Go Ahead, Tell Me What’s Wrong with Homosexuality

One of the reasons I found the “gay brownshirts” argument so frustrating is that it’s a distraction from the fight I really want to have with Mark Shea and other orthodox Catholics.  I want to know why they think gay people are required to be chaste, why homosexual relationships are ‘intrinsically disordered.’  Mark put out a call to his commenters on my behalf for reading recommendations.

My questions are a little unusual, as I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to limit the behavior (sexual or otherwise) of two consenting adults.  As I wrote to Mark:

I don’t think it’s intrinsically unreasonable to tell a person (or a class of people) that sex is out of the picture for them. No one is guaranteed or entitled to a sexual relationship, and there are plenty of other impediments that can mean you can’t have sex with someone you love. (Having to break up with the Catholic boyfriend I loved is a case in point). So, in theory, I don’t object, but I don’t understand why having the beloved be of the same gender means you wind up on the impediments list. That’s what I’d like to read a defense/explication of.

It’s not just a question of differing religious premises; I can’t wrap my head around how some of these arguments work within a Catholic framework. The explanation I usually get comes down to natural law: the male and female bodies fit together like a lock and key, which tells us something about the privileged status of that kind of sexual congress.  Now, there are some objections that people raise (some heterosexual couples are infertile! gay people can adopt or be impregnated! etc), but I’m willing to grant that the qualitative difference exists: only male-female sex has procreation as a possibility by default.

But I don’t think this fact has many necessary logical implications.  Ok, so gay people won’t ever have the same kind of relationships as straights.  I didn’t need to go to a priest to learn that; plenty of queer theorists would have told me the same thing.  Arguing that eros in same-sex relationships is different from what you find among straights isn’t the same as arguing that it is proscribed.

In fact, if I want to reason from nature, there aren’t really enough queer people in the world to threaten the reproductive project, even if all the bi people ended up with same-sex partners.  There’s room for a parallel structure of relationships.  And we’ve got some models to draw on.

Friendships (whatever the gender pairing) can be emotionally intense, but non-sexual.  Some relationships can have an erotic frisson without being sexual (I’m thinking here of Sherlock and Irene Adler in the BBC’s Sherlock, where they’re both infatuated, but only by the other’s intellect).  So why are romantic same-sex relationships not ok in the same way as these are?  Here are a couple reasons I’ve heard and don’t find convincing:

Same sex relationships are narcissistic (version one)If you’re dating someone of the same sex, aren’t you basically dating yourself?

I’m not really going to waste time expanding this objection, my response to it is here: “What about other Others?

 

Same sex relationships are narcissistic (version two)If it’s just the two of you and your relationship isn’t directed toward children, aren’t you isolating yourself with a kind of selfish love?

Aside from the what about older/infertile couples objection, I think this genre of objection sells short friendship. The ways that a marriage changes you will spill over into all your relationships; parenting isn’t the only way to be of service to someone.  You can see more about what I think marriage is for here: “Whaddya Wanna Get Married For?

So, if Catholics want to convince me that active homosexuality is incompatible with the faith, I’d like to hear about why my objections to the above don’t cut it or hear some new arguments about why different means disordered.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • Nolan

    An objection I’ve heard often relates to health. Critics will point to health disparities between gay and straight people (higher depression, suicides, std’s among gay people), and say this is reason to avoid gay relationships.

    I think I’ve seen people point to higher rates of other undesired actions, like drug use, promiscuity, and break-up rates among gay people.

    • Jonas

      The problem with those arguments are that 1)They ignore the effects of isolation, homophobia etc. that often cause such problems 2)Are usually linked to gay men not gay women (like most arguments against homosexuality and 3)Are an intrinsic or innate part of gay relationships and can also apply to heterosexual relationships.

      There are reasonable arguments against promiscuity but like Leah I haven’t heard any convincing ones about homosexual relationships.

      • Nate Sauve

        Let me address your concerns. 1) those arguments do try to address the effects of homophobia by citing works in the Netherlands where homosexuality is generally more accepted (Sandfort et al 2001). Rates of Mental illness and antisocial behavior exist at equal rates. 2) True, most are linked to gay men just like most arguments for and against same sex relations are focused on gay men. But most does not mean all. The ones done on women show similar findings even as the common expressions vary. Men = more promiscuous even within long term relationships. Lesbians actually have more shorter term relationships. 3) Of course, all of these things happen in all kinds of relationships. The argument isn’t that hetero relationships are problem free, or that there can’t be very healthy homosexual relationships. The argument is that the there are demonstrably higher rates of scientifically measurable harm and because of that society should work for the overall health of its constituency rather than provide opportunities to undermine that health. (Ie: Cigarettes)

    • Artor

      I think this shows the importance of removing the stigma of homosexual relationships. The depression, suicides and STD’s are all symptoms of being marginalized and forced underground.

  • Lukas

    “The explanation I usually get comes down to natural law: the male and female bodies fit together like a lock and key, which tells us something about the privileged status of that kind of sexual congress.” Right. I’m not sure if I grasp the natural law argument about homosexuality, but it seems like if there is such an argument it will have to hinge on this point. It seems to me that sexual liberals say things like, “the key thing is consent, which is why man-woman sex is okay, homosexual sex is okay, but bestiality is wrong” or “the key thing is mutual respect between partners, which is why marriage in traditional societies tends to be bad” or “the key thing is that equality, which is why heterosexual coupling and homosexual coupling are good and why polygamy is most always bad.” So, perhaps one way to phrase the question would be this – “Why does the Catholic/natural law perspective concern itself with the physical/biological complementary?”

    It seems to me that the Catholic perspective does place value on respect, and you do at least agree that there is a difference in the procreative potential of male-female relationships. However, there is still a significant difference of opinion.

  • Mark Shea

    I guess I’m puzzled by your puzzlement. As near as I can tell, what the tradition ultimately comes back to is twofold: nature and grace. The biblical picture of nature is union (“man and woman created he them”) and fruitfulness (“be fruitful and multiply”). Sexuality is therefore ordered toward marriage and not mere appetite (ie. even heterosexuals do not get to have sex outside the Total Package that is marriage.

    The question then is “What is marriage?” and the biblical answer seems to me to encompass both nature and grace, since it is incorrigibly supernatural in its view of the human person. No other creature marries. Man and woman marry because, in the end, they are in the image and likeness of God, says Scripture. And that remains true even if they do not know God. Marriage exists, says John Paul II, in part for the sake of children and in part for the ‘healing, exaltation, and perfection” of the spouses.

    In addition, of course, is the fact that marriage is revealed in the Christian dispensation, to be *sacramental*: that is, the ultimate purpose of marriage is to reveal and communicate the life of Christ. Space does not allow me to dilate on the *massive* amount of space the NT gives to the concept of Christ the bridegroom and his Bride the Church. Suffice it to say that the whole of the gospel of John is incomprehensible without that sacramental vision. And not just John. It is particularly here that gay “marriage” is radically at odds with the Christian vision. (And yes, I realize that gay “marriage” is not (yet) attempting to make a claim on sacramental marriage. I’m simply trying to give the full picture of the Catholic understanding of marriage in brief.)

    For my own part, I think the attempt to say “We just want to fundamentally alter the meaning of natural marriage, but that will never affect the supernatural dimension of marriage seen in Sacramental marriage” is a hopeless unrealistic quest. It’s like saying, “We just want to replace this cement foundation with jello, but we promise it won’t affect the house. Once you opt to say “Marriage means whatever choose it to mean” I see no way to make that mean anything other than “Marriage is a meaningless word”. And once this is admitted, all sorts of mischief enters in. I also see no way, frankly, to speak of marriage as “purely secular” thing, since the whole concept of marriage seems to me predicated on the fact that human beings aren’t like other creatures, who feel no need to marry, nor are subject to any moral laws which punish them for failing to honor the vows of marriage. In other words, marriage presupposes a) that we are made in the image and likeness of God and b) that we are fallen creatures who sin against one another and how require the protection of law from one another when we do. Once grant that marriage is, inexorably, founded on the supernatural realities described by the revelation (even though many members of homo sapiens may ignorant or even contemptuous of the revelation) and it seems, well, like re-inventing the wheel to ditch the revelation and play a game of “let’s re-invent marriage!” while ignoring the wisdom of the overwhelming bulk of mankind down the ages. At the end of the day, I’m left wondering what, besides social affirmation, is achieved by getting “married” if all the legal protections can be achieved by contract law?

    • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

      “In other words, marriage presupposes a) that we are made in the image and likeness of God and b) that we are fallen creatures who sin against one another and how require the protection of law from one another when we do. Once grant that marriage is, inexorably, founded on the supernatural realities described by the revelation…”

      Or, to summarize: “Christians talk about marriage as if we invented it in the first place and only ever meant to loan it to the world, with the condition we always reserve the right to decide who gets to do it.

      “…while ignoring the wisdom of the overwhelming bulk of mankind down the ages.”

      This entails a few obvious follow-up questions:

      When we changed the legal definition of marriage so that it was between one man and one woman, rather than between one man and one or more women (Deuteronomy 21:15), was that not “ignoring the wisdom of the overwhelming bulk of mankind down the ages”?

      When we changed the legal definition of marriage so that the woman could choose for herself who to marry, rather than the woman being treated as a piece of property that could be given away by her father to settle a debt (Genesis 29:21), was that not “ignoring the wisdom of the overwhelming bulk of mankind down the ages”?

      When we changed the legal definition of marriage so that a man was not legally required to impregnate his dead brother’s widow to perpetuate his brother’s family line (Genesis 38:8), was that not “ignoring the wisdom of the overwhelming bulk of mankind down the ages”?

      When we changed the legal definition of marriage so that people of different races or different religions could marry, rather than restricting marriage to people who were of the same tribe and the same beliefs (Numbers 36:8), was that not “ignoring the wisdom of the overwhelming bulk of mankind down the ages”?

      • Anonymous

        There’s a horribly short answer to all of these questions: Yes (Matthew 19:3-8).

        Your link is also quite strange. It tries to go down the path of essentially conceding the idea that the god of the bible created marriage and the purpose for marriage literally at the time of creation of humans… and then concludes that this means this god obviously didn’t have any specific ideas for marriage because the bible doesn’t also record a contract? What is this, I don’t even…

      • Anonymous

        Err… sorry. I flipped around the phrasing of your questions when I hastily came back up to your post. However, the statement in Matthew holds. The Christian view that there is a purpose, which was ordained in the beginning, is consistent. The point Christ made in Matthew is that when faced with detail questions like those above (and divorce), we should first go back to the original purpose to see if it sheds light on the problem. It also highlights the idea that some concessions were made in the OT because of the state of the people at that time. However, the detailed questions should always be first addressed by the most fundamental principles.

        For example, I’ll take just the last one. Is restricting marriage to race/religion necessary for making male and female one flesh… or fulfilling the very first command that the god of the bible gave (be fruitful and multiply)? Not really. So why did they do these things? Well, if you read the surrounding text in Numbers, it’s about preserving the special, set apart, physical tribe. Do we have that today? No. Thus…

        On the other hand, there is a fundamental spiritual principle involved here, which was expressed in the form of a detailed physical law… which is later expressed by Paul in the context of different religions rather than different races. We don’t have a set apart physical tribe, so we have little need for those particular instructions. But the hope is to have a set apart church. I don’t think I need to reference anything but the title of this blog for you to find the discussion I’m talking about.

        tl;dr If you consider the principles being addressed, you can figure out how to apply them in your situation without getting too caught up in how they were applied to radically different situations.

    • Ray

      If ever there was a religion more committed to the denial of Christ’s divinity than modern Judaism, I don’t know of it. You seem to feel Christ is the whole point of marriage (as you mention him far more often than such trivialities as children.) Should sex be impermissible within a Jewish marriage as well? Is a Jewish marriage disordered? How about a secular or Buddhist marriage? If you will grant the word marriage to ceremonies presided over by those who deny the divinity of Christ, which are made legal by a state that is constitutionally forbidden from recognizing an establishment of religion, how can you insist your parochial understanding of the meaning of the word can be dispositive with respect to whether a same sex union counts?

    • smrnda

      Some animal species are promiscuous and other mate for life, so I’d argue that humans do not have a monopoly on monogamy.

      • Andrew G.

        I don’t think there’s any kind of sexual behaviour not involving tools that isn’t found in the animal kingdom somewhere outside the human species, up to and including homosexual necrophiliac rape (as famously documented in the mallard duck).

        • keddaw

          It’s not rape if it’s necrophiliac. Consent is never required from inanimate objects (or some animate objects) only from objects which can experience suffering and (c/w)ould suffer from the philia in question. Even then, consent has to be on the terms of only the most mentally competent of the participants, hence dogs (usually) don’t rape each other even though the consent they give to each other is satisfactory for them but insufficient for a human to take advantage of.

          Sorry, being unnecessarily pedantic and riffing on my own thoughts…

          • Anonymous

            “consent has to be on the terms of only the most mentally competent of the participants”

            This is interesting, and would potentially answer a concern I have held about consent-only theories of sex. It might allow one to reject taking advantage of the consent of a mentally handicapped person or animals (one of my major test case thought experiments is a person making themselves available to an animal, and then the animal “taking advantage”).

            Can you elaborate on the fundamental nature of this consent-balancing? Do the participants need precisely the same understanding of the nature of consent? The nature of sex? Or is it that the participants need to have precisely the same level of mental competence? Perhaps we consider the concept of consent held by the most mentally competent participant, and then see if the other participant can attain/express that concept? Once I attain this deep knowledge of consent-balancing theory, must I only engage in sexual activities with others who have also attained this deep knowledge, and can thus express consent on my level?

            Of course, these questions are not expected to be answered sequentially or anything. I just kind of like the idea, yet I’m not sure what its essence really is… thus I’m just throwing around ideas near the boundary.

          • keddaw

            To be honest the consent idea is one that’s been floating around in my head but I had never felt the need/opportunity to express it until I stumbled into it myself.

            The way I see it the two (or more) participants have to have an understanding of ‘consent’ of a similar level. When this isn’t the case (the passive human in your example) then it is incumbent, ethically if not always legally, to reject the approach or not make the offer. If someone ignores this and there is harm involved the law should be involved, if not then I’m less happy about imposing my ethical standards on other people through the power of the state.

            This puts me in the awkward position of rejecting laws that I would rather we didn’t need and being ethically outraged but wanting to be legally impotent over some acts – the ones that don’t involve harm. Such is the mindset of someone with strong values but who doesn’t believe in objective morality so thinks anyone imposing laws that have no harm are religious about their own version of morality. And I really don’t like religious laws.

            If I can help clear up anything else please ask as I haven’t gone through this completely yet and there may be some gaping holes or logical contradictions in it.

          • Anonymous

            Eugh, the inclusion of harm seems to muddy the waters. I don’t want to return to our discussion of the nature of harm at this moment (and, thankfully, I don’t think we have any need to). However, in my view, the whole idea of matching the understanding of consent is to identify a type of harm which may not be correctly identified by one of the participants.

            A few examples: mentally retarded people, youth, and animals. Each of these groups can consent. They can even really think that there is no harm done. However, because their understanding is less, we’d like to ‘protect’ them in some way. We think it’s harm whether or not they think it’s harm. If a human presents himself, and a dog goes to town on him, we can certainly say that the dog consented to the act. The dog sure as hell liked it too. The dog actively made the choice to participate. The dog was certainly not harmed. (Interesting twist that comes to mind because of a joke I recently heard on a comedy central standup episode: What about the common method of procuring semen from a male animal for the purpose of IVF in breeding… should farmers be disallowed from making these breeding decisions?)

            Therefore, a regular weighting of harm seems superfluous in this case… because in this case, the only way I can answer the question, “What is harm?” is with, “Letting two beings with different understandings of consent participate in a sexual act.” And thus, we have to figure out why this actually matters… and what it actually ‘looks like’ (whether it’s an understanding of consent, understanding of sex, or something else…).

            I’d also like to note the reason why I’m a bit uncomfortable with the idea of using “understanding of consent”. I have this weird feeling that you can get many mentally retarded people to understand what consent is. The real problem seems to be more of a misunderstanding of sex… possibly that they don’t fully understand the potential consequences… or maybe they don’t fully understand the reasons why they’ve come to the level of consent that they’ve come to. This is not that they can’t consent or can’t understand what consent is. It’s really something else. I think youth probably also fit in this category.

            Again, I’m mostly just thinking out loud. And by “loud”, I guess I mean that maybe some electronic device somewhere beeped when I transmitted my comment.

    • Alex

      Leah has already provided compelling (in my opinion) reasons why people get married, which aren’t predicated on children, vaginal sex or even sex at all.

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked/2012/02/whaddya-wanna-get-married-for.html

      • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

        I read Leah’s post as saying that spouses are a kind of permanent accountability partner for one another. And I’d agree that this is one aspect of a healthy marriage. But it’s hardly the only aspect of marital relationships, nor is it the defining aspect. Indeed, it’s closer to defining friendship than marriage.

        However, it does reach to the heart of the same-sex marriage issue: what are we seeking when we seek “marriage”? What really defines marriage?

        For those who hold to traditional definitions of marriage (in this country, largely but not exclusively coinciding with religious practitioners), the definition involves the foundation of a new family unit, with the procreation of children as an essential and defining note. Mutual support (ranging from economic to emotional) and personal communion (usually described in spiritual terms) are also defining features.

        Since I come from a Catholic perspective, this is my point of view. I honestly have difficulty understanding what those who reject this view of marriage – including but not exclusive to those who accept/promote no-fault divorce – are after when they get married. In a culture where all the benefits of marriage (sex, commitment, almost every legal benefit via contract, social approval, fancy ceremonies, etc.) are available without marriage, I am seriously curious why anyone not holding the traditional view is even interested in marriage.

        I realize that marriage is a distinct (if related) topic to the one at hand. But I would be very interested in anyone’s explanation of the purpose of marriage outside the traditional framework.

    • Kilroy

      The biblical picture of nature is union (“man and woman created he them”) and fruitfulness (“be fruitful and multiply”).

      By this argument, celibacy is both unnatural and unfruitful, so therefore the Church and its defenders must therefore further claim that the argument only applies to homosexuality (sinful) and not to celibacy (just as good as heterosexuality within marriage — no, wait, even better).

      • Cous

        Celibacy (not to be used interchangeable with “abstinence” or “chastity”) is a complicated subject, but in short, it’s only around because sin is around, ie. ideally, there would be no need for it. That is, celibacy is a sacrifice that should only be made when necessary to undertake a special calling to serve the Church, and the Church exists first for the glory of God, but second for the salvation of man, which would not be necessary if it weren’t for sin. Priests do it (or rather, they don’t “do it”) in order to be better servants to God’s people; nuns and brothers do it to better dedicate themselves to prayer or service, in a lifestyle that is approved by the Church. Lay people being celibate because they don’t want to give up their independent lifestyle is not OK; a group of friends making a celibacy pact is not OK. Everywhere you see celibacy in the Church, it is through a canonically approved institution, and it is a sacrifice accepted for the sake of pursuing a specific mission within the Church.

        • anodognosic

          I suppose it kind of figures that, in the crushing universality of its injunctions, the Church would carve out an exception for itself.

          • Cous

            haha, it might seem that way. I was just responding just to Kilroy’s misconception that celibacy is a higher state of being than marriage, but I guess I should have responded first to Kilroy’s mischaracterization of Mark’s argument. The Church isn’t commanding everyone to get married, or be “fruitful and multiply” no matter what the cost (have sex at all times!). What (I believe) Mark’s saying is that when you have sex, nature tells us it should be “unitive and fruitful.”

