Acts in (Reeses) Pieces

December 12, 2007 § 104 Comments

One of the consistent objections to the understanding I’ve articulated in the series of posts here, here, here, and most recently here is that the earlier act of getting a vasectomy, as preparation for a contracepted act of intercourse, is seen as utterly distinct from the actual sexual behavior which is later chosen. The idea seems to be that if you prepare for a wicked act and later wish that you hadn’t, actually performing the wicked act isn’t wicked — because you really, truly, genuinely wish it wasn’t.

I don’t think that works. Suppose I prepare to have someone murdered. I set the whole thing up with nanomachines in my victim’s body and corresponding nanomachines in mine. At any time in the future when I eat chocolate, my victim will be killed by the nanos in his body. The implantation of the nanos is irreversible.

Now suppose I go to Confession and repent. Am I now morally licensed to go eat a chocolate bar? After all, I genuinely regret and repent of what I did. Eating a chocolate bar is not in itself immoral, and the implanting of the nanos was something I did in the past, prior to Confession, and for which I have repented: I genuinely do regret it.

Nevertheless it is obvious that consummating the wicked act for which I prepared is immoral: it is impossible for me to choose that behavior without acting wickedly with a disordered will.

As a general matter, acts and preparations for acts take place over a period of time. Consummating an act of murder is (I hope) clearly morally wrong independent of whether one wishes one had not prepared for it and really likes chocolate: a person may claim that his interior “fundamental option” is oriented toward God in the act which consummates the murder, but in fact it is literally impossible for this to obtain. In reality the choice of behavior is intrinsically incompatible with a fundamental option oriented toward God.

And at least in principle the same thing may obtain in the case of consummating a vasectomy with a sterile act of intercourse. In fact if contracepted sex acts are intrinscially immoral, then it must obtain.

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§ 104 Responses to Acts in (Reeses) Pieces

  • M.Z. Forrest says:

    I believe this is what happens when affection becomes intent. This has become ingrained due to non-judgementalism, i.e. you can never really know someone’s intent. One’s affection for a particular intention may change over time, but the intended effect remains the same.The one difference between the marital act and other acts is that there is an obligation to perform it. One may choose not to peform the marital act even indefinitely for just reasons. Are the rights of the spouse who chose not to contracept respected when the one who chose sterilization refuses?

  • Paul says:

    The difference between the two cases you present is <>choice<>. In the case of eating chocolate, I can choose between the two acts of eating or not eating the chocolate; so it ia a moral decision, and I am morally responsible for all the effects of that action. In the case of sex after a vasectomy, one can no longer choose between a non-contraceptive and a contraceptive act of sex. Without choice, it cannot be a moral decision. (Your choice of wording hides this: <>“it is a sin to perform a contraceptive act of sex”<> means that is it a sin to choose a contraceptive act of sex over a non-contraceptive one.)

  • zippy says:

    <>In the case of eating chocolate, I can choose between the two acts of eating or not eating the chocolate;…<>You can’t choose not to perform a sexual act?

  • zippy says:

    <>Are the rights of the spouse who chose not to contracept respected when the one who chose sterilization refuses?<>It is possible for a self-destructive or narcissistic spouse to do unspeakable violence to the other spouse; to ruin their lives through a selfish or even merely imprudent act. Thus the importance of choosing a spouse wisely. But in this case, if it is a mortal sin for the self-sterilized spouse to engage in sex then it seems like it would also be sinful for the innocent spouse to insist.

  • William Luse says:

    <>In the case of sex after a vasectomy, one can no longer choose between a non-contraceptive and a contraceptive act of sex.<>Just another form of the apparently inexhaustible intention argument: my heart’s in the right place; therefore, what I’m doing is not really what I’m doing.

  • Paul says:

    > <>“You can’t choose not to perform a sexual act?”<>The choice to perform a sexual act is <>not<> what is at issue. What is at issue is the choice to perform a contraceptive act.The relevant question is: At what time did the person choose for the sexual act to be contraceptive? Having found that time, the point of moral choice has been found. In the case of someone having a vasectomy, the point in time is when they chose to have the vasectomy.The chocolate analogy doesn’t work because the death of the other person is a direct result of eating the chocolate (one event leads by cause and effect to another event). But contraception is not a resultant effect of a sexual act — it’s a <>different act<>.For example: a vasectomy is not the result of a sexual act — it even happens before it. And further: could someone sin contraceptively even without engaging in a sexual act? Certainly, because they might, for example, be thinking of a future marriage, and be thoroughly glad that the operation is non-reversible, and hope that it never becomes reversible.The sexual act and the contraceptive act are separate acts, and not linked (a la chocolate) by cause and effect.I don’t understand Mr Luse’s comment.

  • William Luse says:

    I was referring to the previous several threads in which the disputants invented multiple scenarious all amounting to the same thing: Once upon a time I had a vasectomy. I wish now that I hadn’t. I wish it could be reversed. I wish all my acts of intercourse were fruitful.And based on this new disposition of my soul (intention), I should be let off the hook. I have repented and should be allowed to start over. I am not <>choosing<> to engage in a contracepted sex act (except that I am).The nature of the intervention I chose to achieve sterility was most unfortunate. Of some wounds we may not be able to say that time heals them all.As to your attempt to separate sex and contraception, I’ll let Zippy answer since it’s his thread and I’m pressed for time.

  • William Luse says:

    That should be “scenarios” in the second line.

  • zippy says:

    <>What is at issue is the choice to perform a contraceptive act.<>Right, which is the only option for sexual behavior which the self-sterilizer has left himself, much as the only chocolate-eating option which the other fellow left himself was murderous chocolate eating.<>…could someone sin contraceptively even without engaging in a sexual act?<>Sure. Intending to engage in a future contemplated intrinsically evil act is formal cooperation with evil. There isn’t anything per se wrong with taking hormone pills, for example. But taking them as formal cooperation with a contemplated future act of contracepted sex is immoral. Formal cooperation with intrinsically evil acts is just as evil as actually performing them.As for the attempt to separate contraception morally from sexual behavior, setting it apart as its own discrete act completely independent of sexual behaviors, I’ve already said my bit on that and unless I missed it nobody has said anything which undermines my understanding of contraception as an unnatural, disordered sex act.

  • Paul says:

    [Luse]: <>Of some wounds we may not be able to say that time heals them all.<>Certainly. And this discussion is about whether (e.g.) sex after a vasectomy is one of these or not. I don’t think Zippy is close to showing that it is unhealable in the sense he claims.

  • Paul says:

    [Paul] <>What is at issue is the choice to perform a contraceptive act.<>[Zippy] <>Right, which is the only option for sexual behavior which the self-sterilizer has left himself [..]<>Whether that is true, or in what sense it is true, is precisely the issue in question — so asserting an answer doesn’t help.[Paul] <>…could someone sin contraceptively even without engaging in a sexual act?<>[Zippy] <>Sure. Intending to engage in a future contemplated intrinsically evil act is formal cooperation with evil.<>A simple example would be buying condoms with the intent to use them to prevent contraception in a sexual act. The act of buying them for that purpose is already, by itself, intrinsically evil. (Appealing to “formal cooperation” wouldn’t be necessary here, since the actions of only one person are being considered. Purpose or intent are all that is needed.)[Zippy] <>There isn’t anything per se wrong with taking hormone pills, for example. But taking them as formal cooperation with a contemplated future act of contracepted sex is immoral. Formal cooperation with intrinsically evil acts is just as evil as actually performing them.<>Again, the appeal to “formal cooperation” isn’t needed. The intent or purpose described in Humanae Vitae 14 is all that is needed.[Zippy] <>As for the attempt to separate contraception morally from sexual behavior, setting it apart as its own discrete act completely independent of sexual behaviors [..]<>That’s exactly what Humanae Vitae does: it separates the contraceptive act from the sexual act, and defines the contraceptive act as the act that is intrinsically evil.HV.14: <>“any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation — whether as an end or as a means.”<><>That<> morally separates the contraceptive act from the sexual act.[Zippy] <>“I’ve already said my bit on that and unless I missed it nobody has said anything which undermines my understanding of contraception as an unnatural, disordered sex act.”<>But since Humanae Vitae has a moral understanding of contraception and sex that doesn’t necessarily have the two occurring together, why attempt to bring them back together in a single definition? It can only lead to trouble in understanding HV. (For example, a doctor prescribing the pill may be just as guilty of the evil of a contraceptive act, though he has no intention of performing any sex act.)

  • zippy says:

    <>A simple example would be buying condoms with the intent to use them to prevent contraception [sic] in a sexual act. The act of buying them for that purpose is already, by itself, intrinsically evil.<>Frankly, you don’t appear to grasp the basic concepts in play here. If I buy condoms to run tests on them to prove how unreliable they are in blocking the HIV virus, I haven’t done anything evil. Purchasing a condom is not an <>intrinsically<> evil act – a chosen behavior which is evil no matter why I do it. If it isn’t evil when I do it for one purpose, but it is evil if I do it for a different purpose, then “it” cannot be an intrinsically evil behavior.If I buy condoms with the purpose of using them later in unnatural disordered sexual acts then buying them is formal cooperation with evil though.You need to get a grasp of what it means for an act to be intrinsically evil, and also of what formal cooperation with evil means, before you are going to be able to follow any of this discussion.Formal cooperation with evil means intending some evil act or result.An intrinsically evil act is an act which is evil as a chosen behavior (evil in its object), <>independent<> of intentions, circumstances, or consequences. This is the moral theology of Veritatis Splendour. There are many possible interpretations of Humanae Vitae taken in itself, but it is necessary to understand HV under the moral theology of intrinsically immoral acts expressed in VS.<>But since Humanae Vitae has a moral understanding of contraception and sex that doesn’t necessarily have the two occurring together, …<>Every finite text which says anything interesting can at least in theory be interpreted in multiple different ways. My understanding doesn’t entail every aspect of an act occuring simultaneously either though. (Check out the title of the post: the “in pieces” bit expresses exactly this point). My understanding of the particular point is the combination of my understandings of the teachings in both encyclicals. You won’t be able to properly follow the argument until you appreciate the fact that it is an intepretation of HV and other documents (e.g. the <>Vademicum for Confessors<>) under the interpretive framework of VS.It also happens to be right as a matter of reason independent of these things, as far as I am concerned, though it is much more difficult to show this without any appeals to authority on particular points.Moral evil, even done ignorantly, always involves harming ourselves in some way. It is important to understand these things not in order to be hardliners or whatever, but so that we understand how to avoid harming ourselves; and if we’ve already harmed ourselves, how to avoid harming ourselves even more. We need to learn how to avoid getting ourselves into moral prisons, and also how to avoid making things worse when we have gotten ourselves into one.

  • Paul says:

    Zippy,First things first: If an act is intrinsically evil (i.e. always and per se evil), then any desire for that act <>must<> also be an evil desire, and any plan to perform that act <>must<> also be an evil plan. Hence it follows that a desire for, or a plan to carry out, an intrinsic evil must itself also be an intrinsic evil.Which is why I said (minus a typo anyway!) that “buying condoms with the intent to use them to prevent conception in a sexual act” is an intrinsic evil.Now you seem to vehemently disagree with this, but I cannot figure out why. So, why?

