The Vindication of Humanae Vitae

Mary Eberstadt has written an informative article about the lasting importance of Paul VI’s standing firm for a genuine, humane, and fulfilling intimacy in the face of fierce opposition. To take one example from the storm engulfing the Anglicans, what impact will the truth of these teachings continue to have on the laity and religious leaders? A quote from Eberstadt:

By giving benediction in 1930 to its married heterosexual members purposely seeking sterile sex, the Anglican Church lost, bit by bit, any authority to tell her other members—married or unmarried, homosexual or heterosexual—not to do the same. To put the point another way, once heterosexuals start claiming the right to act as homosexuals, it would not be long before homosexuals start claiming the rights of heterosexuals. Thus in a bizarre but real sense did Lambeth’s attempt to show compassion to married heterosexuals inadvertently give rise to the modern gay-rights movement—and consequently, to the issues that have divided their church ever since. It is hard to believe that anyone seeking a similar change in Catholic teaching on the subject would want the Catholic Church to follow suit into the moral and theological confusion at the center of today’s Anglican Church—yet such is the purposeful ignorance of so many who oppose Rome on birth control that they refuse to connect these cautionary historical dots. The years since Humanae Vitae have seen something else that neither traditionalist nor dissenting Catholics could have seen coming, one other development shedding retrospective credit on the Church: a serious reappraisal of Christian sexuality from Protestants outside the liberal orbit.

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  • Chinese music

    However…Catholicism allows the marriage of both the sterile and of the elderly whose sexuality is Providentially not meant to bear children…..and we don’t accuse that Catholic tradition of leading to an acceptance of gay acitivity based on the barreness of those acts. Read the Lambeth Conference of that year which is on line and it hardly was the capitulation to modernity that Catholics accuse it of being.
    Catholicism should delineate why some of its best known theologians like Rahner and Haring objected to HV and proceed from there rather than moving on but not really moving on in terms of obedience.

  • Kurt

    Thus in a bizarre but real sense did Lambeth’s [1930] attempt to show compassion to married heterosexuals inadvertently give rise to the modern gay-rights movement—

    Interesting. Would someone take a stab at defending 1930 social treatment of gay people?

  • bill bannon

    One could as logically blame traditional Catholicism which permits the elderly and the sterile to marry. Does the barrenness of their acts invite same sex sexuality?
    If Anglicans periodically lambasted Vatican I, defense oriented Catholics would cry foul…..yet they have no problem lambasting Lambeth at every turn. It’s on line to be read and is hardly a blanket cowering before the modern demand.

    Resolution 15:

    ” Where there is clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, the method must be decided on Christian principles. The primary and obvious method is complete abstinence from intercourse (as far as may be necessary) in a life of discipline and self-control lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles. The Conference records its strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.”
    Voting: For 193; Against 67.

    How does this cause gay actions anymore than Catholic permission to the elderly and sterile to marry causes the barreness of gay actions? Anglicans ought to sue us in the world court for verbal railing.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    Ah, the good old days, when coppers could beat up the homos without fear of consequence ! Gay rights! Can’t have that ! Come with me to the Castro, get on a soapbox and tell the folks what you think :)

    How is Humanae Vitae vindicated, btw ? Nobody follows it, except for a handful of devotees. Not to mention that it’s a rather shameless liberalization compared to earlier church rules. Heh! People, myself included, like their ‘intrinsically disordered’ acts ! Not to mention that the pill was essential in women’s liberation. When you don’t have to pop one out every year, you actually have time for other things. Of course, barefoot and pregnant is the traditional role of the good Christian woman. As many a ‘Church father’ said, companionship is what men are for. After all, women are just crippled men – says the celibate monk!

    Bill – in earlier days, the Church expected the elderly to abstain and those not able to perform/produce semen (such as the castrati) were forbidden to marry.

    Ah yes, humane vitae ! Reminds me of Cardinal Caffara, who said that it’d be better for an HIV-infected husband to infect his wife than to use a condom, since, after all, life is just a temporary good. He used to be JP’s buddy and Benedict made him a cardinal.

    To paraphrase Friedrich Schiller, the history of the church is the judgment of the church.

  • Christopher

    How is Humanae Vitae vindicated, btw ? Nobody follows it …

    One gathers from this Gerald didn’t read the article and simply basks in yet another opportunity to hurl invectives as a demonstration of his newfound “enlightenment”.

    Humanae Vitae’s specific predictions about what the world would look like if artificial contraception became widespread. The encyclical warned of four resulting trends: a general lowering of moral standards throughout society; a rise in infidelity; a lessening of respect for women by men; and the coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments.

    In the years since Humanae Vitae’s appearance, numerous distinguished Catholic thinkers have argued, using a variety of evidence, that each of these predictions has been borne out by the social facts. One thinks, for example, of Monsignor George A. Kelly in his 1978 “Bitter Pill the Catholic Community Swallowed” and of the many contributions of Janet E. Smith, including Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later and the edited volume Why Humanae Vitae Was Right: A Reader.

    And therein lies an irony within an irony. Although it is largely Catholic thinkers who have connected the latest empirical evidence to the defense of Humanae Vitae’s predictions, during those same forty years most of the experts actually producing the empirical evidence have been social scientists operating in the secular realm. …

  • Gerald A. Naus

    Abusus non tollit usus.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    True, I read only the blogpost. As far as ‘lessening of respect’ – it hardly gets worse than seeing women as crippled men, a la Aquinas. It’s all in how you view it. I view the time since the Enlightenment as far better than the Dark Ages. I view women’s liberation, gay rights etc. as a vast improvement over patriarchy and homophobia. These are the best of times. Anyway, I should leave you guys alone, I don’t go trolling Muslim or Jewish sites either.

  • Tony

    Yup, Gerald. Enlightenment making the world safe for sodomy.

    A child is God’s way of saying the world should continue. Contraception is man’s way of saying it shouldn’t.

    Maybe if your mom hadn’t “popped you out” she would have had more time for more worthwhile pursuits.

  • Jeremy

    I feel I need to weigh in and say that I have found the teaching of Humanae Vitae to be very liberating. It is similar to any conversion. You see the truth, but your first response is to say ‘I don’t want to go there, that will crimp my style.’ ‘If I believe god, I’m going to have to go to church’. And then there is the conversion where you realize there is a God, and you want to go to church because it is so pretty, and so new. You can now have what you want and what is right.
    And then there is disillusionment, where you realize you will not always want to go to mass, you wont always want to go to confession. You then realize that it is not about what you want, it is about what you need. You wont always want to abstain during the fertile periods.
    And then you persevere, and you come to see the grace to understand sacrificial love. You can see God’s sacrificial love where he poured himself out on the cross, and we can imitate his sacrificial love. As we do so, we become detached from calls of the world, and more attached to the love that is God, as a married couple, that perseveres through the hardships. We become confident of God’s love for ourselves and our union. Of God’s love for our family. God’s sacrificial love was complete, total and self giving, and we reflect that total self sacrificing love that we are called to imitate in all of our sacramental relationships. That is why marriage is a Sacrament. We live more fully through the sacrament of marriage, than through sex alone. That is why it is important to understand the role of sex in our lives and in the church. Marriage is not a license to have sex, Marriage is a sacrament in which sex plays a part. Humanae Vitae eloquently explains the role of sex and marriage in a universal human context.

  • Morning’s Minion

    I believe it was Elizabeth Anscombe who saw from the outset that HV was primarily about homosexual activity. For if the Church gave up on the notion that the unitive could not be separated from the procreative– well, the case against homosexual sex becomes dramatically weaker.

  • bill bannon


    Romans Chapter One /v26-27 supervenes any need for an encyclical against gay activity if we return to seeing each verses as God involved and authored as Vatican II stated…Romans states:

    “Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural,
    and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity..”

    The case against gay sex is air tight if one accepts Romans chapter one as the Word of God as Dei Verbum notes as to authorship of all scripture: ” For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author ” It goes on to note that Popes cannot tamper with this Word of God: “This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on,’ Modern Biblical trends have watered down however that later reality and if you check section 40 of Evangelium Vitae, you’ll see John Paul II take exception to parts of the OT which the Fathers did not take exception to but attributed to the harsh reality of pre grace life.

    So if Catholicism sticks to believing that Romans 1 is the word of God, it will not need an encyclical to oppose gay activity since both male and female gay activity are condemned in Romans 1.
    Gerald is not simply being cafeteria regarding the ordinary magisterium which is possible to do without sin but he is being cafeteria with the word of God which is not a good position to be in.

  • Saul

    Exactly, Bill.

    The “homosexual debate” has larger implications than the issue of “homosexuality” alone. I think that’s often why people respond so emotionally, too. Is the Bible a source of moral guidance? Are we taking seriously what it says? Is there really a Christian sexual ethic? This is a debate about the structure of one’s faith and the nature and sources of one’s moral norms. In a sense, the “homosexual debate” is not about “homosexuality”. The sub-text is more important than the text.”

    C. Adams

    I think that many Anglicans are quite clear now sexuality is the red herring – the real issue is how valid the Bible (and tradition) are in the face of modernity and experience (a concept that can be viewed as a subset to modernity). How far can we stray from the overall message of the Bible?

    For me, the type of reasoning required to abandon the Christian sexual ethic would require one to abandon other quaint features of Christianity, such as the Trinity. It is no accident that the most ‘evolved’ liberal Christian thought does this exactly. I think that’s the path that intellectual rigour leads one down, once one decides devalues the Bible sufficiently.

    This, for me, is the main story. The connection with contraception, though strong, is not the whole, not even the main story.

  • little gal


    (I am single), but in your beautiful post, you got it exactly right!

  • Gerald A. Naus

    Bill, you are correct. If I believed that to be the “word of God”, I’d agree with it. I’d also believe then that wives should obey their husbands and what not. Since I don’t, I can happily be a feminist sodomite (oral sex counting as sodomy) 😛

  • Karen

    The principal problem with that article, and HV for that matter, is that it rests on the demonstrably false presumption that men respected women up until 1968. Anyone familiar with the phrase “women’s work” ought never to take the position that contraception alone is responsible for any change in men’s attitude toward women. And Elizabeth Anscombe was the product of a life of undeserved and unearned privilege and devoted herself principally to the preservation of Europe’s caste system. Her opinions about women may be, therefore, disregarded as she had zero experience with what those without armies of servants experience.

  • bill bannon

    Well, some NFP people on the net state that a passage in TOB by John Paul II allows for oral sex as preparatory to intercourse while however the saints of centuries ago spoke of it as the use of the “unfit” vessel. It is no where in the Bible as an issue either way. Ergo it seems to be an open area in moral theology which means you must arrive at your view with prayer and counsel.

    Actual sodomy though is condemned by Scripture clearly. that your relative is involved in it means that you are Providentially set in his life to pray that he moves away it,,,,you can’t be his intercessor if you are compelled to agree with his actions.
    If you his providential intercessor never take that role, he is in all the more danger since the NT says….”make no mistake…the sodomite will not enter the kingdom of God.”
    Therein you are being cafeteria and not recognizing something that came from God which does not augur well since Christ said that “man does not live by bread alone but by every word that cometh forth from the mouth of God”…and in another place He says…”he who is of God hears the words of God….the reason that you do not hear is that you are not of God” Jn 8:47…… but in my view John Paul II was even more cafeteria than you are given his education with the bible around issues like husband headship and the death penalty. He set a bad example in my view and that fits with his appointment to the PBC of Fr. Raymond Brown, a genius no doubt……but one who was clearly cafeteria with the bible… especially in his cavalier dismissal of Mary having ever said the Magnificat at all. We have precious little that she said at all and along comes the new criticism and starts deducting from that small corpus simply because Mary sounded too vengeful against the mighty of the world in the Magnificat. But as Doc Holliday out in our west and in our western past said….. “it’s not about vengeance…it’s about a reckoning.” Your position as your relative’s intercessor is a position meant to help him past am eternal reckoning and into heaven.

