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The Acts We Perform and the People We Become

Pope John Paul II

From the 1950’s through the late 1970’s Karol Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II) was a professor of moral philosophy at the Catholic University of Lublin in Poland, specializing in sexual ethics and what we call today “marriage and family life.” He produced two important books touching on these matters, The Acting Person, a rigorously philosophical exploration of Christian anthropology, and Love and Responsibility, a much more accessible analysis of love, sex, and marriage. These texts provided the foundation for the richly textured teaching of Pope John Paul II that now goes by the name “theology of the body”.

As was evident throughout his papacy, John Paul had a deep devotion to young people, and he wanted them to see the teaching of the church in regard to sex, not as a burden, but as an invitation to fuller life. In the context of this brief article, I would like to develop just one insight from John Paul’s rich magisterium on sex and marriage, for I share the perennial concern of older people that too many young people are treating sex in a morally casual way.

Karol Wojtyla taught that in making an ethical decision, a moral agent does not only give rise to a particular act, but he also contributes to the person he is becoming. Every time I perform a moral act, I am building up my character, and every time I perform an unethical act, I am compromising my character. A sufficient number of virtuous acts, in time, shapes me in such a way that I can predictably and reliably perform virtuously in the future, and a sufficient number of vicious acts can misshape me in such a way that I am typically incapable of choosing rightly in the future.

This is not judgmentalism; it is a kind of spiritual/moral physics, an articulation of a basic law. We see the same principle at work in sports. If you swing the golf club the wrong way enough times, you become a bad golfer, that is to say, someone habitually incapable of hitting the ball straight and far. And if you swing the club correctly enough times, you become a good golfer, someone habitually given to hitting the ball straight and far.

John Paul put his finger on a problem typical of our time, namely, that people think that they can do lots of bad things while still remaining, deep down, “good persons,” as though their characters are separable from the particular things that they do. In point of fact, a person who habitually engages in self-absorbed, self-destructive, and manipulative behavior is slowly but surely warping her character, turning herself into a self-absorbed, self-destructive, and manipulative person.

Viewed from a slightly different angle, this is the problem of separating “self” from the body, as though the “real person” hides under or behind the concrete moves of the body. Catholic philosophy and theology have battled this kind of dualism for centuries, insisting that the self is a composite of spirit and matter. In fact, it is fascinating to note how often this gnostic conception of the person (to give it its proper name) asserts itself and how often the Church has risen up to oppose it.

Now apply this principle to sexual behavior. Study after study has shown that teenagers and college students are participating more and more in a “hook-up” culture, an environment in which the most casual and impersonal forms of sexual behavior are accepted as a matter of course. As recently as 25 or 30 years ago, there was still, even among teenagers, a sense that sexual contact belonged at least in the context of a “loving” or “committed” relationship. But today it appears as though even this modicum of moral responsibility has disappeared.

This is doing terrible damage to young people. Dr. Leonard Sax, a physician and psychiatrist, explored the phenomenon of the hook-up culture in his book Why Gender Matters, a text I would warmly recommend to teenagers and their parents. He described that tawdry moral universe in some detail, and then he remarked that his psychiatrist’s office is filled with young people—especially young women—who have fallen into debilitating depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

Dr. Sax theorized that these psychological symptoms are a function of a kind of cognitive dissonance. The wider society is telling teen-agers that they can behave in any way they like and still be “good people,” but the consciences of these young people are telling a different story. Deep down, they know that selfish and irresponsible behavior is turning them into selfish and irresponsible people—and their souls are crying out. Their presence, in Dr. Sax’s waiting room, witnesses to the truth of John Paul’s understanding of the moral act.

I might sum up John Paul’s insight by saying that moral acts matter, both in the short run and in the long run. For weal or for woe, they produce immediate consequences, and they form characters. And so I might venture to say to a young person, tempted to engage in irresponsible sexual behavior: please realize that, though you may not immediately appreciate it, the particular things you choose to do are inevitably shaping the person you are becoming.
 
 
(Image credit: Wanted in Milan)

Bishop Robert Barron

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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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  • I do not agree that any consensual sexual behaviour is immoral. I do not agree that casual sex leads to anxiety or depression. The causes of anxiety and depression are unknown. Suggesting that scientists have the ability to trace their etiology to certain behaviours is specious. Is Dr Sax just relying on his anecdotal insight that many of his patients with anxiety and depression seem to be engaging in more casual sex? How has he established the causal arrow? Even if he is right that there is a correlation, how do we know that these conditions are not the cause of the casual sex and not the other way round?

    Casual sex is really fun and fulfilling when done with open eyes and full consent, and teens know this. It is not as fulfilling as sex with a parter you deeply love, but nothing is. I would agree that people, particularly young people may be engaging in it for the wrong reasons. But I also believe that the solution to this is to educate kids on consent, sex and especially sexual health. I would say that the cognitive dissonance, if there is any, comes from a knowledge that consensual casual safe sex is entirely moral, along with certain elements of society who keep proclaiming and indoctrinating us that it is not.

    • NicholasBeriah Cotta

      Open eyes and full consent is something for rich and well adjusted people. You can make a similar argument in order to abolish overtime laws- consent of the two parties makes it moral! On the contrary, we understand that no two individuals live in a vacuum so consent cannot be an arbiter of whether an act is moral or not, and as for open eyes, if we all acted with our eyes fully open, we wouldn't have words like "regret."
      You didn't really make a positive coherent argument for sex, just objected to Fr. Barron's.

      • Nonsense, poor and even people with mental disabilities are fully capable of consenting to sex and sex acts and understanding them and their consequences.

        There is nothing immoral about sex with someone you like or even barely know. If you think there is, please explain why.

        Your analogy to overtime laws is entirely misplaced. Overtime laws are designed to protect workers who are in an inherent power imbalance with their employers. These laws do not cover all employees, particularly workers with more power in the employment relationship. The same is not the case for sex between adults, which is why there are no laws and no need for laws restricting sex to with people who are in love. We do have strict laws prohibiting any sex that is non consenting.

        I would say that it is a bad idea to try and dissuade young people from any sex until they have entered a long term committed loving relationship. What we should do is have honest discussions with kids about what sex is, what options are open to them, how they might feel, what they should consider before engaging in sex

        • NicholasBeriah Cotta

          Well we are just going to devolve in to a long conversation based on our beliefs about the nature of morality in the first place. What is morality to you? Whether something is fun or not?
          Even in a naturalist sense, the point of sex is to procreate and the best procreation is done under a commitment between the procreators. My version of morality would hold that any sex done out of the possibility for that context is immoral because it reduces the means to the ends.

          • Ben Posin

            Nicholas,
            What morality might or not be has been debated and discussed at length on this website--as it should be, it's a common and important subject when discussing different ideas held by atheists and Catholics. It's helpful to realize that people with a different viewpoint really don't accept that the axioms you may hold are obviously correct, and that if you want your ideas taken seriously you need to support them.

            Case in point: there are a number of such assumptions built into your comment. Who says THE point of sex is to procreate? That's certainly A point of it, but clearly a lot of people think it has more than one purpose. And why is it immoral to "reduce" a menas to an end? You throw that out there without any sort of explanation, and it's not at all an obvious principle to me.

            Anyway, when you apply your arguments to other activites, doesn't it sound pretty obviously silly? For instance, the purpose of walking is to take us to a destination. Going on a hike that just takes us back where we started is thus immoral, it's walking only for the pleasure of it, and "reduces" means to ends. Those young people had really better stop all this hiking, before it starts making them selfish, irresponsible, tawdry people.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            You are talking out of both sides of your mouth:" Nicholas, come up with some basis of morality (I thought I did which was to procreate (end=goal=moral/immoral)) but then realize that people won't agree with your axioms (yes, I know that is why I inquired as to his ends "What is morality to you? Whether something is fun or not?"). "
            You can just repeat this argument to any reply - "Oh I don't agree with your axioms, realize that I have my own and then argue from there."
            Without axioms, there are no arguments. If I cannot make axioms, then I cannot make arguments. I proposed some and inquired to his. Your argument is just circular.

          • Ben Posin

            Of course I can disagree with your principles about what constitutes morality, or I can tell you in honesty that I just don't get them, that they sound arbitrary or bizarre. You don't have to argue from my own axioms or definitions. You just have to realize that your definitions aren't clearly right on their face, and that if you want us to consider them to be meaningful, you have to provide some explanation and justification.

            You can tell me that "reducing" (I suggest "promoting might be a better word) a means to an end is immoral, but I have no idea why that might be the case. If you can explain it, go ahead! If not, then your argument can be dismissed.

          • To me morality had to do with the consequences of actions on others. I find activities as immoral when they needlessly harm others.

            I do not think it is immoral to engage in activities for purposes other than their biological function or designed purpose. It is not immoral for children to play in the box a refrigerator came in, it is not immoral for people to eat for pleasure or to have sex for pleasure.

            Sex for pleasure neither offends any moral intuition I have, it harms no one, and there is no reason to suggest it is immoral other than unjustified dogma.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            It may not harm you right here, right now but what about the probability of that standard to every person in every interaction? Fr. Barron's discourse here is that your particular view of harm (and because it hasn't "harmed" you yet is no guarantee of that it will not harm you in the future) is not universal. Just the testimony that casual sex is moral can influence society as a whole which informs us as individuals. Maybe other individuals may be harmed by it.
            Fr. Barron's discourse here is setting forth that the weakest in society are beginning to feel the effects of this reverberation first - it is pretty clear that the sexual choices of the poorest and weakest members of society are doing greater disservice to them than the pleasure derived from the acts. Whether the psychological effects of women are used or the fact that poorer children are more likely born out of wedlock (due to the normalization of sex for pleasure and then subsequently outside commitment), which leads to a less informed and comforted childhood, which leads to less fulfilling life and so on and it compounds itself... the point is that harm cannot be measured in any one single action or its immediate effects. I could shoot a gun in the air, hurt no one and still come to the conclusion that doing that is harmful because it has a greater likelihood of harm (hitting a bystander) compared to the benefits the action (me getting my jollies shooting the gun).

          • Do you think casual sex between consenting adults is inherently harmful or immoral, if so why.

            Yes I think shooting a gun in the air is reckless and should be warned against. Firstly, because the potential harm is easily identifiable, the bullet could damage people or property when it lands.

            I don't see any harms that reasonably flow from casual sex. Fr Barron seems to think that there is a relationship between it and certain mental disorders, but he has barely even suggeted there is a correlation much less a causal relationship.

            You seem to suggest that it will have some psychological effect on women, what? What makes you think that? You also suggest it will increase out of wedlock births. I see no harm in that or in increased single parent births, if this is what people want.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            The rational relationship to me is that it be practiced open to procreation with a committed partner. Anything outside of that is just wasting your time.
            You may choose future partners based on the fact that they are more easily willing to give you pleasure or (such as Hey, you'll have sex with me, let's move in together!), you may spend too much time doing it (or thinking about it) which could be used to produce longer more fulfilling exercises of your time, and so on and so forth. You can't really know all of the harmful effects of an irrational relationship with sex as a single individual. If you just at any given moment say, "I don't belive this is harming me," I don't think that is a very authoritative evaluation of harm or an act itself. Yes, the gun analogy is obviously dangerous but I just use it to illustrate that anecdotal evidence is bad evidence. Your mind can't properly analyze the scope of an entire lifetime of actions or the entire aggregate effect of societal choice so the consequences may be there, but just less obvious.
            I think it's increasingly clear there is evidence that casual sex is more likely harmful than not in that it leads to long term psychological harm, long term societal harm, and just the plain fact that you can be doing something more creative with your time.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The rational relationship to me is that it be practiced open to procreation with a committed partner. Anything outside of that is just wasting your time.

            Why? Why is good sex a waste of time?

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            Good sex is not a waste of time.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            There you go.

          • Loreen Lee

            Paradoxically, you never know whether you will remember it as good or 'bad' sex, until the 'morning after'. !!!!

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            In that case you clearly weren't paying attention.

          • Loreen Lee

            Are you referring to the above comment regarding good or 'bad' sex? If so, please give attention to the context in which it is intended" i.e. as an impersonal presentation of a paradoxical, hopefully, humorous idea, describing a situation in which one might not be capable of giving complete. i.e. rational attention to anything, if assessed by a paradigm of sobriety!!!!

          • Actually there are quite compelling reasons to engage in sex before you have reached the point of serious commitment. A good sex life, I would argue, is an important part of a conjugal relationship. People should find out if they are sexually compatible before they move in. If there are sexual problems folks need to consider whether these are deal-breakers. It is also useful in separating lust and love.

            But these are just my opinions.

          • Anon knee mouse

            Wouldn't the best way to identify the difference between sex and love be to abstain until marriage? With no sex to "cloud" the picture- a long term commitment must be based on love then. Right?

          • Biptoe

            It is harmful especially for the woman for many reasons. One reason is that the sex act releases hormones like seratonin and for women oxytocin. The oxytocin is the same hormone released during breast feeding and is designed to emotionally bond mother and child. It also works to bond her with sex partner(s). This is contradictory to the hookup culture. Many women just wind up hurt and feeling used and have self esteem issues that often lead to substance abuse or other problems like cutting and anorexia. Dr Miriam Grossman discusses other physical and psychological problems in her book "you're teaching my kid what."

          • Thank you, biptoe, if this is indeed the case, this is important information to relate to teens and exactly the kind of education I advocate we should be providing. Young girls and boys need to understand that sex does things to their chemistry. We should be talking about what teens who engage in sex while they are young with committed partners or more committed partners feel about it in later life. If it is the case that most women regret having sex before a certain age we should educate on this.

            It is unfortunate that Fr Barron did not point to information such as this, but rather implied that we all know casual sex is immoral and this causes cognitive dissonance resulting in anxiety and depression.

          • Biptoe

            He may not know. I didn't know until I attended the doctors seminar. I kinda knew but not the scientific data confirming though I did study biology I'm not an MD. I was also surprised to learn that women under age 25 or so have a greater risk of STD due to the "immaturity" or thickness of the cervix. It is quite thin and porous conducive to all sorts of foreign bodies penetrating the membrane, thus greater infection risks. We are trying to get the information out in our area. We have another youth event planned for April 5th in Waco, TX. I hope they can be spared some of the trauma the hookup culture brings

          • I hope you are using reliable and well-established research and informing youth about known risks. For example, while women may be more susceptible to some STDs due to their biology, this is a good reason to educate them on safe sex and safer sex practices.

            Moreover I would seriously hope you are providing such education in a neutral forum. When I was a teen, I would have ignored any such education coming from a religious group. I was very open to this education in school and from groups who have no agenda other than health. As a volunteer with Planned Parenthood I gained an excellent education in safer sex and particularly consent.

          • diggit03

            Well how about this reason- sex can result in a pregnancy. Methods like birth control pills and IUDs are, sometimes, abortifacient in nature. For those few times a pregnancy occurs, is this "fun" worth the termination of a human life? One's child, really. I don't think it's moral. Deliberate, direct killing of humans under any circumstance never is.

          • The risk of pregnancy is extremely low if proper precautions are taken. Particularly the pill, or not ejaculating inside, or not having full intercourse. Pregnancy does not necessarily lead to abortion, but if it does it is sometimes the best option.

            Whether abortion is murder or even killing is a separate discussion.

          • diggit03

            I get that you think it's a separate discussion. However, I hope you see why I think the two are intrinsically, biologically, and naturally linked. And if abortion IS the killing of a human life - I won't give you my opinion on that, since for you it's a different discussion, but IF it is - then this would have many implications about sex.

            This has everything to do with why we Catholics view sex not as casual, but as life-giving and sacred.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The catholic solution to youth navigating life never seems to lie on the side of more and better information, but always on the side of "don't do that - because I told you not to."

            Again, hardly convincing.

          • Steve Law

            Nonsense - the post we're discussing above gives multiple reasons why not, and there are other arguments too.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Please point out these "reasons". Perhaps I'm missing something.

          • Steve Law

            That sex is by nature an intimate act and therefore impersonal sex devoid of love and affection is detrimental to one's self-esteem and self-respect. And also that the body is not merely some fleshy amusement park we can exploit for thrills but an indivisible aspect of the whole person, and to treat it as a resource to be mined for kicks is really just an elaborate form of masturbation.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Sex is a biological act. Sometimes that comes with emotion connections and sometime it doesn't. And your first two claims are not sound - the conclusions do not follow. Your third is merely assertion, and ALL sex is, at bottom, masturbation.

          • Steve Law

            I was summarising the arguments in the op, in response to your reductive claim that all it amounts to is "don't do that - because I told you not to". Whether or not you agree is a different matter, but clearly these are reasoned arguments and not just authoritative commands.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            There are no arguments in the OP. There is a rather vague claim that doing bad things over a period of time makes you a bad person and vice-versa. The definition of bad things is stuff the catholic church doesn't like.
            Not much of an argument, there.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And as I pointed out, your summaries represent the various assertions contained in the OP. They are not arguments.

          • Steve Law

            "ALL sex is, at bottom, masturbation."
            Is that what you really think? I'm (almost) speechless. Is this the "scientific" view?
            Sex in its highest form is the ultimate sharing and merging of two individuals giving themselves to each other and receiving love, affection and pleasure; and, ultimately, creating new life. Masturbation is the lonely, solipsistic substitue for when you can't get proper sex.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I suggest you think more carefully about human biology. Humans do not "merge". And note that I said nothing about whether love, affection, or pleasure was or was not involved.

          • RainingAgain

            My sympathies to you.

          • Michael Murray

            This is known on these boards as "snark". Read the guidelines.

          • Sex is intimate, but that does not mean it is detrimental to self-esteem and respect if it is done without the kind of love one feels for a committed partner. Some of us are capable of sharing intimacy and even a kind of love with others with whom we have not made life commitments and plan to procreate with.

            By no means is the body a fleshy amusement park, but it is a wonderful thing to share with others. But it all depends on who is doing it, their expectations and so on. It is not for everyone, maybe not for most. But it is simply not the case that casual sex is inherently immoral or harmful.

          • David Nickol

            Isn't a good Christian woman who takes no pleasure from sex with her husband for whatever reason still have an obligation to provide him with a sexual outlet? True, such a thing might be done out of some kind of love. But it also might be done out of sheer duty.

          • Steve Law

            Well sure, it's not a perfect world. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong somewhere, sometime. But just because it doesn't always work out doesn't mean we should abandon the ideal and damn it as a fraud or delusion.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And keep in mind that this whole "hook-up" culture nonsense is mostly a media invention by people who aren't spending time on college campuses.

          • Anon knee mouse

            Actually, I would attest the phrase "hook up culture" emerged from individuals such as myself who have recently been in college. Personally, I learned of the phrase in college, from college students- many of whom understand the importance and dangers of said "hook up culture".

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Dr. Grossman is a clinical psychiatrist, and rabidly right-wing about homosexuality and sex in general. She is not competent to comment on the topic, and pushes a great deal of nonsensical mush. I wouldn't put any stock in what she says.

          • Biptoe

            Dr Grossman graduated from NYU medical school, interned in pediatrics at Beth Israel Hospital, completed residency in psychiatry at Cornell U, 12 years counseling at UCLA. What are your qualifications, Mr. O'Brien? She didn't strike me as very religous, but anti anal sex? Yes for medical reasons.

          • Biptoe

            Anti-anal sex. Sorry for confusion

          • MrsWolf

            Okay, this is just nonsense. Both men and women produce oxytocin during sex. In fact, any skin to skin contact between individuals will release oxytocin in both. Men also produce oxytocin when they interact with their children. It's one of the primary mechanism by which fathers bond with their infants.

            I reject the idea that women are different from men with regard to sex. Sexual experiences affect individuals differently (or, they have the potential to), but there is no research that I'm aware of that suggests that there are inherent sex differences.

            Maybe if we stopped teaching women and girls that they are bad for wanting and enjoying sex, we would have fewer problems. Maybe if our society stopped shaming women for their sexuality, while simultaneously celebrating male sexuality, we wouldn't depression and anxiety in women at current rates.

            -- Heather

          • Thanks Heather, I expected as much. Well Biptoe, seems like your claim is disputed, if not outright wrong and should not be taught to children.

          • David Nickol

            MrsWolf: I reject the idea that women are different from men with regard to sex.

            Do you really think natural selection has worked to make men and women identical (whatever that would mean) when it comes to sex? Or that millions of years of evolution can just be rendered inoperative by an act of will? To quote another commenter from another thread, "C'mon! I mean, c'mon!" I thought we relied on science here. "Reject[ing] the idea that women are different from men with regard to sex" is 100% ideology and 0% science. It is as insupportable as any religious proposition put forward by believers here.

            I don't accept a great deal of Catholic sexual morality, but it is just nonsense to maintain that male and female sexuality are not different.

          • MrsWolf

            David, I know of no empirical evidence to suggest that the physiological reactions of men and women to orgasm differ in any significant way. Orgasm produces dopamine in both men and women. It also produce oxytocin (the "bonding" chemical) in both men and women. As far as I am aware, the brain reaction to orgasm is the same. If evolution had produced differences between men and women, we would certainly see them at the brain level.

            So, if we do see differences in the way that men and women react to sex, that is not because of their brains. I would assert, then, that the explanation is simply the way in which we socialize men and women (boys and girls) differently about sex. We (as a society) teach women and girls to feel shame and guilt about sexual feelings and sexual behaviour. We teach boys and men that their sexuality is robust and masculine and good.

            Sexual feelings and desires are part of what make us human. Not male or female.

            -- Heather

          • Alan Wostenberg

            Brian, Biptoe gives information on the bad consequences of fornication, which Heather disputes, but I get the impression you think the goodness or badness of at thing depends on it's consequences?