          • Anonymous

            You could also just note that “fruitful” and “multiply” are not the same words. Multiplying can be fruitful, but determining fruitfulness includes doing the cost analysis that you alluded to.

    • Joe Mc. Faul

      To expand ( or summarize) Mark, Catholics believe that all sex outside marriage is sinful. Both homosexual and heterosexual sex outside marriage is immoral. Therefore, if you are not married, any form of sexual activity is immoral. All unmarried individuals regardless of sexual orientation are called to be chaste and not engage in any sexual activity under Catholic teaching.

  • http://www.imagesandmeanings.com Gary Hill

    Mark,

    Thank you for explaining things from the Roman Catholic perspective.

    But marriage presupposes no such thing as images and likenesses of god or fallen creatures. Marriage is anything and everything that human beings might want it to be. For you, yes, it’s a Christian/Catholic thing. For others, though, it could be something from an entirely different tradition or something they’ve worked out for themselves. Yet no matter what path others take, how on earth will they affect your own marriage rituals and vows? Not at all, I would think.

    It’s incredibly arrogant and unfeeling to insist that marriage must, and must always, fit some tradition or historical mould that you subscribe to and that human beings, regardless of their feelings, hopes, aspirations, desires etc must be forced into that view.

    For some people, marriage is primarily about their feelings and their emotions, not sex, sexuality, children, images of god and supernatural ‘realities’ (what an oxymoron!). That’s your thing. You stick to it. But please leave the rest of us to do our thing in peace.

    • leahlibresco

      In fairness, I was asking for the justification offered within the Christian framework.

  • Evan

    Different does not mean disordered. Disordered means something that is contrary to natural order. Different means not the same. According to the Catholic Church, active homosexuality is disordered, not because it is different, because it is contrary to the purpose and nature of sex, along with all sexual acts that are closed to life and/or unity. The marital act between an infertile heterosexual couple is still unifying and open to the possibility of life, because they are not doing anything to interfere with the natural act of sex.

    Acts that deliberately frustrate man’s natural purpose are against the natural order (disordered), and therefore sinful. Homosexual acts are disordered, not because they threaten the “reproductive project,” but rather because they deny sex its true purposes: to unite the husband and wife as “One flesh” and to let humans “Be fruitful and multiply.” Homosexual acts, by their very nature, can have neither of these elements.

    God created humanity out of love. The marital act is a partaking in that love, and it needs to be open to the gift of life. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2335: “Each of the two sexes is an image of the power and tenderness of God, with equal dignity though in a different way. The union of a man and woman in marriage is a way of imitating in the flesh the Creator’s generosity and fecundity: ‘Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.’ All human generations proceed from this union.” Again, the nature of homosexual acts makes it impossible for them to partake in this fecund love.

    There is a difference between a sexual relationship and a very close platonic friendship. Friendships usually are not structured around sex, whereas any romantic relationship is. There is nothing immoral about being close friends with someone of the same sex if one is gay, or with someone of the opposite sex if one is straight. If the friendship leads to erotic desires, then it would become problematic, because those desires would be unnatural and contrary to the purpose of sex. “He who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt. 5:27-28) A romantic relationship, such as dating, is normally in preparation and in consideration of a future sexual state in life, which should be marriage. Therefore, a romantic homosexual relationship would be encouraging a problematic future state.

    Hope that all makes sense. And it was, of course, presupposing a Catholic framework.

    • Heart

      “along with all sexual acts that are closed to life and/or unity”

      Wait…how is homosexual sex between two lovers not conductive to unity between them?

      • Evan

        That phrase was not referring to sex between homosexual lovers. I was trying to say that in addition to homosex the Catholic Church condemns sexual acts, even among heterosexuals, that are not open to procreation and/or unity. (i.e. masturbation, contraception, in vitro fertilization, etc.)

        • Heart

          Are we using a different definition of unity here? Also, if the goal is procreation, why is IVF wrong?

          • Evan

            The Church teaches that the purpose of sex is twofold: 1) to unite the married couple as one flesh physically and spiritually; and 2) to be open to the gift of life from God. If either of these elements is missing, the Church says the sexual act is sinful. With IVF, the sexual act is separated from the procreation and does not join the couple together as one.

          • Cous

            Heart – yes, you’re using a different definition of unity. Unity, as it’s being used in this discussion, decidedly does not mean mean just psychological or emotional closeness, otherwise I would agree with you your objection that gay couples can achieve unity through sex. (and ideally, a married couple would achieve more psychological unity through sex.)

            So, about the “unitive and procreative” deal – those are two sides of the same coin, not two coins. It’s unitive insofar as it’s total and reflects the totality of the commitment that is marriage, and the way you can tell it’s unitive is that it unites the husband and wife into a single reproductive unit that is capable (objections about defining “capable” w.r.t. infertility and sterility – see counterarguments elsewhere in this thread and here) of producing new life. To be united “spiritually” does not mean psychological or mystical closeness, it means that sex reflects a spiritual reality, a truth about the state of the world: these two people are actually a combination of matter and spirit, and their union physically is meant to represent and strengthen the commitment and union between their souls. To use a Catholic example, even if I don’t “feel” any closer to God after going to Confession or receiving Communion, those sacraments have had a very real effect on where I stand in relation to God, i.e. on my spiritual state.

          • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

            Cous expresses the Catholic perspective very well.

          • Mitch

            Good comments here. The spiritual side is just as important as the physical side of sex. God’s plan was to allow us to share in his creation process. The only way to do this is to have one man and one woman united in marriage physically and spiritually. God is a God of covenants. A marriage is a covenant, not a contract. Jesus gave us the example of the covenant he meant for mankind by becoming the bridegroom of the Church. He never married in life because his covenant was with all of us, the Church. The Church and Jesus have been fruitful and have multiplied over the millennium as required by God’s covenant. Nobody was promised a “happy go lucky” life in this physical world. We are promised one in the next. The great thing about Catholicism is the understanding of suffering. An individual with a same gender attraction is not sinful unless they act upon it. I dare say that by not acting upon it God sheds more grace to that individual because of the difficulty and suffering.

    • butterfly5906

      Why is a vagina more essential to “the nature” of sex than a uterus? A woman who has had a hysterectomy and oopherectomy will never ever naturally have children, but you say it’s ok as long as the couple is “open to the possibility of life.” What if two men were equally open to that possibility, with equal chances of a pregnancy occuring?

      • Evan

        As Leah said: “only male-female sex has procreation as a possibility by default.” Non-contraceptive heterosex recognizes this fact. See Jerry’s comment below for further explanation.

        • Alex

          But you could make that statement broader or more narrow: “Only sex between post pubescent adults has procreation as a possibility” or “Only sex between a fertile man and pre-menopausal woman at a particular time in the menstrual cycle has procreation as a possibility by default”.

          Your statement is neither the most general or the most specific so I don’t see what’s special about it. I also can’t figure out how it implies that only male female sex is permissible (there seem to be some missing premises in between those two statements). Not to mention IFV has procreation has a possibility so your statement isn’t even correct.

    • leahlibresco

      I’m really not being sarcastic, but I don’t understand why two women having sex is disordered because it’s a expression of sexuality that isn’t open to life, but two women or a woman and a man doing the tango is kosher. It’s a pretty erotic dance, especially because it’s got more tense and deliberate than, say, grinding, and it never results in birth. Why is homosexual sex in the same category as penatrative male/female sex instead of the tango category? Or is it only ok to enjoy the tango in the context of marriage or marriage discernment?

      • SAK7

        I thought your interest was in the Catholic perspective. It’s the Baptists who have issues with dancing, not the Catholics.

        • MercuryChaos

          You’re right, and that’s exactly the point: if sexuality really is supposed to be “ordered toward marriage” (which is supposed to be for creating life) then the Baptists are right , and the Catholics need to explain why they *don’t* have issues with dancing.

          • Mitch

            David danced before the ARK

      • Jerry

        As someone who really enjoys social dancing (including Tango), I can say that Tango is just a dance, and if someone is using it to get aroused, it’s just as disordered. In the case of most dance forms there’s a world of difference between sensuality and sexuality. Everyone in the various dance communities recognize though that there are always a few people (particularly those just starting out) that get that confused. They’re gently corrected/reminded and ultimately rejected if they persist in abusing the art form. Finally, most dance forms don’t involve using the sexual organs of the participants, bringing either to orgasm and are therefore unlike sex.

      • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

        I agree with Jerry. I’d also note that your objection, if true, would prove more than you’re comfortable with, unless you actually disapprove of tango without love.

      • Cous

        Leah, to respond to your tango objection, if a married man and a woman were using tango as form of masturbation, it WOULD be wrong for the same reasons that that two women having sex is morally wrong – since you’re asking for the Catholic perspective, “Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.” (CCC 2351) Two porn actors having sex with each other in a film for the money and happen to be husband and wife are equally culpable of pursuing sexual pleasure outside of its end (telos) as uniting them as one biological unit that is capable of creating new life. As some authors put it, “Their union is so real that nine months later, you can give it a name.” (that was for poetic illustration, not an argument. I’m not saying that every act involving an egg and sperm that results in a child is thereby kosher).
        As Jerry says, the philosophy behind this isn’t just about homosexual sex acts, they’re principles that apply to any activity involving the sexual organs qua sexual organs and/or the pursuit of sexual pleasure. People outside and inside the Church have a hard time believing that she puts masturbation, non-vaginal sex (even heterosexual married couples are not off the hook here), contraception, IVF, fornication, etc. all in the same tent, but she is extremely clear that these are all violations of the same moral principle. It’s all there, plain as day, in Article 6 of CCC, which is on the 6th Commandment. Homosexual sex acts may be getting way more political, legal, and cultural attention, and perhaps unfairly so, but the Church doesn’t put homosexual sex in a different class then heterosexual sex. To be blunt, the way she sees it, there’s non-contracepted, consensual vaginal intercourse between a married man and woman, and then there’s everything else. Sexual orientation isn’t a morally relevant factor in this respect.

      • Maiki

        I think it depends on context whether it is wrong or not. I think in certain contexts it could be wrong — unmarried or adulterous couples using it as a means of erotic enticement, for example. Or one partner trying to incite jealousy in another. A married couple using it as an initial form of intimacy? not wrong. Two professional dancers doing it for sport? not wrong. Two friends having a laugh at it, not wrong, etc. That said, because it is simply erotic and does not deal with the sex act itself, I would say that even when it is wrong, it is less grave/venial/a temptation to sin than sex itself, so it is normally not listed/enumerated as a top concern.

      • http://darwincatholic.blogspot.com DarwinCatholic

        I’m really not being sarcastic, but I don’t understand why two women having sex is disordered because it’s a expression of sexuality that isn’t open to life, but two women or a woman and a man doing the tango is kosher. It’s a pretty erotic dance, especially because it’s got more tense and deliberate than, say, grinding, and it never results in birth. Why is homosexual sex in the same category as penatrative male/female sex instead of the tango category?

        I can never resist questions this odd. :-)

        You’re right that, in a sense, homosexual sex shouldn’t be placed in the same category as penetrative male/female sex in the Catholic understanding since… it isn’t. In this sense, people of the same sex “having sex” together has traditionally been treated as a different sin by Catholics than adultery or fornication. Depending on the situation, that sin might be defined as either mutual masturbation or as “unnatural act” in the sense of doing something destructive and inappropriate with one’s body. Or some combination thereof.

        I think the main reason why Catholics do treat homosexual sex as sex in moral terms, even though by a certain internal Catholic logic they shouldn’t, is because it’s done with another person and is intended to reproduce the psychological experiences and ties of people who are having sex. (Similarly, I don’t think many Catholics would go for the argument “Oh, it wasn’t adultery, we only had oral contact, and that Church says that isn’t really sex.” Yeah, in some technical sense it might be considered mutual masturbation, but in any human sense we’re talking about sex.)

        Now, why is the tango considered the same as these kind of basically-but-not-really-sex-by-the-most-technical-Catholic-definition acts? I think because it’s assumed that while the tango can be erotic, it’s not necessarily only a way of achieving arousal, and it’s certainly not meant to result in climax for one or both partners. (If it is achieving that, Catholics would tell them not to.) Whether the tango is considered an overly sexual behavior would depend on how arousingly it’s being done.

        Now, it follows from that, like the tango, their might be physical expressions of love and affection that would be morally appropriate between a chaste same sex couple (both of whom are attracted to the same sex) from a Catholic point of view — but that homosexual sex would not be on that list.

  • Jerry

    To expand on Evan’s comment, the answer to your question applies to more than just homosexual acts, but all sexual acts. The Catholic Church teaches that the ideal sexual act is one that mirrors the characteristics of God’s love: free, total, faithful, and fruitful. Seen through this lens, we see that sexual acts done merely to satisfy a base appetite (slaved to lust) or used to manipulate the other to some other goal aren’t really free; premarital and adulterous acts aren’t total or faithful since they lack spousal commitment; and, acts done with contraception or with the same sex aren’t fruitful. So, the only “good” sexual act is one where a man and a woman who are completely committed to each other faithfully, who give themselves totally to the other, and are open to the possibility of new children…i.e., the marital sexual union. Anything less than free, total, faithful, and fruitful is contrary to the natural order and therefore ultimately harmful for the immediate participants as well as for society as a whole. No, Christianity didn’t “invent” marriage. The Catholic Church just believes that God has revealed to the world what marriages have the potential of being: a sacrament.

    • smrnda

      Your making the assertion that anything done against the Catholic view of sex and marriage is harmful to the people involved and society at large; given the large number of people rejecting this belief, how do you account for the fact that the people doing so seem perfectly happy? It seems like you’re disparaging a lot of relationships that, to me, seem to make the people involved perfectly happy. Have you ever met anyone who really didn’t ever want to have kids? I know plenty of people like that and they were incredibly happy and relieved to find spouses that shared their desire not to have kids. I think people are better judges of what would make them happy in a relationship than an organization run by a bunch of (allegedly) celibate guys.

      • Jerry

        To paraphrase (butcher?) a common phrase: we know where great sex is; we don’t know where great sex isn’t. All marriages are imperfect expressions of the ideal marriage. Throughout history, mankind has made varying imperfect attempts at fulfilling this ideal marriage concept in the same way any triangle you draw on a piece of paper is an imperfect attempt at expressing the perfect concept of triagularness. Instead of seeing things as some kind of “violation” of some kind of Catholic view or rule or law, I see the vast number of marriages as people’s honest attempt at striving for a happy union in the best way they know how. No fault or problem with that at all. I just think that the fullness of the truth about marriage is held and taught by the Catholic Church precisely because I believe it is more than just a bunch of celibate men and therefore I try to live mine according to those principles (and try to be ready to explain them when asked!). If someone else wants to go it another way, that’s entirely their choice and I don’t mean to disparage anyone’s honest attempts at reaching the ideal, even if I might personally think some of them are more or less likely to achieve depending on their approaches.

        • smrnda

          I have to commend you for being one of the least judgmental people on this thread who isn’t trying to impose your vision of marriage on other people.

          I don’t really think that sexual attraction or desire is the primary or even one of the main motivators for why people want to get married. Plenty of people that I’ve known who engaged in lots of casual sex and who didn’t see anything wrong with it still wanted to get married, so sex was obviously not the ingredient they felt their life was missing.

          Part of my thinking might be that I don’t have any concept of an “ideal marriage” to set a precedent for how they’re supposed to be; having read the Bible I wonder if the writers were more trying to compare Christ and the church to something people would be very familiar with (marriage) the way that plenty of things are compared to very concrete, ordinary things (like a house on a rock or a house on sand, or a light not being under a bushel) and that the comparison might not be intended in the opposite direction.

          Overall I think a problem with some of the discussion here is that people aren’t always honest in saying, as you did, that you are a Catholic and that because of this you are operating with certain assumptions which have implications – a lot of other people just state the Catholic worldview as if it’s universally held and that it’s as obvious a thing as the sky being blue. Too often people demand that people like me, who don’t share the same assumptions, accept them as “true” for the purposes of discussion, which leads nowhere. But with you I can just say that you stated what you assumed and what the implications were, and admitted that if I don’t share them, I’ll reach other conclusions.

          • Anonymous

            Small language point of annoyance to me: You and Jerry are being just as “judgmental” as pretty much everyone else on this thread. You’re simply coming to a different judgement than some others. I know I’m weird about certain language things (don’t even get me started on how bad (or maybe more likely, meaningless) accusations of “judicial activism” are, lolz). Sorry in advance for my weirdness.

          • Jerry

            Well, thank you! I should say that I’ve only recently come to these understandings and it was rather hard fought struggle with lots of discussion, thinking, and prayer. I think to it’s credit, the truth isn’t always obvious or easy to come by and I appreciate the teaching authority of the Church to help me figure it out. Cheers!

    • leahlibresco

      I think gay relationships can hit all those adjectives except ‘fruitful’ but I’m wondering if birthing children is the only way to be fruitful and live in service to others.

      • Ronald King

        Fruitful has been on my mind for a lot of years since I returned to Catholicism in ’05 after a 40 year absence. I noted that beginning in Genesis that they did multiply, but were not fruitful. And we are still not fruitful even though we continue to multiply.

      • Cous

        Leah, keep in mind, though, that he’s talking about sexual acts, not relationships as a whole; “fruitfulness” in the the context of sexual acts refers to new life brought about by that sexual act. That said, fruitfulness can be used in other ways in the context of other acts; there’s actually a strong tradition in the Church of speaking about the “fruitfulness” of committed celibacy, the idea being that one is a spiritual mother/father and has many spiritual “children.” But even then it’s in the language of parenthood, it doesn’t refer to just any side effect of one’s decision to be celibate (e.g. greater self-control or generosity). A gay couple’s relationship could certainly bear fruit in that sense or in the sense of, like you say, living in service to other, but they are called to abstain from sex with each other and cannot meet the requirements of marriage. The fruitfulness/totality aspects are related – non-vaginal intercourse is not “total” because it closes off the life-bearing capacity of the person from their sexual activity; the partners are purposely keeping something of themselves in reserve, so to speak. Again, totality in the context of sex has a particular meaning, i.e. totality w.r.t. one’s capacity as a sexual being; sex isn’t any less “total” because the partners aren’t thinking the same thoughts or feeling the same sensations.

        • Ronald King

          The sexual act can be an act of love without the desire for children. In a loving relationship the sexual act actually deepens the bond of love through the neurochemistry of sex. This happens for regardless of sexual orientation.

          • Cous

            No one’s disputing that, the question is whether there are inherent characteristics of sexual activities, i.e. characteristics that exist completely independent of the mental state of the participants, that entail what types of sexual activity are morally permissible.

          • Ronald King

            The answer is nothing exists independent of the “mental state” of the participants which determines what is morally acceptable. It is the belief system which determines morality.

          • Cous

            ha, wow…I have never seen anything like that. I shall refrain from going any further, but please know, sir, you have just made yourself into a moral “sitting duck.” I hope you have different arguments to present to anyone trying to murder, steal from, assault, cheat, rape, slander, etc. you and your loved ones.