  • Policraticus

    To put the point another way, once heterosexuals start claiming the right to act as homosexuals, it would not be long before homosexuals start claiming the rights of heterosexuals.

    More of the stupidity that so often graces First Things. And this stuff passes as “intellectual.”

  • Gerald A. Naus

    Policratus, have you read the book “Theocons” ? Doubleday sent it to me, it’s very interesting, it features the development of Neuhaus & Novak (and others) from leftists to neo-conservatives, written by a guy who was an editor at First Things.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    I am astounded at your confidence at ascertaining the precise origins and absoulte divine intent of these biblical passages you seem personally to hold to so dearly.

    How does one master this particular science of yours?

  • Gerald A. Naus

    To put the point another way, once heterosexuals start claiming the right to act as homosexuals, it would not be long before homosexuals start claiming the rights of heterosexuals.
    Ouch, I think I hurt my brain. Who knew gay people were on the pill ? 😛 I wonder if she also thinks that because heterosexuals have oral sex, homosexuals get ’emboldened’ ? Of course, they’d have been ‘bold’ for the longest time then, since there are Latin terms for all of that ;o)

  • bill bannon

    If you are addressing me, I can only guess that you might hold out for sodomy as good within a committed relationship as being different than what the NT is condemning as sodomy. But several of the passages involved are attacking the act of sodomy in se…in itself…Romans 1 inter though the modern circumvention concerning committed relationships were foreseen by God who had the human authors couch their language to head off that idea as irrelevant if the act itself is bad in se. Once the act is against nature as Romans 1 declares it to be, then the act cannot be done well with the addition of circumstances….as Aquinas held…evil results from any one defect.
    Thus the OT notes…. ” a man shall not lie with a man as with a woman’. It could have said…. “a man shall not lie with a man as with a woman unless they are committed until death”. But it didn’t say that and God would not have left such people in limbo for millenia to await the wisdom of modern biblical insights which none of the Fathers had. On drunkenness, God communicated both its condemnation and its allowance in extreme sadness within the OT in proverbs….He did not leave mankind hanging until the Jerome Biblical Commentary to know that the act of drunkeness was not evil in se but evil in context. With sodomy God did not so communicate but noted its evil in se….in the very physical doing of it.
    The same permissive modern argument could be made by the very rare people prone to beastiality which is condemned in a similar way in the OT as sodomy is….evil in se. If one is committed for life to one’s farm animal…that is irrelevant….the act of bestiality is evil in se in the very doing of it physically.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    A morality based on the Hebrew Scriptures would make Pol Pot look like a humanitarian by comparison.

  • David Nickol

    The case against gay sex is air tight if one accepts Romans chapter one as the Word of God . . . .

    The New American Bible gives Romans 18-32 under the heading “Punishment for Idolators.” It seems very clear to me that the homosexual behavior described in the passage is, while clearly not deemed morally good, a punishment due to the “wrath of God” (Romans 1:18).

    Note the phrases I have italicized:

    While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes. Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.

    A note in the New American Bible to 1:24 says the following:

    In order to expose the depth of humanity’s rebellion against the Creator, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts. Instead of curbing people’s evil interests, God abandoned them to self-indulgence, thereby removing the facade of apparent conformity to the divine will. Subsequently, Paul will show that the Mosaic law produces the same effect; cf 5:20; 7:13-24. The divine judgment expresse here is related to the them of hardness of heart described in 9:17-18.

    It seems to me that God handing people over, abandoning them, or hardening their hearts is a rather difficult to understand, accept, and reconcile with our notions of personal responsibility or the goodness of God. It would seem strange to me to accept this passage in Romans as the word of God condemning contemporary homosexual behavior (especially among non-idolators) without coming to terms with the ideas of God’s wrath and God hardening hearts, more clearly the point of this passage than the moral condemnation of homosexual behavior.

    The note quoted above also raises in my mind whether it is possible to reconcile Paul’s view of Mosaic law (which seems to result in the same evils as paganism) with the contemporary Catholic thinking on God’s continuing relationship with the Jews.

  • bill bannon

    That’s why the death penalties for private sin are repealed by Christ but were given by God as long as sanctifying grace was not present as a motivator. Lacking grace, man needed great threats as motivator. Hence Aquinas saw the death penalties for private sin as void as soon as Christ brought sanctifying grace just as the prophetic rituals were void as soon as Christ arrives since He fulfilled them.
    But Christ had said that not one jot or tittle of the law would be void until all things are accomplished which led Aquinas to note that even though the death penalty for adultery is now gone….that death penalty for adultery in the OT now and until the end of time tells us which sins are mortal. The death penalties in Deuteronomy and in Levitticus
    for private sins are eternal signs of which sins are mortal……. which sins kill grace being in the soul. Over as penalties….they perdure as signs…..and that is what Christ meant about not one jot or tittle of the law being void til the end of time.
    The death penalty for murder given in Genesis 9:6 is entirely separate and was given to both Jews and Gentiles and Christ refers to it when He is before Pilate. You’ll see John Paul leave it out entirely when he comments on Genesis 9:5-6 in section 39 of EV. Not liking it…he lets it drop from sight.

  • David Nickol

    Is there any question at all that oral-genital contact (without ejaculation) between a married man and woman is permissible by even the most conservative Catholic moral guidelines?

  • Gerald A. Naus

    David, apart from the absurdity of a Church position on blowjobs, even my former readers agreed that you could do it as long as it was fellatio interrupta. Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great, if a sperm is wasted, god gets quite irate.

    Btw, this notion comes from a time when people thought the sperm was a mini-human. The ovum wasn’t discovered until 1827. All these rules are based on absurd pre-scientific notions. I hadn’t known about them, since no one tells you these things. I have returned to my own vomit & rolling in the mud (not sure in which order), so you might not want to listen to me 😀
    *sings Peter Griffin’s Sodomy song*

  • Gerald A. Naus

    (that idea of the sperm being the human – which was male, unless something went wrong, like wind blowing from the South and you got a crippled man aka woman – meant that every time you didn’t ejaculate in the ‘properly ordered’ vessel, you committed genocide. Heh! Did you know that it used to be church rule that the soul entered the body of the fetus after 40 days for males and, bahahahaha, 80 for females ? Thus, since one couldn’t know gender, 80 days was the abortion limit).

  • bill bannon

    Idolatry is not critical. Christ said…..”any branch in Me who does not bear fruit, He will take away” ….that is every bit as fearful and is also about the permissive will of God as it punishes by permitting a lower morality level….. to the person not beaing fruit.

    Your own quoted passage ……refers to such acts as “unnatural” irrespective of whether such acts were a level of immorality permitted by what Aquinas called the “consequent will of God”. That latter concept which is throughout the Bible…”He has made everything even the evil man for the evil day”……that concept has been hidden by 6 decades of saccharine sermons all in a row. That is why it seems contrary to God as Love….because sermons have avoided it and Paul said to the elders at Miletus…. “I bear you witness this day that I am innocent of the blood of all because I have not shrunk from declaring to you the WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD.”

    One does not shrink from saying the nice but one shrinks from saying the fearful which appertains to most of our sermons currently.

  • bill bannon

    Do a search on google regarding oral sex and Catholicism and you will find NFP people on both sides of this issue….sometimes quite heatedly.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    Heh, I gotta find some of these discussions ! “And then I said to Bob “Bb woo noo duhh”, because I’d forgotten to stop, “Bob, you know the Church wants us to stop now”. Bob replied “Sonofa … uh … good Catholic woman that I am, I have to agree”

    Does anyone think cunnilingus is ‘intrinsically disordered’ ? Btw, re: female genital mutilation – there was a time when Christians did that, too, to combat masturbation.

  • Jeremy

    HV is not about homosexual activity at all. That statement is ludicrous. These comments are ludicrous. I can’t believe I’m participating in this farce…..

  • G Alkon

    The church teaching is incoherent, on its own terms. That is first of all an observation, not a judgment. No one should be satisfied with it, both those who believe in the sinfulness of homosexual acts, and those who do not.

    The teaching is premised on a distinction between the “being” or inner “inclination” of a homosexual person, and his “actions.” This distinction is untenable and cuts straight against the grain of all Christian tradition, which is committed to the intrinsic connection between the two. Any natural, given, being is meant to be realized, is ordered to fruition in shared action. Sin is a parasatism on being, not real being. The idea that a given “being” should be held forever in potentia is un-Christian.

    Does the church say that homosexuality is a given state of being, or that it is a sinful state that should be undone?

    Vox Novans are proud to point out that the former is the case. Homosexual inclinations, we are told, aren’t sinful, only homosexual acts. This is sophistry, chop-logic. Real inclinations are inseparable from acts. Even if they are not acted upon, real inclinations are nothing other than tendencies to act. So a tendency toward a sinful act is, ipso facto, sinful — there is no way around this. Inclinations are intrinsically, related to acts, even if the acts are unrealized; that is what inclinations are. An inclination to murder people is a sinful inclination, even if it is less sinful than the actual murder itself.

    Yet the church says, clearly, that the inclination to homosexuality isn’t sinful.
    It has to say this, because it recognizes that for whatever reason, homosexuals are not able to expunge themselves of these inclinations — these are part of their “being.” Thus the church rightly does not participate in fundamentalist “gay-cure” movement, which is a recipe for paranoia, alienation from God, and suicide.

    So according to the church, homosexuality isn’t sinful — it’s just an inclination to sin.

    Doesn’t make sense. Sorry. Doesn’t make sense. This teaching will not last.

    A tendency to murder, to rage, to adultery, to any other sin you can name — such a tendency is sinful. It is sinful to the extent that we say that we should TRY TO OVERCOME THE TENDENCY. We do not assume that a murderer must, forever, harbor the desire to kill. We assume the tendencies are really and truly disordered and prey to the parasitism of evil, and that the tendencies can be corrected — that is, turned around — that is, we assume that the sinner can repent.

    But the church precisely does NOT say this about gays. It does NOT say that the gay man or woman should attempt to overcome the inclination to perform sinful acts. It REFUSES to say this because it knows that — sometimes — the inclination CANNOT be undone, repented.

    What the church itself is positing here is an inclination to sin that cannot be reached by repentance. This is in fact an insult to the love of Christ. If the inclination to sin cannot be turned around by repentance, it is NOT an inclination to sin. That is an absolute. Jesus saves.

    The teaching of the evangelicals is thus MORE COHERENT than the Catholic ‘natural law’ teaching. If the inclination is an inclination to sin, then the inclination can be redeemed by being turned into the love of God. That means the inclination to homosexual acts, if it is sinful, should be possible to overcome.

    If its NOT possible to overcome — and this is now what the church teaches — then it is impossible to see how it is sinful — how it should be possible to repent of it through the grace of Christ.

    Let me add: of course there are inclinations to sin that do not need to be overcome, entirely, but directed properly. These are inclinations to acts that are not inherently or intrinsically sinful, but are sinful because of context. For example, the desire for sex outside of marriage. This inclination is not intrinsically sinful, but a good desire that has been misdirected, is out of place. So it is possible to redirect, control, and fulfill this inclination properly, in a non-sinful way, within marriage.

    The church says, by contrast, that homosexual desire can never be acted upon.

    This, again, is something that can ONLY be coherently be said about inclinations to intrinsic evil — which inclinations, because they are not substantial, because they lack real being, because they have nothing to do with goodness and being and love, can and should be overcome.

    And, again, thank God, the church has already refused — and will continue to refuse — to see the inclination to homosexuality in this way — as an evil, sinful inclination that can and should be overcome.

    So the only option will be for the church to acknowledge what it is already saying implicitly — that homosexual desire can be chastely fulfilled.

  • Mark deFrancisis

    G Alkon,


  • G Alkon

    Many thanks Mark —
    read the work of James Alison, for much more along those lines — he’s the basis of what I said.
    Hopefully we’ll see some responses from some of the more thoughtful Vox Novan advocates of the church teaching against homosexual activity (that is, against homosexuality).