            When Fr. Barron writes in the original piece "every time I perform a moral act, I am building up my character, and every time I perform an immoral act, I am compromising my character" he is not, I think, presuming consequentialism. An act can have bad or good consequences but the badness or goodness of the person is independent of the changes he effects.

            For example, consider the terrorist who is foiled by the authorities in his plot. Is he now good because he had bad luck? No! His badness is in wrong desire -- not the changes he manages to effect. The same principles applies to sexual acts.

            Suppose a man fantasizes about sexual intimacy with young children. But he never carries out the acts. Is he not bad for the illicit desire? Should he not repent of the desire?

          • I would call the terrorist immoral because he intended and acted towards unjustified harm. With respect to the fantasy, I would not call it immoral if the person simply finds himself desiring sex with children. From what I know about child sexual abusers I think there is a duty to take steps to ensure he never acts on these desires. Not fantasizing about it would be a ressonable step i would think.

          • John H. Graney

            It really *is* a problem that modern society's sexual expectations for women are different than modern society's expectations for men; however, the Catholic Church's teachings apply equally to both sexes, unlike societal norms.

          • MrsWolf

            Well, if you think equal doses of shame and guilt is a good thing, then I guess you are right.

            I would argue, however, that teaching anyone that their natural sexual feelings are evil and that their thought crime (lust in your heart) has the potential to send them to hell is unhealthy and morally wrong.

            That is what can lead to depression and anxiety. The constant worry that these thoughts and feelings you have (which you really can't eliminate, only repress) make you an intrinsically bad person.

            Did you know that rates of unwanted pregnancy and STIs is highest in groups of people who are given "abstinence only" sex education? These individuals feel a great deal of shame and discomfort with sex, and so do not plan for sex (by taking contraception or purchasing condoms). They don't know how to talk and negotiate safer sex or contraception with their sexual partners. The result being that they have unprotected sex at much higher rates than people who have received comprehensive sex education.

            And the fact is, only about 3% of people are abstinent until marriage. Even in highly religious group, the rate is only 20%. We do a disservice to our children when we fail to teach them about contraception and safer sex (and consent), since the vast majority of them are going to have sex before they are married. Even the vast majority of Catholics.

            -- Heather

          • Alan Wostenberg

            Mrs Wolf "teaching anyone that their natural sexual feelings are evil..is unhealthy and wrong"? Always? Suppose a man fantasizes about incestuous relations with his children But never acts on it. Should he not repent of those depraved thoughts?

          • Michael Murray

            Surely there is a difference between fantasy which is deliberate and thoughts which are unbidden? Of course if someone has thoughts that they find seriously uncomfortable they should seek advice from a mental health care professional.

          • Alan Wostenberg

            Sure, Michael, but habit wears a track in the mind. A depraved thought occurs, unbidden, but a person succumbs, is in that act weakened, repeats it again and again, until he has damaged himself. As Fr. Barron puts it "every time I perform a moral act, I am building up my character, and every time I perform an immoral act, I am compromising my character".

            Eventually it may spill out into the world -- the terrorist may succeed blowing up the building; the pederast may seduce a real child instead of an imaginary one -- but is he not bad in the desire independent of any consequences?

          • Michael Murray

            What do you mean by succumbs ? What if they don't succumb ?

          • Alan Wostenberg

            Michael, I mean by "succumb" to "willfully entertain that fantasy in the mind without doing anything in the world".

            If the man does not succumb to that licentious thought he is entering the virtuous cycle: "sew a habit, reap a virtue" as they say. .. But if he succumbs? He is entering the downward spiral into vice. Evil never stays at a level. It is down down down into the abyss.

            But we are not alone in this spiritual combat. Providentially there is sacramental confession to heal the man and stop the death spiral.

          • MrsWolf

            " but is he not bad in the desire independent of any consequences?"

            In my opinion, no.

            I would add that telling someone they are "bad" really reduces the chance that they will seek help for their unhealthy thoughts - thus increasing the obsession and the potential for harm. I certainly wouldn't ask for help from someone who views me as "bad" for my thoughts alone. And since I assume we agree that we both wish to reduce the chance that children will be harmed, isn't it counterproductive to label someone with sexual feelings toward children as "bad" rather than "unhealthy and in need of help"?

            By the way, I don't view unhealthy as equivalent morally bad. It's unhealthy to eat a bacon cheeseburger (fat, sodium, nitrates), but that doesn't make eating a bacon cheeseburger morally wrong. And it certainly doesn't make *desiring* a bacon cheeseburger bad.

            -- Heather

          • Alan Wostenberg

            Heather, it seems you are a consequentialist to the bone. Consequentialism is that moral view that goodness or badness consists in the effects we manage to have on the world. On consequentialism there is no principled objection to incest. If we can prevent unwanted consequences such birth, is not every argument for fornication also an argument for intergenerational sex?

          • MrsWolf

            Alan: "On consequentialism there is no principled objection to incest. If we can prevent unwanted consequences such birth, is not every argument for fornication also an argument for intergenerational sex?"

            Not necessarily. I believe that consent is necessary for sex to be moral (thus making pederasty and bestiality and other forms of non-consensual sex immoral). With the case of intergenerational incest between adults (which is what I assume you meant), consent is murky. There is an unequal power dynamic between parent and child that I believe makes the (adult) child incapable of giving full consent in that context. It's the same problem of power that exists between, say, a university student and her professor or potentially between an employee and his employer.

            As for incest between brother and sister (again adults), I don't really have a moral objection to that if consent is present. I mean, I find it a bit icky personally, but then, I find many things that don't harm anyone personally icky (like foot fetishes, for example).

            -- Heather

          • David Nickol

            I know what you are saying, and it makes a certain amount of sense, but I can't quite make sense of it as a model of the human mind. It is as if there is an "executive" in control inside a person's head who encourages the good and discourages the bad. But what motivates the "executive"? In a way it sounds like the job of the "executive" is to pull himself up by his own bootstraps.

            Also, it seems to me everyone has a certain amount of personality and internal impulses that they inherit or passively acquire that is beyond their control. Perhaps a certain father doesn't just entertain a fleeting thought of attraction to his daughter. Perhaps for reasons well beyond his control, he is hit by attraction to his daughter like a ton of bricks. We like to think of ourselves and (particularly) others as totally rational and totally in control.

            The difference between a man who remains attracted to his wife and a man who becomes strongly attracted to his daughter may be luck. It may be genes. It may be the way they were treated by their own parents when they were small children.

            I remember reading (with sheer terror) Thomas Harris's book The Red Dragon in which the main character does unspeakably horrible things, and yet when you read about his childhood, you realize how totally damaged he was, and there are times you have real sympathy for him. It seems to me moral responsibility is not at all a simple matter, although we must, if only for pragmatic reasons, treat most people as if they were fully responsible for their actions even if they are genetically prone to violence or other socially harmful behavior and even if, due to their upbringing and early environment, they were destined to lives of antisocial behavior.

          • Alan Wostenberg

            David, what you call "the executive" sounds like "conscious" mingled with "will". Everybody knows the conscious operates in two modes: precautionary and accusatory.

            Let us suppose a licentious thought occurs to a man unbidden. His conscious, operating in precautionary mode says "don't entertain that thought". Suppose he ignores his conscious, and gives in. Now conscious shifts into it's accusatory mode: he feels shame and guilt. This is a healthy and indicates the man is not suppressing sin. But if he persists, he deadens his conscious, and no longer feels shame or guilt. He is "comfortable" with those wicked thoughts.

            Heather: let us suppose he confides with his wife "I entertain sexual fantasies about our daughter". Should she say "that is OK honey -- as long as you don't act out"? Or isn't it rather the case that to entertain the thoughts is evidence of a morally depraved mind?

          • David Nickol

            Everybody knows the conscious operates in two modes: precautionary and accusatory.

            I never heard that before, so it can't be something everybody knows! I think there is a lot to be said for the idea of multiple selves. For example, I think anyone on a diet has experienced rather thoughtlessly eating something they had vowed not to and then two minutes later saying, "Why did I do that???" Human motivations and human actions are not at all simple. People often don't know why they behave the way they do.

            Or isn't it rather the case that to entertain the thoughts is evidence of a morally depraved mind?

            If everyone who entertained the idea of doing something wrong had a "morally depraved mind," that would include almost every human alive today. There are many ways of "entertaining" an idea—say, robbing a bank. One might seriously plot to do it. Or one might imagine doing it without the slightest intention of actually going through with it.

            Let's imagine a movie or television show in which you find yourself hoping the "good guy" kills the "bad guy." Is this morally depraved? It happens all the time.

          • MrsWolf

            "Suppose a man fantasizes about incestuous relations with his children But never acts on it. Should he not repent of those depraved thoughts?"

            I would say that a person who has these thoughts and never acts on them has performed a moral good by not harming his children. I think his restraint and self control should be praised.

            Michael Murray - "Surely there is a difference between fantasy which is deliberate and thoughts which are unbidden? Of course if someone has thoughts that they find seriously uncomfortable they should seek advice from a mental health care professional."

            I agree. These thoughts are likely intrusive and uncomfortable (I assume this since he doesn't act on them) and are thus unhealthy for him. He should absolutely seek help in this case. He will thus be performing another moral good by 1) reducing the possibility that he will act on these thoughts and harm his children and 2) by easing his own suffering.

            The fact is that the origins of pedophilia are not well understood and that most (if not all) pedophile do not actively seek out these thoughts. Rather, they arise unbidden, often due to the experience of being a victim of sexual violation as a child. I would not condemn a person for their thoughts alone. Actions matter.

            -- Heather

          • Martin Sellers

            I agree. There is most definitely a double standard in regards to sex. Our society teaches boys one thing about sex, and out girls another. It is a good thing the catholic church teaches equality in regards to sexual behaviors, and advises both sexes on the joys of a loving, fulfilling, unselfish, committed sexual experience- and warns of the dangers of reducing a person to a means of gratification. I would hope you advise women to uphold an idealistic view of sex, rather than resorting to a watered down version put forth by our culture. If I am lucky enough to have children one day, I hope to share with my sons as well as my daughters the life giving truth (as Catholics believe it) about sex.

          • The trouble is your experiment is being tried and it is failing. Many girls are being encouraged to be promiscuous. Depression has gone up rather than down. Have you see this book?

            http://www.amazon.com/The-Loser-Letters-Mary-Eberstadt/dp/1586174312

          • David Nickol

            Among the professions with higher than average rates of depression are nursing home/child-care workers, social workers, health-care workers, and teachers. Does that tell us anything about the morality of entering into any of those professions? The profession with the highest suicide rate is physician. What does that tell us about morality?

            Having said that, I very much disagree with MrsWolf and believe there are differences in male and female sexuality that are almost certainly rooted in genetics.

          • Another good book for the masses - Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Dr. Meg Meeker, MD.

            One of the most significant take away's for me was that depression is the most common STD.

          • Maybe if we stopped teaching women and girls that they are bad for wanting and enjoying sex, we would have fewer problems.

            Could you please cite something specific about who we refers to in your claim? This is not what JP II proposed in what is now his Theology of the Body, nor the direction that OP is discussing.

            As @biptoe:disqus mentions, the complex nature of the body communicates something when it interacts with another body. Our intellect does not fully understand the nature of this communication or how it works. In my experience, most of us willfully refuse to acknowledge it at all. That said, it seems rather obvious to me that what little understanding we do have gets all out of sorts when we do things contrary to what the bodies are designed to communicate.

            For instance... the act of a handshake communicates something like a salutation. It can communicate the feelings of the participants as well, like anger, apprehension, confidence, etc. The handshake, however, would communicate something entirely different if before the interaction, one of the participants put on a latex glove.

            The hook-up culture is excessively contrary to what the bodies communicate during sex. In sex, the male body communicates something to the effect of, "I am giving myself to you, and together we should have a child." The female body answers, "And I give myself to you, lets go ahead and try." That message is completely lost in what we (I assume you mean society) teaches about sexuality, and completely what JPII proposes. In the hook-up culture, both bodies say, "You are a means to an end, which is my selfish pleasure."

            Maybe if our society stopped shaming women for their sexuality, while simultaneously celebrating male sexuality, we wouldn't depression and anxiety in women at current rates.

            Could you explain our society stopped shaming women for their sexuality? Perhaps we live in different societies, but I see US society as doing exactly the opposite. Shame doesn't seem to truly exist in society any longer, not at least in how I understand shame. Society would seem to propose that women should feel no shame and have no use for modesty.

            P.S. sorry for the delay I realize Heather's comment is 22 days old. For whatever reason discuss summaries aren't very timely.

          • John H. Graney

            Consensual but uncommitted sex between two adults is immoral because it reduces them both to means to the end of pleasure.

          • David Nickol

            Consensual but uncommitted sex between two adults is immoral because it reduces them both to means to the end of pleasure.

            Isn't that called mutually beneficial cooperation? Why isn't it immoral, then, for two kids who don't know each other to agree to ride a teeter-totter? Why isn't a pick-up basketball game immoral?

            I think for many people the most pleasure is derived from sex by giving their partner (whether spouse or stranger) pleasure. It seems to me it is clearly not immoral to consent to both give and receive pleasure. If it is pleasurable for me to sing and play the guitar for an audience, and the audience derives pleasure from listening to me sing and play, would it be immoral for me to sing and play my guitar in the park on a warm spring day? It seems to me you don't thing it's wrong because it is pleasure involved. You think it is wrong because it is sex involved.

            I think you are applying to sexual pleasure a different set of rules than to any other pleasure, which means we're not talking about pleasure at all, really. You are just saying it is wrong to give or to get sexual pleasure outside of an intimate relationship, but you have not really explained why.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But your logic applies equally well to committed couples. On any occasion when attempted procreation is not the intent.

          • Nonsense. You can easily be in a committed relationship and be treated as a means to pleasure by one partner only. You can also be in the early stages of a relationship and have wonderful meaningful sex before you commit to each other. I would say the best sex comes in a committed relationship, but this has nothing to do with whether you want to have kids.

          • Katherine Anne McMillan

            Did you know that when a woman has intercourse with a man her brain releases oxytocin? Oxytocin is a hormone that binds a mother to her child when she nurses. Oxytocin also binds a woman to her mate, supporting the natural law of monogamy.

            Women are hard wired to be monogamous, men are not. It is sad that you do not understand that you are exploiting women and using them as a means to an end, for your temporal pleasure.

          • David Nickol

            Women are hard wired to be monogamous, men are not.

            If monogamy is a "natural law," why aren't women and men "hard wired" for it? Who did the wiring? God? Why would he "hard wire" men and women to be incompatible?

            A few observations about brain chemistry do not add up to a case for any particular sexual morality.

          • Katherine Anne McMillan

            Ah but this is the punishment of original sin, God told Eve that she would bring forth her children in pain and that her desire would be for her husband and that he (Adam) would rule over her. That is what the hormone oxytocin does it makes woman obedient to the man, because we are bound to him. God is so perfect!

            Humans have 2 main instincts, hunger and sex drive (or propagation of the species). We are required to use our instincts according to our nature. What is the nature of man? Is the nature of man a rational animal or is it the nature of a rooster? In as much as our nature is rational, that is we have to live according to purposes and goals. Then it follows that we are to use our instincts according to that order of reason and not according to mere instinct.

          • David Nickol

            Ah but this is the punishment of original sin . . .

            So you feel that, as a woman, you have altered brain chemistry because Adam and Eve sinned? Do you believe that childbirth was painless for our nearest human ancestors? Many animals have a painful birthing process, and others do not. There is nothing at all mysterious or supernatural about why childbirth is painful for humans.

            God is so perfect!

            For making childbirth painful? For using brain chemistry to manipulate women? For "hard wiring" women but not men for monogamy?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            There is no evidence of original sin; we know that Adam and Eve did not exist; and anyone who claims that oxytocin makes a woman obedient to a man knows so little of biology that it would be pointless to discuss science with you.
            And I don't know about you, but I have a lot more than drives for hunger and sex. Though those two aren't bad....

          • Katherine, you have made some huge generalizations that are not at all established in science. They have been raised above and discussed.

            A great deal of research has been done into what hard-wiring may exist in humans. I've read Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate in which he devotes a chapter to gender differences of this kind. I have also looked at the research which disputes that any gender or sex related attributes are hard-wired.

            There are no scientific findings that establish what you say.

            I have never exploited a woman or treated her as a means. The fact that you presume all women seek only monogamous relationships or sex only after serious commitment has happened suggests to me that you have a narrow view of women and how different women can be.

          • Katherine Anne McMillan

            Thanks Brian, I love your use of the word "narrow", because that is what I strive for as a Christian, "to enter through the narrow gate."

            My source is Candace Pert, Molecules of Emotion. There are so many different schools of thought a person can believe whatever one chooses. My choice is the narrow way and denial of self. My life is not about me.

            Families that frequently change husbands and wives, fail in their duties to their children and adopt the moral code of roosters, are pushing us along the road to social chaos. There is none so blind as he who cannot see.

            There are natural laws and spiritual laws. The spiritual law is the voice, the natural law is the echo. The natural law of gravity is we are all pulled towards the earth, the spiritual law of gravity is we are all pulled towards God. I will pray that He gives you an extra tug.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            We have evidence of natural laws. We have no particular evidence of spiritual laws. I can only hope that your choices give you peace, and that you do not impose them on those who disagree.

          • Well I choose the open minded path that is both open to your God and others.

            I choose to keep all options on the table and not make sweeping generalizations.

          • Katherine Anne McMillan

            If you believe in One God, then there can only be one Truth about that God, there are not many versions of the Truth. As long as we seek God in truth, we find Him.

            Peace be to you.

          • MrsWolf

            Men also produce oxytocin during sex. Men also produce oxytocin in response to interacting with their children.

            This idea that men and women are "hardwired" differently is ludicrous.

            --Heather

          • Biptoe

            Men and women are hard wired differently. The effect of oxytocin is diluted in the man because of his high amount of testosterone, while the woman's estrogen enhances the effect. This doesn't mean one is superior to the other. Men and women are complementary.

          • MrsWolf

            "Men and women are hard wired differently"

            Prove it. And, if you can prove it, then prove that this putative difference in "hard wiring" is not a result of gendered socialization (which would mean this difference is learned, not "built in" to the system).

            "The effect of oxytocin is diluted in the man because of his high amount of testosterone, while the woman's estrogen enhances the effect"

            Again, prove it. I can't help but notice that you have already switched your position from "only women produce oxytocin" to "oxytocin is different for men and women." It makes me wonder if you're just making things up to suit your argument.

            "That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." ~ Christopher Hitchens

          • Biptoe

            I never said "only women". There are many studies and I would think your own personal observation would conclude men and women differ by more than just genitalia. Here is a random reference: "Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2012. It says oxytocin facilitates accurate perception of competition in men and kinship in women. I knew it didn't make them bond like it does women, but I didn't know it makes them more competitive. Newer science shows it doesn't have little effect but a different effect. I stand corrected on that point.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Citations? You're making fairly absurd claims without evidence. Discussion isn't going to go anywhere unless you can support these claims.

          • Katherine Anne McMillan

            You can google Candace Pert (http://candacepert.com/achievements/)

            Every emotion we have is a chemical in the brain, we become addicted to our emotions for that reason. That is why women become victims and seek out men who will victimize them again and again - they need their fix.

            In the spiritual order we know that sinners return to sin just as a dog will eat his vomit in the natural order. The way to break the cycle is repentance and confession. Grace illumines our mind and we make a holy choice instead of an easy worldly one. We chose the narrow path, not the easy path that is wide and common.

            Our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ is the narrow path.

          • David Nickol

            Every emotion we have is a chemical in the brain, we become addicted to our emotions for that reason.

            I hope this is a vastly oversimplified and distorted account of what Candace Pert says. It makes it sound like emotions aren't real experiences, but something like drug-induced states.

          • Tarses

            Sex is an act of procreation, whether you intend it to be or not. You said, "To me morality had to do with the consequences of actions on others." When you engage in sex, you engage in an act that very potentially impacts more than just the two people engaged in it since the very purpose of your reproductive organs is reproduction. That act has the very real potential to have consequences on the life that is formed from the act in which you are engaging. Children that come into this world should have the best opportunity to be part of loving family that can protect and raise them. When they are instead seen as an unfortunate side-effect to an otherwise "harmless" activity between two consenting adults, we see what the consequences are. If they could speak, there are over 56 million aborted children in the U.S. who would agree with you that actions can have consequences on others but they would also point out that treating the circumstances that lead to those consequences cavalierly is indeed immoral. When you engage in an act that can lead to the creation of a new life -- a life for which you are responsible -- you'd better be well-prepared to deal with those consequences. Not being prepared indeed has consequences on the life that you created.

            BTW, after today you'll be able to add another 3,000+ to that total with the majority coming from situations where the couple was using contraception.

          • David Nickol

            Sex is an act of procreation, whether you intend it to be or not.

            That would seem to be an extremely narrow definition of sex—sexual intercourse between a male and a female both of whom are fertile. (Apparently Bill Clinton didn't have "sexual relations with that woman—Miss Lewinsky.") You use the possibility of pregnancy as an argument against sex, and yet sex acts between two males or two females are often more strongly condemned (especially according to religious sexual morality) than acts between a fertile male and female.

            If what is objectionable about sex is the possibility of pregnancy, then both male and female homosexuality should be encouraged (or at least not condemned), and nonprocreative sex acts (e.g., oral sex) should be promoted among nonmarried heterosexual couples who do not want children.

          • Tarses

            In actuality, David, that would be the widely accepted definition of sex although admittedly our culture has decided to add variants in an effort to broaden that definition.

