17 comments on “Miscellaneous Meanderings (April 2018)

  1. ‘Contraception is always immoral when freely chosen precisely because it is a choice to impede procreation.’
    If contraception is freely chosen but the intention in using it is not to negate fertility and impede procreation/conception but to prevent the spouse being affected by a genital ulcer disease, (do a control+f for chancroid at https://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/latex.html ), would that still be immoral?

    • Thanks for your comment / question, jn. It’s a good one and the topic is of course controversial. I would say that objectively speaking — even if not subjectively — the act is closed to the transmission of life because of the condom even though that’s not the (subjective) intention. More importantly, I think that the use of the condom wrongly “closes” the act to the “unitive meaning” of sex (the other end / good / value of sex that the Church speaks of). I think that abstinence is the best course of action. Again, I realize that that does not go over well, but I think that is the approach that best respects the marital / conjugal good. Best wishes, Mark

      • I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree as your reasoning is not persuasive. You admit that there is a difference between what is objective and the subjective intention in respect of the act being closed to the transmission of life. Even in respect of the ‘unitive meaning’ of sex – shouldn’t there be an acknowledgment that there can be a difference between what is objective and the subjective intention? If the husband is not using the condom with the intention of negating the unitive meaning of sex, isn’t it absurd to label him as a violator on that count? Is focusing only on the objective and simply paying lip service to the subjective intention really just?

        Which brings me to Amoris Laetitia, – which you have also referred to, in your original post. https://musingsfromaperiphery.blogspot.com/2017/10/the-sarah-case.html has a case study which is analogous, and where there is a discussion on the need to justly ‘weigh’ the objective vs. the subjective intention. Feel free to comment on the (doctrinal) soundness of the ‘less rigorous’ approach to sacramental discipline which is mentioned therein.

        You may also find pertinent https://musingsfromaperiphery.blogspot.com/2017/11/sarah-is-not-eligible-for-sacramental.html (what, if any, is the obex that hinders absolution?) and a possible reply to the dubia as given at https://musingsfromaperiphery.blogspot.com/2017/10/a-response-to-dubia-of-four-cardinals.html (the phrasing of the reply has bearing on our discussion related to the objective vs. the subjective intention.)

      • Thanks for your reply…Sorry my “reasoning is not persuasive.”

        For couples using a condom, they can only contracept if they intend to impede procreation. If they intend to prevent the transmission of a disease without intending to impede procreation, their act is not a contraceptive one. It is contraceptive, however, if they intend to impede procreation and to prevent the transmission of a disease.

        Here’s the basic point: For a sexual act to be marital intercourse, it must be coitus — sexual intercourse. So, to engage in marital intercourse, the spouses have to intend sexual intercourse; and to intend the latter, they must intend behavior that is of the reproductive kind (even though they may be infertile)

        Thus, a husband who ejaculates into a condom cannot be intending to perform an act that pertains to reproduction, i.e., sexual intercourse, and desiring that he/they do so cannot make it a reality: it is not sexual intercourse. Because they cannot intend sexual intercourse, they cannot (and do not) intend marital intercourse.

        This is why some might argue, contra to what I wrote before, that the condom does not render a marital act non-unitive. Rather, it prevents the husband and wife’s sexual activity from even being sexual intercourse.

        God bless.

      • Thanks for your response.

        ‘a husband who ejaculates into a condom cannot be intending to perform an act that pertains to reproduction.’
        Doesn’t the principle of double effect apply here? The intent is not to impede procreation but to prevent the transmission of a disease. However, in the process, procreation is impeded, without that being the intent.

  2. You’re most welcome…

    I would say no in response to your question. The principle of double effect (PODE) would not apply here because for it to do so you must have one act which has two effects — one good, one bad. Using condoms to reduce the risk of transmitting a disease — or in fact any time contraception is used — involves two choices (and two acts): the free choice to engage in (marital) sexual intercourse and the second choice to do something to that freely chosen intercourse to impede procreation (or in this case, to prevent the transmission of a disease).

    You see, my understanding of contraception is that it is not per se a sexual act, but is usually of course related to a sexual act. In other words, someone not engaged in the act of sexual intercourse could “contracept”; although as I say, people usually contracept when they don’t want to risk having a baby. So, I see contraception violating primarily the 5th commandment. It surely also violates the 6th commandment. Admittedly, the Church views it more from the latter perspective, although we can find many instances where the magisterium emphasizes its anti-life character.