  • Jeremy

    It is my impression that the church does not consider homosexuality to be a state of ‘being’, rather a state of action. Perhaps I am wrong, but from what I have heard, when the church references homosexuality, it does so in the terms of a ‘lifestyle’. But that is actually quite beside the point, because HV isn’t about sexual relations outside of a marriage.

    Really folks, there is more to our identity than our desires. There is more to life than the fulfillment of our urges. We all struggle to overcome, to fit in, meld ourselves. Each and everyone of us has fallen short; some things we are naturally fit, and others are an everyday struggle. But just because it is a struggle for us does not mean that the Church ‘got it wrong’. Just because some things are a struggle does not mean that we should stop struggling. We all have inclinations to sin, we just try our best to not let those inclinations define us.

  • bill bannon

    G Alkon

    According to Aquinas writing in the Summa T which all Church moral theologians study at some point, there is something called “the first movements of sin” and these are not sinful whether it be sodomy nor murder because the first movements of sin precede all deliberation or consent but they do tell what the individual is tempted toward.

    A married vowed heterosexual is walking down the street and from out of a store comes a beautiful woman with no clothes on. Prior to sufficient reflection and choice, he finds himself turning toward and looking at her….reflection and the will’s place of consent enters seconds later…..and he here decides to turn away. No sin has happened. What happened was the first movements of sin occured and even his wife across the street and seeing this knows that his initial movement toward the nude person is not betrayal since she sees him quickly recover once there has been enough time for reflection as to what is happening.

    The Church is saying that the first movements of sin of a homosexual who is suddenly in the same situation on a street but with a nude male siuddenly appearing….these movements are not sin but are the innocent first movements of sin but they are in addition in his case…disordered vis a vis nature as opposed to the first movements in the heterosexual which are not against nature.

  • David Nickol

    It is my impression that the church does not consider homosexuality to be a state of ‘being’, rather a state of action.


    If this is so, then why the exclusion of celibate homosexual men from the priesthood? And why is there a Vatican document called Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, containing statements like, “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”

    It seems clear that the Church believes there exist “homosexual persons” who exist without engaging in the “homosexual lifestyle” (whatever that is).

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    G Alkon,

    I know Alison only inasmuch as he is a most astute disciple of R. Girald.

    Which book addresses the issue most directly: “catholic and gay”?

  • David Nickol

    disordered vis a vis nature

    It would seem, though, that it is not possible to determine if something is “against nature” or “unnatural” or “disordered” by actually referring to nature, since homosexual behavior is widespread in animals.

  • bill bannon

    That’s why we have Romans one.

    The female Boa constrictor in the Amazon enters a sexual ball composed of her and many males for days on end. The behaviour of animals is sometimes nothing to be imitated and sometimes it is quite touching as in the case of geese who stay together….. ala Al Green.

  • David Nickol


    I would quite agree that you can go very wrong imitating many of the behaviors of animals. But if an animal behavior is adaptive, working to the benefit of the species, I don’t see how it can be called “against nature.” To call something that occurs in nature “unnatural” in that case means you find it appalling or disgusting, not that it is really unnatural.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    Can someone explain to me why anyone takes Aquinas seriously, given the immense heaps of utter, vile nonsense he wrote ? You obviously have to be a Cafeteria Thomist to pick and choose what’s not complete insanity. Women having sex with the devil, women containing more water than men, thus being more unstable, women being crippled men, only missionary position being licit, it’s ok to kill heretics etc etc etc. Not to mention paving the way for the malleus maleficarum of his fellow Dominicans.

  • little gal


    As my bishop explained this document, it has to do with whether one’s sexuality has been integrated into oneself… he said ,”if one needs to put the word homosexual in front of the word priest, this task has not been accomplished.”

    G. Alkon:

    CCC/2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

    This section of the Catechism appears to indicate that the state of homosexuality is problematic and that active action is to be taken to address it in order to achieve Christian perfection.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Little gal,

    All Christians are called to chastity.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    Chastity Bono ?

  • little gal


    You state the obvious…if you would like to read the section of the Catechism that I posted, it can be found under Article 6-the 6th Commandment. You will note that the homosexual state and homosexual acts are addressed separately from heterosexual.

    I’m ready for a thread where single heterosexuals can whine about Church teaching on chastity…

  • G Alkon

    Mark — Alison is indeed a Girard disciple, maybe too much of one. His older writings are really wonderful, if sometimes wordy and messy. He can give some bracing readings of the New Testament, very revealing and moving. I think “Raising Abel” is probably good. I liked his little book “Knowing Jesus” a lot.

    He has a book called “Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Gay and Catholic,” which has good stuff too, but probably the best place to go for up to date writings on the gay question is his website:

    Bill — the question of when an inclination becomes a sin is beside the point. What matters is that certain inclinations are sinful, but can be FULFILLED in a Christian way that is actually more joyful than the sin — so, in your example, the heterosexual man experiencing attraction to the naked woman can go home to his wife, or get married.

    Whereas the church is saying that no homosexual inclination can ever be fulfilled, for the inclination is said to be objectively disordered.

    Now, there are many inclinations that can never be fulfilled because they are objectively disordered. Such inclinations are (if they last long enough) sins — and the goal we should have is to NOT HAVE the inclinations any more. No one is perfect, but our goal SHOULD be to not have violent, resentful, lusting inclinations, because they are sinful, or lead to sin. Repentance allows us to leave behind many of our bad inclinations.

    Now, the church is explicitly saying that homosexual inclinations do NOT fall into the above categories. They are not sinful and we do not need to work on getting RID of them. As little gal says, we need to control them, according to the church. But the church is very careful to say that this particular inclination is not, in itself, sinful — and the church shows that it knows that this inclination is one that does not simply go away, in certain cases, no matter how long it is resisted. In other words, it is an inclination to sin that cannot be reached by repentance… The only thing to do is control it; discipline it; fight it down — but no fulfillment, no homosexual acts of any kind.

    What the Vatican has done is worked itself into an impossible position — it has posited, uniquely in the case of homosexuality, an “unnatural” desire that is nonetheless not sinful; an “unnatural” desire that we need to resist, but from which there is no escape (if one is a real “homosexual person”.) Every other “unnatural” desire can be overcome, transformed in the love of Christ. The Vatican is careful to say that this is not the case for homosexuality.

    The idea of a tendency to sin — a real tendency, not a transient flash of impulse — that is not itself sinful: does this make sense?

  • little gal

    G. Alkon:

    You have misrepresented what I said.

  • blackadderiv

    Can someone explain to me why anyone takes Aquinas seriously, given the immense heaps of utter, vile nonsense he wrote ?

    Why take anything Newton said seriously, given that he thought God periodically adjusted the orbits of the planets, and spent much of his time studying alchemy?

  • MelodyK

    “Can someone explain to me why anyone takes Aquinas seriously, given the immense heaps of utter, vile nonsense he wrote?”
    Aquinas’ writings are not Scripture, neither are they infallible teachings. He was a theologian, and was a man of his time. It shouldn’t surprise us that history has sifted his work; it’s okay to be a Cafeteria Thomist. In the best of his work, he developed a harmony of faith and reason. And he wrote things such as the lovely sequence, Lauda Sion, and the hymn Pange Lingua; which are timeless. It is quite possible that Christians of the future will look back on some ideas of the present, and conclude that they were errant nonsense, Hopefully they will also find something of truth and beauty.

  • MelodyK

    It is interesting that in the last year of Thomas Aquinas’ life, he experienced a vision at Mass. The only thing he is recorded as having said about it was, “Such things have been revealed to me that all that I have written seems to me as so much straw. Now I await the end of my life.” His response to what he had seen was the silence of awe.

  • Peter John

    I have lived contraceptively (formerly) and I have lived generously open to life (currently). I have to say for myself that marriage was much easier, much shallower, and radically self-oriented with the former. Unless one has experienced the fullness of family life lived within the universal Tradition of the Church on this issue and reaffirmed with H.V. I think the critique falls far too short.
    I guess I would just like to hear from a few dissenting Catholics who actually lived generously open to life and found it inferior in comparison with their contraceptive life.

    I guess I would re-phrase the classic Chesterton quote and say “The Catholic ideal for marriage has not been tried and found wanting, It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

  • bill bannon

    G Alkon

    I see it as making sense because we as a group have understated the fallen nature of our situation in general on this earth and I think homosexuals therefore have a two edged sword before them. They can fall very low or rise higher into sainthood than others precisely because they have a cross that is permanent. There are others in life who too have permanent crosses like repentant bisexuals who marry. Is not the alcoholic in a similar bind since he or she is tempted inordinately…unnaturally… as to quantity…. to something that in moderation is “very life to man” in one OT passage.

    Those gays belonging to the group “Courage” for example which is Catholic gays against remaining quiescent and permissive toward the urge…..strike me as human beings who are called to high sainthood…more so than many heterosexual people because they are engaged in such a difficult fight. Aristotle… “Virtue is about difficult things”. Ergo those facing the most difficult things can become the most virtuous people on earth as you may find in that group Courage ….not to be confused with Dignity which is another group but one who does not fight that inclination. And there certainly have been gays who have transited back to heterosexuality and there are Christian counselors who claim this can be done.

    This past week in Vernon, Westchester NY a Catholic married school principal was arrested having gay sex behind a house with two men he met through the internet. He was then fired by the school and his wife has met hell itself in the destruction of her whole dreams for her family. The man sunk very low. He can become a saint through repentance and through not consenting to that urge in the future regardless of it perduring as urge.

    Thomas Merton said that a deer cannot help but be a deer….but man can become what he is not. In that sense I think that active gayness is simply a metaphor for each of us when we become other than our real identity. The Catholic boat salesperson who lies or leaves out negative info in order to sell you a particular used sailboat at the marina with a small hole in its hull….has thus become what he is not. Unlike the deer, he or she has become something that they are not. The deer is always who he is. Each person in sin becomes something other than they are. The unfortunate phenomenon of active gayness is a metaphor for each of us whenever we become other than who we are. The Zen people talk of finding the face you had before you were born and Jean Paul Sartre in “Saint Genet” as an atheist talks about his gay friend Jean Genet as seeking gay acts as hiding places from real accessibility…a fascinating book by the way which shows an existentialist opposition to gay life as an attempt to “remain out of reach” and seeing it even in the non face to face metaphor of the male gay actions though I don’t know what metaphor Sartre would have seen in lesbian acts.

    But what if the gay sin is a metaphor of every sin…since in every sin, we become that which we were never meant to be. The deer is safe from ever becoming other than who he is. We are not.

  • little gal


    The question is why those Catholics with a homosexual inclination do not pick up their cross and carry it? And why do we with other crosses (large & small) to bear also not carry them–with joy? There is something that has gone missing from the Faith where hardship is to be avoided, advocated & protested against, legislated or litigated. Does anyone think that they will become a saint without suffering? This is some kind of sanitized form of Catholicism that lacks sinew. It’s not the stuff that sustained our Catholic ancestors…

  • Mike

    The question is why those Catholics with a homosexual inclination do not pick up their cross and carry it?

    They do: people like you are the cross they bear. It’s certainly not their sexuality.

  • bill bannon

    Little Gal

    Ecclesiastes 7:10
    “Do not say: How is it that former times were better than these? For it is not in wisdom that you ask about this.”

    Those in the group…Courage….not Dignity…. do take up their cross. I think we can overstate the virtue of times gone by. St. Antoninus wrote in the 1400’s when he wrote his Summa Theologia Moralis which was the first Catholic tome dedicated only to moral theology. A question came up regarding a type of financial transaction that involved currency futures and St. Antoninus declared it to be a form of usury and he dealt with the objection that most of the curia at the Vatican used it and he then dealt with that objection by noting that many in the curia had concubines and thus he did not see that body as being a real litmus test of the morality level of other moral questions. So imagine…prior to the media with its all seeing eyes but back in the 1400’s….many Vatican officials had concubines and several Ecumenical Councils were involved in stopping concubinage amongst the clergy. Later in that century Pope Alexander VI, a Borgia, who had six illegitimate children as a Cardinal….was later to take a married mistress, Mrs. Orsini, who was 23 years old while the Pope was in his 60’s. So many in the 15th century were not carrying any cross either. Read micro history about any one period and you will see that there is always some problem with sin by Church people.

