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What is sex for?

Anglicans (and Catholics) get themselves in a muddle over gay marriage because they’ve forgotten the meaning of sex

By on Friday, 23 March 2012

Richard Pohle/The Times/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Richard Pohle/The Times/PA Wire/Press Association Images

I have written this week’s Charterhouse Chronicle about Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, which you can read in the paper edition of The Catholic Herald, and in the course of writing it I looked up what he had to say in a lecture he gave before becoming Archbishop. You can find the text of the whole lecture here, and very interesting it is too.

In “The Body’s Grace” he comments on The Raj Quartet, by Paul Scott, among other books. I love the Raj Quartet, and I must study Rowan’s lecture, I feel, with greater attention.

But what stands out on a first reading is this:

In a church which accepts the legitimacy of contraception, the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous texts, or on a problematic and non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures.

The assertion made here cannot, to my mind, be contradicted. If you accept contraception, then you must accept same sex relations as having value. I think, however, that this is a real problem for some people. Anglicans accept contraception, but not homosexual relations, or at least not yet. Catholics accept neither; but of course, writing that, one is aware that many Catholics do “accept” contraception, and do “accept” same sex relations too.

What we have here is a dangerous incoherence, a lack of what is called joined up thinking. We need to think about these questions globally, not in isolation from each other.

Rowan then goes on in the very next sentence:

I suspect that a fuller exploration of the sexual metaphors of the Bible will have more to teach us about a theology and ethics of sexual desire than will the flat citation of isolated texts; and I hope other theologians will find this worth following up more fully than I can do here.

I agree. I myself thought this worth doing – exploring the scriptures and looking at the teaching of Humanae Vitae through scriptural lenses, but no one was interested. Catholic publishers said it wasn’t Catholic enough and non-Catholic publishers said it was too Catholic. Oh well. Perhaps people no longer want to look at Humanae Vitae? I think we should, as it may contain the answer to our current dilemmas about sexuality.

In the end, what is sex for? (The question with which Rowan starts his lecture.) I think there is only one possible answer to that: it is for the procreation of children – and other things too; but it is always procreative. (And yes, there is a challenge in that we marry infertile couples.) But because we have lost the battle on the goodness of procreation, we have lost the battle on other questions too.

  • Patrick_Hadley

    I do not want to be rude, but for a celibate to try to answer the question “What is sex for?” is a bit like asking a deaf person to tell us what music is for, or a getting a blind person to advise us on our colour schemes.

    Anyone who has experience of sex should be able to understand that God gave human beings sex so that they could experience great pleasure in the context of loving union. If God had wanted sex to be primarily for procreation then he could have designed human beings to be like other animals who only have sex when the female is fertile. In humans the probability of a sex act leading to conception is around 3%, so if God designed it primarily for procreation then he did not make a very good job of it.

    Back in the 1960s when the commission set up by Paul VI came back with an almost unanimous recommendation that contraception should be allowed, the response from conservative theologians was that if the Church allowed contraception it would have to change the whole of the rest of its teaching on sexual morality. What a tragedy that instead of realising that all Catholic teaching on sex was based on false premises and making the radical changes needed, the Pope instead used natural law nonsense to try to justify an absurd position.

  • Jonathan

    ”  the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous texts, or on a problematic and non-scriptural theory”
    There is a third option:  the argument against sex outside marriage could rely on the teaching of Christ given to the apostles and transmitted through the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

    Surely it is totally dishonest to describe Romans 1:24-32 as ambiguous?  I suspect that when he says ‘fundamentalist’ he is describing the practice of actually listening to St. Paul and believing that what he is writing is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

  • Patrick_Hadley

     St Paul also said:
    - that escaped slaves should go back to their owners;
    - that bishops should have a wife;
    - that it is shameful for women to speak in the assembly;
    - that women should not cut their hair;
    - that women should always have their heads covered with a veil;
    - that if women ever want to know anything they should ask their husbands at home;
    - that no woman should ever teach or have authority over a man.

    St Paul was writing letters to communities living nearly two thousand years ago and the practical guidance he gives to them on how to run their affairs has to be understood in the context of the times he was living in.

