clear why anyone cares. As Hume argued long ago, an "is" doesn't make an "ought."

          • articulett

            Having a piece of paper and a court of law calling a couple officially married is not natural... multiple animals as well as humans pair bond naturally-- but marriage licenses and wedding ceremonies are not natural-- that is, they don't occur in nature and were not a part of human history until civilizations made it so. It's weird to imagine the creator of the universe suddenly started caring about certain "unnatural" things on one little planet 14 billion years after he set the universe in motion. It makes god seem so... human... petty... provincial.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            "Any act, therefore, that intentionally removes procreation as a fundamental aim of the sexual act renders that act "disordered" and thus "unnatural.""

            Therefore NFP renders coitus disordered and unnatural. As does pregnancy. As does a hysterectomy. I suspect you need to clarify your definition.

        • Max Driffill

          Contraception doesn't say anything at all about fertility. This is such a ridiculous thing to say, that it can be safely discarded. It is an attempt to demonize a thing, and its supporters. It isn't an evil and hurts no one.

          Having a baby is a serious medical and financial decision. It is not one that should be left, ideally, up to fate or chance. Having a baby isn't for everyone, and no one should be forced to risk pregnancy because a bunch of clerics dislike people having sex with people they love and care about (or even just want to have sex for fun with). Contraception simply puts people in control of what is not a risk -free proposition. Having a baby is, thanks to quirks of our evolutionary history, a dangerous business for women (not historically a big concern for the RCC I know). In this day and age, having a baby too young can seriously limit future options.

          If a Catholic doesn't want to avail themselves of the benefits of modern birth control, that is fine (though I do notice it is the Catholic poor who are most devastated by this policy) fine. Don't bother we non-catholics with it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "Contraception hurts no one."

            Here is just one counter example from within people who self-identify as Catholics. I admit it is very simplified but it speaks to a reality experienced by millions of married couples.

            By separating the marital act from its procreative purpose by rendering it infertile, contraception lets the husband use his wife as a sex object. The result is that the divorce rate among Catholics who contracept is the same as society as a whole, something like 50%.

            By requiring the husband to respect the natural cycles of his wife's body, NFP checks the husband's tendency toward selfishness. The result is that the divorce rate among Catholics who use NFP is 1-3%.

            Obviously correlation is not causation but in this case there is something about NFP and contraception which have a huge impact on marital stability.

            When it contributes to selfishness and that leads to marital disharmony and that leads to divorce, the husband, wife, the children, and society suffer.

            Here is one online source: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/wils/wils_01naturalfamilyplanning1.html

          • BenS

            Obviously correlation is not causation but in this case there is something about NFP and contraception which have a huge impact on marital stability.

            Or that those couples who are so terrified by the church's teaching that contraception will lead to hell and eternal misery are even more terrified that divorce will lead to even more hell and misery that they remain trapped in loveless, miserable marriages.

            You've put the cart before the horse. Anyone who so buys into the fear cycle of the church that they won't even use contraception aren't the kind to get divorces anyway.

            But misusing statistics is great. I can counter that with the remarkable statistic that not a single gay person has ended their marriage in divorce in the UK. Clearly, therefore, the inability to procreate leads to even more stable marriages!*

            By separating the marital act from its procreative purpose by rendering it infertile, contraception lets the husband use his wife as a sex object.

            I sure hope you've got proof for this, because it just sounds like a rather disgusting accusation. I use contraception and I have NEVER regarded any woman, married or not, as a 'sex object'.

            I think it says more about what you think of women than it does of others.

            ----

            * 5 points to the person who can point out why my conclusion from that statistic is utterly, irredeemably stupid.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Where are these Catholics today who are so terrified of going to hell that they use nfp and stay in loveless marriages? I've never met one. This is a myth and the creation of your imagination.

            On the other hand, I know a hundred couples who practice nfp out of love for God and their spouses and seem pretty happy and are growing in virtues, in spite of how hard life can be at times.

          • BenS

            Where are these Catholics today who are so terrified of going to hell that they use nfp and stay in loveless marriages? I've never met one. This is a myth and the creation of your imagination.

            In your study (that you didn't cite sources for). Given that you've not shown the study, the methodology or the results nor demonstrated any thinking that showed how you reached your conclusion from those results then my utterly arbitry interpretation is precisely as valuable as yours.

            On the other hand, I know a hundred couples who practice nfp out of lovefor God and their spouses and seem pretty happy and are growing in virtues, in spite of how hard life can be at times.

            And on the other hand, I know a hundred couples who use contraception out of respect for their sexual partners and seem pretty happy and are growing in virtues, in spite of how hard life can be at times.

            Hence, leave the decision up to the couples and let them choose what makes them happiest. It's not rocket surgery.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I left a link above or below to a discussion of three studies. I've been trying to track down the studies themselves.

          • By requiring the husband to respect the natural cycles of his wife's body, NFP checks the husband's tendency toward selfishness. The result is that the divorce rate among Catholics who use NFP is 1-3%.

            First, I am very skeptical about the statistics, especially because of the very small number of studies. But the most important point you make is that correlation is not causation. It is a very select group that uses NFP—I think it is no more than about 3% to 5% of Catholics—and obviously they are very committed. They would obviously be among the least likely to divorce. One would have to do a study of people who used NFP for nonreligious reasons to see what their divorce rate was. And I think nobody would suggest that if a couple was having marital difficulties, using NFP would save them from divorce.

            Also, the United States has one of the highest divorce rates in the world. The divorce-to-marriage ratio in the United States is 54%. For China it is 22%. For Vietnam it is 4%.

            Also, you attribute the effects of NFP to the husband being required to "respect the natural cycles of his wife's body." Would you claim that the overwhelming majority of divorces are due to men not respecting the natural cycles of their wives' bodies—that the divorce rate of 53% can be divided into 50% (marriage where men don't respect women's menstrual cycles) and 3% (other)? It would appear, if that were the case, that men were responsible for almost all divorces.

            . . . . there is something about NFP and contraception which have a huge impact on marital stability.

            There is clearly not enough evidence to make this claim.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            All I am doing is sketching the outline of one answer to the claim that contraception never hurt anyone. There are many other ways that contraception hurts people.

            As far as why Catholics get divorced (and why divorce is so common in this country), there are many interrelated reasons. One major factor is the sexual revolution of the 1960s which was brought to you by the Pill.

          • All I am doing is sketching the outline of one answer to the claim that contraception never hurt anyone.

            But the one answer you gave was by no means clearly true. Even the author of the study acknowledged that correlation was not causation.

            One major factor is the sexual revolution of the 1960s which was brought to you by the Pill.

            I don't think there is an open-and-shut case that the pill caused the sexual revolution. (I am not quite sure what the sexual revolution even is.) Also, both the divorce rate and the abortion rate in the Unites States are declining. There are so many factors it is difficult to attribute any of these trends to one of them.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Agreed, but I'll make the claim that contraception is the sine qua non of the sexual revolution.

          • The pill was not the first contraceptive. Now, aside from surgery, it was the first method of contraception that women could employ without the knowledge or cooperation of men. You seemed to imply in an earlier message that it was a great problem that men did not respect women's menstrual cycles. But it is women who take the pill. If we acknowledge that there has indeed been a sexual revolution, maybe women are largely responsible. But for some reason I can't fathom, religious "conservatives" don't seem to be able to bring themselves to hold women responsible for procuring abortions. Maybe they must similarly maintain that the fact that women use oral contraception is not really women's fault.

          • severalspeciesof

            Divorce rates where already rising steadily well before 1960 when the 'Pill' was introduced in the U.S. One 'could' argue that it was the Pill and the 'sexual revolution' that kept it going upward, but as David has pointed out, correlation does not equal causation...

            BTW, I am of the opinion that it was the Pill that saved my parent's marriage, but it is actually better put this way: The Pill did not ruin my parent's marriage but it DID strain family relationships as my Dad's family called my mother all kinds of names when they found out that she was using the pill. My Mom's family was OK with it...

            Guess which family had the 'stronger' Catholic mindset...

          • BenS

            It is a very select group that uses NFP—I think it is no more than about 3% to 5% of Catholics—and obviously they are very committed. They would obviously be among the least likely to divorce. One would have to do a study of people who used NFP for nonreligious reasons to see what their divorce rate was.

            I was attempting to say this myself but you said it much more coherently. Your last sentence is a very important one.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,

            "Here is just one counter example from within people who self-identify as Catholics. I admit it is very simplified but it speaks to a reality experienced by millions of married couples."

            I agree, what you have written is so grossly oversimplified as to be useless by way of analysis.

            "By separating the marital act from its procreative purpose by rendering it infertile, contraception lets the husband use his wife as a sex object."

            I almost laughed out loud at this. I wonder why it is that Catholics assume that women don't have intense sexual desire.

            "The result is that the divorce rate among Catholics who contracept is the same as society as a whole, something like 50%."

            That probably indicates differences in other mores as well, and has very little to do with contraception, which is just a product of those different mores.

            "By requiring the husband to respect the natural cycles of his wife's body, NFP checks the husband's tendency toward selfishness. "

            Again with the assumption of wives not wanting to have sex without the risk of pregnancy, of enjoying sex without being tied to the animal cycle of reproduction. How is the husband being selfish by wanting to have sex with his wife? Isn't that a good thing by your standards?

            And what is this about respecting a wife's natural cycles? Do you recommend breast feeding only? That will also affect a wife's natural cycles? Is a husband violating his wife's natural cycles by encouraging positions that avoid face to face contact, because a wife is naturally designed to lay on her back? Who cares about her natural cycles? What does she want? What does he, her partner want? If those wants match up, let them knock their proverbial boots.

            What is infuriating about all of this is how male centric your view of heterosexual sex is. It is as if you cannot even conceive of a woman wanting sex, of enjoying it, of only wanting to do it as a chore so she can get them kiddies.

            "The result is that the divorce rate among Catholics who use NFP is 1-3%."
            Obviously correlation is not causation but in this case there is something about NFP and contraception which have a huge impact on marital stability."
            You are absolutely correct that correlation doesn't mean causation. NFP and divorce rates is probably tied to assortative mating. ANyone willing to practice NFP is probably fairly committed to being a Catholic in big way. Two people who score highly Catholic religiosity and practice NFP are probably unlikely to see divorce as an option even if they live in crappy marriage.

            "When it contributes to selfishness and that leads to marital disharmony and that leads to divorce, the husband, wife, the children, and society suffer."

            There is no evidence that contraception does this.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This is largely an ad hominem attack that assumes all kinds of things about my thinking that are entirely unwarranted.

          • ZenDruid

            No, FYI this is ad hominem:

            "You're ignorant and your mother dresses you funny."

          • BenS

            Not *entirely* unwarranted. I'm also of the impression that your thinking is almost entirely male-centric and certainly badly skewed. In another post you said something along the lines of blokes who use contraceptives view women as sex objects. What a statement!

            If two people have got the idea that you views on sex are skewed in such a manner then you need to stop and consider what impression you're giving. Remember: the only insight we have on your thinking comes from your posts. If your posts come across a certain way, it's because you typed them.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I didn't say men who use contraceptives view women as sex objects. I wrote that contraception "lets the husband use his wife as a sex object."

            That my actual views and false assumptions about my views have come across in a similar way to two men can also be explained by the fact that those two men are clearly prejudiced against the teachings of the Catholic Church, unless you did not think badly of them week. [Not that I speak in any way for the Catholic Church.]

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            In what possible fashion does a non-fertile act of coitus make the woman a sex object? If that is the case, then NFP also renders the woman a sex object, as does any form of intercourse after menopause or with a man (or woman) who is sterile.

          • I wrote that contraception "lets the husband use his wife as a sex object."

            My objection to what you said is that if it is correct, it is at minimum incomplete. A wife may certainly take the pill because she wants to have sex, but she does want to get pregnant. So the wife is using her husband in that case as a sex object. I am sure that for the vast majority of married couples, it is by mutual agreement that they use contraception, and it is also by mutual agreement that they stop using contraception in order to try having a baby. Your analysis implies that whatever a couple does in terms of contraception is actually for the benefit of the husband. But the fact of the matter is that women take the pill because they don't want to get pregnant. And of course unmarried women take the pill, too, many even if they have no current sex partner, since they might meet someone (i.e., hook up).

            those two men are clearly prejudiced against the teachings of the Catholic Church

            Disagreement can simply be disagreement, not prejudiced. I am guessing you oppose same-sex marriage. Is that because you are prejudiced against gay people? Or is it because you disagree with gay people who support same-sex marriage.

          • BenS

            I didn't say men who use contraceptives view women as sex objects. I wrote that contraception "lets the husband use his wife as a sex object."

            The difference eludes me. Whatever you think you're saying with that statement, you're not being clear.

            That my actual views and false assumptions about my views have come across in a similar way to two men can also be explained by the fact that those two men are clearly prejudiced against the teachings of the Catholic Church.

            No, because the comments were directed at *your* views, not those of the church. Basically, I think your views are appalling and I've quoted where I think they are and flagged them*. Like this:

            I wrote that contraception "lets the husband use his wife as a sex object."

            An appalling statement and demonstrably untrue. YOU are responsible for how I view your opinions - unless you wish to claim someone else was writing your posts.

            Additionally. my views of the teachings of the church are not 'prejudice'. I'm not pre-judging anything. My views are based on my understanding of the church's teachings, including the information put forward here by Catholics. I have considered them and think the bulk of them, especially around sexual morality, stink. I have also stated why I think this in numerous posts that have so far gone unanswered.

            ---

            Edit: To clarify, I mean I've flagged them in my posts and given my reasoning - I do not mean I've flagged your posts for moderation.

          • Max Driffill

            I was addressing your views specifically, which seem male centric, and, perhaps unintentionally dismissive of women's wants, and needs with regard to boot knocking and unwanted pregnancy.

            If we can avoid the effects of entirely natural things, I am not sure why it could possibly be important to chain women to a cycle of reproduction that can utterly limit their lives and their dreams (if a large brood of hungry and expensive primates is something said women do not want).

            If a Catholic couple wants to observe Catholic teaching on family planning I totally support that.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,
            My reply to you was not an ad hominem attack at all, and I don't think any fair minded reader will see it as such.

            I addressed the content of your post, and in no way suggested that content be rejected because of any alleged deficiencies of its writer. I did comment on what I thought were the implications of your focus. If my thinking is incorrect, by all means, tell me where you think my interpretation of your views is wrong.

            I would urge you to read my post again, and go look up ad hominem again and then adjust your charges.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Insulting: "Grossly oversimplified," "useless," "almost laughed out loud at this."

            Mockery over my imagined attitude: “[H]ow male centric your view of heterosexual sex is. It is as if you cannot even conceive of a woman wanting sex, of enjoying it, of only wanting to do it as a chore so she can get them kiddies.”

          • Susan

            >"By separating the marital act from its procreative purpose by rendering it infertile, contraception lets the husband use his wife as a sex object."

            Can you explain what this means Kevin?

            I was left with the same impression of male centredness that Max has.

            Maybe you could clarify.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes. Because I was trying to simplify I left out steps. And I'll try to explain from a male-centric point of view.

            Joe is married and he wants sex with his wife tonight (actually he wants sex all the time, he's a guy). They have decided they don't want to have a baby right now.

            With NFP, Joe has to take into account whether his wife is fertile right now. If she is, Joe has to put his desire for sex on hold. He is respecting the natural cycle of his wife's fertility. By abstaining from sex, he is growing in the virtue of temperance or self-control. He also has an opportunity to not be a jerk by pouting or being angry at his wife for not being available for sex. This attention to his wife's body, his on-going need to submit his desire to that reality, and his kind attitude begins to make him into a certain kind of man. There is also a very important conversation that takes place over and over as the months roll by: "Do we want to have a baby now? How important is our reason not to?"

            With contraception, their sex is always infertile. Joe doesn't have to put his desire on hold a certain number of days every month. He doesn't have to pay attention to his wife's bodily cycles in the same way. He doesn't have to practice this self-control over and over. He can easily begin to think his wife should be available for sex whenever he wants. After all, the whole reason they are contracepting is so they can have sex when they want without worrying about having a baby. Why can't he have it when he wants it? The effect of all this is Joe is becoming a different kind of man.

            Which Joe do you think a wife would prefer? Which Joe do you think will deal better with the ups and downs of married life. Which Joe is less likely to look at other women or be unfaithful?

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,There is no evidence that couples who utilize contraception, are peopled with males who view their wives as receptacles for male urges.

            And again it seems like your views on this are entirely focused on how contraception can possibly affect male behavior.

            I think any partner wants a spouse who desires them sexually but also respects them.

            Also, do you think couples practicing NFP are bereft of sexual options during the woman's fertile period? Sex isn't just about vaginal intercourse.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Re "sexual options," I was only writing about Catholic couples for whom "sexual friction" outside the context of natural sexual intercourse is ruled out. [And I am not talking about foreplay or afterplay, so don't accuse me of prudery.]

          • Max Driffill

            "Sexual friction?" "Natural sexual intercourse?"
            Prudery is not probably not the right word, Repression might be better.

            Also I think Catholics should probably drop the word natural.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But your viewpoint in that post is entirely male centic. Why is that? And it's certainly not an ad hominem to point that out.

          • Max Driffill

            None of which was an attack on your character at all but about your ideas. I'm sorry you cannot seem to distinguish between attacks on persons as a way to discredit, vs the addressing of ideas.

            Again, if my guesses about your attitudes (which I thought were implied by your consistent focus on men's alleged attitudes and their change in relation to contraception) are incorrect then please correct me. I'm more than happy to be wrong and admit it. But all you have done is complain about my tone and not addressed a single point I made.

            Again, I didn't insult you. I was pretty rough with your ideas, and I am sorry if that hurt your feelings. But that is not, and I feel I must repeat this, an attack on your person in an attempt to discredit your ideas. Your ideas, and that of the Catholic church are what are at issue here.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Fair enough Max.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            This not an ad hominem. It assumes very little about your thinking, and dismisses your claims on their merits, or lack thereof.

        • We use medicine to restore the body to health, which is a good thing. Contraception is just the opposite. It "says" that fertility is an evil, like a decayed tooth, and that, I submit, is a lie.

          Does the use of anesthesia for an appendectomy or open heart surgery "say" that consciousness is an evil? To take an admittedly trivial example, is it immoral to use antiperspirants because it implies that perspiration is an evil? Are antacids or antihistamines immoral? There are many cases in which we suppress perfectly natural bodily functions for convenience or necessity.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Let's make a distinction between physical and moral evil. Your examples are all of physical evils that are fine to alleviate.

            Consciousness can be a physical evil if your terror in having people cut you up and take out your heart prevents the surgery from taking place! Perspiration is a physical evil that can upset the people around you. Heart burn is a physical evil that an antacid can alleviate.

          • I do not accept the argument that consciousness can be a physical evil. And if I did, I would respond that fertility can be a physical evil if pregnancy would be life threatening, or pregnancy would be a physical evil if it threatens the life or health of the mother.

            You are suggesting that if pregnancy would threaten a woman's life, she could just refrain from sex. If I have arthritis and it is painful for me to walk, I could take a medication that suppresses the very natural and necessary perception of pain. Or I could just avoid walking. Would it be immoral for me to take a painkiller when I can simply avoid walking?

            Perspiration, the production of stomach acid, consciousness, pain, and fertility are not physical evils, nor does suppressing them for a good reason imply that they are evils, or unhealthful.

            I think, by the way, that the argument that contraceptions "says" fertility is evil is an "internet argument," not an argument put forward by any official Catholic teaching.

        • One more example I just thought of—immunosuppressants. When a person has an heart transplant or some other organ transplant, their immune system must be suppressed so that they don't reject the organ. Does this say that the human immune system is evil? No, it says that there are circumstances under which, for overall health, something as vital as the immune system must be suppressed. Suppose a woman's health would be seriously endangered by a pregnancy. It does not make any statement that fertility is evil to suppress her fertility, under the circumstances. And yet the Catholic Church would still forbid it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If women spontaneously conceived children I'd agree with your reasoning. But they don't so I don't.

        • Gabriel

          It "says" that fertility is an evil,
          -------------------------------------------
          In way it is evil in some cases.It can lead to the creation of a child and you will have to sacrifice many years to take care of that child.Instead of pursuing your happiness ,you will have to commit self-sacrifice which I ,as a selfish hedonist ,consider it evil.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You said it.

      • DAVID

        Andre,

        (I'm just going to add to Kevin's point.)

        There are many aspects of nature that we intervene upon, seemingly with no issue where the Church (and presumably you) are concerned. We use medicine to cure diseases that would have naturally taken us, to maintain teeth whose failure would have starved us, and to birth children that nature would have eliminated.

        You bring up many good things. Its true, the Church does not have a problem with them. I would make a distinction, though. The examples that you list of human intervention are not "unnatural" in the sense that they work at cross purposes with nature. After all, it is natural for the body to fight off diseases; human intervention through medicine merely assists this. Likewise, going down the list of your examples, it is natural for teeth to play a part in digestion; for babies to be birthed; for plants/crops to grow; etc. Technology assists and does not hinder these natural processes.

        What the Church does object to is the use of technology in such a way that it frustrates the natural design of things. For example, the female sexual organs are clearly designed for conception and for carrying a baby to term in the uterus. The male sexual organ is clearly designed as an apparatus that delivers sperm to an egg cell. It would be unnatural to use sex in such a way that it frustrated this design.

        • Andre Boillot

          DAVID (so loud),

          "After all, it is natural for the body to fight off diseases; human intervention through medicine merely assists this. Likewise, going down the list of your examples, it is natural for teeth to play a part in digestion; for babies to be birthed; for plants/crops to grow; etc. Technology assists and does not hinder these natural processes."

          It's also natural for the body to succumb to diseases, for teeth to wear out and decay, and for malformed babies to die. Further, it's not at all natural for certain crops to be grown in certain areas, or yield as much as they currently do.

          "What the Church does object to is the use of technology in such a way that it frustrates the natural design of things."

          Again, no such issues when it comes to frustrating the natural design of viruses by vaccinating children. No trouble frustrating the natural design of rivers with dams.

          "For example, the female sexual organs are clearly designed for conception and for carrying a baby to term in the uterus."

          Yes, and the clitoris is clearly designed to allow women to orgasm, yet is placed in such a way that most women fail to achieve the same when engaging in RCC approved sexual activities. Talk about frustrating natural designs.

          • DAVID

            It's also natural for the body to succumb to diseases, for teeth to wear out and decay, and for malformed babies to die. Further, it's not at all natural for certain crops to be grown in certain areas, or yield as much as they currently do.

            Could we agree that these things that you mention are not natural in the same way? Regarding the first couple examples that you give, we generally characterize these things as conditions in which something is "wrong" with you, or with the baby, etc. A dentist or doctor will not examine someone with a complaint and say, "good for you! We're just going to let nature take its course."

            Its generally accepted that healthy body, healthy teeth, and healthy babies are natural in a good way. Likewise, a substantial increase in a yield of crops is natural in a good way, provided you do not render the soil useless. In Catholic thought, when we notice defects and decay and degeneration, we go so far as to say that these are really the things which are unnatural.

          • severalspeciesof

            Are you thinking of a type of 'fallen world' concept instead of just a 'fallen humanity' concept?

          • DAVID

            I am thinking along those lines. I'm probably safe in saying that fallen humanity and the fallen world are not separate realities.

          • Andre Boillot

            "A dentist or doctor will not examine someone with a complaint and say, "good for you! We're just going to let nature take its course.""

            You're absolutely right, this is my point. You seem to think that nature always = good. I'm point out to you all the times where we fight desperately against it.

            "Its generally accepted that healthy body, healthy teeth, and healthy babies are natural in a good way."

            Sure, though you'll notice you needed to qualify 'natural' in this case.

            "Likewise, a substantial increase in a yield of crops is natural in a good way, provided you do not render the soil useless."

            What part of genetically modified crops seems natural to you? I'm not arguing that the end result isn't good (it's the only way, along with fertilizer, that we can sustain the world population to begin with). I'm saying you can't call it natural.

            "In Catholic thought, when we notice defects and decay and degeneration, we go so far as to say that these are really the things which are unnatural."

            So, if we could end death, disease, and lack of basic human needs, here on Earth - essentially reverting back to Eden - you would think us as a race of immortals would be natural?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Could we all agree that the world "natural" has different meanings and be clear on what meaning we intend?

            In all natural law arguments, we are talking about what is good for human beings based on the kind of nature they have. For example, it is good for horses to eat grass because of their horse nature. So far as I know, it is not good for human beings to eat grass (unless you're into wheat grass), based on human nature.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Sure. But keep in mind that things are that are 'natural' are limited. What is the natural use of a foot, for example? Or a hand?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't understand the question.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It is natural for a horse to eat grass. It is natural for a cow to eat grass. But cows eat other grains when available. Is it natural for a cow to eat corn? What is natural for a foot to do? Walk? Kick? Massage? The huge problem with natural law is trying to find some kind of objective determination of what is natural.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Reason can and has since the time of Aristotle.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Various theists and philosophers have claimed to. They have not succeeded.

          • DAVID

            "Its generally accepted that healthy body, healthy teeth, and healthy babies are natural in a good way."

            Sure, though you'll notice you needed to qualify 'natural' in this case.

            But I don't need to qualify it. If I'm following your line of thought correctly, you are insisting that we call dentistry and medicine unnatural. I, on the other hand, am insisting that these are ways in which we assist the natural design of teeth or the body.

            What I would consider unnatural, would be to yank a perfectly healthy tooth and make it more difficult for a person to eat. On the other hand, I would not consider filling a tooth to be unnatural.

            So, if we could end death, disease, and lack of basic human needs, here on Earth - essentially reverting back to Eden - you would think us as a race of immortals would be natural?

            I would make a distinction. While its true that death, disease, and other deprivations are, in a sense, unnatural, I still wouldn't expect for humans to definitively solve these problems on their own. The Christian assertion is that we got into these problems in the first place by disobeying God and trying to be "gods" on our own.

          • Andre Boillot

            "I would make a distinction. While its true that death, disease, and other deprivations are, in a sense, unnatural, I still wouldn't expect for humans to definitively solve these problems on their own."

            As improbable as that prospect may seem, I'm still curious as to how you would respond to my hypothetical. Would it be good/natural for us to be immortal and free of death, disease, hunger, etc., here on Earth (or Mars, space, whatever)?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'd say yes to your hypothetical.

          • DAVID

            Would it be good/natural for us to be immortal and free of death, disease, hunger, etc., here on Earth (or Mars, space, whatever)?

            (blockquote edit)
            Here on earth, it would be bad to try it. Even if we were to have some measure of success, we would be worse off for it. I should put in a disclaimer: there are some people on this website who could offer you a perfectly natural explanation for why this is bad. But I am comfortable offering a theological explanation.

            While its true that God does hold out the offer of eternal life for all of us, we have to accept this offer on his terms. In Christ, it has been revealed that eternal life comes through a death and then a resurrection. We shouldn't try to find another way.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So you don't think being free of disease, hunger, etc. are good things?

          • DAVID

            (small edit) I have to admit that I was responding, in particular, to the idea of being "immortal...here on Earth." The other things would naturally follow from that. But I'm particularly responding "no" to that idea.

          • Andre Boillot

            I'm not sure why you believe that. I thought our nature was to be alive and healthy, now you seem to be saying our nature is to die and be resurrected. If that's what we're ordered to, why would we ever want to delay death?

          • DAVID

            ...you seem to be saying our nature is to die and be resurrected.

            I should explain why that's not precisely true. God never created us with the intention that we should die. But we choose to sin. Our sins place us at cross purposes with God and therefore with eternal life. In other words, sin is a rejection of life and leads to death. Since we freely choose to sin, we also freely choose to die. Nonetheless, God offers us the possibility that our death can be a transformation instead of an "ending."

            In short, God created us to live and to have free will. Because of our free will, we chose to sin and therefore to die. God brings a greater good out of the evil of death by offering us a resurrection.

          • Andre Boillot

            So...delay death as long as possible...but just don't make it so you're immortal?

          • DAVID

            Its more about compassion, I guess. If someone is suffering, help 'em out. It doesn't mean they won't die. But if you help people, you grow in love. And they might too.

          • BenS

            Because of our free will, we chose to sin and therefore to die.

            Sorry, who's 'we'? At no point did I choose to die. I'm having that 'choice' foisted on me because of the free will of others who (apparently) came before me, right?

          • DAVID

            We is everyone who sins. Its true that we're not directly responsible for the Original Sin. But to the extent that we ourselves sin, we become responsible for our own deaths.

          • Andre Boillot

            One wonders how we would do without the burden of OS, handed down to us through no fault of our own. Perhaps we might go the route of Mary or Jesus - likewise never having been stained by sin, and therefore able to more easily avoid sin, thus avoid death too.

          • DAVID

            That's a heavy duty comment. Nice one.

            Its true, we're not in the same boat as Mary and Jesus. But I think there's a certain beauty in our predicament; in the sense that all of us suffer the same penalty and so all of us are in it together. There's a certain heroic virtue in helping the wounded when you, yourself are wounded. We're in a good position to understand and help each other.

          • Andre Boillot

            Thanks, I guess it always seemed strange that those two got to play life on "easy mode".

          • DAVID

            Easy in a certain sense, I guess. They went to bed every night with a clean conscience. But they also suffered and knew what it was like to be tempted.