  • William Luse says:

    Now I begin to fear he can’t read. Zippy’s not disagreeing with <>that<> (except for the use of ‘intrinsic’, which he plainly explained). He’s disagreeing with your contention that the intrinsic evil lies in buying a condom for contraceptive purposes and not in the sex act which fulfills that purpose.It’s really basic Catholic moral theology (further laid out at painful length in VS) that acts which are essentially good (sex between husband and wife) can be corrupted by either the intentions or the circumstances involved. In the case of our sterilized man, his intention has been rectified, but the circumstances have not. He can no longer choose, as the moral object of his act, to engage in an act of sex which fulfills both requirements of marital intercourse, the unitive and the procreative, which two elements are, saith Humanae Vitae, <>never<> to be separated:<>This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the <>inseparable connection<>, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.<>From the Vademecum mentioned by Zippy: “The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of <>every marital act<> intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable.”While we’re cherry-picking HV, it also says that “Equally to be rejected is every act which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, <>or in its accomplishment<>, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, either as end or as means, to impede procreation.”You’re wilfull misreading of that document would have us believe that the man practicing <>coitus interruptus<> was doing just fine until he decided to pull out. It’s absurd.

  • anonymouse says:

    Zippy, it seems to me that if the words <> every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful <> are to be taken simply as such, then these words cover the case of the man rendered unfruitful against his will by someone else. That is, this man is <> equally <> barred from sex morally because his act was rendered unfruitful by intention. of course, it wasn’t HIS intention. Naturally, I think (and I suspect you agree with me, though I will not speak for you) that the wrds must be taken with an assumed context: “of his own intention made unfruitful.” But you must admit, once you admit a qualifier to add to what was expressed explicitly, there may be MORE such qualifiers. Isn’t it possible that in addition to the qualifier that it must be his intention, there might also be an intended qualifier that this intention is one which is present to or operative at the time of the sexual act? I know you don’t think so, but is it <> possible <>? Is it possible that you are applying the words a little more literally than they are menat to apply?

  • zippy says:

    Anon: I’ve stipulated that <>any<> string of words can have multiple interpretations. My understanding here doesn’t rest on unstated qualifiers in terse formal definitions. I’m not a positivist, so I don’t think terse formal definitions are useful that way: terse formal definitions in moral theology can <>always<> be interpreted in a multiplicity of ways. My overall understanding, again, rests on the simple stipulated fact that contraception is intrinsically immoral combined with my understanding of the moral theology of intrinsically immoral acts as <>kinds of chosen behavior independent of why those behaviors are chosen<> from VS. (The rest – wordings of various definitions etc. – is merely argumentative: people argue that way because sadly, after hundreds of years of Protestant proof-texting and Catholic imitation of same, that is just what people do).I could be wrong, of course, but so far I haven’t encountered a criticism that really addresses <>why<> I think what I think about this subject.

  • zippy says:

    Maybe this will help clarify, Mouse, since I think your comment at least shows where I perhaps haven’t communicated my understanding as well as it can be communicated.Intrinsically evil acts are chosen behaviors which are immoral in themselves, no matter why those behaviors are chosen, how the person feels about their orientation toward God, etc.When a person attacks the fertility of his own sexual acts he contracepts. There are two behavioral components here which are potentially dislocated from each other in time: the attack on fertility and the modified sexual act. The latter consummates the former <>as a behavior<>: again, why ther person does it or how he feels about doing it are irrelevant: it only matters that he is <>choosing it as a behavior<>. A person may have engaged in the attack-on-fertility behavior and not yet engaged in the modified sexual act. Once the chosen attack on fertility is a “done deal”, the only way for the person to avoid choosing consummated contraceptive <>behavior<> is to avoid choosing sexual acts entirely until his freely chosen attack on fertility has been mooted by other causes. So a woman on the Pill has to wait; a man who put on a condom has to remove it; a woman with an IUD implanted must have it removed; a man who has had a vasectomy must have it reversed, if that is even possible. Otherwise, the person’s <>chosen behavior<> is contraceptive in nature and thus immoral.All the appeals to temporal dislocation, intentions, repentance (that is, re-alignment of the “fundamental option” toward God), etc don’t change the <>chosen behavior<>; and if an act is intrinsically evil it is evil as a <>chosen behavior<>, independent of all of those other things. If we haven’t changed the <>behavior being chosen<> we haven’t changed the act itself, and if the act itself was evil under one intention it remains evil under any other intention.

  • Anonymous says:

    <>One of the consistent objections to the understanding I’ve articulated in the series of posts here, here, here, and most recently here is that the earlier act of getting a vasectomy, as preparation for a contracepted act of intercourse, is seen as utterly distinct from the actual sexual behavior which is later chosen. The idea seems to be that if you prepare for a wicked act and later wish that you hadn’t, actually performing the wicked act isn’t wicked — because you really, truly, genuinely wish it wasn’t. <>Zippy,That’s a straw man —The fact of the matter is that under the circumstances originally discussed:1. The man committed the vasectomy2. He goes to confession and repentsGiven the latter, why would future acts such as subsequent sexual intercourse with his wife become sinful?1. He is not deliberately (this being the very point you seem to keep neglecting) committing a contraceptive act in those subsequent instances.You even stated previously:We are always accountable for the consequences of our deliberate and free actsWhich I agree —But, remember the word DELIBERATE — which is NOT the case here.The fact that this man became sterile is a consequence of a past sin, which he is already sorry for, confessed and, accordingly, has repented.2. Because of the nature of a vasectomy being virtually irreversible (as the undoing of which would be gravely dangerous to the life of the subject); his sterile state is actually a side-effect of a past sin and not the DELIBERATE act you seem to keep mistaking it as at the time of the actual subsequent acts of intercourse with his wife.– Aristocles

  • zippy says:

    <>< HREF="http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19751229_persona-humana_en.html" REL="nofollow">In this regard the Council declares<> that the moral goodness of the acts proper to conjugal life, acts which are ordered according to true human dignity, “does not depend solely on sincere intentions or on an evaluation of motives. <>It must be determined by objective standards.<> These, based on the nature of the human person and his acts, preserve the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love.<>[…]<>In reality, it is precisely the fundamental option which in the last resort defines a person’s moral disposition. <>But it can be completely changed by particular acts, especially when, as often happens, these have been prepared for by previous more superficial acts. Whatever the case, it is wrong to say that particular acts are not enough to constitute mortal sin.<><>

  • Anonymous says:

    I think what Zippy is saying is very clear. It appears that some want to argue that contraception independent of the sexual act is intrinsically evil, as if simply putting a condom on without having sex is intrinsically evil. Simply putting a piece of latex on is not immoral. What is immoral is using the latex during a sexual act. The argument that buying a condom or putting a condom on is intrinsically evil seems as confused as the argument that purchasing a gun is intrinsically evil. Using a gun to murder someone is intrinsically evil, but simply using a gun is not. Now instead of a vasectomy, imagine that a man has a permanent condom. If later he repents, he is not repenting for putting the condom on, but for using the condom during sex. If he repents for such an act and he has not removed the condom, then he still cannot have sex as long as he has the condom on. If he did, he would be repeating exactly the same act he claimed to have repented for.

  • Paul says:

    Luse: <>[Zippy’s] disagreeing with your contention that the intrinsic evil lies in buying a condom for contraceptive purposes and not in the sex act which fulfills that purpose.<>Indeed, I did say that buying a condom for contraceptive purposes was an intrinsic evil. I stick with that, since it follows from VS as a matter of logic. But I did not say that it was *the* intrinsic evil; nor did I say that a further intrinsic evil would not take place during a subsequent sex act.Zippy claimed that the act of buying the condoms for contraceptive purposes was formal cooperation with evil. I am saying that it is intrinsic evil.Luse: <>[..]In the case of our sterilized man, his intention has been rectified, but the circumstances have not. He can no longer choose, as the moral object of his act, to engage in an act of sex which fulfills both requirements of marital intercourse, the unitive and the procreative, which two elements are, saith Humanae Vitae, never to be separated:<>Choosing to make sex non-procreative is indeed against HV. Once sterilized, however, that choice is gone.HV: <>This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.<>And the act of sterilization was such an act that broke that connection. Once sterilized, one can no longer choose to break what is already broken.Luse: <>From the Vademecum mentioned by Zippy: “The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable.”<>The teaching of VS is that it is sinful to <>directly intend<> such an act. Though the circumstances, goals, and purposes behind an intrinsically evil act do not change its moral character, intention is <>not<> entirely irrelevant (as VS says, but apparently contra Zippy).Consider these related issues:Q. Is it forbidden to directly intend the death of an innocent?A. Yes, necessarily, always.Q. Is it forbidden to carry out an act, if an innocent will die as a result of it?A. Not necessarily; more details would have to be given.Q. Is it forbidden to directly intend that sex will be non-procreative?A. Yes, necessarily, always.Q. Is it forbidden to carry out an act, if non-procreative sex will occur?A. Not necessarily; more details would have to be given.It’s this last answer that I guess Zippy would disagree with.

  • zippy says:

    <>…intention is not entirely irrelevant (as VS says, but apparently contra Zippy).<>Intention is irrelevant in the sense that a good intention cannot make an evil chosen behavior into a good chosen behavior. So intention is irrelevant, not in general, but in precisely the place where you are invoking it.<>It’s this last answer that I guess Zippy would disagree with.<>You would guess that because you don’t understand my argument.

  • Anonymous says:

    This is another straw man:<>…as if simply putting a condom on without having sex is intrinsically evil.<>As for this:<>Now instead of a vasectomy, imagine that a man has a permanent condom. If later he repents, he is not repenting for putting the condom on, but for using the condom during sex. If he repents for such an act and he has not removed the condom, then he still cannot have sex as long as he has the condom on. If he did, he would be repeating exactly the same act he claimed to have repented for<>Anon,You are completely missing the point —Let’s say a woman has an abortion.She goes to confession for it and accordingly repents.However, because of the abortion, she has severely done damage to her reproductive organs to the extent that when she has sex and conceives; the end result time and again is a miscarriage.Now, would she then be guilty of all these <>abortions<> that have resulted (i.e., all the miscarriages that subsequently happens) due to that one abortion (for which she has confessed already and repented for)?

  • zippy says:

    It is really apples and oranges: the original abortion was a direct attack on a particular existant child, not an attack on the fertility of (one or more) sexual acts. The damage to her reproductive organs was accidental.I am certainly willing to consider an argument that she should refrain from sex. There might well be a prudential one, though not one resting (as mine does) on the avoidance of intrinsically evil acts.If we change it slightly such that she had modified her uterus to abort any child within the first few weeks of pregnancy it seems that she would be in the same boat – actually a worse one in terms of <>gravity<>, though the same boat <>categorically<>, that is, impeded from engaging in sexual relations – as our self-sterilized person.

  • Anonymous says:

    If using a condom during a sex act is intrinsically wrong then as long as you have that condom on it is wrong to have sex. Repenting for a previous act does not make the same act in the future permissible. I think of a vasectomy as a condom that never comes off.I was trying to apply Zippy’s statement:“One possible interpretation is that contraception is an act utterly distinct from a sexual act. (I’m not entirely convinced that this is even coherent, but it is one line that gets taken). The idea here seems to be that contraception is something utterly distinct, and intrinsically immoral as a distinct act, but with no connection to the sex act itself: the contracepted sex act itself is not immoral.”Now considering this may not even be coherent as he noted, I can only imagine what this means. What I gather from it is that using a condom independent of a sex act is intrinsically immoral. I am not sure how you can seperate condom usage from the sex act.

