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The sexes

What part of “no bias” don’t you understand?

This is bloody, sordid and freakish, but it suggests the logic of the principles now accepted: transvestite murder treated as hate crime. A man paid a prostitute for services and killed the prostitute when he found out it was a man. A representative of something called the “gay and lesbian liaison unit” at the D.C. police said the murder was being classified as a “hate/bias motivated” crime calling for a longer prison sentence than ordinary murder.

In this case, then, “hate” and “bias” include an aversion to having sexual relations with someone simply because the person is of the same sex. If you kill someone because of that aversion it’s worse, and of greater public concern, than if you kill him because of some more acceptable aversion. While it’s logical to define homophobic bias that way, so far as I know the point hasn’t been pressed in public until now. I wonder how soon it will make it into the schools?

Other features of the story that would be worth noting if they weren’t becoming so routine is the human-interest approach to the way of life of the deceased and the world in which he moved, and the matter-of-fact comments about “transexual sex workers.” In sex as elsewhere, “diversity” means that everything is the same as everything else.


Linking to disorder

List-keepers are one thing that makes Freerepublic sometimes useful. Here, for example, is a list of links relating to the homosexual agenda. It should always be possible to find the most recent version of the list through “scripter,” the member who maintains it.


Tricks at UNICEF

The International Organizations Research Group, the new research arm of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), has released its first report, The United Nations Children’s Fund: Women or Children First? (available in full in *.pdf).

Unfortunately, it’s feminists and not women or children who come first at UNICEF today. In its glory days from 1983 to 1995, UNICEF championed simple measures—primarily, growth monitoring, oral rehydration, breastfeeding, and immunization—that directly saved the lives of 25 million children. In 1995 long-time director Jim Grant died, and radical feminist Carol Bellamy took over. Under Bellamy the goals of UNICEF have focused less on the welfare of children than on sexual and gender issues. Thus, the number one priority of UNICEF is now the education of girls, even where more girls than boys are enrolled in school (as in Latin America and the Caribbean). The top five priorities of the organization also include HIV/AIDS and the fight against discrimination, issues that are relevant to children’s welfare in the way all social issues are relevant to children’s welfare, but were evidently chosen as a way of enabling the organization to open new fronts in a generalized war by activists to transform international norms regarding sex and gender. Some of the goals of that struggle, like abortion, the liberation of women from family and motherhood and the right of young people to sexual activity, have very little connection to child welfare. UNICEF nonetheless supports them.

So what does one conclude? One conclusion is that agencies set up to further highminded goals and representing only themselves and other similar agencies fall prey to ideological and bureaucratic interests. As such, they lose sight of the concrete universally-accepted goals they were originally set up to further. Another is that in bureaucracies and among ideological activists the personal will always trump the humanitarian. Sexual liberation is relevant to the personal lives of human rights activists. Oral rehydration is not, and sexual restraint is relevant in a way they don’t like. It follows that over time attention will shift from dull stuff like oral rehydration to exciting stuff like sex, and whether something actually helps people live better and healthier lives will be much less important than whether it contributes to a world in which policymakers can do as they wish, in private as well as public life.


Rampaging tolerance

Human relations are particular. I form connections to X, Y and Z based on their (and my) goals, qualities and situations. Such things vary endlessly, so human relations vary endlessly as well, in ways that can’t be controlled or even defined in any comprehensive way.

Liberals believe in nondiscrimination and inclusion. Nondiscrimination and inclusion forbid distinctions, and so are a matter of making all relations among human beings identical. It follows that unless nondiscrimination and inclusion are defined narrowly (for example, to require that everyone be charged the same price for a can of tuna fish) they are radically at odds with human life as it is inevitably carried on.


Daycare cares

There are some good comments on daycare at the Touchstone magazine blog that were touched off by a Rich Lowry comment on a new book. It’s an issue that should get more attention. The goal of modern public life is the abolition of the social function of every social institution other than bureaucracy and the market. Daycare is an important part of reaching that goal.