          • Tyler

            (it's the only way, along with fertilizer, that we can sustain the world population to begin with). "

            Says who? Based on what? Specifically in reference to gm crops I would love to see some dependable references to support this claim. All I see are crops designed to make rich people richer. That's not a comment on where the technology could be taken mind you, only where it is being taken.

          • Andre Boillot

            Tyler,

            "(it's the only way, along with fertilizer, that we can sustain the world population to begin with). "

            Says who? Based on what?"

            Have a read: http://www.qsinano.com/pdf/how_amonia_synthesis_change_world.pdf

            At the same time, the Haber–Bosch
            process has facilitated the production of
            agricultural fertilizers on an industrial
            scale, dramatically increasing global
            agricultural productivity in most regions
            of the world.

            We estimate that the number of humans supported per hectare of arable land has increased from 1.9 to
            4.3 persons between 1908 and 2008. This
            increase was mainly possible because of
            Haber–Bosch nitrogen.

            Smil estimated that at the end of
            the twentieth century, about 40% of
            the world’s population depended on
            fertilizer inputs to produce food
            It is difficult to quantify this number
            precisely because of changes in cropping
            methods, mechanization, plant breeding
            and genetic modification, and so on.

            However, an independent analysis, based
            on long-term experiments and national
            statistics, concluded that about 30–50% of
            the crop yield increase was due to nitrogen
            application through mineral fertilizer.

            .

          • Tyler

            Time and again I hear this claim and I always ask the same question. I was pleased to actually get something in return for once. The article you linked was an interesting piece of history but did not really outline any reasons why gm crops are going to be necessary to feed mankind, probably because that's not what they've been designed for (I learned a lot anyways so a genuine thanks!). As for the masses that are fed because of Haber-bosch, they are having a massive effect on the health of our planet, as outlined in your article. They are also consistently touted as the reason more sustainable means of food production are not good enough. "How are we going to feed all these new people?" If we end up with an even larger population that we can't feed, or destroy our planet trying to do so, than Haber-bosch would have been ultimately bad for mankind. Bad in that it allowed us to grow to unsustainable numbers and ensure our own demise (that and it's massive contributions to warfare). Personally I think we will see some incredible changes in our lifetimes, monumental discoveries that will help us change from our destructive consumerist path to one that seeks to function with nature instead of just overcoming it (aka slightly less destructive consumerist path). No arguing that this process has monumentally and forever changed the course of mankind, it's an interesting piece of history!

          • Andre Boillot

            Tyler,

            "Time and again I hear this claim and I always ask the same question. I was pleased to actually get something in return for once."

            You're welcome, glad to be of service! Also, keep in mind that anytime somebody fails to answer a question, you're free to investigate on your own. No more having to wait!

            "The article you linked was an interesting piece of history but did not really outline any reasons why gm crops are going to be necessary to feed mankind, probably because that's not what they've been designed for."

            I'm a bit confused. You seem to think that GM crops are "designed to make rich people richer." How do you think they achieve this? Do you think that's all they're designed for?

            To my mind, both the selective breeding and GM of crops has resulted in (among other things): higher nutritional content, more yield from less land, crops that are able to grow where previously they wouldn't have, and increased protection from natural predators. It's quite possible (even probable) that these characteristics are responsible for the financial aspect you mention.

            As for whether or not they're going to be necessary to feed mankind, I think we're already passed that point, but I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

          • Tyler

            "To my mind, both the selective breeding and GM of crops has resulted in
            (among other things): higher nutritional content, more yield from less
            land, crops that are able to grow where previously they wouldn't have"

            How has GM specifically, that is, roundup ready or BT producing crops given us any of these things? A study or link would be nice, not just what is 'to your mind'. You're a stranger on the internet so that doesn't mean a whole lot. Selective breeding is incredible, so is GM in a way but you can't just lump the two together. That being said, I still have yet to see how GM, separated from selective breeding is necessary or better for feeding mankind. You like everyone else, have failed to give me any substantive evidence for this but you keep repeating it like it means something.

            My thoughts personally. I have no idea where we are going to go. Nobody does. I know there are research departments that never used to exist in Universities such as UBC that are dedicated to studying sustainable agriculture. I have faith in mankind, like I have faith in myself. Not because I know I will succeed but because to not believe in yourself is to give up before you have started. Okay maybe I have a little more faith in myself than mankind, but that's probably my own bias :)

          • Andre Boillot

            "You like everyone else, have failed to give me any substantive evidence for this but you keep repeating it like it means something."

            Sorry to have failed you. If I may repeat some other things:

            "keep in mind that anytime somebody fails to answer a question, you're free to investigate on your own. No more having to wait!"

            "You seem to think that GM crops are "designed to make rich people richer." How do you think they achieve this? Do you think that's all they're designed for?"

          • Tyler

            "keep in mind that anytime somebody fails to answer a question, you're free to investigate on your own. No more having to wait!"

            The thing is I'm pretty sure I already know the answer. I'm satisfied to have demonstrated that your assertion is not based on any evidence you can produce. Also one of the numerous people who made the claim to me in the past should have also been able to present proof if it existed.

            "You seem to think that GM crops are "designed to make rich people richer." How do you think they achieve this? Do you think that's all they're designed for?"

            As I said, to my knowledge they are designed mainly to withstand certain pesticides and to produce their own. This makes life easier for a farmer in some ways but doesn't do much for you. How does being 'roundup ready' lead to higher nutritional content, more yield from less land, and the ability to grow in novel environments? The only difference 'roundup ready' makes to me personally is a greater likelihood of pesticide residue on my food. If you want to argue semantics then sure, they are not 'designed' to make money they are designed by companies who have the sole value of profit driving their actions. You can be assured any benefit to you and me (plus it's evidence) would be shouted very loudly from the rooftops if it actually existed.

          • Andre Boillot

            "The thing is I'm pretty sure I already know the answer."

            Let's leave aside that you've countered none of my claims, or the previous supporting evidence, with any evidence of your own - other than apparently never being given a satisfactory answer whenever you ask the internets.

            "I'm satisfied to have demonstrated that your assertion is not based on any evidence you can produce."

            You certainly demonstrated that, until this point, I was too lazy to type "genetically modified crops higher yield" into Google. Having done so, one quickly finds studies like this:

            http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/jrc/downloads/jrc_080624_newsrelease_bt_maize_en.pdf

            and

            http://www.sciencemag.org/content/299/5608/900.abstract

            and

            http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/article/7108

            "Also one of the numerous people who made the claim to me in the past should have also been able to present proof if it existed."

            Something about 'absence of proof is not proof of absence'.

            "As I said, to my knowledge they are designed mainly to withstand certain pesticides and to produce their own."

            Where have you said this? To me? I must have missed that. Even if none of the claims made in favor of GM crops save this were true, this alone would mean more food for us.

            "This makes life easier for a farmer in some ways but doesn't do much for you. How does being 'roundup ready' lead to higher nutritional content, more yield from less land, and the ability to grow in novel environments?"

            You don't see the correlation between less food lost to insects and the environment = more food for me? I guess we're farther apart that I initially thought.

          • Randy Gritter

            There is another possibility. Avoiding contraception does not mean we have to increase the world population without limit. There is another way. It is called celibacy. We could have societies where a large percentage of the population decides not to have children. So then they don't marry. So then they don't have sex. They can still joyfully live out they manhood or womanhood in other ways.

            In fact, when the number of consecrated celibates was high they did many things to benefit society. Especially in education and health care many of them provided much free labor and had rewarding lives as teachers or nurses. They kept costs down for large families. It is interesting that modern society finds it very hard to pay for education and health care.

          • Tyler

            Sorry bud. This is the real world. We are social creatures, sex in the name of pleasure is an integral part of our human nature. Many young Catholics rush into marriage, subconsciously motivated by over eager libidos. For all the Catholic talk of accepting our nature you sure seem eager to rally against it. So yeah, that's never going to happen. A select few (indoctrinated) individuals will throw away the joys of this life in the name of some misguided ideal but when they die I imagine they will experience the same eternal nothingness as everyone else. I for one intend to embrace as many of the simple pleasures in life as I can, and I would encourage anyone else to do the same. Not to say that a healthy respect for the possible implications of sex and exercising of self control aren't positive values. I just think it's sad to demonize enjoying something just because it also has a biological purpose (which can be controlled/avoided AND IS by catholics and non-RCs alike. RCs just have to use approved methods). One could even argue pleasure most often is and has been the 'ultimate end' with children merely popping up afterwards as an unpleasant side effect.

          • Sample1

            Well you know what they say, "atheists believe in life before death." Which somehow gets translated into eating babies.

            In reply to:

            I for one intend to embrace as many of the simple pleasures in life as I can, and I would encourage anyone else to do the same.

            Mike

          • Corylus

            In Catholic thought, when we notice defects and decay and degeneration, we go so far as to say that these are really the things which are unnatural.

            David, please consider that this pat distinction does not work as our bodies are a bit more complicated than that - we often experience a pay-off with some 'bads'.

            Consider the example of apoptosis. This is basically (to use British idiom) our cells 'konking out' when they get a bit 'knackered'. Decay and degeneration all over the place: unnatural right?

            Hmm, trouble is, this unnatural process helps us develop separate bits at the beginning of the life cycle. When it does not occur - or occur enough - our cells go mad with the replication and tumours can result.

          • DAVID

            David, please consider that this pat distinction does not work as our bodies are a bit more complicated than that - we often experience a pay-off with some 'bads'.

            I appreciate your point. Catholics understand, in faith, that there will come an ultimate point in which decay, degeneration, and the rest will be no more. Before that time arrives, in the meantime, I would not deny that death and degeneration serve a purpose. However, we still recognize our present death-haunted condition as being an unfortunate compromise. It will be wonderful when death is no longer an intrinsic part of the "system."

          • Corylus

            And I appreciate your reply.

            Catholics understand, in faith, that there will come an ultimate point in which decay, degeneration, and the rest will be no more.

            So I understand, but this does not help you with your 'natural/unnatural' distinction. This is because this 'ultimate point' would be the result of a 'supernatural' event - wouldn't it?

            Before that time arrives, in the meantime, I would not deny that death and degeneration serve a purpose.

            So you actually agree that they are, in fact, natural?

            However, we still recognize our present death-haunted condition as being an unfortunate compromise. It will be wonderful when death is no longer an intrinsic part of the "system."

            I mean this as kindly as I can, but the statement above shows why people like me worry about people like you at times. It would be a dreadful thing to spend so much time believing in life after death that you stop believing in life before it. I do hope you never do that.

          • DAVID

            So I understand, but this does not help you with your 'natural/unnatural' distinction. This is because this 'ultimate point' would be the result of a 'supernatural' event - wouldn't it?

            I should backtrack and give a better definition of natural. I think I probably said something unhelpful. I'm using a "natural law" definition, by which all objects serve a purpose. For example, the purpose of a heart is to pump blood, so that's what is natural to it. So, when we would reach the "ultimate point," all objects would finally be doing what comes naturally to them, without impediment and without cease, and in perfect harmony with everything else. At the same time, I agree with you that this event will also include the supernatural. But perhaps I should stop there for now.

            I mean this as kindly as I can, but the statement above shows why people like me worry about people like you at times. It would be a dreadful thing to spend so much time believing in life after death that you stop believing in life before it. I do hope you never do that.

            Thank you. Perhaps you would like to hear what inspires me. The saints are so moved by the love of God that they experience a good deal of joy in this life. They also expectantly wait for the fulfillment of that love in the next life. In the meantime, they try to share the love they have received with others.

          • Corylus

            But perhaps I should stop there for now.

            No problem :)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But now you have begun adding qualifiers on 'natural.' It's not simply 'natural' that's important, it's 'good natural.' And we're right back to opinion and arbitrary definitions. The great problems with 'natural law'

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If one is not willing to qualify terms then one is not willing to engage in rational inquiry, which makes one are anti-intellectual.

          • DAVID

            I'm adding qualifiers to reconcile conflicting opinions. In other words, I'm trying to find a way to find a common ground (even if I'm doing it badly). But Natural Law, itself, is pretty straightforward. "Good natural" simply means that things are made in a certain way to fulfill a certain function. If you practice medicine or dentistry to assist these functions when something goes wrong, then you are not using unnatural means.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Yes, but there's no good agreement on what that function is. Or whether there is a single function. Or why, having figured out that someone has only ONE purpose, it's bad to use it for something else.

          • DAVID

            I will agree that something can have more than one function. A penis, for example, obviously serves two functions. But I would also say that nobody is in confusion as to what those two functions are: one is for sexual reproduction, the other for the disposal of urine. In general, the same can be applied to almost anything; yes, it might have more than one function. But we are capable of observing and describing those functions.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But we are certainly not capable of coming to objective agreement on those functions. One could make an excellent argument that the penis is intended not for sexual reproduction, but for ejaculation, pure and simple. You've now attempted to move beyond simply physical context, and that's where the disagreements begin.

          • DAVID

            One could make an excellent argument that the penis is intended not for sexual reproduction, but for ejaculation, pure and simple.

            I would agree except that we can know with certainty that ejaculation, itself, serves a purpose. Its a method of delivery of sperm to an egg cell in the uterus. Ejaculation works so well, in this regard, that in practice, many people wish it didn't work so well :)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Sure. But so what? It serves this purpose whether or not the female can conceive. Or even if it's in the vagina.

          • DAVID

            (I should edit one thing in my last comment from "uterus" to "fallopian tubes." My bad.)

            I'll get back to you after dinner.

          • DAVID

            Its more a question of proper use than possible use. Its true that a penis can ejaculate outside of a vagina. But the semen no longer serves a purpose in that case.

            Whether or not the female could conceive is a different matter. If the man ejaculated inside of her vagina, he would be using his sexual organ properly. Whether or not there is a conception is out of their hands.

          • Its more a question of proper use than possible use. Its true that a penis can ejaculate outside of a vagina. But the semen no longer serves a purpose in that case.

            In IVF clinics the ejaculate is generally collected in a plastic cup, and then saved "for later" when it serves its purpose.

          • Michael Murray

            Is that the proper use of a plastic cup ? I'll remember that with my next take-away coffee.

          • It is at least one of its "natural ends" in the old Greek philosophical sense.

          • DAVID

            In IVF clinics the ejaculate is generally collected in a plastic cup, and then saved "for later" when it serves its purpose.

            Frozen sperm runs into all sorts of difficulties for various reasons. The Church's position is: keep it simple. If ordinary intercourse doesn't work, then you have a great reason to adopt.

          • If ordinary intercourse doesn't work, then you have a great reason to adopt.

            The impressions shouldn't be left that if Catholic married couples, on their own, don't get pregnant after a certain time having "normal" sexual intercourse, they should give up on having their own children and adopt. Catholics are free to undergo fertility treatments (although not IVF or artificial insemination). There are Catholic fertility clinics, and their emphasis is on detecting or diagnosing causes of infertility and fixing them so their clients regain their fertility and conceive naturally. I would hope that non-religious fertility clinics do the same and use techniques like IVF as a last resort, but whether they really do or not I can't say. IVF is expensive and may not be paid for by insurance.

          • DAVID

            The impressions shouldn't be left that if Catholic married couples, on their own, don't get pregnant after a certain time having "normal" sexual intercourse, they should give up on having their own children and adopt. Catholics are free to undergo fertility treatments (although not IVF or artificial insemination).

            My mistake.

          • DAVID

            I've been corrected by David Nickol and told that certain fertility treatments are allowed to Catholics. Perhaps I've over-generalized by saying that ordinary intercourse and adoption are the only options. But IVF would still be out of bounds.

          • Corylus

            That certain fertility treatments are allowed to Catholics.

            Yes. Common problems here can be the result of various getting a bit clogged up. For women and for men. (Short link for the latter as most of what I could find involved pictures that you/the mods might not appreciate.)

            But IVF would still be out of bounds.

            Not necessarily . For example you could in theory make a small piercing in a condom and then have sex (making that specific act 'open' - if very unlikely to result in conception) and then use the sperm collected inside the condom for IVF.

            Needless to say, this strikes me a deeply ludicrous rigmarole (and undignified to boot), but I do mention it as something some here might want to consider if they hit fertility issues. These can cause the most hideous distress and if I can give advice that might 'conceivably' (heh!), prevent that then I try to do so.

          • Corylus

            P.S. You will need to find a clinic willing to let you do this on the premises - quick collection and storage being important.

            Oh my, maybe this is what goes on in the 'Catholic fertility clinics' that David Nickol mentioned earlier. 0_0

          • Indeed, this is the only accepted method of obtaining a sperm sample according to Catholic medical ethics—sexual intercourse with one's wife using a punctured condom to let some semen escape but to collect the rest for analysis.

          • Corylus

            Thank you David N.

            As you seem motivated enough by care for others to reassess and reexamine Catholic ethics (in order to prevent harmful conclusions) you might find this article of interest:

            "Can the Catholic Church agree to condom use by HIV discordant couples?"

            Needless to say, I would question some of the assumptions in there: over-estimations of the efficacy of NFP and the strength of the notion of Double Effect being a couple.

            However, if you can use this to persuade people from advocating something that risks health and lives then I am sure you will.

          • DAVID

            I've heard of the perforated condom. I guess that does serve a purpose for certain things.

            My knowledge is that IVF involves the destruction of unused frozen embryos. Catholics couldn't ask for a procedure which involves such a consequence.

          • Corylus

            Yes, I understand. In your case you could either specify the fertilization of a maximum of two eggs and get them both inserted at once (advice on the number advised for each IVF cycle has gone down) or you could have more fertilized and agree to get them all implanted at some point.

            You will risk your success rates with this though.

          • DAVID

            This thread seems to have generated interest so I've had to do some quick research on this.

            As far as I can tell, my initial post was closer to the truth than not. There seems to be some fertility techniques which are approved by the Church. There are also, no doubt, some Catholics who are getting IVF done. But as far as I can tell, my initial observation proves correct concerning Church teaching: if fertilization, itself, cannot be accomplished through normal intercourse, then it is not approved.

            The reason corresponds to the condemnation of artificial birth-control. Conception is not to be artificially induced nor prevented.

          • if fertilization, itself, cannot be accomplished through normal intercourse, then it is not approved.

            I agree here, and I apologize if my earlier comments were misleading. There are Catholic fertility clinics, and there are various medical interventions that these clinics can do to help couples who have not succeeded in conceiving on their own. But IVF is forbidden to Catholics, as is any means of attempting conception outside of sexual intercourse between husband and wife.

            My concern was that people would assume that if a couple has been having sex for a year or two or three, and they haven't conceived, they should adopt. Certainly they can adopt, but they can also seek approved fertility treatments. For example, there is no objection to Catholic women taking fertility drugs. My understanding is that the success rate for Catholic fertility clinics is quite good.

          • DAVID

            Thanks for the clarification. This discussion veered into an area a bit outside my knowledge.

          • Michael Murray

            The issue I think is that concepts like proper use, natural use, intended used, etc, etc are pretty problematic if (a) you don't believe in a creator and (b) you realise that evolution is well known for adapting things from one use to another all over the place.

            Look at what Bonobos do with their sexual organs ? Is that proper use ?

          • DAVID

            The issue I think is that concepts like proper use, natural use, intended used, etc, etc are pretty problematic if (a) you don't believe in a creator

            That's true to an extent. But there's a fairly modest sense in which most people are in agreement concerning "proper use." Our bodily organs serve biological functions, and in general we respect our bodies by not using our organs in ways which frustrate those biological functions. (To give a gross example, one does not sew one's anus shut to prevent the evacuation of feces.) When we speak of "proper use," we can often limit the discussion to this basic assumption.

            (b) you realise that evolution is well known for adapting things from one use to another all over the place.

            When we look at evolution and "proper use," there is room for a lot of discussion. But even the adaptation or atrophy of a certain organ would still lead us to ask the same basic questions: "what is it for," and "how is it used" (or "can we still use it"). We would still end up looking at "proper use."

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The overwhelming majority of semen serve no use anyway. No what matter where they die.

          • Michael Murray

            So that means their intended purpose is to leave a cold damp patch on the sheet ? I always wondered about that.

          • DAVID

            While its true that the overwhelming majority of sperm in the semen die, that still serves as evidence of the procreative function of ejaculation. Thinking in terms of probability, the more sperm you release, the greater the odds of fertilizing the egg cell.

          • Michael Murray

            One could make an excellent argument that the penis is intended not for sexual reproduction, but for ejaculation, pure and simple

            In fact there is medical evidence that regular ejaculation lowers the chance of getting prostate cancer. Perhaps that is the true purpose of the penis ?

            The real point I think is that in the real world where things evolved rather than got created "purpose" is a concept of somewhat limited utility.

          • Michael Murray

            Its generally accepted that healthy body, healthy teeth, and healthy babies are natural in a good way. Likewise, a substantial increase in a yield of crops is natural in a good way, provided you do not render the soil useless.

            So you are balancing various notions of good and natural here. You could, if you wished, also balance various notions of good and natural when it comes to sexual matters. It is generally accepted tat sex without fear of pregnancy is a wonderful way for a couple to express love for each other. It builds the bond so necessary for the protection of existing children. Masturbation is an excellent source of relaxation and an ease for sexual frustration. It is also an excellent way for people to learn about their own bodies needs and desires.

          • DAVID

            Hi Michael.

            It is generally accepted that sex without fear of pregnancy is a wonderful way for a couple to express love for each other. It builds the bond so necessary for the protection of existing children.

            You bring in the psychological/emotional aspect of marriage. I feel unqualified to address it. I'm a bachelor who's never been married. I wouldn't want to speak for married couples.

            Masturbation is an excellent source of relaxation and an ease for sexual frustration. It is also an excellent way for people to learn about their own bodies needs and desires.

            I can speak more freely on this subject. What can I say? I'm glad I gave it up. Strangely enough, I found that sexual frustration went away soon after I kicked the habit. The less you stimulate yourself, then less you think about it, the less frustrated you get. You break out of the vicious cycle. Its not an easy habit to give up, either. Some people grow psychologically dependent upon it. I certainly feel more free without it. Its just one less habit I need to satisfy.

          • Andre, like articulett above, I think you may be confusing the popular definition of "natural" with what philosophers mean by "nature" or "natural". In philosophical parlance, "natural" doesn't refer only to commonly-occurring traits or actions. For example, a philosopher would not say "It's natural for elephants to dress up in hoola skirts because that's what all circuses do."

            Instead, by "natural" they mean an act or trait conformed to something's end or order.

            In this particular case, the sexual act is "naturally" ordered to procreation (among other things) since an aim toward procreation is essential to its nature. We can discern this merely from anatomy and biology.

            Any act, therefore, that intentionally removes procreation as a fundamental aim of the sexual act renders that act "disordered" and thus "unnatural."

          • Andre Boillot

            Brandon,

            I get the distinctions between the popular and philosophical definitions. I'm trying to stress-test the philosophical one. Humans are designed/ordered to be healthy, etc. What if we cure all diseases (should be good right?), what if we overcome age (should be good right?), what if we use science to completely dominate *nature* to the point where we're immortal, living in an Eden-esque paradise. Is that natural, in either sense? What if we get there without God (or *worse* by abandoning religion)?

            "Any act, therefore, that intentionally removes procreation as a fundamental aim of the sexual act renders that act "disordered" and thus "unnatural.""

            So...NFP?

          • Christian Stillings

            How does/would NFP remove procreation as a fundamental aim of the sexual act?

          • Andre Boillot

            Kevin and I went back and forth on this already, see my comments to him: https://strangenotions.com/sex-love-god/#comment-930953045

          • Tyler

            Couldn't we make an equally strong case by replacing procreation with pleasure? What makes one more valuable than the other. I would argue that humans are unique or at least rare in that sex goes far beyond mere procreation.
            "In this particular case, the sexual act is "naturally" ordered to (pleasure)(among other things) since an aim toward (pleasure) is essential to its nature. We can discern this merely from anatomy and biology"

        • Vicq_Ruiz

          frustrates the natural design of things. For example, the female sexual organs are clearly designed for conception and for carrying a baby to term in the uterus.

          Natural childbirth only, then.

          "No epidural, please........I'm Catholic."

          • DAVID

            To the extent that an epidural can assist in the process of childbirth, it is not contrary to nature. Instead, it assists natural processes. Only if it hurt the baby or the mother would it be unnatural. I am using a "natural law" definition of natural: something which assists natural processes. Something unnatural would be like abortion which frustrates the natural design of fetal development and birth.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It is certainly contrary to nature in that it changes the basic biochemistry of the childbirth process. I am concerned that your definition of 'natural' seems to actually mean 'something we like'.

          • DAVID

            When I say "natural processes," I mean childbirth in general. If the chemical change did not impede the woman from giving birth (or hurt her or the child), then I would consider it as something which provides assistance to the natural act and is therefore not "unnatural." (Perhaps we've covered this territory in other posts. Sorry, I just noticed this particular post.)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No, but it once again begs the question of what is natural and who gets to define it.

          • DAVID

            I'm optimistic that there are, at least, certain things which people can agree are natural. Eating, childbirth, sleep, sex, etc.; these things are natural to human beings and other animals.

            In terms of the definitions of these natural processes, again, I think that we can find general agreement on a fairly modest claim: these processes serve a purpose. Its beyond doubt that they have biological functions.

            If we go one step further, we tend to have much less in common: the moral implications of biological functions. That's where these discussions come into play.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I agree. But catholic theologians tend to claim that the 'purpose' of things above and beyond simple biological observation are clear and obvious.

            They aren't.

          • DAVID

            You're right, its not enough to consider biological functions. Over and above that, we have to look at something more psychological. We should look at two of the virtues: moderation and justice. A working definition of moderation would be treating yourself with respect. Justice would be treating others with respect. Broadly speaking, whenever we look at the something like sex, we're factoring in moderation and justice.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Why? I mean, really, why?

      • scragsma

        Sure, Andre - but none of the examples you use involve the actual creation or refusal of human life, which is a right reserved ONLY to the Creator. It's good and gives God honor when we use the created world and the natural laws He designed to benefit and expand His highest creation (humanity), but it's equivalent to a slap in His face to use it to harm people or to mock or deny Him.

    • articulett

      Tell that to Andrea Yates. She believed that god wouldn't give her a problem too big for her to handle. She kept having babies despite a diagnosis of post partum depression and she drowned them all to ensure that they'd go to heaven before they reached the age of reason (and became hell-worthy). She already figured she was going to hell for being a bad mother, but she could spare her children a similar fate.

      I guess she felt that Jesus' temporary sacrifice might not save her childrn from eternal damnation so she made a permanent sacrifice to ensure it.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Why are you bringing up a poor unfortunate mentally ill woman?

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          I think she makes an interesting example of the problem of distinguishing between revelation and madness. Objectively, it's almost impossible. It's one of the things that worries many atheists about theists.

          • Christian Stillings

            I'm inclined to say that this is more of an issue for Protestants than for Catholics. If a Catholic thinks they "hear a voice" telling them to do something, they can check it against Church teaching. If it's contrary to Church teaching, they can probably be fairly certain that it's not God. However, in Protestant theologies which lack a definitive answer to "who speaks for God?", there's no way to ensure that a mad person isn't actually a prophet, as long as what they say "seems compatible with the Bible". I mean, how many Protestant traditions have been started by people who sincerely believed that God was telling them to "restore the faith"? (Thinking especially of the 19th century here.)

          • articulett

            The Catholics believe in a god who ordered "witch" killing-- and the god of Abraham... who is said to have "tested" Abraham by asking him to kill his kid.

            The Catholics believe in a god who premeditated the crucifixion of his own son (who was really him) as some sort of bizarro atonement plan.

          • Christian Stillings

            Articulett, you didn't address my actual point, which was about the ability of Catholics to run weird ideas against an established body of teaching, unlike many Protestants. Do you agree that my point is valid?

            Incidentally, your two paragraphs coincide nicely. Christians understand the "(non-)sacrifice of Isaac" as a brilliant prefiguration of the coming Christological sacrifice. And yeah, the atonement is pretty trippy. :-)

          • articulett

            Yes, I agree with you... a Catholic would, theoretically, wait from a directive from the Pope before acting on a seeming revelation... wheras, religions where revelations are said to occur to the masses would not-- Pentacostals, Mormons, etc.

            That being said, I don't think most Catholics really think the Pope is getting revelations. I think most women dismiss his pronouncements on birth control, for example, with nary a look backwards. I doubt most Catholics really believe transubstantiation either... as a Catholic I didn't know I was supposed to take it as LITERALLY turning into Christ's body.

          • Christian Stillings

            ... a Catholic would, theoretically, wait from a directive from the Pope before acting on a seeming revelation...

            My point was that a Catholic has a large body of codified teaching to which he or she can contrast odd-sounding ideas. Since Catholic ethical teachings are already extensive in many areas, most issues would merely require a brief look at the Catechism or other pertinent Church document. One would almost never need "a directive from the Pope" to understand how to assess a hypothetical course of action; please try not to mis-characterize what I've said.

          • articulett

            Yeah... but some of that stuff involves things about demon possession-- and some old doctrine is questionable... limbo, for example... or it used to be a mortal sin to vomit up communion--

            Maybe if you give me an example, I'd understand more what you meant.