            But you raise the question of same sex sexual relations and try to imply that it logically invalidates my point. Considering that individuals who engage in same sex sexual relations have a dramatically higher incidence of sexual diseases like gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, AIDS, hepatitis, and the like and suffer from much higher rates of depression and (if you're in a lesbian relationship) stand a much higher risk of being in an abusive relationship, I would hope that we would encourage people (especially our youth) to avoid these activities at all costs. Once again, our reproduction organs are for reproduction. They are called that for a reason. Clearly the results are quite bad when you use them in ways and put them in places where they were not intended.

          • MrsWolf

            "Considering that individuals who engage in same sex sexual relations have a dramatically higher incidence of sexual diseases like gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, AIDS, hepatitis"

            That's only true of sexual relations between men. HIV transmission is almost impossible between two women (for example). So, even if I accepted this logic, which I don't, this is actually an argument in favour of lesbian sex.

            "suffer from much higher rates of depression"

            Perhaps, just perhaps, this is because LGBT people live in a society that oppresses them, and bullies them, and tells them they are immoral and going to hell. And denies them basic human rights. And because their religion is telling them they are going to hell for just being who they are.

            "(if you're in a lesbian relationship) stand a much higher risk of being in an abusive relationship"

            I did a quick literature search on this, and found that estimates of domestic violence in heterosexual relationship is reported at between 11- 44%, and in lesbian relationships, this number has been reported at 7-45%. So, pretty comparable, actually.

            -- Heather

          • John H. Graney

            I'm not sure that eating for pleasure is not immoral. It might not be a very serious sin. It certainly isn't a sin to get pleasure from eating, but eating for pleasure alone can degenerate into gluttony. St. Francis DeSales was of the opinion that you should eat what is put in front of you without being picky

          • John H. Graney

            A refrigerator box was designed by human beings, not by God, so the analogy does not hold. Nonetheless, it is illegal to use some things without regard for their human-designed purposes. An example would be inhaling spray paint fumes or glue to try to get high.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And your return analogy doesn't apply. Homosexual activity occurs in over twenty species; god (according to you) designed all of them. Apparently he didn't mind.

          • Susan

            A refrigerator box was designed by human beings, not by God, so the analogy does not hold

            First, that argument is meaningless if you are addressing someone who does not take your deity claims seriously. (Thousands and thousands of deity claims throughout the ages and no evidence for any of them. Now, which one should I accept as undemonstrated fact?)

            Second, if accepted your logic, I would have to say that tree branches were designed to make leaves, to make more chlorophyll for the tree. So, we shouldn't turn them into hockey sticks. That is unnatural. Or crucifixes for churches. Or roast marshmallows with them.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Nonetheless, it is illegal to use some things without regard for their human-designed purposes. An example would be inhaling spray paint fumes or glue to try to get high.

            Is it illegal to inhale spray paint fumes or glue? I don't think it is, at least not here in the UK. Good luck trying to enforce such a law.

            Even if huffing was illegal, it would not illegal because it is a moral sin, it is because it is dangerous, so your analogy fails.

            The restrictions placed on sex by the Catholic Church are not because it is dangerous per se. They are not immoral acts because they are dangerous, regardless of some of the claims being made on this site, they are immoral acts because someone decided they are and said as much. It was unlikely to have been anything God would have instructed given all the the carry on in the Bible. Just three quick examples, there is Abraham and Hagar, King David and Bathsheba, and King Solomon and his 700 wives and 300 tarts. Hardly role models for sexual fidelity. And are they not the granddad's of Jesus?

            The fact is, that the rules on sex are not taken seriously by Catholics, as we can see from the history of the Church and that says a lot about the rules themselves. As Mike says, no one gets their moral behaviour from God or the scripture, if they did, the world would be a more hedonistic place than it already is. No, it is individuals that set their own moral bar, and very rarely achieve it.

          • Michael Murray

            It's not just the historical Catholics who disregard the rules. Remember when you and I were young and you could pick a Catholic family by the number of children ?

            Survey in 12 countries finds 78% of Catholics support contraception and 65% think abortion should be allowed

            and more at

            http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/09/catholics-church-contraception-abortion-survey

          • Ignorant Amos

            Especially in Ireland. Mind you, my partner is one of 11 siblings who were Protestant, but she said her parents just really enjoyed sex...right up till they couldn't through illness. They were in their 80's. Mind you, contraception was less efficient 60 years ago and television was in its infancy.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Even in a naturalist sense, the point of sex is to procreate and the best procreation is done under a commitment between the procreators. My version of morality would hold that any sex done out of the possibility for that context is immoral because it reduces the means to the ends.

            If you honestly believe that, I pity any partner you have, have had, or will have.

            But I don't believe for a moment that you have only engaged in sex for the purpose of procreation, and I don't believe that the only sexual act you've engaged in could result in procreation.

            Like many a Catholic cleric, talk is cheap.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            You'd be right. We don't set rules down for ease, but for righteousness. I also recommend that when shooting a basketball, you get it in the hoop and despite my failure rate at doing so, I have stuck with the thought that the hoop is still the preferred place for the ball to go. And I agree with you as well on the last point.

          • David Nickol

            I think I see a problem with your basketball analogy. It seems to me that for it to be accurate, it should be that every time you throw a basketball, you must attempt to throw it through the hoop. Consequently, if you have possession of the ball, you must attempt to throw it through the hoop even if you could throw it to a teammate who is in a better position to throw the ball through the hoop. The only legitimate action for a person in a game of basketball who gets possession of the ball is to attempt to throw the ball through the hoop.

            Also, in basketball, the objective of the team is to throw the ball through the hoop as many times as possible. Should a team be winning and take possession of the ball, it would be illegitimate of them to attempt to "run out the clock," since that is to violate the rule that they must throw the ball through the hoop as many times as possible.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            You're right that the analogy breaks down. I just mean to say, we set a standard for ourselves, and we try our best but many times more than not, we fall short. We are not ashamed to admit that we are fools and sinners, but we also are not ashamed to say, "Hey I believe that our Church brings the truth and we're going to do our best to live up to it."

          • David Nickol

            My version of morality would hold that any sex done out of the possibility for that context is immoral because it reduces the means to the ends.

            I hate to bring up such an old question, but wouldn't this mean that infertile married couples should not have sex? Infertile people can't possibly use sex for procreation. So infertile people should not marry. And once a wife passes the age of childbearing, it would seem immoral for her and her husband to continue to have sex. Even the Catholic Church, as I understand it, holds that sex has a unitive function that is co-equal with its procreative function. But you simply say that "the point of sex is to procreate." If that is true, then if you can't procreate, you ought not to have sex.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            That's why I said "possibility for that context." The teaching is that you just have to have the sex act "open" to procreation, and if a natural barrier (like infertility or old age) in the way, it still honors the procreative nature of the act. It is tough to judge infertility many times anyway - a woman at my wife's job was told she would never be able to have children and she just had her second.

          • David Nickol

            It is tough to judge infertility many times anyway . . .

            That seems to be a form of the argument that since infertile people might conceive (remember Abraham and Sarah?) the sex that they have is really "open" to procreation. But it seems to me that you could make the same argument about most forms of contraception.

            In reality, the argument about sex being "open" to procreation is an argument about the form of sex acts. The argument (or so it seems to me) is that reality has nothing to do with it. Married couples, whether in their 20s and highly fertile, or in their 80s with no chance of conceiving at all, must perform intercourse in exactly the same way. Everyone, whether fertile or not, must "honor the procreative nature" of intercourse. I must confess that it makes no sense to me, and it apparently makes no sense to the vast majority of even highly faithful married Catholics. It has nothing to do with reality. It has to do with going through certain motions. I can't think of any other act to which the same kinds of "rules" apply.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        Fortunately, Barron didn't make a negative coherent argument against sex; he just claimed that failing to behave the way the catholic church thinks you should behave would make you a bad person.

        Hardly persuasive.

        • Steve Law

          He gave coherent reasons why not. Why not address them rather than continue kicking the stuffing out of this straw man?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You feel that coherent reasons consist of "the church doesn't approve. Therefore bad."?

            Really?

          • Steve Law

            That's all you took from the opening post? Really?

          • David Nickol

            That's all you took from the opening post? Really?

            There is really not that much in the OP. Who would dispute the "insight" of John Paul II that if you consistently make choices inconsistent with your character, your character will be effected? I would never give a young person advice to the effect that if you do things you consider wrong, you can still be a "good person." My advice would be, "If you think something is wrong, don't do it. Not even once."

            If we're going to be expected to base anything on psychiatric date, though, we need a lot more information than someone saying "his psychiatrist’s office is filled with young people—especially young women—who have fallen into debilitating depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem." If sexual misconduct is bad for a person, I'm guessing the males are more into the "hook-up culture" than the females. Why is it "especially" the young women who are allegedly suffering?

            What is really quite absent (although not difficult to guess at) is any actual standard for sexual behavior in the OP. But I don't think Fr. Barron can argue against something as extreme as the worst of the hook-up culture by implying unless you save yourself for marriage, you will wind up under psychiatric care. Nor anxiety and depression necessarily a result of doing something wrong or a sign you have done something wrong or something you should have avoided. One in seven women who has a baby will have postpartum depression. All other things being equal, going to college is no doubt more anxiety-producing than not going to college.

            Fr. Barron is scarcely making a moral argument at all. He's making an "and it's bad for you" argument.

    • Tess

      What, exactly, is the "moral" good that comes from casual sex? I could give you a whole litany of devastating consequences. Show me a woman engaging in this type of behavior, and I'll show you one miserable young lady. Not only because of the issues of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, but also because women do not seek physical gratification as much as they do intimacy...which they will never find in a "hook up". Men and women are engaging in this type of behavior for entirely different reasons...which is why it becomes manipulative, self-absorbed, and self destructive (as Fr. Barron said). I can't tell you how many men I have spoken to who have engaged in "hook-ups", have said after the experience that the woman was "pyscho" or a "stalker" because she wanted more from the experience.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        What, exactly, is the "moral" good that comes from casual sex?

        Fun.

        I could give you a whole litany of devastating consequences.

        Anecdotal or clinical?

        Show me a woman engaging in this type of behavior, and I'll show you one miserable young lady.

        And I can show you dozens who aren't miserable. Playing games with anecdotes is fun, but not terribly convincing.

        Not only because of the issues of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, but also because women do not seek physical gratification as much as they do intimacy...which they will never find in a "hook up".

        Apparently you don't know much about women. You might try looking at the latest research.

        Men and women are engaging in this type of behavior for entirely different reasons...

        Really? This will be news to the women I know.

        • Tess

          Fun = Moral? Really? It's fun to have sexual relations with someone who views you as nothing more than an opportunity for their own physical gratification? Charming. It's all fun and games until a woman cares for a man who doesn't find her antics amusing. Then...it's soul crushing.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And guys can feel the same. I am disappointed in your apparent adherence to outdated stereotypes about men and women.

      • It is not that it is inherently moral or pro social. We are responding to the assertion made by Father Barron that it is inherently immoral and leads to serious mental disorders.

        People have sex because they want to, it fulfills a very powerful desire, it makes us happy, it builds relationships. You may not agree that that is what is going on, but can you be open to the possibility that this may be the case?

        I can certainly accept that engaging in sex does place one in a vulnerable situation. That there is definitely potential to be hurt and harmed. But this is true of most conduct we engage in, including getting married or joining the Air Force. But there is nothing inherently harmful about these behaviours, they are harmful and hurtful when they are done badly or whe people are of ready.

    • topsully

      I have found that "consensual" and "eyes wide open" are often used as an excuse when one party to casual sex wants to pretend that the other party's hurt feelings don't need to be taken into account. This is often, but not always when a women, or young girl, thinks something along the lines of "if I have sex with him he'll see what a great person I am and we'll have a beautiful relationship". Then when she's turned away and the guy says, "hey this was consensual, your eyes were wide open, I told you I was only looking for a good time", he can walk away without thinking he has to feel shame. Having been on both sides of that game for a long period of my life I agree with Father Barron that the moral habits do in fact define your character. Whether you want them to or not.

      The truth is that even when popular culture tries to bury the emotion in sexual encounters there is still the remarkable human tendency for the soul to keep pushing itself to the surface.

      • And I would be the first one to agree that people should not be engaging in sex for any reason other than they truly want to have sex. This is why we need to talk to young people openly about it and what reasons they might have for wanting to have sex. Instead of saying sex is inherently immoral and harmful if it is not with your spouse, we say sex is a very intimate and personal experience that places you in a vulnerable position.

        The scenario you describe above may or may not be a consenting encounter. This is why we definitely need to educate young people on what steps to take to ensure consent.

        But this does not mean all casual sex is immoral or harmful.

    • Katherine Anne McMillan

      When we see good in evil and evil in good, we are deceiving ourselves. If casual sex was so healthy, the U.S. would be the healthiest nation on earth. Instead we have all become lazy and sickly. I have never seen so much disease. Especially skin diseases. (herpes: http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats/STI-Estimates-Fact-Sheet-Feb-2013.pdf)

      The incidence of breast cancer has been tied to abortion by pro-abortion doctors, but the Cancer Society is too cowardly to stand up against the feminist. (http://cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/new-study-puts-abortion-breast-cancer-link-back-spotlight)

      When we worship the flesh, when we sin we wound ourselves. Confession is the sacrament of healing. Time and time again when Christ healed someone He said, "go and sin no more."

      Repent! the Kingdom of God is at hand!

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        I see no particular relevance in your preaching. Did you have a point?

        Consensual sex among adults can be lots of fun. Religion in general and Catholicism in particular seem to have trouble with this basic concept.

        • Katherine Anne McMillan

          Did you look at the statistics? SIn is disease. It is my duty to praise God and defend His laws. I accept that you do not believe in empirical truth, that does not mean that it does not exist. There are natural laws and spiritual laws. The spiritual law is the voice, the natural law is the echo. The natural law of gravity is we are all pulled to earth. The spiritual law of gravity is we are all pulled towards God. There is nothing unreasonable about the Catholic faith.

          You have chosen to worship yourself instead of God. I will pray for your conversion to the Truth of the Gospel, to the Truth of our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ.

        • Daniel Hudec

          yes, it seems that many catholics (and lots of religious people in general) have trouble with the idea that sex can also be fun, on top of the fact that helps continue the species. which is sad, i think. but, M. Solange, i'm not sure whether that makes Catholicism wrong about sex - or whether it just proves that lots of catholics are wrong about sex.

        • Moussa Taouk

          M. Solange, you have made an assertion that you seem to have plucked out of I know not where. Please justify your view that the Catholic faith has "trouble" with the basic concept that sex among adults can be lots of fun.

          Or else hold your peace.

          • Michael Murray

            Or else hold your peace.

            Why not let the moderators make those decisions. It's not like they are backward in banning atheist posters.

          • Moussa Taouk

            I could have said instead, "If you can't support your view then don't feel obliged to reply for the sake of arguing. Silence will be a sufficient response". But "hold your peace" was briefer, although perhaps more unclear.

          • Michael Murray

            Fair enough. It sounded like "shut up" but I see it wasn't. The perils of communication by typing words without body language.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I offer the catechism and JP II's theology of the body.

      • MrsWolf

        Risks of breast cancer are higher in nulliparous women (women who have never had children), but this has nothing to do with abortion. Breast cancer used to be called "the nun's disease" because of this relationship.

        There is no scientific evidence linking abortion and breast cancer (other than the fact that women who have had abortions might be more likely to not have children).

        -- Heather

        • Katherine Anne McMillan

          There is a link. http://cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/new-study-puts-abortion-breast-cancer-link-back-spotlight

          When a woman becomes pregnant, her body moves forward in life and the cells in her breast tissue change and prepare to support that life in her. What happens to those cells that have changed and prepared for life when that life is murdered and sucked out of her body? Abortionist do not care about the answer to this question, Catholics do. We care about the aborted child and the poor mother who in despair made the choice to murder her child. We love them both and want both of them to know the the Truth of our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ. We are fools for Christ and long for every soul to know His love and generosity.

          • David Nickol

            the poor mother who in despair made the choice to murder her child

            Are there any other murderers Catholics grant automatic absolution without any requirement for contrition, or is it just mothers who murder their unborn children?

          • Katherine Anne McMillan

            I did not write that. For absolution there must be contrition and sacramental confession to a priest.

          • Sqrat

            What happens to the soul of the "aborted child"?

          • David Nickol

            What happens to the soul of the "aborted child"?

            There was a movement of sorts among some Catholics to have aborted babies officially designated by the Church as martyrs. One source of the movement was from a woman who claimed to have had communications from the Virgin Mary. The Vatican was dismissive:

            The archbishop added that the message that Mrs De Menezes claims to have received about the “martyrdom of all the innocent children deliberately killed before birth” was highly suspect.

            "A martyr is someone who bears witness to Christ,” he said.

            “If the victims of abortion were to qualify for martyrdom it would then seem that all victims of any moral evil should be likewise deemed martyrs.”

            If an aborted baby cannot be declared a martyr, perhaps "the poor mother who in despair made the choice to murder her child" could be declared a saint. It often seems that pro-lifers would find this appropriate.

          • Katherine Anne McMillan

            Only God knows the answer to that. It is a mystery.

          • MrsWolf

            I took a look at the actual peer-reviewed paper that this article was discussing. As the authors themselves point out, this Chinese meta-analysis is in opposition to another recent meta-analysis of epidemiological studies conducted in Europe (Beral, Bull, Doll, et al. 2004). The authors also point out that "…the self-reported number of IA [induced abortions] will probably be underestimated, as the stigma of abortions still exists in China, especially when a woman has more than 2 IAs. Therefore, this underestimation will inevitably create spurious associations between IA and breast cancer, especially for more IAs"

            spurious - (adjective) - not genuine, authentic, or true (dictionary.reference.com)

            So you (and the author of this web article) are making claims that the authors of the study do not support.

          • Katherine Anne McMillan
    • Daniel Hudec

      i would be very interested to read dr sax's book, just to see him go through his reasoning in detail. obviously, if there is a cause-and-effect relationship between casual hooking-up and all sorts of anxiety and depression, then that's pretty serious stuff.

    • RainingAgain

      I was going to reply, but thought better of it, since you obviously know it all already.

      • Michael Murray

        This is also snark. Read the guidelines.

  • Guest

    The older I get, the more "you are what you eat," becomes increasingly true.

  • Loreen Lee

    I think I can add something pro the viewpoint of Catholicism on sexual morality, merely on the basis of Kant's deontology, even though the Church objects to the naturalization of religion assumed within his philosophy. The emphasis on both is the 'rationality of the action, (thought word)', not merely the pragmatic outcome, as in a consequentialist ethic. Although it will surely be upsetting to some, may I suggest that the unparalleled acceptance and increase (to the millions) of abortion, may be considered a consequence of the sexual norms within today's world. But again, that would lead us into another moral impasse, where choice is held to be the priority, and abortion not considered a serious question within the scope of morality.

    But how many of us are capable of real, rational choice. I would be curious as to what a definitive philosophical analysis of the word consensus would come up with. Like the examination of the term 'atheist', such an analytic, could be considered empty of content, because it would not be based on the concrete instance of the arguments involved, the particularly reasons, and mind set of the individuals using such a term, or to whom the term is descriptively applied..

    So it is with consensus. It is a very powerful umbrella term. But it does not analyze the possibility of power relations within the reaching of consensus. It does not examine the 'personal' motivations, and of course it cannot examine the history of the person, the influence of peer relations, for example, or what is generally accepted within society, all of which might give a greater understanding of the rational or lack of it behind a specific 'consensus'.

    Much is said about evidence when it comes to religious(moral) thought, but may I suggest that a more appropriate word would be 'witness'. Even courts of law use the term 'witness' to describe both those giving evidence and the evidence itself. The term is thus more valid in such cases as morality and religious discussions too. The term evidence only defines the physical. Whether or not you 'believe' that consiousness is real, it is the basis of what is accepted as witnessed.

    Within this context the development of character is as per Catholicism a primary goal as it defines for an individual what is considered to be of value, or purpose. The means may indeed be inflated to the importance of an 'end' or 'greater purpose or consequence', as can be the case with sexuality in itself as the source of pleasure alone,when the the idea of a rational purpose, is 'conflated' with that of concupiscence, or pleasure, or emotion, per se.
    i thus believe there can be many 'degrees' of what can be considered 'consensual', as there are many degrees and definitions of 'enlightenment ' within the general purview of any individual conscience. Consensus with respect to sexuality, and indeed the basis of choice generally, may lack an individual, or personal examination and understanding of the reasons for one's action. Such a basis is, as Father Barron points out, the product, or 'end' of character development.

  • David Nickol

    I have no doubt that aspects of the "hook-up culture" are regrettable and harmful to many young people. But Fr. Barron (and the Catholic Church) don't merely advocate refraining from irresponsible sexual behavior. They want to prohibit all sexual behavior between non-married heterosexuals. They want to limit the sex acts that even married individuals may engage in, prohibiting contraception and all sexual behavior (even between married couples) that is not procreative. In fact, they want to limit the sexual behavior of married couples past their childbearing years to "procreative" sex. They do not want any non-heterosexual, non-married individuals to engage any sex at all. Gay men or lesbians, even in monogamous relationships, would not be permitted to have sex. Masturbation even for medical reasons (e.g., to collect a sperm sample for fertility testing) is considered a grave moral offense by the Catholic Church.

    The rationale, as best I understand it, underlying all of Catholic sexual morality is the belief that God made sex for procreation, it can have no other purpose, and not matter what the human costs and benefits are of sexual morality and sexual immorality, sex acts are to be judged by "technical" specifications—is it a heterosexual couple engaging in them? If yes, are they married? If yes are they—whether fertile or not—going through the proper motions to make a baby?

