Clearing the Heart to See the Truth

Fertile Sex For Infertile Couples? The Fallacy of Division and the Procreative Process

By C0-Blogger John-Mark Miravalle, S.T.D.

Defenders of Humanae vitae have sometimes felt forced into a bit of a tightrope walk when it comes to the connection between sex and fertility. On the one hand, the document’s principle is straightforward enough: don’t separate what belongs together. It’s the principle invoked by Christ against divorce, and it covers plenty of other cases. It illuminates why we should avoid decapitation (separation of head and body), hypocrisy (separation of declared conviction and behavior), and even the use of torture in interrogation (which tries to separate the prisoner’s speech from his considered judgment). So it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to apply the same principle to sex and fertility: don’t separate them.

The devil, as always, is in the details. When you get down to particular cases, the “No Sex Disconnected from Fertility” rule looks pretty extreme. In fact, it might seem to ban any sexual behavior that doesn’t actually terminate in a child, or at least any sexual behavior that we’re certain won’t terminate in a child. Of course, not even the Vatican wants to go that far, but then how to make sense of the rule?

The case of infertile couples is surely the favorite counter-example of those who question the consistency of traditional Catholic sexual ethics. How can homosexual, masturbatory, or contraceptive behavior be condemned for its infertility when allowances are made for heterosexual couples who know in advance that pregnancy is an impossibility?

Traditionalists usually argue that, for instance, when a man engages in sexual acts with another man he is choosing to pursue sexual fulfillment in a way that removes the potential for procreation. To which critics respond that when a man knowingly engages in sexual behavior with a woman who is post-menopause or post-hysterectomy, he is choosing to pursue sexual fulfillment in a way that removes the potential for procreation. The latter activity may look very different from sexual activity between two men, but surely they are both equally known to be incapable of resulting in a child (barring a miracle, of course, but best to leave miracles out of it, otherwise it might be claimed that God could, if He wished, ordain the impregnation of a man). The presumption is that sex between an infertile heterosexual couple is, by definition, no less infertile than that between two members of the same sex.

The standard traditionalist strategy at this stage in the discussion is to try and characterize heterosexual intercourse between infertile couples as “procreative in type,” or “oriented towards procreation” or “fulfilling the behavioral conditions required for procreation.” This is all surely true, but to my mind it already yields too much ground to the opposition. Why not simply say that sex between infertile couples is still fertile?

If we find such a claim paradoxical it must be that we have fallen victim to the fallacy of division, whereby a property belonging to the whole is ascribed indiscriminately to the parts. Such a fallacy would be at work, for instance, if one began with the fact that a week is made up of seven days, and then went on to suppose that each of the days is itself made up of seven days. Just because something’s true about the whole doesn’t mean it’s true about the parts.

To take an example more relevant to our subject: if one link in a chain is broken, then the chain as a whole will be broken; but we may not infer from this that every link in the chain is broken. By analogy, if one step in the procreative process is infertile, then the process as a whole will be infertile (i.e., it will not terminate in a child). Yet we cannot go on to declare every step in the procreative process infertile. Such a declaration would be patently and flagrantly fallacious.

Heterosexual intercourse is the first step in the sexually procreative process, in that process’ beginning, and as such it is fertile. Recall too that “fertile” as it used in common parlance means conducive to fertilization, not that fertilization has actually occurred (e.g., when we say soil is “fertile” we mean it is conducive to growing crops, not necessarily that the soil is yielding a harvest at the moment).

Certainly there are other steps in the procreative process, and if any of them are not conducive to fertilization then the whole process will fail to terminate in a child. It may be that too few sperm issue from the man, that they encounter some obstacle on their itinerary, that at journey’s end no egg awaits. Nonetheless, the infertility of a later step does not nullify the procreative potential of the first step. The act of intercourse between a man and a woman remains fertile.

It should be a source of comfort for infertile couples to reflect that the marital acts in which they engage have as much procreative potential as those of other heterosexual couples. There may be other broken links in their procreative chain, but that initial sexual link remains intact. Each still has the gift of fertility to offer the other – they have no reason to think of their physical expressions of love as “sterile.”