    It is simply silly to think that you can pluck a few pieces of advice from those letters out of context and apply them to the present.

  • paulpriest

    Father: The Church doesn’t marry infertile couples – nor indeed marry anyone – a man & woman marry each other

    Sorry Father but you’re making a fundamental mistake which will lead you into the most dangerous waters…the procreative aspect is inseparable from marital lovemaking’s intrinsic unifying sacramentality [it's not merely an additional 'other thing']

    … to diminish the latter in any way [i.e. saying there is any 'challenge' in either the infertile or menopausal marrying] is dodgily veering away from humanae vitae itself!

    You’re diminishing the inherent dignity and absolute mandatory intrinsic nature of the unifying aspect of lovemaking…

    …while inadvertently being remiss in the crucial fact that new life is always a gift from God.

    …and as an aside -  however awkward – your argument seems to be tainted with a positivist pelagianism; we are made from nothing and held in being by God in whom all things are possible [and I'm not merely refering to Sarah, Elizabeth or Our Lady but the procreative miracles which occur all around us among those told by the experts that they were infertile]

    Fr Dylan James made a similar mistake in Faith magazine last November when he tried to equivocate Natural family planning as a ‘lesser imperfect good’…[with dire consequences]

    One should always see NFP as always being a moral disorder overwhelmed by the double effect into right action;
    if one makes any attempt to apply any ‘goodness’ towards it – by default making a procreative sex a greater good – one automatically demeans and debases the lovemaking of infertile/menopausal couples – the pelagian lack of full acknowledgment to the graced gift of new life – by fallaciously/erroneously attempting to diminish the moral disorder of contraception by omission ; one scandalises the actions of couples who make love at its most possible unifying while remaining fully open to the [albeit hardly-possible] gift of life; where by the very nature of the act itself God as Love and the Giver of Life is revered, praised and glorified – irrespective of its lack of fecundity.

    ….inadvertently one leads to a thoroughly scandalous postulate that the lovemaking of the infertile is less worthy or even potentially morally disordered in some way as it cannot achieve the normative natural procreative entelechy…

    …and…yet again inadvertently…one invalidly travels [albeit briefly]  along the same line of argument which condemns homosexual sexual acts! As two men or two women cannot conceive when they mutually masturbate – where do infertile couples come into this equation?

    The true answer is they never do – it’s a false corollary – because of the direct created natural order and complementarity of the body/soul holism between a man and a woman that doesn’t exist in this life between people of the same sex – if we become reductionist to ‘fresh sperm & egg’ criteria we arrive at a paradigm where the Love that overflowed into new life is denied from its Prime source – denying this leads us down dark pathways when we confront IVF and children conceived by incest/rape

    By failing to recognise the inherent dignity and complementary union of souls as well as bodies in human lovemaking between a man and a woman…we are compelled by the inexactitude of our arguments to arrive at a position where there is a moral disorder among the infertile – where none truly exists!
    …carry along these lines and you end up in very dodgy territory when it comes to addressing clerical and monastic celibacy – where it becomes either a moral disorder or a moral disorder within a double-effect scenario – and it is fundamentally neither!

    What is the moral difference between the lovemaking of the fertile & infertile where both are unitive and ‘open to life’ even if the openness to life of the latter is one of a different nature?

    Answer: Nothing – except one may be graced by sharing in God’s creation where the love overflows into new life – but it remains GIFT – and that’s God’s territory where we dare not transgress.

    To suggest an unwilled infertile act of lovemaking or an infertile marriage is somewhat morally lesser or morally lacking in some way – is a big mistake.

    The old-wives’ euphemism of ‘being blessed X amount of times’ might be ludicrously anachronistic and prudish but it contains the underlying right perspective on love and marriage.

    It never takes two – there are always three…and the first of whom is God.

