Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Catholic contraceptive taboo

I'm going to comment on a longish defense of Rome's position on contraception by a Catholic philosophy prof. (Christopher M. Brown) at UT Martin:

One of the problems with natural law arguments against "artificial" contraception is that such arguments don't originate in natural law principles, but in Catholic dogma. Natural law appeals are then scrambled after the fact to retroactively justify Rome's position. 

There are striking parallels between arguments for transgenderism and arguments for the Catholic ban on contraception. Both resort to artificial distinctions and dichotomies. 

Given the hand he dealt himself, I think Brown plays that hand about as well as can be done, but there's only so much you can do with a losing hand.  

In addition, one does not contracept if one attempts to prevent conception after a rape; in such a case, the intention isn’t to prevent the natural consequences of a conjugal act, but rather to prevent the consequences of an act of violence. Just as it is not wrong in some circumstances to defend yourself with lethal force, it’s also not wrong for a woman or a doctor to use hormones to thwart the rapist’s semen from impregnating the rape victim.

That's a false dichotomy. One does contracept if one attempts to prevent conception after a rape. Of course the intention isn't to prevent the natural consequences of a "conjugal act," since this is rape, but that doesn't mean it isn't contraceptive. Yes, it may be to prevent the consequences of rape, but that doesn't obviate the fact that it's contraceptive. This is an example of special pleading, where a Catholic ethicist indulges in hairsplitting distinctions to rationalize Rome's ad hoc exceptions. 

Although the Catholic Church teaches that it is wrong to avoid pregnancy by contracepting, the Catholic Church also teaches that it is morally okay for a couple to space their children by taking into account our knowledge of a woman’s natural cycle of fertility. 

Is using a form of natural family planning in order to avoid pregnancy a form of contraception? No. Contraception worksand those who contracept intendto sterilize an otherwise fertile conjugal act. Using a form of natural family planning in order to have sexual intercourse without getting pregnant has the couple abstaining from sexual intercourse during the period when a woman is fertile. Although the end of having sexual intercourse without getting pregnant is the same for both couples, the means they use couldn’t be more different.

They employ different strategies, but with the same aim. "Natural family planning" is a calculated effort to evade and circumvent the procreative design of sexual intercourse. 

The contracepting couple realizes the end of having sexual intercourse without getting pregnant by using the means of blocking the consummation of good, natural, and otherwise fertile conjugal acts, whereas the couple using natural family planning as a means for realizing the end of having sexual intercourse without getting pregnant accepts the natural consequences of each and every conjugal act in which they engage, while also practicing (the development of) the virtue of continencethat is, the ability to easily and gracefully neither under-indulge nor over-indulge the great goods of sexual union and sexual pleasure.

i) Contracepting couples who reject abortion also accept the natural consequences of sex if contraception fails. Although their preference is not to a have a child at that time, they will do so. So that doesn't distinguish contracepting couples from the tiny minority of Catholic couples who practice "natural family planning".

ii) What does it mean to "overindulge" in conjugal relations? 

The difference between practicing periodic abstinence in the case of natural family planning and contracepting is not in the end they seek but in the means they use. Sometimes, this makes all the difference in the world.

And sometimes it makes no morally salient difference. 

A first argument for why contracepting gets in the way of living a good human life takes its start from two plausible moral principles. The first moral principle is we should never treat persons as non-persons. More specifically, we should always treat each and every human person with the dignity rightly accorded personsfor example, we should not instrumentalize or use human persons, but always treat them as ends-in-themselves.

To the contrary, I'd say that's an implausible moral principle:

i) Is "instrumentalizing" a person equivalent to, or a special case of, treating persons as nonpersons? If so, what's the argument?

ii) Human "dignity" carries a lot of freight in modern Catholic moral theology. I don't think everyone should be treated alike, although there is a lower threshold. 

iii) When I go to the doctor, I'm using him as a means to an end. When I service my car, I'm using the automechanic as a means to an end. That doesn't mean I'm mistreating them, treating them as nonpersons, exploiting them, taking unfair advantage. They offer goods and services in exchange for remuneration. I'm doing it for my own benefit, although that has a fringe benefit for them.   

If Jane kills an innocent person in order to preserve her wealthy standard of living, then Jane has instrumentalized or used a human person and has therefore done something morally wrong...the wrongness comes from treating a person as though they were not a person, but rather as though they were a mere object or instrument; the wrongdoer instrumentalizes or uses a person.

i) That's a pretty elliptical, generic way to explain what makes murder wrong. Surely there are more direct ways to argue against murder. 

ii) Moreover, that would be, at best, a cause of "instrumentalizing" someone in a bad way. It doesn't imply that "instrumentalizing" people is intrinsically wrong. 