  • Paul says:

    [Zippy]: <>You would guess that because you don’t understand my argument.<>Putting aside the arguments, there is the point that the Catholic Church simply doesn’t teach that sex after a vasectomy is necessarily a sin.If you conclude by some line of reasoning that it should, then at some point in that line of reasoning you have made a mistake.I’m guessing, based on similar prior experiences with other people, that the misalignment comes about because you are interpreting words in a way that (e.g.) VS does not intend. Usually this is because of the word ‘intention’, or related words. (VS is careful about its choice of words, trying to make it clear exact what form of intention it is talking about.)On looking at a large number of comments on your position, I have found that, very often, someone makes an apparently strong point against your position — so that, I am almost literally on the edge of my seat, thinking “Ah, when Zippy replies to <>that<> I will finally be able to decide where his reasoning is right or wrong!” — your response doesn’t address the issue head-on but rather just reiterates your position.

  • zippy says:

    <>Putting aside the arguments, there is the point that the Catholic Church simply doesn’t teach that sex after a vasectomy is necessarily a sin.If you conclude by some line of reasoning that it should, then at some point in that line of reasoning you have made a mistake.<>This has already been dealt with in the discussion. Anscombe pointed out that the Holy See has condemned the argument from the silence of the Holy See. “X has not been specifically declared to be immoral” doesn’t mean “X is morally licensed”.As for the rest, simply asserting that I haven’t addressed some unspecified potent counterargument is gratuitous.

  • Paul says:

    Zippy: <>This [that the Catholic Church simply doesn’t teach that sex after a vasectomy is necessarily a sin] has already been dealt with in the discussion.<>It’s been “dealt with”, but not in convincing way. Since vasectomies have been around for over a hundred years, there has been ample opportunity for some kind of practical teaching to emerge — whether or not accompanied by an authoritative written teaching. But there has been essentially nothing.Zippy: <>Anscombe pointed out that the Holy See has condemned the argument from the silence of the Holy See. “X has not been specifically declared to be immoral” doesn’t mean “X is morally licensed”.<>Anscombe referred to Denzinger 1127, which records the condemnation of the statement: “If a book is published by a younger or modern person, its opinion should be considered as probable, since it is not established that is has been rejected by the Holy See as improbable.” It is a considerable stretch to see this as relevant to the issue.Zippy: <>As for the rest, simply asserting that I haven’t addressed some unspecified potent counterargument is gratuitous.<>Gratuitous is another of those ambiguous words.

  • zippy says:

    <>It’s been “dealt with”, but not in convincing way.<>I don’t expect what I consider to be the the best argument to convince everyone. The Holy See hasn’t explicitly condemned or licensed file-sharing on the Internet by name. Does that mean that it is it morally licit to steal music as a settled matter of doctrine?Appeal to silence of an authority on a highly specific matter – especially in the middle of a period of development of doctrine on the matter – is a desperate gambit. While we are making gratuitous statements, I think the fact that people cling to such manifestly weak arguments casts its own interesting light on the discussion.

  • Paul says:

    Zippy: <>The Holy See hasn’t explicitly condemned or licensed file-sharing on the Internet by name. Does that mean that it is it morally licit to steal music as a settled matter of doctrine?<>Vasectomies have been around for a hundred years, and the practical teaching that they were not permissible came less than a decade after the arrival of that operation. Practical teaching comes from the teaching of the local parts of the Church around the world, and is not fixated only on authoritative statements of the Holy See.As for “file-sharing”, if I went to my confessor and said: “There is a company selling their music for money, but I have found a way of getting it for free, though they don’t want me to”, it would (at the very least) be an obvious act for my confessor to immediately take into serious moral consideration. He would not halt all such confessions, waiting for the Holy See to pronounce. Zippy: <>Appeal to silence of an authority on a highly specific matter – especially in the middle of a period of development of doctrine on the matter – is a desperate gambit.<>Again, I’m not appealing only to the Holy See. I’m appealing to the lack of such teaching around the world. And as for it being a period of development of doctrine, I would describe such an idea more precisely: I do not think there is anything in Veritatis Splendor, for example, that would particularly surprise Aquinas.Zippy: <>While we are making gratuitous statements, I think the fact that people cling to such manifestly weak arguments casts its own interesting light on the discussion.<>And after the gratutious statements perhaps come the ironic ones?

  • zippy says:

    <>Vasectomies have been around for a hundred years, …<>Digging in at the “silence means permission” argument, eh? Good luck with that.<>I do not think there is anything in Veritatis Splendor, for example, that would particularly surprise Aquinas.<>Me neither. The notion that a man can sterilize himself and then licitly engage in intercourse might though.

  • Steve P. says:

    What you seem to be saying is that any marital act “intentionally rendered infertile” is evil. But intention cannot be separated from the subject doing the intending. It isn’t something that impersonally inheres in the act abstracted from the actor. If the subject’s intention has been rectified, as William Luse put it, it would no longer be an act intentionally rendered infertile. It would be an act that was infertile unintentially, infertile apart from (in fact contrary to) the intent of the subject.A similar line of reasoning doesn’t make eating the chocolate OK, because the act of eating the chocolate (for that particular man) is now evil regardless of intent, since it cannot be done without immediately killing someone. In that case, even if his intent being rectified makes it a merely unintentionally homicidal act, the unintended effect is so grave that he can no longer morally eat chocolate.

  • zippy says:

    <>If the subject’s intention has been rectified, as William Luse put it, it would no longer be an act intentionally rendered infertile.<>This is where the moral theology of Veritatis Splendour kicks in and significantly narrows down the many possible interpretations. We know that contraceptive acts are intrinsically immoral. We know that “intrinsically immoral” means immoral as a chosen behavior, independent of intentions more broadly construed (the only “intention” pertinent comes under the term “choice” in “choice of behavior”). So contraception is when one <>as a behavior<> chooses a sexual act the fertility of which one has attacked <>in a chosen behavior<>. Appeals to “intention” which attempt to broaden the scope to some interior “fundamental option” independent of the actual concrete choice of behavior are invalid. We know this precisely because we know that we are dealing with an <>intrinsically immoral<> act.So far nobody has come up with the kind of contrary argument that would be necessary here: an argument as to why the <>chosen behavior<> independent of (non-behavioral) intentions etc in the later act is different in species from the earlier act. I think the reason why nobody advances this argument is because it isn’t true that the behavior is different. And if the behavior isn’t different, the moral object isn’t different, so the act remains immoral.<>A similar line of reasoning doesn’t make eating the chocolate OK, because the act of eating the chocolate (for that particular man) is now evil regardless of intent, since it cannot be done without immediately killing someone.<>I don’t think it works to object in effect that contraception is a victimless crime.<>… even if his intent being rectified makes it a merely unintentionally homicidal act…<>I don’t think that means anything coherent. If he actually did it and claimed that it was unintentional that would be wishful thinking. It isn’t possible for him to choose that concrete behavior and have his “fundamental option” oriented toward God, and that is what “intrinsically evil” <>means<>: an intrinsically evil behavior is a behavior which it is literally impossible to choose with a “fundamental option” oriented toward God. Choosing a behavior directly killing an innocent by its nature as a chosen behavior <>cannot be<> unintentional in the pertinent sense of intentional. I think this is part of the reason why JPII never refers to the object of an act as <>intentional<> in VS, but rather consistently refers to it as a concrete choice of behavior.

  • Steve P. says:

    Zippy,I don’t really understand what “fundamental option,” means in regard to morality so I doubt that it has anything to do with what I said. In any event I cannot respond to your “fundamental option” arguments because I don’t understand them.All I’m saying is that intercourse cannot be an act intentionally rendered infertile if neither of the two actors have intentionally rendered the act infertile. The infertility of the act is not something the man intends, it is something he does not intend. The only two people whose intentions are relevant are the man and his wife, since they are the two people acting. Only a person, furthermore, can have an intention. An act cannot impersonally have an intention apart from (let alone contary to) the person acting.“I don’t think it works to object in effect that contraception is a victimless crime.”Nor do I. Who does?In regards to the chocolate:“If he actually did it and claimed that it was unintentional that would be wishful thinking.” That is almost certainly true, but in that case it would be an intentionally homicidal act. I am not talking about wishful thoughts I am talking about actual intentions. If the man no longer intended to commit murder he still couldn’t eat the chocolate (and wouldn’t dream of doing so!), since eating the chocolate would unintentionally and accidentally cause a death and the good (the pleasure of eating the chocolate) isn’t important enough vs the graveness of unintentionally taking a human life.

  • zippy says:

    <>I don’t really understand what “fundamental option,” means in regard to morality so I doubt that it has anything to do with what I said. In any event I cannot respond to your “fundamental option” arguments because I don’t understand them.<>Ah. It is a central concept in the moral theology of <>Veritatis Splendour<>. It may help to think about it as “intention separate from the concrete choice of behavior”, though that doesn’t capture it perfectly.<>If the man no longer intended to commit murder he still couldn’t eat the chocolate …<>Precisely. And if the man genuinely no longer intended to contracept then he couldn’t engage in the sexual act which he himself rendered inherently infertile. It isn’t possible for the person to have a “right intention” independent of the concrete behavior he chooses.

  • Steve P. says:

    Zippy,“It may help to think about it as ‘intention separate from the concrete choice of behavior'”It may *help* but I don’t think it gives me a comprehensive understanding. That’s the problem. In any event, I wasn’t talking about anything like that. I was talking about the direct and immediate intention of the act, in this case the act of intercourse within marriage (and the act of eating chocolate–your contrived example).“If the man no longer intended to commit murder he still couldn’t eat the chocolate … Precisely. And if the man genuinely no longer intended to contracept then he couldn’t engage in the sexual act which he himself rendered inherently infertile.”It’s weird that you use the word “precisely” and follow it with something so imprecise. In the one case, we are talking about a man who should and will avoid something (eating a chocolate) because it has the side effect of causing someone else’s death. In the other case, we are talking about a man whom you are senselessly trying to persuade to avoid something (the marital act) that has no necessary negative side effects at all. And I hope you aren’t going to try to convince me that an unintended side effect of the man’s engaging in the marital act is contraception.Before you protest that I am being disengenuous by labeling the acts in question “eating chocolate” and “the marital act” and ignoring that you (if I understand you correctly) are trying to say that the planning of the murder, the implantation of the murderous devices and the chocolate was simply one drawn-out act of murder just as the vasectomy and the engaging in sex afterward was morally speaking one contraceptive act I would say that while you may have a good point in the cases where the sinful actions were carried out in that way, you have shown us no reason to think that something like a single act drawn out in time was involved where the actions were begun but before they could be finished the sinner repented and honestly gave up any intention whatsoever of doing anything sinful. In the latter case a future act of marital intercourse would be just that, and a future act of eating chocolate in spite of the deadly side-effects would be just that. Marital intercourse is morally good and homicidally reckless chocolate indulgence is wicked (in fact “murderous” as long as by “murderous” you don’t mean to try to graft together what are now two separate murderous acts).