        • articulett

          We were talking about birth control-- she, like Catholics, didn't "believe in it"-- even though doctors told her not to have more kids. She, like many Catholics, believed that god wouldn't give her problems she could not handle and she got pregnant again.

          In my world-- birth control would have been the moral option. But not per Catholic teaching. In my world those kids are dead forever-- but according to Christianity, they just began their "real" life a little earlie-- and by killing them while they were young-- their mother ensured that they bypassed all chance of going to hell. Sure, she has to go to hell-- but she figured she was going there anyhow because she wasn't able to discipline her kids enough to keep them from possibly becoming hellbound adults.

          Yeah-- she was mentally ill-- but her reasoning was not... it makes sense if you buy into what Christianity is saying. Do you believe her kids are in heaven? Do you believe god never gives people problems they can't handle?

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            Articulet,

            "Yeah-- she was mentally ill-- but her reasoning was not" Hmmm Could you explain how mental illness, more specifically postpartum depression does not affect ability to reason?

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            Deacon harbey Santiago

          • articulett

            Do you think her children are in heaven?

            If so, then she achieved her aim.

            Do you think that if they had live they might have ended up in hell?

            If so, then per Christian teachings-- she saved them by killliing them before they became hell eligible. She sacrificed her eternity (per Christian teachings) to ensure their ETERNAL salvation. Is that a mentally ill thing to do?

          • Vuyo

            >She sacrificed her eternity(per Christian teachings)
            Which teaching?

          • articulett

            >>She sacrificed her eternity(per Christian teachings)
            Which teaching?

            The teaching that killing people will land you in hell. (Unless god tells you too, of course.) She believed that killing her kids would ensure that she'd end up in hell, but she believed that it they died young, THEIR salvation was ensured.

          • Christian Stillings

            I'd certainly qualify infanticide/toddler-icide as mortal sin, but that's not to say that she couldn't be forgiven of it. Saying that she "sacrificed her eternity" is at least a little bit premature.

        • Sample1

          If I knew a way to say this more politely I would, but please be aware that people (I'm thinking philosopher Peter Boghossian) consider religious faith itself to be an as-of-yet officially unrecognized type of cognitive illness.
          Mike

          • Christian Stillings

            That's cute.

      • Rationalist1

        I often wonder is Andrea Yates, being a fundamentalist and believing in the literal truth of the Bible, felt justified in drowning her children because God drowned all the children in Noah's day.

        • articulett

          I ask the Christians who condemn her if they think her children are in heaven-- they always do... and then I asked them if they think there was a chance that they might have gone to hell had they grown up and become gay or atheist or whatever it is they think makes someone hell worthy.... If so, then clearly Andrea Yates achieved her aim-- she kept them from hell... which, per Christian mythos, means that she made a bigger sacrifice than Jesus did in order to save her kids from eternal torment.

          It also drives home the pont that Jesus' temporary sacrifice was conditional-- it wasn't a real gift.

          Of course I don't believe any of it anyhow-- but I don't see how anyone could. It makes no sense.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Ah, yes. The conditional nature of Jesus' sacrifice. Always a sticky wicket.

      • Dcn Harbey Santiago

        Folks,

        Before you continue down the Andrea Yates path ask yourself this: have I ever had to deal with someone struggling with Post Postpartum Depression? If you have not, in all charity I tell you: You have no idea what you are talking about, stop before you make complete a fool of yourself.

        "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
        Deacon Harbey Santiago

        • ZenDruid

          Andrea Yates had more than one problem: postpartum depression and religion-inspired OCD.

          IMO.

        • articulett

          Exactly why preists should NEVER be making the determination about sexuality nor telling people not to use birth control... nor telliing woman that god doesn't give you problems you can't handle...

          Leave such advice to medical professionals-- not men who imagine they ar getting mesasges from on high.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      No, conception and babies are connected. Sex and babies are not.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Sex and babies are not connected? Haven't you ever listened to a Doris Day song?

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Does every act of sex lead to babies. Nope. The connection is more complex than the simplistic version you appeared to be offering above.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I have a pretty good idea how human sexuality works.

          • articulett

            Yeah but you have a lot of garbled unsubstantiated mumbo jumbo tossed in with your limited understanding.

    • CrismusCactus

      "One of the most comforting things I've found in the Catholic faith - and something I think religious Jews share - is the awareness of being a creature. I have an origin, nature, and destiny I did not invent and which is good."

      What if these very ideas were invented for you by the culture, language, religion, and social structures you are part of? They were already here before you were born, and their emergence as concepts in the collective human mind was gradual and slow, shared by countless individuals who were trying to deal with the stress of their environments. Somewhat like biological evolution (and contingent on it, of course). Is it then surprising if these received concepts feel "good" to you?

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Sure it's possible.

  • BenS

    Sex as mere recreation, as contact sport, as a source only of
    superficial pleasure has produced armies of the desperately sad and
    anxious, many who have no idea that it is precisely their errant
    sexuality that has produced such deleterious effects in them.

    Got evidence?

    'Cos, you know, without it the rest of article is basically 'Do it this way because a god says so' and then you'd be in the awkward position of having to prove god exists. So let's stick with the easy one and you go right ahead and demonstrate that I'm desperately sad and anxious because I enjoy sex as a recreational sport... or that there are 'armies' of others that are desparately sad and anxious because they enjoy recreational sex.

    I'm rather of the impression that you're projecting your desperate sadness and anxiety onto others... probably because you're not getting enough sex.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      Not to mention the fact that sex is great exercise. And consequently good for you (masturbation, for example, reduces a male's chance of colon cancer.)

      • ZenDruid

        Prostate cancer.

  • Rationalist1

    It's seems it's always sex when it comes to morals? Could we sometimes have an article on a topic of Catholic morality that applies when one is wearing clothes? :->

    Just asking.

    • BenS

      Am I ok to not wear clothes during the discussion, though? I find nothing shakes a Catholic's composure like trying to debate the morality of the minimum wage when I'm naked and covered in goose fat.

      • Rationalist1

        Now that's a mental image I didn't need. And I hope no one else does either. :->

  • articulett

    It always amuses me when a man who has chosen the celibate lifestyle wants to give advice about human sexuality.

    I think it's bizarre to tie sex with morality anyhow-- what does that have to do with building a better kinder civilization? Or is morality just doing what you imagine the purported universe creator wants you to do?

    Is not masturbating moral?? What if it prevents repression and actions which have greater consequences? Is not using contraception moral?? In a world with over 7,000,000,000 people???

    • Rationalist1

      When I discuss with other people how to make the world better (or at least our small part if it better) , controlling sexual expression between two consenting adults is way down the list.

      • Randy Gritter

        Making marriages stronger and families more stable might come up. Guess what adultery is? Sexual expression between consenting adults. Guess what it does?

        • ZenDruid

          The classical definition of adultery is a married woman taking a man who isn't her husband.

      • Vuyo

        I'm surprised it's on the list.

        • Rationalist1

          You know, I think I lost that page. :->

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      Many sects of Christianity (Catholics included) do indeed regard masturbation as immoral. Based on a misreading of the relevant biblical text and some theological arguments, of course.

      • articulett

        And yet more than 95% of people admit to engage in it, and most of the other 5% are probably lying. That sounds "natural" to me.

        • Again, articulett, you continue to misunderstand "natural." Unlike the common usage which means "common" or "pervasive" Catholics (and philosophers) don't understand it that way here. By "natural" we mean "ordered to an act's intrinsic end."

          • ZenDruid

            I'm seeing a lot of ad hoc equivocations on what 'natural' means.

            Religion is not natural, because no species in the natural world other than H.sap indulges in it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yet human beings are religious by nature because they think about the ultimate meaning of things and (often) orient their lives according to that understanding.

          • ZenDruid

            You don't need religion for that.

            It has always been my nature, for example, to assume that there is always something more to learn about everything, without ever resorting to metaphysics.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is a definition of religion, "binding yourself to ultimate reality." Isn't that what atheists do?

            In addition, when you think about whether or not God exists, you are thinking metaphysically.

          • ZenDruid

            You might say that my purpose in life is to grow in understanding. It's not a religion because it does not involve imaginary lawgivers.

          • articulett

            Whatever that means.

            To me it feels like religion is all word games to make people feel good (and humble) about believing nonsense.

          • articulett

            They are superstitious by nature and can be manipulated if you easily if you can convince them that their eternal afterlife is at stake.

          • articulett

            And animals don't have religious wars nor do they kill because they imagine some god told them too.

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            "Religion is not natural, because no species in the natural world other than H.sap indulges in it."

            Which begs two questions.

            1) If religion is not natural then is it super-natural?
            2) If other species do not practice it (The jury is still out on that one) What makes H.sap different from other species?

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            Deacon Harbey Santiago

          • ZenDruid

            1) Supernatural is imaginary.

            2) Animals in oppressive environments are seen to engage in pointless repetitive behavior, so I guess that might qualify as religion. Humans are the only species that voluntarily occupies oppressive environments.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Nothing makes H. S. S. different from other species. We differ only in quantity, not quality.

          • Christian Stillings

            I think it depends on what sort of "quality" we're talking about. Would you agree strong patterns of religious belief and behavior are unique to humans? If so, is this not a qualitative behavioral difference from other species?

          • Michael Murray

            Neanderthals buried their dead with ochre on their skin which suggests some notion of afterlife which usually means religion.

          • Christian Stillings

            I'd be careful to not over-extrapolate the kind of suggestions which might be legitimately derived from such a small quantity of content. That said, it's an interesting fun fact- I'll have to do some more reading on it.

          • Michael Murray

            I agree completely and I think there are disputes in this as in just about every area of pre-human anthropology. I assume what is observed is ochre associated with Neanderthal bones so there are some assumptions to be made to get the ochre onto the Neanderthal corpse. There is also evidence of pollen in Neanderthal graves but it might be flowers and it might be traditional medicines. And there is the incontrovertible fact that they buried their dead which even our close ape relatives, who mourn their dead, don't do.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neanderthal_behavior#Burial_practices

            I've always wondered why Catholics don't like the ensoulment of homo sapiens to the "great leap forward" although that is also disputed.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Leap_Forward_(evolution)#Great_leap_forward

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            I believe beetles have us beat by 25 to 1.

            Also, last time I checked, HSS were the only species in this planet which could get a college degree. If you can not see this as a difference between us the rest of the other species, then I think this conversation is over.

            Thanks for commenting though.

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            deacon Harbey Santiago

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Well, yes. It's clear that if god exists, he's EXTRAORDINARILY fond of beetles. This should give theists pause.

            What is the relevance of a college degree? We are an animal, with no particular innate abilities not possessed by any other animal. We do not differ in kind, only degree from our fellow species. Other animals make tools, use language, form complex social organizations, build cities, keep slaves, make war, practice love and affection towards each other, are conscious of themselves as individuals, etc.

            If you can't understand that, then indeed, conversation with you would be pointless.

          • Susan

            >Also, last time I checked, HSS were the only species in this planet which could get a college degree.

            Would you exclude those humans who are not able to get a college degree from our species?

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            Susan,

            Since I did not say "only species WHOSE MEMBERS ALL REQUIRED TO get a college degree TO PROVE THEY ARE PART OF THE SPECIES" I would say no, I would not. But I thought that was implied in my answer.

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            Deacon Harbey Santiago

          • Susan

            Harbey,

            Since I did not say "only species WHOSE MEMBERS ALL REQUIRED TO get a college degree TO PROVE THEY ARE PART OF THE SPECIES" I would say no, I would not

            That wasn't my question. My question is that if someone is cognitively or psychologically unable to get a college degree, does that mean they should not be included in our species?

            There are humans who would never, under any circumstances, be able to get a college degree.

            But I thought that was implied in my answer.

            It wasn't. What was implied in your answer was that the ability to get a college degree is what separates us from other species.

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            Susan,

            Let me try again...

            Objectively HSS is the only species which can earn a college degree, subjectively some members of this species can not earn a college degree. (But I though that was implied)

            Objectively no other species can earn a college degree other than HSS, this happens to be the case at the subjective level too.

            There; I hope you can understand what I meant. If you still have problems with this statement, then I'm afraid the language fails me and this is the best I can do.

            Of course if you can provide a subjective example of a non-member of the HSS species which has earned a college degree, I would be open to discuss this matter further.

            Nice to talking to you.

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"

            Deacon Harbey Santiago

          • There is however, superstition, at least in pigeons.

            http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Skinner/Pigeon/

          • articulett

            Actually, I think that it's supernaturalists who continually misunderstand "natural".

            And you also might want to look up naturalistic fallacy-- natural doesn't mean good... arsenic is natural. So is ebola. So is dog poop. Sanitizing our water so that it doesn't contain unwanted natural things is not natural... but it's science like this that leads us to live longer healthier lives where we can spend time debating what is "natural" on our scientifically designe (unnatural) computers.

          • The naturalistic fallacy pops up so often, I find myself using defensive terminology as prevention of a discussion unintentionally going there. Still happens, sometimes.

          • severalspeciesof

            By "natural" we mean "ordered to an act's intrinsic end."

            Which would make masturbation 'natural' as it is an act to the end of pleasure...

        • Christian Stillings

          I'd take care not to privilege the cultural customs of we Western types in this. There are some cultures which have no concept of masturbation nor homosexuality.

          http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/12/where-masturbation-and-homosexuality-do-not-exist/265849/

          http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/201105/weird-masturbation-habits

      • Christian Stillings

        Based on a misreading of the relevant biblical text...

        Why should anyone trust that you're the one who really knows how to understand a particular Biblical text? If I recall correctly, the same enlightened exegetical strategy got us snake-handling, not to mention other similarly well-informed theological conclusions.

        • I do think it is mistaken to read the story of Onan (Genesis 38) as a condemnation of masturbation. But certainly if that story did not exist, the Catholic Church would disapprove of masturbation. It's not a matter I think the Church feels it needs a specific scriptural reference to take a position on.

          • Christian Stillings

            I agree that the Church's sexual ethics would probably be as they are anyways. Regardless, I don't think that M. should be nearly so confident in her dismissal of an exegesis which does offer comment on the moral implications of masturbation.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Primarily because the text doesn't offer comment on the moral implications. The text refers to another moral issue. And since biblical exegesis, like theology, is not subject to empirical determination, my take is as good as the magisterium's. :-)

          • Christian Stillings

            As you seem to perceive a lack of authority in your own exegetical conclusions, why not proffer your perspective with a touch more modesty? To call a certain reading of the text "a misreading" implies a high certainty in the truth of one's perspective. In any event, we do both have access to the text, and I'm interested in parsing through it further to dig out your own exegetical perspective. What moral issue are you personally referring to when you say that "[t]he text refers to another moral issue"?

            Also, if you think that "empirical determination" is a good guideline for selecting beliefs, you're going to have quite a time in life. There's always the Problem of Induction, and don't forget about the difficulties generated by relative degrees of falsification. :-)

    • Michael Murray

      Is not masturbating moral??

      Of course it was designed by God to help prevent prostate cancer.

      Is not using contraception moral?

      Yes of course it allows a couple to strengthen the sacred marital bond free of the fear of conception. God designed conception and our minds so that we could discover contraception.

    • Christian Stillings

      Would you reject the ability of non-sexually-active people to proffer their perspectives on the legitimacy of sexual acts such as rape? Assuming that you're not directly involved in the business of finances, do you consider yourself able to validly make proclamations about the morality of business-related "crimes" like embezzlement? What level of experience in an area must a person have before he or she can legitimately proffer his or her opinion on the morality of acts related to that area?

      • Susan

        >Would you reject the ability of non-sexually-active people to proffer their perspectives on the legitimacy of sexual acts such as rape?
        Rape would be better described as a violent act, not a sexual one.
        What does rape have to do with sexual behaviour that harms no one?
        If someone never wants to be a parent, the implications of catholic teaching is that they should never, ever, ever have sex. What sense does that make?

        We're talking about contraception, not rape. Are contraception and rape morally equivalent?

        Anyone can "proffer their perspectives" on any subject, but be honest. They don't just proffer. They speak as though they have moral authority and an understanding of all of the real world implications.

        • Sample1

          I suppose that is what develops when basing one's morality on the manual otherwise known as Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. It's remarkable (well, from an anthropological POV), that nowhere in scripture is the woman's consent ever required for sex.

          in reply to:

          the implications of catholic teaching is that they should never, ever, ever have sex (Susan)

          • Susan

            >I suppose that is what develops when basing one's morality on the manual otherwise known as Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.

            >It's remarkable (well, from an anthropological POV), that nowhere in scripture is the woman's consent ever required for sex.

            It is. You'd think Yahweh would have revealed that sort of thing to Moses or one of his other prophets or that when he became Jesus, he would have brought it up.

            The sexual act is supposed to be open to procreation. That, I guess, is one of those "objective morals" that they've been asserting on other threads.

            My impression is that societies where women have a say in how many children they have and when have higher levels of education, human rights and more economic stability.
            I'm pretty sure the data backs me up on that.

            Any takers? .

          • Christian Stillings

            My impression is that societies where women have a say in how many children they have and when have higher levels of education, human rights and more economic stability.

            Do you really think that wives in Catholic marriages have no say over the quantity of children they have and the spacing thereof? If a husband tries to force his wife's hand as far as quantity/timing/etcetera of children against her wishes, he's not fulfilling his marital responsibilites. Per Catholic ethics, education, human rights, and economic stability could all be relevant factors in a couple choosing to conceive or not to conceive at any particular time.

        • Christian Stillings

          Rape would be better described as a violent act, not a sexual one. What does rape have to do with sexual behaviour that harms no one?

          Whether or not a particular act is "harmful" is often a pretty contentious matter, especially considering different sorts of harm. I'd personally hesitate to call most acts "not harmful" without some degree of further qualification. Regardless of the nature of rape (which I won't contest here) the question remains of "what relationship should exist between experience and authority in opinion"? Should we not support public regulations of conduct in areas where we have little education or experience to particularly qualify our perspective? (Referring back to the white-collar crime example in my prior comment.)

          If someone never wants to be a parent, the implications of catholic teaching is that they should never, ever, ever have sex. What sense does that make?

          If someone doesn't want to experience the consequences of an action, he or she would be prudent not to perform the action. Regardless of contraception usage and efficacy, the quantity of abortions procured strongly suggests that trying to do that-which-makes-people-parents and yet escape actual parenthood can be an unsuccessful venture. To conceptually divorce sex from conception and parenthood has caused a lot of issues, and I remember being refreshed to discover that the Catholic faith has always protested that divorce as it has protested so many others. :-P

          We're talking about contraception, not rape. Are contraception and rape morally equivalent?

          I was thinking more in terms of generally making moral assessments about other peoples' actions. If one is in the practice of saying that others shouldn't rape, does it make sense for him or her to protest when someone else says that people shouldn't rape or use contraception? Moral equivalency or inequivalency aside, and sensibility of doctrine also (momentarily) aside, what ability should any given person have to set out doctrines about other people's lives?

          Anyone can "proffer their perspectives" on any subject, but be honest. They don't just proffer. They speak as though they have moral authority and an understanding of all of the real world implications.

          I'm not sure what effect shifting strength from "proffering perspectives" to "speaking with authority" really has. When you say that nobody should commit acts of rape, are you just "proffering your perspective", or are you making a statement "with moral authority" that you really think other people should abide by? If the latter, whence comes your authority to do so? If you have that authority, on what grounds would you say that the Catholic Church doesn't have at least equal authority?

          • BenS

            If someone doesn't want to experience the consequences of an action, he or she would be prudent not to perform the action. Regardless of road safety and awareness, the quantity of people hit by a bus strongly suggests that trying to do that-which-makes-people-cross-the-road and yet escape being run over can be an unsuccessful venture.

            So, following this... you would never cross the road because you wouldn't want to experience the consequence of being run over?

          • Christian Stillings

            Strictly speaking, you'll agree that it would be the wisest course of action. The relative odds of being run over obviously depend on the specific circumstances of the stretch of road at any particular time. Yes, I know that the same thing could be said about sexual intimacy and the time of month/probable efficacy of contraception/etcetera. However, I think one's ability to fully assess the circumstances is very different the two cases. Save for fog and unusual road circumstances, one can very accurately assess the road situation at any given moment and act accordingly.

            However, as I said in my last comment, the fact that non-rape-related abortions are procured (and that the vast majority of abortions aren't at all related to rape) demonstrates the very real possibility/probability of mis-assessing "the road" in such circumstances. I'd say that in the prior case, one assesses the relevant factors and avoids walking entirely if they decide that they shouldn't. In the case of sex, one is already in the road and at the potential mercy of speeding vehicles.

          • BenS

            You've managed to muddy that analogy so it's now barely comprehensible. Let me try and clear it back up.

            You say the number of abortions shows the real possibility of mis-assessing the chance of pregnancy. I say the number of road accidents shows a real possibility of mis-assessing the chance of being run over.

            You then go on to say that these aren't the same because one can *very* accurately assess the road. Well, yes, but so is also the case with sex. One can *very* accurately assess the chance of pregnancy when one partner takes a contraceptive pill and the other bags up. I'll let you work out who does which. So both can be *very* accurately assessed.

            And yet pregnancies and road accidents still happen. Your solution for road accidents is to take more care and only cross the road when it's safe. Your solution for pregnancy is to never have sex ever ever ever. Slight disparity.

  • M. Solange O’Brien

    The difficulty with articles like this on a site dedicated to fostering a more rational conversation between atheists and theists is that, while intelligently written, and well articulated, the fundamental argument is meaningless to an atheist, because the basic presuppositions (e.g. "The goodness of sexual desire is designed, by its very nature, to become ingredient in a program of self-forgetting love and hence to become something rare and life enhancing.") are not shared between atheists and theists.

    To this are added unsupported and arguable observations (e.g. "Sex as mere recreation, as contact sport, as a source only of superficial pleasure has produced armies of the desperately sad and anxious, many who have no idea that it is precisely their errant sexuality that has produced such deleterious effects in them.")

    It paints the theist in a bad light - as someone who can only argue within a limited set of presuppositions not shared by those he wishes to persuade.

    But, like anything having to do with sex, I'm sure it will stimulate discussion. I just don't see that this discussion will help further the aims of this site.

    • Randy Gritter

      Sex is the classic thing that seems to have meaning yet atheists assert it has none. It is hard to resolve this using science. So atheists are stuck there. They assert the absence of meaning and can do no more than merely assert. Catholics can not just claim meaning but live out that claim. A celibate man is a particularly good witness here. Why would a guy like Fr Barron think the meaning of sex should preclude him from having sex? He seems like a smart guy. Could he be that confused? Could he remain that confused year after year? Or does the idea have some merit that all our desires, including sexual desires, are ultimately desires for God and can be fulfilled by God?

      • Andre Boillot

        Randy,

        "Sex is the classic thing that seems to have meaning yet atheists assert it has none."

        Please tighten up your claims a bit. Atheism has nothing to say about sex. At all.

        • Randy Gritter

          "The goodness of sexual desire is designed, by its very nature, to become ingredient in a program of self-forgetting love and hence to become something rare and life enhancing"

          That is classic Christian talk about sex that at least one atheist thinks atheism rejects.

          • articulett

            How do you know? Is that in the bible? Sex desire is "designed" to become an "ingredient" in "self-forgetting love"?-- Do others agree with this?

            I think your god might have wanted to design it a little better-- don't you? Why would he design anyone to have sexual desire for children, for example?

            You make no sense.

          • Randy Gritter

            We are not bible-only Christians so we don't need a proof text for everything.

            Sex can be corrupted. Everything can be used for evil. The greatest good corrupted becomes the greatest evil. So if sex is not good then child rape is not evil. But you know that is not true so you irrationally hold that rape violates something sacred yet sex involves nothing sacred.

          • articulett

            But a real god... could have prevented anyone from feeling sexual attraction toward children. Right. If he was omnipotent....
            and omnibenevolent...

            Why should anyone have a sex drive that hurts another?

          • Randy Gritter

            Why does anyone have a desire to steal or to lie? We are called to love. Love means not just considering your own desires but willing the good of the other as other. If we didn't have non-loving desires then we could not express love by rejecting them.

            Why does rape hurt the other so much? Precisely because sex is a door to the spiritual. That is why rape is such a huge violation of a person's dignity. Sex is meant to open us up and allow us to give ourselves in love in a very intimate way. That is heaven when it is done right and hell when it is done badly.

          • Andre Boillot

            "That is heaven when it is done right and hell when it is done badly."

            Preaching to the choir man...so many unsatisfied exes...

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Not everyone has a desire to steal or lie. You CLAIM we are called to love. And I've rarely seen catholics will the good of the other; they generally will WHAT THEY THINK is the good of the other. Problems ensue.

          • articulett

            I don't think rape hurts others because "it's a door toward the spiritual"-- I think if you were ever raped (say in a prison or something) you might change your opinion of this too. Sex is not "meant" to do anything except pass on the genes that make an organism want to have sex. The fact that we can enjoy it and that it can be part of a deep pair bond or marriage does not mean that it was 'meant" for that. It can feel glorious because those for whom sex felt glorious passed on more of their sexy genes into the next generation.

            And I think that through history sex has often been done very badly for women-- they were (and still are in many places) considered property-- sexual receptacles-- for men that can buy them, win them, bargain for them or whatever. I seem to recall a passage in the bible where women are supposed to marry their rapists.

            You may be an expert on your own sexuality-- but that hardly qualifies you for speaking about sexuality in general.

          • Cossard

            Hold on. Prison rape must be good, right? Because we know that "the evil of rape is directly proportional to the goodness of sex". Hence the evil of *gay* rape must be directly proportional to the goodness of *gay* sex. But gay sex, as we know, IS BAD. Hence gay rape is negative evil, i.e. good. That's just math, you can't argue with math.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Agreed. Most of the theists posting here are catholic, and therefore free of sola scriptura.

            In what sense can sex be 'corrupted'? And yes, everything, including religion, can be used for evil. In what way is this relevant to your point?

            "So if sex is not good then child rape is not evil." This is extremely confusing. Perhaps you could rephrase this?

          • Randy Gritter

            Sex can be corrupted when it is removed from its proper purpose and context. Evil is not a thing in itself. It is always something good that has been twisted.

            The evil of rape is directly proportional to the goodness of sex. So denying that sex is anything other than a little pleasure you end up denying that rape is anything other than a little unpleasantness. It is just the other side of the coin. If we can see the seriousness of rape then we can see that all sex must be serious.

          • articulett

            The evil of sex is proportional to the goodness of sex? What does that even mean?

          • Randy Gritter

            When you kill, the evil of killing is proportional to the value of the being you killed. Killing a dog is bad. Killing a human is worse. Evil is always that way. It takes a good and ruins it. How good the good is that was ruined determines how great the evil is. Stealing $1 is evil. Stealing $1 million is a greater evil.

          • articulett

            Is capital punishment worse than killing a puppy for no reason? Is war worse than killing animals? Don't dead peole just start their "eternity" according to Catholicism-- so you aren't really killing anyone. Is it more evil to steal from individuals who need it or corporations?

            Here-- sort out the morality on this one: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/52183094/ns/local_news-san_diego_ca/t/domestic-violence-victim-fired-teaching/#.UbtmX5xv4mz

            Whose evil... which is worse... what sort of Catholic marital advice can anyone offer this woman?

          • The evil of sex is proportional to the goodness of sex? What does that even mean?

            I think it means that sex is desirable enough from a marketing and advertising standpoint that you can make some money off it. Most would agree that that has been demonstrated, and long ago, in fact.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You're still not clear. How can sex be corrupted. Why can it be corrupted? And who gets to define what its proper purpose and context is?

            And why do you keep bringing rape into the discussion? No one is discussing rape. Except you. And rape isn't a problem because it's sex without love, rape is a violation of personal integrity. Not related.

          • Cossard

            But as no-one does in fact "end up denying that rape is anything other than a little unpleasantness", there must be something wrong with your reasoning; also with your powers of telepathy. Here's an idea: instead of inventing opinions for the people you're talking to, why don't you ask them what their opinions are?

            Do try to remember that your claim that "the evil of rape is directly proportional to the goodness of sex" is, please remember, *your own* premise; other people do not necessarily assent to the conclusions which you derive from it, since other people don't believe it. I, for one, can barely even understand it, let alone assent to it. Why on earth should this proportionality exist, and how is it established?

            Some sex is better than other sex, which sex do you think the evil of rape is directly proportional to, mindblowingly good sex or an awkward adolescent fumble?

            And does this new system of moral judgement you've just invented extend to other acts of violence? If the evil of rape is directly proportional to the goodness of sex, what's the evil of hitting someone on the head with a brick directly proportional to?

            Is the evil of starving someone to death directly proportional to the goodness of eating lunch? Does it matter how good the lunch is?

          • Andre Boillot

            Randy,

            "That is classic Christian talk about sex that at least one atheist thinks atheism rejects."

            I missed the memo on how one atheist can set a dogma for the rest of us. However, let's take your quote. Let's say that an atheist couldn't subscribe to any part of it. How do you get from not being able to say that, to sex has no meaning? Take your time, but please explain.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It has nothing to do with atheism. But this is a claim based on religion. Hence it's a meaningless 'claim' to make to an atheist and expect that they will agree. Do you understand the distinction?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If is not meaningless if it can be shown to be a reasonable explanation for something.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But Barron doesn't provide as a reasonable explanation. Indeed, he doesn't explicate it at all, but merely states it as a conclusion. It's those kinds of conclusions that atheists generally reject when they are based (as they are in this case) on theistic revelation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Well, in fairness to Fr. Barron, he did not compose his talk for Strange Notions.

