Sex and Catholics 2: Gender perspectives and Evolution

Natural Law: Part 2

Gender perspectives and evolution

We left two issues on one side for reconsideration later, near the beginning of Part One, evolution and the female perspective. In this part we’ll critically reassess the male perspective, before considering the seriously missing female views, and then move on to examine what needs to be incorporated from our understanding of evolution.
Patriarchy - a penis puts you in charge of the womenfolk - how convenient
The male perspective and the Church’s sexual morality teaching

The Church and Aquinas’s sexual morality teaching comes from a male, patriarchal perspective. It is explicitly so and starts from the use by men of the penis and its supposed proper, natural and moral purpose. We are told nature allows us to deduce the sexual purpose of the penis is for inserting into the vagina for depositing semen for the purpose of procreation. This is backed up by another natural purpose idea, that the male and female sexual bodies are designed to be ‘complementary’ and only with the vaginal use by the penis do human bodies fit ‘naturally’.

Added to this is a significant element of Bible and Christian tradition used to justify and reinforce the very restricted view of acceptable human sexual behaviour. There’s only one plain dish available in the Catholic sexual cafe, even for married couples.

Why does the Prostate Gland have feelings?

Before we consider female perspectives on the Church’s and Aquinas’s teachings on sexual morality, we should briefly pause to deal with another male sexual organ, one which is internal, the prostate gland; this produces some of the fluid within semen¹.

Neither the Church nor Aquinas have ever considered this male sexual organ. It plays an integral part of the male reproductive role, and although it is hidden, it has one highly significant characteristic.

The prostate surface, although internal, is rich in nerve endings and when stimulated this is highly pleasurable. Some people call it the male g-spot. Its surface is not stimulated during Aquinas-approved vaginal penetration. Neither Church nor Aquinas considers its surface sensitivity.
male internal prostate gland
Most gay men know about the prostate’s surface sensitivity from experiences of anal sex: the prostate surface is stimulated by contact with a penis in the anus. There is no biological reason in procreation to justify the design of the prostate gland to incorporate sensitive surface nerve endings.

It appears deliberately designed by God, evolution and nature, to make anal sex pleasurable for homosexual men.


Female perspectives on the Catholic Natural Law of sex

– the Clitoris

Let’s turn to the Aquinas’s and the Church’s teachings and consider these from a female perspective.

Females are distinguished with their own sexual characteristics and possess a clitoris and this is visible. But, despite being visible, it is completely ignored by Aquinas and the Church. It is as if the clitoris doesn’t exist. (Adjacent to the clitoris in most, but not all, women are the female-only Skene’s glands² the equivalent of the male’s prostate; these contribute to vaginal lubrication.)

The significance of the clitoris in natural law terms is that it has no necessary purpose in procreation. It is not required to achieve the fertilisation of the egg, nor to accommodate penetration.

However friction on the clitoris produces pleasure, and pleasure is its biological purpose.
Clitoris anatomy
The Christian theologian Professor Christine Gudorf concludes that the existence of the clitoris in the female body suggests that God intended that the purpose of sexual activity was as much for sexual pleasure for its own sake, as it was for procreation. Therefore, according to Gudorf, pleasurable sexual activity, apart from procreation, does not violate God’s design, is not unnatural, and hence is not necessarily morally wrong, as long as it occurs in the context of a monogamous marriage (Gudorf, Christine. Sex, Body, and Pleasure, Reconstructing Christian Sexual Ethics, 1995 p. 65)³.


Aquinas: females are ‘defective’ males
Aquinas teaches that women are defective males
It is profoundly shocking to modern sensibilities and our sense of gender equality to read Thomas Aquinas’s description of women as the product of a ‘defective’ male seed – he has a male-centred view of creation and life, one where women are naturally subordinate and secondary to men.

We now know a rather contrary account, from scientific human biology, that the true nature of humans is that the female is the standard human prototype, and boys are a natural variant which develops male characteristics from female foundations in the womb.

Adam comes from Eve, is biology’s complete rewriting of the Genesis human creation myth.


Such a fundamental misconception by Aquinas of the nature of female and male, and one that excludes any female perspective, underlies Aquinas’s thinking, reasoning and conclusions.

