12-Part Series on Morality (Part 12: Common Questions)

1. Since an elderly couple cannot have children and, therefore, their sexual act is no longer directed at procreation, are they allowed to have sex? 

First, the sexual organs and the way they function during sexual activity are ordered toward procreation regardless of the sexual act’s moral nature.  In fact, it is precisely because the reproductive organs are ordered toward procreation that sex outside of marriage (adultery, fornication, masturbation, pornography, homosexual behavior) is a sin.  Second, even if the sexual organs do not work correctly or, due to age, have simply lost their ability to procreate, the parts that work correctly continue to be ordered toward procreation.  Therefore, a married man and woman, who cannot have children, can continue to have sexual intercourse without committing sin.  Third, sex has four purposes: unitive, procreative, remedy for lust and perfection of the spouses.  Even if procreation is rendered impossible to due to disease or age, sexual intercourse can continue to fulfill the other three purposes.  As I mentioned in the Natural Family Planning article, no moral law says a man and woman must procreate every time they have sexual intercourse.  Rather, a husband and wife must be open to life and never intentionally impede the natural order of their sexual faculties during sexual activity.

2. When children are grown and out of the house, why does a couple need to remain married?

First, a couple should remain married because of their marital promises.  Second, the couple should remain married to provide a continuing example of love and fidelity for their children and potential grandchildren.  Third, Jesus’ marriage to his Church can never and will never be abrogated.  His unfailing and eternal dedication to his bride, the Church, is the example par excellence for marriage.  As Christians, therefore, we are expected to imitate Christ’s marriage to his Church.

3. Can unmarried couples use contraceptives?

Catechism paragraph 2370 citing Humanae Vitae states, “‘every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible’ is intrinsically evil.”  However, this is stated within the contest of marriage.  When it comes to extramarital sex, the main moral issue isn’t the use of contraceptives, it’s sex outside of marriage.  Using contraceptives while engaging in the sexual act outside marriage is like strangling someone while wearing latex gloves.  It doesn’t matter if latex gloves are worn because the mortal sin is strangling another person.  Similarly, it doesn’t matter is contraception is used, because the mortal sin is sex outside of marriage. 

4. Why are sex reassignment procedures morally wrong?

When a person is born with male or female sexual organs, the reality is that this person is either male or female regardless of how he/she perceives himself/herself.  By analogy, if a person is born with both arms but believes they should not or do not have arms, we would say this person has a psychological issue.  Furthermore, we must not remove this person’s arms simply because they believe they should not have them.  This would be mutilation.  Now, if someone is born a male and believes he is a female, he has a psychological issue.  Therefore, in an effort to help this person, we are called to encourage psychological and spiritual counseling, and we are prohibited from encouraging bodily mutilation.  Reality dictates this person was born a male regardless of how this individual perceives himself.  In other words, truth dictates a certain reality and we are not allowed to work against this truth.  Someone might respond with, “Perception is reality.”  But what happens when two people have conflicting perceptions?  Do we say both are right and continue on our merry way?  No!  We help the delusional person to seek and find the truth.  Further, if one’s perception does not accord with reality, as fellow beings designed for truth, we share responsibility for helping him/her correct false perceptions.

5. We sometimes find homosexual behavior in the animal kingdom.  Since this is the case, doesn’t God allow homosexual behavior?

If something is designed for heterosexual behavior, it is not designed for homosexual behavior, regardless of what happens in the animal kingdom or other kingdoms.  Furthermore, we have reason.  The lower creatures do not.  If a dog, for example, engages in homosexual behavior, we could legitimately say there is something wrong with the dog because its organs are ordered toward heterosexual sex.  However, we could not say the dog is sinning, because the dog does not have the capacity to reason; to reflect on its behavior and determine it moral consequences.  Conversely, human beings are made to behave rationally, to form concepts, to understand the hows and whys of things and their natures, and, finally, to know God.  These are things animals cannot do.  Therefore, what happens in lower life forms has no bearing on human nature and our behavior.  Finally, God allows all kinds of defects in this fallen world.  Only after the Second Coming, will everything be remade new and perfect.

6. If two men or two women consent to sexual intercourse, how is their behavior wrong?

Consent does not make actions right.  If two people consent to mutilating one another or killing one another, their consent does not make these actions right.  What makes an action right or wrong is whether it conforms to our human nature.  Determining right or wrong behavior is typically very simple.  One should ask oneself, “Does this behavior adhere to or reject human nature and purpose?  If it does, it also rejects God, who made us with this nature and the behavior is, therefore, morally wrong.

7. Shouldn’t a woman have the right to abort her child?

No.  Abortion, just like all other intrinsically evil acts, has always been and will forever be sinful.  Although, in America, there is the legal right to abort a child, there is no such moral right.  Often, rape is used as a primary argument for a woman’s right to abort her child.  So, let’s take a moment to see how this argument fails.  The argument goes like this: If a woman is raped and conceives a child, she never consented to the sex or to the creation of this child; therefore, she should be able to abort it.  But let’s look at this from another angle.  The child’s birth is simply a continuation of the child’s life which began at conception.  One day, when the child is about two years old, the mother looks at him and realizes he greatly resembles her rapist.  She recalls the whole incident and becomes infuriated.  Consequently, she kills the child.  If I could make this child’s murder more graphic to reflect the hideous ways abortions are conducted, I would.  Regardless, in this scenario, the mother murdered her child.  At a minimum, she might get away with manslaughter due to psychological stress resulting from the rape.  Either way, she is guilty of serious sin.  Therefore, it doesn’t matter how old a human being is, whether 1 hour or 100 years, we are not allowed to murder that person.  Every person has intrinsic value because they are made in the image and likeness of God.  Granted, rape is a terrible thing and the man who committed it should be imprisoned for a just amount of time, but that does not excuse murdering a child.  There’s the old expression, “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” which is most definitely applicable here. 

Note: Please remember the Church’s arms, and therefore Christ’s arms, are always open in the sacrament of confession.  One should avail him/herself of God’s love and mercy by seeking forgiveness in the confessional no matter the gravity of the sin.