          • articulett

            Yes, I don't think any atheists would relate at all.

            It would be like you trying to slog through Mormons telling you about the purpose and meaning of sex-- or Hindus... or druids.

            It's...
            lame

            I mean it probably works for people who buy into the belief system-- those who imagine it's deep-- but it falls flat to the rest of us... Lots of cultures have fertility rituals and such-- Catholic pontification on the subject is on par with that to me.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Which is, I think, a serious problem with Strange Notions. It's a very scattershot collection of articles not particularly focused on the atheist/theist discussions that it wants to foster. I don't see how good results can come from this approach.

          • articulett

            Yes-- and finding and following conversations is hard...and re-finding them after leaving is a pain. Everything appears out of order.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You misunderstand. What the atheist objects to is the word "designed" in this context. It has nothing to do with sex.

        • articulett

          Exactly-- and what does he mean "it's hard to resolve using science"-- why do theists talking about sex sound like they are 12?

          • Randy Gritter

            I actually think that about atheists. They seem to get the physical aspects of sex but often deny what impact it has on the heart. It indicates an immature thinking on sex. I assume they are not that ignorant. They feel a lot when they have sexual relations. It is just convenient to ignore those feelings when in a discussion like this.

          • articulett

            How arrogant of you to imagine you know what atheists think... but I guess that's the kind of arrogance once can imagine from someone who thinks the universe was created so that he could exist.

            Why would I presume to speak for all atheists or any atheists? I presume that for most humans sex fills a variety of purposes which may or may not be the purposes they tell themselves it is fulfilling. I'm sure sex makes many people emotionally attached sometimes. I think other times that people have sex and are thinking about someone or something else other than their sex partner-- even if they don't want to. I feel like your understanding of sex and human feelings is at a teenage level. I think children are usually revolted when a preist or other adult expresses sexual interest in them... and all the talk about god and feelings and whatever means nothing.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I don't see atheists denying that sex can have an affect on the heart. Nor is the atheist thinking on sex immature. And no one is ignoring feelings.

            You, on the other hand, are not attempting to have a civil discussion. Continually insulting the folks you're talking to is unlikely to foster any respect for your opinions.

          • Rationalist1

            It certainly gets my heart pounding.

      • articulett

        What are you talking about?

      • articulett

        Is cockroach sex a desire for god? Fruit fly sex? Octopus sex? Hermaphroditic worms? Transgender clown fish? Duck rape? Or does god's prurient interests only involve the sex lives of humans.

        It looks like god was enjoying creating lots of sex long before humans entered into the picture-- maybe he likes to watch?

        • Randy Gritter

          Do you think human sex is as meaningless as animal sex? Do you think romantic love is just hormones messing with our minds or is there something greater? It is a choice. Does love matter or is it just another chemical configuration of the brain?

          • articulett

            Your questions themselves are ignorant... they are on par with asking "how far to the end of the earth?"-- they are not sincere questions on your part-- they are questions designed not to have answers so that you can imagine your supernatural answers are rational. If your beliefs were good or true, you wouldn't need to engage in these sorts of questions.

            What do you mean by meaningless? Meaningless to whom? What's the meaning of sex? Procreation? Expressing love? Relieving urges? All 3? More? Feeling god?? What is a choice? How people define sex? What people are sexually attracted to? What the heck are you trying to communicate exactly. Take your time and think... take off your faith blinders and copose rational sentences-- if you are really interested in dialogue.

          • Randy Gritter

            Actually the questions are simple and reasonable. Your response seems odd. What is meaninglessness? It refers to ultimate meaning. Something that is important rather than just feels important. That when Romeo and Juliet fall in love their love can be something worth dying for because it is a reality bigger than they are.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Um, actually no. Their love is about them and their relationship. It's not 'bigger' than they are.

          • articulett

            Romeo and Juliet is fiction... in real life it wouldn't be romantic if a couple of teens killed themselves over love. You seem to need an invisible man in the sky that you imagine is giving you some nebulous "ultimate meaning" that you can't even convey coherently. I think you are confusing depthful feelings with "ultimate meaning" which is fine is you are young-- but stunted if you are over 30. A first crush is deep to a teenager.

          • Randy Gritter

            Fiction can convey truth. If it didn't ring true to people they would not be reading it 400 years later.

            I believe life does have meaning. That there are eternal realities that my life and your life will impact. The fact that these often correspond with deep feelings is not surprising to me. It does not mean my feelings are the whole story. It means I am discerning something outside myself.

            Just like I don't confuse the sound of someone's voice with the person themselves. They are often experienced together but they are not the same thing. One is something I sense. The other is a reality that is outside me.

          • Fiction can convey truth.

            However, fiction does not necessarily convey truth. That is why it is not called, "fact," and why you can't use it to force a win in an argument.

          • I think we are going to need a thread on the meaning of "meaning."

    • articulett

      Yes-- it makes them seem childish... unable to participate in grown up conversations.

  • Rationalist1

    Moderators - Look how bogged down this discussion is becoming when it concerns sexual ethics.

    Most atheists who were not brought up Catholic think that Catholic morality is all about sex (any quite frankly do you blame them). Atheists who were brought up Catholic like myself, know that the Catholic Church has a rich history of being progressive on many social issues although again to be frank, think non sexual ethics have been shuffled to a side burner.

    My suggestion is if you want to foster discussion that might have a chance of a productive outcome, find or commission a column on Catholic moral teaching that deals with non sexual problems we face today.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      It points out a difficulty with this kind of site and an attempt to foster reasonable (or at least civil) argument between theists and atheists.

      And given the recent PR campaigns by the church seem to focus almost entirely on gay marriage, contraception, and abortion, it's rather hard to blame people for presuming that sex is what the church is most concerned with.

      • Rationalist1

        I agree.

      • articulett

        Sex is pretty much how religions control people-- it's an easy way to keep people feeling chronically guilty and in need of confession/salvation/spiritual help (or whatever it is they think their church is providing).

      • Kevin Aldrich

        The Church isn't engaging in PR campaigns. The Church is responding to today's issues.

        • articulett

          Not very successfully.

    • Randy Gritter

      The Catholic philosophy of sex is coherent. The atheist one might be coherent but most won't go all the way and say love is just brain chemistry and accept all the implications. So they end up bailing at some point and creating something that can't be defended rationally.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        The catholic philosophy of sex is, to use syllogistic language, VALID, but not necessarily TRUE. And I fail to see what implications of love is brain chemistry that is being ignored here, since we haven't even started discussing an atheistic philosophy of sex (though I'm sure some exist).

        • articulett

          I don't even think it's valid... that is, I don't think it's coherent.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            They do a remarkably good job given the complexity of the topic. I admit some difficulties of integration with various aspects of their social teachings exist, but they're usually pretty consistent.

          • articulett

            A god who impregnates a virgin without her consent?

            It seems like even abstinence can't prevent pregnancy when this god is around.

          • Andre Boillot

            Pretty sure she said "Thy will be done"...

          • articulett

            Did she have a choice? Does anyone have a choice when it comes to an omnipotent being doing what it wills?

          • Andre Boillot

            In that case, maybe better to phrase as "full consent", or otherwise qualify, no?

          • articulett

            Whatever-- it's not my myth. Use whatever translation or interpretation you wish.

          • Luke 1:38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

          • articulett

            Yeah-- that's one translation in English-- from Luke; there's stuff in Matthew that some might consider conflicting: Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah happened in this way. When his mother
            Mary was engaged to Joseph, before they lived together she was
            discovered to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit.
            .... and there's lots of translations... and it wasn't written in English at first... and of course it was hearsay since no one was there and no one wrote it down until many years after the fact... if it happened at all. People misinterpret, memories fail, and-- as the game of "telephone" shows us... messages tend to change as they are passed along.

            So do whatever you need to do to make it mean whatever you want it to mean... just like you do with the rest of the bible.

          • Your interpretation was that God impregnated Mary without her consent. That is not what Christians believe, nor does it say that in Matthew or Luke.

          • articulett

            The bible indicates that an angel came and told her that she either WAS pregnant or was going to be pregnant... it didn't say that God asked her if he could use her as a vessel to give birth to himself as a child. (Of course, this might actually be a story an unmarried pregnant woman COULD tell people at the time to save herself from stoning...)

            I maintain that my interpretation is as valid as any other.

          • There was precedence. Genesis 6:2

            That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

      • articulett

        Statistics show that atheists have marriage success rates on par with Catholics and far above those of evangelical Christians. (Divorce rates around 20%). And, given the reluctance for Catholics to end bad marriages, I would bet that atheist marriages are much happier and healthier than their Catholic counterparts on average.

      • Cossard

        On a site with so many atheists posting on it, it is unnecessary for you to go about telling people what atheists think (if you are telling the truth), or dishonest for you to do so (if you are not). Why don't you concentrate on telling us what *you* think, and let the atheists tell you what the atheists think? This would seem like a sensible arrangement.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          But nearly as much fun. ;-)

    • articulett

      Yes-- I don't think that any non-Catholics recognize Catholics as being experts on morality or sex. It's funny to me that they imagine themselves as such.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        I think it has to do with Randy's comment below. Catholics think their philosophy of sex is sound - both valid AND true. But since theists and atheists don't necessarily agree on the basic premises....

        • Randy Gritter

          I do think the problem is more the conclusions of atheism are so bad. It leads to a world where the distinction between loving a person and using them for pleasure gets lost. Where the dignity of human life cannot be maintained because the act that creates life is not respected.

          • Andre Boillot

            Randy,

            "I do think the problem is more the conclusions of atheism are so bad."

            Again, tighten it up. Atheism has just the one conclusion. Everything else you mention has no direct connection with atheism.

          • Randy Gritter

            Things are connected. Theism has one conclusion as well. I can admit that implies a lot of things about a lot of things. Atheism is just the opposite so its implication stretch just as far. Why deny it?

            Theism and atheism do have many forms. So just using those terms is problematic but other terms have their own problems.

          • ZenDruid

            One-dimensional thinking: atheism is the opposite of theism.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No, actually theism has an infinite variety of forms - unless you're willing to agree that Muslims, Catholics, and Buddhists agree on every single point. Atheists just lack belief in god.

          • Sample1

            If there is one evidence-based article I'd like to see headline this Catholic ministry to the atheists is one that thoroughly explains why atheists are not just members of a different flavor of yet another belief system.

            Should take about six words.

            Mike

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Atheists lack belief in god.

            Five words.

            If you're really interested in six:

            Baldness is not a hair color.

          • Corylus

            If you're really interested in six:

            Baldness is not a hair color.

            I prefer seven:

            Commando is not a form of underwear.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Atheism is just the opposite so its implication stretch just as far. Why deny it?"

            Atheism is a negative assertion, just like saying there is no evidence that Zeus exist. What implications would you draw from the position that Zeus don't exist? I think the only implication you can drawn from atheism is that it rejects ideas which are based solely on religious grounds.

            One need not have faith in a God in order to love, or to be able to distinguish between loving and using somebody. One need not faith to view sex and children with awe, wonder, and respect.

            I'm not sure your repeated lack of according atheists with a minimum of charity and intellectual respect is in keeping with this site's goal of dialogue and reason.

          • Rationalist1

            Randy - You disparage athests, sure, that's always fair game for many theists, but your also saying the same thing to Jews, Muslims and many Protestants who use contraception without believing it's a sin.. Is there faith so bad as well?

          • Randy Gritter

            Actually the Muslim position on contraception is a bit complex.

            http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/islamethics/contraception.shtml

            I would not say their faith was bad. I would say their theology was bad. Contraception does violate the sacredness of sex and procreation. So i would tell a protestant that rejecting abortion and premarital sex and accepting artificial contraception is a contradiction. They cannot stand together. If sex can be unlinked from procreation then why is it important to wait for marriage before having sex? If sex can be manipulated like it is ordinary and not sacred then how can we see the child who is the product of that process as sacred?

          • Rationalist1

            But Jews and Protestants are equal to Atheists then in this regard. Also Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, etc.

          • articulett

            Why can't Catholics keep their sexual beliefs and opinions amongst their own-- wait till marriage if you want... don't use birth control... adopt unwanted babies (especially those with malformations)... don't have gay sex... don't masturbate...
            but for godsakes-- quit trying to impose your morality on the rest of us. We don't see you as the moral examples you imagine yourselves to be. And with the horrid sexual abuse that has gone on behind Catholic closed doors we hardly thiink you are in a position to tell the rest of us what is moral!

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It's part of a basic misconception on the part of many theists: that religious freedom is the right to dictate how others lead their lives.

            As someone said, from simply reading the writings of many catholic theologians and the publications of the USCCB, one could conclude that for catholics, freedom is not the right to make choices; freedom is the right to make the RIGHT choices - and they get to define what those choices are.

            Freedom in a pluralistic society is very difficult.

          • Randy Gritter

            We don't impose anything. We just propose Catholicism to the world. The church has a duty to do that. It would not matter much except our conscience confirms what the church says and that can annoy us.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The church spent millions of dollars in the campaign to defeat proposition 8 in California. Sounds like imposition to me. If all you're doing is proposing catholicism, then spending large amounts of money attempting to change the political process according to your tenets is hypocritical.

          • Randy Gritter

            What exactly did the church do? Did it communicate with Catholics and make clear to them the teachings of the church that relate to Prop 8? That would be OK. If it tried to influence the way non-Catholics were voting that would be on shaky ground.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You should look at the campaign. It tried to to influence non-catholics.

          • We don't impose anything.

            This is not entirely accurate. The Catholic Church lobbies in favor of laws it wants and against laws it does not want. A snippet of the history of contraception law in the United States:

            In 1948, [Cardinal] Cushing, then an archbishop, led a public charge against Referendum No. 4, a statewide [Massachusetts] ballot measure designed to relax the ban on contraception. From the pulpit and on the radio, the Catholic campaign argued that birth control was “still against God’s law.” Cushing defined contraception at the time as “anti-social and anti-patriotic, as well as absolutely immoral.” The campaign was a bitter one. In the end, 57 percent of voters rejected the referendum.

            The Catholic Church campaigns politically against same-sex marriage and gay rights laws, and then when it loses, it demands to be exempt from those laws. When it can't get it's way in general, it still tries to get itself exempted from obeying the laws it has failed to prevent from passing.

          • Randy Gritter

            Voting is not imposing. Political decisions are made through a process. We participate in that process. So do you. Part of that process is respect for minority rights especially in matters of religion. Atheists have demanded that and got it many times. Catholic ask for it as well.

          • I am not talking about voting. I am talking about lobbying and campaigning. I think it is fine for the Catholic Church, or any other group (religious or not) to state positions on issues. But lobbying and campaigning is another thing.

          • articulett

            We don't impose anything. We just propose Catholicism to the world.

            On behalf of the World may I just say: "no thanks.

            All the virulent religions tell their adherents they must spread the "good news" to others. We don't want your morality any more than you want theirs. I wish believers would just trust that omnipotent beings are perfectly capable of handling their PR themselves.

          • Randy Gritter

            We do trust God to handle the PR. But we are part of that PR. Still, especially when it comes to sex, we understand that choices are personal and nobody wants to make personal decisions because some priest got in his face and told him what to do or what not to do. It has to resonate with your heart. But we understand that God made your heart.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Then why does the church spend so much money attempting to control the creation and implementation of laws regarding sex?

          • articulett

            You BELIEVE that god made peoples' heart... so why don't you trust that they can make their sex/love/family choices on their own?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Why should we wait for marriage before having sex? Why should we regard the child as sacred? Please be clear.

          • Randy Gritter

            I am saying "If you accept artificial contraception then those questions become hard to answer."

          • May I ask a question of clarity from atheists--if sexual activity is basically (as I think some are asserting) either "recreational" or in some sense "utilitarian," why can't we all just do whatever we want with our bodies *all* the time, regardless of whether we are engaging in an intimate relationship with a specific "other"?
            Why shouldn't I have sex with someone I'm in a relationship with while *also* having sex with random strangers during that relationship? Should there be anything at all "exclusive" about sex?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Well, this basically doesn't have anything to do with atheism, but I'll take a stab at it.

            It depends on the kind of relationship you've agreed on. It depends on the feelings of the folks involved. If your partner doesn't care, then there isn't a good reason not to have sex with random strangers, if you enjoy it.

          • Doesn't it seem to boil down to this: "sex" means whatever the people involved want it to mean?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Um, no. Sex is sex. But you seemed to be talking about matters not directly relating to sex: trust and reciprocity. These exists in contexts unrelated to sex.

          • Yes, I should have more clearly stated: "morally acceptable sexual behavior" means whatever the people involved want it to mean?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Ah, now we've moved beyond sex in a big way.

            Tell me, as long as one doesn't hurt other people unnecessarily, what's the problem? Why shouldn't the people involved in a sexual relationship get to define what's morally acceptable to them?

          • How do we decide what it means to "hurt" someone else (unnecessarily)?
            I assume this reasoning can extend beyond sexual mores and into morality generally? We leave the definition of what is "morally acceptable" merely to "the people involved"? But which people--the "majority"? the people with "power"?

          • Eriktb

            Here's the simplest way to explain morality to anyone. Try your absolute best not be a dick to others. What does it mean to be a "dick"? Try not to physically or emotionally harm other people. It's not difficult in anyway.Children actually act in incredibly altruistic ways if you simply leave them together, assuming a lack of prejudicial beliefs from their parents.

            So why should we not be dicks to each other? Because everything is just so damn easier that way. There's no need for pointless arguments that really boil down to a semantic pissing match. No need for misguided hostilities. No need to focus insignificant and nearly imagined differences. We can just be cool with each other.

            But why do that when we can sweat the small stuff all day long and get absolutely nowhere.

          • articulett

            And you think a priest should tell people what it means??

            Who decides what sex means to you other than you and your partner(s)?

          • People who believe God created sex might wish to consider what *He* thinks sex means....

          • articulett

            Yes... but unless they have a valid way of getting answers, they are really just substituting their opinion and attributing it to god. http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2009/11/30/creating-god-in-ones-own-image/

            Since their god cannot be substantiated to exist any more than the Hindu gods... their opinion on the subject has as little truth value as a Hindus.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Sure. But atheists aren't those 'people'. Therefore the atheist sees no valid reason to listen to the priest's teachings on this topic.

          • ZenDruid

            Being an indiscriminate horndog has many disadvantages.

          • Can you elaborate?

          • ZenDruid

            Issues of disease and trust, for starters. Waste of time and energy. The playboy trope is overrated.

          • articulett

            I don't think any atheist has asserted what you claim. But what about natural consequences? If you wouldn't want people to rape or sexually use or molest yourself or your loved ones-- don't do it. Don't do anything illegal.

            If you would be hurt or jealous if your wife cheated on you-- don't cheat on her. If you have an open relationship or a polyamorous relationship than you make sure and protect yourselves and each other from unwanted pregnancies and diseases as you'd want your partners to do. Humans, like most pair bonding species, tend to get jealous if their mate has sex with others-- so they are usually willing to trade their own monagamy for monagamy in return-- but they still might think of others during sex (yes-- your wife probably thinks of others... just like you do) or have other outlets. A couple determines the boundaries of their relationships themselves... just like couples were doing before they invented gods... just like other pair bonding animals do (see prairie voles or gibbons, for example.)

          • Michael Murray

            Have you explained this to the person you are in a relationship with ? It's all about honesty and trust.

          • Cossard

            Well, since we're short on Protestants round here, perhaps you could take a stab at answering your own questions. For example, suppose a woman knows that she is infertile. For her, sex is permanently unlinked from procreation (hey, that's God's will). Should she wait for marriage before having sex? Why? Well then, a Protestant believing in the legitimacy of contraception could give the same reason, more generally, couldn't he?

            Also perhaps you could talk about the sacredness of children. If a child is conceived deliberately by Protestant parents who usually use family planning, is the child still "sacred" according to Catholic doctrine, or is it a soulless abomination? If you went with "sacred" then there's nothing to stop Protestants from answering the same way and giving the same reason, is there?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Explain EXACTLY how the conclusions of atheism (whatever you think those are) lead to a world such as you describe. I'm often interested in how theists reason on this subject, and so far, I don't see the reasoning behind your claims.

          • articulett

            Tell the Norwegians: http://img835.imageshack.us/img835/4691/norwayhell.jpg

            Religion seems to make peole feel moral without actually doiong anything moral at all.

          • Randy Gritter

            Norway has done some things well. It is a strange mix of atheist and Christian. Moving towards atheism for sure. I did notice their birth rate is one of the highest in Europe. I was surprised. It does indicate a value for life. I would suggest that means they are more in line with Catholic sexual morality than most European countries. Maybe because they are remote and cold. They might tend to follow trends more slowly and might tend to wear more clothes.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So people who are remote, cold, unfashionable, and over-dressed are more catholic?

          • Michael Murray

            And many of these born are out of wedlock which is not very Catholic either

          • FACT CHECK:

            According to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll 2010,[4]

            22% of Norwegian citizens responded that "they believe there is a God".

            44% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force".

            29% answered that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force".

            5% answered that they "do not know".

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Ok, So they are 22% theists, and 78% atheists.

          • Actually, I make it 22% theists, 44% New Agers, 5% agnostics, 29% atheist.

            Considering this is the best the atheists can show in the world, I am reassured.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            22% said they believed in god, the rest did not. 22% theists, 78% atheists.

          • Can't wait for the big atheist billboard campaign:

            "We believe in some sort of spirit or life force, just don't call it God".

            Won't play well to the base, I'm thinking, but a fantastic big tent strategy......

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But that's the whole point. Given a chance to say god, yes or no, 78% said no. They self-defined as atheists. It's not your place to tell them what they believe, now is it?

          • Even better:

            "Atheism- It's Not Just For Atheists Anymore!"

            The jingle:

            Come Wiccans come pagans
            Come Spiritualists all
            Bring Dagon and Beelzebub,

            Quetzacoatl!

            As long as you don't say its God you adore-
            You're an atheist now and we're counting you four!

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And that added...what, to the discussion, exactly? Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. In that sense, it is a big tent: some atheists are spiritualists, some agnostics, some buddhists.

          • Andre Boillot

            Masta Rick in da house droppin mad rhymes on y'all!

          • OK. First name.

            George Ellis.

            ;-)

          • Gee, my jingle disappeared :-)

            Have to type this again before I forget it.......

            "Atheism- It's Not Just For Atheists Anymore!"

            The jingle:

            Come Wiccans and pagans
            and Spritualists all
            Bring Dagon and Bellzebub,
            Quetzacoatl!

            As long as you don;t say it's God you adore
            You're an atheist now and we're counting you four!

            OK Brandon got it, you can Memoryhole now :-)

          • articulett

            Yes-- no matter what you measure, religiosity is not associated with any measurable morality-- in fact, it's often inversely correlated-- while secularity is associated with societal health. Religious people think that people of their religion are the most moral-- but they are only moral in their own minds--

            There is nothing which we can measure that shows them to be more moral in any way. http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.pdf
            http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3710520?uid=3739824&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101453400557
            http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/zuckerman/Zuckerman_on_Atheism.pdf
            http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3710520?uid=3739824&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101453400557
            http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-do-americans-still-dislike-atheists/2011/02/18/AFqgnwGF_story.html

          • Max Driffill

            This is really a monstrous accusation. And one for which you have precisely no evidence whatsoever but, apparently, flawed intuition.

          • I do think the problem is more the conclusions of atheism are so bad.

            What? Atheism has no "conclusions" just an association category for people who don't believe in deities, but are willing to accept an "ism."

      • Rationalist1

        It's less about being experts or not. It's more about that seems to be all they discuss or enforce.

        • articulett

          Yes... as if they not engaging in certain sex acts makes them moral...

          Funny.

    • I have to partially agree with Rationalis1 here. What is the point of this post? It is based on the assumption that the Catholic position on sexual morality is correct. It is based on the assumption that "human love must be situated in the context of divine purpose." It is based on the assumption that the Bible is an authoritative guide to sexual morality.

      The whole post is based on things that atheists reject (and, I might add, advocates many things the vast majority of Catholics do not abide by). It is all pretty much, "This is what God told us about sexual morality." Why in the world should an atheist even care?

      Now, it is the Catholic position that these things are knowable through reason. Girgis, Anderson, and George have written a book called What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense in which they attempt to deduce what amounts to the Catholic position on sexuality and marriage without appealing to "revelation" or other religious teaching. That is something atheists and Catholics could discuss.

      It is almost an insult to atheists to claim to want to have a dialogue with them and then continue to post recycled pieces by people like Fr. Barron taking for granted the Catholic position without any attempt at all to make it credible to an audience who has already rejected it.

      I do not consider myself an atheist, and I think Fr. Barron is often worth listening to. But I am far enough removed from agreeing with Catholic sexual morality that you can just plunk something like this down in front of me and expect me to use it as a basis for dialogue. So I don't agree with Rationalst1 that the topic of sexual morality should be avoided. I just think it is rather pointless to present something that is totally based on assumptions and principles the audience here rejects.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        "The whole post is based on things that atheists reject (and, I might add, advocates many things the vast majority of Catholics do not abide by). It is all pretty much, "This is what God told us about sexual morality." Why in the world should an atheist even care?"

        Exactly.

      • Rationalist1

        I didn't say avoid talking about sexual morality but that it shouldn't be the only ethical topic discussed.

      • Randy Gritter

        But if you ask atheists why they would not want to be Catholic sexual morality comes up a lot. For a lot of them it is just insane. If you let a guy like Fr Barron explain it maybe it becomes a little less insane.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Atheists don't 'wish' to be catholic because they lack belief in god. Their objections to catholic social teachings are usually unrelated. And unfortunately Barron, who I admit is articulate and quite brilliant, fails to establish the basic premise on which this argument needs to be based for it to be effective with atheists; to wit, the existence of the catholic image of god.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Do you expect Fr. Barron to begin every talk with a proof of the existence of God!

          • Michael Murray

            Do you expect Fr. Barron to begin every talk with a proof of the existence of God!

            Of course not. Just once would do. Then we would have it all sorted. But it would need to be an actual proof not a philosophical word salad.

          • A false premise implies any conclusion, so if he wants his reasoning to be taken seriously, yes.

        • Fr. Baron is very personable and speaks well, but it is a fact that the vast majority of Catholics do not accept Catholic moral teaching on sexuality, or at least do not practice it. If the Church can't even convince Catholics, how can it hope to convince atheists?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Yes.

          • Randy Gritter

            We just teach God's word. Whether people obey or not is up to their conscience. I agree that the failure of many Catholics to practice or even learn their faith is a great scandal. But don't reject Catholicism because of Catholics. It is about Christ and His church. It really isn't about Joe Biden or whoever your favorite example of a bad Catholic is.

            I do recall a nun who told me way before I considered converting, "If you are going to become Catholic, be a good one! We have enough bad ones!"

          • I certainly agree that the truth of Catholicism should be evaluated by looking at what the Church teaches, not what some Catholics (even the majority of Catholics) practice.

        • David Egan

          I can assure you that having a priest tell anyone anything about sex is utterly insane.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            As someone else commented today, "genetic fallacy."

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Well, let's be a hair more nuanced. Priests can speak to people about sex on the basis of their faith. Those who do not share that faith needn't pay any attention to them, since the criteria used to evaluate behavior is based on suppositions they don't share.

        • Michael Murray

          If you let a guy like Fr Barron explain it maybe it becomes a little less insane.

          You have got to be joking.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Randy, what about Barron's message or style strikes you as making the church's position on sexual matters any less insane to an atheist?

  • Kevin Aldrich

    How about a new direction? Fr. Barron says,

    The simple answer is that, for Biblical people, sexuality must be placed
    in the wider context of love, which is to say willing the good of the other. It is fundamental to Catholic spirituality and morality that everything in life must be drawn magnetically toward love, must be conditioned and transfigured by love. Thus, one’s business concerns must be marked by love, lest they devolve into crass materialism; and one’s relationships must be leavened by love, lest they devolve into occasions for self-interested manipulation; even one’s play must be directed toward love, lest it devolve into mere self-indulgence. Sex is no exception to this rule.

    Do you atheists agree with this, that love--willing the good of the other--should orient all our actions?

    This could get the discussion off sex.

    • articulett

      I think that's a great idea, but I don't think Catholics show any expertise in this area at all. It seems to me that their imaginary gods happiness is much more important than the happiness of their fellow human-- especially when it comes to the sex life of others.

    • ZenDruid

      Do you atheists agree with this, that love--willing the good of the other--should orient all our actions?

      There's a word for that assumption, which unfortunately escapes me at the moment.

      • Sample1

        Are you thinking of the phrase rather that says, "love all only works in tennis?"

        Mike

    • Rationalist1

      I would just like him to talk about any other action other than sex that is oriented towards love and how that is manifested.

      Also I'm a materialist in that I think all that exists is the material world around me. Am I crass? Or is Fr. Bannon talking about our culture that encourages the acquisition of material goods. Is capitalism crass?

      How did the financial collapse of 2008 not result from "self-interested manipulation". Why no preaching against the financial sector?

      I don't know about you, be sex between consenting adults isn't really high on my list of concerns.

