In 2008, I published an article in Alpha Omega entitled, “Clearing up Some Natural Confusions on Natural Law.”* In that article I followed Philip Soper’s distinction in “Some Natural Confusions on Natural Law,” concerning the difference between natural law moral theory and natural law legal theory. The present article concerns not the former, not the later (whereas the article I wrote in 2008 concerned the latter, not the former).
In other words, in this present article, I am not in the least bit concerned with the legalization of gay marriage, but rather with its morality.
Moreover, it needs to be stipulated from the outset that I am not dealing with the issue of same sex attraction (SSA). I readily accept that sexual dispositions are generally not things that people choose and, inasmuch as there is no free will involved, the question of morality is practically mitigated in that case. The present topic is about promiscuity, not proclivity.
By promiscuity, we mean sexual intercourse outside of marriage. And gay marriage should not be considered marriage.
This is not a biblical argument
Christians usually refer to two passages in the Bible when defending their understanding of marriage: Genesis 2:24 and Mark 2:8. In both passages, marriage is referred to as a “one flesh union,” where two individuals (man and woman) become one flesh (husband and wife). These passages are the basis for the understanding that marriage is a lifetime bond between one man and one woman, for the sake of uniting themselves in marital love and bearing children, whom the couple educates and nurtures within the context of a family.
The notion of marriage, supported by these biblical passages, is not simply true because “it says so in the bible.” It is true because of the very nature of the sexual act, which is evident from the the way the way the sexual act works — i.e., from what naturally and ordinarily occurs happens when men and women have sex (though, of course, the natural consequences of sexual intercourse, namely, having children do not always occur in every single instance).
The notion of “becoming one flesh” is not just a revealed truth. Because of the ordering of sexual activity, men and women become one flesh when they have sexual intercourse. This union does not and cannot come about when the partners are homosexuals.
The logic of sexual intercourse
Sexual intercourse has two potential ends (natural ordinary outcomes). There’s the unitive outcome, erotic pleasure that can give rise to binding love, and the procreative outcome, which gives rise to a new human life (provided that we are talking about human beings, of course).
Both outcomes are extremely important, even if they do not always happen every time two people have sex. Just as there can be sex without having kids, there can also be sex without having pleasure. However, if neither outcome ordinarily occurred, then what would be the point to having sex? When people have sex, they usually intend at least one of those two reasons. I can’t imagine a case where neither outcome is desired that would not be absolutely repulsive.
If we admit only one of the two ends and disparage the other, sexual intercourse is unjustly deprived of its truest meaning. From here on, however, I am going to focus mostly on the procreative end and why it is integral to the nature of sexual intercourse, even if that activity does not always end in conceiving children. To this effect, I am going to have to restrict my focus to healthy conditions and leave aside exceptions, such when the couple is sterile. After all, we could say by analogy, eyes are good for seeing; blindness is an exception which confirms the general rule.
Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman is unique in that it is the type of activity that has the immense potential to bring another human being into existence. The power to cause the existence of another person is intrinsic to the nature of the sexual act. The effect that sexual intercourse naturally brings about, namely, the life of a new individual person endowed with human dignity, who therefore has the inalienable rights that all human persons have from the very first moment of their existence — this effect renders the conjugal act sacred and defines its meaning. Call this the logic of sexual intercourse.
For an objector who thinks the word sacred implies some religious belief, this is not a religiously based argument. Sacred simply means of inviolable worth and therefore set apart within determinate parameters, because of intrinsic dignity that the thing or event in question has. Human reason recognizes the natural dignity of human life. Sexual intercourse should be recognized as sacred because it is the type of activity that has the immense power to cause human life. Marriage between a man and a woman sets the parameters in which this dignity can be properly respected. According to the logic of sexual intercourse, marriage between a man and a woman is sacred.
Sexual union between anything but one man and one woman should not be called marriage
Homosexual activity does not have the natural potential to bring another human being into existence. Although it can involve the erotic pleasure outcome, it lacks the procreative outcome, and therefore, it contradicts the logic of sexual intercourse. Inasmuch as it only gives pleasure but is not the type of activity that can potentially cause the awesome outcome of bringing another human being into existence, the partners might as well be using any other object that could cause the same type of pleasure.
Is the bonding of mutual pleasure not enough to satisfy the conditions for the marital bond?
Many physical, chemical, and biological alterations occur during sex. Many of these alterations function toward uniting partners in the bond of spousal love, with a view toward raising children. Neural hormones secreted in the brain during sexual intercourse function to increase the desire for sex, emotional dependence on the partner, and cause bonding with the offspring conceived in the conjugal act.
These hormones are also released in the case of masturbation. Of course, in the case of masturbation, there is no bonding with the partner, but the desire for more sex increases, and the brain is confused, because in autoeroticism the potential partner is absent.
Promiscuity often leads to depression, especially in women, because the brain hormones cause the person to sense things that the lifestyle in question contradicts. When the logic of sexual intercourse is not respected, the effects can be psychologically harmful.
Does this mean that homosexuals are naturally depressed? No. Not necessarily.
It does mean that the emotional sense of a bond with another person naturally occurs in any type of sexual activity, because the brain with its neural hormones is hardwired for an intimate relationship with a view toward building a more societal relationship in the context of a family. Sexual activity reinforces the desire for having children. When the desire for children is willfully put aside, the confusion that follows is natural.
Since homosexuals cannot produce children with one another, their sexual activity is not fruitful in the complete sense that follows from both natural outcomes of sexual intercourse. Marriage is the proper union which respects the integrity of both of these ends, the unitive and the procreative. Both of these ends are perfected when a husband and wife remain faithful to one another and raise their children within the household of the marriage.
* This article does not address numerous problems, objections, or potential counterexamples that anyone could raise, such polygamy, couples who cannot have children, artificial insemination, and the problem of abusive spouses and parents. Furthermore, it assumes many things about natural law that are not stated here. This leaves many loose ends that might be addressed in the combox below (addressed, but probably not resolved, given the format of a combox discussion).
In my 2008 article, I address natural law theory directly albeit in a legal, as opposed to moral, context. It would have served to resolve some doubts as to exactly what I mean by the term “natural law.” It is unfortunate, that the link to that article on the internet no longer works. I will look into it and try to find that article as a point of reference for those who are interested. If you are interested, I suggest reading Soper’s article cited above. You can also read St Thomas Aquinas’s “Treatise on Law” in the Summa Theologiae, particularly I-II.94.2 along with other articles from QQ.90-96.
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