Put Sex back into Marriage! An Argument against Same Sex Marriage

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Written by Maria Flores (Catholic University) | Edited by Ariel Hobbs

The following was a college essay written by Maria Flores. It has been edited and approved by Ariel Hobbs. If you have a Theology essay that you would like published that received a grade of an A- or higher, please be sure to contact us.

A major difference between traditional marriage and same-sex marriage is the possibility for sexual intercourse. It is impossible for two people of the same sex to engage in the conjugal act, which is by definition inseparably unitive and procreative.[1] Some secular intellectual circles view the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality as repressive. Their thinking might be due to the lasting impression that the Church in the Victorian era had on people when intercourse was considered to be solely for the purpose of procreation and pleasure was considered improper and even sinful.[2] According to Julie Rubio’s article “The Practice of Sex in Christian Marriage,” even some “contemporary Christians may be able to say, ‘sex is good,’ but we are far from knowing what we mean” because parents are still uncomfortable talking about the subject with their children and leave it up to the school’s sex-education course.[3] As a result, these people who are ashamed of sex might see nothing wrong with same-sex marriage where sexuality is not a factor.

On the other hand, some view Catholics as being obsessed over sex. Along with the Second Vatican Council’s style where the Church sought to emphasize the positive aspects of Christian life more than it had did in Vatican I, there was a large emphasis on the goodness of sex from Catholic educators on sexuality, especially as a result of Pope John Paul II’s enthusiastic teaching on human love in the Theology of the Body. However, those who counter traditional marriage hold that the Church places too much importance on sex as an expression of love. They often argue that love can be expressed in ways other than physical expressions of love, and therefore same-sex marriage is valid. Both views parallel the mistaken idea of the human person ubiquitous in today’s society. This paper will argue that same-sex marriage is contrary to the nature of the human person and detrimental to society by establishing the indissoluble unity of the body and soul in the human person, the corresponding definition of marriage, and the therefore negative effects which same-sex marriage has on children in particular.

Firstly, if human beings are created by love and for love, then the way in which one expresses and receives love should be inseparable from the definition of a human being. The human person is composed of a body and a soul. Therefore, one exchanges love simultaneously through his body and his soul. Thus, those who support same-sex marriage contend that the body and soul of the human person are separable and that one can love with either one or the other. Robert P. George, a professor at Princeton University and a proponent of sexual integrity and traditional marriage, explained this dynamic at the Love and Fidelity Network’s 2015 Leadership Seminar from a philosophical perspective. He described today’s generation as the “Me generation,” where one thinks that he should never act at the greater expense of others unless it benefits him to do so.[4] In this ethical model, there exists only emotional union between persons, and, since emotions are ephemeral, a culture based on relativism results. In this culture, one can give himself fully to another person but only to the extent to which he wants to. For example, polyamorous marriage, same-sex marriage, and bestiality have in common the inability to give oneself (body and soul) completely to the other; they are instead solely based on one’s feelings, wishes, and emotions at a certain point in time. Hence, under this supposition, traditional marriage and the idea that having consummated a marriage eliminates the possibility for divorce fail to make sense. Instead, the idea of a body-self dualism prevails, depicting one as a non-bodily substance inhabiting a body to get satisfaction.

On the contrary, George holds that a person is not a body isolated from the psyche or vice versa, rather a person is a body-mind composite. In other words, “we are our bodies and a person is a dynamic unity.”[5] The definition of a human person as body and soul informs the definition of marriage as a personal union. Genesis 2:24 says that male and female “shall become one flesh.”[6] That is, two separate humans unite biologically and, therefore, personally. It follows, then, that two people of the same sex cannot unite personally. In order to refute the objection that sex is just another form of intimacy, George explains how sexual intercourse is different from all other acts that an individual performs. It is not the same as holding hands or exchanging a hug. For instance, rape is universally considered an unspeakable assault against another person, and this is due to the centrality of sex in the human person (as it should integrate the body as well as the soul). Inclusively, if one thinks it easy to strip the psyche and the body from each other, he would have no trouble asserting that someone with Alzheimer’s disease who has no psyche or someone like Bruce Jenner with body dysmorphia ceases to be a person. In order for one to simply perceive any particular object, he must use both his mind and his body. If one needs his whole person in order to simply look at something in an intelligible way, then why is it that one can separate his body and his mind in sexual matters?