  • paulpriest

    Father: The Church doesn’t marry infertile couples – nor indeed marry anyone – a man & woman marry each other

    Sorry Father but you’re making a fundamental mistake which will lead you into the most dangerous waters…the procreative aspect is inseparable from marital lovemaking’s intrinsic unifying sacramentality [it's not merely an additional 'other thing']

    … to diminish the latter in any way [i.e. saying there is any 'challenge' in either the infertile or menopausal marrying] is dodgily veering away from humanae vitae itself!

    You’re diminishing the inherent dignity and absolute mandatory intrinsic nature of the unifying aspect of lovemaking…

    …while inadvertently being remiss in the crucial fact that new life is always a gift from God.

    …and as an aside -  however awkward – your argument seems to be tainted with a positivist pelagianism; we are made from nothing and held in being by God in whom all things are possible [and I'm not merely refering to Sarah, Elizabeth or Our Lady but the procreative miracles which occur all around us among those told by the experts that they were infertile]

    Fr Dylan James made a similar mistake in Faith magazine last November when he tried to equivocate Natural family planning as a ‘lesser imperfect good’…[with dire consequences]

    One should always see NFP as always being a moral disorder overwhelmed by the double effect into right action;
    if one makes any attempt to apply any ‘goodness’ towards it – by default making a procreative sex a greater good – one automatically demeans and debases the lovemaking of infertile/menopausal couples – the pelagian lack of full acknowledgment to the graced gift of new life – by fallaciously/erroneously attempting to diminish the moral disorder of contraception by omission ; one scandalises the actions of couples who make love at its most possible unifying while remaining fully open to the [albeit hardly-possible] gift of life; where by the very nature of the act itself God as Love and the Giver of Life is revered, praised and glorified – irrespective of its lack of fecundity.

    ….inadvertently one leads to a thoroughly scandalous postulate that the lovemaking of the infertile is less worthy or even potentially morally disordered in some way as it cannot achieve the normative natural procreative entelechy…

    …and…yet again inadvertently…one invalidly travels [albeit briefly]  along the same line of argument which condemns homosexual sexual acts! As two men or two women cannot conceive when they mutually masturbate – where do infertile couples come into this equation?

    The true answer is they never do – it’s a false corollary – because of the direct created natural order and complementarity of the body/soul holism between a man and a woman that doesn’t exist in this life between people of the same sex – if we become reductionist to ‘fresh sperm & egg’ criteria we arrive at a paradigm where the Love that overflowed into new life is denied from its Prime source – denying this leads us down dark pathways when we confront IVF and children conceived by incest/rape

    By failing to recognise the inherent dignity and complementary union of souls as well as bodies in human lovemaking between a man and a woman…we are compelled by the inexactitude of our arguments to arrive at a position where there is a moral disorder among the infertile – where none truly exists!
    …carry along these lines and you end up in very dodgy territory when it comes to addressing clerical and monastic celibacy – where it becomes either a moral disorder or a moral disorder within a double-effect scenario – and it is fundamentally neither!

    What is the moral difference between the lovemaking of the fertile & infertile where both are unitive and ‘open to life’ even if the openness to life of the latter is one of a different nature?

    Answer: Nothing – except one may be graced by sharing in God’s creation where the love overflows into new life – but it remains GIFT – and that’s God’s territory where we dare not transgress.

    To suggest an unwilled infertile act of lovemaking or an infertile marriage is somewhat morally lesser or morally lacking in some way – is a big mistake.

    The old-wives’ euphemism of ‘being blessed X amount of times’ might be ludicrously anachronistic and prudish but it contains the underlying right perspective on love and marriage.

    It never takes two – there are always three…and the first of whom is God.

  • Jonathan

    The ‘context of the times he was living in’ clearly included the acceptance of homosexual activity as he is deploring those who approve and even boast of it.  In what way do you think things have changed?

  • Puzzled

    One can say the same thing about St Paul’s most comforting statements on grace, salvation and the love of God.

    Where would that leave Christianity?

    If St Paul was writing under Inspiration, I worry that it makes us fools to start second-guessing the intentions and foresight of that Inspiration; who, if He made all things, can surely have anticipated societies different to those of 2,000 years ago and tailored St Paul’s epistles accordingly. It may be that there is more wisdom in some of these supposedly ridiculous Pauline ideas than we appreciate. Societies a mere 1,800 years from the date he wrote them organised themselves rather along his lines, after all.