Sexual acts between two men or two women, by contrast, do not begin the procreative process. They are not the initial movement in a larger enterprise which may or may not succeed. They are not the first step towards anything. It needs no later impediment to prevent homosexual behaviors from culminating in new life, as they are irredeemably sterile by their own nature. The difference between homosexual acts and the heterosexual intercourse of an infertile couple could hardly be more drastic, even as regards procreative potential.

It’s also interesting, I think, to note that only when we view procreation as a multi-step process do we recognize the important moral distinction between contraceptive behaviors and masturbatory (including homosexual) behaviors, since the former still retain fertility at the initial level. Contracepting couples break a later link in the chain, and by so doing sterilize the overall procreative process, but at least they get the first step right. Sex between two men and two women involves a wrong beginning altogether. It would be a profound mistake, therefore, to frame the differences between homosexual and contraceptive behavior as consisting merely in the presence or absence of sexual complementarity. There’s a big difference as far as fertility goes too. Contracepting couples retain some profound measure of fertility, despite their sterilizing efforts; homosexual couples require no intervention to make their behaviors wholly disconnected from procreative potential.

In any case, traditionalists can keep the principle “No Sex Disconnected from Fertility” without any amendment. It will do perfectly well as a norm celebrating the physical love between infertile couples, and disallowing behaviors that sterilize either the procreative process or the sexual act itself.


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35 Responses to “Fertile Sex For Infertile Couples? The Fallacy of Division and the Procreative Process”

  1. “The standard traditionalist strategy at this stage in the discussion is to try and characterize heterosexual intercourse between infertile couples as “procreative in type,” or “oriented towards procreation” or “fulfilling the behavioral conditions required for procreation.” This is all surely true, but to my mind it already yields too much ground to the opposition. Why not simply say that sex between infertile couples is still fertile?”

    Because in order to say that infertile couples are still fertile presupposes that there are acts that are “procreative in type”. And I think it’s more clear to just say that instead of using the concept of fertility in a way that is confusing because you are using it to refer to a ‘type’ of action while many others are using it to refer to a consequence, or to a potency towards a consequence.

    Why do you think that talking about a type of action, a relation, or an orientation is giving too much ground to the opposition? To me, that is *exactly* the distinction that needs to be made.

    To say that infertile acts are still fertile isn’t different than saying that they are fertile or procreative in type, except it does so in a more ambiguous fashion.

    But I think there is some good in describing the process of fertility as a chain made up of individual links.

    We often talk about pregnancy being the end of sex, but strictly speaking the immediate end of sexual intercourse is not pregnancy, but insemination. Pregnancy might happen at a later stage, some time after insemination, but the physiological end of intercourse is insemination. That’s the individual link in the procreation chain.

    Because this end of insemination is a ‘closer’ end to intercourse than is pregnancy, I think it may have more relevance and independence on a unitive/symbolic level than the end of pregnancy.

    • I guess I’d say that in my experience, when you say that intercourse with an infertile partner is “reproductive ‘in type,’” or that it’s “fertile ‘in type,’” people tend to think you’re drawing a bogus distinction. “What do you mean?” They’ll say. “How can an act not be fertile but be ‘fertile in type’?” What I’m arguing is that it’s simpler to say that a man’s intercourse with a post-hysterectomy woman is, in itself, no less fertile than a man’s intercourse with a woman who does have a womb. It’s the same act, and so if the latter act is reproductive (i.e., initiates the reproductive process), then the former act is reproductive (i.e., initiates the reproductive process). If the latter act is fertile (i.e., conducive to fertilization), then the former act is fertile (i.e., conducive to fertilization). It’s true that one act might have the effect of reproduction or fertilization, and one might not, but an effect is by definition other than (and therefore extrinsic to) a thing’s character.

