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Sex, Birth Control and Gay Marriage

by Michael Bindner

The 40th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae has brought in its share of apologia, among them Russell Shaw's piece in the Arlington Catholic Herald. There are two main themes that most cite. One is the equation of blastocysts with fetuses and the implication that stem cell research and birth control constitute an act of murder. The other is the usual handwringing about the separation of the generative and unitive purposes of sex when artificial birth control is used.

Both are problematic.

Scientifically and morally, there is evidence to show that Paul VI and John Paul II were just plain wrong. Until gastrulation, which occurs after implantation, twinning can occur (a moral objection to the gestationalists) and hybrids continue to develop (proving that a blastocyst may not actually be a human in some cases if bestiality was involved in the conception). 40 years ago, the Pope's scientific and theological advisors told him as much and were disregarded. In ethics class, this is called vincible ignorance and does not excuse the evil it causes.

Married Catholics also provided advice to the Pope on this issue and were also ignored, as they supported artificial birth control. As a married Catholic myself, the idea of taking advice about sex from confirmed celebates strikes me as a bit odd. As one who is approaching middle age and whose wife is approaching menopause, I find the assertion that sex without the possibility of procreation to be less than worthy to be personally insulting. The argument ad aburdo arising from this position is that I should divorce my wife and find a twenty year old for more procreation. That may work in some fundamentalist Mormon sects, but it is hardly Catholic.

The increase in sexual permissiveness since Humanae Vitae, which Shaw notes, has nothing to do with Humanae Vitae, since the encyclical was directed at married Catholics, not singles or gays and lesbians. Some of it comes from the liberalization of divorce laws, which left a lot of formerly marrieds in search of casual sex. Casual sex among the young has more to do with their increased economic power and the rise in collegiate and coeducational education than any teaching about married sexuality. Gay liberation has nothing to do with separating marital sex from creation. There has not been any increase in the incidence of homosexuality. What has increased is the tolerance of it and this is a good thing. Studies show that even young conservatives are more sexually tolerant than their traditionalist parents, which is why the hierarchy is so afraid. Their prejudices are going to die off when they do.

A separate piece that I read recently and cannot seem to locate made the outlandish assumption that gay marriage is wrong because it cannot reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church, which is also compared to the marriage covenant. This argument is almost circular, as originally the comparison between Jesus and the Church with marriage was used as a teaching tool. Comparing marriage back again is to turn the entire exercise into a tautology. There is also a problem with considering marriage in this way, since it clearly puts the female in a subordinate position.

Wives are no longer considered the property of their husbands, so the analogy breaks down - as it should anyway. In the Last Discourse, which was written after the Pauline Epistles, Jesus states that he no longer considers the Apostles (and the Church) as servants but as friends and brothers. This is an entirely different covenant than the marriage covenant described by Paul or by pseudo-Paul in Ephesians and Collosians.

Gay marriage is headed toward legal and constitutional acceptance in the not too distant future and the unraveling of the Republican Party will prevent any constitutional amendment in reaction to an almost certain overturning of gay marriage bans under equal protection grounds.

This will be a hollow victory, however. True acceptance of gays will only come when the Church doors are opened to them for marriage. The condemnations of homosexuality found in Scriptures did not consider such relationships, as most homosexual men had wives as property as well, or practiced pederastry, which is detestable even among liberals (when Jesus taught about corrupting children and the preference for being thrown in the sea with a milstone around one's neck, this is what he was referring to). When Paul wrote his letters, he fully expected that the preaching of the gospel to the known world would result in the imminent return of Christ. We're still waiting. We now know more about human sexuality, including the formation of sexual preference and its innate nature. Very few are "turned gay" if any (although some may be initiated into cycles of pederastry, which is different). With this in mind, the kind of moral ideal Paul recommends would be served rather than harmed by the celebration of Gay Weddings. Doing so allows the preaching of that sexual ideal, rather than presuming that gays and lesbians are naturally promiscuous. We can't share that message, however, until we abandon the notion that homosexuality is somehow disordered. How are gays to trust us with the words of Eternal Life if we do not trust them when they tell us that they did not choose their homosexuality?

Finally, there is the key teaching about marriage itself. Marriages are made by the parties involved. The Priest is merely a witness for the community. God blesses all marriages entered into in a sacramental spirit, whether witnessed or not. The fruits of this have been demonstrated by gay couples modeling the love of Christ in care for their partners suffering with AIDS and other maladies. To deny this is to deny the work of the Holy Spirit, which according to Luke was said to be sin which is not forgiven.


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Comments

Nice try Michael, but the tighty-righties are absolutists, and will never change their ignorant beliefs for numerous reasons. One reason is because their religion has become obsessed with the intimate lives of gay people. This seems to be their core issue. Without the gay scapegoat, they don't have a unity of spirit in their passionate hate. Another reason is because the right-wingers are stuck on judging homosexuality. They don't know how to let others, who appear different, be themselves. So, they try to control public opinion, and make millions at doing it.

