Catholics and Gays Part 3: Considering Two Objections

Before continuing or concluding my discussion of the Catholic Church and "romantic homosexual relationships," it is worth taking some time to consider two objections to the Natural Law/Theology of the Body argument which I have outlined out so far. I will limit myself to two objection because of time constraints.

The objection might here be put forth: what about artificial insemination, or for that matter "test-tube" babies, clones, or other forms of "manufacturing" [1] a human being? A lesbian couple, at least, can reproduce using modern technology—cloning and cell re-programming and artificial insemination and whatnot—so is God not then present in at least these forms of union? Well, yes, in a sense He is, for He is needed to create the soul, the form which goes with the new body, the new human being which does come into existence when these are processes are successful.

There are, however, several moral problems with this scenario. The first is that there are generally far more new human beings created in these processes than actually implanted—the rest and frozen or thrown out, discarded. This alone—this trampling of the dignity of man, this callous use of human beings—is enough to make it morally abhorrent, not only to Catholics but to anybody else who recognizes the truth of the situation: namely that human beings are created and then discarded with nary a thought of their inherent worth.

The second problem is that the union between the couple (whether "gay" or "straight") in this artificial reproduction situation is ultimately separated from their action; it divorces sex from intercourse, that is, removes the unitive and procreative aspects from sex. In the case of the hypothetical lesbian couple, they are still not really uniting to create a whole two-in-one-flesh organism between them; or to return to the previous analogy about man's power of locomotion, it is somewhat akin to making a cyborg, a creature more machine than man [2]. And in any case, whether the couple is heterosexual or homosexual, what union there may be is in stages such that at no point is there an actually complete union of the two.

And the third problem, which is probably the worst of all three, is that it is man's attempt to use God. In the natural course of procreation, there is both a chance that a new life will be conceived, and a chance that it won't. Here, the chance is totally removed, and we artificially make a new life, so that God then creates a new soul to complete this new human being. It is something akin to demanding that God answer our prayers how and when we want them to be answered, on pain of contradicting Himself: we have not the authority to do this, and if we are consciously attempting it, we are committing a sin which is akin to blasphemy.

There is another objection which might be raised. What about the Greeks and the Romans who practiced (and tolerated) pederasty? Does this not show that there are some civilizations—indeed, some rather "advanced" ones—which accept the practice of homosexuality? Well, given that pederasty was (as its name indicates) practiced between older men and their apprentices (boys), I think that this argument leads not so much to the acceptance of homosexuality—and of "gay" marriage—but rather of pedophilia; and outside of NAMBLA, I do not think there are any people who are really advocating for an increase of that kind of behavior. Those civilizations (rightly) considered homosexuality between adults to be disordered and shameful (to put it mildly), just as we would consider pederasty disordered and shameful. They certainly did not accord it anything like the same status as civil marriage.

That aside, the argument might be made that that pederasty brought the master and the apprentice closer emotionally, or that it yielded some amount of physical and emotional pleasure. I cannot confirm that this is the case: that an action which today is nearly universally decried as a form of rape can make what we would call the perpetrator and the victim grow closer to each other emotionally, physically, or mentally; perhaps in that society it did. So what of it? There are plenty of activities or even relationships which can do any of these, or which can do all three—and none of these relationships or activities is rightly given status as "marriage" [3], nor are they necessarily moral nor legal. Indeed, Professor J Budziszewski has argued that some activities (or relationships) can have these effects of bringing two people closer together specifically because they are illegal or immoral or otherwise illicit:
"Human beings are not like the fabled Cyclopes, who lived to themselves. We are designed for a partnership in good life and with our kind. Because transgression casts us out of the partnership, on of the first effects of guilty knowledge is loneliness and a need to reconcile. If we refuse to restore the bonds we have broken, then we must find substitutes. Thieves seek thieves for company; drunks seek drunks; molesters seek molesters. Just because these bonds are counterfeit, they cannot satisfy the need for reconciliation, so it presses us harder still.

The graver the transgression, the wider the gulf between the transgressor and humane society—and the deeper the sense of significance with which the substitute bonds must be imbued. People who have participated in euthanasia or assisted suicide often say that they have never before been so close to another human being; the severing of bonds gives them a stronger sense of intimacy than the forming of them. 'This is the true union,' the burdened mind insists; 'this is not death, but true life.' It might seem impossible that a counterfeit intimacy based on shared guilt could be more attractive than the real thing, but some people find it so. In his study of Dutch euthanasia, psychologist Herbert Hendin [4] finds that doctors and nurses are drawn into the movement just to achieve it [the false intimacy of shared guilt]. The same allure, the same false intimacy, draws people into gangs and death squads, except in this case the counterfeit bond is formed not with the victims but with fellow perpetrators. The groups themselves understand that their unity is grounded on shared guilt; Robert J. Lifton reports that among the Nazi death camp doctors, the bond with the group was sealed with 'blood cement' (Blutkitt), meaning 'direct participation in the group's practice of killing'—a policy, he observes, which criminal organizations have long followed throughout the world. Nothing bonds the group like mortal sin. Or so it seems.