Randy rectors

We were told that if we’d be rational about sex, get rid of moralistic hang-ups, and accept individual differences, then joy, health and freedom would reign. Apparently, that hasn’t happened: New Anglican Sex Scandal. A number of women are claiming that they were terribly damaged by sexual contact with Anglican clergymen who were either their pastors or colleagues, and got no sympathy from church authorities. It appears that there was something wrong with each of the women. The reporter says “vulnerable,” but that’s another way of saying “psychologically not-too-solid,” and the stories they tell bear that out. I can’t imagine what it would be like to try to figure out who did what and who behaved how badly to whom in such cases. With that in mind, here’s one possibility the Anglicans might want to consider: sex always involves vulnerabilities, and there’s no way for third parties to understand what goes on let alone keep it abuse-free. So rather than take on the hopeless task of policing sexual conduct while accepting consensual private conduct as legitimate, would it make sense for the Anglicans to decide that there’s no good place for sex outside of marriage and adopt ordinary Christian sexual morality as the standard?


Pockets of resistance to the NSO

A few stirrings of opposition to the new sexual order:

  • People are noticing that single-sex education is actually better for boys, too. Let boys be boys, it seems, and you can lead them to become better boys. They’re more likely, for example, to develop cultural interests, and to grow up able to deal with the opposite sex in a sensible way. Why wouldn’t the people agree with that who believe repression is bad, and getting in touch with your inner whatever is good?

  • Melanie Phillips, a moderately conservative British pundit I’ve commented on from time to time, has written a book on The Sex-Change Society: Feminised Britain and the Neutered Male. I haven’t read it, but from the review it seems to make many of the right points: abolishing sexual morality abolishes marriage, abolishing marriage abolishes fatherhood, and abolishing fatherhood doesn’t do anybody much good because fathers do have something definite to add.

  • One basic problem with abolishing the normal family as an authoritative institution is that it throws the relation between parents and children into radical doubt. If having a baby is the woman’s purely personal choice, and a marriage is just a couple of people who hang around with each other for a while, it becomes unclear why parents should be assigned custody of their own children. The natural response is to multiply government protections for children, and to treat parents (who aren’t supervised up to the usual standards for care-givers) as presumptively guilty of abuse. The result: Kafkaesque children’s courts sitting in private and playing God with the families that come before them. After all, who should the court listen to—an untrained nobody who’s under suspicion anyway (a parent), or a certified expert?

More sex news

Some comments on random news stories related to sex:

  • The new conception of “normality” in sex is that it is a normal part of life like anything else, watching TV or whatever, so it’s no big deal. Some such view seems inevitable in a society that accepts artificial birth control. Contraception decisively separates sex from its natural function and makes it a purely expressive act, like sending a greeting card. The only meaning it can have is the meaning the participants choose to give it, which is no one’s business but their own. Public standards regarding consensual sexual conduct thus become impossible. So it’s not especially surprising that in America pornography is going mainstream and in Norway they have a government program for providing sex toys to disabled people.

  • If sex is “no big deal,” marriage doesn’t make much sense. So in spite of all the sentimentality about “gay marriage,” and the assertions that the institution would stablize the “gay lifestyle,” once it exists no one much wants it. Why should they? If marriage has no objective function, and exists only to serve the individual goals of the parties , it doesn’t make sense for it to bind them to anything. But if it doesn’t bind the parties to anything, why is it worth bothering with?
  • The ultimate in making sex no big deal is making what sex you are a matter of your simple say-so. That ultimate seems to have been achieved in Britain, under a new law said to be required by the European Convention for Human Rights: Transsexuals win right to get their sex changed on their birth certificates. A “transsexual” will be defined as someone who has lived successfully in his acquired gender for at least two years. It’s unclear what the substance of “living successfully in a gender” will be, since there’s no evident reason a woman who has newly become a man can’t dress in a skirt and use makeup, or why a man who has newly become a woman can’t dress in a business suit and call herself “Bob.” Since the Government will not require surgery as proof that a person is transsexual, it’s unclear how more can be required to change sex than a simple announcement that one has done so and maybe a doctor’s note.

WomanSpirit falling

Looks like patriarchal structures have more of a future than WomanChurch: The Importance of Fathers to Churchgoing. A Swiss survey shows that if both father and mother attend church regularly 33 percent of their children will become regular churchgoers. If the father attends irregularly and the mother is non-practicing 25 percent will become regular attenders. But if the father is irregular and the mother regular only 3 percent will become regulars.

The final figure is startling. After all, if the father goes only sometimes why would it hurt to have the mother go regularly? The obvious interpretation is that in the last case it’s Mom who wants to go and Dad who’s getting dragged along. So what’s important for the children’s future religious life, it seems, is that Dad go because he judges that it’s important to go. Dad has to lead. Which makes sense, given what most of us remember from childhood: Mom may have given us love, understanding and personal connectedness, but Dad stood for decision and reality. And regardless of what you hear, religion is not a matter of sociality or sentiment. It’s a matter of what is real, and what, most fundamentally, one chooses to do in life.