This raises further doubts about the appropriateness of relying on Aquinas’s ideas and conclusions for the Church’s teaching on sexual morality.


Other female perspectives on Aquinas and the Church’s teachings [4]

- dependence

Women with or without children, who are economically dependent on their husbands, may find themselves in the position of having to engage in sexual activity whether they want to or not, for fear of being abandoned, or physically, or psychologically abused; these women may not be engaging in sexual activity fully voluntarily. The woman who allows herself to be bullied into sex by her husband worries that if she says “no” too often, she will suffer economically, if not also physically and psychologically.

- ‘giving yourself’ in marriage: is this perpetual consent? What about rape?

Does ‘giving yourself’ in marriage mean that wives [or husbands] always and every time have to have sex if their partner wants this? Can there be no rape in a Catholic marriage?

Aquinas and Christians traditionally saw a married woman as her husband’s property, for sexual use as and when he wanted. This view swung towards female autonomy only in the 19th and 20th centuries, but very slowly. It was as late as 1991 that marital rape was made a crime in England and Wales.
rape in marriage graphic

Many women complain they still lack real sexual autonomy equivalent to men in marriage.

- coercive pressure is morally wrong

The presence of any kind of pressure at all is seen by some women experts as coercive and means there is no voluntary participation in sex, making that sex activity morally objectionable. Charlene Muehlenhard and Jennifer Schrag discuss this in “Nonviolent Sexual Coercion”.

They list, among other things, “status coercion” (when women are coerced into sexual activity or marriage, by a man’s wealth or occupation) and “discrimination against lesbians” (which discrimination compels women into marriage or into having sexual relationships only with men) as forms of coercion that undermine the voluntary participation by women in sexual activity with men.
women under sexual pressure
- are some pressures uncoercive, or morally acceptable?

Some people counter this by saying either that some forms of sexual pressure are not coercive and do not appreciably undermine voluntariness, or that some pressures are coercive but nevertheless are not morally objectionable.

Both these views seem indistinguishable from a male heterosexual apologia for using sexual pressure for the purposes of coercion, and as an excuse or justification for maintaining the present male power advantage to secure sex when a male wants this.

These can only be assessed fairly with the benefit of the views of the more vulnerable person in that situation. Personally, I’d prefer to trust the judgement of relatively vulnerable women facing this situation and say such coercive pressure is morally wrong.

- women’s health and well-being

Consider the situation of women concerned for their future health and well-being (her body’s capacity to gestate, give birth to and nurse a child), her age and the mental and physical resources available to nurture a child / another child through to adulthood. Aquinas and Catholic teaching ban all use of artificial contraception and abortion. Repeated childbearing is physically demanding on the woman’s body, and childbirth is often hazardous without significant affordable medical, obstetric, or midwifery care being available. Maternal death was common among women until the early decades of last century (affecting at least 1 in 10 women) and it is still common in much of the developing world.
98% of Catholics have used birth control
Aquinas’s and the Church view ignores this female health and well-being perspective: when you married you ‘gave yourself’ to your husband. If you die in pregnancy, from childbirth, or postpartum, or of exhaustion, or cannot cope with a disabled child, that’s just the life of a Catholic wife.

It is hard to conclude that women would arrive at the same conclusion as Aquinas and the Church on the consequences of always procreative sexual activity, when it is their lives and health that are at risk. The reality that most Catholic women (over 90%) use ‘artificial’ contraception when this is freely available and that some have abortions, despite the Catholic bans, demonstrates that sex that is always open to conception is not most women’s normal, natural choice.

Women’s sexual activity preferences

The sexual activity allowed to married women and men by Thomas, vaginal penetration open to procreation, is limited. The different attitudes to sexual activity stereotypically found in men and women go unrecognised. A husband of the ‘wam bam thank-you mam’ type, single-mindedly focused on his penetration and his orgasm, would be perfectly acceptable in Thomas’s prescription. That’s not likely to be welcomed by many wives as serving their sexual needs and wishes well.