  • zippy says:

    <>And I hope you aren’t going to try to convince me that an unintended side effect of the man’s engaging in the marital act is contraception.<>Indeed not. Contraception isn’t an unintended side-effect, it is directly chosen; just as the murder is not an unintended side effect but is directly chosen when the chocolate-lover takes a bite, no matter what kinds of interior speeches the acting subjects give to their interior audience. Intrinsically evil acts with the body (e.g. contracepted sex) are universally prohibited species of concrete chosen behaviors, independent of disembodied intentions.<>…you have shown us no reason to think that something like a single act drawn out in time was involved where the actions were begun but before they could be finished the sinner repented and honestly gave up any intention whatsoever of doing anything sinful.<>I actually <>have<> given that reason, or at any rate I’ve demonstrated that that objection doesn’t apply, any number of times in prior threads. It is not a particularly complicated argument.Act 0: Man procures a vasectomy.Act A: Man performs, with full and unequivocal assent, a contracepted sex act. This chosen behavior is intrinsically evil, because contracepted sex acts are intrinsically evil.Interlude: Man putatively repents.Act B: Man chooses exactly the same behavior as act A, although he has a different interior disposition: he knows that it is wrong to contracept and doesn’t want to contracept. However we know that this act, act B, is also intrinsically evil, because it is the same chosen behavior as Act A. You cannot make an intrinsically evil act into a good act without changing the <>chosen behavior<>. Changing interior disposition is not sufficient.Conclusion: Repenting doesn’t change the species of act A into a different kind of act. Therfore any subsequent act B in which the same behavior is chosen is intrinsically immoral. Intercourse after a vasectomy is per se immoral absent some basic change, not in interior disposition, but in <>the behavior itself<>.As I mentioned before, in order to undermine this argument one has to present good reason to believe that Act A and Act B are different <>chosen behaviors<>. (Others have claimed implausibly that Act A – the fully and unequivocally intentionally contracepted sex act itself – is not intrinsically immoral). But the whole point to rejecting my argument is to claim that the same chosen behavior is morally licit once the person has repented, since that <>just is<> the conclusion of the argument: that Act B is immoral because it is the same chosen behavior as act A.

  • daveheitz says:

    steve,“In the other [post-vasectomy, post-repentance sex act] case, we are talking about a man whom you are senselessly trying to persuade to avoid something (the marital act) that has no necessary negative side effects at all.”This again sounds like you are saying, as Zippy put it, “contraception is a victimless crime”, though I suppose both that interpretation and your statement are both essentially question-begging. What is at issue is whether that act is contraceptive (unless I’ve failed to accurately follow this discussion, that is).

  • William Luse says:

    <>If the subject’s intention has been rectified, as William Luse put it, it would no longer be an act intentionally rendered infertile.<>You left out the other half of William’s statement, because you’re only reading the part you want to hear. He also said that either a wrong intention or circumstance or both together can corrupt an otherwise good act. And the corrupting circumstance in this case is the fact that his sex act will be sterile – not accidentally, not naturally, but by an act of his own will. And though he wishes it were not, his determination to carry out an act that he knows to be sterile because of a choice he made probably means that his intention is corrupt as well.From Paul: <>…very often, someone makes an apparently strong point against your position [but] your response doesn’t address the issue head-on but rather just reiterates your position.<>This verges on calumny. He has in fact addressed every objection squarely, fairly, in depth, and with a patience that would test most men. You just don’t like what you’re hearing.<>Practical teaching comes from the teaching of the local parts of the Church around the world…<>Yes, if you’re looking for an escape hatch, but it will be nothing that binds the Catholic conscience.<>…and is not fixated only on authoritative statements of the Holy See.<>But it is you who are fixated on such statements, since extrapolation from its moral documents will not convince you. You may think Anscombe’s reference to Denziger irrelevant if you wish, though it is quite obviously precisely on point. Your claim reminds me of that famous footnote in Gaudiem Et Spes:<>Certain questions which need further and more careful investigation have been handed over, at the command of the Supreme Pontiff, to a commission for the study of population, family, and births, in order that, after it fulfills its function, the Supreme Pontiff may pass judgment. With the doctrine of the magisterium in this state, this holy synod does not intend to propose immediately concrete solutions…<>…during which “state” of apparent disarray so many theologians, priests, and laymen assumed a permission granted, as if there were not already in place, from the Church’s beginning, moral precepts anathematizing the obstruction of fertility, just as here so many would like to pretend that those same precepts prevent us from recognizing a chosen act of sterile sex when we see it, until that time when the Supreme Pontiff passes judgement. It could be a long wait.

  • Anonymouse says:

    Zippy, you have accepted that the chosen behavior reflects not the actual conditions as they are, but the condition as they are perceived by the man acting. If he does not know he is sterile, then his “chosen behavior” cannot be formally that of sterile sex. But generally in morals, the distinction between the actual facts as they are independently and the perceived facts is made specifically to introduce the intent as a defining element of the “chosen behavior.” In other words, the aspect of the choice that uses specifically what resides in the intellect bears on intent rather than some other element of the act. On the other hand, you are saying that the specific chosen behavior does not depend on the intention, whether it is kindly or not. It depends on the objective situation regardless of intention. I don’ quite see how you can maintain these at the same time.

  • zippy says:

    Mouse:<>If he does not know he is sterile, then his “chosen behavior” cannot be formally that of sterile sex.<> […] <>On the other hand, you are saying that the specific chosen behavior does not depend on the intention, whether it is kindly or not. It depends on the objective situation regardless of intention. I don’ quite see how you can maintain these at the same time.<>I’m just following JPII’s lead here, at least as I understand it after having read him on the one hand and moral theologians like Finnis, Anscombe, and Kaczor on the other. The word “intention” is overloaded in moral discourse. JPII scrupulously avoids using “intention” to refer to the moral ‘object’ of the act, instead typically referring to the object as the “chosen behavior” and in one case referring to it as “the proximate end of a deliberate decision”. Note that “chosen behavior” is not strictly physical in the sense of being third-party observable: it depends not strictly on the true objective situation, about which the acting subject can be mistaken, but rather on <>the acting subject’s understanding<> of the objective situation and on his understanding of what specific behavior he is choosing. The ‘object’ also is not utterly disconnected from objective reality, as merely the interior dispositions or putative good will of the acting subject. It is an appeal to the latter, to an interior “fundamental option” disconnected from the concrete choice of behavior, which makes people say that the man has ‘good intentions’ in Act B even though he is choosing the same behavior that he chose in Act A.

  • zippy says:

    Bill:<>…his determination to carry out an act that he knows to be sterile because of a choice he made probably means that his intention is corrupt as well.<>Or as < HREF="http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19751229_persona-humana_en.html" REL="nofollow"><>Persona Humana<><> put it:<>In reality, it is precisely the fundamental option which in the last resort defines a person’s moral disposition. But it can be completely changed by particular acts, especially when, as often happens, these have been prepared for by previous more superficial acts. Whatever the case, it is wrong to say that particular acts are not enough to constitute mortal sin.<>

  • Steve P. says:

    Zippy,“Contraception isn’t an unintended side-effect, it is directly chosen”But in the case of the man who gets a vasectomy but then repents and at some future date, utterly unconnected from his past sins, has relations with his wife, contraception is NOT directly chosen (or indirectly chosen). At least it is not chosen by the man and his wife and they are the only relevant “choosers.” Again, choice cannot be seen as something an act impersonally does apart from the actors. Only persons can choose.“no matter what kinds of interior speeches the acting subjects give to their interior audience.”I don’t know what “interior speeches” have to do what we have been talking about, unless you are saying repentence is nothing but an interior speech someone gives to an interior audience. I hope that is not what you think repentence (and sacramental confession) is. “Act B: Man chooses exactly the same behavior as act A…”I’m talking about a man choosing a different behavior as act A. What you’ve labeled act A is as you say a “contracepted sex act” (and one that I think rightfully should be considered a consumation of act 0 just as you’ve said). Act B on the other hand is a man who has repented and has been absolved of his sins choosing to do precisely what any of us choose to do in the marital bed. That he is sterile, against his will and contrary to his well, does not somehow make the act immoral.What you seem to me to be doing is 1. denying that repentence and absolution have any real effect, and 2. saying that an act, as an act and without regard to the actor, impersonally has choices and intentions. Dave Heitz,“This again sounds like you are saying, as Zippy put it, ‘contraception is a victimless crime…'”I don’t know why it sounds like that to you, but I am happy you are telling me what it sounds like. It helps in understanding. It seems to me that the two sides are thinking about the broad issue very differently. To clarify, I don’t think of crimes as “victimless” and don’t deny contraception is a crime. At that moment I wasn’t actually talking about contraception as far as I know. I was talking about a man who used to contracept in the past and had (really and truly) repented and had been absolved. His and his wife’s action (the marital act) has no necessary negative side effects, unlike the repentant murderer and chocolate-lover with the unfortunate nanotechnological implant whose craving if satisfied would have a very grave negative side effect.

  • Steve P. says:

    William Luse,“He also said that either a wrong intention or circumstance or both together can corrupt an otherwise good act.”He said lots of things. The particular thing he said that I was at that point addressing was his statement that for the repentant former contraceptor whose actions had rendered him sterile, the marital act was an act “intentionally rendered infertile.”I don’t understand how an act can impersonally have an intention outside of and contary to the intention of the actor. That makes no sense to me and that is what I was addressing at that point in the discourse.

  • Steve P. says:

    William Luse,“And the corrupting circumstance in this case is the fact that his sex act will be sterile – not accidentally, not naturally, but by an act of his own will.”I was speaking of a man who had (really!) repented. In that case the marital act would be (possibly) sterile contrary to his will. And that is not quite right either, it would be his body that was possibly sterile, there would be nothing inherently sterile in the act.In the case of the unrepentant contraceptor you would be quite right, and you seem to be talking about someone who has not truly repented, so perhaps the problem is that we are talking about two entirely different hypothetical people.

  • Silly Interloper says:

    <> If he does not know he is sterile, then his “chosen behavior” cannot be formally that of sterile sex. […] On the other hand, you are saying that the specific chosen behavior does not depend on the intention, whether it is kindly or not. It depends on the objective situation regardless of intention. I don’ quite see how you can maintain these at the same time.<>Intentions and objects are not determined by ignorance. Ignorance of the nature of the object of the act changes what the *chosen* behavior is. If a man who had a vasectomy chooses to have sexual intercourse while no longer desiring that he be sterile, it doesn’t change the fact that he chooses to engage in a sexual act that was intentionally rendered sterile. If a man completely believes his vasectomy has been successfully reversed, but it didn’t really take, the object–the chosen behavior–does not include choosing to engage in a sexual act that was intentionally rendered sterile. The intention in the first case is clearly irrelevant to the disposition of the subject toward the object of the act–it doesn’t effect what he *chooses* to do. The intention of the second case is relevant to the specific disposition of making that choice–it changes the object.Not all intentions are the same.

  • zippy says:

    <>What you seem to me to be doing is 1. denying that repentence and absolution have any real effect, and 2. saying that an act, as an act and without regard to the actor, impersonally has choices and intentions.<>If that is the case, then either you don’t understand anything I’ve said or you are willfully misconstruing what I’ve said.

  • Steve P. says:

    Zippy,If logic precludes all other possibilities, I’m sure it must be the former rather than the latter.silly interloper,“a sexual act that was intentionally rendered sterile.”But what person had the intention of rendering that act sterile? (in the case of the man who had been a contraceptor in the past but has since repented and gained sacramental absolution and who now simply has the intention of engaging in a normal act of intercourse with his lawful spouse). I don’t see how there can be an intention without a person to have the intention. A non-person cannot have an intention and the intentions of other persons aren’t relevant.

  • Anonymous says:

    This is too deep for me. Thank God I am celibate.Karl

  • zippy says:

    <>I don’t see how there can be an intention without a person to have the intention.<>Nobody says that there is. You are battling straw men at this point. In act B he chooses – and therefore intends – an act-which-he-sterilized, just as he did in act A.You might want to try a different approach from merely expressing inchoate incredulity.

  • Silly Interloper says:

    <>(in the case of the man who had been a contraceptor in the past but has since repented and gained sacramental absolution and who now simply has the intention of engaging in a normal act of intercourse with his lawful spouse).<>You can’t intend away reality. What you really mean is that he *desires* to engage in normal relations, but he intends to go through with them in spite of the fact that that desire was made impossible by his intentional sterilization.

