Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"...it is very rare... that both parties to the couple are infertile"

What?!?!  WHAT?!?!?!  Oh my gosh.  Holy Week and this is the stuff that's going on?  Did I just hear the word "infertile" uttered in the United States Supreme Court House?  I had to come out of semi-retirement for this.  This is big news.  And I was really dying for some Catholic bloggers to chime in on this issue, and one in particular didn't disappoint.  I was having so much fun being outraged today.

Let's establish some ground rules here.  I live in California.  I vote.  I voted in 2008.  I even voted "Yes" on Prop 8.  Shocker.  Elitist gays don't like that blacks and Latinos tend not to condone gay marriage and they helped Prop 8 pass in 2008 so they take this case to the courts and yo, it ends up in the Supreme Court where it looks likely that the justices won't rule on it.  It makes perfect sense to me that the SCOTUS won't rule on something so momentous to our society so soon into the debate.  Yes, that's good, sound reasoning.

But what has got me all excited?????  It's that the lawyer arguing in favor of Prop 8 tied his whole friggin' argument against gay marriage to the procreation argument.  And then the Archbishop of San Francisco jumped on the bandwagon.  Really?  Is that all these people have?

And holes were punched all through that argument.  Kagan asked if the government could deny a marriage license to couples over the age of 55.  Would that be unconstitutional?  Well, yes it would and the... well, do me a favor and listen to that excerpt of the hearing today.

And Cordileone gets in on the action:

Q: You have spoken of gay marriage as a "natural impossibility." But in terms of procreation, how does it differ from opposite-sex couples who are elderly or infertile?
A: Our bodies have meaning. The conjugal union of a man and a woman is not a factory to produce babies; marriage seeks to create a total community of love, a "one flesh" union of mind, heart and body that includes a willingness to care for any children their bodily union makes together.
Two men and two women can certainly have a close loving committed emotional relationship, but they can never ever join as one flesh in the unique way a husband and wife do.
Infertility is, as you point out, part of the natural life cycle of marriage (people age!), as well as a challenge and disappointment some husbands and wives have to go through. People who have been married for 50 years are no less married because they can no longer have children.
Adoption can be a wonderful happy ending for children who lack even one parent able or willing to care for them. But notice, when a man and woman cannot have children together, that's an accident of circumstances, the exception to the rule. When a husband and wife adopt, they are mirroring the pattern set in nature itself. ...
               Treating same-sex relationships as marriage is the final severing by government of the natural         link between marriage and the great task of bringing together male and female to make and raise the next generation together in love.

It is so comforting to know that my circumstances are viewed by an archbishop as "disappointing."  And "an accident of circumstances."  Gosh.  And all this time I interpreted my experience as an infertile as devastating, life-altering, crushing, against everything I had believed to be true.  My infertility is no more than an accident of circumstances.  That's life, suckers.  And you are being used as a pawn to support an irrational argument against gay marriage.  I can't believe my status as a female, heterosexual, married, Catholic is now tied to gay marriage.

Now, as Catholics we don't have to use half-baked arguments to support heterosexual marriage.  Don't get me wrong.  Of course, marriage is intended "for the increase of mankind."  But, it doesn't stop there.  "1605 Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: "It is not good that the man should be alone."92 The woman, "flesh of his flesh," his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a "helpmate"; she thus represents God from whom comes our help.93 "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh."94 The Lord himself shows that this signifies an unbreakable union of their two lives by recalling what the plan of the Creator had been "in the beginning": "So they are no longer two, but one flesh."95"

I took that from the Vatican's website.  Yes, I know it's terrible citing of sources.  Marriage and the beauty and mystery of marriage has nothing to do with kids.  How a man and a woman relate to one another in a marriage is special full-stop.  Why a prominent member of the Church and Prop 8 cronies had to cheapen my (childless) marriage for their own purposes is disgusting.  To call me an "extreme minority" and toss me aside as an inconvenient outlier to their statistical model is wrong.  Infertiles are not the key to your argument against gay marriage.  Marriage is between a man and a woman can be defended with better and more compassionate arguments than that.  


  1. Amen!!! I went on a rant to my husband about the same thing, however, you were much more eloquent.

  2. Ugh, I just want to hide from all of this in a Hobbit hole! I went to a talk last week at my parish about this and this big philosopher guys main argument was about procreation. I wanted to throw something at him but we were in the church so I thought that would be a bad idea ;) I agree that marriage is the place to have children if you are able but it is not the sole reason. We can never separate the two fold purpose of marriage 1) good of the spouses 2) procreation/education of children. I don't see how they can not argue both logically, but all I am hearing about is that a child needs a mother and a father. I agree with you that infertility was down played by Bishop Cordileone and that hurts me very much but it is not different than what I am used to seeing from our clergy. To them we are the "disappointed" minority. Archbishop Cordileone, disappointed doesn't even come close to the feelings I have dealt with about facing infertility! This has all been so frustrating to hear about! I am glad you came out of semi-retirement though :)

  3. I'm glad you brought this up. Here are my 2 cents for what it's worth =) I guess I've seen infertile couples used more as a "pawn" for the other side (the side that is pro-gay marriage) to say "procreation can't be that important for marriage, because even though two men can't have a baby, neither can an infertile couple, and you still let them get married!" (As if the experience of infertility that a husband and wife go through, realizing that their bodies aren't doing what they're supposed to do, is at all the same as 2 men who can't have a baby - of course they can't have a baby. They're not even doing the right action!) etc. So frustrating. It's as if an infertile couple's inability to conceive is somehow a slam-dunk argument that 2 men or women should be able to get married. What?

