To the editor:
In his scathing criticism of Fr. Raymond Suriani’s article “From contraception to ‘gay marriage’” Mr. Anthony Lopresti “Priest’s view on marital sex outdated, impoverished (Sept. 25, 2008),” states that “[m]arital sex cannot be reduced to a simplistic dichotomy of procreation or pleasure,” and references Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI.
This is ironic since that was precisely Fr. Suriani’s (and Pope Paul VI’s) point. There can be no dichotomy. Married couples may not choose between an embrace that is unitive or an embrace that is open to life. In order to receive and give the fullness of God’s grace available in the sacrament of marriage, they must choose both – every time.
This does not mean that the marital embrace must result in life every time. However, marital love must always be freely given, faithful, total and fruitful (i.e.: in reality and/or symbolically open to life). Married men and women who are unable to conceive children, or who practice NFP and have relations during infertile times, remain open to the creation of life on a symbolic level. They also give themselves totally to one another.
Contracepting couples both symbolically and actively reject God’s gift of fertility. By definition contraceptive sexual relations are closed to life. Contracepting couples also withhold a part of themselves from each other and in that way are not fully unitive.
Same-sex couples cannot unite in a marital embrace in terms of gender complementarity, nor are their sexual acts in any way capable of being symbolically or actually open to life. “Gay marriage” is an impossibility.
Seven years ago I embraced artificial contraception both professionally and personally. I did not know why the Church taught contraception was wrong; nor did I desire to find out; this changed the evening of February 18, 2001. That was 3 days after I was diagnosed with what was believed to be a malignant brain tumor, and only 5 days before my life saving surgery.
That night the priest said, “I want to remind you of mortal sins that must be confessed: abortion, artificial birth control …” I heard nothing more. I was shocked. I never knew the Church taught that birth control was a MORTAL sin. At that very moment – without any persuasive intellectual argumentation – God convicted my heart. All of my scientific justifications for birth control began to swirl in my head, but remarkably they no longer held any sway over me. Moreover, for the first time in my life I sincerely wanted to understand why this was true.
With God’s grace, a humble heart and my pastor’s direction I gradually came to understand the philosophically logical reasons why the Church always has, and always will honor the marital embrace as the holy and sacred act that it is – an act that must always be open to life and unitive. My husband and I will never return to our past impoverished view and enactment of marital love. The discipline, joy and freedom of natural family planning are unsurpassed.
Readers who sincerely wish to understand this teaching should reflect and pray over Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, and the writings of Dr. William May, Dr. Janet Smith and Mr. Christopher West. May you have a humble heart, an open mind, and a grace-filled journey.
Michelle A. Cretella, MD