More on marriage

More on on sex and the death of the West: Young men are running from marriage. They’re sleeping around while waiting for that soulmate who never comes, and view pregnancy and children as a trap.

The article, written by a female columnist for a newspaper’s “Lifestyle” section, naturally pins the blame on men: “If [a young man] finds [a supposed soulmate], he is also likely to find that the relationship does not live up to this romantic ideal, but it will be easy enough to divorce these days.” In fact, of course, it’s far more common for the woman to file for divorce. After all, she can get the house and children just by kicking her husband out, and the support system is stacked in her favor. The lady columnist might do well to broaden her perspective on the situation. The article does attempt to end on an upbeat note with a quote from David Popenoe: “We are beginning in this nation to talk about marriage more …” We sure are. We’re talking about “gay marriage” as a celebration of marriage. That’s a turnaround the institution can do without.

So what do we make of this, as citizens and as Catholics? The obvious question is how to relate our faith—and our understanding of natural law—to life in this world. Vatican II was supposed to open the windows of the Church to the world. In its wake the distinctive Catholic culture that had existed was dismantled and distinctive ways of living abolished. People apparently thought that would be a good idea because the world was thought to have the open air, starlit skies, pulse of life and whatever in its keeping. That has turned out not to be the case. In the absence of a Church that makes transcendent realities visibly and concretely present the world has turned out to be a closed circle of frustration and death.

In a sense, of course, it’s a mistake to blame things on bad pastoral decisions coming out of Vatican II. What we are seeing in our time is the outcome of a huge social and spiritual experiment—the attempt to create a purely human world—that goes back to the beginnings of modernity. We should pray for the wisdom and humility to draw the right conclusions from the failure of that experiment, and to act on them.


Live free or die!

The other side of sex, tolerance, democracy, autonomy and what-not: the Elks have to admit women, and if members make sexist remarks while discussing a particular application they can get stuck with stiff damages for emotional harm.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court decided that the Elks are a “public accommodation” because they have lots of members, most applicants get the required 2/3 vote for admission, and they cover a lot of their budget by putting on events open to the public (to which women are in fact admitted). Since the Elks are a public accommodation they have to admit women, and since sexist comments are intentional the plaintiffs are entitled to compensatory damages for emotional harm the comments caused.

So what are the various guardians of the law telling us?

  1. If men want to commune with other men by engaging in buggery, that’s cool, and we all have to respect that.
  2. If men want to commune with other men by having a social club, it’s a crime against nature, and if they’re rude about their same-sex preferences, they can get stuck with $10,000 damages for every woman whose feelings are hurt.

Net effect: the true meaning of American freedom today is that we can have whatever private vices we want so long as we don’t try to govern ourselves in things that have a public component. With the Fourth of July coming up it’s good to bear that in mind.

One point the decision leaves unsettled is how the Elks can police their own compliance when membership decisions are made democratically by secret ballot. They can control language, but what about votes? Presumably they’ll have to have quotas of some sort—democracy is a good thing, but only within limits. How to do that within the limits of Justice O’Connor’s demand that affirmative action methods be “soft” and not “hard” may, for all I know, become the subject of future litigation.


What remains of marriage?

People argue about whether Lawrence v. Texas will lead to “gay marriage.” How much does it matter if the existing legal treatment of marriage is accepted?

Traditionally, marriage drew its importance as a civil institution from the circumstance that it was the setting for legitimate sexual relations. Marriage therefore had to do with children—sex naturally leads to them—and was essentially permanent, since children need a stable environment in which to grow up. Another attribute of marriage was the obligation of support between spouses, a result of the permanence of marriage and the sexual division of labor within it.


America chooses its future

The European Syndrome takes hold in America: the U.S. birth rate has fallen to a record low, and over one-third of all births in the U.S. are now illegitimate. In spite of the demonstrable importance of the latter statistic, the reporter didn’t mention it until almost the end of the piece.


Feminism, marriage and social science

A resource for those interested in the social science aspects of human relations: a Heritage Society backgrounder on Why Congress Should Ignore Radical Feminist Opposition to Marriage. It’s a discussion with lots of footnotes about the “social policy” aspects of marriage and feminist opposition to same.