  • Patrick_Hadley

    St Paul did not know that some people were made by God with a homosexual nature, and that for them sexual desire for their own gender was perfectly natural. He thought that people who had homosexual sex were simply perverting the gift of sexuality given to them by God. Thanks to our God-given intelligence we now know better. We should use that knowledge to draw different conclusions about the morality of homosexual acts, as I am sure St Paul would if he were alive today.

  • Patrick_Hadley

     So do you think that nobody should become a bishop unless he has a wife, that slaves should be returned to their owners, that women should keep quiet, grow their hair, wear a veil, and never teach a man?

    Of course we should distinguish between St Paul’s inspired teaching on grace and salvation which is true for all times, and his advice on culturally-sensitive matters which is not.

  • Puzzled

    St Paul himself knew when what he was saying was not under inspiration, and rather pointedly stated when that was the case (e.g. 1 Cor 7:10).

    Are you sure you’re being fair to him on those other points? His instruction is that bishops should be “the husband of one wife” (i.e. not polygamists). He urges Timothy to “exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters” (something I pray I might have the grace to follow each day at my own dingy workplace). The great Christian campaigners against slavery (from the Mercedarians to Wilberforce) never encouraged slaves to rise up in rebellion.

    On women not shaving their heads and being covered in church, and teaching authority being vested in men, I am willing to believe there is wisdom in such things. After all, it sounds an awful lot like Catholic and Christian practice for 1900-odd years.

  • Puzzled

    But St Paul wrote words breathed by the Holy Ghost. Whilst our age is certainly a little baffling at times, I very much doubt it has ever bamboozled the Godhead – not when it was far-off, not now it is present, and not when it shall be gone and forgotten. Ageless majesty has a way of coping with such things. Would God really not be able to supply Paul with advice that would retain its relevance?

  • Jonathan

    St Paul did know that we are all born sinners  but he did not use that as an excuse for continuing in sin.  As for the fact that ‘we now know better’ I don’t think that’s true and in any case it is irrelevant.  All the evidence that I have ever seen for homosexual tendencies being fixed is simply opinion.  It is controverted by the numbers of people for whom it really was just a phase.  Even if it were the case that these desires are fixed it is a manifestly un-Christian idea that we should blindly follow our physical desires.  

  • John Byrne

    The point you are making is very valid and has wide significance.

    In order for the teaching of Jesus too, to be meaningful, the Church must speak in the idiom of the particular epoch. 

    When one talks of the Gospels one should remember too that they are only a selection of a larger number of Gospels, most of which are now ignored.

    The few we have are also sometimes contradictory in many respects.

  • diarmuidlee

    My view on Humanae Vitae many years ago was that the teachings of the Catholic Church on contraception were blinkered. 
    Viewing the havoc and destruction wrought on societies by the sexual revolution, I have to state that these teachings are indeed prophetic.
    For western civilisation, the sexual revolution means death by a thousand cuts. 
    The evidence is already there.
    The chipping away at traditional morality by political and religious leaders and an acquiescence by an apathetic and gullible society  is leading towards far reaching and unintended  consequences.
    Civilisations that ignore prudence and temperance will vanish to be replaced by something from the dark ages.
    In spite of all its faults, the Catholic Church must stand firm and continue to teach the truth of Christ.

  • John Byrne

    Puzzled writes: “One can say the same thing about St Paul’s most comforting statements on grace, salvation and the love of God.
    Where would that leave Christianity?”

    Indeed one CAN (“say the same thing”).
    And Puzzled’s final question is one we should ALL be asking (well many of us have been for quite a long time).

    Of course one can well understand the reasons why the Church does not “push” this (as strongly as some think it should).
    By way of an obvious example: the Church’s doctrine teaches that the existence of God can be known from reason. This is false, and the Church must know it is false. But you can (in this case) excuse it from saying so. Imagine the press twisting things with misinformation (like William Oddie): “Vatican says there’s no God” etc
    Even so the Church must start seriously moving and educating.
    It would avoid questions like the following on Catholic question websites:
    What’s the Catholic
    theory behind such phenomena as ghosts?
    Should I get a rosary
    tattoo?
    Can Catholics practice
    yoga?