    This is something that quite frankly doesn't make a great deal of sense, or at least it doesn't make enough sense even to Catholic married couples for them to follow the "rules."

    I have a number of times referred to Germain Grisez's answers to the question What Sexual Activity if Permissible for Elderly Married Couples? In my opinion, the bizarre nature of the "rules" becomes apparent in Grisez's responses.

    • Loreen Lee

      Reason without being placed in a 'reasonable' assessment of empirical conditions is an 'empty' rationale, as I would interpret Immanuel Kant. We cannot live our life tautologically, and according to legalistic parameters only. Although I agree that sound judgment depends on developing our 'reason', we cannot 'ignore' the context and without qualification condemn the reality of feeling and the emotions. Indeed, we have the task as individuals to understand and rise above disquieting and dark emotions, etc. but the development of our character needs to take place within an acknowledgement of the human dimension, and it's limitations, as well as the 'Divine Command' given through the interpretation of Natural Law by the Church Magisterium. .

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        In short, anything the magisterium claims is right, is right.

        An argument only convincing to conservative catholics, I'm afraid.

        • NicholasBeriah Cotta

          And atheist morality is - whatever each deems right is right. At least the magisterium has 2,000 years of thought put in to it, and multiply that by the number of thinkers and you'd get billions of years. Each person's arbitrary authority is scarcely decades. Scarcely!

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You don't know how atheists think, do you?

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            You're right. I can't because atheism is just the absence of belief in God and I can only conclude that most have concluded that the world is meaningless and morality is at best an arbitrary method for living out life. Atheism logically implies nihilism. There are two kinds of atheists: those who admit it and those who don't.

          • David Nickol

            There are two kinds of atheists: those who admit it and those who don't.

            There are two types of religious people—

            Type 1: those who think they are better than everybody else because they believe in God and think that God is looking down and saying, "Oh I am so pleased they stick up for me."

            Type 2: Those who realize they fall so far short of what God has a right to expect of them that they are too humble ever to think of themselves as better than anyone else and consequently they treat others with the utmost respect and charity.

            So far I have come across only Type 1.

            Now, to be fair, the above is meant somewhat facetiously, but it seemed to me you were "atheist-baiting" and engaging in false and unjustifiable generalities. And so I thought that sometimes turnabout is fair play.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            Well I can honestly tell you that I don't think I'm better than you or any atheist here. I just mean to repeat the very often repeated claim that a purely material world is one devoid of true meaning. I've heard Dawkins and Krauss and Hitchens all state this truth and that it's better because you can create meaning for yourself. I say there are atheists who don't want to admit it because there is a loss of moral high ground out there with so many Luke warm religionists and agnostics. I just wanted to cut to what we can agree on- is there some untruth there? I apologize for the uncharity and I do so so the good Lord can take pity on me, not back me in my righteousness.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Meaning is what we make of it, theists and atheists alike. Don't you think it's weak for you to claim that your life is valueless unless some unseen, undetectable entity values it forever?

          • cminca

            David--hear hear!
            I'd like to see the day when people don't have to say "I'm a Christian" but prove it by their words and actions instead.

          • ChrisDeStefano

            I would put in a type 3 and I would hope I fall under this category; I absolutley fall short of what God has the right to expect of my life choices. With the best of my abilities I follow His truths. I fully understand that others, just like myself, fall far from the ideals God has set for mankind. I do not, however, question the validitiy of the creator's requests just because they seem unreasonable to my desires. This is because I recognize a need to humble myself before an intellect infinitley greater than mine. I also feel a deep sense of respect, charity, and empathy with my fellow man that struggle with the same sins I do, I do not look to judge them, merely I hope to pray for them as I hope they would pray for me.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Your reasoning is faulty and incorrect. Atheism does not imply nihilism nor a self-directed license. Atheists would universally reject your characterization.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            They definitely would not "universally" dismiss my claim. And maybe I should parse the definition of nihilism. On one hand, there is a practical nihilism, which I definitely don't think many atheists engage in, if at all, and there is a philosophical nihilism that ultimately morality is relative/subjective which I think logically follows atheism.
            I have heard Harris and some others like him argue that moral values are at their base "facts" and that we can figure out facts by using different areas of societal expertise and so on, but until it resembles something substantive, it is hard for me to address. I think from what I hear so far, it's just very intricate circular logic.
            And I do not ascribe my life meaning because I believe in God (I believed it had meaning before I converted to Catholicism, I just didn't have any coherent argument why), I believe that there is an objective truth and that it is God. God grounds all things and is the axiom of all things, even morality.

        • Loreen Lee

          Kant's categorical imperative, as a contrast, is based on the recognition that a person cannot be moral unless they have freedom (of will, of conscience, of thought). A rule followed without personal understanding is thus not considered to be the basis of an individual morality. Also, not all actions, etc. are 'moral', but only those based on the rational principles of universality and necessity. (Can't go into details here). Most choices we make are thus a-moral, and merely pragmatic; a question merely of means to an end.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I don't understand what point you're trying to make.

          • Loreen Lee

            There was a comment which asked for a definition of 'morality'. There are many different ones, including Kant's which is based on a rational analysis of what one 'ought' to do: i.e. duty. I was contrasting Kant's 'imperative' with the Christian basis of morality: reason based on Natural Law. In the latter case, the individual does not 'choose' the rational criteria, and consequently, in comparison with the principles suggested by Kant, may be acting by 'rote', or without understanding the principles involved.

    • Loreen Lee

      Just an afterthought. One can be given all of the principles and 'reasons' through Church doctrine, and yet not be in a position of being able to observe oneself. Many have turned to the methodology of Buddhism for just this 'reason'. I think of such terms as 'mindfulness' and 'meditation', a form of prayer recognized even by Catholicism. The context of such self-examination within New Age interpretations, however, would benefit from an exemplification of life as lived by Jesus. Philosophically, I find Catholicism to be most comprehensive. What perhaps is needed is less emphasis on the 'externalities' of law, and more recognition of 'freedom' of conscience. There is a need to recognize the importance of the individual's assessment of what is needed to grow spiritually, rather than limiting human growth to mandates which often cannot be understood within the empirical constraints of the times.

  • David Nickol

    Sex is so immoral that not only is it immoral to engage in it yourself; it is immoral to look at pictures of other people engaging in it.

    One of my high school teachers, a Christian Brother, who became a friend of the family told of a special meeting held at the school by parents and others concerned about pornography. He said someone projected a picture of a beautiful naked woman up on a screen and said, "Look at that filth!"

    • Loreen Lee

      A bit of a 'oxymoron?' that.

    • Steve Law

      Pornography IS immoral - you don't have to be religious to understand that. Pornography dehumanises by divorcing sex from love and affection and real relationships. Pornography is ugly and brutal and the misogynistic and violent aspects have grown more and more extreme over the years as users become desensitised and seek increased deviance and perversity to achieve the same levels of excitement. For example in mainstream pornography these days (and here sensitive readers should turn away or jump ahead) a blow job isn't a blow job unless the woman is held by the hair and makes gagging sounds, and ATM (ass-to-mouth where the man f*cks the woman's ass then makes her suck him off) is a standard manoeuvre.
      Plus a very high number of female porn stars were sexually abused as children, and the modern slave trade and sex trafficking is strongly linked with pornography production.

      • David Nickol

        You seem to be making a case against a certain kind of pornography—with which you seem quite familiar. To the best of my knowledge, people's behavior is not affected by watching pornography, although people who engage in certain kinds of behavior (pedophilia, for example) may very well seek out child pornography.

        I don't see that there is anything wrong with pornography per se (literature, pictures, videos intended to sexually arouse).

        • Steve Law

          I don't know how to gauge the amount of porn I've 'used' - probably less than the average guy because these days I find it pretty revolting. When reasonably fast broadband became available in the mid-90s me and an old friend had a 'Who can find the weirdest porn?' competition, and although it started off for laughs I quite soon stumbled upon pictures I really wish I'd never seen and the game stopped being fun.
          My take on contemporary porn is based on what most anyone will see if they type 'porn' into google. I don't know what you're using, maybe you are a connoiseur of high-class arty erotica with ambient lighting and actual plots and women who do it because they really like it; but that's not the stuff that a whole generation of teenage boys are being exposed to.

          There are plenty of women's groups who'll tell you exactly the same thing...

          • David Nickol

            I don't pretend to know what the prevailing norms are for porn. My only point is that I don't think pornography per se need be the way you describe it. Also, I don't think the average "normal" person is significantly affected by the porn they view, and those who act out antisocially (e.g., rapists, pedophiles) and are discovered to have watched violent porn or child porn watched that kind of porn because they were so inclined rather than being turned into rapists and pedophiles because they watched such porn.

          • Steve Law

            Pornography maybe doesn't need to be like that, but the vast majority IS like that. I invite you to do some research, try 5 or 6 randomly chosen movies on youporn.com for starters.

            How can you confidently say that paedophiles and rapists only watched porn because they were already sexually deviant? It is a possibility, but how do you know? I think on the balance of probability that both are true: some people have an inclination, but a nascent tendency can be aggravated into full-blown obsession by repeatedly being stimulated and inflamed by hardcore porn.

          • Ignorant Amos

            ...and although it started off for laughs I quite soon stumbled upon pictures I really wish I'd never seen and the game stopped being fun.

            So, up to a certain point, you and your pals were "entertained"? It WAS fun until it wasn't?

            Mainstream movies can be like that. Some movies are for everyone to view, some are restricted to those over 12, some a viewed as too much for those under 18, then there are those that don't pass censor at all. Of those movies that DO get released, there will be fuddy duddy's that frown upon even the most innocuous films. Those Catholic rockets at the Legion of Decency for example.

            But the ridiculous lists are not exclusive to the RCC and they contain the sublime to the ridiculous, China, for example, banning "Back to the Future" because of its views on time travel.

            The Catholic Church has been putting restrictions on all sorts of innocuous "fun" from day one. Books, songs, artwork, plays, science, religions, the list is wide and varied, so you will have to forgive if I don't follow your church in the "who owns the morality game?". I won't be dictated to by an institution whose morals appear to be in the sewer. Which is no surprise, because its source material and history could only put it there.

            Just last Tuesday I watched a documentary entitled, "Secrets of the Vatican", not much morality there I'm afraid.

            http://www.channel4.com/programmes/secrets-of-the-vatican/4od

          • Steve Law

            Yeah well there's a whole industry based on The Black Secrets of the Vatican. But referencing a TV programme isn't really a slam-dunk argument. Might I suggest you read some actual academic history books?

            The British state is one of the most liberal in the world, but it too puts restrictions on books, songs, artwork, plays, science, religions as well as a million other laws on what you can and can't do with your money, your car, your house, other people etc etc. And if you don't follow them they'll take away your money or lock you up or even - in extreme cases - shoot you dead. Pretty much all other nation states are the same. So don't pose as some champion of freedom and liberality - you live in a highly-controlled and rigorously policed society, and if it wasn't so controlled you'd be beating off tribes of apocalyptic cannibal lunatics (I'm exagerrating, slightly) with an old rolled-up copy of The Catholic Herald and praying for the return of law and order.

            And what's all this got to do with my post, anyway? I'm not a catholic but I still maintain pornography is immoral.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Yeah well there's a whole industry based on The Black Secrets of the Vatican.

            Well you'll get no argument from me on that score. What is it based on?

            But referencing a TV programme isn't really a slam-dunk argument.

            Neither was it supposed to be a slam-dunk argument, but tell me this, are the details outlined in the programme inaccurate? Are those immoral acts being done by individuals and the establishment, by Catholic standards anyway, uncovered in the programme that went all the way to the top, not reality? If so, then my point was made. So, refute or retract.

            Might I suggest you read some actual academic history books?

            To what ends? If you have an issue, make it. Was it immoral to burn folk for having a different world view? Was it immoral to burn people for having the same world view, but wanting to read it in the vernacular? Was it immoral to rob the masses through lies and extortion? Is it immoral to cover-up and protect predatory priests? Is it immoral to force a narrow minded morality that is based on a book full of lies, deceit, debauchery, contradiction, forgery, error, etc., because an institute thrives on the power gleaned from such? Stop me any time Steve if you think those academic history books won't support any of the above. Have you read "Hitler's Pope"?

            The British state is one of the most liberal in the world, but it too puts restrictions on books, songs, artwork, plays, science, religions as well as a million other laws on what you can and can't do with your money, your car, your house, other people etc etc. And if you don't follow them they'll take away your money or lock you up or even - in extreme cases - shoot you dead.

            LOOK! Over there, squirrels!

            Pretty much all other nation states are the same.

            And if you had taken time to read what I wrote instead of what you think I wrote, you'd see I alluded to such when I said...

            "But the ridiculous lists are not exclusive to the RCC and they contain the sublime to the ridiculous, China, for example, banning "Back to the Future" because of its views on time travel."

            But for the purpose of this discussion, it is the ridiculousness of the RCC's moral codes under examination and the equally ridiculous reasons for them.

            So don't pose as some champion of freedom and liberality - you live in a highly-controlled and rigorously policed society,...

            Oh you don't have to tell me that much of what we call freedom, that bastion of western democracy, is a pure fiction that many a young man and women has paid the ultimate price to defend. When a young man, I donned the uniform and stood upon the wall that protects us from the alternative. But that is another discussion.

            ...and if it wasn't so controlled you'd be beating off tribes of apocalyptic cannibal lunatics (I'm exagerrating, slightly)...

            No shit?

            ...with an old rolled-up copy of The Catholic Herald and praying for the return of law and order.

            Neither praying, nor with the Catholic Herald. Like I said, I did my stint on the wall.

            And what's all this got to do with my post, anyway?

            You could have dispensed with all the straw manning and hyperbole and just asked.

            My point is that there is a sliding scale when it comes to complicated concepts such as morality...and as you have now displayed in your comments..freedoms. As there is with many things.

            Your anecdote showed the very same. Your viewing the porn was a bit of a laugh, a wheeze, it was fun up to when you reached your threshold on that sliding scale.

            Is it immoral to have few glasses of wine? A bottle of Scotch? Get wasted? Some might say so.

            Lying and stealing is deemed immoral, but most of us lie and steal at least some of the time, and some of us most of the time. Are immoral acts, not immoral, if done for moral reasons?

            I'm not big on morality though. Especially that of religious institutions. They make it up to suit the situation and always have the cop out.

            Our democratically elected governments are ordering the murder of people all the time. But at least they don't have the audacity to invoke divine command theory like so many religious do.

            I'm not a catholic but I still maintain pornography is immoral.

            That is you prerogative. But before I can be convinced it is, you need to make an argument in support of your view, just saying it is, doesn't make it so.

            I liked the last paragraph in this article..

            This post should not be construed as my being in favor of pornography, as my personal opinion is irrelevant to the matter at hand. Rather I am reporting on recent data regarding this debate and in so doing I wish to highlight the fact that ideology should never trump scientific evidence.

            http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/homo-consumericus/201001/pornography-beneficial-or-detrimental

            It is because of religion and a particular set morals, or taboo's, that porn titillates that group differently.

            Ironically, religious folk are more likely to feel addicted to porn, according to a study funded by the Templeton Foundation.

            Grubbs and his co-authors speculate that feelings of addiction could be seen as "the religious individual's pathological interpretation of a behavior deemed a transgression or a desecration of sexual purity."

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/15/religious-people-addicted-to-porn_n_4794614.html

            Why are they looking at it in the first place?

          • Steve Law

            Me: "Yeah well there's a whole industry based on The Black Secrets of the Vatican."

            Amos: "Well you'll get no argument from me on that score. What is it based on?"

            Largely on the hundreds of years of anti-catholic protestant propaganda that was widely disseminated in northern european countries (and over time exported to the US) from the reformation period onwards. That's where the mythologies of the Dark Ages and the Inquisition's elaborate torture chambers and the mindless fanatical bloodshed of the Crusades arise from. When in the 19th century professional scientists replaced what was largely religious gentleman amateurs the myth of the War of Science and Religion was created, leading to very popular books such as John William Draper's "History of the Conflict between Religion and Science" and Andrew Dickson White's "A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom", both of which (along with the whole conflict thesis) have been thoroughly debunked and discredited by modern, mainstream peer-reviewed academic historians.

            Me: "But referencing a TV programme isn't really a slam-dunk argument."

            Amos: "Neither was it supposed to be a slam-dunk argument, but tell me this, are the details outlined in the programme inaccurate? Are those immoral acts being done by individuals and the establishment, by Catholic standards anyway, uncovered in the programme that went all the way to the top, not reality? If so, then my point was made. So, refute or retract."

            You haven't told me what was in the programme, so I am unable to refute anything. I'm just saying that if you're interested in real history and debating it online you need to be able to cite something more authoritative than 'something I saw on tv'.

            Me: "Might I suggest you read some actual academic history books?"

            Amos: "To what ends? If you have an issue, make it. Was it immoral to burn folk for having a different world view? Was it immoral to burn people for having the same world view, but wanting to read it in the vernacular? Was it immoral to rob the masses through lies and extortion? Is it immoral to cover-up and protect predatory priests? Is it immoral to force a narrow minded morality that is based on a book full of lies, deceit, debauchery, contradiction, forgery, error, etc., because an institute thrives on the power gleaned from such? Stop me any time Steve if you think those academic history books won't support any of the above. Have you read "Hitler's Pope"?"

            You raise a lot of issues. Firstly I would say that if we start judging the past by today's standards then we might as well condemn the whole of human history - everything before about 70 years ago; but then it just becomes an exercise in chronological snobbery and self-righteousness. One needs to get a feel for the values, worldview, culture and society of any particular time, to enter imaginatively into it, before you can really begin to understand why they believed and acted in the ways they did. Otherwise they all appear to be mindless imbeciles - ALL of them. In carefully selecting one particular group for censure and condemnation and comparing their acts to our modern liberal values, cossetted as we are by our unimaginably wealthy and comfortable technological post-industrial societies and lifestyles, you are examining the past from a very skewed perspective.

            I'm aware of Hitler's Pope. More recently and after a number of critical responses to the book John Cornwell has softened his views considerably - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitler%27s_Pope#Cornwell.27s_later_views. Have you read "The Myth of Hitler's Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews from the Nazis" by the Rabbi David G Dalin, or the Israeli consul Pinchas E. Lapide's "Three Popes and the Jews"? They write from a jewish perspective and tell a very different story.

            If you look hard enough you'll find a book condemning, lambasting and denouncing any single person, group, philosophical, articistic or political movement, profession, race or gender you like. Human beings are often full of fear, anger and hate. It is important to be informed from many different perspectives. It isn't quite so satisfying, in that you can no longer maintain the kind of narrative where there are good guys in white hats and bad guys in black hats, but it is both more interesting and more accurate.

            One guy who's been an eye-opener for me is the history blogger and reviewer Tim O'Neill. He's an aussie atheist with a sharp tongue and wit, a champion of rationalism and proper peer-reviewed academic history and the fearsome scourge of bad and pseudo-history everywhere. He has a blog called Amarium Magnus, here - http://armariummagnus.blogspot.co.uk - but he pops us all over the place.

            Amos: "Lying and stealing is deemed immoral, but most of us lie and steal at least some of the time, and some of us most of the time. Are immoral acts, not immoral, if done for moral reasons?"

            Moral philosophy - fascinating subject.

            Amos: "I'm not big on morality though. Especially that of religious institutions. They make it up to suit the situation and always have the cop out."

            I'd disagree with you there. I also think you're confusing "morality" with "judgmentalism". One has to have some morals, surely?

            Amos: "Our democratically elected governments are ordering the murder of people all the time. But at least they don't have the audacity to invoke divine command theory like so many religious do."

            'So many' of them do? I don't really see any difference between murder for secular or religious reasons, it's still murder.

            Me: "I'm not a catholic but I still maintain pornography is immoral."

            Amos: "That is you prerogative. But before I can be convinced it is, you need to make an argument in support of your view, just saying it is, doesn't make it so."

            I don't think you've read all my posts above. I set out why I think it is immoral very clearly. You don't have to agree with me but you can't accuse me of just flatly insisting you accept my argument 'because I say so....'

            Amos: "It is because of religion and a particular set morals, or taboo's, that porn titillates that group differently.

            Ironically, religious folk are more likely to feel addicted to porn, according to a study funded by the Templeton Foundation.

            Grubbs and his co-authors speculate that feelings of addiction could be seen as "the religious individual's pathological interpretation of a behavior deemed a transgression or a desecration of sexual purity."

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

            Why are they looking at it in the first place?"

            Makes sense to me: they know it is sleazy and seedy and dehumanising, because they either have a moral conscience or their religious values have been drummed into them another way. Therefore they look at it and feel guilty and are aware it has an unwholesome power over them. They're looking at it in the first place because people are people and porn is exciting and stimulating. Just being religious doesn't - obviously - mean that moral behaviour comes effortlessly.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And what's all this got to do with my post, anyway? I'm not a catholic but I still maintain pornography is immoral.

            And you're entitled to your opinion. What you're not entitled to is that anyone else share your opinion.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Recent summaries of research on the effects of pornography on adolescents fail to establish any kind of definite effect - the hand-wringing of various moral groups notwithstanding.

          • Steve Law

            Really - can you cite this research? What sort of effects were they looking for?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Let me look. I ran across it by chance a couple of weeks ago.