More on the death of marriage

Free love continues its progress, in an undramatic way, with the judicial invalidation of the Missouri “alienation of affection” law. The legal question is simple: if Miss A takes up with Mr. B, and Mr. B leaves Mrs. B for Miss A, has Miss A injured Mrs. C in a way that can be legally recognized? One would think so, especially in a world in which anyone can sue anyone for anything. After all, Mr. and Mrs. B are in a legally protected relationship that gives each important rights and duties, and Miss A has interfered in that relationship, induced Mr. B to violate it, and broken it up. Both interference with a contractual relationship and intentional infliction of acute emotional distress are actionable wrongs. So why not breaking up a marriage?

Nonetheless, the Missouri Supreme Court says “no.” The explanation they give is that alienation of affection is grounded in the “outdated idea that married people have property interests in each other”—that is, that married people have rights with respect to the continuation of the marriage. That notion, the court says, is out of date. But why, one might ask? The apparent implication is that for people today marriage is a matter of shifting private sentiment and not an enduring institution that demands respect (although legal recognition may be given to matters such as the parties’ obligations as individuals to support their children). What this case means, it appears, is that in mid-America adultery is no longer a socially-condemned wrong but something—an exercise of free expression, perhaps—that deserves judicial protection. If there are old-fashioned laws that penalize it, the laws must be invalidated. Isn’t it obvious what a revolution has taken place? “Most lawyers would have predicted this,” a local legal commentator, said of the decision. “It really brings a Missouri into the 21st century.” I think he’s right.

American society, and Western society generally, is abolishing marriage. If marriage is a nonbinding arrangement between any two persons for the purpose of receiving certain social benefits, and adultery is a protected right, then marriage doesn’t exist. What should Catholics do in such a society? To what extent can they sympathize with its aspirations? It is said that Vatican II intended to open the windows of the Church and tear down the barriers separating it from the world. That may have seemed a good idea in 1962. Has it worked since then? Can it conceivably be a good idea 40 years later?


Consult the best experts!

An AP story that displays one aspect of the connection between liberal attitudes toward sex and the view that experts should run everything: Church warned of ‘witch hunt’. The piece, which relates to the pederasty scandals in the Church, is more than a year old. Nonetheless, it’s still worth reading because it carries the characteristic style of experts and the liberal journalists who report on them to the point of parody.

The piece is a classic that should be read and probably memorized. Consider, for example,

  • The intensely serious mock surprise at at the obvious. (“Researchers have identified a pattern in the molestation crisis afflicting the Roman Catholic Church: Most of the victims are older boys.”)
  • The puzzlement when ordinary responsible people draw evident conclusions. (“Noting this trend, some high-ranking Catholics have concluded that many abusive clergy are gay …”)
  • The bland assertion of plain falsehoods. (“There is also no evidence that homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to molest children.”)
  • And the invariable practical implication: don’t do anything at odds with what liberalism calls for. (“Until more research can be done on why boys are more often targeted, many researchers say the church should [do anything but treat priestly homosexuality as an issue].”)

Expertise is a wonderful social institution. It means that those in control can assert anything whatever, no matter how obviously wrong, and dissent only demonstrates the dissenter’s ignorance and probable psychological problems.


“Masculinism” makes its debut

How much should be expected from “masculinism”? The term appears to be mostly window dressing for the fathers’ rights movement, initiated by men who have been abused by a divorce and child support system that often gives women the power at will to kick husbands out of the house and their children’s lives while forcing them, under Draconian penalties, to keep supporting the (now fatherless) household.

The “fathers’ rights” movement makes sense, and attempts by the feminist establishment to tar it as extremist, invoke “hate crime” legislation against it and what not are characteristically disgraceful. In fact, the movement fully accepts the feminist premise that radical equality is the appropriate standard for relations between the sexes, and so in theoretical terms is objectionable chiefly on grounds of excessive compliance with the views that now count as “mainstream.” Still, the feminists are right that it poses a fundamental threat. Radical equality is necessarily a fraud. Opening up discussion on “women’s issues,” as the “masculinist” movement does, is likely to dramatize the fraudulence and open up the possibility of some resolution that comes closer to accepting human beings as they are. And that would mean the end of all familiar forms of feminism.