  • little gal


    Blaming someone is not carrying a cross. Whining about Church teaching on a blog is not carrying a cross. Trying to change the Truth is not carrying a cross.

  • little gal


    Perhaps those who do carry a cross regarding sexual orientation are in a minority–they are not the ones who are trying to change the culture (redefine marriage & family) to accommodate their ‘difference.’ They are also not the active homosexuals who show up in the communion line wearing rainbow sashes, demanding the Eucharist as their right.

    I would reiterate that this teaching-of embracing suffering- is not stressed in today’s Church.

  • Mike

    Blaming someone is not carrying a cross. Whining about Church teaching on a blog is not carrying a cross. Trying to change the Truth is not carrying a cross.

    Unfortunately, you assume incorrectly that the Church is correct. It is not. The vicious hatred of its followers toward those whom God made gay, however, seems eternal.

  • Saul

    G. Alkon,

    The debate is with the way you’ve defined and framed inclinations and actions.

    You say heterosexual attraction is an inclination that can be properly directed, so obviously our goal is not that we should not have these inclinations.

    An inclination towards violence, though, is objectively disordered, so our goal should be not to have this inclination.

    First, one can imagine plenty of situations where it is not possible to properly direct one’s heterosexual inclinations. For example, one has no possibility of marriage, or one is in a marriage where sex in no longer possible, … In this case, should one’s goal be to eliminate these inclinations? What does it mean to eliminate these inclinations? IMHO, from inclination to action is continuous, not discrete. Someone may manger, through prayer and other praxis, to relegate the inclination to barely a perceptible whisper. Others may retain much of the inclination, but maintain full mastery over their actions. The line from inclination to action is, I think, up for debate.

    Second, is there an inclination for violence? Is perhaps the survival instinct the inclination? Or perhaps anger? What’s the root inclination, what are the mid-points, and what’s the end? What is the properly directed action for these inclinations? Again, should one aim to get rid of one’s inclination towards anger? Is this possible without miraculous intervention?

    I think one’s inclination to be violent is not a sin. Anger itself, once manifested, is a sin. Even though one might claim that the inclination towards anger cannot be properly directed – that it is ‘objectively disordered’.

    And finally, is there a proper ordering of homosexual inclinations outside sex, which is clearly proscribed? Today, many think not. Some, like Dreadnought, suggest eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven. Let’s wait and see.

    Finally, finally, I always find the example of pedophilia useful for exercising the mind. This inclination (and that’s what I think it is) is probably, in my opinion, as unlikely to be ‘eliminated’ as any other sexual inclination. For various reasons, among which is the existence of a victim, one can consider it ‘objectively disordered’. I think the goal of removing this inclination, again, so to speak, is noble. But is it possible without miraculous intervention. Might not the afflicted Christian have to be content with mastering the tendency to act on it?

    I think the Vatican’s wording is an attempt to clarify that having homosexual inclinations does not place one in a state of sin, even though they are objectively disordered. The same with pedophilia, anger, …

    That’s the way I see it, and that’s why it makes sense to me.

    BTW, I’m glad so many of you still believe in the Trinity!

  • Gerald A. Naus

    Quod est veritas ?

    I always find it freakin’ hilarious that the place with more gays than the Castro, ie the Vatican, is at the same time campaigning against gay people’s rights. Anyone ever heard the term ‘Madonno’ ? It refers to a pretty young priest who coasts upwards on his looks. Secrecy and supposed celibacy twist sexuality, with results known all too well. The Old & Young Boys Club. I’d bet the Orthodox don’t have this kind of culture.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Little Ghoul,

    “Suffer, I say, suffer….”

    Are you a lesbian who publicly takes the Courage route and willingly suffers?

    If not, please quit your sanctimonious judgment of those who you say refuse to embrace the redemptive meaning of of their suffering. If so, please desist anyway, as your heavyhandedness is still most unbecoming.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    Welp, Newton’s nonsense wasn’t responsible for witch burnings and his mistakes don’t still haunt science.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    It’s sick to embrace suffering. That’s masochism. Suffering is to be overcome. Not that homosexuality means suffering. Those telling others to ‘bear a cross’ conveniently sit on top of it, so their targets can ’embrace’ more.

    I’d have given up writing about all this nonsense, but my hope is that some poor gay person who’s caught in the sin/disorder illusion will read it and liberate her/himself. I’m afraid Catholicism, which is quickly heading back to Pio Nono land, will only become stranger. And the monsignori – chastity itself on the exterior – will cultivate their pretty lil things, following Marcial Maciel’s example. But hey, at least women are kept locked out.

  • little gal

    It is interesting that a difference of opinion on gay issues is ALWAYS identified as hatred by homosexuals. Anyone who agrees with and follows Church teaching is seen as an adversary and the name calling starts. I will give you something else to consider as I depart this thread. The world and what is happening in it, is much larger than the satisfaction of one’s sexual impulses. There is suffering of much greater magnitude than yours…children born with horrific birth defects and the heroic parents-mostly mothers-who dedicate their lives to caring for them. There are those who experience poverty & genocide. Ever try thinking of the suffering in many African nations? Those pictures of infants dying a painful death from lack of food.? What about our brave-mostly young -soldiers whose bodies are blown to bits–but not quite enough to kill them? What will their life be like? The point I made about nonintegration of sexuality has been very clearly made in the ‘attack’ responses here…

  • little gal


    How can you say that it is sick to embrace suffering? Christ willingly suffered and died for us. Was this sick?

    No life is without suffering, and not all suffering can be eliminated. Suffering can have great value in helping our faith to grow. There also can be happiness in the midst of suffering. Suffering can be a pathway to grace. One has to be willing to walk thru that dark tunnel until one is through it…

    Having read your former blog, I would disagree with you on your motives for carrying the banner on the Church’s teachings on sexuality and would continue to suggest that you talk with a priest, pray and stop reading all of those books. Pascal said, “the heart has reasons, the mind knows not.” Let your heart, lead you back to the Church. You may not believe it, but you are in my prayers. Peace.

  • G Alkon

    Christ was not Christ because he suffered, or suffered a lot, or suffered more than anyone else.

    He suffered because he was Christ.

    Being Christ, he was made to suffer by people who could not tolerate Him.

    Being Christ, he took their violence against him and turned it into an affirmation of life — community — that outlasts death. He saw he would die and turned that it into an occasion to found a community based on the memory of his refusal to fear death. This is the Eucharist.

    Christ suffered in a Christ-like way.

    Suffering in a Christ-like way is good.

    Not all suffering is good.

    Suffering is good when it can be turned into the gift of love. The martyrs gave US the gift of their lives. We gather together fearlessly because of their gift.

    But simply suffering, accepting it and then saying, “Christ suffered, too,” is neither fair to oneself or respectful to Christ.

    And in any case, glibly calling for others to suffer is not Christ-like.

  • G Alkon

    ” ‘The question is why those Catholics with a homosexual inclination do not pick up their cross and carry it?’

    They do: people like you are the cross they bear. It’s certainly not their sexuality.”

    That is the best comment I’ve ever read at Vox Nova.



    Not all heterosexual inclinations are possible to fulfill. But heterosexual desire AS SUCH is not sinful; it can be fulfilled in its time and place. And of course it is used as a metaphor of desire for God throughout the Bible, because the fulfillment of this desire, in its proper place, is so rich and holy.

    But there are certain inclinations that are said by the Church to be sinful, period; such inclinations can never be properly fulfilled, so they are sinful as such. Now, of course not all violence is sinful. But self-justification, resentment, desire for revenge, hatred of this or that group — all of this is sinful, period, and can and should be overcome. That is why ‘forgiveness’ is so important to Christians. It is Christ’s gift to us, allowing us to actually overcome and move PAST these sinful inclinations, so that we don’t have to spend our lives struggling against them.

    The inclination to abuse children is in fact sinful. Note the word “abuse.” We are not talking about some sort of inexplicable “itch” that needs to be held in check because their happens to be a “victim.”

    Necessarily, no matter what any child-abuser may say or think about himself, the inclination to have sex with a child involves the desire to hurt the child, to dominate the child, to use the child as an object or toy, etc. The inclination — the mere inclination — is in fact gravely sinful and the child-abuser must work his entire life to overcome it. Now you are right that many fail to do this. But as Christians it is our absolute obligation to have faith that human beings can overcome such depraved inclinations with the grace of Christ.

    Now — as I said above — the Church has very carefully and deliberately insisted that the inclination to homosexuality is NOT LIKE the inclination to pedophilia, or the inclination to any other intrinsic evil. The Church does NOT urge gay people to pray for the grace to rid themselves of their desire. And this teaching of the church, coupled with the assertion that gay sex is sinful, does not make sense. If the act is sinful, the inclination is sinful and should be overcome. This is what evangelicals teach, and their teaching makes more sense than the Catholic teaching.

    Why does the church NOT agree with the evangelicals? Because it knows that the homosexual inclination does not, in some cases, go away — and to tell people that it can be overcome is terribly destructive. Instead of overcoming this inclination, gays should, according to the church, spend their lives holding it in check.

    Holding inclinations in check — renunciation — is not the point of Christian teaching. Renunciation may be necessary, but only in the service of a greater and richer fulfillment. The Church has not figured out what this could be for gays. Celibacy can be a rich mode of relating, lovingly, to God — of course. But celibate love of God should never be a substitute for an ineradicable sexual desire that has been blocked.

  • blackadderiv

    Newton’s nonsense wasn’t responsible for witch burnings and his mistakes don’t still haunt science.Newton’s nonsense wasn’t responsible for witch burnings and his mistakes don’t still haunt science.

    Well, Thomas Aquinas didn’t have anything to do with witch burnings either, and if his mistakes are still haunting science this is the first I’ve heard of it.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    It’s too bad the poor in history did not embrace the redemptive meaning of their suffering, is it not? The social hierarchy would have remained intact, the rich would have been suffered for, and all would have been ready for heaven…


    My mother bore me in the southern wild,
    And I am black, but O my soul is white!
    White as an angel is the English child,
    But I am black, as if bereaved of light.

    My mother taught me underneath a tree,
    And, sitting down before the heat of day,
    She took me on her lap and kissed me,
    And, pointing to the East, began to say:

    ‘Look on the rising sun: there God does live,
    And gives His light, and gives His heat away,
    And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive
    Comfort in morning, joy in the noonday.

    ‘And we are put on earth a little space,
    That we may learn to bear the beams of love;
    And these black bodies and this sunburnt face
    Are but a cloud, and like a shady grove.

    ‘For, when our souls have learned the heat to bear,
    The cloud will vanish, we shall hear His voice,
    Saying, “Come out from the grove, my love and care,
    And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice.”‘

    Thus did my mother say, and kissed me,
    And thus I say to little English boy.
    When I from black, and he from white cloud free,
    And round the tent of God like lambs we joy,

    I’ll shade him from the heat till he can bear
    To lean in joy upon our Father’s knee;
    And then I’ll stand and stroke his silver hair,
    And be like him, and he will then love me.

  • Jeremy

    The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation. Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a “heterosexual” or a “homosexual” and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.

    G. Alkon, I think your argument places far too much emphasis on what the Church does not teach.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    I hear Grace Cathedral has nice liturgies 😛

  • Gerald A. Naus

    There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law. Homosexual acts “close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved”.(4)

    Sacred Scripture condemns homosexual acts “as a serious depravity… (cf. Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10). This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered”.(5) This same moral judgment is found in many Christian writers of the first centuries(6) and is unanimously accepted by Catholic Tradition.

