Is openness and real possibility of life a part of what defines marriage and each marital act, or is it
not? Natural law would tell us that it is so. We spoke before that “what God has joined let no man put asunder,” and we may assume that “safe, effective technology” is not an argument that refutes this.
A man and a woman who are friends may genuinely love one another, but there is a special kind of love that is reserved to “one man and one woman.” This love is consummated in the marital act, and it is called the marital act for this reason. We have already spoken of the fact that this marital act is for the generation of new life (although not only for this). Three necessary components, then, seem to be love, a couple that this love is between, and an openness to that love being fruitful.
Like a math equation, we cannot alter just one factor and expect the rest to be the same. Two plus two plus six is ten, but two plus six is not. Therefore, when we change the factor I am calling “openness to life,” we necessarily alter the entire equation.
This leads us to a very strong argument for same sex marriages. If love and a couple to share the bond are the only things necessary for a true marriage, removing a real openness to life of each marital act, how then do we say, through natural law, that the two that share this bond should be man and woman? Although not my persuasion, it is admittedly true enough that two of the same gender can have an affectionate love for one another, and that this seems to be carried over to the “marital” act. While this is personally repulsive to me, my personal feelings alone on this should not be the final argument. This type of subjectivism leads to the answer that same sex marriage is wrong for me but right for those that prefer it.
Rather, when we say we “redefine” marriage by legalizing same sex marriage, we have to mean something beyond this. The objective ground we have to stand on is the very true and easily demonstrable (from reason alone) fact that marriage is for the family and not simply for the two involved. This family is brought about by the union of the two that are married.
If this possibility of life is to be included in marriage, then it involves a man and a woman, and it involves a man and woman open to life. A contraceptive relationship is one that decides that the union of the bodies is primary, and makes it superfluous as to the gender of the two involved. A contracepting male and female and a non-contracepting (what would this mean?) male and male or female and female fit very similar definitions: two persons joined together and enjoy one another in a physical way. This mutual masturbation may be consented utilitarianism, but it is not a marriage.
One may argue that while two of the same sex can never procure children, the man and woman could, and are simply electing not to at certain times. But this falls short of solving the problem, for we then merely admit that some of our acts are true marital acts and some are not.
Those who watch pornography are watching people who have, for all intents and purposes, “consented” to being viewed for this purpose. The act that follows when one watches this is therefore one more instance of mutual masturbation, and certainly, we all agree, not a marital act. My argument here is not, of course, to convince those that see no problem with masturbation and/or pornography; a different means is necessary for that discussion. My audience here is those who wish to preserve the traditional view of marriage, either by their religious or secular beliefs, and my stance, although supported and strengthened by the truth of Christianity, needs no divine revelation to demonstrate its point. We either understand, on the natural level (and thus can discuss these issues with reasonable people who nevertheless do not share the view that Revelation has been given to us), that marriage involves two people that are open to life as a possibility of their union, and thus this union MUST be between a man and a woman, or we remove the part about openness to life and, in doing so, remove the necessity of it taking place between those of opposite gender.
To further address the issue of whether each particular act must be open to life, and thus whether contraception is permissible some of the time, a new discussion will be had. I choose here to discuss it from a Christian perspective; the principles will be derived most often from the natural law, which we can all know if we put aside our “vicious customs and corrupt habits.” For “by evil persuasions, just as in speculative matters errors occur in respect of necessary conclusions;… among some men, theft, and even unnatural vices, as the Apostle states, were not esteemed sinful (ST I-II, Q. 94, Art. 6).
What we will see is that a mere “fundamental option” to do what is right (in this case, to not contracept) is insufficient, because each and every act we perform says something about and indeed defines in the act itself what we are. The Apostle John could say “do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous,” for what we do is what we are. This is not merely a religious truth (although of course it is), but a metaphysical one: what something is defines what it does, and what it does defines what it is.