      Also, if you say that a man’s intercourse with a post-hysterectomy woman “Fulfills the behavioral conditions required for sexual procreation,” a lot of people are going to say, “No it doesn’t. If you want kids, you’re going to have to engage in sexual behavior with someone other than a woman without a womb.” So I think it’s helpful to clarify that such an act fulfills the behavioral conditions required for sexual procreation in the sense that it’s the first step in the procreative process – it gets the procreative process going. And it sounds like you agree with me in thinking that such a clarification would be helpful.

  2. Andy says:

    Sexual activity is a reward for those who have been called to the married state. It is perhaps some compensation for the lack of closeness to God they will experience in comparison to those called to the religious life. Why not leave it at that?

  3. william baker says:

    does the church forbid an elderly couple oral sex when he has ed and they have had 11 children. she finds intercourse painful due to dropped bladder. does the church forbid masturbation or oral sex to completion to them. how do they maintain their pair bond without sex?

  4. DavidM says:

    sorry to multipost, but 1 should actually be an ‘iff’ (‘if and only if’)

    • David, it’s honestly amazing to me that you won’t acknowledge the way the word “fertile” is used. It’s like you’re using your own dictionary. “Fertile” doesn’t mean “Fertilization” and it doesn’t mean “Terminating in Fertilization.” It means, let me say yet again, “conducive to fertilization.”

      Now, let’s get really, really precise: oral sex is not conducive to fertilization. One person ejaculating into another person’s mouth is not a step in the reproductive process. Neither is manual masturbation. Neither are any of the other sexual acts that two men or two women can do together. Throwing soil at soil can’t grow crops. Throwing seeds at seeds can’t grow crops.

      But guess what? Throwing seed at soil can grow crops! That’s right, it’s a fertile act! A penis depositing sperm into a vagina IS a step in the reproductive process! No one says – no one has ever said – that reproduction will definitely occur, or even that it’s likely to occur. Is that a contradiction? Nope. Something might, or maybe even almost definitely will get in the way of that process reaching fulfillment, but it doesn’t negate the fact that the first reproductive step has been successfully accomplished.

      What you’re really arguing for, David, is time travel. You want to say that if the sperm at the end of its run finds that there’s no egg, or no womb, then something goes back in time and changes the character of the sexual behavior. Which is really, really weird. Some might even say that it’s “nonsense.”

      Sowing seed on soil is a fertile act, regardless of what happens next. Intercourse between a man and a woman is a fertile act, regardless of what happens next.

      Finally, I can’t help but point out that your example of speed and slowness fails very badly. My legs may be speedy, but not my fingers (so I’m a fast runner but a slow typist). It seems that you’d rather commit fallacies all over the place than accept the simple, commonsense fact that sex is fertile iff it’s heterosexual intercourse.

  5. DavidM says:

    To clarify some basic points regarding uses of the term ‘fertile’ (excluding consideration of artificially achieved fertility):

    We have persons and acts:
    1. if (fertile man + fertile woman), then (fertile sexual act)
    2. if (infertile man or infertile woman), then (no fertile sexual act)

    …and processes and parts:
    3. if (fertile sexual act), then (possibly fertile reproductive process)
    4. if (infertile sexual act), then (no fertile reproductive process)

    And I assume you know how contraposition works.

  6. karl leinfelder says:

    From the ongoing comments and discussions I take it that elderly couples (octagenariums etc.) can morraly engage themselves in sexual intercourse even though a hysterectomy has been performed in prvious times. Under normal physiologic conditions the physical means by which she may concieve are absent. What is the teaching of the church?


    • Yeah, the teaching of the Church is that it’s morally permissible for a married couple to have intercourse, even if the woman is past child-bearing years or has had her uterus removed.

  7. DavidM says:

    “There’s that fallacy at work again.” – Really? Here’s a real example of the fallacy of division: The reproductive process as a whole is fertile; therefore each part of the process is fertile (and not just oriented towards fertility). (And the further name for your argument: pot calling kettle black.)