    God bless.
    ~MSL

  3. Thanks once again for your response.

    You keep bringing into the picture something which muddies the facts. To wit:
    1) ‘…the second choice to do something to that freely chosen intercourse to impede procreation…’
    Although you qualify that with ‘or in this case, to prevent the transmission of a disease’, the reference to impeding procreation is a straw man – can we completely leave that aside, for clarity’s sake?
    2) ‘people usually contracept when they don’t want to risk having a baby.’
    Another straw man – this has no bearing on the case at hand where we need to focus only on the actual intention, viz., to prevent the transmission of a disease.
    3) ‘I see contraception violating primarily the 5th commandment.’
    Straw man # 3? If the contraceptive were to double as an abortifacient (such as the pill), your statement would be relevant. But again, let’s stick to the facts, shall we? – viz., a condom is being used with the sole intent to prevent the transmission of a disease.

    ‘It surely also violates the 6th commandment.’
    How so? Are you saying that the use of the condom in this case “equates” to masturbation? If yes, isn’t that a leap of logic?

    And more pertinently, are you saying that the (subjective) intent to prevent the transmission of a disease has absolutely no value in determining if an act is permissible / not a sin?

    • You’re welcome…

      But one can’t overlook the fact that objectively speaking the “impeding of procreation” is in play; one could say too that even subjectively it’s in play. That is, the couple has to intend that “no” to life in some sense — even if they say that their intention in using the condom is only to reduce the risk of the disease. In other words, they also have to intend that (unless they are infertile, and then they can’t contracept), otherwise one is saying in a sense that they don’t care about the child conceived contracting the disease. But if one risks pregnancy — which one can’t in this situation — that’s also risking transmitting the disease to the spouse and/or child. To will to prevent the disease, one has to will also that no child come-to-be. At some point, one comes up against reality. One can’t simply say I intend this or I intend that apart from the nature of the act. One can’t simply claim to, in your words, “focus only on the actual intention, viz., to prevent the transmission of a disease.” Again, I would argue that one can’t say, as you do, that “the sole intent [in using the condom is] to prevent the transmission of a disease.”

      You had asked me about the PDE. I said that it involves one act, with two effects. This would be true even if we eliminate the “impede procreation” stuff, i.e., if we eliminate the contraception stuff and stay simply on your terms and avoid what you call the “straw man.” One chooses to (1) engage in sexual intercourse (which I say — my central argument — will not be true sexual and marital intercourse, and then one chooses to (2) do something further: to put a condom on to make sure the act does not transmit bodily fluids (Again, I would also say it’s contraceptive, but I will put that aside).

      In saying that the act violates the 6th commandment, I was trying to get at the fact that contraception, or in this case (again, on your terms) using a condom for disease prevention, the act is not sexual intercourse because it is not of a reproductive kind and therefore cannot be considered marital intercourse. The magisterium usually places contraception under sins against the 6th commandment (sins violating marital chastity). And there is a very real sense in which using the condom shares many of the same features as masturbation (Unless intention is all that matters). For one thing, the man does not achieve insemination in the body of his wife’s vagina, but in a pouch. Not person-to-person, but person or penis-to-pouch. That’s simply the reality of what they are doing, regardless of what they think or what think they are intending.

      Of course intention is important! But one’s present or “proximate” intention as well as one’s “remote” intention must be morally good. Otherwise one can fall into rationalization, i.e., re-describing what we are doing in terms of its hoped-for results. So, I’m not saying that intention is unimportant — by no means. But, as to your question: Does “the (subjective) intent to prevent the transmission of a disease [have] absolutely no value in determining if an act is permissible / not a sin?” I would say in terms of sin, yes. So, it has “value.” But the intention to prevent disease is not going to change the nature of the act from one that is objectively morally bad to one that is objectively morally good (“permissible”).

      God bless,
      ~MSL

      • I appreciate your taking the time to reply in detail. I can’t say I am quite convinced, though, since you appear to be attributing intentions to the couple which they may not actually have.

        1) ‘…one could say too that even subjectively (“impeding of procreation” is) in play.’ >>> An instance of ‘stretching’ and ‘attributing intention’?

