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Jan 15 2014

Are Catholics Taught Not to Have Oral Sex?

In doing some research for the chapter I’m writing for John Loftus’ forthcoming anthology about the negative influence of the Christian right in America, I came across this essay by Bill Maguire, who holds a Masters in Theological Studies from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, in the Catholic World Report. This part jumped out at me:

Yet, if we accept the notion that sexual activity which is not open to procreation can be an authentic expression of conjugal love and that openness to procreation does not belong to the very essence and definition of marriage, what is the possible rational basis for not extending marriage to same-sex couples? There is none, because marriage has been reduced simply to a loving, committed sexual relationship.

Some might object: if openness to procreation belongs to the very essence and definition of marriage, we would have to exclude not only same-sex partners from marriage, but infertile heterosexual couples as well. This objection is not valid and does not hold weight. The sexual activity of an infertile heterosexual couple is intrinsically open to procreation—even though their sexual union cannot result in procreation. The sexual act of an infertile couple is the kind of act that is open to procreation; the fact that it cannot lead to procreation is accidental to the act itself. Under normal circumstances—i.e., functioning fertility—their act could lead to procreation. On the other hand, the sexual act of a same-sex couple is the kind of act that is never open to procreation; the non-openness to procreation belongs to the very substance and essence of that act.

Thus, one can rationally hold that openness to life is intrinsic to conjugal love without excluding infertile couples from marriage. Infertile heterosexual couples engage in the kind of act that leads to procreation; homosexual couples do not.

But if one were to follow this logic consistently, would it not also rule out oral sex, even if it was only engaged in by a married couple? After all, oral sex is not the kind of act that is open to procreation. Neither is masturbation, of course, or anal sex. So are Catholics taught that even married couples cannot engage in such forms of sex because those acts are never open to procreation? Not having ever been Catholic, I honestly don’t know the answer.

90 comments

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  1. 1
    Kalli Procopio

    As someone who was raised catholic and attended 8 years of catholic school, I can honestly tell you that oral sex, anal sex and masturbation are not permitted under catholic dogma. Nor is one permitted to use a condom. For a good laugh with regards to this, see “Monty Python’s The Meaning Life” and the song: “Every Sperm is Sacred.”

  2. 2
    DataWrangler

    Sounds like theological justification for anti-sodomy laws. It all boils down to “if it can’t get you pregnant, then you’re not allowed to do it”.

  3. 3
    paulburnett

    This logic also does not seem to preclude trios. If three persons of two different genders participate in a mutually agreeable procreative act, would that be legitimate under this logic? Only if they were married? To each other? This is so confusing.

  4. 4
    d.c.wilson

    I think Ed just inspired the next Garfunkel and Oates song.

  5. 5
    kathleenmcnamara

    That is correct. According to the catholic church, oral sex is not permitted, even with married couples.

  6. 6
    theschwa

    Paul (@3): I suspect it is not allowed. If it were 2 guys 1 girl, only 1 guy could get her pregnant, so that is out. If it were 2 girls 1 guy, he could only knock up one of them, so that is out. Married or not.

  7. 7
    Ray Ingles

    Yup. They really do think that reproduction is the purpose of sex, and anything that interferes with that, or any way of having sex that isn’t in line with that, is verboten.

    I’ve read Edward Feser’s “The Last Superstition”, and it does claim that. I’ll have to paraphrase, but he says things like ‘however they may excite one another in foreplay, the sexual act must culminate with the penis ejaculating into the vagina’. He does generously concede that ‘women can have orgasms too’ but he doesn’t seem to want to think about the implications of that. (If orgasm in women isn’t tied to reproduction, what then?)

    Oddly enough, I never see them apply the same logic in other areas. For example, if the purpose of eating is nourishing the body, wouldn’t artificial sweeteners be just as immoral as condoms?

  8. 8
    No One

    Apparently, the penalty for such behavior is being moved to another parish.

  9. 9
    John Pieret

    From my experience as ex-Catholic, Catholic theologians are generally logical when working out the consequences of their illogical rules.

  10. 10
    jamessweet

    I was raised Mormon, and I believe there stance is similar: Yeah, non-procreative sex acts are a no-go — with the caveat that oral sex between a heterosexual married couple that is also actively procreating is not something they tend to make a big issue out of. For comparison: When you bishop interviews you for a temple recommend, you get specifically asked about masturbation (“have you been abusing your body?”), but they don’t typically ask what a married heterosexual couple does in the bedroom. It’s officially not okay, but I don’t recall it being talked about a lot.

  11. 11
    Physicalist

    Yes, that’s what Catholics are taught.

  12. 12
    alanb

    The link I had to the Catholic doctrine on masturbation no longer exists, so I reproduce the whole thing:

    Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action. The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose. For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved. To form an equitable judgment about the subject’s moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability

  13. 13
    Kaintukee Bob

    @theschwa #6

    Challenge Accepted! I will now try to knock up two different women.

    I have a fairly good chance at success, unless they use those evil ‘birth control’ thingies.

  14. 14
    Nick Gotts

    The sexual act of an infertile couple is the kind of act that is open to procreation; the fact that it cannot lead to procreation is accidental to the act itself. Under normal circumstances—i.e., functioning fertility—their act could lead to procreation.

    This also raises the question: what if the woman is past menopause? Menopause is (usually) a perfectly “normal” (i.e. non-pathological) occurrence, so here we have a whole subclass of PiV sex without contraception, in “normal circumstances”, which could not lead to procreation. Perhaps it just never occurred to the Catholic authorities that post-menopausal women might have sex.

  15. 15
    RickR

    marriage has been reduced simply to a loving, committed sexual relationship

    Wow.

  16. 16
    Cuttlefish

    Mind you, there is a difference between “what they are taught” and “what they learn”.

  17. 17
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    To completely grasp the extreme character of Catholic doctrine on sex, marriage and procreation, you must also known that the RCC is against medically assisted procreation. Not only must sex be open to procreation at all times, but it is the *only* authorised way to make babies. Bodies, especially female bodies, are to be policed by the Church lest we silly human beings use them for our own purposes and (gasp!) choose for ourselves in other areas of life too.