          • Ronald King

            Cous, I guess you didn’t understand what I was saying. Morality starts with the reaction of primitive responses within the social network of the brain, i.e. the limbic system just as in all mammals. It is from there that we learn social behaviors and expectations which are formed into core beliefs related to self others and the world. Our social systems are built on these primitive reactions to what is familiar and safe vs what is unfamiliar and considered unsafe. In other words, those who believe that homosexual relationships are immoral are actually being relativistic in their moral formation based on their relative understanding of natural law and their relative understanding of love in human relationships.

          • Cous

            You’re conflating moral intuitions with morality. That’s quite an ambitious move, and it seems like you’re claiming it’s actually impossible to know moral truths about the world; your argument leaves the goodness of homsexual relationships an unresolvable question, as your reasoning applies equally to societies who found homosexual relationships intuitively natural. Natural law is not based on what “seems natural,” natural law and most branches of ethics take themselves to be reasoning to normative moral claims based on first principles which do not use intuitions as input; for example, that there are a fixed number of basic goods in the world, or that the moral value of an act is solely determined by the summed value of its consequences. You could certainly make evolutionary claims about what neural systems seem to underly our moral reasoning, but I have yet to see a moral system that claims that because we have a given “primitive reaction” to a situation, that this factor alone determines what our response to that situation should be. I’m going to bid this thread adieu, but it is an interesting discussion.

  • smrnda

    As a non-religious person, I have always felt that romantic relationships were about things like love, trust, devotion, commitment, mutual respect and emotional intimacy. I don’t even think sex deserves to be considered a prominent marker of a serious romantic relationship since just because two people have sex does not mean they are even serious about one another. The idea that the “big deal” about marriage is that a penis goes into a vagina is a notion I find so ridiculous that I would never take it seriously for one moment. When religious people tell me that it’s the sex act that makes marriage important and special, all I can say is that that’s reducing marriage and ‘love’ to nothing but sex worse than any atheist who believes in evolution ever has. To me, it’s like saying that ‘the sex act is the biggest deal ever” which I just find absurd. Not that sex can’t be great, but it’s just not the biggest deal ever.

    As for the wisdom of the ages, marriage has more or less been a property relationship for most of history, and I’m glad that we chucked that understanding long ago. I think marriages are better today than ever in the past, because marriages are now about the relationship between the people who choose to get married and not just some conformist ritual where everybody is expected to adhere to a cookie-cutter vision of what it meas to be married.

    If a person chooses to adhere to a religion, go ahead, but demanding that the institution of marriage should be based on religious ideas is like demanding that other people live lives bound by religious ideas they don’t believe in. I’ll be honest too – most marriages between religious people that I’ve seen haven’t seemed particularly better than anyone else’s, but it’s probably because of very different expectations for marriage. I’ve known of bisexual people who got married and had open relationships who remain married and are happy and don’t have a problem with their partner(s) having some recreational sex on the side – to me, however much that might horrify some people, if it works for them I’m not going to say that their marriage is wrong because I’m not going to impose my views on other people unless someone is clearly being exploited or victimized by a relationship.

    • Jerry

      I agree the sexual attraction or desire probably isn’t the leading motivator for people to get married, nor should it be. I think your perception of what the Catholic Church is teaching re marriage and sex is too narrow: the Church isn’t teaching that the marital embrace is the biggest deal ever, it’s saying that the well being of both individual persons and society at large is closely tied to the healthy state of conjugal love and family life. By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of children. From the CCC1603 whose primary audience is Catholics and those seeking to understand what the Church teaches: “The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes. These differences should not cause us to forget its common and permanent characteristics.”

      Far from imposing these views on society, the Church just desires as you do to not have different views imposed on it :)

  • Joe

    Leah,
    As far as I know the Church doesn’t have a problem with two or more people living together as life partners(no matter how they express their affection for one another) so long as they stay within the limits of Natural Law when it comes to sex. I think you have read enough to understand the metaphysics grounding natural law and I think that for the most part you agree with it. But the fact that gay sex is contrary to the natural law is difficult for you to except. It might help if you thought of the virtue of chastity as a virtue that helps us put our sexual desires in to proper order and not just another expression of the virtue of temperance or self-restaint. Also I think you are looking for a utilitarian reason to except this aspect of Natural Law, but to be honest, without God I don’t think there is one.
    On your post “Friends don’t let Friends Backslide Metaphysically” I commented that, to the Atheist, Natural Law would just be a set of natural suggestions. In the atheist moral framework if a point of Natural Law conflicts with your intuitions (or tastes) you are perfectly free to ignore it (you are accountable to no one but yourself) and, forgive me, but I think this is exactly what you are doing with this issue. An atheist can dress Nietzsche up like Plato all they want, but at the end of the day the atheist is still a relativist.

    • Joe

      One more thing. I am glade that you struggle with this issue. I shows that you have a heart and are loving. Im afraid that if I ever meet an atheist that followed the natural law totally they would probably be a cramped greek Pharisee all metaphysical justice and no mercy. For the Catholic the Natural Law is a springboard for Charity. Natural law helps up ground our love and affection in moral reality making more real, effective and affective.

  • anodognosic

    There is something painfully dreary about the Catholic approach to this question. This arms-length abstraction which doesn’t spare even a glance for the real lives and real sex of real couples in favor of an arcane Platonic ideal is bound to fall short of the reality of actual human experience. But in any case, I think arguing is fruitless, because the true refutation of this staid Catholic doctrine is in sex itself–vital, joyous, loving, fulfilling, beautiful sex. Call it disordered, call it sinful, call it sodomy. It’s joy. And it’s kind of sad how some people will tangle themselves into intellectual knots to avoid it.

  • Zac

    Evan and Jerry laid it out pretty clearly.
    I would only add that using terms like ‘gay’ and ‘homosexual’ in the context of Natural Law begs the question.
    Natural Law theory starts with the presumption of a universal human nature. Person X experiences a desire. Is this desire in accordance with human nature or not?
    Talking about ‘gay people’ implies a different human nature. Try to explain the problem without using those kinds of question-begging labels, and the NL position becomes much clearer:
    Person X experiences an erotic attraction for Person Y, who happens to be of the same sex. What should X do about it? Is this desire compatible with X’s nature?
    The modern response appears to be: X’s attraction to Y constitutes prima facie evidence that X has a different nature. Hence, X’s attraction to Y *is* compatible with X’s nature.

    • anodognosic

      That actually brings up a fairly significant all-around objection to natural law: where do you draw the conceptual boundaries? Why is attraction not acceptable as prima facie evidence, but apparent function is? Given that genitals have at least a dual function–urination and sexual intercourse–why is it out of the question that pleasure be a third, legitimate function? Is it acceptable to ingest artificial sweeteners, which offer the pleasure of sweetness without fulfilling the mouth’s “primary” function of nutrition (because they are indigestible), and if so, how is that different from any kind of non-procreative sex?

      This is why natural law sounds like so much post-hoc rationalization to me.

      • Zac

        Dunno. Sounds more like an appeal to ignorance than an all-round objection.
        Part of the problem is that Natural Law examines human beings as a species, but outside of biology, we tend to be uncomfortable with such generalisations. We like to make general rules based on observation of everything, but no one wants to be subject to generalisations themselves; unless they genuinely seek some kind of guidance in terms of how they should act in order to flourish as a human being.

        Pleasure is our natural response to good things. There is (all things being equal) pleasure in sex and even pleasure in urination. But to make pleasure an end in itself is problematic to say the least. As many people can attest (generalisation on human nature) the desire for pleasure cannot be satisfied; furthermore pleasure can be obtained from activities that even relativist undergrad philosophy students will blanche at. Natural Law solves the problem by using our observations of human nature as a guide to the things in which we ought to find pleasure, rather than using pleasure as a guide to the things we ought to do.

        The artificial sweetner example is an interesting one. I think it is instructive to look at it from the point of view of whether it is a good idea to use a.s. or not; rather than seeking either to justify one’s use or condemn it in others. Take the former approach and it seems more prudent to avoid artificial sweetners, unless it is really necessary (such as, cooking for a diabetic), since the only good they serve is to make food more palatable without using sugars.

        *shrugs* it all seems far less controversial if you adopt a disinterested point of view and try to determine what course of action is most compatible with human flourishing in accordance with our nature. I’ve not seen any compelling alternatives either: not utilitarian, nor deontological.

        • smrnda

          I find utilitarian ethics perfectly satisfying – if an action doesn’t produce a victim, then it isn’t wrong. If a relationship makes people happy and nobody is being oppressed, go for it.

          Your idea of taking a ‘disinterested point of view’ and seeing what in accordance with flourishing is no such thing – you are clearly invested in a particular perspective and its assumptions about what ‘flourishing’ entails are shaping how you perceive human relationships.

          Plus, romantic relationships are all about something far greater than ‘pleasure’ – they are about the deepest feelings of love and companionship, and this is true for same sex ones as well as opposite sex ones.

          • Zac

            “Plus, romantic relationships are all about something far greater than ‘pleasure’”
            Yes, but the previous commenter was specifically asking about pleasure.

            “Your idea of taking a ‘disinterested point of view’ and seeing what in accordance with flourishing is no such thing – you are clearly invested in a particular perspective and its assumptions about what ‘flourishing’ entails are shaping how you perceive human relationships.”
            Do you apply that as a general rule, or only when you disagree with people’s conclusions? I could say the exact same thing about your position, and it would get us just as far as your accusation got you.

            “I find utilitarian ethics perfectly satisfying”
            Personally, I find I can justify pretty much anything to myself under utilitarian principles. The definition of ‘victim’ is surprisingly flexible too, not to mention the line of causation from my actions to potential victims.

            I prefer a system of ethics that actually informs us of the landscape of human nature and shows us how to avoid traps and pitfalls in life.

        • anodognosic

          But again, Zac, I don’t understand what possible justification there could be for drawing the boundaries that Natural Law draws. The artificial sweetener example is instructive, because it bears very similar objections to non-procreative sex–pleasure for its own sake, perverting the “natural” use of the body–but at best you can mount a prudential objection to it, ready with an exception for diabetics, where it seems to me that if Natural Law had any internal consistency at all for its proponents, you would now be considering writing your local bishop to alert him to the great, civilization-threatening evil in the proliferation of Stevia.

          And furthermore, why is the biological observation that PIV sex makes babies privileged over the fact that humans, along with many other mammal species, use sex as a form of social bonding? Eros, regardless of babymaking, often cements the bonds between couples, and that seems to point toward homosexual sexual relationships as a way to human flourishing.

          • Cous

            anodognosic, I’m no expert in natural law (I can barely articulate the difference between “classical” natural law and “new” natural law), but it sounds like you’re getting at the “perverted faculty” argument. I’m not sure what version of natural law Leah’s appealing to when she references the “lock and key” argument. Anyway, for something that addresses your concerns with the perverted faculty argument better than I can, I’d recommend starting with this in the section called “The Perverted Faculty Argument.” The overall article references a back-and-forth involving at least one New Natural lawyer (Tollefsen; never heard of Pruss before) but this section outlines the Aquinas strain of the “classical” natural law understanding of sexual faculties.

          • Zac

            First off, what I meant by disinterested is that we shouldn’t be trying to justify pre-conceived ideas or boundaries, but instead draw conclusions from observation and experience.
            A good analogy is a plant: we know from observation that plants require water, sunlight, soil, and nutrients in order to flourish. The things that help the plant to flourish, we say are ‘good for’ it. The things that undermine its flourishing we say are ‘bad for’ it.

            Human beings are more complex but otherwise the same. We need certain things in order for us to flourish. These things cannot be substituted or ignored. You can’t withhold sunlight from the plant, but give it extra water to compensate.
            A pretty straightforward example of something ‘good for’ humans is friendship. We know from observation and hopefully experience that friendship brings a kind of fulfillment to the individual, which cannot be achieved through other means. A person without friends must be objectively less fulfilled than someone with friends, because the part of human nature that responds to friendship is not getting what it needs.

            What if someone says “I don’t need friends, I’m dedicated to my work instead”? But even though work brings its own kind of fulfillment (ideally), this fulfillment is different from the fulfillment of friendship. Work cannot substitute for friendship.

            Again, how do we know this? Through observation and experience. Does that give you some sense of how the boundaries are discerned?

            Your point about a.s. is interesting again. Natural Law is built on observation and experience of human nature; it’s not based on arbitrary abstract principles. So to understand a.s. we have to actually observe it in the context of human nature. Observation tells us…not very much. There are no obviously harmful effects of a.s. but nor are their obvious important benefits – except in cases of people who are medically ill-advised to consume simple carbohydrates. Given that the harm is not great, perhaps even neglibile, it is not deemed a very serious matter. But since the benefits are likewise not great (except in medical cases) it hardly seems compelling for us to use a.s. in the first place.

            What I should have said a few lines back, is that we should look at a.s. and assk “will a.s. contribute to or undermine my flourishing?” to which the answer is a resounding ‘meh’.

            With regard to your final question about sex for bonding purposes, it would take a lot of time to discuss it appropriately, so instead I’ll reiterate that it is much better to try to understand NL from a disinterested perspective first -as a hobby say – and only after we’ve understood it, to then try to consider difficult and controversial cases.

  • http://stuffmysisterswilllike.wordpress.com Victor

    Same sex persons are psychologically/emotionally/spiritually incompatible for sexual relationships. Their uncomplimentary comes not merely from physical externals, but from the way we are all fundamentally defined by being the male or female sex.

    This conviction is formed from my faith, yet objective evidence indicates that male and female same sex (sexual) relationships are unhealthy in practice. (Review http://www.corporateresourcecouncil.org/white_papers/Health_Risks.pdf) Gays and lesbians alike are correlated to higher promiscuity, poorer physical and mental health, less enduring sexual relationships, and other unhappy trends. The Dutch study (mentioned therein) indicates that these differences cannot be fully explained by social non-acceptance of homosexuality–the cause of these problems is deeper than that.

    People with same sex attractions are not bad people, but gratifying their sexual desires will not lead them to lasting happiness. Like an alcoholic, who craves something which pleases but never fulfills, abstinence is their unexpected path to true peace.

    • Alex

      First of all read Jonas’ comment at the top of the thread. Second of all, if I were to find similar statistics about some other group of people – say low income couples or perhaps Oklahomans – would you ban them from marriage?

    • smrnda

      Even if a bad outcome is statistically likely, it does not mean that nobody should pursue a particular course of action. There are people who have life-long, rewarding same-sex romantic relationships. Obviously some people do end up with lasting happiness in same sex romantic relationships. Using statistical information that says, on average, homosexuals blah blah blah is like saying that since most people who set out to be artists end up broke, nobody should go to art school.

    • keddaw

      Victor the problem is that this: “we are all fundamentally defined by being the male or female sex.” is completely false. Ignorance does not an argument make.

      I could provide links to asexuals, hermaphrodites, transsexuals, transvestites and many categories of people who are neither fundamentally defined by being male or female sex and neither are they particularly interested in gender as the majority see it – but those with narrow views would simply dismiss them as deviants, unnatural, incomplete, disturbed, disordered or any of the other words used to describe people who don’t conform to your ridiculously narrow view of what humans can and should be.

  • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

    This is a tiring question about which too much ink has been spilt. When will folks realize that there is something more important than sex, that the measure of a man is not in his sexuality? If sex is important, it is still not the summum bonum that moderns and postmoderns make it out to be. This rant is for another day, perhaps.

    Answered freely, without the artificial restraints of modern philosophy or disingenuous appeals to consequentialism, showing the wrongness of homosexual acts is actually an easy question. Lacking an expert in A-T, consider my butchery:

    Assumptions, beyond the predictable realism: Distinction between actuality and potency, and the goodness of wholeness and fruition. Actuality is the actualization of a potency, which is to say the coming into Being from Becoming of a certain quality. Being is wholeness. Therefore, actuality, being wholeness, is a thing being as Being as it can.

    1. It is morally good to be as whole as possible.
    2. Correlatively, it is certainly morally bad to actively act contrary to the fruition of wholeness.
    3. In Thomistic language, wholeness may therefore be understood as a fulfillment of actuality from pure potency.

    /This first point may appear yet to go either way. It forms the basis of even “contemporary” morality. Or,

    A. We know wholeness of a thing by its adherence to participation in its form.
    B. We know wholeness in a human by considering his adherence to the form of humanity.

    /This is another way of roughly saying the same thing.

    4. Sexual impulse is clearly for someone being impelled towards sexual activity. (That there is a time and a place for sexual activity is an argument for another day.)
    5. There exists sexual impulse which is disordered or should not be fulfilled. Rape, to use an extreme example. There exists poorly ordered sexual impulse.
    6. Therefore, finding fruition in well-ordered sexual impulse is therefore a good thing.

    /Notice: It all hinges on a key phrase. So what is well-ordered sexual impulse?

    7. Well-ordered sexual impulse is that in which all potentialities have been actualized.

    /That’s just treading water! Get to the juicy stuff! What are the potentialities of sexual impulse?

    8. Looking as broadly as is possible at the fruits and final ends of sexual activity, we see: Pregnancy, and pair-bonding.

    8a. For the former to even be possible requires male-female relations.
    8b. Therefore, a well-ordered sexual impulse requires the barest minimum of being between a man and a woman.

    /What implications does this have for sexual impulse?

    9. A whole sexual impulse must be directed toward the end of pregnancy and pairbonding. This is to say, the potentiality of sexual impulse is not pregnancy itself or pairbonding itself. The potentialities which must be actualized in the perfection of sexual impulse is: the telos of pregnancy, the telos of pairbonding.

    9a. Please note that this nowhere says that it matters if pregnancy actually occurs, or pairbonding. In the sexual impulse finding fruition in a sexual act, there must be the telos of pregnancy and the telos of pairbonding in the act itself. This is a crucial point.

    9b. Likewise, if we are not capable of fulfilling potentialities, we are not culpable for our not fulfilling them. So chastity is in, and sterility — which is always a tragedy — does not condemn a couple otherwise doing their best to participate in the form of human sexual activity. Only if the system is deliberately gamed to produce such an effect would a sterile couple be culpable in the eyes of Catholic moral teaching.

    10. From Nos. 2 and 9, if a circumstance or an intent under our control and direction means we acts contrary to the fruition of wholeness, the whole act is spoiled and must be condemned.

    11. Insofar as we are in control, we are culpable for any condemned act.

    —-

    In short, if there is a sliver of a chance for the goodness of an act, it must at the broadest ONTOLOGICAL level be possible for all potentialities to be actualized.

    There is no biological reason or otherwise, when considering the form of humanity, to distinguish homosexual sexual impulses as an order unto itself, much as blindness is not “just a different kind of sight.”

    —-

    Lest it be said that the author of this is wrong, consider that this is an Internet comment.
    Part of the form of Internet comments is that not all potentialities are actualized. Thus, while it may be said to be a good Internet comment, it must be said to be a bad argument. It can only be taken as the shadow of the real argument, as this version lacks polish, and its thrust certainly falters at points. Still, this shadow of the real argument still participates in the form of the actual argument.

    Therefore, if you would at all respond, please do the author the charity of refuting his argument, strengthening what he wrote, and then refuting the strengthened version. This is to say, please frame your answer in the form of a critical, constructive response and not in the form of an Internet Rebuttal.

    If you say: Sterile couples, old people, &c. Please read points 9a and 9b.

    • Heart

      “In short, if there is a sliver of a chance for the goodness of an act, it must at the broadest ONTOLOGICAL level be possible for all potentialities to be actualized.”

      Where did this statement come from? You’ve just asserted that goodness is a zero sum game, that if you don’t cover all bases the action can’t be good. Why? You haven’t justified this, you’ve just asserted it, and I doubt you apply this to all areas of life.

      • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

        It was intended as the summation of points first through last.

    • smrnda

      Wow, what a dense fog of big, intimidating words. I wonder, could you translate that into plain, normal English? It’s just language like that has a way of muddying the waters in any debate. Statements like this:

      “In short, if there is a sliver of a chance for the goodness of an act, it must at the broadest ONTOLOGICAL level be possible for all potentialities to be actualized.”

      Or this:

      “Assumptions, beyond the predictable realism: Distinction between actuality and potency, and the goodness of wholeness and fruition. Actuality is the actualization of a potency, which is to say the coming into Being from Becoming of a certain quality. Being is wholeness. Therefore, actuality, being wholeness, is a thing being as Being as it can.”

      There is not a single clear, concrete word or assertion in that entire quote. If you want to make a point, make it clear and plain and simple. Don’t bring in bigger words than you need.

      What do any of these words mean? What does this sentence even mean? Could we refrain from using inflated language and make points in as simple and plain a fashion as possible so that communication is easiest – when people write like that they can always argue that you just didn’t *get* their position and are reading it wrong.

      But somewhere in that dense fog of big words you are basically making the assumption that it is sex and sexuality that defines us and that it should shape what sort of relationships we get in, which is what you are accusing “moderns and postmoderns” as doing. They are doing no such thing. You, and other religious people, make marriage all about sex because it’s only a marriage if the right kind of sex happens in which a penis goes into a vagina and that (if at all possible) people are open to having children. You’re arguing that it is sex and the nature of the sex that happens that, in the end, distinguishes a ‘proper’ relationship from an improper one.

      I support gay marriage because I think the things that make marriage unique and special are things like commitment, devotion, love, emotional intimacy, companionship and trust. As you can see, I don’t consider sex or the type of sex that goes on to be an important factor – people aren’t wanting to marry same sex partners because of sexual impulses, but because of the things I’ve mentioned and many more like them. I think a major problem is your notion of ‘wholeness’ – you’re arguing that there is such a thing as a standard of ‘wholeness’ which applies to everyone equally, and it implies that people are supposed to want and pursue definite things. I see no evidence that it is a moral imperative for sexuality to be procreative any more than I see a moral imperative that people should necessarily have sex.

      As for a rebuttal, I don’t have time to waste with people who confuse using big words and convoluted language for having something worth saying. But I will ask this:

      **
      I think that marriage is about love, trust, emotional intimacy, communication, and long-term companionship. I do not think that sex is a defining characteristic of marriage since just because people have sex in no way implies that they are even in a serious relationship.

      Please, if you want to respond to me, use language that is accessible to all. And don’t tell me that I’m somehow less intelligent than you because I can’t follow what you write – I was in school long enough (two graduate degrees) to recognize the standard undergraduate trick of inflating weak ideas with verbose prose. It kind of reminds me of how the Catholic church chose to use Latin so as to make its communications inaccessible to ordinary people; it provided credibility to the idea that the teachings of the church were above the understanding of the masses. So if you want to discuss anything with me, use language that is clear, plain, direct and as simple as possible.

      • Anonymous

        Forget undergraduate trick; the obfuscation principle is readily apparent in the published literature. That being said, I found the presentation by The Ubiquitous to be quite clear, and the introduction of a few particular terms well-motivated and probably necessary. Add in the fact that he/she used slash comments to help fill in some flow… and we’re stuck with a strong Internet Comment that leaves one with plenty to think about (and plenty to try to challenge).

        • smrnda

          Well, I don’t find it to be coherent, meaningful clear or well-structured, so why don’t you explain it to me if it’s so crystal clear to you? A good test of whether or not a piece of writing is meaningful is whether or not it can be expressed using different words. So skip the jargon, this isn’t high school where you get extra points for using big words, just make plain, simple statements. I get tired of people hiding behind sophistry.

          I mean, his point one about “wholeness” – I don’t see any way that this “forms the basis of contemporary morality” – I’d argue that morality since the Enlightenment has been based on the idea of people having rights.

          My point is that Ubiquitous, along with everybody else whose arguing for the religious perspective, makes the sex and the type of sex that is going on the test as to whether or not a marriage is “right.” I don’t place such a high importance on sex – I know married couples who don’t have sex at all, and I don’t think their marriages are inferior for it because their marriages work for them.

          By the way, the sex act has lots of potentialities outside of pregnancy and pair bonding. I mean, as far as achieving the greatest “potentialities’ or “actualities” or whatever rubbish, why not live in a commune and practice free love where every body tries to have a kid with at least 3 other members of the free love commune? I mean, compared to monogamous sexuality that’s sure got more “potency” “potentiality” and “actuality.” You have more pair-bonding and more pregnancy, voila!

          I’m not actually advocating that, I’m using that as an illustration of what’s wrong with using such ridiculous language. Strip Ubiquitous of the “Thomist Jargon” and the emperor has no clothes.

          • smrnda

            Some more, I mean, why is fruition necessarily good? It would be nice if my cat had kittens. It would be nice that my flowers would grow. But it would not be nice if my cat become spontaneously pregnant and had 20 kittens a day every day of the year, and if my flowers grew, bloomed and spread too much they would start interfering with transportation, visibility and agriculture. It is certainly the nature of flowers to grow and cats to have kittens, but obviously past a certain point ‘fruition’ starts to cause problems.

            And wholeness – it’s morally good to be whole – what does whole mean here? Does whole mean that you can play the piano? If a person chooses to stop cultivating this “potentiality” are they somehow doing something morally wrong? Does whole mean that you have five close friends? Ten? Twenty? Does what kind of job you have affect wholeness? Is a single person less whole than a married person? Do they become more whole if they become a priest? If you run but have no ambition of doing a marathon are you failing in “actualizing” a “potentiality?” It seems that in order to define wholeness you end up having to make judgment calls about what’s a priority and what’s not, and they all would (to me) seem pretty arbitrary. The way that I might run but have no ambition to do a marathon a person might want marriage but not kids. If the idea is that God is ‘procreative’ God is said to have made many things other than just people – so what about a married couple who has no kids but are both artists? Or both say, surgeons? Don’t surgeons in some way help us all to stay alive, and if not creating new lives, they are at least keeping existing ones in running order.

          • Anonymous

            I’m not going to explain it in simple terms for the same reasons that I’m not going to explain the mathematics behind my current research to you in simple terms. It would take a lot of time (I certainly could teach you everything in simple terms, starting with the basics of calculus and differential equations… but it might take a while for us to get anywhere substantive), and I don’t think you really want it anyway.

            …the great part is that you’re starting to make substantive comments. You’re not quite getting it yet, but you’re at least moving toward substantive comments. Take, for example, your complaint about fruition. You seem to have a pretty good understanding of what fruition may mean (see, the language isn’t too trbl). But by still focusing on individual words that you think are “too big”, you’ve forgotten to look at the sentences that they’re contained in. By making fruition large, you’ve forgotten that fruition is always attached to wholeness… “the fruition of wholeness“… and thus, your examples of “past a certain point” ring hollow.

            Probably the best thing I can suggest is to write another comment ripping, “What the hell do you mean by (insert word here)? I mean, why is that important? (Insert example here showing that it’s not important).” And then, set it down. By this point, you’ve probably figured out what the word means. Now, go back and re-read the original post. Find another word to complain about. Write another post. Repeat for a bit… but don’t hit that “submit” button… until you’re no longer complaining about words and you’re instead complaining about reasoning.

      • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

        Here’s the trouble: If we go on recognizing “cheap tricks” in each other’s writing, we’ll never get to the point of dealing with what was written. Ample evidence, I’m sure, lies on both sides.

        It kind of reminds me of how the Catholic church chose to use Latin so as to make its communications inaccessible to ordinary people; it provided credibility to the idea that the teachings of the church were above the understanding of the masses.

        Exhibit A.

        But rather than get into this, please be aware the previous comment fully referred to itself as butchery, as it was — written halfway into an audio lecture series on ancient Greek philosophy and two chapters into Feser’s Aquinas.

        Perhaps a stronger argument would first explain why we should not indulge disordered passions. Second, show that homosexual passions are disordered. Third, we should not indulge homosexual passions.

        M. We should not indulge disordered passions when they they distract and confirm us in our disorder.

        m. Homosexual passions are disordered passions which, when indulged, distract and confirm us in our disorder.

        C. We should not indulge in homosexual passions.

        • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

          Most arguments for the rightness of homosexual acts deny the minor premise, specifically that question on whether homosexual acts are disordered. Because of this, it is fitting to include a sort of prebuttal.

          Part A:
          In a hale and mature adult human, eyes are for seeing. If the eyes see poorly or not at all, there is something wrong. We call this disordered.
          In a hale and mature adult human, teeth are for chewing. If the teeth chew poorly or not at all, there is something wrong. We call this disordered.
          In a hale and mature adult human, sexual passions prompt us to sexual activity. If we are prompted poorly or not at all, there is something wrong. We call this disordered.

          Part B: (Could be drawn out and adapted for the first two examples with equal parallels in all essential characteristics, but for brevity we have the following:)

          / What sort of sexual activity?

          Well, if there were one hale and mature adult human of a particular sex, what sort of sexual activity should there be, for the survival of the species?

          / Between himself and the opposite sex.

          And if his passions were otherwise?

          / There would be something wrong.

          Yes. We call this disordered. So homosexual passions are hereby shown to be disordered. Just as there is no particular shame in being born blind or toothless, there is no particular shame to having these passions if there is no particular fault for having them. Until there is evidence of someone having chosen these passions, the question of culpability for possessing these passions is moot, and distracting.

          Indulging these passions, however, is to some degree a choice. This is because, as those on the other side of the argument are so fond of pointing out, human sexual passion can occur outside a period of “heat” and that it is something over which we have at least the appearance of choice.

          This argument is not impeccable, of course. There is at least one gaping loophole, courtesy of the Bloodhound Gang.

          Still, I’m not quite satisfied with any version of this argument so far presented. Makes me think of the phantasms and concepts Leah told us about …

    • anodognosic

      The weakest link in the argument seems to be in placing the locus of the wholeness in the act. By requiring the act to actualize all its potentialities, you’re excluding all those acts that could be good without being maximally good. In this case, you exclude homosexuals from the good of pair-bonding through sex because they cannot fulfill the good of procreation through sex. Worse, this obsession with the act-in-itself privileges acts over people, as if people were made for the sake of sex, and not sex for the sake of people. It seems like that reminds me of something, but I can’t quite put my finger on it…

      • Cous

        I’m stepping in because it pains me to see teloi being misunderstood….to clarify the original argument, The Ubiquitous explicitly said that the act is not required to actualize all its potentialities. Rather, it has to be directed, or ordered, towards actualizing them.

        In the sexual impulse finding fruition in a sexual act, there must be the telos of pregnancy and the telos of pairbonding in the act itself. This is a crucial point.

        Whether a thing performs actions in line with its telos is a matter independent of the accidental (as opposed to substantial) features of the act. To use an Aristotle-101 example, if the telos of a knife is “to cut,” a dull knife that is cutting is still performing activities proper and not contrary to its telos, even if the consequences of its cutting are not that pretty. A knife being used to stop things from being cut, or to actively put things back together, would be acting contrary to its telos (obviously knives have no agency or “nature,” so this is a rather silly example). The problem with non-vaginal intercourse (which, as I shall never tire of pointing out, heterosexual couples are just as capable as committing as homosexual couples) is that it acts directly contrary to the life-producing telos of sexual activity. It is a type of act from which, like masturbation, it is impossible for life to come (the analysis for hermaphrodites, Siamese twins, surgically modified transgenderites, etc. would take more space to spell out but the same starting principles will apply). To plug this back into the original argument:

        10. From Nos. 2 and 9, if a circumstance or an intent under our control and direction means we acts contrary to the fruition of wholeness, the whole act is spoiled and must be condemned.

        Thus, if you believe the premises are all valid up to this point, since two people having non-vaginal intercourse are acting directly contrary to the procreative telos of sex, that action must be condemned. You’re adopting a consequentialist mindset to say that we should allow for other actions that act directly against this telos but aren’t “maximally good” – you can’t pick and choose which teloi of an act you feel like pursuing. If it’s truly the telos of the act, you can’t separate it from the act or “balance it out” with another telos.

        In response to your objection about this obsession with the act in itself, the only way you can talk about an “act-in-itself” when discussing human behavior is if you can talk about the “agent-in-itself” – people weren’t made for the sake of sex, yes, but ontological truths about human beings, which include truths about their sexuality, mean there will be ontological truths about sexual acts they perform. If you’re a mainstream consequentialist, rape is only wrong because of its accidental (not meaning “unintended,” but meaning “having nothing to do with the nature of the act”) consequences: there’s a lack of consent, which is obviously bad, and there are often severe psychological and physical harms done, but there’s nothing about rape as such that puts it in a morally different class from, say, being forcibly French-kissed while being punched. Under the framework The Ubiquitous outlines, rape is always and everywhere wrong because of the type of act that it is; that is, because of certain truths about the teloi of the sexual act involved, regardless of what the consequences happen to be (the consequences can make it more wrong, but never less). All this to say that this is fundamentally a question about the type of beings that humans are, not about the nature of acts independent of who’s performing them. If human beings had the same physiology except for the fact that they reproduced asexually, this would be a very different discussion.

        • anodognosic

          I have a serious difficulty wrapping my mind around the kind of thinking involved in natural law–because, for instance, it simply does not compute that what is primarily wrong about rape is that it violates an abstract principle, rather than that it violates a woman. That seems to get it exactly wrong in a way that’s actually a bit monstrous and depersonalizing.

          I also have no idea why an action must necessarily have one and only one primary telos–or one true telos, if telos is indeed. Perhaps it’s the fact that I am steeped in evolution, where systems again and again get coopted for different purposes. Many species get no pleasure from sex, and it is absolutely not necessary to the procreative telos. (The female orgasm, for instance, has no intrinsic role in procreation; could it therefore have a telos separate from procreation?) In any case, I see no contradiction in sex being used only for bonding here, and only for procreation there, and that both are legitimate teloi for the same act. So I guess I need a justification for one exclusive and necessary primary or true telos that I’m just not seeing.

          By the way, I’m straight and a gleeful sodomite, so I never do forget that the political ambit of this debate has the potential to affect me as well.

          • Cous

            I kind of suspected I would be opening a can of worms by bringing in rape; your point is well taken about the danger of forgetting the “human element” by only discussing abstract types of sex. The thing is, in arguments about non-vaginal intercourse, you’ve got two consenting adults who both think it feels awesome and is great for their relationship, so you have to convince them based on the characteristics of the act itself, not about any obvious psychological harm or violation it does to them. So when you transition those same arguments to rape without adding anything, people can get horrified by your seeming lack of compassion.

            No one ever claimed an act could only have one telos, The Ubiquitous’ proof explicitly claims that vaginal intercourse has (at least) two teloi. The issue is whether an act has teloi, i.e. is oriented toward a particular purpose, independent of what the agent is intending it to be used for. If I go walking on Mon, the telos of my walking might be health, but tomorrow, it might be simply a desire to get from point A to point B. Walking is not something that is inherently oriented toward a given telos. A given instance of sex can have teloi that come from the intentions of the participants – they’re expressing happiness, they’re teenagers having sex on a dare and want to prove themselves, etc. But sexual activity and pursuit of sexual pleasure, because of the type of beings that humans are – animals who reproduce by mating as a heterosexual pair, but who can also reason, choose, and desire the good – will always have certain teloi that you just can’t shake.

            So, onto sodomy. To use an analogy, let’s assume that the telos of speech/language is communication. This is not an evolutionary claim, but a philosophical one (you could press me on that distinction, but I’d need more time to think about it). This is why lying is such a moral evil – it acts directly contrary to the telos of speech and thereby destroys the ability of members in that community to be fully confident in each other’s speech, to trust one another, and to know truths about the world. Vaginal intercourse is bodily speech, it expresses bodily truths – the act says, in and of itself, “I give myself to you physically as completely as it is possible for a human being to do, because we are becoming one biological unit, the kind that can produce new life.” This by itself should tell you why vaginal intercourse outside of marriage, the corresponding self-gift of your wills, is morally impermissible. Sure, you say, but what’s wrong with sodomy? If I’m not performing an act that causes me to forming this biological unity with the person, why does it matter what I do with my sexual organs? This is where analogies get tricky, because there’s no biological function quite like sex; no one’s claming that I should use my mouth for eating and talking only and nothing else. To condense the answer into two claims:
            1) sexual capacity and the pursuit of sexual pleasure affect all aspects of the person because they are the sole capacity the person has for committing this total bodily union with another person, which is also the only type of union which produces new life
            2) using this capacity for purposes other than total bodily union with another person destroys the integrity of that person’s self expression; you’re saying, ok here my pursuit of sexual pleasure and use of my sexual organs is (not merely “expresses” or “represents”, but “is”) the bodily truth of my total surrender and unity to you, but elsewhere it is merely the pursuit of physical pleasure on my own (masturbation) or just as an expression of intimacy (sodomy), and no more (I’m not dissing intimacy here, but you’re putting pursuit of sexual pleasure in the same moral class as French kissing while undressed, it’s just farther along on the same spectrum but is not different in kind). But the nature of human sexuality, insofar as it is this totally unique capacity for total bodily union with another person, demands that sexual capacity be put in a separate class, on a separate spectrum.

            That was a combination of philosophy and rhetoric, but I’m trying to get across to you how it is that the largest religious institution in the world and millions, if not billions, of people have been, for thousands of years up to the present day, putting sexual activity and pleasure in a different category from any other pursuit of physical pleasure or any other set of activities that you can do with bodily appendages and bodily orifices.

            Because if you have no problem with sex outside of marriage, or don’t think any act or being can have inherent characteristics, then what I’m doing is like trying to put up a roof when the foundation hasn’t even been laid. So if you are mostly on board and just want clarification on a certain claim, let me know. Otherwise, if you want convincing from square 1 onward, I can point you to some starter resources.

      • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

        By requiring the act to actualize all its potentialities, you’re excluding all those acts that could be good without being maximally good.

        There is certainly a hierarchy of good, and this is a fair thing to say. In fact, barring impeccability of a person, it is impossible in an fallen world to have impeccability of an act. “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” &c. So you do express a true principle.

        Again, though, the argument as presented relies on a particular point: The act itself should be ontologically capable of fulfilling all ends. More precisely, though, the argument leaves aside even that presumably solid ground! Indeed, it says only that if the act ontologically frustrates a telos of a thing then it is certainly wrong. This is because, viewed teleologically, frustrating the natural end of a thing does damage to the “nature” of a thing in that very denial. When that thing is sentient, sapient life, it is a very grave thing indeed. All acts, and not just sexual acts, which fit this standard are by definition a flavor of self-abuse. But let’s step back from a very emotionally charged issue to look at this from the principle.

        Consider the moral chair. If it stripped itself of its cushions for the purpose of ending one of its natural ends — or added cushions for the same reason! — whether or not its attempt was successful or even begun its intent would of course condemn it. But, and here is why this is relevant, intent is not the only moral arbiter. There is also circumstance and the act itself.

        Even without the intent to harm itself, if the moral chair does an otherwise good act in an improper circumstance — for a chair, perhaps adding cushions when the presumptive sitter needs a firm frame — then it does a thing which is morally wrong. Same if it objectively does something in which the act itself even so much as denies its “nature” as a chair. It must be emphasized that in referring to the act itself we are talking about something separate from culpability.