    Nonetheless, according to the teaching of the Church, men and women with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided”.(7) They are called, like other Christians, to live the virtue of chastity.(8) The homosexual inclination is however “objectively disordered”(9) and homosexual practices are “sins gravely contrary to chastity”.

    Well, Bob, you ARE seriously depraved, disordered and commit intrinsically evil acts. But we LOVE you!

  • Zach


    You seem to be unable to distinguish between the sin and the sinner.

    The maxim has always been reject the sin, love the sinner.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    Yes, sure and I see it lived every day! The pope is so LOVING in his denial of rights. Not to mention that homosexuality is not disordered, depraved and intrinsically evil. There are many reasons why I returned to my own mud and rolling in the vomit or somesuch, but the Ratzinger letters certainly feature prominently.

  • Zach


    What? People have trouble living out that principle, therefore it’s not true?

  • Gerald A. Naus

    It’s a lame duck. Well, given what all the Catholic church considers sinful, it might be a good principle for Catholics. My catalog of ‘sins’ is much slimmer. Murder…rape…that kind of stuff. Not worried about the fashionable couple next door. With the Catholic system of sin and penance, one should get a CPA to keep track of it all. But, I am aware that what I dislike others will like and vice versa.

  • Zach


    The teaching that we are to love the sinner and hate the sin is “a lame duck?” That’s a terrible argument, and you know it. It may be difficult for fallen human beings to do in practice, but this has no bearing on whether or not it’s actually true. Again, the argument for this principle comes from authority (and practical right reason) – if you believe Jesus then you will believe this principle. Am I to understand you don’t believe in Jesus anymore? And that you now decide what sin is according to your own conscience? This from the man who ran a website called “the cafeteria is closed”?

    I half wonder if someone didn’t steal your identity. Then again I didn’t really pay close attention to your blog so maybe this type of Gerald-as-God stuff has been going on for a while?

  • http://n/a Anonymous

    This post is a classic example of pseudo-historiography gone mad, and a prime exhibit for why Marx felt the burning urgency to turn Hegel upside down. To reiterate: WITHIN THE CREATED ORDER, the ideal flows from the material, AND NOT VICE VERSA. What has happened now does not necessarily flow from ideas promulgated years ago.

    Much of what the hierarchy has had to say about the “contraceptive mentality” is valid. But it is all vitiated by the conclusions they draw from this entirely justified intuition into the rot at the heart of our turbo-capitalist maelstrom, and this is due to the inability to think in terms of process, along the lines of virtue ethics a la Alastair Macintyre. It is simply ridiculous to assert that every single sexual act must be theoretically open to procreation, and only celibates could assert such a notion. But it entirely justified to say that every single committed, monogamous, married, male-female relationship must be theoretically open to procreation in terms of the relationship as a whole, even though such a couple may exercise legitimate discretion as to how they plan which sexual acts within that relationship are open to procreation and which are not.

  • Zach


    Excellent way of throwing around meaningless academic jargon in an attempt to make a childish argument:

    “it is simply ridiculous to assert that every single sexual act must be theoretically open to procreation, and only celibates could assert such a notion.”

    It’s simply ridiculous? Oh! I hadn’t thought of that before!

  • HA

    Newton’s nonsense wasn’t responsible for witch burnings and his mistakes don’t still haunt science.

    Yeah, it’s a shame the church remains trapped in Aquinas’s archaic views on capital punishment, abortion/quickening/ensoulment, and so forth.

    And as for the high proportion of gays at the Vatican, it’s so nice to finally see them pontificating on something they have first-hand knowledge of. As I recall, that was always the gravamen when it came to Vatican pronouncements on marriage and childbirth, but I suspect Gerald is not altogether fond of those, either.

    And as for Archbiship Caffara, let me get this straight: You’re from Austria and you just now figured out that Archbishops are capable of saying idiotic things? Wow. May I suggest you sign up for a lesson of Austrian history that doesn’t have a soundtrack by Rodgers and Hammerstein? (That being said, I will grant you that any time someone speaking on behalf of the Church gets in the business of ranking a given sin as worse than another, it is a slick road to saying something stupid.)

    Now excuse me, I’m off to burn some witches as soon as I can download the relevant Aquinas how-to podcast.

  • admiralporklung

    Some of these comments are bordering on the pornographic.

  • Gerald Augustinus

    HA, that is official church policy, not one archbishop. No condoms are any circumstances. Sure, some Aquinas stuff has been thrown by the wayside, but it’s still all the fruit of the poisonous tree.

    That’s one of my favorites – male babies get their soul after 40 days, female after 80. Priceless, but emblematic of the Old Boys (with young boys) Club.

    The moment I take care of every ejaculation occurring in a vagina is the moment I should turn my .45 on myself.

    Well, enjoy your orthodox Catholicity.

  • David Nickol

    It seems to me that “love the sinner, hate the sin” rarely comes up other than in discussions of homosexuality. I have not heard anyone saying, “Oh, she takes the pill, but we must love the sinner and hate the sin.” Or, “You know, they are engaged to be married next year, and they are already living together, but we must love the sinner and hate the sin.” It seems to be a license to feel and express hatred toward something, instead of attempting to let go of hate.

  • Zach


    The maxim applies to every sin. You should, as a Catholic, hate all sins. Why? Sin destroys people’s relationship with God.

    It may come up often in discussions of homosexuality more frequently because the gay rights movement in this country has done everything in its power to link sexual behavior with identity. We have been taught by our sex-obsessed culture that a person is not understandable apart from their sexual behavior. We have been taught that sexual behavior is somehow fundamental or essential to a person’s identity. This is, from a Catholic point of view, wrong. A human being, in the first place , is a son or daughter of God.

  • David Nickol


    I think it comes up regarding homosexuality because that’s where the hatred is already. Exactly why people have such gut reactions to homosexuality, I don’t know. And of course younger people seem to have less negative feelings than older ones, so presumably it is a learned response that is in the process of being unlearned.

    I disagree about linking sexual behavior with identity, unless you are defining sexual behavior very broadly. Certainly a heterosexual husband and father’s sexual behavior, or that of a wife and mother, is an essential part of his and her identities. A man with “homosexual tendencies” is not permitted to be a priest. Isn’t the Church defining him by something other than behavior? Doesn’t the fact that the Church insists priests must be men so they can be “fathers” indicate that one’s sexual identity is essential?

  • Gerald A. Naus

    A minority is always defined by what makes them different. It has nothing to do with ‘sex obsessed’ – obviously there is nothing more sex-obsessed than regulating sex down to the last drop, so that’s the pot n kettle business to begin with. If people like you and your leaders didn’t give gay people such a hard time they certainly wouldn’t stick out as much. Your pope obviously thinks sexual behavior is fundamental and essential, else he wouldn’t fret so much over gay people achieving equality. From the Catholic church to Iran to the Nazis, gay people have been executed (burned at the stake in the Catholic case, usually). They just want to live their lives the same way my wife and I do, YOU are trying to keep them second class citizens. It is the height of outrageousness to first tag people as disordered, perverted and what not and then to COMPLAIN that they are leading a movement against that ! First you tar them, then you complain that they don’t willingly accept the feathers ! YOU ‘reduce’ them to their sexuality. THEY do NOT define themselves by ‘sex acts’, they relate to other people the same way everyone else does, but YOU have a problem with it. There was a civil rights movement because there was segregation and there is a gay rights movement because of the views and demands of Ratzinger et al. If you and yours hadn’t been treating them differently to begin with, there’d be no need for a gay rights movement. Ratzinger himself said that the gay rights movement shouldn’t be surprised if it prompts irrational and violent reactions. Hah! To the back of the bus, fags, or else ! He also said a ‘good’ gay guy won’t live out his orientation so there can’t even be an issue of discrimination for those ‘good’ gay people !

    If two men or two women have a committed love relationship, there is nothing ‘sinful’ about that. My relatives who just got married have been together for 20+ years. I’d take them over any of the orthodox love the sinner crowd any day of the week and twice on Sundays. You want sin, I’ll give you sin – the members of the episcopate covering up sex abuse while calling others disordered. People who only differ from me by what gender they are attracted to are in no way disordered solely because of that.

    Equality is coming, by any means necessary. As is the karmic retribution.

  • HA

    HA, that is official church policy, not one archbishop. No condoms are any circumstances.

    I see, so it’s all about condoms, is it? So there is nothing wrong with an HIV-positive man ejaculating into a woman so long as a bit of latex is around to save the day? How very enlightened of you, Gerald. I guess the popes might not be infallible, but condoms have never ever ever failed anyone, is that it? What a magic mithril-like substance this latex must be! — I wonder if it bleeds when one pricks it?

    And as for the fruit of the poisoned tree comment, please — I think you can do better than that. In fact, why don’t you think about what Blackadder, MelodyK and your truly have pointed out, and put together an objection to Aquinas that doesn’t amount to simply changing the argument once even you can see that your initial formulation was ridiculous? That way you can move past the Aquinas-troll phase of your newfound enlightenment and have even more time to obsess about condoms, ejaculata and all the other crotch-issues that you would have us believe only Catholics obsess about — even though, at this point, you seem to be taking the lead in that regard.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    I don’t really care what ‘good Catholics’ do or don’t do sexually, it was just interesting to find out just how OCD it really is – I hadn’t been aware. What I do care about is when you try to keep my friends and family down. You (‘good Catholics’) are trying to void the marriage between my relatives, and I take that personally. The amount of self-loathing it must take for the many gay bishops to campaign against gay rights must be staggering, but that’s their deal. But when they are not content to regulate Catholics’ lives but want to extend their reach to non-Catholics, when those relationships are none of their business, I object.

  • HA

    People who only differ from me by what gender they are attracted to are in no way disordered solely because of that.

    Hear, hear! And what about if they happen to differ from you in the species that they’re attracted to? No problem, there either — because there’s some Austrian shepherds, and Tijuana donkey-fanciers just down south of you, who might have a word or two in that regard and we certainly wouldn’t want their rights to be ignored. And brothers and sisters — what could possibly be unnatural or disordered about any attraction there, given what the zoologists tell us? And if anyone has an objection, we could just insist that they all wear condoms — after all, condoms solve everything! Oh yeah, and what about number of people — when are we going to get beyond this morbid unnatural obsession of having one spouse at a time? Oh, what a glorious world awaits us, just around the corner!

    Karma, indeed.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    May I point to the polygamists in the Hebrew Scriptures ? Surely you don’t want to condemn Verbum Domini ? 😛

    You know, reasonable people go issue by issue, not ‘well if this then also that’. You’d have to be a miscreant like Rick Santorum to hear ‘gay marriage’ and think about screwing animals.

  • HA

    Oh yeah, what an insightful riposte: “if you believe that, you’re no better than Rick Santorum”. Yeah, that works brilliantly. ‘Nuff said. QED.

    Here, I’ll make you happy — my comment above regarding brother/sister incest? I’ll toss in brother/brother and sister/sister incest, too. See — I’m getting more enlightened by the second just by talking to you.

  • Peter John

    Is it really necessary to interact with someone who is so publically and basely flaunting his (apparent) apostacy from the Faith? Really. Are his emotional, often childish, and overly simplistic comments worth responding to? I for one vote no. There are other dissenters from the Faith who can be respectful and thoughtful in their objections, and they are the ones who deserve a response.

  • Saul

    Just to reach a better level of understanding, because I believe we are still talking past each other to some extent…

    Again, to get our concepts right, can we call any inclination sinful? I don’t think so. Sin is what someone thinks or does. Is a person with inclinations towards pedophilia sinning (solely because of those inclinations)? My answer is no, so long as he or she does not think or act on those inclinations (I use the word ‘think’ in the way Jesus does in his gospel amendments…).

    Now, I agree with the Vatican that those inclinations are intrinsically disordered, which I see as a different concept from sinful.