  • Paul says:

    Luse,(I see that the angels of irony have you firmly in their grasp.)HV and VS say that it is not lawful “to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order”.I think that Zippy has not sorted out exactly what that word ‘directly’ means there. It has led to his current position under discussion, and has influenced his prior discussions on various double-effect issues.The word direct is not there as decoration. There are direct intentions and, therefore, indirect intentions. So there <>is<> something about one’s intention that can alter the morality of an act that causes an intrinsic evil to come about. It is certainly true that some things about one’s intentions do not alter the morality of an intrinsically evil act — as VS says: “quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances”. (Note the careful use of the word ‘ulterior’.)But direct and indirect intentions are different. It may be difficult to sort out each what counts as direct, and what as indirect, but it has to be done.So, Zippy regularly repeating, in various ways, that one’s intentions make no difference, is not precise. Directness and indirectness <>must<> be accounted for.

  • zippy says:

    <>(I see that the angels of irony have you firmly in their grasp.)<>Explain that statement, please.<>Directness and indirectness must be accounted for.<>If you wanted to know what I understand to be a direct intention, all you had to do is ask. The object of an act (chosen behavior) is always directly intended, and formal cooperation is also a direct intention.

  • zippy says:

    <>Zippy regularly repeating, in various ways, that one’s intentions make no difference, is not precise.<>I’ve been very clear about this. No intention <>other than<> the “choice” in “chosen behavior” can change an intrinsically immoral act into a good act. Since that choice (“intention” in one of the many senses of the term) does not change from act A to Act B, and Act A is intrinsically immoral, Act B is also intrinsically immoral.

  • <>No intention other than the “choice” in “chosen behavior” can change an intrinsically immoral act into a good act. Since that choice (“intention” in one of the many senses of the term) does not change from act A to Act B, and Act A is intrinsically immoral, Act B is also intrinsically immoral.<>Speaking for myself, I get that. I got that before I entered this discussion. In fact, I got that before I converted to Catholicism eight years ago.That isn’t the issue. The issue is whether the act in question is THAT kind of an act. I have no problem with the teaching of VS as you have presented it, and I fully accept the magisterial teaching on contraception. I trust that orthodox praxis on the ground (all of which, thus far, contradicts your position) is not ignorant of these either.The only thing you have that the rest of us do not have is your intuition about the subject. I mean no disrespect here. God bless your intuition, and for all I know your intuition may be correct. But your intuition is not an argument.

  • Anonymouse says:

    Repeatedly referring to the act as an act of contraception, or contracepted sex, or sterile sex, is part of what confuses the discussion. It might help if you avoided these, because for this discussion they are not precise enough, though they are in other contexts. I think that everyone here agrees that contraceptive sex, in the general parlance and in common usage, is immoral. But that general phrasing is too imprecise for this. Let’s say this: an act of sex which is knowingly rendered infertile by concomitants of this act, which concomitants are now intended and currently arranged, where the actor has the freedom to not so arrange these impediments, is an immoral act. This is clearly true. Saying a “contraceptive act” without distinction blurs whether the things composing the impediments are currently part of “this act” in the same way that we usually understand a complete act. Does VS intend the phrase “every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful” with the same completeness and absolute precision? This is not clear – maybe or maybe not. Formal logicians would suggest that the antecedent of “intentionally” is “act”. An analysis along formal logic might require that, <> unless qualifying phrases are stated or implied, <> the intentionality be of the same order as the act. That is, unless the context clearly expands the meaning, the modifier “intentionally rendered” does not by itself refer further than this “act”. A man who puts on a condom and 20 minutes later has sex cannot say that the sex is rendered infertile by some prior act <> in intention <>, because without a currently imposed intention of infertility, he would not have left it in place in <> this <> act. Though the initial act which brought about the condition of infertility was a prior act, this particular act of sex is still <> intentionally rendered <> infertile by an intention to have sex without removing the condom.

  • William Luse says:

    I love the understanding of absolution presented here. I almost wish it were true. The absolution gives you the nod to go ahead do the very thing for which you sought forgiveness.<>I have no problem with the teaching of VS as you have presented it…<>I doubt it.<>…and I fully accept the magisterial teaching on contraception…<>I am still in doubt.<>I trust that orthodox praxis on the ground (all of which, thus far, contradicts your position) is not ignorant of these either.<>That’s a lot of trust. By the way, do you have an example of this praxis you could share with us?<>The only thing you have that the rest of us do not have is your intuition about the subject…But your intuition is not an argument.<> You mean no disrespect, but after all the work he’s put into this, that’s an insult.

  • Steve P, says:

    Silly Interloper,Trying to tell me that I mean something other than I mean won’t persuade me you are making any sense, frankly. I was talking about a man who desires to, then actually does engage in normal sexual relations with his lawful spouse. I still don’t understand why you think the desire is impossible in the hypothetical case I was referring to. William Luse,I find it amazing and wonderful that you would say: “I love the understanding of absolution presented here. I almost wish it were true. The absolution gives you the nod to go ahead do the very thing for which you sought forgiveness.”Surely you cannot be so naive to believe that anyone has here presented that understanding of absolution (besides you, just now). If you “almost” wish it were true you “almost” wish something no person of good will could wish. We ought to love good and hate evil. Of course absolution never gives anyone the nod to do the thing for which he sought forgiveness, and you ought to be grateful and happy that is the case.

  • zippy says:

    Steve P:<>I was talking about a man who desires to, then actually does engage in normal sexual relations with his lawful spouse.<>Whether that is or is not true is precisely what is at issue. Jeff:<>The only thing you have that the rest of us do not have is your intuition about the subject.<>The <>only<> thing, eh? I’m perfectly willing to let the Magisterial citations, evidence, and arguments I’ve presented stand on their own merits.

  • William Luse says:

    <>Surely you cannot be so naive to believe that anyone has here presented that understanding of absolution<>I sort of had this in mind, Steve:<>I was speaking of a man who had (really!) repented. In that case the marital act would be (possibly) sterile contrary to his will<><>But in the case of the man who gets a vasectomy but then repents and at some future date, utterly unconnected from his past sins<><>Act B on the other hand is a man who has repented and has been absolved of his sins choosing to do precisely what any of us choose to do in the marital bed<><>in the case of the man who had been a contraceptor in the past but has since repented and gained sacramental absolution and who now simply has the intention of engaging in a normal act of intercourse<>Get the picture?

  • zippy says:

    Mouse: I agree that we could, if we so desired, embark on a potentially infinite process of terminological clarification. Entire volumes can be written about the word “the”. But more to the point, where is the change in <>behavior<> from act A to act B? What concrete behavioral concomitants of the act over which he has control does he choose to alter, thereby carrying out act B differently as a behavior from act A?

  • First off, Zippy, I love your hypotheticals.Second… In the chocolate-eating scenario, if you were to rig your victim so that his death would be caused <>either<> by you eating chocolate or by me eating chocolate, then it would be a sin for me to eat chocolate in the future, once I found out about this, even if I did not choose for you to create that situation. Knowingly causing the death of an innocent would be immoral, even though the act of eating chocolate itself is neutral. Contraception is different, because if you snuck into someone’s apartment and performed a surreptitious vasectomy, that person’s future sex life could still be licit. I think that’s part of what being “intrinsically” immoral is about; the pope is saying that contraception is not a sin because of what it causes, it is a sin in and of itself. Eating chocolate would cause the death of another, but with contracepted sex, the issue is not whether or not you actually have children or can have children, it’s the act.A naturally sterile man knows that, in choosing sex, he and his wife won’t bear fruit. An unnaturally sterile man knows this as well. The difference between what they know is the knowledge of whether the sterility was self-caused. What you’re saying, essentially, is that it’s not the fact that the sterility was self-caused, but the knowledge of this that renders future sex illicit.

  • zippy says:

    <>What you’re saying, essentially, is that it’s not the fact that the sterility was self-caused, but the knowledge of this that renders future sex illicit.<>I’m not overly fond of that wording as an alternative to the wordings I’ve actually used. I mean, we can continue the foray into bizarro world and talk about people with partial amnesia, etc. I don’t have a <>complete<> theory that covers every possible case anyone can come up with. Right now I am addressing the straightforwrd case of someone who has had himself sterilized and knows it, and has putatively repented, and knows just what behaviors he is choosing.There are really two quite distinct levels to the discussion: discussion of generalized theories which cover some variety of cases, and my specific demonstration with respect to the specific case of an irreversible or unreversed self-sterilization where the man has not done anything behaviorally different, nor has he had any different physical constraints on his behavioral options, between Act A and Act B. Generally my hypotheticals and my arguments are there to demonstrate specific points, not to advance an overarching theory. I’ve said a number of times that I don’t <>have<> an overarching theory that would cover all conceivable hypotheticals; and I don’t need one to demonstrate the specific point.Some people are impeded from sex through simple natural or other-inflicted physical defects. Impotence is an impediment to marriage, for example. I’m not trying to encompass all possible cases with an overarching theory. I’m just advancing what I belive to be a convincing argument that repentance isn’t enough to make sex licit for someone who has had himself sterilized.

  • <>That’s a lot of trust. By the way, do you have an example of this praxis you could share with us?<>I’ve already shared several:1. Bishop Vasa2. Couple-to-Couple League3. Msgr. Mangan4. SSPXAll but the SSPX ought to be mainstream enough for you. Here’s another from Catholic Exchange:http://www.catholicexchange.com/node/48276“An important question here is: what was the reason for the hysterectomy? If the surgery was performed specifically to prevent pregnancy, then this would have been a grave sin against the human body. The woman would have to approach the Lord in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, asking forgiveness for this serious offense before entering Holy Matrimony.”I’ve spent hours (far too many) searching and have come across more of the same kinds of answers – and nothing whatsoever to support the position being advanced by you and our blog host.By the way, I found your last comments insulting and entirely uncharacteristic of you. I’m calling it as I see it and imputing ill motives to no one. I’d appreciate the favor returned.

  • <>By the way, do you have an example of this praxis you could share with us?<>And here’s another:http://www.presentationministries.com/brochures/SpeakTruthLove.asp“If your sterilization cannot be reversed, try to restore some order to your sexuality. Repent, ask others to pray for you to be healed, and use the insights of natural family planning to restore some order to your marital relations. This may not completely restore the ecological balance to your life, but it will be an improvement.”