Sex and reason

In a usenet discussion group I mentioned that Humanae Vitae is one of the reasons I became Catholic: “Why is it,” I asked myself back then, “that the only man in the world who has an idea how to make human sense of sex is an aged celibate?” One of the other participants asked for more explanation. My response:

Sex is overwhelming, intensely focused on the other person, and dissolves boundaries. It involves a sort of mutual nakedness (psychological as well as physical) and self-giving. It makes people say things like “this is bigger than both of us” and believe that what they feel trumps normal good sense.

So the question is what kind of setting would enable someone to make sense of such a thing and make it part of the pattern of a good life.

It seems that sex requires an enduring connection between the lives of the parties that once established no longer depends on changeable things like current feelings.

If sex isn’t part of an objective union of the two persons, if it’s just a “relationship” as people talk about such things today, then it’s a matter of current dispositions and feelings so there is no real self-giving. A sexual “relationship” that is simply an informal connection attempts to turn sex into an arm’s length thing. The attempt fails because arm’s length is exactly what sex is not not. Each party in such a relationship acts as if he’s giving himself, but is in fact keeping all options open. That introduces an element of radical dishonesty into something very basic. It’s corrupting.

So sex must be integrated with a permanent connection to which one could sensibly give one’s all. Also, the sexual act must itself by its nature contribute to that connection and its permanence. Sex is too vivid an experience and the impulses involved are too strong to let us interpret it into something other than what it forces itself on us as being. If it feels like an act of self-giving then it must somehow objectively be just that. Otherwise it won’t be part of a comprehensible whole.

Normal non-contracepted sex between a man and a woman is a functional union of the bodies of the two that by its nature invokes serious enduring responsibilities and points beyond immediate feelings and interests, because it is the sort of thing that produces new life. Since its nature, by the constitution of the human body, is to produce new life, it naturally calls for comprehensive mutual support that amounts to a union of lives. That call for union makes the self-giving implicit in the sexual experience reasonable and in fact obligatory.

So it seems that if you carry on your sex life in the way Paul VI and John Paul II (not to mention just about all Christians before about 1930) say you should it’ll make sense. Your understanding of your situation and your relation to your spouse will reflect what the sex act expresses. If you don’t then either you’ll be living a lie (as in the case of a non-marital “relationship”) or you’ll be trying to force an interpretation on sexual acts (e.g., contracepted acts) that doesn’t come out of the nature of the acts themselves. In both cases you’ll be trying to make your will or interpretation dominate the situation and that won’t work. Basic things like sex have their own way with us and we can’t reconstruct them at will.

[UPDATE] The other participant responds, and the conversation continues:

bardi> To me the act of sexual congress between married people bardi> involves a great deal more than procreation.

Agreed. The issue is how much of the “great deal more” will be there if sexual congress is intentionally closed to new life. The problem with contraception etc. is that it turns sexual congress into a different sort of thing. By the intention of the parties it becomes an act that by its nature has no real consequences. Since the parties have intentionally deprived it of consequences they’re making it an act that has only the significance the couple chooses to give it. The result is that the union of the parties becomes unreal. It becomes a matter of the interpretation they decide to put on their acts, and everyone knows interpretations change. So the act can’t involve real self-giving. It feels like it does, and the parties may tell themselves it’s so, but it’s play-acting.

An analogy might help. Someone might say “joining the army isn’t just a matter of getting yourself killed. There’s a lot more to it. There’s patriotism, loyalty to comrades, devotion to duty, the feeling of being part of something bigger that has a high purpose, etc., etc., etc. And everyone knows actual fighting wrecks armies. Besides, even in wartime lots of soldiers don’t die so getting killed can’t be essential. So what I’ll do is set up something I’ll call an army that can never be sent into battle. That way I can get all the good things without the disadvantages.” It won’t work though. Eliminating the risk makes the other stuff pointless.

Another analogy: a group of friends might enjoy having each other over for dinner. For them it’s not just a matter of physical nourishment. There’s also the pleasure of seeing each other, the companionship, the mutual generosity, the interest of new dishes, etc., etc., etc. There’s the problem though that if you eat too much you can’t eat any more and besides you get overweight. So one of them might suggest having a bottle of Ipecac around so after eating everyone could take some and go off and vomit. After that they could eat some more or maybe go off to another dinner.