      • articulett

        Yes why is this so damn important to Catholics. What about, say social equality... or civil rights... or children being killed because they are accused of being witches in Africa?

        • Rationalist1

          On one level I want them to continue this obsession as it discredits the Church and drives people away from it but I realize that what matters is the good that can be accomplished if the Church were to address these other social issues with the same vigour they address sexual ethics could actually accomplish some good.

          • articulett

            Yes... and with their embarrassment of riches, it's appalling for them not to.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you think the Church doesn't address social issues, you haven't been paying attention.

          • Rationalist1

            Can you name one Catholic that has ever been fired from a position in a Catholic school for an action that wasn't sexually related. Can you name one politician that was ever chastised by a bishop for a position that wasn't related to sex? The Church talks about social issues but they don't enforce their teachings.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Rationalist, shouldn't you do your own research?

            I was a Catholic school principal and I can assure you that people are fired or don't have their contracts renewed for being poor teachers and all kinds of other reasons besides sex. If you watch the immigration debates in the next few months, you will see bishops criticizing conservative politicians right here in the USA.

          • articulett
          • Rationalist1

            Oh goodness. I was wrong but that's just awful. I'll stand corrected but how could they do that and claim any moral authority whatsoever?

          • Rationalist1

            Are any threatened with being denied communion for that? DId any of the politicians that support capital punishment or the war in Iraq suffer similar sanctions?

            Do you know of one teacher that was fired for a moral issue that wasn't sexualy related. I've honestly never heard of one. Post a link.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Capital punishment and war are not intrinsically evil, whereas abortion is, so you are talking apples and oranges.

            I googled "Catholic teacher fired" and got this:

            http://www.10news.com/news/carie-charlesworth-teacher-fired-from-catholic-school-because-of-abusive-ex-husband-tells-her-story-on-gma-holy-trinity-0614

          • Rationalist1

            So Catholic morality only enforces intrinsically evil actions? Has it come to that?

            Yes, that's the firing Articulet found. The teacher was fired because her husband was abusive and kept threatening her. I can't believe the bishop didn't condemn the action of the school. I assume he will now that she's gone public as it portrays the Catholic Church in a terrible light.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The decision came from the diocese, so probably it was approved by the bishop.

            These kinds of decisions are very difficult to make, often involve important facts which are never made known to the public, and are prudential, so they can always be criticized.

          • Rationalist1

            She was divorced from her husband so maybe she was dating again. That must have been it

            Seriously I could not imagine any factor that could have extenuated this one., And the fact that you seek to justify it says how Catholics can never imagine their Church could be complicit i such immoral acts.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you cannot imagine any other factors, you've never been there. We have no idea what percentage of the story we have even heard.

          • Rationalist1

            Kevin - What possible additional factors could possibly justified firing the victim. I can only think of one. From a Catholic perspective what of she was involved with another man after her marriage to the man that is threatening her broke down? Can you think of anything else?

          • What possible additional factors could possibly justified firing the victim.

            If we're talking about the teacher whose husband was put in jail for domestic violence, there's no mystery why they wanted to get rid of her. Didn't you read the story? Her husband had engaged in bad behavior over a weekend, and she had called the police three times. When she went to her job on Monday, she warned the school that her husband might show up. He did. They put her on leave for several months, but then they decided to let her go. Parents were threatening to pull their children out of the school if she returned. Why? Because the don't want their kids at a small, unprotected elementary school where one of the teachers has a violent husband who has already showed up at the school once and might show up again, the next time doing who knows what.

            We had a very similar situation in the office where I work. We were informed that one of our co-workers (we were not told who it was) felt she was in danger from her ex-boyfriend. She had obtained a restraining order requiring him to stay away from her, but we were warned to be on the alert. Our office building had very tight security already, but we were warned to be especially alert, not to hold open locked doors for anyone we did not recognize, to report an strangers on our floors, and so on.

            Now, I think it was a terrible thing that they fired the teacher, especially after what she had been through. But I also understand the parents who did not want their children being watched over by a woman who lived in fear of her violent ex-husband turning up. As I recall, he served a jail sentence but is about to be released.

            What legal position would the school be in if, being aware of the violent ex-husband, they keep the teacher on, and the husband showed up one day and harmed one or more of the children?

          • Rationalist1

            And you think that is ethical? What if it was a student with a parent who was violent and had a restraining order against coming near the school? Should they expel the student? What if the principal had a violent ex-husband fire her too. What if the parish priest was threatened with violence by ex-parishioners who wanted to harm him for some alleged abuse years ago, fire him too?

            Don't Catholics stand up for what's right anymore?

          • And you think that is ethical?

            Based on what I know, I don't think the teacher was treated justly. But I do think the school had a legitimate concern about what might happen if they kept the teacher in the classroom and the husband showed up.

            As I said, there was a similar situation in the office where I worked, and it was unsettling to be told to be on the alert for someone who might show up to commit violence on a fellow employee. It would be all the more unsettling if small children were around. Remember that it was more than a possibility that he would show up. He did show up. If there are any parents of small children here, I am sure they can understand how the parents of children at this school felt (even though they may not agree with them).

            I wrote what I wrote above because some people claimed to be mystified as to why the school would want to get rid of the teacher. There is nothing mysterious (or sex-related) at all. People were concerned about the children at the school and what would happen if the teacher remained there and her husband came back.

            Don't Catholics stand up for what's right anymore?

            I don't think it is fair to imply something about Catholics in general based on this story. It involves no specific Catholic issues. One can imagine it happening at any school, particularly any small private school.

          • Rationalist1

            "One can imagine it happening at any school, particularly any small private school." Not any school I was involved with.

            When I was a Catholic I was a third degree Knight of Columbus and if there's one thing that I learned from that initiation process that has stuck with me years later is that I do not allow something like this to happen to someone.

          • The school went into lockdown once, when the ex-husband showed up. Assuming you let the teacher continue at the school, what would you say to parents who were concerned the ex-husband would return and be a threat to the safety of their children? Would you add extra security to the school? At additional expense?

            I think the teacher was treated unjustly, but I think the school was put in a very difficult position. What were they supposed to do if parents began pulling their kids out of the school because they were concerned about their safety? As I am sure you have noticed, school security is not a trivial issue these days.

          • Rationalist1

            Are we going to abandon our principles because we are scared? I don't.

          • Are you going to put other people's children at risk to stand up for your principles? You haven't commented on the practical aspects of the case. As I said, I think the teacher was treated unjustly. But exactly how would you convince parents who were concerned about the safety of their children that whatever course of action you favor is the right one?

            You have said what you wouldn't do, but you haven't said what you would do. Simply ignore the very real threat to the children?

          • Rationalist1

            Would you kick students out of school because they have a violent parent? What about a violent sibling?

            Not iqnore the threat to the students. I would get help from the police, beef up security, warn the other parents and teachers and increase the security on the school. It will coat money but imagine the powerful message of solidarity it would send to the school community instead of this.

          • Would you kick students out of school because they have a violent parent? What about a violent sibling?

            Please note that I said I thought the teacher was treated unjustly. My point was that parents who were concerned about the safety of their children had a legitimate concern. The school in this matter was put in a difficult position.

            How much money would extra security cost? What if the school can't afford it? What if a significant number of parents don't feel their kids are adequately protected?

            It is easy to take a firm stand when you don't have to deal with the consequences.

          • By the way, you or others may be interested in the current discussion of this case on the Catholic bloc Vox Nova. David Cruz-Uribe, SFO, has a post titled Punishing the Victim of Abuse, in which he says,

            I don’t really have much to add to this except to record my own sense of horror and shame: how could a CATHOLIC school, and a CATHOLIC diocese do this? Is there some aspect of the story I am missing or not understanding? How can they possibly justify doing this?

            The comments up to this point are mostly in agreement with Cruz-Uribe's sentiment. This should answer your earlier question: "Don't Catholics stand up for what's right anymore?"

            I recommend the Vox Nova blog and also the Commonweal blog (dotCommonweal) for those who find the brand of Catholicism here on Strange Notions perhaps more conservative than they are comfortable with.

          • ZenDruid

            Instead of firing the poor woman, it seems to me they should have transferred her to another diocese. That way, she could continue to teach.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            >So Catholic morality only enforces intrinsically evil actions? Has it come to that?

            Bishops make all kinds of prudential statements, so that means addressing non-intrinsically evil actions.

            Pope John Paul II told President Bush over and over that it would be a very bad idea to invade Iraq. It was a prudential judgment that turned out to be right.

          • Rationalist1

            Yes I agree it was a evil decision to invade Iraq. And all the Catholic politicians who were complicit in it. Did the Pope address them?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think you are assuming things about the role of the pope and the bishops that are not correct.

            Somethings are non-negotiable. If Bush had said "I'm gonna bomb Iraq into dust," the pope would have said, "That's murdering the innocents and no Catholic politician can support him."

            However, the decision to invade Iraq was prudential so it was up to the decision makers who alone are responsible for how it turned out.

          • Rationalist1

            Kevin - It was declared by the Vatican to be an unjust war. Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis were killed. The reason conservative Catholics in the US are not talking about it was they supported that war. They were cafeteria Catholics just as much as those who support gay marriage for non Catholics. Except no one was ever killed by gay marriage.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Vatican declared it an unjust war? Can you show me some evidence for that?

            http://catholicism.about.com/od/thechurchintheworld/f/popes_on_iraq.htm

          • Rationalist1

            http://www.foxnews.com/story/2003/03/12/vatican-strongly-opposes-iraq-war/

            http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0306-04.htm

            "The Holy See is convinced that in the efforts to draw strength from the wealth of peaceful tools provided by the international law, to resort to force would not be a just one."

            http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/secretariat_state/2003/documents/rc_seg-st_20030219_migliore-security-council_en.html

          • Thankfully it has been made clear here by so many that the Catholic Church doesn't know what it is talking about and has no moral authority. Probably if the Catholic Church opposes a war, atheists should enlist to fight that war.

          • Rationalist1

            I opposed that war. Most people I know did. But I don't think Catholics were told of their Church's opposition to it.

            As I mentioned in several comments, if the moderators post an article on Catholic ethics that doesn't involve sex, you might be surprised at the agreement you get from many atheists. And the oppostion you get from many conservative Catholics/

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You're right. I forgot about those very pointed statements.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I don't think this answers his question. I suspect he was asking about firings for violation of catholic teachings unrelated to sex. Being a poor teacher doesn't violate catholic doctrine, as far as I know.

          • Rationalist1

            Articulett found one but I don't think any Catholic would want to use that for a counter example.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            He said fired "for an action that wasn't sexually related."

            Only sensation reasons make the news anyway and they don't make the news unless the person being fired makes it known.

          • Rationalist1

            The moral was implied. My point is that the Catholic Church seems to only enforce sexual morality. I would love to be corrected on this.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You mean like firing a principal for embezzling?

          • Rationalist1

            That's a legal issue and the school wouldn't have a choice as the principal would be in jail.

            Has anyone been fired from a Catholic school for being racist? Has anyone ever been fired from a Catholic school for refusing the right of workers to organize (read Rerum Noverum)? Has anyone ever been fired from a Catholic school for supporting torture or an unjust war? Non of those things are illegal and the person would be sent to jail but theya are against Catholic morality.

          • Christian Stillings

            I'm not sure what role a Catholic school faculty member might have in refusing workers the right to organize, though perhaps you can enlighten me on some count? I'm not sure under what circumstances a Catholic school faculty member might proffer their perspective on torture; since the Church doesn't make official magisterial declarations about the justification of any particular armed conflict, Catholics can licitly hold their own perspectives on the matter so long as they strive to inform their perspectives according to Church teaching.

        • articulett, you do realize that no group or organization feeds, heals, teaches, or serves more people in the world than the Catholic Church. By every measure of scale, the Catholic Church is the world's preeminent social advocate.

          Also, I'm curious: what steps have you personally taken to protect those Africans wrongly accused of witchcraft? The Catholic Church, of course, has done many things including vigorously denouncing the activity on a world stage (cf. Pope Benedict's message in Angola on March 21, 2009) and hosting a three-day symposium on how to deal with the problem (cf. February 2007 at the Catholic University of East Africa),

          • Rationalist1

            The President of Angola is Catholic. Has the Pope held him accountable for how his country is treating witches and homosexuals?

          • articulett

            I'm sure that you believe that Catholics do more to serve the needy than anyone else... but I'm not sure I do. Besides they have made many of those needy by encouraging over reproduction and discouraging birth control. Moreover, the Vatican is wealthy-- it pays no taxes... I think it's important that they give back.

            But that doesn't make up for all the harms they've caused... not the Inquistion... nor the child abuse... nor the woman who have died because they were forbiden abortions... nor the Magdelena laundries.... none of it-- and it sure as hell doesn't make the teachings true. It encourages superstition, sexism, and the insane notion that invisible beings are communicating with some "chosen" people.

            I know that Catholics imagine that Catholics are more moral than everyone else-- but every believer in every relligion imagines that about their religion. And I think humanists are more moral-- moreover, when you measure things like crime rates and teen pregnancy-- the most religious areas are the worst-- not the best. All this crazed concern over contraception, gays, premarital sex, abortion, etc. isn't helping anyone-- as far as I can tell-- it's just helping the Catholic to produce more Catholics who feel guilty and in deed of the exorcsims or absolutions or penance or whatever it is the Catholic church is selling.

          • There was a great debate in London, before Christopher Hitchens became ill, in which he and Steven Fry took on Catholic Archbishop Onaiyekan and Catholic Member of Parliment Ann Widdecombe on the question "Is the Catholic Church a Force for Good in the World? You can watch that here:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrIHw0fZNOA

          • Christian Stillings

            Whether Catholic policy "causes need" is immaterial to the matter of what time and resources which the Church and its affiliated organizations put toward helping the needy.

            Articulett, if I may offer a gentle suggestion for future conversation on this site: please try to avoid bringing up too many issues in any single comment. You frequently bring up way more topics in any given comment than a Catholic conversant could answer, short of writing a novella (and that just gets exhausting really quickly). Your whole second paragraph consists of individual items which would be fascinating to discuss in greater depth, but they simply can't all be addressed in this particular context. Saying "I have problems with many things which happened through the Church and its affiliated organizations through the years" would be informative, constructive, and open the door to more measured conversation on the matter.

          • articulett

            O.K.

          • Christian Stillings

            Thanks! I look forward to further conversation. :-)

          • articulett

            O.K.

            (I'm trying to catch up to Q Quine who has (gasp) 666 posts as we speak. And Michael Murray has 665.)

          • Christian Stillings

            Fair enough. I'll tell you what: if you pose fewer questions per comment, you might be able to space your questions out and parlay them into a greater quantity of comments. :-)

          • BenS

            Whether drug dealer policy "causes need" is immaterial to the matter of what time and resources which the drug dealers and their affiliated pushers put toward helping the needy.

            Just to put it in context for you.

          • Christian Stillings

            BenS, I didn't say that it wasn't a material issue or worth discussing. I simply wanted to address one issue at a time. The frustration I often have with Articulett is that she floods us with (usually worthwhile) questions which can't all be co-addressed with a more thorough study of the particular issue being worked through at the time.

            In any event, the drug dealer does what he or she does knowing that it will cause addiction and a dependency cycle. Physiologically, the drug dealer's actions force the addicts' hands in terms of future action. The Church, on the other hand doesn't require anyone to do that which makes babies.

          • BenS

            The frustration I often have with Articulett is that she floods us with (usually worthwhile) questions which can't all be co-addressed with a more thorough study of the particular issue being worked through at the time.

            I understand that, on occasion, it can seem overwhelming but one can't blame atheists for the number of objectional points about the Catholic faith. :p

            In any event, the drug dealer does what he or she does knowing that it will cause addiction and a dependency cycle. Physiologically, the drug dealer's actions force the addicts' hands in terms of future action. The Church, on the other hand doesn't require anyone to do that which makes babies.

            But this is exactly how most organised religions work. Get them when they're most vulnerable (in distress, children etc) and then make them dependent on the faith by making them believe that they will be punished if they leave it. Look at the number of people on here who are utterly dependent on their faith and cannot imagine life without it. Sounds like an addict to me.

            Also, what's the issue about saying 'have sex'? Saying 'do that which makes babies' makes you sound like a child. I don't mean that as an insult, just an observation. It really does sound like a kid talking about his 'pee pee'. It's kind of jarring in intelligent discourse.

          • Christian Stillings

            I understand that, on occasion, it can seem overwhelming but one can't blame atheists for the number of objectional points about the Catholic faith. :p

            If one wants to have intelligent, constructive conversation (as I believe you and Articulett do, sometimes despite appearances), one needs to allow time and space to address particular issues. Asking a dozen questions in one comment is prohibitive to that kind of conversation. Let your own words indicate what kind of conversation you'd like to pursue. I suspect that Articulett's questions could be better answered if they were posed one-at-a-time than when they're all posed together. If she wants to hear serious answers, she should pose questions in a way that indicates such.

            But this is exactly how most organised religions work. Get them when they're most vulnerable (in distress, children etc) and then make them dependent on the faith by making them believe that they will be punished if they leave it. Look at the number of people on here who are utterly dependent on their faith and cannot imagine life without it. Sounds like an addict to me.

            First observation: the topic at hand was whether or not the Church "forces" people to have babies by maintaining its teaching against contraception. We were talking about the average person's relative ability to abstain from sex vs. an addict's relative inability to refrain from their drug of choice. I was noting that the Church doesn't force anyone to reproduce by having sex, whereas a drug dealer does essentially force people to become addicted to his goods. We weren't discussing why people do or don't hold religious beliefs. Please try to at least continue the conversation about the topic at hand.

            Second observation: “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” - C.S. Lewis

            I wasn't raised Catholic. If I had wanted a religion that promised me an prosperous life and heaven for "being a good person", I could've subscribed to Joel Osteen-grade Protestantism. Why bother with sin, repentance, weekly Mass attendance, and so on when you can "have your best life now" without all that messy theology? I didn't become Catholic because I wanted a safety blanket; I became Catholic because I was convinced, and am still, that it's true. If I didn't believe it was true, I'd leave it in a second. You think I enjoy living day-to-day according to Catholic moral teaching?

            Also, what's the issue about saying 'have sex'? Saying 'do that which makes babies' makes you sound like a child. I don't mean that as an insult, just an observation. It really does sound like a kid talking about his 'pee pee'. It's kind of jarring in intelligent discourse.

            I agree that it's an odd phrase; however, as we were discussing the relationship between having sex and the consequential having-of-babies ("does the Church force people to have babies by teaching against contraception?"), I think that the phrase suited the circumstance. As we WEIRD types (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) tend to conceptually divorce the idea of having sex from the idea of creating babies, I thought the phrase might be a helpful reminder of what exactly we were talking about in regard to sex.

          • BenS

            If one wants to have intelligent, constructive conversation (as I believe you and Articulett do, sometimes despite appearances)

            Good. More snark. That's what this conversation needs.

            , one needs to allow time and space to address particular issues.

            You have all the time in the world, no-one's setting a clock and this is the internet, you're not going to run out of paper. Take as long as you like and as much screen space as you like to address the issues.

            I was noting that the Church doesn't force anyone to reproduce by having sex, whereas a drug dealer does essentially force people to become addicted to his goods.

            Then you're making your own straw argument about nothing in particular. Perhaps the church doesn't force people to reproduce by having sex, but it DOES attempt to force its adherents not to use contraception during sex which *can* lead to reproduction where, with the use of contraception, it doesn't need to.

            We weren't discussing why people do or don't hold religious beliefs. Please try to at least continue the conversation about the topic at hand.

            Your condescension doesn't impress me, especially when you fail to recognise that the topics go hand in hand. Sucking someone in and then making them dependent is classic drug dealer behaviour. I realise religious people don't like to hear that, but tough.

            Why bother with sin, repentance, weekly Mass attendance, and so on when you can "have your best life now" without all that messy theology?

            Beats me. All the reponses to this question tend to blather on about some unevidenced 'after life' to justify it. But there's a word in that sentence that causes me to disregard those responses. You know which it is.

            If I didn't believe it was true, I'd leave it in a second. You think I enjoy living day-to-day according to Catholic moral teaching?

            I make no claims to any comprehension as to how your (or any faith following person's) mind works or what you enjoy. I rely on them to tell me. I'm assuming from this that you don't enjoy it. Well, you can always stop.

            ...tend to conceptually divorce the idea of having sex from the idea of creating babies, I thought the phrase might be a helpful reminder of what exactly we were talking about in regard to sex.

            I think most of us understand what sex is, how it works and what potential outcomes there can be. The point is, sex doesn't always need to 'make babies'. Even without contraception it's not always the case that babies appear and even conception isn't guaranteed to make a baby as abortion and miscarriage often get in the way.

            Referring to it as 'that which makes babies' is as inaccurate as describing putting a knife in a drawer as 'doing that which kills people'. Yes, pushing a knife forward CAN kill people, but only in certain circumstances. Not every act of pushing a knife forward has the intention of murder and not every act of sexual intercourse has the intention of reproduction.

            Denying people contraception needlessly and pointlessly increases the chance of conception where it may not be required or wanted.

          • Christian Stillings

            I'm sorry for my snark. I think this site provides excellent opportunities for sorting through issues systematically and thoroughly. I become frustrated when I think that something is derailing the possibility of exploring issues well, whether swamping the conversation with too many questions or (seemingly) moving a yet-incomplete conversation in a different direction; however, my frustration doesn't justify snarkiness. Point taken, sir.

            You have all the time in the world, no-one's setting a clock and this is the internet, you're not going to run out of paper. Take as long as you like and as much screen space as you like to address the issues.

            I'm happy to use my elective time to discuss things on this site, and I know that I could hypothetically write as much as I want, provided sufficient time. However, if Articulett raises a dozen questions, I can't respond to each with a detailed apologia without taking five hours to write a novella. Considering my own elective time, and remembering that this site's articles and comments are also for the benefit of non-commenting readers, I'm hesitant to write such novellas. I don't often have that kind of elective time, and it would hardly be beneficial for people to see the length of my comment and say "TL;DR". Sure, we could sort through things that way, but I don't think it's anywhere near the best way to approach things. I think conversations will be more constructive and readable/digestible if they systematically address one (or a few) issue(s) at a time.

            Then you're making your own straw argument about nothing in particular. Perhaps the church doesn't force people to reproduce by having sex, but it DOES attempt to force its adherents not to use contraception during sex which *can* lead to reproduction where, with the use of contraception, it doesn't need to.

            I thought the conversation was about creating need/dependency/etcetera. The drug dealer creates need by essentially causing his clients to become addicted. The Church doesn't compel greater need by making people have children. The conversation stemmed from Articulett's charge that

            Besides they have made many of those needy by encouraging over reproduction and discouraging birth control.

            My point was that the Church doesn't make people needy. You brought in the drug dealer comparison, which I thought implied that the Church compelled people to make babies in the same way that addiction compels an addict to his or her drug(s). I think that's false, and I was contesting it. Please let me know if I'm off the mark here.

            Your condescension doesn't impress me, especially when you fail to recognise that the topics go hand in hand. Sucking someone in and then making them dependent is classic drug dealer behaviour. I realise religious people don't like to hear that, but tough.

            I apologize for my condescension. If you want to discuss "religious belief as a psychological phenomena similar to drug addiction", I'm happy to.

            I think people have beliefs about what is true, and they pass these on to others: parents to children, teachers to students, superiors to subordinates, and so on. If beliefs which are held and passed on lead people to certain behavior patterns, so be it- my beliefs about nutritional sustenance and groceries compel me to go to the store; my beliefs about the sacraments compel me to go to Mass. I don't think "religious" belief "sucks people in" any differently than "non-religious" belief. I you want to discuss different beliefs and the relative justifications of each in light of mutually accessible evidence, that's fine. However, that's a different matter than "beliefs and corresponding actions as phenomena in people's lives".

            I make no claims to any comprehension as to how your (or any faith following person's) mind works or what you enjoy. I rely on them to tell me. I'm assuming from this that you don't enjoy it. Well, you can always stop.

            I said "living day-to-day", not "living altogether". There are times when I quite desire to do something and my creed restricts me from it. However, I look back on the situation and am glad that I went by my creed instead of my impulse. I'm happy to abide by the temporary discomforts of Catholic ethics for the greater good which is engendered by following them faithfully.

            Regarding your last three paragraphs, I'd like to briefly speak from experience and circumstance: for the last two years, I've attended a relatively small, very "socially progressive" liberal arts college. Of all the conversation on campus about sexual practices and ethics- and there's a lot of it- I haven't heard a single word connecting the idea of sex to the idea of babies. The idea of the sexual act as having anything to do with reproduction is completely foreign to the campus culture. If I make generalizations, this is where I'm coming from.

            You're right that not every sexual act needs to cause conception. However, the nature of the sexual act, which is to get him to use his stuff to leave some of his other stuff in her stuff (to be obtusely tactful), is toward causing conception. Every abortion which is not related to rape- which is to say, the vast majority of them- is the result of people thinking they could avoid the reproductive nature of sex and failing to do so.

            Honestly, I'm not sure how putting a knife in a drawer is likely to cause injury or death. I just emptied the dishwasher, and I don't think that the put-away silverware is likely to harm anyone. In any event, I agree that holding a knife and jabbing your hand forward will only cause injury if someone's there. When the man jabs his thing forward in sex, there's always someone there. The tendency of sex is toward conception, though the likelihood of conception can be decreased by various means. Unless you're saying that the natural tendency of any knife-holding person is to have another party standing in front of him or her, I'm not sure that it's a great comparison.

            Denying people contraception needlessly and pointlessly increases the chance of conception where it may not be required or wanted.

            I think you're starting on the wrong foot by implying that use-of-contraception should be thought of as square one. Instead of saying "lack of contraception increases", I'd say "contraception decreases". For better or for worse, sex is not naturally contracepted- we change something to make it so. I'd think of not-having-contraception as more natural and thus in terms of "giving people contraception decreases the chance of conception" and not the other way around. I agree that contraception plays a factor in the likelihood of conception, but whether or not it should be used is a different question.

          • CrismusCactus

            "There are cases of girls that come with ectopic pregnancies and they are left to bleed to death because here it's not allowed to terminate the pregnancy," Rodriguez said. "To me that's a criminal act."

            For me, this is the sort of thing that closes the book on any Catholic claims to reproductive morality. While Articulett gets told to stop going off on tangents, these tangents appear more material to any discussion of Theist/Atheist views on life than Father Barron's pompous musings. Perhaps we should discuss the two articles she links to.

            Like Ted Seeber, I am starting to question the point of this.

          • For me, this is the sort of thing that closes the book on any Catholic claims to reproductive morality.

            I know it must seem like I am defending Catholic sexual morality here, but I am not. Health Minister Rodriguez is justifiably complaining about El Salvador law and how doctors there interpret it. Catholic medical ethics has never forbidden surgery in the case of hemorrhaging due to ectopic pregnancy. And since about the 1930s, Catholic medical ethics has permitted surgery that ends an ectopic pregnancy as soon as it is discovered that it exists.

            I think the Church in El Salvador is very much responsible for the abortion law there, but the law is badly written and is not in accord with Catholic medical ethics. I am not an expert on the Church in El Salvador, but from what I know, the bishops there have done a very poor job of seeing that what is permitted by Catholic medical ethics is also permitted by the law.

          • Sample1

            Not by my scale.

            I think our species would be better off without the existence of the Catholic Church. And I'm not alone. Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating anything immoral. It's a thought experiment. The taiga of Siberia, the temperate rainforests of Alaska, the jungles near the equator, the oceans, and even the gas giants beyond Mars are much more important to my health and welfare than some carrot and stick philosophy that any child can see right through.

            In reply to:

            By every measure of scale, the Catholic Church is the world's preeminent social advocate (Brandon Vogt)

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Well, I can acquire material goods just for my own benefit. Or I can acquire them as a way to help my family, friends and the common good. I think the second course of action is oriented by love.

        • articulett

          Or you can do both. Or you can have hidden reasons. Or you can do it without really knowing why you are doing it just like an ant collects food for it's colony.

          But didn't Jesus say to sell your possessions and follow him? In fact, I think he tells you to leave your family behind... even to hate them.

          Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
          (Luke 14:25-27 ESV)

          Yikes-- not very loving nor pro-family. Not very responsible either.

        • Rationalist1

          Would you say there is a moral limit to what we should accumulate for our family? If I have a modest house and live a modest life style (alas very modest) that would be acceptable. If I were to win 100 million in the lottery (I don't play because I know math) what level of opulence would be acceptable.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes. I don't like his politics, but I understand Warren Buffet lives a pretty simple life. Same with Sam Walton.

            I added the common good because wealth can be either invested or given away to benefit many others.

          • BenS

            Same with Sam Walton.

            Sam Walton is living a very simple life indeed. He's been dead for 20 years.

          • BenS

            If I were to win 100 million in the lottery (I don't play because I know math) what level of opulence would be acceptable.

            Whenever I've put this to those who take exception to 'excessive' wealth, the level of opulence always appears to be very, very similar to what they have or what they believe they can achieve. It's never lower than what they have...

