Thursday, March 28, 2013

Why are infertiles being swept into the gay marriage debate?

Yesterday, I started a letter to Archbishop Cordileone.  I'll post it here once it's finished.  The first version was quite aggressive (my natural tone) but in the shower this morning had some ideas spring to mind to make it more diplomatic.  Not that I feel diplomacy is necessary but I figure I should give him the benefit of the doubt that he wasn't trying to hurt infertiles' feelings.  The same can't be said for a few people over at Little Catholic Bubble.  In the latest post (as of an hour ago) I think Leila buries herself into a deeper hole by saying this:
Because fertility is not required for marriage (never has been), only the ability to complete the marital act. Sometimes, due to defect, disease or age (effects of the fallen world), children do not come from acts which are by their nature ordered toward procreation. (Of course, many couples deemed infertile later do conceive… as the Bible says, "God opens and closes the womb". The creation of children is ultimately in His hands. But the act that makes children is the principle act of marriage; it's what separates marriage from friendship.)
First of all, I'm again glad to know that our infertility is because of the "effects of the fallen world."  That's strange because God Himself said in Genesis 3:16 (NIV version) because Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

I remember from last Sunday's (Palm Sunday) gospel reading (the Passion) Jesus says in Luke 23:29, "For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’" 

And I do appreciate Leila proclaiming that God's favor might fall upon me and I will conceive but I think for most of us infertiles, we've become blue in the face telling fertiles not to tell us that it's "All in God's time."  I've always rejected this crazy notion some bloggers have that because they are fertile God favors them more or because they can't get pregnant, God's punishing them for something they did.  I categorically reject that theory.

I also contend that sexual intercourse is NOT the principal act of marriage.  You might need to initially consumate a marriage to make it a legal marriage.  I think you used to be able in some countries or some states to nullify a marriage if you NEVER had sex.  But, you don't need to keep knockin' the boots to retain your status as a married person.

If Catholics want to base their argument against gay marriage on procreation i.e., you have heterosexual sex, you get pregnant, you carry a child to term, you give birth to that child, and then you raise that child until age 18 (well, now it's to 25 or more), as the only thing distinguising marriage as a sacred union and in the Church, a sacrament, Houston, we've got a problem.

I think a very mature attitude about a Christian marriage is that it's not about sex.  You heard it here first: If you are basing the quality of your marriage on the quality of the sex or having any sex at all, you're shallow.  Christian marriage is a vocation!!!!  It is one of the greatest opportunities for ministry.  If you are encouraging, supporting, and lovingly challenging your spouse in their Christian faith, you are a good husband/wife.  You are in a good, holy marriage.

I get that the Church wants to enter into the debate against civil gay marriage.  But, why are you divorcing your argument from your faith and making it all about sex, conception, birth, and parenting?  Isn't it enough to say that God says homosexual acts are wrong, bad, etc. and then say He ordained marriage between a man and a woman as a symbol of the relationship between Christ and His Church?  That's good stuff for me and it prevents everybody from having to tap dance around (or just stomp on) the infertile and elderly. 

For some in this debate those words are interchangable because despite being a lawyer for the OPPONENTS of same-sex marriage, Charles J. Cooper couldn't be bothered to educate himself on infertility when his whole argument is that gay marriage "will refocus the purpose of marriage and the definition of marriage away from the raising of children and to the emotional needs and desires of adults, of adult couples."  The key to marriage, he said, is procreation. 

He went on to say (and I quoted part of this as the title of my last post) "even with respect to couples over the age of 55 -- it is very rare that both couples -- both parties to the couple are infertile..."  I think Mr. Cooper spends too much time in his office.  As we NFPers know, if even one party is infertile, you are both infertile by definition because it takes two to tango.  Well, three.  Dr. Hilgers tells us that you need good sperm, good egg(s), and good cervical mucus to conceive.  In our case, we need more than that 'cause we've got all three and it's a non-starter.

I'm really secretly delighted this whole debate is swallowing up infertiles and spitting them out like a speck of dust in someone's eye.  I have joined, not by choice or desire, an extreme minority in human society.  I cannot get pregnant, am making zero moves to try and get pregnant through medical intervention, and won't adopt.  I am living according to my principles and my faith.  I am doing the right thing.

I know that there are bad apples in every bunch but it's very sad to me to see so many people who view their faith as pure and their understanding of it - perfect, throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water (I couldn't help myself.) 

I'm starting to realize my voice here on the Internets is important.  If I am going to be apart of that tiny minority, I will not shrink away.  I will defend the life that has been handed to me and I will advocate for my community. 


  1. I'm still trying to understand why this is upsetting you. If infertility is not God's punishment (and I agree with you there), and it's not something you have chosen, and it's not something you would have chosen, then it is the result of a fallen world, in the same way that cancer is. Perhaps you are misunderstanding what "fallen world" means? Augustine says God did not create cancer or diabetes or the sudden illness that felled his teenage son. However, these things are not punishments from God, but the result of original sin. Moral evil (turning away from God deliberately) is distinct from natural evil. Natural evil--disease, earthquakes, etc--are the result of original sin because original sin has infected all of creation. In the Garden, there would have been no infertility and women's and men's bodies would work perfectly.