It seems to me that would be a bad idea. Even though physical nourishment isn’t the only thing going on at a meal it’s a necessary part of what a meal is. Take it away and you get something quite different that won’t have the same significance.

bardi> And that extra can be impacted negatively. Even more in this bardi> day and age more than previous times when the economy was bardi> geared toward a single parent household. Not just financially, bardi> but emotionally. Large families may have their strong points, bardi> but they can also cause a great deal of stress.

Today as always there are a variety of ways to live, some which better fulfill human nature than others. We should all choose the better and avoid the worse. One issue you raise is the legitimate use of natural family planning—refraining from sexual intercourse during fertile periods. It seems to me a couple isn’t obligated to have sexual intercourse on any particular day or have as many children as possible. On the other hand, if they intend to have no children or treat children as lifestyle accessories it’s not much of a marriage. I don’t have a grand theory just now as to where to draw the line.

Some more:

bardi> I would have to disagree. The union of the parties remains bardi> quite a tangible expression of their love for each bardi> other.

The situations are quite different though. A non-contracepted act of normal sexual intercourse creates a profound objective union between the two parties, because it gives the couple’s bodies a functional unity of a kind that is basic to the existence of the human species. It’s an essentially serious act, not at all the sort of thing one can shrug off or reinterpret into something different from what it is.

A contracepted act doesn’t create that kind of objective unity. You say it is nonetheless a tangible expression of love. To my mind though sex doesn’t seem like a social observance, a greeting card or whatever, to which we can give the meaning our sentiments suggest. What it naturally expresses—unity and mutual self-giving—is intertwined with its natural function. Sex is not something we control. It goes its own way in accordance with what it is and creates a situation to which our feelings adjust.

I suspect that we will continue to disagree on all this at least for now. The issues are too basic for a few arguments to bring anybody around. To me though it seems that you’re not treating sex unequivocally as a basic constitutive principle of human life. You’re treating it as something we can control and mold as we wish. You want to get the benefits of sex while controlling its consequences, even though the benefits depend on the seriousness of the consequences and therefore of the act itself.

bardi> To carry this argument to its conclusion would mean to suggest bardi> that sterile couples were imperfect in their relationship to bardi> each other. And contrary to popular mythology, sterile couples bardi> are actually more likely to remain married.

I’m not familiar with the popular mythology. It does seem to me though that a contracepted act and an act that will in fact be sterile because of age, time of month or some physical disability are different. In the former case the sterility is part of what the parties are choosing to do and so if (as in this case) the intentional sterility is radically at odds with the natural function of the act it changes the act’s nature altogether. In the latter case the sterility is accidental and so seems much less intrinsic to what the parties are doing.

All of which may seem like a fine distinction. Still, lines must be drawn and this line seems to me one that becomes more persuasive with familiarity. Part of the idea is that you can’t willfully interfere with something as basic as sex to defeat its natural function for the convenience of the parties without radically changing its role in human life. The fact that sometimes its natural functioning fails doesn’t have at all the same effect.

bardi> There is a difference between being a volunteer in an army and bardi> being drafted into the same army. Draftees are just as likely bardi> to be killed as volunteers,but they have been given no choice.

Agreed. Consent is essential to the validity of a marriage. Without that requirement it becomes much less likely that the goods of marriage will be achieved.

bardi> It would seem to me that your [dinner party] analogy actually bardi> supports the converse argument. One cannot use ipecac to create bardi> further children.

Don’t understand your remark, but if the analogy isn’t helpful to you there’s no need to pursue it. The thought was that Ipecac is like contraception, something one uses to deprive acts that support various personal and social goods (as sexual intercourse supports marital unity and eating supports conviviality) of essential natural consequences that sometimes become inconvenient.

bardi> Sexual congress,imho,is not an obligation. Rather,it is a gift bardi> of the Spirit. And to say that people must not accept that gift bardi> because they do not have the financial resources for an endless bardi> supply of children, is to me somewhat abrupt.

I recognize—as the Church recognizes—that at some point natural family planning becomes legitimate.

Still more:

bardi> hmm..there are species which engage in courtship rituals. There bardi> are even more species which engage in family raising. But so bardi> far the human species is the only one which gets emotional bardi> satisfaction fron the act of sexual congress. With a bardi> provisio…assuming there is an emotional bond to begin with.

The issue between us, I think, is whether that emotional bond is independent of the physical function of sex.

bardi> There is a difference between being a volunteer in an army and bardi> being drafted into the same army. Draftees are just as likely bardi> to be killed as volunteers,but they have been given no choice. >> Agreed. Consent is essential to the validity of a marriage. >> Without that requirement it becomes much less likely that the goods >> of marriage will be achieved. >> bardi> my point had to do with parenthood..not the marriage itself.