  • William Luse says:

    Yes, I think I’ll skip the SSPX.Grace MacKinnon, “syndicated columnist and public speaker on Catholic doctrine”, whose only significant sentence is:<>The woman would have to approach the Lord in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, asking forgiveness for this serious offense before entering Holy Matrimony<> drawn, I presume, straight from her enormous store of common sense. Or take Presentation Ministries, whose only significant passage is the one you quote above (I especially love the part about using “the insights of natural family planning to restore some order to your marital relations.”)Do you seriously consider these bromides derivations of VS or any prior moral teachings? (To none of which they refer, btw.) These people have as much authority to teach on this matter as, say, Jeff Culbreath or Zippy Catholic. Actually less, since Zippy attempts to demonstrate that his position is the necessary consequence of Catholic moral teaching as set forth in genuine majesterial documents.<>and nothing whatsoever to support the position being advanced by you and our blog host.<>I guess you missed the snippets of those documents he’s been providing.As long as we’re providing links to random opinions, here’s < HREF="http://nfpandmore.org/wordpress/?cat=22" REL="nofollow">one for you<> from Natural Family Planning International, in which the writer actually refers to Papal pronouncements. Just call it praxis. A sample:<>In his treatment of sexual sterilization and subsequent contraceptively sterilized intercourse, Fr. Richard Hogan makes a four-sentence parenthetical statement that, in my opinion, undermines his entire treatment of contraception and sterilization…“Having confessed the sin and received absolution, a sterilized person can truly love his or her spouse in and through the body because he or she can intend to give himself or herself totally to the spouse.” That raises several questions. First of all, why does he speak of “the sin” and not <>all<> the sins of contraceptively sterilized intercourse? There was one sin of mutilation, but there were presumably many sins of contraceptive behavior.Second, what do confession and absolution have to do with future behavior? In confession, you confess sins you have already committed. You do not get permission to commit the same sins in the future. In the traditional act of contrition, you pledge to “amend my life.” <>What does that mean except to change the behavior that you are now confessing?<> So how can a priest “give permission” to continue to engage in contraceptively sterilized intercourse? How can you give yourself such “permission” if you are truly repentant?<>Go ahead and read it. You’ll love it.Calling them as you see them, are you? Me too. I see dismissing a carefully laid out argument as an intuition an insult. One gets the sense of the commenters here having a vested, personal interest in finding Zippy wrong because his thesis assaults their precious certainty, when the only thing at stake is the truth. And my demeanor is not as uncharacteristic as you think; but if this is to imply it’s about time for me to pull out of this one, you could be right.

  • Anonymouse says:

    Zippy, It is unfair to characterize my (or anyone’s) argument as overly picky about use of language, when the entire issue resolves around the specific meaning of a passage (or several such passages) in someone else’s work – someone who is not here so we can ask. The question is whether VS meant that passage in a strict sense under the standards of formal philosophy, or meant it in a looser more vernacular sense. I am not arguing about the meaning of “the”, but of the critical phrase “intentionally rendered” in a passage which presents a kind of defining moment. You ask about the difference between and A and B, as a behavior, which permits us to say that they are not the same behavior. If the man repents, confesses, prays for God’s help to cure his condition, and seeks medical aid to reverse the sterilization, then it is accurate to describe his new act of sex as one <> intentionally rendered as fertile as he can accomplish. <> Are you saying that one and the same act can be, from the appropriate moral perspective, both “intentionally rendered infertile” AND “intentionally rendered fertile to his utmost capacity” at one and the same time? Yes? Even if the reversal is successful? I don’t think that is possible. I don’t think that both descriptions are the correct moral description of the act. So I think the first does not reflect precise enough usage under the intended construction of the phrase. Act B is an act of sex intentionally rendered as fertile as can be accomplished at this time, and that is what gives us a different act from act A. If you want to restrict yourself to a DIFFERENT act B, one where the man presumes that no reversal is possible, and makes no effort in that direction, you are presuming a different act – say B2 instead of B1. In your case of B2, the man presumes that which he ought not presume – he does not pray (God can cure everything except sin itself, and sterility is not sin), and he did not see if medical arts have progressed beyond former limits. This pride and presumption hardly accommodates the true repentance we have been supposing for B1. If your argument is that B2 is not a different moral act from A, then you may be right, but it does not include the kind of repentance we suppose for B1, so your argument says nothing about whether B1 is moral or not. While there definite validity to saying that preparations for an act are part of the later culmination, the validity hangs on qualifying conditions, (some of which have to do with carrying the prior intention over to the final event – a man who buys condoms thinking to use one, and then decides not to use it, commits a sin in the buying, but does NOT commit the sin of engaging in an act intentionally rendered sterile). In any case, more immediate concrete acts taken in order to reverse prior “preparations” would seem to sever the earlier “preparations” from the act at hand. (A man who puts on a condom before starting sex, and then takes it off prior to actual intercourse, has reversed his preparation for intentionally rendering the act sterile, and this makes a different act from A.) This is why for B1, his attempt to reverse the vasectomy is sufficient for B1 to be a different kind of act from A. It is more clearly seen if his attempted reversal is successful – then the act is absolutely “intentionally rendered fruitful”, but even if not successful, the effort makes the act intentionally rendered fruitful to the extent possible.

  • zippy says:

    Mouse:If you are under the impression that my position keys off of a highly specific construal of the wording of some specific passage in a single document taken in itself, you couldn’t possibly be more wrong. I’ve already said this. I appeal to documents to support my position, absolutely; but I refuse to get into an endless dispute over terms. With enough willfulness the language of any fixed document or body of documents is plastic enough to force-fit just about any interpretation you want into it. Anyone with significant experience in Internet discussions already knows this.Also, I don’t have a theory for how successful an attempt at reversal has to be in order to render future acts licit. I said this < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2007/12/confession-and-fundamental-option.html#c1671945440182730573" REL="nofollow">a while ago<>: I don’t have a theory of the liciety of sex after attempted reversal, and I don’t have to have one in order to conclude that sex after Confession <>simpliciter<> remains immoral.Jeff:I agree that sex after a medically necessary hysterectomy is licit. That person is not engaging in sexual acts the fertility of which she has herself attacked.Look folks, there are two possible objections to my argument which have been raised, and resolution doesn’t hinge on exploiting nuances of <>language<>: it hinges on what is <>true<>:1) That Act A isn’t intrinsically immoral. (This is the Culbreath objection).2) That Act B is a different concrete chosen behavior, an act with a different ‘object’, even though it is identical in every respect to Act A other than interior disposition.A person doesn’t have to be insane to adopt either of those positions. But both of them are significantly more problemmatic than simply accepting the result: that intercourse after intentional sterilization is, <>ceterus paribus<>, intrinsically immoral and that repenting/Confessing in itself can’t change this. The person must choose a different <>behavior<> from what he confessed (and if he didn’t confess the actual self-mutilated sexual acts then he should have).

  • zippy says:

    Also Mouse, your discussion of different levels of repentance, true repentance versus false, is another way of looking at the moral theology of VS: people may tell themselves speeches about having repented, but unless they change their <>behavior<> they haven’t really repented. Indeed if you look at the main post, that is its entire central point: the chocolate-eater may <>claim<> that he has repented as he chows on his Reeses Pieces and the victim dies as a putative “side effect”, but he really hasn’t. If he had truly repented – had truly reoriented his “fundamental option” toward God – it would be impossible for him to engage in the behavior.The whole point of this particular post was to throw that into relief for my readers. We know (barring the acceptance of some very implausible objections) that sex after a vasectomy remains intrinsically immoral no matter how the person “re-orients” himself as an interior matter: we know that it is literally impossible for this interior “re-orientation” to have genuinely occurred if the person is choosing the very same concrete behavior for which he just “repented”.

  • zippy says:

    That was a very interesting pair of articles, Bill. My agreement with Kippley is almost perfect; where I disagree is with the idea that timing the act makes it a different behavior. It isn’t licit to wear a condom during the infertile periods; it isn’t licit to leave in an IUD and engage in the marital act during the infertile periods. Indeed, if that were <>all<> there was to it then the whole argument in favor of NFP – that it is the same act but just timed differently – is undermined.Personally I am open to an argument that an actual attempt at reversal – the success of which can’t be known anyway – might be sufficient. But I haven’t thought through the issues in light of Magisterial teaching enough to be able to say so with conviction. I’m also not sure that if the <>man<> is sterilized that waiting for the woman to achieve menopause is sufficient. The nature of the man’s behavior with his own body in the actual act isn’t changed based on the woman’s infertility, either periodic or post-menopausal.

  • Anonymouse says:

    Zippy, sure, we accept that your argument is based on a constellation of tracts, both magisterial and not. But when the crystallization of that argument seems to rest more heavily on one especially forceful and apparently crystal clear rendition of all those other tracts, for this concern, naturally, we will focus on your specific use of that passage. If you wish us to focus more on other passages, or other concepts, please feel free to point us in those directions. If you wish to argue that mere sorrow alone, without further action, is not sufficient to change the character of act B2 from being the same as that of act A, we are also in agreement. But then I think you are arguing conclusion that nobody really thought was the issue in doubt anyway. The issue in doubt was a person who has full repentance, and makes a good confession. A good confession, by its very nature, includes first a willingness to undo whatever evils were brought about by the evil act – so far as they are under his power – and a firm purpose to actually undertake such actions after confession. (This applies regardless of whether he intends to have sex again – he ought to want to undo the mutilation – so wanting sex is not an inherent part of the desire to amend his condition.) So, if the priest is at all on the ball here, in hearing a confession of the man getting a vasectomy, he will tell the man that part of his obligation is to seek a reversal. If the man makes a good confession, then presumably he will walk away intending to do just that. If we are OK with allowing for that presumed course of action, then by stipulating a good confession we are stipulating a situation very unlike act B2 where the man simply wishes he had not had the vasectomy. (Such a wish does not by itself right the soul, anyway.) You are right that a mere wish that he had not done the vasectomy is not sufficient. But we are not speaking of a mere wish here. Presuming a good confession and all that it rightly entails, we would be right to expect that eventually he would actually seek a reversal – assuming anything else would require assuming that he change his mind away from his confessed intention, which is surely a greater presumption on our part than presuming he carry through with his existing intention.

  • Steve P. says:

    William Luse,“Get the picture?”No, not really. Are you trying to imply that I believe or have ever said that absolution gives the penitent the nod to go ahead do the very thing for which he sought forgiveness? If so, your implication is incorrect.I don’t think absolution gives the penitent the nod to do the very thing for which he sought forgiveness, and I don’t even “almost wish” that were true. I’m glad it’s not true.

  • zippy says:

    <>So, if the priest is at all on the ball here, in hearing a confession of the man getting a vasectomy, he will tell the man that part of his obligation is to seek a reversal. If the man makes a good confession, then presumably he will walk away intending to do just that.<>This is minimally what a sincere penitent ought to accomplish before resuming marital relations (actual acts): not just the intention to reverse, but an actual attempt to accomplish it. That doesn’t imply that it is sufficient: just that anyone who has not taken this route has clearly not properly reoriented his “fundamental option”. That risk or financial hardship or physical impossibility might intervene is irrelevant: if those things block reversal, they also block licit marital relations. And using NFP to have relations only during the infertile periods is not an option, because that is completely contrary to what makes NFP licit in the first place.I am personally aware of a number of cases which look nothing like that, and none which look anything like it. I doubt that it is normative practice in the average parish to actually seek reversal, and Jimmy Akin (for example) argues that there is no obligation to seek reversal let alone for one to accomplish an actual reversal before resuming marital relations. About 40% of Catholics have sterilized themselves by some estimates. So the current state of affairs is that attempting reversal (let alone successfully accomplishing it), which very plausibly may not be enough to make resuming relations (specific acts) licit, is widely seen as well beyond what is required.Behavioral changes – changes in the actual marital acts themselves in their accomplishment and not merely in interior disposition – are concomitant to any legitimate penitence and reorientation of the “fundamental option”. If you agree with that, then you agree with the result of my argument, and we aren’t disagreeing anymore. That does leave open the question “what behavioral changes?”. I don’t pretend to answer that question. Obviously perfect continence would be sufficient. Whether anything less than perfect continence is sufficient and what that might be is, again, not something I have a comprehensive theory about.