  8. DavidM says:

    I can see you’re quite fixated on your nonsensical position. Still, I’ll see what I can do to help. 😉

    First a simple definition, just so you won’t be confused about it again:

    nonsense – an idea that is absurd or contrary to good sense

    Now: “The “missing eggs” isn’t part of the sexual act. It’s an aspect of a DIFFERENT step in the reproductive process.” – Right, but then the term ‘fertile’ is not even applicable to the sexual act considered just in itself; it is applicable only to the reproductive process as a whole. (Unless you’re smuggling back in ‘fertile in type’-type distinctions, with which it was your stated intention to dispense.)

    “Actually, your metaphor seems to capture rather vividly what makes (particularly male) homosexual activity so bizarre: it wastes the seed on the salt flat of another man.” – Sure, but equally striking and bizarre is that you chose to ignore the point of the metaphor: if the problem is with *wasting seed on infertile ground*, then a woman who has had a hysterectomy, for example, is just as much a ‘salt flat’ as a man, and seed is just as wasted on her.

    “I have no idea what on earth this image could possibly apply to in the sexual or reproductive realm.” – Never heard of snipping the vas deferens, a.k.a. vasectomy, a.k.a. shooting blanks?

    “One part of a person can be sterile without every part of a person being sterile, just like one part of a person can be paralyzed without every part of a person being paralyzed.” – No, again you are wrong. If one part of a person is sterile, then necessarily every part of the person is sterile. Your analogy is nonsense (again). If I am speedy, then all of me must be speedy. If I’m a slowpoke, then my whole self will not be able to move quickly. Likewise, if I have one defect rendering me sterile (unable to procreate), none of the rest of me will remain fertile (able to procreate). These are terms that apply to whole organisms, not to their individual parts, just as acts are acts of persons, not of their parts.

  9. Christopher says:

    I see what you did there. Most excellent.
    Philosophically, you address the consideration of sex and the reproductive systems as an intrinsic unity- i.e., even if the requisite parts are malformed or dysfunctional, it is, nonetheless, the thing is was- as opposed to an extrinsic unity.
    This is akin to recognizes that although there is some deformation or change in a person with Down’s Syndrome, they are still a person in every sense of the thing, itself.
    The opposite of this would be a truck. We all know what a truck is. But, you have to ask the question, is the body of a truck with the engine of a v4 car, still a truck? or a Truck without an engine at all? What about the engine and mechanisms of the Truck without the body about it? How much of it is necessary to still be a truck, when is it no longer a truck?
    So, we look at the male and female anatomy and say, each of these is made for the other in the sense of considering fertility- even if some of the requisite parts are damaged, different, or missing (like the child with Down Syndrome). We don’t say, well, they are each able to do sexual things, therefore sex really exists, just different (like a truck body with no engine, or a truck engine with no body).

    Very well done.


    Both the article and many of the comments may have been truly valid only until the Virgin Mary agreed to become Our Mother. After the Annunciation, the Law of Love (God)- the New Covenant – came to us in the Person of Christ: the Laws of the Old Covenant literally became history. History vs the ever-present Person of Christ. For more, read THE VIRGIN MARY’S REVOLUTION, OR LOVE AND DO WHAT YOU WILL (St. Augustine). This book is based primarily on Pope emeritus Benedict XVI’s encyclical “God is Love,” and it reveals how Mary’s FIAT restored humanity to the spiritual kingdom of our Father. A.M.D.G., Gonzalo T. Palacios, Ph.D.,C.U.A., 1970.


      The article adheres to the Old Covenant: is this the Christian way, or should we execute the New Covenant, the Law of Love? Gonzalo T. Palacios

  11. DavidM says:

    In short: An infertile person can produce only infertile acts.

  12. DavidM says:

    If a link in a chain is broken, then the whole chain is broken. … Unless the chain was never a whole to begin with: then maybe you just end up with two short(er) chains instead of one long one. But how many links does it take to make exactly one whole chain? Two? Three? It depends what the chain is for. In any case, if you say, “my bike chain isn’t broken – only one link is broken,” then you’re talking nonsense. Likewise for the fertility of sexual acts, it seems: “this *act* isn’t infertile, only the missing-eggs part of the act (for example) is infertile” is nonsense.