     Why did God create
    dinosaurs?

     Can Catholics
    celebrate Halloween?

     Can you explain for me
    the evilness of the Harry Potter series?

     Do our beloved pets
    go to heaven when they die?

     Can Catholics be
    comfortable with C. S. Lewis?

     Is “Amazing
    Grace” Catholic?

     Is “steady
    dating” really a sin?

     Should I care that
    Dumbledore is gay?

     Are Lenten fumbles
    mortal sins?

     Is Yoga contrary to
    our faith?

     Will I know my family
    in heaven?

     Why can’t women be
    priests?

     Were Adam and Eve
    real people?

     Is it lying to tell
    kids there is a Santa?

     How are Protestants’
    sins forgiven without going to confession?

     Can I donate my body
    to science?

     Should I burry a St.
    Joseph statue to sell a house?

     Are Catholic rock
    bands possible?

  • Puzzled

    You merely complete the mistake by extending your mistrust to the rest of the Bible. It is more honest than the current convenience of selective doubt; but I pointed it out as a disaster to be avoided, rather than a solution to be embraced.

    There are many good scholarly and historical reasons to privilege those texts which are canonical. And then there are the spiritual. The testimony of the faithful for 20 centuries! The very comfort of God speaking to believers today through those same words. 

    The Bible is a great gift from God, who was well able to direct its composition, guide its collation and guard its transmission. If you believe in the Almighty, there is no reason not to credit such a miracle, and to embrace and live by its precepts; since the last time I checked, we were standing on another miracle of His as it hurtles through space at 67,000mph. I mean to say, His things are solid.

  • Patrick_Hadley

    St Paul said that a bishop must be the husband of one wife. While that does indeed rule out polygamists, there is no “only” in the text so it also definitely rules out bachelors. It would have been unknown in St Paul’s time for a religious leader to be unmarried, and no doubt he thought that it would be unwise to break with that custom.   We can only speculate on what the Church’s teaching on sexual morality would be now if it had followed that instruction, but clearly the early church recognised that St Paul was giving instructions for a particular community, not setting out permanent rules.

  • Parasum

    It is for the same end as all other created relations and beings – namely, the glory of God. Without God as revealed in Christ, this whole discussion, and everything else, is a colossal waste of time.

    “”I suspect that a fuller exploration of the sexual metaphors of the
    Bible will have more to teach us about a theology and ethics of sexual
    desire than will the flat citation of isolated texts; and I hope other theologians will find this worth following up more fully than I can do here.””

    ## That is blindingly obvious :( If anything puts paid to proof-texting & “going by the Books”, it is the Incarnation. If the Books had been enough, the Cross would have been needless. We have the Cross & Resurrection, so proof-texting is shown to be useless.

  • theroadmaster

    Procreation is inextricably linked with the sexual act as well as being a source of greater intimacy in terms of mutual love between a man and woman in marriage.  Your rather low figure for the chances of a sex act leading to conception might have some credence if it is done in an infertile period in a woman’s reproductive cycle, but on average at least a third or more of women get impregnated when intercourse takes place once during ovulation.  The expectation that greets a new arrival in a family is a sure sign of God’s Providence which is cruelly frustrated when a couple put’s an artificial barrier between themselves and the intent to create new life.  “Humanae Vitae” was prophetic in terms of the negative societal and spiritual consequences of the widespread use of artificial birth-control.   the demeaning of women in the eyes of men and a reduction in the appreciation of life.  These things have come to pass across the Western world.  Artificial contraception leads to a complacent belief in chemical pills and devices to guarantee a life devoid of responsibility by people indulging in value-free sex but the consequences have come home to roost.