    /Snark.

  18. 18
    alanb

    As for the Mormons:

    I was shocked to have you raise the question about ‘oral lovemaking in the genital area among married couples.’ Heaven forbid any such degrading activities which would be abhorrent in the sight of the Lord. For any Latter-day Saint, and particularly those who have been taught in the sacred ordinances of the temple, to engage in any kind of perversions of this sacred God-given gift of procreation, would be sure to bring down the condemnation of the Lord whom we would offend were we to engage in any such practice.”

    -Letter from Harold B. Lee, May 17, 1973

  19. 19
    David Marjanović

    I grew up in a bleached-out Catholic country believing that oral sex was a rare kink. Only the Internet has taught me that it seems to be close to universal.

  20. 20
    Synfandel

    After all, oral sex is not the kind of act that is open to procreation. Neither is masturbation, of course, or anal sex.

    Nor is writing a short story or making toast. So what? What does whether an act is of a ‘kind’ that might theoretically produce a child have to do with whether it should be allowed?

    I have never understood why some people feel the need to get all wrapped up in contorted rationalizations so as to get some third party’s stamp of approval on their sexual activities. Go forth and get laid any way you like. And present a choice finger to anyone who thinks it’s his business.

  21. 21
    lldayo

    This also raises the question: what if the woman is past menopause? Menopause is (usually) a perfectly “normal” (i.e. non-pathological) occurrence, so here we have a whole subclass of PiV sex without contraception, in “normal circumstances”, which could not lead to procreation. Perhaps it just never occurred to the Catholic authorities that post-menopausal women might have sex.

    Don’t forget pregnant women.

  22. 22
    Nick Gotts

    to engage in any kind of perversions of this sacred God-given gift of procreation, would be sure to bring down the condemnation of the Lord whom we would offend were we to engage in any such practice – alanb@18

    The Lord is evidently a very choosy voyeur!

  23. 23
    Physicalist

    ” what if the woman is past menopause?”

    That’s the very point addressed in the passage Ed quotes. The claim is that so long as it’s the kind of sex that leads to babies, and it’s in a marriage, and it’s open to babies (even if babies don’t happen to be possible b/c of infertility, or the time of month), then it’s OK.

    I don’t agree with it, but we might as well understand the claim being made.

  24. 24
    doublereed

    God I hate religious nonsense. I mean, the whole thing is just fussing around in nonsense:

    The sexual activity of an infertile heterosexual couple is intrinsically open to procreation—even though their sexual union cannot result in procreation.

    There is no difference between being ‘intrinsically open to procreation’ and ‘can result in procreation.’ It is literally a distinction without a difference.

    Under normal circumstances—i.e., functioning fertility—their act could lead to procreation.

    Except that this isn’t “normal” circumstances. There isn’t functioning fertility, which is the whole point. Therefore their act can’t lead to procreation. So why bring it up? Recognizing the problem is not a rebuttal of the problem.

    On the other hand, the sexual act of a same-sex couple is the kind of act that is never open to procreation; the non-openness to procreation belongs to the very substance and essence of that act.

    Neither are open to procreation. You don’t have fertility, you’re just as likely to procreate as a same sex couple. Distinctions without differences.

    And don’t get me started on the “substances” of the act.

  25. 25
    colnago80

    Just another example of the inanity of the Raping Children Church. This criminal organization also claims that life begins at conception. The consequence of that belief is that, since more then 1/2 of all fertilized eggs fail to implant and are spontaneously aborted, that, since she is in charge, god is the world’s greatest abortionist.

  26. 26
    David Marjanović

    Oddly enough, I never see them apply the same logic in other areas. For example, if the purpose of eating is nourishing the body, wouldn’t artificial sweeteners be just as immoral as condoms?

    Good point.

    Apparently, the penalty for such behavior is being moved to another parish.

    Congratulations! You’ve managed to equate oral sex with rape! That’s an… almost… Catholic thing to do.

    This also raises the question: what if the woman is past menopause? Menopause is (usually) a perfectly “normal” (i.e. non-pathological) occurrence, so here we have a whole subclass of PiV sex without contraception, in “normal circumstances”, which could not lead to procreation. Perhaps it just never occurred to the Catholic authorities that post-menopausal women might have sex.

    I’m sure the same philosophical contortion as for other infertile women applies: the man and the woman are doing everything they can to get the woman pregnant, too bad it doesn’t work. In non-PiV sex you’re not even trying.

    Remember, this is the denomination that venerates the theologian (St. Thomas Aquinas, “Doctor Angelicus”) who came up with the substance vs. accidents distinction to explain why transubstantiation is, like, totally logical.

  27. 27
    David Marjanović

    The Lord is evidently a very choosy voyeur!

    “Dear God, we thank you for the intimacies we’re about to enjoy, and as always we wish you lots of fun watching!”
    – Homer Simpson, naked with Marge. My retranslation from German.

  28. 28
    Dr X

    Oral sex not brought orgasm is in fact permissible, but it is only permissible if it is leading to intercourse conducted by the rules: no birth control other than rhythm or NFP as they call it.

    The rationale stems from an idea promulgated by JPII that ideal sex entails simultaneous orgasm during intercourse, so that there is “harmony” of experience for both husband and wife in the completion of the act. The pope acknowledged that foreplay–non-procreative sex acts–can be necessary for all involved to get sufficiently worked up to pull off a simultaneous, harmonious orgasm that is supposed to be achieved at the sacred moment of creating one of the wee people. One is only supposed to do as much as much foreplay as is necessary to make this happen, never mind all the obvious problems with this plan for ideal sex.

    This is what sex looks like when people who are deeply conflicted about sex attempt to sanctify the dirty deed. Lots of rules, lots of tweaking, lots of hairsplitting designed walk a moral tight rope that alleviates the guilt.