    As for the "blessed are the barren" line, it's pretty clear from the context that Jesus is predicting an upcoming catastrophe. The barren are blessed (in this case) because they will not see their children suffer the way that mothers will.

    Not to self-promote, but you might be interested in my blog post on the subject:

    I'd love to hear your thoughts.

    I agree that Catholic theology of marriage focuses too much on sex and procreation. This is particularly problematic in Christopher West's sex-obsessed interpretations of the Theology of the Body. (Sex is renewing your marriage vows? Really? What if my DH can't get it up? What if I have the flu? We can't renew our marriage vows? I will say the moment when I felt most married was when I was coming to after my surger--the look on DH's face as he took my hand! That's what "in sickness and health" means. No sex was required (or possible for weeks and weeks afterward).

    The reason that opponents of same sex marriage are (incompetently) reaching for natural law arguments is that no serious scripture scholar would say that "the Bible frowns upon same sex marriage." (If you want to know more about this, I can dig up some resources for you.) Catholic arguments about marriage have always relied almost exclusively upon the natural law. Besides, biblical arguments tend not to go over so well in court. Not everyone believes that the Bible is the Word of God, and not all Christians read the Bible the same way.

  2. This is confusing to me.

    The effects of the Fall are twofold: Moral evil (sin) entered the world, and physical evil (disorders of the body and of nature) entered the world.

    That's Catholic teaching.

    There was no cancer, earthquakes, missing limbs, mental disorders, lust, selfishness, greed or diseases before the Fall. And, there was no infertility.

    Also, the Church has never said that couples who cannot have sex (or even mutually choose not to have sex) after the initial consummation stop being married. Of course they continue to be truly married.

    But consummation (sex) is the act of marriage. It is the act that seals the marriage. If one has the ability to consummate a marriage, one can be married. If there is no ability or aim to consummate, then there is only friendship, and that is a whole other type of relationship.

    The point is that the marital act, whether or not it results in procreation, is always ordered toward procreation. If procreation were not part of the human picture (if people reproduced asexually and children were self-sufficient at birth), there would never have been "marriage" in the first place. It is unique among all other relationships because it is ordered toward procreation (even if effects of the Fall, such as infertility or age, make procreation unlikely or impossible). That's all folks are trying to say.

    Maybe I am misunderstanding your point, and that could be. Forgive me if so.

  3. By the way, the Church makes Natural Law arguments to secular folks, because that is often the audience we are trying to reach. It would not make sense to make religious arguments to a secular audience, because religious arguments would not have any credibility with those who do not believe in either God, or a Church, or sin.

  4. No, Leila, I think you were misunderstood. Stomping on infertiles? Yikes. Leila would never do that.

  5. And seriously, now I am really reading what you wrote, what is this?

    And I do appreciate Leila proclaiming that God's favor might fall upon me and I will conceive but I think for most of us infertiles, we've become blue in the face telling fertiles not to tell us that it's "All in God's time." I've always rejected this crazy notion some bloggers have that because they are fertile God favors them more or because they can't get pregnant, God's punishing them for something they did. I categorically reject that theory.

    I've never in my life, nor would I, ever imply such a thing. I got my start in blogging because of the encouragement of the Catholic IF community, ladies of whom I stood in awe, due to their holiness, faithfulness and love. I barely felt worthy of speaking to them or commenting on their IF blogs, and they took me in. I am blogging only because they encouraged me to start. I would never imply that God's "favor" rests upon those who are fertile and not on the infertile. I quoted from the Bible, that God opens and closes the womb, and how is that controversial? None of us gets to decide who is fertile or not. No one can claim credit, or boast of fertility. There is no competition for God's love between those who are fertile and those who are infertile.

    You don't have to like me, Airing, but please don't misrepresent me.

    1. Sorry that I keep commenting, but I guess I am a little slow and really just now realizing that you are personally slamming me here, lol...

      "I figure I should give him the benefit of the doubt that he wasn't trying to hurt infertiles' feelings. The same can't be said for a few people over at Little Catholic Bubble. In the latest post (as of an hour ago) I think Leila buries herself into a deeper hole by saying this…"

      You are actually assigning a malicious motive to me, that I am trying to hurt the feelings of infertiles! Wow.

      And, what hole did I dig myself into? You really should have linked the post and then folks could read the comments themselves (I think that quote is from a long string of comments).

      Anyway, I will bow out now, but just…wow on the nastiness. If you have a personal issue with me, you can take it up with me privately (my email is linked to my blog).

      Blessings to you.

  6. Seriously....WHAT??? Sorry, but inferring that Leila "stomps on infertiles" is a stretch by any standard.

  7. Leila buries herself into a deeper hole? I'm reading what she said and I do not see where she is wrong.

    Maybe you could explain a little more...This is truly a bold statement to say about someone in our blogging community. Very bold.....