    I think the Catholic Church (I’m Orthodox, by the way) does not urge people to ‘pray away’ their homosexual inclinations not because it doesn’t want them to pray this way, but to avoid the evangelical situation where people pray with the full expectation that they will go away, and when they don’t, they are distraught.

    The same applies for the pedophile in that barring miraculous intervention (of which I accept the possibility), praying away the inclination won’t make it go away.

    In other words, I don’t think that ‘it is our absolute obligation to have faith that human beings can overcome such depraved inclinations with the grace of Christ’. The inclinations may not go away no matter how faithful one is. This, again, in my opinion, is what is behind the Vatican’s wording.

  • David Nickol

    So there is nothing wrong with an HIV-positive man ejaculating into a woman so long as a bit of latex is around to save the day?

    Condoms will prevent female-to-male transmission of HIV as well.

    Suppose one partner in a marriage is infected with HIV through a blood transfusion or a needle stick or a rape. Suppose they both want to continue to have sex.

    Or suppose, as is the case in Africa, men frequent prostitutes and aquire HIV, which they might be prevented from transmitting to their wives if they can be persuaded to use condoms.

    There are many situations in which one or both partners in a couple are innocent of any wrongdoing and the transmission of HIV could be prevented–without “contraceptive intent””–by the use of condoms. Employing the principle of double effect here would seem to be a no brainer.

  • HA

    Is it really necessary to interact with someone who is so publically and basely flaunting his (apparent) apostacy from the Faith? …There are other dissenters from the Faith who can be respectful and thoughtful in their objections, and they are the ones who deserve a response.

    Perhaps, but such dissenters deserve a response from minds more sophisticated and learned than mine. Alas, I am best able to dispute only those whose arguments are so flagrantly idiotic that most of the rest of the posters here would find a response beneath them. (Though I would hope you find my response to you to be an exception in that regard.)

  • HA

    And as flagrantly idiotic as that dissent might be, there are plenty of people out there who would agree with it, and who would misinterpret an otherwise laudable let’s-not-feed-the-troll approach as a concession.

  • David Nickol

    . . . my comment above regarding brother/sister incest?

    Sarah was Abraham’s wife and also his half-sister. What are we to make of that?

  • HA

    Sarah was Abraham’s wife and also his half-sister. What are we to make of that?

    Presumably the same as what we make of the fact that Abraham was a polygamist, or that your namesake David had a harem of concubines. In other words, you tell me.

    (Just between you and me, I think it has something to do with the development of doctrine, but that’s getting way beyond my level.)

    While you’re explaining all that, perhaps you could also explain why so many people are upset about the Vatican’s shift on capital punishment, but no one raises a peep about the fact that we’ve given up chopping off hands as well — another time-honored and Biblically sanctioned practice. Wow, I guess Gerald’s right. None of it makes any sense. From here on out, I suppose we’ll all need enlightened commentators like him to tell us what “reasonable people” are allowed to think, as per his 3:47 comment. There’d be nothing wrong with that, right?

    (Finally, I could note that some Torah commentators conclude that Sarah’s sexuality was not conclusively female. Score one for the transgender community!)

  • HA

    Also, in the interest of answering some of your other questions, I don’t think you should take any argument based on “natural law” as containing any implicit claim that whatever is being argued against doesn’t happen in the animal kingdom. Rather, the claim is that the argument can be formulated without reference to Scripture.

  • HA

    Condoms will prevent female-to-male transmission of HIV as well.

    They’ll also prevent pregnancy — at least, they’ll prevent it 98% of the time.

    I.e., not always. And if the couple happen to be drinking or is otherwise “distracted”, or if the condom is not applied or removed incorrectly — not that anything like that would ever happen in the real world when it comes to two aroused people going at it, but just bear with me for the sake of argument — the percentage goes down even further. That being the case, perhaps you could mathematically calculate the odds of a woman to becoming infected with HIV once a jumbo pack of 100 condoms is empty.

    In other words, maybe throwing condoms at everybody is not the magical solution that some trolls on this site make it out to be.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    The point was that it’s better to die than to ‘sin’, what the issue at hand was doesn’t really matter. The cardinal said a spiritual good was more important than a temporal good (ie life). I think that’s Catholic teaching. Eek.

  • HA

    The point was that it’s better to die than to ’sin’,

    Only in your twisted formulation of his arguments. Let me try something similar with you: Hey, Gerald, have you stopped beating your wife yet?

    Wow, that was pretty easy. No wonder you resort to it so often. As to any possible kernel of validity in your post, I addressed it between parentheses back at 2:38.

    But let me add that the lunacy of someone who apparently sees no problem with “injecting” a woman with a lethal virus so long as a condom blocks it 98% of the time, and then presumes to lecture Catholics about their crazy views on sexuality is a continued source of amusement to me, given as it makes Sister Mary Rottweiler’s views on the subject seem refreshingly sane.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    You don’t get it. The cardinal would oppose condom use even if it were 100% safe. It’s like the mother of King Louis IX. said, she’d rather see him dead than commit a venial sin.

  • HA

    No, I get it just fine. To twist the church’s views on sexuality into a but-what-does-it-say-about-condoms? issue is to resort to have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife tactics. Good luck trying to pretend otherwise.

    For example, to observe that there is rampant prostitution in Africa or anywhere else, as David did, and then discuss how condoms might be the way to address the situation, is a little like watching a gang war in progress and suggesting we start giving every gangster a free supply of really-small-calibre bullets so as to minimize the kill frequency. In some twisted way, it’s trying to be helpful, but in the larger sense — i.e. the one that Church is beholden to promote — such an approach represents a gross twisting of priorities.

    If you or David or anyone else wants to give every mobster softer bullets so he can kill less often (assuming he won’t just pump a few more bullets into his victims to get the job done), have at it. What’s more, why not give him free silencers, too, so that he can murder people without disturbing your slumber? Just don’t expect the Church to get on board with that. And don’t expect me or anyone else here to reduce Archbishop So-and-so’s views on sex to your twisted cut-and-paste version of it, because we all know there’s a bit more to it than that.

    I think I’m done for the night.

  • David Nickol

    In other words, maybe throwing condoms at everybody is not the magical solution that some trolls on this site make it out to be.

    Allowing condom use in the two cases I mentioned, both involving married couples in which one of the partners is infected, would not be “throwing condoms at everybody.” In 2006 it was acknowledged that Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan (Vatican office for health care) was studying the issue of condom use under these circumstances. I believe the study was completed and the information was given to the Pope.

    That being the case, perhaps you could mathematically calculate the odds of a woman to becoming infected with HIV once a jumbo pack of 100 condoms is empty.

    I detect a note of sarcasm. Presumably one of the things the Vatican report covered was how effective condoms would be in preventing the transmission of HIV from the infected spouse to the uninfected one. We don’t have the information from the report, but I have seen studies saying the infection rate is between 0 and about 5 percent. Obviously there is a risk, but please remember that in Africa, studies have shown that husbands are becoming infected either by sex with prostitutes or other extramarital contacts and infecting their wives. If the husbands could be persuaded to use condoms, the risk to the wives would be reduced drastically.

  • David Nickol


    What I am proposing the Church could reasonably accept in Africa is not an attempt to flood the continent with condoms, but efforts to create a climate in which women are more likely to be able to persuade their husbands to use condoms. Your analogy to providing every mobster with softer bullets is inapt. It would be more like providing the innocent with bullet-proof vests.

    I am not quite as convinced as you that the Church would not at some point endorse something along those lines, but I am not holding my breath, since the study was completed in 2006 and nothing has yet come of it. However, the use of condoms has not been dismissed out of hand. Note the following:

    Some — such as a one-time papal contender, retired Milan Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini — say that condoms were the “lesser evil” in combatting the spread of AIDS. Barragan, of Mexico, has said that condoms could sometimes be condoned, such as when a woman cannot refuse her HIV-positive husband’s sexual advances.

    Other cardinals, however, have rejected the idea that condoms could be used, including Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, who has contended that condoms may help spread AIDS through a false sense of security.

    A senior advisor to UNAIDS, the U.N. agency on AIDS, told the conference that AIDS is on the rise among married women, including in Ghana, where married women were three times likely to be infected than non-married women.

    Now, many of these married “women” are actually girls. Forty percent of females in Africa are married before the age of 18, and I believe all of those to older men. What is the Church’s message to these married “women” at present? Abstinence will prevent the transmission of HIV? Just say “no” . . . to your husband?

  • HA

    but please remember that in Africa, studies have shown that husbands are becoming infected either by sex with prostitutes or other extramarital contacts and infecting their wives.

    See my previous comments about gang wars and passing out softer/smaller bullets, including my hearty endorsement to “have at it (regardless of how much sarcasm you detected there, Sherlock). However, do please beware the law of unintended consequences. Lucky for you, that’s a law that does exist in the animal kingdom, too, so you shouldn’t have any problems with it.

    And another thing: I’m sure those older men who already have too little trouble with endangering their child brides will have no problem putting on that condom. Yeah, they’ll be real careful about following all the proper protocols, too. (Though, if they’re out having sex with prostitutes maybe their intention in having sex with their wives has something to do with getting them to squeeze out a son or two at some point, but let’s not get all archaic in reminding people that sex has anything to do with procreation given that we’re in the glorious Brave New World of karmic retribution and whatnot.) In any case, if the husband has any problems about putting on a condom, the wife can just say “no” to him, right? Or wait, maybe she can’t, or if she can, they why doesn’t she just… what exactly was your point? On second thought, you might want to take this back to the drawing board, David, and think it through a little further.

  • Jeremy

    When a man is going out and having sex with prostitutes, it is pretty clear he doesn’t really care about church teaching. I find it chilling that you think the solution would be to pass out condoms, rather than encourage chastity.

  • David Nickol


    I am making the rather modest assertion that the Church could conceivably–since the issue appears to be under study–conclude it was licit for a married couple to use condoms, without contraceptive intent, to prevent the transmission of HIV from an infected partner to an uninfected partner. I am not offering a plan to eradicate AIDS in Africa. I am pointing out plausible scenarios where condoms might be approved.

    Let me put the matter in terms of an individual married couple. Suppose a husband is infected with HIV and his wife is unable to resist his demands for sex, but she is able to persuade him to use condoms. Are you saying under these circumstances that the use of condoms should be forbidden?

  • Jeremy

    You are dwelling on ‘edge’ cases. When a man and a woman are married, they are supposed to love and respect each other. In the situation you describe, that is clearly not the case. In these cases, what is broken goes far deeper than a mere condom can fix.

  • Zach


    Humanae Vitae says that artificial contraception, e.g. condoms, is intrinsically evil. This means that the act is evil by its very nature, and no circumstances can justify it.

    If the Machiavelli in you must know whether it would work regardless of morality, I would suggest to you this article:

  • David Nickol


    There is nothing in the article you link to that contradicts what I am saying:

    Therefore, we urged people to be faithful. Our campaign was called ABC (Abstain, or Be Faithful, or use Condoms), but our main message was: Stick to one partner. We promoted condoms only as a last resort.

    Some might quarrel with that, I suppose, but it sounds like the right approach to me.

    Let me point out again that I am not proposing a wholesale solution to HIV in Africa, or anywhere else. I am confining my comments to the situation where a husband is infected and a wife is not. I am not convinced that in every single instance, a husband who has sex with prostitutes would refuse to use condoms when he has sex with his wife. Suppose only one percent of such men would. Or suppose only one individual man would. I am talking about the morality of condom use in a relatively small number of cases.

    What I find chilling is that anyone would dismiss out of hand the idea that a wife in such circumstances might have a way to protect herself.

  • David Nickol


    You are not addressing the issue I am raising. Would it be licit for a married couple to use condoms, without contraceptive intent, to prevent the transmission of HIV from the infected partner to the uninfected partner?