    More broadly, this is why most Catholics ignore the Catholic Church in sexual matters. In its zeal to manufacture the most perfect, holy, mysterious, ecstatic, holy baby-making activity, they demand an obsessive-compulsive approach that ruins sex as it would be practiced by sane people.

    .

  29. 29
    Jeremy Shaffer

    The sexual activity of an infertile heterosexual couple is intrinsically open to procreation—even though their sexual union cannot result in procreation. The sexual act of an infertile couple is the kind of act that is open to procreation; the fact that it cannot lead to procreation is accidental to the act itself. Under normal circumstances—i.e., functioning fertility—their act could lead to procreation.

    It does render oral and anal sex and masturbation as being out of the question but his “reasoning” does make sex with children acceptable, so long as it happens within marriage and is not same-sexed. If all that is required is that the “correct” parts are involved, regardless of whether the prospect of procreation is even viable, then why shouldn’t a man be allowed to marry, say, a seven year old girl and have sex with her given this type of thinking? The guy could totes knock her up if she were older but it’s still all cool cause at least she’s not another guy, which would make it just all wrong!

  30. 30
    Nepenthe

    Certain types of oral and anal sex could lead to conception, theoretically. Sperm are very motivated and sex is messy.

  31. 31
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    There is no difference between being ‘intrinsically open to procreation’ and ‘can result in procreation.’ It is literally a distinction without a difference.

    It certainly seems that, for all the talk about compatibility of science and religion in the RCC, their theologians resolutely close their minds to any findings of medical science they don’t like. If not, some of their most cherished distinctions would have to fly out the window.

  32. 32
    Modusoperandi

    This objection is not valid and does not hold weight. The sexual activity of an infertile heterosexual couple is intrinsically open to procreation—even though their sexual union cannot result in procreation.

    “They can’t, but they could”.

    On the other hand, the sexual act of a same-sex couple is the kind of act that is never open to procreation…

    “They can’t, but they can’t”.

    But if one were to follow this logic consistently, would it not also rule out oral sex, even if it was only engaged in by a married couple? After all, oral sex is not the kind of act that is open to procreation.

    Since infertile couples can engage in intercourse, because even though they can’t reproduce they could reproduce if they weren’t infertile, hetero couples can engage in oral sex, because even though they can’t reproduce they could reproduce if mouths were genitals.

    This clear and not hand-waving chain of logic fails when it comes to The Gays, however, because while I could use the same clear and not hand-waving chain of logic for them I can’t use the same clear and not hand-waving chain of logic for them.

  33. 33
    iknklast

    Perhaps it just never occurred to the Catholic authorities that post-menopausal women might have sex

    I’m guessing the assumption is that men don’t want to have sex with post-menopausal women. I’m not Catholic, so I’m just guessing, but it seems to be a general assumption among many.

  34. 34
    D. C. Sessions

    For example, if the purpose of eating is nourishing the body, wouldn’t artificial sweeteners be just as immoral as condoms?

    The difference is that eating is not in itself sinful. Sex, on the other hand, is — but the creation of baby Catholics is important enough to make it permissible.

  35. 35
    dingojack

    Surely IVF treatment is ‘intrinsically open to procreation’* so it must be OK, right?
    Dingo
    ——–
    * in fact it’s the whole raison d’être of the procedure

  36. 36
    Chiroptera

    The sexual act of an infertile couple is the kind of act that is open to procreation; the fact that it cannot lead to procreation is accidental to the act itself.

    Am I the only one here who thinks that this makes absolutely zero sense whatsoever?

    I mean, it sounds like it’s just repeating “sex that can’t result in procreation isn’t allowed unless it is vaginal intercourse performed by a heterosexual in a marriage,” which they have already been saying. Just making up new words and phrases for concepts for which words already exist doesn’t actually explain anything.

  37. 37
    doublereed

    I would just counter this by saying that homosexual sex could procreate if one of them was a different sex. It’s merely incidental that they are both the same sex.

  38. 38
    dingojack

    Nepenthe (#30) – so have all the oral (or anal) sex you want, just gather some semen on your finger, poke it into the vagina and hey presto perfectly OK sex – because a pregnancy might occur. [Gay men will need to keep a small sample to stick into a female friend. Inconvenient, but not inconceivable (pardon the pun)].
    Dingo

  39. 39
    corporal klinger

    The criminal record of the RCC is as long as the church is old, but most of the people think of burning heretics and witchhunts, the crusades and the inquisition. Something that almost never come up is the nefarious influence the RCC
    had and has on everyday people and their sex lives througout the centuries, how fervently they opposed and oppose the very concept of healthy, consentual sex of free(-thinking) people as a good, natural and healthy part of being human. My mother, for example, was taught that menstruating was a punishment for Eve’s sin. Looking at my parents and a lot of other couples of that generation, I think it’s safe to say that the RCC crippled the ability of millions of couples to have happy, fullfilling sex lives or, if not, to divorce and build a new live with a new partner.
    Religion – it does poison everything!

    ( this was a real eye opener for me:
    L. Alonso Tejada, ” La represion sexual en la Espana de Franco ” ISBN 84-226-0941-X )

  40. 40
    steffp

    Thanks for the reference to Aquinas – it was his essence/existence distinction, and the resulting “intrinsic qualities”, that got Giordano Bruno, the atomist, burnt on a stake. And RCC theologians still use that distorted Aristotelianism to load the “essence” of sexuality ( as opposed to the “existence” of sexuality) with whatever they like. So once they declare procreation to be the “essence” of a sex act, they won’t care about existing forms of sex: existence has to follow essence as they declare it.
    Which leads to the interesting fact that a real world act that, on an average (even without any contraception measures), leads to procreation in less than 1 % of the performances, is seen as “intrinsically procreational”, and nothing else. This is outright ridiculous. How can the “essence” of an act be something that is so very much unlikely?
    (A Christian wife can give birth roughly once a year for a period of roughly 30 years. Few do fulfill that quota. According to scripture, having sex twice a week is seen as modest. You do the math…)

  41. 41
    Michael Heath

    I find it chilling that some yahoo pontificates on what should or should not be allowed between other consenting adults. It’s unconscionable in our liberal democracy, I think it’s still abhorrent within the confines of a religious sect.