        • Moussa Taouk

          "...people's behavior is not affected by watching pornography"

          Oh Mr David, how deeply I disagree with you. I don't know how you come to that conclusion, but people's behaviour is certainly affected by pornography. I mean... in a big way. I don't have the energy to go into scientific verification of that, but from what I've seen and experience, pornography is one of the greatest evils of our time. The harm it does is mostly quiet and invisible. But under the surface it's a treacherous disease that undermines the strength of spouses, the innocence of the young, the dignity of those who make it etc. I have nothing but pity for a society saturated in the stuff.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You need to offer something more than personal opinion if we are going to have a discussion. As you just demanded of me.

          • Moussa Taouk

            It's not opinion M. It's experience. Tangible experience of relation-ship shipwreck. I've also read a number of articles supporting my own experience. Unfortunately I have a bad memory for recalling where I read what, and I'm limitted on the time I can avail to digging them up. But it's definitely not just gut feel opinion. It's very visible, and very sad.

            To an extent you can also deduce it from logic. People here have spoken of the primary importance of consent. but when poverty and money are involve side by side, is the consent of the poor girl who is using her body to make money legitimate consent or is it a kind of pathetic consent that has been forced by her circumstances? And is the husband who watches pornography getting the consent of his wife?

          • Michael Murray

            I don't have the energy to go into scientific verification of that, but from what I've seen and experience, pornography is one of the greatest evils of our time.

            "If you can't support your view then don't feel obliged to reply for the sake of arguing. Silence will be a sufficient response".

          • Moussa Taouk

            Ok, ok. you win some points. very good. Thumbs up.

            My above comment isn't really an "argument" as such. It's a human to human precaution. People can watch pornography or whatever else they want to watch all they want. It's one man watching another man say "the bridge ahead seems to be all clear, so drive on ahead with caution". And it's me running back along the bridge in the opposite direction saying, "whoa, wait stop, stop. Please, tell the traffic to stop. I just saw a couple of cars fall through the bridge." It's my obligation to speak out, having seen the hole in the bridge. If he replies, "I'm not telling anyone to stop unless you show me some scientific evidence for this hole", I might well wipe my feet on the ground and go home if that's his reaction to a fellow human warning him/others of danger ahead. He'd be a wiser man if he heeded the advice and stopped traffic until he verified the hole.

            Now he might risk it if on weighing up the evidence available to him (maybe look like I'm drunk or something) he decides it's worth the risk (maybe there's a raging fire on this side of the bridge that's about to burn them all up anyway). But if the risk in staying is negligible to nil... well, it'd be worth erring on the safer side and hearing from a fellow human even without scientific evidence.

            Now that I think of it, it's kind of like Pascal's wager! Ow wow (warm feeling all over). Pascal's wager is so cool.

          • Michael Murray

            But there is world of difference between giving some advice based on your experience of life which someone can take on board and weigh in the balance with other things versus declaring something to be wrong, disordered, unnatural, vicious, a sin etc.

            It's like warning you that you should never have a drink because my next door neighbour was a alcoholic who made his families life a misery and I watch them spiral into disaster. It's a warning well meant and, based on the known properties of alcohol not unreasonable, but you may decide that alcohol is not a problem for you. On the other hand I could be out there campaigning for prohibition and calling anyone who drinks disordered and a sinner teetering on the edge of oblivion.

          • Moussa Taouk

            But there is world of difference between giving some advice based on your experience of life which someone can take on board...

            ...which is pretty much what I was doing above, and which I assume you approve of

            versus declaring something to be wrong, disordered, unnatural, vicious, a sin etc.

            ... which is not what I was doing above.

            Incidentally, slightly off track, there's nothing wrong with a warning being in the form of "wrong, disordered, unnatural, vicious, a sin etc." It's not like we should ignore warnings if the warning has the label of "sin" associated with it. These things very often go hand in hand. Even from a non-theistic perspective, surely you'd think "religion is a way of labelling things that are not for the flourishing of humans as bad (vice), and encouraging things that are for the flourishing of humans as good (virtue)". So either way, if something is deemed to be harmful (in this case pornography) then surely it's worth considering the harm that might be associated with it before plunging in because it has some short-term pleasure as its reward.

            I agree with your alcohol analogy in that one shouldn't assume such a simplistic smothering approach. But to apply the analogy correctly, I'd equate your alcohol with sex in general, and I'd equate drunkenness and lack of self-control with pornography in particular.

          • Michael Murray

            I'd equate your alcohol with sex in general, and I'd equate drunkenness and lack of self-control with pornography in particular.

            But surely to align with the Church's teaching on sexuality you would have to say alcohol should only be consumed under very, very restricted circumstances such as Holy Communion and Catholic wedding feasts (as per the Bible). People just drinking together outside those properly sanctified occasions is disordered.

            Silly I know but that is how the Catholic Church's rules on sex sound to many of us non-Catholics. If the polls done of Catholics are correct it's also how they sound to lots of people who call themselves Catholic.

          • Moussa Taouk

            Ok, so now I'm off the topic of my thoughts on pornography and I've moved on to Church teachings regarding sex and sexual mischievousness.

            Man, that analogy is way off. It's a pretty negative picture as to how the Church views sex. I guess it might come from the past when there was an over-emphasis on justice and perhaps not enough emphasis on mercy. Or at least that's what other older Catholics seem to think. As for me (34yrs old) the main vision of sex that I have been exposed to over and over again from the Church is something like this:

            The act of sexual intercourse is a glorious thing. It's the closest thing we have on earth for the foretaste of that heavenly blissful union we will have in heaven. We are made for union and we desire and seek union with others. The unitive act, in its deepest and truest dimension, is a reflection of the Trinity. It is the total self-giving of one to the other, and from which proceeds the fruit of that love in the form of a third person.

            Evil is not a thing of itself. Rather evil is the corruption of goodness. Since the sexual act is one of the grandest and best of gifts, it is the thing that can be among the most tragically corrupted by evil. In particular if the "total self-giving" becomes "total using of others for my pleasure" or if the "fruit of that love in the form of a third person" becomes "I accept the pleasure of 'sex' but not the associated fruit" then the granduer of the sexual act becomes diminished and the good that is meant to be expressed by it becomes corrupted.

            The analogy becomes, "alcohol is a marvelous human invention. It can boost the enjoyment of and even be the cause of wonderful social gatherings etc. It ought to be enjoyed and used in such manner that contributes to the good of humans.

            However there is the danger, due to human weakness and susceptibility to over-indulgence, that too much alcohol might be consumed by the one drinking. Therefore one should only drink x amount per hour, not drive after drinking, avoid drinking if they easily become aggressive etc.

          • Michael Murray

            Man, that analogy is way off. It's a pretty negative picture as to how the Church views sex. I guess it might come from the past when there was an over-emphasis on justice and perhaps not enough emphasis on mercy.

            So you want to take Pope Frances' line that we aren't going to change the rules just the press release ?

            The facts remain that the Catholic Church's rules about sex are incredibly restrictive. Nobody can masturbate, unmarried couples cannot have sex, even good Catholic married couples are pretty limited in what they can do by way of sexual expression, only one ineffective form of contraception can be used. Where am I wrong about this ? How are these rules from the past different to the rules of today. Has there been some change I've missed ?

          • Moussa Taouk

            So you want to take Pope Frances' line that we aren't going to change the rules just the press release ?

            I'm not fussed about the press or the press release. It's more about how the Church communicates the truths of the faith. I sounds like previously fear was used as a major mechanism. Perhaps now the mechanism is more slanted towards the human desire. In any case, I'm just saying that what I described is the proposal of wholesome sexuality that has been proposed by the Church in this day and age.

            The facts remain that the Catholic Church's rules about sex are incredibly restrictive.

            Restrictiveness isn't necessarily (in)proportionate to correctness. Walking along a rope-bridge to cross a large canion is very laterally restrictive. But such restriction is necessary to get to the other side.

            Nobody can masturbate, unmarried couples cannot have sex, even good Catholic married couples are pretty limited in what they can do by way of sexual expression

            If such lead to the flourishing of the human being, then these are good precautionary measures to take. I'm not convinced the Church should relax about the rules of human sexuality when her Master says (paraphrasing), "if you look at a woman lustfuly then you have already committed adultery in your heart". He sets a high ideal and, it's therefore right for the Church to preach that ideal.

            Where am I wrong about this ? How are these rules from the past different to the rules of today. Has there been some change I've missed ?

            You're not wong, you're right! The rules are the same. The change is more in the way the rules are presented. A different kind of graph is now used (or so I'm assuming based on what the older-than-me say) to better illustrate the point of the rules.

            I think the real disagreement we might have on any of this is more along the lines of whether in fact the "rules" do in fact lead to goodness or human flourishing, or whether they lead to evil or human misery. I don't know of any studies that have attemted to study such a correlation, and I don't know if the variables are things you can easily measure. So I'd have to appeal in a significant way to subjective experience to be able to have that conversation.

          • Michael Murray

            He sets a high ideal and, it's therefore right for the Church to preach that ideal.

            It is of course a ludicrous idea. No-one can control their thoughts to that extent and attempts to do so lead to obsessive and neurotic behaviour.

            Far more sensible to ask people to control what they can control which is their behaviour.

          • Moussa Taouk

            "No-one can control their thoughts to that extent" - I agree.

            "...attempts to do so lead to obsessive and neurotic behaviour." - depends how you define obsessive and neurotic, but they sound pretty bad. In which case I disagree. I would agree if you're talking about "scruples". But in general I have to disagree based on real life examples.

            "Far more sensible to ask people to control what they can control which is their behaviour." - Not either or. I think the whole thing rests on the "trying" factor. If you try to control your thoughts and fail, then that's a win (if I have a reasonable view of justice). If you don't bother trying then you fail.

          • Michael Murray

            "...attempts to do so lead to obsessive and neurotic behaviour." - depends how you define obsessive and neurotic, but they sound pretty bad. In which case I disagree. I would agree if you're talking about "scruples". But in general I have to disagree based on real life examples.

            I think the psychological evidence is with me. But I would be happy to defer to someone who actually has some qualifications which is not me. I do know that one cognitive behavioural therapy treatment for obsessive thoughts is to repeat them over and over until your brain gets bored with them. The alternative of trying to push them aside each time they arise seems to cause your brain to stay interested in them.

          • Michael Murray

            I think the real disagreement we might have on any of this is more along the lines of whether in fact the "rules" do in fact lead to goodness or human flourishing, or whether they lead to evil or human misery.

            We've done the experiment of running an organisation where nobody is allowed any interest in sex. The Royal Commissions, investigations are continuing and the suffering for many is ongoing. I think the judgement on the Church's understanding of human sexuality is clear.

          • Moussa Taouk

            Hahaha. That's actually funny. Hahah. HAAAhahah. O man. Sorry. I can't stop laughing. I honestly am saying, "That's funny". Ah God bless you Mr Murray. Thanks for that laugh. (wiping tears of laughter). Man, we have such different views of the world. It's amazing.

            Alright, time for me to commence the weekend! I hope you have a good weekend. Thanks for the conversation.

          • Michael Murray

            Child abuse is funny ? I guess you didn't mean that.

          • Susan

            Man, we have such different views of the world. It's amazing.

            It truly is. I can never get my head around the human tendency to combine anecdotes and arguments from authority and think that they've really found something.
            It's something we really need to watch out for when it comes to "human views".

          • Susan

            Even from a non-theistic perspective, surely you'd think "religion is a way of labelling things that are not for the flourishing of humans as bad (vice), and encouraging things that are for the flourishing of humans as good (virtue)".

            Certainly not.

          • Michael Murray

            Even from a non-theistic perspective, surely you'd think "religion is a way of labelling things that are not for the flourishing of humans as bad (vice), and encouraging things that are for the flourishing of humans as good (virtue)".

            Not really. If I want to label things like that I'd rather just do the science and look for the evidence with as little prior conceptions as possible. If you approach the problem from a religious perspective, particularly a religion like Catholicism that has so much difficulty chaining its mind, you're always looking over your shoulder to check you haven't found the wrong answer.

          • Moussa Taouk

            "Not really."

            (Susan this is a reply to your post as well). If not, where do you think the religious concepts of "sin" and "sanctity" and "vice" and "virtue" come from? I would have thought that you would agree that the naturalistic explanation for why religion has these things is to do with flourishing/demise of the human species.

          • Michael Murray

            I would have thought that you would agree that the naturalistic explanation for why religion has these things is to do with flourishing/demise of the human species.

            No. Religions obviously have various features and properties that ensure their own survival as political organisations. I don't see anything in there to do with "flourishing" of the human species. It might be that you can make an argument that various societies survived better because of their religions but I don't see it follows that that was necessarily good for the members of that society.

          • Susan

            Thank you Michael. You saved me the trouble of typing out a reply to Moussa.

            I would have just gone to the trouble of asking him to support that assertion with evidence and then I would have to respond to more anecdotes and assumptions.

            I could have also brought up many versions of Islam, the Aztecs, and let's not forget, the burning of heretics by Moussa's church of flourishing.

            Religions so often feed off of our feelings that some things are good and other things bad and make declarations based on incoherent, unevidenced deities to control those feelings.

            Honestly, right now, I'm too tired.

            All of this from an article that claims consequences and doesn't bother to support its insinuations with actual evidence.

            It's a terrible article. It makes claims and doesn't support them. It's that simple.

      • Loreen Lee

        I avoid the possibility of 'looking at the filth'. It's the best way to avoid any oxymoron. Your last paragraph makes clear the need to recognize such realities within this world, and not just issue laws which can indeed merely further the spiral of guilt and shame, rather than give redemption and/or forgiveness.

  • Michael Murray

    It amazes me that so many still ignore the simple truth that the human digestive system is not designed for drinking alcohol. The negative effects of our unnatural consumption of alcohol are all around us. Abuse, violence, road accidents, productivity losses, costs to the health care system to say nothing of the increase in unprotected sexual activity caused by this unnatural consumption. The Biblical precedent is clear. Alcohol should only be used at wedding feasts and would be much better replaced by water as Jesus did. Any other consumption, particularly drinking alone or men drinking with men is disordered and damaging to the drinkers liver and self-esteem. It was a wise man who first coined the words "demon drink".

  • cminca

    "A sufficient number of virtuous acts, in time, shapes me in such a way that I can predictably and reliably perform virtuously in the future, and a sufficient number of vicious acts can misshape me in such a way that I am typically incapable of choosing rightly in the future.

    This is not judgmentalism..."
    That is exactly what it is. The fact that you are using the terms virtuous and vicious to describe the acts automatically assign a "judgement" to them.

    • Steve Law

      Everybody makes judgments, they are unavoidable. 'Judgmental' and 'judgmentalism' imply judging too harshly or frequently, not that any and all judgments are bad.

      • cminca

        Based on your definition my comment to/about Fr. Barron still stands.

        • Steve Law

          No, you just claimed that because Fr. Barron made a judgment then he was being "judgmental", which is exactly the opposite of what judgmental or judgmentalism means.

          • cminca

            I may have been unclear--my point is that I believe that Fr. Barron regularly judges too harshly and too frequently.

  • Mike

    I often wonder with topics like these...Why couldn't I derive the Catholic moral teaching on topics like sex and beginning/end of life issues and hold that materialism is true? Whenever we discussed topics like these when I was in youth group God wasn't mentioned explicitly.

    I'm just wondering if it's possible. I'm a simple man, so I consider physics. If one can obtain Newton's equations of motion by Newton's method, but also by Lagrangian, or Hamiltonian methods it seems more likely that the physics is valid, and not just a result of a fortuitous mathematical choice.

    If one could re-derive the Catholic moral teaching without invoking the authority of the Church, or the divinity of Jesus, wouldn't that add support that the teaching is correct. Just thinking out loud, and interested what others think.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      That's what Catholics attempt to do via "natural law"; but Hume put the bullet in the brain of that idea. We cannot derive ought from is without some external authority.

      And the catholic position has so many arbitrary conditions, I'm not convinced it can be "deduced."

      • Mike

        So according to that mindset absolute relativism would be a valid way to make moral decisions during one's life?

        • Susan

          So according to that mindset absolute relativism would be a valid way to make moral decisions during one's life?

          What is absolute relativism?

          • Mike

            That there is no objective moral truth on any issue? I'm not opposed to a different definition, would you have a different one?

          • Susan

            So according to that mindset absolute relativism would be a valid way to make moral decisions during one's life?

            I don't have a definition. I didn't use the phrase. T

          • Mike

            Would my first definition be acceptable to you? That there is no objective moral truth on any issue.

          • Susan

            Would my first definition be acceptable to you? That there is no objective moral truth on any issue

            No. I'm not being slippery here. You are talking about morality. Not the area of Australia.

          • Mike

            I understood the statement made earlier that without an external authority an ought cannot be derived to mean that one wouldn't be able to make an objective statement about any moral issue, sexuality, euthanasia, less hot button issues, like robbery or murder. I may misunderstand and am trying to seek clarification.

            Susan, I'm curious to know what you think about my original proposition, deriving a moral framework from a non-Catholic starting condition, and possibly arriving at the Catholic teaching. Do you think it would add support to what the Church teaches? I'm not necessarily interested in a specific example as I'm at a conference for work, but in theory for now.

          • Susan

            I'm curious to know what you think about my original proposition, deriving a moral framework from a non-Catholic starting condition, and possibly arriving at the Catholic teaching

            Of course it's possible. You're familiar with the expression, I'm sure, that even a broken clock is right twice a day.

            I think morality begins with understanding reality as well as we can. Moral assertions made by humans based on unevidenced deities is not useful. Morality is complicated. We're earthlings that share a planet with other earthlings. I think all of our moral questions and our best moral answers are best evaluated by our impact there. Moral issues are meaningless without sentient beings. Morality is probably a non-issue on Venus.

            Do you think it would add support to what the Church teaches?

            About what?

            I'm not necessarily interested in a specific example

            Yes. Specific examples are useful if we are trying to illuminate what we mean when we say "moral" but they're too often used to imply things like:
            "If you don't believe there is an ultimate moral authority which my church represents, then you are a moral relativist."

            A non-sequitir and deeply irononic.

            I would much rather talk about morality than gods any day. Morality's hard. We're limited and we tend to shut out the consequences and the constant calibration it requires, and our limited understanding of our impact on things. That does not make me a relativist by any means.

            Morality's hard. It's important. I don't know what "objective morality" means and no one here who asserts it exists has ever defined the terms nor explained how we would recognize it.

          • Mike

            So, I would agree with much of what you've said, especially about invoking God (or gods) especially with unbelievers. I think the two of us could coherently argue for a position without either of us using the RCC church's position as a crutch or a point of attach on a particular point.

            I hope I haven't implied that those who don't believe in the ultimate moral authority my church represents means you are a moral relativist. If I have, I'm sorry. If I've misrepresented you in someway please accept my apology, and let me know so I can correct for future discussions.

            I don't see why a materialist couldn't hold there are objective moral truths. Perhaps I'm missing something.

            Can I offer how I think about "objective morality"? I believe certain actions/thoughts/motivations are intrinsically good or bad without my (or any one else's opinion) being needed. I may never fully comprehend what this truth is, and I think we struggle to find out with the particular's are, but that it exists. Similarly I hold that the universe exists with all of it's laws and complexities. The universe doesn't need my opinion (or anyone else's) to be true. It's just true because it is... We may never fully comprehend it, but it could exist non-the-less, both objective morality or the universe. Another way I think about it is any specific scenario would be good or bad, say shooting someone in self defense with no other recourse, or that taking a life unnecessarily is a bad choice. We could hypothetically recreate a specific scenario, and it would either always be good or bad, moral or immoral.

            Really I'm just trying to have a thought experiment. I mean I identify as a Catholic, but in the thought experiment I could assume a different position, say that of a Muslim, agnostic, materialist, etc. and arrive at the same conclusion.

            Once you asked me why I'm Catholic. One of the reasons is that if I assume there is no God and I consider moral issues I continually re-arrive at the Church's teaching. Many of them I considered as a teenager before I was aware of what the Church actually teaches. Sometimes I think the axiom "one can be good without God" is correct to an extent. I haven't fully explored the idea, but I see no reason why I couldn't have a change of heart, abandon the faith, and belief in God, and retain my moral values, particularly on sexuality, and life issues, e.g. abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But why do you think absolute moral positions exist?

            By the way, there are atheists who believe an objective morality can be developed. I do t find their work entirely convincing, but it is interesting.

          • Mike

            If there were no absolute moral position then that implies that slavery would be acceptable under some circumstances. As would murder, rape, etc. I would think we would agree those specific examples are always wrong.

            From my interaction in the real world moral relativism begins and ends with human sexuality. I haven't found an individual that is a moral relativist on every issue.

          • Michael Murray

            If there were no absolute moral position then that implies that slavery would be acceptable under some circumstances.

            How do you get to that ?

            As would murder, rape, etc. I would think we would agree those specific examples are always wrong.

            Killing is not always regard as wrong. We just don't call it murder when we don't think it is wrong. It's execution, war, collateral damage etc. That murder is wrong is virtually a tautology as it's defined to be killing that is wrong.

            It's not that long ago that rape in marriage was not regarded as wrong and not that long ago that slavery was not regarded as wrong. It's still acceptable to let people work in some pretty appalling conditions -- but we don't call those slavery.

          • Mike

            My understanding of relativism is that it asserts there is no objective moral truth. I'm not implying that a particular relativist has made this claim, just that it's possible given the assumptions inherent to relativism. Is there a different definition I'm unaware of? If that were true I couldn't argue slavery is always wrong under any circumstance.

            But you're making my point, just because we say something is moral doesn't make it so. Slavery was wrong long before we said it was, I would argue rape under any circumstance would be as well.

          • Michael Murray

            Slavery is wrong because we believe it is self-evident that all men (and women) are born equal and in some sense free. If that is your premise then I think you have to deduce slavery is wrong. I assume though that wasn't the premise of a lot of ancient Greeks and Romans.