  • Parasum

    “…the procreative aspect is inseparable from marital lovemaking’s
    intrinsic unifying sacramentality [it's not merely an additional 'other
    thing']”

    ## In that case – where does that leave the practice of the Church in marrying the infertile ? If there is a better way of sending mixed messages than to have theology X & to prace not-X, I can’t think what it is.  Because if you are correct, that is what the Church is doing. (By the Church’s standards, the marriage of Abraham & Sarah was invalid several times over – bye-bye, “Abraham, our father in faith”.)

    A better way of torpedoing its own assertions than by institutionalising practices that contradict the assertions, would be hard to find. Even “the children of this world” manage better than that – why can’t the Church ?

  • Parasum

    “Surely it is totally dishonest to describe Romans 1:24-32 as ambiguous?”

    ## Short answer: no, it is not dishonest, not at all. Surprising as that may well seem. If there had been a constant tradition of interpreting the passage as being anti-gay, then it would be mistake to deny the Church has always taken in that sense. But there is no such constant tradition of interpretation.

    There is certainly a strand of interpretation of that passage in that sense – but it is only one strand of interpretation, within the tradition of interpretations. The passage is a bit like Revelation 12. That is routinely taken these days as being so “obviously” Marian, that people can be very cagey when they are told that there different interpretations of the passage which are older than this “obvious” one. They are unaware that there is a long history of interpretation of the chapter even within the Church, and that what is “obvious” to them today, is only one of several interpretations; and that others may well be more adequate. The same holds for this passage. FWIW, William of St.Thierry (d.1148), a colleague of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, wrote an “Exposition of the Letter to the Romans” – and he does not find this “obvious” meaning in it. Yet same-sex relationships were certainly not unknown. It is the “unknown unknowns”, not the “known unknowns”, that are dangerous to our knowledge, by making us think we know more than we do; because we cannot guard ourselves against “unknowns” that we are not aware of not knowing. And Biblical interpretation is full of both kinds of “unknowns”. Donald Rumsfeld was absolutely right to make those distinctions.

    “I suspect that when he says ‘fundamentalist’ he is describing the
    practice of actually listening to St. Paul and believing that what he is
    writing is inspired by the Holy Spirit.”

    ## This is only part of finding what the text means. It does not get one very far – it is not a replacement for engaging with the text & studying the words of which it is composed; nor does the Holy Spirit replace textual criticism, or exegesis, or the history of ideas, or studying the chronology of the letters of St.Paul. God does not replace human industry & intelligence.

  • James H

     “the existence of God can be known from reason. This is false”

    You’ve obviously never opened a philosophy text.

    Your list of questions, while they might seem dreadfully penetrating to you, is just plain daft.

  • Parasum

    Inspiration is not answer to these questions. Isaiah was inspired – that does not mean that his oracle to king Ahaz about the Syrians is relevant now in the same way as it was in 700 or so BC. Hazael of Damascus was a danger to Ahaz – modern Israel has other concerns to deal with.

    Inspiration is irrelevant to whether an inspired text has present relevance. “X is relevant today”, cannot be concluded from “X is inspired”. They are two logically unrelated propositions.

    “God is merciful” is a different type of idea from “Ahaz is King of Judah”. For the statement to be a true description of a this-worldly fact, there has to be an Ahaz, who has to be a king, and ther has to be a Judah for Ahaz to be king of.  If Uzziah is king of Judah, this entails the non-kingly status of Ahaz. If Iddo is the prophet who comes to him, then Isaiah is not. If Ahaz is king of Hazor only, then he is not king of Judah. If the king of Babylon destroys the monarchy of Judah, then no-one can be king of Judah – certainly not Ahaz.

    So the statement “Ahaz is King of Judah” presupposes that many conditions are satisfied for it to be valid as a statement of what is historically the case. And I’ve not even got round to pointing out that this Ahaz has to be a really existing Ahaz, and not a parallel Ahaz from another dimension. Ahaz may have been a real person – or an android, a hologram, an alien, or anything else one cares to imagine. We shall suppose, for the sake of argument, that Ahaz was the same Ahaz all along, a descendant of David.