    So before we even arrive at the question on oral sex, we first need to condemn him for promoting any policy on this matter.

  42. 42
    MadHatter

    I had thought Catholics (maybe only of a certain generation?) were taught that all sex is sinful, but that it’s permissible in order to have babies in the context of marriage. Only there was a fair bit of confusion since sex was mostly sinful for women, but for men they were better off getting married. But then haven’t there been times where people were told that if they wouldn’t/couldn’t have babies that they should be celibate in marriage too?

    Confusing. Also really sad. According to my mother, my (Catholic) grandmother told her that she used to pray every time she and my grandfather had sex because it was so sinful and she felt so guilty. She deliberately avoided indoctrinating her daughters that way because she knew it was messed up but couldn’t get past it herself.

    Very glad my parents left the church before I came about.

  43. 43
    regexp

    Technically yes. And I have run into more than one Catholic who follows this to the letter.

    However – as a matter of practice – Catholics are also taught about “natural” birth control (rhythm method) so many within the Church do believe that sex can still happen while also limiting the possibility of having a child.

  44. 44
    Dr X

    @DC

    “For example, if the purpose of eating is nourishing the body, wouldn’t artificial sweeteners be just as immoral as condoms?”

    Using a dime to turn a screw is also a grave sin.

  45. 45
    David Marjanović

    Certain types of oral and anal sex could lead to conception, theoretically.

    If a warm, clean bathtub or swimming pool is involved, I guess so.

    Surely IVF treatment is ‘intrinsically open to procreation’* so it must be OK, right?

    IIRC, the official excuse is that its success rate is so low. Hence supernumerary embryos.

    Am I the only one here who thinks that this makes absolutely zero sense whatsoever?

    You’re not. It’s Platonism.

    My mother, for example, was taught that menstruating was a punishment for Eve’s sin.

    Note the false assumption that only humans menstruate.

    it was his essence/existence distinction, and the resulting “intrinsic qualities”, that got Giordano Bruno, the atomist, burnt on a stake.

    I thought he was burnt for asking whether Jesus had died for the people on other worlds, too, and/or for being some sort of pantheist, and/or for saying that Jesus was just a magician, or some such stuff?

    How can the “essence” of an act be something that is so very much unlikely?

    They’d say your question is wrong: the Platonic ideal need not be the average.

  46. 46
    David Marjanović

    celibate in marriage

    You mean “chaste”. “Celibate” means “unmarried”.

  47. 47
    cptdoom

    As a former Catholic, I can concur with all the other posters here that, yes, we were taught only PIV sex was in any way moral, and then only in marriage, and then only to make babies. What you’re all missing from the infertile couple and postmenopausal woman examples is that God can create a miracle. That is, both infertile couples (generally) and postmenopausal women retain the parts for baby-making, thus, even if it is incredibly unlikely, a baby could still result, so the sex is ok. The church has also acknowledged that he act of sexual union can bring a couple closer together, so sex during pregnancy is ok.

    What this also means is that, if the proper parts aren’t there, the church can deny marriage to otherwise eligible adults. There was a case in S.America a few years ago when a man who was paralyzed and could not physically have sex was denied a Catholic marriage (and IIRC that was the only way to legally marry in that jurisdiction), and that is totally in keeping with Catholic doctrine. A woman who had CAIS, for example, could be denied the sacrament of marriage in the Catholic church, where the priest to be aware of her condition.

  48. 48
    Nick Gotts

    That’s the very point addressed in the passage Ed quotes. – Physicalist

    No it isn’t. The passage contrasts infertility with “normal circumstances”. But infertility after menopause is perfectly normal, by any reasonable definition.

  49. 49
    democommie

    I have had people tell me, that given my views on sex and sexuality, I can’t possibly be a good cath-o-lick. I thank them for their interest in my life and tell them I came to that conclusion when I was about nine years old.

    “Except that this isn’t “normal” circumstances. There isn’t functioning fertility, which is the whole point. Therefore their act can’t lead to procreation. So why bring it up? ”

    The collection basket, silly. The RCC found out, around 1960 or so, that lots of their flock were not happy with going without breakfast before coming to Sunday Mass. They cut the wait to three hours, then to one. Now I think you can stop at the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru and get a “One Adam 12″ special–two glazed donuts and black coffee–on the way to church. Something similar happened with meatless Fridays. This was not about leniency, it was about cash flow. For the same reason, the RCC doesn’t pound too hard or often on the birth control/abortion issue. I have a passel of practicing cath-o-lick sibs and nieces and nephews. None of them have huge families, despite long, stable marriages and adequate income to support two to three times as many children as they have. I could call them hypocrites, but I’d rather ignore their hypocrisy and focus on their decency and other better qualities.

    The RCC is a criminal combine and ongoing conspiracy–like most religions.

  50. 50
    Modusoperandi

    Michael Heath “So before we even arrive at the question on oral sex, we first need to condemn him for promoting any policy on this matter.”
    And, what, next you’ll come after me for insisting you stop closing your blinds? Never!

  51. 51
    Mr Ed

    My wife was Catholic when we married so we had to go to pre-marriage consoling. The presenter got up in front of the couples and started with, “I’ve never been married but I live with my mother which is basically the same.” The problem is that those making the rules at least officially only have theoretical knowledge of a big part of the human experience.

  52. 52
    Chiroptera

    cptdoom, #47: What you’re all missing from the infertile couple and postmenopausal woman examples is that God can create a miracle.

    Heh. And condoms can break, which should be an easier miracle for a deity to accomplish.

    Hell, I would think that an omnipotent deity can, for one night, make “the pill” not work as easily as he can create a miracle in the case of a infertile couple.

    In fact, a couple having sex with a condom or other artificial birth control would seem to be more in the “essence” of a couple using the ryhthm method while an infertile heterosexual couple would have the more of the “essence” of gay couple.