          • Rationalist1

            I've never known someone who would claim they are rich. It's like this article (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/08/fashion/08halfmill.html?_r=0 ). Icould never figure out if it was meant to be ironic or not,

        • articulett

          What about having kids you can't afford--

          Who should pay for their upbringing? Who should pay for the raising of rape babies? Or children with severe birth defects, or oops babies, or unwanted kids?

          • Leila Miller

            "Rape babies"? You mean, human beings? I can find you a thousand couples right this minute who would adopt and raise a child conceived in rape (many that I know personally, who are homestudy ready). They are lined up and waiting. As for those babies with severe birth defects, I am part of a group of advocates (Reece's Rainbow) that works with hundreds of people trying to adopt babies with serious special needs. In many cases, the costs to adopt are exorbitant and prohibitive, as are the long lines of red tape and restrictions.

            "Oops" babies? You mean, babies who were conceived during the baby-making act, but the parents didn't expect that the baby-making act might actually make a baby? The responsible thing would be for the parents of the child to raise their child, or else place the child lovingly and unselfishly for adoption. The only reason a child is "unwanted" is because the adults have decided they don't want him/her. The solution? Start loving and wanting the children we create. Imagine a culture that did that!

          • articulett

            Your bible doesn't consider babies to be human lives nor does he consider them capable of being murdered. He actually considers them on par with a cow.
            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/02/18/the-biblical-view-thats-younger-than-the-happy-meal/

            Of course, women were property too-- notice how they are not considered your neighbors-- instead they are your "neighbor's wife"

            And your god seems to be all for killing of fetuses-- remember that flood... and Numbers 31: 31:17- Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. 31:1-8 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

            (Kill the pregnant women, and can and rape their vigin daughters-- your Jesus-god, says.)

            Moreover, if god is responsible for miscarriages, he is clearly the biggest aboritonist of them all. Also, per bible myth, the has no problem wiping out prenant women, fetuses, puppies, bunnies, and who bunch of his other "mistakes" in a flood.

            I've raised my own child and other peoples' children as well as a slew of unwanted animals-- but Catholics are often conservative and want to cut social programs, education, and medical care to these babies they think should be brought into the world. Their concern for a fetus extends as far as their wallets. They want to force a woman to give birth to an anencephalic baby (god apparently makes mistakes), but they don't want their taxes to go up to pay for the care of that baby until it dies. So spare me the hypocrisy.

            By the way-- where do children/fetuses go when they die?
            And what happens to them if they grow up and are gay or become atheists or Mormons or Muslims? I would say it's immoral to bring children in the world if you think there is the slightest possibility they could suffer forever.

            Your "solutions" are childish solutions-- just like your priests. There are eons of women who could tell you exactly how unworkable these idea are. Fortunatley, most Catholics are better than the god they worship and practice birth control because they've learned from history.

            Yes, how nice it would be if everyone could love babies on demand-- but most people don't want other people plopping out tons of babies that society will pollute the planet, compete for jobs, spread their prejudices, and will need to be cared for by society if the parents can't/don't/won't do their job.

            Worry about the babie you bring into the world and spend your time and income on the many unwanted chldren infoster care, shelters, and the like-- and let everyone else decide for themselves how to live their lives. Nobody but Catholics think that they are in a position to judge others. And nobody but Catholics think that virgin men who have never had any families should be giving anyone else advice on the topic.

            By the way-- you say you care about truth? What makes you think you have any more truth than the Muslim woman popping out babies or the Mormon woman doing the same? Faith and feelings are clearly not a valid method for getting at the truth-- and with a slew of children, you-- like them-- have a vested interest in beleiving the lie that encouraged you to have all those children. You are not able to even consider that souls/gods/demons/heaven/hell/angels/saints/divinity is not real.

          • Leila Miller

            articulett, first, are you actually wanting to dialogue, or are you just venting? Who could possibly begin to answer all your (well-worn, oft-addressed) points in a combox? Seriously?

            Let me just throw a couple of things out there that strike me immediately: First, you may have mistaken me for an evangelical Protestant. Are you aware that that your link is about evangelicals? I am a Catholic. Do you understand the foundational theological differences between Protestants and Catholics (for example, Catholics do not subscribe to sola fide)? Let me know if you don't, and then I can refer you to a site that can give the basic differences so that you are arguing with the right audience.

            Second, God is not just "the biggest guy in the room" who is just like us but with more power. You fundamentally misunderstand who the Christian God is (I highly, highly recommend Fr. Barron's Catholicism DVD series -- heck, even PBS ran it!). The Author of life itself is not unjust in the taking of life. But again, you are seeing him as a reflection of humanity. Not so.

            Third, you said: "Yes, how nice it would be if everyone could love babies on demand…." Yes! It sure would be! Loving children, cherishing our own babies when they come to us… imagine that! Oh, the horrors of such a teaching. ;) You know what? We actually can do it! Love is a choice, not a feeling, so we can love on demand. No excuses.

            Fourth, the rest of what you wrote seems to me just sort of a diatribe against Catholics. Once, I took on a woman named "Choice" on my blog, who brought up all the old, tired arguments against the Church in someone else's combox. I answered her points one by one. Perhaps you would be interested in how it went. And how she ultimately apologized for her tone and ignorance:

            http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/04/answering-choice-who-describes-herself.html

          • Leila Miller

            By the way, you slander pro-life Catholics when you parrot the line that we don't care about children beyond our wallets. It's simply an untruth:

            http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/03/pro-lifers-love-fetus-but-they-dont.html

          • articulett

            It's my experience-- conservatives are much more likely to complain about money being used for social causes-- education, medical care etc. The secular democracies of Scandinavia havve m

          • Leila Miller

            It's because we often find those programs wasteful, ineffective and even corrupting. We all agree that we must help those who cannot help themselves. But we are very free to disagree on how best to help folks. Throwing money at a massive federal program is rarely the best way, in my opinion, and often the worst. Catholics believe in something called subsidiarity. Most people like it when they hear about it:

            http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/10/subsidiarity-why-havent-i-heard-this.html

          • articulett

            The Catholic consevatives I know are hypocrites. They don't really want black people and hispanic people to have more children-- and certainly not Muslims and Jews-- just white Catholics-- and they sure don't want an increase in taxes to support a growing population. They tend to own guns, be pro-war and pro-death penalty too but they swear they are "pro-life". Most that I know are smart enough to use birth control so I have to give them that. They recognize that nature's population control of disease, famine, war, and the like are crueler than preventing unwanted lives in the first place-- I only know one family doing NFP, and it seems to me they are regretting it. I've live a lont enough life to see many regrets.

            Catholics think they are moral for what they believe... which is probably true of all religous conservatives. Catholics don't really think "faith" is good-- just their BRAND of it. Religious people have to hang around each other so they can keep patting themselves on the back for how great and moral they are for believing the crazy stuff they believe. In a way, I think they HAVE to do this-- because they believe in a god who will punish them for all eternity if they don't. For this reason, many don't seem capable of conversations that put their cherished beliefs into question. I don't think Catholics Conservatives are any worse than any other conservative or religioius nutter-- I just don't think their supernatural beliefs are true or any more worthy of respect than the supernatural believes they reject. Moreover, I don't believe they'd even want to KNOW if they were wrong-- Like those brainwashed into other faiths, they'd rather believe that they are right even if that isn't the case.

          • Leila Miller

            Honestly, articulett, you are being condescending, rude, bigoted, and you are calling names. You are being personally insulting. I think you are violating the rules of commenting on this blog. And, you are just rehashing every boring anti-Catholic screed we've heard a million times. You are not interested in dialogue from what I can tell. I tried.

            Meantime, this African woman would take STRONG issue with your first paragraph, and she is fighting the good fight all the way:

            http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2012/08/an-african-womans-open-letter-to.html

          • severalspeciesof

            The Author of life itself is not unjust in the taking of life.

            I've never understood how anyone can say that without grimacing, especially if they equate life with 'gift' and even more so if the taking of said life is done through a painful and drawn out process...

            It's not much of a gift if I can take it back willy-nilly...

          • But of course Christians don't believe life is over when a person dies. What follows is eternal life, and if a person deserves it, eternal happiness that allegedly makes earthly happiness pale in comparison. Whether you believe that or not, the people who say what Leila Miller says believe it. And so you must judge the statement by what they believe.

            If I had given you a tricycle, would it be not much of a gift if I took it back and gave you a Rolls-Royce?

          • severalspeciesof

            If I had given you a tricycle, would it be not much of a gift if I took it back and gave you a Rolls-Royce?

            Well, if it entailed years of agonizing pain, not so sure...

            I do though understand what you are saying in terms of their beliefs, But I don't think I need to judge that statement by what they believe when I see that belief as wanting... If they truly believe that life is eternal, then that statement ('...take life', with no qualifiers) confuses the issue...

          • I think it is incumbent on those who would criticize Christianity to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of it. It seems to me that the Christian belief that people have immortal souls is so basic, a Christian should not have to explain that if God causes someone to die, they continue on to the afterlife. If you don't know that Christians don't believe people are annihilated when they die, you don't know what it means to a Christian to talk about death. But of course, in a discussion like this, it would be wise of Christians defending their position to be as explicit as possible.

          • severalspeciesof

            I appreciate this response. I am quite familiar with Christianity... went from Catholic to non-denominational to Baptist (CMA, I guess!!). This type of comment (The Author of life itself is not unjust in the taking of life.) also just rings to me as a type of discussion stopper...

            It seems to me that the Christian belief that people have immortal souls
            is so basic, a Christian should not have to explain that if God causes
            someone to die, they continue on to the afterlife.

            Yet many Christians go to great lengths to keep a person alive in the here and now as though this is all there is, i.e. death is very, very real to them...

          • I would never deny that death is very, very real. It also seems to me that some Christians (maybe most) tend to act as if death were the end of everything, to be avoided or at least postponed at any cost. (By the way, I haven't the vaguest idea what, if anything at all, happens after death.) That some people have weak faith, or are downright hypocrites, does not necessarily reflect poorly on the things they claim to believe.

            Also, I don't suppose you would deny it can work the other way, would you? Do you suppose there aren't people who paid no attention to religion, or even called themselves atheists, who don't "get religion" when they are in danger of death? I think there is probably a lot of truth to the old saying about there being no atheists in foxholes. There may even be no atheists holding lottery tickets for $250 million dollars right before the numbers are drawn.

          • severalspeciesof

            Do you suppose there aren't people who paid no attention to religion, or
            even called themselves atheists, who don't "get religion" when they are
            in danger of death? I think there is probably a lot of truth to the old
            saying about there being no atheists in foxholes.

            No one can know this, unless they could be raised back from the dead and asked about it... 'Fear' of the unknown is what triggers a response from humans to get into a 'comfort zone'. That can take as many forms as there are people and situations. Some people just might not fear death and may even welcome it...

          • No one can know this, unless they could be raised back from the dead and asked about it...

            Not everyone in danger of death actually dies.

            I can cite no statistics, but I would guess it is quite common for people who find themselves without any real power to cope with a major problem to get more religious than they were before, or to turn to religion when they had previously rejected it. Wasn't Christopher Hitchens considered somewhat heroic for remaining his own, atheist, irascible self when dying of cancer?

          • Sage McCarey

            A year before my sister died when it became obvious to everyone except her that she was rapidly going down hill,(childhood onset of rheumatoid arthritis and complications throughout her life) I asked "What do you think about life after death, heaven and hell?" She said, "I don't think about it." That appalled me because I have been so interested in religion. Two weeks before she died, she insisted I come to see her at a certain time. I noticed after arriving that she and her daughter were giving each other these looks???

            So then the minister arrives. That made her room quite crowded so I went outside to give them room. My niece comes and insists my sister wants me to return to her room. Then my sister says, "Do you think you will go to heaven when you die?" My mission is to say goodbye and comfort my sister so I ask her, "Do you think you are going to heaven?" She and the minister beam at each other and she says, "Oh, I know I will."

          • Sage McCarey

            This, of course, is the reason for religion. I definitely see why we want to believe in the soul and a life after death. It's not easy to lose the ones we love, and the ego fights against the end of our own consciousness. "If God causes someone to die, they continue on to the afterlife." The afterlife is supposed to be so wonderful. Then why be so upset about abortion? Why try so hard to keep people alive using all the medical means? Why is it just as hard for Christians to lose loved ones as non-believers?

          • Leila Miller

            It doesn't make me grimace. Again, you act as if God is just another guy, only bigger and stronger. This is not it at all. There is not injustice in a Creator who (for lack of a better term) de-animates the physical part of his own creation. You don't like the idea, I suppose, because you see it as an annihilation of sorts? Yet (taking on a Christian perspective for a moment) what do you suppose happens to the just when their earthly life is over? They do live on, and quite blissfully. And, we even get our bodies back in the resurrection (even those who have chosen hell, though their bodies will not be glorified as will the bodies of the just). God's given us the dignity that our eternal destiny is our choice, and is in our hands, no matter when God takes us.

            Again, I really recommend Fr. Barron's Catholicism DVD series.

          • Your bible doesn't consider babies to be human lives nor does it consider them capable of being murdered. The bible actually considers them on par with a cow.

            That is such a crude misstatement of the actual facts that there is scarcely any point in critiquing in. Anybody who takes it seriously will not not listen to reason.

          • articulett

            I can see why you'd want to skirt the fact that your bible doesn't consider fetuses to be babies. Really. See if you can find one passage where they treat a fetus as such. Of course woman and children were both considerd property back then-- but, unlike the teachings of the Catholic church... a woman's life was more valuable than the fetus she was carrying. Catholic teachings say that the mother should not have an abortion even if it is to save the mother's life. For shame. Fortunately few Catholics are as immoral as the teachings of their church.

            So what happens to fetuses that die. Do they go to heaven per Catholic teaching? If the fetuses were born and grew up to be atheists-- would they go to

          • Randy Gritter

            The story of Mary visiting Elizabeth in Luke 1. John the baptists jumps in the womb of Elizabeth. I think that would be an example of two fetuses being treated like babies.

          • Jeremiah 1:4-5 Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

            Psalms 22:9-10 Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

            Job 31:15 Did not he who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?

            Psalm 139:13-16 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

            Isaiah 49:1.5 Listen to me, you islands; hear this you distant nations: Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name. And now the Lord says — he who formed me in the womb to be his servant . . .

            Luke 1:41.44 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed, “ . . . As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”

            Galatians 1:15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace.

          • Sage McCarey

            Most of these quotes seem to me to be much more about "oh, how special I am" than whether or not fetuses are all to be carried to term.

          • articulette wanted quotes from the Bible in which fetuses are treated as babies. I think all of these qualify. I wouldn't claim to use these in an argument about abortion (as many pro-lifers would). But the quotes do, I think, show fetuses being regarded as persons. I think a baby in a womb leaping for joy is a particularly strong one.

          • Andre Boillot

            "But the quotes do, I think, show fetuses being regarded as persons."

            Perhaps, though probably not with the *full* rights that the born enjoy. Exodus 21: 22-25:

            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. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

            http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus%2021:22%20-%20Exodus%2021:25&version=NRSVCE

          • Yes, this is a key passage used in Jewish thought to justify abortion to save the life of the mother. In Jewish thought, an unborn child is not fully a person. It becomes one only by birth. I once had a fairly prominent pro-lifer acknowledge that if he could, he would work with (Orthodox) Jews to prohibit all the abortions that Jews and Catholics agree should not be permitted, and if that was achieved, he'd turn around and work to get the abortions prohibited that Jews considered permissible (even mandatory). That lowered my already low opinion of him.

          • Randy Gritter

            You are referring to changes in evangelical thinking. Catholic teaching on abortion and contraception has been much more consistent. They have changed their thinking on what is abortion and what is contraception based on new science. Still they were moving acts from one level of immorality to another. That is quite different from saying it is fine and then later saying it is gravely immoral.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          But again, why do all actions need to be oriented by love. (Oriented... bah. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Oriented means "given direction by". If my actions are routinely oriented by selfishness, my marriage and family life are in big trouble.

            The need for all actions to be oriented by charity, that is, the good of the other, is (I think) a Judeo-Christian doctrine but one that can be shown to be reasonable.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But that's not what was said. You keep turning this into a black and white situation: everything with love or nothing with love. Life is generally more complex than catholic doctrine makes it out to be.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I guess in some ways Catholics are reductionists: It all comes down to love. God loves us and we are to love God and one another.

            That is not so bad because charity includes willing the best for yourself, too. There is also a huge scope for human freedom with a million ways to choose good ends and good means to those ends.

            Can you think of things you want to do that would keep you from doing them if you did everything for love?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I don't understand what your question is asking.

            And reciprocal altruism is an excellent survival mechanism.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            My question meant to ask, "What are examples of things you might want to do, which you could not do, if you could only do things that contributed to your or someone else's true good?"

            > Reciprocal altruism is an excellent survival mechanism.

            Exactly! That speaks to natural law. We are in our nature social beings. Reciprocal altruism is key to social living.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      I'm willing to entertain the idea, but the problems will arise when we get around to defining what the 'good of the other' actually is.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Why don't you take a stab at defining it?

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Umm, the catholics are the ones who make this claim; why not start with them?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Well. Start with Fr. Barron's "good of the other."

            I would only qualify it adding "true" to good.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And how do you define 'true'? For Barron, it's according to the tenets of his faith, regardless of whether the loved one shares that faith.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            A definition of "true" is "corresponds to objective reality" as best we can discern it. Here are some examples. A true good for horses is not sitting in a chair eating steak but romping around grassy meadows. The true good for an alcoholic is not continuing ruining his health and harming his family but getting sober, despite the hardship involved. Another true good is taking responsibility for the child you have conceived rather than flaking out.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You choose simple cases. What about something more complex like gay marriage. Or even gay sex? The church requiring you to will the good of the other would require you to do everything you can to prevent someone you love having gay sex. But why should anyone accept your definition of what is good?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Are you disagreeing with the general definition or just the specific application to gay sex?

            The Church does not require me to do everything I can to prevent someone I love from having gay sex. I can only use moral and prudent means.

            The only basis for someone like you accepting my definition of sexual ethics is reason and experience, just as the same is true for some like me accepting your definition.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The general definition contains serious problems. Simply because a hand seems designed for grasping things, does that mean it should not be used to smooth things out?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't follow. The human hand can be used for a myriad of things.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Precisely. It can be used for sexual stimulation, for example. The human mouth can be used in a variety of ways - again, for sexual stimulation, as an example.

          • Leila Miller

            And a hand may be used for moral good or evil, of course. But strictly biologically, a hand can be used to squeeze, grasp, pick up, smooth out, etc. Now, apply it to a situation (is he strangling, stealing?) and we can see if a man used his hand and its function for good ends or evil ends.

            But organ systems seem a different thing altogether, no? Should the reproductive system be used within the digestive tract? Is that rightly ordered, even biologically speaking? Even before we get to the moral question, we can already see that it's not rightly ordered.

          • BenS

            Should the fingers be used inside the reproductive tract? Should the reproductive organ be used inside the food intake hatch?

            It seems 'rightly ordered' consists of things Catholics believe is acceptable and 'not rightly ordered' consists of things they don't.

            It's not 'rightly ordered' for an adult male to suck on the nipples of an adult female - he doesn't need the sustenance and it's primarily done for her pleasure. I don't hear them crying about how it's not 'rightly ordered'.

            An adult female sucking the nipples of an adult female? Just listen for the howls of 'not rightly ordered' outrage.

          • Leila Miller

            "The food intake hatch" is part of the digestive tract. Should reproductive fluids be released there? Or in the colon? Um, no. Again, biologically, we can see that fairly clearly (leaving out the argument of "because I want to").

            The reproductive system is the only organ system that is not complete in the body of one person. It needs the body of the opposite sex to complete its function. It needs complementarity. That's how that system works. Again, I am talking strictly biology, which should be okay with materialists. Are you saying that the reproductive system should be used in the digestive tract?

            As for kissing and loving on the body of the beloved (nipples, etc.): Yes, it's okay (and rightly ordered) to kiss the body of one's beloved. That type of intimacy is a privilege of marriage, and it's foreplay that arouses the reproductive organs, no? That's one way to get the train to leave the station, lol.

            But the question again: Is it rightly ordered to use the reproductive organ system within the digestive tract?

          • BenS

            The reproductive system is the only organ system that is not complete in the body of one person.

            Actually, it is. It's just that different genders have different complete reproductive systems.

            But the question again: Is it rightly ordered to use the reproductive organ system within the digestive tract?

            This is a null question because you're defining the phrase 'rightly ordered' to mean whatever you want it to mean. It's a nonsense phrase. You twist the definition to suit your own person whims.

            It IS 'rightly ordered' to put a nipple in the mouth but it's not to put a penis there. It is to put an excretory organ in the reproductive organ but not an excretory organ in the digestive organ. Utterly arbitrary. So if we're going to pluck our own phrases out of the air and apply our own utterly arbitrary definitions then let me ask you:

            Is it 'correctly bodacious' to use the reproductive organ in the digestive tract?

          • Leila Miller

            "Actually, it is. It's just that different genders have different complete reproductive systems."

            I don't understand what this means. How so? Is a male able to reproduce on his own? Or a woman? The root of "reproduction" is (obviously) "reproduce". How can reproduction be completed with only a male? Or only a female?

          • BenS

            I don't understand what this means.

            Then go and read a biology book. If you don't even understand what a complete organ is then I'm not going to spend 3 years bringing you up to speed.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            We don't actually 'see fairly clearly.' You appear to be making arbitrary assignments of correct vs. incorrect without a consistent pattern.

          • Andre Boillot

            Obviously we make the exception for urinary systems finding there way into reproductive ones. That's ordered.

          • BenS

            And don't mention the cloaca. Such a thing could never exist in an ordered nature.

          • Leila Miller

            Andre, not sure what you mean as far as our discussion?

            That the urinary tract shares space with the reproductive organs is a design of the body. It's rightly ordered and completely passive.

          • Andre Boillot

            "That the urinary tract shares space with the reproductive organs is a design of the body. It's rightly ordered and completely passive."

            Maybe all the nerve endings surrounding the "exit" of the digestive tract are a signal of design too? What if sodomy was what God intended as "natural" birth control?

            Also, kissing? Gross, that's two parts of the digestive system not being used for their ordered design. Because the creator of the unfathomably large universe cares that you're not using his clumsy design as intended...

          • Leila Miller

            LOL, okay, Andre. Because making that 1-2% of the human population homosexually inclined is effective "birth control" for the human race (hasn't worked… aren't we overpopulated?).

            Where do you think reproduction will evolve to eventually? It's so clumsy and we have to kill so many of our unwanted offspring now, it's just an awful system, don't you think? Do you think one day we will asexually reproduce?

            Are you aware of any cultures that did not think mouths were to be used for kissing? I am not aware of any. How else do we kiss, except for the mouth? I mean, I guess there are "eskimo kisses"...

          • Andre Boillot

            "Because making that 1-2% of the human population homosexually inclined is effective "birth control" for the human race"

            Sigh. Sodomy =/= homosexuality.

            "It's so clumsy and we have to kill so many of our unwanted offspring now, it's just an awful system, don't you think?"

            I was noting the clumsiness from a design stand-point. As in, the hygienic implications of the proximity of the waste-disposal and reproductive systems. If you want to broaden the scope into how wasteful most all animal reproduction is by "design", I'll happily go that route too.

            "Are you aware of any cultures that did not think mouths were to be used for kissing? I am not aware of any."

            Thanks for pointing out that cultural norms have helped us overcome what should be a gross mis-use of the digestive track (also, there are plenty of cultures that were, and are, just fine with sodomy). But seriously, what is it about the case you can make for kissing (a re-purposing of the digestive system) that I can't make for sodomy?

          • Leila Miller

            Interesting that you don't see that mouths actually are for kissing (not that "cultural norms" somehow eventually took humans there from a "no-kissing-with-mouths" stance). Mouths have always been for kissing, by everyone and all cultures; arms have always been used for hugging, by everyone and all cultures. Anuses (an exit for human waste) have not always been used as receptacle for the penis to ejaculate sperm, which is a reproductive function. This is not hard to understand, Andre.

            If cultural norms can help us overcome the "gross" use of reproductive organs in the digestive tract, then perhaps they can also help us one day overcome the "gross" use of human reproductive organs inside of animals, no? It could happen. Everything is a social construct, correct? We shouldn't look to how biology is ordered, according to your view, I suppose. (And if the "consent" issue is a problem for using reproductive organs in animals, then dead animals could be substituted, no? If not, would you use a either a biological or a moral argument against it?)

            As for sodomy that is non-homosexual: I have been a woman for a long, long time. I went to public K-12 and then attended the biggest party school in New England for college. I have met thousands of women, and have befriended hundreds. I can only speak anecdotally, but never once have I known a woman who loved or even really liked committing acts of sodomy. Some were traumatized by it (especially anal), some were forced or coerced or guilted into it, some tolerated it for their men, and some used it to wield an unhealthy power over their men. But trust me when I tell you that women aren't telling you what they really think about sodomy. And that's all I really want to say about that.

          • BenS

            But trust me when I tell you that women aren't telling you what they
            really think about sodomy.

            I'm sure women everywhere are delighted to know that you're painting them all as liars.

            And no, I won't trust you. I'd rather trust my own sexual partner than someone on the internet making blind, sweeping statements about every other woman on the planet. Somehow, that person doesn't sound particularly trustworthy.

          • Leila Miller

            Okey-dokey, Ben.

          • BenS

            Good riposte. Really countered my observation that you're not eligible to speak for all women there.

          • Leila Miller

            I just think it's best I not say anything more on the subject. I stand by my statement. You are free to believe otherwise, of course.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It's not that we 'believe' otherwise. We KNOW otherwise.

          • BenS

            I just think it's best I not say anything more on the subject. I stand by my statement. You are free to believe otherwise, of course.

            It's not a belief. It's a fact that you don't speak for all women on the planet.

          • Leila Miller

            Oh, sorry. Yes, that is a fact. I agree. And, I still stand by my statement about women's enjoyment of acts of sodomy. I cannot speak for all women on anything. But I am very confident in what I said in my comment.

          • BenS

            And, I still stand by my statement about women's level of enjoyment of acts of sodomy. I cannot speak for all women on anything. But I am very confident in what I said in my comment.

            You can't speak for all women but you can quite confidently state that all women aren't telling us what they think of sodomy and you stand by that statement?

            You don't see the contradiction here?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            This is logically incoherent. Either you can speak for all women's level of enjoyment of sodomy or you can't. Since you are only one person, you can't. Since your confidence level appears to be based on nothing more than your personal views, what possible confidence level can we put on your statement?

            This is serious cognitive dissonance.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Mouths have always been for kissing, by everyone and all cultures"

            Hey everyone, stop using your mouth for eating or speaking, Leila says it's always been for kissing.

            In case it wasn't obvious, I was being sarcastic about the uses of the mouth in order to make a point about parts of the body having function other than their seemingly primary ones. In order of biological importance, that the mouth may be used for kissing is (I think) a few rungs below eating and speech...you know, biologically. That the mouth, in addition to those more basic functions, happens to also be an erogenous zone doesn't mean that's what it has always been for. Same for any erogenous zone.This is not hard to understand, Leila.

            "If cultural norms can help us overcome the "gross" use of reproductive organs in the digestive tract [...]"

            I hope that Strange Notions does a piece entitled "Why Atheist Hope Christianity Is Never Falsified", because I'd really like to contribute a line or two about how all that is apparently holding the world's Catholic population back from engaging in necro-bestiality is their faith, and that they're unable to reason their way to secular objections.

            "But trust me when I tell you that women aren't telling you what they really think about sodomy. And that's all I really want to say about that."

            You didn't want to humbly preface that you don't speak for all women? Or clarify that you misunderstood what was meant by "sodomy" in the first place?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I recall reading that the Japanese did not kiss before the arrival of Admiral Perry and the introduction of Western mores. I'll check up on that.

          • Andre Boillot

            "but never once have I known a woman who loved or even really liked committing acts of sodomy"

            Apparently all those women asking for their partners to go down on them are lying liars. This has just been a big scheme to help Cosmo sell more copies.

          • Leila Miller

            Sorry, I should clarify that I wasn't talking about that. I was talking about acts of penetration by male reproductive organs into the female digestive tract (oral or anal). I thought that was clear, but I guess not. Frankly, I am uncomfortable going into more detail, but I absolutely stand by what I said. I am now done talking about it. You are free to believe as you believe about whether or not women are all into it, of course.

          • It is just a fact that some women are "into it." You can (but I am sure you won't!) read Toni Bentley's The Surrender: An Erotic Memoir. You can read William Saletan in Slate (adults only!) trying to determine why a survey of women who engaged in anal intercourse had more orgasms than women who did not.

          • Leila Miller

            You are right, I won't read it. I'm reading Crime and Punishment right now (have been wanting to for years!) and I so rarely get the time to read the books that I want to read. Generally, I must confess, I'm reading classics, not porn. And, okay sure, I will concede the point that there are some few women who are proactively "into" anything (heck, even rape fantasies, abuse, defecation during sex, etc.), but again, those things just might be a "turn on" for less than healthy, loving reasons. Sodomy may be mainstreamed and expected, but that doesn't mean most women are just peachy-keen thrilled to have to go along with it, no matter what they tell you.

