Raymond Dennehy argues at Ignatius Insight that if you accept contraception you can’t hold out against homosexuality.
Sexual intercourse between homosexuals and between heterosexuals using contraceptives is identical in this, they are both by their very nature sterile. The increasing legislative and judicial pressure for the right of same-sex couples to marry is simply the actualization of the contraceptive mentality.
This claim has often made by a certain class of Catholic apologist, but it is illogical. These forms of intercourse are not “by their very nature sterile”–only homosexuality is (as are particular marriages where one person or both are sterile). In the case of married couples, the so-called “sterility” to which he refers here is the choice of an otherwise fertile couple to refrain from having children at this point in time. Catholic teaching accepts the legitimacy of such a choice when it argues that it is legitimate to use Natural Family Planning. But if we accept Dennehy’s argument even it brings what could be called a form of “sterility” to the union, since it involves abstaining from sex during fertile periods. And a selling point of NFP is its efficacy when used properly.
Dennehy’s argument, to be consistent, would have to oppose any sexual act which cannot result in conception (including NFP)–this would be a reversion to Augustine’s belief that sex should be restricted to intentional procreation.
The New Testament does not bind the “unitive” and “procreative” dimensions of the “conjugal union” as inseparably as Catholic moral theology does. Indeed, Paul speaks of sex without mentioning the hope or possibility of children, rooting it in the couple’s relationship, in the fact that they have become one flesh, and that the body of the one belongs now to the other. Thus sexual union is part of the normal routine of marriage; abstaining should be only for prayer, and only for a time–otherwise, marriage should be characterized by sexual union.
“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Cor. 7:2-5).
Marriage is a good in and of itself, a union of male and female in keeping with God’s intention in creation. Within that union couples have an obligation to unite sexually, and the freedom to choose when and how. “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4). Homosexuality departs from both God’s positive command in creation and from his prohibition in the law. We don’t need to get into specious arguments like those proposed by Dennehy to prove that.
Update: Chris Burgwald is quite happy to accept the teaching of the magisterium. Not surprising, but not persuasive to anyone who doesn’t a priori accept the authority of the Catholic magisterium.
Update2: It’s interesting that this post has been generating the most traffic the last few days. It’s caused some discussion back at Ignatius Insight, in addition to the link already given (Chris Burgwald).
Some Catholics say, “Well, you assume an authority in Scripture, so how’s that different than Catholics assuming magisterial authority?” The point, as I’ve made here and in the comments, is that if you are having a conversation with someone else, you need to base your argument on a commonly accepted authority. Catholics and Protestants both accept Scripture as divinely inspired, so if Catholics want to persuade Protestants, they need to argue on that basis.
Another person argues sex is sacred. All Christans agree, I daresay.
She then says sacredness demands that you not separate pleasure from conception. But, as noted, NFP does that just as surely as any other means of contraception.
She argues that NFP must not be rejected just because Catholics teach it. No one does that, of course. As is clear from the discussions, I pointed out many positives regarding NFP. But the fact that it has good points doesn’t make all other points immoral, and it doesn’t change the fact that it is still separating sex from conception as clearly as any other method of artificial birth control. Further, Catholics teach many good and proper things, but they are not good and proper simply because the Catholic Church teaches them.
She says, “There is a strong argument in scripture against contraception,” and brings up many disconnected texts that say nothing about contraception (surprisingly, she doesn’t use the story of Onan, the text Catholics have usually pointed to). All the while defending NFP as an acceptable means of contraception–while denying it is that.
But nothing she or anyone else says rescues Dennehy.
We agree that sex belongs in marriage, and that sex outside of marriage, of any kind, is immoral.
We agree that homosexuality is immoral because it is contrary to the created order, God’s clear command, and the clear intent of the human reproductive system.
Where we disagree is simply this. Dennehy’s syllogism is this:
1) Homosexuality is wrong because seeks pleasure without conception (or because it is sterile),
2) Contraception within marriage is wrong because it seeks pleasure without conception (or because it is sterile),
3) Therefore homosexuality is on a same moral level as a free act between a married couple.
We disagree at many points here, as I’ve pointed out. I maintain the sexual union is good in and of itself, and cited Paul’s admonition on this point. I maintain there is freedom in marriage to choose not to have children. I note that NFP advocates affirm this as well; they agree that couples can have sex and choose to avoid conception. This is contrary to both their own logic (which says you can’t separate pleasure and conception) and to traditional Catholic teaching (as defended by the SSPX).
If something can’t be argued persuasively from either reason (not authoritative) or Scripture, then how can it be laid as a burden on the backs of married couples? Only through appeal to Church authority. Why not just say so? Why not just say this is a case of ecclesial positive law that obliges Catholics but not others (as Catholics affirm regarding other marriage laws)? Why use scare tactics like comparisons with homosexuality?