    Re. your person/act distinction: It is likewise nonsense to say, “this salt flat is totally infertile, but my *act* of throwing these pumpkin seeds into this infertile field is totally fertile (despite the fact that the seeds will certainly never grow in these conditions)! – only if I, say, shot the seeds into outer space or threw them into a volcano would my act be truly infertile.” Or, “These pebbles are obviously infertile, but if I scatter them on rich, fertile soil and wait for the rain, then my *act* will be fertile.” Nonsense. By definition, an inherently sterile person can only perform infertile acts. While they are distinct, the agent (person) is *prior* to the act, just as in general cause is prior to effect, and an effect (act) cannot contain anything (e.g., fertility) beyond what the cause (person) has to give.

    • David, I get the sense you didn’t spend too much time organizing your thoughts before you posted this comment. All the same, I’ll see if I can sort out an argument from your pile of metaphors.

      “If you say ‘my bike chain isn’t broken – only one link is broken,’ then you’re talking nonsense.” I agree. That’s why, if you read the post, you’ll see that I acknowledge that one broken link in a chain makes for a broken chain. And if one step in the reproductive process is infertile, then the entire process will not culminate in a child.

      “Likewise for the fertility of sexual acts, it seems: ‘this act isn’t infertile, only the missing-eggs part of the act (for example) is infertile’ is nonsense.” But no, David. The “missing eggs” isn’t part of the sexual act. It’s an aspect of a DIFFERENT step in the reproductive process.

      “It is likewise nonsense to say, ‘this salt flat is totally infertile, but my act of throwing these pumpkin seeds into this infertile field is totally fertile (despite the fact that the seeds will certainly never grow in these conditions)!’” Actually, your metaphor seems to capture rather vividly what makes (particularly male) homosexual activity so bizarre: it wastes the seed on the salt flat of another man. It’s especially striking when one considers that the Dead Sea is thought to be the site of Sodom and Gomorrah – and anyway even in the Genesis account it’s clear that God’s punishment on the sodomites was linked to salt. The proper image for intercourse between a man and a woman is sowing seed on fertile soil – even though birds, or weeds, or a lack of rain may (and may even predictably) prevent the seed from germinating.

      “Or ‘These pebbles are obviously infertile, but if I scatter them on rich, fertile soil and wait for the rain, then my act will be fertile.’ Nonsense.” I notice you use “nonsense” the way Vizzini uses “inconceivable” in the Princess Bride. I do no think it means what you think it means. Anyway, I have no idea what on earth this image could possibly apply to in the sexual or reproductive realm.

      “By definition, an inherently sterile person can only perform infertile acts.” Nope. There’s that fallacy at work again. One part of a person can be sterile without every part of a person being sterile, just like one part of a person can be paralyzed without every part of a person being paralyzed. It’s a really bad idea in logic and in morals to overgeneralize, and that’s what you and so many other people do when you label a person “inherently infertile” without even asking yourself what that means.

  13. John D says:

    Thanks to all for this enlightening discussion. I’m a recent convert to Catholicism and would appreciate insight into an issue that’s been troubling me. My wife and I decided after the birth of our third child by C-section to have a tubal ligation performed. This was long before I converted, and my wife, was not a fully practicing Catholic at the time. Now, we have grown in our faith, realized the error of our ways and have confessed. But I worry that our succeeding sexual acts have been sinful since we know that they will not result in children. John-Mark’s article is inspiring to me as a fallen man trying to adhere to the right path. Thanks.

    • matt says:

      John – Do not worry. If you have confessed it is all clean. I have read somewhere that some in your situation have found it fruitful in their marriage to ‘fast’ from intercourse as a sacrifice; and, also in emmulation of NFP couples. Just a suggestion – by no means necessary. You have done the necessary thing. Also if you are worried about it – a spiritual advisor could help.