What is the best way to cope with such reckless ignorance?

# posted at by Flex

I'm not Roman Catholic (or Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, etc.), but I'm saddened to see religious Roman Catholics scoff at the idea of marriage being restricted to male and female unions. Just because we younger folks might have been taught by peers and media to view the world through a different lens does not mean it's a better one. Some things make us feel better, but they harm others and the future of our children. The greater freedom women enjoy is laudable, however, it could have been arrived at through following the teachings of Christ rather than a perceived overthrow of 'traditional' values. The smaller families with no mother at home to lead them are the negative fruits of this path. I don't believe the Pope. I think that unmarried religious leaders are a joke, but I don't think that intelligent folks like yourself should be so quick to throw the baby out with the bathwater. AIDS would all but die in a generation if the folks in Africa lived like the Amish or the Mormons. Think of the great good in the world that would come from Roman Catholics following their own teachings (rather than picking and choosing as most seem to do).

# posted at by Deseretian

And where is the Christian Left in all of this? Their silence is deafening. Many folk still think "Gay Christian" is an oxymoron! The LGBT community being largely invisible doesn't help, but the Left's lack of response to the (at times) extraordinarily UN-Christian speech and actions of the Christian Right definitely hurts.

How sad that a religion bearing Jesus Christ's name could be so utterly polluted and denigrated by the Christian Right. Far TOO MANY people cringe when they hear the word "Christian"; it's become a dirty word. As a former church musician (30 years), I saw how the need to keep the older folks planted in their seats and tithing regularly hushed all gay-affirming talk and action, even in the churches who strived to be "Open & Affirming" in reality and not just in theory. Not to "dog" any New Thought churches, but I've worked as a pianist in 9 different ones in Western WA and there were stark contrasts regarding any "affirmation". As a child advocate (early-childhood educator) I am sickened by the lack of civil marriage for LGBT families....with and without children.

If homosexual marriage is compatible with Christianity, then so is adultury, incest and bestiality. These sexual sins are listed in the same breath in Leviticus 20. The language is quite unambiguous, and it is not referring to pederasty or an abusive situation, as both participants are to be killed.

One can make a Christian case for legalizing sodomy, but not for recognizing such within the Church. The former case can be made by recognizing that we are not in the Holy Land, and not all are called to be Christians. Secular law should seat a lower standard and the Church should require of its members.

Christianity is not for everyone. To think otherwise leads to either diluting Christianity or resorting to state-sponsored violence to attempt to enforce Christian virtues -- or both.

Leviticus also talks about eating shellfish, etc.

Babalonian Judaism is not for everyone. It certainly is not for me or for gays and lesbians.

# posted at by Xianleftist_Michael [TypeKey Profile Page]

Interpretations are irrelevant as long as Christians do not interfere with, try to destroy, or denigrate the family life of gay people. It is lucky that the laws of many lands are changing to protect these families against the Christian right, and any other of the vociferously anti-family Abrahamic religions. It is ironic that those called "pro-family" are trying to break apart families, while adding nothing to those families accepted by their blinkard views.

# posted at by Daniel

You say: "Married Catholics also provided advice to the Pope on this issue and were also ignored." As a Catholic you should know that the Church is not a democracy. We don't get to vote on the truth. It is what it is. When the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) speaks authoritatively on faith and morals, he is never in error. Look at the Anglican Communion to see what happens when people try to be Christians by committee vote - there is chaos and no agreement on what Jesus Christ actually taught.
-God Bless

Ryan,

Pius IX contended that - however he is not free from errors in science. Declaring that ensoulment can happen at conception is just plain wrong scientifically. Calling Homosexuality disordered is also not keeping up with scientific knowledge. Prior to JPII, the Church was saying that gays were to be loved, but that they should not have sex - which is also nutty.

If the Pope said the sky at noon was purple when obviously blue, he is not protected. As a practical matter, infallibility applies to decisions of conscience in the following way. If you do what the Pope says you are covered, even if he is wrong. This coverage is not only for the Popes. It also applies to Councils of the Church and in some cases to individual Christians. It can also be argued that the See of Peter is whereever the Roman Empire is headquartered. For many centuries until the Pope's forces attacked, that would be Constantinople. Some would argue that today the action is in DC, so that McCarrick is the rightful heir to Peter. That is a bit of a stretch - however stating the at Ecuemenical Patriarch is the Heir to the fisherman for purposes of feeding the sheep, etc., is not a stretch and has more historical support than any self declared papal infallibility.

Natural Law is for everyone to decide. The natural law justifications against birth control and homosexuality are weak at best.

The Pope should stick to making sure the Mass is done well. Celibates should keep their hands off of sexual issues between married Catholics.

# posted at by Xianleftist_Michael [TypeKey Profile Page]