    All this still sounds like a bunch of rubbish. At least it does to me.

  53. 53
    democommie

    “Using a dime to turn a screw is also a grave sin.”

    No, no, no! It’s right there in one of the gnostic gospels.

    “After the meal had been finished, the LORD was fiddling with his I-Pod and couldn’t get the battery cover off to replace the battery*.

    And he sayeth unto Peter:

    “Peter, thou art my rock, bro, hast thou an implement for facilitating this cover’s removal?”

    Peter did empty his fanny pack** and looked with utter despair unto his SAVIOR and said:

    “JESUS, dude, all I got is a dreidel, some gefiltefish gummi bears and a couple of the shekels from my hannukah gelt”

    The MESSIAH, taking one of the coins into his hand, bit it and smiled. Looking at his confused disciple, he said:

    “Peter, my child, your uncle fucked you big time on the gelt. This shekel is bronze, not gold, it ain’t worth a plugged drachma BUT, it will serve our purpose.”

    Holding the coin aloft, the LAMB OF GOD spoke to those assembled:

    “Take this coin, all of you, and use it as a removal tool for your I-Pods, in my name. This is my screwdriver.”.

    * Yes, I know that they don’t really work that way–my cellphone, for instance, is wood-fired–but work with me, here.

    ** No pockets in those togajammies, y’know.

  54. 54
    kevinalexander

    Masturbating is OK if you do it into a cup since that’s the kind of sex that could lead to procreation.

  55. 55
    Modusoperandi

    Mr Ed “My wife was Catholic when we married so we had to go to pre-marriage consoling.”
    The best slips are Freudian.

  56. 56
    Sastra

    cptdom #47 wrote:

    What you’re all missing from the infertile couple and postmenopausal woman examples is that God can create a miracle… What this also means is that, if the proper parts aren’t there, the church can deny marriage to otherwise eligible adults.

    No, it seems to me that once someone invokes “the possibility of a miracle” then they can’t hold back God and let Him perform — or be expected to perform — only lesser miracles. If God can intervene into nature in order to allow an infertile couple or postmenopausal woman (i.e.Sarah, 91 years old) to conceive, then He can and indeed may do the same for a castrated man or even two men.

    The “possibility of a miracle” defense also occurred to me because a Catholic I knew once made it. When I asked whether He might not be able to intervene with same-sex couples I was given the “but that would be condoning sin” argument. But if the “sin” is only that a child CANNOT result and if gay couples have faith that with God all things are possible, then wouldn’t their sex act no longer be sinful by the very rules which made it sinful?

    The answer was no, because other rules were more important. God made organs for a purpose. Besides, if God performed a miracle that obvious God would be taking away the damned’s freedom to deny Him.

    Calvinball.

  57. 57
    democommie

    “The problem is that those making the rules at least officially only have theoretical knowledge of a big part of the human experience.”

    And their “experience” in the area of human sexuality is often extremely unhealthy if not abusive.

  58. 58
    cjcolucci

    Although I was never sure about this, I thought along the same lines as Dr. X above. Oral foreplay is OK as part of (intrinsically) reproductive PIV sex, but not oral sex as a discrete, complete sexual act.. At least that fits the reasoning given; I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they had some other doctrine they can pull out of their asses to make sex dull.

  59. 59
    smipowell

    St. Augustine “The City of God” shortly after the fall of Rome (about 410 CE) in which he addressed a number of sexual issues. One involved the rape of nuns by the barbarians (who were also Christians, but not the right kind of Christians). It was sinful if they enjoyed it. Secondly, he divided sex into the sacred and the profane; that is, into sex for procreation and sex for recreation. In the Garden Adam and Eve engaged only in the former because they had preternatural gifts of the mind that allowed them to have sex without enjoying it. We know this because after the Fall some remnants of those gifts remain. For example, St. Augustine mentioned that some people can wiggle their ears, some can make the skin of their scalp move, and some can fart continuously so as to produce the sound of singing. Such is the profundity of this theological lesson!

    In summary, sex for procreation is good and sex for recreation is bad. We’ve been saddled with this nonsense for a very long time.

  60. 60
    magistramarla

    I wasn’t raised Catholic, but my mother was influenced by my aunts, who were RCC. I wonder now if that is part of why she thought that it was perfectly OK to be physically and emotionally abusive to me?
    She seemed to be very afraid of men. When I was a teen, she told me that “some dirty people” use their fingers and mouths for sex and that they would go to hell for it.

    Remember “Love Story”? I had already read the book several times when a boy asked to take me to the movie. I was lucky that my mother was barely literate and didn’t pay attention to what I was reading. My RCC auntie told my mother that it was a “dirty movie” because the couple “lived in sin” and that she died because “god was punishing them”. I wasn’t allowed to go to the movie or even to date the boy.

    My aunt and uncle had four children. When the children started to move out, my poor old uncle was moved into his own bedroom, and my aunt ignored him. He ordered cable TV when that became available, but she angrily cancelled it when she caught him watching what she considered a dirty movie on showtime. I always felt sorry for the sweet old man, and I think that he died a miserable and lonely person.

    The same aunt and some cousins helped us to move once. When we were putting some things into the apartment’s storage area, there were some Playboys there that had been left by the previous resident. My aunt and female cousins were very upset, and “shielded” both my husband and myself from seeing them as they whisked them off to the trash bin. My husband was rather dismayed at that. He later bought one of the magazines and we read it together, since I had never seen one before.

    I am so glad that my husband taught me to have a much healthier outlook on sex and that we moved far away from my family.

  61. 61
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    and some can fart continuously so as to produce the sound of singing.

    Augustus, however, could only approximate the sound of moralizing.

  62. 62
    greg1466

    To the best of my knowledge, according to RCC doctrine, the one and only purpose of sex is procreation. Any sexual activity that does not lead directly to that end is sinful. You’re not even suppose to enjoy it. You are simply fulfilling you duty to the church by creating more members.