  14. To JDJL: “If fertility were the criterion, then the Church would have to forbid the marriage of infertile couples.”

    Look, the Church’s condemnation of homosexuality/contraception/sterilization is based largely on the fact that these behaviors disconnect sex from either the fertility of the reproductive process as a whole or from the fertility of one of the steps in the reproductive process. If a sex act is inherently infertile, then that means that it’s not able to be ordered to procreation. So yes, actually, the fertility (conductivity to procreation) of the sexual act is indeed a precondition for the morality of that action.

    The fallacy into which you too are falling involves your inability to distinguish between the infertility of the person and the infertility of the act. Those two meanings of “infertile” are not coextensive. You might have a fertile man who engages in sexual acts which are inherently infertile , as in the case of most homosexually active men. Whereas you might have an infertile man who engages in sexual acts which are inherently fertile, as would happen with a man who had a low sperm count but could still engage in intercourse with his wife.

    Again, the point is that if you don’t distinguish between the fertility of the person and the fertility of the act, you’re logically toast in the culture wars. A salt flat may be a good analogy for an infertile person, but it’s a terrible analogy for an act of intercourse between a man and a woman. For intercourse between a man and a woman, the image of rich, fertile soil – which may or may not yield a harvest – is perfectly appropriate.

    • Apples and oranges says:

      By connecting homosexuality to contraceptive sex and/or chosen sterility seems to give to much ground to the other side. The Church condemns these to be sure; however the way it condemns is different. JDJL makes a point that I didn’t see mentioned in the article(maybe you did, but it should be more obvious) : homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and contrary to the natural law. This is a more severe condemnation, bc it is a deliberate mocking of the way we were created. Furthermore, because there are not complimentary sexual organs, sex is not even possible. A married couple that chooses to contracept still gravely offend God, however the act is still a sexual act. To parse it out, one thing can change and it will be a good and holy act. In the case of homosexuals, all of it remains perverse. With that distinction in the case of the infertile couple who can actually engage in true sex, they truly please God! And they are more rightly ordered to the teaching of the Church than a couple that chooses to sterilize or contracept. God sees both couples as engaging in the sexual act, but one is pleasing to him and the other is offensive. The homosexual persons are never engaging in sex in the first place–it can only be disordered. Your thoughts….

      • No, you’re quite right that homosexual acts aren’t ONLY wrong because they’re disconnected from fertility — but that is one of the reasons the Church condemns it. The Catechism (#2357) says homosexual acts are immoral because a)”they are contrary to the natural law” b) “they close the sexual act to to the gift of life” c) “they do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.”

        My post is mostly focusing on the immorality of homosexual acts due to b) — the closing of the sexual act to the gift of life (i.e., the disconnection of a sexual act from fertility). But there are other, distinctive reasons, why homosexuality is sinful.

        And “sex” is a term that’s vague enough these days to cover just about any sexual activity. But of course you’re right in saying that two men or two women can’t make love sexually.

  15. JDJL says:

    Better to state the teaching more accurately to begin with, and avoid the problem. Masturbation and homosexual acts are condemned NOT because they are infertile, but because they are acts which by their very nature are incapable of being ordered to the procreative and unitive ends of human sexuality. When a solitary sexual act, or a sexual act between two people of the same sex, fails to produce a baby, the failure is due to the nature of the sexual act–it’s not due to the circumstances under which the act is performed. But if the sexual intercourse of a non-contracepting husband and wife fails to result in the conception of a child, the failure is due ONLY to the circumstances of the act (e.g. the time of month, the age of the man or the woman, the failure of sperm to join with egg, etc.) and NOT to the kind of act being done. Their intercourse remains in and of itself the one and only sexual act through which a child can be conceived, and through which the two sexes can be joined together in one flesh in loving union.