        2) ‘the couple has to intend that “no” to life in some sense’ … ‘they also have to intend that’ >>> HAS / HAVE to? Is that the ONLY way to read this situation?

        3) ‘otherwise one is saying in a sense that they don’t care about the child conceived contracting the disease’ >>> Not necessarily.

        4) ‘But if one risks pregnancy — which one can’t in this situation — that’s also risking transmitting the disease to the spouse and/or child.’ – Again, is that the ONLY way to read this situation? What if the couple have the same attitude as a couple who have recourse per NFP to infertile periods in order to space births but who are open to life should pregnancy result nevertheless? That is to say, what if the couple we are considering are using contraception solely in order to prevent disease but without being in any way against life? i.e., should pregnancy result somehow, they are prepared to welcome the child, – hoping of course that the disease would not be transmitted to the spouse / child, and certainly not (deliberately) risking transmission of the disease?

        5) ‘One can’t simply say I intend this or I intend that apart from the nature of the act. One can’t simply claim to, in your words, “focus only on the actual intention, viz., to prevent the transmission of a disease.” Again, I would argue that one can’t say, as you do, that “the sole intent [in using the condom is] to prevent the transmission of a disease.”’

        While you are saying ‘one can’t simply say…’, my rejoinder (besides # 1 to 4 above) is that, by the same token, one can’t simply ‘leap’ and attribute or manufacture motives / intentions and thus ‘tip the scales’ – I’m afraid we seem to be at a bit of an impasse here.
        🙂

        Re your central argument, correct me if I’m wrong, but in your view, irrespective of whether or not pregnancy results, or whether or not the couple / a spouse is infertile, intercourse by spouses can truly be sexual and marital *only* if bodily fluids (semen) is transmitted via the vagina.

        If so, is that argument based on Gen. 2:24?

        ‘using a condom for disease prevention, the act is not sexual intercourse because it is not of a reproductive kind and therefore cannot be considered marital intercourse.’
        The question is – would simply condemning the act as masturbation or labeling it as a ‘sin against marital chastity’ do justice to the reality? Here, when the spouses would ordinarily give of themselves totally to each other, the presence of the disease necessitates taking measures which have the unintended consequence of impeding procreation. Is abstinence the only licit solution?

        ‘The magisterium usually places contraception under sins against the 6th commandment.’
        That applies when the intent is to sin against marital chastity – for instance, when there is a deliberate intention to impede procreation.
        But is that the case here? Can we place the couple here on the same level as another couple who deliberately use contraception solely in order to avoid pregnancy?

        ‘Not person-to-person, but person or penis-to-pouch. That’s simply the reality of what they are doing, regardless of what they think or what think they are intending.’
        Yes, it is ‘penis-to-pouch’ – but again, can it not be admitted that there is a difference between ‘penis-to-pouch’ with the intent to avoid disease transmission and ‘penis-to-pouch’ with the intent to avoid pregnancy?

        ‘But one’s present or “proximate” intention as well as one’s “remote” intention must be morally good. Otherwise one can fall into rationalization, i.e., re-describing what we are doing in terms of its hoped-for results.’
        I’m sorry but I didn’t follow you there – what, in your opinion are the (erroneous / morally bad) “proximate” and “remote” intentions in this case?

        ‘the intention to prevent disease is not going to change the nature of the act from one that is objectively morally bad to one that is objectively morally good (“permissible”).’
        I wonder if we’re quibbling over semantics. Let’s consider the 5th Commandment. Can it be argued that the ‘objectively morally bad’ act of killing becomes “permissible” in legitimate self defense or during a ‘just war’ or when executing the death penalty (CCC 2263 – 2267, 2309)?

        Stepping back a bit, – [and here I invite you to play the ‘devil’s advocate’ 🙂 ] – is there scope for the Magisterium, by the ‘Power of the Keys’, – without compromising doctrine, of course – to ‘qualify’ your (sweeping?) remark / generalization such as “Contraception is *always* immoral when freely chosen *precisely because it is a choice to impede procreation*.”

        I mean, – once upon a time, the Church held ‘Extra ecclesiam nulla salus’. The Church still holds that, but, ‘Feeneyism’ notwithstanding, there are ‘qualifications’ / nuances (CCC 846-848).

