The same-sex 'marriage,' contraception connection

Matt C. Abbott
April 23, 2013 © Matt C. Abbott
Reproduced with Permission

The following article, written by Father Brian W. Harrison, appears in the current issue of The Remnant Catholic newspaper. Click here for the publication's website. Thanks to Remnant editor Michael J. Matt for allowing me to reprint Father Harrison's article.

Contraception Leads Logically to Same-Sex 'Marriage'

By Father Brian W. Harrison, O.S., M.A., S.T.D.

It has taken less than a century for the Anglicans' chickens to come home to roost.

We have recently heard the news that the Episcopalian Church, as of 2013, will be carrying out ceremonies for same-sex "marriages," which were recently established legally in the District of Columbia. And this will take place in Washington's National Cathedral, no less - a prestigious symbol of American civil religion. But if human attitudes, behavior and legislation changed in as short a time as it takes to deduce on paper a logical conclusion from its premises, this might well have happened a long time ago: in 1930, to be precise.

That's when the Lambeth Conference - the nearest thing the world-wide Anglican Communion has to an ecumenical council - gave its approval to some instances of conjugal contraception. In doing so, it became the first significant religious body in Western civilization to contradict three thousand years of Judeo-Christian teaching, dating back to the Book of Genesis, that it is gravely immoral to deliberately deprive one's genital acts of their God-given procreative power. (For a rebuttal of the currently fashionable claim that the Bible does not condemn contraception as such, see my article "The Sin of Onan Revisited" at

This logical connection between the 1930 and 2013 decisions is worth explaining a little more fully. In fact, it has had a profound impact on my own life. Right at the chronological mid-point between those two dates, in 1971-1972, the debates then raging over both contraception and homosexuality became a key factor in my own conversion to the Catholic faith. The prominence of those debates in the media and the wider culture at that time was to a large extent fallout from Humanae Vitae (1968) and the new "gay liberation" movement that had been rapidly gathering force since the Stonewall confrontation of 1969.

I reached adulthood in the mid-sixties, when The Pill was making a lot of news. Like most folks of that era brought up as non-Catholics (I was a practicing Presbyterian), I could see nothing much wrong with contraception, and considered opposition to it on moral grounds as being just one more of those strange Roman Catholic ideas I had been taught to regard as irrational and unbiblical. (Or perhaps not so irrational, in this case. For wise mentors would tell me knowingly that of course "RC" opposition to contraceptives was basically an instance of astute priestcraft: the hierarchy wanted to see "lots of little Catholics" in order to promote by stealth the Church's ultimate goal of reconquering the West. You know: demography as warfare by other means.)

What prompted me to radically rethink my laissez-faire approach to contraception was precisely the kind of argumentation then being employed by the militant homosexuals. This was a time when the average person in our society, religious or otherwise, still retained enough culturally inherited sense of the philosophia perennis to recognize that human nature grounds and imposes certainly rationally recognizable norms of morally upright behavior. So the great majority of people forty years ago disapproved of homosexual acts; and, if asked why, most would have responded that such acts were clearly "against nature," or "unnatural."

But the gay militants were challenging this position with a highly effective ad hominem retort. It held good for just about all Westerners except Pope Paul VI and his orthodox Catholic followers. "Hey, you folks can't trot out that argument against our lifestyle! What's the big deal about something being 'unnatural'? Using condoms, diaphragms and pills to block conception isn't 'natural' sex either! But you already stopped calling these things immoral at least a generation ago; and now contraceptives even have the U.S. Supreme Court's stamp of approval since it struck down the Victorian-era Comstock Laws that prohibited their sale and distribution."


Little by little, Western public opinion, and with it cultural and legislative norms, have been catching up with the laws of logic. The two horns of the dilemma required that something had to give here: If acceptance of contraception implied acceptance of sodomy, then it was a case of either "So much the worse for contraceptives," or "So much the worse for the whole traditional Christian concept of chastity." I chose the former alternative, reasoning that any ethical judgment which logically flashed a green-light go-ahead signal for practices so grossly and obviously impure as oral and anal sex just had to be wrong.

St. Thomas Aquinas alludes to such practices as "monstrous and bestial forms of copulation" (Summa Theologiae, IIa IIae, Q. 154, art. 11). Indeed, in his wisdom, Aquinas here groups together all those types of act "from which generation cannot follow" as different varieties of "the sin against nature." That is, he sees them all as belonging to the same "family," so to speak, of unnatural mortal sins, even though they differ in gravity. (For St. Thomas, masturbation is the least objectionable and bestiality the worst of all.)

I came to realize that if we approve any one of these intrinsically sterile types of sexual act, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to find any conclusive argument for completely ruling out any of the others. This realization - that the indignant critics of Humanae Vitae were, consciously or unconsciously, pulling the plug on the whole Christian ethic of purity and chastity - in turn expedited my entry into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil Mass of 1972.

The Anglican Communion, at Lambeth four decades earlier, had already implicitly opted for the second horn of the above dilemma: "So much the worse for the whole traditional Christian concept of chastity." So its new decision in 2013 to "go with the flow" and start blessing same-sex "marriages" can be seen as an explicit, harmonious and consistent working out of the revolutionary principle it had already endorsed in 1930, to wit, that the intrinsic sterility of a given type of genital act does not necessarily render it immoral.

We can see at work here a kind of perverse parallel to what in Catholic theology has been known since Blessed J. H. Newman's time as "the development of doctrine." Fortunately, the intrinsic and grave immorality of all such sterile genital acts has long been set in stone by the Catholic Church: this is a clear instance of the infallibility of her ordinary and universal magisterium (cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, #25). The current furious attacks on her "homophobia" will no doubt continue, and seduce even many within the Church's own ranks. But ultimately the assailants will realize that trying to batter down the Rock of Peter is a fruitless exercise.