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Contraception and Homosexuality: The Sterile Link of Separation | Dr. Raymond Dennehy | Ignatius Insight

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The widespread practice of contraception is a major force behind the rapidly growing acceptance of homosexuality in western societies as a natural, sexual orientation. Bluntly stated, the justification for the one counts as the justification for the other. Contraception formally separates the sex act from procreation, insofar as it allows a couple to have sex at any time without the possibility of conception. Therein lies its link with 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.

Before going further, a clarification between contraception and Natural Family Planning (NFP) might be useful. A common objection to Natural Family Planning is that it is hypocritical because its goal is identical to that of contraception--sex without pregnancy. But the two forms of birth control are worlds apart. The charge of hypocrisy rests on at least two false assumptions. This first is that the Catholic Church's condemnation of contraception supposes that it is evil to desire sex without babies. But surely there is nothing wrong with that desire. Nature does not intend every act of sexual intercourse to result in pregnancy since a woman is fertile for only a few days a month while the sex drive expresses itself throughout the month. The charge of hypocrisy also implies a failure to distinguish between a desire and the means of realizing the desire. In using NFP, the couple do nothing to obstruct the possibility of conception in that particular act; on the contrary, they remain open to the procreation of new human life. In fact, it would be wrong to think of NFP simply as a way of avoiding children since many couples practice it to pinpoint when the woman is ovulating as a way of increasing their chances of conceiving a child. NFP does not formally separate sex from procreation.

The importance of procreation reveals itself in the paradoxical relation between man and woman. They are extraordinarily different and yet that very difference draws them to each other. She admires his large, strong hands, but does not wish to have his hands instead of her own; he admires her small, delicate hands, but does not wish to have her hands instead of his own. This mirrors the love the three persons of the Blessed Trinity have for each other. Theirs is a love that does not dissolve the lover in the beloved but, on the contrary, enriches him. Although each is an actual person, their unity is perfect: one God. By analogy, the love between husband and wife enriches each because love's goal is to see the beloved have life and joy more abundantly. In sexual intercourse, husband and wife are called to donate themselves to each other and to the extent that it is a perfect donation, it generously opens itself to procreation. For love is more than a feeling; it is fecund, producing a reality beyond the two lovers themselves. Of course, people have always had sex for other reasons, such as lust, manipulation, domination, rage, etc., but the point is that heterosexual couples have it within their unique design as male and female to engage in sexual intercourse out of love, respect, and responsibility for each other.

The above sketches the foundation of the Catholic Church's teaching that the sex act has two ends, the procreative and the unitive. This doctrine maintains that the procreative end is primary and the unitive secondary, but that is not intended to mean that the former is more important than the latter. Rather it means that the procreative end is primary in the sense that the act of sexual intercourse is specified to procreation. There is nothing wrong with desiring sex without conception, but the Church nevertheless emphasizes the impossibility of separating the two goals. Although there are many ways by which husband and wife can express their desire for unity, the sex act offers a uniquely profound way of achieving intimacy and expressing love. Lovers desire to become one flesh and in sexual intercourse they can fulfill that desire in a way that is more than merely figurative. First, it is impossible for two people to physically unite more completely than while making love to each other. The man desires to enter the woman's body while she invites him to do so. Second, as Bishop Cahal B. Daly observes in Morals, Law and Life, in conceiving a new human life, husband and wife each contribute twenty-three chromosomes, uniting them biologically in the child. They are united dynamically because their relation as husband and wife cannot properly be understood apart from their relation to the child and their relation to the child cannot properly be understood apart from their relation to each other. Finally, the couple are united eternally by virtue of procreating a new human being who possesses an immortal soul--an incarnation of their unity that will continue for all eternity

Conversely, the inability of same-sex intercourse to produce children explains why homosexuals cannot achieve the unity that is possible for heterosexuals. Their default response is mimicry, the imitation of a heterosexual union, replete with hijacked terms like "husband," "wife," "marriage," etc. A frequently heard objection from advocates of same-sex unions is that if childless heterosexual couples deserve the status of marriage, then homosexuals should be accorded that same status. But the answer to this is that heterosexual couples who are unable to have children can remain open to the procreation of new human life, to achieve the aim of marital unity, albeit not as perfectly as do those who have children. Nevertheless, they remain open, both in intention and action, to the possibility of their love-making resulting in procreation. Homosexuals cannot, in principle, procreate and their attempts at marital union will inevitably be frustrated by the brute fact that members of the same sex cannot complement each other to attain the kind of unity possible for heterosexuals.