            If your premise is that slaves are not human but just some form of advanced animal then maybe you can buy and sell them. Of course these days we would have more modern standards for their welfare as we do for other non-human animals. If homo erectus had survived to know what would we say ? Could they be bought and sold like chimps can ?

            But you have to have a premise to start the argument and different premises lead to different outcomes. Moral abslutes seem to me to need absolute premises and I don't see a place for them outside some form of deity.

            Look at the disaster in Australia over removing the children of indigenous families to be raised as "white". Often done for "good" reasons. How come these good people couldn't see it was obviously wrong if there was an absolute somewhere that should have told them that ?

            Even someone like Sam Harris who tries to go a long way with a form of materialistic ethics needs a starting premise of minimising suffering or something related.

          • Mike

            I think we're in agreement on one point. Slavery would be either right or wrong. It would be wrong in the times of the Greeks/Romans/18th century USA, or it would be ok. It can't be ok because we say so, but suddenly switch to being wrong because we changed out mind.

            Sam Harris intrigues me. Whenever I watch him on the internet I usually scream at my computer. Either, because I so vehemently disagree with him and I think he's so misconstruing my Church's positions, or because he says something and I scream, but that's what I believe, and what my Church teaches.

            I think the initial premise should be the intrinsic dignity all humans share due to being a member of our species. All other moral premises flow from there. Minimizing suffering, while admirable, I think it flows from human dignity and would be one of the places we derive moral issues from, but not the sole one.

          • Michael Murray

            If that were true I couldn't argue slavery is always wrong under any circumstance

            I think you would always argue this. But you are starting from some premises about human dignity, freedom etc. Where do you get those from? I think they are assumptions not absolutes.

          • Susan

            I think the two of us could coherently argue for a position without either of us using the RCC church's position as a crutch or a point of attach on a particular point.

            We have no need for that hypothesis. :-) Yahweh, that is.

            Or the moral assertions (They ARE assertions) of your church

            I believe certain actions/thoughts/motivations are intrinsically good or bad without my (or any one else's opinion) being neededht

            I certainly understand that feeling, and have not abandoned it. I do keep trying to make sense of it. We need to explain what bad and good are and be willing to take on those terms instead of allude to them. I am not accusing you of doing that any more than you are accusing me of being a moral relativist.

            You were suggesting that M. Solange's reference to Hume's explanation that we can not "derive an ought from an is" implied absolute relativism. (I still don't know what that means. :-) )

            Can I offer how I think about "objective morality"?

            Of course, but I would rather we begin with "morality". What do we mean when we say it?

            I believe certain actions/thoughts/motivations are intrinsically good or bad without my (or any one else's opinion) being needed.

            Like an omnipotent being choosing natural selection?

            What do you mean by "good" and "bad"? I have strong feelings about those words as I'm sure you do. We can't state that things are "objectively" good and bad without settling on what we mean by those terms. This doesn't imply "absolute relativism" on either of our parts. ;-)

            Once you asked me why I'm Catholic. One of the reasons is that if I assume there is no God and I consider moral issues I continually re-arrive at the Church's teaching.

            </blockquote?

            This is where you and I part ways. The moral issues that are unique to your church seem like fetishes to me, not morality. They seem fixated on contraception, abortion, homosexuality and masturbation.

            I am concerned with climate change, habitat destruction, species extinction, factory farming, human rights violations on every level, overpopulation, child abuse, education, all of which have moral implications. I do NOT arrive at your church's teaching. (Does that make one of us a relativist? :-D )

            Sometimes I think the axiom "one can be good without God" is correct to an extent.

            To more than an extent.

          • MrsWolf

            "I believe certain actions/thoughts/motivations are intrinsically good or bad without my (or any one else's opinion) being needed."

            I actually strongly disagree with this statement. I think the idea of "thought crimes" is both wrong and counterproductive. It's not what I *think* that matters, since my thoughts are largely beyond my control, but what I *do*. I can have all sorts of "depraved" thoughts, but unless/until I act on those thoughts, I am morally and ethically neutral. My thoughts themselves harm no one.

            Motivations is just another word for thoughts, so my reasoning on motivations is equivalent.

            As for actions being intrinsically good or bad. Here's an action - "I shoot my husband in the chest." Is that an intrinsically good or bad action? It's impossible to answer that question without context. If my husband is viciously beating me and trying to kill me (or my children, or another person), then shooting him in the chest is morally neutral at worst and is arguably morally good. If my husband is sleeping in his bed and I shoot him in the chest, I think we could agree that action is morally wrong.

            Here's another action - " I make someone perform work for me without paying them." Is that a good or bad action? Again, context is important. If that person is my child and I am making them wash the dishes after dinner, that action is, again, at worst morally neutral and the argument can be made that chores teach responsibility and contribute to the operation of a functional household, making it morally good. If, however, that person is an adult person who I am holding against their will and forcing to perform work on threat of violence or death, then that action is morally wrong.

            Here's another action - "I have sexual intercourse with another person." Is that action good or bad? Once again, context is important. If that person is my spouse who consents to have sex with me (to choose an example I think we can all agree on), that action is morally good. If that person is incapable of consent (because they are a child or mentally ill or, in some cases, developmentally delayed) or does not consent to have sex with me, then that action is morally wrong.

            Context matters. When we talk about slavery or murder or rape being wrong, then we have already introduced context to our discussion of actions. Actions themselves are morally neutral. The context in which those context occur, and the consequences that follow are what have the potential to make an action "good" or "bad."

            -- Heather

          • Mike

            Hi Heather, Nice to converse with you.

            I think there is a significant amount of what you wrote that I agree with, mainly context matters. But from what you wrote I gather you aren't a relativist, is that a correct reading?

            I think thoughts can be important, you're right if they just pop into your head, but say I constantly think about cheating on my wife (willfully) with a co-worker for example. I could argue that it's wrong.

            However, if I take any one of your examples it wouldn't matter if you or I were performing them, they would be either right or wrong, yes?

            If I disagreed with you and said it's not justifiable to use lethal force as a last resort when in a life threatening situation, we couldn't both be right.

            Additionally I could argue it's bad but justified to use lethal force. The difference between wrongfulness of an action, and culpability. One put in such a situation might be totally justified, but still feel remorse.

            I stand by my original assertion, that I could rederive the RCC moral teaching without invoking any of the religious aspects of Catholicism. Relativism would argue there is no absolute right and wrong, and it's all in the "eye of the beholder" so to speak. This claim always seems ludicrous. I have yet to encounter an example where one is a relativist on any topic outside of sexuality/beginning/end of life issues.

            The dictatorship of relativism lives and dies on these topics alone.

          • MrsWolf

            Hi Mike,

            "I think there is a significant amount of what you wrote that I agree with, mainly context matters. But from what you wrote I gather you aren't a relativist, is that a correct reading?"

            I think that's true, to an extent. I think we can state that some things (like rape, murder, slavery) are wrong. But also think that there are many things that are not so clear cut. Situations in which there may not be a "correct" answer.

            "I think thoughts can be important, you're right if they just pop into your head, but say I constantly think about cheating on my wife (willfully) with a co-worker for example. I could argue that it's wrong."

            I wouldn't necessarily disagree with you that what you describe is wrong. However, I would point out that it is not the *thought* that is wrong, it is the willful dwelling on the thought that could be wrong. That action has the potential to draw "emotional energy" and time away from your relationship with your wife. That action would be wrong.

            "However, if I take any one of your examples it wouldn't matter if you or I were performing them, they would be either right or wrong, yes?"

            I agree.

            "If I disagreed with you and said it's not justifiable to use lethal force as a last resort when in a life threatening situation, we couldn't both be right."

            We couldn't both be right, but we could both be wrong. That's why I like the term morally neutral. To me, that indicates the idea that something *could* be "not wrong" and simultaneously "not right." These kind of things can tend to get murky. I think black and white thinking (things are either "right" or they are "wrong") is often problematic.

            "Additionally I could argue it's bad but justified to use lethal force. The difference between wrongfulness of an action, and culpability. One put in such a situation might be totally justified, but still feel remorse."

            Of course one can be justified (i.e. right) and still feel remorse. Our emotions are not rational and cannot be dictated by logic. This does not imply a contradiction to me.

            "I stand by my original assertion, that I could rederive the RCC moral teaching without invoking any of the religious aspects of Catholicism. Relativism would argue there is no absolute right and wrong, and it's all in the "eye of the beholder" so to speak. This claim always seems ludicrous. I have yet to encounter an example where one is a relativist on any topic outside of sexuality/beginning/end of life issues.

            The dictatorship of relativism lives and dies on these topics alone."

            Okay, I will accept that offer. I would like you to derive the "moral teaching" that homosexual sex is wrong without reference to God, the Bible, or Catholicism.

            -- Heather

          • Mike

            Hi Heather,

            I think we would agree that there are absolute moral truths, but that our understanding of them may not be absolute.

            Ok, challenge accepted. I prefer not to, since this is so decisive and has received significant attention here and elsewhere, with many feeling hurt by the Church's teaching, but I'd like to be a man of my word. I'd like to put this caveat in, I said I could re-derive the Catholic teaching, not that I could convince you or anyone else of it's validity. I'd also say it's a tragedy if a gay person only hears this aspect of Catholicism.

            When I consider intercourse, I see it serves a multitude of purposes, bonding, reconciliation, stress relief, etc. One would be to bond the partners to one another. I think we would agree that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence for this both anecdotal and scientific. I can note the complementary of male and female anatomy, to put it delicately the parts fit together. I would call this aspect of intercourse "unitive".

            I note a second aspect of intercourse which is that procreation occurs naturally (in a general sense, not necessarily for a specific individual) as a result of intercourse. I would call this aspect "procreative".

            From this I could deduce that sex is designed for procreation. However, I note that humans are able to have intercourse outside of times that the woman is fertile, unlike other (but not all) species, and that intercourse would serve a dual purpose, unitive and procreative.

            I would assert that neither of these aspects of love should not actively be removed by the parties involved in said act, as they are self evident from observing nature.

            From this principle falls out not only the teaching on homosexuality, but also the remainder of the Church's sexual teaching.

            I would state that in my opinion one does not choose to whom they are attracted, however, that alone is insufficient to make an action moral. I can be attracted to someone who is not my wife, but acting upon it wouldn't be right. I also state that I have genuine sympathy for those who are gay. They have not always been treated well by society, including their families at times.

          • Susan

            Relativism would argue there is no absolute right and wrong, and it's all in the "eye of the beholder" so to speak.

            Who is arguing for moral relativism here? To suggest that there are serious problems with the idea of "objective moral values" does not mean a person is arguing for moral relativism i.e. anything goes.

            Try this link for an introduction.

            http://moralphilosophy.info/

            I have yet to encounter an example where one is a relativist on any topic outside of sexuality/beginning/end of life issues.

            You should really should look up the nuances before you start calling people relativists.
            There are countless subjects with no clear answers. Acknowledging this is not moral relativism.
            If a plane crashes in the Andes and the survivors have nothing to eat but the bodies of those who died in the crash, is it immoral act to eat them?
            If I make the choice to put my dog to sleep if he is suffering and there is no way to save his life and nothing but increasing suffering and death ahead of him, is it moral to make that choice for him?
            If I decide to end my life because I am suffering and there is no way I will get better and nothing but increased suffering and death ahead of me, is it moral to take my choice away?
            "Moral relativism" is a strawman. You have been given the impression that there are only two choices and it's not that simple.
            Sort of the way this article implies that there is only "hook-up culture" and the teaching of your church. I find either detrimental to my well being and the juxtaposition simplistic. Fortunately, there are many other options.

          • Mike

            Hi Susan. I didn't think I called any individual here a relativist. My understanding of how this got started was someone said I couldn't be an atheist and hold there are absolute moral truths. Their thinking (as I understood it, maybe I misunderstood it) is that if one doesn't believe in God there is no authority to implant moral truths.

            I think there is an answer for the questions you propose, or that there could be a variety of acceptable moral choices made during a given situation. Just that they would be good or bad (objectively) if you or I did them. It couldn't be right for you to do it, and wrong for me, or vice versa.

            I do think there are a multitude of moral questions without clear cut answers, I don't want to give the impression that I or anyone else have all the answers. But my ability to comprehend them doesn't mean they aren't true. We didn't recognize slavery was wrong in the US for too long, but it was wrong anyway, we didn't give women the right to vote, and that was wrong too.

            Does that seem better? Perhaps I'm particularly in articulate on this topic.

          • Susan

            Hi Mike,

            I didn't think I called any individual here a relativist.

            Fair enough. You didn't. I misunderstood. But that's not really my point. My point is that we are not left with "moral relativism" without objective moral values.

            I highly recommend you check out the link. Morality is a very difficult concept, as I'm sure you know. It has been examined and discussed for a very long time.

            What do we mean when we say the word "moral"? What do we mean when we say something is morally "good" or "bad"? What are we referring to? How do we evaluate these things? We REALLY need to define our terms here and articulate our intuitions on the subject.

            I looked up "moral relativism" on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy site and laughed when I read this opening sentence:

            Moral relativism has the unusual distinction—both within philosophy and outside it—of being attributed to others, almost always as a criticism, far more often than it is explicitly professed by anyone.

            That we can't derive an ought from an is doesn't mean anything goes.

            I wonder how you justify, for example, that a loving, physically intimate homosexual relationship is immoral? On what objectively moral basis is that true?

          • Mike

            Hi Susan. Thank you for the link. I tried to click on it earlier, but didn't get very far. Thank you for the clarification on my confusion. I'd agree, that I don't personally know anyone who adheres to relativism. That was one of the points I was trying to make.

            Can I ask a question. Why does it seem so many people are interested in homosexual actions/relationships? It's not something I really spend a lot of time thinking about in my real life. I feel like there are so many worthy moral questions, and it seems like one's standing today rises and falls with answering that topic. Can't I switch the ought from an is, because a relationship has the characteristics you ascribe doesn't mean it ought to be that way?

            I mean if I was against it would it automatically make me homophobic? I attended a Jesuit College, and although I have a variety of issues, there was one priest whom I especially appreciated. He was one of the better confessors I've had, and was also gay. He stated his position on the matter, which would match mine, would that make him homophobic?

          • Susan

            Hi Mike,

            I tried to click on it earlier, but didn't get very far

            Try using the links on the left. The ones in the text don't seem to be working. If that fails, just search the terms on the internet.

            I'd agree, that I don't personally know anyone who adheres to relativism. That was one of the points I was trying to make.

            The point I am trying to make is that the subject is more complex than either "objective moral truths" or "moral relativism".

            Why does it seem so many people are interested in homosexual actions/relationships?

            Ask your church. They seem very interested. If you ask me, I will say that it is a human rights issue.

            It's not something I really spend a lot of time thinking about in my real life.

            It doesn't affect your rights.

            Before we get sidetracked, I asked because you said that you could make a moral argument without invoking your deity and still arrive back at the church's teaching on any issue. What would that moral argument be?

          • Mike

            Thanks for the info, I'll try the links over the weekend.

            I made the argument in response to Heather below. I still have the caveat, I never promised to convince you, just that I could rederive it. I did just that. Here's one thing that I wonder about. Is the question of whether or not something affects my rights the only issue to be considered when deciding if something is moral? I mean others don't wait until marriage, and it doesn't affect my rights, but I still hold that's immoral.

            I'd also agree ethics is complicated, and you may be right about absolute moral truths and moral relativism. Perhaps I should consider them to be extremes in a continuum.

            You know I've been attending a Catholic mass once a week since I was born. I've only heard the topic discussed TWICE. Once by the gay priest mentioned above. He gave a wonderful homily about how difficult it can be to be gay in society, how he felt loved by the Church. He even started and advised a gay-Catholic student group on Campus.

            You didn't answer my question, would you consider me homophobic? Would that priest be homophobic?

          • Susan

            I never promised to convince you, just that I could rederive it.

            That doesn't say much for objective moral truths. I won't push you on that as you said you'd agree to investigate the subject further.

            I also agree that one doesn't have to be a theist to believe there is objective morality. Too bad you weren't here for the article that claimed that the existence of objective moral truths requires a god without presenting evidence for objective moral truths. It's an old apologetics ploy. Brandon used to pop in frequently with that assertion and never responded when pressed on it.

            You didn't answer my question, would you consider me homophobic?

            I've never used the word homophobic in my life. I don't know how that's relevant.

            I don't believe there is a good moral argument against gay marriage. Yet the church teaches it is immoral.

          • Mike

            Well there's always the Church teaching, which I adhere to, but I don't think would help in this case.

            Susan, I find you do a remarkable job of challenging that which is stated and asserted here, by others and myself. I find it to be respectful, and I appreciate it. I hope you find me to be equally graceful.

            Let me speak in the first person, as it's easier for me, if that's ok. I never want my wife to suffer, and I would think it's a good principle minimizing suffering. I know how much it would hurt her if I had cheated on her, and been with another woman. I know I would be hurt if she cheated on me. Before I was married, I always wondered what it would be like to be with my wife (even before I met her). I wondered if after the first time she would ask how it was? If I had had better, I would have to tell her the truth or lie to her. Either way I would feel bad, and so would she. Although I dated a few women but I never knew which one would be my wife. In fact until we walked down the aisle I didn't know my fiance would become my wife for certain. I prefer to think of the yes of the choice being discussed, not that which is forbidden.

          • Susan

            I would think it's a good principle minimizing suffering

            Now, we're getting somewhere.

            The rest of your story is touching and sweet and I wish you and your wife a lifetime of happiness.

            You have pointed out what might bring suffering to a woman you hadn't met yet. Certainly worth considering but not necessarily the scenario that many others encounter living out the same situation you have imagined. No mention that maybe there might be good things that contribute to the well-being and alleviate the suffering of other humans that could be outweighed by your fears and genuinely thoughtful concerns about your eventual wedding night.

            I respect that you made the best decision for you that you could and also that you did out of respect for your future life partner. As David Nickol suggested very early in the thread, if you think it's wrong, don't do it.

            But you've got a long way to go to make solid arguments that people who make different choices than you have, have committed immoral acts.

            Then, you have to make those arguments. Not just to your satisfaction.

          • Michael Murray

            Why does it seem so many people are interested in homosexual actions/relationships? It's not something I really spend a lot of time thinking about in my real life.

            You could also ask why does society make such a fuss over this minor difference. In the scheme of things it's like being left-handed. A small number of people are left-handed. Do we stop two left-handed people getting married ? Do we say things like "I don't mind left-handed people being left-handed as long as they don't write with their left hands in public?" Do we worry about left-handed teachers passing on their left-handed lifestyle to our children ?

          • Mike

            Have I given any indication that I have anything but love and respect for my gay brothers and sisters in Christ? Have I proposed using force or shame to prevent gay people from public displays of affection?

            Have I proposed limiting the rights of gay people? I have said they shouldn't be fired, or discriminated against.

            I think far too many people in society have mistreated gays, but I haven't found the Catholic teaching on gay people to be nothing but loving and welcoming of gay people.

          • Michael Murray

            So saying left-handed people can't write with their left hands or marry other left-handed people would be loving and welcoming would it ?

          • Mike

            Respectfully, I'm done with this line of discussion. Especially when you didn't answer my questions.

            And lets drop this lefthandness nonsense.

          • Michael Murray

            I didn't answer them because nothing in the post you replied to was a comment about you. It was a comment about some people in societies obsession with gayness.

            Personally I think the left-handed analogy works fine.

            But let's stop by all means.

          • Mike

            Michael. I think I was less than charitable with my last response, and for that I ask pardon.

            From my point of view, I've seen many threads treat this topic in detail and I don't see how I would add anything to it, and am just not interested in pursuing it.

          • Susan

            MM:Personally I think the left-handed analogy works fine.

            I think it's perfect.

            Mike:

            I've seen many threads treat this topic in detail and I don't see how I would add anything to it

            I'm not giving you the gears just to give them to you. Your original idea was that you could make an argument in a material universe that would lead you back to the teaching of the church. Here's an opportunity to test that hypothesis for yourself.

            Susan, I find you do a remarkable job of challenging that which is stated and asserted here, by others and myself. I find it to be respectful, and I appreciate it.

            Thank you, Mike. I'm not interested in attacking people. I am interested in examining ideas. Occasionally, I lose site of that but I'm trying to stay on track.

            I hope you find me to be equally graceful.

            I've always felt our interactions have been respectful.

            Glad you apologized to Michael, though. I wish you'd explain what's wrong with his left-handed analogy.

          • Mike

            And I made the case to Heather. Sex is unitive and procreative. And that neither of those aspects should be actively removed by the parties. Those are the principles that I used to reach the same conclusion.

          • Susan

            Hi Mike,

            How is that a moral argument?

            What does it have to do with morality?

          • David Nickol

            How is that a moral argument?

            Well, of course it is a moral argument because it seeks to understand the nature and the purpose of sex, and based on that nature and purpose, it seeks to determine what one ought to do regarding sex. It does depend (in my opinion) on the belief that God created sex for a purpose and that it is impermissible to use sex in any way other than what God intended. Many people feel that Girgis, George, and Anderson have successfully made a moral argument not just about sex, but about marriage in their paper What Is Marriage?

            I don't think you get to rule something out as a moral argument because the argument is not in line with your particular views about how moral decisions ought to be made. If my particular brand of ethical reasoning could be classified as utilitarian, that does not mean I can say that someone making a deontological argument is not making a moral argument. "God says so" is not (in my opinion) a moral argument. But I do think it is a moral argument to say, "We can see by observing the world that the purpose of X is Y (and that is how God made it), and it is morally wrong to use X for Z, because that is using X in a way contrary for what it was intended." It is a moral argument against lying, for example, to say that the purpose of speech is to communicate the truth, and it is morally wrong to use speech to deceive, because doing so is using speech for a purpose other than the one for which it rightly ought to be used.