The need for reconciliation also explains why the movements for disordered sexuality—homosexual, pederastic, sadomasochistic—cannot be satisfied with toleration, but must propagandize, recruit, and convert. They do not suffer from sexual deprivation, for partners are easy enough to find. They suffer from social deprivation, because they are cut off from the everyday bonds of life. They want to belong; they want to belong as they are; there can be only one solution. Society must be reconciled with them. The shape of human life must be transformed. All the assumptions of normal sexuality must be dissolved: marriage, family, innocence, purity, childhood—all must be called into question, even if it means pulling down the world around their ears" (What We Can't Not Know, pp 152-153, with my emphases).

In another of his books, The Revenge of Conscience, Dr Budziszewski notes that this guilty need for reconciliation—the need to forms bonds in a community—often leads people with "guilty knowledge" to "recruit" others into their guilt. Conspirators might become very close, seemingly as close as any friends. It is a false and counterfeit closeness, and far from building community, it builds little social cliques which are closed unto themselves. The gang is not so much a pocket of friends who are just one more integral part of the community, but rather is a aberrations which has removed itself from the community as such. This remains so even if every member of the actual community is pressed into the gang: then the community itself is altered and even lost; then civilization itself is uprooted and undone.

With pederasty, something like this is conceivably at play. It is not illegal, though it is immoral, and immoral to such an extent that the Greeks and Romans might have recognized it. They did not, after all, see relationships of this nature between men and young girls, or between mature men, or between women and boys/girls/women, as emotionally bonding or physically intimate. Rather, they recognized them as shameful, dishonorable, disordered.

And we can see that there is a clear ontological difference between such relationships and the sexual intercourse which occurs between a man and a woman. In the former case, no "two in one flesh" union has occurred, no joining of two emotional/spiritual/psychological/embodied beings into one organic whole with actually different powers than either individual had on his own; in the latter case, such a union does occur, and the organic whole gains the power of reproduction as a result of this union. In his short book Marriage and the Mystery of Faithful Love, the late and great philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand made an argument which summarizes what I have said so far. He wrote (his emphasis):
"The special character of conjugal love is, furthermore, marked by the fact that this love can only come into being between men and women and not between persons of the same sex, as is the case with friendship, parental love, or filial love.

It would be quite wrong, however, to reduce this characteristic to the sexual sphere and say that conjugal love is just friendship plus sexual relations, presupposing a difference of sex. It would be incredibly superficial to consider as a mere biological difference the distinction between man and woman, which really shows us two complementary types of the same person of the human species.

Certainly, man and woman have ultimately but one task, 'to be reborn in Christ,' and to glorify God by their sanctity. Yet man and woman represent two different types of mankind, both having their respective significance according to the divine plan, and their special value quite apart from their procreative function....

At any rate, for the human species this difference represents two manifestations of the person, analogous—if this comparison be admissible—to the various religious orders, which although they are identical in their aim, represent different ways in the imitation of Christ.

These two types, man and woman, have a unique capacity for complementing each other. Their meaning for one another is unique. They are made one for the other in a special way, and they can, purely as spiritual persons, form a unity in which they reciprocally complement one another. Marital love—involving the gift of one's own person, whose decisive character is that the partners form a couple, an I-thou communion, in which the whole personality of the beloved is grasped mysteriously as a unity in spite of all outer obstacles—can exist only between two types of the spiritual person, the male and the female, as only between them can this complementary character be found.

Sexual partners in a homosexual (or pederastic) ultimately lack the biological complementarity of a heterosexual couple. And because we believe that the body matters (pun intended), this lack of biological complementarity is a significant, indeed an ontological, difference.

[1] Manufacture really might be the best word choice here, at least concerning the attitude towards humanity as a commodity or a consumer good which is implicit in such attempts to artificially create life.

[2] I am referring here to the organism of "two in one flesh," not to the child who is conceived as a result of that attempted union.

[3] Nor civil unions of any type, for that matter.

[4] Herbert Hendin, M.D., Seduced by Death: Doctors, Patients, and the Dutch Cure (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997), 222.

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