A few short years ago the mere suggestion that the Son of God, His Apostles and Saints would face arrest for hate speech would have seemed absolutely ludicrous. However, events have spiraled out of control across the western world. In his opinion that strikes down California’s recently voter approved marriage law, Judge Vaughn Walker wrote that those who speak in the name of religion to put across their views that same sex marriage is wrong are “harmful to gays and lesbians.”
Across Europe and Canada, faithful Christians speaking out for traditional marriage face the threat of being hauled off to court for citing the teachings of the Catholic Church and various Evangelical Churches. Where will this all end? Some see a great persecution coming against the Christian faithful. Though possible, one need remember that the Christian faith always grew when persecuted.
The Catholic Church has long taught that some individuals have an inclination toward same sex attraction; they are to be loved as all people are to be loved. The Church teaches that these feelings are not to be acted upon. The Church goes on to teach that all individuals are given a cross to carry in this world and for those who are same sex attracted; this is their cross. An organization exists for those who are same sex attracted called COURAGE. It has many chapters and members.
Recently a profile was done in The New York Times on same sex attracted Eve Tushnet, the Ivy League educated Catholic daughter of Harvard Law professors. She has chronicled her growth in Catholicism and the logic of the Church’s teachings on sexuality. For years the Catholic Church took some heat from some quarters of Christianity for not stating that anyone who is same sex attracted would be going to hell. The Church now is facing a maelstrom of vitriol from those who claim the Church hates homosexuals.
For the Church to change her teachings would be to deny not only what Christ said (Matthew 11:20-24,) but his Apostles, not to mention Saint Paul’s lengthy discourse on the subject (Romans 1:26-28, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.) In addition to the Apostles and saints, there is a rich history of saints writing on the subject, particularly the Early Church Fathers like Saint Augustine, St Justin Martyr, St. Basil and St John Chrysostom as well as Church intellectuals like St Thomas Aquinas, Saint Albert the Great (the greatest scientist of his time,) along with mystics like St Catherine of Sienna to name but a few. To say that the greatest minds of their respective eras were all wrong is simply breathtaking.
Many who disagree with the Church tend to forget that homosexuality was much more common and approved of by the Roman government in the early Christian era than it is even in 2010. Many in the upper echelons of Greek and Roman culture experimented with all sorts of sexual practices. It would have been far easier for Jesus, the apostles, saints and popes to approve of this conduct than it would to disapprove of it. Christianity might have grown at a faster pace. However, there was a reason for this swimming against the tide, and the faithful accepted it.
I must confess that today’s judicial ruling out of California which overturned Proposition 8 has riled me up, suprisingly so. I heard about the ruling while listening to the livestream of a tech podcast in which one of the three podcasters is a lesbian (previously “married” in CA) and the other two (middle-aged married men) evidently supported the decision. The ease with which they threw out bromides (“finally, equality!”) bothered me, primarily because it revealed two things: 1. a group of intelligent people couldn’t grasp that there might be real objections to same sex “marriage”, and 2. as I’ve noted previously, too many (probably most) Americans simply don’t understand the essential nature of marriage. Simply put, the state’s interest isn’t strong feelings or commitment… it’s children. And — to state the obvious — a homosexual relationship isn’t structured towards procreation the way marriage is.
[Continued from Part 1]
Restraint, Relationships and Planning Parenthood
When I say that we “naturally want to avoid having children” at certain times, I would imagine that the image that comes immediately to mind is of birth control, abortion or infanticide, and most traditional societies have seen these in some form or other. However, I’d like to turn our attention to something so basic and so prevalent that we don’t think about it much.
From an anthropological point of view, the entire structure of our romantic and family relationships serves as a way to control childbearing, limiting it to situations in which offspring can be supported. Consider: Requiring that young women remain virgins until marriage ensured that children will not be born without a provider. Nor was the decision to marry, when it came, a strictly individual affair. Marriage was negotiated and approved by the wider families, because the families were in effect committing to help support the new family unit being created. Many cultures also required the husband’s family to pay a “bride price”, not simply as compensation for the lost contribution of the daughter to her own family, but as proof that the husband was of sufficient means to start a family.
Once in place, this set of cultural mores and laws provided an easy way to adjust to want or plenty:
If you move in conservative Catholic circles much, you have doubtless heard the phrase “contraceptive mentality”. Though used frequently and negatively, I think there is value in delving a bit more deeply into what we mean by the phrase. I was moved to write this in semi-response to an interesting post by Brett Salkeld a couple months back which sought to explore the bounds of what a “contraceptive mentality” is. Another good resource on the topic is this post at Catholic Culture on the contraceptive mentality.
While recognizing the dangers of trying to be too wide ranging in subject matter in the limited space of a blog post, my goal here is to set out answers to the following:
- What is a “contraceptive mentality”?
- How is a contraceptive mentality contrary to how humans are “meant” to function morally and sexually?
- How, if at all, does NFP (natural family planning) relate to a contraceptive mentality?