  • Jeremy

    That article completely contradicts what you were saying. That article is a heartfelt plea to stop pushing the western agenda in the treatment of AIDs in africa. There is a lot more in that article than condoms. I don’t think you have a real full understanding of church teaching. Again, you are dwelling on an edge case that is already outside the norm. You are advocating that Catholic Church sweep aside it’s enlightened teaching on human sexuality for this one obscure case that is *broken*, knowing full well that making a public exception will weaken the church’s stance. The Catholic Church does not promote a way of life that is easy to follow. Quite the opposite. You are expected to do your best to live up to the ideal, the church is not expected to lower the ideal to where everyone can reach it without effort. I would like to point out that this ideal goes a lot further than sexuality, but encompasses ALL aspects of our lives, and our neighbors, and their neighbors and so-on. It does not revolve around some edge condom case.

    Again, in the situation you describe, there is a manifest failure of society, marriage, and to follow church teaching, what makes you think that changing church teaching will have an effect? The reality is that following (or heck, an honest attempt to follow) the whole church teaching would have an effect.

    That is essentially what the article is saying. Quit pushing these rubber thingies and give us a hand teaching the proper way to behave. Ways that truely help men and women respect and love each other, build families and communities. That is where the focus should be, not on condoms.

  • David Nickol

    Sorry, I meant to address this to Jeremy, not Zach,

    You are not addressing the issue I am raising. Would it be licit for a married couple to use condoms, without contraceptive intent, to prevent the transmission of HIV from the infected partner to the uninfected partner?

    Now, to Zach,

    According to the Church, artificial contraception is intrinsically evil, but that does not make condoms intrinsically evil. It is a long-established principle that the birth-control pill may be licitly used by Catholic women for purposes other than contraception, as long as there is no contraceptive intent. Humanae Vitae itself says that “the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever.”

    Why would the Church be studying the issue if it can be dismissed out of hand?

  • Zach


    I was directly addressing what you wrote. How? By following Humanae Vitae and noting that artificial contraception is intrinsically evil. Artificial contraception, according to Humanae Vitae, is evil in the act itself, irrespective of intention or circumstances.

    The Church rejects Machiavelli’s teaching that the ends justify the means.

  • David Nickol

    You are advocating that Catholic Church sweep aside it’s enlightened teaching on human sexuality for this one obscure case that is *broken*, knowing full well that making a public exception will weaken the church’s stance.


    As far as I can tell, what you are saying is that while it may be licit to use condoms in a small number of cases, the overall message of the Church might suffer if it were to acknowledge this, so the Church should remain mum on the matter. Better not to discuss legitimate exceptions to the rule, lest people mistakenly believe they invalidate the rule.

  • Zach

    Well, then I have no idea.

  • Jeremy

    Good Golly, you just don’t get it do you. In the situation you describe, there is a much BIGGER PROBLEM. Condoms are only 98% effective at preventing the transmission when used correctly. Do you think that a married couple is likely to have sex a hundred times? Using condoms correctly each time? Do the math.

    Do you think a person having sex with prostitutes, and is HIV positive is checking up on current church teaching before having sex with his wife? I don’t think so either.

    You are taking a hypothetical situation, divorcing it from the reality that would cause such a situation, and using that as your argument.

  • David Nickol

    Condoms are only 98% effective at preventing the transmission when used correctly. Do you think that a married couple is likely to have sex a hundred times? Using condoms correctly each time? Do the math.

    In order to do the math, you have to understand the math. An effectiveness rate of 98% would not mean condoms prevent you from being infected an average of 98 times during 100 acts of intercourse with an infected partner. The risk of being infected from one act of intercourse with an infected partner is approximately 0.3%. With 100 totally unprotected acts, your risk would be 30%. An effectiveness rate of 98% would mean out of 100 couples using condoms for a given period, in 98 percent of the couples, there would be no transmission to the uninfected partner.

    Are you forgetting that for some people, the choice is between 98% protection and no protection?

  • Jeremy

    In the situation you describe, where a wife feels she needs to protect herself from her husband, that the church probably doesn’t have much sway? The Vatican can and should study the matter, however, in this case, it is a situation that is terribly broken. I personaly think the Vatican should stick to it’s guns on this matter because we have seen time and time again that when given license on sexual matters, peoples passions tend to rule. I think that situations like these should be handled pastorally by the people on the ground, who know the individuals.

    If the Vatican did endorse this edge case that you describe, would you then fully support the teachings of H.V?

  • grega

    I particularly liked G Akons cool analysis.

    Perhaps we should all cheer up look at it this way.
    Most self-respecting religions request some tough deeds from the faithful.
    Jews are suppose to follow rather strange eating habits – eating habits that have nothing to do with modern understanding of food and everything with ancient tribal cultures and food handling practices. Muslims don’t drink in theory, can perhaps have up to 4 well covered wife’s (if they can afford it) but the males are generally demigods compared to us ‘poor’ western guys post feminism. But hey we Christian Males are the only ones who really have it all we can drink and eat with the best of them enjoy our women relatively speaking beautifully clothed (or unclothed) and if married we are expected to have abundance of procreating sexual activity.
    What is there not to like?

    Oh we actually think about these things and take some responsibility these days – including the use of condoms to prevent spread of STD’s and Birth control?
    For me the responsible husband in 2008 most certainly discusses the number and frequency of children while all the while engaging in natural and as frequent as the couple desires sexual activity.

    And yes perhaps we can have a show of hand here who among the folks in a married relationship within the window of fertility is following HV really.

    I think for a number of fine catholic couples the churches advice is great – the majority however obviously is not following this for the most part – and yes for very good reasons.

    If the church really feels strong about this perhaps they should encourage us ‘sinners’ to stop paying our dirty money to the church until we repent – yes I did not think so either.

  • Tony

    It would seem, though, that it is not possible to determine if something is “against nature” or “unnatural” or “disordered” by actually referring to nature, since homosexual behavior is widespread in animals.

    It is also disordered for the animals who do it. It is against the natural purpose of sex, which is procreation. Oh, sure, sex is pleasurable. This is to encourage us to do it to procreate. But pleasure is not the primary purpose of sex.

    Likewise the purpose of eating is nutrition. Sure, eating is pleasurable. This is to encourage us to do it. However if you divorce the pleasure of eating from the primary purpose, you get bulemia.

    So contracepted sex (and homosexual sex, by definition is contracepted) is akin to sexual bulemia.

  • grega

    Is the use of something as Anti-natural as
    ANTIBIOTICS perhaps medical bulemia?
    How about cancer and heart drugs?
    Is Aspirin o.k. for catholics?

  • David Nickol

    It is also disordered for the animals who do it. It is against the natural purpose of sex, which is procreation.

    This could be so, I suppose, as long as a behavior is not adaptive. However, if it is something that contributes to the success and survival of the species–something that worked in terms of natural seclection and evolution–then it would make no sense to say a behavior is “against nature” or “unnatural” or “disordered.” I remember when I was a kid, my father, who raised chickens, once brought into the house a newly hatched baby chick that walked backwards and only backwards. One might call that “disordered.” However, it’s vastly oversimplifying to say that the natural purpose of sex is procreation. Even the Church says it has two purposes.

    It seems to me if the same kind of reasoning were applied to nutrition as to sex, Splenda, Nutrisweet, Saccharine, and Olestra would have to be considered intrinsically evil, since they give pleasure without having any nutritional value. Drinking diet sodas would be sinful, since eating to derive pleasure and eating to obtain nutrition could not be separated. Gastric bypass surgery or the Lap-Band system would be crimes against nature, since they would be artificial paths to weight loss. Only periodic abstinence (from food) would be permitted for those who wanted to reduce their caloric intake.

  • HA

    I am pointing out plausible scenarios where condoms might be approved…Are you saying under these circumstances that the use of condoms should be forbidden?…What I find chilling is that anyone would dismiss out of hand the idea that a wife in such circumstances might have a way to protect herself.

    Wait — in this plausible scenario, do I get to wear a jet pack? Because this time around, I really want a jet pack. As for the rest of your scenario, let me see if I have it right: an HIV-positive man is forcing his wife to have sex with him, and you think we should give her a condom and be done with it. And what then — is she supposed to just lie back and enjoy it? Think of England , maybe? Instead of a condom, how about we give her a handgun, or some castration implements, or at least a cell phone with which to dial 911? I mean, as long as we’re inventing plausible scenarios, why not brainstorm, and push the envelope a bit? (But please, no forgetting the jet pack. I insist.)

    And as for denying a woman a way to protect herself, are you saying that a 5% risk of infecting a woman with HIV through condom usage – and that’s according to your math assuming 1000 or so condoms over 10 years — is something the church should endorse, all in the name of sexual fulfillment? My, what a great way to order the priorities and protect women, David. A true romantic, you are. The HIV+ wife-abusers of the world salute you. Let me guess: adding a Russian-roulette element to every “love making” session, i.e., not knowing for certain whether this is the one that will do her in, must add an extra thrill for sensitive, protecting guys like you. But then, I wonder if women might see it another way? On second thought, who cares what women think? – we’re Catholics, after all.

    Again, I suspect what many here object to is less the notion that in some hard-case scenarios a condom may well be the least of all evils, and more the enthusiasm with which this latex fetish of yours is indulged, especially when, as indicated above, it has so little to do with any real concern for women or anyone else. Are you a paid shill for Trojan, or do you do this stuff for free?

    Regardless, please refer back to my previous comment on gang warfare and bullets (not to mention the “have at it” comment – what part of that do you not understand?) In particular, take heed of the admonition against following up every aspect of the church’s view on sex with a yes-but-what-does-it-say-about-condoms query, because in that case, you are talking yourself past any real solution.

  • David Nickol

    Are you a paid shill for Trojan, or do you do this stuff for free?

    After reading this and the rest of your comments above, I now feel I have a much better understanding of how Catholics feel about this issue.

    Thanks so much.

  • HA

    Glad to be of assistance. I think everyone here has a better understanding of what’s most important to you, too.

  • Tony

    One might call that “disordered.” However, it’s vastly oversimplifying to say that the natural purpose of sex is procreation. Even the Church says it has two purposes.

    David, I don’t say that either. I said that the primary purpose of sex is procreation. Do you disagree?

    It seems to me if the same kind of reasoning were applied to nutrition as to sex, Splenda, Nutrisweet, Saccharine, and Olestra would have to be considered intrinsically evil, since they give pleasure without having any nutritional value.

    I guess it could. I don’t drink diet soda, so I’m not committing that particular rhetorical “sin”. But this does tell me that you understand the analogy. You’re just trying to “lawyer” your way out of it. :)

  • David Nickol


    Even granting that the primary purpose of sex is procreation, it does not follow, in my opinion, that in each and every sex act, that purpose must be attended to. The analogy to nutrition seems to me to be a good one, and leads to strange conclusions if taken to the same extreme as arguments about sex. The idea that every sexual act must remain open to the transmission of life baffles me, since “open to the transmission of life” doesn’t seem to me to have much meaning when dealing with sterile couples of any age or couples where the woman is past childbearing age.

    I think most of us believe that sexual reproduction predates human beings by many millions of years, and the variety of sexual behaviors that existed before the first human beings makes just about anything “natural.” Of course, that doesn’t mean I approve, for example, of women imitating praying matises and biting men’s heads off during sex!

    More to come after I get myself a Diet Coke (caffeine free).

  • joanne

    What does the word ‘intimacy’ mean to you? And how often do you intend to insult your wife publicly? Whether or not she feels insulted currently is not the issue. Battered women don’t always feel abused, either.
    Will it matter that you have gained favor with her family via your new views on homosexuality once she has had to leave you in order to regain her self-respect? Or is it that her family is not really the issue you struggled with, but that your insistence on doing as you please has sent you into denial? And isn’t that the same denial that kills 1.2 million defenseless children in America every year?
    I continue to pray for you and your wife every day at Mass. I know that God is merciful because I have needed and known His tender mercy. But that is not to say that when I occasionally check in on you and your ‘ol blog buddies I don’t get ripping mad at almost every word that pops off your keyboard. May God have mercy on us all.