  63. 63
    cptdoom

    No, it seems to me that once someone invokes “the possibility of a miracle” then they can’t hold back God and let Him perform — or be expected to perform — only lesser miracles. If God can intervene into nature in order to allow an infertile couple or postmenopausal woman (i.e.Sarah, 91 years old) to conceive, then He can and indeed may do the same for a castrated man or even two men.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing that the Catholic position is reasonable or rationale, just pointing out how it was explained to me.

  64. 64
    Nick Gotts

    Augustus, however, could only approximate the sound of moralizing. – Azkyroth

    I think you mean Augustin – although as Augustus Carp, Esq. reminds us, “tus is better than tin”.

  65. 65
    howardhershey

    “I suspect it is not allowed. If it were 2 guys 1 girl, only 1 guy could get her pregnant,”

    In fact there are documented cases of non-fraternal twins with different fathers.

  66. 66
    abb3w

    As others have noted, the first approximation taught to Catholics is that oral sex is forbidden. The relevant chunk of the catechism can be found on-line here; note particularly 2362 “spouses should know how to keep themselves within the limits of just moderation”, the reference in 2377 condemning on the grounds of a tendency to “dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act”, plus 2370 “every action which” et cetera.

    Particularly inquisitive rules lawyers can sometimes get an exceptionally knowledgeable educator to admit that some types of oral sex may be permissible as part of foreplay or afterplay, as long as they are not purely done as a substitute. The loophole concievably could come up in confession, if a married person confesses something technically not a sin to a highly scrupulous pastor.

    That said, it’s usually considered “beyond the limits of just moderation” and tending to “dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act”, and thus not allowed.

  67. 67
    abb3w

    @62, greg1466

    To the best of my knowledge, according to RCC doctrine, the one and only purpose of sex is procreation.

    BZZT. Procreation is considered a necessary but not sufficient condition for sex to be canonically licit. Doctrine requires it must also be “unitive” in intent — promoting the bonds of marriage, more or less.

  68. 68
    Sastra

    @cptdoom #63:

    Oh, never fear, I know that. I was going after the explanation.

  69. 69
    steve84

    St. Augustine had serious issues with his own sexuality. He really hated himself for his sexual feelings and struggled with them his whole life. Then he projected his own messed up mind on everyone else. Christianity was made up by some of the most sexually dysfunctional people imaginable.

  70. 70
    Modusoperandi

    howardhershey “In fact there are documented cases of non-fraternal twins with different fathers.”
    That was a heck of a party. The 1970s weren’t all bad.

  71. 71
    DonDueed

    I feel it’s important to point out that when I opened this article, there were exactly 69 comments.

    Then Modus had to go and spoil it.

  72. 72
    Irrational Rationality

    One way for the argument to go is this:

    1. Gay sex is wrong because it is not open to the possibility of procreation.

    2. However, straight sex among an infertile couple is fine because god could produce a miracle.

    3. If god could produce a miracle, he could make two women or even two men have a biological child together.

    4. That still doesn’t count because it’s condoning the sin of gay sex.

    5. Gay sex is only a sin because it cannot produce life. If there exists the possibility of a miracle from god then gay sex can produce life. If one argues that god would never intervene to perform a miracle in this case but would intervene to make an infertile couple fertile, one must explain why. In addition, one must demonstrate how they know this to be the case. Also, if one is only closed to life because god never chooses to intervene, but the other isn’t because god does choose to intervene, then the closure to life that makes these two different is solely the fault of god. Either it’s wrong because it’s closed to life or it’s closed to life because it’s wrong. You can’t have both, as that would be a grievous logical fallacy known as begging the question. This argument can only ever lead toward question begging. It is not, nor could it ever possibly be a valid argument against the morality of homosexuality.

    The other argument proceeds from a kind of bastardized Aristotelian essentialism.

    1. Gay sex is wrong but infertile straight sex is a-okay because while neither result in a child, one has the “essence” of an act that produces a child and the other does not.

    2. This brings about the main philosophical problem with essentialism. How is it that we determine what are the essences and what are the accidents of any given action or object? It all depends on what particular language and categorization scheme we choose, making it highly contingent. There is no sense in which any given categorization scheme is objectively the “correct” way to define things. Nature has no labels. It simply is what it is. Labels are a cognitive tool to help us grasp the world around us. At best, one can argue that certain categorization schemes are more useful than others, but which is most useful depends on the particular subject of discussion.

    3. Why is the essence of sex that of “unity” and “procreation”? Further, what is “unity”? What makes only PIV sex in marriage equal to “unity”? If only the only logically possible sex act that can meet the simultaneous criteria of being procreative and unital is PIV sex within marriage, then “unity” and “procreation” are just fancy synonyms for “PIV sex within marriage.” If you’re just defining words like “unity” so that only PIV counts, then the word adds no additional information. Saying sex must be procreative and unital is the same as saying sex must be PIV within marriage. Thus, it’s not actually an argument. It simply reduces to “A is true because A is true.”

    4. If, on the other hand, unity means something less contrived, then what does it mean? What counts as unity? Further, why should we care whether or not something meets the criteria of bringing it about? Procreation is at least useful for a Darwinian species, so supporting at least some of it on some level makes sense. I presently have no reason to suspect that any definition of “unity” which only allows PIV within marriage is similarly useful.

    The last-ditch effort is to claim that the genitals exist for procreation and that sex is for procreation and unity. This is really just a rehash of prior arguments expressed with slightly different wording, but let’s consider it.

    1. How do they establish what the “purpose” of sex is? Where do they acquire this special knowledge? Evolutionary biology can tell you why sex evolved in the first place, but to draw moral precepts and teleology from evolution would be to commit the naturalistic fallacy. Furthermore, evolution paints a more complicated picture of the purpose of sex.