The needs of women, who typically prefer loving attention to become receptive, are not considered or recognised.   Kissing and cuddling are OK, but fingering or tonguing arguably amount to ‘unnatural’ sex because these are not necessarily making “use of certain things in a fitting manner and order for the end to which they are adapted”  but “by not observing the natural manner of copulation, either as to undue means, or as to other monstrous and bestial manners of copulation” are rendered “unnatural vice”.

Certainly a husband fingering or tonguing his wife to orgasm, masturbation, is “unnatural vice”, even as a warm-up to penetration. And getting much more adventurous than the “missionary position” risks going off-piste for “not observing the natural manner of copulation”, making it “unnatural vice”.


Scepticism: the prostate, clitoris, and transgender people

Today we cannot be at all confident, as Aquinas and the Church were, that God’s plan can be discovered by a straightforward examination of the obvious male and female sexual body parts. The natural law examination and consideration of natural purpose completely missed the clitoris and the surface-sensitive internal male prostate, both of which demand proper respectful consideration from the Church.

Then there is the rich diversity in the bodily and hormonal expressions of gender differences seen in the variety of transgender people [5] [6]. The Church’s current view of transgender differences is ignorant, unscientific, disordered and un-Christian. I will leave transgender issues aside because of their complexity, my lack of expertise and because it is not central to the argument about mainstream male and female sexual expression. It is a vital issue to the people affected, and because the Church’s understanding and teaching in this area is also defective, transgender expressions of sexuality deserve respectful, considered, and separate assessment. I hope to return to this at a later date when I have become better informed.
transgender news
Evolution and natural sexual expression

At the beginning of Part One in this series, we also mentioned and put to one side (along with a female perspective and the ignored male and female sexual organs), the issue of evolution. Evolution was not considered by either Aristotle or Thomas Aquinas in their development of Natural Law in relation to sexual morality, simply because neither was aware of it.

Aristotle, as mentioned earlier, believed the world had always existed as it was, while Aquinas inherited the Biblical creation account of life’s origins. What do we now know from evolution about the development of gender diamorphism, sexual differences and behaviours? How might this modern understanding influence our response to Aquinas and the Church’s teachings about sexual morality?

The evolution of the Bishop's mitre over time

The evolution of the Bishop's mitre over time

Life evolved from primordial slime and found evolutionary advantage in two genders because this is highly effective at mixing genes and especially in producing advantageous adaptations. Evolution has the additional advantages of recombinational DNA repair and through promoting hybrid vigor.

Advanced complexity results in gender role flexibility

Humans evolved as the most advanced placental mammal, possessing a very large brain. There are two significant issues with large brains, the first that our babies are born very immature (to be able to pass through the pelvis) and need a very long period of nurturing by adults, not necessarily the parents, to gain size and reach sexual maturity, and secondly humans, with the high intelligence that comes from having a big brain, have more complex forms of social organisation and interaction than any other creature.

From observing animal species, evolution has taught us that species providing extended parental care after the birth of their offspring have the potential to overcome the sex differences in parental investment (the amount of energy that each parent contributes to each offspring), and this can lead to flexibility in, and even the reversal of, gender roles.

Gender stereotypes and ignoring sexual behaviour diversity

A great deal is still not fully unexplained about the diversity of human behaviour and we must be wary, firstly, of explanations that invoke stereotypical gender roles and secondly, realise how individuals who do not fit the norm and popular narratives are routinely ignored.

Aristotle and Aquinas are a warning to us of this because both expressed a patriarchal view of human society and gender interactions.
sexuality and gender role distinctions in the bible
Homosexuals and transexuals are good examples of being omitted from the mainstream story society tells itself about male and female human nature, and have been persistently denigrated in the Christian and Abrahamic traditions. Yet there are other human societies where homosexual and gender-role-defying people are prized, as shamans, healers and notably as religious exemplars.

Contemporary evolutionary biologists see diversity as ‘natural’

The work of contemporary evolutionary biologists, like Joan Roughgarden, is illuminating. She sees the tremendous diversity in human and animal genders and sexualities, not as something that has to be explained away to fit the dogma of binary gender and sexual selection, but as the “natural” order of things, and this perspective is gaining wide acceptance. Her book, The Genial Gene is a fascinating alternate vision of the evolution of sex.
Sexual Diversity Guide book
Competition between the sexes is no longer at the centre of natural selection, but is replaced by social forces in families and communities of animals.

