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Interview: Janet E. Smith
Same-Sex Marriage and Its Relation With Contraception

10/18/2003 - 12:40 PM PST

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Janet E. Smith Links Rejection of "Humanae Vitae" to Acceptance of Homosexuality


DETROIT, Michigan, OCT. 17, 2003 (Zenit) - Culture has all but embraced homosexual activity since abandoning the principle that procreative sex within a marriage is the only moral form of sexuality, says an expert on the Church's sexual teachings.

Janet E. Smith, who holds the Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Issues at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, shared her views with Zenit in this interview.

A consultor to the Pontifical Council on the Family, Smith is the author of "Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later" (CUA Press). More than 500,000 copies of her tape, "Contraception: Why Not" (One More Soul) have been distributed.

Q: Do you see any connection between the rejection of the Church's teaching on contraception and the push for homosexual marriages?

Smith:
Not so many years ago at a conference on homosexuality, Russell Hittinger argued that there is not much ground for opposing homosexual marriages in a culture where most unions are contraceptive. He said we were already blessing unions whose primary reason for existence was sexual pleasure.

In fact, many years ago, when dissent first started concerning the Church's teaching on contraception, some of those defending the teaching said, if we were to approve of contraception, soon people would be arguing that masturbation, fornication and homosexuality were morally permissible. Some people thought those claims were absurd and likely most now would as well, but in both the Church and in the culture it is clear that widespread acceptance of contraception has radically changed our understanding of sexuality.

Rather than holding to the Christian and common sense view that sex belongs within marriage between a male and a female committed to each other for life and open to children, our culture thinks that sex is quite simply for pleasure -- and that almost any combination of consenting individuals may morally seek that pleasure without any commitment, without an openness to children.

Now, I am one of those who believe that probably most of those with homosexual orientations have some sort of psychological disorder probably not acquired through their own deliberate choices; something damaging may have happened in their youth or childhood. Thus, I am not suggesting that people who contracept are going to begin to engage in homosexual activity -- though I do think they may develop appetites for various kinds of perverse sexual activity.

What I am saying is that the culture becomes more accepting of homosexual activity since it has abandoned the principle that heterosexuality with a respect for the procreative power of the act is the only moral form of sexuality.

Q: Dissent from the Church's teaching on contraception is still widespread. How has that changed dating and courtship over the past 40 years?

Smith:
There basically is no such thing as dating and courtship except in the smallest of religious circles. Now there is "coupling" and "hooking up" and "living together," but little really careful selection of dating partners followed by a slow and careful process of getting to know the other and to let oneself be known.

There is no question that contraception has greatly increased the incidence of sex outside of marriage. Certainly very few people marry as virgins. Many people start having sex early in a relationship.

The pattern of marriages in the United States is often something like this: multiple sexual partners before marriage; a two- or three-year period of cohabitation, all the while contracepting; two or three years of contracepted sex after marriage; suspending with contraception for a short period of time in order to conceive the first child; return to contraception; suspending contraception to conceive the second child; then the wife or husband gets sterilized; then they get divorced.

This is not the pattern of courtship or marriage that God had in mind.

Abstinence before marriage permits the couple to get to know each other without the confusion and premature bonding of sexual involvement; they can get out of relationships that aren't leading to marriage without severe heartbreak and disruption to one's life. They develop a wide range of methods of expressing their love for each other, and when they begin their sexual relationship after marriage it is the proper "seal" to put on a relationship they have already established and intend to nurture for a lifetime.

Q: In your experience with young people, what has been the impact, if any, of "Humanae Vitae"?

Smith:
Young or not so young, few Catholics have read it or attempted to live it. For several decades seminarians were taught not to teach the teaching of "Humanae Vitae." Father Charles ...

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