        Considered this way, perhaps how teleological morality implies a species of self-abuse is clearer. Indeed, “the sin of self abuse” is a polite way of referring to a sexual sin far different — one far more endemic and therefore probably far more important to address.

        (It may be argued that homosexual activity is necessarily worse because it does damage to the natural ends of two persons rather than one, but given the pervasiveness and still-corporate nature of pornography and porn addiction, that position does not at all seem reasonable.)

        I am sorry that I don’t have the knowledge to present arguments for the moral theology of act, circumstance and intent being able to condemn an action as bad rather than absolve it, but that’s so far very much out of my frame of reference.

        • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

          It should also be said that perhaps the weakest point in this argument is the question of what it means to “frustrate” a natural end. If understood as something like merely “preventing sexual intercourse” rather than “actively disregarding or denying what things are for,” one presumed exploitation of this opening may include the target of clerical celibacy, but to this may be pre-emptively refuted by at least two points:

          1. Absence of an act is a different act than the act which is absent and so can be morally neutral (in the absence of a duty.)
          2. Double effect. This is relevant because theology tells us that God is the highest end. “… there are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can take, let him take it.” &c. It may be reasonable, for proportionate benefit, to do a single neutral or good action with two effects if the good enough outweighs the bad.

          That’s the trouble with the systematic ethics of a coherent system. Everything leads to everything.

          I apologize again if all this is unnecessarily verbose, but this really is as concise as I could make a more or less complete defense.

    • butterfly5906

      This is going to be about sterile couples, and I’ve read point 9 a few times….

      “Likewise, if we are not capable of fulfilling potentialities, we are not culpable for our not fulfilling them.”

      So, would it be wrong for a fertile man to knowingly marry a 100% infertile woman? He is capable of a fullfilling the potentiality of sex more wholly with a different woman and yet is knowingly acting in a way that will keep him from doing so.

      Also, similar to my question to Evan above, why are you defining the “telos of pregnancy” to require a man and a woman as opposed to two human beings or a person with functional testes and a person with a functional uterus? Why draw the line there?

      • Jerry

        There are a number of conditions for a valid sacramental marriage, including being old enough, not being currently married already, not being related, not being coerced, and being open to the possibility and responsibility of children. Being 100% infertile, depending on the circumstances, might be an impediment but I’m sure the situation would be handled on a case by case basis.

        • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

          Nope, “Sterility neither prohibits nor nullifies marriage”, CIC Can. 1084 §3.

          (And on butterfly5906′s question: No it wouldn’t be sinful for a fertile man to marry a woman who just happens to be infertile. But it would be if he married her specifically because she was infertile.)

        • butterfly5906

          Thanks, but you didn’t really answer my question. I know there are multiple criteria, but why is this criterion (pregnancy must be a possibility) defined in this way (only heterosexual couples) and not more specifically or more generally?

          • Cous

            It IS defined more specifically, e.g.. “heterosexual couples where one or both are impotent” are excluded; they are physically unable to have vaginal intercourse. But since those cases are pretty rare, “heterosexual couple” is an accepted shorthand. The reason that infertility is not a dealbreaker and impotency is is that pregnancy is “impossible” with impotency in a different way than it is “impossible” with a sterile couple; a series of biological processes is required to get pregnant, and the sterile couple can at least perform the one process that needs their agency, i.e. the coordination of their bodies that results in vaginal intercourse. Fertilization of an egg, which occurs several steps later, does not require their agency, which is why unintentionally sterile couples get the green light.

            As to why it isn’t defined more generally, this is about the biology of reproduction. This may sound pedantic, but I’m not sure where your confusion lies so I’m going to spell it out: “heterosexual” means “different sexes.” For humans to reproduce, you need male reproductive organs and female reproductive organs. Again, if we were asexual algae or hermaphroditic snails, this would be a different discussion. If you just pick out any two people, you won’t necessarily have one set of male rep. organs and one set of female rep. organs, so the minimum conditions are that the couple contains one male and one female, e.g. the pair is heterosexual. As for the question of how well their reproductive organs are “functioning,” see the paragraph above for different ways in which a reproductive organ can be said to not be “functioning” properly.

            To borrow someone else’s words,

            But individual adults are naturally incomplete with respect to one biological function: sexual reproduction. In coitus, but not in other forms of sexual contact, a man and a woman’s bodies coordinate by way of their sexual organs for the common biological purpose of reproduction. They perform the first step of the complex reproductive process. Thus, their bodies become, in a strong sense, one—they are biologically united, and do not merely rub together—in coitus (and only in coitus), similarly to the way in which one’s heart, lungs, and other organs form a unity: by coordinating for the biological good of the whole. In this case, the whole is made up of the man and woman as a couple, and the biological good of that whole is their reproduction.

          • butterfly5906

            @ Cous
            Thanks for the reply. I guess I see the internal consistency of the logic, though I still disagree with many of the starting premises.

      • Cous

        *cackles while throwing fuel on fire* BUT, existing and permanent impotency of the male does invalidate marriage!

        Canon 1084.1 Antecedent and perpetual impotence to have sexual intercourse, whether on the part of the man or on that of the woman, whether absolute or relative, by its very nature invalidates marriage.

        Canon 1084.2 If the impediment of impotence is doubtful, whether the doubt be one of law or one of fact, the marriage is not to be prevented nor, while the doubt persists, is it to be declared null.

        This is because the couple isn’t even capable of having vaginal intercourse; a sterile couple can perform said act, even if the sperm and egg happen to never meet up in the process. You may not agree with the Church’s teachings on sexual morality, but you have to admit, she’s internally consistent.

        • Cous

          correction: female impotency is relevant too, not just male impotency. Though I have no immediate mental reference for what female impotency refers to.

        • anodognosic

          But what if there is no egg for the sperm to meet, such as in the case of a woman who had an oophorectomy (removal of the ovary)? All of the necessary parts are not there. Someone please explain to me why the physiological scope of the telos is drawn around the penis and vagina (so that one not working invalidates the act) and excludes the ovaries? Honestly, I feel like beating my head against my desk right now.

          In any case, I think the real strength of the impotent couple argument is intuitive–that many people who insist that the purpose of marriage is procreation have no trouble seeing the purpose of a marriage between two infertile people, and thus see the human value in gay marriage as well. Catholics being the legendary bullet-biters that they are, however, might prove immune from this argument.

          • Cous

            First, I don’t want to say the ovaries are never relevant to the morality of a sexual act – if a woman purposely has them removed b/c she doesn’t want kids, she’s now having closed-to-life, contracepted sex with her husband. [Apply analyses of contracepted sex here.]

            But, your frustration is presumable not directed at this scenario. So, the reason the “magic telos circle” gets drawn around the p and v is because when we talk about the morality of sexual acts, we’re concerned with the behavior of human agents. As I said above to butterfly5906,

            a series of biological processes is required to get pregnant, and the sterile couple can at least perform the one process that needs their agency, i.e. the coordination of their bodies that results in vaginal intercourse. Fertilization of an egg, which occurs several steps later, does not require their agency, which is why unintentionally sterile couples get the green light.

            If a woman didn’t have a vagina, she could not fulfill the behavior requirements for vaginal intercourse. If humans got pregnant by the male poking the area over the woman’s ovaries with the thumb on his left hand, and a woman didn’t have ovaries at all, she couldn’t fulfill the behavioral requirement, and that couple would be DQ’ed. Of course, you can always play the Sorites paradox game – what if the woman only has 95% of a vagina? What about 60%? Can she get married then? What about 20%? Such matters are to be determined on a case-by-case basis; as much as Catholic love drawing bright lines and parading around with them, these principles require much practical knowledge as well to be applied to real life.
            Really, I recommend reading this. Download it, skim the table of contents for what you’re most interested in, and dive in. It’s really meant to be read from beginning to end, but it seems like you have already a good handle on the starting premises (even if you don’t agree with them), so it’ll hopefully be comprehensible even if you start halfway through.

      • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

        This is going to be about sterile couples, and I’ve read point 9 a few times …

        It’s folks like you that make me appreciate this blog. Very little cheering on your team even when they make cheap shots, quite a lot of honest effort. Hurrah, hurrah!

    • drax

      Maybe you will consider this an internet response, but oh well.

      It doesn’t seem that the exceptions you’ve carved out in 9a and 9b would cover those using the rhythm method as birth control, as it is definitely gaming the system. Yet the rhythm method is allowed and endorsed by the church. Also, those nine months while a woman is pregnant seem like they contradict even the slightest possibility of pregnancy, unless I’ve been missing the stories of women becoming pregnant while pregnant. I realize this may full under your exception in 9b, but it sure seems like cheating.

  • deiseach

    Does it look like a pair of pyjamas,
    Or the ham in a temperance hotel?
    Does its odour remind one of llamas,
    Or has it a comforting smell?
    Is it prickly to touch as a hedge is,
    Or soft as eiderdown fluff?
    Is it sharp or quite smooth at the edges?
    O tell me the truth about love.

    Since I have nothing useful to contribute to this discussion, I thought I’d leave it to the poets.

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      Reminds me of how our mutual acquaintance Mr. Wright wrote:

      This is the first and only scene I ever read in any book in my youth — and I read a myriad of books, sometimes two a day — which told me the truth about sex.

  • Hibernia86

    I think religious people are against gay marriage for one and only one reason: They think that God is against it. All of their other reasons are just an attempt to cover up the fact that they will follow whatever they think God is telling them to do, whether it make sense to them or not. Only by convincing religious people that gay relationships are loving will you be able to get them to think that God is ordering them to support gay marriage.

    • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com JoAnna

      False premise, as Christians have an entirely different definition of what constitutes a ” loving ” relationship.

      • Hibernia86

        Perhaps, but they can be made to change their definition as can be seen by the increasing numbers of Christians that support gay marriage.

        • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

          For certain definitions of Christian, perhaps. But for the definition of Christian which is synonymous with the Greek word for “universal,” such shifts are definitionally excluded.

    • Kilroy

      Mark Shea writes above,

      I guess I’m puzzled by your puzzlement. As near as I can tell, what the tradition ultimately comes back to is twofold: nature and grace. The biblical picture of nature is union (“man and woman created he them”) and fruitfulness (“be fruitful and multiply”)

      So we have a position based on the “biblical picture of nature” from the the Old Testament, yet Catholics shy away from what the God of the Old Testament said was the appropriate punishment for homosexual behavior:

      And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying… If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

      This appears to be inconsistent, but at least it is the kind of inconsistency for which one ought to be grateful.

      A website on “Catholic basic training” seeking to address the charge of inconsistency begins with the following:

      A number of non-Christians (and some Christians and quasi-Christians) ask why the Christians follow some of the Mosaic Laws described in the Old Testament (such as the prohibitions against homosexuality) but not others (such as the prohibition against shellfish or the drinking of blood). A number of Christians maintain that worship should be conducted on Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath) rather than Sunday….

      Sometimes, this question is asked in a neutral manner – but most often this is directed at Christians because of what the questioner sees as bigotry and hatred towards homosexuals. The explicit prohibition against homosexual acts is found in the book of Leviticus, and also found in that book are a number of other laws – including ones which forbid the eating of pork and shellfish. This has caused many non-Christians to think that Christians who are “anti-gay” but who eat pork and shellfish (for example) are hypocrites.

      There are a number of ways to approach this question, and the tactic used will depend very much on the individual who is asking….

      It goes on to say that Catholics don’t apply the Mosaic law about putting gays (specifically, gay men) to death because Catholics, in fact, don’t follow Mosaic law. One might nevertheless ask whether Yahweh still finds gay sex to be an “abomination” — it almost sounds as though his main objection to it is that he finds it icky.

      Over the course of history, the Mosaic law was explicitly used as justification for subjecting gays to the death penalty (as was the case in parts of early colonial America), and savage legal persecution of gays was hardly absent from Catholic countries either.

      • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com JoAnna

        Sigh. You’re invoking the God Hates Shrimp fallacy. Also see Why We Are Not Bound by Everything in the Old Law by Catholic Answers apologist Jim Blackburn.

        Also, to piggyback on my earlier statement, Catholics recognize that all manner of illicit relationships have the capacity to be loving. For example, people engaged in adulterous affairs. But the capacity to be “loving” is not what defines marriage, nor is it the criteria for what makes a relationship “good” in Catholic theology.

        • Kilroy

          I can’t speak to the question of whether God hates shrimp, but I’m wondering what the fallacy is. I understand the bit about the Mosaic law not being binding on Christians — indeed, I referred to that in my previous post. The question is, does God still consider gay sex to be an abomination, or has he changed his mind? I also understand that American Catholics, being for the most part good citizens, don’t want to take it upon themselves, as individuals, to punish people for acts that God considers to be abominations, but if God has not changed his mind about gay sex, just how abominable does a violation of natural law have to be before a draconian punishment under the law of of the United States (or Massachusetts, or wherever) is considered to be in order? That would not be the law of Moses, it would be the law of the land – like the laws that do not make marriage available to gays, laws that the Church seems to want kept in place.

          Of course I might be way off base here. Perhaps God only considered gay sex BETWEEN JEWS to be an abomination?

          • Anonymous

            This is a really interesting question, because to my knowledge the bible doesn’t speak explicitly concerning how to interact with a democratic state. In dealing with structures of authority, the message is simple: obey authority up to and until it requires you to disobey god. In much of the OT, they had authority over the state, and thus we see their plethora of rules, exceptions, and judgements describing how they applied the principles of the law (or ran away from the principles of the law) to the state that they had to deal with. In other places (think Joseph/Daniel/Ester/etc.) we see people submitting to authority and working within the system, while retaining their own personal conduct. In the NT, there’s only a little interaction with the civil government… most of which is just doing what they require of you (give to Caesar and all that).

            So then, the question becomes, what do you do when you’re part of a democratic authority structure? Well, you certainly can’t just decree everything. But this also doesn’t mean you have to abandon supporting your beliefs. You’re surely unlikely to be able to codify all of your beliefs. You have to accept that not all the laws will be to your liking, but that doesn’t mean you suddenly have to abandon your ideas or beliefs. We certainly don’t have to have everyone agree on the foundations of law in order to create a law of the land. The foundation is essentially meaningless, except as a method of recruiting other supporters.

            And your last note is dangerously close to being demonstrably wrong via Paul’s letters to Gentiles. (It also fails the ‘principles’ formulation, as the idea is that one man, one woman was purposed in the creation… well before Jews existed.)

          • Kilroy

            This is a really interesting question, because to my knowledge the bible doesn’t speak explicitly concerning how to interact with a democratic state.

            That’s because there is no concept of a “democratic state” to be found in the Bible. By implication, there is no hint to be found in the Bible that people have a moral right to democratic self-government. In the Bible, kings do not sin by running roughshod over the will of the people, they sin by disobeying the will of God.

            So then, the question becomes, what do you do when you’re part of a democratic authority structure? Well, you certainly can’t just decree everything. But this also doesn’t mean you have to abandon supporting your beliefs. You’re surely unlikely to be able to codify all of your beliefs. You have to accept that not all the laws will be to your liking, but that doesn’t mean you suddenly have to abandon your ideas or beliefs.

            That’s true if you live in a country that is religiously pluralistic. But what if you live in a country where the majority belong to a particular religious sect? Does the principle of majority rule imply that the people of that sect have a moral right to impose their Book-of-Genesis ethics on the minority by writing those ethics into the laws of the land?

            We certainly don’t have to have everyone agree on the foundations of law in order to create a law of the land. The foundation is essentially meaningless, except as a method of recruiting other supporters.

            If _you_ think that the law of the land should be based on the supposed will of God as supposedly revealed in the Book of Genesis, while _I_ think that there is no God and that the Book of Genesis is nothing more than a collection of fanciful tales, we scarcely have a common basis for talking about what the law of the land should be, unless either (a) you convert me to your religion, or (b) you agree that the law of the land should be based on secular rather than religious principles. Because if you tell me that the reason that gays ought not to be allowed to marry is because “man and woman created he them” and “be fruitful and multiply”, I’m not going to find that argument persuasive unless I happen to share your religious convictions.

          • Anonymous

            “That’s because there is no concept of a “democratic state” to be found in the Bible.”

            Ahhh, but I didn’t say that. There absolutely is the concept of a democratic state. There is no example of a ‘good Christian’ interacting with an established democratic state, but there are times when it is put to the people to decide. The results aren’t always pretty, but it has more to do with whether they chose to follow god than with whether the people decided or a king or judge decided (in fact, the bible illustrates problems with all methods of human government).

            Of course, your next couple of conclusions are correct, but misleading. While there is no moral right to democratic self-government in the bible, you could also say that there is no moral right to theocratic civil government in the bible. One was established under the old covenant, found to be unsuitable due to the weakness of the people, and thus was replaced with the new covenant… complete without civil government. Time and time again, the message is, “You have a moral right (and obligation) to follow god, regardless of what the civil government looks like.”

            “Does the principle of majority rule imply that the people of that sect have a moral right to impose their Book-of-Genesis ethics on the minority by writing those ethics into the laws of the land?”

            That would be a problem for your “principle of majority rule” to figure out. The bible does not detail, “Here’s how to go about implementing majority rule,” because the bible is not a book detailing how to create a civil government in a post old covenant world. Contrary to what some people would like, the bible does not straightforwardly enumerate exactly what to do in every situation. It makes it clear that government will be run as a monarchy in a time when we are able to have Christ as the perfect monarch, but it doesn’t make clear how exactly to engage with a modern democracy.

            Oh, and I just re-read your question… and noticed that you asked if they have a “moral right” to impose beliefs. Uh, no. They have a moral right to follow god. Regardless of civil government. Everything else would look different from a “moral right”. I’m really unsure how you’re trying to get a moral right out of a very simplistic principle of majority rule. These things seem quite unrelated.

            As far as your, “I’m not going to be convinced,” bit goes… that’s fine. Civil government and other actors in civil government can be wrong. Religious people will deal. They took their moral right to follow god through plenty of outrightly persecuting governments; I don’t think you making a bad decision is going to change much (in fact, the biblical prophesy pretty much says that you’re going to make these bad decisions). However, if you want to know what the biblical principles are (and the title of this post sure seems to ask the question), we’ll let you know.

            My point is that we don’t have to agree on foundations. My Hindu officemate and I certainly don’t agree on foundations, but we agree on enough other things. You and I certainly agree on plenty of things. When we disagree, we’ll engage with the structures of authority (be they kings or democratic institutions). And then life will proceed. If you’re the king or you have control of the democratic institution, you’ll determine the law of the land. Just because you’re in a position to make the wrong decision doesn’t mean you have a “moral right” to do so.

            Where do you get your moral rights? Is the principle of majority rule, complete with tyrannical behavior, detailed as a moral right by the flying spaghetti monster? Or should you also just take your beliefs and go home unless you can convince me of your foundations?

          • Kilroy

            Time and time again, the message is, “You have a moral right (and obligation) to follow god, regardless of what the civil government looks like….” Oh, and I just re-read your question… and noticed that you asked if they have a “moral right” to impose beliefs. Uh, no. They have a moral right to follow god. Regardless of civil government.

            I was not asking about a moral right to impose BELIEFS, I was asking about a moral right to impose certain RULES OF BEHAVIOR that they think are demanded by their religion — that is, by their god.