            Listen, if it makes you happy to think that women really just love sodomy (and don't just tolerate it for their men, even as they feel degraded by it), then go ahead and believe that. I clearly am wrong and I don't know what I'm talking about. ;)

          • Andre Boillot

            Most women only "tolerate" and feel "degraded" by having oral sex performed on them? Somebody, call 'Mythbusters'.

          • Leila Miller

            Methinks someone never read my last response to him.

          • Max Driffill

            It could also be the disqus jumblator.

          • Andre Boillot

            No, she just doesn't understand why I don't accept her made-up definition of words.

          • Leila Miller

            ?? Sorry, Andre, you are so much smarter than I am that I can never actually make sense of what you are saying. ;) Can you clarify? What word? Sodomy? I clarified what I was talking about when I used that word, now you will have to clarify why you didn't understand what I said. Because in my little brain, it appears that you are having another discussion, not the one I was involved in. Thanks!

          • Andre Boillot

            Leila,

            I think I already covered this in my last response to you: https://strangenotions.com/sex-love-god/#comment-933569201

            I'll post the text in case you missed it:

            I read your last response, where you cleared up how I misunderstood what you meant by 'sodomy' - which to be fair to me is quite easy to do given how your definition strays from what the word means. When you speak of how all women hate "committing acts of sodomy" you really mean sodomy-except-the-kind-that-almost-all-women-like. Methinks that, earlier, you defined 'sodomy' as homosexuality. So, when you replied to David, I couldn't really be sure what definition you were working off of, and mistakenly went with what the word means. I can't promise I won't keep making the same mistake.

            If you're not sure as to what I'm referring to:

            Earlier in our discussion: https://strangenotions.com/sex-love-god/#comment-933229228

            You seemed to mean sodomy = homosexuality.

            Later in our discussion: https://strangenotions.com/sex-love-god/#comment-933301326

            You seem to mean sodomy = oral for him, anal on her, but not oral for her.

            In the end, the easiest way to avoid confusion is to just use the actual definitions of words and what they mean, instead of just substituting your own.

            Cheers

          • Leila Miller

            My apologies! Yes, I missed that comment completely. I'm still not sure where it went. So, forgive me. And, I still stand by what I said, exactly as I said it. Cheers!

          • Andre Boillot

            "I still stand by what I said, exactly as I said it."

            Let the jury note that witness maintains she speaks for all women on this subject, as long as the terms are defined not as they are in actuality, but in the schizophrenic way the witness needs them to for the purposes of her dubious anecdotal claims. Proceed.

          • Leila Miller

            ha ha, well, I think that most folks will have no trouble understanding exactly what I meant. Especially women. ;)

            (By the way, I can't find my original comment. Could you show me where I said "all women" (as in every one of the billions of women on the planet now and who have ever lived)? I feel like you are Greg Brady and want to live by "exact words" instead of understanding what most folks would understand when I wrote what I did. Thanks!)

          • Andre Boillot

            "By the way, I can't find my original comment. Could you show me where I said "all women"

            Leila,
            Look no further than the very post this quote is taken from for an example of you speaking on behalf of women.

          • Leila Miller

            Sorry, still not seeing the "all". My eyesight is getting bad in my old age, it's true. I am very comfortable with what I said and stand by it. Most people (esp. women, lol) will understand my point. Will you find women on the planet who just really LOVE what you think they love, Andre? Yes, sure, as I addressed earlier, there are some women who really LOVE all sorts of sexual things, for many kinds of reasons (some not so healthy). I do think you would be very surprised to learn some things about what women really think, though, and it's okay, because (I still hold to the axiom that) men and women are different. But again, what do I know? Clearly, you know that you are right, and you are entitled to think whatever you'd like.

            Anyway, I have to leave this conversation, and I appreciate that it's been respectful.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Sorry, still not seeing the "all"."

            Sorry, you're right. You meant all the women you've ever met, all the *normal* women, the ones that aren't into weird, unhealthy things.

            "Will you find women on the planet who just really LOVE what you think they love, Andre?"

            I'm not sure what you think it is that I believe women *LOVE*. I pointed out that women seem to like receiving oral sex. I doubt they're the rare exceptions you seem to suggest they are. Did I go out on a limb here?

            "I do think you would be very surprised to learn some things about what women really think, though, and it's okay, because (I still hold to the axiom that) men and women are different."

            What sort of sweeping assertions about what women think have I made to warrant such a platitude? Is there any group about which we couldn't make the statement that an individual would be surprised to know some things about?

            Lest we forget, this entire tangent has its roots in your assertion that every woman you've ever met disliked sodomy, as you redefined it - by removing the sodomy they do seem to like. Perhaps it is you who would be surprised to learn some things about what women really think - or maybe you already know, which is why you redefined the word as you did.

          • severalspeciesof

            All this reminded me of reading about this book that apparently contradicts her notion of what 'most' women want:

            http://www.salon.com/2013/06/02/the_truth_about_female_desire_its_base_animalistic_and_ravenous/

          • Leila Miller

            Hi again, Andre! I never "redefined" what we were talking about. I've been talking about the same two acts all along, and made that very, very clear more than once now (I don't feel comfortable talking about it, frankly, but you keep wanting to). But I see that no matter what, you are very much invested in being right on this subject. So, I will exit the conversation and you can continue to misunderstand and misrepresent what I said all along, and feel comfortable that women in general just love, love, love performing fellatio and having anal sex (except, wait, you weren't addressing that, and those were the only things I was addressing). Peace, Andre!

          • Andre Boillot

            "I never "redefined" what we were talking about. I've been talking about the same two acts all along, and made that very, very clear more than once now"

            Look, I don't know how to make it more clear. You've consistently referred to sodomy, while maintaining that you mean it in a way other than it's definition. I call that redefining something.

            "I don't feel comfortable talking about it, frankly, but you keep wanting to"

            I promise I'll drop it when you stop redefining.

            "But I see that no matter what, you are very much invested in being right on this subject."

            I've seen you write reams when it comes to people redefining words like "marriage", so please spare us the act.

            "So, I will exit the conversation and you can continue to misunderstand and misrepresent what I said all along"

            What grievous misrepresentation of your position am I guilty of, I'd really like to know.

            "and feel comfortable that women in general just love, love, love performing fellatio and having anal sex (except, wait, you weren't addressing that, and those were the only things I was addressing)"

            What a peculiar thing to say. Did I ever imply that women loved performing oral sex, or receiving anal? To my mind, all I did was point out that you were purposefully muddying the waters when you claimed that you knew of no women who enjoyed sodomy - while removing women receiving oral sex from the equation. Sorry, as you're fond of pointing out (when you think it suits you), words have meanings.

          • Leila Miller

            Sigh.

            Andre, the types of sodomy to which I was referring were the types of sodomy where the man penetrates/ejaculates into the mouth or anus of a woman. That was what was in my mind when I first used the word. I *think* everyone else understood.

            You came in and mentioned a different type of sodomy (not performed by a penis) and I clarified immediately (since you brought into the conversation something I had not included nor even thought about initially, because it was not what I was referring to in my point) that sodomy by penis was the type of sodomy to which I was referring. I am not saying that there are not other things that can be defined as sodomy (so I am redefining nothing -- you are so off base on that attempt), but I think I have been more than clear on the fact that I was talking about sodomy with a penis.

            To repeat: I did not redefine sodomy, I clarified which types of sodomy I was referring to. Your definitions of sodomy are okay by me. I honestly don't think about sodomy enough to bring to mind all the different kinds.
            Heck, apparently sodomy includes animal/human sex, too. Who knew? See, I wasn't talking about that kind of sodomy either. But if that's the definition, then cool.

            And guess what? There are different types of marriages too, that we can talk about without redefining marriage itself. If you want to talk about or clarify the difference between polygamous marriages, civil marriages, sacramental marriages, and arranged marriages, I have no problem with it. If you want to only talk about certain types of marriages, I have no problem with that. But if you want to redefine marriage to be something ontologically impossible, then I will say, "Hey, you are redefining marriage!"

            I hope that is super-duper clear, because really, I am not interested in talking about sodomy anymore. I stipulate all your definitions (and always have). I defer to you on this subject.

            Peace!

          • BenS

            I defer to you on this subject.

            You should also show some deference to me. I like it.

            I'm quite an authority on the subject. I've slept with looooads of women and have collated quite a lot of information on the subject of sodomy. I've even produced a few... ah... documentaries.

            I'll send you some. You'll be able to hear the testaments of women who really do love performing oral sex. Well, read the subtitles, anyway - their comments are a little unclear through the ball gags.

          • Leila Miller

            You're a real classy guy, Ben.

          • BenS

            Coming from you, that means... nothing.

          • BenS

            To my mind, all I did was point out that you were purposefully muddying the waters when you claimed that you knew of no women who enjoyed sodomy - while removing women receiving oral sex from the equation.

            I must have missed this bit, bloody disqus. So a bloke performing oral sex on a woman is fine but a woman performing it on a man is disgusting. Sounds about right.

            I wonder where woman on woman comes into this. And if I can watch....

          • Leila Miller

            Your mother must be so proud. Again, pure class.

          • BenS

            She is. Have you degenerated solely into insults now?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Yes, what's with disqus? Half my posts either don't show up, show up at random, or appear completely out of sequence.

          • Andre Boillot

            If there aren't many comments, the easiest way is to just re-sort by oldest (even if it looks like that's already the sort method). After that, a combination of using the links if you subscribe to email, or just checking your 'My Disqus' activity is best.

          • As I understand it, it's a caching effect. One thread can have numerous cached files, so that the system runs faster. Once they all sync up, all the comments should appear correctly.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It makes it mind-numbingly difficult to carry on a coherent conversation, though. A pity. I like Strange Notions, but trying to hold a real conversation here is like trying to put on your bra with boxing gloves. Slow.

          • Andre Boillot

            Leila,

            I read your last response, where you cleared up how I misunderstood what you meant by 'sodomy' - which to be fair to me is quite easy to do given how your definition strays from what the word means. When you speak of how all women hate "committing acts of sodomy" you really mean sodomy-except-the-kind-that-almost-all-women-like. Methinks that, earlier, you defined 'sodomy' as homosexuality. So, when you replied to David, I couldn't really be sure what definition you were working off of, and mistakenly went with what the word means. I can't promise I won't keep making the same mistake.

          • Max Driffill

            Leila,
            "Listen, if it makes you happy to think that women really just love sodomy (and don't just tolerate it for their men, even as they feel degraded by it), then go ahead and believe that. I clearly am wrong and I don't know what I'm talking about."

            Or you could say, "I'm not that into it, And most of the people, whom I've spoken to about it in my social circle aren't that into it. Its not for me."
            That would be better than trying to write off the experiences of other women based on your personal disgust.

          • I did not recommend or link to any "porn." Toni Bentley is a respected author, and the book was generally favorably received.

            I didn't assert that "women really just love sodomy." I understand you to be saying women (all women) don't like anal or oral sex, and I am simply saying some do.

            that doesn't mean most women are just peachy-keen thrilled to have to go along with it

            Point out to me where I said they were.

            You are playing very fast and loose with the little I did say, and responding to things I did not say or even imply.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I note that kissing, was in fact, unknown to the Japanese; apparently unknown to the ancient Egyptians, and varies wildly in meaning and usage across the globe.

          • Mouths have always been for kissing, by everyone and all cultures; . . .

            No, that is not correct. Do a little googling and you will find out that most cultures had some form of kissing, but not all.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            "I can only speak anecdotally..."

            "But trust me when I tell you that women aren't telling you what they really think about sodomy"

            Cognitive dissonance again. You don't speak for all women. You have an opinion.

            And that's where we have to leave it.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It's not a 'design', and it's certainly not good engineering. And whether it's rightly ordered is, of course, up for debate.

          • Leila Miller

            "It's not a 'design', and it's certainly not good engineering."

            All your opinion. And, if it's being "rightly ordered" is up for debate, then what are urologists or OB/gyns learning in school? That the systems of biology are really at base all messed up, and humanity and science needs to find a way to correct them (when they are working properly, thanks)? Your words make no sense to me. Tell me how a properly working urinary tract system or a properly working reproductive system can be considered disordered or "up for debate"?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            What do you mean by 'rightly ordered'? If one followed the logic that 'pegs go in holes', then oral, anal, and vaginal sex are all 'rightly ordered'.

          • Leila Miller

            Then I guess pencils should go in ears?

            Biological systems have functions. And we use things according to their natures. So we can ask ourselves: What is the nature of a thing? What, for example, is the nature of a penis? We can say that it is to urinate. So, if we use it to mix paint, or cement, we could arrive at problems (this could be disordered, and even lead to disorders!. And the penis is also part of the reproductive system. So, would the nature of a penis (the life-giving part of the male system, ordered to ejaculate sperm which are ordered toward finding an egg to fertilize) be to enter the exit chute of the body which expels human excrement? I would say that is not rightly ordered, biologically. Clearly, you see this as rightly ordered, biologically. We disagree.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But your reasons are based on presuppositions I do not share. Why should I accept your reasoning as sound? And why should I accept your position on the basis of anything other than sound reasoning?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You shouldn't, but tell me exactly what you disagree with and find unsound. Maybe you are right but how will I know unless you reveal your mind?

          • Michael Murray

            A true good for horses is not sitting in a chair eating steak but romping around grassy meadows.

            So a true good for humans is not shopping in a supermarket but hunting and gathering .

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Are you disagreeing or being clever?

          • BenS

            Looks like both.

        • ZenDruid

          It's a two-pronged strategy, but still eminently simple:

          1. Don't make Baby cry.

          2. If Baby is crying, try to make things better.

    • Do you atheists agree with this, that love--willing the good of the other--should orient all our actions?

      No, most or very many, perhaps, but not all. When it comes to sex, that is the kind I most prefer. However, you can't always get what you want.

      • Michael Murray

        Kevin was trying to get the discussion off sex !

  • Sample1

    Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, teach sex ed.

    Mike

    • Christian Stillings

      Mike, how do you foresee this comment contributing to constructive, intelligent conversation about Catholicism and sexuality? Where would you like the conversation to proceed from this kind of comment?

      • Sample1

        It's already produced one reply. Better than many.

        Mike

        • Christian Stillings

          Mike, you didn't answer my questions. Please do.

          • Sample1

            Two.

            Mike

          • articulett

            Three... er 4.

          • Christian Stillings

            I'm not sure what you're getting at with your first paragraph. Care to elaborate further?

            I'm not sexually active, but if I become sexually active at some point in the future, I'll take care to be prescient of the inherent reproductive nature of the act. Our, er, "parts" want to make babies, even if we don't want them to. I think responsibility is a part of love, and I think it's responsible to remember what the sexual act is always geared toward, in spite our potential meddling. I'll also happily accept whatever joy may come of a sexual relationship, provided that I begin one.

            I chuckled at your bit about "insect sex". Not to get into philosophy of mind and qualia, but how are we supposed to know that they don't enjoy it? It seems like an awfully sweeping claim to me.

            Your first post was about teaching competency. The role of priests isn't to be sex counselors, and I wouldn't expect a priest to be able to give my hypothetical!wife and I specific stellar advice for the bedroom. However, I think they're perfectly competent to discuss principles which may be carried into the marriage relationship and specifically into the sexual relationship therein. Do you think that an instructor's lack of sexual experience necessarily negates the efficacy of their instruction about relational principles?

          • Sample1

            You misunderstood my comment about reproduction and started talking about enjoyment and chuckling. This is no laughing matter. One of the weak spots of the Catholic Church are its sexual teachings.

            Let's start again. The Catholic Church promotes a breeding campaign that is insect-like: copulation first, first, and first. To have copulation be the primary focus of sex is simply non-human like, it's insect-like.

            That is understandable considering the sexual intelligence of the Catholic Church is derived from 1st century tribalism. Understandable, but not condonable of course. We have learned mountains of things about sexuality in just the last hundred years. I don't have to know what an insect feels when it has sex, I just know what humans feel. The sexual teachings of the Catholic Church debase the beauty and freedom inherit to natural human love making.

            Mike

          • Christian Stillings

            The Catholic Church promotes a breedingcampaign that is insect-like: copulation first, first, and first. To have copulation be the primary focus of sex is simply non-human like, it's insect-like.

            Mike, you're not helping with the chuckling issue. The Church "promotes a breeding program"? Let's contrast a hypothetical "breeding program" with actual Church teaching.

            If the Catholic Church ran "a breeding program" in line with its required standards for sexual conduct, it would do at least the following:

            1. Compel all fertile women to marry.
            2. Require all married couples to conceive and reproduce as frequently as possible.

            If you can find Church teaching which compels Catholics to either of those, let me know. In the meantime, I think Church teaching looks more like this:

            1. The Church is the only place in Western culture where vocational celibacy is actually respected and encouraged. If a woman is vocationally suited to marriage and finds a suitable man for a husband, she is free to marry him.
            2. A couple is not required to have sex at all (see: Holy Family) and is not required to reproduce. If a couple finds it prudent to avoid conception at any particular time, they are free to do so through appropriate means.

            If the Church is supposed to be a giant breeding program, its teachings are notoriously terrible at actually making that happen. The Church's sexual ethics at most simplistic can be represented in a single sentence: there's a right way to use your junk; if you're going to use it, do it right.

            Yes, the marital act is copulative. That's just how it is. Contraceptive technologies may get in the way of conception itself, but neither prevents the mutual stimulation of genital organs leading to the male's ejaculation of semen (which is how I'll presently define "copulative"). Mike, if sex-as-copulation is "insect-like" and "non-human-like", what do you consider to be "human-like" sex? Further, if you don't have a non-copulative definition of "human-like sex", how can you sensibly call a copulative definition "non-human-like"?

            That is understandable considering the sexual intelligence of the Catholic Church is derived from 1st century tribalism and a Magisterium comprised of virgins. We have learned mountains of things about sexuality in just the last hundred years

            Yet a celibate living in the Vatican in 1968 predicted the consequences of "contraceptive culture" with frightening accuracy. Some things about relationship, whether sexual or otherwise, can be discerned from mere observation and common sense. As to your second sentence, I think you're committing a relativistic fallacy. We may know more about sexuality, but that doesn't necessarily mean that our sexual ethics should be different. Why should a greater body of knowledge cause change in moral standards? If you discovered that a dozen people had differing opinions on the morality of arson and that some of them had desires to commit arson, would you change your opinion on the morality of arson?

          • Sample1

            1. Compel all fertile women to marry.
            2. Require all married couples to conceive and reproduce as frequently as possible.

            The atmosphere of compulsory marriage is essentially a reality in the Church considering it's a Sacrament after all, and let's not forget Paul's admonition to marry rather than "burn". But marriage, importantly, is not a necessary part of this discussion. I call straw man on that. And your second point is also not germane since the issue here is a breeding program that requires the act of sex to be open to offspring, not compulsory marriage.

            Mike, if sex-as-copulation is "insect-like" and "non-human-like", what do you consider to be "human-like" sex?

            That's the cool thing about this discussion. I'm under no burden to provide some sort of love-ideal. There are plenty of books about that. The Catholic Church on the other hand, claims to know what authentic human love is. I only have to point out how hyper controlling the Church is when it comes to sex and my job is done. But I will offer this, by fighting against love as expressed by gay couples, the Church is doing a bang up job at being an overall force for reducing love in the world.

            Mike

          • Christian Stillings

            The atmosphere of compulsory marriage is essentially a reality in the Church considering it's a Sacrament after all, and let's not forget Paul's admonition to marry rather than "burn".

            St. Paul clearly expresses his preference that Christians pursue vocationally celibate living in service to Christ and the Church. He says "if you're not able to keep your hands to yourself (or off yourself), you can get married." He proffers marriage, and the sexual expression which is licit therein, as a concession to those without sufficient sexual self-control. If you think there's "compulsion" in there, please feel free to point it out to me.

            What's your acquaintance with sacramental theology? The sacraments, in Catholic understanding, are means by which we more fully accept God's grace. A Christian is expected to be baptized, to make confession at least somewhat regularly, and to partake of the Eucharist quite regularly. These, alongside a faith in Christ's redemption lived out in works of love, are perfectly sufficient to salvation. There's no need for a Christian to try to "partake of ALL the sacraments!" in order to accept salvation. I honestly don't know anyone who feels "compelled" to get married for the sake of their own salvation.

            Paul actually hits on something accurate: sexual suppression results in big problems.

            Could you be more specific about what kinds of problems you're thinking of? (I do have rebuttals handy if you want to go the "priests rape kids!" route, but you can hop on board with the WBC if you like.) Even if you're right on that (and that's yet to be demonstrated), I think you'll agree that lack of sexual self-restraint tends to cause big problems too, if not bigger problems. I'd say that, when in doubt, we should opt for a culture which cultivates and respects self-control in many areas, sex among them. As I reminded another conversant elsewhere in this combox, there's no guarantee that a Christian with strong sexual desires who wants to be married will actually be able to find a marriage partner. Wouldn't it be better for people to be capable of unnecessary restraint than incapable of necessary restraint? I think St. Paul's message was much closer to "if you really think having some opportunity toward sexual expression would benefit your life in service to Christ, you're free to seek marriage" than you've suggested.

            But marriage, importantly, is not a necessary part of this discussion. I call straw man on that. And your second point is also not germane since the issue here is a breeding program that requires the act of sex to be open to offspring at all times, not sexual frequency.

            If I may object, I do think marriage is a substantial part of this discussion. If I may assess the "germane" topics at hand:

            1. You think the Church is running a "breeding program"
            2. The Church only permits "breeding" (reproducing) in the context of marital relationships
            3. Therefore, part of the Church's "breeding program" involves marriage

            Feel free to correct me, but I think marriage is very much part of this discussion.

            Your definition of "breeding program" in this case seems to be as follows:

            ... the issue here is a breeding program that requires the act of sex to be open to offspring at all times, not sexual frequency.

            You seem to be comprehending Catholic sexual ethics here, but I still don't understand why you think it should be called a "breeding program". When I think of the term, "breeding program", I think of programs with specific intended aims regarding the offspring, like "breed offspring of a specific type" or "breed as many offspring as possible". Anticlimactically, the Church requires neither of these. Rather, it expects (as you know) that offspring be produced via a direct marital act and expects that such acts remain uncontracepted. We could similarly say something like "the United States expects human offspring to be borne, brought to term, and delivered by human women." I think both would be better described as "frameworks of reproductive ethics" because they describe the method of reproduction rather than "breeding programs", which sound like they have specific aims for the offspring. Sure, you can use the latter term if you prefer, but I'm not honestly not sure what the idea is behind doing so.

            I'm under no burden to provide some sort of love-ideal.

            I actually think you are. If you don't provide any kind of definition for your use of the term "human-like", your statement that the Church's sexual ethics are "simply non-human like" is incoherent. Your statement that something is "not like [x]" holds absolutely no meaning if you haven't provided any kind of definition for "[x]". I'll demonstrate.

            Hypothetical scenario: I'm holding a random object. My blindfolded friend doesn't know what said object is and is trying to guess what it is. He gets to ask me questions about its attributes (think "Twenty Questions"). He asks me "what is something of a different shape than the object?" (an somewhat indirect question, I know) and I respond "well, it's not shaped like a frindle." He says "I don't know what that is- what's the shape of a frindle?" and I reply "oh, I don't know. I guess it doesn't really have a shape, since I just made it up." Do you see how completely unhelpful my answer was?

            I can't compel you to put your idea of "human-like sex" out on the table. However, unless you do so, you don't really have any business calling a sexual practice/expectation/etcetera "non-human like". The words just mean nothing.

            The Church's expectations for marital intimacy compel the couple to keep it open to the natural function of biological processes which may produce new life. In this sense, a Catholic couple's intimacy is similar to that of all sorts of other organisms which reproduce sexually, from mammals to insects to birds to whatever else have you. However, I don't think it's a particularly interesting comparison in the way you want it to be. We could also say that there are cells involved, like in any biological process. We could also say that it's comprised of physical parts, like a wheel spinning or a leaf falling or any of a billion other kinds of events in the world. I know you want to score a hit on Church teaching with "it makes people act like bugs!", but it's not a very insightful (or honestly very good) comparison.

          • Sample1

            I'll work up from your last sentence.

            I know you want to score a hit on Church teaching with "it makes people act like bugs!", but it's not a very insightful (or honestly very good) comparison.

            My aim here is not to score a hit, my aim is to be truthful and to express the point of view of a person with a naturalistic world view. Secondly, I made the insect analogy against the Church's sexual teachings. I don't know if the Church is bug-centric in all of its teachings. And I don't care if it was insightful, it is a very good comparison from my point of view.

            The insect analogy works because the issue here is the nature of the sex act as it is taught by Catholicism in the 21st century: all acts of copulation must, in principle, be open to new life. A dung beetle couldn't have said it better. I contend, as others have, that human love making involving sex for purposes other than making little ones, is authentic and human-centered rather than what the Church is stuck on. Christian, we disagree on this point. It's the internet, these things happen. But you now know my point of view. Let's enjoy the exchange if not the agreement.

            I can't compel you to put your idea of "human-like sex" out on the table. However, unless you do so, you don't really have any business calling a sexual practice/expectation/etcetera "non-human like". The
            words just mean nothing.

            Not that I have to (I smell a fallacy) but I already did: humans can and do have sex without children being the primary end. That's enough for my point. That is human-like sex. Insects do not prime their phalloblasters for anything other than genital inflation and subsequent fertilization. You've seen those vehicles with all the nice little family stickers on the back window? You know, a Daddy, a Mommy, a boy and girl, a baby and maybe a doggie? Have you seen the truck with just a woman or a man, and a bag of money? That's a visual (presuming the single people are sexually active) that in no way in-authenticates human love.

            Hypothetical scenario

            This is moot.

            If I may object, I do think marriage is a substantial part of this discussion.

            I don't. You may want to frame it as "frameworks of reproductive ethics" but you really are missing my point about how my analogy works: if babies must be first in the pantheon of sexual experiences during sex, that's a breeding program. It doesn't matter if you don't like my term. You are here to understand my point of view (presumably). I've read yours and you've not compelled me to think differently on this. As I said, these things happen. Let's enjoy the exchange if not the agreement.

            I do have rebuttals handy if you want to go the "priests rape kids!" route

            This kind of reply (with an exclamation mark no less) is simply not commensurate with a person I would want to discuss such a horrific topic with.

            There's no need for a Christian to try to "partake of ALL the sacraments!"

            I was making the point that Sacraments are a big thing for practicing Catholics. It would indeed be relatively rare to experience all of them in the 21st century. I can't prove there is a compulsory attitude promulgated officially for members to experience marriage to another human, or to be "married to Christ" through Holy Orders. Nor can I prove that some cultures who are traditionally Catholic may perceive a more compulsory obligation to marry than others. My sources are not scientific so I'll concede that point to you.

            You can have the St. Paul point too. It's theology. I should not go there. As others have said, a theologian, unlike a philosopher, is akin to someone being blindfolded in a darkened room looking for black cat that isn't there. I'll leave the theology to Ignorant Amos next time. He has more heart for it.

            Thank you for the give and go.

            Mike

          • Christian Stillings

            Hey Mike, thanks for the conversation so far. I'll try to briefly offer my thoughts in response to your last comment, and you're free to respond or not to respond as you please. As you'll notice if you read through this comment, I think we agree much more than we've found out so far, and if you read this I'd at least like to hear from you on whether or not that assessment is correct. Thanks also for not taking my occasional snark too seriously- I try to comb it out, but it still gets through sometimes, haha.

            A dung beetle couldn't have said it better.

            As I said toward the end of my last comment, I'm not sure why you insist on an "insect" comparison specifically with all this. To the best of my knowledge (and you're at liberty to correct me), no other sexually-reproducing organism contracepts its sexual acts except, on occasion, humans. Why specifically insects and not mammals or birds or other sexually-reproducing organisms? Couldn't you just as well have said "a rabbit couldn't have said it better" or "a sparrow couldn't have said it better"? I could be wrong, but I sense some lack of charity in deliberately selecting an insect which makes a life out of rolling feces.

            Regarding your second paragraph, I think we may have been mutually misunderstanding one another this whole time. I'll begin with a few quotations from the Catechism:

            2351: ...sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.

            2366: This particular doctrine... is based on the inseparable connection... which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.

            2369: By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its orientation toward man's exalted vocation to parenthood.

            The Church understands the dual unitive and procreative significance of the sexual union of husband and wife. If I've been giving the impression that "Catholic couples can only have sex in order to make babies", I'm sorry, because that's false. And yes, I'm sure sex is much fun (I can't speak from experience), but what pleasure is present contributes to the unity of the couple. However, it shouldn't be thought of as pleasure divorced from the greater purpose of unity, which can tend to give rise to problems.

            If you've meant to say all along that "Catholic sexual ethics are non-human-like because they focus solely on the reproductive aspect of sex", we've been misunderstanding one another this whole time. If you've been thinking in terms of "the Church denies the possibility that sex could be about anything else besides just procreation", you've been misunderstanding the Church's perspective, and perhaps I'm culpable for not clarifying things sooner.

            Does that sort of clear things up and get us more on the same page?

            [Humans] can and do have sex without children being the primary end... [that] is human-like sex.

            If you're saying that any given "human-like" sex act is unitive and may or may not individually be procreative, I think we agree on this.

            Have you seen the truck with just two people and a bag of money? That's a visual (presuming the single people are sexually active) that in no way in-authenticates human love.