  • Steve P. says:

    Zippy,“Whether that is or is not true is precisely what is at issue.”“Precisely?” Perhaps, but I’m not sure we’ve discovered *precisely* what is at the root of our disagreement. Broadly speaking it is what is at issue, and what I was suggesting to silly interloper is that trying to tell persuade me that my beliefs are different than what I think they are won’t make me think he’s very rational or has anything rational to add to the discussion. Asking me questions and telling me what it seems to him that I am saying in order to discover the heart of our disagreement (and perhaps the truth of the matter!) is another thing. That is the only reason for dialog.It seems to me that anonymouse is on to something, and I am eager to see where your discussion with her goes. Surely this is true and a common ground:“Let’s say this: an act of sex which is knowingly rendered infertile by concomitants of this act, which concomitants are now intended and currently arranged, where the actor has the freedom to not so arrange these impediments, is an immoral act. This is clearly true.”No one who is likely to interact on this question in this comment area thinks contraception is not inherently sinful, or thinks that absolution gives a repentant sinner the green light to keep sinning, or thinks good is evil and evil is good, etc.

  • zippy says:

    <>Are you trying to imply that I believe or have ever said that absolution gives the penitent the nod to go ahead do the very thing for which he sought forgiveness?<>Yep. You said just that. He quoted where you said it.

  • zippy says:

    <>…but I’m not sure we’ve discovered *precisely* what is at the root of our disagreement.<>That may be because you don’t seem to have a coherent position with which someone can disagree.

  • <>Do you seriously consider these bromides derivations of VS or any prior moral teachings? (To none of which they refer, btw.)<>I consider these to be examples of “orthodox praxis on the ground (all of which, thus far, contradicts your position)”, which is all I promised, and all you asked for.<> These people have as much authority to teach on this matter as, say, Jeff Culbreath or Zippy Catholic.<>“These people”, at least, teach publicly on behalf of orthodox Catholic ministries, read by tens of thousands, who have ordained chaplains as doctrinal watchdogs. They’re not always right, and I never claimed they were. But what you’ll find is a <>consensus<> on the question of whether marital intercourse after a contraceptive sterilization is <>intrinsically immoral<>.<> As long as we’re providing links to random opinions, here’s one for you from Natural Family Planning International, in which the writer actually refers to Papal pronouncements. Just call it praxis …<>Thanks, Bill, but I read that days ago. Kippley is affiliated with the Couple-to-Couple-Leaugue to which I have already referred. And Kippley’s position is NOT the position being advocated here. He nowhere claims that marital intercourse after a contraceptive sterilization is <>intrinsically immoral<>, and in fact, he directly contradicts that position here:“What if reversal surgery constitutes a truly extraordinary burden for health or financial reasons? Are such couples morally required to abstain from the marriage act until they are naturally infertile by reason of menopause? <>In my opinion, no. I believe that the couple should do just as they would if they had undergone the reversal—practice systematic NFP<>.”Kippley is NOT on your side. Nice try though, if a bit desperate.<>Go ahead and read it. You’ll love it.<>I did, and I do.<>One gets the sense of the commenters here having a vested, personal interest in finding Zippy wrong because his thesis assaults their precious certainty, when the only thing at stake is the truth. <>I have repeatedly confessed my <>uncertainty<> and willingness to be persuaded. You apparently think I’m lying about that. Well, that tells me more than I really wanted to know about one of my oldest and most respected online friends. Skoal.

  • zippy says:

    <>Nice try though, if a bit desperate.<>Ah. I’m beginning to see how discussion with Jeff works when it comes down to it.When Jeff quotes opinions of various people without without any direct Magisterial warrant, that’s praxis. When Bill does it, that’s “desperate”. When Jeff references “praxis” – or even Augustine and Aquinas – for support of his position, it doesn’t matter whether the person quoted agrees with him on every particular. When Bill or I do, that’s “desperate”.

  • <>I agree that sex after a medically necessary hysterectomy is licit. That person is not engaging in sexual acts the fertility of which she has herself attacked.<>That’s great Zippy, but the passage I quoted was not referring to a “medically necessary hysterectomy”, but a hysterectomy “performed specifically to prevent pregnancy”.

  • zippy says:

    <>but the passage I quoted was not referring to a “medically necessary hysterectomy”,…<>Touche Jeff. A very minor point, and it doesn’t change the fact that as an objective matter you employ a self-serving double standard of evidence.

  • <>When Jeff quotes opinions of various people without without any direct Magisterial warrant, that’s praxis. When Bill does it, that’s “desperate”.<>No, that’s also praxis. The fact that Bill quoted praxis in support of my position instead of his and yours is desperate.<>When Jeff references “praxis” – or even Augustine and Aquinas – for support of his position, it doesn’t matter whether the person quoted agrees with him on every particular. When Bill or I do, that’s “desperate”.<>You’re getting things exactly backwards here. The burden is on you to prove, or at least substantiate, your assertion that marital intercourse after contraceptive sterilization is intrinsically immoral. In my very fallible opinion you haven’t done so. The Fathers you referenced do not really contradict you, but they don’t support you either unless you consider all marital intercourse to be illicit that is known or suspected to be infertile. Is that really your position? If so, then you are opposing Casti Connubi and Humanae Vitae and this whole debate has been completely misdirected. I’m bowing out. Thinly veiled accusations of ulterior motives, dishonesty, and ill will always poison a good debate. I’ve already gone too far down that road.

  • zippy says:

    <>The burden is on you to prove, or at least substantiate, your assertion that marital intercourse after contraceptive sterilization is intrinsically immoral.<>Just looking at that statement after all this is amusing. I think I may cherry-pick this discussion for quotes to go in my quote-o-matic.<>The Fathers you referenced do not really contradict you, but they don’t support you either unless you consider all marital intercourse to be illicit that is known or suspected to be infertile.<>Right. When I invoke someone, if the person invoked doesn’t agree with me on every particular then nothing he says counts as evidence for my position. When you invoke someone that special rule doesn’t apply.<>I’m bowing out.<>Take care. FWIW, I don’t think Bill impinged your motives. I think he just observed that someone more thin skinned and less patient than I am would probably be insulted when you say things like “…or at least substantiate…”, when I’ve done quite a bit of substantiating (whether or not you find it convincing). And I don’t think you are lying or have ulterior motives or whatever. Frankly those things don’t interest me. Neither do your appeals to “praxis”: I’ve had a priest tell me during the Sacrament of Confession that contraception isn’t always wrong if the reasons are good enough. Perhaps if that kind of thing had happened to you you might grant less credence to some fluffy notion of “praxis” at this level and in our present context as authoritative.I don’t care about your motives. As an objective matter, you employ a double-standard of evidence.

  • brandon field says:

    <>Kippley is affiliated with the Couple-to-Couple-Leaugue to which I have already referred.<>A minor side note, but John and Shelia Kippley are no longer affiliated with CCL, an organization which they founded. They were “run out” by the CCL board a few years ago and are now with NFP International.From what I understand of their understanding of moral theology, they are not on “your side” of this argument.

  • zippy says:

    <>From what I understand of their understanding of moral theology, they are not on “your side” of this argument.<>Bill didn’t say “See, Kippley agrees in every particular” though. Bill quoted Kippley w.r.t. certain propositions. Kippley in fact expressed his agreement with those propositions in the article quoted. That his whole philosophy of the moral theology of sexuality is inconsistent with his own premeses, assuming that is true (and I already disagreed with him about NFP as a remedy) is beside the point.

  • zippy says:

    Let me put it this way:Appealing to some putative consensus “on the ground” at parishes and in lay organizations with respect to sexual morality right now is like appealing to some putative Christological consensus in the middle the Arian crisis. I’m just not seeing it, and I’m especially surprised at where the appeal is coming from.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Just for clarity’s sake, Zippy, is it your position that act X is not intrinsically immoral if it’s defined in terms of “doing-Z-in-this-way-when-you-could-have-done-it-some-other-way-instead”? I realize that’s a little unclear. But here’s how the question would apply here: Suppose a Catholic who disagreed with you tried to say, “Sex with a removable condom is intrinsically immoral because you could remove it. What’s intrinsically immoral is the whole thing–sex-with-a-condom-you-could-remove. Refusing to remove it when you could and going ahead and having sex anyway, in other words, is what’s wrong.” Now, I’m _guessing_ that your position would be that such a person isn’t really understanding intrinsic immorality. I think your position is that hyphenated acts like that can’t be considered intrinsically immoral. It can’t be “sex in such-and-such circumstances when you could change them” that can be intrinsically immoral. The only thing that can be intrinsically immoral, on your view, would be “sex in such-and-such circumstances, period.” Is that right? Because otherwise your opponents could argue that the reason the guy has to repent before he tried to reverse the vasectomy is because he didn’t even try to reverse it. (Like not trying to take off the condom.) Suppose he tries and his doctor somehow (I don’t know how) can tell just by the way the surgery went that it wasn’t a success and tells him that. Then he’s tried, and sex after that is sex with an unremovable problem that he now knows is unremovable and that he’s made a good faith effort to remove, which isn’t the same thing as sex with a problem that he knows he might be able to remove but hasn’t even tried.That, at least, seems to me the best bet for the other side of the argument. But I think your response is that the hyphenated act involved there can’t be intrinsically immoral, precisely because it’s described in terms of the surrounding circumstances (not having made a good faith effort to remove the physical problem that the person himself initiated).

  • zippy says:

    That’s right, Lydia, an act can’t be intrinsically immoral just because there is a different available means to accomplish the same end and the person didn’t choose that different available means, or just because there were other things that could be attempted first and he didn’t attempt them. “Intrinsically immoral unless it is the only way to accomplish the goal” is self-contradictory. It isn’t intrinsically immoral to rape the wife of the terrorist <>unless<> that is the only way to get the terrorist to talk, or <>unless<> we’ve tried other means first. It is just intrinsically immoral, period.

  • William Luse says:

    Jeff is no doubt right – about my tone and mistreatment of him, not about the issue in hand, which Zippy has sealed shut for me. With Christmas coming, I’m thinking of going on one of those Culbreathian blogfasts which are reputed to bear spiritual fruit. Even on vacation I don’t get to relax.

  • Anonymouse says:

    Zippy, just for clarification, my description of an actually repentant vasectomy recipient is a real-life case of my down-the-street neighbor. He had one after their boy-and-girl were born, and within a year the wife was unhappy about it. But he was not practicing his faith. With the prayers of a bunch of people, he eventually came around, and he went to confession. Soon after he had an attempted reversal, after which they tried a number of times – using NFP – to conceive a child, all with the apparent approval of our darn good parish priest. (They did not conceive, though.) Of course, I cannot say how often this scenario plays out in practice. This is just anecdotal. But I was involved in a marriage preparation program for our diocese, where the couple in charge had all sort of statistics about sexuality, and one of them was that a surprisingly high percentage of couples regret (in the simple sense) his getting a vasectomy, within a couple of years. I want to say it was 50%, but I honestly don’t recall, it might have been 30%.

  • Anonymouse says:

    Why don’t you start a thread on an even more troublesome question? (Maybe I just answered why not.) If a husband gets a vasectomy, is the wife obligated to consent to sex with him, obligated to refuse sex with him, or not obligated in either direction, but free to make a prudential choice? If obligated to have sex or free either way, ought she enter in to it fully willingly, or merely permissively? Does it matter (for the purposes of her entering into sex now) whether the wife never consented to the vasectomy, or if she wanted it, and later repents of that? (Even if, in the case of the man who repents and attempts a reversal, we consider at least the possibility that he could licitly enter into sex with his wife, how would that correlate to a wife who repented of encouraging him to have a vasectomy?) At an initial guess, I suspect (though don’t feel confident in this) that of she never consented to his vasectomy, she can enter into sex with him willingly (rather than in mere submission) because for her part she desires the act to be as open to life as she has the power to make it. The infertility of the act is none of her doing – either by action or by intention. Others would say that she can submit, but not enter into the act willingly, because the act is comparable a rape or a husband who is drunk – in either case the act is not that of a couple joining their minds and hearts and bodies as one in the openness to God’s fruitful beneficence, i.e. it is not a true act of conjugal love, and therefore she should not give positive encouragement to its culmination. I think I disagree with that position, because the defects to the act being fully conjugal in the true sense are all on the husband’s part, not hers. Even when there is a conjugal act which has no outward impediments to being truly conjugal, but the husband’s will is partly defective in willing the true good, the wife’s act (fully engaged in positive consent) is not defective on that account.