    Sex did not evolve to bring about reproduction. Asexual reproduction existed since the beginning of life, and in fact preceded it in the form of protobionts and even simpler self-replicators. Sex evolved in order for multicellular organisms to introduce a much greater amount of variance upon which evolution could act. Single-celled organisms have very short generation times and can evolve very fast. Macroscopic organisms needed to increase their evolutionary capabilities in order to compete. This also only explains the evolution of sex. It doesn’t explain the reasons for sexual dimorphism, why some sexual reproduction is external (e.g. fish) and some is internal (any animals with penises and vaginas), or why some organism (humans included) have the instincts to have sex for reasons other than reproduction. The idea that sex exists for reproduction or that the only purpose of sex is reproduction and “unity” and that sex can never be used for any other reason cannot be derived from evolution, especially since taking things which evolved for one purpose and reusing them toward a different purpose is something evolution does all the time.

    2. Presumably, they get this idea from theology. They may claim the idea comes from “natural law,” but as I explained, it doesn’t follow from evolution at all. The only way they could derive this idea about the fixed purpose of sex is through religion or abstract philosophical speculation. Regardless of its source, even if that source is divine, the idea still must be justified rationally. If god intended sex only to be for reproduction, one wonders why he created dolphins and bonobo chimpanzees. One also wonders why he made humans the way he did, but Catholics always have the “free will” excuse for humans. They don’t have it for non-human animals. Of course, Catholics supposedly also accept evolution, so it remains mysterious how exactly god “designed” sex in the first place. How could god bring about sex or intend for there to be sex if sex came about through evolution LONG before humans ever showed up? Did he guide evolution toward sex? Is sex simply a very efficient solution that natural selection would have discovered no matter what? Nonetheless, it remains hard to see exactly what god’s role in creating sex even is.

    3. Even if the “true purpose” of sex is reproduction and “unity,” so what? Like someone else here said, does this make artificial sweeteners a sin? What about rectally inserted medications (suppositories)? After all, don’t Christians (Catholics included) insist that the anus is only a backdoor? The human brain is not evolved to comprehend complex arithmetic or statistics. You can make a good argument that we intuitively understand a lot of three dimensional geometry, but statistics is definitely not something we can naturally grok. Even today there are debates about the true nature of what probability means (Bayesians vs frequentists) and even very intelligent people who have great math skills have answered the Monty Hall problem incorrectly. The human brain is CLEARLY not designed to do statistical mathematics. It’s much harder to get the brain to do statistics than it is to use human body parts to have gay sex. Doesn’t that make certain branches of mathematics wrong by this same logic? Why is it wrong to use something for a purpose different than its original one? Science, engineering, evolution, and anyone living in the 21st century do it every day, and these things are all wonderful (with the exception of evolution, as it’s remarkably cruel).

    Any way you look at it, this the Catholic argument(s) against homosexuality, sodomy, and masturbation fail(s) utterly. It’s pseudo-sophisticated intellectual masturbation designed to mask arbitrary prejudices and hang-ups.

    Sorry for the long essay, but pretentious pseudo-scholarship like this deserves to be torn apart bit-by-bit.

  73. 73
    Irrational Rationality

    Essentially, either gay sex is okay, or both gay sex and PIV among infertile couples are wrong. That was my main point. The Catholic church can condemn both, if they insist that they take as a moral axiom that sex must be reproductive. They can’t condemn one and not the other. They also can’t really justify such an absurd axiom.

  74. 74
    steffp

    @David Marjanović, #45
    Giordano Bruno
    His anti-Aristotle atomism lies at the bottom of all his heresies, be it his early revolt against the cult of Mary, the Godson problem, or the many worlds. If everything consists of the same kind of matter, then half-gods are impossible, other suns are like our own, and other planets are like our own, etc. And of course, a bisquit cannot become (by changing its “essence”) the flesh of a Palestinian Rabbi.

    Little known is that he had converted to Calvinism (Geneve, 1578), but they threw him out of their church in 1579. Later he tried Lutherans, but was excommunicated by them, too, after a few years (1589).
    It seems he was a remarkably rebellious and stubborn spirit…expelled from Naples, Rome, Geneve, Oxford, Paris, Helmstedt, Frankfurt, Venice.

    “They’d say your question is wrong: the Platonic ideal need not be the average.”
    Weak argument. We’re not talking average, but an extreme exception. An ideal encompasses all possible forms, not only one preferred one: that’s where arbitrariness sneaks in.

  75. 75
    dingojack

    David Marjanović – but since women might expect to be fertile for a short time 13 times a year, and since they may be married and fertile for 20 years (say) that means Catholics should have 260 children (13×20) in their lifetimes but a more realistic number would be 9 or so. Therefore if IVF has a better than 3.47% (9/260) of success it would be perfectly OK?
    And since it’s possible that god might intervene to allow the procedure to be ‘intrinsically open to procreation’, surely it would perfectly fine (in Catholic eyes). [As noted above Catholics can't have it both ways*].
    Dingo
    ——–
    * missionary position only, and no enjoying it !

  76. 76
    Modusoperandi

    DonDueed “I feel it’s important to point out that when I opened this article, there were exactly 69 comments. Then Modus had to go and spoil it.”
    Better me than someone else. I ruined it, but someone less expert than I would ruin it. It’s like the proctologist; sure, it’s unpleasant, but at least I have thin fingers.*

     
    * Spoiler Alert: I use a thumb. It’s not even mine. I found in a ditch. Did I mention I’m an unlicensed proctologist?

  77. 77
    Modusoperandi

    dingojack “David Marjanović – but since women might expect to be fertile for a short time 13 times a year, and since they may be married and fertile for 20 years (say) that means Catholics should have 260 children (13×20) in their lifetimes…”
    dingojack maths bad. How long is gestation?

  78. 78
    dingojack

    Modus – god can do anything, even make a complete hysterectomy regrow remember?
    (Actually hyper-fecundity, while uncommon in humans (although not in other animals) is possible. There have been known cases of twins conceived three weeks apart. Therefore any vaginal sex is intrinsically open to procreation…. [not my logic - theirs])

    BTW – I’m not at all surprised you’re a unlicensed proctologist, you seem to enjoy sticking it up arseholes*.