            I am taking it as a matter of course that government has the right, indeed, the duty, to impose certain rules of behavior on the society it governs. Those rules of behavior are called laws, and they are enforceable through the imposition of penalties on those who break them. In some cases, government may also encourage certain behaviors and discourage others by giving certain privileges to people who engage in the “right” behaviors and denying those privileges to people who engage in the “wrong” behaviors.

            So the question then is, what does “following god” mean in terms of your participation, as a citizen, in the process of determining what the laws shall be?

            Go back to the example from Leviticus: “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying… If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” If this is an “old covenant” law that has been repealed and replaced by a “new covenant,” what does that repeal and replacement mean? Does it simply mean that the state authorities are no longer absolutely required by god to put people to death for engaging in homosexual behavior, or does it go beyond that and also mean that god has changed his mind and he no longer considers homosexual behavior to be an abomination? Because the distinction could make all the difference in the world in terms of your engagement with democratic institutions as a citizen. If you believe that god still considers homosexual behavior to be an abomination, you might very well conclude that the state should put those who engage in homosexual behavior to death, not because god any longer requires it, but because that is the proper way to “follow god.” Or perhaps they should merely be imprisoned for ten years for each offense, or whatever.

            If you’re the king or you have control of the democratic institution, you’ll determine the law of the land. Just because you’re in a position to make the wrong decision doesn’t mean you have a “moral right” to do so.

            I agree absolutely with this. The question remains, what criteria should we use in determining whether a decision is wrong or right? Because you only have the moral right to impose that decision on others through state power if it’s a “right” one, and not a “wrong” one.

            Where do you get your moral rights? Is the principle of majority rule, complete with tyrannical behavior, detailed as a moral right by the flying spaghetti monster? Or should you also just take your beliefs and go home unless you can convince me of your foundations?

            Or is it from god? Or is it from none of the above?

          • Anonymous

            I was not asking about a moral right to impose BELIEFS, I was asking about a moral right to impose certain RULES OF BEHAVIOR

            Oh come on with the nitpicking. You even used the phrase “moral right to impose their Book-of-Genesis ethics”. The implication of both statements is that someone would be imposing rules of behavior based on beliefs or ethics. We’re talking about the same thing.

            So the question then is, what does “following god” mean in terms of your participation, as a citizen, in the process of determining what the laws shall be?

            This is exactly what I’m saying that the bible doesn’t specify. It sucks that it doesn’t. Life would be a whole lot easier if Tiberius had just appointed Christ to be a big deal in the Roman government… and we got another book detailing how he handled the civil authority.

            As it stands, Joseph might be our best example. He was placed into a very high governmental position under a non-converted leader. He used his authority to the best of his ability. If someone had complained, “Why are you imposing this weird belief concerning a dream of feast/famine on us?” would he have changed course? I doubt it. He had the authority. He had the backing of Pharaoh. He did what he thought was best. Were there punishments for disobeying an order from the office of the Pharaoh by not paying the 20% grain tax? Most likely. Do we have much insight as to how we should determine such penalties if we were in a position of authority? Not at all.

            Like I’ve explained elsewhere, we can pretty easily show that the physical death penalty has been removed with the sacrifice of Christ, but we don’t have a whole lot else when it comes to Christians operating in a civil government. In the absence of someone pointing this out to me, I would only expect the same thing I would expect from you and whatever beliefs you have: that you work in the system and try to make things work without compromising your core beliefs.

            Likewise, no one has a perfect criteria for determining whether a decision is “wrong” or “right”. However, now you’re skipping a step. I may have worded it a bit funny, but you still need to show that you have a moral right to impose a “right” decision. I mean, you practically demanded that I show a moral right to do anything. Why don’t you have to? Or could it be what I’ve said all along: we each have the moral right to believe what we believe and to try to follow our moral code. What happens in a civil government is surely going to be a poor reflection of any particular belief system… which perhaps may be one of the reasons why biblical prophesy predicts that all human-built governments will fail.

            The only thing that has to change is that you can’t go down the path, “You can’t point to an explicit statement in the bible of a law designed for this situation. Therefore, you need to shut up, take your beliefs and go home.” You certainly wouldn’t hold your own beliefs to that standard. Instead, you try to do the best you can with the fundamental beliefs that you have. Sounds reasonable.

            Oh, btw, I didn’t actually address your example, because I thought it was well addressed by my other comments. Christ’s statements in Matthew and the apostolic letters make it pretty clear that the god of the bible still thinks homosexual behavior is an abomination. It’s also clear that the church should not take it upon themselves to stone people (but they should definitely do something about it when it involves their members… see Corinthians). What’s not clear is what exactly a Christian should do when they’re in a civil government. I know this is an unsatisfactory answer, but there simply doesn’t seem to be any absolutist position on this in the bible. (I bet the Catholics have an answer for this, though. They like to make up their own rules for these types of things… and they had plenty of time controlling civil governments to come up with ideas.)

      • Anonymous

        I’m not a Catholic (and that’s partly because I find their positions on Mosaic law untenable), so I can’t give you the Catholic perspective. However, it’s not that difficult to go so far as to make an argument that even if many principles/rules of Mosaic law are still in force (I say ‘many’, because I’ll cite Matthew 19 again and express that spiritual principles > detailed physical rules which may have been concessions), we can reject the physical death penalty that was proscribed. One certainly doesn’t have to go much further than Romans to do so (of course, you could go on… the idea is pretty clear in many of the letters).

  • Pingback: Go Ahead, Tell Me What’s Wrong with Homosexuality « Religious Leaders: Misogyny is NOT a virtue! And Civil Law trumps your faith!

  • Iota

    If you permit, I’d like to sabotage the project a little and… ask you something. You wrote:

    “I don’t think it’s intrinsically unreasonable to tell a person (or a class of people) that sex is out of the picture for them. [...] there are plenty of other impediments that can mean you can’t have sex with someone you love.”

    Could you explain what your impediments list looks like? Or, more specifically, what impediments apply to whole classes of people, rather than to individual persons?

    On a more compliant note:

    “I think this genre of objection sells short friendship”.

    I’m not convinced of that.
    Both in Catholicism and in the Western societies at large marriage is something different than friendship (friendship may be an important component of marriage but not the defining component). Anyone can have ten fiends, but only one current spouse, at least in Western countries. In fact, I can have ten female friends and this does not make me homo-romantic or homosexual. I can also develop those female-female friendships without worrying about my standing with the Catholic Church. Also, gay activists aren’t campaigning for gay friendships. Whether you call it “civil unions”, “marriages” or some other name, it’s quite clear it’s supposed to be something else than friendship as such.

    Which brings us back to square one – what is this “thing” that makes “being married” something else than “being friends”?

    • smrnda

      I think all too many marriages are a lot less meaningful and profound than many people’s friendships. I think it’s a mistake for people to assume that marriage IS more special than friendship.

      I mean, I know people who I think have deeper more meaningful relationships with friends than they do with their spouse – our society just attaches a lot of value to marriage and it’s kind of a taboo (at present) to admit that you’re really not as close to your spouse as to people who you are friends with. How many people are just going through the motions in their marriage while they feel closer to friends, but are just not allowed to admit that?

      Perhaps back when marriages were more or less arranged and were more property relationships, people could be honest that they were married because of some social obligation but that their really close, meaningful, and emotionally intimate relationships were not with their spouse.

      I don’t even think that having sex with someone implies that it’s your most meaningful relationship. I think sometimes friendships are deeper and more relevant to people, just that it goes against social expectations. Something that shapes this is probably people’s view or marriage and what it’s supposed to be.

    • Anonymous

      I wouldn’t want to speak for Leah, and I won’t venture to produce a complete list, but I think you could easily start down the path of creating such a list by marking down NAMBLA-affiliation. Yes, I know invoking NAMBLA is like the Godwin of sex threads. However, I’m not aware of anyone (except NAMBLA) who would condone pederastic relationships and claim that this class of people should be allowed to pursue their desired sexual relations.

  • julian

    I believe that if you really want to understand why it is incompatible with the faith you’ll have to start at more fundamental level. Before sexuality, before gender, first, you have to ask “what is a human?” Everything fans out from there and the core idea to the Christian understanding of the human person is that it is all understood in the context of “Imago Dei.” Also, Christian epistemology very much hinges on the idea of the cosmos as having a nuptial dynamic, (remember that Christianity holds that the culmination of history will be a wedding). So when Christians are asked “what does sex mean?” for them sexuality is seen as alluding to this nuptial dynamic, (and not the other way around). John Paul II wrote of this nuptial ontology as being understood as self-gift. At a core level, the Trinity is understood in this context.

    So, it is essential to know that Christian theology holds a very high view of sex. It would not be an overstatement to consider it sacred. However, it is sacred because of what it alludes to. It is not the height of human existence because it is beautiful. It is beautiful because it points to the heights of human existence. Sex speaks to a greater substantial truth and because the substance of what it points to is specific, the specifics of how it is spoken, (or actualized) matters. This is why it is significant that it is a nuptial dynamic of femininity/ masculinity and not an any/any dynamic. It is because, in the human person, sexuality is not merely happenstance. Gender matters because of what it alludes to and sexual relationships matter because of what they communicate about the human person. Everything in its right place…meta-physically speaking.

  • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

    The homosexuality threads over here are always too fast for me so most of what I would have said has already been said by others. So here are just a few footnotes:

    On the natural law question we basically have a disagreement about what features of sex point to its purpose and which are just accidental. I think on that Leah’s interpretation is somewhat tied up with her quasi-gnosticism. She does oppose loveless sex thus recognizing the unitive purpose in principle, though probably not in the full consequence of limiting it to marriage. But then that purpose is inferred from the architecture of our minds. A natural law or Catholic view would go further and note that we are bodies just as much as minds and the architecture of our bodies counts just as much as that of our minds.

    The second thing I want to comment on is the connection between homosexuality and narcissism. Mark Shea mentions that a lot (“like peas and carrots”) and I guess it’s one of the phrases Leah tends to be displeased with. So since I basically agree with Mark I’ll elaborate a little. There are different levels on which this is so. On a fundamental level disordered sex acts are (maybe mutually) exploitative. Of course that brings us back to the original questions of which acts are disordered, but then see all the other comments for why this is so. On that level the act is not so much wrong because it’s narcissistic as the other way around. The next level on which it can be seen is the typical moral reasoning. Basically the propaganda focuses all on many people being gay and being born that way and being hurt if they can’t act on the impulse. But that’s ultimately making their temptations into the standard of morality i.e. narcissistic. And finally gay rights are at most tangentially about actual rights. For example, very few people actually want civil unions except as a stepping stone. And when it comes to things like “discriminating” wedding cake bakers I doubt if anyone really believes it’s about cake. The real point is social approval. So to put it somewhat inflammatory, there’s a movement that’s about using people, reasons it’s all OK because they roll that way and their feelings make morality, and want’s to force everyone to approve of that. That’s what the narcissism charge is about.

  • JohnH

    People may want to look into the positions on sexual intercourse and marriage of the Church Fathers, especially after the Nicene Creed, such as St. Jerome and St. Augustine. Some of them make the Puritans look like Hedonists. They were heavily influenced by both some forms of Gnosticism and Neoplatonism that found the physical world to be evil and icky. Some of them taught that sexual intercourse should only be for active reproduction and only the minimal amount possible and even that was somewhat sinning.

    The idea that sexual activity for purposes not reproduction in marriage is acceptable and not sinful is not something that has been uniformly taught throughout the ages by church leaders; it can’t be called a new development of the Catholic faith exactly, but it is something that has not regularly been the dominate view.

    I am not trying to start a debate with the Catholics on the subject, just pointing out where their arguments of Natural Law, their Canon Law, and theology are coming from. I would answer the question differently but the question was directed to the Catholics.

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      It’s a good thing you’re not trying to start a debate with the Catholics on the subject, for in debates it is against the rules to assert a thing and have your opponents bear the burden of proof.

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  • smrnda

    Hey Anonymous, or at least the anonymous defending Ubiquitous, I have a PhD in mathematics and one in computer science, so I’m sure that I don’t need you to explain the mathematics behind your current research . I took calculus a long time ago, back when I was 13, and I’m a (yay!) a grown woman now and have learned a lot more since then. So not that I don’t *want it* I really don’t need it.

    But being well-versed in these areas makes me realize the distinction between jargon which is necessary and jargon which is unnecessary. A “Markov Decision Process” or a concept like “encapsulation in object-oreinted programming,” or a statement like “the theory behind hypergraphs is really just an exploration of the combinatorics of finite sets” or “scripting languages tend to be slower than compiled languages” are using necessary jargon since ordinary language does not contain words that express those ideas. In graph theory words like “tree”, “forest,” “caterpillar” and “balloon” are used since it’s easier to borrow an everyday word and tie it to a concept. Or a word like a “bond” which means something different than what it means in chemistry, or ‘semaphore’ which means something special in computer science than it did when it was used in railway communication. My take on you and Ubiquitous is that you choose to phrase things in a way that, effectively, requires a step of ‘translation’ from the pretentious jargon into regular language. What I’m asking you to do is to phrase things using ordinary language to begin with so that there isn’t any waste. Use jargon when it is needed, but not when it is not. I’m made a few posts here since, given the obfuscating nature of the prose, if I argued with the ‘reasoning’ there’s a good chance that you would just argue that I didn’t use the words correctly. Plus, the steps in reasoning made by Ubiquitous hinge on the words used meaning certain things and having certain implications – the denser the prose, the less clear the steps, and the words themselves come loaded with assumptions and implications that shape the whole post.

    Would you please define wholeness? I don’t think that wholeness, as a word, just hanging there by itself really has a very precise meaning. I see no meaningful distinction between the phrases “fruition” and “fruition of wholeness” – the words themselves are vague and abstract instead of concrete. If I argue that flowers taking over the entire landscape is ‘too much fruition’ and you say ‘well, it’s fruition but not the fruition of wholeness’ that just seems like a complicated way of saying that ‘fruition of wholeness is the type of fruition we want, and if we get a kind we don’t want, it’s too much fruition’ which doesn’t really create any sort of precise distinction, or it relies on some concept of ‘wholeness’ which isn’t particularly well-defined. Using language like that is like using some Rube Goldberg machine to do something that a simple machine would do just as well. Applied to concrete situations the terms seems even less meaningful. If there was a type of tomato plant that, if you planted one, would in a single day spread over an entire acre, it would not be good if it was in my garden, but if I was a wholesale producer of tomatoes it would be fantastic. If you tie the notion of ‘wholeness’ with the idea that a garden stays within certain bounds and a large agricultural enterprise wants a high a yield as possible, then the notion of ‘wholeness’ is then tied to intentions, which requires someone to be making a value judgment as to what the goal of planting the tomato plant actually is. Whether land is being used for agriculture or whether it is in a city in someone’s back lawn is kind of an arbitrary assignment based on where people chose to grow crops and where they chose to establish cities, so the distinction seems even less meaningful there.

    It seems that the case that Ubiquitous made and that you are supporting is based on a few assumptions that I do not believe are valid. The statement “it is morally good to be as whole as possible” – the first statement, without a precise definition of whole, is just an empty phrase, or a subjective one. In terms of the idea of whether a certain type of ‘fruition’ contributes to ‘wholeness’ or whether it’s wrong not to ‘actualize’ some ‘potentiality’ seems to be rather subjective to me.

    Also, the potential that exists, and whether or not fulfilling it is good, bad, necessary or a terrible thing is kind of a subjective thing as well. There are lots of possibilities in people and in actions. A vacant lot has potential, but sometimes, if you are in a neighborhood with lots of buildings and not much green space, it might be best to let it sit vacant rather than build something there. A parent might think their kid shows promise at ballet and that it would be a tragedy if the kid does not continue, and the kid decides that ballet is boring and just wants some free time to play with friends. A movie director might just feel like not making any more movies even though they have been successful. I wouldn’t look at many things like this as moral choices, or at least not ones where one action is obviously right and the other obviously wrong, and in some of these cases major potential is allowed to go dormant and decay.

    Now, if you come to the discussion with certain assumptions about what wholeness entails, and what potentials one has a moral duty to realize in life and what potentials one is not obliged to try to realize, then you’re effectively starting with assumptions and showing that if you start with them, you can build a case in support of them. A person can start with assumptions and explain what are the implications, but if I start with different assumptions then I’ll reach a different conclusion. I would agree that by the Catholic teachings on sex sex is supposed to be geared towards reproduction, but I see no persuasive reason for accepting those teachings. A less morally loaded example might be beer – I like the taste of beer and so, for me, there is such a thing as a good beer. However, if a friend of mine dislikes beer, she may actually like what I would consider a lousy beer more than the good beer. If I look at the purpose of beer to be drinkable, we’ve just got a difference in tastes. If beer seems to morally loaded, substitute coffee. The purpose of coffee is that someone might like to drink it – a coffee might appeal to very few people but if those people like it a lot, then in a sense it has succeeded. The coffee is only “good” in the sense that there is someone who wants to drink it. But, to go back to beer, if a person is morally opposed to the consumption of alcohol then they would say there is no such thing as a good beer. However, I find the ‘beer is bad’ case pretty weak – even if it supposedly causes health problems, so do things like sunlight, and what harm something causes to a person is highly variable.

    • Anonymous

      Yay for PhD in mathematics and CS! This means you know that if you’re doing anything reasonably complicated, it would be tedious to always use simple terms. My personal tendency in both research and teaching is to try to use as much simple language as possible… but it’s simply not always possible. Like I mentioned before, I sympathize with your complaint about jargon. My research takes elements from mathematics, CS, flight mechanics, dynamics/control, and neuroscience. They each use different languages. When you try jumping into the literature of a new field, it sucks having to learn their jargon and wade through the articles that are misleadingly using needlessly complicated jargon.

      Also yay for writing another post complaining about a word. Notice, in the original, nearly everything from the starting assumptions to 3B paints a decent picture of what wholeness means.

      So yes, in some sense, The Ubiquitous took some idea of wholeness as an assumption. That assumption was stated right at the top (in the “assumptions” section). Unfortunately, I also lack the background and time to fully explain what The Ubiquitous means by wholeness. I have an acquaintance with what he/she might take it to mean (the context helps (and my intuition is that it fixes some of the problems you’re worried about)), but I’d also appreciate a bit more background material. Perhaps you could post a linky link that I could read after Memorial Day, Ubiquitous? (I’m literally leaving town in 20 minutes.)

      • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

        Most of my very minimal reading has been done offline. That which I’ve learned about natural laws online was honed cheaply in the philosophy / religion sections of phpBB Internet forums. I’ve tried to explain down here about what is meant by wholeness.

        Now, I suppose a fun bit of reading may come by way of The O’Floinn as he goes over the four causes, but that’s only a very oblique connection.

        On a side note, I would emphasize that the original comment did explain that “it was quite easy” if we disregard the assumptions of modern philosophy, but that’s a half truth. For it to be quite easy, we also have to know what we’re talking about; I had a great deal of difficulty articulating this argument.

      • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

        I really apologize that my online citations are so anemic. At this point, I can only recommend, as I have earlier in the thread, Feser’s Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide. Presumably you could use any number of introductions, or the Summa itself, or any amount of primary source Greek philosophy, but this is the only thing among them I’ve read. If you’re open to polemics, there’s always the same author’s The Last Superstition.

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      Wholeness: a complete thing. Stability. Also: Being.
      Fruition: bringing forth wholeness. Dynamic, but towards the above stability. Also: Becoming.
      Fruition of wholeness: means “fruition,” but emphasizing awkwardly what fruition does.