To reiterate, whereas the physical and psychological realities of homosexuals render them incapable of the unity that an openness to procreation allows, heterosexual couples using contraception suffer the same incapacity by virtue of their choice to separate formally sex and procreation. By that choice, they have de facto neutered themselves by making their maleness and femaleness irrelevant. The realities of biology will not be flouted.

John Paul II devoted many of his Wednesday afternoon lectures in the Vatican to what he called the "theology of the body." The long and short of his message is that the human person is an integral composite of body and spirit. So intimate is the relation between the two that the body is as much the human person as is the soul. The spontaneous human inclinations, such as the attraction between the two sexes, accordingly manifest the basic principles for human sexual conduct. What the late pope was addressing was the modern day expression of what is called radical dualism or Gnosticism. In its classical form, this theory maintains that human beings are pure spirits who, for some reason, got trapped in a fleshy prison, the body. Because the material world, including the body, was perceived as the source of all chaos and evil, the Gnostics rejected the possibility that objective moral norms for conduct could be derived from the body. In the contemporary materialistic world, this rejection is maintained without any acknowledgement of a soul or spiritual self. Instead it is the ego or one's self-awareness that is regarded as the center of the human person. Hence the body, and the biological differences between male and female, are rejected as norms for conduct. All that is needed to justify attraction to one's own sex is that it is what one feels or believes. If one believes that one is a woman trapped in a man's body, then one is really a woman.

The error of this glorification of self is that ethical principles are based, not on subjective or personal beliefs, but rather on the objective criteria of human nature and its drives for fulfillment. Male and female are objective realities that do not depend on one's feelings or personal assessment. The love a man gives a woman and a woman gives a man cannot be matched by the love of man for man or woman for woman. Equally preposterous is the supposition that a man can give the nurturing love to a child that a woman gives or that a woman can give the disciplining love that a man gives.

The contraceptive society has infused Gnosticism with a new energy insofar as its implicit denial of procreation as the primary purpose of sexual intercourse and marriage denies the significance of maleness and femaleness. And that denial is a denial of God's creation: "He created them male and female."

This article appears in the Summer 2007 edition of California Association of Natural Family Planning News and is republished here with kind permission of CANFP (www.canfp.org) and the author.

Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles, Excerpts, & Interviews:

Peanuts and Thomists | Raymond Dennehy
Human Sexuality and the Catholic Church | Donald P. Asci
The Truth About Conscience | John F. Kippley
Marriage and the Family in Casti Connubii and Humanae Vitae | Rev. Michael Hull, S.T.D.
Viagra: It's Not Just for Old Guys Anymore | Mary Beth Bonacci
Practicing Chastity in an Unchaste Age | Bishop Joseph F. Martino
Authentic Freedom and the Homosexual Person | Dr. Mark Lowery
Homosexual Orientation Is Not a "Gift" | James Hitchcock
Can I Quote You On That? Talking to the Media About Homosexuality and the Priesthood | Mark Brumley
Kinsey: Dedicated Scientist or Sexual Deviant? | Benjamin Wiker

Raymond Dennehy is Professor of Philosophy at the University of San Francisco.

After serving from 1954-58 as a radarman in the U.S. Navy aboard the heavy cruiser, USS Rochester in the Pacific Theater of Operations, he attended the University of San Fransisco, obtaining a B.A. in philosophy. He studied philosophy in the graduate school of the University of California, Berkeley, finally getting his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Toronto.

He is the author of Anti-Abortionist at Large: How to Argue Intelligently about Abortion and Live to Tell About It. (Go here for reviews and excerpts.) His previous books are Reason and Dignity and an anthology he edited, Christian Married Love. He is frequently invited on radio and television programs, as well as university campuses, to speak and debate on topics such as abortion, physician-assisted suicide, and cloning.

He is married to Maryann Dennehy, has four children and eleven grandchildren.

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