Her theory of social selection fills many of the gaps in theories of sexual selection, from explaining the existence of homosexuality, transexuality and other intermediate genders and sexualities, to the mathematical impossibility of females being able to calculate genetic superiority in nearly identical males, and the lack of a correlation between secondary sex characteristics and fitness.

Evolutionary biology’s lessons for society and the Church

The Church needs to reflect on the emerging understanding that evolution has handed humans a unique and diverse set of cards, and with our huge intelligence, we should be very wary of the simplistic ‘natural’ behaviour analysis and strictly limited gender roles and acceptable sexual morality, as found in Aquinas and the Church’s teaching of Natural Law for sexual behaviour.

Instead the available evidence and current evolutionary biology understanding tells us the Church is surely in error about the beauty seen in the diversity of God’s human creation, as expressed through human evolution and development.


Church and external expertise

What does all this signify and how do we incorporate this wealth of knowledge into an appropriate view of the diversity of expression and ‘proper’ use for the human sexual faculties in the 21st century?

There is a vast wealth of external expertise in many fields, that the Church has not fully opened its eyes and mind to in the fields of gender and sexual expression. The Church cannot discern the Truth it should transmit properly and broadcast this to the world, if it continues to ignore large parts of modern understanding and insights about sex and relationships. It undermines people’s faith in the Truth the Church teaches, to ignore and not publicly address such contemporary human knowledge and insights.


Involve, Consult, Reason, Explain, Persuade lay people

The Church needs to persuade, reason and explain its sexual morality teachings for these to be publicly credible, especially because this is in an area of life where the Church has lost, through the clerical sexual abuse scandal, much of its moral authority in sexual matters.

When it does not do so, as it did not for contraception in Humanae Vitae, the bulk of the faithful simply decides to reasons things out for itself and decides in the light of its own informed conscience. More than 90% of Catholics use contraception that the Church teaches is forbidden.

Sexual morality is an area where the lay faithful have experience and some expertise, unlike celibate clergy bound by promises of chastity. The disconnect between Church and laity in sexual morality accounts for much of the moral relativism about which the Church complains so bitterly. It has the potential remedy in its own hands.


Scepticism about Aquinas’s competence to discern Truth from the natural world

It is time for the Church to embrace a healthy scepticism about the Truth of Aquinas’s prescriptions for human sexual behaviour based on his attempt to discern the intentions of God from his simplistic understanding of biological evidence in the natural world. Natural Law, with the addition of misapplied historical tradition and scriptural interpretations, appears unfit for transmitting God’s Truth for proper human sexual expression in committed relationships.


Next Post: 3: modern specialists

The next post, third in this series of four, will consider some of the modern specialist knowledge and insights into sexual behaviour and morals that are now available. For example people are endowed with large brains and great intelligence, and are capable of a complex range of subtle behaviours, but the Church appears to disregard significant insights of psychology in human sexual expression.

Both Catholic and secular modern moral theologians are often highly critical of the Church’s teachings on sex and relationships because the understanding of natural law and scriptural interpretations are flawed and inadequate.

Does the Natural Law teaching of the Church on sexual morality stand up to the modern insights of psychology and the criticisms of moral theologians and ethicists?


footnotes and sources




[4] Philosophy of Sexuality Natural Law Consent is Sufficient – specific What is voluntary? – coercion

[5] Sexual Diversity and Catholicism : toward the development of moral theology; Professor Patricia Beattie Young with Joseph A Coray, editor(s), 2001, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, USA

[6] More Than a Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church, 2011

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17 comments for “Sex and Catholics 2: Gender perspectives and Evolution

  1. April 3, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    WOW, Chris – a tour de force (and more yet to come). I’m not going to attempt a full response now, to this or yesterday’s post, as there’s just too much to digest, first – but here are a few initial thoughts.