My point then would be whether marriage remains the same sort of thing once it’s thought legitimate for the parties to choose or not at will whether it will include children.

To my mind the decision that a marriage will not include children deprives it of any reality that goes beyond the (inevitably fluctuating) desires and interests of the parties. The self-giving implicit in sexual congress that is the soul of marriage thereby becomes impossible. How could one give oneself to something that is dependent on one’s own will? How could it be right to give oneself to the mere will and interest of another equal adult? To make the self-giving possible and legitimate marriage must be something more extensive. Openness to new life supplies the missing factor and integrates marriage even physically with the whole of human life throughout time.

bardi> It is the means that HV was arrived at more than any bardi> conclusionsthat I disagree with.

For me the means are an argument in favor. It seems to me that the tyranny of experts is a big problem today. Not only do they tell us what to do but they say we can’t even criticize them or talk back because that would just show ignorance on our part. We’re not smart enough to have an opinion. Since there are experts on everything we all as a practical matter get treated as knowing nothing.

Paul VI rejected what all the experts said and followed tradition. Tradition is the possession of a whole people rather than a few experts. It summarizes the perceptions and experience of a lot more people and a lot more sorts of people than formal expertise ever could. The idea that formal academic expertise with its highly dubious claims of neutrality and reliability should be our guide to how we should live and what we should believe on fundamental issues is outrageous. In 1968 Paul VI took an almost solitary stand against that idea. The whole world owes him a debt of gratitude for that.

Yet more:

trifold> I see two possibilities: If God opposes contraception, God trifold> wants us to have as many children as possible; or God wants trifold> us to not have sex as often as we want to, even within a trifold> committed, monogamous, even “sanctified” relationship (why trifold> God gave us a sex drive, you will have to explain).

Those are indeed the possibilities.

It seems to me that we think things (like one’s wife or the sex act) are real and important if we have to respect them, and we have to respect them if we can’t act however we want to around them without consequences. So I don’t see anything odd in having to refrain from sex during fertile periods if for some reason having a child would be a bad idea. It’s part of what gives substance to taking one’s wife and one’s physical relationship to her seriously.

And still yet more:

jb> All birth control is artificial including “abstinence”. Periodic jb> abseinence is designed to allow us to have sex without jb> consequences.

Natural family planning is in some sense artificial, since it involves decisions based on knowledge of the workings of the body. However, the effect of the “artifice” is simply a decision not to engage in sexual intercourse on certain occasions. That looks much less like something that changes the nature and implications of the sexual act than say oral contraception or use of a condum. In the case of NFP each act of sexual intercourse is just what it would have been without NFP. The same isn’t true in the other case.

And more still yet:

jb> I must quibble with you claim that birth control other than NFP jb> changes the nature of the act. I think any form of birth control jb> changes the act if we include factors such as relief from the jb> worry of producing a child and the intrusion of the birth control jb> procedure into the act.

I don’t see worry as part of the act. If I sign a check or get married whether I’m worried or not doesn’t change the act. It does change the act if the check is drawn on the East Bank of the Mississippi or the “wedding vows” are simply lines in a play. In the latter case acts whose essence and human significance is that they are functional have intentionally been made nonfunctional. That makes them quite other than what they were.

The claim I’m making really is that the place sex holds in human life depends on the physical function of sex, on its potential to create new life. That doesn’t mean that the physical function of sex has to be fully realized through every sexual act. Sex is too expressive to be viewed simply as a means to an end. On the other hand what it expresses is something definite and serious, a union of two persons that has an essential physical aspect. For us intentionally to change that physical aspect so that it does not serve the function that makes sex and the union it expresses serious does I think change the nature of the act.

jb> I also maintain that an act not taken is a changed act.

Quite true. There is a difference between engaging in sexual intercourse and not engaging in sexual intercourse. My point is that NFP (unlike ABC) does not change any act of sexual intercourse that actually takes place.

jb> I agree that a couple who submits to NFP experiences its jb> complications, but just because a process is complicated and jb> intrusive doesn’t improve the desired outcome.

I agree. Inventing complications need not make things better. Nor need complications make things worse. If I exchange wedding vows in reality it creates many more complications than if I say the words as part of a skit at a party. That doesn’t necessarily make it a bad idea actually to get married.