          • Susan

            Mike's original idea was that he could make the same moral arguments without invoking a deity.

            I'm not sure how "that is using X in a way contrary for what it was intended" does that successfully.

            I'm not saying it can't but I'm asking Mike to make that argument.

          • David Nickol

            Mike's original idea was that he could make the same moral arguments without invoking a deity.

            I don't see that Mike invoked a deity. And as I pointed out, Girgis, George, and Anderson make the argument Mike is making without invoking a deity.

            It seems to me that you are asking Mike not only to make a moral argument, but to justify his entire position by building from the ground up a theory in moral philosophy about what makes something moral. Then, I think, you will sit back and say, "Well, why do you say that?" And, "What makes you say that?" I think it is at least incumbent on you to do what you are expecting Mike to do—present a moral theory from the ground up.

          • Mike

            Hi Susan and David. David, thanks for your comment above.

            I think I can argue that many things we encounter in life have a purpose that may (or may not) be self evident. When I look at the natural world the purposes of sex are self evident.

            As I detailed to Heather, when I observe the world I see that sex has a variety of purposes. It results in stress relief, and bonding of the parties involved. I think there is a substantial amount of anecdotal and scientific to support this claim. Unlike many animals humans mate outside of the female's fertile periods. From this I can deduce that the purpose is not for procreation alone.

            However, I can note the complementarity of the genders, and that to put it bluntly the parts fit together. I can also note that procreation is a natural outcome of sex, and is necessary to produce the next generation of the species. When I look at nature I see hard wiring that drives mankind towards producing the next generation. From this I can infer that procreation is another purpose of sex.

            However I can note that these two are not mutually exclusive. If sex were only for procreation, than humans would only copulate when the female is fertile. Using my reason I can assert that the purpose of sex is both unitive and procreative. In a general sense heterosexual intercourse satisfies both of these, while homosexual intercourse only ever satisfies the former. I can also assert that a moral principle surrounding this topic is that neither aspect should be actively removed by either party.

            From what I understand this is the Catholic teaching on human sexuality not only for this topic, but flows into all other topics. I don't think I need a diety to coherently hold any of these positions. I didn't invoke because God said so, or because this passage in the Bible says such and such. I don't see why another here who happens to be a materialist couldn't hold the same positions.

            The caveat isn't that you would agree with my conclusion, just that I could reach the same conclusion without stating because, well you know, Jesus.

          • Susan

            I think I can argue that many things we encounter in life have a purpose that may (or may not) be self evident.

            What do you mean by "purpose"?
            I would like to address most of the points in your comment, but it would be pointless unless you explained what you mean by purpose.

          • Mike

            Hi Susan,

            I recognize you are acting in good faith, but I grow frustrated. I am unsure if I am qualified to properly articulate my position on this matter, as philosophy isn't my strong suit, and I don't really have the time in life right now to properly educate myself. I'm not really interested in rederiving all of moral philosophy from first principle. From what I understand about philosophy is that I've made a moral argument. I don't know how to articulate what type or subbranch of ethics it stems from.

            It seems a bit like asking someone making a science argument to rederive the scientific method, including defining what it means to observe, predict, and measure.

            My point was not to argue about sexual ethics. It's been done to death at this website, in the comments section of this article and seemingly countless others. I'm not sure I can add anything to that which has already been argued here. My point was to demonstrate that in principle the argument could be made without starting from a position that God exists, and arrive at what the Church teaches.

            I feel like I've been a good sport about this, starting from a position that isn't my own world view, and even starting from principles that I think are incorrect, and a topic not of my choosing. How many other theists have tried to be so accommodating to the non-theists here? As David points out others have made similar arguments, although much more elegantly than myself. Once again I'm not necessarily interested in debating the topic, especially this one.

          • Susan

            Hi Mike,

            I'm glad that you understand that I am acting in good faith. This a very serious issue that has real impact on the well-being of many humans.

            I didn't ask you to begin from first principles. I asked you what you mean by "purpose" in an argument that can't invoke intentionality where none can be demonstrated.

            Your original point was that an argument could be made without invoking a deity that would still lead back to your church's moral teachings. I responded to that point, not to make you uncomfortable, but to be open to that possibility.
            I don't see how you've made an argument that doesn't sneak a deity in through the back door. But I realized that just because I can't see it, it doesn't mean that you are unable to do that. Which is why I asked you what you mean by "purpose".
            Not only have you failed to support that there is "purpose" behind nature, you haven't

          • Mike

            Hi Susan,

            Perhaps I misunderstand where this is going. I don't see where I slipped in a deity. I'm arguing that the nature of sexuality is evident by examination, and it should be used for a specific reason(s) which I derive from observing nature. Where is a deity snuck in to that argument?

            Purpose from the dictionary "the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists"

            Maybe part of this is that I'm a theist, and I prefer to think that morality was instituted by God, much like others like to speculate that the laws of physics need a "lawgiver". I can only see this discussion ending one of two ways.

            One, an infinite regress of why is that...which leads me to conclude that the only reason is a deity, which must be instituted to the conversation to state what is moral, and what is not, or that there is no said deity, and therefore no morality. In the latter case it would support my position, and the other would leave us with the problem of relativism as discussed at the genesis of this discussion.

            If I made the argument that one should use one's material resources for the common good, it seems to me that there are equal problems like defining common, and good, which then leaves the mechanistic problems of how to attain a lofty goal.

            Since I'm obviously struggling to provide you with what you would find satisfactory, how would an atheist derive morality, without invoking a deity? How do you as a non-believer derive intrinsic moral goods? You said you aren't a relativist, so how do you decide what is good and what isn't?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You slipped in a deity with your use of the word "purpose", which is what Susan is, I suspect, alluding to. Sex can't have a "purpose" without intent, unless you are using it strictly to say, "this is what I observer to happen." You seem to be saying that sex is intended by god for X and Y, and that it is therefore morally correct ONLY to use sex for X and Y. You also have a limited set of purposes for sex. Sometimes it's just for fun. And since we observe "fun" sex occuring, that's also moral.
            In which case, it can also be pointed out that we observe "non-creative" sex as well. Why isn't that just as acceptable as the part that is unitive and procreative?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            In other words, your claim that it should be used for a specific purpose that you observe in nature lacks a coherent rationale. Why should it be used for that and only for that purpose?

          • Mike

            Ok. But doesn't that leave us with only two options with regards to morality, i.e. a moral law giver (God) or relativism?

            Where is the room for an objective moral truth to be held by a non-theist?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I wasn't addressing that point directly; I was trying to clarify what I thought Susan meant by her point that you seemed to be smuggling in a deity.
            Since I'm not yet convinced that objective moral truth is possible (with or without a deity), I may be the wrong person to ask, but it seems clear that there are certain behaviors that humans (most humans) find abhorrent, and that there are certain behaviors that lead to the elimination of the species. If I were going to try to make an argument for objective morality, I'd probably start there.

          • Susan

            Perhaps I misunderstand where this is going.

            Perhaps I did. You suggested several times that you could make a moral argument that would lead back to your church's teachings without invoking a deity.

            Purpose from the dictionary "the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists"

            That implies unevidenced agency. Intention.

            Maybe part of this is that I'm a theist, and I prefer to think that morality was instituted by God
            .

            That is a whole other argument than the one you proposed, and it's fraught with problems. Euthyphro's dilemma and all.

            http://www.philosophy-index.com/plato/euthyphro/dilemma/

            how would an atheist derive morality, without invoking a deity?

            I can't answer for atheists. I will say that invoking a deity solves nothing. How does it?

            How do you as a non-believer derive intrinsic moral goods?

            I'm not sure what you mean by "intrinsic moral goods". I will say that I can't think of a moral question that doesn't connect somehow to the effects our beliefs and actions have on sentient beings. The consequences.

            From there, we have a long way to go. But our initial moral responses to slavery, genocide, child rape, murder, etc. begin there.

            it seems to me that there are equal problems like defining common, and good, which then leaves the mechanistic problems of how to attain a lofty goal.

            I agree completely. But invoking unevidenced deities doesn't make anything better. And the fact that there are huge problems doesn't mean we should just throw our hands in the air.

            Arbitrarily deciding that nature has "purpose" when it comes to sex makes no sense. What about its purpose for smallpox? Malaria? Trees? Rivers? Termites?

          • Michael Murray

            I think I would rather say current evolved function than purpose. Even so you need to argue or perhaps just assert that it is wrong to use something for other than all of its evolved functions. Which I why I said current of course. I'm not sure how that argument would go. Particularly as nature is always reusing things for different functions via natural selection. So why is it bad for us to be doing this? We are just part of nature.

            I still don't see you getting from there to the immorality of a couple who are living together in a relationship without marriage. Their sex is still procreative and unitive. I also don't see how you argue in favour of any form of contraception.

            This form of argument to me also causes great difficulty with the treatment of disease. There are many diseases theses days whose natural function we can thwart. Take these drugs and your blood pressure won't cause a stroke. Take these drugs and your glaucoma won't cause blindness. Why is this moral ?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I note you also have what appears to be an unwarranted assumption. You observe sex has two purposes, X and Y. You state that Y is not always required, therefore both X+Y must be moral.

          • Susan

            Well, of course it is a moral argument because it seeks to understand the nature and the purpose of sex, and based on that nature and purpose, it seeks to determine what one ought to do regarding sex.

            No. It doesn't. It makes assertions about sex without connecting those terms to any definition of "morality".

            Many people feel that Girgis, George, and Anderson have successfully made a moral argument not just about sex, but about marriage in their paper What Is Marriage?

            This morning, before working for twelve hours, I thought that when I got home, I would read this paper and take it into consideration and after twenty pages, I thought... wait a minute. This is a terrible argument. But certainly not something that has been introduced in discussion here at SN, so to address it point would not advance the discussion much... unless you want post it as discussion topic.

            Because someone has made a 40+ page argument somewhere (laden with fallacies and inconsistencies that I cannot reasonably address here) does not mean that Mike made an argument at all. (Note: this 40 + page argument appeals to consequences and Mike hasn't. )

            But because you linked that an argument has been made "successfully to many people" , Mike thinks that his axioms n be called self-evident, which they cannot without justification.

            Now, unless you and/or Mike can discuss the strongest part of that argument to which you've linked us, I don't thinyou've demonstrated that Mike has actually made an argument or even that the argument in your link is a good one.

            "Of course, it's an argument because someone made a similar argument here based on the same axioms" but they

            at least made (what I consider but can't address, an inadequate argument) to justify those axioms. based at the bottom, on consequences.

            Now, Mike without fleshing out any sort of argument gets to say "It's self-evident." because you have stated that he has made an argument.

            I don't think you get to rule something out as a moral argument because the argument is not in line with your particular views

            I didn't rule anything out. I simply asked him how that was a moral argument. What that had to with morality.

            I do think it is a moral argument to say, "We can see by observing the world that the purpose of X is Y

            Not without defining "purpose" and removing unevidenced teleology from that definition. IF you're going to make an argument that doesn't involve an agency. That was Mike's proposal. Not mine.

            It is a moral argument against lying, for example, to say that the purpose of speech is to communicate the truth, and it is morally wrong to use speech to deceive, because doing so is using speech for a purpose other than the one for which it rightly ought to be used.

            Not unless you justify the term "purpose". It might be an argument but it is not a developed one.
            And to state that somewhere, someone made (a bad) 40+ page argument somewhere in an ocean of arguments that can't be addressed here because it hasn't been made here and that many people consider it successful neither furthers the discussion, nor let's me or Mike (or you, now) off the hook.
            I'm not trying to win. I am interested in having a discussion on the subject.

          • Michael Murray

            Well I just hope you aren't wrapping your rubbish in yesterdays newspaper whose purpose is clearly information communication not rubbish disposal.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Or a container for "Fish and Chips", or as we Irish call it, a "Fish Supper", for that matter.}80)~

          • Michael Murray

            Can you still do that ? That all stopped awhile ago for us on public health grounds and got replaced with white butchers paper. Or in some places white foam containers.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Aye Michael, here too. The print is detrimental to health. But the irony is, that package manufacturers are making wrapping paper and containers to look like newspaper.

            https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=newspaper+print+fish+and+chip+paper&espv=210&es_sm=93&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=w544U-egFYmBhQfmz4DwBw&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAQ&biw=1280&bih=709

          • Ignorant Amos

            "We can see by observing the world that the purpose of X is Y (and that is how God made it), and it is morally wrong to use X for Z, because that is using X in a way contrary for what it was intended."

            But that sort of contradicts the adaptive nature of all sorts of things in the world. Take a river for example, is it immoral to ride a river in a boat, or use its power to generate electricity?

            Why, without X being used for Z we wouldn't be here. The very nature of evolution demands it. The purpose of a mouth was not to make a noise through, regardless of whether one is communicating or lying. And lots of things that had the purpose of X for Y are completely redundant.

          • David Nickol

            Take a river for example, is it immoral to ride a river in a boat, or use its power to generate electricity?

            I am not sure what you are saying. Perhaps I should clarify that when I say "it is morally wrong to use X for Z," I am talking about human faculties like sex and speech. In moral theology, arguments along the lines of my "X, Y, Z" argument above are called "perverted faculty arguments." (I should note that I am no expert here, and I am in way over my head already.) I am not saying I find perverted faculty arguments persuasive. I am saying they are moral arguments.

            There is a limit, I think, to what commenters here ought to expect to get from one another. When we are talking about quantum physics, for example, it would be beyond the pale for someone to say, "Wait a minute. You say that radioactive decay is spontaneous. But what is radioactive decay? How do you know that there are such things as atoms, or protons and neutrons, or alpha particles? Please explain."

            I am not trying to come up with commenting rules. I am just kind of "thinking out loud" as to how far people ought to go in making demands for information, or justification of a particular position, when they could look it up or read a book. To give an example, several times I have said that I am not going to argue here to defend the prevailing theory of the writing of the Gospels (i.e., Mark wrote first; Matthew and Luke based their Gospels on Mark; etc.) There is no shortage of information available to anyone who wants to know the majority view, and although I consider myself fairly knowledgeable, I am certainly not capable of dealing with every possible objection someone might raise if they want to dispute what I believe. But since it is the majority position, I don't feel the need to defend it. If someone raises a question I don't know the answer to, if I want to respond, I am just going to look it up and present what I find. But that seems to me like doing someone else's homework, just as making a case for the existence of atoms, subatomic particles, and radioactive decay would be.

          • Ignorant Amos

            All fair enough.

            I am not sure what you are saying.

            All I was suggesting is that there are a plethora of things that are not used for their original purpose and we don't see it as an obstacle to the use some here are prohibiting. The mouth and anus, for example, developed for the intake and excretion of the by product, of sustenance. That both are used for other purposes, including sex, is something else. Who gets to decide which is morally permissible seems to be the issue here.

            I am not trying to come up with commenting rules. I am just kind of "thinking out loud" as to how far people ought to go in making demands for information, or justification of a particular position, when they could look it up or read a book.

            That could be said about anything though. Part of your popularity here with just about everyone is your erudite approach and explanations...or arguments for that matter.

            To give an example, several times I have said that I am not going to argue here to defend the prevailing theory of the writing of the Gospels (i.e., Mark wrote first; Matthew and Luke based their Gospels on Mark; etc.) There is no shortage of information available to anyone who wants to know the majority view, and although I consider myself fairly knowledgeable, I am certainly not capable of dealing with every possible objection someone might raise if they want to dispute what I believe.

            While I agree with you on principle, and there are some really daft assertions that are made to the point they need ignoring, it is for the lurker that we should consider. There are a lot of them. They will regard the effectiveness of an argument from the evidence based answers provided by either side. So as boring as it might occur to those that have been pressing home the same points over a long period ad nausea, think of the lurker. Also, sometimes a bit of peacocking ones level of knowledge does no harm. It negates the accusation of the argument from authority being levelled.

            But since it is the majority position, I don't feel the need to defend it. If someone raises a question I don't know the answer to, if I want to respond, I am just going to look it up and present what I find.

            Me too. But the majority position isn't always the most widely known, it is sometimes incumbent to share...again, mostly for those that are here to lurk and lack the confidence to engage.

          • Michael Murray

            Who gets to decide which is morally permissible seems to be the issue here.

            I trip up before that at why "not using for original purpose" would have anything to do with morality. It might be foolish, like using your phone as a replacement hammer, but immoral makes no sense to me.

          • David Nickol

            I trip up before that at why "not using for original purpose" would have anything to do with morality.

            It wouldn't be original purpose. It would be something more like designated purpose. And it applies not to physical objects but to human faculties. Of course, "perverted faculty" arguments assume nature (or more probably, God) in some way designated various human faculties to be used in specific ways. If you don't believe something along those lines, then you won't believe perverted faculty arguments. I am not sure I do, myself. I am just saying they truly are moral arguments.

            I have not read Sam Harris's book The Moral Landscape, but what little I know about it leads me to believe his arguments about morality are not all that far removed from the kind of natural law arguments that would deal with perverted faculties. As I understand him, he argues for behavior that enables and encourages human flourishing rather than discouraging it or working against it. He says human flourishing is a concept like health—something that is pretty much intuitively obvious.

            It is not that difficult for me to imagine "perverted faculty" arguments having to do with health. I don't think it would be crazy, for example, to say something like human lungs were not designed to inhale smoke. That wouldn't be a moral argument (or not necessarily so), but it doesn't strike me as a terrible argument, either. Of course someone could argue, "Well, lungs weren't designed to inhale corticosteroids, so is it bad for asthma sufferers to use inhalers?" But I don't think that is a devastating rejoinder to the argument that human lungs weren't designed to inhale smoke.

            The point I am trying to make is that if you take courses in ethics, you will not learn whether it is correct or incorrect to argue that lying is wrong because it perverts the faculty of speech, which is intended for telling the truth. A course in ethics will also not answer questions about contraception, homosexuality, or abortion. What you will get in ethics courses is exposure to a range of ethical theories, and maybe after a number of courses you will find a particular theory convincing and begin to adopt it as your own. But here what we do most of the time is make arguments without acknowledging that we're all coming from different and incompatible philosophical positions. It's kind of like arguing what the correct answer is to 1 + 1 without specifying what the base of the number system is. If it's base-2, then 1 + 1 = 10. If it's base-10, then 1 + 1 = 2. Someone working in base-10 is going to find arguments for 1 + 1 = 10 utterly unconvincing. Many arguments don't "work" if taken out of the context they were developed within. But we often argue here as if arguments can be lifted from context and demolished. It is really unavoidable, I think, since the alternative is to for everyone to study ethics sufficiently to classify arguments according to their philosophical underpinnings and then get to the heart of the matter by ignoring the specific arguments and instead arguing which particular ethical theory is the right one. For example, we would argue whether or not one should be a utilitarian, and if so, what kind. It sounds like loads of fun, I think!

          • Michael Murray

            It wouldn't be original purpose. It would be something more like designated purpose.

            OK so it's really still a God or Creator argument from my perspective as I can't see how nature can be said designate a purpose when evolution is to such a large extent about nature repurposing old purposes as it were. But I guess it's more sophisticated than a list of do's and don't as in Leviticus and similar. You are supposed to be able to deduce human morality from God or the Creator's design by rational argument.

          • Susan

            It might be foolish, like using your phone as a replacement hammer, but immoral makes no sense to me.

            I agree. No connection is made or support given that using your phone as a hammer is an immoral choice.

            That is why I asked Mike how his argument was a moral argument. David said that is and I still don't see how. I don't agree that one has made a moral argument without connecting it to some meaning of morality. It doesn't have to be my meaning but it needs to bear some resemblance to a meaning.

            Mike suggested that he could find a non-god argument for every one of the church's moral teachings.

            I chose his church's position on gay marriage. The term "purpose" stinks of an agent being behind it as there are with phones and hammers.

            Has Mike made a moral argument without relying on unevidenced agency behind nature and has he connected it to anything to do with issues of morality?

            I don't think so. Maybe Mike will explain.

          • Susan

            There is a limit, I think, to what commenters here ought to expect to get from one another.

            I agree that there is but that should be left to the commenters.

            Mike made the point that he could make a moral argument, without invoking a deity, and still arrive at the church's teaching on the subject.

            A perfectly fair and interesting thing to explore. Have I exceeded the limit by asking him to do something he offered to do?

            I'm not sure how perverted faculty arguments have anything to do with quantum physics or biblical scholarship. Nor did Mike offer up the existence of those arguments as evidence that he is right He was explaining the argument he would make.

            I'm not even sure that is a connection you're trying to make. Honestly, I have no idea what your point is on the last few comments in this thread. It's unusual to find myself saying that as I usually find your comments very clear and obviously relevant to the discussion.

            What are you trying to say that will further the discussion?

            Please tell me what I'm missing.

          • David Nickol

            I would say don't pay much attention to me or to anyone else who discusses the forum itself (which Is basically what I was doing) rather than discussing topics raised in the forum. People who are dissatisfied with a forum like this should, it seems to me, find another forum that satisfies them more, rather than use the forum they are dissatisfied with to talk about their dissatisfaction.