    First, it is really important to pay serious attention to the findings of science – even the CDF recommends we do so, and Aquinas himself, with his deep respect for human intellect, would surely have done so. Aquinas was writing as a creature of his time, and his own ideas would surely have evolved along with the rest of humanity, to encompass a sounder understanding of proper relationships between men and women.
    One of the most significant areas of the modern understanding from science comes from the intersex phenomenon, and the recognition that there are not indeed, only a simple two clearly distinct biological sexes, but that there are a small but distinct group of people who fall somewhere in between – and that sexual identifications by external genitalia, internal genitalia, chromosomes, hormones, sexual orientation/attraction and mental gender identity do not always co-incide. This recognition raises serious theological challenges for the simplistic assumption that we are all either male or female – and will be attracted only to the “opposite” sex.

    It’s also worth noting that there are other approaches to Aquinas’ concept of natural law than the simple idea that it sets fixed, absolute rules for behaviour. One such sees “natural law” as that which contributes to “human flourishing”. This is articulated by the Catholic lay theologians Salzmann and Lawler,  (both straight, and married) in their important book, “The Sexual Person”. The reviewer at NCR put it like this:

    “Their book will be noticed because of its controversial positions on contraception, same-sex relationships, cohabitation and artificial means of reproduction.(b> However, its contribution is its clear articulation of a person-centered natural-law ethic that offers Catholics an authentic way to think about sex in relation to their faith.” 

    • Chris Morley
      April 3, 2012 at 10:53 pm

      You’re very welcome and thanks. I’m certainly not blaming Aquinas for his science lacunae (except for his fiddling and deception around Aristotle and homosexuality – more on that in Part 4). For mid 13th C, what he achieved was remarkable.

      I’ve deliberately parked intersex / trans sex expression for the moment. I don’t know enough to be confident, but I do want to make an attempt later, when I’ve studied and thought some more. I decided it would add a confusing layer of complexity to add it to the more straightforward bi-gender assessment provided here.
      Maybe looking at intersex later will make me reassess conclusions and questions here, but I did talk of the intersex flexibility and fluidity that Joan Roughgarden found in nature and explored in ‘Genial Gene’.

      Advocatus D has given me other thoughts on Natural Law too.

      Salzmann and Lawler and their ‘Sexual Person’ get a name check tomorrow in part 3.

  2. Colkoch
    April 3, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    Well done Chris.  I eagerly await tomorrow’s installment.  The one thing the Church could do is stop ignoring things that really do exist just because they don’t comply with the logic of certain teachings.  I have frequently written that JPII”s Theology of the Body is hardly comprehensive because it utterly ignores the existence of the clitoris and the additional fact it is the starting point for the existence of the penis.  As you point out, Eve did not evolve from Adam.  Adam evolved from Eve.

    • Chris Morley
      April 3, 2012 at 11:27 pm

      Thanks for your appreciation and I am glad not to be alone in wondering how no-one in the Church seems to have noticed or cared about such a wonderful thing as the clitoris. What a waste.

      Sometimes (OK, quite often) I think very un-Christian thoughts about the male hierarchy and can be heard muttering male chauvinist pigs, thanks to the radicalising influence of some excellent feminist mentors. Hat tip to my late mum too for her early awareness raising in me and her frank discussion of Catholic mothers’ dilemmas.
      I’ve especially enjoyed thinking about and writing this part. It’s always worth exploring another group’s viewpoint and seeing what emerges. It’s rarely unrewarding.

