Procreation or Recreation? Which is to be Goal of Sex?
dr. james kottoor(Chicago)
The main question this article poses is : Can LGBT people ever hope to be treated with equality and justice by the hierarchy? The theoretical and doctorinal answer may be ‘NO’ and the pastoral aswer with the vision of God as Mercy unparalleled may be,’Yes’. The wider question is: Which among the many goals of the sexual act is the main: ‘Procreation or recreation?
Francis dropped a bombshell during an interview on board a plane when he said: “Who am I to judge if a homosexual approaches God seeking love, compassion and acceptance?” The solid basis for Francis to give that answer was Jesus’ own conduct with the woman caught in adultery, and whole elderly Jewish pharisaic crowd asking for his permission to be stoned to death. Jesus didn’t look at them in the face but went on with downcast eyes, writing in the sand for the crowd to take a moral stand in their own minds and then finally gave his verdict: “Let the one without sin cast the first stone!” And the crowd melted away, starting with the oldest to the youngest and the Lord (of mercy) said: “I too don’t condemn you, go in peace but sin no more!”
Any one who calls himself a Christian has to follow this example of Jesus, not of the ones who claim to be his representative or calls himself the “Alter Christus.” This controversy started with St.Augustine called also the “sinner-saint”, whose weakness was sex with all sorts of girls and who, after conversion, reduced all sins to sex related activities. Finally Pope Paul’s encyclical Humanae vitae decreed that any sexual activity which does not have procreation as its primary goal, is sin and is to be condemned.
What of Cattle Class?
Then what about the vast majority of poor mortals for whom “procreation” (copulation) is the only recreation easily awailable? This applies mainly to the marginalized sections, the “Cattle Class” (the holy peccatori, to use a synodal phrase) who work in the fields under the heat of the sun and take one or two pegs of country liquor and go to sleep with family and children because they can’t afford to go for parties in the evenings for pastime. Costly pastimes are for the moneyed people who live in cities. Think also of the rebuke to Pharisees: “Drunkards and prostitutes will go to heaven before you.”
When there was hours of power-cut in New York city some years ago, they conducted a survey after nine months about the number of births in the city and found there was a fantastic increase, because apparently people did not know what to substitute the recreational parties they used to go after night fall, and so went instead to sleep with their wives. The result was the spurt in births. It is as simple as that.
Sex has more than one end: procreation, recreation, pastime, bodily and psychological human enrichment etc. Clerical celibates may not understand all that. That was precisely the reason there was such a revolt and shock after the release of humanae vitae. And now we all know that Pope Paul the VI took that decision ignoring and going against the advice of a 50-member expert committee appointed to study the issue.
Also think of all the things Cardinal Raymond Burke is preaching in open forum not to be led astray by whatever Pope Francis says because whatever a Pope says should not be taken as the word of God; one has to distinguish between the ordinary and extraordinary magisterium of popes etc. That being the case ordinary sensible people know that sexual act in marriage is there for any of the many legitimate goals which need not be procreation. We shall leave that to celibate experts to discuss ad nauseam: “How many angels can stand on the sharp end of a needle?”
What sex for LGBT?
Now what about gay, LGBT, transgender people for whom also it is sexual attraction to the same sex – consenting man with man and woman with woman – that forces them to live like husband and wife for life. Surely their sexual acts can never lead to any procreation. They are called gay-marriages where they are permitted by civil law. Countries that permit such marriage are increasing by leaps and bounds.
If Catholic church experts cannot agree to the worldwide practice approving gay marriages what convincing reason do they have, to go it all alone paddling in a lonely canoe? Can they still go on insisting, that it is divinely ordained for some to be gay or transgender, but they should procreate every time they recreate with their homosexual partner? So they are caught in a catch twenty-two bind. They simply have to revise their theology of sex. They simply have to admit that procreation is only one of the ends of the sexual act.
This scribe was discussing this from the time when Pope Paul VI produced humanae vitae and the great Cardinal Valerian Gracious said in Church in India Seminar: “We have to follow it even if we don’t understand fully the reasons as most bishops including himself were not theologians but canon law loyalists”. He also found comfort in calling laity in India “Theologially illiterate.” This scribe unwittingly started a big controversy by writing an editorial, “Theologically Illiterate” in the New Leader criticizing the Cardinal, of course without naming him, and saying: “Like the pastor so the people. If the bishops are theologically illiterate what do you expect the laity to be? And quoting Cardinal Suenens of Belgium I had argued that only those with a doctorate in theology, not in canon law, should be appointed as bishops.
Of course I got brickbats and kicks from my bishop, in Cunnoor on holiday – editor of New Leader never used to take holidays like Francis – even though I respectfully avoided mentioning the name of Gracious who was a great supporter, promoter and patron of New Leader of that time. What we are coming to is that the discussion which got started so many years ago has not come to a happy conclusion even now, even though Pope Francis himself was the opening batsman of the team in favour of the LGBT in this game of cricket.