    If fertility were the criterion, then the Church would have to forbid the marriage of infertile couples. It does not. (It does, however, forbid the marriage of couples who are incapable of having sexual intercourse. Should such an incapacity be discovered after an attempted marriage, and be found to antedate the attempted marriage, the attempted marriage would be null and void.) The analogy of the field does not work. A field may be fertile and produce no crops because no seed has been sown, but it makes no sense to call a field fertile if it is incapable of producing crops–if, for example, it is a barren alkali plain, or a salt flat. Some men and women are infertile the way an alkali plain is infertile–perhaps as a result of surgery to remove a cancerous tumour (orchidectomy or hysterectomy). In such a case, to say their sexual union is fertile in its “first step” makes as much sense as saying a salt flat is fertile because someone has planted seeds in it.

  16. John-Mark says:

    Clement, on your first point you haven’t really argued against anything I’ve said. You’ve merely asserted. You should have addressed the fact that we talk about soil being fertile, even when crops aren’t growing out of it. Is that just “messing around with the word fertile”? I’d suggest you reread, and reread carefully, the explanation of the fallacy of division, to which you are clinging rather tightly. As to your second point, of course a homosexually inclined man (and his sperm) are fertile. That’s why the Church and natural lawyers don’t condemn homosexually oriented people or their body parts. What’s condemned is the homosexual act which is not, by any possible stretch of the word, fertile.

    For people bringing up the issue of NFP: the important point here is that no one is “breaking a link” of the procreative process. It’s morally no different for a woman to have intercourse when she’s temporarily infertile and when she’s permanently infertile, as long as she hasn’t tried to make herself infertile. The particular link (whether the egg missing, or the womb missing) is already broken, and broken independently of her or her husband’s deliberate intention. Sure they know they won’t be getting pregnant; but they aren’t doing anything to keep from getting pregnant (the way a contracepting couple or a same-sex couple are).

  17. EdReece316 says:

    Discussion on this subject is always welcome but I fear you may have presented the parts and whole section in a confusing many.

    According NFP, you can specifically pick a day that will, according to those presenting the method, never produce a child. Wouldn’t this in fact be breaking the chain of events, as you mentioned, before it even started? Adding to the confusion would be what NCR reported. A Cardinal accepted that a couple could in fact use NFP to avoid having children while at the same time still being within the Church’s teaching. I believe the Cardinal’s exact words included “loophole.” Sadly my searching skills are lacking and I cannot find the article on their site. If you can locate it please present a link so I may revisit the discussion properly.

    As you can see much discussion and prayer still remains on this matter. God Bless.

  18. Hal says:

    What about those couples who engage in intercourse during the woman’s infertile times of the month? They have deliberately acted to make sure there is a broken link in the chain, to use your metaphor. It’s tough for me to see the distinction between using the calendar to break the link and using a device or drug in terms of fertile/infertile links.

    • Trac Tully says:

      “The distinction between using the calendar to break the link and using a device or drug in terms of fertile/infertile links” is this: using the “calendar”, ie, Natural Family Planning, works WITH God’s design for female fertility while a “device or drug” thwarts/overrides God’s design for female fertility.

    • Henry Bowers says:

      Hal, I agree that NFP can be used contraceptively, and that it’s not so much about thwarting design (which would make it an odd sin for unmarried fornicators to care about) as much as it is about the deliberate attempt to impede the coming-to-be of new human life, which is always an unreasonable act. NFP is uprightly practiced only when used to sustain other goods and responsibilities; there is a difference between not-trying for a child (NFP), and trying-against a child (contraception, or NFP wickedly performed). This is consistent with Humanae Vitae’s insistence that contraception’s wrongness (even for the unmarried) is due to its “playing God” (paragraph 13), and some philosophers see this wrongness as supervening on contraception’s contra-life will.

  19. Rae says:

    Just a thought…the Bible has several stories of barren/old women that God blessed with a child (Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth, etc). Isaac, Samuel & John the Baptist were technically the fruit of “infertile” sex. God can do miracles if we believe and honor Him.

    • bill bannon says:

      Those miracles were meant to get the Jews ready for a greater miracle i.e. a virgin giving birth. They cease after that happens unless you know of a proven post menopausal birth since then.