An effect of the societal acceptance of same-sex marriage is that it makes it seem as if everyone is called to marriage. According to Church teaching, those with same-sex attraction should remain in a state of continence. However, when these people who are called to the single life get married regardless, it gives the impression that there is something wrong with the single life. A similar understanding lies in the Old Testament, when being married and having children was very important in order to safeguard one’s family line from dying out. However, after Jesus’s death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, children were no longer a necessity to this end, for death was destroyed and eternal life was opened by the grace of God rather than by human efforts to procreate. Furthermore, Jesus Christ Himself chose to be celibate throughout his earthly life as a sign of the eschatological reality— the fact that there is life after death. Jesus was a contradiction of the times in this sense.

In defense of those called to the single life, it is also necessary to view marriage primarily as a divine institution and as a means to bring His people to Him. For example, marriage is analogously a reflection of the divine trinity, as it is a communion between persons. It too reflects one’s destiny of being in communion with God in heaven. Therefore, the focus of a marriage, as in any vocation, should always be the attainment of eternal life. The call to holiness, therefore, is everyone’s vocation, and one’s response to that call will include different paths such as the married life, consecrated life, or the vowed single life.[7] Viewing the telos of every human life including the married life as one and the same unifies the vocations and prevents the idealization of one over the other. Schmemann, an Orthodox theologian identifies the way in which a person in the consecrated life or in the married life is called to attain heaven is by leading others to God. The Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann says that “the real sin of marriage today is not adultery or lack of ‘adjustment’ or ‘mental cruelty.’ It is the idolization of the family itself, the [selfish] refusal to understand marriage as directed toward the Kingdom of God.”[8] Nothing should stand in the way of following God, for He then unites one to other people. Therefore, those who choose to marry someone of the same sex isolate themselves from the will of God, and degrade the meaning of marriage from a primarily divine institution meant to lead one to eternal life to something which one can arbitrarily choose for himself.

Another negative societal effect of same-sex marriage is that it often makes it more difficult for those with same-sex attraction to succeed at remaining single because of the lack of community support. For example, in his article “Struggling Alone,” Ryan T. Anderson tells the story of his friend ‘Chris’ who is met with rejection at his university campus on account of refusing to follow his emotional impulses. Chris has developed homosexual attraction and, while people on campus encourage him to follow his feelings and accept himself as gay, they condemn his decision to try to mend his inordinate feelings and abstain from romance with the same sex. “Sexual attraction, he thinks, doesn’t define a person.”[9] While the culture of feeling, which includes the LGBT movement, seemingly advocates for independence, freedom, and tolerance, Chris was blatantly rejected for his choice. These groups “routinely sponsor public lectures attacking Christian responses to same-sex attractions, calls to chastity, and attempts to seek therapy,” all of which require reason-based evaluation of one’s feelings, and they only support those who blindly adhere to their emotions.[10]

Not only does same-sex marriage undermine the meaning of marriage by attempting to dissolve the intrinsic unity between the body and soul and therefore lead people astray, but it also consequently disregards children (for children are procreated as a result of the conjugal act). Because two people are preoccupied with their own desires and emotions instead of unreservedly giving of themselves when they decide to enter into same-sex marriage, children and their good are of only secondary importance. Father D. Paul Sullins, a professor in the department of sociology at the Catholic University of America, has studied the negative effects that same-sex parents have on children. For instance, he has found in his research that those who are raised by both biological parents fare twice as better emotionally than those who grow up with only one biological parent and, likewise, those raised by one biological parent fare twice as better than those who grow up with neither biological parent.[11] Father Sullins outlines two theories found in the literature for the most common of these same-sex partnership scenarios, which is where a child is raised by one biological parent, usually the mother: 1) The biological parent will be very bonded with her child and expects the partner to give as much attention to her child as she does, but the partner is envious of the attention and regrets that the attention has been taken away from her, and 2) another common result is that those who grew up in this situation express that they felt the lack of a male figure in their life, and still feel that lack in their life in adulthood. Jennifer Morse, the founder of the Ruth Institute which campaigns against the sexual revolution, asserts that something in common among parents who are divorced, unmarried, who contracept, are in same-sex marriages, who conceived with donor egg or sperm, etc. is that their “relationship with their sex partner is more important to them than their child.”[12]

It is important to keep in mind that marriage is not simply a bond between two individuals, but that it affects the entire Church and society as a whole. For example, Stephen Pope in his article “Same-Sex Marriage: Threat or Aspiration?” says that in a culture termed the post-marriage generation, the push for the legalization of same-sex marriage shows that the culture does still valorizes marriage. He proposes that same-sex marriage is an opportunity for the Church to reintroduce marriage to the culture, and that therefore same-sex couples should be recognized in the Church. Conversely, John Grabowski contends that Pope’s view privatizes marriage and erroneously limits marriage to a private affair between two individuals. Accepting same-sex marriage would be unacceptable, for marriage is fundamentally public and societal. Grabowski asserts that marriage is sustained and nourished by the larger community where people hold each other accountable for growth in virtue.