  • Jeremy

    Dave, keep in mind this blog is in a catholic context. While some couples may appear infertile, the bible has notable examples of barrenness that God heals. I understand that there is a similar concept in the US legal system. If a couple gets married, it is legally assumed that more children could result from the union, regardless of the age or condition.

  • David Nickol


    I find it very difficult to believe it is actually Catholic teaching that every sexual encounter between two infertile married people must remain “open to the transmission of life” because God might work a miracle and cause the woman to conceive anyway. However, I have been wrong before. Can this be backed up by a reference to an autoritative source?

  • HA

    By the way, I should point out that I was being very generous to the pro-condom side regarding my statistics. It’s not that condoms prevent pregnancy 98% of the time, it’s that they don’t break 98% of the time. According to one site (Google “condom effectiveness pregnancy” if you’re interested), the typical use of male condoms — which presumably factors in complications like drunkenness, stonedness, fumbling around in the dark, and rushing to get it over with before some stupid Celine Dion song comes on and kills the mood altogether — has an associated failure rate of more like 14-15%, which would mean the odds of contracting HIV over 10 years are possibly much larger than the 5% listed above.

    Indeed, if the “success rate” were indeed 86%, and if the 0.3% figure David gave us is also correct, then the likelihood of HIV infection is over 20% after a hundred condoms, and over 90% after a thousand.

    Of course, that’s a lot of ifs, and this is all just back-of-the-envelope – your mileage may vary. If the husband were taking the cocktail, or for some reason had low levels of HIV, the likelihood would be correspondingly reduced. Conversely, if the he or his wife had also managed to get infected with herpes, syphilis or some other STD’s in the course of his becoming HIV+ (a reasonable assumption), or if there were other health issues to consider, the likelihood might be increased.

    And in any case, I digress, though it would have been remiss of me not to qualify the 98%.

  • HA

    I find it very difficult to believe it is actually Catholic teaching that every sexual encounter between two infertile married people must remain “open to the transmission of life” because God might work a miracle and cause the woman to conceive anyway.

    I’ll leave it to others to offer an authoritative source for this, but I can say with some confidence that the “because God might work a miracle” rationale is at best a mischaracterization.

    Actually, if we introduce miracles into the mix, then God could get a woman pregnant even if she didn’t have sex (which is the kind of contraception the church has no problem with). I understand that happened at least once, though it was a while ago and I’m a little fuzzy on the particulars. But even if a woman was on the pill and the condom didn’t break, something less than a miracle could get her pregnant (and I suspect it happens every now and then).

    Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s the hearts of the contracepting couple that the church is most interested in reorienting, more so than their sperm and ova.

  • Jeremy

    I didn’t really mean it in the miracle way, more of the “you just never know” way. The bible reference is to Sarah (Abraham’s wife) and Elizabeth (mother John the Baptist). May be a few more. While hardly definitive, being a Catholic on a Catholic blog, I can bring scripture into an argument.

    David: First, if a couple is infertile due to age then there is no need for any contraceptive action and the question you are really getting at is what about every sexual act between fertile couples. Lets not confuse the issue by trying to throw out a lot of implausible “what ifs” and then pretend that those are the issues Humane Vitae addresses. More importantly, you will probably not know for sure in diagnosing infertility until past menopause. Citing one improbable case isn’t really a reason for allowing all cases, especially when there are other impediments.

    Pointing to the exception does not make it the rule. It proves the rule. The exception remains the exception no matter how many times it is invoked. The heterosexual exception to fertility is that some couple are infertile and this does not the rule of “infertile sex is ok” make. Infertility is not an excuse to use contraception and the existence of infertility does not negate being “open to life”, it means that those rare couples are, for whatever tragic reason, not blessed with children.

    Back to the HV point of the original post. The article states that HV predicted some things would happen:
    a general lowering of moral standards throughout society; a rise in infidelity; a lessening of respect for women by men; and the coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments.
    These things are happening.

    Some have pointed to periods in the past or other cultures where the women where not treated perfectly, etc, to try to prove that things were always bad. Well that does indeed prove that evil has always been around since before the fall and every catholic should give this line of argument a great big “no duh!”. But, the existence of evil and the twisted counterfit of good ideals does not prove that HV was wrong. Nor does it prove that infidelity, bad moral behavior, etc was ever a good. Obviously stoning someone to death for their sexual sins is always wrong. But that does not make the sexual sins in themselves a good. It is the barbaric punishment that is (rightly) acknowledge as unenlightened and wrong but twisting this to argue that the behaviors leading to the wrong punishment must therefore be undeserving of any punishment at all (or even a good thing) is simple sophistry and just plain bad logic.

    Contraceptive sex, unmarried sex, homosexual sex, fornication, etc is wrong and just because Jesus taught us to be compassionate to sinners does not mean that we can now revel in the sin. Degrading our sexuality degrades our civilization as HV so presciently pointed out and tying ourselves up in knot trying to call a bad thing good and justifying evil will only result in our own condemnation. Lets not forget that along with compassion, Jesus also taught us to confess our sins and then “go and sin no more” in other words STOP doing it!

  • David Nickol

    What makes no sense to me is that the exact same rule about every sexual act being “open to the transmission of life” applies to fertile and infertile couples alike, and indeed appears to be the fundamental tenet of Catholic sexual morality. I was just looking at Bishop Geoffrey Robinson’s book (Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church), and he would like to see sexual morality formulated in terms of harm to people, not offenses against God. It makes sense to me.

    I would have to see a lot more information before I concluded that the “predictions” in HV had come true–they all would be very difficult to quantify–but even if they have, that of course does not prove that they were the result of increased acceptance of contraception.

    I don’t think most people are tying themselves in knots to call a bad thing (contraception) good. I think most Catholics who use contraception simply don’t comprehend why every sexual act is supposed to remain open to the transmission of life. To go back to the diet soda analogy, I think people would understand the reasoning behind saying God made food and drink primarily for nutrition and secondarily for enjoyment, and consequently no act of eating or drinking may be done purely for pleasure and frustrate the nutritional purpose. Therefore, drinking diet soda is sinful. It’s easy to understand the reasoning, but I think people would say, “Huh???”

  • Jeremy

    Analogies are neat, but they always break down at some point. Food is not another person, made in the image and likeness of God. Sex is not an individual act, and the results of sex impact whole familes, and by impacting whole familes, impacts the community at large. Sex with someone will change our view of them, and our feeling towards them forever. Sex is not a toy, to be played with, or consumed.

    The problem with judging sex by the harm it does to people is that the immediate harm is not obvious. Adolescents have little concept of how powerful the sexual bond can be. People in their early 20’s began to get an inkling. And often, the natural purpose of sex asserts itself, birth control fails – In an uncommitted relationship, almost every outcome at this point is forever life altering, and often these days results in the death of a distinct human being.

    HV reminds us that the purpose of sex is now and always centered around the bonding of man and wife, and the transmisison of that bond to new life. To divorce one purpose from the other distorts the whole act.

    Again, on infertile couples, I will reiterate that ‘Pointing to the exception does not make it the rule.’

  • David Nickol

    Even accepting that the purpose of sex is procreation, and sex is licit only between two married people, it is still not clear why every act must remain “open to the transmission of life.” Certainly a couple who wants many children and uses contraception to space them is more open to life than a couple who wants few children (or no children) and uses NFP to achieve that end.

    Infertility is not the exception. All couples are infertile at times during the month, and most marriages last beyond the point where the woman can no longer bear children.

    As an aside, I ran across some statements while I was surfing the web to the effect that most people using NFP are doing it with “contraceptive intent,” since HV says one must have “serious reasons” to postpone having children, and most people’s reasons are not (apparently) serious enough.

  • Jeremy

    Dave, only one of the purposes of sex is procreation. You cannot divorce one from the other. The act must always remain open to life because of this.

    You cannot manifestly judge how open a couple is to life by outward appearances, and the point of HV is not to get into a competition. Our thoughts follow our actions. Using extra-ordinary means to prevent fertility manifestly denies the procreative aspect of sex.

    By working with the natural rhythms of fertility, we are using ordinary means to space our children, or enhance our fertility. These ordinary means are respectful of the way God created us.

    As to your aside, why would you say that their reason’s are not serious enough? How would you know? A serious enough reason is for the couple to prayerfully determine.

  • Matthew Siekierski

    David, back a couple of days, said:
    Are you forgetting that for some people, the choice is between 98% protection and no protection?
    You’re missing the third choice…abstaining.

  • David Nickol


    Can you give me another example in Catholic thinking where an action has two purposes, and you may not commit that act unless the primary purpose is not furthered? Is sex between married partners permitted if it is procreative but not unitive? Suppose they have fallen out of love and continue to have sex simply to satisfy a physical need.

    Far be it from me to say any married couple is immoral to use any means to control their fertility. I was merely reporting what I had seen while surfing for information. There seems to be an argument over what the appropriate translation of HV should say about the appropriate reasons for using NFP. Should they be “grave,” “serious,” or “well-grounded”?

    Of course, I would leave it up to every couple to make their own decision to use NFP, or the pill, or whatever! But I realize that puts me in dissent. Staying entirely within Catholic thought (hopefully), I would say that just because contraception is considered “intrinsically evil” does not necessarily mean that couples who use it are committing a “mortal sin.” A lie is “intrinsically evil,” but if you tell the boss’s wife her pot roast is delicious, or if you tell your wife her new dress doesn’t make her look fat, it is difficult for me to believe this intrinsically evil act puts you in danger of Hell. Is nonprocreative sex (for the best of motives) really up there with murder? I can’t believe it.

  • David Nickol

    You’re missing the third choice…abstaining.


    I was discussing young wives in Africa, where 42% of females are married before the age of 18 to older men. The men may be infected with HIV, and they may not give their wives the option of abstinence. It is not difficult to imagine even an adult woman in a developed country who would have grave difficulty deciding to choose abstinence when her husband disagreed. There may be many more desirable solutions to this problem than using condoms, but if the wife is able to persuade the husband in even a small number of cases to use condoms to prevent her from infection, is she wrong?

    I remember a case in the news where a woman managed to persuade the man who was intent on raping her to use a condom. Was that a sin on her part?

  • Jeremy

    Can you give me another example in Catholic thinking where an action has two purposes, and you may not commit that act unless the primary purpose is not furthered?.
    No idea, but I don’t think it matters much. Sex is not like other actions. In addition, I must correct you, sex does not have ‘a’ primary purpose, It has two primary purposes. You cannot separate them.

    Suppose they have fallen out of love and continue to have sex simply to satisfy a physical need.
    Then I would guess that they are very unhappy, and there is probably a lot going wrong in that marriage.

    There seems to be an argument over what the appropriate translation of HV
    Arguments are not doctrine. I’ll let the theologians and the experts work it out. I’m not a scholar on the finer points. For now, I’m more concerned about what my Wife and I believe constitutes a sufficient reason.

    A lie is “intrinsically evil,” but if you tell the boss’s wife her pot roast is delicious,….
    Catechism goes into a lot of detail on this situation. Good read if you get a chance.

    (for the best of motives) really up there with murder
    again, check your Catechism, the answer might surprise you. (And no, I’m not telling what the answer is).

    A general comment on the scenarios you bring up – They are broken human tradgedies. Your examples are people in opposition, not people in union. If you only consider HV in this light, you are not only missing the point of the teaching, you are missing the foundation of the teaching..

  • David Nickol


    First, you seem like a nice guy.

    Second, I don’t have my Catechism with me at work, but I will check it tonight.

    Third, regarding human tragedies, they are very common. In places like Sub-Saharan Africa, they may be the rule rather than the exception. In fact, that may be true in the United States as well. I just saw statistics that said 50 percent of marriages fail, 25 percent are endured, and 25 are happy and successful. Don’t the rules about “intrinsic evil” apply to everyone?