      Yeah, that comment was a one-draft one-off. I apologize for the delay and the initial incoherence. So in place of the awkward appearance of jargon, throughout this comment I will use X instead for this whatever word should have been used in place of wholeness.

      X: means, roughly, “best participating in the form” of something.

      Participating in the form does not imply there exists some Platonic heaven of perfect objects, only that certain things are recognizable as belonging to the same group of objects.

      Chairs are for sitting.
      Chairs with the quality X are good for sitting.
      Chairs without the quality X are not good for sitting.
      Chairs, to be good chairs, should possess quality X.
      Chairs with giant cushions with lumbar support possess quality X.
      Chairs lacking a seat may be good for torturing James Bond, but as chairs they do not possess quality X.

      Consider this question: If a chair suddenly became capable of moral action and choice, what should it continue to do to be a good chair?

      / It should continue to have a place to sit, and it should pursue by all moral means soft red leather cushions with lumbar support. This is to say, it should pursue quality X.

      Right. Now, this is not meant as directly analagous to sexual activity. It is only meant to illustrate wholeness and fruition, and that it is right for someone — moral chairs as much as humans — to pursue what fulfills his natural end. It is wrong for someone to frustrate his natural end.

      As far as introducing act and potency, that was because I had just read about it in Feser’s Aquinas. It was a child playing with new toys, not a pedant bragging loudly. (Whether children brag is left as an exercise to the reader.)

  • smrnda

    I’ve actually found the exact opposite – that most things in any field I’ve studied could be explained in simple terms, it’s just that most people want to use the most complicated language possible to make themselves seem superhuman. The other problem is that you’re comparing some theological or philosophical system to areas that concern more concrete, meaningful and precise knowledge.

    On jargon – when I was very young I wrote a lot like many people on this forum – I had read some philosophy books and decided that they must be full of great ideas and reasoning, and I started using their vocabulary in my own writing . But a little later I started to realize that the jargon was just saying things that could have been said more simply and directly in a way that was complicated, and that as a goal of writing is communication, it just wasn’t doing the job. It’s kind of like when people believe that being a great martial artist is about knowing a bunch of flashy and difficult techniques rather than say, knowing how to use simple techniques effectively. A great essay on this is one by George Orwell where he does a job of translating some pretentious jargon into ordinary language (and the reverse.) Once I read that, I was through with using any words that were more complicated or difficult than I absolutely needed.

    My take on the use of jargon is that the morality of human sexuality is not some field like mathematics that requires specialized jargon, nor is any complicated theoretical system necessary for discussing the topic. There is little about human sexuality that could not be discussed using words found in a small-town newspaper, so l use of jargon is just a way of coining words and phrases and defining them to reinforce certain conclusions already decided on. It’s harder to pass sophistry off as insight and wisdom if it’s reduced to the simplest terms possible, and I have yet to see much ‘wisdom’ in theology and philosophy. It’s not that you can’t pull sleights of hand with ordinary, basic language, it’s just harder to do. The idea that you can’t be informed about life without reading a bunch of philosophy to me, is like saying you can’t become a good writer if you didn’t read (fill in the blank great author there.)

    A problem with the chair example is that if I take a chair and I remove certain parts of it, it may no longer be good for sitting on but in a sense it is no longer a chair. A chair is something made of wood, metal or some kind of cushioning – it’s put together for a purpose but the same parts can be rearranged to fit another purpose. I once say some tables made of doors. The door had ceased to fill its purpose as a door, but it then served a purpose as a table. If a chair can become conscious, it might have ideas of things to do that would be better than being sat on, and we might be in the wrong to demand that the chair restricts itself to the function we have assigned it. The problem with judging things by a purpose is that things can have lots of purposes – something that fails in its intended purpose can end up being pretty good at some unintended purpose. The problem with assessing potential is that it’s hard to see far into the future. Some action may not seem to have much potential and it may seem to be unlikely to yield positive results, but it may do so someday.

    In regards to the earlier post, if I strip away all of the pretentious jargon, the only thing left is the idea that since sex can be procreative that any form of sexuality that cannot be procreative is wrong. The idea seems to be that since this is a natural end, people should not frustrate this purpose.

    I consider this to be an absurd position. It’s like saying that since music can be performed for an audience, that there’s something morally wrong with someone who gets a guitar and just plays in the privacy of their own home without anyone else around.

    The problem with the whole idea of a natural end or a potential is that people have lots of potentials and that there are many different natural ends. People end up having to choose what potentials they are going to focus on. It all comes down to what the priorities are.

    Why I don’t accept the idea that it’s wrong to frustrate a natural end is that it seems that people frustrate lots of natural ends but it’s very selective when someone argues that it’s wrong. Going bald might be a natural end for a man, but is anyone going to fault him for frustrating this natural end? Or lets’ take weightlifting. Weightlifting can build strength but it can also increase size and mass. For some athletes who compete in weight categories, the second end is something to be avoided, whereas for others both ends might be equally valuable. It ends up with what the person feels is a desirable outcome based on what they are doing. Plus, some natural ends would be welcome at some times and unwelcome at others.

    I see no moral imperative in accepting natural ends as something we should not frustrate. Something great about people is that when we are confronted by a natural end we find undesirable, we often find ways to get around it. It’s hot in the summer, so we invented air conditioning. We replaced labor-intensive, low-tech and low-yield agricultural method with newer, more advanced techniques that have gone a long way in making sure more people get fed. (In fact, food is produced in such excess that some is destroyed to increase profit. Plus, for people who take Genesis literally, modern agriculture is kind of going against the curse of Adam about tilling the soil being hard work.) If you’re going to tell me that these are desirable outcomes and that say, reproduction is always desirable, that’s another assessment I don’t agree with and see no reason to agree with. It’s kind of how being unconscious because of some drug is bad most of the time, but good if you’re having surgery. Or that it might just not be a high priority for a person.

    If I had to compare sex, marriage and relationships to something, I’d compare it to art – art has many purposes, and I don’t consider it a failure if say, a film is entertaining but doesn’t make any kind of moral or political statement, and trying to be serious, high art is no guarantee that you’re going to make a masterpiece. If the idea is that procreation is always good, I’d just say that it has to compete with other goals and objectives.

    If I was to use the term “wholeness” the problem is that this seems like a term that can be defined very subjectively, and just because some guy named Thomas Aquinas said that something was an aspect of wholeness doesn’t make it any more a valid assertion than if Stan the Garbage Man says something is necessary for wholeness. Reproduction is one thing people can do, but I see no reason to treat it as some greater imperative than anything else.

    This might be an assumption underlying certain religious viewpoints, but in that case we’re just working with totally different assumptions. If someone believes all of that then they are free to only engage in sexual acts and to get into relationships that are sanctioned by their religion, but I think it’s wrong to impose those restrictions on other people, the same way it would be wrong, in my opinion, to deny someone the right to eat meat because someone thinks it wrong. I’m not demanding that say, Catholic dogma change because I am not a Catholic.

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      But a little later I started to realize that the jargon was just saying things that could have been said more simply and directly in a way that was complicated, and that as a goal of writing is communication, it just wasn’t doing the job. It’s kind of like when people believe that being a great martial artist is about knowing a bunch of flashy and difficult techniques rather than say, knowing how to use simple techniques effectively.

      Agreed: Never use jargon when a simple word will do. However, it is crucial to point out the very reason jargon is sometimes necessary. When cashed out into regular language, folks may obtain the wrong understanding of what was said. Aristotle spoke more simply than Aquinas, but Aristotle spoke first and in a language very well suited to very technical distinctions. English especially is, as English, very poorly suited for technical language. And so a proliferation of technical languages happens.

      A good example of why jargon was here necessary would come by way of explaining why your baldness example is wrong. When talking about natural ends, we refer to the natural ends of the form of humanity, not a particular set of natural ends for a particular person. This misunderstanding on “natural” caused the just plain wrong interpretation on what was meant by natural end, and so it was cashed “up” into the original term, telos.

      The idea that you can’t be informed about life without reading a bunch of philosophy to me, is like saying you can’t become a good writer if you didn’t read [a particular author.]

      … and …

      It’s harder to pass sophistry off as insight and wisdom if it’s reduced to the simplest terms possible

      Philosophy, at least in the “dialectical” intro course I’m only now finishing, is contrasted with sophistry. Philosophy relies on a logos, and an increasingly complex series of maneuvers — not meant for flash, but necessary for truth, because truth is complicated. It begins with “What is it?” and ends in ever more technical distinctions and definitions. Sophistry relies on rhetoric, on the equivocation of a few key terms brandished well.

      Yes, sophistry is bad. But who takes up which side, really?

      It all comes down to what the priorities are.

      Given that the priority is wholeness, the conclusion here follows. That is not to say that wholeness is accepted thoughtlessly, only that it is outside the context of the original argument. Defending that premise is also even farther outside my competence. However, this assertion, or something like it, is foundational to ethics in ancient and Medieval philosophy, and should not be disregarded lightly or without examination.

      / But it shouldn’t be accepted lightly or without examination, either!

      Perhaps. But not being a superhuman intelligence, I must have prioritize what to examine. Premises of strong explanatory power which fit a commonsensical understanding of virtue are of correspondingly low priority.

      I see no moral imperative in accepting natural ends as something we should not frustrate.

      … but this attacks the conclusion without attacking the logic or the premises. If telos is part of who we are, it is definitionally a form of self abuse to do deny it. You’re better off attacking:

      1. Why we should not pursue wholeness, taking your argument to someone competent in Plato, Aristotle, or Aquinas, or
      2. Denying that telos is part of what things are, denying science its motive power and central, hidden doctrine of faith, or
      3. Justifying forms of self abuse. (This point is included for the sake of completeness, not because anyone would actually take up this cause.) And, no, lest someone bring it up in a Clever Rebuttal, hairshirts and self-flagellation are not abuses but mortifications.

      • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

        Regarding point 1:

        Now, you might say that there is a “high” telos of this argument: Showing the “disorder” of homosexual passions is “convincing you that your side is wrong.” In this light, invoking Plato and Aristotle may look like a smokescreen. However, there is a lower telos, too: “Convincing you that there exists a rational reason for the Catholic Church to label homosexual passions, along with depression, a disorder not to be indulged.”

        Understanding this intent is crucial to the following point: Invoking Plato and Aristotle without explaining them is not a coward’s means of escape to cover his sophistry. Rather, this shows that the arguments here rely on a historically compelling metaphysics the greatest modern philosophers consider their direst foe.

        If the argument here regarding homosexual passions is ultimately shown to be a wrong argument, such a display would require substantial correction of the larger part of Western Philosophy. More specifically, it will have to show false the philosophy developed at a time when Western Philosophy was used as a guide to objective truth. Modern philosophy, which is primarily a means of “self-actualization” or the “triumph of the will,” is very poorly equipped to combat such a foe.

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      Reproduction is one thing people can do, but I see no reason to treat it as some greater imperative than anything else. …

      I think it’s wrong to impose those restrictions on other people, the same way it would be wrong, in my opinion, to deny someone the right to eat meat because someone thinks it wrong.

      Notice, please, that this argument does not argue from “rights.” It argues from “what is right.” If, to use an extreme and barbaric example, the state decided that every woman have the right to kill her child, as long as it wasn’t conscious or became an economic burden or if she just didn’t want him — more usually “her,” if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing — that wouldn’t make it right to kill children.

      That is, unless the society is the ultimate arbiter of what is right, in which case you have no cause or standing to disagree on anything.

  • smrnda

    here’s an essay by Orwell on writing; he makes a great point for avoiding jargon altogether unless absolutely necessary and of avoiding vague, abstract language.

    http://www.george-orwell.org/Politics_and_the_English_Language/0.html

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      It’s a good point I first encountered through Orson Scott Card, who in a creative writing series said something to the effect of:

      Don’t call a spade a mugguffaw if spade suffices. (Don’t even call it a spade if “shovel” suffices.)

      This is a different example than what he uses — I can’t for the life of me find that essay — but it is a good way to show the point of what was written earlier: It all depends on if the lesser term suffices.

  • smrnda

    “Rather, this shows that the arguments here rely on a historically compelling metaphysics the greatest modern philosophers consider their direst foe.”

    I’d put 99% of modern philosophers just where I’d put the ancient ones – in the rubbish. I see no historically compelling metaphysics – ancient philosophy was the pursuit of privileged people whose ability to sit and philosophize rested on the existence of a slave society, which is probably why so many of their heads were in the clouds and why they took such pains to avoid speaking about concrete reality in favor of lofty abstractions. Back in a world where the philosophical heavyweights of old were still a *big deal* we had slavery, there was no concept of child abuse, women were property, and the Catholic church taught that masturbation was worse than rape since it ‘wasted the seed.’ (Wish I could find a citation, but there isn’t an easily searchable for for that thing.) The reason these things could be justified was because there was inflated language justifying it.

    ” When cashed out into regular language, folks may obtain the wrong understanding of what was said. ” – no, the danger is that when cashed out in regular language, you end up with something that no longer sounds so impressive that the ordinary person, rather than being intimidated by, would feel competent to dismiss. Did I get it wrong when I said that the point was basically that since sexual acts can be procreative, that it was therefore wrong to engage in sexual acts which cannot be procreative?

    When I think of an action that someone tells me is wrong, what I ask to hear is what *harm* might come from the action, and, depending on the level or probability of harm occurring to someone, I’m persuaded. If someone told me that it is wrong to drive a car while drunk because driving a car is dangerous, and that driving while drunk makes it more dangerous, and that both the driver and others are more likely to die, the only common ground I’d need with someone to agree with that is that it’s better not to die in a traffic accident. No complicated words needed for that one. Once I see an argument *against* something that can no longer be stated in such simple language, it’s a signal to me that the only way to argue *against* it requires the use of inflated or deceptive language – deceptive in not in the ordinary sense of stating a fact incorrectly but in the sense of avoiding stating the assumptions underlying the sentiment directly. I think you could state your beliefs without the words “telos” and “logos” – why not just talk about goal-directed behavior instead of a world like “telos” – I mean, the only difference is if someone said that ‘sex that cannot lead to reproduction can not realize a goal of sexuality’ it sounds less impressive, but more direct, than if it’s said that ‘homosexual activities violate the principle of telos.”

    I guess I reject wholeness because it seems like a notion that is too vague to be clearly defined, though I’m sure that the theologians have spared me the trouble and have mapped out each and every aspect of wholeness for me :-) If you want to know why I reject the idea ‘wholeness’ is that it’s too vague, and that in the end, I can’t see any way to make meaningful comparisons between people and whether or not they have fulfilled ‘wholeness’ nor do I see any way to really judge whether or not something is a significant part of ‘wholeness’ or not, unless somebody hands me a list to begin with. Is having procreative sex a bigger part of being ‘whole’ as a human being than say, going to space? As for the natural ends of the form of humanity, if I’m correct in saying that it means “the things that all people are capable of or could be capable of” – why is there such a priority on reproduction? I could agree that it’s probably bad for someone with a rare and unusual talent to let it go unused, but given how many people reproduce I don’t think it’s a huge deal if a few people don’t.

    If the notion is that homosexuality is ‘self abuse,’ then try to persuade people doing it why they should stop. Prove the point to the people doing it; show them HOW it’s self-destructive. Plus, there are varying degrees of self-destructive, and sometimes it’s hard to assess the damage.

    I draw a distinction between what I would term civil law and private morality. Civil law ought to safeguard rights, in the sense that people should be entitled to as many rights as they can have without taking away the rights of others. Most societies, including ones where most people are not religious, have pretty much settled on that as a way of life and its produced the best results, unless you consider having a high standard of living, low crime and freedom to be *bad.* If the argument is without any set of *objective* values one thing is as good as another, even with an allegedly set of “objective” moral values you still end up with collisions and areas where it’s not clear what’s the right or wrong thing to do. I’m not too worried about a decline in the belief in divine, God-given morality leading to social anarchy since it seems to have gone on in so many places and they’ve been doing pretty much okay. I think the basic feeling is “if a society treats anyone like garbage, then I might be treated like garbage.” I can agree with a simple point like that, and I think that since the world dumped metaphysics in favor of a simpler way of thinking things have certain gotten less barbarous.

    If you are a Catholic or if you share similar beliefs to them, obviously within that framework only a opposite sex, procreative marriage makes sense, but the evidence I see is that that sort of marriage isn’t for everybody and I think people deserve a choice there. The reason I believe this is that giving people the right to marry same-sex partners does not take away rights from anyone else. If expanding someone’s *rights* was going to have some meaningful impact on other people, then I’d see the value of a debate about what the law should do – if I am opposed to a noise ordinance so I can have loud parties at night and my neighbors are for it, we should both make a case since the law can’t just take a ‘to each her own’ stance there, but here I think it can.

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      Did I get it wrong when I said that the point was basically that since sexual acts can be procreative, that it was therefore wrong to engage in sexual acts which cannot be procreative?

      Yes.

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      Lost a previous reply. Starting over:

      I’d put 99% of modern philosophers just where I’d put the ancient ones – in the rubbish. I see no historically compelling metaphysics –

      Great! All you need is a good reason …

      ancient philosophy … rested on the existence of a slave society

      … but this reply relies on name-calling.

      Back in a world where the philosophical heavyweights of old were still a *big deal* we had slavery, there was no concept of child abuse,

      According to my two-bit Intro to Greek Philosophy class, Aristotle’s defense of slavery comes across as something of a rebuke.

      “Slavery is justifiable when both parties benefit.
      “The slave’s sole benefit is that he is taken care of by his master.
      “Therefore, for the slave to benefit, he must be so incompetent that he can’t take care of himself.”

      women were property,

      According to the same source, Plato’s Philosopher Kings could include Philosopher Queens.

      Incidentally, by the Middle Ages, women could own property (living without a man), as well as able to go to the new university on scholarship, as well able to discern a vocation to holy virginity. Hildegard von Bingen, soon to be proclaimed a Doctor of the Church, is the earliest named composer we know of. Another Doctor of the Church, Catherine of Sienna, was also very influential. The 4th Century Catherine of Alexandria was so highly regarded by the Medievals that almost nothing is known of her but her hagiography.

      and the Catholic church taught that masturbation was worse than rape since it ‘wasted the seed.’ (Wish I could find a citation, but there isn’t an easily searchable for for that thing.)

      Found a citation; because it’s couched in technical language, take my word for it that this claim is untrue.

      The reason these things could be justified was because there was inflated language justifying it. … when cashed out in regular language, you end up with something that no longer sounds so impressive that the ordinary person

      Why, then, were there arguments fought as if the participants thought what they said were true? How many of the best and brightest of millenia would be required to participate in the Great Coverup?

      When I think of an action that someone tells me is wrong, what I ask to hear is what *harm* might come from the action, and, depending on the level or probability of harm occurring to someone, I’m persuaded.

      Define harm. (Without metaphysics.)

      If someone told me that it is wrong to drive a car while drunk because driving a car is dangerous, and that driving while drunk makes it more dangerous, and that both the driver and others are more likely to die, the only common ground I’d need with someone to agree with that is that it’s better not to die in a traffic accident.

      Why? (Without metaphysics.)