  • brandon field says:

    <>Bill didn’t say “See, Kippley agrees in every particular” though. Bill quoted Kippley w.r.t. certain propositions.<>Zippy, I was addressing Jeff. After reading Kippley’s post, I still think Kippley’s position is closer to yours and Bill’s than Jeff’s.

  • brandon field says:

    <>I already disagreed with him about NFP as a remedy<>This particular part of Kippley’s post seemed to me to be like Lydia’s question about a woman who had had a contraceptive tubal litigation followed by a medical hysterectomy. If the woman in question can participate in licit intercourse following repentance and the hysterectomy (with which I think I agree), Kippley’s position seems to be similar. His take on it, however, seems to be that sexual intercourse is about the couple <>together<>, not one or the other partner. In today’s “free-love” society, that element has been removed. Mouse’s question about whether the wife can licitly refuse the advances of her sterilized husband brings proof of this: of course she must refuse. She can refuse if he demands that he wear a condom, she can also refuse if he demands that she wear a blonde wig or handcuffs. (She need not refuse, in the case of the wig and/or handcuffs, but my understanding is that either of those are not legitimate requests, and can be refused).I think that the sex act is intended by both parties; it is <>one<> act. (An act of oneness, but also a single act). Kippley derives from this that a sex act that would be infertile anyway is the only allowable sex act to someone who has intentionally sterilized himself; and this is only if there is grave reason not to have the reversal performed. I don’t completely agree with his conclusion: a woman who had a contraceptive hysterectomy would not be able to do such a thing, since her natural infertility has been damaged as well. However, even without agreeing with the conclusion that NFP can be a remedy, it is clear that he <>does<> view a permanent sterilization as affecting the intent of future acts. (Which is what you and Bill seem to be positing. And with which I agree completely).

  • zippy says:

    Thanks for the clarifications, Mouse and Brandon.Mouse: It is safe to say that the actual case you recount has moved beyond the straightforward parameters of the Act A/Act B proof. That proof is really targeted at the notion that precisely the same behavior becomes licit merely through an interior change in the person’s disposition or a desire that something could be done about the self-inflicted infertility with no corresponding behavior actually doing something about it; a pervasive idea promulgated by orthodox apologists which clearly contradicts Catholic moral theology. Where that leaves things in those kinds of cases – attempted-restoration cases – I don’t know, but if I come up with something to say about it that can provoke more interesting discussion I’ll post on it. An immediate thought is that if the chocolate lover with implanted assassination nanos attempted to have them deactivated but was not reasonably certain that deactivation was successful he would, if his fundamental option were in fact re-oriented toward God, remain incapable of eating chocolate. Only certainty that he had undone the ‘mutilation’ of his ability to eat chocolate licitly would warrant eating chocolate.Brandon: thanks for the additional detail on Kippley’s views. He isn’t here to defend himself, but I don’t think the idea that sexual intercourse is literally <>the same act<> for husband and wife is particularly defensible; but I do think that would have to be the case in order for NFP <>in itself<> to render intercourse licit after intentional sterilization, or even for intercourse to be licit after the woman’s menopause in the case where the man had himself sterilized. Otherwise <>for him<> it remains the same act: his self-inflicted infertility isn’t mooted by things that happen to <>her body<>. What if she died and he remarried? The whole notion of it being <>literally<> “one act” despite two acting subjects introduces a whole host of problems.

  • William Luse says:

    Yes, thanks Brandon. You read more of Kippley than I did. I stumbled across the passage and thought I’d throw it in to annoy Jeff, which I probably shouldn’t have done since I didn’t care what the man thought anyway. It wasn’t I who was in need of “praxis” examples, for I am largely mistrustful of it.Because the marriage union is of “one flesh,” because a man is to love his wife as his own body, I am sympathetic to your “I think the sex act is one act.” All sins have a ripple effect, but in marriage what a man inflicts upon himself he inflicts upon another, forcing her now and in the future to consent, (<>if<> she consents, to contracepted sex acts. This, to me, is what makes it so awful, this forcible dragging down of another into your own degradation.Zippy, I am somewhat interested in the hypothetical someone raised. Let’s say the fellow repents and tries to have it reversed. The doctor can’t tell him for certain whether the surgery was successful. “The only way we’ll know for sure,” he says, “if after you take it for a drive.” In the absence of certainty (i.e., in not knowing that the moral object of his act will be sterile sex), are he and his wife justified in trying to find out? You may have already answered this, but I don’t feel like re-reading. (I’m not sure it’s a question we <>must<> have the answer to, since it’s just another complication, part of that ripple effect, that could have been avoided in the first place.)

  • zippy says:

    I don’t really have any idea. I know that if the crime were murder, he would have to be absolutely certain that the reversal had restored the original state.Suppose instead of a vasectomy or the chocolate nanomachine thing he had rigged his body such that every time he engaged in sex with his wife someone random was killed. He would have to be certain that that was undone before sex became licit again. I am not certain that the same thing applies here, but – other than what seems to me to be an obviously misguided notion that contraception is a victimless crime – I don’t know by what principle or appeal to Magisterial authority we could conclude that it doesn’t.

  • brandon field says:

    <>I don’t think the idea that sexual intercourse is literally <>the same act<> for husband and wife is particularly defensible<>It’s certainly not the same sort of two distinct acts that, say, two people playing tennis together is. Or even the same sort of distinct creative act that say two people playing in a band are creating music. But I won’t pretend that I’ve actually thought through it more than that.

  • brandon field says:

    <>other than what seems to me to be an obviously misguided notion that contraception is a victimless crime<>Contraception isn’t a victimless crime, but it’s not the same species of crime that murder is. Methinks you may be stretching your chocolate analogy a wee bit too far.(The Grateful Dead have a song that asks: “Am I the victim or the crime?” Contraception is like that).

  • zippy says:

    Brandon: I don’t mean to say that I am <>completely<> unsympathetic to the notion that it is in some senses “one act”; I just don’t think that can be taken too literally. The fact that one’s wife is post-menopausal or is thought to be in her infertile time doesn’t make it licit to wear a condom during intercourse. There are further Magisterial reasons to think that it can’t be treated as “one act” morally. From the < HREF="" REL="nofollow">Vademicum<>:<><>13<>. Special difficulties are presented by cases of cooperation in the sin of a spouse who voluntarily renders the unitive act infecund. In the first place, it is necessary to distinguish cooperation in the proper sense, from violence or unjust imposition on the part of one of the spouses, which the other spouse in fact cannot resist. This cooperation can be licit when the three following conditions are jointly met: 1. when the action of the cooperating spouse is not already illicit in itself; 2. when proportionally grave reasons exist for cooperating in the sin of the other spouse; 3. when one is seeking to help the other spouse to desist from such conduct (patiently, with prayer, charity and dialogue; although not necessarily in that moment, nor on every single occasion). <>14<>. Furthermore, it is necessary to carefully evaluate the question of cooperation in evil when recourse is made to means which can have an abortifacient effect.<>On Bill’s point, yes, it is entirely possible for a spouse to ruin the other person’s life with no recourse or recovery this side of Heaven. People should understand this before marrying: you are putting yourself completely in the hands of another fallible human being, for the rest of your life. Proceed carefully.<>Contraception isn’t a victimless crime, but it’s not the same species of crime that murder is.<>True, but according to a number of Church Fathers it is next in line to murder in its gravity. I don’t view it as stretching an analogy as much as pointing out that I don’t know (and nobody else has articulated) a principle by which (or even so much as a reason to think) it is possible to conclude that anything less than certainty is required.

  • Steve P. says:

    Zippy,“you don’t seem to have a coherent position with which someone can disagree.”My position is that an intention requires a person to do the intending, and in regards to an act the only relevant person is the actor.So if a person (truly and sincerely) repents of his vasectomy, and so does everything necessary to a true and sincere repentance, including going to confession, and including reparation (I was not aware until now that a vasectomy was reversible which is the main reason I had not mentioned it earlier when I attempted to assure you that I really did mean a true and sincere repentance not some phony “internal dialog”) and if that person at some point in the future, unrelated to his previous sins, has intercourse with his lawful spouse with the intention that the act be open to offspring and with no intention of being sterile if he can help it, he is not sinning and he is doing precisely what his marital state requires of him.It is logically impossible for a person to simultaneously intend his act to be sterile and intend that it not be sterile–so the latter if sincere logically precludes the former.What I did not say, and what you KNOW I did not say, is that confession gives a sinner license to do what he repented of. Another person said that he almost wished that were true, but that other person is not me.I am a person made in the image of God and a Christian, and God requires you to treat me with the charity due to persons and fellow believers and to be honest about me. You may think my opinions incoherent but you may not tell people that my opinions are other than you know them to be, especially if what you are doing is trying to persuade people I have wicked opinions.

  • Steve P. says:

    In the case of the lethal chocolate, A and B are clearly different.If you simply carried out the plot to its completion, it would be on evil intention and one extended murderous act. The eating of the chocolate would be the consummation of that act.If you started the plot but repented and were absolved, and someone forced the chocolate down your throat, your new intention would not be murderous and the killing would be unintentional on your part.If you started the plot, really and truly repented and were absolved, but later somehow decided to eat the chocolate anyway, it would be a new act and a new (but still murderous) intention disconnected from the first.If all that’s true of the chocolate example that’s true of the vasectomy as well. After repentance, confession, and reparation (to the extent possible) the new act of intercourse is no longer directly connected to the vasectomy as the consummation of a single extended act, and the new intention is not necessarily a sinful one, since one may rightly intend to have intercourse even if one is sterile.As with previous things I’ve said on the subject, what I have just now stated is not “confession permits one to do that which he has confessed” either in so many words or in other words with the same meaning.

  • zippy says:

    <>My position is that an intention requires a person to do the intending, and in regards to an act the only relevant person is the actor.<>You seem to think that someone disagrees with that, but nobody does.<>If you started the plot but repented and were absolved, and someone forced the chocolate down your throat, your new intention would not be murderous and the killing would be unintentional on your part.<>Yes. If a woman had her tubes tied but repented and was absolved and then was raped, she would not be guilty of a contracepted sexual act.

  • […] (1) naturally fertile organs, (2) accidentally infertile/diseased/mutilated organs, or (3) deliberately mutilated organs which were healthy prior to the deliberate mutilation. “Accidental” here refers to the […]

  • […] These are objective characterizations.  You don’t get to choose in an act of will whether a particular wound on your body is noble stigmata, ignoble brand, or mere scar: it is what it is because of how it got there. You can choose whether or not to mutilate your body with brands; but you cannot in a revisionist act of will turn what is objectively an ignoble brand into mere scar or noble stigmata.  It is no genetic fallacy or retreat to subjectivity to observe that noble stigmata and ignoble brands are different kinds of objects, with different moral implications. […]

  • […] dispositions, all of which are themselves subject to moral evaluation. Later behaviors are often preceded by earlier behaviors, carried out in preparation for the later behavior. And it is possible for a moral agent to suffer […]

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