3-15-87 Sunday. The Catholic church recently issued a proclamation concerning surrogate motherhood, artificial insemination, and test-tube babies. As expected, it banned all three of these practices, calling them, among other things, “unnatural.” Years ago, the church banned contraception and abortion, but, so far as I know, many Catholics ignore these teachings. Some even get divorced, and yet consider themselves Catholics. This most recent pronouncement does not surprise me. I read a book several years ago entitled Man and Wife [Marc Oraison, Man and Wife: The Physical and Spiritual Foundations of Marriage, trans. Andre Humbert (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1958 ); I finished reading this book on 18 March 1983], and in the course of reading it I realized that two basic premises underlie all Catholic teaching on matters sexual. First, sex must be confined to the marital relationship. This means that homosexuality, adultery, and fornication are forbidden, for by definition these kinds of sex acts are between unmarried partners. Second, sex must have one purpose: procreation. Sex must never be an end in itself, nor can pleasure be its inspiration. The couple is permitted to have sex only to produce offspring. Any pleasure that they get is incidental to this purpose—a happy by-product, so to speak.
Cynic that I am, I interpret the Catholic position on sex as follows: It would be a better world, all things considered, if sex were unaccompanied by pleasure; that is, if orgasms were nonexistent. Then again, perhaps pleasure is necessary, for without it, there would be nothing to rail against, nothing to give effect to the sense of duty. Pleasure is the background against which duty makes sense. The duty is to procreate, not experience pleasure. Procreation is good, while pleasure is bad. Isn’t this crazy? One would think that a more plausible position would be this: There is a duty to procreate (for married couples only, of course), but sex may also be used as a source of pleasure. The fact that sex produces pleasure in addition to children is a goodmaking feature, not a badmaking feature. Once again, the Catholic church has taken the most implausible and indefensible position, one that is calculated to generate enormous guilt, resentment, and psychological problems. What in the world is wrong with these people?