    • Advocatus Diaboli
      April 3, 2012 at 11:27 pm

      um just need to point out that nothing that is in this article is ‘logic’, it is ‘reasoning’; there is a difference between logic and reason. A major difference. A computer does logic, but it cannot ‘reason’; most all humans are good at ‘reasoning’, but few are actually capable of sound logic without training. For example, if the above article were ‘logically sound’, I would not be able to make the criticism over the principle inconsistence of what ‘natural’ means. Logic gives no meaning, only how you reason something gives it meaning. For example, it is not logical to conclude that simply because the prostate has ‘nerve endings’ it is therefore intended to be used to make anal sex pleasurable; that is reasonable but not logical. The funny thing is that the church’s teaching is more interested in formal logic than any proposal for changes to church doctrine that I have seen. The Church’s current sexual teaching is logically infallible, which is why it had lasted so long without real change (unlike protestant sexual teaching, which changes by the decade almost). However, flawless logic is often found to be ‘unreasonable’ to most people. Catholicism’s doctrines are founded in logic where as Prostestatism’s doctrines are founded in reason. Reason is natural to the human mind, but logic is quite difficult and rather alien; that is why few people get top scores on the Law School Admissions Exam, because while most people can use ‘reason’, few people are good with formal logic (which is what the exam primarily tests). Modernism worships ‘reason’, which is subjective and relative (and in fact derives from protestantism, which rejects logic and promotes reason). It is little wonder why ‘modernists’ have such difficulty with church teaching, but they do not value logic but only reason. When people say things like “the church is opposed to modern-world” they are in fact right because the Church places logic ahead of reason, whereas modern thought places reason over logic. Reason is basically justification by connecting the dots, whereas logic is consistent application of principle that produces outcomes rather than justifications’. Reason generally has an aim or goal, while logic is completely non-partisan, often to the point of being inhuman (aka ‘unreasonable’).

      • Bart
        April 4, 2012 at 10:51 am

        “The Church’s current sexual teaching is logically infallible.”
        Really? You must be joking! If it is, then they’re sure making a hash of it through their explanations. It’s either infallible or current. Decide. And it (i.e. the Church’s sexual teaching) is just as much reasoning as any other school of thought. There is no logic in the reasoning that goes from “penis in vagina to make a baby” to stating that the only sex that God approves is marital sex that is open to procreation. None whatsoever. Why? Because human sexuality is not simply a copy of what we observe in the animal kingdom. Human activity is imbued with reason and intention, and that’s why we part company with animal sex . Love (which presumes a free will) is like a spanner in the wheel of logic, even with regard to human sexuality. If we were to be radically logical we would embark on a programme of eugenics and euthanasia, because in the animal kingdom survival of the fittest is the order of the day. But we don’t, and that’s not logical. Neither is it logical that A should wish to bond with B and not with C. The bonding process in humans hardly follows the rules of logic, and thank God for that, because that leaves the door open for all to find their corner of love in this world. Unless and until the Church factors in the ‘love’ component (the way we relate to each other) in its teaching on human sexuality then, I’m sorry to say, its sexual teaching is neither logical nor reasonable.

      • Chris Morley
        April 4, 2012 at 1:06 pm

        Like Bart, I must question your unsupported assertion that
        “The Church’s current sexual teaching is logically infallible, which is why it had lasted so long without real change”.

        If they contain, as you say, “flawless logic” I am mystified why a number of people with considerable intelligence and advanced theological training (referenced in this series) continue to find the Church’s teachings on sexual morality remarkably illogical.

        I have had no formal training in logic, but even I know there are different forms of logic.
        1. I want to know which form of logic have you used to reach this conclusion? Formal, informal, symbolic or mathematical?
        2. Please tell me precisely which statement(s) of “the Church’s current sexual teaching” is/are “logically infallible”;
        Web links would be most helpful.
        3. Why has the Church made no statement of infallibility about any of its teaching on sexual morality, if it is truly “logically infallible”?
        4. Please explain how ordinary contemporary public statements from the Church can seem seriously illogical to members of the public? Here are the two latest Bishops’ pastoral letters against proposals for civil gay marriage: how do they fit your definition of “logically infallible”?
        England and Wales:
        Melbourne Archdiocese, Australia:

        I am highly sceptical that you can substantiate your assertion, and I will be fascinated if you can do so with answers to my questions.


        • Advocatus Diaboli
          April 5, 2012 at 9:33 am

          I am too overwhelmed with school at the moment to write a documented paper over this issue. Furthermore, the level of discussion that is needed to understand the difference between logic and reason is more or less impossible to do in this online format. 