And a string of further comments and replies:

maf1029> I’m saying that the Church sanctions marriages for sterile maf1029> men, women with hysterectomies, and post-meopausal women, maf1029> despite the Church’s own prescription that “marriage consists maf1029> of a sacramental bond between a man and a woman open to the maf1029> possibility of children.”

The man has a male human body, the woman has a female human body, they are capable in uniting in the sexual act, the natural function of which is procreation, and the parties do nothing to interfere with that function. That should make the union open to the possibility of children in the necessary sense. It’s a union of a kind that naturally leads to conception, and the fact that age or bodily defect will in fact prevent conception is an add-on that the parties might not even know about. It’s an added circumstance that doesn’t change the essential nature of what they’re doing.

In contrast, if they had been fertile and used contraception it would change their intent and thus the nature of their act. Their intent wouldn’t be to engage in sexual intercourse, and accept the natural consequences if they should came about, but to but to engage in an act they had modified to eliminate its natural function. That does seem different to me.

What I rely on is the notion that factual infertility due to age, time of month or bodily defect don’t change what the parties are doing—uniting their bodies in a way that if their bodies function properly in accordance with their nature as male and female bodies will give rise to new life—while if they use contraception they *are* changing what they are doing. Remember that what we are talking about here is the rightness or wrongness of a human act.

maf1029> A woman without a uterus can NOT have children … a maf1029> hysterectomy is not some “unknown add-on.”

You’re right it’s not unknown. The basic question though is whether it (and the other possibilities mentioned) are “add-ons” in the sense that the act of the parties remains an act of a kind that naturally leads to conception. My answer is that they are—in the case of the missing uterus, a female body with something missing is still a female body, and a female body is designed in its natural healthy functioning to conceive and bear children.

An analogy: a car is designed so that if you turn the key in the ignition it starts. If I go to my car, stick the key in the ignition, and turn it, then it seems to me that I’ve engaged in an act of a kind that starts the car even though the car in fact doesn’t start because somebody swiped the battery. On the other hand, if I go to the car, stick the key in the ignition, cut the wires connecting the ignition lock to the starter, and then turn the key, it seems to me I *haven’t* engaged in an act of a kind that starts the car. That does not seem a crazy or arbitrary distinction to me.

The issue is what’s included in an act, and what makes an act an act of the same kind as another act. Part of where you draw the line is how you can arrive at the account that best enables you to make sense of the overall situation. My claim throughout has been that the Catholic view of sex best enables us to make sense of the role of sex in human life. If so it’s a strong reason to believe that the distinctions the Catholic view relies on are correct even though it would be possible to draw other distinctions.

jb> I still do not understand how you can make a distinction between jb> birth control that uses time as a barrier to conception and other jb> techniques.

Suppose Mr. and Mrs. Sakanashi-Jones have sexual intercourse without using contraception at 11 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, just like clockwork. Then they continue to do the same thing except that on the nights that fall within Mrs. S-J’s fertile period they play gin rummy instead.

They haven’t changed what they do on the nights that don’t fall within the fertile period. So each act of sexual intercourse that takes place is still what (from a Catholic perspective) it should be. That would not be so if instead they had used a condom during the fertile period. In that case the acts during the fertile period would have intentionally been closed to life and thus changed into something they should not be, again from a Catholic perspective.


Teen sex, suicide and SIECUS

It’s been known for years that sexual activity outside marriage cannot succeed in expressing love in a way that measures up to the meanings implicit in the act itself. “This is bigger than both of us” is an overwhelming but deceitful fantasy unless the activity helps constitute something objective and permanent that does not depend on the temporary feelings and interests of the parties. In case you were wondering, that means marriage as traditionally conceived.

It is because something essential is so obviously missing from sex that is divorced from marriage that slang expressions for sexual intercourse have come to mean “abuse,” “disorder totally,” “make useless” and the like. So it shouldn’t be surprising that teen sex and radically increased rates of depression and suicide are so closely associated. It shouldn’t be surprising, that is, unless you belong to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). In that case you, like Tamara Kreinin in the linked story, will attempt to explain away moral issues in favor of things that can be more easily manipulated by the policymakers and therapists of SIECUS.


More on “gay marriage”

A worthwhile summmary from Canada of the problems with “gay marriage”: Culture wars are killing marriage.



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