So to answer the question we started with: Which is to the goal of every sexual act: Procreation or recreation? We may have to say: both or what the players in the game choose. So we offer all our prayers for our Captain Francis so that he may succeed to steer the bark of Peter to dock it in a storm-free harbour. james kottoor, editor-inchief,ccv.
Please read below the NCR editorial on sexual ethics!
Time for Dialogue on Sexual Ethics!
NCR Editorial Staff, Aug 9, 2017
The Catholic community should thank Jesuit Fr. James Martin for writing Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.
Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics have spent years on the margins of our community inviting such dialogue. This book cracks open a new door to opportunities to ask important questions about the inclusion of LGBT Catholics in the church, and those opportunities should be seized.
Martin’s book exhorts church leaders and LGBT Catholics to come together in dialogue. Using the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he calls both sides to treat one another with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” This is good advice, and those in the hierarchy who have made such outreach — Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, and Bishop Patrick McGrath of San Jose, California, to name just two — need our support.
Inescapable in this bridge-building project, however, are deeper questions that cannot go unexamined. Can dialogue be enough to achieve a truly inclusive church? Without a change in the church’s teaching on sex and sexuality, can LGBT people ever hope to be treated with equality and justice by the hierarchy?
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There is good precedent for development of the church’s sexual ethics, particularly in the last 50 years. For centuries, Catholic doctrine insisted that procreation was the sole justification for sexual acts and that sexuality was fundamentally disordered. These teachings were questioned and modified in the mid-20th century in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae (“On Human Life”). Today, the church recognizes that sex between a man and a woman within the bond of sacramental marriage can be a source of joy and pleasure in both body and spirit.
But the doctrine also maintains that there is an indissoluble connection between the procreative and unitive meaning of the sexual act. Therefore, according to the catechism, all sex acts between married couples must be “ordered per se to the procreation of human life” (2366). This “procreative norm” dates back more than 1,500 years to the time of Augustine, who developed the idea in response to his belief in the sinful, uncontrollable nature of sexual arousal.
Today, the procreative norm is one of the fundamental reasons the church remains opposed to same-sex relationships. But, in reality, this doctrine has far-reaching consequences for all Catholics, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Much is often made about the church’s teaching that same-sex relations are “intrinsically disordered.” But equally harsh language is used for other sexual transgressions of the church’s procreative norm. For example, the catechism declares that every action used to render conception impossible, such as use of contraceptives, is “intrinsically evil” (2370). The catechism also condemns masturbation as an “intrinsically and gravely disordered action” because “the deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose” (2352).
As a case in point, see Springfield, Illinois, Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s list of Catholics he suggests should not present themselves for holy Communion.
The institutional church’s vocal objections to same-sex marriage often mask the fact that church teaching is fundamentally opposed to sexual acts that a majority of human beings participate in. The church condemns any sex acts — including those engaged in by married couples — that do not respect the procreative norm. Therefore, in reality, few Catholics ever live up to the church’s moral norms governing sexual activity.
As stark as these teachings are, other issues related to sexual relationships remain unclear and underdeveloped, such as the church’s positions on divorce and remarriage, the single life and celibacy.
If bishops like Paprocki were more vocal about their opposition to masturbation, in vitro fertilization or vasectomies as they are in their campaign against same-sex marriage, perhaps more Catholics would realize how urgent the need is to rethink the entirety of the church’s sexual ethics.
We strongly encourage dialogue between laypeople and church leaders regarding all issues in the sexual sphere. But we also recognize that dialogue can have its limits, particularly if those in leadership do not demonstrate an openness to developing the church’s teaching on sex and sexuality.
We call on bishops to continue the work of developing the doctrine of sexuality that began in Vatican II. This work has largely been stalled by the hierarchy’s unwillingness to loosen its rigid interpretation of millennia-old ideas about natural law and the procreation norm.
Of course, the work has continued outside of the walls of the Vatican, led by Catholic moral theologians who have spent the past four decades developing new frameworks for sexual morality and ethical decision-making based on our evolving understanding of sexuality. Sadly, those who have made the greatest contributions to deepening our understanding of sexual ethics, such as Fr. Charles Curran and Mercy Sr. Margaret Farley, have been silenced or had their work condemned by bishops and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
If we truly are living in a new culture of encounter in the church, perhaps it is time for the Vatican to engage these Catholic theologians and ethicists in a constructive dialogue about the fruits of their ethical inquiries. Until the church is willing to engage in a deep re-examination of its doctrine on sexuality and sexual relationships, any dialogue around LGBT inclusion or divorce and remarriage will only be stymied.