          Logic is “if-then” and the outcome of the input is not ‘adjustable’ simply because it is not desirable. The teaching that unbaptised babies and aborted children cannot enter heaven is the product of a logic equation. Logic is objective and so is inherently opposed to emotion and human ‘feeling’ (which is subjective and by definition irrational). Saying that something is ‘wrong’ becuase it does not ‘feel right’ or is not compatible with ‘positive emotions’ is a completely invalid argument from a pure logic stand point.  For example, if (1) a human cannot enter heaven with the stain of sin, and (2) humans are conceived and born in a state of original sin, and (2) you must be baptized for original sin to be cleansed, then logic DICTATES that no homo sapien can enter heaven if they are not baptized REGARDLESS of their age. That is ‘unpleasant’ and people may not ‘think’ that someone may not enter heaven just because they were not baptized, but it is the simple product of the LOGIC equation. If you are absolutely unwilling to accept that someone may not go to heaven if they are not baptized, then you must reject one or more of the above principles (1-3), which would require adjustments to other theological aspects. For example, If you say that principle (2) is wrong, then you would have to completely rework the entire theology of Christianity, because without original sin Christ’s death is wholly unnecessary for atonement (which meant that Pelagius was right, that humans are capable of attaining perfectly sinless states on their own outside of Faith in Christ).Personally, I do not really care about Bishop’s pastoral letters; after all, Bishops say all kinds of things. Also, I think that the Pope and the Bishops have done a thoroughly piss poor job of explaining and articulating official teaching. Being ‘right for the wrong reasons’ is worse than simply being wrong.  When I say the Church’s teaching on something is logically infallible, I mean that it is perfectly objective and consistent in application of the principles that it is based on. If you disagree that it is logical then you are not using objective and pure logic. You CAN however disagree that the principles and assumptions that the logic is based on are accurate or complete. Current teaching is perfect logic based on its principles and assumptions, and simply because you do not think that the principles that it is based upon are accurate is in no way indicative of the quality of the logic. You cannot attack the logic of the teaching, but you can argue that the principle assumptions need adjustment (which would then logically require an appropriate adjustment in teaching). If you think that Church teaching is illogical then you either do not understand the difference between logic and reason, or you are failing to recognize that you are using different principles and assumptions that the Church currently does.  You do not have to ‘agree’ with me, but you will just have to trust that when it comes to logic I know what I am talking about; I just spend 5 years preparing for Law School and did superbly on the LSAT (which is a logic test). However, I just switched my path from law school to theology and I was just offered Fellowships and/or Scholarships at the theology programs of Boston College, Georgetown, and Catholic University of America. The only thing that prevented me from being accepted to Notre Dame’s Theology or Harvard’s Divinity school was my Math score GPA (a combination of too much partying and arguing with professors), because my Religious Studies recommendations were excellent and my GRE was in the top 10% of all college graduates in nation. I am not gloating or trying to name drop (I would prefer if no one mentioned these things in the future), but merely trying to establish that just because something I say may not seem ‘logical’ or ‘reasonable’ to someone does not mean that I am wrong. I understand how strange some of the stuff I say may sound, as it took me years to be able to understand exactly how both logic and the extraordinarily complex aspects of Catholic Theology work.Furthermore, please, please, please realize that simply because I argue for or against something is in no way indicative of what I personally believe (again, Devil’s Advocate!).Also, I am not perfect. I have full confidence in my current understanding and logic, but I am human and so must fully admit the possibility that I could be wrong or overlooking a flaw in thinking; but evolution could also be wrong too.