Furthermore, in Rekindling the Christic Imagination, Robert Imbelli uses the Pauline metaphor of the Church as the body of Christ, with Christ as the head, to say that the dimension of unity is the Church’s means for bringing its people to holiness— for bringing them into unity with Christ their head. He says that “The health of the communion, that is, of the ecclesial body of Christ, demands the evangelical health of every member.”[13] His point reminds one of how every sin affects not only oneself, his eternal destiny and his relationship with God but also other people and the whole of creation. Likewise, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.”[14] Reconciliation, like any other sacrament or even common decisions, is not a private affair. Every person is meant to be in unity with others, and sin divides one from his intended being as a member of Christ’s body.

Based on marriage’s implications on children’s lives, on those called to be single, and its important place in society, the necessity to identify that marriage is the bond between a husband and wife in total self-gift is evident. And, since marriage is a bond between two persons, in order to define marriage rightly, the idea that a human person is inseparably body and soul must be reintegrated. Otherwise, people’s ever-changing desires will be free to exploit sexual intercourse, the most deeply personal and vulnerable human act.

For more information:


Anderson, Ryan T., “Struggling Alone,” First Things.            http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/02/struggling-alone

Catechism of the Catholic Church: Revised in Accordance with the Official Latin Text Promulgated by Pope John Paul II.

George, Robert P., “Sexual Integrity and Marriage,” (Presentation, Annual Leadership Seminar on Integrity in Action, Princeton, NJ, summer 2015).

Hamblin, James. “The Sexual Decision-Making Process according to the Penitentials,” The Atlantic, 2014, http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/01/a-sexual-decision        flowchart-that-makes-everything-simpler-for-medieval-men/283364/.

Imbelli, Robert P., Rekindling the Christic Imagination, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press (2014)

Morse, Jennifer. “Does Homo Economicus Have Attachment Disorder?” (Presentation on economy and the family hosted by the Catholic University of America Anscombe Society and the Pontifical John Paul II Institute on March 11, 2016)

New American Standard Bible. La Habra, CA: Foundation Publications, for the Lockman Foundation, (1971).

Paul VI, Pope, Humanae Vitae. (1968), no.12.

Rubio, Julie. “The Practice of Sex in Christian Marriage,” Leaving and Coming Home: New  Wineskins for Sexual Ethics, David Cloutier ed. (2010).

Schmemann, Alexander, For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, (1973). 

Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium (1964), n.39 (The Universal Call to Holiness in the Church).

Smythers, Ruth. ”The Good Wife’s Guide & Advice for Young Brides,” The Feminist eZine,  http://www.feministezine.com/feminist/historical/Good-Wifes-Guide.html.

Sullins, D. Paul, “The Negative Effect of Same-Sex Parenting on Children,” (Poster Presentation, Research Day at the Catholic University of America on April 15, 2016).

Edited By: Ariel Hobbs

[1] Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, no.12

[2] For examples, see Ruth Smythers’s “Instruction and Advice for the Young Bride” and  James Hamblin’s “The Sexual Decision-Making Process according to the Penitentials”

[3] Julie Rubio, “The Practice of Sex in Christian Marriage,” p.230

[4] Robert P. George, presentation at the Love and Fidelity Network Leadership seminar

[5] Robert P. George, “Sexual Integrity and Marriage,” presentation at Princeton University

[6] New American Standard Bible

[7] Lumen Gentium, no.39

[8] Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World, p.90

[9] Ryan T. Anderson, “Struggling Alone”

[10] Ryan T. Anderson

[11] Reverend D. Paul Sullins, “The Negative Effect of Same-Sex Parenting on Children”

[12] Jennifer Morse, “Does Homo Economicus Have Attachment Disorder?” presentation at the Catholic University of America

[13] Robert P. Imbelli, Rekindling the Christic Imagination, p.75

[14]  Catechism of the Catholic Church, no.1422

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