So we can put this first moral principle another way: true lovers don’t use each other.

Why the heck not? If I want something that only a woman can give, while she wants something only a man can give, what's wrong with that mutually agreeable arrangement? 

To begin with an obvious case, consider a case of rape. Rape is obviously morally wrong. One way of thinking about why what the rapist does is morally wrong is that the rapist uses his victim in that act: he treats a person with only his own interests in view; he treats his victim as though he or she were not a person but a mere object or instrument, as that by which he can make himself feel powerful.

i) Again, this fails to establish that it's inherently wrong to use someone as a means; at most, that's a case of using someone in the wrong way, because it harms an innocent person.

ii) Also, the feminist sociological cliche that rape is about power rather than sex. 

There are other ways to use persons in the sexual act. For example, Sam uses Sally in the conjugal act if he has sex with her merely for his own pleasure. For in doing so, Sam does not treat Sally as a person, a being of inherent dignity and value, but simply as an object conducive to his being pleasured. It is not that it is wrong to expect to take pleasure in the conjugal act; but it is morally wrong to reduce a conjugal act to simply something that produces pleasure, for doing so has one treating a person as a mere instrument for the producing of pleasure.

Take another example of instrumentalizing someone in the conjugal act. Sally uses Sam in the sexual act if she has sex with Sam simply because she wants to feel the safety and security that comes with being intimate with someone in the conjugal act. Even if Sally, while engaging in the sexual act, recognizes that Sam is a personfor what she wants is to feel the safety and security of being intimate with a personthat is not the same as treating Sam as a person, a being of intrinsic dignity and worth; if she engages in the conjugal act with him just to feel safe and secure, she treats Sam, whom she recognizes to be a person, as a mere instrument for the bringing about of a certain positive emotional state. Again, it is not wrong to expect to take comfort in feeling close to a person in the conjugal act, for the conjugal act is typically a bodily act that brings about a feeling of closeness; it is wrong to reduce the conjugal act to an act that produces positive feelings of safety or security or intimacy, since doing so involves using a person as a mere instrument for the producing of such positive feelings.

i) That's very one-sided. Although sex ought to be mutually enjoyable, marriage involves implicit sexual consent. If you don't like sex, stay celibate. It shouldn't be necessary to negotiate every conjugal act. That's a decision you make before marriage: whether or not to get married. Conjugal relations are part of the package. 

ii) An individual goes into marriage for what he hopes to get out of it. Self-interest is primary. There's nothing inherently wrong with acting in one's self-interest. We have natural God-given needs. So long as there's reciprocity, there's nothing abusive about that. 

iii) In fact, each spouse ought to feel sexually desirable to the other spouse. That's a proper expectation. 

iv) In close relationships, it's acceptable, within limits, to impose yourself on someone else. Suppose I'm a teenager. I like to sleep in on Saturdays. Unfortunately, my best friend is a morning person. He shows up at my doorstep, lonely and bored, and wants to hang out. I had other plans, but I drop them. 

Now, if he did that on a regular basis, the friendship would end. But of course the reason we're friends in the first place is because we have rapport. We like the same things. We like hanging out. Up to a point, it's okay for one friend to impose on another friend. That's the nature of friendship. 

Imagine a mock conversation between two teenagers:

Tyler: Did you and Jessica break up?

Trevor: Yes.

Tyler: Why?

Trevor: She treats me as a sexual object. She only wants me for my body!

Tyler: What a bummer! 

Trevor: One time she kissed me without my permission. When I asked her why she did it, she said she was just curious what it felt like to kiss me. Was I a good kisser?

Tyler: No wonder you dumped her. I couldn't stand a girlfriend like that!

Trevor: It gets worse. One time when we were walking barefoot on the beach, she reached out and grabbed my hand. When I asked her why she did it, she said she just wanted to hold my hand because it made her feel good! I felt so…used! 

You have to wonder what parallel universe Brown inhabits. 

We need to examine a second moral principle before I present the first argument against contracepting. Here’s the principle: it is morally wrong to intentionally put a personincluding oneselfin a near occasion of moral wrongdoingit is morally wrong to put a person in a situation where one knows it is very difficult for that person not to do what is morally wrong.

Forcing married couples to practice abstinence is a good example of tempting them to do wrong. 