    “God is merciful”, OTOH, is, if a fact at all, independent of history and of all changes on earth. That is what makes statements about God more reliable than statements about historical people and cultures. When the US was nothing – God was Good. When the US & all other human powers shall be utterly forgotten, God will still be Good, merciful, righteous, infinite in every perfection. Man changes, fades, and dies – as do the greatest of empires. The earth will pass away, and even the heavens will wear out (it says so in the Bible !) – but God does not wear out; He remains for ever. If statement X is true about God, it may become a very minor truth if others come along, but it will never be false; it will remain true.

  • Brian A. Cook

     Are you saying that natural family planning is evil? 

  • Recusant

    Yes, who would ask Beethoven about music, what would he know?

  • Patrick_Hadley

     Beethoven was not exactly a musical “virgin” when he went deaf.

  • aearon43

    Pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, weakens the soul. There is nothing godlike about it, it should not be considered in this discussion. What you say is like saying, “2 + 2 = 6 really feels good. Let’s let 2 + 2 = 6.” Sorry, 2 + 2 doesn’t equal 6. Pleasure is totally irrelevant, and in fact even should be held in suspicion.

    Satan tempts through pleasure, but God challenges through suffering. By suffering we purify our minds, bodies, and souls. By suffering we can even assist souls in purgatory and intervene on their behalf. Pleasure is decadent and never leads to spiritual growth.

    I would suggest that you reacquaint yourself with authentic Catholic teaching and take very

    seriously the possibility that you are leading poor innocent souls into Hell by your heterodox theories. What would St. Patrick say of you, Patrick Hadley?

  • aearon43

    How do we know better? Can you prove it?

    Patrick, my friend, please be extremely careful that you do not lead souls into darkness! This is not like a debate of which football team will win. The path you advocate could lead, could it not? into eternal separation from God.

  • aearon43

    Permanent or not, are you man enough to change them? Simply saying that they are impermanent is something different from saying that you are the St. Paul of today, isn’t it? Is that the role you’re assuming? Why should I listen to you, rather than St. Paul?

  • paulsays

     People die of AIDs because of the Church’s teaching, no one doubts that. The Church needs to be clear that as a last resort they are better than unprotected sex that spreads a diesease that kills, and kills entirely innocent children also. (that never partook in the act)

  • paulsays

     Do you self harm or something, your comment is a touch… disturbing. Maybe you should lighten up a bit. Just saying.

  • paulsays

    Yes, always procreative… sure. Except of course when following the ‘natural family planning’ (ie natural contracetion) that the Church has recommended.

    That sex is for pleasure and not procreation – it is anti procreation, as it tries to avoid it.

  • theroadmaster

    Some people have been rendered infertile for medical or other reasons that they have no control over and the Church on a wise, pastoral sense recognize this.  Thus they are not excluded from the marital bond.  The woman and man in question still form a complementariness in relation to eachother which can be formalized through the blessed ceremony of matrimony.  This is somewhat different to the situation where a couple deliberately frustrate the chances of procreation, by inserting artificial barriers between themselves.

  • paulpriest

     No – but it is never to be considered as a moral good – merely [at best] right action when a secondary direct aspect of the double effect.

    Contraception by omission is always morally disordered – therefore it is only permissible within the double effect – not towards its own end.

    Natural family planning is NOT good; but it may be right recourse with just or grave reason.

    Without such a reason it becomes just as sinful as contraception by commission – [intrinsically] morally disordered with potential for grave sin.

    It’s permissible with valid circumstances – but having the right to do it doesn’t always make it right to do it.

    Calling it ‘good’ leads to chaos

  • James

    People DO doubt that. In fact, I doubt that very much. If everyone followed the Church’s teaching, there would be no sexually-transmitted diseases at all, because everyone in a sexual relationship would be heterosexual, monogamous and faithful to their partner.

  • John Byrne

    A (fairly) recent survey in the US has shown that around 80% of married Catholic women of child-bearing age use chemical contraception and over 90% of those not married are sexually active and use chemical contraception.

    Apparently, they are unable to understand the difference between “natural” thermometers and “unnatural” tablets.

  • James

    Rubbish as usual.

    You don’t have to experience something to know what it is for, or what it is about.