    I think you're so, so right - marriage is about more than children. That's part of our faith! I love the quotes you shared. And I do think it's important that our Church keeps teaching the FULL understanding of marriage, not just the procreative aspect. And even there - our vocation as married couples is not to have children, but to be open to life. That's such an important distinction.

    I do think I understand where the Archbishop is coming from though (even though I do wish he would have showed more compassion for infertile couples) - the phrase that sticks with me is that "not every married couple has children, but every child has a mom and a dad." Obviously the 1st part of that statement stinks for us infertiles. But the 2nd part is still true, and still a really, really good reason to not create a new institution (gay marriage) where children will be deprived of a mother or a father. I think infertile couples have something to witness here! Society offers us all these options to have a baby that involve using someone else's genetic material to get pregnant (donor sperm, donor egg, etc) and by saying no - even though I really want a baby - I'm affirming the dignity of that possible child and recognizing that it would be an injustice to deprive them of a relationship with the contributor of half of their genetic material.

    Sorry, this got long. You sparked a lot of thoughts =) One last thing - a quote from Archbishop Chaput that was so compassionate that it brought tears to my eyes, just as a reminder that there are bishops who care about infertile couples =) "The suffering of infertile couples is particularly poignant. But such sufferings are not in vain. As I've said in the past, suffering can bend and break us. But it can also break us open to become the persons God intended us to be. It depends on what we do with the pain. If we offer it back to God, he will use it to do great things in us and through us, because suffering is fertile. Yes, suffering is fertile. These are not empty words of consolation for infertile couples. These words as 'spirit and life' (John 6:63). If we enter into the suffering of the cross it always bears new life in the resurrection." Found here: http://www.archden.org/dcr/archive/20010328/2001032801ab.htm

  4. I totally agree with Ecce Fiat on this. And I love your post.

    Unfortunate circumstance. Yup, that's me in a nutshell.

  5. My stomach was already upset today and after reading this...it's feeling downright nasty. How could any rationale and educated human being compare an infertile married couple to a gay couple? Shame, shame on them. Besides, when my dh and I married, our full intent was to have biological children...IF did happen to us and we offered it up to God to do right by it. This was not an accident of circumstances...it was God planned so we could give it to Him and live the life He meant for us. I know in my heart that God brought my dh and I together. Maybe us infertile couples need to stand up and explain how different we are from gay couples. Geesh.....!

    I haven't been keeping up with the news and now I'm glad that I am not.

  6. I don't have it in me to get all het up about being "used" in debates about gay marriages. Call it a disappointment or a soul-crushing tragedy, the point is the same: no one chooses to be infertile. This is one way moral argumentation works: you choose a parallel case and examine how it's similar to and different from the case in question.

    I would point out a couple of things. You've set up a false dichotomy between gay people and people of color. Many gay people are also people of color, though they are often invisible in the mainstream media. Also, rates of acceptable of same-sex marriage among blacks and latinos is rapidly changing.

    I fully agree that each child has a right to be raised by his/her own biological parents. We are planning to adopt, but adoption is always a response to a less-than-ideal situation. However, there are gay couples who are raising children. I know two gay couples who have adopted African-American children who would have otherwise ended up bounced from foster home to foster home. I would argue that these children too deserve the stability and security that comes from having parents who have made vows of lifelong fidelity that are legally recognized.

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Exit polls from 2008 showed that 70% of blacks voted in favor of Prop 8. Sure, gay people are of every race. But since heterosexuals are the majority, any small portion of the majority would overwhelm the minority. And Latinos, since most are Catholic tended to favor Prop 8. And yes, more people of every race are becoming more accepting of gay marriage.

    2. I'm not sure what this means: "since heterosexuals are the majority, any small portion of the majority would overwhelm the minority."

      I'm not contesting the exit polling of 2008, but your false binary between "elitist gays" and black and Latino voters. The acceptance of gay marriage among minority voters is disproportionate to the overall acceptance of gay marriage. Also, among minority voters acceptance of same sex marriage varies widely and disproportionately by age (disproportionate to the way it varies by age in white voters). Catholic Latino support for SSM is at 54%, according to this poll. http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/10/more_than_half_of_latinos_say_they_favor_allowing_gays_and_lesbians_to_legally_marry.html

      For these reasons, if Prop 8 were on the ballot today in CA, it would probably go down, not because of the "elitist gays" but because the majority of voters, white, black, Latino, and Asian would vote it down.

  7. It's so funny - it's taken just a few years for people (even believers!) to become so squeamish about saying that relationships between a man and a woman are JUST DIFFERENT from any other sort of relationship that they want to talk about something pragmatic, like procreation. Next they'll be talking about our tax brackets and our consumption of medical services. The point is, no culture in history has recognized a marriage between two members of the same sex; this country was not founded with that as a recognized right, and those who drafted every word of the Constitution down to its most recent amendment would simply not have believed you if you had suggested that anyone would someday argue that its text could be interpreted to recognize such a right; and the people have the right to decide that the nature of the human person and the public good are best recognized by legal marriages only between one man and one woman (who are not presently married to anyone else) (and are above the age of consent and mentally capable of consenting) (and are not related to one another within a certain degree of consanguinity) (gee, I guess the state already exercises the authority to put a lot of restrictions on marriage...).

    Anything else is just people deciding what policies they like and then "discovering" that the Constitution already grants rights to these things, in special invisible ink legible only by activist judges and the interest-group lawyers who argue before them. (Hey, look, if you squint, I see a 29th Amendment that gives me a right to unlimited government-subsidized shoe purchases...)