Why, in general terms, does a couple contracept? We might think that the answer is as follows: either the couple wants to have sex without running the risk of pregnancy or the couple wants to plan the size of their family without leaving the size of their family up to chance.

We can rule out the second option. After all, it is common knowledge that women are not always fertile. In fact, given the advent of various contemporary methods of natural family planningfor example, the Billings ovulation method, the Creighton Model, and sympto-thermal methodsa couple can, with training and practice, come to possess a near scientific knowledge of the woman’s fertility cycle. So a desire to plan family size can’t be a sufficient explanation for what motivates the contracepting couple. Planning family size can be achieved without contracepting. Therefore, the members of the couple contracept in order to have conjugal relations whenever they want to, while avoiding the risk of pregnancy.

But that's a lot more complicated than "artificial" contraception. So that doesn't rule out the second motivation. 

Given the fact of human moral weakness, particularly the inclination to use one another in the conjugal act, a couple that engages in conjugal acts whenever they want is such that each member of the couple does not take due precautions against (a) using another in the conjugal act (i.e., using another merely for the sake of experiencing sexual pleasure or using another merely for the sake of feeling emotionally connected to a person) or (b) putting oneself or another in a near occasion of moral wrongdoing, specifically, the near occasion of using another in the conjugal act.

If a prospective spouse isn't open to sexual spontaneity in marriage, don't get married. If a prospective spouse is that unreceptive to sexual advances within marriage, the problem is not with the spontaneous spouse but the unreceptive spouse. The onus shouldn't be on the spouse who takes the initiative to first do a lot of second guessing about whether their feelings will be reciprocated. If you don't want a sexual relationship, don't get married. There should always be a general openness to conjugal relations in marriage, barring special circumstances. 

The conjugal act means, “I give myself wholly to you” or “we give ourselves wholly to one another.” If the conjugal act has such an intrinsic meaning, then people can lie with their bodies and not simply in the sense of reclining, but in the sense of telling an untruth, when they engage in the conjugal act in a way that contradicts this intrinsic meaning of the conjugal act.

i) Is that what it means? Or does it have a more direct, down-to-earth meaning? I have a need/desire for sexual intimacy, and my spouse is the chosen object of my sexual desire. 

For someone who takes refuge in natural theology, it's not as though Brown's notion of what the conjugal act means derives in any recognizable fashion from natural theology. Wouldn't a natural explanation for the significance of the conjugal act be more like God designed us with a natural drive to see sexual union with a member of the opposite sex? 

ii) Humans shouldn't give themselves totally to another human being. That's idolatrous. Humans should hold something in reserve. Humans should only totally give themselves to God.

A married couple are two adults with minds, beliefs, and interests of their own. They don't sublimate all that in marriage. They retain a degree of independence. 

Recall that the person using contraception engages in a conjugal act and intends to render infertile (what they believe is potentially) an otherwise fertile conjugal act. But by intending to render infertile an otherwise fertile conjugal act, the person using contraception thereby intends to withhold his or her fertility from another with whom he or she engages in the conjugal act. It therefore follows that such a person does not intend to give himself or herself wholly to the other in the conjugal act.

Since the conjugal act means, “I give myself wholly to you,” or, collectively, “we give ourselves wholly to one another,” such a person therefore tells a lie with his or her body. On the traditional assumption that it is morally wrong to tell liesespecially to those whom we love and care for most deeplyit follows that contracepting is objectively morally wrong. Those who contracept not only lie with one another, but lie to each other.

But in point of fact, such a person, insofar as he or she holds back his or her fertility or refuses to receive it, also says, “I am not giving you my total gift of self right now; although I have my fertility to give right now, I will not give it to you,” or “I refuse to receive your total gift of self right now, since I refuse the gift of your fertility, which you have given to me.” The person who uses contraception thus lies to the beloved with his or her body.

i) That builds on the false premise of what the conjugal act means. 

ii) It's not a lie since the couple knows what contraception entails. That's by mutual consent. 

iii) I don't grant that lying is intrinsically wrong. 

A second objection: But what if someone does not believe that the conjugal act means, “I give myself wholly to you.” Lying requires saying or doing the opposite of what you believe to be the case. So, if someone does not believe the conjugal act means, “I give myself wholly to you,” then that someone will not be lying with his or her body if he or she contracepts.