      • Xavier Abraham says:

        “She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away.” (1 Samuel 2/5). Hundreds of infertile couples are being blessed by God through prayers and fasting. Only few weeks back, I heard the miraculous story of a Sikh couple being blessed with a child. They trusted in prayers and fasting, even when doctors said the mother does not have any eggs left (Eggs got exhausted due to “fertility” treatments !).

        • bill bannon says:

          Post menopausal miracles of biblical couples are different from contemporary infertility problems of premenopausal couples. Sarah in Genesis 18:20 was post menopausal: Young’s Literal…” and Abraham and Sarah are aged, entering into days — the way of women hath ceased to be to Sarah…”. Elizabeth too in Luke 1:7 Douay Rheims…”
          And they had no son, for that Elizabeth was barren, and they both were well advanced in years.”. Hannah whom Rae also mentions was premenopausal….the other two were post menopausal. St. Ambrose was against the elderly marrying but the Church disagrees.

  20. Clement says:

    1. It is inconsistent, though, to condemn contraceptive and homosexual behavior on the basis of it being infertile while approving of sexual activity between infertile couples: Infertile couples are precisely infertile! I understand the necessity to work out the distinctions, and I think good effort was done here. But ultimately, the distinctions do not make a difference. Saying infertile couples still engage in an overall fertile act is messing around with the word fertile. You use “fertile” to mean that there is a potential–with the first step of the sexual act–which ultimately orders the act to its procreative purpose. Even so, such an elaboration seems to neglect the focus here: A couple engages in a sexual act which is known beforehand not to be fertile.
    2. The whole breakdown of the sexual act into various steps that leads to the thinking “well, this part of the sexual act is infertile, but that doesn’t mean all of it is infertile” is both arbitrary and pointless. First of all, the breakdown is arbitrary: There can be many steps in the sexual act–more or less than you might write up. Also, could not a homosexual person be said to be in a certain sense “fertile?” If he were male, he would have the sperm “ordered to procreation”–just like the man in the case of the infertile couple. In both instances, a new creation is definitely not expected, but each man is “fertile” because of the relation to procreation. This illustration is just to show the arbitrary way of classifying the steps; in addition, saying the homosexual relationship is in NO way ordered to procreation can be seen to be false.
    More importantly, the breakdown is pointless, for what makes the act of the infertile couple infertile is the same as that of the homosexual couple: The sexual act brings no new human into existence. The arbitrary classification of steps does not erase the fact of end of the infertile couple’s sexual activity, which is no new creation.

    • Henry Bowers says:

      Arbitrary classification of steps? As if anyone would smoke cigarettes first and eat strawberries and oysters afterward.

    • Stephanie says:

      Wow! I see logic and reasoning go right over your head.

      There is a huge difference in order between heterosexual intercourse and homosexual acts. Two men or two women will never be able to produce a child together. Their bodies are not complementary, nor is their brain chemistry (men and women are wired differently). Gay men are forced to do unnatural acts that have been known to cause cancers and intestinal bacterial infections (this is an open secret in the gay community, even though it’s not something they talk about with the public). Lesbians use fake parts to complete their acts. This is because there is no complementarity and their sexual acts are ordered toward self-pleasure as opposed to mutual pleasure and self-giving. Yes, they do care about each other and experience the emotional high that our culture calls “falling in love” but it is not the same thing and never will be the same as a heterosexual relationship.

      Also, couples who were thought to be infertile have conceived children, and it would be unjust to require fertility tests to allow marriage. Fertility can change as technology advances and the tests would add extra medical and legal expenses. It is also very invasive for the government to know such things.

      There is also such a thing as NFP. Sex acts will not create life when done during a woman’s infertile period. But that doesn’t mean that the acts are not *ordered toward* procreation and self-giving.


  1. Pro-Life or Just Anti-Death? | Soul Device - […] or there is no procreative possibility (e.g., homosexuality, besitialty, pedophilia). [Note: an infertile couple is not a legitimate counter-example.] Thus, natural…

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