        Similarly, is it possible for the Magisterium – again, without compromising doctrine – to ‘qualify’ Humanae Vitae (which focuses ‘on the regulation of birth’) and point to nuances (such as when the choice is *not* to impede procreation but to prevent disease)?
        I realize that we are in the speculative realm here – but I thought I should point out that unlike ‘ordination of females’ (on which the door is firmly shut), the door on contraception doesn’t appear to be as firmly shut as to merit sweeping statements such as “Contraception is *always* immoral when freely chosen *precisely because it is a choice to impede procreation*.”

  4. Wow, there’s a lot here. 🙂 And yes, at a bit of an “impasse” …

    In general, I think most of the difficulties here revolve around the problem of (the nature of) acts vs. intentions. I’m not trying to impute intentions to the condom-using couple, but saying that the very act that they are engaged in has its own nature, its own reality, its own proximate intention or “whatness” apart from what they might think they are intending. I have argued that their act is non-conjugal because it is not an act of a reproductive kind as defined by the Catholic Church (see Code of Canon Law, c. 1061.1). In a sense, for the “moral species” of an act, intention IS everything. But intentions cannot order acts that by their nature — when freely chosen (the “object” of the act) — are incapable of being ordered to the love of God and neighbor (see John Paul II, “Veritatis splendor,” nos. 77-78). One must remember that the teaching on contraception is firm. It is an intrinsic evil that is prohibited by a moral absolute. I would argue that it has been proposed infallibly by the universal and ordinary magisterium of the Church. Of course, the question of condom use to reduce the risk of disease is a more recent specific issue. And good and faithful theologians do come to different conclusions (AGAINST: William E. May, Janet E. Smith; FOR: Fr. Martin Rhonheimer).

    Note: To clarify: As I see it, to will “prevent the disease” (by using a condom), the couple also have to will “impede procreation,” since its understood that not to do so, is to will that bodily fluids would be transmitted. Even if they would welcome a child so conceived. Getting pregnant would imply that bodily fluids had in fact slipped through the condom. Thus, in willing “no bodily fluids are to be transmitted,” they inevitably will — and have to will — “no pregnancy.” Thus, two intentions, if you will. That’s how I see, objectively speaking.

    Best wishes,
    ~MSL

    • ‘the teaching on contraception is firm’

      Under ordinary (= presumes both spouses disease-free) circumstances, yes. When in #11, Humanae Vitae says ‘every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life’, it is a response to the ‘New Questions’ mentioned in # 3 of that encyclical.

      ‘I would argue that it has been proposed infallibly by the universal and ordinary magisterium of the Church.’

      Yes, when we’re talking based on the presumption mentioned above.

      But as you yourself admit: ‘Of course, the question of condom use to reduce the risk of disease is a more recent specific issue. And good and faithful theologians do come to different conclusions.’
      Implying that this is a New(er) question *on which the Magisterium has not authoritatively ruled (yet)*.

      ‘As I see it, to will “prevent the disease” (by using a condom), the couple also have to will “impede procreation,” since its understood that not to do so, is to will that bodily fluids would be transmitted.’

      Non sequitur.
      i.e., they don’t necessarily *have* to will “impede procreation”. If you look up the example I had given (chancroid), you will notice that this is characterized by sores or lesions on the genitalia, (and not necessarily in the semen per se), and further, that the bacteria which causes chancroid enters skin through microabrasions incurred during sexual intercourse. This means that the couple are open to semen being transmitted via the vagina – provided there were a way to achieve that (licitly) without the risk of microabrasions transmitting the chancroid bacteria. Unfortunately, there is no such (licit) practical way. This is where the principle of double effect comes into the picture, viz., there is a will only to “prevent the disease” but no direct will to “impede procreation”. However, the “impede procreation” bit is, at the most, an unintended consequence of using the condom.

      While abstinence is of course one way, it has not been ‘proposed infallibly by the universal and ordinary magisterium of the Church’ as the ONLY way to proceed in these sort of circumstances.

      Good luck to those who would counsel abstinence in these circumstances! (They are invited to pastorally address that ‘hot potato’ bit in Gaudium et spes # 51 which says: ‘…where the intimacy of married life is broken off, its faithfulness can sometimes be imperiled….’)