            Having said that, I will say that while I am not exactly dissatisfied with Strange Notions—and in fact I wonder sometimes if I am not obsessed with it—it still bothers me sometimes that progress seems to be rare to nonexistent. There are enough people with irreconcilable viewpoints who are skillful enough at questioning each others' positions that there's never any compelling reason for anyone to change his or her mind about anything. Usually I would lean toward considering that a positive thing, because my reaction to almost anyone who confidently makes an assertion here is, "How do you know that?" Or, "What makes you think you know that? Isn't it rather arrogant to claim certainty on just about anything?" But on the other hand, there must be some answers. When it comes to morality, I think theists and atheists alike probably agree much more than they disagree. Remove certain hot button issues (largely sexual and reproductive ones), and there is probably something close to unanimity of opinion (stealing is wrong, lying is wrong although perhaps not always so, murder is wrong, breaking a promise is wrong, torture is wrong, and on, and on). And yet we couldn't agree on why we agree on so much.

          • Michael Murray

            No problem.

      • Daniel Hudec

        sorry, i got a little lost there haha! when you say, "Hume put the bullet in the brain of that idea," and "We cannot derive ought from what is without some external authority," what does that mean?

    • Daniel Hudec

      like in a trial! if one person makes a claim about a certain event, and other reliable witnesses back up that person's claim, the initial claim is more believable. my trouble is, it seems like philosophical/religious/theological questions often don't resolve themselves as neatly as i wish they would.

      • Mike

        I was thinking more like, agreeing on a set of principles, and following them to their logical conclusion.

        For example I could assert that all human beings have intrinsic value due to their membership as a member of the human race. I can't prove it in a rigorous way, but for the sake of argument we could agree on a set of principles and see where they take us.

        We may never be able to prove it, but it wouldn't necessarily be true only because the RCC says so.

        • Daniel Hudec

          i see.

          • Mike

            So my question is that would it be possible to follow such a method from a materialist mindset and arrive at the Catholic moral teaching? If so, would it make the RCC's moral teaching more compelling.

          • Daniel Hudec

            that might depend on the teaching. because i'm pretty sure that, when it comes to, for instance, things that are regarded as infallible, it really doesn't even depend on whether the argument that the teaching is based on is convincing - it just depends on whether the teaching in question meets the criteria for infallibility. even fr barron would probably admit that, say, if we're talking about the existence of God, natural human reason can only take us so far, and then we hit a wall. lots of things that catholics believe about God (e.g., that he existed before the universe did, that God loves us, and so on) are things that we technically couldn't know unless he happened to tell us.

          • Mike

            How about the Catholic moral teaching. Take any example you wish. Could one (in theory) arrive at the same conclusion starting from a materialist perspective? If so, would add support the RCC's teaching?

  • Michael Murray

    Every time I perform a moral act, I am building up my character, and every time I perform an unethical act, I am compromising my character. A sufficient number of virtuous acts, in time, shapes me in such a way that I can predictably and reliably perform virtuously in the future, and a sufficient number of vicious acts can misshape me in such a way that I am typically incapable of choosing rightly in the future.

    I'm not convinced life is this simple. If it was surely we would rarely see people changing their minds about the moral correctness of their previous conduct. But yet in Australia of late we have had a lot of this. Here is but one recent example

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-26/lawyers-instructed-to-defend-church-to-send-a-message/5346110

    from Prefect for the Secretariat for the Economy.

    • Katherine Anne McMillan

      I pray Cardinal Pell would repent rather than just regret his actions.

      That's what is wrong with our church we have Bishops supporting Catholic Relief Services that gives money to pro-abortion groups. Until our bishops repent of all their evil acts, God will not bless us and souls will be lost. The coming chastisement will be worse everyday that they let pass and do nothing to atone for their sins. God come to my assistance, Lord make haste ...

  • Loreen Lee

    Just read an excellent interpretation of the Beatitudes on a New Advent post. Again I find that Kant's philosophy is compatible with Christian thought. He too recognizes that 'morality' or Plato's Good (goodness) comes through, not only Truth, but Beauty. I also read that even Hume, the 'realist', said that morality was not based on reason alone, but that we had a moral 'sense'. I translate this to mean the Power of Judgment, i.e. Beauty and a teleological sense of purpose, as in the third of Kant's critiques. The article on the Beatitudes discussed the gifts of the Holy Spirit, resulting in the fruits of the Holy Spirit. We can 'learn from experience'.!!!! However, the 'tree' of the knowledge of good and evil, that is normative thought, is certainly a most difficult tree to climb!!!!!

    • Sqrat

      However, the 'tree' of the knowledge of good and evil, that is
      normative thought, is certainly a most difficult tree to climb!!!!!

      You are mixing metaphors there. Perhaps you meant to say that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is difficult to swallow. What do you make of the fact that, in Genesis, Adam and Eve were forbidden by God to swallow it?

      • Loreen Lee

        It's a very difficult 'metaphor/reality' to understand, isn't it. I spoke of climbing the tree of knowledge, with the idea of somehow 'overcoming' temptation, what have you. I do believe it is possible to learn from our mistakes, for instance. The development of character is not an easy thing to determine, how, what and why!!! The beatitudes teach that inner development is required as well as what father Barron speaks of: behavioral aspects, or action, alone.
        Thought, word and deed! Yes? So I was merely adding to my emphasis on reason, another aspect. I trust you are familiar with Aristotle's virtue ethics, etc. I think it relevant that in that philosophy it is the mean, between opposites, that is suggested to be 'the way'. I would 'prefer' the fruit of the Holy Ghost to the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good an evil, but I can't help but feel, within my limitations, that this somehow refers to how we are living our life, and that somehow they are 'related'. I have learned in life, for instance, that unless I can recognize, say a lie for instance, I may be vulnerable to be taken in by that deception. So, yes, for my own sense of what I mean by the metaphor, it is true for me, anyway, that the tree is difficult to climb.

        • Sqrat

          I don't think that it is a difficult metaphor to understand (assuming that it was indeed intended to be metaphorical), though I do think that it is much misunderstood.

          By eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve acquired a moral sense. Though the story doesn't say so in so many words, it "explains" why everybody has a moral sense (though I don't think everyone does, and it is certainly clear that everyone does not have the same moral sense).

          One of the parts of the story that is generally misunderstood, or overlooked, is that it seems that God didn't want Adam and Eve to have a moral sense, as that would make them too much like him, too godlike. He was a jealous God, jealous of that particular divine prerogative.

          • Loreen Lee

            Yes. I am aware of this interpretation. Indeed, for some time I studied the Kabbala. When a priest found out he was terribly upset that I even ventured into the cabal. But venture I will. And I learned something from eating that particular fruit, about Judaic tradition, a possible explanation of the aversion to Christ, as it is/was an understanding that knowledge of God comes through the community, and thus the Word made Flesh within an individual would be 'unthinkable'. Since my adolescence I rebelled against Catholic censorship of my education. But at the time, there was still the 'index', so perhaps there has been some progress.
            Anyway the 'Cabal's interpretation, is that Adam and Even were forbidden to eat the fruit, because this would go against their innocence which reflected a 'closeness' to God, or 'consciousness' understood as a gift. .He was like the parent forbidding the child to play in the street during rush hour, to be kind.
            But, as I often find many contradictions in scripture, etc. we are also told that Christ would save the world, even at the beginning of time. Therefore, some necessity is acknowledged with respect to the 'eating of the fruit'.
            The cabal continues that mankind must now learn to be like God: that is to give, unconditionally, etc. etc. I left however, after becoming aware that the giving was defined through a 'mutual guarantee' among the community. I compared this to the example of Christ, and came to the conclusion that I had some capacity for 'discernment', despite the warning of the priest, and that it was a little unrealistic to me to expect a pragmatic return for any capacity I might have to 'give' to another. So it became a choice between 'divinities'.
            So I will be kind in my interpretation of the 'divine prerogative'. Especially, when the development of normative thought includes the possibility that we learn to interpret not only the natural sciences and theologies, but also the metaphysical, i.e. 'divine', proper. The bible points out many interpretations of 'the word', 'the divine', etc. from the presumption of Jephthah?, who made a vow to sacrifice the first person to greet him, (his daughter it turns out) if he was victorious in the war, to the rather Aristotelian interpretation of God, as I am that I am. .But then even Judaism acknowledges the need to 'reinvent' a justification of 'self' within 'community', (or an understanding of 'consciousness' per se), which I submit is 'really' what is happening here. So I hope not to become a 'jealous' god, by interpreting Yahweh as a jealous God. After all, I bought the devil's argument/lie/deception that I would indeed become more like God, if I dared to 'eat of the fruit'. and as this does agree with even the literature of the 'cabal', I will choose to become a 'giving' god.. (grin grin)

          • Sqrat

            I yield to your cabalistic erudition.

            A while back I ran across another interesting interpretation of Genesis, by Alan Dershowitz. According to that interpretation, even God himself had to learn how to be moral. That's why, when Adam and Eve at the forbidden fruit, he did not kill them immediately, as he had threatened to do -- he realized that such a thing would be unjust, so he settled on lesser punishments.

          • Loreen Lee

            I'm not sure of the validity of the interpretation that God threatened to kill Adam and Eve. That 'death' was certainly brought into the world is another issue for 'interpretation'. Possibly, it is most logical to relate a developing consciousness with an awareness of physical death, something I believed denied to the genus animal, generally. But there is often conflation between the physical and metaphysical interpretations of a given word, particularly the words 'death' and 'life'..
            It was my reading of Jean Paul Sartre which first made me acquainted with the never-ending quest to become God. That the Christian God is all omnipotent, omniscient, etc.may reflect the expression of this desire, and what was first articulated in the Adam and Eve story. The Kabbala I believe interprets the current quest as a God granted gift. Christians strive to be worthy to see God, perhaps a less ambitious project.
            Recently, I have been comparing this metaphysic with the Buddhist comprehension of Nirvana, in which a silence of emptiness, (perhaps pure being) is the ultimate purpose. I have even asked myself whether the Western occupation with the intellect can be contrasted with the primacy of compassion in Eastern thought, as Buddhists have pointed out.
            Recently, too I have become aware of the precedents in the old Testament, and although I don't want to attempt an explanation, .even if New Testament scripture was consciously presented as a synthesis, the transformative characteristics predate any Hegelian synthesis, and I am finding the discoveries truly amazing.
            I believe in the 'necessity' of religion. Indeed, I humorously picture the modern cosmologists creating a religion in which the physical universe could be the focus of even more of their metaphysical-like-hypothesis. (My interpretation) Christianity has much to say on the worship of the 'material/physical' which defines paganism, I believe. Religion, is alternatively consistently centered on human qualities, specifically a consciousness which is considered unique. Although it can be argued whether God 'wrote' the bible, or that scripture represents a human development of ideas concerning the 'highest possible' conception of what constitutes consiousness, that there is a growth in understanding cannot be discounted. Indeed it is this aspect of tradition that is identified with 'revelation'. So, no matter how these transformations are expressed, whether they are interpreted as divine or human variations, they are part of the human dynamic, even if it never comes about that we ever become omniscient, omnipotent, and most important of all, omni-benevolent. (I talk too much!!). Peace!!??

  • Mike

    I remember when I was a teenager with raging hormones considering these topics hearing two very different voices, one from secular society, and another from my Church. In school we had "abstinence only" health in middle school, and "comprehensive" sex ed in high school. I summarize them as follows, "Don't do it, you'll get an STD or a girl pregnant" and "Don't do it you'll get an STD of a girl pregnant, but you're going to do it anyway so here are a variety of contraceptive options". Whereas I always heard from the Church, sex is great, a wonderful gift from God, we even have a sacrament where it is the sign and symbol of the sacrament!!

    One of the things I always find ironic, is that when this topic is presented there are a list of prohibitions given as though they were my hearts deepest desires, and the church is some medieval leviathan standing in the way of my deepest longings. Fr. Barron likes to use the phrase "God's glory is a human fully alive" which I think would be applicable here, but I prefer a different analogy. When I was in high school I played high school football (American football), but at a small school, our team only had 20 some players, so in practice and in games we all played both offense and defense. I likes offense more, there were more rules, but we got towards our goal, scoring points. Defense was less enticing, with simply trying to stop the other team. I think modern society considers the Church to play defense, not offense.

    I never think of the Church as playing defense, it always plays offense. It doesn't prohibit me from obtaining my deepest desires, but pushes me towards them.

    Too often modern society even Catholics respond to the list of prohibitions from the Church on topics like these as though they are what we really want, but the church has a good reason, whereas, I prefer to respond that the things on the list of prohibitions aren't my deepest desires, and I prefer something better.

    I find it surprisingly ironic that society tells me what will make me happy, as though it has the authority to do so, whereas (in my experience) the Church presents a topic and I think, yeah that's what I really want, tell me how to get it. When I follow society I feel empty, but when I follow the Church's teaching I feel joy and contentment.

  • Among the stated goals of Strange Notions was Catholic - atheist dialogue. Much of the time, as with this article, the apparent purpose is primarily to preach to other Catholics. There's just not a lot there to spark interesting Catholic - atheist dialogue. But there are a few things of interest to me that can be pulled out for discussion.

    In the context of this brief article, I would like to develop just one insight from John Paul’s rich magisterium on sex and marriage ... Karol Wojtyla taught that in making an ethical decision, a moral agent does not only give rise to a particular act, but he also contributes to the person he is becoming. ... I might sum up John Paul’s insight by saying that moral acts matter, both in the short run and in the long run.

    The primary puzzling thing in the article is that the author pretends there is a special insight here and that it is due to papal teaching. But really, it's doubtful whether there has been a person in all history who didn't already know that moral choices matter in the short and long run, and that our behaviors can become our defining personal habits. A typical bumpkin's understanding of morality is "the behaviors that affect society for good or ill in the short and long run". And even your average unphilosophical teenager is obsessed with cultivating exactly the right behaviors to show to their peers what kind of person they are.

    It's almost like what we're getting in the basic premise of this article is a glimpse of a Catholic fear of free-thought. The author can't just start with an ordinary insight from nearly-universal human experience and reason forward from there; to make it properly Catholic it has to be sourced in the words of a higher spiritual authority. The author's behavior highlights that the same features of Catholicism that historically lead to the link between free-thought and atheism are active features of Catholicism today as well. To begin to think for yourself is to begin to think un-Catholic-ly.

    And of course that's a big problem for Catholic - atheist dialogue. From the atheist side: We often ask questions the Church doesn't have official answers to, or point out logical mistakes in the answers Church authorities have endorsed, and in both cases Catholics are loath to address them head-on. Typically they divert to the nearest topic on which there is a Catholic teaching. From the Catholic side: You can present a case, but you'll quickly find that there is not a unified atheist response; rather, each atheist brings her own expertise and experience to bear in her thinking, and because we are such a divergent group we have grown to rely on scientific methods and consensus results, to which traditional Catholic claims are not amenable. Fortunately, from neither side is the path forward impassible. It's just longer than it looks.

    Now apply this principle to sexual behavior.

    Fine. But although this topic has brought in lots of new Catholic commenters, I don't have to be interested. It wasn't until I became an atheist that I was ever exposed to helpful discussions about modern moral issues; Christians generally to some extent, and Catholics especially, look to atheists like they're stuck focusing on the moral needs of medieval European society. There's so much more than the perennial sex-abortion-gays bugbears of Catholics. There are important moral questions of how to live in an environmentally responsible way, of how to treat minority-religion members with respect, of how to make society welcoming to trans* people, of when patriotism is good and when it is bad, of the wisdom of banning or permitting dangerous forms of technological progress, of how to treat the mentally ill with respect and care, and so on. There are endlessly many things besides sex stuff that are important for the wellbeing of society that we'll never see traditional religious folk enthusiastically mobilize to work on.

    Their obsession with sex-related topics looks like a particularly dangerous symptom of the same hierarchic constraint on Catholic thought. Those are the topics that past spiritual authorities thought were important and wrote about, and so those are the topics that today's Catholics spend their moral efforts on as well. From an atheist perspective, the opportunity cost is enormous; all the moral energy that could have gone into making the world a better place is lost to telling youngsters that despite modern medicine, sex must be governed by the best-practices of medieval medicine. And of course in some cases the regressive teachings cause serious harm.

    Authority-based thinking just doesn't work--not in philosophy and not in practical morality. It's not a reliable method to find truth or goodness.

    • Alypius

      Interesting point you make here about "authority-based" thinking.

      I think, though, you might be getting caught up a bit too much in the fact that Fr. Barron is quoting and summarizing JPII. Fr. Barron's point is not to say, "JPII said this; He is the authority, therefore it's true". Rather it's to say "JPII - and the Catholic Church - has a good point here." (which is certainly an appropriate proposition to put up for debate on this site, no?) It's not intended to be the end of thought; it's rather the beginning of thought.

      Fr. Barron references JPII's works: The Acting Person, & Love & Responsibility. Unfortunately, it's simply not possible to recap the argument in those works in an article of this length. If you read those, however, you will find exactly what you are requesting the Church do: provide a non-authority-based argument that instead uses human experience as its starting point. A fair warning, however: they were written when he was a professor and are philosophically dense.

      • David Nickol

        you will find exactly what you are requesting the Church do: provide a non-authority-based argument that instead uses human experience as its starting point

        It is my understanding that the "theology of the body" is not "magisterial" teaching (in the Catholic sense), in a way similar to Benedict XVI's books on Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore, neither Benedict's books on Jesus (or his many books on theology written before his papacy) nor John Paul II's works on the "theology of the body" are officially the teachings of the Church.

        I think it is undoubtedly true (though I state it purely as a personal opinion) that the "theology of the body" would not have achieved anything like the status it has had it been the creation of Dr. Joe Schmo, recipient of doctorates in philosophy and theology from The Jagiellonian University, with Dr. Schmo's only claim to fame being his writings on "the theology of the body."

        • Alypius

          It is my understanding that the "theology of the body" is not "magisterial" teaching (in the Catholic sense), in a way similar to Benedict XVI's books on Jesus of Nazareth.

          Mostly true. TOB is not dogma (or even "doctrine"). But having been spoken from the mouth of the pope (and without any special speculative caveats) it is "magisterial" in a weak sense, and did raise the ideas contained therein to the level of something that the Catholic faithful ought to listen to with an open mind. I would place it a notch higher than anything Benedict said in Jesus of Nazareth, because he made it clear that, in that set of works, he was not speaking as Pope. JPII's TOB was spoken directly in his role as pastor, preaching to his flock via his Wednesday audiences.

          I think it is undoubtedly true (though I state it purely as a personal opinion) that the "theology of the body" would not have achieved anything like its current status had it been the creation of Dr. Joe Schmo, recipient of doctorates in philosophy and theology from The Jagiellonian University, with Dr. Schmo's only claim to fame being his writings on "the theology of the body."

          also true! Of course, the truth/falsity of the claims contained therein is strictly dependent upon their epistemological and logical rigor, not whether JPII's celebrity may have initially helped raise their profile. :-)

  • David Nickol

    It seems to me a serious error to speak of women (or men) being "wired" or "hard wired" to be something, do something, react to something, and so on. People are people, and not machines. There aren't any "recipes" of neurotransmitters that make women love their husbands or men bond with their children. It is all much more complex than that.

    On the other hand, it would be foolish to overlook the fact that we are strongly shaped by genetic predispositions and early upbringing. And our genetic makeup is the result of millions of years of evolution as pre-humans and humans. It would be just as foolish to get lost in talk of "hard wiring" as it would to pretend that we are not physical beings who have been shaped by evolution and that certain things were not either strongly influenced or possibly even determined by genetics and other biological forces.

    It i also important to remember that most of the "work" evolution did in shaping human beings occurred tens of thousands of years ago (if not longer) and that we did not evolve to live in the kind of environment or the kind of culture we are in right now. (The example in virtually all psychology books is the "flight or fight" response, which for most of us in our everyday lives activates us to deal with conflict in two inappropriate ways. If you are having a stressful disagreement with your boss, usually neither hand-to-hand combat nor running away at top speed is the best choice, and a surge of adrenaline is not at all helpful.)

    And millions of years of evolution have not worked to make men and women identical in any way that I can think of, and particularly in sexual and reproductive matters. Here, for example, is an article from WebMD on how "sex drive" differs in men and women. Clearly the differences between the average male and the average female when it comes to sexuality are quite real. When was the last time you heard on the news that a female rapist was terrorizing the men in a neighborhood?

    There is no doubt a great deal to be learned from surveys and controlled studies dealing with male and female sexuality. On the other hand, such studies give us statistics which can be very important but which rarely are helpful in understanding or dealing with an individual man or woman. A man making a study of when and how oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine function in the female brain is almost certainly not going to help a man get along better with his wife, if he is married, or get more and better dates, if he is single.

    • MrsWolf

      "Clearly the differences between the average male and the average female when it comes to sexuality are quite real. When was the last time you heard on the news that a female rapist was terrorizing the men in a neighbourhood?"

      Can we please stop equating rape with sex/sexuality. Rape is a crime that is "about" power and violence. It has nothing to do with sexuality.

      -- Heather

      • David Nickol

        Rape is a crime that is "about" power and violence. It has nothing to do with sexuality.

        The idea that rape has nothing to do with sexuality is one of the most nonsensical denials of reality that ideology has ever duped anyone into saying.

        Can we please stop equating rape with sex/sexuality.

        Of course, I suppose we could do away with rape laws and just consider rape to be like any other assault. Would that satisfy you?

  • David Nickol

    If anyone out there has extra oxytocin, could you please send me some?

    EDIT: Never mind! I was confusing oxytocin and Oxycodone.

  • Christine Pastega

    I agree with Fr Robert Barron...it does appear that moral responsibility has disappeared. So what are we going to do about it? Stand up, have courage, TRUST..."Let grow" (this has become my new mantra for letting go). As a mother of four daughters 21,19,17,10 and one son 12, we try to lead by example and perseverance in prayer. Resiliency... a great GIFT we can give our children. Commitment? What's that? Let's continue to be strong and be the role models our sons and daughters need...