Granted, lying requires saying or doing the opposite of what you believe. In addition, not everyone has the same degree of moral knowledge. It is possible that someone who is morally very immature does not know the conjugal act means, “I give myself wholly to you.” Indeed, such a person may not be subjectively morally culpable in contracepting. Although contracepting is objectively morally wrong, a person who does not know it is morally wrong may not be subjectively culpable for such an objectively wrong act.

If the problem is that they don’t know that it’s wrong, then remedying that would be a positive thing. Insofar as engaging in objectively morally wrong actions always have bad consequences for human beings, both for the agent of such actions and those who receive such actions, it is a good thing for us to learnas soon as possiblewhat we don’t already know about the moral life. If the conjugal act really does mean, “I give myself wholly to you”and some persons believe that is what the conjugal act meansit will be a good thing for anyone engaging in the conjugal act to learn this as soon as possible.

But there are other possibilities. It may be that the person who says he does not believe the conjugal act means, “I give myself wholly to you,” is lying to himself all along. Perhaps he does not want to admit it to himself or to others. 

Now, say Sam contracepts and the reason he doesn’t know the meaning of the conjugal act is that he’s intentionally kept himself from learning its meaning, whether through lack of attention to the teaching of his elders, or through the cultivation of a bad habit of treating persons as sexual objects, say through his habit of viewing pornography. 

Now Brown's backpedaling from his original claim. Moreover, he's made his claim unfalsifiable. Nothing would count as evidence against his claim because the contracepting couple won't "admit to themselves" that it's a lie. That's a good example of beginning with what you want to prove, then redefining concepts to agree with your agenda.

A third objection: Aren’t couples who practice natural family planning also withholding their fertility from each other? After all, they engage in the conjugal act during periods in which they believe the woman is naturally infertile, and they abstain from it during her period of fertility. Yet the Church teaches that natural family planning is not necessarily immoral. So do we have a case here of ruling out practices that are deemed morally permissible?

The objection confuses “a couple’s withholding fertility” and “a couple’s withholding fertility in the conjugal act.”

But what think that's anything other that a makeshift distinction to salvage Brown's position? 

The couple that decides not to engage in the conjugal act during a fertile period is, in a sense, “withholding their fertility” from one another, but there is nothing wrong with doing that per se. Similarly, it is not wrong per se for a couple to “withhold” for a time other goods from one another, for example, the goods of hand-holding, conversation, kissing, or engaging in the conjugal act, when those acts are not appropriate or mutually desirable.

Unnecessarily withholding sex in marriage is a violation of conjugal duties. Brown acts as though marriage is an on-again/off-again arrangement.  

It is not wrong to abstain from a good kind of action as long as one is not obligated to perform that kind of action. But couples are not at all times obligated to give their fertility to one another, no more than at all times is one obligated to take care of the sick, the elderly, and the poor. It would be wrong to always refrain from doing these good things. But one is not always obligated to do these good things, as even the overdemandingness criticism of utilitarianism would contend.

There is nothing morally wrong with periodic abstinence within marriage. In fact, as Janet E. Smith points out, in practicing periodic abstinence, for example, during a woman’s fertile period (say the couple has decided prayerfully to wait a while to have a child or to have another child), a couple can actually give to one another the great gift of self-restraint, or act in such a way that leads to the development of the virtue of continence, which is one of the greatest gifts of love the spouses can give to one another (as we’ll see below).

It's pointless to be celibate within marriage. 

Furthermore, couples are not obligated to have conjugal relations only when they can naturally give their fertility to one another. Consider that women are fertile for only a short period of time each month and also consider the strength of the sexual urge. These two factors would seem to constitute a natural sign that couples are not morally obligated to have sexual relations (only) when the conjugal act is fertile. 

Actually, they constitute a natural sign that couples are welcome to have conjugal relations throughout the month. 

One of the ways that married persons help each other grow in virtue is by moderately engaging in the conjugal act, which act has the power to foster great friendship, tenderness, and unity between spouses. But married persons will not always be able to engage in the conjugal act with one another, even when they want to. Therefore, one of the virtues married persons need in particular is the virtue of continencethat is, the ability to easily and readily forego engaging in the conjugal act for certain, even long, periods of time, and in so doing, refrain from doing what is morally wrong with respect to sex.