          • Bart
            April 5, 2012 at 3:46 pm

            I agree with you that the subject matter is too complicated to explain in a few lines, but at least one can indicate where the flaws lie. In my reading of theology I have noticed that fallacies may enter into the Church’s teachings in two ways:
            1. The tools of logic are introduced to “prove” a statement which is, at least in the eyes of the Church, axiomatic, i.e. one cannot go “behind” the assertion to prove whether or not such an assertion is true. The example you gave about baptism, “original sin” (Augustine’s invention) and Hell is just one type of flawed argumentation because it is based on “truths” contained within a belief system. Yes, the argumentation based on it may be logically correct, but still subject to being impugned because the assumptions upon which that logical argument is made may be found to be wanting. For example, in the case you gave – i.e. that of baptism and Christ’s saving work – the manner in which Christ’s death and resurrection impact all of humanity is still subject to theological reflection, even if we believe (note: believe) that it is through Christ that humanity has been saved.
            2. Another logical fallacy committed is that of making an illegal jump from a statement of fact, an empirical statement which is verifiable or falsifiable, to a moral (value judgement) statement. Though we observe that (proposition A) “penis in vagina has been until recently necessary for procreation”, it is logically false to then state that (B) “the only sex permissible by God is between one man and one woman in marriage and open to procreation”. This latter type of statement (B) is not allowed in a logical argument based on premise (A). It is not based on the first statement but is introduced at a later stage, and that is cheating. Homosexualitatis Problema suffers from exactly this latter type of problem and for this reason is irredeemably flawed.
            In brief – and yes, perhaps here I am generalising – using the tools of logic to explain tenets of faith still do not make those tenets of faith logical or reasonable, especially when empirical evidence shows otherwise. Their only claim to logic is as a self-contained system. The danger is that such a self-contained system has nothing to say to the world we live in and thus becomes irrelevant.

      • Colkoch
        April 4, 2012 at 1:36 pm

         AD, I don’t find the church’s teaching on sexuality logical at all because it reduces, without logic or reason, female sexual expression to vaginal only.  I’m sorry, but the actual equipment, utterly ignored in Church teaching,  logically leads to a different conclusion about women.  Sex for women can have zero to do with procreation.

      • April 5, 2012 at 10:34 am

        AD, I flatly reject your assertion that the Church’s reasoning is founded in logic. Try reading virtually any of the Vatican documents – they generally amount to a series of assertions, with little evidence of any logic at all – and still less of supporting evidence.

        Read what Mark D Jordan has to say about it. Jordan is a medievalist, and knows something about “Rhetoric”, a key academic discipline in the middle ages. He has studied the rhetorical method of the Catholic church, and found that it is impossible to argue with, precisely because  its standard rhetorical technique is simply to repeat over and over essentially the same points it has made in the past, ignoring all evidence except its own authority, until all opposition is simply bludgeoned into submission.

        In the present case, for instance, the entire argument is based on the constant repetition that the “purpose” of sex is procreation: an assertion that is made without any real evidence at all, except for the obvious fact that sex is necessary for procreation. 

        An obvious counter to that is that there is extensive sexual activity in the natural world that is clearly not intended for procreation – and so, that is clearly not the only purpose in sex. 

        And before you insist once again, that what is natural is not necessarily good, of course I agree with you. As I have often said before, “nature” is morally neutral, and nobody here is arguing either that because something is “natural”, it must follow that it is good.

        The point that IS being made, is a simple one:  the evidence we have, is that the core assumption underlying Catholic teaching on sex, that it exists primarily for procreation, is completely unsupported by any evidence, except the repeated assertions of ancient theologians.

        Modern moral theologians such as Salzmann & Lawler, Margaret Fairley and many others (by some estimates, the majority), agree: the traditional Catholic teaching is deeply flawed, and must be revised.

  3. Advocatus Diaboli
    April 3, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    well, I have a few things, but I will stick with the continued inconsistency of what ‘natural’ means. Arguing that sexual expression outside of reproductive purposes is ‘natural’ and therefore good and should not be stifled is principally at odds with the idea that it is morally acceptable to abort a ‘disabled child’. “Disabled” people, children with autism, deformities, etc are ALL natural variations and differences than the most common form (JUST like homosexuality). Who are you to decide what ‘natural’ things are worth ‘protecting’ and what ‘natural’ things are ok to ‘discard’? It sounds like you are making the argument that if something is ‘pleasurable’ (like various bodily sensations) then it should be embraced, and if it is ‘unpleasant’ (like a baby with a disability) then it it ok to reject.  How is this dissimilar from hedonism? 

    • Chris Morley
      April 4, 2012 at 1:16 pm

      You seem to (illogically, to my mind) confuse two different categories of things.
      While I do not accept your characterisation of what I have argued, we will stick with your words.

      1 ‘permitting sexual expression that is not for reproduction’ is about *allowing* what is ‘natural’.
      2 ‘aborting a ‘disabled child’ that is ‘natural’ is about *stopping* what is natural.

      How, therefore, are they equivalent?

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