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The Thomist 64 (2000): 71-100 CHRISTIAN SEXUAL ETHICS AND TELEOLOGICAL ORGANICITY ALEXANDER R. PRUSS University ofPittsburgh Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania And now, Lord, not through lust [dia porneian] do I take this kinswoman of mine, but in truth [ep' aletheias]. (Tob 8:7) I. INTRODUCTION The present paper sketches a new approach to Christian sexual ethics by an integrated synthesis of ontological and phenomenological approacheswhich avoids the weaknesses that the two approaches can have when in separation and in their traditional forms. In the twentieth century, beginning with the 1930 Anglican Lambeth Conference, we have seen many hitherto unanimously accepted elements of Christian sexual ethics come under increasing critical fire. Some of the criticism has focused around a growing understanding of the importance of the unitive meaning of sexuality; as a result, traditional natural-law arguments against, for example, artificial contraception1 and 1 The term "contraception" will be used to meau any activity whose intended purpose is to decrease the fertility associated with a sexual act. Sometimes, to stay in line with accepted terminology, the adjective "artificial" will be used with "contraception," but this is unfortunately misleading as it is not the "artificiality" in the sense in which we talk of, say, "artificial additives" in food which is relevant here (coitus interruptus on my definition, after all, counts as a method of artificial contraception); rather, the central feature is that the "artificial" contraception is directly aimed against the fertility of a sexual act. I would much prefer if the clearer term "direct contraception" were accepted in place of "artificial contraception," but I will use the more traditional term in this paper. For clarity I now 71 72 ALEXANDER R. PRUSS homosexual acts, based on the importance of the procreative meaning of sexuality and the natural orderedness of the sexual faculties towards procreation, have been dismissed even by a number of Christian ethicists. The natural-law arguments in the field ofsexuality first require a controversial metaphysics of morals which would let one say that the teleologies (i.e., processes directed at an end) found in nature have intrinsic values connected with a doctrine of primary ends. Moreover, these arguments will be rejected by those who will hold that the unitive end of the sexual act is no less primary than the procreative, so that, according to these persons, it is possible to seek the unitive while acting directly against the procreative . This paper will show that the idea that there is a such a possibility is mistaken. The argument will be based on the dependence of the unitive end on the generative features of the sexual act.2 mention that certain periodic abstinence methods for sexual acts, known under the title of "Natural Family Planning," are not intended to fall under the above definition of "contraception." That they in fact do not fall under it will be argued below. 2 That there is such a dependence is not a new idea. Indeed, positing such a dependence is probably the best reading of the traditional idea that the procreative end of sexuality is primary. Recently, in an excellent paper with much of which my analysis agrees, John Lamont ("On the Functions ofSexual Activity," The Tbomist 62 [1998]: 561-80) has argued for the same conclusion that achieving the unitive end requires that the sexual act be an act of a kind which is generative. However, Lamont starts with a different notion of unity from the one the present paper will use. For Lamont, "unitive acts are those which express and promote love between persons" (563). Yet one might worry that, surely, unitive acts are those which promote unity between persons (note: by "unity" I do not mean "identity"; the husband and wife despite having a unity-being one body-are still two persons). And perhaps not all unity is a result oflove. For instance, a worm is one worm since it has an inner unity. But this unity is not to be analyzed in terms of acts that express and promote love between beings, unless of course one is to talk analogously of the parts of the worm as loving one another in the sense of promoting each other's good. Furthermore, it...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 71-100
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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