      If you want to know why I reject the idea ‘wholeness’ is that it’s too vague, and that in the end, I can’t see any way to make meaningful comparisons between people and whether or not they have fulfilled ‘wholeness’ nor do I see any way to really judge whether or not something is a significant part of ‘wholeness’ or not

      Well, as someone else has mentioned before, wholeness was one of the assumptions of the argument. But, briefly:

      Humans want satisfaction. We are satisfied when we do a thing well, and unsatisfied when we do a thing poorly. Objectively, a thing done well has fulfilled its directedness well.

      As humans, we want to live a satisfying life. This requires living a human life well. The best-lived human life is whole. But from here, to have an idea of a whole human, we must have an idea of what is human.

      What is human? Like all things, humans have shape, material, directedness and means. These are not the actual terms but the “cashed out” terms you insist on. [Focus on directedness.]

      We ought to pursue things which fulfill human directedness, and ought not to do things which frustrate human directedness.

      This approximation of the foundation of natural law tapers into the existing argument.

      If you are a Catholic or if you share similar beliefs to them, obviously within that framework only a opposite sex, procreative marriage makes sense, but the evidence I see is that that sort of marriage isn’t for everybody and I think people deserve a choice there.

      Ye moderns! So obsessed with religion! And always bringing it up!

      The issue at present is not whether someone should be legally allowed to choose a thing or another but whether that choice should be chosen. So far, we aren’t arguing legality but morality.

      • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

        I feel like you made a bunch of leaps in here to get to your conclusion (not all of them incorrect, but it seems like this kind of attempt at a formal proof requires a certain level of preciseness).

        We are satisfied when we do a thing well, and unsatisfied when we do a thing poorly.

        I’m not sure I buy that we’re satisfied when we do a thing well and unsatisfied when we do a thing poorly. I’ve been satisfied doing poorly plenty of times, and unsatisfied doing well plenty of times. My human nature seems to care a lot more about how I do relative to other people than it does how I do in an ultimate sense (I’m not claiming this as a good thing, just as an observation). Moreover, lots of things are a means to an end for most people, and doing them well or poorly only matters insomuch as it influences the outcome, not for the experience of wellness or poorness itself

        Objectively, a thing done well has fulfilled its directedness well.

        This seems to assume a) everything has one and only one directedness, b) we know/can know what that directedness is for humans, and c) anything not following its directedness is by definition inferior. I’m not sure I buy any of these. I offer up a kid playing T-ball as an example. The “directedness” of that activity is manifold: to learn the game of baseball, to improve physical skill, to enjoy yourself, to make friends, etc. It’s not clear to me that we can know, as external observers, which is most important to this kid, or how he can best go about achieving those purposes, or if there are some parts he’s just not interested in. And it’s not clear that if there are some parts he’s not interested in that that means he’s doing something wrong. If he wants to run around and chase butterflys, he’s not doing what he’s “supposed” to be doing by my standards, but it’s not clear that what he’s doing is morally inferior (setting aside moral culpability for people not yet of an age of accountability)

        As humans, we want to live a satisfying life. This requires living a human life well.

        This seems to make the assumption that a “well lived” life is objective, and not subjective. I’m not sure I buy it- doing something “well” seems to entail the person doing it being convinced he’s doing it well, rather than some objective grade that someone else gives him

        The best-lived human life is whole. But from here, to have an idea of a whole human, we must have an idea of what is human.

        who’s idea of “whole”? It sounds like you’re making a claim that there is a way all humans ought to live, and anything that doesn’t conform to that idea is morally inferior, in some sense. But this presupposes that everyone can conform to that standard. It may be that some people simply don’t have the capacity (for example, a homosexual engaging in a healthy heterosexual romantic relationship). For that person, even if you consider a heterosexual relationship “better” than a homosexual one, I don’t see a compelling reason to think that no relationship at all is superior to an imperfect relationship.

        I think I see what you’re trying to get at here, that there is a way in which people should be living their lives. I just think you’re a long way from showing that your standard is the ideal one (or even that a universal ideal standard exists) or the proper way of dealing with a non-ideal standard(outside of the context of an appeal to God-given direction, Biblical or otherwise)

  • smrnda

    I am a person who focuses on things that are immediate and concrete, and I feel that determining whether actions should be done or should not be done is best approached by looking at their consequences. If a case is to be made for something or against something, the only thing I care about are what happens if someone does it. A case for what harm is done has to be made in terms of the concrete particulars of any action; abstract definitions are useless. And I don’t want to die in a car crash and I’m sure you don’t either, and I think both of us really think and feel this without the need for metaphysics. It’s like saying that an opinion that “ice cream is good” is a judgment that you can’t make without a metaphysical justification, and what I find with those is that they go on endlessly and end up defining pretentious jargon in terms of more pretentious jargon, or you end up spouting some empty platitude at the end as some sort of anchor. To me, any moral issue can be approached with totally everyday language, unless it requires specialized knowledge – it might not be possible for a discussion of whether it’s better to grow food organically or not without some technical terms, but for anything else, any move away from simple and concrete language is just a way to avoid having to make specific points about specific things.

    Your definition of wholeness, to me, just seems to leave things as imprecise and vague as before. You didn’t cash out anything – you took something vague and made it worse. You could just take all your earlier posts and substitute “directedness” for “wholeness” and they’d be essentially the same from my point of view.

    As for the status of women, I’m not saying that it was always as bad as it could be, but I certainly don’t think it was better in the past. There were plenty of legal restrictions faced by women until pretty recently in human history. The life I live today, in the present, hasn’t been possible until fairly recently – I don’t deny that there were women who did mathematics or arts other things, but they were pretty rare, and normally from the upper classes. Do you think the daughter of a laborer in the Middle Ages was in as good of a place as the daughter of say, a factory worker today?

    My rejection of most philosophy is that rather than talking about something concrete, immediate, and meaningful, it seems more that someone has a vague feeling about something that comes first, and then they try to build up language to support the claim – morality should be about examining actions and making a case for or against, and I normal language is adequate, and anything else is just trying to inject hot air into the debate.

    But you started with the idea that people want satisfaction. So why shouldn’t they pursue same sex relationships if that satisfies them? People can move in lots of directions – why is not engaging in procreative sex when you can do it any worse than not painting a landscape if you have the ability and choose not to? Why, given the many directions humans can move in, is it somehow a big deal if a person doesn’t engage in procreative sex? You seem to just use a word like ‘wholeness’ and then replace it with ‘directedness’ as the reason, and somehow reproductive capacity is part of that. If someone feels more complete and more whole while they are in a same sex relationship, what would you tell them? Even if I thought that ‘wholeness’ and all could be meaningful, why is the type of sex people have such a big deal? It would be a shame if a painter quit painting if they were any good, but it isn’t like we don’t have plenty of people reproducing, and I can’t see much of a big deal with someone sitting on a potential unless it’s extremely rare or vitally necessary.

    Thanks for the time, but since I think the thread is more or less dead, i’ll finish. philosophy is normally just a way for avoiding a way of talking about things directly, mostly because the intent is to obscure facts rather than notice them, or to play some sort of language game where you can use words in a sort of concrete-reality-free real-world-context free zone where they can more or less be said to mean anything. After a few years of reading that muck, I decided that any case for or against anything that could not be stated in terms of a real-world consequence – one that anybody could see and understand – was just a way of avoiding about talking about things that are specific and concrete.

    I want you to know that during parts of my life I did read lots of philosophy, and it was a tremendous waste of my time in retrospect.

  • smrnda

    Just though since you mentioned concrete instances of women having some sort of rights in earlier times – I don’t deny that they sometimes did but it certainly can’t compare to the level of equality between the sexes we have today.

    Also, there’s a difference between say, having a right to vote, to attend a secular, government run university, and a kind of ‘pat on the head’ from the Establishment where you can go to some sort of ‘school’ where everything you do, no matter if it’s music, art, or learning how to construct bridges must somehow be linked by inflated rhetoric to the glory of the church or king or queen. (Many scientific or mathematical mistakes of the past were largely because they were forced to fit into some kind of theological framework. When I think of infinity, I just think of functions that map elements from one set onto another set. I’d imagine that, 1000 years ago, I’d be required to sully up a paper on Set Theory with references to “infinity’ as some theological concept or whatnot. Even Socrates can’t seem to make too many points without referencing Greek mythology as if it were true.)

    Though yet again – I see no reason why human ‘directedness’ or ‘wholeness’ can’t include same-sex relationships. I mean, so what if they can’t reproduce, what’s so important about reproduction?

    When I argued against say, drunk driving I made a point that the only question one has to ask anyone is “would you like to get killed by a drunk driver?” It’s a simple question. If someone asked me if I would like it if my neighbor constructed and detonated homemade bombs I could give a simple answer. To me, if there isn’t a simple answer, then the only ‘answer’ being provided is just an evasion of the fact that there isn’t one.

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  • PJ Jedlovec

    Some of these points may have already been addressed, seeing as this post is from a while ago, but here are some of the reasons that (faithful) Catholics believe that living an active homosexual lifestyle is disordered.

    1. Masculinity and femininity are qualities of the entire person, not just the body. If a person is female, she does not just have a feminine body, but a feminine soul as well. If a person is male, he does not just have a masculine body, but a masculine soul as well. A woman, even if she does not have the same sexual desires that heterosexual women do, is still a woman, and still has a certain quality of receptivity and gentleness that men do not have. Likewise, regardless of sexual orientation, a man still possesses many masculine qualities that make him a man. Not to mention the fact that even on a psychological level, there are many differences between men and women that make them complementary in a healthy and natural way. It might be helpful to read some of Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body for some of the theology behind this.(http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2tbind.htm)

    2. An active homosexual lifestyle is wrong for the same reason masturbation is wrong. Because it isolates the use of sexual organs from its proper and natural place within a marriage.

    3. Of course, there are a lot of arguments that don’t come from a natural law point of view. For example, if you have already accepted the authority of the bible, a lot can be drawn from the Genesis narrative, among other things. One of the things that the Genesis account reveals is that God made man and woman uniquely for each other and to complement each other in a way that man could not find without woman.

    4. I understand that this one won’t be convincing to a non-Catholic, but, we believe it is disordered because the Church has authoritatively taught that it is disordered. We are convinced that Christ is God and is trustworthy, and that he has given authority to His Church to pass down and interpret His revelation to us regarding faith and morals. The Church, through the teaching authority of its bishops, has consistently and authoritatively taught us that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered, so we obey, because in the Church’s voice, we hear the voice of Christ.

  • Andrew

    This may have already been brought up. PJ Jedlovec almost alludes to it with Points 1 and 2. I am no sociologist so I can only go from my own experience.
    If we take contraception and abortion out of the picture, we are left with sex being a very dangerous and challenging thing. The possibility of creating another human life and the implications of that are enormous to the two individuals involved. Sex may be very carefree before the first child and a bit more restrained before the second but more and more the full weight of responsibility comes to bear more and more in ones life with each extra child as to what that act may mean for you, your spouse and your children. So the frequency of sex may be reduced and the meaning of each sexual act (the free giving of self knowing what the implications are) make these experiences more powerful and unforgettable. The use of the woman’s non-fertile time in the month (per the Billings method) also has certain implications because the woman may not enjoy sex as much as when she is fertile and the man may not enjoy the sex as much because his wife isn’t aroused as much . So she makes a sacrifice of enjoyment for her husband and he makes a sacrifice of not having sex as often because his wife simply would not enjoy it. The difference in sex drives contributes to sex being less frequent but more self giving.
    Now if you take sex out of this hypothetical context, as you would with masturbation, homosexuality or contraceptive heterosexual sex, there are very little to no restraints on human behaviour. Like any form of pleasure, I would assume the lack of natural restraint would mean that sex would become more frequent and that would result in less overall satisfaction with sex unless novelty and variety or extra stimulants are added into it. This can lead to overuse of the faculty or addiction to the pleasure derived from it. It also may lead to the other person being mostly objectified for the pleasure that can be derived from them and this can lead to more emotional problems in the relationship.
    While I don’t see homosexual acts as being any worse than masturbation or contraceptive sex, I can see it could be unhealthy to the individuals involved.

  • fred

    The purpose of life is to choose a side. To choose which side of ‘the force’ you are with.

    To do so optimally you want to have a long and healthy life. One in which your internal dialog with God makes you an introspective creature and eventually a moral one. Many of the biblical injunctions that are mocked are the ones that instruct how to achieve a long and healthy life. Among the injunctions that foster longer healthier lives are ones against promiscuity in general and on male homosexuality in specific. Gay male sex is disease prone far more so than heterosexual sex and therefore wrong. The CDC stats stand as testament to the wrongfulness of homosexual acts as it pertains to the individual and to society as a whole. Jesus clearly makes the case that we are not to judge in this life or death but rather its sinfulness. Sin is often what cuts down our lives and our opportunity to see and hear God.

    The disease argument is the easiest one to make but far from the only argument against homosexuality.

  • R.C.

    Perhaps you could approach it this way, Leah?

    Why did God invent pleasure? What is pleasure for?

    I think God invented pleasure for a purpose; namely, to encourage us to do what’s good anyway. And to help us zone in on particular kinds of goods, He associated different kinds of pleasures with different kinds of goods. And, beyond that, he made all pleasures insufficient for long-term satisfaction because He hopes that after trying them all and finding them ultimately unsatisfying, we’ll seek ultimate satisfaction in Him and not in created things.

    We humans aren’t Vulcans. We don’t sit around saying, “Logically, now would be the optimum time for me to breathe in.” Nor do we say, “Logically, now would be a good time for me to eat food rich in calcium in order to strengthen my bones.”

    If we were required to consciously and rationally decide when we did all that, I suspect we’d all mess it up and die. For, in some cases, we’d forget; in other cases, we’d be mistaken about what it was we were supposed to do right now; and in still other cases, we’d willfully and stupidly and sinfully choose the wrong thing.

    Now, I suppose God could have made all of the above overwhelmingly instinctual: “They need to eat and they need to breathe and they need to procreate, so I’ll just prevent them from having the choice; it’ll all be as reflexive as a heartbeat.” But that wouldn’t have been a particularly helpful way to train a free-willed being in the exercise of their freedom.

    So He opted instead to make certain things pleasurable. This allows us to defer gratification when needed, but still draws us on an instinctual level towards these goods, lest we forget to pursue them at all.

    This is really the best balance of allowing free will, but keeping us driven towards that which is good (breathing, eating, procreation).

    So pleasure has a purpose: It is an expression of the will of God, directing us towards particular goods which are each definitive of a particular species of pleasure.

    Now I think that most of us have an intuition that there are certain ways of taking pleasure which are wrong. For example: We don’t begrudge the heroin or crack cocaine user the pleasure of his drug use per se; that is, we don’t tell him it’s bad to get pleasure. We even say it’s okay to get very great pleasure, but we draw the fine distinction that it’s important how he gets it. We want him to take that pleasure in a better way. And notice: Even if heroin and crack were otherwise harmless we’d still say the same.

    To illustrate that last point: Is it okay to just implant an electrode in the relevant part of your brain and zap your pleasure-center as often as you like? Is it a problem if you forget to eat, but die happy? What if you don’t forget to eat, but can otherwise remain physically healthy (if blissfully distracted)? What if you could put all your other necessary activities on auto-pilot (perhaps delegating them to a computer routine through cyberization) and devote your entire consciousness to experiencing repeated pleasure-zaps, all day long, for a century, so that you could live the normal life-span without ever thinking consciously about life’s normal activities, but instead experienced only pleasure, the whole time?

    I think that’d be morally wrong. It subverts the purpose of life’s little pleasures, which requires that they be taken in the living of life. It instead takes pleasure apart from the living of life; indeed, it circumvents living one’s life. Instead of the pleasure and the life-experiences being partners, they become antagonistic alternatives. That’s screwed-up; it’s disordered, it can’t be right.

    Now the pleasures of same-sex friendships are supposed to be of one kind, directed towards altruistic activity and cooperation and loyalty and the formation of communities. From burly Russian Olympic hockey-players kissing one another on the lips after winning a match to Sam carrying Frodo up Mount Doom, there’s a whole “band of brothers” vibe which is beautiful and strong and which too many Westerners are culturally shy of expressing once their last experience of swearing blood-brotherhood with their best friend fades into a childhood memory.

    The pleasures of orgasm and sexual tension are of another kind, directed towards procreation and child-rearing and stable family life led by a permanently bonded Mom and Dad who’re always on the same side of every issue and thus present a united and consistent guidance for their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

    So to take orgasm and sexual tension pleasures (a specific species of pleasures, directed towards a specific good in God’s architecting of the universe) from activities which don’t further the procreation of children and the maintenance of a stable family life is a kind of HACK, if you will. It’s a bit like those photos of redneck engineering where the toilet is used for a flowerpot and there’s Saran Wrap taped over the hole in the window.

    I think that this is much of what the Church means when calling the homosexual tendency “disordered.” It’s a bit like the eating-disorder “pica”: You can have a funny instinct which draws you to eat sheetrock and sand and even get pleasure (or at least a kind of relief) from doing so, but human reason is sufficient to conclude that this is a disordered use of the pleasure/relief that’s supposed to come from eating. That kind of pleasure or relief is supposed to come from eating nutritious food because that species of pleasure is built into the human person in order to remind us to repair our bodies through eating.

    Likewise the pleasure of sexual intimacy is built into the human person in order to remind us to procreate and to interact lovingly with the children thus created and raise them in stable homes and all of that. If one is unable to do so, that isn’t one’s own fault; however, if one opts to “hack” that particular pleasure-species in order to obtain the pleasure without the associated goods towards which it is directed, then one is frustrating God’s design. One might just as well plant the electrode in the brain and zap oneself into oblivion.

    Even as I write this I see the associated complexities with this depiction (does this mean sugarfree chewing gum immoral?). But I think that all of those objections can be overcome without losing the essential observation.

    God designs certain things into the human persons for particular uses. God gave you a reasoning capacity? Very well, use it for learning and teaching truth, not for cleverly deceiving others for your own financial gain. Use it rightly, or not at all; but just don’t use it in a fashion which subverts God’s intent for it.

    God gave you musical or artistic talents? Very well, use them beautifully and truthfully for the edification of others and not for appealing to their prurient side. Use them rightly, or not at all; but just don’t use them for purposes that subvert the goods God intended to come from them.

    God gave you generative organs and the ability to experience sexual pleasure in their use? Very well, use them for making and raising more humans in a stable Mom-and-Dad household, or…not at all. Just don’t use them in a fashion which subverts God’s intent for them, which takes pleasure while deftly circumventing the purposes and goods towards which that pleasure is directed.

    I don’t say that this is a perfect argument. But I wasn’t intending argument so much as explanation, so perhaps it’s some use in that fashion?

  • Stephen

    Leah,

    Your intellectual honesty is inspiring.

    Now to the business. I think that these essays would effectively answer your questions.

    1. “What is Marriage?” – This is a Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy paper by Robert George, Sherif Girgis, and Ryan Anderson. It is a natural law argument, but it is comprehensive and well-reasoned. Most importantly, it addresses the question of infertile couples, why they can validly marry, and why that is distinct from same-sex relationships. http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/marriage/mf0139.htm
    I also have the pdf for this if you are interested.

    2. Robert P. George, The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2001). There is chapter in this book that deals with marriage and George does a wonderful job of explaining why marriage, as a two-in-one-flesh communion of persons, can only be rightly considered within the context of a heterosexual relationship.

    3. I wrote a paper for a course in moral theology, arguing for the Catholic position on marriage. If you are interested, let me know and I will e-mail it to you. It gives a solid introduction of the issue and makes heavy use of the sources above.

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