Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Learn Something New Every Day:

This was something I was unsure of, but I'm glad Ed Feser clarified. Or maybe some Roman Catholics disagree. I'll have more to say on the entirety of Feser's post, which replies to Andrew Sullivan's discussion of his work in The Conservative Soul, later. But for now, I note, I was unsure whether doctrinaire Catholicism ever permitted oral sex between married couples. According to Feser, it does.

For example, Sullivan describes a “Catholic married couple who live their lives according to natural law in every respect” as one who “never engage in any sexual act that does not result in the penis depositing semen in a vagina” (p. 84). If what he means by this is that the Catholic Church or natural law theory forbids acts like fellatio and cunnilingus even between married people, he is mistaken. What is forbidden is taking fellatio to the point of orgasm, or taking cunnilingus to orgasm outside the overall context of a completed act of intercourse; it is not necessarily forbidden to indulge in them as foreplay to an act of intercourse that results in ejaculation within the vagina. Perhaps Sullivan realizes this, but if so he should have expressed himself more clearly, since he is bound to give unwary readers the impression that natural law and Catholic teaching are more restrictive than they really are.

Is there an official Catholic document on this? I would think that fellatio would still be forbidden. It really depends on the man, and his "trigger." But wouldn't allowing a married couple to engage in fellatio greatly "risk" seed spilling outside a woman's vagina? Perhaps fellatio to the point of erection would be okay. But fellating an erect penis? I would think a Thomistic Catholic would say: "No way."


Daniel said...

An interesting argument: Gay men make better parents because they practice eugenics.

It's really a very traditional argument. Eugenics of this sort was practiced by families up until the time when young people started marrying for love. Families would choose the mate who would produce the best offspring. (Of course, there were other factors, particularly inheritance and family alliances.)

Wealth permits this type of experimentation with the next generation. If there are big disadvantages to having two fathers, the wealth and intelligence of those fathers (and the social safety net) will offset the damage.

Another positive offered by gay (or lesbian) couples is the need for more inputs into the decision to produce offspring. A couple heterosexual kids can produce a baby by accident, without thought of the consequences. With a gay couple, some forethought is needed. If there are undesirable consequences for the offspring, it is likely that those consequences will be taken into consideration a generation hence.

The Gay Species said...

Tomes of "moral theology" have been written about "permissible" sex acts. Saint Ambrose required all coital relations between spouses to be confessed as "sins," acts that are contaminated by Human Sinfulness. Thomism and its natural law (which still dominates) allows couples to engage in sexual acts as long as it is intentionally procreative and the "organs fit" as nature intended. So fellatio would be permitted as foreplay, in some views, but never approved to orgasm, as stated. Others argued that fellatio was by its nature opposed to procreation, "a perversion of the natural law," and thus barred altogether. In 1966, for the first time, Pope Paul in his famous encyclical "Humanae Vita" allowed that "unitive" love could be morally right and included in the procreative act, but only if it is open to procreation. Many interpreted this "unitive" feature as allowing fellatio as expressive of the "unitive love," but some persist in insisting it perverts sexual activity's sole natural end: procreation. Arguably, most moral theologians accept most sensual (cf., sexual) activity as a part of the "unitive" love between spouses, but these activities still must culminate in only one way: Orgasm by intercourse open to procreation only. Why all this is so terribly important gets theologian Bernard Haring's wrath as the "sin of scrupulosity." So far, scrupulosity has not been added to the list of sins, but I think it a great candidate.