      • P.S.: Moses ‘permitted’ divorce when hardness of heart was involved (to avoid a greater evil). The Lord of course pointed to the original plan – but notably, he didn’t exactly condemn Moses. Then there is Mt. 12: 3 – 5 where ‘desecration’ and what is ‘not lawful’ are not exactly condemned. (Yes, that is in a different context – but the ‘principle of exception’ drawn out from the nuances is noteworthy.)

        Similarly, I posit that in certain cases (example: intent to prevent disease with no direct intent to impede procreation), those who ‘sit on the Chair of Moses’ could consider tolerating (as opposed to approbating) condom usage in respect of those couples who find it hard to practice abstinence, and where – as GS 51 says, – there is danger of imperiling faithfulness, if the intimacy of married life is broken off.

        That’s only an opinion proferred, and I would defer to the Magisterium to take a call on that one.

      • Well, I had forgotten your original example of the ulcers… I don’t “do” non sequitur’s! 🙂 I do think abstinence is possible — even if challenging; whether couples will actually do it is of course another matter…I’m not the magisterium (thanks God!), even though as a theologian I “participate” in it. I was/am simply giving you my moral-theologian opinion on this issue.

  5. Not sure if the post script got through – hence posting again:

    P.S.: Moses ‘permitted’ divorce when hardness of heart was involved (to avoid a greater evil). The Lord of course pointed to the original plan – but notably, he didn’t exactly condemn Moses. Then there is Mt. 12: 3 – 5 where ‘desecration’ and what is ‘not lawful’ are not exactly condemned. (Yes, that is in a different context – but the ‘principle of exception’ drawn out from the nuances is noteworthy.)

    Similarly, I posit that in certain cases (example: intent to prevent disease with no direct intent to impede procreation), those who ‘sit on the Chair of Moses’ could consider tolerating (as opposed to approbating) condom usage in respect of those couples who find it hard to practice abstinence, and where – as GS 51 says, – there is danger of imperiling faithfulness, if the intimacy of married life is broken off.

    That’s only an opinion proferred, and I would defer to the Magisterium to take a call on that one.

    • We’ll see if the magisterium takes this question up. I don’t think so – indeed, I hope it does not. But we’ll see. You never know…

      Of course, Jesus does not condemn Moses, but he doesn’t have to. His teaching on divorce is quite absolute. As you note, he goes back to the “beginning” after first noting the people’s sklerocardia…But drawing out principles of “toleration” from this case (and Mt 12: 3–5) would be quite difficult, it seems to me. Without getting into all of the theoretical stuff, I would find it hard simply on a practical level to articulate norms of conduct.

      We do agree on this, however: deferring to the magisterium to make “the call” on this one. 🙂

      God bless,
      Mark

      • “I do think abstinence is possible — even if challenging”

        Yes, of course abstinence is possible – but when, in the ‘field hospital’, one realizes that not every faithful’s faith is as small / big as a mustard seed, the question would be whether that is the only licit pastoral approach to be counseled in such circumstances. Or to be more precise, the question actually is whether a path of ‘toleration’ can, with prudence, be considered.

        “Without getting into all of the theoretical stuff, I would find it hard simply on a practical level to articulate norms of conduct.”

        🙂 Hard, but not impossible.

        “drawing out principles of “toleration” from this case (and Mt 12: 3–5) would be quite difficult, it seems to me.”

        Difficult, but, with prudent exercise of the ‘power’ of ‘the Keys’, not impossible, for those who ‘sit on the Chair of Moses’.
        Of course, there would have to be a nod to this bit from #304 of Amoris Laetitia:
        ‘It is true that general rules set forth a good which can never be disregarded or neglected, but in their formulation they cannot provide absolutely for all particular situations. *At the same time, it must be said that, precisely for that reason, what is part of a practical discernment in particular circumstances cannot be elevated to the level of a rule. That would not only lead to an intolerable casuistry, but would endanger the very values which must be preserved with special care.*’

        “We’ll see if the magisterium takes this question up. I don’t think so – indeed, I hope it does not. But we’ll see. You never know…”

        Well, we’ll leave the ‘QED’ on the shelf for now, and see who gets to say it in time. 🙂

        “We do agree on this, however: deferring to the magisterium to make “the call” on this one.”

        Yes, we certainly do agree on that one! 🙂

        For the record, it was nice “jousting” with you. 🙂
        Although we do not see eye to eye (yet!), the discussion was with parrhesia and focused – a pleasant experience indeed!

        Pax et bonum.

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