There are going to be times within any marriage when the couple cannot engage in the conjugal actfor example, when spouses are away on business, when spouses are visiting relatives, when spouses are sick, after a woman has delivered a child, etc. The virtue of continence (and only the virtue of continence) enables the spouses to easily and readily forego engaging in the conjugal act for periods of time, and when they do so, to remain faithful to one another. 

i) What is Brown's notion of immoderate conjugal relations? How much sex is too much sex in marriage (assuming it's consensual)? Does he have a quota?

ii) Why does he keep saying abstinence is supposed to be easy? Even assuming for arguments sake that marital abstinence is virtuous, since when is self-denial supposed to be easy rather than sacrificial?

iii) Yes, there are situations in which couples must forego sex. But to normalize that defeats a primary purpose of marriage. George Whitefield, John Wesley, and Billy Graham neglected their wives to the point of desertion by spending so much time on the mission field. Their motives were well-meaning, but they were shirking a prior obligation. 

iv) To my knowledge, a woman's libido naturally peaks during ovulation. Scheduling sex during her infertile period is hardly natural, since that's when she finds sexual relations least appealing. 

Assuming the contracepting couple believes that God created and designed the reproductive system of human persons (and that such a God exists), it follows that the couple that contracepts says to God, in effect, “we don’t like the way you have designed the female body and the male body; we know better than you when a woman should be infertile or when conjugal acts should be fertile.” But that’s impious and objectively morally wrong. Therefore, contracepting is objectively morally wrong.

Rather, contraceptives, used as contraceptives, suppress a healthy, functioning system in the human body. 

i) Assuming parents believe God created and designed the immune system, it follows that parents who vaccinate their kids tell God, in effect, “we don’t like the way you designed the immune system; we know better than you when a child should be sick.” But that’s impious and objectively morally wrong. Therefore, vaccination is objectively morally wrong. Not to mention pasteurized mild and fluoridated water! That's impious and objectively morally wrong!  

It won't suffice for him to say vaccination "prevents" disease, for by his own logic, that casts aspersions on God design for the immune system. 

Assuming Catholics believe God created and designed the digestive system, it follows that cooking meat tells God, in effect, “we don’t like the way you designed the digestive system; we know better than you.” But that’s impious and objectively morally wrong. Therefore, we should only eat raw meat. 

ii) Wearing sunglasses suppresses a healthy, functioning visual system. Wearing noise-canceling headphones suppresses a healthy, functioning auditory system. These aren't used merely to block damaging noise, but annoying sounds. 

iii) God designed hair and nails to grow continuously. Cutting your hair and trimming your nails says to God, in effect, “I don’t like the way you have designed my body!”

iv) What about selective breeding? Does that tell God, in effect,  “we don’t like the way you have designed wild animals; we know better than you.”


  1. Another relevant bit of information is that he's really over-selling the NFP methods here. As far as "under-indulging," I have heard of situations where conscientiously following the protocols for NFP if a couple really believes that they should not be having another child means going for months, maybe many months, without marital sexual intercourse. Those might sound like extreme cases, but when a woman is breast-feeding (for example) they are not all that unusual. Also when a woman is having cycle irregularity for whatever reason, including the time when she is approaching menopause, the protocols can call for very long abstinence periods if one is trying to take them seriously. More commonly, an abstinence period of two weeks would not be that unusual, particularly for a couple in a sufficiently difficult personal or financial situation that they wanted to be very careful. A 10-day abstinence period could well be *standard* for a given couple, each month. The "near-scientific" accuracy is just oversold, particularly since one needs to abstain at least five to six days *prior* to ovulation. One can find out pretty accurately *after the fact* that a woman has ovulated, but by that time conception might have already occurred. Other factors that can confuse the method and lead to much longer abstinence protocols are bad sleep or having a young child or baby that requires the woman to be getting up in the night, which messes up her morning basal body temperature. Contrary to the advertising, NFP is quite hard and requires a firm commitment to it on the part of both members of the couple. It requires a near OCD level of information gathering and *can* require the couple to make a choice between a significant probability of pregnancy and lengthy abstinence. This needs to be said openly and often is not. I have had one Catholic literally state to me that any couple who becomes pregnant on NFP was, by definition, not really using the method. That kind of defined 100% effectiveness is not a helpful way to discuss the matter at all.

  2. Something also conveniently forgotten by those overselling NFP is that there are always other reasons that constrain when married couples can have sexual intercourse. Illness, fatigue, necessary travel by one spouse or another, crises with children, late night work, to name just a few. If the fertile period must be avoided and something else intervenes on either end, the period of abstinence will often be lengthened. Married couples often have enough trouble finding time to relax together and enjoy intercourse, especially when raising young children, that adding the requirements of NFP can make scheduling very difficult indeed. The idea that the couple will be "over-indulging" if they don't use NFP is pretty laughable, actually.

