I highly recommend Robert Reilly’s Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything, Ignatius Press, 2014. Subsequent posts will likely use themes from his well written but unsettling account of how moral acceptance of homosexuality is corrupting our country. Despite my endorsement, I may seem negative by examining his suggestions that acceptance of contraception for married couples lead to “making Gay Okay.”
I refer to my Kindle edition. So, there are no page references.
About 83% of the way through his book, locations 3696-3703, Reilly traces today’s endorsement of gay-marriage back to the Anglican church’s limited acceptance of birth control at its 1930 Lambeth Conference. Reilly wrote: “Contraception used to be proscribed, then it was prescribed, and now it has become almost obligatory in the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act, which proposes to penalize employers who do not provide it, along with abortifacients and sterilization procedures, to their employees with fines of $100 per worker per day. I only wish there were survivors from the 1930 Lambeth Conference – which first endorsed a limited use of contraceptives- who might be forced to attend the Gay Pride events and officiate at same-sex “marriages”, so they could dwell upon what they hath wrought. Just as there is no such thing as being a little bit pregnant, there is no such thing as a little compromise on moral principles…”
The relevant resolutions of the Anglican bishops in 1930 are readily available. They give a very weak and vague permission for married couples to have sexual intercourse with the intent of preventing that intercourse from resulting in conception. Visit: http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1930/1930-15.cfm Look at resolutions 8 to 20 on marriage and sex; especially 15. Today they would be considered ultra-conservative. The bishops thought that sale of contraceptives such as condoms should be illegal.
In location 3693, Reilly quipped: “As mentioned before, first came contraception and the embrace of no-fault divorce. Once sex was detached from diapers, the rest became more or less inevitable.”
In locations 1496-1501, he highlighted a few steps in a line of reasoning. “The separation of sex from procreation logically leads to the legalization of contraception, then to abortion, and finally to homosexual marriage and beyond. The logic is compelling, in fact, inescapable. Only the premise is insane.”
Is the line of reasoning compelling? What are the intermediate steps? What is the first premise? Is it insane? Such careful questioning of the suggested line of reasoning is a long and difficult logical analysis most suitable for a philosophy journal. Here, I will only consider two versions of a first premise separating sex from procreation. There are many, many ways of stating principles granting moral permission to separate sex from procreation.
The first version is a “strong” premise. This strong first premise plausibly leads to all else which Reilly mentions. Then I will express a weak version of separating sex from procreation which does not, without some special assumptions about the moral significance of marriage, directly lead to the moral permissibility of all the sexual activity to which Reilly alludes.
The strong moral separability of sex from procreation specifies:
Whether or not the pursuit of sexual satisfaction can lead to conception is irrelevant to the moral evaluation of that pursuit of sexual satisfaction.
This strong version is basically the progressive stance on sexuality which is the main target of my book. The stance is that pursuit of sexual satisfaction is to be evaluated by general rules for protection of life and property. Roughly: It’s OK as long as it does not hurt anyone. It legitimatizes sex outside of marriage, masturbation, homosexuality and sex with animals for those so inclined. Abortion requires a few more assumptions to be justified because, after all, a human at some stage of human life is killed. The progressive stance is the dominant stance in our culture.
I argue against the progressive stance by pointing out how its trivialization of sex by separating sex from procreation leads to a view that human life is insignificant, viz., nihilism. Is holding a nihilist outlook, even implicitly, insane?
The weak premise applies to married couples. I regard marriage as between one man and one woman in a union paradigmatically for the procreation and development of children. The weak premise is my restatement of the 1930 Lambeth Resolution.
The weak moral separability of marital sex from procreation specifies:
On occasion for reasons of health or finances, a married couple may pursue sexual satisfaction with each other although they take steps to insure that the satisfaction cannot, or is very unlikely, to lead to conception.
Here by “take steps” I refer to mechanical or chemical intervention to reduce significantly the probability of coitus resulting in fertilization. I call these interventions “artificial birth control.” Withdrawal, use of a condom or intrauterine shield are mechanical means. A sterilization operation is not a type of mechanical method under consideration here. Various birth control pills which are not abortifacients are chemical means for this discussion.
Logic alone does not extend a permission granted to a subset of the population to the whole population. Indeed thinking that logic extends such a permission is to commit a fallacy of composition.I.e., thinking what is true of a part is true of the whole. Of course, sometimes what is true of a part is true of the whole. Is a married couple a subpopulation which has special moral privileges? This question, provoked by Reilly leads me to reconsider the birth control issue. So, the permissiveness in the general population do not follow by logic alone from permissibility of separating occasionally mating, coitus, from possibility of conception amongst married couples.
What should be said about the morality of a married couple practicing artificial birth control? In Confronting Sexual Nihilism my Chapter VIII focused on the issue. , I raise a consideration that leads me to continue to give the birth control issue careful scrutiny. The consideration is that a married couple forms a special unit in the human pool for courting, mating and bonding. Maybe the stance of the book was somewhat inaccurate because it did not take seriously enough that a married couple has special sexual moral obligations and privileges which they do not have as individuals.
The principle of sexual morality for which I argued in Confronting Sexual Nihilism is far from a complete sexual morality. It is only a principle restricting males’ pursuit of orgasms, viz., sperm dispersal. It restricted a man to seeking orgasms only in a sexual act which could lead to conception with a women to whom he was bound by a life-long commitment to care for her and any children resulting from his acts. I called the restriction: The Paternal Principle. There is much more to sexual morality than the Paternal Principle. For instance, there are proper ways to court and bond. And, of course, there is the whole realm of principles for female sexuality.
In my book I regarded the courting pool as the sexually mature individuals who courted, bonded and mated i.e., had sexual intercourse. I regarded all men and women as in the courting pool and sexual morality as the rules for people in the courting pool. I did not pay attention to status differences within the pool. Marriage gives a man and a woman special status in the courting pool. They have the privilege of sexual intercourse with one another. They have the privilege of others being severely restricted from courting, bonding or mating with them. But they are severely restricted from courting or bonding with others. They are strictly forbidden to mate with others.
Do these pairs form units for which there are some special moral obligations and privileges apart from those for individuals? There are external rules for the pairs in relationship to other pairs and individuals. For instance, as noted above, they are morally protected from outsiders seriously courting them; let alone mating with them. There could be internal sexual rules for the married individuals with their marriage which they would not have as individuals. For instance, it might be sexually immoral for a married man to abstain from sexual relations with his wife for a long period for some religious reasons. Internal marital morality, conjugal chastity, is of concern for discussion of birth control.
The gist of my argument that artificial birth control is immoral for a married couple is that the practice subverts the foundation of their marriage. Marriage has it special privileges and obligations because it is the institution for using coitus for reproduction. Separating coitus from reproduction undermines that foundation as I argue in Ch. VIII of my book.
My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. The publisher’s listed price is $26.99. Printed copies can be purchased here by credit card for $12.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.
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Charles F. Kielkopf
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