    I’m interested in WHY you think, “Anyone who has experience of sex should be able to understand that God gave human beings sex so that they could experience great pleasure in the context of loving union?” On what logical basis do you claim that?

    If God had wanted us to not kill each other, he would not have made us with the ability to kill each other. So you see, God must WANT us to kill each other? Agreed? Of course not, but that’s what your argument amounts to.

    If God didn’t “design” sex for procreation very well, how did we get to a situation where there are 7 billion people in the world and counting?

    Back in the 60′s when Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae, he was roundly ridiculed, but EVERYTHING he predicted in that encyclical has come to pass. You should read it sometime.

  • John Byrne

    Of course the questions are totally daft. That was the whole point of my posting them. Please READ my posting.

    NOBODY believes that the existence of God can be proven by reason – not even the Church; but the Church will not say this loudly enough.
    If such proof existed, we would have no intelligent atheists.

  • theroadmaster

    Sorry, Aearon, my reply was not to your wise and lucid posting but rather to in reply to another poster that you are eloquently replying to at the moment

  • John Byrne

    Even the canonical texts are contradictory in places.

  • theroadmaster

    Some people have been rendered infertile for medical or other reasons that they have no control over and the Church on a wise, pastoral sense recognize this.  Thus they are not excluded from the marital bond.  The woman and man in question still form a complementariness in relation to eachother which can be formalized through the blessed ceremony of matrimony.  This is somewhat different to the situation where a couple deliberately frustrate the chances of procreation, by inserting artificial barriers between themselves.

  • Recusant

    Maybe, but the MIssa Solemnis or the Op111 came from a place way, way, way beyond hearing. Just making the point that you really don’t need to experience something to derive its moral significance. Quite elementary realy.

  • Patrick_Hadley

     Do you think that Beethoven would have been able to understand music if he had never heard it?

  • John Byrne

    The LINK below, a lecture at Notre Dame University USA (a Catholic University ranked a very good 18th among US Universities).  The speaker, Sean Faircloth, is a past member of the staff.

  • Patrick_Hadley

    If God designed sex in humans PRIMARILY for procreation, why do only 3% of acts of sexual intercourse result in a pregnancy? Come to that, why did he make it so intensely pleasurable, and why did he make it possible long after women become permanently infertile?

    Paul VI makes no predictions at all in Humanae Vitae, as anyone who has read it knows.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=682186715 Savia D’cunha

    Patrick,

    In the natural law sense of the term.   The essence of a thing, is based on it’s purpose and end. The essence of sex is both bonding and procreation. They are complimentary and not in opposition.

    The predictions made were:

    Rise in marital infidelity,

    The use of women as sexual objects

    Governmental interference in family planning.

    Sound familiar?

    There is a also a difference between being infertile naturally and suppressing it on purpose.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=682186715 Savia D’cunha

    The essence of a thing is based on it’s purpose and end.  NFP functions with fertility systems. Artificial contraception functions against it.

    It throws a blanket on reality. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=682186715 Savia D’cunha

    “non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity”
    Non-scriptural, has he read, Ephesians on the mystery of Christ and the church, related to the husband-wife relationship.

    One flesh union can only be heterosexual, because of the organic bodily unity based on sexual difference.

  • paulsays

    Its a blanket on reality that to practice NFP you must follow a monthly chart and track ovulations and periods day by day. Hardly natural at all!

    Clearly this is working against fertility systems, it just doesn’t include a physical rubber barrier – but the intent and result are just the same.

    Its a total fudge, and the Church knows it – but it also knows that it needs a way to ‘allow’ couples to enjoy sex for the pleasure of it – rather than for children – because otherwise most Catholics couldn’t cut it.

  • paulsays

    Its a blanket on reality that to practice NFP you must follow a monthly chart and track ovulations and periods day by day. Hardly natural at all!

    Clearly this is working against fertility systems, it just doesn’t include a physical rubber barrier – but the intent and result are just the same.

    Its a total fudge, and the Church knows it – but it also knows that it needs a way to ‘allow’ couples to enjoy sex for the pleasure of it – rather than for children – because otherwise most Catholics couldn’t cut it.