I think it’s easiest to think about the idea of a contraceptive mentality against the backdrop of how we function sexually as human creatures — a term I use advisedly in that I want to emphasize our rootedness in a certain biological reality of being primates with certain biological systems and instincts, while at the same time not ignoring our rational, emotional and moral sensibilities in the sense that “human animal” strikes me as implying.
Uncertainty and Conception
One thing that sets us apart from most other higher primates is that humans have fairly even sexual drive all of the time. Or, at least, men have sexual drive pretty much all of the time. Women seem to have more variation in their level of interest, and indeed there is a fair amount of evidence that one driving (though unconscious) element of their drive is that they are more “in the mood” during the times of the month when they are fertile than when they are not. Another thing that sets us apart from most other higher primates is that a woman’s fertility is not marked by unmistakable physical signs (change of color and swelling of the genital area, changes in smell, etc.) (Though Bonobos have often been compared to humans in regards to their relatively constant sex drive, they are like chimps in that female fertility is readily apparent through external signs.)
Eric Brown wrote a post about the question of whether children of same-sex-couples should be allowed in Catholic schools the other day, which generated some interesting conversation. One of the problems that lies at the root of this controversy, I think, is the question of how to deal sinful lifestyles when talking to your children.
Obviously, one of the duties of a conscientious Catholic parents is to successfully pass on to their children belief in Catholic moral teaching. We believe, after all, that living according to the Church’s moral teachings is key to both the happiness and salvation of our children, and both of these are things we ought to care about a good bit.
This much, at least, is widely agreed upon. Why, however, should that be a reason not to want your children exposed to the children of a same-sex-couple? Isn’t that simply a great chance to talk about the Church’s teachings about marriage and sexual morality?
Frankly, I (and I think many other Catholic parents) would rather not have to rush that one. Why?
Both thinking back to my own childhood and also about my children (currently ages 8 through 1.5) one of the things that stands out to me very clearly is that children are naturally dualistic. There’s a reason why the fairy tale is a genre so enjoyed by children — children like clear heroes and villains. The adult my be interested in why it is that the wicked witch became wicked, and whether she really thought she was wicked, but to a child, the fact that she is wicked is all they need. Heroes do good things, villains to bad things, and children under the age of 10-12 have a great deal of difficulty seeing people in between.
It’s fairly common for advocates of more liberal social policies to point out that “red states” tend to have higher rates of divorce, teen pregnancy, etc than “blue states”. This is taken to suggest that, however much conservatives may go on about “family values”, it is actually more liberal social values which are best for families. Ross Douthat does a good job of addressing this mentality in his column from last Sunday, in which he takes a closer look at some of these “family values” statistics.
Today, couples with college and (especially) graduate degrees tend to cohabit early and marry late, delaying childbirth and raising smaller families than their parents, while enjoying low divorce rates and bearing relatively few children out of wedlock.
For the rest of the country, this comfortable equilibrium remains out of reach. In the underclass (black, white and Hispanic alike), intact families are now an endangered species. For middle America, the ideal of the two-parent family endures, but the reality is much more chaotic: early marriages coexist with frequent divorces, and the out-of-wedlock birth rate keeps inching upward.
When I was growing up in the late Sixties and early Seventies the number one sex symbol going away was the actress Raquel Welch. What little I had heard of her opinions seemed to be those of a conventional Hollywood liberal. Therefore I was shocked by this column she wrote for CNN on the anniversary of the invention of the birth control pill:
Margaret Sanger opened the first American family-planning clinic in 1916, and nothing would be the same again. Since then the growing proliferation of birth control methods has had an awesome effect on both sexes and led to a sea change in moral values.
It seems to me that marriage and family are probably the area in which different sub-cultures of our country have diverged most radically. Reading this New York Times feature about the author’s attempts to improve her marriage is in some ways a more alien experience than reading an anthropological study of some distant tribe. The instinct behind the exercise is laudable:
The idea of trying to improve our union came to me one night in bed. I’ve never really believed that you just marry one day at the altar or before a justice of the peace. I believe that you become married — truly married — slowly, over time, through all the road-rage incidents and precolonoscopy enemas, all the small and large moments that you never expected to happen and certainly didn’t plan to endure. But then you do: you endure. And as I lay there, I started wondering why I wasn’t applying myself to the project of being a spouse. My marriage was good, utterly central to my existence, yet in no other important aspect of my life was I so laissez-faire. Like most of my peers, I applied myself to school, friendship, work, health and, ad nauseam, raising my children. But in this critical area, marriage, we had all turned away. I wanted to understand why. I wanted not to accept this. Dan, too, had worked tirelessly — some might say obsessively — at skill acquisition. Over the nine years of our marriage, he taught himself to be a master carpenter and a master chef. He was now reading Soviet-era weight-training manuals in order to transform his 41-year-old body into that of a Marine. Yet he shared the seemingly widespread aversion to the very idea of marriage improvement. Why such passivity? What did we all fear?