  3. Thanks, Lydia. I thought the exact same about him overselling the bit about "near-scientific" accuracy regarding NFP methods too! In theory, NFP methods range from a failure rate of 1-5% only if the couple correctly and consistently uses NFP methods. (Compare that to a male condom which has a failure rate of approximately 1-2%.) In practice, NFP methods range from 12-24% failure rates. These percentages are taken from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists here.

    In addition, Brown says "Consider that women are fertile for only a short period of time each month". I don't know what Brown considers "short". But a woman is typically able to get pregnant for roughly a week per four weeks, give or take. Of course, this varies from woman to woman, and depends in large part on her age and the length of her menstrual cycle, but the typical example is a woman in her 20s on a 28 day menstrual cycle (7 days x 4 weeks).

    1. Right, approximately a week at the most conservative, and one is supposed to wait until the temperature has been up for three days to make sure the ovulation was bona fide. So that's 8 days at the least.

      But that's only if you know precisely what day she is going to ovulate on. If a woman has ovulated on slightly different days, say over a three-day or 4-day range, then one has to lengthen the abstinence period accordingly. And if she stops ovulating for a time, the abstinence period gets *longer*, because one no longer has a regular ovulation schedule to go by, and it could happen at any time. These oversold comments usually assume that the couple is able to be omniscient about when the woman will be fertile, but that just isn't so.

  4. Some argue procreation is the sole or primary telos of sexual intercourse.

    However, what if instead we looked at the telos of sex as glorifying God (1 Cor 10:31)? At first glance, that seems vague. What I mean though is if the telos of sexual intercourse is to glorify God, then sex can be used to glorify God in several different ways. Sometimes for procreation, sometimes for unification, sometimes for pleasure, sometimes to quell temptations toward sexual immoralities, etc. There's not a one-size-fits-all answer.

    In this respect, those who argue against contraceptives seem to be narrow-minded or want to confine the purpose of sex. It's like saying the telos of work is to make money and that's it. That's a constricting vision, not an expansive vision.

    I guess what I'm attempting to say is we're meant to live to God's glory in all we think and say and do. That includes sex. It means we're living as good stewards of God in all things including sex. It means we use wisdom or prudence to decide how to faithfully use sex to God's ends. That could be expanding God's kingdom by procreation, edifying our spouse by sex, such as for intimacy and companionship, or whatever else is a good and true for sex. The purpose of sex isn't simply and always procreation. Rather, the purpose of sex can vary depending on our relationship with our spouses, our circumstances, and so on. It requires wisdom to tell what's best or better for whom under which circumstances.

    It seems to me there are some people who want to be told the answers and not have to think for themselves, while others want to seek and find the answers in this complex world in which we live.

  5. "iv) To my knowledge, a woman's libido naturally peaks during ovulation. Scheduling sex during her infertile period is hardly natural, since that's when she finds sexual relations least appealing."

    That could be. However, even if it's not, even if a woman's libido peaks during her infertile period, then that means a woman most wants to have sex at a time when she can't get pregnant. Why would God design women to desire sex at times when they can't get pregnant if the telos of sex is procreation? This would seem to suggest that procreation isn't necessarily the sole telos of sex. Something else like pleasure could likewise be a telos of sex.

  6. I think it might be arguable there's nothing morally wrong about a couple with certain diseases not wanting to have children. Take Huntington's Disease. It's an autosomal dominant disease. That means if one parent has HD, then there's a 50% chance the child will have HD. If both parents have HD, and their children inherit both genes, then there's a 100% chance their children will have HD. (I'm simplifying, as there could be other genetic considerations to take into account, but this serves well enough as an illustration.)

    Similar things could be said about other diseases (e.g. cystic fibrosis).

    If there's nothing immoral about such a couple not wishing to procreate, then how is the telos of sex necessarily procreation? At best, one might say it's normally procreation, but not always. Or so it seems to me.

  7. I'm disappointed at the "zingers" you list at the end of the post. To me, bringing them up is the equivalent of the internet atheists who think "But Who Caused God?" is a real debate-stopper. It's not as if answers to these aren't out there in the literature.

    The attitude that otherwise conservative Christians take to this issue always strikes me as really being no different the same melodramatic foot-stamping about the Right To Orgasm that every other supporter of the Sexual Revolution does.

    I'm inclined to say: These urges are intense. So what?

    1. If you have answers to my counterexamples, present them.

    2. http://www.academia.edu/31758359/The_Perverted_Faculty_Argument