            How do you think of "authentic human love" in this kind of circumstance? What are the attributes of the kind of "authentic human love" that you're thinking about? I'm honestly interested in hearing you flesh out your idea a little more on this.

            You are here to understand my point of view (presumably). I've read yours and you've not compelled me to think differently on this.

            If I assess the forum format well, we're here to try to understand and to offer constructive critique as it may benefit the conversation. I don't think that term-parsing is off-limits in the least.

            This kind of reply (with an exclamation mark no less) is simply not commensurate with a person I would want to discuss such a horrific topic with.

            That remark wasn't my shining moment; I apologize. When you spend enough time discussing these kinds of things, you develop a reflex for recognizing tetchy areas and anticipating how to navigate them. I do think I substantially "jumped the gun" in this case. Thanks for your measured words.

            I can't prove there is a compulsory attitude promulgated officially for members to experience marriage to another human, or to be "married to Christ" through Holy Orders. Nor can I prove that some cultures who are traditionally Catholic may perceive a more compulsory obligation to marry than others.

            Purely as a matter of curiosity, have you ever been Catholic? I'd be interested to know what role personal experience may or may not play in your understand of sacramental theology, since you seem to understand it fairly well. I'm sorry if I've come across as somewhat obnoxiously saying "prove it!"- I'm not sure exactly how one would compile "proof" in this case. If you have any demonstration (even if not "proof" per se) for why I should believe that single Catholics not engaged in "religious life" feel particularly compelled to marriage because of its sacramental status, I'd love to hear you out. Obviously, some Christians will feel compelled to seek marriage because of very strong sexual desire, but that's a different rationale than seeking it because of its sacramental nature.

            For what it's worth, I've only been officially Catholic since Easter Vigil of this year, so I'd accept your personal observation as a perfectly valid demonstration if you spent a while among Churchfolk in your earlier life.

            You can have the St. Paul point too, you earned it. It's theology. I should not go there.

            I'd agree that there are some areas of theology which might be a bit arcane to non-believers. However, I think that textual exegesis can be a fairly straightforward exercise, and I don't think that St. Paul's instructions on sexual morality in 1 Corinthians are particularly difficult to arbitrate. If you'd like to proffer your thoughts on what you think St. Paul most clearly meant in the relevant passage, I'm certainly happy to consider your interpretation.

            Thank you as well for the conversation!

            Christian

          • Corylus

            We may know more about sexuality, but that doesn't necessarily mean that our sexual ethics should be different.

            Not necessarily, no, 'is and ought' and all that. However, facts do inform our values, and if we learn facts that show us that our actions are either ineffective or harmful then ethics comes back in.

            For example, if we look at how desire for sex fluctuates over a menstrual cycle we can see that the desire to 'get funky' increases at fertile times. Makes complete sense in terms of evolutionary theory, plus, researchers also discerned this one via 'observation and common sense'.

            This means that the current sexual ethics encourages people to restrict to the very times that they are least interested. That seems neither effective nor something that would facilitate closeness.

          • Christian Stillings

            if we learn facts that show us that our actions are either ineffective or harmful then ethics comes back in.

            I largely agree that if something wasn't known to be harmful and is later found to be harmful, there could be reason to consider the standards in light of new information. However, this requires a set definition of what is and is not "harmful", and that's not always or immediately forthcoming. To use the same example which I used in my last comment, we could discover that a surprising percent of people have desires to commit arson. However, if we still agree that arson is "harmful", we need not revise our standards for arson-related conduct in light of this new information. I'm not necessarily equivocating arson with any other specific act, but I think we'll agree that in some circumstances it may be beneficial to ask people to refrain from doing things which they want to do. If that's so, we should figure out the acceptability of different acts before we try to sort out what role desires-to-do-those-acts should play in broader considerations.

            This means that the current sexual ethics encourages people to restrict to the very times that they are least interested. That seems neither effective, nor something that would facilitate closeness.

            Interestingly, I've heard accounts of couples who've become significantly closer because of the disciplines involved in practicing natural family planning. However, I don't doubt that practicing periodic mutual continence could be difficult for a couple, and I know of cases where this has been so. I think we'd agree that closeness derived from participation in immoral acts is still a bad thing- ie, I'm sure Bonnie and Clyde had a great dynamic, but we're still glad that they law was against them. I think that questions of the morality of acts are preeminent to the relational effects of those acts.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Mike, I think you are entirely wrong about how Catholics who follow the the Magisterium look at sex. You are using your imagination and your imagination does not respond to reality.

            The only people *I* imagine look at sex as a reproductive act are those couples who are trying desperately to have a baby. This is true no matter what their faith or lack of faith is.

            Catholic married couples have sex because it is enjoyable and at one of them wants to.

            As for some secret knowledge one gains by experiencing sex, I think that's baloney as far as informing you about the "ends" of human sexuality, which is what the Magisterim is concerned with.

          • articulett

            It made me giggle-- does that count?

      • Kevin Aldrich

        It's a meaningless statement meant to annoy you.

  • articulett

    Here's a question-- where are the Catholic women in this discussion? Tending children? I would like to hear what they have to say about this.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      Excellent question.

    • Sample1

      Good question, though at the moment I'm unable to consider there's a chance someone will respond to your request without sounding off-putting. As such, I am placing myself on ignore.
      Mike

    • outonalimb

      Here I am, a Catholic woman responding to you, even though your post is decidedly patronizing. What does it matter that it is a Priest discussing sex, love, and God? He is speaking with the discernment and capacity of his life's vocation. The intrinsic values would still be the same, no matter who in The Catholic Church was discussing these issues. Father Barron's theological explanations are transcendent and admirable. To understand Catholicism, is to understand that the Doctrines of The Church, The Word of Christ, never change for anyone or anything. That's the Splendor of Truth. (P.S. if women choose to tend children, what's wrong with that?, there's no higher or altruistic calling than being a mother)

      • Brava, outonalimb.

        Welcome to the discussion :-)

      • articulett

        Well word of Christ might never change, but your churches teachings have (thankfully) changed quite a bit. So what did Jesus have to say about love marriage and sex? Why are Catholics against abortion when the bible never mentions it (although back when Jesus was god he does advise ripping babies from wombs and supposedly flooded the whole earth including, one presumes, pregnant mothers)? Where does Jesus mention contraception? Why do you think the Catholic church is true? If it was no more true than any other religion/myth/superstition would you want to know?

        • Leila Miller

          Reporting for duty! Catholic woman (revert), mom of many, right here! Today's Father's Day, so I won't say much (no time… tending children and all ;) ). articulett, first, are you ignorant of the differences between Protestantism (sola scriptura) and Catholicism? We Catholics don't subscribe to "Bible only" theology. That is very, very basic stuff for anyone with an interest in Christian theology, and it appears you don't understand the distinction?

          Fyi, I "thought" my way into the Church (as did my Jewish agnostic husband), so yes, truth is very important to me. I want to know truth. That is why I (and many others) ended up in the Catholic Church, sometimes to our/their great surprise. If you ask one question at a time, we can have a dialogue. It's hard to answer twenty questions at once, as it becomes a multiplication of words. But I commend outonalimb for her work here in trying to answer you and doing a fine job.

          And, articulett, if you are sincerely wishing to understand what appears to you as the "changed teaching" of the Church, read here about the difference between doctrines and disciplines, as I fear you are making a common mistake:

          http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2010/09/catholics-you-must-understand-this.html

          • BenS

            Fyi, I "thought" my way into the Church

            It's remarkable how many of those who 'think' their way into faith almost always think their way into the faith they had as a child.

            (as did my Jewish agnostic husband)

            It's also remarkable how many atheist / agnostic / weakly religious people convert to the religion of their strongly religious spouse... and then deconvert when the marriage breaks up.

            Just saying.

          • Leila Miller

            BenS, hello! Actually, you must not have read many Catholic conversion stories? There are thousands of them out there available, and I also invite you to start interviewing devout Catholic converts to see the diversity of their journeys. But again, that might mess up your narrative.

            Just saying. ;)

          • BenS

            Actually, you must not have read many Catholic conversion stories?

            I've read loads. I've also read loads of Jewish conversion stories, Mormon conversion stories, Muslim conversion stories, Hindu conversion stories and Buddhist conversion stories.

            The massively overwhelming trend - i.e. the vast majority of cases - is for people to convert back to the religion they had as a child. Indeed, you are one of them.

            My point still stands.

          • Leila Miller

            And I stand by my point as well. I've personally been in the Catholic conversion "circle" for almost twenty years, including many years of teaching converts in RCIA (not to mention reading conversion stories spanning from St. Paul to Newman to Leah Lebresco). We will simply have to disagree on this point.

            What is especially condescending about your initial comment is that you imply that I did not actually "think" my way to acceptance of Catholicism, and that during our marriage I was a "strongly" Catholic wife whose husband somehow gave in for reasons of emotion/unity. You really don't know anything about my experience or my husband's, so it's actually rather silly for you to make such implications. ;)

            Have a great evening!

          • BenS

            I've personally been in the Catholic conversion "circle" for almost twenty years, including many years of teaching converts in RCIA (not to mention reading conversion stories spanning from St. Paul to Newman to
            Leah Lebresco). We will simply have to disagree on this point.

            And others I've spoken to have been in the Muslim conversion circles, CofE conversion circles etc for decads and the stories all have a number of things in common irrespective of the religion the conversions are to. There's nothing special about any of them, though each claims there is. They all follow the same pattern.

            And if you've been in the conversion circle for all that time, you will know that the vast majority of converts are those who either self-identified as Catholic at some point or had Catholic parents. If you expand that to include those who live in predominantly Catholic communities or have a Catholic partner, it goes through the roof. Very, very seldom does it happen that someone born to Muslim parents, living in a predominantly Muslim community and with a Muslim partner converts to Catholicism. And vice versa.

            This leads rather to the conclusion that rational thought is not the big player here, but their social situation.

            What is especially condescending about your initial comment is that you imply that I did not actually "think" my way to acceptance of Catholicism

            Yes, I did imply that. For the reasons I've given. It's remarkable that people who 'think' their way to religion almost always 'think' their way to the religion they held previously. It may not be in your case, I have no way of knowing, but the figures speak for themselves and therefore it's a reasonable implication.

            Have a great evening!

            Thank you, but it's nearly time for breakfast. Have a good morning.

          • Leila Miller

            "Very, very seldom does it happen that someone born to Muslim parents, living in a predominantly Muslim community and with a Muslim partner converts to Catholicism."

            And why do you suppose that is? Could fear of death have anything at all to do with that? ;)

            I'm guessing you are from the UK then? I have had a lot of interaction with atheists from the UK in the past couple of years. There are a lot of you over there!

          • BenS

            And why do you suppose that is? Could fear of death have anything at all to do with that? ;)

            And vice versa, I said - though you conveniently left that out - so fear of death is clearly not the sole reason or it wouldn't happen just as often in the reverse scenario.

            I'm guessing you are from the UK then? I have had a lot of interaction with atheists from the UK in the past couple of years. There are a lot of you over there!

            Yes. All the good countries are trending towards atheism.

          • Leila Miller

            Yes, I admit to leaving that part out. There are many reasons Christians would not "think" their way into Islam, but that is a discussion for another day.

            Yipes! "Good countries"? Lol. That sounds a tad elitist and not so celebratory of diversity….

            You think England's future is bright?

          • BenS

            There are many reasons Christians would not "think" their way into Islam, but that is a discussion for another day.

            The most obvious one being that they are Christians. Thus neatly making my point for me. I would congratulate you on finally grasping the point but, alas, I rather doubt you have.

            Lol. That sounds a tad elitist and not so celebratory of diversity….

            Says the woman who, as a good Catholic, would seek to deny homosexuals the same rights as heterosexuals. Please be aware that a Catholic berating me for not celebrating diversity will be greeted with gales of derisive laughter.

            You think England's future is bright?

            You think England is the UK?

          • Leila Miller

            Homosexuals have the same rights as heterosexuals. What they want (and it's not a "right") is ontologically impossible. They want to have "marriage" which is a conjugal union. They can do whatever they want sexually, but yes, we will absolutely object when they want to redefine words to be in contradiction to what the word means. I would be against defining a dog as a cat, too. I guess I am a big meanie.

            But let me ask: Do you really want all people to have "marriage equality"? Are you that committed to the cause? I mean, I really want to know….should there be any adult denied the "right" to "marry" whomever she/he pleases? And if you do want some restrictions on who can "marry", does that make you a bigot?

            Let's go back to the fact that "all the good countries are trending towards atheism". There have been countries that not only have trended towards it, but actually enshrined it. Those nations are the (former) Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, China, etc. Are those the "good countries"? And in what way? Help me understand.

          • They can do whatever they want sexually, but yes, we will absolutely object when they want to redefine words to be in contradiction to what the word means. I would be against defining a dog as a cat, too. I guess I am a big meanie.

            Legally speaking, when a state or a country permits same-sex marriage, those same-sex couples who do the appropriate paperwork and go through the appropriate ceremony, are married. Whether that fits your idea of what marriage is or ought to be, it is just a fact that people who enter into legal same-sex marriages are married. If there were any basis whatsoever in law to deny that, you can bet it would have been taken to the Supreme Court.

            Legally defining a dog as a cat would not make a dog a cat. But permitting same-sex marriage does make two men or two women who join together in legal marriage legally married.

            should there be any adult denied the "right" to "marry" whomever she/he pleases?

            Marriage equality is not about the right to marry whomever one pleases. Straight people don't have that right, and gay people are not asking for it.

          • BenS

            Marriage equality is not about the right to marry whomever one pleases. Straight people don't have that right, and gay people are not asking for it.

            This.

          • Leila Miller

            David, in many states, if a man decides in his mind that he is a woman, the state will legally declare him a woman. Does that make him a woman?

          • That has no bearing on the issue of same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples who marry where same-sex marriage is legal are legally married. The Catholic Church believes it is impossible to divorce from a valid marriage and marry again. However, nobody denies that a divorced Catholic who has not obtained an annulment and who civilly marries another woman is legally married to her. Would you call that "redefining marriage"? From a strictly religious, Catholic point of view you might like to. You might like to say there is no such thing as remarriage (if the previous spouse is still living). But you would be very wrong to say that a divorced and remarried person isn't legally married and as "proof" cite the Catholic belief that marriage is indissoluble.

          • Leila Miller

            No, I would not call that redefining marriage, because even if it is illicit or not valid (which the Church would not even know unless it investigated), it's still a conjugal union so it can be a civil marriage at the least. (Just FYI, the Church would never question the validity of a marriage unless a spouse petitioned the Church with a request to investigate if his/her marriage is null; the Church assumes a marriage is valid.)

          • it's still a conjugal union so it can be a civil marriage at the least.

            If marriage is indissoluble, a divorced and remarried person (according to the Catholic Church) is not actually married, but living in adultery. But you are saying that because it is a "conjugal union," it can be a civil marriage. So you seem to be acknowledging that two people living in adultery in a non-marriage can be in a valid civil marriage. And I agree. Whatever Catholics believe about the indissolubility of marriage, two people married by the state—no matter how many previous marriages and divorces they had—are legally, civilly married.

            But when same-sex marriage is legal, same-sex couples who marry are just as legally, civilly married as the divorced and remarried. You will notice that no one has made any legal arguments that the state cannot marry same-sex couples. That is one reason why so many states passed amendments "redefining" marriage as between one man and one woman. The state has a right to make its own marriage laws.

            If a civil marriage between two people of the same gender were somehow "impossible," that argument would have been taken to the Supreme Court, and if they ruled in favor of it, that would have put an end to the same-sex marriage campaign. But no such argument could be made, because if the state so chooses, it can marry same-sex couples. You may not like it. But no one denies that states have the legal authority to do it.

          • Leila Miller

            David, you misunderstand. Only a sacramental marriage is indissoluble. Valid marriages (which are not sacramental) can be dissolved, even by civil or Church authority. For example, my husband and I were married in the Church, but he was Jewish, so it was not a sacramental marriage. We could have had our (natural, valid) marriage dissolved by the Pope if we had petitioned Rome (this is different from annulment). Also, of course a purely civil marriage is dissoluble. No one would dispute that.

            As to the rest: So, if the Supreme Court says that a biological man is a woman, then it's true? The legal declaration makes the man a woman? That sounds to me like what you are saying. Doesn't the state have a right to legally declare a man a woman? And, does it make it so?

          • David, you misunderstand.

            I know the Catholic position on the indissolubility of marriage. But most people in the United States are baptized, and marriage between two baptized (but not Catholic) Christians is considered to be sacramental by the Church.

            We could have had our (natural, valid) marriage dissolved by the Pope if we had petitioned Rome (this is different from annulment).

            It's my understanding that the only condition under which the pope could dissolve your marriage, assuming you were baptized before you married your husband, is if you wanted to leave your Jewish husband to marry a baptized Christian man. Natural marriages can be dissolved (Pauline and Petrine privilege), but only under very specific circumstances.

            Also, of course a purely civil marriage is dissoluble. No one would dispute that.

            But I thought we were discussing real marriages—natural and sacramental. If a Catholic in a valid sacramental marriage gets a civil divorce, he or she cannot enter into another real marriage (according to the Church), either natural or sacramental.

            As I understand it, even two unbaptized persons in a purely natural marriage are married for life unless one of them wants to be baptized and marry another baptized person.

            So it is only in rare circumstances that a natural marriage can be dissolved, and of course a sacramental marriage (if consummated) cannot be dissolved at all.

            So, if the Supreme Court says that a biological man is a woman, then it's true?

            That is not the issue here. If the state says a same-sex couple is married, then that couple is legally and civilly married. The question you raise may be interesting, but it is not relevant. I will note, however, that some states will allow people who have had sex-change operations to change their gender on their birth certificates, and those people then are legally of the gender they chose, rather than the one they were born with.

          • Leila Miller

            So, if the state declares all dogs to be cats, then dogs are now legally cats? Even though they are really not cats? Even though it's fiction and fantasy? Same thing if the state declares something that it ontologically not marriage to be "marriage". The state is not magic, but I guess it can lie. If they wanted to declare a "civil union" between gay people, that is one thing. But they are declaring two men as "married". It simply cannot happen. Just as the state cannot make a man be a woman by a stroke of the pen.

            For purposes of gay "marriage" it doesn't matter what type of marriage we are talking about: Civil, "real", natural, valid, sacramental -- all have always been understood to be conjugal unions (that's why the even the state will annul civil marriages for non-consummation). So, the state can no more say that "marriage" is now possible between two men as it can say that a dog is now a cat or a man is now a woman.

            And, I or the Church could even say that there is no "real" or "valid" marriage between, let's say, a divorced and remarried Catholic (without annulment), but we would still understand that there is a civil marriage. The Church understands that. But what we can never "understand" (since it's nonsensical) is the fallacy that two men or two women can "marry", civilly or otherwise.

            Maybe this article from a Catholic philosopher mom can help make my position more clear:

            http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/06/10272/

            Please, please, read it to the end.

            Also, I am impressed by your knowledge of Church marriage law. Most Catholics don't even know! Truly, that is great to see.

            "As I understand it, even two unbaptized persons in a purely natural marriage are married for life unless one of them wants to be baptized and marry another baptized person."

            Yes for Pauline, but it's slightly different with Petrine if I am recalling correctly. With Petrine, the pope would be petitioned for reasons other than wanting to marry another person (remember, it was a Church wedding, and the spouse petitioning is baptized; even if the marriage is not sacramental, hopefully he/she is not trolling around for dates!).

          • Andrew G.

            So, if the state declares all dogs to be cats, then dogs are now legally cats? Even though they are really not cats?

            Tomatoes really are fruit, and carrots really are not, but that hasn't bothered the US or the EU.

          • Leila Miller

            Andrew, you've missed the point. We are not talking about categorizing things. Try this: If a tomato was legally declared a carrot, would a tomato suddenly, truly, become a carrot? Or would it still be a tomato, no matter what it was called?

          • Andrew G.

            Every discussion of words is a discussion about categorizing things. The point of otherwise strange legal rulings about whether tomatos or carrots are fruit is because there is some sense in which, legally, you are asking a different question about them (in this case, whether tomatos should pay the tariff specified for fruit or the one for vegetables, or whether carrot jam should be classified with fruit preserves) than might apply in another context (where do I find the seeds of a tomato or carrot plant?).

            If you want the detailed explanation, I suggest reading A Human's Guide To Words.

          • Leila Miller

            Andrew, do you believe that a carrot is the same ontological thing as a tomato? Forget the words we use to apply to them (we can call a carrot a "sprogit" and a tomato a "blumbie" if you'd like); are they the same ontological thing?

          • Andrew G.

            Your question is based on the false assumption that there is a single "ontological thing" that defines carrots or tomatos, like a Platonic Form of Tomato or whatever.

            If I have a collection of objects each of which is a tomato or a carrot, I can classify them in many different ways and these will correlate in a way that separates them fairly clearly into two groups. But that separation may not usefully answer other questions I might ask about them.

            This is all explained at the link I posted above.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Your assumption that there exists a single, universally agreed on definition of 'marriage' is what's at fault. There isn't. And no matter how many times your repeat it, there will never be.

          • Leila Miller

            Well then it's a good thing I never claimed such a thing. ;) But yes, no matter the range of definition or incidentals, it's always been a conjugal union.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Do you always directly contradict yourself in your posts? You just did it again.

            "I never claimed there was only one definition of marriage."

            "No matter what anybody says, there is only definition of marriage."

            You are 100% wrong.

          • Leila Miller

            Good catch! I have written a lot of comments today. So let's try it this way so that I can be clear: One thing that is definitional to all marriages (no matter the other incidentals) is that they are conjugal in nature. That they are able to be consummated. How's that?

            Gosh, even Hillary Clinton and all the Democrats who have "evolved" used to claim what I'm claiming about marriage and history, even just months or a few years ago. How did they get their facts so very wrong? And where did they get the brand new facts about history and marriage?

          • articulett

            No, it hasn't. oreover, in biblical times and in more primitive societies it was women were considered the property of their husbands. Thankfully, We'eve evolved.

            You are free to be the property of your husband or belong to a religon where multiple wives are the norm... and you are free to be in a celibate marriage if you please. Or you are free to get divorced and/or anull your marriage and marry again. How bizarre that you want to define what marriage means to other people.

            And for someone who claims to love logic-- you are very confused about definitions and concrete things versus abstractions ; I hope for the sake of your children you aren't homeschooling them.

          • Leila Miller

            articulett, um, you still have not shown that marriage has not been conjugal in nature. Care to actually address the point?

            And I must say, in my many years of debating atheists, you are among the rudest and most insulting I've encountered. I guess you will probably wear that as a badge of honor, but again I ask, why are you on this site?

          • David Egan

            "And I must say, in my many years of debating atheists, you are among the rudest and most insulting I've encountered."

            It's refreshing to see someone treat your batshit crazy religion and beliefs with the respect they deserve. We need to get away from the idea that religion deserves any respect.

          • Leila Miller

            Aren't you a charmer!

            Don't worry, we Catholics are used to being disrespected, so your friend is not being novel or original at all. But it's sad that you have no manners. Why are you on this site, David?

          • Max Driffill

            Conjugal unions? Or ways to consolidate wealth and power?

          • Leila Miller

            Or how about "ways to ensure that a child, who comes from the conjugal union, is born to his mother and father". It's a concept! :)

          • Max Driffill

            Certainly it can do that. But that has hardly been the sole, or even most important purpose of marriage over the years.

          • Leila Miller

            I completely disagree. To bond a husband to his wife and the children they create through their conjugal union is at the heart of it all. Do you think there would have been marriage in any society (and we've seen it in all societies) if humans reproduced asexually and human offspring were self-sufficient at birth?

          • Max Driffill

            Cross culturally what we find is a lot of variation in marriage, and it serves bunch of different purposes cross culturally. Why do you think parents are so at odds with their kids about marriage in most countries? Kids are often not the factor you think they are.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            "For purposes of gay "marriage" it doesn't matter what type of marriage we are talking about: Civil, "real", natural, valid, sacramental -- all have always been understood to be conjugal unions (that's why the even the state will annul civil marriages for non-consummation)"

            No, they haven't. Please stop making things up.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            "And, I or the Church could even say that there is no "real" or "valid" marriage between, let's say, a divorced and remarried Catholic (without annulment), but we would still understand that there is a civil marriage. The Church understands that. But what we can never "understand" (since it's nonsensical) is the fallacy that two men or two women can "marry", civilly or otherwise."

            So you accept that the state may define marriage entirely differently from the church, and you're OK with that, but if the state chooses to define marriage entirely differently from the church, then you're NOT OK with that?

            Why do you continue to contradict yourself in your posts?

          • Leila Miller

            LOL, let me try again. Bring the word "conjugal" into it and we can get somewhere. You keep ignoring that part. Yes, as I've said before, some of the incidentals between civil marriage and sacramental marriage are different. But the thread that all marriage has in common (that makes it "marriage") is that it is conjugal in nature. Sorry, I am sounding like a broken record, but I want you to really, finally see the word "conjugal" and see that it's integral to any definition of marriage. If there is no "conjugal" in its nature, then it's not marriage, it's something else. Period. So, it's not just redefining marriage (though it's that), but it's really undefining it completely, at its essence. It's ontologically no longer something that we understand to be "marriage". It's like redefining a cat into a dog. You can say a cat is a dog, but it won't make a cat a dog.

            I asked another commenter to read this to the end, and you will see:

            http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/06/10272/

          • Max Driffill

            Leila,

            "LOL, let me try again. Bring the word "conjugal" into it and we can get somewhere. You keep ignoring that part."

            It is ignored because it is not germane to the discussion of how the State wishes to view marriage. On top of this, it does't help that you are trying to define marriage, with a synonym for marriage.

            "Yes, as I've said before, some of the incidentals between civil marriage and sacramental marriage are different. But the thread that all marriage has in common (that makes it "marriage") is that it is conjugal in nature."

            Marriage has been about love between two people (at least in the west) for a very long time. Reproduction may be involved, but it isn't necessary.

            "Sorry, I am sounding like a broken record, but I want you to really, finally see the word "conjugal" and see that it's integral to any definition of marriage."

            For you and your fellow catholics maybe, but there is no reason to impose this definition on the rest of us, when it is clear that even in the most basic way, the culture in the west has long ago rejected your definition of conjugal.

            "If there is no "conjugal" in its nature, then it's not marriage, it's something else. Period. "

            Please. For a long time, for your church it couldn't be marriage if it was with another denomination.

            So, it's not just redefining marriage (though it's that), but it's really undefining it completely, at its essence. It's ontologically no longer something that we understand to be "marriage". It's like redefining a cat into a dog. You can say a cat is a dog, but it won't make a cat a dog.

          • Leila Miller

            Yes, it's like redefining a cat into a dog. It's like expanding the definition of cat to mean dog as well. Talk about a muddle.

            Anyway, since you subscribe to the view that marriage is primarily about "romance" (as if the state or any society would actually have a vested interest in affirming someone's romantic feelings), I don't think we will get far in this discussion from here. Love is ideal in a marriage, but has never been integral to it. If it were, then every consensual arranged marriage in history would not have been marriage, and my grandparents, who met shortly before their wedding, had five children and celebrated their 50th anniversary with their fourteen grandchildren around, never had a marriage.

            "but there is no reason to impose this definition on the rest of us"

            Just a quick reminder that we are in favor of the status quo. Any "imposing" is coming from one side only.

            "This simply is not a notion supported by our history."

            Actually, this is what history supports (thank you for these words and this truth, Hillary Clinton):

            Hillary:

            "[Marriage is] the fundamental bedrock principle that it exists between a man and a woman going back into the mists of history, as one of the founding foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization, and that its primary, principle role during those millennia has been the raising and socializing of children for the society in which they are to become adults.”

            She said lots of other similar things, too, as did her fellow politicians. Unfortunately, Hillary inexplicably found a new "history" out of nowhere when political winds changed. I asked another commenter and I'll ask you: Where did her new history come from?

            "For a long time, for your church it couldn't be marriage if it was with another denomination."

            ? Are you talking about sacramental, Christian marriage? Yes, with a dispensation from the bishop, even my Protestant mom and Catholic dad were married in the Catholic Church in 1964 (pre-Vatican II). And the Church recognizes the natural and valid marriages of even non-Christians (Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, whatever) and atheists. So, not sure if you understand the facts of Catholic teaching on this.

          • Susan

            I asked another commenter to read this to the end, and you will see:

            I read it. What am I supposed to see?

            It's just more of the same.

          • Max Driffill

            That article seems to boil down to, "I don't know how to explain it to my kids, thus, gay marriage bad."

          • Substitute "gay marriage" for "flying spaghetti monster-ism."

          • Max Driffill

            Stacy,
            Tonight's non sequitur award goes to you! Congrats.

          • Susan

            >That article seems to boil down to, "I don't know how to explain it to my kids, thus, gay marriage bad."

            Yes. The first couple of paragraphs could effortlessly replace "gay marriage" with "interracial marriage" (remember? the argument from much less than a century ago?)

            The fact is that gay parents have successfully raised healthy, happy children to adulthood and are doing so now. And the problem with the author is not the ten-year-old's inevitable psychological trauma (no evidence for that) but the author's fear that explaining something that does no harm (unless there's actual EVIDENCE for real harm) might undermine that author's belief that gay marriage is bad.