    Dingo
    ——-
    * This thumb – it didn’t come from a pilot wreck’d as homeward he did come – by any chance? ;)

  79. 79
    Jordan Genso

    @41 Michael Heath:

    I find it chilling that some yahoo pontificates on what should or should not be allowed between other consenting adults. [my emphasis]

    Just to be clear, you don’t actually have a problem with people who pontificate on what should be allowed between consenting adults, right? Your beef is only with those who pontificate on what shouldn’t be allowed. Correct? Otherwise, I think you’ll be making a few enemies here with that comment, if we can’t pompously claim that any sexual act between consenting adults should be allowed.

    /snark

  80. 80
    leonardschneider

    Now I have this song stuck in my head:

    Catholic Girls by Frank Zappa.

    (“There’s nothing like a Catholic girl, with her hand in the box, when she’s on her knees…”)

  81. 81
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I think you mean Augustin – although as Augustus Carp, Esq. reminds us, “tus is better than tin”.

    I did, yes; I find it grating when people post to correct typos that don’t actually obscure the intended meaning of the statement, and try to avoid doing it myself.

  82. 82
    Irrational Rationality

    Any consenting act is fine except missionary with the lights off for the sole purpose of procreation. That’s just disgusting.

  83. 83
    Irrational Rationality

    Speaking of Catholics and homosexuality, this is a weird site.

    http://survivingtherainbow.wordpress.com/

    It’s by some woman who was married to a closeted gay man. They divorced, and now she’s understandably bitter. She’s also incapable of detaching her own personal bad experience from the overall broad picture, taking out her particular bad experience on all homosexuals. She places her arguments in a Catholic context, and also seems to link to the odious NARTH website.

    What should you make of someone whose homophobia is born from bad experience? Does this person get a pass? Does their being a woman and suffering invisibility and erasure make their feelings more justified and acceptable? I honestly don’t know what to think.

  84. 84
    paul

    Some Catholic clergy have refused to marry couples because of an inability to reproduce. There was a big flap in Denver back in the eighties over a priest refusing to marry a handicapped couple (well, one of them was handicapped) because he thought they were incapable of consummating their marriage. He was eventually overruled by the archdiocese.

  85. 85
    democommie

    @80;

    Somebody stole all of the Zappa Albums I had back in the 80′s,. but one of the ones I found a while back has a live version of “Catholic Girls” where Frank says that the young lady didn’t show up for the dance because she was backstage at a concert, SUCKING COCK, to get free tickets to see Ike Willis. I like that version.

  86. 86
    caseloweraz

    Jeremy Shaffer (#29): If all that is required is that the “correct” parts are involved, regardless of whether the prospect of procreation is even viable, then why shouldn’t a man be allowed to marry, say, a seven year old girl and have sex with her given this type of thinking? The guy could totes knock her up if she were older but it’s still all cool cause at least she’s not another guy, which would make it just all wrong!

    I seemed to remember a girl in South America getting pregnant at age 5. (Yes, evidently it was rape.)

    Wikipedia confirms her age.

  87. 87
    caseloweraz

    Chiroptera (#36): Am I the only one here who thinks that this makes absolutely zero sense whatsoever?

    It makes perfect sense as rationalization to support an otherwise unsupportable policy. Back when Christianity arose, people were few and it was important to increase the size of one’s tribe as quickly as possible in order to get an edge over competing tribes. Resources were seldom the paramount question. Of course there were lean times, but these were regarded as accidents, or as punishments for some sin — the sin most often being against whatever god was being worshipped, rather than against members of other tribes. Today the situation is generally the reverse, but the old motivations persist. At least, this seems to hold together IMO.

    But I agree that it’s a nonsensical argument in the sense you mean. It twists logic to the breaking point. Procreation is possible for same-sex couples, by at least two methods; and they can also adopt children who otherwise would have poor prospects of reaching a healthy adulthood. (This also casts some doubt on my previous argument. If procreation were the primary goal, the RCC would not be so restrictive as to how it was accomplished.)

  88. 88
    Raging Bee

    First, yes, Catholic doctrine explicitly forbids any and all sex acts that don’t lead DIRECTLY to procreation — and so do most other right-wing authoritarian sects, including Joe Carter, formerly of Evangelical Outhouse, oops, I mean Outpost. That’s why my very liberal Catholic father simply ridiculed his Church’s official doctrine and kicked it (and Pope Paul VI) to the curb rather than pass any of that BS on to me. (And besides, I was already an atheist and a communist by the time I hit puberty, so he already knew I wouldn’t have bought any of it anyway — at least not without a level of abuse neither of my parents would have condoned.)

    And second, having sex with someone whom you know is unable to do his/her part in procreation is, by the logic of the article Ed quoted, no more acceptable than gay sex, for the same bullshit reason. A man and woman, lawfully married or not, can NEVER have sex in ANY situation where there is not a real chance of procreation (including when she’s pregnant or at the wrong point in her cycle or either of them has any physical health problem that makes procreation unlikely); and their marriage is invalid the minute one spouse is no longer capable of actual procreation. After a woman has hit menopause, the only way her husband can justify having sex with her is if she deceives him into thinking she’s still fertile. (But she’d then be branded a harlot as well as a liar, so her husband would be blameless.)

    This Bill Maguire guy is desperately trying to cobble up a rationalization for his Church to cling to its anti-gay bigotry. And failing.

  89. 89
    Raging Bee

    What should you make of someone whose homophobia is born from bad experience? Does this person get a pass? Does their being a woman and suffering invisibility and erasure make their feelings more justified and acceptable? I honestly don’t know what to think.

    She should get half a pass: her hateful rhetoric and harmful ideas should still be debunked, but such debunking should come with an explicit acknowledgement that such rhetoric is indeed based on emotion, not on reason or valid doctrine.

  90. 90
    Raging Bee

    Christianity was made up by some of the most sexually dysfunctional people imaginable.

    I dunno, I’ve heard some pretty dysfunctional shit from Muslims as well — including those wunnerful pure souls who gave us 9/11.

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